For it is by grace you have been saved...

Monday, March 2, 2015

The "Video Devotion" Experiment

Our church canceled Sunday services yesterday.  That...never happens!  We often cancel evening services when the weather is bad, but we usually have a "if you can make it, come on" approach when we have snow, etc. 

I live several miles outside the city limits on a rural highway.  It's one that takes a back seat when it comes time to plow.  So when the weather looks bad, I have on occasion spent the night in my office so I can be sure I'm there on Sunday morning. 

That's what I did this weekend.  The forecast was for 6+ inches of snow overnight, ending with freezing rain about church time. So I slipped and slid in on Saturday to spend the night.  But I watched church after church cancel services in our area, and our leadership decided it might be wise for us to join them.  So, for only the third time maybe in 11 years, we canceled a morning service. 

But here I was.  It was already after dark on Saturday.  Already several inches on the ground.  Did I mention the part about plows not getting to our house until much, much later.  So I went ahead and spent the night, figuring it would be safer in the daylight hours, and hopefully a plow might get out our way by Sunday afternoon. 

So, what to do with my time?  Well, I have this fun laptop with a camera on it.  I've only used it to Skype with my daughter in Germany.  So I decided to play around with the video camera and do a short "devotional" that I could then post on our church Facebook page.  You know, in case anyone else was snowed in, and missed church, and was really, really bored.

That's what I did.  And while it wasn't a big deal, something I just threw together and recorded, and less than 7 minutes long; still, folks were genuinely kind in their reception.  Facebook tells me it has "reached" slightly more folks than we even have on a typical Sunday morning.  I don't know what that means.  Only about half of that number shows up as "viewed", but anyway. 

I've gotten some nice comments, so I thought I'd go ahead and post it here as well.  Again, it was just a little message for our folks.  Not anything superbly profound.  But if it's an encouragement to anyone at all, well, praise God.  So here it is, the great "video devotion" experiment.  Hope the visual doesn't frighten anyone too badly!

video

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Ordo Salutis: The Chicken or the Egg?

The old stand by conundrum is the question: Which came first, the chicken or the egg?  We think we're being profound.  We think we're being clever because we "know" that you can't get a chicken without and egg, and you can't get an egg without a chicken, right?  Shows how much our "knowledge" is worth.

God settles it rather handily.  He created each creature according to its kind.  He created, among others, the chicken kind.  He speaks; the chicken exists (despite what Darwinian lunatics postulate).  It's really rather simple.  The chicken was created, and the egg came as a result. 

What's the point?  We've recently been studying the book of Romans and have come to that wonderful 8th chapter.  One of my favorite chapters in the whole Bible.  It contains those fabulous words in verses 29 and 30.  You may know them, but before I get there, let me make the connection with that chicken. 

In a similar attempt at being profound and discussing a mysterious conundrum, we ask about the Ordo Salutis, the "order of salvation."  Which came first, regeneration or faith? That is, do we exercise faith which leads to our regeneration and salvation?  Or, are we regenerated and saved which produces faith?  A question men have argued about for centuries.  I mean, we all "know" that you have to have faith to be saved, so faith must come first, right?  Shows how much our "knowledge" is worth.

God settles it rather handily.  Now those verses: "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified." Romans 8:29-30

I'm a basic kind of guy.  So I look at this text rather simply.  I want to know who it is that is saved, who gets to heaven and is "glorified."  So I look at the text and see that those who are glorified are those whom God justified.  So who does God justify?  Those whom He called.  And whom did He call?  Those whom He predestined.  And whom did He predestine?  Those whom He foreknew.

Now, just a quick note.  Some want to say that "foreknew" means God looked down in history, saw those who would have faith, and based on that "foreknowledge" decided whom He would regenerate and call and predestine.  Aside from making God a reactionary deity whose will is determined by the will of men, which is heresy; this also misses the meaning of the word "foreknew."  

We've all heard the joking, wink wink, idea of what it means to "know someone Biblically."  We're referring to the way Genesis speaks of Adam "knowing" his wife, and conceiving a child.  Knowing in that sense means intimacy.  And that's just the point.  God has an intimate knowledge of His own children.  He knows us.  He knows our hearts because He created us, and made a covenant with us, even before the foundations of the world.  He had already chosen us, chose to set His affection on us, before we were even a blip on the screen of the universe. 

So then, back to the chicken and the egg.  The Ordo Salutis is equally simple.  God settles it rather handily.  He regenerates dead, lost, sinful hearts, and salvation exists.  He regenerates, and faith comes as a result. 

I know some will choke on their coffee at that.  But it makes perfect sense.  Men are dead in their sin.  Dead.  Not just a little sick and in need of a boost.  Dead.  Without life.  Unable to act from a spiritual standpoint.  Only when God regenerates our heart, gives us a new heart, gives us life, can we then act in faith.  Don't get me wrong, faith is necessary.  But faith can only come from a heart that is awakened, and that comes from God alone.  

God creates, life results.  God recreates, new life results.  God acts, men respond.  God saves, men come in faith.  He knows us, predestines us, calls us, justifies us and glorifies us.  Notice in Paul's words to the Romans, those things are all past tense.  We are predestined, called, justified and glorified.  God even speaks of our final glorification as a past deed; a done deal.  Because He has done it.  And what God has done, no one can undo.   

This is why Romans 8 is so encouraging, and why the words that follow bring such confidence, knowing nothing can separate us from Christ.  It's because He has accomplished it, and no one can destroy it.  Soli Deo Gloria!
 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Reflections on Another Revolution

One more revolution.  I've survived 48 of them now.  Not the war and rioting kind of revolution, though there have been enough of those.  But I'm talking about the revolutions our fair earth has made around the sun.  I've made that trip 48 times now as of last weekend.  More than some, not nearly as many as others.  But my fair share. 

In the last year our oldest daughter graduated college and left to spend a year in Germany.  Our youngest daughter graduated high school. With the oldest son in between, that leaves only the little guy as a "child" in our household now. Having a hard time with that one on the questionnaires: "How many children currently live in your home?"  "1."  Only one, really?!

Health wise, I'm pretty blessed.  I just reflected on that little cup and needle thing, and the results say I'm pretty good, so that all worked out.  I do have a degenerative eye condition and just found out I have a bit of "moderate high frequency hearing loss" whatever that means.  But overall, I'm in pretty good shape for an out of shape guy.  

Can't say I'm having a mid life crisis.  Honestly, if this is mid life, I'm a bit scared.  I don't want to live to be 94. Nothing wrong with any 96-year-olds out there.  I'm just not so sure I want to hang around this old world that long.  

I am to the point of being ready for the grandparent thing.  For the longest time, when I'd go to the hospital to visit a church family having a baby, if the lady at the information desk asked me if I was the grandfather, I took that as an insult. Now I say, "I wish!"  I'm looking forward to that part of life.  Not that my kids are being helpful in that regard.  Got to get them married off first, and they just aren't cooperating.  But I guess God has a plan, and I have to patiently wait for that, too!  (Not that I don't spend some time teasing the older ones about the whole thing!)

Again, no mid life crisis, but honestly....there are some struggles.  After almost 25 years as a pastor, there are times I feel a bit drained.  Again, I know a lot of guys who have gone a lot more years, seen a lot more "action," etc.  But sometimes...  There are weeks when I just feel weary, and sermon prep is just a struggle.  The old brain just doesn't work like it used to. 

My oldest says I need a "sabbatical."  Yeah, the idea of taking a couple months off sounds great.  But, for a small church, that's not very practical.  I'm hoping to take at least a couple days here in a couple months to attend a little conference.  I don't get the chance to do that very often, and I'm looking forward to it.  

Sometimes I think this is part of the problem.  A lot of "outgo" and not a lot of chances for "intake."  Again, I know a lot of men have done a lot more than me with a lot less, but I'm pretty weak. I sort of need to be taught and encouraged and challenged, and I need the ministry of others to do that.  The internet is great for that, having such a ready supply of teaching available.  What a blessing, and I feel so pathetic for even complaining.  But there are days when I think it would just be nice to sit back and be taught for awhile.

Well, enough of the whining.  Overall, I'm so blessed.  I have a beautiful, understanding, encouraging wife.  I have four great kids, three of whom God has grown into outstanding young adults.  I have a church family that loves me and prays for me.  In fact, in spite of a few bumps along the way, God has been extraordinarily gracious to our little church family and we are looking at great days ahead.

All this seems small when I look at the real revolutions going on in the world, the real persecution our brothers and sisters are facing in so many places, so many other things.  Who am I to complain about anything?

In front me stretches another potential revolution.  I'm anxious to see what God will do with it.  I know I can't do anything, but I also know each revolution I survive is because of His grace and because He has a plan for it.  So I look forward to what He will do.  And I pray that each trip around the sun brings honor to the Son, and rejoice that it brings me closer to my eternal home.  Until that day, we press on.  Soli Deo Gloria!

Monday, February 9, 2015

And the Winner Is....

I guess the Grammy Awards were last night.  I don't know.  I didn't watch.  I have no interest.  I have no idea who won.  I only know they happened because of the endless ad campaign leading up to it.  I take that back, since I follow Christian rap artist Lecrae on social media, I did see him mention that he won a Grammy in some category or another.  I'm happy for him. 

Really, I'm happy for all the winners, I guess.  I'm sure this is important to them.  Many of them worked hard to get the recognition.  Far be it from me to down play what this might mean to an artist's career, etc.  It's just, well, I don't really care all that much.

In a few years, not many will remember.  Some will continually remind us that the are "Grammy Award Winning Artist So and So."  But most folks won't remember.  Any more than many will remember in a couple years who won last week's Super Bowl.  All the hype, all the media attention, and in a year or two the casual observer will be hard pressed to tell you who won.

I'm really not trying to be cynical.  In truth, I'm a pretty competitive person.  I like winning.  My wife claims I cheat at board games just to win.  I deny this.  And we'll move on. 

I like winning.  I like when my team wins.  I get frustrated when they don't.  I like winning stuff myself.  Back in high school, I won all kinds of things.  I was what we called a "band jock."  I have a letter jacket full of medals from State Contest for both solos and ensembles.  I won the Louis Armstrong Jazz Award for outstanding high school jazz musician, even though I've hardly picked up my sax in the last few years.  

I was also into drama contest stuff.  I have trophies for duet acting and radio speaking.  I even won and award for French!  (And even after taking three semesters in college, all I can do is say "My name is..." and "where's the bathroom?").   Some of that followed me to college.  I won some more awards there, some with monetary value which was pretty cool. 

Hey, a couple weeks ago I even took 3rd place in the chili category and the Annual Faith Southern Baptist Soup n Chili Cook-Off.  I won a microwave dish cover.  Good stuff.  A few years back I even took first place, and still have the red cooking apron with "Faith's Chili Champ" embroidered on the front. 

But here's the point.  None of the things are really all that valuable today.  No one but me remembers.  It's not like I'm the answer to a trivia question somewhere. (Who won the 1985 Louis Armstrong Jazz Award at Windsor High School?.....  uh, nobody cares, Alex)  As much as those things might have meant at one time, they're just not that big a deal in the overall scheme of life. 

Now, I'll confess that winning a Super Bowl might be a little more impressive that a church chili contest.  Winning a Grammy will bring more fame and fortune than my state contest medal.  But in the big picture of life, the universe, and everything, those things are still only temporary and fleeting. 

How many Super Bowl winning players end up bankrupt?  How many Grammy winners go on to a life of poverty and drug rehab and so on.  It's all fleeting, just like everything else in this life.  In the end, there is only one award any of us should be looking for.  In the end, there is only one thing that counts. 

I jokingly call it a family award.  My last name is Weldon, after all.  And I, for one, can't wait to get to the end of this life, and when the envelope is opened, and the winner is announced, I hear those words:  "Weldon, my good and faithful servant."  Okay, so that's not actually what Jesus says.  He does say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant, enter into your reward."  And that's what I want to hear.  That's the trophy I want to win.  

And I know that I only have a hope of winning it because Jesus has already won it on my behalf.  All my awards, all my talents, all my efforts, they all mean nothing.  But Jesus died to suffer the penalty that my sin deserves, and in it's place, He gives me His righteousness, His merit.  And so on that final day, when we all stand before the throne of God, when we all answer for the lives we've lived, the good and the bad, the announcement will be made:  And the winner is...Jesus Christ.  And because He has given me His merit, His righteousness, I get to accept the award along with the millions of others for whom Christ died.  What a day. 

What are you living for?  The applause of men, which is here today and gone tomorrow? Or are you living for the One who can give you an eternal reward?  Are you longing to hear those words "well done, my good and faithful servant?"  I hope to stand with you one day and accept our award together. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Needle and a Cup - Is This All I Am?

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that my wife and I were looking into some new life insurance.  We decided to go ahead and make the change.  Now, if you've ever been through this process, you know that before a company will issue a new policy, they need...well, just a little information.  Like your family history going back 18 generations and the name, address and phone number of every medical facility you've even been within 10 miles of in the last decade.  You know, simple stuff. 

Which is why a lady showed up at my office the other day with a needle and a cup.  The needle was to draw a blood sample with; the cup...well, you can figure that out.  Actually, worse than just the cup was the fact that she also handed me a couple test tubes with instructions to transfer from the cup.... you get the idea.  So there I am, stuck in the arm and playing mad scientist with the cup contents.  Just a bit awkward to say the least. 

And here was my thought process.  With this needle and cup, this company is going to develop a summary of my life to see whether it's worth insuring or not.  All my life reduced down to the contents of that needle and cup.  Is this all I am?

Much of life these days has been reduced to these kinds of things.  Most of us are summarized by a series of numbers: bank numbers, ID numbers, Social Security numbers.  We're a series of user names and passwords.  A digital blip on the screens of this world.

Or we summarize ourselves by relationships.  I'm husband, or dad, or ___________ (insert job title here).  While those relationships are great, and I love nothing more than being "Dad" or "Sweetheart" (to my wife, not on the job!), or whatever...still, is this all I am?  Is this the sum of my existence?  Or is there more?

God would say, "There is much, much more."  As Samuel was sent to find the next king of Israel, he ended up at the house of Jesse, doing a lineup of the man's sons.  Each one, from Samuel's immediate summary, looked pretty good.  But God said of each: "This isn't the guy."  And then there was David.  Out taking care of the sheep.  Little David.  He wasn't big and tall and strong and impressive looking.  His numbers wouldn't have made anyone look twice.  But God said, "Man looks on the outside, but I'm looking at the heart."  

God saw in David more than a summary of his relationships, more than his current job title, more than what would have been discovered with a needle and a cup, had such things been around.  God saw what He would make of this boy.  He saw the shepherd king whom He would make into a foreshadowing of the true Shepherd King to come.  

And God sees each of us in that way.  Not just in the physical makeup of our DNA; not just in the summary of our digital footprint; not only in our relationships in this world.  He sees us in relationship with His Son.  He sees sinners in need of salvation; unworthy of His love, deemed worthy of His sacrifice because of His love and mercy.  Oh, He sees so much more.  We are, in Christ, so much more.

Keith and Kristyn Getty, maybe this generations best hymn writers, have penned a new hymn along with Graham Kendrick which speaks to this a bit.  It's called, My Worth is Not in What I Own, and it speaks of exactly what it sounds like.  We are more than the things of this world.  We are more than our physical makeup, our material wealth, our family history. Our value is found in Christ, and in Him alone.  He sees us through the lens of Christ, what He wants to make out of us in Christ, and that's where we find our true worth and value.  This is all we are: in Christ.  Here are the words to the hymn and then a video of the Gettys singing it.  I pray this will be an encouragement today for someone.

My worth is not in what I own
Not in the strength of flesh and bone
But in the costly wounds of love
At the cross

My worth is not in skill or name
In win or lose, in pride or shame
But in the blood of Christ that flowed
At the cross

Refrain:
I rejoice in my Redeemer
Greatest Treasure,
Wellspring of my soul
I will trust in Him, no other.
My soul is satisfied in Him alone.

As summer flowers we fade and die
Fame, youth and beauty hurry by
But life eternal calls to us
At the cross

I will not boast in wealth or might
Or human wisdom's fleeting light
But I will boast in knowing Christ
At the cross

Refrain

Two wonders here that I confess
My worth and my unworthiness
My value fixed - my ransom paid
At the cross

Refrain


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Great Is Thy Faithfulness...to a bunch of Gomers!

Several days ago I read this wonderful article by Brandon Smith over at the Gospel Coalition that reminds us the “we are Gomer.”  And he's not talking about about a goofy redneck who joins the Marines (even though some of us might actually resemble him).  He's talking about the biblical Gomer, the wife of Hosea, the one with the questionable past and the ongoing faithlessness.  You know, the one it makes us uncomfortable to talk about sometimes.  The... (*whispers*)... “harlot.”

Some might get offended by the comparison.  But it's dead on.  And his overall point is dead on as well.  It's all about God's faithfulness, not ours.  If our salvation, our relationship with God, our whatever; if it was dependent upon our own faithfulness....wow.  Don't even want to think about it. 

But I have been thinking about the subject lately.  Primarily because I see just how often I fail.  How often I don't live up to the standards; not just my own, but the clearly stated standards in God's Word.  I see how often I struggle. How often I'm no different than Peter in his moment of weakness, denying Christ.  Not that I've been put in that spot.  But my heart is no different.

Lately I've been reminded just how much I need a faithful God, because my own heart is so weak and weary, “prone to wonder” as the song says.  But then I remember that other song.  You know the one.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
     
Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!”
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!


Thomas Chisholm's words aren't even a hundred years old yet, and yet they are timeless.  Such rich Biblical imagery that reminds us that we do indeed serve a faithful God.  In fact, it's all about His faithfulness.  Because, after all, we are just a bunch of Gomers!

And so for your edification and enjoyment, click here for a great arrangement of that wonderful hymn from Denver & the Mile High Orchestra


Monday, January 26, 2015

Preparing for the Future

So, I'm meeting with a guy from a life insurance company this morning to finalize a new policy.  My wife and I talked about some of the details over the weekend, and hearing the subject of the conversation ("If I should die...") the kids are all "this is morbid!"

I explained to them that talking about our pending death (since we're all in the process of dying) may seem a bit morbid, but it's just plain good stewardship.  Now or later, we will die.  Making plans for the future, deciding how the kids will be provided for, arranging for the distribution of my massive wealth (my oldest son gets my Hot Wheels, and so on...), is basic wisdom.  No sense pretending it won't happen.  Perfect sense to plan for the inevitable.

I'm not sure how much that comforted the kids, but at least they saw the logic.  It is, truly, just good stewardship to plan for the future in general, especially those things that you know for certain will happen.  Ok, the thing, singular.  Because the only thing we know for sure that will happen...is that we will die. 

Now, then.  Here's the thought.  If it makes sense to make plans for the earthly implications of our death, which we know is coming; how much more is it simple wisdom to make plans for our eternal future.  If we know we're going to die, how foolish to not makes "arrangements" for that inevitability.  

There's a well know old story about a certain nobleman who kept a fool in his court, and he gave that fool a staff with a charge to keep it till he should meet with one who was a greater fool than himself. Some years later, the nobleman became ill and was on his death bed. When the fool came to see him, the sick lord said to him, "I must shortly leave you." "And where are you going?" asked the fool. After a moment’s thought, the nobleman said, "I am going into another world." 

And the fool began to quiz his master.  "When will you return? Within a month?" "No." "Within a year?" "No." "When, then?" "I suppose never!" was the final reply. "Never?" asked the fool. "And what provision have you made for this journey from which you will never return?" "None at all," said the lord.  The fool shook his head and said, “Here then, take my staff; for, with all my folly, I am not guilty of any folly such as this."

Jesus tells the parable about the man who stored up all his wealth, only to be told that he was going to die and all that wealth would be left behind. And the man himself, whom God calls a "fool", enters eternity unprepared. 

How foolish to buy life insurance, to put a will in order, etc. and give no thought to making plans for an eternal future.  One day each and every one of us will stand before a holy God and will answer for this life we've lived.  On our own, none of us can stand under that judgment.  None of us.  None of us have lived according to His perfect standards and can earn the right to live in the presence of His holiness for all eternity.

But in His great mercy, He sent His Son to live a life of perfect obedience, then give that life as a perfect sacrifice, and perfectly satisfy the wrath of God that our sins deserve.  He then calls us to repent and believe, to trust in that sacrifice, to look to Christ as our great Provider.  Then on that day, those for whom He died, those who He has called to Himself, those who have come to Him in faith, will stand before the Creator and Judge, not on our own merit, but on the merit of Christ.  Our eternal future has been provided for.  Eternal life has been given in Christ. 

Don't be a fool.  You prepare for the future of you and your family in this world.  Prepare for your eternal future as well.  Seek God in His Word.  Look to Christ today. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Cheating and Sin: How Much is Enough for Penalties?

The sports world is abuzz with the latest scandal involving the New England Patriots, in which they were found to have deflated several of the footballs during the AFC Championship game.  Apparently, NFL rules require the footballs to be a certain air pressure, and the Patriots purposely went under that number by 2 pounds. 

Now, I'm no football expert, so I don't know exactly what to think.  I've heard some say that this would allow the quarterback to better grip the ball on a cold day, making his passes better.  Some say the receivers would have an easier time catching it.  Still others say this makes no difference at all and it's no big deal. 

But here's the thing.  If there is no advantage to reducing the air pressure, then why did the NE folks do it?  Obviously they thought it was some advantage.  They felt there was enough of an advantage to purposely violate league rules regarding the air pressure.  Someone, somewhere felt it was some advantage. 

And then there is the whole "it's no big deal" angle.  Again, the NFL felt it was at least a big deal enough to go to the trouble of putting this issue into the rule book, outlining possible penalties for violating the rule, etc.  So it must be at least a little bit of a big deal. 

Being a NASCAR fan, I'm used to seeing this all the time.  Teams constantly play with the cars trying to get every little advantage they can.  Sometimes within the rules.  Sometimes pushing the edge.  Sometimes going way over the line.  In the end, when they're caught, it's always: "it's no big deal.  We didn't really gain an advantage.  I don't know what the problem is."  And again, the same arguments above apply.  If no advantage, why do it?  If it's not big deal, why are the rules there?

Then there is the big question:  How far is too far?  How many rules can you break before it's a "big deal"?  Are some rules ok to break while others aren't?  Why all the grey areas?  Aren't the rules the rules?

All of this plays into our attitude about sin, I think.  We have the same approach.  God has stated what is right and good, and what is not.  But we think we can play loose with those.  This sin is so small it doesn't really matter.  What's the big deal?  I mean come on, is telling a little white lie as bad as killing someone?  Is cheating on my taxes really as bad as cheating on my wife?  

What we fail to remember is that a single violation of any point of God's law is still a violation against a pure, holy, righteous God.  James 2:10 reminds us that if we are talking in terms of our ability to keep any of the law, we're in trouble, because "whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it."  One little violation is the same as violating it all. Of course, that's simply a reminder of why we need grace.  

None of us can keep God's law.  It's impossible. It was designed to be impossible.  It was designed to show us our need of a Savior.  But that doesn't negate the truth that sin is still sin, little ones and big ones, all a violation of God's holiness, and rightfully deserving of His wrath and judgment.  And while we are under the grace of God in Christ, His sacrifice having atoned for our sins big and small, to flippantly regard any sin as a "little one" or "no big deal" is an insult to grace and an affront to mercy.  

I don't know what will happen with the Patriots.  Some say they should be kicked out of the Super Bowl.  I don't think that will ever happen.  But a team that continually flaunts the rule book, acting as if they are above it, acting as if the rules are too small to apply to them....well, something needs to happen.  Justice should prevail somehow. 

In our case, justice has prevailed.  Christ died in our place.  God's wrath is satisfied.  Our sins are atoned for.  But please, don't presume upon that grace. Don't pretend that one little sin doesn't matter.  That one little sin is still a violation of God's law. It still would require the sacrifice of God's only Son.

And for those not trusting in that sacrifice and grace, don't ever think that your sin is too small to bring God's wrath upon you.  He's not NASCAR or the NFL.  He doesn't look the other way.  Sin will be punished.  If not through Christ's sacrifice, then you will pay for it yourself for all eternity.  Even the little ones.  So, please, run to the cross, confess your sin and your need of forgiveness, trust in His sacrifice.  It's your only hope!

Monday, January 19, 2015

The True Racial Divide – And How To Overcome It

As millions in this country celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, as the issue of race and racism and racial relations is on the minds of so many; I offer this simple reflection. Below are excerpts from two sermons by the Prince of Preachers, C. H. Spurgeon. In one he shows that there is indeed a dividing line between races, what he calls a “vital difference”; a division which means these races “can never blend.” In the other, he offers the answer to every form of division among us.

If those sound like they contradict one another, understand that in the first, Spurgeon's identification of “races” may be different than you think. And in the second, well, just read for yourself...

From “The Master Key – Opening the Gate of Heaven” preached May 23, 1886

THE possession of a God, or the non-possession of a God, makes the greatest possible difference between man and man... There are many wise, careful, prudent men of the world who have no God and, truly, these in the highest sense, like the young lions, lack and suffer hunger, for their highest nature is left to famish. Those who wait upon the Lord are often very simple and devoid of ability and policy, but they shall not lack any good thing—their highest nature is well supplied from heavenly sources. This is the great difference between the two races which people the world—I mean the sons of men who say in their hearts, “No God,” and the sons of God, the twice-born, who have received new life and, therefore, with heart and flesh cry out for God, even the living God! The child of this world enquires, “Where shall I flee from His Presence?” The child of Light cries, “O God, You are my God; early will I seek You.” There are thus two races of men who can never blend, either in this life or in that which is to come. Deep in their innermost nature lies a vital difference—they are of two distinct seeds. My dear Hearers, you can divide yourselves without difficulty by this rule—Have you a God, or have you none? If you have no God, what have you? If you have no God, what good have you to expect? What, indeed, can be good to you? If you have no God, how can you face the past, the present, or the future?

From “The Christian – A Debtor” preached August 10, 1856,

Therefore, Brethren, we are debtors.” -Romans 8:12.
OBSERVE the title whereby he addressed the Church—“Brethren.” It was the Gospel which taught Paul how to say brother. If he had not been a Christian, his Jewish dignity would never have condescended to call a Roman, “Brother”—for a Jew sneered at the Gentile—and called him, “dog.” But now in the heart of this “Hebrew of the Hebrews,” there is the holy recognition of Christian fraternity without reserve or hypocrisy! The Gospel softened the heart of Paul and made him forget all national animosities. Otherwise, one of the down-trodden race would not have called his oppressor, “brother.” The Roman had his iron foot on the Jew, yet Paul addresses those who subjugated his race, “Brethren.” We repeat, a third time, it was the Gospel which implanted in the soul of Paul the feeling of brotherhood and removed every wall of partition which divided him from any of the Lord’s Elect.

So then,” he said, “we are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God. He proclaimed the Doctrine of the “one blood” and gloried in the fact of “one family” in Christ. He felt within him affinities with all the blood-bought race and loved them all.

He had not seen many of those whom he addressed—yet they were known to him in the Spirit as partakers of one glorious and blessed hope. And, therefore, he called them, “Brethren.” My Friends, there is a cementing power in the Grace of God which can scarcely be overestimated! It resets the dislocated bones of society, rivets the bonds of friendship and welds the broken metal of manhood into one united mass. It makes all, Brothers and Sisters, who feel its power. Grace links mankind in a common brotherhood. Grace makes the great man give his hand to the poor and confess a heavenly relationship. Grace compels the intellectual, the learned, the polite—to stoop from their dignity to take hold of the ignorant and unlettered—and call them friends! Grace weaves the threads of our separate individualities into one undivided unity.

Let the Gospel be really felt in the mind and it will toll the death-knell of selfishness, it will bring down the proud from their elevated solitude and it will restore the down-trodden to the rights of our common manhood! We need only the Gospel thoroughly preached to bring about “liberty, equality and fraternity,” in the highest and best sense of these words! Not the “liberty, equality and fraternity” which the democrat seeks for, which is frequently another name for his own superiority, but that which is true and real—that which will make us all free in the Spirit, make us all equal in the Person of Christ Jesus and give us all this fraternity of Brothers and Sisters, seeing that we are all one with our Lord in the common bond of Gospel relationship! Let the Truths of Christianity work out their perfect work—and pride, bitterness, wrath, envy and malice must see their graves. This and this, alone, can restore the peace of divided families and unite disputing relatives.

Only let the Gospel be preached and there shall be an end of war—let it thoroughly pervade all ranks of society and saturate the mind of nations—and there shall be no more lifting of the spears. They shall be used for pruning hooks! No bathing of swords in blood, for they shall be turned in to the peaceful plowshares of the soil. We shall then have no hosts encountering hosts. We shall have no millions slain for widows to deplore—but every man shall meet every other man and call him, “Brother.” And men of every kindred and of every tribe shall see in the face of every man a relative allied to them by ties of blood. I am sure I feel, myself, the force of this word, “Brother,” and, “Sister,” with regard to many of you. If you are partakers of that glorious hope. If you are believers in our glorious Redeemer. If you have put your trust under the shadow of His wings—my hand and my heart with it—there is that word, “Brothers and Sisters,” for you!

There you have it. Only two races of men. Those of God. Those without God. And the answer for every other divide we have in this world is the Gospel. In Christ, we are all one; all brothers; regardless of race, face or place. Just some thoughts to ponder on this day.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Expectation vs. Reality

It's been a pretty dry winter in our part of the country. A few really cold days. A little ice scare. A little snow back in December that left as quickly as it came. So you can imagine how excited the kids were when they predicted 2-4 inches of snow overnight. We were all pretty excited.

But when we woke up this morning, nothing had really materialized. We were expecting this:

And we got this:

Sometimes the reality just doesn't live up to the expectation. Of course, I had to stop and remember what my expectation was built on: the prediction of a weather forecaster. Now, in all fairness, I know these guys do the best they can with what they have. They put all their models together, based on typical patterns, etc. They are definitely educated guess; but only guesses. In the end, they really have no idea. Because only God controls the weather, right?

I began to realize that this is a bit like life in general. We have so many expectations. We have expectations about what our job will be like, and what our marriage will be like, and what our children will be like, what life will be like in general. But they are only guesses. We can consult the charts, look at models of those before us, consider lots of variables that might get us a good guess. But it's only a guess. Life plays out much differently than our expectations sometimes. Because we're not God.

We even have expectations about God. We are told by this or that TV preacher, or we read this or that best selling book, that tells us God does this, or God will do that for us, or this is how God is. But what are those expectations built on? The words of men. Often the words of false teachers. The only true expectations are found in God's Word.

Even then, our expectations can be off. We read things into the word. We claim promises that are not ours, or at least no ours in the way we want them to be (read here for a great little post on which Bible promises we claim). And based on those faulty interpretations, we come up with a set of expectations, and then we are severely disappointed when they fall flat. But what were those expectations built on? God's true promises, our our fleshly interpretations of them.

Here's the thing. God has made all kinds of promises. He promises to keep those who are His, to never leave us nor forsake us, the bring us into an inheritance that will never fade or spoil. He promises to comfort us, to hold us up on the midst of difficulty, to watch over us and protect us. But we need to be sure that we don't have misguided expectations of what all that looks like. That we don't listen to those who tell us God's promise of His presence and provision means we will never have suffering, we will be always healthy and wealthy. Because eventually you're going to wake up and realize the weather guy was wrong. Your expectations were built on the wrong foundation.

Instead, wake up each day and take what God gives you. I wanted more snow, but I rejoice in the beauty of God's creation that He demonstrated this day. Just like I might say I wanted more ________________ (fill in the blank), I expected more this or that. Take what God has blessed you with, see the beauty of it, rejoice in His goodness to you, exalt Him for His presence with you, and praise the Lord. Rejoice in the Lord always, and again, rejoice. Even when you don't get what you expected.