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

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Borrowed Thanksgiving List

Here is an absolutely beautiful list of thankfulness from Erik, the Irish Calvinist. To all I say a hearty "AMEN!"

Realizing that thankfulness is not merely manners but a spiritual apprehension graced by God (Rom. 1.21; Col. 3.17), I have a short list of things I am thankful for this am…
-I am thankful that God made a covenant with his Son to save his people from their sins (John 17.4)

-I am thankful that God created this world as the stage to display his glory (
Ps. 19.1-7)

-I am thankful that God created men & women to reflect his image, enjoy his creation and rule righteously over it (
Gen. 1.26-28)

-I am thankful that God did not destroy the world when our first parents sinned, but instead announced that he would bring relief (
Gen. 3.15)

-I am thankful that God continued to lovingly communicate redemption through the prophets at various stages (
1 Pet. 1.10-12)

-I am thanfkul that Jesus, God’s Son became a man without ceasing to be God, in order to earn my redemption (
John 1.1, 14)

-I am thankful that Jesus, motivated by love and in obedience to his Father, fully obeyed the Law of God in the place of a rebel like me (
John 8.29; Matt. 3.17)

-I am thankful that Jesus own life of obedience is a sufficient basis to credit & cover me with so that I might stand blameless, holy and beyond reproach in his site (
Rom. 3.26; Col. 1.22)

-I am thankful that the sufficiency & perfection of Jesus’ work is eternal, it will not fade and is forever acceptable in the site of God (Heb. 7.25-27)

-I am thankful that Jesus did not cave into pressures, become weak, or turn aside from the cross as he marched resolutely to Golgotha in order to be the surety for my debt of not obeying God’s Law (
Matt. 26.39)

-I am thankful that upon that cross Jesus fully drank the divine cup of wrath that was due a rebel like me; the foaming, fully fermented cup of righteous wrath, that was due me, is now empty and therefore I have peace with God (
Rom. 3.24-26, 5.1)

-I am thankful that Jesus powerfully rose from the dead, furnishing proof that he is who he said he was, and God has accepted him (
Acts 17.31)

-I am thankful that Jesus is the head of the church, that is he is the Lord and lifegiver of it (
Col. 1.18)

-I am thankful that Jesus will come again for his church, finally defeat all of his foes, and put all things into subjection to himself as he will rule over creation righteously as the Last Adam (
Eph. 1.10-12, 20-22; 1 Cor. 15.24-25)

-I am thankful that God has given his Holy Spirit to point me to Jesus, instruct me in Jesus, by unfolding the Word of God that I might know, enjoy and be satisfied in God alone (
1 Cor. 2.10-16; 2 Cor 3.17-18)

-I am thankful for many many other blessings this Thankgsiving, however, at the end of the day the source and substance of all that is truly a blessing is the knowledge of, experience of and joy in God himself.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Follow up to "Thankful for God's Providence"

On the heels of my reminder that our nation has historically focused on God's Providential Hand during the Thanksgiving season, I find out that our current leader has chosen to focus on many other things and leave God out of the equation altogether. (not that I'm surprised)

Read my friend Rodney's take on it here:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thankful For God's Providence

I know it’s two days before Thanksgiving, but by the grace of God we hope to be at Grandma’s house for the big day, so now is as good as time as any to drop a few thoughts about the whole thing.

Most of us know the facts about those hearty Christian families setting out across the vast sea to find a land in which they could worship freely and serve God according to their conscience instead of according to the whims of kings and corrupt church leaders.

We know that those first couple years in this new land were very difficult to say the least. But those that survived pressed on, and after 3 years, the governor of the new Plymouth Colony, William Bradford issued that famous decree calling all citizens of the colony to gather for worship and the giving of thanks.

What’s interesting about that first proclamation, and I know you’ve heard this before, is how God-focused it was. “Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest . . . and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as he has protected us . . . (and) has granted us freedom to worship God . . . " He called for “all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones” to gather at the meeting house “there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.” The day was set aside for recognizing and appreciating the providential hand of God at work.

And down through the years, the official Thanksgiving proclamations continued to mention that. The first official proclamation from the Continental Congress on November 1, 1777 began: “FORASMUCH as it is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to him for Benefits received…” Actually, that one goes on to speak specifically of the “merits of Jesus Christ;” language that has grown increasingly sparse. But anyway…

The first presidential call for a day of Thanksgiving by George Washington in 1789 begins with similar language: “Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor…”

Official Presidential statements were off and on for several years, and then in 1863 President Lincoln issued what was to be the first in an unbroken series of autumn proclamations of thanksgiving. Even in the midst of a civil war he recognizes “the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.” His proclamation calls for a” day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.”

Do you notice a pattern here? At the heart of all of these statements of thanksgiving is a recognition of the Providence of God. God’s providence specifically mentioned 3 times in that first Congressional statement, and in nearly all the presidential proclamations for the next hundred years.

As recently as 2007, George W. Bush issued a proclamation reminding us to be “ever mindful of the many ways we have been blessed,” and that “Our country was founded by men and women who realized their dependence on God and were humbled by His providence and grace.” Again the focus on God’s providential hand.

What, then, are we to be most thankful for? I would say, the continued Providence of God. By definition, God’s providence is simply “that preservation care and government which God exercises over all things that He has created in order they may accomplish the ends for which they were created.” We may not always see that hand, but it’s there.

The Easton Bible Dictionary ends the article on Providence with: “The mode of God's providential government is altogether unexplained. We only know that it is a fact that God does govern all his creatures and all their actions; that this government is universal, particular, efficacious, embraces events apparently contingent, is consistent with his own perfection, and to his own glory.” Again, in simpler words, we may not understand it, but we know it’s there. And that should give us confidence and cause us to be truly thankful. To know that God’s hand is at work still, and His people ought to be looking for it, and depending on it, even when things look like they’re out of control. God is still God; He is still King; He is still on the throne; and His people can take great comfort and encouragement from that truth.

Quite honestly there are days I struggle with that. Like many of you there are times when I really question things. What exactly is going on? What is God doing? It seems like so much wasted effort some times. Sometimes it seems like we’re just beating our heads against a wall. I don’t know what the plan is.

But I do know there is one. And our responsibility is to remain faithful. To keep serving and doing what God has called us to do, and trust the Providence of God to accomplish the plans of God; knowing that indeed His plans will prevail. His purposes will succeed. His will, will be accomplished because He said so.

I don’t know who said it, but someone once put it like this: “God writes with a pen that never blots, speaks with a tongue that never slips, and acts with a hand that never fails.” Knowing that should give us great confidence, and cause us to truly bow our knees in gratitude and thanksgiving. His providence has led the church all these years. His providence led our founding fathers to this land. His providence has continued to bless us with the freedom to worship and serve Him. And it is our duty, as our forefathers repeatedly said, to thank Him for that providence.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Misunderstanding Grace

I love the subject of Grace. That should be obvious by the title of this stop in the blogosphere. In fact, my two favorite subjects of all time are Grace and God’s Sovereignty. I believe those to be the two dominant themes in Scripture. However, I’ve noticed that many misunderstand the subject of grace; or at least have an incomplete view of what it’s all about.

Some people see the grace of God as something like the benevolent love of a senile old grandfather. He just loves us so much, because we’re so loveable, and He just sort of forgets about our sin. To be sure, there is some element of truth in there. God does indeed love us, though it’s not because we’re so loveable. And His grace does cause Him to not hold us accountable for our sin, but it’s not just forgotten about, is it? It has been dealt with righteously in the sacrifice of His Only Son. Grace is a costly thing. It’s the ultimate sacrificial action of a holy and righteous God, preserving both His justice and His mercy at the same time.

Others focus on the grace of God as nothing but fire insurance. And certainly it is about providing our most basic need, which is forgiveness and reconciliation with a Holy God. But that’s where most of us stop: It’s about getting saved. It’s about escaping the flames. It’s about the forgiveness of sins and that’s it. Well it is about those things, but that’s not it.

Reading through Titus recently I was reminded again of God’s ongoing purpose of Grace in our lives with these words:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11-14, ESV)

So grace is about bringing salvation, but it is also about training. It’s about disciplining us, educating us, teaching us to do several things:

1. To Purposely Avoid Sin. Verse 12: training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions. Other translations say denying ungodliness and worldly lusts. One paraphrase says to turn our backs on a godless, indulgent life. (MSG)

But however you translate it, the point is the same. God’s grace at work in our lives should cause us to come to hate sin, to turn from it, to abhor it, to do all in our power to abstain from it; have nothing to do with it. If God is at work in you, if you have come to Christ by grace through faith, if His Spirit is truly at work in your life, then one of the noticeable effects of His presence should be a growing hatred of sin and an ever increasing passion to avoid it.

2. To Progressively Seek Holiness. Again in verse 12: training us…to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. Kings James says soberly, righteously, and godly. It’s not enough that we turn away from sin, we also need to actively, and progressively turn toward God in holiness.

And that doesn’t just mean the “big” sins vs. the “big” acts of holiness. It goes to the little things. Alexander Maclaren put it this way: “Ah! If our likeness to God does not show itself in trifles, what is there left for it to show itself in? For our lives are all made up of trifles. The great things come three or four of them in the seventy years; the little ones every time the clock ticks.” Which is to say that we ought to be focused on seeking godliness and holiness and self-control and righteousness in the little things all day, every day.

It means seeking to live godly lives not only out in public where everyone sees us; but at home with our wives and children. It means seeking holiness in those everyday moments when we’re alone, driving in the car, when we think no one else can see us or know our thoughts. It means seeking to honor and glorify Christ with our every breath.

3. To Patiently Anticipate Heaven. I know that we don’t often put patiently and anticipation together, but that’s exactly what’s required of us here. Verse 13 says, we are to be waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.

John Gill writes of this verse that we should be “looking for this… to be desiring it with the heart and affections set upon it, longing to be in the enjoyment of it, and yet waiting patiently in the exercise of faith and hope.”

We’re only passing through; Scripture says we are strangers and aliens here. This is not our home. We long for our true home, that better country Hebrews talks about. We may have never seen it, we really don’t know that much about it, but we know who’s there waiting for us, and that makes us long for it.

4. To Passionately Serve Christ. Verse 14 says that part of God’s purpose in grace is “to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” God wants a people who are zealous for good works. Not just willing to work, but zealous for it.

And this isn’t the only place in Scripture where the work of grace in our lives is associated with God’s desire for us to serve him. Probably the most well known verses on grace are in Ephesians 2 where Paul writes: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

We know that well. For me, it’s the foundation for my theology of Grace. But we often overlook the very next verse where Paul completes the thought. Verse 10 of Ephesians 2 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” God’s purpose of grace is that we passionately, zealously serve Him because we were created for this very purpose.

Just wanted to challenge us all to think of grace a little more. And then ask ourselves: Is the grace of God at work in your life. First and foremost, have you experienced that grace by faith in Jesus Christ? Have you come to Him in faith and found the salvation we all desperately need?

And if so, do you see the continued work of grace in your life? Are you purposely avoiding sin; progressively seeking holiness; patiently anticipating heaven; and passionately serving Christ? Can you say an unreserved yes to all four of those areas?

Our forgiveness, our justification, is only the first step. God wants to continue His sanctifying work in you as well. My prayer is that we would all seek Gods’ purpose of grace in our lives, that when He does return, those most glorious words will reach our ears: well done, my good and faithful servant.

Thanks for letting me preach.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Just Another Right Wing Wacko

I truly fear my head is about to explode. Information now coming out of Texas is saying that this incredibly tragic event at Ft. Hood could have been prevented in so many ways. Not only were there many warning signs in the life of this one sick individual, but now we’re being told that a Senate investigation had suggested the possibility of this kind of action by Islamic radicals over a year ago.

Meanwhile, does anyone remember that it wasn’t all that long ago that a Missouri State Highway Patrol profiling memo suggested that the home grown terrorists we should really be watching out for are Conservative Christian, Pro-life, anti-tax types? Never mind the real threat, let’s focus on those dangerous “right wing radicals.”

Then to top it off, I read this report that Chicago Mayor Daley was actually blaming gun-loving Americans for the tragedy at Ft. Hood. It seems that if we didn’t like guns so much, anti-American terrorists wouldn’t be killing us. In what universe does that make sense?

I’m not sure I have anything really profound to say here. I’m just so amazingly frustrated that there is a whole society out there which is built on the firm ideology calling for the death and destruction of America, Israel, and anyone else subscribing to any semblance of a Judeo-Christian worldview. And yet the mainstream media and other liberals in this nation still refuse to call that terrorist threat what it is. Instead they want to continue to pass the blame for all the world’s ills onto Conservative, 2nd Amendment supporters.

When will we throw away all this political correct garbage and simply face facts? The largest threats we have to our freedom in this nation are: 1) Radical Islamic terrorists who simply read their Koran and act on its demand to kill all those who fail to convert; and 2) All the liberal/socialist types who would continue to seek to gag and disarm God-fearing Americans.

I pray regularly that our nation will wake up before it’s too late to stop this slide. Ultimately I know that what we need more than anything is a genuine revival, for God’s people to get out and share the Gospel and see hearts genuinely changed. But in the meantime, it just breaks my heart to see this land I love being ruined by such ignorance.

Sorry about all that. Just another right wing wacko needing a chance to vent a little. Now back to regularly scheduled programming.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Charity by Guilt - One Man’s Rant

I walk into the convenience store to pay for my gas and the clerk asks me, “Would you like to donate a dollar to help feed the hungry.” Somewhat surprised by the question, I said a soft, “Uh, no thanks, not today.” She gives me a disapproving look and takes my gas money. I walk out feeling guilty because they must think I don’t care about the hungry.

Never mind the fact that our church has an ongoing benevolence ministry in which we help those in our community who are struggling; people we see face to face, know the need, and try to offer more than just a monetary “fix.” Never mind the food pantry we have at church to help as well. Never mind the fact that I have no idea what organization the C-store is collecting money for, or who exactly it’s helping, etc. I’m still made to feel that I don’t care about “the hungry.”

Same day. Different store. As I’m checking out with my toilet paper and bag of M & M’s (strange I know, but..), the clerk asks, “Would you like to donate your change to help teach someone to read?” Having just been through something similar I’m less surprised, but still not sufficiently guilty to part with my change.

What I want to say it, “I already pay a hefty amount in property taxes to support the government school, which by the way, my kids don’t even attend. That’s because we are teaching these kids to read at home. Which by the way takes quite a bit of money when it comes to buying curriculum, etc.; which we purchase on only one income since my wife stays home to give those children individualized attention. So actually, by putting this in my pocket I am giving my change to help someone read, thank you very much.”

Of course, I don’t say that. Just another, “Not thanks, not today.” And another shaking head at the insensitive, uncaring, miser who won’t give his money to another unknown organization to do who knows what with.

Now please don’t misunderstand. I know there are some really fine organizations out there who are doing some wonderful things to help folks with a variety of needs. And I know that they need funds in order to operate. But I really dislike the pushy, put-you-on-the-spot method of asking for funds at the local store where we have no idea who these organizations are, what exactly they are doing, where they are operating, who exactly is benefiting, etc.

And I don’t like the implication that if you don’t give your dollar or your change that you somehow don’t care about “the hungry” or “the reading challenged.” We actually give quite a bit to various ministry endeavors, as well as involving ourselves personally in some of those. But we’ve become a society that is so fixated on throwing money at problems that I guess this charity by guilt thing works, or they wouldn’t keep doing it.

But here’s a good lesson in stewardship. If you’re going to give to charitable causes, you are much better off giving directly to organizations that you know and trust; groups that you know are using those funds wisely; groups that you know are meeting real needs in the best way possible.

Start with your local church, and find ways that you can not only give financially, but get involved personally. Because ultimately, unless we feed the hungry with bread and follow it up with the Bread of Life, all we’ve done is help someone find temporary relief on their way to ultimate suffering. Unless when teaching folks to read we show them the True Word, all we’re doing is allowing them to fill their heads with worthless knowledge in the end.

And since we’re not supposed to even let the right hand know what the left hand is doing when giving to those in need (Mat. 6:3), then we don’t need to explain ourselves to the store clerks just so we think we’ll look good in public. And if you’re still feeling guilty and feel the need to make a donation, I know where you can send some money to help feed at least four hungry kids and help them to read all at the same time. Just drop me a check in the mail.

Monday, November 2, 2009

An Argument Against Alcohol – Revisited

I’ve been doing this blog thing for about 2 ½ years now and a couple of things stand out. One, there are actually people out there bored enough to read this. And thanks to the little tracker widget thingy, I can even see where some of you are. And two, the number one thing that is being read is an article I wrote over two years ago regarding “An Argument Against Alcohol.”

I must say that I’m shocked that this is the article folks find so fascinating. I’ve written about all sorts of personal and theological and political issues, but the biggest response, the most hits, involves this observation that really was sparked by a NASCAR race. It seems that especially in Europe and the UK, this is a popular destination in my little blog world.

So, I’ve been rethinking the whole thing. I’ve re-read my comments and tried to decide if now, two years later, I still feel the same way. And the answer is yes. Some of the comments received on that post reflect some misunderstanding. It’s not my position that Scripture forbids the consumption of alcohol in and of itself. Need I remind you of the whole water-into-wine episode?

No, my argument was, and still is that it is wiser for the Christian to abstain for valid Scriptural principles other than an outright ban on alcohol. Chief among those principles is simply the issue of thinking more of others than yourselves, and seeking to not be a stumbling block to others.

The truth is that alcohol consumption is a problem for millions and the cause of problems for millions of others. Here are a few facts on alcohol/alcoholism I came across:

•Annually, more than 100,000 deaths in the U.S. alone are caused by excessive alcohol consumption.

•Nearly 18 million Americans (8.5 percent of adults_ meet the diagnostic criteria for alcohol abuse or alcoholism.

•Approximately one in four children in the U.S. under 18 years old is exposed to alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence in the family.

•Alcohol is the top drug of choice for children and adolescents.

•Each day, 7000 children in the U.S. under the age of 16 take their first drink.

•More than 35 percent of adults with an alcohol problem developed symptoms such as binge drinking by age 19.

•Alcoholism costs the U.S. between 40 and 60 billion dollars per year.

•Alcohol–related crashes (i.e., those in which a driver or pedestrian had a blood alcohol concentration greater than zero) account for 41 percent of all fatal car accidents

•Alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes kill someone every 31 minutes and non-fatally injure someone every two minutes.

•There are more than 100,000 Alcoholics Anonymous groups worldwide.


Since we know the ill effects of alcohol, and we know that so many of our brothers are struggling with the issue, why would the caring, mature Christian wish to flaunt his “right to drink” just because there is no direct ban in Scripture? Why do we not consider:

Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. (Rom 14:20-21, ESV)

But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. (1Co 8:9, ESV)

"All things are lawful," but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful," but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. (1Co 10:23-24, ESV)

Why is this such a big deal? Why is the consumption of alcohol such an attraction among Christians that we are willing to ignore the health and well being of so many around us just to “partake?” Again, I’m not arguing the “cleanness” or “uncleanness” of alcohol in general. It’s not a sinful beverage on its own. But can we not see that it’s simply wiser to abstain for the sake of others?

OK, bring on the response. (I hope, if anyone is still reading this!)