Friday, May 29, 2009

Pray for the California Supreme Court Justices

Lately we have heard a great deal about the California Supreme Court due to their ruling on the marriage amendment to the state constitution. I encourage you to use this as a reminder to pray for these justices, especially for their spiritual needs.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bible Study: "The Narrow Gate"

"Every good sermon has an effective and powerful application. Whether interposed throughout the presentation or supplied at the end, a good preacher will challenge his hearers on what to do with the truth that has been presented. What action does the congregation need to take? What difference should the message make in their lives? The Sermon on the Mount is no different. After the presentation of tremendous truth, Jesus makes a pointed, powerful application in 7:13-29. In today’s study we will begin to look at the pointed application of this “greatest sermon ever preached”.

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it." Matthew 7:13-14

Monday, May 25, 2009

America the Beautiful...God Shed His Grace on Thee

At church on Sunday we were singing the familiar patriotic song “America the Beautiful”. I must admit how often I have sung those famous words without really thinking about their meaning. I am sure many others do so as well.

Katherine Lee Bates wrote these words after a trip across the country culminating in a visit to Pike’s Peak in Colorado Springs. There she was awed by the beauty and majesty of our country and was moved to write the famous poem which was published in 1895. It was set to music and published as a song in 1910.

Several phrases of the song struck me, especially as I considered the gospel truths in the message I was about to present in the morning service.

One phrase is repeated several times throughout the song, “God shed His grace on thee…” We know that God shed His grace on us through our Savior, Jesus Christ. Certainly we believe in “common grace” and ask for God’s blessing and protection of our nation in a general sense. However, God’s grace can only be genuinely shed upon our nation through the message of the Gospel. (1 Cor. 1:4)

In the second stanza, Bates asks God “to mend thy every flaw…” I doubt Katherine Bates could have even imagined the flaws we see in our nation today. The only thing that can mend the flaws in our own lives, in our communities, and in our nation is the life changing power of the gospel. (2 Cor. 5:17) The “flaws” are sin, and the only way this can be “mended” is through repentance and faith in what Christ has done on the cross.

In the third stanza is the request that “May God thy gold refine…” Scripture speaks of the refining process coming through trials and persecution. The nation of Israel was refined as silver or gold (Is. 48:10; Ps. 66:10; Mal. 3:2-3) Peter vividly writes of our faith being proven, “though tested by fire” (1 Peter 1:7). Our nation has certainly seen some trials with 9/11, natural disasters, and the recent economic difficulties. We should ask God to use these and other coming trials and difficulties to turn our hearts towards Christ in order to refine our own lives, refine the church, and thereby refine our nation.

I am not certain that this is what Katherine Bates had in mind as she penned these words. Her father was a congregational minister, though he died when she was very young. She was raised in the Congregational faith; however there is evidence to suggest she may not have been a genuine believer. Regardless, careful thought of her famous tribute to our nation will remind us what America really needs—the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

There are actually several other stanzas to the poem rarely read or sung. You can find the entire poem here.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Spurgeon on the Gospel

"Everywhere there is a cry for the gospel, for men who will preach it in the love of it, for ministers who will live it, and inoculate others with its life: the church is growing sick of essayists, and asks for men of God. She is weary of word-spinners, and pretenders to deep thought, and she cries for men full of the Holy Spirit, who are lovers of the word and not speakers only. Soul-winners will soon be in demand, and your genteel essayists will have to carry their dry goods to another market. Sane men do not need fiddlers, while the life-boat is being manned to save yonder perishing ones from the devouring deep." C.H. Spurgeon

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Are You Thinking in Political or Biblical Categories?

When dealing in politics, the terms “conservative and liberal” or “democrat and republican” are normally used to describe the competing ideas, priorities, and philosophies dealt with in the capitol. These terms automatically bring up an adversarial and antagonistic relationship. It is easy to see folks on the other side of the issue or the other side of the aisle as an enemy that must be defeated.

I would encourage us to make it a priority to think in more biblical terms. This will help us keep a proper attitude towards those on the opposing sides of issues.

What are the biblical categories? Scripture simply refers to those who are lost without Christ and those who have repented and placed their faith in Him.

There are tremendous implications for thinking in these proper biblical categories:
But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ. I Corinthians 2:14-16
We must remember that those without Christ cannot think morally, biblically, and spiritually about issues.

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Corinthians 4:1-4
We should remind ourselves that those without Christ are perishing and that they are blinded to the truth of the Gospel.

When we look at a politician or a leader, we do not first see their political party or their ideological label. We first consider their spiritual condition. This is not to say that we ignore the political implications and realities that might arise. But our first thought must be that those on the opposite side of issues may well be lost and perishing without Christ. Their minds and hearts are blinded and they need the Holy Spirit to use God’s Word to convict them and open their eyes to the truth. Our priority as believers must be to share the Word and the Gospel. Thinking in these terms and categories will greatly change our attitude towards those with whom we differ so greatly.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

You Are Invited To a Gathering that Can Change Our Nation

It’s called your local church.

We see all kinds of gatherings at capitol buildings and courthouses aimed at impacting and influencing people in order to change our communities, our state, and our nation. Whether it’s “Tea Parties”, Pro-Life Rallies, or gathering to Fight for Marriage, we assemble in order to demonstrate political clout, get our message out, and to seek to influence others. This is certainly our privilege as Americans as we have the right to have our message heard in the public square.

However there is one gathering God has ordained to change us and consequently change our nation and that is the church. The church gathers to proclaim the gospel which is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. The church gathers to teach the Word of God which grows its members in sanctification. The church gathers to administer the ordinances which constantly point us to the message and changing power of the Gospel. The church gathers to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. The church gathers to demonstrate love and unity which is a tremendous testimony to the world. Believers then leave the church and go out into the world to impact it for Christ.

As I have the opportunity this week to attend the 9Marks Weekender conference with my pastor, I am reminded of the importance of the local church.

Remember when you go to church on Sunday you are going to THE gathering that can change our nation.

9Marks Weekender

Nine Marks of a Healthy Church

Monday, May 11, 2009

Showing Consideration for All (Including Politicians)

As things seemingly deteriorate in our country, we are often tempted to become angry and resentful in our attitudes towards politicians and others in positions of power and influence. This shows up in many places such as blogs, articles, letters to the editor, radio programs, and daily conversation. This is a tendency believers must strive to avoid.

Paul gives us a challenging exhortation on how to relate to government leaders and others in Titus 3:1-6:

Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit…
How we are to treat others? “Be ready for every good deed; malign no one; be peaceable and gentle; show consideration for all men” (including politicians).

“Malign” (the word from which we get ‘blaspheme') means to speak reproachfully, to speak evil of, or to rail at. Harsh, angry words and jokes aimed at leaders are not peaceable, gentle, or considerate (meaning “mild or meek”) and are inappropriate for one who follows Christ. Yet how often does this characterize our attitudes and speech in this arena?

Paul explains why we are to do this, and his explanation is rooted in the Gospel:

“For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.”
We tend to forget our own sinful, lost condition apart from Christ. He reminds us that God saved us, not on the basis of our own deeds and righteousness, but by His mercy. Genuinely grasping this truth changes how we view and respond to others.

Let us remember our own hopeless condition apart from Christ. Let us focus on the mercy and grace God showed to us. This will help us guard own hearts and our tongues as we respond to all those who do not know Him.

Friday, May 8, 2009

"What Distinguishes Christianity At Its Heart Is Not Its Moral Code But Its Story..."

"...A story of a Creator who, although rejected by those he created in his image, stooped to reconcile them to himself through his Son. This is not a story about the individual's heavenward progress but the recital of historical events of God's incarnation, atonement, resurrection, ascension, and return and the exploration of their rich significance. At its heart, the story is a gospel: the Good News that God has reconciled us to himself in Christ."

Michael Horton. "Christless Christianity". Pg. 102.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

"How Are We to Expect the Gospel to Be Kept Alive in the World If We Do Not Hand It On to the Next Generation?"

From Spurgeon's sermon entitled "Cheer for the Worker and Hope for London":

"Next, let me ask how we to are expect the Gospel to be kept alive in the world if we do not hand it on to the next generation as the former generation handed it down to us? It is from one lip to another that the Word of God is passed with a kind of living flame which books are not likely to communicate. Oh, shall it ever be said a century from now, “The people of 1880 never thought of us of 1980? They let the Gospel go! They allowed the doctrines to be denied, one after the other, and here we are without them, to perish in the darkness! The people of the Tabernacle knew the priceless Truth of God, but they cared not to make it known and here we are in ignorance through their indifference”? Oh, let it never be so! Let not the next century have to rebuke the professors of the present one and say, “You were false to God. Your men never preached the Gospel, though they had the gift! Your women never told it out to those about you and so the light flickered and almost went out and we are now left to suffer for your negligence.”
We certainly worry about the next generation in our country. Let us make sure we are faithful in the most important task of boldly proclaiming the gospel.

Read the complete sermon.

Monday, May 4, 2009

"The Affairs of This World Are Not Under the Control of Men"

When tempted to worry about the condition of the world around us and the direction or decisions of politicians, we will do well to consider Jeremiah's words as he sees Judah about to be taken into captivity:

“O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.” (Jeremiah 10:23.)

Spurgeon speaks of this verse in a sermon entitled "An Instructive Truth":

"What Jeremiah knew was this—that the affairs of this world are not under the control of men, however much they may imagine that they are. There is a Supreme Authority to theirs and a power which rules, overrules and works according to its own beneficent will—whatever men may desire or determine to do. Nebuchadnezzar was about to carry the Jews away from the land which flowed with milk and honey to his own far distant country, but the Prophet consoled himself with the reflection that whatever Nebuchadnezzar meant to do, he was only the instrument in the hands of God for the accomplishment of the Divine Purpose. He proposed, but God disposed. The tyrant of Babylon thought that he was working out his own will, yet he was really carrying out the will of God in chastising the idolatrous and rebellious nation! This was Jeremiah’s consolation, “I do not know what Nebuchadnezzar may do, but I do know that ‘the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.’ I know that, in God’s eternal purposes, every step of Judah’s way is mapped out and in the end He will make it all work for His own Glory and the good of His chosen people.”

"Child of God, will you, for a moment, reflect upon the overruling power of God even in the case of the most mighty and wicked of men? They sin grossly and what they do is done of their own free will—and the responsibility for it lies at their own door. That we can never forget, for the free-agency of man is a self-evident Truth of God. But, at the same time, God is Omnipotent and He is still working out His wise designs, as He did of old, in the whirlwind of human wrath, in the tempest of human sin and even in the dark mines of human ambition and tyranny—all the while displaying His Sovereign Will among men even as the potter forms the vessels on the wheel according to his own will!

"This Truth of God ought to be remembered by us because it tends to take from us all fear of man. Why should you, O Believer, be afraid of a man that shall die, or the son of man who is but a worm? You are, as a child of God, under Divine Protection, so who is he that shall harm you while you are a follower of that which is good? Remember that ancient promise, “No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord.” The most powerful enemy of the Church can do nothing without God’s permission! God can put a bit into the mouth of leviathan and do with him as He pleases. The Almighty God is Master and Lord even over the men who imagine that all power is in their hands!"

Read the complete sermon here.