27 January 2017

This 'n' That

I love the story of Joseph in Genesis. Reading through these chapters again, I'm struck anew by God's sovereignty in all of our circumstances.

Fast-forward to our Lord Jesus Christ. He was God incarnate, with all the authority and sovereign power of His Father. He could have felled the soldiers who came to arrest Him in the garden. He could have walked away from the jeers and abuse at his mock trials. He could have, with just a word, destroyed the soldiers who beat Him. He could have come down from the cross.

But He didn't.

Why?

For the joy that was before Him, He endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2). For those sinners the Father had given Him, He died (Romans 5:8-10). Out of love and obedience to His Father, He humbled Himself to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:6-8).

What a magnificent Christ we serve! May we fix our eyes firmly on Him, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, and not grow weary in this life, but rather look to the next, when we will be with Him forever.

Of course, until that time, we still live on this earth, and so the close of another week means the opportunity for you to enjoy your week in review (kind of):

25 January 2017

Grace Upon Grace


For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. (John 1:16)

If I was to describe [a believer] from the Scripture character, I should say, he is one whose heart is athirst for God, for his glory, his image, his presence; his affections are fixed upon an unseen Savior; his treasures, and consequently his thoughts, are on high, beyond the bounds of sense. Having experienced much forgiveness, he is full of bowels of mercy to all around; and having been often deceived by his own heart, he dares trust it no more, but lives by faith in the Son of God, for wisdom, righteousness, and sanctification, and derives from him grace for grace; sensible that without him he has not sufficiency even to think a good thought.

But was I to describe him from experience, especially at some times, how different would the picture be? Though he knows that communion with God is his highest privilege, he too seldom finds it so...He takes up the Bible, conscious that it is the fountain of life and true comfort; yet perhaps, while he is making the reflection, he feeds a secret distaste, which prompts him to lay it down, and give his preference to a newspaper. He needs not to be told of the vanity and uncertainty of all beneath the sun; and yet is almost as much elated or cast down by a trifle, as those who have their portion in this world. He believes that all things shall work together for his good, and that the most high God appoints, adjusts, and overrules all his concerns; yet he feels the risings of fear, anxiety, and displeasure, as though the contrary was true.

How can these things be, or why are they permitted?...By these exercises he teaches us more truly to know and feel the utter depravity and corruption of our whole nature, that we are indeed defiled in every part. His method of salvation is likewise hereby exceedingly endeared to us: we see that it is and must be of grace, wholly of grace; and that the Lord Jesus Christ, and his perfect righteousness is and must be our all in all.

—John Newton

22 January 2017

Equipping Eve: How Healthy Is the Women's Ministry in Your Church?


A recent article by Melissa Kruger asks the question, “How healthy is the women’s ministry in your church?” What a great question! In this episode, we will discuss Kruger’s article, as well as look at the biblical portrait of women.

Click here to listen to this episode of Equipping Eve.

Below is a list of resources to accompany this episode of Equipping Eve:
How Healthy Is the Women's Ministry in Your Church? (Melissa Kruger)
The Biblical Portrait of Women: Setting the Record Straight (John MacArthur)

Further Listening
Equipping Eve: The Wisdom and Witness of Anna
Equipping Eve: The Cross of Christ
Equipping Eve: How to Study the Bible

Sunday Morning Praise

O Worship the King

20 January 2017

This 'n' That

I hate to say it, but there is a word that we as Christians need to stop using. Wait, scratch that. We need to stop overusing it. That word is: blessing.

Yes, blessing. I know, I heard you gasp. I hear you muttering under your breath, "Why, I'm not sure she's even a Christian!"

My guess is if you asked, she'd say she feels "blessed."
Listen, the next time you are in conversation with your Christian brethren, I want you to pay attention to just how often this word is used. Then I want you to truthfully acknowledge how often it is used genuinely. My unscientific guess is that, more often than not, we (yes, let's include all of us) use this word because we think we have to. We think that, if we don't call everything a blessing, people might think we are grumbling, or in sin, or not even Christians at all. Be honest—I'm describing you right now, aren't I?

The irony is, the more we use it, the more we sound like we are just trying to convince ourselves. "Yes, that splinter embedded in my finger was a real blessing, and it was a blessing when I couldn't find the tweezers to get it out, because then I was blessed by the subsequent pain. It was a blessing for me to realize just how much pain a small thing like a splinter can create. The blessing that came from the subsequent infection was blessed, too. Then it was a blessing to be able to apply antibiotic ointment, which in itself is a real blessing. That was all followed by the blessing of applying the bandage to my finger, which by this point was feeling like the most blessed finger any blessed person ever had."

I realize I may be coming across as a bit of a grouch here, and my example above is hopefully a bit exaggerated. We, as Christians, most certainly should be recognizing and acknowledging the blessings of God in all of our situations, both good and bad. Further, we should boldly and always praise and thank Him for these great blessings, again, both good and bad. We should proclaim the blessings of God to all who can or will hear. I do not deny this; in fact, I heartily commend you to do so daily.

The problem is, when we speak this way, if we do not genuinely believe what Scripture tells us, namely that all good things come from God and that even His discipline and trials are good, then others can see right through our hypocritical speech. Let us not be defined by hypocrisy, proclaiming our thankfulness for blessing through the lips of a forced smile. Are you in a trial yet you see the blessed hand of God in the midst of it? It is okay to declare thankfulness for that blessing through tears, and in fact you should. God sees our heart, not our play-acting. Don't patronize Him or His Word by pretending otherwise.

Sometimes it is enough just to know that He is good and gracious to bless His children.

With that, I hope you'll be blessed by the blessing of this blessed week in review (kind of):

14 January 2017

An Unexplored Mission Field

Tom Cruise. John Travolta. Kirstie Alley. Greta Van Susteren. We know a lot of celebrity Scientologists, but do we know what it is that Scientology teaches, or what it is that enslaves these and potentially millions of other lesser known individuals? Is this "church" merely a business, or is it an actual religion?

According to Walter Martin, the Church of Scientology "has all the marks of a religion. It has its own set of scripture, it holds a worldview, and it seeks spiritual enlightenment."(Martin, Walter. The Kingdom of the Cults. Ed. Ravi Zacharias. Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 2003. 351.)

Based on the work Dianetics (which means, "through thought" or "through the soul"), written by founder L. Ron Hubbard, the cult of Scientology is based on a "science of the mind." Its scriptures include Dianetics and Hubbard's other works, which immediately puts it at odds with Christianity and its unique claim to the exclusivity and authority of the Bible as the only Word of God.

"Scientology describes deity in three ways," says Martin, "Supreme Being, God, and gods. Members are free to choose their concept of God" (Martin, 363). Further, it is taught that man himself can attain a "godlike" nature, a doctrine which is no doubt linked to Scientology's root belief that man is basically a good and moral being (Martin, 364; 365).

By contrast, Christianity teaches the existence of one God, existing in three persons. There is indeed only one God, and He is the God of the Bible (Deuteronomy 4:39, 6:4; Isaiah 43:10; Mark 12:32; Ephesians 4:6). Per the revealed Word of God, Christianity teaches that man is in fact inherently evil (Romans 3:10, 23).

For the Scientologist, "salvation is to be free from the endless cycle of birth and rebirth" (Martin, 367). In other words, Scientology embraces reincarnation. From the Scientology website (note: this writer prefers not to offer a link to this website, but it is readily accessible for the interested reader): "Scientologists believe that people are immortal spiritual beings who have lived before and who will live again, and that their future happiness and immortality as spiritual beings depend on how they conduct themselves in the here and now." Like every other false religion, then, Scientologists believe that their eternal destiny depends upon their own good works. This is indeed why this group is so heavily involved in social improvement.

This is of course in stark contrast to the teachings of Christianity, which proclaim that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). Man's good works are as filthy rags before a holy God, and they cannot save him (Isaiah 64:6); man must be born again from above (John 3:3), brought to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation (Matthew 4:17).

There is much more to learn about the teachings of Scientology, but what has been examined here ought to offer enough evidence to help the reader understand that this is a group that is diametrically opposed to the things of God.

Why the topic of Scientology? Well, it has received some renewed press in recent years and while most Christians understand that it is a false and damning religion, it seems as though it is still far too easy to forget to view such individuals—both those who are currently trapped in such cults and those who have left—as our mission field.

13 January 2017

This 'n' That

Friday the 13th. Almost as creepy as Halloween, isn't it? Are you wearing your garlic clove? Oh wait, that's for vampires, isn't it? Never mind.

Here's a fun fact for you: According to Wikipedia, "The fear of the number 13 has been given a scientific name: 'triskaidekaphobia'; and on analogy to this the fear of Friday the 13th  is called paraskevidekatriaphobia." Further, in Spanish-speaking countries, it is Tuesday the 13th that is considered unlucky, and Friday the 17th is unlucky in Italy. The moral of the story is that superstitions such as "unlucky" days are silly and unsubstantiated, especially from a biblical viewpoint.

How superstitious are you? Are you superstitious? I hope you aren't, because as Christians, we know that there's no such thing as "luck," good or bad; rather, there is divine providence. Regardless of how it appears from our fallible, limited perspective, divine providence is always good, because it is the working out of God's perfect will by God Himself. That great doctrine of sovereignty ought to bring us great comfort in all circumstances.

What do we do with Friday the 13th, then? Grab your black cat (if you have one), and give it a snuggle. Run, don't walk, under that ladder. Embrace that broken mirror in all of its funhouse-like attributes. Yes, defy Friday the 13th, because it is just another day on the calendar.

Not only is it another day, but the best part is that it is Friday, which means you get to enjoy your week in review (kind of):

06 January 2017

This 'n' That

Ah, the first week of January. This is a time when many fall into that post-holiday slump, whether due to their intense love for all things Christmas that is instantly extinguished on December 26, or due to facing the reality that they won't see another break in their work schedule until May. Or perhaps you are one of those people who simply doesn't enjoy the gloomy skies of January. Regardless, it often seems that the sentiment of a "happy new year" is misplaced.

I never did understand the phrase, "happy new year." In reality, the year is really only new for one day, so are we wishing everyone a happy new day, and if so, why don't we do this every day? What is the expiration date for these well wishes? Let's face it, we will all have something lousy  happen to us this year, so does that mean the wish for a happy new year has failed? Am I the only one who thinks this is a ridiculous phrase to use so freely?

At the end of the day (or week or year), we have to acknowledge that happiness is a mere transient emotion, bouncing along the rollercoaster of our circumstances. Joy, on the other hand, is something that flows forth from a heart that knows and loves God and desires to serve Him. True joy is found in Jesus Christ alone, and it does not ebb and flow with the sorrows and thrills of life. If we know this joy, let us be thankful to God and eager to share with those who have not yet bowed their knee to Him. What better way to celebrate the new year than to share the saving gospel of Jesus Christ with those who are lost?

As you ponder that thought, let me thank you for joining me for the very first 2017 week in review (kind of):

01 January 2017

Sunday Morning Praise

Great God, We Sing That Mighty Hand

Click here for another beautiful rendition of this hymn.