The Impossible Task of Loving One Another

For those who read this not from our small group, we are currently working through the book, Forgotten God by Francis Chan. The series looks the often neglected or abused subject of the Holy Spirit in the church today.

Last night we discussed one particular Scripture from chapter 4 related to the main chapter heading, “Why Do You Want Him?”

One particular area stood out for me in this chapter… that one of the main reasons God gives us His Spirit is to enable us to love one another, specifically other believers. Now, we also know that we are called and enabled to love those still in need of the Gospel. Nonetheless brotherly or sisterly love in the church is to be a hallmark of the Spirit-filled Christian. Furthermore, as selfish prone people this task is impossible to do apart from the Spirit's enablement.

Paul covers this subject well in 1 Corinthians 13, and really that is a post all in itself. In fact, our group covered some of Paul’s instruction regarding spiritual gifts a previous week, and Lord-willing we will be coming back to chapter 13 regarding loving one another with our spiritual gifts. This is a critically important and beautiful passage for every follower of Christ.

Last night, we narrowed our focus on Galatians 5:13-26 and God showed us something fresh. I’ve read this passage many times previously, but never fully caught the beautiful over-arching context for walking in the Spirit! In verses 13-15 Paul talks about using the freedom the Gospel brings to lovingly serve one another in the church. We know from the flow of the letter that Paul’s main note of correction revolves around legalism creeping into the church. Paul reminds us in verse 14 that we are to love our neighbor as we would ourselves. It seems from verse 15, however, that the Galatian church allowed their legalism to affect their attitude and actions toward one another in the church. The biting and devouring likely consisted of some believers looking down and casting judgment on other believers for their varying degrees of legalistic stances/lifestyles.

Now, notice with me the very next verse! Verse 16 is usually taught on it’s own and it’s own section, but it is inexplicably connected to momentum of the previous verses. Even down in verse 26 at the chapter close Paul returns to the theme from verses 13-15 when he charges believers to “…not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” 

Do you see the challenging beauty of this context? The verses (16-25) on walking by the Spirit and not the flesh are couched in context of loving one another in the church! Oh fellow brothers and sisters reading this, we are so prone to interpersonal friction in the church and it ought not to be. Often we can internally and even sometimes externally level judgment on other believers for whatever the reason. Often we can slip into gossip about each other. Often we subtly choose to not associate with some people in the church because of any number of pathetic excuses. Often we can allow clashing personalities to deter intentional love with others. Often we can allow past offenses to fester, affecting our attitudes and actions toward others.

We are no different than the struggle of the Galatian church, and the corrective admonition is the same… to walk by the Spirit, thereby making this impossible task possible. Thus, one of the main reasons we are given the indwelling presence of God Himself is to enable our selfish tendencies to walk in step with His love toward others.

For those in our specific small group reading this, those in other small groups, those a part of a our church or another local church, and all of us who claim to follow Christ toward all believers in general; I intently want us to ask ourselves some hard questions. How is your pocket of discipleship community doing loving one another? How are you personally contributing to loving one another in your small group, local church, and all believers in general? When the answers to these questions are hard, return to the encouraging discipline of walking in the enabling power of the Spirit as He grows you in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control toward fellow brothers and sisters.

 

Walking by the Spirit to Love Each Other,

Derek

The Symbol of Marriage

For those blessed enough to live under a rock and never watch/read the news, the latest cultural skirmish is about a law on the books in Indiana that codifies religious freedom.  Supporters of those with ‘alternative sexual preferences’ fear that this law will allow for discrimination against this group of people.  The flashpoint for this harrumph was about a caterer refusing to work for a same-sex wedding.

With that as a backdrop… I read an interesting take on this from a secular source.  The author indicated that the caterer/restaurant in question was being hypocritical because they would not serve at this wedding but they would help out the same-sex marriage by providing food to the couple as they lived out their ‘married lives.’  The author says that the owner protests the symbols of gay marriage but help out the substance or marriage – the day-to-day living together that is married life.

It is amazing how much of God’s law is written on our hearts (Rom. 2:15).  The author is right – the wedding is a symbol of marriage.  I shiver involuntarily when I see a couple spend upwards of $50,000 to get married, yet fail to get any pre-marital counseling or anything else to help them meet the life that follows the ‘I do’, the wedding cake and the honeymoon.

But what we as Christians must know is this:  our marriages are also a symbol – a picture of Christ and His bride (Eph. 5).  Marriage is one of God’s witnesses to an unbelieving world about Himself.  Marriage spans all cultures and eras – a sign that can be clearly seen by all showing how God cares for His people.  Complitarianism – the idea that men and women are different in function but equal in value – is a key idea lost upon the world but is a sorely needed correction to the biases of today.

The battle for ‘same-sex’ marriage was lost by this culture when divorce (which God hates – Mal. 2) was freely available and socially acceptable.  I pray that the church stays true to the symbol and that all of us strive to preserve and care for what God has joined together.  Pray for your marriage and the marriage of others.  Seek to improve marriage as in institution and the individual marriages that you know.  Give grace when possible and give God glory at all times.  Finally – remember that the light will shine brighter as the backdrop gets darker.  (BTW - It will get darker - evens, come Lord Jesus...)

Our Posture for 2015

Wow, another year is in the books! As 2014 closes and we enter 2015, what should be our posture?
If we step back and ponder this last year in our families and across our world, our minds recall many joyous occasions as well as some hard times.
As we enter 2015, I’d like to share three Scriptures.
  1. In Matthew 6:9-10 Jesus prays what has become known as “the Lord’s prayer”… which actually served as a model prayer for His disciples. Although much history has passed since Jesus’ words in Matthew 6, His words still ring with profound application for us today. We as Jesus followers today are to be longing for Jesus’ coming full redemption in His coming Kingdom. In this regard, we Gentiles pray along with those original Jewish disciples for God’s Kingdom to come and His will be done in our lives and in this sin-wrecked world.
  2. In Matthew 24 Jesus answers His disciples' inquiries about the timing of the end of earthly time and the culmination of God’s coming Kingdom. In verse 14 Jesus says, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” The word Jesus used for nations literally is “ethnos,” referring to all ethnic/people groups. We know from Jesus that His Gospel message will resound throughout the people groups of the world leading to the end of this age and the coming of God’s Kingdom.
  3. Lastly, I think of Proverbs 19:21, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” (ESV) The author just exalted the wisdom of the one who listens and accepts instruction in verse 20. Now in the next verse he directs the reader’s attention to the time-tested surety of God’s will. Indeed the plans of mankind are numerous, but they don’t have the final rule. Often, as many of us will surely see in some form in 2015, God’s purposes for us don’t always align with our expectations. In 2015 may we acquiesce our will for God’s guidance, even when unexpected or uncomfortable.
Boiling it all down…
As we enter 2015, it’s no secret that our world is increasingly writhing in the birth pains like those depicted in Matthew 24 as all of creation groans for God’s coming redemption as in Romans 8. As we continue to see the wake of sin across our world, may we resonate with Matthew 6:9-10, crying for His coming Kingdom to come and His will be done. Yet, as we long for His full redemption, may we balance this in our minds with Matthew 24:14. We the church have been purchased with the price of Divinity’s blood for the purpose of heralding the central message of all time. So as we long for the coming culmination of all things, may our hearts ache for the scores of souls who still don’t know and embrace God’s redemption. So while we should long for God’s coming Kingdom, we should simultaneously be driven to lay our lives down for the sake of the mission set before us as seen in Matthew 28:18-10. In 2015 may we freshly narrow our focus to the clarion call of God’s blood-bought saints to spend our lives making disciples who make disciples who will join us when God does establish His future Kingdom!
Finally, as we persevere forward in 2015 for God’s purposes, may we recall the wisdom of Proverbs 19:21 and be flexible to the things God allows in our lives along the journey ahead.
As I write this, the following song plays in my headphones and I find it fitting...
“Someday” by Disciple:
"We will rise above...
Someday we will rise above the pain of this world.
Someday the grave and death will lose their sting.
They’ll be no more tears and no more stain and our all our scars will fade away.
Only love will remain, someday… until then we will hold on.”
May Jesus’ Fame truly Spread in 2015!
Derek

The Last Days?

Today, the feast of trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) continues for Jews all over the world as their new year. Aside from a time of celebration, Biblically the festival calls for contemplation and repentance in preparation for the Day of Atonement (as mentioned in the previous post). These Jewish festivals established by God Himself call Israel to recall God’s acts of faithfulness and remain steadfast in their commitment for God. As also mentioned in the former post, many of these feasts have fulfillment in Christ’s redemptive work. Furthermore, there are some who speculate that God’s future acts may revolve around the symbolism and timing found in these festivals. Jesus’ crucifixion occurred around Passover and His resurrection during the accompanying feast of unleavened bread. There are also those who speculate that Jesus’ Divine conception or actual birth occurred on the Feast of Tabernacles symbolizing Divinity tabernacling again with humanity. 

For similar reasons, there are some who speculate that Jesus’ rapture may occur around the Feast of Trumpets in light of the 1 Thessalonians 1:16 trumpet of God. While Jesus did say in Matthew 24:36 that no man knows the day or hour of Christ’s return, He did answer the disciples’ question with signs for the timing near His return. So, will Jesus someday rapture His church around the Feast of Trumpets? We have no way to know for sure. We simply know that His return is soon and we must therefore be ready at all times (Acts 1:11, Revelation 22:7)!

Regarding the times of the seasons and the imminent return of Christ, it is indeed interesting what is going on in our own world today.

Amidst all of the turmoil, unrest, and persecution, we also hear opinions about the timing of Jewish festivals and even some talking about signs in the skies like the tetrad blood moon events this year and next year.

Through all of this attention on the end times, what is to be the Christian’s response and focus?

First as foundational and foremost, we must always come back to the Scriptures for they are our bedrock source of truth. The following is simply an attempt to steer our minds that Word-centered direction…

The events of our day are increasingly troubling as we hear of atrocities committed against religious “minorities” on the other side of the world. It’s very easy for us to read of promised persecution in Scripture and somehow diminish it’s seriousness. It’s difficult for those of us, who live shielded from the realities of violent opposition in our “safe” American cocoon, to see the chaos unfolding on the other side of the globe as part of what Jesus promised would come (John 15:18-22; 16:1-4; 2 Timothy 3:1-5, 10-15). It’s hard for us to realize that Hebrews 11:35-38 describes violent persecution that occurred with God’s people that is quite similar to what actually is happening in our own day. 

What then is to be our Biblical response to this ongoing persecution on the other side of the globe?

My mind is drawn to Matthew 24 where the disciples ask Jesus about the sign of His coming, and Jesus responds with the birth pain signs we read through the chapter. At the end of his answer, however, Jesus’ challenge for them is to stay awake and be ready (Matthew 24:41-44).

We may hear David’s anguishing heart for God’s deliverance from his enemies during his life as a fugitive from Saul and be motivated to pray for similar deliverance for those under persecution. Yet, we often don’t see physical deliverance from persecution. At the other end of the Scriptures, we read in Revelation 6:9-10 where the martyrs cry to God for vengeance saying, “How long, O Lord?”

So what can we as Christians living in these last days do?

Answer: We are to be about the very same things Jesus commanded us to live for… waging the war on His mission of preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 28:18-20) and picturing this Gospel through our Christlike actions (Ephesians 2:10, 3:10). This is seen largely in Ephesians 4 where Paul challenges the Ephesian church with it’s calling, which was for those spiritually gifted with teaching roles within the church to equip the rest of the church to do the work of God’s ministry all with the goal of seeing all of Christ’s followers mature into being like Jesus. Thus, our lives are to be about worshipping God, actively submitting to His equipping of us through the church, and then being the church on mission together as we proclaim and exemplify the Gospel to a hurting, sin-wrecked world. 

In Philippians, Paul’s words to the concerned church in Philippi drip with his perspective of suffering for Christ. Writing literally from prison, Paul encourages the believers to be encouraged that Paul views the Gospel immensely worthy of suffering, for he was suffering for Christ’s sake (Philippians 1:29-30). Earlier in chapter 1 Paul shared his eternal perspective that must have been greatly frustrating for his opponents. If the opposition allowed Paul to live, that was for Christ as he still proclaimed the Gospel. If the opposition put him in prison, he still sang praise to God and shared Jesus with those in prison. If the opposition decided to kill him, Paul said that was great gain for He would then be with Christ in heaven (Philippians 1:21)!  

Literally, for us as the church today, if we live, it is for Christ and if we die, it is eternal gain for we too will be with Christ. This is a difficult perspective to sometimes maintain, as our world subtly chips away at it with the gods of comfort, apathy, acceptance, tolerance, and ultimately tragic deception. May our supreme cry of our lives, the very heartbeat of our hearts, resonate loudly with Paul’s in Philippians 3:7-11… that we actively engage in Christ’s purposes all for His glory, which will bring persecution worthy of the redemption purchased at Calvary!

We read from Ephesians 6 that this indeed is a spiritual battle that we must actively engage through the Spirit’s power every day. Never do you find in Scripture the idea that we are to run from opposition that comes from faithfulness to Christ’s mission. We do, however, have promises that opposition will indeed come, especially in the last days.

Regardless of the next opinion of when Christ may return, we must keep our responsibility constant before us. As we continue to see the birth pain signs from Matthew 24 become a reality in our own day and the days ahead, we have two choices with our lives. We can plod forward in complete apathy, numb from the brevity of our calling in life. Or… We can engage in the mission as Jesus’ church and advance through the darkness of this sin-wrecked world in the power of the Spirit, proclaiming the message of Jesus’ redemption, and bringing glory to the Father. 

Engage in our study of Scripture. Engage in our communion with God through prayer. Engage in our pursuit of holiness. Engage in our Gospel-centered, self-sacrificing marriages and parenting. Engage in our raising up successive generations as committed disciples of Jesus. Engage in our Biblically redeemed calling to be men and women according to God’s design. Engage in our submission to living each day in the Spirit and thereby producing the fruit of the Spirit as characteristic of our lives. Engage in our passion to share the Gospel with those God places in our path. Engage in our responsibility of using our own spiritual gifting to intentionally make disciples. Engage in our calling to be committed to the local church. Engage in our calling to intentionally allow ourselves to enter into authentic relationships of discipleship community. Engage in our passion to picture the Gospel through our outreach with the downtrodden and poor.

You get the idea… engage in living as Christ did, all flowing from your worship of Him! We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19)!

Finally, as we see Biblical signs (like intensified suffering) become realities in our own day, may we allow them to have the impact Jesus challenged in Matthew 24 of keeping us awake and ready, fully engaged on His mission for us as His church! If you want to put words to the confidence we have going forward amidst intense opposition and trial, read Paul in Romans 8:18-39 or 2 Corinthians 4:8-18!

 

- Derek

Rosh Hashanah - Feast of Trumpets

This season of the year is very important for Jews around the world. Tonight (Wednesday) at sundown marks the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, or Feast of Trumpets. This time from tonight until sundown Friday traditionally according to Scripture was ordained by God in Leviticus 23 as the Jewish New Year and a time of repentance leading up to the Day of Atonement (10 days following when the high priest would offer the annual sacrifice before God in the Holy of Holies). Originally, God only required a one day observance (the first day of the new year). Time and added traditions have turned the festival into a two-day observance. The trumpets would blast throughout the land this day vividly reminding each Jew that the day of sacrifice soon approached and they stood in need of contemplation and repentance.

Additionally, this Jewish year marks the seventh year for the sabbath land requirement. Rosh Hashanah this year will mark this seventh year, where abiding Jews will cease their normal agricultural activity for 1 year. According to Exodus 23:10 and Deuteronomy 15:1-4 this seventh year provided needed food for the poor. 

Day of Atonement (or Yom Kippur) occurs this year on the evening of October 3 for one day. The significance of this great day of Old Testament sacrifice of course has been fulfilled in Christ at the empty cross. 

Following this day, the Jews’ Sukkot or Feast of Tabernacles/Booths occurs from the evening of October 8 through October 15 again according to Leviticus 23. Tabernacles recalls God’s tabernacling among His people and His guidance/provision/protection of Israel in the wilderness journey to the promised land. The significance of this is enhanced when we learn of God’s presence departing the temple in Ezekiel’s day and then returning as Emmanuel, God with us, as Jesus comes to earth.

Tragically, many Jews today fail to see the fulfillment of these feasts in Jesus the Christ (Messiah)! Those of us who follow Jesus, may we study the Word diligently and be equipped to point others to the harmony of the Scriptures from the Old Testament to the New Testament to today and for the future! 

Furthermore, there are Messianic Jews today who still choose to celebrate these Leviticus 23 feasts in light of Christ’s fulfillment. Whether you have ever participated in one of these Christ-centered celebration of these feasts or not, a study into their significance amplifies the richness of God’s Word and His glorious purpose for mankind! Maybe a familiarizing of their Scriptural significance would be fruitful for you?

Each time we hear of these feasts celebrated by Jews today, may we recall God’s faithful acts among His people in the past as well as His graceful and masterful act through Christ at the empty cross!

More thoughts on these Biblical feasts, end time events, and our responsibility in light of it all to come in the next post...

 

Derek

Defining Moments Video

Defining Moments Video
A few weeks ago Pastor John shared a video from Billy Graham ministries that followed the stories of three individuals as they came to know Jesus as their personal Savior. Below is the included video. Below the video is the link to more information on Billy Graham's site.
If you are watching this video and seeing your personal need for Jesus, please don't hesitate to call us at the church for any questions!
907-262-4865

Genesis 3:15 and Jesus

Out in Bethel I am nearing the end of our study of John in seminary, but God continues illuminating His wondrous Word! I’ll share with you one quick example that I think fits really well with Easter!

In John 13:18 we read, “I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’” Later in verse 27 of the same chapter we read, “Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, ‘What you are going to do, do quickly.’”

In each of these verses we peer into the last couple days of Jesus’ physical earthly life, just prior to the cross. As Jesus and His disciples partake of the Passover meal together, Jesus begins some of His last teaching for the disciples. Judas Ischariot, however, will follow his predetermined course of betrayal. It is absolutely critical to see what is occurring behind the scenes in this passage! Notice that the power behind Judas is his submission to Satan’s work of opposition. Notice further back in verse 18 that Jesus quotes Psalm 41:9 in reference to Scripture being fulfilled of one’s betrayal of his Master. Just as David in that Old Testament passage felt the sting of a close trusted friend’s betrayal, so Jesus would feel the supreme sting on this level of betrayal. Although the language of lifting one’s heel references a Jewish way of describing one who dines with friends and then opposes the host in great contempt, it does also remind us of a similar occurrence of heel earlier in Scripture. Recall with me for a moment Genesis 3:15… “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Back in John 13:27 we clearly see Satan’s headstrong opposition behind Judas’ betrayal. Thus, we see Genesis 3:15 played out right before our eyes in John’s Gospel! The seed of the woman ultimately brought Jesus through the virgin birth, thereby avoiding the sin curse of Adam. The enmity relationship continued through all of Adam and Eve’s descendants as sin now became inherent with all humanity (Romans 3:10, 23, Chp. 5). But, Satan’s ultimate opposition came against the Messiah. His antagonism is seen through the attempt to thwart Jesus’ survival even as a young baby/toddler. His opposition continued through the course of Jesus’ life and public ministry, escalating to this climax of antagonism with Judas and ultimately the cross.
At the cross we see Satan’s supreme attack against God Almighty.

If the cross had ended at the cross (death), then Genesis 3:15 would have been null and void!
But, but, but!
We know the glorious truth of the resurrection!
The glorious truth of the resurrection fulfilled the protoevangelium declaration of Genesis 3:15!
Satan’s best attempt against Jesus became as a mere bruise on Jesus’ foot, as Jesus’ resurrection became a great crushing blow eternally against Satan!

What an incredibly beautiful truth we have in God’s revelation to us, for it is here in the Gospel of John that we see the glorious plan of God from the beginning! Truly, Jesus came in the fullness of time in and by His own authority for His supreme eternal purpose!
We as believers are a part of this incredibly sovereign and beautiful plan of redemption!

Amazed at the foot of the cross and the emtpy tomb,
Derek

Staffing Update

Bible Chapel Transition from thegapstander on Vimeo.

We wanted to take a moment and share our excitement about God's leading for us to come back to the Chapel! While following God's leadership doesn't always bring us down roads we expected, we can always have complete confidence in His sovereign plan! We are really excited to see what God has in store for the Bible Chapel, the Kenai Peninsula, and the villages in the years ahead!

If you wish to read our full newsletter, explaining our transition, you can access it here. 

Truly May Jesus' Fame Spread,

Derek

What is Truth?

On December 19th President Obama addressed the Nation concerning gun control in the wake of the horrible events that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 children and 6 adults were murdered.  In his prepared speech he stated that any actions should begin “inside the home and inside our hearts.”  He is correct.  Which makes one wonder, what has changed inside our homes and inside our hearts?  It appears that many no longer obtain the common sense to know that it’s wrong to murder.  Have we lost the ability to raise our children to know good from evil?  For dads to be actively involved in their children's lives, to correct them in child rearing regardless if they are sane or mentally ill?  For us to come alongside parents who have mentally ill children and seek to help them and pray for them?  Our Nation is forgetting what is good and what is evil.  Some of us are old enough to remember a Nation that understood absolute truth.  Tragically, many people have swallowed the "truth is relative" pill and today's culture is the product of that result.  These shooters are making up their own "truth," and why not?  Truth is relative to each person right?  I really don't think most of these people realize that absolute Biblical values within this country have restrained much evil over the years. 

In regards to access to guns, people who are intent on evil do not care how they access a gun, stolen, bought, borrowed, it doesn't matter.  They will obtain them however they want, even if laws make it a little harder, or our Second Amendment right is totally stripped away.  Nor do they even need a gun to do evil.  A man shot and killed 2 people in a Wyoming college two weeks ago with a high-powered bow and arrow.  If people start using those as their choice of weapon will we take those away too? Others have used bombs and various other methods.  I am not saying that some laws or practical limitations on weapons are fruitless, but I also do not believe they are the total solution.  It starts in the heart and the home.  We live in a godless society, and as Christians we need to be doing it better.  Our job is to reclaim the importance of Biblical truth and teach it and practice it in this troubled Nation.  To share the love of Jesus Christ with unrepentant sinners.   We need to be an influence, not passive.  Parents, our homes need to be the place where children are taught what the 10 commandments mean, “you shall not murder.”  On a grander scale, we all need to repent of our sins, humble ourselves, and turn back to God.  He is the only fix to this mess we call our temporary home… the United States of America.

 

Pastor Todd

The Coming Deliverance of the Shepherd-King

Every year at Christmas I like to focus on a different text or theme of the season. Last year I focused on Isaiah’s prophecy about the coming Jesus Who would be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. When it seemed like God’s promises and plan was forgotten or even dead, the Israelites saw God break the silence through a humble Baby’s birth. Truly we serve a God that is not dead, but actively working His plan of redemption! Last year, the old Christmas carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” particularly grabbed my attention on this similar theme.

This year, Micah’s book of prophetic warning and yet message of restorative hope riveted my attention. It is in this book that we see the little insignificant town of Bethlehem prophesied to be the birthplace of Messiah.

Micah ministers among Israel and Judah at a time of extreme corruption, compromise, pride, and persistence in rebellion to God’s design for His people to reflect His nature. In a world where the leadership–including the spiritual leadership–demised into continual injustice, Micah sternly warns of impending judgment. God’s warning to His people of the coming judgment is also balanced in the text with God’s loving heart of compassion and faithfulness to His covenant and overall redemptive plan. Although the current Assyrian threat in Micah’s day (contemporary with Isaiah’s ministry as well) would escalate, God’s plan would still prevail. Although the Babylonian empire would ultimately fulfill the prophetic warnings found in Micah and Isaiah, God’s plan would still prevail. Even as Micah focuses on an even greater eschatological focus, including both judgment and deliverance, God’s plan would still prevail.

It is in this judgment and restoration themed context that we read the beginning of Micah’s fifth chapter regarding Bethlehem. Micah 5:1 begins contrasting the current Judean king’s inability to shepherd and protect the people with this coming Bethlehem child who will be the ultimate Shepherd-King ruling in complete sufficiency. Thus, in Judah’s struggles under Assyrian and Babylonian judgment, their ultimate hope lied in the glorious promise of the long-expected Rescuer of God. It is indeed from this simple town of Bethlehem that the unexpected shepherd boy David became Israel’s king. Likewise, it is in fulfillment of the Davidic covenant that the Messiah would come in his lineage. Furthermore, Micah declares that the Redeemer’s birthplace would be from the same humble origin as David. Thus, the fulfillment of the promises given to through the shepherd-boy-king (David) would be the coming of this long-awaited ultimate, all-sufficient Shepherd-King.

Amidst this bleak outlook of Israel’s sin and the coming judgment, there is hope! For God has not forgotten His covenant. Israel will rise again through God’s glorious work of redemption. Further, Israel’s influence in birthing the Messiah will bring many more into the Kingdom than ever expected… all nations!

It is gloriously clear that the coming of Jesus is in fulfillment of Micah’s prophecy. Jesus is our Shepherd-King! Paul writes in Romans 11 how we Gentiles are graciously grafted into God’s overall sovereign redemptive plan. Thus, this Christmas may we stand in awe at the work and reign of our manger-born, Shepherd-King! He is our Shepherd! He is our King! He is our Peace!

Worshipping our Shepherd-King,
Derek

God's Word Our Rock

I'm loving studying the letters to the Thessalonians for next week's seminary class! I wanted to share one particular note from 1 Thessalonians 3:1-3 and a helpful comment from John Piper. Piper mentioned how we seldom address our emotions from the standpoint of Biblical doctrine. Yet, that is exactly what Paul and Timothy do with the Thessalonians. When opposition came (as they warned them it would in their initial proclamation of the Gospel--something we seem to dumb down in our own explanations of the Gospel today), they would be tempted to fear and renounce their faith. Paul and Timothy earnestly combat this through prayer and the exhortation of God's Word, that they might be established in their faith. Upon further worries and confusion about the future, Paul again comforts them with the "spade of Biblical doctrine" (phrase from Piper).

This is so practical for us today! How often do we treat our emotions from the standpoint of sound Biblical teaching? 

Let me share a personal example of how this worked in my own life recently. This past week, I was able to take the boys and travel along with Laura on her work travel job in a neighboring village. Upon leaving Quinhagak after a great overnight stay there connecting with fellow believers, a strong system carrying extreme gusty winds began creeping over the YK-Delta. Now my aviation background kept be pretty skeptical that the local air service would fly down for us that night. Thus, when they showed up for us that evening, I was pretty surprised. Let's just say the winds produced probably the upper edge of legal flying conditions. As we stood with our jackets flapping to the rhythm of the winds, the pilot began loading our gear onto the twin engine Navajo. He promptly began sharing with me that the amount of people and gear we had totaled an amount of weight he was uncomfortable with in the current strong crosswind conditions. As he explained this to me, another air service landed with a Cessna Caravan. There were many empty seats on the Caravan and the seat belts afforded a safer position to strap Jathan in, rather than holding him as a lap infant through potential severe turbulence.

Now, my lack of flying over the past few years combined with now having two kids is producing within me a heightened awareness to the dangers of flying out in Alaska's bush. (While we may personalize utilize aviation at some point in our ministry, for now God is leading us in different ways. We currently rely on the local air carriers.)

As I kissed Laura and Jathan while they were boarding the other aircraft, I tried to reassure Elias that everything would be okay. Thus, we were all headed north 71 air miles back to Bethel aboard different flights. As each of our planes quickly lifted off the gravel runway, we soon felt the power of the winds carry and push us northward. In fact at 3,000 feet altitude we experienced a 87 mph tail wind, and we safely landed in Bethel in a mere 15 minutes! All in all the flight proved not too bumpy.

Now why do I share this story? Although I am a pilot myself, I found myself rather concerned for the safety of my family. Since we've arrived in Bethel, I've noticed a certain rise in concern regarding flying with our kids out here, even on calm weather days. As I sat next to Elias aboard our flight from Quinhagak watching Laura and Jathan's flight take off, my concerns met this text in 1 Thessalonians 3:1-3. God instantly brought this recently studied text to my mind. Do we treat our fears and concerns with the sound teaching of God's Word? As I thought how Paul and Timothy addressed the Thessalonian believers, my heart was instantly convicted, challenged, and encouraged all at the same time. Did I believe that God is sovereign over all things? Did I believe that He is as Colossians 1 teaches the Creator and Sustainer of all things? Did I believe that He can calm the storm as He did in the Gospels? Did I believe that He is our refuge like David writes in psalm-inspired worship? Did I believe that He is our Shepherd? Did I believe that He has a plan for our lives? Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes! While the exact situation between the Thessalonians' fears facing persecution and my own fears over the safety of my family flying were different, the principle in addressing both issues was the same. Once we realize that we are to handle our emotions with the sound teaching of God's Word, then we must choose to trust in the truth of His Word. As we make these conscious choices, we can confidently ask our God to give us peace and security in His sovereignty. I am grateful for God's convicting, challenging, encouraging, and peace-giving work He did in my heart through this text and this experience the past few days!

May we all learn to consistently treat our fears, worries, etc. with the sound teaching of God's infallible Word!

Humbled under God's Word,
Derek

 

 

Agendas

As a sport’s official, I get to see many people react in stressful situations.  Many lessons are learned under such conditions – this is why (originally) that our society supports youth sports.  Character is revealed, too – sometimes to the good and sometimes not.

As happens every year, the character of some was put on display on the baseball diamond.  This involved different people in different leagues in different Alaskan locals, yet I noticed a common theme in all these situations.  (It wasn’t me! – this time…)  Each time, the aggravated party accused the other of having an agenda that is wrong.

As an umpire, this thought of different agenda stuck me as a ‘Duh’ moment.  Of course there are different agendas in an athletic contest.  Each team wants to win – there are two different agendas.  Each player wants to play and be the star.  Many parents want their child to play and be the star – some want it with a passion that more intense that if the parent was playing the game.  A good coach wants to see the growth and development of the players – sometimes more than the win. When I am working at a game, I have a different agenda – no injuries, good competition, rules followed, minimal murmuring and a speedy conclusion.  All these agendas come together in one spot – no wonder conflict ensues.

I was pondering this as I was accused of being against the agenda of a team (victory for them).  My agenda is so totally foreign to that team.  Sometimes, my actions will align with the team’s agenda – other times, my actions will be in conflict with their agenda.  Great eruptions of anger can and do ensue when people are convinced that I am out to 'get them' or I am thwarting theri agenda.  The reality of it all was I had no interest – zero – in their agenda.  My thoughts and actions are towards an entirely different end.  Most of the players have no concept of what I am trying to accomplish.  Yet, through it all, I do have the best interests of the players at heart.  I want the best for all of them - just not the 'best' as they define it.

I see much similarity in this with Joshua 5.  The scene is just before the Israelites attack Jericho.  Joshua is night scouting the city when an unknown figure draws close.  Joshua asks him  “are you for us or for our enemies?” – are you for our agenda or for there agenda?  The response is unexpected – ‘Neither’.   God was not out to establish he agenda of either side.  Rather, God was fulfilling His agenda – the long, slow march to Calvary.  That was the ultimate good – fulfilling our ultimate need.   How short-sighted and foolish are our fleshly agendas!

Romans 8 reads “Since God is for us…”. Remember that God wants the best for us and many times our wants and desires are not the best for us.  Place His ‘No’ to your prayer not as God being against you but as being for you and for an agenda that is more glorious than we can ask or even think.

The Resounding Beat of Our Hearts - Be Strong and Courageous!

I was recently reading the closing chapters of Deuteronomy. As God prepared the people for Moses' departure and Joshua's installation, we read, "'Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.' Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him the sight of all Israel, 'Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it. It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.'" (Deuteronomy 31:6-8)

What an incredible day this must have been, to hear these words shouted out to the doves of Israelites on the cusp of entering God's rest. They had endured years of wandering and suffering in response to the previous generation's failure to trust in God's deliverance from Canaan's residents (Numbers 13). As this current generation now stood ready to enter the promised land, they could recall all of Jehovah's provision and deliverance in the history of their ancestors. Their thoughts of trust and worship in response to God's previous deliverance prepared them for the great step of faith, battle, and victory that lied ahead. Now, they hear God's words delivered through their human leader, as Moses transitioned from being God's earthly shepherd for them, to be strong and courageous in the very presence and enabling help of God Almighty. Truly the beat of their hearts resounded this command and promise as they advanced forward!

Moses further commanded them, "'At the end of every seven years, at the set time in the year of release, at the Feast of Booths, when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD you God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law, and their their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as you live in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.'" (Deuteronomy 31:10-13)

This truth and the history that was about ready to be made was so important, God mandated that they regularly set aside a time to pass down God's command to be strong and courageous in the context of their promised land entry. Successive generations of Israelites were reminded of their history and their God's deliverance through the faithful adherence to pass this teaching along through this regular 7-year worship cycle. 

What parallels could we draw from this account in Deuteronomy 31? I don't know about you, but when I read of this account, I am encouraged, convicted, challenged, and drawn to worship!

Our innate ability to remember is a gift from God, given to us to recall the past in a way that will help guide our future. I fear in my own life, I miss the blessing of remembering God's past deliverances due to my forgetfulness and failure to regularly recall these periods in my life. May we, God's redeemed people today, do a better job of regularly and specifically recalling God's past work of deliverance and provision in our own lives! May we then be driven to regular worship and bolstered trust in our awesome God!

Furthermore, I fear I don't always do my job of passing down stories of God's past deliverance, protection, and provision to my kids. I know this is an area where I continually need improvement. How about you? May we as the body of Christ catch a God-given passion to pass down those worship-infused memorial periods of God's past deliverance. May it be our prayer that our younger generations would grow up fully seeing and realizing God's active work in the lives of their families!

Lastly, I am also encouraged, convicted, challenged, and drawn to worship at the reality of walking in step with our awesome God! Although most of us today are not Israelites, we are post-New Testament people of God. We are God's redeemed people who today make up the church. We are God's blood-bought possession commissioned to spread His fame and His message of redemption. We are therefore similarly commanded to herald the awesome work of our God's past deliverance and provision to a world in desperate need of redemption! When the people heard Moses beckon God's sure command to be strong and be courageous in His active work of bringing them into the promised land, think of the confidence this promise gave them. 

Likewise today, we've been given a similar promise. God assured us that He is continuing the work of Jesus through His redeemed followers. (John 14:12-14) Jesus assured us that He will build His church against any and all advances of hell itself! (Matthew 16:13-19) God displayed His sure plan of advancing His church amidst persecution through the early church's intense opposition! (Acts 7:54-8:4) God assured the apostle Paul that the Gospel would prevail even in dark places like Corinth! (Acts 18:6-11) God showed us what His Word can do over the magic occult of Ephesus through ordinary people! (Acts 19) God showed us similarly how He delights in using the missional living of ordinary followers like in Epaphras in Colossae! (Colossians 1:7) While we're never promised an easy life, God reminds His followers that He (like in Deuteronomy 31) will never leave or forsake us! (Hebrews 13:5)

Oh, what confidence we should have in light of our Lord's commands and promises! Let us ponder our God's wondrous work in our own testimonies with His deliverance and grace! Let us allow the words of Deuteronomy 31:6-8 be the resounding beat of our hearts as we advance forward for Jesus! Let us be strong and courageous, for we have God Almighty on our side! He is building His church through ordinary people like us. Let us bolster our confidence, trust, and worship as such! May God raise up our younger generations in this same bold, faith-held, and worship-infused passion to advance forward with our God!

 

May Jesus Fame Truly Spread,

Derek

 

 

Sovereignty's Beauty Amidst Suffering

I recently watched a video message by Steve Saint from a past Desiring God conference on suffering in missions amidst God's sovereign plan. I've heard his testimony before, but to hear it again in more detail, this time in specific context of God's intentional plan for suffering--in His sovereignty and missional plan for the world--was freshly moving. The story of how Steve's dad, Nate, and four others lost their lives for the sake of the Gospel's advance among a unreached people group has always gripped me. In this more recent message by Steve (2006), I listened as he shared deeper details about the savage-like methods of the killings that fateful day. It is truly a testament to the Gospel's work to hear grown-up Steve Saint now talk about his close relationship with these (now Jesus followers) who killed his dad! 

I think the other thing that struck me was Steve's testimony about his daughter's more recent death. After an apparent time of complacency in ministry to those in suffering, Steve told how he prayed to better identify with our suffering world. Upon their daughter's graduation, Steve and his wife had to give up their daughter to missions. As she returned home visiting from her mission travels, Steve and his wife were elated to have their whole family back together. In a moment of family bliss, Steve recounted how sweet it was to have her home with the family again. Later that night after complaining of a headache, Steve and his wife held their daughter and prayed for her relief and thanked Him for her visit. As they prayed, a massive brain hemorrhage occurred and their daughter entered eternity. Steve recounts the reaction of Mincaye (the Equadorian Waodani man who once was a killer but now a Jesus follower). Mincaye became part of the Saint family, an incredible testament to God's forgiving grace. As the Saint's daughter was rushed to the emergency room and medical staff hurried about, Mincaye tried desperately to figure out who was hurting his precious adopted granddaughter. Steve recounted how Mincaye's face formed the image of one who was once again willing to kill, this time to protect his family. As the tragedy culminated in the emergency room, Steve tells how Mincaye realized who was behind this. Mincaye rushed to Steve and said, "God is behind this Steve, God is taking our precious one to be with Him!" Immediately, Mincaye started shouting that the Saint's precious daughter went home to be with Jesus, and he urgently beckoned the medical staff to surrender to walking God's trail so they could likewise one day be with Jesus!

Now, what in the world can give some sort of semblance of logic to such tragedies in life? How do we process Mincaye's reasoning for the Saint's daughter's death? Ultimately Mincaye nailed it! In his own way he realized that sovereign God orchestrated His perfect plan for her life, just as He had enacted His perfect plan in Nate Saint's life. Somehow in that moment, the truths of Scripture on suffering (we often think of Romans 8:28, but the Scriptures are full of examples) became vividly clear to Mincaye.

There is much much more that we could comment on the theme of suffering from Scripture. But, for this post I simply want to share this testimony of Steve Saint regarding his own suffering experience. How do we view suffering? Those moments in our lives that are difficult exist for a greater purpose. How are we responding? How are we growing closer to God through them?

Steve closed his message with the following poem:

The Thorn
"I stood a mendicant of God before his royal throne
And begged Him for one priceless gift that I could call my own.
He placed it in my outstretched hand, but as I would depart I cried, "But, Lord, it is a thorn! And it has pierced my heart!
"This is a strange, a hurtful gift, that Thou hast given me."
He said, "My child, I give good gifts and gave my best to thee."
I took it home, and though at first the cruel thorn hurt sore
As long years passed, I learned at last To love it more and more.
I learned He never gives a thorn without this added grace.
He takes the thorn to lay aside the veil that hides his face."
-Martha Snell Nicholson

Oh may we more clearly see God's heart as we "walk His trail" through all circumstances!

 

For the Spread of His Fame,

Derek

 

 

 

Where Worldliness Lives - part 3

The Apostle John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, defines worldliness as something that exists within us.  Often times we try to focus on what is going on around us instead of within us, in our inner being.  Worldliness is not just behavior, its belief.

We understand this from 1 John 2:16.  “For everything in the world, the cravings of sinful man, the lust of the eyes and boasting of what he has and does, comes not from the Father but from the world.”  The essence of worldliness is in the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes, and the boasting of what he has and does. The root of the problem is within us.  So we must learn to discern worldliness where it lives, in our inner being.        

David Powlison, paraphrasing John Calvin, wrote, “The evil in our desires often lies not in what we want, but in the fact that we want it too much.”  Whatever drives you owns you.  When you must have what you crave, you have lost the battle of idolatry and worldliness.

            Our hearts may generate sinful cravings, but they can also be aroused by what we see.  The eyes are the window of our soul, giving opportunity to observe but also to covet. The world understands this and Madison Avenue pitches its products to the eye gate.  

            So what are you captivated by?  What do you think about the most?  What images stir your interest? Ask yourself, what real value does it have?  If you’re more excited about the latest movie or the next big game than serving in your church, if you’re impressed with athletes and movie stars, despite their lack of morality, then you have been seduced by this fallen world.

            What about “the boasting of what he has and does.”?   How much of your time and effort is spent on trying to convince yourself and others of how good you are?  How do you go about boasting in your accomplishments and assets?  What’s the real motive behind those posts and pictures on Facebook?  The boastful pride of life does not come from God and there is no future in it.

            “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17).  Please don’t waste your life pursuing things that won’t last.  John Owens described them as “living affections to dying things.” 

            There is no future in worldliness.  It doesn’t last and it doesn’t satisfy. But doing the will of God brings eternal satisfaction.  Which type of life will you choose?  Resisting the temptations of the world that is opposed to the things of Christ requires strenuous effort and being diligent. It’s a life long battle to keep the world out of your heart.

            The good news is, “God has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him” (2 Peter 1:3).  Resist the world by looking to the cross of Christ.  For it is “the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14). 

     “When someone sets his affections upon the cross and the love of Christ, he crucifies the world as a dead and undesirable thing. The baits of sin lose their attraction and disappear. Fill your affections with the cross of Christ and you will find no room for sin.”  John Owen

Easter Eggs, Pixar and God

Recently my family went to see the new Pixar movie “Brave”.  (Sorry, no spoilers nor recommendations from me.) While there, I was reminded of my mother’s axiom – cartoons are not made for kids, but for grown-ups.  She was commenting on my fondness for Bugs Bunny at the time, but the same holds true for Pixar.  The animation in “Brave’ is wonderfully done, with a beautiful, rich Highlands backdrop – a quality that most kids simply overlook for various reasons.

Another thing that I like about Pixar is the many ‘Easter Eggs” that they place in each one of their films.  In modern media, an “Easter Egg” is a ‘hidden’ message, usually a joke known to the creators of the movie.  For example, every Pixar movies has a pizza delivery pick-up somewhere in the film.  Even the medieval “Brave” had the 20th century pick-up truck hidden in the film.  It is a subtle note placed in the movie by the creator of the movie.

As I dig into our VBS curriculum, I am reminded of the same thing: The fingerprints of God are evident in His creation.  If you know Him and know where to look (like an Easter Egg), you can see a subtle message hidden in the creation by the Creator.  The whole of creation points to a loving, careful, wonderful Designer - one who created you and loves you with an everlasting love

Through the history of the Church, God has been seen in His creation.  Martin Luther writes:

Now the whole creation is a face or mask of God. But here we need the wisdom that distinguishes God from His mask. The world does not have this wisdom. There it cannot distinguish God from His mask. When a greedy man, who worships his belly, hears that "man does not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4), he eats the bread but fails to see God in the bread; for he sees, admires, and adores only the mask. He does the same with gold and with other creatures.

And from John Piper:

God means for us to be stunned and awed by his work of creation. But not for its own sake. He means for us always to look at his creation and say: If the work of his hands is so full of wisdom and power and grandeur and majesty and beauty, what must this God be like in himself!

These are but the backside of his glory seen through a glass darkly. What will it be to see the Creator himself! Not his works! Not even a billion galaxies will satisfy the human soul. God and God alone is the soul's end.

If you like Pixar movies, enjoy the Easter Eggs (A-113, John Ratzenberger, etc.).  More importantly, seek out the gems of creation and use them to better worship the Creator – your Creator and hopefully your Savior - Jesus Christ.

Are You Different?

   "Do not love the world or anything in the world." 1 John 2:15 

   "Many of the distinctions separating Christian conduct from worldly conduct have been challenged if not altogether undermined.  Even the words worldly and worldliness have, within a generation, lost most of their traditional meaning." (James Hunter) The distinctions that were once very clear to previous generations have been blurred and altered to the point that Christians are in crisis. 

    "Today, the greatest challenge facing American evangelicals is not persecution from the world, but seduction by the world."  (C.J. Mahaney)  The church and individual Christians are decaying from within because we've dropped our guard against worldliness.

    Are the lines between Christian conduct and worldly conduct blurry in your mind?  Let me put it another way.  Is your lifestyle different from that of the non-Christian?  Question - If someone were given two reports detailing your conversations, Internet activity, manner of dress, music on your iPod, TV and movie habits, hobbies, leisure time, finances, thoughts, language, attitudes, plans for the future and a non-Christians, would they be able to tell them apart.  If the difference is hard to detect, you might be in danger of drifting down the deserter's path with Demas (See previous post - 2 Timothy 4:10)

    God has given you a warning sign in 1 John 2:15, "Do not love the world or anything in the world."  Warnings are not legalistic restrictions from a God who doesn't want what is best for us.  Warnings are His expressions of His love for us.  He gives them for our good, to protect us from sin and its consequences.

    What is this world that we are not to love?  It's not the world that God created and called 'very good' in Genesis 1:31.  It's the organized system of human civilization that is actively hostile to God and alienated from God.  The world God forbids us to love is the fallen world that is diametrically opposed to Him and His Son Jesus Christ.  Every day we make choices whether we realize it or not, between love for a world that opposes God and love for Jesus Christ.

    Worldliness is choosing the values and pursuits of the world that stand opposed to God.  Worldliness is choosing to gratify and exalt yourself over finding your pleasure in Him.  It rejects His good and right rule and replaces it with our own. It exalts our opinions above God's truth.  "Worldliness is human nature without God." (Joel Beeke)

   Questions for you to ponder: What dominates your mind and stirs your heart?  Is it discontentment with you life? Wanting something you don't have?  Do you long for more power, pleasure or prosperity?  Do you covet the esteem and crave the approval of others? Are you afraid of being rejected for your Christian faith?  Or, do you deeply want to grow in godliness, becoming more like Jesus Christ and bring honor and glory the Lord through your life?

    These are tough questions, but necessary if you're going to discover whether you have been infected with the spiritual disease of worldliness.  More to come...

Cut and Paste Living

Have you ever heard of the Jefferson Bible?  Thomas Jefferson, or second president literally cut and pasted his own personal Bible, taking only those verses that he liked.  It was a book he was comfortable with. 

            Hell didn’t make it.  Anything supernatural, no.  God’s wrath against sin, absolutely not.  As a Christian I am appalled by the thought of someone creating their own Bible by omitting whatever they don’t like.

            And then I thought about how often I have ignored portions of God’s Word.  Guilty!  Here’s a verse that was brought to my attention recently that I think many of us try to ignore in one way or another.  Simple yet piercing if you really try to apply it.  “Do not love the world or anything in the world”  (1 John 2:15). 

            This verse is pointed, “Do not love the world”.  It’s also broad, “or anything in the world.”  It’s aimed at many of my desires, yet I’ve never memorized it or felt like I needed it in my battle against sin.  I’ve read it many times yet many more times I’ve lived like it wasn’t in my Bible.

            How does a Christian know if they are worldly?  Are you immune to worldliness?  If we ignore this command, we are not just guilty of making our own Bible; we’re in peril of being seduced by a fallen world that is diametrically opposed to God.  We are all at risk!

            The Apostle Paul described someone who was in love with the world and what happened to him.  He was a companion of Paul’s and helped him spread the gospel.  He stood by Paul during his first imprisonment.  Yet, listen to what said about him in 2 Timothy 4:10, “Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me.”

            What happened? I’m sure he didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to bail out. Before he deserted, he drifted away from his first love, Christ. You know someone like Demas, don’t you, someone who burned brightly for a time and then slowly turned away from the faith.

            So often we’re ignorant of the signs and symptoms of worldliness because a person can carry on looking on the outside like everything is great while slowly eroding away on the inside. Maybe he or she is still in church but on the inside not really excited to be there.  Maybe they sing worship song but without any real affection.  Listen to the sermon but without any conviction.  Spiritual growth wanes as they hear the truth but don’t apply it to themselves. 

            A love for the things of the world crowds out the love for Christ. A love for the world begins in your soul and it causes a subtle shift from the things of Christ to the things of the world.  In this way, the person who was once captivated by Christ, over time is taken captive by sin.  A slippery slope.

            So, are you on the downward slide? Sadly, many Christians are unaware of the peril they are in because they have ignored verses like 1 John 2:15, and become desensitized to the clear and present danger of worldliness.

            More reflections on this to come from my reading: Worldliness – Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World,  Edited by C.J. Mahaney

Evil shows that God is

Evil shows that God is

This post deals with mature topics. 

I have been following the trial of Jerry Sandusky with more interest than most people in the area. (He was convicted of 45 counts of sexual abuse of minors – the details are unpleasant and are not helpful in this context)  Some of that has to do with the fact that the trial took place in Pennsylvania, near my aunt’s house.  Some of that has to do with the nature of Mr. Sandusky – he and Joe Paterno were minor demigods in the area where I grew up.  If they were at a football game, scouting players for Penn State football, it was a big deal.

To see the details from the trial was sickening.  Further details that came out after the trial about Mr. Sandusky’s relationship with his adopted children were even more sickening.  The man will spend the rest of his life behind bars, which is good but will not heal the victims.  He will have to answer to his Maker – I pray that Mr. Sandusky knows Christ and that his sins were paid for on the Cross of Calvary.

An interesting sidelight, however, has been the (justifiable IMO) moral outrage over the crimes that Mr. Sandusky committed.  People know that a wrong was done (BTW – so did Mr. Sandusky – why else did he commit his crimes alone in the basement or in the showers after hours? John 3:19).  There has been much outrage over the crimes and why no one did anything.  The question I am asking is – why?

Why are people who believe in moral relativism so upset?  Those who say that we make our own right and wrong are angered over Mr. Sandusky’s choices of right and wrong.  I believe that their anger comes from the imprint of God on their heart (Romans 2:14-15).  There is a right and wrong.  We know that.  We did not makes it – we live by it and when we see gross actions that violate this sense of right and wrong, we get angry.

Where does this sense of right and wrong come from?  God.  Where does this anger come from?  God.  The same anger that burns against this sin burns in the heart of God against all sin – were it not so, He would not be a good and just God.  Evil has been defined as the absence of good and of God.  The fact that evil is – and our passionate reaction to evil – shows us that God is.