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Archive for January, 2013

“As you look ahead to Sunday worship gathering do you pray for the congregation? Some remember to pray for the pastor or preacher and the preaching of Scripture, but I wonder how many of us remember to pray for those intended to receive the word. Paul prayed for the churches, not just the leadership. In Eph. 3 he prayed that the body would be…

…strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
(Ephesians 3:16-19 ESV)

Pray that God’s people would not just hear the word, but receive it with gladness. Ask the Holy Spirit to do what only he can do: bring about true conviction leading to repentance wherever necessary, and a deepening faith in Christ. Pray that all would be so sure of God’s love for them in Jesus that they would be drawn closer to the Savior and conformed into his image. Pray that the people would be so changed and challenged by the word that they are compelled to talk of it over lunch, share the message with others during the week, and treasure it in the hearts.”

–Joe Thorn

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Wrestling with doubt or fear

“Is there a fear staring you in the face right now? Are you finding your faith in God’s promise shaking? If so, you are likely praying desperately for God to be with you. God will answer you. But you might, like Jacob in Genesis 32, be surprised by his answer.”

With that question, Jon relays the story of Jacob wrestling with God all night long in Genesis 32 and then he shares some important principles for us.

Jacob began the night believing his greatest need was to escape from Esau. He ended the night believing his greatest need was to trust in the blessing of God’s promise. And what changed him from fearing man to trusting God’s word was prolonged and painful wrestling with God.

Sometimes, in your battle with unbelief, your greatest Ally will wrestle you — he might even make you limp — until you’re desperate enough to say, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” It is a great mercy to be brought to the point where you’re desperate enough to insist on what you need the most.

Read “I Will Not Let You Go Unless You Bless Me.”

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“When we seek to enjoy communion with the Lord — and not to be led astray by the ambiguities of religious experience — we read the Bible. From Genesis to Revelation, God’s words and God’s deeds reveal God himself for our knowledge and our enjoyment. Of course, it is possible to read the Bible without enjoying communion with God. We must seek to understand the Bible’s meaning, and we must pause to contemplate what we understand and, by the Spirit, to feel and express the appropriate response of the heart.

God communicates with us in many ways through the Bible and seeks the response of our communion with him.

  • If God indicts us (2 Cor. 7:8–10), we respond to him with sorrow and repentance.
  • If he commends us (Ps. 18:19–20), we respond to him with humble gratitude and joy.
  • If he commands us to do something (Matt. 28:19–20), we look to him for strength and resolve to obey with his help.
  • If he makes a promise (Heb. 13:5–6), we marvel at his grace and trust him to do what he says.
  • If he warns us of some danger (Luke 21:34), we take him seriously and watch with a thankful sense of his presence and protection.
  • If he describes something about himself (Isa. 46:9–11), his Son (Mark 1:11), or his Holy Spirit (John 16:13–14), we affirm it and admire it and pray for clearer eyes to see and enjoy his greatness and beauty.

John Piper, “Reading the Bible in Prayer and Communion with God,” in The ESV Study Bible (Crossway Bibles, 2008), 2570–2572. Bullet points added.

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“Because of cultural influences on the church in America in our time, we tend to treat the church like a drive-through restaurant. We think to ourselves, “It will always be there and it will always have what I want, when I want it.” So, some of us attend worship once a week, some twice a month, and, sadly, some of us only occasionally. We come to get something and to leave. If it is not there, we go somewhere else. Others of us treat the church like any ordinary social club, a PTA meeting, a family reunion, or a gathering of friends. We come expecting to talk about work, football, and the latest gossip. We do all of this because we are sinners to be sure, but also because we are products of the world around us.

We need to stop treating the church this way. The church is a body, not a drive-through. It is a group of living people. The church is a spiritual place, not a social club. When we come on the Lord’s Day, we need to expect that God is going to meet with us in the power of His Holy Spiriit.””

Excerpt From: Hyde, Daniel R. “God in Our Midst: The Tabernacle and Our Relationship with God.” Reformation Trust Publishing, 2012.

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R. C. Sproul answers the question, “Can I Be Forgiven If I’ve Had an Abortion”:

Since the Bible mentions an unforgivable sin, there has been much speculation concerning its specific identity. Some people have jumped to the conclusion that abortion is the unforgivable sin, because murder is one of the most heinous of sins and abortion has been considered a form of murder. Is this a valid conclusion concerning the unforgivable sin? No.

Without delving into the theological technicalities, let me say categorically that there is no biblical evidence to support the idea and considerable evidence to deny that abortion is the unforgivable sin.

From one of the most honest and yet heartless pieces from a pro-choice abortion advocate I have ever read entitled “So What If Abortion Ends in Life” comes these statements:

Here’s the complicated reality in which we live: All life is not equal. That’s a difficult thing for liberals like me to talk about, lest we wind up looking like death-panel-loving, kill-your-grandma-and-your-precious-baby storm troopers. Yet a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always.

When we on the pro-choice side get cagey around the life question, it makes us illogically contradictory. I have friends who have referred to their abortions in terms of “scraping out a bunch of cells” and then a few years later were exultant over the pregnancies that they unhesitatingly described in terms of “the baby” and “this kid.” I know women who have been relieved at their abortions and grieved over their miscarriages. Why can’t we agree that how they felt about their pregnancies was vastly different, but that it’s pretty silly to pretend that what was growing inside of them wasn’t the same? Fetuses aren’t selective like that. They don’t qualify as human life only if they’re intended to be born.

When we try to act like a pregnancy doesn’t involve human life, we wind up drawing stupid semantic lines in the sand: first trimester abortion vs. second trimester vs. late term, dancing around the issue trying to decide if there’s a single magic moment when a fetus becomes a person. Are you human only when you’re born? Only when you’re viable outside of the womb? Are you less of a human life when you look like a tadpole than when you can suck on your thumb?. . . .

I would put the life of a mother over the life of a fetus every single time — even if I still need to acknowledge my conviction that the fetus is indeed a life. A life worth sacrificing.

Guess what might be coming to a university near you:  “And now abortifacient vending machines”

And this lady is convinced that “Roe v. Wade Was a Good Decision” and argues amazingly that “Unitarian Universalists affirm the inherent worth and dignity of every person. We value life and the consciences of individuals, and we are called to protect and affirm the reproductive lives of women. By decriminalizing abortion, Roe v. Wade saved lives.”

 

 

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When you just can’t pray

“We go astray with the priesthood of all believers when we think it means that we alone are responsible for our spiritual lives, mediating our own access to the Father. That’s a mistake. The priesthood of all believers emphasizes that we need no mediator other than Christ. He is the one who intercedes for us, accepting our faulty and broken attempts at worship, and presenting them to the Father as acceptable sacrifices. We are sub-priests at best, our acts of worship empowered by the Spirit and mediated by our High Priest, Jesus Christ.

When you just can’t pray, all is not lost. We have one who prays for us, kneeling by our side, interceding with the Father, saying what we can’t.”

–Marc Cortez in “When You Just Can’t Pray”

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Absolutely!  As Mike Reeves argues, if the Adam of Genesis 1-3 is simply a mythological figure of sorts, then the good news of the gospel really turns bad.  You should read this well-written article which begins:

Picture the scene: George Whitefield has just been preaching. Everywhere, eyes are shining and people are talking of the wonderful grace of Christ. Thousands of hearts have been overthrown and melted; lives have been remade.

Now, if the church gives up believing in a historical Adam, we will never see such scenes again.

Too far?

A bit strong?

Not at all. For it is not just that the biblical genealogies depict Adam as a historical figure, not just that Paul can build core arguments on his belief that Adam was as real a man as Christ (Romans 5; 1 Corinthians 15). Adam has a significance in the Bible that far outstrips the simple number of mentions he gets. In fact, he has a significance so great that without him we no longer have a recognisably Christian gospel.

Given space restraints, I will point out just two ways mythologizing Adam uproots the gospel.

Reeves goes on to argue that mythologizing Adam makes God look bad and it disembowels the gospel.  So click and read “Why the Good News Turns Bad Without Adam.”

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Pray for this outreach in New Orleans this weekend.  I received this note from one pastor:

In a few days, Lord willing, I’ll be in New Orleans with around 115 other brethren from around the country, for Super Bowl Outreach.

We’ll be (D.V.) giving away well over 100,000 gospel tracts (very possibly twice that), and holding many one-on-one conversations.  And yes, there will be much public proclamation of the gospel of grace – street preaching – like what the prophets did, like what Jesus did, like what the Apostles did, and like what men throughout church history have done.  It will be my first experience doing that, and I’m looking forward to it very much… and thus my request for prayer!   (A helpful article on street preaching can be found here).

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Preparing for persecution

Pastor Kevin DeYoung:

How will the church of Jesus Christ respond when the things that the church must believe are considered laughable, backwards, or worse?

It’s always been the case that Christianity has been derided by some. But now it’s not just people in far off Hollywood or in far away academia. It’s people next door. It’s the people you work with, the people you live with, the people you go to school with. How will the church of Jesus Christ respond when so many of those around us tell us that what we believe is repugnant? What will we do when we are the moral minority?

You cannot plan for opposition, at least not in the way we might think. You cannot plan for it by ruminating and worrying about it, or by making yourself miserable now so you’ll be prepared to suffer later, or by fearfully anticipating the worse in every situation.

The only way to prepare for persecution (however big or small) is to trust that if that day comes there will be new mercies on that morning for you. The only way to prepare to walk with Jesus on that day is to walk with him on this day.

The best preparation is not to meditate on yourself. What would I be like if I were persecuted? Would I be a coward? Will I be terrified?  Sometimes we think, “If I suffer or get cancer or something bad happens to me, I’d be a wreck. I won’t be able to handle it. If persecution comes my way, or people think poorly of me, or if I have to deal with hatred in the classroom, I will surely fail.” But that’s putting the focus in the wrong place. The answer is not to meditate on yourself, but to meditate on Christ.

If you want to have a face like an angel on the day of trial, you need to reflect the glory of God now.

If you want to see the Son of God in the clouds on your last day, you need to look upon the face of the Son of God on this day.

Be full of faith. Be full of wisdom. And pray for the Holy Spirit that you may know Christ richly, love him sweetly, and be assured of his grace and mercy to you at all times. If that is deep in your hearts, then how could you possibly deny him? How could you turn from him? How could you reject Him? He is your only comfort in life and in death.

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“Because the spirit of our age is tolerance, we do not meditate on the wrath of God much these days. Our inherent idolatry latches onto this spirit and causes us to want a tame God we can keep on a leash. We want the kind of God who fits on a dashboard, on a bumper sticker, and on a t-shirt. We want a God who is like a toy we can take off the shelf every Sunday and use for our good, only to put Him back on the shelf Monday through Saturday. We want a God who is not present with “Because the spirit of our age is tolerance, we do not meditate on the wrath of God much these days. Our inherent idolatry latches onto this spirit and causes us to want a tame God we can keep on a leash. We want the kind of God who fits on a dashboard, on a bumper sticker, and on a t-shirt. We want a God who is like a toy we can take off the shelf every Sunday and use for our good, only to put Him back on the shelf Monday through Saturday. We want a God who is not present with us at the office as we join in the crowd’s corrupt talk. We want a God who is not with us as we bicker, gossip, and complain with other parents as our kids play at the park. We want a nice God who never confronts our laziness, who never upsets the status quo in our lives, who never tells us that what we are doing is sin. No, it’s not God we want by nature, but our desires; it’s not God we want to serve, but ourselves.”

Excerpt From: Hyde, Daniel R. God in Our Midst: The Tabernacle and Our Relationship with God. Reformation Trust Publishing, 2012.

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