Knowing God

I recently reread J. I. Packer’s famous work, Knowing God. As I read, I was reminded why that book is so well respected in Christian writings. Knowing God is more than just acquiring knowledge about God; it is about taking the knowledge you learned and applying it to your relationship and walk with God.

Packer says that knowing God naturally starts with knowing about God and the only place that we can learn about God is in his Word. We must be students of God’s Word, growing in it daily. In His Word, God has revealed His character and His ways. As we learn about Him, we also come to understand how He commands us to interact with Him and the world in which He has created us to live. We also need to learn to reevaluate ourselves according to His standards as sinful creatures in a fallen world. We must come to recognize that we are not strong and self-sufficient, but we are weak and sinful. And we are on a path to Hell without some intervention by God on our behalf.

Knowing God is about developing a personal relationship with God in which we surrender ourselves to God because He surrendered His life for us. Knowing God means we receive His mercy, actually plead for it. And we find peace and rest in Jesus work of the cross in which he forgives us for our sin.

Knowing God also requires that we become a disciple of Jesus Christ. It involves faith. I have always explained faith as not simply an assent to the Lord that we believe in Him and trust Him. It is also a commitment to Him through action. Faith is not just belief, although it is not less than belief. It is trust that actively rests in Christ and His finished work on the cross. It is trust that leads to obedience to the commands of Christ. Those that really trust Christ for salvation want to serve Him with all of their lives.

Knowing God finally involves a trust in the adequacy of God to meet all our needs and take care of us regardless of the circumstances or how things will turn out. Packer discussed the conflict that Paul presents in Romans chapter 7 that a believer has with sin in his life. Chapter 8 in Romans doesn’t take away the struggle with sin in this life. It only shows that God is with us and helps us to conquer temptation and struggle if we simply trust in Christ. We are more than conquers in Christ. Sometimes God takes us out of the circumstances that cause difficulty in our lives. But more often, God leaves us in the circumstances and goes through them with us. Regardless of which, we must trust God because we know Him. The climactic verse in Romans 8 is verses 28; God is working for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose!

If you are reading this and you do not know God or have not developed a relationship with God as is described in this blog. Send me a message. I would love to talk with you about how you can be saved. Or if you are a believer that has not cultivated your relationship with God, dive into His word with the goal of knowing Him, learning to know yourself, and understanding how you fit into the world around you! Only then will you develop a habit of knowing God!

Inauguration Day

As I watch the 45th president being sworn into office, I am struck by what has been called by Reagan both a commonplace occurrence and a miracle. The peaceful transition of power every four or eight years by the United States of America is a powerful example of a government that is for the people and by the people. This democratic republic in which we live is a testament to a government that is unlike any other in history. This is truly an amazing sight to behold. As I get older, I realize more and more that we are watching the history of the world unfold. But more than that, we are watching the sovereign plan of God as he ordained it before the foundation of the world unfold in time. As Christians, we should be vividly aware that this is our Father’s world. He created it and He upholds it by the word of His power. And nothing takes place that is outside his control.

Proverbs 16:9 (ESV) — 9 The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

Genesis 50:20 (ESV) — 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

Romans 8:28 (ESV) — 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Proverbs 21 (ESV) — 1 The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will. 

2 Chronicles 20:6 (ESV) — 6 and said, “O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you.

I share these verses to remind Christians to trust in God above all. You may be overjoyed that Donald John Trump is now the president. I have to admit, there is part of me that is optimistic that Mr. Trump will move our country away from following the ways of the globalism and back towards governing for the good of our country. But I am also concerned about the lack of morality in his tone, language, and actions. I will pray for the president as I have always prayed for each president. But ultimately, I know in whom I have believed. And I know who is really in charge of this world. This is a great moment in history, but it is not my history, but God’s story! Trust God! Follow God! Because if you put your trust in a human being, they will ultimately let you down. But God always keeps His word and always accomplishes His purpose! Trust HIM!

The Destructive Nature of Pride

I was reading a Puritan prayer that was focused on the Great God of creation. But the prayer started with an impassioned plea to God to destroy the spirit of pride within man.

Destroy in me every lofty thought, Break pride to pieces and scatter it to the winds, Annihilate each clinging shred of self-righteousness, Implant in me true lowliness of spirit.                                              The Valley of Vision p8

The Bible speaks about pride in several places and about humility of spirit in even more. Proverbs 8:13 states that pride and arrogance are the way of evil. As I was thinking about this prayer and how it applied to my own life, I began to think about how we treat one another in this country. Everyone seems to only focus on half of the equation when it comes to how we treat people. What I mean is that we seem to only care how people treat us, or whether something offends us. We don’t seem to care what other people think. In fact, it seems like more and more, a person cannot have an opinion about how the world operates that doesn’t include the secular mindset. What is wrong with our world? What is wrong with our churches?

I believe that the answer lies in the focus. What do you focus on in your religious experience? Do you focus on the great God of the universe, or do you focus on yourself? In Scripture, we find several places where idolatry was a problem. And so the biblical record addresses the sin of idolatry in many places. In our culture, idolatry seems to be a minor focus at first glance. We don’t carve out idols or craft them of metal or stone. But we worship something! Everyone worships something. So what is our God in the culture of the United States? We worship at the feet of the god of self! We are materialistic, gratifying the desires of worldly stuff. We are a sexual culture, gratifying the desires of the flesh. And we are a culture the eats too much, also gratifying the desires of the flesh. And this whole business of calling for a safe space or avoiding offending someone is all about self. We think more about ourselves than we do about others. That is the exact opposite of what the Bible calls us to do!

Philippians 2:3–4 (ESV) — 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

If we truly cared about others more than ourselves, there would be no murder, theft, or rape. There would be no divorce. And if we really believe the good news that Jesus is the only way of salvation, we would share it with everyone we see. Why? Because we love them and put their needs above our own. By the way, loving others does not mean that we keep our ideas to ourselves. It means we tell them the truth about sin, in a loving way, and tell others that God has a wonderful plan for their lives if they will only trust Him and follow Him. We desperately need to pray this prayer in our individual lives and in our churches. Destroy every lofty thought … and break to pieces all the pride in my life! Let us love God first, and then love others in the same way we love ourselves!

The Offices of Christ

During the month of December, we have been studying the offices of Christ in an effort to focus on the true meaning of Christmas, Jesus. Many Christians have made the Christmas season so man-centered, that it is difficult to sift out all the commercialism and selfishness that is associated with Christmas. How do you teach your children about the gift of giving when everyone is asking them what they want Santa to bring them for Christmas? I encourage parents to crowd out all the noise of our cultural Christmas with the person of Jesus Christ.  Take the time to teach your children everyday why we celebrate Christmas. Take the time to teach them what Jesus came to do. That is why I have been preaching about the offices of Christ. I want each person to be equipped with the knowledge of the character, person, and purpose of Jesus Christ and His advent.

Jesus Christ came to the earth to reconcile all things to God. While it is true that he came to provide a way of salvation for lost sinners like me, the focus was on God and His glory … not on man. We tend to want to make everything about us in our culture. But Immanuel (God with us) did not come to earth to cater to our needs. He came to glorify God and reconcile a sinful world and lost sinners to God. We indeed reap the benefits, but Jesus coming was about so much more than our salvation. So let’s name a few!

Jesus came as the greatest prophet! Moses promised a prophet greater than himself that would come and teach all things. A prophet is someone called out by God that speaks God’s Word to His created beings. Who better to teach the Word of God than the one called the Word of God in John 1? Hebrews 1:1-3 teaches that Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God to humanity. And Jesus said that if we have seen Him, we have seen the Father. So Jesus is not only the promised Messiah and Savior of the world, He has come to make the Father known as the greatest Prophet.

Jesus came as the last High Priest! The high priest is a man that would, once a year, go into the holy of holies in the Jewish temple to make atonement for his own sins and the sins of the nation of Israel. Since he was offering an imperfect sacrifice for imperfect men and women, this was simply a stop-gap measure to cover the sin until the promise of God to make all things right was fulfilled. A priest is also one that goes to God on behalf of man. Jesus fulfills this role by making a way for sinners to have their sin completely forgiven. He is the promise of God to make all things right! He did this by offering himself up as a perfect, sinless sacrifice. Because His life is infinitely valuable and He lived without sin, Jesus death and the power of His resurrection is able to cover the sins of all those who believe. In an ironic twist of the plan of God, the great High Priest becomes the sacrifice. And now the Bible teaches that Jesus is sitting at the right hand of the throne of God making intercession on behalf of humanity. We don’t need a priest to go to God anymore, we can boldly approach the throne of grace because of Christ’s work on the cross.

Jesus is the Mighty King! Jesus is the ultimate king that will sit on the throne of David forever and ever. In John 18, Pilate asks Jesus if He is a King. Jesus affirms this, but explains that His kingdom is not derived from this world. It is a spiritual kingdom that is given to Him by God that will one day be a physical reality. In fact, Paul says that Jesus has been exalted above every name and one day EVERY knee will bow and EVERY tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. And in Revelation 19, we see a picture of this King coming to establish His kingdom forever. And He is called King of Kings and Lord of Lords. What is the nature of His kingdom? He rules over all creation!

So the coming of Jesus is about more than our salvation. It is about setting all things right in the kingdom. In Colossians 1 it is about reconciling all things to God. All creation is longing for His coming! Humanity is crying out for peace on earth and longing for a perfect world. But more importantly! God is righteous and demands a perfect world under His sovereign control! Christmas is about Jesus! Teach it to your children! Remind yourself! And tell others that Jesus came so that we encounter the great love of God and walk with Him daily.

If you would like to know more about how to be saved, please send me a message! I would love to tell you about the love of Jesus and the good news of His coming!

 

Christian Response to a World Gone Mad!

After the sermon I preached last night a thought kept coming back to my mind over and over again. Our world has clearly changed in the last twenty years. The environment that I was raised in is vastly different from the one that my girls are experiencing. When I was a kid, everyone called sin, sin. We had little question about what was right and what was wrong. There were those that ascribed to a wild and loose life, but they understood that they had made a choice to live in sin. These days, we scarcely hear the word sin anywhere but church, and that word is absent from the vocabulary of most churches.

I could go on about the condition of our world, but look around. Everyone can see what it has become. The thing that kept going through my mind was the question, “How should we respond?” In Acts 21:37-22:29, Paul had an opportunity to address the crowd at Jerusalem after they had beaten him and called for his death. He was being led away to the barracks by the commander of the Roman cohort at Jerusalem. This crowd had been vicious to him, and yet Paul did not respond with hatred! He did not respond with a shrug of the shoulders and indifference. He did not find ways to lash out at his accusers. After all, they were his own people, the Jews, and he loved them. He desired for them to be saved. When he has given permission to address his accusers atop the steps of the barracks, instead of a verbal beatdown and a scolding, he gave them the gospel. Instead of a tongue lashing, he gave them a testimony. He had a right to be angry. He had a right to want justice, for they tried to kill him. But he was more concerned about their souls. I am convinced that many in the church are more concerned with our rights than they are with the souls of the lost. I am the first to say that we as a church have dropped the ball and have laid down while the world has gone to pot around us. I also believe that we should use every resource we can to see laws changed so that they favor life and morality. But I also believe that we do more harm than good when we angrily demand our rights.

Our commission has never changed since Jesus gave it. We are called to change lives. We are called to win souls to Christ and disciple them to be obedience. We are called to be salt and light in the world, and the way we do it is one soul at a time. We will never see revival in the land until we see more and more people saved. It’s time that the church understood that our mission is the gospel, not social reform or national patriotism. (And I am a patriot!) Share your faith! Tell someone what Christ has done in your life! And invite someone to church this Sunday! That is our mission! That is our goal! And that is our response!

Reflections of a Father

One of the greatest joys in my life has been fathering my five amazing children. As parents we are given a limited amount of time to train our children to be productive members of society and to pass on a spiritual legacy. We have been intentional about fostering both dependence and independence in our children and teaching them to think for themselves. As your children grow, you must find the right balance between sheltering them from the dangers of the world and allowing them the freedom to make choices and even fail. My prayer has always been that each child will find God’s path for their lives. I want them to be exactly what God created them to be. I have enjoyed watching my sons grow into fine young men and can wait to see the spiritual impact they will have for Christ.
My oldest son, Zack has been married to a wonderful and godly woman for two years now and tomorrow she will give birth to my first grandchild, Evan. Tonight I find myself praying for Zack and Hannah. I know the journey they have ahead of them. I know the hardships, and I have experienced the joys.
I pray for Zack that he will be a godly and present husband. Hannah needs a man who is there for her. She needs a man who leads like Christ leads the church. I pray that Zack will be the example of integrity that engenders respect in the life of his son. I pray that he seeks God’s will for his family and prays with and for his wife and son.
I pray for Hannah that she is the wife to her husband that provides the strong support he needs to be the man of God that he has been called to be. I pray that she be the godly example that nurtures her son into maturity through deep motherly love. I pray that her example is one of honor and love.
I pray that Zack and Hannah will continue down the path that they have begun and continue to put God first. I pray they grow into their roles. That they work together to make proper decisions about discipline and care for their son. Most of all I pray that they enjoy every minute of their lives because it’s here one day and gone the next. You blink and your children are grown. And that they put God first, each other second, and only then can they love their children the way God intended.
What a day tomorrow will be when this father will become a grandfather. But more important, what a day it will be when and young man and woman take up the mantle as parents responsible for their own precious life. Enjoy the ride! It’s incredible. I am also told that being a grandfather is awesome!! More on that later…

MAN UP – First Priority

How are men Christian men to prioritize their lives? I think we all know the answer to that. We could gather a group of Christian men together and ask them questions about what they should do and how they should live as a man of God, and almost every man would know the right answers. What is the first priority in a Christian man’s life? God! However, men don’t usually struggle with knowing what to do. They struggle with actually doing it. There are many excuses as to why we don’t put the Lord first. “I’m too busy.” “I’m too tired.” “I don’t want to give up anything.” I have sin in my life that I need to deal with.” ” I don’t want to add anything else to my schedule.”

The problem is in our understanding of our other priorities when compared with our relationship with God. It is a problem of the heart. It is a problem of devotion. When we make excuses for not serving the Lord, what we are really saying is that those things are more important than God. But, NOTHING is more important than our relationship with God. And NOTHING is more important than our devotion to Him. In Luke 9:57-62 Jesus dispels the idea that our daily lives are more important than following Him.

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God. (Luke 9:57-62 ESV)

Jesus is pretty clear! If we call ourselves His followers and are not willing to serve Him, then we are not really following Him. When we put our hands to the plow and look back, we are serving God under the pretense of complete devotion. But we are really longing more for the things of this world than we are for Him. Jesus gave EVERYTHING. What are you willing to give? It is time to make a decision. It is time to recommit yourself to the Lord. This is the first step to becoming the man that God has called you to be. MAN UP and PUT GOD FIRST.

Remember this … There is nothing sissy or weak about being a man of God. The first examples of Christian men, the apostles,  were willing to die for Jesus, and most of them did. They were willing to be bold and confront evil. They were persecuted and ridiculed and executed. The were MEN! Where have all the men gone? They are in our churches. They just need to MAN UP!