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Monthly Archives: August 2015

Walking vs. Running

"My" boardwalk outside Edgewood

“My” boardwalk outside Edgewood

I went for a walk today…and a few hours later, I went for a run. The walk was better. Here’s why…

The walk, you see, wasn’t about fitness, just about prayer, though there might have been some side health benefits along the way. But I didn’t do it to get my heart in shape, at least not my physical heart, and that’s good because the pace was quite meandering. Now I’ve been praying and walking since my college days, and it is probably my favorite way to pray. (In 2008, I wrote a grant proposal on “walking prayer” to the Lilly Endowment, and $45,000 later, my family and I went to Europe for three months where I did a fair bit of prayer walking in the hills of Scotland, and all of us did a good bit of walking in Scotland and other never-to-forget locales.) I like to joke that the Lord put a boardwalk and an incredible walk right next to our church through woods and a marsh as a personal present to me, and I tend to call it “my boardwalk”, though I will let you walk on it every so often.

Anyway, I say that the walk today was better than the run because of what the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy…

…train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 1 Timothy 4:7-8 (ESV)

Of course, it’s important to stay in shape. While I doubt Paul did push-ups, even he said that bodily training was of “some” value. And we know why: working out makes you feel better…and look better. In other words, it is good and important for the present, for this life, for the here and now. But…spiritual training and godliness, these things are important not just for today, but also for tomorrow. For this life…and the next.

So if some day in the future, all you have time for is a walk…or a run…well, you know what to do.

For Tuesday, September 1: 1 Timothy 5

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2015 in Prayer, spiritual training

 

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Why We Can’t Do Without the Local Church

Many years ago, a dear college friend of mine went off to be a missionary in Japan, a country where the majority of the people had hearts of stone. While Japan is not a closed country, the gospel has made very little progress over the centuries; my friend labored in this hard land for the better part of two decades.

He came to Waupun for a visit about 10 years ago, and over lunch and a long talk, I discovered he had made a significant theological change since our days at the University of Illinois: he had abandoned the local church. Not Jesus, mind you, just His bride.

This was quite a change for him. In college, he was a churchman of the highest order – faithful in his attendance, teaching Sunday school, encouraging others to come. Not so anymore. Now, he had come to think of the church as a hindrance. But you had to hand it to him, he was consistent. When I asked him about baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the ordinances of the church, he thought these were unimportant. And in a case of extremely poor exegesis, he had determined that baptism in Matthew 28:19 (“Go and make disciples, baptizing them…”) was “Spirit” baptism, not water baptism (though it was certainly very hard to understand how Jesus could command his disciples to “Spirit”-baptize people).

Though he would claim otherwise, my friend had come to his theology by experience, not Scripture. You see, group identity in Japan is an incredibly powerful force, something we can’t even understand here. For instance, because children in the country identify so strongly with their schoolmates, a child moved from the school where she started attending in say, kindergarten, will almost never be accepted in new schools. Therefore, a Japanese man transferred within his company to another city often doesn’t move his family. He just sets up an apartment by himself in the new city. (I’m in danger here of telling you more than I know about Japanese culture, but this is my understanding). This strong group identity cuts both ways, and as a result, when doing evangelism, missionaries and Japanese Christians face an uphill task when seeking to bring people together in new groups (in this case, the church).

My friend has a bit of a problem however – the Word of God, which everywhere assumes that if someone is a Christian, he will be a part of the local church. And not just that, the Bible says that the church is actually the protector of the glorious gospel message…

I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. 1 Timothy 3:14-15 (ESV)

Here Paul is clearly writing to his protégé Timothy about the local church, not the “universal church” as he speaks about how someone ought to “behave” in this “assembly” (what the word “church” actually means in Greek). But notice what else he says about the local church – it is the “pillar and buttress of the truth.” This is powerful, and indicates that while there are other important Christian organizations (i.e. parachurch ministries like Focus on the Family, Cru, Inter-Varsity, etc.) it is the local church which is the protector and vanguard of the Gospel. And the Gospel, of course, empowered by the Holy Spirit, is at the very heart of Scripture…and thus, our faith. There is therefore good reason that Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in the Chicagoland area, has famously said,

“The local church is the hope of the world.”

Amen, and amen.

I’ve lost touch with my friend over the years. He had some health issues, and I think might have been moving back to the states. But I hope he has reconsidered his thinking through the years. He always had a deep love for the Lord Jesus, and so I hope he has reconsidered his waning affection for the bride of Christ.

For Monday, August 31st: 1 Timothy 4

 

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Predestination, Election and God’s Desire for All to be Saved

So, here’s an easy topic today, huh?  How are we to understand this verse…

This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:3-4 (ESV)

in light of this verse…

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. Romans 8:29-30 (ESV)

Many people are very puzzled when they compare the teaching of predestination and election (hard enough to accept, and yet taught in Romans 8 & 9, Ephesians 1, John 6, etc.) to other texts which teach that God desires everyone to be saved or is “not wishing that any should perish” (2 Peter 3:9 ESV).

In an article written in 1995, called Are There Two Wills in God, John Piper refers to an essay written by Robert L. Dabney which seeks to solve this question, one of the most difficult in theology. It’s a story about how George Washington was faced with doing something he most definitely didn’t want to do – sign the death warrant of a treasonous soldier:

“A certain Major André had jeopardized the safety of the young nation through ‘rash and unfortunate’ treasonous acts. Marshall says of the death warrant, signed by Washington, ‘Perhaps on no occasion of his life did the commander-in-chief obey with more reluctance the stern mandates of duty and of policy.’ Dabney observes that Washington’s compassion for André was ‘real and profound’. He also had ‘plenary power to kill or to save alive.’ Why then did he sign the death warrant? Dabney explains, ‘Washington’s volition to sign the death-warrant of André did not arise from the fact that his compassion was slight or feigned, but from the fact that it was rationally counterpoised by a complex of superior judgments . . . of wisdom, duty, patriotism, and moral indignation [the wide-angle lens].’

“Dabney imagines a defender of André, hearing Washington say, ‘I do this with the deepest reluctance and pity.’ Then the defender says, ‘Since you are supreme in this matter, and have full bodily ability to throw down that pen, we shall know by your signing this warrant that your pity is hypocritical.’ Dabney responds to this by saying, ‘The petulance of this charge would have been equal to its folly. The pity was real, but was restrained by superior elements of motive. Washington had official and bodily power to discharge the criminal, but he had not the sanctions of his own wisdom and justice.’ The corresponding point in the case of divine election is that ‘the absence of volition in God to save does not necessarily imply the absence of compassion.’ God has ‘a true compassion, which is yet restrained, in the case of the . . . non-elect, by consistent and holy reasons, from taking the form of a volition to regenerate.’ God’s infinite wisdom regulates his whole will and guides and harmonizes (not suppresses) all its active principles.

“…God’s expression of pity and his entreaties have heart in them. There is a genuine inclination in God’s heart to spare those who have committed treason against his kingdom. But his motivation is complex, and not every true element in it rises to the level of effective choice.

In the article, Piper speaks about how we know that there are certain things that God desires and yet in his sovereign will allows something else to come to pass. Most famously, for instance, in the death of His Son, God truly desired that the Romans and the Jewish leaders obey the Golden Rule and treat His Son as they would like to be treated (Matthew 7:12). But in a greater sense, He also desired that His Son offer Himself as a sacrifice to save the world. So, our Sovereign God…had two desires, or two wills, as John Piper describes it…

“Therefore we know it was not the ‘will of God’ that Judas and Pilate and Herod and the Gentile soldiers and the Jewish crowds disobey the moral law of God by sinning in delivering Jesus up to be crucified. But we also know that it was the will of God that this come to pass. Therefore we know that God in some sense wills what he does not will in another sense. I. Howard Marshall’s statement is confirmed by the death of Jesus: ‘We must certainly distinguish between what God would like to see happen and what he actually does will to happen.'”

It’s a difficult topic all in all, but I have been helped by John Piper’s article, and I commend it to you.

For tomorrow, Friday, August 28th: 1 Timothy 3

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Ashley Madison and the Secrets of Your Soul

AshleyAshleyMadison.com is in the news. If you hadn’t heard, it’s the go-to website for married folks interested in a “discreet encounter”. The tagline is “Life is short. Have an affair,” and in the fine print, it says, “Ashley Madison is the most recognized and reputable married dating company.” (By the way, you’re supposed to laugh out loud at the irony of a “reputable married dating company.”)  But alas, AshleyMadison was hacked, and if a user’s cheating heart wasn’t clever enough to put in a non-traceable email address (you know, one without a name in it), their “secret” life was exposed. Sadly, suicides and divorces are happening all around.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones speaks insightfully about secrets and human nature in his sermon, “Facing Reality,” based on Jeremiah 17:9…

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (ESV)

Lloyd-Jones writes…

“There are certain things of which we never speak to anyone except ourselves. Has this final and ultimate loneliness of your own nature and personality ever struck you? We are born into families and communities and yet how markedly individual we all are. We have secrets that our parents, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, and children will never know and never discover. When someone tells you that he or she has told you all his or her secrets you can always be sure that that is never the case. However frank and open a person may be there is always something which is held back and reserved.

“…All the time that we continue being satisfied with the thought that these secret actions, thoughts and ideas of ours are unknown to anyone but ourselves, we forget the presence and the existence of God.…We can hoodwink and fool the whole world, can appear as one thing before it and be in reality something else, but how vain and foolish it is to do so. What is the point and object of doing that when all the time God knows the full facts about us?

“…Is it surprising that the prophet should have prayed, “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved”? He had suddenly realized what a fraud his life was and how unsatisfactory it was, and prayed to be released from it once and for all. No longer content with fooling and satisfying others, this man faced himself and God. He looked at himself in the mirror and was horrified. There was nothing solid in his life, nothing lasting, nothing on which he could depend.

“…Oh, that we also might see ourselves as this man saw himself. Oh, that we might see the madness of thinking that we are clever and smart when we are not found out. Oh that we might see the deception and trickery that is within our own souls, and above all, see that our case is so desperate, our plight so terrible that there is no human agency which can save us and rid us of our baser nature. For it is only those people who have realized all that who utter this prayer and who, having prayed it, are healed and saved to all eternity through and by the grace of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Old Testament Evangelistic Sermons, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

The Apostle Paul’s AshleyMadison-type life

The Apostle Paul would have agreed. He looked inside…and he saw the AshleyMadison-type sewage. No, not sexual immorality, I suppose, just murder and that sort of thing. Anyway, he called himself the foremost sinner, or as the King James puts it, the “chief.” But praise God, Paul said more than that…

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. 1 Timothy 1:15, 16 (ESV)

Maybe you’ve never been to AshleyMadison.com, or then again, maybe you have; either way, today you might be thinking that your secrets are worse than everyone else’s. If so…think again. Paul the blasphemer and Christian killer said his secrets and openly evil deeds were on record as the worst. And yet when he repented and placed his faith in Christ, he was gloriously saved as an example for the rest of us with sludge in our souls.

For tomorrow, Thursday, August 27th, 1 Timothy 2

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Pray for Me

WheatonI don’t think I usually ask the church to pray for me. And maybe that’s just…dumb.

Oh, I’ll fill in the Friendship Register at church with a prayer request sometimes, though the pace of the service and my responsibilities keep me from it many weekends. But I don’t think I turn to fellow brothers and sisters with prayer requests as often as I should. The Apostle Paul was not so foolish. In both of his letters to the Thessalonians, and in his letter to the Colossians, he asked for prayer:

“Finally, brothers, pray for us…” 2 Thessalonians 3:1 (ESV)

“Brothers, pray for us…” 1 Thessalonians 5:25 (ESV)

“At the same time, pray also for us…” Colossians 4:3 (ESV)

Paul asked people to pray for him not because he wanted others to be thinking warm thoughts of him, nor because he thought it would somehow help their spiritual growth. No, he asked people to pray for him and his partners in ministry…because God answers prayer. That’s why.

So, here goes, if you would pray for me and mine, I would appreciate it.

Pray…

  1. …for our adjustment to life at home without either Josh or Elisabeth. Pray also for Annie (our high school freshman) that she would have joy through this change. (She loves her brother and sister!)
  2. …for Diane in her role as Children’s Ministry Director at Edgewood, especially for help in recruiting new teachers/helpers, and God’s blessings on an upcoming dinner/fun night/launch event for volunteers.
  3. …for God’s blessing on Elisabeth as a new freshman at Wheaton College, for help with academics, and the blessing of new friendships, and a continued close walk with Jesus.
  4. …for the Lord’s help for Josh as this year he is an Resident Advisor (R.A.) on the sixth floor of Traber Hall at Wheaton College – for strength and wisdom to lead well, and for good relationships with the guys on his floor.
  5. …for God’s blessings on our 8 member search team as we look for and comb resumes for a new Director of Worship Arts, that the Lord would lead us to the right person for the job.
  6. …for wisdom in preparing the marriage series coming up at Edgewood – that the Lord would use it to help and bless marriages at Edgewood. And for God’s blessing on my marriage to sweet Diane.
  7. …for God’s hand on all of our precious staff at Edgewood.
  8. …and always, for help with what God has called me to do at our church: to preach, pray, lead and love.
Thanks so much for praying. It means the world.

For tomorrow, Wednesday, August 26th: 1 Timothy 1

 

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Planned Parenthood and the Second Coming

Anyone who considers himself a sinner should be glad for the many pictures of Gentle Jesus in Scripture. For instance…

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV)

“Come to Jesus!” It is the most wonderful and happy command. And above, in the Lord’s own words, we see a picture of the “soft” Jesus, for when He came the first time, He came in kindness. He only asks that in response to His great kindness displayed on the cross, we repent and trust in Him. He is the Jesus who dies for sinners.

Jesus coming to slay sinners

But there is an expiration date on this offer, for this same Jesus is coming again…to slay sinners.

2 Thessalonians chapter 2 has one of many pictures of Jesus the sin-slaying and sinner-slaying God…

And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. 2 Thessalonians 2:8 (ESV)

Oh my. Read it again. He will “kill with the breath of his mouth.” When He appears, how gloriously and easily He will wipe out the putrid Anti-Christ. And His hot breath will not only evaporate the wicked one, but also all who have followed him, in other words, all those who have delayed in receiving His kind and generous offer, as the Apostle wrote in chapter 1…

When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 (ESV)

Planned Parenthood and other wicked ones

My mind turns to those Planned Parenthood workers who have casually crushed the skulls of countless human beings, and I also think of all those who have rushed to their support in congress and the media.

Jesus is not pleased. And when He comes, His breath will be fire on them.

But why stop with these wicked men and women? For I myself was just like them, and I too would have melted for my sin under Christ’s hot breath had I refused his offer of mercy in the gospel.

This is our God. This is the Glorious One we worship, and we should not trifle with Him or seek to figuratively pat “Gentle Jesus” on the head. For as C.S. Lewis reminds us regarding the Christ figure Aslan in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

So wherever you are today, whatever your sin, come humbly in repentance to the “unsafe” King, who is good…and do it now, before it is too late.

For Tuesday, August 25th: 2 Thessalonians 3

 

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Pray This Prayer…

2 Thessalonians chapter 1 has a prayer that I have been praying off and on for over 2 decades:

To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 (ESV)

It’s a prayer for four big things:

  1. Though we are saved by His grace and that salvation is guaranteed by His Spirit, the idea that we will live lives that honor Him…is not guaranteed. So Paul prays that we would live lives worthy of our salvation. In other words, either way, we are children of our heavenly Father, but we want to live as if we are His offspring; we don’t want to dishonor Him. We are ambassadors for Him – we pray to represent Him well. MAY I LIVE WORTHY OF YOU, LORD!
  2. All the things you are hoping to do for Him – whatever you are dreaming that He would use you for – pray that He by His incredible power would bring these things about. FULFILL MY DESIRE TO DO SOMETHING GREAT FOR YOU, FATHER!
  3. And all this is for His glory. In other words, the reason we pray that He would fulfill our desires is so that Jesus would be glorified. GLORIFY JESUS THROUGH ME!
  4. And the end result is wonderful too – that we would be glorified in Him – and all this is by His grace. AND I LOOK FORWARD TO THE DAY IN WHICH I TOO WILL BE GLORIFIED…IN HIM, BECAUSE OF YOUR GRACE!
It’s one of many prayers of the Apostle Paul, and also one of the best ways to learn to pray for what really matters in life.

For Monday, August 24th: 2 Thessalonians 2

 

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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