Monthly Archives: September 2015

Where the Prosperity Gospel Goes to Die

“If ever there was a biblical chapter that prosperity theology teachers should avoid, this is it! The heroines and heroes of faith hardly ‘named it and claimed it…'” – from the study notes on Hebrews 11, The Gospel Transformation Bible

The prosperity gospel tells us that God always wants us wealthy and healthy, and that when these conditions are not present, the depleted state is evidence of our own lack of faith. It is a pernicious lie, and responsible for deep pain and misunderstanding among many of God’s precious saints. And you understand why – how do you suppose someone feels who is sick or poor and yet has tried to “exercise faith” to make these conditions go away? Answer: lousy…like a loser Christian who has come up short in the godliness department. Indeed, I know the story of a woman who died from a disease “believing God” for a miracle, and then I heard of a saint who afterward said that the death needn’t have happened – the woman had just needed more faith.

But if “God doesn’t want you sick”, and “sickness is always from Satan”, then what hope do I have to pray for healing? Apparently God stands powerless to help, except, I guess, if I speak “words of faith” or “animate His power by MY belief”???? Prepare two fingers and open mouth. So you see, illness may not always come from Satan, but the prosperity gospel always does.

The truth is that God is ultimately sovereign, and in His sovereignty and goodness, sometimes He decrees suffering. Romans 8 contains a section explaining just that, and the purpose is always to conform us to the image of Christ (Romans 8:28).

After all, what, pray tell, do the health and wealth-ers do with this…

They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated–of whom the world was not worthy– wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, Hebrews 11:37-39 (ESV)

Heck of a life for a “child of the King”, right? It surely must surprise many that a child of the King was sawn in two. And yet royalty is a good description, for we read that of them, the world was not worthy. And as to wealth, a great theologian once said, “money ain’t everything,” and it seems that Moses agreed, for he obeyed God’s calling, eschewing riches for a greater reward:

He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. Hebrews 11:26 (ESV)

So you see, there is a reward to look forward to. It is beyond this life, though; God calls us to live for the Kingdom…which is to come.

Health and wealth…indeed!


For tomorrow, Thursday, October 1st: Hebrews 12






Posted by on September 30, 2015 in Uncategorized


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The Deepest Book in the New Testament

Hebrews, that is.

Don’t you think so? The writer, Mr. Anonymous, is not exactly skimming the surface. After all, there’s the question of “Sabbath rest” and Moses and angels. There are high priests and losing your salvation (or not losing your salvation!) and solid food.

And don’t get me started about Melchizedek.

But what is Hebrews really about…really?

When you get right down to it, isn’t it about the Gospel? I mentioned in a previous post that the theme of this letter is, “Jesus is better.” And in the end, that means He is a better way of salvation. And long about chapter 10, this starts to become really clear…

  • the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near…    Hebrews 10:1 (ESV)
  • For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins…    Hebrews 10:4 (ESV)
  • But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins…    Hebrews 10:12 (ESV)

Here’s what I’m driving at – there are those who say that the gospel is only for beginners in the Christian life. That’s what I always used to think. You get the gospel, that Christ died for your sins, and salvation is by grace alone through faith, and then you move on to the deeper stuff, the important stuff, you know, the discipleship type stuff. Grace would therefore only be for entry into the Christian life…doing would be for disciples.

But if Hebrews is really one of the most challenging books in the New Testament, and if Hebrews is really all about the Gospel, then maybe it doesn’t get any deeper than the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Maybe the Gospel of Grace is the ultimate discipleship curriculum.

And as someone has said, maybe the Gospel is not the ABC’s of the Christian life, but the A to Z’s. Maybe the Gospel is really what life is all about.

Consider, as a last thought, Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones on the Apostle Paul:

“Here is a man writing at the full height of his maturity as a Christian, the great apostle to the Gentiles. At the very height of his experience he says, ‘God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.’ He has not left it to go on to some higher reaches. The cross is still everything to him. Why? Because, he has found that everything proceeds from the cross. It is the source and the fount of everything that he has as a Christian, everything that he has become, everything that he can ever hope for.”

For tomorrow, Wednesday, September 30: Hebrews 11

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Posted by on September 29, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Regarding the Blood Moon Thing

moon eclipse - planet red blood with cloudsWe wandered outside a few different times last night to check out the eclipse, but we were not afraid. With a recent headline from the Guardian, we had the inside scoop from the government:

“Blood moon” brings prophecies of end times – but Nasa says not to worry.

Do you feel better?

Well thank you, NASA, but actually I wasn’t worried in the first place; and if anyone else cares, I haven’t taken the time to do any real study about this whole blood moon phenomenon. You can write me letters – or comment below (that’s probably easier).

I did however, appreciate this brief article: Blood Moons and Biblical Discernment, and if you are interested in more information, I think you can skip the Guardian article and turn to this for a brief summation. The upshot is this – Christ is coming again – but we don’t know when, and a “tetrad” of full moons is not going to make one whit of a difference. Even the pastor John Hagee, who wrote a book on the phenomenon I didn’t read, apparently agreed (which may lead one to wonder why he wrote the book in the first place, but again, I can’t tell you, and that’s what the comments are for).

Here is what we absolutely do need to know: Christ is coming again, and we do well to yearn for this return, as the writer of Hebrews says…

Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. Hebrews 9:28 (ESV)

Who is it that will be saved? Well, those who have believed in his name, and one of the evidences of this is that you are eagerly waiting for Him. And why not eagerly wait for Him? Some may tremble in fear at the Lord Jesus’s return, but we who have trusted in Him know that His return will bring not judgment, but rescue and salvation…the beginnings of an eternity of joy.

So we pray, “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!”


For tomorrow, Tuesday, September 29th: Hebrews 10



Posted by on September 28, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Finding Total and Lasting Change

When you become a Christian, the strangest thing happens: you begin to like things you didn’t like before and do things you didn’t want to do before. The end result is remarkably predictable: you end up paying close attention to an ancient book, talking often to other people about “religion”, and singing loud in church.

And in your wildest dreams, you would have never imagined.

Now, you can call this a miracle – and that’s true, it is – but you might also call it the New Covenant:

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.  Hebrews 8:10, 11 (ESV)

How can you explain this, when out of the blue, suddenly someone longs to serve Christ and study His word and tell the world about Him. But when you think about it, how else could this whole thing work, but that God would actually change our desires, or as Jonathan Edwards called them, our affections? You see, we like new stuff because…we are new. We like things we’ve never liked before…because we’re not the people we used to be.

My favorite verse on this is found in the Old Testament prophet of Jeremiah:

I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me. Jeremiah 32:40 (NIV)

Inspired to fear Him! Glorious!

So…has it happened to you? Have you come to know a God who has done so much good to you that you are positively inspired to love and serve Him? Mind you, you’re not perfect in your obedience…but you’re definitely inspired. And would you say that by the power of His grace, the LAST thing you want to do in all the world…is turn away from Him?

If so, then give glory to God, because unless I miss my guess, you too are a partaker of the New Covenant.


For Monday, September 28th: Hebrews 9

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Posted by on September 25, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Praying When I “Cherish Iniquity In My Heart”

How many Christians have been kept from prayer by this intimidating word in the Psalms?…

If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. Psalm 66:18 (ESV)

Answer: a lot. I’ll bet many Christians have been kept from prayer because of their understanding of this warning, but consider this insight from Tim Keller in his message on Hebrews 7:

“It says, for example, in Psalm 66, ‘If I cherish iniquity in my heart, he will not hear me.’ Good night! Then why should he hear anybody? We’re all cherishing iniquity in our hearts, so that’s the end of that.”

The enemy of our souls takes Psalm 66 and twisting it, fools us into believing we need a perfect conscience – yes, even a guiltless life – in order to pray.

And our prayer life dies.

But what if when I came to pray, God wasn’t looking at what I was cherishing in my heart, but at what Jesus was cherishing in His heart? That is, what if He really represented me as my advocate before the Father, and what if He did this, not just on judgment day, but on every day, at every moment? Wouldn’t that be glorious?

Well, it’s true:

Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:25 (ESV)

Do you long to draw near to God? Here’s good news: Jesus is your advocate before the Father, and He is always interceding for you. And this is powerful – just knowing that the Father is listening because Jesus is interceding for you – well, it almost makes you want to stop cherishing sin in your heart, doesn’t it?

So let me close by paraphrasing the immortal words of Pete Townshend of The Who…

Get on your knees and pray. And don’t be fooled again.

For tomorrow, Friday, September 25th: Hebrews 8

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Posted by on September 24, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Can A Christian Lose His Salvation?

One of the great arguments for the idea that a true Christian can stop being a Christian or lose their salvation (a.k.a. classic Arminianism – “I chose Christ, so I can reject Him too”) is found in Hebrews chapter 6, where we read…

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. Hebrews 6:4-6 (ESV)

At first glance, that sure sounds like a Christian who has gone to the dark side. But consider, to be “enlightened” only means to have been taught. And to have “shared in the Holy Spirit” can simply refer to someone who experienced the Spirit’s convicting work.

But ultimately, we know that the people described never were Christians because of what the author says in the verses immediately following…

For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned. Hebrews 6:7, 8 (ESV)

It’s all about the fruit, at least that’s what Jesus said (Matthew 7:15 – 17), and that’s what the author is saying here too. The people in question were clearly fruitless, not “produc(ing) a crop useful” and “bear(ing) thorns and thistles”. Therefore, they were “worthless and near to being cursed and…burned”. But according to Jesus, true Christians always bear fruit. Of course, it is never the bearing of fruit that makes us Christians, but when someone has truly come to know Christ, he or she always bears fruit.

The people of verses 4 through 6 clearly did not meet the biblical mark of salvation, as the recipients of the letter did, which we see in the next verse:

Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things– things that belong to salvation. Hebrews 6:7-9 (ESV)

And on top of all this, of course, there is that wonderful truth in John 10, where Jesus said,

I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. John 10:28-29 (ESV)

When Jesus gives eternal life to someone, that person “will never perish” and no one can ever “snatch them out” of His, or the Father’s hand. That’s ultimately comforting, for though I am surely called to “hold fast my confession” (Hebrews 4:14; 10:23), my ultimate hope is in the One Who is holding on to me.

For Thursday, September 24th: Hebrews 7


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Posted by on September 23, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Prayerless Praying: Why God Doesn’t Answer Our “Prayers”

Have you ever been guilty of prayerless praying? I don’t know about you, but sometimes I find myself “praying” through a prayer list, and yet hardly paying attention to what I am saying. I’m sure it doesn’t honor the Lord, and I have a strong sense that I am wasting my time. And then I read this verse, and my suspicions are confirmed by the opposite example of the Lord Jesus:

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Hebrews 5:7 (ESV)

The context seems to be Jesus praying as our ultimate High Priest from the cross, and He is calling out with “loud cries and tears.” So I find it encouraging that when Jesus prayed, He PRAYED. He meant for His prayers to be heard by His Father, and He prayed as if He meant it. As pastor and author, Dr. Joel Beeke puts it, “in His praying…He prayed.”

Beeke said, “Our greatest problem is not that we don’t pray. It is that we seldom pray in our prayers. Truly, prayerfully, pray. Private, prayerful, praying – that’s what we need…There is nothing so essential, and so neglected as private, prayerful, praying.”

Beeke first heard the phrase “prayerful praying from his father”, and there is apparently a textual variant in James 5:17 which says that Elijah “prayed in his praying.”

Isaiah seemed to understand this issue when he wrote:

There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities. (Isa 64:7 ESV)

This is what we are called to do – to rouse ourselves to take hold of God. And I need to do it, oh how I need to do it. I can be so lethargic in my praying, but I need to wake myself up and remind myself that there is a all-loving, Almighty God hearing my words, and He wants me to pray as if He is listening.

It is the way that God the Son prayed, and as a result, God the Father answered, and He will answer us as well.

If you’ve got some time, click on this link and listen to Joel Beeke tell all about the problem and solution to prayerless praying:


For tomorrow, Wednesday, September 23rd: Hebrews 6


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Posted by on September 22, 2015 in Uncategorized


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War Room (review)

images226QDKI5Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16 (ESV)

My sweetie and I rushed up to Oshkosh this weekend after the Saturday evening service to see the latest offering from the writing, producing and directing team of Alex and Stephen Kendrick, War Room.

Directed by brother Alex (of Courageous and Fireproof fame), War Room tells the story of a suburban family torn apart by the husband Tony’s workaholic tendencies and, well…other issues. Wife Elizabeth is a real estate agent, a woman whose world is forever changed when she agrees to list the home of an elderly woman named Miss Clara. In the first meeting, Clara senses the younger woman’s domestic struggles, and as Elizabeth is leaving, she innocently asks about Clara’s favorite room in the house. Clara invites her to come again for coffee the next day, informing her that she will reveal this particular room at that time.

Of course, Miss Clara’s favorite room turns out to be a simple closet, indeed, a prayer closet, a.k.a., her “war room”. And thus begins Elizabeth’s glorious journey toward having a war room of her own.

I was thoroughly entertained, and more importantly challenged, as was Diane. And not surprisingly, we found ourselves praying a good bit of the way home. So, we heartily recommend it. And for you readers in my local area, it is still showing this week in Oshkosh. May I suggest the Tuesday evening (movie night in Wisconsin!) 7:40 p.m. show where you will find free popcorn and $5 movies.

Prayer is a fascinating thing. We know how important it is. We know we can “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace…” But we forget its importance. We get lazy. We become perfunctory in our praying, and we forget that we are in the midst of war. And before long, we are indicted by the prophet Isaiah…

Yet you did not call upon me, O Jacob;
but you have been weary of me, O Israel!

Isaiah 43:22 (ESV)

What I need, and what I assume we all need…are regular reminders that prayer matters. Scripture and sermons are important to that end, but occasionally, a movie like War Room does wonders.

If you follow my advice and zip over to your local theater this week, realize what you will find in a Kendrick brothers flick – the production values are not quite the same as your typical Hollywood fare (though they are getting better and better), and to that end, one reviewer said this

“The movie equivalent of repeatedly being punched by a Bible…only divine intervention will stop you from walking out.” 

Hah!  Well…whatever. I don’t think the Kendrick brothers were aiming at him. They were aiming at me, and I hope…you too. And they hit me dead center. I was challenged and encouraged, and I’m sure that when it comes out on DVD, our church will pop some popcorn of our own and have a big showing for everyone.

And until then, as two of my favorite reviewers used to say, “We’ll see you at the movies.”


For Tuesday, September 21st: Hebrews 5


Posted by on September 21, 2015 in Uncategorized


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How Christians Think The Law Is Better Than Grace.

Jesus is better. This is the theme of the letter to the Hebrews. The Greek word for “better” and the Greek word for “superior” are found 15 times in the letter. And the theme is throughout. For instance…

  • Jesus is better than the angels. They are only ministering spirits. He is the Son.
  • Jesus is better than any High priest. They have to offer sacrifice for their own sin. Jesus has no such need.

And here in chapter 3, Jesus is better than Moses…

For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses– as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. Hebrews 3:3 (ESV)

Powerful thought, no? Moses is the created one (the house). But Jesus is the Creator (The House Builder). And understanding Jesus to be better than Moses was especially important for the original readers of this letter – many scholars believe they were being tempted to go back into Judaism.

Why does this matter to us?

While Christians today would never be tempted to actually say that Moses is better than Jesus, they are often tempted to think that the law (what Moses represented) is better than Jesus’ way of grace.

How so? Well, no, I’m not talking about the Old Testament Law. I’m talking about new “laws”. Consider the excitement believers give to gathering “principles of living”? When a new teacher (often a truly Christian pastor) comes up with a new and creative way to help us manage our time or money or marriages, we make quite a kerfuffle. These ideas and principles are not themselves bad, but they are basically new “laws”, and while we get excited about new ways to “manage our one and only life”, these ideas often do not lead us to any lasting change. It’s all good advice, often presented in a very entertaining manner, but it has no power.

As Michael Horton writes…

On its own, more advice (law, commands, exhortations) will only lead us to either self-righteousness or despair. Yet the more Christ is held up before us as sufficient for our justification and sanctification, the more we begin to die to ourselves and live to God…So there are really only two religions in the world: a religion of human striving to ascend to God through pious works, feelings, attitudes, and experiences and the Good News of God’s merciful descent to us in his Son. The religions, philosophies, ideologies, and spiritualities of the world only differ on the details. Whether we are talking about the Dalai Lama or Dr. Phil, Islam or Oprah, liberals or conservatives, the most intuitive conviction is that we are good people who need good advice, not helpless sinners who need the Good News.
Michael Horton. Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church (p. 128). Kindle Edition.
Do you find yourself thinking this – that you just need some better advice to straighten your life out? Don’t buy it. It’s just more Moses. What you really need is Someone else to do the straightening for you…the Carpenter Himself. He’s better, far better. So let me urge you to get excited today, but not about the latest biblical insight on living, but about the One Who lived…and died for you.

For Monday, September 21: Hebrews 4

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Posted by on September 18, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Reading Your Bible Everyday is Legalistic (and other lies you’ve been told)

Here is a dire warning to sober us up:

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. Hebrews 2:1 (ESV)

So here is the rule of thumb – drift away from your daily time in the Bible or your weekly time in corporate gathering for worship and the Word, and you will drift away from God. You may not know exactly how, but drift away you shall. Much closer attention, not occasional or faltering attention, is required.

To this end I appreciated a recent blog post from Sarah Walton, Don’t Lose Spiritual Disciplines for Fear of Legalism, which includes an insightful quote from John Piper.

Click on the link, and enjoy her insights, but here is her differentiation between legalism and discipline:

  • “Legalism is being disciplined in order to live up to the law in our own strength, for the sake of achieving justification of sins. (We can resort to this way of living even after becoming genuine believers, trying to save ourselves even though we have been given the gift of salvation in Christ.)
  • “Godly discipline is being disciplined in the strength of the Holy Spirit, with the purpose of sanctification, fully aware that justification comes only through salvation in Christ. For this reason we can say, ‘Christ has bought me with a price and, therefore, I will discipline myself to run the race he has set before me, ‘laying aside every weight and sin that clings so closely”(Hebrews 12:1).

And while we’re on the subject, it seems appropriate that I direct your attention once again to Mez McConnell’s recent insights: Why Do So Many Walk Away From The Christian Faith?


For Friday, September 17th: Hebrews 3

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Posted by on September 17, 2015 in Uncategorized


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