28 Nov

Wednesday Is for Worship: “Welcome to Our World”

‘Tis the season to be jolly!  Over the next few weeks, WIFW will take on Christmas music, focusing on songs that help us keep Jesus Christ, the reason for Christmas, at the center.  Today’s song is “Welcome to Our World.” There are so many great Christmas songs, but in my opinion, this is one of the best.

Written by Chris Rice in 1995 and published through Clumsy Fly Music, this song captures beautifully the wonder of God taking on flesh and dwelling among us, even beginning as a baby.  I love how Rice in his understated elegance pulls in the angst of a world in need of a Savior—”tears are falling, hearts are breaking;” “bring Your peace into our violence;” “so wrap our injured flesh around you.”  For those who had the prophecies of God, they were anxiously anticipating the Savior, the Messiah, the Christ, and many rejoiced when He finally arrived.

This Christmas season, I pray that you’ll marvel at the glory of the incarnation as you remember the Babe in the manger, but be sure to let your thoughts move from the manger to the crucifix, keeping in mind that that Babe’s fragile finger was sent to heal us and that His tender brow was prepared for thorn.  Tiny heart whose blood will save us unto us is born.

Let’s worship along with Michael W Smith’s version from his 1998 album Christmastime.

Tears are falling, hearts are breaking
How we need to hear from God
You’ve been promised, we’ve been waiting

Welcome Holy Child
Welcome Holy Child

Hope that you don’t mind our manger
How I wish we would have known
But long-awaited Holy Stranger

Make Yourself at home
Please make Yourself at home

Bring Your peace into our violence
Bid our hungry souls be filled
Word now breaking Heaven’s silence

Welcome to our world
Welcome to our world

Fragile finger sent to heal us
Tender brow prepared for thorn
Tiny heart whose blood will save us

Unto us is born
Unto us is born

So wrap our injured flesh around You
Breathe our air and walk our sod
Rob our sin and make us holy

Perfect Son of God
Perfect Son of God

Welcome to our world

 

27 Nov

Hope of the Nations – Light

This week we begin our season of Advent, which is the Christian season of preparation for Christmas.  Christians prepare for celebrating the birth of Jesus by remembering the longing of the Jews for a Messiah.  In Advent, we’re reminded of how much we ourselves also need a Savior, and we look forward to our Savior’s second coming even as we prepare to celebrate His first coming at Christmas.  The word “Advent” comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming” or “visit.”  In the season with this name, we keep in mind both “advents” of Christ, the first in Bethlehem and the second yet to come.

Our theme this year is “Hope of the Nations.”  Traditionally in the Advent season we would focus on the topics of hope, peace, joy, love, and Christ, but as we think about Jesus Christ being the Hope of the Nations, this season we’re going to focus on the world-wide hope found in Jesus Christ.  We’ll meditate on the ideas of light, life, liberty, love, and Lord.

This wekk, we focus on light.  We read in Matthew 4:12-17:

12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee;

13 and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali.

14 This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet:

15 “THE LAND OF ZEBULUN AND THE LAND OF NAPHTALI, BY THE WAY OF THE SEA, BEYOND THE JORDAN, GALILEE OF THE GENTILES—

16 “THE PEOPLE WHO WERE SITTING IN DARKNESS SAW A GREAT LIGHT, AND THOSE WHO WERE SITTING IN THE LAND AND SHADOW OF DEATH, UPON THEM A LIGHT DAWNED.”

17 From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

 

Reflection

This week we light the CANDLE OF LIGHT.  The world is in spiritual darkness, but Jesus has come that all the world may have light.  It’s so important to realize the geography of the Matthew text above.  Jesus of the Jews ventured into the land that Isaiah called Galilee of the Gentiles.  According to the Bible, the world is divided into two major people groups—the Jews and the Gentiles—and the light of the Jews didn’t just shine on the Jews.  It has shone on the entire world, both Jews and Gentiles.  It’s not just the Jews that God desires to see saved and reconciled.  God desires the whole world—all tribes, tongues, nations, and peoples.  And, that only happens through the light of Jesus Christ, who is the Hope of the Nations.

We who are in Jesus Christ have been given the light, and now we have the great opportunity and privilege to pass it on throughout the world of darkness.  If you’ve not received the light, I invite you today to trust in Jesus Christ as your savior, that you may escape the spiritual darkness.  And, for those who already have the light, may you shine the light of Jesus near and far, at home and abroad!

21 Nov

Making Wise Choices (Podcast)

Recently I had the honor and privilege of being interviewed by my friend and early mentor Brandon Porter on the weekly radio and internet ministry he co-hosts called Biblical Thinking.  It was a conversation that was spurred by my article “Discerning Minds Want to Know: Sharpening Discernment for Our Trying Times.”  Through the interview, we highlight some of the insight from that article and go into new territory as well, but it’s all designed to help you learn to make wise choices, choices that honor God.

You can listen to the interview here at OnePlace.com.  I pray it’ll be a blessing to you!

I pray that you’d also consider regularly following the ministry of Biblical Thinking.  You can do so at OnePlace.com/ministries/Biblical-Thinking and BiblicalThinking.org.

21 Nov

Wednesday Is for Worship: “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go”

It’s the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and I have so many things to be thankful for.  How about you?  To help you give thanks, we’re going to go a little bit ancient-modern here, all the way back to 1882.  In that year, the blind George Matheson penned a song that gets to something that I am so very thankful for.  He called it “O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go.”

I love to hear how a song is birthed because it adds depth and meaning to the lyric.  So, here’s the backdrop of this hymn:

“O Love That Will Not Let Me Go” was written on the evening of Matheson’s sister’s marriage. His whole family had went to the wedding and had left him alone. And he writes of something which had happened to him that caused immense mental anguish.

There is a story of how years before, he had been engaged until his fiancé learned that he was going blind, and there was nothing the doctors could do, and she told him that she could not go through life with a blind man. He went blind while studying for the ministry, and his sister had been the one who had taken care of him all these years, but now she is gone.

He had been a brilliant student, some say that if he hadn’t went blind he could have been the leader of the church of Scotland in his day. He had written a learned work on German theology and then wrote “The Growth of The Spirit of Christianity.” Louis Benson says this was a brilliant book but with some major mistakes in it. When some critics pointed out the mistakes and charged him with being an inaccurate student he was heartbroken. One of his friends wrote, “When he saw that for the purposes of scholarship his blindness was a fatal hindrance, he withdrew from the field – not without pangs, but finally.”

So he turned to the pastoral ministry, and the Lord has richly blessed him, finally bringing him to a church where he regularly preached to over 1500 people each week. But he was only able to do this because of the care of his sister and now she was married and gone. Who will care for him, a blind man? Not only that, but his sister’s marriage brought fresh reminder of his own heartbreak, over his fiancé’s refusal to “go through life with a blind man.” It is the midst of this circumstance and intense sadness that the Lord gives him this hymn – written he says in 5 minutes! (citation)

Fast forward to the modern church, and we see in our day the resurgence of hymn-singing joined with the music of our contemporary culture.  One of the leading centers of this movement is Indelible Grace Music, which grew out of ministering to college students, primarily through Reformed University Fellowship (RUF).  Their hope is to be a voice calling our generation back to something rich and solid and beyond the fluff and the trendy. They want to remind God’s people that thinking and worship are not mutually exclusive and to invite the Church to appreciate her heritage without idolizing it.  Check out their website and music here, and get lyrics, lead sheets, guitar chord charts, and even piano sheet music here.

So, it’s the Indelible Grace version of “O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go” arranged by Christopher Miner and sung by Sandra McCracken that I’ve fallen in love with over the years and pass on to you today.  And by way of testimony, I want to say that I am thankful for God’s unfailing, unflinching, unrelenting, unconditional love.  In trials, His love is my provision and my salve.  On the mountaintops, His love leads me to soar higher.  And, everywhere in between, His love sustains me, giving me life and hope not only in this age but also in the age to come.  I’m so glad He refuses to let me go!

VERSE 1
O Love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

VERSE 2
O light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

VERSE 3
O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

VERSE 4
O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

20 Nov

The Lost Book: The Wesleyan Quadrilateral Conundrum

There was great joy in Israel during the days of King Josiah (2 Kings 22-23).  The lost book of truth had been found!

Truth is of utmost importance.  But, it’s not enough to simply claim truth.  It’s important to critically reflect on how we come to know that our “truth” is really true.  Through a recent conversation, a theological principle known as the Wesleyan Quadrilateral or the Methodist Quadrilateral was brought to my attention.  I had briefly heard of it before in passing, but this time it sort of grabbed me.  It in a sense became the centerpiece of the conversation I was having and has continued tumbling over in my mind.

The “Wesleyan Quadrilateral” is a phrase coined in the 1960s by Albert C. Outler in a collection of Wesley’s works he edited simply entitled John WesleyIt was Oulter’s way of synthesizing and summarizing the founder of the Methodist movement’s way of doing theology.  He recognized that Wesley appealed to four sources of knowledge:  Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience.  Scripture points to the sixty-six books of the Bible.  Tradition is the general understanding and practice the church has employed over the years.  Reason is the conclusions gained through our intrinsic critical thinking faculties.  Experience is the real life encounter with the world around us.

I certainly use these sources of knowledge to come to know truth and assume that you do as well.  So, this description is very good sociology, as it expresses how people usually arrive at theological truth.  However, what seems to have gotten lost over the years, particularly among Wesley’s theological lineage, is the authority structure contained within.  In a sense, the Book has been lost.

As I understand John Wesley, Scripture to Wesley, and rightly so, had the complete pride of place.  It was to be the authority by which all our other sources of knowledge—tradition, reason, experience—were measured.  I believe that Wesley was happily in line with the Reformation cry of sola scriptura, which was shorthand for the belief that Scripture alone is authoritative for the faith and practice of the Christian.  Scripture is to build our tradition, train our reason, and help us make sense of our experience.  It would be best illustrated as this way:

So, if our tradition doesn’t square with the Scripture, we must adjust our tradition so that it does.  If our reason doesn’t jive with the Scripture, we must learn to think how God thinks.  If our experience points to something contrary to Scripture, we must recast our experience to fit with biblical revelation and faith.

However, we as sinful humanity are so tempted to subvert and supplant Scripture.  We often want to put Scripture on the same level as tradition, reason, and experience so that it is just one of the ways we come to truth.  In doing so, as many have proffered, the Wesley Quadrilateral actually becomes the Wesleyan Equilateral like this:

Interestingly, Outler, who coined the Wesleyan Quadrilateral phrase, later greatly regretted it for this very reason, saying, “”There is one phrase I wish I had never used: the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. It has created the wrong image in the minds of so many people and, I am sure, will lead to all kinds of controversy,” (Good News Magazine, Jan-Feb 2005).  As one author states, “The problems he anticipated come when the Quadrilateral is seen as ‘equilateral,’ and all four ‘sources’ for authority and decision-making are seen as equally weighted.  This was not Outler’s intent nor Wesley’s method.  Rather, Scripture is to be viewed as the centerpiece from which the other sources are suspended,” (citation).

But, seldom do we stop there.  Again, in our depravity, we are so tempted to subvert and supplant Scripture such that tradition, reason, and experience become our authorities over Scripture as illustrated below:

People who do this will still usually claim to believe the Bible and love the Bible, but their understanding of the Bible has been severely contorted by their other authorities.  And, depending upon the situation, they’ll turn to their authority of choice.  If tradition gives credence to their fancy and the spirit of the age, then they’ll turn to tradition.  If reason, then they’ll turn to reason.  If experience, then they’ll turn to experience.   Whatever authority will do their bidding, they’ll claim it.  In the end, they have unanchored themselves from the stability God meant for them to have connected to the authority of the Word of God and will be adrift at sea, carried about by whatever their fallen hearts desire.  They will sadly become like Israel in the days of the judges when each person to their great shame simply did what was right in their own eyes (Judges 17:6).  Those who do so today will declare that they are acting thus in hopes following Jesus more closely but all the time will be getting increasingly further from Him.

Let’s get one thing clear:  although the Wesleyan Quadrilateral is emphasized greatly in Methodist and Wesleyan churches, this isn’t just a problem of the Methodist and Wesleyan churches.  Fallen people have been striving to subvert and supplant God’s Word since the Garden of Eden.  We must be ever vigilant against this catastrophic disease!  There is only one cure:  like King Josiah and Israel, we must rediscover the Scripture and do according to all that is written concerning us (2 Kings 22:8-23:25).  Love the Word, study the Word, live the Word, stand on the Word, and then never lose the Book again!

09 Nov

Did God Choose Barack Obama as President?

Dave Miller, who is the current 2nd Vice President of the Southern Baptist Convention and a pastor in Iowa, wrote the following most excellent article yesterday putting the 2012 presidential election into its proper biblical perspective.  Dave is also the editor of the popular SBC blog SBCVoices.com.  The article by Dave is in its entirety below.  May you be helped and encouraged to trust in God more!

____________________

 

Habakkuk was confused, frustrated, and evidently just a little bit ticked at God.

“Oh, Lord, how long shall I cry for help and you will not hear? Or cry to you ‘Violence” and you will not save?”  (Hab 1:2)

His concern was focused on the wickedness that was so prevalent among God’s people, in his nation.

“So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.” (Hab 1:4)

Read between the lines. “Where are you, God? Why are you allowing this wickedness to prevail?”

Then, God answered Habakkuk, but it was not an answer that the prophet wanted to hear. He expected God to say, perhaps, that he was going to restore Judah’s fortunes with a sweeping revival and bring them back to obedience that the blessing that would accrue to the obedient nation.  That is not what God said. You can almost see Habakkuk’s jaw drop as God says to him,

“For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans (Babylonians), that bitter and hasty nation, who march through the breadth of the earth to seize dwellings not their own.” (Hab 1:6)

God goes on to describe the fierce and cruel Chaldeans, intimating that he would raise them up as a scourge to punish Judah’s wickedness. Habakkuk is nonplussed by this answer, asking God how he could possibly consider raising up an even more evil nation like the Babylonians to punish his own chosen people. He is irate now (it is fascinating how honest the prophets are when they are upset at what God is doing!). In Habakkuk 2:1, he issues an ultimatum to God to defend himself and his actions in punishing sinful Judah with uber-sinful Babylon.

“I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what he will say to me, and what I will answer concerning my complaint.”

God drops the boom! In Habakkuk 2:2-20, he gives the answer Habakkuk requested. He makes it clear that he is using Babylon as a tool to accomplish his disciplinary purpose. Once that purpose is over, he will then judge the Babylonians as their sins deserve.

Habakkuk, in chapter 3, stops questioning and starts glorifying God. He begs that in God’s wrath he would remember mercy. He determines to rejoice in in the Lord and in the salvation he brings to Judah.

Habakkuk is a great little book, and I would draw the following preliminary conclusions from its chapters.

  • God is in charge of the affairs of nations, even those that are evil. Here, God is using the most powerful nation on earth to accomplish his purposes. God in his sovereignty uses even evil for his glory.
  • Habakkuk learned to trust God even if he did not completely understand all the sovereign God was doing in world affairs.
  • God’s decision to use Babylon to accomplish his sovereign purpose did not imply an approval of Babylon and their actions.
  • The fact that God used Babylon’s evil to accomplish his purposes did not abrogate their responsibility for the evil they  did. They could not say, “God made me do it.” The evil came from their hearts but was used in God’s sovereignty to further his work.

Conservative Confusion

It is safe to say that the vast majority of conservative Christians in America did not cast their votes for the victor in this election, Barack Obama. Nor do most of us see this as a good thing that he was elected. We assume that he will continue to promote abortion which Christians find heinous, to promote gay marriage, which Christians find perverse, and to promote the fiscal policies and foreign policies which have led to unprecedented debt piling up that threatens to take our nation down the path of bankruptcy that several European nations tend to be following.

But where was God in all of this? Why did he allow a man who advocates that which the Bible condemns to be elected as president? Does God not intervene in such events? Does God just hold back and allow us to “make our bed and lie in it?” Does Obama’s reelection imply the divine imprimatur on the president and his policies?

We are asking ourselves what happened and why!

Living in the Mysterious Middle

Anytime we humans delve into the realms of the divine, we find our intellectual inadequacy fully revealed. In Isaiah 55:8-9, God tells us that we do not think like him and our ways are not like his. His ways are higher and his thoughts are higher and we, as mere mortals, have as much chance of understanding the full-orbed wisdom of God’s sovereignty as my dog has of understanding my explanation of the rules of baseball.

There is a fundamental mystery throughout the Bible, one which I generally call an antinomy. There are two truths clearly revealed in God’s Word which cannot both be true at the same time. First, the Bible is as clear as expensive crystal that God is in charge, from beginning to end. The affairs of nations and the lives of those in it are governed by his sovereign hand. He is the author of history and writes every page to accomplish his eternal purposes, to glorify himself, to redeem a people from among this world’s sinners, and to bestow his good on us.

But the Bible also makes it clear that human beings are morally responsible agents who make real choices that have real consequences. Our actions, our reactions, our decisions and our purposes matter. I have written several novels. The characters in those novels only do what I tell them to do. I am the writer and they can only do what I direct them to do. That is not the picture the Bible gives of humanity. We are morally responsible agents who determine the direction and quality of our lives by the choices we make.

I am amazed at those who claim to have full understanding of this conundrum. One commenter here said that maybe the rest of us weren’t smart enough to figure out the confluence of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility, but he did. I believe that arrogance is contrary to the Bible. His ways and thoughts are higher than ours – beyond our understanding. At some point, like Job, we are called to trust a God we cannot fully understand.

But, fortunately, there is a portion of God’s will and his ways that we can understand.  I would like to make the following reflections that I believe to be biblically sound.

1) God chose that Barack Obama would be the president of the United States.

Some have resisted this, probably because of their visceral reaction to Obama and their disdain for his policies. But the Bible couldn’t be much more clear on this one, folks.

Romans 13:1-2 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.

Paul did not say this concerning a godly government, but one perhaps more perverse and corrupt than ours. And he stated that all authority that exists has been instituted by God and that we are to be subject to that authority. Teasing that concept out requires more time and space than I have here. But the base concept is clear. God instituted the administration of Barack Obama in America.

Daniel knew a lot about working within the constraints of a pagan government.

Daniel 2:20-21 Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
to whom belong wisdom and might.
21  He changes times and seasons;
he removes kings and sets up kings; 
he gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding;

Daniel 4:17 The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.

Who removes kings (governors, presidents, etc)? Who sets them up? God does according to his sovereign plan. Is there another interpretation of these verses?

Psalms 75:6-7 gives a broader view of this.

No one from the east or the west
or from the desert can exalt themselves.
It is God who judges:
He brings one down, he exalts another.

God brings one down and lifts another up.

2) The fact that God chose Barack Obama does not imply divine approval of him. 

God uses both the righteous and the evil to accomplish his purposes. In the Bible, God raises up some leaders to bless his people. Sometimes, he raises up leaders as a judgment on a people. Whether Obama is a blessing or a judgment is not in the scope of this article. But when I say, “God chose that Barack Obama would be president” it does not mean that God thought Obama was the better man, the godlier man or that somehow God endorsed his administration.

God has used wicked men like the Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Herod and a host of others for his purposes. This does not mean he blessed them or excused their wickedness.

3) God’s sovereign choice does not excuse human sin.

This is one of the greatest of mysteries. If God raises up Babylon to accomplish his work, how can he still judge them for what they do? If God raised up and used Judas, how can the Bible still hold him accountable. Again, we dwell in that area of mystery here and there will certainly be questions that cannot be answered.

God is not evil nor the author of evil. But God does order the course of evil and use it for his glory. That is clear throughout the Word.  That does not abrogate the responsibility of the one who does evil. God works all things in this world for his glory and our good, but that does not excuse the perpetrators of evil.  They still stand guilty before God and must account for the evil they have done (or find grace and forgiveness in Christ!).

4) God’s sovereignty does not negate the importance of our choices and actions.

One commenter, the day after the election, said (rightly, I believe) that we had to trust God and his sovereign plan. In a sarcastic retort, another commenter said,

I just do not know any reason at all for me to keep voting as the elections come up. Just sit back and let God place the people where he wants them. You know, it is also crazy for us to have a military. If God is our defender then we just need to sit back and let God defend us. How silly of me to have enlisted to put my life on the line in order for people to retain the freedom to vote for their leaders. Dr. Tim Lee is an absolute idiot for going to Vietnam and getting his legs blown off defending the right for us to vote.

Yea, after thinking about it voting is a waste of time, money, and manpower. We could probably save the country millions, even billions of $$$$’s by stopping the elections and just sitting back and letting God set into place government officials.

This sarcastic comment evidences a misunderstanding of the confluence of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility.  God is responsible for world affairs, but we are still called to pursue righteousness, justice, and the rule of Christ in this world. It is a typical and thoughtless approach to the biblical teaching of God’s sovereignty. “If God is in control then what I do doesn’t matter.” Why evangelize? Why seek justice and righteousness? Why work for the cause of Christ?

But we must maintain both streams of truth if we want a biblically balanced world-view. We must remember the sovereignty of God and trust that ultimately it is his will that is being accomplished on this earth. But we must also remember that we will stand before him and give account for the lives we have lived, the choices we have made and the impact have had in his name. God’s sovereignty empowers our work, it does not render it null and void. We are called to be light in a dark world and salt in a world decaying because of sin’s effects.

Conclusion: The biblical evidence seems incontrovertible to me: God decided that Barack Obama was to be the president of the United States. In that, we must respect the office, pray for the man, and remain subject to the authorities God has placed over us. We must give thanks to God that he is working out his sovereign plan in this world through Obama, even though many of us did not want what God determined. We can remain advocates of righteousness, opponents of the slaughter of the innocents known as abortion, promoters of racial reconciliation, fiscal responsibility and whatever other political views we have. We cannot abdicate our role as salt and light.

Job was confused, even angry at what God had permitted. There is no evidence in the Book of Job that he ever came to understand why he suffered. But he learned to trust God in spite of his confusion and hurt – and that is what brought the healing. Am I happy that Barack Obama is getting another four years? I am not. Do I support his policies and politics? I do not and unless he changes dramatically, likely will not for the next four years?

But I am called to trust the actions of a sovereign God whom I do not understand. God was not defeated when Barack Obama was elected. I may not understand it. I may not like it. But I trust the sovereign God and he is doing what is right, what is best, and what will ultimately produce his glory and our good in this world.

____________________

The original article can be found here.

08 Nov

Work: God’s Blessing

The Bible says that on the seventh day, God rested (Gen 2:1), which was a fitting conclusion to a week of work.  We are made in God’s image (Gen 1:27), and if God is a worker, then so should we be as well.  I know that we as a nation are increasingly becoming an entitlement society, but we who are followers of Jesus Christ must never forget that “Protestant work ethic” that built America.

Keep these six simple things in mind as you labor along:

1.  Work is a gift from God.  It was blessed of God for Adam in the garden before the Fall and continues to be so after the Fall although we labor with more difficulty now (Gen 2-3).  God intends for our time to be spent in gainful employment.  In fact, work will continue on in Heaven, I believe.

2.  Work is to bring glory to God.  There are so many ways to bring God glory through work, but we could sum it up with “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father,” (Col 3:17) and “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God,” (1 Cor 10:31).

3.  Work is for our well-being.  This is true in two ways.  First, it provides for the needs of those for which we are responsible.  We are to take care of those who are ours and, if possible, those who are our neighbors.  Second, it keeps us from falling into sin.  I think it’s important to see what God through Paul tells us the product of idleness is:  aimlessly milling around accomplishing nothing, gossiping, meddling, and improper talking (1 Tim 5:13).  When we do not busy ourselves with work, we are prone to sin.  The truism is true:  an idle mind is the devil’s workshop.

4.  Work is for our joy.  There’s just an awesome feeling to accomplishing something.  At the end of the day, it’s good to know that you have earned something and made a positive impact on society for the glory of God.

5.  Work provides freedom.  There are many tempted to simply live off of the government.  I understand that there are people who truly must and rejoice that there is a safety net here in America, but if it is at all possible, it is better to earn a living than to be given one.  Why?  Because living off of the government leads to less freedom.  You will only receive what the government will give you, which really isn’t much, and you’ll be restricted from actually working, leaving you only limited opportunity to improve your income.  You’ll be beholden to a bureaucracy and chained to the mailbox waiting for you next check.  That’s not freedom!

6.  Work is connected to Christian faith.  It is actually a fruit of salvation.  The one who is truly saved will work if he or she is able.  Therefore, to simply choose not to work when you are able is to deny the faith.  Paul is emphatic, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever,” (1 Timothy 5:8).

May you seek the blessing of work unto the glory of God who gave it!

07 Nov

Wednesday Is for Worship: “All Creatures of Our God and King”

It’s the Wednesday after the Tuesday that saw what felt like the biggest election of my voting lifetime.  Christian, whether or not your presidential candidate won, here’s a song to remind you that more than a president with a fluctuating approval rating and sin nature, you have a King who is perfect and worthy of all praise.  Even better… You didn’t elect Him; He elected you!!

I’m going to go ancient-modern on you this Wednesday with “All Creatures of Our God and King.”  Written nearly 8 centuries ago in 1225 by Francis of Assisi just before he died and put to music by Pe­ter von Brach­el in 1623, the lyric calls on all of God’s creation, both animate and inanimate, to praise their Creator.  Scripturally, it seems to be inspired by Psalm 148, but I doubt not that Francis’ muse was also nature itself.  Beautiful and awe-striking creation points to an even more beautiful and awe-striking Creator!

The version of the song below is by David Crowder*Band.  It’s from the Passion:  Hymns Ancient & Modern album from 2004.  You’ve got to check that CD out as it does a great job putting old lyrics to new accompaniment.  You’ll be totally blessed!  It was from that CD that I fell in love with this song and began to regularly use it in congregational worship.

May you join with the sun, moon, and stars today in praising God and declaring His glory God!

VERSE 1
All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing
Oh, praise Him
Alleluia
Thou burning sun with golden beam
Thou silver moon with softer gleam
Oh, praise Him; Oh, praise Him
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia

VERSE 2
Thou rushing wind that art so strong
Ye clouds that sail in heav’n along
Oh, praise Him
Alleluia
Thou rising moon in praise rejoice
Ye lights of evening find a voice
Oh, praise Him; Oh, praise Him
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia

VERSE 3
Let all things their creator bless
And worship Him in humbleness
Oh, praise Him
Alleluia
Praise, praise the Father praise the Son
And praise the Spirit three in one
Oh, praise Him; Oh, praise Him
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia

01 Nov

How to Vote on November 6

We are only five days away from the 2012 presidential election, and I’m here today to tell you how to vote.  I know that voting for the leader of the greatest nation on Earth is always a big deal, but for some reason, it feels especially big this time around.  So, how should you vote on Tuesday?

Please notice closely that I didn’t say that I was going to tell you whom to vote for.  That’s not my public calling (email me privately if you want that conversation!).  Rather, I’m going to tell you HOW to vote.

This election will mark my fourth opportunity to vote for my potential president.  I know, I’m a newbie to some of you who remember D-Day, but over these four election cycles, I’ve increasingly given more thought to what I’m actually doing when I enter that booth.  I’ve not arrived yet, but I’ve come to understand what I believe are some important principles as a follower of Jesus Christ that are helpful for me.  I pray they’ll be helpful to you as well.

1.  Vote with a Bible in your hand.
For the Christian, there is no other authority than the Bible.  FoxNews, CNN, and MSNBC are not your authority.  A political party is not your authority.  An ethnicity is not your authority.  Leave all of these other authorities for the world, pick up your Bible, and ask, “What does the Lord say?”  You certainly will not find direct teaching on whom to vote for there, but you’ll find principles which will be your guide.  Don’t leave the Bible at the door.  Put it in your heart and mind, and then carry that into the booth with you!

2.  Vote with an informed mind.
The quality of a democracy is incumbent upon an electorate that knows the issues.  Too many people vote upon perception, feelings, and tradition.  That’s lazy democracy!  That’s being asleep at the wheel!  Wake up and get informed!

Recently I’ve been in a series of serious political conversations with a person who thought he was a certain party and was planning to vote for that party’s candidate.  Not only had he traditionally voted for that party, but he also didn’t like personal aspects of the candidate from the other party.  I explained to him that those are poor reasons and then challenged him to simply take an issues quiz to see which candidate he most agreed with.  He decided to give it a try, and we went to http://www.isidewith.com.  After taking the quiz, he found out that on issues, he agreed with 90% of the candidate that he didn’t like from the other party!  I encourage every one of you to go take that quiz and see whom you should vote for based upon issues because it’s issues that matter most!

3.  Vote with the understanding that human government is never the savior.
It’s easy for us to get caught up in the belief that if we can just get the right person elected, we’ll have heaven on earth.  Everything will be fine.  It’s gotten to the point that one of this year’s candidates has been both affectionately and derisively called “the Messiah,” but, that’s all poppycock!  We must keep in mind that we are electing fallen men who will govern a fallen people in a fallen world.  Never will there be heaven on earth until Jesus returns.

In fact, as you go to the voting booth, I pray it’ll be a stark reminder that your perfect King has not returned yet to set up His eternal kingdom here on earth.  As you cast your ballot, say, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus!”

4.  Vote knowing that no matter who wins, it is God who puts people into authority.
The Scripture clearly says that God works all things after the counsel of His will (Eph 1:11), which includes free democratic elections.  Romans 13:1 tells us that governing authorities are established by God.  Therefore, I believe the Bible teaches that all world leaders and authorities come to power by the providence of God for the purposes of God.  Certainly, there are world leaders living and dead that we would not put into power, but we always have to keep in mind that God’s ways are not our ways.  He works all things after the counsel of His will and always does what is wisest, most loving, most just, and most glorifying.  In faith, we must trust that God is working thus.

As I said earlier, this is my fourth presidential election cycle.  I’ve been voting for presidents since 2000 when it was Bush the younger v/s Gore, and in that time, I’ve voted for two candidate who didn’t win.  I thought, “God, what’s going on?!”  But, as I’ve matured, I’ve learned to pray, “Father, I don’t know why my candidate lost, but I’m going to trust You.”  I hope that’ll be your prayer as well if your candidate is beaten.

5.  Vote in a way that best fulfills Jesus’ commandment to be the salt and light of the earth.
Jesus tells His followers in Matthew 5:13-16:

  • You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. 14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Salt, I believe, is pointing us to preserve the righteousness of God on earth, and I believe light is telling us to spread truth.  In other words, we should vote in a way that will uphold God’s righteousness and truth.  Therefore, for the Christian, moral issues should be the most important issues in deciding whom to vote for—issues such as life, liberty, marriage, and finances.  These are issues of righteousness that God has called us to stand for.  Therefore, we must ask, “On these issues, which candidate stands more for what pleases God?”

For instance, on the moral issue of marriage, President Obama supports gay marriage while Governor Romney opposes gay marriage.  On the moral issue of abortion, President Obama supports taxpayer funded abortions while Governor Romney opposes it.  For a more complete list, check out the Family Research Council’s 2012 Values Voter Presidential Voter Guide.  Which candidate better promotes God’s values?

____________________

In less than a week, it’ll all be over, and the next president will have been elected.  By all means, vote, but keep in mind that how you vote matters to God also.  If you’re in Chicago, you’ll be tempted to vote early and vote often, but I pray you’ll withstand the temptation.  Above all, if you are a Christian, vote as a Christian whose life is given to the glory of God, and may the majority win!