Pray for Someone

This morning at Oak Grove, I preached a “Mother’s Day sermon” on 2 Timothy 1:5;3:14-15. You can listen to it here if you’d like.

To set up the context of verse 5, we looked at the surrounding context as Paul begins his letter to Timothy. In verse 3 he writes,

“I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.”

I shared with my folks at church this morning that we should pray for one another. Paul at the end of his life not knowing if he’d ever see Timothy again tells him, I’m praying for you. I think we’d do well to tell our brothers and sisters that we love them, that we thank God for them, and that we’re praying for them (really actually praying for them). I’m not inclined to think we should dismiss thoughts of people when they come to our mind. I think those seemingly random moments when a particular person comes to mind is a great opportunity to pray for that person. The simple act of praying and shooting that person a text can be a difference maker in someone’s day. It glorifies God, reminds us of our dependence on him, and can be a huge encouragement to someone else.

There’s nothing incredibly profound or insightful here, just what I think to be a helpful reminder to pray for people and let them know you’re praying.

Acting Like a Theological Toddler – Using Ad Hominems

I said something in a sermon the other week I’m not sure I should have said, “poopy pants.” It is silly to say such a thing from the pulpit. As silly as it is, I was using it as an illustration of an ad hominem you might expect to hear from a toddler.

An ad hominem can be defined as follows:

1. appealing to one’s prejudices, emotions, or special interests rather than to one’s intellect or reason.

2. attacking an opponent’s character rather than answering his argument.
Toddlers and small children aren’t always the most reasonable little people, they don’t know how to argue and so when they don’t like someone or something the resort often times to name calling. As toddlers grow, they eventually become adults and often times they don’t stop the name calling.

I used this in my sermon because of what the Pharisees were doing to Jesus in John 8. Jesus had discussion with the Pharisees about who He was and who His Father was, they laid claims to Abraham as their Father and Jesus appeals to Abraham welcoming the day of Jesus, they didn’t have a theological leg to stand on when debating with Jesus. So, what did they do? Did they appeal to the Torah? Did the appeal to the prophets? No, they called Jesus names:

 The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” 49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. 50 Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” 52 The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ – John 8:48-52

The Pharisees called Jesus a Samaritan and said He was demon possessed. They tried to insult Him by calling Him a Samaritan, and they tried to discredit Him by saying He was demon possessed.
I really began to think about this even more as I made my way through John 9 this past Sunday. The Pharisees have an interrogation of the man who was born blind that Jesus healed. They want him to answer who he thinks that Jesus is, and all the man can do is point to the works that Jesus had done. He can’t tell you if Jesus is a sinner or not, all he knows is that he was blind and now he sees and that only someone from God could do such a thing. This clearly isn’t the answer that the Pharisees are looking for from the man who had been healed, so how do they respond? Do they appeal to the Torah? No, they begin with the ad hominem attacks again.

And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. – John 9:28  ESV

They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out. – John 9:34 ESV
They can’t prove Jesus to be a sinner, they can’t disprove the man having been born blind. So, they respond by attacking his character. They revile the man and say that he was born in sin.
As I preached through this text a couple weeks ago one of my points of application was to know what you believe and to know why you believe it. We need to be able to articulate what we believe when discuss theological issues. If we find ourselves unsure, we just need to go back to the Scriptures again and evaluate. We need to ask ourselves, “is this what the Bible teaches? Is that what this passage is really saying?” None of us have arrived to a full understanding of the faith delivered once for all to the saints, we can be wrong. However, far too often what I see when people get into theological discussions, rather than dealing honestly with the text of the Bible when they get to a place of disagreement they call the other person, camp, group a name. Calling someone a theological moron isn’t going to win any debate, and more importantly it isn’t going to win any hearts. We far too often get into theological mudslinging rather than honest discussion of the text or the issue at hand. It is okay to have disagreements and to have discussions. In fact, I think we should have discussion on points of theology and practice. But as we do so, let’s do so in a way that is charitable and honoring to Jesus and honoring to those we disagree with.

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. – 2 Timothy 2:24-26 ESV

What is Wisdom?

I’ve begun this journey working through the “wisdom books” of the Bible this year and I think one thing that needs to be answered right from the beginning is the question of, “what is wisdom?”

The book begins with a call to wisdom:

To know wisdom and instruction,
to understand words of insight,
to receive instruction in wise dealing,
in righteousness, justice, and equity;
to give prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the youth—
Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
and the one who understands obtain guidance,
to understand a proverb and a saying,
the words of the wise and their riddles.
– Proverbs 1:2-6

Wisdom is clearly important to the writer of Proverbs and it is stressed that it should be important to the readers. Longman writes, “Wisdom is a rich concept and is not easily summarized.” He’s absolutely right, as you read across the book of Proverbs wisdom is personified, it is attributed to many different kinds of people as well as animals, wisdom seems to extend to as many subjects as one can find. One’s first implication might be that wisdom is intelligence, but mere intelligence doesn’t always merit wisdom. For the author of Proverbs, wisdom is knowledge applied and knowledge lived. One doesn’t need lots of intelligence to be wise. If it is the ant planning for winter, or the young man staying away from the promiscuous women, to be wise one needs to apply what one knows to make right decisions and right actions. Again, I find Longman helpful in defining wisdom:

…we will begin with the basic idea that wisdom is the skill of living. It is a practical knowledge that helps one know how to act and how to speak in different situations. Wisdom entails the ability to avoid problems, and the skill to handle them when they present themselves. Wisdom also includes the ability to interpret other people’s speech and writing in order to react correctly to what they are saying to us.

If Longman has a right understand of what the author of Proverbs is trying to teach his readers, we’d be wise to heed the wisdom of Proverbs (and Ecclesiastes and Job). Wisdom is for living, and I’m thankful God has revealed wisdom through the word written and the Word incarnate. In days to come I hope to expound a bit on some of the types of wisdom that are revealed in Proverbs.

Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction,
and be attentive, that you may gain insight,
for I give you good precepts;
do not forsake my teaching.
When I was a son with my father,
tender, the only one in the sight of my mother,
he taught me and said to me,
“Let your heart hold fast my words;
keep my commandments, and live.
Get wisdom; get insight;
do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. – Proverbs 4:2-7

 

A Year of Wisdom – 2017 in the Wisdom Books

At the start of the new year many folks plan and make resolutions. For many Christians the new year is a time to start over with their Bible reading. For some it becomes and honest effort to actually read through the Bible when they stopped the year before. For others they’ll read through the pages of scripture in their entirety for another time. I’ve always encouraged Bible reading through the Bible. In the past I’ve read through the Bible cover to cover and it is certainly a very worthy endeavor. However, I always feel rushed when I attempt to do a reading plan. It’s difficult to not want to slow down and stick with a book or particular passage. This year I’ve seen several folks talk about how they intend to spend some specific time studying particular books rather than trying to read through the entire Bible in the year with a reading plan. I’ve decided to spend sometime in the wisdom books: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job. These are all books that I’ve read before, but I’ve not spent much time studying.

Their worth in study is reflected in the opening words of Proverbs:

To know wisdom and instruction,
to understand words of insight,
to receive instruction in wise dealing,
in righteousness, justice, and equity;
to give prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the youth—
Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
and the one who understands obtain guidance,
to understand a proverb and a saying,
the words of the wise and their riddles.

– Proverbs 1:2-6 ESV

There’s great wisdom to be found in the pages of all of Scripture and ultimately the wisdom of God is found in Christ Jesus as the Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians:

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. – 1 Corinthians 1:22-24 ESV

As such I believe in many ways that Proverbs isn’t just a collection of ancient Jewish sayings that might find their way into fortune cookies, rather it is a book about Christ. As are the books of Ecclesiastes and the book of Job. These books are books that deal with seemingly every area of life. They speak of joy and sorrow, life and death, pain and pleasure. I begin my journey in Proverbs and intend (Lord willing) to blog a bit in my journey through these books. I pray I’m a little wiser at the end and able to share a little bit of the wisdom found with all of you. Soli Deo Gloria.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. – Proverbs 1:7 ESV

P.S. I’ll also be sharing on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #AYearOfWisdom if you care to join in on social media.

Be Patient Until the Lord Comes: Pondering Charlotte

The world we live in is chaotic. The world is broken. The world is fallen. It isn’t just humanity that is broken and fallen, the Apostle Paul tells us that all of creation is groaning as it awaits for the return of the Lord Jesus (Romans 8:20-22). As an American and a North Carolinian this week has show how broken and fallen our world is. The city of Charlotte has been in turmoil this week. I’m not going to get political. I’m not going to put myself in the role of judge, jury, defense, or prosecutor in this post. I, however, am never hesitant to get theological. Men and women created in the image of God have lost their lives and have been harmed for reasons considered just and unjust. I’m not sure what the right response to all of the events that have taken place should be. I know many have made knee jerk reactions in the media and individuals on social media. There is one thing that I do know that I can do and that is to place my hope and trust in the Lord.

I was reading the book of James this morning and began thinking about the implications of James 5 on the current situation. James was writing to Christians who were enduring suffering and persecution, and I readily accept and realize that what is going on in Charlotte does not directly have an impact on me. I’ve not lost any loved ones or members of my community to the violence taking place. However, my heart groans to see the conflict in my country, especially when it hits so close to home. James wrote to these suffering believers:

 Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.-  James 5:7–11 ESV

He tells them to be patient as they wait for the coming of the Lord Jesus. There is much work to be done in seeking reconciliation, peace, and justice with the seemingly constant shootings and responses in our country. I hope and pray by God’s grace we can begin to see some of that in our nation, but ultimately I know there will always be conflict because men are always going to be fallen. So, while I can share unhelpful memes on Facebook and make my pronouncements about what has happened or not happened, I think it would be of much more benefit to be a person of prayer, a pursuer of one trying to live peaceably with all men (Romans 12:18), and to be a person of patience waiting on the one who can bring peace. I have confidence that he can bring peace even now in the midst of chaos and hopelessness and I long with confidence that there is coming a day when he will bring peace eternal. He is our hope and he is our peace. May Charlotte, Tulsa, and the rest of our nation find their hope and peace in him, his name is Jesus and he is coming again.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. –  Revelation 21:1–7 ESV

A Full Head and a Full Heart – A Gospel Cordial from Don Whitney

I maintain that a biblically balanced Christian has both a full head and a full heart, radiating both spiritual light and heat.

If absolutely forced to have only on or the other, we must choose the burning heart. If we have the truth in our head but our hearts are not right with God, an awareness of truth will only magnify our guilt before Him at the judgement. But if we have properly responded to the gospel from the heart, in the end we shall be saved even though the rest of our doctrinal understanding is shallow or muddy. Not only would I choose that option for myself, but I would prefer that for those I pastor as well. It’s much harder to get a ship out of the harbor than to correct one on the sea that has drifted off course.

But let us be both out of the harbor and on course. Christians must realize that just as a fire cannot blaze without fuel, so burning hearts are not kindled by brainless heads. We must not be content to have zeal without knowledge.

Does this mean we must be brilliant to be Christians? Absolutely not. But it does mean that to be like Jesus we must be like learners even as He was at only age twelve, “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.” Does this mean we must have several diplomas handing on the wall to be first-rate-Christians? It certainly does not. But it does mean that we should discipline ourselves to be intentional learners like Jesus, of whom it was marveled, “How did this man get such learning without having studied?”

 

– from Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life

What We Do In Worship Reveals What We Think About God: A Gospel Cordial from Richard Phillips

What we do in worship reveals what we think about God. A church that worships through dry and joyless ritual shows that it believes in an absent God. A church that stirs up emotional enthusiasm and fills the worship service with entertainment believes in a week God who needs our spiritual help. A church focused on money reveals a God who is unable to meet our needs, whereas a church that exalts its own celebrities shows its blindness to the glory of God.

But what does it say when people reverently lift their hearts in praise? It says they think God is worthy and great. What do Christians show when they humbly confess their sins? They show that they believe in a holy and forgiving God. What does it say when we commit ourselves to prayer? It says that we believe in a God of power and love. What does it say when Christians are devoted to the reading and teaching of God’s word? It shows our belief that God has reveal himself, that his Word is truth, with power to save. What does a church say by worshiping according to the Bible instead of the latest worldly fad and fancy? It says that God matters more than worldly approval and that his ways are trust worthy and right.

-Rick Phillips, from Reformed Expository Commentary: John.

Christianity is a Bloody Religion: A Gospel Cordial from R. Kent Hughes

Christianity is a bloody religion—the blood of Christ cleanses us of all sin! This must be primary in our witness and thinking! Yes, Christ came to give abundant life. Yes, Christ worked miracles, and he can work miracles in our lives today. But these are the benefits of the gospel, not the gospel itself. The gospel centers upon Christ as the sin bearer—“the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Most of us understand what John is saying. However, our salvation does not depend on our formulation of the doctrine of the atonement, but on our experience of it! Is he our Lamb? Do we really believe he died for us? If we keep the wonder of the Atonement before us, we will be different people!

-R. Kent Hughes, from John: That You May Believe

The Object of our Admiration and Love: A Gospel Cordial from Jonathan Edwards

But is there any thing which Christians can find in heaven or earth, so worthy to be the objects of their admiration and love, their earnest and longing desires, their hope and their rejoicing, and their fervent zeal, as those things that are held forth to us in the gospel of Jesus Christ? in which not only are things declared most worthy to affect us, but they are exhibited in the most affecting manner. The glory and beauty of the blessed Jehovah, which is most worthy in itself to be the object of our admiration and love, is there exhibited in the most affecting manner that can be conceived of, as it appears, shining in all its lustre, in the face of an incarnate, infinitely loving, meek, compassionate, dying Redeemer. All the virtues of the Lamb of God, his humility, patience, meekness, submission, obedience, love and compassion, are exhibited to our view in a manner the most tending to move our affections of any that can be imagined; as they all had their greatest trial, and their highest exercise, and so their brightest manifestation, when he was in the most affecting circumstances; even when he was under his last sufferings, those unutterable and unparalleled sufferings he endured from his tender love and pity to us. There also, the hateful nature of our sins is manifested in the most affecting manner possible; as we see the dreadful effects of them in what our Redeemer, who undertook to answer for us, suffered for them. And there we have the most affecting manifestation of God’s hatred of sin, and his wrath and justice in punishing it; as we see his justice in the strictness and inflexibleness of it, and his wrath in its terribleness, in so dreadfully punishing our sins, in one, who was infinitely dear to him and loving to us. So has God disposed things in the affair of our redemption, and in his glorious dispensations, revealed to us in the gospel, as though every thing were purposely contrived in such a manner as to have the greatest possible tendency to reach our hearts in the most tender part, and move our affections most sensibly and strongly. How great cause have we therefore to be humbled to the dust that we are no more affected!

From A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections

Paul’s One Fear: A Gospel Cordial from John MacArthur

In prepping for this coming Lord’s Day sermon I’ve been studying Philippians 1:27-30 and John MacArthur shares this insight on Paul’s sense of fear and really lack thereof when it comes to fear of things in this world:

Paul was not afraid of ridicule, hardship, suffering, or death. His convictions were firm and unwavering, so that he did not compromises divine truth. On such matters he was unshakable. His one fear was that he would be disqualified from ministry. No matter how sound his doctrine remained, Paul understood that the danger of disqualification stemmed in large measure from the misuse of his body. He therefore declared his determination to “discipline his body and make it his slave” (1 Cor. 9:27). The primary, if not the sole, misuse of his body he had in mind was sexual immorality. – from MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Philippians p. 87.

Orthodoxy with out orthopraxy is an ugly and dangerous thing. God help us to, “only conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”