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.

Teaching Children – A Gospel Cordial from Charles Spurgeon

The Holy Scripture may be learned by children as soon as they are capable of understanding anything. It is a very remarkable fact, which I have heard asserted by many teachers, that children will learn to read out of the Bible better than from any other book. I scarcely know why; it may, perhaps, be on account of the simplicity of the language, but I believe it is so. A biblical fact will often be grasped when an incident of common history is forgotten. There is an adaptation in the Bible for human beings of all ages, and therefore it has a fitness for children. We make a mistake when we think that we must begin with something else and lead up to the Scriptures. Parts of the Bible are above a child’s mind, for they are above the comprehension of the most advanced among us. There are depths in it in which leviathan may swim, but there are also brooks in which a lamb may wade. Wise teachers know how to lead their little ones into the green pastures beside the still waters. – Charles Spurgeon

Spurgeon Commentary: 2 Timothy, ed. Elliot Ritzema, Spurgeon Commentary Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014), 219.

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

 

Wisdom For Living – Reading Proverbs

As I’ve begun this journey through reading the wisdom books I decided to take advantage of a book that was part of the Logos Free Book of the Month program. The book is “How To Read Proverbs” by Tremper Longman. I’m not very far into the book but I thought some words from the introduction were worth sharing. I believe it was Johnny Hunt who called the Epistle of James “Shoe leather Christianity,” and if that is true of James in the New Testament it is certainly true of Proverbs in the Old Testament. Proverbs is an incredibly practical and “straight shooting” book of the Bible. It is a book full of wisdom that is to be practiced for living.

Longman begins his work on Proverbs:

Life isn’t easy. We may enjoy temporary rest from the battle, but no one is completely immune to the complexities of circumstances and relationships. These problems range from minor annoyances such as getting called to jury duty at an inconvenient moment, to major disasters such as a serious illness or a significant rupture in an intimate relationship. Sometimes we wake up in the morning and see the day as a series of obstacles to be avoided. We would love to be able to navigate life in a way that minimized the problems.

The Bible never suggests that the life of a follower of God will be devoid of problems. If anything, it says exactly the opposite. Life has its joys, but, according to 2 Corinthians 1:5 (“You can be sure that the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ”), even the joys are in the context of suffering. Unalloyed joy will come only in heaven. On this earth, we will have problems.

How do we handle life’s problems? How do we deal with difficult people or uncomfortable situations? What do we say and how do we act? How do we express our emotions? The Bible has a word to describe the person who navigates life well; that word is “wise.” A wise person lives life with boldness in spite of the inevitable difficulties.

We need wisdom in this life to handle its various situations. I’m thankful that the Lord has graciously given us these books we call “wisdom books.” Our God is a gracious God who hasn’t left us in the dark on matters of life now or eternal. If we lack wisdom, let us read and let us ask.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. – James 1:5-8 ESV

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.

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

Bible College (Or Seminary) is no Substitute for the Local Church

I’ve heard several people over the years describe how important their Bible College or Seminary experience was for them. I should probably say from the the beginning that I whole heartily believe that Bible College is important, if I didn’t think so I wouldn’t be enrolled in classes right now. I love where I’m a student and have benefited tremendously from being a student and seek to continue my education afterwards and eventually pursue seminary. Formal education is important, but it should not be a substitute for the local church.

I often hear brothers and sisters talk about how important their experience in formal Christian education was. The importance is that it was the time in which they were constantly surrounded by brothers and sisters. It was a time of constant encouragement. It was challenging. It was formative, in that it taught them Christian doctrine and practice. It was a time of diligent spiritual discipline. But, when they got away after graduation or between semesters they found themselves in a time of personal declension. Brothers it ought not be so. Formal Christian education can play a huge role in developing one’s faith, but it never was intended to be the only place. The Lord has given his people the local church.

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.  And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.  And all who believed were together and had all things in common.  And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.  And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. – Acts 2:42–47

Often the appeal of formal Christian education, especially if one is living on campus, is that you get pretty close to what is described in Acts 2. Acts 2 took place in the context of a local church and the Lord has designed every local church to live that way. The local church is where ministry takes place. The local church is where life takes place. The local church is where we spend our lives.

Education is formative, but in as much as it is formative it is preparatory. The Epistles we study in our classrooms about the ins and outs of churches were written to churches. The theology of the Bible is a practical and pastoral theology that is given to the church. It is my desire to see more and more students not only pursue formal Christian education to prepare for ministry, but to pursue a local church to prepare for ministry. I have gleaned and benefited tremendously from my classroom time. But what has been the most formative in my ministry has been being a part of a local church and being mentored by my pastors and elders while being in either of the colleges I’ve attended. Bible college (or seminary) isn’t a time to fully devote oneself to school and half-heartily attend a local church in preparation to serve the local church. It is of little benefit to spend little time with the local church if you intend to spend the rest of your life serving in one. Find a church. Join that church. Love that church. Serve that church. If you find one that is preaching and living the Bible, you’ll find that you’ll be surrounded by constant fellowship, solid teaching, and a place for worship. It is God’s design for the Christian and for ministers of the gospel. For those who are in Bible college (or seminary) I think you’ll find that you’ll get more out of your experience there if you’re faithfully involved in a local church.