The Impact of Jesus

Written By: John - Oct• 29•15

James Allen Francis said in a sermon,

“He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never owned a house. He never went to college. He never travelled more than two hundred miles from the place where He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself. He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against Him. His friends ran away. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrow grave through the pity of a friend. Twenty centuries have come and gone, and today He stands as the central figure of the human race. I am far within my mark when I say that all the armies that every marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on earth as this one solitary life.”

 

(Mark Jones, Knowing Christ, page xv.)

“Submit, Resist, and Draw Near”

Written By: John - Oct• 19•15

We’ve been walking through the Lord’s Model Prayer in Matthew 6 on Sunday mornings. Yesterday centered in Jesus’ instruction to pray, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” As we studied the passage we went to James to get a better understanding of what temptation means. James 4:7-8 says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will drawn near to you…” James tells us that we deal with temptation by submitting to God, by resisting Satan, and by drawing near to God.

As I came to the end of my sermon the Holy Spirit brought an illustration to my mind that I had not thought of before. The reason Satan flees from us when we resist is because we are drawing near to God and He is drawing near to us. The following video pictures what I tried to describe.

Picture the mountain lion as Satan, the bear cub as us, and the final bear as God and I think you’ll get the picture!

 

Comfort in the Midst of Despair

Written By: John - Sep• 28•15

Yesterday was a hard day. On the day that we had expected to celebrate the birth of a child with his mom and dad we mourned with them in his death. A few days before the due date the mother went for a check up and they were not able to find a heartbeat…Kim and I prayed with them in the delivery room, and wept with them at the funeral. As I prayed about what to say God gave me a few thoughts that I hoped would bring them comfort. I share them with you with the same purpose.

I want you to consider this—because of your union a child was conceived. Your union brought about life. And while we hate the circumstances take comfort in this.

His eyes never saw the ugliness of this world—his first sight was the glorious majesty of our Living God.

His ears never heard the curses of man—his first sounds were the glorious tones of the angels and the praises of those who have gone on before him—his first sounds were heavenly.

His feet never felt the thorns of this world—his first steps were on streets of gold.

His hands never felt the sweaty fears of life—his first grip was most likely the grip of a nail-scarred hand that paved the way for His eternity.

His heart will never feel the brokenness that this world brings it—but it will know the excitement of pure unadulterated glory!

His knees will never buckle under the weight of sin, but they have already bowed before the King of kings.

His nose will never smell the aroma of death—it will only know the blessed and sweet aroma of life—forever.

And while we were never able to hear his voice—he has already joined the heavenly chorus singing its praise to our God.

I could go on and on, but let’s celebrate the life you brought forth and God brought into Heaven!

Years ago I shared an article from Al Mohler on the Age of Accountability and if you are interested you can find it here.  I shared the following text from 2 Samuel 12.  At the death of his child David said, “I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”  Based on the thoughts from Dr. Mohler and the assurance David had that he would see his son in Heaven I firmly believe that children who die go to Heaven.  I hope this comforts you.

Living above ‘the braying of asses and the grunting of hogs’!

Written By: John - Aug• 13•15

From time to time I hear people say things like, “I’m just not really into the music,” or “I’m just not a music person…” Last Sunday we sang Luther’s ‘A Mighty Fortress is our God.’ Before we sang the hymn Ronnie Foster, our Minister of Music, shared the following.

“In the forward of a book, Luther once wrote: ‘Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world. It controls our thoughts, minds, hearts, and spirits…A person who…does not regard music as a marvelous creation of God…does not deserve to be called a human being; he should be permitted to hear nothing but the braying of asses and the grunting of hogs.’”

You’ve gotta love Luther! Let’s live above the ‘braying of asses and the grunting of hogs’ and join with the angles and worship our God today with His Word, in prayer and meditation, and with song!

I Die Believing These Words!

Written By: John - Aug• 12•15

Recently Ray Ortlund posted the following on his blog.  I was blown away with it and wanted to share it with you.

“Robert Bruce, the disciple of John Knox and Andrew Melville, died at Kinnaird on July 27th, 1631.  He had come to breakfast and his younger daughter sat by his side.  As he mused in silence, suddenly he cried, ‘Hold, daughter, hold; my Master calleth me.’  He asked that the Bible should be brought, but his sight failed him and he could not read.  ‘Cast me up the eighth of Romans,’ cried he, and he repeated much of the latter portion of this Scripture till he came to the last two verses: ‘I am persuaded that neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities nor powers nor things present nor things to come nor height nor depth nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’  ‘Set my finger on these words,’ said the blind, dying man; ‘God be with you, my children.   I have breakfasted with you, and shall sup with my Lord Jesus this night.   I die believing these words.’”

(Marcus L. Loane, The Hope of Glory (Waco, 1968), page 160.)

 

To sell alcohol on Sunday or not to sell?

Written By: John - Aug• 10•15

Much has been said about tomorrow’s vote on whether we should allow stores to sell alcohol on Sunday. I do not drink alcohol for several reasons. It is not because I believe the Bible says you can never drink a beer or a glass of wine—the Bible is very clear about alcohol—you are not to get drunk and you are not to abuse it. While I do not think the Bible ever commands total abstinence from alcohol I choose not to drink for several reasons. Let me take you through the process that led me to that decision by asking you four simple questions.

First, is it helpful? In 1 Corinthians 6:12 we find these words, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful.” My great-grandfather was against all alcohol. His doctor told him that drinking a glass of wine every night would be helpful to him, but he said he could not do that. The doctor suggested that he drink a tablespoon of wine every night and he said he could do that! Without a doubt there are medical benefits to some alcohol. Even Paul told Timothy to mix a little wine with his water for his stomach. (1 Tim 5:23) So we could say it is helpful in some cases.

Second, does it master? In the second half of 1 Corinthians 6:12 Paul said, “All things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything.” Does alcohol have the potential to master and enslave you? The answer is it can absolutely master you. I don’t even have to prove that…you know it is true. The potential is there and you may be genetically prone toward alcoholism and while it has some health benefits it also has terrible consequences.

Third, does it cause others to stumble? 1 Corinthians 8:13, “Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” I know that I am to live a life that is above reproach. I know that if I, as a pastor, were seen buying alcohol or drinking alcohol in public I could cause others to stumble…especially here in the South. What if I could handle a beer a day or a glass of wine a night, but someone who could not handle it saw me and thought, “If the pastor can drink so can I.” I choose not to take that risk. I choose not to make others stumble in this area.

Finally, does it glorify God? 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” I’ve had many discussions with other Christians over this question. Some had argued that they could glorify God by drinking because, after all, didn’t Jesus turn the water into the best wine of the evening? Others could never see a time that drinking would honor or glorify God. So where does that leave us with the issue of drinking alcohol?

I choose not to drink because of the second and third question. It does master and it would cause others to stumble; therefore I cannot glorify God doing it. I have some very strong Christian brothers and sisters who disagree with my conclusion and I am able to agree to disagree with them, but that is why I choose not to drink. But, let’s get back to the question, what about selling alcohol on Sunday and the upcoming vote tomorrow?

Years ago our forefathers sought to set aside Sunday as the Lord’s Day and to make it a day different from the other six days. When I first moved to Boaz most stores were closed on Sunday and even the outlets asked for the churches blessing to open on Sunday afternoon from 1 to 5. A lot has changed since those days…hasn’t it?

There is one law left on the books that sets Sunday apart from all other days. That law does not allow the selling of alcohol on Sunday because it saw Sunday as a special day. So the question is simple—do we want Sunday to continue to be seen as a special day or should it be seen as just another day of the week?

I find it hard to believe that restaurants won’t come to our city because of this issue. When I go out to eat on a Sunday afternoon the restaurants are usually filled with people who just attended a church service. Ultimately, as a Christian, I do not vote based on my wallet—I vote based on what I feel the Scripture says about any given issue. So as you go to vote tomorrow I would simply urge you to pray, seek God’s will, but please go and vote. If I could vote tomorrow I would vote no because I want to keep the Lord’s Day separate from any other day. What about you?

“This Glorious Thought”

Written By: John - Aug• 03•15

Yesterday we sang two of my favorite hymns.  We started with Holy, Holy, Holy, and then we sang It Is Well.  I am moved every time we sing that song…especially when we get to the third verse.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

As we sang those words yesterday I thought of the magnitude of the words.  The freedom that comes from believing that is enormous.  I challenged our church to wake up and quote that line every day.  To remember the great truth and to worship God in light of it.

Let me challenge you to do the same thing!  If you are battling with guilt. if you are battling with sin.  If you are battling with the storms of life remember what He did for you on the cross and praise Him.

What is a Biblical Marriage

Written By: John - Jul• 08•15

Much has been said about marriage lately and I’ve been hesitant to write about it again…if you follow my blog or listen to my sermons you know that I believe marriage is to be between a man and a woman, but why? Why do I believe in what has been called a traditional view of marriage? I believe that way because I accept the Bible as the authoritative Word on every aspect of life. I did not say I perfectly obey it—I said I believe it to be the authoritative Word on every aspect of life.

That means I believe that when the Bible speaks on a subject the Bible is right even when everyone else disagrees. I understand we must interpret the Bible correctly—I know that the Church once used the Bible to teach the earth was flat and that the sun rotated around the earth, but that was not a correct interpretation. There are times when we will have to agree to disagree. For example I know the Bible teaches Jesus is coming back again, but Church has taken the Word of God to prove any number of theories about His return. I am confident in my believe about the cicumstances of His return, but I am not willing to fight over it…there is enough gray around the circumstances of His coming to keep me from being dogmatic. But what about marriage? Is it black and white or is it gray? I would suggest the Bible is very black and white about marriage and because it is we, who are Christians, must accept what it says as our authority on the subject. What does the Bible say?

I want to follow a simple outline I came across not long ago. When it comes to marriage we must first understand this—God ordained it. Before there was a government, before there was a Supreme Court, and before there were federal judges to weigh in with their opinion God ordained marriage.

We find the first marriage in the second chapter of the Bible. Genesis 2:24 says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” That is simple and yet profound. It is straightforward. It tells us that the very first marriage was arranged by God and ordained by God and blessed by God. It also tells us that in God’s view marriage was between a man and a woman. God ordained it.

Secondly, Jesus affirmed it. The other day I was speaking with a friend in Publix. He brought up my view of marriage and said he disagreed and then he asked, “What would Jesus do?” We know exactly what Jesus thought about marriage because Jesus told us what He believed about marriage.

In Matthew 19 Jesus was asked about divorce and He answered, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two of them shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Jesus went to the source—He went to the passage in Genesis and used it to show God’s view of marriage. When Jesus spoke on marriage He did so with this understanding—marriage was between a man and a woman.

When Jimmy Carter or anyone else says Jesus would approve of a different view of marriage than expressed in the Bible they are wrong. Jesus was God and the Bible is His Word—both the Old and the New Testaments are His Word and they were inspired by His Holy Spirit. God ordained it and Jesus affirmed it.

Finally, Paul explained it. Paul was an apostle and in many ways he was the theologian of the early church. Every word he wrote in the New Testament is from the Holy Spirit. He was inspired in his writings so when we read Paul we are reading the Word of God. What did Paul say about marriage? In 1 Corinthians 7 he spoke of marriage and discussed marriage, divorce, abandonment, and remarriage. One thing is certain—in 1 Corinthians 7 Paul spoke of marriage as that which is between a man and a woman. He spoke of the wife not separating from her husband and the brother who has a wife and the woman who has a husband. He explained some of the finer points of marriage, but he did so in the context of marriage as being between a man and a woman.

In Ephesians 5 he speaks of being filled with the Spirit and talks about that in the context of marriage. He speaks to the wives in the context of living with their husbands and of husbands in the context of living with their wives…in verse 31 he quotes from the same passage in Genesis and then in verse 32 adds, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”

We could go to other passages written by Moses or other writers, but throughout the Bible marriage is seen in one context and one context only—that which is between a man and a woman. You simply cannot rightly divide the Word of God and come to any other conclusion.

I understand the emotional arguments and I understand the legal arguments, but for the Christian, the Bible is our authority and we must accept what God ordained, what Jesus affirmed, and what Paul explained as being the final word on any subject.

So, what God ordained, what Jesus affirmed, and what Paul explained is the final word and the Supreme Court does not get to re-define it. We live in a country where another view of marriage is now legal, but that doesn’t make it right. We live in a world where another view of marriage is now accepted, but if we are to be children of God and if we are to obey Him we must accept His Word as our authority and He simply says marriage is that which is between one man and one woman and they are to be one flesh for life. Anything else is simply neither Biblical nor Christian.

“A Few Thoughts on the Rainbow”

Written By: John - Jul• 06•15

You’d have to living totally off the grid not to have noticed all of the rainbows lately…even the White House was recently lit up in rainbow colors. I’ll refrain from commenting on that, but I do want to share something about the rainbow from the end of a Tim Keller sermon I heard a couple of weeks ago. You can listen to the sermon here .

The first time we are introduced to the rainbow is in Genesis 9. The Bible describes the world leading up to Genesis 9 like this, “The LORD saw the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” That wickedness led to God’s judgment through a worldwide flood.

By the time you get to Genesis 9 the water is gone, the ark is empty, and Noah has built an altar to the LORD and sacrificed upon it. At that time God made a covenant with Noah. He said, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done…” (Genesis 8:21)

The sign of the covenant was the rainbow. God told Noah, “I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” That’s the setting, but let me share four points from Keller on the rainbow.

First, the rainbow points us to the backdrop of God’s grace. Simply put, you never find a rainbow on a sunny day. The rainbow always comes after the storm. We find God’s grace when we see our weakness and sin and cry out to Him. It is in the hard times that we grow the most and that is due to the fact that during those hard times we most often cry out to God and rely upon His grace.

Second, the rainbow points us to the sweeping promise of God’s grace. Technically, the rainbow is light reflected through rain. It is actually a circle, but from the ground you and I can only see the bow. Literally, the word in Genesis 9 is not rainbow; rather, it is ‘war bow.’ The bow is called a bow because it is shaped, from our perspective, like a bow and arrow.

God is laying up His war bow and by doing so there is no more condemnation. Why? Why is God laying up His bow? In 8:21 we find man’s heart is still evil. In 9:5-6 God lays out his provision for murder. Man hasn’t changed. Why is going laying up His bow? That leads us to the third point.

Third, the rainbow points us to the astonishing secret of God’s grace. At this point Keller turns to Spurgeon. Spurgeon said,

“Beloved, Christ is vengeance satisfied. Those wounds, those bright and burnished jewels of His hands, betoken that God demands no more of man. The rainbow, yet again, is a token that vengeance itself has become on our side. You see, it is an unbroken “bow.” He did not snap it across His knee. It is a bow still. Vengeance is there, justice is there. But which way is it pointed? It is turned upward. Not to shoot arrows down on us, but for us, if we have faith enough to string it, and to make it our glorious bow—to draw it with all our might, to send our prayers, our praises, our desires, up to the bright Throne of God. Mighty is that man, omnipotent is his faith, who has power to bend that bow and draw it and shoot his prayers to Heaven.”

God laid down His bow, but He turned it upward. It isn’t pointing at us…as if to say, “I’m able to string the bow at any moment,” no, the bow is pointed upward. God is aiming His bow at Someone else! God is aiming His bow at His Son. At the conjunction of sun and storm, of light and darkness, of mercy and judgment…Jesus got the arrow of judgment in our place. That’s what Isaiah 53 is all about! There on the Cross, we see the eternal justice of God and the eternal grace of God meet. The rainbow points us to the Cross, where Jesus took our wrath and our condemnation.

Finally, the rainbow points us to the beauty of God’s grace. It’s a constant reminder to us and to God of His covenant ultimately fulfilled in Jesus. It is a reminder in the midst of the storms of life that there is grace. It is a reminder in the midst of our sin that there is grace. It is a reminder in the face of the judgment to come that we can face Him under His hand of grace.

As I heard Keller and read Spurgeon’s I couldn’t help but think of John’s description of the Throne in Revelation 4:3, “And He who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald.” There around the Throne is an eternal reminder of God’s grace—the rainbow.

Serving from Beauty.

Written By: John - Jul• 03•15

In the sermon I quoted from yesterday, Tim Keller shared the following story from Charles Spurgeon.

“Once upon a time there was a king who ruled over everything in a land. One day there was a gardener who grew an enormous carrot. He took it to his king and said, “My lord, this is the greatest carrot I’ve ever grown or ever will grow; therefore, I want to present it to you as a token of my love and respect for you.” The king was touched and discerned the man’s heart, so as he turned to go, the king said, “Wait! You are clearly a good steward of the earth. I want to give a plot of land to you freely as a gift, so you can garden it all.” The gardener was amazed and delighted and went home rejoicing.

But there was a nobleman at the king’s court who overheard all this, and he said, “My! If that is what you get for a carrot, what if you gave the king something better?” The next day the nobleman came before the king, and he was leading a handsome black stallion. He bowed low and said, “My lord, I breed horses, and this is the greatest horse I’ve ever bred or ever will; therefore, I want to present it to you as a token of my love and respect for you.” But the king discerned his heart and said, “Thank you,” and took the horse and simply dismissed him.

The nobleman was perplexed, so the king said, “Let me explain. That gardener was giving me the carrot, but you were giving yourself the horse.”

When we give to God are we giving to Him or for ourselves?  Religion seeks to use God, but Christianity serves Him out of love and beauty.