There is No God.

Read Psalm 14 (esp. 1-3)

Another offering from THE POETRY PROJECT

humility word in metal typeThere is a raw quality to some of the psalms of David, a brutal non-political, non-politically correct confidence in the total dependability of God that progressive thought despises and David and other biblical writers could not care less about. Psalm 14 is one of those psalms that breathes those vapors.

Far wiser to say “I have doubts” than to say “I know that there is no God.” Far wiser and nobler to be an agnostic than to declare the religious dogma of atheism. Pray that your atheist friends would be wise and declare for agnosticism. It would be a step away from foolishness and toward wisdom. Pray that they would be humble.

Blunt Truth

No God
There is no god.
I know that there is no god.
So I will organize my life as if he is not, 
because there is no one above.
I will be the master of my time.
I will be the lord of my moments.
I will be the commander of my conscience.

No god will rule me.
No god will condemn me.
No god will stand in my way.

I will not bow my knee.
I will be the master of my destiny.

I will not follow his path.
I will not listen for his voice.
I will ridicule his followers.
I will despise his precepts.
I will seek other devotions and pursue other joys.
I will not delight in a god I don’t see 
or a path that restricts my inclination.
I will turn aside to what his followers label corruption.
and glory in my freedom and progress.

And when worm-food I become.
I will feel nothing,
know nothing,
and regret nothing.

I will simply be gone.

“Alright then,” said the God you will not acknowledge, 
“Have it your way. Fool.”

But there was a tear in the Son of God’s eye.

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they become fools,”

Romans 1:20-22

Go to Psalm 15

Why Love Dies but Lives Again

Tuesday is for Discussion

Lost LoveThirty years before, the apostle Paul commended the church at Ephesus for its great love. 

  • “your love for all the saints”  (1:15)
  • “an incorruptible love”  (6:24)

But just 30 years later, Jesus diagnosed the soul of the ancient church in Ephesus and gave a heart-breaking assessment of the same church. You can read about it in the book of Revelation 2:1-7. 

“But this I have against you, you have abandoned the love you had at first.”

Revelation 2:4, ESV

It doesn’t take long for love to cool.

How many couples have declared undying, “incorruptible” love on their wedding day only “to abandon the love they had at first” and find themselves in divorce court two years later? It happens.

And it happens in our relationship with God.

The reasons it happens are as varied as the people who lose their first love. But the remedy is what I’m interested in. It is what Jesus is interested in as well. However you lost your first love for Christ and His Church Jesus knows the way back.  Read verse 5.

Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

Revelation 2:6, ESV

Three non-negotiables:

  1. Remember  — sit down and reflect on what your love for Jesus was like when you first believed. Think hard about it. Recall how far you have fallen away from that first passion when the torch of your love burned bright.
    .
  2. Repent — grieve over your fall from that first-love passion and turn from every behavior that has entangled your heart.
    .
  3. Do the works you did at first — that’s part of remembering too. Remember how you read the Bible, how you prayed, how you grieved over sin, how you loved your brothers and sisters in Christ, how you talked about being forgiven to everyone you knew? Yeah, those works. Do them again. Let obedience fuel your passion

That’s not my word. That’s Jesus’s word to you on the day you read this and every day that you read this text in Revelation 2.

And that’s a good word for those who have had their love for their spouse grow cold and lifeless as well.

Seven Reasons Christ Had to be Born of a Virgin

Tuesday is for Preaching

Virgin and Child

Actually, a “virginal conception” is what is really meant! The background to this powerful miracle is stunning. In 734 B.C. the prophet Isaiah was sent to an unbelieving and wicked King by the name of Ahaz. Two armies were allied against him and he was thinking about making an alliance with Assyria to fight against them. God sent Isaiah to him to warn him to not do it but to instead trust in YHWH. He even gave Ahaz the opportunity to ask for a sign (“let it be as deep as Sheol or high as heaven”) to show that God would protect him and the nation. He refused and God said okay then, I’ll give you a sign of what is going to happen.

The LORD then gives a short-term sign to Ahaz and a long-term sign to the House of David. The short-term sign is fulfilled in the defeat of the two armies allied against him in 732 B.C.. The long-term sign is that God will cause a virgin to be with child in fulfillment of His longer plan to send a Messiah through the line of David and the tribe of Judah. So here are seven reasons we should continue to believe that, Jesus was born of a virgin:

  1. Because God said he would give a colossal sign and the virginal conception of a child fits the prophecy. (Isaiah 7:10-14)
    ….
  2. Because the Hebrew word translated “virgin” denotes “‘virgin’ in every case where its meaning can be determined'” (cf. Kaiser, Toward an Old Testament Theology, 208).
    ….
  3. Because the septuagint translators, Jewish scholars of the Old Testament who used Greek to translate the Hebrew Scriptures two centuries before Christ) removed all doubt that almah (Heb. עלמה) should be understood not just as a “young girl” but as “a virgin” when they used the Greek word parthenos (Gr. παρθενος) to make their translation clear.
  4. Because Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 1:26-38 tell us about the angel sent from God to tell of the virgin conception of Christ in fulfillment of prophecy.
    ….
  5. Because Jeremiah 22:24-30 (see esp. vs. 30) makes it clear that no one who is a blood relative of Coniah (alternate spelling for Jeconiah) will EVER sit on throne of David. This is a problem if Matthew’s genealogy is the genealogy of the Messiah (cf. Jer. 22:30 with Matthew 1:11). The virgin conception of Jesus is the New Testament solution.
  6. Because Matthew 1:1-17 does something that no genealogy in the Old Testament ever did. It highlights four women in the genealogy and a more scandalous group of women could hardly be collected (Tamar, Rehab, Ruth, and Bathsheba). And each is referred to in exactly the same way to ensure that the reader knows that the man mentioned just before is the paternal father by this particular woman. Each fathers or begets “by” (lit. “out of” Gr. κ τῆς) the woman mentioned (cf. vs. 3, 5, 6). The reader is meant to see these women and begin to ask “why?” When the culmination of the genealogy comes in verse 16 the pattern changes.
    ….
    .“Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.” (NASB 1995)
    ..
    The text distances Joseph from being the agent of conception and says Mary is the one “by whom” (Gr. 
    ἐξ ἧς ἐγεννήθη, literally, “by whom” or “through whom”). In other words, Mary is the human instrument but Joseph is uninvolved in the process. All of this sets up verses 18-25 where we are explicitly told that the Holy Spirit intervened and cause Mary to be pregnant apart from Joseph.
    ….
  7. Because it was through Adam’s sin that our sin nature is passed on according to Romans 5:12-21. Adam, not Eve is considered the originator of mankind’s sin nature. He is the responsible agent. So for the Messiah, the “second Adam”, to accomplish the task of atonement He too must be free of sin and also of a sin nature just like the first Adam before the Fall into sin.
    ….
    In some mysterious way, human fathers pass on their sin natures to their progeny. Mary had a human father therefore she had a sin nature and needed a Savior. But the second Adam has no human father. He is the “holy child” (cf. Luke 1:35) and free of all sin. Just as He must be if He is to be the perfect spotless lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29, 36).

Be amazed this Christmas at the wonder and glory of the plan of God to redeem man from sin to an eternity of joy with Him.

Pulpits that Change the World

Tuesday is for Preaching

From a time when a pulpit in France rang with truth and power.

Preaching MLK

This is an old post from a now defunct older BLOG of mine. I ran across a reference to it in a comment thread on this blog and thought it might be good to give it a new life almost 6 years after it was originally posted. As one who has taught preaching at the seminary level, been a practitioner of preaching for 35 years, and believes that expository preaching has a place in both house church settings and the more traditional church–this story from Kairos Journal brought great joy to my heart.

May the pulpits of America, house and traditional, resound with such brave and faithful prophetic voices.

The Pulpit at Le Chambon

In the summer of 1942, two buses arrived at the French village of Le Chambon. The Vichy government, in service to the German occupation, had sent them to pick up the Jews who’d been sheltered in this largely Protestant town. When the police captain first demanded that the local pastor supply him a list of the resident Jews and then insisted that he sign a poster calling on the Jews to surrender themselves, he refused.

The police gave this pastor twenty-four hours to reconsider, and it proved to be time enough for the Jews to escape to the forest. The next day, the police found only one suspected Jew, and when they loaded him on the bus, villagers crowded about, handing gifts of food through the window. When the authorities soon discovered that his documentation was in order, they released him, and he returned to the village, pulling a wagon laden with the food he’d received from his poverty-stricken neighbors.

When philosopher Phil Hallie, himself a decorated artilleryman from World War II, came across this story of heroism, he found release from a profound depression he’d suffered while studying the Holocaust. Stepping back from the brink of suicide, Hallie wrote a book to be called, Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed: The Story of the Village of Le Chambon and How Goodness Happened There.1

How might these people have found the fortitude to resist, for years, the Nazi efforts to exterminate the Jews? How might they have operated an “underground railroad,” forwarding Jews to safety in Switzerland? Certainly, there was an historical base for these sympathies, since French Protestants had themselves endured centuries of persecution.2 Thousands had been massacred on a single St. Bartholomew’s Day, August 24, 1572, and it was not until the French Revolution in the late eighteenth century that oppression subsided.

Hallie, instead, chose to focus on the preaching of their Huguenot pastor. When searching out the “nerve” of the rescue operation, he concluded, “The most obvious answer was Pastor Trocmé himself. His powerful sermons in the boxy granite temple inspired the people of the village to follow in the footprints of Jesus, loving all humankind and willing to suffer, even to die, for others.”3

Trocmé spoke often of “the power of the spirit” and urged his parishioners to obey God rather than man, “to help the weak, though it meant disobedience to the strong.”His delivery was compelling. As his brother Francis put it, “. . . he is a pulpit orator who is absolutely original, who surpasses in authority anyone I have ever heard speak from the chair . . . One sits there afterwards . . . eyes clouded with tears, as if one has been listening to music that has seized you by your entrails.”5

When the nation of Israel gave Trocmé the Medal of Righteousness after the war, they quoted from an August, 1942, sermon the pastor delivered during the roundup of Jews in Paris: “It is humiliating to Europe that such things can happen, and that we the French cannot act against such barbaric deeds that come from a time we once believed was past. The Christian Church should drop to its knees and beg pardon of God for its present incapacity and cowardice.”6

One might suppose that the people of Le Chambon went grimly about their hazardous duty, but the accounts reveal more joy than solemnity and dread. When an early, trembling Jewish refugee approached a farmhouse near the town, the farm woman excitedly called upstairs, “Come down! Come down! We have in our home today a representative of the Chosen People!”7

Her joy flowed from her grounding in God’s Word and her filling with the Holy Spirit. Hallie observed, “For many of the people of Protestant Le Chambon the Bible was a book of truths and commandments to be taken literally (au pied de la lettre). The word of God had to be taken that way or not at all. The felt allegiance of the Chambonnais to God’s words convinced them in their heart of hearts that they were doing God’s work by protecting the apple of God’s eye, the Jews.”8

Pastor Trocmé’s preaching stirred his people to sacrificial service. His pulpit ministry and their Christian walk also moved the heart of a war-weary, philosophical Jew, Phil Hallie. Good preaching does that; the ripples go on and on, far beyond the walls of the church.9

Footnotes

1 Philip P. Hallie, Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1979).  2 Ibid., 25.  3 Philip P. Hallie, “Surprised by Goodness,” excerpts from Hallie’s 1997 HaperCollins book, Tales of Good and Evil, Help and Harm, (McClean, Virginia: The Trinity Forum, 2002), 21.  Innocent Blood, 170. 5 Ibid.., 171.  6  Ibid.  7 “Surprised by Goodness,” 23.  8 Ibid.  9 See Kairos Journal article, “On the Offensive—Pastor Pierre-Charles Toureille, 1941-1945.”

Oh that preachers in our time would so pray, and study, and preach that the people of our day would rise up and be as righteous and courageous in their thoughts and deeds as the people of La Chambon.

What Does It Mean to Know God?

Monday is for Thinking

What does it mean to know God?

Knowing GodIt means many things but if we take our clues from Exodus 5:1-23, it means at least these five things.

  1. It means that we obey his directives.  (v. 1)
  2. It means we will be in hot water with others who will not obey. (v. 2-9)
  3. It means we will be misunderstood by other believers. (v. 10-21)
  4. It means sometimes we will be confused. (v. 22-23)
  5. And in the context of the whole book, it means that God is always worthy of our trust. 

Are you obeying God? Are you in hot water with some because you are following God? Are you misunderstood even by believers at times? Are you clueless about God’s plan at times? And do you know that God is always trust worthy?

Keep pursuing God. Keep pressing on to know God. Keep running toward the One who knows you completely, loves you deeply, and paid for all your sins with His own blood so that you could enjoy Him forever.

When You Say You are a Christian, What Does it Mean?

Tuesday is for Preaching

Slave by MacArthurI am re-reading John MacArthur’s Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ (Thomas Nelson, 2010). It is such a powerful book and it starts in the preface with a compelling story of a brother in Christ who gave his life in testimony to the beauty and attractiveness of Christ in the late second century, probably around AD 177. His name was Sanctus and he knew who he was. He knew who he belonged to and he knew what to hold on to.

“I am a Christian.”

The young man said nothing else as he stood before the Roman governor, his life hanging in the balance. His accusers pressed him again, hoping to trip him up or force him to recant. But once more he answered with the same short phrase. “I am a Christian.”

It was the middle of the second century, during the reign of emperor Marcus Aurelius [AD 161-180]. Christianity was illegal, and believers throughout the Roman Empire faced the threat of imprisonment, torture, or death. Persecution was especially intense in southern Europe, where Sanctus, a deacon from Vienna, had been arrested and brought to trial. The young man was repeatedly told to renounce the faith he professed. But his resolve was undeterred. “I am a Christian.”

No matter what question he was asked, he always gave the same unchanging answer. According to the ancient church historian Eusebius, Sanctus “girded himself against [his accusers] with such firmness that he would not even tell his name, or the nation or city to which he belonged, or whether he was bond or free, but answered in the Roman tongue to all their questions, ‘I am a Christian.'” When at last it became obvious that he would say nothing else, he was condemned to severe torture and a public death in the amphitheater. On the day of his execution, he was forced to run the gauntlet, subjected to wild beasts, and fastened to a chair of burning iron. Through out all of it, his accusers kept trying to break him, convinced that his resistance would crack under the pain of torment. But as Eusebius recounted, “Even thus they did not hear a word from Sanctus except the confession which he had uttered from the beginning.” His dying words told of an undying commitment. His rally cry remained constant throughout his entire trial, “I am a Christian.”

For Sanctus, his whole identity–including his name, citizenship, and social status–was found in Jesus Christ. Hence, no better answer could have been given to the questions he was asked. He was a Christian, and that designation defined everything about him.

… As one historian explained about the early martyrs, 

They [would reply] to all questionings about them [with] the short but comprehensive answer, “I am a Christian.” Again and again they caused no little perplexity to their judges by the pertinacity with which they adhered to this brief profession of faith. The question was repeated, “Who are you?” and they replied “I have already said the I am a Christian; and he who says that has thereby named his country, his family, his profession, and all things besides.”

MacArthur’s preface to his book, p. 7-9.

And if you are looking for a shorter but kind of “cousin” treatment to who we are in Christ, …

… pick up a copy of my Settlers or Sojourners: Meditations in Christian Identity at Amazon in either paperback or kindle formats.

Monday-Morning Quaterbacking the Sermon

Tuesday is for Preaching

Preaching[I started this post yesterday and didn’t finish because of other pressing demands.]

Did you know that the Miriam-Webster Dictionary has a three word noun? Really, a three-word noun. It’s true. Here it is:

Monday-Morning Quarterback: a person who unfairly criticizes or questions the decisions and actions of other people after something has happened.

Full Definition of MONDAY-MORNING QUARTERBACK
.        :  one who second-guesses
Monday–morning quarterbacking

Have you ever done that?

Have you ever been guilty of second-guessing someone’s decisions or actions or motives?

I have, —too often, I suspect.

How about yourself? Have you ever second-guessed about your own decisions? Of course you have. So have I.

I suppose preachers might be especially prone to second-guessing or Monday-morning quarterbacking their messages from the previous Sunday. At least I hope I’m not alone, because I do it every week. For me, it starts with the Thursday taping of the message for our two extension sites. I never want Thursday to be a “trial run” but the reality is that between Thursday and Sunday I rethink the message every week.

Was that point clear? Was that the right illustration? Is there a better way to get to that second point? Is there a better way to tell that story? How can I help the congregation understand these points quicker? At the end, did what I said and how I said it help people to know the will of God? What changes could I make so that the end result is a greater love for Jesus and higher level of engagement in the world?

There are a hundred other questions that pop up and often many adjustments made before and sometimes in between the first and second services on Sunday.

And still, I am prone to do even more “Monday-morning quarterbacking” when Monday rolls around. Chances are high, that if you preach on regular basis, you do exactly the same thing. It is a guarantee that every week you preach, no matter where you preach, there are those in the congregation who are second-guessing your motives, your content, your interpretation. Some will do it from good hearts and some because their own hearts are not right in some way.

If you are not careful, you can drive yourself insane with second-guessing, the Monday-morning quarterbacking of both yourself and others.

Here’s some counsel from thirty years of preaching experience.

  1. Pray before you read any feedback. This is not always easy to do or remember but good and bad criticism can destroy you in different ways. So can failing to learn from others.
  2. Check your heart immediately when you receive negative feedback from others. Don’t be too quick to defend yourself but don’t assume every criticism is valid. Examine it. Weigh it. Pray over it. Learn from it.
  3. Listen to your wife. Listen to your wife again. She will be honest and she will be gentle. She’s not your enemy. She’s your helpmate. Positive and negative, listen to her. No one will be more helpful.
  4. Don’t be afraid (or ashamed or stubborn) about changing a message based on feedback. Sometimes this can be done in 30 seconds the next week. Sometimes it can be done in the program. Sometimes an adjustment can be made to how something is said between services. The point is to not ignore valid critique by yourself or others.
  5. Remember, no matter what anyone else says, your primary audience every week is the Lord Jesus Christ. If your heart and attitude is to please Him, to exalt Him and not yourself, to help others love Him, even if they misunderstand or hate you, be satisfied in that. You are not greater than your Master and He had critics every time He spoke.