Thursday, November 4, 2010

Thoughts from a Commentary

As I study a text of Scripture, I usually read between 6-12 commentaries to gain insight into the meaning of the passage. One of my favorite commentators is Homer A. Kent. You can check out some of his commentaries HERE! I have always enjoyed his simplicity and clarity in biblical exposition. He has nuggets of practical wisdom, but for the most part, his commentaries stick to the meaning of the text.

As I was studying Colossians 3 this week, I came across this quote. I thought I would let you ponder it as I am doing. I loved this quote so much for two reasons. First, because of the name of this blog (changed by the gospel). Second, I have preached many sermons recently on the Importance of Theology. In those sermons, I have tried to show how practical it is what we believe. Well, anyways, take a few minutes and really read this quote and contemplate it for your life. Enjoy!

"Scripture is clear that there is a practical side to Christian doctrine. Christianity is not just a creed. It is a 'Way' (this was one of the earliest names that Christians used for their movement). Conversion implies a changed life. Consequently, the believer must never forget that his salvation experience involves much more than just a past event in his life. That was merely the beginning. The new birth initiates the believer into a life to be lived. It provides the dynamic to energize this new life, and continual guidance from the Scripture to direct it along the proper channels. Only when the Christian ignores what God has provided does he find his Christian faith a disappointment."

~ Homer Kent, Treasures of Wisdom: Studies in Colossians & Philemon, (103-104).

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Grace for Orphans

This past Sunday, our church launched a new ministry called Grace for Orphans. It is a ministry that was birthed out of a passion by several people in our church. Check out the website, where you can watch some videos and find out more about the ministry. This is the purpose of Grace for Orphans: According to our biblical mandate to defend and care for the fatherless, we purpose to imitate our Heavenly Father's adoptive love through an orphan care and adoption culture at Grace Bible Church (Isa 1:17; Jas 1:27). It is a ministry to orphans. It is a ministry to those who cannot take care of themselves. My heart breaks every time I see a child who is fatherless or in need or hurting. I am praying that God does amazing things through the hearts of those at Grace Bible Church.

In preparation for this, we ordered several books to have on hand to suggest to people to read. I wanted to take a minute and point out these books. The only unfortunate thing about this list is that they are primarily all books on adoption. We have been very careful to point out that the ministry we have launched is not exclusively an adoption ministry. While we hope and pray that many will eventually adopt children, it is our hope and prayer that all are involved in orphan care in our city and the world. That being said, I hope you understand that these books, while dealing with adoption, only hit one aspect of orphan care ministry. Yet that one aspect is greatly needed. Maybe you will pick up one of these books in due time and read it and be moved to help those who cannot take care of themselves.

Adopted for Life by Russell D. Moore is one of the best books I have read this year, maybe at some point, I will do a full review of this book. If you have not read it, you should. I think it is a must for anyone who is a believer in Jesus. It is not just a book on adoption, it is a book on theology on what it means to be adopted in Christ. The back cover of the book gives an adequate summary as to the importance of adoption in light of the gospel: "The gospel of Jesus Christ means our families and churches ought to be at the forefront of the adoption of orphans close to home and around the world." Please pick up this book and read it, it might just change your life.

Fields of the Fatherless by Tom Davis is a book that I greatly look forward to reading very soon. Of all the other books on this list that I have not read, this one is at the top. At the very beginning of the book, Davis writes, "In this world you are an orphan-eagerly anticipating your adoption as God's child. In this world you are a widow-longing for reunion with your Bridegroom. In this world you are a stranger-a pilgrim waiting to become a citizen of heaven. And in this world, God has called you to care for the orphan, the stranger, and the widow. Fields of the Fatherless is a journey that brings you back to what Christianity is really about: Giving yourself to others, Being Christ to a hurting world, And living for the one that comes next." Sounds good, doesn't it?

Heirs with Christ by Joel Beeke is a great little book on what the Puritans believed in regards to our spiritual adoption. This is a theology of our adoption and should be the basis for why we would want to care for those who are not our own and can't help themselves. The theology helps shape our thinking so we are not just benevolent people, but people with a plan that flows from the heart of God. One publisher comment on the back of the book states: "This little book lets the Puritans speak for themselves, showing how they recognized adoption's far-reaching, transforming power and comfort for the children of God." As someone who has read many puritan writings, this book is not for the light of heart. But the journey will really be worth it.

Speaking of theology and adoption, Adopted into God's Family by Trevor Burke is a theological treatise on this issue. The general editor of the New Studies in Biblical Theology, D.A. Carson has this to say about this book: "Not only the importance of God's family, but also the enormous privilege of belonging to it, are powerfully underscored by Paul's understanding of what it means to be the adopted sons of God. With such themes in view, a wide array of pastoral implications soon springs to light. In other words, this volume not only probes a neglected theme - it also edifies." Got it? Well, maybe there are some of you who read my blog that are really into the deeper theological mysteries. This is the book for you.

Successful Adoption: A Guide for Christian Families by Natalie Nichols Gillespie is probably the most practical book our Grace for Orphans team has recommended for those looking to adopt. This book includes everything that you might think about in regards to adoption: Do I adopt locally or internationally? How much is an adoption going to cost? What are some of the blessings and hardships of adoption? What is the process like? What is life going to be like after I adopt? If you are interested in adoption, then grab this book.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

My Thoughts Concerning Birthdays

Most of you that read my blog probably already know this, but yesterday was my birthday. Before getting into what I want to write about, I wanted to take a moment and thank all of you who took the time to wish me happy birthday. Specifically those of you who do it because we are friends on Facebook or Twitter. Social Networking has made it much easier than before to wish people happy birthday. For that I am thankful. I know that while many of you who have posted something on my wall on FB, I have not done that for you. I truly am sorry and DO WISH that whenever your birthday falls, you will have a good day!

Now that I have said that, let me tell you a bit about my birthday's every year. I have always been a bit of a pessimist, and that comes out a little bit on November 1st every year. I had one person yesterday say, "another year the Lord has given you," to which I would like to reply "that means one less year." I am sure that wrapped up in my attitude every year is a bit of selfishness and pride. In fact, I am sure that there is a bit of those things (among others) wrapped up in almost everything that I do.

When I say "that means one less year," what I do NOT mean is that I am scared of dying or that I am depressed that my life is one year closer to eternity. What I do mean is that while I am grateful for this past year the Lord has given me (and I am so thankful for it), every November 1st is a stinging reminder to me that I need to take seriously my calling in life because I have one less year to be productive for my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Maybe it is just hard for me to express in words, but I have this longing, this desire to make every moment of my life count for something. Maybe that is why I am driven to accomplish things in my life.

I hope I am not depressing you, but here are a few verses that always beat me up regarding this matter.

"Therefore, be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:15-16). I am commanded to make the most of my time because the time that I have is not long. John MacArthur, in his commentary on Ephesians says this: "For His own reasons, God allows some of His children to live and serve far into old age. Others He grants only a few years or even a few weeks. But none of us knows how long or short his own allocation of time will be." None of us know how much time we have in this life (James 4:13-15). This really puts into perspective my time watching TV, surfing the Internet, or even playing FB games (actually I don't play those games, but thought you might be convicted by it).

"So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith" (Galatians 6:10). What does Paul mean by "while we have opportunity?" Could it be that at some point we will not have the opportunity to do good? Could it be that at some point the chance to do good to all people, especially the household of faith, will be stripped away from us? It means that we only have one shot at this life.

I apologize if this is depressing, but I want to make my life count, don't you? So, maybe November 1st of every year is a day of frustration in my own heart because I am convicted of all the times I have failed to make the most of my opportunities during this past year. It is a day of repentance. It is a day of introspection. But most of all, what I need the most, is that this is a day of the gospel! That even in my sins of missing opportunities and wasting time, I have acceptance and redemption because of what Jesus did on the cross. So, it's November 2nd and I am back upon the horse trying to run hard and fast for Jesus and being faithful to what He has called me to do.

Does any of this make sense?

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Morning After: Jesus-Centered Religion

Okay, so I have done a very poor job of blogging over the past couple of weeks. I started strong and then have slipped into a bad habit of only blogging once a week or so. I promise all of you out there that care (probably only my wife) that I will do better in the coming month. I am going to try to do something every day this month. We will see if it works or not.

Well, on to what really matters. Yesterday, I continued my series that I have been teaching on the book of Colossians. The purpose of the book of Colossians is to paint the picture of Jesus Christ so beautifully and perfectly that we would understand that He is indeed sufficient for anything that we could need in life. That is why I have entitled our series: It's All About Jesus! The past two weeks have been a short mini-series in that we have been contrasting Jesus and religion. Our main focus over the past couple weeks has been that any religion that focuses on what people do versus what Jesus has done produces death!

There were false teachers in the church in Colossae who were beginning to influence the doctrine of the church and undermining the sufficiency of Jesus. They were saying that Jesus was not enough for them to be considered a part of God's people. They were saying there were other things the people needed to do in order to be accepted by God. So, in Colossians 2:8-23, Paul writes to warn the people to not be taken captive by these teachings, but instead to be taken captive by Jesus.

Talking about the greatness of Jesus Christ never gets tiring to me. Not sure about you, but I don't think I can ever talk enough about what Jesus has done for me. Paul begins in vs. 8 by warning them not to be taken captive by this false teaching, but says that it is okay to be taking captive by Christ. Then Paul launches into why it is okay to be taken captive by Jesus in vs. 9-15. Then Paul returns to his original thought in vs. 16 to warn them of the specific errors that they needed to be careful to avoid.

First, we are warned against the Legalistic Religion (vs. 16-17). This is the attempt to work in order to gain God's favor. It is a religion of human achievement. It is the religion that fails to realize the importance and centrality of God's grace. It says that if we do certain things, worship at certain times, wear certain things, then God will think of us as more holy and accept us better. Second, we are warned against the Emotional Religion (vs. 18-19). This is the religion based on experience, not objective truth. It is the religion based on visions and dreams and worship of angels as opposed to Jesus. Third, we are warned against the Self-Denial Religion (vs. 20-23). This is the religion that says if you really want to be spiritual, you need to abstain from even good gifts given by the Lord and maybe even do harmful things to yourself.

All of those produce death! But what Jesus has done is my only hope for true life! That is what Paul teaches in vs. 9-15. He lists several evidences why the work of Jesus is indeed sufficient.

  1. Jesus is the perfect God-man (vs. 9)
  2. Jesus is the completer of mankind (vs. 10a)
  3. Jesus is the ruler (vs. 10b)
  4. Jesus is the changer of hearts (vs. 11-12)
  5. Jesus is the forgiver (vs. 13-14)
  6. Jesus is the victor (vs. 15)
Let me tell you why the forgiving aspect of Jesus means so much to me. This is one aspect of motivation for me in regards to christian ministry. When I am in Christ, when I am in a relationship with Jesus, God has wiped away all of my sins. He has done it by taking care of my certificate of debt. In 1996, I spent six weeks in China teaching English. One day we heard sirens and police cars began racing up down the streets of this small village we were staying in. Our host told us that we needed to get out of the city. That was the day they were planning on doing public punishment for the criminals of the city. I will never forget one of the police trucks that passed by our hotel. It carried several criminals who were bound and displayed in the back of the truck. Around their neck hung a sign, which our guide told me was the list of offenses they had committed.

Whenever I think about a certificate of debt, that is what I think of. That is because every person wears that same sort of list around our necks before a Holy God. Around my neck hangs this list of sins that only God sees. It is a list of every sin that I have ever committed and will ever commit. This is what Jesus has done, He has taken very long list . . . all of my imperfections, all those wrong motives, all those lustful and hateful thoughts, all those moments of pride, all those times giving into temptation. He has taken those things out of the way, nailing them to the cross! He has taken those things that are offensive to God and stood between me and Him and said, "I'll take that. Put that on my account!"

Good works won't do that! Visions and dreams won't take away my sins! Self-denial of food or drink or harming myself won't take my sins away! But the cross of Jesus does. That is why I talk about the cross and the gospel all the time. It is my only hope and I hope it is yours as well! May we all live this week in light of Jesus and the cross that He died upon.