Monthly Archives: September 2005

Hurricane Rita: A Gift and a Reminder

Well, I’m assuming that like me, many of you (in the Houston and Beaumont area) are scurrying back to your homes after a period of evacuation. I hope that you find your homes in tact and your family (church and immediate) safe. I wanted to briefly share with you why I’m thanking God for Hurricane Rita.

  1. Rita was a gift: Yes, I’m using this for some “shock-value,” but I sincerely believe that God blesses us through this and other “natural disasters.” Personally I have been shown how easily my faith can be shaken. Let’s review shall we…I left my house late Wednesday night and spent a week in someone else’s home. That’s basically my hurricane story. However, this was all it took to break my devotional routine. I became much more interested in Fox News than the passages I’m currently reading in Judges and 1 Corinthians. I became much more aware of my dependence upon electricity (is that really an excuse not to study the Bible?) I let much of my seminary work build up because I was too busy “being a refugee or evacuee (whichever you prefer).” I began to see compromise settling into my thoughts and dealings with my children. Rita was a gift in that it forced me to see my utter dependence upon God. Rita revealed worldliness that had crept into my life. I’m thankful for God’s good gifts.
  2. Rita was a Reminder: Rita (and Katrina) reminded us that God is the Supreme Ruler of all things. We can spend years and multiple millions of dollars planning for disasters and still be utterly venerable to God’s power and terrible sovereignty. I was personally reminded that we are only sustained by the prayers of our Savior. We all deserve to have our homes destroyed and lives ruined. God is gracious beyond belief, especially when He reminds us of our frailty and His unwavering strength during times like this. Rita was a reminder to me that we should spend our labors on eternal matters and be freed to release our grip from material things. Rita was a reminder that our hope should not be in FEMA or the President (although I’m not bashing them like much of the country), but in God’s mighty right hand, that is solely able to deliver His people.

What has God taught you through this time?

May God continue to lead us to repent and believe!

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The Forms of the Word of God

A group of men in my church are seeking to know God through His Word on Thursday mornings. We are beginning our study with the Doctrine of the Word of God. God’s Word appears to us in 4 Major Ways:

1. “The Word of God” as a Person: Jesus Christ.
a. These are the only times the Bible uses this phrase to speak of Jesus:

i. Revelation 19:13 And He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood; and His name is called The Word of God.

ii. John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. We see this is Jesus in verse 14…the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

iii. (possibly) 1 John 1:1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled, concerning the Word of Life–

b. Jesus does appear to have unique status in the Trinity of communicating the will of God and expressing the character of God for us.

2. “The Word of God” as Speech by God

a. God’s Decrees—a word of God that causes something to happen.

i. Genesis 1:3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

ii. Psalm 33:6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, And by the breath of His mouth all their host.

iii. (not only creation, but God’s Word sustains us as well) Hebrews 1:3 And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power…

b. God’s Word of Personal Address—God often speaks directly to people in the Bible

i. To Adam: Genesis 2:16-17 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (God also spoke to Adam after he and Eve had sinned…interesting that He addresses Adam, not Eve.)

ii. The giving of the 10 commandments: Exodus 20:1-3 Then God spoke all these words, saying, 2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.”
iii. At Jesus’ Baptism: Matthew 3:17 and behold, a voice out of the heavens, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”

iv. Notes: Yes, these are God’s very words…spoken directly from God…however, they are also human words in that they are spoken in ordinary human language that is understandable. This does not limit their value or integrity in any way…they are still the Words of God. (i.e. just because the human language is imperfect does not mean that God’s communication through the human language is in error.)

3. “The Word of God” as Speech through the mouth of human beings.

i. This represents God speaking through prophets in the Bible. Remember, although these are still spoken by human lips, they are God’s Words, not corrupted by their human vessels…for example:

1. Deuteronomy 18:18-20 ‘I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 ‘And it shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him. 20 ‘But the prophet who shall speak a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he shall speak in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’

2. Jeremiah 1:7 But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ Because everywhere I send you, you shall go, And all that I command you, you shall speak.
a. See also: Ex. 4:12, Num. 22:38, 1 Sam. 15:3, 18, 23, 1 Kings 20:36, 2 Chron. 20:20, Isa. 30:12-14…

3. Anyone who claimed to be speaking a message from the Lord and was not was severely punished…Ezek. 13:1-7…)

a. Thus God’s words spoken through human lips were considered to be just as authoritative and true as God’s words of personal address. To disobey the prophets of God was to disobey God himself.

4. “The Word of God” in written form (the Bible)

a. The first record of God’s Word coming in written form: Exodus 31:18 And when He had finished speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written by the finger of God.

b. Deuteronomy 31:9-13…And Moses wrote this law…This writing of Moses was then deposited by the side of the ark of the covenant: (Deuteronomy 31:24-26)

c. Further additions were made to this book of God’s words:

i. Joshua 24:26 And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God; and he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the LORD.

ii. Isaiah 30:8 Now go, write it on a tablet before them And inscribe it on a scroll, That it may serve in the time to come As a witness forever. (cf. Jer. 30:2, 36:2-4, 27-31; 51:60)

iii. In the New Testament, we have God’s Words are still being added to by His people…1 Corinthians 14:37 If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment. Peter 3:2 that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.

d. Benefits from a written form of the Bible: We are blessed!

i. There is a much more accurate preservation of God’s Word than through oral tradition, word of mouth…

ii. There is an opportunity for repeated and prolonged study of these Words, without time restraints or limits…

iii. God’s Words are accessible to many more people than they are when preserved merely through memory and oral repetition.

iv. Have you taken for granted the gift of reading and comprehension? Do you rejoice when your children learn to read, so that they can read the Scriptures? We are so blessed!

e. Our basis for the study of Theology now comes through the Bible

i. We do not have Jesus around to imitate anymore, we must study his life in the Bible.

ii. God rarely speaks audibly in Scripture, and we would say even more so today. We are on shaky ground to seek God’s Word from this source. (Feelings are included here…opening your Bible blindly and pointing your finger…)

iii. God’s words spoken through human lips ceased to be given when the New Testament Canon was closed. (stay tuned for next week!) We do not believe God is unable to speak today, just that He will never do so in contradiction with His Word.

*It is most profitable for us to spend our time studying God’s words as written in the Bible. How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:1-2)

*It is the Word of God in the form of written Scripture that is “God-breathed” and “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16)

Questions for Application

1. Do you think you would pay more attention if God spoke to you from heaven or through the voice of a living prophet than if he spoke to you from the written words of Scripture? Would you believe or obey such words more readily than you do Scripture? Do you think your present level of response to God’s Word is appropriate? What positive steps can you take to improve your obedience to God’s Word?
2. When you think about the many ways in which God speaks and the frequency with which God communicates with his creatures through these means, what conclusions might you draw concerning the nature of God and the things that bring delight to him?

An illustration of Eternity

This morning, a friend of mine handed me a book (A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce, Text, Criticism and Notes, Edited by Chester G. Anderson) and said there was a wonderful illustration of eternity that I might find useful. He was right…and I quote…

“Try to imagine the awful meaning of this (eternity). You have often seen the sand on the seashore. How fine are its tiny grains! And how many of those tiny little grains go to make up the small handfull which a child grasps in its play. Now imagine a mountain of that sand, a million miles high, reaching from the earth to the farthest heavens, and a million miles broad, extending to the remotest space, and a million miles in thickness: and imagine such an enormous mass of countless particles of sand multiplied as often as there are leaves in the forest, drops of water in the mighty ocean, feathers on birds, scales on fish, hairs on animals, atoms in the vast expanse of the air: and imagine that at the end of every million years a little bird came to that mountain and carried away in its beak a tiny grain of that sand. How many millions upon millions of centuries would pass before that bird had carried away even a square foot of that mountain, how many eons upon eons of ages before it had carried away all. Yet at the end of that immense stretch of time not even one instant of eternity could be said to have ended.”

“At the end of all those billions and trillions of years eternity would have scarcely begun. And if that mountain rose again after it had been all carried away and if the bird came again and carried it all away again grain by grain: and if it so rose and sank as many times as there are stars in the sky, atoms in the air, drops of water in the sea, leaves on the trees, feathers upon birds, scales upon fish, hairs upon animals, at the end of all those innumerable risings and sinkings of that immeasurably vast mountain not one single instant of eternity could be said to have ended; even then, at the end of such a period, after that eon of time the mere thought of which makes our very brain reel dizzily, eternity would have scarcely begun.”

Eternity is real…May God give us a sober mind when we consider our soul’s destination for eternity!

Thanks Rick!

25 MORE Observations from Luke 24:25-27

1. God’s purpose throughout the Bible is consistent. (He is the God of the O.T. and of the N.T.) If our sermon from the Old Testament text could be preached at a Jewish Synagogue without any mention of Christ, we are dead wrong.

2. Jesus took TIME to teach men the things of God, so should we. Many times in the “evangelical” world today, the idea is to do what works instead of what’s right (Derek Webb). We have to understand that change comes through the faithful, patient teaching of God’s Word by gifted, called men of God. There is no shortcut to godliness.

3. There is a positive correlation between foolishness, unbelief and ignorance of God’s Word. Jesus shows us that foolish men do not believe God’s Word, therefore they do not understand the things of God. People who are unregenerate (unconverted) cannot understand God’s Word. (1 Cor. 2:14–“But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” (NAS, emphasis mine)

4. Jesus is the promised Messiah. (Verse 26) This seems self-explanatory, but I will briefly elaborate. Jesus, in verse 26, after the resurrection is again punctuating God’s plan in redemption. He is who He said He was, and He is who the prophets had foretold. This would have carried much weight with Jewish people…and it should with us (gentiles) as well.

5. Jesus models the placement of suffering before the enjoyment of glory (heaven). Suffering will happen in this world. People will betray us, we will be wronged, we will get cancer, we will lose children and parents, we will fail. Suffering can be endured by focusing on the One who is in control of all suffering, and realizing that this life is only temporary. We too have a “joy set before us,” namely the beautiful, excellent Christ Jesus.

6. We should teach the Bible in an orderly fashion. (This might be a stretch, but stay with me…) Jesus begins with Moses (I think this means the book of Genesis) and then, the prophets. He explains “big truths” from the Bible. It sounds a little like Jesus is doing Systematic Theology with these two men. He does not read (or quote) these books of the Bible, but he harvests great truths (in a way that can be understood by these men) from the Scripture and mercifully teaches them. Pastors, we should make the big truths of the Bible accessible to our people in this way as well.

7. The main purpose for teaching our children (and adults) how to read is to know God through His Word. Are you thankful that you were taught to read? Do you know how much of a blessing it is to be able to read the Bible? How many people throughout the years and today have died never learning to read the Bible in English or in their native language? Remember “everyone who has, more shall be given and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.” Matthew 25:29. How are we stewarding our abilities for the Kingdom of God? The master is on His way home to settle accounts!

8. We must never underestimate the depth of God’s Word. This exercise has shown me that we can gaze on the Bible for hours, days, weeks, months, and years and NEVER fully plumb the depths of this inspired Word. These men on the road were settling for a nominal value of the Bible. If you are still in the “shallow end” of the God’s pool, realize that you are not in a pool, but in a never ending, raging ocean that can never be fully navigated! Let’s spend our lives in the deep waters, so that when we fall, we do not injure ourselves on the sharp rocks of doubt and ignorance.

9. The Bible is Inerrant. We see in verse 25 that God inspired the prophets to speak His Word. If the prophets are acting as God’s mouth-peice, can the Bible be trusted? Do you have this conviction?

10. The Bible is Sufficient. The Bible is God’s Holy, inspired inerrant Word, then why don’t we read it, pray it, sing it, preach it and see it in worship services? The answer is that we believe our pragmatic acrostics and success formulas are better! Is the power of the Bible limited? May it never be! We should wholeheartedly give our lives to knowing and delighting in All the Scriptures in church and in the home! These men were not trusting in the sufficiency of Scripture to lead them to the truth. Are you?

11. Suffering does NOT signify the absence of God. (In fact it seems to be just the opposite) Jesus says that it was necessary for Him to suffer. Apparently God made it necesssary. Who else could place necessity upon Jesus? We should take heed of this fact when we suffer. God is testing, not leaving. God is pruning, not cutting. God is loving, not forgetting. God is good, not evil. God is aware of all, not ignorant of our situation. If we cannot rest in God in suffering, where do we turn? These men did not understand this…do you?

12. If it was necessary for Christ to suffer, how much more are we likely to suffer on this earth? We are deceiving ourselves if we think we will make it through this life without suffering. The only question is…”Do you have a Rock to cling to or not?”

13. Jesus is a Sympathetic Savior. Hebrews 2:17,18 “Therefore, He had to be made like the brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid who are tempted.” (NAS, emphasis mine) Jesus sympathizes with these men. He knows our needs and can related to living in this world. He will come to your aid!

14. Jesus is an excellent Savior because He interacts with men. This is where Christianity gets strange. We not only can know the Sovereign God of the universe, but we can interact with this Christ. Have you noticed that their is a conversation going on? Jesus is allowing these men to speak, and He is interacting with their thoughts and words. Can you come up with another “god” that is as majestic as Yahweh and yet humble enough to have a conversation with sinful humans? Our God is AMAZING.

15. Jesus is a merciful savior because He illuminates the hearts of men. The hearts of these men were darkened and their countenance was low. Jesus illuminates their hearts hearts and minds, and shows them wonderful things from His Law! Are you praying for illumination when you read the Scriptures?

16. Jesus knows how much time we devote to the Bible. Don’t lie to yourself and say “I go to seminary, or I preach and teach regularlly, so I don’t need to meditate and linger over God’s Word the way most people do.” That is a lie, and your ministry will suffer. Jesus knows how much time we spend seeking Him out in the Scriptures. We all need to repent of not searching for Christ in all the Scriptures.

17. If Jesus rebukes the ignorance of these men, how much more will He rebuke those who do not cherish His Word, as we possess the entire canon of Scripture? We need not deceive ourselves into thinking that Jesus understands our lack of commitment to the Scriptures. He does not say to these men “I know you guys are busy and hard workers.” He rebukes them as fools. What is awaiting us on the Last Day, as we have been given so much opportunity to know and preach the Word of God?

18. People who profess to God and yet are ignorant of the Scriptures must be called to repentance. We should not stand by as people who are professing believers cast shadows on our churches and on Christ. We must call people to repent of their carnal lifestyles and trust in Christ. Too many churches have unregenerate people serving as leaders and even deacons. Jesus did not hesitate to rebuke these men and seek restoration. We should follow His example.

19. It is foolish not to believe the Gospel. One text on this, but it is self-explanatory: Romans 12:1–“Therefore I urge brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your acceptable (or reasonable) service of worship.”

20. Jesus does not sympathize with doubt. I don’t think we should be too comfortable with our doubt of Christ. We should ask for Christ’s help, but not think that He understands and is ok with our lack of faith. We should have faith, and not be double minded: “But let him ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” James 1:6-8 (NAS)

21. Disciples of Jesus should know Jesus. No explanation needed…(Matthew 7:21)

22. “And He said to them”… God seeks to be known by His creatures. Jesus had no obligation to explain these things to these two men. He shows that God is the pursuer, and we cannot pursue God until we are illuminated. God did not have to walk through the Garden asking “Adam, where are you?” He was reaching out in mercy. That mercy is available if you will trust in Christ.

23. Jesus preaches a sermon from the Old Testament concerning Himself. This is not a mysterious message from God. It has already been revealed through the Scriptures. It is interesting that Jesus resorts to teaching these men. Too often preaching today gets reduced to flashy, sharp, polished public speaking. If teaching “all things concerning Jesus” does not happen in a sermon, it was not a sermon.

24. All revelation must be tested and tried against Scripture. Everything that these men saw should have been placed beside the Bible. If Jesus first goes to the shouldn’t we? The were more amazed by Jesus because of God’s grace that allowed them to see Him in the Bible!

25. We should not spend our time waiting for signs and wonders, but seeking to know God (by the ministry of the Holy Spirit) through His Word. The signs and wonders have occured. Jesus died on the cross. God’s wrath for the elect has been satisfied. Now, we should not looking for signs, but we should become signs ourselves pointing people to the all sufficient, all satisfying Christ revealed to us in the Bible.