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Showing posts from November, 2012

Holding Our Thoughts And Affections Captive

Little time today to write, but one thing I've been wrestling heavily with is the theme of holding "every thought captive to obey Christ." (2 Cor. 10:5). This is very powerful and convicting language. The Greek means literally "to lead away." Paul says that ALL thoughts--not some--must be led away from disobedience and towards obedience and subjugation to Christ. All thoughts? Seriously? How is that even possible? It would almost seem easier to just not think at all or put oneself in a self-induced coma. I seriously don't know how I can do this. Every day I have hundreds of thoughts both big and small, both profound and insignificant--thoughts about my friends, thoughts about my co-workers, thoughts about my lunch, thoughts about the carpet color, and so on and so forth. Do we really have to hold every thought captive? The more my mind meditates on this, the more insurmountable it seems, but then I think on passages like Deuteronomy 6:5 and 1 Corinthians 10…

The Cost Of Following Christ

I wanted to share a quote I found very encouraging from J.C. Ryle's book Holiness (free here) on the cost of following Christ:

In the last place, it will cost a man the favour of the world. He must be content to be thought ill of by man if he pleases God. He must count it no strange thing to be mocked, ridiculed, slandered, persecuted, and even hated. He must not be surprised to find his opinions and practices in religion despised and held up to scorn. He must submit to be thought by many a fool, an enthusiast, and a fanatic—to have his words perverted and his actions misrepresented. In fact, he must not marvel if some call him mad. The Master says—“Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept My saying, they will keep yours also.” (John 15:20.)

I dare say this also sounds hard. We naturally dislike unjust dealing and false charges, and think it very hard to be accused wi…

It Is Not Good For Man To Be Alone, Part 2

In my last post, I briefly discussed how the aloneness of Adam signified an intentionally incomplete aspect of God's creation. God purposefully made Adam alone with a goal in mind. In this post I want to begin the discussion about how God met that goal with the creation of Eve by addressing the meaning of "suitable helper" in Genesis 2:18.

Genesis 2:18: In the second half of the verse, God makes the statement, "I will make a helper fit for him," which has been heavily debated during modern times. However, throughout history the passage has been orthodoxly interpreted as Eve being Adam's perfect counterpart but not inferior to Adam in any sense. I think when we look behind the language and at the context of the verse, this is easy to see. Let's take a look.
What is meant by "suitable"
In Hebrew this is the word neged. In this context, it means "comparable to" or "corresponding to." So one possible translation would read, "…

It Is Not Good For Man To Be Alone, Part 1

With the next few posts I want to discuss some aspects about God's creation of mankind and explore the significance of relationships and marriage from a creation-oriented perspective. In other words, I want to see what can be learned about relationships and marriage from the creation account and then apply. To start, I want to look at Adam's aloneness in Genesis 2:18.

Genesis 2:18: God says man's aloneness is not good, which means that He was not satisfied with that aspect of creation. Where it says "alone," we can think in terms of "separated," since that is the underlying Hebrew meaning (cf. Gen 21:28, Gen 30:40). But who was Adam separated from? How could Adam be separated from someone when no other human existed? Can a tree be alone if there is only one tree, or if we say, "That rock or that bird is alone," does our statement not assume that other rocks and birds exist? More to the point, if we say, "So-and-so seems awfully lonely,&quo…

Don't Try Back Handsprings Without Training

Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way. (Proverbs 19:2 ESV)
This Proverb really struck me today, firstly because its meaning isn't as obvious as other Proverbs (it isn't for me, anyway). In other translations the Hebrew word for "desire" is instead rendered "soul." After looking more closely, I noticed that the Hebrew word is actually nephesh, which is one of the most basic words in the Hebrew vocabulary and often used to define the total summation of an individual's will, desires, appetites--everything within them that drives and leads a person to be who he is and make the decisions that he makes. To give a little context, this is the same word used in Genesis where the creation of man is described: "then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature." (Genesis 2:7 ESV) The word "creature" …

The Battle For Careful Speech In The World Of Facebook And Other Social Media

One thing the Lord has really been working on in my own heart is the issue of careful speech. American Christians in particular face extra challenges due to living in a culture that encourages self-expression and individuality. One of the products of this culture I believe is the explosion of blogging, Facebook, and other forms of social media, which are intentionally designed as tools for sharing anything and potentially everything about our lives. As a result, the Christian Church faces some new challenges with helping local church bodies to remain pure and blameless as ambassadors of Christ.  Since Christians are imperfect and prone to make mistakes too, the ability to instantly communicate our thoughts to the entire world may require extra caution and self-control, especially if we become frustrated or angry at times with the communication of others.

Fortunately God has already spoken to this issue of speech control in many places throughout Scripture. I've been particularly co…

How To Acquire Christian Zeal: Holiness, Part 2

In continuing the series discussing the holiness that produces Christian zeal, I want to take a look at following passage from Paul to the church in Corinth.
What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God,and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. (2 Corinthians 6:16-18. 2 Corinthians 7:1 ESV)
I struggled for many years with the question of how the Christian can promote a true spiritual zeal, the kind of zeal that is marked by an overwhelming sense of passion and affection for the Lord-…

How To Acquire Christian Zeal: Holiness, Part 1

Haven't had time to write today, but wanted to share this challenging and convicting quote by J.C. Ryle from his great book Holiness which I'm currently reading:
You may say, “It was never meant that all Christians should be holy, and that holiness, such as I have described, is only for great saints, and people of uncommon gifts.” I answer, “I cannot see that in Scripture. I read that every man who hath hope in Christ purifieth himself.” (1 John 3:3)—“Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.”
You may say, “It is impossible to be so holy and to do our duty in this life at the same time: the thing cannot be done.” I answer, “You are mistaken. It can be done. With Christ on your side nothing is impossible. It has been done by many. David, and Obadiah, and Daniel, and the servants of Nero’s household, are all examples that go to prove it.”
You may say, “If I were so holy I would be unlike other people.” I answer, “I know it well. It is just what you ought to be. Christ’s true serv…

Christians, We Are Commanded To Be Zealous For Christ

Did you know that Christians are commanded to be zealous for the Lord? It's not just a recommendation or a goal. Christians (and not just full-time ministers) are expected to be fervent in spirit. I find this incredibly self-convicting, and I hope to convict you as well. Let me explain.

Paul said to the church at Rome, "Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord." (Romans 12:11 ESV) The Greek word for "fervent" is "zeĆ³," which was commonly used by famous Greek author Homer to describe boiling water. Authors like Plato and Plutarch also used this word metaphorically to describe the boiling over of emotions such as anger and love, or a strong desire to do good or evil. The technical Greek meaning is literally to bubble over in boiling and also figuratively boiling with interest or desire.

Do we understand what this means? It means all Christians are expected to be boiling hot for Christ. Why? Because God is glorified when we give …

Christians Do Not Fear Men

Lately I have been thinking and praying a lot about taking on more active responsibility as a Christian. I'm asking God to help me with the fears of the unknown--you know, those intimidating "what if's" concerning matters we have little or no experience with? According to Scripture, there is nothing we should ultimately fear except God, and when we are called to take brave steps, we should answer that call. When God called Paul He said, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you...” (Acts 18:9-10 ESV). David also wrote, "The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?" (Psalm 118:6 ESV).

There is however a sense in which we do fear men. The familiar biblical phrase "fear and trembling" is used a number of times by Paul, and in one of those instances it refers to the servant-master relationship. Let's look at the text below:
Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a …

More On The Burden Of Spiritual Disciplines

When our zeal for Christ is glowing hot, spiritual disciplines are never a duty. Why? Because increasing our zeal is the equivalent to increasing our appetite for food. When we focus on dying to ourselves, putting away our sin, thirsting for righteousness, our appetite for spiritual food increases. By pursuing holiness, we are inevitably drawn toward talking with God and meditating on His Word. We naturally want to feed more on the food that our appetites are suited for. I firmly believe that this is why the New Testament does not focus on rigorous spiritual duty. In fact Paul warns against actions without love (1 Corinthians 13). Christ talks about meaningless prayers with false motives (Matthew 6).

What the Scriptures emphasize is holiness, which in the Greek means sanctification of heart and life. God wants us to set ourselves apart within our hearts and minds and dedicate our entire will to Him. When we do this, our desire for spiritual communion with God happens naturally (Galatia…

Can We Idolize Our Children? A Biblical Response

A few days ago my four-year old asked my wife why Sunday was called "Sunday." My wife went on to explain about how some pagan peoples named days of the week after pagan gods, and that some of those pagan peoples worshiped the sun as a deity. My daughter thought it was strange to worship the sun, and further curiosity led to discussion about God being the only one deserving our worship. It was a challenging but important conversation.
Being the father of four children age four and under, I consider it one of my highest callings to raise my children in the fear and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Obeying this command requires an enormous sacrifice of time, mental energy, and physical stamina so that we, as imperfect parents, are equipped to answer these tough questions.

But in our efforts to obey this command, can we fall into idolatry? Recently I have heard an increasing number of Christians make comments about how easy it is to worship our children. In this post I want…