Posted by in Pastor's Blog on December 8th, 2009
This is an interesting article by Dr Albert Mohler about whether or not Americans are as pro choice as the mainstream media and cultural elites would have us think. Read it here.
Posted by in Pastor's Blog on December 2nd, 2009
The Swiss people have taken a controversial vote to ban minarets in that country. In a surprisingly strong vote the move signals the growing concern of an influx of Muslims in the country of 7.5 million people. Read Dr Albert Mohler’s assessment of this vote and what it means for religious freedom here.
Posted by in Pastor's Blog on November 18th, 2009
What do you think a city would like if Satan took control of it? Although it is pure speculation, I think that if Satan took control of Athens, Tennessee, all of the bars would close, pornography would be banished and the streets would be filled with happy people who smiled and greeted each other pleasantly. There would be no swearing, children would pray non-sectarian prayers in the schools, say “yes sir” and “no ma’am,” and the churches would be filled to capacity every Sunday!
These churches would preach morality, pietism and strong “family values.” There would be an emphasis on patriotism, warnings about liberalism and above all, the sermon would be relevant. What would be missing would be a crucified, resurrected Christ who came to save sinners from the wrath of a holy God.
Satan is known by many titles in the Bible, two of them are “a roaring lion” and a “transforming angel of light.” In 21st century America I think he is far more dangerous as the latter rather than the former. He is much easier to recognize when he is being sinister than when he is being subtle.
Survey after survey shows that millions of Americans believe that God exists for the pleasure of humankind. He is in heaven solely for our benefit and utility.
Eighty-two percent of Americans (and a majority of evangelicals) believe that Benjamin Franklin’s aphorism, “God helps those who help themselves,” is a biblical quotation. A majority believe that “all people pray to the same god or spirit, no matter what name they use for that spiritual being” and that “if a person is generally good or does enough good things for others during their life, they will earn a place in heaven.”‘
It should not surprise us, then, when former President Bush said in an interview some years ago, “I believe that all the world, whether they be Muslim, Christian, or any other religion, prays to the same God. That’s what I believe.”
The well known pollster George Barna says,
“…the spirituality of America is Christian in name only….We desire experience more than knowledge. We prefer choices to absolutes. We embrace preferences rather than truths. We seek comfort rather than growth. Faith must come on our terms or we reject it. We have enthroned ourselves as the final arbiters of righteousness, the ultimate rulers of our own experience and destiny. We are the Pharisees of the new millennium.”
We must be vigilant that we do not replace the gospel of Jesus Christ with a pietism that makes men moral but does not save them “…from the wrath to come.”
Posted by in Pastor's Blog on November 13th, 2009
Are we afraid of the Gospel? Not too long ago I read an article about the modern, evangelical church being Gospel cowards. The premise of the article is that we want a tame gospel, one that does not challenge the status quo, one that allows us to keep all of our cultural traditions without demanding a radical worldview.
It is so easy to become like the Pharisees without even realizing it. The Pharisees of the New Testament times were the true conservatives of their day and in many ways like much of the church of our day. They were orthodox in their theology, politically lined up to the right and pious in their behavior.
The problem was that they had misunderstood theology, had an incorrect worldview and were legalistic in their daily lives.
How much of our Christianity is gospel based and gospel driven and how much of it is based on the cultural traditions of our time and driven by a political agenda that may or may not be Christ centered?
Answering these questions is far more complicated than they appear at first glance. We all have a tendency to shy away from any self-examination that would challenge our cherished traditions and beliefs. It is easy for me to examine someone else’s life and tell them where they are in step with the world but much more difficult for me to recognize my own tendency to compromise the gospel to keep my “sacred cows” from being made into hamburger.
Our gospel is safe. The Gospel is dangerous and radical. It is time that we cease to be gospel cowards.
Posted by in Pastor's Blog on October 31st, 2009
If you ask most Christians the question, “what is October 31st?” they would probably answer “halloween.” The church in America, in the last few years, has taken advantage of the calendar and promoted events like “Fall Festivals” to provide an alternative to the traditional “trick or treating scenario.
But October 31st is a far more important date in history than Halloween. It was on this date in the year 1517 that a young Doctor of Theology by the name of Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany and sparked the Protestant Reformation.
Martin Luther was born on November 10, 1483, in the little town of Eisleben. His father, who was of free peasant stock, had migrated from the ancestral home some distance from Eisleben. He gained wealth from the copper mines of that area in which he had an interest and became a man of considerable wealth. Although he owned shares in six copper mines and two smelters by 1511, times were still difficult for the family when Luther was born. Luther was raised under the strict discipline of those times. His peasant parents, particularly his pious but superstitious mother, inculcated many of the superstitions of their class in him. Some of these terrors haunted him as he struggled so long in seeking salvation for his soul.
His father wished him to study law, but in 1505 Luther became frightened during a severe thunderstorm on the road near Stotternheim and promised Saint Anne that he would become a monk if he were spared. About two weeks later he entered a monastery of the Augustinian order at Erfurt.
In the monastery Luther was almost fanatical about pursuing holiness. To find peace with God, Luther zealously confessed every sin he could think of. He would confess every day, sometimes up to six hours a day. In popular medieval thought, for every sin to be forgiven, there had to be confession. Luther had been taught that the moment the priest whispered in the confessional “I now absolve thee,” all of his sins were forgiven. But Luther was never certain that he had been fully forgiven. Always present was the fear: have I confessed every sin? Then came a discovery even more startling and distressing to Luther-there are sins which people do that are not even known to them. But how could these be confessed if they were not known? Luther re-doubled his efforts and threw himself into all-night vigils, great bouts of fasting-all to find forgiveness and peace with God.
As he once said: “I was indeed a pious monk and kept the rules of my order so strictly that I can say: If ever a monk gained heaven through monkery, it should have been I. All my monastic brethren who knew me will testify to this. I would have martyred myself to death with fasting, praying, reading, and other good works had I remained a monk much longer.”
Luther was finally transferred to Wittenberg in 1511. Here, during the next year, he became a professor of Bible and received his doctor of theology degree. He held the position of lecturer in biblical theology until his death. At this time he was also given the office in the tower where he came to a realization of justification by faith alone.
It was in this university that he and a loyal band of fellow professors and students accepted the faith that was to spread over Germany. Luther began to lecture in the vernacular on the books of the Bible, and in order to do so intelligently he began to study the original languages of the Bible. He gradually developed the idea that only in the Bible could true authority be found. From 1513 to 1515 he lectured on the Psalms, from 1515 to 1517 on Romans, and, later, on Galatians and Hebrews.
Between 1515 and 1519, while preparing these lectures, he found the peace of soul that he had not been able to find in rites, acts of asceticism, or in the famous German Theology of the mystics, which he published in German in 1516. A reading of Romans 1:17 convinced him that only faith in Christ could make one just before God. From that time on, Sola fide, or justification by faith, sola scriptura, the idea that the Scriptures are the only authority for sinful people in seeking salvation, and sola sacerdos, the priesthood of believers, became the main points in his theological system.
In 1517 a man by the name of Johann Tetzel began his sale of indulgences at Juterbock near Wittenberg. The indulgences were being sold by Pope Leo X to help pay for the building of St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome. Tetzel claimed that repentance was not necessary for the buyer of an indulgence and that the indulgence gave complete forgiveness of all sin.
On October 31, 1517. Luther posted his Ninety-five Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. In them he condemned the abuses of the indulgence system and challenged all comers to a debate on the matter.
A reading of the Ninety-five Theses’ will reveal that Luther was merely criticizing abuses of the indulgence system. However, during the years between 1518 and 1521 he was forced to accept the idea of separation from the Roman system as the only way to get a reform that would involve a return to the ideal of the church revealed in the Scriptures.
There have been few men in the history of the Christian church as bold and courageous as Martin Luther. While I would disagree with him at some points of his theology, it would be profitable for all believers to read about his life and to read his books. As Christians we owe him a huge debt of gratitude.
Posted by in Pastor's Blog on October 29th, 2009
Follow this link to hear a beautiful rendition of an old classic.
Posted by in Pastor's Blog on October 20th, 2009
The most common and the most important name for God in the Old Testament is a name that in our English versions never even gets translated. Whenever you see the word LORD in all capital letters in your English translation, you know that this name is behind it. In Hebrew the name had four letters – YHWH – and may have been pronounced something like Yahweh.
The Jews came to regard this word with such reverence that they would never take it upon their lips, lest they inadvertently take the name in vain. So whenever they came to this name in their reading they pronounced the word “adonai” which means “my lord.” The English versions have basically followed the same pattern. They translate the proper name Yahweh with the word LORD in all caps.
This is not a very satisfactory thing to do, because the English word LORD does not communicate to our ears a proper name like John or Michael or Betty. But Yahweh is God’s proper name in Hebrew. The importance of it can be seen in the sheer frequency of its use. It occurs 6828 times in the Old Testament. That’s more than three times as often as the simple word for “God” (Elohim – 2600. El – 238). What this shows is that God aims to be known not as a generic deity, but as a specific Person with a name that carries his unique character and mission.
(Note: The word Jehovah originated from an attempt to pronounce the consonants YHWH with the vowels from the word adonai. In the oldest Hebrew texts there are no vowels. So it is easy to see how this would happen since whenever YHWH occurred in the text the word adonai was pronounced by the reverent Jew.)
The most important text in all the Bible for understanding the meaning of the name Yahweh is Exodus 3:13-15. God has just commanded Moses to go to Egypt and to bring his people Israel out of captivity. Look at what Moses says to God in verse 13.
Now notice that God gives three answers to the question, “What shall I tell them your name is?” Second, in verse 14 God says, “I AM has sent me to you.” Third, in verse 15 God says, “Yahweh…has sent me to you…this is my name forever.” So two facts persuade me that this text provides an interpretation of the name Yahweh.
One is that the name Yahweh and the name I AM are built out of the same Hebrew word (hayah). The other is that Yahweh seems to be used here interchangeably with I AM. “I AM has sent me to you” (v.14). “Yahweh…has sent me to you” (v.15).
I think it would be safe to say that God’s purpose in this meeting with Moses is to reveal, as he never had before (Ex. 6:2), the meaning of his personal name Yahweh. The key is in the phrase I AM and especially in the phrase, I AM WHO I AM. So here is where we ought to spend a lot of time meditating. What does it mean when you ask your God, Who are you? and he answers, I AM WHO I AM?
There are a number of implications that are apparent in the divine name, I AM WHO I AM. I hope to examine some of these in the days ahead.
Posted by in Pastor's Blog on October 18th, 2009
In Psalm 9:10 the Bible says, “And those who know your name will put their trust in you.” This Scripture says that people who know God’s name will trust him. It is important to know the names that God is called by in the Bible.
The reason knowing the names of God is important is that it will help us trust him with our daily affairs and with our eternal destinies because in scripture a person’s name often signifies his character or ability or mission – especially when the name is given by God.
Adam names his wife Eve, because she is mother of all the living (Gen. 3:20). God changes Abram’s name to Abraham to show that he had made him the father of many nations (Gen. 17:5). God changed Sarai’s name to Sarah (Gen. 17:15). He changed Jacob’s name to Israel (Gen. 32:28). And when the Son of God came into the world his name was not left to chance: “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
When our sons were born I wanted them to have names that were significant. So I named the first one David, after an uncle of mine that had been influential in bringing me back to God but also after the greatest king of Israel, God’s champion. The second one I named John, again after several Godly men that we had known that had impacted our lives, but also after the writer of the gospel that bears his name and the epistles and Revelation, a man who loved Jesus Christ and whom Christ dearly loved.
It was in hope that I named them, hope that they would be like the Godly men they were named after. Now there is a big difference between me and God (that is obviously a tremendous understatement). When I name someone, I don’t have the power or the authority to make the person fit the name. I gave names in the hope and prayer that my sons will become what their names imply.
But God has the right and the power to cause anyone He names to become what the name implies. The names He gives are sure indicators of the destiny of those He names. And when He names himself, we may be sure the name is packed with who He is and what He intends to do. God chooses names for the sake of revealing things about himself that will deepen our love for him and strengthen our faith.
In the next several days I want to examine some of the names that Scripture gives us for God and think of the implications for these names.