Monday, July 26, 2010

God is Sovereign

Following are some words of wisdom from A.W. Pink, 1886-1952.

How different is the God of the Bible from the God of modern Christendom! The conception of Deity which prevails most widely today, even among those who profess to give heed to the Scriptures, is a miserable caricature, a blasphemous travesty of the Truth. The God of the twentieth century is a helpless, effeminate being who commands the respect of no really thoughtful man. The God of the popular mind is the creation of a maudlin sentimentality. The God of many a present-day pulpit is an object of pity rather than of awe-inspiring reverence.

To say that God the Father has purposed the salvation of all mankind, that God the Son died with the express intention of saving the whole human race, and that God the Holy Spirit is now seeking to win the world to Christ; when, as a matter of common observation, it is apparent that the great majority of our fellow-men are dying in sin, and passing into a hopeless eternity: is to say that God the Father is disappointed, that God the Son is dissatisfied, and that God the Holy Spirit is defeated. We have stated the issue baldly, but there is no escaping the conclusion. To argue that God is "trying His best" to save all mankind, but that the majority of men will not let Him save them, is to insist that the will of the Creator is impotent, and that the will of the creature is omnipotent. To throw the blame, as many do, upon the Devil, does not remove the difficulty, for if Satan is defeating the purpose of God, then, Satan is Almighty and God is no longer the Supreme Being. (A.W. Pink, The Sovereignty of God, Revised Edition, 1961, page 21.)

“But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (Psalm 115:3, NASB).

God is sovereign! What more needs to be said? I am very thankful for my pastor who diligently proclaims the all-powerful God of the Bible!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Bible Speaks With Accuracy

by My Anonymous Friend

I discovered something interesting recently. The cycle of water that we observe in nature was actually known by the Romans as early as 30 BC. An engineer named Marcus Vitruvius understood what we know as the hydrologic water cycle. Ecclesiastes, Amos and Job all speak of it many hundreds of years earlier. Matthew Maury (1806-1873) is known as the father of oceanography. He read about the "paths of the sea" in Psalm 8 and used this concept to develop his ideas about ocean currents. What we take for granted today... that all water continually moves in a never ending cycle from the seas to the skies to the land and back to the sea to repeat the cycle, and that water moves in currents of the ocean, was discovered by men but mentioned in the Bible from the very beginning.

This may not be a profound revelation to you but to me it is once again a reminder that the Bible speaks with accuracy and truth in all it declares. Sometimes it is generations ahead of itself and we are slow to understand what it reveals. When we do not understand it is not the Bible with the problem. It is us! We do not know everything. We did not always know about the water cycle. We were unaware of ocean currents. We did not know the earth was round at one time either. The Bible declared all these concepts all along. What have we not yet discovered that the Bible has been stating all along? I wonder!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

All Who Come are Secure

Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day" (John 6:35-40, NASB).
This passage and others like it are frequently ignored in Bible studies, because such passages bring up many questions that we often find easier to ignore than to address. The truths found here tend to be ignored, marginalized, or explained away today. It is important to recognize the balance found in the Scriptures. On the one hand, we know that the Bible teaches us about human responsibility. On the other hand, we see the sovereignty of God. Today things are out of balance. There is far too much emphasis on the human side and far too little emphasis on the Divine side.
Jesus claimed to be “the bread of life.” This tells us that He is the very source of and sustainer of life. Without physical food, we die physically. Without Him, there can be no life. Salvation is totally of the Lord, and it is by His grace.
Those who come to Christ and believe in Him will “never hunger” and “never thirst.” The use of the word “never” teaches us that salvation is eternal. We can NEVER lose our salvation. Many really resist this truth, because it takes away all pretense of human ego. Not only can we not save ourselves, but we cannot keep ourselves saved. Salvation is all of grace and not even partially of works, “ that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:9, NASB).
Some of those who saw Christ and witnessed His miracles did not believe in Him. How often do we hear it said that if we could just see miracles, it would be so much easier to believe? Yet, many saw those miracles, but only some believed. The same is true today. Many know about Jesus Christ and what He did, yet they do not believe, because it is the nature of sinful man to reject the truth.
All those given to the Son by the Father will come to the Son. This certainly tells us that there are those who are not given to the Son, because if all are given to the Son, then all will come to the Son. That is not going to happen. The Scriptures make it clear that many will reject salvation and be eternally condemned. Those who have not believed are condemned already. Those who are given to the Son will come to Him and be saved. When the Gospel is preached, it is preached for this purpose. What an encouragement it is to servants of the Lord to know that it is never a waste of effort to proclaim the Gospel, because His Word will accomplish its purpose and there will be results! “…so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11, ESV).
No one who comes to Christ will ever be “cast out.” Here again, we have biblical support for the doctrine of “perseverance of the saints,” which means that true believers will endure, because they have been “born again” or “born from above.” There is a reason the Lord used “birth” as an illustration of salvation. People understand that no one can ever be “unborn.” Once we come into this world, our parents will always be our parents, no matter what may happen. Birth cannot be reversed and made as if it had never happened. In the same way, once someone is born again, they cannot become “unborn.” Since birth is a permanent arrangement, those who have been born again cannot be other than a child of our Heavenly Father for all eternity.
The one who came from heaven, God the Son, came to do His Father’s will, and that perfect will is that all those the Father gives the Son will come to the Son, that the Son will lose none of them, and that the Son will raise ALL of them up at the last day. Here again we find the doctrine of “perseverance of the saints.” This doctrine is a great comfort to believers.
The same truth is once again repeated. When God says something once, it is very important. When He repeats it a second time or even a third or fourth time, it is EXTREMELY important, and He wants us to hear it. Sometimes we are slow learners, and we need to hear something several times. This passage concludes with another reference to our resurrection and a mention of the fact that we have “eternal life.” Somehow, the definition of eternal life gets twisted around to mean just about everything but what it actually means. It is not a difficult concept. Eternal life is life, the source of which is Christ, which is eternal (never ending, not even when we sin). What could be clearer? Eternal life is a present possession, and if it could ever end, then it would not be “eternal” and God would be less than truthful, which means He would not really be God. He cannot go back on His promises. That is why I frequently say, “My salvation is as secure as the integrity of God.” That is as secure as anything gets.
God gets to be God, whether we like it or not. Does this fact eliminate human responsibility? Absolutely not. Do I completely understand that? Not really. I can only humbly believe what God has said. He does not contradict Himself. Scripture complements itself; it does not contradict itself. Whether we understand it or not and whether we like it or not, when someone comes to Christ for salvation, God gets all the glory, and when someone is condemned, he gets all the credit for his own condemnation. It is interesting that even many who believe salvation is a matter of the will of man will pray to God for the salvation of their friends and loved ones. I am not really sure why they do that, unless they somehow suspect that God is really more in control of things than they are willing to admit. The fact that we go to God in prayer indicates tacit agreement with the fact that God really does get to be God, and He is in charge.
God is sovereign. Man is responsible. An unbeliever cannot blame God for his lost condition. A redeemed man cannot take credit for his salvation. That is what the Bible teaches. God does not ask us, in our limited ability, to understand every detail. He only asks us, in simple childlike faith, to believe what He has said.
“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18, NKJV).
"He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him" (John 3:36, NKJV).
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28, KJV).


Monday, July 19, 2010

A Significant Sequence of Events

by My Anonymous Friend

I have been curious sometimes why Gospel writers under the direction of the Holy Spirit recorded certain events in the sequence they did. These events are not always in chronological order and sometimes time passes in between one incident and another.

A good example is Luke 5. The chapter begins with the miracle of the fish catch. The next narrative is about a leper healed. The third "cameo" in this chapter concerns the paralytic who was lowered through the tiles of a roof so he could get near Jesus and be healed.

So why are these three events following each other? I wish to offer a suggestion. It can be said that each of them teach a lesson about the human condition. Let me show you what I mean:

Fishing story – Peter responds, "Get away from me, I am a sinful man." A most unusual response we could say. Jesus said to him, "Be not afraid!"

Leper – Dr. Luke reminds us that this man was full of leprosy. In light of biblical teaching about leprosy we could say he was HOPELESSLY sick. Jesus said to this man, "I am willing to heal you!"

Paralytic – Had to be helped by others. He was HELPLESSLY sick. Jesus called this man "Friend!"

Do you see the progression?

Fear,.... hopelessness.... and helplessness. Then.... Do not be afraid,..... I am willing,..... Friend!

A beautiful picture we have here. Our initial response to God may well be fear. When we are made aware of His presence as Peter was, we shrink back in fear and terror. But Jesus tells us not to be afraid. Leprosy is a frequent picture of the pervasiveness of sin. Luke takes pains to let us know that the person was full of leprosy. The paralytic was entirely helpless. He needed others to bring him to Jesus. We too are hopelessly and helplessly lost and in need of healing.

The response by Jesus in each instance is fantastic. Who would not be comforted to hear Him say, "Do not be afraid." Who would not be thrilled to hear Him say, "I am willing to heal and cleanse you!"? Many believe their "leprosy" is too far advanced or beyond healing. Not so! Who would not be thrilled to hear Jesus say, "Friend" and to continue to hear the words, "Your sins are forgiven you!"?

Well these are some thoughts that have been rolling around in my head for a time. I hope they give you occasion to think and to realize that these three cameos present a beautiful picture to us of God's grace and love.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Groom has Appendectomy in the morning and gets married in the afternoon!

by My Anonymous Friend

I presume the heading above would serve as a good newspaper headline and would attract attention. It is exactly what happened to our new nephew by marriage this past week. Early on Friday morning we learned that he was taken to a local hospital and very shortly the medical team determined that his appendix needed to be removed. He was to be married at 4:30 that afternoon. All the myriads of finely planned details were now in great jeopardy. Everyone waited nervously and prayed. Options were considered. The hospital offered its atrium as a place to perform the wedding if necessary. Around noon the young groom was released and the decision was made to proceed as planned with the church wedding. It went forward almost as originally planned and all was well.

In circumstances like these I always tend to look for the philosophical or theological issues. Here are a few that came to my mind.

1. Man proposes but God disposes. This is not a direct biblical quote but the concept is very biblical. We make our plans but ought to always hold on to them loosely. Ultimately, God is in charge. Our niece, just like other brides, worked for months to plan every little detail of the wedding. She is an incredible organizer and nothing was left to chance. Flowers, music, colors, reception details, and on and on. In just one moment every single detail was up in the air.

2. God is omniscient. There is today in some circles a vigorous discussion about what God knows. It is known as Open Theism. The view is that God is not in exhaustive control of the universe and that He desires meaningful relationships with people who therefore must have the opportunity to exercise their own free will. The concept is passionately argued today. Just how does God's involvement in our lives actually play out in events like weddings and surgeries? As I get older my theological positions are becoming both more simple and more profound. The former because I am less willing to argue and debate the complexities involving an infinite God. I tend to simply accept even seemingly paradoxical statements about God. I view myself as finite and greatly limited in my understanding and I see God as infinite and high above my understanding. The latter position about my theology works well also. God is omniscient and omnipotent. I cannot possibly hope to fathom the depths and heights of the truths about who He is. I seek to bow in humility and awe before Him. It does not bother me that I am unable to answer many questions about Him. I do not believe there are contradictions about God. I believe God knows all and I believe that somehow humans have freedom to make choices. Are these concepts contradictory? Only to a limited mind. I leave it at that.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


There are many today who approach the Bible from quite a different perspective than those of us who grew up believing it to be the infallible Word of God, our only rule of faith and practice. The continuing questions about its accuracy and reliability can be very frustrating when it seems so obvious that the Bible is not something to be questioned. However, we live in an era when many, even in the church, are so consumed with pop psychology and political correctness that they simply cannot submit to the simple, straightforward teaching of the Word of God. To some, it has become all about “what it means to me,” “how I feel about it,” and “does it make me comfortable?”

Often, the Scriptures are used to teach the very opposite of what they actually say. This is done by clever, sometimes scholarly-sounding manipulation of words, often by self-appointed experts with little knowledge of the Bible, in order to make a passage of Scripture say other than what it actually says. The Bible warns against such misapplication of truth. “…just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:15-16, NASB). When confronted with something in the Scriptures that may be hard to understand or hard for man’s ego to accept, there are always those who are willing to distort the clear meaning or wrest it from its context to make it say what is more comfortable.

The Scriptures say that there are some who are “willingly ignorant” of the truth (2 Peter 3:5, KJV) or that they “deliberately overlook” the facts (ESV). In the NKJV, it says they “willfully forget.” The NASB says it “escapes their notice.” No matter how it is said, it is quite clear that some simply choose to ignore the truth of Scripture, and become as one teacher said, “dumb on purpose,” and they do so at their own peril.

One thing we hear frequently today is the title of this article: “I know what it says, but what does it mean?” Such a question, at best, borders on the ridiculous. I remember hearing Ken Ham, the creationist speaker, respond to this by saying, “If you come to a big red sign that says S-T-O-P, it wouldn’t make any sense to say, ‘I know what it says, but what does it mean?’ I’m not sure it can mean anything if it doesn’t say anything.” Mr. Ham was exactly correct.

A common practice is to use the Scriptures to justify pre-conceived beliefs. For example, if someone wants to believe that God did not really create the universe and all that is in it in six days, then it is a simple matter to reinterpret the Bible and make it say what is desired. For example, if such a Bible actually existed, the “Politically Correct Self-Esteem Version” (PCSEV) might say, “In several million years the Lord allowed the heavens, the earth, the sea, and all that is in them to come into being.” This would indicate that there was no specific, direct creative act by our omnipotent God, but instead, there is plenty of room for evolution and all of the other human opinion that so often comes into play when men try to tell God what He means.

What does Bible actually say? "For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them” (Exodus 20:11, NASB). That’s what it says. That’s what it means.

Sin is an unpopular issue in today’s culture. The idea that there is a standard of which we all fall short is not at all politically correct. As a result, we get self-serving, popular opinions and reinterpretations of the Scriptures, such as, “All have made mistakes and can find relationship with God difficult unless they work hard to find a proper level of self-esteem.”

But what does the Bible actually say? “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, NASB). That’s what it says. That’s what it means.

The biblical teaching of the penalty of sin is likewise unpopular. Would God really hold people accountable and bring judgment on them because of sin? Isn’t He a God of love? Doesn’t the word “love” completely define the very essence of who and what God is? In light of this, the Bible ought to say, “The cost of making mistakes is independence from God, but the reward of seeking a relationship with God is personal comfort and high self-esteem.”

But what does the Bible actually say? “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23, NASB). That’s what it says. That’s what it means.

And of course there’s this business of salvation. Isn’t it kind of a put-down of modern humanity to say there is need of a savior because of our sin, and to make it more humiliating, there is nothing we can do about it in our own strength? Aren’t we better than that? Won’t God accept our efforts on our own behalf? So we arrive at a new interpretation of Romans 10:9. “If you confess with your mouth your own deity, and believe in your heart that you are truly God, you will find yourself at one with nature and your own self-esteem.”

But what does the Bible actually say? “That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9, NASB). That’s what it says. That’s what it means.

What about this stuff about the sovereignty of God in all areas, including salvation? Doesn’t such a doctrine violate the “free will” of man? Does it not make man totally powerless and give God much too high a standing? Does it not reduce man a mere puppet to be manipulated by God? A new approach to this doctrine is as easy as rewording the Scripture to say what feels good. “When the people heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying themselves; and as many as believed and sought a relationship with God were, as a consequence, appointed to eternal life.”

But what does the Bible actually say? “When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48, NASB). That’s what it says. That’s what it means.

Another very unpopular teaching is that there are “rules” for Christians to follow. After all, “I am free in Christ.” It almost seems as if some would use The Shack as their Bible. A nice, convenient, comfortable rewording of the Scripture might say, “If you love me, and yourselves, you will seek a relationship with me (unless of course you find a relationship with me uncomfortable and not to your liking).”

But what does the Bible actually say? "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15, NASB). That’s what it says. That’s what it means.

We live in a day in which the value and even the definition of marriage has been undermined. The biblical view of “one man and one woman for life” has been replaced by “any two (or sometimes more) people together for as long as they feel like staying together.” So it would be easy for someone to re-write the Bible to say, “Persons, love your significant others, at least while you feel like staying together.”

But what does the Bible actually say? “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25, NASB). That’s what it says. That’s what it means.

Even though the simple matter of church attendance is quite clear in the Scriptures, it is not necessarily popular among professing Christians today. Some feel they can worship God in their own way – in the mountains, at the beach, etc. After all, “the weekend is mine, and I need to relax after a hard week at work. And besides, I don’t like the music, and I don’t like the pastor’s annoying preaching style. I would rather go where people will listen to my opinion instead of my having to listen to a sermon from the Bible.” It is almost as if some believe the Bible says, “Going to church can be a good thing, but only if it makes you feel comfortable and gives you what you want to hear, which will encourage you, and all the more as you realize how important it is to have your needs met.”

But what does the Bible actually say? “Not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25, NASB). That’s what it says. That’s what it means.

It would be quite easy to think of many more examples, but there is really no necessity. Anything in the Scriptures that people don’t like can be dismissed through twisting the words and meaning to make it say what is desired. The Bible tells us that when people refuse sound doctrine, they will seek out teachers who will twist the Scriptures for them. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4, NASB).

We need to take a proper approach to the study of the Scriptures, realizing that the Bible says what it means and means what it says. This can be summarized as follows:

“When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise” (Dr. D.L. Cooper).

This has been restated as follows:

1. If the literal sense makes good sense, seek no other sense, lest it result in nonsense.

2. If the literal sense makes NO sense, seek another sense until it makes good sense.

3. If the literal sense seems to make good sense, but appears to be in contradiction to other parts of the Word, use cross-references, check original Hebrew or Greek, check context, tenses of words, arrangement of contradictory words and see other translations.

These are good guidelines. As we study the Scriptures, our best approach is, “That’s what it says. That’s what it means.” What’s so hard about that? We either believe what God has said or we choose to let our opinions rule, which is a very dangerous way to interpret and understand the Bible.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Questions, Problems, and Objections

There is no question a human can ask, no problem a scientist can pose, and no objection a skeptic can raise that cannot be answered by the Creator.

“O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O LORD, You know it all” (Psalm 139:1-4, NASB).

“Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite.” (Psalm 147:5, NASB).

Sunday, July 4, 2010


by My Anonymous Friend

I've been thinking about this concept for a while now. It comes up in Luke 9 as Jesus asks His disciples who people say that He is. People actually think He might be John the Baptist who was beheaded only days before??? What about the blinders of Christians after Christ? Augustine had so much right but he believed women had the same value as cattle. The Stoics had a supreme reverence for God but completely missed out on the joy of celebrating the life given to us here and now. The reformers dismantled the evils of the church and affirmed the doctrines of justification by faith but were happy to execute Christians if they believed in a different mode of baptism. The modern church made such a helpful commitment to the inerrancy of scripture and absolute truth but often quenched the Spirit's work as a real experience. The emergent church brought community, relationship, humility, and dialogue to the forefront of Christian practice but moved away from the firm foundation of biblical doctrine.

These are only a few examples; there are many more. How about my own blinders? I have teetered back and forth on some philosophies, some doctrines, and pragmatics of Christianity my whole life...a new book, a new set of influences, a new church, a new job, new life circumstances, etc. I think the reality of Christians' blinders is that if we major on one aspect of the faith, we are susceptible of missing out on or simply getting another aspect wrong. We shouldn't disregard everything Augustine or Luther said because of their blinders, but we should seek the truth in what they said, and add it to the toolbox of our Christian thought and practice. In terms of what they got wrong, we should identify it, and renounce it. If history shows that even the greatest Christians had blinders, how am I to proceed on my journey of redemption? I still come back to the two concepts I want to build my life around--humility and fierce resolve. Humility to accept my own blinders and shortcomings, but a fierce resolve to stand firmly on the aspects of truth I know to be absolute.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Not My Will

Does God have our lives planned out? There is certainly indication in the Scriptures that He does. "Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them" (Psalm 139:16, NASB).

I found great comfort in this when my first wife went to be with the Lord. She made her life better with exercise and eating right, but she did not change the length of her life. She lived all the days that God ordained for her, and she completed the work He called her to do.

I don't believe this makes God a puppet master. Instead, it makes Him a loving Father who knows what is best for each of His children. In the same context, the next verse says. "How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them!” (Psalm 139:17, NASB). Some might say that this makes God responsible for our sin. That idea is based on human logic rather than the Word of God, which very clearly says, “…God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone” (James 1:13, NASB).

There are many things in the Scriptures that don't make sense to my human mind. I just accept them by faith and trust that God knows what He is doing. Someday I will understand.

I am a "Calvinist" (for lack of a better term) who believes that God's sovereign will works in harmony with human responsibility (not "free will"). Do I understand that? Absolutely not, but I submit my lack of understanding to His wisdom.

I can take a glimpse at this truth by considering a very imperfect illustration of a fly that gets in the car. No matter what that fly may do, no matter how much it may disturb the driver or be annoying, when the car gets to its destination, the fly is there too. The outcome was predetermined, and the fly did according to its will, but in the end, only the will of the driver mattered.

Our natural rebellion may cause catastrophes in our lives, but in the end, we will arrive safely in our heavenly home because of the loving will of our heavenly Father.

I believe that our perception is not always the same as reality. God is very likely more in control of things than we tend to think. He used the enemies of Israel to discipline His people, but He still held those nations accountable for their actions, and He was absolutely just in doing so. Whatever He does is right and just.

He expects us to act wisely, but our lack of wisdom does not destroy His plan. We cannot just sit back and wait for Him to do the work, but the reality is that God gets to be God, and His will is going to be done. That's why we are on safe ground to pray, "Thy will be done."