Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Experiencing Worship


Worship can be described as the proverbial “elephant” in the church. We know that worship is vital to our time together but what should it look like. In what ways do we know that we are truly worshipping God? How should it feel? These are questions that have plagued the church and unfortunately created some dissension.

In his book, Exploring Worship, Bob Sorge gives a few definitions of worship (65-66):

1) Worship is conversation between God and man, a dialogue that should go on constantly in the life of a Christian.

2) Worship is giving to God and involves a lifetime of giving to Him the sacrifice He asks for: our total selves.

3) Worship is our affirmative response to the self-revelation of the triune God. For the Christian, life is an act of worship when it is done with love that responds to the Father’s love.

4) Worship is the outcome of the fellowship of love between the Creato and man and is the highest point man can reach in response to the love of God.

5) Worship is an act by a redeemed man, the creature, toward God, his Creator, whereby his will, intellect, and emotions gratefully respond in reverence, honor, and devotion to the revelation of God’s person expressed in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, as the Holy Spirit illuminates God’s written Word to his heart.

6) True worship and praise as “awesome wonder and overpowering love” in the presence of our God.

7) Worship is the ability to magnify God with our whole being—body, soul, and spirit.

8) Worship is the response of God’s Spirit in us to that Spirit in Him whereby we answer, “Abba, Father,” deep calling unto deep.

Though these definitions may be helpful, they still fall short of its true meaning. Sorge’s father-in-law, Morris Smith, insightfully remarked, “Real worship defies definition; it can only be experienced.”

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Read the Bible Selectively: How?

There is an interesting little verse in the book of Titus that you should memorize. It is found in Titus 2:9-10:

“Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.”


In Eugene Peterson’s translation The Message, he writes, “…Then their good character will shine through their actions, adding luster to the teaching of our Savior God.”


When I decided to ask Nicole to marry me, I wanted to buy a diamond ring that would sparkle and let everyone know that Nicole was married to me. However, I was told that rings lose their shine during wear and I needed to buy a warranty to have the ring polished from time to time. Every time we have the ring repolished, the ring has a certain luster and radiance about it.


That is how the Bible looks when we live out its truths. That is why the last question is so vital to your Bible study. Let’s look at the sixth and final question in our toolbox when we study the Bible: HOW?


Here are a few questions that you need to ask when you are studying a text? How does the passage I am reading make a difference in your life? How can I apply the truth to my life? How do I need to change in response to what I am reading? What steps do I need to make to change my thoughts, behavior, or speech?


“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do” (James 1:22-25).


Howard Hendricks writes, “Remember, the Word of God was not written to satisfy our curiosity; it was written to change our lives” (Living By the Book, 95).

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Give Thanks

Thanks to God for My Redeemer
Words by August L. Storm

Thanks to God for my Redeemer,
Thanks for all Thou dost provide!
Thanks for times now but a memory,
Thanks for Jesus by my side!
Thanks for pleasant, balmy springtime,
Thanks for dark and stormy fall!
Thanks for tears by now forgotten,
Thanks for peace within my soul!

Thanks for prayers that Thou hast answered,
Thanks for what Thou dost deny!
Thanks for storms that I have weathered,
Thanks for all Thou dost supply!
Thanks for pain, and thanks for pleasure,
Thanks for comfort in despair!
Thanks for grace that none can measure,
Thanks for love beyond compare!

Thanks for roses by the wayside,
Thanks for thorns their stems contain!
Thanks for home and thanks for fireside,
Thanks for hope, that sweet refrain!
Thanks for joy and thanks for sorrow,
Thanks for heav’nly peace with Thee!
Thanks for hope in the tomorrow,
Thanks through all eternity!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Read the Bible Selectively: Why?

If you haven’t noticed by now studying the Bible requires time, sacrifice, and hard work. No treasure hunter would leave his home without expecting to sacrifice sufficient time in order to find his prize. When you come to the Word of God, it will require sacrifice and time to faithfully search and mine the gems that lie beneath the surface.

Don’t misunderstand! God is not hiding anything from you. He wants you to discover the truth for your life, but He wants you to take Him and His Word seriously. He wants your number one goal above everything else to search Him out. It will reveal your love and dedication to Him.

That is why you need these 6 questions in your mind when you come to read the Bible: Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How?

Let’s look at the fifth question: WHY?

Why is this passage or story included in the book? Why is it placed in its particular location? Why was so much/little space devoted to this particular event or teaching? Why does the person say that? Why does the person not say anything? Isn’t it interesting that often Jesus will answer people’s questions with more questions?

In Mark 11:27-33, the chief priests and scribes approach Jesus ad ask Him to explain the source of His authority. Instead of Jesus telling them the answer, He responds with a question of His own. Why does Jesus do this? What is Mark trying to tell us about Jesus and these chief priests?

Luke is the only gospel that records the powerful message of the prodigal son. Why does Luke only record it? Recently we finished the book of Acts on Sunday mornings, why does Luke leave us with Paul still in prison? Why did Luke not tell us what happens to him?

The why questions are endless, but they cause you to dig deeper into the text to discover its meaning and provide fresh insights into the Word of God.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Read the Bible Selectively: When?

As you continue to go through these steps of reading your Bible, remember that you are in the observation phase. In this phase, it is important that you allow the Bible to speak for itself. When you present the Bible with the questions listed below, you are allowing the passage to be interpreted correctly.

This process is referred to as exegesis. When the Bible speaks for itself, you will extract the exact intention of the author. We must be careful not to force our 21st century beliefs or opinions back into the text or we do a great disservice to our time in the Word.
That is why you need these 6 questions in your mind when you come to read the Bible: Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How?

Let’s look at the fourth question: WHEN?

Here a few questions to ask when you are reading the Bible: When did the events in the text take place? When did they occur in relationship to the other events surrounding the text? When did the writer pen the story? If the writer is talking about some future event, when will it occur?

Think about the life of Jesus Christ. In Mark 1:35, Mark tells us that Jesus went early in the morning, when it was still dark, to get alone and pray. It was the morning after the busiest day in the life of our Lord. That day was chock full of miracles, teaching, and healing.

After many of our busiest days, we find every excuse for sleeping in and resting the next day. But not Jesus! At the top of His priority list was an intimate relationship with His Father. Intimacy meant more to Him than anything else. How about you? Is your prayer life a priority? Do you find time to spend alone with God?

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Read the Bible Selectively: Where?

My greatest fear for you is not that you fail, but that you succeed— to succeed at doing the wrong thing! Many Christians will spend their whole life chasing their dreams and carrying out the goals of their life, but many will find that the ladder they were climbing was leaning against the wrong wall.

Proper observation, interpretation, and application of the Word of God will become a compass that will lead you in the right direction in life. However, unless you make it a priority to study the Bible, you will not do it. Like one wag said, “If you aim at nothing, you'll hit it every time.”

That is why there are 6 questions that you need in your toolbox when you come to read the Bible: Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How?

Let’s look at the third question: WHERE?

As you ask this question, you need to have the set of maps (located at the back of your Bible) at your disposal. When you are reading the Bible and come across a region or a city, you need to look at the map to help you locate the place. Or when you are following the journey of someone (for example, the missionary journeys of the Apostle Paul), trace out the journey on the map.

Along with the maps, you also need to ask the following questions: Where is the narrative taking place? Where are the people in the story? Where are the people coming from? Where are the people going? Where is the writer? Where was the book written?

Don’t be afraid to bombard the Bible with your questions. Ask, ask, ask! You may not be able to find all the answers but the only way to become an astute student of God’s Word is to examine the text at every angle.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Read the Bible Selectively: What?

When a certain man found a treasure in a field, he hid it and went and sold all that he owned. With joy, he sold it all and bought the field (Matthew 13:44). When you read the Bible selectively, you carry out a similar act. Understanding that there is a great treasure found within God’s Word, with joy you abandon everything to read and study His Word.

You set aside time. You commit to give God the best part of your day. You look for a place where you are not distracted. You turn off the television and the phone. You get alone with God and diligently search God’s Word because you know that within it are the words of life.

It will not be easy. The enemy will try to talk you out of reading and studying the Word. He will try to keep you busy by reminding you of your hectic schedule. Reading the Bible selectively will require sacrifice and thought, but the dividends are priceless. There are 6 questions that you need to ask while you are reading the Bible: Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How?

Let’s look at the second question: WHAT?

What is happening in the text? What are the events and activities? Are there in a certain order? What happens to the characters in the story? What is the writer trying to emphasize? What is his argument?

What is missing in the text? For example, King Saul wars against the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 15. Saul carries out the destruction of the Amalekites, he captures their king, plunders their spoil, and prepares to offer sacrifices to God.

However, when Samuel shows up, he puts his finger on one problem: “Saul did not obey the Lord.” But Saul had obeyed. He wiped out the Amalekites. Not all of them! He captured the king. He did not obey the Lord completely. What is the writer of 1 Samuel trying to teach us? Partial obedience is disobedience.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Read the Bible Selectively: Who?

Anyone who knows anything about fishing or hunting understands the importance of being at the right place at the right time. Even though you scope out a particular place and find the right time, it is pointless unless you have the right equipment. You need the necessary gear and tools to net your big catch.

It is the same with reading. You may have a specific place and time where you read your Bible, but unless you have the right tools, you can neglect a productive Bible study.


What are the tools necessary to read the Bible selectively? They are 6 questions that you need to ask while you are reading the Bible: Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How?


Let’s look at the first question: WHO? Identify the person or people and then ask and answer the following questions:

• Who wrote the book that you are reading? Who is the person or people? to whom is the book or text written? What do you know about the person or people? Who wrote 1 Peter? Peter! He writes about the devil who prowls around like a lion seeking to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Of all the disciples, Peter understands this because the devil enticed him to deny the Lord.


• What does the writer say about the person or people in the text? For example, Rahab is referred to as a harlot. How would you like to have that emblem embroidered on your jacket? How do you think that person felt about such a label?


• What does the person say? Much of the Bible is narrative and events can easily be summarized in a verse or two. When the writer spends a large amount of time letting you hear words vocalized, it is for emphasis. Listen carefully to what is being said.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Read the Bible Patiently

One of the greatest virtues you can possess in your life is patience. We live in an “instant” culture where we rush through fast food restaurants, place food in a microwave and within seconds have a meal, or sit before a television and flip through channels at the touch of a finger. We move easily from one activity to another. We want things right now!

It is no surprise that we approach our Bibles with the same mentality. We spend five minutes in God’s Word and we expect the same rush as we do with other things in life. When the Bible does not grant us immediate satisfaction, we are off to another stimulus. How does anyone expect to receive anything with substance in a short time? Whatever is of value, it will require sacrifice and patience.

In his book, Living By the Book, Howard Hendricks gives some suggestions to help us read the Bible with patience:

• Work with one book for a month. Spend every day in one book observing its structure, identifying the key terms, investigate the central characters, do some background work with secondary sources, and look for practical ways to live out what you have learned.

• Zoom in and zoom out. As you read and study the passages, examine each story and passage in its wider context to see the flow and argument of the writer. Read every word, verse, and passage in its context because the book is to be read as a unified whole.

As you spend time patiently and carefully reading God’s Word, He will bring peace and comfort to your life. “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him…” Psalm 37:7.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Read the Bible Repeatedly


Reading well is an essential to effective Bible study. You need to learn how to read repeatedly. Don’t worry. You will not exhaust the Word of God if you read it over and over again. Unlike other literature which you can understand with one reading, the Word of God can never be drained of its application. You may read a passage today and come back to it later and still find more to glean.


Paul alludes to the inexhaustibility of God’s Word in Romans 11:33, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!”
In his book, Living by the Book, Howard Hendricks gives several ideas to help you read the Bible over and over again:


1. Read entire books of the Bible in one sitting. Reading a book in its entirety in one sitting will better equip you to understand its message.

2. Start at the beginning of the book. You would never pick up a novel and start reading in the middle of the story. It would not make sense unless you understood the context. The same consideration must be given to the Bible. Start at the beginning.


3. Read the Bible in various translations.

4. Listen to audio versions of the Bible. It is amazing what you will grasp when someone else reads the Word of God.


5. Read the Bible out loud. Words can mean a lot more when you hear yourself speaking them.


6. Read through the Bible in a year. There are many resources that can help you read through the Bible from front to back. Start now!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Read the Bible Thoughtfully

The first method in Bible study is observation. In order to develop this step, you need to hone your reading skills. In order to improve your reading, you need to learn to read thoughtfully.

In his insightful work on studying the Bible Howard Hendricks writes, “Thoughtful reading involves study. Not boredom. Far from it. When you come to the Bible, put your thinking cap on. Don’t throw your mind into neutral. Apply the same mental discipline that you would to any subject in which you take a vital interest” (77).


We are all capable of reading thoughtfully, but many choose not to discipline themselves to become thoughtful readers. Rarely do we spend time reading with care unless the material is of utmost importance (i.e. sports section of the newspaper or an IRS audit). How much more important is it to thoughtfully read the Word of God which holds truths for our daily lives?

People who read and think thoughtfully are those who realize that how one lives is directly connected to how one thinks. If you truly believe that the Bible possesses wisdom for daily living, then it will show in your vigilant study in the Word. Remember what Peter said to Jesus in John 6:68 “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Don’t rush through a passage. Take your time. Set aside some time to engage with the Word and seriously think about what the passage is saying. A couple of weeks ago, we spent some time looking at the questions that you should ask when you come to the Bible (Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How?). You will not read thoughtfully unless you ask and answer these questions when you come to a text in the Bible.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Why Study the Bible? Part 3

Two reasons have been stated why we need to study the Bible: spiritual growth and spiritual maturity. The third reason why studying the Bible is so vital to your walk with the Lord is spiritual usefulness. In a world that is inundated with words, people have fallen into a mental stupor. The mass media is filled with slick-looking, smooth-talking couriers with their sales pitches. It is difficult to know what truth is in a day when words are hollow and carry no meaning. Can we really believe that anything is true? It is no wonder that the world is turned off when the Christian speaks. How are you any different than every other mouthpiece?
When you spend time in God’s Word, there will be a transformation in your life. Though words are important, practicality and application will generate more substance to your life. Instead of talking about your faith, you begin to live it out. People will begin to take notice of the Christian who does more than talk about his/her faith but actually lives it out through hands and feet. St. Francis of Assisi noted, "Preach the gospel always, if necessary use words."
As Paul was nearing the end of his life, he left two letters in the hands of Timothy. Paul wanted to leave his young protégé some concluding instructions to help him carry on the mission of Jesus Christ. He writes, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Paul states that when Bible study is taking place it will accomplish four things in your life: 1) teaching, 2) rebuking, 3) correcting, and 4) training. Have you ever wished that you could be more successful for Jesus Christ? Paul says that it can happen when you are serious about studying the Word of God.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Why Study the Bible? Part 2

Studying the Bible will help you become a more mature person. What is maturity? Webster defines maturity as “achieving or completing a state of natural growth and development; to be ripe.”

At the beginning of the summer, the Kirby’s decided to try their hand (again!) at farming. We bought four tomato plants. Originally we placed the tomato plants in the front yard, but the local Marietta deer were feasting themselves on our plants. In order to solve the deer problem, we moved the plants to the backyard. However, our backyard is covered with tall pine trees which blocked the sunlight in the morning and late afternoon hours. This created a huge problem for our plants because they only received 3-4 hours of sunlight during the midday.

Because of the lack of sunlight in our backyard, growth and maturity of our tomatoes were stunted. It is the same when you receive a lack of “Sonlight” from God’s Word. The more time you spend in God’s Word meditating and applying it to your life; you will become a “riper” Christian.

What are some of the marks of a “ripe” (mature) Christian? One mark is stability. When you study God’s Word, you will not be swayed by the turmoil in your life. Though you are not immune from difficulty, you will learn how stand strong in the midst of your trial (Psalm 1:1-3; 19:7-11). Another mark of maturity is conviction. As you study the Bible, you will know the truth and not be swayed by false teaching (Ephesians 4:14-15). A third mark of a mature believer is discernment. When you cut your spiritual teeth on God’s Word, you will learn how to discern truth from error and apply the truth to your life (Hebrews 5:11-14). Howard Hendricks writes, “The mark of spiritual maturity is not how much you understand, but how much you use. In the spiritual realm, the opposite of ignorance is not knowledge but obedience” (Living by the Book, 20-21).

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Why Study the Bible?

If you want grow spiritually, you must be in the Word of God. One of the reasons that many Christians are not growing in their spiritual walk is because they neglect time in God’s Word. Peter tells us that the one who is progressing in his/her walk with the Lord is the one who spends time in the Bible. He writes, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation” (1 Peter 2:2).

This is why it is so imperative that you study the Word. If you deny food for your body, your physical health will decline. It is the same in the spiritual realm. If you neglect the spiritual food from God’s Word, your spiritual health will decline. It is no wonder why many are discouraged, depressed, anxious, and wavering in their spiritual walk. People are not in the Word of God!

Peter says that the mark of a growing infant is the desire for milk. When Lily was born, you can believe that every 3-4 hours she would let the whole house know that she was hungry. Likewise, if you are a Christian who is maturing in your faith, then there should be an insatiable appetite for spiritual truth. There should be a craving for God’s Word.

As you crave this pure truth from God’s Word, you will begin to grow. Notice that Peter did not say “know” but “grow.” Many Christians know but do not grow! “The Bible was written not to satisfy your curiosity but to help you conform to Christ’s image. Not to make you a smarter sinner but to make you like the Savior. Not to fill your head with a collection of biblical facts but to transform your life” (Howard Hendricks, Living by the Book, 19).

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Nicene Creed


We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father…


The word “creed” comes from the Latin credo which means “I believe.” Though creeds are not the Word of God, they are helpful for three reasons:
1) To establish church liturgy.
2) To provide a guide for teaching and preaching.
3) To confront heresy.

Throughout church history, the creeds became the verdicts concerning a doctrinal dispute or heretical teaching. When someone presented a teaching about the Christian faith (i. e. Arius stated that Jesus Christ was the created Son of God not the eternal Son of God). Constantine ordered a council meeting at Nicaea to discuss the matter. Athanasius debated the matter with Arius and the council voted in favor of Athanasius that Jesus was eternal Son of God and not the created Son of God. This meeting resulted in the Nicene Creed quoted above.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Cost of Discipleship

"When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die." Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Apostle's Creed, Part 2

“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell. The third day He arose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.”

The word “creed” comes from the Latin credo which means “I believe.” When the church began, it became fertile ground for heresy and false doctrine, so the early church leaders needed to set parameters of what it means to be a Christian. Though creeds are not the Word of God, they are helpful for three reasons:

1) Church liturgy.
2) Guide for teaching and preaching.

Because many doctrines of the Christian faith are not sketched out in a single section of the Bible (i.e. the incarnation of Christ, trinity, etc.), creeds are helpful by categorizing the biblical evidences and historical church teachings and arranging them in a simple way to understand and memorize. The creeds become helpful tools to teach and disciple others about the truths found in God’s Word.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Apostle's Creed, Part 1

“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell. The third day He arose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.”

The Apostle’s Creed is considered the oldest of the church creeds. The word “creed” comes from the Latin credo which means “I believe.” When the church began, it became fertile ground for heresy and false doctrine, so the early church leaders needed to set parameters of what it means to be a Christian. Though creeds are not the Word of God, they are helpful for three reasons:

1) Church liturgy.
Teachers and disciples needed to know the bare minimum of what Scripture says about certain teachings of the Bible. When someone wanted to be a Christian or be baptized, they were questioned about the Christian faith: “What does it mean to be a Christian? Who is Jesus Christ? Who is God?” What are the necessary answers that one needed to confirm and believe in order to be a Christian and develop a solid Christian life.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Quality Time With God, Part 4

It cannot be stressed enough how important it is that you learn to get alone with God. Many have confused activity and religion with intimacy. It is not! Scripture clearly teaches that God desires obedience rather than sacrifice; relationship rather than ritual (1 Sam 15:22; Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:8).

Tozer explains, “There are some things that you and I will never learn when others are present. I believe in church and I love the fellowship of the assembly. There is much we can learn when we come together on Sundays and sit among the saints. But there are certain things that you and I will never learn in the presence of other people. Unquestionably, part of our failure today is religious activity that is not preceded by aloneness, by inactivity. I mean getting alone with God and waiting in silence and quietness until we are charged with God's Spirit. Then, when we act, our activity really amounts to something because we have been prepared by God for it.... "

Steps to develop a quality time with God:
1. Separation. Carve out a specific time everyday to get alone with God. Remove yourself from anything that will distract you (e.g. phone, tv, computer, etc.)
2. Preparation. Pray and ask God to speak to you as you listen to him. Open your Bible and begin reading His Word. Use your mind. Ask questions: “God, what can I learn about You in this passage? God, what can I learn about myself in this passage? God, what do I need to change in my life, at my job, in my relationships with others, as a witness for You?”
3. Reception. Do it! Carry it out and look for ways to live out what you learned and ask God to give you the opportunity to learn and carry out what He showed you in your time with Him.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Quality Time With God, Part 3

“Solitude is good for us. Our natural tendency is to always have people around, always have stuff going on, but let me be candid: I've never learned anything all that significant in a crowd. I love to be with people, but solitude helps filter out the essentials and sift away the nonessentials. Life kind of makes up its mind in solitude” Charles R. Swindoll, "Solitude: A Vital Factor in Growing Closer to God," Insights (January 2000): 1-2.

We have truly lost the art of silence and solitude in our lives. We have grown accustomed to noise, distractions, and activities that we have forgotten the true meaning of being still in the presence of God. In addition to the clamor of our culture, we have fallen prey to immediate gratification. Remote controls, microwaves, and computers have made life easy for us where everything is accessible at the touch of a finger.


Believe me; the spiritual life will not come that easy. In order to have an intimate relationship with God, it will only come through spending quality time in His presence. Throughout the day, you will need to stop and remain quiet before the Lord. Remind yourself that God’s presence is with you and converse with Him. Intimacy with God will only come when sacrifice your time and invest your life knowing more about God.


Start recording a journal when you meet with God. Listen to Him and record your thoughts as He speaks to you.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Quality Time With God, Part 2

Where is God when you really need Him? Does He ever feel far away? Does it ever feel that He is not with you at the moment that you desperately need Him? Many of us feel that way at times. He seems a million miles away.

The Bible tells us that God is never far away. There is never a minute in your life that He is not with you. Theologians have given us a term to describe God’s presence in every place and every situation: omnipresence. There is not a single place that you go that God is not there. There is never a situation that you face that God is not there facing it with you. There is not a decision that you make or a direction that you take that God does not see.

He knows and sees all things because He is everywhere. Nothing will ever be able to separate you from God. No problem, no trial, no pain, not even death will ever keep God from your side. He is in the midst of everything you face. It may feel dark and lonely, but darkness is nothing to our God. 1 John 1:5 says, “…God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.”

That is why we should spend time with Him in solitude. There are so many benefits to spending time with God. He tells you that you receive power being in His presence. Listen to the words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:8, “We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed, perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” How can we receive this strength? We receive this power through knowing more of God. Look back to 2 Corinthians 4:6 “the knowledge of the glory of God.”

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Quality Time With God, Part 1

Christianity is often confused as a list of do’s and dont’s. Though Christianity has its list of regulations, Christianity is a love relationship. No matter what you do or do not do, it will not fashion you any closer to the image of the Lord. You are only transformed and changed into the image of Christ when you spend time with Him. It is a loving, intimate relationship where you give your undivided attention to Him. How do you have a quiet time with the Lord?

You need to set a specific time to spend with God. You need to set a goal where you get alone with God each day. Begin with a 15 to 30 minute segment of your day where you are not distracted by a television or a telephone. It is mandatory that this part of your day is when you are mentally and physically alert. Don’t give God your leftovers at the end of the day when you are exhausted. Give Him your best. If you don’t set apart this specific time, your day can quickly be filled with activities and responsibilities that will push God out of your life. Begin now by setting a time to speak and listen to the Lord.

“In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation” Psalm 5:3.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Identity in Christ, Part 4

Over the last month, we have only scratched the surface on our identity in Christ. You could spend months exploring the depths of what these verses mean to the believer. Including the characteristics listed below, you have seen 42 different aspects about who you are in Christ. Once you study and believe what the Bible says about you, it will radically change your thinking and your behavior. For example, as we celebrate Father’s Day, many of you did not have perfect fathers. Our earthly fathers are frail and susceptible to mistakes. Even though many fathers do the best they can to lead their families, fathers will fall short. Because children receive their image and direction from home, they look at themselves through the lens of their father. Though reasonable, God desires that you look at yourself by what He says about you not what you perceive your father or anyone may say about you. Here are some more features:

In Christ, you have been created in righteousness and holiness – Ephesians 4:24

In Christ, you possess the peace of God which guards your heart and mind– Philippians 4:7

In Christ, you have been made complete – Colossians 2:10

In Christ, you have been raised up and seated with Christ – Colossians 3:1

In Christ, you have been hidden with Christ – Colossians 3:3

In Christ, you will be revealed with Him in glory – Colossians 3:4

In Christ, God has chosen you – Colossians 3:12

In Christ, God loves you and wants you to call Him Father – Romans 8:15-17

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Identity in Christ, Part 3

Identity has to do with becoming more like Christ. When we accept Christ as our personal Savior, the following is what your identity has become:

You have been led to a life of triumph through Christ – 2 Corinthians 2:14

Your mind has been softened by God– 2 Corinthians 3:14

You have been made one with everyone in Christ – Galatians 3:28

You have been set free in Christ – Galatians 5:1

You have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ – Ephesians 1:3

You have been redeemed and forgiven through Christ – Ephesians 1:7

You have obtained an inheritance in Christ – Ephesians 1:11

You have been made alive in Christ – Ephesians 2:4-5

You have been brought near to God by the blood of Christ – Ephesians 2:13

You have boldness and confidence to approach God – Ephesians 3:12

You have all your needs supplied in Christ – Philippians 4:19

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Key to the Christian Life

"There is nothing more centered than a self-emptied life, and there is nothing more empty than a self-centered life."

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Identity in Christ, Part 2

Many people struggle with their identity. They define themselves by everything except what God says about them. We define ourselves by the number of friends we have, by the amount of money we have in our bank account, by the house we live in or by the car we drive. God does not define us by these things. He could care less how much money we possess or how popular we are. He is more concerned about your relationship with Christ. Identity has to do with becoming more like Christ. When we accept Christ as our personal Savior, the following is what your identity has become:

You have been brought near to Christ – Eph 2:13

You have been adopted by God – Rom 8:15

You have been justified and redeemed – Romans 3:24

You have been crucified with Christ and no longer a slave to sin – Romans 6:6

You have been set free from the law of sin and death – Romans 8:2

You have been accepted by Christ – Romans 15:7

You have been sanctified – 1 Corinthians 1:2

You have been filled with wisdom, righteousness, and redemption – 1 Corinthians 1:30

You have become a temple where God resides – 1 Corinthians 6:9

You have joined to the Lord and are one spirit with Him – 1 Corinthians 6:17

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Names of God

How many of you have problems with remembering names? When you meet a person, how do you remember their name? One method I use to help me remember someone’s name is through association. I use mnemonics to help me remember names like using Roy G. Biv to help me remember the colors of the rainbow. A similar method of identification is used in the Bible. God gives us pegs to help us to remember His name.

Why is a name important? In the 21st century, we use names to distinguish one person from another. There is little consideration in the naming of our children as far as identification is concerned. When Nicole and I gave our children names, we looked through the “The Complete Book of Baby Names.” We did name our daughter Lillian because she was born on Easter (our Easter Lily).

Names also identify. Many people call me “Pastor Don” to identify me as a leader in the church. My daughters call me daddy which identifies me as their father. We even have nicknames that we use for people as well. Spouses have special terms of endearment for one another.

Unlike our way of identification through names, a person’s name in Scripture stood for something specific. Ex: God came to Abraham and Sarah and tells this couple who by the way are beyond child-bearing years that they will have child (Genesis 18:1-15; 21). Sarah who was in the tent laughed. When they had a son, they named him Isaac (laughter). God changed people’s names in Scripture (Jacob which means “supplanter” to Israel “power of God” when he wrestled with the angel all night. Jesus changed Simon’s name which means “God has heard” to Peter “rock.” See Genesis 32:28 and John 1:42).

When it comes to the names of God in the Bible, they are important because they become miniature portraits of who God is. Names identify God to us and become pegs so that we will remember His nature and personality. The ability to call upon the name of God was extremely important in the Ancient Near East because this meant that the person had the ability to invoke His presence and call upon His help.


Why do we need to know and understand the names of God? As a believer, you represent the name of God. Paul tells us that we have been bought with a price; you are not your own (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). You belong to God and wherever you go you represent Him in your words and actions. This is very important.

Ken Hemphill gives a powerful illustration of when he was going off to college. As his dad was walking him out to the car to wish him well, he thought, “Oh great, my dad is walking out to the car to give me the list of the do’s and dont’s while I am gone.” When they reached the car, his dad put his hand on his shoulder and said, “I’ve got one piece of advice for you. Remember this: You have my name. Don’t take my name anywhere I wouldn’t take it, and don’t do anything with my name that I wouldn’t do with it. That is my only request.”

No list of rules. Just one statement that changed his life forever. Instead of God giving us a book full of rules (by the way imagine how enormous a book it would be to cover every little sin and wrongdoing!) God gave us one instruction about His name: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7).

A second reason why it is important to know and understand God’s name is for the benefits that come with such a study. Through His Word, God reveals His character and nature to us resulting in worship and praise of our great God.

Based upon Psalm 8, Sandy Patty wrote the following song on the name of God.

O, Lord, our Lord / How majestic is Your Name in all the earth
O, Lord, our Lord / How majestic is Your Name in all the earth
O, Lord, we praise Your Name / O Lord, we magnify Your Name
Prince of peace, mighty God / O, Lord God Almighty

Through knowing God’s name, we receive salvation (John 1:12), we worship together through His name (Matthew 18:20), pray through His name (John 14:12-14), and receive power through His name (Proverbs 18:10). Knowing the name of God produces great benefits for every believer. Let’s take a look at the various names of God used in the Bible:

1. Yahweh: Though not the first instance of this name for God, Exodus 3 is the most significant passage for the understanding this name. At the end of Genesis and the beginning of Exodus, Israel was in bondage under the thumb of Pharaoh and Egypt. Because of the tyranny, the people of Israel begin to cry out against Egypt and plead with God for deliverance. At this time, God speaks to Moses who was a shepherd on the other side of the desert. God appears to Moses in a burning bush and commissions Moses with the task of delivering Israel from the hand of Pharaoh.

Reluctant to return to Egypt, Moses gives a series of excuse of why he is the wrong man for the mission. One of the reasons that Moses gives for his reluctance is the people will not know who this God is. They will not know God’s name. In Exodus 3:14, God reveals His name to Moses: Yahweh.

If you look at the verse, you will notice that the letter of the word LORD is all capitalized. Many translations will capitalize the word to distinguish it from other names for God (the word Lord with the first letter capitalized is the word Adonai “Lord.” The word means “master, owner” and stresses one’s relationship to God as his master and Lord (Gen. 18:2; 40:1; 1 Sam. 1:15; Ex. 21:1-6; Josh. 5:14). In Hebrew, the word Yahweh is written with four consonants. The Jews highly regard this name for God so much so that they will use another pen to write this name then discard the pen never to be used again. (Note: When the Masoretes, Jewish scholars, added vowels to the Hebrew consonants, they added the vowels of the name Adonai to the letters YWHW translated JHVH in German which gives us the name Jehovah).

The Hebrew name Yahweh comes from the Hebrew verb “to be or exist.” The name refers to God as being independent and self-existent. In and of Himself, God exists apart from anything or anyone else. All of life remains in Him. There are wonderful applications to the believer in this name. God is the one who exists in the past, present, and future. Moses had heard of the historical record of God through the stories and songs of his people. He knew that this God was the God of his forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But now, Moses needed to know that this God who existed in history also works in the present (calling and commissioning of Moses) and works in the future (deliverance of Israel from Egypt). The name Yahweh confirms to us that this God is the One who acts powerfully and redemptively in your life past, present, and future.

Several times in the New Testament, Jesus used this name to refer to Himself as God. The Greek equivalent of the Hebrew name Yahweh is ego eimi “I am.” In John 8, Jesus speaks to the Jews about the gladness of Abraham who rejoiced to see the day of Christ. When the Jews asked how Abraham could have possibly seen Christ, Jesus responded, “…before Abraham was born, I am” (John 8:58). The verb is to be translated in the present tense not in the historical present as some may suggest rendering it “I have been.” The only instances of eimi used in the historical present tense in the New Testament are in the third person (see Daniel Wallace, An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, 515, 530-531). There are other statements that Jesus used with ego eimi “I am” (John 6:51; 8:12, 23; 10:9, 11, 36; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1; 19:2). What Jesus was saying in these “I am” statements is He is God in the flesh.
Several combinations of Yahweh are used in Scripture to reveal greater understanding of God.

a. Yahweh Jireh. In Genesis 22, God pus Abraham’s faith to the test. God tells Abraham to offer his son, Isaac, on the altar. As Isaac is lying on the altar and Abraham has his hand drawn to kill the young boy, God stops him before the knife is wielded. God speaks to Abraham and tells him to take the ram in the thicket as the sacrifice. Abraham calls the place Yahweh Jireh “the Lord provides.” Because of Abraham’s obedience, God rewards Him with blessings. God will provide for your needs. You need to obey and trust.

b. Yahweh Nissi. In Exodus 16, the people grumbled against the Lord because they missed the delicious meals in Egypt. They complained about the quality of food in the wilderness and the direction of their leader Moses. They questioned Moses’ intent to bring them out into the wilderness to die. Later in the chapter, the Lord provided bread and quail from heaven. In Exodus 17, Israel’s faith was tested again with a lack of water. They grumbled against Moses and God because they were thirsty. The Lord directs Moses to strike a rock with his staff, and water gushed out giving the people drink. Then we are told about a battle between Israel and the Amalekites. As Joshua led the people out to battle, the Lord stationed Moses on a hill with his staff. Whenever Moses held the staff up in the air, Joshua and Israel prevailed. Over time Moses’ arms became tired and when he would lower the staff, the Amalekites would prevail. In order to keep the staff of God in the air, Aaron and Hur assisted Moses by keeping the staff aloft until Israel defeated the Amalekites. After the battle, Moses built an altar and named the place Yahweh Nissi “the Lord is my banner” (Exodus 17:15). The name is a reference to the staff which was used and seen as a symbol of God’s power.

c. Yahweh Shalom. In Judges 6, the angel of the Lord appears to Gideon and tells him that God will use him to defeat the Midianites. When the angel of the Lord appears to Gideon, he realized that he was incapable of standing in the presence the messenger of God as a mere man. The angel of the Lord assured him that there was no need of fear, so Gideon built and altar and named it Yahweh Shalom “the Lord is peace” (Judges 6:24).

d. Yahweh Sabbaoth. Usually rendered “Lord of hosts” in the Bible. In 1 Samuel 17, David approaches Goliath who is armed with a sword, spear, and javelin, but David comes to Goliath in the name of Yahweh Sabbaoth “the Lord of hosts” referring to the Lord as a commander of armies in heaven and on earth (1 Samuel 17:45).

e. Yahweh M'kaddesh. God is the One who purifies, cleanses, and sanctifies His people (Ex 31:13; Lev 20:8).

f. Yahweh Rohi. In Psalm 23:1, David explained the character of God in terms that the people would readily understand. To an agrarian culture whose means of economic support would be through shepherding, David explains that God is our Shepherd who cares for his people.

g. Yahweh Tsidkenu. The Hebrew word Tsidkenu comes from the Hebrew root meaning “stiff or straight.” The word is used in Leviticus God is the One who provided righteousness to men through His Son Jesus Christ (Jeremiah 23:6; 33:16).

h. Yahweh Shammah. The name renders “The Lord is there.” Ezekiel uses this name for God to describe His personal presence in the millennium (Ezekiel 48:35).

i. Yahweh Elohim. The combination of the personal name of God and Elohim highlights the character of Israel’s God compared to other counterfeit gods (Judges 5:3).

j. Yahweh Rapha. In Exodus 14, God delivers Israel from the hand of Pharaoh by dividing the Red Sea allowing Israel to cross on dry land. As Pharaoh and his army pursue Israel through the sea, God delivered His people from Pharaoh once and for all as the waters collided with the Egyptian army drowning them all. Though Israel responded with joy over the deliverance, they soon turned to grumbling and complaining against the Lord. The Israelites complained and grumbled about the lack of food and water. They did not trust God to take care of their physical needs. The Lord promised that if they choose to obey Him, then their obedience would result in blessings. He would not send any of the plaques or diseases that Egypt experienced because the Lord is Yahweh Rapha “the one Who Heals" (Exodus 15:26).

2. Elohim. The Hebrew word el (or eloah) means “strong or mighty one.” The word is used in the generic sense to refer to a deity. The Old Testament uses the plural form of the word to refer to the one God of the Bible (elohim) specifically that the God of the Bible is the true one and only God compared to the many false deities. Some have suggested that the plurality of the word is used to refer to the triune nature of God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). Though possible, the name Elohim does not necessarily point to the triune nature of God. Plural forms of Hebrew words often intensify the meaning of the word. In this sense, the plural form of el may refer to the majesty or splendor of God rather than to His triune nature. Indeed, the God we serve is a mighty and powerful God. He is One who created the world and the universe (Genesis 1:1) and created man in His own image (Genesis 1:26).
Several combinations of Elohim are used in Scripture to reveal greater understanding of God:

a. El Shaddai. In Genesis 17:1, the Lord appeared to Abraham who was 70 years old man with no children, yet God promised Abraham that he would be a father of many nations. What looked like an impossibility in the eyes of Abraham, God reveals Himself as El Shaddai “God Almighty.” He is the One who has ultimate power over everything.

b. El Elyon. The Hebrew root of elyon means “go up or ascend.” When used with the name of God, it is rendered the “very highest God” (Deuteronomy 26:19).

c. El Roi. In Genesis 16, Abraham’s wife, Sarah, coerced Abraham to bear a child through her handmaid Hagar. Once Hagar conceived and bore Abraham a child, Sarah despised Hagar and compelled Abraham to send Hagar out of the camp. While Hagar was alone in the desert, God appeared to her with a prophetic message about her son Ishmael. After seeing the angel of the Lord, she referred to Him as El Roi “the One who sees” her in her distress (Genesis 17:13).

d. El Gibhor. Isaiah uses this title of God to refer to the coming of the Messiah who would reign over God’s enemies and establish rule on earth (Isaiah 9:6).

e. El Olam. The Hebrew phrase is rendered “from everlasting to everlasting.” The psalmist speaks of God as one who is without beginning and end. He is not defined or limited by space or time (Psalm 90:1-3).

3. Theos. Theos is translated “God” in the New Testament. The name is used in Romans 3:29-30 to refer to the one true God who is the God of both the Jews and the Gentiles. God is transcendent and immanent and holy (God is present, accessible, near to those who call on Him for deliverance (Psalm 107:13), forgiveness (Psalm 25:11) and guidance (Psalm 31:3. Also see Acts 17:24-31). This name is used of Christ as God in John 1:1, 18; 20:28; 1 John 5:20; Tit. 2:13; Rom. 9:5; Heb. 1:8; 2 Pet. 1:1.

4. Kurios. The name Lord is translated kurios in the New Testament. The word is used in a broad sense to refer to someone in a place of authority (used to refer to an owner in Luke 19:33, to husbands in 1 Peter 3:6, to masters in Colossians 3:22, or to Christ as “Sir or Rabbi” in Matthew 8:6. Also kurios is used to refer to Jesus as God (John 20:28; Romans 10:9).

5. Father. In the Old Testament, the term Father was used in the corporate sense of God’s relationship with the people of Israel. The New Testament makes the name Father more personal because each believer in Jesus Christ now has a personal and loving relationship with God (Hebrews 12:5-11).

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Core beliefs about Jesus Christ

In his book Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis writes the following concerning Jesus Christ: “I am trying here to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with a man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that option open to us. He did not intend to” (40-41).

We live in a pluralistic culture. Last week we studied Paul’s encounter with the Athenians who worshipped a plethora of gods (Acts 17). America is our Athens today. We live in a culture that claims that there are multiple ways to heaven. No name is more renowned than Jesus Christ, but no name is diversely debated. Some claim that Jesus is a prophet, a wise man, or spiritual guide. Instead of seeing Jesus as our only Savior of the world, many believe that Jesus is just one of many ways to come to God.

The Bible rubs against the grain of our culture The Bible teaches that Jesus’ identity and ministry is central to all of Christianity. There are several key doctrines that are vital to the believer:

Jesus is fully God (John 1:1; 8:58; 10:30; Titus 2:13; 1 John 5:20).
Jesus is fully man (Matthew 1:18; John 1:14; Hebrews 2:17-18). He possessed human experiences (hunger and thirst Matthew 4:2; John 19:28; fatigue John 4:6; emotion Matthew 9:36; John 11:35).
Jesus was born of the virgin Mary (Isaiah 7:14; Luke 2:26-33).
Jesus was without sin (John 8:46; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5).
Death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (Isaiah 53:1-5; John 20:24-29; Acts 2:22-36; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Hebrews 10:10-12; 1 Peter 2:21-24).

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Theology Proper. Existence of God

In his book, Our God is Awesome, Tony Evans illustrates, “Once upon a time a scorpion needed to cross a pond. Wondering how he would get to the other side, he noticed a frog nearby. ‘Mr. Frog, will you please hop me across this pond?’ The kind, gentle frog said, ‘Certainly, Mr. Scorpion. I will be glad to do so.’

So Mr. Scorpion jumped onto Mr. Frog’s back as Mr. Frog hoped from pod to pod, bringing Mr. Scorpion to the other side of the pond. But just as the frog said, ‘Well, Mr. Scorpion, here we are,’ he felt an excruciating pain in his back. Mr. Scorpion had stung him.

As Mr. Frog lay dying, he looked up at Mr. Scorpion and said, ‘How could you do this? I brought you from one side of the pond to the other and now you sting me so that I die.’

Mr. Scorpion looked at Mr. Frog and said, ‘I can’t help it. It’s my nature’ (37).

The moral of the story is the following: it is important that you know the nature of the one you are dealing with. If you underestimate the nature of the one you are dealing with then you could have dire consequences. That is why it is so important that you do not err in your understanding of the nature and person of God. When you misunderstand the nature of God thus redefining your perspective of who God is, you will run amok in your spiritual life.

What is your image of God? Paul Little gives us a few pictures (Know What You Believe, (25-26) of God in the minds of people: “a pure mathematical mind” from Einstein; “a shadowy superhuman cloud or force”; “a ball of fire ready to consume us”; “sparks of life to which we will be reunited”; “a sentimental grandfather in the sky”; or “a fearful celestial policeman.” To many people God is a vending machine who dispenses whatever we want based upon how good we live or how obedient we are to His commands. Are these correct images of God? Can we shape God into whatever form we choose to meet our needs? Of course not.

A philosopher once said, “God created man in His own image, and man returned the favor.” When we look to ourselves to define who God is we make fools of ourselves and misinterpret God. We fashion Him into some unscriptural superman. Paul explains that the lack of knowledge of who God results in idolatry. “Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory if the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures” (Romans 1:22-23). Then Paul uses the refrain “God gave them over” three times to explain the result of men who exchange the true God for a counterfeit one.
Let’s look at a few counterfeit views of God:

1. Atheism. The belief that it is impossible to know that God exists. Another form of atheism is the belief that there is a possibility of God’s existence but He is limited in power and sovereignty (Psalm 14:1).
2. Deism. The belief in an infinite God but chooses not to intervene into His creation.
3. Agnosticism. The belief that it is impossible to really know that God exists because of a lack of empirical proof.
4. Polytheism. The belief that there are many gods.
5. Pantheism. The belief that God exists in everything.

All of these are counterfeit views of God and are not supported by Scripture. Before looking at God’s Word to help us understand who this God is, let’s be up front about one thing: can anyone verify God’s existence? No! There is no way to place God under a scientific microscope and study His existence. However, just because one cannot prove God’s existence does not mean that He does not exist anymore than denying the emotion of love because you can’t see it.

Spurgeon once said, “When you can’t trace His hand, trust His heart.” One evidence of God’s existence (though I admit it has its weaknesses) is the moral argument. Each person possesses a desire to worship someone/something higher than us. If we are all honest with ourselves, we have to admit that there is something greater than ourselves in this universe. Blasé Pascal once remarked that all of us have a “God-shaped vacuum.” Within us all there is an appeal to some standard of right and wrong. Civilizations have been built upon moral values. Where do they come from? Solomon explains to us that God “has set eternity in their hearts” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). If there is a moral compass within us, does that not point to a moral Lawgiver who has made us in His own image (Genesis 1:26)?

“For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus” (Romans 2:14-15).

Another evidence of God’s existence is the teleological argument. Some of you have heard of the illustration of Mount Rushmore.

In an article on intelligent design, William Dembski writes, “To see what’s at stake, consider Mount Rushmore. The evidence for Mount Rushmore’s design is direct—eyewitnesses saw the sculptor Gutzon Borglum spend the better part of his life designing and building this structure. But what if there were no direct evidence for Mount Rushmore’s design? What if humans went extinct and aliens, visiting the earth, discovered Mount Rushmore in substantially the same condition as it is now? In that case, what about this rock formation would provide convincing circumstantial evidence that it was due to a designing intelligence and not merely to wind and erosion? Designed objects like Mount Rushmore exhibit characteristic features or patterns that point to an intelligence. Such features or patterns constitute signs of intelligence.”

The universe has design. It is not chaotic, but possesses order. If there is an arranged blueprint set in place for this universe, does this not point to the possibility of a Designer who has established and ordained this universe? (Isaiah 45:18).

A third evidence for the existence of God is the cosmological argument. Derived from the word cosmos, the argument presupposes that there is a cause for every effect. When you look around in our world (cosmos), one must ask, “What is the origin of these things?” Is it reasonable that our universe came into being through chance or by accident? What are the possibilities that our universe came into existence through a primordial “big-bang”? Some are questioning this argument today. In a recent movie, What the Bleep Do We Know, 14 scientists and mystics attempt to explain the meaning of our existence. They argue that this world is its own first cause coming in and out of existence on its own. Yet, their arguments (effect) come from their philosophies (cause).

A fourth evidence of God’s existence is the ontological argument. The word ontology is from the Greek word meaning “being.” Even though a weak argument, some suggest that God must exist if He can be conceived in within the mind. If one can conceive of a greater Being than ourselves, does it point to the existence of a God? Many Christians are hesitant to promote this argument for various reasons. Not only is there is a lack of objective support but also simply saying that something exists because one conceives it is liking stating “flying pink elephants exist because one thinks of them.”

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Hammer, File, and Furnace

It was the enraptured Rutherford who could shout in the midst of serious and painful trials, "Praise God for the hammer, the file and the furnace."
The hammer is a useful tool, but the nail, if it had feeling and intelligence, could present another side of the story. For the nail knows the hammer only as an opponent, a brutal, merciless enemy who lives to pound it into submission, to beat it down out of sight and clinch it into place. That is the nail's view of the hammer, and it is accurate except for one thing: The nail forgets that both it and the hammer are servants of the same workman. Let the nail but remember that the hammer is held by the workman and all resentment toward it will disappear. The carpenter decides whose head will be beaten next and what hammer shall be used in the beating. That is his sovereign right. When the nail has surrendered to the will of the workman and has gotten a little glimpse of his benign plans for its future it will yield to the hammer without complaint.

The file is more painful still, for its business is to bite into the soft metal, scraping and eating away the edges till it has shaped the metal to its will. Yet the file has, in truth, no real will in the matter, but serves another master as the metal also does. It is the master and not the file that decides how much shall be eaten away, what shape the metal shall take, and how long the painful filing shall continue. Let the metal accept the will of the master and it will not try to dictate when or how it shall be filed.

As for the furnace, it is the worst of all. Ruthless and savage, it leaps at every combustible thing that enters it and never relaxes its fury till it has reduced it all to shapeless ashes. All that refuses to burn is melted to a mass of helpless matter, without will or purpose of its own. When everything is melted that will melt and all is burned that will burn, then and not till then the furnace calms down and rests from its destructive fury.

With all this known to him, how could Rutherford find it in his heart to praise God for the hammer, the file and the furnace? The answer is simply that he loved the Master of the hammer, he adored the Workman who wielded the file, he worshiped the Lord who heated the furnace for the everlasting blessing of His children. He had felt the hammer till its rough beatings no longer hurt; he had endured the file till he had come actually to enjoy its bitings; he had walked with God in the furnace so long that it had become as his natural habitat. That does not overstate the facts. His letters reveal as much.

Such doctrine as this does not find much sympathy among Christians in these soft and carnal days. We tend to think of Christianity as a painless system by which we can escape the penalty of past sins and attain to heaven at last. The flaming desire to be rid of every unholy thing and to put on the likeness of Christ at any cost is not often found among us. We expect to enter the everlasting kingdom of our Father and to sit down around the table with sages, saints and martyrs; and through the grace of God, maybe we shall; yes, maybe we shall. But for the most of us it could prove at first an embarrassing experience. Ours might be the silence of the untried soldier in the presence of the battle-hardened heroes who have fought the fight and won the victory and who have scars to prove that they were present when the battle was joined.

The devil, things and people being what they are, it is necessary for God to use the hammer, the file and the furnace in His holy work of preparing a saint for true sainthood. It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.

Without doubt we of this generation have become too soft to scale great spiritual heights. Salvation has come to mean deliverance from unpleasant things. Our hymns and sermons create for us a religion of consolation and pleasantness. We overlook the pace of the thorns, the cross and the blood. We ignore the function of the hammer and the file.

Strange as it may sound, it is yet true that much of the suffering we are called upon to endure on the highway of holiness is an inward suffering for which scarcely an external cause can be found. For our journey is an inward journey, and our real foes are invisible to the eyes of men. Attacks of darkness, of despondency, of acute self-depreciation may be endured without any change in our outward circumstances. Only the enemy and God and the hard-pressed Christian know what has taken place. The inward suffering has been great and a mighty work of purification has been accomplished, but the heart [knows] its own sorrow and no one else can share it. God has cleansed His child in the only way He can, circumstance being what they are. Thank God for the furnace.

Excerpt from A. W. Tozer

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Your identity: Buried and Risen with Christ

Understanding who you are in Christ is vital to your walk with God. At the core of the Christian’s message is the belief in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Bible states that Christ’s death is a picture of our death to sin. And when He rose again, we, too, have been raised to a new life under His headship.

Before your identity in Christ, your life was controlled and dominated by the things of this world. You lived and behaved according the world’s standards. You looked to the philosophies of this world for answers. However, when the gospel was revealed in your heart, you were transformed in your thinking. God removed you out of the darkness and placed into the light. You were placed Christ and given the Holy Spirit who guides you into living out this new life with holy living and godliness.

“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Romans 6:5-11

Coming under the headship of Christ means that you are a new person. Your desires, ambitions, and goals will change. You will possess a higher calling to be more like Christ. There is a change in your life to pursue Christ more fervently.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Identity in Christ: Your new position

At the moment of your salvation, many things occurred that were unseen. The Bible says that prior to your salvation, you were an enemy of God (Romans 5:6-10; James 4:4). However, after you trust in Jesus alone for your salvation, the Bible states, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). You have a new spiritual position in Christ and now God sees you differently.

You have a new relationship with God. Here are some passages that explain your new position in Christ Jesus:

You are a child of God - He is your Father – John 1:12; 1 John 3:1,2
You are a branch of the true Vine – John 15:1
You are a saint – Ephesians 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:2; Philippians 1:1
You are no longer a servant but a friend of Christ – John 15:15
You are a fellow heir with Christ – Romans 8:17
You are a fellow citizen in God's kingdom – Ephesians 2:19
You are born of God – 1 John 4:7
You are no longer a slave but a child and heir – Galatians 4:7
You are God’s workmanship to produce good works for Him – Ephesians 2:10
You are a member of Christ’s body – Ephesians 3:6; 5:30; 1 Corinthians 12
You are a light of the world – Ephesians 5:8
You are a letter of Christ – 2 Corinthians 3:2-3
You are a citizen of heaven – Philippians 3:20

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Identity in Christ

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” Galatians 2:20.



Knowing your identity in Christ makes all the difference in your life. Don’t be deceived by the enemy. Your identity is not defined by your wealth or possessions. Your identity is not defined by your popularity, your education, or your circumstances. These things may have shaped you but they do not define you. Your identity is defined in the person of Jesus Christ.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” John 15:1-11

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Supplication, Part 2

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:7-8

A tool to help you to pray (A.C.T.S.)

A (adoration):
C (confession):
T (thanksgiving):
S (supplication or intercession):
Intercessory prayer is standing between God and His people. It is an incredible responsibility to stand before God in behalf of others.
The Bible gives many cases of people who intercede for others in prayer. When God desired to blot out the people of Israel, Moses interceded for the people and asked God for mercy (Dt 9:13-14, 25-29).
Paul desired to be cursed in behalf of his people (Rom 9:3). There are contemporary examples of intercessory prayers like George Mueller who asked God to provide finances and resources for the orphanages he served.
God calls each of us to be intercessors. It is God’s desire that every believer be active in intercessory prayer. What a wonderful and exalted privilege we have in being able to come boldly before the throne of Almighty God with our prayers and requests!
The following is only a partial list of those for whom we are to offer intercessory prayers: all in authority (1 Timothy 2:2); ministers (Philippians 1:19); the church (Psalm 122:6); friends (Job 42:8); fellow countrymen (Romans 10:1); the sick (James 5:14); enemies (Jeremiah 29:7); those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44); those who forsake us (2 Timothy 4:16); and all men (1 Timothy 2:1).

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Church Needs Men of Prayer

We are constantly on a stretch, if not on a strain, to devise new methods, new plans, new organizations to advance the church and secure enlargement and efficiency for the gospel.
This trend of the day has a tendency to lose sight of the man or sink the man in the plan or organization. God’s plan is to make much of the man, far more of him than of anything else. Men are God’s method.
The church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men…What the church needs today is not more or better machinery, not new organizations or more novel methods.
[The church] needs men whom the Holy Spirit can use—men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Spirit does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men—men of prayer!


E. M. Bounds, Power through Prayer, 9–11.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Supplication, Part 1

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:7-8

A tool to help you to pray (A.C.T.S.)

A (adoration):
C (confession):
T (thanksgiving):
S (supplication or intercession):
In our acronym, we come to the section of asking God about our needs. Notice that this is the last element of prayer. Most people will come to God with their requests first. How different it would be if you began your prayer with adoring God first and praising Him. When you begin with God by rehearsing His goodness, His faithfulness, and His power, your perspective will be changed. When you come to God with your needs, you acknowledge several qualities about God and yourself:
• Your inadequacy versus God’s sufficiency
• Your dependency versus God’s independency
• Your lack of resources versus God’s riches

Requests to bring to God:

• Spiritual, mental, physical, emotional needs
• Deliverance from temptation
• Your enemies

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Thanksgiving in Prayer, Part 3

"The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings." - Eric Hoffer

A tool to help you to pray (A.C.T.S.)

A (adoration):
C (confession):
T (thanksgiving):
Imprisoned in a Siberian gulag (prison) for criticizing the Russian premier Joseph Stalin, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn later wrote the following words, "Thank you, prison, for having been in my life." Isn’t it interesting how this man’s prison rekindled his faith in God? Take time to thank God for everything you experience, even in your prison.

Thanksgiving is your celebration of praise and worship Ps 100:1-2
Thanksgiving is your acknowledgement of God and His works Ps 100:3
Thanksgiving is your entrance before a holy God Ps 100:4
Thanksgiving is your reflection on God’s goodness Ps 100:5

S (supplication or intercession):

Ways to show your thankfulness:

• Write down the names of people who have touched your life and those whom you have touched. Thank God for them!
• Look for ways to give back to others. Write a letter, invite someone for a cup of coffee or take them out to lunch, spend an afternoon with them, make a phone call, etc.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Thanksgiving in Prayer, Part 2

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name.” Psalm 100:4

A tool to help you to pray (A.C.T.S.)

A (adoration):
C (confession):
T (thanksgiving):
A spirit of ungratefulness is toxic and a mark of a spiritually immature Christian. When you are unthankful, it dishonors God and leads to a self-exalted life. An unthankful person is one who depends more on one self rather than God, and this attitude will eventually lead to feelings of hopelessness. Paul writes, “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Rom 1:21).
When we are thankful, we realize that someone has met a need for us, and what better time to remember our need. We required a substitute for our sinful lives. We were unable to come to God, so God came to us through His Son Jesus Christ. And through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have access to God through grace by faith. Take time to thank our God for His provision today!
S (supplication or intercession):
Application:
• Thank God for what was accomplished on the cross!
Every penalty of sin was placed on Christ (Is 53:6)
Jesus took your place as a sinner (2 Cor 5:21)
Jesus saved you from the wrath of God (Rom 5:9)
Jesus redeemed you (1 Cor 6:20; 1 Pet 1:18-19)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thanksgiving in Prayer

“Pray always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

A tool to help you to pray (A.C.T.S.)

A (adoration):
C (confession):
T (thanksgiving):
The attitude of thankfulness is prevalent in the Scripture. We are told to express our gratitude and appreciation to God. The word thankfulness is used in the Greek New Testament in two ways: 1) grace and 2) to confess/ acknowledge. “Thankfulness is a mental and/or verbal expression of one's acknowledgement and appreciation of God's person, His grace, blessings, and sovereign work in one's life and the world.” (J. Hampton Keathley, III, The Reasons for Thanksgiving, bible.org).
Why should we be thankful:
1. Because God has given us His Son (Jn 3:16).
2. Because God has given us His Word (2 Pet 1:20-21).
3. Because God has given us His Spirit (Rom 8:
4. Because God is good (Ps 106:1; 107:1; 8, 15, 21, 31).

S (supplication or intercession):

Application:
• Take time to thank God for His character and many blessings today!
• Begin a journal and start recording His hand of goodness and faithfulness in your life.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Why the Church Matters

Reasons why the church matters:

1. The church is the only institution that our Lord promised to build and to bless (Matt 16:18).
2. The church is the gathering place of true worshippers (Phil 3:3).
3. The church is the most precious assembly on earth since Christ purchased it with His own blood (Acts 20:28; 1 Cor 6:19; Eph 5:25; Col 1:20; 1 Pet 1:18; Rev 1:5).
4. The church is the earthly expression of the heavenly reality (Matt 6:10; 18:18).
5. The church will ultimately triumph both universally and locally (matt 16:18; Phil 1:6).
6. The church is the realm of spiritual fellowship (Heb 10:22-25; 1 John 1:3, 6-7).
7. The church is the proclaimer and protector of divine truth (1 Tim 3:15; Titus 2:1, 15).
8. The church is the chief place for spiritual edification and growth (Acts 20:32; Eph 4:11-16; 2 Tim 3:16-17; 1 Pet 2:1-2; 2 Pet 3:18).
9. The church is the launching pad for world evangelization (Mark 16:15; Titus 2:11).
10. The church is the environment where strong spiritual leadership develops and matures (2 Tim 2:2).

Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson, Comeback Churches, 32-33. Quoted from John MacArthur, Rediscovering Pastoral Ministry, Shaping Contemporary Ministry with Biblical Mandates; and Richard Mayhue and Robert Thomas, The Master’s Perspective on Pastoral Ministry

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Confession in Prayer: Part 2

“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account” (Romans 4:7-8).

A tool to help you to pray (A.C.T.S.)

A (adoration):
C (confession): With adoration, there are “You are” statements (“You are a holy God”), but in confession, there are “I am” statements (I am a sinner). The word “confess” does refer to an acknowledgment of Jesus Christ as Lord (Romans 10:9), but in this acronym, confession has more to do with acknowledging or admitting one’s sins before a holy God. When we confess our sins, we agree with God and what His Word says about the severity of sin. What does the Bible say about sin?
• All sin is sin against God (Matt 5:21-28)
• Sin separates us from God (Rom 3:23)
• Sin breaks the law of God (1 John 3:4)
• Sin brings forth death (Rom 6:23; James 1:15; 1 John 5:16)
• Christ died on the cross for your sins (Rom 8:3-4; 1 Pet 2:24)
You will not grow as a Christian unless you come open and humble with your sins. God is pleased with the “broken and contrite heart” (Ps 51:17).
T (thanksgiving):
S (supplication or intercession):

Application:
• Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any sin that is hindering your walk with God.
• Immediately confess that sin and seek the Lord’s forgiveness. He is eagerly waiting for you!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Confession in Prayer

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

A tool to help you to pray (A.C.T.S.)


A (adoration):
C (confession): The verb “confess” means “to agree with or say the same thing.” When we confess our sins, we don’t deny it, blame it on others, or cover it up. When we confess our sins, we agree with God and what His Word says about the severity of sin. We admit that sin destroys our walk with God and we grieve with God over our sins and how it offends Him.
• Unconfessed sin hinders our prayers (Ps 66:18)
• Unconfessed sin impedes our health and joy (Ps 32:3-4)
• Unconfessed sin destroys our livelihood (Prov 28:13)
• Unconfessed sin brings deception to our lives (1 John 1:8)
• Unconfessed sin pollutes our relationship with God (1 John 1:6, 10)
Note: God does not demand sinless perfection, but He does expect His people to humble themselves and seek His forgiveness. God is pleased with the “broken and contrite heart” (Ps 51:17).
T (thanksgiving):
S (supplication or intercession):

Application:
• Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any sin that is hindering your walk with God.
• Immediately confess that sin and seek the Lord’s forgiveness. He is eagerly waiting for you!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Love: the most powerful spiritual gift

"More people have been brought into the church by the kindness of real Christian love than by all the theological arguments in the world, and more people have been driven from the church by the hardness and ugliness of so-called Christianity than by all the doubts in the world."
-William Barclay

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Prayer: Knowing God

“I believe…that the proper study of God's elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father.” Quoted in J. I. Packer, Knowing God, 17.

A tool to help you to pray (A.C.T.S.)

A (adoration): Before thinking of anything else, focus on the person of God first. Begin your prayer with praise and admiration of our God. There are certain natural attributes of God that set Him apart from His creation:
His omnipresence: He is present everywhere at the same time (Ps 139)
His omniscience: He knows all things (Ps 139)
His omnipotence: He is all-powerful (Ps 139)
His immutability: He never changes (Mal 3:6; James 1:17)
His eternal nature: He has no beginning and no end (Ps 90:2)
His sovereignty: He controls all things (Ps 135:5-6)
His triunity: B. B. Warfield, “…there is one only and true God, but in the unity of the Godhead there are three coeternal and coequal Persons, the same in substance but distinct in subsistence” (“Trinity,” ISBE, 3012). See Dt 6:4; Is 46:9; Matt 28:19; 2 Cor 13:14.
C (confession):
T (thanksgiving):
S (supplication or intercession):

Application:
• Praise God for His great character!
• Meditate on an attribute or two this week on the character of God.