The Key to Long Life and Gladness

October 21, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Faith, Meditations, Politics

Proverbs 10:27–30 (NKJV)

27 The fear of the LORD prolongs days, But the years of the wicked will be shortened. 28 The hope of the righteous will be gladness, But the expectation of the wicked will perish. 29 The way of the LORD is strength for the upright, But destruction will come to the workers of iniquity. 30 The righteous will never be removed, But the wicked will not inhabit the earth.

What is the key to long life and gladness? This is a pressing question that our generation continues to ask. However, because we have apostatized and become a nation of idolaters, our answers are many and vacuous. We have lost our way. So we suggest that the key to long life and gladness is public education, or sexual experimentation, or social justice, or male chauvinism, or women’s empowerment, or state funded health care, or confiscatory taxation, or particular diets and supplements, or violating our marriage oaths. In our polytheistic culture, everyone seems to have their own answer.

But Solomon tells us that the correct answer is the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord prolongs days. It is the one who hopes in the Lord that will experience gladness; the one who walks in the Lord’s ways, observing His moral law, that will be strong; the one who listens to the Word of God and implements it, that will never be moved. As David teaches us to sing in Psalm 1 – Blessed is the man who… delights in the law of the Lord…he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither. The key to long life and fruitfulness is the fear of the Lord for the righteous, Solomon tells us, has an everlasting foundation. When the winds blow and the rains fall, it is the one who builds his house on the rock, who hears the words of Christ and does them, who will stand. Indeed, even if he perishes in this life, he knows that when Christ returns in glory to judge the living and the dead, he will be raised eternal and will serve the Lord in gladness forever. The fear of the Lord prolongs days.

So what is it that will bring death and desolation? Is it global warming (sorry, climate change), overpopulation, intolerance and discrimination, sexual repression, unhappiness, poverty, capitalism, processed foods? Solomon tells us that the correct answer is wickedness: the years of the wicked will be shortened, his expectation, his hope, will perish. The one who works iniquity, who violates God’s moral law, will be destroyed and will not inherit the earth. As David teaches us to sing in Psalm 1 – The ungodly [will not flourish], but are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. Though the wicked may prosper for a time, God will bring their plans and expectations to naught. He will destroy them and the earth will vomit them out. They are like a foolish man who builds his house upon sand – when the rains and floods come, his house will be destroyed. And this destruction will reach its culmination when Christ returns in glory to judge the living and the dead. The years of the wicked will be shortened.

So where have you placed your hope for long life? What do your habits and passions reveal about your beliefs? Have you been distracted by the cacophony of voices surrounding us? Or have you remained centered on the answer that Solomon gives? Is your life devoted to knowing and serving God, to understanding His moral law and obeying His precepts, or have you become distracted by other things? Where have you placed your hope?

Reminded that righteousness is the key to long life and gladness, and that wickedness brings destruction, let us confess that as Americans we have abandoned the living God and embraced wickedness, and let us confess that we who bear His name have become confused by the vacuous answers given by our neighbors. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. As we confess our sins to the Lord, let us kneel together as you are able.

Ascension Sunday

May 28, 2017 in Ascension Sunday, Bible - OT - Daniel, King Jesus, Meditations, Politics
Daniel 7:13-14 (NKJV)
13
“I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. 14 Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed.
Today is Ascension Sunday. On this day we celebrate the moment when the Lord Jesus Christ, having taught the disciples for 40 days following His resurrection, ascended into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. Ascension Day was actually last Thursday – 40 days since Easter. However, we haven’t yet reached the point of celebrating Ascension Day during the week and so we celebrate it on the Sunday following.
But why celebrate this event at all? What’s so important about the Ascension? The prophet Daniel helps us answer these questions. In chapter 7 Daniel has a vision of various animals or beasts that would rule the kingdoms of the earth in the centuries to come: a lion with eagle’s wings; a bear with three ribs in its mouth; a leopard with four wings; and, finally, a great beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong, having iron teeth with which it devoured all other kingdoms. Daniel’s visions clearly anticipated the rise of the Babylonian, Persian, Macedonian, and Roman Empires.
As Daniel was meditating on these visions and wondering what they might mean, something else happened. Suddenly the Son of Man, a human figure not an animal or beastly figure, appeared. (You may recall that this title “Son of Man” was Jesus’ favorite.) This Son of Man came up to the Ancient of Days (note that this is not describing the Second Coming, but the Ascension); He comes up to the Ancient of Days, the Ruler over all earthly kingdoms, and what happens? The Ancient of Days gave the Son of Man dominion, glory, and a kingdom – in other words, He transferred power from the animal kingdoms to the Son of Man.

So here’s the question: power over what? Over just the land of Israel? Over just the people of God? No. The Ancient of Days makes the Son of Man Ruler over all the nations of the earth. Listen to Daniel: “Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.” The dominion that the beastly kingdoms of Babylon, Persia, Macedonia, and Rome had exercised over the earth is replaced with the rule of the Son of Man.
Brothers and sisters, Jesus reigns, let the earth be glad! Jesus reigns, let the nations rejoice! The rule of the beasts of the earth, the governmental principle that might makes right, has come to an end to be replaced by the rule of the Son of Man and the exaltation of justice. “His dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.” And the first thing He did, on the day of Pentecost, was pour out His Spirit upon His people to enable them to carry the message of His reign throughout the earth.

Reminded that Jesus is Lord of all, Ruler of all, and that it is Him that all men, nations, and languages are to serve, that it is Him we are to proclaim as King of kings and Lord of lords, let us confess that our nation refuses to honor Him and that we Christians frequently fail to bear witness to Him. Let us kneel as we confess.

The Glory of Male and Female

May 21, 2017 in Bible - OT - Genesis, Homosexuality, Marriage, Meditations, Politics, Sexuality
Genesis 1:27 (NKJV)
27
So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Some of you may recall studying Plato’s doctrine of the forms when you were a student. For Plato the world we see about us, the world that we can see, touch, taste, hear, and smell is a world of shadows that only dimly reflects the real world, the immaterial world of the forms. For example, corresponding to the imperfect circles that we draw in this world is an ideal circle in the world of the forms. The closer our circles get to that form, the nearer perfection they also get.
The ways in which Plato’s idea of the forms impacted Greek civilization are myriad, some good and some bad. In the bad category is the way in which it impacted the Greek perception of humanity. For the Greeks almost uniformly insisted that the ideal human form was male – and, remember, the closer one gets to the form, the closer one gets to perfection.
Consider two implications of this myth for Greek culture. First, the Greeks openly tolerated and even praised the perversions of sodomy, homosexuality, and pederasty. After all, if the perfect form is male then why shouldn’t one male be attracted to the perfect form of another, whether adult or child?
Second, the Greeks degraded women and viewed them as a lesser form of human since they were further from the ideal. Consequently, the more like men women became the more “human” they became. So the legends of the Amazonians were spread by men who wanted women to be more like, you guessed it, men.
Notice the contrast between this ancient Greek fable, with its exaltation of perversion and denigration of women, and the revelation of God in Genesis. Here in Genesis we are told that God made man in His image, according to His likeness. But lest we travel down the Platonic sewer pipe, God informs us that by man He means male and female together. God created man, male and female, in His image after His likeness. It is not the male who is the image of God; nor is it the female who is the image of God; rather it is male and female together – unity and diversity in harmony – who bear the image of God and reveal the character of God.
So what does this mean? First, it means that God created men and women distinct so that they might join together in the covenant of marriage and enjoy sexual satisfaction. Our complementary sexuality was God’s idea – it was not a random mutation, not a fortuitous accident, not a meaningless roll of the dice. God created us male and female; God created our biology; consequently, God delights when a man pursues a woman with honor, commits himself to her alone, and directs his passions to pleasing her and enabling her to have children. God loves that type of romance; do you?
Second, it means that those of the opposite sex whom God has placed in our lives – whether wives or husbands, mothers or fathers, daughters or sons, sisters or brothers, or just friends – have been put there to teach us about Him. They, in company with us, bear the image of God and so are to be not simply tolerated, not simply endured, but treasured, respected, honored, and listened to as women or as men. God created them as women and as men and He intends to teach us about Himself through them. So are you listening to the lessons God is intending to teach?

Reminded that sin has distorted our perception of the opposite sex and that we can tend to despise those who are different from us rather than receiving them in the fear of God, let us kneel and confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Church’s Task of Discipling the Nations

May 8, 2017 in Baptism, Bible - NT - Matthew, Discipline, Evangelism, King Jesus, Politics, Sanctification
Matthew 28:18–20 (NKJV)
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
The passage before us today has appropriately been labeled the Church’s Great Commission. This commission contains both indicatives (statements of fact, of what is the case) and imperatives (commands, moral obligations). Let us consider each in turn. First, the indicatives. Jesus gives two. First, He informs the disciples that He has been given all authority in heaven and on earth – through His conquest of sin, death, and Hades, He is now Lord of all, God’s Messiah come to rule the nations with a rod of iron. Second, He assures the disciples that He will be with them forever – though He would be absent physically, He would remain present with them, by the power of His Spirit, to comfort, encourage, enlighten, and empower them to fulfill the task He has given them.
So what is this task? What are the imperatives, the commands? What is the commission? Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations… Notice that the task is quite clear: our task is to disciple the nations. What does this mean? Well, our Lord explains the task by adding two phrases: baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you. Notice the two components of the discipling process: baptizing and teaching. Baptizing introduces someone into the life of faith; teaching them to observe Jesus’ commandments helps that same person learn to live out the faith. In other words, our task is both to bring the nations into the faith and to bring them up in the faith.
It is not sufficient for someone to be incorporated into the faith if they remain, in their thinking and acting, an outsider. If a mobster gets a job on the police force, we won’t rejoice if he’s simply puts on a uniform; we’ll only rejoice if he actually becomes an officer in heart and mind. So too – those who are brought into the faith through baptism are to be taught to observe the things that Christ has taught through instruction. Discipleship, in other words, involves both conversion and transformation.
Paul writes in Colossians 1:28, “we preach [Jesus], warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man [mature] in Christ Jesus.” Paul’s words reveal that the church is called not simply to get people “saved” or to get them to “make decisions” for Christ, but to grow them up in the faith. We are to disciple the nations not just evangelize them. We are to aim for their growth and maturity. In other words, we are to create civilizations not mere converts.
Today we will see that the task Jesus lays out for the Church in the Great Commission is the same basic task to which Jesus calls parents. We are called to disciple our children. We are to train and instruct them so that they mature in Christ. We are to bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Parents are to warn their children and teach their children in all wisdom, that they may present their children mature in Christ Jesus. That is the task.
Parenting involves, in other words, not only having a child but raising that child in the fear of God. Any fool who has passed puberty can sire or conceive a child – can becomea parent; however, it takes a man or woman of faith to raise a child in the fear of God – to be a parent.

So reminded that Christ is the exalted Ruler over all, that He remains with His Church to this day, and that He has summoned us to disciple the nations, including our own children, let us confess that we have often distorted or neglected our calling. And as we confess, let us kneel as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

A Prayer for our Service Men & Women

May 4, 2017 in Bible - OT - Psalms, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Politics, Prayer, Thankfulness

Today was the National Day of Prayer. Our local pastors gathered at McEuen Park for our annual lunch time prayer gathering. I was asked to pray on behalf of our service men and women. This was my prayer:

Psalm 105:4 – Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His face evermore!

Almighty and Everlasting God, unless You guard the city, the watchman stays awake in vain; so we come seeking Your guidance, Your protection, and Your blessing on our service men and women.

Guide them, O Lord. Give them wisdom to know the right and honorable thing to do in any and every circumstance. To the commanders: grant that they would submit the might of our armed forces to the principles of right and justice which You have revealed in Your eternal law; that we might never, as a people, permit the ends to justify the means and that we would declare war and wage war justly. To all our service men and women: grant that they would be brave, courageous, and conscientious amid conflict; that they would be a credit to this nation and to the principles for which we stand.

Protect them, O Lord. Some men trust in chariots, some trust in the horse, but we will depend upon the Name of Christ our Lord. Protect them from the hand of the enemy; protect their marriages from the stresses of military life; protect their children from the absence of a parent; and protect their minds and hearts from the terrors of war.

Bless them, O Lord. Bless their plans and their strategies. Grant our generals wisdom and insight. Grant our service men and women satisfaction in their labor, joy in their service, and excellence in their calling. Grant that they might never have cause to be ashamed of serving this nation – that we would reflect the honor and courage to which we call them.

Finally, we ask Your forgiveness for increasingly placing our women in combat roles and even considering drafting them for military service. Forgive us, and grant us men willing to sacrifice their own lives and reputations to protect the women and children of our society. All this we ask in the Name of Christ our Lord,

Amen.

Why use wine in the Lord’s Supper?

March 27, 2017 in Bible - NT - John, Bible - NT - Mark, Bible - NT - Matthew, Communion, Meditations, Politics
Matthew 26:26–30 (NKJV)
26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” 27 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. 29 But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” 30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
For several weeks, we have been explaining some of the traditions that we include in our corporate worship. Last week we touched upon our practice of celebrating the Lord’s Supper weekly; this week let us consider our practice of using wine in the Lord’s Supper. Why wine?
This is not merely an academic question. As your pastor, I know that many of you are tempted by alcohol; a number who have a history of alcohol abuse in your families or in your own life. Our use of wine in communion is for some of you a personal challenge.
Further, we are part of a broader evangelical subculture which has a history of opposing alcohol. While Lutherans and Roman Catholics were almost uniformly critical of the prohibitionist movement in America, many of our evangelical forefathers jumped on the wagon. “Don’t smoke, don’t drink, don’t chew; and don’t go with girls that do!”
So given these personal and historical factors, why do our elders persist in using wine? One of the questions that we evangelicals are known for asking is, “What would Jesus do?” In the matter of wine, the way to answer that question is to ask first, “What did Jesus do?” And the NT answers that question clearly: Jesus made wine, Jesus drank wine, and Jesus used wine to commemorate God’s salvation.
First, Jesus made wine. The first miracle that Jesus performed was turning water into wine at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. And, as the question that the master of the feast asks the groom makes plain, this wasn’t grape juice. “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!” (Jn 2:10) Jesus made excellent wine.
Second, Jesus drank wine. Jesus contrasts His ministry with that of John the Baptist in this way, “John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners’” (Mt 11:18-19). Jesus came drinking – and many accused Him of being a winebibber, a drunkard. Such an accusation would hardly stick were Jesus known as a teetotaler. Jesus drank wine.
Finally, Jesus used wine to commemorate God’s salvation. When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, He used the fruit of the vine as a symbol of His shed blood. Refrigeration was not common in the ancient world. When the Bible references “the fruit of the vine”, therefore, it refers almost exclusively to wine. And if Jesus used wine to celebrate the Supper, why wouldn’t we?
So what did Jesus do? He made wine, drank wine, and used wine to commemorate God’s salvation. And here’s a very important point: Jesus did all this within a cultural context in which drunkenness was a common problem; He established this for His Church knowing that many of His disciples would be tempted by alcohol. So why did He do it? Why didn’t He just use water like the Mormons do?
Because in using wine within the context of the Supper, Jesus declared that wine is good in itself. The problem with humanity is not there in the cup; the problem is here in our heart. Drunkenness proceeds out of the heart (Mk 7:20-23). Communion puts the use of wine in a holy, a sacred context. By giving me wine for communion, Jesus is teaching me that it is possible for me to use and not abuse this gift to the glory of my Creator.
So what of you? Have you thanked God for the gift of wine? Further, have you been using that gift to His glory or have you been abusing it to your own shame? Reminded that God has given us wine to use to the honor of His Name and that we often deny or abuse His good gifts because our hearts are corrupt, let us confess our sin to the Lord. And as you are able, let us kneel together as we do so. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Only Two Things Wrong with Our Schools

March 2, 2017 in Apologetics, Children, Ecclesiology, Education, Politics, Quotations

“There are only two things wrong with our schools: everything that our children don’t learn there and everything they do. The public schools, with their vast political and bureaucratic machinery, are beyond reform. That does not mean that persons of good will should not offer themselves up as missionaries of truth and goodness and beauty, to teach there, as in partibus furibundis. But we should be quite mad to send our children there. We send missionaries to cannibals. We do not serve the cannibals our boys and girls.”

Anthony Esolen, Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture, p. 54.

Sanctity of Human Life Sunday

January 23, 2017 in Abortion, Bible - OT - Ezekiel, Children, Meditations, Politics
Ezekiel 16:20-21 (NKJV)
Moreover you took your sons and your daughters, whom you bore to Me, and these you sacrificed to [your idols] to be devoured. Were your acts of harlotry a small matter, that you have slain My children and offered them up to [your gods] by causing them to pass through the fire?
Once upon a time there was a man and wife who longed to have a child. However, for some years the wife could not conceive. Finally, to their great delight, she found herself with child and husband and wife eagerly awaited her birth
It just so happened that the couple’s home overlooked a walled garden that was owned by a terrible witch. As the wife’s pregnancy progressed, she developed an intense craving for the nut lettuce or rapunzel that she saw growing there. She begged and pleaded with her husband to get her some of the rapunzel but he refused, knowing it was wrong to steal and being afraid of the witch. However, when his wife became so desperate that she ceased eating altogether, he relented, broke into the garden, and stole some rapunzel.
His wife was delighted. She made herself a large salad and devoured the rapunzel. But her desire for the rapunzel only increased. The next day she demanded more – and again the next day. But just as the husband was making away with the lettuce, he was discovered by the witch. Great was her wrath as she loomed above him.
“How dare you steal from my garden?” demanded the witch. “Prepare to die!”
“Please,” begged the husband, “have mercy! I would not have dared to steal from your garden but my wife is pregnant with our first child and declared that she would die without this rapunzel.”
At these words the witch’s demeanor softened though her lips curled in derision and her eyes bore a hungry look. “Very well, you may take the rapunzel. But this is the price you must pay – when your wife has borne this child, you must give it to me.”
The man agreed. After all, what else could he do? He had stolen from her garden and would lose his own life if he refused. And perhaps the witch would forget the bargain? So he departed with the rapunzel. Soon his wife gave birth to their child, a lovely daughter. Immediately the witch appeared to claim her prize and the parents watched helpless as she took the child away. They were brokenhearted.
The story of Rapunzel reminds us that when we choose to serve other gods, they frequently give us their goods – even as the witch gave away her rapunzel – but these goods always come at a price; and that price is frequently our children. It was for this abomination, the abomination of handing their children over to other gods, that God exhorted our fathers through His prophet Ezekiel.
Moreover you took your sons and your daughters, whom you bore to Me, and these you sacrificed to [your idols] to be devoured. Were your acts of harlotry a small matter, that you have slain My children and offered them up to [your gods] by causing them to pass through the fire?
Today we celebrate Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. Today is the 44th anniversary of the diabolical Roe v Wade decision. Since then Americans alone have slaughtered over 59 million children, offered them up to our gods and polluted our hands with blood. In America the gods that we have been worshiping – consumerism, greed, immorality, power, influence, convenience, beauty – have been demanding our children. We’ve made a pact with the witch and now she’s taking our children. Even more tragically, many of these slaughtered children were slain by professing Christians. We have taken God’s children and caused them to pass through the fire.
Is there hope? Only in our Prince, the Lord Jesus Christ. He can rescue us and our children from our false gods, deliver us from the madness that has overtaken us, and take us to His own kingdom. For though He too demands our children, He demands them that they may live not that they may die. So let us listen to Him, hear His voice, and turn from the false gods we have worshiped.

Reminded that we have been worshiping other gods and sacrificing our children to them, let us kneel as we’re able and confess our sins to the Lord.

No Confidence in the Flesh

November 1, 2016 in Bible - NT - Philippians, Ecclesiology, Politics, Quotations

“The person who puts confidence in the flesh says, ‘Belonging to my tribe and observing my ritual make me secure in my relationship with God.’ In contrast to those who put such confidence in the flesh, the true people of God, the circumcision, put no confidence in national status and religious ceremony. Boasting in Christ Jesus excludes putting confidence in the flesh. Although national identities and sacred ceremonies are not viewed as bad in themselves, they are rejected as the foundation for one’s relationship with God or with fellow believers.”

          G. Walter Hansen, The Letter to the Philippians, p. 222.