Follow the link below for the first episode of a new weekly podcast, The Scripture Memory Project, aimed at equipping the church to memorize Scripture.
The traditional manger scene, complete with Mary and Joseph, baby Jesus, the angel, the visiting shepherds, and the magi bearing gifts, proclaims to us the wonder and majesty of all that happened on the night of our Saviors birth.
“What child is this?” the Christmas carol asks.
As a result, these little ceramic manger scenes proclaim the fullness of Christmas. Jesus is God in flesh, Son of the Most High. Jesus is the King of King and Lord of Lords. Jesus is the Savior who will accomplish His mission of salvation by dying on the cross for our sins.
But there is one other connection between the manger scene that I found this morning in Romans chapter 8. Romans 8 is not the typical place we look for Christmas Scriptures, but it does speak about the motive of God the Father behind the Christmas story. Paul wrote that “God sent His son in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Romans 8.3), which is exactly what the angel said to Mary and Joseph, and what the apostle John wrote about in his theological Christmas story: “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1.14).
But Romans 8 reminds us of the full and complete reason why God became flesh. Yes, Jesus became flesh to save us from our sins. And yes, Jesus became flesh to be the perfect High Priest. But Jesus also became flesh in order that we may no longer walk according to the flesh but live according to the Spirit (see Romans 8.4-5). Continue reading “Christmas Dwelling (Romans 8.9-11)” »
I don’t know why, but I so often forget that the book of Psalms is a great instructional book on prayer. Since it was, and still is, the Jewish book of prayer and worship, it makes total sense, but I still have to be reminded of it over and over again.
A few weeks ago, our church’s weekly memory verse came from Psalm 118. And while the verse itself is quite incredible, the setting of the larger psalm is even better. It remains a great psalm to help me grow in my prayer life. I won’t include the entire text in this blog post, but will refer to specific verses instead, trusting that you can read the psalm in your own copy of Scripture should you choose.
The psalm is 22 verses long, and can be categorized, generally speaking, as a psalm of thanksgiving for it begins and ends with the phrase, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.” But the psalm goes much deeper, defining and experiencing this goodness of the Lord and why He is worthy of our gratitude and trust. And we should not miss these two primary themes in Psalm 118: thanksgiving and trust. The author gives very specific thanks for who God is and what He does, and then describes very specific ways that we can hope and trust in the Lord in the future as a result.
First, we should give thanks to the Lord because He is good (1). How often we take this for granted, but imagine if the Lord was like one of the pagan gods like Zeus, an unpredictable and emotional god who was a mixture of good and evil. Can you imagine what it would be like to pray to a deity whom we didn’t know if the deity was going to act out of his good side or his dark side? Praise the Lord, the Lord is always good.
Second, the steadfast love of the Lord endures forever (1-4). And remember, forever is a long time. God’s love for us is not temporary, and not subject to change. He won’t fall out of love with us, though that is surely what we deserve. And His steadfast love won’t just last for our time on this earth, but will endure forever. We will spend forever around the throne marveling at the steadfast love of the Lord! Continue reading “How Thanksgiving Leads to Trust (Psalm 118)” »
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Thom Rainer, President of Lifeway Christian Resources, wrote an article recently about the Top Ten Sources of Discouragement of Pastors. His top ten list, supplemented by comments from representative pastors, is as follows:
Dr. Rainer does his research well, and he has forgotten more about church work than I will ever know. And I am sure that in the 40,000 plus Southern Baptist churches in this nation that thousands of pastors read that article and were shouting “amen”!
But I have no idea what Dr. Rainer is talking about.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the sources of discouragement that he identifies, and I certainly understand that many pastors battle these sources each and every week of their ministries, but I don’t know these sources, I don’t experience these sources because the church in which I serve is a unique fellowship. Continue reading “A Few of the Reasons Why I am Thankful for the First Baptist Church of Benbrook” »
In Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth, he left us with one of the earliest accounts of the basic gospel truth:
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (1 Corinthians 15:1-9 ESV)
So many items are of interest in this brief statement. For instance, Paul was convinced that Christ’s death and resurrection was in accordance with the Old Testament Scriptures. Further, most of the eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Christ were still alive at the time Paul wrote this letter which means the veracity of the gospel claims could be fact checked and validated, further strengthening the veracity of the gospel message.
But one small phrase continues to jump off the page to me: “by which you are being saved.”
The various English translations are divided on how to translate this phrase. The NIV (by this gospel you are saved), NASB (by which also you are saved), KJV (by which also ye are saved), and HCSB (you are also saved by it) all translate the verb in the present tense.
But the ESV (by which you are being saved) and NRSV (through which also you are being saved) translate the verb with a continual action present tense. Which one is it and does it make a difference? Continue reading “Being Saved (1 Corinthians 15.2)” »
Dr. David Barash, an evolutionary biologist and professor of psychology at the University of Washington, recently published an opinion piece in the New York Times (September 27, 2014). He neither requested, nor is interested, in my response to his op-ed, but I think that “his talk” deserves to be challenged. Before I offer my rebuttal, I offer his complete article below:
“God, Darwin, and My College Biology Class” (David Barash)
Every year around this time, with the college year starting, I give my students The Talk. It isn’t, as you might expect, about sex, but about evolution and religion, and how they get along. More to the point, how they don’t.
I’m a biologist, in fact an evolutionary biologist, although no biologist, and no biology course, can help being “evolutionary.” My animal behavior class, with 200 undergraduates, is built on a scaffolding of evolutionary biology.
And that’s where The Talk comes in. It’s irresponsible to teach biology without evolution, and yet many students worry about reconciling their beliefs with evolutionary science. Just as many Americans don’t grasp the fact that evolution is not merely a “theory,” but the underpinning of all biological science, a substantial minority of my students are troubled to discover that their beliefs conflict with the course material.
Until recently, I had pretty much ignored such discomfort, assuming that it was their problem, not mine. Teaching biology without evolution would be like teaching chemistry without molecules, or physics without mass and energy. But instead of students’ growing more comfortable with the tension between evolution and religion over time, the opposite seems to have happened. Thus, The Talk. Continue reading “The Talk: My Response to David Barash” »
BIBLICAL EXAMPLES OF FASTING
Exodus 34.28 – Moses fasted for 40 days while receiving the Law from God
Deuteronomy 9.18 – Moses fasted for 40 days to intercede for the people after the golden calf
Judges 20.26 – the army of Israel fasted for one day, asking for the Lord’s direction in battle
1 Samuel 7.6 – the people fasted for one day, confessed their sins, and Samuel prayed for them
1 Samuel 31.13 – Saul’s army fasted seven days when they buried Saul
2 Samuel 1.12 - David fasted and mourned at Saul’s death
2 Samuel 12.16-23 – David fasted for seven days, asking God to spare the life of the child born to Bathsheba
1 Kings 19.8 – Elijah went without food for 40 days, though it was not called a “fast”
1 Kings 21.27 – Ahab humbled himself before the Lord and fasted
Ezra 8.21-23 – Ezra proclaimed a fast to ask the Lord for safe travel from Babylon to Jerusalem
Ezra 9.5 – Ezra sat appalled and fasted when he learned of the people’s faithlessness
Nehemiah 1.4 – Nehemiah fasted when he learned that the walls of Jerusalem was broken down
Nehemiah 9.1 – the people of Israel fasted in confession of sins for one day in a sacred assembly
Esther 4.3 – the Jews responded to the news of their impending slaughter with fasting
Esther 4.16 – Esther asked the Jews to fast on her behalf as she prepared to approach the king
Psalm 35.13 – the psalmist, David, fasted and prayed when his enemies were sick
Psalm 69.10 – the psalmist, David, fasted as part of his prayer to God for help
Psalm 109.24 – the psalmist, David, was weak as he prayed and fasted
Isaiah 58.1-14 – God desires the kind of fast that leads the people to holiness, love of neighbor, and working for justice
Jeremiah 36.6 – Baruch read Jeremiah’s words in the Temple on a day of fasting Continue reading “Where is Fasting in the Bible?” »
If the book of Psalms was the Hebrew prayer book and worship book, then we have much to learn about worship from the book of Psalms. And one of those lessons is that worship is serious business. Consider Psalm 113.
Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD! Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time forth and forevermore! From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the LORD is to be praised! The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens! Who is like the LORD our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people. He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the LORD! (Psalm 113:1-9)
The psalm starts out easy enough, encouraging the worshipper to praise the name of the Lord from this day into eternity. All day long, praise the name of the Lord. And if we did nothing in worship but repeat these words over and over, our worship would have a good beginning but would not journey on the path that the psalm writer intended. The psalm very soon demonstrates that to praise the name of the Lord is to wrestle with life through the eyes of God’s blessed name.
A few observations.
First, the psalm declares that the Lord is high above all nations. This statement means that God sits on a throne that is much greater than any earthly ruler. But more than that, His reign and rule is qualitative different than earthly rulers or the power of earthly nations. God is working out all of history towards His divinely appointed end, an end revealed in the New Testament which is to unite all things under the headship of Christ (see Ephesians 1.9-10). Not only is God more powerful than the nations, but He is orchestrating the nations to His end. Nations rise and fall at His bidding.
So far, so good. May the name of the Lord be praised. Continue reading “Serious Worship (Psalm 113)” »
As our church prepares to send a mission team to Bolivia to work with Danny and Vanessa Beams, allow me to paint a picture of Bolivia.
The territory that we now know as Bolivia was been inhabited for thousands of years by the indigenous Indians. One ruin dates back as far as 1500 BC. The Inca Empire spread to control the territory beginning in 1438, and when the Spanish Empire conquered the Inca Empire in 1533, the Bolivian territory fell under their control, too. Bolivian silver was an important resource for the Spanish Empire, and they enslaved much of the population to mine it from the earth. After hundreds of years of Spanish colonial rule, the revolution against Spain began in 1809. Simon Bolivar was the political/military figure that led much of South America to gain its independence from Spain. Finally, after years of war, independence from Spain became a reality for Bolivia in 1825.
The rule of Bolivia was far from stable, with as many as 200 military coups taking place over the next 160 years. During these unstable times, Bolivia lost almost half of its territory to neighboring nations, mostly the resource rich portions. Finally, in 1982, the government stabilized with a democratically elected government that remains in place today. The current President, Evo Morales, is the first indigenous Bolivian president. Morales was elected under the political banner of “moving towards socialism” and returning the power of the nation to the indigenous people. However, by some standards, it is one of the most corrupt nations in all of South America.
The population of Bolivia is 60% indigenous peoples, commonly called Amerindians. The population is diverse, and the constitution recognizes 36 languages in addition to Spanish which is spoken by 88% of the population. Tin and natural gas are two significant natural resources. Life expectancy is 68 years, and the majority of the population has no access to health care. Some rate Bolivia as the second poorest nation in the southern hemisphere, behind Haiti. Continue reading “The Nations: Bolivia” »
My wife took this picture at our local Barnes and Nobles. Two worldviews side by side on the same shelf. One devoted to helping one person understand the other’s love language in order to better sacrificially love them. While I haven’t read the other book, judging by book summaries and reviews, it is a worldview about a relationship between two people who sign a contract agreeing to a sexual relationship without any romance, and a bondage/submission sexual relationship at that.
Two distinct worldviews about the role of sex in a relationship or whether or not a relationship is even required for sex. Two distinct worldviews about the nature of love and whether or not love is required for sex.
Which one do you think is selling more books?
Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. Revelation 2:10 (ESV)