A Monopoly of Outcasts

The church is a gathering of the redeemed. We are made holy. We were not innately holy. The church is a place where those who know they are sick come to the Great Physician (cf. Lk. 5:31). The church is a monopoly of outcasts. It is filled with struggling ex-thieves, ex-drunkards, ex-adulterers, and ex-revilers (cf. 1 Cor. 6:9-11).

The church is (or should be!) a welcoming place for all because we have all been welcomed at Jesus’ own expense. Colossians radically says that in the church “there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all” (Col. 3:11).

The church is filled with all sorts of people with all sorts of problems. Let’s not be prideful about our problems and prudish about the problems of others. 

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Why should I believe the Bible? (pt 9)

Some doubt the authority of the Bible but as we have already seen there are actually a lot of reasons to believe the Bible. The Bible itself also claims to be necessary and… 

Authoritative 

The Bible claims repeatedly to be more than mere human words. The Bible says it is inspired—breathed out—by God (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The Bible has the authority, not as words from men, but as words from God (1 Thess. 2:13). “When the Bible speaks, God speaks.”[1] Wayne Grudem says, “The authority of Scripture means that all the words of Scripture are God’s words in such a way that to disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God.”

The Bible is not merely a record of what God has said in the past but a means of God speaking today. That is a good thing. We need to hear what God has to say. We need God’s guidance and we need an authority. God alone is equipped to be that authority. 

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A Brief Theology of Emotions

We all have emotions. How often do we consider emotions from a biblical perspective though?… Yet, what better place to turn than God’s word! So, what does the Bible say about emotions?

Emotions are part of God’s good design

First, it is important to realize that “Our emotional capacities are part of our nature as personal beings created in the image and likeness of God.”[1] Second, Emotions are part of God’s good design.[2] Third, We often don’t think about it but we are actually commanded to be emotional. For example, Psalm 2:11 says “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.” And there’s a bunch of other examples (Deut. 28:47-48; Ps. 51:17; 97:10; 100:2; Matt. 6:25-34; Rom. 12:9, 15; Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:15).

So, Jay Adams says:

“The fact is that there are no damaging or destructive emotions per se. Our emotional makeup is totally from God. All emotions of which He made us capable are constructive when used properly (i.e., in accordance with biblical principles)… All emotions, however, can become destructive when we fail to express them in harmony with biblical limitations and structures.”[3]

You may have heard: “Don’t follow your emotions” or “don’t let your feelings get the best of you,” or “use your head.” But emotions are not bad in themselves. God created us with emotions.

Even our negative emotions are not always wrong. It’s not always bad to feel bad. Sometimes feeling sad and angry is good and right. It’s important to realize that in the Psalms the genre of lament is most dominant.[4] It is also important to remember that there is no book of Joys but there is a book of Lamentations.[5] We don’t always have just “good” feelings and that’s okay. On the other hand, God made us at least in part to experience profound joy and to experience this forever, Psalm 16:11 says. So, our first take away is for us to realize that emotions are not bad in themselves.

But what’s wrong with emotions? Or, why is it that sometimes we can’t or shouldn’t trust our emotions? Because…

Emotions are broken by sin

A lot of us remember the (true) story of Adam and Eve. John Frame has said, “the fall… was rebellion of the whole person—intellect as much as emotions, perception, and will—against God.”[6] After looking at Genesis 3:1-6 (notice the highlighting) we can agree with what Frame says:

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Insights from Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret

I really enjoyed reading Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret. You should read it. Here are some observations from my reading…  

Summary of the book: Trust. Trust and unreserved commitment to the Lord is how I would summarize Hudson Taylor and this book. Before he went to China he said: “‘I shall have no claim on anyone for anything. My only claim will be on God. How important to learn, before leaving England, to move man, through God, by prayer alone'” (33). And that’s what we see happen. He learned to trust God alone. He trusted God even with his children. He said, “‘I find it impossible to think that our heavenly Father is less tender and mindful of His children than I, a poor earthly father, am of mine. No, He will not forget us!'” (125). And in dark days, God enabled[1] Taylor to say: “The battle is the Lord’s, and He will conquer. We may fail—do fail continually—but He never fails” (p. 154).

Insights from the book:

  1. The impact that one person can have is tremendous when they trust the Lord and have an unreserved commitment to do His will (cite the number of believers in China now, p. 12).
  2. “We want, we need, we may have, Hudson Taylor’s secret and his success, for we have Hudson Taylor’s Bible and his God” (p. 16). That is such a good reminder. The same God that brought Israel out of Egypt, rose Jesus from the dead, and provided for Hudson Taylor is the same God who is Lord of all now.
  3. Hudson Taylor wore Chinese clothes even though this was unprecedented and looked down upon by some (cf. e.g. p. 65). This is an important reminder that God and His Word must govern us, not the expectations of others.
  4. Hudson Taylor had “the Lord’s own yearning of heart over the lost and perishing” (19 cf. p. 32, 112). “We may have more wealth in these days, better education, greater comfort in traveling and in our surroundings even as missionaries, but have we the spirit of urgency, the deep, inward convictions that moved those that went before us; have we the same passion of love, personal love for the Lord Christ? If these are lacking, it is a loss for which nothing can compensate” (p. 127). This reminds me that I need (God help me!) to develop at heart for the lost and love and passion for the Lord Jesus Christ who is their only hope.
  5. “It was not easy to keep first things first and make time for prayer. Yet without this there cannot but be failure and unrest” (p. 22). Prayer and delighting myself in God is vital.
  6. “The One Great Circumstance of Life, and of all lesser, external circumstances as necessarily the kindest, wisest, best, because either ordered or permitted by Him” (p. 79). I need to have a bigger view of God. This is vital in part because “The secret of faith that is ready for emergencies is the quiet, practical dependence upon God day by day which makes Him real to the believing heart” (p. 100).
  7. “’My father sought the Truth,’ he continued sadly, ‘and died without finding it. Oh, why did you not come sooner?’” (p. 95). This quote reminds me of the absolute importance of heralds going to share the good news of Jesus.
  8. “In these days of easy-going Christianity, is it not well to remind ourselves that it really does cost to be a man or woman whom God can use? One cannot obtain a Christlike work save at great price” (p. 27). This quote—and Hudson Taylor’s life—reminds me and reinvigorates me to seek hard after the Lord.
  9. “How then to have our faith increased? Only by thinking of all that Jesus is and all He is for us: His life, His death, His work, He Himself as revealed to us in the Word, to be the subject of our constant thoughts. Not a striving to have faith… but a looking off to the Faithful One seems all we need; a resting in the Loved One entirely, for time and for eternity” (p. 158). This quote answers a very important question. How to have more faith? Meditate on Jesus!
  10. “If God should place me in a serious perplexity, must He not give me much guidance; in positions of great difficulty, much grace; in circumstances of great pressure and trial, much strength? No fear that His resources are mine, for He is mine, and is with me and dwells in me” (p. 165). This is a good reminder that whatever I face, God will be there with me as my ever-present, every-ready, and all-powerful help.

Personal application:

  1. I need to trust the God who is simultaneously the Lord of the universe and my Father.
  2. I need to faithfully pray in reliance and desperation to the One who is Lord and Father.
  3. I need to renew my commitment to spend and be spent for the Lord. I need to renew my commitment to discipline myself for the sake of godliness.
  4. I need to meditate more on Jesus (His person and work).
  5. I need to trust that God can use one poor and needy sinner such as I to accomplish great things for His glory.
  6. I need to develop more of a heart for those who are without hope and without God in the world.
  7. I need to keep first things first and seek God above all things—even good, healthy, and productive things.
  8. I need to remember that whatever challenges are in front of me God’s grace is sufficient. God is all-powerful and He is with me. He is my Father!

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[1] Taylor says, “I was enabled by His grace to trust in Him, He has always appeared for my help” (p. 153).

Jesus on Anxiety

We all worry. We all struggle with anxious hearts. 

Jesus’ words in Matthew 6 are helpful. Listen to what Jesus says: 

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt. 6:25-34).

Jesus is talking to poor people. Some of them are subsistence farmers. They hope each day to have enough food to make it to the next day. The people Jesus is talking to have no running water in their homes and no toilets. They have no refrigerators and no supermarkets. They have no health care. Their welfare and even their lives depend on whether or not they get the right amount of rain. 

We have many “cares of the world” (Matt. 13:22) and we have to build bigger houses for our “abundance of possesions” (Lk. 12:15). We have many things to think and fret about.[1] So, sometimes it’s hard to see how what Jesus says applies to us. Yet, the truth is, if the first recipients of Jesus’ words were called not to be anxious, how much more does it apply to us?! 

This passage applies to us. The problem is we often fail to understand Jesus’ first point and so it’s downhill from there for us. 

1. First Jesus makes a point by asking a question: isn’t life more than ______________? (v. 25)

The way we answer this question tells us a lot about where our hearts are and how much help we will get from this passage. If our life is all about stuff then we have to fret and be anxious. Because we have to protect our stuff! It is of absolute importance. 

2. Jesus tells us to look at the ravens (Lk. 12:24).

Why?

Well, do you know what a raven is? They are rather nasty. Ravens were listed as unclean animals in the Old Testament (Lev. 11:15; Deut. 14:14). Ravens are trash birds. And they’re like the only bad animal in “Winnie the Pooh.” So, what’s Jesus’ point? He is saying God takes care of ravens. Ravens! He’s going to take care of you! Don’t be anxious. God will provide.

3. Jesus tells us about the benefits of anxiety: Nothing. Anxiety adds… nothing. It doesn’t help at all. (v. 27)

4. Jesus tells us to look around to see the lilies and wildflowers. Who takes care of the wildflowers? No one. Well, that’s kinda right but kinda really wrong. No human takes care of the wildflowers. God does! God beautifully dresses wildflowers. They don’t worry. God takes care of them. We should trust God, He is capable.

5. Jesus tells us that we should be different from those who don’t know God. We shouldn’t worry and ask: “Will I have what I need to wear?” Why? Because we have a Father in heaven. We have a very capable Father. Through Jesus, God is our Dad.

Wow.

So, we should trust that our heavenly Father will provide for all our needs (v. 32). And He will know what our needs truly are. 

Of course, if we read this and we don’t trust our heavenly Father then it comes down to us. We must fret and fear and plan. We have every reason to be anxious. If we think we are lord of the universe and king of the domain then we must be always on patrol. We must protect our stuff, even if it means no sleep. 

6. Jesus tells us there is something better to seek.[2] Something that can’t make us fearful because nothing can touch it. Jesus’ Kingdom cannot be shaken. And it is the Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom (Lk. 12:32). That is good news for the weary. 

7. Jesus tells us to be where we’re at. Today’s troubles are sufficient. Let’s be where we are today and do what God has called us to today. And let’s trust Him for tomorrow. 

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. “Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (v. 34). 

Verses to Instill Faith and Fight Fear

As we wrestle to fight against anxiety let’s fight our fear with faith. Here are some verses that have helped fuel my faith: 
 
“We can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'” (Heb. 13:6).
 
“My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth” (Ps. 121:2).
 
“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
 
“Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you” (Ps. 55:22).
 
“Even to your old age I am He, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save” (Is. 46:4).
 
“From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen
a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for Him” (Is. 64:4).

 

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[1] “A worrier is storing ‘treasure’ in the wrong place. If what you most value can be taken away or destroyed, then you set yourself up for anxiety” (David Powlison, “’Don’t Worry,’” 58).

[2] Edward T. Welch says, “Whatever is most important is the thing that rules us” (Edward T. Welch, Running Scared, 198). He goes on to say, “Do the opinions of other people control you? What you love and value is showing. You love reputation, love, respect, adoration” (Ibid., 199). 

Is Homosexuality Part of God’s Good Design?

“Why does a person’s sexual preference matter? If a guy loves another guy why can’t they hook up? Why would God have a problem with that? God created everything, right? So, did He create homosexuality?”

I appreciate those questions. They are important because sex and sexual identity are deeply personal as well as powerful.[1] So, the main question seems to be: Did God create homosexuality, is it part of God’s good design? In order to answer this question, I need to ask you a question. Do you consider yourself a tolerant person?[2] Will you hear me out and listen to my perspective?

If you answered that you are a tolerant person, that’s great. That will be helpful as we look at this controversial subject. So, I ask you to kindly consider my perspective on this question.

I want to be faithful to what I believe the Bible teaches because through it God shows His love and grace. So, as we consider this question, I deeply want the love and compassion of Christ to come through. He loves us all and wants us to have abundant life here and now and forever. Yet, life holds many struggles and temptations.[3]

As we consider this question, we are all caught up in God’s story, a story that can be summed up as creation, fall, redemption and new creation. What does the Bible have to say about this issue? The Bible provides directions to protect us and help us thrive. This is part of God’s good design. The directions include prohibitions against certain types of sexual activity. Those that violate the directions God has given often suffer for it. Individuals that struggle with homosexuality need to realize that natural disposition does not justify it any more than any other sin. And the fact that society elevates sexual fulfillment to the point of communicating that it is the purpose of life does not exempt it from God’s prohibition any more than any other sin. If you are struggling with this issue, then join the rest of us sinners and turn to Christ, who is good. God has given us the means to live within His good design.

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Is abortion morally justifiable?

Here are a few things I left out of the video…

Thinking and talking about abortion is very difficult but also important. I, therefore, ask that you consider what I say before discounting it. I have strived to consider the subject with compassion and candor. So, out front, I want to say two things: First, I believe abortion is clearly wrong and cannot be morally justified in any circumstance. Second, and very important, there is grace, forgiveness, and hope for those who have had an abortion.

We all do wrong. The Bible says everyone is a sinner. But it also thankfully says that whosoever—liar, thief, cheat—goes to Jesus in faith and repentance can receive new life and be saved by the grace of God. All our sins can be washed away. First John 1:9 gives us all hope: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” It is vital that we all remember that there is grace, forgiveness, and hope for all!

And here are some statistics about abortion in America that I left out too…

  • Since 1973, there have been 59,000,000 reported and legal abortions. That’s more than the total population of California and Virginia.
  • There were 908,000 abortions in 2015.
  • 1/4 of American women will have an abortion by the time they are forty-five.
  • Reasons why women have an abortion:
  • 1% listed rape or incest
  • 6% listed potential health problems
  • 93% listed social reasons:
  • Abortion brings several health risks:
    • Breast cancer
    • Ectopic (tubal) pregnancy
    • Bad effects on future pregnancies
    • Becoming sterile
    • Sexual dysfunction
    • Mental health risks
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