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“If the Bible is considered merely to contain the Word of God, rather than actually to be in toto the Word of God, there is naturally a decreased sense of responsibility to study its text minutely, or to systematize its theology, or authoritatively to declare its message.”  –Merrill F. Unger  Principles of Expository Preaching

What you believe about the Holy Scriptures, in their entirety, will or has already become for you the foundation of how you live, teach and or preach, in this life, and eternity to come.

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Truth

woodcross.jpg Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

The birth of Christ was spoken of by the prophets, the Old Testament has documented within its pages what this Savior, this Messiah would do and what He would accomplish. So it is such an incredible announcement when the angels burst onto the scene to those shepherds in the fields that night two thousand years ago. With all the celebration of the heavenlies these angels did what they were created to do, and what they have been doing for all time, proclaim the glory of the Lord of lords, and the King of kings:

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11

Yet history tells of one who’s birth very similar words had been written of, “The providence which has ordered the whole of our life, showing concern and zeal, has ordained the most perfect consummation for human life … by filling him with virtue for doing the work of a benefactor among men, and by sending in him, as it were, a savior for us and those who come after us, to make war to cease, to create order everywhere… ; the birthday of the god was the beginning for the world of the glad tidings that have come to men through him…”

Upon first glance, or a quick reading it might seem that Jesus’ birth and life had already been proclaimed through another who had been born September 23, 63 BC. But these words were written in tribute to the birth of one Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus. Better known as Caesar Augustus. Even Caesar’s title “Augustus,” given to him by the Senate, means “to increase.” This title symbolized an approval of authority over humanity, and in fact nature. Even after his death in August 19, AD, Augustus was deified.

However, make no mistake, Caesar Augustus failed to make good on the promises proclaimed at his birth. Prior to his time as Augustus, he was known as Octavian during which time he self-titled himself, Divi filius, “Son of God,” to further his cause in military power. Wars still came, order though maybe temporary soon collapsed around Rome, and the glad tidings which might have come to men under Augustus, were only to those who showed allegiance to Rome. Even Augustus’ self proclamation as pontifex maximus, the high priest of the collegium of the Pontifices, the most important position in Roman religion, couldn’t sustain the claims given to him at his birth.

Jesus however, speaking truth came to set men free (Jn 8:32). Jesus Christ died on a cross in the greatest act of salvation that no one before, and no one since can and ever will be able to duplicate. But if the story ended there, there would be no great salvation, because Jesus would still be dead. And there can be no good news if death remains victorious. But the resurrection of Christ three days later is the truth of the all prophecies. Hebrews makes this truth clear saying, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.” Hebrews 4:14 If Jesus’ death and substitutionary atonement were false, and worthless then Hebrews 4:14 couldn’t be true.

Hebrews goes on to state that “Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.'” Hebrews 5:5

Make no mistake, because of Jesus’ sinless life, His death for your sin and mine, and the proof of his resurrection, there is absolute TRUTH in the scriptures when it says, “And being made perfect, he (Jesus the Christ) became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedeck.” Hebrews 5:9-10

Study to know Him,

Preaching the Cross

cross.jpg “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:23-24 ESV

A great friend of mine and Christian Brother is just getting settled in Louisville Kentucky, preparing to begin a new season in his and his families life. Edward is about to begin his studies at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and is seeking to follow God’s direction into the Pastorate. It is great to be able to look back over the past half a dozen years and see how both Edward and I have grown spiritually. Both of us now with families, both in our 40’s, both of us working through God’s calling in our lives to leave the secular world and move into full time vocational ministry preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ. And all of that time was spent under the guidance and direction of a pastor both Edward and I would agree typifies what preaching the cross, and godliness by example is all about.

As I have written before, Men like Edward have been one of the greatest growth catalyst for me during my walk and because of so many of them, my state of spiritual maturity is where it is today. Edward and I do our best to call and encourage one another, as well as listen and discuss important issues occurring in each others thoughts and lives. It is not at all odd then to have a phone conversation with Edward yesterday, and in the process of our talk hear the topic move to the aspect of preaching the Cross. I brought it up, since I am reading the book, Preaching the Cross – Together for the Gospel. What I didn’t know is that a few days earlier Edward had already blogged on this subject.

http://pasturesoftruth.blogspot.com/2007/07/history-repeated.html

Our hearts were already on the topic long before we ever discussed it verbally over the phone. I of course didn’t fully realize how much so till this morning as I logged into WordPress to write a post on R.C. Sproul’s Chapter The Center of Christian Preaching: Justification by Faith, and clicked on Edwards blog just to see if he had written anything new. Well, I couldn’t have written it any better and I agree with Edward’s thoughts. One of Edward’s recommendations for those who have been called by God to preach is worthy to be quoted here. It is a reminder to all of us to be diligent and with purpose when we preach,

“To my brothers who are already serving in pastoral capacities, I urge you to never forget the urgency of your calling to proclaim the gospel “all the way” and shepherd the flock to the pastures of godly obedience.”

R.C. Sproul writes in the book, Preaching the Cross,

“So let me tell you what the good news is. I despair of my righteousness; I acknowledge my sin. I put my trust in Christ and Christ alone. And the good news is that at the very instant I do, all that Jesus is, and all that Jesus has, is mine, and for the rest of my days he has me covered. The Father looks beyond my impurities and all my sin, and he sees the cloak of the righteousness of Jesus. … Is there any better news than that in the whole world?”

“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:8 ESV

All of this rings soundly in my ears as I remember the passage Kevin preached to me and those present at my ordination service from Jeremiah 15:19, “Therefore thus says the Lord: ‘If you return, I will restore you, and you shall stand before me. If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall be as my mouth.”

Pastor’s, seek that which is precious, live it and preach it. And may we never cease striving to hold one another accountable to that great task. For we are all sinners, saved by grace, for the glory of God.

Study to know Him

In Dust and Ashes

jobs-repentance.jpg“I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:5-6

In the closing verses of Job it is interesting to see the grace and mercy of God towards those who were “friends” of Job. God’s anger burned against Job’s friends because of the way they spoke against Him. However because of Job’s understanding and faithfulness they were spared from God’s wrath. Their offering coupled together with Job’s interceding prayers preserved their lives.

In v. 3 of Chapter 42 scripture says, “Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”

For Job, coming to the true understanding of who God is, and then beginning the process of repentance and humility begins in the dust and ashes. What a place for restoration to begin, the dust and the ashes of all that used to be! Sitting in the worthless remains of all that was of worth to Job, Job’s understanding that God is bigger than all that man can build, and all that man can gather for himself slowly became clear. And in the presence of God, Job learned that it can all be reduced to nothing more than dust and ashes.

So in the place where Job believed it all would end, covered from head to toe in sores with nothing he deemed valuable remaining in this life, God became personal to Job and life truly began. Job was blameless and upright, feared God and turned away from evil (Ch. 1 v.1) yet not until the end of the Book do we fully understand that Job now sees God clearly with his spiritual eyes. I believe the end of the Book of Job is really just the beginning of real life and an incredible relationship with the Lord.

Job lived out his days with a clearer vision of God than what he began with, because he met him face to face. Not just from hearing what other men had to say about Him. But by the relationship born through trial and tribulation.

In the dust and ashes, covered with sores, reduced to nothing but the man, Job deals with his thoughts and presuppositions of who God is and what God is about. And his vision afterwards is never clearer. Job lives out his days not only with greater fortune and family than before. More importantly Job lives out the remainder of his days with a deeper and truer relationship with the God he now knows intimately, and personally.

Maybe it doesn’t have to take loosing all before we come face to face with the God who created all. My prayer is that daily we open God’s word, read, meditate and pray, desiring to see God clearly, and personally. And in doing so we might know a better life lived through a deep and abiding relationship with Him through His only Son, Jesus Christ.

David’s charge to his son Solomon is fitting for us. David wrote,

“And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever.” 1 Chronicles 28: 9

Study to know Him,

Relevant Discord

bible_starbucks.jpg 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. 20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. John 17:15-21

My time here in Nashville, TN is coming to a close. Both my wife and my son are looking joyfully for my return, and I am no less joyful to be going home. The past eight weeks have been fruitful, both for me, the company I have been working for, and for those God has placed in my path. It has been a short repreave from my studies in seminary, and it has been a wonderful time of “tent making.” More importantly God has given me an opportunity to step out of the somewhat sterile bubble of the Christian environment of both the church and seminary, and step back into the current culture of the corporate IT life. Although I have spent the past twenty years immersed in the culture of the corporate world, it is amazing to see how quickly one can find himself out of step, both intellectually and culturally once you move into full time vocational ministry in the church.

During my time here in Nashville, the couple I have been blessed to stay with have given me ample opportunity to worship together and be a part of their church family at Woodmont Hills, Church of Christ. For me it was interesting since I have not seen much of any other denomination outside of the Southern Baptist. (I have definitely lived in a denominational bubble.) Let me say, that I have been blessed to be a part of such an incredible body of Christ. Dean Barham and the rest of the teaching staff at Woodmont uncompromisingly preach the gospel message of Jesus Christ. In my eight weeks of attending I have found that within the Body of believers at Woodmont there is no lack of giftedness in both their musical and teaching abilities.

From the first moment on the job, I have been forced to dive back into the culture of IT and Information Security. In doing so I have found it is imperative that you identify and mesh with the current culture or you will not be of any impact whatsoever, and communication will be difficult. I have been out of this culture for only two years, and I realized very quickly that much has already changed. That which two years ago was relevant in IT is in many ways “old technology” today. In the same way, our culture isn’t static, it is dynamic and in constant change. However, the gospel message is unchanging, yet has the incredible ability to adapt itself throughout history so that it continues to impact and change lives without compromise.

Woodmont’s preaching minister Dean Barham presents a unique perspective into this same kind of need to identify with the current culture of today in order to better communicate the gospel message. In a series of five sermons Dean identifies and provides insight into different environments where our culture is trying to speak today, and how we can better understand them. In doing so we gain the ability to speak clearly and relevantly into culture the gospel of Jesus Christ. Dean’s web blog is active and can be found here, http://companionsonjourney.blogspot.com/.

Podcast’s are available as well, Woodmont Hills Podcasts, and I invite you to go and listen as Dean along with the help and insight of some of the staff at Woodmont dialog together and help us better understand how we must step out of the four walls of our church, evaluate the culture surrounding us, understand it, and then clearly speak … The Gospel in Culture.

Study to know Him,

sheep04.gif“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of
woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so
that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God
has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir
through God.” Galatians 4:4-7

For those reading here, who are not familiar with the prayer requests which have gone out recently for a couple here in Nashville and their adoption efforts in Russia, I sent the following letter out after a recent trip by one of the family members to Siberia.

I wanted to write this blog and publish it on the web for those who have been praying for John, Sandy and Sveta because I know in my heart and know you as well believe that this kind of work is truly what the heart and mind of Christ is all about, on a global scale. Adoption is what we as Christians understand so well, yet we seem to take for granted so often.

Sveta is about to move from Siberia in Russia, from a small orphanage in a little town, where they have never even seen a foreign adoption occur. Almost overnight she will become an American citizen, but more than that, she will gain full rights under the laws of adoption and she will receive a new name, a new life full of promise and a new home. She has been chosen out, and because she will become a Kovacic child, she will receive by law the same rights as those Kovacic children that were born into the family by blood.

I praise the Lord that through a reminder of adoption in this earthly picture we can see fresh and new the more incredible picture of the reality of our adoption through Christ as children of God. We have been chosen out of a foreign land, a place that is not really our home, we are given a new name, a name that only God knows, written in stone. And we become heirs, even co-heirs with Christ Jesus in the fullness of all that God has prepared for us in heaven. The presence of the Holy Spirit is our promise that what God has secured on earth, will be claimed in full when the One He has given charge over comes again one day soon. Jesus’ blood shed on Calvary is the sign of promise, not a piece of paper signed in the presence of a notary and judge.

The Judge who sits in the court room, given authority by man, to decree a valid adoption in this world is just a slight image of the Ruler over all, who one day will look at us, and through the blood of Jesus Christ say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, …” Matthew 25:34-35

Galatians 4:4-7 reminds us of who we are in Christ, and “whose” we are:

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” Galatians 4:4-7

Now seeing adoption new and fresh, don’t you think Sveta will look back on her life before adoption and the years after adoption and be forever grateful to her earthly father who chose her and adopted her? In the same way if you have trusted your life to the heavenly Father, your life should be different, and you should be grateful even more because of what he has done for you.

Study to know Him,

And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men,” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. Luke 5:10b-11

You ever wake up in the morning knowing that before the day’s end your entire life will be changed drastically, and possibly painfully in some way and yet rejoice in it. I never have, and probably never will. God just never has worked that way in my life before.  Maybe it is because I am slow and need things spelled out real slow for me.  If this is you as well, then take joy, we are not alone.  In this passage in Luke these fishermen were no different. It is interesting how God’s plans for us unfold. This fact is evident when we consider Luke’s narrative of Jesus calling his first disciples. When the story begins to unfold in 5:1-2, the men have already been fishing all night and are out of their boats washing their nets.

As Jesus approached the fishermen he did not just walk up to them and in the booming voice of God command them saying, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” If that would have happened, those men would have probably laughed, and continued cleaning up and preparing their nets for the evening catch, or the next days work, or they would have trembled in fear. Jesus instead, approaches and first climbs into the boat asking Simon to “put out a little from the land.” Simon and the others then heard the teaching that followed, saw the crowd pressing in close to hear, and would have been honored to oblige a teacher of the scriptures.

However, Jesus was not done with Simon … That was … just the first step.

After teaching, Jesus asks Simon to take the next step saying, “Put out into the deep, and let down your nets for a catch.” After a long night of failure alone out on the sea, Simon agrees to the Master’s wishes and the results are miraculous. Nets began filling, the water must have been churning from the large number of fish, and the nets strands began breaking from the weight. The other boat was signaled for and after filling both of them with fish, they both began to sink.

The imagery here cannot be missed. Jesus asks for obedience in the midst of their failure and with his help, it is more than can be humanly handled. As a result Simon falls to his knees overwhelmed in the presence of the Lord so much so that in the midst of his sin the only thing he can ask for is that Jesus might depart from him. However, Jesus has different plans.

Jesus knew Simon’s life, his sin, his failures. Jesus knows my life, my sin, and my failures just the same as yours. Nevertheless, in the midst of all of that, when I often feel unworthy to be in Jesus’ presence, Jesus knows there is no greater place for me to be. Instead of departing from these men, they work together to make it to the shore, but not before Jesus takes them, one step further. “From now on you will be catching men.”

The scriptures tell us, “When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.” For many of us Jesus will never take us from the dry land and comfort of the shore to the deep waters of his will in one blinding, sweeping moment. Yet for all of us, there are steps we must take if we are to follow him in a life of sanctification and holiness. Oh, there are those who have moved from justification to glory in one seemingly massive step. Just pick up Foxes Book of Martyrs, if you dare, and read of those called to give all in death for the sake of Christ.

Yet for me, and for you, Jesus just wants us to do first things first, and get in the boat with him. What are you afraid of? Remember, Jesus told his disciples, “Do not be afraid …”, and in Matt 28:20b he gives the reason not to fear saying, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Take the step, Jesus is waiting.

Study to know Him,