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Happy New Years’ Eve!

December 31, 2009 Leave a comment

Happy New Years Eve from the Great Smoky Mountains! I hope all of you are having a wonderful holiday season (I say “holiday season” because there is both the New Year and Christmas). For those of you who read my last post, you expect this blog to be about New Year’s Resolutions. Quite frankly, I don’t believe in them. I have made them in the past, and have they amounted to anything? No. But that is because I have gone these resolutions on my own, as a lone wolf, if you will. That is why hardly anyone (if anyone) succeeds in actually carrying out their New Year’s Resolutions. We people need accountability. We need help. The mind wills, but the body slacks. I will not argue against New Year’s Resolutions as a whole, but I will attempt to offer some suggestions that will hopefully make these resolutions more resolute.

Namely, in our resolutions, we must not take on more than one or two; and we must be humble in our resolutions. If you have not read Humility by now, I certainly recommend that you read it as soon as you possibly can. In making resolutions, most people are prideful; they think that they are powerful enough to enact them on their own. And these people are invariably wrong; they fall flat on their face within a matter of days (if not a matter of hours). Therefore, if this year we want to seriously accomplish any resolutions we make, we must be humble. Chiefly, we must in brokenness rely upon God. We are by nature sinful, and even now as we “press onward toward the goal,” we still have this old sin nature. If we believe we can do anything, let alone our New Year’s Resolutions, without the grace of our Lord, we are mistaken and will fail. “Pride goes … before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). So, in our resolution(s), we must rely upon the grace of God. We must go to Him in humility, in full recognition that we need Him if we are to succeed.

With this said, I now share my New Year’s Resolution with you. A few months ago, my associate pastor recommended a Bible reading plan to me that I will begin implementing tomorrow at the start of 2010. I encourage you to do the same. I will be using Plan 4. The same website that provides this plan, however, also provides other Bible reading plans. There is a timetable for all readers, and I hope that you will apply one in this new year, as well.

I hope you all have a safe, happy, and blessed New Year! I leave you with an encouraging quote from Hebrews 13:1-16 (ESV):

Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say,
“The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear;
what can man do to me?”

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them. We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

NOTE: The Bible Reading Plans recommend both a family and a secret reading schedule to adhere to each day. Personally, I will be reading all of these passages privately each day because I do not have a family of my own, but I certainly believe that having a daily family Bible study is a wonderful idea if you are willing to implement it.

Humility: True Greatness

December 28, 2009 1 comment

CJ Mahaney is a wonderful preacher and a humble man. I recently read his book Humility: True Greatness and was definitely challenged. No one (particularly myself) is humble by nature. We’re proud by nature. We put ourselves before others. But that’s not what Christ did, and that’s not what we should do, either. It is true that God’s ultimate goal is His own glorification, but in the process of glorifying Himself, God in Christ on earth put others’ needs before His own.

In Humility, Pastor Mahaney gives the doctrinal necessity of humility and then lists practical ways to implement humility. Many people will be making New Year’s Resolutions in the coming days, and I encourage those of you who are in that habit (I will speak nothing for or against the practice) to read Humility and follow Pastor Mahaney in his example of making a personal list of specific things you can do in your life to cultivate humility.

While I’m speaking of Pastor Mahaney, his Sovereign Grace Ministries operate a wonderful music ministry; Sovereign Grace Music. You can visit the website here. A good friend of mine gave me the Songs for the Cross Centered Life CD for Christmas. That is the single best CD I own, and it contains the highest quality worship songs available. A particular favorite of mine is “The Look,” Track 7 on this CD. Really listening to these songs’ lyrics and singing sincerely along are great ways to cultivate humility. I commend both Pastor Mahaney’s book Humility and Songs for the Cross Centered Life to all of you.

God bless, and may you all have a happy New Year!

(And look for my upcoming post on New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day!)

A Night to Remember

December 24, 2009 Leave a comment

It’s Christmas Eve, and many “tiny tots” will go to sleep tonight hoping that “Saint Nicholas soon would be there.” I’m not here to rant and rave against Santa—he has his proper place—but Christmas isn’t about getting toys. Christmas isn’t about giving toys, either. Christmas isn’t even about spending time with family, ultimately. All of these things have their place in Christmas: Santa Claus is but a pale shadow and illustration of God; getting and giving presents showcase a generosity that should characterize Christians year round; and Christianity is certainly family-oriented (the family, after all, is the basic unit of society, and the Bible deals with the family in many different passages). But ultimately, Christmas isn’t about any of these things—all these things are (or should be) an offshoot and byproduct of what Christmas is really about: Christ.

Christmas is a celebration of Christ’s birth. Whether he was actually born in late December is irrelevant (there are arguments both for and against this birth date); what matters is that Christ was born, and this is what Christmas primarily celebrates. Consider Galatians 5:4-5.

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.

Christ was born so that we could receive adoption as sons; an angel puts it this way in Matthew 1:21,

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

Jesus Christ was born to save His people from their sins—this is what we celebrate at Christmas! We celebrate that Christ was born, yes, but that His birth led to a sinless life and a substitutionary and satisfactory death on the cross, and that on the third day, God rose Him from the grave triumphant. The birth of Christ was an act of God keeping His Word; He had promised the Messiah throughout the Old Testament. Now, at last, in Luke 2, this very Messiah—God in the flesh—is born in a feeding trough in a little town of Bethlehem! This is a cause for rejoicing! If we are so glad to give and receive presents, so much more so should we rejoice and shout and sing at the advent of our King, our Redeemer, our Savior and Lord!

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the registration before Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of 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. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (Luke 2:1-20)

That is the Christmas story. That is the true meaning of Christmas—Christ, the Son of God, made flesh to dwell among us, to die on the cross to redeem His people, and to be raised the third day for our justification. Christmas is about Christ, His birth, for without His birth, He never would have died nor been raised back to life. And if these things had not happened, no one would be saved. And if you are reading this but do not trust that Christ alone can save you, then you are unsaved. The shepherds were the first missionaries—they went out and told people that they had seen the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior of all who believe. To us Christians, this is a cause of rejoicing. To the unsaved, this is a cause of hope—you can do nothing to earn your salvation, you can only trust and place all your confidence in Christ’s death on the cross, His burial, and His resurrection. If that is your hope tonight, you are saved and can rejoice in this glorious Christmas story. If this is not your hope tonight, I pray that God will open your eyes to Christ’s work of salvation on the cross and that He would bring you to repentance and faith so you would be saved.

God bless, and may you all have a merry Christmas.

“One and the same”

December 15, 2009 1 comment

In tonight’s episode of NCIS, Special Agent Gibbs (my favorite character) called the God of Islam and the God of Christianity “one and the same.” That comment made me sick to my stomach, and this notion was repeated in various degrees of subtlety throughout the show. The fact of the matter is, the Gods of Christianity and Islam are NOT the same. The God of Islam is legalistic–Muslims MUST practice the 5 pillars of Islam to gain entrance into heaven. The God of Christianity, however, provides salvation for all who rely upon the sacrificial and substitutionary death of Christ on the Cross for their salvation. Islam, like all world religions, is a religion of do. Christianity is a religion of done.

“One and the same”? I think not. No, I know not. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Peter said before the Sanhedrin in Acts 4:12, “And there is salvation in no one else [other than Jesus], for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

To all you fellow fans of NCIS, and to all you Christians out there, and to all you non-Christians who do not see a difference between Christianity and other world religions: There is a difference.

Christianity has a Cross.
Christianity has an empty tomb.

Christianity has Jesus Christ,
the Savior,
the Word made flesh, (John 1:1, 14)
the King of Kings,
the Lord of Lords,
the Great Physician,
the Counselor,
the Mighty God,
the Prince of Peace,
Immanuel … God with us.

https://thingsthatareabove.wordpress.com/2009/11/01/christ-as-god-a-sermon-on-john-11-18/

An International Prayer

December 13, 2009 Leave a comment

Today, Southern Baptist congregations took up offerings for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, which benefits International Missions. Evangelism is such an important thing, both around the world and at home. This afternoon, a prayer came to mind for international and national missions. Prayer is such an important aspect of our Christian lives, but all too often we neglect to do it. Hopefully this prayer of mine will spark a prayer of your own.

Lord, I pray for the missionaries in the U.S. and around the world. I pray that your gospel will spread regardless of circumstances–be they poverty or opulence or anything in between. Lord, I pray for the fulfillment of Your Great Commission: that we would not only make but also disciple converts for You and for Your glory. Lord, I pray that You would give all Your people–and me–a greater, more urgent concern for the lost and that you would empower us to proclaim Your gospel everywhere, boldly and without fear.

Lord, You are the Creator and Sustainer of life. I pray for U.S. troops everywhere, Father, and ask that You would protect them and bring them safely home and be glorified for it. Lord, even if some never come home, I pray that their  families would turn to You in their grief and glorify You. If they are unsaved, Lord, I pray that You would open their eyes to look to You for the first time for their own salvation.

God, You have appointed the powers that be; “the king’s heart is in Your hands.” I pray that You would grant U.S. leaders wisdom; “Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” Lord, I pray that you would revive Your people in America and that You would move us to action, move us to evangelism. Lord, show us our sin of pride–expose our idolatry! May You be true and all the world a liar–and show us this to be true, Lord! They defy You on Capitol Hill, they deny You in the cities! Lord, they mock You openly in Your very own churches! Lord, vindicate Your name; revive Your people. Lord, wake us up, we have been asleep far too long!

… Lord, get Yourself the honor and glory You rightly deserve. Show us, Lord, Your glory, and let it shine in and through us. In Christ’s name and for Your glory, Amen.

An Immoral Nation of Morals

December 10, 2009 Leave a comment

Many people say that our nation is a “Christian” nation. That could not be further from the truth. There are Christians in the United States of America, yes, but there are also people of other faiths in our nation, as well. (There are also those who have no faith at all—fools, to use the Bible’s language; see Psalm 53:1.) In fact, judging by our country’s political policies (domestic, economic, and foreign) and by the rampant immorality that pervades our great nation, our nation is NOT, in fact, Christian. It is, by definition, secular. Think about Christmas. To Christians, it celebrates the birth of Christ (even though you and I both know that He may not have been born on December 25). To many Christians also and to all non-Christians alike, however, Christmas is a secular holiday. Santa Claus, or Chris Cringle, or Saint Nick, or whatever you want to call him, “comes down the chimney” on Christmas Eve and leaves presents for good girls and boys. (This in and of itself is a theological mishap—Jesus Himself says: “No one is good except God alone” [Mark 10:18].) People watch television specials about the “magic” of Christmas and how “magic” is real if only we believe in it. I enjoy those television specials as much as the next one—I’m particularly fond of “The Year Without a Santa Claus”—but the sheer fact that the celebration of our Lord’s birth (without which, He would not have died and risen the third day, by faith in which we are justified, according to Romans 4:24-25) has been overrun—yes, overrun—by secular traditions proves that our nation, as a whole, is not Christian.

If this seasonal argument for you is not proof enough, take a gander at Roe v. Wade, and look up the sheer number of unborn infants who are murdered in abortion procedures daily. Even that number will shock you! Or, you could pick any of the handful of states who have legalized homosexual “marriage.” I’m sure you can think of more depressing things to add to this list, and to not overdo this, I will move on in my argument.

There are also those who say our nation has been a “Christian” nation in times past; that we were founded on Christian principles. That, too, is (sadly) wrong. Yes, our nation was built on the truth of the dignity of human life. Yes, our nation was built on the equality of all people. Yes, the Declaration of Independence mentions the “Creator,” and yes, the Constitution gives us the right to worship (or not worship, in the atheists’ cases) how we choose. (Please note that this Constitutional right was not in the original Constitution; it is actually part of the First Amendment, which was not ratified until after the Constitution was the “supreme law of the land.”) As it is, our nation was not founded on Christian principles, but on moral principles. “Thou shall not steal” is not merely Judeo-Christian but also Buddhist, Confucian, Taoist, and (sometimes) Islamic. (Different interpretations of the Quran yield different interpretations of this tenant, and if I ever get to it, I will go into more detail on this, but that is a blog for another day.) Most importantly, our nation was not founded on the truth of the gospel but on the truth of the equality of mankind. And yes, there is a huge difference. If we as a nation had acknowledged the Lordship of Christ from the beginning, we would (more likely) be a “Christian” nation, but as it is, we have only been moral.

So, our nation has never been a truly “Christian” nation. But we have been moral in the past. Even though our country was not founded on particularly Christian values but on moral values, our nation has become an immoral nation of morals. Over the past century particularly, our nation’s morals have collapsed. Abortion is a legal reality; homosexuality is seen as normal as heterosexuality. Even heterosexual marriage is collapsing—the divorce rate has skyrocketed in the past fifty years!

What has caused this? Our government? No. Our Constitution? No. The unsaved masses? No. We have caused this. In America, we Christians have become complacent (and we have been for a long time). We became satisfied with our nation’s morality—all the while overlooking its spiritual death, which will only lead to destruction. What, then, can we do? Rather than looking at our nation’s problems as basically moral dilemmas, we should see our nation’s depravity for what it is—unrepented-of and unforgiven sin. The reality is that our nation is largely an un-Christian nation. The reality is our nation is blinded by “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4), Satan. Seeing our country as largely un-Christian, we now should move to evangelize our nation. Will this be easy? No. When we present the true gospel to the world, it will hate us. It will persecute us. It will oppose us with every bit of demonic power that possesses it. But Jesus has already “overcome the world” (John 16:33). But no matter what happens, we must faithfully evangelize our neighbors (both literal and figurative) for the glory of God and for the advancement of His kingdom. That is our calling in Christ Jesus:

For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly [which will happen to some degree when you proclaim the gospel]. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps.”

We are to “follow in [Christ’s] steps.” What were Jesus’ steps; how did He live? Jesus lived proclaiming the kingdom of God, and so should we. We have been silent for too long, fellow Christians! Our moral nation is no longer moral; it is an immoral nation of morals. Americans are disillusioned with the Church; the title “Christian” does not carry the weight it once does, because we true Christians are silent and the false Christians have loudly spread their lies. It is time for us to speak the true Word of God in love louder than they yell their lies.

 

More related posts forthcoming.

 

And always remember: the gospel alone is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe (Romans 1:16). Morality saves no one. We must bring people to a state of hopelessness, for only when one is hopeless does one turn to God in faith. Only when one realizes that he can do nothing to earn his salvation can he realize that Christ earned his salvation for him on Calvary.

“God Bless,” The Final Blessing of a True Christian

December 5, 2009 Leave a comment

Tebow Something happened today that has not happened in 9 years: Alabama won the SEC Championship.

Something happened today that has not happened in 3 years: Alabama scored 32 points against Florida. The last team to score more than 30 points against Florida was Michigan in the January 1, 2008, Citrus Bowl game. (Michigan won 41-35.)

Most importantly, something happened today that has not happened in over a year: Florida lost. Their last loss was to Ole Miss on September 27, 2008, 31-30. After that game, Tim Tebow showed his character. Like a true Christian should, he took responsibility for his mistakes in that game … and vowed to do better. He went on to lead Florida to both an SEC and a national title that year.

Not this year.

This year, both Florida and the Tide were 12-0 going into the SEC championship game. This year, Alabama had a bone to pick. A Tebow-n. Alabama was relentless from the opening drive—they led Florida the entire game, at one point a 2 point lead that grew to an ultimate 19 point lead. Alabama allowed Tebow only one touchdown drive, and Alabama shut Florida out 13-0 in the second half. It was total domination; it was Alabama football.

Tebow was crying before the game was even technically over, and understandably so, this was his first loss in over a year. And this loss was a complete loss. In 2008, Ole Miss came from behind for the upset. Today, Alabama darted in front of the Florida Gators and were upsetting them from the very beginning. Tebow did not personally have a good game, either. Tebow threw for 20-35 and had only one touchdown pass. He also had one interception. He also rushed for only 63 yards. (Bama has yet to allow a 100+ rushing game to an opponent this season.)

But this blog focuses on “Things That Are Above,” and the reason I’ve given you all the technical details I dare is to get it into your mind how monumental it was for Tebow to congratulate the Tide on a job well done through a film of tears after the game, to shake the hands of a coach who outsmarted him (and his own coaches, of course) and the hands of a first-year-starter quarterback who had a better night than he—a Heisman winner—did. This loss humbled Tebow, but his already-ingrained humility came through in his post-game comments. Tebow could have ranted and raved; he could have complained about the referees, he could have questioned his coaches’ play calling, he could have even blamed the loss on his fellow teammates (particularly Florida’s defense). But no. Tebow gave Bama credit where credit was due. And Tebow congratulated the WHOLE Alabama Crimson Tide team. Not insincerely, but humbly. There were tears in his eyes, but Tebow did not grit his teeth at all. Tebow responded to a momentous loss as only a true Christian could.

When the CBS newswoman started to interview Tebow, I myself thought: “This is where he will slip up. I don’t want him to, but how could he not? This was the worst game he has EVER played.” I didn’t have faith in Tebow at that moment, but Tebow’s faith in God came through. I am reminded here of Romans 5:3-5:

… we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Tebow’s character was not produced tonight, but through all the sufferings he’s gone through before. Tonight proved Tim Tebow’s endurance, and it proved his character. Only a Christian could glorify God as he did even in the jaws of defeat. Ultimately, Tebow lived out the message on his eye paint tonight:

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Even in the jaws of defeat, even as tears adorned his eyes, Tim Tebow took heart with the knowledge that his Lord and Savior has indeed “overcome the world.”

Thank you, Tim Tebow, for relying upon our gracious God to be gracious in your defeat. Thank you for modeling the proper Christian response to adversity. And thank you, Tebow, for saying “God bless” … and meaning it.

And, in keeping in line with Tebow’s own final words, I leave you, dear reader, with the greatest blessing. “God bless.”

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