Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for December, 2008

Scripture speaks of God being “good”, meaning that He is righteous and without sin (i.e. Mk 10:18.)  But Scripture also speaks of God being “good” in the sense of doing good for others.

Is God “good” to people?  Specifically, is God good to His people?  Of course He is.

But what does this mean?

If you watch almost any “Christian” television, then you can’t help but be bombarded by the idea that God is good to His people… and by this they typically mean that God provides physical blessings for His people.  But is this true?  Not necessarily.  Consider the life of Job.  He is said to be “blameless and upright” (Job 1:1), yet look at how much he suffered!  Can we really say that God is “good” to His people?

At the same time, we all know people who blaspheme God on a regular basis who seem to have it all right now.  How is it that God can allow them to experience blessings here and now when they are so adamantly opposed to Him?

Doesn’t it seem like the wicked often prosper while those seeking God struggle and face hardship after hardship?

Does this ever bother you?  It certainly bothers me.  Why do the wicked seem to prosper while God’s people suffer?

I know I’m not alone in being bothered by this.  In fact, the Psalmist Asaph has much to teach us about this issue in Psalm 73.  In this Psalm, he not only addresses the issue itself, but he also gives us some important guidance regarding how to maintain the right perspective as we face trial and difficulties in the midst of the wicked as they prosper.

Psalm 73 (ESV)1  A Psalm of Asaph. Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. 2  But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. 3  For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. 4  For they have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek. 5  They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind. 6  Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment. 7  Their eyes swell out through fatness; their hearts overflow with follies. 8  They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression. 9  They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth. 10  Therefore his people turn back to them, and find no fault in them. 11  And they say, “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?” 12  Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches. 13  All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. 14  For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning. 15  If I had said, “I will speak thus,” I would have betrayed the generation of your children. 16  But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, 17  until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. 18  Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. 19  How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors! 20  Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms. 21  When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, 22  I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you. 23  Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. 24  You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. 25  Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 26  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 27  For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. 28  But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.

We are told that this is a Psalm of Asaph.  Scripture tells us that Asaph was one of the chief choir leaders and seers in Israel during both the reign of David (I Chron 15:16-19).  He was also a man used by God to write sacred Scripture (Psalms 50 and 73-83 are all attributed to him.)  Beyond this, we don’t know much about this man, except that he seems to have been an important religious leader in ancient Israel.

And here we see him proclaiming a great truth about God, “Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart” (Ps 73:1.)  When the Psalmist refers to “Israel” here… he means more than simply the Jewish nation.  Notice how this is in parallel with “those who are pure in heart”?  This doesn’t mean that God is good to those who are perfect, but God is good to those who are faithful to Him.  God is good to those who seek Him and strive to love Him with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.  We could say, “Truly God is good to His people.”

Asaph believes this.  In fact, he is adamant about it.  But notice how his theology does not seem to fit with his experience.  God is good to His people, but “my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.  For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Ps 73:2-3.)

This is really interesting.  He says that “almost stumbled”… his “steps had nearly slipped.”  This makes it sound like he almost sinned… but didn’t.  Yet, at the same time, we are told that he did fall into sin.  He became “envious” of the arrogant and the wicked.  He coveted the prosperity of the wicked… and covetousness is a sin (Exodus 20:17.)  He saw what they had and he wanted it for himself.  This is sin.  It is failing to be content with what God has given us.

So what does it mean that he “almost stumbled”?  I think it means that he almost spoke out against God before the people… see verse 15… but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Do you ever do this?  Do you ever look around at the prosperity of others and grow envious?  I have to admit that I do.  And this envy can be particularly strong when we see prosperity fall upon those who we think don’t deserve it.

Asaph wrestled with this.  He looked around at those who were not true Israelites seeking God… and he saw their prosperity… and he coveted it.

Notice how he describes the prosperity of the wicked:

1)      They have no pangs until death.” – They don’t seem to suffer in life… or in death.

2)      Their bodies are fat and sleek.” – We tend to think of being “fat” in negative terms, but in the ancient world, this meant that they were well-fed.  Most of us are well-fed today in this country, but this was a constant struggle in the ancient world.  As Asaph looked around, he saw that many of the wicked had more than enough to eat.

3)      They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.” – They live “hassle-free lives.”  They have it easy.  They don’t struggle to make ends meet.  They don’t face hardship day in and day out like so many others.  They have an easy life.

And the result of this prosperity among the wicked is not thankfulness to God for all that they have received.  No… quite the contrary.  This prosperity only serves to fuel their sinfulness:

1)      Pride is their necklace” (Ps 73:6.)  – Meaning… they wear their arrogance and pride like a badge of honor.  They know that they are better and more deserving than others… and they aren’t afraid to let others know it.

2)      They are violent (Ps 73:6) and it affects every aspect of their being.  They look out for themselves and they don’t care who they have to hurt in order to get ahead.

3)      Their eyes swell out through fatness (Ps 73:7).” – The picture here is of their eyes bulging out of their heads as a result of their excess.  It is hard to know exactly what the imagery is supposed to describe here, but I tend to take this as not so much a physical description of the wicked, but as a poetic way of saying that they are always on the lookout for something more.  It is a way of describing that they are covetous.  They have more than enough… but they are always looking for more.

4)      Their hearts overflow with follies (Ps 73:6).” – They abound with foolish thoughts and desires.

5)      They scoff and threaten and speak with malice toward others (Ps 73:8).

6)      They even speak against heaven… and they boast over all the earth (Ps 73:9).

7)      But the culmination of their wickedness seems to be found in their attitude toward God.  They say, “How can God know?  Is there knowledge in the Most High?” (Ps 73:11) – They don’t seem to believe God is really there and He is really overseeing His universe.  Therefore, they have no problem speaking against Him.

Verse 12 seems to provide a good summary statement of what Asaph sees when he looks at the wicked, “Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches.”

This does often seem to be true, doesn’t it?  We talk about how “nice guys finish last.”  When we look around… it is the arrogant and the wicked who seem to be doing so well.  Doesn’t this seem to accurately describe the “Donald Trump’s” of the world?  The “Hugh Hefner’s?”  But even on a smaller scale… doesn’t this describe a many of our neighbors?  They live as if there is no God… always seeking more and more stuff… unconcerned about who they have to walk over to get it… and yet they seem to abound in prosperity.  They have cars and boats and live relatively healthy lives. 

On the other hand, most of us know godly men and women who live their lives seeking God… and yet they struggle to make ends meet.  They face physical hardships and disease and suffering and death… even though they are striving to honor God with their lives.  Why is it that the wicked prosper and godly men like David Brainerd die in their twenties of tuberculosis?  Why is it that Hugh Hefner can live the ripe old age of… however old he is… thumbing his nose at God… and men like Jim Elliot die a martyrs death while seeking to take the gospel to those who have never heard the good news of Jesus?  Why is it that the “Donald Trump’s” of the world can grow richer and richer and men like the apostle Paul suffer so greatly?

Does this ever bother you? 

Do you ever struggle with this?  I do.  I’m humbled to admit that it bothers me sometimes.  And, at the same time, I’m comforted by the fact that I’m not alone in being bothered by this.  It bothered Asaph, too.

In fact, when he saw the prosperity of the wicked in contrast to the hardships of God’s people… it made him wonder why he even bothers trying to live to for God.  All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.  For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning” (Ps 73:13-14.)

Do you hear what he is saying here?  Why have I sought the Lord?  Why do I strive for righteousness when it gets me nothing but hardship.

Have you ever felt this way?  Have you ever felt like it just isn’t worth it?  Why bother trying to live for God, when it doesn’t seem to benefit you in life?

A lot of us “grown-ups” won’t admit this… but I heard this all the time when I was involved in youth ministry.  Young people are often more honest than us adults.  I have had numerous teenagers who professed to be Christians come to me and ask why they should continue to strive for a holy life, when it doesn’t seem do them any good.  “All my friends are having so much fun.  Their lives are easy… and mine is so hard.”

This is exactly how Asaph felt… and I suspect that it is how some of us have felt as well… at least at times.  He saw that the wicked seemed to have it all… and he had nothing.  And it bothered him deeply.

Do you hear the song he is singing?  “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen…Nobody knows my sorrow…”

This is the song he was singing… but notice that he didn’t sing it publicly.  This is how Asaph felt… but notice that he didn’t speak it out before the people.  If I have said, ‘I will speak thus’, I would have betrayed the generation of your children.  I think this is what he is referring to back in verse 2 when he says that he “almost” stumbled.  Here he is… one of the chief choir leaders in the temple in Jerusalem… recognized as a seer by the people… a religious leader among the people of God… yet he was tempted to tell others to forget God and seek the world… but he didn’t.  He did stumble in coveting the prosperity of the world… but God in His grace kept him from causing others to stumble.

I think this should cause us to pause for a minute.  If Asaph… who was no doubt a spiritually mature and godly man… if he could be tempted to speak wrongfully of God to God’s people… then normal Christians like us need to be careful what we say about God.

His feet almost stumbled… his steps nearly slipped… But God was gracious to Asaph and kept him from stumbling with his tongue. 

And this isn’t the only way in which God was gracious to Asaph.  He didn’t simply keep him from falling deeper into sin… although this is really more grace than any of us deserve.  No… God didn’t leave him in this state of confusion…

…when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome (עמל) task” (Ps 73:16.)  He wrestled with this to the point of exhaustion.  This was painful to him.  It resulted in great sorrow.  But God didn’t leave him there.  God granted him some degree of understanding in this matter… and notice how it came…

…when I thought how to understand this”… meaning the prosperity of the wicked in light of the hardships of God’s people… “it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end” (Ps 73:16-17.)

Notice that it was when he entered the sanctuary… the holy place… meaning the temple… that he finally gained some understanding.  It was only when he entered into God’s presence to worship Him rather than fix his gaze on the circumstances of those on earth that he finally gained some perspective. 

And the perspective he gained is illuminating.  He says “then I discerned their end”… meaning the end of the wicked.  Truly you set them in slippery places, you make them fall to ruin.”  In verse 1, Asaph was reflecting on how God is “good” to Israel.  God is “good” to those who are pure in heart.  God is “good” to His people.  But here we see that God responds entirely different to the wicked.  He sets them in a place where they will fall.  God will cause them to fall to ruin.  Even though they seem to have it all right now… their ultimate end is destruction and it will come suddenly.  They will be swept away utterly by terrors.”

Think about the future that awaits those apart from Jesus Christ.  I know it isn’t pleasant… it is heartbreaking.  But think about it for a moment.  What awaits those apart from Jesus Christ?  Nothing but torment forever and ever.  Those whose names are not found written in the Lamb’s Book of Life will be ultimately cast into the lake of fire where they will suffer forever (Rev 20:15.)  It doesn’t matter what they have now.  Cars… houses… boats… health, wealth and prosperity.  It doesn’t matter how much they enjoy now.  All that awaits them is torment.

Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.”  When we are asleep, our dreams seem real, don’t they?  But as soon as we wake up, they cease to be.  That is what Asaph is saying awaits the wicked.  The prosperity they enjoy here and now is not real… it is only a dream.  And in that day when God visits His wrath upon them… they will be nothing more than phantoms… a vapor… blown away into eternal judgment.

Is this what we think about when we are in the midst of envying the prosperity of the wicked?  No.  We forget this.  We forget where they are headed.  And when we do so… we are thinking and acting foolishly.  Asaph says, “When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward you (Ps 73:21-22.)”  Do you see what he is saying?  To covet the temporal blessings of the wicked is to behave toward God like a dumb animal.

I’m ashamed to admit that I have been here at times.  Have you?  It can be pretty humbling to admit this and it can make us feel pretty worthless.  But notice carefully what Asaph says here in verse 23… “Nevertheless… (Ps 73:23.)”  Stop right there.  If you are a Bible-marker, then circle that word.  Let the weight of that word sink in.  Nevertheless.”  Despite the fact that at times we behave no better than dumb animals toward God…I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.  You guide me with your counsel and afterward you will receive me to glory.” 

The world may seem to have so much… but do you see what God’s people have?  We have God Himself. 

1)      We are continually with Him.  We are never apart from Him.  He is with us always even to the end of the age (Matt 28:20.)  He will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb 13:5.) 

2)      God Himself holds our right hand.  Think of a parent holding their child’s hand.  Sometimes they try to pull away from us, but we hold tight to them, don’t we?  We don’t let them go.  We hold them up so that they don’t stumble too badly.  We keep them from straying too far away.  That is how God treats us.  He holds us by the hand and will never let us go.

3)      He guides us with His counsel.  He leads us in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake (Ps 23:3.)  He walks us through this life…

4)      Then afterward… He receives us into His presence in glory forever and ever.  The wicked have nothing to look forward to in eternity… but God’s people have everything to look forward to.

After struggling with this… Asaph begins to understand that although he may not have much now… He has something of even greater value… for he has God Himself.  Whom have I in heaven but you?  And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps 73:25-26.)  God is His reward.  Being in the presence of God is His great reward.  As Asaph observes in verses 27 and 28, the wicked will perish… they will be separated from God forever.  But not Asaph.   God will be good to him by always being near to him.

This is important.  What does it mean that “God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart(Ps 73:1)? 

1)      It means that He gives us His presence… both now and forever.  He is our portion.  He is our inheritance.  Our eternal reward is to see Him and dwell in His glorious presence forever in heaven. 

2)      And right now… it is our reward to have Him with us to guide us and strengthen us and protect us and carry us through this life of hardship into eternity.

This is something worth sharing with others… and Asaph realizes this.  God graciously kept Asaph’s mouth closed when he was singing the blues… but now his mouth is open to tell others about the works of God.

Does this describe us?  Do we see God Himself as our ultimate reward… both now and forevermore?

Do we tell others how good God is to us by granting us His presence… both in the good times and the bad?

This is easier said than done… but it should be what we strive for.  As we strive to live for God in a fallen, sin-cursed world… how do keep from becoming envious of the wicked?  How do keep the right perspective as we face hardship in the presence of those who seem to have it all despite their wickedness?

I think there are six things described here which we can do in an effort to keep the right perspective:

1)      Take your eyes of the wicked.  (Ps 73:1-14.)  O how we like to watch them!  We like to see them and ponder the lives that they live.  I think often we are trying to live vicariously through them… seeking the cheap thrill of sin by observing its fleeting pleasure in their lives.  But the more we look at them… the more appealing their sinfulness will become.  They more we look at their “things”… they more we will want their “things.”  Remember the old Sunday School song which goes something like this, “Be careful little eyes what you see… Be careful little ears what you hear…”  We need to remember this… and take our eyes off the wicked.

2)      Draw near to God (Ps 73:17.)  It wasn’t until Asaph drew near to God in the sanctuary that he regained a right perspective.  Avail yourself of the means of grace which God has given to you.  Spend time in His Word and prayer.  But specifically here in Psalm 73:17, I think the focus is in entering God’s presence in worship.  I would tend to apply this today by pointing us all the importance of engaging in the corporate worship of God.  When we gather together for the preaching of the Word and fellowship and singing God’s praises, we build one another up and we are reminded of what the future holds… not only for the wicked… but, also, for us as God’s people.

3)      Which brings us to the third application… Focus on eternity (Ps 73:17-28.)  We tend to become so fixated on the here and now that we forget life is a vapor.  It is here today and it is gone tomorrow.  But eternity is another matter.  Where will you spend eternity?  God is a holy God and He will not tolerate sin in His presence.  And we are all guilty of sin.  We all deserve God’s judgment.  But God in His grace sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to this earth to live and die for sinners, so that we might be set free from the curse of sin and enjoy an eternity with God.  But this is only for those who are born again by the sovereign work of God and who repent of their sin and trust in Jesus.  This determines where we will spend eternity.  Nothing else really matters.  All the things that we accumulate here in this life are irrelevant.  All that matters is whether or not we have Him as our Lord and Savior.  Think about eternity.  Meditate on it often… and you will find that the things of this life seem strangely unimportant.

4)      Fourthly… when we stumble like Asaph did… we need to repent and confess our sins (Ps 73:21-22.)  When we think and act this way… we are committing the sin of covetousness… and we are behaving like dumb animals toward God.  We should confess this and turn away from it… that is what repentance is… turning away from this sin to God… trusting in the promise of God that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I Jn 1:9.)

5)      Fifth… we need to strive to live life by faith in the future grace of God (Ps 73:23-28.)  Asaph specifically remembers that God is with Him.  God holds his hand.  He is weak… and we are no better.  We need to remember and trust in God because “(Our) flesh and (our) heart may fail, but God is the strength of (our) heart and (our) portion forever.”  We cannot live the Christian life in our own strength.  We must constantly lean on Him.  We must constantly trust in Him.  We must live… every day… by faith that He will uphold us.  We must trust that He is our refuge.  We must rely on Him to keep us faithful… because we can’t stay faithful in our own strength.

6)      Finally… we need to remember to tell others how good our God is (Ps 73:28.)  In the good times and the hard times… we need to continually rehearse for others all that God has done for us and all that God will do for us.  We need to remember the gospel… that Jesus Christ has died for sinners… and we need to tell this to others.  We need to remember and recount for others that “Truly God is good to Israel, to those who”… by His grace found in Jesus Christ… “are pure in heart”… no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in.

 

Read Full Post »

Dr. Albert Mohler has a brief post on the right way to use a study Bible.  This is good stuff… take the time to read it.  You can find it here http://www.albertmohler.com/blog_read.php?id=2930 .

Read Full Post »

I was meditating this morning on Hebrews 12 and I was reminded of an old hymn written by William Cowper.  I thought I might share this brief devotional thought with you…

Hebrews 12:5-11 (ESV) – 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” 7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Point # 1 – Believers should anticipate “discipline”, “reproof” and “chastisement” (literally “scourging”) from the Lord. 

Notice that there is a progression here.  “Discipline” (παιδεία /παιδεύω) implies instruction more than punishment (i.e. II Tim 3:16, Eph 6:4.)  “Reproof” (ἐλέγχω) refers to correction through pointing out one’s faults (Matt 18:15.)  “Chastises” (μαστιγόω) refers to scourging an individual with a whip (Jn 19:1.)  This seems to encompass the full range of discipline, both formative (i.e. telling a child not to play in the street) and corrective (i.e. disciplining a child for playing in the street.)  Because we are imperfect and still sinful in this life, we should anticipate God to take consistent action in our lives in order to conform us to the image of His Son.

Point # 2 – This discipline is not something to be grieved about.  This is cause for joy! 

A father is not much of a father if he doesn’t train up his children in what is right and good for them.  If he allows them to do whatever they want… whenever they want… even if it is harmful for them, then he is a poor father indeed.

But our God is not like this toward us.  He is a loving and gracious Father.  And because He loves us, He instructs us and corrects us and… yes… He even “scourges” us.  But this shouldn’t sadden us.  It should give us assurance of our salvation and joy in knowing that God cares for us.  Being disciplined by God is evidence that we are His sons!  He has received us as His own.  He is our Heavenly Father… and we are adopted by Him in Jesus Christ!

Point # 3 – The discipline which God brings upon us is “for our good” in producing “holiness” and “the peaceful fruit of righteousness” in us.

The instruction, reproof and… yes… the scourging for sin produces holiness in us.  It separates us more and more from the sinfulness inherent in us and from this world and sets us apart to our God.  It brings forth personal righteousness in our lives, which results in peace. 

God will not leave us as we are!  He is at work in us to remake us in His image!

Point # 4 – This should cause us to revere and honor God all the more for He is not an absent Father, but is actively at work in our lives for our own good.

Rather than cursing God for the hardships we face in life, we need to remember that all things work together for our good (Rom 8:28.)  All the things we face in life are orchestrated by our all-knowing, all-wise and all-powerful God to shape us in the image of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

O, that we would remember this as we go through the hardships of the Christian life!  O, that we would exhibit more endurance in bearing up under the discipline of the Lord!  O that we would rejoice in Him and revere Him more that He does not leave us alone in this life, but is continuously at work in us for our eternal good!

William Cowper seems to capture the sense of this passage well in one of his hymns entitled “Welcome Cross”:

“Tis my happiness below

Not to live without the cross

But the Saviour’s power to know,

Sanctifying every loss;

Trials must and will befall;

But with humble faith to see

Love inscribed upon them all,

This is happiness to me.

 

God in Israel sows the seeds

Of affliction, pain and toil;

These spring up and choke the weeds

Which would else o’erspread the soil:

Trials make the promise sweet,

Trials give new life to prayer;

Trials bring me to His feet,

Lay me low, and keep me there.

 

Did I meet no trials here,

No chastisement by the way,

Might I not with reason fear

I should prove a castaway?

Bastards may escape the rod,

Sunk in earthly vain delight;

But the true-born child of God

Must not, would not, if he might.”

Read Full Post »

In an excerpt from his book, “In Christ Alone”, Sinclair Ferguson warns Christians against the cultural tendency to confuse Jesus with Santa Claus and he urges us to be shaken to the core of our being as remember the awesome nature of the incarnation of the Son of the God.  Here is an excerpt…

“There is, therefore, an element in the Gospel narratives that stresses that the coming of Jesus is a disturbing event of the deepest proportions. It had to be thus, for He did not come merely to add something extra to life, but to deal with our spiritual insolvency and the debt of our sin. He was not conceived in the womb of Mary for those who have done their best, but for those who know that their best is “like filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6)–far from good enough–and that in their flesh there dwells no good thing (Rom. 7:18). He was not sent to be the source of good experiences, but to suffer the pangs of hell in order to be our Savior.”

You can read the whole thing here http://www.ligonier.org/blog/2008/12/santa-christ.html

Read Full Post »

Tim Challies has an insightful (and convicting) post about how dangerous it is to be enslaved to technology.  Here is a snippet of his thoughts…

Technology is a great servant but an evil master. Technology is proof of the greatness and grace of God and something we ought to be thankful for. But why, then, have so many of us allowed it to rule and govern our lives? Why do we allow it to play such an important, transcendent role in our lives and in our families?

Read the whole thing here http://www.challies.com/archives/christian-living/a-great-servant-an-evil-master.php .

 

Read Full Post »

Here is another video clip posted by Desiring God in which Mark Dever discusses evangelism.  It is about 4 minutes long and worth watching.

Read Full Post »

Are you a preacher?  Or a Sunday School teacher?  Or a parent concerned about educating your children in the things of God?  Then let me ask you a question… when was the last time you preached or taught from the Old Testament?

As I reflected on the sermons I have preached over the past few years, I was struck by the absence of Old Testament texts.  Yes… I preached through the entire book of Nehemiah (even the lists of names.)  I preached through portions of Deuteronomy.  And I have preached a number of Psalms (including one long series through Psalm 119.)  Other than this, there is the smattering of Old Testament character studies (i.e. Hannah or Naomi on Mother’s Day, the “bad dad” Eli on Father’s Day, etc…), but, to my shame, I fear that I have certainly played “favorites” with the inspired Word of God.

And I don’t think I am alone in this. 

Why is this so???

Ralph Davis (one of my favorite Old Testament expositors… hands down) has written a very insightful article over at the Reformation 21 website on why we fail to preach from the Old Testament the way that we should.

1)      Scholarly Barrenness.

2)      Evangelical Sloppiness.

3)      Superficial Assumptions.

4)      Hermeneutical Intimidation.

5)      Spiritual Deficiency.

In regards to this last point (“Spiritual Deficiency”), Dr. Davis makes the following (convicting?) statements:

“Maybe this is why the OT is shut out of the church.  We do not have the right approach.  I am not convinced that there is a ‘problem’ with the OT.  I do not think the ‘strangeness’ or ‘distance’ or the language of the OT is much of a problem; nor is our difficulty with the OT mainly a matter of techniques.  Rather we get off track in our interpretation of the OT because our eyes are fastened on the wrong ‘object.’   I do not mean that we cannot consider methods and genre and criticism and problems, but for crying out loud there is a living God waiting to reveal himself in the OT and we so easily take our eyes off of him!  If he is my exceeding joy (Ps. 43:4) then I should delight in seeing him in the OT.  If he is the fountain of living waters (Jer. 2:13), I should be thirsting and craving for him as I read its texts… I simply wonder if a good bit of our ‘problem’ with the OT might be a heart problem.  Maybe our problem is a spiritual one–maybe we are not salivating for the triune God as we read our Bibles.  Maybe we’re focused on sermons rather than worship.  If once you have found God fascinating…that goes a long way towards curing the ‘problem’ of the OT.” 

Ouch!

The whole article is worth the time to read.  You can find it here http://www.reformation21.org/articles/why-is-the-old-testament-shut-out-of-church.php .

Now… maybe… I will have the motivation to finish working on that sermon series through II Samuel which I have been contemplating…

Read Full Post »