Last Sunday night we studied Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount regarding fasting. One of the things that stands out is that fasting is nowhere commanded in Scripture, but rather is simply expected of those who follow the Lord. In preparation for the lesson, I found these paragraphs from Calvin’s Institutes to be of great help, especially in answering the questions: “Why should I fast?” and “What good does it do?”
Will all my sins be seen on the last day?
A friend recently asked me this question. More than that, this question has been asked me of me several times in recent months. Christians, with good reason, want to know what we can expect on the last day. Several have asked me point blank, “When Jesus returns and judges everyone, will all of my sins be broadcast up on a cosmic-sized movie screen for God – and everyone else – to see?”
Some passages in Scripture seem to point this way. Revelation 20:12 speaks about the dead on the day of judgment being “judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.” And Romans 2:6 promises that God “will render to each one according to his works…” Verses like these give many the impression that each and every human will have the same experience on the day of judgment: having their every sin brought out into the light, to be seen for what they’ve truly done and who they truly are.
But is that what Scripture really teaches? Is that what believers in Jesus can expect? While there are many Biblical scholars who might disagree, [...]
Oh how I love your law, it is my meditation all the day!
Let’s admit together that this isn’t easy. We are born with a predisposition against God’s law. To the natural man or woman, God’s law is like the brightness of the sun to eyes that have gotten used to the dark. We avoid it. Really, we hate it.
But it should be different now, right? For those who have been brought to new life through the Spirit of Christ, our attitude toward God’s law should be better than hatred and rebellion. And a lot of times it is: when we’re on top of our spiritual game, we really do love God’s law. But when we begin to slip in our spiritual disciplines, or when discouragement and depression come creeping, or when we refuse to deal forthrightly with our sins, or when we listen too much to the world’s hatred of God’s standard – this is when our love for God’s law wanes.
So here’s some help. Here are a couple more reasons to love God’s law that you might not think about all the time, a couple more arrows for your spiritual battle to hold onto that love.
…that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine… (Ephesians 4:14)
It’s easy to be discouraged at the state of morality in our culture (or cultures, as the case may be), but slightly harder to pin down what exactly that morality is. The fact remains that we don’t live in an amoral society, because such a thing is impossible. Human societies will always be guarded by a morality. The real question is not whether morality, but which. We definitely have a morality and for the sake of the church’s future in this society, we need to more deeply discern the waters in which we swim.
My proposal is a new name for our new morality: Reactionary Morality.
As our congregation approaches the end of a sermon series through Revelation (yes, you may pray for their endurance), I’ve lately been considering more the purposes of God for including this apocalyptic book into our Scriptures. Asking the question has forced me to the conclusion that John’s Revelation is absolutely vital to the health and success of Christ’s church.
I believe Revelation is given to the church of this age (this age between Jesus’ ascension and return) in order to strengthen the church for her great goal of persevering in the faith. Throughout this age, Revelation shows us, the church will face the same two problems over and over again, persecution and temptation. Both persecution and temptation are the great tools of the enemy designed to draw us away from Christ.
How do we fight? How do we persevere through the twin terrors of persecution and temptation? Revelation goes far beyond functioning as the warning siren and itself answers the question: we persevere by trusting in Christ. More specifically, we persevere by keeping our eyes so firmly fixed on Jesus Christ and His glory and love and majesty that the lies and threats of this world fade easily.
And here’s why Revelation is so [...]
Recently, a reader submitted the following question:
I have become increasingly uncomfortable with the amount of hustle and bustle of church business and committee work and clip boards flying around to sign up for this and that. Of course I too have approached people, clipboard in hand, on the Lord’s Day. Would one of you consider addressing this topic?
This is a perceptive question that, if we answer it well, could help us maintain or rescue the blessings of corporate worship and Sabbath-keeping.
Before we attempt an answer, let’s assuming the following factors are at play:
A sincere desire to honor the Lord’s Day and enjoy the rest it provides
The need to clearly communicate the needs and ministries of the church and recruit people to be involved
The fact that the corporate gathering for worship is the easiest time to communicate and recruit
The danger that the bustle of announcements, sign-up sheets and committee meetings might overshadow or even undo some of the rest provided on the Sabbath
In other words, the congregation needs to know what’s going on and how to get involved without losing the focus and restfulness of worship. If your congregation has a lot of things going on, you’ll agree that striking this [...]
A little while ago, I began noticing facebook links with a similar pattern:
“The Cutest Kittens Ever! #3 Will Leave You Smiling for Days!”
“You Won’t Believe These Sunrises! #20 Made Me Cry!”
“This three year old is the funniest dancer ever!!”
And so on. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why these things bothered me so much; I just knew they did. My only rebuttal was simply not clicking on the links. Until now.
Perhaps it’s largely due to judicial activism. Perhaps it may be a short-lived reality with long-term inevitability, but our county in Indiana saw its first gay marriages solemnized at the courthouse this week. For some of GR’s readership, this has been a reality for some time, for others it is yet in the future. But the closeness to home has made me try to think clearly about how we are to respond. This is by no means the final word, but some pastoral thoughts.
I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. -1 Corinthians 4:6
What’s the quickest way to a fight? What’s the fastest way to transform a small conflict into a raging fire of anger? While my answer to this question may be somewhat subjective, it is based on the text of Scripture above and the opportunities I’ve had to see this in action many times over.
As our congregation continues to work through Jesus’ sermon on the mount during our evening services, we come this week the following where Jesus lays the foundation of most of the sermon:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Mt. 5:17-20)