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Jehovah’s Faithful Presence 

13 Jul

​”For the cloud of Yahweh was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night before the eyes of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys” (Exodus 40:38 LEB) 

This remarkable statement closes out the book of Exodus by comforting God’s people with the reassurance that God is always present with his people in a special way. It emphasizes the unbreakable faithfulness of God to his covenant people, for he had previously promised to guide them into the promised land, to protect and lead them on their journey (Exo. 3:8,17; 13:11, 21-22, et al). The same God who rescued them from Egypt would see them all their way. Even when the people rebelled and were ungrateful, Jehovah provided them with all their needs. Moses too had said to Jehovah that it would be pointless for them to continue on their journey if Jehovah’s presence did not go with them (Exo. 33:14-16), which illustrates mans need to perpetually rely on God. 

God is the same yesterday, today, and forever; he never changes (Num. 23:19; I Sam. 15:29; Psa. 55:19; Jam. 1:17). He reassures his people that those he rescues from sin, he also guides them with his continual special presence until they enter Glory (see also Rom. 8:28-30)…as he promised.

Thanks be to God. 

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Should Christians be Welcoming & Affirming?

3 Jul

There is a lot push for Christians to be “welcoming and affirming” from inside and outside of church walls. Some use this exact phrase to make a particular point: “We are welcoming and affirming of persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities.” Other pastors and congregations speak more generally saying, “Come, just be yourself and journey with us. We do life together here. We’re not like traditional churches.” Then there are those on the opposite side of the spectrum that are so inward focused and off-putting to any who darken the doors that they are neither welcoming nor affirming. Some even make the news for having such brutish tactics that they yell and picket at funerals so that people would be hard pressed to make it close to the doors of their church.

What stance ought we to take then as Christians? The extremes are not compatible, so is one to be preferred over the other? Is the middle ground the answer? Thankfully, God provides the Church with guidelines, instruction, and examples of how the Church should conduct herself. Since Scripture is divinely authoritative, completely without error, and sufficient for life and faith, let’s briefly consider what wisdom it offers regarding this topic. In order to do this, let’s take a look at “welcoming and affirming”, since it has become a common phrase in the U.S. and is more specific than the enigmatic rhetoric of the emergent-flavor churches where any definition, statement, or certainty is averted or outright rejected.

There are two unique ideas contained in this compound participial (verbal-adjective) phrase, so we will first considered them separately. Welcoming, according to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, means to “receive with pleasure and hospitality…to cordially or willingly permit or invite…to give a cordial greeting or hospitable reception.” To be welcoming, then, speaks of how one invites or receives an outsider into ones company at the outset. It is an initial interaction, often among strangers, that sets a hospitable, comfortable tone or atmosphere for the newcomer. Does Scripture teach that Christians are to be welcoming? Yes it does. Any number of passages could be referenced to support this: Jehovah God welcomed the Israelites though they were sinners (Deut. 9:5ff); Jesus welcomed the sinners and unjust tax collectors (Luke 5:27-30; 19); Jesus welcomed the adulterer (John 8); Jesus welcomed thieves (Luke 23); Jesus welcomes the weary and heavy laden (Matt. 11:28); Jesus welcomed Paul the persecutor and murderer of his people (Acts 9; 22; 26); Jesus welcomes all who truly come to him in faith and will no wise cast them out (John 6:37); Jesus welcomed me, a sinner loaded with sin. Indeed Jesus welcomes all kinds of people with all sorts of sin baggage. So too he commands his people to go and do likewise, to welcome the stranger, the sick, the widow, the orphan, the criminal, the brokenhearted, the sinner.

What about “affirming”? Affirming, according to the same source above, means “to declare positively; to assert to be true…to declare support for or belief in,” or according to Merriam-Webster, “to assert as valid or confirmed…to show a strong belief in or dedication to.” Affirming, then, is not how one acts toward another, but to gladly and willingly encourage, agree with, be committed to, and/or approve of someone or something. It is not about kindness, a willingness to listen, or a hospitable atmosphere. It is about upholding or encouraging certain beliefs, statements, thoughts, or actions. Do you see the marked uniqueness of the two words, welcoming and affirming? A person, or church, can be welcoming but not affirming of someone, affirming but not welcoming, both welcoming and affirming, or neither.

Does Scripture teach that Christians are to be affirming? Well, affirming of what? Affirming which beliefs? Which lifestyles? Which people? What state of people? Which statements? Encourage which actions? God’s Word does tell us to affirm the truths of his Scripture (Exo. 20:6, et al.). Paul says that he wants Titus to constantly affirm that believers should be careful to maintain good works (Titus 3:8, NKJV). He sends Timothy to the Thessalonians to encourage them concerning their faith (I Thes. 3:2, NKJV). But certainly we are not to affirm false teaching (I Tim. 1:7, NKJV) or anything contrary to truth or holy living. Job refuses to affirm the wrong assumptions of his presumptuous friends (Job 27:5, HCSB). David rightly attests that the wicked encourage one another in their evil ways (Psa. 64:5, NKJV); certainly they aren’t to be affirmed. It would then be unwise for a church to make a blanket statement that they are “affirming” without outlining what they affirm. That is why social groups, institutions, and churches often have statements of faith and why many creeds and confessions were composed, in order to affirm clearly what they believe, or in the case of Christian churches or groups, what they believe Scripture teaches.

Christians, therefore, ought not to be affirming of everyone’s beliefs, lifestyles, attitudes, thoughts, hopes, dreams, self-imposed identities, actions, or anything that God declares as sin. This too includes churches who specifically affirm any and all sexual identities and gender orientations, for God has declared throughout the whole corpus of Scripture that he has created and established only two unique, complementary genders and marriage as being between one man and one woman. Yet, though “welcoming and affirming” is often used to support the LGBTQ+ community, and so mentioned here, it is not the only reason to reject the “affirming” language. As noted above, affirming  should be limited to biblical truth and living. That should be implied in all areas of the Christian Church, in all congregations who take the name Christian. It is Scripture that is our final authority in all matters of faith and life, and it is the Word of God that centers in and focuses on Jesus Christ from whom all Christians take their name and find their identity.

Christians, therefore, should be very welcoming of all peoples, but not affirming. Christ calls sinners to himself, but he does not affirm sinners in their sin. He does not encourage their sin or support their sinful lifestyles. Instead the triune God says, “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11). He calls us, sinners, to repentance and faith (Acts 20:21). He tells us to humble ourselves, pray, turn from sin, and seek the Lord (II Chr. 7:14). He commands us to put off our old man that is corrupt and filled with deceitful lusts (Eph. 4:22; Col. 3:8-9), and put on the new man of righeousness and holiness (Eph. 4:24ff). He encourages us to grow in our faith (Eph. 4:15; I Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:18). He commands us to exercise ourselves unto godliness (I Tim. 4:7-9). He tells us to mortify the deeds of the flesh (Rom. 8:13; Col. 3:5). We are not to remain the same as when we were welcomed as sinners, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2); our thinking needs changing. We are to forsake ourselves and obey God out of love (John 14:15). We are to be called out, separate from the world and its ways (II Cor. 6:17). We are to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness (Matt. 6:33).

Jesus never affirmed sinners and neither should we. He welcomed them with love and the offer of a new life. He came for the sick, proclaiming that he was the great Physician that could heal and remove the disease that plagues us all. Yes, Christian, by all means, welcome all people. Grow in your welcoming of others. Pray that you will mirror the welcoming nature of Jesus Christ. Repent of any hardheartedness, fears, selfishness, pride, disgust toward others, or any other sin that is keeping you from truly welcoming others. But never water down the gospel for which Jesus came, bled, died, rose, and is coming again. A Gospel that does not affirm sinners, but calls us to repentance and new life in Christ. This is who we are to be.

Soli Deo Gloria.

A Message to Young People

23 Apr

Young people,

God can and does use you too! Humbly walk with the Lord and be used by him for his work and glory in the Church and the world. You are important to him. You are useful. You have been given gifts. You are dear to his heart! Look at these examples from Scripture if you are not convinced.

1) The disciples are often thought to have been youthful.
2) When he was a boy, the prophet Samuel was ministering to the LORD before Eli (1 Sam. 3:1).
3) David was a boy when he slew the giant, Goliath, for the sake of the Lord’s honor when many ran in fear (1 Sam. 17:33).
4) Solomon was young and inexperienced when he became king and began building the temple (1 Chron. 29:1).
5) Elisha the prophet sent a young man to bring a rather divisive prophesy from the Lord and to anoint Jehu king (2 Kings 9:1-13).
6) Timothy was a young, faithful preacher of the Gospel of Christ that was to be an example for the rest (1 Tim. 4:12).
7) Jesus rebuked his disciples for wanting to turn away the young ones (Matt. 18:10).
8) Mary, the mother of Jesus, was called as a young virgin to bear the Son of God, fulfilling prophesy (Luke 1:26-38).
9) Jeremiah the prophet of God was young; consider his account (Jer. 1:4-8):

Then said I: “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth.”
But Yahweh said to me: “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you,” says Yahweh.

Three Names, One Sacrament

4 Oct

Three different names that emphasize three different aspects of the sacrament, BRIEFLY explained:

1) LORD’S SUPPER: On the night he was to be betrayed, Jesus set apart and transformed the Passover meal, establishing the new covenant of salvation in his blood. This was a meal established by the Lord and therefore so named. Paul also rightly refers to the sacrament as the “Lord’s Supper” in 1 Corinthians 11:20.

2) EUCHARIST: Jesus, during this meal, took the two elements (the wine and the bread), and gave thanks to the Father for them before offering them to his disciples with instruction (Luke 22:17,19). The word “eucharist” comes from the Greek word eucharisteo, meaning “to give thanks”.

3) COMMUNION: As R.C. Sproul has rightly said, “covenantal signs are communal signs.” Jesus established this for his followers, the Church. He gave it to them and told them all to partake of the sacrament (Matthew 26:27). We, in like fashion, partake of the sacrament together. We join in not only with our local gathering (congregation) of believers, but also with all those around the world that share in the sacrament – the worldwide community of believers. Since we are one body of believers (1 Corinthians 12), indwelled with the one Spirit, in the name of the one Lord, through one faith, baptized with the one baptism, to the glory of the one God and Father of all (Ephesians 4:3-6), and united together in Christ (John 17), when we share in this blessed sacrament, we do so communally.

Depending upon the congregation, you may hear any of these three designations. They are each biblically appropriate, showing among other things that the sacrament is established by, focused on, and centered in Christ Jesus, that when we share in the sacrament, we do so with tremendous gratitude and thanksgiving, and that we join in with all those who call upon the name of Jesus.

Modern Liberalism In The Church

29 May

Liberalism in the church is neither new, nor solely a part of a by-gone era. There are, however, differences in the way liberalism presents itself today. Some of these differences are found in the language used, and the way their theology is clouded in post-modern relativism.

Today, the liberal-theologians might say, “Our message must be relevant, emergent, and inclusive.” Here’s the rub…the Gospel is first of all God’s message. It is only secondarily our message, as those having been subjected to and transformed by God’s message, and therefore saints and ministers of that message of reconciliation. Furthermore, by nature, the message is already very relevant, emergent (in urgency and in distinction from the world), and inclusive. There is nothing more relevant than the beautiful message of salvation to a world caught in sin. There is nothing more emergent (in its definition relating to urgency) than a salvific message in light of an ever-approaching eternity of hell. There is nothing more emergent (in its definition relating to coming out of something else) than a message that divides the world, calls people out of the world to a holy priesthood, and instructs the children of God to live in the world but not of it. Additionally, the gospel is inclusive. This is what many of the Jews struggled with. Salvation is inclusive of all nations and generations. This is the biblical view. It is not, however, inclusive in the sense that one can worship whatever “god” they desire, or in the sense that all will be saved.

Proponents of liberalism often think, or at least talk, of God as unknowable or too “mysterious” to make doctrinal assertions about God, salvation, eschatology, et. al.. The truth is that God is knowable. We cannot know Him completely, but He has revealed a great many things about Himself in His creation and in scripture. Christianity is not merely a life of the heart, but of the heart, mind, strength, and soul. We are to worship in Spirit and in truth. We are to get knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. We are to search the scriptures for answers like the Bereans. We are to recognize and correct false from biblical doctrine and theology. We are to teach and preach what God has done, is doing, and will do. If we do not know who and what we believe, than how can we have a faith in the “who” and the” what”.

Questions, questions, and more questions. That is what often comes to mind when speaking with someone of this propensity. You can ask them a question, and you will usually get another question or an unclear answer. I understand that asking questions is a good idea. I understand the nature of being inquisitive (I am myself). I understand that Jesus used this as a method of instruction. The difference is that Jesus had and gave answers, or rather that He WAS the answer. This is what Jesus was often getting at. There is a reason for questions – to arrive at answers, and the Bible is full of them.

Those that want to minimize orthodox beliefs and statements about God, the world, and His interaction in the world, and substitute them with controversy and subversive dialogue, should instead speak the true message of the gospel; in it they will find what they desire. The message is foolishness to the perishing world, and some will hate you for it. How’s that for controversy. Besides, there is nothing the world needs more than the forgiveness of sins. If definitive assertions about God and the world are of little importance, then why does the bible spend so much time making and explaining such things. Many would argue that we must put away such beliefs for a more robust involvement in social justice, but this creates a false dichotomy. Absolutely, we ought to be concerned for the world and its inhabitants, but not at the expense of the message of the cross.

Watering down the gospel and making it palatable and pleasing to a generation is dangerous, and this is often what liberal theology is doing. I am almost certain that they would not say they want to water down the gospel (though it is often difficult to get them to say what they are doing, as they often choose not to take a definitive stance on many issues), but when you weaken the biblical message of justification, this is exactly what is occurring. Our consciences ought to be “held captive by the word of God”, as Martin Luther stated, not by feelings, societal trends, or what seems right or fair to us. We ought to approach the world by the Word and not the Word by the world. I realize that the Church is fallible and needs to improve in many areas; we are not perfectly sanctified after all. Let us continue to work on these issues, but not at the expense of still more. We serve a perfect God who has given us scripture to live by; let us do this faithfully, God help us.

The foci of this brief note are based on liberal ideas I have personally witnessed, encountered, heard, or read directly from liberal proponents.