Sunday, May 24, 2015

Balancing Public and Private Worship

“Come, let us worship and bow down,
Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker. 
Psalm 95:6
A growing number seem content to practice the personal Spiritual Disciplines and neglect worship with other believers.  They believe their private devotional life is superior to anything they experience in corporate worship, so they neglect the public ministry of  God’s Word.   Be alert to the danger of such imbalance.   In my pastoral ministry, however, I have encountered many more professing Christians who tilt to the opposite extreme.  They faithfully discipline themselves to attend corporate worship, but they disregard the regular practice of privately worshiping God.  More fall into this pitfall than perhaps any other on the path to godliness.  They progress little in Christlikeness simply because they fail to discipline themselves t this very point.   Don’t let it happen to you.
What David Clarkson says about public worship applies to all acts of worship, both public and private:
 What you do in public worship, do it with all your might.   Shake off that slothful, indifferent, lukewarm temper, which is so odious to God…Think it not enough to present your bodies before the Lord…The worship of the body is but the carcass of worship;  it is soul worship that is the soul of worship.     Those that draw near with their lips only shall find God far enough from them;  not only lips, and mouth ad tongue, but mind, and heart, and affections;  not only knee, and hand and eye, but heart, and conscience, and memory, must be pressed to attend upon God in public worship.   David says, not only “my flesh longs for Thee,” but “my soul thirsts for Thee.”   Then will the Lord draw near, when our whole man waits on Him; then will the Lord be found, when we seek Him with our whole heart.”

Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney;   NavPress; revised version: 2014 Pg 115-116

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Precarious World of Women's Bible Studies

The first  Bible study I taught  in 1978   had a handful of ladies.   We studied the book of Ruth and I did my own preparation using the basic principles of hermeneutics we learned in Bible college through  Bernard Ramm’s “Protestant Biblical Interpretation”.     I used several commentaries,  a concordance,  a word study, and a Bible atlas.    Nearly 40 years later my study methods haven’t  changed much, except that the computer and Internet have made  it easier.   
But things have changed dramatically in the world of Bible interpretation  and study guides reflecting  this  problem have become  popular.  There are many issues with this new “hermeneutic”—one for example has to do with  application.
Brian A. Shealy explains:
  “Bernard Ramm foresaw the hermeneutical problem among evangelicals that would arise through the advent of the new hermeneutic.   Hermeneutical  theorists have departed from grammatical-historical- principles and embraced the subjectivism of the new hermeneutic.   They are recommending a system that incorporates the step of application into the hermeneutical process, thereby confusing definitions of hermeneutics, exegesis, meaning and interpretation.   Dangers that the confusion brings include those of encouraging a human-centered interpretation,  allowing cultural application to change meaning, and advocating  a reader-response type of interpretation as well as others.  To overcome those dangers, interpreters must be sure of their goal, determine what is normative, develop doctrine, and put into practice the lessons dictated by the meaning of a passage.   The only way to achieve this is to redraw the line between hermeneutics and application.”  2 
  I’ve never been much of a  fan of  women's  Bible study guides per se.   For sure,  I've read some good ones,  but too often  they  can be off base to varying degrees.   One example was given last week in  Rachel Miller's critique of a popular women's study.  
But many  women want to hear from other women,  as staggering book sales and  packed out conferences  have proven.   We could stand to hear from more theologically robust women   who know how to exercise sound biblical hermeneutics.   Without a  solid systematic theology in place,  even those advocating "inductive" study methods can be misleading  when they convey doctrinal prejudices.  
 “Inductive Bible study leaders may give the impression that they are setting aside their prejudices and simply reading Scripture, but this is not really the case.  …we never see Scripture through completely fresh, unprejudiced eyes.
... We are not free to impose a system on Scripture (which would be a purely deductive approach), but we are at no greater liberty to assume, rather arrogantly, that we are the first to read the Bible just as it is at face value (which would be a purely inductive approach).  Imposing a system on Scripture makes the Bible a slave of tradition, while assuming that we are the first to read it just as it is at face value renders Scripture a slave to unacknowledged personal prejudices.” 1. Michael Horton
I'm no scholar by any means,  but I  do know the average woman  is perfectly capable of understanding  how serious this problem is. 
For a really good  talk about the problem going on in our seminaries  with Scripture interpretation you can listen to Dr. David Farnell’s message at the National Apologetics Conference. 

 2. Evangelical Hermeneutics,  The New Versus the Old;  by Robert L. Thomas;  Chapter Seven: Redrawing the Line Between Hermeneutics and Application by Brian A. Shealy;  pgs165.  Kregal Academics; 2002

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Prepared to Listen

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
 Matthew 11:13
 “Come to hear them, not our of curiosity, but from a sincere desire to know and do your duty.  To enter His house merely to have our ears entertained, and not our hearts reformed, must certainly be highly displeasing to the Most High God, as well as unprofitable to ourselves." - George Whitfield 
"We are told men ought not to preach without preparation.  Granted.  But we add, men ought not to hear without preparation.  Which,  do you think needs the most preparation, the sower or the ground?  I would have the sower come with clean hands, but I would have the ground well-plowed and harrowed, well-turned over, and the clods broken before the seed comes in.   It seems to me that there is more preparation needed by the ground than by the sower, more by the hearer than by the preacher. “ -C.H. Spurgeon

Quotations  from "Expository Listening" - A Handbook  for Hearing and Doing God's Word by Ken Ramey;  Kress Biblical Resources;  2010 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

When The Gospel Divides The Family

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth.   I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.   For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.    And a person's enemies will be those of his own household.  Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. . ~  Matthew 10:34-37

 The cost of discipleship was never supposed to be  easy.  When families are divided  over  the  Gospel  it may be gut wrenching but it shouldn't come as a surprise.  
The exclusivity of the  Gospel  is offensive to the natural mind.  It challenges every part of a persons  being—our pride;  our world view,  our  lifestyle and relationships,  and our religious beliefs.     It  cannot give credence to  religious views that deny  the essentials of the faith (2 John 10-11;  Galatians 1:8),  which makes it harder when we live in a culture where  false gospels push for unity.      
Any one of these things can create tension and even a rift between Christians and their  family members.   In some cultures standing for Christ  can even mean a death sentence.
Without question, we should  exhibit humility and gentleness  making  every effort to pursue peace  when it’s  possible,  but  our allegiance  to Christ and an unadulterated Gospel  must  always  take precedence.   
“Because the intervention in history by the Son of God was going to split and fracture human relationships, Jesus determined that His disciples be prepared for that experience.  Martin Luther said,  “If our gospel were received in peace, it would not be the true gospel.”   Luther’s preaching and teaching produced the greatest rift in the history of religion.  Challenging the unbiblical teachings and practices of the Catholic Church and shattering it’s millennium of complacency and political power.
Becoming a Christian requires affirming the lordship of Christ to the point where you are willing to forsake everything else.  …Salvation is by faith alone, apart from any works at all;  but faith that is genuine will be manifested in a commitment that cannot be swayed by any influence.   The Christian is to love his family with self-sacrificing love.  Christian husbands and wives are to love each other and their children with unreserved devotion.  Christian children are to love, respect and care for their parents  as unto the Lord.   But the believer’s commitment to Christ is so profound and far-reaching that any relationship that endangers that relationship must be sacrificed if necessary.”  1 
We can  take  great  comfort  knowing that God  is sovereign over all our  relationships.     Let us continue to pray with diligence for our loved ones that
“God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” 2 Timothy 2:25-26

 1.  The MacArthur New Testament Commentary:  Matthew 8-15;  1987;  Moody Bible Institute; Pg. 232
Photo Source 

Friday, May 15, 2015

A Jewish Believer in Jesus Tells His Story


    "You worship what you do not know;
we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews."
Jesus Christ the Messiah
John 4:22

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Grumpy Old Women

 “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, "I have no delight in them";”  Ecclesiastes 12:1 

The other day  Robert and I were discussing  how sad it is to hear   elderly couples  arguing in public.   For some reason it seems the woman  is usually  the  more "expressive" one.          
As a young believer  I was impressed by how happy  the older people in  our church were and  just  assumed they had reached some kind of Christian nirvana one wrinkle at a time.    
 I had yet to learn that  the  old saints  in our churches who  exhibit  joy  in spite of  their  losses and   infirmities ,   didn't  arrive there by spiritual osmosis.    Rather,  their  faith was tested  in the fires of  adversity and  nurtured by lifelong habits of devotion to Christ.    No doubt,   they   made plenty of fumbles along the way,    but in  the long run these people  continued to press on while  keeping their eye on the prize   "of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14 ). 
Aging  may  take its toll on  our bodies and even on our emotions,  but  it  can't  destroy  the  heart that is  firmly anchored in Christ.    Therefore we ought to be cultivating our relationship  with  Christ  now  so  we will be prepared for those illusive  Golden Years.    
It’s tempting  to run on  spiritual cruise control  when  our schedules  are  jam-packed with things like school,  raising families,  and  trying to earn a living.  While we  might be able to  maintain a  good appearance with outward religious activities,   there's just  no substitute  for  inward devotion to Christ through the disciplines  of  prayer,  fasting,  Bible study, and meditation.   It's not enough to have good doctrine and a head full of knowledge unless we're using it to draw near to God.  
No one was  ever more equipped with spiritual  wisdom and knowledge than King Solomon and yet  in his old age his heart turned away from the Lord to follow other gods (I Kings 11:4;  Proverbs 31:3 ).   What a sobering  wake-up call his life should be to us!     
The idea of  disciplining ourselves for spiritual  gain  has fallen out of fashion in much of the evangelical church today in favor of spontaneity and experience.    This is  a real tragedy  because a life that lacks spiritual discipline will ultimately result  in  a life lacking in joy and in holiness.     
I don't want to become another  grumpy old woman in the grocery store  and whenever I catch myself  whining or being ungrateful,   I  can usually  trace it back to a lack of prayer and meditating on the promises of God.
 “How often do we hear about the discipline of the Christian life these days?   How often do we talk about it?    How often is it really to be found at the heart of our evangelical living?   There was a time in the Christian church when this was at the very center, and it is, I profoundly believe , because of our neglect of this discipline that the church is in her present position.  Indeed, I see no hope whatsoever of any true revival and reawakening until we return to it.”1  - Martyn Lloyd-Jones
1.  Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney.  NavPress 2014; pg. 159

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Duty of Mothers and Grandmothers

 “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life.   Make them known to your children and your children’s children—“  Deuteronomy 4:9

Nowadays, since the world has in it so few of Christian mothers and grandmothers, the church has thought it wise to supplement the instruction of home by teaching held under her fostering wing. Those children who have no such parents the church takes under her maternal care. I regard this as a very blessed institution. 
  Let no Christian parents fall into the delusion that the Sunday School is intended to ease them of their personal duties. The first and most natural condition of things is for Christian parents to train up their own children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Let holy grandmothers and gracious mothers, with their husbands, see to it that their own boys and girls are well taught in the Book of the Lord. 
  Let us expect our children to know the Lord. Let us from the beginning mingle the name of Jesus with their A B C.    Let them read their first lessons from the Bible.   It is a remarkable thing that there is no book from which children learn to read so quickly as from the New Testament: there is a charm about that book which draws forth the infant mind.   But let us never be guilty, as parents, of forgetting the religious training of our children "1  ~ Charles Spurgeon
Happy  Mother's Day!

 Painting: An Interlude by William Sergeant Kendall (1907) 
1. “Come Ye Children” by Charles Spurgeon

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Gospel

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;"  I Timothy 2:6
 "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved."- Acts 4:12
" But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."-  Romans 5:8 
 "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.- I Peter 2:24  
 "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast"  - Ephesians 2:8-9
 "Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;" - Acts 3:19
 "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out." - John 6:37
" For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." - Philippians 1:6
" But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!" - Galatians 1:8  

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Shelter in the Time of Storm


“The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”  Psalm 16:2

Friday, April 24, 2015

It Will Be Worth it All

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.” 
I Corinthians  13:12

  I often hear people say they can’t wait to get to Heaven to see their loved ones.   I definitely feel that way too but my greatest desire is to be with  Jesus and  to be free from  the constant assault on my soul by  my own sinful heart , the evils of this world,  and  the wiles of the devil.   Even so, I know that the testings and trials of  this life  are no mere  coincidence and have been  designed by God  for our good and for His glory.    Surely, Heaven becomes sweeter because of the heartaches we endure today!   
 “But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”1 Corinthians 2:9
  What a truly glorious day it will be when we no longer see  Christ through a mirror dimly, but face to face!  
Heaven would be no heaven to me if I did not see Jesus, my best, my dearest, my constant Friend, who with unceasing patience, tenderness, and mercy, has followed me through all my wanderings in this wilderness world; and has never, no, never, left nor forsaken me for one single moment.   To know Him aright is a little heaven begun below.
   Oh, heaven is worth living for!  A life of trial and of tribulation is as nothing when compared with the mighty blessings that await the believer in Jesus, when he drops the body of sin and of death. I have been, and still am, looking to the things that are not seen, and that are eternal.
My sweetest meditation, lying down and rising up, or waking in the night, is Heaven.  Oh, to enjoy unutterable bliss of perfect freedom from sin, in the presence of Jesus, my dearest, my best Friend.” 1  ~ Mary Winslow
It will be worth it all
when we see Jesus!
Life’s trials will seem so small
when we see Christ.
One glimpse of his dear face,
all sorrow will erase.
So, bravely run the race
till we see Christ.”
Esther K. Rusthoi

1.Walking With Jesus  -Spiritual meditations for pilgrims in a weary land on their way to glory! Mary Winslow
Photo: Theology for Girls