Your Love Broke Through

I have always loved this song by Keith Green and Randy Stonehill, published in 1976, and recorded by many since then.

It describes what life is like without Christ – it’s like living in another dream world where you’re actually “asleep” to the real world, the world of living alive in Christ. The dream world without Christ “seems so real” to the lost mind. But if you see Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior it is because his love broke through the barrier that kept out the light of the gospel.

“And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor. 4:3-6)

This means that your ability to see your need of Christ was God’s sovereign love and decree, just like speaking Creation into existence. There was nothing to work with in creating Creation and likewise, there was nothing to work with in creating Gospel Light in your heart.

Let’s gather in the Lord’s House this Sunday and worship him who has broken through! And may God be gracious to break through the sleepy hearts of family and friends.

“The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness; The path to True Christian Joy”

The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness: Timothy Keller: 9781906173418 -  Christianbook.com

With only 44 pages, double spaced, about size 14 font, Tim Keller published a booklet in 2012 and to this day, I go back to and read some very helpful words. The title to his booklet is the title to this post.

Here is the back cover description:

“This is one of the questions the apostle Paul addresses as he writes to the church in Corinth. He’s not after some superficial outward tinkering, but instead a deep-rooted, life-altering change that takes place on the inside. In an age where pleasing people, puffing up your ego and building your resume are seen as the methods to ‘make it’, the apostle Paul calls us to find true rest in blessed self-forgetfulness . . . this is a truly liberating book for anyone who’s ever worried about what others think of them or been caught up in conflict.”

And here is a quote from Keller on page 39:

“Do you realize that it is only in the gospel of Jesus Christ that you get the verdict before the performance? The atheist might say that they get their self-image from being a good person. They are a good person and they hope that eventually they will get a verdict that confirms that they are a good person. Performance leads to the verdict. For the Buddhist too, performance leads to the verdict. If you are a Muslim, performance leads to the verdict. All this means that every day, you are in the courtroom, every day you are on trial. That is the problem. But Paul is saying that in Christianity, the verdict leads to performance.”

Buy the booklet! Buy bunches of them for stocking-stuffers this Christmas. There is nothing more freeing than to care about the only opinion of you that really matters: it is Christ’s opinion that matters most. Everyone else’s, including your own, matters little.

What Guides My Vote This Nov. 3, 2020: Scripture, as best as I can see.

Render unto Caesar - Wikipedia

I hope that your days are going well amid many things that make life a little more challenging in these times that are proving to help you to live for Jesus Christ.

I started preaching the book of Romans in September 2018. About 6 weeks ago I began chapter 13, which addresses submission to the government through paying taxes, offering the support of revenue, honor, and respect. Over the past several weeks, a few of my heroes of the faith have lovingly and respectfully disagreed with one another. I’ve read their books, sat at their feet at conferences, and have appreciated with the highest respect, their contribution to spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. But, they do have differences of opinion.

It is my prayer and hope that you will engage the arena of politics with the Bible open and do your best to honor the Lord with not only your your vote but especially with your ongoing understanding of how God’s Word applies to politics. True, you may have already voted. Or, you may have already chosen to completely abstain. Or, you may have chosen to write in a third party candidate – that you know does not have a chance to win, but out of conscience you support. I completely respect that.

However, for your edification, in terms of learning to hear things out, and weigh all things to scripture, here are just a few things that I have read over the past several weeks. With very little comment from me, may what you read (and you should read for the benefit of your mind to pursue Christ), prove to be helpful in how you think about the world we presently live in and the godly responses that you should take.

Please take the time to read all that they say – for a believer who is serious about having their mind transformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 12:1-2), I think that you will find more peace and comfort in what Scripture has to say about Government that what any news network has to say.

First up is Wayne Grudem, from Phoenix Seminary in Arizona. http://www.waynegrudem.com/letter-to-an-anti-trump-christian-

friendhttp://www.waynegrudem.com/list-of-25-good-things-president-trump-has-done-for-america

Then from John Piper that opposes Wayne Grudem:

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/policies-persons-and-paths-to-ruin

John Piper disagrees with his life long friend, Wayne Grudem. They love each other and respectfully disagree. But at the end of the day, I agree with Wayne Grudem.

Now enter Albert Mohler, President of Southern Seminary in St. Louis, KY, partly in response to what is being said:

https://albertmohler.com/2020/10/26/christians-conscience-and-the-looming-2020-election

I agree with both Wayne Grudem and Albert Mohler. May the Word of God guide your conscience today and all the tomorrows over the next decade and beyond for the welfare of your fellow man.

I want to be “Left Behind” and so do you.

Left Behind (2000) – The original movie – Kirk Cameron - YouTube

I remember hearing and reading about the song and series, “Left Behind”, written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins in the early 2000,s, based upon the song produced by Larry Norman in 1989 titled, “I Wish We’d All Been Ready.” Both the song and the movie received huge positive reviews and viewership. It was based upon the belief that there will come a time when Jesus will secretly return to “take” his children home and leave the unbelievers “behind.” And therefore, you don’t want to be “left behind” but rather “taken”.

I believe that the entire premise of the song and movie are biblically inaccurate, misunderstanding the meaning of “taken” and “left”. Let’s look at the scriptures.

Matthew 24:27, 28 “For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”

Matthew 24:36-44 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

The question is: who will be taken and who will be left? The other question is, who is “taken” to what? and “left” to/out of/from what? And also, is Jesus calling us to be ready to be “taken” or is he calling us to be ready to be “left”?

We do know that Jesus is connecting those who were “unaware” and were “swept away” to those who were “taken”. How do we know this? Because Jesus used the analogy of those in Noah’s time. In the days of the flood, those who were taken, were taken, swept away into judgment. And those who were “left behind” were those who were left safely in the Ark.

This leaves us with the question, “Who is it then that the vultures depicted in verse 28 are feeding on, clearly a sign of judgment?”

As always, scripture interprets scritpture when there is any ambiguity. Turn to Luke 17:20-37:

“Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” And he said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. And they will say to you, ‘Look, there!’ or ‘Look, here!’ Do not go out or follow them. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot–they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all– so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.” And they said to him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”

Much like the account of Matthew, but Luke gives us more. Are the disciples asking where the one will be left in bed and at the mill, or are they asking where the one will be taken? Jesus’ answer reveals that they are not asking where the one will be left, but where the one will be taken. The one left is still in the bed and at the mill stone – the disciples cannot be asking where the one at the bed and millstone are – because that is where they are. They are asking where is the one taken to. The one taken is “where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather”, which is what Matthew said, though with not the same clarity as Luke. They are taken into judgment.

The point is: those who will be taken, swept away, like those in Noah’s day and those in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah, are taken into judgment while Noah and his family, Abraham and Lot and their small family are left behind, that is, left out of the judgment. That is the point that Jesus is making. When he returns, you don’t want to be taken into judgment, you want to be left behind, that is, left out of that judgment.

Jesus is helping the church to get ready for his return by telling us that many normal things will be taking place in our lives (eating, drinking, getting married, buying and selling, ect.), but that his coming will be so sudden that those who are not ready will not know what hit them until it’s too late. You don’t want to be taken into judgment; you want to be left behind, left out of his coming judgment!

A few good things:

  1. Jesus promises that his elect will be left out of the judgment (Luke 17:37; Matt. 24:22, 28).
  2. Jesus promises that those who “remember” Lot’s wife and lose their lives in this lifetime, will not be taken into judgment. (Luke 17:32, 33).
  3. Jesus promises that after the “tribulation of those days” that he will gather his elect, with a trumpet sound, from the entire corners of the earth (Matt. 24:31).
  4. Jesus promises that in those days when the trumpet sounds, that those who are not ready will “mourn” when they see him coming on the clouds to take them away in judgment (Matt. 24:30).

Therefore, your hope in Christ is that when he returns you will be left behind, left out of his judgment, and not taken away, swept away into his judgment. For everyone knows: judgment is where the vultures are feeding! Thank God that when Christ returns, and the trumpet sounds, the elect are gathered together, that we will not be fed upon, but will rather feast with Christ at the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:6-8).

My #1 Guitar Hero

I started listening to Phil Keaggy in 1988 and have attended 8 concerts with one photo-op and brief discussion and guitar pick signing time. While spending time here in Nashville, for the first time, the place is filled with a century of recording artists that remind of my #1 guitar hero. Not just because he is revered as one of the best of all time, but mainly because of his love for Jesus Christ. He’s produced over 60 albums and has toured the world sharing the gospel with his God-given incredible talent. Here’s a sample of what he can do (Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, TN), with no one else in the recording studio playing any instruments. Below are the wonderful and encouraging lyrics.

True Believers

The true believers stand on every word You say
The true believers made alive in Christ today
This is how we survive and where we mean to stay
The true believers

You’ve had enough, all you can take
When your river of tears
Runs into an ocean of heartbreak
He’ll be your moon when your sun goes down
Fire for you if ice is all that’s on your ground
When your music has died
And silence is the sound

The true believers stand on every word You say
The true believers made alive in Christ today
This is how we survive and where we mean to stay
The true believers

So if you need to call on a friend
He’s there for you right until the very end
His love is alive forever and amen

The true believers stand on every word You say
The true believers made alive in Christ today
This is how we survive and where we mean to stay
The true believers

The Greatest Chess Game Ever Played

IMG_4059

I started playing chess at 12 years of age because my cousin, Ronnie Truman, wanted to have a sparing partner. From there, I joined Chess Teams and competed through junior high and high school. When the Apple computer came out I bought a Chess program that had all the major Chess Tournaments in the world, pre-loaded so that you could watch the game and study the techniques of the Masters. I love the game, it’s world history, it’s mind-challenging foresight and prediction of future moves, and it’s infinite ability of a new game every single time you play.

The picture is three of my five grandchildren. I love teaching them as I loved teaching my own children when they were young. It’s a game that like no other game, excels in “tricking” your opponent that he or she is making the right move, when in fact, they are opening themselves up for a huge take-over in about 4 to 6 moves later. Chess is a game that is all about deception!

The greatest chess game ever played and is still on the clock, is the one by God and Satan. The entire Old Testament predicted the death of the Messiah as a substitute for the sins of his children and that is why Satan attempted to derail God’s plan to send his son; but little did Satan know that he, the great deceiver, was being duped by God. ‘

Satan first attempted to take Jesus out as a baby by inciting King Herod to slaughter all the baby boys 2 years old and under in the region where Jesus was born. Satan’s next move that we see was to disqualify him in the wilderness by getting Jesus to distrust his father’s care for him. Next, Satan begins to attack the Father’s moves by stirring up jealousy in the hearts of the Pharisees – they’ll pepper him with questions by which will humiliate him and the crowds will turn away from Jesus. Satan kept this strategy up for over two years.

What was the Father doing? Setting up the checkmate. With every move the Father was cleverly deceiving Satan into thinking that he was getting the upper hand. Finally, in a rage of furious moves, one after another, like world champions coming down to the final moves moving faster and faster, Satan switches his technique: ever since Jesus’ baptism, Satan has been trying to publicly disgrace and disqualify him in front of his peers, but it’s not working.

Satan then incites Judas Iscariot to betray him – he incites a mob crowd to demand crucifixion – he moves Pontius Pilate to be more fearful of resisting the crowds plea than doing the right thing and releasing him. It seems that God the Father has been out-maneuvered at last. God is boxed in and the gambit is set. Jesus, the most valuable piece on the board is going to be taken – he’s exposed – the Father must sacrifice his very best. Game over?

“Not so fast”, says the Father. “I’ve got one more move to make: Resurrection!” Now that is a Champion Move. Instead of surrendering like a good loser, Satan, stunned to silence and filled with furry (“for he knows his time is short”), resorts to persecuting those who love the priceless treasure of the Father.

Application:

Fear not Church – the Father is still playing. The grandest move is yet to come and it is certain: “. . . and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Rev. 20:10).

Checkmate.

 

So Sad to See a Growing Hatred for this >

Gender Symbols Heads Man Woman Stock Vector (Royalty Free) 203496637

This is truly an exceptional explanation of the beauty of marriage between a man and a woman. And yet, it is one of most despised views of marriage that is gaining momentum. I pray for the institution of marriage that displays what Christ has done for his bride.

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/formerly-known-as-male-and-female

 

“Lord, have mercy on us!”

Hope - Heritage Church TexarkanaThis poem is by Thomas Nashe (1567-1601). It was penned during the plague that swept across Europe in those days; the title of the poem comes from the first line. It is unlikely you’ll not read any modern day poems that face the reality of our finite and brief existence with such clarity and recognition. Psalm 90 nicely could be the backdrop of such sober words. May we live our lives this week with courage and hope in the only thing that lasts through pandemic, plague, cancer, heart attack, car wrecks, flu, pneumonia, virus, infection, or old age: A Life With a Merciful Savior.

Adieu, farewell earth’s bliss,                                                                                                          This world uncertain is;                                                                                                                Fond are life’s lustful joys,                                                                                                                Death proves them all but toys,                                                                                                  None from his darts can fly.                                                                                                                I am sick, I must die.                                                                                                                      Lord, have mercy on us!

Rich men, trust not in wealth,                                                                                                              Gold cannot buy you health;                                                                                                      Physic himself must fade,                                                                                                                All things to end are made.                                                                                                              The plague fully swift goes by.                                                                                                            I am sick, I must die.                                                                                                                      Lord, have mercy on us!

Beauty is but a flower                                                                                                                  Which wrinkles will devour;                                                                                                    Brightness falls from the air,                                                                                                    Queens have died young and fair,                                                                                                Dust hath closed Helen’s eye.                                                                                                              I am sick, I must die.                                                                                                                      Lord, have mercy on us!

Strength stoops unto the grave,                                                                                                      Worms feed on Hector brave,                                                                                                    Swords may not fight with fate,                                                                                                  Earth still holds ope her gate.                                                                                                      Come! Come! The bells do cry,                                                                                                            I am sick, I must die.                                                                                                                        Lord, have mercy on us!

“How to Engage in Politics Without Losing Your Soul”

I found this several years ago and kept a copy of it. May it serve you well in these days. Ivan

By Dr. Andrew Jackson

HOW TO ENGAGE IN POLITICS WITHOUT LOSING YOUR SOUL

I titled this post based on Jesus’ statement found in Mark 8:36, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” The reason that I chose this convicting passage is because over the years I have watched many Christians who became zealously active in partisan politics actually “lose their souls.”

That is, they lost their unique public witness as a Christian; they began to act contrary to the character of Christ and the fruit of the Holy Spirit; and they became agents of division within the church itself.

Below I offer 10 biblical guidelines on how Christians can engage in politics without “losing their souls.”

1 – Christians must never allow ourselves to equate the biblical Kingdom of God with any human political party or nation (John 18:36; Isaiah 9:7; Matthew 6:33, Philippians 3:20, Revelation 11:15). As Christians we must be diligent in maintaining and preserving the distinctiveness between the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world. We must never fuse the two. The great “utopian illusion” that easily enters our politics is that peace, harmony, and prosperity for all can be brought about in the world through human political means.

2 – Christians must never allow ourselves to elevate a specific politician to a messianic or savior status (1 Peter 3:15). In our entertainment and celebrity culture, it is becoming more common for people to infuse politicians with almost a messianic or savior status. In other words, people begin to believe a politician’s extraordinary promises and that they actually can single-handedly produce almost supernatural social results. As Christians, we have one Lord, and we must resist all attempts to exalt any human politician to unrealistic heights.

3 – Christians must not just vote, but more importantly, we must pray for our government and the leaders of all political parties (Matthew 5:44, 1 Timothy 2:1-2). In our polarized political society, many Christians are tempted to bless the politician or political party they support, and curse the other one they don’t. How unbiblical! The Bible is clear, we are to pray for all political and government leaders, even our political enemies.

4 – Christians must always remember that our ultimate security is in Christ and in the unshakeable kingdom of God, no matter what presidential candidate or party wins (Hebrews 12:26-29). One of the dangers that many Christians seem to often fall into is that we begin to elevate the outcome of presidential elections to an apocalyptic status. In other words, if our presidential candidate or party does not win, we begin to see it as the end of the world. This is what I call the “Y2K complex.”

When we allow ourselves to understand politics in apocalyptic terms, we at the same time express an unbelief in the sovereignty and Lordship of God over his creation and human history. Yes, elections have real consequences for people, but in the larger scheme of history, don’t worry, no matter who becomes our president, God is in control and will take care of things.

5 – Christians must never allow ourselves to bring the divisiveness and polarization of political parties into the church, the family of God (Romans 16:17, 1 Corinthians 1:11-12). We cannot allow partisan politics to divide the body of Christ. Individual Christians have freedom of conscience before God and the Bible, and as a result, we must accept the fact that there will be diversity of political opinions in the church. We must never allow diverse political perspectives cause conflict and divisions in the church.

6 – Christians must never allow ourselves to demonize or dehumanize another person – no matter what politician it is – because every single human has been created in the image of God (Colossians 3:8, Matthew 7:1, James 4:12). Christians must not engage in demeaning and judging other people, no matter whether we agree with them politically or not.

7 – Christians must never engage in angry confrontational arguments, instead of being open to learn through civil debate and dialogue (James 1:20, Philippians 2:14-16, 2 Timothy 2:14). When we interact with other people with hard-core dogmatic positions, we demonstrate an ugly pride that demeans the character of Christ. As Christians we must humble ourselves, understand that as humans we are limited in our understanding, and that we all can learn more about the very complex issues that face our nation. Christians must always engage in politics through a path of reason and civility.

8 – Christians must never allow ourselves to become so intertwined so closely with one political party that we forfeit our independent identity as followers of Christ. When we do, we lose the prophetic voice to speak and clarify biblical truth to all politicians and political parties (1 Timothy 3:15, Ephesians 4:15, Romans 3:4).

9 – Christians must never allow ourselves to engage in partisan politics by supporting divisiveness between races, between male and female, between rich and poor, and between the young and old (Matthew 5:9, 2 Corinthians 5:18-19). Electoral politics is all about dividing society into specific voting blocks. And as a result, politics usually divides our society, instead of uniting it. Christians must always function as peacemakers and reconcilers in the public square, and resist every temptation to join the political tactics of dividing people for political gain.

10 – Christians must not allow ourselves to fall into the trap of simply cursing the darkness through negativity, instead of constructively engaging our world as preserving salt and illuminating light (Matthew 5:13-16). The cultural and missional mandate of kingdom Christians requires us to stop cursing the darkness and start lighting more candles that reflects God’s truth, compassion, and love.

And since songs speak so powerfully to this subject – have a blessed day!

For Abigail

About 7 weeks ago Cheryl and I were babysitting our youngest, and only granddaughter, Abigail (we have been blessed with four precious grandsons). I had been working on another soft classical tune in my mind on my German Hofner classical guitar. Abigail was fussy and did not want to take her nap. So I pulled this tune out, slightly unfinished, and played it for her while Cheryl held her. Lights Out! She literally closed her eyes and immediately fell asleep. May I say a word to you about the role of quiet, soft, melodic music.

1 Samuel 16:14-23

Now the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and a harmful spirit from the LORD tormented him. 
And Saul’s servants said to him, “Behold now, a harmful spirit from God is tormenting you. 
Let our lord now command your servants who are before you to seek out a man who is skillful in playing the lyre, and when the harmful spirit from God is upon you, he will play it, and you will be well.” 
So Saul said to his servants, “Provide for me a man who can play well and bring him to me.” 
One of the young men answered, “Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence, and the LORD is with him.” 
Therefore Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, “Send me David your son, who is with the sheep.” 
And Jesse took a donkey laden with bread and a skin of wine and a young goat and sent them by David his son to Saul. 
And David came to Saul and entered his service. And Saul loved him greatly, and he became his armor-bearer. 
And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, “Let David remain in my service, for he has found favor in my sight.” 
And whenever the harmful spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand. So Saul was refreshed and was well, and the harmful spirit departed from him.

 

When David played upon the lyre (a close example of one below) king Saul was “refreshed and was well, and the harmful spirit departed from him” (vs. 23b). Saul was a wicked and ungodly king who detested the Lord. However, the Lord’s Spirit led him to govern, out of mercy for Israel. But the Lord also sent a judgmental depressive and sorrowful spirit (emotional grievance), upon the wicked king. But yet, God was merciful. He sent David, a lowly shepherd who was skilled at playing instruments. And when David played for the wicked king in his depression, the Lord was gracious to remove the darkness of anxiety, sorrow, and gloom of hope.

Since the age of 9 I have played countless hours for my parents and sisters and family, wife, children, grandchildren, college and seminary audiences, my church family, and many others – on front porches, back yards, nursing homes, assisted living, para-church organizations, schools, chapels of sorts, and hospital rooms. It has been and still is a great blessing from the Lord to be used to bring live music into peoples lives. But where is this really coming from? Certainly not from me.

It comes from The Musical God that loves us with Music. Music is a gift given to us from a musical God. He knows music better than Beethoven, Bach, and Mozart. Every note on the treble cleff and the G cleff (bass cleff) is ordained of God to produce an infinite array of sounds that to this day speak to an arena of emotions. Our God is incredibly merciful to us to sooth our sorrows through music.

May the Lord be your source of quietness in these days as we wait upon him who offers himself to us so that we may wean our hearts from anxiety and fear as a child is weaned with its mother (Psalm 131).