Thursday, October 30, 2008

Preach Faithfully

Jeremiah 23:13-15 ESV
(13) In the prophets of Samaria I saw an unsavory thing: they prophesied by Baal and led my people Israel astray.
(14) But in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies; they strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his evil; all of them have become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah."
(15) Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets: "Behold, I will feed them with bitter food and give them poisoned water to drink, for from the prophets of Jerusalem ungodliness has gone out into all the land."

God seems to take the faithfulness of His priests very seriously, doesn't he? The way this is structured seems to imply that what the prophets in Jerusalem did was even worse than those in Samaria. Their conduct was such that no one turned from evil.

I've been camped out on the pastoral epistles for my Greek reading because that is what we will be doing in my Greek elective class. It's pretty clear in those that Paul sets the bar very high for elders in the church. It is our job to live in a way that points people to truth. I certainly don't want to be compared to Soddom and Gomorrah!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Regarding Israel

Romans 11:28-36 ESV
(28) As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.
(29) For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
(30) Just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience,
(31) so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy.
(32) For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.
(33) Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
(34) "For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?"
(35) "Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?"
(36) For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

As I read through Romans I can't quite put my finger on what Paul is getting at with regards to Israel. Some passages seem to speak to a replacement theology which states that the current church is now spiritual Israel and that the Jews now are in the same boat as the rest of us -- believe in Christ to be saved. On the other hand, there are passages like this one. Verse 32 really confuses me. Who is the "all?" Is it all of Israel? Is it just His elect within Israel? Who will it be?

I have a hard time imagining salvation for someone who is a Jew in his ethnicity, but has no desire to know the Lord. So who is the "all?" Any ideas?

I wonder if this would be a good paper topic for next semester...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Are You Saying So?

Psalms 107:2-9 ESV
(2) Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble
(3) and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.
(4) Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in;
(5) hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them.
(6) Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.
(7) He led them by a straight way till they reached a city to dwell in.
(8) Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of men!
(9) For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

I'm not sure that I'm remembering this as often as I should. While walking and praying this morning I felt like I have spiritual gangrene in my heart. There is so much pride, bitterness, and envy in there that it takes spiritual surgery to clean it out. I do know that one cure is to reflect on the barrenness of my life apart from Christ and the fullness of my life with Him.

Let's see how this goes in 15 minutes when the kids get up...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Faster Than I Think

I ran my first 5k today. When I do my jogs around the neighborhood my usual mile split is around 8:15/mile. We have some pretty healthy hills here that slow me down a little bit. When I have a fairly flat run I can get in just under 8:00/mile.

I shocked myself by finishing in 24:01, which comes to 7:45/mile. I felt horrible when I finished, but I think that's good. I didn't want to finish with anything left in the tank. What kills me is that someone finished just ahead of me so I ended up 4th in the over 30 category for men.

The good news is that I ended up 10th overall and I did finish ahead of all the ladies who ran. Now that I have this race under my belt I have a better idea of how to run it next time. I don't think I will necessarily finish a whole lot faster, but I do think I can get in a hair under 24:00 next time. I just have to be smarter in a couple of spots. It would also help to have a better diet the week before.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Negative Positive News

I submitted a sample to the urologist's office. Of course, this is a lot more fun than other samples you have to submit in your medical lifetime. It's a fun time of team-building in a marriage.

We fully expected it to be negative because we've made a point of flushing out the system, as it were. However, it was positive. It was nice of them even to test because I'm only 84 days removed from my surgery instead of the 90 that they require. Still, I didn't think it would matter because we really have made an effort to clean the pipes. I sure hope that the procedure "took" and I don't have to go under the clamps again.

I'm only blogging about this because of what the lab tech told me on the phone. She told me to come back in mid-late November. Her advice was "to be sure to ejaculate at least twice a day."

I hope that this isn't too much gutter talk for this blog. However, I think this should give just about any guy out there a chuckle. Amanda was surprised, but not inspired.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Reading Jeremiah

My daily reading has brought me to Jeremiah. This is one of the big books of woe in the Old Testament. It was of course written to the people in Judah. Israel had fallen years before and now it was going to be Judah's turn.

It is very tempting to read this book as if it was written to America. We face the same problem of spiritual whoredom that they did. We worship our share of false gods. We make unholy alliances with other nations. The recent swings in the economy have brought our greed to light.

So this begs a big hermeneutic question. This book was written to a specific people at a specific time. Yet God preserved it as part of our canon. Does that mean it applies to just any nation?

I don't think so. We like to think of ourselves as the "good guys" in any story that we read. However, I don't think we have the same standing before the Lord as the nation of Israel did. I'm not sure that the current nation of Israel has the same standing either.

I don't have this all settled in my mind. If anyone reading this would like to give some feedback I'd appreciate it.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Trembling at the Word

Isaiah 66:1-2 ESV
(1) Thus says the LORD: "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest?
(2) All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.

Makes you want to take Scripture pretty seriously, doesn't it?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A People Set Free

Psalms 102:18-22 ESV
(18) Let this be recorded for a generation to come, so that a people yet to be created may praise the LORD:
(19) that he looked down from his holy height; from heaven the LORD looked at the earth,
(20) to hear the groans of the prisoners, to set free those who were doomed to die,
(21) that they may declare in Zion the name of the LORD, and in Jerusalem his praise,
(22) when peoples gather together, and kingdoms, to worship the LORD.

If you are a Gentile and you know Jesus then this passage is for you. We are the people yet to be created. Yet God in His mercy chose us to worship Him.

This is a reminder that I would do well to meditate upon. I was a prisoner in a variety of ways. At the most basic level, I was dead to my sins in an Ephesians 2:1-10 way. I was also dead in the specific sins of gluttony, laziness, and lust. Yet God set me free so that I might worship Him. I certainly couldn't worship Him before He set me free. I could go through the motions, but it was definitely not coming from my heart.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A High Commitment

This is a commitment I need to make regularly:

Psalms 101:1-3 ESV
(1) A Psalm of David. I will sing of steadfast love and justice; to you, O LORD, I will make music.
(2) I will ponder the way that is blameless. Oh when will you come to me? I will walk with integrity of heart within my house;
(3) I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.

Verse 3 hits home. While I don't surf porn anymore there are times when I certainly put worthless things before my eyes. This passage reminds me of the folly of that.

Of course, how do I keep this commitment? I think that goes back to Isaiah 55.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Giving Thanks

Psalms 100:1-5 ESV
(1) A Psalm for giving thanks. Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
(2) Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!
(3) Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
(4) Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!
(5) For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

What a great reminder, isn't it? I notice that verse 1 doesn't say, "Make a joyful noise to the LORD, those of you who lives are going well!" In other words, it seems like this Psalm tells us that the LORD is worthy of our praise no matter what.

Verse 2 is a good reminder for anyone doing any ministry work. There are times when emotion just doesn't get us through. Yet we are to serve Him with gladness.

Verse 3 reminds us of the folly of saying that we came from goo. God made us. It wasn't, as one of my coworkers likes to say, "dirt + water + time = everything." Instead, it was God who spoke everything into existence. I suppose that this verse does leave room for theistic evolution, but that seems to run counter to the majesty that is to be ascribed to Him.

Let's rejoice that we can serve the LORD!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

ESV Study Bible Review

Mine arrived yesterday. I got the natural brown TruTone. I'm not sure what the deal is with the orange triangle, but overall I like the design. The cover reminds me of a football. It also seems like it will be a lot more durable than my TruTone Reader's Greek New Testament or my compact ESV. It doesn't feel quite as soft, which I think is good. It also doesn't feel as plastic as bonded leather.

The binding is incredible. The book is enormous, but it will stay open no matter where you turn. This is key if you plan to use it in preaching, teaching, or in a classroom. I'm not an expert on binding, but I understand that this is remarkable. I know that I appreciate it because I hate having to use two hands to hold a book open.

Much has been written about the features of this study Bible, so I won't go into them too much. The illustrations are everything I was hoping for. I think they alone are worth picking up a copy. I don't know about you, but the descriptions of the tabernacle and the temple don't lead to ready pictures in my mind. However, the illustrations in this Bible do. They are incredible.

The Internet Monk described the ESVSB as a "seminary in a book," and I would tend to agree. If you are on a tight budget and don't have access to seminary libraries, you can learn quite a bit from this book. The articles in the back remind me of my old copy of Total Baseball. It was great to have a giant tome of stats, but the articles about Sabermetrics and baseball history were great additions. This Bible is the same way. The cornerstone of the book is the Word of God. I haven't read too many of the notes, but those I've seen have been excellent. However, just paging through the articles in the back gives me a great recap of my hermeneutics course and world religions course, for example. There are other articles as well.

One of my pastors sometimes jokes about reading the whole Bible "from Genesis to maps." You definitely have plenty of that in this Bible. The maps in the back are pretty standard, but the color maps in the text notes are what make this really stand out too. I like looking at maps because I don't have a good mental image of the geography of Palestine.

I don't work for Crossway. I get nothing out of recommending this resource. However, I do plan on showing it off to my believing friends so that they can see what a powerful tool this study Bible can be. I would love to see it in the hands of every Christian.


This familiar passage really ministered to me today. I hope it does the same for you. I don't think much exposition is necessary.

Isaiah 55:1-13 ESV
(1) "Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
(2) Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.
(3) Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.
(4) Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples.
(5) Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know, and a nation that did not know you shall run to you, because of the LORD your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.
(6) "Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near;
(7) let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
(8) For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
(9) For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
(10) "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
(11) so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
(12) "For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
(13) Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the LORD, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Feeling the Crunch

I'm at one of those crunch times in the semester. I have a Hebrew exam on Monday and a New Testament exam on Tuesday. I'm also trying to get a draft of my paper done by Tuesday so that my professor has time to review it and give me feedback. The paper might not happen.

I woke up with kind of a stiff neck. I think I was clenching my jaw all night. Plus, I had a dream that I was in a class with my Hebrew professor (though it may not have been Hebrew) and he was talking about the paper we had to do in that class. Talk about a nightmare!

The good news is that things will get significantly easier in 3 weeks. I turn in my paper on election day, so all I'll have to do then is keep up with my classes. That isn't too difficult.

Fortunately I have started writing my paper. I'm on page 4 (out of 15-20 pages) and I have most of the Bibliography written. Now I just need to do some organizing of my material so I can write. I actually find writing to be the easiest part of the process. If the material is organized the paper pretty much writes itself.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Value of Seminary

Acts 18:24-28 ESV
(24) Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures.
(25) He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John.
(26) He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and explained to him the way of God more accurately.
(27) And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed,
(28) for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

I can relate to this very much. I think I was somewhere around verse 25 when I entered seminary. I had been instructed in the way of the Lord and I could teach accurately the things of Jesus. However, my knowledge was limited. I was not afraid to speak boldly.

Verse 26 shows us a godly couple who took him aside to instruct him. He knew the way of God, but he had to learn it more accurately. That's what I see seminary doing for me. It is helping to broaden my knowledge base so that I can communicate God's truth more accurately.

I highly recommend it for anyone who feels the tug for ministry.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Being Mentored

I met with the new director of mentoring at my seminary this evening. I told him my story of how I came to know Jesus, about finding freedom from sexual sin, and about how I came to Shepherds. He is an older man who clearly has a lot of wisdom. He also has a very gracious manner and was a pleasure to talk to.

He said that he got a call for someone to preach at a small Baptist church around the corner this Sunday and asked if I wanted to do it. I was thrilled at the offer, but mom is coming in this weekend so I had a legitimate excuse. It was very encouraging to hear him say that he thinks I should be doing some pulpit supply preaching.

It's also terrifying to me. However, this is what I'm being trained for. I just have to "bring it" and let the Holy Spirit work in people's hearts. Of course, I will certainly blog about any preaching opportunity I might get. Please pray for me.

Showing the Way

The message this past week was on evangelism as simply "showing the way" for others to meet Jesus. Our pastor emphasized the fact that we cannot save people, but that we can point them to Jesus. I'm not sure that he is completely on board with Reformed theology, but I do know that I was encouraged by his message.

One of the passages he gave us for further reading was:

Psalms 51:10-13 ESV
(10) Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
(11) Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
(12) Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.
(13) Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.

Note the progression in there. First, God is the one who cleans up our hearts and renews a right spirit within us. He could cast us away and remove His Holy Spirit, but He doesn't. He restores the joy of His salvation and He upholds us. It is only after God does all of those things in our lives that we can teach transgressors His ways and that sinners will return to Him.

It's no wonder my ministry efforts were so ineffective while I was enslaved to porn!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Changed by the Word

Like any other serious Bible-believing person, I say that I want Scripture to be my guide. I like to think that if Scripture says something that will settle the matter for me. However, a recent discussion in my small group brought the shallowness of my conviction to light.

We are going through J.I. Packer's tremendous book Knowing God. One of the chapters deals with the second commandment and the danger of making an image of anything in heaven. I wasn't there for the discussion, but I think the general tone was that Packer took his argument too far. Packer maintains that we shouldn't have images of Jesus, angels, etc.

Frankly, I had a hard time when I read that chapter too. However, it is difficult to argue with his logic as he reasons from Scripture. This is where the rubber meets the road. He is going up against a lot of contemporary Christian culture with this argument. We tend not to think of it as too big of a deal. However, the fact that it made the "big ten" tells us that God takes it seriously (I don't think Penn State will get added to that big ten).

I realize now what I'm looking for in a Bible study. I want something that will just maybe tweak me a little bit, but I don't want any massive spiritual surgery done on me. It's easy for me to look down my nose at others who don't want any drastic change done on them too. This is especially true when they don't want to hear about a doctrine that I hold dear to my heart. Yet I realize that I am just as hard-hearted in areas as well.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Free for Everyone

Acts 11:15-18 ESV
(15) As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning.
(16) And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.'
(17) If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?"
(18) When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, "Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life."

I think it is hard for American Christians to get our minds around this. The offer of the gospel to the Gentiles was completely mind-boggling to the early church. How could God save anyone besides a Jew? Yet that is what we see in Acts 10 and 11. Peter fought it at first, but God compelled him. Here we see his testimony of what happened after the Gentiles believed.

I do believe in the doctrine of limited atonement. However, I also recognize that it is not limited by people groups. Christ's death tore the curtain in two so that people from every tribe, tongue, and nation might have access to the holy of holies.

This is something I want to meditate on as I worship this morning.