What Are You Looking Forward To?

Many years ago, a friend asked me, “What are you looking forward to?”

Immediately I answered, “Heaven.”

“Well yeah,” he responded with a hint of impatience in his voice, “that’s a given. I meant, what are you looking forward to in the next few weeks?”

Isn’t his attitude indicative of our culture? As the movie title says, heaven can wait — we prefer to invest our thoughts and dreams in the here and now. We envision marriage, careers, children and retirement as fulfilling events that give life joy and meaning, rarely giving attention to eternal matters. Even as Christians, we get more excited about upcoming women’s conferences or our child’s baptism than about being face to face with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Perhaps we need to stop for a moment and remind ourselves of our ultimate vision. That conference and our child’s baptism should point us to Jesus. He must remain as our vision as we submit everything in our lives to Him. Of all that we look forward to, Jesus must be first and foremost.

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Rejoice For Much More Than Temporal Blessings

The Lord has been exceedingly wonderful to me in this life. Most notably, of course, He abundantly answered my prayers to be married. While most people can pretty much assume that they will marry, you see, severely disabled people like me and John grow up assuming that we will live our entire lives as singles.

Not only did the Lord permit me to marry, but He permitted me to marry a godly man! How many women can say that? Believe me, I well understand how profoundly God has blessed me through my marriage.

He has given me other temporal blessings — too innumerable to recount in this little blog post. I’d be foolish to ignore His goodness throughout my life.

But I’d be even more foolish to suppose that His goodness stops with these temporal blessings.  As wonderful as these blessings are, they’re mere trinkets compared to the spiritual blessings He gives me through Christ. And I believe He calls His people to celebrate those spiritual blessings, remembering that only spiritual blessings will extend into eternity.

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When We’re Too Discerning To Love Christ

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We seldom recognize our own idols. This spiritual blindness engulfs all Christians, it seems to me, but I think people involved in discernment ministry ought to be particularly mindful that our zeal to expose false teachers can actually distract us from loving the Lord.

A couple of years ago, I read a passage in Revelation 2 that really compelled me to ask myself some uncomfortable questions. Sure, I could make the case that loving Christ leads to a desire for doctrinal purity in His church. In many instances, that’s  entirely true. But look at what the Lord commands the apostle John to write to the church at Ephesus:

“‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’ ~~Revelation 2:2-7 (ESV)

In this letter, the Lord begins by commending the Ephesians for standing against false teachers. This point shows that discernment ministry definitely has its place. Indeed, several of the other churches in Revelation 2 and 3 receive harsh chastisement precisely because of their tolerance of false teaching. The Lord demands purity in His Church.

Yet the Ephesians focused so much on discernment that they abandoned their devotion to Christ Himself. They no longer had a zeal to serve Him in other ways. So, despite their stellar record in standing against false teachers, they had allowed their discernment abilities to eclipse their devotion to the Lord. In no uncertain terms, these discernment giants were ordered to repent.

Although this letter affirms discernment ministry, it also indicates that discernment can become an idol. How ironic is that? We can become so enamored with our skill in distinguishing truth from error that we read the Bible looking for ammunition that will help us expose whatever false teacher we happen to have in our cross-hairs at the moment. We forget Christ’s answer when asked about the greatest commandment:

37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. ~~Matthew 22:37-38 (ESV)

Let’s cultivate discernment, by all means! But let’s not limit discernment merely to calling out false teachers. Let’s also seek to discern from Scripture how we can best love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind. The Ephesians forgot to maintain that type of discernment. We dare not.

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Flashback Friday: Where Worship Belongs

Originally posted on August 27, 2015

Even the most liberal of evangelicals would insist on the Lord being the focus of worship. Scripture makes this focus necessary by insisting not only that He created all things, but that He created them for Himself so that He might be preeminent. Less than a year ago, our pastor preached on this very topic as he approached Colossians 1:15-19. Let me expand a bit on the text to provide a  fuller context.

11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. ~~Colossians 1:11-20 (ESV)

I love this passage primarily because it teaches the amazing doctrine of Christ’s deity, as well as the doctrine of  His Incarnation and His atoning work on the  cross. These words  certainly draw me into an attitude of worship  as they show me Who He is and what He has graciously done. These words also remind me that everything  He has created exists for no other purpose than to bring glory to  Him.

Practitioners of so-called Holy Yoga would say that their form of yoga allows them to worship the Lord more fully. I passionately disagree with that claim based on the fact that yoga (even when it’s dressed up with Bible verses and praise music) is Hinduism. Much to my frustration, their website no longer explains what Holy Yoga actually is, but Chris Lawson of Spiritual Research Network found this quote (which I remember reading) on an earlier version of the Holy Yoga website.

Holy Yoga was created to introduce physical worship of the Lord through prayer, breath work and movement to all seekers and believers in Jesus Christ, regardless of denomination…The purpose of the ministry is to introduce people to yoga as a form of collective (mind, body and spirit) worship…as well as certifying teachers through the registered yoga school (RYS) of Holy Yoga…to facilitate Christ-centered classes in their individual churches, studios, and community spaces….Our sole purpose at Holy yoga is to introduce people to a unique and powerful yoga experience centered on our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To deepen the experience, Holy Yoga classes are practiced to contemporary motivational Christian music…Yoga is NOT a religion; it is a practice of mind and body control. When led by scripture, prayer and worship poses; it is a practice that encourages patience and cultivates an understanding of what God can manifest in our physical and emotional bodies. 

That closing sentence betrayed the inconvenient fact that Holy Yoga is more about experiencing physical and emotional manifestations of “God” than about Biblical  worship. But according to an article by Christian  Apologetics & Research Ministry (CARM) entitled Should Christians Practice Yoga? (this title is a link), this focus on experience pretty much sums up the primary goal of yoga.

The problem is that yoga is religious in nature.  The point of the practice of yoga is to unite oneself with God.  Take this quote from the Yoga Journal: “Connecting the mind, body, and breath helps us to direct our attention inward. Through this process of inward attention, we learn to recognize our habitual thought patterns without labeling them, judging them, or trying to change them. We become more aware of our experiences from moment to moment. The awareness that we cultivate is what makes yoga a practice, rather than a task or a goal to be completed. Your body will most likely become much more flexible by doing yoga, and so will your mind.”4  As one can see, Yoga is more than just a physical exercise.  We as Christians do not want to make our mind more flexible.  We do not want to leave our mind open to false teaching.

Today, I will leave out any discussion of yoga’s worship of Hindu gods (although  I hope to address that matter at some point) and instead emphasize the point that yoga, “‘Christian” or otherwise, subtly shifts the focus from the Lord to self. As I watched video after video on the Holy Yoga  website, the preoccupation with “meeting God on your mat” came up several times. Although you have to pay the  big bucks before accessing anything that explains exactly how Holy Yoga enables you to better experience the Lord, it indeed indicates that  a wonderful experience awaits you on your mat.

Scripture always presents worship as adoring and praising the Lord. Often, such adoration does engage our emotions, but those experiences come as by-products of worship. I don’t need yoga when I have Scripture to tell me about Jesus. Instead of mystical experiences that make me feel degrees of ecstasy, let me learn to die to myself and use my life to serve and glorify Him.

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Princes And Horses That Evangelicals Trust

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Photo taken at Dreamland Wax Museum in Boston, MA

I definitely appreciate my right to vote. Furthermore, as a Christian I believe my vote must reflect a commitment to both the sanctity of life and Biblical sexuality. My convictions require that I vote for candidates that uphold Biblical values. In the last presidential election, I couldn’t vote for either candidate without violating my conscience, but I was very relieved by the outcome.

What if a Democrat wins the presidency in 2020? To be honest, my flesh feels fearful at the prospect. I could list several reasons for my fears, but doing so would not reflect a conviction I hold that goes even deeper than Continue reading

Hosanna Past And Future

As we contemplate Palm Sunday today,  let’s look  back at Mark’s account of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’” And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” ~~Mark 11:1-10 (ESV)

Hopes soared high that day. Messiah had come at last, and surely He would end Roman oppression and usher in His kingdom. Finally, they thought, all the world would see how God favored Israel, and they rejoiced to witness this fulfillment of His promise.

A week later, feeling bitterly disillusioned, those same people demanded that Rome crucify Jesus. They didn’t understand that His kingdom would arrive in stages, allowing the Gentiles to come to saving faith.

But the completed canon of Scripture reveals that more must take place before the final consummation of His kingdom. We can rest assured that the King Who humbly entered Jerusalem riding on a  donkey colt will one day return in the clouds astride a white stallion as heavenly portals ring with loud Hosannas!

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Flashback Friday: Neglected Trinity

Originally published on February 13, 2016.

“God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!” Hymn singers will undoubtedly recognize that majestic closing line from “Holy, Holy, Holy,” a hymn that praises the magnificence of God by exploring various aspects of His glory. Yet, could our familiarity with the hymn (for Shamrock Shadedthose of us who still sing hymns) cause us to gloss over its doctrinal declaration that the one and only God exists as three distinct Persons–God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit? And how often do we think about the Trinity anyway (except briefly when and if we sing “Holy, Holy, Holy”)?

The doctrine of the Trinity seems to receive very little attention in our present time, perhaps because our inability to “wrap our heads around it” embarrasses us. Of course our analogies of H2O (water, ice and vapor) and shamrocks fall short of providing adequate explanations of  how He could exist as three distinct Persons while being one in essence, and the shortcomings of those illustrations frustrate our desire to present convincing arguments. Mystery makes us uncomfortable. So we avoid the discomfort by simply minimizing or ignoring the topic altogether.

Additionally, few Scriptures state the doctrine in easy-to-use sound-bytes. Don’t misunderstand; the Bible certainly teaches that God is one Being in three distinct, co-existing Persons. But there’s no handy little proof-text to insert into a blog post to settle the question. We’d need separate essays examining the deity of the Father, the deity of the Son (Jesus Christ) and the deity of the Holy Spirit in order to clearly show that Scripture indeed teaches that God is a Triune Being.

Having said that, I’d invite you to examine Christian Apologetics & Resource Ministry‘s compilation of Scriptures at God As A Trinity. In authoring this article, Matt Slick links to several Scriptures that defend the doctrine of the Trinity, making it easy to study. He also counters common objections.

The strategy of neglecting the doctrine of the Trinity may buffer us from a good measure of intellectual discomfort. But that strategy also places people at risk of entering eternity without a true understanding of Who God is. Of Who Jesus is. And that’s very scary, since we must acknowledge Jesus as Lord (which necessarily assumes His deity) as a condition of salvation (Romans 10:9). So, while no human possesses the intellectual capacity to  comprehend how one God can exist in three Persons, it’s essential to understand that this doctrine is true. Jesus and the Holy Spirit are every bit as much God as the Father.

Having lost a dear friend who belonged to a cult that denied the Trinity, I believe it’s imperative that Christians regain an insistence on teaching this vital doctrine to young believers. A year before my friend’s death, I made the opportunity to tell her the true Gospel, and I emphasized the doctrine of the Trinity. Sadly, she gave no indication of accepting what I had to say, but I can hope that the Holy Spirit worked in her heart before she died.

And I pray now that evangelicals will increase the preaching of the Trinity, so people will know God fully. Rather than neglecting the doctrine for the sake of intellectual comfort, let’s boldly embrace it with joyful conviction, firmly established in the testimony of God’s Word. Oh, no one will actually comprehend how He could be a Trinity, since it is something far beyond the scope of our finite minds. But the very wonder of God in three Persons can draw us into worship.  “God in three Persons–blessed Trinity!”

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