Trusting In The Right Thing

What makes someone a genuine Christian? Good works? Obedience to Scripture’s precepts? Praying “the sinner’s prayer” or making a “decision” to follow Jesus?

When people ask for evidence of our salvation, do we point to how much we pray and study the Bible? Do we tell them about our various ministries within our local churches or our involvement with parachurch organizations? Maybe we mention how we homeschool our children, or how we’ve forsaken sexual sin? Surely each of these things demonstrate our love for the Lord! Right?

Um, not really.

A lot of those behaviors are good, but only as responses to the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. We aren’t Christians because of anything we do. We’re Christians because He shed His blood to satisfy the wrath of God that actually belongs to us. He redeemed those who trust in His finished work on the cross. His grace, and only His grace, makes us His   children.

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Praise God I Have A Place To Put My Hope

As John and I exited Boston’s Prudential Tower Wednesday, we started down Boylston Street toward the Public Garden. Just outside the door, I noticed a saxophone player.  Now, it’s not really unusual to find musicians scattered throughout the city, especially in areas that have a high amount of foot traffic. Most of the time, I pass by them enjoying the music momentarily. They’re part of Boston’s charm.

This particular saxophone player intrigued me because the first five notes he played sounded just like the first five notes of the hymn, My Hope Is In The Lord. I strained to hear whether or not he was actually playing the hymn, but I couldn’t quite tell. I rather doubt it.

Since then, I’ve been thinking about the hymn, and about where I place my hope. Certainly, this world offers little hope as it gleefully plummets toward its endorsement of sin at breakneck speeds. Christians who refuse to acquiesce to the demands of the liberal culture must expect increasing levels of pushback and eventual persecution. Even denominations that, a mere three years ago could be counted on to stand on the bedrock of Scripture have begun bowing to the world’s corrupt values.

We can’t hope in anything or anybody!

But we can hope in the Lord. And maybe our crumbling society reminds us to keep our hope fixed decidedly on Him. When we recall His sacrifice for us at Calvary, we can rest confident in His faithfulness toward us. Against the darkness, we can sing cheerfully that our hope is in the Lord.

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Flashback Friday: Which All People Did Jesus Die For?

Originally posted April 25, 2016

Pink tulips framedThe doctrine of Limited Atonement seems contradictory to the Bible verses that talk about Jesus dying for all people. I had difficulty accepting the doctrine because of such verses myself, so I do sympathize with my Christian brothers and sisters who believe God’s Word refutes it. Consequently, I pray that I can maintain an attitude of humility as I demonstrate how to understand these Scriptures while still affirming that Christ shed His blood specifically for those who would believe in Him.

Obviously I can’t examine every verse that people use to support the belief that Christ died for everyone in this single article. And it would probably be tedious if I wrote a separate article about each verse in question. So I’ve decided to show you just one passage, which I believe offers helpful context. I will also explain how the passage fits into the broader context of the apostle Paul’s teaching. Once you see my hermeneutic in understanding this passage, I pray that you’ll apply it to the other Scriptures on this issue.

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. ~~Titus 2:11-15 (ESV)

I see verse 11 as   clearly as you do. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,” it says. But verse 14 says with equal force  that He “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession.” This verse makes it evident that God has formed a particular group of people, distinct from the world in general, to belong exclusively to Him. Therefore Christ’s sacrifice only applies to this select group.

How does verse 14 then square with verse 11? Looking at Titus 2:1-10 provides the needed context:

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.~~Titus 2:1-10 (ESV)

Notice that Paul addresses a variety of sub-groups within the church in Crete. Although each sub-group has its own distinct responsibilities, they all function in ways that bring honor and glory to the Lord. Salvation crosses lines of gender, age and socioeconomic position. Paul affirms the same principal in Galatians 3:25-29.

Having once been a Jewish Pharisee who believed salvation was limited to his ethnic group, Paul delighted in knowing that  Gentiles could enter into God’s Kingdom through the shed blood of Jesus Christ (see Romans 1:16 and Ephesians 2:11-22). Titus 2:11, therefore, ties in with these Scriptures  (and others like them) to celebrate the glorious fact that Christ opens salvation to every race and nation. Salvation appears, not just to Jews, but to believers from every nation!

Praise the Lord that all who believe in Him, not just the physical descendants of Abraham, have the privilege of His salvation. We should feel humbled by His generosity to include us in His elect, mindful that we’ve done nothing to deserve His favor.

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God Doesn’t Restrict His Glory To Mountain Top Experiences And Neither Should We

Summit of Mount Tam

Photo taken from the summit of Mount Tamalpias in Marin Country, California

Often, we think of God’s glory in relation to the beauty of nature. As well we should! Scripture repeatedly makes that correlation,  leading us to follow its example. For instance, consider this beloved passage from Psalm 19:

The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
    whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
    which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
    and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
    and its circuit to the end of them,
    and there is nothing hidden from its heat. ~~Psalm 19:1-6 (ESV)

I well understand why this psalm proclaims that nature showcases God’s glory. When I lived in California, I loved going to Mount Tamalpias. How often I enjoyed the wheelchair accessible Verna Dunshee Trail at the summit of the East Peak! A few days before I moved to Massachusetts to marry John, my friend took me up to Mount Tam one last time. That afternoon had crystal clear weather that allowed us to look down the plummeting ravines and out across the San Francisco Bay. We looked down on the back of a hawk in flight — a heady experience, I assure you!

My friend savored the magnificence of the moment (as did I) before remarking with a baffled voice, “I just don’t understand how anyone can deny the existence of God.” I shared her sense of awe at God’s creation. Looking out from the mountain at the sparking waters of the San Francisco Bay, and then at the golden grasses and green shrubbery cascading down the mountainside, I couldn’t help seeing what a wonderful Creator I serve.

But I didn’t stop to think that the breathtaking splendors of Mount Tamalpias pale in comparison to the glorious God Who created them. To really appreciate His glory, we need to look at Jesus. The apostle John actually described Jesus in terms of God’s glory.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. ~~John 1:14 (ESV)

Jesus, the second Person of the Trinity, manifests God’s glory in a myriad of ways, most of which we won’t fully appreciate until we behold Him in His heavenly kingdom. Yet we see enough of Him in the pages of His Word to know His majesty. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John regale us with accounts of Him healing the sick, casting out demons and exercising His divine power over the wind and sea. They describe His sinless life, His authoritative teaching and His astonishing humility as He endured a crucifixion that He did not deserve. Most glorious of all, they describe His resurrection, which proved His victory over sin and death.

As we read God’s Word, we constantly see His glory in the Person and work of Jesus. And when we encounter Him, even the beauty of something like Mount Tamalpias seems trivial.

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We’re Only Channels, Not The Flow Of Water Itself

As a young Christian, I’d daily arm myself with Christian tracts and charge out to evangelize the toughest kids on the high school campus.You know, the kids that scared my Christian friends half to death. Looking back, I realize how vulnerable I was in my little wheelchair, but at the time I knew no fear!

One day my less courageous (read: more sensible) friend asked me why I went out to those particular kids. Borrowing a popular motto from that era, I self-righteously replied, “If I don’t do it, it won’t get done!”

The salvation of Terra Linda High students depended on me.

Since then, I’ve repented of my pride. Yes, the Lord calls me to declare His Gospel as faithfully as I can. Just as surely as He ordains the elect to be saved, He ordains evangelism as the means of saving the elect. We are the channels through which the living waters of the Holy Spirit flow.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that we are channels only. We want to do great things for the Lord and to enjoy recognition for our fearless ministry. But the Lord wants us to serve Him in humility, praising Him for the privilege of having His Holy Spirit work through empty channels like us!

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Let Every Kindred, Every Tribe

At the time, I chuckled when my Welsh friend pictured American clouds and United Kingdom clouds in heaven. “As much as I like you,” he informed me, “I don’t want to visit an American cloud.”

Not only did he have an unbiblical concept of heaven, he infiltrated it with a nationalist lens that now, 34 years later, saddens me. Does he still anticipate that sort of division in the New Jerusalem? If so, I don’t believe he properly understands the depiction of heaven that the apostle John presented in Revelation.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” ~~Revelation 7:9-12 (ESV)

Heaven unites Christians from every tribe and nation so that we might all worship the Lord together. Rather than allowing our differences to separate us, we will celebrate our unity  as we worship Him along with the angels and the elders. Our individual distinctions won’t be erased,  but neither will they separate us from one another.

The glorious harmony between people groups will happen as we concentrate our attention on the King of kings and Lord of lords. My dear Welsh friend will be so enamored with Christ that he simply won’t care about keeping his distance from Americans! All of us will joyously join the everlasting song as we crown Jesus Lord of all.

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When My Personal Life Interferes With Blogging

Clock Yellow

I have a blog post in mind that I’ve been thinking about since June 17. Things changed on June 18 when I agreed to post An Open Letter To Beth Moore. In the fallout following that post, I wrote articles to address the responses (and vitriol) my co-signers and I received as a result of our questions.

Last week I  felt too tired to do the post I’d planned. That, and I just didn’t sense that the timing was quite right. 4th of July was coming, and I wanted to celebrate! I also wanted to caution American readers against incorporating our patriotism into our worship of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Friday I was physically tired as well as uncomfortable in my wheelchair. When I’m not positioned properly, typing is enormously difficult, particularly the intensive typing required when I write a blog post. For me, blogging is highly physical work. I love doing it, mind you, but I often get tired and sore from doing it.

As Michelle Lesley’s timeline of events with Beth Moore shows, Friday and Saturday were very busy days for those of us involved in the Beth Moore saga. Ironically, Beth’s two-sided “explanation” of her views on homosexuality bring me back to the blog post I’ve wanted to write since June 18.

So I went to bed last night looking forward to writing that blog at last.

Then this morning my Personal Care Attendant called out. With me lying helplessly in bed,   John frantically started calling our back-ups. We had a 10:30 interview with someone to fill in the next two weekends while my weekend PCA is on vacation. As it ended up, she came and got  me out of bed. It went well enough that she stayed to do paperwork for the temporary job. Praise God for His provision!

But by then I’d lost two hours of my day. Doing the article I’d planned was absolutely out of the question. So I have to hope that tomorrow accommodates my plans a bit better.

The heart of man plans his way,
    but the Lord establishes his steps. ~~Proverbs 16:9 (ESV)

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