Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Psalm 118: A Thanksgiving Psalm

The text of Psalm 118 is as follows [from the NIV 1984]:

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.
Let Israel say:
    “His love endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say:
    “His love endures forever.”
Let those who fear the Lord say:
    “His love endures forever.”
In my anguish I cried to the Lord,
    and he answered by setting me free.
The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.
    What can man do to me?
The Lord is with me; he is my helper.
    I will look in triumph on my enemies.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
    than to trust in princes.
10 All the nations surrounded me,
    but in the name of the Lord I cut them off.
11 They surrounded me on every side,
    but in the name of the Lord I cut them off.
12 They swarmed around me like bees,
    but they died out as quickly as burning thorns;
    in the name of the Lord I cut them off.
13 I was pushed back and about to fall,
    but the Lord helped me.
14 The Lord is my strength and my song;
    he has become my salvation.
15 Shouts of joy and victory
    resound in the tents of the righteous:
“The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!
16     The Lord’s right hand is lifted high;
    the Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!”
17 I will not die but live,
    and will proclaim what the Lord has done.
18 The Lord has chastened me severely,
    but he has not given me over to death.
19 Open for me the gates of righteousness;
    I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord
    through which the righteous may enter.
21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
    you have become my salvation.
22 The stone the builders rejected
    has become the capstone;
23 the Lord has done this,
    and it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.
25 Lord, save us;
    Lord, grant us success.
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
    From the house of the Lord we bless you.
27 The Lord is God,
    and he has made his light shine upon us.
With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession
    up to the horns of the altar.
28 You are my God, and I will give you thanks;
    you are my God, and I will exalt you.
29 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.
A few of notes re: this Psalm:

I love how this Psalm is bracketed by thanksgiving to God. The Psalm begins and ends with the same words of thanksgiving (vv. 1, 29). In the middle of the Psalm, there is the repetition of thanksgiving concerning "The LORD's right hand" (vv. 15-16). There are several other modes of expression in the Psalm, such as supplication (v. 25), or a poetic recounting of historical events (vv. 10-12), but these are all within a Psalm of thanksgiving. This reminds us, that however we address God and others, our lives must be characterized by constant thanksgiving (1 Thess 5:18).

But this thanksgiving is not just an individual action. The psalmist is calling upon his hearers/readers to thank God with him. This is a reminder that we are to be concerned with bearing witness concerning the goodness of the LORD, that all nations would praise Him.

And why does the psalmist give thanks to God? First and foremost, because of Who He Is. God is good; He is the one with an ever-enduring love. I fear that many of us, even if we do mention the things we are thankful for on Thanksgiving Day, tend to focus overmuch on the things rather than the Giver of those things.

The psalmist does not give thanks to God on the basis of God giving him a charmed, trouble-free life. The psalmist does not feel that he must pretend that his life is trouble-free. Instead, the psalmist writes: "In my anguish I cried to the LORD" (v. 5). On Thanksgiving Day, many are feeling anguish: especially those who are separated from loved ones due to death or distance. It is a comfort that we can still cry out to the LORD in our anguish, and that-by faith-we can be assured of His help.

The psalmist points to the gospel in his praise. The psalmist writes of the righteous man, who is rejected by unjust authorities, and who is vindicated by God (vv. 22-23). The Apostle Peter interprets this image of a rejected then exalted "stone" as fulfilled by Christ (Acts 4:11; 1 Peter 2:7), who was put to death by the religious and governmental authorities of His day, but who rose again, showing that He had conquered sin, death, and Hell on behalf of all who believe in Him.

There are many other points that could be made about this Psalm. Contemporary songs have been written, which draw upon its various verses. But allow me to leave you with this: on this Thanksgiving, it is good to meditate upon the Word of the LORD and truly give Him praise.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A Thanksgiving Reflection

Often I will see my wife and children in the living room of our house and will feel awash with an overwhelming sense of gratitude to God for the blessing that they are to me. Our Heavenly Father is truly the Giver of all good things. I am aware, at least to some degree, of how selfish that I can be, and I in no way deserve Abby's love; without God's grace in my life, I could choose to isolate myself and follow sinful desires, tearing my family apart and robbing us all of the happiness that we have together: a mistake that I've seen some of my friends make. This Thanksgiving, I pray God's protection on my household and pray that He grant us wisdom to continually thank Him as we seek to serve Christ.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Song for the Thanksgiving Season: Give Thanks

Give thanks with
a grateful heart.
Give thanks to the
Holy One.
Give thanks, because
He's given Jesus Christ,
His Son.

And now, let the weak
say, "I am strong."
Let the poor
say, "I am rich,"
Because of what the
Lord has done for us.

Give thanks.

-by Henry Smith, 1978
(Matt. 5:3; Jn. 3:16; II Cor. 12:10; Phil. 4:6-7)

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Monday, November 21, 2016

A song for this Thanksgiving season: The Love of God, by Frederick M. Lehman

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.

When years of time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
When men, who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call,
God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
The saints’ and angels’ song.

Refrain.

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

Refrain.

[From the cyberhymnal page HERE.]

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Saturday, November 12, 2016

Response to the Election Result: Prayer

The following post is adapted from what I wrote back in 2008, just after that year's presidential election. Only the conclusion is updated to apply to the current moment.

Five Biblical Examples

1. In Genesis 12, God promised Abram that he would bless him, making him a great nation with many descendants. Later in this chapter Abram and his wife Sarai go down into Egypt. Abram is fearful that the Egyptians will kill him to steal his beautiful wife, so he tells Sarai to claim she is his sister (this shows how fear can lead to making crazy decisions). Sarai is then taken into Pharaoh's harem. Pharaoh planned to keep Sarai for a wife, but the Lord sent plagues upon Pharaoh and all his house. Apparently, in inquiring why calamity was coming upon him, Pharaoh learned Sarai was Abram's sister, and he returned Sarai to Abram and made sure that they were able to safely leave his land.

2. In Genesis 20 an almost identical situation occurred involving Abraham, Sarah, and King Abimelech; this time, after Abimelech took Sarah from Abraham, but before he could take her for a wife, the Lord came to him in a dream and warned him that he would be killed if he had relations with her. Thus, Sarah is once again returned to Abraham by divine intervention.

3. In Exodus 7-12 Pharaoh repeatedly denied liberty to the people of Israel, intending to keep them as a weakened slave-race, subjected to the Egyptians. But God sent severe plagues upon the Egyptians, culminating in the death of all firstborn people and animals in unbelieving households, including the death of Pharaoh's own child. Thus, Pharaoh's will was broken, and he commanded the people of Israel to leave Egypt.

4. In Daniel 4 King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was bragging on his own majesty and accomplishments. Presumably, he was very pleased with his state in life and planned to continue reigning, uninterrupted, as a glorious king upon the earth, commanding others to worship him as he worshiped himself. Quite suddenly, God struck Nebuchadnezzar with madness and he lost everything; he was reduced to living as a beast in the field. After an appointed time had passed, God restored his senses to him, and King Nebuchadnezzar worshiped God, rather than himself.

5. In Acts 9 Saul had been granted executive authority to capture and imprison Christians, for the purpose of having them sentenced to death. While Saul was "yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord" (Acts 9:1 KJV), the Lord appeared to him, knocked him to the ground and informed him that he was now an Christian apostle, instead of a persecutor of Christians (cf. Acts 26:12-18).

Biblical Principle

Throughout Scripture we see kings and other governmental authorities who express one intention, and yet, when he chooses, God over-rides the intentions of kings and rulers so that they end up making decisions contrary to their original intention. God rules in this way for the purpose of maginifying His glory.

Conclusion

As Denny Burk noted, Donald Trump displayed a character that was outside the normal bounds of acceptability for a presidential candidate. If someone read the "Resolution on Moral Character of Public Officials" from the Southern Baptist Convention, without knowing that it was adopted in 1998 (in light of the scandals of President Bill Clinton), it would be easy to assume that the resolution was crafted with Mr. Trump in mind. What was true in 1998 under Bill Clinton is true in 2016 under Donald Trump. Yet Mr. Trump (who is in print and on tape as repeatedly bragging about marital infidelity) infamously claimed in 2015 that he rarely, if ever, asks God for forgiveness, saying: "I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don't bring God into that picture. I don't."

For both political and moral reasons, many Christians are seriously concerned about what a Donald Trump presidency may hold. But God can change Donald Trump's mind and his character, and Christians should faithfully pray to this end.

True hope is not in presidents or in voters, but in God, the sovereign Lord over creation.
The king's heart is like channels of water in the hands of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes. (Proverbs 21:1 NASB)

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Saturday, November 05, 2016

Evan McMullin: An Explanation of Reluctantly Voting for Romney, Part 2

As Denny Burk articulates well, in the current presidential election, both of the major party candidates are entirely unacceptable. For this reason, I have been planning to vote third-party (or for an independent candidate). I like the Constitution Party platform, and had planned to vote for the Constitution Party candidate, Darrell Castle. However, Castle is not listed on the ballot in Kentucky, and I am receiving conflicting information as to whether he is an approved write-in candidate.

The best option that I have on the Kentucky ballot appears to be Evan McMullin. According to his website, McMullin is pro-life and a constitutional conservative. Though it's, admittedly, rather a long-shot, there is a possibility of McMullin winning the presidency (probably through the contingent election process).

The realities of this election season leave many evangelicals, like me, with the unsavory choice of casting a vote for a Mormon. I [and many of my fellow evangelicals] deem this choice "unsavory" because Mormonism promotes an anti-Christian view of both the content and the source of true belief in God.

In thinking through this matter, I'm reminded of my reasoning in voting for Mitt Romney against Barack Obama in the 2012 election. Though reluctant to vote for Romney, I found Obama to be entirely unacceptable due to his radically pro-abortion agenda. The following is what I wrote concerning Mitt Romney in 2012, which also applies to voting for McMullin this Tuesday.

Many of my evangelical friends are, understandably, concerned that electing Mitt Romney will promote Mormonism: that Mormon missionaries, both in the U.S. and throughout the world, will find greater ease in winning people to their false gospel if they can trumpet their religion as the religion of the President.


But to what extent is this a valid concern?

Note that some within the Mormon organization itself do not believe that Mitt Romney as President will help their cause. For example, see the following excerpt of a letter from a Mormon missionary, as heard on NPR's Talk of the Nation yesterday:

"My fear is that if Mitt Romney's elected President, it will be more difficult for LDS missionaries abroad to distinguish themselves from the United States in countries where many may not love Americans. I worry any 'wrongs' made by Mitt Romney would reflect poorly upon the [Mormon] Church, not only abroad, but here in the States."

It is unlikely that Mormon missionaries will be able to use Mr. Romney as much of an example if they have to: 1) constantly distance themselves from the notion that Mormonism = Americanism [especially when they are in other nations]; 2) constantly explain why the Mormon Church's positions on issues are somewhat different that Mr. Romney's positions.

Finally, I would encourage my fellow evangelicals to consider the following: when Bill Clinton was elected President, and throughout his presidency, he was a member "in good standing" of a Southern Baptist affiliated church in Arkansas. Does anyone really believe that having Mr. Clinton in office (even before the Lewinsky scandal came to light) was any help at all for Southern Baptist evangelists and missionaries? I can testify that during the Clinton administration I was involved in door-to-door evangelism with my Dad and other members of my church; I can honestly say that it never crossed our minds to mention Bill Clinton. If having a member of one's denomination as President is not a help for a true expression Christian belief, then why should we assume that a Mormon as President would help that false expression of faith in God?

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