It would probably be an understatement to say that most Christian single men and women eagerly desire marriage. However, if you were to abstractly view the culture of our world and everything it desires, it is virtually the exact opposite. Everything pure, wholesome and potentially a blessing to anyone that desires a Godly marriage is something that seems to be forever lost and indeed, is. We must only turn on the television to ABC or FOX and even the TV Guide Channel to see the subtle and blatant perversions of some type of relationship, physically or verbally. The lies that we see on television and in the public everyday affect the emotions and should stir righteous anger by the grieving the Holy Spirit in believers. Because we are in the world and not of the world, believers must continually separate and discern within ourselves what we truly desire in a relationship in accordance with God’s Word.

Through personal experience, I assume that most (single) Christians have seen movies and/or television shows that are of a perverse nature. Much of what is on the television screen regarding certain sitcoms, series shows and movies is a purposeful fabricated design and perversion to please the senses. It is created drama for your viewing pleasure; otherwise we would not desire to watch it. Virtually every scenario, particularly between a male and female, displays a heightened sense of emotional and sexual attraction that we may or may not personally experience. The part that most viewers don’t cognitively realize is that even though they are viewing a scripted scene, they are still viewing ‘real’ people on the set (so says the press anyway). The more viewing of these types of relationships that we see, the more we subject our emotions and thought lives to being affected by them. We begin to compare ourselves to a particular person or picture ourselves in a particular scene. If we desired to be in a relationship prior to viewing, we now desire more; at least the parts that are supposed to arrive after marriage.

After having observed some type of dramatic premarital or extramarital relationship for thirty minutes to an hour, it may cause us to feel as if we are lacking some type of drama in our relationship lives. Or specifically to Christians, it should cause extreme grievance in our hearts as it attempts to make foolishness of our obedience to God’s Word and what Jesus Christ says about relationships. If we are living our lives under the authority of Scripture, then a battle must take place when we are ever personally engaged with such television shows or movies that say “Sex outside of marriage is great” or “It is alright to cheat on your spouse.” The ‘freedoms’ that are presented in these relationships are simply lies to create more bondage to the flesh and to have you remain ignorant of the blessedness of a lifelong marriage.

Perhaps the most depressing part of our television culture is that it takes an increasing amount of drama and sexual scenes developed by writers and producers to even interest young viewers; the more sex and drama, the more viewers. In other words, the more sin and rebellion, the more interesting it becomes to watch. Why? It is not necessarily the drama itself or the sex itself that causes these reactions and responses. Rather, it is the powerful and inevitable comparison affect the shows and movies play to provoke a personal application to our lives. As sinners, we naturally compare ourselves to other people. We do not look for what we already have, we develop an envy strategy to pick out what we do not have and then compare accordingly. For example, you see someone kissing in a movie. We think to ourselves about the simple fact that we have either kissed recently or not; or never. We are naturally inclined to these things because God has instilled them in us. It is His desire that we experience them, powerfully, freely and blessedly, in the context of marriage.

What the culture of our favorite drama series, movies and sitcoms is sure not to represent is a relationship that is wholesome and God-honoring. It is less than a needle in a haystack, a virtual non-existence. This fact not only stems from our already wicked hearts, but has preceded each generation. For example, “as statistics show”, divorce is more prevalent today than twenty years ago. But, we don’t ever seem to do the research prior to that. Perhaps the ‘statistics’ prior to the 20th century are irrelevant. Divorce apparently has been happening since the fall of man. In fact, Mark recorded the Pharisees asking Jesus “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” (Mark 10:2). The Pharisees, already having an acceptance of this in their hardened hearts, provided the justification that Moses gave them in the law. They said to Jesus, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to dismiss her.” (Mark 10:4) It is exactly what happens in modern day divorce. Nothing has changed. People still divorce for the same reasons today that they did three-thousand years ago. It is seen in television shows, movies and real life. Because of its popularity and ‘freeing’ nature, it is just as common as marriage (50+% divorce rate). But Jesus settles the dust of any justification on the issue by speaking clearly,
“Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. ‘But from the beginning of creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, ‘and the two shall become one flesh’, so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. ‘Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.’” Mark 10:5-9

The obvious and precious divider that separates true believers from unbelievers is, upon conversion, the possession of the Holy Spirit. It is, in essence, “the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”(John 14:17). It is what convicts of our sin, righteousness and judgment in the world. Since the world neither sees nor knows Jesus Christ as far as blood-bought, righteous knowledge, they cannot and will not obey Him. It proves that this world is passing away, along with its passionate lusts.

Even though the new birth provides discernment to believers, it is only because of it that we can truly honor and glorify God in any relationship. Therefore, since we now know the things about relationships that God loves, we now learn to hate the things that He hates, because it does not bring honor or glory to Him; namely, the selfishness of defrauding one another emotionally and/or physically outside of marriage. It is clear that when such situations arise, we are not to be comfortable and nonchalant but discern, repent and take immediate action. Paul explains the serious matter that, “Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband.” (1 Corinthians 7:2).

As Christians, we are not to be ashamed of the Gospel and how it changes our view of personal relationships along with what we allow our eyes to see on the television screen. The flippant decisions made by our culture show just how easy it is to be in a relationship of any type, except one that honors God. According to what Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians, it is difficult enough for true Christians to maintain purity. Due only to the Grace of God, by the illumination of the Holy Spirit, we are able to honor relationships and ultimately marriage for what ordained it to be from the beginning. Marriage is the precious china that our Creator has, in His Sovereignty and goodness, set into place to represent the relationship between Jesus Christ and His church. It is a powerful, yet delicate, sacrificial representation that truly only belongs to those who have been redeemed. Because of the blood shed on the Cross of Calvary, for the forgiveness of our sins in particular, we can now glory and humbly participate in the greatest act of sacrifice between two people on earth. It is merely a representation on earth, but mainly a preparation for the eternal marriage between the church and our Savior, Jesus Christ.

“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, God Himself will be with them and be their God.” Revelation 21:1-3

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Redeeming the Time

July 16, 2008

“Rejoice, O young man, in your youth,
And let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth;
Walk in the ways of your heart,
And in the sight of your eyes;
But know that for all these God will bring you into judgment.
Therefore remove sorrow from your heart,
And put away evil from your flesh,
For childhood and youth are vanity.”
Ecclesiastes 11:9-10

Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth,
Before the difficult days come,
And the years draw new when you say,
“I have no pleasure in them”:
While the sun and the light,
The moon and the stars,
Are not darkened,
And the clouds do not return after the rain;”
Ecclesiastes 12:1-2

Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed,
Or the golden bowl is broken,
Or the pitcher shattered at the fountain,
Or the wheel broken at the well.
Then the dust will return to the earth as it was,
And the spirit will return to God who gave it.”
Ecclesiastes 12:6-7

It is the wisdom of God speaking to the futile soul to say that we must rejoice in our youth and remember our Creator before the difficult days come. Each justified sinner is allotted a certain number of days to glorify the Lord of the Universe and serve each day as if it were the last to breathe (Psalm 90:10). It is not as if the wisdom of man plays a certain role in determining the wisdom of God. In fact, the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men (1 Corinthians 1:25). The All-knowing, Eternal Creator is not limited at all in wisdom as we are utterly limited in our own wisdom and mortality. That is why the “foolishness” and “weakness” of God is no foolishness or weakness at all but simply transcends man in His very being as the Sovereign and Omnipotent Creator.

The responsibility of man is recognizing the weakness of our flesh and the true vanity of anything to do with it; the higher the propensity to discern our own evil, the greater the recognition and fear of God in His righteous judgment of sin. The true lack of the wisdom of man is seen in the foolishness of his own iniquity and folly that comes as natural as breathing, yet causes death. We must not live for a moment as if the flesh is eternal, but “die daily,” knowing the flesh will die and then the judgment according to our deeds. May we have a heightened ever-present sense of that reality and a character of the Psalmist, who writes:

“Remember how short my time is;
For what futility have You created all the children of men?
What man can live and not see death?
Can he deliver his life from the power of the grave?”
Psalm 89:47-48
The time of youth is a precious vapor that vanishes as quickly as it arrives, just as all flesh. Therefore, the optimal season, in which the harvest is ripe and the fruit is abundant to produce more is when one is young, spiritually vigorous in anticipation. Day by day, year by year, the energy is lessening as judgment is arriving. Drawing ever so closely to the Savior, even while young, we must remember how infinitesimal our time on earth truly is in light of the eternal realm. Seize each moment to speak the truth in love. Endeavor on a studious approach to His word and partake in the divine knowledge. Pray for someone you have never prayed for. Feed the hungry and clothe the naked. Display the Glory of Christ in your actions. Perhaps most importantly, use the ordained means of conversion by preaching the words of eternal life that brings life to a dead soul.

“Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:27-28

The clock is ticking…

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry.
Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”
But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”
Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the Pinnacle of the temple,
And said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:

‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’

and,

‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’”
Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.
And he said to Him, “All these things I will give you if You will fall down and worship me.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘you shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’”
Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.”

Matthew 4:1-11

The Son of God, in His greatness and perfection, certainly did not need to quote The Scriptures “that are written” to the devil. If there is One person who could rebuke the devil without words, it is Jesus Christ Himself. He could have caused the devil to disappear instantly, without remorse and it would be as if he never was. I imagine, the devil fully knowing [James 2:19] who He is, trembling as He uttered the words, “If You are the Son of God.” Jesus did not falter, stumble or stutter but simply rebuked the slimy ‘ole devil with, The Word of God [Matthew 4:4]. Although He was tempted, no sin has ever been uttered, nor actualized of the minutest proportion in the Son of God. He knew no sin [Hebrews 4:15].

The demonstrative purposes from the God-Man are certainly a sobering reminder that, if the perfect One of God is tried and tempted as a man, yet fully God, then we, having a completely fallen nature are most certainly always a target of prey from Satan, the one who is condemned forever. You are an antelope and Satan is a fallen lion, seeking any flesh to devour and bring to death with him [1 Peter 5:8]. He knows his time is short. If you are not careful, watching and praying, you will be seen in the open, most vulnerable and weak to fall. The world is always offered to you with its greatest lusts. One is just around the corner, but it most likely will not be noticed until temptation has already arisen, maybe even now. For, that is how the devil works, disguising himself as an angel of light [2 Corinthians 11:14]. The devil himself is a wolf in sheepskin. He covers truth with lies and lies with truth, as he quotes the Scriptures back to Jesus, blaspheming God [Matthew 4:6].

Jesus Christ, having infinite power and glory, was only able to be tempted because of His incarnation [Phil.2:5-11], thus in the territory of the devil, being the prince of this world [John 14:30]. He made Himself this way so that He can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness [Hebrews 5:2]. Otherwise, as He is, The King of Kings stomps the serpent’s head under His feet. In other words, Christ is truly unapproachable to be tempted apart from His incarnation. Even in His fully human nature prior to crucifixion, He was perfectly consecrated and in perfect fellowship with the Father. He is the omnipotent One from whom all things came to be. Although He is the Bread of Life, being fully human, He ate food on earth. Although He is the living water, being fully human, He drank water on earth. In the same way, although He is the Son of God incarnate, He [because He had chosen to subject Himself] rebuked the devil with the Word of God on earth. If our perfect example does this, we are to do the same, with great tenacity.

Much of the application for the fallen soul is learning to use the power of God with the words of God. Our Savior has shown by example how to rebuke evil and the devil, not only with words, but specific words in the Scriptures. The devil already knows that he is overthrown. For it is written,
“And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And he has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”
Colossians 2:13-15
Many situations have arisen and will arise that may or may not be inherently evil at the time of arrival. Since sin is always in the fallen human heart, even upon regeneration, any scenario may become evil instantaneously. The Apostle James warns of the process that, ‘each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed’ [James 1:14]. The abundance of Christians think that temptation applies to certain areas of life and not every area of life [lust of flesh, eyes, pride]. Even if we have exhausted every avenue to sin, we will simply create new and unique avenues to rebel. One arena may actually lead to another avenue. To avoid confusion and from blaspheming, it is important to realize that all evil enticement is derived from our already wicked hearts and the devil. It is not from God, because God Himself cannot be tempted, nor can He tempt [James 1:13]. God is not fallen, but we are the fallen creatures.

Believers must realize the power of the truth of God, quickly discerning good and evil to prevent a fire eruption. Put the coals out before they get hot. Namely, a particular verse of Scripture always applies to a specific area of life, and/or situation. It allows us to cut the head off of the serpent before we are quickly convinced to participate in his evil works. Although the devil does not verbally ask the questions as he did the Messiah, he manipulates the Word and the peace of God by potentially turning a blessed scenario into a demonic enticement.
“Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.” James 1:15
The intercession takes place when the comfort of the Holy Spirit tears down the strongholds with quick discernment and fear of God within the soul that would otherwise not even be a “temptation” apart from Grace. The Word of God to fallen sinners is indeed a sword for battle. It is the only thing that defeats the devil and his cunning attempts to bring down a saint of God. He will try every opportunity that is available. It will not be when you see it, but it happens in your own heart before the temptation arises. It is like a snake in the grass, not knowing where he is until he has bitten you. May our comfort rest in the righteous knowledge of the Holy One and not of the demons who say, “What will you do with us, ‘O Son of God?” We will not be sent into the swine, but are already covered by His blood. Therefore, because of His righteousness and the Cross, He clothes our infinitely unworthy unrighteous deeds with His infinitely worthy perfectly righteous deeds, leading to eternal life.

Evaluate the decisions you must make everyday. Why do you make the decisions you do? Without leaning in a legalist manner, compare it in light of specific Scriptures. Just as the devil lied to Jesus, attempting to use the Word of God against Him, so may we, who are evil, attempt to justify a scenario using Scripture and still not honor God [Matthew 4:6]. The devil is plotting right now for your fall and it is a way that you do not expect. He is the ultimate son of perdition, prowling, seeking and blaspheming everything in sight. His only purpose is to steal, kill and destroy [John 10:10]. Even the things you do not see, he uses those to his advantage to capture your particular desires of worldly affections. May you discern good from evil, the will of God from your own perversions and the Grace of God from demonic presence. Take your Sword and ‘Fight the fight of faith.’ Search the Scriptures and do not tempt the Lord Our God. Allow the God of Peace to enlighten your soul by worshiping God and serving only Him.

The seemingly common difficulty about being a pastor or theologian in a generation where sound doctrine has subsided into circus-like myths is the inevitable truth of being compared to others. Few pastors can withhold the unleashing at others; yet many also prove themselves unfit by being unable to defend the Gospel from the pulpit. This is an age where the Gospel should be most heard and recognized than ever before, but itchy ears seem to have won the majority vote, pleasurably avoiding the responsibility of breaking hearts and killing sin (this is the Sovereignty revealed). The situation puts even more pressure, higher focus and amplifies the ridicule on the very few faithful stewards of God’s inerrant and infallible Word. The more error that is seen and discerned within the church and culture, the more precious and treasurable the truth is when it is heard and revealed. Namely, this is preaching the Scriptures. One of faithful stewards who does not plaster his credentials and resume in the foyer, nor waste the precious moments to redeem the time by speaking of the shortcomings of particular pastors, but streamlines the infinite worth of the Glory of God and the Supremacy of Christ over all creation with passionate conviction to the winning of souls and the making of disciples of that, oh so little preached truth, is Dr. John Piper.

Praises from Africa

July 2, 2008

Today, we landed. Sweat dripped from the brow.
Hunger pangs are felt as never before. Backpack strapped;Book in hand. Ready.
I have never been here and is different than expected. Longer plains and many species to see.
Hot winds cause a toil travel. I thirst, but I am hunting. I did not know what I was up against.
I hope it is worth it as I want to forsake it already. Let me be; I am on a mission.
It is not for me.

Village is on the horizon. Scarcity is well known. I may not be accepted, but some will find out.
Believe me and see, they do not have what you have. Poverty is a disease. Babies dead; Children weak. I hold one and cannot see through the water.
Mother’s sick and father is lost. Rice is low as it is too much cost.
The dead are living and the living are dead.

They gather around as they see the book. Meditating and translating;these are important.
Dusk has arrived as the Scriptures are opened. Crowds upon crowds, what will I say?
The weak and hungry thought I had food. The sick and dying thought maybe a cure.
Some were angry, yet some listened. I was here to tell of their condition.
None had ever heard and none ever had seen, the truth that caused them to believe.
Hearts were pierced and their conscience within;
The book spoke about the presence of sin. Some had fallen to their knees;
Some were wailing under the trees. This may cause death, but for me it is gain.
I care not when I leave, whether sooner or later.
I am not here for myself, but to preach Jesus Christ, Our Savior.