Mysterious Worship

February 16, 2015 at 1:29 pm | Posted in Habakkuk | 3 Comments
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Habakkuk Chapter 3 is a great psalm that the Holy Spirit authored through Habakkuk. It shows so clearly – because it is a prayer and a psalm of worship – what is missing in so much of our contemporary worship.

We are not missing talent – we’ve got plenty of that. We are not missing enthusiasm – enthusiasm can be manufactured fairly consistently. We are not missing “freshness” – you can’t swing a dead cat by the tail without hitting a church congregation which “has broken free of the bonds of dead religion” and has gotten “free” in worship. Anything that was forbidden by the old folks, we’re all about it. No, what’s missing is the theology – the depth of knowledge about God’s works.

Habakkuk traces the history of the Old Testament – deliverance from Egypt, water turning to blood, anointed judges delivering God’s people, the battles in Canaan – as he brings out the mystery of God’s workings.

When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble: when he cometh up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops.

Habakkuk 3:16

When was the last time you actually shook and trembled for fear at God’s awesome power while you were worshiping? The mystery of trembling with knowledge will lead to rest in the day of trouble.

Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:

Habakkuk 3:17

What will we do when we’ve run out of everything we’ve been led to believe is our sustenance – our income, our security, even our food?

Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

Habakkuk 3:18

My God is a Savior. People who aren’t in trouble don’t need a savior. When I am empty – when I can’t do one thing to help myself – then God shows up.

The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.

Habakkuk 3:19

Habakkuk says, “Now, tell the worship leaders to sing about that!”

Don’t listen to the false prophets who say “peace, peace,” when destruction is at the doorstep. When we aren’t really motivated to obey God, it is often because we don’t see His greatness. We love to say, “God is good – all the time, and all the time – God is good,” and He is. But we must not forget, not only is God good, but God is also great. His ways are not our ways. His ways are superior to our ways. Realizing His greatness and our dependence is step one in moving from wrestling with God to worshiping God.

His judgments are unsearchable and His ways are past finding out (Romans 11:33). We won’t truly worship God until we stop trying to figure out what He’s doing or why He’s doing it, and start meditating on Who He is.

Catechism Question 4

April 8, 2014 at 11:47 am | Posted in Children's Bible Catechism | 5 Comments
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Question 3: Why did God make everything?
Answer: For His Own glory.
Prove it.

Romans 11:36

Question 4: How was everything when God created it?
Answer: It was very good.
Prove it.

And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

Genesis 1:31

This question is likely to cause a child to inquire, “Why do bad things happen now?” or “If God made it good, why isn’t it still good?” These are excellent lead-ins to the next question, but this will also be a great opportunity to explain that Jesus has promised to one day make everything new again – to make it the way it was before sin entered the world.

And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Matthew 19:28

Other verses to consider:

[He is] the Rock, his work [is] perfect: for all his ways [are] judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right [is] he.

Deuteronomy 32:4

[As for] God, his way [is] perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he [is] a buckler to all those that trust in him.

Psalm 18:30

The LORD [is] righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.

Psalm 145:17

Catechism Question 3

March 17, 2014 at 10:50 am | Posted in Children's Bible Catechism | 6 Comments
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Question 3: Why did God make everything?
Answer: For His Own glory.
Prove it.

For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

Romans 11:36

God was not bored. He was not lonely. One of His attributes is true “perfection.” He lacks nothing. He is complete. He is joyful now, so He has always been joyful. He has always known perfect triune fellowship within the Trinity. In our sinful flesh, we must admit that there is not a single person with whom we could dwell eternally and never get bored or aggravated, but God is not like us in that way. He is eternally fascinating.

One of the attributes of God that we seldom talk about is His beauty. He is eternally beautiful, and we will never discover the end of His beauty, and we will never get tired of pursuing it or marveling over it.

Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord; neither are there any works like unto thy works. All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name. For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone.

Psalm 86:8-10

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

Revelation 4:11

This catechism question-and-answer is a good opportunity to explain to children that God was good to give us the opportunity to glorify Him because that is the best thing for us.

Therefore and Wherefore

June 8, 2011 at 10:41 am | Posted in Romans | 1 Comment
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For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.

Romans 11:32

All have sinned and come short (Romans 3:23). All are included so that “all” can be saved. Everyone is included in those to whom we should preach the Gospel. If we say that there is no use in giving the Gospel message to some, we are denying our faith in God. It’s just as wrong to exclude the highly esteemed as it is the pariahs of society. To whom should you preach the Gospel?
-criminals?
-child molesters?
-child abusers?
-murderers?
-hard-working “honest” folks?
-your mom and dad?
-your brother and sister?
-famous people?
-CEOs?
-Sunday School teachers?
-Preachers?

No one can be excluded. Don’t deny the power of the Gospel. Don’t be ashamed.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.)

Romans 1:16

Romans Chapter 11 ends with a praise song.

For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

Romans 11:32-36

Romans Chapter 12 begins with a “therefore.”

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

Romans 12:1 (emphasis added)

I was taught that when you see a “therefore” in the Bible, you should always look and see what it’s “there for.” What has come before Chapter 12 in Romans:

1. Gentiles are sinners.

2. Jewish people are sinners.

3. Salvation is through faith.

4. God has not forgotten Israel.

5. Concern for Israel has practical applications for our lives.
a. Christians are to provoke non-Christians to jealousy.
b. Christians should be concerned for their “kinsmen.”
c. Christians should not be proud because God has chosen to save them.

6. Christians can be victorious in the battle of the flesh and sin against the Spirit.

One of my personal favorite lessons from the Book of Romans up to this point is that where sin did abound, grace did much more abound (Romans 5:20). That is very inspirational to me.

The “therefore” in Romans 12:1 is “there for” showing us that, now, taking into account all that we have learned in Chapters 1-11 (how to “get right” with God, and how to be concerned that others “get right” with God), we must practically apply these things, and “live right.”

The Castaways

May 11, 2011 at 9:27 am | Posted in Romans | 4 Comments
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God gave Israel three chances to accept salvation by grace through faith.

1. They fell.

I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.

Romans 11:11 (emphasis added)

2. They were diminished.

Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?

Romans 11:12 (emphasis addded)

3. They were cast away.

For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?

Romans 11:15 (emphasis added)

I remember watching a television show called “Gilligan’s Island,” which was about a group of “castaways.”

Gilligan's Island

These castaways hoped to be rescued from the desert island where they had landed, but they kept trying to accomplish their rescue on their own. Did other people stop taking cruises until Gilligan and his friends could be found? No. God protected them while they were on the island, but He still blessed others while the castaways were hidden – they were kept safe, but secreted away. In a similar way, the gentiles received the opportunity for salvation partly because Israel fell, became diminished, and became castaways.

The idea from Romans 10 that the gentiles were to provoke the Jewish people to jealousy is reiterated in Romans 11:11. As a Christian, is your life provoking anyone to jealousy?

For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.

Romans 11:13-14

Many mistake the teaching of the Holy Spirit through Paul to mean that saved people should sin with the sinners in order to develop a relationship with them that will open the door to present the Gospel. That is not what these Verses are teaching. The Apostle Paul “magnified his office.” He openly proclaimed to the gentiles, while he was among them, that he was an Apostle to them. But he also hoped his fellow-Jews were watching. Some of the gentile customs would have been personally offensive to Paul, but if the Jews could see the lengths he was going to in order to bring them the Gospel, they might become jealous and get interested in the message of the Cross, too.

And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them:

Romans 11:9

The Jewish “table,” which should have been a place of spiritual nourishment, had become a trap or a snare. The Jewish leaders added to the rituals and the traditions, but they did not add in the nourishment of the Word of God.

Romans 11:16-24 contains the allegory of the olive tree. The gentiles have been “grafted into” God’s tree of salvation, but the gentiles have no grounds for boasting, and they must not forget the importance of Israel in God’s plans.

Bold Mouths, Beautiful Feet, and Blindfolded Eyes

April 13, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Posted in A Little Alliteration, Biblical Eyesight, Romans | 16 Comments
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For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

Romans 10:10-11

We do not earn salvation merely by what we say. In fact, we do not earn salvation at all. It is a gift from God. But our mouths are what we are to use to confess the salvation we have received. Have you ever made a public profession of your faith?

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Romans 10:13

In Joel 2:32 the prophet Joel had prophesied about the time when “whosoever” called on God as Lord would be saved. If you have been in church long enough, you have probably heard a preacher at one time or another exhort people who have not been saved to answer this question for themselves: “Are you a ‘whosoever?'”

The Holy Spirit in Romans 10 went on to use the Scriptures of the prophet Isaiah to explain how God views those who carry the Gospel to all the “whosoevers:”

And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

Romans 10:15

Beautiful feet are feet that bring the news of salvation. They are feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, but peace between whom? Peace between God and sinners. “Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!” Sinners need to be reconciled to God because, before we were saved, we were at war with God.

In the Apostle Paul’s time this should not have been a new idea to the Israelites. The Holy Spirit cites Deuteronomy 32:21:

But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you.

Romans 10:19

That “foolish nation” was the gentiles. One of the reasons God sent the message of salvation to the gentiles was because the Jews had rejected it, but another reason was so that gentile Christians could provoke them to jealousy.

Romans Chapter 10 ends with a quote from Isaiah 65:

I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name. I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts;

Isaiah 65: 1-2

Romans Chapter 11 shows that, although the Jews are a gainsaying people, God’s patience has not run out with them. He has a future for them. His hand may have been turned against them, but His heart is not turned against them. God to the nation of Israel: I’m not finished with you yet. God could have called gentiles to be apostles, but he chose Jews. The manner in which the Apostle Paul was saved is a picture of the way that Israel will be converted to a Christian nation and a Christian people:

1. Paul saw Jesus.
2. He repented.
3. He received Him.

Romans 11 is a message to the Jewish believers that they are not alone. They may have been thinking like the prophet Elijah – he thought he was the last faithful man.

God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.

Romans 11:2-4

The Bible word for those Jews who are set aside for God – who are still faithful and who still know the truth, even when the vast majority does not – is the “remnant.” The remnant is a special group, but it is still made up of people who are saved the same way anybody is saved: by grace through faith.

Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded

Romans 11:5-7

“Blinded” in Romans 11:7 is not referring to someone who will never see again. It is the term that we think of as “blindfolded” (temporarily blinded). Historically, the Jews had received great spiritual blessings, but they had often loved the blessings and forgotten the Blesser. Generally, we don’t like to work, but there is pleasure in the fruits of labor. The problem is focusing on the pleasure and thinking we are the producers of that pleasure, instead of remembering where our blessings really come from.

The Work that Won’t Work

October 6, 2009 at 9:05 am | Posted in Romans, Salvation | 17 Comments
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Do you hope to one day start working your way to Heaven? Or have you already made a decision to start working your way there? The Bible tells us that there is no hope in either one of these plans.

And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.

Romans 11:6

The only way to Heaven is God’s way, and God brings people to Heaven by His grace. Grace is a free gift. If you work for something or pay for something, it is not a gift. A gift must be received, but it can not be paid for or earned.

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 6:23

If you will not receive God’s grace in this life, you will receive His wrath in eternity.

Professing Atheists Pretend They Would Like God If He Could Be Controlled

April 28, 2009 at 1:24 pm | Posted in ProfessingAtheists | 7 Comments
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Professing Atheist: What about rape, murder, torture, pain, suffering? You are holding God to lower standards than everyone else, even though he is supposed to be good. That is bizarre. Good behavior should need no rationalization – it should be self evident.

Christian: It is always a mistake to believe that anyone holds God to any standard. He never violates the Truth of His own Word. People assume horrible atrocities go unpunished because they do not see what God sees. People will claim they want a God they can figure out (Romans 11:33-36), but that would be beyond bizarre – it would be horrific.

God cannot be held to the standards of sinful men, because He is perfect, and men are sinful. However, He is also holy – and this goes beyond our finite understanding of perfection. (I Samuel 2:2). He cannot be compared with us, because He is not “like us, only better.” He is not “like us, only wiser.” He is not “like us, only more powerful.” He is not like us at all.

We cannot truthfully determine the extent of God’s justice or the extent of His mercy. What we consider our righteousness is like filth to Him (Isaiah 64:6). Professing atheists pretend that they want a logical little god they can subject to their own tests and standards. But that is because they are spiritually, albeit willfully, blind (I Corinthians 2:14). That way they can please their pride, and tell themselves that they are not like the murderers and rapists – they are “only” liars or lustful or idolaters or blasphemers or covetous. God does not always deliver tidy explanations, but He does give dependable promises.

Professing Atheist: Spiritually blind? How do you do that? Do you have some special sense I don’t?

Christian: Christians don’t have a special sense that you don’t have. They have a special Person: the Holy Spirit. He acts like an antenna which allows them to discern the Truth, and filter out the false. “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.” John 16:13

Professing Atheist: It is important to realize that I’m not a deconvert – I never had a religion. So I can’t lie about God’s nonexistence – I know he doesn’t exist! Covetors are people who want something others have. You have nothing that I would ever want – your ideas are poison.

Christian: You have a basic understanding of the meaning of “covetous,” but you are confusing “covet” and “convert.” No argument, debate, or scientific test is going to convert you. That should let you relax. The Holy Spirit, however, CAN reprove you – that may be why you can NOT relax.

Professing Atheist: How do you know? If God doesn’t give tidy explanations why do you believe He will give dependable promises? If he has a separate standard, what is to stop Him from throwing Christians in Hell?

Christian: If God doesn’t give tidy explanations, how do I know He won’t throw true Christians in hell? “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may KNOW that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” I John 5:13


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