Critical Conversations

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I consider myself a ponderer…  because I like to ponder things long and hard before I make decisions.  Maybe I’m really just a procrastinator.  I think it’s possible that is more like it, but the bottom line is I should have written this article a long time ago.

I had an amazing conversation this past week with a long time friend.  In the time I’ve known this friend I’ve gone from being a guy that talked about Jesus to being a guy that actually and truly lived for Jesus.

Even before I was truly regenerate I would discuss Jesus with my friend.  And he noticed that.  His wife also noticed it but when the Lord really saved me I went from talking about Jesus to living a life that gave me purpose in really being more diligent in how those discussions went. As my friend and I had this discussion this past week he said a couple things that really resonated with me.

Things like this…  “well I’m not sure I’m all the way there yet, but I’m trying.”  In digging a little deeper I realized that this is not a theologically correct statement, but I understood what my friend meant.  What really encouraged me about this conversation, that was evident to me, was that his life looked very different than what it used to look.  I think he was struggling to say, “hey Kevin, maybe God saved me, but I’m not really certain…”  He didn’t have the words to articulate this but it’s possible he meant it.

As I consider his life before and as he described things that were happening in his life I have to ask the question.  Did God save him?  Is God “saving” him?  It’s a question that takes on a pretty significant issue which is just how does that really happen?  And there are other questions that need to be answered in this whole process.

How does God save?  What does it mean to be saved?  For what purpose does God save?  I’m sure there are more but let’s start with these.

I bring up the topic today because when I look back at my life from pre-salvation, to initial salvation and then the sanctification and growth process I’ve almost forgotten how much God has accomplished in my life.  In my discussion with my friend he said that he desired to learn so much more and in his own way was sharing what little information he knew with others in his life.  And it dawned on me…  wow, that was me…  How could I so easily forget not everyone understand this stuff.  And this “stuff” is pretty important.

How does God save?

This very question has a presupposition that most people will miss.  What do we need to be saved from?

Luke 19:10 “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

To get to our question we have to start somewhere and that starting place is the “lostness” of mankind.  In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth and all that is in it, He created man.  God created man happy and holy (Question 21 in the children’s catechism).  God not only created mankind but he gave us a soul that will never die and told Adam not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil lest he die.  When Adam disobeyed God he plunged mankind into spiritual death.  Mankind was cursed.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sin in which you once walked…  Ephesians 2:1-2

To have a starting point in salvation one must come to an understanding we are not only lost but we are dead.  Dead spiritually with no ability on their own to come to God.   Without hope and without opportunity because we are not only unable, but are also unwilling.

The part of “how God saves” is through an understanding of this predicament.  God moves in the heart of a dead sinner by presenting the law of God that one might come to understanding of their helpless and hopeless condition.   The law is a tutor that brings us to Christ through the message of the gospel (Galatians 3:23, Romans 1:16).  The gospel is the good news which sets a sinner free from his captivity and slavery to sin (Romans 6:7).

This message of the gospel must come from an outside source because the sinner will not come to this revelation on his own.  It generally comes through either reading the word, or mostly through the proclamation of the message through a messenger.  A “preacher” if you will…

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed?  And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?  And how are they to hear without someone preaching?  Romans 10:14

God uses the preaching of the word to save souls.  For most all this is a foolish message (1 Corinthians 1:18) but yet this is how God does it.  And if you weren’t saved via the gospel message you must examine if you’ve been saved to this gospel?

What does it mean to be saved?

When God created man the Genesis account says that God created man in His own image.  That God breathed life into man.

Genesis 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

The word breath means spirit, inspiration, soul.  God gave man a soul.  Created in His image Adam would live forever.  Upon Adam’s disobedience he plunged all of mankind into death and the curse of God.

To be saved means that God can redeem us from the curse.  He not only saves us from the curse, He saves us from the power and the penalty of the sin that we are born into.  God did this for a simple reason but a reason that is not popular with most people.  If you’ve been saved you must recognize that you were saved by God, saved for God and saved from God.

The God of the universe acquiesced to take on human flesh that He might accomplish what Adam could not.  Christ came to be the better Adam.  To fulfill the law that we would not be cursed under the law.

For what purpose does God save?

I’m unpopular in present day evangelicalism.  I’m unpopular because God’s word is unpopular and I place my trust completely in what it says.  I’m not trying to be arrogant in that statement because many will claim the same thing.  But yet when it comes to the Sovereignty of God and the claims that He makes in His word we can get to a point pretty quickly that will separate the best of friends.

God saves for His glory

God is a God of love and God loves His people but the Bible says God does not love all people equally and the exclusivity of this statement is offensive.  For many this makes God some sort of a monster that is toying around with people.  I don’t see it that way but yet I’ve struggled with the concept just like I think most “normal” people would.

The Scriptures are clear but yet often times hard to accept.

“Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went. – Ezekiel 36:22

This verse is God focused.  This verse shows us some hard truth.  God has tolerated a sinful creation that rebelled against the Creator.  And to reveal the glory of the Creator, He in His Sovereign plan, for no reason other than His purposes chose out a group of people to glorify His name on this earth.

“Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. – John 17:24

Man is not a victim.  Man is a willing participant in his sin.  The sin that he loves and is unwilling to give up.  There is so much more to say but yet the gospel message is simple and the offer is free to those that will come.  And today I must ask you a very real question.

Will you come to Him today?  On His terms, not yours?

For as an evangelist brother of mine says…  “God will not negotiate with sinners…”

Do you recognize that, not only do you sin, but you are a sinner?  If you are weary of the battle, then give it over to Him today and you will also find rest for your weary soul.

Do that today; for that is the purpose for which Christ came.  I’m hoping He came to save you.

 

Kevin

Girls and Sports… A Biblical Design?

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One of the questions I consistently receive as a parent is what sports do your kids participate in?  That is an interesting question to me.  I’m not against sports and in fact I was a kid that was carted all across the state of Iowa when I was in school.  My parents sat countless  hours in school gymnasiums waiting for me to spend 4 or 5 minutes every hour or so to battle for position on a wrestling mat.  I wasn’t a half bad wrestler through high school but as I think back on it now I consider the tremendous amount of effort I put toward this pursuit.  I don’t know if it was wasted effort because it shaped me in some ways that I wouldn’t be the man I am now and God had His Sovereign Hand over the whole thing, but I consider the things I could have worked for that would be far more beneficial to me now.

I don’t write to offend anyone so please consider what I say before you come to a conclusion.  I also write as the father of  four daughters.  For me that is a different conversation than if I had four sons.  I would want to raise sons to be men.  Not juveniles, not adolescents, but men.  God fearing men.  Men that will stand in the gap and fight for the gospel.  Lord willing.  But I write as a father of girls.  So I need to insist on a different standard.

I’m not raising girls to act like boys.  I’m raising girls to become women.  God fearing women.  Not adolescent and or juvenile girls, but godly women that strive to serve the Lord and only One True King.  That is not an easy task because they are sinners.  And because they are sinners something needs to break the hard and stony hearts that control them.  Three of the four are unbelievers and I’m thankful we can trust God to do rightly, but as for me, I must strive to teach them the principles of the Scriptures and the truth of God’s word.

“But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay.  Salvation belongs to the LORD!” – Jonah 2:9

I suppose in most cases when asked the question in a drive-by fashion I respond, no they don’t do sports, their activities are music, art, and dance…  I’m not afraid to confront the topic, but I need to have some time to develop the conversation.  I want to develop the conversation so I’m not shooting from the hip and unnecessarily offending someone.  If they be offended by the gospel, that is another topic, but I strive to give good answers.  Solid and biblical answers.

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.  – Titus 2:3-5

The goal for a Christian man raising daughters should be this Scripture.  I can be certain this will offend far more than a Christian man keeping his daughter out of sports and I think it’s important to see how the relationship between organized sports, especially as they achieve higher levels of success, and this Scripture mix like oil and vinegar.

In sports the goal is to win.  Yeah, I realize some will protest and say it’s about things like “developing character”.  I don’t buy it.  I don’t believe sports develop character.  Teaching the Scriptures develops character.  Character that God desires.  It won’t teach my daughters how to “win” but it will teach them how to love their husbands.  It will teach them how to love their children.  It will teach them how to be made wise for salvation.  And at the end of the day does anything else matter?

But why?

“That the word of God may not be reviled.”

A Christian that is intent on God’s glory will seek the highest good for his family.  He will seek God’s goals for his family and not his own.  He will lay down his life for his family and that usually, and almost exclusively, means different priorities from the world.

I won’t develop the idea of what happens in young women that pursue sports to very high levels.  I think we can look around and see the development of the competitive spirit among women is not what God would seek.  Women were created different than men.  Yes, that is still true.  This is not a newsflash.

But Satan is always twisting things around.  Many of today’s movies are going to highlight women as the hero.  I’m not saying women are weak.  I’m not saying women are not valuable.  In fact I value the counsel of my wife above almost anyone else.  She has a brilliant mind and can actually think circles around me in most cases.  But she is not to be competing with me.  She is to be complementing me.  Completing me.  Helping me.  This is a big difference.

Sports do not help this.  They teach independence and self sufficiency.  They teach competitiveness and aggressiveness.  At least if you want to be “competitive”.

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. – 1 Peter 3:7

I’m to treat my wife different than a friend or a man.  She’s not weak, but she’s weaker in many ways than I am.  And I will confess she is much stronger than I am in many ways.  But she is unique.  She was made woman and that is an amazing thing and I desire my daughter’s to be as God intended them to be.  Not to be trained up like men.

But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ – Mark 10:6

Don’t miss this distinction and also don’t miss that the world is corrupted by sin and by the evil one and he desire to destroy whatever he can.  included the God given roles.  He does it through deceit and misdirection.  He is clever.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.  He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’?” – Genesis 3:1

Satan twisted what God said.  He distorted the truth and it plunged mankind into sin.  If our greatest desire is to honor God in all things then we need to consider that His plan is better than ours.  His ways are higher and we need to conform to the mind of God as revealed to us through Scripture.  If your daughter plays soccer does this destroy any hope?  Of course not, but consider the goal…  I believe God has clearly given us examples to follow and I don’t find any real value in sports for my daughters.

And that is my reasoning.  I hope you’ll think about yours.

 

Kevin

Bruce Jenner and a Reprobate Mind

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I am not a social commentator, I’m a Christian.   I have no desire to be a social commentator, but I’ve found myself commenting on things in the news lately. The world we live in is a dark place, and it’s going to get worse and for those that are Christians we will find ourselves being more and more marginalized as society continues to degenerate.

I can remember Bruce Jenner as a great Olympic athlete, and not only an athlete, but a gold medalist in one of the toughest events in the Olympics, the decathlon. His commitment to achieve this level of “success” must have been hard to imagine.

And now he’s a she… at least in his mind. If you were to run into him somewhere you might think he’s a she also, but appearances can be misleading. As a Christian I’m a seller of truth. I only want to deal in truth, and my calling is to tell others about the truth.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. – Genesis 1:1

This is true. This is what God did.

Then God said, “Let Us, make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the seas, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. – Genesis 1:26-27

God created man in His own image, and gave man an eternal soul. Man is valuable to God, as he is an image bearer of the Creator. Of all the creatures on the earth, man has been created with a soul that will live forever.   Bruce Jenner was created a man, and an image bearer of God, but what happened that caused a man to think he should be a woman? Isn’t that a legitimate question to ask ourselves?

Well, if you are a Christian, you should know the answer. But do you really know the answer, from the source of truth, and will you be prepared to have a conversation with someone when asked about it? Are you prepared to give an answer for the hope that lies within you?

Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. – Genesis 6:5

There is a great battle that rages, and all of mankind seeks some meaning to life. Most seek some form of meaning through happiness. They believe they are called to happiness, and they even “deserve” to be happy. I would imagine, Bruce Jenner thinks becoming a woman will make him happy. Mankind seeks fulfillment through consumption. They desire to consume the joys of the earth whether that be entertainment, vacations, sex, or a bigger home. Man is always seeking the next big thing.

Man seeks to numb his pain, or consume through the use of some form of medication. He drinks himself into a state of no feeling. He brags about how much he enjoys strong drink and his prowess as an addict.

He doesn’t realize his problem is sin. He doesn’t realize there is joy in Christ, and God is in none of his thoughts, so he tries to rationalize his life, and he rejects the very God that created him in His image. He continues to reject the grace of God, and does all sorts of abominable things all the while declaring his own goodness. In the depraved mind of Bruce Jenner, he thinks he is doing the right thing and it’s proof that he doesn’t know the truth.

He doesn’t know that the truth could set him free…

He doesn’t know that when the Son sets him free, he is free indeed…

He doesn’t know that he will face God’s wrath unless he turns from his wicked ways…

Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever, Amen. – Romans 1:24-25

Bruce Jenner, has been given up by God, and he has dishonored his body, and the Creator that created him. He has believed the lies that his sin will make him happy, and will offer a fulfilling life. He has served the created being, primarily himself. He doesn’t want to hear about it, because he believes he’s done the right thing. His mind and his heart are darkened. He has fully rejected the goodness of God.

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting… – Romans 1:28

The King James Version says a “reprobate mind” which is a word used of metal that is cast away. It is unfit for use, unproved. It is a mind that has been so corrupted by sin, that it no longer thinks properly. The conscience has been so seared and hardened that it has lost its grip on reality.

The problem with God’s word, for most, is they won’t or can’t discern the truth from the lie. This is not difficult to understand, but it’s difficult to accept for those that don’t cherish the truth. This is an offense, and stumbling block to understanding Christianity. I expect this article will be an offense to many.

In the classic work “The Pilgrim’s Progress” on his journey to the Celestial City, Christian must face the trials of Vanity Fair. That place where sin and temptation run mostly unrestrained.   The word vanity connotes a smug or egotistical complacency joined with emptiness, futility and a touch of frivolity. It’s not ironic that the magazine we most associate with this title has Jenner on its cover. The wisest man to ever live, told us that it is all vanity and not to be pursued (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). He told us how worthless of an endeavor it really is. All will face the temptations of the Vanity Fair, and in Bunyan’s allegory, those that prove to be true Christians will face great trials and persecution over their desire for truth, but will strand firm in the face of adversity.

If you are a Christian or you profess to be a Christian, you must be prepared to stand for the truth. How you react to this and the countless other acts of depravity that will come, determine whether you are truly in the Lord. Make no mistake, this will be the line that divides the pretenders from the true believers. If you believe you are somehow being progressive in your thinking or supportive of this lifestyle you are deceiving yourself, and you risk death. You risk the same death and judgment that awaits Bruce Jenner, lest he turn from his sin and live.

who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. – Romans 1:32

Will you stand on truth or crumble under the weight of popular opinion? Will you be hated and persecuted for righteousness sake? Jesus said you must, or you’re not. A great dividing line is forming, and which side of it will you stand? Will you fear those that can kill your body, or fear Him that can kill your body and soul?

Jesus Christ came to this earth and fulfilled the law of God, that you and I have no hope of ever fulfilling. He suffered a brutal death on the cross, suffered the wrath of God that sinners can be declared righteous. That is the good news. We are all without hope unless we turn to Christ for the salvation that He freely offers, that stands true for me, it stands true for you, and it stands true for Bruce Jenner.

Seek the LORD while He may be found. Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. – Isaiah 55:6-7

Kevin

Persevere O’ Man of God

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…when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also… – 2 Timothy 1:5-7

Today I’m going to begin an exegetical journey through 2 Timothy 1:5-14. I believe it will take three posts to do this section any justice but I’m confident it will bless you and encourage you as we look at the life of Timothy and the Apostle Paul’s charge to his son in the faith. I’m hopeful it will show us a difference between those that hold to sound doctrine and faithfulness to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Background

The Apostle Paul has been imprisoned in Rome for the second time, and this time he is no longer in the same position he was under his first imprisonment. In the past he had some freedom, and Paul reports it actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel (Philippians 1:12), this time it would appear he is in a cold and damp cell, with little hope for release. Paul seems to understand this as later in this letter he writes that he has finished his race (4:7) and his departure is at hand (4:6). He desires for Timothy to come to him and see him one last time. Paul has clearly been abandoned by most and in this letter he desires to strengthen and encourage Timothy. Perhaps young Timothy is weakening, as the daily duties of Pastoring a church have worn him down. He’s still a young man and he needs some fatherly wisdom to help him. Haven’t we all been there in our faith? That we need those men that have mentored us to build us up and encourage us?

We also see the important role that Paul has played in Timothy’s life. Paul had met Timothy as a very young man and had taken him under his wing, so to speak. He had identified that this young man had “potential”, he had been raised in a home that taught the Scriptures, and when the gospel was preached to Timothy, his mother and grandmother, they believed. How important and how obviously we see, that practically, as parents to feed our children the truth of God’s Word.

The Charge

Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. – 2 Timothy 1:6-7

Was Paul bothered by what was going on in Timothy’s life and leadership? This seems to be the case, as he was calling him to action. This word anazōpyreō means to rekindle a flame, to stir up the coals, or to take a bellows and blow into the fire. One of my favorite things is to sit beside a campfire and I love just poking and prodding at the logs and the coals. This is the imagery that we have of Paul challenging Timothy, not to lose his fire for the Lord.

Paul was reminding Timothy of these things, it was important enough to challenge Timothy that something was starting to slip, and Paul had invested a lot of time and energy in building a team, if you will, to continue what the Lord Jesus had started. This was worthy of another letter. It is worthy for us today to be reminded of the solemn charge, that when God laid His Sovereign Hand upon us that we are to continue in faith, and in sound words that bring glory to His Name, whether we are in ministry in an official capacity or simply out in the world proclaiming Christ to those dead in their sins and trespasses.

We all need a little encouragement. In fact we need a lot of encouragement, because ministry is hard work. Satan attacks those that are on the front lines. He hates those that fight for the King, and if you are little under attack, I would ask are you doing little work?

Fear, Power, Love & Sound Mind

We will finish this section with a challenge to those of us that call ourselves Christians. The word “fear” in this verse actually means timid. Are you timid about your faith, if you are timid about your faith, who is that about? Do you really believe that the gospel must be preached for people to be saved? Do you really believe people will die in their sins and trespasses?

Then it’s time to get over your love of self! Your timidity…

Turn your love to those that need it the most, the lost. Those are the ones you need to love, and that type of love will be unpopular in many if not most instances. This love is “agapē” the kind that does not seek its own, it seeks the benefit of others; it is the sacrificial love that Christ displayed on the cross.

I really love what Charles Spurgeon said about the desire of men’s souls and I think it really helps us focus on the problem. The problem being we are self protectors, we don’t care much for conflict.

“If you really long to save men’s souls, you must tell them a great deal of disagreeable truth.” – C.H. Spurgeon

That really sums it up doesn’t it? Men must hear things about themselves they don’t want to hear, and that requires someone to tell them such things, an unpopular message at best. Have you been reviled for this message?

Finally a sound mind is required. This requires self control, sober thinking, lack of silliness, and an attitude of solemnity. We must not think too highly of ourselves, we must be gentle and under control, but we must tell men a great deal of disagreeable truth in order to save their souls. Of course we know God saves their souls, but we are like the mail man delivering an unpopular message. We didn’t write the mail, but we must place it in their hands. (This is a loose translation of a thought by Voddie Baucham).

Next time we will dig into the heart of the matter, and expose the missed opportunity and downright falsity of those claiming to be leaders in the modern day church. We will see just how challenging this bit of bad news really is, before one can understand and receive the good news. We will see that it requires men in leadership that are godly, not little boys standing behind pulpits delivering pep talks.

Kevin

Holy Land Day 2 – The Gospel

Jesus was born in Bethlehem, grew up in Nazareth and spent the majority of His ministry based out of Capernaum.  This is hard to visually understand, because we’ve all heard these names but don’t really understand the relationship and what it would have been like to travel in those days.  We just hop in a car and go.

As we took a boat ride today on the Sea of Galilee it came much more into focus for me.  Capernaum was home base for Jesus and His disciples, and was a busy town of approximately 2000 people at the time of Christ.

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It was here that Jesus performed many of His miracles and changed the course of world history.

Matthew 4:13-17 And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; the people who sat in darkness saw a great light, and upon those who sat in the regioin and shadow of death light has dawned.”  From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Isaiah had prophesied this was the place the Lord would dwell and as we walked this area I was struck by what it must have been like in those days.  These were not major metropolitan areas as we know today, just rural fishing villages, but yet all who lived there had busy lives interacting with each other, and Capernaum was a place of commerce and darkness as the scripture tells us.

Ancient Synagogue

Can you imagine how the arrival of the Christ turned their world upside down?  Especially those He called to be His disciples.  Ordinary, common fishermen would learn from Him and then go into the world to spread Christianity across the planet.

How amazing!  What kind of a plan was this?  Just like Paul would have never considered how God would use him, neither could those fishermen imagine they would become fisher’s of men.

Kevin