This passage gives insight into the very nature of the gospel encounter. We see the genuine offer of the gospel, and the need and urgency to accept it, which the listeners can do; or they can reject it with full knowledge and remain in their sin.
“So Jesus said to them, ‘For a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light.’ These things Jesus spoke, and He went away and hid Himself from them” (John 12:35–36). Continue reading →
May my day, my thoughts, my words, my plans, and my deepest emotions be enraptured by gratefulness, be enveloped in thankfulness, and may my thankfulness not be in stale sayings as I speak all the while sauntering the walkways of complaining and self-pity.
Oh my Lord Jesus please once again forgive me. May my thankfulness never be followed by “but” since that is the human’s sinful disguise of appearing spiritually thankful all the while lamenting our less than perfect situation. May I be mature in my gratitude and dismissive of the trivial inconveniences of this sinful world and my life so that I may truly “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
May I be thankful that I have a stomach when it hurts. May I be thankful for periods of painlessness when I am in pain. May I focus on what I have rather than what I do not have. May I bless You for the small and great things I have and You have given rather than have roving eyes and discontented heart of the flesh. May thankfully seek your presence in everything. “I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, And will glorify Your name forever” (Psalm 86:12).
It is often said that Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America. The frequent implication seems to be, the church is the most racist gathering place in America. But is the presence of an all-white church evidence of a bigoted church? I think not, even though I recognize there are racially prejudice people and churches in America. Continue reading →
I have a strong desire to enable people to more readily recognize the unmitigated determinism within every aspect of Calvinism. This serves to make dialogue regarding the merits and liabilities of Calvinism clearer as well as enabling everyone a better opportunity to be aware of what they are actually embracing when they don the title Calvinist. In view of that, I frequently speak about the nature of compatibilism, which is Calvinism’s chosen perspective regarding man’s freedom as contrasted with libertarianism, Extensivism’s belief about man’s freedom. If the entailments of these perspectives are misunderstood, the conversation is unproductive. Continue reading →
I remember the first time we implemented church discipline in my former church. It was the greatest spiritual challenge the church had faced. The process took over a year, and it ended with a young lady having to be removed and others leaving because of her removal.
But that was not to be the end of the story. Sometime later, I received a call from the young lady. She said she needed to come and repent before the church. She came and shared her story. She told how she had been saved subsequent to being disciplined by our church, and that it was the discipline of the church that God used to bring her to that salvation. She said she had always gotten away with everything she wanted—a pattern developed because of a lack of parental and self-discipline. The church had made her really examine her life and through that, she came to realize that she was not a true Christian. Correspondingly, she bowed her heart before our wonderful Lord, and He gloriously saved her. We welcomed her back to the Lord’s Table and the fellowship of the body. Continue reading →
I have practiced church discipline for over thirty years, and here are some of the practical reasons often posed to me against the practice of church discipline.
It was abused in the past
When the subject of church discipline surfaces, someone will inevitably point to the abuses of the past as reason enough to squelch the whole conversation and move on to something more palatable. It is an undeniable fact that there have been abuses in the past. George Davis writes, “A perusal of old church minutes would tend to justify the claim that in the past church discipline was often wrongly motivated and sometimes concerned with petty matters.” A classic example of abuse is when Pope Gregory VII (1073–1085) forced Henry IV to stand as a penitent in the snow outside the castle at Canossa begging the Pope to cancel his excommunication. Continue reading →
The term discipline, both in the Bible and in everyday usage, displays various nuances depending on the particular biblical or life context. The ideas communicated by discipline are that of chastening, instruction, nurturing, training, correction, reproof, and punishment. In the negative sense, the idea of punishment is most prominent. In the positive sense, things like nurturing, training, and instruction come to mind. However, since all discipline is based on the perfect character of God, all discipline is actually positive even though it is not always immediately apparent. Just as the Scripture says, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11). The reality is that discipline and discipleship are so closely connected that to minimize discipline is to minimize discipleship. Lynn Buzzard notes, “To separate discipling from discipline is not only to tear words from their etymologically common roots, but also from their organic relationship.” Continue reading →
My Lord Jesus, I pray You will keep me strong to continue my calling to “equip the saints” and to “preach the whole counsel of God” (Eph 4: 11-12; Acts 20:27). It seems I am surrounded by people, movements, and pressures to let other things push this to the side. To let such things as church problems, countless needs of the church, administration, a flurry of trendy ideas, and the desire to be liked draw me away from my call to preach and teach; may that fear never be realized in my life.
You have been faithful to protect me from abandoning your call to faithfully preach your Word; although it is at times quite lonely, scary, and difficult. I am thankful for the sweet freshness that the study of Your Word deposits in my life, and the maturity you so graciously have given me to both live and deposit in the lives of others. You are so true to Your Word.
While I never seem to fully escape the burden I feel for those who fail to grow in Christ, I thank You for the growth I see in so many; I am blessed beyond measure by the people who hunger to know You deeper. Lord, let me never forget the words of Peter, which remind we shepherds we can only shepherd those who are active in the body of Christ.
“shepherd the flock of God among you” (1 Peter 5:2). (italics added)
People often tell me God feels distant. They do not sense his presence as they once did. This is not because God has left us, but it is often because we are seeking him in ways he is not to be found. We cannot find God in our own way, or based upon our personal view of how we should be able to find him. Rather, God is to be found on his terms and according to his ways.
The Lord is near, and will come close to us when we call out to him in truth. When we truly desire to hear him, obey him, and live for him he will come near. We cannot just call out to him, but we must seek him in his truth and with hearts desirous to live out his truth in our lives.
We must also seek him reverently. God is not someone we can manipulate or seek only for our own purposes as though we are God. He can be found, only when we pursue him in reverential fear.
We must seek him because we love him. This is quite different from seeking him to get something rather than to find him. When we seek him with an adoring and loving heart, he responds by holding us close in an unbreakable security; one in which we can face today’s challenges.
We need never believe God is distant if we call upon him in truth, reverence, and love; for those are the keys to experiencing the presence of God.
“The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He will also hear their cry and will save them. The Lord keeps all who love Him, But all the wicked He will destroy” (Psalm 145:18-20).
The imagery of a “wall of separation” was actually in use prior to Thomas Jefferson’s famous use of the phrase, and so it is wise to find out how it had been used in the context of religious freedom in America. This is particularly important in light of the fact that Jefferson used it while corresponding to Baptists, who had felt the brunt of government persecution in America. The phrase had a theological genesis as opposed to the modern supposed deistic, constitutional, or secular genesis. Continue reading →