Weep with those who weep

Often time we as Christians find that our experiences war with our doctrine. We believe that God is sovereign, but horrible things happen. We believe that God is good, yet every day people die horrible deaths. How are we to reconcile what we think about our experiences, with what we know Scripture says?

The answer to that is trust God. Trust what God has to say in His Word. In James 1 we are told to consider times of trial an opportunity for rejoicing. Why, because God is at work in our lives, and through our faithfulness to Him. But what are we to do when we cannot see how God is working (that will happen)? James goes on to say that if we lack the wisdom to see God at work then we must pray to God and ask him for the wisdom to see His work.

The problem is that as long as we are on this earth we will never know true unmixed happiness. There will always be a cause to mourn as long as we are on this sin-marred planet. For the servant of God there will always be times of rejoicing, and times of weeping.

1 Corinthians 6:10
As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having everything but possesing nothing.

There will always be times of sorrow and times of rejoicing, and usually they will run concurrent to on another. Let me quote Piper: “We rejoice with those who rejoice, and we weep with those who weep; and we always know someone rejoicing, and we always know someone weeping.” This is just one of Piper’s deeply insightful thought in a recent
September 11th Memorial service, at his church.

If you have ever heard Piper preach then you know that he embodies rejoicing with those rejoicing, and weeping with those weeping. This sermon is not different. Piper pours out his heart, and wrestles with the question of why do tragic things happen. Piper also talks about Katrina, and how God is working through death and tragedy.

If you want to know how to deal with Katrina in your own mind, and how to bring God the glory in the aftermath of any tragedy then sit down and take the time to listen to Pastor Piper wrestle the emotions of experience to the ground with God’s Word.

Challenge the thoughts of your own experience with Scripture and see if they match up. Wrestle with what God’s word says compared to your sense of fairness (see Romans 9). Be ready; one day your are going to have to minister to someone who has been through tragedy. For there sake wrestle with these questions now.


The Queen of Sciences vs. The Tetragrammaton

This quote from C.H. Spurgeon reminds us what practical doctrine really is:“In too many cases the sublime truths are held in abeyance under the pretence that they are not practical; whereas the very fact that they are revealed proves the Lord thinks them to be of value, and woe unto us if we pretend to be wiser than He.”

Excerpt taken from “Lectures To My Students”
XXIII On Conversion As Our Aim
pg 336

Spurgeon’s words are amazingly applicable to the Church today. Unfortunately we have a lot of people who walk around calling themselves Christian, but when doctrine is discussed they are found to be more than lacking. People have become afraid of doctrine in large part because they do not understand how intensely practical it really is. Many have become squemish about doctrine because they have seen the results of bad doctrine. This is understandable, but no less dangerous.

Dr. Daniel Ebert (Clearwater Christian College)
“There is a parallel between this reaction against theology and the Jewish Tradition, which avoids the pronunciation of the Sacred Name or Tetragrammaton (YHWH). The desire not to violate the third commandment, and take the Lord’s name in vain, was a noble one. But the over reaction of not pronouncing the Tetragrammaton at all, resembled superstition, and in the end has led to a lack of proper knowledge. Today no one knows for sure how the Divine Name was originally pronounced. So it is with theology. Those who fear its abuse, and avoid doing it at all, render a disservice to the Church. In the end there is the loss of true knowledge, which is essential to the health of God’s people. The proper course is not to avoid theology altogether, but rather to do it responsibly. And this leads us to the main purpose of this lecture: the responsibilities of theological discussion. We will consider this, first with respect to God, then with respect to the church, and finally with respect to one’s self.”

We must fight to preserve sound theology by emphasizing its practicality. We must not relinquish the doctrines that God has given to us, or else the generations that follow us will have nothing to stand on. When God revealed these truths He did so because they would be profitable to us; so let us labor furiously to take advantage of God’s gift and be sound theologians.

We must not neglect biblical Theology; we must fight to preserve the “queen of sciences.”

Taking a class from Spurgeon

Over the past couple of weeks I have been slowly working my way through the C. H. Spurgeon classic “Lectures to My Students.” As I think about it now it is amazing to me that I have never read the entire book before. Quite frankly I am a little disappointed that no professor ever required me to read it (not even in pastoral ministry class). I am reading it now, and it is all because a dear brother in the Lord purchased it for me. I am quite thankful that the Father has allowed me to be a part of His church. And I am quite thankful that my dear brother thought of me when he saw this book.

As I progressed in my reading I soon realized that there was much for me to learn within those pages. I decided that I needed to slow down, and record some of Spurgeon’s thoughts in my own notes. The writing helps me to retain, and it make those gold nuggets from Spurgeon easily accessible. Today I would like to regurgitate a little Spurgeon in the hopes that it will benefit you in the same way that I have benefited from it.

What follows are my notes just how they appear. I will begin my notes from chapters 16, 17, 18.

XVI “The Need of Decision for Truth”

pg 225: Luther was the man for decision. He spoke w/ thunder for there was lightning in his faith.

> It is very ridiculous to hear good truth from bad men.

> Truth has not fully given you her friendship till all thy doings are marked by her seal.

pg 226: Our preaching must not be articulate snoring. There must be power, life, energy, vigor. We must throw our whole selves into it, and show that the zeal of God has eaten us up.

pg 227: The little court inside my heart is not satisfied unless some retribution be exacted for the dishonour done to God.

pg 231: …it is an age which is very impressible, and therefore I should like to see you very decided, that you may impress it.

XVII “Open-air Preaching- a Sketch of its History”

pg 234: There are some customs for which nothing can be pleaded, except that they are very old. In such cases antiquity is of no more value that the rust on a counterfeit coin.

pg 238: History repeats itself b/c like causes are pretty sure to produce like effects.

XVIII “Open-air Preaching- Remarks Thereon”

pg 258: As a miller hears his wheels as though he did not hear them, or a stoker scarcely notices the clatter of his engine after enduring it for a little time… so do many members of our congregations become insensible to the most earnest addresses, and accept them as a matter of course.

In the folowing Wednesdays I will continue to share my chopped up, and misspelled notes from Spurgeon. If you have never read Spurgeon I would encourage you to do so.

Here are some Spurgeon links that will be more than helpful:

Pyromaniac’s recent post about Spurgeon

Spurgeon Archive

Spurgeon U.S.

The Letters of Spurgeon

Spurgeon’s Library

The Man in the Mirror: James 1:22-25

If you are coming to church, coming to youth group, or occasionally reading your bible, with out letting it have an impact on you then you are putting yourself in a dangerous position. You are deluding, or deceiving, yourself into thinking that you are living right just because you know all the answers in Sunday school. But the truth of the matter is that all a person like this has had is a superficial encounter with Scripture. This person is a sermon taster who has never tasted the grace of God. You can deceive yourselves, but you cannot deceive God. You can ignore what the Bible says about your sin problem, but God will not ignore it. Do not fool around with this. You cannot dip your toe in the shallow end of the pool and call yourself an Olympic swimmer. You are saved by faith — believing. How can you say that you know what God’s word says, and that you believe it and not do it? If you hear God’s word and believe it will impact your life.James gives us a very vivid picture of what he is talking about. If we hear God’s word when it tells us that we are sinners and do nothing about it then we are like the man who looks in the mirror. This man gets up in the morning looks into the mirror and sees that his hair is messy. He promptly walks away without combing his hair and the rest of the day he thinks he looks great. This man is either denying what he saw in the mirror, or he does not believe it. When we look at God’s word without letting it impact our lives then we are either pretending that we don’t know what it says, or denying that it is true. As is true with the man in the mirror, any failure to respond cannot be blamed on a lack of understanding. This man made a foolish mistake with his natural face, how much greater a mistake would it be for us to make this mistake with our souls? God’s word, His heavenly doctrine, is a mirror in which we can see who we truly are in light of who God is. We must not look at this mirror and walk away. For the man looking into the mirror it was “out of sight” “out of mind.” Is it the same way for your study of God’s word? Doctrine that is merely heard and not received into the heart is worth nothing because it will soon vanish.

The benefit from God’s word will come when we believe it and do it. James says that the doer of God’s word looks intently on the perfect law of liberty. It is as if he was walking along and then in the mirror he saw the perfect law of liberty and it caught his attention. Unlike the distorted mirrors of James’ time (that were made out of various metals until the well after James was written) the law is perfect and able to give an undistorted view. The law showed him who he really was, and what he looked like. It showed him that he was a sinner that had fallen short of God, and that through Christ he could be saved. This perfect law of liberty is that same word that has been implanted in believers. This law is the word, and the liberty is in its power to save souls. This law is the law that Jeremiah spoke of in Jeremiah 31:33. God has made us His people through Christ, and he has put His law in our hearts (through the Spirit) so that we can finally be free to live the way He created us to live.

As you submit yourself to the transforming power of God’s word this law of liberty will work in your life giving you the ability to do God’s will joyfully. This is a matter of the heart. “As long as the law is preached by the external voice of man, and not inscribed by the finger and of the Spirit of God on the heart, it is but a dead letter, and as if it were a lifeless thing.” (Calvin)Not only does the doer give his attention to God’s word, but he stays with it abiding by all that he learns. He does not soon forget what he has seen in God’s word. He is like a man who looks in the mirror, sees that he needs to comb his hair, and combs it. Not only has this man heard the word, but he is also allowing the Spirit to change him through the word. This man is being transformed by the word of God. He is effective in doing God’s will because he is affected by God’s Word.

The man who not only hears God word, but also does God’s word will be blessed in what he does. He will be blessed because what he is doing is God’s will. If you want to find the secret to life and happiness look no farther than God’s word. Scripture makes it very clear from Genesis to Revelation that if you do God’s will you will be blessed. You will be blessed because God’s way is the best way. When we are commanded not to do something in Scripture it is not because God wants to be mean; rather it is because God wants to protect us. When we are doing what the word commands we will be protected from consequences of sin. For if I sin there will be consequences, just like if I stick a fork in an electrical outlet there will be consequences. God wants to protect us from the “shock” sin can bring in our life.

Sometimes our blessedness will not look so much like blessedness. Remember this is what the first chapter of James is all about. But even in earthly trials those who effectually do the word have a blessing. It is an eschatological blessing. Those who do the word demonstrate that they believe what it says, and thus demonstrate that God’s saving grace has been made manifest in their lives.

An introductory look at James 1:22-25

This morning I would like to take an introductory look James 1:22-25. This is an important passage to understand when tracking the thoughts of James. On Monday we will take a look at the two types of people that James describes in this passage, but until then I want to give just a few simple things to think about.

James 1:22-25

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.James’ message in these verses is simple: be a doer of the word, not a self-deceived hearer only. Those who are hearers only, not doers also, do not accept the word of God. They are the people who say: “I go to church isn’t that enough?” They congratulate themselves for just hearing the word, but they are deceiving themselves. They have never accepted the word. Without obedient acceptance the word will not only be without benefit, but it will lead to judgment. Hearing without doing will only give a man a false sense of security. The truth of the matter is that you cannot just hear the Gospel message and be saved, rather you must hear the Gospel and respond to it to be saved. This is not salvation by works, this is common sense. If I believe that God’s word is true I will apply it to my life, if I do not believe it is true I will not apply it to my life. Do not fool yourself into being a “hearer only” of God’s word. If we only hear God’s word, never letting it impact our lives, then we must face the reality that we might be like the men in Matthew 7 who thought they were saved but were not.

Matthew 7:13-24
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”

This passage may be the key passage to the entire book of James. It sums up James’ message that we must put into practice what we profess to believe. The doer of God’s word is the one who from the heart embraces God’s Word and testifies by his life that he really believes it. The doer of God’s word has been counted righteous by his faith, and the righteousness of Christ will have an impact on his life. He will struggle with sin, but as the apostle Paul in Romans 7 he will hate sin because it is contrary to God’s word.

Romans 7:19-25
For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

James 1:21: Receiving the Word (Pt. 2)

James 1:21“Therefore putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.”

To receive God’s Word we must reject sin, and accept the Word. And we must accept the Word in humility. This is in contrast with the prideful attitude of verses 19-20 that produces anger. Scripture is to be received in meekness. In fact, the only proper response to God’s Word is humble submission. But what does all this mean? To humbly receive the Word of God is to submit to the Bible as your authority, and welcome all that it teaches (even when it tell you that you are a vile sinner filthy like ear wax). We must have a self-less receptiveness to God’s word, not only putting away sin but putting away self. This is a similar principle to that of verses 5-8. There the doubting man cannot receive wisdom because he is not really looking for it. Here we cannot be impacted by Scripture if we are not willing to accept all of it. How can we submit to the authority of Scripture if our own opinions, and sense of fairness outweighs the content of the text (see Romans 9 for example). We must come to the Word of God in humility understanding that God’s wisdom recorded for us far surpasses our own understanding. We must come before God’s wisdom (the Bible) in humility, and readiness of mind disposed to learn from it. This is why so few people profit much from Scripture, because there are so few who humble themselves before it. Here is what Calvin said: “hardly 1 in a 100 renounces the stubbornness of his own spirit, and gently submits to God, but almost all are conceited [when coming before Scripture].”We must humbly accept the Word which has been implanted in us. Those, who through the saving work of Christ, are already a part of the divine family need to continue to use the Word that saved them to shape their lives and keep them from sin. James command here is to let the Word that saved you influence every part of your life. This word will be just as profitable in your daily life as it was at your salvation. We who are Christians must act upon the Word we accepted at conversion; the Word that was implanted in us through the Spirit when we accepted Christ. James is not telling us to plant the seed of the Word (righteousness in our hearts). God has already planted that seed in those who have believed, and he brought them forth as a first fruit. Rather, James is telling us to accept the demands the Word implanted at regeneration require. We must receive the Word which – has been implanted in the hearts of believers – by letting it control and direct our lives.

Receive the Word because your soul depends on it:

James adds one last description of the Word in this verse; it is the Word “which is able to save your souls.” You may think that you have control over your life, and that everything is just fine. But let me tell you something, you are wrong! You must submit to the Lord, and you do that by submitting to his Word. It is His Word that brings salvation. His Word gives us that glorious gospel. Know this, in making the decision of what you are going to submit to (God’s Word vs. Self), you very soul is at stake.

Not only does God’s Word bring about initial salvation, but so too will it lead to our final salvation. Look at Romans 8:28-30:
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”Our salvation is not a one time event. Salvation began before time with a calling, it was initiated in our life with a justification, and following justification begins the sanctification process which will culminate with our glorification. Our salvation is still being worked out. It is assured but it has not culminated into completion as of yet. God’s Word has the power to penetrate our hearts, save us, and preserve us until the eternal Kingdom.

The Offense of the Gospel

In our Nation’s Capital we now have a baseball team. The Nationals moved to D.C. from Montreal at the beginning of this season. They have made quite a splash in D.C. and have been in contention for most of the season. But as the playoff race heats up baseball is not the story coming from the Nationals lockeroom. Instead, the offense of the Gospel is what is making news. Let me explain.The AP reported early this week that the chapel leader of the Washington Nationals was suspended Tuesday for what ESPN.com is calling “a flap over a response to a question about Jews.” For those of you who are not familar with baseball, each team has a chaplin of sorts. He leads prayer services along wth a variety of other tasks.John Moeller is the suspended chapel leader for the Nationals. Moeller will not be allowed access to the team’s clubhouse while the incident is being investigated. In Moeller’s absence the Nationals have sent a request to the “Christian ministry Baseball Chapel”, which is the organization in charge of appointing and overseeing the chapel volunteers, for a replacement.

Apparently this all began when Ryan Church, an outfielder for the Nationals, asked Moeller if Jews are “doomed” because they do not believe in Jesus. Church said that Moeller nodded. With that one nod Moeller let the dogs loose. As if they were already waiting to pounch the team immediately denounced the “nod.” Meanwhile, in a short search, the Washington Post found an Orthodox Rabbi willing to give them a quote. Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld said: “the Nationals did a good job about bringing hate into the locker room.” (That’s right Rabbi, we can’t have Christians nodding.) In an effort to prevent future nodding Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington, said that it would be more appropriate if non-denominational prayers were offered so players of all backgrounds could participate (it should probably read “so players of all backgrounds could not care”).

This is the power of the Gospel. Men do not want to hear the man convicting God forgiving news of Christ. Men do not want to hear that they are doomed; they don’t want some “ignorant (1 Cor. 1)” chapel guy affirming what they have spent their whole lives denying. The Gospel cannot be true because they do not believe it. This is why something as benign as a nod could set off a chain of events like these.

I think that I have a few suggestions for the Nationals in their search for a new chapel leader:

1) You better hurry the Braves are just about to end your season.

2) See if Joel Olsteen is available. I hear that he is very good at avoiding these questions (see Larry King interview). If he cannot spend the whole season with the team maybe he can lead the effort in Moeller’s rehab.

3) Thank God, or some other non-denominational object of worship, that you don’t play during Christmas. Who knows they would put on top of the Christmas tree instead of a star.

4) Instead of suspending Moeller put him at first base. Does anyone know if he is a lefty? Can he pitch?

5) Eliminate the chapel all together and replace it with a sensitivity training room.

6) If you really want to get you players fired up for a possible playoff push then maybe they should think about lighting a fire under their players feet. And who better to start a fire than the Pyromaniac. Actually I think that he would be perfect. They said they were looking for someone non-denominational. Does being a Cub’s fan count as denominational?