Rejoice! Jesus is King!

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"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end" (Isaiah 9:6-7a).
 I can't seem to go very long without reading, watching, or thinking about The Lord of the Rings. J.R.R. Tolkien's works are by far the best fantasy series of all time (let the debate begin!). One of the things I enjoy most about Tolkien's world is the significance of each character and weapon.

For instance, in The Hobbit, Bilbo saves his dwarf companions by killing and driving off many of the spiders who had imprisoned them. After he kills his first spider, Bilbo announces that he shall give his sword the name Sting. Immediately, the other spiders cower in fear as Sting is held high in the air; the enemy knows that Sting is meant for them next.

Magnificat anima mea Dominum

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"And Mary said, 'My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever'" (Luke 1:46-55).
In Latin, the first line to Mary's song is Magnificat anima mea Dominum - "My soul magnifies the Lord." Throughout Mary's song of rejoicing, she cites many Old Testament references, which is fitting for anyone overcome by the Spirit. In particular, Mary's exaltation is closely related to the song of Hannah found in 1 Samuel 2:1-10.

Falling Asleep

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"For David says concerning him,
‘I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’
Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses" (Acts 2:25-32).
"And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them.' And when he had said this, he fell asleep" (Acts 7:60).
When God created the world and everything in it from nothing, he saw all that he had made and declared it to be "very good" (Gen 1:31). All creation was working as it should; new life had just been created everywhere and there was no logical reason or rational possibility that any of it should ever perish.

The Purpose Of Education

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"All things have been made by him and for him" (Colossians 1:16). 
"What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet loses his soul?" (Matthew 16:26). 
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:37).
"Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever" (Question 1, Westminster Shorter Catechism). 
Some would say that the Bible has authority only over the sacred things, such as faith (religion) and the practice of that faith. In stark contrast, God is not only sovereign over the sacred things, but also over the secular things (i.e., business, education, family life).

Sadly, some believers today - including whole churches - have been so enamored by the "successful" business world that they have replaced God's Word with "effective habits." While these "habits" may be well-principled, they do not capture the proper perspective of success, nor do they speak to man's true purpose for existing. The Bible, on the other hand, rightly and completely informs my practice in all areas of life, not just in matters regarding faith and practice, strictly speaking. It speaks to my parenting (Prov 22:6); it speaks to my marriage (Eph 5) and also my function in marriage (Gen 1-3; 1 Pet 3:7); it speaks to how I should approach earthly gain (Mat 16:26); it speaks to how I should educate my children (Psa 78); it speaks to even how I should eat my food, drink my water, and tie my shoes (1 Cor 10:31). The Word of God is the only source of Truth in this world (note the capital T - there are many sources of truth, lower case t).

The Big Picture

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 "And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day..." (Genesis 3:8).
"The LORD came from Sinai and dawned from Seir upon us... Yes, he loved his people..." (Deuteronomy 33:2-3).
"And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.... The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one as we are one, I in them and you in me.... I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them" (John 17:5, 22-26).
"Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb... on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month" (Revelation 22:1-2).
There is a big picture to the history of our world. Literary critics as well as theologians refer to this as the meta-narrative, that is, the overarching story. Of course, in a big picture look at things there are many small details that are glossed over which are still important; yet, all the small details fit into the big picture, the meta-narrative.

In the Bible, we see the meta-narrative clearly. The three main, overarching parts of the story are three-fold: creation, fall, redemption.

Parents Are Teachers

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"Train up a child in the way he should go... [for] folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him" (Proverbs 22:6, 15).
As the school year begins (or, for some, has already begun), we turn our attention to academics: to learning and to teaching.  Some will send their youngsters off to school, while others will give them academic instruction at home.  However a family decides to prepare their children for independence, this much is true in every situation: parents are teachers.

Parents have a crucial role in instructing their children.  Not only should parents teach skills like how to fold clothes, how to get dressed, and how to sit at the table, but parents should also be giving moral instruction in everything they do to their children.

Praying To The Glory Of God

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"Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed by Thy Name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen" ("The Lord's Prayer," Matthew 6).
Much can be gleaned from our Lord's teaching on prayer.  Specifically, I want to focus on three areas in the Lord's prayer that are helpful in understanding the purpose of prayer and also practical helps in the area of how to pray.  Jesus, of course, was answering the latter statement directly when his disciples asked him, "Lord, teach us to pray."  As a result, three distinct ideas are taught by Jesus to his disciples on the subject of prayer.

The Source For Having A Positive Outlook On Life

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I have recently spent a couple posts to discuss the fears I have with positive confession theology.  The reason I say I have fears about this type of thinking is because this framework of living almost immediately leads us to a false view of who God is, a false view of who man is, and a false view of what Christ's atonement is.

However, having a positive outlook on life is, most assuredly, a Biblical and godly characteristic.  Christians ought to be hopeful, joyful, and encouraging.  But the primary source of this hope, joy, and encouragement differs dramatically from the source of Joel Osteen's or Jon Gordon's joy, for instance.  (In short, I am not condemning these men or others like them.  I do, however, want to draw attention to their faulty theology and the faulty theology of most - if not all - of those who hold to their teachings.)

Take a look, for example, at two different song lyrics that demonstrate two differing sources of hope, joy, and encouragement.

Difficulty Is Not Natural

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Difficulty, pain, suffering, adversity, obstacles, setbacks - choose your favorite term - none of these are natural, just as death is not natural.  All difficulty is a result of sin.  Thinking that these negative things are a natural part of the created order and neglecting to treat them as a result of God's curse on His creation for sin is a fundamental flaw in "positive confession theology" (otherwise known as "name and claim it" or "health, wealth, and prosperity gospel").  This false gospel angers me more than just about anything else simply because it is not true.  (There are some who would argue that the term "false" is a little too strong; I disagree.  The reason this is false is because it is not true.  Jesus did not die for me to have everything I ever wanted in this life.)

The men I am about to name have a serious worldview crisis: they view this world as the main stage; they talk very little, if ever, about the reality of eternity.

Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, Kenneth Copeland, John Maxwell, Danny Gokey, and Jon Gordon are all men I would consider to be positive confession theologians.  They all teach the similar idea that the human potential is limitless; that if we can just tap into our inner-selves with enough positive-thoughts and high-achieving goals we can do anything.  Such maxims as "when you believe, the impossible becomes possible" (Jon Gordon) are popular among these men.

The doctrine these leaders promote sounds so good that it is leading millions around the world into darkness.  How?  Because man is not the center of the universe.  God is.  Man is not even the center of his own life!  God is.  To have our focus so intently on ourselves is to miss the purpose of man's existence entirely.  We are not here for ourselves or even for each other; we ultimately exist for God.

The Problem With Positivity

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One of the most prominent Christian radio stations has a motto that goes like this: "positive and encouraging."  In recent years, I have grown more and more abhorrent of this motto.  The reason is because it is bad theology.  And I hate bad theology.

Looking back over my life, I cringe when I think of some of things I have taught, said, wrote, or believed.  In my quest for a right understanding of God, the Holy Spirit convicts and corrects me as well.  He does so with love and truth.  I say this to show that I am not trying to be arrogant or boastful in my tone; I desire to do the humble work of a servant, serving the Lord Jesus Christ by proclaiming His truth with an attitude of love.

The reason why the positivity movement in Christendom bothers me so much is because it's not a realistic view of the facts of life.  Additionally frustrating is that when one faces challenges in life, the answer given by the gurus of positive-thought is to look inside oneself and develop that inner, human potential for greatness.  All in all, the reason for the Christian's hope rests on something far deeper and more solid than a few catch phrases and good experiences: it rests on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Discipline: God's Grace in Our Depravity

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"For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it" (Hebrews 12:11).
In the time that I have been a father, I have benefited from trying to explain complex ideas to my kids.  For instance, explaining to Brielle that she should have a grateful attitude and not a complaining one has helped me improve my attitude as well after giving her the reason as to why we should be grateful: "all things have been made by Him and for Him," and "without Him nothing has been made that has been made."  We receive nothing but that which the Father gives us.  Therefore, we should be grateful always, for "in Him we have our life, our breath, and our very being."  Apart from Him, we have nothing.

Death is a Curse

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"And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, 'You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die'" (Genesis 2:16-17). 
"And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence and there was no deceit in his mouth.  Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him..." (Isaiah 53:9-10). 
"For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21).
 Death is a part of life.  It is all around us.  Even in the womb, life is fragile and requires lots of special care.  Likewise, after a new house is built, it immediately begins to deteriorate due to rain, wind, insects, and just by general use.  We are so used to death, decay, and deterioration that we may not stop to think: death is not normal.  Death is a result of the curse of God upon His creation for their disobedience toward Him.

When we understand death as a curse, it changes our understanding of several important things surrounding the cross and the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Death is crucial to understand if we are to grasp the significance of the resurrection.

Stop Teaching Moralism!


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"The Church has been trying to preach morality and ethics without the Gospel as a basis; it has been preaching morality without godliness; and it simply does not work" (Martin Lloyd Jones, Preaching and Preachers, 2011).
Recently, I heard several adolescents share their story of conversion to faith in Christ, what many people call "personal testimonies."

The recurring synopsis I heard was this: "I grew up in a Christian home, so I don't have any radical story of coming out of rebellion or anything like that.  I grew up going to church and I accepted Jesus into my heart when I was a kid.  Still, I don't have this Christianity thing figured out.  I just don't see how God could love me.  I keep sinning and I keep struggling with doubt."  Then in closing, essentially, "But, hopefully Jesus will let me into heaven; even though I'm not perfect, I'm trying hard to do what pleases Him."

My initial reactions to hearing student after student talk about their conversion in this manner left me feeling sorry for them and angry at... - well, something.

Judging By Appearances

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"Without faith it is impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11:6).
Not all non-Christians are vile scum picketing outside the gates of heaven.  By all appearances, I know quite a few upstanding, nice, generous sinners.  I'm sure you do too.  In fact, sometimes these non-Christians outdo me in patience and generosity.

Why, then, does God still find fault with the non-Christian?  Why will they be found guilty on the day of judgement and go away to darkness and gnashing of teeth?

Paul's Sermon on Mars' Hill

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In Acts 17, Paul delivers a concise but effective message to the Greeks.  The stage, however, was set centuries before through the workings of God's providence.

Approximately 500 years earlier in Athens, a man named Socrates began to consider the question, "What is the best way to live?"  This came in response to the sophists, a group of Greeks whose prevailing mode of thought was "YOLO" (You Only Live Once).

Salvation Is By The Works of Christ ALONE!

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"For the Son of Man is going to come with His angels in the glory of His Father, an then He will repay each person according to what he has done" (Matthew 16:27). 
"For You will render to a man according to his work" (Psalm 62:12). 
"See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil.  If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in His ways, and by keeping His commandments and His statutes and His rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it" (Deuteronomy 30:15-16).
In Hebrews 9:27, the Word of God tells all humans everywhere what will happen to each one of us: "It is appointed a man once to die and after that to face the judgement."  We are assured of two certainties: we will die and, after death, we will face judgement.

Sing To The Lord, All The Earth!

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Being a parent is humbling in many ways.  Not only am I responsible for the care and nurture of my children - to make sure they stay alive - I am also responsible for equipping them to be moral, God-fearing people.  This is the humbling part: when I am teaching my daughter not to yell at her brother in anger when he disrupts her play, I am quickly reminded of my own anger; thus, as I lead her to the cross, I myself am there.  This is why parenting is such a powerful means to sanctification.

The Foolishness of Transgenderism

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A growing number of gender-confused people are receiving hormonal treatments to change their gender to the opposite sex.  With hormonal treatments and surgeries relatively new to the medical field - many treatments being less than ten years old - the future is unclear as to what negative and irreversible side-effects these individuals will show later in life (Dean, Jamie.  "Pressure to conform."  WORLD Magazine, January 30 2019.).

The Object of Our Faith

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"[A]ll of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death[.]  We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:3-4).
Sometimes I forget about the object of my faith.  He is, after all, an actual object, just as the runner who wins a race receives an actual, physical prize - and the actual, physical benefits of exercise in his body.  Likewise, Christ - the object of my faith - is not a mythological figure, fictional character, or intangible spirit.  Just as my body is real and actual, so Christ's reign is real and actual, even now at this current moment in time.

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