Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Things I Never Noticed in the Bible- Upgradable Blessings

Luke 6:38 38Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

Call me dense, I guess, I won't take much offense. I have always read this passage generally that if you are giving, the Lord will be giving.  If you are stingy, the Lord will be stingy towards you. And it does teach that and more.

With the measure you measure, the Lord will measure. It is not simply that the Lord will bless a generous man and will withhold blessing from a stingy man.  The Lord will repay you according to your level of generosity.  Do you dispense blessings with a teaspoon?  If so, when the Lord gets around to blessing you, it will be by the teaspoonful.  I suppose it will take a while to fill up your cup.

But do you dispense blessings by the cupful?  Or do you dispense them by the 5 gallon bucket? Or with a an ever renewable spring?  The Lord will repay accordingly.

What sorts of blessings? 

How about financial ones to start? Do you give? Do you tithe?  Do you give above the tithe? Do you look for new ways to be generous? Do you show hospitality?  Do you have friends, family and church members over for lunch?  Do you help others in times of need?

How about verbal blessings? Do you give sparingly?  Ever wonder why no one says anything good to you or about you? Do you compliment?  Do you encourage? Do you speak the truth in love?

God will bless you the way that you bless others. And He will use YOUR measuring cup.  Maybe you need to upgrade?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Things I Never Noticed in the Bible

New Wine

In Luke 5 Jesus tells the Pharisees that you must not sew new patches on old clothes. Also, that you must not put new wine into old wine skins. In the past, I have generally tried to understand these statements as sort of stand alone statements relating vaguely to the transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant.

Of course, it does relate that way but it is not general. Jesus gives several specific examples of how it relates.

1. Jesus eats with tax-collectors and sinners Luke 5:29-32. Thus, the holiness code and the ceremonial law is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. This has ramifications all over the place. The Pharisees hate this. They want an easy to follow code, not the messiness of dealing with sinners and tax collectors.

2. The importance of fasting for spiritual benefit, renewal, holiness, etc. is dramatically changed. Luke 5:33-35. Jesus fed the disciples, they ate and drank. The time for fasting when Jesus is taken away is the time of His death and perhaps also the time from the Ascension to Pentecost. I do not believe it is the time between first and second coming. Jesus is with us now in the Holy Spirit.
The Pharisees cannot point to their fasting as spiritual maturity when they always neglect the weighty elements of the law.

3. Jesus gathers food and eats on the Sabbath, Luke 6:1-5. The Pharisees' view of the Sabbath was a mess. Jesus teaches them that the Sabbath was made for man to give him life. Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath and is Himself the Sabbath.

So, the new wine skins was a new way of doing things. Some of this was reformation but what Jesus really instituted was transformation. Men needed to be new and their old way of doing things, including the way that they did religion, would not work any more.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

JEDfessions of a Pastor

I have been learning a few things during this process. As I mentioned last week in my exhortation, it is easy to make habits and hard to break them. I should have said, "It is easier to make new habits than it is to break old ones." That is because it is not really that easy to make habits.

In order to make a habit, one must repeat an action enough times to be able to do it automatically. Athletes and musicians know this, so they do the same actions over and over until they gain muscle memory. But athletes and musicians also know that to break a bad habit is difficult. So, when a teacher or coach points out the bad habit and the need to break it before it has long-lasting ill consequences, a battle ensues. What is that battle? While one knows that the new habit is better, trying to develop the new and better habit results in WORSE performance, not better. Change your swing and your batting average will go down before it goes up. Change your hand position and the notes will sound less clear and slower before they improve. Many musicians and athletes go back to the old way of doing things before the new habit is ever formed. They claim that the change was detrimental. But the problem was that they just did not stay with it long enough to see the improvement.

JEDfession- The new way of doing things is not habitual. The old habits were not bad but the new ones (at least the ones that I want to adopt and make permanent like praying three times a day, 30 minutes of Bible reading, resolutions of better behavior, especially speaking), are not yet formed as habits. Or, they were done at different times or in a different way. Here's the problem. Somewhere between the old habits and the new habits is total failure. Trying to form a new habit means that you are not doing the old one. Then, if you fail in the new one, you are neither doing the old nor the new one. Instead of doing one thing well or even excellent, you are failing completely. This is quite distressing and makes one think that the old way was so much better, matched my personality, or at least was not total failure.. But the main problem is simply that the new habit is not yet formed. You need a few weeks of consistent repetition to make it habitual.

Finally, I have learned that it is very difficult to deny oneself. Doing your regular habits is not self-denial. This is true, even if your regular habits appear to be very, very, disciplined. JEDish, so to speak. You may have developed good habits. Good for you. But now you are on autopilot and self-denial may even mean performing LESS admirably, as you see it (say, for a day).

While we are not ascetics, Jesus did say that if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Self-denial, in order to follow Jesus, is clearly part of the Christian calling. So, when we find ourselves in the no man's land of being in between habits, we must learn to deny ourselves and follow Christ. This will lead us not only to new habits but the RIGHT new habits.

Having failed JED at many places, perhaps you have got a glimpse into the areas that you do not really want to change and some of the areas where you really do want to change. Perhaps you can use these last 12 days to focus on one or two things, bible reading, prayer, benevolent speech, whatever important priorities you have zeroed in on, and work on making that one new good behavior habitual.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Heaven and Earth

In a previous post, I mentioned that Heaven was torn open and the Spirit descended to Earth when Jesus was baptized.

The same word is used later when Jesus is crucified and the veil of the temple is 'torn open.'

At that point, the veil is torn so that Earth can enter Heaven. We are told in Hebrews 9 that Christ has not entered into the holy place made with hands, which are the figures of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.

This tearing of the veil was the point at which earth tore into heaven.

The same word is used for the tearing into earth as for the tearing into heaven.

In Jesus Christ, Heaven and Earth have met.

6000 Years To Go

In my previous post, I mentioned that we should use the name Yahweh when referring to the God of the Bible. I would be just as comfortable referring to Him as the Lord, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. That makes things clear.

But should we try for Yahweh or Yahveh? Won't that just confuse things here at the end of the ages when there are so many competing voices, denominations and even religions?


But would it change your view of how we work through doctrinal and practical issues if we were not in the end of the ages but in the beginning of the church era?

Think about the doctrinal fights and development of the early church councils. We look back on that era as necessary to the truths that we hold dear now. They had the Scriptures but there was a great deal of wrangling about what those Scriptures taught. That wrangling rooted out heresy and developed systematic orthodoxy.

The big fights and doctrinal development were in the first 500 years. The last great doctrinal fights were about 500 years ago. We call it the Reformation. And the key point about the reformation to keep in mind is that it was driven by a commitment and understanding of Scripture. For the most part, the Reformation was about returning to the views held by Augustine some 1100 years earlier. And this looking back enabled the church to move forward in still unprecedented ways.

We now see a prolific church in nearly every corner of the globe. But we do not yet see the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. Nor do we see the great promises of Isaiah's later chapters. Partially fulfilled? Yes. Filled up to all that glory? Not even close.

So, where does all this leave us? It is my contention that the New Covenant era ought to be at least twice as glorious as the Old Covenant era. There were about 4000 years of OC history. Perhaps if the New Covenant is twice as glorious, we shall see 8000 years. Also, that adds up nicely to 12,000 years!

I am not doing numerology, per see. I readily admit that this is total speculation. But what I think is clear in the Scriptures is that Jesus will reign until all His enemies are subdued beneath His feet. When that happens, then He will deliver the Kingdom to the Father. The last enemy destroyed will be death. That is the Resurrection.

Until then, Jesus is doing the work of advancing the Kingdom of God in the Earth, His will done on Earth as in Heaven.

If we have another 6000 years of this until the Lord delivers the kingdom to the Father, then I think we can take a very different view of how we reform, develop our lives together, work on doctrinal and practical problems, view doctrinal advance, work with our brothers in other denominations.

This ought not to make us lazy but it should help us to think that doing the work now will pay off for hundreds or thousands of years. That mindsight is far preferred to the one that says that it really doesn't matter how much work we do now because things are so bad we must be at the end. If we are at the end, then why work so hard?

His name is Yahweh

You may have noticed that in some of our prayers we say Yahweh instead of LORD, all caps. Why is this? The name Yahweh is somewhat foreign to us. We are much more familiar with saying God or Lord. There is nothing wrong with those terms but they are generic terms of a deity, not proper names. In a situation where we know that everyone is tracking with us, believing in the Triune God, worshipping the Father, His Son Jesus, the Spirit sent by the Father and the Son, we can use the shorthand name God, or speak of the Lord.

But we must be clear about whom we are speaking. In America, Lord is fine. God is fine. Jesus is a problem. The next time you are somewhere where they say the pledge of allegiance, try substituting the name Jesus for One Nation Under Jesus, and see how it feels and what sort of response you get. The name of the true God is much more powerful than speaking of a higher power.

So, how does Yahweh fit into all of this? It is God’s name. It is the salvation name He gave Moses to tell the Egyptians and the enslaved Israelites. We do not know exactly how to pronounce the name because the Jews, out of so-called reverence to God, refused to pronounce the name. But God had told them to pronounce it, to declare it to unbelievers and believers alike. It is my contention that the failure to pronounce God’s name is a gross and harmful disobedience.

So, why Yahweh and not Jehovah? Well, we do have the Hebrew scriptures and the best we can do with the pronunciation now is Yahweh, or perhaps Yahveh. It takes away the generic commitment to some God and places our commitment exactly where it ought to be, in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In the God of Moses and Joshua. In the Father of the Lord Jesus. His name is Yahweh.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Tearing of Heaven

Jesus was baptized and, 'when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.'

We tend to think that the goal of our lives is to somehow tear through the heavens and get to Jesus.  Much of modern evangelical Christianity touts this very thing. This Earth and this life are just jumping off points to Heaven. The real goal is to get out of here to there.

But what happened when Jesus was baptized?  The heavens were torn open and the Spirit descended. Jesus did not leave the earthly and enter into the heavenlies. Heaven came down to Earth and empowered Jesus, the man.

Ah, you say, but Jesus did go to heaven.  He left us and went there. He got out of here, after all. Yes, but not like our modern Gnostics like to think.  He did not escape the body and go to heaven. He was resurrected and took His resurrected body to heaven. Jesus is still a man.  And will return as a man and rule on the Resurrected Earth forever.

So, if we see what is going on here in a different light, it changes everything.  This life is about getting the Spirit here to Earth, bringing Heaven to Earth, recreating that Chasm that was made in Adam and bridged in the Second Adam.  Jesus has done this. The Spirit has inaugurated the New Heavens and the New Earth. They are not completely remade yet. Only that in the final  Resurrection. But they ARE new and the Spirit is the promise that one day they shall be completely new.

But even now the heavens are torn open and come to earth.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

The Work of the Pastor- William Still****

This is a tremendous little book and a must read for every pastor. It is a book that ought to be read every couple of years. It is a great encouragement to those of us who have chosen to preach 'the whole counsel of God.'  He clearly asserts and articulates that this task of preaching and teaching the Word of God is the heart and soul of the ministry of the pastor.

We need reminded of this often. In a world where there is constant pressure to conform to various popular methodologies of ministry, whether they be mostly evangelistic, or largely programmatic, Still reminds us of the work that we should be doing still. That work is knowing, studying, living, preaching and teaching the Word of God.

Perhaps every minister begins his ministry believing the Word of God is sufficient for everything but not every pastor ends up there.  Time and circumstance, sinners and saints, spirits and devils all help broil up competing priorities.

A minister of Christ must maintain a one-track mind, focused on the Word of Christ. Only then can he adequately and effectively traverse all the complex paths of the life of the people of God. Let him foremost be a shepherd, one who protects the flock by the authoritative Word of Christ so that he can lead them to green pastures and feed them there.

Devil's Work

"The devil always does a deadlier work through hardened Christians than through the unconverted and gets far more diabolical pleasure from it, too."

"There is an application of the Word of God for even the most urgent contemporary situations, but if we get all hot and bothered about it, and myopically concentrate all our ministry on that, for ever moaning from our pulpits about the evils of the day, what are the hungry sheep going to feed upon the while? The devil is a master of sidetrack."

William Still, The Work of the Pastor

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

John Calvin

Just finished The Expository Genius of John Calvin by Steven J. Lawson.  It is one of the Long Line of Godly Men Series. 

I'd say the book is three out of four stars but mostly because it is about Calvin.  It is a decent short introduction to Calvin and his views about preaching.  It is a bit repetitive but still exalts the great saint of Geneva.

For you Calvinists who do not know much about Calvin, I highly recommend it.  Are there better books? Sure, but this one is short and you really should read something about Calvin.

And then, after you read something about Calvin, you really need to read Calvin.  He still stands as the monumental figure of the Reformation.  His commentaries are still regularly quoted by modern writers.  He was a giant among giants and any ventures into the world of Calvin pay large dividends.

I may even name a kid after him. Wait, I already did!