Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

In many ways, God first designed to use the nation of Israel as a chosen and holy priesthood, a missional launching place for His glory and the epicenter of modeled worship. Throughout the Old Testament, examples of non-Jewish worshippers (Gentiles) prefigure the opening of the early church when all would see that YHWH was the only God, Lord Most High. Jethro the Midianite, Ruth the Moabitess, the Queen of Sheba, and Rahab of Jericho are but foretastes of the universality of the New Testament mission. Indeed, God’s heart for his namesake is often appealed to as a reason for the preservation of Israel so that other nations would not mock or lord over Israel and subsequently the Lord her God. Much has been made of Jonah’s refusal to take part in the missional work to the hostile Ninevites, which is indeed emblematic of Israel’s refusal to honor God as a priestly nation. However, an intriguing question must be posed as to the way that Israel would function as a spiritual nation: In constructing the Temple, did King David’s subsequent interpretation keep with what God truly intended him to do? A closer examination of 1 Chronicles 17 shows God’s refusal to allow David to build may not just be in part because of David’s sin of being a man guilty of bloodshed but possibly because His desire was not for an earthly temple in the first place.

When David desires to build a temple he does so on the initiative that his house of cedar he dwells is in is a better condition than the Ark of the Covenant. And while Nathan the prophet initially confirms that such a temple-building desire is good (I am not questioning David’s spirit either), notice what happens when God intercedes—God objects. And God objects not only because David is not worthy but because the Lord has not asked for such a dwelling…”for I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up Israel to this day but I have gone from tent to tent and from dwelling to dwelling” (1 Chron. 17:5). Notice that God’s first objection is that the Lord has never asked for such a dwelling.

When God does tell David that his offspring would build the Temple, he does not specify Solomon, which is of course David’s interpretation. However, Solomon was an even more ill fit for building the Temple with his forced labor, enormous taxation, and a heart that fled from God to the gods of his thousand wives and subsequently their gods.

Indeed, God the Father shows that it is the Messiah, not Solomon, who the Lord has in mind: “…I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for me, and I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from him who has before you, but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever” (1 Chron. 17:11-14). The syntax and phrases are too alike the Messianic promises found in Psalm 2 and then requoted in Hebrews 1 to be anyone but God’s own Son Jesus Christ.

In doing some looking, these two articles have been helpful: “Why Was David’s Plan to Build the Temple Prohibited by God?” (focus on David’s bloodguit specifically) and “A Temple Made by Human Hands” (focusing on further illuminiating why constructing a temple and having a spiritual temple were two very different things).

Your thoughts are welcome as iron sharpens iron…


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I preached today on Psalm 3, “God’s Yellow Ribbon,” about finding hope in the midst of suffering. I discuss how David finds hope in the midst of pain and how God was likewise very present to me during Basic Training. The audio isn’t great, but you can hear it at Morningside Baptist on the bottom-right-hand corner where it says Latest Message: Listen.


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Belief does not necessarily imply faith. According to Dustin Morrison of New Market, Iowa, believers merely assent to God’s existence while followers devote their lives to discipleship. For Morrison, it took walking through the valley of the shadow of death to understand the difference.

On April 11, 2011, Morrison, an infantryman with Bravo Company of the 1-168 INF, rolled out on mission in the Paktia province of eastern Afghanistan in a mine-resistant armored protected vehicle (MRAP).

“The last few things I remember are going to sleep the night before, rolling out on the mission, and then rounding a corner,” Morrison, 21, told me. “When I finally came to, I was at Walter Reed Hospital in Maryland.” Several weeks passed before Morrison regained consciousness. What Morrison didn’t know is that his MRAP triggered one of the largest IED explosions in the history of Operation Enduring Freedom, instantly killing one soldier in the gunner’s turret and severely injuring another. Read on…

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Thoughts on Thanksgiving

Good morning. This morning we are here on a Thanksgiving Sunday, and we are a people with much to be thankful for. I watched a video this last week and in it a man is struggling as he sits on his bed and says, “Lord, I am struggling for what I have to be grateful for.” In the morning, it shows him moving his toes and words on the screen say, “I can move,” and it shows him with friends and family, clean running water, air he can breathe, and some of the dozen things that we take for granted in the West. And I think that is good and healthy. But 1 Thes. 5:18 says, “In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. In everything? How does that apply for a persecuted believer in Pakistan? Or for someone who does move today but every movement is pain? Give thanks for that, too?

So I came up with a dozen things, I just want you to meditate on and so I’ll say them slowly…

12) For Brilliant, Awe-Inspired Creation. With seahorses’ fluttering wings, a hummingbird’s heartbeat, stars larger than the earth, the depths of the sea, and a butterfly whose creator painted two eyes on her to scare predators away, a human eye so complex it befuddled Charles Darwin.

11) For a Righteous God Named Most High. Who hates sin, loves goodness and justice, who mercifully stopped the hand of a father on Mount Moriah.

10) For the Guidance of a Tiny, Rag-Tag People. Out of bondage. Fed from heaven. Guided by Cloud and Light and Words Written on Stone.

9) For a God Who Loves the Using Weak Vessels. A shepherd boy to defeat giants. The least of a household. The younger. The foreigner. The widow. The orphan. All display His glory.

8) For a prophetic Word pointing to Messiah. Deliverance. Redeemer. Suffering Servant. For hope of rescue from bondage.

7) For choosing a father and mother from the least of these. Born just over 2000 years ago in a rude manger where the smell of cow dung, goat, and hay mixed with the blood, sweat, and tears of birth.

6) For a Messiah few recognized in a Kingdom no one foresaw. For not throwing Rome, its taxes, its dominance, and restoring the nation, recognizing a more eternal and insidious enemy. For proclaiming the kingdom is now.

5) For the name Yeshua meaning Savior.

4) For a Savior who said, “I forgive sin.” For healing not only the blindness of eyes and lameness of feet but for forgiving the prostitute, adulterer, cheater, and drunkard.

3) For three nails. For a crown of thorns. A rugged cross. Jeering crowds. Wrath and darkness. Excruciating separation. The drinking of a cup if you believe you might otherwise have drunk yourself.

2) For the confusion of running feet of disciples. For bewildering tears of wonderment. A marvelous light. The dawn of a new day. The resurrection from the dead.

1) For our own resurrection from the dead. For the Holy Spirit. Reconciliation. Transformation. To someday be in the very presence of a wondrous God, the very hope of heaven.

We do indeed have much to be thankful for.

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I wrote this in response to whether we should determine discipleship growth in our churches based on statistics, measurements, variables, etc. or simply on leadership determining how the members of a congregation are doing in their spiritual lives…

I think the balanced, moderation is to understand that all that goals, increasing time with God, increasing time with family and God, disciplining the body, fasting, etc. is a means God himself suggests of walking closer with God. Being with my wife for an hour alone each day will not mean that we are growing closer, but spending no time is probably a guarantee that we won’t! If we set a goal of spending a quiet, intimate hour together every day, that could be a powerful means to an end, one that we ought to measure with the caveat it’s not a guarantee of success in and of itself.

Just because there is an increased amount of quiet time in the Word, giving, family devotionals, studies taken up, exercise of the body in a God-glorifying way does not ipso facto mean that there is heart growth in worship. However, the absence of all of those is probably a sure indication that there is little growth going on. I think it’s a sure either / or fallacy to avoid in thinking we can have either determined measures or the gestalt of the heart which leaves it so fluid and nebulous that we don’t do any sort of measuring. Does that make sense?

I’ll give you one last example. A solid missionary in Papua New Guinea wrote a couple years ago that he’s reading John Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life. I see him reading it in a photo of him on a boat with four nationals behind him in this very violent country where he’s devoting his family to the next 25 years among a tribe of once-cannibals who have now accepted the gospel and are spreading the gospel to other tribes. He writes on the condition of the heart:

I took Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life with me on this trip to read when I could. I guess in a way I hoped it would help me cope with the hard times and give me reasons for what I was doing. What I found was quite the opposite. I realized that no matter what I am doing, even if I am here in all this I can still waste my life. Not wasting your life is to pursue God desperately with all your affections in your soul no matter where your body is. God has honored me with this physical task. I could do it and do it well and still waste my life. Oh, I pray that I would seek God with all my heart and soul as I work. I pray the same for you guys too. The Lord has something different for all of our lives but with the same purpose, let’s not waste our lives.

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In the course of my studies, I found this article to be an excellent summation of a key issue facing Christians today, something I need to read and re-read:

How to Contend with Sin Redemptively

©David Mappes, PhD

Some years ago a young wife clinging to her husband, hung her head in tears as she shared about her adulterous affair.  She had confessed her sin to her husband and to the church some weeks prior.  I gently raised her head and shared, “please do not lower your head in shame to anyone in this church-we have all been saved, are being saved, and one day will be saved by the blood of Jesus.”  We then began to construct a redemptive solution for this couple.  Scripture portrays a believer’s relationship to sin in a multi-colored fashion.  We are portrayed both as sinners who are completely forgiven and stand completely accepted and loved by God and at the same time we are portrayed as saints who continue to struggle with sin.   A redemptive paradigm allows this sinning saint identity while avoiding a guilt driven or grace distorting schizophrenia.

Pastors and counselors should emphasize this threefold sense of salvation to engender a redemptive environment.  We have been saved (Acts 16:31; 2 Tim 1:9) from the very penalty and all penal guilt of our sin.  This past sense/ tense of salvation is summed up as Justification.  Justification entails God pronouncing a judicial verdict and acquittal of all our sins so that each of us stand before Him in Christ’s imputed (not imparted) righteousness and not by our own works (Rom. 3:20-25; Gal. 2:16).  At the moment of conversion, even before we start living righteously, God views us as righteous.  Hence, God does not accept nor love us based on our personal holiness but upon the holiness of His Son.  Justification results in an immediate personal (Rom 4), permanent (Rom 5:1-2), positional (Rom 8:1-3), non-progressive/ non-consummative (Rom 5:1, 12-21), non-condemnable (Rom 8:1-2; 8:31-33) standing before God solely based on Christ’s righteousness as demonstrated in the atonement (Rom 3:21-28; 5:9; Eph 1:7; Phil 3:9).  Believers need to embrace the truth that personal sin does not alter the way God judicially views the saint who sins.  It is this very acceptance by God that impels the believer to return to God in brokenness and humility.  Justification is based on imputation and not impartation of righteousness.

The present tense of salvation, we are being saved (Phil 2:12-13; Rom 6-8) refers to sanctification-a progressive process of being made holy and saved from the power and dominion of sin in our lives.  Pastors should help believers discern the difference between the feelings of condemnation, the heavy and very real consequences of personal sin, and the convicting ministry of the Spirit.  Guilt is a powerful force that can lead to confusion.  Remember that there is now “no condemnation for those in Christ” (Rom 8:1), which means we are not guilty before God for our past, present, and future sin.  While there is no condemnation for those in Christ, Satan is referred to as the accuser (or condemner) of the brethren (Rev 12:10) who accuses us day and night.  Zechariah 3:1-5 provides an illustration of this truth.  The consequences of personal sin are very real and can be devastating leading to God’s discipline but not condemnation.  His grace is always sufficient.  The Holy Spirit never condemns but rather convicts and draws us back to experience the fellowship and intimacy with God.  It is this very work of the Holy Spirit and renewed intimacy with God that allows us to work through the very serious consequences our sin.

The future sense of salvation, we will be saved (glorification) promises us ultimate and final deliverance from the very presence and pollution of sin (Rom 13:11; 1 Peter 1:3-5; Rom 8:31-39).  This threefold approach to salvation helps to eliminate the two extremes in viewing sin.  While some churches view sin primarily as a societal evil and phenomena and thus focus on how sin impacts various communities, the other extreme is to demonize a sin (or sins) so that the sin is kept hidden, concealed and never confessed.  A redemptive environment encourages any believer to confess any sin without fear of retribution or alienation (1 John 1:5—2:2).  Through confession we agree with God regarding the seriousness of our sin and we ask God to help with the consequences caused by our sin.  We agree that personal sin is a horrible and hated offense by God, which led to the horrors of Jesus’ atoning work on the cross, and we agree with God that personal sin has led to lack of intimacy with God and other believers.  However, we also agree with God that our personal sin is covered through the substitutionary atoning work of Christ and that God still loves and accepts us.  So, we appropriate God’s grace and provision through faith to help work through the personal consequences and domination of sin.

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Here’s my thought: I just spent $244 for three adults and $124 for two children to go to Universal Studios for a day. And why not? The greatest special effects, live studio animals, behind-the-scenes house sets of Desperate Housewives, Curious George and Coca-Cola Soakland, JAWS replicas, and the list goes on and on plus who doesn’t want to spend $32 for a large pizza? Flash-forward to the end of the day (and this isn’t complainin’) but the kids screamed as if tortured during King Kong 3-D trying to eat them until a T-Rex mercifully diverted him. Even Jimmy Fallon singing “Have a Tramtastic Day!” didn’t do it for them. What did they like? Playing in the Curious George gym. “C’mon, kids!” I wanted to shout, “We could have done this at home for free,” but then I thought they might come up with the logical sequitur, “Then why don’t we?”

It’s not that Universal, Disneyland, and Medieval Times are bad. I’m just sayin’: Kids get it. Case in point, four weeks ago when I didn’t have the normal place to stay for the Legislature in Des Moines, we were relegated to the Super 8. Kim had a Vietnamese Church Conference, and I was alone with the kids. The kids were thrilled because of the new hotel, the fact that we were eating pizza AND cookies (I should have a T-shirt ” nutritionally irresponsible father”), and that we were going to eat under the blankets while watching TV and snuggling. I really believe that they were just happy being together and having a plan.

Kids are honest and give you the: I’m scared, I don’t like you, I feel weird, I hate beans, I know you’re going to say no, etc. Remember when Nathanel was honest in his jibe about people from Nazareth saying, “Can anything good come from there?” And Jesus responded with, “Here is a true Israelite in whom there is nothing false”? (John 1:47). I think the blunt honesty that made Jesus so hated was seen here, no hemming and hawing, political correctness, dodging triangulation. Only such a one could have his yes be his yes and his no be his no instead of having to swear, promise, or take oaths that this time, I’m really telling the truth. Without a promise, oath, or swearing, what are we doing then the other 98% of the time, but I digress…Children are the honest ones whom we try to quiet when they ask loudly, “Dad, what’s wrong with that man’s face?” at the grocery store three feet away from a man you feel like telling, “There, there, Quasimodo. My kids have no social skills.”

G.K. Chesterton, in one of my favorite quotes of Orthodoxy says this:

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them.
Last thought of the day. Jesus had limitless options when the kids were around. No, say the disciples, get away from the LORD. He has things to do, people to see, plans to make, an agenda, a kingdom to institute, healing to be done, a schedule to keep, this is the Messiah, the Son of Man, the Holy One, don’t even get close to him, no we don’t do autographs, kid, who do you think I just told you this is, we’re talking Immanuel, God incarnate, mom and dad please you want to try to explain, the rabble never stops does it–
Let the children come unto me. For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children, the Eternal voice calls and bewildered the wise, mature disciple with the slack jaw and shaking head gets pushed back by laughter, grabbing, and squealing delight to the outside of the laughing circle of light and dance.

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