Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Uniqueness of God's Word

Scripture is unique because of its source, its use, and its sufficiency. Paul declares scripture alone to be the very Word of God. The content of the Bible is sourced in the character of a righteous, holy, loving, dependable God. It retains the humanness of the authors without their sin and error. God watched over the writing of God's Word to protect it from error. Because scripture is breathed out by God Himself, it is free from error. It is as reliable as the character of God Himself.
Scripture is also unique because of its use. It is profitable for teaching and understanding God's world, rebuking our errant ways, correcting us so that we get back on the right path, and molding us into the image of Christ Himself.
Finally, Paul tells Timothy that God's Word is thoroughly sufficient for every good work. God's Word can mold a man of God into one who is capable, complete, proficient, and able to meet all the demands of spiritual leadership in our world.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Paul's Last Words to Timothy

Sitting in a cold dark cell awaiting execution, Paul could have been considering recantation to avoid death. He could have been nursing his own wounds, feeling abandoned by men and God. But He wasn't. He was making sure his young disciple, Timothy, had some last words of encouragement before Paul was beheaded. Timothy, make God's Word the central focus of your ministry because "the time has come for my departure..."
*Rely on the simple faith you have known since infancy. God's Word has been valued by your mother and grandmother and you know their example of faith.
*Make God's Word your focus, no matter how you feel or what your audience wants to hear. Preach the Word.
*Preach the Word because time is short. Time is short because Christ is coming back. Time is short because error and apostasy are creeping in.
Faithfulness to God's Word in ministry was Timothy's only guarantee of effectiveness.

6 Dangerous Contemporay Attitudes toward God's Word

Ralph Turk, in his class on Contemporary Theology, outlined 6 dangerous trends in Christianity:
*Don't make love more important than doctrine. A permissive love that neglects the truth is never truly love. Better the wounds of truth than the kisses of error.
*Examine the motives of those who re-investigate or re-examine major doctrines to make them more relevant in our world. Truth is always relevant. Why do I want to question it?
*Question those who preach different messages to different groups. Acceptance, support, or even self-preservation are not suitable motives for changing the truth.
*Beware of those who substitute religious phrases for the Word of God. The Bible is large, rich, and robust. Trite sounding phrases that tickle our ears are no replacement for God's Word. Develop a mindset that everything must be examined in light of scripture.
*Be suspicious of those who do not trust God's Word as their sole authority. They want the Bible to share authority with church leaders, additional writings, or theological traditions. The Bible stands alone as God has put His own integrity in His Word.
*Be careful not to cooperate with just anybody for the sake of the gospel. They must know the gospel as truth and claim it as their own. On theological differences, we can agree to disagree, but we must both use scripture as our source. One or both of us may be wrong, but denying the authority and dependability of scripture is not the way to agree.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

God's Word is Essential, Relevant

In this era of post-sophistication, when science and education have let us down, nothing is more important than God's Word. Why?

*Knowledge is growing at an exponential pace. In many fields, what Freshmen learn in college is obsolete by their senior year. There are so many things to know in our world that we desperately need wisdom to sort it out. God's word is a dependable source of wisdom.

*The tidal wave of information that overwhelms our culture is filled with opinions and half-truths and outright lies. We desperately need discernment to tell the difference between truth and falsehood. God's word is a dependable source of discernment.

*Our culture has lost the ability to discuss ethics. Moral concerns are matters of private opinion. Yet we see the consequences of immorality all around us and we despair of finding a genuinely good path for our children to follow. God's Word is a dependable source of morality.

*Pluralism has given us so many ways to God that we get confused over all the paths that vie for our attention. We become cynical that there is any one true way of restoring our relationship with God. If we want to restore our relationship with God, His Word is dependable guidance and light.

If we are looking for a dependable source of wisdom, discernment, morality, and guidance, then God's Word, the Bible, is the only dependable source. Beware of the pretenders.

Leadership and Seeing Around the Corner

One of my students in Personal Leadership Development once quoted Colin Powell as saying that Leadership is the ability to see around the next corner. What followed was an interesting discussion about planning for a future that is unknown.
I recently ran across a great quote from Patrick Henry. He said "I know of no other way of judging the future but by the past." Knowing history well helps us to see patterns in the affairs of men. Seeing the same patterns today can help us prepare for what is coming.
In the case of Joshua, we see the mistake at Ai and the deception of the Gibeonites and we ask how we could avoid similar mistakes. Both moves were made by using our own wisdom and not inquiring of God. Surely we can use our own wisdom in capturing a "dump" of a city or in making a treaty with a faraway people.
David leaves us another example. In his fight against the Philistines, God gives explicit instructions for victory. David follows them implicitly, and the battle is won. A short time after, the battle lines are arraigned in exactly the same way. For David, it is deja voux all over again (2 Samuel 5). Surely, God would have you use the same methods He outlined before to win another victory. But David is not taken in. He inquires of God and God outlines another battle strategy that brings about even greater victory. Lesson: Always inquire of God.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What Running from God Smells Like

The story of Jonah is not "Wayward Prophet Makes Good." God and Jonah are never on the same page. When God relents of the disaster He had announced for Nineveh, Jonah is incensed. He tells God he should have stayed at home. He accuses God of not following through on His word because of His unfounded compassion on the enemy.
In Jonah 4:1-3, we are treated to a great description of what running from God smells like:
*Lack of Compassion for all men
*Resentment of the way God does His business
*Understanding the character of God without rejoicing in it
*Preferring your own way to God's
*Discouragement and disgust with living

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Second Commission

"Then the Word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time." -Jonah 3:1

The hardest group of people to minister to in the local church are those who have felt a call to ministry but for one reason or another rebelled. They are frustrated at work and at home. They long to be doing something else, something more. Sometimes the fire begins to die and they become cynical, skeptical, belligerent.
For those who find themselves tossed on the beach, wrapped in seaweed, and staring up into the hot, blazing sun, there is hope. Ask forgiveness of God. Go to the elders of your church. Explain the passion of your past and the frustration of your present. Trust them, show honor to them and follow their advice. The Lord is gracious and the elders can help you find a place to serve again. Don't miss it this time around!

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Heart and Repentance

It was an incredible revival. The capital city, rich and poor, great and small, old men and children, repented. Led by the king, a nation turns to God and a city sees disaster averted.
So the recipe for revival is one part prophet, one part message, and one part hearer. Is this a dependable formula for revival? Not so fast. The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked.
What worked for the Ninevites did not work for the Jews. A "Greater than Jonah" came, preached judgment and repentance, but the Jews remained unmoved. In Revelation, the bowls of wrath are poured out, yet mankind refuses to repent of what had been done and glorify God(Rev. 16).
The heart is capable of great hardness. Ask Pharaoh, who sometimes hardened his heart and other times, according to scripture, found his heart hardened by God. Is there a line that the rebellious heart can cross that makes repentance impossible? Or, ultimately,is all repentance a supernatural work of God? "And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh"(Ezek. 36:26).

Sunday, October 17, 2010

By the Decree of the King

Who Knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish. Jonah 3:9

Much of the strife of this political season is wasted energy. However, there is much to be said for working hard to get godly men in places of leadership. Godly men will understand the times, listen to the word of God, and lead those whom God loves away from disaster.
The circumstances of Nineveh were dire. God had announced judgment- destruction of Nineveh in 40 days. Their violence, immorality, and guilt were catching up with them.
The people of Nineveh were blessed because they had a king who listened to the words of the prophet. He got up from His throne, exchanged royal robes for those of mourning and sat down in the dust. Then, he charted a course to plead for mercy for His nation.
The military security and economic prosperity of our nation, like Nineveh, does not depend on the power of men or government. Our security and provision depend on God alone. In the formative years of our nation, calls for national repentance, humility, and thanksgiving were common. They were common because our nation was led by leaders who understood that "unless the Lord builds the house, the workers labor in vain."
One decree of the king saved Nineveh. May God give us leaders like that.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Forfeiting Grace

"Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. Jonah 2:8

Grace is not always spread about in equal measure. It is true that the goodness of God is available to all through the cross of Christ. It is also true that there is more grace available to those who will combine their faith with the promises of God.
In this verse, Jonah warns those who cling to idols (anything we consider more important than God)that their dedication will be useless. In the end, time dedicated to idolatry is worthless. Energy, resources and wealth are wasted.
This is not the worst loss, however. What was the potential of the time, energy, resources and wealth? What else did God want to do that didn't get done? What grace and reward might have accrued to our account at the Judgment Seat of Christ? Let us abandon our idols today and plead for grace. More grace.