We know little of the creature, until we know it a…

We know little of the creature, until we know it as it stands related to the Creator: single letters, and syllables uncomposed, are no better than nonsense. He who overlooks him who is the “Alpha and Omega, the (Rev. 1:8) beginning and the ending,” and sees not him in all who is the All of all, does see nothing at all. All creatures, as such, are broken syllables; they signify nothing as separated from God.

Richard Baxter – The Reformed Pastor

Prayer of Confession

Gracious Father we come before you today knowing we fall short. God we confess that time and time again we fail to live lives that honor you, and obey your commandments. Thank you for your mercy. Father we confess to you that our hearts are full of wicked rebellious deeds: uncontrolled anger, lying, sexual immorality, idolatry, jealousy, impatience, and much more. Thank you for your grace God. We pray this morning that you would work in us through your Spirit. Transform our hearts, and renew our minds. Draw us in from our wandering, wake us from our apathy, and ignite a passion in us to be holy, as you are. Father we thank you for the blood of your son Jesus Christ that covers our sins, and washes away our impurities.


In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace – Ephesians 1:7


Discomfort Without Shame

This past week at church we read the account of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion found in the gospel of Mark 15. The crucifixion is horrific, but for good reason. The horror of the crucifixion is relevant to the life of the Christian. It is a reflection of the death that we should have died and a sing pointing to the life that we have in Christ. The Christian is called to see himself in the crucifixion story. John Stott said, “Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us (leading us to faith and worship) , we have to see the cross as something done by us (leading us to repentance). ‘Indeed only the man who is prepared to own his share in the guilt of the cross’, wrote Canon Peter Green, ‘may claim his share in its grace.”

There is a tendency in our modern age to sit away from the horrific in the interest of self-preservation. We daily hear of atrocity, bombs in Syria, tornadoes in Oklahoma, AIDS in New York City, and we pass by. It’s as easy as clicking a close or minimize button. One second you can be made sad by the sinfulness of the world and the next be made happy by a different bit of news. This is not necessarily sinful or unbiblical. It is good for us not to despair. However sometimes the scripture calls us to dwell on things that are sad and it is good for us to take time to consider certain horrors found in the scripture.

When we consider the death of Jesus Christ we should consider the violence. We should think of the mockers. WE should think of the injustice. WE should think of the nails, the soldiers, the spear in the side. The question we should ask is why. Why did Jesus have to do this? How could Jesus have let them do this to him? Why would God forsake the Son? How could something this horrible come to some good? How much does God love me if this is the extent that he went to in order to give me eternal life?

We should take time to think on these things and praise God. We think through questions in order to get more understanding and marvel at who he is and what he has done for us. Don’t shy away from parts that make you upset, queasy, or guilty. Rest on his grace for he has forgiven you, then marvel at his humility and love. Take time to consider his goodness and rest on him. For he cares for you enough to die so that you might know him.

The Church Is A Great Place to Boast in Christ

But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Galatians 6:14, ESV If you have ever seen NBC’s popular show the office chances are you know the mild mannered character Pam. Pam is accomplished, she is funny, she is cute. She works hard to make others happy. Whenever she accomplishes something she seeks approval and wants to celebrate with her local community, her office. Whenever she doesn’t receive their approval she gets sad and becomes disappointed because the community doesn’t want to celebrate with her. I hope that if you are reading this and are a Christian you will have a good avenue to express your happiness. The local church is where the Christian goes to boast in Christ. A good boast in Christ is a reflection of the character of God. If you are distant from an old friend because of sin and there is repentance and restoration you can boast in Christ because he is the great restorer. If you pray for rain and God sends rain then you can boast in Christ because you see him as the great provider. The venue to express the goodness of God in your life is the local church. Just as in the church you can express the hardest parts of suffering, so we can and should exclaim God’s grace. The church should resist stoicism and instead turn to celebrating the truths of who God is and what he has done. The point of this exclamation is not to say that we have done good for ourselves, but rather that God has done good for us. If you are reading this as a pastor I would encourage you to generate opportunities for your congregants to boast in Christ. It is a right and good thing to see that God is who he is and is fulfilling his promises to us to love us well. The church is a venue to facilitate redemption, but it is also a place that celebrates redemption.

Humility As the Basis of Prayer

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. ( 1 Peter 5:6-7, ESV) 

For a long time, as a Christian, I have thought that the basis of prayer is need. Need generates this passion to call out to God. In my mind I thought that a proper perspective on prayer was to call on God to satisfy your every basic need, and that was the reason that a Christian prayed. As I assessed my need for prayer I would say that I had a good grip on some things rather than others. This good grip replaced my need for prayer because I thought that I had some things in control, while others were beyond my grip.

I was wrong about prayer. Need is not the basis of prayer, rather the reason we pray is because of humility. Humility is that gift of the Spirit that outlines our need. It presents to us our need, calls us to grace and peace in Christ, and calls us to repent of sins.

I identify with part of Saul’s story. I am speaking here of the Old Testament Saul, though Lord knows my own sins have reflected that of New Testament Saul. Like King Saul it is not hard for me to come to a place of spiritual pride and present my pride as a sacrifice to the Lord. In 1 Samuel 13 Saul makes an unlawful sacrifice to the Lord. Saul is expressing his love to God from a place a pride, rejecting the truth of the gospel of God which calls us to humility and instead interposing his own pride as a sacrifice. Instead of humbly praising the Lord he decides to do his own thing and offer an unpleasing sacrifice to the Lord.

I can easily draw a parallel between Saul’s sacrifice and my own when it comes to prayer. Too often I have thought that my own gift to the Lord could and should be how well I am doing in my life so I present that to the Lord. I interpose my own pride for the loving sacrifice of Christ and try to show myself approved to God that way. That is not a pleasing sacrifice to him. Luckily for me I have an intercessor, Jesus Christ, who imparts his righteousness to me.

When that happens God gives me grace and continues with me in sanctification. This continued process of sanctification reveals to me the fact that though God does glory in victories in my life, or the life of the church, or the life of peoples and places, the beginning of prayer is not pride but humility. God has ordained that even in times of pleasure over well placed effort we still must humble ourselves and turn to God as the true and just God who rules over all creation as our true King.

I am praying through this as I am being transformed. Going from pride to humility is impossible apart from Christ, and is very difficult even with the help of the Spirit, however God is faithful to complete the good works that are started within us. I look forward to the end of the age when at long last the transformation will be complete and humility will be a nature reflection of the glory being perceived. Until then, the grace of God will be with me, as I hope it will be with you. May we grow in humility seeing God for who he is, what he has done, and what he is continuing to do in us. May we be prayerful in all these pursuits.

Christians Don’t Live on Mars: A Lesson in Expectations

In 1 Corinthians 5 Paul is talking to the church in Corinth about sexual immorality. He is explaining that sexual immorality destroys the church and that the church shouldn’t boast in supporting sexuality immorality. Paul ends this explanation by talking about what kind of immorality is talking about. Paul explains that the immorality has a lot to do with proximity to the church.


       “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

(1 Corinthians 5:9-13 ESV)


In America today there is a great debate over sexuality. It’s been going on for the past fifty years, and chances are it will go on for the next fifty. Sexuality is a controversial matter that God has clear and expectations for. These expectations are outlined in the bible. Christians are supposed to take those standards and call the church to them, and preach them to the world as a part of a larger explanation of who God is and what he has done for us.

Problems for the church begin when we try to apply standards that apply to the members of churches to the larger world. We frustrate the world by expecting them to be able to reach standards that we ourselves couldn’t reach apart from the Spirit of God in Christ. We teach them that we are a faith of religious standards, rigorous tests, and horrible punishments. Rather Christianity is a faith of separation and closeness, grace, righteousness, and destruction.

Asking someone who is not a Christian to act like one is like a foot racer who is being driven to the finish line berating the other racers for their lack of speed as he goes past them. They cannot and will not ever go faster simply because they cannot. There’s no way they can or they will.

Christians who grow scared of these facts will hide away and try to isolate themselves from the world. One of the great graces of God is that he doesn’t hide us away but rather sets us as bright lights in the world. It’s not wrong or even foolish to tell unbelievers about what the bible says, but you can’t expect them to follow the scripture. You should pray that they would be transformed but expect them to conform if they don’t.

Godly Wisdom in Decision-Making Process, Part 3

Part 3 – The Guidance of Scripture

Well, this is the third article in our series about how to determine God’s will and in making wise decisions.  If you remember, the first article focused on God promise to guide and give wisdom to those who are His followers and have a relationship with Him.  We came to understand that this must be the foundation of our search for wisdom, that we must have faith that God will indeed provide the guidance necessary for us to live in His will.   Let’s review again our operating definitions of decision-making and wisdom.

Decision-making is: the ability to arrive at a decision after due consideration of all the factors involved.

Wisdom is: the quality of knowledge, discernment and understanding characteristic of God Himself, a gift of the Holy Spirit, and that which enables the planning and successful achievement of a desired goal.

Last time, we explored how God goes about fulfilling His promise to guide us.  We discovered that it is through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, in God literally giving us Himself to live in us and guide us to knowledge of and an understanding of His will, that He fulfills His promise to guide us.  We learned that it is only through the work and guidance of the Holy Spirit that we come to know God’s will and are equipped to make wise decisions, decisions that we do not later regret.

This time, we are going to begin our investigation into how exactly the Holy Spirit guides us and allows us to make wise decisions.  One of the primary ways that God communicates to us is through the Bible.  In fact, Scripture is often referred to as the Word of God.  It is called this because, through a process of inspiration, the Holy Spirit brought the human authors of the Bible the words to say:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” – 2 Timothy 3:16, NIV.

As such, we can have faith in the fact that everything that God wants us to know about Himself, His purpose in creation, and His desire for relationship with us, is contained within the Bible.

I read once that a prominent Bible teacher said that 95% of God’s will is revealed in Scripture, and once you have a handle on that, the other 5% is pretty easy to figure out.  While I don’t know if the actual percentages are correct, it is definitely true that God’s primary means of communicating to us is through His Word.

My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding — indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” – Proverbs 2:1-6, NIV.

Hey Adam, that’s great, you say, but what does it mean?  Does the Bible tell me where I should go to school, what career I should have, who I should marry, where I should live, or anything like that?  You said that God speaks to us through Scripture, but does it answer specific questions that I have?  My answer to that is “yes, and no.”  Even better, you say.  Woohoo, now what do I do?

Well, the reason why we can answer both yes and no is because Scripture does contain answers to many specific questions we may ask.  On the other hand, there are many questions that we can ask that we cannot go to a verse and find exactly the answer we are seeking to that specific question. Some examples of direct answers to questions I could ask of Scripture:

Should I take that $20 I know belongs to someone?

Exodus 20:15, NIV – “You shall not steal.”

Should I lie about taking a $20?

Proverbs 20:22, NIV– “The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.”

Should I get into a fight with someone?

Proverbs 17:14, NIV – “Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.”

Who should I hang out with and be good friends with?

I Cor. 15:33, NIV – “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’”

These are pretty clear examples of Scripture clearly answering specific questions that we could ask.  Now, what about the questions that we ask that don’t have direct answers? If the Bible does not directly address a specific question, does this mean that it is silent on the subject?

Absolutely not.  One of the keys of reading, understanding, and applying the teachings of Scripture is the fact that we often must look for principles, or general truths that can be extracted from a specific teaching or statement in Scripture.  It is determining a general truth based on a specific application.  In this way, God answers the questions to many modern-day or personal questions that are not specifically addressed.  An example of a general principle derived from specific statement or teaching:

Should I drink under the legal age limit?

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” Romans 13:1-2, NIV.

This verse can actually apply to many different laws that we think are stupid (speed limits, smoking, texting and driving, etc.).

Scripture is full of general principles that can be extracted from specific statements and truths.  As we can now begin to see, the key to knowing the will of God in every situation is through knowing His Word.  And, even more awesome than this is the fact that, not only does God give us a written account of His will, He also promises to help us to understand it! Think about it for a second.  The Holy Spirit says that He will come along right beside us and explain what He means when we read His words!

“these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spiritwithin them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of Godbut considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.” – 1 Corinthians 2:10-14, NIV.

How awesome is this?  When was the last time the author of any textbook you had to read in school sat down with you during your study time and explained every concept in detail for you?  Do you really get this?  This means that the Bible isn’t cryptic, it isn’t dry, the meaning isn’t hidden by big words or fancy concepts.  The Bible is personal and approachable because, for those who follow Christ and have a relationship with God, He is right there with us reading it to us and explaining its concepts to us as we read.  Having come to a deeper understanding of God’s purpose in giving us Scripture, we need to ask ourselves some questions:

1.  Have you ever thought of the Bible as being the Word of God?  How would thinking about it in this way change your perspective of Scripture, that the Bible is God’s ongoing conversation with you personally?

2.  Do you read and study the Bible believing that it answers, either directly or indirectly, the decisions you face in everyday life?  Why or why not?  If no, what would it take to get you to start?

3.  What needs to change in your life to get you to the point that you view Scripture as being God’s conversation with you and seek after His wisdom for every situation in your life?

The key to receiving wisdom from God’s word is through reading and knowing it! That’s it in a nutshell.  God has given us His Word in written form, a book that we can go back to again and again and read and study and memorize and apply in every situation we find ourselves in life.  Wisdom is not hidden from us, but is right there for the taking.  All you have to do us use it.

Godly Wisdom in Decision-Making Process, Part 2

Part 2 – The Guidance of the Holy Spirit

 There was once a woman who, when she woke up each morning, consecrated the day to the Lord as soon as she woke.  She “would then ask Him whether she was to get up or not,” and would not stir till “the voice” told her to dress. After getting out of bed, as she went dress, she would ask the Lord whether or not she should wear each article of clothing, and very often the Lord would tell her to put on the right shoe and leave off the other; sometimes she was to put on both socks and no shoes; and sometimes both shoes and no socks.  It was the same with each article of clothing, until she was dressed and ready to face the day – Ray Strachey, Religious Fanaticism

 Last time, we explored the truth that, as our baseline and groundwork in our walk with God, we need to believe and have faith in the fact that He promises guidance and wisdom in our decision-making processes.  We defined decision-making as the ability to arrive at a decision after due consideration of all the factors involved.  And, we discovered that wisdom is from God.  In general, Scripture teaches that wisdom is the quality of knowledge, discernment and understanding characteristic of God Himself, a gift of the Holy Spirit, and that which enables the planning and successful achievement of a desire goal.  Remember, James says:

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” James 1:5-6, NIV

Since God promises that He will provide wisdom and guidance, and since we have faith in that promise, it remains for us to discover how He goes about giving that guidance and wisdom.  This time, we are going to talk about the Holy Spirit and what He does in the process of guiding us.

Look at the story at the beginning of this article.  How does the Holy Spirit guide us in our decision-making process?  Should we follow the example of this woman and completely unplug our own brains and will from the process?

The answer is, of course, no.  God does give us the Holy Spirit to guide us, but this doesn’t mean that we should not use our own critical thinking skills to reach decisions and try to determine what God’s will is in a specific situation.

Let’s look at an example from the Bible.  We are going to examine Acts Chapter 15.  However, before doing so, it would be good to have some background information on what is going on prior to this.

Acts 10 – Peter receives a vision from God that shows him that the Good News of Jesus should and must be preached to the Gentiles as well as the Jews.  As a result, he goes to the house of Cornelius, a Gentile centurion, and his household receives salvation and the Holy Spirit comes upon them in a way that is visible to everyone there

Acts 11- The church in Jerusalem, consisting of Jewish believers, criticizes Peter for associating with Gentiles, something that Jewish people were not supposed to do.  Peter explains his vision and what happened when he did preach to the Gentiles, and the church recognizes that God’s plan of salvation includes Gentiles as well as Jews.

Acts 15 – Some Jewish converts to Christianity go to Antioch, the epicenter of Gentile Christianity, and tell them that they had to be circumcised according to the Law of Moses in order to be saved. Paul and Barnabas argue against this and eventually end up going to Jerusalem in order to get the question of circumcision answered.  While there, some Pharisee believers assert that all Gentiles had to be circumcised and keep all of the OT law. When the apostles and church leaders meet about it, Peter argues that his vision shows that God does not require Gentiles to follow OT law, calling it a “burden” and a “yoke” around their necks, and even points out that the Jewish people were unable to follow the requirements of the law.

As a result of Peter’s testimony, and Paul and Barnabas’ accounts of what had happened with their ministry, the church leaders decide not to impose circumcision and other OT laws on the Gentiles, instead telling them to avoid certain practices that would hinder their fellowship with Jewish Christians and, in the case of sexual immorality, outright sin:

22 Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, men who were leaders among the believers. 23 With them they sent the following letter:

The apostles and elders, your brothers,

To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia:


24 We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. 25 So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul—26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. 28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.

Farewell. – Acts 15:22–29. NIV

In determining the role of the Holy Spirit in the decision-making process, we need to focus in on verse 28.  It says, that it seemed good both to the Holy Spirit and to them that they should do the following.  It never specifically says that they heard an audible voice from the Holy Spirit telling them to write down the words of the letter, though it is possible that He worked that way.  Instead, they say that their opinion of what requirements were necessary was in some way confirmed by the Holy Spirit.  Essentially, they reasoned out the proper response based on prior experience based their knowledge of God’s will revealed in Scripture and through the testimony of others and that this process was aided and, in some way, confirmed by the Holy Spirit.

Remember, according to what we concluded in our last study, God promises that He will guide us and give us the wisdom and insight necessary to follow His will and make wise decisions.  Well, the way that He makes good on this promise is through the Holy Spirit.  A quick study on the works of the Holy Spirit includes literally dozens of different tasks He undertakes and things that He does in the world and in the life of Christians.  Some examples of these include:

He gives assurance of salvation for those who are followers of Christ (Rom. 8:14-16)

He directs and empowers believers in their working in God’s will (1 Cor. 12:3-7)

He gives a sense of peace and contentment to His children regardless of their life circumstances (Rom. 15:13)

He inspires our praise and worship of God (Eph. 5:18-20)

He prompts prayer and intercedes on our behalf to God (Rom 8:26-27)

He enables us to live holy lives (sanctification, Gal 5:22-23)

He enables us to understand and apply the truths of Scripture (1 Cor. 2:12-16)

He convicts us of our sins and the reality of forgiveness available in Christ (John 16:8-11, Eph. 1:17-18)

He guides groups and individuals facing challenges, decisions, and difficulties (Rom 8:14, Gal 5:18)

He forms and guides the church (1 Cor. 12:13, Eph. 4:3-4)

Basically, it is only through the Holy Spirit that we have knowledge of God’s will and His purposes in the world and in our lives.  So, we can see that it is through the gift of the Holy Spirit, through His actions in the world and in our lives, that God fulfills His promise to guide and enable us to make wise decisions.  The rest of this study will focus on specific ways that the Holy Spirit reveals God’s direction and will and brings wisdom into the lives of His people.  The specific avenues we will discuss are going to be how the Holy Spirit works through Scripture, prayer, advice from other believers, and life circumstances, as well as understanding how easy it is to misinterpret our desires for God’s will.   We need to ask ourselves some questions about the Holy Spirit and our understanding of Him in order to have success in this study:

1. Have you ever recognized or felt the Holy Spirit influencing your decision-making process?  What did that look/feel like?

2. Based on the biblical concepts we explored, is it reasonable to expect the guidance of the Holy Spirit to take the form of the woman in the story?  Why or why not?

3. In studying Acts 15:1-21, what are some of the methods that the Holy Spirit uses to reveal the will of God in a Christian’s life?

God promises to give us wisdom and guide us in the decision-making process towards His will and purposes.  He does so, for those who have a relationship with Him through Jesus, by giving us the Holy Spirit to live within us and to guide us to an understanding of Him. It is vital, however, that we learn how the Holy Spirit communicates and works in our lives and that we learn to recognize when that communication and guidance is occurring.  The remainder of this series will explore these needs in more detail.

The Importance of Story


There is a frequently used and rather corny phrase “history is just His story.” There is a lot of truth to this statement but it can be difficult to live in the implications of such truth. After all, history is a large story and there are many elements of history which we do not know and of those that we do know very few will we understand completely. There is one history in particular that commands our attention and that is the history of redemption. The redemption story is central to the history of the world and the Christian must see his or herself as a part of that story.

The larger story of redemption includes all of us. This is made self evident by the needs we all have. All of us have a need to live because we will die. All of us have a need to be freed from pain, or at very least to understand pain. Like an actor who gets called to an audition, all of creation hears this story loud and clear. Like an actor about to perform the world is compelled to play it’s part by nature. This is not to say that the world is merely a story, but that the drama of the world is resolving to the glory of God.

It is important that Christians know and understand the story. As we look at history we can see the great narrative of the history of world unfold we can see our part in it. Take for instance in Mark seven when a Gentile woman comes to see Jesus to ask for healing for her daughter. Jesus rejects her request saying that he must minister to Jews before he will gentiles. The woman rightly points out that Jesus’ grace is more than enough for the Jews. She sees herself in the story of Jesus’ grace. She understands that God’s grace is more than enough.

If you are having a hard time in your walk with the Lord it is a good thing to remember the whole story of God. Read the scripture, talk with others, and see what the Lord has been doing in their lives as well as yours. Most often the truth of scripture is easy to understand in the light and acceptance of God’s story.