Monday, June 27, 2016

I had an interesting conversation with Jehovah’s Witnesses last night. They asked me to prove that the scriptures say the Jesus is God. I started in Revelation but got cut off and never finished. Does the Bible say that Jesus is God? Absolutely! Revelation is just one of many places where this is clear from scripture.
Revelation 1:8 says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” My JW friend said that refers to God, and he challenged me to show him where that same title is used for Jesus. Revelation 22:13 uses the same phrase, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” So the Alpha and the Omega is also described as the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” If this is a reference to Jesus, then he is here called the “Alpha and the Omega;” the same name used for God in chapter 1. If this is a reference to God, then God is called “the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” That is interesting because Revelation 1:17 says, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last.” Is this also a reference to God? The sentence goes on in verse 18 to say, “and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” So the one described as the first and the last died. If this is a description of God, we must ask when God died? If this is a description of Jesus, then Jesus is called by the same name as God, “the first and the last.” Revelation 2:8 does the same thing. It says, “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.’” Again we must ask: If the first and the last refers to God then when did God die and come back to life? If this is a reference to Jesus, then Jesus is again called by the same name as God.
With these few verses one cannot escape the simple truth that Jesus is called by the same name as the Lord God. Jesus is God. The JWs want you to believe that Jesus is a created being. There are many verses we could go to in refuting that idea. These few verses in Revelation are just a sampling. In John 1 they want to add a little word “a” to the first verse. John 1:1 reads, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Their translation reads, “the word was a god.” There is nothing in the original language to suggest that word “a” should be in the text, but that doesn’t really solve their problem. The text goes on to say, “He was in the beginning with God” (Jn 1:2). That would be a reference to Jesus. Then it says, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (Jn1:3). Everything that was made by God was made by Jesus, according to this verse. The JWs insist that Jesus is the first created being. If that is true, then this verse makes no sense. How can Jesus be the first created being and yet everything that was made was made by him? Everything in inclusive. It doesn’t say everything except Jesus. It says everything. Jesus was not created. He is the eternal Son of God, the second person of the god-head. Jesus is God, not a god.
My JW friends started with this phrase, “We’re not trying to convince anyone. We just want to reason through the scriptures.” They ended the night saying, “We pray to different Gods.” The God I pray to is the triune God of the Bible, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is one God; three persons. I can’t really wrap my finite mind around the complexity of an infinite, triune God, but that is the God the Bible presents. I am not sure who their god is.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

1 Corinthians 16:13 (ESV)
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.
Over the years I have met with a lot of men in formal teaching settings, informal retreat settings, and even less formal interactions around hunting, eating, building, and playing. Inevitably the conversations turn to one of three things: 1. Things we conquer (hunting, war, politics, etc.). 2. Things we love (sometimes this takes the form of our toys; sometimes our women; often sex, in the conversations of unbelievers). 3. Things we build (this might take the form of plans, businesses, buildings, or organizations). I have been in other countries and other cultures, but it seems like everywhere I have been these three areas of conversation turn up among men.
This coming Sunday is Father’s Day. It is appropriate then for us to ask: What is a godly father? What is a godly man? What does it mean to be a man of God? What does Paul mean in 1 Cor 16 when he says, “act like men?” In the Greek that phrase is actually a single word, andriz√≥. It means “act like men.” Since men seem inclined toward things they conquer, things they love, and things they build, what might that mean for a believer who wants to be a godly man?
Let me suggest three possible implications. As conquerors God calls men to step up and be great spiritual warriors. Spiritual battle is done in prayer and faith. Godly men do battle through prayer. Unfortunately, in most churches I have been in the men have totally missed this. It is more often the women who are the prayer warriors of the church. Yet, in the Bible all the great pray-ers of the Bible were men. Think of Elijah, Moses, and Jesus, just to name the most obvious ones, but there are many more. Godly men are conquerors through prayer and faith.
Second, God calls men to step up and be great lovers. Being a great lover doesn’t mean sexual exploits. We are great lovers when we learn to love as Christ loved, from pure hearts for the good of those we love. We are instructed in Ephesians to love our wives as Christ loves the church and purifies her. Great lovers emulate Christ.
Third, God calls men to be great builders. We are “living stones ... being built up as a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5). As men of God we are not only part of God’s building, but we are involved in the building as well. The Kingdom is built on the foundation of Christ. Paul wrote, in 1 Corinthians 3:10, “According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it.”
But there is a fourth implication that needs to be added. It is fourth in our list, but precedes the other three. If we are to be great conquerors, great lovers, and great builders, we must first be men of principle. In the movie Pirates of the Caribbean the characters in the movie are discussing the Pirates Code. At one point they act contrary to what they claimed was in the code. Their justification was that, “It’s not really a code. It’s more like suggestions.” God’s word is more than suggestions. What does it mean to be men of principle? It means that we learn to delight in the Word of God (Ps 119.17-20, 97). It means that we learn to rest in the Word of God (Ps 119.21-22, 98-100). It means that we learn to walk according to the Word of God (Ps 119.23, 101-102). As believers we need to be men who live by a code. The Word of God is the code. We cannot be great conquerors, great lovers, or great builders unless we are men of the code. What needs to change in your life if you are going to live by the code of God’s word?

Sunday, June 5, 2016

It is not uncommon to hear that the church never talks about sin anymore. We need to deal with sin. We need to confess and repent. We need to commit to obedience and holiness. While it is certainly true that, as believers, we must never ignore sin, the reality is that Israel had 1500 years of reminders of sin. Passionate and creative calls to repentance were made, and harsh consequences for not listening were experienced. It didn’t make a difference. It didn’t change anything. We talk and act as though if I just repented of that one hidden sin that messing up my life, then everything would fall into place. If we, as a church, would just root out that one sin or sinner, then we would grow and be healthy. If we as a nation would just repent, stop killing babies, and put prayer back in school then our nation would be okay. None of those things are true, but it is the myth that drives our constant need to root out hidden sins and repent.

You would think that 1500 years of history proving that approach doesn’t change anybody would open our eyes to the need for something more. Unfortunately, we are slow learners. Galatians 3 says that the Law was a schoolmaster, but it was never a schoolmaster to produce holiness in anyone’s life. It was a schoolmaster to lead us to Christ. Titus 2 tells us that grace is the schoolmaster that changes our lives. Grace is what trains us in godliness. Grace is what transforms hearts. Grace is what gives us hope. 1500 years of failure pointed us to the need for grace. Grace appeared in the person of Jesus Christ. 1500 years of rooting out sin, and calling for repentance proved only that we are a broken and sinful people. Grace changed all that, and is still changing us. Let us be a people of grace. Let us embrace grace. Let us live grace. Let us speak grace. Let us rest in the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

Reflections on Psalms 77-78

Psalms 77:7 (ESV) [7] “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable?   The first nine verses of this psalm express abso...