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Praise God for Chapters and Verses

If you have ever read theological writings from the sixteenth century (or before), you will notice something about the Scripture references used in the writings. For example, in Luther’s masterpiece, The Freedom of a Christian (1520), arguing for the Spirit’s role in freedom, he says: “As Christ says in John 4[:14], it is a ‘spring of water welling up to eternal life.’” The reason verse 14 is in brackets is because verse 14 was not what Luther wrote. An editor…

Why Is Preaching A Big Deal?

Henry Bullinger (1504-1575) is not a common household name. Many readers of this blog have never heard of him. But Bullinger is a name Christians should be familiar with. He played a key role when the church was in desperate need of reformation in the sixteenth century. We could write many blogs on how God used Bullinger to reform the church in a more biblical direction. But I want to focus on one way God used him. Bullinger was one…

Men of Prayer

Christians have the privilege and duty to pray. This includes all Christians – no matter class, ethnicity, or gender. However, until recently it never occurred to me that men have a specific call to pray unlike women. In a study of 1 Timothy, I was struck by this verse: “Therefore I want the men in every place to pray lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension” (2:8). The word “men” in this verse is not the generic word for…

Does God Desire All People to Be Saved?

1 Timothy 2:4 states that God “desires all men be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” But what does it mean that God “desires” all people to be saved when Scripture plainly teaches that not all people will be saved? Toward an answer to this question, we must distinguish between God’s “desire” (i.e., what God would like to see happen) and God’s “plan” (i.e., what God makes happen). The reason we must distinguish between God’s desire…

How Can Your Children See God in All of Life?

According to Ephesians 6:4, Christian fathers and mothers have a high and noble calling to bring up their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. The Old Testament equivalent of this New Testament passage is found in Deuteronomy 6:7: “You shall teach them [the words of God] diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise…

Are My Future Sins Forgiven?

In last week’s sermon, I argued from 1 John 1:9 that the resurrection of Jesus Christ changes everything, including giving believers a new cycle of sin, confession, and forgiveness. Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, Christians depart the cycle of repeated sin with no confession and forgiveness. They receive a new cycle of sin, confession, and forgiveness. But a question arises from 1 John 1:9, which states: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us…

Where Does Spiritual Warfare Occur?

In Ephesians 5:22-6:9, the Lord outlines essential roles we are to fulfill in various relationships in our lives: A wife submits (5:22) A husband loves (5:25) A child obeys (6:1) A father exercises patience (6:4) An employee obeys (6:5) An employer shows kindness (6:9) How are we to fulfill these roles? We find the answer to the source of the power to fulfill these roles in Ephesians 5:18: “be filled with the Spirit.” The only way we can fulfill our…

Does God Promise to Work Out All Things for Good?

I have gone on record in saying that Bible passages we think we know the most we know the least (see here and here). This is not any less true with Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” This verse is often used to give hope and encouragement during suffering and trials. Often this verse is understood to say something like: Everything bad…

The Existential Threat to the Church

Politicians claim the existential threat to our world is climate change. What is the existential threat to the church? I believe the existential threat to the church is failing to define herself biblically. And the pandemic has brought this threat to the surface like never before. When COVID-19 hit last March, most evangelical churches quickly moved their services online. To be sure, live streaming services existed before the pandemic, but it became mainstream during the pandemic. And live streaming has…

Does God Still Reign?

At the beginning of 2015, I preached a sermon (which you can find here) titled “God Reigns in 2015.” I argued that despite all the uncertainty in the world, God still reigns. In the sermon I used the following examples of uncertainty in our world: Robin Williams death by suicide, the Ebola crisis in West Africa, and Malaysian Flight 370 vanishing during a routine flight. Not to diminish any of these uncertainties, but Covid-19, stock market crash, and political and…

How Do I Know God’s Will for 2021?

How Do I Know God’s Will for 2021? As we enter 2021, what does God want from you and me? How can I know God’s will? If you are a Christian, you desire to follow God and do His will. Sometimes, however, you are unsure what God wants you to do. Does God want me to move to Florida? Does God want me to buy a minivan? Does God want me to date him or her? As Christians, there are…

Does Christmas Promise Peace on Earth?

During this time of year—Christmas season—religious services and songs commonly speak about peace on earth: Hark! The herald angels sing/Glory to the newborn King!Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled! Unfortunately, however, traditionalism and sentimentalism obscure our reading of the biblical text from which this hymn is adapted. For hundreds of years, English speaking people have read in Luke 2:14: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (KJV). But when…

Is Belief In The Virgin Birth Necessary for Salvation?

As Advent season is upon us, the virgin conception/birth of our Lord Jesus Christ takes prominence in our hearts and minds. That his virgin conception and birth is clearly taught in Scripture is undeniable (Matthew 1:20, 25; Luke 1:35). But is it necessary to believe in the virgin conception/birth for personal salvation? Before I answer this question, I want to state what I think this question is really asking. The real question is this: what is the minimum someone must believe…

Are You a Preaching Critic?

Preaching is hard. It is hard for several reasons. First, preaching involves dealing with an ancient text far removed from our world and culture. Second, a preacher’s audience is at different levels of mental and spiritual maturity. Crafting a message that meets various maturity levels is a skill that is learned over time. Third, a sermon must have a good blend of content and presentation. A well-crafted sermon delivered in a mono-tone voice or a poor crafted sermon delivered in…

Five Reasons for Obeying God

We bark the command to our children: “You need to obey mom and dad,” based on Ephesians 6:1. While this command is often given, in the heat of the moment we seldom give the reason, motivation, or benefit for obeying mom and dad. But your kids need to see the reasons and benefits of obedience. And so do we! You need reason, motivation, and benefit for obedience to God. Why should you obey God? Seventeenth century pastor, Richard Baxter (1615-1691), recognizes…

What Is More Divisive Than American Politics?

No doubt, in the United States we live in a polarized and divisive political climate. But there is something more divisive than American politics. What is it? The flesh and the Spirit. Paul writes these shocking words in Galatians 5:17: “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” Notice closely: the flesh and Spirit…

Why Getting God Right Matters

As Christians, we believe that God has revealed Himself in the sixty-six books of the Bible. Any belief about God that does not line up with what has been revealed in the Bible is not the true God. It is an idol. Puritan William Perkins (1558-1602) once put it like this: “God is to be conceived as He reveals Himself unto us” in the Scripture, “and not otherwise; if otherwise, God is not conceived but a fiction or idol of…

The Simple and Sound Message We Proclaim

Amidst all the celebration in our church for what God has done the past twelve years, it is helpful to be reminded of the simple and sound message we proclaim. James recalls this message in one verse: the who, how, what, and why of the message we proclaim. Here it is: “In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures” (1:18). Who: “In the exercise of…

The Nearness of God

Psalm 73:28: “But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.” This verse works in two ways. On the one hand, if life is going poorly for you, you can read this verse and take comfort in the fact that the “nearness of God” is your ultimate good. Your bad circumstances are not your ultimate good. On the other hand, if life is going well for you, you…

The Father of Lights in a Changing World

In James 1:17 a curious title is given to God. God is called “the Father of lights.” Why does James call God “the Father of lights”? James calls God “the Father of lights” because he wants to communicate that God is unchanging. But how does God as “the Father of lights” relate to him being unchanging? Since God is the creator of the lights—the sun, moon, and stars, He does not change. The creation experiences constant change. Even in the lights. The…