Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Matt. 6:19-24

Pastor Paul spoke on Matt. 6:19-24 this week, the "treasures" part of Christ's message, and here are some of the notes from the message, in addition to my own thoughts. The subject of money is always a touchy one from the pulpit, and I can't help but wonder, whenever I hear the topic addressed in a sermon, if the teacher has to deliberately hold back so as not to offend anyone (or, more specifically, offend any wealthy folks in the audience.) I've personally struggled with this topic, so I'm always glad to hear new teachings on the topic, and for the most part, I agree with most of what Pastor spoke about, with some exceptions.

The passages covered were:

Matt: 6:19-24 - Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

The gist of the message is that Jesus encourages us to lay up treasures in heaven, and that we need to be careful how we invest our treasure, especially in light of the fact that we live in a culture growing increasingly antagonistic towards God. The message addressed the Pharisees, who focused on earthly rewards. They loved money, selling in the temple, taking widow's houses, etc, and their religion was similar to the "prosperity gospel" of today.

Pastor Paul mentioned that wealth, in and of itself is not a bad thing, but it's how you use it. Here's where my struggle was. I'm not sure that I agree that wealth isn't a bad thing. I think it's one of those mixed blessings: having a lot of money and things can be nice, but ultimately becomes something of a burden (e.g. storing your "stuff", protecting your money, etc) and a contention I've had for a long time is, is it reasonable for a Christian to live in a mongo-huge house driving a top-of-the-line sports car, or does this reflect a negative testimony to the non-believer who sees the Christian living a less-than-humble lifestyle? So on the other side of this, then, would this mean that Christians should dress in rags? I'm reminded of a message from "The Imitation of Christ" by Thomas A'Kempis, where I think he makes comments to that regard.... I need to write a commentary on "Imitation of Christ" one of these days. It's such a remarkable book.)

Anyhow, the gist of the message was that the earth makes a poor storehouse for treasure (what with the moth, rusts, thieves and all... :) that that our true treasures should be vested in heaven. But I couldn't help but think that the message seemed a little more angled towards a message of, "wealth is a reality, and there's nothing wrong with having wealth, but be careful how you use it." And that's sort of true, but I personally only see the corrupting influences of excessive wealth, and the display of wealth (houses, cars, clothes, things) outwardly reflects the heart.

Richard Foster is another writer who comes to mind. Ages ago I read "Celebration of Discipline", and while the book isn't perfect, I can appreciate reading his sections on humility, or more specifically, "simplicity". While sort of skirting the edges of legalism, Foster would making points about living more of a utilitarianistic life: e.g. getting a car that functions and works, not one that looks like a luxury-SUV-metallic dinosaur (ok, that last part was my own description, but you get the idea.) And I believe there is a truth there to the importance of humility and utilitarianism: living practically and showing caution in what we own and showcase to the world. I think humility and practical living, and I personally understand this to be a step of our sanctification: drawing further from the things of the world and closer to God.

The Message - Initial Thoughts

I generally listen to portions of the Bible daily on my older-than-time Coby MP3 player, and currently I have a copy of the Message translation that I've been hearing. My initial thoughts are that, as far as translations go, it tends to be childish and a little silly, yet by "toning down" some of the language it does make books like Leviticus a little more easy going. However, after listening to some of the Psalms yesterday, I can't help but notice that some of these translations tend to be a little off the wall. For instance:

Psalm 1: "You don't hang out at sin saloon" (?)

Psalm 37: "A banana peel lands them on their face" (??)

Psalm 53: "Treating people like a fast food meal over which they're too busy to pray"

It seems like Eugene Peterson is going just a little easy with some of these interpretations and maybe taking a little too much liberty. But all the same, I'm going to listen to the entire translation before I make my final verdict (I'm actually curious to see how "modern-sounding" he can be with a book like II Chronicles... :)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Matt: 6:5-15

Pastor Paul spoke on Matt: 6:5-15 this weekend, and I wanted to record some of the sermon notes and also include my own thoughts on this. This was a particularly applicable message to me this week, and really hit home in light of recent changes at my employer which I'll get to later into these notes. In this message, Pastor Paul related how the theme throughout this portion of Matt. 6 is forgiveness, and how forgiveness is the doorway to our adoption, and marks the authenticity of our adoption (being brought in and given access to the Father.)
The Lord's prayer portion of this text starts at vs.9 with

"This, then, is how you should pray: " 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,

The question here is, do you hold God's name and word as holy? I think it's noteworthy that this is how the prayer opens, with a focus on reverence and respect for the name of God. The most important thing at the onset of the prayer is, reverence the name of God the Father.

your kingdom come,

Poses the question - is the kingdom of Christ ruling/reigning in your life?

your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

This petition of the prayer is asking Christ to reign. We pray for a return of Christ's physical kingdom on earth, and that everything will become subject to His will, both in our lives and in the world.

Give us today our daily bread.

The teaching here is that God is our provider. Psalms 104:14 teaches us that He causes grass to grow and provides vegetation for the needs of man. All creation depends on Him. The teaching here is also one of daily reliance on God; not just for food, but for all things. Pastor Paul noted the example of George Mueller, the missionary who labored for the orphans of Bristol, England. Often the orphanage would have no food or resources for the children, but through Mueller's faithfulness in prayer and complete dependence on God, provisions were made to feed the orphans.

The question posed here also is one of contentment: are you content with perhaps limited food, or are you, like Israel, murmuring in the wilderness. In my own work situation, I've been seeing things change for the worse recently, with more and more roles and responsibilities shifting off-shore. And the temptation is to lose hope, but instead I need to trust in God to provide for our daily bread, and not to be anxious about anything. Daily I should seek God's provision and trust in Him to provide.

Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

We need to have a spirit of constant forgiveness. Sin is a debt, and we owe our Father an obedience that we can never provide of ourselves, so outside of Christ's work on our behalf, we will always be in a debt that we cannot repay. Our debt is a multiplied one: there is no shifting any of it, or blaming it away. If you are a debtor, seek forgiveness.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

We need the protection of our Father. We pray that God will grant us the strength to stand against our enemies, and our prayers should encompass our families, our children, and for those in leadership. We all face temptations and need to trust in Christ to stand strong against temptation.

vs. 14-15 speak about forgiving others of their sins. Children of God, as Pastor Paul pointed out, do not keep a laundry list of offenses. Everyone, through their sins, offends the Father, even those who are saved by Christ. We need to not become complacent in our saved state and neglect to seek forgiveness of our sins.

Forgiveness of others is not a meritorious act. It is a duty that we have because of God's forgiveness of us. If you forgive someone and they do not accept the forgiveness, pray for them. We are to forgive, and Christ forgave, freely.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Excellent map of Church History links and reading

There is a wealth of good information at Spurgeon.org regarding church history and the various directions the church has taken through the ages. The links are plentiful and there is a lot of good reading material here.

Spurgeon.org is a great platform for a number of excellent sites, including the Pyromaniacs blog that I try to follow daily.

Luke 24:13-25 The Road to Emmaus

I've been discussing communion and the concept of transubstantiation with an Anglican friend of mine, and wanted to record some general thoughts about the idea of the Lord's Supper sacrament being more than just a symbolic reminder of the Lord's sacrifice, specifically in regards to Luke 24:13-25. My friend cited this Luke passage to indicate that for these two individuals (Cleopas and his friend) that a revelation of Christ was given to them as they broke bread with the resurrected Jesus - or in other words, Christ was not revealed to them until they partook of the meal, implying that there is something more to the meal, in terms of the revelation given to those taking of the meal.

I dug into these passages, and responded with some of John MacArthur's comments from my study Bible, that Christ, in His resurrected body was *glorified*, and that his appearance was altered from what it was previously (Mary Magdaline didn't recognize Him at first in John 20.) And in a larger sense, if Christ was imparting some special revelation through the breaking of bread with these two, why was it only to these two people and not all of the disciples, as recorded in Scripture?

Another thing I brought up was the idea that with Catholics/Lutherans (and the high-church denominations), my own observation is that the elements are often offered to the congregation WITHOUT the admonition/caution presented by Paul in I Cor. 11. In other words, when you attend a Catholic Mass, the priest generally says some words in Latin, then the elements are presented, unguarded (without an admonition for self-examination, resolution of sins with brother, etc.) and anyone, regardless of the state of their heart, can partake of this sacrament. I believe that Scripture cautions against taking the meal lightly, and that there needs to be a guarding of the elements, and that the meal is only observed/taken by those professing believers who have examined their hearts, completely understand the meaning of the meal, and who have no unresolved sins with their brothers. In a typical mass, ANYONE can line up to take the elements and the table is completely unguarded. I think this goes against what Paul speaks about in I Cor. 11, and is ultimately dangerous to the individual partaking of the elements (as per Paul's warning) and to the church itself. Is there a special revelation granted through partaking of the meal? I'm more convinced that the meal serves as a public reminder of Christ's sacrifice and the importance of this in the life of believers. Is there a spiritual revelation from this meal? I'm more convinced that revelation if given the believer from Scripture alone, through the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the believer.

Now whether or not I believe the person taking the Lord's supper elements needs to be Baptized or not, I'm not completely sure about yet. Could a newly-converted, yet unbaptized individual partake of the Lord's supper, knowing what it means and what it entails? I would say yes, although some churches (like my own) would guard the table from those who have not been baptized in Christ's name.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Isaiah 58:10

Isaiah 58:10 "And if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday."

Friday, June 5, 2009

Matt 5:43ff

Pastor Baucham spoke on the rest of Matthew 5 from vs. 43 to the end of the chapter, and here are some general notes.  In one sense, at this part in the message it's a summary of everything that's been said so far, and in another way, it's a foreshadowing of what's to come.  
We need to turn from the attitude of being nice to those who are nice to us, or "I will only speak to those who are nice to me" mentality.  Pastor pointed out that loving your enemy isn't about sappy sentimentalism or the false "Grecco-Roman" definition of love.  Rather, love is "an act of the will accompanied by emotion leading to action of behalf of the object" (glad that pastor repeated that one a few times, as I had a hard time jotting that down completely.  It's an excellent observation.)
As an example of this love, the people of Israel, while under the bondage of captivity to Babylon, were still instructed to serve their captors and pray for them, without having to "like" what had happened to them (e.g. sappy sentimentalism).
He made the point that our love of our enemies is motivated by our love for God.  We love them, whether we feel like it or not.  If you don't believe in a God of punishment, vengeance and a literal Hell, then all you can really do is hold a grudge.  And I do believe in a literal Hell, but I differ on whether or not the punishment is eternal (I read an excellent book on the annihilationistview of hell and eternal punishment that I hope to review here soon.)
Love of our enemies is a byproduct of a regenerated life.
Pastor cites Jonah as an example of someone who didn't want to preach to his enemies in Nineveh.  Yet God was merciful to these people, and Jonah was angry about this.  The question God could ask of Jonah would be, "Jonah, why would you deserve mercy and the people of Nineveh would not?"

Monday, June 1, 2009


I listened to a SermonAudio message by Les Walthers yesterday on the topic of sanctification. And although the audio quality of the mp3 left something to be desired, the message was a good one. Two views brought up by Pastor Walthers in the message were those of, on one side, perfectionism, a view not taught in the Bible (and ultimately one impossible to hold to) and on the other side, the view that sin isn't all that serious and doesn't need to bother the believer.

The writer of Hebrews speaks of sanctification with the instruction to "pursue holiness", and that we should be especially set apart for God. Sanctification is just as important in the believers life as is our justification.

Pastor Walthers elaborated on three different categories of sanctification:
  1. The sanctification of God (such as described in the book of Ezekiel: God is set apart from the false gods of the time)
  2. The sanctification of Man (in the Old Testament, this was a sanctification of self through separation from what was unclean)
  3. The sanctification of the Redeemer (John 17 speaks about how Jesus sanctified Himself)
Another point made in the message was aimed at the unbelieving spouse (from I Cor. 7:12-14) in which the unbelieving spouse is sanctified through the believing spouse. In this situation, the non-believing partner is privileged to witness a living display of the gospel.

Sanctification is about the believer being set apart more and more for God. This is a continuing process by the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Here's a link to Pastor Walther's message.