Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mark 12: 13-17

Here's an excellent message by Mark Devers of Capital Hill Baptist on the subject of "Jesus Paid Taxes", from Mark 12:13-17:

And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk.  And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone's opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.”  And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar's.” Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” And they marveled at him.

The rule was that it was one denarius for each man, and the Jew's hated this, because each coin was basically proclaiming Caesar as lord.  The goal here, then, was a trap for Jesus: an either-or scenario of popularity (favoring the tax) versus potential death (opposing the tax as a revolutionary.)  Jesus here gives a brilliant answer in which He gives a directive to both be obedient to government, as well as giving to God what is Gods.  At the same time, Christ is also unhitching his followers from any particular nation.  There is no "Christian country", for Christ's kingdom is not of this earth.  By unhitching His followers from any nation, the ethnic phase is now done, meaning that there is no more need for circumcision (and likewise infant baptism, since there is no longer a national connection.)  Being a follower of Christ is part of a national identity that we share with brothers and sisters globally.

I-45 and Hope

45 & Hope from Woodlands Point Community Church on Vimeo.
I-45 is a ministry that reaches our to the men and women living under the overpasses of I-45 north of Houston. I've had a chance to meet Dave once, who is the vice-chairman of the group, and they are doing a great thing here by God's grace.  I follow and pray for the email updates I receive from this group, and likewise they can be followed Facebook as well. Their site is here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Romans 8:15

Romans 8:15 (New International Version)
"For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.  And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father.'"

In our adoption , we are chosen by God and brought in, given full access to the Father.  The forgiveness though Christ is the doorway to adoption, and forgiveness marks our authenticity as children of God.

Monday, October 25, 2010

I John 2:19 and the Osteens

I picked up a copy of the freebie magazine 'Health and Fitness Sports Magazine' at HEB the other day, because I was curious to read what theological insights Victoria Osteen would offer.  As it turns out, in the center of this magazine (which is little more than a massive ad for cosmetic surgery, with freakish adverts featuring faces that look like they are straight out of the Bruce Willis "Surrogates" movie) was a one-page article with Victoria, in which she makes no mention whatsoever of her faith, her walk with Christ, or anything remotely theological.  Not that I was expecting her to give a lucid definition of justification or antinomianism or anything like that, but something remotely spiritual would have been ideal, considering that she is, I believe, a "pastor" along with Joel.

Thinking of the Osteens reminds me of something I heard once, and that was the idea that, if legitimate persecution ever tragically came to our land, would churches like the Osteen's even have one person in them on a Sunday? (and that's including Joel and Victoria).  Is the entertaining music and motivational "You can do anything!" message really worth potential persecution?  In a situation like that, that I pray never comes upon our country, I could see people leaving in droves from Joel's "teaching", abandoning shallow, fragile faith based on Joel and Victoria's teaching, along the lines of I John 2:19 (KJV) "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us."  I pray for the Osteens, that there could be a genuine revival in the hearts of this couple, and that they can turn to actually teaching the Bible instead of hollow, deceitful self-help pabulum.

Friday, October 22, 2010

I Corinthians 15:22

Our trip to the children's doctor last week brought to mind some ideas for this post.  We had a long discussion with the doctor about the vaccine/autism controversy, and our doctor, while very cautious in the administration of vaccines to small kids, mentioned that in her own research, the rapid rise of autism shouldn't be blamed entirely on vaccines, but instead that there are a number of environmental factors that play a part: toxins in food, water, the air, our clothing, etc.
As we discussed this, it really brought home to me the reminder that we do live in a fallen world, and as, part of the punishment and curse of sin is the effects we experience from the fallen world.

“For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22)

There can be a temptation in our lives to think that, if we feel good, we have things and stuff and have no problems, that we are in a way indestructible. But the reality is that we are under the taint and curse of Adam, and as such, the world that we live in is equally fallen, leaving us prone to sickness and illness from our environment and other factors. No matter how clean we scrub the earth and sky, and how well we take care of our bodies, all of us are under sin's curse, of which the outcome for all of us is death.

But praise God for the gift of Jesus Christ, and his free gift of grace, shared for us on the cross of Calvary! While our mortal bodies are still prone to the ravages of sin and death, we have hope in the resurrection of our Savior!

Now while we live by faith and know that there is life everlasting beyond our mortal bodies, at the same time, this assurance of grace and salvation should not make us cynical to the responsibility to be good stewards of our health and the planet. The body...

“ a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God” (I Cor. 1:19)

and the earth...

“ the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1)

We have a responsibility to care for both, not under legalistic obligation, but rather doing so to give God the glory and honor. We should be mindful of caring for the bodies he's given to us, and also do what we can to take care of the earth, while being cautious not to fall into the trap of worshiping self or the earth.

We have remarkable designed bodies, and the world around us is beautiful and wonderfully made. We should continuously give praise and glory to the God who gives us our lives and a world to love Him in, all the while looking forward to the return of our Savior and the new life to come.

Various False Gods that continue to influence Christians

Some of my notes about various false gods that continue to have influences in the lives of Christians. Although primarily identified in the Old Testament, these false dieties still tend to have a strong influence in the lives of believers today:

Asherah - was a leading deity of the Canaanite pantheon, a wife/sister of El and goddess of fertility.  Commonly worshiped at shrines in or near groves of evergreen trees, or at places marked by wooden pole.  The theme here would be the god of sexuality which, judging from television, printed media and the internet, is a very powerful false god in the world today, distracting attention and time from the lives of believers.  Adult media and pornography can have devastating influences in the lives of believers.

Molech - The name of the idol god of the Ammonites, to which human victims, particularly young children were offered in sacrifice.  Its image was a hollow brazen figure, with the head of an ox, and outstretched human arms. It was heated red hot by a fire from within, and the little ones placed in its arms to be slowly burned, while to prevent the parents from hearing the dying cries, the sacrificing priests beat drums.  Although the idea of child sacrifice may initially seem unlikely today, the fact is that the abortion culture, even in the church (primarily seen through influences such as abortifacents like the birth control pill).  Additionally, the idea of child-sacrifice isn't that alien of a concept when you consider how many Christian families will sacrifice children, or having children, for the sake of careers or material pursuits.  It seems as if the common thinking in the church today is that 1-2 children are the acceptable norm, and I question sometimes if many Christians have just accepted societies standards while ignoring God's original command to Adam, one never revoked, to "go fourth, be fruitful and multiply."

Mammon - A common Aramaic word (mamon) for riches, found in Mt 6:24 and in Lk 16:9,11,13. In these passages, mammon merely means wealth, and is called "unrighteous," because of the abuse of riches.  The love of money and material possessions also has a strong influence in the church today, and for many believers, self included, there needs to be a continual seeking of ways to flee from the entices of this false god.  I struggle with this one the most, personally - not necessarily a love of money, but the sense of seeing a false sense of security offered in money, employment, savings, etc.  As the Word says, we should not store up treasures on earth, but rather treasures in heaven (Matt. 6:19-20).

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Matt. 5: 21-26

Some quick notes on Matthew 5 and the topic of murder. In these verses, Jesus isn't telling the Pharisees that they had the wrong view towards murder, but rather that they were misinterpreting these rules and laws. The law is built upon the word of God and has moral implications. In Hebrew, there are seven words for "kill", and Jesus reminds them here that this applies to all.

The jurisdictional explanation of v. 22 shows Jesus claiming the jurisdiction as the extreme authority. V. 23-26 speaks about how, if you're at the altar and remember a wrongdoing, then leave and go. The expectation is that you will return after reconciling with your brother. Make peace quickly.

Isaiah 57:3-9 and false gods

"But you—come here, you sons of a sorceress, you offspring of adulterers and prostitutes!
Whom are you mocking? At whom do you sneer and stick out your tongue? Are you not a brood of rebels, the offspring of liars? You burn with lust among the oaks and under every spreading tree; you sacrifice your children in the ravines and under the overhanging crags.
The idols among the smooth stones of the ravines are your portion; they, they are your lot.
Yes, to them you have poured out drink offerings and offered grain offerings. In the light of these things, should I relent?
You have made your bed on a high and lofty hill; there you went up to offer your sacrifices.
Behind your doors and your doorposts you have put your pagan symbols. Forsaking me, you uncovered your bed, you climbed into it and opened it wide; you made a pact with those whose beds you love, and you looked on their nakedness.
You went to Molech with olive oil and increased your perfumes. You sent your ambassadors far away; you descended to the grave itself!
(From NIV)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Romans 6:1

Some notes on Romans 6:1, and the concept of continuing to sin for grace.  Not sure where these notes came from (I think it was a message from a Dallas Reformed Seminary mp3.)

Perfectionism is not taught in the Bible, and yet on the flip side is the attitude that sin is not all that serious.  The writer of Hebrews instructed to "pursue holiness".  Its important to understand the idea being that sanctification is just as important as justification.  Hebrews speaks especially about being set apart for God.

Sanctification of God, taken from Ezekiel, speaks about God being set apart from false gods.
Sanctification of man, in the Old Testament, was illustrated in separating from what was unclean.
Sanctification of the redeemer we see in the example of how Jesus sanctified self (John 17).

Sanctification is ultimately about the believer being set apart more and more for God.  This is a continuing process solely through the indwelling and working of the Holy Spirit.

Genesis 22: 1-19

Some older sermon notes from Pastor Paul from last year, from his teaching on Genesis 22, on the sacrifice of Isaac:

The test put before Abraham is to sacrifice his only son, the ultimate test.  God never had a plan to have Isaac sacrificed:  rather, this was a testing of faith.  In this situation there is no mention of Sarah being told - likely she was not.  What happens here is that Abraham sets out resolutely to obey.

In Hebrews, the writer states that Abraham didn't have it all figured out, but he know God could raise Isaac from the dead.  The father is resolute to obey, and the son is submissive to the father.  The sacrifice took place on Mt. Moriah, the same place where David sacrificed for his people.  Moriah is later the site of Israel's temple in Jerusalem.

God's test here is about substitution.  "the angel of the Lord" (v. 15) is considered by some to be the pre-incarnate Christ.  In John 8:56, "Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day", a reference here to Genesis 22.  This chapter paints a picture of the sacrifice that God makes for use.  Christ's death is the pinnacle of our faith.  Trials in life are reminders of what Christ endured.  Abraham understood this, and we all deserve to be Isaacs on the altar because of our sin.

After the sacrifice is stopped, God reaffirms the covenant (v. 17).  The provisions are for blessing, increased descendants, and to possess the land of his enemies.  Abraham was willing to give up family for his walk with God.  Sometimes our relationships are separated by God's will, and obedience to Christ may lead us and our family ultimately to persecution and death.  Abraham knew of this, and his example is one of faithfulness to God in the most extreme situation of testing.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Ruth 2

Some sermon notes from when Justin spoke on the second chapter of Ruth. In Ruth, an amazing tapestry of redemptive history unfolds.

Justin touched on the Hebrew word "Hesed", meaning God's covenant love and complete obligation to provide. And in Ruth, we see how God over-abundantly meets the needs for Ruth and Boaz.

In the Old Testament Jewish cannon, Ruth is located between Proverbs and Psalms, which is significant, as Proverbs ends with chapter 31 (the "Godly woman" chapter) then goes into Ruth, then continues into Psalms, with Psalm 1 speaking about the characteristics of the "Godly man". The book of Ruth also caps off with genealogy of David, and then leads into Psalms, which is basically all about David.

Hesed is seen in Ruth characterized first by Ruth's hope in God. We see her meekness and submissiveness to God's providence. Ruth asks God, "
Why have I found favor?", reflecting an attitude of gratefulness (especially relevant in our age of greed, want and selfishness.) We don't deserve anything good, and any good thing we have is solely as a gift of God.

Hesed is also seen in the life of Boaz, as the life of Boaz is one centered on God (described in Jewish writings as "A mighty man strong in the Torah".) His chief concern for his workers is that they know God and his blessing falls upon them. "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" and Boaz follows this: not just through legalistic faithfulness but through heaping blessings on Ruth and Naomi. A real test of a person is how they reply to the marginalized, the needy and the poor.

We see hesed in Boaz in his respect for Ruth and for a desire to protect her. Boaz had a willingness to provide, and gave without expecting anything in return.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Genesis Chapter Summary

High level summary of every chapter of Genesis, from some recent notes I took. These are all in my own words, and not just lifted from the chapter titles in the Bible (although some are likely very similar)

Ch. 1 - Song of Creation
Ch. 2 - Adam and Eve and Marriage
Ch. 3 - The Fall and the Promise of Redemption
Ch. 4 - Cain kills Abel
Ch. 5 - Geneology of Adam to Noah
Ch. 6 - The Baptism of the earth
Ch. 7 - Flood
Ch. 8 - God's Covenant
Ch. 9 - God blessed Noah and his sons. Ham's sin
Ch.10 - Nations Descendant from Noah
Ch. 11 - Tower of Babel
Ch. 12 - Callof Abram. Abrahamic covenant (land, seed, blessing)
Ch. 13 - Abraham leaves Egypt with wealth and riches. Abram and Lot separate.
Ch. 14 - Abram rescues Lot. Melkizedek blessed Abram.
Ch. 15 - Covenant Restated. God passes between pieces of animals.
Ch. 16 - Sarah and Hagar. Hagar flees with Ishmael and encounters angel of the Lord
Ch. 17 - Covenant renewed. Isaac birth promised.
Ch. 18 - Three visitors. Abraham pleads for Sodom.
Ch. 19 - Destruction of Sodom. Lot's wife dies. Lots daughters beget Moabites and Ammonites.
Ch. 20 - Abimelech. Abraham lies about Sarah.
Ch. 21 - Birth of Isaac
Ch. 22 - Abraham tested
Ch. 23 - Sarah dies
Ch. 24 - Isaac and Rebecca.
Ch. 25 - Birth of Esau and Jacob.
Ch. 26 - Isaac and Abimilech
Ch. 27 - Jacob is blessed
Ch. 28 - Jacob works for Laban
Ch. 29 - Jacob marries Leah and Rachael
Ch. 30 - Jacob has children
Ch. 31 - Jacob flees Laban
Ch. 32 - Jacob's repentance
Ch. 33 - Jacob meets Esau again
Ch. 34 - Detour with Dinah and Shechemites
Ch. 35 - Jacob renamed
Ch. 36 - Esau's descendants
Ch. 37 - Joseph's dreams
Ch. 38 - Strange Judah/Tamar/Onan detour
Ch. 39 - Potiphar's wife causes problems for Joseph
Ch. 40 - Joseph interprets dreams of prisoners
Ch. 41 - Joseph interprets the Pharaoh's dream
Ch. 42 - Joseph's brothers head to Egypt
Ch. 43 - Joseph's brothers return home
Ch. 44 - Joseph tests his brothers
Ch. 45 - Joseph reveals his identity
Ch. 46 - Joseph's family goes to Egypt/Jacob and Joseph reunited
Ch. 47 - Jacob and family move to Egypt/famine
Ch. 48 - Jacob blesses Joseph's sons Ephriam and Manasseh
Ch. 49 - Jacob blesses his twelve sons/Jacob's death and burial
Ch. 50 - Joseph's death/Embalmed in Egypt/Buried in Shechem

Monday, October 4, 2010

Joshua 7

The sin of Achan from Joshua 7 shows all of Israel punished as the result of one man's sins. And while all of Israel was punished because of Achan's crime, it could very well be that many people were aware of the crime and did nothing about it, but simply kept silent. Or its also possible that they saw the plunder that Achan kept and, secretly approving, did nothing about it. The main message here is that there are no private, victimless crimes. All of Israel was held accountable to Achan's sinful act.