Thursday, September 14, 2017

A Biblical Response: Social Justice & the Christian

Yesterday afternoon I read a thought-provoking article entitled, “Is the Gospel No Longer Enough for Black Christians?” by Darrell B. Harrison. I then reposted it with this comment…

“Just finished reading this. Good, biblical thoughts about a very sensitive and explosive topic. We must always remember in our efforts as Christians for justice/change to be had/heard in social areas that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. The aim and means of our efforts must always be guided by this end. On the other hand, when our efforts as Christians are for justice/change in social areas to be had amidst the Church, the end is then that our actions and views are worthy of the gospel that saved us (Eph 4:1-3, Phil 1:27).

“It is that message which, I fear, is being lost as increasing numbers of black Christians become convinced that their primary loyalty is to an ecclesiastical legacy rooted in a socio-ethno missiology that emphasizes societal reformation apart from spiritual transformation.” #greatword”

A fellow brother, whom I once pastored, asked if I could “provide a biblical example(s) where the apostles/disciples stood up and spoke out against social injustices.” Below is my response. I wrote this with, any believer who may also want to know this, in my mind. May we hear God’s heart and all be edified.

A Biblical Response
When we hear/read “social justice” don’t always equate it to politics or social movements. It is always wise to first ask (or investigate) what context is this “social justice” referring to before assuming what you think the person meant. In my post I explained what I meant without ever using the term “social justice”. I said “justice/change to be had/heard in social areas” and “justice/change in social areas to be had amidst the Church”.

Social means “relating to human society, or the interaction of the individual and the group, or the welfare of human beings as members of society” (Merriam-Webster online).

So my use of “social areas” would be “areas relating to the welfare of human beings as members of society”.

Justice means “the maintenance or administration of what is ‘just’ especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments”; “the principle or ideal of just dealing or right action” (Merriam-Webster online).

So my use of “justice” would be “the principle or ideal of just dealing or right action”.

Thus, my use of “justice/change in social areas” would then mean “the principle or ideal of just dealing or right action in areas relating to the welfare of human beings as members of society and/or the Church”. This is what I mean whenever I communicate something regarding “social justice”. (I also believe this is what it should mean for every Christian).

Here are several biblical imperatives that would be in agreement with my use of social justice:
Rom. 12:17 (ESV)—“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.”

1Thess. 5:15 (NASB)—“See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.”

Heb. 13:16 (NLT)—“And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.”

Tit. 3:14 (NASB)—“Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful.”

Jam. 1:27 (NIV/NLT)—“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”

In addition, James the elder in 2:1-17 of his epistle checks the Church about favoritism toward those of an upper socio-economic status and the prejudices toward those of a lower socio-economic status. He’s calling for “justice/change in social areas to be had amidst the Church”. It’s in this context that he declares this truth, “Mercy triumphs over judgment”.

Furthermore, we see a call for social justice in Acts 16:16-40. Apostle Paul delivers a girl from an evil spirit. Her owners get mad and go after Paul. Paul and his companions were unjustly beaten and imprisoned by the local authorities. Miraculously set free by God, Paul saves the jailer from suicide and he and his family end up getting saved. The authorities who unjustly imprisoned Paul and his companions decide to let them go. Paul refuses to leave and calls out the injustice and calls for justice.
Acts 16:37-40 (NIV), “But Paul said to the officers: “They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.” When the police reported this, the city officials were alarmed to learn that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens. So they came to the jail and apologized to them. Then they brought them out and begged them to leave the city.”

How these biblical imperatives are carried out will look different from believer to believer and context to context, yet they are to always be in accordance with Scripture and never distracting from the gospel. This simple handful of verses is a crystal clear example as to “the principle or ideal of just dealing or right action in areas relating to the welfare of human beings as members of society and/or the Church”. Therefore, so long as these biblical imperatives are being obeyed in a manner in accordance with Scripture and not distracting from the gospel, we should not be criticizing or dismissing fellow believers standing up for justice in social areas or speaking out against social injustices. If anything we should be supporting them because it is biblical to do so, even if it may look different than how they may do so.

Too make sure it’s obvious as to what I’m not saying, I’m not arguing for political agendas or social movements. I am exhorting the Church that being gospel-centric is not contrary to standing/speaking for or reasonably pursuing justice/change to be had/heard in social areas, and even more so to be had within the Church. True biblical social justice is nothing more than the demonstration of the gospel in social areas.

Apostle Peter sums it up well, “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king” (1Pet. 2:17, NKJV). Peter hits social justice in every area: in general relations, in Christian relations, and in civil relations. Christ exemplified all of these. As did the first century Church. And so we are too.


Friday, May 26, 2017

What’s the Big Deal Between Men & Women?

This past Sunday (5/21/17), I taught part 5 of my church's relationship series. My topic was, what is now, the title of this blog. I'm not a fan of topicy-topics, and this topic is so broad and so polarizing that up until after both services I was not sure how it was going to be received. Surprisingly, it was received far better than I could've imagined. Awesome how the Holy Spirit works, right! Based on the feedback I received, and since I had manuscripted the whole message (minus the parts where I expounded on the Bible references, and so on), I decided to post it along with the link to the audio sermon. May this not only bless you but challenge you to better understand and obey God accordingly.

I. Introduction
As a student of Scripture and a student of history, I have observed, relating to the topic I’m teaching on today, that a noticeable and touchy complication in relationships is in how men and women regard and treat one another’s similarities and differences. And that is pretty much my objective this morning, to biblically address how men and women are to regard and treat one another’s similarities and differences. In order to do so, I’ll be tackling 4 things: (i)how men and women are similar, (ii)how men and women are different, (iii)how things get complicated, and (iv)how we are to be in regarding and treating one another’s similarities and differences.

Some things to NOTE:
  • Topicy-topics are so broad they can pose the problem of the preaching coming across as too narrow. So if by the end, some of you think that I didn’t touch enough or address other specifics, forgive me in advance.
  • Most of this won’t be surprising. But it will challenge what we say we believe to be true with how we actually live out what we say we believe to be true.
  • A lot of what I’ll be touching on today is applicable for all relationships and interactions with others, not just between men and women. But my context for this message is between men and women. So keep that in mind.
II. How are men and women similar?
-According to Scripture, we are similar universally in...
  1. being image-bearers of God (Gen. 1:26-27)
    Because God decided in His love, goodness, and grace to create us in His image and according to His likeness, He has placed a divine imprint of value on humankind (both man and woman). And by doing so, God has dignified man and woman above every other aspect of His Creation, including heavenly hosts. So, whether a person believes in Jesus or not, every human (man and woman) is worthy of dignity because their mere existence is God’s testimony of His divine imprint of value upon them. Yet, because of sin, there is a constant depreciation of viewing and treating each other with this value and dignity.
  2. our humanness (Gen. 1:27)
    You know what this mean? This means whatever trait we can think of for a human, we, both man and woman, share it (minus some biological traits, clearly). And to be sure this is being truly understood, I’ll push in a little further.
    The traits that we normally attribute to men or women (e.g. men are physical, sexual, logical, etc; and women are nurturing, sensitive, emotional, etc), the Bible does not declare those things as reserved distinctly for one or the other only. Those differing traits may be true of many men and women, but not all, and they certainly don’t define a man as a “man” or a woman as a “woman”. But that’s exactly what we (society, culture, & the Church) do. For example, there are many women who possess traits normally attributed to men (e.g. toughness, works with their hands, analytical, driven, etc) in which we (society, culture, & the Church) chauvinistically call them “tomboy” or “boyish” or say things like “they wear the pants”, etc); and, there are many men who possess characteristics normally attributed to women (e.g. sentimental, affectionate, docile, etc) in which we (society, culture, & the Church) chauvinistically call them “effeminate” or “soft”, or say things like “he’s not a man’s-man”, etc. If God does not define a man as a “man” or a woman as a “woman” by the traits mankind normally attributes to men and women, then neither should we define each other as such. Because when we do so, we are compartmentalizing our humanness to suit and justify our control or minimization of the other sex (or the same gender).
    We, as the Church, through the Holy Spirit, must follow the wisdom of God in Scripture and describe individuals (each man and woman) by how God has uniquely, fearfully, and wonderfully created that man or woman in His image. We have to stop defining men and women by the customary, societal, and cultural qualifiers that overtly and subliminally emphasize the superiority or inferiority of one sex over the other, or by swinging the pendulum to the other extreme and attempt to terminate the distinction between male and female altogether. None of these are right or pleasing to God.

  3. We are co-equal as image-bearers of God and co-equal in our humanness. Until we trust God enough to see this and accept this and stop defining one another by mankind’s flawed opinion and not God’s Word, we will not be able to treat and value each man and woman with dignity and equality.

    -According to Scripture, we are similar, exclusively for those who are born-again, in that...
  4. we are equal in Christ (Gal. 3:25-29)
    What does this mean? This means God makes no distinction between man and woman in our spiritual status in Christ Jesus. We are equal brothers and sisters because we are both equally unconditionally loved by God as daughters and sons. We are both equally seated with Christ in the heavenlies. We are both equally citizens and ambassadors of the Kingdom. We are both equally ministers of the Gospel. We are both equally disciples of Jesus. Neither man nor woman is superior or inferior to the other in Christ. And we should never make the other feel as such.
These 3 are how men and women are similar: (i)in our value in God’s eyes as image-bearers, (ii)in our humanness, and specifically for Christians, (iii)in our spiritual status in Christ. We need to value and treat each other appropriately in these ways, and yes it will be tough, but we can do so through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

III. How are men and women different?
-According to Scripture, we are different universally…
  1. in our individuality (Ps. 139:13-16)
    While your biology defines you as a man or woman (i.e. male = man; female = woman, cf. Gen. 1:27), it is your character (i.e. the sum of your traits, disposition, and convictions) as an individual man or woman that defines what kind of a man or woman you are. When you add how God fearfully and uniquely created you in His image + your sinful nature (which has distorted some of God’s image in you) + how you’ve been nurtured and influenced throughout your life (i.e. “the days that were formed for [you]”) = your individuality that defines what kind of a man or woman you are.
    And therein lies another reason why men and women are different, because this equation is filled in differently for each person. Hence, you will never find two of the same individuals. So, men and women, embrace and appreciate your God-shaped individualities without equating superiority or inferiority to the other, because your individuality is what makes you “you” and others “them”.
    Now, I’m not saying we have to like everybody. I’m also not saying we have to like everything about everybody. I’m saying because we’re co-equal in value to God, co-equal in our humanness, and (for believers) co-equal in our status in Christ, we have to value and respect the different individualities of other men and women.

  2. -According to Scripture, we are different, exclusively for those who are born-again...
  3. in our roles in marriage
    Scripture is clear from OT to NT, man has his particular instructions for his role/responsibility as “husband” and woman has her particular instructions for her role/responsibility as “wife”. The most emphatic and defining example of the difference in the roles in marriage is Jesus and the Church (Eph. 5:22-33). Jesus’ marriage with the Church is a model of how the roles in a marriage relationship are to be:
    –Jesus = groom/husband | Christian husband’s role = sacrificial love, servant leadership, and to exhaustively care for, protect, pursue, and value his wife like Jesus does so for His Bride/the Church
    –Church = bride/wife | Christian wife’s role = loving, respecting, pursuing, and following her husband’s lead like the Church does so unto Jesus
    Notice something, Jesus never steps into the Church’s role and the Church cannot step into Jesus’ role. There is a clear and necessary distinction in these roles. To change or ignore this undermines and rejects the nature of the relationship with Christ and His Church as well as the clear instructions to each spouse in Scripture. The consequences of changing or ignoring or disobeying these distinct roles in marriage leads to the same kind of fallout as Adam and Eve—Adam dropped the ball in his role and left his wife vulnerable and that led to sin, death, and destruction entering; Eve dropped the ball in her role and that too led to sin, death, and destruction entering; neither of them were innocent because both stepped outside of their roles.
    God gave us these different roles in marriage for two reasons, (i)for our complementary benefit and (ii)when carried out rightly (which we can do because of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit) these roles, even through our imperfect marriage, still portrays the hidden beauty of Christ and the Church....and also of the Holy Trinity.
    –The two, husband and wife, become one flesh = plurality in oneness \ There is plurality in the oneness of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
    –Husband and wife are equal as image-bearers, equal in their humanness, and equal in Christ, but are also distinct in their individuality and roles \ The Trinity is co-equal as God and distinct in personhood as God.
    –Thus, marriage as also a portrait of the hidden beauty of the Holy Trinity.
    All of this reinforces the severity of marriage, because marriage portrays to a watching world the hidden beauty of Christ’s relationship with His Church and the Holy Trinity. Christian singles should not rush into marriage and Christian spouses cannot afford to be lazy in marriage.
IV. How things get complicated...
For Christians, our normal response to how things get complicated between men and women is what...? Sin. And maybe some of us will include and say “our differences/incompatibilities”, right? Yet as men and women, we complicate relationships not solely because of the generality of sin or because we’re different, but also because sin, selfishness, and fear specifically corrupts how we view our similarities and the good from our differences. And that corruption turns us either chauvinistic toward the other or preferential towards what’s familiar.
So you know what happens then? You get us men who, in our thinking, attitudes, and behaviors, whether knowingly or unknowingly, undervalue or devalue women. So much so, that by the 1800s women began contending for liberation from the discrimination of male domination; and the Bible was the basis for this movement in the US. And from the broader positive perspective of that movement, they were right to use the Bible as we’ve already seen today from our shared similarities. Feminism exists because of the sin of men having consciously and persistently failed at treating women and loving our wives like Scripture commands.
  • Men, women are not to be objectified sexually or by their appearance (this includes our wives too). They are image-bearers of God who are to be treated, valued, and loved as such. Be intentional about guarding against your lust and checking your desires for sex because of lust.
  • Christian men, as husbands, marriage is not your totalitarian domain. You are to be servant-leaders who follow Jesus’ example in how He leads His Bride/the Church. How you lead your wife affects how she loves you, and that ripples down to how your kids will lead and love their future spouses.
  • Men, don’t presume a woman’s role is to motherhood only or to be a stay-at-home wife/mom only. That can (not will, but can) limit the beauty and potential of their God-designed individuality.
  • Men, no woman owes you a single thing. You, like they, are indebted to God alone and none other.
You know what else happens because of sin, selfishness, and fear specifically corrupting how we view our similarities and the good from our differences? You get women, yes, you ladies, who, in your thinking, attitudes, and behaviors, whether knowingly or unknowingly, either overvalue men or become manipulative or biased toward men.
  • Christian wives, your husband is not an emperor or a savior, you are not a subservient subject or a co-dependent doormat. You are to be lovers of Jesus your Savior and seek to ultimately please Him in your marriage as He has instructed you.
  • Christian wives, on the other hand, don’t misapply God’s design for marriage by removing or reinterpreting or reversing the distinct roles He’s clearly and repeatedly laid out in Scripture for both you and your husband—even if your husband isn’t living up to it (cf. 1Pet. 3). Be on your guard against the curse of Eve (cf. Gen. 3:16), because your fleshly desire will be, in some way, for your husband’s role.
  • Women, you are not to “use what you got to get what you want”, that is sinful and distorts and devalues the beauty of God’s image in you.
  • Women, men are not sugar-daddies or boy-toys or meal-tickets or emotional plug-ins. They too are image-bearers of God who are to be treated, valued, and loved as such.
  • Women, don’t assume the worst of men to the point that you become guilty of the same sin committed against you—discrimination, unfairness, chauvinism.
  • Women, despite the centuries of male chauvinism, no man owes you a single thing. You, like they, are indebted to God alone and none other.
Bottom line, things get complicated (and real messy) between men and women when we don’t view or treat each other as God defines in Scripture. We must recognize our necessity of each other. Man was incomplete without woman (cf. Gen. 2:20). This would then imply woman was incomplete without man (for she came from man). And since the beginning, they now both come from one another (cf. 1Cor. 11:11-12). Which means neither man nor woman is superior or inferior to the other. In actuality this affirms our necessity and complementation of each other. Otherwise, man and woman would still be incomplete.

V. Conclusion: How we are to be regarding and treating one another…
I started this morning by saying, a noticeable and touchy complication in relationships is in how men and women regard and treat one another’s similarities and differences and that we were going to have to address several things to discover how to biblically deal with this. Throughout my sermon, if you’ve noticed, I have pointed out several things we, as believers, “are to be doing” (and can do because of the Holy Spirit) concerning how we regard and treat one another’s similarities and differences.
  1. We are to see and accept our co-equality in value to God, in our humanness, and in our status in Christ, so we can esteem and interact with each other appropriately in these ways.
  2. We have to stop defining one another by mankind’s flawed opinion and not God’s Word, so we can treat and value each man and woman with dignity and equality.
  3. We are to value and respect our God-shaped individualities as men and women without equating superiority or inferiority to the other, because your individuality is what makes you “you” and others “them”.
  4. We are to rightly carry out our distinct roles as husband and wife modeled after Jesus’ marriage to the Church for our complementary benefit and to portray the hidden beauty of Christ and His Church (as well as the Holy Trinity).
  5. We must recognize our necessity of each other because we are incomplete without the other.
My hope is that by now you’ve come to realize that the big deal between men and women is that our similarities and differences are good and necessary. Our similarities are good because there is no superiority or inferiority between men and women in our value and dignity—we are co-equal as image-bearers, co-equal in our humanness, and (for Christians) co-equal in Christ. Our differences as men and women are good because in them we can see how they cause us to complement one another and not dominate the other. And our similarities and differences are both necessary because things get complicated (and real messy) between men and women when we don’t view or treat each other as God has defined in Scripture, and thus sin, selfishness, and fear creep in and corrupt that which is good between us.
We must be anchored in the truth of knowing that our similarities and differences are an extension of God’s love, goodness, and grace. Therefore, when we regard and treat one another appropriately in these ways we then are being an extension of God’s love, goodness, and grace to each other; which also means the opposite is true, we are then withholding God’s love, goodness, and grace when we don’t regard and treat one another appropriately in these ways.

I’ll end with some reflections questions and a time of response.
  • How are you with treating and valuing each other with dignity and equality?
  • How are you with regarding and respecting each other’s individuality?
  • How are you representing Christ in these ways toward each other?
  • How are you at encouraging and urging other believers to represent Christ in these ways toward each other?
Know that however you respond today, and anything you may have been guilty of from this message, it does not diminish the love, forgiveness, or grace of God toward you in Christ Jesus. He allowed you to hear this today because He loves you, because He has forgiven you, and because He is gracious toward you. So respond to Him today confidently knowing these things.
For unbelievers, what you need to know is that the God that you are running from, rejecting, and rebelling against created you in love and has placed His divine imprint of value upon you. You are valuable to God, so much so that He doubled your value by sending His Son to die for you. I implore you to respond to Him in faith today for your salvation.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Is Abuse Biblical Grounds for Divorce?

Three days ago I received an email from a brother in the Lord with a most interesting question. After answering his email, I thought this would be good to post. From the articles I had read on this topic, I hadn't come across one that I thought answered this question credibly. I hope I have done an adequate job biblically addressing a sensitive and serious subject that has grave ramifications.

NOTE: I have removed some of his email for privacy sake.

"Hey it's ________. I met you a couple weeks back.... I had a question for you... _________ mentioned that ___________ believes abuse is biblical grounds for divorce. Can you expound on that and bring clarity? I've only seen two grounds for divorce in the Bible. Adultery and abandonment. I'm curious about abuse as well. Thanks. Hope you're having a great day"

Hi ________,

Thanks for reaching out man! I wanted to respond to let you know I have received your email. And I am glad you asked rather than assumed. As a pastor, I appreciate someone wanting to check for biblical backing of a point made in a sermon. It shows you were listening and it holds us accountable to preaching the Word in proper context and interpretation.

Because I cannot speak for what __________ may have had in mind, I am going to answer your question as a merely stand-alone question proposed to me.

The Bible does not directly speak on abuse as grounds for divorce. And that may be because of 3 reasons:
  1. God hates divorce (Mal. 2:16). Hence, there is not going to be many reasons for it permitted in Scripture.
  2. Because there is no mention of spousal abuse whatsoever in Scripture that must not have been a common thing among the Jewish people during the time span from OT-NT. Thus, we're not going to find a correlating scriptural reference/example.
  3. The Bible was not meant to be an encyclopedia. Therefore, we cannot expect to find a direct answer to everything.
Now, some will use 1Cor. 7:15 and stretch it to fit abuse. But that is an improper use of that text in context. If the abusive husband wants the marriage to end or to separate, then that verse can be enacted. Until then, that verse does not fit abuse. There are OT laws concerning violence against others (Exod. 21:12-27) that could be used for the argument of divorce from abuse. But contextually that was not the original intent of those verses. Furthermore, Jesus supersedes those laws by telling us to not resist an evil person but turn the other cheek (Matt. 5:38-39ff). To be clear, Jesus isn't affirming abuse or passivity. The context of that passage with Jesus has nothing to do with marriage. However, He is addressing how we are to rightly respond to mistreatment from another---(no retaliation, retribution, etc)---which can be applied to marriage.

So does that leave married women prey to abusive husbands? No. God hates sin and wickedness. Thus, He hates abuse of every form. And if God goes so far as to say that His wrath burns toward those who afflict widows and fatherless children (Exod. 22:22-24), then no doubt would this also include married women. So, in this case, it would be clear that God is on the side of the abused wife. But, He also hates divorce, which would appear to put abused wives in a catch-22. I believe the answer to this catch-22 is implied in 2 verses:
"Rescue those who are unjustly sentenced to die; save them as they stagger to their death." (Prov. 24:11, NLT)
"But those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers." (1Tim. 5:8, NLT)

Proverbs 24:11 demonstrates, in this case, that it is clearly acceptable and tactically responsible for an abused wife to rescue herself from her abusive husband (i.e. leave him and/or press charges so she can live). Even more, this is not only an imperative for her but also for anyone else who knows she's being abused (Prov. 24:12). 1Timothy 5:8 demonstrates, in this case because of the nature of abuse, that if there are children or others in an abusive home, it would be uncaring and a denial of faith for an abused wife to remain and allow her kids to remain in that home. And again, this is not only an imperative for her but the verse implies it is also toward any other family member who knows about the abuse.

I believe both of these verses imply that it is permissible and warranted for an abused wife to remove herself (and children) from her abusive husband. Does that removal have to be divorce? Could it be separation? I cannot answer those questions (and neither should anyone else but the wife) because each abuse case is different. What I can say with confidence is that there are biblical grounds for a wife to remove herself (and any kids) from that abusive husband---not out of retaliation or retribution but rather because she's trying to save her life (and care for her kids)---and I believe God is on her side because His wrath burns towards those who afflict others.

I hope that answers your question well enough, brother.


Thursday, April 27, 2017

11 Reasons Why I Value & Love Church History

Many people don't know this about me, but I am a history buff. I find history fascinating! Ancient history, biblical history, history of philosophy, historical theology, western-culture history, Church history, and contemporary history. I love all of these! I have 4 volumes of history books and 2 historical encyclopedias in my personal library. Reading history is like watching a good movie with a riveting story line...but in a book. I'll watch history shows or films and listen to audio lectures too. Books, however, just taste better to my brain and imagination.

In this blog, particularly, I simply want to share my 11 reasons for why I value and love Church history. Since I am a "generational cusper" (born in 1980)—I'm at the tail end of Generation X (I'm their little brother or cousin) and the beginning of the Millennial Generation (I'm their big brother or cousin)—I've observed how many believers around my age and younger tend to pass over the importance of knowing our history. Hopefully this brief blog will spur on another (whether older or younger) to reading, learning, and appreciating our history as Christ-followers.

My 11 Reasons...
  1. Church history reinforces my dependency upon God's sovereignty and comfort in His sovereign plan.

  2. Church history validates my belief and hope in God working through His Church for the holistic redemption of others—even in our failures, dysfunction, and shortcomings—and for His glory.

  3. Church history educates me in my ignorances of how our present Church came to be and how to learn from the mistakes of our past.

  4. Church history grounds my apologetics and polemics in that even though our understanding, application, and explanation of God's truth have evolved throughout the course of history, God's truth in His Word and the essential truths of our Faith have not.

  5. Church history deepens my appreciation of all who came before (known and unknown) that expended and sacrificed greatly for the present advancements of our Faith we now live in/with.

  6. Church history arouses my righteous anger toward the sins and stupidity of the Church, my need to repent of my contributions toward the sins and stupidity of the Church, and my voice to speak against us repeating the same or similar sins and stupidity.

  7. Church history moves me to lament over the Church's divisions and injustices, which keeps me humbled, sensitive, and in intercession.

  8. Church history drives me to forgo the pettiness and over-complications of the present Church in how we "do church" and are to "be the Church".

  9. Church history impassions me to want to do my part in our Church history through my pastoring, discipling, & raising up solid Gospel-centered, biblically-sound believers during my lifetime.

  10. Church history reaffirms that I cannot waste time because soon my present will be the past and I will have either spent it vainly or spent it for the glory and advancement of God's kingdom.

  11. Church history entrenches the indispensable truth that the Gospel must be the only lens through which every born-again Christian views all and does all in this life.

This is what I get from Church history and why I love Church history.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Psalm 23: Declarations & Assurances for Life

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” (Psalm 23, NKJV)

I have been reading through the Psalms for my morning devotion. I absolutely love Psalm 23. It is one of my most favorites passages in Scripture. As I was reflecting upon it, I was invigorated to worship. I unquestionably believe Psalm 23 is a must scripture memory for every Christian. It is jam-packed with declarations and assurances about God as our Shepherd and us as His sheep. You get 8 actions and assurances about God as our Shepherd that benefit us as His sheep, and 5 additional assurances for us as His sheep.

The 8...
  1. “He makes me to lie down in green pastures” (v2a) = He provides us with all we need.

  2. “He leads me beside the still waters” (v2b) = He sustains us by way of peace not turmoil.

  3. “He restores my soul” (v3a) = He wholly replenishes us.

  4. “He leads me in the paths of righteousness” (v3b) = He hand walks us in righteous living for His glory.

  5. “You are with me” (v4c) = He goes with us, everywhere, every season; never leaves nor forsakes us.

  6. “Your rod and staff...comfort me” (v4d) = He protects and disciplines us for our good.

  7. “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” (v5a) = He sets up His blessings for us, even in the midst of our adversities.

  8. “You anoint my head with oil” (v5b) = He overflows us with His blessedness.

The 5...
  1. “The LORD is my shepherd” (v1a) = It is part of God's character to shepherd His children (i.e. those who believe in Jesus Christ). He cannot not shepherd us in these ways.

  2. “I shall not want” (v1b) = We will never experience true lack because God is our Shepherd. He cannot deny Himself, and He is all-satisfying.

  3. “I will fear no evil” (v4b) = We have nothing to ever be afraid of because our Shepherd is always with us. Always!

  4. “goodness and mercy shall follow me...” (v6a) = The goodness and mercy of God is always pursuing us, everyday. Everyday and always!

  5. “I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (v6b) = We will never not be in God's presence because His presence now lives within us through the Holy Spirit.

Is this not thoroughly encouraging? What declarations! What assurances we have! This Psalm, 6 verses long, is loaded with so much truth that we can feast on it for a lifetime. In stormy seasons of life it is a great reminder of our Shepherd and the comfort for us as His sheep. In the sunny seasons of life it is a great encouragement to pursue our Shepherd with all vigor, and also motivation to go find His lost sheep and bring them back into this fold.

Be grateful! Be encouraged! Be empowered! Be exuberant! Be worshipful! The LORD is your Shepherd!

*Philip Keller wrote a fantastic little book on Psalm 23 entitled, “A Shepherds Look at Psalm 23”. A must for every Christian's library.