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.


Monday, April 3, 2017

Our Incredible God Deserves Incredible Worship

Since God can be nothing less than incredible, the worship He deserves and requires can be nothing less than incredible. We are going to skim through the story of Nehemiah, park at chapter 9, and see how our incredible God showed up during then, the incredible worship the Israelites responded with, and how all this relates to us now.

Background of Nehemiah chs. 1-8
  • The Israelites are in captivity to the Persians during this time in history (around 445BC).
  • Nehemiah was the king’s cupbearer, but he wanted to see God’s remaining people go back to their homeland because he was burdened about the walls being rebuilt.
  • Nehemiah’s plan to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem was met with opposition from some of his own people, but he and those with him pressed on.
  • Nehemiah was later appointed governor of Judah and the walls were rebuilt while still facing opposition from some of their own people.
  • In addition, it is said that rebuilding walls of a conquered city was seen as a flagrant threat to Persian rule. And yet, Nehemiah put his faith, his desire, his effort, and his voice in the hands of his great God and God did something exceptional with it. Jerusalem went from a forsaken land, in shambles, with no walls or gates, and the people of Israel scattered and in shame, to a city rebuilt, it’s people returned, shame removed, order established, a hometown governor appointed (who was just months earlier a cup-bearer for the king), and the law of God reinstituted, proclaimed, and understood again. Is this not incredible? And that’s just chapters 1-8!
Nehemiah 9
So, after all this in chapters 1-8, worship begin breaking out. Chapter 9 is all worship. It’s a declaration, from their past to their present, of the greatness of the most incredible God. Notice also how their declaration of God’s incredible greatness is true in our past to present.

“You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you.” (v6)
The Lord (YWHW) alone is God, the Creator of all things, and He preserves all His Creation (lit. He keeps all His Creation in existence). Our incredible God deserves nothing less than incredible worship.

“You are the Lord, the God who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and gave him the name Abraham. You found his heart faithful before you, and made with him the covenant to give to his offspring the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Jebusite, and the Girgashite. And you have kept your promise, for you are righteous.” (vv7-8)
As God did to Abraham, He has done so to you! God chose you. He changed your name from ‘Child of Wrath’ and from ‘Wicked One’, to ‘Child of God’ and ‘Beloved’. He made a covenant with you through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Our incredible God deserves nothing less than incredible worship.

“And you saw the affliction of our fathers in Egypt and heard their cry at the Red Sea, and performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants and all the people of his land, for you knew that they acted arrogantly against our fathers. And you made a name for yourself, as it is to this day. And you divided the sea before them, so that they went through the midst of the sea on dry land, and you cast their pursuers into the depths, as a stone into mighty waters. By a pillar of cloud you led them in the day, and by a pillar of fire in the night to light for them the way in which they should go.” (vv9-12)
God has seen your afflictions and has heard your cries and He has and will continue to deliver you from them. He wants to declare the fame of His name through your life. What a privilege! What greater sign and wonder is there other than your transformation? Our incredible God deserves nothing less than incredible worship.

“You came down on Mount Sinai and spoke with them from heaven and gave them right rules and true laws, good statutes and commandments, and you made known to them your holy Sabbath and commanded them commandments and statutes and a law by Moses your servant. You gave them bread from heaven for their hunger and brought water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and you told them to go in to possess the land that you had sworn to give them.” (vv13-15)
In the same way God has provided you with food and water to eat and drink, He has given you His perfect, His true, and His holy Word, which is your heavenly food, to feast on and obey (cf. Deut. 8:3). Our incredible God deserves nothing less than incredible worship.

“But they and our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey your commandments. They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them. Even when they had made for themselves a golden calf and said, ‘This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt,’ and had committed great blasphemies, you in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud to lead them in the way did not depart from them by day, nor the pillar of fire by night to light for them the way by which they should go. You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst.” (vv16-20)
Guess what? Even when you disobey, or your wonderment/awe of God becomes dull, or you return to a former bondage He delivered you from, there is always a “but God” in the life of a believer. God is ready to forgive, He is gracious, and merciful, slow to anger, overflowing with kindness, does not forsake those He has redeemed and continues to sustain them. Our incredible God deserves nothing less than incredible worship.

“Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.” (v21)
God has sustained you in all of your wildernesses. You have remained and still remain because of God. Our incredible God deserves nothing less than incredible worship.

“And you gave them kingdoms and peoples and allotted to them every corner. So they took possession of the land of Sihon king of Heshbon and the land of Og king of Bashan. You multiplied their children as the stars of heaven, and you brought them into the land that you had told their fathers to enter and possess. So the descendants went in and possessed the land, and you subdued before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, and gave them into their hand, with their kings and the peoples of the land, that they might do with them as they would. And they captured fortified cities and a rich land, and took possession of houses full of all good things, cisterns already hewn, vineyards, olive orchards and fruit trees in abundance. So they ate and were filled and became fat and delighted themselves in your great goodness.” (vv22-25)
God goes before His people and prepares their days to delight (take pleasure) in His great goodness. What an incredible expectation we have as born-again believers! Our incredible God deserves nothing less than incredible worship.

“Nevertheless, they were disobedient and rebelled against you and cast your law behind their back and killed your prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to you, and they committed great blasphemies. Therefore you gave them into the hand of their enemies, who made them suffer. And in the time of their suffering they cried out to you and you heard them from heaven, and according to your great mercies you gave them saviors who saved them from the hand of their enemies. But after they had rest they did evil again before you, and you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies, so that they had dominion over them. Yet when they turned and cried to you, you heard from heaven, and many times you delivered them according to your mercies. And you warned them in order to turn them back to your law. Yet they acted presumptuously and did not obey your commandments, but sinned against your rules, which if a person does them, he shall live by them, and they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck and would not obey. Many years you bore with them and warned them by your Spirit through your prophets. Yet they would not give ear. Therefore you gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands. Nevertheless, in your great mercies you did not make an end of them or forsake them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.” (vv26-31)
God loves us enough to give us chance after chance, warning after warning, and correction after correction (Heb. 12:5-6). God does not give up on us even when time after time we may give up on Him. Our incredible God deserves nothing less than incredible worship.

“Now, therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love, let not all the hardship seem little to you that has come upon us, upon our kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers, and all your people, since the time of the kings of Assyria until this day. Yet you have been righteous in all that has come upon us, for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly. Our kings, our princes, our priests, and our fathers have not kept your law or paid attention to your commandments and your warnings that you gave them. Even in their own kingdom, and amid your great goodness that you gave them, and in the large and rich land that you set before them, they did not serve you or turn from their wicked works. Behold, we are slaves this day; in the land that you gave to our fathers to enjoy its fruit and its good gifts, behold, we are slaves. And its rich yield goes to the kings whom you have set over us because of our sins. They rule over our bodies and over our livestock as they please, and we are in great distress. Because of all this we make a firm covenant in writing; on the sealed document are the names of our princes, our Levites, and our priests.” (vv32-38)
God is just/righteous in what He allows to happen in our life and He only deals with us according to His faithfulness (2Tim. 2:13). Our incredible God deserves nothing less than incredible worship.

You'll notice, I did not start chapter 9 at verse 1. I started at verse 6. I saved the first 5 verses until now. I want to conclude with highlighting how the people of God during that time chose to demonstrate some incredible worship unto their incredible God.
  • In verse 1, (i)they fasted in humility. They knew what they were deserving of (which was judgment) and they fasted in humility recognizing they were unworthy of any of the favor they received from God.
  • In verses 2-3, (ii)they separated themselves from whatever would corrupt their relationship with God (i.e. lineage). (iii)They confessed their own sins and the generational baggage passed down from their family. (iv)They made reading the Word, confession, and reverencing God the top priority of their life.
  • In verse 4, (v)they prayed to God with no restrictions.
  • In verse 5, (vi)they proudly praised God.
This incredible kind of worship was their response to the incredibleness of God in their lives. Our worship unto our incredible God should be no less than theirs. He has rescued us like He did them. He has showered His favor in our life like He did theirs. He has delivered us like He did them. He has protected us like He did them. He has sustained us like He did them. He has helped us overcome our opposition like He did them. He has given us His Word like He gave them.
And He has gone further for us under the new covenant. For He has given us the Holy Spirit as a seal, never to leave us, and He has secured our eternity. Our God is truly incredible and has done many incredible things in our lives! Is He not worthy and deserving of the sacrifice necessary to give Him incredible worship in response to all He is and has done for us?
Some of you need to repent today because you’ve been giving God leftover and moldy worship, not incredible worship. Some of you need to tighten up, there are some things you need to separate from, some sins you need to confess. Don’t read this today without responding to God about how He has convicted or challenged you through this writing. God gave us the most incredible salvation! How dare we give Him anything less than incredible worship as our response? We have the Holy Spirit within us to help us do so. We are truly without excuse.