Re-Posting the Reading Plan for 2011

I have had a few people ask me about the scripture reading plan I put together for 2011.   I have added “finish by” dates so it is easier to keep track of.

I am also following this plan so if you have any questions about what you are reading leave me a comment and I will try to answer your questions.

Marketing Hell

Many of you are aware that there is a lot of discussion/reaction flying around the Internet about the doctrine of Hell.  Most of this is being driven by a marketing scheme designed to sell Rob Bell’s latest book.  The way the scheme works is to suggest that a book’s position will prove heretical and then to reinforce this by releasing a few provocative sections from the book designed to give it that impression.  This then creates a heated reaction against the book by more conservative theologians that generates a lot of publicity and interest in the book.  Readers then pre-order the book to see what all the fuss is about and lots of money is made before people realize that the content isn’t really all that important.

If this book is like Rob’s past offerings it will contain no actual heresy. (Why would someone cut themselves off from their market by actually stating anything heretical when vagueness is so easy and it sells so well?)  I suspect that the book will do the usual questioning and implying without ever stating much of anything.  Our culture is fond of having our vagueness about truth justified by those we see a spiritual leaders.  There will also be the usual, “See he really isn’t a heretic, you shouldn’t have judged him!” comments made with smugness and maybe there will even be another tour.

I would worry about sounding cynical if I hadn’t seen this so many times before.

If you are interested in learning more about the doctrine of hell I have posted a few links below.

http://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1002&context=cgm_theo

http://www.redeemer.com/news_and_events/articles/the_importance_of_hell.html

http://theresurgence.com/2011/03/14/to-hell-with-hell

If you are interested in reading a review of Rob Bell’s Book: “Love Wins” I recommend the one linked to here:

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2011/03/14/rob-bell-love-wins-review

Forgiveness

Forgiveness flounders because I exclude the enemy from the community of humans even as I exclude myself from the community of sinners. But no one can be in the presence of the God of the crucified Messiah for long without overcoming this double exclusion – without transposing the enemy from the sphere of monstrous inhumanity into the sphere of shared humanity and herself from the sphere of proud innocence into the sphere of common sinfulness. When one knows that the torturer will not eternally triumph over the victim, one is free to rediscover that person’s humanity and imitate God’s love for him. And when one knows that God’s love is greater than all sin, one is free to see oneself in the light of God’s justice and so rediscover one’s own sinfulness.

Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace

Thy love let it my heart over power

Give me a faith which can remove
And sink the mountain to a plain;
Give me the childlike praying love
Which longs to build thy house again;
Thy love, let it my heart o’erpower,
Let it my ransomed soul devour.
I would the precious time redeem
And longer live for this alone—
To spend and to be spent for them
Who have not yet my Savior known;
Fully on these my mission prove,
And only breath, to breath thy love.
My talents, gifts and graces, Lord,
Into Thy blessed hands receive;
And let me live to preach thy word,
And let me to thy glory live;
My every sacred moment spend
In publishing the sinner’s Friend.’
Enlarge, inflame and fill my heart
With boundless charity divine;
So shall I all my strength exert,
And love them with a zeal like Thine;
And lead them to Thine open side,
The sheep for whom their shepherd died.
Charles Wesley

God Sightings

Several years ago, God began to stir the hearts of the people at Hill Country Bible Church Southwest to join Jesus in the ministry He was doing in the lives of the people of our community.  The Holy Spirit worked in our church to strengthen our desire bless our city with the grace, truth, and love of Jesus.  This work of God in our Church became especially evident when, with our lease coming to an end in November 2010, the Elders and Staff began praying that God would move our church to the place where we could be the most effective in joining Him in His mission to bless our city.

As we prayed for God’s guidance for our future church home, a team of people was formed to explore possible locations ranging from office space to local schools.  As we prayed our way through this process, God grew in us the desire to meet in a school because of the way that neighborhood schools are places that reflect and shape the heart of the community they serve.  As we pursued different school options, both private and public, one school, Boone Elementary stood out surprisingly as a unique opportunity that God had put before us.

As we sought to discern God’s direction as to the best way to join Him in serving Boone the Elders committed to a time of prayer and fasting as they sought God’s will and direction.  The Staff, Elders, and their wives met together to discuss and pray about the possibilities for future church home and timing God had for us. Some concerns were raised, and yet everyone was unanimous in belief that moving our Sunday worship services to Boone Elementary would be the best way for us to join God in blessing our city with the grace, truth, and love of Jesus.

Almost immediately after that decision was made, God began to raise up people to serve in the new opportunities that He had made available to us.  People came forward with a desire to serve our church; with transition planning, with liaison work, with logistics, with set-up and tear down, with financial gifts for the school, and many more.  God also began to show us very practical and tangible ways that we could bless the faculty, teachers, and students in ways that ranged from helping with landscaping and mowing to paying PTA dues.

Through this entire process God had made his direction and His presence evident and I want to record as much as we can of what we have seen God do.  I wnat all of us to be able to be encouraged by what Od has been doing in our midst. What I would like you to do is to add comments to this post recording any of the ways you have see God at work in and through His leading us to Boone so we can rejoice together in God’s goodness to us.

So What’s the Deal with the our Sin Nature vs. our New Nature?

Over the past few weeks in our study of the book of Ephesians several people have asked me questions about whether or not our old sin nature is fully eradicated when we become Christians, or if we still have part of it with us until we go to heaven?  This is a good question because the answer  sets our expectations regarding our struggle with sin.  Our doctrinal statement about sin states: “The sin nature, we believe, is never eradicated, even for those who are born into the family of God, but it remains until the end of life.”

So the short answer to this question is, that while our salvation and the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives brakes our bondage to sin and empowers us to obey God rather than to sin,  we will always wrestle with the part of our sin nature that remains in our flesh until we go to heaven. This is why it is so important for us to pursue God passionately, because it is our pursuit of God that leads us away from sin. If we allow ourselves to drift, the sin nature that remains in our flesh is ever ready to pull us into sin. Some of the passages that show us this are Galatians 5:16-26; 1 John 1:8-10 and Romans 7:14-23. Below are some comments from theologians about these passages that I think are helpful.

Comments on Galatians 5:16-25 by John Stott in, “The Cross of Christ”, p. 348-349

It is essential to see this text (as indeed every text) in its context. Paul in Galatians 5 is concerned with the meaning of moral freedom. He declares that it is not self-indulgence but self-control, not serving ourselves but serving each other in love (v.13). Behind this alternative is the inner conflict of which all Christian people are conscious. The apostle calls the protagonists “the flesh” (our fallen nature with which we are born) and “the Spirit” (the Holy Spirit himself who indwells us when we are born again). In verses 16-18 he describes the contest between the two, because the desires of the flesh and of the Spirit are contrary to each other. …

How then can we ensure that the desires of the Spirit predominate over the desires of the flesh? Paul replies that it depends on the attitude which we adopt to each. According to verse 24 we are to “crucify” the flesh, with its evil passions and desires. According to verse 25 we are to “live by” and “keep in step with” the Spirit.

My concern in this chapter is with verse 24, because of its assertion that those who belong to Christ have “crucified” their flesh or sinful nature. It is an astonishing metaphor. For crucifixion was a horrible, brutal form of execution. Yet it illustrates graphically what our attitude to our fallen nature is to be. We are not to coddle or cuddle it, not to pamper or spoil it, not to give it any encouragement or even toleration. Instead, we are to be ruthlessly fierce in rejecting it, together with its desires. Paul is elaborating the teaching of Jesus about “taking up the cross” and following him. He is telling us what happens when we reach the place of execution: the actual crucifixion takes place. Luther writes that Christ’s people nail their flesh to the cross, “so that although the flesh be yet alive, yet can it not perform that which it would do, forasmuch as it is bound both hand and foot, and fast nailed to the cross.”[Martin Luther, Epistle to the Galatians, p.527] And if we are not ready to crucify ourselves in this decisive manner, we shall soon find that instead we are “crucifying the Son of God all over again.” The essence of apostasy is “changing sides from that of the Crucified to that of the crucifiers.”

The crucifixions of Galatians 2:20 and 5:24 refer to two quite different things, as mentioned in an earlier chapter. The first says that we have been crucified with Christ (it has happened to us as a result of our union with Christ), and the second that the people of Christ have themselves taken action to crucify their old nature. The first speaks of our freedom from the condemnation of the law by sharing in Christ’s crucifixion, the second of our freedom from the power of the flesh by ensuring its crucifixion. These two, namely to have been crucified with Christ (passive) and to have crucified the flesh (active), must not be confused.

Comments on Galatians 5:16-25 by R.C.H. Lenski in, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Galatians, Ephesians, and Philippians, p. 282-283.

“The old nature in us wants things that are contrary to the new, and vice versa. The two natures in us thus lie in constant conflict with each other. They are not opposites that as such live far apart, each following what it craves; they lie face to face, in constant clashing. … In the believer the spirit does indeed, dominate; he has crucified the flesh. … Regeneration renews, liberates, frees the will. The spirit = the liberated will. This liberated will is still hampered by the flesh which ever seeks to obtain control again in order to usurp the throne.”

Comments on Galatians 5:16-25 by Charles Hodge in, Systematic Theology p. 472

“Galatians 5:16-26 recognizes the fact that Christians are imperfectly sanctified and that in them the renewing principle, the Spirit as the source of spiritual life, is in conflict with the flesh, the remains of their corrupt nature.”

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Comments on 1 John 1:8-10 from Lewis Sperry Chafer in, He That Is Spiritual, Chapter 6, “Walk in the Spirit”, pp.96-133

There is abundant Biblical testimony to the fact that the “flesh”, the “old man”, or “sin” are the sources of evil, and are the possession of the child of God so long as he remains in this earthly body. He has a blessed “treasure” in the possession of the “new man” indwelling him; but he has this treasure “in an earthen vessel.” The earthen vessel is the “body of our humiliation” (2 Cor. 4:7; Philippians 3:21) . . . Though born of God and possessing a new divine nature, the weakness of the flesh and the dispositions of the sin-nature abide until the final change from earth to heaven.

In 1 John 1:8,10 we have clear warning against any presumption concerning sin. First, Christians are warned against saying that they have no sin nature: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” This is distinctly concerning the sin nature of the Christian and has no application whatever to the unsaved. It is addressed to believers, and to all believers. It will not do to suppose that reference is made in the passage to some unfortunate, unenlightened, or unsanctified class of Christians. There is no class distinction here. It is the testimony of the Spirit of God with reference to every born-again person. For any such to say that he has no sin nature means that the person is self-deceived and the truth is not in him. This passage is evidently intended for “correction” to those Christians who are claiming to be free from the sin nature and who may have made themselves believe that they are free. … The source of sin is, then, the sin nature rather than the new divine nature.

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Comments on Romans 7:14-23 by Stuart Briscoe in his commentary on Romans, p. 149

The believer who holds the law of God in high regard will, like Paul, find himself in something of a battle. One part of him will give assent to the goodness of the law, but another part of him will rebel against it. In response to the principles of God outlined in the law, one part of the believer will aspire to great deeds, but another part will pull him back from achieving them. Challenged by the law to be done with lesser things, the believer may resolve to change his ways only to find that, like the dog which returns to its vomit, he goes back to do again the things he loathes. Paul, in three great cycles establishes this to be his own experience and draws some important conclusions. First, the law is good; second, he is bad. (To use the words of the Lord Jesus, he finds that “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”) Third, he attributes his failure to the presence of sin dwelling in his members.

Comments on Romans 7:14-23 by John Calvin in Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3.3.10.  Believers are still sinners.

[Paul] is discussing the Christian struggle (more briefly touched in Galatians [ch.5:17]), which believers constantly feel in themselves in the conflict between flesh and spirit. But the Spirit comes, not from nature, but speaking of these regenerated, because when he had said that no good dwelt in him, he adds the explanation that he is referring to his flesh [Romans 7:20]. What does he mean by this correction: “In me, that is, in my flesh” [Romans 7:18]? It is as if he were speaking in this way: “Good does not dwell in me of myself, for nothing good is to be found in my flesh.” Hence follows that form of an excuse: “I myself do not do evil, but sin that dwells in me” [Romans 7:20]. This excuse applies only to the regenerate who tend toward good with the chief part of their soul. Now the conclusion appended clearly explains this whole matter: “For I delight in the law . . . according to the inner man, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind” [Romans 7:22-23]. Who would have such strife in himself but a man who, regenerated by the Spirit of God, bears the remains of his flesh about with him?”

The Me Monster Crashes A Dinner Party

2 Corinthians 2:12 “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.”

Missional Church

A Spirit of Fear or a Heart of Love for Muslims?

Believe it or not, I actually went to college.  What now seems like a long time ago, I studied Bible and missions at what was then Columbia Bible College and what is now Columbia International University.  One advantage to having attended a college that specializes in training missionaries is that I have the privilege of knowing a number of people who serve God around the world.  I find their perspective on what God is doing in their corner of the world, as well as their outsider’s perspective on Christianity in America, very enlightening.

So, after having a number of conversations this month about the influence of Muslims around the world and the way that influence is being perceived as a threat by many Americans, including American Christians and those claiming to be Christians, I asked for some outside perspective.  I contacted Keith Martyn, a missionary who is working with Muslims in another country, to give me his perspective on the recent displays of fear and anger toward Muslims here in America. This is part of his reply: 

Hi Phil,

 

I am encouraged to hear your heart and your concern about so many aspects on this issue. There is definitely a deep misunderstanding and many differences between the people who claim to follow each of these respective religions. This, in turn, produces many not-so-helpful responses on both sides. There are many aspects to this. Cultural, social, economic, ideological, spiritual, etc. I don't know if I can offer anything new but here are a couple of thoughts that come to mind:

 

God is LORD over all and loves His people with their good in mind (Romans 8:28) therefore we need not fear (should not) but rather we must believe that God will ultimately glorify Himself through even the most tragic of events. Those who have a relationship with the Almighty God of the universe need not be characterized by fear.

 

Satan will use everything he possibly can to create enmity and deceive so as to kill, steal and destroy. He uses Islam to blind and hold in bondage over a billion people with the damnable intention of keeping souls from salvation in Christ and facilitating their eternal torment. Therefore, as true followers of Christ (not as followers of a mere religion) we must stand against Satan with the spiritual weapons God commands us to wield, standing firm against the real enemy while, as Christ's Body, responding with love and truth to those he holds in darkness. We must educate ourselves about Islam and its adherents, being careful not to see them as the enemy but rather as lost souls from whom God is calling many. Rather than taking a confrontational approach and debate with Muslims, we ought to focus on Christ and His teachings, miracles, sacrifice and resurrection. Share Christ with both Christians and Muslims.

 

Muslim extremists have followed their interpretation of the teaching of the Khuran and murdered many people. Human beings are naturally outraged by this and rightly so but we ought to allow our God-ordained/authorized government to respond to protect the citizens under its care while corporately uniting in prayer and demonstrating our love to Muslims. Most Muslims themselves condemn and distance themselves from extreme forms of Islam and we should acknowledge that distinction through understanding.

One of the things God has done is to being many people from the Muslim world to America that, right or wrong, still has the reputation of being one of the strongest Christians nations in the world.  This presents an amazing opportunity for Christians to show the grace, truth, and love of Jesus to Muslim neighbors and co-workers. However, this opportunity is being undermined by the fear and/or apathy that is spreading among Christians in America. 

I especially appreciated Keith’s points that:

  1. Those who have a relationship with the Almighty God of the universe need not be characterized by fear.
  2. We must educate ourselves about Islam and its adherents, being careful not to see them as the enemy but rather as lost souls from whom God is calling many.

This is a good reminder that Christians are called to respond to all people, even those who see themselves as our enemies, in love.  A love the displays God’s heart for the lost.  A love that does the work to understand people who are different from us and applies the wisdom to God to know what we can accept, what we can adapt, and what we must avoid in our relationships with them. In short, a love that is shaped by the Gospel.   I am praying that God will give us this kind of love for our Muslim neighbors and coworkers so we can have the privilege of being a part of His plan for the Muslims He has placed around us.

 

Never Waste Your Time Looking for Justice

One of the great stirring truths of the Bible is that the man who looks for justice from others is a fool. In moral and spiritual life if a man has a sense of injustice, he ceases to be of use to his fellowmen.  Never waste your time looking for justice; if you do you will soon put yourself in bandages and give way to self-pity.  Our business is to see that no one suffers from our injustice.

Oswald Chambers, Shade of His Hand, pg. 48