Tag Archives: bible

Knowing Your Weaknesses, Strengths and Where to Turn

Luke 4:1-13

New International Version (NIV)

4 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’” 5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’” 9 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; 11 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” 12 Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

This passage is very familiar to many of us. Christ temptation in the wilderness. I, in fact, have preached on it and wrote a blog on it a couple years ago. (An Opportune Time)

But as I reflect on it today I am struck by two things. First, temptation can come through our weaknesses.  As much as we may think we have it all together, the Devil knows better.  He knows what our weaknesses are. Of course most of us have not gone 40 days without food, but we all have those desires within us that are as strong as any craving for food can be. Acceptance, greed, lust, whatever our point of weakness is, the Devil knows it. The question is, do we. Jesus knew he was hungry. But he was prepared for the temptation he would face.

The second thing that strikes me is that it is not just our weaknesses, but also our strengths through which temptation can come.   You see the Devil offers Jesus everything. And this may seem odd at first glance, after all isn’t everything rightfully Jesus’ anyway? But that’s my point. Everything was rightfully Jesus’.  He had willingly given up his right to everything by becoming obedient to the father (Phil 2). The Devil new this and played off the deep down desire to be all that he truly was.  Jesus more than had the right to everything, He knew he would have it all again, after completing his mission.  It is to this that the Devil played.  The Devil say’s, “You know that it is all yours anyway, so why go through all of this.   I’ll tell you what, I’ll just give it to you.  You only need to do one little thing.”  But again Jesus was prepared.

So I am reminded that I need to know my weaknesses and my strengths.  What are those things I want but do not have?  What are those things that I have and do not want to let go of?  But knowing is not enough.  I have to ask, am I prepared?  Jesus did not rely on his own strength to resist but relied on the word of the Lord.  His strength was found in His knowledge of God’s word and His relationship with the Father.  These things can only be reached by spending time in God’s word and in prayer.

Lord help me to know you.  I pray that I would not rely on my own strength but in you alone.

Doctrine of the Holy Spirit

What are we referring to when we speak of The Holy Spirit. Is it a spirit that represents God? Is it the same thing as God? First, the question should better be stated, “Who is the Holy Spirit?” As I discussed in the two previous articles, God exist eternally in three person. The Holy Spirit is the third and final (and often over looked) part of the Godhead. The Holy Spirit, along with The Father and The Son make up the Trinity.

How do we know The Holy Spirit to be fully God. First, the Bible equates lying to The Holy Spirit and lying to God as the same thing (Acts 5:3-4). The clear implication is that the Holy Spirit is God. Further many of the attributes ascribed to God are also ascribed to the Holy Spirit.(eternal – Hebrews 9:14, omnipresent – Psalm 139:7-8) But why do we believe The Holy Spirit is a distinct person from the Father and the Son. Jesus clearly saw the Spirit as distinct. We see this when He commanded His disciple to baptize people in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). We also see it in another passage where He states that when He leaves, the Holy Spirit will be sent from the Father (John 14:26, 15:26). The Holy Spirit is clearly God and clearly a distinct person, becoming a third person of the one true God.

So then, what is the role of the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is sent of God to fill His people (Titus 3:5). When a person comes to accept the Lord as his personal Savior, he is baptized with the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 12:13), washing away all sins. Now, the sin having been washed away, the new believer in Christ is filled with the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19). The Spirit then works to guide this new child of God (Romans 8:14) helping them to grow and develop in their relationship with Christ.

The Holy Spirit is the helper that Jesus promised His disciples(John 14:15-26) and is at work in the church today. The work of the Holy Spirit is to develop God’s church, those who believe. The Holy Spirit is at work in the development of Christian lives (John 14:26). He guides those who believe day by day in their lives (Acts 8:29, Romans 8:14).

The Holy Spirit intercedes for those of us who believe, through our prayers to the Father and communicates those things we can not even speak (Romans 8:26). The Holy Spirit also convicts the believers of sin in their lives. The Holy Spirit draws unbelievers to God and regenerates the heart of those who believe and call upon the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness (2 Thessalonians 2:13).

What about Spiritual Gifts? Where do they fit in? To further build up the body, the Holy Spirit bestows (I Corinthians 12:11) His gifts upon the people of God for the working of the church (Ephesians 2:22, 4:11-12, Hebrews 2:3-4).Some of these gifts include prophecy, teaching, miracles, tongues, and evangalism among others (1 Corinthians 12:27-30, Ephesians 4:11-13) While God may still use any of the gifts today, they are not always present. Many of these gifts are still manifested in the church today. I do, however, believe that the miraculous gifts (tongues, healing, prophecy) are for special situations, such as the founding of the church, and not normative for today. This is not to say they do not exist but that the miraculous gifts, when expressed, must be in a context consistent with the Bible. They must be edifying and non-disruptive to the body (I Corinthians 12:12-31, 14:26-40, Ephesians 4:11-12).

The “charismatic” [or spirit] movement of the 20th century brought this issue to the forefront of the church. When speaking of the most noted of the miraculous gifts, peaking in tongues, Paul declares it is the least of the gifts and that not all believers possess the gift of tongues (I Corinthians 14:5). It therefore cannot be used as a litmus test in the life of a believer as some have done. Now, while they may not be normative in the church today, they should not automatically be dismissed, but should be examined on a case by case basis as to their legitimacy.

Setting aside the discussion of the “miraculous” gifts, we know that many gifts are given by the Spirit that are important to the working of the church. Each believer has their own special gifts that complement the gifts of other believers (I Peter 4:10). One gift is not greater than another, rather they all work together to build up the body of Christ. Through all, however, we must always seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the interpretation of God’s word and the application of the gifts bestowed by the Holy Spirit.

The Doctrine of Christ

Who is Jesus of Nazareth? This question as been pondered in the minds of many for two thousand years. For the answer to this question has impact on everyone from the lowliest beggar, to the mightiest King.

So who is Jesus of Nazareth and why, is he called Christ. Let me answer the second question first. Contrary to what many may think, based on it usage, Christ is not a last name, rather is a title. It is derived from the Greek word [christos], which means anointed or chosen one. It is the same as the Hebrew word Messiah. So when you hear Jesus referred to as the Christ or as the Messiah, these are the same thing. It is calling him the anointed one of God.

Now, back to the first question, who is Jesus? Jesus was a man, born into this world (Luke 2:5-7), who lived (Luke 2:52) and died (Mark 15:43-45). However the story does not simply end there. For Jesus what not simply a man, Jesus was also God incarnate [in flesh] (John 1:1, 14). He is the eternal God, the great I am of the Old Testament (Isaiah 9:6, Micah 5:2), who existed from the very beginning in co-existence with God [the Father] (John 1:1, 17:5). He is simultaneously fully man (Luke 19:10, Galatians 4:4) and fully God.He was the true God who took on the form of a man and faced all temptations that men face, to an infinite degree (Hebrews 4:15, Philippians 2:6-8). If Jesus had been simply God, but not man his sacrifice would have been inadequate, as he could not represent man. Had he been simply man, but not God his sacrifice would have been inadequate as he would have been imperfect. Jesus was fully God and fully man and there for was the only adequate sacrifice. (Hebrews 10:1-14)

Now while Jesus was fully man, he did not have a human father, rather the Holy Spirit came upon the virgin Mary and she gave birth to a son, Jesus Christ (Luke 1:35, Matthew 1:18-25) Though Jesus Christ was fully God, when He came to earth, He voluntarily surrendered the rights that came with His being God.He did not give up His being God, but willingly set aside His position as God to become man and face all temptations that man faced.In fact, Jesus did not only lower Himself to becoming a man, but came to serve man and die in his place.(Mark 10:45, Philippians 2:5-11).

Some have questioned the whole death of Jesus, but let me be clear, Jesus death on the cross was not simply passing out or “swooning” but was a true physical death. (Matthew 27:45-54, Mark 15:33-41, Luke 23:44-49, John 19:28-30).It was necessary that it be a true physical death as His death was a sacrifice that paid the penalty for the sins [anything not up to God’s perfect standard] of man (Matthew 20:28, I Timothy 2:6).As God is perfect and just, the sins of Man are an affront to His being. Therefore, the sins of Man needed a perfect offering to satisfy a just God.Jesus, being fully God and fully man was a perfect man. He therefore was the only adequate sacrifice to pay the price.His death on the cross fulfilled the prophecies of the messiah to come found in the Old Testament (Zechariah 2:10-11, Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12).It is through His death that our sins may be forgiven for His death was a sufficient sacrifice for the entire world, but it was only efficient for those who would believe (John 1:12, Romans 3:22).

After his death on the cross, Jesus was laid in a grave for three days and on the third day the Father raised Him from the dead in the perfection of the resurrected body (John 20:11-17, 26-29, I Corinthians 15:3-8).He was the first to be resurrected and through his resurrection, the door was opened to eternal life for those who believe (I Corinthians 20:20-21).

Jesus now sits at the “right hand” [the place of honor] of the Father (Acts 2:32-34), where He sits in authority over the church (Colossians 1:18) and serves as an advocate for believers (Hebrews 4:14-16).Jesus will one day return to claim those who have proclaimed belief in Him and have been forgiven (Acts 1:11, I Thessalonians 4:16-17) At the end of time He will sit in the judgment seat as all humanity stands before Him and He will separate those whose sins have been forgiven through belief in Him from those who are the unregenerate of the world (Matthew 25:31-46).

The Doctrine of Revelation

For many the term revelation brings up images of profound discoveries of hidden secrets. This is partially a result in Christian circles of an automatic connection to the last book of the Bible known as the “The Book of Revelation”. While such a description is indeed a revelation, not all revelation fits that description. The term revelation used in theological circles has a simple meaning. Revelation is the act of God making himself, truths and information otherwise unavailable known. When the fact that the very nature of God can not be contained is combined with His desire to have a relationship with human kind, it must be made known. (John 3:16, II Peter 1:4) Revelation must occur. Now having defined revelation we will see that it can be subdivided into two categories.

1) General Revelation –
The first category is General (or Natural) revelation. General revelation is simply the act of God revealing himself by means of His creation. God reveals himself through nature. (Psalm 19:1-6, Romans 1:19-23) When we see the vastness of the night sky or the majesty of the mountains, when hear the power of the rolling thunder or the roaring rapids, when we feel the gentle breeze or the warmth of the sun we experience God. He and his character are revealed to us.

In addition, God reveals himself through people’s own consciousness (Romans 2:14-15). The fact that we are self aware, that we can learn and grow, that we have a concept of right and wrong is a testimony to God.

2) Special Revelation –
The second category is Special revelation. Where general revelation was God revealed through natural means, special revelation is the act of God revealing himself through means that are not “natural” or are “special.” These are divine action in history and include, though are not necessarily limited to, Miracles (Exodus 4:3-5, I Kings 18:30-39), Spoken Word (I Samuel 3, Acts 9:4), Visions (Isaiah 6), Angelic Visits (Luke 1:11-20), Dreams (Matthew 1:20), Incarnation of Christ (John 1:1, 14, 18) and Scripture (II Timothy 3:16).

Holy Scriptures –
The Bible is the most available form of special revelation. All 66 books of the Bible are the inspired word of God. What does this mean? Inspired literally means God-breathed (II Timothy 3:16). It refers to the way in which God has communicated his message through those who wrote the scriptures.

So what does it actually mean to be inspired or God Breathed. First, it is not dictation. That is to say that God did not simply say the words and the authors wrote them down word for word. Second, it does not mean that God simply gave the authors a nebulous concept to share as best they could. Rather, inspired means that God spoke the very words (Galatians 3:16) through the writers in their unique personalities and styles of writing (II Peter 1:21). That is to say, the scriptures are the very words of God, and at the same time they are the very words of the authors. As a result of this unique characteristic, the Bible may be understood through study and the illuminating guidance of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 2:12 – 13).

Further, as they are the very words of God, the scriptures are inerrant (John 10:34-35) in their original writings. The very fact that they were inspired (breathed) by God makes it impossible for them to contain errors. Having said this, it must be understood that this claim can only be made of the original writings as penned by the authors. (Thought through much study and research the current Bible is trustworthy.) That is to say the very words put on paper by the authors’ hand were the inerrant words of God.

Finally, the scriptures are the proven authority for life (Isaiah 55:11). The Bible itself testifies to this fact as did Jesus Christ. (II Samuel 22:31, John 17:7-8)

God has revealed himself. Though many of us may not experience miracles God speaking directly to us, visions, Angelic Visits and Dreams we can see Him through His Creation and we can know Him though His inspired word.

Laughter is the Best Medicine?

So I am home from Church today sick. Very frustrating in and of itself. So what do I do? I turn on the TV and flip through the channels to learn, there is nothing on Sunday Morning. So I end up landing on Lakewood Church with Joel Osteen. I know what many of your are thinking already, that apparently my illness has made me delusional. But it was like watching a car crash. I just could not turn away.

So he was talking about laughter, yes an entire half hour Sunday morning message on laughter. So I said, I need to see where he is going with this. First he began talking about how laughter is the key to health. If we laughed we would find that we could sleep better, we would find that we would have less pain and we would find that we would get sick less. (Apparently I have not been laughing enough. You all know me, I am so terminally miserable; ). )

He goes on from here to say that if we find ourselves laughing more, that we would build our relationships. According to him laughing is one of the two foundations of a strong marriage, coupled with respect. (Unfortunately on occasion the two seem to stand in stark contrast. There are things I would love to laugh at that I am sure my wife would not find amusing.)

I watched for about 20 minutes. Now it is possible that he mentioned it while I was not watching, but not once did I hear him refer to the Bible. What did he refer to? He refer to studies to support his point. He further referred to the fact that we needed to have joy in our lives and if we are denying ourselves laughter, we are missing the joy God intended us to have in our lives.

So here I find my dilemma. I do not argue that laughter is important and simply put, enjoyable. A person who never expresses joy or happiness is heading down a dark road leading to misery and worse. But it is his apparent, proposition that by not laughing we are missing the joy. Perhaps I read to much into it, but what I was hearing was that that joy was dependent upon our laughter. He told his congregation to daily find two or three things to really laugh heartily at, as if we could bring this joy into our own lives.

How many people saw this and missed the true source of joy. Probably most, as he never said. The Bible is clear, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galations 5:22 – 23. The fruit of the spirit. It is from God alone that we find our true joy. It is not simply laughter. If this was the case, then we can close the churches and simply open more comedy clubs. Through this, the world will know joy. But laughter is not the answer. The angel declared “I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people” in Luke 2:10. And what was the source of that joy “today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” In addition Nehemiah 8:10 declares, “Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

The source of our joy is not laughter. The source of our joy is not from within. The source of our joy is God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Laughter should simply be a expression of a joy God has placed in us, and not the source of joy.

Does that mean that laughter is not to be sought after? Certainly not. I enjoy to laugh. I have watched the “infomercial” on the Worship Network for Tim Hawkins “Full Range Of Motion” video numerous times, and I find it just as funny each time. (Yes I realize that this is supposed to get me to by the video, but I’m cheap.) Some have even said that I have a very funny streak, though it may be a bit dry for some to catch.

Further, there are clear studies that do seem to point to the “healing power of laughter.” But are we using the laughter as a band-aid for what is really wrong or is it is a sign of the healing that God is working within us? Is it a sign of God’s joy.

What we do need to do is watch for dangers. First, what are we laughing at. There are things that will make us laugh that shouldn’t. The Bible clearly warns us that “there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting.” Ephesians 5:4. Yes I know some people who greatly pull this verse out of context and always keep a somber mood saying things like, “we should never have fun with anything dealing with God.” (This includes songs like “I am a C, I am a C-H. Watch out for those children’s Sunday School teachers corrupting the future generations.) This surely is not what Paul is saying. Rather we must not miss the final phrase “which are not fitting.” There are some context where any jesting would be inappropriate and there is some jesting which is never appropriate, but this is not a prohibition to expressing the joy that God has placed in us through laughter.

Second, there was a movement within the charismatic movement in the past, and still active in some places called “Holy Laughter.” The position is that God will simply strike people with such joy that they simply can not control the laughter and must burst out and role, even rolling on the floor. While I do argue that the joy we experience come from God and that laughter can be an expression of this joy, there is no biblical support for the idea of an entire movement of God, simply resulting in people laughing. Paul is very clear in 1 Corinthians 14 when he presents that while expressions of the spirit are valid within worship, there must be orderliness to it and it must be edifying to the body.

I am not going to pass judgement on Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church. I have read their doctrinal statement and it seems sound. And as I do not personnally know Mr. Osteen it would be inappropriate. But I do challenge his words. While laughter is important, it is joy that is crucial and this joy can only be found in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It is this joy we share with other who know Jesus “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.” Philippians 2:1-2 and that we share with the world “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19 – 20.

Laughter is the best medicine? No, it is not. Laughter is medicinal, but it is the joy and hope that can only be found in Jesus Christ that is the best medicine.


Historic Evangelicalism

I recently taught a a series on “What is an Evangelical?” It was an eye opening experience. There are, of course, many statements out there on what it means to be evangelical. The most notable include “An Evangelical Manifesto” and The Gospel Coalition’s “Foundational Documents.” Now both of these have writers and/or supporters for whom I have great respect. The problem is that we still do not have a clear definition of what it means to be “evangelical.” It becomes even more confusing when we add into this the term as it is commonly used today.

So what does evangelical really mean? Evangelical is a term that is thrown around today as much in the media as in the church. It is, in point of fact, a terms that is as common today as “White House.” Yet, while there is no question what is meant when people refer to the “White House,” evangelical is not so clear, despite being in the public vernacular for the last 30 years.

The presidential election of 1976 placed “Evangelicalism” at the center stage as both Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter readily identified themselves as born-again evangelicals. America sat up and said, “evan-what?” This had such an impact that Time Magazine declared 1977, following the election, the “Year of the Evangelical.” Since then the battle has been on to define evangelicalism.

What I have found is that we have mistakenly come to identify “evangelical” with a political position, most often conservative Republican. (Understand that I am of this political persuasion but have come to believe it is not a defining characteristic of being evangelical.) I have also found that much of what the media refers to as evangelical today, is not truly evangelical. As a result of my study, I have come to a conclusion that there are 10 of what I refer to as “Historically Essential Components of Evangelicalism.” It is these essentials that I use to define “Historic Evangelicalism.” These ten essentials are:

Historically Essential Components of Evangelicalism

    1. Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone)
      1. The perspicuity of scripture
    2. Sola Fide (Justification by faith alone )
    3. Charitable handling of theological conflicts
    4. Priesthood of all believers
    5. Experiential heart
    6. Desire for Holiness
    7. Emphasis on the role of holistic worship
    8. Affirm the doctrines of historic orthodoxy
    9. Passion for missions
    10. Concern for the poor and disadvantaged

It is these 10 point I refer to when I use the term, “Historic Evangelicalism.”