Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Certain in the Midst of Uncertainty

Honor the Lord, you heavenly beings; honor the Lord for his glory and strength. Honor the Lord for the glory of his name. Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness. The voice of the Lord echoes above the sea. The God of glory thunders. The Lord thunders over the mighty sea. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic. The voice of the Lord splits the mighty cedars; the Lord shatters the cedars of Lebanon. He makes Lebanon’s mountains skip like a calf; he makes Mount Hermon leap like a young wild ox. The voice of the Lord strikes with bolts of lightning. The voice of the Lord makes the barren wilderness quake; the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. The voice of the Lord twists mighty oaks and strips the forests bare. In his Temple everyone shouts, “Glory!” The Lord rules over the floodwaters. The Lord reigns as king forever. The Lord gives his people strength. The Lord blesses them with peace.” (Psalm 29: 1-11, NLT)

She knows the phone will soon ring and the verdict will soon be announced: malignant or benign. She hopes against hope that the chemo will not have to resume. Yet, the anxiety over her past battle with lung cancer forces the pattern of her thought process in a particular direction.

He worked all day on the farm, showered, and then he and his wife jumped into the car in hopes of catching their grandson’s entire baseball game. Suddenly, a nauseated sickness forces the car back to the house. Within a few hours they head to the emergency room at Jacksonville Hospital, and from there to Regional Medical Center at 3:00 am. The diagnosis that soon followed led the doctor’s to say, “We’re going to remove 20-30 inches of your colon. You have cancer, and we suspect it did not originate there. We suspect it will be found in your lungs.

“As soon as an ambulance is secured, we will be coming home. Hospice is already in place.” Over the last few weeks the bleeding ulcer and complications from diabetes sent them to UAB Hospital where the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer was made. Now “going home” will never be the same. After less than twenty-four hours at home serious complications force them back to UAB Friday afternoon.

That should be enough ministry for one week. And yet the needs continue. A doctor’s appointment may reveal cancer has returned for another family. A widow grieves herself to sleep since her husband passed away a few weeks ago. A family looks to move following the loss of a job. A guest shares her diagnosis from the doctor: serious disease. No wonder I have felt the need to go to the golf course and just “walk it off.”

Then the Lord reminded me of something precious one morning this week in our family bible reading from Psalm 29. This is a very significant psalm that mentions the “Lord” eighteen times. If you add the use of pronouns and the mention of God and King you have 25 references in 11 verses.

The psalm begins in heaven where the angels are called to pour out their praises to the Lord. They are called to worship the Lord. Why? They are called to worship Him, because He reigns over the heavens.

Then we see his reign over the storms in verses 3-9. Each time I read this psalm, my mind goes to some of the storms I have seen and experienced. David describes a storm arising over the Mediterranean Sea to the north, sweeping down the entire length of Canaan, and then disappearing over the desert to the south.

I love the phrase “the voice of the Lord.” “The voice of the Lord” is used 7 times, 3 times in reference to water. The voice of the Lord is powerful and majestic. Nobody can escape the sound of His voice. Today God speaks through His Word, the Scriptures.

John Phillips says, “God speaks through His Word. He speaks in dreams to those who do not have His Word. He speaks in the stars, and he speaks in the storms. He speaks when a baby is born, when death visits a home. He speaks in a still, small voice and in thunderous tones. His is the voice upon many waters.”

The New Living translation describes the reigning Lord in graphic detail: “echoes, thunders, powerful, majestic, splits, shatters, etc.” How can anyone doubt his sovereign reign over all creation?

What are the people doing who have witnessed the storm? They are in the temple praising God. David says in effect, “And in his temple everyone shouts, Glory!” If this is right, then the praise already begun in heaven (v.1-2) is echoed by the people of God who have seen his glory in the storm. In the final two verses the storm has passed, but God remains as the enthroned King of the universe. The earth may have been shaken as well as the people who live on it, but God is not shaken.

Dear ones, God is sovereign and He is sufficient! He wants to bring us to the place where we acknowledge that he is King. He is to be King of every thought and action. God has presided over every past storm, as well as every storm to come.

David closes this psalm, after revealing God’s power over nature, that we can trust God to give us peace and strength to weather the storms of life. The storms of life may rage, but we have peace. John Phillips describes verse 11 as a “rainbow covering all.” That is truly what God offers us – peace in the midst of the storm. God says, “In these uncertain days, trust Me! In these anxious moments, take My peace upon you.” Hold on to the certain in the days of uncertainty.”

Holding On With You,

Dr. Derek

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God. But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here. But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world. Those people belong to this world, so they speak from the world’s viewpoint, and the world listens to them. But we belong to God, and those who know God listen to us. If they do not belong to God, they do not listen to us. That is how we know if someone has the Spirit of truth or the spirit of deception.”
(I John 4:1-6)

In 1820 a 14 year-old boy claimed to have received a vision in which God the Father and God the Son appeared and told him that they had chosen him to help restore Christianity. Three years later he claimed to have been visited by an angel who told him he would receive the “golden plates” of the Book of Mormon to translate.

In 1827 he claims to have found these plates on a hill near Palmyra, New York and he translated them through the help of miraculous glasses received from the angel.

In 1829 “Prophet Smith” alleged that John the Baptist was sent by Peter, James, and John to bestow the Aaronic priesthood upon him.

In 1830 the Book of Mormon was published and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was born.

History records their journey from New York to Ohio to Missouri, and then to Illinois where founder Joseph Smith was murdered while in jail in 1844, leaving an estimated fifty wives and countless children.

Brigham Young stepped in to provide leadership of the growing cult and moved them to Salt Lake Valley in 1846 where they were granted recognition as a legitimate religion. Brigham Young had twenty-seven wives and fifty-six children. Today the Mormon movement has a membership of over eleven million members around the world.

How are we to evaluate the beliefs of the Mormons? Simply stated, Mormon theology says that all gods were originally men and that all men have the potential to become gods. Being a king and priest to God is a step toward becoming a god. They believe that all persons were preexistent and, depending on their good works, go to one of three levels of heaven. As gods they will populate their world with their own spirit offspring.

Is Mormonism consistent with true, biblical Christianity? John says we must be able to detect false teaching and to examine the spirit that expresses them. We must put all things to the test of Scripture. The word translated "test" is a term for testing people in high office. “Test” is a present tense verb, meaning the believer is to continually test the spirits. (I Tim 4:1; Acts 20:30-31; II Peter 2:1)

Demonic activity leaves no doctrine unattacked. In New Testament times they all used legalism, antinomianism, and gnosticism. Two thousand years later all of those initial deceptions have developed into elaborate systems such as Spiritism, Christian Science, Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Unitarianism, etc. They all contain satanic deceptions and doctrines of demons. So John puts forth a doctrinal test: do the false teachers believe in Christ? He wants to show the believers how to distinguish a demon spirit from the Holy Spirit.

Let’s just cut right to a central tenet of true, biblical Christianity: What do these groups teach concerning the deity of Jesus Christ? Christian Scientists’ say Jesus was a mere man who possessed the Christ spirit. Jehovah's Witnesses say Jesus was a created individual and was the second greatest person in the universe. They think He was "a" god, but not Almighty God, whom they call Jehovah. Mormons say Jesus is one of many "sub-gods." Unitarians say Jesus is not God and they deny the Trinity. Modernists say Jesus was a great ethical teacher. Every group is just as demonic as the other.

In the Mormon arena I agree with pastor/teacher John MacArthur. He believes and teaches that Mormonism is not true Christianity in any historic or biblical sense, but is a classic cult. He says, “Mormonism is similar in many ways to the Gnostic heresies that plagued the church for centuries. Mormonism and genuine biblical, evangelical Christianity are in effect antithetical, sharing no common spiritual ground whatsoever. Mormonism is pseudo-Christianity.” MacArthur is regularly asked to clarify his position on Mormonism and he will routinely send this response:

There are four significant, unbridgeable chasms between Mormonism and authentic biblical Christianity.

The issue of authority. Christians believe the Bible is God's authoritative, inerrant, unchanging and complete self-revelation (Jude 3). Scripture is the touchstone to which all other truth-claims must be brought (Isaiah 8:20). The sole and sufficient authority by which all controversies in spiritual matters are to be determined is none other than God's Spirit speaking through Scripture.

By contrast, Mormons consider The Book of Mormon, The Pearl of Great Price, and Doctrine and Covenants as additional authoritative revelation, thereby undermining the true authority of Scripture and violating the principle of Revelation 22:18.

The doctrine of God. Christians believe there is one God who eternally exists in three co-equal Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Mormons reject the doctrine of the Trinity, believing that there are many worlds controlled by different gods.

The supremacy of Christ. Christians believe Jesus Christ is pre-existent God who became a man in His incarnation while maintaining His full deity. Mormons claim Jesus was a "spirit child" of Mary and Elohim (and the brother of Lucifer) who has now been elevated to the level of deity.

The means of justification. Christians believe justification is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Mormons believe a person's works in this life will determine his or her status in the life to come, and that "salvation" is actually a progression toward godhood.

So, the next time you listen to those who come knocking on your door as we have had in Jacksonville in recent days, remember these foundational, Scriptural tests: the issue of authority, the doctrine of God, the supremacy of Christ, and the means of justifying faith. If you discover someone in open defiance of the plain teaching of God’s Word, then be sure to apply John’s instruction: “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.” (II John 10-11)

Knocking on Scripture’s Door,

Dr. Derek

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Carnally Minded

And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people, but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?” (I Corinthians 3:1-3)

Have you ever called someone a “big baby?” This was Julie’s favorite expression for me when our boys were babies and needed a diaper change. Just the thought of handling those things made me quiver. She can probably count on one hand the number of diapers I changed over the years. She said I was a big baby. I say I am a man of above average intelligence! J

Paul referred to the Corinthian believers as “carnal babies” because of their spiritual immaturity. The expression “the proof is in the pudding” probably came out of the Corinthian church. The proof of their spiritual incompetence was evident in their constant divisive quarreling, much like children argue over worthless and insignificant matters. Paul says immature Christians are “worldly”, controlled by their own desires whereas mature believers are controlled by God’s desires. How much influence do your desires have on your life?

In My Utmost For His Highest Oswald Chambers addresses carnal Christianity:

Are you quarrelsome and easily upset over small things? Do you think that no one who is a Christian is ever like that? Paul said they are, and he connected these attitudes with carnality. Is there a truth in the Bible that instantly awakens a spirit of malice or resentment in you? If so, that is proof that you are still carnal. If the process of sanctification is continuing in your life, there will be no trace of that kind of spirit remaining.

If the Spirit of God detects anything in you that is wrong, He doesn’t ask you to make it right; He only asks you to accept the light of truth, and then He will make it right. A child of the light will confess sin instantly and stand completely open before God. But a child of the darkness will say, "Oh, I can explain that."
When the light shines and the Spirit brings conviction of sin, be a child of the light. Confess your wrongdoing, and God will deal with it. If, however, you try to vindicate yourself, you prove yourself to be a child of the darkness.

What is the proof that carnality has gone? Never deceive yourself; when carnality is gone you will know it-it is the most real thing you can imagine. And God will see to it that you have a number of opportunities to prove to yourself the miracle of His grace. The proof is in a very practical test. You will find yourself saying, "If this had happened before, I would have had the spirit of resentment!" And you will never cease to be the most amazed person on earth at what God has done for you on the inside.

If the man who penned these words to the Corinthian church had to “beat his body” in order to bring it under submission to the Lord Jesus Christ, then how much more should we beat ours in order to submit to our Savior? How much influence do your desires have on your life? Is the goal of your life to make God’s desires your desires? What is the proof that carnality has gone?

Until Next Week,

Dr. Derek

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Resurrection Monday

“Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb. Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint. Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.” The women ran quickly from the tomb. They were very frightened but also filled with great joy, and they rushed to give the disciples the angel’s message. And as they went, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they ran to him, grasped his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid! Go tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there.” (Matthew 28: 1-10)

Resurrection Monday can feel like jet lag after a day of traveling. We just concluded 5 worship services and God showed up in a crazy way! Our attendance topped 1300+ for the first time in the history of our church. I never thought we would top last year’s record of 1200+, yet God had something else in mind. What a joy to gather yesterday in worship to praise our King in song, to experience believer’s baptism, and just to stand in awe of Him as we worshipped the Risen Savior. It was MEGA-AWESOME!

Let’s spend some time today reflecting on our relationship with Jesus. We have journeyed from Jonah to Jesus together as Dr. Young so masterfully articulated the intensity of Christ’s passion. We have shared in communion together. We have re-read the biblical accounts. We have wept on Good Friday as our thoughts dwelt on the horrors of the crucifixion. Finally, in great celebration, we gathered in worship to shout from the rooftops that Christ is Risen! He is alive and He is Lord!

Now we come to Resurrection Monday having spent an emotional week in both agonizing sadness and amazing gladness. So today let’s simply ask, “What am I going to do with Jesus?”

How do I know that Christ is risen?
What proof have I to give?
He rescued me from sin’s dark prison
And I began to live.

How do I know He left the tomb
That Easter long ago?
I met him at the dawn’s fresh bloom
And life is all aglow.

How do I know he gained for me
Access to Heaven’s door?
Christ’s work in me is guarantee
Of life forevermore.

How do I know that Christ still lives
Rich blessings to impart?
Abundant grace and peace He gives
and lives within my heart.

Until Next Week,

Dr. Derek