Everybody has got to live for something

Tim Keller

Everybody has got to live for something, but Jesus is arguing that, if he is not that thing, it will fail you.

First, it will enslave you. Whatever that thing is, you will tell yourself that you have to have it or there is no tomorrow. That means that if anything threatens it, you will become inordinately scared; if anyone blocks it, you will become inordinately angry; and if you fail to achieve it, you will never be able to forgive yourself.

But second, if you do achieve it, it will fail to deliver the fulfillment you expected.

Let me give you an eloquent contemporary expression of what Jesus is saying. Nobody put this better than the American writer and intellectual David Foster Wallace. He got to the top of his profession. He was an award-winning, best-selling postmodern novelist known around the world for his fierce and boundary-pushing storytelling. He once wrote a sentence that was more than a thousand words long. And, tragically, he committed suicide. But a few years before that, he gave a now-famous commencement speech at Kenyon College. He said to the graduating class,

Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god . . . to worship . . . is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure, and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before [your loved ones] finally plant you. . . . Worship power, and you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. Look, the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they are evil or sinful; it is that they’re unconscious. They are default settings.

Wallace was by no means a religious person, but he understood that everyone worships, everyone trusts in something for their salvation, everyone bases their lives on something that requires faith. A couple of years after giving that speech, Wallace killed himself. And this non-religious man’s parting words to us are pretty terrifying: “Something will eat you alive.”

Because even though you might never call it worship, you can be absolutely sure you are worshiping and you are seeking. And Jesus says, unless you’re worshiping me, unless I’m the center of your life, unless you’re trying to get your spiritual thirst quenched through me and not through these other things, unless you see that the solution must come inside rather than just pass by outside, then whatever you worship will abandon you in the end.

~  Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life’s Biggest Questions (Dutton; 2013), 28–30:

Proving Jesus By Doing

from Cerulean Sanctum

'Sermon on the Mount' by Henrik OlrikSo Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.”
—John 7:16-17 ESV

The above passage has been stirring in me all weekend. It bothers me. A lot.

Jesus had a validity issue. When He tried to teach in the temple, the learned questioned how He knew what He knew. Jesus sought to tell them, but they weren’t responsive.

We live in an age that has made the mind the arbiter of all truth. We are rabid rationalists. Even when someone tries to stick a label of “emotional” on us, it peels off soon enough.

For many people, Christianity is all in their head or it is nowhere at all.

Clever arguments, a Ph.D. in biblical hermeneutics, and an iPod filled with Ravi Zacharias podcasts are the base material needed for being an apologist for Jesus today. The person who cannot tie together every last passage is seen as not qualified to talk Bible with anyone. An inability to look at Paul’s Letter to Philemon in light of the Hebrew captivity in Egypt or to spout every last occurrence of the concept of a hardened heart or to detail the finer points of New Testament infralapsarianism proves a person is not up to the task of living as a Christian and certainly cannot be trusted to be an evangelist or teacher.

But what does Jesus say will prove His words true in a person’s life?

Doing them. Not thinking. Doing.

Perhaps the reason we live in such a godless age is not because people don’t know the words of God but because so few do them. Jesus said that if people do the things God wills through His word, the validity will be self-evident.

Imagine if our evangelism of the lost and teaching to the found consisted more of telling people, “Here are the words of Jesus. Do them and you will know Him.” Imagine if our measure of the maturity of the believer was not how many Bible passages he or she had memorized but how many he or she actually practiced in real life.

We think we must construct systems of biblical logic to make a cage that cannot be escaped, a sort of ultra-secure fortress of rationalistic thought. But Jesus said that our proof is in doing what He says. That’s how the words are justified, because they are life and truth when lived.

All this teaching yet the proof is in the doing.

What if our Sunday Schools were more about doing the words of God? Would our understanding and retention of truth improve? Jesus says it will. Do we trust Him in this?

I don’t know when the Faith migrated from all parts of the whole person to reside solely in the head, with a trickle down into the heart when we’re really “feeling it.” But Jesus Himself says that’s not the way we should be. Instead, truth is in the living out of what He says.

That’s a paradigm shift of the highest order. I hope to see more of it in my lifetime.

The problem with the church today

by John Piper

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. (Colossians 1:3–5)

The problem with the church today is not that there are too many people who are passionately in love with heaven. The problem is not that professing Christians are retreating from the world, spending half their days reading Scripture and the other half singing about their pleasures in God all the while indifferent to the needs of the world.

The problem is that professing Christians are spending ten minutes reading Scripture and then half their day making money and the other half enjoying and repairing what they spend it on.

It is not heavenly-mindedness that hinders love. It is worldly-mindedness that hinders love, even when it is disguised by a religious routine on the weekend.

Where is the person whose heart is so passionately in love with the promised glory of heaven that he feels like an exile and a sojourner on the earth? Where is the person who has so tasted the beauty of the age to come that the diamonds of the world look like marbles, and the entertainment of the world is empty, and the moral causes of the world are too small because they have no view to eternity? Where is this person?

He is not in bondage to the Internet or eating or sleeping or drinking or partying or fishing or sailing or putzing around. He is a free man in a foreign land. And his one question is this: How can I maximize my enjoyment of God for all eternity while I am an exile on this earth? And his answer is always the same: by doing the labors of love.

Only one thing satisfies the heart whose treasure is in heaven: doing the works of heaven. And heaven is a world of love!

It is not the cords of heaven that bind the hands of love. It is the love of money and leisure and comfort and praise — these are the cords that bind the hands of love. And the power to sever these cords is Christian hope.

I say it again with all the conviction that lies within me: it is not heavenly-mindedness that hinders love on this earth. It is worldly-mindedness. And therefore the great fountain of love is the powerful, freeing confidence of Christian hope.

Why I DON’T Use King James

I love the re-post from Don Merritt of Life Reference on the King James. He is even easier on the KJV  than I. The New Testament is written in Koine – the trade, street language of the day. It was not anywhere near the quality and sophistication of the classical Greek I studied in college. It was so much simpler, smaller vocabulary, with less complicated sentence structure that the classical. It was the everyday language of the people. God did not make it a “special” Bible language. He used the common language of the trade community that was used all over the area. The KJV was not even that when it came out, let alone now. That is the reason I teach classes using the NLT, but encourage my students to use the NIV or ESV to get a broader idea of what we are discussing. 

Now, I freely admit, that in my devotions, as I try to refresh my Greek NT skills, I find the vocabulary of Acts much more challenging than going through John. That is not the koine Greek – that is my loss of memory and skill as the years go by.

Don’t article:

Long ago I grew accustomed to receiving “hate” emails from KJV fans.  I should have kept them, because I’m sure you would be greatly amused if I posted a list of the names I’ve been called because I use the NIV in this blog most of the time. The first few times I received these emails, I thought that maybe I should reconsider, then I began to find them amusing and even hilarious, but now I’m just bored!

Dear reader, I do not use the KJV because it is written in a language that nobody speaks; it’s just that simple.  In that sense, it has much in common with things that are written in Latin, it’s a dead language that isn’t spoken anywhere, with the possible exception of Ivory Tower professors somewhere.

With that out of the way, I will agree with those who would say that the King James English is beautiful and poetic.  Why should that surprise anyone? After all, it is the language of Shakespeare! Yet ask any freshman student about studying Shakespeare: they have to translate it into modern English before they can follow it! Many of my detractors claim that the KJV is the only accurate translation of the Bible.  While it is my view that the KJV is a fine translation, it is very far from perfect!  The other day, I saw a post that consisted of a list of words and the number of times they were used in the KJV and the NIV.  They were words like “hell” “damnation” and so on, all dealing with judgment and punishment.  The KJV had these word more than the NIV, and judging from the fact that the same blog had another post attacking the NIV for being “politically correct” I’m going to assume that the blogger was trying to show that the NIV is soft of judgment and condemnation.  (I apologize for not having the links here for you to verify this, but this morning I couldn’t find the post again…)

To be honest and fair, however, the KJV would have the word “hell” more often than the NIV because the KJV renders five different words “hell” even though the five different words mean five different things. This is an example of a KJV weakness, not a KJV strength!  Of course the NIV doesn’t have the word “damnation” a single time, it is a word that is no longer in use in the English language, but it means “condemnation, judgment, punishment” and those are the words the NIV uses, depending on context. Here’s a KJV weakness that you might not even want to know about:  The Greek word baptiso is a verb which means “to immerse.” King James was translated in a rough time in history, during the time of the English Reformation.  Those poor translators couldn’t be sure who was going to win out, and the way they handled this word could spell either life or death, so they transliterated it rather than translating it, thus creating a new English word: Baptize.  Now you figure out what it means!  Can you translate “immerse” into “sprinkle”?  We still can’t all agree on that question, can we?

The KJV has its problems, the NIV has its problems; they all have their problems! That’s why many of us study in Greek and Hebrew and then look at the English; KJV fans, the original language is the best, not the KJV.  Still, I like the KJV, I learned this stuff in KJV, I can even speak King James English, but I don’t teach in it because few can fully understand it today.

Over 20 years ago, I was teaching in a church where several of the older members complained about the NIV, saying that they prefer the KJV. “If it isn’t King James, it isn’t the Bible” was the rallying cry.  So being young and eager to please, I announced one Sunday in church that I would be starting a new class that would be all King James.  We would use the KJV exclusively, all teaching would be in King James English, and all questions and comments by participants would be in King James English. ” There is a sign up sheet on the table outside, so be sure and sign up so I will know how many class handouts we will need; and they too will be written in King James English!”

Well of course nobody signed up!  They wanted to hear King James, but they wanted it explained in language they would understand…

In conclusion, if you prefer the King James, by all means use it.  As I have said, it is a fine translation.  But if another person uses a different translation, it really isn’t your place to order them to switch!  It really doesn’t mean they are the “devil’s blogger”!

Yes, that is by far the most hilarious thing I’ve been called for using NIV! 🙂

A Prayer for Bringing Our Weary Friends to Jesus

SCOTTY SMITH at Hevenward

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is lightMatt. 11:28-30

(As I pray for hurting friends and real situations, ask the Holy Spirit to show you who to bring the throne of grace today.)

Dear Lord Jesus, though I slept really well last night, I begin today quite restless with concern. I’m burdened for a few friends who are dangerously depleted, emotionally on edge, and spiritually numb. I could not be more grateful for your call to the heavy-laden and promise of soul rest.

One friend can no longer fight the strong undertow of rage she faces every single day in her home. She’d rather “pull in her oars” and drift down stream, rather than continue to fight the cruel current.

Another brother lives in a vortex of shame—either unable or unwilling to believe you won’t crush him if he comes to you. Satan has convinced him he’s hopeless and irredeemable. Then there’s the married couple, who’ve lost sight of the issues, and, now, are simply trying to out-maneuver and “out-mean” each other. They seem oblivious to the ways their bitterness and bickering impact their children.

Jesus, I am weary and burdened for my friends, and I bring them to you right now. Out of the strength of your gentleness and the power of your humility, give me what I need to love well in messy places. Show me how to pray and wrestle in the Holy Spirit for them. I take on your yoke because it unites me to you.

Free me to be comfortable with not being able to fix anything and anyone. More than anything, I want you to receive glory in each of these broken stories.

Write stories of redemption for your name’s sake. Bring your resurrection power to bear in each of these three situations, I pray. The things that are impossible with us are more than possible with you.

Keep me restless for my friends, Jesus, but keep me fully resting in you. So very Amen I pray, in your gentle, humble-hearted name.

 

Check out other prayers at http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/scottysmith/2014/03/31/a-prayer-for-bringing-our-weary-friends-to-jesus/

 

Better yet, get his book http://www.amazon.com/Everyday-Prayers-Days-Gospel-Centered-Faith-ebook/dp/B005GMYADU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1396281947&sr=8-1&keywords=scotty+smith+everyday+prayers

Jehovah’s Witnesses and Jesus: What does “Firstborn” Mean?

from Come Reason’s Apologetic Notes by Lenny Esposito

One of the main problems with Jehovah’s Witnesses is their denial of the deity of Jesus.  They claim that the Bible teaches that Jesus is a created being and point to passages like Colossians 1:15 and Proverbs 8:22 to make their point.

In this video, Lenny dispels those teachings by showing what the word firstborn really means and why Jesus must be more than someone who is created.

9 Things You Should Know about the Story of Noah

Some fun facts and thoughts from The Gospel Coalition by Joe arter

noahDarren’s Aronofksy’s new film Noah, which opens in theaters tomorrow, has been criticized for not being faithful to the biblical narrative. But how much of the story do most people remember? Here are nine things you should know about the story of Noah:

1. The story of Noah is told is chiastic parallelism (or chiasmus), a figure of speech in which the order of the terms in the first of two parallel clauses is reversed in the second. If you assign the letters A and B to the first appearance of the key words or phrases and A’ and B’ to their subsequent appearance, they follow what is commonly referred to as an A-B-B-A pattern.

A chiasm in the story of Noah and the flood (Genesis 6.10-9.19):

A   Noah (10a)
B      Shem, Ham, and Japheth (10b)
C         Ark to be built (14-16)
D            Flood announced (17)
E               Covenant with Noah (18-20)
F                  Food in the Ark (21)
G                   Command to enter the Ark (7.1-3)
H                      7 days waiting for flood (4-5)
I                         7 days waiting for flood (7-10)
J                            Entry to ark (11-15)
K                             Yahweh shuts Noah in (16)
L                                40 days flood (17a)
M                                 Waters increase (17b-18)
N                                     Mountains covered (18-20)
O                                        150 days waters prevail (21-24)
P                                       GOD REMEMBERS NOAH (8.1)
O’                                       150 days waters abate (3)
N’                                    Mountain tops become visible (4-5)
M’                                Waters abate (6)
L’                             40 days (end of) (6a)
K’                            Noah opens window of ark (6b)
J’                           Raven and dove leave ark (7-9)
I’                        7 days waiting for waters to subside (10-11)
H’                    7 days waiting for waters to subside (12-13)
G’                 Command to leave the ark (15-17)
F’                Food outside the ark (9.1-4)
E’             Covenant with all flesh (8-10)
D’          No flood in future (11-17)
C’        Ark (18a)
B’      Shem, Ham, Japheth (18b)
A’  Noah (19)

2. Based on 18 inches to a cubit, the total cubic volume of Noah’s ark would have been 1,518,000 cubic feet, the equivalent to 250 single-deck railroad stock cars. Since the average stock car can carry 80 180 lb. sheep or to 160 50 lb. sheep per deck (2.5 – 5 sq ft per animal), it’s estimated the ark could carry 20,000-40,000 sheep size animals.

3. From Ancient Near Eastern records to nautical practices as recent as the 19th century, sailors the world over used doves, ravens, and other birds to help them find and navigate toward land. A raven will fly directly toward land, so it’s line of flight can be used as a guide. Doves have a limited ability for sustained flight, so they can be used to determine the location of a landing site. As long as the dove returns, no landing site is in close range.

4. Noah and his family were on the ark for a total of 370 days. Noah’s first recorded act on leaving the ark is building an altar to the Lord (Gen. 8:20).

5. The Bible says the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat (a mountain range in Turkey) but does not specify which mountain.

6. Noah became the first drunk recorded in Scripture, resulting in immoral behavior and family troubles (Genesis 9:20-26).

7. The only time Noah is recorded as speaking is when he curses his grandson Canaan and blesses his sons Shem and Japeth. At all other points in his story, God does the talking and Noah does the listening.

8. At 950 years of age, Noah had the third longest life recorded in the Bible (after Methuselah (969) and Jared (962)).

9. Besides the book of Genesis, Noah is also mentioned in eight other books of the Bible (1st Chronicles 1:4Isaiah 54:9Ezekiel 14:1420Matthew 24:37-38Luke 3:3617:26-27,Hebrews 11:71 Peter 3:20, and 2 Peter 2:5) as well as in the Book of Enoch (10:1-3) and the Qur’an (Sura 71).

 

He posted other lists at the bottom of his blog page at http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2014/03/27/9-things-you-should-know-about-the-story-of-noah/