Thanksgiving

Next week is Thanksgiving so I thought I would use this opportunity to remind us of the origin of Thanksgiving. This holiday is not only overlooked but has been revised. Do schools today teach that Thanksgiving was to God and not the Indians?

Here’s a brief history. On November 29, 1623, three years after their arrival, and two years after the first Thanksgiving, Governor William Bradford made an official proclamation of a day of Thanksgiving:

“To all you Pilgrims: In as much as the Great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes and garden vegetable, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience;

Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all you Pilgrims, with your wives and your little ones, do gather at the meeting house, on the hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November 29, of the year of our Lord 1623, and the third year since you Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, there to listen to the pastor and render thanksgiving to Almighty God for all of His blessings.” William Bradford, Governor of the Colony.”

It’s a shame that the true meaning of Thanksgiving is not even acknowledged.

On October 3, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued a formal proclamation, passed by act of Congress, initiating the first annual “National Day of Thanksgiving”:

“No human pencil has devised, nor has any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the most high God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, has nevertheless remembered mercy…I do, therefore, invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwells in the heavens…[it is] announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord…It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people.”

I hope that you can join us next Wednesday night for our annual Thanksgiving Communion Service when we as a congregation will gather to thank God for His blessings to us, our families, our church and our nation.

What is Truth?

Pontius Pilate asked Jesus in John 18:30 “what is truth.” In spiritual things, truth is variously defined. Inclusiveism says just be true to your particular religion and you will be saved. Syncretism says that all religions are essentially the same. They all contain the truth.

The Roman Catholic Church believes that the truth resides in the Pope. When he speaks “ex cathedra” which means “from the chair”, his teachings are infallible and must be followed by all Christians, not just Roman Catholics.

Mormonism also claims to speak for God. The prophet Joseph Smith had a revelation that polygamy became God’s will. Then another revelation that stated that polygamy is not only God’s will but essential for the highest level of salvation.

In 1890 another revelation came to President Wilford Woodruff. Speaking as all Mormon presidents do—in the office of “prophet, seer and revelator”—Woodruff declared polygamy at an end. This was no longer God’s will.

As LDS president Ezra Taft Benson declared years later “A living prophet trumps a dead prophet”. What God reveals today outweighs what God revealed in the past. If Mormons did not believe this they would not have adopted a whole host of doctrines which are now vital to their faith and nowhere found in the book of Mormon. These include baptism for the dead, eventual exaltation to godhood, celestial marriage, varying levels of heaven, and avoiding tobacco, caffeine, alcohol just to name a few.

Muslims see Mohammad as the successor of all the prophets of the Old Testament. His teachings, embodied in the Quran are viewed as the incomparable, infallible, and final revelation from God, confirming all previous revelations. Muslims believe the previous revelations are texturally corrupted. The Quran is the culmination of God’s revelation to humanity and kept incorruptible by Allah. To disrespect the Quran is a grave insult to Muslims, the most heinous act a person can commit.

Here we have three religions all claiming to speak for God. Who is right? The answer is they are all wrong. How do we know this? Joseph Smith, Mohammad and all popes die. Several weeks ago I preached on Acts 17 when Paul spoke in the midst of the Areopagas. He was proving to them the folly of their idolatry and their worship of men and man’s ideas in place of God. The one thing that makes Jesus Christ the one true source of knowledge and truth is the resurrection. In Acts 17:31 Paul said: “…He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

Derek Thomas said: “What the Athenians must have found galling was Paul’s exclusivity. It was Christ or damnation. There was no middle ground. There was no sense of the world’s religions having some good in them, some sparks that lead them to a right course, still less of their having equal validity. Instead, they were damnable errors in which there could be found not a trace of hope for salvation. What was it for the apostle that sealed the exclusivity of Jesus Christ, making all other religions void? It was His resurrection.”

Jesus Christ said in John 17:17: “Sanctify them by your truth. Your word is truth.” (Emphasis mine). Christ alone, not any man or religion holds the key to truth and salvation. There is no other revelation to be given than that which has been clearly stated in the word of God.

See you Sunday.

Dick

Outwardly and Inwardly Aging

erfefI know that Christmas is still several months away but I enjoy my Christmas movies. Two movies I enjoy watching every year are Home Alone and Home Alone 2. Macaulay Culkin never ages. I know now he is probably well in his 30’s. This is true of all the old movies that we watch. When we see the actors today, we are amazed at how they have aged.

Though we all age outwardly there are many who do not mature inwardly. In Luke 2:52, Luke said concerning Jesus: “He increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” Jesus not only grew physically but also spiritually. What is wisdom? Proverbs 1:7 says: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…” How do we describe fear? The Gospel Transformation Bible says: “It is not terror or dread or harm, but proper and worshipful regard for all that God is in His wisdom, power, holiness, mercy, and love.” Jesus grew daily in His love for His Father. The same should be true of us. As our bodies mature so should our faith.

In Proverbs 16:31 we read: “Gray hair is a crown of glory, it is gained in a righteous life.” There are many people who are old in years and yet very immature in their wisdom. When I was in a civic club in my mid-20’s most of the men were my dad’s age. As a young pastor I was amazed at their language and some of their conduct. I naively thought that people twice my age would have had more wisdom than they did. The Cornerstone Bible Commentary says: “The crown jewels of those on the righteous path are the gray hairs on their heads—their long life. This resplendent diadem reveals the superiority of wisdom over gold (Proverbs 16:16), since gold and silver cannot add one day to our life (see Matthew 6:24-27). The experience of long years is but a foretaste of the endless stretch of time that is the path of life.” In other words, the older we get in years the wiser we should be in our faith and in our life. Sometime older people know more because they have lived longer.

photo 1 (1)In 2 Corinthians 4:16 Paul said: “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” As we read in I Corinthians 15, the older we get the more conscious we become of our physical weaknesses and our human limitations. There are certain things we can no longer do and sometime the energy we had years ago is waning. However, inwardly Paul said we are being renewed day by day. How are we are being renewed? Colossians 3:10 says: “And have put on a new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator.” Romans 12:2 demands that the believers “be transformed by the renewing of our minds.” Renewal here means knowing more about Jesus and becoming more like Him.

2 Corinthians 4:18 says: “As we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. This verse is a commentary on 2 Corinthians 3:18 where we are to be transformed into the likeness of Christ. The apostle Paul experienced a greater Christ-likeness even though physically he was becoming progressively weaker. Peter Naylor said: “It is not a question of balance, as if the positive compensates nicely for the negative. An inner God-given strength far outstrips bodily decay, the proportions being staggeringly different.”

This we call sanctification. As we look ahead in life, I Corinthians 15:44 reminds us: “If there is a natural body, there is a spiritual body.” This means that though we now struggle with sin, the day is coming when we shall be forever done with sin and enjoy the presence of God for all eternity with a resurrected body.

See you Sunday.

Dick

Singing to Our Joyful God

In Colossians 3:16 Paul says: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Today we are going to talk more about the importance of public worship.

The word dwell is from the Greek word that means to “live in” or “to be at home”. Paul calls upon believers to let the Word take up residence and be at home in their lives. Richly could be translated as “abundantly” or “extravagantly rich”. In other words the truth of Scripture should permeate every part of a believer’s life and govern every thought and word and action. To let the word of Christ dwell in us richly is identical to being filled with the Spirit.

Teaching is the impartation of positive truth. Admonishing is the negative side of teaching. It is to warn people of the consequences of their behavior. Having the word of Christ richly dwell in us should produce emotion. It should generate songs and hymns and spiritual songs. How should this affect us in our worship?

Bryan Chapell said: “Making God the exclusive goal of worship sounds very reverent but actually fails to respect Scripture’s own Gospel priorities. Certainly it is true that God is the most important audience member for our worship but if God were not concerned for the good of His people, His glory would be diminished. He expects us not only to praise His name (Psalm 30:4), but also to teach, admonish, and encourage one another in worship.”

As Bob Kauflin said: “God never intended that He be the only one concerned for the good of His people. He invites us to join Him.”God wants us to sing His praises. Psalm 96:1, 2 says: “Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless His name; tell of His salvation from day to day.”

John Piper said: “The reason we sing is because there are depths and heights and intensities and kinds of emotions that will not be satisfactorily expressed by mere prosaic forms, or even poetic readings. There are realities that demand to break out of prose into poetry and some demand that poetry be stretched into song…Singing is the Christian’s way of saying: God is so great that thinking will not suffice, there must be deep feeling; and talking with not suffice, there must be singing.”

Douglas Moo writes: “Worship of God should always involve the emotions; how can we praise a holy God who has redeemed us without getting emotional about it? But what should move our emotions is not the sonorous tones of the organ or the insistent beat of the drum, but the mind’s apprehension of truth about God.” In other words truth transcends tunes.

Kent Hughes said: “Imagine the early church. One got up and sang perhaps from a psalm, and another answered antiphonally. Hymns broke forth in hearty chorus. Others sang spontaneously about what God had done. There was music in their hearts. That is what Colossians 3:16 is all about. You can find this repeated in church history. The record of Christian awakenings during the last 2000 years shows that whenever the word of God is recovered, it is received with great joy which is inevitably expressed in song. The Medieval Latin hymns cluster around the fresh days of the monastic movements. The Protestant Reformation brought a rebirth of music to the Church. When we think of the Wesleyan Revival, we not only think of John Wesley, but his brother Charles who has given us so many great hymns. The great harvest of souls here in our own country in the late 1960’s and 1970’s brought a revival of scripture singing. When the word of God dwells richly within you, you want to sing ‘with gratitude in your hearts to God’.”

We can sing at home in the shower, we can sing in the car but this does not replace the singing that takes place in corporate worship as we all express with our voices the glory of God.

See you Sunday.

Dick

Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody

ymunbgrvtefcdHebrews 10:24, 25: “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.” From this verse we learn we stirred as we benefit from the different strengths, gifts and abilities God has given to each member of the church. This means that no Christian can be an individualist. We must give thought to how we can help each other. One way we serve one another is by being involved in the ministries of the church from volunteering to help clean the building or teach Sunday school.

There is a story about four people in the church whose names were Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. The church had financial responsibilities and Everybody was asked to help. Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it. But you know who did it? Nobody. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

Then the church grounds needed some work, and Somebody was asked to help. But Somebody got angry about that, because Anybody could have done it just as well and, after all, it was really Everybody’s job. In the end the work was given to Nobody and Nobody did a fine job.

On and on this went. Whenever work was to be done, Nobody could always be counted on. Nobody visited the sick. Nobody gave liberally. Nobody shared his faith. In short, Nobody was a very faithful member. Finally the day came when Somebody left the church and took Anybody and Everybody with him. Guess who was left. Nobody!

10341540_259704290878774_7684688980415230104_nThis illustrates what the author of Hebrews is telling us. We are to consider our place with other members in the body.

Verse 25 says: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”One thing this verse tells us is that we cannot worship God at home. Iain Duguid writes: “Why can’t we worship just as well in front of the TV set, where the music and the preaching may well be more inspiring? The reason is that as the covenant community together we are the new temple…there is something about corporate worship which is not present in individual worship, and that ‘something’ is a fuller expression of the reality of God’s presence.”

We are to come together to experience God’s Spirit in worship. When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper we might be overwhelmed with joy and all our sins have been paid for through the blood of Christ.

As theologian Donald Whitney explains: “When a football team wins the National Championship, it gets more glory if the game is shown to millions throughout the country than if no one but you were to see it individually on closed-circuit TV…Public glory obviously brings more glory than does private glory. Likewise, God gets more glory when you worship Him with the church than when you worship Him alone.”

Hebrews 10:25 admonishes us to encourage one another. We cannot do that if we absent ourselves from worship. As we are surrounded by unbelief in the world, we need to gather with other believes and remind ourselves of the hope that is within us to pray for one another as we go out into the world and live for Christ. Fellowship with one another is important so that we learn from each other in matters of family and friends. We ask each other what would you do in this situation or that situation. We come together as Christians not only to worship but to share with one another.

The final thing the author says is that we do this “as we see the Day approaching.” There’s a progression here. As we go through life we remind each other of the goal that we strive for: Christ and His heavenly kingdom.

See you Sunday.

Dick

Onward!

In his latest book Onward author Russell Moore in the chapter entitled “A Gospel Counter-Revolution” talks about a Gospel counter revolution. He was talking to the late theologian Carl F. H. Henry about the miserable shape of the church. Henry seemed not the least bit unnerved. “He said: Why, you speak as though Christianity were genetic. Of course, there is hope for the next generation of the church. But the leaders of the next generation might not be coming from the current Christian subculture. They are probably still pagans.

Who knew that Saul of Tarsus was to be the great apostle to the Gentiles?” he asked. “Who knew that God would raise up a C. S. Lewis, once an agnostic professor, or a Charles Colson, once Richard Nixon’s  hatchet man, to lead the 20th. Century church. They were unbelievers who, once saved by the grace of God, were mighty warriors of the faith.

Of course, he knew what he was talking about, because the same principle applied to Henry himself. Who knew that God would raise up a non-religious newspaper man from a nominally Lutheran family, save him, and then equip him to defend the truthfulness of the Scriptures and the necessity of Christian social witness for generations of evangelical Christians? But that’s precisely what happened.”

This is something we need to remember as we seek to witness for Christ in our daily lives. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 Paul said: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” The people to whom we witness may not look like us. They may have tattoos, long hair and ride motorcycles. (I am not trying to stereotype anyone but rather make us think about the extent of the Gospel on our culture.)

Moore than says: “The next Jonathan Edwards might be the man driving in front of you with the Darwin fish bumper decal. The next Charles Wesley might be a misogynistic, profanity-spewing, hip-hop artist right now. The next Charles Spurgeon might be managing an abortion clinic right now. The next Mother Teresa might be a heroin-addicted porn star right now. The next Augustine of Hippo might be a sexually promiscuous cult member right now, just like, come to think of it, the first Augustine of Hippo was.

But the Spirit of God can turn all that around, and seem to delight to do so. The new birth doesn’t just transform lives, creating repentance and faith; it also provides new leadership to the church, and fulfills Jesus’ promise to gift His church with everything needed for her onward march through space and time (Ephesians 4:8-16).   After all,   while Philip  was leading  the  Ethiopian eunuch to

Christ, Saul of Tarsus was still a murderer. And that happens over and over again, as God raises up leaders who seem to come out of nowhere, with shady pasts and uncertain futures. And none of us would be here, apart from them.”

I commend this book to all of you to read as it reminds us of the opportunities that we have living for Christ in a culture that is counter to the Gospel. Let us not lose hope that all is lost but remember that we serve a life-changing, spirit-empowering God. Let us pray for ourselves and our church for wisdom in reaching our community with the Gospel.

See you Sunday.

Dick

Genesis 1 and Gender Confusion

In Genesis 1:27 we read: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

The woman’s creation out of Adam is the basis for her equality. The Puritan Matthew Henry said: “She is not made out of his head to top him, not out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.” So here it is: Eve was taken out of Adam so that he might embrace with great love a part of himself.

Kent Hughes said: “The woman was stunning. She was the prototype of all women fresh from the well of creation. Every aspect of her was perfect. She was perfect in body and perfect in soul. She was perfectly sinless. And as she stood on the arm (so to speak) of her Father God she was there for Adam to see.”

In Genesis 2:23 Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. She shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man.” John Calvin puts these words in Adam’s mouth: “Now at length I have obtained a suitable companion, who is part of the substance of my flesh, and in whom I behold, as it were, another self.” Here Adam found his companion and his longed-for love. He was no longer alone. Her name woman celebrates their relationship.

Today we are doing our best as a society to remove the gender differences God gave us. For example University of Tennessee at Knoxville is asking students to use “ze, (she or he) hir, (her or him) hirs, (hers/his) and xe, (they) xem, (them) xyr” (their).  No, those words are not another language. According to the university, they are the gender-neutral, singular versions of pronouns.

The University of Tennessee Office of Diversity and Inclusion is asking students and faculty to use the pronouns in order to create a more inclusive campus. They say it alleviates a heavy burden for people expressing different genders or identities.

Donna Braquet the director of the University of Tennessee’s Pride Center said: “We should not assume someone’s gender by their appearance, nor by what is listed on a roster in student information systems. Transgender people and people who do not identify within the gender binary may use a different name than their legal name and pronouns of their gender identity, rather than the pronouns of the sex they were assigned at birth.”

She is also asking teachers in the first few weeks of classes to ask everyone to provide their name and pronoun instead of calling roll. “The name a student uses may not be the one on the official roster, and the roster name may not be the same gender as the one the student now uses,” ze said.

Braquet said, “These may sound a little funny at first, but only because they are new. The she and he pronouns would sound strange, too if we had been taught ze when growing up.” She said if students and faculty cannot use ze, hir, hirs, xe, xem, or xyr, they can also politely ask “O, nice to meet you (insert name). What pronouns should I use? is a perfectly fine question to ask,” ze said.

One state representative said this is taking things too far.

In I Corinthians 11:14-15 Paul said: “Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her, for her hair is given to her for a cover.”

Kim Riddlebarger said: “Paul’s point is that men are not to dress nor wear the hairstyles of women, because He creates us male and female… Part of being a divine image bearer is to be either male or female, and to deny our gender is to adopt a pagan conception of being human (with a confused sexuality) which brings shame to Christ.”

Not only are we battling same-sex marriage and transgender people, we must now defend the gender that God gave us.

See you Sunday.

Dick