Saturday, January 27, 2007


Ephesians 4:20-22

Paul has told his readers their lives are to be very different from what they once were. Before they came to faith in Christ they lived just like all the people around them. They were idolaters. They pursued all kinds of immorality. Their hearts were hardened toward God. But this was the old way of life and they must realize the old way of life must be left behind.

Now the apostle turns our thinking toward what we need to do in order to live the kind of lives God has for us. He doesn’t leave us floundering around in the dark. He doesn’t just tell us we have to be different from the world around us. He actually tells us what we have to do and how we have to do it.

Paul begins in verses 20 and 21 by reminding us how we came to know Christ. He is not talking about our conversion here. He is talking about how we came to be intimate with Jesus following our conversion. He is contrasting the lifestyle of the unconverted person with that of the Christian. In verses 18 and 19 he said the unconverted people have hearts that are hardened toward God and because of the hardness of their hearts they immerse themselves in all kinds of sensuality and impurity, continually desiring more. Christians are changed. We have new hearts that are attuned to God. We have the Holy Spirit of God living in us and working on our hearts and minds. We have been turned toward God. And having been turned toward God, we begin to come to know Christ and understand him and share fellowship with him. When we learned Christ we were no longer like the people of the world. He goes on to say that if we really heard Jesus and if we were really taught the truth that is in Jesus then it is plain to see that we cannot return to our old lives but must continue to grow in our Christian lives.

What are we supposed to do? Paul says we are to put off our old man. He uses the same words one would use to describe changing clothes. You have to take off one outfit and put on a new outfit. The outfit we have to take off is our old man, our old way of life. What is the old man? It is what we were at birth. It is the person we used to be; the person who was born in sin because of the fall of Adam. Paul describes the old man in verses 17-19. He is futile in his thinking and darkened in his understanding because of sin. He is separated from the life of God and his heart is hardened. As a result of these things he pursues all kinds of sin and hungers for more. This old man is being corrupted; he is dying but he doesn’t realize it because his desires are deceiving him.

This old man should influence us no longer. He was put to death when you became a Christian and were recreated as a child of God. Notice that Paul says, “You were taught to put off your old man.” When you became a follower of Jesus you were taught to put off the fallen, sinful man. The verb tense Paul uses means, “You were taught to put off your old man once and for all.” If this is something we were supposed to do once and for all, then why does Paul tell his readers in verse 25 that they must put off the sins of their old lives? It has to do with the fact that as long as we are still living in our fallen and corruptible bodies we are susceptible to the weight of sin. Remember Paul’s own testimony in Romans 7:18-25. Even Paul struggled with sin! So what he means is this: “You were taught to put off the old man when you came to faith in Christ, and so you did. But as time has passed you may have slipped back into some of your old behaviors. You still need to put off the old man once and for all!”

Thursday, January 25, 2007


So were you able to catch the State of the Union address Tuesday evening? Youngest daughter, Mary, had a choir cabaret concert that night and it hit the two-hour mark at 9:00 when Anne of the House leaned over and whispered, “If you want to walk home to see the speech it would be ok.” I was out the door and hustling the mile to our house as fast as my short, aging legs would carry me through the snow. I only missed the first four minutes when the President was talking about the budget.

I was impressed with his new sense of humility. I’m not sure he has a lot of choice since the Congress has moved to the left side of the aisle, but I was afraid he would still come across as if he was trying to pick a fight. He seemed to be trying to reason with his audience more than in the past. Just a few comments on the subjects he addressed:

Tax breaks for health insurance: I think everyone should have health insurance. I also think many people don’t agree with me. Give people money to buy health insurance and many of them will choose to buy something else with it. I seriously doubt federal health care will make many people happy. (See: Great Britain)

No Child Left Behind: Nice sentiment. I don’t want to leave a kid behind if he wants to work and study. But our educational system is fast becoming one big international joke and if we don’t start leaving some kids behind we’ll all be stuck behind. Nations that realize college isn’t for everybody (See: Japan) have long since passed us. I think competition has a place in education.

Alternative fuels: It’s about time!

Immigration reform: It seems like a good idea to tighten up the borders and give temporary work permits. As it is now it is just too easy for anyone to get across the borders and I seem to recall we’re fighting a war against terror. Step 1: keep terrorists out of your own country.

Iraq: I don’t see any good solution and I’m tired of people saying, “Well, if you don’t like what the President is doing, what would you do?” Don’t stick this on me! If I was president we wouldn’t be in this situation. We had a number of alternatives before we invaded Iraq. It’s too easy to say, “Don’t criticize unless you have an alternative to offer.” It’s possible for a person to create a lose/lose situation without good alternatives and to require alternatives as currency for criticism is ridiculous. Some people say, “Just let the military deal with it!” No, I don’t think so. The military has a solution but I’m not sure I’m willing to see women and children blown up in their solution. I agree with the President’s statement that it is time for the Iraqi government to step up. Maybe I think they should step up even more than he does. It’s time for some multinational talks and I don’t mean the UN.

Did you hear the same interviews I heard after the speech? John McCain seemed to be struggling to be supportive of the President. Hillary could do nothing more than criticize. Barak Obama was scary good. Thoughtful, cooperative, creative.

Finally, how about Jim Webb’s Democratic response to the speech? Watch out for this guy! My prediction: potential vice-presidential timber or a presidential run. Was he smooth or what? Here’s my biggest complaint of the night. This may not be a perfect quote but it is close, “The majority of our nation does not support the way the war is being run.” This is where the Democrats really make me angry. Since when do they concern themselves with what the majority of our nation thinks? Let me tell you this, if I may, the majority of our nation does not support abortion either and the Democrats don’t seem too concerned about that!

Thanks for listening. You’re too kind.

Friday, January 19, 2007


Ephesians 4:18, 19

Paul says the people of the world are separated from the life of God “because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.” Don’t live like the rest of the world because their hearts are hardened.

The hardening of the heart is a process that goes along with sin and the fall. With spiritual death the heart begins to harden toward God. As we sin our hearts grow harder and harder. The first time we commit a particular sin it might really hurt our hearts but the more we commit that same sin the harder our hearts become. Layer upon layer of sin hardens our hearts until we can sin without feeling anything at all. It is like a callous building up on our hearts. Growing up in Southern California we rarely wore shoes all summer. I remember that at the beginning of the summer I would feel a great deal of pain walking across the hot sand at the beach. But by the end of the summer I could walk just about anywhere without feeling any pain at all! The calluses on my feet were so thick that I could stick pins in them and I wouldn’t feel anything! That is the kind of effect sin has on our hearts. Our hearts lose sensitivity to sin and then we are free to commit even more sin without pain. But sin can never be satisfied. The very nature of sin, Paul says, lusts for more and more and greater and greater sin.

It is this hardening of the heart that leads to the ignorance that is in the non-Christian person, “because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” Paul is not talking about intellectual or academic ignorance. He is not saying these people are stupid. He is talking about spiritual ignorance, a lack of knowing the life of God, and an inability to recognize spiritual reality. Look at it like this. I can read a book about quantum physics. I can read the words but they mean nothing to me because I am ignorant when it comes to quantum physics! Likewise, very intelligent people can read the Bible or listen to a sermon but it means nothing to them because they are ignorant of spiritual things. And they are ignorant of the things of God because their hearts are hardened by sin.

What can be done for a person whose heart is hardened? Is there any hope? The only hope is a miraculous intervention by God. Only he can do something about a hardened heart! This is exactly what he promised to do and exactly what he did. Look at the prophecy of Ezekiel 11:19-21, “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people and I will be their God. But as for those whose hearts are devoted to their vile images and detestable idols, I will bring down on their own heads what they have done, declares the Sovereign LORD.”

What shall we Christians do? How can we keep our hearts soft toward God? The writer to the Hebrews said it this way in 3:12-15, “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. As has just been said: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.’” We should be careful to encourage each other to turn our hearts toward God. Our hearts can still be hardened by sin and rebellion against God. We are to encourage each other. We must share our lives together. We must love each other enough to share with one another and hear what others have to say to us. We must do all we can to keep our hearts soft toward God.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Ephesians 4:18

Paul has said we may no longer live like the rest of the world around us. In verse 18 he gives us another reason for this. He says they are “separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” Don’t live like the world around you because they are separated from the life of God! What does Paul mean? Again, it is a result of sin and the fall. Man was created with the life of God. Genesis 2:7 says, “The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” God breathed his own life into the man he created! But God’s warning to him was that if they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they would surely die. They ate and they died. They did not immediately die physically but they were separated from the life of God. All human beings are born separated from the life of God. They have physical life but they are spiritually lifeless. What the world calls life is not life at all! It is physical existence without the life of God. They think they are alive and safe but they have no idea of the very real danger they live in every moment!

Do you ever watch horror movies? I used to watch them but I can’t stand them now. The tension is too much for me. But in those movies I did see there were people who were constantly going into rooms where the killer was hiding. Or they were walking down shady paths where the killer waited. Or they were hiding under beds or climbing stairs or going into garages where certain death awaited them. I just couldn’t stand it! I would literally ruin the movie for people by saying much too loudly, “No! Don’t go there! You’ll die!” That’s how the world lives. They think they are safe but they are walking into certain death and destruction.

There is another illustration that comes to mind from the cartoons when I was a kid. It may have been a Popeye cartoon. He was sleepwalking through all kinds of danger. He would walk across the edge of a narrow wall and at the end of the wall there was a board swinging from a crane and he would walk onto the board which would spin around and deposit him high onto a skyscraper under construction. He would walk across the beams of this skyscraper and step into an elevator which would lift him higher into the building. Then he would walk off the edge of the skyscraper onto something else and it would just go on and on. The sleepwalker was completely unaware of the constant danger around him.

The people of the world live their lives like that 24/7. They live like they are completely safe from any danger. They say there is no God. There is no judgment. There is no punishment. It is like a nightmare for me. I keep screaming for them to be careful but they can’t hear me! Wake up! Watch out!

The people of the world think they are alive but they are really the living dead. There can be no real life until they are reunited with the life of God. This is exactly what God did for us through Jesus Christ. Peter wrote, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2 Peter 1:3, 4). The only escape from the corruption and death of the world is found in the life of God. Paul told us how that happens in Ephesians 2:4, 5, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” God took us from being the living dead and made us alive in Christ. He gave us his Holy Spirit to come into us and reunite us with his life.

We should not envy the lives that the people around us are living. What they have is not life. They are separated from the life of God. We are different. We have the life of God. We have been saved by God’s grace to live the life God has prepared for us. We are fully alive and we need to live the life of God!


I would like to introduce you to a friend of mine who is doing some excellent thinking and writing on the condition of the established evangelical church in the United States. He is a layman who has served as an elder in his church and his comments are very valuable to me as a pastor. I can't tell you how important it is for a pastor to hear the words of a thoughtful layperson who is entirely committed to Christ and to good theology and practice. So I invite you to visit Doulos Christou at No Pearls Before Swine. He has just finished the third installment of his current topic, Exalting God and His Word above All Things. I encourage you to go back to his post on December 31 and read all three installments. I think he deserves a wider readership and I know he would be encouraged to hear your thoughts and comments as well. I admire him for staying in the establishment and fighting the good fight from within while so many of us have left to start new works.

Thanks for your time! You guys are great!

Saturday, January 13, 2007


Ephesians 4:17, 18

A huge difference between the world and Christians is to be found in the way we think. Paul says the world lives according to the futility of their thinking. In other words, the way people think affects the way they live. Non-Christians live according to the emptiness and futility of their minds. If we return to Romans 12:2 we see what Paul wants from Christians, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is.” The thinking of the world is unable to discern the will of God. The Christian mind is renewed and able to recognize the will of God. If a person thinks like the world he will continue to act like the world. If a person thinks like a Christian, with the mind of God, then he will live like a Christian.

Paul says the thinking of the world is futile. The word also could be translated “empty.” In other words, the thinking of the world doesn’t really accomplish anything. How does the world think? In our day I think it could be called a “Do What You Want” philosophy. Tolerance of everything is the key. There is no right or wrong. There is no absolute truth. There is no right religion or wrong religion. One of the sure signs of the emptiness and futility of the human mind is the fact that he creates his own gods while denying the existence of his Creator. He knows he needs something but he does not know what that is. He chases after all kinds of things hoping to find peace and satisfaction. He thinks he knows what he needs but the one thing he does not know is that he needs a relationship with God! What does this lead to? Nothing! There is no meaning to life. There is no real significance to anything. There is no morality, no truth, no good or bad. This kind of thinking leads to emptiness.

But why is the thinking of the world futile? In verse 18 Paul says they “are darkened in their understanding.” How did this happen? It is the result of the fall and sin. Paul writes in Romans 1:21, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Then in 2 Corinthians 4:4 he says, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God.” Without the light of God they cannot see truth even though they pretend to know so much and be so wise. They make broad statements about the existence of God but they do not know him. They laugh at people who believe God created the world but they do not know him. They do not understand truth; neither are they able to do so. They think they know so much but they are deceived, says Paul, because their understanding is darkened.

About ten years ago I visited Mount Rushmore with my family. We pulled into the campground at night and all night I was looking forward to seeing the famous sculpture. Of course I had seen many pictures of it and I had a perfect idea of it in my mind but I had never laid eyes on it in person. The morning came but it was very foggy. A heavy blanket of fog covered the valley beneath the monument. We drove up to the viewing area where there were many people waiting. I had no idea where to look. I squinted my eyes trying to pierce the fog. All the people around me were pointing in different directions and saying things like, “It’s that way!” “No! It’s over there!” “It’s higher than that!” It was no use. I couldn’t see Mt. Rushmore no matter how hard I tried. Finally, after a couple of hours, the fog burned off and there it was in all its glory!

Why couldn’t I see Mt. Rushmore? Was there something wrong with my eyes? Was I too stupid to see it? Was I doing something wrong? Didn’t I try hard enough? No! There was nothing I could do! There was a fog at the foot of the mountain and no matter what I did I could not see the monument! My vision was darkened by the fog. And so it is with the world. No matter how brilliant a person might be, he cannot see truth because his understanding is darkened! All of his ideas and thoughts are futile, not because he is stupid, but because his mind is darkened! The fog has to be lifted! There has to be new light! That is what God has done for us Christians. He has shined the light of the gospel on us, the light that drives away the fog that darkens our understanding. Paul said it in 2 Corinthians 4:6, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

God has revealed himself to us. He has recreated us and given us new minds. He has given us faith. Through his Holy Spirit he has given us the ability to discern his plan and his purpose. Paul is telling us that our thinking is not to be empty, vain, and futile. We are to think like Christians! We are to have the mind of God. Paul says this same thing in Romans 8:5-8, “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the flesh cannot please God.” There it is! In order to think like a Christian we set our minds on what the Holy Spirit desires. When we have the mind of the Spirit then we will live the life of the Spirit!

Friday, January 12, 2007


Ephesians 4:17

We need to remember that the Ephesian Christians were still very young in their faith. Paul is writing to them barely ten years after he started the church there. The church is made up of both Jews and Gentiles. The vast majority of the Gentiles were converted out of the cult of Artemis. Following Christ required a huge change in their lives. The Artemis cult had been the focus of their entire lives. Now they were launching out into an entirely new lifestyle. What things did they have to leave behind? How were they supposed to live? How were they to look at their friends and families who were still in the Artemis cult? The passage we are looking at here seems to be aimed primarily at these Gentile believers who had to make such dramatic changes. Very simply, Paul tells them they have to live radically different lives from their friends and he tells them why they must do so.

This passage is intensely practical for us Christians who live in the 21st century. We will see that our situation is not all that much different from Paul’s 1st century readers! Paul calls upon us to live differently from the world around us as well.

Paul begins this section of his letter by saying, “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.” If Paul was writing directly to us he would say, “Do not live your lives like the rest of society around you lives.” He would say, “You are different so be different! You are a Christian so don’t live like those around you who are not Christians!”

This is something we really need to consider carefully. We need to realize what it means to be a Christian. Being Christian is not what so many of our friends and neighbors think it is. A Christian is not someone who has decided that he needs to start being good. A Christian is not someone who has decided to turn over a new leaf. A Christian is not someone who has decided she needs to quit drinking or quit gambling or quit sleeping around. A Christian is not someone who has decided it is time to start taking his family to church.

What is a Christian? A Christian is a person who has experienced a fundamental change in his inner person. His old person has died and he has been reborn. A Christian is a new creation in Christ Jesus. If you are a Christian then you have been recreated as a child of God and as a child of God you will live differently from those around you who are not children of God. If you are a Christian you will not allow the world around you to bend you and shape you to live just like everyone else. Paul is telling us that Christians may not go on living like the rest of the world lives. He says the same thing in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world…”

Notice that Paul says we must “no longer live as the Gentiles do.” No longer! We can never forget that we were at one time in the same boat as all the rest of the people around us. We were in the same lost condition as they are. We lived just like they do. But we are supposed to be different now. We can no longer live like them. Paul is telling us to be different! Embrace the difference between what we once were and what God has now made us! Do we find ourselves attracted by the lifestyles of the people in the world? Do we find ourselves influenced by the values of the world? Are we fascinated by television shows like Inside Edition and Access Hollywood? Or do we find ourselves just wanting to fit in with the rest of the world? Do we want to avoid standing out? Paul tells us that we have to embrace the difference between the way the world lives and the way we are called to live.

There is a very practical question that arises here. If Christians are to live so much differently from the world, why do so many churches work so hard to try to be just as attractive and entertaining as the world? Why do churches try so hard to mimic the world and be cool? Is it an effort to try to make the people of the world feel comfortable in their churches? Are they trying to show the world that they really don’t have to change that much to be part of the church? We are different from the world and we should embrace the difference, not minimize it as much as possible!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007



The final challenge is offered in verses Hebrews 10:24, 25. In these two verses the writer charges us to care about one another. He shows us two ways in which we can show that we care about each other. First he says we should “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (v.24) In effect, he is saying that it should be a priority for us to put some thought and effort into helping each other be obedient to God. He uses the word “consider.” Considering requires time and thought. In other words, he is not telling us that we are to behave as judge and jury over one another. Instead, we should care so much about one another that we would be willing to carefully think about ways in which we can motivate one another to grow in obedience. How contrary this is to our usual way of thinking! It usually takes all our energy to motivate ourselves to do the right thing and here we are told that we should help others! In our society people make an effort not to pay attention to the troubles and struggles other people have. We tend to act in a way that communicates that we are only to concern ourselves with our own business. But look at it another way. If we don’t help one another, who is going to help us? The world does not offer any help to us in our effort to love and do good deeds! It is left up to us! The body of Christ is charged with the duty of lovingly ministering to one another and helping each other along the path to obedience. Our spiritual lives are not just our own business! We do not live out our Christianity in a vacuum! We live openly among one another and we are not free to focus our efforts merely upon ourselves. We are our brothers’ keepers and we ought to think about how to help them along the road to a closer relationship with God!

There is a second way in which we can try to take care of one another. The writer tells us that we need to be committed to one another. That commitment is shown by our continuing to faithfully meet together and encourage one another. It has always been a temptation to some to think lightly of meeting together with other Christians. Some have always thought they could do just fine without the rest of the body. The writer to the Hebrews would never accept such thinking. How could such a person do his part to spur one another on to love and good deeds? How could this person encourage other believers? If we just look around us we can see many brothers and sisters who are in need of all kinds of encouragement! How will you encourage them if you stay at home or choose to use your time selfishly? Christian people need to just be together! We must get to know one another’s strengths and weaknesses. One of the great joys of 2006 has been watching the growth in love and unity among our people here at Shiloh. May we increase our caring for each other in 2007!

Our text ends with the words, “and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” The Day of the Lord is approaching! As we turn our calendars to a new year we realize that we are one year closer to Christ’s return! What are our resolutions for this year? Let us come nearer to God! Let us cling unswervingly to our hope in Christ! And let us truly care about one another!

Saturday, January 06, 2007


This post started as a comment to Phil Wyman over at his excellent blog, Square No More. It got too long so I just put it here. I urge you to go to Phil's blog. You'll find a link to it in my right margin column. The discussion there is brilliant!


I have been very attracted by the Emergent Thing. (Like you, I'm not really sure what to call it.) The missional aspect of their thinking was the first thing to get me too. I was already scared to death that we American Christians were about to become totally marginalized due to our own inability to address our culture. The second thing that attracted me was a renewal of worship in congregational gatherings. For many years I have longed for something more IN MY OWN MINISTRY than a series of activities that served as the warm up band for THE PREACHER! It always felt like the "worship leader" was doing an Ed McMahon, "Heeere's Dave!" I have some young guys around me at Shiloh to help me with the Emergent Thing and they keep telling me I'm not really emergent but "thanks for the freedom to do good stuff."

Last Spring I went to a Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology here in Grand Rapids. I've been attending PCRTs since the 70s. A couple of the main speakers launched out on tirades against the Emergent Thing. These were young guys. (All my old buddies seem to have left the scene for one reason or another.) I heard myself being skewered in the most amazing language! I was an antinomian. I was anti-theology. I was a good works salvationist.

I was stunned! I thought I was a reformed church planter who wanted to reach his neighbors with the gospel and worship God! Here I find I must have been wrong about myself all along! So I went up to the young man and introduced myself. (I know his father well.) He was so glad to meet me! I asked him if he had ever had a conversation with an Emergent pastor. He said he had not. I unveiled my secret identity and invited him to talk and he walked away as fast as he could.

It is very dangerous to look at a movement from the outside and then paint it with a broad brush. Those who did that to the Jesus People movement in the 60s were eventually embarassed. There were some errors in that movement but so much good came out of it! The same is true of the 1st century church. There were some errors in it but...

I suspect this is true of the Emergent Thing. Some of us are wrong about some things and there is error in it. But many people are coming to faith in Christ who would never come into contact with a member of 1st Baptist, Anywhere, Michigan! The mystery and majesty of worship is returning. (Of course, you Pentecostals never lost that! We're trying to figure out how to get the sign off our door that reads "ICHABOD!")

It makes me sad that many of those who are spewing anti-emergent stuff from their pens and pulpits are men whom I love, whom I have counted as friends, whom I have greatly respected, and from whom I have learned so much. What are they afraid of? These brothers should tread very lightly and be very certain of what they say.

Thanks, Phil, for the ongoing conversation. None of us will emerge unscathed but WE SHALL EMERGE!


Friday, January 05, 2007



“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess.” (Hebrews 10:23) What is this hope which Christians profess? Our hope is fixed on the promises of God. Our hope is in the truth of the gospel. Our hope depends on the power and the sovereignty of God. Are the promises of God trustworthy? When God says something can we be certain that he will do it? Does the gospel of Christ really offer us the hope of eternal life? Can we actually stake our lives on the truth of the gospel message? Will we discover some day that Christ is not able to save us? That our sins are not forgiven? Is God able to do all the things he has said he would do? Will any enemy or any circumstances arise which will prevent God from doing all he has promised? We have considered all of these things and have concluded that the promises of God and the gospel are true and that God is sovereign over all things. Therefore, we believe and we must believe with all our hearts. We need to cling to our hope!

Do you ever waver in your hope? Do you experience periods of serious doubt and fear concerning the promises of God? What is it that might cause such wavering? It is not God! God cannot fail. God never changes. The wavering comes from the weakness of our own hearts and the weakness of our faith. Temptation comes into our path and we walk into sin. We lose sight of God and begin to waver. We experience very difficult situations in our lives and we go through times of painful trials. Our faith is sorely tested and we begin to wonder and waver. Why is God doing this? Why is God letting these things happen to me? Doubt begins to creep into our hearts and we figure we had better take matters into our own hands. We take our eyes off that which is sure and solid and we become terrified by the waves of trouble which surround us. Or perhaps we are led astray by our own desires and passions; a desire for wealth, for an easier life, for earthly comforts. The things of this world draw our eyes away and entice us and we begin to waver.

What do we do in order to cling to the hope which we profess? How do we keep from wavering? The writer tells us that our strength lies not within us but in God because “he who promised us is faithful.” We do not know what 2007 holds for us. Many among us may be asked to endure all kinds of trials and hardships. What shall we do? The words of Job come to mind, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.” (Job 13:15) Job clung to God because he knew God was faithful. In the midst of deepest misery Job would not doubt God. The faithfulness of God was his rock and his foundation. Will we be able to say in the middle of trouble, “God is faithful and he is good. He means this for my benefit. No matter what happens I will trust in him.” Let’s be prepared for whatever God may have in store for us and commit ourselves to cling to the hope we profess no matter what!

Thursday, January 04, 2007


I think Gerald R. Ford was a good man. I believe he was very honest. He was evidently a good father and a loving husband. He was very intelligent and a hard worker. He was an excellent athlete and he had a very good sense of humor. I’ve always admired a man who can laugh at himself and not take himself too seriously. As a person, I would have enjoyed knowing Gerald Ford.

I spent a great portion of yesterday watching the funeral here in Grand Rapids. The service was held at Grace Episcopal Church. I was very impressed by the service. It was a traditional, liturgical service, full of the gospel and traditional expressions of Christian faith. I was deeply moved by the service itself. I was particularly touched by the obvious love and respect shown to President Ford by President Carter. Carter’s comments about the mutual faith they shared were powerful.

Gerald Ford was not a perfect man, but he was a brother in Christ and his faith guided him in a very difficult time for our country. Here is something I find very interesting. Ford was the first president I remember who made no apology for being a Christian and every president since has also made a clear profession of faith in Christ. Carter is a Southern Baptist. Reagan was a Presbyterian. George H.W. Bush is Episcopalian. Clinton is a Southern Baptist. And George W Bush is a Methodist. All flawed men. You may disagree with many or all of them. All have made very bad decisions both personally and politically. But I think all of them are genuine Christians.

Nixon was responsible for pushing me away from my Republican upbringing. By the time I was in college and thinking on my own I had begun to identify with the ideals of the Kennedys. I was unhappy with the way Johnson and Nixon handled the Viet Nam war.

Then came Watergate. Watergate was the end for me. The only hope the Republican party had with me was a proper prosecution of Nixon. He needed to be held responsible for his involvement. Ford pardoned him and I was gone. In my opinion, the office of president has never recovered from that decision. I don’t think a president has been respected trusted in the same way since Nixon abused the office and got away with it.

Nevertheless, President Ford was a good man and he did what he thought was right. I’m confident we will have a chance to discuss it in the future.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


I was thinking about New Year’s resolutions for the folks at Shiloh for 2007. I came across Hebrews 10:19-25 and there I found three things I would love to offer as resolutions for our fellowship.

The first thing the writer to the Hebrews exhorts his readers to do is to “draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith” (10:22). I ask myself, “Have I come nearer to God during 2006?” Am I closer to God today than I was a year ago today? Has the past year found me stepping closer and closer to God? How about you? Can you identify a passion in your heart to come nearer to God? Some of you may say, “I don’t really know what you mean. I have never come near to God. I don’t know how to get close to God! Is it really possible for a human being to come close to God?”

The Bible tells us that it is not only possible for people to come near to God but that it is something that God actually desires for us! God created human beings in such a way that he could enjoy fellowship with us. In the Garden of Eden God walked and talked with Adam and Eve. God continues to desire a relationship with us and he urges us to come near to him. Think how amazing this truth is! It is a wonderful thing to have a wife or husband, a family, and friends who want to be near us, but how marvelous it is to realize that the Almighty Creator desires to have us come near to him! It is almost beyond comprehension!

The thing I find so sad is that God has to urge us to come near to him! The very fact that he must make such a request indicates how far away from him we have fallen! Ever since the first sin of Adam the gap between God and humans has increased as sin has increased. As we have slipped farther and farther into the darkness of sin God has been calling us to come near to him. But God is holy. In our sin we are completely helpless to turn around and draw ourselves near to him. It is our own sin that is the barrier. It is our sin that is the hindrance which keeps us from coming into his presence. If we are to come near to God then something has to be done about our sin!

Thanks be to God, he did do something about our sin! He sent his Son to earth so he might “save his people from their sins!” Those whose sins are forgiven by the work of Christ have had the barrier removed. Thanks to the work of Christ we are now able to come near to God. The writer describes this privilege of coming near to God in terms of the temple in Jerusalem. Once each year the high priest passed through the protective curtain into the presence of God in the Most Holy Place. He was only able to do this because he carried with him the blood of the goat which had been sacrificed. He was able to serve as the mediating priest between God and the Jews because he had been properly prepared. He had been consecrated and made acceptable to God. He had been touched by the blood himself and he had washed his body so he could present himself as holy to God.

The writer to the Hebrews uses this Old Testament picture to describe how God has made it possible for us to come into his presence and draw near to him. In verse 19 he says that we have confidence to enter God’s presence, not because of the blood of some sacrificed goat, but because of the shed blood of his sacrificed Son! The passage into God’s presence is no longer through a physical curtain but through Christ himself! (10:20) We no longer need an earthly high priest as a mediator because Jesus Christ is our great High Priest who intercedes on our behalf. (10:21) Those of us who believe have had our hearts cleansed of sin by the blood of Christ and have been symbolically washed in the waters of baptism. (10:22)

There is no need for us to be separated from God! We may come near to God with sincere hearts and the full assurance of faith. Those who come to God may only come with hearts that are true and genuine. They may only come to God through faith in the fact that the work of Christ was sufficient to pay for their sins. Apart from these things no man may safely enter into the presence of God.

My resolution and desire for the New Year is to spend more time in the presence of God. I want to come nearer to God. Christ has removed all hindrances and has provided the passageway. In 2007 let us all spend less time hanging around in the outer courts! Let’s fix our eyes on Christ and come near to God!