Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Greatest Prayer I Can Pray

Within the greatest sermon ever proclaimed is the greatest prayer ever given.

It is so easy to skim over this part of the Sermon on the Mount because we have echoed these words for years... ironically, the teaching Jesus gives us is to NOT pray with meaningless repetition! Yet, sadly, I have mindlessly done it hundreds of times!

(Matthew 6:5-15 ESV) “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

The greatest prayer you can pray is an honest prayer intentionally directed at the Living God... the One Jesus calls, Father.

The greatest prayer you can pray is not a public prayer (though this is not a prohibition of public prayer), it is a secret prayer with the faith that you know it is being heard and answered by God “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

The effective power of prayer is in GOD HIMSELF. It is not the time, the number of prayers, the place, it is not even the amount of faith.... but we are encouraged and admonished to pray!

Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

The first part of this prayer is directed UPWARD. How often my prayers begin with me. Jesus directs prayer to the Father first.... the greatest prayers are more interested in God's agenda than personal agendas.


Hillary Scott (of Lady Antebellum) has written and performed an amazing song around the idea of "Thy Will Be Done". She wrote it while wrestling with the aftermath of a miscarriage. The song will be a part of an entire album "Love Remains" that features Hillary and her family singing about matters of faith.

I'm so confusedI know I heard you loud and clear
So, I followed through
Somehow I ended up here
I don't wanna think
I may never understand
That my broken heart is a part of your plan
When I try to pray
All I've got is hurt and these four words
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
I know you're good
But this don't feel good right now
And I know you think
Of things I could never think about
It's hard to count it all joy
Distracted by the noise
Just trying to make sense
Of all your promises
Sometimes I gotta stop
Remember that you're God
And I am not
I know you see me
I know you hear me, Lord
Your plans are for me
Goodness you have in store

When we pray "Thy Will Be Done" ... it isn't giving God permission to do His will...He will do it (as in heaven).. it is more of an embracing of God's will. When we allow our will to be molded into God's will, we are better, stronger, and more at peace.


Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

As I pray this part of the prayer, I am encouraged! God does care about me and it is OK to ask for things... including forgiveness.

But forgiveness is claimed in the environment of a heart conditioned by God.

True forgiveness from God is confirmed in the fruit of our response... our willingness to forgive and our desire to live in humility and holiness.

That is why Jesus stresses it again... with emphasis: For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

How is your heart right now? Are you lonely? Hurting? Weighed down by sin? Do you feel distant from God? Are you angry? Bitter?

Maybe you're just great right now.....

Quietly pray this familiar prayer... maybe use your own language:

My gracious Father!
You rule the heavens and the earth... the Sovereign King of all creation.
I want your name to be proclaimed over all the earth!
I so wish all people would come to know You and Your amazing ways and experience the power, peace, and freedom of your kingdom!
Lord, please help me submit to You in a deeper and fuller way everyday!

Lord, I need help. Without You I have nothing.
I need Your provision and Your protection!
And most of all, I need Your forgiveness..I AM A SINNER!

And Father, may I not live in a caustic attitude of judgement and condemnation of others. I plea for all men to experience Your mercy. You have forgiven me and I need to forgive others!

And Father, I fall so easily to temptation...teach me to live a life worthy of Your gospel. It is a better way to live!

Let it be so in my life! (AMEN) This is how good He is..... He hears and rains down love overflowing.... Open your heart and let the healing begin!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Ageless War

I appreciate the poem Invictus, especially when you think of how it helped sustain Nelson Mandela for 27 years while he was in prison. I understand the power and application of Invictus..... and I never want to ever squash the God-given desire to live, to create, to conquer, to win, to compete, to own.

When you read various survival stories... the one who survives has a deep 'will to win' that surpasses the limits of nature and imagination.

But 'INVICTUS' carried to its ultimate end is eternally dangerous. What is true about Invictus is always borrowed from THE TRUTH. A personal resolve to persevere is one thing... but to acknowledge the only, true, and living God in the midst of struggles is a much better thing!

We need to constantly ask ourselves.. what mode of salvation are we 'trusting in'?

There are fundamentally only two doctrines of salvation : that salvation is from God, and that salvation is from ourselves. The former is the doctrine of common Christianity; the latter is the doctrine of universal heathenism. "The principle of heathenism," remarks Dr. Herman Bavinck, "is, negatively, the denial of the true God, and of the gift of his grace; and, positively, the notion that salvation can be secured by man's own power and wisdom. 'Come, let us build us a city, and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven, and let us make us a name.' Gen. 11 : 4.

Whether the works through which heathenism seeks the way of salvation bear a more ritual or a more ethical character, whether they are of a more positive or of a more negative nature, in any case man remains his own saviour; all religions except the Christian are autosoteric (self salvation).

BB Warfield 'The Plan of Salvation'

Self-salvation that carries no thought of God at all slowly and inevitably takes a toll.

My oldest daughter has spent the last year as an ER nurse at a hospital. Her stories have been eye-opening to say the least!

One case had her securing the head of a gunshot victim because the family had driven the victim right to their door.

The saddest commentary she relates is how death is so common where she works that there seems to be a loss of the sanctity of life. Sometimes the surviving family members don't even cry, it is like it is just the common lot of human beings trapped in a cycle of crime, dependency, isolation, and decay.

The cheapening of life has dramatic social consequences. As life loses its value homicidal and suicidal actions can be just a whimsical choice colored by the flavor of the day.

Can the loss of the beauty of life be connected to the erosion of the knowledge of God?

I often wonder about this.

If we thought more of God, would there be a greater concern for the afterlife?

And if we thought more of eternity...would it make us pause in reverence and fear regarding our choices?

When was the last time you heard a good, thoughtful Bible based exposition on the reality of hell?

How about a few famous quotes from C.S. Lewis?

The safest road to hell is the gradual one — the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts. –C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’–C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

“There is no doctrine which I would more willingly remove from Christianity than this (hell), if it lay in my power. But it has the full support of Scripture and, specially, of our Lord’s own words; it has always been held by Christendom; and it has the support of reason” –C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

 “I have met no people who fully disbelieved in hell and also had a living and life-giving belief in Heaven” –C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

In the long run the answer to all those who object to the doctrine of hell is itself a question: “What are you asking God to do?” To wipe out their past sins and, at all costs, to give them a fresh start, smoothing every difficulty and offering every miraculous help? But he has done so, on Calvary. To forgive them? They will not be forgiven. To leave them alone? Alas, I am afraid that is what he does. 

 “The damned are, in one sense, successful, rebels to the end; the doors of hell are locked on the inside. . . . They enjoy forever the horrible freedom they have demanded, and are therefore self-enslaved.”

“the demand of the loveless and the self-imprisoned that they should be allowed to blackmail the universe: that till they consent to be happy (on their own terms) no one else shall taste joy: that theirs should be the final power; that hell should be able to veto heaven.” –C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

Who spoke more of hell than anyone?

" I have read the speculations of Schleirmacher, Bultman, Tillich, Brunner, Barth, and Moltmann, to say nothing of Plato, Kant, Hume, Feurbach, Lenin, and Bertrand Russell. All offer logical explanations used to discredit the notion of eternal punishment.....While I am deeply impressed by the arguments of brilliant thinkers like Schleirmacher, Tillich, and others, I prefer our Lord's words to theirs.
Those who acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord cannot escape the clear, unambiguous language with which He warns of the awful truth of eternal punishment." Kenneth Kantzer (quoted by Robert A. Peterson) 

In the Bible, Jesus spoke more about hell than anyone else did. He referred to hell as a real place (Matthew 10:2813:40–42Mark 9:43–48). He described it in graphic terms: a fire that burns but doesn’t consume, an undying worm that eats away at the damned, and a lonely, foreboding darkness. These are likely only symbols of something worse that we can imagine.

Robert A. Peterson outlines just in the Gospel of Matthew four distinct truths that Jesus teaches regarding hell.

Listen to these warnings from Jesus Himself!

Hell is real 

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. (Matthew 5:22 ESV)

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. (Matthew 5:29-30 ESV)

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. (Matthew 23:15 ESV)

You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? (Matthew 23:33 ESV)

Hell is ruled by God

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28 ESV)

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. (Matthew 25:41 ESV)

And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46 ESV)

Hell involves rejection

And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:23 ESV)

I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:11-12 ESV)

Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Matthew 22:13 ESV)

And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Matthew 25:30 ESV)

Hell involves pain

Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” (Matthew 13:30 ESV)

Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. (Matthew 13:40-43 ESV)

So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:49-50 ESV)

...but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire. (Matthew 18:6-9 ESV)

the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 24:50-51 ESV)

John Piper agrees that Jesus is very clear:

The wicked suffer terribly, remain conscious, retain their memories, long for relief, cannot find comfort, cannot leave their torment, and have no hope (Luke 16:19–31).

Are you tired of the battle? Could it be that you are fighting One with eternal power?

Carefully consider this truth...

An 'absolute' is basically an unchanging point of reference by which all other changes are measured. For the Christian, the starting point is always God. He is the eternally existent one, the absolute, from whom we draw all definitions for life's purpose and destiny.God does not expect us to come to Him in a vacuum. He has so framed this world and our minds that the laws of reason and logic that we use lead us to the certainty of His being, and assure us that we may know Him who is the source of all truth.

It's OK to lose when the result of losing is winning.

It is OK to humbly bow to a more powerful foe when that foe really wants to be your Father.

You don't have to know all the 'whys' ... just be embraced by the WHO.

It is never too late.. your sin is never too great.....

Let the Savior in and embrace Him... He is ready and loving beyond comprehension!

Friday, June 10, 2016

God's Proximate Motivation in Salvation?

Can I indulge you a little in some theology? In times past, good men with impressive Biblical knowledge gathered in local taverns and contemplated the thoughts and ways of God.

I challenge you to push through this one and be encouraged by the very heart of God.

Is doctrine dangerous? In some sense, all deep underpinnings of people can be. But human thinking detached from the Bible is darker and more deviant than any person who is stretching at the boundaries of the Bible.

B.B. Warfield gave five lectures at Princeton in June of 1914. It was later published as a book, "The Plan of Salvation" and printed by the Presbyterian Board of Publication in Philadelphia.

I decided to write a blog post that captures the heart of his message.

 Is there a plan or process that ends in the salvation of a human being revealed in the Bible?

But the deeper question.. one that has pushed me harder than any comes down to salvation as a monergistic or synergistic act. Is it God alone? What is man's part? Did God choose or does man respond?

And the hardest one of all... if God chooses some but not all... does it discount Him as a God worthy of worship?

So here I am, today.. being helped by a saint who departed this earth a long time ago. But he was used mightily as the Holy Spirit poured out on me as I read this work.

Warfield does not take time to debate whether God acts upon a plan. Warfield says that once we establish the reality of a personal God the case is closed.

"If we believe in a personal God, then, and much more if, being Theists, we believe in the immediate control by this personal God of the world He has made, we must believe in a plan underlying all that God does, and therefore also in a plan of salvation."

In his preface, Warfield takes time to offer a survey of 'varying views' to this subject:

The first division is between 'naturalistic' and 'supernaturalistic' views. His explanation of this division is a difference of opinion whether 'God has planned simply to leave men. with more or less completeness, to save themselves, or whether he has planned Himself to intervene to save them." in other words...'Does man save himself or does God save him?'

The most consistent naturalistic view is the doctrine of Pelagianism.

According to Warfield, "Pelagianismin its purity, affirms that all the power exerted in saving man is native to man himself."

However, 'pure Pelagiansim' rarely exists...but varieties of this scheme is found in a wide spread fashion throughout church history and indeed in the present age.

There are 'intermediate views' of Pelagianism that do allow God some part in the process, but are still 'naturalistic' since they all come down to man taking the ultimate step of salvation by a man's native power.

Supernaturalism declares 'with emphasis that it is God the Lord and not man himself who saves the soul'.

The supernaturalist rests in one statement.

The supernaturalist is not content to say 'some of the power' or 'most of the power' or even 'almost all the power'... He asserts that ALL the power that is exerted in saving the soul is from God.

Now, this creates division- and Warfield continues to explain these 'differences which are not small or unimportant'.

The most 'deeply cutting' difference is between Sacerdotalists and Evangelicals.

The basis from which this difference is revealed is the question whether God (the only source of saving power) saves men by dealing with them individually  or by 'establishing supernaturally endowed instrumentalities' in the world by which people are saved.

The typical form of Sacerdotalists is found primarily among Roman Catholics in teaching that the church is held to be the institution of salvation. "Outside the church and its ordinances salvation is not supposed to be found; grace is communicated by and through the minstrations of the church".

Against this view, according to Warfield, is evangelicalism. Evangelicalism 'sweeps away every intermediary between the soul and its God'. This leaves the soul totally dependent on God alone... it is directly upon God and not the means of grace...  the Holy Spirit may act where and when and how He will.

Now it is true that evangelicalism is indeed Protestant... but within Protestant views there are both naturalistic and supernaturalistic views.

Warfield drills down to a division in evangelical supernaturalism by labeling them 'universalistic' and 'particularistic'. This division is found in answering the question 'whether God is conceived to have planned actually Himself to save men by His almighty and certainly efficacious grace, or only so to pour out His grace upon men as to enable them to be saved, without actually securing, however, in any particular cases that they shall be saved'.

A 'problem' with a generalized universalism is that it naturally leads to universal salvation, a point from which many evangelicals have pulled back from because of Scriptural evidence that seems to indicate that not all men are saved.

Over and against this, theologians have adopted 'particularism' in the saving process - 'they plead that God deals throughout the whole process of salvation not with men in the mass but with individual men'...'one by one, upon each of whom he lays hold with His grace, and each of whom he by His grace brings to salvation.'

Thus all men owe their salvation..not to the general opportunities of God but by His specific actions. 'And, therefore, to Him and Him alone belongs in each instance all the glory, which none can share with Him.'

And to keep consistent with the ever fracturing of men.... there is differences even within the 'Particularists'. He labels this a "Hypothetical Universalism". This separates those who struggle with the question does God's work open up the possibility for all men to be saved or does the redemptive work of Christ secure the salvation those who were chosen for it to be wrought?

So after this, we are left to explore the divisions:

Men must be either naturalists or supernaturalists.
Supernaturalists must be Sacerdotalists or Evangelicals.
Evangelicals must be Universalistic or Particularistic.
Particularists must particularistic with respect to only some or respect to all of God's saving operations.

Not to bore you, but there are four possible distinctions inside particularism that can be considered:
(Supralapsarianism, Sub(or Infra-) lapsarianism, Post-redemptionism (otherwise called Amyraldianism, or Hypothetical Universalism), and Pajonism (otherwise called Congruism).

These have a lot to do with the timing of choice  (whether it is pre-Creation...pre-fall... or pre-conversion) and the application of regeneration- (divine wooing or almighty re-creation).

By the way... there is NOTHING wrong with these discussions, debates, and thoughts... they drive us to Scripture and they elevate the wonder of the mysteries of God.

Then Warfield goes into some thoughts regarding God's intention... and this is where I love reading Warfield's heart.

The bottom line is this......  what is the discrimination on God's part between those whom He chooses and those He does not based upon? Is it variety?  a whim?

Consider his explanation:

The motive that moves God is an unwillingness that all mankind should perish in their sins; and, therefore in order to gratify the promptings of His compassion, He intervenes to rescue from their ruin and misery an innumerable multitude which no man can number- as many as under the pressure of His sense of right He can obtain the consent of His whole nature to relieve from the just penalties of their sins- by an expedient in which his justice and mercy meet and kiss each other.

I sat back from this statement and pondered it a long time. Here is the true 'weight of glory'...God is wrestling against Himself and all His truth in all His perfections in all His attributes.

How many can He save and still be faithful to all that justice requires?

The natural heart of man is to regard all authority with skepticism and doubt the good intentions of that authority- and when it comes to man, I sadly agree that the pessimism is justified.

But not so with God..... His heart is pressing because of the weight of His compassion, mercy, and love.

Who knows what we will finally see?