12/31/2010

32 Things Thankful For in 2010 from the Marvellous to the Mundane

What a priceless privilege for the gift called life (John 1:4)! Below is an incomplete list of thanksgiving to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for 2010. (The mundane items at the bottom are easier to read.) Please share yours if you wish to.
  1. The Grace of Jesus that is greater than all my sins (Mk 2:5; Ps 51:4).
  2. My dear wife who has always loved me for 30 years, in spite of myself.
  3. My 4+2 kids whom my God is watching over far better than I ever did/could.
    • Sam becoming a high school Math teacher, and Anna a wonderful mom
    • Agi's happy married life, and Geoff a gentle man of God
    • Paul working, then starting seminary at Trinity
    • Benji dating Carolyn
  4. My dear friends who genuinely smile (and sigh) when they listen to my unending extemporaneous streams of consciousness (and anger).
  5. Studying Galatians and discovering that freedom is not only freedom from immorality, but especially freedom from legalism--those weak, miserable, worthless elemental principles of the world (Gal 4:9,3).
  6. Blog 1 chapter of the Bible a day since Sep (on most days). Kudos to my friend Mark Willis who inspired me to do so. Finished Proverbs, 1 Corinthians, Hebrews, Isaiah (by Jan 2011).
  7. Furnishing my church office on the 3rd floor of the UIC Bible house, presently my favorite place this side of heaven. On Mon after Christmas, I was there from 8 am to midnight. Thanks, Len, for taking the initiative.
  8. West Loop Church has lovely godly Christians. What a joy, honor and privilege to know them! This is nothing but heaven on earth.
  9. West Loop men who teach and exhort me (Heb 3:13): Rhoel, Tim, Art, Jim, Henry, Len, Luis, Ed, Mike, my 4 kids. Others include Teddy, Mark Y, Abraham L, Joe S, Sam L, Mark W, Nate T, Nathan W, Charles K, Ben W, Dave L, Anthony C, Steve S, Dave W, etc.
  10. Meeting my Filipino friends in Manila who love Jesus.
  11. The Peaces planting a church in Podil.
  12. Visiting my family in Malaysia and sharing the gospel with them.
  13. Starting a 3 pm informal service on Sun (even with just 1 person).
  14. Learning from countless online sermons/lectures by Tim Keller, DA Carson, Piper, Chapell, Hirsch, Begg, Armstrong, etc, and books by John Stott, Spurgeon, ML-Jones, etc.
  15. Daily thoughts/reflections regarding the gospel, the cross, grace, sin, etc.
  16. Dealing with/repenting of my deep rooted sin/idolatry of self glory.
  17. UBFriends.org
  18. Meeting every Wed morning with 2 church planters, Mark Willis and Nate Turner, all year.
  19. Corresponding via email with my childhood friend of 50 years from Singapore, sometimes multiple times a day.
  20. Being self-employed and semi-retired (by the grace of God and my wife).
  21. Aging gracefully and not so gracefully most of the time. Hate the baby fat.
  22. Weekly dinner dates with my wife (most weeks).
  23. Nightly watching the news or part of a movie with my wife while she falls asleep on the couch next to me.
  24. Losing 5 lbs and keeping my weight under 160 lbs (72 kg).
  25. Eating 1 main meal a day on most days.
  26. Doing 6 pull-ups, 50 push-ups, and 100 sit-ups at least once a week. Need cardio, but hate to sweat!
  27. Making my daily espresso poison, I mean latte, with coconut milk or truffle oil.
  28. Babysitting my grandson James on many Fri evenings. I learned that babies need CONSTANT attention.
  29. Made $1,500 (before short term capital gains tax) with a $10,000 account trading stocks (15%). I can't make a living doing this, but it is a daily or weekly diversion.
  30. Chicago Bears getting a first round bye.
  31. Chicago Bulls playing better with Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer.
  32. Chicago Blackhawks winning the championship.

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12/30/2010

Fear Not, For I Am Your God (Isaiah 41)


God Rules History (Isa 41:1-7)

God challenged the nations that refused to wait on him (Isa 40:31) to come before God (Isa 41:1). Cyrus the Great, leader of the rising Persian Empire, would soon conquer Babylon (Isa 44:24-45:7) and the nations in his way (Isa 41:2,3), thus revealing that God alone orders human history (Isa 41:4). But instead of turning to God, the nations turned to their created idols (Isa 41:5-7).

Fear Not (Isa 41:8-20)

Because of their sins, God's people stumbled in fear. So, God repeatedly said, "Fear not" (Isa 41:10,13,14). Their only basis to not fear is God's promise: "I am your God who has chosen and called you (Isa 41:8,9), and who is with you to strengthen you, help you and redeem you" (Isa 41:10,13,14). No one can defeat them (Isa 41:11,12,15,16). God himself will refresh them (Isa 41:17-20).

Stupid Idols (Isa 41:21-29)

Since idols are man-made, they are nothing and less than nothing (Isa 41:24), and nothing but a delusion (Isa 41:29). Yet man in his folly depends on his idols. God's challenge (Isa 41:1,21) is this: "How can you be so stupid to think that your idols can save you?"

Practical Application: Fear rules when we look around or look within. Faith grows when we look up at Him who rules history.

Simple Principle: "Fear not, for I am your God" (Isa 41:10).


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We Christians Should Read the Bible Daily in 2011 BUT...

Many choose one of many Bible reading plans. But it’s not so important which Bible Reading Plan you select, but rather that you are reading your Bible.

BUT there are drawbacks and dangers of any Bible reading plan.

They are:

  1. formality (in which Bible-reading degenerates into a lifeless duty);
  2. self-righteousness (we pat ourselves on the back for doing the daily reading and ticking the box);

  3. careless reading (we read fast to get it done and don’t tremble at the Word of God); and

  4. having the Bible-reading plan become a yoke too heavy to bear.
Realizing this, I thought of a couple of verses to help us delight in God's Word (I'm sure you have your own favorite ones):
  • "These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word" (Isa 66:2).

  • "For you have exalted above all things your name and your word" (Ps 138:2).

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God's Comfort Enables the Weak to Soar on Wings Like Eagles (Isaiah 40)

The prophesies of ch. 1-39 addressed Judah in her situation during Isaiah's ministry (739 B.C. - 686 B.C.). The prophesies of ch. 40-66, delivered more than a century and a half beforehand, address Judah as though the prophesied Babylonian captivity (Isa 39:5-7) were already a present reality, though the captivity did not begin until 605-586 B.C.

Isaiah also predicted Israel's immediate deliverance from Babylon by Cyrus (Isa 44:24-45:13), the coming of the suffering Christ to save them from their sins (Isa 42:1-7; 49:1-13; 50:4-11; 52:13-53:12), and Israel's final salvation in the last days (Isa 51:6).

Isa 40:1-31 is God's comfort throug h his promise of hope for the brokenhearted people of God on account of their rebellion.

Despite her Sins, God Tenderly Comforts his People (Isa 40:1-26)

Though we have become like a brazen wilderness landscape on account of our sins, God tenderly aims to win our hearts back (Isa 40:1-4). God does this not just for us, but primarily to reveal his own glory to the whole world (Isa 40:5). Despite man's frailty and unreliability (Isa 40:6-8), God himself will fulfill this by his word, by his kingly might, and with the heart of a gentle shepherd (Isa 40:8,10). No opposition can thwart God from keeping his promise, for God is the Creator of all things (Isa 40:12-26), and thus incomparable in his power (Isa 40:12), wisdom (Isa 40:13,14), immensity (Isa 40:15-17), sovereignty (Isa 40:21-23), and authority (Isa 40:25). Only Israel's God is worthy of worship, for he created, controls, and preserves what the pagans foolishly worship (Isa 40:18-20).

Even the Weakest can Soar on Wings like Eagles (Isa 40:27-31)

Despondency easily arises when one is exiled on account of our sins (Isa 40:27). But God never suffers setbacks because he is the everlasting God (Isa 40:28), while human strength at its best inevitably fails (Isa 40:29,30). Real power comes only from "those who hope in the Lord" (Isa 40:31).

Practical Application/Ministry Implication: If we feel overwhelmed by the immensity of our own adverse situation, may we see that God, as the Almighty Creator, is always in complete control, so much so that not even one star is ever missing or misplaced (Isa 40:26). [There are > 400 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy, and there are 125 billion galaxies in the universe with 10 billion trillion stars.]

Great Encouragement: Even the weakest can soar like an eagle (Isa 40:31).


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12/27/2010

Historical Transition: God Alone is Man's Only Hope (Isaiah 36-39)

Isa 36-39 (paralleled in 2 Ki 18:13-20:19) is the historical narrative bridge between the mostly poetic Isa 1-35 and Isa 40-66. Isa 36,37 are the historical consummation of Isa 1-35--Jerusalem's deliverance from Assyria (proving through Hezekiah that faith in God is met with his blessing)--and Isa 38,39 provide the context and the historical basis for Isa 40-66--a preview of the Babylonian captivity due to Hezekiah's folly and vanity. Against the backdrop of divine faithfulness (Isa 36,37) and human inconstancy (Isa 38,39), God stands forth as the only hope of his people.

Practical Trust in God Vindicated (Isa 36:1-37:38)

Sennacherib, king of Assyria, surrounded Jerusalem in 701 BC, in the 14th year of King Hezekiah (Isa 36:1), and asked for his surrender, or face a prolonged siege (Isa 36:2-22). Unlike his faithless father Ahaz (Isa 7), Hezekiah responds to crisis by turning to God (Isa 37:1), and seeking a word from God through Isaiah (Isa 37:2), who promised deliverance by God's own foreordained purpose (Isa 37:30-32,33-37). Hezekiah prayed Isaiah's life message that the Lord alone saves (Isa 37:20). He went to the house of the Lord and was saved; Sennacherib went to the house of his god Nisroch and was assassinated by his own son (Isa 37:38).

Human Inconstancy Sent into Exile (Isa 38:1-39:8)
Though Hezekiah was at his best in Isa 37 and he experienced God's answer to his personal prayer in Isa 38, he is exposed as self-centered, vain and short-sighted, when he showed off all of his wealth and armory to foreign emissaries from Babylon (Isa 39:1-4). Though he stood firm in faith against Assyrian intimidation, he melted before Babylonian flattery. Thus, he doomed his people and his children to Babylonian exile (Isa 39:5-7), while seeming to care only for himself (Isa 39:8). God alone is the only hope of his people.

Truism: Though Hezekiah was a "good" king, only God is our King and ultimate hope.

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A Highway Shall Be There (Isaiah 34,35)

Isa 34 describe God's final judgment of the world, and his vindication of his people (Isa 35), whose blind eyes will see, and deaf ears hear (Isa 35:5).

God has a Day of Vengeance to All Who Oppose Him (Isa 34)

Looking beyond the Assyrian crisis of Isaiah's time, God summons the whole world to judgment at the climax of history (Isa 34:1). God's judgment will be total destruction (Isa 34:2), based on his rage, anger and wrath (Isa 34:2), his sword and sacrifice (Isa 34:6), and a day of vengeance (Isa 34:8), a day of justice scheduled by God at the end of history. God's judgment, as happened with Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19:24-28), is everlasting (Isa 34:9,10). Edom (Isa 34:5-7), the antithesis of God's people, typifies all the nations. Edomite civilization will become a desolate wasteland (Isa 34:11-15,17), fit only for beasts and weeds. God's decree announced by God's word will be carried out in detail by the Spirit. Isa 34:16 says, "Seek and read from the book of the Lord...For the mouth of the Lord has commanded, and his Spirit has gathered them."

To Those Who Trust in God, Everlasting Joy is Coming (Isa 35)
Joy and gladness, expressed God's people, encapsulate Isa 35 (1,10). Even the desert is transformed by the coming of the Lord (Isa 35:1,2). The promise of hope of God's coming inspires strength and courage in God's weak unsteady people (Isa 35:3,4, 40:1; Heb 12:12). This coming salvation includes both spiritual well-being and physical healing and wholeness (Isa 35:5-7), inaugurated in the 1st coming of Christ (Luke 4:16-21; 7:18-23), and fully consummated at his 2nd coming (Rev 21:4; 22:1-5). God will graciously guide the ransomed and the redeemed on a clearly marked highway to Zion, their eternal home (Isa 35:8-10).

Glorious hope: A highway will be there for the ransomed and the redeemed, whose blind eyes see and deaf ears hear.

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12/22/2010

See The King In His Beauty (Isaiah 33:17)

This 6th and final woe in Isa 28-33 is against Assyria, the enemy that has been destroying God's people with apparent impunity. But she will be destroyed (Isa 33:1), as God will visit his people with his saving presence.

God is Our Stability, Our Sure Foundation (Isa 33:1-12)

Isa 33:2 expresses the right attitude before God: "LORD, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress." It is foolish to trust in our limited selves, because "The LORD is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with his justice and righteousness. 6 He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure" (Isa 33:5,6). God will intervene for his people (Isa 33:10), and destroy Assyria (Isa 33:11,12), who represents any power opposed to God.

God is our Judge, our Lawgiver, our King (Isa 33:13-24)

The godly (Isa 33:16) are "those who walk righteously and speak what is right, who reject gain from extortion and keep their hands from accepting bribes..." (Isa 33:15). The will see the Messiah in his beauty and splendor (Isa 33:17). While man rules with injustice and unjust laws, God is the perfect judge (deciding justly), lawgiver (making laws) and king (enforcing laws) (Isa 33:22).

Reflection: "See, a king will reign in righteousness" (Isa 32:1)

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12/20/2010

The Difference Between God's Rule and Man's Rule (Isaiah 31,32)

Stop Trusting Man, Return To God (Isaiah 31:1-9)
Isaiah repeatedly exposes Judah's (God's people) futility in trusting Egypt (man), rather than God (Isa 31:1), the only source of true security (Isa 31:5). God would frustrate them (Isa 31:2-4), until they repent and turn back to God (Isa 31:6-9).
The Rule of God and Godly Leaders (Isaiah 32:1-20)
People are happy according to how their leaders rule/lead them. Bad leaders make their people trust them and their secret plans (Isa 28:15; 29:15). But God's Messiah (king) and godly leaders (prince) "will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land" (Isa 32:1,2; Ps 46:1; 1 Pe 5:1-4). Godly leadership brings receptive hearts (Isa 32:3,4), no false appraisals of leadership qualities (Isa 32:5), and nobly caring for the disenfranchised (Isa 32:6-8). Isaiah also warns and threatens lazy women with impending disaster for their bad influence (Isa 32:9-20).

Glorious hope: A king reigns in righteousness, rulers rule with justice (Isa 32:1).

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12/18/2010

The Amazing Logic of Grace: We Forsake God, Therefore He is Gracious (Isaiah 30:18)

Refusing God's Rest, Quietness, Peace (Isa 30:1-17)


God called his people Judah stubborn for carrying out their own plans by trusting Egypt, whose help is utterly useless (Isa 30:1,2,7). Since they reject God's prophets and God's word, preferring illusions (Isa 30:8-12), they are like one who depend on a unsteady wall (Isa 30:13-17). God gently presents to them the way of victory in Isa 30:15: "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it." But they refused.

The Amazing Logic of Grace
(Isa 30:18-26, 27-33)

God's people forsake God for a false salvation (Isa 30:1-17); therefore, God is gracious to them: "Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you" (Isa 30:18). God gives us adversity to help us overcome idolatry (Isa 30:19-22), and showers us with an abundance (Isa 30:23-26). God disciplines and heals us by his grace. As Isaiah promises Judah's redemption (Isa 30:18-26), he also promises Assyria's destruction (Isa 30:27-33).

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Empty Ritualism, Clandestine Politics (Isaiah 29:13,15)

Immorality was not necessarily the grievous sin of God's people in Jerusalem, but empty habitual ritualism and secretive politics behind the scenes were. How would God deal with them?

God Will Punish and Save Jerusalem (Isa 29:1-14)

Out of great sorrow and compassion, God laments at "Ariel" (Isa 29:1), which may mean "lion of God" or "hero," perhaps referring to Jerusalem's former strength and glory. God will distress them greatly through the Assyrians (Isa 29:2-8), for they depended on Egypt (Isa 28:15,18), instead of trusting God, their sure foundation (Isa 28:16). Because of their stubbornness, God would blind them (Isa 29:9-12). They worshiped God ceremonially and habitually, while their hearts were adrift (Isa 29:13; Matt 15:8,9). Though their ritualistic worship was worthless, God's purpose would prevail (Isa 29:14; 1 Cor 1:19).

God Will Expose Clandestine Underhanded Human Politics (Isa 29:15-24)

What was their problem? They made their own secret plans by their politicking (Isa 29:15), thus rejecting God as Creator. They were like clay thinking itself as the potter (Isa 29:16; Rom 9:19-21). But one day, God himself, through Christ, would transform them (Isa 29:17), until "the deaf shall hear" and "the eyes of the blind shall see" (Isa 29:18, 35:5, 61:1-3; Matt 11:5). The oppressed would be liberated, while the powerful oppressor's dominance will end (Isa 29:19-21). God will keep his promise to the descendants of Abraham (Isa 29:22-24). Secrecy, furtiveness, surreptitious behavior will one day be replaced with openness and transparency.


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We Reject God's Sure Foundation by Our Faulty Reliance on Man (Isaiah 28)

Man always defaults to trusting in himself and other men, instead of trusting in God. Proverbs 29:25 warns: "Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe." We fear man because we depend on man and fall into fear, instead of fearing God by trusting in God (Pro 3:5,6). Thus, Isaiah warns his people (and Assyria) against the folly of self-trust by promising God's abundant blessings to those who trust him (Isa 28-33). God is always the most powerful ally of his people. So the wisest course of action is to trust God always in every situation. Yet in Isa 28, God's own people do not trust God by trusting his word, thus choosing death for themselves (Isa 28:15).

Man Refuses to Trust God amidst Impending Judgment (Isa 28:1-13)

Ephraim--northern Israel--(Isa 28:1) will fall to Assyria in 722 B.C. (Isa 28:2-4), while God preserves his true people (Isa 28:5,6). The southern kingdom shares the same drunken distaste for God's word (Isa 28:7-13). They ridicule and scoff at Isaiah's message as beneath their intelligence, mocking his corrective advice as a young child's babbling (Isa 28:9,10; 1 Cor 2:14). Because they refused rest in God (Isa 28:12), God would send them foreign oppressors (Jer 5:15; Isa 28:11,13).

God Lays His Sure Foundation (Isa 28:14-29)

God cannot but rebuke the scoffing stupidity of Judah's leaders (Isa 28:14-22). Despite choosing death by trusting Egypt to defend themselves against Assyria (Isa 28:15, 18), Isaiah prophesied that God himself will lay a foundation for them in Zion, ultimately fulfilled in Christ (Rom 9:33, 10:11; 1 Cor 3:11; Eph 2:20; 1 Pe 2:4-8; Ps 118:22). This glorious message of salvation (Isa 28:29) will bring sheer terror (Isa 28:19) and restlessness (Isa 28:20) when they soon face their calamities. Like a farmer who knows what he is doing, God, in his wisdom, knows exactly how to fulfill his own plan and purpose (Isa 28:23-29).

Briefly, so far in Isaiah (loosely adapted from Ortlund, McArthur's outline/overview):

  • Isa 1-5: God indicts his people for their sins (Judah)

  • Isa 6-12: God reveals grace through judgment for his people

  • Isa 13-27: God reveals judgment and grace for the world

  • Isa 28-35: God pronounces woe to worldly alliances

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Are You Excited To Tell What You Are Working On?

What are you working on?

If someone asks you that, are you excited to tell them the answer?

I hope so. If not, you're wasting away.

No matter what your job is, no matter where you work, there's a way to create a project (on your own, on weekends if necessary), where the excitement is palpable, where something that might make a difference is right around the corner.

Hurry, go do that.

[Seth Godin's blog]

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12/16/2010

God's Merciful Dealing with His Own Idolatrous People (Isaiah 27:9; 1-13)

Isa 27 teaches that God will destroy evil (Isa 27:1), bring His people home (Isa 27:2-6), and Atone for his people's sin (Isa 27:7-13).

God Will Make His People Fruitful  (Isa 27:1-6)

In contrast to the shameful vineyard in Isa 5:1-7, God determined that this vineyard bear abundant fruit (Isa 27:2-6). "In days to come Jacob will take root, Israel will bud and blossom and fill all  the world with fruit" (Isa 27:6).

God Tempers His Dealing With His People (Isa 27:7-13)

By asking a rhetorical question (Isa 27:7), God suggests that He has dealt less harshly with his people Israel than with those He used to punish them. God carefully measured His discipline, even through exile (Isa 27:8), to awaken them to trust in Him. Only by God's loving restraint would God bring His people to idol-free purity (Isa 27:9), while the enemies of God's people will not know God's favor and experience God's desolation and abandonment (Isa 27:10,11). Still, a faithful remnant of God's people will come from those enemy nations (Isa 27:12,13).

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Paul's Indigenization Policy (Acts 14:22,23)

In John Stott's excellent commentary on Acts, Stott identifies 3 foundations of Paul's indigenization policy (indigenous means originating where it is found), gleamed from his 1st missionary journey where Paul planted multiple churches in Galatia (Acts 12:25-14:28). They are:

  1. Bible Study - Apostolic instruction (Acts 14:22). Paul exhorted the church members by "encouraging them to remain true to the faith" (Acts 14:22), "the faith" being a cluster of central beliefs regarding the gospel; the Bible's storyline of Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration; doctrines regarding God, Man, Christ, our Response through repentance and faith, etc.
  2. Entrusting to Man - Pastoral oversight (Acts 14:23). Paul and Barnabas also "appointed elders for them in each church" (Acts 14:23). This appointment was both local and pleural -- the elders were chosen locally, not imposed from without, and it was pleural, indicating a pastoral team, not one pastor, one church. This arrangement was made from the 1st missionary journey onwards, and became universal. Paul later spelled out the qualification for elders in 1 Tim 3 and Titus 1.
  3. Trusting God - Divine faithfulness (Acts 14:23). Indigenous principles rest ultimately on the conviction that the church belongs to God with Christ as the Head of the Church, and that God can be trusted to look after his own people. So, before leaving the Galatian churches, Paul and Barnabas "committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust" (Acts 14:23).
Joe Schafer wrote a blog post that (I think) "supports" Paul's ingigenization policy: http://www.ubfriends.org/2010/12/evangelism-and-the-gift-of-missionary-part-1/ The post is about Peter Wagner's book: The Acts of the Holy Spirit, where Wagner describes 3 kinds of evangelism: E1, E2, E3.
  • E-1 evangelism is monocultural. One shares his faith within his own people group. No significant barriers of language or culture are crossed.
  • E-2 evangelism crosses mild cultural barriers. An example would be a Caucasian American preaching the gospel in Australia.
  • E-3 evangelism means carrying the gospel to a radically different culture.
Not surprisingly, the most effective and efficient evangelism through out church history is E1, which is Paul's policy (Acts 14:22,23). May God bless us to pray for indigenous leaders to autonomously evangelize their own people.

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12/15/2010

Our Aim in Every Bible Study (Charles Spurgeon)

The grand object of the Christian ministry is the glory of God. This being our chief aim, we humbly seek the edification of Christians and the salvation/conversion of non-Christians. How? Briefly, we must declare the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). But how do we do this in principle and practice?

  • Depend entirely upon the Spirit of God, since conversion is a divine work. This is obviously easier said than practiced, for we incline toward our own will, effort, method, passion and desire.
  • Teach/preach the most prominent truths in the Bible (that leads to edification/conversion).
What then are the most prominent truths in the Bible that we emphasize/exalt/teach/preach?
  • First and foremost teach/preach Christ and him crucified (1 Cor 1:23; 2:2). Where Jesus is exalted souls are attracted. The teaching/preaching of the cross is the wisdom of God and the power of God to save souls (1 Cor 1:18). This includes declaring the evil of sin, which points to the need of a Savior.
  • Teach the depravity of human nature. Bryan Chapell, President of Covenant Seminary, coined the phrase FCF - Fallen Condition Focus - which he says that every Bible study should focus on. Perhaps a way this may be done is when the teacher/preacher truly or practically confesses his/her own sin, weakness, or vulnerability, since the student might think that they are "less sinful."
  • Teach the necessity for the Holy Spirit's divine operation, for no man can awaken his spiritual deadness. No man, no matter how resolved, can change himself even one iota that counts to God. Only the Holy Spirit works to transform one's inner being. No man can demand this, for God does whatever pleases him according to his own divine purpose (Ps 115:3; 135:6).
  • Teach the justice of God and that every transgression will be punished (Nu 32:23; Jn 16:8; Ac 24:25).
  • We must be most of all clear about the great soul-saving doctrine of the atonement. We must teach a real bona fide substitutionary sacrifice, and proclaim pardon as its result (Isa 53:5; 1 Pet 2:24; 2 Cor 5:21). This shows how God can be just and the justifier of him that believes (Rom 3:26).
  • Teach/preach justification by faith as the way atonement becomes effectual in the soul's experience. This is so important because every man's natural spontaneous default is always to our own merit, or to work righteousness, where we depend on how much we pray, read the Bible, repent, work, sacrifice, etc, not realizing or applying that even these "good Christian practices" are entirely the work of God's grace and initiative. Christ's work is done completely once and for all, and we can add nothing to it (Heb 10:12). So, when we emphasize or highlight the imperatives of the Bible (say, "make disciples" or "feed my sheep"), we might inadvertently lead one to think that their justification is up to their performance or compliance or obedience. No man's justification is ever up to them (Rom 3:24; Eph 2:8,9).
  • Teach/preach earnestly the love of God in Christ, and magnify the abounding mercy of God, but always do so in conjunction with His justice.
In brief, men must be taught concerning themselves, their sin, and their fall, as well as their Savior, redemption, regeneration, atonement, justification, sanctification, and so on. But not only teach the above but use modes of handling those truths which are likely to lead to a good result. Perhaps I may address this in another blog.

This is adapted from Lectures To My Students by Charles Spurgeon (Chap 23, On Conversion As Our Aim).

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12/14/2010

What Are The 2 Ways To Live?

Toward the end of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7), Jesus alludes to 2 ways of living by offering:

  • 2 gates: the narrow and wide gates (Matt 7:13,14)
  • 2 trees: good trees bearing good fruit and bad trees bearing bad fruit (Matt 7:17,18)
  • 2 foundations on which to build one's house: foundation of rock and foundation of sand (Matt 7:24-27)
We Christians (and perhaps non-Christians too) often think of the 2 ways as:
  • obeying God and disobeying God; or
  • living God's way by obeying God's word and living our own way by disobeying God's word.
But what are the 2 ways within the Sermon of the Mount itself?

I didn't realize this before, but the 2 ways are not between obeying God's word, and disobeying God's word. Rather, the contrast is between Jesus' way and the Pharisees' way:

  • The Pharisees' way is to not murder (external compliance), while Jesus' way is to not even have inner anger toward others who upset us (Matt 5:21,22).
  • The Pharisees' way is to not commit adultery, while Jesus' way is to not even have lust in one's heart (Matt 5:27,28).
  • The Pharisees' way of giving to the needy, fasting and prayer (Matt 6:1,5,16) was different from Jesus' way of giving, fasting and prayer.
Thus, the 2 ways was not Jesus contrasting people who obey the Bible and those who don't, or those who don't commit adultery and those who do. Rather both groups of people obey the Bible, as well as give to the poor, fast, pray, and also both groups do not murder nor commit adultery---but for profoundly different reasons.

The Pharisees way is the religious way of "work righteousness." They obey God to put God and others in their debt. Like the Pharisees, they incline toward pride, superiority, self-righteousness, inability to take criticism, and external compliance while the heart is hard.

Finally, in Matt 5:20, Jesus said, "unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven." This shows that Jesus was not contrasting the moral and the immoral in the Sermon of the Mount, but Jesus was contrasting the religious Pharisees and those who believe the gospel. (This was adapted from a sermon by Tim Keller on Gospel Renewal.)

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12/13/2010

God Keeps in Perfect Peace Those Who Trust in Him Forever (Isaiah 26:3)

"You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. 4 Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD himself, is the Rock eternal" (Isa 26:3,4). Peace, the most desired yet seemingly unattainable and unsustainable human quality, is found perfectly by those who trust in God steadfastly. A kind of peace is found in this world (John 14:27), but perfect peace transcends understanding (Phil 4:7), because it is a gift of grace from above (Isa 26:12). Those who know peace yearn for God from their inmost being morning and night (Isa 26:9). In contrast, though God shows favor to the wicked, they have no regard for God (Isa 26:10).

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Wiping Tears and Swallowing Up Death Forever (Isaiah 25)

Though God will judge the whole world (Isa 24:17-20), God will also redeem a chosen remnant who will praise and worship him (Isa 25:1). God will:

  • overthrow human tyranny (Isa 25:1-5),
  • relieve human sorrow (Isa 25:6-8), and
  • humble human pride (Isa 25:9-12).
God is a stronghold (Isa 25:4,5), better than any human fortress (Isa 25:2). Isa 25:8 says, "He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The LORD has spoken." God promises his people that one day, their tears will be wiped away, and they will no longer be subject to death but will live forever (1 Cor 15:54; Rev 21:4), while the proud will be brought low (Isa 25:11).

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12/11/2010

Preach to Yourself, Instead of Listening to Yourself

“Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?" (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Welsh minister, preacher, 1899-1981, from Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Its Cure, 1965.)

The devil or Satan is known as the accuser of Christians (Rev 12:10). His accusation always causes us to doubt the love of God and the love of others (Gen 3:1). Even though we may know in our heads how much Jesus loves us (John 3:16), yet in our emotions and feelings we act as though God and/or others hate us, or are out to hurt us.

Once my wife casually implied something negative about me. Then I only began listening to myself: "You're no good. You're not a good husband. Your wife is not happy with you. Etc." Even though I never doubt my wife's love, yet I felt traumatized by listening to myself that I needed quite a bit of time to recover the love of God in my own heart.

What can we do? ML-Jones says, "The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why art thou cast down’– what business have you to be disquieted?"


"You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’– instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do."

Ultimately, we need to preach the gospel to ourselves, that I, though a worm, am so loved by the King of kings, that I can rejoice through out eternity, only because of the grace of Jesus freely extended to me.



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God's Deliberate Judgment on the Whole Earth (Isaiah 24)

Isa 13-23 expresses God's judgment and salvation to particular nations. Isa 24-27 foresees the whole world in crisis at the end of history, but with the people of God secured in their own city (Isa 24:4; 25:8; 26:19; 27:6). These chapters are “apocalyptic,” since they depict the final conflict and God's victory in vivid images.

The World will be Completely Laid Waste (Isa 24:1-6)

"See, the LORD is going to lay waste the earth and devastate it" (Isa 24:1a). "The earth will be completely laid waste and totally plundered. The LORD has spoken this word" (Isa 24:4).

Worldly Joy Dries Up and Withers (Isa 24:7-13)
"The new wine dries up and the vine withers; all the merrymakers groan" (Isa 23:7).In the streets they cry out for wine; all joy turns to gloom, all joyful sounds are banished from the earth" (Isa 23:11).

The Redeemed Sing, "Glory to the Righteous One" (Isa 24:14-16)
But from the ends of the earth, those who are redeemed from the world will raise their voices, shout for joy, acclaim the Lord's majesty (Isa 24:14), and sing, "Glory the Righteous One" (Isa 24:16). Simultaneously, Isaiah laments the present treachery, saying, "I waste away, I waste away. Woe is me!" (Isa 24:16).

Judgment and Punishment are Deliberate Acts of God (Isa 24:17-23)
"In that day the LORD will punish the powers in the heavens above and the kings on the earth below" (Isa 24:11).

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God Will Humble the Proud (Isaiah 23)

In this prophecy God humbles Sidon (Isa 23:4) and Tyre (Isa 23:1-14), a successful port on the Phoenician coast, known as "the marketplace of the nations" (Isa 23:3), and characterized as the world's prostitute (Isa 23:15-17), because she lived by an "anything for money" ethic. God will judge her for her pride and redeem her by his grace (Isa 23:15-18).

God's Plan is to Humble the Proud (Isa 23:1-14)

Isa 23:9 says, "The LORD Almighty planned it, to bring down her pride in all her splendor and to humble all who are renowned on the earth."

Set Apart for the Lord (Isa 23:15-18)

Isa 23:18 says, "Yet her profit and her earnings will be set apart for the LORD; they will not be stored up or hoarded. Her profits will go to those who live before the LORD, for abundant food and fine clothes."

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12/10/2010

Sin That Will Not Be Atoned For (Isaiah 22)

This prophecy/oracle (Isa 22:1-25) about Jerusalem shows the world growing dark, for the people were engaged in their mindless parties and celebration, instead of being in deep repentance for their sins (Isa 22:1-14).

God Has a Day of Terror (Isa 22:1-14)

Foreseeing the destruction of Jerusalem (Isa 22:1-3; 2 Ki 25:4), Isaiah expresses his sorrow over his people (Isa 22:4). Jerusalem's fall is the will of God: "The Lord, the LORD Almighty, has a day of tumult and trampling and terror in the Valley of Vision..." (Isa 22:5a). When Jerusalem is invaded (Isa 22:6), their revelry (Isa 22:2) will be replaced by enemy chariots (Isa 22:7). Jerusalem paid attention to their military readiness, but disregarded the sovereign God who controls history. Isa 22:10-11 say, "You counted the buildings in Jerusalem and tore down houses to strengthen the wall...but you did not look to the One who made it, or have regard for the One who planned it long ago." Though God called for their repentance (Isa 22:12,13), they were determined to live it up, eating and drinking (1 Cor 15:32). Their sin of looking away from God to self-rescue will not be atoned for (Isa 22:14).

Isaiah addresses 2 officials in Jerusalem, one worthless, one worthy (Isa 22:15-25)

God dismissed Shebna from high office because he used his position for his own name and security (Isa 22:15-19). Then God promotes Eliakim to Shebna's office (Isa 22:20-24), though Eliakim cannot support the weight of Jerusalem's problem (Isa 22:25).

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12/09/2010

Worldly Glory is Never Permanent (Isaiah 21)

All the splendor of the kingdoms of the world, like Babylon in her glory, like the temple in Jesus' day, like the Twin Towers before 9/11, seem indestructible and permanent. But the time for the fall of all worldly glory and splendor is set by God in Isaiah's time, as it is today. In light of this, how should we Christians live?

"Only one life, 'twill soon be past, only what's done for Christ will last. And when I am dying, how happy I'll be, if the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee." (C.T. Studd, missionary to China, Africa and India)

Fallen, Fallen is Babylon (Isa 21:1-10)

In this oracle/prophecy, Isaiah predicts the sudden destruction of Babylon in 539 B.C. by the Persian army, which included the Elamites and Medes (Isa 21:1,2). The severity of the violence which Isaiah must prophecy caused him extreme agitation (Isa 21:3,4), while the world celebrates the seeming invincibility of human power and worldly alliance (Isa 21:5). The watchman stationed by Isaiah announces an advancing army and the fall of Babylon (Isa 21:6-10).

Oracles Concerning Edom and Arabia (Isa 21:11,12; 13-17)

Dumah, another name for Edom, asks how long the Assyrian oppression will last (Isa 21:11). The answer is vague: "Morning is coming, but also the night" (Isa 21:12), Isaiah alludes to a short-lived deliverance from Assyrian oppression, but quickly adds the threat of Babylonian domination to follow soon.

Isaiah prophesied that "the splendor of Kedar," the northwestern part of the Arabian desert, "will come to an end" (Isa 21:16), leaving only a few survivors (Isa 21:17). This anticipates the conquest of the region by Nebuchadnezzar (Jer 49:28). The ultimate reason for Arabia's decline is not human militarism (Isa 21:13-15), but the word of the God of Israel, for "this is what the Lord says" (Isa 21:16a).


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Your Little Voice Says to You, "You're No Good."

When we say or do something wrong, say you lost your temper and blew up or gave in to some sin, 2 forces automatically begin to operate: Fear & Pride.

  • Fear says, "I'm no good. I'm so bad. I'll never change. I'll never make progress. What's wrong with me?"
  • Pride says, "I'm better than that. I'm more mature than that. I'm not as bad as them."
Based on our fear and pride, we beat ourselves up, and we try harder, try to do better, work harder, and push ourselves more. Is this a problem?

The problem is that we functionally think it's entirely up to me to shape up and improve myself, even though "I believe in Jesus" in my mind. Trying harder might work to an extent. But the heart is still operationally selfish, being still motivated by fear and pride, which only feeds our own ego. What then can we do?

As Christians, we must learn to apply the gospel practically to ourselves in our specific situation. Only the gospel is able to effect heart transformation and solve the intractable selfishness of our own hearts. How?

Only the gospel says, "Jesus had to die for you because you're so bad." This solves the problem of our pride in thinking that I'm better than that.

At the same time, the gospel says, "Jesus was glad to die for you because he loves you." This solves the problem of our fear that I'm doomed because I'm no good.

It is true that we're no good; even the best among us are no good at all on account of our sins. But it is also true that only because of the cross of Christ we are most loved even though we're no good.

Only in Christ is found our entire valuation, validation and vindication.

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12/06/2010

God Strikes, God Heals (Isaiah 19); Trust God, Not Man (Isaiah 20)

The 5th oracle concerns Egypt (Isa 19:1-20:6). Judah turned to Egypt for deliverance from Assyria. But God, whom Judah overlooked, has the power both to judge and to save Egypt, to strike them (Isa 19:1-15), and heal them (Isa 19:16-25), as a good parent disciplines a child for their betterment. Isa 19:22 says, "The LORD will strike Egypt with a plague; he will strike them and heal them. They will turn to the LORD, and he will respond to their pleas and heal them."

God Reveals His Purpose Against Egypt (Isa 19:1-15)

Egypt disintegrates because of idolatry on the inside (Isa 19:1-3; Eze 14:3), and is oppressed from the outside (Isa 19:4). Because of idolatry fellow citizens and family members fight against each other (Isa 19:2). Egypt's primary economic base, the Nile, will be dried up (Isa 19:5-10). Though famous for her wisdom (Isa 19:11-15), Egypt became utterly foolish, giving senseless and stupid counsel (Isa 19:11) due to their ignorance of God's judgment upon them, while thinking they were still wise (Rom 1:22,23).

God will eventually Restore Egypt and the Nations (Isa 19:16-25)

The 6-fold use of "in that day" indicates that one inevitable day in the future Egypt will turn to the true God. She will experience God's saving intervention (Isa 19:19-22), just as Israel did during the period of the judges (Judg 3:9; 1 Sam 12:11). God "will send them a savior and defender, and he will rescue them" (Isa 19:20; 43:11; Neh 9:27).

God will Expose the Futility of Trusting in Man (Isa 20:1-6)

Repeatedly through out Isaiah, God exposes the futility of man-centered hopes. Judah relied on Egypt for protection from Assyria (Isa 20:5). So through Isaiah going stripped and barefoot for 3 years (Isa 20:2,3), signifying disgrace and humiliation and the defeat of Egypt (Isa 20:4), God would give them a visual lesson of their foolishness in trusting in Egypt, instead of God (Isa 20:6).

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You Have Forgotten God (Isaiah 17,18)

The 4th oracle (Isa 13:1; 14:18; 15:1) concerns the Syria-Israel alliance of Isaiah's time (Isa 7:1-16; 8:1-4). The repeated point Isaiah makes is simple: How foolish man (Israel) trusts in visible tangible security (such as Syria), rather than trusting in God Almighty, whose purposes will always prevail and will never be thwarted (Isa 14:27).

Syria, whom Israel Trusted, will be Destroyed (Isa 17:1-11)

Ephraim (Isa 17:3; northern 10 tribes of Israel) formed an alliance with Syria to combat the Assyrians. But through Isaiah God announced the destruction of Damascus (Isa 17:1), the capital of Syria, which occurred in 732 B.C. On account of God's judgment, the 3-fold use of the phrase "In that day" (Isa 17:4,7,9) signifies:
  • the fading/declining glory of those who trusted in man (Isa 17:4-6)
  • a faithful godly remnant looking to their Creator (Isa 17:7), and turning away from idolatry (Isa 17:8)
  • human power is discredited (Isa 17:9)
Why did this happen? Israel's fall was not a political miscalculation, but spiritual arrogance. Isaiah spells it out in Isa 17:10: "You have forgotten God your Savior; you have not remembered the Rock, your fortress."

The Mighty Nations of the World are subject to God (Isa 17:12-18:7)

Isaiah summons the nations (Isa 17:12) and all peoples of the world (Isa 18:3) to redirect its attention to the fact that they are subject to God's sovereign rule over history. God will frustrate all human attempts at securing the world without God. The truth underlying human might in history is that when the moment is right, God will act and the arrogant will be destroyed (Isa 17:13,14).

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How Do We Experience God?

A friend posted a question: How do we experience God?

Hebrews 1:3 says, "The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being." Colossians 1:15 says, "The Son is the image of the invisible God." Thus, we experience God through Jesus who is God (John 1:1-3). So, how do we experience Jesus?

My short answer is based on John 5:39 and Luke 24:27,44, where Jesus said that all the Scriptures testify (NIV) or bear witness (ESV) to Jesus himself (Jn 5:39), and that all the Scriptures concern Jesus (Lk 24:27).

So, perhaps the best way to experience God is not to depend on our ever fluctuating subjective emotions of how we feel him, but to prayerfully and humbly depend on Scripture as our ultimate guide to experiencing God. Also, 1 Corinthians 2 say that only the Holy Spirit is able to illuminate Scripture and open our hearts to a true knowledge of God (1 Cor 2:10-13).

Sometimes we may not feel or experience God's closeness, but Jesus promised those who live on mission that "I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matt 28:20).

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12/03/2010

God Establishes a Throne in Love (Isaiah 15,16)

After prophesying against Babylon (Isa 13:1ff) and against Philistia (Isa 14:28-32), this 3rd prophesy is against Moab (Isa 15:1-16:14). This oracle of judgment was probably delivered by Sargon's (king of Assyria) defeat of Moab in 715 B.C. This oracle concerns Moab's distress (Isa 15) and the response to Moab's distress (Isa 16). The lesson for God's people Israel is that Moab's demise should teach her not to depend on man, but to depend on God.

My Heart Cries for Moab (Isa 15:1-9)

Isa 15:1-9 describes how Moab is devastated by a sudden attack on its villages. Even God moans for them (Isa 15:4-9; Ezek 33:11).

In Love a Throne will be Established (Isa 16:1-13)

In Isa 16:1-5, fugitive Moab begs Zion for asylum. God's reply to Moab's plea for safety from Assyrian oppression is the messianic throne of David, full of divine integrity, but also demanding submission (Isa 9:7; 11:4,5,10; 55:3). Isa 16:5 says, "In love a throne will be established; in faithfulness a man will sit on it—one from the house of David—one who in judging seeks justice and speeds the cause of righteousness." Ultimately, only in Jesus, the Son of David, the nations find shelter (Acts 15:16,17). But Moab's proud rejection of the Davidic throne (Jer 48:42) is their doom (Isa 16:6-12). God will break her pride in 3 years (Isa 16:13,14) through Sargon, who overran the country.

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Who can Thwart God's Purpose? (Isaiah 14)

God Restores Israel (Isa 14:1,2)

Though God's people Israel was once oppressed by her captors, God, in his election and compassion (Isa 14:1), would reverse the roles of oppressors and the persecuted, such that "they will take captive those who were their captors" (Isa 14:2).

Taunting Oppressors (Isa 14:3-21)

The king of Babylon is representative of arrogant oppressive human power (Isa 14:4). Her tyranny was cruel and unrelenting (Isa 14:6). But God will one day put her in her place (Isa 14:3,5,9-11), and give rest and peace to the world (Isa 14:7,8). The fall of the king of Babylon is like Satan's fall (Isa 14:12-15; Lk 10:18; Rev 12:8-10). The disgrace of the king is that of a corpse on display before all (Isa 14:16-21). The root of pride, which is the beginning of downfall, is well expressed in Isa 14:14: "I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High."

Who can Thwart God's Purpose? (Isa 14:22-32)

God, the true ruler of history, will banish Babylon with a divine resolve (Isa 14:22,23). God will fulfill his own plan and purpose upon Assyria (Isa 14:24-27) and Philistia (Isa 14:28-32). Isa 14:27 says, "For the LORD Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart him? His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back?"

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Commonality, yet a lot off (see the last line)

My take on this blog: Jesus was virtually exactly like us, yet he was "a lot off." Thus, he was killed, and yet he is the greatest "hit" and the greatest wonder the world has ever known.

Fri, Dec 3, 2010 To: benjamintoh <benjamintoh@gmail.com> [From Seth Godin's blog.]

Cliches

When you launch a new idea or project into the world, you'll probably use connections to what has come before as a way to tell your story.

Caribou Coffee, for example, uses all sorts of metaphors and cues and even verbal tropes that we learned from Starbucks. These signals help us understand that the place we're about to enter isn't a steakhouse, isn't a shoeshine stand and isn't a massage parlor. It's a place to get a latte.

Books that want to be bestsellers work hard to look like previous bestsellers, from the store where they are sold to how many pages long they are to how much they cost. These signals help us determine that this object is something worth buying and reading.

Cable TV does this, politicans do this, computer resellers do this.

Here's the thing: you can't stand out if you fit in all the way, and thus the act of deciding which part isn't going to match is the important innovation.

Matching an element almost looks like failure. Matching not-at-all, on the other hand, is the refreshing whack on the side of the head that causes attention to be paid.

When your car looks like a car but the doors are gullwing, we notice them. When your suit looks like a suit but the lining is orange, we notice it. When you apply for a job and you don't have a resume, we notice it.

This was the secret of the golden age of comic books. 90% of every hero was on key, professionaly done, easy to understand... which allowed the remarkable parts to stand out.

You can't be offbeat in all ways, because then we won't understand you and we'll reject you. Some of the elements you use should be perfectly aligned with what we're used to.

The others... Not a little off. A lot off.

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12/02/2010

God Rules Over The World (Isaiah 13)

  • Isa 1-5 is God's lament of his people: "Ah, sinful nation" (Isa 1:4).
  • Isa 6-12 is God's preservation of a remnant through grace: "Your guilt is taken away" (Isa 6:7).
  • Isa 13-27 is God's judgment and grace for the world: "We have a strong city" (Isa 26:1).

God is no local tribal deity, but the Judge and Savior ruling over all the world. God's purpose is moving history forward for the benefit of his people. Isaiah reveals the sovereign ways of God with the nations, beginning with Babylon (Isa 13).

Isaiah foretells Babylon's destruction (Isa 13:1-5)

Isaiah announces God's oracle/prophecy/message against proud Babylon (Isa 13:1,2,19), which was regarded as the epitome of religion and culture, symbolizing ungodly nations. God himself would consecrate/summon an army as his instrument of severe judgment (Isa 13:3-5).

What happens on that day? (Isa 13:6-22)

The day of God's judgment on Babylon is described as "destruction from the Almighty" (Isa 13:6), "a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger" (Isa 13:9), when God "will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins" (Isa 13:11). Here are a few descriptions of that dreadful day:

  • "all hands will go limp" (Isa 13:7)
  • "every heart will melt with fear" (Isa 13:7)
  • "terror...pain and anguish will grip them" (Isa 13:8)
  • people will be "scarcer than pure gold" (Isa 13:12)
  • "whoever is captured will be thrust through" (Isa 13:15)
  • "their infants will be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses will be looted and their wives violated" (Isa 13:16), etc.

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11/30/2010

Do You Have An Idol?

  • Why can't you forgive someone?
  • Why do you lie?
  • Why do you feel threatened?
  • Why do you get so angry?
The answer to these questions are related to idolatry. So, how can you tell if you have an idol?

The sign of idolatry is always inordinate anxiety, inordinate anger, inordinate discouragement when we lose our "idol" of choice. Idols are good things (family, achievement, work and career, romance, talent, etc) that we turn into ultimate things in order to get the significance and joy we need. Then they drive us into the ground because we have to have them. If we lose a good thing, it makes us sad. If we lose an idol it devastates us. Why?

We are functionally expecting our idol to do what only God is able to do. We are trying to find our joy, significance, hope, and security in something other than Christ. These "things"are functionally our god, our idol. If we try to achieve our sense of self by our performance (as we Christians might do with our work and ministry) then we are putting something in the place of Christ as a Savior. That is an ‘idol’ by definition.

We never break any of the 2nd to 10 commandments without first breaking the 1st commandment: "You shall have no other gods before me." For instance:

  • Why can't you truly forgive someone who hurt you? It's because you're expecting that person to give you what only God can give you: love, honor, respect, approval, etc.
  • Why do you lie? It's because your reputation (I'm an honorable person), or your money or whatever is more foundational to your self and happiness than the love of God.
  • Why are so many so bothered inordinately with the economic recession? It's because they functionally regard their financial well being as the source of their security, rather than God.

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11/29/2010

God is Man's Salvation (Isaiah 12)

Isaiah concludes chs. 6-12 by foreseeing the day when God's people will praise him for the abundant joys of his salvation.

God's salvation (Isa 12:1,2)

God was angry with his people when they rejected God (Isa 1:2-4), God's law and God's word (Isa 5:24,25). But "in that day, you will say: 'I will praise you, Lord. Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me'" (Isa 12:1). God's anger turned away was not on account of his people, but of his own initiative, based on his mercy and grace (Isa 6:6,7; 53:4-6). Only God's supernatural deliverance takes away our fear, and is our true source of strength, song and salvation (Isa 12:2,3).

Man's response (Isa 12:3-6)

Man's only appropriate response to God's salvation is to give praise and thanks to him with shouts of joy and exhilaration for all the glorious things that he has done for us. And we sing of God's greatness "among the nations" and "to all the world" (Isa 12:4,5). Because of God's gracious intervention, the sinner's greatest dread (Isa 6:3-5) becomes his ultimate joy.

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Paradise (Isaiah 11)

As Isaiah portrays God's destructive judgment as the felling of a vast forest (Isa 10:33,34), he portrays the Messiah as a shoot or twig growing from a stump remaining after God's judgment (Isa 4:2, 6:13, 53:2).

The Righteous Reign of the Messiah (Isa 11:1-5)

The Messiah, referred to as "a branch," will come from the house of Jesse, the father of David (Isa 11:1,10). This continues the theme of the coming heir of David, who is Immanuel--God with us (Isa 7:10-14), and a son (Isa 9:1-7). As David was empowered by the Holy Spirit (1 Sam 16:13), the Messiah is more richly endowed with a 3-fold fullness of the Spirit (Isa 11:2):

  • "wisdom and understanding" for leadership
  • "counsel and might" to carry out his wise plans
  • "knowledge and the fear of the Lord" for holiness
In sharp contrast with faulty human leaders including David, the Messiah will delight "in the fear of the Lord" (Isa 11:3a; Prov 1:7), and thus promote reverence among those he rules. Unlike human leaders who judge by what they see or hear (Isa 11:3b), the Messiah judges and decides by righteousness and justice (Isa 11:4,5; 2:4). Human leaders like strong and impressive people who will benefit them, but the Messiah treasures the poor and the needy who are generally despised or ignored.

No Predators but Peace when the Messiah Rules (Isa 11:6-10)

Stronger men oppress weaker men, just as predatory wolves go after docile lambs. But where the Messiah rules, "The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them" (Isa 11:6). This is so because when the Messiah reigns, "the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea" (Isa 11:9).

The Messiah will recover the remnant of his people (Isa 11:11-16)

God's power, expressed as "his hand" (Isa 11:11,15), will gather in all his people--the "remnant of his people" (Isa 11:11,16), and no earthly power can prevent God from doing so. Even mighty enemy Assyria becomes an avenue for the salvation of God's remnant (Isa 11:16).

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11/28/2010

7 Counterfeit Gospels

Counterfeit gospels are ways we try to justify and "save" ourselves apart from the gospel of grace. Paul Tripp, in his book, How People Change, identifies 7 counterfeit gospels (the quotes are mine):

  1. Formalism. "I faithfully participate in our church meetings. I'm judgmental and critical of those who are not as committed as I."
  2. Legalism. "I live by the rules I create for myself and for others. I'm upset with those who don't live up to the standards I set for them."
  3. Mysticism. "I constantly need an emotional experience with God. If I don't feel it, I'm discouraged."
  4. Activism. "I live for mission and I expect others to live for mission. I need to fix those who are not missional."
  5. Biblicism. "I'm critical of those who don't know the Bible well."
  6. Therapism. "I view hurt as a greater problem than sin, and I view Christ as more Therapist than Savior."
  7. Social-ism. "I replace fellowship with fellow Christians in church with fellowship with Christ himself."
I think that we default so easily to one of these counterfeits because of our sinful inclination to always depend on something else other than Jesus. We depend on our faithfulness, our rules, our feelings, our mission, our church, etc, more than Jesus, often without realizing it. The evidence is that we get quite angry and defensive when our counterfeit gospel idols are pointed out.

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11/26/2010

FROG: Fully Rely On God (Isaiah 10:20)

God Judges the Corrupt in Israel (Isa 10:1-4)

The rulers of God's people imposed "unjust laws" and "oppressive decrees" upon the weak (Isa 10:1,2). God would one day judge and punish them in his anger through the hand of Assyria (Isa 10:3,4).

God Judges the Arrogant Assyrians
(Isa 10:5-19)
Although Assyria was only God's instrument to punish his people Israel (Isa 10:5,6), they thought that they conquered others by their own might (Isa 10:7-11, 13-15). God would punish the king of Assyria for their pride and arrogance (Isa 10:12), and Assyria would be reduced to near nothing (Isa 10:16-19). Assyria fell in 612 B.C.

God Preserves his Remnant (Isa 10:20-34)
God's anger and wrath toward his people Israel was for the sake of preserving from among them a remnant of those who fully rely on God [FROG] (Isa 10:20-23; Rom 9:27,28). Isa 10:20 says, "In that day the remnant of Israel, the survivors of Jacob, will no longer rely on him who struck them down but will truly rely on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel." Even under God's heavy disciplinary hand, God's people can be confident in the promises of God (Isa 10:24-34).

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The "Order" of Redemption

This book, Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray, is an excellent book in the area of soteriology. Murray splits the topic into 2 parts: Redemption Accomplished, and Redemption Applied. In Redemption Accomplished, Murray covers the necessity, the nature, the perfection and the extent of the atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ. In Redemption Applied, Murray covers the order of application of redemption's benefits, following which he covers each of the application more or less in their order of application (below).


A review which I agree with says that the best part of the book is part II Redemption Applied, chapter 1 (p. 79-87). The logical arguments for placing the various applications of redemption are impeccable, and done via deriving the order from first principles. Murray starts off with no order present, then slowly from the bottom up derive the logical and temporal order of each component with respects to the others through the teachings of Scripture. Such makes the chapter itself a valuable piece of theological apologetics indeed, which would be very helpful for Christians to see how the Reformed Ordo Salutis is created from scratch through deduction from the Scriptures alone. This section alone is well-worth the read, and mark this work as a classic indeed in Reformed theological works.


The accomplishment of redemption, or the atonement, is central to our Christian faith. It comprises a series of acts and processes. The order in the application of redemption (each with its own distinct meaning, function, and purpose in the action and grace of God) is as follows:

  1. Effectual Calling
  2. Regeneration
  3. Faith and Repentance
  4. Justification
  5. Adoption
  6. Sanctification
  7. Perseverance
  8. Glorification
This is another brief summary from Ligonier.

11/24/2010

For to Us a Child Is Born (Isaiah 9)

Birth and Reign of the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:1-7)

By not trusting God, God's people experienced anguish and humiliation, darkness and defeat (Isa. 9:1), yet God himself would bring forth a great deliverance by shining upon them a great light (Isa. 9:2). God would restore their joy (Isa. 9:3) in 3 ways by breaking off all human oppression (Isa. 9:4), by bringing an end to war, and by the gift of a special son (Isa. 9:6), who is a descendant and the rightful heir of David's throne (Isa. 9:7), who will establish the kingdom of God "with justice and with righteousness." This son would be called by 4 names of God himself:
  • Wonderful Counselor: He is wise, unlike intelligent but foolish Ahaz.
  • Mighty God: As a warrior, God protects his people.
  • Everlasting Father: The benevolent Father and King cares for his subjects.
  • Prince of Peace: His government beings peace, not distress.
God's Anger with Israel's Arrogance (Isa. 9:8-10:4)
Pride and arrogance is the source of all the nation's disasters (Isa. 9:9). Because of their pride and arrogance to preserve and glorify themselves, God's "anger is not turned away" (Isa. 9:12,17,21,10:4; 5:25). The principle of retribution is an important biblical teaching. People reap what they sow, whether to destruction or benefit (Isa. 10:1-4; Gal. 6:7,8).

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God is the One to Fear (Isaiah 8)

What happens when we trust in man (Isa. 8:1-10)

The name of Isaiah's 2nd son, Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz (Isa. 8:1,3), means "quick to the plunder, swift to the spoil." It was prophetic of the swiftness of the Assyrian invasion and conquest. Instead of trusting in God's provision, symbolized by "the gently flowing waters of Shiloah" (Isa. 8:6), and "Immanuel" (Isa. 8:8), first Israel, then Judah, trusted in a man, the king of Assyria, to their own destruction.

What happens when we fear God (Isa. 8:11-15)
While God is a snare for those who do not fear God, he is "a sanctuary" (Isa. 8:14) for those who do, as God encouraged Isaiah: "The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread" (Isa. 8:13).

The difference between fearing and not fearing God (Isa. 8:16-22)
Those who don't fear God become distressed, hungry, famished, enraged, as they are thrust into utter darkness, while cursing and blaming God (Isa. 8:21-23), while those who fear and trust God become signs and symbols of the Lord even in the darkest time (Isa. 8:16-18).

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11/22/2010

Immanuel (Isaiah 7)

Isaiah 7:1-9 "Be careful, keep calm, don't be afraid, do not loose heart"

When a coalition of Israel and Syria threatened to invade Judah (Isa. 7:1,2), God gave Ahaz, the king of Judah, a promise through Isaiah that they will not succeed (Isa. 7:3-9). Isaiah's son's name "Shear-jashub" means "a remnant will return." It is a promise of salvation to the faithful remnant believers among God's people. It suggests both judgment (God's people will be reduced to a remnant) and grace (that remnant will return). God wanted Ahaz to trust God and stand firm in his faith: "If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all" (Isa. 7:9).

Isaiah 7:10-24 The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son

At this critical moment, Isaiah spoke to Ahaz to encourage him to ask for a sign from the Lord (Isa. 7:10,11) in order to put his firm faith in God. But Ahaz decided to trust the king of Assyria (Isa. 7:9), instead of trusting a far more reliable ally: "the Lord himself" (Isa. 7:14). He put his firm faith in a man, the king of Assyria, by giving him gold from the temple in order to induce him to attack Syria (2 Kings 16:1-9). Despite his stubborn refusal to trust God (Isa. 7:12), God gave him a sign of a virgin conceiving a son, which Matthew applied to the virgin birth of Christ (Matt. 1:23). The name, Immanuel, means "God is with us." God being with his people is a promise that God will help them fulfill their calling (Gen. 21:22; Ex. 3:12; Deut. 2:7; Josh. 1:5; Ps. 46:7, 11; Isa. 41:10).

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Whom Shall I Send (Isaiah 6)

God's grace leads Isaiah from "Woe is me!" (Isa. 6:5) to "Here am I!" (Isa 6:8)

Isaiah 6:1-7 Isaiah heard the angelic chorus: "Holy, holy, holy"

When Isaiah was confronted with the holiness of God in the temple (Isa. 6:1-4), he sensed his impending doom, and cried out, "Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty" (Isa. 6:5). Holiness implies absolute moral purity and separateness above the creation. When Isaiah had a deep sense of his own sin before the awesome holiness of God, his sins were atoned for (Isa. 6:6,7). Do I daily sense God's holiness and my sins?

Isaiah 6:8-13 Isaiah heard the voice of the Lord: "Whom shall I send?"

When Isaiah experienced the grace of forgiveness of his sins, he heard the cry of God's heart for his people, saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" (Isa. 6:8) God's message to his people through Isaiah was a message that would harden their hearts (Isa. 6:9,10). Isaiah was to proclaim God's message until God's judgment and discipline is satisfied (Isa. 6:11,12). But a remnant would be preserved and set apart for God (Isa. 6:13) by the same grace that saved Isaiah. They are the heirs of God's promises to Abraham, and thus the only hope for the whole world (see 10:20–23; 11:1–10).

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