Idolatry (Dt 4:15-31)

Deuteronomy 4:16-31; Key Verse: Dt 4:24

"For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God."
In Deuteronomy, the themes studied so far are Sin (Dt 1:1-46), Leadership (Dt 1:9-18), Faith (Dt 2:1-3:29) and Obedience (Dt 4:1-14). In Dt 4:15-31, Moses warns the Israelites about how grievous the sin of idolatry is.
  1. What it does - How enticing it is (Dt 4:15-19).
  2. What it results in - How devastating are its consequences (Dt 4:25-28).
  3. What to do; what to remember - How to overcome it (Dt 4:20-24, 29-31).


2014 Key Verse Testimony (Dt 15:15)

2014 Key Verse: Dt 15:15a

"Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you."

Remembrance. I am tentatively choosing this key verse as as I prepare to preach through Deuteronomy. The three key imperatives of Deuteronomy are love (Dt 6:5), obey (Dt 10:12-13) and choose (Dt 30:19-20). But no one, however godly and holy, can long sustain such imperatives by their sheer resolve and will power with beauty and mystery. (They might do it grumpily, angrily, habitually or legalistically!) We need to remember the grace of God (1 Cor 15:10). Throughout his three lengthy farewell speeches in Deuteronomy, Moses says "remember" or "do not forget" (God's grace), in order to help God's people to live victoriously with God's blessing in the promised land. I pray that 2014 may be a year of remembrance so that the grace of God may compel us to love God (Dt 6:5) and to obey God (Dt 10:12-13) and to choose life (Dt 30:19-20) with hearts that are overflowing with resounding joy and gratitude.

Review. Each year over the last few years, a theme for West Loop UBF was chosen.


Confounding Paradoxes That Are True To Life

Paradoxes common in Christianity (and in life):
  • If you die, you live (1 Cor 15:36). If you try to live, you die (Mt 16:25; Mk 8:35; Lk 9:24).
  • If you expose your weakness, you experience power (2 Cor 12:9-10). If you conceal your weakness, you loose your power, even if you have might.
  • If you give up control, you have authority. If you're authoritarian (Mt 20:25; Mk 10:42; Lk 22:25), you loose control.
  • If you listen (Jas 1:19), you're heard. If you demand to be heard, no one listens to you.

How To Be Productive Infographic

Take a minute to browse through the infographic: Get It Done: 35 Habits of the Most Productive People (Infographic). As a cerebral "heady" person, the habits regarding the MIND (right side of the infographic) resonates with me:
  • 80/20 rule: Which 20% of your work produces 80% of the result? (Not sports, movies and facebook!)
  • Focus on the important (Reading, preparing, planning, reflecting, exercising). Suppress the urgent (Checking sports stats daily, internet cruising, celebrity trivia).
  • Idea dumping tips: Always carry paper (or note book). Be descriptive when writing it down. Ask why; think big picture. Don't force it. (First time I heard of "Idea Dump.")
  • Learn to ignore. (But, but, this article was good!) No need to respond to everything.
  • DO a bad FIRST DRAFT. You can't edit a blank page.
HACKS is pretty good too (third from left):


2014--A Year Of Remembrance; Preaching Schedule

For West Loop UBF, we chose a theme each year over the last few years:
  • 2010 was a year of the gospel--the matters of first importance (1 Cor 15:1-4).
  • 2011 was a year of grace (Acts 20:24)--the primary experience of the gospel.
  • 2012 was a year of sanctification (Phil 2:12-13)--the scary/painful part of the gospel.
  • 2013 was a year of considering the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27, ESV) or the whole will of God (NIV), or the whole plan of God (HCSB), or the whole purpose of God (NASB). This prompted me to study and preach through Revelation, the last book I wanted to study.
  • For 2014, it may be a year of remembrance (Dt 5:15; 15:15), as I prepare to preach through Deuteronomy.


Obedience (Dt 4:1-15)

Deuteronomy 4:1-15; Key Verse: Dt 4:1

"Now, Israel, hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live..."

Theme: A key to obedience is to hear (Hebrew: shamar).

In Dt 4:1-15, the two parts of this sermon will consider (1) how the people of God are to obey God, and (2) why the people of God should and even want to obey God:
  1. How to obey God
  2. Why we obey God


Obedience (Deuteronomy 4)

Deuteronomy 4:1-49; Key Verse: Dt 4:1

"Now, Israel, hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you."

Obedience. The themes covered so far are Sin (Dt 1), Leadership (Dt 1a) and Faith (Dt 2-3). The theme of Dt 4 is on obedience to the law (Torah). Generally, people think or act as though obedience is needed for their salvation. But biblical obedience is the fruit of salvation, not the means of salvation. Biblical obedience is not commanded of non-believers or non-Christians, but of the people of God--those who have experienced God's saving grace (Dt 1:30-31; 4:37; 5:6, 15; 15:15; 24:18). This is similar to Jesus saying to his disciples that their obedience should be because of their love (Jn 14:15, 21, 23; 15:10).


5 Things To Know About God (J.I. Packer)

To know God, what are some basic foundational principles we need to know?

In Knowing God (1973), chap. 1 (The Study of God), J.I. Packer lists five basic truths we need to know:
  1. God has spoken.
  2. God is Lord and King who rules all things.
  3. God is Savior.
  4. God is triune.
  5. Godliness means responding to God's revelation.
A major theme that Packer stresses is to note the difference between knowing about God and knowing God.

Sin (Dt 1), Leadership (Dt 1a), Faith (Dt 2-3), Obedience (Dt 4)

  1. Sin (Dt 1:1-46):
    • What sin does - Destroys
    • Why sin happens - Unbelief
    • What the solution is - Remember God's grace/Believe God's promise
  2. Leadership (Dt 1:9-18):
    • The burden of leadership - Stress
    • The solution of leadership - Delegation
    • The practice of leadership - Justice
    • The character of leadership - Humility (Dt 3:23-27).
    • The success of leadership - Succession (Dt 3:21-22, 28-29).


Leadership (Dt 1:9-18; 3:21-29)

  1. Do you agree that "you don't need a title to be a leader"? Why or why not?
  2. How well do you deal with pressure and stress (Dt 1:12; Num 11:14; Ex 18:18)
  3. What is your understanding of delegation (Dt 1:13-15)? From your leader (cf. Mt 20:25; Mk 10:42; Lk 22:25)? To your subordinates? Explain the difference between "gopher delegation" and "stewardship delegation."
  4. Have you experienced justice from your leader(s) (Dt 1:16-17; 16:20; 32:4; Ps 9:8; Isa 42:1; Mt 12:18)? Reflect on this quote by Martin Luther King Jr: "It is not possible to be in favor of justice for some people and not be in favor of justice for all people."
  5. Reflect on Charles Spurgeon's quote regarding the best man ("leader") in the church: “Do not desire to be the principal man in the church. Be lowly. Be humble. The best man in the church is the one who is willing to be a doormat for all to wipe their boots on, the brother who does not mind what happens to him at all, so long as God is glorified.” How might this relate to Jesus as our Leader (Jn 13:14)?


The Gospel in 1-2 Kings

God's faithfulness and man's unfaithfulness. 1-2 Kings belongs to a larger group of books in the OT, Joshua through Kings (the Former Prophets). Together, they record the faithfulness of God to keep all his covenant promises with regard to establishing his people in the promised land. There are two important texts that summarize this:
  1. Josh 21:44-45: "The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their ancestors. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the Lord gave all their enemies into their hands. Not one of all the Lord's good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled."
  2. 1 Ki 8:56: "Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses."


The Daniel Plan

Rick Warren's new book, The Daniel Plan, encourages healthy living based on the following essentials (Tim Challies' review.):
  1. Faith (Phil 4:13).
  2. Food (1 Cor 10:31).
  3. Fitness (1 Cor 6:19a, 20b).
  4. Focus (Rom 12:2).
  5. Friends (Eccl 4:9).
  1. God Wants Us to Chew On His Word (Josh 1:8).
  2. For Good Health, Confess Your Sin (Ps 32:3-5).

Faith (Deuteronomy 2 - 3); Theme of 14 chapters

Dt 2:1-329; Key Verse: Dt 2:7

"The Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything."

Theme: Sin brings devastation (chap. 1), but faith expressed by obedience to God (chap. 2-3) brings blessing, success and victory.
The wages of sin. Chapter 1 recounts how sin caused the first generation of the people of God to be set back for 38 years until all of them died in the desert (Dt 2:14-15). Their sin was inexcusable, because they had personally experienced the power of God in delivering from slavery in Egypt (Dt 1:30-31).


What Sin Does (Dt 1:19-46)

Few passages in Scripture provide a fully study of what sin does than Dt 1:19-46.
  1. Blinds: Sin blinds people to God's gracious providences. Moses highlights frequently the motif of "seeing" (Dt 1:19, 22-23, 25, 28, 30, 31, 33). But sin or "faithless eyes" are selective in what they allow to register in their hearts and minds. They only saw the obstacles and difficulties. Because they were blind to the greater One among them (1 Jn 4:4), they could not and would not see the prize (Dt 1:35-36). They had no "theology of remembrance." They could not remember God's many interventions on their behalf (Dt 6:20-25; 26:5-11).

Why Sin is Inexcusable (Dt 1:1-46)

Key Verses: Dt 1:8, 21, 30-31

"See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land..." "See, the Lord your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it..." "The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the wilderness. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place."

Deuteronomy 1 begins with a tragic negative story of failure by the people of God who were miraculously redeemed from slavery in Egypt. The recent sequence of events is as follows (See also An Overview of the Pentateuch):


Set Back by Sin for 38 Years (Dt 1:1-46)

Deuteronomy 1:1-46; Key Verses: Dt 1:8, 21, 26, 30-32

"See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land..." "See, the Lord your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it..." "But ... you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God." "The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you..." "In spite of this, you did not trust in the Lord your God."

Introduction: Deuteronomy consists of three speeches (sermons) Moses gave to his people before handing leadership to Joshua and before their entrance to the promised land. Key Verses may be:
  • Love. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength" (Dt 6:5).


Take this 22 Question Quiz on Deuteronomy 1-13

Deuteronomy Quiz on Chapter 1 - 13. On my first take, I had 15 correct and 7 incorrect in 6 min + and received a score of 70% (without cheating by looking up the references).


An Overview of the Pentateuch in Preparation for Studying Deuteronomy

Genesis, the first book of the Pentateuch, presents the stories of Creation (Gen 1:1-2:25), the Fall (Gen 3:1-24), and the beginning of God's plan of redemption through Abraham (Gen 12:1ff), his son Isaac (Gen 24:1ff), and Isaac's son Jacob (Gen 27:1ff), who is also called Israel. In the later chapters of Genesis, Jacob's son Joseph is taken down to Egypt (Gen 37:1ff), eventually to be followed by his brothers and father.

Exodus, which is next, records the greatest redemption event in the Bible prior to Christ's incarnation. The first chapter summarizes four hundred years in the life and slavery of the children of Israel in Egypt (Ex 1:1-22). The first eighty years of Moses' life follow in the second chapter (Ex 2:1-25). Then, the story line from Exodus 3 on through Leviticus and up to the middle of Numbers covers the span of only one year. It is a great year, for the Lord calls Moses as an eighty-year-old man to return to Egypt and lead the children of Israel out of slavery. Having redeemed his people, God guides them through the wilderness to Mount Sinai, where God gives the peo­ple his law (Ex 20:1-17), and instructs them in his ways, even though they sin repeatedly. This is always the order of the Bible: redemption first, then response; grace then law.

Deuteronomy: Outline/Overview

Analysis (Edward Woods, 2011):
  1. First Address of Moses: Retrospect - What God Has Done (1:1-4:43).
  2. Second Address of Moses: What God Commands for the Future (4:44-28:68).
  3. Third Address of Moses: Recapitulation of the Covenant Demand and the Call to Choose God and Obey (29:1-30:20).
  4. The Transition from Moses to Joshua (31:1-34:12).


The Gospel in 1-2 Samuel

The message of 1-2 Samuel is NOT "be like David" and "don't be like Saul."

God is David's ultimate concern. 1-2 Samuel are about Israel's first kings, Saul and David. Ultimately, they look to the great King, God himself. These are gospel-filled stories, unflinchingly honest about sin and society, but saturated with hope of salvation. The two key characters (apart from Samuel) are both royal sinners. But Saul and David are as different from one another as darkness is from light. For Saul, God does not appear to be a major concern, perhaps not a reality at all. For David, God is his ultimate concern, the ultimate reality, and carries ultimate weight. This is what it means to "honor" God. Therefore, "those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed" (1 Sam 2:30). Saul is destined to fall and David to rise.


The Gospel in Ruth

God cares for his own with great loving kindness. Ruth is the story of a young Moabite widow who comes to know the covenant love the one true God and the joy of belonging to his people through her Jewish mother-in-law, Naomi. Through these two women God's sovereign hand is at work to redeem a people for himself. God, the hero of the story, is the faithful God who cares for his own and provides what they need with great loving kindness (hesed). Like Ruth, we too "were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world" (Eph 2:12). Like Ruth, we too need a Kinsman-Redeemer who will do all that is necessary to remedy our helpless condition.

The Gospel in Judges

Judges portrays the people of God languishing without good leadership. Judges and 1-2 Samuel bridge the gap from the entrance of the people of God into the Promised Land under Joshua to their expulsion from the land due to unfaithful kings in 1-2 Kings. Since the conquest of the land is not complete, Judges begins with the question of who will lead in battle (Judg 1:1) and ends with "In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit" (Judg 21:25). The need for a king to lead God's people into their full inheritance is an important theme.


The Gospel in Joshua

God gives and Israel inherits is the formula that is repeated from the beginning to the end of Joshua. The spotlight is not on Joshua's courageous moral example or on timeless principles of conduct, but on God's fulfillment of a historical promise. Even Joshua's name ("Yahweh Saves!") points away from himself to the real hero of the story. Joshua is a story of grace.

Israel was not the ultimate seed of God's promise but was rather God's instrument for providing him. God's gracious covenant with Abraham involved key promises including a temporal land and nation and an everlasting inheritance for all nations through his descendant Christ (Gal 3:16). Entering the land is a gracious gift (Dt 7:6-9; 9:4-8), while remaining God's holy nation depended on Israel's obedience to the covenant. This echoes Adam's testing in Eden, with the consequent promise of life or death, blessing or curse, enjoyment of God or exile (Ex 19:4-8; 24:3, 8; Dt 11:17, 26; 28:1-68). Even after heeding the serpent, Adam and Eve received God's gracious promise of a Savior, the seed or offspring who would crush the serpent's head (Gen 3:15). Would this seed be Israel? Was Israel the fulfillment of God's promise? Though there was genuine faith and obedience under Joshua, yet ultimately Israel transgressed the covenant (Hos 6:7).


The Gospel in Deuteronomy

Deuteronomy contains Moses' last three sermons and two prophetic poems about Israel's future. It is one of the most important books in the OT because:
  1. Jesus quoted it more than any other OT book.
  2. Jesus used it in his own life more than any other OT book (Lk 4:1-13).
  3. Jesus summarized the supreme command of the Bible from Dt 6:4-5 (Mt 22:37; Mk 12:30).
  4. It is quoted over 80 times in the NT, and references to it occur in 22 of the 27 books.


The Gospel in Numbers

The Christian life is a wilderness journey of unpredictable transition and testing on the way to our final destination. Numbers narrates the arduous wilderness journey of Israel, fraught with trials and failures every step of the way, on the way to the Promised Land. The "wilderness life" only requires that the people of God exercise faith by trusting daily in his guidance and provision.

The wilderness journey testifies to God's faithfulness in the following ways:
  1. God's saving grace in delivering them out of slavery in Egypt.
  2. God fulfilling his gracious promises he swore to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Gen 12:1, 7; 26:2-4; 35:12).
  3. That God provided for them and sustained them for forty years reveals that God is indeed their Shepherd (Ps 23:1).
  4. To be among them in the wilderness meant, above all, to have the Lord dwelling in their midst with his tabernacle pitched at the heart of the Israelite encampment to atone for their sins and to guide them into the land flowing with milk and honey.


Pope Francis' answers the question, "Who are you?"

How can anyone not love Pope Francis?

I am a sinner. During an exclusive interview in August 2013, Pope Francis was asked, "Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?" The pope stared in silence. The interviewer asked him if this was a question that he is allowed to ask. The pope nodded that it is, and he says, "I do not know what might be the most fitting description.... I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner."

Loving the Bible is like a Husband Loving His Wife's Letters

I love receiving hand written cards from my wife, even if her handwriting is often quite hard to read and decipher. Strangely, I even delight in trying to figure out what exactly did she write to me! She wrote this to me after 32 years of marriage. I can thus relate to what John Stott writes when he equates loving the Bible with loving to read my wife's written words to me:

"A man who loves his wife will love her letters and her photographs because they speak to him of her. So if we love the Lord Jesus we shall love the Bible because it speaks to us of him. The hus­band is not so stupid as to prefer his wife's letters to her voice, or her pho­tographs to herself. He simply loves them because of her. So, too, we love the Bible because of Christ. It is his portrait. It is his love-letter."

Why Study the Old Testament?

If Christ is the key to human history, the Old Testament carefully describes the lock.

If Christ is the climax of the story, the Old Testament sets the stage and begins the plot. Do you read just the endings of books?

If the New Testament presents God's promises kept, the Old Testament tells us about God's promises made.

In other words, if you don't get what the Old Testament teaches, you'll never get Christ.

Mark Dever, The Message of the Old Testament, Introduction: Fly First, Walk Later


The Gospel in Leviticus

Jesus is the Great High Priest and the sin offering. It may be natural to think of Leviticus in terms of the grace of the gospel, because its ideas and concepts find their ultimate fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus--sacrificial atonement or the priesthood. Hebrews makes these connections by emphasizing again and again that Jesus is the Great High Priest (Heb 4:14; 10:21), the one without sin (Heb 9:14; 9:7), who offers himself as the ultimate sacrifice that cleanses all our sin (Heb 1:3; 7:26-27; 9:12, 14, 26, 28; 10:10, 12, 14; 13:11-12) which gives us confidence to draw near to God (Heb 10:19-22).

The Gospel in Exodus

Redemption. Exodus records the greatest redemption event in the Bible prior to Christ's incarnation. This is good news to captives who labor in bondage to sin and misery. The redemption in Exodus begins with God remembering his covenant promises offered in Genesis (Gen 3:15; 12:1-3; 15:13-14), in particular by remembering his covenant with Abraham (Ex 2:23-25), and coming to redeem his people through Moses the mediator (chs. 3-4). Central to this redemption is judgment and salvation: judgment on Egypt and salvation through the substitutionary death of spotless lambs (chs. 7-13).

The Gospel in Genesis

I highly recommend the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible.

Genesis, the first book of the Pentateuch, narrates for Israel the story of people who walked with God (Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph) to encourage their descendants to break away from their resistant and recurring hardness of heart. The foundation stories of Genesis set the stage for understanding the Gospel in many ways.
  1. The Creator is the King over all his creation.
  2. Sin entered the world and took away human freedom.
  3. God reveals the depth of his love and grace, despite humanity's continual disobedience.
  4. God called frail and profoundly flawed human beings to represent him: Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.
  5. These giants of faith learned to love God more than the goods of this life.


The Meaninglessness of Wisdom, Pleasure, Possessions, Accomplishments (Eccl 1:12-2:26)

Eccl 1:1-11 poses a question: What do people gain from all their toil? The sad answer is, "Nothing." Eccl 1:12-18 asks, "What can we discover about life from using our wisdom?" Eccl 1:14 says, "I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind."

  1. What was the Preacher determined to do to discover about the meaning of life (Eccl 1:12-13a)? What did he conclude (Eccl 1:13b-15; Dt 29:29)?
  2. What did he acknowledge about what he had attained (Eccl 1:16; 2:9)? What did he set his heart to know (Eccl 1:17a)? What conclusion did he draw (Eccl 1:17b)? Why (Eccl 1:18)?
  3. In the Preacher's search for meaning, what did he explore (Eccl 2:1-3)? What did he accumulate during his search (Eccl 2:4-8)? How great did he become (Eccl 2:9; 1:16)?
  4. What did he conclude (Eccl 2:10-11, 12-16)? How did he feel about his achievements and accomplishments (Eccl 2:17)? Why (Eccl 2:18)? Why did this trouble him (Eccl 2:19-21)?
  5. What was the result of one's labor, striving, and toil for things under the sun (Eccl 2:22-23)?
    What did he say was the best man could achieve (Eccl 2:24a)? Who was capable of achieving this (Eccl 2:24b-26a)? What does the sinner receive (Eccl 2:26b)?


Intoxicated with the Maddening Wine of Adultery

"'Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great,' which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries" (Rev 14:8). "...the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries" (Rev 17:2).

(Today's sermon on The Wrath of God explains how intoxication with the wine of adultery seduces us with min-numbing stupor.)

Why is Babylon regarded as the mother of prostitutes (Rev 17:5)? It is because she is not only a prostitute herself, but she spawns other prostitutes and evils like her own. She is "filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries" (Rev 17:4). She is able to do so very well because the people of the world are only too happy at being seduced by her prostituting herself. Thus, Babylon the prostitute represents society's allure of material prosperity and pleasure, seducing the unwary into adultery against the Lord. The prostitute desires nothing less than we becoming unfaithful to our True Spouse.

Why is the Gospel Eternal? (Rev 14:6-7)

"...he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people" (Rev 14:6).

(Today's sermon on The Wrath of God begins with the proclamation of the eternal gospel.)

The gospel. Like a multifaceted jewel, Scripture describes the gospel with various terms, each looking at it from a different viewpoint: the gospel of God (Mk 1:14; Rom 1:1), the gospel of the kingdom (Mt 4:23; Mt 24:14), the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24), the gospel of the glory of Christ (2 Cor 4:4), the gospel of salvation (Eph 1:13). In Revelation, it is the eternal gospel (Rev 14:6).

Why is the gospel eternal? The gospel is "eternal" because it points to a message that is permanently valid. It also provides the means to eternal life.


What Do People Gain From All Their Toil? (Eccl 1:1-11)

Ecclesiastes 1:1-11
Key Verse: Eccl 1:3

"What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun?" (NIV) "What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?" (ESV)

What does the Teacher/Preacher (Eccl 1:1) say about God? Nothing! Why? He is reflecting on the world on the horizontal level. He is looking at human life apart from God. He describes life "under the sun" (Eccl 1:3, 9). He describes life from a secular perspective.


What is The Meaning of 666?

This is an expanded edited excerpt from my sermon (10/20/2013) entitled The Beast, 666, and The Lamb:

What is the mark of the Beast? What is the meaning of 666 (Rev 13:16-18)?

666 is one of the most fascinating enigmas in the book of Revelation. Countless and exhausting explanations have been given over the last 2,000 years. It is scary and mysterious. So what is it? How might the Christians in the first century have understood 666 when they first heard Revelation read to them?


Be A Man: The ABCs

1 Corinthians 16:13 says, "Act like a man" (HCSB), "act like men" (ESV, NASB), "be men of courage" (NIV '84), "be courageous" (NIV 2011, NRSV), "be resolute" (The Message).

1 Kings 2:2 says, "So be strong, show yourself a man" (NIV '84, ESV), "So be strong, act like a man," (NIV 2011), "Be strong and be courageous like a man" (HCSB), "Take courage and be a man" (NLT), "Be strong, be courageous" (NRSV), "be strong, show what you're made of" (The Message).

Courage is the mark of a man. No one likes to be a wimp, and no one likes wimps.


Eat the Word, Not Spit It At Others (Revelation 10:8-11)

This is my typed recollection of a part of what I preached extemporaneously yesterday. This post could be titled "Take the Word. Eat It. It is Sweet and Bitter."

Yesterday (9/29/13), I preached on the Seven Trumpets (Rev 8:1-11:19) with the title of The Two Kingdoms, and the theme of "The Kingdom of This World Becomes The Kingdom of Christ." In a vision John was told to take and eat a scroll that was in the hand of the angel (Rev 10:8-9), which he did (Rev 10:10), and then he was told to prophesy (Rev 10:11). This is similar to what Ezekial was told to do (Eze 2:8-3:3, 10). Though the scroll Ezekial ate tasted as sweet as honey in his mouth (Eze 3:3), it caused him to be deeply distressed (Eze 3:15).

In my sermon I explained four aspects of how to prophesy, i.e., how to communicate Christ well through Scripture.


C.S. Lewis on How To Write

C. S. Lewis on Writing (#4 is most explanatory):

1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn't mean anything else.

2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don't implement promises, but keep them.

3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean "More people died" don't say "Mortality rose."

4. In writing. Don't use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was "terrible," describe it so that we'll be terrified. Don't say it was "delightful"; make us say "delightful" when we've read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, "Please will you do my job for me."


What Sad Words Before One's Death

Before his death, philosopher and agnostic Bertrand Russell said, "There is darkness without, and when I die there will be darkness within. There is no splendor, no vastness anywhere, only triviality for a moment, and then nothing."

I love quotes because words reveal what is in a man. Russell's words about death reveal plainly in eloquent words what his view of death is: It is darkness and nothingness.

Contrast Russell's sad words with Dietrich Bonhoeffer who is considered a martyr for his faith. When facing his untimely execution at age 39, he said, "This is the end --- for me the beginning of life."

Russell was a brilliant man. Here are a few of his quotes:

"No one gossips about other people's secret virtues."


B.L.E.S.S. Others

  1. Begin with prayer.
  2. Listen (James 1:19).
  3. Eat together.
  4. Serve them (according to their needs*).
  5. Share your Story.
*Consider these needs:
  1. Body needs.
  2. Labor needs.
  3. Emotional needs.
  4. Social needs.
  5. Spiritual needs.



Being incessant simply just works for some people!

Half Faith is No Faith (Judges 17-18)

"Judges For You" (by Tim Keller) has helped me share gospel lessons from the book:
  • Faithful But Flawed (Judg 1:1-2:5),
  • Gideon (Judg 6:1-8:35), who starts well and ends badly, and
  • Samson (Judg 13:1-16:31), the womanizer and sex addict whom God choose from birth.
They teach us:

  • how compromise always devastates us,
  • how success often leads to pride and makes us worse, and
  • how God bears with our fallen humanity and depravity---only by his grace.
The last 5 chapters are particularly graphically brutal, violent and bleak---so much so that they are hardly ever taught in church or preached on. It shows the reality of a life without God, even though the people act and behave religiously, and even call on God's name. But it is everyone doing "as they saw fit" (Judg 17:6; 21:25).

God's Love May Be To Keep You Weak

Does God want to weaken you? Paul, the great apostle, was given a "thorn in the flesh," a messenger of Satan, to torment him and to keep him from becoming conceited because of surpassingly great revelations that he received from God (2 Cor 12:7). Despite endless speculation, this thorn is not specifically known. God's specific intended purpose was to keep Paul humble and weak, so weak that his only recourse is to rely entirely on God's sufficient grace (2 Cor 12:9).

Generic thorns and a particular thorn. Every Christian who has any degree of self-awareness is surely conscious of some unbearable thorn in their own flesh, which feels like torture and which thus weakens and frustrates them. Common thorns might be laziness, lukewarmness, lust, licentiousness, liberalism, legalism and loneliness, from which all people/Christians experience to varying degrees. My particular thorn might be anger, exasperation, impatience and the incessant desire to retaliate against others--like Dirty Harry. I know that apart from marveling and grasping at the glory of the gospel of God's grace (Ac 20:24), I am completely helpless and powerless to restrain myself. Thank God for such a thorn that is surely nothing but his magnificent, magnanimous, mysterious and marvelous grace to me.


A Manipulative Christian Leader

No one likes to be manipulated or to feel manipulated. Sadly, every person's sinful default is to control and manipulate others to do what we believe others should do. Church leaders are not exempt in being manipulators. They might even be the worst possible manipulators because they know how to skillfully use the Bible to justify their manipulation of others in the church. This post, how-to-spot-a-manipulative-church-leader, helps you to identify manipulative Christian leaders.

A Christian leader who is manipulative will:

Is There More to Life Than This?

How would you start an Alpha Course?

I attended one in downtown Chicago. It is from noon to 1 pm with lunch thrown in (which I think is a small incentive to attend!). Consider doing the following:


Painful Percentages; Encouraging Conclusions

THE BAD NEWS (August 2013)
  • 18 percent of today's young adults (age 18-29) say they were raised in a religion but are now unaffiliated with any particular faith. Nearly all come from homes with lukewarm or nominal faith.
  • It's the Mainline Protestant churches that have seen marked declines in participation/membership in both real numbers and percent of population.
  • The nones have increased from 15% to 20% of the adult population in the last 5 years.
4 Key Conclusions for Ministry
  1. Bible-teaching churches continue to see healthy growth. Be faithful to teaching and honoring God’s Word in a clear and vibrant way.Young adults desire to receive uncompromising truth that calls them to something beyond themselves.


Faithful But Flawed (Judges 1:1-2:5)

"Judges For You" by Tim Keller is a small, short (217 pages), succinct and well written Bible study guide. I have blogged briefly on Gideon, Samson and the six key themes of Judges. This is an overview of chapter 1 of the book: Half-Hearted Discipleship (Judg 1:1-2:5). It shows how the people were faithful yet flawed; they were committed (to God), yet given to compromise, convenience, and common sense.

Radical risk-taking discipleship requires faith and obedience. Judges begins after the death of Joshua (Judg 1:1)--Moses' God-chosen successor to lead the people of Israel (Num 27:12-23). As recorded in the book of Joshua, God kept his promises to them, brought them into the promised land, defeated their enemies and began to give them blessing and rest. The gist of the book of Joshua is that since God always keeps his promise, God's people can bravely obey and worship him. Briefly, God's people are to 1) believe God's promise (Josh 1:3-4) and obey God's word (Josh 1:7-8; 23:5-6), which they should continue to do. God's call to his people (then and now) is to combine spirituality with bravery. True discipleship is radical and risk-taking. Judges records how they fared.


I Can't Hug Every Cat

Is this an amazing eHarmony Video Bio or what? 27 million viewers think so! (I wonder how many were guys?)

If that’s not enough, check out this Songify version of Can't Hug Every Cat.

It reminded me of this memorable quote (that validates my love of cats!): "There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats." Albert Schweitzer.

Check out more cute cat quotes HERE.


Why Are Leaders Leaving Your Church

This is an excellent post sent to me by my friend David: Why The "Leadership Movement" is Leaving Your Church Leaderless. It answers a question I had asked: Does your church raise Christ-centered leaders of Church-centered followers?

There are two kinds of leaders:
  1. Those who raise leaders.
  2. Those who raise followers.
What type of leader are you?

All Christian leaders say #1. But sadly, in actual practical reality many are doing #2. Why??


Samson: How God Used A Womanizer (Judges 13-16)

Samson's story has many Hollywood themes: illicit sex, graphic violence, revenge, death and a Rambo style hero. But his story is perplexing. He was conceived miraculously, chosen by God, set apart to serve him from birth, blessed by God and empowered by his Spirit. Yet, he may be the most flawed character in Judges. He is violent, impulsive, sexually addicted, emotionally immature and selfish. Most troubling of all, the "Spirit of God" seems to anoint him and use his worst sins for God's purpose--especially his sexual addiction and violent temper. How can such a person ever be called and chosen by God to fulfill his purpose of redemption?


What Is Your Worship Status?

Facebook enables us to share updates on our status and our relationship status, should it change or when it changes. Similarly, don't you think it would be good for us as Christ followers to share our "worship status"? What do I mean?

My sermon yesterday was entitled Heaven? Worship? That's It?? I emphasized that the sole predominant activity of heaven is to worship the One on the throne (Rev 4:2, 8-11) and the Lamb who was slain (Rev 5:6, 9-14) as the only One worthy of our worship. Isn't this excessive? What does it mean to me during my life's journey this side of heaven? How is my "worship status"? Are there any major distracting or competing objects of worship?

Notably, when tempted by Satan, Jesus said, "Worship the Lord your God and serve him only" (Mt 4:10; Lk 4:8). The word "worship" occurs 65 times in the NT.

In light of what the Bible says about worshiping God, what is your worship status?