Christian Living

Joy: Worth Hanging On To

The Book of Philippians is one of the most positive books in Scripture. Its theme is joy. One of the best books on Philippians at a popular level is the one penned by Dr. Warren Wiersbe titled, Be Joyful .

Wiersbe presents Philippians as a book about joy and suggests that Paul identifies four thieves of joy: circumstances, people, material things, and worry. Weirsbe then suggests that Paul offers a solution to neutralize each thief of joy: the single mind (Philippians 1), the submissive mind (Philippians 2), the spiritual mind (Philippians 3), and the secure mind (Philippians 4).

Real joy comes from rich meaning; as Christians, we possess tremendous meaning if we live to glorify God. But this meaning needs to surface and affect the way we think. We can either aim to win by the world’s standards, or aim to win by God’s standards. If we try to do both, we will fail on both counts. Obviously, I advocate the second choice!

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Lessons from the Summer Quiet

Though Phoenix can get too hot, my family and I enjoy the summer months for several reasons. My wife Toni takes June and July off of piano teaching to spend some extra time with her husband (me) and our sons. During those two months I take the bulk of my vacation time so we can have some special times together. All of us are “crazy busy” during the majority of the school year. My sons are also involved in school, church, sports, music, etc. So when the end of school comes around, they are as needy of a break as Toni and I are.

Often on our trips, I get to preach at a sister church, and the rest of the family play instruments or sing. Then we try to enjoy some sights and fun times as a family. Because we live in the desert, we love the beach—especially when the temperature is around 60 and the ocean is cold. We’re the weird family picking up sea shells, making sand castles and sticking our feet in the Pacific when nobody—and I mean nobody—is on the sand.

Though traveling together can sometimes be stressful, these family times are a break and a blessing to me personally. I love these times. I’m trying to hold onto the memories. Before long the boys will be off making their own way. Second to my salvation and my wife, my sons will always be the most special gift God has granted to me. Before our marriage, my heart’s desire was three sons. Amazingly, God gave us three sons.

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Humanism's Delusional Dream?

A Humanist Manifesto was signed by thirty-four men in 1933. Scorning any notions of religion based on divine revelation, the signatories cast vision and set guidelines to achieve peace and goodwill on earth through enlightened human effort. Six years later, the world’s superpowers tumbled headlong into a catastrophic World War. Millions were slaughtered.

Following World War II, millions more were butchered by regimes laboring in the supposed interest of economic utopia. The agenda of these regimes synchronized with the Manifesto’s vision decrying “profit-motivated society” and calling for “radical change in methods, controls, and motives.” The Manifesto contended that “a socialized and cooperative economic order must be established to the end that the equitable distribution of the means of life be possible…. Humanists demand a shared life in a shared world.” Apparently the Humanist signatories never envisioned the barbaric means by which dictators such as Stalin and Mao would “demand a shared life.”

In 1973 Humanist Manifesto II was signed by twenty-one Nobel laureates. The document began with these telling words:

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Love, Faith and Power

How powerful are love and faith?

Most Junior High girls who are involved in a Bible-oriented church will opine that their favorite chapter is I Corinthians 13, “The Love Chapter.” Few of us would challenge the beauty of the Paul’s eloquence in these verses, especially his crescendo in verse 13, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

The view that love is central to all things, however, is not a given, as some assume. Of the three virtues—faith, hope and love—love is the greatest (for it is built upon faith and hope and thus the highest virtue attainable). When most people in the English speaking world use the word “love,” its image is often disconnected from faith or hope. Such love is not the type of love Paul envisions. Christian love is founded upon Christian faith and hope. Compassion, on the other hand, is commonly practiced throughout the world by people who may have no inkling as to who Jesus is. Lost people often put us to shame with their compassion and willingness to sacrifice.

Despite the glories of love, love is no competitor when contrasted with God. Love is one of God’s many attributes, but expressing love has no power to change people apart from God’s decision to use it. The fact that God can use love—just as God can use our witness to reach the lost—does not mean that the power is in the love itself. Nor is our evangelistic efficacy a result of our witness in itself.

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Legalism and the Insecurity of Our Times

Legalism and the Insecurity of Our Times

Legalism is an ugly thing to those outside it, but often a beautiful thing to those within it. Legalism is any system whereby the merits of man contribute in any way to his standing with God. For those who have been delivered from the works-righteousness mentality, legalism is bondage, an oppressive system that distorts the grace of God and often turns out neurotic believers who wear themselves out trying to keep up. But to those within legalistic systems, legalism is a refuge from the insecurities of life and the uncertainties of our world.

This is one of the reasons why it is so difficult to talk someone out of a legalistic church. There is so much “certainty” and comfort in knowing exactly what one must do to remain in “right with God.” Legalism requires so little faith, because every aspect of life is defined and mandated. In contrast, the concept of grace and Christian liberty is a scary wilderness of uncertainty. Better to stay in the fortress (or prison).

This is not a new phenomenon. At the end of the Middle Ages, the predominant concern of Europeans was the fear of death. After years of bad weather and widespread famine in the 14th century culminating in the Black Death, life in the 15th century was bleak. As Carter Lindberg notes, “The shortness of life was never far from people’s minds” (The European Reformations, Blackwell, 1996). This situation fueled an obsession with concern for the afterlife. Enter the Catholic Church.

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The Believer's Heavenly Rewards, Part 4

Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Our Lord Jesus Christ will evaluate us some day, not only on the basis of our motives, but also on the basis of how much we knew of His will and Word, because “for everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required” (Luke 12:48, NKJV). Therefore, “that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes” (Luke 12:47).

But if we did not know His will, are we not completely free of any consequences? No, for such ignorance is culpable: we should have done everything possible to learn His will for our lives through reading, believing and obeying His Word! Here is an earthly illustration: what would happen to me if I were stopped by a traffic officer for driving 90 miles per hour though the city on my way to a conference? Would I be completely excused if I told him that I didn’t know what the speed limit was? His answer would be: “Sir, you are driving a dangerous machine! You should have found out what the speed limit is here. Explain your case to the judge!”

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Spin Cycle

My daughter was born with rhythm. From the time she could hold her head up, she would sway, bop, and wave her arms to anything remotely musical. Jackhammer? You bet. The wum-wum-wum of the ceiling fan? Sure. Someone clicking a pen? Yep, that too. It is hilarious to be at a restaurant and look over to see your baby boogying to the beat of a gal clanking her spoon on a bowl as she refills the mashed potatoes at the buffet. As a matter of fact, Kate seems to have an archive of tunes in her mind that she simply nods her head to from time to time.

This morning I had some celtic hymns playing, and Kate was twirling happily, gleefully around the family room. Made me wonder: when was the last time I felt like doing that? Now, I am not an advocate for dancing in church worship services, or even in public for that matter. But I think what was filling Kate’s heart as she frolicked around my computer desk was simply pure joy. “My tummy is full; Mama loves me; I slept well; this music makes me feel happy…life is good.” Perhaps what David felt as he danced before the ark of God—only on baby scale: exult in God’s goodness, His provision, His greatness, His care, His love—and that He loves me.

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Believers Before the Bench

Reprinted with permission from Paraklesis (Winter, 2007) courtesy of Baptist Bible College

Should a believer take another believer to court? Should a believer initiate a lawsuit against another believer to regain that which his brother owes him? These are relevant questions in today’s world. In 1 Corinthians 6:1-11, Paul answers that a believer should not take another believer to court; instead, they should appear before the church. We will look at Paul’s response to a specific problem in Corinth (1 Cor. 6:1-6), Paul’s rebuke concerning this problem (1 Cor. 6:7-8), and Paul’s reminder because of this problem (1 Cor. 6:9-11). We will also address the significance of this passage for our present time.

Before looking at the meaning of this passage, let us begin with these premises: the Corinthians are members of a redeemed community, which means that their behavior within the community should reflect their transformed nature. They are also members of an eschatological community, which means that their future destination should also affect their present behavior within the community.

Paul’s response to the problem (6:1-6)

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