Do We Really Love Our Neighbours?

If you have been around the church for any length of time you have probably heard the phrase, “Love your neighbour as yourself”. Sounds like some great life advice doesn’t it? Actually, it is a lot more than good life advice. When asked which commandment was the most important one, Jesus gave His answer and then followed it by saying that to love your neighbour as yourself is the second greatest commandment of all(Matthew 22:36-40). If you have ever read the Bible you are surely aware of the fact that there are a LOT of commands in it, and out of all of them the command to love your neighbour is the second greatest! If Jesus, God in the flesh, put such an emphasis on this command then it would be wise to take this command seriously. As Christians, we are called to love our neighbours. So are we doing this? Do we really love our neighbours? Are we, the church of Jesus Christ, living in such a way that we demonstrate God’s love to our neighbours? Many people would answer yes to this. Or they would at least say that the church is making an effort to love their neighbours. I mean, we are a lot better than the generations before us aren’t we?

If we are honest, the visible “church” in previous  generations is not remembered for being loving towards its neighbours. In fact many people remember the cold-shoulders that they received, the hypocrisy, the burdensome legalism, the unforgiveness, the gossip, etc. that they witnessed in churches all across North America. These churches emphasized proper doctrine and holy living, yet loving their neighbours was not always on their agenda. Instead of loving their neighbours and sharing the love of God with them, they often cast them aside as filthy sinners who were too far gone to be saved. Thankfully, the modern church seems to have recognized this problem, and has made a conscious effort to change the way the church approaches the world around them.

Churches have come up with all kinds of changes, plans, events, programs, etc. in an effort to reach those who had been hurt, ignored, or unloved by churches in previous generations. Some churches have taken to the streets with surveys, asking non-believers how they could make church more comfortable for them. Some have greeters with cool t-shirts and haircuts, pastors who wouldn’t be caught dead in a stuffy old suit, and others have even replaced those old hard pews with some soft cushioned chairs. Many churches have tried to make the sermons less “Hellfire and brimstone” and more fun, friendly, and relevant. You won’t likely hear the pastor preach against sins (especially specific sins), or hell, or the “Biblical definition of marriage” or anything else that our neighbour might find offensive. It is even fairly common now for a church to have a rock concert on Sunday morning with songs that mostly talk about love and other welcoming topics in lieu of the old fashioned hymns that talked about sin and all that harsh stuff.  So is it working? Are we doing any better? Are we known for being loving towards or neighbours?

That depends. I would say that the modern church I described in the previous paragraph is known as loving in the eyes of the world around us. But what if we asked someone else? What is we asked the One who’s opinion really mattered? What if we asked God whether or not we love our neighbours, what would He say? Sadly, I believe that, in many cases, He would say no. Not only that, but I think that God would even say that some churches are no more loving towards their neighbours than those Hell-fire, judgemental, hypocritical church goers of previous generations.

I completely understand if you are confused at this point. “Our neighbours think that we are being loving, isn’t that the goal?” Actually, no. The goal was to LOVE our neighbours, not to make them THINK that we love them. Whether or not we are loving towards our neighbours is not dependant upon how loved they feel, but by whether or not we actually LOVED them according to how God commanded us to love them. This is where many modern churches fall short. we have succeeded in loving the world the way that they want to be loved, but we have failed to love them in the way they need to be loved, the way that God wants us to love them.

In order to explain my way of thinking, we need to return to that question that was asked of Jesus. The question was, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” I told you which commandment that Jesus said was the second greatest, but I left out His answer about the greatest commandment. What was His answer? It was ” You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” That is the greatest commandment. This must always take precedent over any other commandment, including the command to love our neighbour.

Unfortunately the modern church, in it’s good desire to love it’s neighbours, has, in many cases, elevated the second commandment over the first commandment. By trying to love our neighbours, the way they want to be loved, we have changed our definition of who God is and what He is like, we have stopped taking righteous living(1 Peter 1:16) seriously, we have ignored God’s design for churches and brought the world in instead, and we have replaced the gospel with encouraging messages that anyone can relate to.

In striving to love our neighbours as they want to be loved, we have turned our backs on our first love, God. And in doing this we have failed to love both God and neighbour. You see, we must always keep the commandments in order. We must always love God before we love people. In fact, it is from loving and knowing God, that we actually learn how to love our neighbours(1 John 4:19). Our neighbour’s greatest need is not to feel loved by Christians, our neighbour’s greatest need is to know the love of God, as presented in the Gospel, in order that they too may Love God first and love their neighbours second. Sadly, if anything, we have showed them that our greatest concern is making our neighbours feel loved. So that is what they will think it means to be a Christian, to love people how they want to be loved. This will lead to so many problems in the church. This is why so many “feel-good preachers” like Joel Osteen are accepted, this is why people in the church don’t have a problem with sleeping together before marriage, this is why many church goers have accepted homosexual marriage, this is why entertainment has replaced true worship in the church.

If the modern church asked their neighbours what they thought the church was most passionate about, their answer would probably be “people”. What a disservice we have done to our neighbours, making them believe that the church exists for them. If the church really loved it’s neighbours well, it would be known for being most passionate about God. To really love our neighbours is to tell them the truth about who God is so that they can come to know Him and love Him with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength. Yes, we should lose the pharisaical attitude of previous generations(1 Corinthians 15:12-13), and we should be more gracious towards those outside of the church, but we must continue to preach the gospel, to preach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27-even the stuff that people don’t like!), to worship Him the way He desires to be worshipped, and to warn our neighbours of the coming judgement for those who fail to believe the gospel.

Even though the circumstances were different, there was a church mentioned in the book of Revelation that was guilty of abandoning their first love. I think the modern church would do well to listen to the Apostle John’s instruction to this church, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen: repent, and do the works you did at first.”(Revelation 2:5). We need to repent for our choice to love man more than we love God. We need to repent for the unbiblical changes that we have made in our churches to try and be more pleasing to the world. We need to repent of the way we have changed God, His character, and His ways in order to make Him more likeable to the world. And once we get the first commandment right, then let us continue to use our lives to love our neighbours and to show them how great our first love truly is. Then, and only then, will we truly love our neighbours.

 

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God is Worthy: A Plea for Biblical Worship

I have a concern with some of the “worship” music that is being written for churches today. And no, I am not going to go on a rant about style of worship and which instruments should and should not be used in the church (music itself isn’t actually worship since worship means to ascribe worth to something or someone). I actually dont have a problem with electric guitars, keyboards, or drums. One of my favourite worship albums is by a guy named Dustin Kensrue who is also the frontman for the rock band “Thrice”. The album has all of those instruments and I love it. I do believe that these instruments can be played in a way that is not appropriate for a church service, but that is another discussion for another time. No, the problem that I have with much of our modern worship music has to do with content. In all honesty, the majority of popular contemporary worship music is lyrically shallow. Im not saying that they aren’t biblically true. With the exception of the songs that call down fire from heaven and the ones that ask for God’s presence to flood the building (charismatic songs) etc., most of them do have biblically true lyrics. But is that the only requirement for a song? That it is true? Some would argue yes. But let me ask you a question: is the only requirement for a sermon is that it is true? Certainly not! The Bible is clear that preachers should preach the whole counsel of God(Acts 20:27). You can preach many “true” sermons, just on the topics you like, and only cover a small portion of the Bible. Also, a preacher can say a lot of true statements without ever plumbing the depths of the Word of God. We can be fed spiritual milk all of our lives while God intends for us to be feasting on spiritual meat. We can all be stuck on “elementary principles” when we should all be able to teach the Word of God to others(Hebrews 5:11-6:2).

If we are members of a solid Bible-teaching church that teaches the whole counsel of God (which we all should be), we should be growing in our knowledge of God: His character, His desires, and His ways. If we are growing in our knowledge of God, then we are growing our worship vocabulary. The more we know about God, the more that we can praise Him for. The Bible says that He saved us for “the praise of His glorious grace”(Ephesians 1:6) Christians should have a greater vocabulary of worship than anyone in the history of the world has ever had. In fact, Christians should have a greater vocabulary of worship than even the angels do. Why is this? The Old Testament prophets wrote about the grace that was to be given to us, but they did not understand at what time, or through whom, or in what manner this grace was to come. And the angels long to look into our salvation (1 Peter 1:10-12). Perfect beings, such as angels, cannot experience the grace, mercy, and forgiveness of God for they have no need for it. Christians are the only ones who have a full understanding (as far as what God has revealed to man) of God’s redemptive story. The signs, symbols, pictures, and shadows of the Old Testament were fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus (Matthew 5:17). We have a greater understanding of God’s character and His plan to save mankind than anyone else in heaven and earth ever has.

Yet if you were to attend a “worship” service at many churches today you would never be able to tell this. They sing that God is great, but not the reasons for His greatness. They sing about God’s love, but they don’t sing about the height, depth, breadth, length, and width of the love of God. They sing about how He has saved them, but they won’t sing about the condition from which He saved them!(Ephesians 3:18-19, Ephesians 2:1-9, Psalm 145).

Churches have allowed their time of singing to be filled with songs written by musicians who are still swimming in the theological shallow end. Are the songs sinful? Usually not. But, if God has gone to the effort to reveal the fullness of who He is and what He has done, is He not worthy of worship that praises Him for these things? Of course He is! He is worthy of songs that rejoice in the depths of His love, in His multifaceted work of salvation, and for all the reasons that He is great. We need songs that represent the rich theology that we should be hearing from the pulpits. The more that we learn about God, the more that we ought to be praising Him for.

You may not like the style of music that hymns are set to, and that’s fine, but there is one thing you cannot deny. Some of the richest, most praise inspiring songs are tucked away in dusty hymnals in the churches storage room and they have, in many cases, been replaced by lyrically shallow, entertaining songs written by professional musicians. Im not against all changes in musical style, but I am absolutely opposed to a watering down of the content in church music. God is worthy of so much more. Praise God that He is reviving the theology of many churches, may He also grant us revival in song. May He receive all of the glory, honour, and praise that Is due Him.

Churches Should Sell Books

image.jpegOver my lifetime I have had a “hot and cold” relationship with books. From a young age until my early teen years I loved books! I would usually have a stack of books on my desk at school, and I frequently entered reading contests at both the school and the library. When I was in high school I determined that reading wasn’t cool, so I stopped. I was that kid who would watch the movie version of the book and try to write a book report based on the film, which is never a good idea! But when I became a Christian, my love for books began to grow again. So naturally, I started going to Christian bookstores to see if I could find some good Christian books to help me grow in my faith. I have had many experiences with Christian bookstores since that time, some good and some bad. Sadly, the bad experiences are starting to outweigh the good.

Before I get to the negative experiences, I just want to take a few moments and discuss some of the positive experiences that I have had with Christian bookstores. My favourite bookstore is called “Reformed Book Services” and it is in Brantford, Ontario. This store has a great selection of new and used Christian books. They have biographies, theology books, children’s books, Bibles, and more. Though I may disagree with a few of the finer theological points put forth in these books, I don’t think that there is a single author in the store that I wouldn’t recommend. Another bookstore that I like, even though it has its issues, is Lifeway. Lifeway is an American chain of bookstores that is owned by the Southern Baptist Convention. Most of the resources sold at Lifeway are theologically sound, but they have been known to let a few things slide. For example, they have sold heaven tourism books like “Heaven is For Real” and they have had books written by prosperity charlatans like T.D. Jakes. But in all fairness, I prefer Lifeway over most Christian bookstores in Canada.

Some of the Christian bookstores that I have visited in Ontario probably shouldn’t even have the word “Christian” in front of them. Though you can find solid material from authors such as John Piper, John MacArthur, or Kevin DeYoung, their books sit next to some of the most rank heresy of our time. There is such an obvious lack of any attempt or care to use discernment when ordering books to sell in these stores. There are entire sections that are devoted to Catholicism, which is a completely different religion! On top of that, the “Top 10” shelf is usually filled with prosperity preachers and self-help gurus such as Joel Osteen or Joseph Prince. Christians who lack discernment (especially new believers) will go into these stores and eat this stuff up simply because they are sold at a “Christian” bookstore. It’s a sad thought, but I actually dread the thought of a new believer or a weak believer going to one of these stores. There are so many books that could lead them astray.

I have actually stopped going to Christian bookstores for the most part, with the exception of RBS. I frequently purchase my books on the Internet. But let’s face it, the Internet will never compare to a physical bookstore. So what should we do? Should we just keep going to these stores and try to take the good and leave the bad? We could. But these stores are doing more harm than good because they are selling and promoting heretical material. I just don’t think that it is worth it.

So should we all buy online or drive to Brantford to check out RBS? Be my guest! But I think that we can do more than that. My church, and some others that I have been to recently have their own bookstores! And I have fallen in love with the idea. To my knowledge, the bookstores are not for profit. The books are sold at cost and are much cheaper than your local Christian bookstore. If you attend a Bible-believing church, then the books sold there will most likely have been approved by the leaders of the church. This way you don’t have to pick through all of the garbage to try and find something good. If you trust your church, you can probably trust the bookstore. I think that these bookstores are a solution to a great need in churches today. This is really a great opportunity for church leaders to shepherd their people in their homes by helping them to buy theologically sound books. This is by no means a perfect solution, and I know that not every church can do it, but it would be immensely helpful. I would love to see more Bible-believing churches take this initiative to sell theologically sound, Christ-centred books in their churches. May the Lord make us into a generation of Christians that is discerning and passionate about the truth.

How To Strengthen Your Faith

Last week we took a look at the life of Abraham from the book of Genesis. We saw how God gave a promise to Abraham and it wasn’t until 25 years later that Abraham witnessed the fulfillment of the promise through the birth of his son, Isaac. During these 25 years, Abraham doubted time and time again even though God kept reminding him of His promises. At one point, Abraham even tried to fulfill the promise in his own time, using his own means.

This week we will be looking at another event in the life of Abraham from Genesis 22. A number of years have passed since Isaac’s birth. We do not know how old Isaac was at this point, but we do know that he was old enough to have a conversation with his father and was able to carry a heavy burden up a mountain ( 22:6-7).

Abraham, now over 100 years old, was reminded every day of the faithfulness of God, every time that he saw his son. There was  no reason to doubt God anymore or to try and take things into his own hands now because the fulfillment of God’s promise was living and breathing before his very eyes. But I can’t help but wonder if maybe Isaac’s parents were very protective of him. I wonder if they had a long list of rules and safeguards for him to protect him from any kind of danger. Yes, the promise had been fulfilled, but what if something happened to him? What if he got attacked by a wild animal and never lived to marry and continue on the family line? That’s what I would be thinking! But the text doesn’t tell us what Abraham was thinking.

Here, in chapter 22, things take a turn for the worst. After waiting for 25 years, Abraham had finally received a son. And now, after a number of years watching his son grow, learn and play, Abraham receives this command from God,  ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Mariah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I tell you.” Just in case you missed that, He said BURNT OFFERING! That means that Isaac would die! Isaac, the child that Abraham had waited 25 years for, the only child that God promised to bless, the child through whom the promises were to be fulfilled. Abraham was over 100 years old now and there was no way that Sarah was going to have another child. If Isaac died then the promises of God would be buried in the grave with him, along with Abraham’s faith. Yet God commands him to do it. Why would God do such a thing? Is God not fair, would He promise something and then take it away? Could anyone trust God if He did such a thing?

Knowing Abraham’s track record, we fully expect him to question God’s request and maybe even fall on his face laughing. But here is the crazy part, he doesn’t. Instead, “Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.” Wow. No shouts of frustration, no questioning of God’s command, no laughs of disbelief, no doubt…nothing but plain and simple obedience. I can honestly say that my response would probably not be so calm.

So this begs the question, “what changed in Abraham”? The man of a weak and inconsistent faith was now an unshakeable rock amidst one of the greatest trials found in the Bible. Did Abraham simply determine to have a greater faith? Did he just pull up his bootstraps and tried harder to trust God? I don’t think so. The kind of transformation that Abraham went through was not possible through mere human will. This was a work of God. And just in case you aren’t convinced that Abraham’s faith was a work of God, let’s take a closer look at it.

The first display of Abraham’s rock solid faith is found in verse 3 when Abraham obeyed God and set out on the journey without a single if, and , or but! The second display is found in verse 5 when Abraham says, “I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” The third is found in verses 7 and 8. Isaac asks his father where the lamb for the burnt offering was and Abraham replied, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” Abraham believed that God would provide a lamb for the sacrifice and that he and Isaac would both return from this. And in Hebrews 11:19 God’s Word tells us that Abraham even believed that God would raise Isaac back from the dead! And Abraham kept trusting God up to the point where he was holding the knife over his son, ready to sacrifice him to God, when “the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’…’Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing that you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”

How did this happen? How did Abraham’s faith become so strong? And can we have this kind of faith in our lives? I believe that Abraham’s faith grew so strong because he had seen God fulfill his promises firsthand. Even though it took 25 years, Abraham witnessed God’s faithfulness. He knew that God was a covenant keeping God. He knew that God could be trusted. And that’s how we can have the kind of faith that Abraham had. We need to stop trusting in ourselves and our circumstances. We need to stop trusting in our strengths and abilities. And we need to stop trusting in our will. And most of all, we need to start putting all of our trust in God, who is faithful!

But maybe you haven’t witnessed such an incredible display of God’s faithfulness in your life. Maybe you are still where Abraham was before God gave him Isaac,trapped in a cycle of hearing God’s promises, doubting God and trying to fulfill His promises yourself. So how are you supposed to grow in faith? Do you have to wait for God to give you a miraculous display of His faithfulness? No. One of the core beliefs of Christianity is that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God. We believe that the Bible is absolute truth. And guess what? The Bible contains 66 books that all attest to the faithfulness of God. God has always been faithful to His covenant people and He has never failed to fulfill His promises. So pick up your Bible and read the accounts of God’s faithfulness. Read about King David, or Samson, or Ruth. These accounts of God’s faithfulness are more than enough the strengthen your faith in Him.

By the way, you may not realize this, but if you are a Christian, you have certainly witnessed a miraculous demonstration of God’s faithfulness. Back in the book of Genesis, Satan tempted man to sin and man listened to Satan, bringing God’s curse upon the whole world. Because of this we have all sinned and are worthy of God’s punishment. But in Genesis God promised that one day He would send One who would crush the head of the serpent. And God fulfilled this promise in the person of Jesus Christ. The fact that you are a Christian is a result of God being faithful to fulfill a promise that He made to the very first human beings. You have been forgiven from your sins, adopted into the family of God, and promised eternal life because God sent Jesus into this world to die on a cross and destroy the works of the devil, that ancient serpent! You already trust God with your eternity. You have witnessed His faithfulness, you know that He can be trusted to fulfill His promises. Will He not also be faithful to fulfill His other promises to you? Let the testimony of scripture bear witness to the fact that God will be completely faithful to fulfill all of His promises. And by learning of His faithfulness, may your faith be strengthened as Abraham’s was, and may you be able to trust God in all areas of your life, even those of great difficulties.

 

Does God Keep His Promises?

Recently, I have taken an interest in the topic of Biblical Theology. This study has taught me a lot about the meta narrative (overarching story) of Scripture. As a result of this, I have been inclined to read more of the Old Testament, which is something that I have struggled with in the past. In the last few days I have read through the books of Ruth and Esther, and am now working my way through the book of Genesis.

Today I was reading about Abraham (called Abram at this point) in Genesis 12-17. In Verses 2-3 of Genesis 12, God makes a covenant promise with Abraham, and it was as follows:

“And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonours you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

That is an incredible promise! Not only that, but God Himself spoke this promise to Abraham! Abraham believed God’s glorious promise, trusted in Him completely, and patiently waited for it’s fulfilment. Okay, so that’s not exactly how the story goes. You see, there was a slight problem with this scenario. Abraham and his wife , Sarah ( Sarai at this point) were aging and they still had no children of their own. As much as Abraham probably wanted to trust in God’s promise, it couldn’t have been easy.

“How can God make a great nation through someone who has no offspring?”, “We aren’t getting any younger and we haven’t had children yet, I doubt we will now”. Abraham must have had questions and doubt flooding his mind at this point. In fact, we encounter the doubtful thoughts of Abraham in Genesis 15:2-3 when he expresses them to God,

“But Abram said, ‘O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?’ And Abram said, ‘Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.'”
At this point we could be tempted to look down on Abraham and rebuke him for not trusting in God’s promises, especially since he heard it straight from God’s mouth! But aren’t we often guilty of the very same thing? 2 Peter 1:4 tells us that God “has granted to us his precious and very great promises.” And He have us these promises through His Word. So before we pass judgment on Abraham, let’s ask ourselves a question, “Am I doubting the promises of God?” Are you doubting that He will use all of your trials for your good and growth in godliness (Romans 8:28; James 1:2-4), or that His love for you will never end (Romans 8:37-39), or that He will bring to completion what He started in you (Phil. 1:6)? Maybe you are struggling with sin or temptation and you have trouble believing that God will provide a way of escape in every temptation (1 Corinth. 10:13) or that He will not let sin have dominion over you (Romans 6:14).

It is a difficult thing to trust in the future promises of God. We need faith to believe that God will do what He has promised to do, even when we can’t see it. In verses 4-5 of Genesis 15, God confirms His promise to Abraham, and verse 6 tells us that “he (Abraham) believed the LORD.” When we are doubting the promises of God it is a good practise to remind ourselves of His promises in His Word. Read them over and over and pray for faith until you believe them, then wait for God to act.

But Abraham’s story doesn’t end there and neither does ours. Even when we come to the place where we trust and believe in the promises of God, doubt can creep back into our lives in a moment. This temptation to doubt can come from our flesh, the devil, or even from other people. In Abraham’s case, the seed of doubt was planted by his wife, Sarah. In Genesis 16:2 we read, “And Sarai said to Abraham, ‘behold now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children from her.’ And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.”

It has been approximately eleven years since Abraham had received the promise and once again he gave into the temptation to doubt. He married Sarah’s servant and caused her to become pregnant with a son. The son was named Ishmael.

Sometimes when we can’t see God’s promises being fulfilled we try to fulfill them ourselves, in our own timing, using our own means. The results usually aren’t that great. Sarah and her servant began to have strife in their relationship and the Lord did not allow Ishmael to be the son through whom the promise would be fulfilled. How many times have we grown weary of waiting for God to fulfill His promise and have taken things into our own hands? How has that worked out for you? It has never worked out well for me! So what do we do after we have doubted God’s promises and tried to take matters into our own hands? The same thing that we did the last time we doubted His promises. We remind ourselves of God’s promises in His Word, we trust Him, and we wait!

In chapter 17 God comes to Abraham and once again He reminds him of the covenant that He had made with him. This time, God commands Abraham to have himself, all of the men in his house, and all of his offspring to be circumcised as a sign of the covenant that God had made with Abraham. At this point Abraham was ninety-nine years old. His doubt had become so strong that he fell on his face and laughed when God declared His covenant to him (17:17). Abraham said to God,

“‘Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?’And Abraham said to God, ‘Oh that Ishmael might live before you!’ God said, ‘No, but Sarah your wife shall bear a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting Covenant for his offspring after him.”

Abraham must have placed at least some trust in God again for he had himself and all of his household circumcised (17:23-26). You don’t get circumcised at age ninety-nine unless you really trust that God is going to do something great!

Finally in Genesis 21 we see God fulfill His promise to Abraham through the birth of his son, Isaac. Abraham was now one hundred years old and it had been approximately twenty-five years since God had made the covenant with Abraham! God fulfilled His promise, the way He planned it, and at the time that He had ordained. His promise and His plan never changed for a moment. Oh how Abraham must have grieved over his lack of trust in God’s promises and how he must have regretted the decisions that he has made under the influence of doubt.

Thankfully God was gracious toward Abraham, and when He recounts Abraham’s story in Hebrews 11, He leaves out the part about the doubt that Abraham and Sarah struggles with. Instead, the author of Hebrews proclaims the faith that Abraham and Sarah had in God’s promises, even though their faith was inconsistent and weak.

Let this be a lesson to us, that God can be trusted and that He is always faithful to fulfill His promises. But don’t forget that His plan, His ways, and His timing are above ours. We must trust in God and wait patiently for Him to work. We must remind ourselves daily of His promises and ask Him for the faith to believe them. And we can be thankful that God is faithful even when our faith is inconsistent and weak. And we can wait patiently, knowing that we will see the fulfillment of His promises.

Calvinism Isn’t Cool

Calvinism isn’t Cool.

 

Calvinism isn’t cool.

 

I am a Calvinist. That doesn’t mean that I am a devout follower of a dead theologian who wrote some good books. In fact, I haven’t read a whole lot of John Calvin’s works. I am, however, a follower of Jesus Christ, who holds to some doctrines that some call “Calvinism”. I prefer to use the term, “doctrines of Grace”, but for the sake of this note, I will use the word Calvinism. Basically what that means is that I believe God is sovereign over ever single thing that happens in our universe, including our salvation. Yes there are calls in scripture for us to have faith, repent, believe in Jesus and obey Jesus, but it is also clear in scripture that God is the author behind all of this. “No one comes to the Father unless God draws them.”-Jesus. God is in control of salvation and only those whom He predestined for His glory will end up putting their faith in Christ. And whether you agree with these doctrines or not we should agree that there is something wrong with many people who hold to these doctrines. And that is this, they think being a “Calvinist” or being “reformed” is cool. They don’t just believe these doctrines to be true, they think it’s cool. And I am one of them. But it’s not “cool”. There was a lot of blood sweat and tears put into these doctrines by our forefathers. If it wasn’t for their hard work, who knows whether or not we would still have them. Calvin, Luther, Augustine, Spurgeon, Whitefield, Lloyd Jones and many others put countless hours into preaching these truths and defending these truths, and it wasn’t so that we could be the cool kids of Christianity. We probably all know someone who is like this. They have the occasional beer, smoke the occasional cigar, all while quoting dead theologians and marvelling at the sovereignty of God. Not only that, but we have T-shirts. We get tattoos that somehow incorporate the five points of grace or the five Solas of the Reformation. We have rap artists. We have that look we give our Calvinist friends when we hear a reference to predestination in our favourite reformed rap song. We have memes on the internet that generally poke fun at our Arminian brothers. We love to use our freedoms in Christ to have a good time. We love to read Calvinistic authors and talk about what we read. But sadly it is not always for the sake of our edification, it is often because we think it’s cool. We love hanging out with fellow Calvinists and keeping these glorious doctrines to ourselves instead of pleading with our brothers and sisters and reasoning with them from scriptures. Why? Because it’s cool to hangout with other Calvinists. But Calvinism isn’t cool. It was never about being cool. It was never about the right to drink a beer, smoke a cigar, get a tattoo, getting our own t-shirts, making our own memes etc. The Doctrines of Grace are some of the most amazing, breath taking doctrines of the entire Bible(when properly explained and understood). These doctrines have changed us and helped us to see a side of God that many of us once refused to see. Our eyes have been opened to see His sovereignty and His glory like we never saw them before. We have seen the depths of His love and the riches of His grace explode off the pages of scriptures. And we sit around and talk about how great it is to be reformed. In the book of Ephesians, Paul talks about seeking to understand the breadth, length, height, and depth of the love of Christ. And he instructs us to do this TOGETHER. I truly believe that the doctrines of grace help us to see the depths of the love of Christ. So let’s stop getting together and talking about how cool Calvinism is and let us search together with our Calvinist and non-Calvinist brothers alike, and explore the word of God together. There is no room in Christianity for “the cool kids”. Every follower of Christ is entitled to the deep doctrines of the Bible, some just need your help to see them in the scriptures. So together, let’s stop being cool. If we really believe that these doctrines are life changing then we are obligated to discuss them with those who hold to a different view. Let us invite them to our hangouts, let us discuss and debate with them. It’s not about being cool, it’s about being faithful to the scriptures and seeking together to search the depths of Gods love. I know it’s going to take me a while to apply this to my life, but I will try. I hope you will join me.

 

Single For The Holidays

 

 

Ah, Christmas holidays. A time to take a much needed break from work and regular weekly activities. A few days to spend some quality time with relatives and friends, some of whom you haven’t seen all year! A time to eat great food and share gifts with the people that you love. And most importantly, a time to reflect upon the fact that a little over 2,000 years ago God sent His son Jesus into this world to be our Saviour. All of these things are wonderful and many of us look forward to this time of year. But, even Christmas holidays can come with some drawbacks. Though there are many different holiday drawbacks I am going to focus on one, being single for the holidays. Admittedly, this wasn’t a huge drawback for me this year, but it has been in the past. I remember going to family gatherings and seeing my other family members with the people that they were dating or the people that they recently married. I remember wanting to have that special someone to bring with me to the family dinner, but ended up going alone. And let’s be honest, even though I despise cold weather, winter can be one of the most romantic seasons of the year. Skating hand in hand with the person you love, going sledding, walking through a park lit with Christmas lights, going on a horse drawn carriage ride…you get my point. So for some single people, this time of year can be a sad reminder of the fact that they don’t have that special person in their lives. You enjoy all of the things that you get to do with your family and friends, yet you can’t help but think about how much better it would be if you weren’t single during the holidays. I’ve had these thoughts and you probably have as well. So I want to take a few minutes and share some things with you that have helped me enjoy the holidays as a single person.

 

It is true that I am single. In one sense I am alone, but I don’t have to be lonely. God has promised me that He will never leave me or forsake me and that He will be with me always (Hebrews 13:5, Matt. 28:20). Not only that, but God has made us a part of the body of Christ, His church. He has called us into community with those around us who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus (1 Corinthians 12:27). I encourage you to be a part of a local church. I encourage you to get involved and to serve in whatever way you are able. If you are a guy you should find other godly young men to hangout with. Let them encourage you and strengthen you in your walk with God. You don’t need a girlfriend to have heart to heart talks with. Find some guys who are willing to invest in your life and talk you through your struggles. Ladies, surround yourself with godly women who are able to help you move forward in your walk with God and who are able to be there for you in times of need. Lastly, spend some time with older wiser Christians (including married couples) who are able to bless you with sound wisdom and advice.

 

As single Christians we have to realize that our singleness doesn’t define us. Our identity is not “single” or “married”. Our identity is found in Christ alone. We are all chosen, loved, adopted, and secure in Christ (Ephesians 1:3-14). Your relationship status can change. Maybe you have been there. You thought that you were in a relationship that was going to last a life time and then it ended after 6 months. I’ve been there. Some of us might have multiple relationships until we find our future spouse. Yes it’s not ideal, yes it’s hard, but don’t let a failed relationship define you. Remember your identity in Christ because that will never change and He will never leave you.

 

Christian singles can sometimes be tempted to forget who they are in Christ, especially the truth that they are greatly loved. We got let down by someone who claimed they loved us, or we are looking for a spouse to love and have always come up empty handed, and it’s tempting to feel unloved or unlovable. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you are single, you probably have some free time (I know I do:p). I encourage you to use this time to reflect upon God’s great love for you during the Christmas holidays. Remember the Christmas story, how God sent His son Jesus in the form of a human baby over 2,000 years ago. It was God’s love for you that led Him to send Jesus. God loves you before the foundation of the world. But we sinned and separated ourselves from Him. God sent Jesus to this earth, born of a virgin, 100% man, 100% God. He lived the perfect life that we should have lived, died the death we deserved to die, took the wrath of God for our sins, and was raised from the dead defeating sin, death, and the grave. Because of His life, death, and resurrection we are fully forgiven, fully loved, and guaranteed eternal life with Him forever. No human being can love you this much. This is the greatest love that has ever been displayed (1 John 4:9-19).

 

Another truth that has been very helpful to me is the fact that God is absolutely sovereign. He knows the beginning from the end. His ways are above our ways. None of his purposes can be thwarted. He is Lord and He is in control. Everything that He does is good, and He works all things together for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Job 42:2, Psalm 135:6, Romans 8:28, Isaiah 55:8-11, James 1:17). He cares for you, He is absolutely in control, and He loves to give good gifts (like marriage). Keep trusting in Him and wait on His perfect timing.

 

Just because you aren’t married yet doesn’t mean that it isn’t God’s will for your life. The desire for marriage is a good desire. God created marriage and declares it to be a good thing (Genesis 2:24, Proverbs 18:22). But we have to be careful not to take a “good” thing and make it into a “god” thing. God loves marriage but He abhors idolatry. If we expect marriage to complete us then we are setting ourselves up for disaster. And maybe God hasn’t given you a spouse because you hope to find in a spouse what only God can give you. Marriage is a good gift from God, but it makes a terrible god. Let marriage have it’s proper place, desire it, pursue it, and trust in God’s good sovereign will for your life.

 

One last thing to keep in mind. We are to wait on God’s perfect timing, but that doesn’t mean we should do nothing. A spouse isn’t just going to fall from heaven and land in our lap. That might happen in a Disney movie, but this is real life. We should not waste this time that God has given us, we should use it wisely. God has graciously given us this time to mature in our faith, prepare ourselves for marriage, to learn about what we should look for in a spouse, and to serve Him with our free time. So read some books on the subject, read articles, listen to sermons, and get advice from other godly people in your life (especially seasoned married couples). Get involved at church, and serve Him the best that you can. Put yourself in positions where you can meet other Christian singles your age. And then continue to pray for God to give you a spouse. And do all of this for His glory.