Great Biographies

On Sunday I encouraged our congregation to increase their faith by reading biographies of men and women God has used in mighty ways, and then I mentioned a few that have had an impact on me.  I was asked to repeat that list.  So here are the ones I mentioned Sunday.

You can read my post from a few years ago called “Ten Influential Books” here.  It lists most of these with a few comments about them.

Through Gates of Splendor by Elizabeth Elliot is the story of Jim Elliot and four other men who were martyred taking the gospel to a tribe in South America.  George Muller, Man of Faith and Miracles by Basil Miller is the story of a man who built a huge orphanage on nothing but trust in God.  I’ve read three biographies of William Tyndale, who is my hero in Church history.  The best was the longest one by David Daniell.  Finally, I have recently read Saving My Assassin by Virginia Prodan, a powerful story of one woman’s life in communist Romania.

Happy reading.

Prayer Is Not a Monologue

When The Circle Maker book by Mark Batterson was popular, I thought, from descriptions I saw, that it came from the “Name It and Claim It” camp.  But when a service I have that sends out reviews of books, included it recently, I found out that my assumption was completely wrong.

I have often passed on thoughts about praying the Bible.  As many of you know, that discipline has transformed my prayer life completely.  So I had to show you this quote.

What I'm about to share has the power to revolutionize the way you pray and the way you read the Bible.  We often view prayer and Scripture reading as two distinct spiritual disciplines without much overlap, but what if they were meant to be hyperlinked?  What if reading became a form of praying and praying became a form of reading?

One of the primary reasons we don't pray through is because we run out of things to say.  Our lack of persistence is really a lack of conversation pieces.  Like an awkward conversation, we don't know what to say.  Or like a conversation on its last leg, we run out of things to talk about.  That's when our prayers turn into a bunch of overused and misapplied clichés.  So instead of praying hard about a big dream, we're left with small talk.  Our prayers are meaningless as a conversation about the weather. 

The solution?  Pray through the Bible.

Prayer was never meant to be a monologue; it was meant to be a dialogue.  Think of Scripture as God's part of the script; prayer is our part.  Scripture is God's way of initiating a conversation; prayer is our response.  The paradigm shift happens when you realize that the Bible wasn't meant to be read through; the Bible was meant to be prayed through.  And if you pray through it, you'll never run out of things to talk about.

From Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker

Afraid of Losing What God Has Given

How often are we afraid of losing what God has given us?  We think as though we are in control of his gifts.  I read a passage this morning that spoke to me on this matter.  It's about a man who took things into his own hands, because he couldn't believe the promises of God.  He was afraid what God had promised would be taken away from him.  His name is Jeroboam; history knows him as Jeroboam the First of Israel.

When King Solomon turned away from whole hearted devotion to the LORD, enemies were raised up against him, including this man named Jeroboam.  He was an industrious young man that Solomon put in charge of forced labor in Israel.  During that time a prophet told him that he would rule over ten tribes of Israel.  When Solomon got wind of this he wanted to kill Jeroboam, so Jeroboam fled to Egypt for a time.  (1 Kings 11)

When Solomon died, and the people were not happy with his son Rehoboam, Jeroboam returned to Israel and was made king of the northern tribes. (1 Kings 12)  Unfortunately when Jeroboam had established himself as king, he was afraid the kingdom would be lost. 

And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David.  If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the temple of the LORD at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, to Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.”  So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold.  And he said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough.  Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.”
1 Kings 12:26-28 (ESV)

God promised the kingdom to him, but he could not trust the promise, so he took things in his own hands, and that's when his trouble began.  What gifts do you have from God?  Trust him with those gifts; honor him with them.  If they are taken away, it will be for his glory.  And as a church, what gifts has God given us?  Are we afraid that we might lose them?  God is faithful and we can trust him.

Ancient Leviticus Scroll

Here is a fascinating piece of news that may not make the mainstream media.  Scientists have found a way to read ancient scrolls that are too fragile to unroll and read.  The first successful attempt was with a 4th Century BC scroll of Leviticus.   Here is a news article containing a video explaining the process.

It should come as no surprise to biblical conservatives, that the reading of this scroll, the most ancient of the Pentateuch now available, is identical to the text we use today.

“The text is ‘100 percent identical’ to the version of the Book of Leviticus that has been in use for centuries, said Dead Sea Scroll scholar Emmanuel Tov from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who participated in the study.”   The quote comes from this BBC article about the new technology.

The grass withers, the flowers fall, but the Word of the Lord endures forever.

Saint Valentine Monologue

Here is the text to my sermon intro on February 14, 2016.  Valentine's Day was originally a church holiday to celebrate the love of God.  BTW I really did have a tooth problem this week, but it didn't keep me away.

Due to a severe toothache, Pastor Glenn is not able to be with us today.  But we do have a guest speaker that you will be thrilled to know.  His name is Len, and I can't say much about him, because he will tell us his own story.  But you need to know he is speaking to us from a Roman prison in the year 270AD. Welcome Len.

Good morning.  As the man said, my name is Len.  I would tell you it's a joy to be with you , but this is a strange day for me.  You see, I am scheduled to be executed later today.  Ironic they would choose the eve of Lupercalia, the pagan Roman holiday for sexual love, since love is one of the reasons I am in prison.  Let me tell you that story.

The Roman Emperor, Claudius the Second, a very cruel emperor that one, has been in numerous military campaigns in recent days, and his people are losing their taste for war.  He was having trouble getting young recruits into the army to serve the empire, so he came up with a crazy idea.  He forbid young men to marry until they had put in their military service.  I guess he figured that if they didn't have wives and children to come home to, the soldiers would be more dedicated to their military efforts.

Being a priest in a community near Rome, and knowing the importance of love, I decided to continue to marry young couples.  Besides, I've preached for years that God is love, that God demonstrated his love for us in Jesus, that we should love one another, and that the best earthly expression of love is the marriage relationship.

Well, as you might guess, word got back to the authorities that I was defying the Emperor's command.  They came to arrest me, right after a marriage ceremony incidentally, and charge me not only with defiance of the marriage ban, but also of leading an illegal cult.  They tried to get me to deny Jesus as my only lord, and promise not to perform anymore marriage ceremonies.  Those were two things that I couldn't do.  So here I am in prison waiting for my death sentence to be carried out.

I have a strange calm today.  I have read the stories of earlier martyrs like Polycarp.  You know his story of course; next to the apostles one of the most famous martyr stories there is.  When Polycarp was a young man, he was discipled by an old man named John, yeah the John, John the Apostle of Jesus.  Polycarp was our last connection to the first disciples.  And he seemed so brave to face the Proconsul and say, "I've served my Lord for 84 years, and he has never denied me, I can't deny him now."

I have also read the account of Perpetua, her story has been circulating around the Christian churches recently too.  She was a young noble woman in Africa, who refused to deny Jesus, in spite of her wealthy father's pleas.  She and her servants were fed to the beasts in Carthage just a generation ago.

As I've read those stories, I always been impressed by the bravery of the martyrs.   Now I'm thinking they weren't so brave as they were empowered by God's spirit for the occasion.  I am strangely calm now.  I just pray that, by the Spirit, I can be as calm and brave as those two saints were.

There is one blessing to my being in prison that I have to tell you about.  The jailer's daughter here was a blind girl, who came to me with encouraging words from my friends.  I prayed for her, and,  God be praised, he gave that young girl her sight!  It was an amazing miracle!  As you might expect, her entire family is asking to know more about Jesus.

She's a sweet girl, that Theodora.  I have just written her a letter.  She will know it's from me because I have often sent messages to my friends on parchment cut into heart shapes, but I signed this one anyway.

Of course I signed it not with just my nick name Len, but with my full, better-known name; I signed it "from your Valentine."  May she and her family grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

There's not a lot we really know about St. Valentine, except that someone by that name was martyred on February 14, 269 or 270 and was later sainted by the Roman church.  However some of the legends go way back in time, including the story of the jailer's daughter.  Other parts, like the letter on heart-shaped paper, the girl's name, and the ban on marriage are probably added embellishments.  Happy Valentine's Day.  Celebrate the love of God today.

The entire message can be heard here.

The Marks of a Disciple

I told the congregation on Sunday that I would post a list of the verses I give to men I disciple.  Whenever I meet with someone for discipleship, I begin with these; I ask him to read the verses and write a list of the marks of a disciple of Jesus.  Each of these is something Jesus said about his followers.  So read these and ask, "What does a genuine disciple of Jesus look like?" and "How should these marks demonstrated in my life?"

John 8:31-32

John 13:34-35

John 15:8

Luke 6:40

Luke 9:23-24

Luke 14:26-27

Luke 14:33

May God bless you as you follow Christ Jesus.  Pastor Glenn

Isaiah 53

I preached through Isaiah 53 the weeks leading up to Easter this year.  A number of people asked me how Jews could read that chapter and not believe in Jesus.  I've pondered that same thought myself and didn't have a good answer.  It turns out that Isaiah 53 is no longer read in the synagogues, so many Jews have never heard it.  My friend Loren Pankratz, who pastors a sister church in Utah, posted this video.  It is well worth the ten minutes it takes to view it.  A Jewish man interviews other Jews about Isaiah 53.

The video is here

You can listen to the sermon series here

Infertility and Waiting on God

Here's a great story for those who have experienced the pain of infertility.  I mentioned this on Sunday and said I would post a link here along with the quote I read.

Walt Mathis' words are so true: "It's a constant struggle just to sit in his sovereignty, and, when everything is falling apart in your mind, just to wait."
But God is sovereign and God is good.

http://www.foreverymom.com/infertility-made-them-question-…/

Here is a link to the sermon.  Go here, then click on "God Called Abraham"

 

Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, notes from Sunday's message

After Sunday's message, I wanted to post the thoughts I shared about blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.  Thanks for all the encouraging feedback.  Many of you stated that you've wondered about this passage, some of you for years.  Here is a repost from a few years ago on my blog, pastorglenn.wordpress.com.

 

I have often been asked questions about “the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit,” as it is called in the New Testament.  This sin, which is called an eternal sin that cannot be forgiven, naturally raises questions for followers of Jesus, who understandably don’t want to be guilty of it.  This grievous sin is mentioned in all three Synoptic Gospels: Matthew 12:31; Mark 3:29; and Luke 12:10.  The passage I’m most familiar with is the one in Mark, so I will refer specifically to that passage.  The context in Matthew is identical.  The context of the Luke version is similar enough that the same argument holds there too.  To arrive at the correct understanding, we must look at the entire story in Mark 3:20-30 rather than jump immediately into verse 29.

Jesus was drawing a crowd everywhere he went in his Galilean ministry.  Rightly so, because word had gone out that he was healing many and casting out demons (Mark 1:28; 1:45; 3:8).  Because he was gathering such a large crowd, the religious leaders were jealous of him and wanted to kill him (3:6).  Killing Jesus would have been hard since he was so popular, so they tried first to discredit him in the eyes of the crowd.  They did so by saying his works were from the devil (3:22 – You might notice that these Pharisees were from Jerusalem, not Galilee, probably because they were more influential Pharisees who had gone to Galilee with the sole purpose of trapping or discrediting Jesus).  Jesus answered their charge with two parables, one about a divided kingdom and one about the strong man.  The first demonstrates that Jesus has an authority that is other than Satan; the second demonstrates that he has an authority that is greater than Satan.  Both of these truths are things the Pharisees in the story refused to admit. In other words, they stubbornly refused to admit who Jesus really was.

Jesus follows these two stories with some encouraging words about forgiveness and then a warning about blasphemy.  “I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them.  But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.  He said this because they were saying, ‘He has an evil spirit.’” (29-30)

Don’t ignore the good news in the passage.  Every sin and blasphemy of men will be forgiven them!  Sometimes we miss that promise and  jump right to the problem issue.  However, with that said, there’s no way to water down the next phrase.  Whatever this blasphemy is, it is unforgivable.  This is a serious matter, and we best know what Jesus was talking about.  I’ve have heard four possibilities suggested.

First, this blasphemy could be speaking against the Holy Spirit or, more pointedly, cursing the Holy Spirit.  This fits the common understanding of blasphemy.  However, it simply doesn’t fit this context.  There is no reason why Jesus would say that here, especially in light of the closing comment in verse 30, that Jesus said these words because of the accusations of the Pharisees.

Second, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit has been said to be unconfessed sin.  One job of the Holy Spirit is to convict people of sin; ignoring that conviction would be a rejection of the Holy Spirit.  Like the first option, this too does not fit this context, especially in light of verse 30.  However, this option has a deeper problem; it makes our confession of sin the basis of our forgiveness of that sin.  This is absolutely not biblical.  The basis of forgiveness is always Jesus’ death as the substitute for our deserved punishment.  And on that basis, God forgives his people whether they confess everyone of their sins or not!  (For some of you this is a radical statement.  I would encourage you to read the following verses and especially note the tenses of forgiveness – it is an already done deal!  Romans 8:1-4; Ephesians 1:7-8, 2:1-10; Colossians 1:13-14, 2:13-14; Hebrews 10:11-13.  Right now some of you are saying, “But what about 1 John 1:9?  Doesn’t it say that we must confess our sins?”  Since this is not the topic of this post, I don’t have time to go into depth on 1 John 1:9; suffice it to say that passage deals with the believers attitude toward sin – one is not a true believer unless he readily admits he is a sinner.  Maybe that can be a topic for another post someday!  Now back to the main topic for this post.)  If the basis of forgiveness is my confession, then I am trusting in myself rather than in Christ.

Third, some have said blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is crediting God’s work to Satan.  This option certainly fits the context of the passage; that’s exactly what the Pharisees were doing.  However, churches do this all the time.  One theological expression calling another heretical, even when God is at work in both situations!  Even the Apostle Paul was guilty of this!  In his early career, he said the Jesus movement was an evil work of the devil (Acts 9:1-2).  He even calls himself “a blasphemer, a persecutor and a violent man,” yet “the grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly!”  (Read 1 Timothy 1:12-17)  Certainly Paul is an example proving that crediting God’s work to the devil is not unforgivable.

Fourth, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit could be a stubborn refusal to recognize who Jesus is.  This explanation fits the context of this passage; it’s what the Pharisees were doing.  It fits the entire biblical teaching on forgiveness and salvation; note some of the passages in option 2.  This fits the biblical teaching about the Holy Spirit also.  One of the Holy Spirit’s jobs is to teach people who Jesus is; a stubborn refusal to see that is a stubborn rejection of the Holy Spirit.

Do you recognize who Jesus is?  Do you recognize that he is God in human form?  Have you accepted his death on the cross as the substitute for your deserved punishment?  If you answer no, then a prolonged stubbornness in that position is eternally dangerous.  However, you can still come to Jesus, and all who come to him will be accepted and forgiven.  If you can answer yes, then blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is not a possibility for you.  Take God at his word and believe it.  The one believing in him has eternal life!  (John 3:18, 36; 1 John 5:11-13)

Here is a link to a message I gave on the Mark passage about Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.  Go to the link and find the message titled "All Sins and Blasphemies." www.village-church.org/messages

A Prayer for My Daughter as She Heads to College

This is a prayer for my daughter Amber as she will be moving to college in just a few days.  It is inspired by Psalm 144:1-2, 12 and Psalm 118:28-30

Dear Lord,

I bless you for you are my Rock, who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle.  To whatever you call me, for that you will prepare me, and you will carry me through it.

So I pray for my daughter Amber, as she heads off to college that you would be her Rock; that she would find her strength, not in family or friends who are no longer near, but in you alone.  Prepare her hands for the war to which you've called her, her fingers for the battle.  Be her steadfast love and fortress; her stronghold and deliverer; her shield where she can find refuge.  If school work seems overwhelming, be her refuge; if homesickness tries to depress her, display your steadfast love; if the enemy tries to attack, be her fortress; if a different climate seems stifling, refresh her soul; if she feels weak, be her stronghold.  As she faces a new level of music, a band far better than any she's been in, may her fingers be ready to play and her heart in tune with you, the source of all music.

May she be like a corner pillar cut for the palace.  As a corner pillar, give her incredible inward strength to face anything that comes her way; allow her to be a stronghold for other freshman girls; for others in the band; for those on her dorm wing; for any others who may be struggling.  As a pillar cut for the palace, may she show incredible beauty.  May those who see her, see your beauty in her; may she be a winsome person that draws others to you; may she demonstrate your beauty in purity and integrity; may she be like Jesus in all she is and does.

Lord you are the one who lights our darkness.  For Amber, light her lamp, be a light in her darkness.  When the darkness of being away from all that is familiar tries to overwhelm her, be her light; may your word be the lamp to her feet and the light for her path.  By you, she can run against a troop; by you she can scale any wall.  Whatever challenges come her way, she can handle them in you, for she can do all things through Christ who strengthens her.

Your way is perfect; your word proves true; you are a shield for all who take refuge in you.

Amen