Wednesday, September 2, 2009

New blog

It's moving day! My new blog is Pinch of Clay. All posts from this site will be available there as well.

Spiritual elbow grease

Two men approached the village water pump. The first man slung down his bucket with a thud. He seemed annoyed and aloof. He jerked the pump with a scowl and soon snatched up his bucket, sloshing half the water out in the process.

The second man then approached and placed his bucket with care. He grabbed the pump handle firmly. He began to pump steadily and vigorously, and a smile spread across his face as the vessel filled up with cool, fresh water.

These two men describe the two ways we can approach God’s Word, our “fountain of life” (Prov. 13:14). Many people read the Bible and listen to preaching with a sense of duty. They put little joy or effort into it, and get little out of it. They’re glad to just check it off their list and move on to other, “more important” things in life. They really can’t understand why anyone would make such a fuss over spiritual things.

Others take time to enjoy the Word of God. They love to read it, to study it, to drink deeply of it. They can never seem to get enough. They cherish their times of fellowship with the Lord, and walk away refreshed and satisfied.

It’s amazing that the same book can produce such different results. Some people love it. Others tolerate it. some even revile it. Only the Spirit can give us that hunger and thirst for righteousness, and open our eyes to the truth of God’s Word. But we do need some good, old-fashioned spiritual “elbow grease” if we expect to reap any benefits from the Bible.

Holiness does not arrive by surfing the net and checking baseball scores. Christlikness is not produced by watching sitcoms and crime dramas. It takes hard work, pumping the Word of God into our lives. We must discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness (1 Tim. 4:7). Yet all the while, it remains a labor of love.

Why not put more effort and joy into your time with the Lord each day? You may just be surprised by the results.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

It is finished!

If I had to choose a single word from all the Bible that is most important, it would probably be Jesus’ word from the cross “tetelestai!” which we translate “It is finished!” Of course, every word of God is tested and profitable, but this word captures so much of the gospel. Without the finished work of Jesus, we would still be separated from God and dead in our sin.

As we studied John 19:28-30 last Sunday, we learned of two things Christ finished on the cross:

  1. He fulfilled every Scripture (Jn. 19:28-29). Moments before Jesus gave up His spirit, He declared “I thirst.” He expressed a genuine human need, but even more importantly, He was setting into motion the fulfillment of psalm 69:21, the very last Old Testament prophecy He needed to fulfill.
  2. He paid completely for our atonement (Jn. 19:30). With freshly moistened throat and lips, He exclaimed “It is finished!” In other words, Mission Accomplished. Jesus was saying not merely that His life was finished, but that the entire work of atonement was finished. He had made it possible for us to be made “at one” with God. The debt was fully paid. The crime was justly punished. The enmity was completely removed. By faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross, we now can have peace with God. Hallelujah!

Questions for thought and discussion:

  • Which seems more real to you - that Jesus is God, or that Jesus is Man? Do you keep a proper balance between His deity and humanity, or tend to have a lopsided view of Him?
  • How can Christ’s genuine humanity encourage us in times of trial and temptation?
  • “Atonement” is at the very heart of the gospel. How would you explain this concept to someone? (click here if you need help)
  • Choose one biblical metaphor for sin (e.g. debt, crime, enmity) and write in a single sentence what Christ’s death on the cross accomplished.
  • Read 2 Corinthians 5:15. According to this verse, why did Jesus die for us? Does this describe you?

Sunday’s sermon will be uploaded to our podcast site soon and available for free download.

Related posts:

Monday, August 31, 2009

Tour the temple mount

Have you always wanted to travel to Jerusalem and see where the temple once stood? Here's the next best thing (and much cheaper). A virtual tour of the temple mount.

Todd Bolen writes, "The creators did a fantastic job with this. The photography is superb, the narration is helpful, and the location is one of the most religiously (and politically) important in the world." He notes the focus of the tour is on the Islamic structures presently on the mount, though the tour does not deny the earlier existence of the Jewish temple, porticoes, etc.

When I had the privilege of studying and traveling in Israel nearly 10 years ago with the IBEX program, I journaled about my experience on the temple mount:

We then made our way to the present day Temple Mount, which is only open to the general public a couple hours a day. Due to the Arab presence, we were instructed to keep our Bibles in our backpacks. In the south of the large courtyard was the El-Aqsa Mosque, and further to the north, directly over where the Holy of Holies is believed to have once rested, we saw the famous Dome of the Rock. A few tourist groups wandered around the courtyard, but mostly, there was an aura of quietness and reverence throughout the place. For the Arabs, this is one of the most sacred sites in the world. The Jews, who despise the Arab presence, are rarely seen on the Mount. They long for a day when the temple can be restored, and dreading the thought of standing on holy ground unworthily, they are content for now to stay outside the Western Wall (or "Wailing Wall"). From the Wall, Jewish prayers to Jehovah are considered a "local call."

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The irony of the cross

He hell, in hell, laid low;

Made sin, He sin o’erthrew;

Bowed to the grave, destroyed it so,

And death, by dying, slew.

*Poem by S. W. Gandy, cited in D. A. Carson’s commentary, The Gospel According to John, p. 622.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Loving the cantankerous people

Jim Eliff shares some good thoughts on why love is the proper way to handle the “cantankerous” people in our church:

  • Love is the highest mark of maturity.
  • Love is the perfect bond of unity (Col. 3:14)
  • Love is the way of blessing because it is grounded in humility (Phil. 2:3-4)
  • Love is the reasonable return for what God has given you (Col. 3:13)

How should we love this kind of person practically? Eliff offers four ways:

  1. Invite him to your home.
  2. Try to find out what drives him.
  3. Within reason, give him some servant responsibility.
  4. Confront him if he continues to cause problems.

You can read the whole article here.

(As a side note, Eliff’s ministry, Christian Communicators Worldwide, is currently offering a free book to seminary students and first-time pastors. See below.)

We occasionally like to give away resources to seminary students and first time pastors. Students or first time pastors may currently ask for one of the following: Divorce and Remarriage: A Permanence View, OR Wasted Faith, OR Dangers of the Invitation System. We only ask that you commit to read the book. Please write Steve Burchett at for ordering details.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Obama-Antichrist video

Many of you have probably seen this video, connecting Barack Obama with the Antichrist. I’ve had two people in the last week ask me about it, so here’s my response:

  1. The biggest problem is equating Satan (Lk. 10:18) with the Antichrist. These are two different people, not the same (See Rev. 13:2) This should make us immediately question the integrity of the rest of the video.
  2. Another problem is that Jesus explicitly told us the end would come unexpectedly (Mark 13:32-33). He would not have disclosed any specific details, even encrypted, to tell us when it’s about to appear.
  3. It elevates the oral, speculative words of Christ above the inspired, written word of Christ. The NT was not written in Aramaic. (We don’t even know for sure that Jesus spoke regularly in Aramaic. He may have chosen to teach in the more cosmopolitan language of Greek.) It is highly speculative to assert what Jesus would have said in Aramaic, and then to draw conclusions from this. It opens up a Pandora’s box of hermeneutical and theological abuses. God gave us the inspired New Testament in Greek, and that is what He intends us to study.
  4. Even the linguistic and grammatical support crumbles upon closer look. It is true that one Hebrew word for “lightning” is baraq, that the Hebrew word for “heights” in Isaiah 14:14 is bamah, and that there is an Aramaic conjunction waw (pronounced “u” in u-bamah). But please note, waw means “and.” Jesus did not say “from heaven and lightning.” He said “from heaven like lightning.” Even if Jesus had spoken in Aramaic, and even if He had chosen the words baraq and bamah (which is by no means certain), He would have joined them together with the preposition min, meaning “out of, from.” Thus, He would have said, baraq mi-bamah, and not baraq u-bamah.

This kind of stuff sounds good on the surface, even raising a hint of plausibility, but really undermines the clarity of Scripture. It delves into hidden meanings and connections, rather than encouraging people to seek the plain meaning of Scripture, found through the grammatical-historical method of interpretation.

I believe Satan is even content to use a video like this to get people anxious and distracted from the Person of Christ and clearly revealed Word of God.

To read more on the biblical identity of Antichrist, I would suggest checking out some recent articles by Bret Capranica.