Great Point!

As Ed pointed out on Facebook:

Lindsay Lohan, is all over the news because she went to jail? Michael Stansbery, Justin Allen, Brett Linley, Matthew Weikert, Justus Bartett, Dave Santos, Chase Stanley, Jesse Reed, Matthew Johnson, Zachary Fisher, Brandon King, Christopher Goeke, and Sheldon Tate all served the U.S. Military and gave their lives for you this week. Honor them by reposting this.

Now that is something that should be newsworthy. Let’s not forget those who gave their lives fighting for freedom and spend less time on worthless causes like Lohan.

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We Cry Abba/Father, NOT Daddy!

In my sermon Sunday night on the Lord’s Prayer, I mentioned Romans 8:15 as a reference to show the unique relationship we have with the Father as His children.

Romans 8:15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”

This is a wonderful passages that stresses we have changed realms when we believe in Christ for our salvation. We have gone from being “children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:1ff), to children of God. This means that the terms we use for God change because our relationship has changed.

Now the dispute comes over the meaning of Abba. What has bothered me is that in certain evangelical circles, those circles which are given over to touch-feely theology, has started this idea that the term “Abba” means “Daddy.” Yet, no where in any of my studies have I ever been able to confirm this translation. I know that for some, it may bring up the liver quiver of all liver quivers, yet this is no reason to use it.

(Satan can give us plenty of liver quivers if that is what we are looking for. Our faith is built on truth, a person, His work and the salvation that comes from it, not feelings. However, my faith is not dead and I do have feelings in the midst of it. But we are not to let our feelings drive our beliefs.)

The point is that I believe translating Abba into Daddy is wrong headed and misguided, especially given that there is no support for this use and the fact that it is diminutive as well as disrespectful. I mentioned this in my sermon.

Afterward, one of my members came up to me and said he read that the point of the term “Abba” was to stress the adoption we have in Christ. Under Jewish Law, the servants of the household were not allowed to call the head of the household “Abba.” That was a term reserved for the children, both adopted and natural. Paul is using this phrase to show us that we are no longer just servants to God, but His children. Our relationship has changed.

Nate sent me the information this morning and here it is. Please read all of it. This helps us see the importance of our adoption in Christ.

Pastor Hammons,

I found what I think was the reference I was speaking about regarding Romans 8:15 and the term “Abba.”  It was in Calvin’s Commentary on Romans and is in the editor’s notes (Henry Beveridge edited edition circa 1840s).  First the relevant passage here from Calvin, and you will see that the editor takes a different view, noting that Calvin follows Augustine and other early Church fathers in stating that using two different languages here is to note that “Father” the name of God is invoked in any language now in the New Covenant:

“Through whom we cry,” etc. He has changed the person, that he might describe the common privilege of all the saints; as though he had said, — “Ye have the spirit, through whom you and all we, the rest of the faithful, cry,” etc. The imitation of their language is very significant; when he introduces the word Father, in the person of the faithful. The repetition of the name is for the sake of amplification; for Paul intimates, that God’s mercy was so published through the whole world, that he was invoked, as Augustine observes, indiscriminately in all languages. 2 His object then was to express the consent which existed among all nations. It hence follows, that there is now no difference between the Jew and the Greek, as they are united together. Isaiah speaks differently when he declares, that the language of Canaan would be common to all, (Isaiah 19:18😉 yet the meaning is the same; for he had no respect to the external idiom, but to the harmony of heart in serving God, and to the same undisguised zeal in professing his true and pure worship. The word cry is set down for the purpose of expressing confidence; as though he said, “We pray not doubtingly, but we confidently raise up a loud voice to heaven.”

The faithful also under the law did indeed call God their Father, but not with such full confidence, as the veil kept them at a distance from the sanctuary: but now, since an entrance has been opened to us by the blood of Christ, we may rejoice fully and openly that we are the children of God;

Here is Beveridge’s comment re the superscript (2):

2 Wolfius gives a quotation from the Talmud, by which it appears that “servants” or slaves, and “maids” or bondmaids, were not allowed among the Jews to call their master Abba (aba), nor their mistress Aima (amya), these being names which children alone were permitted to use. And Selden says, that there is an evident allusion in this passage to that custom among the Jews. Under the law the people of God were servants, but under the gospel they are made children; and hence the privilege of calling God Abba. Haldane, quoting Claude, gives the same explanation. . . . The idea mentioned by Calvin, derived from the Fathers, seems not to be well founded. — Ed.

I dug up my Haldane’s commentary on Romans (circa 1820, first English version 1830s) and sure enough, here is a similar claim from another source:

Adoption confers the name of sons, and a title to the inheritance; regeneration confers the nature of sons, and a meetness for the inheritance. Abba, Father. — The interpretation which is generally given of this expression is, that Paul employs these two words — Syriac and Greek, the one taken from the language in use among the Jews, the other from that of the Gentiles — to show that there is no longer any distinction between the Jew and the Greek, and that all believers, in every nation, may address God as their Father in their own language [as per Calvin quoting the fathers above –Nate]. It would rather appear that the Apostle alludes to the fact that among the Jews slaves were not allowed to call a free man Abba, which signified a real father. ‘I cannot help remarking’ (says Claude in his Essay on the Composition of a Sermon) ‘the ignorance of Messieurs of Port-Royal, who have translated this passage, My Father, instead of Abba, Father, under pretense that the Syriac word Abba signifies Father. They did not know that St. Paul alluded to a law among the Jews which forbade slaves to call a free man Abba, or a free woman Imma. The Apostle meant that we were no more slaves, but freed by Jesus Christ; and consequently that we might call God Abba, as we call the Church Imma. In translating the passage, then, the word Abba, although it be a Syriac word, and unknown in our tongue, must always be preserved, for in this term consists the force of the Apostle’s reasoning.’

It seems to me that this understanding is in best agreement with the adding of this term “Abba” in the text and it really helps draw out the fact that we have the spirit of adoption, not of bondage, so we can cry “Abba” to the heavenly father, as according to the Jewish custom.  The “daddy” thing apparently was at one times someone’s cute attempt to simplify this underlying meaning, but clearly goes off the mark.

The point is that when we trust Christ, we do move from one realm to another. In that move, we are given the honor of being able to call our Father, Abba as well. This is not a privilege the rest of the world has because they come to God without the merits of Christ. Once again, we are reminded of the wonderful relationship we have in the Father, and that we are His special people.

BTW, one of the most dangerous aspects about those who let their feelings drive their beliefs is that they are always looking for the next tidbit of information to keep those fuzzy feelings going. Those who do this really open themselves up for error and falsehood, because the truth of God’s word is not driving them. They soon fall in line with spiritual nutcases like Oprah. If you find yourself doing this, repent and fall back into line of God’s word. It’s not as fuzzy, but eternally much more rewarding.

Where There is No Vision/Prophetic Revelation

Proverbs 29:18

Where there is no revelation,[a] the people cast off restraint;
But happy is he who keeps the law.

I know my blog has been relatively quiet lately. I’m glad and grateful for that, because some of the things I wanted to write about earlier in the week, I’m now grateful after further light on the subject, that I did not. In fact, I’ve partially regretted one of my most popular posts written because I did not have the time to look further in the matter. Sometimes, it is best to remain silent on some things and let them pan out. After all, the problem with blogs is that it is too easy to blast away without having all the facts. If I ever want this blog to be read with any seriousness, and I do, then I need to be more careful about what I post and write. This doesn’t mean that I will not post on those things I find humorous, but I want to be a bit more informed on those posts I do write.

There are two reasons that I have not been posting as frequently. Both have to do with the ministry, which is odd because I have fewer sermons to prepare this week, and last week than before, yet I’ve been much busier in my thoughts and work of the ministry.

The first topic of my thoughts is because I will be appearing on a local radio show Thursday, July 29th. The host of the show, Frankie Lax, made the comment several weeks ago that he believed Christianity to be the best religion in the world. Yet, when pressed for a reason, he could only state that he believed this because he was probably raised as a Christian. Don’t give Frankie a hard time. He was thinking on the fly and given some time could probably come up with some sound reasons. Can you?

Well, I did. I’ve made a list of 10 reasons why Christianity is superior to any other religion. The list is chalked full of the gospel, which is the main reason it is superior to all religions. When I appear on the show, I doubt I will get through all ten reasons. I have been working on that list and giving it a lot of thought. To me, this is one of the most important topics to write about because it will help all believers, including Frankie, know what they believe and why they believe it.

The other issue that has captured my thoughts here of late has been that of putting together a mission statement and vision for our little church. I’m not going to say much about it here, because it still needs work. Plus, the elders need to make it their own and add to it. I will say that they like what I presented last night and it was amazing how easy it was. I really got a sense of the Spirit’s movement in the entire process and the eagerness that the elders are to truly see our congregation become more biblical and Christ-centered in our approach to ministry, worship and life.

The reason I posted the verse above is that it is often times quoted as those who “have no vision, the people perish.” The better translation is the way it is posted above, Where there is no revelation,[a] the people cast off restraint; But happy is he who keeps the law. The idea of verse is that we are to be centered on God’s revelation and word. Our approach with all this is to become more centered on God’s word, and His Son, and set out to discovering our purpose for Him. Again, I cannot say more here at this time. This is a wonderful time in the life of the church. Please pray for us as we work to move forward for the Kingdom of Christ.

“In His Name”

I preached on John 14:12-14 yesterday morning. It really hit at the right time because of the previous blog I posted on praying in Jesus Name. I commented on that, and went on to stress that we have no other name to pray in because there is no one else besides Christ who gives us access to the Father.

I also hit on the “name-it-and-claim-it” crowd that like to use verses 13-14 to lay claim to that new house, or new car in Jesus name. Funny, but Jesus really isn’t talking about material things in this text, but doing “greater works” than He did.

Specifically, when someone comes to know Christ and is saved, that is a greater miracle than any of the miracles He performed on others during His earthly ministry because the miracle of salvation is eternal. The miracles that Christ performed were all temporal and physical, and were merely used to authenticate His message and point to the greater spiritual reality of the spiritual miracle that comes with conversion.

As JC Ryle writes: “There is no greater work possible than the conversion of the soul.”

When someone comes to know Christ, they pass from the dead to life, blind to seeing and from being deaf to hearing. All those events trump any of the miracles Christ performed in His ministry. This is how He can tell the disciples that they, and subsequently us, that we will do greater works than He did.

After preaching, Debby came up to me with a note, concerning the “in His name” portion of the sermon. What she wrote took my sermon to a deeper level. Here is what she wrote:

“Praying ‘in Jesus name’ — (to ask on the authority of another as supported by the personality or character of the name) involves much more than just saying the phrase ‘in Jesus name.’

“We pray in Jesus name because we are ‘in Jesus.’ Paul uses His name in his prayers but does not close his prayers (using) the ‘three magic words.’ Many people use the ‘three magic words’ like a ‘secret code’ at the end of their prayer – like God won’t hear their prayer if they don’t use the ‘secret code.’ If we are in Christ, our prayers are directed to God the Father, our prayers are in Jesus name.

“In the same way — those who are not in Christ, if they end their prayer ‘in Jesus name,’ because they think they are ‘supposed to,’ they are not really praying in Jesus name because they are not in Jesus — they are just saying empty words.”

How true. If we are not “in Christ,” saying all the right words in the world will do us no good. Our prayers fall on deaf ears because we do not have the righteousness that exceeds that of the Pharisees and we are rejected by the Father. In fact, for the unbeliever/heathen/pagan/cultist/Islamist/Jew, etc., to pray apart from being in Christ is really an insult to God because they do not enter through the “door” which God has provided for them. They have invented their own door and reject the One given to them for entrance.

Do the words “in His name” authenticate a prayer? Not at all. But we must be “in Christ” for our prayers to be heard by the Father. This means that we have humbled ourselves before the Father and received the salvation offered to us through His Son.

My point in my earlier post is that as believers, we should use the words. Especially when we are asked not to because the unbeliever needs to know that we will not compromise on this issue. We either pray in Christ’s name, or we don’t pray at all.

Pastor Asked Not to Pray In Jesus Name

Good for him! Pastor Ron Baity of Winston-Salem Berean Baptist Church was told his prayers were not welcome at the North Carolina State Legislature because he invoked the name of Christ in his prayers. He was told that by doing so, he might offend some of the members of the legislature.

He did so anyway, and I’m glad. To offer a prayer without the name of Christ is nothing more than to babble some religious, man-made utterings. Without Christ’s name, the prayer is NOT heard. Pastor Baity stood for righteousness sake even if it cost him the opportunity to pray for the legislature during the rest of the week of his tenure. Here is part of the story.

“I got fired,” said Ron Baity, pastor of Berean Baptist Church in Winston-Salem. He had been invited to lead prayer for an entire week but his tenure was cut short when he refused to remove the name Jesus from his invocation.

Baity’s troubles began during the week of May 31. He said a House clerk asked to see his prayer. The invocation including prayers for our military, state lawmakers and a petition to God asking him to bless North Carolina.”

“When I handed it to the lady, I watched her eyes and they immediately went right to the bottom of the page and the word Jesus,” he told FOX News Radio. “She said ‘We would prefer that you not use the name Jesus. We have some people here that can be offended.’”

Just imagine if a Muslim was invited to pray before the North Carolina Legislature and asked not to use Allah’s name. Imagine what the end result of that would be. Why, then, is it OK for the State Legislature to ask to have the name of Christ removed from a Christians prayer? It is not. That violates the very tenants of a Christian’s faith in order to mandate a false, man-made religion which is sanctioned by the state. Another violation of the First Amendment.

Let’s be clear. There are several principles that have to be stated here. First, there is no other name by which we can pray because to do so, is to ignore the Mediator given to us by God. To try and enter into His presence without the blood of Christ, is Babel all over again.

Secondly, Pastor Baity’s First Amendment rights were violated because he was told his services were not needed since he was a believer in Jesus. He would be accepted if he would remove the name of Christ, but the state has no right to do so. If they are going to invite anyone at all to pray before the Legislature, they have no right to dictate to them how to pray or by who’s name.

Third, by doing what they did, the North Carolina State Legislature has mandated a religion, one based on the absence of Jesus. Anyone can pray, just so long as they do not do so in Jesus name. This too is a violation of the First Amendment.

They have the option of either ceasing all prayers, which they have effectively done by excluding the name of Christ, or they can allow those Christians to who pray there, to pray as their conscience dictates.

I’ve written on this issue here and here.

Stephen Fincher IS Pro-Life!

Congressional Candidate Stephen Fincher, 8th District Tennessee, was endorsed by the Tennessee Right to Life on Tuesday. This is big because they are stating that the best Republican candidate for this position is Fincher. Fincher is running against Dr. Ron Kirkland,  out of Jackson, Dr. George Flinn out of Memphis and chef Randy Smith out of Mercer.

If you recall I pointed out Kirkland’s weakness on this position since he stated that when it came to a rape, then the issue was between a woman and her doctor. He basically punted on life at that point. He found a place to draw a line and drew it as quickly as he could. In other words, he is for the pro-life position as long as that position does not cost him anything. That is simply someone we don’t need representing us in Washington. There are already plenty of politicians in Washington, we do not need to send one more.

Kirkland’s statement also shows he is not driven by principle, but by political expediency. He will take whatever position will get him elected. Please, let’s not vote for him. I’m sure he would be OK if we sent him to D.C., but he would be just another politician, not someone who was willing to take strong stands on the issues of life.

Fincher is just the opposite. He is standing on principles not position and his principles drive those positions. He said on the Mike Slater show that he is for life in all cases, and life begins at conception. You cannot be clearer than this. The Tennessee Right to Life endorsed Fincher because they believe he will carry the cause. In other words, he is not pro-life in name only.

Listen to him on Mike Slater’s show here. Again, Fincher believes that life begins at conception, and regardless of rape, or incest, that child is still life and deserves the protection of the state. His principles are driving this position and I agree with him and I’m glad that he is taking a strong position for life. We should vote for him, and because of them, I am giving him my endorsement.

LET IT BE KNOWN: Timothy Matters has now endorsed Steven Fincher for Congress. This is my first pubic endorsement of a candidate since starting this blog.

Marble Abs & Vampires Too!

I was reading a book review in Modern Reformation magazine about this vampire series by Stephanie Meyer, The Twilight Saga. The books are targeted for teenage girls and so it makes references to “marbled abs” and chests. The reviewer quoted his wife: “If I have to read about how Edward’s chest looks like it was carved out of marble one more time, I’m going to retch.”

I couldn’t help but chuckle. What is popular is often times so… base, even if these books do put forth such noble traits as self-restraint. Yes, you guessed it. All the main vampires in our series display self-restraint so they are “good” vampires, a.k.a., “Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?

I thought all vampires and witches were always bad, not just sometimes bad. Silly me. The vampires have to be good so that the main vampire, Edward, could fall madly and passionately in love with Bella, a non-vampire. This is in the midst of all kinds of sexual tension and teen angst, along with “bad” vampires trying to kill Bella and even a few werewolves thrown in for good measure.

In view of all this, and the silliness of “marble abs,” I was wondering if I could perhaps write some fiction like this too? I was thinking that if the pastorate calling didn’t work out, maybe I could write a few cheesy novels for teenage girls and make a couple of million, retiring to some place warm, with lots of golf and happy-go-lucky days.

Probably not, but here goes. My characters: Jane and Bernstein.

Jane noticed her ball was resting a wood chip. This would make the putt far more difficult. She would either have to move the wood chip, moving the ball, and taking a stroke, or just power over the wood chip. Otherwise, it would be a simple putt for par. She looked up and there he stood on the edge of the green. She had failed to notice him before, even though he was wearing a lime green shirt with equally flattering plaid shorts.

Her heart beat. It beat again. She noticed his soft and shiny hair, with a green tint from the bright, green lime shirt, and her heart… beat again, and continued to beat throughout the story. This time, however, it beat quicker than its usual pace. She noticed the the thrilling feeling she had in her lower extremities, or was it the onset of diarrhea.

“Hello Freckles,” he said. This was odd because with her voluptuous skin, she had no freckles.

“Hi,” she said. “I didn’t see you standing there, well, at least not until I saw you. Then I saw you. You are standing right there.”

She felt silly. How could she have said anything so silly. She feared he would think she was a vapid teenager, or that he might rape her and cut her body up into small pieces to feed to the alligators in the nearby ponds. Her mind raced. She felt as if she was on the edge, the edge of danger, the edge of the green, the edge of missing such a simple putt.

“Yes,” he said. “I’m standing right here.”

Just then, the wind kicked up a breeze one might expect out of the thrusters of the space shuttle on lift off, and blew his shirt up around his neck. Jane couldn’t help but noticed his abs. They looked as if they were chiseled out of Cheezwiz. She was thinking of how it looked orange and squishy as he tried to pull the shirt back down around his mid section.

The wind ceased and the weather returned to it’s normal, balmy day.

“My name is Jane,” she said.

“Hi Jane. My name is Bernstein.”

“Bernstein,” she asked. “Do you go by Bernie?”

“Absolutely not. That’s hardly romantic. I’m Bernstein.” He said the name with such pride. To him, there was only one other name more romantic than Bernstein, but Fabio was already taken so his author had to come up with a name as equally tantalizing.

“Do you want me to help you with that putt?”

She could make the putt on her own. She was the best player on the high school golf team and knew she could power through it. Yet, the idea of him helping her, rubbing up against her, her shoulder pressing up against the soft, Cheezwiz of his chest, touching her skin as it all became tingly like it’s supposed to do in these type of stories, was too much.

“Yes,” she said.

He walked over to her, around behind her and wrapped his arms her waist, grabbing her putter. She smelled his breath for the first time. It was dragon breath. The smell of someone who lay sleeping with his mouth open wide, snoring loudly and uncontrollably after eating cheap tacos. It stank. She ignored it and waited for her skin to tingle. It didn’t.

Would this be the romance of her life? At 16, romance was only something she had read about in cheap and tawdry romance novels. Could this be it?

He grabbed her hands to help her with the putter. His hands were sweaty and clammy. She marveled at the idea of her sweat mingling with his, cold, clammy hands. His hands were soft and weak, like her dying grandfather’s hands. She knew it had to be a sign… To be continued?

So, keep my day job or press on as cheap, tawdry romance writer?


Sean Hannity and Our Troubled Hearts

I preached on John 14:1-6, which begins, “Let not your hearts be troubled, you believe in God, believe in Me also.”

As I stood at the back door greeting my congregants, one of them said, “You know I don’t like Sean Hannity because he is always saying that. Yet, all he does is stir up trouble.” It’s true. Much of the new media really does focus on stirring up trouble without offering solutions. In fact, the less brilliant they are, the more they stir up trouble without offering any solutions. It’s not worth listening to many of the talk-show crowd because of this. (Glenn Beck is the biggest culprit).

Yet, as believers, we are to not let the world and its problems drive us into a tempest. The world will always have problems. Do we want to focus on those problems to the point that they become our problems? Or would we not spend our time more productively focusing on Christ and working for His Kingdom?

You know how I plan on answering that one. The days where I’m the most effective for Him are those days when I focus on Him the most. I know I can write about the politics, and the hypcrisy of the left, but that is not the best use of my time. The sad reality is that this blog really jumps in readership when I do focus on those things. That tells me that many of my readers get angry like I do over those events.

What is better for us? Anyone can point out the sin of the world. Not everyone can point out the solution. These are just some thoughts.

“Let not your heart be troubled.” That comes in the context of what Jesus is telling His disciples as He is about to head for the cross. Darkness is about to win out, at least temporarily. But the reality is that Christ wins it all. Focus on Him, and our hearts will not be troubled.

Happy Independence Day!

Happy Independence Day! I hope your 4th is a blessing.

I’m looking forward to worship this morning since I’m preaching on one of my favorite passages: John 14:1-6. I’m focusing on the comfort the passage gives us, even in dark days.

As for those who celebrate this nation in worship, remember, it’s the Lord’s Day, not a day to focus on the United States of America. While I am a patriot, I believe the focus of worship and preaching should always be Jesus Christ, not our nation. The gospel will do more to change our nation than anything else I can preach about. Even focusing on our history will not bring a real change, only the gospel.

Remember that as you gather for worship. It is the Lord’s day. Patriotism is good, but should be excluded from the worship of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.