The Pain of Preaching

I thought about entitling this post, “The Pain of the Prophet,” but I didn’t want anyone to think that I was making myself out to be a prophet. I first had the idea about this article after preaching on Sunday and I wondered if what I felt after preaching was much of what the prophet felt when he was proclaiming truth to wayward Israel. I use to think that the prophet took great delight in saying the things he did. He got to stand for God and proclaim His truths to the people, both good and bad. That was naive thinking on my part and after preaching for 16 years, I’ve changed my mind. I think the prophets felt the heaviness of God’s truth before they proclaimed it, while proclaiming and after they had done so. God’s truth in the lives of believers is far to meaty to be flippant about. This is why so many of them struggled with what was being proclaimed. Think of Isaiah, and how he proclaimed the truth for five chapters of events, then found himself in the very Holy of Holies with God Himself. He was completely undone before the Lord and said, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.”

Don’t think for a moment that this realization didn’t take it’s toll on Isaiah. Not that the toll it took was bad. It was very good for Isaiah to undergo the scrutiny before the Lord that caused him to realize his own sinfulness. He needed that scrutiny and pain that was brought about just as we all do. But don’t make the mistake of thinking it was easy. God’s work in our lives is never easy. Easy is what you get from the many flippant pastors who enter pulpits week after week in order to make every one feel good about themselves. Preaching God’s word is never easy, and rarely makes us feel good about ourselves. If it really works in us, we welcome the uneasiness it brings, or even the comfort that comes from His word because we know that the end result is better than being left alone. If we want to shine like gold for the Lord, He must turn up the fires of sanctification to burn away the dross.

This is what Isaiah was going through before the Lord. It is what Jeremiah went through when he wept. It is what the other prophets in the Old Testament had to deal with as they spoke to Israel in a manner that seems so harsh at times. That harshness was working on the prophets when they proclaimed those truths.

Preaching God’s truth is much the same way today. When a pastor faithfully preaches the text, it works on him more so than those in the pews, as it should.

I would love to say that every time I enter into the pulpit it is nothing but pure spiritual joy. But to say so would be a lie. There are times when I am filled with His love and joy that make preaching a pure delight. But there are other times when it is very hard to preach God’s word week after week. It is hard to open God’s word every week and truly proclaim it without it costing the one proclaiming it. For if we are truly proclaiming God’s word, then God’s word is working on us and in us as we prepare the sermon. That is hard. Having the Holy Spirit examine my heart day after day, line upon line of my sermon, word study upon word study, begins to take it’s toll after a while. Especially when the text applies to my life as well as the lives of those in the pews.

I once had a fellow pastor tell me after his two-year anniversary with a church that it was then that real ministry was beginning to take place. I know what he means. After about two years we really begin to get to know our congregations and get to see what they need in their lives as we pick out our sermon texts. This is where the heaviness comes from, preaching what we know our congregations need to hear. It may not be what they want to hear, but as the Spirit leads us in this selection, we must trust that it is best for them and for us.

It is on days like this when I pray and look at the text I am going to preach that I want to run from it. I want nothing to do with it. It is not as though I want to be disobedient to the Spirit’s guiding, but I know that what I’m going to preach will step on some toes, mine included. Being a guy who loves to be loved, that is a tough proposition. I try the old bit of pulling up an oldie but goodie. There are no oldies but goodies in preaching. If we are really going to faithfully preach, we need to wrestle with the text as God wrestles with us.

So much so, that there are times that I find myself crying out to the Lord more than I do writing a sermon. Take the words, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” They seem like easy words to read and easy words to mentally agree with. Yet God is not trying to get us just to agree with those words. He is working in us so that we live them out as His children are called to do.

Does that mean that those words apply to me as well as those in the pews? Absolutely! The Father allowed His Son to die on the cross and gave me His Spirit so that I could live up to those words. That means He wants me to truly bless those who have persecuted me. This is not some theological theory to be bandied about as a philosopher does inside the local pub or college class room. He wants us to live it.

It is for this reason that I wrestle with the text. I don’t want to live it. I don’t want to ask Him to pour blessings on those who have persecuted me in some way or another. I know that we can expect persecution from those who are not believers, but what about those from inside the church? What about those who attack because I do preach God’s word? What about those who are supposed to cherish the preached word of God, but somehow, despise it? Am I supposed to turn the other cheek when they attack me, and ask for God’s blessing upon them?

My flesh wants nothing to do with it. Just like the flesh of the world it wants revenge. The Holy Spirit will have none of that. To seek revenge is to usurp His place as the final judge, and while we will judge the world in that final day, it’s not the final day yet. If my flesh seeks that revenge, then I’m just as guilty as those who have wronged me. The battle continues.

As pastors, we must let the battle continue. We cannot shy away from it as difficult as it is. We must never distance ourselves from the words we preach for that leads to cold, lifeless preaching. We must own each and every sermon we preach from a personal standpoint of knowing the words we proclaim are meant for us as well. We should never go into the pulpit to preach “to” the people, but to proclaim His word for all who have ears to hear.

This is why we must let the Holy Spirit battle with us, to prepare us and get us ready for the proclamation that will take place.

For me, the battle usually begins sometime on Thursday afternoon when I begin my initial push to write my sermon. When the text is really cutting my heart, it lasts well into Friday and even Saturday. My lovely bride has watched me go through this many times. I will pray, and read, and pray some more, looking for a way out, asking God for some new direction. But He is resolute. In my spiritual exhaustion on Friday, I finally commit to another sermon and open up the file. I read it. “What a great sermon!” I think to myself. And it was a great sermon when I first preached it. Trying to fool myself into thinking I have found the solution, I call it a day.

Then my lovely bride asks me how the sermon is going. “Great!”

What is it on?” she asks gently.

I tell her. We talk about it. Then at some point, she asks that deadly question: “Timothy, have you asked the Lord what He wants you to preach.”

I bark! “Come on! Of course I have.”

She lets me believe that I have. Saturday morning comes. I’ve rested. I open the oldie but goodie, and punt it before I can get past the first page. That is not what God would have me preach. I go back to the text I have wrestled with all week, and finally begin to write. I’m resigned to His words working in my heart as well. Yes, I will bless those who persecute me as He has called me to do. And I will preach His word, as He has called me to do. That is my ultimate blessing to those He has entrusted me with. I’m fortunate. Most look forward to my preaching, never knowing the struggle I go through to bring them the word. They appreciate it nonetheless.

Many will never know what the preacher goes through while trying to prepare a sermon. That is fine. It’s not their cross to bear. It’s mine.The pain of preaching is mine as well. That is the call He has placed on my life, and so many other men as well. We are to wrestle with the text and let the Holy Spirit work in us as we prepare, so that when we proclaim, we will not just be proclaiming God’s word in some distant fashion, but proclaiming God’s double-edged sword that has cut us to the bone as well. That is the pain of preaching.


Caffeinated Calvinists

I updated my blogroll with a link to the Caffeinated Calvinists website. This is a site devoted to other sites that write about Calvinism, such as mine. It’s an excellent resource for those of you who want to understand more about Calvinism, what Calvinists believe and why it won’t go away! I will answer that last one: it won’t go away because it is Biblical. The Bible drives our Calvinism, not the other way around.

For instance, our strong convictions about election, God’s sovereign hand in our salvation, Christ’s atoning work and the Spirit’s sealing power come from the Scripture in sections like Ephesians 1:3-14:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.
7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, 9 having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, 10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both[a] which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. 11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.
13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who[b] is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

There is a lot more to that verse, and a lot more verses that support our positions on Calvinism than this one, but I’m not into writing about it right now. You get the idea.

I do want to point out that it is not the Five-points of Calvinism that drive Calvinism. It is God’s sovereignty in all things, especially our salvation that drives our position. The Five Points were merely a reaction the to the Five Points of Armenianism that put the burden of salvation on man. In other words, like so many in our day, the Armenians believed that salvation was completely up to man’s free will, and God had to sit back and wring His holy Hands in the hope that men would choose to believe. We find this hard to believe given that the Bible refers so little to man’s free anything, especially his will, which is bound by our wicked hearts. The Bible does refer to man’s heart, and there is not much good found there.

The point is that we salvation completely of God’s doing. Yes, men are responsible, but not capable until God moves in us, gives us a new heart so that we can believe in Christ and be saved. God moves first, we just respond to His grace. Otherwise, we could boast. I think Paul had something to say to that in Ephesians 2.

If you want to know more, head on over to the Caffeinated Calvinists and check it out. I’m heading down the hall to get some more caffeine.

Valedictorian Prevented from Giving Thanks to God

Apparently some lawyers got a hold of  Valedictorian Kyle Gearwar speech and edited it before he could give it. The Fair Haven Union High School (in Vermont) graduate was told he could not make any references to God in his speech. This is another violation of a Christians right to Free Speech and exercise of religion are not allowed because we don’t want to offend anyone. Here is his full speech with the editor’s of the Rutland Herald noting where he had to stop.

Good Evening parents, graduates, faculty and staff, administrators, families and students of Fair Haven Union High School. Thank you for coming tonight to witness this truly awesome event. I thought I would begin this speech with a little formality, but trust me I will not speak like this for the whole five minutes.

I would just like to take a moment to recognize this class of graduates. This is one of the most intelligent and competitive classes this school has ever witnessed graduate. We have students going into prestigious colleges and occupations, athletes that are at the top of their games and have won state recognition, all state band musicians, poetry wizards, and many others who succeed and excel in various activities. I can’t even describe the potential of this group of individuals. It is impossible to imagine what each student will accomplish and we can look forward to these people leading and becoming the backbone of this country. This is one of the greatest classes that Fair Haven has produced and I am proud to be, not only their Valedictorian but also their classmate.
I would like to say my thank yous now. I would like to begin by thanking this school and the faculty, staff and administration. It has been a great four years and I thank you for preparing me for college and the life ahead of me. Each of you has left your mark on me and I will forever remember what you have taught me academically and all the life lessons. I would also like to thank Mr. Richard Luzer. I spent probably half my high school career in that library with you and it was well worth the time and discussion. You are a wise man Mr. Luzer and Fair haven is lucky to have you.

Next I want to thank my church and Youth Group, Pastor Rob and Pastor Dan, my youth leaders Mr. Lew and Mrs. Ronna, Mike Hall and all those that have mentored me for the last ten years of my life. The guidance you have given me in scripture is phenomenal and the mentoring and love you have shown me can not be reciprocated. Everything you do is for God and for others and I can not thank you enough. And to my Youth Group I want to say that you are my core. I look forward every week to seeing you all and though we go through difficult times, they will always get better eventually.

Finally I would like to thank my mom and dad and brother. I am not just saying this, I mean it with the upmost respect and love, you are the greatest parents and family I could ever ask for. I guess I can be a little forgetful but you’ve always been there to help me and raise me to be successful and I hope I have made you proud. Mom, thank you for all the hard work you’ve put into my post-secondary school education and I am truly thankful for the things you’ve done so I’m ready for college. Thanks for all the free animal mounts as well. I hope you let me take some to put in my dorm room. Dad, thank you for trusting me even when you have no reason too. I am so grateful that I have a father with so much intelligence and knowledge. Trav, you are an awesome brother and probably one of my best friends as well. I wish you the best of luck in the rest of your high school career and onward. I want to thank all my family members here tonight as well for everything you have done to make my life enjoyable to live.
I come before you tonight, ill prepared. I have spent the last week diligently praying and writing my speech for you tonight. I sought the message that would deliver a feeling of sorrow, but end with great victory. Sadly the latter part is not the case. My original speech has been cut, redone, and eventually trashed because of my references to the Bible, Jesus, and a better life. Today my letter to you was revised by some lawyers and attorneys who crossed out the concluding half of my speech. They said that the school can not endorse or allow me to speak about religion and how it has changed my life. I have dealt with the minor changes to my story that they have proposed, but in the end I could not throw it out. It saddens me that it had to come to this and I do not wish to read it on these circumstances because I know that Mr. Blanchard, Mr. Doucette and the school are at the mercy of the law if I follow through on this. It saddens me even more that the founding fathers created the first amendment, but today Congress has changed it to exclude those that they do not want to speak and defiled the principles on which this country was built on. I would also like to add that I am not trying to cause a problem or direct attention to myself, but I have always dreamed of speaking about God in front of my school as the Valedictorian. This was the message God gave to me and I am not allowed to share it with you even though it my testimony, the most important change my life has ever experienced, and the one thing that I stand for no matter what.

Today my valedictorian speech remains unfinished. I am submitting to those who have authority over me by not reading the half of my speech that has caused issues. I respect the administration for the decisions they have made and thank them anyways for the opportunity to speak.

Editor’s Note: The section of Kyle’s speech that he was prevented from reading at graduation begins below:

I thank God for everything He has done for me and the strength He has given me to resist the urge to defy the command the school has given me. Again thank you for coming tonight and Congratulations to the 2011 Fair Haven Union High School Graduates.

Now I would like to share a story, actually the testimony of my life, to show you what I have gone through and how I got here. Some of you may be offended with this story but this is what I feel God has laid on my heart and is a message this school needs to hear. I have grown up a in a Christian home all my life thanks to my amazing parents, but as many of these people can vouch for, I do not always act like I am Born Again. Thankfully, Jesus said I am not perfect and God forgives me for every sin I commit. My testimony is this. For the last few weeks I was lost in anger and depression. I kept it hidden quite well from most though. I was so burdened with grief and angst that I couldn’t focus on my life or those around me. Finally it all broke loose and I couldn’t contain myself any longer. I lashed out in anger at some of my best friends and cried for hours on end. I was so broken that I call a friend and mentor of mine who went through some of the same issues as I have. I begged him to get rid of this hate I had for myself and those that had done me wrong. He reminded me of the song that includes these words, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his beautiful face, and the cares of this world will grow strangely dim.” The following day I picked up a book by a pastor out of Texas. He talks about letting go of the past and looking for the future God has for those who seek him. The reason I acted the way I have for so long was because I harbored this extreme dislike for myself and held onto the things people have said and done to me. But as soon as I gave this to God and let him fight my battles my entire life has changed. I don’t dwell on the past. I have peace and can finally enjoy every moment God has given me, good or bad. I wouldn’t be standing before you without the blessings God has given me through my tough situations. He is the reason I am the man I am today, made new through Jesus death on the cross.

I have my own unique issues and problems, but they can include others like substance abuse, relationship problems, anger, pride, or depression. The way to escape this is through submitting to God. I can’t get through all my difficulties in my own strength, but with God I can, and there are many people in this world whose lives have changed because of Him. Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, they are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a hope and a future.” I needed to let go of the things that I wasn’t proud of and give my life to the One who created me. God knew me before I was born and wanted a relationship with me from that very day. And trust me it was well worth the effort to submit to God and not let the world get the best of me.

Now I can live in freedom from sin.
Now I can look at each new day with a smile.
Now I can face each trouble and problem with a glad heart.
Now I can live with God and not try to barely survive without Him.

Again thank you for coming tonight and Congratulations to the 2011 Fair Haven Union High School Graduates.

Hattip: Andy Webb

Dust and Ashes: Abraham’s Prayer for the Righteous

When Abraham petitions the LORD to save Sodom if there be but 10 righteous people living there, we often times focus on the petition itself and miss some of the finer details of that petition. Once such phrase caught my attention yesterday as I studied the passage. It was the phrase “dust and ashes.” Abraham is making his case with the LORD and makes the comment that he is merely dust and ashes (Genesis 18:27). In doing so, Abraham is showing the LORD that he knows his position before YHWH, the creator of all the heavens and the earth.

When he calls himself dust, he is referring to the very substance by which mankind was made in Genesis 2. God took the very ground and breathed into it to give mankind life. So when Abraham uses this phrase before the LORD, he is indicating that he knows his place before God, as a created being. He is accepting the fact that God is the Creator of heaven and earth, and humbling himself before the LORD. We all need this reminder in our daily lives. God is the Creator of heaven and earth, and we are merely His creation. We are not gods.

But what of the phrase “ashes?” Why does Abraham throw that phrase into the mix? If it is quite certain that dust refers to the creative portion of God’s work, and is looking back to the creation, might we conclude that “ashes” is looking forward to God’s final work with creation? In other words, might Abraham also be accepting the reality that YHWH is not only the Creator, but the final judge of creation as well?

Peter tells us that final judgment will be of the fiery sort. 2 Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. In the final judgment, all of the earth shall burn away as God brings that judgment on mankind. There is the possibility that Abraham did not realize this, but I believe he did. In this encounter with the LORD we are seeing God’s treatment of both the righteous and the wicked. God comes and blesses those who are righteous in Him, namely Abraham and all who believe (Lot in the present context). And He brings judgment on the wicked.

I don’t believe that Abraham is pointing toward his own death and burial when he mentions ashes, but to the right of God to bring judgment on the wicked. In His judgment of Sodom, we have a small snapshot of the greater judgment to come. In that judgment, the righteous will be spared just as Lot is spared, and the wicked will be condemned with fire. Abraham is doing what so few of us are capable of doing: admitting God’s RIGHTFUL  place as judge. God is God, and He has a right to bring judgment on the wicked.

In his plea, Abraham is acknowledging God’s position as the Creator of all there is, as well as the Creator’s position to serve as judge over that creation. He is also acknowledging his position before God, as one that is both created and judged. For those who are righteous, that final judgment is lifted for Jesus Christ dealt with Abraham’s sentence upon the cross. However Abraham still mentions that sentence because he knows the punishment of the fiery travail to come has only been lifted from him by God’s grace. It is God’s right to bring judgment, but also His prerogative to show grace. Abraham is clearly a recipient of that grace along with all the others who put their trust in HIM for salvation.

The point is that when we pray, it is good to mention that we are dust and ashes before God, for in doing so, we honor God by admitting our place before Him.

Top 10 Most Noble Jobs in the World

Part of my sermon this past week was on serving the Lord. Many often ask “how is it that we can serve the Lord?” A lot of serving the Lord is done with the mindset of doing those things that we are called to do as though we are doing them for the King of kings Himself. In other words, we are called by Him in our every day lives to serve Him with our every day lives. Christians often times get caught up on the idea that you can only serve the Lord if you are in a vocation directly related to the church. This isn’t true. We are actually called to serve Him where we are, whether we are husbands, father’s, mother’s, wives, friends, or in the world as a banker, carpenter, plumber, etc. It is not as though we have to have the church lay hands on us in order to serve the Lord.

The other aspect that I like to focus on in this line of thinking is the fact that all we do is noble in sight of the Lord, when we do those tasks in view of the Lord. If the King of kings was willing to wash feet, then no task is beneath the nobility of the calling placed upon us. In view of that, here is my list of jobs that I find noble because no one wants to do them, yet God calls us to do these tasks.

  1. Garbage collectors — these men and women do want no one aspires to do. Think of the smell each of us would endure without the work they do. They actually have to live with that smell. Therefore this position is noble because they are willing to help out their fellow man in dealing with garbage. I hope that they realize the nobility in this position.
  2. Nurses in nursing homes — especially poorly funded nursing homes. There have been times I have wanted to take these nurses aside and share with them the nobility of their work. They are working with those that are cast aside by society and cannot help themselves. It’s a tough and hard job that goes unnoticed by society unless something really wrong happens. The nurse who does this job needs to realize that there is One who notices her work. It is a noble task.
  3. Chicken pickers — those who slaughter and clean the chickens we eat. Just the smell alone would drive most of us to a vegetarian lifestyle. Yet there are people who do it so we can eat. Thank God for their willingness to do so.
  4. Stay-at-home moms — we tend to forget the importance of our wives staying at home with their children. While liberalism and feminism put this task down, it is the most noble calling a woman can have. She is not just raising children, but raising the next generation of citizens. We need to encourage mothers who do their work well, and correct those who do not do their work well.
  5. Anyone who works at McDonald’s — come on, you’ve seen how miserable these people are! Someone needs to encourage them.
  6. Telemarketers — OK, probably not. They serve no useful purpose to humanity. Plumbers — especially the guys that have to deal with septic tanks and port a potties! (The telemarketer comment was just meant to be funny).
  7. The sweat jockey — the guy who wipes up sweat off the basketball court during NBA games.
  8. Janitors — let’s face it, these guys get very little glory for keeping our malls, banks, movie theaters, etc., clean of the filth we leave behind. We need more good janitors.
  9. Dental Hygienist — same gross job as a dentist, but without the respect and title of a dentist.
  10. Proctologist and  GI doctors — crappie no matter how you look at it.

Monster Truck Rally and Tractor Pull

“Take your earplugs.” That is what the lady said to me when I bought the tickets yesterday afternoon. I told the boys all week that I would take them to the Monster Truck Rally and Tractor Pull at the fairgrounds if we could afford it, and when I found out that Joey got in for free, I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity. The boys seemed very excited about seeing monster trucks.

I told the lady at the ticket counter that I had never been, so what should I expect. She said to take my ear plugs. So I did. I’m glad I did. It was loud when the monster trucks opened it up. You could feel power. I did have trouble with Joey, but Andy dutifully wore his plugs, as did I. I decided to quit trying to get Joey’s plugs in his ears and just reached over and covered them whenever an event transpired.

We didn’t actually get to see the monster truck portion of the show. I guess the emphasis should have been on the tractor pull since that is what a bulk of the show was about. That made it hard for Joey to watch. For a 4 year old, there is a good portion of time between on pull and another. He wanted to walk around and get ice cream and go to the restroom and tackle me as I tried to watch the show. He didn’t really want to watch the show.

But Andy did. I think he loved it. So I held out for Andy. We watched as long as he wanted to watch. Fortunately, he got hungry and we left before the tractor pull competition concluded and headed for McDonald’s, much to Joey’s delight. I think Joey needs a few more years before he can truly appreciate the finer things in life.

Here are few video clips of our time there.

Ishmael: Blessed But Not Chosen

I know that there is a dispute among Jews, Christians and Muslims as to who is the chosen line of Abraham. For Jews and Christians, the claim is that it is through Isaac that covenantal blessings flow. For those of Islamic faith, they claim it is Ismael.

But what does the Word of God say? Any time there is a dispute about theological differences, we must come back to the authority for our beliefs to be shaped. In fact, the Word of God says that when God was giving Abraham the sign of the covenant, namely circumcision, that Abraham asked God that the covenant would be placed on Ishmael. Genesis 17:17-18 Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Shall a child be born to a man who is one hundred years old? And shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “Oh, that Ishmael might live before You!

Abraham knows the difficulty that it will be for he and Sarah to have a child. This is what brought about his impatience in the first place, leading him to sleep with Hagar, which gave him Ishmael. This is one of those points where we see the Father of all who truly believe  (Galatians 3:7), falling short in trusting God. Remember that God had told Abraham that he would be blessed and a father of many nations. Abraham got impatient, and took matters into his own hands.

Yet, the covenantal blessings are not to be upon Ishmael, but Isaac, whom Sarah will give birth to. When Abraham asks God to allow Ishmael to be the one in which those covenantal blessings flow, God rejects his request. Genesis 17:19 Then God said: “No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him.”

God says no. He will not have His chosen people come from a union that was conceived in sin. He wants His line to come from those He has chosen. The people of God are always His work, not man’s work. Therefore He tells Abraham that it will be through Sarah that the covenantal blessings will spring forth. It is through this line that the Messiah will come and redeem the chosen throughout the world. God will not have fallen man adding to His plan of redemption. Even though Abraham was a friend of God, it is God’s work that brings about this redemption and Isaac.

That is part of the beauty of this redemptive event. God is showing that when it comes to His will and plan, He can work through a couple that are far past the age of childbearing. Genesis 18:11-12 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in age; and Sarah had passed the age of childbearing.[a] 12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, “After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”

The idea of the phrase, passed the age of childbearing, actually comes from a Hebrew idiom meaning: the manner of women. That referred to a woman’s menstrual cycle. The text is telling us that Sarah no longer had the ability to have children. A miracle will have to be performed in order for her to have children. God will have to take something that is dead and make it alive. He will have to bring her womb to life again for her to have a child (probably Abraham too). This is what God does when it comes to our redemption. At every point, we are saved by Him, whether that is His plan to bring us the Savior, or working in our lives to get us to the point of belief. He is in the habit of taking that which is dead and giving it life (Ephesian 2:1ff).

He is the One that gave Sarah and Abraham the ability to have Isaac. Again, it is His plan that will be carried out in His way, not Abraham’s supplemental plan. God has a purpose and a plan for His chosen at all stages, and no, mankind cannot thwart that plan.

As for Ismael, he will be blessed. God tells Abraham this. Genesis 17:20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you. Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. He shall beget twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. He is blessed because he is Abraham’s son. God does that as a favor to Abraham. The man will grow and twelve princes will come from him, and he will be a great nation.

Lest you put too much on this, as Muslims do, God immediately reiterates the fact that His covenant is with Isaac, not Ishmael. Genesis 17:21 But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this set time next year.”

Also note, that when God initially tells Abraham of the coming child, He says that Sarah will be the mother of kings and many nations. Genesis 17:16 And I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her.” Whereas Ismael will father twelve princes and one nation, Sarah will be the mother of many nations and many kings, showing covenantal supremacy in God’s election of them.

Why is This Important?

For several reasons. First, we need to recognize that the claim by Muslims concerning Ishmael is wrong. While Ishmael is blessed, he is not of the chosen line of God. It is through the line of Isaac that the covenant blessings pass. No amount of revisionist history by Mohamed can change that. This is what God’s word says and we need to rest upon it. I point this out for a very important reason: as Christians, we need to know this truth and not be duped who say that Islam is a true religion of God as well. Just as the Samaritans were rejected because of their revisionist history, so too are those who are Islamic. In our day, we must stress that God worked through history to bring us Jesus Christ and He is the only way of salvation (Acts 4:12). No other religion will do, not Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, etc., etc., etc.

Second, this shows us that those outside of covenantal blessings are not completely ignored by God. He may not extend His eternal blessings to them by bringing them into the covenant, but He still blesses them in life. Ishmael was blessed by God. He had his good things in life. While he may or may not have believed, his offspring were not of the covenant. They eventually departed (Genesis 21:8ff), the covenant-keeping community. And there is no salvation apart from the covenant-keeping community. (That is another way of saying “the church.”)

Hooray for the Police in Locking These People UP!

I know the left is probably abuzz about the so called “atrocities” these police officers committed in arresting Code Pink members, but I applaud the police. Hooray! I’m grateful that they were willing to keep the law at the Jefferson Memorial even though these less than desirable citizens were there to make trouble. And yes, they brought it on themselves. They were like a bunch of children trying to push the limits of their parents and then acted all shocked and surprised when the police did their job and arrested these “less than desirables.”

The left will probably try to paint them as heroes of some sort. But they are not heroes at all, see my previous post about a real hero. These are just left-over hippies looking for a fictional battle against “the man.” Really, can someone slap some sense into these people. They are at a national monument. The First Amendment doesn’t give us the right to go and spit on the monument. They can do so if they please, but if they are going to in an attempt to change the system, then quit crying like a bunch of school boys when the principal throws them into detention. These lefties should be ashamed… but I know lefties feel no shame.

Hattip: RebelPundit

The Importance of Knowing the Real Christ.

Does it really matter who we believe Jesus to be? Does it really matter if we don’t understand that He is both God and Man? Can’t we just get along without all that theology? Simonetta Carr helps answer that in this piece about Athanasius. Here full site can be found here.

Yes it matters. The way we answer Christ’s question: “Who do you say that I am?” can help us know if we are believing in the real and true Savior of Scripture, or the Jesus of our own making. We can say that He is a teacher, or a Prophet, or even a king. But if that is all we say about Him, then we are being misleading in who He really is. We are not giving Him the respect that He deserves. We are actually lying about Christ when we don’t ascribe to Him His full due.

Harold Camping Plays the Fool… Again!

And I do not mean that in any way that can misconstrued as a compliment. He has broken his silence after his failed prediction of the end of the world on May 21st. What does he say? Basically what I said he would when I wrote:

The problem is, he will resort to his old tactics of spiritualizing what was to take place on Saturday. Once again, many will be duped.

I wrote that back on May 20th. This is Camping’s pattern. Make a prediction that the world will definitely end on a certain date at a certain time. Then when it doesn’t occur, spiritualize the event saying that only the faithful can fully understand what took place. He will then go on to say that we should only follow teachers that understand these deep truths lies. While he knows of no other teachers than himself that teach these truths lies, he is at least open that there could be someone like him.

Here is the latest from Camping:

Camping offered no sincere apology when he spoke publicly Monday for the first time since his failed May 21 Judgment Day prediction. He insisted that his predictions have been right all along, only that his interpretation was more literal when it should have been spiritual.

Judgment Day on May 21 did come, said Camping. However, he clarified that the Judgment Day arrived in a spiritual sense rather than manifesting physically.

“On May 21, this last weekend, this is where the spiritual aspect of it really comes through. God again brought judgment on the world. We didn’t see any difference but God brought Judgment Day to bear upon the whole world. The whole world is under Judgment Day and it will continue right up until Oct. 21, 2011 and by that time the whole world will be destroyed,” he proclaimed. (Emphasis added).

Please, if you are follower of Camping, quit now! Follow Christ and the Bible instead. Also please note: I am far more accurate in my predictions about how Camping will respond when he is wrong than he is in the return of Christ, arrival of Judgment Day, end of the world, the rapture, etc.

Proverbs 12:15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
      But he who heeds counsel is wise.