A Merciful God Who Doesn’t Clear the Guilty

Throughout the Bible, there is a seeming paradox: God is holy and just, but He is also loving and forgiving. God declares these things to be true about Himself in Exodus 34. He tells Moses that He is a “merciful and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love” (Exodus 34:6). But He also says that He will by no means clear the guilty (Exodus 34:7). We are left with the question: how can God be gracious, loving, and merciful, while also being a just, holy, fair judge of the guilty?

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Why Manna? God’s Grace Displayed in Our Grumbling

In Exodus 16, the word “grumbling” is used eight times to describe Israel’s response to their hunger. It is easy to accuse them of lacking gratitude and faith, but I am afraid I would’ve been among their number. They watched God rescue them from slavery in Egypt with signs and wonders, yet they find themselves in the wilderness without food.

What was their response? They grumbled. They complained. They reminisced on how good the food was in their Egyptian slavery. They questioned all that God had done for them and wondered whether it was Him who did it after all. They blamed Moses, “you have brought us out into the wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger” (Ex 16:3).

Israel’s grumbling is not the response we expect when we read the story, especially right after God’s miraculous provision of water. But perhaps we should expect it. If we are honest, we probably would have grumbled too. But that’s good news. Because God’s responds in grace and provides for their needs.

In v. 4-8, God promised to send meat (quail) in the evening followed by bread in the morning. This bread was called “manna.” When Moses reveals this promise to the people, He begins by telling them that God “has heard your grumbling.” God responds to the people’s need without them asking. There isn’t a prayer uttered in this chapter. Just grumbling. Complaining. Blaming others. Yet God knew what His people needed. And He gave it to them. They were undeserving, yet He gave it to them. Why? Because He loves them. That’s grace!

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The Center and Core of the Whole Bible

I’ve been reading through Ned Stonehouse’s biography of J. Gresham Machen, the conservative New Testament professor at Princeton Seminary who stood against the liberal theology that was making inroads in the Presbyterian Church of America in the 1920s and 1930s.

Throughout the Book, Stonehouse highlights key sections from Machen’s works. In one of them, titled What is Faith?, Stonehouse recounts where Machen clearly sets forth what he believes to be the “center and core” of the whole Bible: the grace of God. And I couldn’t agree more. He writes,

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Why Did Jesus Say “I Thirst” On the Cross? A Sermon on John 19:28-29

I had the privilege of preaching the Good Friday sermon at our home church in Raleigh this year. When I was asked to preach, I was told that I would be continuing a series of the last seven words of Jesus, and the words that I would preach would be the words “I thirst” recorded in John 19:28. At first glance, I wondered how I could preach an entire sermon on these words. But as I continued to study them, I wondered how I could preach only one sermon on these words! What I found as I studied made this my favorite sermon I’ve preached to date. I wanted to share it here as well as my sermon transcript in case anyone would rather read it. However, please be aware that I try to write my manuscripts as I will preach them, so the verbiage/writing style may not be top-notch English!

[Transcript: “I Thirst”; John 19:28-29]

If you knew you had just a few hours left to live, who would you want to talk to, and what words would you say? I would assume that most of us would want to speak to those we love, and we would want to offer words that express our love, that give comfort, and maybe even direction. When people have this opportunity- to think through and speak their “last words,” it can have a great impact. These words are remembered and cherished by those who hear them. Yet they also have the effect of revealing the heart of the person speaking them- who they love, what their hopes and fears are, whether they are content, joyful, or afraid.

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The Red Sea: Salvation is of the Lord

redsea

Two sets of water. Two miracles. Two fundamental lessons on salvation.

The parting of the Red Sea and the Jordan River are much more than neat miracle stories. They are central events in the unfolding drama of redemption that proclaim who God is and the nature of His salvation. In this post, I will discuss one fundamental lesson of salvation revealed in the first of these events.

The Red Sea

Imagine the scene at the Red Sea: God had promised to lead His people out of slavery in Egypt and into land he promised to give Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Through many miraculous signs and wonders, God moved the stubborn heart of Pharaoh to momentarily allow Israel to leave. In dramatic fashion, the people evacuate Egypt, Pharaoh changes his mind and pursues Israel, and Israel seems to be trapped by the impassibility of the Red Sea. Their first thought isn’t to turn to God for help (easy to judge, but unfortunately we often do the same), but to complain and grumble against Moses and declare that they were better off in Egypt (see Exodus 14:10-12). Moses responds, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today” (Exod. 14:13).

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Putting on the Armor, Chuck Lawless

 

puttingonthearmorBefore reading Putting on the Armor, I must confess that I often viewed the “armor of God” passage in Ephesians 6 as somewhat irrelevant. In a way, I knew it was probably important, but it seemed to be no more than a descriptive metaphor for walking with God, something I could easily skim over and get the point. I remember hearing a small handful of sermons or talks on the subject that seemed to trivialize the description of the armor. These talks of “praying on the armor” or “which piece of the armor are you missing?” trivialized the concepts of the passage so much that it had a negative effect on how I viewed the relevance of the verses. Dr. Lawless’ book has changed my view on the concept of the “armor” by providing me with an accurate view of the passage as a whole, helping me understand each individual piece of armor, and walking me through how to “wear” the armor in everyday life.

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Paradox in Cost Counting

Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be my disciple…For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?” -Luke 15:27-28

In the past, every time I came across one of Jesus’ statements like this, I trembled. Was I really bearing my own cross? Was I truly following Him? At the same time, I was afraid of the immensity of the call of giving up everything to follow Him. Is it really worth it?

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A Glimpse Inside God’s Heart: Hosea 11:1-12

[Sermon Transcript]

Here at Living Hope Church we have been looking at the book of Hosea, and studying the incredible truth that our relationship with God is like a marriage. Every other analogy of how God relates to us: king to subjects, potter to clay, even father to child, falls short of describing what He is after in a relationship with us.

However, sometimes our relationship is more like a bad marriage than a good one, and so it was with Israel. But we have seen over and over again, that any deficiencies in our marriage with Him are always caused by us, yet He continues to pursue us, woo us, and shower us with His love. We saw earlier in the sermon series that God conveys this truth to us by commanding the prophet Hosea to marry a prostitute and remain faithful to her even in her unfaithfulness to Him, and thus demonstrate God’s faithful love to us.

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Six Key Benefits of the Necessary Evangelism Component in Discipleship

Yes. I am afraid. Every time I begin to share about Jesus with someone, millions of thoughts run through my head about how I may offend or be received wrongly. Have you ever felt the same?

This is the log jam in the discipleship process and to fulfilling the Great Commission: evangelism. Sharing our faith. Why? Often times it is because we haven’t seen it modeled, or haven’t been taught “how.” Even in our rigorous attempts at discipleship have not fixed the problem, because discipleship has come to be regarded as a practice without the necessary component of evangelism training or practice. However, treating evangelism as a necessary part of discipleship helps to grow mature disciples, and is absolutely necessary. I read a great article recently highlighting 6 reasons why. Here they are: Continue reading “Six Key Benefits of the Necessary Evangelism Component in Discipleship”

Coming to the Blood of Jesus -Spurgeon

and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”    – Hebrews 12:24

Reader, have you come to the blood of sprinkling? The question is not whether you have come to a knowledge of doctrine, or an observance of ceremonies, or to a certain form of experience, but have you come to the blood of Jesus?
The blood of Jesus is the life of all vital godliness. If you have truly come to Jesus, we know how you came–the Holy Spirit sweetly brought you there. You came to the blood of sprinkling with no merits of your own. Guilty, lost, and helpless, you came to take that blood, and that blood alone, as your everlasting hope. You came to the cross of Christ, with a trembling and an aching heart; and oh! what a precious sound it was to you to hear the voice of the blood of Jesus! Continue reading “Coming to the Blood of Jesus -Spurgeon”