In the Hands of the Potter

Since God is sovereign, including over the trials we experience, to reject trials is to reject His will for us. The Potter and the Clay is an object lesson God used to teach this truth to His people. Jeremiah 18:1-3 records:

The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying: “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause you to hear My words.” Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel.

More than likely Jeremiah had passed the potter’s house many times in his lifetime, but now God told him to pay a visit.

The Potter, the Clay, and the Wheel

Isaiah 64:8b says:

We are the clay, and You our potter;
And all we are the work of Your hand.

As Jeremiah watched the potter work, he learned how we should respond to God’s work in our lives. In 2 Corinthians 4:7 Paul called us “earthen vessels.” This is fitting since God “formed [us] of the dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:7a). When experiencing trials, probably more than any other time, we recognize the fragile nature of our “clay” bodies. Job especially noticed this during his suffering: “Remember, I pray, that You have made me like clay. And will You turn me into dust again?” (Job 10:9; see also Job 4:19). Continue reading “In the Hands of the Potter”

Reformation Day and the Five Solas

Unfortunately, Halloween comes to mind when many people think of October 31st. This date actually looks back on one of the most dramatic moments in church history. On this day in 1517 Martin Luther nailed his list of grievances against the Catholic Church to the door of a chapel in Wittenberg, Germany. These Ninety-Five Theses became the catalyst for the Reformation, which produced the Five Solas.

Martin Luther spoke one of my favorite quotes when the Catholic Church threatened to excommunicate him. He said:

Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the Popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.

The Catholic Church was unable to defend their false teaching with Scripture or respond to Luther’s criticisms. On May 25, 1521 Luther was declared an outlaw and his literature was banned. The Catholic Church said, “We want him to be apprehended and punished as a notorious heretic.” It was a crime for anyone in Germany to give him food or shelter.

Jesus said, “I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). It’s hard to argue there are more significant fulfillments of this promise than the victory God produced through Martin Luther. When October 31st rolls around each year we would do well to think not of Halloween, but of the Reformation and the Five Solas.

In honor of the Reformation I want to provide a brief summary of each of the Five Solas…

1. The Five Solas: Sola Fide—“Faith Alone”

This excludes any works from being necessary for salvation. Justification – or being declared righteous by God – is received by faith only, apart from anything man can do. At the time the Catholic Church emphasized the use of indulgences (donated money) to purchase status, and even forgiveness, with God. Works, such as baptism and other sacraments, were seen as required for salvation. Continue reading “Reformation Day and the Five Solas”

5 Reasons Deborah Supports Male Leadership

Judges were Israel’s primary rulers for almost three-and-a-half centuries. They also commanded armies, making them some of Scripture’s strongest leaders. So why did Deborah serve as judge? Her position is often the first mentioned to support female leadership. Does she conflict with God’s pattern of male leadership? Let’s take a look!

1. There’s no mention of Deborah being appointed by God

Throughout the book of Judges, as men rise to leadership, verses identify them as chosen or empowered by God:

  • Judges 3:9—The Lord raised up a deliverer . . . Othniel.
  • Judges 3:15—The Lord raised up a deliverer . . . Ehud.
  • Judges 6:14—The Lord [said to Gideon], “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel . . . Have I not sent you?”
  • Judges 11:29—The Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah.
  • Judges 13:24–25—Samson . . . grew and the Lord blessed him. And the Spirit of the Lord began to move upon him.

But with Deborah there is no recognition of God’s appointing. Judges 4:4 simply says, “Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, was judging Israel at that time.” Her introduction emphasizes that she is female, but in a negative light. Wayne Grudem, co-founder of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, explains in Evangelical Feminism & Biblical Truth (p. 134): Continue reading “5 Reasons Deborah Supports Male Leadership”

Male Leadership Is God’s Pattern

The pattern of male leadership and headship in the community of faith began at creation. Then it’s maintained throughout Scripture:

  • There were patriarchs instead of matriarchs.
  • The tribes of Israel were named after men.
  • The only legitimate mediators between God and people were men (i.e., priests instead of priestesses).
  • God appointed kings instead of queens.
  • God called men to be the focal points of His covenants with mankind (i.e., Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus).

So why do we see examples of female leadership in Scripture? What about queens, prophetesses, at least one female judge—Deborah? Were these women an anomaly? Are they examples of rebellion against God’s design, or is there another explanation? To answer these questions, with the exception of Deborah who I discussed in a separate post, let’s look at them individually.

Queens Support God’s Pattern of Male Leadership

Scripture mentions three prominent queens, and they fall into two categories:

  1. Jezebel (1 Kings 16–22; 2 Kings 9) and Athaliah (2 Kings 8, 11) were evil women who seized control and became tyrannical leaders. Jezebel instituted the worship of the false god Baal across Israel and persecuted followers of Yahweh. Athaliah murdered her grandchildren upon the death of her son and then seized the throne of Judah. Clearly, neither woman serves as a good example.
  2. Esther stands in contrast as a godly queen. She supported male leadership through her submission first to her adopted father, Mordecai, and then to her husband, King Xerxes of Persia. In doing so, God used her to save her entire people from annihilation (Esther 5:1–8, 8:1–8).

Priestesses Support God’s Pattern of Male Leadership

Under the Mosaic Covenant, only men could be priests because they were the teachers: “[The priests] may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord has spoken” (Leviticus 10:11).

When female priestesses are mentioned, they are associated with pagan religions such as the worship of Astarte or Baal. Wayne Grudem, co-founder of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, explains in Evangelical Feminism & Biblical Truth (p. 82):

Think of the Bible as a whole, from Genesis to Revelation. Where is there one example in the entire Bible of a woman publicly teaching an assembled group of God’s people? There is none.

Prophetesses Support God’s Pattern of Male Leadership

Continue reading “Male Leadership Is God’s Pattern”

5 Christian reminders for the 4th of July

The 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays, because of the Christian reminders that come with it.

1. The 4th of of July can remind us that our nation was founded by men who recognized God was their Creator.

The 4th of July celebrates the adopting of the Declaration of Independence by Congress on July 4, 1776. The document begins with Thomas Jefferson’s famous words:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

There’s quite a bit to notice from this one sentence:

  1. The words, “all men are CREATED equal” reveal Thomas Jefferson did not believe in evolution.
  2. Thomas Jefferson believed men have a “Creator.”
  3. With the words, “endowed by their Creator” Thomas Jefferson gave credit to God for the “Rights” we have. He called them “unalienable” because he knew they were given by God and couldn’t be taken away.

Thomas Jefferson saw the authority for our freedom and liberty coming from God Himself.

2. The 4th of July can remind us of our true freedom.

I’m thankful for independence from Great Britain. But I’m more thankful for the greater independence Jesus has given us from the Law:

  • Romans 10:4—Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
  • Galatians 3:24-25—Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.

Our independence from the Law motivated Martin Luther to take a stand for the Gospel. The freedom we have as Americans is great, but the infinitely greater freedom we have is from having to be saved by works.

3. The 4th of July can remind us of our dual-citizenship.

Continue reading “5 Christian reminders for the 4th of July”

3 Blessings When Choosing God Over Family

There aren’t many situations more difficult for Christians to face than those involving choosing God over family. Consider the following:

  • A loved one claims to be a believer but wants to marry an unbeliever. So you’re unable to support the relationship.
  • Family members invite your child to stay with them, but you know they’ll be a negative influence on them. So you have to decline.
  • A relative is living in habitual sin and you have to confront the person.

There are examples in the Old Testament of individuals having to choose God over family members. For example, Moses called for the execution of the individuals responsible for the Golden Calf. This meant some Israelites had to kill their own relatives. Exodus 32:27 says:

“Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘Let every man put his sword on his side, and go in and out from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.’”

King Asa was one of the greatest reformers in the Old Testament. When he purged the idolatry from the land, he had to punish even his own grandmother. 1 Kings 15:13 records:

[Asa] removed Maachah his grandmother from being queen mother, because she had made an obscene image of Asherah.

In both of these situations it would’ve been very easy for those involved to choose loved ones over God.

Jesus is the premier teacher and example when it comes to choosing God over family

Jesus said, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37; see also Luke 14:26). He taught the closest relationships in His life weren’t with His physical family, but His spiritual family. Matthew 12:46-50 records:

While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

I tend to think God is repetitive when He wants to make sure we don’t miss something. This account occurs in each synoptic gospel; it’s also in Mark 3:31-35 and Luke 8:19-21. Jesus minimized His earthly relationships to emphasize His spiritual relationships were with those who obey His Father. Continue reading “3 Blessings When Choosing God Over Family”

Three Reasons Christianity Is the Opposite of Other Religions

Christianity is the opposite of other religions, and the main difference is contained in a few profound words Abraham spoke to his son, Isaac. Genesis 22:7 and 8:

Isaac said, “Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”
Abraham replied, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.”

1. Christianity is the opposite of other religions, because God provided the Sacrifice

For a moment, consider the absurdity of Abraham’s words: “God will provide His own lamb for sacrifice. He will provide what’s necessary to worship Him.”

This doesn’t make sense. Religion is about what man does. At the heart of every religion is an individual providing a sacrifice. That’s what makes it worship. A sacrifice that doesn’t involve any sacrifice isn’t really be a sacrifice. Yet God can be worshiped even though He provided the sacrifice.

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Abraham prophetically said God would provide the Lamb for Himself. John the Baptist saw Jesus as the fulfillment of this prophecy: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

2. Christianity is the opposite of other religions, because God did the work

In other works-based religions, even those that claim to be Christian, people do the work. But in Christianity God has done the work. This doesn’t just make Christianity different than other religions. This is why Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30).

The Tower of Babel was the first organized rebellion against God. It also serves as a good picture of all false, works-based religions. The people said, “Come, let us build a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves” (Genesis 11:3).

  • Other religions are about man reaching up to God. The people say, “Let us…”
  • Christianity is about God reaching down to man. God says, “I will…”

God did this so dramatically He actually became a Man in the Person of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul explained it like this in Philippians 2:6-8:

Though [Jesus] was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

3. Christianity is the opposite of other religions, because God did the propitiating

Propitiation is a gift, offering, or sacrifice meant to turn away the wrath of an offended individual. The closest English words are appeasing, expiating, placating, pacifying, or satisfying. In other religions, the responsibility for propitiating is on man. Although, whenever propitiation is discussed in Scripture, it always discusses what God did for man:

  • Romans 3:25 [Jesus] whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood.
  • Hebrews 2:17 In all things He had to be made like His brethren…to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
  • 1 John 2:2 He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.
  • 1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

In other religions man puts forth the effort, brings the sacrifice, provides the offering, etc. But in Christianity, like Abraham prophesied, “God provides for Himself the Lamb.” The Lord did what was necessary to turn away His own wrath, by pouring it out on His Son, Jesus Christ.

God provided the only sacrifice that could ever satisfy Him

To go a step further, not only did God provide the sacrifice, He actually became the sacrifice. To tie it back to the typology between Isaac and Jesus, like Isaac was willing to become the sacrifice, Jesus was willing to become the sacrifice. This is why Jesus is called the Lamb OF God. He is the Lamb God provided.

If we made propitiation for our sins:

  • It would be about us showing our love for God.
  • It would allow us to be prideful and take credit for our salvation.

But the way God did it reveals His love for us and leaves Him with all the credit and glory. This is why Christianity is the opposite of other religions. This is why only in biblical Christianity does God receive all the glory and praise. It is not about what what we have done for God. It is about God, and what He has done for us.

Discuss: 

  • Do you often think about what you need to do for God, or do you think about what God has done for you?
  • When you think about what God has done for you, in what ways should that affect your life?

I discussed all of this in greater detail in this sermon: Genesis 22:5-8: A Father’s Love.

Generational curses: are children punished for their parents’ sins?

If you’ve been in the church for any length of time, you’ve probably heard generational curses discussed. There are two conflicting opinions:

  • God punishes children for the sins of their parents.
  • God doesn’t punish children for the sins of their parents.

Why the confusion?

Verses seem to support and argue against generational curses…

Exodus 20:5, 34:7, Numbers 14:18, and Deuteronomy 5:9 indicate God punishes children for the sins of their parents:

You shall not bow down to [idols] nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me.

Other such as Deuteronomy 24:16 and Ezekiel 18:2-4, 20 indicate God doesn’t punish children for the sins of their parents:

Ezekiel 18:2-4, 20 The LORD says, “What do you mean by this proverb, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? This proverb shall no more be used. Behold, the soul who sins shall die…The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father…the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.

The people said they were punished (their teeth were bad: “set on edge”), because of their parents’ sins (the “sour grapes” they ate). God said, “Don’t say this anymore. You’ll be punished for your own sins!”

So which is it? Continue reading “Generational curses: are children punished for their parents’ sins?”

Don’t be discouraged when confused by Scripture!

Every Christian has been confused by Scripture at times. Here’s part of a message I received from someone after a study I taught:

Last week, I took the entire chapter [from the study], copied it to Word, and then made spaces for notes. I thought I was prepared. But I wasn’t as prepared as I was hoping. I will just keep working on it.

I can tell the person was discouraged, and this is something I’ve encountered regularly. Here are two passages that should discourage us from being discouraged:

  1. “Our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand“(2 Peter 3:15-16). The Apostle Peter himself read Paul’s letters and found them difficult to understand at times.
  2. “Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating” (1 Peter 1:10-11). The prophets were given the very words of God. Even they had to “inquire” and “search carefully” to understand the revelation in each other’s writings.

Why does God allow certain parts of Scripture to be confusing?

God’s Word offers wisdom that can’t be found anywhere else. This makes it unbelievably valuable and reveals why it is is compared with precious jewels: Continue reading “Don’t be discouraged when confused by Scripture!”

The One Thing to Avoid When Judging

marriage-gods-way-author-scott-lapierre-judgingIn Matthew 7:1 Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” Last post, 3 Truths About Judgingdiscussed what this verse is not saying: judging is wrong. So what is it saying? The primary rule for interpreting Scripture is to look at context. Let the Bible be the commentary on the Bible. Matthew 7:2 says:

For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 

We will be judged with the same standard we use with others

If you judge someone for doing something, you better make sure you don’t do it. If you judge people for:

  • Lying, you better not lie
  • Losing their tempers, you better not lose your temper
  • Being late late, you better be on time
  • Watching or listening to things they shouldn’t, you better not watch or listen to anything compromising
  • Gossiping, you better not gossip
  • Not serving, you better be a servant

There’s nothing wrong with saying something is sin, but there is something wrong with saying something is sin while committing the same sin yourself. It’s similar to Romans 2:1: Continue reading “The One Thing to Avoid When Judging”