ESV Bible

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Mid Week Book Buzz 12/23/14

Well, Christmas is just around the corner, and books certainly make for great gifts. Here are some great deals you can download as gifts.

1. Strange Fire by John MacArthur $3.99 print price: $22.99  If you are looking for a response to John MacArthur's Strange Fire you can download Authentic Fire by Michael Brown (not on sale).

2. Ordinary by Michael Horton $3.99 print price: $15.99

3. The End For Which God Created the World by Jonathan Edwards $1.99 print price: 10.99

4. Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary by J.D. Greear $2.99 print price: $14.99

5. The Lion and the Lamb by L. Scott Kellum $2.99 print price: $39.99

6. A Case for Christ by Lee Strobel $2.99 print price: $15.99

7. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis $4.99 print price: $14.99

8. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis $2.99 print price: $26.95

9. Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis 1.99 print price: 11.99

10. Connected by Erin Davis $2.99 print price: $14.99

11. The Pastor in Prayer by Charles Spurgeon $1.99 print price: $9.99

12. Lectures to my Students by Charles Spurgeon $.99 print price: $12.95

13. Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life by Michael Kelly $.99 print price: $14.99

14. Everyday Prayers: 365 Days to Gospel-Centered Faith by Scotty Smith $3.99 print price: $15.99

15. Desperate: Hope for Mom who Needs to Breathe by Sarah Mae $2.99 print price: $16.99

16. Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas $2.99 print price: $14.99

17. Joni & Ken: An Untold Love Story by Joni Eareckson Tada 2.99 print price: 18.99

18. Gifted Hands by Ben Carson $2.99 print price: $7.99

19. To The Ends of The Earth: Calvin's Missional Vision and Legacy by Michael Haykin $.99 print price: $15.99

20. The Poverty of Nations by Wayne Grudem $3.99 print price: $30.00

21. What's Your Worldview by James Anderson $.99 print price: $10.99

22. Bloodlines by John Piper $.99 print price: $22.99

23. The Story of Christianity Vol. 1 by Luis Gonzalez $3.99 print price: N/A

24. The Story of Christianity Vol. 2 by Luis Gonzalez $3.99 print price: $25.99

25. History of the Christian Church (All 8 Volumes)  by Philip Schaff $2.99 print price: N/A

26. Preaching: The Art of Narrative Exposition by Calvin Miller $1.99 print price: $19.00

27. Theologians of the Baptist Tradition by Timothy George $2.99 print price: $39.99

28. The Distinctives of Baptist Covenant Theology by Pascal Denault $3.99 print price: $18.00

29. Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi $3.99 print price: $16.99

30. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis $1.99 print price: $6.99

31. Deliver Us From Me-Ville by David Zimmerman FREE print price: $13.99 has some FREE books this week on top of the 200+ free books you can download at anytime.

32. Sermons on the Sixth Chapter of Romans by Thomas Manton FREE

33. Twenty Sermons on Important Passages of Scripture by Thomas Manton FREE 

34. The Jonah Complex: Rediscovering the Outrageous Grace of God by Greg Haslam FREE print price: $14.99

35. The Institutes of Christian Religion by John Calvin FREE

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Liberals

Last week I was helping out a friend with some of his books that he was mailing back to Japan. He was an international student at Trinity and had just finished his final semester. He was excited to go back to Japan and begin his pastoral internship at the church his father started.

I was so happy for him. His father had passed away years ago, and he was finally able to finish Bible College, just like his dad.

As we were driving, we somehow got onto the conversation of distinguishing between liberals and conservatives.

In the US, 90% of the time when we talk about liberals and conservatives, we are referring to Republicans and Democrats. Many times we are trying to distinguish between those of us who might believe in "big" government or "small" government. Some of us use these terms to distinguish between those who have traditional values and those who might have "a more progressive view" of morality.

It's also common to use these terms in religious circles. The interesting thing is that the meaning of these words often become so ambiguous that no one really knows exactly what you mean when you say "conservative or a liberal."

We throw these terms around in Christianity as well. I see lay Christians labeling other believers liberals who drink and smoke or watch TV and go to the movie theater. Others may label certain theological persuasions, such as Calvinism or Arminianism as conservative or liberal.

Most of the time I see Christians equate those who are pro-choice with the label "liberal."

While I'm sure you can "make a case" for how you label "liberals" on most social issues, it might be a little harder to pinpoint a theological liberalism.

Theological liberals are very hard to spot because they cloak themselves with the title, "Christian", but in truth their "true colors" resemble little to nothing of Jesus. They fly flags of love and acceptance and secretly rip out pages of the Bible that don't fit into their worldview.

Theological liberals wear a very dangerous utility belt. At any given moment they might shoot you with a dart of rationalism, or spray you with a can of logic. They come versed in the art of "thesaurus smacking."  They usually carry a the dagger of philosophy that can cause very hurtful wounds if unattended.

While this utility belt is not evil in and of itself, it is missing the most important weapon of all, THE SWORD OF THE SPIRIT!

Some theological liberals do carry the sword of the spirit with them, but they either don't know how to use it, or they don't understand how it truly functions. When it comes to it's use, for some reason they ALWAYS twist it!

Col. 2:8 says, "See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ."

So, watch out for those who say there is no Hell. Watch out for those who say there is more than one way to God. Watch out for those who pick parts of Scripture to believe and pick parts to ignore. Watch out for those that add requirements to salvation. Watch out for those who conveniently skip over sin, death, and judgement. Watch out for those who are really out to promote themselves instead of Jesus!

Our Pastor has been preaching through the book of Acts (just scroll down past the Advent sermons and you will see them) these last couple of months. In Acts 8 we are introduced to a character known as Simon the Sorcerer.  The narrative explains that Simon was astonished at what the disciples could do, and seemed to even follow them until his true heart came to light when he tried to buy (with money) the power of receiving the Spirit. Hebrews 6 is a great example of this type of person...a person whose mind may have been opened to the works of Christ, but whose heart was never changed.

John Bunyan wrote about these men and women in his famous book, The Pilgrim's Progress (get a free copy here). When he is at the House of the Interpreter, he sees a "man in an iron cage." Here is the conversation they have:

Christian: What wast thou once?

Man: I was once a fair and flourishing Professor, both in mine own eyes, and also in the eyes of others; I once was, as I thought, fair for the Celestial City, and had then even joy at the thoughts that I should get thither.

Christian: Well, but what art thou now?

Man: I am now a man of Despair, and am shut up in it, in this Iron Cage. I cannot get out; O now I cannot.

Christian: But how camest thou in this condition?

Man: I left off to watch and be sober; I laid the reins upon the neck of my lusts; I sinned against the light of the Word and the goodness of God; I have grieved the Spirit, and he is gone; I tempted the Devil, and he is come to me; I have provoked God to anger, and he has left me; I have so hardened my heart, that I cannot repent.

Christian: Is there no hope, but you must be kept in the Iron Cage of Despair?

Man: No, none at all.

False teachers, theological liberals, and heretics are everywhere, they even get their own TV shows on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

1 Peter 5:8 says, "Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowl around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour."

James 1:5-8 says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways."

Be Edified!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mid Week Book Buzz 12/15/14

This week's Mid Week Book Buzz has some repeats. As you scroll through the books you will see The Jesus Storybook Bible (#27)  is back. Proof (#9) is on the list again.

There are some great theology books on sale this week. Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology (#11) seems like the BEST deal of the week.

D.A. Carson is the featured author of the week with 4 books on sale (#4-7). Michael Horton has some books on sale as well.  (#13-15 & 31). I'd recommend picking up Elyse Fitzpatrick's Comforts From the Cross (#25).

Don't forget about the 200 books Monergism has to download for FREE!

1. Strange Fire by John MacArthur $3.99 print price: $22.99

2. Finding Faithful Elders & Deacons by Thabiti Anyabwile $.99 print price: $10.99

3. Not by Sight by Jon Bloom $2.52 print price: $12.99

4. The Cross and Christian Ministry by D.A. Carson $1.99 print price: $13.99

5. Telling the Truth by D.A. Carson $5.98 print price: N/A

6. Worship by the Book by D.A. Carson $5.98 print price: $16.99

7.. Scandalous by D.A. Carson $.99 print price: $15.99

8. Conduct Gospel-Centered Funerals by Brian Croft $.99 print price: $10.00

9. Proof: Finding Freedom through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistable Grace by Timothy Paul Jones $2.99 print price: $16.99

10. Historical Theology by Gregg Allison $6.99 print price: $44.99

11. Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem $14.99 print price: $49.99

12. Christian Beliefs by Wayne Grudem $5.99 print price: $14.99

13. Pilgrim Theology by Michael Horton $7.99 print price: $34.99

14. A Place for Weakness by Michael Horton $5.98 print price: N/A

15. Ordinary by Michael Horton $3.99 print price: $15.99

16. The Trinitarian Devotion of John Owen by Sinclair Ferguson $5.76 print price: $16.00

17. Why Christ Came by Joel Beeke $4.99 print price: $10.00

18. The Power of Suffering by John MacArthur $2.99 print price: $14.99

19. Praying Backwards by Bryan Chapell $3.99 print price: $16.99

20. Everyday Prayers by Scotty Smith $3.99 print price: $15.99

21. The Great Exchange by Jerry Bridges $1.99 print price: $17.99

22. Who Am I? Identity in Christ by Jerry Bridges $5.78 print price: $9.99

23. The Cross and Salvation by Bruce Demarest $2.99 print price: $45.00

24. What's So Amazing about Grace? by Philip Yancey $2.99 print price: $14.99

25. Comforts from the Cross by Elyse Fitzpatrick $.99 print price: $14.99

26. How God Became Jesus by Michael Bird $4.99 print price: $16.99

27. The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd Jones $1.99 print price: $16.99

28. The Unbelievable Gospel by Jonathan Dodson $3.99 print price: $16.99

29. A Cross-Shattered Church by Stanley Hauerwas $2.51 print price: $20.00

30. Battle Ready by Steve Farrar FREE print price: $15.99

31. The Gospel Driven Life by Michael Horton $2.99 print price: $17.00

32. Taking Christian Moral Thought Seriously by Jeremy Evans $.99 print price: $24.99

33. Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas $2.99 print price: $14.99

34. But Don't All Religions Lead to God? by Michael Green $.99 print price: $9.99

35. A Place of Healing by Joni Eareckson Tada $2.51 print price: $21.99

36. A Case for Amillennialism by Kim Riddlebarger $5.68 print price: $21.99

Pastor Aaron's Recommendations from Sunday

37. Morning & Evening by Charles Spurgeon $.99 print price: $11.97

38. Everyone's A Theologian by R.C. Sproul $8.99 print price: $19.00

39. Doctrine Matters (paperback) by John Piper $8.99

Monday, December 15, 2014


The other day, my son asked me why some people refer to Christmas as X-mas. My wife immediately responded by saying that it had something to do with the fact that some people don't want to celebrate Christ at Christmas time. That is probably true to a some extent, however, I offered an alternate explanation to my son.

I told him that the X in Church history was commonly used to represent Christ. X is the Greek letter "chi." Often among early Christians, the X was just a way of saying Christ in shorthand.

This morning as I was surfing through my news feed, I stumbled upon this article by R.C. Sproul on this exact topic. Click here for the article.

So why bring this topic up?

Holidays seem to always post conundrums for Christians. Our pastor told us that if we really traced back the historical roots of why we celebrate Christmas in December we would find out that they are more pagan than they are Christian.

What's funny is that when we trace back the historical roots of Halloween, we find out that they are more Christian than they are pagan.

Kinda funny...not funny "haha"...funny weird or ironic!

In listening to my pastor speak about these issues, he said something that has stuck with me, and I hope this is something you will consider when you are making decisions on how to celebrate holidays as well.

Our focus as Christians should be to REDEEM every day, whether it's a holiday or not, but especially on holidays.

Each day is a new day that we get to proclaim the GOSPEL. No matter where something comes from, the whole point of Christianity is to make the GOSPEL the center of our living.

I'm reminded of what Joseph said to his brothers when he revealed his identity to them in Egypt. In Genesis 50:20 he said to them, "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good..."

Satan intends to take this world and the things in it to do evil against us, but God takes everything in our lives and uses them for our good (Romans 8:28).

Let's put legalism aside and REDEEM the season for the GOSPEL!

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Thinking on Ephesians 1:7-10 Part 4

Eph. 1:7-10

"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth." - ESV

When we study redemption, and forgiveness, and grace, we are studying the GOSPEL. The gospel reveals the purpose and will of Christ.

There is no greater knowledge than the knowledge that we have been redeemed by our Creator back to himself. He has rescued us from sin and death and brought us into his family as sons and daughters.

The word "mystery" in Greek (mysterion) refers to the revelation of something that was previously hidden or known only vaguely, but now is more fully made known. Kyle Snodgrass tells us, "Whereas in modern usage mystery refers to what is unknown, in Jewish and early Christian literature this word refers to the hidden divine plan now revealed by God."

What is this "mystery" that Paul speaks of? Verse 10 answers part of this question for us. Uniting all things to him...things in heaven and things on earth.

Paul gives us more clarity about this "mystery" in Colossians 1:26-27, which says, "...the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory."

We will see this "mystery" mentioned again in Ephesians 3:3-6. Verse 6 specifically says that this "mystery" is that "the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel."

The "mystery" has been revealed!  CHRIST is the revelation of this mystery! It is that we live in a divided, defeated, sin-laden world, but ultimately this world will be rescued through CHRIST. The salvation we have in Christ makes us heirs to God's great inheritance (Romans 8:17), members of the universal church, and partakers in the promise!

John MacArthur puts it this way, "Jesus Christ is the goal of history, which finds its resolution in Him. The paradise lost in Adam is restored in Christ."

Eventually this world, as we know it, will come to an end, and the entire universe will kneel before Christ (Phil. 2:10), and creation will be united under Christ.

These verses point directly to the truth that our redemption is both present and future! We are completely redeemed from sin and death right now, but all of creation will be redeemed when Christ returns!

What I also love about this passage is that we read that God's plan from the beginning was to reveal Christ to us. The text says that he revealed this "mystery" according to his purpose.

God chose to reveal Christ to you. This wasn't something you figured out on your own. You didn't stumble upon some hidden truth randomly. It wasn't because of your lifelong journey, and effort that you found God, NO...God found you! He revealed himself to you!

John 6:44 says, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them." You were selected by the Creator of the world to have the greatest knowledge in the world!

It all goes back to God's Grace! God chose to reveal his son to us and save us! He set is amazing favor on us and revealed the greatest mystery known to man...election, adoption, justification, sanctification, and glorification all through the death and resurrection of His son.

And some day He will return to unite all things to himself. How great and marvelous is our God!

Monday, December 08, 2014

Mid Week Book Buzz 12/9/14

I hope everyone is having a great start to the week. Let me highlight some of the books this week for you. Grab the two FREE books #17 and #39

There are some John MacArthur books on sale: The Gospel According to Jesus #32, Why Believe the Bible #31 and the MacArthur Study Bible is #48-49.

The Jesus Storybook Bible is on sale again for $1.99, it's #36. Give Them Grace by Elyse Fitspatrick #44 is on sale for $.99, my wife loves this book, and our church has endorsed this book a couple different times.

Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart #28 is back on sale for $2.99. It's a great book to finally grasp the assurance of your salvation.

If you need a primer on Reformed Theology, grab What is Reformed Theology? #29 by R.C. Sproul.

Monergism recently came out with another list of over 200 FREE ebooks to download. Click here for the list.

Take some time and shop. Click on the books and read the descriptions.

Be Edified!

1. The World of Jesus by William Marty $6.50 print price: $12.99

2. Reckless Abandon by David Sitton $.99 print price: $13.99

3. Forgotton Songs by Ray Van Neste $2.99 print price: $19.99

4. Hope...The Best of Things by Joni Eareckson Tada $1.99 print price: $3.59

5. Lost and Found by Ed Stetzer $2.99 print price: $17.99

6. When Missions Shapes the Mission by David Horner $2.99 print price: $14.99

7. A Challenge to Great Commission Obedience by Jerry Rankin $2.99 print price: $14.99

8. Doxology and Theology by Mat Boswell $3.99 print price: $14.99

9. Theology and Practice of Mission by Bruce Ashford $2.99 print price: $25.99

10. Ten Who Changed the World by Daniel Akin $.99 print price: $14.99

11. An Infinite Journey by Andrew Davis $.99 print price: $19.99

12. Learning Evangelism from Jesus by Jerram Barrs $.99 print price: $18.99

13. That You May Know by Jacob Gerber $4.99 print price: $13.99

14. Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ by John Piper $4.99 print price: $9.99

15. The Dawning of Indestructible Joy by John Piper $3.99 print price: $7.99

16. Celebrating Christmas with Jesus by Max Lucado $1.99 print price: N/A

17. Farewell to Mars by Brian Zahnd FREE print price: $14.99

18. Bible Promises For Women by Crossway $3.03 print price: $5.99

19. When The Darkness Will Not Lift by John Piper $4.61 print price: $7.99

20. All of Grace by Charles Spurgeon $2.99 print price: $7.99

21. Proof: Finding Freedom through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistable Grace by Timothy Paul Jones $2.99 print price: $16.99

22. Love into Light by Peter Hubbard $.99 print price: $12.99

23. Christians in an Age of Wealth by Craig Blomberg $3.79 print price: $24.99

24. Exegetical Guide to the Greek NT: James by Chris Vlachos $2.99 print price: $24.99

25. Old Story New by Marty Machowski $3.82 print price: $19.99

26. What Do You Think of Me? by Edward Welch $2.51 print price: $12.99

27. The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken $2.80 print price: $14.99

28. Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart by JD Greear $2.99 print price: $12.99

29. What is Reformed Theology? by R.C. Sproul $2.51 print price: $16.99

30. Lectures on Calvinism by Abraham Kuyper $.99 print price: $9.99

31. Why Believe the Bible by John MacArthur $1.99 print price: $12.99

32. The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur $5.98 print price: $19.99

33. How to Study the Bible by John MacArthur $4.61 print price: $7.99

34. God's High Calling for Women by John MacArthur $4.61 print price: $7.99

35. Found: God's Will by John MacArthur $3.82 print price: $4.99

36. The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd Jones $1.99 print price: $16.99

37. HCSB Study Bible $2.99 print price: $49.99

38. The Christian's Great Interest by William Guthrie $.99 print price: $6.49

39. We're Just Friends and Other Dating Lies by Chuck Milian FREE print price: $15.99

40. One Perfect Life by John MacArthur $4.99 print price: $29.99

41. Note to Self by Joe Thorn $.99 print price: $10.99

42. Faithmapping by Daniel Montgomery $.99 print price: $15.99

43. Not by Sight by Jon Bloom $.99 print price: $12.99

44. Give Them Grace by Elyse Fitzpatrick $.99 print price: $14.99

45. Finding God in the Hobbit by Jim Ware $1.99 print price: $14.99

46. The MacArthur Bible Handbook by John MacArthur $4.99 print price: $29.99

47. The MacArthur Daily Bible by John MacArthur $4.99 print price: N/A

48. NASB MacArthur Study Bible by John MacArthur $4.99 print price: $74.99

49. ESV MacArthur Study Bible by John MacArthur $4.74 print price: $59.99

50. What Every Christian Ought to Know by Adrian Rogers $2.99 print price:$14.99

51. The Big Idea of Biblical Preaching by Keith Willhite $1.99 print price: $18.00

52. Ready for Reformation by Tom Nettles $.99 print price: $14.99

Thursday, December 04, 2014

The Song of Zechariah

I don't preach very often at church, but it is such a blessing to me when I get to. Pastor Aaron asked me to preach the first sermon in our series Advent: Songs For The Savior.

It was an honor and a privilege to serve BLDG28 Church by opening up the Word with them last Sunday.

Below is my sermon transcript if you'd like to read it. I hope that God's Word will speak to your heart and begin to prepare you for this Advent season.

Be Edified!

I don’t know about you, but I get very excited about the Advent season. I love all the fun traditions that our family has done over the years. I look forward to seeing my children’s faces when they open up their gifts, and I love sitting down to a big full, Christmas meal. I expect all of those things to happen. I expect for this season to be similar to last year.  Part of me has the expectation that this year is going to be better than last year.

Some of you might not have that sort of expectation this year. Some of you are looking at your lives and you are in the middle of a huge trial. Things at home are not what you want them to be. Relationships might be strained, people may be in the hospital, you are wondering if you are going to get over the flu in time to celebrate with your friends and family. 

But we expect that something good will happen because it’s Christmas, that Christmas miracle is bound to happen.

A couple nights ago, my son Ethan really built up my expectations.  

As we were driving home from a friend's house, he said, “Dad, when I get home, me and George are going to clean my room.” As soon as he said those words, I thought, “Wow, Louise and I are getting through to him. He is really beginning to mature."  At the same time I felt so proud of him for saying what he said. "What an incredibly giving and thoughtful attitude my 4 year old really has down deep.” 

Then just moments later, he says, “Just kidding, Just kidding.”

My next thought was, he must get that from his mother’s side of the what I really thought was, what a cruel joke.

For all you Georgia fans yesterday, that game was a cruel joke. I could have never imagined such a disappointing loss. I did not expect Georgia Tech to come up with the win.

Some of us build up expectations in our mind of what someone might buy me this year…are they really going to Jared’s or whether that special someone is going to “pop the question.”

When it doesn’t happen, we are filled with disappointment.

I heard Matt Chandler say, “All FRUSTRATION is birthed from unmet expectations.”

As we go into the Christmas season,  we need to set our minds on the right expectations…The Advent of Christ should be dominant in our minds and hearts, and our expectations should be centered on the promises of our God.

Today we are going to camp out in Luke 1, so if you have your Bible’s turn to Luke 1.

It’s important for us to keep in mind what Advent is all about.

The word “advent” simply means “arrival” or “appearance.” When we use the term in Christianity we are always referring to the coming of Christ. While many Christians celebrate the birth of Christ, the Christmas season is more than a celebration of Christ’s birth, it’s a celebration of his first coming, and all that Christ came to accomplish. As Christians we believe that someday there will be a second advent or second coming of Christ where he comes to gather his church and we will be with our Savior forever.

My wife has this horrible habit whenever we decide to watch a new TV series. We don’t have cable, so if we watch a TV series we either watch it on Netflix or Hulu Plus. We love watching TV shows on Netflix because we don’t have to wait till next week to find out what happens at the end of the show, we can just play the next episode.  We always look for a TV show that has multiple seasons so we know that if we invest our time to watch the show, we are going to be entertained for weeks to come.

What my wife likes to do though, is go preview some of the future episodes of the next season, so she knows what’s going to happen to a certain character. When she does this I say to her, “Louise, what’s wrong with you, don’t you want to be surprised. Why are you trying to find out what’s going to happen?” She always say, “I don’t care, I want to see.”

If you are like my wife then you will love studying prophecy in the Bible. Prophecy is a way that the Bible allows his people to glance into the future, and see what’s going to happen.

Luke 1:68-79 is a prophecy of all the things Christ will do when he arrives. God begins the first advent story with sort of a spoiler so that we can catch a glimpse of God’s Glory in what the future holds.

Let’s meet the cast of characters and put this prophecy in it’s proper context.

First we have Zechariah. The first part of this chapter tells us that Zechariah was a priest, and he married a woman named Elizabeth.  Priests were honored among the Jews. They were men who were considered to be leaders who were set apart by God for duties that gave them access to the holy place, the temple.  Luke tells us that that Zechariah and Elizabeth both come from the line of Aaron to communicate to the reader that Zechariah and Elizabeth would have held a sort of an elevated level of status in the community due to the fact that they both came from levitical ancestry. 

The second character in our story is Elizabeth. I’ve already told you that she is Zechariah’s wife and comes from the line of Aaron.  This means that she was very well acquainted with the life of a priest as she would have grown up in that type of surrounding.  We learn from Luke 1:7 that Elizabeth and Zechariah were very old, but specifically that Elizabeth could not have children.  

At this time in history, it would have been very common for someone to pronounce judgment on this couple. Not being able to bear children would have been considered a sign to some that she or Zechariah may have committed some grievous sin, or maybe their parents did.  

We actually know this is exactly what was going on when we see Elizabeth’s response to her pregnancy in verse 25, when she says, “the Lord has done for me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

The idea that “God controls the womb” is firmly embedded in the Old Testament.  Ps. 139

Children were seen as a blessing from God (Ps. 127:3-5), and many times if there was some sort of physical issue, many would think that God was punishing  them for something they had done.  Deut. 28:15-17

A good example of this can be found in John 9. In John 9 Jesus and his disciples come to a man who is born blind. In verse 2, the disciples say to Jesus, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  This type of thinking was very common in those days.

However, Jesus’ answer shows us how stupid and ridiculous this type of thinking can be.  In verse 3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

The same is true in our story of Zecharaih and Elizabeth.

The text says they were both “righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.” Now that doesn’t mean that they were perfect, but what it does mean that her barrenness was not the result of sin in her life.

You see, God had a much bigger purpose behind what was going on with with Zechariah and Elizabeth.

It is wrong for us to jump to conclusions about people when they are going through a difficult time, may have some sort of sickness.  There are preachers today that continue to spread these types of lies.  They teach that Christians should never get sick, and if they do it’s because of some sort of sin or lack of faith.

James 1:2 say, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”  One thing that many Christians overlook in this verse is that little word, “when”…”when” you go through trials, that make you ask the question, “God, what is going on? What are you doing? Why is this happening?” This verse doesn’t say “if” you go through trials. The point is that YOU WILL go through things that will make you question God.

1Peter 1:6 tells us that we are to REJOICE in the various trials we go through. Both of these passages say that trials are GOOD for us. Trials make us STRONGER.

Wayne Grudem puts it this way, “It seems best to conclude that the sufferings which God allows us to experience from time to time in this life may at times include physical illness, which God in his sovereign wisdom decides not to heal. There may in fact be many cases when, for various reasons, we do not feel freedom to ask in faith for God to heal. Yet even in these cases the heart of faith will take God’s Word as true and believe that this also has come into our lives for good (Rom. 8:28), and God will bring good to us from it!

This is the attitude that the text seems to communicate to us when describing Zechariah and Elizabeth. This seems very evident to me because verse 6 says they walked blamelessly in ALL the commandments and statutes of the Lord.

It is also important to note that Zechariah and Elizabeth were advanced in years.  While you might read this and simply note their age, it’s important to realize that they have gone almost their entire lives dealing with this issue…dealing with the turmoil of their trial.

We don’t always understand God’s timing. Someone may deal with a trial for a short amount of time or a long amount of time, we simply rest in God’s sovereignty, knowing His plan is good.

Luke 1:8-9 says, “Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.”

Zechariah was chosen to enter the temple and burn incense, by the casting of lots.  If you don’t know what casting lots is, it’s kind of like rolling dice, or flipping a coin. Casting of lots was mentioned 70 times in the OT and 7 times in the NT. We know that casting lots eventually became somewhat of a gambling game because we see the Roman soldiers doing it in Matthew 27 for Jesus’ garments, but we also see it a method used to determine God’s will throughout the Bible.  We see the apostles doing this when they had to determine who would replace Judas in Acts 1. We see it in Joshua 18 when he is determining the Lord’s will with apportioning the land to the people of Israel.  We see it in other places in the OT as well, and we see it here as Zechariah is chosen to burn incense. One of the reasons they had to cast lots in the first place was because of the large number of priests who would be considered for this honor. This was an honor that a priest would receive once in his life as part of the preparation for the sacrificial offering.

While some might think that these events were a quincidence or possibly random, Proverbs 16:33 tells us that they are not.

Prov. 16:33 says, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.”

Nothing here is happening by chance. Every part of this story is part of God’s Grand design to rescue and redeem his people. 

This is made even more evident  when an angel appears to Zechariah and tells him what he’s been praying for, and that his prayer has been answered.

Have you ever noticed that in this story? The text doesn’t say that Zechariah told the angel that he wanted a son, it simply implies that the angel knew his thoughts. He knew what he was praying for…why…because the Lord told him, and verse 14 says, “you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth…

Then we see Zechariah’s doubt in the way he responds to this news. In verse 18, he says, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”  Verse 20 says that because Zechariah did not believe, he would not be able to speak until all of this came to pass.

Zechariah’s reaction to this news at first seems crazy. When I first read this section, I said to myself, “I would never doubt God if an Angel came to me and told me my future, but then I thought about it again and started to ask myself, how would I know if the angel was really from God, why would I believe some crazy vision, over the overwhelming scientific evidence and logical reasons for the problems, sickness, and issues that I am going through at that moment.”

I think all of us would like to think we would be convinced of the reality of Jesus if some miracle happened before our eyes, but the truth is that miracles happen every day, and we don’t pay any attention to them.

What’s sad is that we doubt an ALL POWERFUL, ALL KNOWING, SOVEREIGN Creator God, to fulfill his promises to his people.

Turn now to verse 67 and let’s look at what many throughout the years have called the Benedictus.  The name comes from the first word of this prophecy in the Latin Vulgate.

This series is titled: Advent – Songs for the Savior. This prophecy is commonly known as the 3rd of 5 songs mentioned in the book of Luke. We see Elizabeth’s song in 1:41-45, Mary’s song at 1:46-55, Zecharias song at 1:68-79, The angels announcement in 2:13-14 and finally Simeon’s song in 2:25-32.

The song of Zechariah introduces us to two more characters in our story.  The first is John the Baptist.

When John is born, Zechariah’s mouth is opened, and he is able to speak again. And Zechariah, being filled with the HS prophecies.

We will come back to verses 68-75 to talk about the final character of this story, but first jump down to verse 76 and following, which reads,

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

John the Baptist is the one who will go before Christ and prepare the way for him. We see John role reinforced in Luke 7:26-28
“What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you’ I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John.”

Specifically we see John’s task to “give knowledge of salvation.”

Last time I preached, I explained the Great Commission passage in Matthew 28. Luke parallels the task of John the Baptist with the Great Commission in Luke 24.
It is prophesied that John the Baptist will “give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sin…” and In Luke 24:46 it says, “Thus it is written that the Christ should suffer and on the 3rd day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations beginning from Jerusalem. “

We have this in common with John the Baptist. God has given us the same task he gave John the Baptist. We are to proclaim salvation. We are to proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sin.

Most of you know that I am a bi-vocational pastor.  In my full time job I spend time as an admissions director for a small bible college. Believe it or not, I get all kinds of applications from people who want to attend bible college. I don’t always know all the reasons, but when an application looks strange, their essay doesn’t seem to be complete, or there is an academic issue, I call the prospective student and conduct an interview over the phone. Sometimes I can’t seem to tell whether they truly are a follower of Christ based their application alone, so I ask them a very simple question.

I say this, “If you were to die tomorrow, and stand before the gates of heaven, and Jesus asked you why he should let you into heaven, what would you say?”

I have heard prospective students, who want to come to bible college mind you, say things like, “I’m a good person, and I don’t deserve to go down there.” One student told me the reason he should get into heaven is because he makes people laugh.

Last year, after one of these interviews, the prospective student asked me what I thought. He said do you think I will get into heaven? I paused for a second , thinking as a director I am trying to protect the institution from students who aren’t there for the right reasons, but then I thought, what a great opportunity to share the true gospel with this young man, so after a brief pause, I said, “No, I don’t think you will be in heaven.” The student then said, “well what would you say?” I paused again, and said a quick prayer, “Thank you Lord” and then I proceeded to tell him the following:

Romans 3:23 says that we have all sinned and it is sin that separates us from God.
Romans 6:23 says that the consequences of sin is death, which means we will be eternally separated from God, but…
Romans 5:8-9 says that while we were sinners, Christ died for us, and through the sacrifice that Christ made for us, we can be saved from God’s wrath.
I said that Eph. 2:8-9 says there is nothing we can do to earn salvation, rather it is only by God’s grace that it can be received.
And finally I told him that Romans 10:9 says when you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved.

At the end of that conversation, I knew now that he understood that he was not actually a Christian, because he said to me, “Wow, I guess I need to learn more.” From then I was able to talk to him about getting more involved with the church he said he attended.

You never know who God will bring into your life, but there is no doubt in my mind that God continues to set up “divine appointments.”

One of the Bettelli family holiday traditions is to get 90% of our shopping done on Black Friday. For us, it is the perfect time to go shopping. Grandma and Grandpa take the kids for a sleep over, while mom and dad shop all night. 

While in line at Target, I had a conversation with a lady which ended with her taking down our church information.  Then on my way out of the mall, I ran into a friend who I had been talking about coming to BLDG28 for a while. I was able to spend the next hour and a half with him.

We are called to take the Gospel into the community, which out compromise, without hesitation, and without apology.

This was the purpose of John the Baptist, and as the advent story unfolds, we eventually see John the dying for what he believes.

This brings us to the final character of our story today, Jesus Christ.

Go back to verse 68 and lets look at who this prophesy foretells of:
“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.“

This prophecy speaks of a savior. A man who will come and redeem his people, save them from their enemies, and keep the covenant that he swore to Abraham.

In the very first sentence we see God conquering Zechariah’s unbelief.  In his announcement of Christ’s redemption of his people, he puts it in the past tense. It’s as though Zechariah is so sure that Christ will accomplish his purpose that He’s already done it.

John Piper puts it this way, “For the mind of faith, a promised act of God is as good as done.”

Now in Zechariah’s mind, it is probably most accurate to say that he has in view a messiah who will procure physical salvation for national Israel from the tyranny of the Roman Empire, however as we see the story unfold, we find out that Jesus was more than a man, and he didn’t come to save a nation from the Roman empire, he came to save his people from sin and death and give them life.

Isa. 9:6 says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 

The man that is coming is more than just a man, it is God in flesh coming to redeem his people through his death on the cross.

Isa. 53:5 tells us, “He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace and with his wounds we are healed.”

You see Zechariah as well as the rest of Israel had it all wrong, they were expecting to return to political power, but that wasn’t God’s plan. God’s plan from the very beginning was to send his son into this world to rescue his people from eternal death and give them eternal life through the sacrifice of his son on a cross.

One of the most significant parts of this prophecy is that the messiah is reference as a “horn of salvation.” We are not talking about an instrument, but rather a weapon. Think of a bull or a wild ox. Their horns are used to protect and defend.

This is the only place in the NT that this phrase is used, however it is used in the OT, but only twice. We see it in 2 Samuel 22:3 and Psalm 18:2. It’s important to note that both of these passages use this title for God, and now we see it in the NT referring to the messiah that is so come.  The inevitable conclusion is that the one who is coming is God himself.

Zechariah’s song alludes to no other man but Jesus, the son of God, the one who would bare the wrath of God so that we might be reconciled back to God.
Jesus is the from the house of David, Jesus is the one spoken by the prophets of old, Jesus saves us from sin, death, and Satan. It is Jesus who pours down his amazing grace and mercy on us.

 At the beginning of the sermon I said that our expectations should be centered on the promises of God, so where exactly should our expectations be focused?

1.      We should expect hard times. We should expect to go through trials and sickness, but at the same time
2.      We should expect to be made stronger through our trials.
3.      We should expect God to conquer our unbelief and reveal his sovereignty
4.      We should expect to share the Gospel with people God puts in our lives
5.      We should expect God to rescue lost souls who need to know who Jesus is and that he came to die so that we might live.

As we go into this season of Advent, let’s turn our expectations off of people and places that disappoint, and let us focus on the purpose Christ came in flesh, to save sinners like you and me. 

Monday, December 01, 2014

Cyber Monday Book Deals!

Hey Everyone, instead of doing a Mid Week Book Buzz, I am doing a Cyber Monday Book Deals post.

There are some great deals out that you should DEFINITELY take advantage of. Grab some of these John Piper books today.

1. Today ONLY you can buy a subscription to TABLETALK magazine for $12. You get a print and digital copy every month for 12 months.

2. An Infinite Journey by Andrew Davis $.99 print price: $19.99

3. Love into Light by Peter Hubbard $.99 print price: $12.99

4. Reckless Abandon by David Sitton $.99 print price: $13.99

5. Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ by John Piper $.99 print price: $9.99

6. Game Day for the Glory of God by Stephen Altrogge $.99 print price: $10.99

7. Church History by Chris Catherwood $.99 reg. price: $9.99

8. John Newton by Jonathan Aitken $.99 print price: $21.99

9. Holy Subversion by Trevon Wax $.99 print price: $14.99

10. Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room by Nancy Guthrie FREE print price: $9.99

11. The Dawning of Indestructible Joy by John Piper $.99 print price: $7.99

12. You can download a new edition of Pilgrim's Progress that Desiring God just released for FREE.

13. Christian Audio is also giving away Piper's The Dawning of Indestructible Joy for FREE when you enter you e-mail address. They also have other Piper audio books on sale for $4.98

14. If you like Banner of Truth, they are having a great $2 ebook sale today only.

15. Monergism continues to have a huge list of FREE books to download.

16. Finally, check out all the ebooks that are over 60% off at the Westminster Bookstore. They have a pretty good process for downloading their books to your Kindle.

Have a great week everybody!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Nine Year Ride!

Nine years ago I married my best friend. It's hard to believe that it's been nine years. When I think back about what I would compare our marriage to, the one thing that pops into my mind is a roller coaster. Our marriage has been a roller coaster ride.

Most of the time when people think of roller coaster they think, "Oh my goodness it's been up-and-down, rocky, tough, hard and by the time you make it to the end, you're so happy that it's over.

But that's not how I see things at all. Whenever I go to Disney or to another park, I always look forward to the roller coasters, or any thrill ride for that matter. In my mind, there's no better ride in the park then the roller coaster.

The roller coaster is where I get my thrill. It keeps me on the edge of my seat. There are quick turns and quick drops and sometimes you go upside down. When I first started going on roller coasters, I'll admit, I was a little scared, but the more I rode them, the more I loved them. Whenever the coaster ends, my first thought is, "I wish I could do that again."

Our marriage has been a roller coaster. There's been crazy quick turns. We've been upside down and inside out and it's been scary, but I wouldn't change a thing.

There's nothing calm about a roller coaster, and in our marriage, I don't think I'd use the word "calm" to describe it. I'd say this picture is a little more accurate:

God has brought us through so many ups and downs, through so many unexpected turns, but at the end of the day I know my wife and I would both agree that we wouldn't change (almost) anything. Through it all, we have seen God shower us with His unmatched grace!

We are by no means perfect, but we are united on this one goal: that our marriage is not about making each other fulfilled, because we know we don't have the ability to do that...our marriage is about conforming to the image of the love that we have for each other, the way we raise our children, in the church that we partner with, and in our everyday lives. 

Lately my wife and I have been reading Francis and Lisa Chan's new book You And Me Forever. And I can't help but agree with them when they say, "When two people are right with Him, they will be right with each other."

Marriage is not ultimately about pleasing the other person. Marriage is not about getting great gifts or having the most exciting romance. Marriage is about two people united in life to serve Jesus. 

If we don't focus on Christ, then we focus on SELF. It's that simple!

Paul Tripp puts it this way, "Marriage is war between the kingdom of self and the kingdom of God. The minute you go into it for happiness, you will always end up with conflict. Marriage is a tool for sanctification."

I think I heard Matt Chandler say, "Frustration is birthed out of unmet expectations."

I am so thankful for a wife who, more than anything else, wants to point me to the cross. I am thankful that she doesn't merely "yes" me to death, but she challenges my thinking and pushes me further into the arms of my Savior. 

Okay, more Francis Chan quote..."If Godzilla tried to step on you, then vampires stuck their teeth in you, angry hobbits boiled you in stew, I'd stop the world and melt with you. If Dora and Boots came out to play, then Swiper came, swiped you away, I'd grab a map, and I'd search all day, when I find him...make him pay."

Proverbs 12:4a says, "An excellent wife is the crown of her husband" and Proverbs 18:22 says, "He who finds a wife, finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord."

Louise, I love you so much. Happy Anniversary! I love the roller coaster ride we're on, and I don't ever want to get off! Let's ride it out together. (yes, I am one of those cheese ball, annoying husbands)

I love you babe!