Blog Post

A Grain of Grace by Jason Mills

  Zechariah 4:10 (NASB) reads, “For who has despised the day of small things?” The question is presented because Israel was displeased with the rebuilding of a temple that was smaller than Solomon’s. The growth of the temple would be a challenge to those who thought of their work as a day of small things. God responds in effect, “Don’t despise what I am pleased with.” God’s work may start in small ways, yet reach a glorious conclusion.    If we are honest with ourselves, the problem that existed with the nation of Israel still exists in our hearts today. It is easy to despise what we view as small. Yet when we do this we make a grave error. Things of the greatest perfection are often longest in coming to growth. We see in nature that a mighty oak tree rises from a small acorn. We call little plants trees, because it is growing up to be so. It is with a Christian as well, nothing so little as grace at first and nothing so glorious afterwards.     It is with a Christian as it is with Christ, who came to us as a babe but grew up higher than the heavens. The second temple came short of the outward splendor of the first, yet it was more glorious than the first because Christ came into it and walked the courts (Luke 2:22, 46; 19:45). In the same way, grace, though little in quantity, is much in strength and worth. It is Christ who ultimately raises the worth of little things. Christ values us by what we shall be and what we have been elected too. Therefore, let us not despise the day of small things and instead look to the least grain of grace with hope, comfort, and encouragement.

0 comments

Keep Reading >>

The Bible: A Doctrinal Treatment By Jason Mills

INTRODUCTION         Victor Hugo once said, “England has two books, the Bible and Shakespeare. England made Shakespeare, but the Bible made England” (Victor Hugo, cited by Mead. Encyclopedia of Religious Quotations, p. 49).  This is a profound statement regarding a divinely appointed book.  At this point, one will naturally ask:  What makes the Bible so unique?  What separates the Bible from other books?  Without a doubt, these are important questions. The answer to these questions rest in four distinct doctrines: Inspiration, Inerrancy, Infallibility, and Perspicuity.  The Bible alone claims these doctrines for itself.  If true (this paper is giving that assumption), the Bible becomes absolutely unique and authoritative.     INSPIRATION          Inspiration is a process whereby Spirit-moved men wrote down God inspired words.  This results in a divinely authoritative book we call the Bible.  In short, it claims its content is “breathed-out,” spoken by God (Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible, p. 730).  Inspiration, however does not mean a word for word dictation.  The personalities of the human authors are present in each writing.  The Holy Spirit superintended that the words written down were the exact words God wanted.  Inspiration is limited to the original writing (autograph), not the transmissions.  We know there are small errors in the manuscripts but they are more grammatical then substantive.  Inspiration is limited to the canonical books of the Bible.  Luke is not inspired, but the Gospel of Luke is.  Only the books which the Holy Spirit chose to preserve are inspired.  How can God draw a perfect book with imperfect people? The answer is God can draw straight with a crooked stick (Norman L Geisler, From God to Us: The Nature of Inspiration, p. 32).  The Bible teaches that God carried along human authors and refrained them from error while writing His Book (2 Peter 1:21).  Inspiration is plenary, meaning everything the Bible teaches is from God, and therefore, without error.     INERRANCY         Not only is the Bible inspired, it is also inerrant.  That means it is without error. Whatever God utters is the truth.  Hebrews 6:18 says God cannot lie.  John 17:17 tells us that His Word is truth.  Since the Bible claims to be the very Words of God it therefore is without error.  Whatever subject the Bible speaks on is truthful.  Scripture is inerrant, not in the sense of being absolutely precise by contemporary standards, but in the sense of making good its claims and achieving that measure of focused truth at which its authors aimed.  The Bible is not a scientific text book; however, when it touches on topics of science or history it does so without error.  The Bible makes references to nations, kings, battles, cities, mountains, rivers, buildings, treaties, customs, economics, politics, dates, and times. The Bible is often very specific, therefore many of its details are open to archeological investigation.  Archeology has been called “the Bibles best friend,” a statement that reflects the long history of discoveries which affirm the biblical accounts.  Truth will always stands up against scrutiny.  If only more people would realize the Bible is not just a guide to direct us to ancient cities and instead see it is a map pointing to the glorious reality of the Lord Jesus Christ!    INFALLIBILITY     Infallibility means the text is not only without error, it means is it incapable of  error.  The historic Christian teaching is that the Bible is without any error (inerrant) because it is impossible for it to have error (infallibility).  It is important to make a distinction of how one defines error.  When the Bible speaks of containing no error it is not necessarily speaking of precise accuracy in every area of speech.  Rather, it is claiming that it makes good on all its truth claims.  Precision and truth overlap in meaning but are not always synonymous.  Identifying error requires the understanding of linguistics and cultural context as much as it does precision.  For example, a person may make the general statement, “I live five minutes from the church…” Is he considered in error if he actually lives six minutes away?  No, because the intention of the statement was an approximate distance, not a precise definition.  Critics will often wrongly point to “errors” when in reality they have ignored the ordinary language by placing too much emphasis on the technical language.  In Scripture, God communicates to us using a...

0 comments

Keep Reading >>

Occupation vs. Vocation: By Jason Mills

       Stewardship is an important biblical theme. Stewardship begins with understanding our relationship with God. God is the owner and man is the manager. This principle is seen from the very first verse in the Bible, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). God created everything  and therefore owns everything. There is not one square inch in all of creation that God does not rule. Nonetheless, God makes us His co-worker in operating all aspects of our life. Therefore, the starting point is God. To miss this starting point is like misaligning the top button of a collared shirt—nothing else will ever line up.           Often times, people consider stewardship as something relating to how one manages their time, finances, possessions, health, etc. While those things are certainly part of good stewardship, the list is not comprehensive enough. Biblical stewardship is practical obedience to God in the governing of everything He has entrusted to us. It means understanding that God is ultimately the owner and we are under His constant authority as we administer His affairs. In essence, it is making Christ the Lord of our lives in every area and using our God-given gifts in a way that brings glory to Him. In other words, biblical stewardship is a comprehensive approach that has practial application in our life. Understanding what biblical stewartship is will aid us in understanding the differences between "occupation" and "vocation."           The English language is full of words that seem synonymous, but actually communicate very different meanings. Arguably, the word “occupation” and “vocation” are an example of false synonyms. While both words refer to something we do, a responsibility or duty, the similarities seem to stop beyond that. Both words are often used interchangeably but the meaning of each is important to distinguish. For one is secular in nature while the other is biblical.          Occupation can be defined as: “to occupy or fill a position.” Typically, the word is used to describe those things we do to pay the bills—they take up our time and energy in exchange for a paycheck. Some have described an occupation as just a big word for “taking up space.” People may hold an occupation but not necessarily have a strong feeling of suitability for a career or occupation. This is where the difference in the terminology begin to take shape.          In contrast, a vocation can be defined as: “a call, or summons.” In this sense, a vocation is more then simply filling a position and collecting a paycheck. It extends farther by fulfilling a particular calling from God in our life. It is intentional and meaningful. A vocation is doing what God’s called one to do for the service of Him and others.            Our vocation may be tied to a job or career choice, but they are not necessarily the same thing. Consider the Apostle Paul. Paul’s occupation was a tent-maker. His vocation was to be a missionary to the Gentiles. His occupation supported his vocation. I’m sure Paul was a great tent-maker, but that was not what defined his ministry. It was not what motivated him. Rather, his vocation, God’s calling on his life, defined him and kept him motivated. He was a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and that calling is what kept him encouraged even when he faced great trials and tribulation. In the same way, we should seek to integrate our vocation with our occupation, viewing our work as faithful service rendered to God.          The responsibilities and pressures of this world seek to demand our attention. There are a multitude of things pulling us in all different directions, which make it very easy for time to get consumed by temporal and mundane matters. One of the most important strategies we can employ is the practice of time management. When our time is distracted by lesser things the eternal pursuits often get relegated to the back. Therefore, living wisely involves using our time carefully. Psalm 90:12 says, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom”  (Holy Bible: English Standard Version). According to this verse, wisdom evaluates the use of our time in light of the brevity of life.           In conclusion, keeping our eyes fixed on the eternal goals will help us over the various hurdles we will undoubtly face. Standing firm in our pursuit of godliness will safeguard us and help us to move forward with diligence and divine purpose. Distractions caused by fleeting pleasure will...

0 comments

Keep Reading >>

Religious Pluralism In Today's Culture: By Jason Mills

Almost two thousand years ago, Truth was put on trial and judged by people who were committed to lies. Unfortunately, in today’s culture the same problem exists. Religious pluralism was active during the Roman world and it still rears its ugly head in our contemporary society. Religious pluralism is more than mere tolerance; it goes so far as to accept multiple paths to God or gods as a possibility. This of course stands in contrast to the biblical teaching of “exclusivity,” the idea that there is only one true way to God and it is found in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.    While a plurality of religions can find harmony on a range of ethical standards, and even some doctrinal beliefs, the source of their worth will always be very different. For example, the Christian finds virtue in the character of God and his holy redemptive plan. It is this truth that acts as the motivation for godliness and provides the only true standard of virtue in the Christian life. This is an exclusive claim the Bible makes; therefore, religious pluralism is by nature and definition incompatible with Christianity.    In the ancient Greco-Roman society the Christians responded to religious pluralism by clearly articulating the truth of the gospel and defining the distinctiveness of the Christian faith, and how it stands in stark contrast with other religious world-views.  One remarkable example of this is found in Acts 17:16-31 where the Apostle Paul addresses the Areopagus. Here we see Paul preaching to Gentiles and challenging two of the most popular philosophies of the day, Stoicism and Epicureanism. Paul interacts with their thoughts, even quoting their own writers in a knowledgeable, respectful way. He began with, and returned to the theme of idolatry, which is at the very root of religious pluralism. He articulated his thoughts with intelligibility and confidence which cleared the way for a full statement of the gospel. Paul ended with his distinctly Christian appeal by proclaiming the resurrection of Christ. This pointed his audience to the truth that Jesus was not just a man or a religious teacher. But instead, the resurrection of Jesus is at the center of God’s plan for redemptive history and it is the hope of our own future resurrection which ultimately persuades people to believe in Christ. And as verse 34 says, “Some of the men joined him and believed.”    As I survey our contemporary culture I find myself identifying with the words of Paul, for my spirit is also “provoked” as I observe cities, and the culture at large, being full of idols. Furthermore, as I read Paul’s appeal at Mars Hill I see a biblical model for practical apologetics and evangelism. This has much to say to us as Christians today, for our culture is abounding with idolatry as well as countless opportunities to share the gospel. I believe we can learn several things from this biblical example: First, from the very beginning we see that Paul addresses his listeners with politeness. Although his spirit was deeply distressed he addressed them with respect. We, as Christians, must remember this as we engage nonbelievers. Second, even though Paul was respectful he did not sacrifice the Truth on the altar of politeness. Paul displayed an incredible boldness and addressed his listeners by telling them in no uncertain terms that the faith they posses in their idols are misplaced and foolish. Thirdly, we see Paul draws on imagery that his audience is familiar with and speaks in a way that they can relate to and understand. We, as Christians, must make sure the gospel is not just preached, but that it is preached clearly and in a way that can be understood.    Ultimately, we must remember harden hearts will always scoff, searching hearts will always ponder, and believing hearts will always be saved. Rather than trying to tailor our message to fit the hearers felt needs, today’s Christian must passionately preach (and live) the truth of the gospel in all of its fullness while possessing a spirit of love and leave the rest up to God! That is the essence of how religious pluralism was confronted in the past, and it is how it should be exemplified today. Nothing is more contemporary than the Bible. Truth is never outdated!

0 comments

Keep Reading >>

The Voting Booth or The Gospel? By Jason Mills

  During the New Testament era one fundamental belief among the Jewish people was the proposition of kingship. The dominating messianic hope was the idea that the messiah would come from the line connected with David and he would deliver their nation from the other ruling nations. This mentality caused confusion when the true messiah arrived in a position of humility rather than political power. Nonetheless, Jesus was the actual fulfillment and completion of what they were hoping for but their nearsightedness blinded them from the truth. The lesson here is that God’s authoritative Word must be our compass, not the culture or circumstances we find ourselves in. I believe there are many agendas that have shaped how we view Jesus’ kingdom in our churches today. One of those issues is related to the gospel and politics.   There was a time when almost every person in America acknowledged the Ten Commandments as the foundation of ethics and moral value. Many Americans today can’t even name three of the Ten. Times have certainly changed! Behavior that was once deemed morally wrong is now deemed as an indisputable civil right. We, as Christians, must recognize this problem and grieve over the extensive corruption in our society. However, the problem I observe is that many Christians advocate solving this dilemma by using political strategies, rather than gospel centered ones. Is achieving morality through politics a proper perspective? I believe not. America’s moral downfall is a spiritual problem, not a political one, and the only true solution is in the gospel, not politics.   We must remember that historically, whenever the church has focused on evangelism and preaching the gospel, the influence of the church has increased. On the contrary, whenever the church has focused on obtaining power by political or other cultural means, the church has damaged their testimony. The bottom line is this: If you want to change behavior you have to change the heart. And, since politics cannot change mans heart it should not become the Christians primary focus. The Bible speaks with one clear voice that only God can turn a sinner into a saint.“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove your heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36: 26 (ESV).  My point is not that Christians should remain uninvolved in politics. I believe we, as Christians, ought to express our beliefs in the voting booth as well as in a life of holiness. I believe it is appropriate and right to support legitimate measures and political movements that act to correct injustices or social problems. In fact, we have a duty to “do good to all people” and we should use the opportunities afforded to us to help make that a reality, whenever possible. The issue is one of priority. Politics should not take priority over the advancement of the kingdom. God has called Christians to be a kingdom of believers, not political activists.  Only the gospel can rescue the sinner from sin, death, and hell. Therefore, presenting the gospel is the highest good that we can offer. Principally, God has called His church to bring people into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. He has entrusted the church with the ministry of reconciliation, not the ministry of political activism (2 Cor. 5:18). As born again believers we should reject all that is ungodly and false. However, we cannot afford to do this at the expense of the transforming power of the gospel. We can do this in part through utilizing the voting booth, but the ultimate fulfillment and greatest good is accomplished when we use God’s method of preaching the objective truth of Jesus Christ, in a spirit of love, to a lost and fallen world. 

0 comments

Keep Reading >>

Reasons we are moving to the ESV (English Standard Version) Translation

  In order to use a translation that is more literal but also readable in today’s English.  Often times in different versions we sacrifice accuracy of words for readability.  While I believe the NIV to be a good version it has this tendency.  I have been using the ESV for about 7 years now and after having read it through feel that it does a good job of being faithful to the text.  I have also been comparing it to my Greek translations of 1 John and 2 Thessalonians and it is very faithful to the Greek.  On the other hand what this translation has done is made a literal translation very readable and modern.  It uses modern words and uses grammar in such a way that it is not difficult to understand.  In my opinion accuracy and readability are an important balance and it is the most balanced translation I have come across.   The new NIV is not the old NIV.  As I have written about in a previous Pastor’s Pen, there is a new version of the NIV made in 2011 that have made a number of changes to the 1984 version.  Though this is a big new change it is not specified when you buy a new NIV.  All new NIV’s are the 2011 edition.  The main difference is gender inclusion (changing words like “brothers” to “people” or “sons” to “children”).  The changes made reflect a trend to let culture dictate scriptural translation.  While we must consider changes in language, some of the NIV’s new changes and their comprehensiveness tend towards making an ideological statement.  Therefore I have found that the new NIV is even less literal than the previous one.   The ESV flows very well with the NAS, KJV, and NKJV.  I have done some subtle polling and it turns out that these translations are widely used in our church.  That being true, you will find that when I read from the ESV you will be able to follow along with these other three translations relatively easily.   The Background of the ESV: Good News Publishers and Crossway Books published the first edition of the English Standard Version in 2001. This version stands ‘in the classic mainstream of English Bible translations of the past half-millennium’, the fountainhead of which stream was William Tyndale‘s New Testament of 1526. Following Tyndale‘s work came the King James Version of 1611 (KJV), the Revised Version of 1885 (RV), the American Standard Version of 1901 (ASV), and the Revised Standard Version of 1952 and 1971 (RSV). Specifically, the work is a revision of the RSV of 1971 by a team of fourteen men who composed the Translation Oversight Committee. They were assisted by more than fifty Translation Review Scholars and another fifty who made up the Advisory Council. All participants in the revision were evangelical in their theology.[1] [1] Thomas, R. L. (2000). How to choose a Bible version: An introductory guide to English translations (31). Fearn, Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications.  

0 comments

Keep Reading >>

Fasting: What is it?

What kind of people do you think of when you think of fasting?  Are they John the Baptist types? Legalists?  Health nuts?  Do we think if we do it we will be odd for God?  Does Jesus come to mind?  Jesus both practiced and taught fasting.  But fasting is rarely discussed.  When was the last time you discussed it with Christian friends?  And yet it is mentioned in scripture more times than even something as important as baptism.  (77 for fasting to 75 for baptism).  Living in a gluttonous, self-indulgent culture may tempt us to avoid the issue but this reason is a good reason to practice it. The biblical definition of fasting is “a Christian’s voluntary abstinence from food for spiritual purposes.”  A broader view that can be used is “the voluntary denial of a normal function for the sake of intense spiritual activity”. A Normal Fast: This involves abstaining from all food, but not from water. See Matt. 4:2 and Luke 4:2.  It was well known that John Wesley would not ordain a man to the ministry who did not regularly fast on Wednesday and Friday. A Partial Fast: This is a limitation of the diet but not an abstention from all food.  For 10 days Daniel and friends ate only vegetables and drank only water (Dan. 1:12).  John ate a specific food (Matt. 3:4).  Christians eat smaller portions or avoid certain foods. An Absolute Fast: The avoidance of all food and liquid.  See Ezra 10:6 and Esther 4:16. Congregational Fast: This is a call to an entire assembly of people to a fast.  This is also called a national fast.  See 2 Chron. 20:3-4 and Neh. 9:1.  Also the church in Antioch was fasting (Acts 13:2).  Incidentally during the early days of our nation, Congress proclaimed 3 national fasts.  Presidents John Adams and James Madison each called all Americans to fast and Abraham Lincoln did so on three separate occasions during the Civil War. Next week: Fasting: Why should I fast?

0 comments

Keep Reading >>

Resurrection

What does it mean to be resurrected?  One Bible dictionary says it is “The reunion of the bodies and souls of people that have been separated by death.”  That is a wonderful concept.  Though I am certainly glad to have a future in heaven with Christ as a disembodied soul,  the promise is for something beyond that.  All saints will one day receive a new, resurrected body.  1 Cor. 15:50-52 says “I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” Honestly, I have a much harder time imagining heaven as a soul only than being with Christ in body and soul.  Eventually, all believers will have a body that is able to be touched, able to eat, run, jump, etc.  It will be just likes Christ’s resurrected body which we got a glimpse of at the end of the gospels.  1 Cor. 15:49 says “And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.” Resurrection is what we long for.  It is a great hope and future.  How can you be sure you will be resurrected one day?  That you will die perishable but be raised imperishable?  That you will have an eternal body never to fall into decay?  The answer is faith in Christ’s death and resurrection (Rom 1:16-17, Acts 5:30-32) They were both for you.  Ask Him and you will receive Him and His resurrection!

0 comments

Keep Reading >>

Does prayer change God's mind?

Last week I proposed a question, “If God’s will is already set, then how will our prayers change His mind?”  In other words, if God works all things for the good of those who love Him, how can our prayers change His sovereignty?  This is a wonderful question but it is really only a half-understanding of God’s sovereignty.  We must not assume that God acts completely alone.  He could.  But instead He has chosen to work out His plans in, with and through humans.  R.C. Sproul in his book on prayer says “God brings to pass His sovereign ends by virtue of earthly and human means.  This is the theological concept of concurrence, and it works as much in the arena of prayer as it does in the other areas…” God not only wants to use us as His hands and feet but also as intercessors for others in prayer.  It glorifies Him when we do so.  That is why the scriptures say in James 5:16 “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” And in James 4:2 “You do not have, because you do not ask God.”  God wants us to ask; to come to Him in faith and ask for Him to respond.  He wants to sovereignly work through our choosing to come to Him in prayer.  Therefore we should never throw up our hands and say “God will do what He wants, what I ask for won’t matter.”  On the contrary, it makes every difference because God has chosen for His will to be accomplished through us. Recommended Reading: The Prayer of the Lord by R.C. Sproul

0 comments

Keep Reading >>

How prayer changes us

There are many questions people have about prayer.  One is “If God’s will is already set, then how will our prayers change His mind?”  Would you like to know the answer to this question?  I guess you’ll have to wait because today I am talking about how prayer changes us.  (Though that is a good question for another time.)  The reason I even ask the question is because we are often focused on changing God’s mind rather than ours.  But is it possible that God’s priority is to change us through prayer? Notice the result of prayer Jesus promises in John 16:24 “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”  The promise is joy in seeing God answer prayer.  When God answers our prayers we are filled with joy because we see that God is powerfully working through our relationship with Him.  Few things will bolster our faith than seeing God move when we ask.  Often times our joy is not full because we don’t ask things of God according to His will.  Some don’t ask because they don’t want to be disappointed.  But is not prayer that seems unanswered as I would like also a faith builder?  It means that I have to trust God for something I can’t see which is exactly what faith that I will reach heaven is like.  I can’t see it but I trust God that He will take me there.   Prayer builds faith and increases joy.  May your prayers grow in abundance and dependence.

0 comments

Keep Reading >>

Older Posts >>