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Hand Writing On The Wall

24 “Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. 25 And this is the writing that was inscribed: Mene, Mene, Tekel, and Parsin. 26 This is the interpretation of the matter: Mene, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; 27 Tekel, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; 28 Peres, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”

Daniel 5:24-28 ESV

Around 30 years have passed by between the closing of chapter 4 of Daniel and the opening of chapter 5. During these 30 thirty years a lot has changed for Daniel much like they have in our lifetime. King Nebuchadnezzar has died. His infant grandson took his place which precipitated Nabonidus to size the throne. Nabonidus along with his son Belshazzar ruled together as father-son co-regents. When Nebuchadnezzar is referred to as the father of Belshazzar this doesn’t mean biological father. It means Belshazzar was cut-from-the-same-cloth politically as Nebuchadnezzar. By way of analogy, it would be like a contemporary president claiming that his presidency is in the fashion or in the same vein as a president George Washington.

During this time, God has been forgotten, wiped out of the memory of the Babylonian cultural elites; Daniel had been relegated to the sidelines. Chapter 4 ends with Daniel in effect being Prime Minister and chief of the Wise Men, and chapter 5 opens with Daniel disappearing from the minds of all the government elites. During this time Babylon has devolved into absolute debauchery and godlessness. The holy items taken from the Temple of Jerusalem were stolen 50 years earlier in 586 BC, and are now being used in a banquet to mock God, an expression of arrogance and desecration and idolatry.

 In vv 5-6 this king who was on the top of the world is suddenly cut down to size. He quickly sobers up when he sees the hand writing on the wall from the finger of God. The message inscribed cannot be deciphered by the wise men. At this time Daniel has been forgotten, but the king’s mother remembers Daniel. Vv 10-12 says:  

The queen, because of the words of the king and his lords, came into the banqueting hall, and the queen declared, “O king, live forever! Let not your thoughts alarm you or your color change. 11 There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him, and King Nebuchadnezzar, your father—your father the king—made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, 12 because an excellent spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.”

This is when Daniel is summoned by the king to interpret the cryptic inscription. The king offers him gold and silver along with being third in command of Babylon behind the king and his father the coregent. Daniel denies the offer. Then he interprets the inscription by telling the king these three things: first, the number of days for his kingdom has come to an end; second, the king has been weighed on the scales of justice and has come up short; and third, that his kingdom will be divided by the Medes and the Persian— all coming true that night. The Medes and Persians under the leadership of Darius had taken the city of Babylon, and Belshazzar was assassinated that very night.

Our nation is very much like Babylon in the days of Belshazzar. Our nation and culture have forgotten and forsaken God. The Bible is discarded from the public square and from much of our political community, including government. God has blessed this nation and has showered this country with affluence and prestige. And our nation has been a blessing to this world by setting the example of self-government under God as well as spreading the gospel to the rest of the world. But now we have ignored God, and we mock Him and His commands. Like Belshazzar, our cities and people are drunk with debauchery and self-confidence and pride. We boast that we are a great nation, that nothing can or will destroy us. And like Daniel, we Christians (including the church) are marginalized, consigned to the sidelines of post-Christendom. But like Daniel let us take heart. Daniel was faithful when he was on the top of cultural influence, and when he was at the bottom of cultural influence. You may be laboring at your job in obscurity because you won’t follow the culture like Daniel, but that doesn’t mean you are not being used by God and won’t be used by God as God may one day take you from the sidelines back to the center stage of influence. But either way God is using you greatly where He has placed you in His providence. Beloved, Romans 1:18-21 tells us that the “handwriting on the wall” is upon the nations of this world. We are, as the apostle John said, in the last hour (in our case minutes) before our Lord and Savior comes back again to bring final judgment on this world. Since this is the case, let us take heart, knowing that we too are being used to speak the gospel truth to power and lead by example. You may think that your voice and actions do not matter, but beloved they do; they matter eternally because they have eternal consequences!

In Christ,

Carl

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The Longsuffering and Patience of God

Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

(Daniel 4:37)

In the early years of the Christian church (first half of the 2nd century AD) there was a heretic by the name of Marcion. In part, what marked Marcion as a heretic was that he rejected in toto the entire Old Testament (Hebrew Bible). Marcion reasoned that the God of the Old Testament was not the God of the New Testament. For Marcion, the God of the Old Testament was vengeful and wrathful and angry, while the God of the New Testament was loving and patient and merciful. The church immediately (and rightly) excommunicated Marcion, making him the first arch-heretic.

Why did Marcion come to that conclusion? In part, it’s for the same reason people do today: our biases blind us. A good example of this is taken from the fourth chapter of Daniel. As we noticed so far, king Nebuchadnezzar was a hard nut to crack. His pride and hubris were legendary. You would think that the king would have learned his lesson. If you recall, early in Daniel’s tenure, the king had an upsetting dream, one that haunted him. Daniel alone of all the Magi was able to interpret the king’s dream; this event marked the first time that the king came face to face with the one and only true God, a God he acknowledges as the “God of gods and Lord of kings.”

But God wasn’t done with king Nebuchadnezzar. His pride drove him to build a statute of himself made of gold, representing his dominion and domain. He commanded everyone to bow down to his image. We know the story; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would not bow down. So the king commanded his guards to bind and to throw these three men into the furnace; which they did. To the surprise of the king, these three men were not touched by the fiery furnace; not even the hair of their heads was singed. The king promoted these three young men, and proclaimed that “no god was able to rescue this way” (3:29).

But God wasn’t done with king Nebuchadnezzar. This takes us to the fourth and final chapter of the life of Nebuchadnezzar. In chapter 4, the king is once again uneasy about another dream, his second dream. The king once again decreed that his astrologers and magicians and enchanters interpret his dream. And none of these spiritualists and occultists could interpret the king’s dream. You would think the king would wise up and realize that these spiritualist and occultist were imposters. Just like today, spiritualist and occultists are imposters. The only spirits that inspire occult practices—for example, things like card reading, astrology, séances, etc.—are demonic spirits. This is why God forbids such occult practices. God forbade such practices then, as He does now! King Nebuchadnezzar should have known this. But his pride and arrogance drives him to these demonically inspired imposters. And as you would guess, these imposters could not deliver when it mattered. So the king again comes to his senses and beckons Daniel to interpret the king’s dream. Daniel interprets his dream. He tells the king,

It is a decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king,that you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will (4:24-25).

Then Daniel pleads with the king to repent and humble himself before God because his pride would be his ruination. But we are told the king did not follow Daniel’s counsel:

All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon,  and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.”Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws (4:28-33).

Why did this happen? It happened because the king ignored the prophet’s message and would not repent. But God was not done with king Nebuchadnezzar. After God in his mercy and grace and longsuffering gave the king 12 months to repent, God lowered His blow of judgment. For seven long years God humbled the king by driving him, quite literally, insane. But notice that the duration was itself an act of mercy. God had every right to strike the king with insanity for an indefinite period and then leave him to die, but God did not. God in His mercy struck him sufficiently to realize an important truth. As Alistair Begg says, “God was showing king Nebuchadnezzar that in truth he was not a mighty, self-sufficient, all powerful ruler but a lowly, needy, dependent creature.” Finally the proverbial light bulb went off; the king got it. He finally…

 lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” (4:34-25)

The king finally came to his spiritual senses. Daniel pointed the king to God, but it took the work of God to open his heart. But notice God’s work. God wasn’t vengeful or wrathful or angry. God was patient, merciful, and loving. This is how God has always worked in the Old Testament. God was longsuffering with Sodom and Gomorrah. God was longsuffering with the Canaanites. God was longsuffering with the Nineveh just as He was with king Nebuchadnezzar.     

As Christians, what should we learn from this? What can we take home? First, we can take home the fact that God has always been and will always be a patient, longsuffering God. In fact, what distinguishes the Old Covenant era of law vs the New Covenant era of grace in salvation history is that God is even more longsuffering and patient in our dispensation of grace than in the old dispensation. That’s not to say God was not longsuffering in the Old Testament. As demonstrated in Daniel, the God of the Old Testament is the same longsuffering and patient God as He was in the New Testament Apostolic church and is in the church age today. The difference is that under this age of grace (that is, the time between the first coming of Christ and the second coming of Christ), the state of affairs under the condition of God’s longsuffering and patience has been accelerated and enhanced. Second, we can take home the fact that God’s grace of longsuffering and patience is not infinite. When Christ returns the age of grace will give way to the day of the Lord, the day of ultimate judgment and wrath. In the meantime, our calling as Christians (and especially the corporate church) is to relay a message to the world. What is this message? As Psalm 2:12 says, our message is a mandate, a mandate and warning to “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” Our mandate is to relay this message of amnesty, that is, the gracious and merciful terms of surrender of our conquering king to an already conquered enemy. It was customary in the Ancient Near East before kings razed conquered lands—i.e., demolish walls, public building, infrastructure, etc.—to first expend much effort through the power of persuasion to convince foreign people to submit willingly. The mandate of the Great Commission is simply king Jesus sending his ambassadors to relay the message that the king of the age to come has already conquered the god of this age, that total destruction is impending. Holy Spirit power has been given to the church to persuade the foreign nations (the city of man) to submit willingly in this dispensation of grace and mercy. This is our singular and most important mandate given to the church. This mission defines who we are: ambassadors of Christ imploring the world of sinful men and women to be reconciled to God. Amen!

In Christ

Carl

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Obedience In Spite Of The Consequences

Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God!

 (Daniel 3:28 ESV)

In Daniel, we have been discussing the topic of faith and culture: i.e., the Christian’s place in this world. Daniel, along with his three friends, serve as a model for us on how to live in a post-Christian world. In chapter 1, Daniel helped us to know where we must draw the proverbial line between cultural accommodation, on the one hand, and cultural capitulation, on the other. In chapter 2, the topic was about confidence and stability: i.e., where should we place our confidence and assurance. Now, in chapter 3, the topic is about trusting and obeying God.

Roughly, nine years have passed between the events that transpired between chapters 2 and 3. Chapter 2 ends with king Nebuchadnezzar acknowledging the God of Israel as the only true God, the “God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries” (Daniel 2:47). Nine years later, king Nebuchadnezzar was back to his old ways. In chapter 3 the king commands that a 90-foot-high golden image be erected in the king’s image and worshiped in the king’s honor. What happened? In chapter 2 the king had a strong conviction that Yahweh was the God of gods and Lord of kings. What was lacking? Matthew Henry explains that “Strong convictions often come short of sound conversion.” That is what king Nebuchadnezzar lacked: i.e., a sound conversion. A sound conversion includes conviction, conviction of the truth, but it must include more, much more. It must also include trust and obedience to God. A saving faith, a sound conversion is a trusting and obedient faith.

We see this played out in Daniel 3:4-5. The king commands everyone at the sound of the music to fall down and prostrate, in worship, before the golden image. This image is a symbol of the mighty power of Babylon personified in Babylon’s king.  Like the Tower of Babel, king Nebuchadnezzar wants to ensure his name, making sure it remains great! Anyone who refuses to bow down in worship of the golden statue will suffer death in the fiery furnace. We all know what happens next. In Daniel 3:12, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to worship. The king gives these three young men another chance to recant as the king taunts them by mockingly saying, “who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” (v 15). In response, Daniel’s three friends answer this way:     

O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king.But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up (Daniel 3:16-18)

We all know the end of the story. God did in fact deliver them from the fiery furnace. Daniel’s three friends did have faith, a conviction that God could in fact deliver them. But notice they also said, “if not,” if God chose not to deliver them from certain death, then so be it; they said, “we do not serve your gods, nor will worship the gold image.” This is amazing! They know God could deliver them, but they are not assuming He will. They are prepared for God not to deliver them. Yet, they still obeyed. Alistair Begg says that “Faith is not believing in spite of evidences; rather, it is obeying in spite of the consequences.” Beloved, this is saving faith; this is evidence of a sound faith: trusting and obeying God in spite of the consequences.

 The Christian’s life is a Pilgrim’s life. And the Pilgrim’s life is a life of “fiery trials.”  1 Peter 4:12 says, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you.” Peter is alluding to Daniel 3; he is saying the life of a Christian is a life of fiery trials, and we should not be shocked but expect such trials to come our way. What both Peter and Daniel teach us is that God will not deliver us from the fiery trials of life, but God will deliver us through the fiery trials of life. Trusting and obeying God in spite of the consequences is trusting and obeying God to get us through the fiery trials of life. This is how we make progress on our journey in the Christian life. We like Daniel’s three friends are formed by our trials, trials that ironically bring blessings, trials that mold us and shape us into the glory-image of Christ. The temptation to bow our knee to the idols of our generation is just as enticing: the idols of status, the idols of our agendas, the idols of reputation, the idols of peer pressure, the idols of pleasure, etc.—these are just as tempting as any of the idols of antiquity. However, Christ has promised to be with us as He was with Daniel’s three friends in the fiery furnace as he too delivers us through the fiery trials of life. Let us take heart in this dear Christian, knowing Christ will never leave or forsake us, that he will be with us to the end of the age!

In Christ

Pastor Carl

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A Kingdom That Shall Stand Forever

And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, 45 just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.”

(Daniel 2:44-45 ESV)

In Daniel, we have been discussing the topic of faith and culture: i.e., the Christian’s place in this world. Daniel, along with his three friends, serve as a model for us on how to live in a post-Christian world. In chapter 1, Daniel helped us to know where we must draw the proverbial line between cultural accommodation, on the one hand, and cultural capitulation, on the other. In chapter 2, the topic is about confidence and stability: i.e., where should we place our confidence and assurance. The world is a volatile place; the reliable patterns of predictability, stability, and certainty can give way in an instant to unpredictability, instability, and uncertainty. A season of harmony can give way to a season of upheaval! When the ground is shifting beneath your feet, where do we find solid ground?

Daniel chapter 2, in part, addresses this. Chapter 2 opens up with the great king Nebuchadnezzar.  King Nebuchadnezzar was the most powerful king of the ancient world. His empire was the greatest of all human kingdoms. In fact, his kingdom was so great, God gave Nebuchadnezzar a dream that depicted his kingdom as a kingdom of gold. The kingdoms that will follow Nebuchadnezzar will pale in comparison: the Persians will be great, but they will be but silver; the Greeks will be great, but mere bronze; the Romans will be great, but mere iron mixed with clay—none of these kingdoms compare to the greatness of the Babylonian kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar.  

That part of the dream was not unsettling. What was unsettling was the rest of the dream. In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, he saw “a stone cut out from a mountain by no human hands.” This stone demolished the statue which represented all four successive kingdoms. This kingdom shall never be destroyed and shall stand forever! After Daniel retold and interpreted the king’s dream, then Nebuchadnezzar’s heart was at ease and then the king promoted Daniel to chief of all the Wise Men and provincial governor over Babylon. 

What is Daniel predicting? The prophet Daniel is predicting the rise and fall of all the kingdoms of this world. Daniel predicts the rise and fall of four kingdoms: Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome! It was during the Roman Empire that the stone cut from the mountain began the destruction of the kingdoms of this world; that stone is the kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus! By virtue of Jesus’ death and resurrection, the kingdom of God was inaugurated. The inauguration of the kingdom of God, with Christ being the mediatorial king, was the beginning of the end of the kingdoms of this world. With the first coming of king Jesus, king Jesus began the upheaval process, a process that will culminate with Christ’ second coming to bring total and lasting judgement. Predictability and stability and certainty are an illusion because the kingdoms of this world are built on the shifting ground of unpredictability, instability, and uncertainty—all doomed to destruction!

Where are we to turn when the ground is shifting beneath our feet: shifting from COVID, shifting from inflation and economic upheaval, shifting from the fear of another World War, shifting from the moral madness and dithering haze of sexual and gender chaos? Daniel reminds us that we are citizens of a kingdom that cannot be shaken. As Christians, we are citizens of an eternal kingdom, a kingdom that can never be destroyed! The church is an outpost or an embassy of Christ’s heavenly kingdom where he rules and reigns on God the Father’s very throne. The church is the only institution that will stand when all else tumbles and falls. Beloved, this should give us comfort and confidence and stability in our lives. The reason why we shall stand for ever is because Christ’s kingdom shall stand forever!!

In Christ,                                 

Carl

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Where To Draw The Line

And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.

Deuteronomy 31:8

Before the holidays, I was sharing with you insights I have been gleaning from my study of 1 Peter and from Alistair Begg’s recent book entitled Brave by Faith: God-Sized Confidence in a Post-Christian World. Some of the questions asked by Begg are:“What does it look like to live as a Christian in a society that does not like what Christians believe, what we say, and how we live? How are you going to live in this new normal?” As I noted last the last time, these are great questions, ones that the Bible has an answer.

As previously noted, as our culture and society and institutions (including Western civilization) experience further spiritual and moral declension, the greater our sense of exile will be.

However, this awakening isn’t bad. It gives us a proper perspective, a perspective that reminds us of the reality that all along America has never been Jerusalem, but Babylon. And second, this awakening isn’t bad because it forces us to long for heaven, especially for the creation of the new heavens and earth when Christ returns to bring heaven to earth after He has destroyed every kingdom of man. As D. L. Moody noted in the late 18th century this world is shipped wrecked. The only hope for survival is to get into the lifeboat. The lifeboat is the gospel of Jesus Christ. And the only hope for safe passage is Jesus and His church!

Today we’ll talk about how and where we must “draw the line” as we engage our society and culture. Are we as Christian obligated to draw a line at some point between us and the world? Most Christians assume we do. But where exactly are we to draw the line? At first glance this may seem easy, but it’s not. Consider again the prophet Daniel and his three friends. Neither Daniel, nor his three friends protested their pagan education after being forcefully relocated from their home country of Judah to Babylon. They dutifully studied the worldview of Babylon, along with its science, literature, mathematics, etc. Second, they did not protest their new pagan names: Daniel became Belteshazzar; Hananiah became Shadrach; Mishael became Meshach; and Azariah became Abednego. The purpose of renaming these young men was to refashion them from being committed to Israel and Israel’s God to being committed to Babylon and Babylon’s gods, to being good Babylonian citizens and servants.

You would think that these young men would have protested and drew the line there. On the contrary, they did not. However, we are told they did protest and resist changing their diet. Seems like a strange place to draw a line. Why did they draw the line there? The reason why is that from a Jewish perspective one’s diet was just as much about one’s faith as it was about nutrition. Daniel and his three friends grew up as religiously devout Jews in religiously devout homes. And devout Jews were particular about what they would eat. The reason is because God had explicitly commanded through the Mosaic Law what one could eat and what one could not eat. These “Ceremonial laws” were morally binding because God commanded them. The reason why Daniel and his three friends drew the line there is because Scripture drew it for them. Scripture is explicit that the food offered to idols at the King’s table was ceremonially unclean. And to eat food that God has forbidden was a line they would not transgress. In short, God drew the line for them. Alistair Begg makes the point that this “…kind of resolution doesn’t come just as a whim. It doesn’t come overnight; it doesn’t well up in a moment of challenge. Crisis shows what’s inside of a person; it doesn’t create it as much as reveal it.”

Beloved this is true for us as well. We may never experience a crisis on par to what Daniel and his three friends faced, but crises will come into our lives from one degree to another. The question is how do we prepare? We prepare the same way Daniel and his three friends prepared. First, we prepare by knowing Scripture. We must be able to discern the difference between what is a nonnegotiable and what is negotiable. This requires both knowledge of the Word and wisdom in prayer: i.e., God speaking to us in his Word, and we speaking to God in prayer. Second, we must know that God is in control. In every fiber of their being these young men knew,  no matter what the circumstances were, that God was in absolute sovereign control of those circumstances: God was in control of their relocation; God was in control of their reeducation; and God was in control of their renaming. And God is in control of every circumstance and situation you are going through. Though we live in a post-Christian and hostile world, we can take heart that God is still in control! And He will continue to be with you and never forsake you. We have nothing to fear, nothing to dismay us!

In Christ,

Carl

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The Four Gifts of Christmas

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.

(Isaiah 9:6)

Christmas is the traditional time of giving, a time to give and receive. When it comes to God what exactly has he given us? What exactly have we received from God? Christmas is about the gift of the gospel. The gift of the gospel is the gift of Christ Jesus. In Isaiah 9:6 we are told by the prophet Isaiah that the gift of Jesus comes in four gifts: the gift of Christ being our Wonderful Counselor; the gift of Christ being our Mighty God; the gift of Christ being our Everlasting Father; and the gift of Christ being our Prince of Peace.

The first gift is the gift of Christ being our Wonderful Counselor. This is the gift of biblical wisdom. But biblical wisdom is knowledge about what’s most important in life, the most important matters in life, knowledge about spiritual things, higher things. Think of all the highly educated people who have gone to universities and graduate schools who cannot answer simple questions like: Who is God? Who am I? Why am I here? Does life have meaning? What is the meaning of life? What is the goal of human history? Is there an afterlife? If so, what’s on the other side? Questions about human origin, human meaning, human morality, and human destiny—these can’t be answered by the wisdom of this world. What we need is wisdom from above. Christ embodies this wisdom from above, and when we receive Jesus, we receive this gift of wisdom.

The second gift is the gift of Christ being our Mighty God. All power and authority have been given to Jesus:

“and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. 22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:19-23).

Jesus as the God-Man wields the power of the Almighty God. Jesus wields this power for us. Jesus as Mighty God by virtue of his birth, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension into glory demonstrates that Jesus is on our side and empowers us! Yes! We have a friend in the highest place, who died for us, who freed us from the penalty of sin, who has broken the power of sin, and who will free us from the presence of sin! Jesus not only did this for us, but as Almighty God he has gifted us with adoption to become sons of God, and gifted us with the power of the Holy Spirit which is the means by which the Might of God’s power abides in us!

The third gift is the gift of Christ being our Everlasting Father. This has to do with Jesus’ divinity! What’s striking about this third name for Jesus is that God the Father gives Jesus the title “Father.” Now this doesn’t blur the Trinitarian distinction of the personhood of the Godhead: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit! But what God the Father is saying is that this promised child that is to be born is every much God as the Father is God! However, I want us to keep in mind that these names of Jesus are gifts of God through Jesus Christ. Jesus as our Everlasting Father means for us that we are members of God’s family, that we are children of God.

The fourth gift is the gift of Christ being our Prince of Peace. St. Augustine famously said “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you!” Our age is probably one of the most restless of ages. Why? It’s because so many people are not at peace with God! That is the fundamental problem! We are at war with others; we are at war with ourselves. People don’t know who they are! Why? If you boil it all down—setting aside all the psychobabble and the empty philosophies of our generation—it’s because people are at war with God! We are fighting against God with very fiber of our being because we want to rule our own lives. We want to determine what is good for us, what is fulfilling for us! We are at war with God! And also, God is at war with us! How do you think that war will end? Who will win in the end? John says in Revelation 14:17-19 this:

“Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. 18 And another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over the fire, and he called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, “Put in your sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.” 19 So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. 20 And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia.”

It won’t end well with us! But the good news is Jesus has overcome this enmity by dying the death we deserved. Jesus as our Great High Priest has bridged the gap, making peace between a Holy God and those who are hostile to him. Peace with God is the fourth gift; because Jesus is the Prince of Peace, we not only have peace with God, we also have the peace of God: “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6,7). For us a child is born as Prince of Peace!

In conclusion, the things that we truly need—wisdom/understanding, empowerment, belonging, forgiveness/mercy—are all gifts given by Christ! If you don’t really know Jesus in these ways, my prayer, during this Advent Season, is that you will. My prayer is that Jesus will be your Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace! 

Merry Christmas,

Pastor Carl

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The Good Old Days

“These all died in faith… having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.”

(Hebrews 11:13 ESV)


As Alistair Begg asks in his recent book Brave by Faith: God-Sized Confidence in a Post-Christian World, “What does it look like to live as a Christian in a society that does not like what Christians believe, what we say, and how we live? How are you going to live in this new normal?” As I noted the last time, this is a great question, one that the Bible has an answer. Over the few months I’ll be providing the answers both from Begg’s study of Daniel and gleanings from my own study of 1 Peter.

The first thing for us to remember is that no matter how good the “good old days” were, America has never been a “city on the hill” where we as a nation at one time enjoyed a special status before God as did Israel. Contrary to “pop theology,” unlike with the ancient nation of Israel, Yahweh never made a covenant with the USA. The unique blessings God covenanted with the ancient theocratic nation of Israel are not translated or transposed in the current experience of our national identity as Americans. Unlike Daniel, we never grew up in Jerusalem. America was never Jerusalem. The UK was never Jerusalem. Where is Jerusalem? Theologically speaking, Jerusalem is in heaven. If Jerusalem is in heaven, then where are we? Theologically speaking, all Christians are living in Babylon. Like Daniel, all Christians are in exile, exiled from our home which is actually the kingdom of heaven! This is what we have mostly in common with Daniel. Like Daniel (and all Old Testament saints according to Hebrews 11:13), we are resident aliens living as strangers and exiles on earth from our true home, i.e., the kingdom of heaven. The apostle Peter says it this way:

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you (1 Peter: 1:1-2)

So even in the best of times, we Christians have never been and should never feel like we are at home. In the best of times, America was a God-fearing nation. In the best of times, our society, leaders, institutions reflected the ethos of a Christian world-view. However, Christianity is no longer dominant. As our culture and society and institutions (including Western civilization) are experiencing further spiritual and moral declension, the greater our sense of exile will be.

However, this awakening isn’t bad. It reminds us of the reality that all along America has never been Jerusalem, but Babylon. And second, this awakening isn’t bad because it forces us to long for heaven, especially for the creation of the new heavens and earth when Christ returns to bring heaven to earth after He has destroyed every kingdom of man. As D. L. Moody noted in the late 18th century this world is ship wrecked. The only hope for survival is to get into the lifeboat. The lifeboat is the gospel of Jesus Christ. And the only hope for safe passage is Jesus! Next time when I come back to this subject, we’ll talk about how and where we must “draw the line” as we engage our society and culture. God does not want us to disengage from our society and culture, and be cloistered in our “holy huddles.” He wants us to engage the culture, and at the same time know where to draw the line. I hope this short message has encouraged you and has set your mind straight and at ease.

In Christ

Pastor Carl

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Strangers and Exiles

“These all died in faith… having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.”

(Hebrews 11:13 ESV)

Some of you may remember singing this as a child:

This world is not my home,

I’m just a-passing through.

My treasures are laid up

Somewhere beyond the blue.

For generations and generations of Christians, in the West, this world has felt like home, and our treasures were stored in this present age: things we could taste, touch, feel, hear, and see. We, and our forefathers, lived in a world where being a Christian meant, not only laying up treasure in heaven, but also enjoying earthly treasures: treasures of the many social benefits of being a Christian. Now we are living in a Post-Christian era where there is a social cost to being a Christian. No longer is Post-Modernity and Post-Christian thought limited to the academia and cultural elites as it has been for a generation or more. Now it’s becoming mainstream. From one degree to another our culture is becoming increasingly hostile to the Christian faith: e.g., belief in the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, belief in sin, belief in absolute truth, belief in heaven and hell, even belief in natural law where it was taken for granted that marriage was between men and women, that there are only two God given genders, etc.—these are being eclipsed by neo-pagan beliefs and worldviews that are not only incommensurable and incomprehensible to one another, but also our culture is producing people for whom Christianity is offensive, where our beliefs are bigoted, and our Scriptures are full of hate-speech.

As Alasdair Begg asks in his recent book Brave by Faith: God-Sized Confidence in a Post-Christian World, “What does it look like to live as a Christian in a society that does not like what Christians believe, what we say, and how we live? How are you going to live in this new normal?” This is a great question, one that the Bible has an answer. Over the few months I’ll be providing the answers both from Begg’s study of Daniel and gleanings from my own study of 1 Peter.

In Christ,

Pastor Carl

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More Loved Than We Dare Dream

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,  he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,  whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Titus 3:4-6

C.S. Lewis famously said: “The highest doesn’t stand without the lowest.” This makes sense. Case in point, what makes the height of Mt. Everest so spectacular is the depths of the Grand Canyon. What makes the height of the Freedom Tower possible is the depth of its foundation.

This is true, especially true of the gospel. The height of the good news of the gospel does not stand without the depths of the bad news. R.C. Sproul notes: “The gospel is only good news when we understand the bad news.”  If someone says to you— “I have bad news and good news”—if you are like me you may prefer the bad first (to get that out of the way) then the good. As a child I would prefer first my bland vegetables so I could in turn enjoy my dessert.

This is true of the gospel. Tim Keller says that: “In the gospel, we discover we are far worse off than we thought, and far more loved than we ever dreamed.” In other words, the good news is the love of God, that we are loved beyond our wildest dreams, that we are accepted beyond what we can ever imagine, that we are embraced with breathtaking love! This is the height of the gospel that takes our breath away!

However, many take this for granted. Many in the churches across America today assume they are loved by God. God’s love is too domesticated, too tame, and too familiar. Such an understanding of God’s love is far from breathtaking, it’s more stale, arid, and old. Such a heart has never experienced the true love of God.

Ironically, what makes the height of God’s love so breathtaking to a true believer is coming to an understanding of the depths of our sinful nature, a biblical understanding that we (apart from Christ) are far worse off than we thought. Unconverted man hates this notion. Because of this he creates man made religions. Examples are legalism and humanism. The man- made religion of legalism tells us that the glass of our human goodness is half- empty. We are good, but not good enough. So, because of this, we must keep striving to increase our half-empty glass to being two-thirds empty or three-fourths empty with emphasis on the empty, the not quite good enough. The religion of legalism is fatally pessimistic. The other extreme is the man-made religion of humanism. It tells us that the glass of our human goodness is half-full. We are good, and getting better. We must strive to increase our half-full glass to being two-thirds full or three-fourths full with emphasis on our fullness; we are good and getting better all the time. The religion of humanism is fatally optimistic.

However, the gospel of God concerning Christ (the only God-made religion) is neither pessimistic, nor superficially optimistic. It’s realistic. Scripture tells us that the glass of our human nature is dirty with sin, that our dirty glass of sin nature contaminates the water of our so called good works. The bad news is not that our glass is full or empty, but dirty. It doesn’t matter how little or how much water we have. It is still dirty.

But the good news is this: if we would fall on the mercy God and trust and repent of our sins and stop looking to our accomplishments (whether half-full or half-empty) and look to what Christ has accomplished on the cross, then God will do what is impossible for us to do; God (as Paul says to Titus) will wash us, and renews us, and pour out on and in us His Holy Spirit. In short, He will pour out our good works, wash the glass of our hearts, and renew us by pouring his presence and power within us, replacing the foul water of our righteousness with the pure water of the righteousness of Christ. Beloved, this is the breathtaking height of the gospel!! This is the Easter message of Resurrection Sunday. As Christians may we soak this in! Though we are far worse off than we dare to think, remember that we are far more loved than we dare to dream.

In Christ

Pastor Carl

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A Biblical Notion of Justice

‘You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor.”

(Lev. 19:15 ESV)

If you recall a few months ago, I made the case that sin is not only personal but is also structural and systemic. Then I gave a summary analysis of Critical Race Theory, a theory that I argued is contrary to a biblical notion of justice. As I promised, I want to share with you a biblical notion of justice, a notion that refutes CRT.

Distinguished Dutch Reformed theologian, Herman Bavinck, argues that there are three basic demands of biblical justice that are reiterated over and over again in the Old Covenant dispensation:

(1) the guilty person may by no means be considered innocent (Deu. 25:1; Prov. 17:15; 24:24; Isa. 5:23; (2) the righteous may not be condemned (Exod. 23:7; Deut. 25:1; Pss. 31:18; 34:21; 37:12; 94:21; Prov 17:15; Isa 5:23); and (3) the rights of the poor, the oppressed, the day laborers, the widow, and the orphan especially may not be perverted but, on the contrary, must be uplifted for their protection and support (Exod. 22:21f.; Deut. 23:6; 24:14, 17; Prov. 22:22; Jer. 5:28; 22:3, 16; Ezek. 22:29; Zech.7:10).[1]  

Bavinck says that these three demands of justice are grounded “…in the fact that God is the God of justice and righteousness, who upholds the rights of the poor and the afflicted, the widow and the orphan.”[2]

There is much to say, but there are two things I want to emphasize. First, a biblical notion of justice is grounded in God: i.e., true justice is what God demands; and true justice is based on God’s righteous standards, that is the Ten Commandments. Second, God demands that the “rights” of the poor and the afflicted, the widow and the orphan be upheld. Who are the poor and afflicted, the widow and the orphan? In the Old Testament these were the “oppressed,” oppressed not because of their condition, but because of their condition people in power tended to take advantage of them. In other words, the poor are not oppressed by virtue of being poor; on the contrary, the poor are usually oppressed because they are poor. When you are poor, people who are not poor can easily take advantage of you.

What the poor as widow, orphan, and sojourner had in common was a precarious social status. In the case of the widowed and the orphaned it was the death of a husband or father; in the case of the sojourner, it was social and political dislocation due to her or his alien status of not belonging. The concern for these groups was not poverty per se as absolute poverty, but oppression. What I mean is that economic poverty, in the sense of a lack of subsistence, was par for the course in the ancient world of the Old Testament. However, if one were economically disadvantaged due to any one of these categories, then one was liable to oppression; that is, the wealthy— with their political clout and connections (social and political and economic capital)— could (and would) use their advantages over-and-against those with no such social capital. The plight of which the Old Testament most often speaks is not the plight of hunger or lack of shelter; it is their inability to maintain their rights, so that it is possible for others to oppress them. The rights that the widow and the orphan had was a right to her husband’s and a right to his/her father’s resources. The widow had certain “independent legal rights” that a married woman did not have. Case in point, the gleaning laws mandated that what was left in the fields were to be left to the sojourner. Also, because the widow and the orphan lacked sufficient “muscle power,” and the resident alien lacked equal opportunity, certain provisions were legislated: e.g., the gleaning of the fields; every three years a tithe was brought to the local town; and every seven years the land was left uncultivated so that the poor could harvest whatever grew on it.

This biblical notion of justice is contrary to CRT and other secular/pagan notions of justice. In what ways? Let me give you two: first, regarding CRT there is no notion of God; God is not the foundation of justice and righteousness. CRT rejects traditional authority. However, Scripture teaches us that all authority is on loan from God: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1 ESV). CRT and other secular/pagan notions of justice reject this. Second, regarding CRT in its notion of “intersectionality” if you are poor, a woman, a person of color etc., then your minority condition or status by definition means you are oppressed. And by definition if you are not in any one of these minority conditions or statuses you are the oppressor; you are the problem. This too is contrary to a biblical notion of justice. A biblical notion of justice looks to the rights of the poor, the widow, the orphan, etc. being protected and supported. In short, a biblical notion of  “social justice” looks to the equity of law (equity meaning what the Westminster divines meant by General Principle), that is to say no matter your condition or status in life—e.g., rich or poor, male of female, black or white, etc.—everyone has an equal, impartial standing before the law. As Moses says: “You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor” (Lev 1:15 ESV).

In conclusion, both the poor and the mighty are to be treated the same under the law; both the poor and the mighty are to judged by the same standard under the law. CRT teaches the opposite: the poor and oppressed are given preference over the mighty. That’s just as unjust as the mighty given preference over the poor and oppressed. We live in the times of a pendulum shift: we have gone from the injustice of the mighty being preferred over the oppressed (e.g., Jim Crow of previous generations) to the oppressed being preferred over the mighty (e.g., CRT’s notion of justice). A biblical notion of justice rejects both of these forms of injustice. In short, impartial or equitable judgment is a major facet of a biblical notion of justice.  


[1]. Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Sin and Salvation in Christ, v. 3 (Grand Rapids: Backer Academics 2008), 162.  

[2]. Ibid.

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