Tim Chester – You Can Change

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What Would You Like to Change?

Maybe you’d choose to change your appearance, or find a partner, or have better-behaved children. Perhaps you’re seeking one more step up the career ladder, or maybe just to get onto a career ladder. Maybe you’d like to be more confident and witty, or maybe less angry or depressed, or less controlled by your emotions.

We all want to change in some way. Some of these changes are good, others not so good. But the problem with all of them is that they’re not ambitious enough. God offers us something more — much, much more!

Broken Image Bearers

In the opening chapter of the Bible we read, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him” (Genesis 1:27). We were made to be God’s image on earth: to know him, to share his rule over the world, to reflect his glory.

The problem is that this is now a broken image because humanity has rejected God. So we try to live our lives our way, and we make a mess of things. We struggle to be God’s image on earth. We no longer reflect his glory as we should. God’s verdict on humanity is: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

We’ve failed to be the image of God we were made to be. We can’t be the people we want to be, let alone the people we ought to be.

God’s Agenda for Change

Enter Jesus, “the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4):

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. (Colossians 1:15) He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature. (Hebrews 1:3) And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

Jesus shows us God’s agenda for change. God isn’t interested in making us religious.

Think of Jesus, who was hated by religious people. God isn’t interested in making us spiritual if by spiritual we mean detached. Jesus was God getting involved with us. God isn’t interested in making us self-absorbed: Jesus was self-giving personified. God isn’t interested in serenity: Jesus was passionate for God, angry at sin, weeping for the city. The word holy means “set apart” or “consecrated.” For Jesus, holiness meant being set apart from, or different from, our sinful ways. It didn’t mean being set apart from the world, but being consecrated to God in the world. He was God’s glory in and for the world.

Jesus is the perfect person, the true image of God, the glory of the Father. And God’s agenda for change is for us to become like Jesus.

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Ken Ham – What is the Gospel?

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Understanding the foundational aspects of the gospel in Genesis is a vital key to unlock a powerful method of evangelism to reach the world for Christ.

Surely the answer to this question is obvious to the average Christian. The word gospel means “good news.” When Christians talk about the gospel, they are presenting the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection. As Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15:1–4,

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.

Paul doesn’t end his explanation of the gospel here. Note very carefully how Paul explains the gospel message later in this same passage:

Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.

For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. … And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit (1 Corinthians 15:12–45).

Notice that in explaining why Jesus died, Paul went to the book of Genesis and its account of Adam and the Fall. In other words, one cannot really understand the good news in the New Testament of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and thus payment for sin, until one understands the bad news in Genesis of the fall of man, and thus the origin of sin and its penalty of death.

I’ll never forget the phone call I received from a pastor’s wife. It went something like this: “Our church can’t come to your seminar,’ she said to me.

“Why not?” I replied.

“Well, you insist on taking Genesis as literal history. But Genesis is not that important—it’s not that essential what one believes about Genesis. Why can’t we just agree on the essentials of Christianity?’

“So what do you mean by the essentials?” I asked.

She answered, “The fact that we’re all sinners and that Jesus Christ died for our sin. This is what is essential to Christianity. Believing in a literal Genesis is certainly not essential.” She then went on and asked me, “If someone is born again as the Bible defines, but doesn’t believe in a literal Genesis as you do, is he saved and going to heaven?”

“Well,” I replied, “if he is truly born again, even if he doesn’t believe in a literal Genesis, of course he is saved and going to heaven.”

“See,” she blurted out, “Genesis is not essential—what Jesus Christ did on the cross is what is essential to Christianity.”

I then asked, “Do you mind if I ask you a question?”

“Go ahead,” she responded.

“Why did Jesus die on the Cross?”

She immediately answered, “For our sin.”

“And, what do you mean by sin?” I inquired.

“Rebellion,” came the answer.

I then asked, “Could you please tell me how you came to define sin as rebellion? Is that your idea or someone else’s idea? I’ve even heard some people define sin as ‘a lack of self-esteem.’ On what basis have you determined sin means rebellion? Where did you get that definition?”

And her response? “I know what you’re trying to do!” she declared. She realized that I had her boxed in. She didn’t want to admit that without Genesis, she could not answer the question. Because the meaning of anything (like sin) is dependent on its origin, you could not define sin without referring to the literal event of the Fall in Genesis. The literal rebellion of Adam, as recorded in Genesis, is the foundation necessary to understanding the meaning of sin.

What was I trying to do? Simply this: to demonstrate that the only way we can define sin as rebellion is if there was a literal rebellion. The reason we are all sinners is because, as Paul clearly states, we are all descendants of the first man, Adam. Because there was a literal first Adam, who was in a literal garden, with a literal tree, and took a literal fruit when tempted by a literal serpent, thus there was a literal Fall, which was a literal rebellion.

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John Piper – 1 Peter 2:11–12, Part 3: Will Others Worship God Because of You?

The Bible says that some will be saved through the witness of our faithfulness. But how does that happen? What makes our living in line with the gospel compelling to nonbelievers? In this lab, John Piper explains how our good deeds win others to Christ.

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John Piper – 1 Peter 2:11–12, Part 2: Silence the World with Good Deeds

Many Christians today cannot stand being maligned, and so they cave to what the world wants. In this lab, John Piper helps us win the world by living differently.

Many Christians today cannot stand being maligned by the world, and so they cave to what the world wants. They ignore the Bible and do whatever society does. In this lab, John Piper helps us win the world by living differently. He explains how our changed lives are one of the most powerful witnesses to the worth of Jesus Christ.

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Intelmin Week in Review – 14-20 December 2015

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Here is what made it on Intelmin last week:

John Piper – 1 Corinthians 15:9–10, Part 3: Grace Supplies Strength for Today http://intelmin.org/2015/12/john-piper-1-corinthians-159-10-part-3-grace-supplies-strength-for-today/

Jesse Johnson – The Myth of Race http://intelmin.org/2015/12/jesse-johnson-the-myth-of-race/

Mike Riccardi – Bad Doctrine vs. Heresy: An Exercise in Theological Triage http://intelmin.org/2015/12/mike-riccardi-bad-doctrine-vs-heresy-an-exercise-in-theological-triage/

A. W. Pink – Missing God’s Best http://intelmin.org/2015/12/a-w-pink-missing-gods-best/

John Bunyan – The Saint’s Knowledge of Christ’s Love http://intelmin.org/2015/12/john-bunyan-the-saints-knowledge-of-christs-love/

Michael Boling – What it Means to “Think on These Things” http://intelmin.org/2015/12/michael-boling-what-it-means-to-think-on-these-things/

Book Review – Rediscovering Discipleship: Making Jesus’ Final Words Our First Work http://intelmin.org/2015/12/book-review-rediscovering-discipleship-making-jesus-final-words-our-first-work/

Derek Thomas – 5-Step Strategy to God-Centered Prayer http://intelmin.org/2015/12/derek-thomas-5-step-strategy-to-god-centered-prayer/

A. W. Pink – Profiting from the Word http://intelmin.org/2015/12/a-w-pink-profiting-from-the-word-2/

Book Review – Evangelicals Adrift: Supplanting Scripture with Sacrementalism http://intelmin.org/2015/12/book-review-evangelicals-adrift-supplanting-scripture-with-sacrementalism/

Sean Nolan – 3 Lessons on Holiness from John Owen http://intelmin.org/2015/12/sean-nolan-3-lessons-on-holiness-from-john-owen/

Leland Ryken – What Every Book of the New Testament Is About http://intelmin.org/2015/12/leland-ryken-what-every-book-of-the-new-testament-is-about/

Michael Boling – Apologetics in the Home (Deut. 6:6-9) http://intelmin.org/2015/12/michael-boling-apologetics-in-the-home-deut-66-9/

John Piper – Thirteen Practical Steps to Kill Sin http://intelmin.org/2015/12/john-piper-thirteen-practical-steps-to-kill-sin/

Stephen Nichols – ‘I’m an Evangelical’: Rescuing the Term http://intelmin.org/2015/12/stephen-nichols-im-an-evangelical-rescuing-the-term/

Scott Redd – The Reformation: A Bible Movement (Part 1) http://intelmin.org/2015/12/scott-redd-the-reformation-a-bible-movement-part-1/

Douglas Wilson – Surveying the Text: Lamentations http://intelmin.org/2015/12/douglas-wilson-surveying-the-text-lamentations/

Michael Boling – Keeping Your Lips From Deceit http://intelmin.org/2015/12/michael-boling-keeping-your-lips-from-deceit/

Thomas Boston – The Hellish Sin of Discontent http://intelmin.org/2015/12/thomas-boston-the-hellish-sin-of-discontent/

Leland Ryken – What Every Book of the Old Testament Is About http://intelmin.org/2015/12/leland-ryken-what-every-book-of-the-old-testament-is-about/

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Mike Ratliff – The Fruit of the Fear of God

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13 The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. 14 For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 NASB)

The total lack of the fear of God is what marks the ungodly. (Romans 3:18) On the other hand, genuine believers in scripture are described as those who do fear Him. Tragically, when moral issues between professing Christians and the unchurched are compared there is very little difference. There is the same level of divorce, adultery, pornography, dishonesty; et cetera in both groups. This should not be so.

What is wrong? The sin level has risen in the visible Church because there is the same level of fear of God in it that the lost have. In other words, there is no fear of God before their eyes. They actually fear men more than God. This sad state of affairs in the Church actually parallels the apostasy of Israel and Judah in the Old Testament.

Isaiah 5 is the conclusion of God’s evaluation of His people, which began in Isaiah 2:1. In Chapter 5 God compares His people to a vineyard, which He cultivated, but which did not bear fruit.

1 Let me sing now for my well- beloved
A song of my beloved concerning His vineyard.
My well- beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill.
2 He dug it all around, removed its stones,
And planted it with the choicest vine.
And He built a tower in the middle of it
And also hewed out a wine vat in it;
Then He expected it to produce good grapes,
But it produced only worthless ones. (Isaiah 5:1-2 NASB)

Isaiah is singing this song to the Lord whom he loves. Who owns the vineyard? God does! He placed it on a very fertile hill. That would be the planting of Israel in the Promised Land. However, on a spiritual level, He gave them His Law and sent them prophets. This signified in Him digging it and clearing it of stones. This is the planting of God’s truth within them. This truth shed light into the darkness removing the stones of confusion and the ways of men and of legalism and self-righteousness. God did everything possible to point the Israelites in the right direction via the Law and the prophets. There should have been good fruit, but instead there was only bad fruit from this vineyard.

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Dave Dunham – Studies in Leviticus: You Shall Be Holy (Chapters 19 & 20)

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If Leviticus has stressed anything for the reader it is the essential nature of holiness in the life of the people of God. This holiness is necessary because it is reflective of the God with whom we are in relationship. See how often the phrase “I am the Lord” is used in chapter 19. So, even here in Leviticus 19 God establishes, “You shall be holy for I the Lord your God am holy” (v. 2). In Leviticus 19 & 20 we see that holiness is important because it allows us to accurately represent God to the world. As such, holiness still matters for the believer today.

Holiness can seem a very vague and ethereal idea. Culturally the contemporary church has overly spiritualized the word, but Biblically it is a very earthy idea. Holiness is a tangible concept in Leviticus, even mundane. Holiness is part of the routine and ritual of Israel’s life, with concrete expressions in their daily living. We’ll see that holiness is to be the same for us too, as New Testament followers of Jesus.

These two chapters correspond as the command and the consequence. Chapter 19 outlines the detailed expectations of holy living and chapter 20 establishes the consequences for disobedience to these commands. God establishes the motivation to holiness, then, as both evangelistic appeal and avoidance of judgment.

Chapter 19 can be broken down into five sections. The first two verses are the prologue, introducing the subject of holiness and its foundation in the person of God. Verses 3-10 describe that holiness in specifics: respect your parents, keep the Sabbath, do not worship idols, offer sacrifices properly, and care for the poor and the sojourner. Verses 11-18 give more tangible details about loving our neighbors. In 19-31 the conversation shifts to describe holiness as avoidance of that which is unholy. Finally, verses 32-37 describe holiness in terms of caring for the elderly and the stranger. Notice in this chapter just how practical holiness is. It is about what you do, what you don’t do, and how you relate to others. Holiness is about loving God and loving others, covering both tables of the Ten Commandments. One could not, in other words, claim to love God while hating one’s neighbor. Holiness requires observance of both aspects.

Chapter 20 follows up by delineating the serious consequences for disobedience to God’s rules. In each case, disobedience requires that the sinner be “cut off” from the people of God. That is, he is to be killed. Death is the consequence of this immorality. The chapter explores several specific violations of the law: child sacrifice, use of mediums and necromancers, cursing of parents, and sexual immorality. God has given specific commands to be observed and obeyed and the disregarding of his holiness commands results in our own destruction.

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Michael Boling – Think Adoption

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This is my recent contribution to Theology for Life. You can read the rest of the issue by clicking here.

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship (adoption). And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15)

Two years ago, my wife and I adopted our daughter. I can only imagine what it must be like to be a foster child awaiting that forever family to come along, a group of people you have longed for, and a place to have a new start on life, leaving the past behind and the troubles you endured behind as well. While I watched the excitement build on my daughter’s face, as we began to find out the final adoption paperwork was in the works, it was hard to understand the entirety of how she felt other than the obvious sense of relief and finality. Knowing where she has come from, there was a great sense of relief and calm that came over her as she realized she was now in her forever home with people who love and care for her.

Deciding to adopt was not an easy process. My wife and I lost track of the number of people who tried to convince us to pursue another approach. “Adopted kids come from such rough backgrounds and thus will be nothing but trouble” was the typical mantra that was sent our direction more often than not. Despite the push to choose an alternate direction, my wife and continued to pursue what we felt strongly God was leading us to do, namely to reach out to a child in need and to welcome that kiddo into our family as our own.

Anyone who has gone through the lengthy adoption process can attest it is not for the impatient nor faint of heart. Understandably, there is much rigor and a mountain of paperwork to complete on the part of the potential adoptive family. Adoption agencies as well as the state and federal government want to ensure the child is being placed with a family that is suitable for that child and in an environment that can properly address the particular needs of the child. For instance, some children might have educational development delays or physical handicaps that take the special care of a family who is able to meet those issues. Our daughter had a few educational hiccups in her early childhood due to the neglect of her biological parents. Due to that issue, we had to demonstrate our ability to address those needs and to ensure academic growth. We also had to ensure that counseling services were in place to continue moving our daughter forward emotionally from the trauma she experienced in her early childhood. All this took time, money, and sticking with what God was leading us to do.

Such things might serve to scare many people away from adopting a child. There is the inherent fear of not being able to care for a child with special needs or helping a child work through emotional setbacks. Many feel they are not a child psychologist or believe they could not financially afford such a journey. Quite frankly, there are certainly some who should not go on this journey of adoption. It is definitely not for everyone. With that said, if God is leading you to adopt, let me share a four points to consider.

Four Important Points about Adoption

First, seek out a quality adoption agency. Your adoption agency point of contact will be your lifeline throughout this process. There are a number of options to choose from. We utilized the services of Lutheran Child and Family Services. If they have a branch in your area, we highly recommend them. It is often helpful to ask those in your church or circle of friends who have adopted children, as to what adoption agency or service they used. Word of mouth and personal experience are helpful barometers.

Second, prepare yourself for a lengthy journey. We adopted a child from another state. One would have thought we were trying to adopt a child from another country given all the additional paperwork and red tape. There are many adoption options such as overseas, within your state, inter-state, and family just to name a few. Each option carries with it varying costs, timelines, and requirements. It will behoove you to first decide which path to take and when you proceed down that path. Part of the length will come from the inherent excitement that builds, especially when you have been selected for a child and you begin visitation. The final month until placement seems like an eternity. Remain patient, knowing that glorious day when that child joins your family will soon arrive. Anxiety will not speed the process up. Trust me…we tried.

Third, the honeymoon will be over rather quickly. Remember when you first got married how everything was sweet and happy go lucky? At least until you forgot to put down the toilet seat. The same thing goes for when the child you waited for so long finally joins your home. The honeymoon may seem like it will last forever, but be forewarned – it will not. These are children with often horrible pasts, kids coming from heartbreaking situations. Those issues will continue to rear their ugly heads. Your adoption agency and the training you receive before your child joins your family will help a great deal; however, you are never fully prepared for what will likely happen. You will need to demonstrate a great deal of patience, firm yet loving parenting skills, and a high dose of time spent in prayer and connecting with people who have been there and done that. Surround yourself with a group of people who can mentor you and take advantage of post-placement services your adoption agency can either provide or connect you with. Furthermore, by all means spend much time in prayer. God will get you through the difficult times and believe me, there will be many.

Fourth, never forget God reached out and adopted us into His family. As noted in 1 Peter 2:9, as adopted sons, we are a “chosen people, the King’s cohanim, a holy nation, a people for God to possess! Why? In order for you to declare the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” What a glorious thing to grasp! We are part of the family of God. God is our Father.

As a father, I am still contemplating what that means, what my role is, and how to be the best father I can to my daughter. As an imperfect human, I know I will make my share of mistakes which likely will far outweigh my victories. Part of maturing in the role of a father is recognizing those failures and potential pitfalls and leaning on my heavenly Father to help me raise my daughter in the fear and admonition of the Lord. God our heavenly Father has no imperfections or failures. He is the perfect model of what a father should look like and our example as earthly fathers of what to be like with our children. When those hard times come as an adoptive parent, lean on your heavenly Father.

A Few Final Thoughts…

If you are at all feeling led to adopt, I highly encourage you to speak to an adoption agency or at least to talk with people in your church or whom you know that have adopted. This is not something to embark upon without much prayer and research. If you are being led by God to adopt, by all means do so. There are many children languishing in foster care and in orphanages in our country and around the world. We are called by God to reach out to these children in need. If you are not being called by God to adopt, you can definitely play a part in someone else’s journey. Individuals or churches can help out financially given the exorbitant costs often associated with adoptions, especially of children overseas. Take up collections of clothes, diapers, toys and anything else to help future adoptive parents. By all means if nothing else, pray for those going on this journey.

Adopting our daughter was one of the best decisions we ever made. There have been many rough patches along the way, but through those times we have grown closer to our daughter and we are seeing her grow up to be a wonderful teenage girl, full of love for God and others.

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GraceAnna Castleberry – The Dior Woman and True Freedom

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I usually do not give much notice to commercials (fast forwarding whenever possible), but recently an advertisement for the perfume, Miss Dior, did exactly what the producer intended – it caught my full attention.

In the film, Natalie Portman stars as a runaway bride. The wedding venue and dress exude absolute perfection. But the film is strangely black and white.

Portman is wavering, and as she reaches the end of the aisle her doubt turns into decision. “I am sorry, Dad” she says as the scene bursts in to vibrant hues and Portman tears off her gorgeous hand-crafted gown to reveal a black cocktail dress.

Feminist Janis Joplin’s power anthem, “Piece of My Heart,” cheers Portman on as she runs fast and hard away from her vows, her family, and fiancé.

A second later she reaches a precipice, and a helicopter appears and she leaps on. Her apparent lover (also co-pilot) kisses her on the cheek and they fly away into the sunset. Portman has chosen to be “Miss Dior” instead of a married madam.

As I observed the grandeur scene and message of “freedom” portrayed by Portman, it made me sad.

Not because she chose singleness. No one should marry the wrong person and singleness is an equally esteemed gift from God as marriage. No, I was saddened by her rebellion against the commitment of marriage and the glorification of a life free from marital responsibilities.

It is hard for me to remember that there was indeed a time in my life when the only person I was responsible for was myself (much less jumping on a helicopter with rose petals swirling all around).

These days my life is filled with responsibilities to my husband and children. I wish in that order. But the majority of my time is spent doing things like changing a diaper on a minivan floorboard, scrubbing up calcified play-doh, or saying things like “We don’t play with toilet water” and “No you can’t wear princess slippers to the grocery store.”

I’m a runner and I used to think logging miles was hard. Now hitting the road all alone sounds like a breeze. It’s the getting out the door part that is the real marathon.

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