Wednesday, April 19, 2017

This Blog Has Moved!

Hello friends!

In case you have been manually typing in this web address, or are just receiving email updates, I want to let you know that I have transferred this blog to a new website that I think you will find much more user friendly just as I have.

Please stop by and pass it on to whomever you think would benefit from our study of God's Word. You can re-subscribe there and see a number of the recent posts that have been done on worship leading as well as our latest study that kicked off in Jude.

Visit the new home for ToTheWoodshed

Thank you for reading and I pray this medium continues to be an edifying source of the truth.

In Christ Alone,


Monday, April 17, 2017

What Jesus’ Brother Jude Wanted Us to Know | Part 1: From Skeptic to Slave

If you were living in the first century and knew the family of Jesus, Jude is probably not one who would strike you as a future contributor to the Holy Scriptures. Yet, as God has divinely orchestrated, Jude did in fact represent a unique testimony of the Son of God as one who had grown up with Him and witnessed nearly every aspect of His life—far more than any apostle. This does not weaken the apostle’s testimony stemming from their personal discipleship from the Lord Jesus—far from that!—but it does strengthen the testimony we have received from God that Jesus’ own immediate family would recognize Him as the Messiah and divinely appointed substitutionary atonement for sin because that was not the brothers’ position from the beginning.

Jude was one of four half-brothers of Jesus. Mary, obviously a virgin when she conceived Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit, was the only genetic contributor to the birth—Joseph was not. Joseph was, however, the legal father of Jesus. Joseph and Mary, together, had four more sons who both Matthew and Mark tell us are James (the author of the biblical book of James), Joseph, Simon, and Judas—the Greek name of our author now in question (Matt 13:55; Mk 6:3).

Jude, though he spent decades with the only perfect and holy person on earth, still had a heart veiled of the truth, one of skepticism and unbelief as to who his brother Jesus really was. The Apostle John records for us a time when Jesus’ brothers pestered Him with cynical, combative questions and comments, perhaps in a slightly passive-aggressive manner:

“Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world” (7:3–4).

John leaves no room for doubting their intentions here by stating immediately, “for not even his brothers believed in him” (v. 5).

We don’t actually see any clear, positive signs of genuine faith from Jesus’ brothers until immediately after his death and/or resurrection. It is quite possible that they had a similar experience to the centurion, who, after experiencing the darkness of the sun for three hours—starting at high noon—then hearing Jesus yell out from the cross, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit,’ then finally feeling the violent earthquake that caused large rocks to be split apart, spoke with fearful conviction, ‘Truly, this innocent man was the Son of God!’ (Matt 27:51–54; Lk 23:44–47).

Jude and his brothers, then, would undoubtedly be a part of “all the rest,” mentioned in Luke 24:9, of the group that met behind locked doors after Jesus’ death with His disciples. It was here that Jesus miraculously walked through the wall and revealed Himself as the risen Messiah, shocking everyone in the room (v. 37). Their joy and marveling notwithstanding, they still could not bring themselves to believe that this was the physically raised Jesus that they knew all these years. Again, Jude would have been a part of that group that experienced when Jesus “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures”—all that the Old Testament had prophesied about Himself (v. 45). It finally clicked, and this by a sovereign and gracious act of God to remove the blinders of disbelief.

From here, Jesus led them out to Bethany where He ascended up into Heaven, having told them to stay in Jerusalem until the power of the Holy Spirit came upon them—looking forward to Pentecost and the miraculous gift of languages in Acts 2. Jude, along with the others, “returned to Jerusalem with great joy” (v. 52) Then, just as Jesus had told them to, they waited. Indeed, “all these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers” (Acts 1:14).

After the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, the Christ, His brothers were changed men. They were new creations (2 Cor 5:17) having been regenerated by the Holy Spirit (Tit 3:5). This is left without question as their own personal testimony reveals. Their disposition is no longer one of skepticism to an older brother in the flesh, but one of a humble slave in recognition of His Master and Lord.

James starts his letter by calling himself a “slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:1) as does our author in question, Jude, who begins his short epistle with an identification as “a slave of Jesus Christ and brother of James” (1:1). In both instances, James and Jude use the Greek word doulos, which only ever means slave and is not properly understood as either a servant, or even a bond-servant. Slaves are bought and slaves are owned.

This was further substantiated when the Apostle Paul had written to the Corinthians that they were “bought with a price” (1 Cor 6:20, 7:23), or when Peter reminded his readers that they were “ransomed . . . with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Pet 1:18–19). This makes sense when considering that we were formerly slaves of something else—sin!

The Apostle Paul explains further: “When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:20–23).

Understanding the background of Jude instantly confronts the reader with an obvious challenge—how do you view yourself? Is it the way that the Bible so often identifies His believing children—as obedient slaves? Or do we belittle the Messiah who takes away the sins of the world to someone who merely allows us to continue in our sin with no threat of divine recompense? Jude would strongly attest to the former position. Jude knows that unbelief is damning and he would labor to save us from that.

We are also confronted with the reality that our physical family on earth has no bearing whatsoever on our original disposition with the Creator of heaven and earth. Even if we were blood relatives to the Lord Jesus Himself—as Jude was—we are still under the wrath of God until we come to a place of humble repentance and confession of sin as well as a confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.

The Lord Himself rebuffed the Jews on this point: “Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham” (Matt 3:9).

No, it is not an earthly lineage that saves a man from divine wrath. It is not because you were born into a Christian home, or because you have a minister as a father. We confess with the Apostle Peter: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt 16:16)—a truth that is not revealed by flesh and blood, but by the Father.

Jude writes to us as a fellow slave of Christ warning us of the dangers of wrong belief, false teachers, apostates, and heretics. It is in this letter that the famous opening words are remembered: “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (v. 3). His letter, though small in size, is large in content and we will do well to carefully read the words of this brother of our Lord Jesus Christ, who was once a skeptic and was now a willing and humble slave.

Stay tuned for more from Jude.

In Christ Alone,


Friday, April 14, 2017

We Must Understand Experience and Emotions in the Light of Scripture—Not the Other Way Around

The growing danger in the church today is the wide-held idea that feelings and experiences in themselves are the end goal of spiritual life. Too many think that they must get themselves to a self-defined point or feeling in order to consider themselves to having worshipped God. To strive so much after experiential stimulus has itself become the new object of worship, rather than the living God whom we must approach and worship in reverence and awe.

Far from seeking God as the object of our devotion, we have instead, in many cases, been guilty of seeking our own positive experience, deceiving ourselves into thinking that if we can get it, then we must have felt the Spirit moving. Rather than defining our emotions in light of the truth of God’s Word, we have instead leaned too hard on our own understanding and have trusted in subjective feelings to define for us what worship is and who God is.

Not only is this a gross and perverted view of worshipping God—by elevating man’s opinion above God’s decree—this has enormous implications and potentially dangerous consequences if left unchecked.

Man, in all of his earthly wonder, seeming wisdom, intellect, emotional complexities, and vast experiential repertoire, will always be subjected to his own inconsistent and fickle, sin-bent tendencies. Thus, all of the aforementioned niceties are not to be relied upon as final arbitration, especially in matters that pertain to the eternal, living God of Heaven and earth.

Indeed, the Psalms, the Prophets, and the Apostles all had this to say about the self-sufficiency of man: they are as powerful as the grass of the field and the flowers of the grassy field in the scorching heat of the sun—they wither and fall away (Ps 103:15; Is 40:6–8; Js 1:10–11; 1 Pet 1:24). It is in contrast to this weak and pathetic picture of mankind that the writers uphold the eternal and immutable—unchangeable—nature of the Word of God that can be counted on forever.

Only from the Word of God—and that being faithfully and diligently meted out in practice (Heb 5:14)—can one have a chance of discerning their own emotions and intentions correctly. Ultimately, it will be with the help of other godly men and women in our lives who can help us in our weaknesses and “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2). We must look at our life and our experiences through the discerning lens of the Holy Scriptures. We must not apply to Scripture any definition, or interpretation, based on our perspectives that have been molded by all sorts of temporal experiences.


Jeremiah states clearly it is because the “heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it” (17:9)?

Our desires, perspectives, and biases are warped and depraved by nature. To use that as a tool for defining right and wrong or to interpret spiritual realities is a magnanimous error. Isaiah even pronounced a woe upon those who would call “evil good and good evil,” (5:20) thus making it clear that men and women can and do wrongly discern and define.

The major threat that we face, then, when we do not love the truth and do not seek for righteousness and, rather, seek selfish, personal religious fetishes and shibboleths, is that we train ourselves to believe that the legitimacy, truthfulness, and genuineness of any preacher, teacher, or “worship musician” as being firmly established so long as they can deliver that particular experience we are so desperately trying to conjure. We esteem them to be unquestionably orthodox and spiritual.

Yet, it is precisely at this point that the Apostle's Paul & John warn their readers since the Antichrist, or lawless one, by the power of Satan, will have the ability to replicate many of the same signs and wonders that former prophets like Elijah had done when he called down fire from heaven on Mt. Carmel.

For instance, in Revelation 13, John says that the "second beast" will be able to call down fire from heaven in front of people, that "by the signs . . . it deceives those who dwell on earth" (v. 13).

Will he be able to deceive true Christians? The answer is an emphatic “no!” The Lord Jesus says it will be impossible to deceive the elect: “False christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect” (Matt 24:24) (emphasis mine).

Paul writes to the Thessalonians and includes a warning about “The coming of the lawless one” saying that it is “by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception” that he will deceive many (2 Thess 2:9–10).

The takeaway is clear: We cannot count on external experiences alone to guide our understanding of truth. Rather, it is the truth that guides our understanding of experiences and it is the truth that discerns for us whether signs and wonders are true or false.

Experiences can be created. Emotions can be manipulated. Only those who "love the truth" will not be deluded, Paul says (2 Thess 2:10).

True repentance, regeneration, and sanctification will bring forth the most genuine forms of humble emotion you will ever experience, even a peace so unusual that it "surpasses understanding" (Phil 4:7). This will naturally result—supernaturally, rather!—when the living God abides in you.

Considering His mercy and forgiveness will bring forth praise as you remember that you should be punished in hell but were instead reconciled to Him in Christ.

Considering His justice will bring forth profound worship as you think and ponder on the fact that He has so condescended Himself to save someone like you or I.

Considering His holiness will bring forth more cries for help and grace to sustain us in a dark world where our flesh is still yet to be fully tamed, knowing that the true result of true conversion is a true manifestation of the Holy Spirit in our lives, no longer living according to the flesh, which is at odds with God, but living and walking according to the Spirit.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, remember the words of the Lord Himself as He taught the crowds on the hillside above the Sea of Galilee: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt 5:6).

Make that your goal. Make that your aim. Then let the Lord work out in your life the experience that can never be replicated anywhere else: godliness with contentment, which is great gain (1 Tim 6:6).

In Christ Alone,