Sunday, February 28, 2010

Trust and Obey

We cannot see and understand the world or even our own lives the way that God does. For some, this is frustrating. They have a need to understand and will not fully trust God until they do understand.  And since this level of understanding is often, perhaps even usually, withheld from them, their frustration continues or even increases.  And they make the claim that their frustration is because God has not revealed Himself clearly enough or explained what He is doing clearly enough.  When, in fact, the true reason for the frustration is a lack of trust in God.
 We should get this right so we can adequately raise our own children.  They often have more faith in us than we have in God.  There are many, many things that they cannot understand. What two year old understands a spanking?  Or a denial of some simple fun, television, a video game, playing with the rebellious Johnny next door?  But the child learns to simply trust and obey.  I hope our children will grow up and be able to transfer their explicit trust in us parents to their heavenly Father.  
But how are we doing? Do we trust Him explicitly for all the things that are going on in our lives and in the world that we do not understand?  Is He working all things for good?  

Are you willing to not know and simply to trust our Lord Christ?  With that sickness? With that shaky job? With that unknown future? With that theological conundrum?  With that unjust accusation? With that slight from your sisters?
Our job is to obey the Lord, turn from sin, walk according to the Holy Spirit and put our simple and explicit trust in Jesus Christ.  He is in control of the master plan. We need to rest in that great truth.

Are you resting? Or tossing and turning?

Communion Meditation- Edible Word

The Lord feeds us. His food is the Word of God. It is given for cleansing the inner man and for casting out demons of evil desire and sin. His food makes us fit for the Spiritual work of the kingdom. It is the fertilizer that prunes us so that we bring forth the fruit of the Spirit in great abundance; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

The Word of God does go to the heart and purifies. It purges out the leaven of unrighteousness. It deals with sin and wickedness. It transforms us and renews us from faith to faith and glory to glory. It kills the old man but gives birth to the new.

What we hold here is not merely bread. It is the edible Word of God. Because we partake by faith, believing all of God’s promises to us in Christ, the Word of God is applied to us and sealed with us in assurance of His promises.

Just as surely as you hold that bread in your hand and eat it with these saints, has God given you the Lord Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit. Why doubt this truth? Look at the bread and remember God’s promises to you. He fulfilled them when Jesus died on the cross. How could He prove His promises more clearly than that.

So look to Christ in full assurance of faith.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Christ and the Church

The Bible tells us that marriage is an image of Christ and the Church. We tend to think of this the other way round. We think Christ and His Church is like marriage.

If we put things in proper order, we find that the Bible has much to teach us. How is a man supposed to treat his wife? Well, how did Jesus treat the Church? He served her, think of the washing of the Apostles' feet. He taught. He suffered. He died. He rose. He ascended. He rules. He watches over by His Holy Spirit. He intercedes. He promises to never leave and to make His bride perfect. He is coming again and we can trust His Word absolutely.

As we were discussing this yesterday, we gained more insight into the role of the wife, as well as the role of God's people in the church, both in leadership as well as laymen.

God's people do maintenance. They administer the work of God. They keep track of the household of faith. They prepare the sacraments. They are assistants to Christ in that role. He makes the sacraments efficacious but His ministers do the physical work.

The church worships the Trinity and the Son of God is the husband of the church, worshipped accordingly. A wife ought not to worship her husband as God. That would be disobedience to God. But she ought to reverence her husband, as Sarah did, calling her husband lord.

The Church adds to her number, preaching, teaching, making disciples in all nations. Just as the Church is saved by childbearing, so, too, is a godly woman. The Church prepares and feeds her household, admonishing unruly children, praising the faithful and obedient.

You get the idea. These are profound truths and we would do well to ponder them as we think about our roles as husbands and wives.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lonesome Years

Lonesome Years.
Virgil Hurt

I’m on my own
Without you
I’m all alone

And where do we go from here?
To wind back the lonesome years.

Tears that roll
See me
I’m all alone


To start anew
It’s only me
And you


Your hand in mine
Me and you
It’s time

And I’m glad you brought me here
To wind back the lonesome years

And I’m glad you brought me here
To wind back the lonesome years.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Things I Never Noticed in the Bible- Golden Rule Pretzel

Matthew 7:12 12Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

I am sure we have all read the golden rule many times in various forms in the Scriptures.  I suppose I have most often read it in a negative sense like this, "Do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you."

This keeps us from treating other people in all sorts of ill ways. You do not want someone to slander you, so do not slander them. You do not want someone to presume on your behavior, so you do not make bad assumptions about them.

But this rule is given to us in a very positive and forceful way, "Do to them what you would have them do to you."

I believe this changes things quite a bit. Men want honor and respect but do we simply not dishonor others?  Or do we actively honor others?

We often want respect and honor from our wives. We may even tell them so. But if you have to ask it lessons the import and effectiveness of the honor or respect. 

So, how do you treat your wife the way you want to be treated? Here's the twist, the pretzel part.

You want honor and respect. From men, you get honor and respect by giving honor and respect. If you are not getting any, it is probable that you are not giving any.

With your wife, the transaction is a bit different.  You want honor and respect from her but you do not get it by giving it.  She wants love from you.  If you are not getting the respect you want and need from her, then what is the problem?  You are not giving the love. 

Incidentally, this works in the reverse order as well. If a wife wants more love, she needs to give more respect and honor. But we are talking to the men and expect them to lead their wives by example.

Finally, the last part of this verse is 'this is the law and the prophets.'  We know that all the law and prophets is contained in this simple saying, "Love thy neighbor as thyself."  That is a different version of the Golden Rule. 

And I ask, "Who is a closer neighbor than your spouse?"

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Deep Exegesis- Leithart

Just finished Peter Leithart's Deep Exegesis, The Mystery of Reading Scripture.

It is an excellent book. One of my deep mysteries is how Dr. Leithart reads so many books and remembers them. Overall, this is an excellent book as one thinks about not only reading Scripture but reading in general. Leithart shows how we bring all of our past experiences and reading into the meaning of the text. The reader correctly does this and the texts themselves encourage us to read this way.

He argues that any modern reader cannot fully or even correctly understand T.S. Eliot, unless he understands or experiences Eliot's reading. Eliot read Dante who read Virgil who read Homer. So, you read Eliot one way, until you read Dante and realize your reading of Eliot was short, or weak, or even wrong. And then you read Virgil and Homer and find in them so much of Eliot, or perhaps better said, so much of them in him. And the text takes on a fuller or even a different reading.

All texts work this way and so we should not be surprised that Scripture works this way, as well. It keeps taking on new meanings for us. This is not to say that we can mold the text into any meaning we want to. To do that to Eliot would be dishonest. But we can continue to come to know texts in deeper and deeper and surprisingly comprehensive and different ways.

I wish this book was shorter. Leithart is brilliant and so many connections flow so easily from his pen it is difficult to keep them all going in the same direction. To wit, the 'accessibility' of Leithart is blocked by his own vast knowledge. I get the sense he doesn't realize that he is making tough sledding for the rest of us. He just slides merrily down the hill. This is a book that ought to be read by many far and wide but I wonder if some of it will be too obscure and difficult for some. Not sure of his target audience but these ideas would be good to condense and present in a broader context.

Then again, it might simply be my mushy skull that fails to maintain the proper forward motion.

I give the book 3 1/2 of 4 stars simply because of some of the difficulty and flow of the book. The ideas and most of the presentation are simply top notch.

You ought to read it.

Communion Meditation- Discipline

We have been talking about discipline, doing the same things over and over for the purpose of advancing in godliness. But, of course, we all know that discipline, which is good, can also be the source of thoughtlessness. In a very real way, that is one of the great purposes of discipline. Once we have a behavior as a habit, we cease to think about it.

Those of you who arise at the exact same time every day train your bodies to awake and arise at that time with little or no effort like it was before it was a habit. Many of you pray every time you eat. And if you do these things enough, you do them without thinking about them. I dare say that many people pray before they eat without praying at all. Bow the head, bat the eye, bite the burger.

The Lord’s Supper is a discipline and a good one, perhaps the very best. But in order to partake of it and receive the true benefit, it ought not to be done like a prayer before a burger that is not a prayer at all. It ought to be done like the prayer before Thanksgiving meal when everyone has been waiting, smelling and anticipating the feast all day long.

I have noticed that some of our children do not have a good sense of reverence, joy, attention and thanksgiving in this meal. We do not want that to become their habit. Do not fret on this now but work on correcting this attitude at home in your meals and in your prayers. Instruct them about the glory and import of this meal where we feed on Christ. Make sure your correction to them is towards joy and thanksgiving. Encourage and exhort them, and yourselves, to come to this meal with a true heart of joy and thanksgiving.

Discipline and Godliness

Dear brothers and sisters, we are all engaged in a life of discipline. Even our regular Lord’s Day worship is discipline. It is something we do regularly and repeatedly. Many of you are working on the Jonathan Edwards Disciplines for a season. This is well and good.

The apostles says, 1Cor. 9 24Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. 25And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 26I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: 27But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

So, it is good to discipline your body. If this is done for the purpose of disciplining your whole man towards godliness, you do well. But we all know many athletes that are disciplined in their particular skill who are not also disciplined to godliness. So, do not make the mistake of thinking that because you have any number of bodily disciplines, exercise or diet, or even spiritual disciplines, bible reading or even prayer, that these disciplines automatically make you godly. The disciplines should be used towards godliness but they ought not to be confused with godliness. Are you producing godly fruit?

The apostle says to Timothy, 1Tim.4:6-8 If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. 7But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. 8For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.

So, do your disciplines help you produce godly fruit? If not, they are of no earthly or heavenly use. Now, I do not despise disciplines whether purely physical or mental and spiritual. But we must examine the fruit thereof.

What is growing from your disciplines? Do they need pruning? Is your heart of humility and virtue being strengthened? Or are your disciplines producing a buffed and steely heart? If godly virtue and humility is not the fruit of your discipline, then repentance is the pruning needed to produce a heart of flesh.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

JED- Day 1

Well, we are half a day into JED. So far, so good.

I was up early for Bible Study and prayer. My oldest son and three daughters all got up and we spent time reading the Scriptures and in prayer. It was a beautiful way to start a day.

Here are some comments that I have already received from members of our church.

One man has already made a hardy resolution.

"Resolved to do all things without a spirit of complaining. "Do all things without complaining and arguing so that you may become blameless and pure children of God, without fault, in a crooked and depraved generation." "

Another is calculating the sleep or lack thereof.

"I got up at 5:04 this morning (6 hours 15 minutes of sleep), and had a good time of reading scripture and praying before I got my wife up at 6:00 (which is her JED wake up time). I tried to reduce the size of my breakfast to have a diet of moderation... and I'm about starving now."

I am encouraged as a pastor that quite a number of people in our church have taken up the challenge to live a more godly and disciplined life. I believe it will produce godly fruit and am excited to see the result of this concentrated effort.

Even my 8 year old son wanted to get into the get up early act. I think he needs lots of sleep so was not encouraging him to get up at 5am. This morning my oldest son woke him up at 5am. I woke him up, briefly, at 6am, not really to get him up but because he wanted me to wake him. I am sure he stumbled out of bed at a much later time. And good for him. But he is going to pray with my wife three times a day and that is another beautiful outcome. God is good.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Jonathan Edwards Discipline- JED

Just read The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards (Long Line of Godly Men Profile)- Steven Lawson.

I gave the book a 2 out of 4 stars. I anticipated a biography of the great man. I have heard lots about Edwards but read little. So, I was a little disappointed that the book is not really a biography.

It is a short introduction into the Resolutions of Edwards. He made 70 resolutions as a young man of nineteen and then spent his life attempting to be faithful to his resolutions and His Lord. This is one reason why Edwards was able to accomplish so much.

The book was subpar but it did give me a great interest in Edwards and a renewed vigor towards spiritual disciplines. In fact, I have resolved to follow some spiritual disciplines extra closely during the Lenten season. I have asked for volunteers from our church to join me in this and have surprisingly received a very positive response.

Beginning on Wednesday, Feb.24, here is what we intend to do.

Here is the letter of invite that I sent to our church.

Gentlemen and Ladies, Young Men and Women of at least age 13,

Would you consider taking a wilderness experience with me?

I have been reading a biography of Jonathan Edwards, one of the greatest men in the history of the United States. He was a bit austere, truly a modern Christian ascetic. I am not agitating for asceticism. But I do think some serious spiritual discipline practice is likely to benefit us. We will not be doing anything even so drastic in these 40 days as the way he spent his entire life.

Here is what I am proposing. For the Lenten season, beginning Feb. 17, let those who would willingly do so, embark upon a journey into the wilderness. For the 40 days of Lent, we will practice spiritual disciplines, perhaps in a way that we have never done before. We will meet weekly to discuss our triumphs and failures as well as the benefits or drawbacks, to such a course.

By the way, I am not trying to create a new Lenten practice at our church. I do not necessarily believe in penitential seasons. I am not proposing that. I think concentrated focus on doing the right things is good. Extended times of several weeks of personal introspection is not necessarily good. Too much focus on self and what we are doing here also might be too much focus on self. Maybe this will give us some insight on how we might want to celebrate or practice in our Pre-Easter season in the future, maybe not. But this is being done as a one-time thing.

The goal will be to practice discipline and develop habits of those disciplines that most benefit us. I imagine we will be in for some surprises. We will probably also have lots of failures but I think the successes will make it worth it.

We will call it JED- Jonathan Edwards Discipline

What will this 40 days entail?
1. Prayer three times daily, morning, noon, night. These may be short times or longer as occasion or opportunity arise. But at the minimum, 15 minutes a day, at least five minutes per prayer time.
2. Arising early, 5am, Or, not more than 7 hours of sleep per night. I know, but part of this is to see what we can get out of this time. It’s only 40 days, you can do it. Part of this discipline is simply redeeming the time. We may find that we need more sleep but we may find that we can get by just as well or even better on 7. I generally get a lot of sleep so this will be a challenge for me.
3. Reading a short biography of Jonathan Edwards and his Resolutions.
4. Read his 70 resolutions weekly. They take about 5-10 minutes to read. We’ll discuss them.
5. Develop your own life resolutions. Say, at least 12 resolutions.
6. Practice an Edwardsian moderation in diet. Well, not exactly, he was a Spartan, but choose to eat carefully and wisely such that you are not sluggish. Maybe, for this season setting some guidelines on amounts of food and drink. (ie. Only one helping, not more than one soda, beer or glass of wine per day, maybe not eating something you tend to indulge in that is not particularly good for you, that sort of thing).
7. Changing some behavior that wastefully uses up a lot of time.(For me, checking internet for news, sports, etc. Not using the internet at all at home in the evening. I can take a break for 40 days.) Each of you might have a different time waster.
8. Fast at least one meal per week.
9. Fast one full day during this 40 days. We may pick the same day so we can compare notes and talk about how it went.
10. Read the Bible for at least 30 minutes per day. (easy to do if you get up at 5am). Recommend several psalms or page of psalms, one proverb, reading in OT and NT. Or follow your regular reading plan but get in at least 30 minutes.
11. Walk or some other exercise for at least 30 minutes per day. (see number 9) Amazingly, Edwards did this and still accomplished an unbelievable amount of work. We have all the time savers but cannot get outdoors regularly.
12. Actively pursuing godliness, kindness, gentleness, serving, careful speech, goodness, etc. May want to pick one specific area of godliness where you need work and practice getting better.
13. Meet once per week on Wed. at 5:30am to discuss how things are going, starting Feb. 24.

Sundays are exempt for all requirements related to food, sleep, exercise, etc. Sunday is a feast day.

Star of Bethlehem

Have you seen the Star of Bethlehem? Just watched it. I was very impressed. Thanks Philip.

Have a look here.

I have always been a bit of a pre-sup apologetic sort and the Evidence that Demands a Verdict can also simply be discounted as having been created after the fact, or simply the imaginations of the faithful.

Don't misunderstand me, I think there is a great deal of convincing evidence from the Bible and from extra-biblical sources. I believe it. But at the end of the argument, the skeptic can still maintain his nonchalant attitude, having not been fully convinced. Of course, it always take the Holy Spirit to make a convert.

But I think this film will shake up a skeptic.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Water, Bread and Wine

"In Baptism, the thing that represents Christ is water; in the Supper, the things that represent Christ are bread and wine. Water is appointed to represent Christ in Babtism because it is most appropriate to represent our washing with the Blood of Christ. What is better to wash with than water?

So there is nothing more suitable in which to wash the soul than the Blood of Christ. In the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, He has appointed bread and wine because there is nothing more appropriate to nourish the body than bread and wine."

Robert Bruce, The Mystery of the Lord's Supper

Demographic Winter

Check this out. Our church growth program is having babies. Make sense, eh?