Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Precious Things of God

Tonight, before bed, I read the book of 1 Peter to the family. No pauses to discuss; just simple reading. One of the benefits of doing an extended reading of scripture, rather than a small portion, is being able to see themes that repeat and expand within the course of chapters.

Octavius Winslow published a work in 1867 titled The Precious Things of God. I haven't read it yet but would like to some day. Reading 1 Peter this evening reminded me to reflect on those things which are precious in the spiritual life.
  1. Your faith (1:7). "... so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold ... may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." Here, faith is compared to gold, a precious metal, and is found to be more valuable. Gold can never lay hold of God's promises, but faith can.
  2. The blood of Christ (1:19). "... but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ." Some things are precious because of their efficacy (the power to produce a desired effect). The blood of animals could not atone for sin in a final sense. The blood of Jesus does.
  3. A gentle and quiet spirit which hopes in God (3:4). "... with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God." When a person comes to God with humility and endures suffering for the sake of doing what is right, God sees this and it is precious to Him. When God sees a person who values the inner spirit over outward adornment, it is precious in His sight.
  4. Jesus Christ, the choice cornerstone of God's living temple (2:4, 6). "Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone..." Today, God is not building a physical temple for all to come and see, but a spiritual temple made of living stones (believers in Jesus), and Christ is the precious cornerstone. The stone which the builders rejected has become the stone upon which they have stumbled. Though he was put to death by men, he is precious to God.
 And if these things are precious to God, shouldn't we give them priority in our heart and life as well?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Aliens, Scattered and Chosen

"To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout [...], who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood." (1 Peter 1:1-2)
    In one sense, those who belong to Jesus Christ by faith are not at home in this world. We are strangers, sojourners, pilgrims passing through Vanity Fair, aliens who are citizens of another country, of another city which has eternal foundations and whose architect and builder is God. Our hope of reaching this city is not an empty hope because the triune God--Father, Son, and Spirit--has set in motion a plan to bring us home. The Father, in his eternal wisdom and foreknowledge, chooses. The Son, in his limitless love, laid down his life to redeem. The Spirit, in his power and presence, sanctifies and transforms along the journey, to prepare us for our eternal home.
    The King will not leave his citizens behind. The Father will not abandon his children. Whom He has chosen, He shall ultimately glorify. Be of good cheer today knowing that God Himself has taken the initiative to call, rescue, cleanse, and empower you for the journey that leads back home.
    Father, though I am a stranger in this land, remind me during times of discouragement that You will finish the work which You began, and You will send your Son to come again, so that where He is, we also may be eternally. Amen.

**Hebrews 11:9-11; Ephesians 1:4; John 10:17-18; Romans 8:30; Philippians 1:6; John 14:3

Friday, May 09, 2014

Money and Witness

Being in the middle of a major vocational transition for the past 8+ months has caused me to think often about money. How can I earn it? How much do we need as a family? Is it God's will for us to be poor, comfortable, or wealthy? Or should we simply be content, whatever the circumstances may be? The short answers to these questions ... I can earn it through honest work, not get-rich-quick schemes or gambling (lottery), using an able body and able mind. We need enough to pay for our home, utilities, food, clothing, and other essentials. That which is over and above is a blessing. I do not believe that God has a specific will for me to be poor, middle class, or especially wealthy, but whatever circumstances we find ourselves in, we are to trust God for provision, not trust in wealth which is very fleeting in nature, and practice contentment in all things.
"Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed." 1 Timothy 6:17-19
If you haven't given much thought to place money has in your life, you may want to do that. Nothing will emphasize it's place in your heart more as when you have too little of it or too much of it.

Another passage of scripture that has given me food for meditation is 1 Thessalonians 4:10-12.
"But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more [in the practice of brotherly love], and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need."
Being away from the pastorate and (somewhat) public eye has caused me to think about the way my Christian life is viewed by others. In the world of Protestant evangelical Christianity, it is common to put forward a view of Christian life which is outspoken, brash and brazen, which always makes public commentary on the issues of the day. And when I don't fit into that mold as someone who isn't always willing to debate atheists and even Christians via Facebook posts, or make it a regular habit to admonish people outside an abortion clinic, or who has condemning critiques of our president and his policies, then I can become morbidly introspective, asking myself why my faith doesn't stand up to the test. I mean, weren't the disciples of Jesus transformed into bold, evangelistic machines when the Holy Spirit came down from heaven and filled them? Aren't we all supposed to be extroverted evangelicals who wear their faith on their sleeves?

While there is always a need to rely on the power of God for living, witness, and testimony, I am also learning to be okay with myself and the kind of person I am in Christ Jesus. My Spirit-filled  personality is elastic--I can take the role of an extrovert for a time-- but at the core of me is an introverted, inner-life-valuing, thinker whose most natural means of influence may be through life example, non-confrontational witness, the written word, and testimony about the life change which accompanies saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Having Confidence in a Promise


"No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you. I will not fail you or forsake you." Joshua 1:5
In less than a month, the United States of America will undergo a cherished tradition: the election of a president. It is difficult to quantify or grasp the amount of words that have been spoken to the American public regarding this election. Words like "this is the most important election in our generation" or "the choices facing our country have never been as stark as they are today" or "if you elect me President, I promise to ..." We put our hopes in a president who promises prosperity, security, and equity.

But when God puts a man into office, as he did with Joshua, He is the one doing the promising. I will not fail you or forsake you. And have the fulfillment of God's promises every been found lacking? "God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?" (Numbers 23:19)

Did God promise to flood the earth? Yes.
Did God promise to give Abraham a son in his old age? Yes.
Did God promise to deliver Israel from the yoke of slavery in Egypt? Yes.
Did God promise to send a Messiah? Yes.
Does God promise to send His Son again and to visit the earth with judgment against His enemies? Yes.

Does God promise never to leave you nor forsake you who have trusted in Him for eternal life? Yes, He does.  There are many things we think God has promised but one thing is for sure: He is near to those who have loved him and he will not fail nor forsake those who hope in Him.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Review and recommendation: ESV Grow! Bible

The ESV Grow! Bible from Crossway is designed for kids between the ages of 8-12.

Some basic features:
  • Hard cover that is durable; kids can be tough on their books
  • attractive, clean look and feel without being too "cartoonish"
  • simplified maps and glossary of terms that are appropriate for this age group
  • smart use of color to highlight paragraphs, chapter numbers, book / chapter / verse references
  • Q/A inserts that provide short, straightforward answers  (i.e., What are the "keys of the kingdom"? Matthew 16:9)
  • simplified book introductions and helpful time lines
  • "Cross Connections" that help a child see biblical connections to the meaning and need for the cross of Jesus Christ
As a kid and teenager, I read the NIV and found it to be helpful in clarifying the biblical meaning of passages without getting bogged down with "thee's" and "thou's". As I grew older, I learned the value of having a more literal translation of the Bible, like the NAS. In recently years, the ESV has found a growing presence in conservative, evangelical churches. As a pastor, I use it and the NAS in my studies and think that children will generally do fine reading it.

The challenge with any study Bible or niche Bible (women's, men's, teen's, truck drivers, Purpose Driven (!)) is that people can be tempted to read the notes and study helps more than they read the Bible itself. This particular Bible doesn't overpower you with notes and seems to have the right balance.

With all the choices out there for a child's Bible, here's one that I can recommend without reservation and with a prayer that it is used to develop the hearts and minds of young followers of Christ.

For more information on this resource, please visit this address: http://www.crossway.org/bibles/grow-the-bible-case/