Thursday, May 29, 2008

Daily delight

"Then I [Wisdom] was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always...
Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors." (Proverbs 8:30, 34 ESV)

Wisdom (hokmah = wisdom, good sense, skill, insight) is using what God has revealed in order to live skillfully. It is more than just following the commandments of God, it is how to apply God's revelation (both in the word and in nature) to the intricacies of daily living.

Wisdom is how to navigate life's difficulties, avoiding pitfalls, solving problems, dealing with paradoxes, and concluding with a well-lived life, all through a God-given skill.

It is more than content, it is an art, which calls for self-discipline and practice.

How then do we "listen, watch, wait" for wisdom?

  • Observe nature -- this is one way God reveals truth to us... Jonathan Edwards wrote, “I believe that the whole universe, heaven and earth, air and seas, and the divine constitution and history of the holy Scriptures, be full of images of divine things, as full as a language is of words” (Types, 152).
  • Observe human relationships around you -- how they work and don't work; how people talk and how they respond. Think about the actions people around you take and the consequences they experience.
  • Observe Scripture above all -- study, wait, spend time daily, develop convictions. This is more than a quickie "devo", but finding truths to chew on all day. (See James 1:23, 24)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

VT softball... world series

Tech takes on TAMU at the beginning of the national championship.

Satisfied but seeking

"I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me." (Proverbs 8:17)

Two truths we must always keep before us, in balance, as it were: that in Christ I am complete, justified by the "once for all" sacrifice of Jesus; and, that I am to pursue God in an ongoing relationship, almost as if I didn't have that relationship.

What I mean by that is [somewhat paradoxically] that having found God I must still seek him, and that I cannot seek him properly until I've already found him. But having found him, I do not cease seeking him. The difference is that I seek him in security, not insecurity. He has much yet to give us and to show us:

"The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them." (Psalm 25:14 NIV)

I think the best analogy is dating and marriage. Once married we should not give up dating our spouse. We should pursue them in much the same way as we did when we were dating.

The problem with us is that often when we are satisfied we give up seeking.

I wonder, how much am I missing when I am not seeking the Lord passionately?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Re forgiveness

The amazing thing about forgiveness -- both in giving it and in receiving it -- is that it involves a humbling of self.

If I ask to be forgiven (of another or of God), I humble myself by admitting my failure and offensiveness. I must receive as one unworthy to receive, but still I must admit my need to receive forgiveness. "I'm sorry. I was wrong. Will you forgive me?" (I ask couples in pre-marital counseling to practice these words every day.)

If I am asked to give forgiveness, this too involves humbling. And maybe this is why we find it so hard to forgive others sometime. To forgive I must give up my own superior position and forfeit my "right" to satisfaction. (If it's conditional, it's really not forgiveness.) I must admit I was hurt, and must let go of that by trusting God to be Judge of the universe. I must release my (righteous?) anger and say, in effect, "I'm no different than you, and just as I have been forgiven, so I forgive too."

It costs both people something to forgive and to be forgiven. In both cases I give up my supposed right to be right, or to be seen as right, or to be seen as perfect. In true reconciliation both parties give up their pride.

Friday, May 16, 2008

An ordinary pastor

I picked up D A Carson's biography of his father. Have just begun -- was impressed by Tim Challies' review on Amazon:

There are some Christians whose ministries God blesses in extraordinary ways. They preach to thousands and their books are read by millions. But this is the exception far more than the rule. Most Christians labor in relative obscurity, largely unseen and unnoticed. In the past couple of years I have read biographies of some truly great men--William Wilberforce, William Tyndale, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards. It is good to study the lives of great men and to seek to understand how they were able to gain such prominence. Biographies teach so much about character, opportunity and just plain hard work. Rarely, though, do we read biographies of ordinary men--men who gained no earthly fame and who lived their lives in the shadow of obscurity. In Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor, theologian D.A. Carson shares the life of his father, Tom Carson. He was an ordinary man, an ordinary pastor, who labored in a unique mission field surprisingly close to home.
He concludes with Don Carson's words from the end of the book...

"Tom Carson never rose very far in denominational structures, but hundreds of people ... testify how much he loved them. He never wrote a book, but he loved the Book. He was never wealthy or powerful, but he kept growing as a Christian: yesterday's grace was never enough. He was not a far-sighted visionary, but he looked forward to eternity. He was not a gifted administrator, but there is no text that says "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you are good administrators." His journals have many, many entries bathed in tears of contrition, but his children and grandchildren remember his laughter. Only rarely did he break through his pattern of reserve and speak deeply and intimately with his children, but he modeled Christian virtues to them. He much preferred to avoid controversy than to stir things up, but his own commitments to historic confessionalism were unyielding, and in ethics he was a man of principle. His own ecclesiastical circles were rather small and narrow, but his reading was correspondingly large and expansive. He was not very good at putting people down, except on his prayer lists.

"When he died, there were no crowds outside the hospital, no editorial comments in the papers, no announcements on the television, no mention in Parliament, no attention paid by the nation. In his hospital room there was no one by his bedside. There was only the quiet hiss of oxygen, vainly venting because he had stopped breathing and would never need it again.

"But on the other side, all the trumpets sounded. Dad won entrance to the only throne-room that matters, not because he was a good man or a great man--he was, after all, a most ordinary pastor--but because he was a forgiven man. And he heard the voice of him whom he longed to hear saying, "Well done, good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of your Lord.""
Tim concludes...

"Oh, that each ordinary pastor and each ordinary Christian may be so faithful and enter into that same reward. I can only hope that many young pastors will commit to reading this book. But it is not just they who can benefit. Any Christian will appreciate reading about this ordinary man who somehow seems so much like you and me. Though it is good to read about Calvin and Edwards and Whitefield, men who had extraordinary ministries and who continue to exert a worldwide impact through their writing and preaching and evangelistic efforts, it is good to see as well how God has more commonly used ordinary men to do His work. Tom Carson was an ordinary pastor, a man who struggled with depression and who saw his ministry bear visible little fruit, but he was a man who remained faithful and who served the Lord with all his heart. More aware of his faults than his strengths and more prone to humility than pride, there is much we can learn from this man."

I've been thinking recently about the benefits of ministering in anonymity or some degree of anonymity:

  • Work is more likely to be done for the praise which comes from God, rather than from people.
  • A minister or worker is more likely to feel freedom in his/her ministry, since there is no audience to play to, except God.
  • Any praise given usually goes directly to the Lord, since the human instrument is either unknown or forgotten.
  • If pride and self-importance (or self-promotion) is the root which leads to moral falls, then ministering in some degree of anonymity should help guard against such pride taking root.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Basics 2008 -- great conference

Fantastic time in Cleveland! Alistair Begg, Jerry Bridges, Voddie Baucham, 650 pastors, and the loving folks at Parkside Church. Got out tanks filled.

We need to preach the gospel to ourselves daily.

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

“Do ye, my brethren, understand the sweet mystery of salvation? Have you ever seen Jesus standing in your place that you may stand in his place? Christ accused and Christ condemned, and Christ led out to die, and Christ smitten of the Father, even to death; and then you cleared, justified, delivered from the curse, because the curse has spent itself on your Redeemer? You are admitted to enjoy the blessing because the righteousness which was his is now transferred to you that you may be blessed of the Lord world without end. Do let us triumph and rejoice in this evermore. Why should we not? And yet some of Gods’ people get under the law as to their feelings, and begin to fear that because they are conscious of sin they are not saved, whereas it is written, ‘he justifieth the ungodly’. For myself, I love to live near a sinner’s Saviour. If my standing before the Lord depended upon what I am in myself and what good works and righteousness I could bring, surely I should have to condemn myself a thousand times a day. But to get away from that and to say, ‘I have believed in Jesus Christ and therefore righteousness is mine’, this is peace, rest, joy and the beginning of heaven. When one attains to this experience, his love to Jesus Christ begins to flame up, and he feels that if the Redeemer has delivered him from the curse of the law he will not continue in sin, but he will endeavour to live in newness of life. We are not our own, we are bought with a price, and we would therefore glorify God in our bodies and in our spirits, which are the Lord’s.”

(--C. H. Spurgeon, “Christ the End of the Law” in Christ’s Glorious Achievements)

Friday, May 9, 2008

Chewing on this

"This then is the formula which describes the state of the self when despair is completely eradicated: in relating to itself and in wanting to be itself, the self is grounded transparently in the power that established it."

(--Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death)

Isn't this the same as the first question in the Heidelberg Catechism, I wonder.