Saturday, August 28, 2010

a prayer

"O God, you have redeemed me to be a child of God, and called me from vanity to inherit all things.  I praise you, that having loved and given yourself for me, you then command: 'As I have loved you, so also should you love one another.'  In this you have not commanded only me to love others, but also all others to so love me, as to lay down their lives for my peace and welfare.  Since love is the end for which heaven and earth was made, enable me to see and discern the sweetness of so great a treasure.  And since you have raised me to the throne of God in Jesus Christ, and commanded your saints by this precept to give me their fellowship, deep affection, and high esteem, then grant me the grace that I may be acceptable to the saints. Fill me with your Holy Spirit, and make my soul and life beautiful.  Make me to be wise, good, and loving in every way, that I may be worthy of their esteem and acceptance."  

(Prayer based on Thomas Traherne, Centuries I:96)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

"in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself"

And [Jesus] said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?"  And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.  (Luke 24:25-27 ESV)

JESUS TRUE AND BETTER (by Tim Keller)...

Jesus is the true and better Adam who passed the test in the garden and whose obedience is imputed to us.

Jesus is the true and better Abel who, though innocently slain, has blood now that cries out, not for our condemnation, but for acquittal.

Jesus is the true and better Abraham who answered the call of God to leave all the comfortable and familiar and go out into the void not knowing wither he went to create a new people of God.

Jesus is the true and better Isaac who was not just offered up by his father on the mount but was truly sacrificed for us. And when God said to Abraham, “Now I know you love me because you did not withhold your son, your only son whom you love from me,” now we can look at God taking his son up the mountain and sacrificing him and say, “Now we know that you love us because you did not withhold your son, your only son, whom you love from us.”

Jesus is the true and better Jacob who wrestled and took the blow of justice we deserved, so we, like Jacob, only receive the wounds of grace to wake us up and discipline us.

Jesus is the true and better Joseph who, at the right hand of the king, forgives those who betrayed and sold him and uses his new power to save them.

Jesus is the true and better Moses who stands in the gap between the people and the Lord and who mediates a new covenant.

Jesus is the true and better Rock of Moses who, struck with the rod of God’s justice, now gives us water in the desert.

Jesus is the true and better Job, the truly innocent sufferer, who then intercedes for and saves his stupid friends.

Jesus is the true and better David whose victory becomes his people’s victory, though they never lifted a stone to accomplish it themselves.

Jesus is the true and better Esther who didn’t just risk leaving an earthly palace but lost the ultimate and heavenly one, who didn’t just risk his life, but gave his life to save his people.

Jesus is the true and better Jonah who was cast out into the storm so that we could be brought in.

Jesus is the real Rock of Moses, the real Passover Lamb, innocent, perfect, helpless, slain so the angel of death will pass over us. He’s the true temple, the true prophet, the true priest, the true king, the true sacrifice, the true lamb, the true light, the true bread.

The Bible’s really not about you—it’s about him.

From "The Bible Is Not Basically about You"

the silence of justification

When we know that we are accepted by God through the glorious work of Christ, and that we are thereby righteous in him, we have a marvelous freedom from the opinions and judgments of others.  

In Richard Foster's The Celebration of Discipline, in the chapter on "Solitude", the author notes the connection between our silence and our trust in God as the One who justifies us:

The tongue is our most powerful weapon of manipulation.  A frantic stream of words flows from us because we are in a constant process of adjusting our public image.  We fear so deeply what we think other people see in us that we talk in order to straighten out their understanding.  If I have done some wrong thing (or even some right thing that I think you may misunderstand) and discover that you know about it, I will be very tempted to help you understand my action!  (p. 101)

I would add that we also do this when we have done something right and we are afraid that others may not be aware of our goodness!  

Foster goes on... 

Silence is one of the deepest Disciplines of the Spirit simply because it puts the stopper on all self-justification.  One of the fruits of silence is the freedom to let God be our justifier.  We don't need to straighten others out. 

I would add that the reverse of that statement is true, as well: one of the fruits of having God be our Justifier is the freedom to be silent, thereby being liberated from the need to give any self-justification. 

I have found this to be true, and with that I will now be silent...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

enlightment fish in a religious ocean

Joseph Bottum explains well the American experiment, namely, an ongoing and needed tension between a secular government and a moral populace informed by religious principle.  He writes this in his recent article for First Things...

"The United States as it naturally wants to be—what we might call the platonic ideal of America—contains a tension we must be careful not to resolve. From its founding, the nation has always been something like a school of Enlightenment rationalists aswim in an ocean of Christian faith. And how shall the fish hate the water wherein they live? Or the water hate the fish?" 


Read the full article here

 

Monday, August 23, 2010

story of redemption


A final quote to ponder upon the completion of the adult elective "Story of Redemption"...

“Christian, believe this, and think on it: you will be eternally embraced in the arms of that love which was from everlasting, and, will extend to everlasting; of that love which brought the Son of God's love from heaven to earth, from earth to the cross, from the cross to the grave, from the grave to glory; that love which was weary, hungry, tempted, scorned, scourged, buffeted, spit upon, crucified, pierced; which did fast, pray, teach, heal, weep, sweat, bleed, die; that love will eternally embrace you... perfect created love and most perfect uncreated love meet together…  the saints' everlasting rest must consist in the enjoyment of God by love.”  

--Richard Baxter, in The Saint’s Everlasting Rest
 

Saturday, August 14, 2010

vacation

Just returned from a week off the grid. Each day as a family we 1) ate all our meals together usually on a patio overlooking the mountains, 2) took a hike in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, 3) applied a passage of Scripture together as a family lesson, 4) went swimming, and 5) read books (and napped too).

We did not: do internet, emails, cellphones (except one text). We did however watch a movie and some TV (HG-TV and Food channel). The kids did play DS.

But the combination of reading, exercise and sharing together, in a largely unplugged situation, was marvelously refreshing.

I did return, however, to 160+ pressing emails. Now, I'd like to figure how to make some alterations in my normal, daily, "plugged-in" life...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

luther on the first commandment

The First Commandment is, "You must not have other gods." That is, "I must be your only God."

Question: What does this saying mean? How should we understand it? What does it mean to have a god? What is God?

Answer: To have a god means this: You expect to receive all good things from it and turn to it in every time of trouble. Yes, to have a god means to trust and to believe in Him with your whole heart. I have often said that only the trust and faith of the heart can make God or an idol. If your faith and trust are true, you have the true God, too. On the other hand, where trust is false, is evil, there you will not have the true God either. Faith and God live together. I tell you, whatever you set your heart on and rely on is really your god. (Martin Luther)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

the friends of God

"...and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness'--and he was called a friend of God." (James 2:23 ESV)

"Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." (James 4:4)

Friends share many things in common. Good friends are those who share in common with us certain important interests, causes, values, possessions, and often a shared reputation. A good friend is one who sticks faithfully beside us, no matter what (Proverbs 18:24).

God has been such a friend to us. He has shared with us his Son (John 15:13), his righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21), his intimate counsel (Psalm 25:14), his nature (2 Peter 1:4), his glory (Romans 5:2), his throne (Revelation 3:21), and every good thing ("all things", Romans 8:32). He has undertaken to support us, our best interests and our eternal future. He sticks by us forever.

This is so very amazing, that he should even want -- in any way -- to be friends with us. Especially, when he knows everything about us. Many of our friends, if they knew us like we know ourselves, would probably not want to be associated with us at all!

But God did not save us and leave us at a distance. He drew near in friendship. He is a king, and yet a friend.

God graciously calls us to be his friends in return. This involves faith (James 2:23), since he is trustworthy, and obedience, since he is Lord (John 15:14). This means that we seek his company and nearness. We ask for and heed his wise counsel. We uphold his reputation. We make our possessions available to him. (And why not, he gave them to us anyway!) We put his interests above our own. We support his holy standards. His friends become our friends.

But this also means that we forsake other associations for the sake of that friendship.

C. H. Spurgeon once said, "A man is known by the company he shuns as well as by the company he keeps." So it is with God and the world. Jesus put it this way: "No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money." (Luke 16:13) The Pharisees who were listening to him laughed at this, since they placed such a high value on money. Jesus went on to say, "What is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God." (16:15).

In our tolerant age we don't like such language, but there it is. We must stand faithfully beside our closest and most perfect Companion. We must, above all else, be friends of God.

Monday, August 2, 2010

an error worse than error

Critical thinking does not automatically lead to the affirmation of truth, as the editor of this First Things' article observes:

Therein lies the danger [of critical thinking]. If we fear error too much, and thus overvalue critical reason, we will develop a mind active and able in doubt but untrained to move toward belief, a mentality too quick to find reasons not to nurture convictions...

We can worry about getting on the wrong train in the foreign train station whose signs we can’t read. But we should also worry about dithering in the station too long and thus failing to get on the right train. We could starve to death in that station if we never leave. This, it seems to me, is the essence of Newman and Pascal’s insight. Sometimes, the dangers of failing to affirm the truth are far greater than the dangers of wrongly affirming falsehood. (R. R. Reno)