Friday, December 31, 2010

on journaling

Why I journal

1) To have a record of God's dealings with me.  Many of these I would soon forget if I did not write them down.  This includes answered prayers, verses illumined by the Spirit from my Bible reading, or special quotations, or things people have said to me.

2) To think by writing.  Some people think to write, others like me write to think.  There's a joy to putting ideas into words, and a seriousness, too.  Albert Einstein once said, “Have the courage to take your own thoughts seriously, for they will shape you.”

3) To write out prayers to the Lord.  The Psalms are expressions of the heart written down for all time.  I too transcribe my praises, problems and petitions.  Usually they're short, but there's something about seeing a prayer written down that tells me, yes, that's what I mean. 

4) To record events, significant or otherwise: family, personal, church, international, or anything I might deem significant.  Often I just write down what the weather's been like.

5) To have a place to write random thoughts or drawings, or a spot to paste that ticket from the Hokies game we attended.

6) To leave behind for my children and grandchildren a record of daily life and my reflections upon God's grace and goodness to us.

7) To have a way to use all those fountain pens I've been collecting.  There's just something about writing with a good fountain pen -- the way it glides across the paper...

How I keep a journal

1) I get a good journal bound with quality paper (fountain pen-friendly), which lies flat when I open it.  I've used Clairfontaine, Exacompta, Moleskine, and Rhodia notebooks with satisfaction.  Some people keep a journal on their computer or use online resources and that's fine.  If you want to do it the old-fashioned fountain pen and paper way, pick up a good journal and invest in a Lamy Safari. 

2) I write a) when there is something I want to remember (quote, event, thought), or b) when I feel like it.  I don't write when I don't feel like it.  This is not an obligation.  When it becomes that I'll probably stop.  Sometimes I write a lot, sometimes little, and often I go many days without writing anything.

3) I keep my journal with my Bible and within easy reach to jot down things. I carry it with me on trips.  

4) I look back through it from time to time  -- New Years is a good time -- over the past year's notes, and previous years, to see what I've learned.  (Or, if I learned anything...)  I get to marvel again at God's faithfulness, and to remember special events and lessons learned.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

job satisfaction

“I glorified you on earth by completing  the work you gave me to do.” (John 17:4)

“Lord, grant us: in our work, satisfaction; in our study, wisdom; in our pleasure, gladness; and in our love, loyalty.”  (William Barclay)  Fred Smith reflected on this prayer, specifically the request about satisfaction in work: 

In our work, satisfaction...”  Peter Drucker told our son , “Let the task be the reward.”  He was saying money isn’t the the full reward.  It is a necessary component, but shouldn’t be the primary goal.  I played golf with a CEO who lost $80 million in a corporate debacle.  His comment to me was, “Fred, I wasn’t in it solely for the money.  When I am gone, what I contributed will live on in my industry."  What a pity it would have been if money had been the measure of his satisfaction.

I asked Seth Macon, the retired Senior Vice President of Jefferson Standard Life Insurance Company, what his greatest satisfaction was in
his 40+year career. “The present leaders are men I selected and trained.”  His eyes were on the future; his work was to build continuity.

I have 4 elements necessary in a job that produces satisfaction:

1. Provides a sustaining income.  Money isn’t the object, but it is important.  I have been poor and I have been comfortable- the latter gives me more flexibility.  Money isn’t to be an idol; it is a tool.  Money provides options.

2. Serves a common good.  The Puritans called this “fulfilling our calling.”  Jesus “went about doing good.”

3. Produces meaning.  Viktor Frankl wrote that man searches for meaning.  Katherine Graham, CEO of the Washington Post companies said, “To love what I do and know it makes a difference, how can anything be more fun?”
4. Uses our uniqueness.    If we do not contribute our uniqueness to the world, then there is really no reason for us to have been born.  Each of us has a responsibility to identify our giftedness and a stewardship to develop it.

Monday, December 27, 2010

his kindness and covenant

For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee. (Isaiah 54:10)

"One of the most delightful qualities of divine love is its abiding character. The pillars of the earth may be moved out of their places, but the kindness and the covenant of our merciful Jehovah never depart from His people. How happy my soul feels in a firm belief of this inspired declaration! The year is almost over, and the years of my life are growing few, but time does not change my Lord. New lamps are taking the place of the old; perpetual change is on all things, but our Lord is the same. Force over turns the hills, but no conceivable power can affect the eternal God. Nothing in the past, the present, or the future can cause Jehovah to be unkind to me.

"My soul, rest in the eternal kindness of the Lord, who treats thee as one near of kin. Remember also the everlasting covenant. God is ever mindful of it—see that thou art mindful of it too. In Christ Jesus the glorious God has pledged Himself to thee to be thy God and to hold thee as one of His people. Kindness and covenant-dwell on these words as sure and lasting things which eternity itself shall not take from thee." 

-- C. H. Spurgeon, Faith's Checkbook, December 27 entry.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

come, let us adore him!

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us."  And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.  And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.  And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.  But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.  And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.  (Luke 2:15-20 ESV)
[Above: Caravaggio's "Adoration of the Shepherds" (1609)]

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

new book

What a blessing to receive a copy of this new book as a gift from some very good friends!

Gerry McDermott is the editor of this Oxford-published volume of essays, backed by a who's-who list of contributors: Mark Noll, Alister McGrath, Henri Blocher, John Stackhouse, Donald Bloesch, Dallas Willard, Darrell Bock, and many others.  

This is an important work for such a time as this, when the word "evangelical" has come to mean practically anything and often, virtually nothing.  

In the opening essay Mark Noll notes that historically there have been four ingredients to evangelical religion: the importance of conversion, the ultimate authority of the Bible, the inevitable fruit of charitable works (and often social reform), and the centrality of the Cross (substitutionary atonement).

Just getting started...

The Oxford Handbook of Evangelical Theology, Gerald McDermott, editor.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

another take on lausanne

Here's Carl Trueman on "A Dissenting Voice on Lausanne III"

First he wonders first if such declarations makes any difference to the world at large: 

Evangelicals typically make the fatal mistake of assuming that the wider world actually cares about what they think. It does not: it increasingly regards us as fringe lunatics, rather as it did in the first century.
Then he wonders if anything new or ground-breaking came out of it, especially in light of its great expense...

To read some of the blogs and reports on the conference, you would think that something new and radical was being proposed.  Nothing I have seen could not have been found better expressed elsewhere by somebody else at some point in the past.  The question then becomes: did we need a gathering of thousands of church leaders (though no leader from my own church, local or otherwise, seems to have been present), at huge expense, to tell us these things?

He wonders about how representative it was...

Clearly, the Lausanne movement it is not a church but rather an eclectic collection of leaders from various different churches.  It transcends individual denominations, but does so in a way that is simply not very ecclesiastical.  Now, I know that we want to find ways and means of expressing our unity in Christ; but to do this via a non-ecclesiastical root is not consonant with scripture and also leaves the gathering vulnerable to the accusation that it is self-appointed and unrepresentative. This latter criticism is particularly ironic, given the laudable desire of the organizers to be inclusive and, to quote the webpage, to be `perhaps the widest and most diverse gathering of Christians ever held in the history of the Church.' To play the postmodern card: one wonders who decided which people were `representative' and thus received an invitation, and which were not and were left by the wayside.

His final thought...

Maybe Lausanne III will be significant. I wish I could believe that. More likely, I suspect, it will go the way of Lausanne I and II: it will produce some inspiring documents, an interesting book or two, and perhaps give those fortunate enough to have been present a vision of the kingdom which may last for a few months or maybe a year. It certainly will not have any impact at local level: it does not have the mechanisms attached to it to do so.  Thus, for most of us, life will go on as normal, in all of its boring, mundane routine: we will ensure that the gospel is faithfully preached week by week from our pulpits, we will attempt to apply God's word to the routine pastoral problems of our congregations, we will seek to reach out to the community where God has placed us, and we will, in these straitened times, strive to meet our modest budgets. In this context, a context very familiar to most Christians, some of us will wonder if the money and time spent in Cape Town might not have given a better return if invested elsewhere.
Trueman may be overstating the case, but these are valid questions.  I think there is value to such gatherings and to documents that help refine, clarify, and articulate clear doctrinal and missional positions.  It gives a reference point for agreement, even though they may not be "binding".  I felt the Manhattan Declaration, for example, did an excellent job at defining and defending the biblical view of marriage. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

sunday quotes

"And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."  (Luke 1:31-33 ESV)

"This is a wonderful promise, because it means that Jesus is just as much King now as He was when He ascended into heaven; He is ruling His people today just as much as Barack Obama or David Cameron or Vladimir Putin or any other world leader are governing, and He will continue to reign long after they are in their graves, and until He returns to establish his kingdom." (David Kingston)

“If Gabriel has spoken the truth, the issue in 2010, no matter where you live on this planet, is: Will you bow before the kingship of Jesus and obey the rule of his kingdom?”  (John Piper)

And Mary said, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word."  And the angel departed from her.   (Luke 1:38 ESV)

“Every time I read Mary's response to the angel's announcement and explanation, I am awed: 'I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said.' Here is a teenager facing misunderstanding and rejection from her family, her betrothed, and her townspeople. And yet she agrees. Mary affirms the bedrock truth that under-girds our discipleship: 'I am the Lord's servant.' After all is said and done, after we have explored all the possibilities, we still must decide: am I a servant or a master? Is my allegiance to the Lord or to my own desires?”  (Ralph Wilson)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

redeemed for a purpose

"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,  training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works."  (Titus 2:11-14 ESV)

In my own words: Jesus died for sin that he might destroy sin.  Or put another way: he died for my sins that he might deliver me from my sins.  To redeem is to set free from bondage in order to bring us into a glorious, life-giving relationship with God.

Trust in Christ for salvation also means obedience to Christ for a new life.  This too is included in "grace".  Grace instructs us to renounce ungodliness and worldliness and lawlessness.  There is a negative aspect to it -- but for a positive end: that we might have room for self-control, righteousness, godliness, hope, purity and zeal for goodness. 

When the Lord removes something from my life it is so that he might replace it with something better.