Thursday, December 22, 2011

worshiped by angels

There is a prominence of angelic ministry at two places in Jesus' life: at his birth, and at his death and resurrection.  

At Christmas we are reminded that there is a spiritual realm, and the existence of angelic beings who are very much interested in what's going on here.  

The angels love the Son of Man, who is the Word made flesh.

"Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory," (1 Timothy 3:16)
"And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, 'Let all God's angels worship him.'"  (Hebrews 1:6)
"...things into which angels long to look."  (1 Peter 1:12)

So should we -- like these mighty beings -- see Jesus, look intently at all he has done, and worship him!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

more on marriage

Recently published: The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God, by Tim Keller, with his wife Kathy.

I'm looking forward to reading this.  I listened to part of the sermon series this was based upon, but I plan to put this book in the queue soon.  Here are some popular Kindle highlights, and a quote at the end that Trevin Wax posted.  Great insights to think about...

Wedding vows are not a declaration of present love but a mutually binding promise of future love.
Marriage used to be a public institution for the common good, and now it is a private arrangement for the satisfaction of the individuals. Marriage used to be about us, but now it is about me.  
According to the Bible, God devised marriage to reflect his saving love for us in Christ, to refine our character, to create stable human community for the birth and nurture of children, and to accomplish all this by bringing the complementary sexes into an enduring whole-life union.
It is the illusion that if we find our one true soul mate, everything wrong with us will be healed; but that makes the lover into God, and no human being can live up to that.  
The Christian teaching does not offer a choice between fulfillment and sacrifice but rather mutual fulfillment through mutual sacrifice. 
Whether we are husband or wife, we are not to live for ourselves but for the other. And that is the hardest yet single most important function of being a husband or a wife in marriage.
If two spouses each say, “I’m going to treat my self-centeredness as the main problem in the marriage,” you have the prospect of a truly great marriage.
The Christian principle that needs to be at work is Spirit-generated selflessness—not thinking less of yourself or more of yourself but thinking of yourself less. It means taking your mind off yourself and realizing that in Christ your needs are going to be met and are, in fact, being met so that you don’t look at your spouse as your savior.  
The primary problem is . . . learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married. 
The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.
As a pastor I have spoken to thousands of couples, some working on marriage-seeking, some working on marriage-sustaining, and some working on marriage-saving. I’ve heard them say over and over, “Love shouldn’t be this hard; it should come naturally.” In response, I always say something like, “Why believe that? Would someone who wants to play professional baseball say, ‘It shouldn’t be so hard to hit a fastball?’ Would someone who wants to write the greatest American novel of her generation say, ‘It shouldn’t be hard to create believable characters and compelling narrative?’”

Sunday, December 18, 2011

nehemiah walk-through

We finished teaching our adult elective on Sunday, "Rebuilding Jerusalem: Leadership and Community in Nehemiah."  

Did a walk-through and discussion to highlight key lessons and applications by chapter, as follows:

1.  Prayer:  important from first to last.  We need to ask, as we live and/or lead in community, have I prayed about each decision?  Do I see the big picture of God's work of redemption in history?  Do I feel his concerns on my heart?  Do I really believe in God's providential guidance? Am I living in dependence upon him?

2.  Planning:  results in informed and timely action.  Am I adequately informed before I take action, or even before I speak of intended action?  Am I thoughtful, and do I know the task that lies before us?  Have I taken the trouble to get first-hand knowledge of the situation?  Am I bringing others into this information -- and my intentions -- at the right time?

3.  Labor:  the work is divided, and everyone has a part.   Do we know our assignment?  Do we see the big picture of what God is doing and how our labors fit in?  Are we actually working side-by-side with others?  Are we using our talents, or lack of talents, to avoid doing the work set before us?

4.  Opposition:  is ever-present; courage and wisdom needed.  Do I know who my enemies are?  Am I prepared to work and to defend the work at the same time?  Am I alert and vigilant toward the thief who comes to steal, kill and destroy? Do I shy away from conflict when I should face it squarely?  Am I seeking God for the wisdom and courage needed to face intimidation and deception? 

5.  Authority:  brings justice and order to the community. Do we have a true understanding and respect for authority within God's plan?  If we have authority, are we acting in a timely way to bring about justice and peace within the community?  Are we holding others accountable to God's standards, especially when their actions hurt others?  As a parent, am I acting with proper authority within my family?  If we are under authority, are we appreciative  and submissive for the greater good?

6.  Success:  despite all opposition God grants success.  Do I understand God's definition of success as found in the Bible? Am I seeing some aspects of his work in and through me actually coming to completion?  Am I sticking with the work until God gives success?  Will I be able to say to God, the work you gave me to do I accomplished?  Am we aware of his supernatural work in and around his people?  Do I fully understand that it is God who wills and works in me to bring about his purposes? 

7.  People:  make up the community of God.  Just a list of names, but that's who makes up the community!  Am I letting tasks get in the way of relating to people?  Am I remembering that the work is ultimately not about a wall, but about people coming into and enjoying God's kingdom?  Am I building relationships in the midst of the work? Do I know others by name and appreciate their being in God's family?

8.  Word:  renewal and rebuilding comes from hearing Truth.  Am I reading and using God's Word in ministering to others?  Do I realize that it is the hearing of the Word that brings about faith and life?  Am I involved in a smaller group where together we can seek a real understanding and application of Scripture?  Do I realize that, when God brings fresh power to his people, it is usually through the proclamation of his Word in a life-changing way?

9.  Confession:  dealing with and repenting from sin.  Am I honest about sin in my own life?  Am I humbled by the evil still in my heart?  Am I willing to deal with this openly among God's people?  Am I turning from sin and trusting Christ for the forgiveness he purchased with his death?  Do I see that God delights to give us forgiveness, joy and refreshment when there is no denial in our hearts?

10.  Covenant:  commitment to preserve community, support worship.  Am I committed to support the life and work of God's people?  Am I a faithful member of a church?  Am I giving to support its ministry?  Do we think about God's new  covenant with us through Jesus Christ, and how he is faithful to us in all things?  Are we energized by this? 

11.  Organization:  leaders make a difference.  If I am a leader, am I bringing order and peace to the life of our community?  If I am not currently in leadership, am I supporting those who lead and giving thanks for the blessing of an organization that brings order to our lives? Is our organizational structure conducive to our spiritual life and community? 

12.  Celebration:  the importance of worship and music.  Are we celebrating and giving thanks for all that God has done?  Are we a people happy in the Lord?  Do we sing with our hearts?  Do we take sufficient time to stop and reflect upon God's works?  Are we pursuing the purity that is fitting for the worship of God?

13.  Purification:  an ongoing need until the Kingdom comes.  Do we realize that problems will persist and that Christ's Kingdom is not consummated yet?  Do we get overly discouraged at problems which continue to crop up?  Are we continuing to turn to God in prayer for all the challenges we face?  Are we continuing to pursue purity and growth, or do we get disheartened or bitter?  Do we leave our cause and our work and our reputation in the hands of the Lord? 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

my 7 favorite marriage quotes (today)

"Marriage isn't supposed to make you happy - it's supposed to make you married."  (Frank Pittman)

"You don't marry one person; you marry three:
the person you think they are,
the person they are, and
the person they are going to become as a result of being married to you."  (Richard Needham)

"No two human beings are made for each other. Every human being is made for God. Marriages are not made in heaven. There are no prefabricated marriages. They are made right here on earth, day by day, by the sacrifices both persons are called upon to make. And marriages are not made by what comes naturally. That is important, of course, but marriages are made by what does not come naturally and that is self-sacrifice. You will soon learn that it costs to be a lover, that the language of love is sacrifice. And you will have many opportunities to speak this language."  (From wedding homily by Father Rodney Kissinger)

"When there is love in a marriage, there is harmony in the home; when there is harmony in the home, there is contentment in the community; when there is contentment in the community, there is prosperity in the nation; when there is prosperity in the nation, there is peace in the world."  (Chinese proverb)

"My grandmother had three sayings on her kitchen wall:
'It could be worse.'
'It's a great life - if you don't weaken.'
'We get too soon oldt, and too late schmardt.'"
(Diane Sollee,

"William Morris wrote a poem called 'Love is Enough' and someone is said to have reviewed it briefly with the words 'It isn't.' . . . , To say this is not to belittle the natural loves but to indicate where their real glory lies. It is no disparagement to a garden to say that it will not fence and weed itself, nor prune its own fruit trees, nor roll and cut its own lawns. A garden is a good thing but that is not the sort of goodness it has. It will remain a garden, as distinct from a wilderness, only if someone does all these things to it."  (C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves)

"My wife uses fabric softener. I never knew what that stuff was for. Then I noticed women coming up to me, sniffing, then saying under their breath, 'Married!' and walking away. Fabric Softeners are how our wives mark their territory. We can take off the ring, but it's hard to get that April fresh scent out of your clothes."  (Andy Rooney)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

justified as a gift

"[we] are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith." (Romans 3:24-25 ESV)

"For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, 'Abba! Father!'"  (Romans 8:15 ESV)

"When our salvation depends upon our righteous behavior, our righteousness will be driven by a desire to elevate ourselves in the eyes of God. This is not love for God, it’s self-protection. ...  The gospel turns religion upside down. The gospel assures us of God’s acceptance, given to us as a gift earned by Christ’s worthiness, not ours. In response to that gift, we are moved to obey. Love for Him grows in response to His love for us.”  

(J. D. Greear, Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary)

jonathan edwards on kindle

Adam Parker at has posted Kindle-compatible (.prc) files of some of the Yale editions of the works of Jonathan Edwards, available as free downloads.  Tables of contents are included.     

Download these to your computer and then transfer them via USB to your Kindle. 

All of Edwards works are available online, as well, at the Yale website.  

If you are new to Edwards I would recommend two works to start: The Religious Affections, which is an essay on the signs which accompany a true saving experience (a work of God in the heart).  And Charity and Its Fruits, which is a series of sermons on love from 1 Corinthians 13.

Download from here.  

Monday, December 12, 2011

unto us is born

Fragile finger sent to heal us 
Tender brow prepared for thorn
Tiny heart whose blood will save us 
Unto us is born
Unto us is born

So wrap our injured flesh around You
Breathe our air and walk our sod
Rob our sin and make us holy
Perfect Son of God
Perfect Son of God

Welcome to our world

(Chris Rice, "Welcome To Our World")

what grace is ours

Saturday, December 10, 2011

athanasius paraphrased

Excerpts from chapter 2, On The Incarnation of the Word, by Athanasius...

"It was by surrendering to death the body which He had taken, as an offering and sacrifice free from every stain, that He forthwith abolished death for His human brethren by the offering of the equivalent...
"Naturally also, through this union of the immortal Son of God with our human nature, all men were clothed with incorruption in the promise of the resurrection. For the solidarity of mankind is such that, by virtue of the Word's indwelling in a single human body, the corruption which goes with death has lost its power over all. 
"You know how it is when some great king enters a large city and dwells in one of its houses; because of his dwelling in that single house, the whole city is honored, and enemies and robbers cease to molest it. Even so is it with the King of all; He has come into our country and dwelt in one body amidst the many, and in consequence the designs of the enemy against mankind have been foiled and the corruption of death, which formerly held them in its power, has simply ceased to be....
"Thus by His own power He restored the whole nature of man.
"'For it became Him, for Whom are all things and through Whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Author of their salvation perfect through suffering.' [Heb. 2:10] He means that the rescue of mankind from corruption was the proper part only of Him Who made them in the beginning. He points out also that the Word assumed a human body, expressly in order that He might offer it in sacrifice for other like bodies: 'Since then the children are sharers in flesh and blood, He also Himself assumed the same, in order that through death He might bring to nought Him that hath the power of death, that is to say, the Devil, and might rescue those who all their lives were enslaved by the fear of death.' [Heb. 2:14-15]
"By man death has gained its power over men; by the Word-made-Man death has been destroyed and life raised up anew."

My summary: The human race has fallen from the glory of its creation by God.  Only the Creator of humanity can restore it, and in his love he comes to rescue us from corruption and death.  He comes as a human, as one embodied person, and unites himself to human nature.  Our corporate solidarity is such that his glorious presence within the human race reverses its corruption. The value of his sacrificial death is more than equivalent to the death which enshrouds the entire human race. We by faith unite ourselves to him in confidence of this Sacrifice and in the hope of the resurrection.  

In taking on human nature Jesus restored the whole nature of humanity.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

fred and nehemiah on rebuilding

Here's Fred Smith with some lessons from Nehemiah on rebuilding walls (or, recovering from a loss).  

The best way to overcome the confusion that comes with loss is to organize it.  A plan dispels confusion.  When Nehemiah got the vision for rebuilding the wall in Jerusalem, he realized the people had lived depressed for 80 years, moping because the wall was down.  How long did it take to rebuild?  52 days!

We have fallen walls in our own life that need restoring.  The longer we grieve, the harder it is to begin the restoration process.  Start rebuilding before you make a heavy psychological investment in the loss.
Here are four points for rebuilding:

1. Stay constructively busy.  Too many people think they need to head for the islands for a vacation when experiencing loss.  A good friend, Dr. Howard Rome, formerly head of the World Psychiatric Society, once said to me when discussing a severe loss “Fred, stay busy.”  He knew that if I kept moving my training and habits would keep me constructively busy.  Now a word of warning….not just busy, but constructively busy.  One of my favorite poems says, “When in trouble, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout.”  That is NOT constructively busy.  Rebuild the wall after loss.

2. Live with the facts.  A friend asked me to assess his son’s executive capabilities.  I had to tell him I didn’t see great potential.  In a conversation with the young man he told me he wouldn’t have anyone around him who brought bad news because it depressed him.  You can’t run a business or a life like that.  A sound solution to any problem depends on a clear statement of the facts.  I must work with the facts as they are, not as I wish they were.

3. Don’t lose the good of a bad situation.  Kubler-Ross says the greatest things in her life have come from the “windstorms” of her life.  She talks about putting people into the tumbler of life to polish them.  I say, “don’t waste the experience.”Scripture is full of examples where crisis turned to blessing.  Joseph said, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”  Paul tells us that in God’s economy all experiences work for the ultimate good of His people.

4. Be redemptive.  It is my Christian responsibility to bring redemption whatever my circumstances.  Revenge is not redemptive; fear of failure is not redemptive.  I am not to be conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of my mind.  I am not to be externally pressed, but internally impressed by the Holy Spirit to bring redemption----whether I am winning or losing.

From Breakfast with Fred, weekly email.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

the true God-man

And the angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy - the Son of God."   (Luke 1:35 ESV)

"The glory of the incarnation is that it presents to our adoring gaze not a humanized God or a deified man, but a true God-man --  one who is all that God is and at the same time all that man is: one on whose almighty arm we can rest, and to whose human sympathy we can appeal."  (Benjamin B. Warfield)

gospel trail (ministry of tourism style)

Israel's ministry of tourism recently inaugurated a "gospel trail" to "follow in the footsteps of Jesus."  Though I don't really think us walking in the literal, physical footsteps of Jesus is quite what he was interested in, nevertheless, this is a great idea.  Seeing the scenery and locations of the events recorded in the Gospels in invaluable.  

Gleaned from the JPost article: The route of the Gospel Trail follows the path which Jesus walked at age 30 after he left Nazareth.  The trail, which runs for 63 kilometers, starts at Mount Precipice just outside Nazareth and continues eastwards down to Capernaum, taking in a number of important sites, including the Mount of Beatitudes, Magdala (Migdal today) the home of Mary Magadelene; Tabgha, the site of the Feeding of the Five Thousand; and Capernaum, where Jesus established his ministry.  Those traveling the trail will be able to do so by car, bicycle and, more traditionally, on foot – despite the current lack of amenities and accommodation along the route. The ministry says it is working on a program to encourage entrepreneurs to develop tourist facilities to provide services for those walking the trail.

Jerusalem Post article is found here

Friday, December 2, 2011

Dr. Thomas Schreiner - Living Like Jesus is the Only Way - ETS 2011

A good word (17 minutes) from Tom Schreiner to ETS scholars (and all aspiring scholars, and students). If "Jesus is the only way", how does this affect my relationship with others especially in academia...

Dr. Thomas Schreiner - Living Like Jesus is the Only Way - ETS 2011

Dr. Schreiner is the author of a superlative commentary on Romans, and is professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

this is how he comes

Ann Voskamp writes: 

"And this Gospel? It doesn’t come wrapped in twinkling lights and satin bows; it comes straight into our pitchest black. The Gospel of Christ, it’s a messy, bloody thing and this is how God was born, bloody and bruised, and that’s how God chose to die, bloody and beaten. And our God, He knows the comings and goings of our bloody battles, and this is exactly where He meets us. The Gospel is good news in the eye of the worst news.

"Advent is believing this, and this is how Christ comes:  

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him…” (Isaiah 11:1-2)

From her post, "One small seed."