Hindisght Isn’t Always 20/20

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

car-mirror

“For now we see in a mirror dimly. . .”  

—1 Corinthians 13:12

 

Sometimes looking back makes things clearer, but not always. Having gone through times of difficulty and struggle. It is helpful to (in review) see that big and obvious moment of breakthrough when Jesus stepped into your storm to say, “Peace, be still.” It makes the next difficulty not look so much like the tightrope stretched over Niagara Falls we thought the previous issue was and gives us the confidence to move forward in faith.

But there are times when in hindsight we reflect to see that defining moment when the curtain rolls back, and God comes on stage to part the seas of our perilous moment, but it isn’t apparent. There is calm, but we don’t see how he does it, we don’t see him. Be assured of this, see or not see, God is there else you wouldn’t be here.

In business, a rate of growth that is too fast is dangerous often leading to loss and failure. A slower intentionally paced growth rate will allow a new company to adapt to changes in the economy and other unseen events and is much more likely to experience success and prosperity. The same can be true of believers in the spiritual sense.

God understands our eagerness to know but sometimes sees it best to pull in the reins revealing a little at a time rather than everything at once. Better it is to go wobbling across the floor of life in baby steps glancing back to know only that Jesus is there. It is enough.

Before You Head Off To Church

Here I go just thinkin’ again but I am truly concerned knowing each week a huge number of people will swallow (hook, line, and sinker) a well-prepared sermon devoid of any spiritually meaningful nourishment leaving that place of worship anemic. Walk with me, please.

To me, one of the most frightening aspects of church life today (one that scares the socks off of me) is the feel-good religious experience that is quickly replacing sound biblical preaching and teaching in many of America’s pulpits and some of the largest churches in the world. To this concern theological ethics professor at Duke University, Stanley Hauerwas, writes:

“The greatest enemy of Christianity is not atheism, but sentimentality.”

I find I must agree with Dr. Hauerwas.

Looking then to scripture, 2 Timothy 4:3-4 reads:

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”

Sometimes bringing scripture into perspective for the modern reader requires a little touch-up. Here, I would make but one small change so that the verb tense causes the verse to read, “has come” rather than, “is coming.” Truly the time to which Paul referred is here and now, “has come.”

People in the religious community today want to feel good about who they are in spite of clear biblical teaching that may disagree with their self-assessments and certainly with their personal preferences. They look to align with a church and hear a message that will cause them to leave the building on Sunday morning feeling good about themselves, all footloose and fancy-free. They certainly don’t want to pass through the exit doors heavy-hearted, having just heard a message convicting of sin and knowing the next step may be to make things right with someone they have wronged or a change in lifestyle that they might look more like a follower of Jesus than of the world. No, no, no. People want to hear everything is okay, life is grand and the road ahead is pothole free. We want to hear about the benefits of being a Jesus follower, the entitlements that go along with the Christian life, not things like surrender, self-sacrifice and certainly not suffering.

But a church where the pastor’s messages fail to deliver the whole counsel of God, (including the not so pretty, sin is bad, and hell is real stuff also found in the bible) is a dangerous place for your family to spend Sunday’s. Jesus did not die to get a person’s name placed on the Who’s Who list, but to have it written down in the Lambs Book of Life. In my opinion, your best life now is not the one you will find at Barnes & Noble but the one you will see in a life committed to knowing God and fully surrendered to his plans and purposes whatever that might mean and however that might look. To without question whole-heartedly say as did Isaiah, “Here am I. Send me!”

Rant over – for now.

Sandcastles and Marriages (A Devotional thought for Men)

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

 

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
— Ephesians 5:25

My younger brother was at the Revere Beach Sandcastle Building Festival and Competition in Boston a few months back, admiring the incredible craftsmanship of the artisans whose work was on public display. The pictures he took were stunning. Mind-boggling, actually.

One work was of a fairy-tale like castle, reminiscent of Disney’s Magic Kingdom, complete with well-known storybook characters like Sleeping Beauty, Humpty Dumpty and the Cat in the Hat. Nothing at all ambiguous about the sculptor’s work either. The details were given such meticulous attention, every component of the sculpture was vividly clear and easily identifiable. You didn’t have to look twice to recognize that an oval figure seated atop the castle wall was Humpty Dumpty.

A successful marriage requires attention to details as much as prize-winning sandcastles do. I pray the love I have for my wife to be so clear that no one would have to take a second look to recognize it. However, that will happen only as I model the same honest, self-sacrificing love Christ has for his bride, the Church. Not just a “till death do we part” kind of love. But a love that is willing to part with one’s own life for the sake of his wife, as did Christ for the Church.

That is the standard Jesus set that marriage might always be rock solid, rather than on the rocks.

To be a husband is a responsibility.

Just Thinkin’ Theology

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

With love, I confess. The enterprise of theology is perhaps the most frustrating of pursuits. Like a dog chasing its tail, answers sought are often elusive as the wind. But I continue in the chase.
 
“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” ~ Romans 11:34 ~
 
Layer upon layer, the deeper the probe, the deeper the stratum-like depths are found to be. Layer upon layer of riches uncountable lie just beyond the turn of each sacred page, just beyond the grasp of the mortal mind. But I continue peeling back layers, one layer at a time. I must. I cannot stop.
 
“Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.”
~ Psalm 139:6 ~
 
No, the finite will not fully grasp the infinite. I accept and understand “his judgments are unsearchable, his ways inscrutable.” None-the-less, should I endeavor to be the faithful servant who diligently seeks to know and understand “the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!” – to do theology. Perhaps I should then become as “a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season.” This is my desire, my continued prayer.
 
To that end I press on. To keep planting, keep watering the soil of my soul with the fertile truth of God’s word that he might bring forth an increase in me. Then to pass it on to another.
 
See also Romans 11:33; Psalm 1:3, and 1 Corinthians 3:11.

Just Thinkin’

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Early this morning reading excerpts from the book of Romans through just then opening eyes. My mind got stuck on the depth of meaning there is to be found in 3:10-12. Not reading any further, I just stopped and started typing. Although by no means exhaustive or an attempted exposition of the text my thoughts were these:

As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” — Rom. 3:10–12 ESV

Wow! Such a potent statement, I thought. A real eye-opener.

Not only can none be found righteous, or good. Not only is there no one who understands, there is not a single soul who truly looks to find God. Why? We don’t want to. Why don’t we want to? Because we can’t.

Until we are awakened by the Holy Spirit to our need for God (an act of regeneration) we can see no need for him – our desire is to satisfy self only. We are spiritually dead creatures without an understanding of things spiritual or the capacity to understand them.

Slaves to what appeals to the senses, the cravings of our fleshly nature; we cannot break free from our earthly shackles and reach up to God “because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so (Romans 8:7 NASB). He must first reach down to us. Thus, we find John to say, “We love him because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19 KJV).

Backing up to verse 10 John explains,

“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” —1 John 4:10 ESV

Man’s ability to love and have fellowship with God is God’s gracious gift to man made possible by the atoning sacrifice of his son on the cross. In Jesus’ offering of himself as the substitute for our sin, he absorbed fully the prescribed penalty for sin thereby satisfying God’s justice and “canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. . .” (Colossians 2:14 ESV). In so doing God imputed (ascribed in a real and literal sense) our sin to Jesus and his righteousness to us. In other words, He took my death and gave me his life.

I cannot help but sing. I must sing:

“How marvelous! How wonderful! And my song shall ever be:               How marvelous! How wonderful! Is my Savior’s love for me!”

Have A Blessed Day Everyone,

Pat

The Haunting

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

The other day I gave my answer to a question asked in our church Community Group Discussion Guide which read: “How does knowing you are adopted by God change your view of yourself and of God? How does this give a new answer to your identity?”

My honest response was:

“Knowing God has chosen and adopted me as his son brings me to my knees in highest praise. Unfortunately, the overwhelming sense of guilt and shame past sin often reminds me of competes for my ability to see myself as the forgiven, regenerate, and redeemed child of God he tells me I am, and walk confidently of my ability to each day be everything he says I am.”

Dear Christian friend, I wonder, might our lives sometimes run along a parallel path? Knowing what God says to be true but haunted by yesteryear’s sin, perhaps yesterdays? Instead of seeing the person God declares you are in Christ today, the image you see in the mirror is definitely not the Imago Dei (image of God) and the story being told by that person staring back at you is very different. One of a shameful, sinfully dark past that any fair and reasonable self-examination will find a despairing case of hopelessness. A story that from your vantage point trumps the new story God wants to write into your life; the story he has in fact already written.

The bible I read in Numbers 23:19 tells me “God is not man, that he should lie,” and in Hebrews 6:18 I found it to say that “it is impossible for God to lie.” That being true, and it is, the questions I then should ask become who I will believe him or me? Whose word is most reliable, his or mine? That’s a no-brainer, right? It should be, yes. But in spite of my best effort to go all-in with God’s divine assessment of who I am in Christ, there are still times I find myself wrestling with that vile man sneering at me in the mirror each morning. His rap sheet is just too long to be considered for a heavenly pardon, I sometimes think. How then can it be? I lack understanding. It’s too deep.

Then this morning while reading Calvin’s Institutes I ran across these waking words of encouragement*:

“We have come into the way of faith,” says Augustine: “let us constantly adhere to it. It leads to the chambers of the king, in which are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. For our Lord Jesus Christ did not speak invidiously to his great and most select disciples when he said, ‘I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now,’ (John 16:12). We must walk, advance, increase, that our hearts may be able to comprehend those things which they cannot now comprehend. But if the last day shall find us making progress, we shall there learn what here we could not,” (August. Hom. in Joann).”

I like that. I’m good with that.


*Calvin, John. The Institutes of the Christian Religion – Enhanced Version (p. 130). Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Kindle Edition.

The Way I See It

Tags

, , , , , , , , , ,

I spend a lot of time just thinkin’ about stuff, all kinds of stuff: political stuff, religious stuff, financial stuff, techno stuff, health stuff and world affairs for example. Today I dwelt for a while on Christians involved in peaceful protests, and I asked myself this question: How many of those participating in such demonstrations understand they may change a person’s mind about the action for which they stand that day. But until there is a change of heart, the issue is only moved ahead to another day.

Bear with me, please. There is nothing wrong with standing up for what one believes in a peaceful demonstration. But snipping a weed at the surface will not prevent its return or its spreading through your lawn. Only when it is removed at the root will the problem be remedied long-term. So it is with sin, the unseen root residing in the heart of many who are the objects of those issues we often stand against. If the church would spend as much time equipping her people, training, raising up, and rallying the saints to advance the cause of Christ with the good news of the gospel as they do in other pursuits, there would be fewer issues to demonstrate against.

~ Just Thinkin’

Think About It

Tags

, , , , , ,

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
— Proverbs 4:23

Have you ever thought about how you think about the way you think about what you think about? Crazy question? Perhaps, but for the Christian seeking to live godly in a godless society, it is a question you may want to give serious consideration.

Affecting every aspect of your life is the lens through which you view life, the filter through which you pour your thoughts, the things you think about. Who you are as a person, how you interact with family, friends and co-workers, how you relate to the world around you, matters of faith, what you believe and why. These and so much more are products of the way you think about the things you think about — your mindset.

In the Bible, the “heart” commonly refers to the mind as the center of thought. It is viewed as the control center of our entire being. Thus, we are told to guard it; not letting in ideologies and philosophies contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture. This is the point of Proverbs 4:23. Understanding it to be a short walk from truth to error, Paul tells Timothy:

“guard the deposit (sound doctrine) entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” for by professing it some have swerved from the faith. 

— 1 Timothy 6:20–21

As his followers, we are given the “mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16), which means we share in his plans and purposes and have his perspective, his mindset. No, we are not omniscient, but we can discern truth from error. We can know God’s plan for us and the world around us and live life in view of the eternal, “Letting your light shine before others, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Heavenly Father, encourage those who read this today. Cause us to know the importance of having your mindset, of hearing your voice and resting securely in knowing that your ways are right, regardless of what may be popular or of the social norm. Give us your peace, help us realize we can because you said we can, that “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us”.

Code Red For Believers

Tags

, , , , , ,

From the Genesis account of mankind’s fall (Genesis 3) to the moment your eyes scan across these words. The reliability of God’s word has been and continues to be the focal point of the enemy’s attacks against the Christian faith. If God’s word can be disproved or discredited at any point, the whole of scripture implodes, the cross symbolizes nothing more than a historical period of barbaric savagery, and we must bow in submission to the dark side of the philosophical argument; Nietzsche is right, “God is dead” and we are but cosmic accidents, grown-up germs having no purpose or objective meaning.

Jude wrote:

“Dear friends, I’ve dropped everything to write you about this life of salvation that we have in common. I have to write insisting-begging! – that you fight with everything you have in you for this faith entrusted to us as a gift to guard and cherish. What has happened is that some people have infiltrated our ranks (our Scriptures warned us this would happen), who beneath their pious skin are shameless scoundrels. Their design is to replace the sheer grace of our God with sheer license-which means doing away with Jesus Christ, our one and only Master” (Jude 3-4 – The Message).

No picture can be drawn to more vividly depict the age in which we live, nor could there be voiced a greater sense of urgency to contend for the faith than these: “I’ve dropped everything to write you about this.” Jude’s “compelling sense of obligation to the people of God prompted him to change his focus for their spiritual good,” one commentator writes. The text suggests His original intent was to write a letter of encouragement to the church concerning their common salvation but was overcome by an imminent danger infiltrating their ranks.

Believer’s, the Christian community is under siege. Much in the same way as when Jude penned the above words, a serious effort to undermine and destroy the undergirding truth claims of scripture is in full swing and picking up speed. Humanism, secularism, relativism, pluralism, and a countless host of other such isms are being served the gullible society we have become from every conceivable platform and media outlet including the pulpits of many mainstream churches and their respective denominational hierarchies. We must come down from the bleachers, get off the sidelines and get out on the field with more than a pea shooter.

Attending church on Sundays, returning thanks over meals, and saying bedtime prayers is good and encouraged but insufficient in and of themselves to defend the faith from those who would misrepresent and malign it. As the serpent reasoned with Eve in the garden challenging the truth of what God had said, and Satan with Jesus in the Judean wilderness; the war being waged is one of words, of ideas, of opposing worldviews and systems of belief.

Paul instructed Timothy to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ; should we be anything less? In 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 he wrote:

“The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way-never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity” (The Message).

This is a Code Red call for followers of Christ to take a stand, “. . . all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed” – Romans 13:11 NLT.