September 27, 2014

A dim mirror?

1 Corinthians 13:12 ESV

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

Paul says here that, in this life, we see dimly. Those of you who spend much time reading Christian books or blogs will doubtless come across an argument something like this: "because we can only see dimly, and as finite creatures could never fully know the infinite God, we shouldn't focus too much on trying to nail down what the Bible says or means; because by its own admission, we never will."

What I want to encourage you with is this: if God had given us the tools (eg, the Bible, a rational mind, books and other resources from others who have studied) with which to make the mirror less dim in this life, we have no only the ability but the responsibility to make use of those means and to understand Him as well in this life as we possibly can. Don't be afraid to think really hard about God. He wants to be known.

Just because a mirror is dim doesn't make it virtuous to leave the mirror covered in dirt. Especially when you hold in your hand a rag and soapy water.

For further study: John 1:14, 18; Hebrews 1:1-4

September 20, 2014

Christian words

A brief doctrine of words.

Christians worship the Word (John 1:1), whom we know through His word (John 5:39). We are called to be His ambassadors, ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-20), a task which demands the use of words (Romans 10:14). Words matter.

God has spoken to us in His Son (Hebrews 1:2), who, as we have already said, we come to know through the written pages of Scripture. This Scripture, and the knowledge it brings us of God in Christ, is sufficient to bring salvation, to teach us all we need to know in order to live God honoring lives, and to equip us for all He has called us to do (2 Timothy 3:15-17). We should then study this word. Its message is life giving and life enabling. We ought to endeavor to communicate its life-giving truth to others, verbally and through the written page.

Words are foundational to our life as humans, image bearers of the God who spoke all life into existence (Genesis 1). But they bear special importance for those of us who worship this same God. Other things do matter. Our actions validate our words and prove that there is something behind them (James 2:14). As I was reminded this evening, talk is cheap, but it takes money to buy whiskey. However, the import of action does nothing to negate the foundational and essential nature of words for the Christian. Let us ever endeavor to better understand His words, and to represent them well with our own.

September 10, 2014

Awe and Wonder

Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
Matthew 19:13-14 NIV

Jesus' words in Matthew 19 are familiar to many of us. You have most likely heard a sermon, read a blog, or been encouraged by someone to be more childlike in your faith. This is, I think, a good thing. Jesus does tell us here that "to such as these" belong the kingdom of heaven. But what does that mean? Again, we are familiar with exhortations to such things as humility and simple faith. I have no desire to contradict those here, both are concepts taught many other places in Scripture. I wonder, however, if we miss something when we equate childlikeness only with humility and trusting faith.

I am far from being a child expert, but I have been around a few during the course of my life. Being the oldest of 11 siblings, and having one child of my own, something different has always struck me as the distinctive childlike trait. Wonder. When I first wrote this, we were finishing up the Christmas season. You will often hear parents say that there is no need to actually purchase presents for small children; they are enamored enough with wrapping paper and cardboard boxes. While said in a jesting fashion, it's only funny, Bob the Tomato might say, because it's true. Children can take what we see simply as garbage and entertain themselves for hours on end. They are happy with simple toys like plastic utensils and stuffed polar bears. And oh, the toys that make noise. My little girl will push the buttons on her singing dog incessantly ... a difficult task when she is busy dancing to the music coming out of this magic machine.

I watch her, and I ponder. "Why am I not like this?", is often the question I ask myself. Not over toys and boxes. But over the marvelous things I walk past every day. Trees blowing in the wind, squirrels running through the leaves, flowers in a garden, snow flakes falling gently on my nose: are these not miracles worthy of awe, of wonder? Even more so the great realities of salvation.

Jesus, the Creator of all, whom we as human beings have rebelled against, rejected and scorned, entered human history by being born in a stable to a poor, unwed teenage mother, lived in a no-name town in the middle east for 30+ years, then after roughly three years of ministry was brutally murdered, bearing not only the human punishment for crimes not commited, but the wrath of Almighty God for the sins of men, soaking up all the wrath that God had toward us for our sin, and then dying. But not only dying; rising again, conquering death, becoming the firstfruit of eternal life, and offering this eternal life to all who would place their hope and trust in His sacrifice. He told His rag tag group of followers that they would be His witnesses to the world, and through the message of what He has done and its reality in the lives of individuals and communites, the entire world has been changed. Moreover, He has promised to return again in power and glory, righting every wrong, restoring creation, punishing the unrepentant sinner, rewarding His faithful, wiping every tear from their eyes and dwelling eternally with them as their God and King.

Can we read this story and not be struck through with awe? Can we not be amazed that, as the hymnist put it, "thou my King shouldst die for me"? It is easy to be bored with the Christian life. To come to our Bibles as we come to our toothbrush. To approach church like a meeting at work or an assembly at school. Perhaps not the low part of our day, but certainly not anything we're jazzed about. And I can't help but think that this is, at least in part, because we've lost how simply marvelous and amazing our God is. We desperately need a shot of childlike wonder in our view of life. In our view of God and His word. Perhaps this is why Jesus said, "the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

September 01, 2014

10 Influences

I read an interesting list today from Drew G. I. Hart over at the Christian Century on 10 books that had "stuck" with him (you can read that piece here: I thought posting a list of my own would be fun. Bear in mind that my reading is fairly narrow and some books have, I'm sure, made impacts on me that I do not consciously notice or remember, making these lists far more fun than useful. But they are fun.

In no particular order:

1. The Holiness of God: R.C. Sproul

2. Don't Waste Your Life: John Piper

3. The Great Divorce: C.S. Lewis

4. Bonhoeffer: Eric Metaxas

5. Future Grace: John Piper

6. Lasting Valor: Vernon Baker

7. A Sweet and Bitter Providence: John Piper

8. Surprised by Joy: C.S. Lewis

9. Radical: David Platt

10. Systematic Theology: Wayne Grudem

About Me

Follower of Jesus. Husband of one. Father of four. Pastor at Remsen Bible Fellowship (