A Good Bit From C.S. Lewis

Taken from Mere Christianity, chapter 9, Counting the Cost:

“That is why we must not be surprised if we are in for a rough time. When a man turns to Christ and
seems to be getting on pretty well (in the sense that some of his bad habits are now corrected), he
often feels that it would now be natural if things went fairly smoothly. When troubles come
along—illnesses, money troubles, new kinds of temptation—he is disappointed.

These things, he feels, might have been necessary to rouse him and make him repent in his bad old
days; but why now? Because God is forcing him on, or up, to a higher level: putting him into
situations where he will have to be very much braver, or more patient, or more loving, than he ever
dreamed of being before. It seems to us all unnecessary: but that is because we have not yet had the
slightest notion of the tremendous thing He means to make of us.

I find I must borrow yet another parable from George MacDonald. Imagine yourself as a living house.
God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is
getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the [...]


Is Your Church Restful?

Recently, a reader submitted the following question:

I have become increasingly uncomfortable with the amount of hustle and bustle of church business and committee work and clip boards flying around to sign up for this and that. Of course I too have approached people, clipboard in hand, on the Lord’s Day. Would one of you consider addressing this topic?

This is a perceptive question that, if we answer it well, could help us maintain or rescue the blessings of corporate worship and Sabbath-keeping.

Before we attempt an answer, let’s assuming the following factors are at play:

A sincere desire to honor the Lord’s Day and enjoy the rest it provides
The need to clearly communicate the needs and ministries of the church and recruit people to be involved
The fact that the corporate gathering for worship is the easiest time to communicate and recruit
The danger that the bustle of announcements, sign-up sheets and committee meetings might overshadow or even undo some of the rest provided on the Sabbath

In other words, the congregation needs to know what’s going on and how to get involved without losing the focus and restfulness of worship. If your congregation has a lot of things going on, you’ll agree that striking this [...]


Questions Worth Asking. Answers Worth Memorizing.

This summer, our family has renewed its work to memorize the Westminster Shorter Catechism. We try to fit some of the questions in our daily devotions and as we drive on the road. Recently, I was explaining to my six year-old son that God has planned every event in history – even the minutest detail. He then looked me squarely in the eye and asked “even the bad things?” The discussion flowed from Q&A 7 that says “The decrees of God are, his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.”

My son asked a question that everyone asks, and the catechism simply helped him to draw it out. The Shorter Catechism has the knack of not only asking great questions, but it helps us ask questions that exist deeply in our souls that we might not otherwise articulate. Better still, it gives the answers of the Bible and points us in the right direction for further thought and study. Why else should you memorize the Shorter Catechism? Here are five more benefits that I have experienced – from among dozens that could be listed:


Podcast: Satan’s Awful Idea

Recently our fellow blogger, Austin Brown, self-published a book entitled Satan’s Awful Idea with the subtitle A Biblical Theology of Satan’s Fall and Its Implication on the Unfolding Human Drama.  Combining his knowledge gleaned from years of listening to reformed podcasts on his mail route, his love of reading theological tomes, and his vivid imagination, in this work Austin addresses the question of how it is that Satan, originally an archangel in heaven, could convince himself and legions of other angels that rebelling against God would be a good idea. Clearly the record shows it was not!

Knowing for a few years that Austin was working on this project, and aware that the Biblical record is scant on this particular subject, I was intrigued with how he could develop this topic.  He did so using a speculative theology approach, which takes subjects clouded in mystery (other examples would be the decrees of God or the theodicy question) and addresses them philosophically using inferences from Scripture and insights from other theologians. Though I have told Austin I’d like to see a shorter version (it’s nearly 300 pages long!), some more editing, and I lean a bit more toward an Edwardian approach than he does (you’ll have to listen [...]


Libations of Prayer

O loving Father,

  When our hope begins to fade

  And our strength fails,

Again you send Your servants

  To come alongside us,

  Visible, tangible messengers of Your care.

 

In prayer we cling to ancient promises

  With brokenhearted faith that cries,

  Weeping yet once again over loss.

Their tears fall together with ours,

  Forming on faces and floors

  The sweetest libations of Your Spirit.

 

As we arise from sacred moment,

  To look through bleary eyes

  Upon pained yet radiant faces,

We behold the glory of a Savior

  Who, having shed tears and blood,

  Even now fellowships with us.


The Best Post Ever!! It Will Have You in Tears!! Of Joy!! And Mourning!!

A little while ago, I began noticing facebook links with a similar pattern:

“The Cutest Kittens Ever! #3 Will Leave You Smiling for Days!”

“You Won’t Believe These Sunrises! #20 Made Me Cry!”

“This three year old is the funniest dancer ever!!”

And so on. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why these things bothered me so much; I just knew they did. My only rebuttal was simply not clicking on the links. Until now. 


A Very Little Thing

From childhood, I remember that Timex watches used to have commercials featuring either “torture tests” or short documentaries on true circumstances where their watches endured extreme conditions but still functioned afterward.  From being strapped to the propeller of a boat motor to being strapped to the belly of a Sumo wrestler, you would see the watch survive then hear the announcer quote their slogan:

It takes a licking and keeps on ticking.

Living on the edge of woods in western Pennsylvania and having a small dog named Oscar, we have had occasion to reverse that motto.  For a while, almost every day Oscar would come in and we would find a tick or two upon him we would have to remove.  Though aggravating, it became somewhat humorous to see him learn to sit still for the tick removal because he associated the word “tick” with getting a dog biscuit afterward.  We could say about Oscar:

He takes a ticking and keeps on licking.

Though there was a certain gross factor and we had been warned of tick bites, still we did not consider a tick that big of a deal.

Then I came down with Lyme disease.

Now I am not writing this to elicit sympathy.  As the news shows, I [...]


The Pentateuch is Christian Scripture

One of the foundational convictions of reformed theology is the unity of Scripture. There is, we believe, one covenant of redemption that God reveals and accomplishes through history, from Adam all the way through to Christ. It should not surprise us, therefore, to find the Old Testament—beginning with the Pentateuch—framed around the expectation of Christ (so, Lk. 24:27). There is one fascinating example of this in the book of Numbers that I want to take up in this post.

The book of Numbers begins with two lists of names. In chapter one, a census of Israel is taken, listing all twelve tribes one-by-one. Then in chapter two, the arrangement for Israel’s encampment and their order of march is given, once again listing the tribes one-by-one. But the order is different in the two chapters. And the shift in order is theologically profound.

Both lists of tribes are shaped according to the birth order of their namesakes, the twelve sons of Jacob. To be more specific, both of these name lists are based on the birth order of the twelve patriarchs, grouped according to their mothers. (Recall that Jacob had two wives and two concubines). Here is their birth order when grouped by [...]


In the Face of Jesus Christ

Picture for a moment an inquisitive child. That shouldn’t be too hard since most children are experts at asking questions! What if the child came to you and said, “Excuse me, will you explain the brightness of the sun?” Now, perhaps some of you could give a better answer to that question than I can. But, I have to admit I’d be tempted to say in the most helpful way possible, “The brightness of the sun is that it’s really…bright.” And, I fear, that wouldn’t be helpful at all.

 

In some ways the brightness of the sun defies explanation. The closest I can come to an answer is to say that the brightness of the sun is that thing by which I see all other things. The reason I can see the tree outside of my window at this moment, is because the sun shines on it. And the brighter the sun shines, the more plainly I see. Not only the tree, but the blades of grass in my yard too.

 

I find myself grappling with the same difficulty when I think about the glory of God. The glory of God [...]


Church Planting & Mercy Ministry

I’m writing this in real time as I take a class from Randy Nabors.  He just referred to a post he wrote on Church Planting and Mercy Ministry.  The cheat sheet he has shared with us below is worth passing along to you.  It help hearing this from someone who has spent his life living it.

May the Lord continue to raise up churches that offer mercy because we know we have received it.

CHEAT SHEET FOR CHURCH PLANTERS ON MERCY MINISTRY

1. Mercy ministry will be required in your church no matter what socio-economic group makes up your church or community.

2. It would be wise to plan for it ahead of time so that you will have some wisdom, mechanism, or personnel to rise to the situation.

3. Loving your neighbor or “doing good to all men especially to the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10) is not something you can put off until the 2nd, 3rd, or 5th year of the church plant.

4. It is not just the poor that have dysfunctional families, addictions, legal, medical, and death issues.

5. If you minister among the poor you will have more obvious dysfunctionality problems to deal with, with fewer resources.

6. The pastor and Elders must [...]