Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Nice Depressing Poem for All Ya'll

From time to time I like to share my love of poetry with you.  This one came through on a daily poem email I get from  I trust that you will enjoy it.


Rain, midnight rain, nothing but the wild rain
On this bleak hut, and solitude, and me
Remembering again that I shall die
And neither hear the rain nor give it thanks
For washing me cleaner than I have been
Since I was born into this solitude.
Blessed are the dead that the rain rains upon:
But here I pray that none whom once I loved
Is dying to-night or lying still awake
Solitary, listening to the rain,
Either in pain or thus in sympathy
Helpless among the living and the dead,
Like a cold water among broken reeds,
Myriads of broken reeds all still and stiff,
Like me who have no love which this wild rain
Has not dissolved except the love of death,
If love it be towards what is perfect and
Cannot, the tempest tells me, disappoint.

Edward Thomas

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Book Review: "The Problem of War in the Old Testament" by Peter C Craigie

The Problem of War in the Old Testament (1978) by Peter C. Craigie  If I were to give this book a rating from 1 to 10 I would put it somewhere around 5.  I will further explain this rating, but I must first say that despite this fact I would still highly recommend the book to anyone.  Peter does an excellent job of expressing the theological and practical problems of the prevalence of war in the Old Testament.  Throughout the entire book he hints at resolutions to these problems, which causes one to be hopeful and continue reading, but then in the last chapters he concedes that he has no real answers.  Instead he turns from the problems entirely and instead proposes a Christian perspective on war in light of the Old and New Testaments.  This is why I would highly recommend this book to anyone, because his thoughts and perspective on this are well thought out and definitely worth considering, however the book itself wanders from topic to topic and doesn't really give any helpful solution to its main problem.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Death of a Christian

I have had many conversations with Christians about death and find that many are afraid of death.  This has always disturbed me, because from Scripture we know that death should not be a fear but rather a joy (1 Cor 9, 1 Thess 4:13-18).  Here is an excerpt from the book "The True Bounds of Christian Freedom" by Samuel Bolton.  If you have ever struggled with fear of death, I would encourage you to read the following.
The believer is freed from death as a curse.  The nature of death is taken away, and therefore the name is changed.  It is but called a sleep, and a sleep in Christ, and a gathering to our fathers, a change, a departing.  Death is the godly man's wish, the wicked man's fear...
There is another aspect to a believer's freedom from death - he will not die until the best time.  Indeed, none shall die until God's time.  What David said to his enemies, so may any man say: 'My times are in thy hand' (Ps 31.15).  But this is not always the best time: you may die with Belshazzar, carousing; with Ananias and Sapphira, lying; with the nobleman, unbelieving; with Julian, blaspheming.   But this is the privilege of saints, that they shall not die until the best time; not until when, if they were but rightly informed, they would desire to die.
Men cut down weeds at any time, but their corn they will not cut down till the best time.  'You are God's husbandry', says the apostle; you are His wheat, and when you are ripe, when you have done your work, then, and not till then, shall you be gathered into your Master's garner.
(added emphasis my own)

I would encourage you to specifically focus on the last line of the second paragraph.  At the moment of your death, if you were rightly informed at that moment as to the nature of things, you would actually DESIRE to die.  Why?  Because you would realize that for you to go on living would not bring God glory but would rather detract from who He is.  Do you understand this?  God is eternally and magnificently wise, and so He has planned just the right moment in time for your death, and your death will bring Him glory.  So, for you to not desire to die, for you to wish that you would not die, for you to fear death, is actually for you to not desire the glory of God.

May God be glorified both in our lives and in our deaths.  May we be assured that when we die it is the perfect time for our death.  May we even, when that moment comes, desire the death that is upon it, realizing that it has been planned before the foundation of the world for the greater glory of our Creator, Lord, and Savior.

To God be the glory forever, Amen.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Book Review: "Epic" by John Eldredge

Epic (2004) by John Eldredge (3/24/11)  In approximately 100 pages John lays out the story of the world from before creation through the restoration of all things.  This is a very moving book which causes you to see the larger story within which you live.  John effectively shows how this story is woven into every other story we tell and how we long for the essential elements of this story to be true.  This book contains compelling evidence of the claims of Christianity for those who may be struggling with doubt as well as motivational material for those who are struggling to live out the truths of the Gospel.  I would highly recommend this book.

Theology as a Language of Life

I've been thoroughly enjoying Jonathan R. Wilson's book "Why Church Matters".  Here is another quote from that book.  I know that it is kinda long, but it is well worth reading.  Even if you just skim down and read where it says "First", "Second", "Third" and the sentence right after that, I believe that it will encourage you to further study the Word of God and seek to live for Him.

Theology serves the community of faith by helping us to use the language of our convictions to shape our life and witness so that we are faithful to what God is doing in Jesus Christ and so that our witness is intelligible and applicable to our world.
...First, learning theology is like learning a language.  More specifically, theology is the grammar of faith.  Therefore, we learn theology the way we learn language.  We may initially learn the grammatical rules of a language by memorization, but at some point we are no longer conscious of the rules, we simply speak the language....
If this is the case, learning theology is not an end in itself.  It is, rather, a means to learning the language of faith and of becoming more faithful. This makes living central to Christianity, but it does not devalue theology or dispense with it.  Rather it gives us an account of the proper place and function of theology.
Second, the language of theology is the language of faith, not language about faith.  Just as we learn French not by learning about French but by actually learning French - its vocabulary and grammar - so also we learn theology not by learning about faith but by becoming faithful.  Theology, then, is not a "free creation."  It is determined by God's prior work that culminates in Jesus Christ....When we practice theology as a language of faith, then theology takes its rightful place within the disciple community.
Third, words do not refer; rather, people refer by using words.  This means that "the whole business of using theology as grammar requires also that we refer our nation, our world, ourselves, our future, to God".  It also means that the liveliness of a language depends largely upon the lives of those who use it.  That is, the vividness of the language of faith is, in large part, dependent on the vividness of the lives of the faithful.
 This was so good because it just refocused me on the purpose of theology and reminded me of how awesome God is and wise in establishing the order of things so that living for Him is so comprehensive in our lives.  When we take God seriously, we start to find that He consumes us and that we are more and more focused on Him, and that our lives start to materialize before our eyes.  Out of the nothingness of this existence, the meaninglessness of this life, God speaks into existence meaning and creates purpose.  How great is our God!  So fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.  Learn to speak of him.  Learn how it was that he came, about his love, and grace, and wrath, and justice, and mercy, and righteousness, and as you learn of these things be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Walk in step with the Word.  Live each day in light of who He is and in communion with Him, and the world will see and know that He is God.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Light of Our Path

 This is another devotional that I wrote for our Honduras Team

The Light of Our Path

Read Isaiah 50:4-11

God has given us a light for our paths, the Word recorded by His servants throughout history.  We have been told the things of God; we have been given direction for our steps; we have received truths by which our lives can be lived for the glory of God.  How often do we ponder this?  How often do we look upon the Word of God for daily sustenance and direction?  How often do we look to other things for direction and guidance?
The Word of God is not some magical book that we pick up when we have a decision to make and if we just read the right sentence or look at the right place we will know where to go.  Rather, the Word of God is truth from God’s mouth that if we steep ourselves in it will become the very source of our thoughts, emotions, and decisions.  In Colossians 3 and Romans 12 we are told that we are to set our minds on things above and to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.  This process occurs as we read and consider the words of Scripture; as we steep ourselves in it daily, so that when a decision comes we don’t even have to think twice.  With our mind transformed by the truths of Scripture we will walk in the way God has set forth for us.  (We should approach the Word of God with the prayer of David in Psalm 86:11-13.)  This is the promise of Isaiah 50:10, if we trust in the name of the Lord our God and obey the word of His servants we will walk in light.
But verse 11 has a stern warning.  When we light our own fires, when we walk in ‘truths’ that we have formed apart from the light of Scripture, when we trust psychology, philosophy, or friends’ opinions that are contrary to the truth of Scripture, we will lie down (whether in life or in death) in torment.  This echoes Isaiah 29:14 which is quoted in 1 Corinthians 1:19-25.  “The foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom.”
May you saturate yourself with the wisdom of God found in His Word.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Walk in Spirit

 This is a devotional that I wrote for the group from our church that went to Honduras.

Walk in Spirit
Read Galatians 5:13-26

Throughout the whole book of Galatians Paul is reminding the church that in the gospel they are no longer  bound by the law but rather freed by God’s grace, through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  But now, suddenly, we get to the end of the book and find that Paul is telling them how they should live!  How can this possibly make any sense?  Isn’t it legalism for one Christian to tell another Christian how to live?  Won’t it drive newcomers away if they find that we have certain actions we are to do and others that we are not to do?  Isn’t this contrary to grace?
There are so many people today, tired with the legalisms of yesterday, that automatically reject any admonition for “proper living” as legalism.  But we see here that our freedom in Christ necessitates a certain lifestyle.
What we learn through the book of Galatians (as well as Romans, Ephesians, and the Peters) is that when we receive the grace of God we are made alive in our spirit.  We were once dead in our sins, but have been made alive in Jesus.  Your spirit is not dead, rather, it is very alive!
So now we are actually in bondage to a higher law, the law of the Spirit (Matthew 5:17-20, Romans 6:18).  In fact, God has written His law upon our hearts.  It is not that we can now live however we like, because the Spirit is in direct opposition to the sin nature, which means that we may not do whatever we want (verse 17) but can instead live as we should.
Paul is saying here (cf. 1 Peter 1:13-16, 2 Peter 1:3-9, Romans 6-8:17, Ephesians 2:1-8, 2 Corinthians 5:14-21, Colossians 3:1-17) you once lived according to the intense desires of the flesh and you were powerless against them, but now that you have been made alive by the Spirit you must no longer satisfy those desires of the flesh.  Instead, walk in spirit, listen to the Holy Spirit, and if you do this you will not satisfy the desires of the flesh because they are in opposition to each other.  This then ties the second half of the chapter back to verse 1 “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
So, do not fulfill the longings of the flesh, but rather walk in spirit.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Job Hunt Pendulum: Worry <--------> Trust

So, as many of you know, I am currently in the job hunt.  It seems like my emotions on this topic are on a pendulum that swings at varying speeds; some days it goes from one end to the other in five minutes, and sometimes it's more gradual, going from one side to the other over the course of a week or two.

On one side I feel entirely reliant on God, I trust that He has everything already worked out, and I sometimes entirely put the thought that I need a job out of my mind for days at a time because I am simply trusting that God will provide.  I am reminded of previous "job hunts".  When I was 12 someone at church offered me a job that was a great fit and I worked there until I was 19, at which point I felt led to move to West Chester so that I could minister more effectively during my time at college.  God amazingly provided me with a job that provided income AND a house (I was an RA).  And then, in October (9 months before the fact), I was informed that there would possibly be a job opening at my church in July, which was, oddly enough, perfect for my school schedule as I would graduate after completing two summer classes.  That Spring I was short on money, as has been my habit, and so I decided I really needed to pick up another job on top of the RA job.  It "just so happened" that when I went in to fill out an application I found out that the late night janitor that I had a habit of talking to when I studied late in the student union had no life, but instead managed food service for the university during the day and was a janitor at night.  So, he sat down with me and the head of HR, said to the head of HR, "Give him any job he wants.  If its not there, make it."  and then leaves.  It "conveniently" worked out that they were opening a new grill on South Campus, about 100 feet from my apartment door (yes, I lived in the closest building to the grill out of the 13 in the complex, and I promise you, that was NOT planned, least I didn't plan it).

But then there's times where I find myself on the complete opposite end of the spectrum.  Where I literally feel my heart rate accelerating when I think about it that it is mid-March and I still don't have a job lined up for August.  Which would not be a big deal, in and of itself, except for that my wedding date is contingent upon it.  When I consider this, I start to feel guilty, like if I was just looking a little harder for a job me and Dana wouldn't be in the situation we are in right now of trying to plan a wedding with no date in sight.  In fact, sometimes just thinking about our wedding makes my heart rate accelerate, not because I'm nervous about the wedding, but because I feel so terrible about the fact that I don't yet have a job.  My mind starts to "zone in" and I make lists of what I need to do to work towards the end of getting a job.  I do 3-4 hour long google searchs on local jobs, trying to figure out where all I should be putting applications in at.  And I find, after these times, that my mind and thoughts were not even on God at all.

I feel like there's somewhere in the middle I should be.  It seems to me that I should not be worrying about the end result but I should still be pursuing the end result.  I need to trust but I also need to work.  But some days that just seems impossible.  I think of verses like "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you" and "Man plans out his ways, but God determines His footsteps".  It occurred to me just the other day that I can't pray without ending up just praying about a job.  I can't even focus on others to pray for them, much less on God to seek His face.  How pitiful I must look spiritually in those moments, understand that I am not heaping guilt on myself in saying this or wallowing in self-condemnation, rather I am stating the truth.  How pitiful I must look.  I come before God, having selfishly slaved after my desires with no thought or consideration of Him, and I don't even take the time to talk to Him or to seek His face or to get to know Him more, I just start going off about what I want and how I want it.  Father, I ask that you would make me new, that you would focus my heart upon Jesus, that you would remind me of your glorious riches, that you cause me not to seek my kingdom but rather your kingdom that you are bringing about.  Cause me to not only seek your hand, to not only seek your voice, but to seek your face.  Help me to come near to you in humility, recognizing my weakness and your strength, and then to go out and do the work that you have for me.  Help me to see that filling out applications and looking for jobs can be done to your glory, and help me to do it for your glory and not for my own.  Break me.  Bring me into a state of surrender.  Take control.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Works and Doctrine - The Conclusion

So I think that these two things: ignorance concerning the resurrection of Christ and an inflated reaction to legalism within the church, has resulted in the lack of Biblical balance that we see today. We must return to the gospel that the Bible teaches, a gospel that contains both grace and work (in their proper order). We must return to the teachings of the Apostles, a teaching that emphasizes both the cross and the resurrection. And we must learn that it is NOT ENOUGH to die to sin, we must also live to righteousness. Not because by dying to sin or living to righteousness we will be saved, but because God has made it transparently clear that both of these things are essential to our faith.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Teaching on Works

2) We have such a fear of legalism creeping into the church that any mention of what our lives as Christians should look like is immediately labeled legalistic. Recently in Adult Sunday School my pastor read excerpts from the Didache, a compilation of early Christian teachings (dating around 175 AD). These teachings were simply a list of things that Christians should partake in and do. Many people in the class responded by saying that this sounded legalistic and wrong, however it appeared to me that the lists were directly out of Scripture. See Matthew 5-7, Titus 3, Colossians 3:12-4:6, 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15, 2 Peter 1:5-11. It would seem that many people would get up and walk out saying they will not put up with legalism if these Scriptures were to be read. But we must come to see that talking about and expounding upon what the Christian life should look like is not legalism!! In fact, encouraging good deeds (Hebrews 10:24-25) is commanded in Scripture, so we should be doing it. Encouraging and even teaching good works is not legalism; legalism is when good works are seen as a prerequisite for salvation. We must come to see that apart from Galatians 1-4 on the superiority of grace over law, chapters 5 and 6 would be legalism. But apart from chapter 5 and 6, the doctrine of grace in chapters 1-4 would be wholly incomplete. Until we are able to freely talk about what the Christian life should be, until we are free to describe and encourage Christ-like living without people getting their feathers all ruffled, until we do this we will not have truly started building the kingdom of God. For what is a kingdom where the king is not obeyed? As long as we continue to not live our lives for Jesus, as long as we only focus on the things we are not to do but leave out the things that we are to do, we are not serving Jesus but rather ourselves.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Book Review: "A Little Exercise for Young Theologians" by Helmut Thielicke

A Little Exercise for Young Theologians (1962) by Helmut Thielicke  This is a very short book detailing the dangers of theological study.  Many of the thoughts are ones I have already had myself, but they were very good reminders and gave some reasons I had not already thought through.  This is a book that will encourage you to pursue theology while always remembering that it is not knowledge in and of itself that you pursue, but rather God himself.  It is easy to forget this, and so this is a book that I believe I should read at least twice a year going through seminary.  Perhaps my favorite thought that he introduces is the ease with which we move from the second to the third person in our theological pursuits.  By this he means that we cease to talk TO God and instead only speak OF God.  I have seen this danger in my own life and heart and it is one to combat continually.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Sound Doctrine

1) First, it seems that we also have an alarming lack of information/teaching on the resurrection of Christ. We often talk about the cross and the crucifixion with little or no mention to the empty tomb and now living savior. In fact, our gospel presentations are often grimly void of any mention of the risen savior, and the importance of our now risen Lord, Jesus Christ. And this is in spite of the fact that the Bible seems to almost emphasize the resurrection OVER the cross in many of its references to the gospel and salvation. And this makes sense when we consider that there isn’t much good news in someone dying. Isn't the good news that the one who died (notice the death is still important) was also raised and therefore is God Himself and has the power to save us from our sins? But we so often present the crucified messiah rather than the risen savior.
Now, I see a connection between this lack of conversation regarding the resurrection and the aforementioned lack of conversation regarding Christian living. Paul often makes mention of us being crucified with Christ (the death of our sinful nature) followed by our resurrection with him (putting on of new life). This is why putting off the works of the sinful nature in Scripture is always paired with putting on the works of the Spirit, because to not do this is to leave Jesus in the grave! As Christians we are not only saved from something, we are saved to something, and this mirrors Jesus death and resurrection. So it makes sense, then, that as we have focused less and less on the resurrection and new life of Jesus that we have also focused less and less on the new life that has been given to us and we must now walk in.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Lack of Teaching on Works in Accord with Sound Doctrine

I have felt for a long time that modern evangelical Christianity (as I have experienced it) has a curious overemphasis on ceasing to sin and an alarming lack of emphasis on doing good works. We recognize all of the bad things that we are not to be doing and frequently talk about them, but how often is the new life that we are to be walking in Christ expounded upon? I have heard countless sermons that go on and on about dying to sin and what that looks like and the process entailed and then finish with minor if any reference to living to righteousness. However, when we really consider the gospel message, when we look into what the Bible teaches of salvation, we will see that our life is crucial! At this some of you may be putting up red flags, and while I would love to address them now, that is not the intent of this post, however I would encourage you to look over Ephesians 2:8-10, Matthew 7:15-27 (spec 20 & 24), Galatians 5, Colossians 3:5-4:6 (note the extensive list of good works following the short list of bad works to avoid), Titus 2, James, 1 Peter 2:24, 1 Peter 4:1-11. I could list many more passages, but even a short perusal of these will quickly illuminate the fact that 1) the good news of our salvation is rarely mentioned in the Bible without being immediately followed by a call to live a good life and 2) passages encouraging us to stop doing bad things, to put off sin, are always followed by a specific admonition to also put on godliness, or good works.

Unfortunately it seems that the modern day evangelical community has lost this focus on what our new life in Christ is supposed to be and I have recently come to two conclusions as to why this is.  I will devote each of my next two posts to discussing these points.