Wednesday’s Words

Some random thoughts on this first day of July:

  1. If you claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ, where is He leading you?
    1. How well are you following – reluctantly, enthusiastically or not at all?
    2. If you don’t know where He is leading you, why not?
  2. Do you love Jesus Christ for who He is, or what He does for you?
    1. If He withdrew His blessings, would you still praise, worship and honor Him or withdraw yourself?
      1. He is worthy to be honored, praised and worshiped because He is the King of Kings, not a genie.
      2. We owe Him all, He owes us nothing.
      3. Any blessing He gives is out of mercy and grace but not because we somehow deserve it.
    2. Peter’s declaration should ring true with us. In John 6:68, when the crowds stopped following, Jesus asked the disciples if they would leave also. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
  3. Is Jesus, alone, enough for us or are we still looking for something extra?

Good Definitions of Repentance

Again, as part of our research in putting together our newest resource, The 180º Project, we have found some good thoughts concerning biblical repentance. Some of these we share below. While not all of these will make it into our final book, all of them are worthy of contemplation. If you run across any that you would like to share with us, please email them to us at taethne@outlook.com.  Please enjoy”

[Repentance] is not a merely intellectual change of mind or mere grief, still less doing penance, but a radical transformation of the entire person, a fundamental turnaround involving mind and action and including overtones of grief, which result in (spiritual) fruit. — D.A. Carson

Repentance is more than just sorrow for the past; repentance is a change of mind and heart, a new life of denying self and serving the Savior as king in self’s place. — J.I. Packer

Remorse precedes true repentance. Changed behavior follows true repentance. But this necessary prelude and postlude of true repentance are not themselves the essence of repentance. True repentance is a denial that anything in us ever would or ever could satisfy God’s holiness or compel His pardon. We humbly concede that we can offer nothing for what He alone can give. Then we rest in His promise to forgive those who humbly seek Him… Repentance, therefore, is fundamentally a humble expression of a desire for a renewed relationship with God – a relationship that we confess can be secured only by His grace. — Bryan Chapell

Our Lord’s idea of repentance is as profound and comprehensive as His conception of righteousness. Of the three words that are used in the Greek Gospels to describe the process, one emphasizes the emotional element of regret, sorrow over the past evil course of life, metamelomaiMatt. 12:29-32; a second expresses reversal of the entire mental attitude, metanoeoMatt. 12:41, Luke 11:32; 15:7, 10; the third denotes a change in the direction of life, one goal being substituted for another, epistrephomaiMatt. 13:15 (and parallels); Luke 17;4, 22:32. Repentance is not limited to any single faculty of the mind: it engages the entire man, intellect, will and affections… Again, in the new life which follows repentance the absolute supremacy of God is the controlling principle. He who repents turns away from the service of mammon and self to the service of God. —Geerhardus Vos

It is one thing to love sin and to force ourselves to quit it; it is another thing to hate sin because love for God is so gripping that the sin no longer appeals. The latter is repentance; the former is reform. It is repentance that God requires. Repentance is “a change of mind.” To love and yet quit it is not the same as hating it and quitting it. Your supposed victory over a sin may be simple displacement. You may love one sin so much (such as your pride) that you will curtail another more embarrassing sin which you also love. This may look spiritual, but there is nothing of God in it. Natural men do it every day. —Jim Elliff

Allowing Grief to take Place

I ran across a quote the other day that speaks volumes: “For those who love life, immortality is no consolation in death” – Simone de Beauvoir. We understand, as Christians, that death has lost its ultimate power over us. We know, from Scripture, that our immortal soul, once redeemed by Jesus, will spend eternity with Him. We are even told that it will be reunited with a new body in heaven. Yet, we still grieve over the death of a loved one. This is appropriate on two levels.

First, if the one we have lost was not a believer in Jesus Christ, we grieve because they are truly gone. There is no meeting them again in the afterlife. Their death, for all intents and purposes, is final for us. That relationship we had with them has been sundered forever. Truly, it is appropriate to grieve for them.

Second, even if the person was a believer, even with the hope we have of being reunited with them in heaven, it is appropriate to grieve the loss. For now, the fellowship has been broken, Things are not the same. While we do not grieve as those who have no hope this does not mean we cannot or should not grieve. Death is an intruder, an interloper. It is not without reason the New Testament calls it “the last enemy.”

We grieve over loss because we have been cut off, at least temporarily, from the ones we love. For instance, we may be glad that a child is doing well at college across the country. We expectantly look forward to Christmas break when we will see them again but it doesn’t mute the emptiness of their bedroom we pass everyday. Death magnifies those feelings because we cannot call them on the phone and hear their voice like we can one separated only by distance.

One of the tragedies of our society, as well as today’s church, is not allowing people to adequately grieve. Because we are embarrassed for them or because we have not processed our own grief, we do not allow them to fully grieve and begin the road to healing. When Lazarus died, it wasn’t just Mary and Martha that mourned. Jesus did too. He knew He could resurrect Lazarus. He knew He was going to resurrect Lazarus and yet He still grieved. Knowing that it was okay for our Lord to grieve should be good enough for allowing His children to grieve also. It is a natural response to loss that must be allowed and there is no right way or wrong way to grieve, nor is there a time frame after which it is not allowable. The only restriction placed on grieving in the Bible is that we are not to grieve without hope, as a pagan might.

Modern psychology doesn’t help either. Since Freud’s time it has looked upon grief as a disease, as though it were a sickness like mumps or chicken pox, easily cured with the right combination of drugs or therapies. Only when we accept that for now, until a new heaven and earth are made by God, that suffering and loss are a normal part of our existence and grief is a normal reaction to loss, will we be able to help individuals cope with grief. We will sit with them, cry with them, wonder why with them and listen to their pain without offering stupid, meaningless platitudes. In short, we will experience their life with them and, in doing so, enrich both ours and theirs.

I leave you with this quote:  “We are told that it is perfectly legitimate for believer to suffer grief. Our Lord Himself was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Though grief may reach to the root of our souls it must not result in bitterness. Grief is a legitimate emotion, at times even a virtue, but there must be no place in the soul for bitterness.” R.C. Sproul, The Dark Night of the Soul, Tabletalk, March 2008

Wednesday Book Reviews

 Deep in the HeartDeep in the Heart by Staci Stallings
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A good Christian romance novel. Many of the characters experience the transformational power of Christ in their lives, which make the story an uplifting one. The only thing keeping it from 5 stars is that I thought it took too long for the protagonist/antagonist conflict to fully develop. The characters were believable and the story line was well written. If you know someone who is searching for something to fill the emptiness inside of them, toss ’em a copy of this book. You and they will find it a good read.

View all my reviews
Tough Faith: Trusting God in Troubled TimesTough Faith: Trusting God in Troubled Times by Janet Parshall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An excellent book that unapologetically deals the issues of our day. Moving past the nominal expression of so-called Christianity in our time, the authors give a compelling case for what true belief in Christ looks like. The manner in which they write is not abrasive and it is laid out in a manner that is easy to follow. I recommend this as a good read

View all my reviews

Orphan Adoption and Theology – an article

A very good article written on adoption and theology. There is a link at the end of the article so you can go to the original posting. Ta Ethne supports the work of Together for Adoption in mobilizing the Christian world for global orphan adoption. Please take the time to read this well-written article and check out their website.

Occasionally, when people hear about Together for Adoption’s emphasis and stress upon theology, they sincerely ask, “Do we really have time to study the theology of adoption when there is so much to be done for orphans now?
Isn’t it enough that Scripture commands us to care for orphans? Shouldn’t we just do it?”
If we think of theology merely as information about God, as the mental collection of facts about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, then this question is legitimate. But if by theology we mean a real knowing of God, an ongoing and growing relational engagement with God, the question loses its teeth. Yes, theology necessarily involves information about God. Scripture is full of it. But theology is never merely information.
In Matthew 11:27 Jesus says, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (emphasis mine). Believe it or not, Jesus is talking about theology here. If you think about it, theology did not begin with the creation of man. It has always existed in the eternal mutual knowing of the Father and Son. For all of
eternity past the Father has known the Son and the Son the Father.
Understood like this, theology is a gracious gift to humanity. In reality, theology is actually a sharing in the mutual knowing of the Father and Son. It is a participation in the communion of love that the Holy Trinity is (“God is love”). There is no greater gift that can be given to man. So, do we really have time for theology when orphans need our help now? Yes, we do. If theology is ultimately about our participation in the love between the Father and the Son, then nothing can better mobilize and energize us to care for orphans now than theology. Nothing. Rightly understood and practiced, robust theology produces robust action. Just look at the life of Jesus. He enjoyed an infinitely robust theology and no one did more for the poor and
marginalized than he did. If you think about it, what orphans need, then, is Christians who are deeply theological. This is why Together for
Adoption stresses theology when we talk about orphan care.Theology is much more than gathering facts about God and arranging them into a system of
thought and belief. Now granted, theology is not less than true statements about God, but it is certainly and infinitely more than true statements about God. As James says, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” There’s much more to theology than a collection of biblically gathered facts about God. Theology is ultimately our real participation in the mutual knowing and loving of the Father and the Son in the communion of the Spirit. This is why I said that theology is infinitely more than true statements about God. The study of theology and communion with the Triune God must go hand in hand. No one—absolutely no one—was and is more theological than the Son of God. He has forever known the Father through-and-through, even as he is and has been known. For all of eternity past the Son perfectly knew and communed with the Father. Remarkably, this is the Son
who became man, who became incarnate and lived among us! By becoming the incarnate Son Jesus brought his communion with the Father into the world of men—into the very heart of our broken and devastated world!
That’s the good news of the Gospel!
Suddenly, communion with the Father became a very tangible and possible reality for fallen humanity. Never before—not even with Adam and Eve—had mankind ever known God the Father like the man Christ Jesus knew him (and knows him!). Jesus was a one-of-a-kind man! He is the true man. Jesus was as deeply and profoundly theological as it is possible to be. No matter where in the infinite corridors of eternity you search for someone like the incarnate Son, you will never find anyone enjoying the same level and intensity of communion with the Father as he does. If ever there is someone who is without peer, it’s Jesus —well, except for the Father and the Spirit (both of whom, of course, share his same stratospheric, otherworldly level of communion in all its mind-blowing fullness)! In light of all of this, do you know what’s truly remarkable, though it really should not seem that remarkable to us? Nobody—and I mean absolutely nobody—cared more for the poor, orphaned, and marginalized than Jesus. Rather than his robust theology weakening his social engagement with and commitment to the outcast and neglected, his robust theology unceasingly fueled and sustained his social engagement. As such, Jesus is the truest of human beings! Through the Son’s incarnation, he became what we were and are supposed to be, and he became such for us and in our
place!
What must we learn from this? As orphan care advocates, one of the worst things we can do is neglect or overlook theology. If we do neglect it, we, and the orphans of this world, will be the poorer for it. But if we embrace theology as ones who live in vital union with this amazing Jesus, we, and the orphans we serve, will be the richer for it. What orphans need most, then, is Christians who do not merely know a ton of true statements about God, but who by the power of the gospel daily participate in the mutual knowing and loving of the Father and the Son in the communion of the Spirit.

Article written by Dan Cruver. Email questions and comments to: dan.cruver@togetherforadoption.org

Click to access Article_Do_we_really_have_time_for_theology_PDF.pdf

Thoughts on Thanksgiving Week Continued

It is traditional to make a list of things you are thankful for at Thanksgiving. Most of the time we focus on material things we have been blessed with. Some go deeper, thanking God for spiritual blessings bestowed during the year. Thanks for friends, family, health and employment top many lists. One category that gets left off many lists is arguably the most important. We should thank God for the things He has taken away from us.

In order to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, strength and mind as commanded means we have to give up any and everything that obscures Him in our lives. Praise be to Him that He works in our lives to conform us to the image of His Son. To do this, He many times has to prune away those things that hinder us from reaching that goal. It may be that He has helped you to kick a destructive habit, end an unhealthy relationship, stop a hurtful lifestyle. It may be that He has forced you to accept the death of a loved one in order to lean only on Him. He may have taken away your job in order to prove to you that He is sufficient to meet all your needs.

As you make your list this year, how about including thanks for the things taken away that has made your faith stronger? I guarantee that it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

From Isaac We Learn …

Isaac is one of those patriarchs of the Old Testament who is revered, along with Abraham and Jacob, over and over. For many people, the question is, why? Isaac is not recorded as having won any great victories, spiritual or physical. He seems content to lean on the accomplishments of his father. A cursory reading might lead one to believe that his greatest claim to fame is simply becoming the father of Jacob.

Isaac is non-confrontational. He allows others to walk all over him. He is a pretty poor parent (witness the tension and favoritism between Jacob and Esau) and didn’t even pick pick out his own wife. Why is Isaac held in such high esteem? I think the answer comes from the story of Genesis 22, where God tells Abram to sacrifice Isaac. Isaac is close to 9, 10 maybe even 12 years old. Abram is well over a hundred. Isaac is conscious enough to realize there is no lamb for a sacrifice. He is willing to be bound by Abram and laid on the altar. He could have easily outran Abram, probably even been a physical match for him at his advanced age.

As Abram pictures for us God’s love, being willing to sacrifice His Son, Isaac pictures for us Christ, loving his father so much he is willing to lay his life down. As Abram shows us complete obedience to God our Father, so does Isaac – in his complete obedience to his father. We know from Hebrews that Abram believed God could raise Isaac from the dead. No such statement is made about Isaac. Even not knowing if he would come back to life or not, Isaac was still willing to undergo this trial for the sake of his father.

That is the lesson we learn from Isaac. Are we in love with God so much that we are willing to obey Him completely, even at the cost of our life? Jesus was. A good question to ponder as we begin another week of service to our Heavenly Father.

Is Jesus Enough? Excerpt

 

One of the songs we often sing at our church has a line that goes like this:

He gave His life, what more could He give?

 Oh how He loves you, oh how He loves me, oh how He loves you and me!

When we come to Jesus Christ in saving faith, we are acknowledging that He gave His life to pay the penalty for our sin. That act of supreme sacrifice makes Jesus worthy of our love and worship. Even if Jesus never does anything else for us, His procurement of salvation for our souls is more than enough. Any other blessing we receive from Him is simply extra gravy on an already overfilled plate.

When we start to live our lives based on conditional requirements rather than on the finished work of Jesus Christ, we are, in effect, saying that His death was not sufficient for all our needs. We are saying that we need more proof, more tangible benefits before we will give Him the honor He is due. Can you see how arrogant that way of thinking is? Can you see how are attitude has shifted from gratefulness of being a recipient of God’s mercy to one of an expectation of God existing to serve our wants?

We all know of people who started out on fire for the Lord and who dropped out along the way. Many became angry with God for His not answering their prayers a certain way or for not protecting a loved one from harm. If we are honest we must admit that we, too, have become disappointed in God for failing to meet our expectations.

Discouragement sets in when we become disappointed. Disappointment comes from unmet expectations. Our expectations and reality often collide and rarely do we blame ourselves as having expectations that were misguided, ill-founded or unreasonable. We blame either the reality around us or God for not changing the reality to suit our needs.

When pressed by adversity our hearts reveal the truth about us and about our relationship with God. Many believers are in love with the things of the Lord but not the Lord Himself. Despite what our lips may profess, our hearts show the shallowness of our faith. We act more like the crowds who followed Jesus for the miracles of food than the disciples. After all, when one becomes disappointed in God, is it His fault for not catering to our whims and desires or ours for not understanding His ways and trusting in His goodness?

God is good. When we cease to believe that foundational principle we open ourselves up to despair and hopelessness. Even when we do not understand the reasons why things are happening to us, we must cling to that one assurance. Job did. Job was greatly disappointed. Job could not understand why all those calamities had occurred in his life. Job, though, held onto his faith that God was good. Through everything Job never lost his faith in that aspect of God’s character.

One of the ironies of the Christian life is that so many of our prayers center on God healing or delivering us from a life-threatening situation – in effect delaying our arrival at the very place of our reward! How angry people get at God for transporting their loved one to glory instead of leaving them here to endure this sinful, broken earth. It seems that we have lost sight of heaven, that death has somehow regained her sting. Dying has become less than an entrance into eternity and our selfish desires to cling to more time on earth with our loved one trumps our desire to let God determine what is best for them.

The ultimate healing, the ultimate deliverance is from this body of decay and sin and to be with the Lord in heaven. When we take a lesser view on this it diminishes our faith and trust in a God who is good. This lesson was driven home to me in a dramatic way.

The day before my son, then 17 months old, was to have open-heart surgery, my wife and I were passing through the halls of the Ronald McDonald house where we were staying. People in those places get close to each other since all there are in similar situations. One lady we had spoken with quite often was packing her clothes. “I’m going home”, she said in response to our inquiry.  Knowing that her little boy was very ill and could not have possibly been released, we asked her why. “My boy died last night”, she answered. Seeing our hurt, embarrassment and shock plastered on our faces, she took us aside and said, “You’re not ready for your child to die, are you?” We shook our heads no.  “You need to be. Come in here and let me tell you something.” For over an hour she talked with us about how she knew her boy was in heaven, “doing that little shuffle-step dance for Jesus like he did in church on Sundays.” She told us that she was thankful for the years Jesus had loaned her boy to her and that he wasn’t suffering anymore. She thanked Him for His deliverance and healing of her boy. She praised Him for His goodness and mercy. At that Ronald McDonald house I learned that God loves my children even more than I do and that when we pray for complete recovery and healing it may be that God takes our loved ones to heaven to accomplish just that. God is good in all He does because goodness is a central characteristic of Himself.

Our faith grows deeper when we mature enough to understand that our belief at how God can best answer our prayers is different than His knowledge of how best to answer our prayers.

To be honest, even the depth of a faith that acknowledges that God is worthy because He made a way to provide for our salvation is not deep enough. You see, God is worthy because He alone is God. Even if He had not made provision to save mankind, if He had allowed us to enter eternity forever separated from Him because of our sin, He would still be worthy of praise. He did not have to save us. He made us. He made the earth for us to live on. He made colors and sounds and our senses to enjoy them. God made a universe and populated it with myriads of wonderful and incomprehensible things. He is God. He is the Creator and Maker of All Things. He is Good and Holy and this makes Him worthy to be praised.

Now, the fact that He made us with a redeemable soul and sent His Son precisely to redeem that soul is, indeed, good news. The character of who God is, though, is what makes Him worthy of praise and adoration. His holiness is the reason that He is worthy.  A faith that worships God and gives Him praise and adoration based only on what He has done for us, whether it is a family, a job, a car or even salvation is a deficient faith. God is worthy because He is God.

This was a critical point in my walk with Christ. I loved the fact that He had sent people into my life to share the gospel with me. I loved the fact that His Spirit had drawn me to saving faith in His redemptive act.  I loved the family He had given me. I loved being a minister of the gospel and leading others to faith in Jesus. But I had to ask myself if my love for Him was deeper than even that. Did I love Him just because He is?

In his book, The Painful Side of Leadership, Jeff Iorg makes this profound statement:

Most leaders easily forget their primary reason for being placed in their leadership role. The primary reason isn’t for you to do things for God. It’s so God can use your leadership setting as a laboratory for shaping the image of Jesus in you. (Iorg, 2009)

 

Excerpt from Is Jesus Enough? available in print and Kindle editions from Amazon.com and our sister site, http://www.discernmentministries.webs.com