Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Pain of Love as a Means of Grace

Thomas Boston (1676–1732)
"So do men oftentimes find their greatest cross, where they expected their greatest comfort. Sin hath unhinged the whole creation, and made every relation susceptible of the crook."
From Crook in the Lot, by Thomas Boston, page 37 in the Christian Heritage edition

Monday, November 20, 2017

I Trust Jesus; and Sometimes I Hate Him.

For we maintain that a man is justified by faith
apart from observing the law.
Romans 3:28

Still pondering the meaning of the Protestant Reformation, the above text comes to mind. It is faith alone that ties a person to God savingly. No wonder this came to Martin Luther as exceedingly good news, since he is known to have said that he sometimes hated God. You see, it is not your love for God that ties you to Him, or brings you into His family, or gets you a seat at the Father's table, or moves Him to welcome you in. It is your faith in His Son.

None of this is to belittle the great and first commandment that we love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Dt 6; Mt 22), or to minimize the sinfulness of hating the Lord. It is to distinguish correctly the most significant biblical categories of Law and Gospel. That we love God with all our being is a command, and command keeping does not bring us to God. That is the point of the Bible verse above. God justifies a person by faith alone without regard to one's command keeping.  Astounding. Unbelievable really, until He makes one believe. Salvation is gift, and that's why it is gospel (good news).

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Sunday Post for Shepherds - Your Title is Empty

"Saul died because he was unfaithful to the LORD; he did not keep the word of the LORD and even consulted a medium for guidance, and did not inquire of the LORD. So the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse. All Israel came together to David at Hebron and said, "We are your own flesh and blood. In the past, even while Saul was king, you were the one who led Israel on their military campaigns. And the LORD your God said to you, 'You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler.'"
 1 Chronicles 10:13-11:2

It's not the man with the title that the people followed. It's the man with the courage. It's the man who actually, functionally, and biblically shepherded the flock while claiming no title. Saul was ever proud of being king. This contributed to his inability to lead God's people. He believed the kingdom was his and the people his servants. David believed the kingdom was God's and the people his responsibility. "Pastor" is just a word. "Pastoring" is a calling, and a labor. God hasn't selected you to be a pastor. He has selected you to pastor, meaning shepherding a people - His people. The Apostle Paul reminded pastor Timothy that he was to "fulfill his ministry" (2 Ti 4:5), not protect his delusions. Authority is given to magnify service.

I have met so many of you set upon being respected because you are the pastor; because you have the title, regardless of whether you're actually bibically qualified for the task and are "spending and being expended for souls" (2 Co 12:15). Stop it. Humble yourself. Forget yourself. "Inquire of the LORD." Do the Bible. Serve the people, and so lead them as their shepherd. Kill the Saul within you. Be a David.

"Some of the men of Manasseh defected to David when he went with the
Philistines to fight against Saul. . .Day after day men came to help David, 
until he had a great army, like the army of God." 
1 Chronicles 12:19&22

Friday, November 17, 2017

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

To the Christian Rich - Forget Yourself; Remember the Poor

"Wealth brings many friends, but a poor man's friend deserts him. . .A poor man is shunned by all his relatives--how much more do his friends avoid him! Though he pursues them with pleading, they are nowhere to be found." - Proverbs 19:4&7

Do the poor not have enough trouble without you also forgetting them? Is their lot not a sufficient burden without being forsaken not only by their family and friends, but even by the strangers most able to give relief? Be a part of the solution, and the redemption. Be the difference-maker to the forgotten, avoided, and shunned.

"He who gives to the poor will never want.
But he who shuts his eyes will have many curses." 
Proverbs 28:27

Friday, November 3, 2017

Reconsider the Signs; They are Also Seals

"When God makes a promise 
and confirms that promise with a sign, 
there is nothing empty about the sign."
R. C. Sproul, Tabletalk Magazine, October 2017 Edition, page 39

Three days back the 500th anniversary of what is commonly considered the beginning of the Protestant Reformation was celebrated. Many Christians across denominational lines commemorate this day, October 31, 1517 when Martin Luther posted his 95 theses of debate to the church building door in Wittenberg. This cross-denominational party is somewhat strange, since I'm not sure Luther would consider many of these denominations to be made up of genuine Christians. I'm guessing the vast majority of these folks don't know that, because they don't read Luther. They don't know that the great point of contention that kept Ulrich Zwingli and Martin Luther from joining forces to create one great wave of Protestant reform was the meaning of the Lord's Table. They don't know that a case can be made that during those reformation years of battle more blood and more ink was spilled over this subject than any other. And they don't understand Luther to be the very sacramental man that he was. It's worth reading how it was that Luther understood the sacrament's relationship to authentic faith. Zwingli believed the sacraments to be memorials and reminders, but not necessarily attached to Christ's promise of His presence or His administration of grace.

I don't agree with Luther on the Lord's Table; not altogether. Neither do I agree with Zwingli, much at all. What I agree on with both is that the Lord's Table matters in a way that is worthy of hearty debate and perhaps division. It is not my intention in this post to make a case for my Reformed understanding of the Lord's Table. It's more simple than that. It's to say that all of us should rethink this matter, and not walk idly through life ignorantly accepting what it is we grew up with on this topic. And what many of us grew up with (including me) is that this isn't a terribly important thing. The Reformers disagreed, because the Bible disagrees. There is quite a bit at stake here, the most significant being in what ways God Almighty has promised His presence.

And, the Bible speaks of the signs (Baptism and the Lord's Table) as not only that, but also as seals. These practices seal to us the promises God is proclaiming by them. God is speaking in these things. It is not that man is testifying, or merely remembering, but that God is preaching to His assembled people.