Friday, February 24, 2017

A Voice from the Past - Chesterton

He [H. G. Wells] thought that the object of opening the mind is simply opening the mind. Whereas I am incurably convinced that the object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.

G. K. Chesterton, 1874-1936, Autobiography, (as quoted in As I Was Saying...: A Chesterton Reader, edited by Robert Knille, William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1985, p. 265).

What is the right way to be open minded? How can we acquire this?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Focus on Activity



We live in an age that is high in activity and low on trust in God. Now activity is a good thing in its right place and in its proper perspective. Laziness has never been a Christian virtue (Proverbs 6:6-11; Romans 12:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-15). But the question is, who are we trusting in? Scripture says that if God does not build a house, we are wasting our time building (Psalms 127:1,2). That when the world is falling apart, we need to stop and realize that God is God (Psalms 46:10). That Christ will build His church (Matthew 16:18). That we who have put our faith in Christ are created for good works, which God has already prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10). Now none of this justifies inactivity. But it should affect our priorities.   

It is easy to get caught up in meaningless activity, or even good activity, and to forget what the activity is all about. We can become like Martha, working hard to serve the Lord but not stopping to listen to Him (Luke 10:38-42). Or worse, we can become like the Pharisees, looking good on the outside but corrupt on the inside (Matthew 23:25-28). To avoid this we need to remember we are sinners (Romans 3:23, Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9) saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8,9; Titus 3:5,6; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Because of this we can only live for the Lord by His power working in us (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:13; Colossians 1:29). This means that my key priority should be a life focused on Christ. This implies a general attitude, but it also implies specific requirements. It implies a life focused on His Word (Psalms 1:2; Colossians 3:16; John 17:17). It implies a life focused on prayer (Luke 11:1-13; Philippians 4:6,7; Ephesians 6:18). It implies a life in fellowship with other children of God so that we might be built up by each other (Hebrews 10:24,25; Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Peter 4:10,11). But we must be careful not to make these things into just another series of activities we engage in. Rather, they should be motivated by our love of God (1 John 4:19; 2 Corinthians 5:14,15; 1 Peter 1:8), resulting in knowing Him more (Jeremiah 9:23,24; Philippians 3:7-10; Colossians 1:10).

We can sometimes treat God in a way similar to the old stereotype of a husband who works hard to provide his family with money and things, but does not spend any time with them. Now the husband who wants to change that situation will probably have to do something beyond working up a vague feeling that things need to change; he will have to come up with specific ideas of what to do. But if he approaches the whole situation as checking items off a to-do list, he will not be very successful either. So if we want to go from being workaholics for Christ to being those who do what we do from love and knowledge of God, we need to cultivate specific actions with the right attitude.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Sword of the Spirit

We are to take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17). While other pieces of the armor are related to God's Word, like the belt of truth, the Sword of the Spirit is the specific passage that applies to the specific situation. We see the example of this in Jesus, who met Satan's specific temptations with the Word of God (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13). To do this, we need to know, meditate on, and even memorize the Word of God (Colossians 3:16; Psalm 119:11; Psalm 1:2). But we must be careful not to use God's Word as a magic talisman, feeling that if we merely wave it around like a cross in front of a vampire, it will be effective. God will not let His things be used that way (Acts 19:13-17; 1 Samuel 4:5-11; Judges 16:4-22). And God's Word is not just to be heard but obeyed (James 1:23-25; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Mathew 28:20). We must understand what we are saying to use it as a weapon against Satan. But it is our key offensive weapon to attack the devil's schemes.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Spiritual Disciplines




How do we develop what is commonly known as the spiritual disciplines (scary word, that) in our personal lives?  The solution does not seem to be to simply grit our teeth and try harder. (At least it has never worked for me).  And even if we succeed, the whole thing can become a dry duty rather than a passion (Psalms 19:9,10; 37:3-5; 42:1,2; 119:97-104).  Therefore, while I do not want to minimize the need for self-control (we all have a lazy streak), I do want to ask where we get the motivation to make these disciplines a part of our life. 

I believe one of the basic things that will motivate us in this is how we view our God.  First of all, He is the God who loved us enough that, though we were hostile to Him (Romans 3:10-18, 23; Ephesians 2:1-3; Isaiah 64:6), God redeemed us at a great cost (Romans 5:6-10; John 3:16-18; Ephesians 2:4-9).  Also, as a result of our accepting this, we know God and can grow to know Him more (John 17:3; Jeremiah 9:23,24; Colossians 1:10).  We are His children (John 1:12,13), His friends (John 15:14,15), and His future bride (2 Corinthians 11:2,3).  Furthermore, He is always with us to help us (Matthew 28:20, 18:20; Isaiah 41:10) and is at work within us to transform us (2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:13).  If this is true, if the God who put the stars in place (Isaiah 40:12-26) was willing to pay an incredible price (Romans 8:32) so that we can have a relationship with Him both now and through all eternity (John 17:24-26), should we not reciprocate by seeking to know Him in return?

For this is what the spiritual disciplines are about: learning to know God.  Because no relationship can grow without communication.  And it is here, I think, the real difficulty with these disciplines frequently develops.  I think we often have a fear of God becoming too real in our lives.  Sometimes this comes from a distorted idea of God; we see Him as someone who is waiting to whack us if we get just a little out of line. Also, if I let God become to real to me He might require of me something I am not willing to give. But I think the most basic problem I see in myself is pride.  I want to believe I can run my own life. Or I might be willing to admit I need God, but only for emergencies. But if Jesus who was the God-Man needed prayer (Luke 6:12), who am I to think I can do without it? The bottom line comes--are we willing to trust God for all of life?  And if we are willing to realize that the one who broke the power of sin and death is a loving Father who can aid and direct us in all the details of life, although we all struggle with laziness, we can approach the spiritual disciplines in a new light.

Monday, February 20, 2017

A Touch of Humor - Failure to Communicate

How can we build bridges to unbelievers? What things stand in our way?

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Old Erich Proverb - Rose -Colored

Which is more clearly rose-colored glasses, to believe in God or to believe human beings are basically good?

Friday, February 17, 2017

A Voice from the Past - Novatian

Because, since He has not any beginning, so consequently He is not conscious of an ending; unless perchance—and far from us be the thought—He at some time began to be, and is not above all things, but as He began to be after something else, He would be beneath that which was before Himself, and would so be found to be of less power, in that He is designated as subsequent even in time itself. For this reason, therefore, He is always unbounded, because nothing is greater than He; always eternal, because nothing is more ancient than He. For that which is without beginning can be preceded by none, in that He has no time. He is on that account immortal, that He does not come to an end by any ending of His completeness.

Novatian, 200-258 AD, Treatise Concerning the Trinity, Chapter II, (translated by Rev. Robert Ernest Wallis, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Rev. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, T & T Clark and Wm. B. Eerdmans, Vol. V, p.1015)

What implications does the eternity of God have for us? What application does it have to our lives?