Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Reflections on Romans Chapter 12 – Part 5

In my next posting in this series I plan to move back toward the top of the chapter; in this posting I want to reflect on Part 4 and the challenge of 12:21 and 13:1 for the North American Church.

I hear Christians in America speculate about coming persecution, the end-times, and suffering for Jesus. While I’ll forgo direct comment on the foundation of most of this thinking and teaching, I will ask, “If we haven’t learned to live for Christ what makes us think that we will die for Christ?” Then I’ll ask, “If we haven’t learned to overcome evil with good in our everyday lives, if we haven’t learned to bless those who give us difficulty, if we haven’t learned to desire good and give good things (blessings) to those who oppose us, to those with whom we disagree – shall we delude ourselves into thinking that we can offer our bodies as living sacrifices with renewed minds should overt persecution burst upon us?

I have no idea whether the United States will ever see overt persecution, with no apologies to end-times speculators who have made an industry of prophecy. I can see no reason why overt persecution would be necessary considering that the professing church in this country has sold itself to the world-system and substituted any number of things (including speculative prophecy) for the Person of Jesus Christ. What concerns me is not the outer life of the church, including overt persecution; what concerns me is the soul of the Church, her inner life, for out of the heart, out of the inner life, the mouth speaks.

The mouth of the professing church in this country is not known for speaking blessing to those who oppose it. I include myself in this category and God has deeply convicted me of it – it has been, and continues to be, a journey for me – it is a mirror from which our Father will not allow me to escape. How can any critique of opposition have Biblical credibility unless it is found in the context of blessing? Show me your blessing toward those you oppose first; then I shall listen to your critique. And as for critique, is not our call to be redemptive; but is that truly our aim? Or is our aim to win?

We say we believe in prayer – but it is easier to respond to evil with evil rather than to pray for those who oppose God’s truth. Where would the Early Church have been with this attitude? It would have died in its soul; instead it chose to follow the Christ of the Cross and bear the Cross of Christ.

I am reminded of Betsy ten Boom’s response to Corrie’s question about how long they would be in the concentration camp (relying on memory), “As long as it takes. If they can be taught to hate, they can be taught to love.” Betsy was speaking of the cruel guards in the camp. Why cannot we look with compassion on those who reject the image of God, the natural law of God, the Gospel of Christ? They desperately need our compassion, they need our blessing, they need our forgiveness – and yet all too often they receive our vitriol at worst and our disengagement at best. We don’t see the inner person who is alienated from Christ; we see intellectual or economic or political opposition – we do not see a person, a soul, without Jesus Christ.
We teach witnessing “techniques” that avoid persecution. We teach witnessing the way I used to teach leasing agents to close a deal – and then we wonder why few people actually employ what are lifeless methods. Why don’t we teach the riches of the reproach of Christ? And why don’t we teach overcoming evil with good? If we follow Christ we will encounter evil and when we do God has called us to overcome evil with good.

There have been many times in history when the church has been politicized; I suppose it has been politicized since the 4th Century. What is our collective testimony today in North America? Is it primarily as a people with a political agenda? A moral agenda? A philosophical agenda? Or is it as a people who are Christ-followers and who, being Christ-followers, are a source of blessing to all around them, including those who oppose them? The Early Church flourished in the midst of extreme cultural, economic, and governmental opposition by overcoming evil with good – if we are the continuing incarnation of Jesus Christ then we should do no less.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Reflections on Romans Chapter 12 – Part 4

 “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities…” Romans 12:21 – 13:1a.

The historical context of Paul’s letter to the Christians in the city of Rome is that of an unpredictable and often hostile government. For the first two and one-half centuries of Christianity the Roman Empire and its local governments would sometimes be openly hostile to Christians, to the point of torture and execution, while at other times benign with a “look the other way” attitude. The Empire was never a friend of Christians during this time, and while there might be local authorities who looked favorably upon the new religion, such instances were rare. Unpredictability was the one constant in the government’s posture toward the Church; overcoming evil with good was to be the one constant of the Church’s posture toward the government.

For Christians who were ethnic Jews this stance was a departure from a heritage that not only included warriors such as King David, but also in more recent history the Maccabees. Galilee and Judah were garrisoned by Roman soldiers because revolutionary ferment was a hallmark of the Jews, a ferment that would lead to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. For Christians who were not Jews, warfare was also likely part of their culture, whether Roman citizens or not. Who ever heard of overcoming evil with good? This was, as we say today, counter-cultural.

And yet, in His first recorded public teaching in a fiercely revolutionary and nationalistic culture Jesus Christ says:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also.

You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. So that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Perhaps we Christians spend more time and energy explaining away these words of Christ than any other of His teachings. Evangelicals who are quick to criticize anything that smells of relativistic thinking are masters at relativizing these words of Jesus Christ. Of course the church as a whole has done so ever since Christianity was legalized by Rome in the 4th Century, so we can spread the relativistic wealth around to virtually all Christian traditions.

It is no accident that as soon as Paul dictates the words, Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good, that the next words his amanuensis hears are, Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities.

What must this unnamed secretary have thought as he faithfully recorded Paul’s words? No doubt he had previously heard Paul’s thoughts on the matter; but still, after all, Paul was writing to Christians in the City of Rome, the heart of the adversarial Empire. How would they react? Paul had already challenged their attitudes toward one another in Chapter 2, then again in chapters 9 – 11, but now Paul is challenging them in their attitude toward a hostile government!

After writing 12:21 Paul takes the most difficult relationship the Church has and brings it to the forefront – he goes directly to the agent of persecution, the Roman government – be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities…

If we will be honest for a moment – how do we measure up to this teaching? If we can just for a moment release our relativistic hands from the text – what is the truth of our obedience in this matter?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Reflections on Romans Chapter 12 – Part 3

Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual [reasonable, logical] act of worship. 12:1

As I mentioned in an earlier post, my emphasis in verses 1 and 2 has always been the renewing of the mind; I had a riff I’d play that included Romans 12:2, 2 Corinthians 3:18, Ephesians 4:23, and  1John 3:1-3. But now I am faced with the fact that this passage begins with the presentation of the body as a living and holy sacrifice acceptable to God.

I think there is an inclusio in verses 1 and 21, with verse 1 also serving as a hinge and transition from Chapters 9 – 11 and verse 21 reaching back to verse 1 and propelling us into 13:1ff.

The “therefore” of verse 1 transitions us from Chapters 9 – 11 that conclude with, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” Let’s read this again without the artificial chapter break:

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual [logical, reasonable] service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

While Christians may have their disagreements over the particular meaning(s) of Chapters 9 – 11, they can generally agree that these chapters set forth the sovereignty of God, that is, that God is in control – while perhaps differing on what that control entails. In that light we have the “therefore” of 12:1. Therefore, [since God is in control], present your bodies a living sacrifice…

If God is indeed in control then I can offer myself to him, beginning with my body, this temple He has created for His dwelling place, wherever I am. My offering of my body is an acknowledgement, among other things, that God is sovereign and in control, that from Him and through Him and to Him are all things – including me.

The ultimate offering of one’s body is generally considered to be death. Jesus’ offering of His body for us is an element of the Atonement. In Revelation 12:11 we see Christians who overcome the enemy, “because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even to death.”

We read in Romans 12:21 “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”; how did Jesus Christ overcome evil? It was by His death, resurrection, and ascension. Death came first, the offering of the body – hence the inclusio, the bracket, of Romans 12:1 and Romans 12:21. There is an inclusive thought in this chapter that begins and ends with the offering of the body. To be sure there are other elements and we might say that verse 2 is in the inclusio bracket as well, for to overcome evil with good in the ultimate sacrificing of one’s life envisions a transformed mind offering a dedicated body.

Following 12:21 we have the relationship of the Christian to government, and beyond that we have the relationship of Christians to one another; our bodies come into play in both of these sections. I will pick up the relationship of 12:21 with 13:1 in my next post.

Romans 12:1ff portrays incarnational living, in both the individual and in the Body of Christ – it begins with offering our body. What do justification and sanctification and the sovereignty of God (Chapters 1 – 11) look like in daily life? They look like Chapters 12 – 16.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Reflections on Romans Chapter 12 - Part II

Romans 12:1-2 exhort us to present our bodies as living and holy sacrifices, to not be conformed to the world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, thereby proving what the will of God is. If I stop there in my reading and my thinking where have I gone? In terms of the context of the verses I’ve come to a dead end, I’ve read something but I am now, by my compartmentalization, left to myself in terms of obedience.

But what happens if I continue to read and think about what I’m reading? In verse 3 I’m told not to think more highly of myself than I ought to think – might that just possibly be tied to the renewing of the mind?

In verses 4 – 8 I’m taught that I’m part of a body of people in Christ and that this body is to function in Christ according to the grace given to each member.

Verse 9: Love is to be without hypocrisy, we are to abhor evil and cling to what is good. Can we see this as obedient response to verses 1 – 2?

Verse 10: We are to be devoted to one another in familial love, giving preference to one another in honor – can we see this as obedient response to verses 1 – 2? Can we see that failure to obey the commands of verse 10 is failure to obey verses 1 – 2?

Verses 14 – 21: We are to bless and not curse those who persecute us, to associate with the lowly, and not be wise in our own estimation. We are not to be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good. Might this possibly be the incarnation of verses 1 – 2?

In other words, I can quote Romans 12:1-2 everyday, I can read it on a cute little verse card every hour, I can have it rolling across my computer screen as a screen saver and have it perpetually before my eyes – but what does Romans 12:1-2 look like? It looks like Romans 12:3-21.

As with the Mary and Martha passage of Luke Chapter 10, I can interject my thoughts into Romans 12:1-2. As with Luke 10:38 – 42 I can mitigate Romans 12:1-2 with my own thoughts and definitions, I can superimpose my morality and ethics and maybe even political ideals; or I can move into verses 3 – 21 and submit myself to what the Biblical text portrays as the incarnation of verses 1-2.  

I had never read Romans Chapter 12 prior to this  past week.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Reflections on Romans Chapter 12 - Part I

A couple of weeks ago I reflected on Luke 10:38 – 42, the account of Jesus in the home of Mary and Martha. My focus was on encountering the passage as it is written as opposed to the way we would have it written; and teaching it as it is written, not as we would write it. Do we have warrant to mitigate what is written? In the instance of the Luke passage, do we have warrant to interject how vital Martha’s serving was when the passage clearly does not teach that, in fact it teaches the opposite – but we don’t want to hurt any Martha’s do we? While we may go to other Biblical passage to teach the importance of serving those around us, we may not go to Luke 10:38 – 42 and if we try to make Luke 10:38 – 42 teach the importance of serving we give the lie to our professed high view of Scripture.

If we can teach Luke 10:38 – 42 without interjecting the importance of Martha serving those around her then we will have done a good day’s work; if we cannot do so then we have not led our audience into and through that passage.

Having said this, I am now going to be the policeman who arrests himself. I seem to be doing this frequently, catching myself having never actually read a Biblical passage that I have been reading for over 40 years. Perhaps this is one reason why I am sensitive to passages like Luke 10:38 – 42, I speak from experience.

I realized this week that I have never read Romans Chapter 12, despite the fact that I know its contents. This is a good example of what happens when we focus on one or two verses in a passage to the neglect of the context. It is also a good example of what happens when we compartmentalize a passage and don’t see the connectivity of the writer’s thought. It is as if we actually think that the writer wrote in starts and stops, in a series of unconnected thoughts, as if his intent was to write verses when there were no verses in the original text – I’m speaking of numbered verses of course, not poetic verses which abound in Scripture. I am pretty certain that the Biblical writers did not write with the goal of having stand-alone sentences that lend themselves to verse cards to be read at the daily breakfast table.

Romans 12:1-2 have been as much a part of my life as salt and pepper. I cannot recall a time, other than my early years when I did not know Christ, when I didn’t know and use those verses. And perhaps that word “use” is a clue – they were there to use, not to obey in context. One of the reasons I “used” them was that they are familiar to many Christians, either that or people have been nodding their heads when I cite them to appease me or to act as if they know them. Another reason I quote them is because of their message – we are to offer ourselves to God as living sacrifices and to be transformed by the renewing of our minds – not being conformed to the world.

Verses 1 – 2 were my first compartment when thinking about Romans Chapter 12.

The second compartment was verses 3 – 13, a picture of the Body of Christ. I often “used” this passage in parallel with 1 Corinthians Chapter 12 and Ephesians Chapter 4. 

The third compartment was verses 14 – 21. I had a passing acquaintance with this section, I could say, “Hello”, to it but I frankly never stopped to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee with what Paul was writing, and I never really considered it as a call to obedience. I’m going to return to this section later because it was while being drawn into this section that I realized that I’d never really read Romans Chapter 12. In fact, it was by meditating on Romans 12:21, the last verse of the chapter, that I realized that I’d never read the chapter. I begin at the end (verse 21) to get to the beginning (verse 1); and having arrived at the beginning I could then travel back to the end and understand the significance of the trip after more than 40 years of traveling on a road that I didn’t see and therefore didn’t understand.    

Permit me to restate this: Prior to this week, when I came to Romans Chapter 12 I “saw” three compartments, three sections; verses 1-2, verses 3 – 13, verses 14 – 21. The fact that I quoted and meditated on verses 1-2 with such frequency over a period of 40 years reinforced this compartmentalization. Many ships have hulls which are compartmentalized with water-tight doors between the compartments that can be closed in the event of a leak or gash in the hull, thus compartmentalizing the water so that it does spread through the entire hull and sink the ship. Compartmentalizing is good for ships, it is bad for minds. Compartmentalizing water that doesn’t belong in a ship is a good thing; compartmentalizing understanding that belongs in the heart and mind is a bad thing.

What good is it to be able to quote a verse if we don’t know what it means? To quote a verse without knowing and responding in obedience to its meaning is to be inoculated against understanding it.

To be continued...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

How (Not?) To Read And Teach The Bible – Part II

The idea of teaching Biblical principles as opposed to teaching the Bible as it is written; as narrative, wisdom literature, prophetic, apocalyptic, didactic, poetry; leads to manipulation and selective application – as opposed to submission and obedience. It also turns what should be exegesis into eisegesis. 

Let me try to explain by beginning with obedience  versus application. The term application has been used a lot in the past 20 or so years in the context of preaching and teaching. We’re told to make sure our preaching and teaching contains application. How are we to apply the text to our lives? Preaching without application has been criticized with statements like, “That could have been a great sermon if only there’d been application. What does the text look like in my life today? How can I apply it today?”

Now while I think the question, “What does the text look like in my life today"?”, is a good question; I’m not sure about the other questions.

When I apply something I am the applicator and the substance applied is under my control. I am using something, be it a substance or a tool or an idea. But should this be the first tier  or first order of my encounter with the Word of the Living God? If I am looking for principles to extract from a text and apply to various contexts of life then fair enough, application is a good word for the process. But if I come as one created to Creator, as a son to Father, as one redeemed to my Redeemer, as bondservant to Master; then I come not to extract and apply, but to hear and obey. Obedience is not the same as application.

Application speaks of utility, obedience speaks of Lordship. Application gives me control, obedience sees me as a servant, a disciple, one who is called to surrender his will. Application is the use of a principle, obedience is acknowledgment of my Lord.

It isn’t that we intend to be selective and manipulative when we teach principles – and I am speaking about a primary mindset here, I am not saying that there aren’t Biblical principles that should be taught – but when we elect to by-pass the Biblical narrative, the Biblical storyline from Genesis to Revelation, we cannot but be selective and having become selective we cannot help but be manipulative…with all good intentions. 

If a high view of Scripture means that we believe God has orchestrated the content of Genesis through Revelation, and if sound textual understanding acknowledges that words derive their meaning from context, paragraphs from context, and longer passages from context, then how can we fail to lead our people into the entire Biblical narrative and call them to obedience within that narrative?

The Scriptures are not a supermarket with aisles stocked chock full of principles for us to put in our shopping carts as needs arise. There are not 66 aisles in God’s supermarket with numerous products in each aisle. And (to return to my previous post) if I should take a box of Martha and Mary down from Luke Chapter 10 I have no warrant to go to the aisle marked, The Epistle of James, and throw in a few boxes labeled, “Faith Without Works Is Dead”, because I happen to think that my dinner guests will find Luke Chapter 10 distasteful.

We have too often substituted our own parochial narratives for God’s eternal immutable narrative.

Can you find me a church living in a Biblical narrative? Can you find me a people who see themselves in Colossians, or Exodus, or Mark, or Isaiah? Can you find me a people on pilgrimage whose identity is not tethered to denomination, or ethnicity, or nationality, or education, or money, or yes…even principles? I’m certain they exist, and I’m certain they come in many flavors; but I also suspect there aren’t many of them.

But I am truly digressing here, and I apologize somewhat for the digression; I want to challenge us to read the Bible as it is written and to experience it as it is written, and to obey it as it is written; not to apply it, not to force our images on it, and certainly not to apologize for it or for Jesus. If Jesus chided Martha and commended Mary then I want to feel the full force of what Jesus said, whether I like it or not and whether I think it will cause others problems or not – I have no warrant to do anything other than that – to hear the Word of Christ and to obey it. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

How (Not?) To Read And Teach The Bible – Luke 10:38-42

A few weeks ago we had some dear friends as weekend guests. The husband, who leads an adult Sunday school class, brought the book the class is currently using. The author of the book is Max Lucado, certainly a well-respected writer.

Now I hesitated before using Mr. Lucado’s name because I’m about to use him as an example on how not to read and teach the Bible. I use his name and the passage in the book I’ll describe with all sincere respect. In fact I’m using his name because I do respect him, though I admit to having read little of his work. I also know that if one were to examine my own body of preaching and writing that one could find similar examples in my own life. I think it’s worth using his name in the sense that “if it can happen to him then it can happen to me.”

This analysis also allows me to broach a question I’ve been pondering for months since a young pastor made the statement to me, “Well, we’re supposed to preach the principles of the Bible.” I think this will be one of those multi-part posts because I think his statement, in its context, is false and I want to explore that – but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The chapter in Lucado’s book is focused on the above passage in Luke, the well-known pericope of Mary and Martha in which Martha is playing the hostess by serving guests while Mary is hearing the word of Jesus. As my friend was sharing with us the contents of Lucado’s chapter, which I have not read, the importance of Marthas serving was given equal weight with the importance of Mary’s hearing the word of Jesus. In other words, lest there be any Marthas in the audience let’s make sure we acknowledge them, affirm them, and underscore that a world without Marthas would be a poor world indeed.

I said to my friend, his wife, and Vickie, “But the passage does not teach that. The passage does not teach that Martha was doing something important. That is not the point of the passage. If Jesus had wanted to make that point He would have done it. If Luke had wanted to record that point he would have recorded it. That point is not in that passage. That passage makes most of us uncomfortable and we are trying to assuage our feelings and to explain away what Jesus said.”

I didn’t mention that Jesus chides Martha in the passage; but chide He certainly does. Nor did I point out that Jesus says, “But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

The question is whether we, you, I, or Max Lucado, has warrant to teach this passage in any other way than it is presented? The warning is that most, if not all, of us are tempted to do so with any number of passages in any number of situations. If I seek to ameliorate or mitigate the force, the edge, the unpleasantness of a passage – then have I been a faithful steward of the passage? Have I forced the passage to submit to me or have I submitted to the passage?

Can I speak of a “high view of Scripture” if I force Scripture to submit to me? I may say that I have a high view of Scripture, but do I truly have a high view of Scripture if I force passages into my image of them, if I use them for my own ends? What does it matter if I say that I believe that all Scripture is inspired by God if I use Scripture to my own ends and mold it into my own image?

Are we not engaged in a perpetual apology for Jesus Christ? Do we not do our best to take the edge off His words, actions and life so as not to offend anyone, including ourselves?

Protestants give lip-service to there being no mediator between God and man except Jesus Christ; for every time we water down Scripture, every time we mitigate the word of Scripture, every time we take the edge off Jesus, we place ourselves as mediators between God and man, and between man and Scripture.

Haven’t we all done what Max Lucado did with this passage? I know I have with numerous passages; can you really say you haven’t? I’ll probably do it again, much as I don’t want to. Expediency will drive me to it, laziness will excuse it, I’ll have some utilitarian excuse – I only hope I’ll recognize it the next time before it’s too late to stop it.

To be continued…

Monday, September 6, 2010

Meditation On A Puritan Prayer – August 24, 2010 Part V

May I speak each word as if my last word, and walk each step as my final one. If my life should end today, let this be my best day.

I consider these words, in context, some of the most beautiful words I have ever read, and more importantly some of the most meaningful words I have ever prayed.

I write, “in context”, because the context is life lived in our Lord Jesus Christ and in the mirror of eternity; without which these words are mere sentimentality – a dangerous thing indeed.

I am too flip with words and deeds, too little reflective, too little intentional. I am disposed to view interactions with others as centered on me: What do I want? What will meet my needs? What are my cares and concerns? And yet, suppose our kind heavenly Father has placed cares and concerns and needs in my life so that I might be a conduit of His grace in the lives of others?

If I don’t value words and deeds, if I think I have an unending supply of days and hours at my disposal and therefore an unending supply of words and deeds, then I’ll spend my words and deeds freely and promiscuously, without regard for their quality or effect. I will perhaps justify a harsh word, or even a seemingly benign interchange with another person, as just a grain of sand on the vast seashore of my words and deeds, my minutes, hours and my days.

But if I live each day in the knowledge that it may be my last day, if I live as if each word may be my last word and each deed my last deed; then how shall I live? Will the quality of my words and deeds be improved? Will I be more conscious of Jesus Christ being my Lord, and therefore the Lord of my words and deeds?

Suppose our last words and our final deeds are the first things we present to our Lord when we leave this life?

I want this to be my best day for His glory. I want it to be my best day for my wife, friends, family, and coworkers. I want it to be my best day so that I may feel the pleasure of the God who made me in HIs image and who redeemed and reconciled me back to Himself after I had marred and rejected His image.

Our God is worthy that we should begin our days with the words:

May I speak each word as if my last word, and walk each step as my final one. If my life should end today, let this be my best day.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Russell Moore On The Gospel and Glenn Beck

Last night I no doubt irritated some people, some were friends, some acquaintances, and some perhaps had simply strayed into my email address book. I seldom forward an email – I seldom enjoy emails that are forwarded to me and so I seldom forward them myself.

Last night I received a forwarded email from a friend, I didn’t know who the author was, and I assumed my friend had written it because he does have a way with words and I know he’s passionate about Christ and the Church. Today I learned that Russell Moore at The Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville had written it – I normally do research before I send anything out, I didn’t last night.

Now having said all of that, here’s the link:

And having said all that, I sent it because I thought, and continue to think, that Moore had the courage to challenge the populist Christian (sad to say) view on politics, whether from the right or the left – though the case in hand has to do with masses of professing Christians and Glenn Beck and the Tea Party and who knows what else. Moore rightly notes that the right has its own liberation theology – a beautiful observation and one I wish I’d thought of earlier.

Dr. Moore is at a seminary that not all Southern Baptist folk have the warm fuzzies for – but give me a man who makes you think and who isn’t out to be popular any day over a franchised persona or doctrine – I’d rather leave that kind of thing behind and be enraptured with Jesus. Why pastors don’t have the courage to speak out against stinking thinking and feeble theology I’ll never know – well – of course they’ll lose their jobs, which says something about the church as we know it…but I’ll put the brakes on that one for now.

The president of Dr. Moore’s seminary, Al Mohler, is someone else you might want to familiarize yourself with on these matters.

Thank you Dr. Moore. Other pastors, (for Dr. Moore is also a pastor), where are you?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Meditation On A Puritan Prayer – August 24, 2010 Part VI

Order this day all my communications according to thy wisdom, and to the gain of mutual good. Forbid that I should not be profited or made profitable.

The older English of these two lines may get in our way; after all, we don’t write or talk like this anymore. Yet, I have found that when I’m challenged to stop and think and translate words into contemporary thought that I often benefit from the exercise.

Am I conscious of the ordering of my daily interactions – the sweet and the challenging? Do I desire God to order my conversations, my interactions; the ones I have planned and the ones foisted upon me? Do I trust the wisdom of God to shepherd me throughout each day?

Do I truly want my interactions with others to be mutually beneficial? Do I want to be a blessing to others? Do I desire to be a blessing to others more than I desire them to be a blessing to me?

And do I want to be open to growth, learning, understanding, and transformation in all interactions – whether pleasant or unpleasant; whether anticipated or unanticipated? What a waste to have unpleasant interactions, unpleasant experiences, unpleasant conversations without growth in Christ and transformation into His image.

If we believe passages such as Psalm 139, Ephesians 2:10, and Romans 8:28 – 29, then we can indeed look to our kind heavenly Father to order each day to the gain of mutual good.

Will you consider making this your prayer today…and tomorrow?

It is not adversity that we should fear; but adversity without profitability, adversity without growth in Christ, adversity without being used to bless others – forbid that I should not be profited or made profitable.