Tuesday, January 25, 2011

No Ordinary Man

An ordinary man can do good work when conditions are right, when the weather is favorable, when there is peace in the land, when there is harmony in the home.

An extraordinary man works on, and works well, even when all seems to be against him. The skillful farmer manages a crop during drought; the master carpenter builds a lovely home of scrap; the deep thinker produces a masterpiece of logic and insight in the midst of confusion and strife.

But it takes God incarnate to make peace out of pain, to create holiness by bearing injustice, to forge salvation from sin. It takes God and a cross.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV)

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree"— (Galatians 3:13, ESV)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Long Obedience

Some books have great titles. Sometimes the titles are so great that the book may seem almost anticlimactic. Eugene Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society is such a book for some people. The book is actually an exposition of the songs of ascent (Psalms 120-134), which may not be what people are expecting when they hear the title. Some people may be disappointed in the book, but that is a great title.

We are so used to getting everything fast. With our cars and airplanes, television, and microwaves we have sped up travel, entertainment and the preparation of food. Can we do the same with spirituality? Very sorry, but no.

Even with regard to the things we have sped up, we have not been as successful as we may imagine. Does anyone really believe that instant oatmeal has the same nutritional value as the oats our great-grandparents prepared? Crossing the ocean on a ship takes longer than in an airplane, but when you figure in the days lost to jet lag, how much have we really gained? Yes, we can switch on the idiot-box and be distracted immediately; but don’t you really wish that you had learned to play an instrument well enough so that you could make your own music?

Music is not learned in an instant. Chemistry is not understood overnight. English literature cannot be mastered in a semester. Nothing truly worthwhile is accomplished in an instant.

Learn any earthly subject or skill, really master it, and you will be blessed for a lifetime. Draw near to God and you will be blessed for eternity. It takes time. It take persistence. It takes "a long obedience in the same direction."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Should We Speak Falsely For God?

Will you speak falsely for God and speak deceitfully for him? (Job 13:7)

It happened twice in the last week. One came via e-mail, the other was contained in a slick magazine. In both cases, someone who wanted to promote faith in God repeated claims that are false. The e-mail repeated statements supposedly made by a famous media personality. The slick magazine claimed that Samuel Driver (1846-1914), Regius Professor of Hebrew at Oxford, had made certain statements. In both cases, the claims were false. The individuals to whom the quotes were attributed never made the statements.

We do not help God by telling lies for him. It is the truth that people need (John 8:31-32). Of course those who sent the false information did not know that it was false; they really believed what they repeated. It was not intentional deception; it was just the thoughtless repeating of rumors. But are we not responsible to check out the facts before we repeat what we have heard?

Those who have the facts at their disposal are less given to repeating baseless rumors. Anyone will occasionally misspeak, but it is an epidemic of false reporting that we have going on today. People fill their conversation, their e-mail, even their magazines with hearsay. Why? Is it not because they having nothing but hearsay to repeat? Having not studied the scriptures as they ought to have, they cannot give a reasonable answer to explain their hope (1 Pet 3:15). So, in place of a reasonable, biblical explanation, they repeat false rumors.

Let’s open the book and get the facts. Then we will not be so tempted to repeat the rumors.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Praising God or Praising Ourselves?

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be thought provoking. It is not intended to condemn either of the songs referred to, or the people who sing those songs. It is intended to make us think more deeply about what we sing and what our songs might imply.

Jeff Moore and Steven Curtis Chapman have written a popular worship song that proclaims, "We will use the words we know to tell You what an awesome God You are. But words are not enough to tell You of our love, so listen to our hearts."

John Newton wrote a song which states, "Weak is the effort of my heart And cold my warmest thought; But when I see Thee as Thou art, I'll praise Thee as I ought."

In both hymns the idea is expressed that our words are inadequate praise to our God. But in the older hymn the cause of this inadequacy is traced to the worshipper’s inadequately converted heart. In the modern hymn the problem is one of language -- our hearts are fine, we just do not have the right words.

Which is the truth? Are our hearts just fine? Do we purely, fully, constantly desire to praise him? Is the primary difficulty the inadequacy of language, or is the inadequacy of human language a symptom of the inadequacy of our hearts? Should we come into worship believing "I’m OK, you’re OK"? Or should we come acknowledging that "nothing good dwells within us" (Rom 7:18), that our hearts are deceitful (Jer 17:9)?

I sing the Moore/Chapman song when it is led, but I sing it with some concern for the mistaken estimate of ourselves that it may imply.

"...let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. 10:12).