Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Regular Exercise

"...for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." 1 Tim. 4:8 (ESV)

I am trying a new exercise program. It is actually pretty similar to my old program. I used to walk every morning. Then, for a year or so I did not do anything and I really got out of shape. When I started trying to exercise, I used the equipment that I have in the basement. Some days I managed twenty minutes, other days only ten. Some days I did not do anything at all. Now I am back to walking, but now I am trying to walk twice a day (morning and evening).

The real key, I suspect, is consistency. How I exercise is not as important as how often I exercise. If I really will walk twice per day, that will be better for me than more vigorous exercise at odd intervals once in a while. Although walking is not a perfect form of bodily training, it will do a significant amount of good if it is engaged in regularly over a long period of time.

The same is true with regard to training in godliness.

The most important factor is our regularity in holding the things of God before our minds. Frequent reflection on God's word, frequent interaction with the Lord' people, frequent attempts to do his will, are of more value than sporadic efforts. Although our worship services and Bible classes are imperfect, they do a lot of good IF THEY ARE ATTENDED FAITHFULLY OVER A LONG PERIOD OF TIME. If combined with daily prayer and scripture reading, and a consistent Christian walk, these things can make a huge difference to our spiritual health.

But none of this happens overnight. If you expect to go jogging today and feel better tomorrow, you will be disappointed. But regular training, especially spiritual training, carried out over time will not disappoint in this life or in the life to come.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Will You Love Him In December?

Jimmy Walker was mayor of New York (1926-1932). He was not much of a city administrator. Other than the corruption scandal that ended his time as mayor, Walker is best known for a song he wrote, "Will You Love Me In December As You Loved Me In May?" That song asks a great question.

Many of us love yard work in May. How do we feel about it come August? Many people love their mate in the spring of life when everything is rosy, but have a different attitude as the seasons of life change. Many people seek the Lord when it is pleasant to do so, but are nowhere to be found when there is any difficulty to be faced.

Faithfulness in marriage means that we are there for our mate "for better or for worse, in sickness as in health." Faithfulness at work means doing the job rain or shine, even in the snow. Faithfulness in Christ means confessing our faith in him "in season and out of season." It means bearing reproach with him, standing with him when the world is against him. (2 Tim 4:2; Lk 6:22; Jn 15:18; Heb 13:13)

Those who call themselves "friends" when things are going well, but then turn away when things are difficult, are known as "fair weather friends". Fair weather friends are of less than no value. Fair weather marriages end in divorce. Fair weather gardeners never reap much of a crop. Fair weather Christians are not Christians at all, and they certainly will never reap the benefits of Christianity.

Will you love the Lord in December as you claim to love him in May? I cannot answer for you. The elders cannot answer for you. Only two people know -- you and the Lord.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

In the Wilderness

Matthew 4:1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

Have you ever wondered why Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness? What was accomplished by this? What is God's goal when he allows us a time in the wilderness?

We are told that Jesus, as our high priest, is able to sympathize with us because he was "in every respect tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Heb 4:15). One of the ways we are tempted is by loneliness. Most of us have faced, or will face, times in our lives when we feel alone. We may be in a crowded room, but we feel alone, we feel as if no one understands us, no one shares our concerns. Such loneliness is a temptation that Jesus knew throughout his life. But perhaps it was so that we would know that Jesus understood loneliness that he went into the wilderness.

Most of us have faced, or will face, times when it seems that our efforts are in vain, that our lives are barren. This sense of barrenness also Jesus knew throughout his life. We call him a great teacher, but how well did people really understand him? Even the twelve who followed him most closely often misunderstood him. It would have been easy for Jesus to feel that his ministry was barren of results. Time in the wilderness, looking on that barren landscape, was an appropriate way to begin a ministry that would lead not to thousands of converts but to rejection and a cross.

If you feel that you are in the wilderness, if you feel that your efforts are in vain, if you feel lonely in your walk with God, remember that Jesus also passed through the wilderness. Having done so, he understands. And because he understands, we can approach the throne of grace with confidence, expecting to find mercy and grace to help in our time of need (Heb 4:16).

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


 Thomas Oden begins his book Classic Christianity with an unusual promise. He writes, "The only promise I intend to make, however inadequately carried out, is that of unoriginality. I plan to present nothing new or original in these pages." A little later he adds, "I am dedicated to unoriginality. My aim is to present classical Christian teaching of God on its own terms, undiluted by modern posturing."

I have not read far in his book, so I cannot say how well he sticks to his promise. I will say, however, that his promise is a step in the right direction. Our generation is far too enamored with "new and improved." We need to learn more respect to "tried and true."

For Oden, the definition of classic Christianity may be a little too broad. He reads the Bible only through the lens of writers that came after the Bible. That makes no sense. While I will accept light cast on the Bible from any source, it is the Bible itself that reveals the will of God. Other sources may illuminate the text, but there is always a danger that they may be obscuring rather than illuminating (Mt 15:8-9; Mk 7:9).

It is impossible to preach an original Christian sermon. If it is original, it is not Christian. If it is Christian, it is not original. Anything that is Christian is getting close to being two-thousand years old.

While we might occasionally find new ways to express old truths, often we find that what we thought was a new way has actually been said pretty much the same way at some earlier date.

Let's quit worrying about novelty or originality and concentrate on truth.

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. Galatians 1:8

Thus says the Lord: "Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, 'We will not walk in it.'
Jeremiah 6:16