Tuesday, July 24, 2012

God's Mysterious Ways

Have you ever heard of someone who died, and it was found out that they had some kind of congenital defect that had not been detected previously?

Here's a story that turns that completely around.  A woman survived the recent shootings in Colorado precisely because of that kind of undetected "defect."

It seems as if the bullet traveled through Petra’s brain without hitting any significant brain areas. The doctor explains that Petra’s brain has had from birth a small “defect” in it. It is a tiny channel of fluid running through her skull, like a tiny vein through marble, or a small hole in an oak board, winding from front to rear. Only a CAT scan would catch it, and Petra would have never noticed it.
But in Petra’s case, the shotgun buck shot, maybe even the size used for deer hunting, enters her brain from the exact point of this defect. Like a marble through a small tube, the defect channels the bullet from Petra’s nose through her brain. It turns slightly several times, and comes to rest at the rear of her brain. And in the process, the bullet misses all the vital areas of the brain. In many ways, it almost misses the brain itself. Like a giant BB though a straw created in Petra’s brain before she was born, it follows the route of the defect. It is channeled in the least harmful way. A millimeter in any direction and the channel is missed. The brain is destroyed. Evil wins a round.

You can read about it here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Train Up a Child

Proverbs 22:6
Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.

J. C. Ryle, from his brief work The Duties of Parents:

Our hearts are like the earth on which we tread; let it alone, and it is sure to bear weeds. If, then, you would deal wisely with your child, you must not leave him to the guidance of his own will. Think for him, judge for him, act for him, just as you would for one weak and blind; but for pity’s sake, give him not up to his own wayward tastes and inclinations. It must not be his likings and wishes that are consulted. He knows not yet what is good for his mind and soul, any more than what is good for his body. You do not let him decide what he shall eat, and what he shall drink, and how he shall be clothed. Be consistent, and deal with his mind in like manner. Train him in the way that is scriptural and right, and not in the way that he fancies.
If you cannot make up your mind to this first principle of Christian training, it is useless for you to read any further. Self-will is almost the first thing that appears in a child’s mind; and it must be your first step to resist it.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

"All Ears"

I quoted some of the lyrics of this song in this morning's message from Proverbs: "Listen, Learn, and Live."  Happy Listening!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Theology Is Spirituality

J. I. Packer:
All theology is also spirituality, in the sense that it has an influence, good or bad, positive or negative, on its recipients’ relationship or lack of relationship with God.  If our theology does not quicken the conscience and soften the heart, it actually hardens both; if it does not encourage the commitment of faith, it reinforces the detachment of unbelief; if it fails to promote humility, it inevitably feeds pride.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

GPS and Study Bibles

Jen Wilkin:

Several years ago I moved from Houston to Dallas. Having lived in Houston for 13 years, I could drive its streets with ease. I had no idea how to navigate Dallas, so I used a GPS to get everywhere I needed to go. It was a great feeling---knowing almost nothing of the city, I could map a route to my destination instantaneously. I never felt lost or wasted time wandering around on the wrong roads.
But three years later, I still didn't know my way around Dallas without that GPS. If its battery died or if I left home without it, I was in big trouble. And then another strange thing happened: I took a trip back to Houston. In a city I knew well, I found that my GPS didn't always pick the route that made the most sense. It still spoke with the same tone of authority it used in Dallas, but I could tell that it was choosing the obvious route over the most direct one.

See how she applies this to the wise use of study Bibles by continuing to read here.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Show that It's True

Blaise Pascal:
Men despise religion. They hate it and are afraid it may be true. The cure for this is first to show that religion is not contrary to reason, but worthy of reverence and respect. Next make it attractive, make good men wish it were true, and then show that it is. 

(Pensees 12)


Monday, March 26, 2012

Read Yourself into the Story

Couldn't have said it better...

It’s as if we have forgotten that the characters in the Bible are humans. And so are we. We become parsing, nitpicking, lesson scrounging cyborgs when we read the Bible. We read every other story as story – relatable, emotional, and rational all wrapped into one. We treat the Bible, though, as if those relatable and emotional aspects are absent or off limits.

What we need when we read the Bible is whole heap of imagination to go with our commentaries and lexicons.

What are we missing of God by reading the Bible without imagination? Wouldn’t we understand him better if felt what Joseph felt while abandoned in an Egyptian prison for a crime he didn’t commit? Wouldn’t the reality of “the Lord was with Joseph” be more meaningful if we wrestled through the bitterness or loneliness or desperation or depression that he might have suffered?

What would happen to our self-righteousness if we put ourselves in Peter’s shoes that night at the high priest’s house and looked around to see angry faces and the bloodlust in the eyes of the leaders? If we read it like any other story we would be torn between fear and uprightness. We would know the right answers to those questions, but we would know just why they were so hard to give. We might have denied Jesus too.

The Bible needs imagination to truly live. God didn’t create us as unimaginative and then give us a story to confuse us. He gave us imagination and gave us a story. He gave us a spirit to breathe life into our minds so that the right stories would live in us and us in them. We can’t read the stories of the Bible like anything other than what they are: stories.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Ministry that Depends on the Holy Spirit

I've gone through my email and am ready to get into sermon work. Reading this was a good way to get started.

What does ministry that depends on the Holy Spirit look like?

It looks like preaching to dead people and praying that the Holy Spirit would give life as only he can (Eph. 2:1-3). It looks like shining the light of the gospel as brightly as you can, and praying that the Spirit would give people eyes to see it (2 Cor. 4:6). It looks like aiming for things only the Holy Spirit can give to people: new loves, new hearts, new lives, new selves.

What means does the Holy Spirit use to give new life? God’s Word.

“Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). The Spirit causes us to be born again “through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Pet. 1:23).

Therefore, Spirit-dependent ministry is by definition Word-centered and Word-driven ministry. Ministry that believes in the Holy Spirit trusts the Spirit-inspired Word to do the work God has promised it will do.

And to return to [Francis] Wayland, he argues that such Spirit-dependent, Word-driven ministry will in fact fill churches:

If we preach in such a manner that the disciples of Christ are separate from the world, prayerful, humble, earnest, self-denying, and laboring for the conversion of men, the Spirit of God will be in the midst of them, and souls will be converted. The thing will be noised abroad. There is never an empty house where the Spirit of God is present.

Is there a Holy Spirit? There is, and he speaks through the Word. And when he speaks, the dead hear and rise to new life.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Reading Old Testament Stories

It's been many months since I've posted anything here, and I'm not sure I'm "back in the saddle," but since I just preached Genesis 43-44 last week, this is the time to post this video. Interestingly enough, I ran across this video here, just a few days before I stopped blogging back in September, and have been saving it until now.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Paradox of Evangelism

Randy Newman:

There is a paradox about evangelism. Actually there are several but I’ll only mention one here. It starts with the realization that evangelism is impossible. Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44). Jesus also said, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Given those realities, we need to see that evangelism requires at least two miracles. In my life, God must work supernaturally in order for me to say anything or do anything that could possibly connect to regeneration. In the life of the person hearing the gospel, God must work the miracle of raising them from the dead. (see Ephesians 2:1 “…we were dead…”).

Thus, when we step into the process of evangelism, we are entering the world of the impossible. But our God specializes in doing the impossible.

So the paradox of evangelism is that when we remember that evangelism is impossible, we are more likely to evangelize!

We accept the fact that “success” is not dependent upon us. We understand that God uses both the human and the divine in the process (remembering, of course, that the divine component is so much more important). We open our mouths, knowing that God can actually use our frail attempts to accomplish the impossible. We speak with our mouths but we ask God to speak in ways far more powerful. We reason but we ask God to reveal. We proclaim but we know we’re on a playing field with many other forces at work.

It’s a paradox but a privilege.