Friday, July 20, 2012

Good news

On my way to work today I heard very bad news.  At least ten people were gunned down in the Century Theater in Aurora, Colorado last night during a midnight showing of the new Batman film.  Scores were injured.  This morning thousands are feeling heartache and millions the residue of lingering fear.  Bad news indeed.

Though its not always on the level of the tragedy of a theater shooting, but news is simply part of our lives due to the Fall.  For instance, yesterday a gash appeared in one of our new walls.  Bad news.  My neighbor down the street still has cancer.  Bad news.  A friend in Georgia recently watched in agony as his wife moved out.  Bad news.  Bad news is not hard to find.

Good news is more rare - especially good news that lasts.  Want some?  Consider the following affirmations about Jesus from the book of Hebrews:

  • "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."  - Hebrews 13:8
  • "...He is the Mediator of a new covenant so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance...."  - Hebrews 9:15
  • "...He is able to to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him since He always lives to make intercession for them."  - Hebrews 7:25\
  • "For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin."  - Hebrews 4:15
  • "...consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, who was faithful to Him who appointed Him...."  - Hebrews 3:1-2
  • "For because He Himself has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted."  - Hebrews 2:18
  • "Now, in putting everything in subjection to Him, He left nothing outside of His control."  - Hebrews 2:8
  • "He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power."  - Hebrews 1:3
Have you ever noticed how most examples of good news are passing, fading and fallible things that in a week or a year or fifty years will be no more?  Today your child made a good choice.  Good news!  But she will make many bad choices in the future which may erase from your memory the good one she just made.  Your boss just gave you a raise.  Good news!  But that money will soon be spent and soon enough you'll be back to longing for another raise.  You just discovered that your friend's cancer is in remission.  Good news!  But he will still die one day.  
In contrast, think about the list above revealing Who Jesus is.  
  • He is always the stable Rock of refuge we need.  
  • He will always be our Savior - and no sin is too dark for Him to cleanse.  
  • He made it possible for us to always have full, free access to God''s heart and grace.  
  • He can always sympathize with our weaknesses and strengthen us to stand against sin.  
  • He is always faithful on our behalf.
  • He is always ready to help us.
  • He is always in complete control.
  • He is always glorious and powerful.
Our world brings us bad news in spades.  Sometimes life gives us good news, but its rarely the lasting kind.  Then there's Jesus.  He always equals good news.  Joy only lasts when we build our world around Him today.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Date your wife

Recent years have seen some fantastic books written about gospel-centered marriage calling men especially to rise to the occasion of imitating Christ toward the wives God's place in our care.  This Momentary Marriage by John Piper, When Sinners Say 'I Do' by Dave Harvey and CJ Mahaney's Sex, Romance and the Glory of God come to mind.

Now add to this list a new, little book by Justin Buzzard called simply Date Your Wife.  Though he doesn't dig as theologically deep as some of the titles above, he shoots straight in speaking to men like many of us who've read the books above (or understand gospel-driven theology), but still fail often in practically living out Christlike, sacrificial love toward our wives.

Buzzard moves in twelve very short chapters from the bad news that the biggest problem in our marriage is primarily us, to the good news of God's grace in Christ that not only forgives us but can transform us into the redeemed lovers God made us to be.  Unlike some books on this topic, I find Buzzard's writing style refreshingly direct and humorous at times.  No stuffiness here.  But there is challenging and thoughtful truth - a lot of it.  For instance, consider the following quote which opens chapter 6:

"Every time a boy is born, we should think of Genesis 2:15.  The moment we see the ultrasound picture, the moment we hear the cry of a boy exiting the womb and entering the world, we should recite in our minds, 'The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it.'  Boys are born with a mission: to work and keep, to cultivate and guard.  God put Adam on the earth, and God pushes boys out of wombs, to be cultivators and guardians."

Well said.  But that's a challenge that takes not only parenting boys but being Christlike husbands to a new level.  Date your wife - and read this book.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hope in Minot

As many of you know, this spring Trinity turned over our role as a short-term home for flood recovery volunteers to Hope Village, housed down the road at Our Savior's Lutheran Church.  Every week all summer long, work teams of Christians from around the country are pouring into Hope Village and rolling up their sleeves to help Minot's flooded families rebuild.  Here's a recent testimony from HV leaders:

"It's been wonderful to see both the work the Hope Village volunteers are doing, as well as the effect it is having on the volunteers. One youth group from Kansas City, MO had a couple teens who told me that while they missed their friends and family they were not yet ready to leave Minot. Another told me how much the trip has taught her that she takes for granted things like running water and air conditioning. But one of my favorite times is just after dinner when we finish our meals and share some of the days events with each other. One volunteer from the kitchen was nearly in tears when she shared how blessed she was by all the volunteers, and while that same group would probably never be together again she looked forward to meeting them in eternal life. I just know these people are going back to their home congregations, their work places and their homes and sharing about what God is doing in Minot through Hope Village."

So much for God's glory through service is being done, but so much still is needed.  If you'd like to volunteer to join a work team for a day or a week or take on a project as a small group or family, please contact Hope Village at 701-500-5206.  Christ's church is rebuilding our city, and Christ is building His church.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

God our Father

"[Have you ever noticed] how Paul does not begin his letters: 'To all those at Rome with whom God is angry...' or 'To the church at Corinth, who continually test God's patience....'  or 'To all the rebels at Philippi....'?  Rather, he says, 'Grace and peace, dearly loved, dear children, saints,' etc.

You may not feel holy and pleasing to God today, but if you are in Christ Jesus, you are.  Because of Christ's work, our very imperfect work and faith and lives are fully accepted.  When a young child draws a picture for her father, even though it is very imperfect, the father loves it and sticks it on his refrigerator and proudly shows it off to everyone.  Likewise, what you do in faithful relationship to your heavenly Father is accepted and delightful to Him."

- Gospel Transformation, p. 125

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Pondering the 'god particle'

In the world of science, this week's revelation about the Higgs Boson particle discovery made big news.  It's being called 'the god particle'.  Why?  What theological significance might it carry?  An excellent answer to these questions can be found in a recent Gospel Coalition article you can read here.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The counter-intuitive mind of God

In recent years, Paul's personal testimony of God's grace found in I Timothy 1:12-17 has become precious grist for the mill of preaching the gospel to myself.  While pondering these verses again this morning, I was struck by God's very unusual logic - unusual, that is, in comparison to our own.

In verses 12-13 Paul remembers his deep rebellion against God before he was saved.  In verses 14-15 he speaks of the greatness of God's grace in light of his deep sin.  Then in verse sixteen Paul writes, "But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost [sinner], Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life."  So much is packed into v. 16, but I simply want to draw our attention to God's strange logic.  Paul says the reason God showed him mercy was to display His perfect patience in order to incite saving trust in Him in the hearts of others who were destined to believe.  

God's agenda is so much different from our own.  How many of you woke up this morning saying, "The sin of others I encounter today will give me a wonderful opportunity to display my patience, and thus God's grace in my life, toward them."  We don't think that way.  We want a day with no barriers to our plans.  We want to be surrounded by people who never sin against us but are always ready to extend us grace when we sin.  We don't want to have to exercise patience.  Furthermore, we're not good at patience.  It's not by mistake that the first phrase defining biblical love mentioned by Paul in his famous list in I Corinthians 13:4-7 is "Love is patient...."  We are naturally impatient, especially with others' sins.  Not God.  He does not love our sin, but He mercifully loves to display His perfect patience when we do sin.

Let's spend this day full of thankfulness that God is not like us.  He has borne patiently with us ever since we woke up this morning.  And He's not done it begrudgingly.  He's not grumbled under His breath, "When will these people get their act together?"  He delights to show us patience, for it's the lens of His character through which we best behold His fatherly love.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Your work matters

Let me ask you a tough question: whose work is more valuable, yours or mine?  I'm a preaching pastor.  I'm paid to study the Bible, pray, counsel people, evangelize, strategize for greater Kingdom expansion, etc.  You're likely paid to do things like work on an oil rig, check out folks at WalMart, drive a truck, perform surgery, maintain a B-52, etc.  Or, you may be a stay-at-home mom who works hard for no pay.  So, whose work is more valuable, yours or mine?

The biblical answer is 'neither.'  Since God has placed us on earth to harness it for our good and His glory (Genesis 1:26-28), the realization of that vision cannot happen through 'spiritual' actions alone.  It is not only through biblical sermons and godly counsel but through building bridges and feeding toddlers and planting gardens and painting houses and writing concertos that God's purpose for us on the earth comes to pass.  Therefore, when done for His glory, all work - as long as it is biblically legitimate, moral and honest - is equally valuable.

If you'd like to explore this topic more fully, Dorothy Sayers' excellent article 'Why Work?' may be the best place to start.  You can read it here.  I can think of few better things to read while on vacation this summer to help you more fully appreciate the realm of good work in which God has placed you for His glory and your joy.