It’s All About God — Peter edition

November 28, 2008 at 2:51 pm | Posted in It's All About God, Theology | 1 Comment

Our salvation is all about God: He does it and it’s all for his glory.  I saw this again in Peter’s epistles; as I pondered them this week, I realized how many things in these books related to salvation are done by God.  Either God is the direct subject of the active verb, or we are the recipients of the passive verbs with God as the implied subject.  Here is a sampling of what I found in the first letter:  1:1) This letter is to God’s elect, chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father;  1:3) in his great mercy he has given us new birth;  1:4-5) our inheritance is kept for us, and we are shielded by God’s power;  1:18-19) we were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to us from our forefathers;  1:23) we have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable;  2:9-10) once we were not the people, but now we are the people of God; once we had not received mercy, but now we have received mercy;  3:18) Christ suffered once for us, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God;  5:10) the God of all grace, who called us to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish us.   Then in Second Peter, the first few verses continue the same theme:  1:1) this is sent to those who through the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours;  1:3) his divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life;  and 1:4)he has given us his very great and precious promises.  It is God’s doing, and it is for God’s glory!

Happy Thanksgiving

November 26, 2008 at 5:23 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Worship | Leave a comment

Though Thanksgiving is not technically a “Christian” holiday, we are exhorted numerous places in the Bible to give thanks.  Not giving thanks to God is one of the first steps down the slope of living out depravity (Romans 1:21-32).  It is one of the most quoted commands in the Old Testament (Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever!)  It is directly commanded in the New Testament at least 8 times, and the words thanks, thank, thankful, thanksgiving appear 69 times (144 in the entire Bible).  A verse from this week’s quiet times says it all.  Hebrews 12:28: “Since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”

 

Transcendence and Immanence

November 24, 2008 at 2:12 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Theology | Leave a comment

Psalm 147.  This poem makes a great contrast between God’s transcendence over us and his immanence with us.  He determines the number of stars and calls them each by name; his power is great and his understanding has no limits (4-5).  Think of the billions of stars out there, and God knows them all; think of the billions of people in the world, and God knows them all.  That is an amazing mind!  He brings the clouds and rain and makes the grass grow in the world; he feeds all the creatures he has made (8-9).  That is an amazing power!  Those things describe his transcendence:  He is way above the creation; he is superior to it and separate from it in every way; he is holy.  Yet at the same time, he is not unconcerned or aloof.  He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds (3); he sustains the humble (6); he delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love (11).  That describes his immanence:  He is always with us, caring for us.

            I also saw the same comparison in the book of Hebrews today.  Jesus is described as the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his nature (1:3); superior to the angels (1:4); God, who will last forever (1:8); crowned with glory and honor (2:9); holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens (7:26).  That is a description of transcendence.  Yet Jesus is also immanent.  He was made lower than the angels (2:9); he shared in our humanity (2:14); was made like us in every way (2:17); he has been tempted in all ways like we are (4:15); and he has become our mediator and high priest.  He is God over us, yet he is Immanuel – God with us!

 

 

The Man of Lawlessness

November 20, 2008 at 10:06 am | Posted in Eschatology, Theology | Leave a comment

2 Thessalonians 2:1-4.  This is another passage that helps explain my migration from a pre-tribulation theology to post-tribulation theology.  In this passage, “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” and “our being gathered to him” – certainly the rapture of the church – are equated as one event, simply “that day.”  Then we are told “that day will not come until the man of lawlessness is revealed.”  This man of lawlessness must be the one often referred to as the antichrist. (That is the incorrect biblical term.  In the NT, every time “antichrist” is used, it is a reference to anyone who opposes Jesus.  See 1 John 2:18-25, 4:1-3.  We should instead call this one the beast or the lawless one.)  This man of lawlessness will “oppose and exalt himself over everything that is called God . . . proclaiming himself to be God.”  There are only two explanations for this chronology: either the beast will be revealed before the beginning of the Great Tribulation or the rapture takes place after the Great Tribulation.  The last of those two choices is the only one that makes any sense at all.

Praying Paul’s Prayer

November 19, 2008 at 11:39 am | Posted in It's All About God, Prayer, Worship | Leave a comment
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Colossians 1:9-12.  For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.  And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.”  I haven’t written many devotional journal entries lately.  In part this is due to busyness and in part due to having very few profound thoughts in my devotions and study.  However, I have had some great prayer times, as I’ve used Paul’s prayers for the churches as patterns to follow in my own prayers for others.  Praying the Bible – God’s own words back to him – is a great devotional tool for many who, like me, are not prayer warriors.  I especially like the Psalms for this exercise – like my prayer for the election winners.  But this week, I used this Colossians prayer for my family and our church staff.  One might notice, in it, the theme of our ministry to others coming from God’s ministry to us.  (Their “bearing fruit in every good work” is a result of God’s filling his people with “knowledge of his will through spiritual wisdom and understanding.”)  That is the same theme I’ve emphasized with our staff and in these pages in recent weeks.  I also noticed that this prayer is a God-centered prayer.  It recognizes that life is all about God and makes no greedy self-centered requests.  It’s a great prayer.  Try using it as a prayer guide for your friends, family and church leaders.

Later in the day I read this passage and put this note in my journal:  
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17.  Here is another of Paul’s prayers to emulate in our prayer lives.  “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” 

Burnout in Ministry

November 12, 2008 at 12:10 pm | Posted in Questions for Pastor Glenn, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

I’ve been thinking about burnout lately.  Not because I am struggling with it, though motivation in ministry can be an issue for me, but because I’ve been asked about it in some different contexts.  There may be times when someone struggles with burnout issues because of sickness or other physical imbalances.  Outside of that, I’m thinking that burnout in ministry always has the same cause, though that cause may take many forms.  Burnout comes when someone is relying on a resource other than God.

            Some people burnout in ministry because they are not believers and are just doing what seemed to them a good thing to do.  It may be something that they fell into or it may be copying someone who impacted them, but they are doing it without Christ because they never really trusted him for salvation.  These people will run out of gas before too long.  Either they will see the futility of what they are doing and lose motivation or they will run themselves ragged trying to meet needs they have no strength to meet.

            Some burnout because they pursue the wrong things.  They work for big numbers of people, or big buildings or more exposure and fame.  For a few, these things happen in spite of them, and the results are motivating enough without God’s help.  I believe this is the case with some of the big media preachers, though not all.  But for many more, the results never come and the unmet expectations wear heavy after a time.  I’ve been there myself and I know.  I decided years ago, when I was pastoring a very small church, that if God wanted me to spend my life preaching to only 30 people, I would be faithful to that task and leave the results to him.  Sometimes people seek approval or recognition in ministry.  They need positive feedback, and when they don’t get it, they get weary.  This also I know all too well.  It is encouraging to get good feedback in ministry, and we should encourage those who minister to us, but if that feedback is our motivation, we are pursuing the wrong things.  God will not empower the wrong pursuit.

            A special case of wrong pursuits is people who burnout because they are maintaining the institutional methods they were taught without conviction or passion that those methods are what God really desires.  Or they follow those methods thinking they are God’s only ordained methods.  In either case, God is not in it because they are not ministering from overflow of the relationship but from human tradition.  This is not to say there are no God-ordained methods or traditions, but to say that God uses different things at different times and in different settings.  Simply using what one believes to be a God-ordained method because of the past is not relying on him in the present.

            Another case of the above is those who burnout because they are not ministering in the area God gifted them to minister.  I believe the spiritual gifts God gives affect people to the core of their being, impacting even their motivations.  When people use the spiritual gifts God gave them, they are motivated and enthusiastic about their ministry.  When they minister in other areas, they wear out because there is not a deep motivation there.  I am gifted as a preacher/teacher, and, after 20 years of full-time ministry, the past fifteen as a teaching pastor, I have never tired of preaching God’s Word week after week.  However, when called upon to do counseling or to mediate between differing parties, I wear out quickly.  The co-pastor at our church has a great sensitivity to hurting people and is motivated to counsel them.  Though he does a great job filling the pulpit when I’m on vacation, it is not something he relishes doing often; it would wear him out like counseling does me.

Finally, some burnout because they do not take the needed sabbath rests God tells his people to take.  I’ve seen many a pastor who wouldn’t take a day off each week, because he thought there was too much to do and his work was too important to break away from.  Such thinking is arrogant; it presumes that God can’t operate without me, and that his principles don’t apply to me.  Ultimately it is relying on my strength instead of God’s.  Relying on God’s strength means always following his principles, even if it seems that less is getting done for the kingdom.  An acrostic I thought of years ago is appropriate here.  True REST is Relying on El Shadai’s Strength Totally; El Shadai is God Almighty.

As I’ve written in recent days, our ministry to others must be from the overflow of God’s ministry to us.  He must be the ultimate resource we have in ministry.  We must follow his principles, use the methods and gifts he’s called us to, take needed rests, and trust in him.  When we abide in the Vine, then we will bear fruit.  When the Spirit is evident in our lives, we will have joy.

Overfowing Comfort

November 9, 2008 at 7:08 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts | Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 1:3-7.  I have seen how Paul’s faith touched other lives in times of trouble (Acts 27) and how his blessing for the Romans was that their trust would overflow in hope, joy and peace (Romans 15:13).  Now I see a similar thought in this familiar passage to the Corinthians.  Again we’re told that God’s work in our lives should overflow to the lives of others.  “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.  For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.”

Last night I was at a banquet where the speaker gave, what seemed to me, a very disorganized talk.  However, one thing he said stood out.  I’m not sure the exact quote, but it was something along these lines: “We’ve exchanged desperation for God and a fear of God for institutionalism and programs.”  The point was that our ministry often comes out of doing what the church is doing rather than out of the overflow from God filling the neediness in our lives.  May my pursuit be of God alone, and may the hope, joy, peace and comfort which he ministers to me overflow to all those around me.

Concerning the Election Winners

November 5, 2008 at 9:37 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts | 3 Comments

Two blog entries in one day!  Pretty much unheard of from me.  But I was praying through Psalm 138 this morning and have to include this journal entry.

Psalm 138:1-5.  Here is a prayer concerning the election winners:  “I will praise your name for your love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.  May all the rulers of the earth praise you, O LORD, when they hear the words of your mouth.  May they sing of the ways of the LORD, for the glory of the LORD is great.” 

Lord God, you are the ultimate Ruler of the universe.  All other powers and authorities reign under your sovereignty; your glory is great.  When I think of the people elected to office in our nation, I recognize that most of them do not stand for your principles.  But I also recognize that your word and your name are still exalted over all.  I ask that those rulers might hear your words and see your ways and praise you.  May their praise to you be not in word only but in repentance and faith, in practice and policy.  Ultimately, may they come to know Jesus as Savior of their souls and Lord of their lives.  And even if they don’t I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart, before all else that is called ‘gods’ I will sing your praise.  Amen.

Seeing and Savoring Jesus

November 5, 2008 at 8:41 am | Posted in Books and Movies, It's All About God | Leave a comment

I have been reading two books in recent days, and both are good.  One is Simple Church by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger.  I’ll probably have more to say about that one at a later date.  The second book is John Piper’s Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ.  Here are two great quotes from the early pages of Piper’s book:  “The Christian Gospel is about ‘the glory of Christ,’ and not about me.  And when it is – in some measure – about me, it is not about my being made much of by God, but about God mercifully enabling me to enjoy making much of him forever.”  And later, “Christ does not exist in order to make much of us.  We exist in order to enjoy making much of him.  The assumption of this book is that to know the glories of Christ is an end, not a means.  Christ is not glorious so that we get wealthy or healthy.  Christ is glorious so that rich or poor, sick or sound, we might be satisfied in him.”

After an election like yesterday’s, we need a reminder that God is still God; our trust must be in him and not in earthly rulers.  Jesus is our Eternal King.  Let’s make much about him and less about temporal rulers, good or bad.  Let’s find our satisfaction in his glory!

 

 

 

Thoughts and Prayers from Romans

November 4, 2008 at 9:20 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, God's Love, It's All About God, Worship | Leave a comment

Some miscellaneous thoughts and prayers from yesterday’s devotions in the latter chapters of Romans:

9:25-26  “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one.”  I can praise God because, even though I am separated from the promises of God by birth, and even though I am separated from the righteousness of God by sin, I can still be called one of God’s children by grace.  “So then, the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.  As it is written,  .  .  .  ‘Rejoice you Gentiles with his people.’  And again, ‘Praise the Lord all you Gentiles; let all the peoples of the earth extol him.’” (15:9-11)

13:1  “There is no authority except that which God has established.”  With the election tomorrow, and the poles not looking very good for Christian values, we look to God to direct minds and hearts to sway this election as he desires.  At the same time, I know that he has used evil regimes and rulers in his kingdom work as well as good ones, so I assume whatever happens, God will use it to advance the eternal things of his kingdom.  As Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come; Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

15:13  This blessing of Paul to the Roman Christians is what I prayed today for my own life and ministry.  May the God of hope fill me with all joy and peace as I trust in him, so that I may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  God, touch other lives through my faith in you.  Just as Paul’s faith was visible to others in times of trouble and overflowed to them, may my faith be evident to those around me who do not know you.

Finally 11:33-35, another prayer I offered back to God this day:  “Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!”   Lord, you are beyond my knowledge, wisdom and understanding.  I could never know you, except that you, in your grace, have chosen to reveal yourself to me.  Help me grow in the knowledge and wisdom of you.  “For from him and through him and to him are all things.  To him be the glory forever!  Amen.”   God, everything that is, or ever was, is, or was, because of you; it came from you and through you, and it is to you – to your glory and praise.  Everything is about your glory.  May I know you as you desire, and may I glorify you in my life.  Amen.

 

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