Monday, December 31, 2007

Our Love -- Fickle or Enduring?

Why is it that we’re so fickle and our love for God seems to be short-lived? I was reading in Hosea 6 this morning and read what sounded like encouraging words. “Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us…After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him.”

This almost has a modern ring to it. We’ll repent, the Lord will fix everything in two or three days and we’ll be fine. God’s response though shows the true nature of things. “What shall I do with you? Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away.” Our love is there in the morning, but by midday it is gone. We’ve moved on to something else. God explains in verse 6 that He wants steadfast love and not sacrifice and the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. Both of these take endurance rather than a quick plea for God to do something and the expectation that He will jump right to it, whereas we are on to chasing other gods before the day is even half done.

I know that in my life this is pretty typical. It’s hard to remain faithful in the daily disciplines and routines that will build my faith and increase my love for God. Will it be any different today?

Saturday, December 29, 2007

After Christmas -- now what!

We traveled from Michigan down to Indianapolis on Friday so that our daughter could spend some time with the man she is courting. While she was busy doing things with him, my wife and I spent some time at Walmart and Hobby Lobby looking for things that were included in the post-Christmas sale. I got kind of depressed walking the aisles looking at angels, nativity sets, decorations and trees that just a few days ago seemed bright with the coming of the much anticipated holiday. Now, they were stacked from floor to ceiling underneath signs announcing a 66% off sale. At the same time in another aisle, other workers were opening boxes of valentine cards and candies and stacking them on the shelves.

I’m so glad that the stuff is not what Christmas is about. I can see why so many people get depressed around Christmas time because they are hoping for some satisfaction in the decorations, gifts and feelings that go with it and those things all prove to be empty. What really is important, meaningful and satisfying is to realize that God Himself has visited His people. He came here as a baby, lived a perfect life and died to ransom His people. I was reading Spurgeon the other day and he was commenting on a verse that says that God remembers his people. He pointed out that God has always looked forward to having a people for His own and He came here on various occasions prior to the incarnation to promote the welfare and encouragement of specific servants of His.

Let your mind dwell on these things as the celebration of Christmas fades and our human nature begins to focus on other duties and holidays coming up.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Logic -- Is it Biblical?

I hope you each had a wonderful Christmas celebrations with your friends and families. It’s Dec 27 as I write this and my wife and daughter are out shopping and the rest of the family has gone on to visit their in-laws. I’ve got Beethoven symphonies on in the living room and it makes for a quiet day to think and write.

With the rise of post modernism, there is a tendency to question and challenge the principles of logic that was foundational to the Enlightenment and modernity. Western logic is now looked upon with suspicion and competing forms of thinking are thought to be of equal value no matter how illogical they might appear to be. It’s as though there was no logical thought before Western Civilization invented it.

As Christians we need to be careful about what we accept in the name of progress. I say this because the Bible is full of logic which, if we didn’t know better, seems to come right out of modern western thinking. For example, as I’ve been reading the Old Testament, I have noticed God’s comments about the illogical nature of idolatry.

In Psalm 135:15ff for example, “The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak; eyes they have, but do not see; they have ears, but the do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them are like them; so is everyone who trusts in them.”

Isaiah 44 tells the incident of those who take a log and out of half of it make an idol and use the other half for fire wood to warm themselves. God says in verse 19, “No one considers in his heart, nor is there knowledge nor understanding to say, ‘I have burned half of it in the fire, yes, I have also baked bread on its coals; I have roasted meat and eaten it; and shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?’”

In the chapter in Hosea that I’ve been studying, God alludes to the same illogical practice when He says in 4:12, “My people inquire of a piece of wood, and their walking staff gives them oracles.”

God clearly sets out propositional truth in Scripture. That is, He makes statements which He claims are true and for which their opposites are false. This is all very difficult for the post-modern mind. Let’s not fall prey to its influences, but let’s stand for truth vs. error and right vs. wrong. That’s the way God’s Word assumes things to be and that’s the way we need to understand it.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Cistern or a Fountain?

As I’ve been reading Hosea, I’ve been impressed with how long suffering God has been in light of the sins of His people. In chapter 4 He aims directly at the priests and challenges them with the fact that they are the ones responsible because they have been the leaders in Israel’s rebellion. The leadership has rejected knowledge and has forgotten the law of God. God describes His people including the priests as having a spirit of whoredom. These are pretty strong words and ones which we don’t easily use as Christians, but God is not afraid to use them.

It is so easy to abandon the truth and the true source of all life, joy and happiness and go looking to the world and its philosophies to bring us what we think we need. Do we have that spirit of whoredom that looks everywhere but to God to bring us the satisfaction our heart needs?

Jeremiah 2:13 states the situation well. “For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves cisterns – broken cisterns that can hold no water.”

In other words, we tend to forsake the fountain where life is flowing continuously and generously and then we replace that fountain with a cistern, a storage tank. So rather than a fountain that flows, we prefer something that simply holds water. But wait! It’s a broken cistern so it can’t even hold the water!

I think this is an especially good time to year to look at our lives, refocus and make sure we are looking in the right place for our satisfaction in life.

Monday, December 17, 2007

God's Faithfulness to His Unfaithful People

In Hosea 2, God, speaking as the offended husband, tells his children to plead with their mother about her prostitution. Judgment is coming if she doesn’t repent of her behavior and lifestyle. God basically says that He won’t have mercy on her or her children. Her children are under judgment because they are the offspring of her lewd behavior.

The wife gives an amazing excuse for her behavior. She says that she will go after her lovers because they provide her the bread, water, clothes and other things she needs. Isn’t that the way it is so often with us? We look to the world to provide what we think we need and often justify our sin in the process.

God’s response to this is to propose a hedge and wall to keep her from going after her lovers. She will try to find them but will not be able to and in the end will say, “I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now.”

In explaining this God says that she did not know that it was He who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil she needed. In other words, others were getting credit for supplying what God actually had supplied. We do the same thing, don’t we. So often we don’t acknowledge the fact that all of the good things we have and enjoy are from the hand of God. We see the world as the source and so we pursue it and the pleasures that we think come from it. All of the while, God is the one providing all of the good gifts we enjoy.

As a means of getting Israel’s attention and securing her repentance, he promises to take back the grain, wine and other things that she has enjoyed. He threatens to put a stop to the mirth and festivals that have occupied her attention.

Then comes a truly amazing scene in Chapter 2 verse 14. God says, “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards….And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.”

He goes on to say, “And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’” He then says, “I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.” And then in verse 23, “I will sow her for myself in the land. And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’, and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’”

What a triumphant message of grace, mercy and faithfulness on God’s part. One can’t read this and think for one moment that our salvation is our doing. God maneuvers all of the circumstances around this unfaithful wife to bring about her ultimate return, repentance and fruitfulness. In spite of her unfaithfulness, God seeks her out and sets His loving attention upon her.

Do you know God to be working in that same way on your behalf? Do you see Him hedging you in so you can't get away and then faithfully calling you to Himself?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Marry a Prostitute?

“Go marry a prostitute.” What a command from God! That is exactly what God told Hosea to do. It was to be a picture of God and Israel. Just as Hosea’s wife Gomer was unfaithful and pursued other lovers, so God’s people Israel were unfaithful and pursued other gods.

Gomer bore three children to Hosea: a son, Jezreel, a daughter “No Mercy” and a son, “Not My People”. I’m not going to delve into the reason for the first name, but the second child was called No Mercy because God said that He would no more have mercy on the house of Israel. The third child was called Not My People because God said, “you are not my people, and I am not your God.”

But then an interesting thing happens. A promise begins to appear in God’s statements. In verse 10 God tells them that there numbers shall increase and then He says, “In the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people.’ It shall be said to them, ‘Children of the living God.’” So in the midst of this judgment there is the sign of mercy.

As we shall see, the primary emphasis here is on the nation Israel and its future restoration. However, Paul tells us in Romans 9 that God, “in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory, even us who he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles.” He then quotes from Hosea to show that those who were not God’s people he now calls “my people” and those who were not beloved he will call “beloved.”

What amazing grace and mercy that we should be called the children of God!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

A New Approach

I have just reached the book of Hosea in my personal Bible reading and I hope to slow down my pace and instead of trying to read a certain amount in a day, I want to focus more on what I’ve been reading. Of all the portions of Scripture that I’ve read, I have probably spent the least time in the Minor Prophets. I’m not going to use this blog to do an in-depth study of the book because I have found that I don’t have the ability to stay focused on the same study for a long time. What I would like to do though is to post some thoughts and insights that come along the way.

If you’ve been reading this blog for very long you will have noticed that I try to continue steadfastly in a series for a period of time. I have found that I’m not able to do that because by the time I’m ready to write the next installment, I’ve gone well past that topic in my personal thinking and study. In order to write more frequently and yet not frustrate myself in trying to maintain continuity, I’m going to write what I’m actually working on at the time. The result may be more disconnected articles. But you’ll just have to adjust and follow along. If articles are supposed to connect with previous ones, I’ll try to title them similarly so that you can follow the train of thought.

In the next post, then, I’ll share some thoughts on the first couple of chapters of Hosea.

Monday, December 03, 2007

A Blog Recommendation

If you have checked the side bar at all, you have seen that one of the recommended blogs is I appreciate the variety and depth of content which Challies posts virtually every day.

Right now Challies is offering a free give-away of a dvd series you might be interested in. I'm providing a link below. You can use this link to sign up to win and in doing so , you improve my chances to win. So you see, there is a motive behind my encouraging you to sign up.

Whether you do or not, you'll enjoy reading what Challies has to say as part of your regular blog-reading routine.

December Giveaway

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Faithfulness and Obedience

I was reading this morning in I Kings 15 about Abijam, one of the kings of Judah. Even though he did evil, God left him in power because of God's promise to David. In verse 5 there is a statement that should server as a challenge to each of us. "David did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite."

Now we all know the story of David's sin with Uriah's wife and that gets a lot of attention. Sometimes we, in our attempts to excuse sin, point to David as a man after God's own heart, but see what a sinner he was. We would do well to consider rather the quote from First Kings. Other than in that one matter, David did not turn aside from anything that God had commanded him all the days of his life.

What a challenge for our own lives this day.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Jesus' High Priestly Prayer -- Part 10

I’d like to take one more day to follow up on our previous two discussions. Look this time at Romans 8:28-30. Most of us know verse 28 where God says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Two posts ago we discussed the fact that God has given to Christ a people and that God has drawn them to Christ. We learned that all authority had been given to Christ for this purpose. The focus is on the saving work of God in the life of people. In the case of Romans 8:28, the people discussed are those who love God, i.e. those who are the called according to His purpose.

It’s important to notice that the thought does not end at the end of verse 28. Verse 29 begins with the word “For”. Those who were called were predestined to be conformed to the image of God’s Son and in this way Jesus is the firstborn among many brethren. This should remind of us of the previous post where Jesus is not ashamed to call us His brothers.

Verse 30 gives us the order of events involving the people referred to in verse 28. Notice that each of these verbs is in the past tense. They have already been accomplished as far as God is concerned. Also notice the order. We’re looking at Romans 8:30. Those he predestined He called. That means that if someone is called, He has been predestined. The ones who were called were justified. Sometimes we think some people who have been called were not justified, but here we see that if a person is called, he ends up justified as well. Those who were justified were also glorified.

So, if we work backwards from the conclusion, we can see that those who end up glorified in the end were those who were justified. If they were justified, they had been called and if they were called they had been predestined.

My purpose in bringing this up is not to extend controversies and debates that have gone on for centuries without agreement. My purpose is to strengthen our faith and joy in the power of God in the gospel. Our salvation is not based upon flimsy decisions that we make in ways similar to the way we decide whether to drive a Chevy or Ford or whether we want to be a Democrat or Republican. The decisions we make regarding Christ are rooted in His eternal love for us and the power of God in drawing and keeping us. These are eternal certainties that we know will save and keep us secure to the end.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Jesus' High Priestly Prayer -- Part 9

Last time we saw how all authority had been given to Christ for the purpose of providing salvation to all those God had given Him. I would like to expand on that a little bit this time by looking at another couple of passages outside the gospels. Look at Hebrews 2:10-13 for example. In this passage the writer talks about the fact that God is bringing many sons to glory. The part that amazes me is in verse 11 where it says that Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. Think about that. Jesus is not ashamed to call us His brothers.

The reason I bring this passage up in light of our previous discussion is that the writer in verse 13 quotes from Isaiah where he says, “Here am I and the children whom God has given me.” He talks about the children God has given Him. Last time we saw that God has given Jesus a people who He has covenanted to save and secure. In this passage He mentions them again and talks about them as children whom God has given Him and says that He is not ashamed to call them His brothers.

Let’s see if we can understand what God is saying. God the Father has given people to the Son to save and to keep. All of these will certainly come to Him because the Father draws them. Those who come will never be cast outside, but they are kept by God the Father and God the Son for eternity and will in fact be raised up the last day. And further more, these people who he is saving He calls His brothers and is not ashamed to do so.

Take some time today to think that all through and see what it does for your spiritual life and health.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Jesus' High Priestly Prayer -- Part 8

You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. John 17:2

In the last couple of posts I have emphasized the fact that Christ has been given authority over all flesh. We looked at what that means and how far-reaching that authority is. In this passage though, the focus for that authority is on the fact that He uses it to give eternal life to as many as the Father has given Him.

In John 6:37-40, Jesus states that all that the Father gives to Him will come to Him. Apparently there are some people whom the Father has given to the Son. Whoever they are, all of them without exception will come to Christ. If the Father gives them to the Son, they must be the Father’s to give. They belong to Him and He gives them to the Son. Everyone He gives, comes.

And how is it that this coming can be insured? Verse 44 of John 6 says that no one can come unless the Father draws him. Verse 65 says that no one can come unless it has been given to him by the Father. So we see that the Father has given some people to the Son. Those He has given are drawn by Him to the Son and the Son is under obligation by the will of God to keep them and not lose them and ultimately to raise them up on the last day. None of those who come will be rejected or cast out. In fact, he says, it is the Father’s will that He lose none of those He’s been given but will raise them up on the last day.

John 10:27, 28 talks about this same thing but using a different picture. In this case Jesus uses the illustration of sheep and a shepherd. In speaking of His sheep, Jesus says that His sheep hear His voice and follow Him. There are no sheep that don’t follow. They hear and follow. He gives them eternal life and they will never perish. That is the same thing He said in chapter six where He said that He would raise them up on the last day. In explaining why they will not perish He says that the Father who gave them to Him is greater than all. Here we see the parallel with chapter six and chapter seventeen. He speaks of the Father having given Him these sheep. They are a gift from God the Father and Jesus is to keep them just as the Father is keeping them.

So the point for today is that the authority that God has given to Christ was given to secure the permanent salvation of all of those people God has given to Christ. Their coming to Him is certain because the Father draws them and their keeping and security is assured because both the Father and the Son are holding on to them. None will be lost because this is God’s will and Christ’s mission.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Jesus' High Priestly Prayer -- Part 7

God has given Christ authority over all flesh. Nebuchadnezzar learned that “the Most High rules in the kingdom of men and gives it to whomever He chooses.” (Dan 4:32) He also learned that, “All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, ‘What have you done?’” (Dan 4:35) In Paul’s speech to the Athenians he says, “He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings.” (Acts 17:26)

The authority that God has given Christ is much more extensive than we usually think. In the verses just mentioned, He clearly is in charge of the affairs of men. He does as He wills among men putting those in charge He chooses and removing from power others. He has predetermined the extent of the various nations both in geography and time. There is no limit to His power among the inhabitants of the earth.

In Amos 3:6 we see a further example of the extent of His power. Amos says, “If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid? If there is calamity in a city will not the Lord have done it? Isaiah 45:6,7 says, “I am the Lord, and there is no other; I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I , the Lord do all these things.”

The so-called calamities and disasters that befall us are from the Lord’s hand. We certainly do not understand all His ways or why He brings these things upon us, but with God on the throne, there is no such thing as bad luck or chance events. God is in charge and has passed on all authority to Christ. As we learned earlier, the reason for Christ to have that authority is so that he might give eternal life to all those whom God has given Him.

There is purpose in all that happens. That purpose is rooted in the salvation of God’s people. Everything revolves around this purpose with the ultimate aim of bringing glory to God.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Jesus' High Priestly Prayer -- Part 6

We’re still studying and meditating on the Lord’s High Priestly Prayer in John 17. The last time we observed in verse 2 that Jesus acknowledged the fact that God had given Him authority over all flesh so that He should give eternal life to all those whom God had given Him.

As we continue to think about this, we notice that Jesus has been given all authority over all flesh. It was God the Father’s to give and He has given it to Christ. Paul told the men of Athens in Acts 17:30,31, “Truly these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained.”

This man, Jesus Christ, who has been given authority over all flesh is the ultimate judge. All will be judged by this one man and therefore God commands all men to repent. People seem content with the thought that one day they will die and face judgment. There seems to be very little fear of that day. But John 5:22 tells us that “the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son.” This means it isn’t God the father but God the Son that people will be confronted with on that day. How will that feel to be confronted by the very man that has been rejected, mocked and scorned as a fraud; the one who has been disbelieved and ignored?

Being confronted with that fact in this life is the God-given reason why all men should repent and are commanded to do so.

May God help those of us who know Him to be faithful in being a strong witness and testimony of this One who has been given such authority because He was faithful to suffer and die in our place.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Jesus' High Priestly Prayer -- Part 5

It’s been a couple of weeks since we last looked at John 17 together, but it’s important to keep moving forward and thinking through what we have before us. This is a most amazing passage because it gives us a listening ear into the conversation between two of the persons of the trinity. It is God the Son talking to God the Father.

In verse 2 we read, “as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.”

To me, the key word in this verse is “that”. Jesus is saying that God has given Him authority over all flesh for a reason. In our conversations we say things like, “I’m going to drive to town so that…” As soon as you hear that you know you are going to hear the reason why I’m going to town. It might be to buy groceries or to put gas in the car or to mail a letter.

Jesus is doing the same thing here. He says that He has been given authority over all flesh so …what? So that He should give eternal life to all of those the Father has given Him. The purpose of His authority is so that eternal life might be given. Without the authority the eternal life could not have been given.

In order for eternal life to be given, the gospel must be preached because the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. Jesus says in Matthew 28:18, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” There it is again. He has been given authority. In this passage He goes on to say that His disciples should therefore go and make other disciples.

Notice the focus in John 17:2. All of the focus is on the authority God gave the Son to give eternal life to all of those who the Father had given Him. This is the essence of what Jesus said in John 6:39, “This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.” He goes on to say in the next verse that it is God’s will that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.

Everything God is doing is centered on glorifying Himself by giving eternal life to those whom God has given to Christ. God is in the saving business.

When we think of the words of Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good…” we should not think of it in trite terms like people so often do during hard circumstances, i.e. “Don’t worry, it will all turn out for the best.” It is a statement of Almighty God telling us that He is at work in all things for the eternal good of His children.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Jesus' High Priestly Prayer -- Part 4

Jesus’ prayer is, “Father glorify your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You.” The glory of God is so important to Him that it forms the motivation for all He does. So many times we turn everything around and make ourselves the center of all God does. Even when we preach the gospel and talk about the death of Christ we focus on ourselves as the center and reason for all that took place. We attribute the entire event to God’s love for us. Granted, He does love us, but that is not the center, focus and reason for the saving work of God.

In Isaiah 48:9ff for example, we read, “For My name’s sake I will defer My anger, and for My praise I will restrain it from you, so that I do not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For My own sake, for my own sake, I will do it; for how should My name be profaned? And I will not give My glory to another.”

In Isaiah 43:25, “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.”

After speaking about His judgment on Israel for profaning His holy name, God says in Ezekiel 36:22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the Lord,” says the Lord God.’”

Lest you think this is found only in the Old Testament, 1 John 2:12 says, “I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.”

The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness. (Romans 1:18) Why is this wrath unleashed against us? Verse 21 tells us the answer: “because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful…”

The glory of God is extremely important to Him. It is the reason He does what He does, it is what we are to be about even down to the most mundane aspects of our physical life, and the lack of such glory is the reason for His wrath being poured out upon humanity.

Shouldn’t this knowledge motivate us to be more focused on how we can do a better job at reflecting God’s glory in our lives – our homes, marriages, recreation, work, and churches?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Jesus' High Priestly Prayer -- Part 3

Continuing now with our discussion of Jesus’ prayer, we can see the purpose for His request is that the Father glorify Him. Jesus prays, “Father glorify your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You.” Jesus’ desire is that God might be glorified.

What does it mean to glorify God? To me it means to make God look good in all the facets of His character. Jesus spent His entire life seeking to be obedient to God and to show what He was like so that people would see God in all His beauty and praise Him as a result.

Just as for Jesus, our motivation as we pray ought to be based on the glory of God. Even in the “Lord’s Prayer” we read the phrase, “Hallowed be thy name.” Even the seemingly mundane aspects of our life are to be to the glory of God. See for example I Corinthians 10:31 where we are told that even our eating and drinking should be done to the glory of God.

Some people try to separate the material world from the spiritual. This attempt has its roots in Gnosticism and is rejected by the Word of God. In I Corinthians 6:19 we read, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

The reason I bring this up is because God’s glory is at stake in the way we treat and use our body. This fleshly, material thing we call our body belongs to God. It is not our own. It has been given to us to use in this material world to interface with the world around us and to interact with others. It is not evil as the Gnostics teach. It is not to be used for our own sinful purposes, but to demonstrate the glory of the almighty creator God.

Scripture brings the goal of glorifying God right down to the nitty gritty of our life in our body in this physical world.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Jesus' High Priestly Prayer -- Part 2

We’re continuing our series of thoughts on Jesus’ high priestly prayer of John 17.

In the next phrase of Christ’s prayer He says that the “hour has come.” At least three times (John 7:6 John 2:4 John 7:30) the Scripture says that His hour had not yet come. Here though the time has come. The whole purpose of His coming was to die on the cross to pay the penalty of sin. That time was upon Him at that very moment. The crucial events immediately leading up to the crucifixion had begun. This was it.

It’s interesting though to observe the way He describes this hour. It is the hour of His glorification. Sometimes we look at the betrayal of Christ and His rejection by the people and His ultimate crucifixion as anything but glorious. But to Jesus and to God, this was what it was all about. This was the purpose for his coming. In John 12:27 Jesus’ soul is described as troubled and Jesus says clearly that for this purpose He had come to this hour. The glory of God is revealed in the cross and to unpack all of that would take an entire book, but what strikes me as crucial is what Romans 3:26 says. The cross was a demonstration of the righteousness of God in that God was just in His condemnation and judgment of sin and at the same time gracious in that He is able to justify those who have faith in Jesus.

To me this is the glory of the Gospel. Some people look at God as a kind loving grandfather figure who lovingly embraces all. And while that picture has some sentimental beauty, it does not accurately show forth the glory of God’s righteousness and justice. Who else but God could have thought of a means whereby both aspects of His glory could be shown in one event!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Jesus High Priestly Prayer - Part 1

I’m enjoying a beautiful Michigan day while listening to a Brahms symphony on my ipod and taking some time to think and meditate on the Word of God in preparation for teaching Sunday School tomorrow. This is blueberry country and our daughter gave us some blueberry flavored coffee for our anniversary and so I am enjoying that as well.

We’re studying John 17 in our adult Sunday School class and so this passage is dominating my thinking during this stretch of the late summer.

This passage is often referred to as our Lord’s high priestly prayer. Given the fact that He is praying for all of those His Father had given Him, we can understand why people have given the passage this heading.

He begins the prayer, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You.” John 17:1

Many things could be observed here. For example, he addresses God as Father. Obviously He is the Son of God and therefore it makes sense that He would address God this way. My thoughts immediately shifted to the “Lord’s Prayer” where Jesus taught us how to pray. He told us that we should pray, “Our Father”. Isn’t it an amazing thing to think about the fact that Jesus would teach us to address God in the same way that He does? What right could we possibly have to pray this way?

The reason of course is that we have been adopted as one of God’s children. Romans 8:15 says, “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’”

Some people would generalize this to say this applies to all human beings, but John 1:12 tells us that “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”

Because of our adoption as God’s children we have the right and privilege to address Him as Father just as He did. The next time you address God as Father in your prayers, do it consciously and with gratitude for your adoption as one of His sons.

Check back frequently as we consider more of Jesus' prayer in the days ahead.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Free From the Law

One of the most powerful and life-transforming truths that we need to grasp when it comes to our death with Christ is our relationship to the law.

Paul told the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 15:56 “the strength of sin is the law.” In Romans 7:8 we read, “But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead.” He goes on to explain that it isn’t the law’s fault. It is sin that is the problem, but sin used the opportunity that the law provided and brought death.

Romans chapter 7 begins by discussing the marriage relationship. Basically if a woman marries another man while her first husband is still alive she is committing adultery, but if her husband has died, she is free from the law of her husband and is therefore not committing adultery if she marries another man. Paul’s point is that in the same way we died to the law when we died with Christ. The law no longer has jurisdiction in our case.

The sinful passions that were aroused by the law brought forth fruit for death. But now (verse 6) having died to what we were bound by we are able to serve in the newness of the Spirit. In this way, as verse 4 tells us, we are able to bring forth fruit to God.

The law, although good, gives sin its power. When our relationship to the law changed through our death with Christ, sin’s ability to gain strength through the law has been destroyed.

The key to victory as we deal with temptation and sin in our lives is to realize our position in Christ which is that there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1) Neither the law nor Satan, the accuser of the brethren, can hold over us the threat of death and punishment for sin. The penalty for sin is death – but – we have already died with Christ. The punishment has already taken place. We have died and been raised to a new life and the guilt is gone. The law that would accuse us doesn’t apply any more.

Take some time to mull these things over in your mind and meditate on them. Read through Romans 6-8 every day for a week and see what God will do in your life as you begin to live out the truth of your death and resurrection with Christ.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Out with the old, in with the new.

It’s hard for me to believe that it has been nearly a month since I last wrote on this blog. It has been an extremely busy stretch of time for us, but most of the pressures and time constraints have eased and I’m hoping to get back into the discipline of writing. I don’t know how many readers are out there. If you come upon these entries and are inclined to do so, I would enjoy hearing from you. My main goal is to be an encouragement to my brothers in Christ as well as to challenge myself to stay in the word and really think through and meditate on what it says.

The last time I wrote about the cross and its power in our lives I spoke about the fact that Scripture speaks very clearly about what our natural heart is like. Even if Christ saved us at an early age, all of the propensities of the sinful nature of our natural self were there. I won’t repeat all of that but I do encourage you to go back and read through it before you continue.

The purpose of salvation is not just to provide us with a home in heaven some day. The purpose is to save us from our sins. Mary and Joseph were told to name him “Jesus” because He would save His people from their sins. The verses we looked at last time list for us sinful characteristics that were part of the old man but which now in Christ are to be put away. If you go back and review these passages you will see that many of these traits are repeated over and over. If we consolidate the lists and admonitions, we have something like this:

The following attitudes and behaviors should not even be hinted at among the people of God. They belong to the old life and we have spent enough time in the past living like this. These are the kinds of things that are the cause of the wrath of God that is going to descend on the world and so they have no business being a part of the Christian’s life. I’m speaking of things like fornication, lewdness, uncleanness, filthiness, covetousness (a.k.a. idolatry), foolish talking, coarse jesting, evil desire, passion. These things should be put to death in your life and should be replaced by things such as love, joy, peace, gentleness, meekness, thankfulness, etc. (Summarized from Ephesians 5; Colossians 3; I Peter 4)

This list aims at the heart of what dominates most of our thinking as men. Even we who are Christian men struggle with many of these natural, sinful tendencies. The secret to overcoming is in reckoning ourselves to be dead, buried and risen with Christ and learning to reshape our thinking to be in accordance with the truth of God’s Word.

More on that next time.

Monday, June 11, 2007

New Attitude Conference - Discerning our Idols

I want to bring your attention to a great series of messages on Discernment -- a much needed topic these days. The New Attitude conference featured such men as Joshua Harris, Al Mohler, John Piper, C.J. Mahaney and others

I found CJ's messages on Discerning the Heart particularly challenging. The focus was on discerning the idols in our heart. This message was challenging and encouraging at the same time. It's so easy for us to harbor idols in our lives. CJ presents the clear teaching of Scripture that God condemns idolatry in whatever form it surfaces. Idolatry is condemned probably more than any other sin. Feed your soul by listening to this message. You will find it along with the other messages here.

CJ makes reference to some other materials to help focus our attention on the idols lurking in our souls. These resources can be found near the bottom of this page.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Human Nature

As a result of the fact that we have died and been raised together with Christ, we are to think in certain ways concerning the natural inclinations of the heart.

Ephesians 2 says, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.”

Our natural condition was one of being dead in sins. We walked according to the way the world walked which itself is after the plan of Satan who Paul calls the prince of the power of the air. This spirit is a real being who is even now working in the sons of disobedience. Scripture teaches us that every one of us was among this group who conducted our lives fulfilling the lusts of our flesh and the desires of our mind. This is a condition which is natural. It is characteristic of us as we are born into this world.

Paul tells us again in Ephesians 5, “But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; 4 neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.”

And in Colossians 3, “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, 7 in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.”

Peter tells us in his first letter in chapter 4, “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. 3 For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries.”

As I observe the world around me, the constant stream of images from television and movies, and the tendencies of my own heart, I recognize that what God says to us through His Word in these passages is true. The amazing this is that while we were still sinners Christ died for us and it is through His death and resurrection that we not only have forgiveness of these things, but we have the new life and power to be changed.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Adjusting to Life after Resurrection

The last time we observed that our death with Christ on the cross is not only death to something, but more importantly represents our living for something. We are to count certain things to be true and then to live accordingly. Our death and resurrection with Christ means that we should walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4) Life after death and resurrection is not the same as it was before!

This is what Peter says in the first three verses of First Peter 4, “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.” In other words, we are to arm ourselves with the way of thinking that truly looks at our life as being post-resurrection. We are to “arm” ourselves with this way of thinking. That means that when we reckon these things to be true of us and live in the light of that truth, it is a means of defense for us against the onslaughts of sin coming from the world, the flesh and the devil.

Paul told us in Romans 6 that our death with Christ was a death to sin and the resurrection we had with Christ was a resurrection to God. The old needs to be put behind us and the focus needs to be God-ward. Isn’t that what Paul meant when he wrote in Colossians 3, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

We are to consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God. Since we’ve been raised with Christ we are to set our minds and seek those things which are above. These exhortations tell me that I need to think differently. I need to train my mind to approach life differently. Paul told the Romans that they should be transformed by a renewing of their minds. Our minds, our thought life play such an important part in living the Christian life. Living by faith means we need to believe what God has said about our position with Him and the reality of our having been raised with Him. Because of the reality of this, we need to refocus our attention and learn to adjust our thinking to focus on the things of God and not the things of this earth.

This is not an easy thing. Most of us have been steeped in our culture long enough to have gained patterns of thinking that need to be totally undone and renewed along biblical lines. It takes effort and personal discipline through the power of the Spirit applying the Word of God in our lives. May God help us to be faithful men in making this kind of reality thinking a priority in our lives.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Dead With Christ

“Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” As we mentioned last time, Paul asks this question because he is working on the deeper question of how we can live in sin when we have died with Christ. He asks us if we realize that when we were placed into Christ by the Holy Spirit we were placed into His death. Our victory is fundamentally rooted in the fact that we died with Christ, but it is also necessary that we know that so that we count it as true and live accordingly.

Paul walks us through the logic of his argument in Romans 6. Death with Christ leads to resurrection with Christ. It isn’t just death to the old, it is death to the old AND a new life on the other side of the resurrection. But that resurrection is not just the actual future resurrection, it is a resurrection to new life now. Consider verse 4. “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (See Adrian Warnock's blog here: Adrian's Blog: Resurrection Empowered Life - Dying to Live)

This also is the point in verses 5-11. If we have been in the likeness of His death, we will also be in the likeness of His resurrection. Verse 8 tells us that if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him. Verse 10 says that the death He died, He died to sin, but the life He lives, He lives to God. Therefore (verse 11) we are to reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ.
Christ, of course, did not sin, but He was tempted in all points like we are. He died to all of that on the cross. On the other side of the cross, death no longer has dominion. The temptations were over. In that same way we are to count it as so that we died also so that we can walk in newness of life, that we should no longer be slaves to sin and that we might be alive to God.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Power of Reckoning

To reckon means to count on, to account for something. We are going to look at several places in Scripture where we are told to reckon something to be true. That means to count it as true and live in light of its truthfulness. It means to align our lives with the truthfulness of particular facts.

The best place to begin to understand this is in Romans 6. In verse 11 Paul writes, “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We’ll go back and look at the context in a moment, but what exactly is God telling us to do here? He is saying that we should count ourselves dead to sin. We should live in accordance with the truth that has been presented that we died with Christ. It is inconsistent to live any other way. Living a life in sin is contrary to what is true about us. The Holy Spirit, through the Apostle Paul, is making that argument from verse one of the chapter. “Shall we continue in sin so that grace may abound?” What is the answer? God forbid! What is the reason? Because it is against the will of God? It is against the will of God, but that is not the reason that is given here. The reason is an appeal to the consistency of how we live compared to what is true about us. He says, “How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?”

He challenges us based upon the reality of our death to sin in Christ. He then considers the possibility that we might not know that we were in His death when He died. The presumption is that if we know this truth, it should affect our lives. This struck me as kind of interesting since we often say that it is up to the Holy Spirit to work in us to get us to do the right thing. This is true of course, but the Holy Spirit doesn’t work in a vacuum. He works using the Word of God.

….to be continued

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Cross -- Part 3

In my last article I discussed the fact that Christ’s death for us was substitutionary. That means He took our place on the cross. Because He took our sin and its penalty there, we are able to receive the forgiveness of God and actually have imputed to us the righteousness of Christ.

There is an important scriptural truth that we need to study in order to fully lay hold of the victory Christ won for us on the cross. In Romans 6:3 it says, “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

I Corinthians 12:13 says, “For  by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.”

When we trust Christ and receive Him, the Holy Spirit places us into the body of Christ. We are joined to Him. So Paul wrote in Romans 6 that those who were baptized into Christ Jesus were also baptized into His death. He tells us in verse 6 that our “old man” was crucified with Christ. In Galatians 2:20 Paul says it this way, “I have been crucified with Christ….”

Because of the fact that we have been placed into Christ, we were present in Him when He died on the cross.

The Bible not only teaches that we died with Christ, but that we were buried, risen and ascended with Him as well. Consider the following Scriptures:

Colossians 2:12-13 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,

Colossians 3:1-3 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.

Ephesians 2:4-7 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in  His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Notice the tense of the verbs in the Ephesians passage. They are all past tense. God made (past tense) us alive together with Christ. He raised (past tense) us up together, and made (past tense) us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. We need to believe these statements as the truth whether it feels true or not. We are to reckon them as being the reality in which we live and the true condition of our lives before God. Next time we’ll look at how we are to use the truth of these statements to help us live lives that are pleasing to God.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Cross - Part 2

I think the place to begin our thinking and meditation on the cross and its power and impact on our lives is to remember that it was at that place and time that Almighty God Himself bore the penalty of sin on our behalf. We say it was a “substitutionary” death because He died in our place.

Paul wrote in Philippians 3:9 that his chief aim was to have the righteousness of God credited to him rather than be found in the rags of his own righteousness. Isaiah 64:6 tells us that all of our righteousness is as filthy rags in the sight of God.

How did we make the jump from a substitutionary death to righteousness? The answer is the cross, for as Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

When Adam sinned in the garden that day, he dragged the whole human race down with him. All of mankind was in Adam at the moment of his rebellion and we have all “seconded” the motion of rebellion by our own actions and deeds once we actually arrived in person in this world. God then is confronted by a whole race of creatures who are in revolt against Him. The just retribution for this treason is death. But God, because of His great love for us and to demonstrate the glory of His grace, sent Christ to die for us while we were still sinners and rebels. The sentence of death was on our heads, and “He Himself bore our sins in His own body on the cross…” (1 Peter 2:24) He was our substitute.

Having taken our sin upon Himself there, He not only grants forgiveness, but amazingly credits us with His perfect righteousness so that when God looks at our record, He sees the righteousness of Christ. That is why Paul said that he wants to be found in Him, not with his own righteousness, but with the righteousness of God. (Philippians 3:9)

Does everyone automatically have this forgiveness and replaced righteousness? No, God tells us that we must repent of our sins and believe the Good News; receive Christ; believe in Him; accept the free gift.
Our right understanding of the cross then is foundational to the victory and power of the cross in our lives. The key, which we will look at in subsequent articles, is that of being “in Him”. You see it in Philippians 3:9 and again in 2 Corinthians 5:21 which was quoted earlier.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Cross -- Part 1

The cross of Christ is central, not only to human history, but also to our successful living of the Christian life. It is this thought, begun over the recent Easter season, that provoked my thinking for this series.

Paul wrote in Philippians 3:10, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” He also wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:2 “For I determined not to know anything among you, except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” Jesus told us in John 12:24-25, “Most assuredly, I say to you,  unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. 25  He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” Obviously from these passages and many more that we will examine, Christ’s death on the cross is central and key in all areas of the Christian’s life and experience.

There are two issues which are intertwined in my thinking. The first has to do with the truth that we were in Christ when He died and there is resulting victory and power in the resurrection life we share with Him. The second thread of thought has to do with the fact that in order to keep our life and bring forth fruit for God, we are to take up our cross daily and die to self and live for Christ. I’m going to be trying to think through and meditate on how these two concepts might be related. You may have some comments you want to add to the mix. Feel free to do so.
I’m not able to write my articles every single day so if you decide you want to follow this study, you’ll have to be patient with me and check back frequently to see how the study is proceeding. You can also set up your browser for RSS feeds that will allow you to know when I’ve posted the next installment.

Monday, April 23, 2007

There's more to come, but in the meantime--

I'm still working through some things I want to write related to the cross and its centrality in our lives. There is the challenge and motivation given by the Apostle Paul to be able to apply the truth of our death with Christ and resurrection with Him.

So that is what I'm working on and thus the delays in the posting here on Faithful Men.

In the mean time I'd like to refer you to my wife's blog over at She Is Blessed: Loving Your Children - Part 2. She challenges all parents of young children with the importance of shielding them from the details of tragedies such as the Virginia Tech shootings. Obviously there comes a point when they have to be aware of the reality of sin and tragedy, but some of these things instill fear in children and we know that God has not given us the spirit of fear. I also refer you to Tim's blog.

Have a great day in the Lord.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Risking our Lives

In teaching my Sunday School class from the book of John, I was struck by a particular statement that Jesus made in John 12:24-25. He said this: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

Those are pretty strong words, aren’t they?

In Mark 8:34, 35 He says something similar: “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.”

Over the next several weeks I encourage you to join me in thinking this through. Do we believe these are statements of absolute truthfulness? If so, why do we continually risk losing it all by trying to hold on to this life so tightly? What are the implications for us as men in the various roles we have in following this admonition? What are the implications in our homes with our wife and children as we apply this in those particular roles?

I would love some feedback on this topic. If you have some thoughts, let's hear them.

Have a wonderful celebration of Christ’s triumphant resurrection tomorrow as you meet together to worship Him.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Sexual Purity

A couple of weeks ago, I discovered a series of messages on purity given by Josh Harris. He is the man that several years ago wrote the book “I Kissed Dating Goodbye”. Since that time he has become senior pastor at Covenant Life Church in the Washington D.C. area. This is an excellent series for each of us to listen to because it lifts up the importance of sexual purity and magnifies God’s view of marriage. The messages, especially the first three or four, are straight forward and mince no words in the teaching that God created us as sexual beings and set the standards for living pure lives within the boundaries God has designed. I don’t know if I have ever heard this clear of instruction from the Word of God on this topic. I recommend the series for anyone who wants a deeper understanding of God’s intentions for our purity.

The series is in 6 parts and for now at least can be found and downloaded free of charge from the Covenant Life website here:

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A Father's Love

One of the things I’m trying to do as I meditate on various passages of Scripture is to think through how it applies to the various roles I have as a man. Besides admonitions to me generally as a man, I consider how it affects me as a husband and then as a father.

If you’ve been following the previous posts you know that we have been thinking together about agape love. Peter had told us to add various traits to our faith with the pinnacle trait being love. We’ve thought a little bit together about this kind of love expressed toward our wife. I now want to think a little bit about what it means for a father to have this kind of love.

Love is patient. It bears long. It is mild and slow in seeking to get even. How are we doing in this area as a father? There’s a fine balance. We are to be patient and to bear long, but we are responsible to give our children the right kind of discipline and that usually means responding in a timely way to their poor behavior or disobedience.

Love is kind. We know what kindness is. Are we kind to our children? What about when they have been disobedient? God disciplines us with kindness. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to bear or doesn’t hurt. We need to treat our children with kindness and respect.

Love does not envy. It is not zealous and angry over some benefit, characteristic or skill the other person has. Are we being a good example in this area in our home?

Love does not puff itself up. A loving man will not act in a puffed up way toward his children. It’s not right first of all, and secondly, we don’t want to be the wrong kind of example for our children.

Love does not boast of ones abilities or extol his own virtues.

Love is not rude. It is not unbecoming and crude. As we relate to our children, we must behave in a way that is appropriate and becoming of a Christian. No rude or crude treatment of our children should be a part of our lives.

Love does not seek its own way. How hard is this one? We are supposed to be the leaders in our homes. We are to be the head. Doesn’t that mean we should seek our own way? The leadership we have should be a godly selfless leadership. This should be true as it relates to our children. We have the position where we could dictate virtually every decision in the family. However, love does not seek its own way. It’s ok to let the children have their way once in a while. I’m not talking about giving in to their misbehavior. I’m suggesting that if the kids want to go to McDonalds but you would rather have a Burger King, it doesn’t hurt to submit your will to theirs.

Love is not irritable. It is not easily stirred to anger nor is it easily riled up. Even though the behavior of my wife or children may be such that would rile up or stir up a natural man, these same events occurring in the life of a loving man will not rile him up.

Love is not resentful. It does not think evil of the other person or what the other person has done. Discipline and punishment should not come from a resentful heart or motive.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Loving our Wife, Continued

I’m still thinking about the importance of agape love in a marriage relationship especially as it relates to the husband’s role. As I read 1 Corinthians 13, my attention is focused on 9 concepts. I may come back and visit these in more detail in the future, but for now a short comment about each one will suffice.

Love is patient. It bears long. It is mild and slow in seeking to get even. So it’s important to ask myself how I am doing in this area. Do I carry grudges? Do I try to make sure everything is evened out? Hopefully not.

Love is kind. We know what kindness is. Am I kind to my wife? …all the time?

Love does not envy. It is not zealous and angry over some benefit, characteristic or skill the other person has. Are we being a good example in this area in our home?

Love does not puff itself up. A loving man will not bear himself in a cocky, arrogant way. He will not act and behave as though the whole world revolves around him. How are we doing guys?

Love does not boast of ones abilities or extol his own virtues.

Love is not rude. It is not unbecoming and crude. This is an area where we men have to be careful. We are not women and it is inappropriate to try to develop the softness of character that a woman has. However, there is no excuse for being rude or crude. Even though men are hardened and tough, we need to be able to treat our wife and family with kind politeness.

Love does not seek its own way. How hard is this one? We are supposed to be the leaders in our homes. We are to be the head. Doesn’t that mean we should seek our own way? The leadership we have should be a godly selfless leadership. We don’t need to get our own way unless our way is a godly way in contrast to a sinful or worldly way our wife might choose. But really, how often does that happen? God humbled Himself and took the position of a servant. This is God’s expectation for us as well.

Love is not irritable. It is not easily stirred to anger nor is it easily riled up. Even though the behavior of my wife or children may be such that would rile up or stir up a natural man, these same events occurring in the life of a loving man will not rile him up.

Love is not resentful. It does not think evil of the other person or what the other person has done. Colossians 3:19 tells us that we are to love our wife and not to be bitter or exasperated toward her.

Take some time to read and reread these basic 9 characteristics of godly, biblical love. How does your level of love stack up against the standard? If you’re like me, it doesn’t come close to being what God would like it to be. And yet, this is what Peter told us we should be diligent in adding our life.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Loving our Wife with God's Love

As I’ve been studying the traits listed in 2 Peter 1:5-8, I’ve come to the last one in the list which is agape love. We men have a tendency to skip over details in the attempt to finish a project. The same thing happens in our study of the Word. Therefore, in order to avoid that tendency, I began to think through what’s involved in adding and increasing this kind of love in my life as it relates to my role as a husband. Scripture of course is not silent on this issue, so follow along as I work through this a little bit.

Ephesians 5:25-28 says the following: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.”

The word “love” in these verses is agape – the kind of selfless, giving love that God has for us. This love does not flow from feelings and emotion, although both may be present. Rather, this is the kind of love that gives without expecting anything in return.

A husband, then, is to love his wife in exactly the same way that Christ loved the church. What Christ did out of love for the church was to give Himself for her. Similarly, we husbands should give of ourselves for our wife. Christ of course gave His life and there is a sense in which we need to be willing to give our life to protect our wife. But probably more difficult than this is the fact that we are to be giving ourselves for our wife all of the time. This means that there will be sacrifice. We will not be able to do all of the things we would do if we were single. Not only will we give up some of the things we would rather do, love does this without becoming bitter or resentful in the process. 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that love does not seek its own interests. Rather it gives itself for the interests of others.

Continuing in Ephesians, Paul explains the purpose for the self sacrifice—“that He might present her to himself a glorious church …that she should be holy and without blemish.” While we can’t provide ourselves as an atonement for our wife, our goal should be similar. As the head of our wife, we are to love her by helping her to grow in her faith and relationship with Christ. Our efforts should be focused on increasing her holiness and godliness through loving ministry of the Word to her.

If you’re like me, an immediate reaction to this thought is, “How am I supposed to do that when I’m not so sure of my own holiness and godliness?” That thought should bring us to the motivation to become the man God wants us to be in our own relationship with Him so that we will then have the resources to help our wife in her spiritual walk. What a tremendous this responsibility this is. When we say, “I do” on our wedding day, we are taking on this commitment.

The unfortunate thing is that we do not seem to be getting this message across to the young men we are raising in our churches and we do not seem to be teaching our young women to be looking for this desire and characteristic to be present and growing in the life of the men they date.

It would be interesting to get an online discussion going on this topic and the implications for dating and courtship in our society.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Adding Love

The pinnacle of attributes or characteristics to be added to our faith is love. Each one of these traits is built on the preceding ones. Last time we saw that brotherly love was added to the mix. Now, built upon that we have agape love. It is an interesting study to investigate these two kinds of love – brotherly love and agape love – to see what they have in common and how they differ. (William Dicks does a good job of comparing the two on his blog here.) Vine distinguishes them by saying that phileo more nearly represents tender affection. Agape love is one that values and esteems. It is an unselfish love, ready to serve. Vine also says that agape “is not an impulse from the feelings, it does not always run with the natural inclinations.”

Paul tells us in I Corinthians 13 that we can have a lot of good attributes and do many admirable things, but if love is missing we are but a sounding brass or clanging cymbal. We may have all kinds of faith, but without love we are nothing and we are profited nothing.

Perhaps then we can see why Peter would put love at the very top of the list. Without all of these traits and love as the pinnacle, Peter says we are shortsighted, even to blindness. (2 Peter 1:9)

My question to us as faithful men then is how do we add this to all of the rest. What steps can we concretely and diligently take to develop this characteristic?

1 John 4:7 (NKJV)7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

First and foremost then is the need to be born of God. We cannot be faithful men and have this kind of love if we have not been born again through the Spirit of God.

If we are born again, then we have experienced the love of God first hand and should be able to communicate that love to others. What steps can we take to develop the kind of love we should have? We just need to practice. God gives us opportunities every day with our families and coworkers and people we meet along the way to practice loving those who may not deserve it. If Vine is correct that this love is not based upon our feelings, we should not wait until it feels right to demonstrate love. We need to just practice. Practice sacrificing your time and energy for someone else just because it is right and good to do so.

May God help us as we practice the diligence of adding this kind of love into our lives.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Brotherly Love - Our Wife

Brotherly love (kindness) and our spouse. Now there’s a topic for you. If we are to add brotherly kindness to our lives, it must fit in somehow with our interaction with those around us and that certainly would include our wife. Brotherly love in the Greek is philadelphia. The kind of love involved here is different from agape love in that it is more like tender affection. It is even used of the love the Father has for the Son in John 3:35. The interesting thing is that this word is never used in a command for us to love God in this way. Brotherly love conveys the thought of cherishing the object of love above everything else and is characterized by constancy. (Thoughts taken from Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words.)

So in thinking this through it seems to me that we should exhibit this kind of love toward our wife. We promised to love and cherish her above all others when we said our vows on our wedding day, but how easy it is to get into a selfish mode of living. Other passages we have looked at speak of kindness and giving preference toward one another. Have you ever thought how much easier it is to give preference to co-workers and to be polite and considerate of them more so than it is to have these same characteristics toward our own wife? If you think about it, shouldn’t it actually be the other way around.

May God help us as we diligently add brotherly kindness to our lives, especially toward our wife.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Adding Brotherly Kindness

I’m continuing my series through 2 Peter 1:5-8.

According to 2 Peter 1:7 we are to provide brotherly love for (or in) our godliness. In other words, our piety is not to be such that separates us and isolates us from our brothers in Christ, but is to provide the foundation for brotherly kindness. Sometimes piety takes on a holier-than-thou attitude which tends to drive a wedge between Christians. How different true piety is from this sort of individualistic false piety.

Romans 12:10 gives us some idea of what’s involved in brotherly love. This passage tells us to “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.” What this tells me is that brotherly love is more than just being friendly. It involves kindness and giving preference toward one another. I Peter 3:8 adds to that by telling us to have compassion, tender hearted and courteous. I Peter 1:22 adds that we should love one another with a pure heart.

Writing about brotherly kindness seems difficult to me because it seems like such an obvious thing to understand. What is there to explain? However, I think we men have difficulty with this. On the one hand we may develop a camaraderie that is kind of a macho guy thing, but lacks depth and courtesy and honesty. On the other hand we may not have developed any sort of brotherly relationship with other men and are attempting to go it alone. What God wants from us is a relationship that is deep, honest, courteous and having some component of tenderness and affection to it.
What’s a challenge to me in this passage is the fact that we are to be diligent in adding to our faith these various dimensions. How then does one go about adding brotherly love? If you have any thoughts or insight, I would enjoy hearing them.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Adding Godliness

According to 2 Peter 1:6, the next characteristic we are to provide in our faith is godliness. I had originally thought this word meant that our aim was to become like God as much as possible. The word actually means pious or devout. It has to do with a godward attitude that does what is well pleasing to Him. It involves the practice of the reverent disciplines which might be called religious duties. This would include such things as praying, meditation on the Word and participating in the worship and ordinances of the church. This kind of piety also includes a reverent respect for God's created order -- such areas as marriage, family, government and creation.

In 1 Timothy 4:7, the Apostle Paul tells us to reject profane and old wives fables and to exercise toward godliness. In elaborating on this point he writes in the next verse, “For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.”

It seems to me that this is an especially important point for those of us who desire to be faithful men. We men normally hold up physical strength as an ideal to be pursued. But even if that goal is achieved it is effective only for the length of this physical life. Usually our strength dissipates well before the end of our physical life. But in this passage we learn that godliness profits now and in the life that is to come. Doesn’t that have something to say about our priorities in life? Just as it takes exercise to increase our physical strength and endurance it takes exercise to increase and improve our godliness. If godliness consists of the religious duties and spiritual practices mentioned above, then to exercise ourselves toward godliness means to work at and make priorities out of such disciplines.

Paul elaborates on this in chapter 6 when he says that godliness with contentment is great gain. We are so easily distracted by what the world holds up as necessary for success and gain in life. Here again the real answer is basic and simple – godliness with contentment. We are to be content with such things as we have. Another component then of exercising toward godliness would be to develop the practice of thankfulness and contentment.
As we look forward to the year 2007, let’s focus on priorities and resolutions that fall in line with God’s will for us. Let’s be diligent in our pursuit of godliness.