Saturday, January 31, 2009

Locomotives

“. . . And while both wives and husbands are responsible for the debacle it is husbands who have done the most dam­age, and it is they who can, if they will, do the most good. If the train doesn't move, repair the locomotive. Don't let the cars sit around blaming themselves for not being engines. Above all, don't let them try to act as if they were. For the cars have their own function, they are what the train is really about. They are what the engine is for. All the space in a husband is supposed to be given over to providing traction; it is the wife's capacity for freight that makes the trip worthwhile. . .”

—Robert Capon, Bed and Board: Plain Talk About Marriage

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Eyes of Texas are Upon You

How many times have you seen (or heard) someone do something (good or bad), and they never knew that you saw them? Perhaps they didn’t see you seeing them. Perhaps they didn’t recognize you, and thus their guard was down. No doubt, you have also been both pleasantly and unpleasantly surprised by what you observed; pleased or disappointed in the person. It works the other way as well. You too are seen; far more than you might think. And like you, they also remember what they observed (often for many, many years).

We are sometimes tempted to join in with whatever crowd we are with. Away from the “church people,” you can “be yourself.” Or sometimes, we think we’re alone; but we’re never really alone. We’re always “church people,” because we are the church—we are the Body of Christ—and we’re always connected to Him and His people. The dirty joke, the “rough” language, the crude behavior, the flirtatious acts—these kinds of things matter.

The eyes of Texas are upon you, but more importantly: “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.” —Proverbs 15:3

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Following Jesus

When Jesus called us to Himself, He called us to repent of our sins—all of them. True followers of Christ actually follow Christ; “Not my will, but Your will be done.” Repentance involves changing the way we think about ourselves, the world, and God. It means having our minds transformed. It means having our behavior reflect this new thinking. Our call was not a call to a minor adjustment, but to a radical change in every way. Every decision must be weight in the light of who we are in Christ and what He, as our Lord, calls us to think and do: how we resolve conflicts, spend our money, raise our children, perform our jobs...

The evidence that we are continuing to following Jesus is that this process of repentance and transformation continues. We need our minds changed on virtually everything. Christian growth (sanctification or maturity) always involves a change of mind and then a change of action. Spiritual growth never by-passes the mind and neither should it stop with the mind alone. We should be able to look back over the past few months and years and see significant progress; both in our knowledge of God’s word and in how we are bearing the fruit of that knowledge.

Our call to repentance not only changes our destination (heaven or hell), but also our route. We had to forsake ourselves, our old relations with others, and our possessions (Luke 14). Jesus then sent us back to each of these with new instructions on how to make proper use of them. The demands of Christian discipleship are total. They stand in complete opposition to the world—“friendship with the world is enmity against God”.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The "Simple Cell"

Michael Denton has this description of the complexity of the “simple cell”:

“The intuitive feeling that pure chance could never have achieved the degree of complexity and ingenuity so ubiquitous in nature has been a continuing source of skepticism ever since the publication of the Origin of the Species; and throughout the past century there has always existed a significant minority of first-rate biologists who have never been able to bring themselves to accept the validity of Darwinian claims. . . .Perhaps in no other area of modern biology is the challenge posed by the extreme complexity and ingenuity of biological adaptations more apparent than in the fascinating new molecular world of the cell. . . .To grasp the reality of life as it has been revealed by molecular biology, we must magnify a cell a thousand million times until it is twenty kilometers in diameter and resembles a giant airship large enough to cover a great city like London or New York. What we would then see would be an object of unparalleled complexity and adaptive design. On the surface of the cell we would see millions of openings, like the port holes of a vast space ship, opening and closing to allow a continual stream of materials to flow in and out. If we were to enter one of these openings we would find a world of supreme technology and bewildering complexity. . . .Is it really credible that random processes could have constructed a reality, the smallest element of which—a functional protein or gene—is complex beyond our own creative capacities, a reality which is the very antithesis of chance, which excels in every sense anything produced by the intelligence of man?”

[Michael Denton, M.D., Evolution: A Theory In Crisis, Adler and Adler, 1986.]

Monday, January 26, 2009

Loving Wife

Loving, lovely, lovable wife,
Such joy could not have been contemplated.
Teenage wisdom yielded to passion,
Apparently we did survive on love—
Sustaining through foolish days,
Delivering two friends in tact.

Beautiful, soft, tender wife,
Your presence has cushioned the jagged path.
A young man’s wandering of obscure trails,
Leading to nowhere and back again,
Only to gaze upon your reassuring face,
Receiving me into your arms.

Attending, listening, enduring wife,
What shall I do or be or say?
You patiently receive such endless musings,
Never restraining or pushing,
Soaking up my endless talk,
Confirming each new wandering idea.

Steady, stable, faithful wife,
Always there through dark and light.
Standing fast through temporary insanity,
Looking beyond my failings.
Unmovable in your promise,
Loving in spite of me.

Fruitful, nurturing providing wife,
Delivering children and life.
Endless, wakeful nights and week-long days;
Your selfless labor of love.
Making our house a home and refuge,
From every tempest storm.

Teaching, guiding, training wife,
Not only for children but me as well.
Sometimes with words but more often not,
Valuable counsel and wise input.
Instruction by service and demonstration,
A servant unwittingly turned master.

Creative, spending, adorning wife,
Making dullness bright and cheerful.
Raw materials made useful,
The ordinary turned to treasure by your hands.
There is no plainness in your domain,
All is elevated by your careful touch.

Respecting, honoring, obedient wife,
Building up what has been broken.
Forsaking not the forsaken,
Unwavering support when relentless waves crashed hard.
Confidence displayed in uncertainty,
When I would have quit you helped me stay.

Affectionate, passionate, sensual wife,
Your words, touches and silent looks,
Stimulate and stir my heart.
Such sweet communion—the sacrament of marriage,
The outward and visible signs of love,
The great delight of sharing nights.

Godly, spiritual, Christian wife,
With quiet and gentle spirit,
Precious to me and to God,
No flashing lights or dramatic surges;
Just a steadfast pressing on,
Never looking back or regretting.

Loving, lovely, lovable wife,
I must be counted among the most blessed.
Rich in countless ways.
How could I come to possess such wealth?
No sacrifice involved,
Loving you is made so easy.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sticks and Stones...

You have probably heard the old saying: “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never harm me.” Unfortunately, the saying is not completely true. Words are powerful. Christ is “the Word,” and He “upholds all thing by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:3). God spoke the world into existence. “Keeping His word,” and “abiding in His word” are essential to our lives. “Man lives not by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4).

Likewise, your words change things. Words can build or destroy; they can encourage or discourage; they can wound or heal; they can comfort or curse. There are so many powerful uses for our words. It turns out that words, while they cannot break our bones, they can break our hearts, break our spirits, and do us and others great harm. James instructs us: “Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.” —James 3:5-10

How many times have your unkind words inflicted wounds on the ones you claim to love and protect. Words can kill a relationship; gossip, slander, anger, rage, insult, curses, filthiness, lies and much more. Scripture wars us: “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!” —Galatians 5:13-15

Jesus also told us that “those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.” —Matthew 15:18. We should often be ashamed of what comes out of our hearts. Don’t think your ugly words have been forgotten by those upon whom they were inflicted. Each one was like a nail driven into a beautiful tabletop. And if you have been using words this way for many years, the damage is considerable. It’s not only time to stop such foolishness, it is time to confess to God and to those you have hurt, seek their forgiveness for your ungodly words, and turn from such vile use of your mouth (do it today); it is time for you (by the work of the Holy Spirit), to bring forth blessings to those around you instead. By the grace of God, you can clean up your mess and start using your words to build.

“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” —Ephesians 4:29-32

Thursday, January 15, 2009

How Can I Help?

God adds to the church those He is saving. We come from many places and circumstances; different ages, backgrounds and conditions. We are all sick and wounded, and we are all in need of healing. Some of us have been seriously neglected, while others have had the advantage of being cared for most of our lives. This big household takes in all of God’s adopted children and calls us to the family Table to commune with the Father and with one another. Each one of us is loved by God and serves an important purpose in His family.

Moreover, we, “through love serve one another” (Gal. 5:13). In fact, the church has the specific objective of “equipping the saints for service” (Eph 4:12). As members of the church, are called by our Father to minister to one another; especially when there is any kind of trial, problem, trouble, or sin. The Apostle Paul continues to describe this work of the Body of Christ as: “…joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” —Ephesians 4:16.

Our household affection for one another—our communion—is evident in the good times, but it should be doubly evident when trials or sins present themselves in our midst. We might be tempted to run from the church in such times due to fear, embarrassment, sorrow, etc. Those are the times when we should look to the church and the church must draw closer, surrounding our brothers and sisters with the love of Christ. “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” Galatians 6:1-3.

Our Father thinks we need one another; that’s why He put us in the Body of Christ. The church is our home; the place where we are nurtured, protected and strengthened. It is here where we “grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ” (Eph. 4:15). Let us look around the house and see what needs to be done. How can we help? “Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.” —Hebrews 12:12-13.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Dressing for the Occasion

Pastor David Givler, from Christ Covenant Church in San Antonio, TX, offered some good counsel on the subject of how we should dress for worship. Here is a summary of what he had to offer:

We should ask “casual” worshipers what they would dress for since they don’t dress for church. Typical answers are funerals and weddings. Of course worship on Sunday is about the greatest wedding and the most important funeral, among other things. The things that they are willing to dress for are only derivatives. Why not dress for the real thing?

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Fast of Booths

I’ve had enough of feasting (for a while). A few days of fasting would make future feasting all the better. So, with that in mind, here’s a little more Robert Capon for your edification:

… a bit more philosophical and therefore more central to your renewal: you are pettish about what you call filling foods because you have not con­sidered sufficiently the human meaning of the word "filling." You have slipped into the habit of thinking of yourself as a dog, or some other creature who eats chiefly to satisfy his stomach. But of course you are not. For the stomach is the least of all the evaluators of what is good for man to eat. We would not describe food as stomachable unless we wanted to give it only the most grudging approval imaginable. A good stomach is by definition uncritical, uncomplaining, and tough. It takes downright poison to get it to say a word. It is the palate to which food looks for compliments. Palatable is at least the beginning of a hymn of praise. It takes elation nicely; very stomachable sounds like an oxymoron that didn't come off; very palatable is praise indeed. And beyond the palatable, of course, there lie the fields of unqualified approval: the tasty, the delicious, the scrumptious, the de­lectable, the yummy, the mmmh, and the aaah.

All of which should prove to you beyond any doubt that the mouth, not the stomach, is the principal organ to be filled. A few mouthfuls of something with real taste will, if you revise your unthinking habits of eating, be more fill­ing than a whole bellyful of mere stuffing.

Food for Thought: Resurrecting the Art of Eating

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Whatever It Is

Find someone who does it well.
Ask them how they do it.
And then you do it too.

It works, if you will.

Aye-aye Captain

Love is about giving, not getting; at least not in the direct one-for-one way. Giving love does bring benefits to the lover (“he who loves his wife loves himself — Eph. 5:28), but true love always has the long view of things. This is even more necessary if we have run the ship off course; we are not going to turn it around on a dime. As the heads of our households we are responsible for the course of our cruise. If our ship is not where she should be, we have to begin by acknowledging that it is not primarily the crew’s fault, but ours. The first mate follows our lead, if not our orders.

Great leaders inspire those under their charge to willingly do their best. Great leaders do not start with orders but with examples. Everyone can see what a man is. If he loves his ship and his crew it is obvious to all. If he loves himself and his privilege as captain, then the crew will resent him, avoid him, and go around him. If he has earned their respect, they will honor him, love him, and serve him well.

We get what we give.

“Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” —Luke 6:38

It's Time to Grow-up

“Thus says the Lord: ‘Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,’ says the Lord.” —Jeremiah 9:23-24

God gives each of us many gifts. Nevertheless, a gift is only the beginning. What we do with those gifts is critical. Gifts can be squandered, abused, and misused to harm ourselves and others or else they can be used for a righteous purpose and become a blessing to us and to our neighbors. There are many wealthy, beautiful, smart, witty, clever, or artistic, people who are so narcissistic that no one can endure being around them for very long. Everything is about them; everything is a threat to them. Essentially, they are big babies that never really grew up. Perhaps they were indulged or isolated as children. There are numerous explanations as to why people remain immature but none of the explanations are legitimate excuses for this kind of sin.

We expect immature two-year-olds, and we have some reasonable hope that they will outgrow it. But when we see it in so-called adults, it is exceptionally ugly. Who wants to be around that? It is most evident in its constant criticism of others; assuming the worst, complaining, whining, raging, etc. It’s the adult version of pouting and throwing a temper fit. A self-absorbed person is simply unpleasant.

On the other hand, maturity is lovely and attractive. It knows how to deny self and how to serve others. It gives, and therefore, it also receives back a blessing from God. Maturity looks out, not in. It sees the best in others and seeks to help and encourage those that are weak. As it perceives deficits in others it sees an opportunity to serve and show kindness. Maturity builds others up instead of tearing them down. The epitome of maturity is Jesus Christ Himself, who not only emptied Himself, but also gave Himself for us. He loved God and His neighbor.

The Apostle Paul instructs us: “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. —Ephesians 4:29—5:2

Friday, January 2, 2009

Views of History

Sir Charles Lyell, the famous evolutionary geologist, said that “the present is the key to the past.” I would suggest the contrary: the past is the key to the future. The past is a call to faith. The evolutionary view of history requires us to assume that the present—the current—the modern—is necessarily superior to the past. This view assumes that we are moving away from the primitive, the old fashion, and the outdated ways of yesterday and forging new frontiers toward a glorious future. Though it has no real notion of where it is headed, this model has little respect for history and views itself as always superior to what has gone before.

The biblical view of history is radically different. It sets before us a superior beginning for man—born in Paradise—in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures. Sin interrupted and corrupted this mature order and sent it headlong into decline. Ever since, history has been the unfolding of God’s plan to redeem His fallen creatures and their fallen world. Therefore, the Bible teaches us that we can learn much from what has gone before us: How God’s mighty acts have always overcome the pitiful acts of sinful men; even the evil acts of powerful men and nations, in order to accomplish the victory of His redemptive work.

There is also a hybrid view of history that is prevalent in the modern church. Like the evolutionary view, it disdains the past as irrelevant while adopting the biblical view of a corrupt and fallen world. Yet, is has no concept of victory. The forces of evil will ultimately prevail in this world. It has no respect for the past and therefore, it has no future. It cannot see beyond the moment.

What the world believes is constantly changing. What Christians believe is never changing. Therefore, the world discards the past, while biblical Christianity embraces it. When we believe God, it changes everything. The demons believe and they tremble. When we believe—when we have genuine faith in God—then no obstacle is too great.