Tuesday, December 28, 2010

You Have Tested Us...You Have Brought Us Out

For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.
You brought us into the net; you laid a crushing burden on our backs; 
you let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; 
yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.
~ Psalm 66:10-12 ESV

Monday, December 27, 2010

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Awake to Sin's Sinfulness

Think, moreover, of all the misery and sorry that sin has caused, and is causing at this very day. Pain, disease, and death--strifes, quarrels, and divisions--envy, jealousy, and malice--deceit, fraud, and cheating--violence, oppression, and robbery--selfishness, unkindness, and ingratitude--all these are the fruits of sin. Sin is the parent of them all. Sin it is that has so marred and spoiled the face of God's creation.

Young men, consider these things, and you will not wonder that we preach as we do. Surely, if you did but think of them, you would break with sin forever. Will you play with poison? Will you sport with hell? Will you take fire in your hand? Will you harbour your deadliest enemy in your bosom? Will you go on living as if it mattered nothing whether your own sins were forgiven or not--whether sin had dominion over you, or you over sin? Oh, awake to a sense of sin's sinfulness and danger! Remember the words of Solomon: "Fools," non but fools, "make a mock at sin." (Proverbs 14:9)

- J.C. Ryle in Thoughts for Young Men

Monday, December 13, 2010

Guilty and Abominable in the Sight of a Holy God

Young men, if you did but know what sin is, and what sin has done, you would not think it strange that I exhort you as I do. You do not see it in its true colours. Your eyes are naturally blind to its guilt and danger, and hence you cannot understand what makes me so anxious about you. Oh, let not the devil succeed in persuading you that sin is a small matter.

Think for a moment what the Bible says about sin--how it dwells naturally in the heart of every man and woman alive (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:23)--how it defiles our thoughts, words, and actions, and that continually (Genesis 6:5; Matthew 15:19)--how it renders us all guilty and abominable in the sight of a holy God (Isaiah 64:6; Habakkuk 1:13)--how it leaves us utterly without hope of salvation, if we look to ourselves (Psalm 143:2; Romans 3:20)--how its fruit in this world is shame, and its wages in the world to come, death (Romans 6:21, 23).

- J.C. Ryle in Thoughts for Young Men

What we're doing now: school

Friday, December 10, 2010

Servanthood as Worship - A Clarion Call to Worship God by Serving Others

With the title, Servanthood as Worship: The Privilege of  Life in a Local Church, it would be obvious to conclude that based on the cover this book is about service. While that would be a correct conclusion, this book is really about the gospel. In fact, it is so saturated with the gospel that one could give this book to a non-believer with complete confidence that the message of salvation would be clearly presented multiple times. At just under one hundred pages, author Nate Palmer's book is accessible, loaded with scripture, arrestingly convicting, and utterly encouraging.

Chapter titles like Context, Glory, Appreciation and Subjection lead the reader through a logical approach to the topic of servanthood. Each chapter begins with an intriguing illustration intended to pique the reader's interest. I especially enjoyed the story heading Chapter 2 where Mr. Palmer recounts historical events from the mid-1700s that were discovered while researching his genealogy. I chuckled at the thought of a vegan butcher (Chapter 7), and imagined being the prince of the 550 square meter nation of Sealand (Chapter 4). Even if you don't enjoy reading or don't read very much, you will find Servanthood as Worship to be straightforward, and readily understood. The nine chapters are relatively short (only about ten pages each), and CruciformPress has done a beautiful job in laying out the manuscript in a practical, eye-friendly manner.

Though accessible, Servanthood as Worship, is not watered-down. Its not a scripture commentary, but its pages are saturated with scripture. I find great pleasure in reading books that are so centered on God's Word that you can scarcely turn a page without being confronted by God's perspective on the topic. This is one of those books. Beginning with the creation account, Mr. Palmer postulates and then proves that "All our service for God begins and ends with service from God."

Taking the reader on a journey following the crimson thread of redemption, the author makes brief stops at the patriarchs, the incarnation, the death of Christ, and His glorious resurrection, ascension, and exaltation. Commenting on the future, he writes, "We still have one more supremely dramatic and momentous act of Christ's service to witness: One day he will come again to bring all believers into eternal and perfect union with him in heaven. We will be united with Christ in a great wedding in Heaven, where neither sin nor hardship dwell. There, we will worship and serve God for eternity, even as we enjoy the fruits of his service to us." A book this permeated with scripture could easily have become heavy and daunting to the casual reader. But the author's appealing approach to the theological bedrock supporting Christian service made it a delight to read rather than a drudgery.

Upon hearing about the book, I was apprehensive that the chasm between works-based salvation and salvation by grace through faith might be narrowed ever so slightly. But make no mistake--the sinful condition of an unregenerate soul is clearly exposed when the author defines total depravity. He explains, "This phrase doesn't mean we are as bad as we could possibly be, or that we are incapable of any moral good. But it does mean that sin has affected every area of our life." Just a few sentences later when describing the burden of our fallen sin nature, he quips, "We are, all of us, unable not to sin." We are "rebellious outlaws, deserving of God's just wrath". In our depravity we find "loving God impossible on our own". But darker still, our corruption "renders us unable to save ourselves from God's justice." Mr. Palmer reasons, "Until we grasp what we are, we will never ask for what we need--a Savior." Having laid this foundation, the good news of the gospel is a refreshing respite: what is impossible with man is possible with God (Matthew 19:26). "Where we could never earn salvation, Jesus could and did earn it...then he granted us the benefit of his accomplishment, even when we were as weak and helpless and condemned to death as that bleeding criminal on a cross." 

Concluding Chapter 5, Mr. Palmer writes, "As the Spirit operates through the Word of God to give us a clear understanding of who we are, who God is, and what God has done for us in Christ, the gospel will increasingly inspire our service, define our service, and be reflected in our service. Service becomes a grateful response to Christ's sacrificial service to us." With this context in mind, the reader is lovingly urged on towards Christ-like love demonstrated by selfless service. I was convicted about my own pride when confronted with 1 Corinthians 13:1-2 in Chapter 7. Who, after all, wants to be "nothing more than a noisy gong". I was exhorted to love purely when when he explained the love between the members of the Godhead. "There is no bickering or jealousy, no uncertainty or fears, no suspicion or questioning of motives". Finally, I was challenged to increase my passion for the lost because, "Jesus did not wait until [I] was lovable before he loved and welcomed [me]." What a joyful thought that I can "engrave people's hearts with God's love" by "seeking to love and serve them as Christ has done" for me.

"When Biblical, gospel-centered service in Christ's name is present at the center of a local church, it forms a brilliant nucleus radiating out into a dark world." The thought of servanthood being a vehicle by which the lost can be won for Christ encouraged me to more consistent and heartfelt service. Serving God really ought to be my "grateful response to the gospel"! I will continue to reflect on the message of Servanthood as Worship with the hope that in so doing my life will be changed to more closely parallel my Savior's: "He went to places and he served people that were unholy, unfashionable, inconvenient, unattractive, unhealthy, and dangerous. he lost sleep and skipped meals in order to meet needs and speak truth. He did not make exceptions; therefore we cannot." Quoting Thomas Boston, Mr. Palmer writes, "A servant must not do what he pleases, but be at the will of his master. Thus a godly man is a servant. He is wholly at God's disposal." 

Servanthood as Worship is a well-thought-out, gospel-centric approach to service. It is a clarion call to "worship God by serving others". I enthusiastically recommend this book, and consider it one to revisit whether I need to be convicted to serve more faithfully or encouraged to serve more joyfully.

Servanthood as Worship is available now from CruciformPress

Thursday, December 9, 2010

My Refuge

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.

Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us. Selah 
~ Psalm 62:5-8 ESV

So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.
~ Hebrews 6:17-20 ESV

Monday, December 6, 2010

Mom Is Now a Published Author

There's a bit of hoopla in Fargo these days because of one gentleman's negative reaction to the Salvation Army bell ringers. I won't link to his opinion here, but this quote from another Fargo resident provides a sufficient summary:

I had to read over Richard Kodadek’s bile-filled letter to the editor (Nov. 29) several times. Is this guy for real, I asked myself? Is this a bad joke? Or could someone be so foul of a human being as to have such a negative and hateful attitude? ... You obviously have little compassion for others, no concept of the good deeds that said bell-ringers do, and absolutely no knowledge of the law. You are, in my opinion, a sad, misguided man.

I hope Santa reads your letter and puts you on the appropriate list, and it won’t be the one labeled “nice,” I can guarantee you that.

Mom has been taking the grandchildren out to ring the bell--and responded much more kindly (though no less honestly) to Mr. Kodadek in a letter to the editor in our local newspaper:

At the end of our 2½-hour shift, our red kettle was filled to the brim with gifts from grateful people. My grandchildren were so excited that there were so many people who would give to those who have less. I was grateful for the opportunity to live out what I teach. Grateful my grandchildren have an opportunity to help those in need. Grateful for Hornbacher’s welcoming the Salvation Army. Grateful for each person who, joyfully, placed their resources in the red kettle.


What We're Doing Now: Picking Up Erbert & Gerbert for Dinner

What We're Doing Now: Surprise Birthday Party for Jeshanah

Pictures with Lois and My Mom

What We're Doing Now: Surprise Birthday Party for Jeshanah