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November 27, 2008

peace, perfect peace

A speaker at church on Sunday talked about the hymn Peace, Perfect Peace. The hymn's author, Edward H. Bickersteth wrote these words in 1875 after hearing a sermon on Isaiah 26:3, where the min­is­ter re­lat­ed that the He­brew text used the word peace twice to in­di­cate ab­so­lute per­fect­ion. The lyrics below are somewhat archaic, but the truths are alive. I've used bold italics for those things that might be the cause of our lack of peace and bold for how Christ ministers peace to that area. My soul hasn't been very still lately. This is a timely reminder to me that there is nothing outside the Lord's control or care. My ultimate reality is one of ultimate peace! I am blessed beyond all measure.

Peace, perfect peace, in this dark world of sin?
The blood of Jesus whispers peace within.

Peace, perfect peace, by thronging duties pressed?
To do the will of Jesus, this is rest.

Peace, perfect peace, with sorrows surging round?
On Jesus' bosom naught but calm is found.

Peace, perfect peace, with loved ones far away?
In Jesus' keeping we are safe, and they.

Peace, perfect peace, our future all unknown?
Jesus we know, and He is on the throne.

Peace, perfect peace, death shadowing us and ours?
Jesus has vanquished death and all its powers.

It is enough: earth's struggles soon shall cease,
And Jesus call us to heaven's perfect peace.

November 13, 2008

longing for Him

Sometimes we Christians go about our honourable goal of seeing spiritual growth in believers in a backward fashion. Are we assigning "tasks and work"...ensuring that people look busy...and measuring the spiritual health of the Body of Christ by visible, human standards?

If our emphasis is teaching and modeling a personal knowledge of Christ through the Bible, we may find that we don't have to do so much "assigning." The one who is growing in his knowledge of God's person and Word, and believing it, will long for Him. There is no question of to serve or not to serve for the disciple of Christ (though what that serving looks like will vary from person to person). So let us together "long for the immensity of Christ". Christ will assign the "tasks and work" and empower us for it. The Spirit's promptings will prove more powerful than human pleading.

November 09, 2008

elijah and prayer

An example of praying according to God's will:
1 Kings 18:36-38
'At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: "O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again." Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. '

Is this just Old Testament talk, or can God still answer prayer?
James 5:17-18
'Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.'

November 08, 2008

Biblical freedom

Lately I've been trying to learn what a Biblical definition for freedom really is. While I realized that in Scripture we are said to be both free and slaves, I had never given much thought to how the two can coexist. Are those words not antithetic? Here are a few of my notes and some interesting quotes I've come across, without much comment. This is a lesson I'm still preaching to myself.

Interesting Biblical references to freedom
  • Gen 2:16 - Adam and Eve were "free to eat from any tree in the garden" except one. (Freedom is found within a form which is already created by God)
  • Psalm 119:32 - "I run in the path of your commandments, for you have set my heart free"; Psalm 119:45 - "I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts"; James 1:25 and 2:12 - "the perfect law that gives freedom"
  • Proverbs 11:21 - The righteous will go free, the wicked will be punished
  • John 8:32 - "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free"
  • Romans 6:7-22 - When we were slaves to sin, we were free from the control of righteousness. Believers in Christ have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness and to God. When we offer ourselves to someone to obey them as slaves, we are making ourselves slaves, either to sin (which leads to death) or obedience, which leads to righteousness. We are to offer our bodies in slavery to righteousness, which leads to holiness.
Interesting words and phrases used in conjunction with freedom:
  • stand firm (Gal 5:1)
  • don't indulge, but serve (Gal 5:13)
  • perfect law (that gives freedom, Jas 1:25, 2:12)
  • servants of God (1 Pe 2:16)
  • commandments (Ps 119:32)
  • precepts (Ps 119:45)
  • truth (Jn 8:32)
  • slaves (to righteousness, Ro. 6:18)
Further comments on Biblical freedom
  • Freedom finds its roots in the Bible
  • Freedom from the power of sin, to abundant and eternal life.
  • Freedom comes with responsibilities and consequences.
  • Freedom is not doing our own will, absence of law or anarchy
  • Sin binds. When we don't "do" the truth daily, we are living in slavery.
  • Followers of Christ can have individual freedom no matter the external circumstances. We can be content and peaceful (unconstrained, free to move) even in great disasters and persecution.
The Word of God teaches that the Christian is a free man and should “stand in the freedom which Christ has made him free.” What is meant by Christian freedom? What is freedom in general? We answer: it is not the right and the ability to do as one pleases, but the ability to move without constraint in the sphere for which God made us. Freedom therefore is not inconsistent with limitation and law. The bird is free only when it can move in the air unhindered. A worm is free when it is not prevented from moving in the ground--in a sphere which would mean bondage and death for many other creatures. A locomotive is not free unless its motion is confined to the two rails on which it was made to run. Man was made in the image of God to be like Him and to reflect his holiness. Consequently he is free only when he moves without constraint in the sphere of holiness and obedience to God’s law.
-“Christian Liberty,” in “Report of the Committee on Worldly Amusements,” Agenda: Synod of the Christian Reformed Church, To convene June 13, 1928 at Holland, Mich., p. 22.

"Slavery to God is perfect freedom."
-Augustine
In popular use [freedom] means simply absence of hindrance, confinement, repression. However, that meaning is negative; it defines what freedom is not. But why should we want to be free? Only when we get beyond freedom from restraint and ask about freedom for a purpose can we understand its true meaning. Only then will we understand the basic elements of limitation and responsibility inherent in the nature of freedom itself.
Freedom is a condition in which something can fulfill the purpose for which it is designed. This principle is evident in everyday life. For example, an automobile is designed to run swiftly on a paved road. Yet it is free to do so only as long as it stays on the road. If it seeks greater "freedom" by suddenly turning off into the bushes, the vehicle comes to a grinding halt, possibly injuring or killing its passengers.
We can understand the meaning of human freedom only when we know the purpose for which we were designed. What are we set free for? The Bible portrays humankind created in the image of God for a life of loving obedience to our Creator. We are free to obey God; free to express His love to those around us; free to take care of the earth and its creatures.
--"Managing your Life," Freedom from the Tyranny of the Urgent, Charles E. Hummel, 1997, p28-29

November 05, 2008

"A Savior On Capitol Hill"?

Please overlook the stupid graphics in the YouTube video below (you could always listen to the song with no graphics here [link]), but listen to the lyrics [link]. If you get one line out of this song, let it be this one: we’ve never had a savior on Capitol Hill. Or Parliament Hill.

May thoughts of elections and human leaders cause us to look forward to the coming of the King of Righteousness...with much anticipation!

November 02, 2008

"what is a family?"

I had no idea that Francis Schaeffer's wife Edith was an author until I saw her book What is a Family? in our church library. I haven't read the book yet, but the Table of Contents outlines her answers to the question the title poses. The family is:
  • A changing life mobile
  • And ecologically balanced environment
  • The birthplace of creativity
  • A formation center for human relationships
  • A shelter in the time of storm
  • A perpetual relay of truth
  • An economic unit
  • An educational control
  • A museum of memories
  • A door that has hinges and a lock
  • Blended balances
I was so encouraged to read this list! Family can be the source of great joy...but also of deep pain. Is it worth it? The Bible says it definitely is! Also, as our society redefines terms and the idea of a Biblically-defined family is under attack, take heart! The family was designed by the Creator of the universe. It serves very important purposes. This truth needs to be preserved. Press on!