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April 18, 2010

seasons of life

I'm making excuses to be on the porch swing. The sunshine is beautiful and warm today, beating on my bare shoulders, filtering through my sunglasses. After months of cold and snow, summer is a welcome change, a beautiful relief. I'm loving it.

Growing up in northern Brazil, summer was year-round. I loved warm weather, but, with the exception of a few winters spent in Canada, I didn't have a lot to compare it to. My appreciation of warmth wasn't nearly as deep as it is now. I welcomed it, but now I stand up and applaud. I sigh; I sing; I update my Facebook status. Short winter nights have turned into long, summer days with sunshine to spare. Brown grass is giving way to green. This new season brings a much-welcomed change.

Life is full of seasons, too. I've begun to realize that my appreciation of the most pleasant seasons is deepened only by knowing something different. Peaks seem higher after valleys. Duller days are a foil for the gorgeous ones. In my life I have been blessed beyond measure, but I don't think I realize it fully until I have something else to compare to. "You never know what you've got until it's gone."

For example, I enjoyed the years of my life spent in "full time ministry", where my daily work was visibly spreading God's Word. Now I work a job that seems less spiritual. This occupation is enjoyable too, but in a different way. How is producing a road builder's rate guide furthering God's work? I know it is, in a way, if I am sanctifying the Lord in my heart. Bible curriculum development and teaching is squished into evenings and weekends during this season. This I know: if the Lord allows me to give my time more fully to Him again, I hope I will do that with a much deeper appreciation. Being in ministry is a privilege: one that I may have taken for granted too often.

As a kid, time was fairly easy to come by. Summers between years of school were whiled away in hammocks with books or helping with kids' clubs. I enjoyed my free time, but now that my time off is much more limited, I realize what a valuable trust time is. I knew before that it was important to make good use of time, but now I understand at a new level.

These are just a few examples, but the list goes on. A dental bill reminds me of the good ol' days when mom and dad paid my way. A cold shower is better if I sweat first. Maybe it's just me, but the carrots I planted, watered and weeded last summer--even with their sunburned tops--seemed extraordinary. Going back to store-bought carrots in the winter was a sad adjustment. Time is teaching me the value of the hard days, heightening the joy of the sweet seasons.

I'm sure you have some contrasts of your own. We don't fully appreciate good health until we're sick. Precious friends are more valued when they leave: we ache for those times we took for granted. God indeed works "all things" together for good. I'm thankful for the seasons of life, my tutors in contentment, thankfulness and appreciation for God's sovreignty.

April 09, 2010

relief or victory?

Lately I've been thinking about my goal in difficult times: do I want relief or victory

Most often, I'm just looking for relief. When I have an anxiety, I just want out. Sometimes its a relational difficulty. Relief comes when that person I can't get along with goes away. But my relief is temporary, because the root issue (my sin) has not been dealt with. So, the next time I am with a difficult person, my sin rears its head again (James 4:1). And the cycle continues, because the problem wasn't really solved. It was just put off until another time. An alcoholic isn't cured when he can't find liquor. Below the surface, the problem is still there. Relief is a temporary fix, a patch, a Band-Aid. It's easy. It feels good right now, and usually that's my main concern. Just. get. me. out.

But how different God's goal for me is! He wants to see victory. I came across these words of Jesus, as he thought about his upcoming death. "Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, 'Father, save Me from this hour'? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name"... (John 12:27-28). Read that again. Jesus didn't ask for a way out of what He knew He needed to do. He knew that there was a purpose to what He would suffer. He just wanted to see the Father glorified in what would take place. Christ's goal was not relief for Himself, but victory--God's glory.

It strikes me that Christ made "peace through his blood" (Col. 1:20). Blood? What does that have to do with peace, Lord? The peace Christ made for us was bloody, intentional, hard work. It was what Isaiah 53:11 calls "the labour of His soul." We are blessed because He persevered, rather than calling down the relief brigade of angels! Victory--via His blood, sweat and tears. His victory is ours to claim, but not always without some "blood" of our own.

I wonder how different my life would be if my goal in troubled times were God's glory, not my immediate comfort? How would my prayers change if I stopped focusing on physical relief and started imploring God that He be glorified, no matter what that means? Our prayers are littered with here-and-now, flesh-and-bones requests. Paul's prayers were rich with requests for spiritual victory and God's glory in all circumstances. Relief sounds good--really good. But when I look through God's eyes, victory sounds even better. "What shall I say, 'Father, save Me from this hour'?...Father, glorify Your name."

April 01, 2010

God, the heathen and the believer's responsibility

As a Christian studies the way of salvation laid out in the Bible and then observes the world, seeing that some people have Biblical resources so readily available to them and others do not, it begs the question: does God require the same thing of all peoples? Are people outside of “Christian” cultures saved differently? The question of the eternal condition of pagan peoples worldwide is “too frequently, because of its possible tragic in favour of subjects of far less importance.”* Yet the answer is of monumental significance. An unsatisfactory answer to this question can leave nagging doubts about God's character or dim the Christian's zeal for sharing God's story. What does the Scripture tell us about God, the heathen, and consequently, how should the believer respond?

Recently I took a basic class through a theological school and chose to write one of my papers on this topic. If you're interested to read the paper, I've posted it in pdf form here [link]. You can read it online or download the pdf. I've placed the thesis and outline below as well. (Comments, corrections and suggestions welcome!) Writing papers on Biblical topics is much more than academic--God stirred my heart as I studied His Word. He reminded me of the fervor, focus and boldness that should be mine because of these truths. God has done and is doing His part. But will I?

/  /  /

Thesis: God will justly condemn all those who have not trusted in His salvation. This includes people without special revelation.

I. What do the heathen know and how they know it?
    A. God has communicated through general revelation to all peoples
    B. Scriptures detailing God's communication through general revelation
        1. Communication through nature
        2. Communication through conscience

II. What is the response of the heathen to what they know?

III. What is God's response to the heathen?
    A. In justice, God gives man the fruit of his choices
    B. In mercy, God continues to show Himself to the heathen
        1. The Scripture teaches God's mercy
        2. Mysteries of God's mercy

IV. What should be the believer's response to the heathen?
    A. A fervor for missions
        1. The Scripture fuels fervor
        2. Universalism dampens fervor
    B. A focus for missions
    C. A boldness in missions
*J. Oswald Sanders. What of the Unevangelized?
(London, Great Britain: Overseas Missionary Fellowship, 1967), 33.