Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Why care?

Christmas (yes, we are still in the Christmas season) is a time of giving. We drop coins into bell ringers buckets and participate in special offerings for those in need. We should do this all year round. But we especially show compassion at Christmastime. But why care? We care because God does. Consider a verse from the psalm we looked at last Sunday:

“For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar.” (Psalms 138:6)

We regard the lowly because God regards the lowly! And we should love the lowly the way God does, both in body and in soul! Some people give only to meet the physical needs of the lowly. Others say we should only be concerned with their souls. But we must do both!

The great pastor/theologian Jonathan Edwards has some wise words for us on this subject:

“Some men shew a love to others as to their outward man, they are liberal of their worldly substance, and often give to the poor; but have no love to, or concern for the souls of men. Others pretend a great love to men’s souls, that are not compassionate and charitable towards their bodies. The making a great shew of love, pity and distress for souls, cost them nothing; but in order to shew mercy to men’s bodies, they must part with money out of their pockets. But a true Christian love to our brethren extends both to their bodies and souls

Let us then, love people well - as Christ loves them, body and soul!

The well wisher of your soul’s happiness,

Pastor Tom

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Prophet, Priest, and King

The grand miracle of all time is celebrated at Christmas – the miracle of the incarnation: Very God and very man coming together in the person of Jesus. The intersection of all the hopes and fears of mankind are met in Christ. And Christ brings together all the "offices" that were familiar to the people of God in the Hebrew scriptures. The major offices of the Old Testament were Prophet, Priest, and King. The inaugural ceremony for each involved anointing with oil. The Greek word for "anointed one" is "Christos", were we get the title "Christ". So when we say "Christ", we are saying Jesus is our prophet, priest, and king!

Not to wax too theological, it is still very important to reflect on these offices. Let's consider Christ as our priest.

As our "High Priest", Jesus is the one who offered the perfect sacrifice for sins. He continually brings us close to God. And he continually offers prayers on our behalf.

Stop there. Think about that. What is Jesus doing right now? If you are a follower of Jesus, you know what he is doing. He is praying for you! He knows you deepest needs, even better than you do! And he is sharing those needs with his Father, who delights in answering the prayers of his beloved Son!

So, how secure should that make you feel? As the theologian Louis Berkof said:

"It is a consoling thought that Christ is praying for us, even when we are negligent in our prayer life; that He is presenting to the Father those spiritual needs which were not present to our minds and which we often neglect to include in our prayers; and that He prays for our protection against the dangers of which we are not even conscious, and against the enemies which threaten us, though we do not notice it. He is praying that our faith may not cease, and that we may come out victoriously in the end."

The warm feelings of Christmas don't come from traditions, decorations, sentimentalism, or eggnog (well, not the right kind of warm feelings anyway!). The security of the season is knowing that your high priest is pleading your cause before the listing ears of his Father! Reflect on that this week and respond in amazement and awe! As we sing in the famous carol…

"Good Christian fear, for sinners here the silent Word is pleading"

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Trusting God

An insightful observation was given at our "pot-luck" service last week. Why is it easier to trust and depend on God during hard times than in times of abundance? As I reflect on this observation I am struck at the need we have to put ourselves in places where we must trust in God. In times of hardship, we must trust in God – we have no other option! In times of plenty we must step outside of our comfort zone and trust God for things only he can do.

I am reminded of a great man of faith - George Mueller. In his lifetime Mueller established 5 orphanages and cared for over 10,000 orphans. And this he did to glorify God for His faithfulness. In Mueller's words:

"The three chief reasons for establishing an Orphan-House are: 1. That God may be glorified, should He be pleased to furnish me with the means, in its being seen that it is not a vain thing to trust in Him; and that thus the faith of His children may be strengthened. 2. The spiritual welfare of fatherless and motherless children. 3. Their temporal welfare."

John Piper, in his autobiographical sermon on George Mueller, brings the point out:

"That was the chief passion and unifying aim of Mueller's ministry: live a life and lead a ministry in a way that proves God is real, God is trustworthy, God answers prayer. He built orphanages the way he did to help Christians trust God. He says it over and over again"

This is a challenge for our church and for each of us to be willing to do hard things and go to hard places that we may experience the faithfulness and dependability of God. And in doing so, we commend His faithfulness and dependability to a world that is both cynical and searching!

So – where will that journey take you?

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom

Friday, November 20, 2009

Faith in God’s Faithfulness

"There are seasons in the lives of all when it is not easy, no not even for Christians, to believe that God is faithful. Our faith is sorely tried, our eyes bedimmed with tears, and we can no longer trace the outworkings of His love. Our ears are distracted with the noises of the world, harassed by the atheistic whisperings of Satan, and we can no longer hear the sweet accents of His still small voice. Cherished plans have been thwarted, friends on whom we relied have failed us, a professed brother or sister in Christ has betrayed us. We are staggered. We sought to be faithful to God, and now a dark cloud hides Him from us. We find it difficult, yea, impossible, for carnal reason to harmonize His frowning providence with His gracious promises. Ah, faltering soul, severely-tried fellow-pilgrim, seek grace to heed Isaiah 50:10, "Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of His servant, that walketh in darkness and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God." A.W. Pink

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

God’s Faithfulness and Dependability

In John Bunyan's classic book, "Pilgrim's Progress", our heros depart from the path and become prisoners, locked in the dungeon of Doubting Castle which was ruled by the merciless Giant Despair. Pilgrim and his companion are beaten daily and deprived of all sustenance. When they are at their wits end, suddenly Pilgrim remembers that in his pocket he has a key called "promise" that will open any lock! Sure enough, the key opens the cell door, the dungeon door, and the castle door. Pilgrim and his companion run to freedom!

Nice story- what's the point?

God's faithfulness can be defined as his commitment to be 100% faithful to his word. God's faithfulness and his Word are linked together in scripture. That means God's faithfulness is seen in his promises. God gives us many promises – things he pledges to do or be for his people. And God is absolutely faithful to keep his word!

But those promises do us no good if they stay in our pocket. God has given us promises for eternal life, for help in trouble, for guidance and wisdom, for protection and refuge. But they don't do us any good if they stay in our pocket. When we are trapped in doubting castle, abused by a giant despair (ever been there?) we've got to take the promise out of our pocket!

We glorify God when we take him at his word. Let's lean on him and lean into him. He is faithful, we can depend on him. Let's honor him like little children who trust and rely on their father (fathers really dig that!)

"The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold." Psalms 18:2

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom

(Click here for passages to meditate upon this week)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

God’s Grace and Sufficiency

"This is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it" 1 Peter 5:12

A lie has entered the hearts of many sincere believers. It goes like this, "Yes, you are saved by grace alone, but now it is your turn. You begin the Christian live by grace, but staying 'in' and moving forward is up to you". This lie, which contains a kernel of truth, inevitably leads to disease and despair. From this lie springs legalism, self sufficiency, performance based religion, spiritual pride and presumption, as well as spiritual depression.

The truth that sets us free is this: we not only begin our Christian lives by grace (saving grace) – we live our Christian lives by grace (sustaining grace). It may seem counter intuitive, but the way to stay connected to the grace of God is to stay connected to your sin and weakness. As my awareness of the depth of my sin and the frailty of my weakness increases, so also increases my need for and dependence on the grace of God.

Happy is the man, despairing of his own efforts, finds himself shipwrecked on the shores of grace! He needs saving grace, sustaining grace, empowering grace, forgiving grace, consoling grace, restoring grace, encouraging grace, helping grace, and, well, you get the idea.

Q: To whom do we turn for such grace? Who would give stumbling, faltering, stubborn, weak children the grace they need?

A: "The God of all grace" 1 Peter 5:10

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom

(Click here for passages to meditate upon this week)

(Click here for "Grace by Which I stand" by Keith Green)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

God’s Sovereignty

Sometimes we may think of God's sovereignty as an "in-over-our-heads" bit of theology best left to the theologians to hammer out. But every promise, grace, and consolation given to us is based on the sovereignty of God. Consider what might be the best promise of them all:

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)

Paul assures us that God is a worker with a purpose. And his purpose is to work all things for the good of his beloved. And the foundation that makes this promise secure is the sovereignty of God.

Sovereignty is God's ability to do all that he will. It is God's power, purpose, and will all coming together. Without a sovereign God, this promise is hollow. Only a God in control of all things can assure us that he is working all things for our good.

That is especially precious when "all things" don't look so rosy. Colds, car wrecks, congress, conflicts, and even cancer are part of "all things". And God is at work in "all things." No, I won't even try to sort that all out, I'm not that smart.

All I know is that God is great and God is good. And he is working all things according to the counsel of His will (Eph 1:11). There is not even a rogue molecule in the universe outside of God's sovereignty. And He can bring even the horrendous evil of the crucifixion of Christ to become the greatest good of mankind.

Rather than theologize, I will (try!) to honor Him as king, submit to His Lordship, and rest in his care.

"When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul." (Psalms 94:19)

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom

(Click here for passages to meditate upon this week)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

100K Club

A picture of the dreaded lake Cane Monster on the front...

...and a warning on the back!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

God’s Holiness and Moral Perfection

Is God just a case of "wish fulfillment? It is fashionable in atheist circles to suggest that mankind "invented" the concept of God to give them comfort in times of peril. Do dangers from nature, weather, or natural disasters drive us to create a god who will take care of us? In light of the tenuousness of our lives, have we fabricated a "sky daddy" who can hold us and comfort us?

While this seems plausible, here's the rub: if mankind dreamed up the concept of God, it would not be the God we encounter in the Bible. Yes, the Lord God Almighty is a refuge and a help to us. But he is also awesome in his holiness! This God causes more fear than he resolves! As we saw last Sunday, the universal response to an encounter with the holiness of God is awesome fear and stunned silence, and a crushing sense of our sinfulness.

"Herein we find proof for the Divine inspiration of the Scriptures. The unregenerate do not really believe in the holiness of God. Their conception of His character is altogether one-sided. They fondly hope that His mercy will override everything else. "Thou thoughtest that I was altogether as thyself" (Ps. 50:21) is God's charge against them. They think only of a "god" patterned after their own evil hearts. Hence their continuance in a course of mad folly. Such is the holiness ascribed to the Divine nature and character in Scripture that it clearly demonstrates their superhuman origin. The character attributed to the "gods" of the ancients and of modern heathendom are the very reverse of that immaculate purity which pertains to the true God. An ineffably holy God, who has the utmost abhorrence of all sin, was never invented by any of Adam's fallen descendants." A.W. Pink

Our God is perfect in his holiness – something mankind would never have invented! That is why we are never so grateful for the mercy and compassion of the Lord as when we are wholly aware of his holiness. Against the backdrop of his Holiness (and justice!), the cross of Christ shines as a lighthouse of refuge!

"The Lord reigns. Let the peoples tremble!" Ps. 99

(Click here for passages to meditate upon this week)

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

God’s Love and Compassion: a prayer

"…Pour out your heart before him, God is a refuge for us"

Psalm 62:8

"O Lord, you call me to pour out my heart before you, and I will pour. I ask of you, Lord, reveal my own heart to me. It has been so long since I poured out my heart to you. My heart has become backlogged, stagnant from the debris that has clogged it.

O Lord, to pour out my heart I have to know my hearts needs. I also have to know, without question, your willingness to be "poured upon". And yet who would ask another to "pour out your heart to me", but one filled with love and compassion?

O Lord, so pour I will! I pour out my yearning for you. I want so much to experience spiritual renewal, but it alludes me. The mire of distractions and responsibilities squeezes me.

So I pour out my heart for your help, O Lord. Bring me to a place of intimacy with you – to bask in your love, to experience your pleasure. I would seek you with all my heart!

I also pour out my heart in confession. Not the "big sins" but the small compromises have bogged me in the way. So help me to break out, to reignite the flame to burn again. You can change things in an instant! O lord, change my heart, change my focus. Great God of love and compassion – hear the "pourings" of my heart!

(Click here for passages to meditate upon this week)

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

God’s Ability and Power

Brute strength may be intimidating. Sheer power may be impressive. A show of force may inspire awe. But power and ability are impotent if not directed toward our needs.

That God has all power and ability is awesome news precisely because he uses his power on behalf of his people! God brings all the omnipotent power he used in creating the cosmos to bear on our weakness and need. So well does David personally know God's power that he can call God "My Strength":

"O my Strength, I will sing praises to you,

for you, O God, are my fortress,

the God who shows me steadfast love."

(Psalms 59:17)

Do you know God as "My Strength"? Only those who are humble enough to admit weakness and call out to the Lord will know him as "My Strength".

So, let's make the rubber meet the road. What battles are you facing that overwhelm and fatigue you? What enemies (within or outside) are assailing you? Take a moment to list them…

Now, look to the God of all power and might and say, "Alright Lord, I give up. This is too difficult for me, but not for you! I am weak but you are strong! Be my fortress! Show me your steadfast love! Display your power! Be 'My Strength'!"

Now, rest in his power and ability for you – that's what trust is. And sing praises to "My Strength" for what he does!

(Click here for passages to meditate upon this week)

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom

Man vs Squirrel 4

Man vs Squirrel 4 from tom welch on Vimeo.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

God’s Knowability: Knowing and Being Known.

Spirituality is "stock-up" while religion is "stock-down" in our culture. For many this means that we can seek after God, but never make any definitive statements about who he is. And that would be true – if God had not revealed himself to us so clearly!

God can be known! In fact he delights in being known! And one of the reasons is that our God delights in relationships. The Trinitarian nature of God shows that God exists in and for relationships. God calls us into relationship with himself so we can know him and so that we can know that he knows us.

Paul talks about this two-way relationship like this: "…now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God…"
Galatians 4:9

Being known by God is as crucial as knowing God himself. J.I. Packer in his "must read" book, Knowing God, makes this amazing affirmation about being known by God:

"I am graven on the palms of his hands. I am never out of his mind. All my knowledge of him depends on his sustained initiative in knowing me. I know him because he first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is no moment when his eye is off me, or his attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when his cares falters."

"This is momentous knowledge… There is tremendous relief in knowing that his love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion him about me, in the way I am so disillusioned about myself, and quench his determination to bless me."

As you meditate on the privilege of knowing God, think also on his knowing you!

(Click here for passages to meditate upon this week)

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

God’s Beauty and Desirability

One of the remarkable discoveries of the Christian life is God's beauty and desirability. Few things will rekindle your sense of wonder than meditating on the beauty and desirability of God. And only desire for God will displace our affections for lesser things. But we must set our heart, minds, and wills to pursing a vison of God's beauty.

As we saw last Sunday, the early American theologian, Jonathan Edwards, gives us some practical advice:

Ways to increase your desire for God:

  • "Endeavor to increase spiritual appetites by meditating on Spiritual objects."
    Translation: fill your mind with spiritual things/ God's beauty as seen in creation and God's beauty as seen in the Bible. (Click here!)
  • Endeavor to promote spiritual appetites by laying yourself in the way of allurement.
    Translation: If you are hungry – go to the 'fridge. If you are spiritually hungry – go to worship, communion, fellowship, etc…
  • We should express our longings to God. They will increase by being expressed.
    Translation: Whether it is at our worship service, in you private time with God, in your car, or in the shower – express your longings to God! As you express your longings with a sincere heart, God will both satisfy you and make you hungry for more.

The Good news is that God's feast is a smorgasbord that never closes. He is open 24/7-365! So take some time this week to "lay yourself in the way of allurement"!

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Be like Sarah!

"They say there is a young lady in (New Haven) who is loved of that Great Being, who made and rules the world, and that there are certain seasons in which this Great Being, in some way or other invisible, comes to her and fills her mind with exceeding sweet delight; and she hardly cares for anything, except to meditate on him… she has a strange sweetness in her mind, and singular purity in their affection… you could not persuade her to do anything wrong or sinful….  She is of a wonderful sweetness, calmness and universal benevolence of mind…. She will sometimes go about from place to place, singing sweetly; and seems to be always full of joy and pleasure; and no one knows for what.  She loves to be alone, walking in the fields and groves, and seems to have someone invisible always conversing with her." – Jonathan Edwards (who would later marry this "young lady"!)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Waking Up to God

When the Bible speaks of "knowing God" we moderns tend to think in academic terms. We suppose that knowing God means knowing more about God. If we just read one more book or hear one more message, then we will reach true knowledge of God.

But in the Bible knowing God is being in intimate relationship with him. It's not amassing facts about God like a theological Wikipedia. Knowing God means growing in our experienced relationship with Him.

Now, an aspect of being in relationship means increasing in "information" about a person. I know more info about Nancy than when we were first married. But it goes much, much deeper. Sometimes it goes so deep, it is almost inexpressible.

Sarah Edwards (wife of early American theologian Jonathan Edwards) had such an experience of God. She describes a time when:

"The spiritual beauty of the Father and the Saviour seemed to engross my whole mind; and it was the instinctive feeling of my heart, 'Thou art; and there is none beside Thee.' I never felt such an entire emptiness of self-love or any regard to any private, selfish interest of my own. It seemed to me that I had entirely done with myself. I felt that the opinions of the world concerning me were nothing, and that I had no more to do with any outward interest of my own than with that of a person whom I never saw. The glory of God seemed to be all, and in all, and to swallow up every wish and desire of my heart.

Our knowledge of the truths about God become the fuel for the flame of our love and experience of God! I want to go deeper with God. I want to grow in my knowledge of God. I want to expand my capacity to receive al that God is for me in Christ! I've got a feeling you do too!

I invite you to join me on a spiritual adventure to know and love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength!

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Reaching In

"So, how do I know if I am guilty of the sin of isolation or if I am just not a 'people person'?"

That was the most asked question after last week's message! As I urge us to greater connection and community with each other I don't want anyone to fall into condemnation because they don't glad-hand everyone in the room every time. Remember a few things:

1. It's not the quantity of your relationships, it's the quality. Who do you "go deep" with? With whom can you express the hopes, fears and struggles of your heart? With whom do you go from "friendship" to "fellowship"?

2. Who are you inviting into your "inner circle"? Are you reaching out to new people? Are you ingrown or outward focused? Are you a welcoming person, even to one person at a time?

3. Each person is in a different place on the relationship continuum: singular relational, small group relational, or multi-relational. But be careful of the extremes at both ends. "Singular" and "multi" can both be ways of avoiding the risk of relationship.

4. Is the gospel transforming your relationships? Consider this quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

"He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone. It may be that Christians, notwithstanding corporate worship, common prayer, and all their fellowship in service, may still be left to their loneliness. The final break-through to fellowship does not occur, because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and as devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners (emphasis added). The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship. We dare not be sinners. The fact is that we are sinners!"

"But it is the grace of the Gospel, which is so hard for the pious to understand, that it confronts us with the truth and says: You are a sinner, a great, desperate sinner; now come, as the sinner that you are, to God who loves you. He wants you as you are; He does not want anything from you, a sacrifice, a work; He wants you alone."

The Bible tells us to "welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you" (Romans 15:7). The gospel tells us how Christ has welcomed us; unconditionally, grace-fully, completely, enthusiastically… (you get the point). Now, wading in the river of God's grace, welcome others the same way!

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom

Friday, August 21, 2009

Reaching Out

The results are in and the tribe has spoken: We need to do much more to get the word out about our church! We had some great ideas generated at our special congregational meeting last Sunday (check the last post for the slideshow.)

But here’s one you can put into practice today. We’ll call this the Outreach Idea of the Week. Each week we will post one practical way you can reach-out to those around you. Then the next Sunday we’ll share how our efforts went.

Outreach Idea of the Week: One way of showing someone you care while at the same time connecting with them spiritually is very simple: prayer. Commit to asking a friend neighbor or coworker how you can pray for them. You can simply say something like, “I try to pray for various people every day, is there any way I can pray for you?” It’s a way to show you care in a non-threatening way! But if you ask - make sure you do pray!

Why not ask a friend, neighbor, or co-worker how you can pray for them today? Next Sunday, I’ll ask how things went - so be ready to share!

The well wisher of your soul’s happiness,

Pastor Tom

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Building True Community

"Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working." (19) My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, (20) let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins."

James 5:16, 19-20

Last Sunday we talked about what would happen is we actually started doing this: confessing our sins to one another, praying for one another, and rescuing one another. Do we want this? What would this look like?

Many of us have been burned with heavy-handed "discipleship" methods based on legalistic accountability without true community. The thought of confessing our sins sounds raw, uncomfortable, legalistic, and dangerous. But what if looked like something different?

What if we saw ourselves as "traveling-companions on a great spiritual adventure, not grim pilgrims on a death march to personal holiness"? We would be, as Nate Larkin says, "A fellowship of Christians who are serious about authenticity, community, humility and recovery - serious, but not grave.", A community of fellow travelers who, "…challenge each other daily to believe the incredible news that God actually knows us, loves us, and has restored us to himself. As we follow Christ together, we find our lives progressively interrupted by righteousness, peace and joy."

The gospel tells us that we are weaker and more sinful than we ever before believed, but, through Christ, we more loved and accepted than we ever dared hope. When we walk in the light of the gospel, we fight sin, not so that God won't scold us and rub our noses in it. No, Christ was immersed in "it", so that we would never have to bear guilt and shame again. In Christ we are restored to our true Father, who will never turn us away.

We fight sin because we desire greater intimacy with God. We fight sin because we desire authenticity. We fight sin because we don't want to walk in self-deception. We fight sin because God is (slowly!) restoring in us all that was lost in the Fall. And we fight together because we know our weaknesses.

So set confession, prayer, and rescue in "the friendly confines" of true gospel-centered community, a band of brothers/sorority of sisters with whom we can walk in honesty, authenticity, humility, and joy!

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Healing the Whole Person

"Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed." Isaiah 53:4-5

What I really want us to see in this essay is what an awesome Savor we have in Jesus. I truly want us to be overwhelmed at the what Jesus accomplished for us, in his life and on the cross. We are acquainted with the idea that "Jesus died for me". When we understand that at all, we sometimes think that Jesus' death is only to take away sins – the spiritual problem.

But sin's curse is a cancer that spreads beyond our judicial standing before a holy God. We also have brokenness spiritually, relationally, emotionally, and physically. We mostly focus the spiritual aspects (a huge part, no doubt!). But the work of Christ goes beyond that. We must apply the cross to all the effects of sin.

  • Emotional: "He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows" – Jesus cares about our emotional wounds and struggles. The cross is for our hearts too.
  • Spiritual: "He was wounded for transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities" The guilt and condemnation of our sins has been put away – now we can deal with the "idols of the heart" with transparent integrity.
  • Relational: "Upon him was he chastisement that brought us peace" Our relationship with God has been restored! Now we can be reconciled to others as well. Even the "hard people" in our lives, past and present.
  • Physical: "By his stripes we are healed". And yes, we pray for God to heal our bodies even as we await our resurrection bodies on the day of resurrection.

Who do you know that would care for you like that? Who do you know that would take up all our problems, issues, garbage, hang-ups, rebellion, and sins - love us all the way to the cross - take all our sin on his sinless self - and then turn in love to heal all our wounds? Only Jesus.

A healing community reflects the work of Christ when we care for the whole person, emotionally, spiritually, relationally, and physically. My hope and prayer is that our church would become such a healing community – applying the whole gospel to the whole person.

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

if He Had Falterd Even Once...

"One sinful thought; one failure,
And Love would not succeed.
The ransomed souls of hist’ry
Must His perfection plead.

If He had faltered even once,
In flames of hell would men abide.
Then ponder Christ, and praise at length
The strength of Him there crucified.

-- K. Hartnett, May 2007"
(read entire poem here)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Screwtape on Pleasure

"Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy's ground. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which he has forbidden.... An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula.... To get a man's soul and give him nothing in return—that's what really gladdens Our Father's heart."
The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis
(For the uninitiated, "Screwtape" is a demon!)

Friday, July 31, 2009

The “Wish Dream” of Christian Community

"Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial."
Dietrich Bonhoffer - in "Life Together"

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Healing Community

I felt it when I woke up this morning. After my drive from Georgia I felt it. After my third wipe-out on the kneeboard I really felt it! An ache and pain in my right hip (Okay – my right "cheek" to be specific!) that modulates between searing and tolerable. But it is always "there". Paul said it true, "our outer self is wasting away" – to that I can attest. Is having this constant ache "healthy"?

What exactly does it mean to be "healthy"? Does healthy mean free from every pain, ache, and condition? Does healthy mean I'm the biological equivalent of the six million dollar man? How about spiritual health? Does spiritual health mean we never struggle with the weaknesses of the flesh or bear the wounds of living in a broken world?

No, healthy means we are moving toward wholeness; spiritually, emotionally, and relationally. Healthy means we are aware of our weaknesses, but we keep moving forward, even though we limp. Healthy means we can be honest and open about our scars, sins, and struggles. We can begin to "confess [our] sins to one another, and pray for one another that [we] may be healed" (James 5:16)

We can do this because the debilitating effects of shame are cured in the gospel. We can do this because the exhausting work of projecting "I've-got-it-togetherness" is no longer necessary. In the gospel we find that Jesus has both exposed and taken our shame. In the gospel we find that only Jesus had it all together.

So we are in "gospel rehab" together. We care for one another's souls as wounded-healers. We journey as a healing community together. And I kinda think the world is waiting for this kind of church. How about you?

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Patience that Perseveres

"You also, be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand." (James 5:8)

What's on your heart these days? Do you have a heavy heart? A hungry heart? A broken heart?

Oh how fragile our hearts are! One moment we feel like superman, the next moment we wonder who hit us with the kryptonite. We are not as strong as we think we are. As Dylan said – "…she breaks just like a little girl". We get wounded and weary, sick and sore. Our hearts need strengthening.

Okay – I get that. So, what am I supposed to do? Do I sign up for some spiritual cardio-class at the YMCA? Do I push my heart past muscle fatigue to whip it into shape? Sigh. What do I do when I am too fatigued to make it through boot camp?

Ah, the blessed plural! It's not "me", it's "we". It's "hearts", not "heart"! That means I need you. Yes, you have to help me strengthen my heart. When I am dog-tired under the load of the everythingness of life – you have to come and remind me about Jesus. You just gotta!

You have to tell me that he loves me, that he laid down his life for me, that he kicked Satan's @#$% for me! And you have to tell me that he's got his eye on me and he is coming for me. You have to tell me it's all going to be okay.

And, yeah, sometimes you have tell me to suck it up and hang in there, that it's all worth it, that I have keep my eyes on the prize.

But you have to be there for me.

And me for you.

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Book Review: “Foolishness to the Greeks – The Gospel and Western Culture” By Lesslie Newbigin, Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, 1986, 150pp

Overview—Give a brief overview of the book, including its theme, perspective and approach.

Former missionary to India and cultural observer Lesslie Newbigin probes the question of what would involve a genuinely missionary encounter between the Gospel and "modern western culture". In other words, Newbigin is concerned with the "re-evangelism" of post-Christian western modernity. In "Foolishness to the Greeks", Newbigin analyzes the development of modern culture and then asks what role the Word has in contemporary culture. He then dialogues with science and politics before concluding with a call to the church.

Critique—Offer a brief critique of the book, including elements of strength and weakness.

Newbigin's scholarship is apparent on every page. He interacts with both the scientific community and political/economic thought with equal aplomb. His strength lies in his piercing analysis. I have not read a better overview of modern culture, the loss of a sense of purpose and how we got here than in his chapter on "Profile of a Culture". However, his strength as an observer exposes his weakness in offering plausible alternatives. He chastises the lack of purpose and absolutes in western culture, but his reluctance to embrace a full view of the authority of scripture leaves him on shaky ground as well (p.59). To his credit, Newbigin challenges the church not to try to commandeer the culture and reestablish a politicized Christendom. Nor should we try to recreate a pre-Constantinian innocence (p.103). As if we could do either! Simply let the church be the church.

Application—Offer some specific application to your own ministry— demonstrating the value and relevance of the material in this book.

Newbigin addresses issues so broad that application on the local level is a challenge. I feel I have a better grasp on the roots of secularization of my own culture, but putting that into "parish practice" is another story. His threefold model of communicating the gospel, though, forms a helpful paradigm for evangelism: 1) Make sure you communicate in a language the culture understands; 2) even so, the gospel by nature will contradict the culture, 3) so remember that radical conversion can only be a supernatural work of God. Therefore, be culturally sensitive, but radically gospel-centered and leave the results up to the Lord.

Best Quote—Be sure to include the page number where the quote can be found.

p. 124, "The church is the bearer to all the nations of a gospel that announces the kingdom, the reign, and the sovereignty of God. It calls men and women to repent of their false loyalty to other powers, to become believers in the one true sovereignty, and so to become corporately a sign, instrument, and foretaste of that sovereignty of the one true and living God over all nature, all nations, and all human lives. It is not meant to call men and women out of the world into a safe religious enclave but to call them out in order to send them back as agents of God's kingship."

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Book Review: “Salvation Belongs to the Lord: An Introduction to Systematic Theology” By John M. Frame, P&R Publishing, Phillipsburg, NJ, 2006, 332 pp.

Overview—Give a brief overview of the book, including its theme, perspective and approach.

John Frame puts the cookies on the bottom shelf in this warmly written, yet scholarly informed introduction. Systematic Theology can be scary just to pronounce, so Frame takes the reader by the hand and skillfully guides him through the gamut of theological issues from who God is to how we should live before Him. He comes from a Reformed Theology perspective and usually lands within party lines, but is even handed and congenial with positions with which he disagrees. He approaches his material as an academician with the heart of a pastor.

Critique—Offer a brief critique of the book, including elements of strength and weakness.

In "Salvation Belongs to the Lord" Frame not only gives us an introduction to systematic theology, he gives us an introduction to John Frame. And whereas one can easily get lost in his more technical works, here he makes sure he doesn't lose anyone. His tri-perspectival approach is unique and eventually compelling. He explains the Normative, Situational, and Existential perspectives clearly and then points out "triads" that he sees that fit with these categories. And Frame sees these triads everywhere! Many will see a weakness here, in that his approach might become a procrustean bed where all truth must come in sets of three. Yet he has the humility and humor to call himself out for this (p.73)!

Because of the broadness of his subject matter, I found myself often wanting more from Frame, but that is the limitation of an introduction. Thankfully Frame's body of work is voluminous enough to drown in, so digging deeper should not be a problem. And his bibliographic references provide many more avenues of investigation.

Application—Offer some specific application to your own ministry— demonstrating the value and relevance of the material in this book.

Though some may think a practical systematic theology to be an oxymoron, that is far from the case here. Frames discussion of the doctrine of Adoption was particularly insightful in helping one to live before God as a son (or daughter) rather than just a servant. I plan to pass this section along to those struggling in their relationship with the Lord. And in spite of the seeming abstractness of his tri-perspectival approach, I found myself thinking more and more in those categories and appreciating not only it's pedagological value, but also the balance and completeness such a framework brings to church ministry. That will have to be fleshed out! And his section on the nature and task of the church has confirmed and renewed by vision for local church ministry.

Best Quote—Be sure to include the page number where the quote can be found.

p.80 "Reformed theologians generally have been averse to talking about inner subjectivity, about feelings and inner thought processes. But I think Reformed theology needs to give more attention to the subjective side of theology… It isn't just feelings …but it takes account of feelings, for thoughts and feelings influence one another all the time."

Friday, July 10, 2009

Book Review: “Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road” Timothy J. Keller, P&R Publishing, Phillipsburg, NJ, 1997, 236 pp.

Overview—Give a brief overview of the book, including its theme, perspective and approach.

"Ministries of Mercy" is Biblical, theological, and practical exposition on the need and practice of helping those in need. The book in divided into two sections, one on principles and one on practice. Keller lays out the biblical case for mercy ministries in part one and then offers practical guidelines about getting involved in part two. Keller addresses the need for involvement in acts of practical mercy to the needy on various levels (individual, family, church, community) as well as giving attention to pitfalls to avoid. He supplements his material with some helpful "best practices" from model churches and ministries.

Critique—Offer a brief critique of the book, including elements of strength and weakness.

The crucial area of mercy ministry is poorly addressed in contemporary Christian literature. Keller's book fills that vacuum nicely. If you had only one comprehensive guide to caring service from a Christian perspective, "Ministries of Mercy" would serve you well. Keller leaves few stones unturned in addressing these issues, yet without ever becoming bogged down with minutia. In one of the strongest sections of his book, Keller persuasively argues that acts of mercy are a test of the genuineness of our faith and therefore not optional for the Christian. "Ministries of Mercy" is a clear challenge for the church to become more sacrificially engaged in the needs of its community, yet Keller never sounds shrill in his admonitions. And he always is careful to center his thoughts on the gospel of grace. If there is a weakness, it is in the broadness of his vision. Those seeking to begin diaconal (servant) ministries in a local church might become overwhelmed at the thought of addressing systemic injustice, but Keller urges us to start small and build up.

Application—Offer some specific application to your own ministry— demonstrating the value and relevance of the material in this book.

The application of "Ministries of Mercy" is immediate. In particular I will recommend that this book become a catalyst for forming a more sustained diaconal ministry in our church. Keller offers the biblical foundation and practical tools to look at our community and begin to serve the needs intangible ways. Also, I plan to use his section on "Understanding Every-Member Ministry" (p.156-157) to inform, motivate, and equip our church membership.

Best Quote—Be sure to include the page number where the quote can be found.

p.61, "A merely religious person, who believes God will favor him because of his morality and respectability, will ordinarily have contempt for the outcast. 'I worked hard to get where I am, and so can anyone else!' That is the language of the moralist's heart. 'I am only where I am by the sheer and unmerited mercy of God. I am completely equal with all other people.' That is the language of the Christian's heart. A sensitive social conscience and a life poured out in deeds of mercy to the needy is the inevitable sign of a person who has grasped the doctrine of God's grace."

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Book Review: “The Reign of Grace”, by Scotty Smith, Howard Publishing, West Monroe LA, 2003, 303 pp.

Overview—Give a brief overview of the book, including its theme, perspective and approach.

Author/Pastor Scotty Smith takes up where he left off in "Objects of His Affections". "Reign of Grace" might be called "Further Adventures of…" or "What I learned in the Meantime". Reign of Grace both compliments and, yes, corrects Smith's musings in "Objects". Wondering that he may have inadvertently communicated a "cheap grace" at the expense of discipleship, Smith challenges his readers to live under the reign of grace under the lordship of Christ. Smith uses the book of Malachi as a guide to outline ways we cheapen grace and ways we can live freer, healthier lives as Christ conquers all areas of our lives. The goal is loving God well.

Critique—Offer a brief critique of the book, including elements of strength and weakness.

"Reign of Grace" is a solid work with much to commend it. Smith's style will still appeal to those looking for a "spiritual memoir" type book. Yet in addition to this, after each main chapter, Smith provides a "Further Up and Further In" section. These sections are less biographical and more theological and expositional, thus providing a strong undergirding for his more personal reflection. This makes for a more satisfying reading experience for all types of readers. Smith is also a clever wordsmith and his imagery is memorable ("Greasy Grace", "Southern Grace", "Mirage Grace"). However, sometimes his pregnant prose can be a bit distracting! (Note to publisher – if you want more men to read his books, lose the girly fonts and design!)

Application—Offer some specific application to your own ministry— demonstrating the value and relevance of the material in this book.

I can see immediate value in "Reign of Grace". The sections on marriage and sexuality are helpful for marriage enrichment. His discussion on divine discipline and spiritual idolatry will put the battles of the Christian life in perspective. And his reflections on worship and generosity will well equip any church on those issues. Because Smith's style is so accessible, I can see using this book in counseling settings and group studies. Those who recoil at "warm and fuzzy" Christian psychology will like to "further up and further in" sections. And those who begin to nod at the first whiff of theology will warm to the biographic sections and his rich illustrations.

Best Quote—Be sure to include the page number where the quote can be found.

p.162 "Crucifying our sinful nature involves identifying the things we desire more than we desire God and his glory (our particular idols), as well as identifying the substances we are depending upon to empower the worship of our idols. Then we must take pitiless and decisive action. For God's grace teaches us to say "No!" to all forms of ungodliness and idolatry and "Yes!" to filling our hearts with the beauty and bounty of Jesus."

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Book Review: "The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society", by Lesslie Newbigin

Overview—Give a brief overview of the book, including its theme, perspective and approach.

Missionary/theologian Lesslie Newbigin offers the reader a critique of pluralism, the dominant worldview of our time. As one who has roots in both western cultural as a citizen of England and eastern culture as a missionary to India, Newbigin is in a unique postion to share his perspectives. Newbigin lays out the issues and then, through both historical, philosophical, and cultural analysis, he points out the weaknesses in a pluralistic worldview. He concludes by affirming the positive ways the church can respond while remaining faithful to the Gospel.

Critique—Offer a brief critique of the book, including elements of strength and weakness.

Newbigin is a thoughtful and insightful communicator. His style is not overly academic, though those unfamiliar with the issues will get bogged down at times. His strengths are seen as he disarms seemingly powerful arguments with simple observations: "In spite of the enthusiasm of many educational experts for encouraging their pupils to have and open mind and to make their own decisions about truth, a teacher who asks her class whether Paris is the capital of France or Belgium will not appreciate the child who tells him that he has an open mind on the matter" (p7). He points out the arrogance in the pluralists claim that there is no absolute, which they seem to know absolutely.

However, at times Newbigin wants to have his cake and eat it too. He argues for the exclusivity of Christ, and yet is agnostic on the subject of universal salvation (ch. 13). He wants to affirm truth revealed in the Bible, yet denies it's absolute authority (ch.8). Finally, his interpretation of Romans 9:22 is simply forced.

Application—Offer some specific application to your own ministry— demonstrating the value and relevance of the material in this book.

I found the most relevant material in his chapters on "The Congregation as Hermeneutic of the Gospel", where he argues for the centrality of the living witness of the church. As the gospel is incarnated in the lives of those who believe it and live by it, there will the watching world will see most clearly the credibility of our message. He takes time to flesh out what such a congregation should look like in worship, in truth, in ministry to their community, and being equipped as priests in the working world. For pastors this means spiritual formation as a community must become a priority. Entertaining and informative "messages" are no substitute to becoming the people of God. He then calls for church leaders to set the pace in equipping the church to become a missionary congregation.

Best Quote—Be sure to include the page number where the quote can be found.

p. 22 "Merely wandering around in a clueless twilight is not seeking. The relativism which is not willing to speak about truth but only about "what is true for me' is an evasion of the serious business of living. It is the mark of a tragic loss of nerve in our contemporary culture. It is a preliminary symptom of death

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Beating the Prosperity Trap

"Howl and Wail!", "Your riches will eat your flesh like fire!", "You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter!" Whew! James lays down some of the strongest rebukes in the Bible against the oppressive rich. And though He is taking up the prophetic mantle on behalf of his poor brothers who are being oppressed, we in the affluent west need to hear his words ourselves.

Remember, God never condemns money. Rather hard work and providing for oneself and family is commended. But wealth and prosperity has a way of twisting our souls in upon themselves and skewing our perspective. Like Gollum in "The Lord of the Rings", wealth becomes "My Precious" and we cling to it until it consumes us.

What is the proper perspective on wealth? The Bible gives us some key insights in 1 Timothy 6:6-8, 17-19:

6 Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.

17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

Here's the way it works:

  1. Contentment, not acquisition, is the goal! (v.6)
  2. Money is for meeting our basic needs, (v.7)
  3. It's okay (even commanded!) to enjoy the good gifts God gives us! (v.17)
  4. God gives excess wealth so that we can be generous to those in need. (v.18)

While we're listing points, here are some probing applications of generosity from Tim Keller's excellent book "Ministries of Mercy"

  • We must give so that we may feel the burden of the needy ourselves.

  • Keep only what wealth we need for our calling and ministry opportunities.

  • We must not be generous in such a way that we or our families become liabilities to others (1 Tim 5:8).

So – here's the bottom line: work hard, give harder, and live in joyful contentment of God's good gifts!

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Book Review: "Objects of His Affection", by Scotty Smith, 2001, Howard Publishing Co, West Monroe, LA, 260pp

Overview—Give a brief overview of the book, including its theme, perspective and approach.

In "Objects of His Affections", Scotty Smith takes the reader along on his spiritual journey as he comes to grips with the impact of his mother's early death on his life (when Scotty was 11 years old). Part spiritual memoir, part meditation on the book of Zephaniah, "Objects" is an invitation to experience intimacy with God by reflecting on His affections toward his people. Smith intersperses vignettes from his life with teaching and application from the scriptures.

Critique—Offer a brief critique of the book, including elements of strength and weakness.

Smith is a gifted writer with a warm, inviting style. He carefully walks the line between transparency and vulnerability, without straying into maudlin sentimentality or emotional exhibitionism. A challenge for a book like this is to communicate the affections of God in a day when Christians tend to make much of God to the degree we feel He makes much of us. Smith affirms on the one hand that, "While the gospel of God's grace is for us, it is not about us" (p.129), while also affirming that Jesus is, "...the one who would rather die than live without us" (p.193) on the other hand. I appreciate His emphasis to rediscover the God who has deep, intimate affections toward His people, But I question whether, "..the deepest thirst and most acute hunger of the soul is to be delighted in by God" (p.70). Having said that, his sections on "idolatry" and "obstacles to intimacy" were probing and insightful.

Application—Offer some specific application to your own ministry— demonstrating the value and relevance of the material in this book.

The greatest point of application of "Objects of His Desire" is to come to grips with whatever is keeping you from experiencing the deep affections of God. False thoughts of God as a distant and dispassionate deity tend to afflict those with a cerebrally oriented Reformed bent (after all, the Westminster Confession tells us thet God is "without passions"). Smith challenges to come to grips with the affections God has for his beloved bride. A church that "feels" the affections of God for sinful, undeserving people will warmly share those affections with one another and will ultimately overflow in a compelling evangel for their community.

Best Quote—Be sure to include the page number where the quote can be found.

p. 37 - "God the Father has always loved and delighted in God the Son - and vice versa. Jesus has never been anything other than the Father's pleasure and deepest delight. And it is only because of what he has done for us that we dare speak of ourselves as objects of God's affection and subjects of his great delight. The same love, delight, and pleasures that God the Father has for God the Son, he has for all of those who are in Christ - no exceptions."

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Wish I could remember this...

"Christ endured the great shower of wrath, the black and dismal hours of displeasure for sin. That which falls on us is a sunshine shower, warmth with wet, wet with the warmth of his love to make us fruitful and humble... That which the believer suffers for sin is not penal, arising from a vindictive justice, but medicinal, arising from a fatherly love. It is his medicine, not his punishment; his chastisement, not his sentence; his correction, not his condemnation."
Samuel Bolton (1606-1654)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

“The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God”, John M. Frame Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 1987, 437 pp.

Overview—Give a brief overview of the book, including its theme, perspective and approach.

"The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God" is a seminary level treatment of Christian theological epistemology. Frame seeks to demonstrate how one gains true knowledge of God, the world, and one's self, under the Lordship of our covenant God. He addresses the objects, the justification, and the methods of knowledge. Frame comes from a studied Reformed perspective.

Critique—Offer a brief critique of the book, including elements of strength and weakness.

Frame's strengths lie in his comprehensiveness. At over 400 pages, DKG leaves few stones unturned. Of course, this has its downside in that one can easily "lose the forest for the trees". I found myself needing to come up for air a few times. I also found his tri-perspectival framework very helpful. At first the idea seemed a bit contrived and forced, but as I considered it further and saw how he fleshed it out, I became more comfortable with the idea. Utilizing a normative, situational, and existential approach allows Frame to find helpful insights from scripture, reason, and experience. This allows one to appreciate varied perspectives without demonizing those with whom we disagree.

I will have to think more about his assertion that Scripture is the ultimate presupposition. I understand the primacy and authority of Scripture, but it seems that there might be certain logical presuppositions that are hardwired into our humanity, without which we cannot make sense of anything, including Scripture. In the mere act of reading a coherent sentence we apply certain logical presuppositions (non-contradiction, causal connectedness, etc…). And we also need a coherent hermeneutic so that we may understand what we read as well. These, it seems, we bring to the inspired, authoritative text. But this is not my area of expertise, so I will have to think through these issues.

Application—Offer some specific application to your own ministry— demonstrating the value and relevance of the material in this book.

As an encyclopedic treatment of epistemology, DKG will serve as a serious reference tool as I wrestle with the issues of epistemology. His section on Logic is a textbook in itself! I plan to apply his tri-perspectival approach to various areas of pastoral ministry (counseling, leadership development), biblical understanding, and cultural assessment.

Best Quote—Be sure to include the page number where the quote can be found.

p. 45 "For a Christian, the content of Scripture must serve as his ultimate presupposition. Our beliefs about Scripture may be corrected by other beliefs about scripture, but relative to the body of extra-scriptural information we possess, those beliefs are presuppostional in character. This doctrine is merely the outworking of the lordship of God in the area of human thought.

Business Class Pride

"Attack the Status Quo" seems to be the motto for the book of James! The attitudes James exposes in chapter 4:13-17 are nothing less than a clash of worldviews that the brother of Jesus must confront. The first "worldview" is what we might call "business class pride", a practical atheism that presumptuously plans as if there was no God. "Religion is all well and good for Sunday morning, but I'll take control of my own pursuits starting Monday". We plan as if tomorrow was guaranteed and we determined the outcome of events.

Yet as recent headlines have shown us, our lives are but a vapor. We are here today and gone tomorrow. And if we were so smart about the future, why did the economic downturn catch us so off guard?

No, humility demands we confess we are much more frail and ignorant than we'd like to admit. But there is another way to view the world.

Rather than "business class pride", we need to live life before the face of God – something ancient theologians called "Coram Deo". R.C. Sproul explains it like this:

"This phrase literally refers to something that takes place in the presence of, or before the face of, God. To live coram Deo is to live one's entire life in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God"

"Living under divine sovereignty involves more than a reluctant submission to sheer sovereignty that is motivated out of a fear of punishment. It involves recognizing that there is no higher goal than offering honor to God. Our lives are to be living sacrifices, oblations offered in a spirit of adoration and gratitude."

As we conduct our lives in the business world, we do so with an understanding of the sovereignty and providence of God. Yes, we must make plans and do business. But we do so in a spirit of simple humility and joyful dependence on God for the outcome. As a wise man once said, "Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established." Proverbs 16:3

And when God alters our plans, rather than frustration and irritation, we can respond with trust and excitement about the new adventure He has for us! To quote John Newton (writer of "Amazing Grace"):

"When I hear a knock at my study door, I hear a message from God. It may be a lesson of instruction; perhaps a lesson of patience: but, since it is his message, it must be interesting!"

The well wisher of your soul's happiness,

Pastor Tom