Monday, August 30, 2010

Family and Call of God, Part 2

A few days ago I posted on "Family and the Call of God." I emphasized that we must leave family in order to really love God. I used Abraham as an example.

But it is also true that God commands us to love our families. The fifth commandment reads, "Honor your father and your mother" (Ex. 20:12), and Paul tells husbands to "love their wives as Christ loves his church" (Eph. 5:25). So, what should we to do, leave our families or love them?

The answer is both. These seemingly irreconcilable commandments culminate and synthesize in the commandment to love God above all other things, especially family. In other words if we love our family members because we love God, if that is truly our motive, then we will leave them in our hearts and love them at the same time. In fact, we will love them more. We will love them because it pleases God, not because we need their relationship. Our love will be disinterested. It will always be for the good of the beloved, not for selfish reasons.

Does this describe how you love your family members? As always your thoughtful responses are welcomed.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Holy Is the Lord!

A couple of days ago I blogged about Abraham's struggle to leave father, kin, and clan for God and his City. It terminated with God's command to offer up the son of promise, little Isaac. Here is a powerful music video on this theme. Take a moment to watch. I don't think you will be disappointed.

As always your comments are appreciated.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Have We Ignored the Resurrection?

I have written three books. They have all focused on the cross. Some ask, "Have we focused too much on the cross at the expense of the Resurrection?" That is a valid and insightful question. Here is a short and most prescient response from a pastor/scholar of repute.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Are We Losing our Youth?

Does the church need to "be cool" to attract young people? Is that the answer to the decline in attendance for the twenty somethings? The Wall Street Journal, of all places, has an interesting take on this question.

Grace Christian Fellowship is a young church. In your opinion, what attracts the the twenty somethings? Even more importantly, what should attract the youth?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Family and the call of God!

The first recorded conversion appears in Genesis 12:1. It was the call of Abram. This man lived in what is now modern Baghdad. In 2000 BC these people worshiped the moon. Abram worshiped the moon with them.

The Cost of Discipleship
It is important to note that his call to follow God included a call to leave family and kindred. "Now the Lord said to Abram, 'Go from your country and kindred and your fathers house to the land that I will show you." In Abraham's day family and kin were everything, they were God-substitutes, potential idols. Abraham must have been very close to his extended family. They probably thought he was crazy. It is unlikely that they understood. "God told you what?" they must have mocked. But he left, and the reason was the promise of eternal reward.  "He was looking forward to the City, that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God" (Heb. 11:10). 

Jesus stressed the same theme. "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, and yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26). The cost to follow Christ has always radical and total.

In Abraham's case applying this principle was costly. God tested Abraham's loyalty by putting his finger on his relationship with his family. He will do the same with each of us. About 35 years after his initial call God asked for Abraham's son, Isaac, as a living sacrifice. Abraham obeyed. We all know the story. At the last moment the Angel of the Lord restrained Abraham and provided an alternate. God honored Abraham's faith. Ultimately, he gave Abraham his own Son in replacement. Such is the love of God. He richly rewards those who forsake family to gain inherit God's promises.

In what way has following Christ cost you with immediate family? How can we reconcile these scriptures with the fifth commandment, "Honor your father and mother?" As always, your comments will be appreciated.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Must Saving Faith Humble?

Martin Luther
Speaking of Martin Luther, Alister McGrath, professor of theology at Oxford, wrote, "By late 1514 Luther had arrived at the fundamental insight that the proper disposition for justification is humility…God humiliates man, in order that he may justify him; he makes man a sinner, in order that he may make him righteous─and both aspects of this matter are increasingly seen by Luther as works of God."(Luther's Theology of the Cross, pg 153).

Was Luther right? Does saving faith include a fundamental humbling? Must it motivate us to admit that "God is right. I am a sinner. God is holy. I cannot make it on my own. I need God's help?"

If Luther is right, to bring people to this place we must tell them the truth. That's what Paul did. He describes his methods in Romans 1:18-3:20. First he spent several paragraphs on the wrath of God. Then he turned to the inevitability of judgment. Last, he laid out mankinds utter moral bankruptcy. Only then did he present the Good News.

What do you think? Was Luther right? Why or why not?  

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Reformation in Scotland

See my previous post on London and Oxford.

The next day Judy and I drove to Edinburgh, Scotland, to catch up on our old friends Paul and Shiona Rees. We spent Thursday night with them in Edinburgh. Paul gave us a tour of his church, Charlotte Chapel. It is a "new" church having only been founded in about 1800.

Royal Castle at one end of the Royal Mile
The next day we walked the Royal mile. At one end is the Royal castle where John Knox confronted Mary Queen of Scotts. This was the city of Edinburgh as it had existed for centuries until it began to expand around1800. The old city is on a ridge. At one end is the Royal castle, at the other St. Giles church where John Knox preached. The streets are narrow and still paved with old stone. Many shops lure in the tourists. The Old Town takes one back to life as it must have been in the 18th century.

St. Giles Church
 At the other end of the Royal Mile is St. Giles church where John Knox thundered sermons that transformed Scotland into a protestant nation. All of this occurred in the 16th century. Knox grave is under a parking lot. The old church graveyard was needed for parking.

Grey Friars Church

 Between the castle and St. Giles was the old Grey Friars church. It was here that the Scottish people covenanted with each other in 1638 to resist the encroachment of Anglicanism. Charles I and Archbishop Laud tried to impose the Anglican prayer book upon the people. The first time the bishop attempted to read it in divine services a maid named Jenny Geddes picked up her folding stool and threw it at him instigating a riot. The British jailed many of the covenanters at Grey Friars. We toured the prisons and the graves. The Scottish people remember this as "the killing times."

The ruins of St. Andrews Castle
Where Wishart was burnt
Next we took the 1 hour drive Northeast to the town of St. Andrews known for the University, Golf Course, and Castle by the same name.It was in this castle that the Scottish reformation began. The Reformers holed up in the castle for safety. While there they called the young John Knox to be their preacher. Knox had been the body of guard of George Wishart, one of the first reformers, for the six weeks prior to his death. Wishart was burnt at the stake. (There is a GW in the pavement in front of the castle on the spot of his death). Knowing full well the suffering that it would bring Knox burst into tears and fled the room.

The Roman Catholic French navy came to the aid of Scotland's Roman Catholics. Their canon pulverized the castle walls. (The crumbling ruins remain). Then the French impressed Knox as a Galley slave for 19 months.

On the way home we passed through the little village of Dunbar where Oliver Cromwell defeated the Scottish army in the crucial battle of Dunbar in the 1650s.

Emily and Father
We arrived back in Durham just in time to spend more quality time with our new grandaughter, Emily.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Historical Notes on the United Kingdom

I am blogging from the United Kingdom. My daughter, Sarah, just gave birth to a new granddaughter, Emily Alice Victoria Jones. Her father, Tony, is a pastor in Durham, a Cathedral town in North England just South of the Scottish border.

Tower of London
Tony took me on a whirlwind tour of London, Oxford, and other places of interest. He lived in Oxford for  9 years. In addition he worked as a Barrister in downtown London. So, he knows these areas well. We toured Westminster Cathedral, the Tower of London, the Supreme Court building, watched the changing of the guard in front of Buckingham Palace, and shared dinner next to Shakespeare's Globe Theater. We also visited the National Portrait Gallery where we saw, amongst others, original portraits of Cromwell, Charles I, Wesley, and Bunyan. Fascinating.

Place where Latimer and Ridley died
At Oxford we ate lunch at little pub called the Eagle and Child. It was there that the Inklings, a small group of writers led by C.S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkein, met every Tuesday morning to drink a pint (or two) of Ale and read their writing to each other. Also stood in the very place where in the 16th century Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer were burnt at the stake for their gospel convictions. Also got a peek at the apartment in Lincoln College where John Wesley lived when before his conversion he worked as a tutor. Stood in front of the pulpit in St. Mary's church at Oxford where he preached his very controversial sermon on justification by faith alone. We also strolled through Pembroke College from whence George Whitfield received his degree. The history is amazing, and as Tony sadly reminded me, most Englishman have never heard of George Whitfield today.

Emily Alice Victoria Jones
Oh, and of course, my new granddaughter is absolutely beautiful.