Sunday, October 30, 2011

Devotion to God

E.M. Bounds
, in his book On Prayer, writes that there is no substitute for a devotion to God for the founding of our character and conduct. While his comments specifically address pastors, Bounds words on where our loyalty lies hold true for all Christians: "Devotion to a church, to opinions, to an organization, to orthodoxy--these are paltry, misleading, and vain when they become the source of inspiration, the animus (attitude) of a call."

Bounds explains that God must be the "mainspring" of effort, "the fountain and crown" of toil.

He goes on to say, "The name and honor of Jesus Christ, the advance of his cause, must be all in all. The preacher (and we too) must have no inspiration but the name of Jesus Christ, no ambition but to have him glorified, no toil but for him." The only aim, Bounds writes, is to have God with us, and that is an ambition to cherish perpetually.

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20

"May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." Galatians 6:14

"I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me." Philippians 1:20-22

Saturday, October 29, 2011

More on Biblical Testimony...

On May 3, 2011, I wrote a post titled "What is Biblical Testimony?" I wish I had read the following lines in John R.W. Stott's Understanding the Bible at the time I had been asked to give my testimony to a large group of high school students! (My first mistake was giving "my" testimony instead of "a" testimony about Jesus).

Stott writes:

"The words 'witness' and 'testimony' have been much devalued, and are sometimes employed to describe what is little more than an essay in religious autobiography. But Christian witness is witness to Christ. And the Christ to whom we have a responsibility to witness is not merely the Christ of our personal experience, but the historic Christ, the Christ of the apostolic testimony. There is no other Christ. So if Scripture leads to witness, witness also depends on Scripture." John R.W. Stott

"As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!'" Romans 10:15.

Our testimony or witness, whether given formally or informally, ought to be good news about Jesus for a people caught in darkness unawares. It has not so much to do with us as it does with the power and leading of the Holy Spirit to say what He will about Himself through us. It is the unchanging testimony of Scripture, working on uniquely different lives. We are the feet that bring the beautiful news, not so that people hear or see us, but so they hear and see the Jesus of Scripture. Perhaps they, too, will then desire to know and experience the Jesus of Scripture.

"He must become greater; I must become less." John 3:30

"All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name" (Peter speaking). Acts 10:43

"...I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me--the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace" (Paul speaking). Acts 20:24

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

God Is, Regardless

I came across this Habakkuk verse today and it pretty much stopped me in my tracks:

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,

though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,

though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;

he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,

he enables me to go on the heights. “

Habakkuk 3:17-19

Contained in these two lines is a sermon to last a lifetime: what an expression of joy, regardless of circumstances. What an expression of trust, regardless of circumstances. What an expression of standing strong, regardless of circumstances!

These last two lines of Habakkuk are motivating words for a day in which a critical and complaining spirit often reigns, even within the Body of Christ.

But God, in His Word, provides for our every need. And Habakkuk is a great place to start to allow God Himself to lift us up in renewal and steadfastness in our walk with Him, regardless….

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Biblical Theology of Parenting

My husband and I just completed an online Biblical Theology of the New Testament class. As part of our final exam, we each had to write a Biblical theology of parenting. It was a great exercise, and I highly recommend Christian parents do the same exercise and tape it to the refrigerator! My husband and I both agreed we wish we had done this when we first became Christians. So here it is, my Biblical theology of parenting:

Biblical parenting involves loving, teaching, training, guiding, disciplining and mentoring.
Ephesians 6:1-4 is a great place to start: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’—which is the first commandment with a promise—‘that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.’ Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”
If parents do not first teach respect for parents, then parents are going to find themselves swimming against a very strong current the majority of the time. Finding the balance laid out in the Ephesians verses is key: parents must teach and discipline. Yet, as the verse states, parents must not exasperate their children (Colossians 3:21) by putting unrealistic expectations on them or disciplining too severely or constantly without also praising, encouraging and edifying (1 Thessalonians 5:11). We've all heard "pick your battles" but maybe that should be re-phrased as "don't pick battles" in the first place! "Battle" implies stubbornness and the digging in of one's heels for the long haul, often justified as its being "the principle of the thing." But what principle? At what cost? To whose benefit?
The training and instruction of the Lord can be found as a teaching of Jesus in Matthew 19:14 when Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them…”
How is it that parents can hinder their children’s coming to Jesus? Well, by not creating and maintaining a Christian home in belief, thought and deed. Also, by not having a consistent church life at a sound, Bible-believing church (consistent does not mean the church takes over one's family life. Each family must decide as a family what they want to become involved in at church, and how much. The amount of involvement that works for one family may be disruptive in another). In addition, parents can hinder their children’s “coming to Jesus” and growing in Christ by failing to be Christian mentors. If parents watch violence or mediocre, tasteless programming on TV or too much TV, skip daily prayer and Bible time, cuss, cheat, lie, gossip, eat to excess, drink alcohol or abuse prescription drugs, they will indeed be getting in the way of their children’s ability to come to Jesus, especially during the younger developmental years when establishing a Christian walk is so important.
Mark 9:42 goes along with the previous point: “If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.” Parents have been entrusted with God’s children. Just as we are not are not our own (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), our children are not our own: they belong to God and are His creation (Psalm 139:13). God will hold parents accountable as to whether they were Godly teachers and a Godly influence or a stumbling block to their children (God does not expect parents to be perfect. But He does expect contrition and repentance from parents and children alike when they sin).
The other key verse for parents to rely on in their parenting, and to teach to their children, is 1 Thessalonians 5:21: “Test everything” (also Romans 12:2). I’ve said this to my children and continue to remind myself of it many times (and wish I had been more proactive at it in my early faith life, when my children were aged 10 and 7). But as my sons are now in college (and my husband and I participate in the online Bible class), I am relying on this verse quite a bit as we all discuss what we hear from classmates, professors and textbooks.
Another key to parenting is to realize we are sinners and live in a fallen world (yes, even cute little two-year olds are sinners. This realization alone should make parents not take bad behavior personally!). This, I believe, is where love is needed most; not to excuse bad behavior, but to make room for the inevitable tripping into sin and making of mistakes. Colossians 3:13-14 says, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love; which binds them all together in perfect unity” (the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32 is a great illustration of this).
As I enter my 6th month of empty-nestness, the above verse holds even more meaning. No one could have prepared me for how much I miss my children, and, in looking back, the desire that more of Colossians 3 would have taken place and less of “sweating the small stuff.” Once my sons left home, I realized how those little irksome qualities of my children are really quite endearing, and it might not be so bad to have a pile of my son’s junk sitting on the dining room table! I guess that’s why empty-nesters make such wonderful grandparents!
Finally, if I had to select one passage from Scripture to give to new parents, it would be Philippians 4:4-9: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
Parents must, in prayer, humble submission, thankfulness and Godly love for our children, give ourselves, our parenting and our children over to God on a daily basis.

copyright Barb Harwood

"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." Proverbs 22:6

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

How Majestic

Barb Harwood photos, Olympic National Park, Washington

"Oh Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!"
Psalm 8:1;9

"They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and I will meditate on your wonderful works." Psalm 145:5