Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Why Don't You Do Something?

When I read on the Kindle my family can't tell right away what I am reading. The other day my daughter Nicole came into the room and asked if I was reading the Bible. I wasn't. "Spurgeon?" she inquired. A very good guess, to be sure, but also incorrect. I informed her that I was reading a book by John Piper who was both a pastor and a writer. Nicole suggested that since I was a pastor that I also should write something. "What should I write?" I asked. She suggested that I write my own biography. I told her that I didn't think many people would want to read about me since I haven't done very much in my life. Her response was, "Well, then you should do something!" Good advice from a brand new teenager.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

All Things Work Together For Good . . .

How can Romans 8:28 be true? We quote it so often when life stinks. Some Christians are even tired of hearing it. The verse seems to be an easy answer for pastors to give when we just don't know what to say about a tragic event.

In reality, the verse itself begins to give the answer as to how such an outrageous claim can be true. It is true that all things work for good to those who love God because God has called us according to His purpose. The following two verses elaborate on that theme even more. They let us know that God's complete directing of our salvation is the good in which we can rejoice.

God's plan of saving people begins with His selection of them to receive His special love. Those He foreknows in this way are ones that He also determines to conform to be like Jesus. When we experience pain, loss, suffering, and any other bad thing, we should remember that God uses those experiences to make us more like Jesus than we were previously. In addition to making us like Jesus, God also is the one who declares us right with Him (based on the work of Christ on the cross), effectively calls us to faith in Christ, and grants us eternal life.

God has sacrificed much in order to take care of our eternal issues. It would be inconsistent of God to fail to handle our more immediate, physical problems. In fact, God is in control. He is using our problems to make us like Him. He is using those problems for our good. The promise may seem outrageous to you, but God's proof of the truth of His promise is overwhelming. Accept it as true. Your problems will still exist, but you will be able to see them for the good that God intended in your life.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Swiss Family Robinson

I have really enjoyed the Kindle that the church gave me for Pastor Appreciation Month. It is a terrific gift. I think I actually like reading it better than reading "real books" (physical books- you know, the kind with paper that are all over my study).

One of the things that I have done with the Kindle is download and read some free classic books. Many of these books I've read before. One such book is Swiss Family Robinson. It has been many years since I first read this book, but I remembered that I liked it. I also remember my grandfather telling me that it had been one of his favorite books. My dad has since mentioned that it was a book that he enjoyed. And now my son has begun to read it also- on the Kindle of course. I think he just wanted an excuse to use my new toy.

One of the things that struck me as I read this book for the first time as a parent is how much parenting advice is built right into the story. The book is told from the point of view of a dad who has been marooned on an island with his wife and four sons. Throughout the book he corrects the character flaws of his boys through instruction, and also through carefully assigning work projects to each boy based on areas in which that boy needs improvement.

The author also gives much spiritual teaching. The family constantly recognizes the hand of a gracious God in all that happens to them. They remember to give thanks and to study the Bible regularly.

Much of the teaching of the book involves the physical world. The book talks about how they survived by making use of the plants and animals on the island. It also introduces various geological information as they tour their island and make good use of all that is available to them.

There is a reason that some books stand the test of time and become classics. Perhaps this book has survived because it creatively teaches many lessons in the midst of a compelling story. Most of my reading centers on non-fiction, but this book reminds me of the value fiction can play in communicating truth.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Creator, Ruler, Reconciler

Colossians 1:15-20 exalts Christ for who He is. It shows that Christ is our creator. He made the world. He made people. He created the angelic or spiritual world in addition to the physical world. It is by the power of the eternal Christ that everything continues to exist and to operate.

In addition to being our creator, Christ is also our ruler. He is the head of the church. He is the source of the church. He is the leader of the church in every area, including the area of resurrection. Christ ultimately rules not only over the church, but also over all things.

Along with being creator and ruler, Christ is the great reconciler. He makes peace between God and men. He will one day restore this fallen creation to it's original glory. The cross of Christ was the means through which Christ made peace between sinful man and a holy God.

How should a knowledge of Christ's greatness impact our lives? First, we ought to worship the one who made us, rules over us, and gives us peace with God. Second, we should trust the one who holds this life together- the one who will restore the earth to it's former glory- the one died on our behalf. Trusting Him means accepting Him as our way of salvation. It also involves living our lives for His glory and pleasure. Finally, a picture of the greatness of Christ should be a picture that we want to show to other people. Just as grandparents find any excuse to show off pictures of their grandchildren, we ought to make opportunities to present Christ to the people with whom we interact.

Christ is great for many reasons. Let's make sure we remember His greatness and act according to it.

Colossians 1:15-20:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities- all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also the head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It Happens

One of my responsibilities as "dad" is to get the toilet un-clogged. This is not my favorite part of my dad job-description. In fact, I'm sure that un-clogging toilets is not even in my top ten favorite parts of being a parent. Nevertheless, I plunger onward.

Recently I was again called on to make the water flow through the pipes. For some reason I was having a particularly difficult time convincing the poop to get un-stuck. After working for several minutes one of my children suggested an easier method. She informed me that if I would just walk away, it would clear up on its own. At least, that's what always works for her. What a great laugh my daughter provided me. She didn't understand what was so funny. I explained that the reason the toilet re-gained it's ability to flush all of those times was not because the problem just went away, but because I was continually fixing those problems.

Some time after I stopped laughing (and had considered crying) and after I finally had a break-through with that current back-up, it occurred to me that we might fail to notice the work of our Heavenly Father. We are happy when problems in our lives just work themselves out. But we don't always see that God was the one who was behind the scenes actually fixing the problem. Let's remember to look for evidence of God at work, even when we don't immediately notice Him.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Building Update

The plans for an addition to our building are continuing to take shape. The Building Committee of Grace Church met with our site engineer yesterday. The engineer has showed us his plans and helped us choose some of the landscaping and make some style choices for the front of the building. The engineer should be ready to submit our permit application to our township next month.

Applying for permits costs money. Before we spend that money, the Building Committee wants to make sure the entire church is informed and in approval of the plans. In order to inform the congregation, the Committee will call a special congregational meeting for our church immediately following our next Fellowship Dinner (after church on Sunday, November 21). At this meeting I expect that the plans for the building and the plans for the parking lot and driveway will be presented. In addition, the cost of the project and the needed monthly payments will also be shown. Once we spend the money on permits, that money will be wasted if we come back later with a different plan or if we decide not to build the building that we apply to build. As a result, it seems important that we all are in agreement on the building plans before we apply for the permits. Additionally, once we borrow money for the building, our monthly mortgage cost will rise. We need to make sure that the people of Grace Church are financially committed to the project before we shoulder a new mortgage.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Proud Papa

My daughter asked a terrific question during our Bible reading last night. She wanted to know why the pronouns had changed from "they" to "we" in Acts 16. We talked about the fact that Luke wrote the book of Acts. The kids were able to realize that the transition from "they went and did things" to "we went and did more things" meant that Luke had joined Paul's group. My daughter also wanted to know why Luke didn't just say that he began travelling with Paul.

I was very proud of my daughter for noticing this very minor change. It not only showed that she was paying attention, but also lets me know that she is already equipped to handle the first step of studying the Bible for herself- the step of observing what the text actually says.