Thursday, December 2, 2010

Well England? Which one of us is going to change?

Hi blog, I missed you. A random thought I typed out this morning before starting my work for the day...

Which is easier to change, all of England (with its annoyances...see Nicole's blog)….or for God to change my heart? Let’s see,

For the next three years, I can either DEMAND that this country change:

- Its whole attitude about customer service

- Its not being bothered at all about said lack of customer service

- Its not being bothered at all when things are totally out of stock in the store, for day after day, and/or when simple tasks are covered from head to toe in red tape and are utterly inconvenient

- Its whole ethos of “Well, it’s not bad…considering”, when it really is bad!

Or, for the next three years, I can (by grace):

- See every annoyance as an opportunity to lean just a little bit more on the strong arms of the Lord

- Set aside my perceived ‘rights’ to having things the way I want them, when I want them (After all, I am the one who gets livid when people in America, or here, speak about how every human being has a ‘right’ to proper health care, or to this or that item, which in fact is a privilege and not at all a right.)

- Begin to see myself as the demanding and unreasonable one, instead of them (Hey, they probably are trying their best)

- Be much quicker to check my own impatience and unbelief, seeing how God in Christ has been infinitely more patient with me, than I have ever been with my fellow man.

- Believe with my heart what my mouth professes to believe, namely, that even though I may be put out for a time, through this adversity the door stands cracked to enter into and enjoy the consoling fellowship which Christ promises to the spiritually thirsty.

- Say, with Hudson Taylor, “My need now is great and urgent, but God is greater and more near.And because HE IS, and is WHAT HE IS, all must be, all is, all will be well.”

- Say and believe with John Flavel, “Christ is now come near us in the gospel.”

Hmmmm, in light of all this, I think England should change.

Just kidding.

I love you, Mother England.

Monday, May 31, 2010

A lesson from my one year old niece

This blog thing is so new and novel to me that anytime I want to post something, I have to go to Nicole's blog to find the link to my blog! I am not technical enough to find my own blog... Sad. A few of you have said to me, "We've only seen one post so far, pretty lame Nathan!" OK, here's another one :)

A quick thought about my sweet little niece, June. We just arrived here in California last night, and I saw something which was very profound last night. I'll just transcribe what I wrote in my prayer journal this morning:

"Addiction to self is truly intoxicating. It starts with a craving for it; then lust (inordinate desire) for it; then when you get it, intoxication; then you crash and have to have more....and every human being is a BORN JUNKIE. I noticed last night that one of June's motivators is applause (June is my precious one year old niece). Last night, to motivate her to put up her toys everyone in the living room applauded when she put something away. Each time we clapped she looked around the room at each and every one of us with an expression of delight and GLEE. And suddenly, I saw a carbon copy of myself standing in front of me! The only difference is I have gray hair and 180 lbs. on her! And yet, God's Word is utterly unambiguous about this (and I see why now): 'How can you believe when you receive glory from one another, and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?' - Jesus, in John 5:44. And again, in John 12:43 it says that among the authorities, many believed in Christ but they would not confess it publicly because they feared that the Pharisees would kick them out of the synagogue: '...for they (the authorities who feared the Pharisees) loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.'"

I believe that even in that little one year old heart is a growing desire for praise, approval, and acceptance from others. And as strong as ever, in this 31 year old heart, is the very same craving. I'm much better at masking it, of course. When people say nice things to me or about me, I pretend like it's no big deal. But in reality, it's much closer to a shot of drugs in my veins.

And given this truth about human nature, is it any wonder why people become so neurotic, narcissistic, and fearful? We put ourselves completely at the mercy of others. Whatever you place as your ultimate value, that is the thing that controls you. That is your functional 'God.' How wonderful, as a child of God, to have the possibility of being free from what others think of me. By grace, the reality of that will increase.

The thought which is shaping me the most these days

Last fall I read a little book about the life of Hudson Taylor called "Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret." It's a very short read, but it's really filled with gems. I re-read it again earlier this spring and got even more out of it the second time.

The thought that this book brought to my mind which has powerfully been shaping me is as follows: Hudson Taylor and George Mueller were both outspoken about their reliance of God as they ministered (Taylor to the Chinese and Mueller to orphans in England - both in the 19th century). They both positioned their ministries in terms of holding God to His word and promises. They reasoned (rightly, I believe) that God has not made unqualified promises concerning some things in life, but he has with others. The first category would include things like luxuries in life, recovery for sick people, a new car, a job, a spouse, etc. The second would be the necessities of life and things necessary for the kingdom. He has not promised the first, but He has the second.

Two Biblical bases for this would be Psalm 84:11 and Matthew 6:34:
"No good thing will He (the LORD) withhold from those who walk uprightly" - Psalm 84:11
"But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will added to you." - Matthew 6:34.

Oh yeah, the "these things" is not a new car - sorry Creflo Dollar! Verse 6:31 says that the "these things" are food, drink and clothing - essentially, the necessities of life. Therefore, if a Christian walks uprightly, God promises to meet their needs.

These two men and their wives ran their ministries by stepping out on and relying on the promises of God. They said: "God has promised, so we're going to trust Him. He will not fail us." For Mueller, what this looked like was to take under his care 2000 orphans, and to daily watch God provide for their needs. Oh yeah, Mueller never appealed to anyone for money. All he did was pray and watch God provide. In 63 years of running his orphanages like that, not once did God fail to meet the needs of the English orphans (or for Taylor, the English missionaries in China).

Here is a two page excerpt from the book. I hope you will take the time to not only read it, but to consider it, and think through the implications it ought to have on the life of a Christian. My guess is that IF anyone lived this way, the impact would be absolutely staggering. I may know one or two Christians who consciously live like this. I wish I did. The final paragraph is amazing, and now my daily prayer.

What would you and I do if we knew that God would keep His word?

An excerpt from chapter 13 of Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret

“For the One who had permitted the troubles to come had also made provision in His own wonderful way. A penniless man in England -- literally with no more resources than the birds of the air or lilies of the field -- was already supporting through prayer and faith a family of some two thousand orphan children, later increased to double that number.
Without a cent of endowment, without an appeal of any kind for help, without even letting their wants be known to anyone but the Father in Heaven, on whose promise he relied, George Mueller was proving the faithfulness of God in a way that had long stimulated Hudson Taylor's faith and that of many another. But so large was the heart of this man of God in Bristol that he could not be content without having some part in direct missionary work in the darker places of the earth. He prayed for funds with which he might forward the preaching of the Gospel in many lands, including China, and had the joy of being the Lord's channel of help in many a difficult situation. It seemed as if the Lord had his ear in quite a special way, and could use him in needed ministries that others overlooked or were not prepared for.
No sooner had the Yangchow riot taken place, for example, and long before the news could have reached England, it was laid on Mr. Mueller's heart to send financial help to the China Inland Mission.
He was already contributing, but within a day or two of the riot he wrote to Mr. Berger asking for the names of other members of the Mission whom he might add to his list for ministry and prayer. Mr. Berger sent him six names from which to choose, and his choice was to take them all.
And then, a year later, when the shortness of funds in China was being most seriously felt, Mr. Mueller wrote again, enlarging his help. While that letter was on its way, Mr. Taylor, in sending out a December remittance, wrote to one of the workers:
‘Over a thousand pounds LESS has been contributed during the first half of this (financial) year than last year. I do not keep a cook now. I find it cheaper to have cooked food brought in from an eating-house at a dollar a head per month. ... Let us pray in faith for funds, that we may not have to diminish our work.’
To diminish one's comforts seemed to him of small account, but "to diminish our work" -- well, thank God, that was something he never had to do! Before the year closed, on this occasion, Mr. Mueller's letter was in his hands.
‘My dear Brother [it read], the work of the Lord in China is more and more laid on my heart, and hence I have been longing and praying to be able to assist it more and more with means, as well as with prayer. Of late I have especially had a desire to help all the dear brethren and sisters with you with pecuniary means. This I desired especially that they might see that I was interested in them personally. This my desire the Lord has now fulfilled.’
The eleven checks enclosed were for all the members of the Mission to whom Mr. Mueller had not previously been ministering.
Writing by the same mail, Mr. Berger said:
‘Mr. Mueller, after due consideration, has requested the names of ALL the brethren and sisters connected with the China Inland Mission, as he thinks it well to send help as he is able to each one, unless we know of anything to hinder. ... Surely the Lord knew that our funds were sinking, and thus put it into the heart of His honored servant to help.’
But it was not the money only, it was the prayerful sympathy of such a man that made his gifts the wonderful encouragement they were. * * [Mr. Mueller's donations for the next few years amounted to nearly ten thousand dollars annually -- just the sum by which the income of the Mission had fallen off after the Yangchow riot.]
‘My chief object [he wrote in his letter to the missionaries] is to tell you that I love you in the Lord; that I feel deeply interested about the Lord's work in China, and that I pray daily for you. I thought it might be a little encouragement to you in your difficulties, trials, hardships and disappointments to hear of one more who feels for you and who remembers you before the Lord. But were it otherwise, had you even no one to care for you -- or did you at least seem to be in a position as if no one cared for you -- you will always have the Lord to be with you. Remember Paul's case at Rome (2"Tim. 4:16-18). On Him then reckon, to Him look, on Him depend: and be assured that if you walk with Him, look to Him and expect help from Him, He will never fail you. An older brother, who has known the Lord for forty-four years, who writes this, says for your encouragement that He has never failed him. In the greatest difficulties, in the heaviest trials, in the deepest poverty and necessities, He has never failed me; but because I was enabled by His grace to trust in Him, He has always appeared for my help. I delight in speaking well of His name.’

Friday, April 30, 2010

First Blog - Enns review of Beale in BBR

In an effort to start writing regularly, I have entered the blog world. Enough banal chit-chat, let's begin...

I've just now read Enns’s review of Beale on Inerrancy, in the Bulletin for Biblical Research 19.4:

Enns is repeatedly smug and condescending in his his tone, though in an extremely slick way, to make himself sound gracious. E.g. He writes: "I do not seem to have been successful in my previous responses to convince Beale that further scholarly dialogue is needed." I'm quite sure that Beale has communicated this exactly - "No, we don't need to be scholarly about this!" Me thinks not, Enns.

Concerning the ‘natural way’ of understanding the Scriptures which Beale advocates and Enns evidently opposes: one would think that Jesus' audience, in order to understand Him properly, (and remember, keeping the original audience in mind is the golden rule of interpretation, especially for Enns/Wright type theologians) they would have to have a PhD in not only Biblical studies, but also be conversant with archaeology, ANE religion & cultural backgrounds, and textual criticism. What the issues break down into are these: Was Jesus wrong that Isaiah penned the Old Testament book bearing him name, or not? Would Jesus have expected his audience to have known all of the above, to grasp what he was saying? If the issues are that complex and Isaiah was penned by several authors (and you would need to know all of the above to understand Jesus), then why didn't Jesus simply say: "As Isaiah, et al say....."

After a mere one hour of cruising around on the blogosphere, it seems that so many young, increasingly-disillusioned, Reformed types who want to have Jesus in one hand and intellectual respectability (in the eyes of the pagan world) in the other - are very quick to say that they can't stand Beale-type obscurantists....while writers on the other said (in this case, Enns) are doing the exact same thing.