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Archive for February, 2007

Ware on Prayer

I’ve just about finished reading Their God Is Too Small by Bruce Ware. It’s a critique of open theism and it’s very good. (I need to declare an interest right away: Dr. Ware was one of my theology professors at Western. I loved his class, so I’m predisposed to like his books.)

Ware answers the question of what difference our prayers actually make if God exhaustively knows the future and if He sovereignly ordains whatsoever comes to pass (see Westminster Confession chapter 3)?

“So, just how does our prayer make a difference? Simply put, in his kindness, God has designed that his good and perfect will be accomplished, in some respects, only as his people pray and first ask for God so to work. The role of prayer, then, becomes necessary to the accomplishing of these certain purposes, and our involvement in prayer, then, actually functions to assist in bringing these purposes to fulfillment. God has designed some of his purposes to be accomplished only as we pray.

“Now, why would God set things up this way? Why not just accomplish what he wishes, without the necessity of prayer? Here’s the answer (are you ready to marvel?): God wants our participation with him in the work that he is doing, and so he ‘invented’ prayer as a mechanism that draws us into that very anticipation and execution of the fulfillment of some of his purposes. Prayer invites our participation, and prayer involves our necessary (by God’s design) role. Could God just ‘do it’? Yes, of course! But here is a God who shares bountifully with those whom he loves. And his sharing here is a sharing in the fulfillment of the plans and purposes he has set by his infinite wisdom and under his matchless authority (so we’re not going to change God’s mind – literally!). What kindness. What generosity. Prayer is one of God’s tools to pull us into the center of the work that he has devised and is carrying out. By prayer, we long for what God’s Spirit prompts us to pray, and as we pray according to his will, we anticipate and believe in the unfolding of just what God has designed to come about. When it does come about, our prayers are answered, we rejoice, God is glorified, and we understand better – from the inside, as it were – just what God had planned all along.” (pp. 98-99).

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A good quote from William Wilberforce:

He said that Christians should “boldly assert the cause of Chirst in an age when so many who bear the name of Christian are ashamed of Him. Let them be active, useful, and generous toward others. Let them show moderation and self-denial themselves. Let them be ashamed of idleness. When blessed with wealth, let them withdraw from the competition of vanity and be modest, retiring from ostentation, and not be the slave of fashion.”

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Patience – Part Deux

Some more thoughts on patience – more along the lines of application.

At its core, patience is trust – trust in God. Therefore, in the providence of God, when I’m presented with opportunities to be patient (which are many), I need to remember that trust in the Lord is absolutely essential.

Starting with something small – When I have to wait in line at the grocery store (or at Costco, especially!), I can exercise some patience because I trust that God has ordained this for me and everyone else in the line; that He loves me more than I can comprehend; and that He is using it for good and it has some purpose. Now, I don’t usually work through this thought process consciously every time I’m in line at a store and the person being checked out needs about four price-checks, has 75 coupons, and questions whether or not two or three of the prices were wrong. I start with patience and endurance, but it seems to go away rather quickly (a little confession). But if I have taken some time to think about it, maybe I’ll be better next time and the time after that.

Now something larger – As I’m looking for another church to pastor, I need to be patient. In other words, I need to trust God – trust that He knows what He’s doing with us; trust that He will provide for us financially and in every other way; trust that He will lead and guide us to another church; trust that He will be glorified regardless of what happens. When I recognize that, it’s easier to be patient.

Something to think about.

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What is Patience?

What is patience?

It’s a virtue variously defined as “longsuffering,” “endurance,” “bearing up under,” and “not having a short fuse.” It means that we maintain our composure in the midst of trying circumstances. It means that we don’t “blow our stack” the instant something doesn’t go exactly the way we want.

God is patient. “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger (or patient), and abounding in lovingkindness and truth” (Exod. 34:6).

We, as His children through faith in Christ, are to imitate that patience by being patient. Col. 3:12 says, “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Paul begins his description of love in 1 Cor. 13 by saying, “Love is patient” (verse 4a). One of the fruit of the Holy Spirit is “patience” (Gal. 5:22).

So then, what is it? As far as you and I are concerned, patience is essentially trust. In specific, trust in God. Because we know who God is and what He’s done, we trust Him. We trust the Lord to do what’s right – always – and therefore, we can endure difficult circumstances, put up with annoying irritations, and have a longer and longer fuse. Patience is all about trusting the God we know and love – the sovereign God who does all things for His glory and our good.

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We’ve heard of the 7 deadly sins, but what about the 10 deadly sins of preachers?

At the recent National Pastor’s Conference, John Ortberg gave a talk on that subject. You can find it here (it’s actually a summary of what he had to say).

Ortberg’s thoughts are excellent. Every one of them rings true for this preacher.

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Christopher D. Levenick has reviewed five recently published books written from the viewpoint of the “religious left” (Jimmy Carter, Michael Lerner, Robin Meyers, Dan Wakefield, and Jim Wallis). He doesn’t find a lot to like. Full disclosure: I haven’t read any of these books and don’t plan to – not because they are worthy of being read, but because there are so many books out there that are better. you can read Levenick’s review here.

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Faith Is Not Wishing

What is faith? What do people mean when they say that their faith has gotten them through a difficult or trying period of life?

Melinda Penner, otherwise known as “Melinda the Enforcer” by Greg Koukl, has posted some thoughts on the subject which can be read here.

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"Mere" Christianity?

The idea of “mere Christianity” has gathered a lot of traction in the last decade or so. It’s based on C.S. Lewis’s book by the same title which extolled the virtues of essential Christianity. That which is foundational to the faith – the core in other words – should be that which is emphasized, the thinking goes. Any of that other “stuff” (like theological and practical distinctives and differences) should be de-emphasized or even ignored. All of this, of course, in the name of unity.

I’ve always thought there was something wrong with the “mere” movement. Someone else agrees with me – J. Todd Billings. In an article posted on the Christianity Today website, he writes, “Yet for many, fear of divisiveness has cut them off from the riches of the church’s cloud of witnesses. Rather than providing a path to church unity, avoiding theological distinctives often just leads to superficiality.”

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Super Sunday

What makes (or made) this Sunday (the day almost past here on the west coast) super? Was it the Super Bowl or was it something else? The folks at Sports Spectrum have a good answer. You can find it here.

In my mind, today’s game was special not because both head coaches – Tony Dungie of the Colts and Lovie Smith of the Bears – are African-American, but because both men are committed followers of Jesus Christ. May God continue to bless each of them as they glorify Him in their vocation. All of life should be lived coram Deo (“before the face of God”) – even as a football coach.

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Moving and Settling

We’re moved into our apartment in Vancouver – sort of. Lots of boxes with all sorts of things in them. We can’t seem to find some things, but all of that is part and parcel of the moving experience.

We’re slowly getting settled. We’ve decided that the church we were part of before we moved to Odessa will be our “home base” while we’re here. We’ll also do some visiting in order to “check out” other churches (how they do things; what works and what doesn’t) – something pastors don’t get a chance to do very often.

We have no idea how long we’ll be here, but we know God has plans for us while we are here. We don’t want to look at this time in our lives as a “vacation” of sorts where we can just coast spiritually. A number of people in Odessa told me that I’d taught them to trust God no matter what – because He’s sovereign, He loves us, and He knows what He’s doing. I guess it’s time that I practice what I preach and do the same thing. Not a bad idea!

Before this post comes to its conclusion, I want to say thank you to everyone who helped us move. Every one of you is a gift from God to us. May your tribe increase!

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