Archive for March, 2008

How should we then pray?

Tony Woodlief has a must-read post at the World website answering the question. He uses some of George Mueller’s principles to form his answer. I’ve thought a lot about this topic in the last year and Woodlief’s thoughts are helpful.

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Well, the University of North Carolina Tar Heels beat the Washington State Cougars like a drum last night. Don’t ask me to fill out your bracket next year. All told, the Cougars had a great season – nothing to be ashamed of, certainly. Hopefully, they accept the loss, and the end of their season, “in such a way” that God is glorified and honored. May we all do likewise.

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The Spokesman-Review (Spokane’s newspaper) has published an article by Nick Eaton on the Washington State Cougars basketball team and, specifically, the Christian faith of their coach and several players. The Cougars are still in the NCAA basketball tournament (Sweet 16) – the only Northwest team left.

I’m always interested in how the intersection of belief in Jesus Christ and involvement in sports is covered by the media. It’s a mixed bag. This article is pretty good, on the whole.

What was most interesting, though, is a question I like to ask, not just of athletes, but of anyone who professes faith in Jesus Christ – “What difference does it make in how you play/work/live/relate/teach/govern/parent, etc.?”

Some of the Cougars have the letters “ISAW” on their shirts. It’s a reference to 1 Corinthians 9:24 which says, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.” “ISAW” – In Such A Way – is the Cougars motto this year. Coach Tony Bennet, a Christian, wants his team to do everything “in such a way” that they might achieve their purpose of winning.

Taylor Rochestie, junior guard, says that “in such a way” means “kind of not playing for yourself, that’s what it really does mean to me. You gotta train in such a way to get the team better. Play in such a way – you know, go for the loose balls, do the little things. It’s kind of the same way as saying, ‘Do the intangibles.'”

Senior center Robbie Cowgill says, “Because of (faith), I don’t have to worry about how people view me or if I miss a bunch of shots, what my identity really is. Because I already know I’m secure in who God says I am, and that’s who I am…I think in basketball that helps me a lot, calms me down a lot.”

Daven Harmeling, junior guard, says, “You know, tangibly, I think my faith helps me play with passion. For me, a way to honor (God) is to play as hard as I can. And, you know, that doesn’t mean He’s going to guide the ball (into the basket) every time; I don’t think He does any of that. But it does mean that I can play in a way that I can honor Him with what He’s given me.”

Well done, guys. Beat North Carolina!

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In His good providence this last week, God encouraged me not to give up, lose heart, and be discouraged.

I’ve been out of the pastorate for 14 months and counting. So far, the search for my next pastoral ministry hasn’t turned up much. In fact, it’s been slow, very slow. It’s also been discouraging. I love teaching and don’t want to give it up, but I would also love to return to pastoral ministry in a church. If possible, I’d like to do both.

But the wait and the relative lack of opportunities (four interviews so far – two face-to-face and two by phone) have almost caused me to lose heart and give up on more than one occasion. The Lord knew that, of course, and used two different passages on different days to strengthen me.

At our Men’s Bible Study, I read 1 Samuel 27:1 which says, Then David said in his heart, “Now I shall perish one day by the hand of Saul. there is nothing better for me that I shoule escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will despair of seeking me any longer within the borders of Israel, and I shall escape out of his hand.” David was weary of being chased by Saul, sick and tired of always having to look over his shoulder. In short, he was discouraged. The rest of 1 Samuel 27 is a cautionary tale of what happens when someone loses heart.

Then, at a gathering of the Spurgeon Fellowship at Western Seminary, Pastor Mike Jones of Independent Bible Church in Port Angeles, spoke on the subject of discouragment in ministry. (I’m seeing a pattern here!) One of the verses he read was 2 Corinthians 4:1Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.” Paul had every reason imaginable to lose heart and be discouraged (read 4:8-12), but he didn’t give in to it. Why? Because he had an eternal perspective (read 4:16-18).

God brought theses verses and their emphasis – don’t be discouraged – to me because He knew I needed them. It’s possible that I was closer to the edge of despair than I thought and was in danger of falling off. It’s also possible that I’m not all that close to the edge, but needed to be reminded (and even warned) not to get any closer.

Is the Lord giving me encouragement for the long haul, which is going to be a lot longer than I hope? Is something going to happen soon? Is the Lord saying, “Don’t give up! It won’t be much longer”? I don’t know. I do know this, though, I’m encouraged and I praise God for it.

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The verse of the moment for Good Friday –

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21).

Jesus, who died a vicious, cruel, horrible, and bloody death – crucified on a cross – did it for the salvation of His people. He died a sacrificial death for our sins as our substitute. He offers us His perfect righteousness in exchange for our sins – the great exchange! That’s what Good Friday is all about.

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“I don’t need all that theology stuff. I just want to love Jesus. Isn’t that enough?”

Honestly, I don’t know how many times I’ve heard someone say that. It always seems to produce the same reaction in me – a mixture of anger and sadness. Anger because although it’s good to love Jesus, there is so much more to be learned and lived as a Christian. God has revealed far more to us than simply, “Here’s Jesus. Love Him!” Sadness because people who think this way don’t know what they’re missing. Theology is multi-layered and multi-faceted – it takes us “further up and further in” to quote C.S. Lewis.

The way to point out the flaw in this line of thinking is to ask the next logical question – “Who is Jesus?” The millisecond they begin to answer the question (“Well, He’s the Son of God, our Lord and Savior…”) they’re dealing with theology. Simply defined, theology is “the study of God.” When we study theology, we’re seeking to learn more about the God who has revealed Himself to us – His person and His work. If we’re to know anything about God, salvation, the nature of man, the church, last things, or what God demands from us, we have to know theology. In fact, when we make any statement on any of these subjects, we’re proclaiming our theology whatever it may be (whether it’s good or bad).

We can’t know or love Jesus without knowing some theology. As we learn more theology, we’ll know Him even better. Someone who wants to just love Jesus and forget about theology is saying, in effect, “I want to love Jesus, but I don’t want to know anything about Him.” We wouldn’t say that about a husband, wife, or a friend, so why would we ever say it about our Lord and Saviour?

“I just want to love Jesus. Isn’t that enough?” With anger and sadness, the answer is “No, it isn’t.”

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Ligonier Ministries has joined the wide, wide world of blogging. Keith Mathison, Tim Challies, R.C. Sproul and others will post thoughts. Currently, they’ve posted an interview with Sinclair Ferguson. Check it out here.

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