Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Dreaming of a White Christmas

Although the long winters can be hard at times here in New England, we get to experience the full range of seasons - long springs, warm summers, gorgeous falls and snow-covered winters. Usually around this time we have some snow. The past few weeks have been more like Florida than New England - temps as high as 60 F!

Lord willing we will get some beautiful snow for Christmas. Freshly fallen snow is one of the more beautiful sights in God's creation - so pure and bright - a picture of the perfect and complete righteousness of Christ imputed to repentant sinners by faith! (Isaiah 1:18, Psalm 51:7, Mark 9:3, Romans 5:18-21, 13:14, Revelation 3:5, 18)

Thank God for snow! May you enjoy a white Christmas and be reminded of One whose life and death make us whiter than snow!

God Bless, Paul

(this is a pict of our backyard last winter.)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Dramatic Reading of Hebrews 9 & 10

Paul charged Timothy to devote himself to the public reading of scripture (1 Timothy 4:13). Reading the word out loud with appropriate passion and skill is a very powerful means for encountering the living God and His life changing truth!

Check out this outstanding example from Worship Matters: Ryan Ferguson Recites Hebrews 9 and 10

I hope this inspires you to practice this at home and with the church. May we see more and more of the public reading of scripture!

God Bless, Paul

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Enjoying Repentance and Faith Today

I have been reminded lately of the essential experience for the Christian of repentance and faith. What we begin with at conversion we are continue in throughout our lives. To walk with God is to continually experience repentance and faith. But what exactly are repentance and faith?

Jesus said - "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:15, ESV) and "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 4:17, ESV). Paul told of his mission as "testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ." (Acts 20:21, ESV)

John Calvin said "For while Christ the Lord and John preach in this manner: "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand", do they not derive the reason for repenting from grace itself and the promise of salvation? Accordingly, therefore, their words mean the same thing as if they said, "Since the Kingdom of Heaven has come near, repent." - JC, Institutes, Book 2, Chapter III.3 -J.T. McNeill, Ed.

How do repentance and faith relate? Repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin. In order to reorient yourself to God you must believe that he is good and worthy and true, especially in regards to the gospel. With this you will also believe that sin is bad and unworthy and untrue in relation to God. We turn from self and sin and place our faith for forgiveness and righteousness and life in Christ alone. We can't have one without the other!

"Again, if we remember that repentance is turning from sin unto God, the turning to God implies faith in the mercy of God as revealed in Christ. It is impossible to disentangle faith and repentance. Saving faith is permeated with repentance and repentance is permeated with faith."- John Murray

"Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner out of a true sense of sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after new obedience." – Westminster Shorter Catechism

May you, today, by the power of the Holy Spirit, turn from that which is most vile (sin in any form) to enjoy and live for and depend on that whom is most glorious, worthy, faithful and enjoyable, the Triune God especially revealed in the glorious good news of Jesus Christ - his perfect life, his vicarious propitiating death for sinners like us and his universe-shattering resurrection to new life for all his people - even us!

God Bless, Paul

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Core of Contentment and the Secret of Sanctification

Have you ever been in a funk? Do you know what I mean - one of those periods of inexplicable discontent, despair and confusion? I recently found myself in such a state - once again. I had been aware of a number of things around me that weren't going the way I wanted - a $6,000 tuition bill, a broken furnace, not enough money for Christmas gifts, various overwhelming parenting challenges and some household maintenance we couldn't afford. - I found myself in a "funk".

My rotten attitude reached a peak when I was trying to pull out of the local gas station in our 6000 lb. Chevy Conversion van. Despite the well known Boston-driving maneuver of pulling halfway out into traffic, no one was letting me in. When I finally saw some daylight I gave the 5.7 liter engine all the gas we had and laid rubber as I fish-tailed my way into traffic - more out of frustration and sin than necessity. I knew my attitude was poor but I felt trapped in my funk.

After praying, reading the word and journaling in a desperate but confused effort to get out of my self-made mire, I got alone with God and cried out for help. The answer came not so much in a clear statement but in a fresh impression and reminder of what life in Christ is all about - my death, his life. And when I remembered this fundamental gospel message, it seemed that all my problems and unfulfilled desires miraculously turned from temptations to sin into opportunities to trust, enjoy and honor Christ - death to my selfish cravings and empty pride and life in Him and for Him by faith - I could feel the funk lifting!

Then the thought came to me - isn't this the very core of my contentment and the secret of my sanctification - my death, his life. Isn't this what the gospel is all about - my death, his life? Isn't this what maturity in Christ all about - my death, his life? Isn't this to be my joy and glory - my death, his life? I no longer dreaded my undesirable circumstances but was now trusting Christ to use them as he was pleased, even working death for me (that is my sinful self) but life in Him - death to my sinful demands but life in Him and His glory shining through his sovereign plan. I found myself content in Him and a good bit more pleasant!

I memorized two verses very early in my Christian life. They are sort of my life verses - in theory at least - and they well describe what I am talking about. Listen to God's word -

"I have been crucified in Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Gal. 2:20 (ESV) - and

"For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this; that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised." 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 (ESV)

God freed me from my funk by a simple yet powerful reapplication of gospel truth. Thank God!! All our trials turn from despair to joy when the truth of the gospel applied to our life reorients our world from self to Christ. May you find life and freedom from your funk through the wonderfully good news of the gospel! May the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ be the worst news for your pride and selfishness but the very best news for your joy and life in Christ!

God Bless - Paul