Monday, May 31, 2010

Desiring to Lead - Devotional for Monday, May 31, 2010

Desiring to Lead

"...he who gives, let him do it with liberality; he who rules, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness." (Romans 12:8)

There is nothing inherently wrong with desiring to be a leader.  The Bible even says that anyone who "sets his heart on being an overseer desires a noble task" (1 Timothy 3:1). The problem with leadership ultimately comes down to the person who is holding the office of leader.  As the old saying goes, 'the clothes don't make the man'. Neither does the position.  

Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher, is correct when he says 'the office reveals the man'. The person who desires leadership because he wants power or prestige, or perhaps thinks himself more worthy than others, will ultimately reveal the evil intentions of his heart through that leadership. 

On the other hand, the person who has been humbled by the power of the Cross will lead in a manner than glorifies God and blesses others. These are the leaders we are to cherish and adore, and the leaders we should strive to be. 

Sadly, often the character of a man will only be revealed once he is in a position of leadership. If God grants leadership to you, will you rule like a demon or an angel?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Banquet Table - Devo for Wed, May 26, 2010

The Banquet Table

"Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God" 
(Matthew 4:4, ESV). 

Several years ago I was invited to a dinner party of a very wealthy philanthropist. After passing through the main gate I came upon a large magnificent home. It was perfectly landscaped and the home was impeccably crafted. Imported marble formed the pathways and the main door appeared to be handcrafted by a master woodworker. Knocking on the door, I was astonished to discover this was only the home of the estate's manager.  The philanthropist's home, or perhaps I should say mansion, was further into the estate.

It was a remarkable evening of warm Christian fellowship, as the owner of the home was a devout follower of Christ. His home was simply stunning and servants attended to our every need. At the large banquet table every imaginable delectable lay before us.  The the entire dinner party could have feasted a month without the worry of running out of food.

Does the Word of God hold the same awe and grandeur in your mind as a banquet table such as this? Do you see Scripture's inexhaustible richness? The Bible nourishes us with the delicacies of Heaven, and it is the banquet table to which all believers have been seated.  Brevard Childs once said that "Augustine approached Scripture as a man who had been invited to a banquet table and in sheer delight partook of its richness."

Once upon a time I was allowed to enter a philanthropist's mansion. Yet every day I am granted entrance to a mansion, and a banquet table, far greater still.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Goodbye Theology - Devo for Tue, May 25, 2010

Goodbye Theology

"For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings." (Hosea 6:6, ESV).

As I write this devotional dozens of my favorite theologians line my bookshelves. Next to Scripture itself, studying theology is my favorite activity.  The word theology simply means "the study of God" (and, by implication, "the study of divine matters"). It first appears in Plato's Republic where it referred to the individual ('theologian') who engaged in concentrated, purposeful study of divine things.

However, the word theology is found nowhere in Scripture. The Old Testament, written in Hebrew, instead uses the phrase 'knowledge of God'.  To the men and women of the Biblical world, God was not an object to be studied, but rather a person to be known. Bruce Waltke says this phrase "denotes a personal understanding of truth and commitment to God." Of course, to really know someone involves study.  When I was dating my wife, and especially after we were newly married, I remember just sitting and watching her.  I delighted in discovering the little things about her like the way she tossed her hair and the sound of her laughter. To claim to have a relationship with God, yet having no desire to learn more about Him, is the definition of delusional. Yet, unlike the Greek word theology, the Hebrew phrase knowledge of God cannot be reduced to cold, abstract facts.  To have a knowledge of God is to experience life, fullness, and joy.  It is to have a solidly-rooted identity in the Creator of the universe, in whose image we are made. The phrase describes the person who has met--and therefore has been forever changed--by the Lord of Hosts.

Study theology.  But by all means strive to know Him.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Alter on translation heresy

Today I received a new pile of books, most on Genesis or the Pentateuch.  One of these is Robert Alter's translation and commentary of the Pentateuch ("The Five Books of Moses: Translation and Commentary"). As a liberal Jew, Alter would deny the historicity of much of the Pentateuch and certainly would distance himself from a conservative Jewish (let alone Christian) understanding of the text.  However, Alter has great respect for the Torah as a literary piece and in many ways has captured its meaning and style in a way that far surpasses other modern translations.

I was stunned (and thrilled) to read this statement from Alter:
"The unacknowledged heresy underlying most modern English versions of the Bible is the use of translation as a vehicle for explaining the Bible instead of representing it in another language, and in the most egregious instances this amounts to explaining away the Bible."
Don't miss this point, for here was have an unabashed theological liberal who is criticizing Christian translations  for "explaining away the Bible" instead of accurately representing it. How I wish conservative Christians were as zealous for fidelity to God's word as is this liberal Jewish scholar.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Expository Explosion

Currently I am up to my eyeballs in planning out several sermon series.  I've passed the half-way point preaching through 1 John (picking up the sermon series where my new friend, and interim preacher, Taylor Ferranti left off).  For the Sunday PM service I've just began a series on the parables, which has been a joy to study.

Thinking ahead, I'm planning out a series on Genesis and one on Acts, and my personal study through the books of Leviticus and Philemon continues (I will, Lord willing, eventually preach through these one day). Of course, the best part of planning out a new series is the acquisition of new books!  I've just ordered a few Genesis resources and am thinking through the best sources for the Acts study.

Today a little gem arrived called "Old Testament Books for Pastor and Teacher" by Brevard S. Childs.  The author is an Old Testament scholar who, though certainly no Evangelical, has great respect for the biblical text.  I am currently wading through three of his works on Old Testament theology in an attempt to get my mind "around" Genesis and the Pentateuch. I've found his book Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture to be fascinating (though also troubling in many respects).

Happy reading days are ahead.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Good morning, Ohio

I've been intentionally refraining from posting much on the blog over the past several weeks.  Our family recently made a transition to another ministry--leaving behind a church body that we deeply love and care for and embracing a new work that has been set before us (by the way, I was recently told that nearly 70% of all pastor transitions happen because of conflict with the church. What a sweet privilege it is to be part of the 30%!).

In a few hours I will preach my first sermon as pastor of Grace Chapel. As with every occasion to preach, I am overwhelmed and trembling with the responsibility that lays before me in teaching God's Word, and ever conscious of Christ, whose name I am commanded to boldly proclaim. 'What is man that Thou art mindful of him?' Who is this preacher whom You, O God, would trust with this great task?

This morning my encouragement (and yours) is found in James 4:10, "Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.".  I'm reminded of a Spurgeon quote, "Ah beloved! It is not high thoughts of ourselves that prove us to be Christians; it is lying humbly in the dust before the mercy-seat that is one of the sure signs that we are children of God."

So, Ohio----Good morning, be humbled before your God, and be lifted up in His presence.