Monday, March 29, 2010

A Gospel Primer for Christians by Milton Vincent

I started reading this book today as it was recommended to me by Nancy Baker. I guess it's an argument for how beneficial it can be to preach the gospel to oursleves daily. Also, it serves as a tool to help one down the road in this spiritual discipline. The thought is, as we preach the gospel to ourselves - it will not only color how we see things in life; but also keep important salvation truths near the front of our minds where they may slip out more in our dealings with non-Christians we encounter.
The idea seems to make perfect sense to me; in fact it may be a revelation. But, I'll write more on the whole book later when I finish it. Although, I've often noted that the gospel get preached to Christians over and over in the NT - and that there must be a great benefit to thinking about those truths a LOT! ;)
For now, though, I will say this little list has me thinking a lot. It's a list found at the end of his first chapter - and it's his own little list of what we in Xenos call the MOG (means of growth). But, his list is a bit lengthier than ours:
He calls them "Habits of grace"
- Bible meditation (Acts 20:32; Col 3:16)
- Faith (Heb. 4:2)
- Prayer (Heb. 4:16)
- Fellowship with the saints (Eph. 4:32)
- Humility (James 4:6)
- Generosity (2 Cor 9:8-14)
- Obedience (Titus 2:11-12)
- Forgiveness (Ephesians 4:32)
- Worship (Ephesians 1:6)
- Evangelism (2 Cor. 5:18-20)

It was interesting to me just to think about the MOG in a different way, and wonder what list I would come up with if I looked at the Bible and tried to find out - how is one supposed to move forward with God once forgiven?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

poems quoted by sanders

If you read Sanders at all, you know he loves his poems. When I'm reading aloud in a group, this is bemoaned by everyone - because reading a poem aloud can make you feel like a dork. However, when I'm reading alone, the poems are really beautiful to me. So, I shared some today to help you all feel like a dork and smile, thinking of God:
These poems are quoted by Sanders in his book, "Every Life is a Plan of God."
"John Oxenham" is a psuedonym for William Arthur Dunkerley - a British poet, writer, and journalist.

"A chequer board of light and shade?
And we the pieces deftly laid?
Moved and removed without a word to say
By the same hand that board and peices made?

No pieces we in any fateful game,
Nor free to shift on Destiny the blame,
Each soul doth tend its own immortal flame,
Fans it to heaven, or smothers it in shame."

Another John Oxenham poem:

"Not for a single day
Can I discern the way;
    But this I surely know,
Who gives the day
Will show the way,
    And so I surely go."

This next one he quotes is from himself possibly. He doesn't give credit to anyone else.

"I am not strong, I am not wise,
And many a path before me lies
   Where I might go astray;
So when I have to make a choice,
Help me listen for Your voice,
   And then obey."

A less lyrical poem by the famous Samuel Chadwick=

"We are moved by the act of God;
Omniscience holds no conference;
Infinite authority leaves no room for compromise;
Eternal love offers no explanations;
The Lord disturbs us at will;
Human arrangements are ignored;
Buisiness claims put aside.
We are never asked if it is convenient."

And finally, one more by Sanders:

"Is there some door closed by the Father's hand
    Which opened you hoped to see?
Trust God and wait - for when He shuts the door
    He keeps the key.
Have patience with your God - your patient God
    All-wise, all-knowing, no long tarrier He,
And of the door to all the future life
    He holds the key."

Monday, March 22, 2010

Spiritual Secret of Hudson Taylor

This quote about Hudson Taylor's childhood kind of reminds me of Logan:

"Though he took life seriously from the first, he was sunny and bright by nature and dearly loved boyish fun. He had eyes and a heart for everything and retained to the end a capacity for enjoyment that was remarkable. Nature was his high delight, and he had the patience, sympathy, and power of observation needed for entering into its secrets. He would take any amount of trouble to cultivate a little fern or flower brought home from the woods, or to learn about the ways of birds, animals, and insects. All living, growing things seemed to possess a charm for him that years only increased." (p.8)

I've only read the beginning of this book today; but what stood out to me the most were the descriptions of how often and how fervently all the family members prayed in this family. Prayer was a big cornerstone - the answer to times of stress and fear and doubt. Also, a way to rejoice in Someone they loved.

Monday, March 15, 2010

g k chesterton quotes

"A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it." - Everlasting Man, 1925

"The person who is really in revolt is the optimist, who generally lives and dies in a desperate and suicidal effort to persuade other people how good they are." - Introduction to The Defendant

"I think the oddest thing about the advanced people is that, while they are always talking about things as problems, they have hardly any notion of what a real problem is." - Uses of Diversity

"The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man." - Introduction to the Book of Job, 1907

"Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions." - ILN, 4/19/30

"An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered." - On Running After Ones Hat, All Things Considered, 1908

"Among the rich you will never find a really generous man even by accident. They may give their money away, but they will never give themselves away; they are egotistic, secretive, dry as old bones. To be smart enough to get all that money you must be dull enough to want it." - A Miscellany of Men

"I believe what really happens in history is this: the old man is always wrong; and the young people are always wrong about what is wrong with him. The practical form it takes is this: that, while the old man may stand by some stupid custom, the young man always attacks it with some theory that turns out to be equally stupid." - ILN 6-3-22

"A teacher who is not dogmatic is simply a teacher who is not teaching."

- Gilbert K. Chesterton

"What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition and settled upon the organ of conviction, where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. We are on the road to producing a race of men too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table."

G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, p.31-32

Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.

Gilbert K. Chesterton

I believe in getting into hot water; it keeps you clean.

Gilbert K. Chesterton

One may understand the cosmos, but never the ego; the self is more distant than any star.

Gilbert K. Chesterton

Saturday, March 13, 2010

isaiah 40-48 cg teaching

Challenge Group: Isaiah

Isaiah 40-48

1. Intro – Discussion: What aspects of God do you think about often? Which aspects about God bring you comfort in times of distress?

2. Intellectual Controversies

a. Second “Deutero” Isaiah

i. Some liberal Christians believe that this section of Isaiah had to be written by someone else at a later date.

ii. “The fact that the prophet lived in the 8th century B.C. makes it very difficult for some scholars to accept that he could have identified Cyrus the Persian by name, since Cyrus did not arrive on the scene of history until nearly 200 years later.” – Hill and Walton

iii. “The whole case for the sovereignty of God in Isaiah 40-48 is built around the Lord’s ability to say beforehand what He is going to do and then challenge the idols to do the same. The naming of Cyrus comes at a crucial climax” – Hill and Walton

iv. N.T. proof: Mt. 3:3, 12:17ff, Lk. 3:4, Acts 8:28, Rm. 10:16 (Isa. 53), and Jn. 12:38-41 (Isa. 53 + 7)

b. Who is the Servant?

i. Confusing language and switches make this an area of controversy. We will look at this some as we go through the verses.

ii. Controversy over the meaning of 1 Pet. 1:10-12 lit. what type or what time.

iii. Either way, we know which passages the N.T. claims to be fulfilled by Christ.

iv. “This is an ideal Servant, One who embodies all that Israel failed to be.” D.A. Carson

3. Outline

a. Isa. 40-66 – God’s Comfort and Redemption

b. Isa. 40-55 – Servant Songs

c. Isa. 40-48 – Trust in the Great and Only God

d. 40 – Trust in God, who is Greater than Everything

e. 41 – God will be a Needed Help

f. 42 – Servant will Make the Blind See

g. 43 – Unfaithful Israel Redeemed by the Only God

h. 44 – Worthless Idols vs. Only Redeeming God

i. 45 – Only One Creating and Saving God

j. 46 – Unequaled God Brings Righteousness to the Unrighteous

k. 47 – Babylon Judged

l. 48 – God won’t give His Glory to Another

4. Isaiah 40

a. 40:1 – See 39:6 for context.

b. 40:6-8 – “Men are transient and unreliable but the Lord’s word endures.” -Motyer

c. 40:9 – Zion=bringer of good news. Then Jesus did this in the ultimate sense, then He passes this mission onto us, His Body.

d. 40:10 – His ARM rules. This is a word – picture for Christ. (c.f. Isa. 59:16) It says that Christ had a special part to play and the language is repeated in this last section of Isaiah.

e. 40:11 – The ARM is used to bring closeness between leader and lambs. Some translations say “arms”, but it is singular.

f. 40:12-17 – God is sovereign. People can’t outsmart or overpower Him. Think of the situation that these people were facing – sometimes in the midst of suffering, it is hard to understand what God is doing.

g. 40:18-26 – Think of the small and sometimes stupid things we trust in when the all-powerful God is there. He is the ally we always have, and He’s also the ally we really need.

h. 40:27-28 – God notices and understands

i. 40:29-31 – Waiting for the Lord…

“Power (osma) is related to the word for ‘bone’ and, therefore, has the sense of ‘durability’ and ‘stability’.” “[Those who wait] are promised renewed strength (vhalap) (lit.) ‘keep putting on fresh strength’, and different strength, a strength that is not natural, as if people could grow wings…he finds inner resources that do not fail before life’s demands.” -Motyer

5. Isaiah 41

a. 41:4 – Alpha and Omega. God has always been there, and will always be there

b. 41:8-14 – Israel, the man and the nation, are God’s servants – then he brings up the Redeemer

6. Isaiah 42

a. 42:1-4 – Servant is self-effacing, merciful, compassionate, and just.

b. 42:5-7 – Servant is a Covenant and a Light to the nations. He will open blind eyes and free prisoners. (c.f. Lk. 7:21-22, Isa. 61:1, Acts 26:23, Jn. 8:12)

c. 42:17-20 – Back to Israel as God’s servant, blind and deaf. Jesus said that he spoke in parables for this reason.

d. 42:21 – Jesus didn’t come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it. God gave us the whole Bible – every part – for a reason. It pleased Him, for His righteousness’ sake. It is great!

7. Isaiah 43

a. 43:1-7 – God really loves Israel; He wants to do a lot for them, and He does do a lot for them.

b. 43:10-13 – There is only one Savior and Redeemer. God says that He acts, He saves, and He helps people to understand Him.

c. 43:16-20 – “Israel is used to reflecting on [the Exodus], but now God will do a new thing. So do not dissolve into the past…Be courageous, for God will do a new thing, to effect a new cycle of spectacular delivery.” D.A. Carson

“The past can teach, but it must not bind. The gaze must be ever forward to what God will yet do.” -Motyer

d. 43:21 – Quoted in 1 Pet. 2:9

e. 43:25 – God wipes out sin for His own sake. It’s what He wants to do, and what He chooses to do. “for my own sake means for reasons that find their explanation within my own nature.” -Motyer

8. Isaiah 44

a. 44:6-8 – There is only one God and prophet

b. 44:20 – Description of an idol-worshipper

c. 44:22 – The sin cloud cleared

d. 44:28 – Introducing Cyrus. Cyrus came to power in 559 B.C.E. and is well-known for letting the Israelites return home and begin rebuilding after the exile. (c.f. Ezra 1:2-4)

9. Isaiah 45

a. 45:1-6 – Cyrus is chosen

b. 45:7-10 – We, the created, should know our place.

c. 45:18-19 – “Just as natural fruitfulness requires the fertilizing action of heaven on a responsive earth, so spiritually, only God can give increase by ‘raining down’ righteousness, i.e. His absolutely right purposes, those things which match His righteous nature. The earth is an attractive figure of responsive welcome to what God sends.” -Motyer

d. 45:22-24 – All knees will bow… (c.f. Php. 2:10-11)

10.Isaiah 46

e. 46:4 – Even later in life, God will still be there with us. This is a lifelong relationship and companion. This verse shows that while God is transcendent, He is also immanent.

f. 46:5 – God is completely unique and unequaled.

g. 46:8-13 – God’s prophecy shows His sovereignty and that salvation is sure. V.11 “bird of prey” – probably refers to Cyrus

11.Isaiah 47

h. 47:6 – Babylon is going to behave wrongly and eventually be judged

12.Isaiah 48

i. 48:3-5 – Another reason for prophecy

j. 48:6 – Reminds me of the “mystery”

k. 48:11 – We need to see this as loving, and take up the same cause.

l. 48:12-16 – Trinity in v.16+12. Interesting that God’s arm comes up again…could mean something or not. I don’t know.

m. 48:17-18 – “Teaching” and “Leading” Mind + Actions/ Life

n. 48:20-22 – There is no peace for the wicked.

“The ways of the Lord are right,

And the righteous will walk in them,

But the rebellious will stumble in them.” – Hosea 14:9b

“The backslider in heart will have his fill of his own ways,

But a good man will be satisfied with his.” – Prov. 14:14

isaiah 40-48

N.T. use of Isaiah 40-48

40:2 – Rev. 18:6

40:3 – Mt. 3:3, Mk. 1:3, Lk. 3:4-6, Jn. 1:23

40:6 – 1 Pet. 1:24-25

40:8 – Mt. 5:18

40:10 – Rev. 22:12

40:11 – Jn. 10:11, 14-16

40:12 – Heb. 1:10-12

40:13 – Rm. 11:34, 1 Cor. 2:16

40:16 – Heb. 10:5-9

40:18 – Acts 17:29

40:21 – Acts 14:17, Rm.1:19

40:27 – Lk. 18:7-8

40:31 – Lk. 18:1, 2 Cor. 4:1, Gal.6:9, Heb.12:3

41:4 – Rev. 1:8, 17, 22:13

41:8 – James 2:23

41:10 – Rm. 8:31

41:23 – Jn. 13:19

41:24 – 1 Cor. 8:4

42:1 – Mt. 12:8-21, Php. 2:7, Lk.9:35, 1 Pet. 2:4,6, Mt. 3:17, 17:5, Mk

1:11, Lk.3:22, Mt. 3:16, Lk. 4:18,19,21

42:5 – Acts 17:25

42:6 – Lk. 2:32, Acts 13:47, 26:23

42:16 – Heb. 13:5

42:20 – Rm. 2:21

43:6 – 2 Cor. 6:18

43:7 – James 2:7, Eph. 2:10

43:21 – Lk. 1:74-75, 1 Pet. 2:9

44:6 – Rev. 1:8, 17, 22:13

44:10 – Acts 19:26

44:20 – Rm. 1:21-22, 2 Thess. 2:11, 2 Tim. 3:13, Rm.1:25

44:22 – Acts 3:19, 1 Cor. 6:20, 1 Pet. 1:18-19

44:26 – Mt. 5:18

45:4 – Acts 17:23

45:9 – Rm. 9:20-21

45:14 – 1 Cor. 14:25

45:17 – Rm. 11:26

45:23 – Heb. 6:13, Rm. 14:11, Php. 2:10

46:10 – Acts 5:39

46:13 – Rm. 3:21, 1 Pet. 2:6

47:2 – Mt. 24:41, 1 Cor. 11:5

47:8 – Rev. 18:7

47:9 – Rev. 18:8, 10, 23

47:11 – 1 Thess. 5:3

47:15 – Rev. 18:11

48:2 – Rm. 2:17

48:4 – Acts 7:51

48:12 – Rev. 1:17, 22:13

48:13 – Heb. 1:10-12

48:20 – Rev. 18:4

Thursday, March 11, 2010

CARE group teaching - children and nature

Simple pleasures: teaching your kids to love nature

1. Intro =

“The art of mothering is to teach the art of living to children.”

-Elain Heffner

“Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9NLT). Our Lord never promises that anything will be easy. He promises only His presence and power, and that is always enough.” – Campbell, How to Really Parent Your Child

5 Groups of Wise Virtues

a. Truth-seeking*, Honesty, Wisdom

b. Faith* and Hope

c. Humility*, Open-mindedness*, Self-criticality, Nondefensiveness

d. Ardor*, Vigilance*, Fortitude*

e. Fidelity to God and dedication to His cause as one’s chief end

- Love Your God With All Your Mind by: J.P. Moreland

Antithesis = Death By Suburb!

Snapshot (The ugly truth)= Boredom, Sensate (Electronic images), No free time, “scared stupid”, more dependant, addicted to stimulation, narcissistic, spoiled/excess, growing up too fast, lack of physical health, lack of emotional health (antidepressants, Ritalin), shorter attention span, role confusion (kids parenting parents), less creativity, losing some skills that used to be a given (spelling, cursive, gardening, fishing, building a fire), are we becoming Wall-E people??

“Cultural Autism” – “The symptoms? Tunneled senses, and feelings of isolation and containment” – Last Child in the Woods p.64

“Nature-deficit disorder” – “Nature-deficit disorder describes the human cost of alienation from nature, among them: diminished use of senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses.” - - Last Child in the Woods p.36

Death By Suburb

1. The Problem: Worldliness

a. Environmental Effect:

“The space around us – the physical organization of neighborhoods, roads, yards, houses, and apartments – sets up living patterns that condition our behavior.” –Kenneth Jackson “Crabgrass Frontier”

b. Envy/ Coveting

c. Self-Love – comfort, narcissism, who you are to others

d. Busy and Chaotic Life

e. “Immortality Symbols”

“An immortality symbol is not really about the thing. It’s not about baseball. It’s not really about my child. It’s about the glory that the thing bestows on me.” P.42

-what we call idolatry, identity

f. “Shirking”

“Shirkers are religious folk who inadvertently disengage from the suffering of the world and who unwittingly collect to themselves every available religious experience.” P.100

“The flow of Shirker Religion is all one direction: toward me” p.112

Viewing spiritual things as entertainment – a spectator sport; I go to sponge some stuff out of it, but not necessarily to do anything for anyone else.

g. Utilitarian “Transactional” Friendships

“Intimacy is the one thing in…church that everyone craves but few seem to have. You can’t use relationships as a means to position yourself in life and then also expect to experience in them the kind of friendship that sweetens life and takes the edge off its hard parts.” P.154

h. Utilitarian “Transactional” Relationship with God

-Quid Pro Quo

2. Some Spiritual Solutions: 8 spiritual practices to counteract our environmental toxins

#1 Inside Space

- Contemplating the Supernatural

- Prayer, Sabbath, and Solitude

- Listening to God

“becoming still…And to stop the scheming inside my head.” P.32

- Gradual vs. Instant

“It’s not easy to sit and trust that in solitude God will speak to you – not as a magical voice but that He will let you know something gradually over the years (Nouwen)” p.32

#2 The Journey Through Self

- “This purification process…is not a journey into my own inwardness, it is a journey through myself, to emerge from the deepest level into the place He is, the point at which God and I meet.(Bloom)” p.44

- Jn. 3:30 “He must increase, I must decrease.”

- Recognizing and Combating Self-Love

“Self…the inner voice that suggests you live for yourself. The voice of self-love is even more powerful than the voice of the serpent. (Fenelon) p.49-50

“The biggest problem in any church I attend is my love of self.” P.140

“Is this continual resistance [to God] due to the fact that He has not given you what you want in a way that will flatter your ego? (Fenelon)” p.179-180

- Needing God

“the presence of Jesus would be found not in met needs but in unmet expectations and perceived need…the end of myself.” P.192

#3 Loving the Unlovely

- Counteracting Coveting

- Change the direction of our gaze

“Instead of riveting my gaze on the possessions of others economically above me, I do an about-face. I turn to face the person whom I perceive to have less than I…opening ourselves up to people in and with whom God seems to be most active.” P.72

“There must be something about beholding the Holy within that pushes you back to the street.” P.46

- “Mortality Symbols”

#4 Remembering Laughter / Having grace in difficult times

- Making peace with our allotment of suffering

- The difference between bitter old woman and happy old woman

- Suffering = the enemy of self-love (suffering isn’t the worst thing in the world)


“It’s good to learn early enough that suffering and God are not a contradiction but rather a unity, for the idea that God Himself is suffering is one that has always been one of the most convincing teachings of Christianity. I think God is nearer to suffering than happiness, and to find God in this way gives peace and rest and a strong and courageous heart (Bonhoeffer)” p.94-95

#5 Pursuing action/ Obedience

- Shirking vs. Obedience – Putting our faith into action

#6 Staying put in Your Community

“Only in relationships that permit no bailing out can certain forms of spiritual development occur. Marriage is one. Church is another.” P.140

“Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we’re fortunate with ourselves…only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all it’s unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it.” -Bonhoeffer

#7 Finding and Keeping Good Friends

“there is always a little humility on the part of each toward the others; with all my friends, I feel lucky to be counted as one.(C.S.Lewis)”

“[Friendship] heightens the joys of prosperity and mitigates the sorrows of adversity by dividing and sharing them.(Aelred)” p.162

“In friendship I can say I have felt the grace of God.” P.166

#8 Pursuing Time

“There is a realm of time where the goal is not to have but to be, not to own but to give, not to control but to share, not to subdue but to be in accord…spiritual life begins to decay when we fail to sense the grandeur of what is eternal in time (Heschel)” p.176

“Christian contemplation begins at the point where the meaning of the swiftly flowing surface of earthly events is broken to reveal their relation to heaven (Hans Urs von Balthasar)” p.190

3. His conclusion: Mending

“Entropy is nowhere more at work than in one’s spiritual energy and good intentions…Mending must be an ongoing continual activity. Entrance into the deeper spiritual life is by way of obedience in the small things…mending one’s life, making small adjustments on a regular basis to avoid the speed and clutter of modern living.” P.184

Thesis = Teaching our Kids to Love Nature and Stillness

Benefits of nature?

- Physical health

- Emotional health (Nature is a stress reducer)

- Instills a sense of wonder; combats a know-it-all attitude

- Heightens senses and independence

- Helps teach us to pay attention

- Quiet

- Helps develop patience

- Produces creativity – poets, artists, craftsmen

- Produces confidence/competence

- Produces intelligence

- Promotes community and relationships more so than indoor activities

- Adults and children experience camaraderie (WW “What is grass?”)

- Nature is free, and enjoying it loosens the hold that materialism has on us

- It connects us with people around the world and throughout time

- Produces bravery and danger and adventure --- also fun

Theology of Nature

1. We can know all about God through nature

Romans 1:20 “For His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly understood, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So, they are without excuse.”

Psalm 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.”

Psalm 139:14 “I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, and my soul knows that full well.”

Psalm 29:9 “The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth and strips the forests bare, and in His temple all cry, ‘Glory!’”

2. God is the Maker, Owner, and Sustainer of all the earth

Psalm 24:1 “The earth is the Lord’s and all it contains, the world and all who dwell in it.”

1 Cor. 8:6 “For there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.”

Job 34:14-15 “If He should set His heart to it and gather to Himself His spirit and His breath, all flesh would perish together and man would return to dust.”

3. God is a Creator, and made us with the ability to be creative too

4. We are stewards of the earth

5. When we threw off God’s leadership of the earth, the earth became wild and now “groans” waiting to be redeemed again

6. We are not to worship the earth or “created things” (Rm. 1)

7. This earth is temporary, eventually God will make “all things new”

Nature Lovers:

Certain people will be drawn to nature more than others

Types of intelligence:

1. Linguistic intelligence (word smart)

2. Logical-mathematical intelligence (number/reason smart)

3. Spatial intelligence (picture smart)

4. Kinesthetic intelligence (body smart)

5. Musical intelligence (music smart)

6. Interpersonal intelligence (people smart)

7. Intrapersonal intelligence (self smart)

8. Naturalist intelligence (nature smart)

-Howard Gardner, Harvard University 1983

Feeling Close to God Through:

1. Nature

2. Senses

3. Traditions

4. Solitude

5. Activism

6. Relationships

7. Celebration

8. Contemplation

9. Intellect

-Gary Thomas, Sacred Pathways

Practical Advice =

1. Think about something that inspired you – re-learn it with your kids

2. Think about “nearby nature” in your community

3. Think about how we see and appreciate attributes of God in nature

4. Talk about being counter-cultural. Question “must-have” things and activities together as a family

5. Metro Parks have amazing programs all year round. Get a bulletin or go online

6. Zoo, FPC, Slate Run Historical Farm, Smith’s Dairy, State Fair

7. Older kids would enjoy something a bit rougher – caving, white-water rafting, biking through a state park, canoeing, snorkeling, rock-climbing

8. Kids of all ages can get into camping or family trips – even day trips!

9. Get non-fiction books from the library for young kids about animals, plants, the earth itself, etc..

10. Use a gimmick to get into nature – rock tumbler, microscope, bug net/home, telescope, binoculars, bird feeder, field guides

11. Plant a garden together

12. Make goals to visit different states/ parks.

13. Read stories set in nature: Jack London books “Call of the Wild”, “White Fang”; “Little House on the Prairie”; Gene Straton Porter books “Girl of the Limerlost”, etc.; “Trupet of the Swans”; “Treasure Island”; “Caddie Woodlawn”

14. Watch movies with a message about nature – “Alaska”, “Wall-E”, “Fern Gully” and watch nature documentaries “Planet Earth”

15. Do nature crafts together – “Let’s Make a Memory” etc..

16. Do community service projects that involve working outdoors

17. “Creative Punishments”

18. 4H, summer camps, etc..

19. Take a night walk with no lights – let your eyes adjust to the dark and get spooked out together

20. Set boundaries about tech-stimulation

21. Take time out of your busy schedules to enjoy each other and nature

“I am afraid that just as the serpent deceived Eve in his cunning, your thoughts also might be led away from the simplicity of devotion to Christ.” – 2 Cor. 11:3

Monday, March 8, 2010

Ray Stedman on 2 Cor. 11:3

This is quoted from Ray Stedman's expository teaching series, on the verse 2 Corinthians 11:3 =

"I fear lest you be led astray in your thoughts as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ." (2 Cor. 11:3)

"(Literally it is, "from the simplicity and purity which is in Christ." Some manuscripts even leave out the word "purity," so it becomes basically, "that you might be led astray from the simplicity that is in Christ.") This is one of the most important phrases of the Bible because there is nothing more important than to maintain the simplicity that is in Christ.

I have often quoted this to you, but it will not hurt to quote again the saying, "The main thing about being a Christian is to see that the main thing remains the main thing." That is what Paul is saying. The "main thing" is that at the heart and center of your life is the "simplicity that is in Christ," a simple thing. I have noticed, over many years of observation, that when religion becomes complicated it is always a sign that it is drifting away from the realities and centralities of faith. The world around us is getting increasingly complex, and it is because it is drifting farther and farther from God. Look around at the world of nature and you can see the simplicity of God's design everywhere. He builds the year around four seasons which repeat themselves endlessly and never fail. We are entering upon the most beautiful time of all perhaps, springtime, when everyone delights in the new life that surges on all sides. Yet that simple pattern of four seasons contains within it all the possible variations of weather. Look at a flower and see how simple the pattern of its makeup is, and yet what an infinite variety God produces in a field of flowers. You can see this everywhere. God basically is simple. When religion becomes complex it is a sign that it is departing from Christ. Let me quote something here that is very helpful and confirming about this. The old medieval saint, Thomas 'a Kempis, has gathered this idea up. (Perhaps he got it from this very verse.)

By two wings man is lifted from the things of earth -- simplicity and purity.

And Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says:

As life in general becomes more and more complex, so religion tends to be affected in the same way. It seems to be assumed that if the affairs of men are so difficult and complicated, the affairs of God should be still more complicated, because they are still greater. Hence there comes a tendency to increase ceremony and ritual, and to multiply organizations and activities ... the argument is that it is ridiculous to assert that the vast problems of life today can be solved in an apparently simple manner suggested by those who preach the gospel in the old evangelical manner... The fact is, that as we get further away from God life becomes more complicated and involved. We see this not only in the Bible, but also in subsequent history. The Protestant Reformation simplified not only religion, but the whole of life and living in general... The truly religious life is always the simple life.

That is what Paul is concerned about here. When you ask yourself just what is that simplicity that he is talking about, the answer from everywhere in the Word of God is: The daily companionship of the Lord Jesus. How many of you sense that Christ is yours all day long? How many of you reckon upon that, think about that, live out of that relationship and out of that sense of the expectation of his presence? We often say, and rightly so, that Christianity is not a creed, it is a relationship; it is living with a Person. That is the simplicity that is in Christ. The danger that we constantly face, even in a church like this where the Word of God is taught, is that we get involved in the things about Christ and fail to live in a relationship with Christ. That is what Paul is deeply concerned about. That is why he is jealous to maintain "that simplicity that is in Christ." The first Corinthian letter starts on that very note. Paul says in Verse 9 of Chapter 1:

God is faithful who has called us into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:9 RSV)

When your Christianity begins to cool down and you find yourself getting complicated it is a definite sign that you are being threatened in this area of understanding the relationship you have with the Lord Jesus. He is a living Lord -- he is not dead. He is not for Sundays only. He is for all the moments of life. In Philippians, Paul says: "To me to live is Christ" (Philippians 1:21) -- everything, he fills my moments. Though he had one of the busiest lives ever recorded, a life of constant activity, yet he said at the heart of it lay this quiet reckoning upon the presence of the living Lord, the realization that he was with him to do everything that was to be done. That is the simplicity that he is talking about."

Monday, March 1, 2010

"An Authentic Servant" by: Ajith Fernando

This super-short 19 page book, more like a paper than a book, is available at the cafe for $3.00. I had a bunch of people ask me about it when I was working at the cafe, so I decided to give it a quick read.

This booklet is about spiritual leadership. It could be said to be a booklet about Paul's leadership and the example that leadership leaves for us. Patrick Fung (General Director, OMF International) writes the foreward and asks, "Are we willing for costly service? Do we yearn for those whom we lead? How can we keep our focus on the cross, and let the paradox of joy in suffering seep down into our understanding, our personal discipleship? There is no other authentic Christian leadership. Because of our fallen natures, and the pride which permeates all our attitudes and relationships, we are bound to struggle - and to find ourselves constantly struggling - if we are to win through to true servanthood." (p.1)

Leadership Principle #1 - Be willing to die. In this section Ajith gives small examples - like being willing to engage with our family members and talk when we come home from a long day of ministry; and bigger examples - like continuing to reach out to a difficult feild (he uses Muslims as an example) instead of just giving up and looking for something easier. He concludes this section by saying that we should have a "theology of groaning". From verses such as Romans 8:18-23 ("all creation groans") and 2 Cor. 4:16-17 ("our momentary troubles are acheiving for us an eternal glory that outweighs them all") we see that Christians are able to groan as we wait for glory.

Leadership Principle #2 - Yearning for the lost and for Believers. In Romans 9:1-3 we see Paul yearning for his countrymen who didn't yet know Christ. Ajith writes, "As he contemplated the lostness of his own people he was broken up inside. Today people do all they can to avoid such pain." In 1 Cor 9, we see that Paul's yearning turned into urgency to preach and to reach people in any way he could. And Paul also showed that he yearned for Believers - to have "Christ formed in them" in passages like Gal 4:19 and 1 Thess 2:8.

Leadership Principle #3 - Biblical stress. Ajith writes, "One of the results of opening our lives to others and yearning for them is stress." haha - that's putting it mildly! He brings up 2 Corinthians 11:28-29 when Paul speaks about the "pressure of concern for all the churches." He mentions also, (thank goodness!) unbiblical stress - stress that comes from refusing to delegate, messiah complex, and desire for earthly success. He then describes the strange tension that he knows about so well between biblical joy and biblical pain/stress. A lack of biblical joy means we have areas of unbelief mixed in. And, "We may have the stress of love, but we can't have the anxiety of unbelief."

Leadership Principle #4 - Preserving joy. "Grappling to preserve the joy of the Lord is a discipline we ought to cultivate...When we have joy in the Lord, the joy becomes our strength."

Leadership Principle #5 - Finishing well. Well-meaning Christians can overwork themselves in a fleshly way, neglecting their health and families, and end up in disillusionment. Yet Paul descibes "outwardly wasting away, but inwardly being renewed day by day." (2 Cor. 4:16) So how can we live well, and finish well? Ajith says we need to follow the other basic features of biblical discipleship.
He specifically mentions:
-regular unhurried time with God in prayer and Bible study
-guarding the joy of the Lord
-taking our Sabbath rest
-working with the Body by delegating responsibilities, and without trying to meet every need
-sacrificially fulfilling our responsibilities to our families
-looking forward to the coming glory which enables us to live with frustration on earth