24 March 2006

... "Give Careful Thought to Your Ways!"

Such was the command to the nation of Israel through the prophet Haggai (Read 1:3-15). In context, God was convicting the people for their selfish orientation, their apathy toward Him and their vain social and economic priorities. They responded in obedience and “in the fear of the Lord.” The passage applies as much today as it did to Israel after they had grown indifferent to the rebuilding of the temple.

We live in a “Christian-Lite” age, with priorities often self-oriented and divorced from biblical content even among Christians. We tend to worry more about how our faith can meet our “felt-needs,” grow our self-esteem or enhance our image before others, rather than how we can grow in obedience and in glorifying our Lord. In fact, we are often indifferent toward the Bible’s priority to know our God, walk in loving obedience to His decrees and love Him with all our minds—and to “be transformed by the renewing of our minds!”

Haggai reminds us of the importance to grow our minds—to increase our knowledge, thinking and reflection…to grow in wisdom and sharpen our conscience before a holy God—through the provision given and mediated by the Word of God. As the Psalmist prays (Ps 90:12),“So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Let us consider our ways and take up and read!

(First published in Dei Light April 2005)

16 March 2006

...shades of "freedom"

Reading history suggests that some things in the present are not always as they seem or as they are portrayed. One example is the contemporary discourse on “personal freedom” supported by appealing to the basis of our Nation’s founding. Historically, freedom was understood primarily in a corporate context, dependent on a corresponding individual responsibility and accountability to society and exercised primarily through the institutions of family, church and local government. Accountability brings necessary restraints on freedom’s exercise—restraints necessary because of the inclinations of our fallen state as made clear in the Scriptures and demonstrated over and over in history. In contemporary rhetoric, calls for “freedom” are often veiled appeals for additional personal autonomy, the shedding of accountability and, in effect, the removal of those restraints. But history shows that individual autonomy tends not to enhance freedom but endanger it. By nature, we need accountability and restraints on the inclinations of that nature. Those restraints largely come by the means of God-given institutions of family, community, government and, for Christians, the church. So let us grow in our understanding of the subject of freedom through the reading of history. And let that history enhance our discernment and point us not toward personal autonomy but toward growth in personal responsibility and accountability. Let it help us in the strengthening of our God-given institutions—for the preservation and strengthening of true freedom. Let us take up and read!

08 March 2006

Recommended: Bunyan's "Grace Abounding"

Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners by John Bunyan. Whitaker House, 2002.

This work is the spiritual autobiography of John Bunyan—the English preacher most famous for the allegory Pilgrim’s Progress—written in 1666 well into a 12-year imprisonment for his faith. In Grace Abounding, Bunyan recounts his life beginning with guilt and despair over his sin and ending yet a sinner but with a heart full of thanksgiving and in awe of the grace of God in Jesus Christ. If you have struggled with sin, assurance of faith, anxiety and doubt or even apathy and boredom with the things of God, this account will be a great encouragement. Use it as a mirror and read it to be encouraged and to grow in knowing our amazing God and His abounding grace extended in Christ to us, even “the chief of sinners.”