Friday, March 19, 2010

Prayer and Faith

"When faith ceases to pray, it ceases to live." (E.M. Bounds, The Necessity of Prayer)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Three Kinds of People

There are three kinds of people:
  1. Those who pursue wrong things
  2. Those who pursue the right thing, but in a wrong way
  3. Those who pursue the right thing, in the right way
Though the first two look very different, both paths are disastrous. A skilled CoJourner must distinguish between the two and helping BUILD appropriate bridges for each.

It is these realities that Paul applies in Romans 9:30-10:13.
  • Group 1: The Gentiles did not pursue righteousness (9:30; compare Rom 1:18-32; 3:10-18).
  • Group 2: The Jews pursued righteousness as if it were based on works, seeking to establish their own righteousness (9:31-10:3; compare 2:1-3:20).
  • Group 3: But righteousness (the right thing) is from God by faith through Christ (9:30, 32-33; 10:3, 4; compare 3:21ff).
[21st Century moralism is a weak sister to 1st Century legalism. But both seek what is right in the wrong way. 21st Century amoralism appears just as strong a sibling as 1st Century immorality.]

How skilled are we at diagnosing a person's condition? At helping them understand their issue? At GUIDING them to faith in Christ?

"How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" (Romans 10:15).

Monday, March 8, 2010

Old Testament Gospel

Over the last 18 months, I have been studying (meditating upon; praying over; etc.) the book of Romans. (I have made it into chapter 10 now.) It has been a delightful exploration of the riches of the gospel. It has not changed my views of the gospel, though it has significantly deepened my understanding of it. Even more important it has changed me, as I have dug deeper and deeper into the profound truths encapsulated in this marvelous letter of the Apostle Paul.

Over the last few days, I have discovered another (previously un-mined by me) aspect of Paul’s writing—his use of the Old Testament. One can’t help but noting how often he quotes OT writers throughout the book. But I hadn’t stopped and focused on this aspect until now.

What have I discovered? Depending on how you count verses and occurrences, the OT is clearing quoted or referenced about 87 times in the letter. Given that there are 433 verses in Romans, that means 20% is OT. Think about it—Paul’s most complete articulation of gospel theology is one-fifth Old Testament.

Imagine sitting down for hours with someone explaining Jesus Christ as Lord, what he has done for us in salvation and why, and one fifth of all you say is drawn from the OT. What a profound understanding of the Law, prophets and Psalms that would require.

A couple of other observations to note: Twenty-four quotations are from Isaiah (the most of any OT book). That is a quarter of all Paul’s numerous references. More than half of those (15) are found in Romans 9-11 where Paul unpacks the implications of God’s sovereign grace and plan for the people of Israel and the Gentile nations. Implication: If you want to understand Romans (and the gospel) more fully, you must understand Isaiah more completely.

The second most quoted book is the Psalms. I count 19 quotations from the Psalms. While I have now examined each of the Isaiah quotes in context, I have yet to do the same for the Psalms. That is next (I assume.) Genesis and Deuteronomy are the next most frequent with (about) nine each.

Given Genesis, Deuteronomy, Psalms and Isaiah, how well (i.e. how complete and clearly) could you communicate the gospel?

Challenging thoughts. Rich reflections. Hope it spurs your thinking, as well.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Our Semi-Literate Society

Stephen Perk announced the cessation of the regular publishing schedule of Christianity & Society, the bi-annual journal of the Kuyper Foundation. I am struck by the reasons given—reasons which highlight the change in society and the communication of information, and more importantly ideas.

Three reasons are given: First, the volume of essays submitted for publication has significantly declined. Why? “Essays get published immediately on the internet on websites and blogsites.” Second, they have other projects to pursue. But it is the third that I draw attention to here.
“…that British society (possibly even Western society generally) is becoming semi-literate. The number of people who can be reached by intelligent literature is declining drastically. …we no longer have: a literate society.”
Perk relates a couple of examples of this sad reality. One is as follows: “…when I recently tried to organise a non-fiction reading group, I was told by one person whom I approached as a possible member of the group: “I got through college without reading any books, why should I start now?”
As he draws his thoughts to a close, he makes this observation:
“If we do communicate the message of the gospel effectively to our society in a way that most people can understand, and the result is the re-Christianising of the nation, this will eventually produce a literate society, because wherever Christianity has gone this has been the result. Christianity is a religion of the book.”
Is he right? Christianity is certainly the religion of the Book. And it is certainly the case since the Reformation, fueled in part by the fruit of Gutenberg’s movable type, that literacy has been tied to Christian education and missions. It is evidenced in the Bible translation work of global missions.

But communication media have changed, and not for the first time. The oral society gave way to the literate. The literate society has given way to the broadcast society. And now the broadcast society is yielding to the rise of the digital. Rex Miller has explored these changes in The Millenial Matrix.

Where will this lead? How will it impact not only the spread of the gospel (in relation to the breadth of its reach) but the embrace of the gospel (the depth of its influence on lives and society)?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Spring Break, Big Break & Help for Haiti

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A wedding of Good News (the gospel) with Good Deeds (acts of compassion, meeting real need.)