Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Christ is the new and better Sabbath

Enjoy this excerpt from Kingdom Through Covenant as it discusses the Sabbath in both the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. Take a moment to consider the greatness of Christ as all things are summed up in him, the new and better Sabbath.

Discussion of this command brings us right into the middle of the problem of the relationship between the old covenant and the new, a matter which cannot be adequately discussed in this chapter. Nonetheless, a few comments on the Sabbath are in order. 
First, we must note that the Sabbath was the sign between Yahweh and Israel of the old covenant, as is clearly stated in Exodus 31:12–18. Covenants often have a physical sign associated with them. The rainbow was given as a physical sign of God’s promise in his covenant with Noah. Circumcision was commanded as a physical sign in the body of every male in Israel as a sign of God’s covenant with Abraham. Similarly, the Sabbath is stipulated as a permanent sign between Yahweh and Israel that the God who created the world in six days and then rested has consecrated them to himself. 
Second, as we compare the old covenant and the new covenant, we see that the self-identity of the people of the Lord in the old covenant was that of children, while the self-identity of the people of the Lord in the new covenant is that of mature adults (Gal. 3:24–25). The external forms and shadows of the old covenant have been done away now that the reality has come in Christ (Col. 2:16–17). 
Now of what does the Sabbath speak? Let us notice at once that, in the two texts in the Old Testament where we have the Ten Words, the reason given for the Sabbath in one text is different from the reason given in the other text. In Exodus, the reason is given in 20:11. God’s work of creation was complete, it was finished; the people could add nothing to it. They were invited to enter his rest and enjoy his work. Hebrews applies this notion to the work of Christ (Heb. 3:7–4:11). We cannot do anything to add to the work of Jesus Christ. We are simply to enjoy it. 
In Deuteronomy 5:15, a different reason is given for the Sabbath. The people of Israel must remember that they were slaves in Egypt and God brought them out of slavery, so they should give their slaves a chance to rest as they do on the Sabbath. Paul, in Colossians 1:12–14, speaks as do many authors of the New Testament of the work of the Lord Jesus as a new exodus. Egypt is a picture or symbol of the world; Pharaoh is a symbol of Satan, and the slavery is a symbol of our enslavement to our passion and pride from which Christ has redeemed us in his death on the cross. Jesus is the new Joshua, who will lead those people connected to him by the new covenant to enter and enjoy God’s Sabbath rest. (340-1)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The schemes and wiles of the evil one

I'm in the process of preparing a sermon on Ephesians 6:16 which is as follows: In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one ( ESV). In considering the fiery dart metaphor, I came across a list of attacks of Satan that were presented in a sermon on this same verse. The preacher referenced The Dictionary of Theological Terms by Alan Cairns when he delivered the list, but I have no way of verifying the accuracy of what follows in comparison to what is presented in Cairn's book. Also, the Scripture references have been added by me. That being said, here is a list of many, though not all, of Satan's activity on the earth:

  • Afflicts people – Acts 10:38
  • Dominates and captivates sinners – Acts 26:18
  • Blinds the minds of unbelievers – 2 Corinthians 4:4
  • Wrestles against the saints – Ephesians 6:12
  • Inspires lying wonders – 2 Thessalonians 2:9
  • Tempts people to sin - 2 Corinthians 11:3
  • Slanders and accuses the saints – Revelation 12:10
  • Inflict diseases - Luke 13:16
  • Opposes prayers – Daniel 10:13
  • Removes the seed of the gospel – Mark 4:15
  • Sows tares among the wheat – Matthew 13:25
  • Ruins bodies and souls – 1 Corinthian 5:5
  • Lies – John 8:44
  • Instigates sin – Acts 5:3
  • Devours souls – 1 Peter 5:8
  • Deceives – 2 Corinthians 11:14
  • Possesses men’s souls – Luke 22:3
  • Speaks through men – Mark 8:33
  • Defiles minds – Matthew 16:23
  • Ruins lives – Revelation 9:11

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Importance of Practical Holiness

In his classic Christian work on sanctification titled Holiness, J. C. Ryle contemplates the importance of holiness. He begins this discussion with an important clarification:
Can holiness save us? Can holiness put away sin - cover iniquities - make satisfaction for transgressions - pay our debt to God? No: not a whit. God forbid that I should ever say so. Holiness can do none of these things. The brightest saints are all “unprofitable servants.” Our purest works are no better than filthy rags, when tried by the light of God’s holy law. The white robe which Jesus offers, and faith puts on, must be our only righteousness - the name of Christ our only confidence - the Lamb’s book of life our only title to heaven. With all our holiness we are no better than sinners. Our best things are stained and tainted with imperfection. (39)
Clearly, personal holiness is not a salvific issue. But, is is important. We can recognize the inability of holiness to save a person, but does that necessarily mean it is not significant? Of course, Ryle insists that holiness is important and gives the reader a list of reasons why:
For one thing, we must be holy, because the voice of God in Scripture plainly commands it.

  1. We must be holy, because this is one grand end and purpose for which Christ came into the world.
  2. We must be holy, because this is the only sound evidence that we have a saving faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
  3. We must be holy, because this is the only proof that we love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.
  4. We must be holy, because this is the only sound evidence that we are true children of God.
  5. We must be holy, because this is the most likely way to do good to others.
  6. We must be holy, because our present comfort depends much upon it.
  7. Lastly, we must be holy, because without holiness on earth we shall never be prepared to enjoy heaven. (39-42)
The reasons Ryle presents are permeated with Scripture references and his own commentary; they make for worthwhile reading and contemplation. Ryle then returns to the point we started out with securing his approach with a reminder to the importance of holiness in the context of the Christian faith as a whole:
I have no desire to make an idol of holiness. I do not wish to dethrone Christ, and put holiness in His place. But I must candidly say, I wish sanctification was more thought of in this day than it seems to be, and I therefore take occasion to press the subject on all believers into whose hands these pages may fall. I fear it is sometimes forgotten that God has married together justification and sanctification. They are distinct and different things, beyond question, but one is never found without the other. All justified people are sanctified, and all sanctified are justified. What God has joined together let no man dare to put asunder. Tell me not of your justification, unless you have also some marks of sanctification. Boast not of Christ’s work for you, unless you can show us the Spirit’s work in you. Think not that Christ and the Spirit can ever be divided. I doubt not that many believers know these things, but I think it good for us to be put in remembrance of them. Let us prove that we know them by our lives. Let us try to keep in view this text more continually: “Follow holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” (46)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Jesus grew in stature and wisdom

In chapter 3 of the excellent book by Bruce Ware called The Man Christ Jesus the author deals with a passage of Scripture well-known to anyone who attended Sunday school for any length of time:
Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day's journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?” And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. (Luke 2:41-51 ESV)
Ware then makes note of two verses that surround this passage; one immediately after and a second a little earlier on:
And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him. (Luke 2:40 ESV) 
And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:52 ESV)
Ware wants the reader to consider how Jesus lived his life. Arguably the main question he is asking himself is: Did Jesus live his life primarily out of his divine nature or out of his human nature? We see in the first passage above that Jesus had profound knowledge of the Scriptures, so much so that all were "amazed at his understanding and answers." One reading now might not be that impressed; he was God after all. But do not think that this awe-inducing intelligence was a result of his divine nature. Ware suggests otherwise stating, "what both of these verses indicate is that Jesus' wisdom is not a function of his divine nature but is the expression of his growth as a human being" (49). Ware points out that this growth in wisdom, indicated by his interaction with the teachers at the temple, is linked by Luke to his growth in physical strength and stature. This is a strong intimation that the growth and resulting wisdom was a function of his humanity.

But how could this be? How did Jesus, a mere boy, acquire the insight and intelligence to leave even the teachers of Scripture wonder-struck?

Ware explains:
Jesus was what might be thought of as the Psalm 1 prototype. He truly loved the law of the Lord and meditated on it both day and night. Because of this, he was like a tree planted by rivers of water that yields its fruit in season; its leaf did not wither, and in whatever he did he prospered. Out of his love for the law, he learned and mastered the law, and the Spirit within him illumined his mind and enflamed his heart to long to know it better and better as he grew. (53)
Ware ends the chapter with, in my estimation, a very helpful application; I hope you find it encouraging and helpful.
One lesson we learn from this early account of Jesus, the Spirit-anointed Messiah even in his youth, is how important the connection is between the Spirit and the Word. The Spirit came upon Jesus in part to illumine his mind to understand and then speak forth the truth of God's revealed Word. In order for Jesus to fulfill his mission, he had to learn the Word of God, and to learn this Word well and rightly he needed the Spirit within him to illumine his mind and heart. Another way to think of this observation is this: it would have been impossible for Jesus to accomplish the work the Father had given him to do were it not for the knowledge and wisdom he acquired, by the Spirit's enablement, from the Word of God. We darenot, then, separate Word and Spirit as if we can fulfill God's work and live in a manner pleasing to God with one but not the other. No, Spirit and Word are inseparable in God's economy, and Jesus bears glorious testimony to this truth. May we learn from Jesus that yielding to the Spirit and devotion to the Word are necessary companions. (55)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Mohler on Worldviews

President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, one Dr. Albert Mohler, has written an excellent book on leadership entitled The Conviction to Lead. One of the many leadership related topics that Dr. Mohler deals with is that of worldviews. For Mohler, our convictions shape our worldviews, and then the worldview that we have embraced shapes us. The Conviction to Lead defines worldviews in the following paragraph:
Worldviews work by organizing ideas. At the most basic level of our thinking, every single one of us operates out of one unified understanding of the world. As Sowell says, these worldviews are the "silent shapers of our thoughts." You might even say that they are sets of ideas that make the world operational for us. If we did not believe these ideas, we would have no idea how to make sense of the world. We cannot rethink our basic understanding of reality every morning. (45)
As a Christian, our "basic understanding of reality," and the "framework for our thoughts, decisions making, and way of analyzing issues" (45) should be purposefully developed and enriched. We cannot be lackadaisical about something of such incredible import. Mohler continues,
A robust and rich model of Christian thinking-the quality of thinking that culminates in a God-centered worldview-requires that we see all truth as interconnected. Ultimately, the wholeness of truth can be traced to the fact that God is himself the author of all truth. Christianity's doctrines are not like separate tools in a mechanic's belt to be used only when needed. Instead, Christianity is a comprehensive worldview and way of life that grows out of Christian reflection on the bible and the unfolding plan of God revealed in the unity of the Scriptures. (45)
A Christian worldview is a powerful thing. But you do not receive this in the genetic material from your parents. You have to work at it, intentionally, and grow and develop it. Mohler adds,
A God-centered worldview brings every issue, question, and cultural concern into submission to all the Bible reveals, and frames all understanding within the ultimate purpose of bringing greater glory to God. This task of bringing every thought captive to Christ requires more than haphazard Christian thinking, and is to be understood as the task of the church and not merely the concern of individual believers. The recovery of the Christian mind and the development of a comprehensive Christian worldview will require the deepest theological reflection, the most consecrated application of scholarship, the most sensitive commitment to compassion, and the courage to face all questions without fear. (45-6)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

El Shaddai

From Kingdon Through Covenant:
First, Yahweh reveals himself as El Shaddai (God Almighty). This is the first occurrence of this divine name in the Scriptures. In an attempt to determine the meaning of the Hebrew term “Shaddai,” scholars have argued over the origin of the word and have come to a stalemate. Its meaning, however, can be determined quite well from the usage of the word. This name for God is associated especially and particularly in the Old Testament with the lives of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It seems that this name was given to encourage faith because of the disparity between the covenant promises and the reality of the situation in which they found themselves at that time. Thus, in this context, Yahweh is the God who intervenes powerfully. It is customary in the Greek Old Testament to translate El Shaddai by “almighty” (παντοκράτωρ),13 and this expresses the meaning very well. (259)
I am encouraged by this brief discussion of the meaning of El Shaddai. I am strengthened by the very thought of the "God who intervenes powerfully." There are many things in my life that need a powerfully intervening God. And He exists. And just as He kept His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, He keeps His covenant with people of the new covenant. He has already decisively intervened powerfully for us in sending His Son who lived, died, and rose again for us. He will continue to intervene. I am encouraged.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Book Review - Saving Eutychus

Who hasn't nodded off during a sermon? At some point, if we spend enough time in church services, we are going to find ourselves fighting off sleep. If our drowsiness is due to some unforeseen circumstance in our life-an emergency, over-time at work, a delayed flight-then I think this is understandable and even acceptable. But if the Sandman comes for a visit because the sermon is dull and dreary, then there is a problem, a problem that authors Gary Millar and Phil Campbell would like to remedy. That is, the authors of Saving Eutychus would like to do just that, save Eutychus, and every other sermon-listener, from sermon induced slumber.

As someone who has had the opportunity to preach on several occasions, and who will be preaching quite a bit more in the coming months, I was very interested in reading this book on preaching particularly since it had been endorsed by the likes of D. A. Carson, Alistair Begg, and Bryan Chapell. This book was also appealing to me because it was short. I am always intrigued by reading a book that is both concise and competent.

Millar and Campbell have written a very helpful, instructive, and encouraging book on writing, delivering, and improving on sermons. In short order they cover a wide variety of topics related to preaching and do so in a manner that is humourous and serious.

The book begins with an appeal to the preacher, or would-be-preacher, to avail themselves and their listeners, and anyone else they can cajole, to pray for the preaching of God’s Word. This is a great reminder that ultimately we rely on God for an effective preaching ministry.

The book then introduces what effective preaching is, and we learn that for these authors expository preaching is the surest and most faithful means of preaching in a manner that changes people’s hearts.

Both authors preach from manuscripts and argue for their use in the pulpit. They deliver ten tips for clarity in preaching; these are very powerful and simple ideas that can be implemented to great effect.
The authors continue to provide helpful, practical insight on the importance of finding and focusing on a sermon’s big idea. They elaborate on the importance of preaching a passage of Scripture’s big idea or controlling theme, and then provide instruction on how one can determine the big idea. Again, these concepts are very useful and their ability to demonstrate how these ideas are applied makes this book extremely practical. And the big idea leads the authors to discuss the application part of a sermon, offering techniques for making this section of the sermon effective.

The book addresses how one preaches from the Old Testament in a very instructive and edifying chapter. Focusing on how to get the gospel out of an Old Testament passage, the authors begin with proper understanding of the passage, move to locating the passage in the context of the whole Bible, and finish by  a call to preach the gospel in a fresh and invigorating fashion. Their succinct explanations of these various steps tackle a tough topic briefly and thoroughly.

The book moves on by informing on delivery techniques as well as the importance of receiving and implementing constructive, critical feedback on your sermons. This book remains in the realm of the practical by delivering tips and functional ideas. I found the chapter on the necessity of critique very motivating; a solid reminder to seek growth and improvement in our preaching.

The final chapter walks the reader through the process of writing an actual sermon. This play-by-play building of a sermon, with commentary, gives the reader insight into a very dynamic process. I found this very intriguing and I think it will aid the preacher to see how the author processes and adjusts his sermon as he works through it.

The book ends with two appendices offering very practical tools for preachers. The first appendix is several real-life examples of sermon critique with actual sermons. The authors clearly value this aspect of reflection, and witnessing it demonstrates the value of feedback. The second appendix offers various resources from the book. The sermon feedback form is one I definitely plan to incorporate into my preaching.

Overall I found this a very helpful book. Its strengths include clarity, conciseness, practicality, humour, and the encouragement that these two authors offer by presenting their life and experiences with the reader. Anyone who preaches or will be preaching, or perhaps those interested in the process of sermon writing and delivery, will benefit from reading this book. And the benefits will multiply to the listeners of the sermons, and maybe even prevent a Eutychusian tragedy resulting from a snoozing audience.

Here is a brief trailer for the book:

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Loose grip and purposeful valuing

This is solid instruction by J. C Ryle that we can use to admonish ourselves with as well as gauge our spiritual temperature with. I think that this insight is particularly applicable to us North American consumerist Christians. In Holiness, we found written:
Last, but not least, a holy man will follow after spiritual mindedness. He will endeavour to set his affections entirely on things above, and to hold things on earth with a very loose hand. He will not neglect the business of the life that now is; but the first place in his mind and thoughts will be given to the life to come. He will aim to live like one whose treasure is in heaven, and to pass through this world like a stranger and pilgrim travelling to his home. To commune with God in prayer, in the Bible, and in the assembly of His people - these things will be the holy man’s chiefest enjoyments. He will value every thing and place and company, just in proportion as it draws him nearer to God.
Two things from this quote I find particularly helpful are the concepts represented by the image of holding things with a loose hand and the idea of valuing things in proportion to their drawing-near-to-God power.

A holy man is not a monk or an ascetic who has cloistered himself or herself in a monastery and given up all earthly goods. A holy person is not a hermit who has forsaken society. A holy person has not dropped all the good gifts of God that are profuse in our culture. Rather, they hold them loosely, neither tossing them aside nor tightening their grips on them.

Furthermore, the value one should put on earthy goods and things of this world is proportionate to their ability to help you draw near to God or hinder your pursuit of communion. For me, that means I should put less value on entertainment than I do; TV does not affect me positively when it comes to my affections for God. Conversations with godly friends should increase in value in my estimation because these discussions result in raised affections for Christ.

What are you holding on to a little too tightly? What do value a little too highly?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The interconnected graces

In Charity and Its Fruit, Edwards argues that all the graces of Christianity-whether they be the big three of faith, hope, and love or other graces such as patience, contentment, gentleness, and the like-are connected. They are not individually packaged; that is, for reasons Edwards produces, they are affiliated and connected with each other.

Of the many reasons Edwards puts forward showing the connected-ness of the graces, I will draw you attention to just two of them.

The third reason given explaining the inseparability of the graces is that "they all have the same root and foundation, namely, the knowledge of God’s excellence." For Edwards, a knowledge of God's excellence, a real vision of who God is and what he is like, will beget the graces in the Christian's life. Thus, at conversion, an individual sees God as glorious and this spiritual vision will naturally produce the graces mentioned above as well as many others. In his words, "The same sight or sense of God’s excellency begets faith, and love, and repentance, and all the other graces. One sight of this excellence will beget all these graces, because it shows the ground and reason of all holy dispositions, and of all holy behavior toward God. They that truly know God’s nature will love him, and trust in him, and have a spirit to submit to him, and serve, and obey him."

Hence, the graces are interconnected because they all spring forth from the same apprehension of God in all his excellence. Furthermore, Edwards also suggests that the graces not only have the same source, but they also have the same end; the glory of God.

Edwards writes, "He is their end, for they all tend to him. As they are all from the same source, rising from the same fountain; and all stand on the same foundation, growing from the same root; and are all directed by the same rule, the law of God; — so they are all directed to the same end, namely, God, and his glory, and our happiness in him." Of interest is Edwards connecting the glory of God and our happiness in him, two congruent ends that the graces in the Christian life arrive at.

There are several other reasons Edwards feels that all of the graces are connected, but certainly he sees their joining together as resulting from their similar beginning and end.

Monday, July 8, 2013

What could the Spirit contribute to Christ?

Now one must ask this question: why did Jesus need the Spirit of God to indwell and empower his life? After all, he was fully God, and being fully God, certainly nothing could be added to him, for as God, certainly nothing could be added to him, for as God, he possessed already, infinitely and eternally, every quality or perfection that there is. Yet, Jesus was indwelt with the Spirit and ministered in the power of the Spirit. So we ask: what could the Spirit of God contribute to the deity of Christ? (34)
Here are two of several questions Bruce Ware asks, and answers, in his chapter in The Man Christ Jesus that deals with Jesus' empowering by the Holy Spirit. Ware presents his query as he discusses and explains Christ's relationship, on earth, to the Spirit of God. And his answer? "Nothing. As God he possesses every quality infinitely, and nothing can be added to him" (34). This succinct answer does not exhaust Ware's line of questioning. He continues, "So then we ask instead this question: what could the Spirit of God contribute to the humanity of Christ?" (34). Ware, again, answers his own question:
The answer is: everything of supernatural power and enablement that he, in his human nature, would lack. The only way to make sense, then, of the fact that Jesus came in the power of the Spirit is to understand that he lived his life fundamentally as a man, and as such, he relied on the Spirit to provide the power, grace, knowledge, wisdom, direction, and enablement he needed, moment by moment and day by day, to fulfill the mission the Father sent him t accomplish. (34)
In answering his own question Ware touches upon the main point he makes in The Man Christ Jesus; Jesus lived his life on earth primarily as a human being. This answer, and the other proofs he provides through out the book not only resolve many difficulties we have surrounding Jesus' life and ministry but also magnify the glory of the Son of God. This book is informative in a way that makes Jesus look glorious. Ware concludes the chapter:
Yes, Jesus, the Spirit-anointed Messiah, lived his life as a man, accepting the limitations of his human existence, and relied on the Spirit to do in and through him what he could not do in his human nature. His identity, then, as the Spirit-anointed Messiah is fundamentally that of a man empowered by the Spirit to carry out what he was called upon to do. (43)

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Poythress' high regard for the Word

For my last post on Vern Poythress' significant book on harmonizing the Gospels, entitled Inerrancy and the Gospels, I will share three quotes that, among other things, emphasize the high regard that the author has for Scripture in general and the Gospels in particular. I have mentioned Poythress' deep respect and reverence for God's Word in other posts about this book, and these last three quotes emphasize this quality. This high view of Scripture espoused by Poythress is obviously integral to how he approaches the Bible as well as how he deals with problematic passages in the Gospels. This viewpoint of the Word, and his submitting to it, is something that I desire to emulate. A book such as Inerrancy and the Gospels helps me to do that.

First, let's consider how Poythress perceives the words of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels:
Jesus is God. So Jesus' speeches are divine speech. The four Gospel writers are human beings, but they were inspired by the Holy Spirit so that what they wrote is also divine speech. Whenever the Gospel writers report things from Jesus' speeches, we are seeing God's report of what God himself said. (163)
This next quote makes an interesting point,a point that underlines Poythress' willingness to accept God's Word as it has been delivered. Even though we may want more information, we may want more thorough answers, what we have been given is sufficient for all we need:
The main point here is that the Gospels give us information about speeches but not exhaustive information. Human curiosity is normal. We are curious to know more. It would be interesting to hear a full verbatim transcript of everything the disciples said to Jesus and to one another. But we do not have it, nor do we really need it. (186, emphasis mine)
Finally, Poythress touches upon what it may mean if we are not satisfied with the Scriptural account we have been given. It looks like a lack of trust, or worse, it looks like questioning God's wisdom. A high view of Scripture means reverencing what we have, not pining for what is not there:
The Gospels themselves are "summaries," in a sense, when we compare them to what it would be like to have records of everything that Jesus said and did. They are sparse. God planned it that way. We have to trust God's wisdom. He knew what would be best for us to have. He gave it to us in the four Gospels. An insistence on having more easily represents a lack of trust and a lack of contentment with God's choice. (187)
These three brief quotes expose Poythress as a man who admires, submits to, and reverences the Bible. I want to be that kind of man.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

I worship enough already

In his excellent book on worship called Rhythms of Grace, author and worship pastor Mike Cosper discusses the innate and incurable insistence to worship that all human beings possess. In the garden of Eden, the continual and natural inclination to worship seems obvious. However, when sin enters the picture the predisposition to worship does not depart from mankind.
People are still made to bear God's image, still made to give and receive in the exchange of blessing and outpouring from God to creation and back again. As Harold Best describes it, we're continuously outpouring, perpetually worshiping something: "At this very moment, and for as long as this world endures, everybody inhabiting it is bowing down and serving something or someone-an artifact, a person, an institution, an idea, a spirit, or God through Christ." 
It is part of our hardwired, image-bearing heritage... 
Just as Adam ceaselessly worshiped God in Eden, in the wild his worship continues unabated, but disconnected from the God who made him. Praise still pours forth, though missing its proper home. (35-6, emphasis mine)
The issue isn't that we need to worship more. We are always worshiping. Worship is our default position and there is no way to switch it off. The real issue is the object of our worship. Is our worshiping, our relishing, our affections, our admiration directed towards the one and only rightful object, God, or is it indiscriminately poured out on a myriad of lesser gods? Or worse still, do we intentionally displace the God of the universe with a god of our choosing?

I don't need to worship more. I need to worship God more.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Wellum and Gentry on blessing

In Kingdom Through Covenant, authors Wellum and Gentry discuss what the term blessing, particularly in the life of Abraham:

What is actually meant by “blessing”? Blessing is connected with life, just as cursing brings death. So what would blessing mean in the ancient Near East in Abraham’s time? Does “blessing” mean a full, long life, the good life in the sense of having good health, having a big family to look after one as a senior, business success (i.e., having big flocks and herds or crops that are abundant and successful), acquiring land, having power and victory over your enemies? If we convert these ideas into our modern society, what would blessing mean? Does blessing mean health, business success, being surrounded by a circle of friends (on Facebook?), having influence and power, having a big house and car, having better sex? 
Bruce Waltke explains that “the term ‘to bless’ (brk) with God as subject denotes procreative largesse and victory, accompanied with a sense of loyalty to the future generations (Gen. 1:28; 26:24; 27:27–29).”29 Significantly, however, he adds that “it also connotes redemption, a relationship with God that transforms the beneficiary and provides security.” Dumbrell noted this important aspect too. As Abraham’s life unfolds, we begin to see what blessing means. Blessing operates in the context of a covenant relationship with God. Blessings are the manifestation of a faithfulness, fidelity, and solidarity in relationships whereby one’s natural and personal capacity to fulfill God’s intention and purpose is advanced and furthered.31 God’s word to Abram is powerful, enabling the calling to be fulfilled. (241-2)

I love this definition for blessing: "one’s natural and personal capacity to fulfill God’s intention and purpose is advanced and furthered." It is powerful because it takes the emphasis off of me-my needs, my wants, my desires-and focuses on God; we are blessed when we can fulfill God's purpose.