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Posts Tagged ‘John Piper’

Pals pic

On the afternoon of Sunday, July 31, Jamison & Kathryne Pals, along with their three children Ezra (3 years), Violet (23 months), and Calvin (2 months) were all killed in a rear-end collision. They were pronounced dead at the scene in Nebraska. They were traveling to Colorado to participate in their final training session for their long-term deployment to be global partners with Christ Bible Institute in Nagoya, Japan. (See article in Omaha World Herald.)

– – – – –

I would love for you to first meet the Pals family through the pages of Dad Jamison’s blog: For the Joy of Japan.  The most recent entry, “An Update on our Children,” dated July 26, 2016, will allow you to see each of Jamison and Kathryne’s beautiful, lively children – Ezra, Violet, and baby Calvin – ages 3 years to 2 ½ months.  Scrolling down the blog there are many, many other posts which give us a window into this young family’s life in St. Paul while they prepared to go to Japan as long-term missionaries with World Venture.  Why Japan? Jamison writes:

So, why Japan? Well, depending on who you talk to, the Japanese people are either the largest or second largest unreached people group on earth. It just seems fitting to go to the place where there are the most people without sufficient witness to the gospel and all its awesomeness. The Church in Japan is not yet large enough to share Christ and disciple new believers on its own. There is a need for more laborers … It burdens us to know that over 126 million people in Japan don’t have Who we have. We cherish Jesus Christ. We know that he is worthy of love, trust, adoration and obedience, no matter what people group you belong to or culture you identify with. We simply want to play a small part in bringing these things about for people in Japan. We want Jesus Christ for Japan.  That’s what “the joy of Japan” really means.

In perusing his blog, don’t fail to read the exquisitely beautiful “A Second Proposal.”  Here is a love story of a different kind.  It is Jamison wooing Kathryne for a second time.  However, it is not toward the altar, but toward missions.  You should read Kathryne’s journey from uncertainty to yielding in her own words, but let me share her closing paragraph: “It may just be that God’s aim is to reach the nations through weak mothers relying daily on his strength, so that in everything he might be glorified.”  The Pals work in Japan was to begin in October. 

So, when we read about this family in the pages of their blog, smile at the photos of their sweet children, and enter vicariously into their vision for Japan, it is almost beyond belief when we read their pastors’ August 1, 2016, post (above) on the Bethlehem Baptist website:  “On the afternoon of Sunday, July 31, Jamison & Kathryne Pals, along with their three children Ezra (3 years), Violet (23 months), and Calvin (2 months) were all killed in a rear-end collision.  they were pronounced dead at the scene in Nebraska.”

– – – – –

The memorial service was fittingly a mixture of lament for what has been lost by friends and family and rejoicing for what has been gained through the blood-bought redemption won for the Pals by Jesus Christ.  Former pastor of Bethlehem Baptist, Pastor John Piper, offered the prayer at the funeral.  He opened with five paragraphs of lament which began, “O Lord, God of might and mercy and mystery, you have driven the arrows of your quiver into the breast of your people, your beloved. You have filled our throat with bitterness and gall. You have made our teeth grind on gravel, and laid us down with wounds in the ashes of dreams.” 

Pastor Piper did not allow for grief with no hope, though, and went on to thank God for this family who “did not count their lives to be more valuable than obedience; who set their faces, like flint, toward Japan and the finishing of their course and the ministry they had received from the Lord Jesus.”  And lest we doubt, Pastor Piper was careful to remind us that the Pals did indeed finish their course and ministry; just like the apostle Paul wrote from Rome, “I have finished my course,” even though he never did get to Spain as he had planned. 

Bethlehem Pastor Jason Meyer gave the funeral message (you can watch video of the service here).  He began: “Don’t let the fact that this is a funeral and this is a funeral message fool you into thinking that Jamison and Kathryne and Ezra and Violet and Calvin are dead.  They are not dead.  It was the great preacher, D.L. Moody, who gave a voice to this blessed hope: 

Some day you will read in the papers, “D.L. Moody of East Northfield is dead.”  Don’t you believe a word of it! At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now.

Pastor Meyer exhorted the mourners that because of Christ we dare not call tragedy what the Bible calls victory (1 Corinthians 15:54-57), nor do we call loss what the Bible calls gain (Philippians 1:21). He began, “This grace of Jesus coming and living and dying and rising again secures the victory over the only things that could truly kill us forever. Before [the Pals] could receive the blessing of his face shining upon them in grace, the sacred head of Jesus had to bear the cursed crown of thorns. He bore the wrath of God in their place — that is grace — pure, glorious grace. They saw the bright light of the glory of God in the radiant face of the resurrected Jesus and they were never the same again.”

So, while we grieve, we rise up with resurrection faith as we embrace together our blessed hope that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. And so, we celebrate the fact that the Pals family is not dead, but more alive than ever because of the grace of God that is ours in Jesus Christ.  Little Ezra loved to sing “10,000 Reasons,” and “now he is singing 10 billion reasons.”

But what of the loss to Japan?  Accounting for God’s sovereignty in life, in salvation, and in death, how can we reconcile this?  Fellow World Venture missionary, Meredith Barrett, reflects on the friendship she and her husband, Jeff, developed with the Pals during their training (the Barretts are currently beginning their assignment to the Albanian people).  She writes that the Pals had “so much hope looking toward the future and excitement about what God had in store ahead.”  But she profoundly adds:

I can’t help but be struck by the fact that God never intended them to actually go.  His plan and purpose was not for them to be in Japan but rather in the going to Japan.  The season of preparing, planning, waiting. That was what God had for them and then He called them all home.

But what of God’s plan and purposes for Japan?  After the death of the Pals family, World Venture received a call that went something like this:

My wife and I have been wondering if we should someday serve as missionaries to Japan. We heard the news of the tragic loss of the Pals family and God is making it clear to us that we should step into their place and go. I speak Japanese and I have a Bible degree. My wife and I have four children. Let’s talk and pray together.

“God is not done,” Pastor Meyer declared resoundingly,He is at work. His purposes cannot fail.”

I’ll close with Jamison’s compelling “Second Proposal.” He closed his proposition to Kathryne with these words by Samuel Rutherford:

“How soon will some few years pass away, and then when the day is ended, and this life’s lease expired, what have men of the world’s glory, but dreams and thoughts? O happy soul forevermore, who can rightly compare this life with that long-lasting life to come, and can balance the weighty glory of the one with the light golden vanity of the other.”

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Note: You may send memorial gifts to the Jamison and Kathryne Pals Family Foundation, 3570 Vicksburg Ln N, Ste 100, Plymouth, MN 55447. Gifts will be used to spread the gospel of joy through Jesus Christ to Japan and beyond. Learn more about the foundation and share thoughts and memories of Jamison, Kathryne, Ezra, Violet, and Calvin at palsfamilyfound.org.

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“The Father is seeking such people to worship him.”
“Lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.”

(John 4)

Fields White with Harvest

If you live in the upper Midwest as we do, you can’t help but accept the coming and going of the four seasons.  This is not the same as welcoming each season (although that would be a good discipline to work on), but we look around us and must accept, like it or not, that a new season is on our door step and will be fully upon us very soon.  We may not always like that by the end of July/first of August the grains have turned golden in the summer sun and are ready for harvest.  If we have trained ourselves, we may recognize God’s grace to mankind in the season’s altering.

Our dear Pastor Scott led us through some surprisingly uncharted territory this past Sunday morning as he taught through the familiar story of the woman at the well from John 4 and challenged us to see it anew.  Thus, we entered the church service which followed with such meditations as v.23 “the Father is seeking such people” and v. 35 “Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.”

Then, who should be filling pulpit today but one of the many home-grown missionaries our church supports, Aaron Robinson.  He and his wife were working in campus ministry in Toulouse, France, but Aaron has recently been named the Director of Cru’s France ministry, Agape France.  It was one of those Sundays when God seemingly shouts through all voices, “Don’t miss this; sit up and take notice!”

For his text, Aaron used a passage in Luke where Jesus is sending his disciples out to minister in the neighboring towns and cities.  If Pastor Scott’s discussion caused us to consider the who and when of kingdom harvesting, Aaron’s message caused us understand better the how of harvesting.

But first, Aaron began with a challenge to complacency:

“What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14).  We have this small thing called “our life” which will be gone before we know it; yet, what are we told will endure?  God, his Word, and the souls of men.  Aaron addressed his message to all, no matter where our fields might be – in long-term foreign missions or nearer home.  In a sort of Don’t Waste Your Life perspective, Aaron offered the following.

“Six Principles for Harvesting as Lambs Among Wolves”

Luke 10:1-12, 16

Harvesting Principle #1 – Jesus sends his disciples to where He himself is going.

v. 1 “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go.”

In his modern classic, Experiencing God 1, Henry Blackaby looks to such passages as Romans 3:10-11 (“… there is no who one seeks God”) and John 6:44 (“No one can come to [Jesus] unless the Father who sent me draws him’) to impress on the reader that “no one is going to seek God on his own initiative.  No one will ask after spiritual matters unless God is at work in his life.”  He advises, “When you see someone seeking God or asking about spiritual matters, you are seeing God at work” (p.26).  The theme of his book is: Watch to see where God is working and join him there.

Harvesting Principle #2 – There’s a big harvest, but the laborers are few.

v. 2a  “And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”

Sometimes, we mistakenly believe that the world will remain ripe until we’re ready.  But our own lives are a mist, vanishing after a little time as, too, are the lives of those of the harvest.  What’s more, there is most certainly a day appointed by the Father when history will be rolled up and after that, the judgment (Hebrews 9:27).

Harvesting Principle #3 – Pray!

v. 2b “Therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

This God-sized mission pushes us to pray; in fact, no great work of God is done without prayer.  “When we work, we work; but when we pray, God works.”  In the process of praying, our hearts begin to change.

Harvesting Principle #4 – You may be the answer to your own prayers.

v. 3 “Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.”

Jesus knows the battle is fierce.  Notice he does not say, “I’m sending you like bears before wolves.”  Instead he declares, “I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.”  This is a difficult charge, but consider that, just maybe, God would have his sheep call upon their Shepherd for their daily strength.

Harvesting Principle #5 – God will direct you and provide what you need.

vv. 4-12 “Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.”

What God calls you to, he equips you for.  May “our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep… equip you with everything good that you may do his will…”  (Heb. 13:20-21)

Harvesting Principle #6 – Expect mixed reactions.

v. 16 – “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

It is easy to believe that people are reacting to us personally.  It is a discipline to remind ourselves that they are reacting to God and his message.  We cannot control the response of others; we can only control our obedience to God’s call.

In closing, it is helpful as we go out into our world, our spheres of influence, that the Father is seeking people to worship him – it is his will to be worshiped in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24).  Pastor John Piper puts it this way: Missions exist because worship doesn’t.  Wherever worship of the one true, triune God is lacking (whether it be a whole nation or people group or in your neighbor or co-worker’s home), we are called to missions.

“Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see
that the fields are white for harvest.”

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1Blackaby Henry, &. King Claude. Experiencing God. USA: Southern Baptist Convention, 1990. Print.

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Bryce with Kim and Dana I
Congratulations to our dear son, Bryce, as he graduated last week with his B.A. in History of Ideas from Bethlehem College and Seminary. Bryce’s first year of college was at the local university where he was a percussion major. With his hard work ethic and God-given ability, it’s likely he could have distinguished himself in that field.

However, the Lord got a hold of his heart mid-way through his freshman year and called him away from that to a Christian college and most decidedly to Bethlehem. What a blessing to watch his spiritual growth that first year as he developed a gravity and intentionality about his faith. It was also a joy to find him in a program that really challenged him for once with its stringent demands and Socratic wrestlings. Bryce not only rose to the occasion, but excelled.

God, alone, knows his plans for this young man of character. Bryce is submitted to God’s leading and there is no other place we’d want our boy. Seminary graduate, John Norris, addressed the others in caps and gowns that day, “No part of our lives is unclaimed.” I know this is Bryce’s heart.

Congratulations to our funny, earnest, talented, dedicated, hard-working, submitted son. Joy to you in this moment, direction throughout your life, and Victory in the end!

Great love,
Mom

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Education is not the mere transfer of knowledge.  “Education is the instilling of habits of mind and heart that incline and enable students for the rest of their lives to:

Observe the word and the world…
Understand what they observe…
Evaluate what they have understood…
Feel that evaluation [own it]…
Apply their discoveries to all of life…
And express these discoveries clearly and accurately and creatively and winsomely…
for the glory of God and the good of the world.”

~Chancellor John Piper, articulating the driving vision and standard of a BCS education as he addressed 2015 graduates and family at the President’s Reception earlier that evening.

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Eric Liddell
I caught a blurb the other day about The Flying Scotsman, Eric Liddell, the subject of the movie Chariots of Fire. Although I’ve never seen the movie in its entirety (full disclosure: I fell asleep when I tried to watch it 30 years ago), I have been aware for a long time of the amazing stand Eric Liddell took for the honor of the Lord when he refused to run his strongest event, the 100 meter race, in the 1924 Olympics. The race was scheduled to take place on a Sunday which conflicted with his Christian convictions about keeping the Sabbath Day holy.

As a young Christian 30 years ago, this impressed me; as an older Christian now, trying to understand the depths of Sabbath-keeping, I recognize an inner rudder that is missing for me regarding the Lord’s Day. Having grown up in America, Sabbath-keeping is not generally observed in our culture as a whole, nor is it taught or emphasized even in most of our churches. I decide weekly, it seems, if I am too busy to not do my bills on a Sunday or too inconvenienced on that day to avoid a trip to the store… and I haven’t even begun to wrestle with the implications of eating out each Sunday.  But Eric Liddell had made his Olympic decision years and years before the event, embracing his conviction of Sabbath-keeping as a natural outflow of his Christian beliefs.

So that’s what I knew about Eric Liddell; that and the fact that having refused to run his pet race, he ran the 400m race in which he was not favored to win. Against all predictions, though, Liddell won the 400m, explaining that he ran the first 200m as hard as he could, and then for the second 200m, “with God’s help, I [ran] harder.”

I knew all this about Eric Liddell as well as his famous quote: I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure. As it turns out, Liddell knew his God-given purpose and it did not ultimately take him to a race track. The blurb I heard the other day, alluded to the end of Liddell’s life and after doing a bit of on-line surfing, I found the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey would have put it.

I found it on a fun, little, serendipitous site called: Today, I Found Out, subtitled, “Feed Your Brain.” An article written by Karl Smallwood titled, “The Heroic Death of Chariot’s of Fire’s Eric Liddell,” fills in some of the blanks of Liddell’s life after the Olympics. Most of what follows is gleaned and transcribed from his article.

Liddell was originally born in China to missionary parents. He eventually was reared and educated, though, in Scotland.  A year after his Olympic victory, Liddell went back to China to serve as a missionary himself. He began serving as a teacher (science and sports) in the college city of Tianjin (where he was born), but after being there for 12 years, he became an ordained minister and served as an evangelist and humanitarian in the Xiaozhang County. One might wonder if Liddell ever regretted giving up athletics at the peak of his career to become a missionary and humanitarian. Today it would mean giving up a life of fame and fortune in the form of sponsorships, coaching, and radio broadcasting. Eric Liddell’s answer reveals his eternal vision, “It’s natural for a chap to think over all that sometimes, but I’m glad I’m at the work I’m engaged in now. A fellow’s life counts for far more at this than the other.”

With the onset of WWII, the Japanese began their attack on China. Conditions became so dangerous that the British government advised their British citizens to leave the country. His pregnant wife and two daughters did leave the country, but Liddell stayed to work at a mission station setup to help the poor.

Eventually Tianjin fell under Japanese control and Liddell was sent to an internment camp in Weihsien in March of 1943. Though his situation was certainly dire, his spirit didn’t wane and while some people in the camp selfishly hoarded their supplies, Liddell spent his time teaching children and sharing what he had. When a few rich businessmen managed to convince the guards to smuggle them in extra rations, Liddell’s natural charisma was such that he was able to convince them to share the food with everyone, and he was the first port of call when any dispute in the camp needed to be settled.

Langdon Gilkey, a fellow prisoner with Liddell, later recalled, “Often in an evening I would see him bent over a chessboard or a model boat, or directing some sort of square dance – absorbed, weary and interested, pouring all of himself into this effort to capture the imagination of these penned-up youths. He was overflowing with good humor and love for life, and with enthusiasm and charm. It is rare indeed that a person has the good fortune to meet a saint, but he came as close to it as anyone I have ever known.”

Smallwood goes on to show us further the kind of man we’re dealing with here, “If you’re not impressed yet with Liddell’s integrity.” While in the camp, Liddell was ravaged by malnourishment and ill health. (It was later found that he had a brain tumor, but he knew nothing of this.) Despite this, when Winston Churchill managed to secure Liddell’s freedom in a prisoner exchange, Liddell declined and instead offered his place to a pregnant woman who was also in the camp, saving not only her life but her unborn child as well. Besides his declining health, this must have been a particularly difficult decision given that he had a wife and three daughters he hadn’t seen in well over a year; one of them, Maureen, he never got a chance to know. Much like most of his life’s work, he didn’t do this for any sort of fame or recognition. In fact, he didn’t even mention this fact to his family in subsequent letters. In his last letter to his wife as his health deteriorated, he simply mentioned that he thought he was perhaps overworked.

On the 21st of February 1945, just a few months before the camp was liberated, Liddell died. According to a fellow missionary, Liddell’s last words were, “It’s complete surrender,” in reference to how he had given his life to his God. In his book, Don’t Waste Your Life, Pastor John Piper says, “All heroes are shadows of Christ.” How beautifully we recognize this in the life of Eric Liddell (1902 – 1945).

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Sherlock V
In a past post, I shared a poem which my son-in-law, Andrew, had chosen for his wedding to my daughter, Ashley, entitled Love Her More and Love Her Less.  This past month, Andrew enjoyed the privilege of being the best man at his only brother’s wedding.  For the occasion, he wrote his own version of brotherly advice.  I think it is worthy to be added to Piper’s advice and comes from the heart of one who is in the throes of young married life and welcoming his brother to it.

 

Advice to a New Groom by Andrew Jacobson*

You’ve been given something greater than treasure
In which God calls you to delight with great pleasure.
So to help you down that path, here’s some advice
For how to properly love your wife.

Should your wife try to communicate,
Though your ability to talk isn’t innate,
Try to keep up a healthy conversation diet
And remember to love her more than quiet.

If you feel that she has gotten too relaxed
And hasn’t completed enough tasks,
Resist a workaholic’s proclivity
And love her more than productivity.

If, by some strange irrationality,
She should keep you from punctuality,
Resist the urge to leave her behind
And love her more than being on time.

If your wife should crowd the house with people
To the point where you wonder if it’s legal,
Or if she volunteers you for her family’s vacation,
Remember to love her more than isolation.

If your laundry pile is getting high
And you wonder why she keeps passing it by,
Consider that she is not getting paid
And remember to love her more than a maid.

If you start drowning yourself in pages
Seeking to digest the wisdom of sages
And forget how good she looks,
Remember to love her more than books.

If you over invest in your learning,
Always and only to your studies returning
And begin to make your wife secondary
Remember to love her more than seminary.

If she would give you confirmation
To pursue even more education
And you obtain the title of Ph.D.,
Remember to love her more than a degree.

If by grace she should be with child,
You’ll find her attitude might move past mild.
Do whatever she bids you, please!
And remember to love her more than ease.

Should you be awoken by your newborn’s nightly sob
And roll over to remind her it’s her job,
Before you go back to counting sheep,
Remember to love her more than sleep.

Should the spending, saving, and budgeting detract
And on your marriage have a negative impact,
Remember to love your earthly honey
More than all this world’s money.

Above all this, look to our Savior’s life
As the supreme model for loving your wife.
Consider the way in which he came,
Humbly setting aside all He could claim.

Consider the way in which he died,
Suffering the cross, to save his bride.
Consider the way his work proceeds
Always for his bride how he intercedes.

How he stands against all rivals as her defender
That he might present her to himself in splendor;
How he washes her in the water of His Word
So that love for him would be constantly stirred.

Groom, remember today’s I do is just the start
And you’ve made a vow “’til death do us part.”
So with this last word do you I send,
Love your bride faithfully to the end.

 

* Personal names have been removed with Andrew’s permission.

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Lewis 3

Remembering, today, the 50th anniversary of the death of a great and influential man.

3 pieces of passing interest.

1) A comparison by Joe Rigney and Justin Taylor of the private lives of C.S. Lewis and John F. Kennedy who left this world on the same day in history.

http://www.religionnews.com/2013/11/18/two-jacks-contrasting-takes-c-s-lewis-jfks-public-private-faiths/

2) Two lectures given by John Piper on C.S. Lewis, “The Inconsolable Longing of a Romantic Rationalist” (each is about 1 hour long).

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2013/11/22/c-s-lewis-1898-1963-the-inconsolable-longing-of-a-romantic-rationalist/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+between2worlds+%28Between+Two+Worlds%29

3) A introduction by Trevin Wax to Peter Kreeft’s book, Between Heaven and Hell, which imagines a conversation between C.S. Lewis, John F. Kennedy, and the English author, Aldous Huxley, all who died on the same day in history within a few hours of each other.

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2013/11/21/the-day-c-s-lewis-john-f-kennedy-and-aldous-huxley-died/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-day-c-s-lewis-john-f-kennedy-and-aldous-huxley-died

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Jonathan Edwards studying

“Since wisdom is found in the Word of God, we must apply ourselves in study and meditation to know the Word and do it. ‘The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.’ (Psalm 19:7). Therefore, we must devote ourselves to know and understand the testimonies of the Lord. And here I commend not only faithful Bible study, but also regular reading of great books on theology and biblical interpretation, books that distill the wisdom of the greatest students of the word over the past 1900 years.

“Now, I know what you are thinking: I don’t have the time or the ability to get anywhere in books like that. So I want to show you something really encouraging. When this was shown to me about four years ago by my pastor, it changed my life. Most of us don’t aspire very high in our reading because we don’t feel like there is any hope.

“But listen to this: Suppose you read about 250 words a minute and that you resolve to devote just 15 minutes a day to serious theological reading to deepen your grasp of biblical truth. In one year (365 days) you would read for 5,475 minutes. Multiply that times 250 words per minute and you get 1,368,750 words per year. Now most books have between 300 and 400 words per page. So if we take 350 words per page and divide that into 1,368,750 words per year, we get 3,910 pages per year. This means that at 250 words a minute, 15 minutes a day, you could read about 20 average sized books a year!”

                                                                                       ~ John Piper, May 24, 1981

 

“Give yourself unto reading… He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains, proves that he has no brains of his own. You need to read.”

~Charles H. Spurgeon

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Supremacy of Christ

(1)  Colossians 1:15-19

[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.  And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.  For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

(2)  Abraham Kuyper’s famous quote:

“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, “Mine!”

(3)  Heidelberg Catechism, question 27 

Q. What do you understand by the providence of God?

A. God’s providence is His almighty and ever present power,[1] whereby, as with His hand, He still upholds heaven and earth and all creatures,[2] and so governs them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty,[3] indeed, all things, come not by chance[4] but by His fatherly hand.[5]

[1] Jer. 23:23, 24; Acts 17:24-28.
[2] Heb. 1:3.
[3] Jer. 5:24; Acts 14:15-17; John 9:3; Prov. 22:2.
[4] Prov. 16:33.
[5] Matt. 10:29.

(4)  Pastor John Piper, The Supremacy of Christ.  Sermon jam by Brent Fischer.

 

 

 

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Looking up to heaven through flowers

Pastor John Piper has arrested my attention with his December 27th Desiring God post. When all the world is shaking its head in horror and disbelief at the evils of our day, Dr. Piper would remind us that any and all good that comes to us in this fallen, rebellious world is pure grace and should rightly amaze us.

He asks, “Where was God when so many good things happened this past year?

“How can God be a God of justice, yet allow so much good to happen to people who dishonor him by disbelieving in him, or giving lip service to his existence, or paying no more attention to him than the carpet in their den, or rejecting the kingship of his Son, or scorning his word, or preferring a hundred pleasures before him?

“How can God be righteous and do so much good to us who are so unrighteous?”

Piper has written more than most on man’s tendency to downplay the gross affront, the stench, that our sin is to a holy God.  When our family has enjoyed a particularly breath taking natural scene or a piece of art or music that leaves us speechless, I have tried to remind us that this is a wondrous thing which we dare not take blithely.  After all, we live in a fallen world–we are a people of unclean lips and we dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips. There should be no expectation on our part that God would leave us with any beauty, whatsoever, outside of Paradise.

Going a step further, why are we not struck down immediately when we profane the holy; struck down like Nadab and Abihu, like Uzzah, like Ananais and Sapphira, like Herod? Struck down when we offer “unauthorized” fire or do not give God the honor that is his due or when we puff ourselves up in our ministry or allow everything but praise of God to pass over our lips?

Dr. Piper informs us that, despite our fallenness, in 2012 alone …

… nine million planes landed safely in the United States;

… the world revolved around the sun so accurately that it achieved the winter solstice perfectly at 5:12 am December 21 and headed back toward spring;

… the President was not shot at a thousand public appearances;

… American farms produced ten million bushels of corn, and 2.8 million bushels of soybeans — enough food to sell $100 billions worth to other nations;

… no terrorist plot brought down a single American building or plane or industry;

… the sun maintained its heat and its gravitational pull precisely enough that we were not incinerated or frozen;

… three hundred million Americans drank water in homes and restaurants without getting sick;

… no new plague swept away a third of our race;

… Americans drove three trillion accident free miles;

… over three million healthy babies were born in America, etc.

If God were to reverse these graces he would do no wrong, leastwise to the children of men—a people who daily disregard the myriad of graces he bestows on the just and the unjust, who deny God’s sovereign rule, who never consider their Maker, who war against his Son, or worse, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God yet hold him up to contempt.

“Where was God in 2012?” Pastor Piper sends us to Scripture to hear God’s answer to this cry.

1. God was reigning from his throne to do his sovereign will.

“Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” (Psalm 115:3)

“He works all things according to the counsel of his will.” (Ephesians 1:11)

2. God was reigning from his throne to prevent much sin and harm in the world.

“God said to [Abimelech, the king of Gerar], it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her.” (Genesis 20:6)

“You know what is restraining [the man of lawlessness] now.” (2 Thessalonians 2:6)

3. God was reigning from his throne to give a witness to his goodness and his patience.

“God did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” (Acts 14:17)

4. God was reigning from his throne to summon the world to repentance.

“Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4)

To conclude, I, like Pastor Piper, “bow my head as an undeserving sinner, amazed that I have not been swept away.  And even more, that because of Jesus, I am forgiven, adopted into God’s family, and destined for eternal life. God has been good to us. And his best gift is the one that will be there when all the others fail. Jesus, crucified, risen, reigning.”

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After addressing his disciples’ troubled hearts and promising to send them a Helper, Jesus asks them to rejoice with him because he will soon return to his Father. a   For the past 33 years, Jesus had bore the form of a servant, having made himself nothing. b Jesus, who had existed with the Father in perfect, loving union from eternity past, will finally reunite with his Father in their co-equal, “God is love,” c relationship.  Will you rejoice with me, he asks. “If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father.”

To understand Jesus’ excitement about returning to the Father, d we turn to no lighter subject than the doctrine of the Trinity, as gleaned from the writings of Jonathan Edwards. We are reminded that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have existed from all eternity.  Jesus is begotten of the Father (not born).  As Pastor John Piper put it, Jesus “eternally stands forth in a perfect image and radiance of the Father. His nature has an ‘exact imprint’ in the Son. His glory has a full ‘radiance’ in the Son. e So they are equally God, of the same divine nature, but different in role…”

This is helpful.  I plan on using this illustration when I teach my 3rd graders this fall.  We always begin our year reviewing foundational truths, one being the Trinity.  It’s still being roughed out in my mind, but I think I’ll use a mirror to discuss a perfect reflection and to discuss the original that is needed to “beget” the reflection of the original; as long as the one exists the other exists.

Edwards goes on to discuss the pure delight between the Father and Son which proceeds as the third person of the Trinity, namely, the Holy Spirit.  “Between the Father and Son exists a mutual love, joy, and delight, a ‘pure act,’ or the ‘Deity in act,’ which is the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is the love of the Father and Son for each other, the love that ‘quickens and enlivens’ creation and created spirits, and comforts God’s people.”

This relationship is beautifully seen at Christ’s baptism.  When Jesus comes up from the water, the heavens open and Jesus sees the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and the delight is obvious as the voice declares, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” f

 

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. g

 

a John 14:28

b Phil. 2:7

c 1 John 4:8

d Hebrews 12:2

e Hebrews 1:3

Matthew 3:16-17

g 2 Cor. 13:14

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