Thursday, January 29, 2009

It is Well With My Soul

Today in chapel we sang one of my all-time favorite hymns, "It is Well With My Soul." This song is a reminder to me that no matter what may happen in life, I have full satisfaction in Christ and peace that only He can give. Hearing the story behind the song has had an even greater impact on me. In case you have not heard the situations which led the author of the song to compose these lyrics, here is the story:

Horatio's response to the calamities in his life with such powerful words and faith remind me of Job and his response to all of the trauma that occurred in his life. This righteous man lost everything; his livestock, his servants, and his seven sons and three daughters. Everything that the Lord had blessed him with as recorded in Job 1:2-3 had now been taken away by the end of the chapter. All that Job was left with was his wife who we see later on in the book to be not much of an encouragement or a comfort to him. But Job responds to all of the terrible news which he received all at once in a way many of us would not expect or respond with ourselves. He responds in worship. His wonderful statement reveals the contentment which he could only find in God: Naked I came from my mother's womb, / And naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD (Job 1:21).

In fact, the apostle Paul's contentment was found in Christ and in Him alone. He states that I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. (Philippians 4:11). While Paul knew what it felt like to live in prosperity, the secret of being filled and of having abundance, he also knew what it felt like to get along with humble means, going hungry, and suffering need. Paul was definitely no stranger to suffering. He gives a list of these many sufferings in 2 Corinthians 11:24-28: Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was shipwrecked, a night and day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. And we think we have it bad sometimes! Paul was a friend of suffering. However, back to his discussion of contentment in the letter to the Philippians. What was the secret of Paul's contentment? What helped him through whatever circumstances that he had, whether that be living at ease or several of the horrors he experienced as recounted to the Corinthians. Vs. 13 answers all of these questions: I can do all things through Him who strenghtens me. The secret to Paul's contentment was Christ. Christ enabled him to have the strength to find contentment in all of those experiences in the list as well as those times things were going well for him. It was this contentment that kept Paul going and sustained him to persevere.

I don't know what you may be going through right now but there is hope. The same One which Job, Paul, and Horatio found contentment in during the bleakest of circumstances can be your source of contentment as well. There is no indication in Scripture that Job ever fully understood what was going on with all of the suffering which he went through. We know of the supernatural picture of God and Satan but Job is never revealed to be aware of this. Likewise, we do not always understand why the Lord brings us through certain periods of trials or sufferings but I can assure you that you can find contentment in Him during those times. The three men examined are examples of this. Jesus never promised us a rose garden but He has promised to walk with us through the gardens and valleys in our lives. I encourage you in whatever you may be going through right now, trust in Christ, and may He grant you the peace to be able to say throughout the darkest of trails, "It is Well With My Soul."

In Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

John Piper - Be Couragous, President Barack Obama

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Reminder for Inauguration Day

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
~I Timothy 2:1-4

The historic day in our history as a nation is approaching as tomorrow, Barack Obama, the first African-American president will be sworn in as the 44th leader of the United States of America. The nation will once again have new leadership as Mr. Obama brings his administration to the White House. While a lot is being undertaken for this event, one of the best things we Christians can and must do is to pray for our leaders as God has commanded us in His Word.

Paul instructs Timothy to encourage those in Ephesus to pray for all men. In fact, he gives three things the believers are to do: pray (entreaties and prayers), petition and praise (thanksgiving). We are to lift up one another in prayer. We are to intercede on others' behalf. We are also to praise God for the work which He is doing in others' lives. However, in addition to the broad category which would include everyone, Paul mentions a specific category of people whom we should pray for: kings and all who are in authority. Paul specifically points out the government leaders. It is interesting that he takes a brief moment to bring attention to them.So many times we fail to pray for the president and those who work for the government as well as others whom the Lord has placed in authority over us. I must confess that I do not include these regularly in my own daily prayers as I ought. Yet, these people need our prayers. I cannot imagine how much stress the president is under every day with so many important decisions to make as well as the burden on those in Congress with the weight of carrying the needs of their constituents on their shoulders. And with the economy the way it is and the major issues at stake, all of these could use our prayers. The work they have to do sure would make my papers, readings, and exams appear as a "piece of cake."

While all of these are important things to pray for, Paul seems to have a greater need in mind. Vv. 3-4 seems to indicate that the content of these prayers should be for the salvation for those in authority as well as all men. I believe that Paul is saying here based on the context that God desires all types of men to be saved, whether that be those serving in government or peasant farmers. God does not show partiality to anyone based on their status or role, or nationality as is seen with God saving both Jews and Gentiles. We need to pray that the Lord would work mightly in our leaders' lives and sovereignly open up their hearts and draw them to Him. One of the greatest things we can do as a US citizen here on this earth is to pray for our senators, congressman, and the President and his cabinet. Several of the government leaders really need the Lord. We should pray that they come to know the only God and only mediator, Jesus Christ, who enables for us to have a relationship with God. After all, what better citizens can we be on earth by praying for our earthly leaders' salvation. And for those who are saved, by praying that the Lord would strengthen them and enable them to use their position which He has given them all for His glory!

Another thing I want to point out is that Paul did not say to only pray for those leaders whom you like or those who support the issues which are important to you. Whether a Democrat or a Republican is in office should not effect our praying for them. These prayers are for all men and all who are in authority. In fact, the emperior at the time of this letter was no friend to Paul or any Christian. The emperor at the time was probably Nero who heavily persecuted Christians and even blamed them for the burning of Rome. Something which he possibly did himself. He would have been included in this instruction.Also, Paul did not put a limit on how many times one should pray for one another and our leaders. He did not give a certain day. We should be lifting up our leaders everyday. With all of the hype for this historic inauguration day, let's not forget to pray!

In Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

How Barack Obama Will Make Christ a Minister of Condemnation (John Piper)

At Barack Obama’s request, tomorrow in the Lincoln Memorial, Gene Robinson, the first openly non-celibate homosexual bishop in the Episcopal Church, will deliver the invocation for the inauguration kick-off.

This is tragic not mainly because Obama is willing to hold up the legitimacy of homosexual intercourse, but because he is willing to get behind the church endorsement of sexual intercourse between men.

It is one thing to say: Two men may legally have sex. It is another to say: The Christian church acted acceptably in blessing Robinson’s sex with men.

The implications of this are serious.

It means that Barack Obama is willing, not just to tolerate, but to feature a person and a viewpoint that makes the church a minister of damnation. Again, the tragedy here is not that many people in public life hold views (like atheism) that lead to damnation, but that Obama is making the church the minister of damnation.

The apostle Paul says,

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves , nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

What is Paul saying about things like adultery, greed, stealing, and homosexual practice? As J. I. Packer puts it, “They are ways of sin that, if not repented of and forsaken, will keep people out of God’s kingdom of salvation.” (Christianity Today, January 2003, p. 48).

In other words, to bless people in these sins, instead of offering them forgiveness and deliverance from them, is to minister damnation to them, not salvation.

The gospel, with its forgiveness and deliverance from homosexual practice, offers salvation. Gene Robinson, with his blessing and approval of homosexual practice, offers damnation. And he does it in the name of Christ.

It is as though Obama sought out a church which blessed stealing and adultery, and then chose its most well-known thief and adulterer, and asked him to pray.

One more time: The issue here is not that presidents may need to tolerate things they don’t approve of. The issue is this: In linking the Christian ministry to the approval of homosexual activity, Christ is made a minister of condemnation.

Text taken from the blog of John Piper

Thursday, January 15, 2009