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Friday, September 25, 2009

Your Piece of the Local Assembly Puzzle

I love the wisdom in Ray Ortlund's recent blog. I think we must have a driving passion for serving in our local assembly, because God has gifted us to do so. Too often we focus on the gift, rather than the PURPOSE of the gift, which is to help meet a need of the particular assembly where God has placed us to serve. Do you ever think about that? Does it ever occur to you that God may change gifts when the need changes? We lament when we are no longer able to serve in the manner we are accustomed to serving, perhaps due to health issues or a move to a new area. But do we remember God's Providence in these "circumstances"? We are not "locked into" one way to serve... He will enable you to serve EXACTLY where you are needed in your own assembly. Our home church is where God wants us working... whether that is in Chester, NH or Guatemala City or Hong Kong. So what are you doing sitting around on your hands? When a gift of God is not being exercised in the local body... the body is disabled and can't function the way God intended it to.

Here is Ray Ortlund's post:

"My passion isn't to build up my church. My passion is for God's Kingdom."

Ever heard someone say that? I have. It sounds large-hearted, but it's wrong. It can even be destructive.

Suppose I said, "My passion isn't to build up my marriage. My passion is for Marriage. I want the institution of Marriage to be revered again. I'll work for that. I'll pray for that. I'll sacrifice for that. But don't expect me to hunker down in the humble daily realities of building a great marriage with my wife Jani. I'm aiming at something grander."

If I said that, would you think, "Wow, Ray is so committed"? Or would you wonder if I had lost my mind?

If you care about the Kingdom, be the kind of person who can be counted on in your own church. Join your church, pray for your church, tithe to your church, participate in your church every Sunday with wholehearted passion.

We build great churches the same way we build great marriages -- real commitment that makes a positive difference every day."

Encouraging words. You think you have a MORE important agenda than the one God already has for you?

Not Everyone Who "Says"

I've been reading through Jeremiah this week and am struck by two things. First, I noticed that I understood it a lot better than I had the last time I read it. That is something I love about studying the Bible and ancient history. You generally don't realize you are making tiny, incremental steps forward in your understanding. Then one day you read a passage of Scripture and it opens up to you! We tend to be so impatient and want to understand it ALL ... NOW. But it just doesn't happen that way. It takes time and perseverance. And so often we are impatient and give up too easily. Trust me when I tell you it is WORTH every bit of patience and perseverance!

Secondly, I couldn't help realizing how many similarities the self-proclaimed "Christian" culture has with OT Israel. Like them, how many don't really fear God at all? How many "name the name", yet take Him for granted, ignore Him, shake their fist at His authority... and still expect His tolerance and continued blessing, as if He owed them or as if He couldn't see the true condition of their hearts. Look at these verses and tell me what you think...

"... the dread of Me is not in you" (2:19)
"... you refused to be ashamed" (3:3)
"...They have lied about the LORD And said, "Not He; Misfortune will not come on us" (5:12)
"The prophets prophesy falsely, And the priests rule on their own authority; And My people love it so!" (5:31)
"...They were not even ashamed at all; They did not even know how to blush." (6:15)
"Behold, you are trusting in deceptive words to no avail..." (7:8)
"Do they spite Me?" declares the LORD. "Is it not themselves they spite, to their own shame?" (7:19)

And how do you tell the difference between a "professor" and a true follower? Jesus Himself told us in Mt.7:21-23, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me..." If we truly trust in Christ's atonement for forgiveness, it is displayed in our obedience. "Jesus ... said..., 'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word.'" (Jn. 14:23) Sobering.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

OWN a Book

Tim Challies recently had the good sense to quote one of my favorite passages from a book I have long loved called, "How to Read a Book" by Mortimer Adler. Mr. Adler is the reason my books are such a mess my children will never want to inherit them... even though they think they do. I have so thoroughly marked up my books with comments, cross references, arguments and criticisms that few people other than me will ever enjoy having them. Read on and discover how you really "own" a book!

"There are two ways in which one can own a book. The first is the property right you establish by paying for it, just as you pay for clothes and furniture. But this act of purchase is only the prelude to possession. Full ownership comes only when you have made it a part of yourself, and the best way to make yourself a part of it is by writing in it. An illustration may make the point clear. You buy a beefsteak and transfer it from the butcher’s icebox to your own. But you do not own the beefsteak in the most important sense until you consume it and get it into your bloodstream. I am arguing that books, too, must be absorbed in your blood stream to do you any good.

Confusion about what it means to “own” a book leads people to a false reverence for paper, binding, and type — a respect for the physical thing — the craft of the printer rather than the genius of the author. They forget that it is possible for a man to acquire the idea, to possess the beauty, which a great book contains, without staking his claim by pasting his bookplate inside the cover. Having a fine library doesn’t prove that its owner has a mind enriched by books; it proves nothing more than that he, his father, or his wife, was rich enough to buy them.

There are three kinds of book owners. The first has all the standard sets and best sellers — unread, untouched. (This deluded individual owns woodpulp and ink, not books.) The second has a great many books — a few of them read through, most of them dipped into, but all of them as clean and shiny as the day they were bought. (This person would probably like to make books his own, but is restrained by a false respect for their physical appearance.) The third has a few books or many — every one of them dog-eared and dilapidated, shaken and loosened by continual use, marked and scribbled in from front to back. (This man owns books.) …

But the soul of a book “can” be separate from its body. A book is more like the score of a piece of music than it is like a painting. No great musician confuses a symphony with the printed sheets of music. Arturo Toscanini reveres Brahms, but Toscanini’s score of the G minor Symphony is so thoroughly marked up that no one but the maestro himself can read it. The reason why a great conductor makes notations on his musical scores — marks them up again and again each time he returns to study them—is the reason why you should mark your books. If your respect for magnificent binding or typography gets in the way, buy yourself a cheap edition and pay your respects to the author."