Friday, October 29, 2010

The heavens are telling the glory of God

Some of you may have noticed the rainbow on Wednesday night.  Beth noticed it and we all ran out to see it and I even snapped a few pictures.  But I was on the wrong side of the church building.  Russell Brown took his pictures from the gym side of the church property.  Here's one of them:

Now for a little biblical theology of rainbows...  The Hebrew word for "bow" is used about 75x in the Old Testament.  About 70 of those times it refers to an archer's bow.  Only in Gen. 9:13, 14, 16 and Ezek. 1:28 does it refer to a rainbow.  You might say, "Okay, so what?" 

A bow is a weapon.  It can be used an instrument of wrath and judgment from one opponent on another.  Look at Russell's picture again.  Which direction is the bow facing in the sky?  In other words, who is the "arrow" aimed at? 

God gave Noah (and all creation) the covenant sign (Gen. 9:8-17) of the rainbow as a promise that he would never again destroy the earth by flood.  When two parties made a covenant in the Ancient Near East, they would often take vows and seal those vows with the cutting of an animal (see Gen. 15:8-21).  Both parties would walk through the pieces saying in effect, "May we be cut apart if we fail to uphold our vows in this covenant."  So, God made a covenant with Noah and all creation and turned the bow toward himself in effect saying, "Woe to me if I do not keep this covenant!" 

One more thing: if you looked at the Gen. 15:8-21 text, did you notice that there was only one party that passed through the pieces in that covenant?  It was God (symbolized by the smoking pot)! 

What does it mean that God alone passed through the pieces?  It means that this covenant was a covenant of promise.  It was a covenant of sheer sovereign grace.  And that's really important, because the New Covenant is the same way for us.  The Gospel is not, "God helps those who help themselves."  The Gospel is, "You can't help yourselves!  The only thing you bring to this transaction is your sin.  All you deserve is judgment.  I will do it all.  I will send my Son and he will take your place.  I will send my Spirit and take out your heart of stone and replace it with a soft heart that beats after me."  Unilateral, monergistic (One worker!), sheer, sovereign, covenant-promise grace!  That is our God!  Whether you see it in the sky or see it in the Supper, this is the from-Him-and-through-Him-and-to-Him-are-all-things God that we worship! 

And with that in mind, the next time you see the bow in the sky, maybe the heavens will speak even louder of the glory of our covenant-making, covenant-keeping God!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hallowed Be Your Name

I read this quote last week and shared it on Sunday in the last installment of our Vision & Values series: "God, Gospel, Mission."  It comes from Dave Harvey's excellent book, Rescuing Ambition.  He is quoting John Stott from his The Message of the Sermon on the Mount
“There is something inherently inappropriate about cherishing small ambitions for God.  How can we ever be content that he should acquire just a little more honour in the world?  No.  Once we are clear that God is King, then we long to see him crowned with glory and honour, and accorded his true place, which is the supreme place.  We become ambitious for the spread of his kingdom and righteousness everywhere.” (emphasis mine)

I hope this question gets lodged in our minds and hearts.  I hope we keep asking ourselves, "Am I content that Jesus get just a little bit of glory in DE (and beyond)?"  "Am I passionate to live all of life to God's glory (1 Cor. 10:31), reflecting His worth through Christ for the glory of His Name and the good of all peoples?"

Please join me in praying that we will be passionate for the glory and fame of God!

Monday, October 25, 2010

How might this atheist change your life?

If you've never seen this, it's quite surprising and sobering to be challenged by an avowed atheist to proselytize.  I'm giving no endorsement of the Penn & Teller show or any of their media output, but if that tract did a number on C.T. Studd (see previous post), this video has potential to do a number on us.  Make sure you're paying attention when it gets to around the 3 minute mark.

How an atheist can change your life

I didn't share this yesterday, but it ties in well with our "Gospel Mission" core value. Unfortunately, I have no citation for this quote.  I did a little checking, and I'm still not sure who wrote this up. 

A tract written by an atheist dramatically changed the life of C. T. Studd (1860-1931). It helped him turn from luke­warm Christianity to being on fire for God. After reading the tract, he walked away from great financial wealth and status as one of the greatest athletes in England's history to become a missionary in China and Africa. Here is the tract:

Did I firmly believe, as millions say they do, that the knowledge and practice of religion in this life influ­ences destiny in another, religion would mean to me everything. I would cast away all earthly enjoyments as dross, earthly cares as follies, and earthly thoughts and feelings as vanity. Religion would be my first waking thought, and my last image before sleep sank me into unconsciousness. I should labor in its cause alone. I would take thought for the tomorrow of eternity alone. I would esteem one soul gained for heaven worth a life of suffering. Earthly consequences should never stay my hand, nor seal my lips. Earth, its joys and its griefs, would occupy no moment of my thoughts. I would strive to look upon eternity alone, and on the immortal souls around me, soon to be everlastingly happy or ever-lastingly miserable. I would go forth to the world and preach it in season and out of season and my text would be: "What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?"

C.T. Studd lived his motto: "Some wish to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell?"

Friday, October 22, 2010

A local pastor you should know...and pray for

I first heard about Rev. Jay Harvey and his family this summer from Beth.  She was introduced to him when she sat in a meeting intended to probe the possibility of his son Jacob attending Tall Oaks.  Jacob has cystic fibrosis.  They were discussing his special needs and what it would take to meet them.  Beth was impressed and even brought to tears as she listened to how they have faithfully shepherded Jacob through the challenges of his disease, not the least of which is the reality of a relatively short life expectancy. 

We have also had the Harvey's on our minds and in our prayers because his wife Melody was diagnosed two years ago with a disease called RSD (reflex sympathetic dystrophy).  I was surprised and encouraged when I saw this post this morning.  I encourage you to read it and get to know this local pastor and his family.  I encourage you to be praying for the Harvey family and for Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Newark as they persevere by God's grace through these significant trials.  What a bright and beautiful re:flection of God's glorious grace they are!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Completely Done

If you listened to "The Prodigal" from the "Sons & Daughters" CD, you may be happy to know that you can download another song from that album for free.  It's called "Completely Done" and it is really good!  I remember how deeply it ministered to me the first time I listened to it.  It's a great celebration and reminder of the glorious done-ness of the Gospel!  Enjoy! 

A Bright Re:flection in Edinburgh, UK

This past Sunday I referenced a testimony from a chap called Mez McConnell that Beth and I listened to while on a date.  We highly recommend it.  Here's the link if you'd like to take a listen.

Fool Moon Rising

In case you wanted to get a copy, this is the book I read this past Sunday morning as an illustration of our purpose statement: "To reflect God's infinite worth through Christ, for the glory of His Name and the good of all peoples." The book has a website that you may also want to check out.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Prodigal...Daughter

We love the song "The Prodigal" on the new Sons and Daughters album. This animation makes it all the more moving. It brought Beth and I to tears. While you're at it, savor the source all over again as well.

Monday, October 18, 2010

What's In A Name?

Why call it Re:flection?

Re: means “in reference to” or “concerning”
Flection is “the state of being bent” or “the act of bending”

All of us were made in the image of God to reflect, or image forth, God’s glory like moons to the sun (see Gen. 1:26-28). We are all little reflectors giving off the light of what we love.  Because of the Fall (see Gen. 3:1-24), none of us naturally love God with all we are or love our neighbors as ourselves. We are by nature in a state of being selfishly bent in on ourselves. We still give off the light of what we love. The problem is that we love created things rather than the Creator (see Rom. 1:25). 

If we are ever going to fulfill our reflecting-God’s-glory purpose again, we need a miracle. We need supernatural flection (i.e. grace). We need bent back from crooked to straight. We need our selfish, self-centered curvature to be turned up and out to face and reflect the light of our glorious God. This only happens by means of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

God the Father sent God the Son – the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15), the radiance of God’s glory (Heb. 1:3) – to live the light-of-the-world life we could not live and die the death that our darkness-loving bentness deserved. He did it all so that we could be re:created (2 Cor. 5:17) and re:shaped (Eph. 4:24; Rom. 8:29) so that we can once again re:flect the glory of our God!

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18, ESV)

So, this blog will be “in reference to” our flection, dealing with our bentness and sin.  It will be concerning the powerful Gospel of Jesus by which we are bent back to our original purpose – that we might once again clearly re:flect the glory of our great God!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Why this blog?

Dear Bethel family, 

This blog is intended primarily to serve our church family. I think it will serve some good purposes beyond our church family, but you all are the main audience. Here are a few ways I can see this blog serving our church:
  1. As a means of sharing truth that will augment what God is teaching us on Sundays and in other church venues. I'm thinking of things like: Home Group discussion/application questions, additional application that I either left out due to time or thought of on, say, Tues afternoon, or other good stuff to read or watch or listen to in preparation for or on the heels of Sunday's sermon.
  2. As a way of alerting you to helpful audio, video, and written resources that can challenge and change us by God's grace. There have been so many Sundays when this would have been helpful. The morning we considered Deut. 6:4-9 (Sept. 19, 2010) is just one example.
  3. As a forum for asking questions and sharing insights and generating discussion as you share your "comments." There is certainly no substitute for genuine, old school, face-to-face interaction and discussion and biblical fellowship. We are seeking to cultivate that as much as we can. Nevertheless, there is opportunity for good online interaction that could serve our church family well.
  4. As a way of communicating my heart to you all - to share things I'm learning, to encourage you with things that have encouraged me, to encourage you with the evidences of God's grace among us, etc., etc., etc.
I'm sure this list will grow and probably change over time, but the goal will be the same - to help us all see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ a little bit clearer and to shine that glorious light a little bit brighter in New Castle County and beyond!  May our infinitely worthy God use this blog in small and big ways to help us "reflect His infinite worth through Christ for the glory of His Name and the good of all peoples!"