Seek the Lord While He is Near

“Lord of creation, you are everywhere, but there are certain places where the dividing wall between heaven and earth feels wafer thin. That notion tempts me to pack up for a faraway pilgrimage to find you, but you meet me where I am. Wake me up to your kingdom of grace and goodness through your presence in your Word and sacraments. Amen.”

Reinders, Philip F. Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible Through the Year (p. 579). Faith Alive Christian Resources. Kindle Edition. (Heidelberg Catechism 66)

God’s Love Versus Ours

The cross of Christ inverts how we interpret love. In one short thesis Luther explains the love of God versus human love in the famous Heidelberg debate; thesis 28: “The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it. The love of [humans] comes into being through that which is pleasing to [them].”

We love in reaction to what we find lovely and intrinsically attractive to us. I found my wife lovely and delightfully find all her ways attractive to me, even if her love language calls for lots of time with her in a mall.

God’s love, by contrast, is not in reaction to seeing and finding us lovely. Rather, He first sets His love and affections upon us and makes us lovely through Christ. His love is creative.

We love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:18). He chose us in love to be His beloved (Deuteronomy 7:6-7; Ephesians 1:4). He will never stop loving us because He never began loving us. He will refute every objection we can muster for why He should not love us, and He will make us adorable when we rise from the dead as His bride upon His return. We don’t have to make ourselves lovable to God since He took care of that in Christ.

For the best on Luther’s life and theology, see Luther on the Christian Life (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2015) by Carl R. Trueman http://www.wtsbooks.com/luther-on-the-christian-life-cross-and-freedom-carl-r-trueman-9781433525025

 

 

 

I am Camping for Solitude with God

O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!
    Your glory is higher than the heavens.

When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—
    the moon and the stars you set in place— Psalm 8:1,4a

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+8&version=NLT

My sabbatical this summer includes hiking in Utah, Arizona, and Nevada, in our beautiful national parks, a few nights alone and a few with a son. I watched the Ken Burns documentary on these parks, and loved learning about how people reacted to their beauty when they saw it for the first time.

For example, John Muir felt that: “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.”

This picture was taken by Anreas Ronningen.

http://unsplash.com/@andozo?utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=photographer-credit Andreas Rønningen

 

 

#BacktotheBible

Isn’t this an adorable picture?

By far the practice of reading the bible through each year will do more than anything else to enhance your prayer life, activate your meditation or thought life, and . . .

motivate your worship life.

http://unsplash.com/@samanthasophia

“This book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from  this book” John Bunyan (Author of Pilgrim’s Progress)

“A glory gilds the sacred page,
Majestic like the sun;
It gives a light to every age;
It gives, but borrows none.

The Spirit breathes upon the Word
And brings the truth to sight;
Precepts and promises afford
A sanctifying light.” – William Cowper

http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/g/l/glorygil.htm

Discerning The Messages in Our Heads

Listen to Dan Allender’s podcast regarding how to discern the voices in our heads (see below).

In my book Embracing Your Identity in Christ: Renouncing Lies and Foolish Strategies, I wrote:

“An interpretation war has existed since the time the ancient serpent tempted Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. After the fall, this interpretation war grew much more complex as people did not turn to God for meaning and answers to life’s basic questions. There is a real battle that rages in the heart of every Christian. It is an interpretation war about his or her identity. This is where the world and the devil seek to kill, steal, and destroy us. This is where the interpretation war takes place each and every day.

One’s central condemning thought (CCT) is furnished readily by evil to interpret painful events in our lives. It offers an explanation for why there was relational damage, and it can trigger an autonomous vow to never let it happen again. An identity built on a condemning thought can rule a Christian for many years, instead of the gospel. This is because our default mode is to overcome condemnation by self-improvement efforts to prove the lie is a lie. One’s CCT triggers a personal strategy of Christian performance that leads to patterns of burnout, surrender, and repeat performances. Why are we so vulnerable to this? Simply put: we tend to base our sense of our identities upon our Christian performance, rather than resting on the performance of another— namely, Jesus Christ’s perfect thirty-three-year life of righteousness.”

Here is another resource to consider how to discern the messages in our heads; namely, Dan Allender’s short video: https://theallendercenter.org/resources/video/discerning-the-voices/

Staying Warmly Present

On the present moment

“Never, in peace or war, commit your virtue or your happiness to the future. Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment “as to the Lord.” It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for. The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.”

From The Weight of Glory
Compiled in Words to Live By

The Weight of Glory: And Other Addresses. Copyright © 1949, C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. Copyright renewed © 1976, revised 1980 C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. Words to Live By: A Guide for the Merely Christian. Copyright © 2007 by C. S. Lewis Pte. Ltd. All rights reserved. Used with permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

 

 

 

 

https://www.biblegateway.com/devotionals/cs-lewis-daily/today

Four Seasons of Spiritual Formation

https://www.amazon.com/author/robert_davis_smart

Our identity, besides being one of the most precious things to prevent from theft, crisis, or loss, is extremely important to God. The Father has given his children an identity in Christ that will shape us on our journey to heaven. If in the process of identity formation we ignore what God says concerning our identity, then we may expect confusion in other seasons of spiritual formation. four-seasons-chart_print

Just after birth, a child is given an identity. Identity formation, however, is a longer process. When Jesus Christ was approximately thirty years of age the Father spoke of his identity at his baptism just before entering fully into his calling. In the same way, identity in Christ ought to precede our calling to Christ. It is at this important season of identity that Satan challenges each of us, as he did our Lord. The devil’s first attacks on our Lord were aimed at his identity: “If you are the Son of God.”

The evil trinity—the world, the flesh, and the devil—is seeking to kill and destroy us in each season of spiritual formation. In the spring they confuse our identity, in the summer our calling, in the autumn our intentionality, and in the winter our legacy. The world escorts us to the pit; the flesh entices us to fall in; and the devil pushes us over the edge. “The pit,” as it were, represents a dark and slimy collection of lies, condemning thoughts, and foolish strategies designed to confuse and distort our identity formation.

Start a spiritual formation group on your campus or in your church this Fall by ordering a book designed for each season. See the following link https://www.amazon.com/Robert-Davis-Smart/e/B005SXVJI6/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

An Identity Group is the first of four spiritual formation groups designed to shape us into the likeness of Jesus Christ. It assumes that you have to begin here before asking the next three major questions of the Christian life: Where’s my place (calling)? How do I steward all my gifts, resources, and efforts with intentionality in the light of eternity (intentionality)? What inheritance, testament, and benediction do I leave behind as I prepare to cross the river of death in order to gain eternity (legacy)?

God is Like a Parent Eagle in Three Ways

“Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them up on its pinions” (Deuteronomy 32:11) https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy+32%3A11&version=ESV

This simile is a favorite of God’s in His Word for His people, who at this time lived near mountains and watched the eagles high above raise eaglets in their nest to teach them to fly and soar.

http://www.foxnews.com/great-outdoors/2017/06/21/bald-eagle-takes-bait-swipes-salmon-from-fishing-boat.htm

Just like a parent eagle with us God does three things:

  1. He stirs up our nest.
  2. He hovers over us.
  3. He spreads out His wings to swoop down and catch us, bearing us up on His wings.

First, He stirs up our nests. Although God is tender to make us a nest, He is also strong to stirs us out of it to learn to fly. Has God been stirring up your nest? Perhaps He is sending out your children, or teaching you to fly to build your own nest.

Second, He hovers over us. As we mature and learn to go on mission, He does not leave us. He hovers over us. He wants us more dependent on Him than the nest He made for us in the first place.

When Karen and I were busy with our two sons in a stroller, their older sister was already on her back headed down the driveway’s hill on to the street. Cars and a truck were traveling in front of our house, but Emily was happily on her way. Karen said, “Bob!” I looked at Emily headed to the street, and everything went in slow motion. I ran to hover over her. She wen in between a car and a truck, hit the curb on the other side of the street, and began to soar off her bike and into a ravine! I caught her as she was flying. Do you know what she said? “Daddy, can we do that again?” God hovers over us like a parent, catching us.

Do you believe God will catch you when you are in danger? Has He not caught you before many crashes? God hovers over us like a parent eagle.

Third, He spreads out His wings to swoop down and rescue us time and time again, bearing us up on His wings. Exodus 19:4  reads: “You yourselves have seen what I did in Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself.” https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exodus+19%3A4&version=ESV

God rescued us in Jesus Christ. God stirred up heaven’s nest. Jesus swooped down from heaven, spreading out His arms on the cross, and carried our sins away to bring us to Himself.

Just like a parent eagle, God does three things:

  1. He stirs up our nest.
  2. He hovers over us.
  3. He spreads out His wings to swoop down and catch us, bearing us up on His wings.

 

Does Your Work Answer God’s Call On Your Life?

God has a call on your life, but what is it? Why did God put you in that place and in that job? The question of God’s call is what we are to make our whole lives answer.

As the Christian martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer pondered as he wrote from a prison cell in Germany, “Who stands fast?” Bonhoeffer asserted, “Only the responsible man, who tries to make his whole life an answer to the question and call of God.” https://www.amazon.com/Calling-Christ-Robert-Davis-Smart/dp/1512780413/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

The Christian ought to not feel secondary if they do not have a full-time Christian vocational calling, which most do not have. In fact, in scripture the bible highlights how most leaders had significant roles in God’s kingdom without serving God as priests, prophets, apostles, or pastors. They were mothers and fathers, shepherds and farmers. They were fishermen and government officials.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24).

A leader at my church has worked his entire career at a major corporation. At a recent and helpful seminar he taught to pastors and elders at our annual General Assembly to make sure our sermons have more to do with people in the work place than pastors and missionaries. Although he has a seminary degree, he sees every work (paid or not) as sacred to God.

Bill Pence has a blog that will assist the reader in this area so that people see that every calling is sacred before God’s Face (Coram Deo). Check out his blog and resources. https://coramdeotheblog.com/tag/faith-and-work/

 

Fatherhood for Father’s Day

Fatherhood involves three things; namely, vision, life on life formation, and a story of salvation. In Deuteronomy 6:1-12, 20-21 God’s people had experienced an amazing salvation, and God emphasizes the value and importance of fatherhood.

In the Old Testament family included a wider circle of at least two generations and also servants, widows, orphans, also aliens, who were all protected under the father or patriarch’s headship. Children were named by the father and were known as his children; for example in the gospels John and James sons of Zebedee or Jesus bar Joseph.

The ideal father is God and manifested in commands concerning fatherhood, not so much in the narratives. At best, we see determined fathers like Joshua, Job, and Solomon (Proverbs 1:8), who declare that their families will serve the Lord and will listen to biblical instruction.

Since the family makes a nation and a church strong, God starts with a vision in Deuteronomy: “Fear God, you your sons, and your son’s sons that you may enjoy long days in the land and that you may multiply greatly” (6:2-3). Before having children, a man should sense a calling and a vision for children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren in the context of an experiential knowledge of God (Fear of God means just that this). In our culture we think so much about the now (secular time) that we aim and fall short of the Glory of God’s vision for our lives. Suddenly, we  find ourselves holding the little hands of our grandchildren (see photo). The time has flown bye. Fatherhood begins with vision for succeeding generations.

Second, fatherhood is life on life spiritual formation. As the word of God sets on a father’s heart, he then instructs his children “diligently” (6:7). How? By a father’s life loving on his children. When?  “When you sit in your house” and “when you walk by the way” and “when you lie down” and “when you rise” (6:7-8). Fatherhood is life on life spiritual formation or discipleship, just as Jesus called His disciples to be “with Him” (Mark 3:14). Spiritual instruction is the primary domain of the father, not the mother nor the church nor a school. It is not a classroom environment; it is a home context of life on life formation.

Thirdly, fathers must tell how they were saved by God’s mighty Hand. In fact, God tells the first Israelite fathers to make their children regularly ask the question about how papa bear and mama bear were saved. When your children ask what the meaning of all this worship and instruction is, father bear should say: “We were slaves . . . and the Lord brought us out and give us (heaven)” (6:20-21). Tell your children how the Lord showed signs and wonders in saving you from slavery to sin and Satan and idols of our culture, like money, power, and so forth. “Dad, why is our family serious about Christ in a secular culture?” Father: “We were slaves to sin and Satan, even the gods of money, work, and pleasure. But God in Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, delivered us out of such darkness and brought us into His marvelous light – a kingdom of light.”

Fatherhood begins with a vision, continues for eighteen years per child with life on life spiritual formation, and constantly tells the testimony of salvation to the generations to come.

The bible doesn’t give examples of human fathers that we can model off of, but only of broken fathers in need of restoration to the hearts of their children and to God. God the Father gave His only Begotten Son to redeem fatherhood and to save both the parents and their children, and children’s children.