Sunday, October 31, 2010

Keep your head

They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
2 Timothy 4:4 (NIV)

The apparition of a figure on horseback, without a head, haunts the Connecticut Dutch settlement. Said to be the ghost of a Hessian trooper whose head was carried away by a cannonball in "some nameless battle" during the Revolutionary War, the Headless Horseman rides to the scene of battle in nightly pursuit of his missing noggin. Washington Irvin's short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" was published more than 185 years ago. And, through literature and film its legendary fictional character has become part of American folklore.

The Bible is an old book. Yet, in a world where age is no longer considered a virtue and where one needs a good reason to believe, is it worthy of our trust?

Painfully honest, the Bible was not written for those who want simple answers and an easy, optimistic view of life. Forty different authors wrote the 66 books of the Holy Scriptures over a period of 1,600 years; nevertheless, they tell one cohesive story. No other book has been as loved or as hated. It has made a difference in the lives of such people as Augustine, Martin Luther, John Newton, and C.S. Lewis. Even nations like the wild Vikings of Norway have been transformed by the Word of God and the unprecedented life and image of Jesus Christ.

Of all people, the Apostle Paul knew full well the life-changing power of the Word of God. In his last letter to Timothy, the apostle directs this "son in the faith" to follow in his footsteps and faithfully carry on the work that he had been given.

Confident of his young assistant, Paul issues his final charge: go on declaring God's message, press on no matter what. Don't get carried away, Paul encourages. Keep your head in all situations. The time will come when people will reject sound doctrine. Rather, they will prefer to follow their own whims, choosing fable and legend in favor of truth (2 Timothy 4:3-5).

Dear friend, the Bible is not just another book. The greatest story ever told, it's the Book! Through its passages you will come to know the Sovereign Lord of all (1 Chronicles 29:11), full of love, mercy and goodness (Psalm 145:9), who offers salvation to all not by works, but by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:7-9).

While we accept God's Word by faith, my hope is that as you read and study it, you find it worthy of your trust and share what you learn with others.

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

Photo: The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane (1858) by John Quidor

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The great divide

But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.
Galatians 4:4-5 (NIV)

The special, invitation-only open rehearsal allowed guests to get an up close, personal look at the athleticism and beauty of classical ballet as the dance troupe prepared for their upcoming performance. Ballerinas and male dancers moved across the rehearsal studio with grace and performance aplomb far beyond their years. And, as the audience was drawn into the story through the dancers' movements and expressions, the choreographer explained the intricacies behind the creation of a new ballet.

Unlike this open rehearsal, an intentional gap exists between performer and patron during an actual performance--the stage, orchestra pit, and even the lighting, create a space that separates the dancer from the theatre goer. Once the rehearsal program ended, however, it was difficult to distinguish between dancer and guest. Laughter and conversation echoed throughout the studio as young and old alike mingled with one another.

Participating in that rehearsal reminded me of the chasm that separates me from our Holy God because of my sin. When it comes to God's holiness and my sinfulness, there is absolutely no room for a pas de deux.

But thanks to be God in Christ Jesus that He doesn't leave me in my separated condition! In His mercy, God the Father sent His One and Only True Son, Jesus Christ, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem me and all who would believe in Him (v. 4-5).

Dear friend, through Jesus Christ's suffering, death, and resurrection, He made the way for each of us to share in God's gracious gift of salvation (Galatians 3:27-29). He is the cross that bridges the great divide. By the power of the Holy Spirit will you accept his invitation and trust Jesus as Savior?

Our gracious redemption was carefully planned,
The gulf between heaven and earth has been spanned,
The portals are open, the passage is free,
Oh, wondrous salvation, it's even for me!

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following

Completely Clean, RBC Ministries

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Divided heart

Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart that I may fear your name.
Psalm 86:11 (NIV)

Things to do. People to see. Places to be.

Our days are filled with an abundance of commitments and activities. In order to respond to each task, we allocate the 1,440 minutes of each day among those things that vie for our attention--children's activities, church meetings, work, family obligations, social engagements, household chores, hobbies, sleep. And, the list goes on. Each activity in and of itself is considered good and, in most cases, needful. If we're not careful, however, we can develop the "divided-heart syndrome."

Hosea became a prophet at the end of the reign of the nation of Israel's last powerful king, Jeroboam II. The people of Israel had forgotten God's first commandment: "no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:3) and the country was on a downhill spiral. They had hoped to "hedge their bets" so that if the Lord failed them they would have another god to rely on. And so the Israelites turned to Baal, a Canaanite fertility god, and found Baal's worship less demanding than God's.

In the Old Testament book of Hosea, the prophet uses three colorful figures of speech to describe the people of Israel's divided hearts. First, they were like a half-baked cake--burned on one side and raw on the other they were palatable neither to God nor the pagans (Hosea 7:8). Second, unaware of their spiritual decline they were like a proud man who can't see the signs of his aging (vv. 9-10). Finally, flying from one pagan nation to another looking for help, Israel was like a senseless dove (v.11).

Today, we as Christians are often afflicted with the same condition. We trust Jesus but are reluctant to commit every area of our lives to Him. We go to church but don't want to live out our faith each day if it means giving up worldly success or pleasure. A divided heart does not please God; nor does it attract nonbelievers to Christ. Unfortunately, it may take a crisis to show us our true spiritual decline. Not to mention, we live unfulfilled lives even as we flit from one activity to another.

My friend, just as the psalmist calls out to God to protect him from a divided heart, let's pray each day, "Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart that I may fear your name."

Blessings, dear friend.
Faithfully Following