For it is by grace you have been saved...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Classical Cup of Coffee

Somehow, after my last post about sub par sermons, the subject of coffee seems to be on my mind.  Actually, the subject of coffee is on my mind fairly often.  I wouldn’t put myself in the category of true coffee snob, or really even a coffee connoisseur, but I do consider myself quite the fan of the real black gold.

Sadly, we lack a true coffee house in my little town, and I’m forced to wait for trips to the hospital (for pastoral visits, not as a patient…usually), or for the kids’ orchestra lessons, or some other reason to make the 45 minute trip to the nearest place offering a decent coffee.  Starbucks is acceptable, as are a couple of other places in the “big city,” though I much prefer Caribou Coffee (note to any corporate lurkers out there, please bring one of your fine establishments to our little corner of the world!).  I’m particularly fond of their Dark Chocolate Raspberry Mocha. 

I have a large collection of coffee mugs in my office, which I rotate through from time to time.  I have several favorite travel versions as well.  Around our house, the family knows that a fun new mug is always a great gift for dad.

I even follow a few blogs devoted to coffee, especially one title aptly “I Love Coffee” (the original is in Japanese, so you may have to hit the “English Version” button if you click over there).

But as much as I love this nectar from heaven, it wasn’t until recently that I discovered the Johann Sebastian Bach actually composed a little piece on the subject.  Bach’s Coffee Cantata was said to be composed for performance by Bach's Collegium at Zimmerman's Coffee House, Leipzig, Germany sometime between 1732 and 1734.

It’s the story of a young lady who has developed quite the addiction to coffee and her father is bemoaning the fact.  He tells her that it will keep her from every getting married to which she simply says, “oh well.”  It’s rather fun.

So, in honor of my favorite beverage, and in hopes that you might come to enjoy it for more than just keeping awake through boring sermons, here is one translation of the lyrics to Bach’s Coffee Cantata, followed by a video of the first part of it actually being performed.  Enjoy.

Bach's Coffee Cantata

Recitative Narrator
Be quiet, stop chattering, and pay attention to what's taking place: here comes Herr Schlendrian with his daughter Lieschen; he's growling like a honey bear. Hear for yourselves, what she has done to him!

Aria - Schlendrian
Don't one's children cause one endless trials & tribulations! What I say each day to my daughter Lieschen falls on stony ground.

Recitative - Schlendrian
You wicked child, you disobedient girl, h! when will I get my way; give up coffee!

Father, don't be so severe! f I can't drink my bowl of coffee three times daily, then in my torment I will shrivel up like a piece of roast goat.

Aria - Lieschen
Mm! how sweet the coffee tastes, more delicious than a thousand kisses, mellower than muscatel wine. Coffee, coffee I must have, and if someone wishes to give me a treat, ah, then pour me out some coffee!

Recitative - Schlendrian
If you don't give up drinking coffee then you shan't go to any wedding feast, nor go out walking. oh! when will I get my way; give up coffee!

Oh well! Just leave me my coffee!

Now I've got the little minx! I won't get you a whalebone skirt in the latest fashion.

I can easily live with that.

You're not to stand at the window and watch people pass by!

That as well, only I beg of you, leave me my coffee!

Furthermore, you shan't be getting any silver or gold ribbon for your bonnet from me!

Yes, yes! only leave me to my pleasure!

You disobedient Lieschen you, so you go along with it all!

Aria - Schlendrian
Hard-hearted girls are not so easily won over. Yet if one finds their weak spot, ah! then one comes away successful.

Recitative - Schlendrian
Now take heed what your father says!

In everything but the coffee.

Well then, you'll have to resign yourself to never taking a husband.

Oh yes! Father, a husband!

I swear it won't happen.

Until I can forgo coffee? From now on, coffee, remain forever untouched! Father, listen, I won't drink any

Then you shall have a husband at last!

Aria - Lieschen
Today even dear father, see to it! Oh, a husband! Really, that suits me splendidly! If it could only happen soon that at last, before I go to bed, instead of coffee I were to get a proper lover!

Recitative - Narrator
Old Schlendrian goes off to see if he can find a husband forthwith for his daughter Lieschen; but Leischen secretly lets it be known: no suitor is to come to my house unless he promises me, and it is also written into the marriage contract, that I will be permitted to make myself coffee whenever I want.

A cat won't stop from catching mice, and maidens remain faithful to their coffee. The mother holds her coffee dear, the grandmother drank it also, who can thus rebuke the daughters!


Monday, November 26, 2012

Singles Instead of Homeruns

Most pastors I know are not arrogant men.  Not that some aren’t, but I’m blessed to know many, many men who are godly, humble servants of God.  And yet, even in that humility, deep in our hearts, when we step into the pulpit we have a desire to “knock it out of the park.”  

Now, let me explain that.  I’m not saying that our desire is to so “wow” the crowds with our awesome rhetorical and oratorical skills that they stand and cheer.  I’m not suggesting that our motivation is the excited handshakes after the service.  We’re not called to entertain.

Rather, for me anyway, I want to present God’s Word in such a way that it’s meaningful; that folks lives are touched; that has real impact.  No, we’re not called to entertain, but I really don’t want to bore folks to death, either.

I know I have to be cautious.  I know the power is in the Word, not the messenger.  I posted a little piece some time ago about what to do with boring preachers.  The real impact is Spirit driven, and can happen in the most boring of sermons, while the most entertaining talk can fall spiritually flat.  Still, that doesn’t keep me from wanting to hit those homers.

Of course, any one who is a fan of America’s pastime knows that while we like to highlight the homer, they aren’t nearly as common as we’d like.  The average hitter may knock out 15-20 a season, with the top dogs clobbering 30 or 40.  Sounds like a lot, until you remember how many games there are in a season, and how many times a batter will come to the plate in any given game.  Work out those stats and the best hitters in the league will only hit a home run about 7% of the time.

Carry that over, and I guess I should be happy with homerun sermons once every other month or so.  Doesn’t mean the others will be horrible.  I can still double or triple from time to time.  But the majority will just be your average single.  In fact, a lot of times I might even strike out.

So what do I do with those “singles,” or worse yet, the “strike outs.”  I’m thinking of this because I managed to whiff one just last night.  Our daily readings included the book of Obadiah, and feeling bad for the guy because of years of neglect, I thought I’d pull him from obscurity and shine the light on him for awhile.

Lots of folks don’t know much about Obadiah.  Many might see his little prophecy as being relatively irrelevant.  I jokingly described this book as

Still, I had high hopes.  I really believe we see some amazing things about the nature and character of our God in that brief little book.  But things just didn’t quite go the way I wanted.  I think I might have even bored myself at some points.  But I kept going, and went down swinging.

What do we do with those moments.  We know God’s Word is powerful.  I know the promise of Isaiah 55 which guarantees that as God’s Word goes out it will not return empty but will accomplish the purpose for which it was sent.  But sometimes…

Maybe I just need to be humbled from time to time.  Maybe I need the reminder that I’m no Albert Pujols.  Maybe I’m more like Jose Oquendo (one of my all time favorite Cardinals.  Look him up.)  Maybe it’s not about hitting home runs, but being a team player and contributing in any way I can.  Maybe it’s too late in the year for baseball illustrations. Maybe I need to stop obsessing over all this and just get back to my job of proclaiming God’s Word the best I can.  

As I’ve said before, this blog is more for my catharsis than any expectation that folks are reading.  But if you are reading these ramblings, let me just say this.  If you’re a pastor, and you can relate to this, let me encourage you to keep on swinging.  God is faithful even when we’re not at our very best.  Often it’s the little things that help win a game, not just the big blast.

And if you’re not a pastor, let me urge you to bear with your pastor when he doesn’t knock it out of the park.  As long as he faithfully delivers the Word, God will honor that.  And maybe, once you wake up after that boring sermon, offer him a little encouragement along the way.

Monday, November 19, 2012

On Contentment and Thanksgiving

As we consider the issue of giving thanks this week, I can’t help but think the reason we’re not more thankful is because we’re not more content.  I mean, where else can you find people who celebrate being thankful by the biggest, and becoming the bloodiest, holiday shopping spree/riot of the year.  

So, just to help us think more in terms of being content, leading to true thankfulness, consider these wise words from ThomasWatson.  Written as part of an exposition of the book of Philippians called The Art of Divine Contentment, Watson gives us some “proofs” to see if we have such contentment in our own lives.  It is written primarily concerning Paul’s words in Philippians 4:11 – “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” (ESV)

Concerning the connection to thanksgiving, note the 3rd “character” especially.  Enjoy…

How may a Christian know that he hath learned this lesson of contentment? I shall lay down some characters by which you shall know it.

Character 1st. A contented spirit is a silent spirit; he hath not one word to say against God; “I was dumb and silent, because thou didst it.” (Ps. 39. 9) Contentment silenceth all dispute: “he sitteth alone and keepeth silence.” (La. 3. 28) …A discontented spirit saith as Pharaoh, “who is the Lord?” why should I suffer all this? why should I be brought into this low condition? “who is the Lord?” But a gracious heart saith, as Eli, “it is the Lord,” let him do what he will with me… A contented spirit is never angry unless with himself for having hard thoughts of God. When Jonah said, “I do well to be angry,” this was not a contented spirit, it did not become a prophet.

Character 2nd. A contented spirit is a cheerful spirit; the Greeks call it euthema. Contentment is something more than patience; for patience denotes only submission, contentment denotes cheerfulness. A contented Christian is more than passive; he doth not only bear the cross, but take up the cross. (Mat. 6. 24) He looks upon God as a wise God; and whatever he doth, though it be not willingly, yet sensibly, it is in order to a cure. Hence the contented Christian is cheerful, and with the apostle, “takes pleasure in infirmities, distresses,” &c. (2 Cor. 12. 10) He doth not only submit to God’s dealings, but rejoice in them; he doth not only say, “just is the Lord in all that hath befallen me,” but “good is the Lord.” This is to be contented… He that is contented with his condition, doth not abate of his spiritual joy; and indeed he hath that within him which is the ground of cheerfulness; he carries a pardon sealed in his heart. (Mat. 9. 2)

Character 3rd. A contented spirit is a thankful spirit. This is a degree above the other; “in every thing giving thanks.” (1 Th. 5. 18) A gracious heart spies mercy in every condition, therefore hath his heart screwed up to thankfulness; others will bless God for prosperity, he blesseth him for affliction. Thus he reasons with himself; am I in want? God sees it better for me to want than to abound; God is now dieting of me, he sees it better for my spiritual health sometimes to be kept fasting; therefore he doth not only submit but is thankful. The malcontent is ever complaining of his condition; the contented spirit is ever giving thanks. O what height of grace is this! A contented heart is a temple where the praises of God are sung forth, not a sepulchre wherein they are buried.

A contented Christian in the greatest straits hath his heart enlarged and dilated in thankfulness; he oft contemplates God’s love in election; he sees that he is a monument of mercy, therefore desires to be a pattern of praise. There is always gratulatory music in a contented soul; the Spirit of grace works in the heart like new wine, which under the heaviest pressures of sorrow will have a vent open for thankfulness: this is to be content.

Character 4th. He that is content, no condition comes amiss to him; so it is in the text, “in whatever state I am.” A contented Christian can turn himself to anything; either want or abound…Paul knew how to manage every state; he could be either a note higher or lower; he was in this sense an universalist, he could do anything that God would have him: if he were in prosperity, he knew how to be thankful; if in adversity, he knew how to be patient; he was neither lifted up with the one, nor cast down with the other. He could carry a greater sail, or lesser. Thus a contented Christian knows how to turn himself to any condition... In a word, a contented Christian, being sweetly captivated under the authority of the word, desires to be wholly at God’s disposal, and is willing to live in that sphere and climate where God has set him. And if at any time he hath been an instrument of doing noble and brave service in the public, he knows he is but a rational tool, a servant to authority, and is content to return to his former condition of life.

Character 5th. He that is contented with his condition, to rid himself out of trouble, will not turn himself into sin. I deny not but a Christian may lawfully seek to change his condition: so far as God’s providence doth go before, he may follow… A contented Christian is willing to wait God’s leisure, and will not stir till God open a door. As Paul said in another case, “they have beaten us openly, uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison, and now do they thrust us out privily? nay, verily, but let them come themselves and fetch us out:” (Ac. 16. 37) so, with reverence, saith the contented Christian, God hath cast me into this condition; and though it be sad, and troublesome, yet I will not stir, till God by a clear providence fetch me out...A contented Christian will not remove, till as the Israelites he sees a pillar of cloud and fire going before him. “It is good that a man should both hope, and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord. (La. 3. 26) It is good to stay God’s leisure and not to extricate ourselves out of trouble, till we see the star of God’s providence pointing out a way to us.

The old Puritan certainly gives food for thought.  But if that’s a bit much for you, maybe you could simply remember the lesson taught in this timeless classic from those great theologians over at VeggieTales.

Whatever motivates you, though, I hope you find contentedness in Christ and that remembering His grace truly makes you thankful.  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Delight and Duty

There’s a saying that tells us “with great privilege comes great responsibility.”  It’s actually based on a longstanding philosophy called “noblesse oblige.”  It’s a French phrase which simply means “nobility obligates.”  The French dictionary defined it with these two ideas:

            1. Whoever claims to be noble must conduct himself nobly.
            2. (Figuratively) One must act in a fashion that conforms with one's position, and with the reputation that one has earned.

More recently the idea was made popular by Stan Lee’s comic book hero Spiderman who is told by his Uncle Ben that “with great power comes great responsibility.”  Of course, the VeggieTale superhero Larry Boy adapts the phrase when he tells a young carrot: “with great chocolate comes great responsibility;” but I don’t think that really has anything to do with what I’m talking about here. .

Living up to the expectations and standards that you have been called to.  It may have been popularized by French philosophers and comic book creators, but the idea is much older than both. 

In Ephesian 4:1 the apostle Paul says, “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Again in Philippians 1:27 we read, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” And to the church at Colossae he writes: “And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God” (1:10).  Living up to the privilege you’ve been given.  Understanding that with this great privilege, the great delight we have been given in Christ, comes a great sense of duty as well.

So which is it, duty or delight?  The truth is, it’s both.  Too often in the church we have a tendency to emphasize one or the other.  All delight, leads to feel good emotionalism; while all duty leads to dead formalism.  The truth is in the middle.  We have great joy and delight in Christ, but with that delight comes certain responsibilities.

Reading Hebrews chapter 10 today reminded me of a great example of the balance.  In verses 19 and following there is both the delight we have because of Christ’s work on our behalf and some of the duties that go with it.

On the one hand we see our delight: 
-Confidence to enter the most holy place, which represents nearness to God.  When Christ died on the cross, remember the Temple veil was torn in two, from the top to the bottom, signifying that God was the one doing the tearing.  That dividing wall between God and His people has been destroyed. You and I can now approach God directly.  We don’t need a temple.  We don’t need the sacrifice of animals.  We don’t need the intercessions of priests or popes.  We can approach God directly and confidently.  What a joy and delight.

-We delight in our cleansing.  Jesus became sin for our sake; He took on Himself the full cup of God’s wrath on the cross.  It wasn’t just the physical suffering, as great as that was.  God’s wrath was poured out on Christ in our place, and we are allowed to stand before Christ as if we were clean of that very sin.  His blood cleanses us, washes us, makes us whole and new. What an amazing privilege.  What a great delight. 

-And most of all, our delight is in Christ Himself.  Jesus has given us the greatest gift He could possibly give: Himself.  It’s not just the act of sacrifice; the past.  It’s about His ongoing service; the present.  He is a daily presence in our lives.  No matter the circumstances, no matter the difficulties, no matter our own faithlessness sometimes, He is there.  What a delight.  What a great joy to know that we have Christ.  To know that through His blood His cleanses us.  To know that through His priesthood we have confidence. 

But remember, with great privilege comes great responsibility, and so Hebrews 10 also reminds us of our duty.   I’m sure we could all list more, but just in that text alone we are reminded of our need to…

-Worship.  Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith. Having been freed from the need to worship through the intermediaries of priests and temples, God’s people are expected to come before Him directly, with sincere hearts, to worship and adore His Holy name. 

-Persevere.  Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  We are commanded to hold fast; to hold firm; to hold down this great faith we have; to hold unswervingly to this hope Christ has given us.
And what is the motivation for holding fast?  Is it our ability to hold on?  No, he says hold firm because “he who promised is faithful.”  God is faithful.  Our hope is in Him, our trust is in His unfailing word.  Our confidence is in His work on the cross, and because of that we can hold firm.

-Encourage. Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  God’s people are to be an encouragement to one another in our service to the Lord.
Someone once paraphrased Scripture by saying, “Man doesn't live by bread alone. He also needs buttering up.”  Now, I know that idea has a negative connotation for some, but the point is good.  We all need a bit of encouragement now and then, don’t we?  And God has told us that it is our responsibility to provide that spur-ing on to one another.

-Fellowship.  Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing.  I can’t count how many times I’ve had a conversation with someone about the things of God and they make some comment like this: “Well, me and God have our own little thing worked out; we have an understanding.”  Meaning, they don’t need the church, they don’t need the fellowship of other Christians; they don’t need to submit to the teachings of Scripture delivered by God’s called men; and they don’t need the accountability and encouragement that comes from the body of Christ.  I regularly tell folks that they may have an understanding, but it’s a wrong one and it’s not with the God of the Bible.

We need one another.  I need you.  Like it or not, you need me.  We need the church.  God has brought us together, in spite of our different backgrounds and experiences, to use our different gifts and abilities to be an encouragement and a compliment to one another.  And we need to come together regularly.

Indeed there is great joy, great delight in Christ.  More than anything else in life has to offer.  But with that delight comes a great deal of duty.  I pray that we would each find that balance between the two, and truly live lives worthy of our King.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Morality of Music

I’m sitting in my office listening to piano renditions of Skillet songs.  Yes, that’s right, nice piano music playing versions of loud & rowdy Skillet songs.  And I was thinking about this:  If I actually had Skillet playing, and someone walked in, they might not be too pleased.  Even though it’s a “Christian” band, the music would not be “acceptable” to many.  Yet, if someone walks in while I’m listening to these piano versions: 1. Most won’t even know it’s Skillet (because they don’t know who Skillet is!) and 2. They wouldn’t be bothered because it’s just piano music.

So here’s the question:  What makes music “Christian”?  Is it the lyrics?  Is it the “beat”?  Is it the person writing it?  I also like to listen to a lot of Phil Keaggy, most of which is largely instrumental, jazz, blues stuff.  Keaggy is clearly a “Christian” artist, as reflected in his projects with lyrics.  But can we also call his instrumental music “Christian”?

Or how about this one.  The homeschool orchestra/choir/band program our kids are involved in recently tried something new.  The band played as the pep band for an area homeschool football team.  In picking music, several “secular” songs were selected, which is pretty typical for pep bands.  There was one parent in particular who objected to the band playing an old classic rock song.  They weren’t singing it, so it’s not the lyrics.  Is it just the association with the lyrics? What if they band said they weren’t playing the old rock song, but were playing the Apologetix version.  Without the lyrics, what’s the difference?

So again, what is it that makes the music “good” or “bad”?  Most of the parents who would object to the pep band thing wouldn’t have a problem with their kids playing classical music in band or orchestra.  But do they know the perverse lifestyles of some of those composers?  Do they know the vile content of some of the operas from which that music is taken?  How is that any better or worse than the instrumental versions of the classic rock songs?  

I know many churches have fought the “worship wars” which largely draws the lines over the style of music:  contemporary vs. traditional, choruses vs. hymns, etc.   But even there the lines are blurry since many who dislike contemporary choruses also bristle and singing old hymns they may not know.  They dislike some of the newer hymns being written even though they are written as hymns, not praise choruses.  So maybe it’s not really about style after all.

What makes music Christian?  What makes it worthy for the church?  What makes it acceptable for Christians to listen to?  Now, let me be very clear.  Our home will never be filled with the sounds of Lady Gaga or her ilk.  But does that make me a hypocrite?

More questions than answers here folks.  Just thinking out loud (or on the keyboard as it were).  Music is a powerful thing.  So many memories of mine are tied up with music.  It’s an important part of our family life.  But is the music “amoral,” that is to say, does the music itself have a “good” or “bad” attached to it, or is it the lyrics, the person performing it, the person who wrote it, etc.

I welcome any and all feedback on the issue.  For now, I’m going to go back to my piano Skillet music.  Feel free to enjoy some for yourself.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

God Is Still King

I’m writing this on Election Day to be posted on Wednesday.  I say that only to point out that as of right now, I have no idea who has won the election.  In fact, as this is posted in the morning, we may still not know!

Anyway, even though I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, let me make this prognostication:  God is still on the throne!  I know some would like to overthrow Him.  I know some would vote Him out of office if they could.  Too bad, it’s not up to you!  He is King; always has been, always will be.

Furthermore, God is not sitting in heaven watching election returns anxiously awaiting the outcome of the US elections.  There was never a doubt in His mind.  Daniel (who was a prophet by the way) reminds us that “He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings.” (Dan 2:21). 

Like it or not, kings and rulers, the good and the bad, rule only by the grace of God.  Jeremiah (another of those prophet guys) quotes God in Jeremiah 27:5 as saying,  "It is I who by my great power and my outstretched arm have made the earth, with the men and animals that are on the earth, and I give it to whomever it seems right to me.”

In the history of Israel, kings came and went; some good, most not so much.  Usually the people got the king they deserved.  We could say the same for our own nation.  We usually get the leadership we deserve.  

So, whomever has won, Obama or Romney or *gasp* by some miracle my man Virgil Goode; regardless, God is still in charge.  His plans for the earth are still moving forward.  His Son is still returning.  And our mandate to go and preach the gospel until that return is still in place.  Presidents and Princes come and go, but we still serve the King of kings and Lord of lords.  Let’s not lose sight of that.  Let’s not forget why we’re here.  

I hope you voted.  I hope you continue to be involved as a good citizen.  But remember where your true citizenship lies and give at least as much effort into sharing with others about the True King as you have promoting your political candidate.

God is still King.  And because of that there is hope regardless of who is in the White House.  To His name alone be all glory and praise and honor.  Now, let’s get back to business.  

BTW, here are a couple good articles in the same vein by Stephen Altrogge and Shane Vander Hart

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Spurgeon on Voting

On March 22, 1857, the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, climbed into his pulpit in London to deliver a message on 2 Peter1:10-11.  The theological issue he was dealing with was election, as in a Sovereign God choosing for Himself a people to serve Him and glorifying His name.

However, in considering Divine Election, Pastor Spurgeon was moved to make a few comments about the man made election of government officials.  As we think of going the polls, I pray his words would speak to us.  

I would not, however, say to any persons here present, despise the privilege which you have as citizens. Far be it from me to do it. When we become Christians we do not leave off being Englishmen; when we become professors of religion we do not cease to have the rights and privileges which citizenship has bestowed on us. Let us whenever we shall have the opportunity of using the right of voting, use it as in the sight of Almighty God, knowing that for everything we shall be brought into account, and for that amongst the rest, seeing that we are entrusted with it.

And let us remember that we are our own governors, to a great degree, and that if at the next election we should choose wrong governors we shall have nobody to blame but ourselves, however wrongly they may afterwards act, unless we exercise all prudence and prayer to Almighty God to direct our hearts to a right choice in this matter. May God so help us, and may the result be for his glory, however unexpected that result may be to any of us!

Two issues confront us:

1.  It is our responsibility to vote.  Just because we are Christians, citizens of the Kingdom of God, does not negate our citizenship in this nation.  And we are called to be good citizens.  So get involved and vote.

2. We are responsible for our vote.  Vote “as in the sight of Almighty God, knowing that for everything we shall be brought into account.”  I think it’s interesting that Pastor Spurgeon extends that accountability to the actions of the one we vote for.  If he messes up, we’re responsible.  If he allows innocent children to be murdered, we are responsible.  If he profanes God’s name by changing the definition of marriage, we are responsible.  You get the idea.

That being said, I hope you vote.  And I hope you vote as in the sight of God, not just voting against one person, but truly voting for someone you can stand before God and be confident about in your vote.

Indeed, as Spurgeon prays, may God so help us to direct our hearts to a right choice in this matter, and may the result be for his glory, however unexpected that result may be to any of us!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Source and Purpose of Real Hope

I resent the fact that politics has stolen the word “hope” from the church.  Regardless of which side of the political spectrum you come down on, “hope” is not something that originated four years ago with an ad campaign.  It’s not found in politics at all.  Real hope is a Christian concept, taught by Scripture, given by God, and offered for a purpose.

This week at the Missouri Baptist Convention Pastor’s Conference, one of the speakers was Dr. Bryan Chapell, Chancellor of Covenant Seminary in St. Louis.  Yes he’s Presbyterian, and yes, this was a Baptist Pastor’s conference.  Personally, he was the main reason I wanted to be there.  And I wasn’t disappointed.

Dr. Chapell spoke from Romans 15, launched by Paul’s words in verse 4:  “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

He reminded us that the moving of the gospel brings both change and challenge.  He said: “When the Gospel truly begins to work, when God’s purposes come, challenges come that will require us to endure and be encouraged in ways we may never have anticipated.”  And true hope gives us both.

He went on to say that Paul was very concerned that we had the right kind of hope, and so he looks back over all of Scripture to show what that hope is and where that hope comes from.  Essentially, it is based in the faithfulness of God to His promise to bring in the nations, to bring salvation to all peoples, to populate His Kingdom.  

Our hope, true hope, is Kingdom hope; based on the promises of God; rooted in His character and His Word.  And seeing how God has been about the business of bringing this kingdom promise into reality, as the Gospel continues to move forward, is what gives us both endurance and encouragement.

What a refreshing word in these politically charged times.  If you’ve read these pages at all in the last few weeks, you know I have an opinion or two about politics.  But in the end, true hope is Kingdom hope.  That’s what encourages us.  That’s what leads us to endure.  And that supersedes any election in any nation anywhere, anytime.

I would encourage you to listen to all of Dr. Chapell’s message.  The MBC Pastor’s Conference was kind enough to make all of this year’s messages available online (and there are some other really good messages.  Check it out).  And I pray God would use this to both challenge and comfort you as you seek to be faithful to our Gospel call. 

Bryan Chapell, 2012 Pastor's Conference from MBC on Vimeo.