Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Easter weekend

Easter weekend is over and all I hear is how great or not-so-great their trips and dining experiences were. That's to be expected from non-Christians, but, brothers and sisters in Christ, how was your Easter weekend when you are conversing with non-Christians?

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

A note to myself: About Joy

A Christian hedonist says "God is my joy," NOT "joy is my God."
Delighting in the LORD and simply feeling delighted are two different things.
I must remember that.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Reforming our prayer life

If you are serious about reforming your prayer life, you must begin with your heart. Unconfessed sin, nurtured sin, will always be a barrier between God and those he has made in his image.
True, sometimes when we try to clean up relationships that have soured in the past, the other party remains intransigent. But that is between that party and God; you and I must watch our hearts.
This is true even when the offense has been entirely on the other side.

-- p. 76, A Call to Spiritual Reformation by D. A. Carson

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Why do I serve where I serve, and why do I do the things that I do?

As someone who has taught seminary students for more than fifteen years, I worry about the rising number of seminarians who, when asked where and how they think they might best serve, respond with something like this: "Well, I think I would like to teach somewhere. Every time I have taught, people have told me I have done a pretty good job. I get a tremendous sense of fulfillment out of teaching the Bible. I think I could be satisfied teaching Scripture."
How pathetic. I know pagans who find satisfaction and fulfillment by teaching nuclear physics. In any Christian view of life, self-fulfillment must never be permitted to become the controlling issue. The issue is service, the service of real people. The question is, How can I be most useful?, not, How can I feel most useful? The goal is, How can I best glorify God by serving his people?, not, How can I feel most comfortable and appreciated while engaging in some acceptable form of Christian ministry? The assumption is, How shall the Christian service to which God calls me be enhanced by my daily death, by my principled commitment to take up my cross daily and die?, not, How shall the form of service I am considering enhance my career? This is not to deny that Christians may derive joy from work honestly offered to God, whether that work is vocational ministry or research into the properties of quarks. But it is one thing to find joy in the work to which we have been called, and another to make joy the goal of life, the fundamental criterion that controles our choices. It is one thing to weigh a Christian leader's evaluation of our gifts, and another so to focus on our perception of our gifts that self-worship has crept in through the back door. It is one thing to think of people as a live audience that will appreciate our displays of homiletical prowess, and another that passionately shapes each sermon to convey the truth to God's people for their good.

- p. 82-83, A Call to Spiritual Reformation by D. A. Carson

What challenging words. What truth! How often I take good works that God has called me to do into a kind of performance before them for my praise and sense of fulfilment! O, that God would bring a reformation in my heart!

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Justification is not enough

Can it be said that justification is not enough for a Christian? Of course this needs some explanation.
I bring this to my mind because as an important and great ground the justification is for our reconciliation with God, yet, without the sanctification, and later glorification, what hope is there for a Christian? What joy of looking forward to the greater days to come is there? What strength of picking myself up after a stumble is there, if God is not working sanctification in my life now and there were no promise of glorification in the life to come?

Thanks be to God, that I am not only saved, but also being saved and will be saved through the grace of my Lord Jesus Christ!

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Reflections after reading "Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor" by D. A. Carson.

An ordinary pastor. What does it mean to be an ordinary pastor? Carson's book certainly isn't intended to define what it means to be an ordinary pastor. Less was it to encourage pastors to be ordinary. The purpose and intention, as I understand, was to encourage pastors, but also any Christians, in their Christian walk. In that respect, he has produced a wonderful book. It sure has encouraged and challenged me to think about my life as a Christian, although I do not hold a title, pastor.

What was most striking for me from this book was, however, the title itself. Once I started learning about Tom Carson, the subject of the book and the father of the author, I could not help but feel that this pastor was no ordinary man. Sure, the size of the church he was ministering at never grew to a point where it could be called big or significant regionally, let alone internationally. He did not author a book. He did not start a seminary. He was not involved in a major theological controversy worth mentioning. In fact, even the book about him by his son concludes at mere 160 pages.
If these are what all counted in a Christian pastor, yes, perhaps the book was titled very aptly; at least his achievements were very ordinary, and I believe this is the reason the book was so titled. Yet, when I discovered the way he honoured others, even those who mistreated him so unjustly, or the way he put his sin of bitterness to death so promptly and persistently, or the way he rejoiced with those who were joyful with no reservations and envy, or the way he faithfully committed himself to God's sure word, the bible, day after day, week after week, year after year, the way he kept on loving his wife and his children through all the ups and downs of life, I found myself thinking that this is no ordinary pastor, but an exceedingly extraordinary one.

Then, I soon felt a slight blush. I was somewhat embarrassed for what I had just thought. To think that a godly character was an extraordinary thing in a Christian man revealed how low my moral standard had sunk. By no means I am trying to minimise the fact how great and wonderful Tom Carson was, the lasting impression I have from reading the book is my desire to be like this godly man. But to think that, simply because he was a godly man, although he did, of course, have some weaknesses, this pastor was no ordinary Christian, I believe I have a very slackened sense of Christian discipline and character.

That brought me back to agree with the title, "Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor." He was an ordinary Christian. Perhaps extraordinary by the world's standard in terms of Character, and insignificant by the world's measure of success. Nevertheless, he was a very much significant servant for God's mission and in His Kingdom, and very much ordinary in his character as far as God's moral vision for His people goes.

Now, what about me? I don't need such a godly man as Tom Carson to compare to reveal my short comings, an hour of drive together with me on busy Sydney roads will be more than enough. I might as well be called an "extraordinary" Christian in the opposite way in the Kingdom of God, if He was not so gracious to save such a sinner as myself. So I do not need to despair about my sins, yet, I can, nay, must set my goal ever higher; indeed Tom Carson is not my goal, but Jesus Christ Himself had set the ever clear and bright standard I must run towards. He had gone through the adversaries in life without stumbling, and now sits on the right hand of the Father and sent His Spirit to empower me in my walk as a child of God. How will He find me on the Judgment Day? Will He find me faithful?

(I highly recommend reading this book for any Christians wishing to be encouraged and invigorated in their desire for growth in godliness. You can purchase this book from Amazon, BookDepository, or Koorong.)

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

If you are brutally honest with yourself...

[But] a ruthless honesty will always leave us shattered by our inadequacy. the world is a frightening place. If we are not a little bit scared, we simply don't know what is going on. If we are pleased with ourselves, we either don't have very high standards or have amnesia in regard to the central reality, for 'it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God' (Heb 10:31). Pascal said, 'Fear not, provided you fear; but if you fear not, then fear.'

- p. 223, Life At Its Best by Eugene Peterson