Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Fellowship with Christ

One of the things that Paul teaches in chapter 8 of his letter to the Romans is that those who are in Christ are adopted with Him as sons and daughters of God.  Christians are heirs with Christ and participants in all that is His.  The text doesn't directly speak of fellowship, but fellowship is something that comes naturally between a parent and child are in a relationship that is healthy and whole, as a saving relationship with God through Christ must be. 

Last night I read some examples of what it means to have fellowship with Christ.  According to John Owen fellowship with Christ includes these things:

  • “fellowship in name; we are (as he is) sons and daughters of God”
  • “fellowship in title and right; we are heirs, co-heirs with Christ”
  • “fellowship in likeness and conformity; we are predestined to be like the firstborn  of the family”
  • “fellowship in honor; he is not ashamed to call us brethren”
  • “fellowship in sufferings; he learned obedience by what he suffered, and every son is to be scourged that is received”
  • “fellowship in his kingdom; we shall reign with him”[1]

I said above that a saving relationship with God through Christ must be healthy and whole, but there are often times when it may not look that way on our end.  We struggle in our families.  We see injustice in the world.  We wonder when God is going to answer our prayers.

But our circumstances don’t change God’s eternal promises, or His ability to fulfill those promises, which He surely will do.  So I invite you to read Romans 8:14-17 below, and re-read the promises above, and know that these remarkable blessings are yours and mine because you and I have fellowship with Christ. 

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[1] These thoughts on fellowship, including the use of italics, are original to John Owen and are found in his book Communion with God, which is cited in: Beeke, Joel R. and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012) 111.  

Sunday, January 27, 2013

“If God is…”

Over the past four weeks the pastor of our church has preached sermons that were based around questions that the congregation had asked him.  For several weeks he invited people to ask whatever questions were on their mind.  Questions about Jesus, the Bible, the church, whatever.  He received a wide variety of questions.  He collected the questions, identified some themes among them, and then constructed sermons that addressed what seemed to be the four main themes. 

The most popular theme had to do with end times, in general, and the messages contained within the book of Revelation, in particular.  The text that was read in worship this morning before the sermon was Revelation 1.  I had the privilege of reading the text before the congregation.  I read it several times at home, so that I wouldn't stumble over any words as I read aloud, and since coming home this morning I have read it several more times. 

One verse really which sticks in my mind today is Revelation 1:8, which says:

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

I often find myself thinking about who God is and what that means for me.  Thoughts such as:  If God is holy, and I believe He is, then what does that mean in my life?  How does God’s nature as holy affect how I approach my daily life?  My walk with God?  My parenting?

I can substitute almost any other thought about God’s nature and character and then consider the implications that follow.  Such as God’s righteousness.  Or His justice.  Or His perfection.  Or His love.  The way we understand who God is has direct meaning on how we live as disciples and servants of God in the world.

That one verse from Revelation 1 says a whole lot about who God is.  God is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the Ending.  He begins to reveal Himself in Genesis 1 and shows us the conclusion of His plan for redemption in Revelation 22. 

He is and was and is to come. God is eternal and transcends time.  There is no time when He was not, there is no time when He isn't, and there will be no time when He will not be. 

And God is the Almighty.  Not merely almighty, as if almighty in itself is something that could ever be less than something else.  God is The Almighty.  There is nothing over which He does not have full and complete power and authority.  Never has been.  Never will be.

If God is The Almighty, and I believe that He is, then what does that mean for my life?  Among other things, it means that I don’t have to be the perfect husband and parent.  I can seek God’s guidance as a husband and a parent.  I can delight in my family, thank God for the gift in my life that they are, and seek His guidance and strength to be the best husband and father that I can be. 

If The Almighty has called me to the roles of husband and parent then being a godly husband and father is something that gives glory to Almighty God.  And giving glory with all of my life is the way I should live in response to God as The Almighty, or as Holy, or in any other way in which I may understand God. 

Who is God in your eyes? In your heart?  How has God revealed Himself to you, and what does that mean for you?  How can you live your life for God?

If you are looking for a partner to pray with, or to walk with on this journey, please let me know, for I would be glad to come alongside. 

May you know the presence of The Almighty in your life today, and every day.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Conscientious Objector

Right now I’m reading a book called Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight: Cassius Clay vs. The United States of America.  It is a story of the attempt to draft Ali into the United States Army during the Vietnam War.  When Ali was drafted into the Army he refused induction by claiming that he was a conscientious objector.  The book is centered on the roughly four years of legal wrangling between Ali and the US government. 

Central to Ali’s claim was that as a Muslim, who followed the teaching of the Koran, he was not allowed to fight in any war unless he fought on the side of Allah.  While claiming objection to military service on grounds of conscience was not new, and was done in both World War I and II, Ali’s claim was unique in its particular religious expression.  The statutes allowing objection due to conscience required that a person be opposed to war in all circumstances, and not particular circumstances.  Ali was agreeable to fighting a war for Allah, but he wouldn't participate in any other war.

And that got me to thinking a bit about living each day as a Christian and what it means to follow Jesus as a disciple in our culture.  Does it mean that I follow Him all the time, or just most of the time?  Am I obedient to His leading, to His teaching, every time I hear it or only when I remember it?  And if it suits me at the moment?  Are my eyes and my heart open to seeing His truth every time I open my Bible, or only when I am reading my favorite parts? 

To adapt Ali’s claim against the Army, when it comes to being a disciple, am I a conscientious follower? 

The truth is that I fall short, time-and-again.  All disciples do. I am aware of some of my more persistent shortcomings, things that our culture may accept but ones which I know are wrong when the Gospel is the measuring stick.  And I am thankful that God is rich in mercy and forgiveness, waiting for me each time I return to the foot of the cross. 

In his letter to the Galatians Paul gives words of guidance and encouragement to those following Jesus as His disciples.  He writes about this in Galatians 5:16-26, with the heart of his wisdom in verses 22-23:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

These words speak timelessly, to both the Galatians and to those of us following Jesus today.  May they form both you and me as we seek to be conscientious followers of Jesus Christ each and every day.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Book Review: Revisioning Christology by Oliver D. Crisp

What are we to make of Jesus, the Christ?  Was he a man?  Is he God?  What did he do?  What, if anything, does he still do?  These, and any other questions that seek to understand and clarify what Christians know and believe about Jesus, are the focus of the branch of theology known as Christology.  And taking a fresh look at some thoughts about Jesus is the task of Revisioning Christology by Oliver D. Crisp.

At its surface, Crisp’s task is simple. He takes six thinkers from the Reformed tradition of Protestant Christianity and looks anew at things they have said to understand the doctrine of Christ.  His purpose is twofold: one is to show the richness and diversity within the Reformed tradition, while the second is to analyze particular aspects of doctrine and assess their validity within an orthodox system of belief. 

Crisp draws on the work of theologians representing each century since the Reformation: Donald Baillie, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, William Shedd, John Owen and Kathryn Tanner. The aspects of Christology in their work that he critiques, in turn, are Paradox, Motivation, Idealism, the Theanthropic Person, the Spirit, and the Incarnation.

I was familiar with the work of several of these thinkers and unfamiliar with others.  Similarly, I was aware of some of the aspects of Christology he reviews and had never given a thought to others.  In each section of the book Crisp is thorough in his description of the work of the theologian under study, pointing out its strengths and weaknesses, and then discussing the implications of their work on an overall understanding of Jesus, the Christ.

Crisp is a serious theologian and his work requires careful and thoughtful reading.  He is very well-read and possesses scholarly expertise in the work of several of his subject theologians, particularly Edwards.  He shines a bright light on each topic.  Revisioning Christology is not an easy read, but it is a rich one.

This work is similar to another recent book of Crisp’s, Retrieving Doctrine. In both books he explores and analyzes dimensions of the work of specific Reformed theologians.  One thing I appreciated about each of these books was the opportunity to be exposed to other thinkers in the Reformed tradition, some of whom I want to read more from and others on whom I will likely pass by. 

I recommend both books to anyone who wants to dive into the deep end of the theological pond and explore what lies beneath the surface. 

Happy Anniversary!

Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?

A. That I am not my own, but belong - body and soul, in life and in death - to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.

He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.

Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.

Today marks the 450th anniversary of the publication of the Heidelberg Catechism.  If you have never heard of this catechism it is a collection of 128 questions-and-answers that was written as a means to help pastors teach their congregations the basics of Christian belief.  The question-and-answer above is the very first, and it sets the tone for all that follows.

The catechism is written in the first person, so that as a person reads and studies it they can understand that the wisdom it contains isn’t something written for other people but it is wisdom that speaks directly to them.  It is strongly anchored in the Bible, with each answer having specific biblical references. 

Catechisms are teaching tools used by a variety of branches of Christianity.  The Heidelberg Catechism is used as a standard, or key statement of belief, by many churches in the Reformed Tradition.  Presbyterian churches, which are Reformed in nature but historically rooted in England and Scotland, often use the Long and Short versions of the Westminster Catechism.

I don’t believe that catechisms are outdated tools, written for a past time and place but no longer needed now.  The church today, as much as any other time in its history, needs to teach people what it believes and why.  This need was discussed in a recent book by Carl Trueman, The Creedal Imperative, which I reviewed here.  Catechisms remain excellent tools for this kind of teaching.  A new catechism for our day, the New City Catechism, does this well, combining the teachings of both Heidelberg and Westminster and arranging them into 52 sections, so that a new section can be studied each week.

Wikipedia has a brief article on the Heidelberg Catechism here.  Another short piece, written yesterday by a pastor, Kevin De Young, is here.  An excellent resource on the Heidelberg Catechism is Comfort and Joy, by Andrew Kuyvenhoven.  The whole Catechism, including its scripture references, can be read here and here.

I invite you to re-read the question-and-answer I started this post with, and then to seek over the next few weeks to read the entire Catechism.  It is truly filled with God’s Good News, written for you and for me.
Happy Anniversary Heidelberg Catechism!  May you continue to be a vibrant source of God’s  Good News in Christ Jesus!

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Last week we bought a new book for our daughter.  Earlier in the week we were finishing reading through the Jesus Storybook Bible, for at least the fourth time through, and as good a version of children’s Bible as it is we needed to start something different and give our daughter the opportunity to learn God’s stories told in different words.  We went to our local Christian bookstore and did some browsing, returning home with the Adventure Bible Storybook.

It is a storybook and not a Bible, so it takes some liberties in the telling of the stories but not in ways that I think detract from the message of the story or the message of the Bible as a whole.  Last night we read the story God’s Promise to Abram.  Our daughter quickly exclaimed “His name is Abraham, not Abram!”  We said “Let’s just read the story and see what happens.”

We read a version of the story of Genesis 15, where God promises to provide an heir for Abram and to always watch over the many descendants that will come through Abram’s son.  And the story ended with the words of Genesis 15:18, saying:

“On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram.”

Covenant is a big word for a six year-old, and sometimes it’s a big word for adults as well.  We explained it to our daughter as best we could, telling her that a covenant is a promise that God makes to us, a special promise which will never be broken.  There is nothing that we can do that would cause God to end the covenant and not fulfill the promises once He has made them.

The Psalm that my wife and I read together last night spoke to this too, although not as directly.  We read Psalm 121.  The Psalmist is in trouble but remembers that his help is always to be found in the Lord.  The last two verses say:

“The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep your going out and coming in from this time forth and forevermore.”

That last phrase is what ties it all together for me.  It is one of many places in the Bible where God affirms the promise that He made to Abram.  The unbreakable promise to always be Abram’s God, which is also to be the God of those who call on Abram’s descendant, Jesus, in faith. 

The promise which means that no matter what goes on around us, no matter how much suffering we may be experiencing, no matter how much it may seem that evil has the upper hand…in the end it is all in the hand of God Almighty.  

The God who calls us.  The God who makes unbreakable promises to keep us.  The God whose loving grasp lasts forever.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Name Change

I have been blogging on this space for about 15 months and I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to change the name of my blog.  Not because the intent of my blog is changing, because it certainly isn’t.  This is a place for me to think and write about things from a pastoral and/or theological perspective, sharing those thoughts with whomever may want to read them.  And that remains my goal.  To read, to observe, to reflect, to write and to share.  Biblically, theologically and pastorally.

But as I read other blogs, visit other websites, and see what others do with their places on the internet I’ve come to the conclusion that the first thing that comes up about my blog, the title, is somewhat like a door that a person reaches to open, but not without a measure of hesitation.  I said this about the blog title in the introductory post:

I call this blog Sola Deo gloria, which is Latin for “Glory to God alone.”  It is one of the Five Solas, five phrases that represent the essence of the Reformation.  My intent, my hope, my prayer, is that the thinking and writing that take place in this space would point to God, and bring him the glory to which he alone is due.

I very much want my blog to point to God and to give Him the glory that is His alone.  I want other people to see the majesty and the wonder of God, to be captivated by an awe of God.  To deeply know His love as the only love that truly satisfies the human heart.  To know the grace and mercy that only comes from God’s hand. 

But the problem, as I see it, is that I have been using a Latin phrase, which I dearly love, but I don’t read Latin and neither, I suspect, do most of my readers.   So to use a Latin phrase is more of an affectation, something that borders on being disingenuous, and in a way can even be taken to point towards me, rather than the God I so want to praise and proclaim.

So a change is in order.  I am changing the name to “To Him be glory forever” which comes from Romans 11:36, where Paul concludes a section on teaching of salvation with a spontaneous burst of praise, saying:

“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”

In a nutshell Paul seems to be saying that at the end of the day, at the end of time even, everything is God’s, to do with as He sees fit, and therefore He alone should get our praise, eternally.

It seems fitting that the new title is derived from a verse of the Bible, because that is where we find God’s clearest revelation of Himself and His purposes for the world.  It is the place where all of our theology, all of our thinking of God, should be grounded in.  

And it rightly teaches that all of our praise should be placed on Him. 

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


This year I am using some devotional materials based around the Prophets.  It includes the major prophets, such as Isaiah and Ezekiel, as well as the minor prophets, such as Nahum and Zephaniah.  As the year unfolds I expect to read some things that are very familiar to me (such as Ezekiel’s ‘Dry Bones’ story) as well as things are much less familiar, such as Zephaniah.  Whatever the reading is I expect that the accompanying written thoughts will give me fresh ways to consider the text and its place in God’s overall story of redemption.

But before digging directly into the Prophets the first few weeks provide an overview of basic information to help understand, in general terms, what messages the Prophets were bringing to God’s people and why.  So this morning I read Leviticus 26:1-13.

In this passage in Leviticus the Hebrews, and those of us reading today, are told in broad terms of the benefits that await us when we uphold the covenant we have with God.  Basically, if we uphold the covenant, doing the things God has told us to do, we will receive God’s blessings.  And in the text they are pretty good blessings!

I don’t know if the Hebrews who first heard this thought that they could uphold their end of God’s covenant, but I do know that there is no way that I can do it.  There will be times when I fall short.  Sometimes I’ll be just a little bit short and sometimes I’ll be so short it will be as if I am in the next county. 

But God knows this and as I read Leviticus today I know that I while I may receive some of the covenant blessings now I know that these are most fully future promises, to be filled in eternity.  They are blessings which I will receive through my faith in Christ, the only one who could perfectly keep God’s covenant promises.

But I digress.  The thing that really grabbed me about this text as I read it this morning was the very last phrase of verse 13:

“And I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.”

The Hebrews had been slaves in Egypt.  They were a people who were welcomed when they first arrived there but over time they had become despised and enslaved, brutally so.  God had acted decisively and ended their slavery, sending Moses to lead them from slavery in Egypt to their place of rest in Canaan.  God had set them free from the yoke of slavery so that they could walk erect and in freedom as His chosen people.

And that is what God has done in Christ Jesus for all who have faith in Him.  The yoke of slavery to sin has been broken and believers can walk in the freedom of faith.  Sin still exists and dealing with it in our lives is something that must be dealt with daily.  Minute-by-minute on some days. 

But sin can no longer enslave us.  For we have true freedom.  Freedom in God that doesn’t come through our own efforts but through the work of Christ, the only one who can, and does, keep the covenant and give us wholeness with God.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Psalm 119:123

I had an “Aha!” moment in church this morning.  A few days ago I received an email asking for prayer for the family of someone who had been connected with our church and had just died.  The name of this woman was vaguely familiar but I couldn’t place it and I didn’t think about it very much. 

As we started worship this morning our pastor led a prayer for this woman’s family.  While she was not a member of our congregation she had been a regular presence at a weekly Bible study in our building.  Later, during the sermon, he mentioned her one more time, this time including a very small bit of information, which was just enough to trigger my “Aha!’ moment. 

I had met her about 8 years ago.  As I think about it I can member the place and the circumstances of our meeting.  Meeting her was connected to my meeting her brother, which took place at the same time and whom I got to know much better over the next year or so.

All of this came to mind as I was mulling over a verse from Psalms that Robin and I read last night.  Psalm 119:123 says:

“My eyes long for your salvation and for the fulfillment of your righteous promise.”

In Psalm 119 the Psalmist offers heartfelt thanks and praise to God for the law that God, in His wisdom and grace, has given to His people. While he repeatedly encounters adversity and conflict, the Psalmist always comes back to the truth and security of God’s promises.  God’s law is the unshakeable bedrock of his faith and life.

I barely knew my friend’s sister but I know enough about her life to know that it had its share of adversity.  She lived daily with things that for many of us are unimaginable in their difficulty.  And that is just the small part of her life that I knew about.  I am sure that those who knew her well know both of other areas of struggle as well as the places where she experienced deep joy. 

And now, as I write, she knows the fulfillment of God’s righteous promise, the eternal salvation found only in Christ Jesus.  The longing of the Psalmist, the longing of my own heart, is her present reality. 

In the difficult moments of your life, in the dark places, in the circumstances where all you would really like to do is run for a quiet place of respite, may you find the presence and peace of God.  God, who is already there, and who is holding you with the firm grasp of His promised salvation.  May His promised salvation always be the unshakeable bedrock of your faith and life.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Book Review: Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp

Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry by Paul David Tripp made a number of top-10 lists last year.  I have read several of his other books and they have been excellent.  One, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, is among the five best books I’ve ever read.  After reading Dangerous Calling it is easy to see why so many people included it on their 2012 lists.  It is that good. 

Dangerous Calling is written primarily to pastors and those who either live with or lead ministry among them.  It is meant to warn and encourage pastors of the hazards of their profession.  It is a topic of which Tripp knows well, from his own experience in pastoral ministry and his current work, which includes consulting with churches and pastors on ministry leadership.   

He divides the book into three parts.  The first addresses the culture in which pastors are formed and live.  This includes a critique of the weaknesses of many seminaries in the formation of pastoral identity and the pitfalls awaiting these new pastors as they move into their congregations. 

Parts Two and Three are the Danger of Losing Your Awe (Forgetting Who God Is), and The Danger of Arrival (Forgetting Who You Are).  In these two parts of the book Tripp gets to the heart of the dangers of pastoral ministry, dangers that all too often result in someone who is called to ministry becoming someone who is just doing a job rather than in living in service to the Lord God Almighty.  He shows how easy it is for a pastor to slide in either the direction of living as if God is not God, or living as if the pastor is functionally God.    

Tripp is no ministry idealist, with the mistaken belief that every pastor is capable of always ministering perfectly.  Much like the central thesis of Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, that imperfect and broken people are active in the healing of imperfect and broken people, he knows that while all Christians are being shaped in the image of Christ they will never fully achieve that image in this life.  Time-and-again he uses examples from his own ministry and the churches and pastors he has consulted among to show that all pastors are just like the people in their congregations, equally in need of hearing anew the same Gospel they are preaching.

In his closing thoughts Tripp writes this:  “It is in the moments of hardship when what God is doing doesn't make any sense that it is all the more important to preach to ourselves the gospel of his unshakable, unrelenting, ever-present care. He is actively caring for you and me even in those moments when we don't understand his care and can't figure out what he is doing." (217)

Pastoral ministry is dangerous work, strewn with hazards that can adversely affect the pastor, their family and the congregation.  In Dangerous Calling Tripp has written an excellent book to help pastors stay on track in the places where God has called them to serve, for the sake of God’s kingdom and the magnification of God’s glory.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Staying Home: Going Home, part 8

This journey with my mom while she has been on hospice has been a bit of a microcosm of life.  We have taken off on a journey, having some sort of vision of the destination as we depart, but the route there has not been anything like we had imagined it would be.  And in its unpredictable nature there have been a number of pleasant surprises.  All of which is to introduce the latest surprise…my mom is staying home.

We had been planning to travel to Milwaukee tonight and to move her back into our home tomorrow.  I wrote about the move in the most recent post of this series.  Yesterday, my wife, Robin, and I figured that we had most of the details worked out.

Then I had a call from my brother, who was with our mother, who had some news for us.  And the news, in a nutshell, was that she was going to be staying in the Milwaukee area for the foreseeable future.  A care option that had not been on our radar earlier was now a viable choice for her, and she was choosing to use it.

And that is okay with us.  We were looking forward to spending this portion of her life with her and there is a bit of disappointment that it won’t be happening.  On the other hand there were a few issues that we hadn't fully sorted out and we can now just set those aside.  Most of all we are glad that her day-to-day health has improved and that there is a viable option for care that keeps her close to her friends and in the geographic area that, for her, has always been home. 

As Robin and I came to a place of offering our home as a place for my mom to live we did so primarily as an act of faith in Christ.  But if we believe that God is calling us to something and as we follow along things don’t turn out as we expected, does that mean that God wasn’t calling us in the first place?  I don’t think so, and neither does Robin.  You can read her thoughts here.

Maybe the idea of opening up our home to my mom was intended by God for some other purpose.  It could be that my mom will come to live with us, but at a different point in time.  Or maybe God led us in this way for some other purpose.  Not to test us, but to prepare us for something else in His plans for us.  Something to be revealed further down the road.

I don’t know His intent to this point, and I’m not going to worry about it.  I’m just going to keep praying.  To praise Him for who He is.  To thank Him for what He has done.  To lift to Him the concerns of my heart.  And to continue to seek to discern and follow His will in my life.

“I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope.”  Psalm 130:5

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Coming Home: Going Home, part 7

It has been nearly three weeks since I wrote the previous installment of this series of posts concerning my mom, her children, and our journey in hospice care.  When we started on this journey six weeks ago our mom was very ill and we, my siblings and I, were committed to doing what we could to keep her in her home, expecting that the time we would do so wouldn’t be more than a few weeks.  While our mom has improved physically she continues to need care and what has worked for six weeks is reaching an end.  Anticipating the possibility that a change would be needed I asked the question, “Now what?” in my last post. 

Today the answer to that question is that she is “Coming home.”  Not “home” in the eternal sense that this series title, “Going Home,” points to, but the home where my wife, our daughter and I live.  At the end of this week we will be bringing my mom home to live with us.

I could list a bunch of reasons why we are doing this.  Reasons that make us out to be great and wonderful people.  But those would really just be false reasons; illusions that make us appear to be people that we are not.  The real reason we are bringing my mom into our home is not that we are great and wonderful, but because God is great and wonderful.  He has created the circumstances that make this option of care possible and He has opened our eyes and hearts to serving Him in this way. 

Two pieces of scripture come to mind as I think about this, Psalm 139:16 and Ephesians 2:10.  The psalmist writes,

“Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

And Paul writes,

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Usually when I think of this verse from Psalm 139 it is in terms of life’s great struggles or its great joys.  I marvel to think that all of the moments of every life are held in God’s knowledge before they happen.  That their very happening, and the results yet to come from them, have been known by God eternally.  But God’s eternal knowledge also applies to the things I consider to be quite ordinary.  Such as being able to provide a safe and caring place for my mom within our home.

And Paul reminds us that the things we find before us to do are things that have been prepared for us by God.  As we live with faith in Christ we are to look and listen for the places and purposes that God is calling us to. 

A number of years ago a friend gave me a short list of questions to think about when you are trying to understand if God is calling you to a task.  They are:

  1. Is it something that God wants done?
  2. Does it match and challenge your particular gifts?
  3. Is it work that you find internally meaningful?
  4. Do others affirm you in doing this?

As far as bringing my mom into our home to live with our family each of these questions has “Yes!” as an answer.  We are particularly thankful for the encouragement, the support, and especially the prayers of our family and friends for this part of the journey.  We can’t do this on our own, nor would we want to. 

To my friend’s original list I would add one more question; “Is God glorified in the task?”

As I noted earlier we are bringing my mom into our home because God is great and because God is wonderful.  We want to care for my mom in a way that points people to God, a way that points people toward His mercy and His grace.  We want to care for her in a way that opens hearts to God’s unfailing love.  And most of all, we want God to be glorified in each and every thing that we do, for my mom, and in every part of our lives.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.