Saturday, January 31, 2015
Friday, January 30, 2015
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
1. Leaders hit their most effective stride after 2-3 significant ministry seasons.
2. Leaders learn best when they are away from their context.
3. Leaders listen to God better when they are with other seasoned learners.
4. Leaders need down time as much as they need God time.
Monday, January 26, 2015
To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father. (Col 1:2 ESV)The organic metaphor for the church used by Paul absolutely negates this conception by asserting that grace is conveyed through the body of Christ along horizontal channels as well as through the vertical relationship of each believer to God. No individual, congregation or denomination of Christians is spiritually independent of the others. . . . Therefore, ‘the normal Christian life’ is not simply a function of an individual believer’s relationship to God. If he is isolated from Christians around him who are designed to be part of the system through which he receives grace, or if those Christians are themselves spiritually weak, he cannot be as strong and as filled with the Spirit as he otherwise would be.
Friday, January 23, 2015
I am signed up for articles that have anything to do with eschatology at Academia and got this in my mailbox this morning. Great article, good information for my upcoming series on Colossians, and reinforces what I have been thinking and teaching for years about our future destination . . .
I grew up in Kingston, Jamaica. In high school, my best subject was art. I loved sketching, painting, sculpting. But my parents explained that to consider art as a career would be unrealistic; I wouldn’t be able to make a living doing that. The argument from my church was different. Some pious Christians told me that art wasn’t a “spiritual” pursuit so it wasn’t a worthy vocation. “You’re a young man who loves Jesus,” they said. “Clearly, you should go to seminary.” So at eighteen I enrolled in the Jamaica Theological Seminary, an undergraduate institution in Kingston. But on the way to earning a BTh degree, my life was changed. It started with a theological paradox that affected me existentially.
A Hierarchy of Vocations?
On the one hand, the faith that I learned both from church and seminary was that ordinary matters in the “world” (including the physical and social worlds) were of less importance than “spiritual” matters. So if you really wanted to serve God and be utterly faithful to Christ, you needed to do some form of pastoral work.
But I knew that pastoring was simply not my calling.
By the age of twenty I had discerned that my gifts lay in teaching. I was interested in ideas; I wanted to make sense of the world, including the world of the Bible. And I could communicate what I was learning—to other students who were struggling with course material, in small group discussions and Bible studies, in topical talks at youth group meetings, and in sermons I preached in different churches.
But the pastorate? Absolutely no interest, no sense of calling; and I lacked the relevant gifts, except for teaching.
The result of absorbing this hierarchy of vocations (which was simply in the air) was that I began to feel like a second-class citizen in God’s kingdom in comparison to my fellow students who were planning on the pastorate or some other form of church work.
Creation and Incarnation
Yet, in contrast to this hierarchy, I was discovering the Bible clearly teaches that all people are made in God’s image and commissioned to rule the earth as his representatives (Gen. 1:26-28). And when God finished creating the universe, he looked at all he had made and saw that it was “very good” (Gen. 1:31). There was no hierarchy of better and worse in God’s world.
This realization led me to study the Bible with an eye to understanding its worldview.
It became important to me that the Creator who made the world “very good” had not given up on the world after sin. Instead, God became incarnate in the man Christ Jesus, thus affirming the value of the created order (even the material world)!
And Jesus lived as a Galilean peasant for thirty years. For most of his adult life he was simply an artisan, who worked with his hands—which speaks volumes about the validity of ordinary, earthly life.
I came to realize the sacred/secular distinction was bogus.
The Cosmic Scope of Salvation
But beyond creation and incarnation, there was atonement. I had always known that the blood of Jesus was shed for sinners (and that included me). But then I noticed Colossians 1:20 spoke of God’s intention to reconcile “all things” in heaven and earth to himself through the blood of the cross.
And, I was amazed by the vision of Romans 8:19-21, that the groaning of creation in its bondage to futility is accompanied by its anticipation of sharing in the same glorious liberation that God’s children will enjoy (described in verse 23 as the “redemption of the body”).
During this time I went on a hiking trip to Blue Mountain Peak, the highest point on the island. After a night on the Peak, a group of us got up early to watch a breathtaking sunrise at seven and a half thousand feet. After some minutes of silence, my friend, Junior, commented wistfully, “This is so beautiful; it’s such a shame that it will all be destroyed some day.”
I still remember the dawning awareness: I don’t think it will be. It did not make sense to me that the beauty and wonder of earthly life, which I was coming to embrace joyfully as part of my growing Christian faith, could be disconnected from God’s ultimate purposes of salvation.
By the time I was ready to graduate with my BTh degree, I had become utterly convinced that the Bible consistently teaches that God intends to bring creation to its glorious destiny—a destiny described in the New Testament as “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1; 2 Pet. 3:13).
So I had to cringe inwardly when at my graduation, a wonderful older lady from my church (a true “prayer warrior” grandmother figure) congratulated me on my newly-earned degree and exhorted: “Richard, I don’t want to hear when we get to heaven that you ever worked in a secular job.”
Well, I graciously thanked this loving woman for her prayers and support over the years and gave her a big hug. And then I proceeded to ignore her advice.
Not only was I planning on a “secular” job, but I no longer believed in “heaven” as the final destiny of believers.
Ever since then the Bible’s vision of the renewal of creation has grounded my teaching and research. And I have been personally invigorated by God’s intent to make “all things new.”
J. Richard Middleton is professor of Biblical Worldview and Exegesis at Northeastern Seminary in Rochester, New York. He has written books on the Christian worldview and biblical studies including his latest, A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology. His blog, Creation to Eschaton, suggests the wide range of his interest! Follow him on Twitter.
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
I saw that I had missed the words so here they are.
"Maria?" "Yes, my love, I'm here."
"It hurts, O God, it hurts! I fear
The worst for me tonight." "Rest now
Dear Joseph, God will not allow
Your faith more pain than it can bear."
"Maria, are the children there?"
"The little ones have gone to stay
With Zechariah for the day.
The eldest keeps his vigil still,
And prays for hours on the hill
Behind the house. He's fasted for
A week now, Joseph, since before
The priest imposed the quarantine.
He loves you very much." "I've seen
His love. I thought two years ago
When we missed him in Jericho
And had to search Jerusalem
In anger, ready to condemn,
That he would be a callous lad,
But now at fourteen years the glad
And unassuming boy, who reads
The Torah late at night and pleads
For me in prayer, has run the shop
For these two years without a stop,
While I lie here and rot with some
Unknown disease. I've heard him hum
A Psalm of David as he changed
My stinking clothes and then arranged
My mat and sat me up to drink
Some broth that he had made. I think
That he's the greatest joy I've had,
Maria, though I'm not his dad."
"Mine, too, dear Joseph. It's as though
He bears it all. The children go
To him and cry when I am weak.
He sits them down and helps them seek
Their comfort in the covenants.
He wins complete obedience
For me, and brightens every hour.
He has a strange and winsome power."
"Maria, do you think that he
Could come and lay his hand on me
And use the power to make me well?
Sometimes I feel like I'm in hell
With these blind eyes and fiery pain.
And worst for me is all the strain
Of seven children you must bear.
Could he not heal me with his prayer?"
"He's praying now up on the hill."
"What does he pray? What is his will
For me?" "Pure love, my husband, love."
"And what is this pure thing made of
If not a father's health?... Forgive
Me, my Maria, as I live
I love the boy. But if the word
The angel spoke is true, we've heard
Messiah in our home for years.
And don't the prophets say that tears
Will all be wiped away when he
Appears: the blinded eyes shall see,
The deaf shall hear, the lame shall leap
The dumb shall sing and all who weep
Will shout for joy? And should I quell
The hope that he could make me well?"
"I asked him last week, when the priest
Had left, if he could not at least
Relieve your pain, or give you sight,
Or help you sleep well through the night."
"What did he say?" "He said in sum,
‘Tell Dad, my hour's not yet come.
The timing of the Lord of Host
Will make a widow and a ghost.'"
"Strange recompense for nurturing
The Son of God, the mighty King!"
"O Joseph, we have seen too much
Of God and grace to doubt that such
A Sovereign plans but for our good,
For he can heal and heal he would
If it were best." "What does he pray
Up there, Maria? Did he say?"
"He didn't mention much detail,
But only that your faith not fail.
He says there's something worse than death,
And loss of faith, not loss of breath,
Is what he fights. He's gotten slim
From fasting." "Would you please fetch him?
I want to say goodbye." "I know
The place; I'll hurry now and go."
"Your father wants to see you, son;
I think his life is almost done.
Come, hasten with me to his bed."
"He's here, my love, beside your head."
"I heard you in the synagogue
Once say that there's an epilogue
To life. And then you looked at me.
You knew. Already you could see
The last short chapter of my days:
The gathering dark and distant rays
Of dawn. And now I thank you, son,
That you fought for my faith and won.
Your intercession on the slope,
Your fasting and your love gave hope.
Nor do I doubt that you and I
Will meet again with God on high.
I bless the night that you were born!
May all the world that night adorn.
Maria, come, light him a flame.
Though darkness gathers, praise his Name!"
"Jesus," by John Piper. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. desiringGod.org. Performed by Steven Bush.
Monday, January 19, 2015
I saw that I had missed the words so here they are!
A hundred-twenty years the friend
Of God! Heart flaming to the end.
And in the crystal eyes a fire
From what he'd seen of God's Desire.
An unabated strength of soul
Had kept his mind and body whole.
O, how he longed to lift his rod
Once more and watch the arm of God
Slice Jordan like a liquid snake
And make the serpent's tail a lake
And lead the tribes dry through the slice
Back to the promised paradise!
Could God appoint a man to guide
His people while the warriors died,
To stand and suffer their distrust,
And when for golden calves they lust
To intercede with God and spare
For them annihilation there?
Could God assign an athlete this:
To run for others, then to miss
The prize? Would he require a maid
To bring to birth what God had laid
Within her womb and while she smiled
Forbid that she should have the child?
Atop Mount Pisgah Moses sat
And for a moment thought like that.
The Jordan slithered far below
And did its best to overthrow
His faith: "Where has your life been poured?
It doesn't pay to serve the Lord.
He fills your life with many a hurt
And in the end treats you like dirt."
Then Moses took up the attack
And all the truth he wrote came back:
"Ah, wicked river, stay your hand
'Tis you, not God, that stole the land
From my inheritance on earth.
Had I not doubted his grand worth
'Tis I, not Joshua, who'd break
Your twisted back and gladly make
Your trail a bridge to paradise.
And do you think that your advice
For me has any weight as though
For any real estate I'd throw
Away my God? Think you, O fool,
That all my life's a vestibule
To that?" And Moses waved his hand
The full length of the promised land.
"Don't you recall that I have seen
The glory of the Lord? Between
Me and my hope the day I die
Lies not the river but the sky."
And then, his eyes still crystal bright,
Old Moses vanished in the Light.
God grant that we the same might see
As we light advent candle three.
"Moses," by John Piper. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. desiringGod.org. Performed by Jaleesa McCreary.