James tells us in 1:22 that the person who hears God’s word without doing God’s word is engaged in self-deceit. Obviously, self-deceit is subtle. How are we to know when we are self-deceived in our walk with the Lord? According to James, we are successfully lying to ourselves when our lives do not change according to the pattern of the Word we have heard.
At one time large swaths of pasture lands, fields, and forests were open in England for local people to use for such things as pasturing animals, gathering wood, or hunting. Yet through “Inclosure Acts” passed by Parliament, particularly in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, increasingly these lands were “inclosed” (enclosed) or restricted to be used only by those with government approval or license. As a nation becomes more civilized and populous, the government has to take measures such as these to encourage governance that justly considers the interests of all its people.
However, it is easy to see how a practice such as this could be abused. The rich and powerful influenced enclosing lands that benefited their investments and businesses to the harm of the poor. Some families who dwelt for generations on property suddenly found themselves forcibly removed from it. Such was the concern of the church regarding this practice that the Westminster Assembly in its Larger Catechism included “unjust inclosures” in the list of sins forbidden in the eighth commandment against stealing.
Like coming upon a car accident with injuries, for some reason it always jars me when I read the following in the Old Testament. “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk” (Deuteronomy 14:21; also Exodus 23:19; 34:26). Something about the very thought of this just makes me go “Yuck!”
It is not just that I do not like goat’s milk, which I do not. Recently the men had a discussion around the table at Fellowship Lunch about goat’s milk. Words like “brown” and “smelly” and even “mucous-like consistency” were used to describe it. I know some out there surely like goat’s milk, but there were no fans around that table. No, it is not the milk per se, but the way it is being used that is disgusting. What is it about this verse that makes the very idea revolting?
The Puritans are derided as legalistic killjoys whose meticulous writings tend to parse the life out of true piety. Even a quick overview of their work will reveal their ability to write exhaustively on a topic and to exhaust the reader in the process! However, the careful, charitable reader of Puritan works will spy in them a faith of studied simplicity, one from which we could benefit in the midst of current battles among believers.
Let my whole life
be an expression of thankfulness
unto thee for thy grace and mercy.
And therefore, O Lord,
I do here from the the very bottom of my heart,
together with the thousand thousands of angels…
acknowledge to be due unto thee…
all praise, honour, glory, and power,
from this time forth and forevermore.
The Reverend Lewis Bayly, a Puritan minister in London, wrote these words around c.1611 as an expression of thanksgiving following an illness. This prayer gives us insight on how to truly live out a life of thanksgiving. Notice that there is very little of Pastor Bayly in this prayer. His thankfulness is aimed to the heavens and with the very angels that surround the throne of God, he is thankful for grace and mercy.
Surely discussing how many angels can dance on a pin’s head is a waste of time. But what about considering for a moment the impact of Jesus’ cross upon them?
Recently I was chewing upon Colossians 1:20, where it says that God was pleased through Christ “to reconcile all thing to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.” That last phrase puzzles the Bible student. Jesus’ cross reconciling things on this sinful earth one can understand. Yet how did it reconcile, or make peace with, things in heaven?
To make sense of this phrase, many commentators offer different suggestions of what the “things in heaven” are, from Jews to glorified believers to God Himself. None of them are satisfying or clear. But how could it be that the angels in heaven needed the peace and reconciliation the cross offers? Consider the incredible insight of John Eadie in his Commentary on the Greek Text of Paul’s Letter to the Colossians:
A friend of mine once brought to mind a truth that I have seen played out many times in conversation. Upon meeting someone, people in my generation (good ol’ Generation X) will quickly ask, “What do you do for fun?” People in the generations before me will quickly ask, “What do you do for work?”
I live in a generation which often defines people by what they do to entertain themselves, yet we live in a world that is intended to define people partially by what they do to employ themselves.
The doctrine of the Word of God has come on hard times among professing Christians. This sad state of things is no surprise. At the very beginning of human history, Satan assaulted the Word of God, which is to insult the character of God. In so doing, the “father of lies” ushered mankind into spiritual ruin. Particularly sad in our day, though, is the fact that many professing Christians believe that they are honoring Christ by denying that God’s written Word, the Bible, is everything it claims to be in its self-attestation and self-authentication.
While at my parents home this summer I snapped this picture on a whim, then stuffed it in “digital memory” … meaning I forgot it. Today I found it, and meditate upon the trellis and vine.
First, the vine. When our Savior instructs us about union and communion with himself, he instructs us in this way: “I am the vine, you are the branches” (John 15:5a). Unfortunately, this verse and its context suffers the death of the Christian cliche’. Because many have no actual experiences with vineyards, grapes, or even farming in general, the rich understanding of this Biblical passage and its overarching analogy can be lost on our minds. We’ve never fretted as our vine mysteriously wilted, threatening our economic livelihood. We have never groaned when the weight of the vine upon itself caused the vine to snap in half, causing all the fruit higher up to literally “wither on the vine.”
No, this world of vineyards is distant to us, and we would do well to enter the world of grape growers. The Scriptures are packed with spiritual fruit-growing messages for those able to decode the analogies.
Have you ever sat in awkward silence with strangers wondering what to say next? Or, have you wondered how to grow in your knowledge of the world, of people, or of God? Have you pondered how you might more effectively minister to people? One answer to problems posed in those questions is to ask a good question.
Young children ask “Why?” countless times a day. Some of us struggle to mature beyond that stage. I started my first job at age 13. Soon, I frustrated my boss with constant queries, and he finally asked me to stop asking “Why?” Looking back, he was amazingly patient with my abuse of a good thing.
You see, God created the question. He made us as relational beings, and he brings growth through question and answer. If we are to grow in our relationship with God and men, we need to grow as inquisitive creatures.