Archive for the month “January, 2015”

Quotes Worth Pondering – J.I. Packer

QuotesWorthPonderingIf you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father.

If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all.

Pondering Paul’s Epistles – Galatians 4/5

EpistlesHere are a few of my ponderings from Galatians 4:

I love the first part of 4:9, “But now that you know God – or rather are known by God…”

Knowing God is a great thing. Paul even talks about how much he wants to know God/Christ in Philippians 3. His prayer for the Ephesians in chapter 1 is that they might know Him better. I love the J.I.Packer quote from his book Knowing God that says, “knowing God is a relationship calculated to thrill a person’s heart.”

All believers would do well to make knowing God the utmost priority in their lives. One of the ways that this might happen is if believers begin to understand what it means to be “known by God.”

As Paul talks about what it means to be adopted by the Father he emphasizes this point. Russell Moore speaks to this in his blog in a way that says it so much better than i can:

Imagine for a moment that you’re adopting a child. As you meet with the social worker in the last stage of the process, you’re told that this twelve-year old has been in and out of psychotherapy since he was three. He persists in burning things, and attempting repeatedly to skin kittens alive. He “acts out sexually,” the social worker says, although she doesn’t really fill you in on what that means. She continues with a little family history. This boy’s father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and great-great-grandfather all had histories of violence, ranging from spousal abuse to serial murder. Each of them ended life the same way, dead by suicide–each found hanging from a rope of blankets in his respective prison cell.

Think for a minute. Would you want this child? If you did adopt him, wouldn’t you watch nervously as he played with your other children? Would you watch him nervously as he looks at the butcher knife on the kitchen table? Would you leave the room as he watched a movie on television with your daughter, with the lights out?

Well he’s you. And he’s me.

That’s what the gospel is telling us.

Think about it – even though we are known by the Father to be  a wicked reprobate, He still chooses us. He still adopts us. He still wants us to be His child. Perhaps we don’t understand just how wicked we really were apart from Christ. Perhaps we need to  understand that the gospel does not tell us that we were good people whom God can make better, but that we were wicked, that we were dead in our sin, that we needed to be made alive.

When we understand that we are known by God, it should make us want to know God.

Here are a few questions to help get you thinking as you ponder Galatians 5 this week:

v. 4 – What does Paul mean here when he says that “You have fallen away from grace.”

v. 5 – Do you know what is meant theologically by the phrase “already, not yet”? How does this verse relate?

v.11 – What does Paul mean by “the offense of the cross”?

v.13 – How might believers use their freedom in Christ to indulge the sinful nature?

v.22 – This verse talks about the fruit of the Spirit. Why is it not the “fruits” of the Spirit?

A Prayer for Bowen

Bowen John Ferrell
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
12:40am
7 pounds, 15 ounces
22 inches long

“May the God of hope fill you will all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13 NIV)

Bowen1Father, I am very grateful for the gift of this healthy little boy that I have the privilege of being “Pop Pop” to. I want to ask that even now you would begin the process of drawing him to Yourself. Use Chad and Christy to model a vibrant faith for him. Use Grayson as a loving brother to show him the love of Christ. Put friends around him in the years to come who pursue holiness. Use his pastor and his church to teach him and encourage him to seek You. And may his heart be hungry for the transforming gospel as it is preached and presented to him along the way.

And as he learns to trust You, would You fill him with Your joy. May Your joy indeed be his strength to live courageously, to walk humbly, and to fight sin tenaciously.

Also I ask that You would fuel him daily with Your peace. May he experience a contentment in You that can only come from a deep awareness of the “peace that surpasses all understanding” that is only found in You.

As he grows into a man may his life exude a living hope because he has experienced a resurrection from death to life. And may he be used to help others find this great and glorious hope as well. May his life give testimony through his actions and his words that Jesus is the only temporal and eternal hope for all peoples.

And finally would You empower him by Your Spirit. Empower him with compassion for others. Empower him with a faith that inspires others. Empower him with kindness and gentleness. Empower him with a gladness that makes his soul sing and his heart worship.

I ask this because You have told me to ask and I do so in the matchless name of Christ the Lord.

Quotes Worth Pondering – Frederick Buechner

QuotesWorthPonderingKind of long but worth the read. It compliments my post on Galatians 3.

“From the essay on Love, in which he describes as a wilderness experience his daily visits with his wife to a hospital 3,000 miles from home in a strange city, where someone he loves is in danger of dying.
“When the worst finally happens, or almost happens, a kind of peace comes. I had passed beyond grief, beyond terror, all but beyond hope, and it was thee, in that wilderness, that for the first time in my life I caught sight of something of what it must be like to love God truly. It was only a glimpse, but it was like stumbling on fresh water in the desert, like remembering something so huge and extraordinary that my memory had been unable to contain it. Though God was nowhere to be clearly seen, nowhere to be clearly heard, I had to be near him—even in the elevator riding up to her floor, even walking down the corridor to the one door among all those doors that had her name taped on it. I loved him because there was nothing else left. I loved him because he seemed to have made himself as helpless in his might as I was in my helplessness. I loved him not so much in spite of there being nothing in it for me but almost because there was nothing in it for me. For the first time in my life, there in that wilderness, I caught a glimpse of what it must be like to love God truly, for his own sake, to love him no matter what. If I loved him with less than all my heart, soul, and will, I loved him with at least as much of them as I had left for loving anything…

I did not love God, God knows, because I was some sort of saint or hero. I did not love him because I suddenly saw the light (there was almost no light at all) or because I hoped by loving him to persuade him to heal the young woman I loved. I loved him because I couldn’t help myself. I loved him because the one who commands us to love is the one who also empowers us to love, as there in the wilderness of that dark and terrible time I was, through no doing of my own, empowered to love him at least a little, at least enough to survive. And in the midst of it, these small things happened that were as big as heaven and earth because through them a hope beyond hopelessness happened. “O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and for evermore.”…

The final secret, I think, is this: that the words “You shall love the Lord your God” become in the end less a command than a promise.”
Frederick Buechner, A Room Called Remember: Uncollected Pieces

Pondering Paul’s Epistles – Galatians 3/4

EpistlesHere are a few of my ponderings from Galatians 3:

One of the things that I love about Christianity – that distinguishes it from other “religions” – is that the salvation that is offered is not based on what I do or don’t do. It is based on what Christ did and on the promises of God. This is not a New Testament thing. It goes all the way back to Abraham when God called out a people to be His own and gave this promise in Genesis 12…

“I will make you into a great nation,
    and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
    and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you.”

It wasn’t until years later that Moses and The Law came about. The Law was given, as Galatians 3 discusses, to lead God’s people to Christ, The Promised One. (3:24) Living under The Promise is so much better than living under The Law. When Linda and I got married I did not give her a list of things she needed to do for me in order to earn my love. No, I promised her that I would love her “for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health…”

John Piper has said, “The key that unlocks the treasure chest of God’s peace is faith in the promises of God.”

And one thing that I know to be true is this… God is a promise keeper!

Here are a few questions to help get you thinking as you ponder Galatians 4 this week:

v 4 – What does Paul mean by “when the time had fully come?”

v 5 – What does it mean to be redeemed?

v 6 – What is the significance of the word “Abba”?

v 8 – Describe in what ways we were slaves?

v 9 – Why does Paul differentiate between knowing God and being known by God? What’s the difference?

v 15 – Why is the question that Paul asks here a great question: “What has happened to your joy?” When is the appropriate time to ask it?

v 20 – What does this verse reveal about how Paul felt about the Galatians?

Quotes Worth Pondering – David Platt

QuotesWorthPonderingWe live by faith when we believe Christ every moment of every day. We believe Him to be our sustenance and our strength. We believe Him to be our love and joy and peace.We believe Him to be our satisfaction – more than money and houses and cars and stuff. We believe Christ to be our purity and our holiness and our power over sin. This is Christianity: believing Christ to be everything you need for every moment you live.You live by faith in the Son of God. (From the book Exalting Jesus in Galatians)

Pondering Paul’s Epistles (Galatians 2/3)

EpistlesHere are a few of my ponderings from Galatians 2… specifically Galatians 2:20:

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

When you read this verse in the context of chapter 2 you really get the sense that Paul is absolutely dumbfounded. For the life of him he can’t figure out why his Galatian friends have reverted back to trying to find favor with God by following a bunch of rules. He is flabbergasted how quickly they have forgotten that it was faith in the crucified/resurrected Christ that brought about reconciliation between the God who saves and the man who sins. And yet…

And yet, don’t we do the same. We walk through this life as believers with a “got to” attitude rather than a “get to” attitude. And as a result, instead of experiencing the liberating joy of the gospel we feel bound up by the incarcerating rules of legalism.

Here are the questions that this verse provokes me to keep asking and why this verse is so ponderable:

  • Has my old sinful nature indeed been put to death (crucified)?
  • Is it evident that Christ is alive in me?
  • In what ways does my life (and my lifestyle) demonstrate that I am living by faith?
  • Do I daily treasure the fact that Christ loved me so much that He gave Himself for me?
  • How do I display my gratitude to Him for rescuing me?

Not I but Christ! May those words spur me onward each day to live a crucified life, a faith-filled life, and a life that reflects my gratitude to the One “who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Here are a few questions to help get you thinking as you ponder Galatians 3 this week:

v 1-4: How do you react to criticism rebuke? How do you think the Galatians responded when they first read this?

v 8: How did Paul define the gospel in this verse? How does this differ from the way that we typically think of it. What can we learn from this?

v 9: Why was Abraham considered such a great “man of faith”?

v 11: What is this verse so significant in church history?

v 15-18: Who came first Abraham or Moses? Why is this significant to Paul’s argument regarding grace and law?

v 21-22: What are some of the promises of God that we need to regularly be reminded of?

v 23-24: How does the law enslave us? Why is “justification by faith” so liberating?

v 26-29: Why is what Paul is saying here such a radical concept to the early church?

Quotes Worth Pondering – Tim Keller

QuotesWorthPondering“The gospel – the message that we are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted than we ever dared hope – creates a radical new dynamic for personal growth, for obedience, for love.” Tim Keller in his book Galatians for You

Pondering Paul’s Epistles (Galatians 1/2)

So here are a few of my ponderings from Galatians 1:

Epistlesv. 4 – I love the word that Paul uses here to describe  what Christ did for us. He “rescued” us. We were in dire straits, on the verge of eternal lostness, and Christ brought us back from the dead. There was absolutely nothing I could do to help myself. If Christ had not intervened then I was a goner. But because of what He did I can experience the newness of life everyday.

v. 6-9 – Paul does not mince words AT ALL when it comes to people who toy with the gospel. In this case people were adding to the gospel, telling new believers that they in addition to believing that they also had to follow the Law. It was grace +. Anytime you add to or subtract from grace you have perverted the gospel. Paul says “let him be eternally condemned.” There is much of this going on in our day as well. We need to be very careful that we are not taken in by “preachers” who tickle our ears with stuff that makes us feel good but that minimizes sin, repentance, and grace.

v. 10-11 – Admittedly, I am a people pleaser. But I a hope that the approval of God is more important to me than the approval of man. A correct and thorough understanding of the gospel is essential to being a God-pleaser. Our souls need to be drenched in the gospel so that our hungry and hurting hearts can be quenched by the gospel.

Here are a few questions to help get you thinking as you ponder Galatians 2 this week:

v. 4 – How do believers recognize and identify “false brothers?” What does Paul mean by the “freedom we have in Christ”? How has religion robbed believers of their freedom in Christ in our Christian culture today?

v. 9 – Who are the people in Christendom that would be recognized as pillars today? What is it that makes someone stand out as a pillar?

v. 10 – Why was remembering the poor so important to the Jerusalem leadership? In what ways can we as small group of believers “remember the poor?”

v. 11-13 – How was Peter acting like a hypocrite? How has hypocrisy hurt the modern day church? Where do you identify hypocrisy in your personal life? How is this stunting your growth and keeping others from Christ?

v. 15-16 – Why do so many religions base salvation on “observing the law?” How is Christianity different? Why is it a much better way? What does the phrase “justified by faith” mean? How would you explain this concept to an unbeliever?

v. 20 – Why is this verse a verse worth memorizing? What does this one verse communicate to us about the gospel?

Martin Luther referred to justification by faith as the doctrine on which the church stands or falls. Why does this doctrine affect everything about the church’s life and witness?*

* from the book Exalting Jesus in Galatians

 

 

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