The Chair and the Desk, 2/11/16

From the chair:

“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” 

-Galatians 6:7-9

We have sown corruption, and we’re living on the fruits of our labor. Every once in a while, we realize that we’re trapped in systemic sin that we’ve participated in and now can’t quite free ourselves from. The things we buy and eat are made by practices we wish weren’t the case. Our money is invested in companies we can’t endorse. We live in a world where security is purchased by killing and killing ability. We’re each links in chains of sin that repeat themselves from generation to generation. We’ve sown corruption, and we’re reaping it.

Yet, we aren’t quite stuck. It’s not that we can sow the good in us–we’re actually quite hopeless on our own–but we can sow the seed we threw away, because Jesus has offered us the Spirit we rejected, his own Spirit, to start anew. God’s answer to structures of sin is a structure of righteousness: His Church, people filled and empowered and organized and animated by His Spirit. Though the system is too big for you or me or even you and me to change, it is not too big for God. Just when being part of this world would lead us to despair, being made a part of Christ’s body leads us to hope.

Let us not grow weary of doing good, for–this is the unspeakable gift–we will reap was God has sown, Jesus Christ, the Lord.


From the desk:

“the grandeur of reason is proportioned to its humility; proportioned, I would say, to the efforts which it multiplies to forget itself when the truth addresses it.”

-Rene Delsarte, “The Attributes of Reason” in The Delsarte System (1884 ed.), p.18


 

“The chair” is the one Annie aptly chose for the corner of our living room, and it’s where I am committed to daily hearing from God’s Word–the Word I above all else hope to speak to others. “The desk” is the one by my coffee grounds and spare charger (if I get to the library early enough); it’s where I have the privilege of reading and thinking all day, where I intend to learn for others’ sake.

 

 

The Chair and the Desk, 2/10/16

From the chair:

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”

-Romans 8:9-11

It’s easy for me to see myself in Paul description of sin from Romans 7: “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing…I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members anothe rlaw waging war against he law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.”

Thankfully, Romans 8 follows with profound hope. The power to fight back sin is in us, though it is not us. The Spirit who has power over death (he raised Jesus!) has equal power over sin, and we are not only “in the Spirit,” the Spirit “dwells in” us. That Spirit can give life to our sin- and death-ridden bodies. That Spirit is not us, but is in us. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!


From the desk:

“Good mission statements have negative power.”

-Pastor Matt Ristuccia

I didn’t make it to the desk today, but I did get to attend a mentoring group with our pastor, and one of the most memorable lessons from today was the good mission statements have “negative power.” That means that they can help us know what to say “no” to. I like the idea…now I just have to think about what it means for my life.


“The chair” is the one Annie aptly chose for the corner of our living room, and it’s where I am committed to daily hearing from God’s Word–the Word I above all else hope to speak to others. “The desk” is the one by my coffee grounds and spare charger (if I get to the library early enough); it’s where I have the privilege of reading and thinking all day, where I intend to learn for others’ sake. 

 

 

The Chair and the Desk, 2/9/16

From the chair:

“…to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”

-Romans 8:6

This is a really…full week. Last night, before bed, we read part of a chapter from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and I laughed, because it referred to Harry’s “barely controlled panic.” I thought, “that’s sort of how I feel until these next deadlines pass.” But this morning, as I was thinking and praying it over, this passage from Romans 7 and 8 came to mind, and I realized that the “panic” part comes from my flesh: That part of me that believes it’s all up to me and too hard for me. The “barely controlled” is the gracious work of the Spirit in me, and thought it feels like I don’t have time to pray, don’t have time to read Scripture, don’t have time to adjust my attitude or priorities, that feeling is wrong.

The more time I remember and turn to and pray with and live by the Spirit who is in me and in whom I live, the more I’ll see that “bare control” blossom into life and peace. What do we long for but that?


From the desk:

“there is a Gospel and you are privileged to be summoned to declare it. It can stand people on their feet for the living of their days. And, also—what a privilege, almost too precious to be mentioned—it may be that the Gospel which you preach will then steady some poor pilgrims as they come to where the bridge less river is and some of them, feeling the spray of Jordan misting in the face, just might thank God as they cross the river that He made you a preacher.”

-Gardner Taylor, How Shall They Preach, p.94


“The chair” is the one Annie aptly chose for the corner of our living room, and it’s where I am committed to daily hearing from God’s Word–the Word I above all else hope to speak to others. “The desk” is the one by my coffee grounds and spare charger (if I get to the library early enough); it’s where I have the privilege of reading and thinking all day, where I intend to learn for others’ sake. 

The Chair and the Desk, 2/8/16

From the chair:

“The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am he, the one who is speaking to you.'”

-John 4:25-26

No matter what, this is an amazing statement on Jesus’ lips. However, if we just start and stop with this story, we may miss the fact that Jesus is answering a question that’s been simmering since chapter 1.

John confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” (1:20)

Andrew ventured, “We have found the Messiah.” (1:41)

John testified, “I am not the Messiah, but I have been sent ahead of him.” (3:28)

Yet, the first person to hear this declaration is this outcast among outcasts. “I am he, the one speaking to you.”


 

From the desk:

“to be serious and to labor for the sake of play is foolish and excessively childish. But to play so that one may be serious, as Anacharsis has it, seems to be correct. For play resembles relaxation, and because people are incapable of laboring continuously, they need relaxation. Relaxation, then, is not an end: it arises for the sake of activity.”

-Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics X.7, 1176b33-1177a2, trans. Barnett and Collins

I read this a few weeks ago, and I couldn’t remember where I’d heard it until we reviewed this book in class today. Don’t work to play; play to work. I think there’s some truth to that. Hopefully, it’s a truth that will keep me healthy and happy this semester.


 

“The chair” is the one Annie aptly chose for the corner of our living room, and it’s where I am committed to daily hearing from God’s Word–the Word I above all else hope to speak to others. “The desk” is the one by my coffee grounds and spare charger (if I get to the library early enough); it’s where I have the privilege of reading and thinking all day, where I intend to learn for others’ sake. 

 

The Chair and the Desk, 2/5/16

From the chair:

And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15 And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. 16 For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” 17 And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.”

-Exodus 33:14-17

For some reason, Hebrew just doesn’t stick to my brain, but there’s one vocabuly insight I’ll always remember from my Old Testament classes at Gordon Conwell: As Dr. Kaminski demonstrated in her book on Noah, God’s “favor” in passages like these (הן) is gracious. It’s not that Moses has earned God’s approval; Moses has found favor in God’s sight because of who God is, what God does. God offers his own presence to those who don’t deserve to be in his presence, because God is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”


From the desk:

“If we all fell dead suddenly, the Church would still somehow exist in God. Confound it all, don’t you see that I am more sure of its existence than I am of my own existence? And yet you ask me to trust my temperament, my own temperament, which can be turned upside down by two bottles of claret or an attack of the jaundice.”

-MacIan in G.K. Chesterton’s, The Ball and the Cross, kindle loc. 660


 

“The chair” is the one Annie aptly chose for the corner of our living room, and it’s where I am committed to daily hearing from God’s Word–the Word I above all else hope to speak to others. “The desk” is the one by my coffee grounds and spare charger (if I get to the library early enough); it’s where I have the privilege of reading and thinking all day, where I intend to learn for others’ sake. 

 

The Chair and the Desk, 2/4/16

Today, at the desk, I read this sentence:

“God desires that we respond to His call with faith and trust.”

That is true, but it also makes me pause and ask, “What is God’s call?” It’s a question that people often ask, and I ask myself. This sent me to Logos Bible software, where I got to review some of the things Scripture says about God’s “call” and “God’s will.”

In one sense, these verses aren’t talking about “calling,” that is, what we typically refer to as “vocation.” Taken in context, these verses are actually talking about a whole bunch of different things: Marriage, persecution, prayer, sexuality, the Church, etc. However, if we let Scripture set the terms of what “calling” really is, then these exhortations to extraordinary ways of living ordinary life tell us a lot about God’s directions for his people.

“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus…through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.” (Romans 1:1,5,6)

“To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints [holy people] in Christ Jesus.” (1 Corinthians 1:2)

“God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:9)

“If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him…But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.” (1 Corinthians 7:13,15)

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Galatians 5:13)

“There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call” (Ephesians 4:4)

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15)

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3)

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

“For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for your, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 2:20-21)

“Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9)

The Chair and the Desk, 2/3/16

From the chair and the desk:

“And the Lord said, ‘You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?'”

-Jonah 4:10-11

“On one level, the message of Jonah may be boiled down to a warning to the hearer/reader: ‘Don’t be like Jonah.’…but it is also about God. Jonah hopes all along that somehow God won’t turn out to be consistent with his own well-known character (4:2). But God is consistent throughout, in contrast to Jonah’s hypocritical inconsistency. What happens to Nineveh and to Jonah happens precisely because of what God is like. The audience of the book is thus invited implicitely to revise their understanding of what God is like, if they have indeed shared Jonah’s selfish views.”

-Doug Stuart, Hosea-Jonah (WBC), p.434


“The chair” is the one Annie aptly chose for the corner of our living room, and it’s where I am committed to daily hearing from God’s Word–the Word I above all else hope to speak to others. “The desk” is the one by my coffee grounds and spare charger (if I get to the library early enough); it’s where I have the privilege of reading and thinking all day, where I intend to learn for others’ sake. 

The Chair and the Desk, 2/2/16

From the chair:

“Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” 

-Acts 15:10-11

Guilty, vile, and helpless we;
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
“Full atonement!” can it be?
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

-Man of Sorrows


From the desk:

“A man’s having much affection, does not prove that he has any true religion: but if he has no affection, it proves that he has no true religion.”

-Jonathan Edwards, The Religious Affections (Banner of Truth, 1994 ed.), p.50

In the English I use, Edwards is basically saying: Emotion does not prove that a person has faith, but a lack of emotion does prove a lack of faith. O God, save us from sterile, passionless religion. Fill us with living love and joy, the fruit of your Spirit!


 

“The chair” is the one Annie aptly chose for the corner of our living room, and it’s where I am committed to daily hearing from God’s Word–the Word I above all else hope to speak to others. “The desk” is the one by my coffee grounds and spare charger (if I get to the library early enough); it’s where I have the privilege of reading and thinking all day, where I intend to learn for others’ sake. 

 

The Chair and the Desk, 2/1/16

From the chair:

“And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.”

-Acts 14:23

I confess, I didn’t really want to head back out into the world to attend our church business meeting last night. That said, once we got there, it was striking to sit and listen and look over the ballot for elders and deacons and think about being part of such a heritage.

Being new to the church, I didn’t know many of the candidates personally. I trust the people that the congregation nominated, that the leaders recommended. This morning, I was reminded why: Because we are committing these elders to the Lord. Now, sure, people (e.g., elders) sin. The Church blows it, all the time. Yet, 2,000 years ago in Asia Minor, they committed these elders to the Lord, and the Church still stands today.

Congratulations, elders. We’re doing our best to choose leaders wisely, and we’ve commended you as faithful. We don’t know, we can’t ensure, we haven’t yet seen whether you will be faithful, but we know that God will be faithful. Whatever happens to this congregation, we know that God will sustain and grow his Church, and we join in with joy. We commit you–and ourselves–to the Lord.


From the desk:

“This is the great ‘five-one’ impulse of the law and the gospel. As a dominant seventh played as the penultimate chord in a piece of music leans toward and wants to capitulate to the tonic, so the declaration of the law leans toward the inevitability of grace and wants to capitulate to its resolving power.”

-Clayton J. Schmit, “What Comes Next?” in Performance in Preaching (eds. Childers and Schmit), p.185

Whether you’re musical or not, you probably know that “unresolved” feeling. Certain chords just beg for what comes next. Schmit points out that, in the same way, judgment is unresolved until we hear the grace that comes through Jesus Christ. Like composers, preachers should not delay this resolution without good reason, and should not fear going back and back and back again to that timeless desire for God’s favor, programmed into our very DNA.


“The chair” is the one Annie aptly chose for the corner of our living room, and it’s where I am committed to daily hearing from God’s Word–the Word I above all else hope to speak to others. “The desk” is the one by my coffee grounds and spare charger (if I get to the library early enough); it’s where I have the privilege of reading and thinking all day, where I intend to learn for others’ sake.