Posted in christian life, theology

So late so soon? The passage of time for us all

By Elizabeth Prata

I was driving along, listening to my favorite radio station. It’s a station that plays country during the day, old timey southern Gospel at night, and in between, random oldies from the 60s, 70’s and 80s. I like the variety.

A song from 1978 came on, “I Love the Night Life” by Alicia Bridges. It’s a disco song and you’d know it if you heard it. Maybe. If you’re of an age.

And that’s the thing.

I sang along, marveling that I could remember the lyrics from…wait…I counted back. It was High School, senior year. So … 1978.

So … 41 years ago.

Four decades of adult life. Wow.

It feels strange to have so many decades under my belt. Very strange.

It was yesterday I was driving home from one stupid teenage job or another, singing along to I Love the Night Life…wasn’t it? Yesterday.

Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. (James 4:14)

I believe every word in the Bible. I believe the Spirit when He inspired those words from James. Life goes fast. And then one day, you don’t just believe the words, you’re living them.

How did 4 decades of life suddenly pile up in my memories? How many people, events, meals, tragedies, joys, births, deaths, woes, and hills have I climbed, endured, lived? A tsunami’s worth. It all came crashing back as I drove along, singing lyrics to a song I don’t believe (no I don’t love the nightlife but I love the singer’s voice). How is it that a song can suddenly place us firmly back in time? How can time, ephemeral and temporal, suddenly seem like a ponderous burden, weighing heavily?

This little opinion piece isn’t anything new. Many people before me have opined the same. You see it when someone gives birth and suddenly the child isn’t an infant but walking and talking and cutting teeth. When you realize you’re out of your 20s and an adult with full responsibilities. When you start getting AARP and Life Insurance bulk mail. When you can’t remember the last time you got up out of the chair without groaning or something popping. ‘Where does the time go?’ we ask.

It isn’t just in James that the Bible speaks to time passing as rapidly increasing flow –

Psalm 39:5
You, indeed, have made my days as handbreadths, and my lifetime as nothing before You. Truly each man at his best exists as but a breath. Selah

Psalm 78:39
He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return.

Psalm 102:3
For my days vanish like smoke, and my bones burn like glowing embers.

Psalm 144:4
Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.

Time is smoke, vapor, breath, breeze.

OK, we know this. What to do about it? First, realize that these lazy days of your 20s or 30s or 40s etc are fleeting, as the Bible says. Second, do as Colossians 3:23 says of servants to masters,

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,

Meaning, don’t work hard just when the master is looking but work hard with all your soul, all the time.

And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful. (Titus 3:14)

Proverbs 6:6 tells the sluggard to look to the busy ant and consider her ways. Many Proverbs speak badly of sluggards. 2 Thessalonians 3:10 says that those who will not work, won’t eat.

Wisely shepherding the time that Jesus ordains of our days on earth is to His glory. There is work to be done. It’s good to be mindful that time is finite, at least here on earth. It sometimes feels like time is endless, that we have infinite days to accomplish what we want, but we don’t.

Third, it’s good to be heavenly minded. We will be called to account when we arrive before the throne. What will Jesus say to us? Well done good and faithful servant? Or ‘You’re here as just barely escaping the fire’? (1 Corinthians 3:15). I heard a preacher say once of the verse where God will wipe away our tears in heaven, (Revelation 21:4) that the tears could be from sorrow for all the time we wasted on earth failing to labor for God’s glory while we had time to do so. It’s a good an explanation as any for why there will be tears in heaven, if the verse is meant literally.

Even if that is not so, it’s a good thing to keep in mind. We will see our works that we not do for Christ and perhaps the time wasted that had no works at all, burned as hay and stubble. I think of Edwards, Spurgeon, Muller, Apostle Paul, who worked what seemed like every second of their waking hours for the Lord, and I think of the time that I spend frittering away. If there is anything to cry about in heaven, that would be it.

Time. Where does it go. Soon time will be no more. I’ll be glad that the burden of memories and the weight time gone under the bridge will be lifted. Meanwhile,

“How did it get so late so soon?”
——-Dr. Seuss

seuss clock

Posted in christian life, theology

Popular Christian Blogger says you don’t have to “do” church

By Elizabeth Prata

Kendra Fletcher is a popular podcaster, blogger, and book author. She writes at her own space but also directs you her archive of articles she’s written for at KeyLife Ministry, where the motto is “God is Not Mad At You.”

Kendra’s latest blog essay is titled,

What To Do When You Just Can’t Do Church Anymore

You read that correctly.

Mrs Fletcher’s very first point begins thus:

YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO CHURCH ANYMORE.
For some of us, church attendance was a non-negotiable weekly imperative with many assumptions attached to it. Our attendance and involvement has been linked to our faithfulness, our commitment, and our spiritual depth. Church attendance should be none of those things. It’s entirely okay to step out.

For all of us, church attendance IS a non-negotiable. Mainly for the reasons of: the Body (Romans 12:5), gratitude (Colossians 3:16), and command (Hebrews 10:25).

It is entirely not OK to step out.

Mrs Fletcher’s second point is that it is OK to step out if you were doing it for the wrong reasons. Take time to reassess, navel gaze, grab some me-time, she says. Not in those exact words, but close.

If you find that your church has become an idol, or ritual, or that you have become spiritually neglectful toward others within that body, or whatever wrong motivation you’d had- the solution is not to step out. You repent and confess. You lay your sin down in front of the throne, asking for forgiveness, and lay your sin down in front of the pastor and church people, and ask for forgiveness. Then pick yourself up and go next Sunday, pleading with the Spirit to help you grow in this area.

In the essay there is a lot of me-me-me. She writes-

Answering a concerned or critical question about why you aren’t involved/serving/plugged in/part of a community group can be answered with a simple, gracious, “I’m working through some stuff and just need some time, thanks.” Then walk out the back door.

What about relying on the Holy Spirit to help you through ‘your stuff’? What about dumping the prevalent attitude that I can work through my own stuff, Jesus need not apply, thanks. What about realizing that ‘your stuff’ is the Body’s stuff and that you’re not supposed to carry it alone? (Galatians 6:2). What about setting aside ‘your stuff’, die to self, and help someone else who is going through stuff?

Sadly, Mrs Fletcher equates church attendance with ‘doing’. It’s not. It’s called obedience.  Mrs Fletcher does as so many bloggers, writers, and teachers these days do- equates obedience with ‘legalism.’

Ladies, following the commands of scripture is not legalism, try as many female bloggers tell you that it is. It’s called obedience. Developing Godly habits and adhering to them is not legalism, hard as many woman essayists explain to you that it is. It’s called Discipline. Legalism defined by Theopedia is,

a term referring to an improper fixation on law or codes of conduct for a person to merit or obtain salvation, blessing from God, or fellowship with God, with an attendant misunderstanding of the grace of God. Simply put, legalism is belief that obedience to the law or a set of rules is the pre-eminent principle of redemption and/or favor with God.

Arthur Pink put it simply, legalism is the notion  ‘that sinners become saints by obeying the Law.’

We know that grace first abounded in God’s sovereign choice to regenerate us as a person from dead in sins to alive in Him.

POST salvation, our gratitude becomes so great and our worship so deep, we want to obey the Word that comes from a wellspring inside us that flows from our regenerated heart up to heaven, into the throne room, passing the cross with a wide-eyed gaze of wonder and relief.

Here is TableTalk’s most recent essay that happens to be on the topic of Joining and Being a Member of a Church. Their biblical take on it is that church membership and regular attendance is non-negotiable.

There’s not a hint of individualism or independence anywhere in those images. Nowhere does Scripture describe, much less prescribe, the Christian life as something that can be lived alone. In Christ, each Christian is related to every other Christian, and together we are the family of God (Rom. 8:14–16; Eph. 2:19–22). Deep commitment to and active participation in the church are nonnegotiable.

There are legitimate reasons for leaving a church, and the TableTalk essay covers those and gives practical ideas for maintaining one’s obedience to the Word as you transition.

Ladies, don’t let popular bloggers deceive you into thinking church attendance is a negotiable. You really can’t hit the pause button for temporal, selfish reasons and then pick it back up when you’re good and ready.

To say that it’s OK not to “do church”? That is a repellent phrase. It’s undignified given the majesty of the Triune God whom we worship the wondrous Person we praise, Him who saved us from a craven life of rebellion and an eternity from the tortures of hell.

The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. One way we do that is go to church, faithfully, regularly. Not ‘doing church’ but loving the God who gave us His body, of which we are a part.

church

Posted in christian life, theology

Clothing: Readying the outer man and the inner man

By Elizabeth Prata

I didn’t do laundry this weekend. I have just enough clothing to get me through the week, and then I need to do laundry on Saturday to ready for Sunday services and then the work week again. I didn’t do that this weekend. So Sunday I was sort of stuck when I was getting ready for church. What to wear for worship service?

The Pharisees were obsessed with clothing. They not only wore the biblically required garments to show their ordained position, which was being obedient, but they deliberately altered their clothes to show they were even more holy than that, which was disobedient. They sought adulation and honors and were doing it through their apparel. Jesus saw through that of course.

He accused them of enlarging the borders of their garments (Matthew 23:5-6) – This refers to the loose fringe at the borders of the outer garment. This fringe was commanded in order to distinguish them from other nations, specifically as God’s people, and that they might remember to keep the commandments of God, (Numbers 15:38-40; Deuteronomy 22:12). Adorning the fringes were bells, and the Pharisees added more than the required amount so people would hear them coming. The Pharisees made the fringe border broader than other people wore them, so people would see them coming, and hear them when they walked on the corners to pray aloud.

But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’” (Matthew 23:5-7).

They loved the trappings, but not the reason for the trappings.

Yesterday I thought about what I would wear to church, I do not think it is too good to overly dwell on our apparel, church wear or work wear, or casual wear. There is a fine line beteen carefully considereing clothing formodesty and propriety’s sake, and suing clothing to gain status or pretension. The Bible is replete with admonitions about outer wear, believe it or not. It’s also replete with metaphorical warnings instructing us on the comparison of the outer garment and the inner man.

In Zephaniah 1:8 God warns that He will strike down those wearing ‘foreign garments’, or ‘strange apparel’ depending on your translation. The pagans wore strange apparel, often an indicator of degeneracy, especially in the old days when it signified allegiance to pagan gods.

As a woman, I’ve noticed the degeneracy in women’s wear. Skirts are shorter than ever, and necklines seem to plunge lower every day. It truly is hard to find a modest shirt these days.

Paul said, perhaps with a sigh of relief, that he never coveted other apparel: “I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing.” (Acts 20:33). It may seem strange to us today that the list of things that were coveted in Paul’s day were not only the expected items like gold and silver, but also apparel. But clothing bespoke wealth. Remember Lazarus and the rich man. (Luke 16:19-31). In Luke 16:19 the rich man’s name is forever forgotten but his wealth is what is listed, among the riches mentioned are clothing. “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day.”

Wearing purple was the Gentile way of signalling wealth and status. Pharisees might have enlarged their fabric borders and lengthened their tassels, but pagans showed off too, by wearing purple. Purple dye was expensive and only the richest of the rich could afford it.

Yet on the Day of the Lord, their wealth and clothing will not save them.

Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to deliver them. On the day of the LORD’S wrath; And all the earth will be devoured in the fire of His jealousy, For He will make a complete end, indeed a terrifying one, Of all the inhabitants of the earth. (Zeph 1:18)

It’s the inner man that counts more than the clothing of the outer man.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.” (Matthew 23:27)

I’m not saying that dressing up is a bad thing. I’m not saying nice clothes are bad, either. But if dressing up is the way we show off for church service, or to cal attention ot our bidies at work, then it is a bad thing. He knew the Pharisees and scribes were hypocrites, even though they were splendidly attired, because He could see their hearts were far from God. He knew the Rich Man was far from God too, despite the fine linens He wore to all his banquets. The poor man was justified, even though he wore rags.

Let’s think about how we can prepare ourselves inside and come to Him clean. Are we willing to examine ourselves? As we ready the outer man for church or work, let’s make sure we’re doing it correctly, not to show off wealth, status, or our bodies but as a token of our esteem to the One we worship. Even better, let’s ready the inner man for the day even more than we ready the outer man.

For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have“. (2 Cor 8:12)

Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.” (Romans 6:13)

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Tim 2:15).

He doesn’t care if we have a new dress or are wearing a tie, He does care if we over-spent in getting the new dress or tie and worse, if obtaining it was for the purpose of showing off. He does see the effort we make to ready our outer and our inner selves for the day and for His worship services.

If our heart is in right standing to Jesus (repentant and humble, a servant desiring change from the inside out) He will clothe us with the best clothes of all. —

I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10).

clothespins

Posted in christian life, theology

A Day in the Life of: Introduction

By Elizabeth Prata

Do you enjoy reading the Bible? I do. Too often though, I allow my mind to drift to the novelization of it, laying aside that this book recounts real, literal events with real, literal people. It’s easy to start thinking of the people we read about as either superheroes, or characters in a novel.

To combat the creep of fictionalization of the pages, or alternately, to make them more real to me, I often think about the people in the Bible going about their day. Our teaching elder recently preached through John 4, the Woman at the Well. This scene of this illegitimate housewife is easier to imagine as she goes about her day, because the time of day and her wifely task is often preached as an important part of the scene. How the housewives gathered in the early morning or later afternoon to draw water from the community well because it was cooler. How that was all the water they had to use during the day, unless they wanted to walk the whatever miles to get more from the well. And so on. A housewife’s day is also recounted in Proverbs 31.

But there are a lot of other professions mentioned in the Bible besides housewife. Shepherds are rife throughout the pages. King, scribe, farmer, fisherman. Tanner, tent-maker, baker, fig picker, seller of purple, cupbearer, cook, hunter, and so many other professions mentioned. What was a fisherman’s day like? What did a seller of purple do? What is a tanner, anyway? Is there still a job of cupbearer?

I decided to do a series on people in the Bible going about their day doing their job. For example, A Day in the Life of: A Tanner, A Day in the Life of: A Merchant. A Day in the Life of: A Cupbearer, and so on. I’ll select professions to write about based on the amount of reliable information I can find (and understand, lol). If there is a profession mentioned in the Bible you’re interested in learning about, what a day in that Bible person’s life would have been like, let me know. I’ll do my best to research it out.

collage 1
Baker, fig picker, fisherman, scribe… What was the first century Palestinians’ job like?
Posted in christian life, theology

On a life in service

By Elizabeth Prata

UpstairsDownstairsClassic_Cast_600x338
Original cast of the classic PBS period drama, Upstairs, Downstairs

Do you remember the original Upstairs, Downstairs TV show? The show ran on PBS from 1971-1975. It was the original famous period drama, depicting the doings of a wealthy Edwardian family in London from the point of view of the aristocrats living upstairs, and from the servants who lived downstairs. It was set in the time of 1903-1930.

In the PBS show Downton Abbey, we see another show depicting the lives of the aristocrats who lived upstairs and the servants who lived downstairs. This show ran from 2010 to 2015 and was also set in the Edwardian period, with its events spanning from 1912-1926.

I love a good Edwardian period piece. Even as a high school aged girl watching the 1970s Upstairs, Downstairs show for the first time, I was fascinated with the downstairs. Why do the servants do what they do? They often spoke of a life ‘in service’. What is it like to spend one’s life in service to a household? How do they maintain a lifetime of loyalty to a family?

Edwardian servants were expected to be very disciplined and reliable. …A butler was the most important servant of an Edwardian house and acted as the liaison between the servant and his master. Source

In Upstairs, Downstairs, Hudson was the Butler. This was the highest rank of servants that existed. He was responsible for the staff’s training and perfect execution of their various jobs, the goal of which was the smooth life of the lords and ladies upstairs. Hudson said his calling was a life “in service.” Though his sister ran a boarding house and his brother was a civil engineer, Hudson felt his calling was to serve others in a household. He did so with utter dignity and pride.

In Downton Abbey, it was Carson who managed the household staff. In the show we see him training the other servants on how to set the table, using rulers to ensure symmetry in the place settings, exhorting them to be invisible, not to draw attention to themselves, but to perform the job as smoothly as possible.

Carson the Butler’s exactitude to detail, his nearly round the clock call to service, his extreme loyalty to the lord of the household were all part of the package. The benefit to the servant was that he had a home to live in, a lifetime tenure usually, and salary.

carson
‘Carson’ in the period drama Downton Abbey

Hudson and Carson were fictional characters, but their lives were based on millions of men who performed the faithful service. I’m sure by now you see exactly where I’m going with this metaphor. ‘Hudson’ and ‘Carson’ (and the men they were based on) served their lord with all their strength and mind and body. They did it for what? A bed under a roof, and a salary?

How is our service to the Lord of all? We are called to a life of service when He regenerates us. We are new creatures. Instead of serving satan and our own lusts, we now serve Lord Jesus in any and every way He desires. We have been released from a life in service to the devil, and now in gratitude and obedience, in Spirit power, we must serve Jesus with all our strength, soul, mind and soul.

hudson
‘Hudson’ polishing an item

When we watch a period drama like the ones I’ve mentioned, and we see the loyalty and attention to detail, the ceaseless service of the Butler, sometimes we might wryly curl our lip and say, ‘man those guys were rigorous!’ Yet how rigorous are we in our service to the One whom we owe everything? Those guys did it for the pride in their job, and a bed and a few dollars. We are co-heirs with Christ, who achieved a perfect life so He could hang on the cross and endure all of God’s wrath, for us. He did it in obedience to the Father. Jesus was rigorous in every detail, diligent and exact in following the Law, all so He could die on the cross in abject humiliation, endure terrifying wrath, so that we could live.

When we see Hudson carefully polishing the ash tray so it shines and glitters, we see a man who takes every task, no matter how low or insignificant, to its complete end in pride and honor. All of the household tasks were ultimately done for the honor of the aristocrat living upstairs.

As for us, when we ready ourselves for church, do we do the same? Or do we throw on any old clothes, arrive huffing at church just before the opening, plop in the pew, and mindlessly begin singing?

When we hop in the car to deliver a lesson to a small group, have we been diligent in seeking the highest and best possible outcome? Researching in detail, crafting our sentences with delight and conviction? Did we even pray?

Before setting off to vacuum the church and dust the pews, do we take as much care as an Edwardian butler would have in ensuring the place of worship is gleaming and showing its best, on behalf of the Lord upstairs?

If the butlers of old served with loyalty and honor, diligence and exactitude, how much more so, should we? We serve others on earth, and ultimately we serve for the dignity and honor of the Lord in heaven.

Let’s take stock of our service to the Lord today.

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)

Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. (Psalm 2:11)

Posted in christian life, theology

Mail Call: What is your opinion on the Christian’s responsibility regarding voting?

By Elizabeth Prata

mail call
Mail Call on the old TV show M*A*S*H

Q.
I would like your opinion on the Christian’s responsibility regarding voting.

A.
I’m not a good person to ask. I am very conflicted over my own behavior in this issue.

I used to be intensely involved in politics, being a reporter/editor of a weekly newspaper and covering all the politics there was. I had and still hold a firm belief that the US is the best country to live in, and that an aware and involved citizenry is what’s best for America. However, I ingested a little too much of local politics back then covering it for the paper, and now I have a healthy distaste for all politics! The level of greed & corruption disgusts me, and the news media’s current hatred toward all conservatives doesn’t help. It’s a minefield trying to educate myself on the local referenda or the national issues because of all the blatant fake news.

I do vote for President and usually Senator/Representative. But that is about it. I don’t do a lot of research into local ordinances, zoning, or  ballots any more because it all still turns my stomach.

I also believe what John MacArthur preached as the Christian’s responsibility toward government involvement. Here is the opening of his part 3 sermon on the topic, and of course he went on with scripture and biblical examples.

Christians and Politics part 3

My point is not that Christians should remain totally uninvolved in politics or civic activities and causes. They ought to express their political beliefs in the voting booth, and it is appropriate to support legitimate measures designed to correct a glaring social or political wrong. Complete noninvolvement would be contrary to what God’s Word says about doing good in society: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10; cf. Titus 3:1-2).

It would also display a lack of gratitude for whatever amount of religious freedom the government allows us to enjoy. Furthermore, such pious apathy toward government and politics would reveal a lack of appreciation for the many appropriate legal remedies believers in democracies have for maintaining or improving the civil order.

A certain amount of healthy and balanced concern with current trends in government and the community is acceptable, as long as we realize that that interest is not vital to our spiritual growth, our righteous testimony, or the advancement of the kingdom of Christ. Above all, the believer’s political involvement should never displace the priority of preaching and teaching the gospel.

I am always trying to find that balance between what Dr MacArthur Mac phrased as “pious apathy” and the Bible’s concept of “responsible involvement.” I don’t think I’ve hit it. And I always hold my nose whichever course I take. So those are my thoughts! What are your thoughts?

Question used with permission from sender.

Posted in christian life, last things, prophecy, trevin wax

More on Eschatological Discipleship

Destruction of Jerusalem, Wilhelm von Kaulbach, 1860

Trevin Wax is author, speaker, blogger and one of the Editors of Lifeway. He is also a student and is busy finishing up his dissertation. He said on his blog recently that he plans to pause his blog in order to make time to finish his dissertation, which was on the topic of Eschatological Discipleship.

I was intrigued by this new term, because it seems that the emphasis and giftings the Lord has placed in me is aligned with this kind of discipleship. I mentioned Mr Wax’s term “eschatological discipleship” in a recent post. After that, I thought about it more and researched more.

I’m not talking solely about prophecy, though it is the foundation for this kind of discipleship. My goal has always been to quicken the hearts and minds of fellow believers to live increasingly holy lives in fervency and diligence in light of the fact that Jesus is coming again. Discipling people to be reminded of the King to whom we will face at a moment’s notice, the rewards that are laid up for us and which we store up ourselves as well, and the fact that the more we look up the better citizens of heaven we will be on earth for His kingdom and our fellow man. It’s to tell people, prophecy matters, because we are living it.

As Mr Wax had said in his summary of what eschatological discipling is,

Taking a Break and Asking for Prayer

The topic of my dissertation is “eschatological discipleship.” Following Jesus means understanding our times in light of the biblical vision of history and having the wisdom to make the right choices when the path ahead seems unclear.

Many gospel-centered folks are right to point out that the New Testament’s moral imperatives are often grounded in Christ’s finished work for us in the past. What we sometimes overlook, however, is how many of those moral imperatives also look forward to Christ’s return in the future. We are called to be “children of the day” in a world that knows only darkness.

The question that propels me forward is this:

What kind of discipleship is necessary to fortify the faith of believers so that we understand what time it is, we rightly interpret our cultural moment, and see through the false and damaging views of history and the future that are in our world?

That is the question I posed in my workshop at TGC this year: Discipleship in the Age of Richard Dawkins, Lady Gaga, and Amazon.com: Grounding Believers in the Scriptural Storyline that Counters Rival Eschatologies. (The audio from the talk is available here.) To be alert to our times is a gospel requirement, says Oliver O’Donovan:

To see the marks of our time as the products of our past; to notice the danger civilisation poses to itself, not only the danger of barbarian reaction; to attend especially not to those features which strike our contemporaries as controversial, but to those which would have astonished an onlooker from the past but which seem to us too obvious to question. There is another reason, strictly theological. To be alert to the signs of the times is a Gospel requirement, laid upon us as upon Jesus’ first hearers.

Mr Wax also mentioned this topic in an essay at The Gospel Coalition titled 4 Marks of Biblical Discipleship, of which eschatological discipling is one of the marks.

4. Discipleship is Eschatological
Discipleship is eschatological in nature, because the church that makes and receives disciples is eschatological in nature. By eschatology, I’m not referring merely to the “last things” doctrines often relegated to the back of systematic theology textbooks. I’m speaking of eschatology in a broader sense, as encompassing the Christian vision of time and the destiny of our world. Eschatology in this sense informs both our evangelism and our ecclesiology.
I love the picture Lesslie Newbigin paints:

“The church . . . calls men and women to repent of their false loyalty to other powers, to become believers in the one true sovereignty, and so to become corporately a sign, instrument, and foretaste of that sovereignty of the one true and living God over all nature, all nations, and all human lives.”

Seeing discipleship from an eschatological standpoint impacts the way we preach and teach. The alternative is to minimize the eschatological understanding of discipleship, which will leave us with an incomplete worldview, imbalanced discipleship, and eventually, a tragic inability to model the Christian way of life, since modeling implies obedience in a particular time and place.

Discipleship is eschatological, because questions like “What time is it?” and “Where is history going?” greatly impact a disciple’s worldview and inform what modeling a life of following Jesus looks like.

There are two aspects to our walk in the faith. One is that we as humans are living in a point in time. We have a birth date and a death date. Our walk with Jesus while in the flesh is finite. Esther was placed in the King’s life “for just such a time as this.” It was pivotal, her life began and ended and reached a climactic moment we all know occurred in Esther 4:14b.

Many gospel-centered folks are right to point out that the New Testament’s moral imperatives are often grounded in Christ’s finished work for us in the past. What we sometimes overlook, however, is how many of those moral imperatives also look forward to Christ’s return in the future. Trevin Wax.Yet, the other aspect of our existence is not a point in time but a person living in a stream of time in the past, present and future all at once. This mirrors the Lord “who was, who is, and is to come.” We were saved, we are being saved, and at a future time the salvation will be completed in glorification. It’s like we’re standing in a stream, with the current of all of time swirling by our feet. We look left, upstream and we see through our biblical lens the plan of God since Adam and Eve, and our feet are in the same stream of time that they are/were/will be again. Even Esther’s climactic moment was only part of a time-stream where if she did not act, “relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place.” (Esther 4:14a). The stream flows no matter what we do or what part of it we are standing in.

We look at our feet and see the fish we need to catch and so we are busy performing service to the Lord. Then we look downstream and we see the future. The stream flows but it curves and we cannot quite see what is ahead but we know there are currents and rapids and a waterfall, because we can hear them. We read the Bible and we can see ahead as far as the Lord allows by having given us glimpses from the Bible of where this great rushing stream of water is flowing to.

Wax: “eschatology…as encompassing the Christian vision
of time and the destiny of our world.”

What I gather Mr Wax is saying is that when discipling we always focus on the upstream, in looking at the past work of Christ. We also focus on our feet and fish for men and tend the creek where we are standing. However, we rarely tell our discipled members to look downstream at what is ahead. We say to the fisherman acolyte, “You don’t need to look ahead, where this great stream of time and plan of God is flowing isn’t important for catching fish today, here, now.” But it is.

Let me give a practical example of how John MacArthur eschatologically discipled his flock in this way. The Cripplegate summarized Dr MacArthur’s message We Will Not Bow, given last week.

Yet the thrust of the message was not condemnation. MacArthur clearly wanted to encourage believers, and so he ended with  2 Thessalonians 1:3-10.  In this rich passage, the Thessalonian believers are warmly commended for their “perseverance and faith” in the midst of persecution and afflictions.  Apparently this faithful congregation endured many hardships for the cause of Jesus Christ. Paul wants these believers to find relief in the doctrine of the second coming of Christ.  Paul tried to comfort the Thessalonians by assuring them that judgment will be merciless to those who reject the mercies of God in Christ.

The eschatological portions of scripture are given as a warning to the ungodly (Jude 1:7) and as comfort to the sheep not just in the coming rescue (1 Thessalonians 4:18) but we’re exhorted to find comfort in the fact that God will punish the wicked. (2 Peter 2:9).

Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.  This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven…  (2 Thessalonians 1:4-7a)

The relief spoken of is the coming of Christ in which one of His intentions is to repay and rectify all things. MacArthur finishes by saying:

The key here is at the beginning of verse 7, the middle of verse 7, “when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven.” That’s our focus. It’s ever and always the Christian’s hope. No matter how bad it gets, Jesus is coming.

Disciple your folks eschatologically, encouraging the brethren in the full sweep and scope of Christ’s plan on the earth and under the earth and in heaven. He was, and He is, and He is to come. He is our hope, He is our relief, He is our rescue, He is our Rock. Drink from that refreshing living stream.

and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:4).

Posted in christian life, eli, holy, prophet, samuel

Samuel’s retirement as Judge of Israel and the lessons for us today

Gerbrand van den Eeckhout (1621–1674)
Hannah presenting her son Samuel to the priest Eli

Samuel had been a faithful man of God since his mother Hannah had presented him to Eli in the temple when Samuel was three years old. You might remember Hannah’s prayer. The LORD had closed her womb, and desperately Hannah wanted a child. She prayed in the temple, promising to deliver a child that the LORD gives her, back to Him for His glorious service. The LORD was pleased with this. He opened Hannah’s womb, and the child born was Samuel.

Samuel served for many years as Priest, Prophet and Judge.

The day came when Samuel was going to retire as their Judge. The People had clamored for a King instead, and God acceded to this. So Samuel gathered the People, and spoke to them in farewell.

And Samuel said to all Israel, “Behold, I have obeyed your voice in all that you have said to me and have made a king over you. And now, behold, the king walks before you, and I am old and gray; and behold, my sons are with you. I have walked before you from my youth until this day. Here I am; testify against me before the Lord and before his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Or whose donkey have I taken? Or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed? Or from whose hand have I taken a bribe to blind my eyes with it? Testify against me and I will restore it to you.” They said, “You have not defrauded us or oppressed us or taken anything from any man’s hand.” And he said to them, “The Lord is witness against you, and his anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.” And they said, “He is witness.” (1 Samuel 12:1-5)

I find this profoundly beautiful.

When the LORD called little Samuel into service, you’ll remember the scene. Sadly, old Priest Eli was dim of eyesight, and as we’ll see, dim of hearing also. The visions to Israel were rare in those days. The LORD called to Samuel.

Then the Lord called Samuel, and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. (1 Samuel 3:4-5)

Three times the LORD called and three times Samuel answered “Hear I am!” It took three times for Eli to figure out that it was God who was calling Samuel. Samuel opened his service to the LORD with those powerful three words, ‘Here I am’. As a parallel, when the LORD called Isaiah, Isaiah also responded with, “Here I am!” (Isaiah 6:8).

Samuel ended his service as their Judge with the same phrase he began service, “Here I am.” We know that when we are before the people of the Lord, we are before the Lord. (Acts 5:4, Acts 9:4).

Before Samuel spoke last words to prompt them to remember the LORD and all He had done for them, Samuel did something first. He checked his relationship with the People. He asked them if there was any blight in his behavior to cause a stumbling, to cause an offense, to have come between them and him. He would make amends. The People answered, “No”. Samuel had not defrauded, had not oppressed, had not cheated, had not bribed.

Samuel went on with his message, bringing all the Lord had done to the Israelites’ mind. Samuel closed with this-

Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.” (1 Samuel 12:24-25).

It is such a parallel to us today. Now, the Old Covenant and the New Covenant distinguishes us from the OT Israelites and the NT Christians. Further, there are not Priests, Kings, Judges, or Prophets of Israel anymore. However, the principles are the same. For example,

1. Samuel was a faithful servant of the LORD all his days. He was attuned to God’s will, he was diligent to follow His voice, and he was faithful to God’s people. Eli’s spiritual hearing had grown so dim, he failed to hear God calling to Samuel. Yet Samuel was attuned all his days. Are we attuned to the Lord? Are we available to perform service to Him? Do we diligently and actively comply when we do hear His voice (through the scriptures)?

2. Samuel lived a holy life before His people. We are called to do the same.

Source: Elegant Finishes by Gina

Living holy and blameless before the Lord means living holy and blameless lives before His people, too. I’d said a moment ago, ‘We know that when we are before the people of the Lord, we are before the Lord.’ (Acts 5:4, Acts 9:4). I’d used those two verses from Acts to show the truth of my axiom. When Ananias and Sapphira lied about the portion of money they had pledged to the church, they were not lying to Peter. They were lying to the Holy Spirit (who is IN Peter). When Saul was persecuting Christians, he was not just persecuting some people who happened to be living in the Middle East, he was persecuting the Spirit IN the people. That’s why Jesus said, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?”

When we are before God’s people, we are before God.

3. Samuel’s call to charge him so he could make amends, before he got to the business of reminding them of what God had done, is similar to today’s New Testament charge to cleanse ourselves before we approach the Lord’s Table for communion. We are not only charged to cleanse ourselves before the Lord but to clear things with any of the brethren. If there are any outstanding sins, we must rectify them first.

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. (1 Corinthians 27-29)

It is a call to be reverent, holy, and mindful of all Who God is and what He has done. Attempting to be reverent about what Jesus has done for us though a filter of unconfessed sin or through the muck of grudges and bitterness against one in the Body, is not behaving in worthy manner. Samuel cleared the decks first. We must do the same.

Old Testament or New Testament, we are called to live holy lives.

but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:15-16, cf Leviticus 11:44, Leviticus 19:2)

Samuel’s call to the people to charge him with any wrong he had performed so as to make amends was not only holy but humble. In that way, it was a beautiful moment. God, grant me the humility and ability to live a holy life as Samuel did and as You call us to do.

Posted in bible, christian life, mothers, spurgeon

The importance of Mothers

I mentioned in a post a earlier today that I’d received a pile of books, one of them being the “Life and Works of Rev. Charles H. Spurgeon” (Memorial Edition), January 1, 1892. It is a biography of Charles Spurgeon, the famous preacher of the late 1800s.

In endeavoring to illustrate to the reader the influences of Spurgeon, it is noted that his great-grandfather, grandfather, and father were all preachers. The life and works of these respected men was much detailed, and used as an important illustration of the influence onto Spurgeon the son.

However, the mother is not left out. She is an important influence also. It was written of Charles Spurgeon’s father and mother,

“Both Mr and Mrs Spurgeon made great sacrifices of personal comfort to give good education to their children, and the children were taught the habits of thrift and self-denial. The care thus bestowed on their training when young has been to the parents a source of much satisfaction; the good results of that care are manifested in the happy home lives of their children. When, at some future period, the historian of the Metropolitan Tabernacle and of the Stockwell Orphanage is considering the primary cause of those great enterprises, the care which Mrs Spurgeon bestowed on the early training of her family must be counted as valuable auxiliary in preparing the way for such exemplary conduct.”

In addition, of Mrs Spurgeon solely, we read the following: (and please note Mrs Spurgeon bore 17 children, with nine of them dying when they were babies and she raised 8, all while her husband was often gone for long periods traveling the preaching circuit.)

Household Nurture

As the children were growing up, the father, like many professional and public men, feared his frequent absence from home would interfere with the religious education of the little ones. But happily for him he had a true helpmeet to cooperate with him in this important work, and happy for those children they had a noble mother who lived for them, and sought to build them up in true Christian character. Nor had she lived unrewarded for her pains. Hear the good man speak thus of his wife:

“I had been from home a great deal, trying to build up weak congregations, and I felt that I was neglecting the training of my own children while I was toiling for the good of others. I returned home with these feelings. I opened the door and I was surprised to find none of the children about the hall. Going quietly upstairs, I heard my wife’s voice. She was engaged in prayer with the children. I heard her pray for them one by one by name. She came to Charles and specially prayed for him, for he was of high spirit and daring temper. I listened till she had ended her prayer, and I felt and said, ‘Lord, I will go on with Thy work. The children will be cared for.”

Thank You Lord for Godly mothers! Thank You for Godly fathers!

Posted in christian life, condemnation, joy, prophecy

Do you struggle with condemnation? It’s not complicated. Don’t.

Post-salvation, do you ever feel any condemnation, or ever struggle with it? A lot of people do, especially new Christians. I don’t want to seem super-spiritual or anything, but I don’t struggle with condemnation. I’ll tell you why, and maybe it would be encouraging.

Accused of being dogmatic all my life, I always saw things in black and white, right and wrong. People said that as I grew up I’d come to know that there are gray areas.

Do you see any gray there?

I mulled that over for a long time but rejected that notion, there is no gray area. There is only right and wrong, dark and light, good and bad, etc. The “seeking” of the rest of my life was to discover a philosophical construct which fit my innate sense of either/ors.

Buddhism seemed excessively complicated. Wicca seemed excessively simple but trying to be complicated. Islam, well, Islam is just crazy. Catholicism had too many rules, and they contradicted each other.

I found my dogmatism, my either-or perspective, satisfied in Jesus.

In Him there is law/grace, broad road/narrow road, condemnation/forgiveness, in Christ/out of Christ, heaven/hell. A great gulf is fixed. Everything with Jesus is clear and simple. Not simplistic, because Christianity is the most complicated and deep philosophy/religion/way of life one can ever study, but simple in its approach. The Gospel is often rejected because ‘it can’t be that simple’.

Let’s take a look at a scene. At the end of the Tribulation, Jesus will have blinked out all the lights in the universe. There will be no moon, no sun, and no stars. Earth will be wrecked so probably no electricity. It will be dark. It will be dark for a while, because Jesus says no one knows the day or time the son of Man is coming. (Matthew 24:36).
whoever does not believe is condemned already. John 3:18

Then all of a sudden a blinding light fills the sky. JESUS is coming in wrath, and with condemnation on His lips, and His glory is undimmed, unveiled, and no other light competes with it. It terrifies the inhabitants of the earth! They fall down and hide under the rocks and in caves, crying out

“Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?” (Revelation 6:16-17)

If I think myself condemned, or have done an action that Jesus would condemn, I think of that scene. Am I there? NO. I am not one of those unbelievers hiding under a rock and begging to escape the notice of the Lion of the tribe of Judah? NO!

Well, since Christianity is either-or, and if I’m not there, where am I? HERE:

More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:11)

So I never struggled with condemnation, because it’s either-or. If I think about my sins, former or present, sure, I’d feel condemned. It is a heavy weight to know I fail Jesus even today, with the Spirit in me. But I don’t think about it. If I do, I’d be putting myself on the place of those poor blasphemers in Rev. 6 at the coming of Christ, hiding under the rocks and terrified of His approach. I’m not there, that’s not me. So, who am I? I am forgiven, in the light, embraced by Jesus who knew me before the foundation of the world. It simply isn’t profitable to think of being condemned, and we’re told not to:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Not that we don’t feel bad when we sin. I certainly do. But the glory of Christ is His intimate relationship with us, and my opportunity to bring my mourning over my sin to Him and ask for forgiveness.  He delights in His children and wants to forgive. As for the unnecessary feeling of condemnation?

It’s not complicated.

Jesus went through excruciating pain and agony in order to satisfy God’s wrath. He took our punishment so that we would not be condemned. Therefore I will not diminish His work by adopting an attitude of condemnation.

It’s not complicated.

If we have the faith of a child, we won’t overcomplicate the message. We’re co-heirs with Christ, in us there is no condemnation. (Romans 8:1). Why purposely burden my life with a gray area of endless options for feeling condemned in my sins when Jesus stripped it all down to two? We are either outside Christ and condemned or we are in Christ and forgiven. It’s that simple.