Some Pre-Thanksgiving Reading for you

It’s the day before America’s Thanksgiving and I’m on vacation, just kind of cruising through the week, so…

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Start out by taking a little Thanksgiving Quiz

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I’m thankful for grammar: a wise use of it, that is. So, keep your colons clean and properly functioning…

How To Use the Colon

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4-Spiritual-Blessings-to-Be-Thankful-For

Four Spiritual Blessings To Be Thankful For … at least four!

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The Transforming Power of Thankfulness and Forgiveness

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I’m also thankful for humor and creative people who can make me giggle…like Liz Climo, When She’s Not Drawing the Simpsons.

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Taking a Look Around

It’s the week of Thanksgiving, at least for those of us in the central part of North America. Our northern brothers have already celebrated their day of thanks. I’m on vacation this week, so I thought I’d provide some ‘deeper’ thoughts from others for you to check out:

The Case for Idolatry: Why Evangelical Christians Can Worship Idols
Warning: as you read this, insert your tongue firmly in the side of your cheek, as the author does in writing this parody. Then attempt to hear the argument he’s truly making…and you’ll see how selective and silly the argument truly is.

number1ish-300x30020 Cities Who Can Legitimately Complain About the Cold
I live in the state who’s sports motto is ‘Evaluating Quality Losses.’ MLB, NFL, NBA, even Division I college hoops take this motto quite seriously. No need wasting time and emotional energy bragging about wins and championships. So, it’s nice to see our state’s capital and biggest cities have something to brag about in being #1.

The Preacher, the Counselor, and the Congregation
I do not have the privilege of having a staff member serving alongside me. We just are ‘there’ yet. I’m not sure that a Minister of Counseling would be my first choice, even if Cornerstone were ready to bring on an associate staff member. This doesn’t make it wrong for others to do so; it’s just not my first priority. Instead, what I long to see is our people taught, trained, equipped and ready to be the counselors for one another. I’m not advocating against ‘professional’ counselors; I am advocating that brothers and sisters in Christ can do, and should do, far more in this role.

Bible-Balance in Christian Ministry
Reaching far back into the archives of articles I’ve stored up, I present this one from DesiringGod Ministries.

Me, Myself & I – Sologamy
Does anything scream ‘S-E-L-F’ louder than this concept? Is there another example of the mayhem being produced by all the disparate notions about marriage floating around in the cultural air we breathe than this? On a purely pragmatic scale, however, I guess it keeps the costs of wedding much lower. Sigh!

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Thankful for All Things…Even Work of All Sorts
Such lunacy in our world is largely because so few have ‘attitudes of gratitude’ like Dylan Weston (apologies for the cliched sloganeering).

 

Bitesize Biographies: Samuel Rutherford by Richard M. Hannula

Bitesize-Biographies-Samuel-Rutherford-197x300About the Book – 

Samuel Rutherford was 36 years old when he was exiled to Aberdeen, feeling that he was ‘an outcast and withered tree.’ He had served the little church at Anwoth in Galloway faithfully, but in those August days of 1636 he seems to have felt for a while that his useful service was over.

Little could he have known that his exile would end in less than two years when Scotland rose up to resist the king’s domination of the church. He could hardly have imagined that he would serve a key role in reasserting biblical doctrine, worship and government to the Scottish church. He would also play an important part in the Westminster Assembly, defining Christian doctrine for much of the English-speaking world for centuries to come, and nearly two dozen influential books would flow from his pen, winning the admiration of the Reformed churches of Britain and the Continent. He would even have the most prestigious universities in the Netherlands and Scotland clamor to have him fill their chairs of divinity, and as a professor of theology, he would mold the minds of a generation of Scottish pastors and theologians.

Alexander Whyte wrote, “No man of his age in broad Scotland stood higher as a scholar, a theologian, a controversialist, a preacher and a very saint than Samuel Rutherford.”

Nor could Rutherford have envisioned in his wildest dreams that a collection of letters that he sent to friends from his exile in Aberdeen would rank among the most beloved Christian classics, a timeless source of spiritual inspiration to millions of readers.

51HyYSsew-L._UX250_About the Author – 

Mr. Richard Hannula received a B.A. in history from the University of Southern California and was selected for membership in the Phi Beta Kappa National Honor Society. Mr. Hannula holds a master’s in education from the University of Washington.

He is the author of Our Northwest Heritage: A History of the Pacific Northwest from a Christian Perspective and Trial and Triumph: Stories from Church History.

He serves as principal of Covenant High School (in Tacoma, WA) and also teaches history, math, and speech. Richard Hannula, his wife, and their five children reside in University Place, Washington.

 My Review – Having read ‘The Letters of Samuel Rutherford’ several times, I can’t help but enthusiastically recommend Richard Hannula’s Bitesize Biography verison of Samuel Rutherford. Rutherford is quickly becoming one of my earthly pastoral ‘heroes’. Letters should be required reading for every seminary student entering pastoral ministry. Forget church growth technique. Throw out ‘seeker-sensitive’ models. Abandon all things business-esque that one thinks will grow and run a church. Instead, be introduced to the grand Mr. Rutherford and pastor like he did.

‘Hang upon the Word but with all to look beyond the Word and with the use of the Word, call for the inward grace of the Spirit.’ (Rutherford, page 32) Rutherford would implore his congregation at Anwoth to be soaked with the Word, but always with the aim to see Christ, the Living Word Himself. He loved Christ above all things and would commend this same love to his flock: ‘I had but one joy out of heaven next to Christ my Lord, and that was to preach Him.’ (Rutherford, page  35) How it grieved him when, during his early years at Anwoth, he saw little fruit: ‘I see exceedingly small fruit of my ministry. I would be glad of one soul to be my crown of joy on the day of Christ.’ (Rutherford, page 39) [My copy is littered with Post-It Notes® marking quote after quote.] Christ was everything to Rutherford, never more so than just prior to his home-going: ‘But Christ is to me wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.’ (Rutherford, page 131) His last words, just prior to death were: ‘O for a well-tuned harp.’ and ‘Glory, glory dwelleth in Emmanuel’s land.’ (Rutherford, pages 131, 132)

Rutherford was known by his colleagues in Scotland as a great pastor, preacher and theologian. He lived in that topsy-turvy time of the 17th century, when England’s throne ruled over Scotland but Scotland’s church would have none of England’s bishops’ rule over them. They were exciting days, challenging days, dangerous days and foundational days. Rutherford was in the thick of it almost from the beginning, albeit somewhat reluctantly.

Discover how God used Rutherford, amidst physical weakness and great trials (he lost several children and one wife during his life time). Find out what made this man’s heart beat with such passion for Christ. And then go deeper, as Hannula provides further reading resources for your exploration in the future. Again, I would commend ‘The Letters of Samuel Rutherford’ to you as well. You’ll never be the same again.

Get your hands on this bitesize biography right away.

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Samuel Rutherford may be purchased at…

Amazon.com

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Cross Focused Reviews. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday Frivolities

Okay, here it is…Friday once again. A lightweight, fluffy bit of stuff and nonsense, some of which will astound and amaze you and some of which will make you puff little breaths of laughter through your nostrils!

Let’s start with the silly bits…

We do seem to have our own language, don’t we. Yet, we try so hard to sound like the world. And it all comes out just a bit like this:

HT: Godfruits

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There’s a conspiracy amongst the wildlife to make life difficult on us humans. Here’s actual video proof:

HT: Twistedsifter

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Here in Rochester, MN, we’ve had snow on the ground already for two weeks. Not large amounts, but still, it’s November and we had snow well before Thanksgiving. Then it turned cold and stayed cold (this Friday morning, it was 0º). However, what I’m finding when friends and neighbors complain about our weather is give them the old ‘You think you’ve got it bad?’ reply:

HT: Twistedsifter

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Now for the amazing, the astounding, the really awesome (okay, I’ll get on with the video)…

HT: Twistedsifter
HT: Project Romsdalen

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Thankful Thursday

Give Thanks leaves and brickIn just one week from today, we, here in America, will observe a day set aside to give thanks. I think that I’m a grateful person, but my own heart can not be the judge of this. It has deceived me far too many times for me to trust a self-assessment to…well, me. So, I must apply God’s Word to my heart and my life, allowing it to guide me to the One who is greater than I, to whom I owe all my gratitude and from whom I have received all things. What do I have that I haven’t received from Him? So, I give thanks…

• for hard lessons learned. They seem to sink in the deepest and remain there.

• for degrees of hardship. If every trial was as bad as it could possibly get, we’d never survive. God is gracious, though, and decrees them in varying intensities.

• for upholding grace through each of these hardships, whether little or small. In the words of Andrè Crouch’s old gospel song, ‘If I’d never had a problem, I’d never know that He could solve it…’

• for men around me who care for me, and are learning to care for me. I think I’m beginning to learn to trust them for more, even as they learn I need to learn to lean.

• for the words of encouragement I’ve received this past week; serious words, genuine words, prayerful words that help a weak man stand in the face of hard matters.

• for a wife who knows me better than I know myself and uses that knowing to care for me, love me and, yes, on occasion, press me forward.

• for the Church, the Body of Christ; my local body where I serve, as well as the whole true body of Christ. None of us would ever make it on our own, so God gave us.

• for hymns, for solid, Bible-teaching, Scripture-saturated, doctrine-bound hymns; no sweeteners added; no artificial flavors; rather, life-sustaining, strength-giving, heart-humbling hymns.

Be thankful; give thanks; raise grateful voices to Him on high.

I’m Not Bailing Out On You

You_should_love_one_another1Love with no exit strategy. I’m convinced we don’t know much of this type of love today. How ti breaks my heart when a couple come to me, professing faith in Christ, wanting to be married, but announce that they’ve been living together.

‘Why have you chosen to live together?” I always ask them.

‘Because I want to make sure he/she is really THE ONE I’ll love and spend the rest of my life with.’

‘So, if he/she turns out not to be that one?’

‘Oh, I know they are now.’

‘So, you’ve had an exit strategy in place all along; you’ve just not had to use it…yet.’

We hear of this frequently when couples announce their intentions of marriage, but make sure everyone knows they’ve written up and agreed to ‘prenups’ – a legally binding agreement in the event the marriage ends. Love WITH an exit strategy.

Christians are to practice none of this. That heart-broken person in the pew ahead of you? Embrace them and their suffering and serve them. The depressed young woman who shows up once or twice a month at church? Show her the hesed of God. The housewife who’s anxious about everything? Come alongside her, listen to her, help her see how God loves her and promises to always take care of her. Love her without thinking, ‘How quickly can I get out of this situation?’

‘But am I supposed to love everyone this way?’

The easy answer would be to say, ‘Yes, because it’s how God loved us’ –

‘We love because he first loved us.’

We hesed (I know, the Greek word is not ‘hesed’ but the truth of it is the same) because God first ‘hesed-ed’ us. God has promised to never leave us or forsake us  (Hebrews 13.5, ESV).

But, we’re not God; only He is God. So, we must start one at a time. Start with someone you see who really needs this love. Don’t look for someone who’s not really in need because you think it’s be easy to love that person. Jesus condemns the practice of only showing goodness and love to those who are like you or don’t really need it.

Love another…one at a time. Start here and you’ll be amazed at the capacity God gives you to love more.

So, you and I, as God’s people must be like this to one another. This was Jesus’ commandment:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

If we would become the face of God’s grace to others, I’m convinced it would change nearly everything the world sees and thinks about the church.

Love with no exit strategy. Love that seeks to have self burned away so what is left is Christ.

No Exit Strategy

No-exitHesed is a Hebrew word that has a full meaning. It can mean ‘mercy’. It can be translated as ‘kindness’. ‘Steadfast love’ is another possibility. Or simply ‘love’. while studying the book of Ruth, I’m learning that this word is one of the most full-orbed words in the OT. We sell it short if we think it just means loving another person.

Naomi showed ‘hesed’ to Ruth when she blessed her and tried to send her back home to her family, following the death of her (Naomi’s) husband and her two sons, one of whom was Ruth’s husband.

Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband! (Ruth, 1.8–9, ESV)

Naomi’s phrase, ‘deal kindly with you’ is the same as saying, ‘May the Lord show you “hesed”…’ She wanted something very special for her daughters-in-law; she wanted God’s best for them, so she asked for God’s blessing of hesed.

Ruth will have none of it, however, and ends up ‘out-hesed-ing’ Naomi:

But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.

Ruth grasps what hesed is all about– it is love with no exit strategy. Love that embraces another’s pain and heartbreak, Kindness and mercy which follow through beyond what most humans would even think of. Ruth ‘gets it’!

Then Boaz shows up in chapter 2. Boaz knows the hesed of the Lord and he shows it to Ruth. Not because he loves her, romantically speaking…that hasn’t happened yet. In fact, we’re not really ever told that this is how Boaz loves Ruth in this short, four-chapter book of Scripture. We supply that, read it into the story, make it all about ‘wuv, twu wuv’ (Princess Bride quote for those of you not in the know). What Boaz does for Ruth is protect her, provide for her, show mercy & kindness to her. Along with this, he blesses her abundantly:

The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge! (Ruth 2.12, ESV)

Boaz desires that God pour out hesed upon Ruth…and Naomi.

What we see here so far is the love that God shows to us, His people, being extended to others. And what this love actually means is having no exit strategy, no longing to bail out after things get hard or difficult. This type of love embraces all aspects of the person’s life, even the suffering. The Lord, then, uses this suffering as the crucible to burn off self: self-righteousness, self importance, self-preservation. Self cannot compete with hesed. Hesed will not allow self to remain unchanged; it cannot.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2.5–11, ESV)

Jesus had no exit strategy. He left behind all the prerogative of being God, a member of the Trinity. He actually took on human flesh and lived among us, embracing our life – all of its hardships, struggles, moments of pain and suffering. No way out, no plan to leave.

Satan tempted Him sorely right before He entered His ministry years: ‘Jesus, get out now; they’re not worth it and you are. You’re a big deal! Prove it and live it up now!’

When Jesus told His disciples He was going to give His life to show the hesed of God, Satan used Peter’s misunderstandings and false desires to try once again to let Jesus take an easier way out. Jesus rebuked Peter, but He was, in essence, rebuking Satan as well.

In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed like you and I have never prayed, even adding up all our times of prayer. He knew what was coming. He knew the immense suffering He must embrace. And while it seems as if He’s crying for an exit strategy, He’s not. ‘Not my will, but Yours be done’ (Luke 22.42, ESV).

Love with no exit strategy.

Part 2 tomorrow.