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Resolutions worth living for.

Posted by MDViews on December 31, 2008

2009 is upon us, for good or ill, and it has me thinking about resolutions. The most common New Year’s resolutions, I would guess, would be to quit smoking, lose weight and get in shape. I’m not a “resolution” kind of person. I figure if something is good enough to be considered worthy of a change in my attitude or behavior on January 1, it is good enough to warrant the same change the other 364 days of the year.

But, I attend Bethlehem Baptist Church in the twin cities area. Our pastor is John Piper and he has a love for the teachings of Jonathan Edwards, the 18th century Puritan theologian and pastor. Jonathan Edwards was probably the greatest thinker and theologian of our time. When a young man, Jonathan Edwards penned 70 resolutions, guidelines for living, which he read every week. Of his resolutions, the following are the most convicting for me. I pray daily that God will draw me close and so fill me with Himself that I find such resolutions achievable. I can tell you from experience (lots of experience), I can accomplish none of these on my own.

1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriad’s of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever.

4. Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it.

5. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.

6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.

7. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.

8. Resolved, to act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God.

28. Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.

55. Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to act as I can think I should do, if I had already seen the happiness of heaven, and hell torments. July 8, 1723.

56. Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.

61. Resolved, that I will not give way to that listlessness which I find unbends and relaxes my mind from being fully and fixedly set on religion, whatever excuse I may have for it-that what my listlessness inclines me to do, is best to be done, etc. May 21, and July 13, 1723.

I long to always give glory to God, to be efficient with my time, to live with all my might, to be courageous and to be poor in spirit, realizing that I am the chief of sinners. I strive but fail to study the Scriptures steadily and constantly and frequently, to act as if I had seen both heaven’s glory and hell’s torment, to fight my weakness constantly and never give up, even if I fail, and to never give way to the laziness that pulls my thoughts and soul away from God. For those ends I strive with God’s help every day of the new year.

I would that God grant you, dear reader, a year of seeing and experiencing to glory of our great God.

Posted in Faith and the Glory of God, Holidays, Personal | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »


Posted by MDViews on November 28, 2008

In 1620, the separatist group of Puritans, called the Pilgrims, made their way ashore at Plymouth Rock starting one of the most famous adventures into the new world. Of course, modern understanding misses the most important aspects of that period of time, just like modern society misses the mark on Christmas and Easter.

The Pilgrims made such a voyage to escape religious persecution in Holland (that’s right–they had already escaped England). They faced a hostile land, in that the first winter saw so many die. But spring brought a productive association with the Indians leading to a large harvest in the fall. So they invited their new friends and for 3 days celebrated God’s providence giving thanks to Him.

They were quite politically incorrect. They gave thanks to God, not the Indians, because they knew God was in control and it was Him who brought the Indians into their lives. They preached the gospel to the Indians as they viewed them as pagans (which they were). They started out with a communal-type society, but soon realized they would fail without change, and so instituted the policy of no food for those who did not work. Also, they allowed private property and allowed those with private property to keep or sell the produce from it. No safety net for those who chose not to work. The church provided for widows, orphans and the infirm. No environmental studies before raising livestock or planting crops on their own ground.

From those radical ideas started the economic engine of America and our freedom from government interference with religion. The rest is history.

It is hard for me to imagine the struggle they faced. It was not romantic. It was dirty, hard, cold work from sun up to sun down. People then died from ailments we easily treat today. Yet, they recognized that God provided for them and to Him belonged praise and honor and thanks and glory.

I pray God will give my a thankful heart–for breath, for family, for His saving grace, for His call on my life. And I pray that the true spirit of thanksgiving will pervade our gathering this year.

I pray God will give me a heart of thanksgiving every day of the year.

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World-wide Tragedy

Posted by MDViews on January 10, 2005

The tsunami that devastated southeast Asia, India, Sri Lanka and Africa is truly one of the great natural disasters of our time, especially in terms of loss of life. The latest figures I’ve read place the death toll at 149,000.

149,000. The number numbs the mind. 149,000 souls now gone from this earth.

So, where does the Christian put this? How does one answer questions about God in the face of such disaster? Does God exist? If he does, how could he allow this? Is He in control, or is this just a random, senseless act by nature? Without a solid theology on the supramacy of God in all things and the love He has for us, even Christians can be shaken in their faith by such events.

John Piper, the pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church, has addressed this issue in a way that gives Christians a way to comprehend and understand this in relation to our faith. I can’t say it better than he, so here is an excerpt from his sermon on 1-2-05:

Our grief in these days since the Tsunami struck (December 26, 2004) has been doubled—first there is the untold suffering and death. One entire church on the coast of Tamil Nadu, India was wiped out while they were worshipping. Only one survivor from the whole church. Story after story breaks your heart.

Then there is a second grief: the religious people around the world, including some Christians, who say so many God-belittle things. Like one article in the Wall Street Journal, that said, “No Christian is licensed to utter odious banalities about God’s inscrutable counsels or blasphemous suggestions that all this mysteriously serves God’s good ends” (David B. Hart, “Tremors of Doubt,” WSJ, December 31, 2004). Such talk compounds this calamity with greater and greater evil.

Biblical hope and love in this calamity are sustained in many different ways by the Bible. The central one is that Christ came into our suffering and conquered it so that it does not have the last word. But Oh, how much more the Bible has to say so that we are not carried away by calamities from our hope in the sovereign wisdom and power and goodness of God. How could a person say what this man said, if he read and believed his Bible? He writes as a Christian theologian!

Shall we not believe in the God who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah? Genesis 19:24—“Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven.” Genesis 13:10—“The Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.”

Shall we not believe and worship the God of the Exodus? Exodus 13:15—in the final plague on Egypt it says, “The Lord killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt.”

The people of God in those days knew far better than we do what Moses would write later in Deuteronomy 32:39. Thus says the Lord: “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.”

Shall we not trust and reverence the God of Joshua? Joshua 10:11—the Amorites gathered against Israel, but it says, “The Lord threw down large stones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died. There were more who died because of the hailstones than the sons of Israel killed with the sword.”

Shall we not fear and worship before the God of David? 2 Samuel 12:15—when David committed adultery and made Bathsheba pregnant, it says, “The Lord afflicted the child . . . and he became sick” and he died. God owns all life. He gives and he takes according to his own wisdom which mingles justice and mercy in perfect proportion. He does not owe any human any life (Job 1:21).

Over and over in the Scriptures we have descriptions of God’s judgment on the nations and on his own people. For example Amos 4:10 where God reminds Israel what he had done: “I sent among you a pestilence after the manner of Egypt; I killed your young men with the sword, and carried away your horses,and I made the stench of your camp go up into your nostrils; yet you did not return to me, declares the Lord.”

Or in the same time Isaiah 37:36 describes what God did to Sennacherib and the Assyrians when they came against his people, “The angel of the Lord went out and struck down a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies.”

And this is what the book of Revelation says will happen in the last days of God’s wrath on the world. For example Revelation 16:9 describes one stroke against the earth: “They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursedthe name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory.” Oh, let us not be among that number.

Paradoxically, stories like this from the Old and New Testament keep us from being knocked utterly off balance by the calamities of our own day. They keep the solid foundation of God’s sovereignty under our hope. They sustain hope. The heart-rending calamities of our time are not new—and they are not over. We don’t know all that God is doing in them. But to say that God cannot be in them, and that his “inscrutable counsels” are not at work, and that this suffering does not “mysteriously serves God’s good ends”—to say that shows (to use the words of Jesus) “you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:29).

What Pastor Piper says is so true. Knowing how God has acted in the past, knowing His sovereignty in all things, knowing that His inscrutable counsels may be hidden to our finite minds provides us hope and assurance.

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