Practice Unproductivity (part 3)

Commanded to Rest

The concept of Sabbath is almost entirely gone.[1] It is one thing to enforce sabbatarian “blue laws” on a whole country,[2] it is another thing to think we are self-sufficient and have no need for any type of Sabbath.

This is not the place to have a big argument on the Sabbath so I don’t intend to do that here. But, I think it should be clear that we must honor the Sabbath in some way. We must at least set aside time to intentionally rest and reflect…

The Bible says we are commanded to rest.[3] It says, “Honor the Sabbath and keep it holy.” The Sabbath was primarily a day of rest. So, we could paraphrase, “Honor the day of rest, set it apart, keep it.” So, “We do not rest because our work is done; we rest because God commanded it and created us to have a need for it.”[4]

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Practice Unproductivity (part 2)

Our Supposed Self-Sufficiency and Rest

“Only the weak rest.” That’s how we’re tempted to think. We play god. We think we can be everywhere and be everything to everyone as fast and as efficiently as possible.  

We play god. We hate limits! We have military macho (makes me think of the nacho man commercial). We believe we can do everything and if we can’t there’s a problem. A problem with us, we’re weak, or a problem with someone or something else. We think we’re unlimited. We think we can play god. It’s really a form of idolatry. 

This carries over to our work as well. Our relationship with work is way out of whack.[1] We admire workaholics and will sacrifice our marriage and kid(s) to the god of success and achievement.  We are out of step with the reality of our needs and limits.[2] 

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Practice Unproductivity (part 1)

“Practice unproductivity,” what?! The phrase, especially outside of DC, sounds almost heretical. You probably cringed when you read it and you’re probably tempted to stop reading. 

It’s important to realize, when I say, “practice unproductiveness” that I’m not saying binge YouTube, play candy crush, or Fortnight. Please don’t do any of those things. I’m actually talking about Sabbath rest…

Sacrifice and Sabbath Rest

Aren’t we supposed to be living sacrifices? Isn’t that what Romans 12:1 says?

Living sacrifices don’t spend their time sitting around eating bonbons. They die. They give themselves away.

Charles Spurgeon essentially worked himself into the grave. And the Apostle Paul was absolutely willing to spend and be spent for the sake of the gospel.

So, what does the Bible say? Sacrifice or Sabbath rest? 

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A Monopoly of Outcasts

The church is a gathering of the redeemed. We are made holy. We were not innately holy. The church is a place where those who know they are sick come to the Great Physician (cf. Lk. 5:31). The church is a monopoly of outcasts. It is filled with struggling ex-thieves, ex-drunkards, ex-adulterers, and ex-revilers (cf. 1 Cor. 6:9-11).

The church is (or should be!) a welcoming place for all because we have all been welcomed at Jesus’ own expense. Colossians radically says that in the church “there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all” (Col. 3:11).

The church is filled with all sorts of people with all sorts of problems. Let’s not be prideful about our problems and prudish about the problems of others. 

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Why should I believe the Bible? (pt 9)

Some doubt the authority of the Bible but as we have already seen there are actually a lot of reasons to believe the Bible. The Bible itself also claims to be necessary and… 

Authoritative 

The Bible claims repeatedly to be more than mere human words. The Bible says it is inspired—breathed out—by God (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The Bible has the authority, not as words from men, but as words from God (1 Thess. 2:13). “When the Bible speaks, God speaks.”[1] Wayne Grudem says, “The authority of Scripture means that all the words of Scripture are God’s words in such a way that to disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God.”

The Bible is not merely a record of what God has said in the past but a means of God speaking today. That is a good thing. We need to hear what God has to say. We need God’s guidance and we need an authority. God alone is equipped to be that authority. 

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A Brief Theology of Emotions

We all have emotions. How often do we consider emotions from a biblical perspective though?… Yet, what better place to turn than God’s word! So, what does the Bible say about emotions?

Emotions are part of God’s good design

First, it is important to realize that “Our emotional capacities are part of our nature as personal beings created in the image and likeness of God.”[1] Second, Emotions are part of God’s good design.[2] Third, We often don’t think about it but we are actually commanded to be emotional. For example, Psalm 2:11 says “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.” And there’s a bunch of other examples (Deut. 28:47-48; Ps. 51:17; 97:10; 100:2; Matt. 6:25-34; Rom. 12:9, 15; Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:15).

So, Jay Adams says:

“The fact is that there are no damaging or destructive emotions per se. Our emotional makeup is totally from God. All emotions of which He made us capable are constructive when used properly (i.e., in accordance with biblical principles)… All emotions, however, can become destructive when we fail to express them in harmony with biblical limitations and structures.”[3]

You may have heard: “Don’t follow your emotions” or “don’t let your feelings get the best of you,” or “use your head.” But emotions are not bad in themselves. God created us with emotions.

Even our negative emotions are not always wrong. It’s not always bad to feel bad. Sometimes feeling sad and angry is good and right. It’s important to realize that in the Psalms the genre of lament is most dominant.[4] It is also important to remember that there is no book of Joys but there is a book of Lamentations.[5] We don’t always have just “good” feelings and that’s okay. On the other hand, God made us at least in part to experience profound joy and to experience this forever, Psalm 16:11 says. So, our first take away is for us to realize that emotions are not bad in themselves.

But what’s wrong with emotions? Or, why is it that sometimes we can’t or shouldn’t trust our emotions? Because…

Emotions are broken by sin

A lot of us remember the (true) story of Adam and Eve. John Frame has said, “the fall… was rebellion of the whole person—intellect as much as emotions, perception, and will—against God.”[6] After looking at Genesis 3:1-6 (notice the highlighting) we can agree with what Frame says:

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Insights from Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret

I really enjoyed reading Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret. You should read it. Here are some observations from my reading…  

Summary of the book: Trust. Trust and unreserved commitment to the Lord is how I would summarize Hudson Taylor and this book. Before he went to China he said: “‘I shall have no claim on anyone for anything. My only claim will be on God. How important to learn, before leaving England, to move man, through God, by prayer alone'” (33). And that’s what we see happen. He learned to trust God alone. He trusted God even with his children. He said, “‘I find it impossible to think that our heavenly Father is less tender and mindful of His children than I, a poor earthly father, am of mine. No, He will not forget us!'” (125). And in dark days, God enabled[1] Taylor to say: “The battle is the Lord’s, and He will conquer. We may fail—do fail continually—but He never fails” (p. 154).

Insights from the book:

  1. The impact that one person can have is tremendous when they trust the Lord and have an unreserved commitment to do His will (cite the number of believers in China now, p. 12).
  2. “We want, we need, we may have, Hudson Taylor’s secret and his success, for we have Hudson Taylor’s Bible and his God” (p. 16). That is such a good reminder. The same God that brought Israel out of Egypt, rose Jesus from the dead, and provided for Hudson Taylor is the same God who is Lord of all now.
  3. Hudson Taylor wore Chinese clothes even though this was unprecedented and looked down upon by some (cf. e.g. p. 65). This is an important reminder that God and His Word must govern us, not the expectations of others.
  4. Hudson Taylor had “the Lord’s own yearning of heart over the lost and perishing” (19 cf. p. 32, 112). “We may have more wealth in these days, better education, greater comfort in traveling and in our surroundings even as missionaries, but have we the spirit of urgency, the deep, inward convictions that moved those that went before us; have we the same passion of love, personal love for the Lord Christ? If these are lacking, it is a loss for which nothing can compensate” (p. 127). This reminds me that I need (God help me!) to develop at heart for the lost and love and passion for the Lord Jesus Christ who is their only hope.
  5. “It was not easy to keep first things first and make time for prayer. Yet without this there cannot but be failure and unrest” (p. 22). Prayer and delighting myself in God is vital.
  6. “The One Great Circumstance of Life, and of all lesser, external circumstances as necessarily the kindest, wisest, best, because either ordered or permitted by Him” (p. 79). I need to have a bigger view of God. This is vital in part because “The secret of faith that is ready for emergencies is the quiet, practical dependence upon God day by day which makes Him real to the believing heart” (p. 100).
  7. “’My father sought the Truth,’ he continued sadly, ‘and died without finding it. Oh, why did you not come sooner?’” (p. 95). This quote reminds me of the absolute importance of heralds going to share the good news of Jesus.
  8. “In these days of easy-going Christianity, is it not well to remind ourselves that it really does cost to be a man or woman whom God can use? One cannot obtain a Christlike work save at great price” (p. 27). This quote—and Hudson Taylor’s life—reminds me and reinvigorates me to seek hard after the Lord.
  9. “How then to have our faith increased? Only by thinking of all that Jesus is and all He is for us: His life, His death, His work, He Himself as revealed to us in the Word, to be the subject of our constant thoughts. Not a striving to have faith… but a looking off to the Faithful One seems all we need; a resting in the Loved One entirely, for time and for eternity” (p. 158). This quote answers a very important question. How to have more faith? Meditate on Jesus!
  10. “If God should place me in a serious perplexity, must He not give me much guidance; in positions of great difficulty, much grace; in circumstances of great pressure and trial, much strength? No fear that His resources are mine, for He is mine, and is with me and dwells in me” (p. 165). This is a good reminder that whatever I face, God will be there with me as my ever-present, every-ready, and all-powerful help.

Personal application:

  1. I need to trust the God who is simultaneously the Lord of the universe and my Father.
  2. I need to faithfully pray in reliance and desperation to the One who is Lord and Father.
  3. I need to renew my commitment to spend and be spent for the Lord. I need to renew my commitment to discipline myself for the sake of godliness.
  4. I need to meditate more on Jesus (His person and work).
  5. I need to trust that God can use one poor and needy sinner such as I to accomplish great things for His glory.
  6. I need to develop more of a heart for those who are without hope and without God in the world.
  7. I need to keep first things first and seek God above all things—even good, healthy, and productive things.
  8. I need to remember that whatever challenges are in front of me God’s grace is sufficient. God is all-powerful and He is with me. He is my Father!

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[1] Taylor says, “I was enabled by His grace to trust in Him, He has always appeared for my help” (p. 153).

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