Archive for March, 2012

March 30, 2012

Let Your Requests Be Made Known to God

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Phil. 4:6
Full Text: Prov. 17; Phil. 4
Photo of the Day: #TPFperspective

Pray | It is astounding that the omniscient and omnipotent Lord and Creator of the universe wants and asks His people to pray. Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” [1]. James wrote, “You do not have, because you do not ask” [2]. Why does God repeatedly remind us to pray? Martin Luther once said,

“He knows that we are timid and shy, that we feel unworthy and unfit to present our needs to God. We feel the needs, but we cannot express them. We think that God is so great and we are so tiny that we do not dare to pray … That is why Christ wants to lure us away from such timid thoughts, to remove our doubts, and to have us go ahead confidently and boldly. Though I am unworthy, I am still His creature; and since He has made me worthy of being His creature, I am also worthy of receiving what He has promised and so generously offered to me. In other words, if I am unworthy, He and His promise are not unworthy. You can venture on this vigorously and trustfully, you can put it in His lap joyfully and confidently” [3].

How | How do we pray? Paul wrote, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” [4]. First, we pray “in everything” – that is, we stay in a mindset of prayer, not just in crises [5]. Second, we pray “by supplication” – that is, by asking for help. Third, we pray “with thanksgiving” – that is, we make requests with contented hearts that thank God for whatever He chooses to wisely and lovingly give us. What is the result of this type of prayer? Paul continued, “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” [6].

Prayer | Lord, We care about having your peace in our hearts and minds because we struggle with worrying and know that your peace surpasses our understanding. Since your peace comes through our prayer, awaken our love for you so that we want to talk with you as vigorously and joyfully as we do our most intimate friends and family. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Matt. 7:7 ESV  |  [2] James 4:2 ESV  |  [3] The Sermon on the Mount, trans. Jaroslave Pelikan, Vol. 21 of Luther’s Works [Concordia, 1956], p. 234.  |  [4] Phil. 4:6 ESV  |  [5] See also 1 Cor. 10:31; Matt. 6:9.  |  [6] Phil. 4:7 ESV

March 29, 2012

Treasuring Christ Above All Else

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Phil. 3:7-8
Full Text: Prov. 16; Phil. 3
Photo of the Day: #TPFperspective

Colonial | Several years ago, my friend hosted a dinner party when her mother came in town from Tennessee. Her mom was a Colonial Dame – that is, a woman who is descended from an ancestor who lived in British-America. One guest asked, “What’s the difference between a Colonial Dame and a Daughter of the American Revolution?” In a strong, highbrow Southern accent, she kindly replied, “Oh, bless your heart. About 150 years, sweetie.”

Hebrew | Paul was the equivalent of a Colonial Dame. He was “circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews” [1]. In other words, he wasn’t an immigrant or a convert. His parents were Hebrews and their parents before them. They circumcised him according to the Abrahamic covenant and named him after the great king of Israel, Saul, who was also descended from Benjamin, one of only two sons of Jacob and his beautiful wife Rebekah.

Accolades | Yet Paul didn’t just live off the wealth and reputation of his family. He worked and achieved and performed. Thus, not only was he a Colonial Dame, he was also a Supreme Court Justice. He attended prestigious schools, excelled beyond his classmates, and received professional accolades. As he said, “as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless” [2].

Reversal | When Paul met Christ, however, everything flipped: “Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” [3]. Why was Christ more valuable to him than everything he had inherited and achieved? Because “being found in Christ” meant that he was saved from eternal death unto eternal life [4], “sharing in his sufferings” meant that he was being made more holy [5], and “attaining the resurrection from the dead” meant that he would rise again with Christ [6]. These are the immeasurable riches of knowing Christ – treasures that eclipse everything else and rewards that cannot be inherited, bought or achieved.

Prayer | Lord, We long to live like Paul – practically and daily living out the reality that we value knowing Christ more than anything we could ever have or achieve. Therefore, help us love the eternal riches of Christ and teach us how to treasure him above all else. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Phil. 3:5 ESV  |  [2] Phil. 3:5-6 ESV  |  [3] Phil. 3:7-8 ESV  |  [4] Phil. 3:9 (justification)  |  [5] Phil. 3:10 (sanctification)  |  [6] Phil. 3:11 (glorification)

March 28, 2012

The Incarnation: “The Grand Miracle” (CS Lewis)

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Phil. 2:5-7
Full Text: Prov. 15; Phil. 2
Photo of the Day: #TPFperspective

Incarnation | Jesus was both fully man and fully God. As man, he walked and breathed and, as deity, he healed sickness and forgave sins. Even his contemporaries knew that he was claiming divine status. In one instance, Jewish scribes heard Jesus forgive a man’s sins and said, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” [1]. In his doxology, Paul wrote, “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” [2]. Jesus gave up the status and privilege that was his in heaven for our sake and came to live as a man.

Miracle | The grand miracle, according to C.S. Lewis, is the Incarnation – that is, God becoming man. He wrote, “If the thing happened, it was the central event in the history of the Earth – the very thing that the whole story has been about” [3]. He asks, “What can be meant by ‘God becoming man’? In what sense is it conceivable that eternal self-existent Spirit, basic Fact-hood, should be so combined with a natural human organism as to make one person?” [4]

Necessary | Why was Jesus’ deity necessary? In Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem offers three reasons: “(1) only someone who is infinite God could bear the full penalty for all the sins of all those who would believe in him – any finite creature would have been incapable of bearing that penalty; (2) salvation is from the Lord [5], and the whole message of Scripture is designed to show that no human being, no creature, could ever save man – only God himself could; and (3) only someone who was truly and fully God could be the one mediator between God and man [6], both to bring us back to God and also to reveal God most fully to us [7][8].

Prayer | Lord, The incarnation is the grand miracle because our faith hinges on its truth. We worship the person of Jesus because he is fully God and, therefore, worthy of our worship. As man, he lived a perfect life of obedience so that you accepted his sacrifice as sufficient on our behalf. Thank you for making atonement for us and remind us daily of the beauty and the mystery of the incarnation. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Mark 2:7 ESV  |  [2] Phil. 2:5-7 ESV. See also J.I. Packer. Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs. Tyndale House Pub. 2001 Kindle Edition. Locations 1225-1230. (“Paul quotes from what seems to be a hymn that declares Jesus’ personal deity (Phil. 2:6); states that “in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Col. 2:9; cf. 1:19); hails Jesus the Son as the Father’s image and as his agent in creating and upholding everything (Col. 1:15- 17); declares him to be “Lord” (a title of kingship, with divine overtones), to whom one must pray for salvation according to the injunction to call on Yahweh in Joel 2:32 (Rom. 10:9-13); calls him “God over all” (Rom. 9:5) and “God and Savior” (Titus 2:13); and prays to him personally (2 Cor. 12:8-9), looking to him as a source of divine grace (2 Cor. 13:14). The testimony is explicit: faith in Jesus’ deity is basic to Paul’s theology and religion.”)  |  [3] C.S. Lewis. Miracles. Harper Collins, Inc. 2009 Kindle edition, p. 174  |  [4] Id. at p. 174  |  [5] Jonah 2:9 NASB (orig. footnote)

March 27, 2012

Slow Anger – Not No Anger – Is God’s Ideal

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Prov. 14:17, 29
Full Text: Prov. 14; Phil. 1
Photo of the Day: #TPFperspective 

Danger | Anger has a dangerous power. Not only can it harm the body and ruin relationships, it can also threaten wisdom because it distorts reality. As Solomon wrote, “A man of quick temper acts foolishly … Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly” [1]. Yet notice that Solomon didn’t condemn anger itself; he condemned hot tempered and quick anger.

Goodness | Slow anger – not no anger – is God’s ideal because it reflects His character. As the Lord proclaimed about Himself, “The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” [2]. In fact, Tim Keller has said, “It is a sin never to get angry” [3], and John Christenson said, “He who is angry without cause sins. But he who is not angry when there is cause sins. For unreasonable patience is the hotbed of many vices” [4]. Anger is an essential part of a loving God because anger is an outgrowth – not an opposite – of love. As Becky Pippert wrote, “Think about how we feel when we see someone we love ravaged by unwise actions or relationships. Do we respond with benign tolerance as we might toward strangers? Far from it … Anger is not the opposite of love. Hate is, and the final form of hate is indifference. God’s wrath is not a cranky explosion, but His settled opposition to the cancer which is eating out the insides of the human race He loves with His whole being” [5].

Order | Our problem, therefore, is not that we get angry; our problem is that we get angry at the wrong things. Our anger is disordered because our loves are disordered. How often do we ask ourselves, “Why am I angry in this situation? Because my own ego has been wounded? Or because the name of my Lord and Savior has been disregarded and His people have been the victims of injustice?”

Prayer | Lord, Let us be like you – slow to anger and abounding in love. For this is true wisdom that has rightly-ordered loves. Give us hearts that echo the words of John the Baptist, “He must increase, but I must decrease” [6], so that your glorious name and your beloved people are the treasures of our hearts. Then, our slow anger will rise up only when the precious things that you love are dishonored. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Prov. 14:17, 29 ESV  |  [2] Num. 14:18 ESV  |  [3] See Eph. 4:26  |  [4] See Tim Keller, “The Healing of Anger.” 17 October 2004.  |  [5] Becky Pippert, Hope Has Its Reasons.”  |  [6] John 3:30 ESV

March 26, 2012

Standing Against the Evilness of Evil

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Eph. 6:12
Full Text: Prov. 13; Eph. 6
Photo of the Day: #TPFperspective

United | Harry Potter is a great story that reminds us “how evil Evil is” – as Christian singer-songwriter Andrew Peterson put it [1]. In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, three wizarding schools – represented by their chosen champions – compete for prize money and a trophy. At the end, however, just as two champions simultaneously grab the trophy, Lord Voldemort – the most powerful Dark wizard in history, who up until this moment has been merely a rumor – appears. He kills one champion, but Harry escapes. Voldemort once again disappears into the darkness and the head of Harry’s wizarding school, Dumbledore, gathers all three schools together for an address. Although they had been competitors throughout the tournament, he encourages them to stand united:

“Every guest in this Hall,” said Dumbledore … “will be welcomed back here at any time, should they wish to come. I say to you all, once again – in the light of Lord Voldemort’s return, we are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided. Lord Voldemort’s gift for spreading discord and enmity is very great. We can fight it only by showing an equally strong bond of friendship and trust. Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open” [2].

Enemy | As the Church, our differences of worship styles and denominations are nothing at all since our aims are identical and our hearts are open. We have a common enemy – the Evil One. As Paul reminded the Ephesians, “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” [3]. His gift for spreading discord and enmity is great and, therefore, we must stand firm – in truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, the Word, prayer, readiness, perseverance and boldness [4].

Prayer | Lord, Jesus prayed that we would be one, as the Father and the Son are one [5]. Let us, therefore, not argue with one another about non-essential things. Instead, remind us how evil Evil is and how important it is for us to put on the armor of faith. Give us sensitivity to the presence of evil, especially when discord and enmity spread among us. Root us in the Word, prayer and community, as we continually exhort one another toward love and good works. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Andrew Peterson. Harry Potter, Jesus and MeRabbit Room. 11 July 2011.  |  [2] J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. p. 723.  |  [3] Eph. 6:12 ESV  |  [4] See Eph. 6:13-20  |  [5] See John 17.

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