Saturday, October 27, 2012

Loving your neigbor as yourself

From John Piper Love your Neighbor as yourself: Part 2: speaking about loving your neighbor as yourself, preaching on matthews account of Jesus answer to the scribe who asks him "what is the greatest commandment". 
He commands, "As you love yourself, so love your neighbor." Which means: As you long for food when you are hungry, so long to feed your neighbor when he is hungry. As you long for nice clothes for yourself, so long for nice clothes for your neighbor. As you work for a comfortable place to live, so desire a comfortable place to live for your neighbor. As you seek to be safe and secure from calamity and violence, so seek comfort and security for your neighbor. As you seek friends for yourself, so be a friend to your neighbor. As you want your life to count and be significant, so desire that same significance for your neighbor. As you work to make good grades yourself, so work to help your neighbor make good grades. As you like to be welcomed into strange company, so welcome your neighbor into strange company. As you would that men would do to you, do so to them.

In other words make your self-seekingthe measure of your self-giving. When Jesus says, "Love your neighbor as yourself," the word "as" is very radical: "Love your neighborasyourself." That's a BIG word: "As!" It means: If you are energeticin pursing your own happiness, be energetic in pursuing the happiness of your neighbor. If you arecreative in pursuing your own happiness, be creative in pursuing the happiness of your neighbor. If you arepersevering in pursuing your own happiness, be persevering in pursuing the happiness of your neighbor. In other words, Jesus is not just saying: seek for your neighbor the same thingsyou seek for yourself, but also seek them in the same way—the same zeal and energy and creativity and perseverance. The same life and death commitment when you are in danger. Make your own self-seeking the measure of your self-giving. Measure your pursuit of the happiness of others, and what it should be, by the pursuit of your own. How do you pursue your own well-being? Pursue your neighbor's well-being that way too.
Now this is very threatening and almost overwhelming. Because we feel immediately that if we take Jesus seriously, we will not just have to love others "as we love ourselves," but we will have to love them "instead of loving ourselves." That's what it seems like. We fear that if we follow Jesus in this, and really devote ourselves to pursuing the happiness of others, then our own desire for happiness will always be preempted. The neighbor's claim on my time and energy and creativity will always take priority. So the command to love my neighbor as I love myself really feels like a threat to my own self-love. How is this even possible? If there is born in us a natural desire for our own happiness, and if this is not in itself evil, but good, how can we give it up and begin only to seek the happiness of others at the expense of our own?
"Love God with all your heart" means: Find in God a satisfaction so profound that it fills up all your heart. "Love God with all your soul" means: Find in God a meaning so rich and so deep that it fills up all the aching corners of your soul. "Love God with all your mind" means: Find in God the riches of knowledge and insight and wisdom that guide and satisfy all that the human mind was meant to be.
In other words take all your self-love—all your longing for joy and hope and love and security and fulfillment and significance—take all that, and focus it on God, until he satisfies your heart and soul and mind. What you will find is that this is not a canceling out of self-love. This is a fulfillment and transformation of self-love. Self-love is the desire for life and satisfaction rather than frustration and death. God says, Come to me, and I will give you fullness of joy. I will satisfy your heart and soul and mind with my glory. This is the first and great commandment.
And with that great discovery—that God is the never-ending fountain of our joy—the way we love others is forever changed. Now when Jesus says, "Love your neighbor as yourself," we don't respond by saying, "Oh, this is threatening. This means my love for myself is made impossible by all the claims of my neighbor. I could never do this." Instead we say, "Oh, yes, I love myself. I have longings for joy and satisfaction and fulfillment and significance and security. But God has called me—indeed he has commanded me—to come to him first for all these things. He commands that my love for him be the form of my love for me. That all my longings for me I find in him. That is what my self-love is now. It is my love for God. They have become one. My quest for happiness is now nothing other than a quest for God. And he has been found in Jesus Christ."
So what, then, is Jesus commanding in the second commandment—that we love our neighbor as ourselves? He is commanding that our self- love, which has now discovered its fulfillment in God-love, be the measure and the content of our neighbor-love. Or, to put it another way, he is commanding that our inborn self-seeking, which has now been transposed into God-seeking, overflow and extend itself to our neighbor.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Worth Checking out: The Best of Times In New England

This morning, I saw this article from Collin Hansen, one of the speakers of at GCNE, and the editorial director for The Gospel Coalition. All I can say is, read it!

Here are some snippets:
These are the best of times for Christians in New England. The body of Christ in the northeastern United States is seeking unity, pursuing mission, enjoying growth, and tasting the goodness of God. No one person or institution has planned this work. No single church or theological camp can claim credit for it. But you will find throughout much of New England today thriving college ministries, fledgling church plants, and revitalized colonial-era congregations renewed in their zeal to love their neighbors and spread the gospel.
I don't mean to underestimate the ongoing challenges…Even so, these are the best of times in New England---after all, there has never been a golden era free of temptation to love self more than God and neighbor.
These are the best of times in New England because we wrongly suppose that Christianity depends on the comfort of a moral majority who live out biblical values even if they don't quite grasp the biblical gospel. We give thanks for such common grace, but we dare not invest outward appearance with salvific significance. A book like Revelation comes alive in New England, where Christians often feel the palpable hostility toward God and brazen disregard for his Word. Christians in New England must be prepared that their reputation with family, neighbors, and co-workers may not survive revelation of their faith.
These are the best of times in New England because God has raised up local church leaders who love their communities, who have committed to staying over the long haul as they trust Christ to change hearts and redeem souls. They understand the challenges. The have endured hardship. They have been tempted to hunker down but defied Satan to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to their neighbors and encourage fellow believers to do likewise
God is moving as he has not moved in America at least for four decades and as he has no moved in New England for two centuries. . . . You do not have to wait till next year. You don't have to wait ten years. You don't have to pray anymore, "Lord, send a revival." The revival is here! Only God knows if these best of times in New England will develop along the lines of earlier revivals in the region. Our days need not look just like those days to reflect a powerful work of God. Local Christians will be appropriately reticent to claim too much for fear of drawing undue attention on themselves and away from the God whose grace keeps the church in good times and bad. But now is a time for giving thanks. To God be the glory, great things he has done! 
As a born and bred New Englander with roots that go to the very founding of Vermont, I got goodbumps reading this thing. I cant begin to say how much my heart breaks for NE, and how much I want to see something amazing happen here. GCNE 2012 was awesome, and it was a pointed announcement that things are happening. It has started! Young guys are coming in, old guys are finding new life. Native guys like me are staying, guys from all over the country are coming. God is moving. The gospel is advancing... In New England! May we see God do something awesome here for the glory of His Name. I pray that these truly are "The Best of Times In New England". Read the whole thing here

GCNE Photo by Scotland Huber 

Blissfully unaware

This week, I was given a reminder how at any moment, your activities could be chronicled, and held up for the world to see. I was thumbing through a list of reflections put up by Justin Ruddy, clicked on a picture blog done by Scotland Huber, the photographer at TGCNE 2012, and all of a sudden, there I was. Keller, Piper, Um, Carson. The band, which was awesome...and me. Worshiping. Minding my own business, blissfully unaware that I was about to have my picture taken and put up for the world to see.

I got me thinking, once again, that we never know when our lives will be put on display. We never know when our lives will suddenly be thrown under a microscope. People are always watching. What will they see? Will they see a life devoted to Christ? Will they see a life celebrating the finished work of Christ? Will they see someone whose life is calibrated by the cross, built on a foundation of rock, and lived for the glory of the one who called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light? Will they see someone who is, to use a phrase from D.A. Carson, “gossiping the Gospel”? Will they see someone in love with the Gospel? Proclaiming it, celebrating it, telling it, and then living faithfully before God? Will they see someone who remembers at all time, that they are living as emissaries of a king, and people who are part of a cosmic battle between the kingdom of darkness and the Kingdom of God.

Or will they see something else? Someone who says with his mouth, I love Christ, but then, shows no compassion? Someone who flies off the handle instead of showing patience and mercy and self control? Someone who says, love your wife as Christ loved the church, and then speaks disdainfully to his wife? Someone who says, raise your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, but then prioritizes work and “ministry” over his children? Someone who says, I understand that Christian life involves cross bearing, but then grumbles about every slight? What will people see?

The world is watching. New England is watching. It’s watching me. And it’s watching you. What will they see on Facebook, on twitter? What will they see at work? What will they see at your kids Little League and Pop Warner games? And what will your kids see at home? Will they see a life lived in relationship to God, built on Christ, being remade by Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). This weekend, I was captured worshiping. But this week, people will see me at my best, and at my worst. What will they see? My prayer is that at my best and worst, my life will reflect the one into whose image I am being transformed. My prayer is that the same can be said of Christians throughout  New England.

 Photos by Scotland Huber

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

From the Messenger: A Voting Guide, Sort of

The countdown is on, and soon, someone will be elected to lead our nation for the next four years. As we come to the election, I have three things I want to say to anyone and everyone that is in any way connected with First Baptist. All of these are not new things for me to say, but all bear repeating this month.

First, understand that in this election, we should not baptize either candidate just because they are our preferred choice. A few weeks ago, Billy Graham’s organization removed Mormonism from the list of cults, it seems, for the sake of raising the appeal of Governor Romney with Evangelical Christians. I have gone through several emotions on this, anger, disappointment, disgust; it really bothers me. I believe that we must resist the urge to sanitize political candidates and declare them our holy man. That is definitely the case in this presidential election, an election in which Christians have (to use a crass analogy), “no dog in the fight”.

On the one hand we have the option of voting for President Barak Obama, who, while he says he is a Christian, has a set of beliefs that bears little to no relationship to the Christianity of the Bible. Besides the fact that the church he attended for over twenty years made clear that it views its non-negotiable commitment to Africa rather than Christ alone, he has made clear in many ways that he does not hold to the basic tenants of Christianity. In a 2004 article with the Chicago Sun Times he stated that he believed that “there are many paths to the same place”, ie the ancient heresy of universalism. He has also denied the need for evangelism, and the doctrine of hell. Additionally, the faith he has affirmed is works righteousness, rather than Christ’s finished work. In the same 2004 article he stated “What I believe in is that if I live my life as well as I can, that I will be re-warded.". Furthermore, the president has a long history at this point of taking scripture and twisting it to say things that it can’t mean in context. He also has made quite clear that feelings stand as the primary authority in his life, not the Bible. My point is that President Obama’s words, along with his actions as president make clear to me that what he believes is not Christianity. He may claim to be a Christian, but what definition stands behind that word? You can call a horse a dog, but its not a dog.

On the other hand we may vote for Governor Mitt Romney, who is a Mormon. Make no mistake Mormonism is not Christianity. Mormonism teaches that God was once a mortal man on another planet who progressed to become a God, and that Jesus and Satan are brothers, that we will become God’s our-selves if we live a good enough life and that truth is determined by feelings. This is all pretty dangerous stuff from a Christian perspective. And Romney was not just a cultural Mormon, guy who sat in the pew because his dad did before him. He was the equiva-lent of clergy in the Mormon church for a time. He is Bishop Romney. My point is that both men are clearly nowhere near being Christians. Lets resist the urge to pretend otherwise.

Second, having eliminated the option of just saying, I want to root for the Christian candidate, understand that you need to think carefully about how each man comes to their conclusions, and think care-fully about the morally and socially pressing issues of the day. What is the logic flow that you have perceived in each candidate, and what kind of moral compass do they use as they make decisions? These issues will affect how the president will lead. with these things, ask yourself who’s policies do you agree with most? What are the things that you see as the crushing issues of the day? Abortion? Gay Marriage and the on its heels antecedent, polygamy and polyamory (group marriage) and the slow destruction of all definitions of marriage? Social justice issues such as poverty and struggling education systems? Crime? The environment? Decide carefully who the best man for the job is, and what values are you looking for in a president, Choose wisely! All these issues will affect how the president will lead, and where they will lead this nation.

Having thought about these things, and answered in your mind the questions of who is the best candidate, vote according to conscience. As you vote, keep in mind that both the president, and Governor Romney are deeply flawed men, and remember that ultimately we are not electing a pastor-in- chief, we are electing a man who will lead the nation for-ward as president. Also keep in mind that each will be friendly and unfriendly to Christianity indifferent ways, and in different places. Don’t doubt that for a second. Consider wisely.
 
Third, remember that there is no salvation in politics. If this is the first time you’ve heard this from me, don’t worry, it’s an oft repeated line for me. You’ll hear it again, because it has become my ironclad conviction. Often we speak in almost messianic terms when we look at candidates, but the only savior is Christ. He lived the life we should have lived, and died the death we should have died in our place and for our sins. He alone paid the penalty for our sins, and he alone can right the woes. No man can. Psalm 146:2-6 tells us “put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever”.

We cannot expect that our nation and our world will be any more just, or fair, or ethical be-cause we vote for candidates X, Y, or Z, and we cannot expect that politics will provide the ultimate solution to the many woes our nation faces (including things like poverty, violence, addictions, terrorism, and the war). We are absolutely foolish if we think that we will get solutions to the major issues our society faces, just because we elect this or that candidate, or vote in this or that party. There are two reasons for this. A, like everyone else, politicians are marred by that pesky sin nature that leans towards the temptation to acquire more and more power and to use the office for their own interests, rather than the interests of the public good. But B, even if everything works out perfectly from a political perspective, and we write the very best laws possible (a big "if"), the problems that plague this nation run far deeper than the political spectrum. The problems that plague our nation are largely ethical and moral issues. An example of that was seen in the economic meltdown of 2008. There were laws in place that made many of the things that happened at that time illegal. But that didn‘t stop these things from happening, because the heart of the issue had to do with ethics and morals. Which brings us back to the point, there is no salvation in politics. Leaders fail and their plans come to nothing. The true source of our salvation comes from God, and if we want to truly see changes that transform our nation, we should not look to the political arena, but to the Lord. He is the only source of true salvation, and it is only through his grace that a society will be changed.

Someday Christ will come back, and right the world. For now, we wait, and we work to do what we can in the name of Christ, remembering that we are sent out as aliens and strangers who know that our sphere of responsibility as God‘s people goes way beyond the political sphere. We work as God‘s people, endeavoring to be agents of change that seek the good of society, people that pray for and seek the peace and prosperity of the city or town that we live in (Jeremiah 29:6-8), and people that show Christ‘s love to our community, in response to what God has done for us. Don’t ever forget, there is no salvation in politics. It’s not the gospel. Politicians may present themselves in the language of savior, but our only salvation is Christ, and his finished work.
 
As you come towards Election Day, I urge you to vote (it is your civic duty). But don’t go in with illusions, don’t go in with false hopes. Choose wisely.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

God at work

The mens small group bible study that i'm leading is studying the names of God this fall. Tonight, one of the names we are looking at is El-Elyon, God most high. Elyone means highest, the exalted one, emphasiing that God is the highest in every realm of life. As I was studying, I came across this poem, "Molding a Man" which captured my attention, because it speaks of how God is sovereignly remaking us for his purposes.


When God wants to drill a man,
And thrill a man, And skill a man,
When God wants to mold a man
To play the noblest part;
When He yearns with all His heart.
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall be amazed,
Watch His methods, watch His ways!
 
How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects!
How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him
Into trial shapes of clay which
Only God understands;
While his tortured heart is crying
And he lifts beseeching hands!
 
How He bends but never breaks
When his good He undertakes;
How He uses whom He chooses,
And with every purpose fuses him;
By every act induces him
To try His splendor out—
God knows what He’s about!
Source unknown

Friday, October 5, 2012

Mike Gantt Speaking about Immanuel Christian School for the Deaf on October 14

By way of reminder and more info, the press release that we sent to the papers here in Medfield. 
Pastor Michael Gantt of the Kenya Development Fund in Brattleboro, Vermont will be guest speaker at the First Baptist Church of Medfield on Sunday morning October 14th.  The service begins at 10:30am.  Pastor Gantt will be bringing the morning sermon as well as speaking about the children of the Immanuel Christian School for theDeaf for the Deaf in Ringa, Kenya.
Pastor Gantt has served as a Pastor in the New England area for over 40 years and has had an ongoing influence as a local pastor, working regionally with church groups and internationally with a variety of missionary projects ranging from relief in South Sudan, leadership development in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Kenya and most recently, as an advocate for the Immanuel Christian School for the Deaf. 
The children of the Immanuel School come from extreme poverty and great disadvantage because of their deafness.  There is little to no infrastructure in the country for persons with disability or disadvantage and most services in these areas are provided by Non Government Organizations (NGO). The Immanuel School is under the auspices of Deaf Ministries International, an Australian NGO, but funding has become extremely difficult under a tightening global economy.
Michael Gantt formed the Kenya Development Fund as an agency which supports economic development and vocational training, specifically with the Immanuel Christian School for the Deaf.  With the aid of the Kenya Development Fund, the school has started an egg/poultry production business, a small working farm to grow food to feed the children and to market for additional income and most recently constructed a brand new 65 bed dormitory to house some of the children. Working in cooperation with the administration at the school, the Kenya Development Fund recently has released a long term development plan to assist the School in providing safe housing, quality education, and strong vocational training program. Plans in the future will include the very first College for the Deaf in Kenya.  Costs for the first phase of this development plan will be around $200,000.
Rev. Gantt will address the congregation at First Baptist regarding the “theology” of community development as well as sharing specifics about future plans and needs at the school.  This is not Pastor Gantt’s first visit to the Medfield congregation and he will be showing a number of photos which will show the congregation that their support and investment has been well utilized.
For further information about the Kenya Development Fund, interested parties can visit their web site at www.kenyadevfund.org.
 
Please join us on the 14th for sunday morning worshuip, and lunch agfterwards, when Mike speaks more about Immanuel.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Everything is Broken: Genius from Dylan

A friend sent me these lyrics from an old Dylan song with this question and comment, "Is this for a Calvinist post-lapserian (a fancy way of saying post fall) view of the world? His lyrics are just so on the money". I couln't help but agree, his lyrics are spot on. They reflect a sad reality, the world is utterly broken because of the fall. Nothing is untouched. Romans even says, creation groans. 

Ponder these words from an old and interesting sage.

Broken lines broken strings
Broken threads broken springs
Broken idols broken heads
People sleeping in broken beds
Ain't no use jiving
Ain't no use joking
Everything is broken.

Broken bottles broken plates
Broken switches broken gates
Broken dishes broken parts
Streets are filled with broken hearts
Broken words never meant to be spoken
Everything is broken.

Seem like every time you stop and turn around
Something else just hit the ground
Broken cutters broken saws
Broken buckles broken laws
Broken bodies broken bones
Broken voices on broken phones
Take a deep breath feel like you're chokin'
Everything is broken.

Everytime you leave and go off someplace
Things fall to pieces in my face
Broken hands on broken ploughs
Broken treaties broken vows
Broken pipes broken tools
People bending broken rules
Hound dog howling bullfrog croaking
Everything is broken