Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Seasons of Life

The activities of life vary from season to season.  In late fall, we plan to celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends.  Then along comes Christmas as we continue our family celebrations.  In early spring we look forward to Easter.  And throughout the year there are other family and friend gatherings tied to our family or even our national celebrations. 

And this time of year, many families celebrate a graduation or two.  This particular year is a special one for my family, as our oldest son graduates from high school.  Of course this makes me think back to my own high school, college, and seminary graduations.  It also causes me to reflect on my wife’s college and graduate school graduations. 

And this year I have the joy of once more addressing a graduating class. 

Graduations are always fun.  The pomp and the ceremony brings a special feeling to the event.  As the graduates line up, they are right to feel satisfaction at having completed the requirements for the day. They are also right to have hopeful expectation for the days to come. 

And of course this season, like the other seasons of life is a time for us to honor God with all that we do.  Paul exhorted the Corinthians saying, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).  Certainly our graduates are called upon to approach this joyful occasion aiming at the glory of God and being thankful for what has passed even as they press on to what lies ahead.

And, if this is not a graduation season for you then the words of the Apostle are no less applicable. For in whatever season you find yourself, you are to aim at the glory of God. 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Basic Anger Reflections

Earlier this week I was able to attend the Basics Pastors Conference at Parkside Church outside of Cleveland.  The theme this year was “Jars of Clay” taken from 2 Corinthians 4:7, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (ESV). 

One of the breakout sessions addressed ‘Anger and the Pastor.’  It was very good.  Probing.  Helpful.  It was pointed out that we often get angry when we think that our ‘treasure’ is being threatened. 

All of us have various things that we love and value.  The stresses and pressures of life will sometimes make it seem as if we might lose those things.  The result for many of us in those moments is that we get angry.  And so the first thing to consider in our anger is, what exactly is it that I am valuing that appears to be threatened?  And then the next question would be, am I right to value this thing in this way?

Perhaps I get angry when I hear that the deity of Christ is being denied.  Thus the deity of Christ is my treasure.  And on reflection, it is clear that the deity of Christ should be valued in this way. So my anger is, in some sense, justified. 

On the other hand, perhaps I am getting angry because my control in a certain area of life is being challenged and maybe even taken away.  Then I have to ask, am I valuing my control too highly.  In which case I need to repent of my own misconceived importance. 

I found this session very helpful to guide me in my reflections on what triggers my anger.  Certainly there is a place a place for anger. And we are told not to sin in our anger (Ephesians 4:26).  But many of us, myself included, sin much in our anger. 

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Seven Characters of False Teachers

 Thomas Brooks wrote that "Satan labours might and main, by false teachers, which are his messengers and ambassadors, to deceive, delude, and for ever undue the precious souls of men (Jer 23:13)."

In order to “deliver poor souls from being deluded and destroyed by these messengers of Satan” Brooks sets forth the following characteristics so that we can recognize false teachers.

1.     “False teachers are men pleasers. They preach more to please the ear than to profit the heart.”  A false teacher handles holy things in a flippant manner. And so false teachers undo the soul.

2.     “False teachers are notable in casting dirt, scorn, and reproach upon the persons, names, and credits of Christ’s most faithful ambassadors.”

3.     “False teachers are venters of the devices and visions of their own heads and hearts.”  False teachers proclaim their own golden delusions, lying vanities, and brain-sick fantasies. 

4.     “False teachers easily pass over the great and weighty things both of law and gospel, and stand most upon those things that are of the least moment and concernment to the souls of men.”  False teachers specialize in the minutia. 

5.     “False teachers cover and colour their dangerous principles and soul-imposturers with very fair speeches and plausible pretences, with high notions and golden expressions. . . . As strumpets paint their faces, and deck and perfume their beds, the better to allure and deceive simple souls, so false teachers will put a great deal of paint and garnish upon their most dangerous principles and blasphemies, that they may the better deceive and delude pour ignorant souls.”

6.     “False teachers strive more to win men over to their own opinion, than to better them in their conversations.”  They are more concerned about a person’s head than his heart and soul.

7.     “False teachers make merchandise of their followers. … They eye your goods more than your good; and mind more the serving of themselves, than the saving of your souls. … That they may the better pick your purse, they will hold forth such principles as are very indulgent to the flesh.” 

Knowing the character of a false teacher, the wisest course is to shun such people.