Changing Seasons

Our hot and unusually wet summer here in southeastern Pennsylvania has produced a different kind of autumn. I assume that the abundance of moisture caused confusion for many of the trees. In normal years, the leaves would all be on the ground by early November. Not so this year! There are still holdouts refusing to turn loose of their host and drift downward to await the winter snows. It’s like they’re stalling, hoping to turn back the calendar.

But, the calendar will advance. The leaves, even the most stubborn holdouts, will fall. Time stands still for none of us. And those falling leaves are a gentle and beautiful reminder of a coming appointment we all must keep.

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor. 5:10, ESV).

This is a sobering thought. But for the apostle Paul, it was also a thought that filled his heart with joyful anticipation. We are going to stand before Jesus! We are going to see His face! And if we are faithful to make choices that please Him, we will hear His words of commendation. “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

This was what motivated Paul to say, “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him” (2 Cor. 5:9). In other words, there were only two days on Paul’s calendar: “today,” and, “that day.”

Every choice we make on this day will influence what words we hear from Jesus on that day. Let’s make it our aim today to “please him” – to keep on becoming God’s kind of husband, God’s kind of wife, God’s kind of parent or grandparent, God’s kind of friend, God’s kind of church member.

Someday, just as sure as those leaves are falling outside my window, we will stand before the Lord who loved us and gave Himself for us. By His grace, let’s give ourselves back to Him today.

Why Good Theologians Are Worth Reading, Even When They Are Sometimes Wrong

There is a heroic quality to the thought of men who are willing to tackle the greatest themes relating to God, creation, salvation, and the church: even when they make mistakes, they make magnificent mistakes from which we can all learn.  In a day of small men and small minds, we should be grateful that the Lord is truly good, and has provided such brilliant men to inform the great traditions of the church and to provide us with immense resources of theology and devotion.

Carl Trueman, “On Heroes and the Heroic”http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2010/09/on-heroes-and-hero-worship.php

Perspective

According to my online dictionary, perspective is “ the ability to see things in a true relationship.” Perspective is how we view life, its events, and those who travel the road of life with us. It seems to run too easily on autopilot, while constantly requiring our attention. Perspective is a necessary, but fickle element of life.

I had the opportunity recently to replay a scene that I’ve watched with each of our grand-girls. Our youngest granddaughter was in the den playing with her toys. She had assembled the little people with their furniture, clothes, toys, and all the rest. Among the collection was a chair, a tricycle, and a dress. As a two year old, she knows what a chair and a tricycle and a dress are in her world—they are to be seated on, ridden, and worn. So in the course of playing she attempted to sit on the 3 inch tall chair, ride the 2 inch high tricycle, and put on the tiny dress. It was a comical sight.

Her perspective of the world understood the relationship of each item, but totally missed the proportion of each. Despite her efforts to use each in a way that she had learned they were designed for, her efforts were only rewarded with failure and confusion. The more she tried, the funnier the scene grew. Until she learns that proportion is part of perspective, she is bound to replay the scene again.

While the matter of skewed perspective in a two-year old’s life may be the occasion for comedy, it can mark continuing failure and confusion in our lives as adults. Trials are part of everyone’s life (Job 14:1) and have a purpose in God’s plan.

1 Peter 1:7-“That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes . . . might be found unto praise and honor and glory . . .”

James 1:2-4-“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

When we lose perspective, we are in trouble. Too often the problem is one of proportion. When proportion is lost in perspective God seems to be the size of my granddaughter’s toy tricycle. We may understand the relationship, but it just can’t take us anywhere—it’s too small.

Perspective requires our constant attention. Perhaps we should follow the advice of one song writer who wrote, “Instead of telling God how big your problems are, you need to tell your problems how big your God is.” After all, until we learn that proportion is part of perspective, we are bound to replay the scene again.

How Do You Measure It?

It seems like every time I read through Scripture I discover ‘new’ things in familiar passages. I had one of those moments this spring while going through the Book of Ruth. Before I share my discovery, let me rewind the story for you.

We are introduced to Ruth in 1:4a when she marries into Naomi’s family. The account that follows is one of deprivation and loss. (1) In verse 4b we are told in the story that they “lived there about ten years.” Throughout all those years Ruth was barren (cf. 4:13b). Throughout all those years the famine continued to dry out the land of Israel. (2) Then in 1:5 Ruth’s husband dies. Ruth is left a widow. (3) In 1:6 Naomi decides to return to Israel without her daughters-in-law. Ruth faces abandonment by her mother-inlaw. (4) In 1:6-18 Ruth chooses to return to Bethlehem with Naomi. This choice means that she chooses to leave her parents, her people, her homeland, her culture, etc. The choice will place her at the bottom of Israel’s social ladder—a foreigner (and a foreign woman at that). (5) Naomi, her only Israelite family and traveling companion, is consumed by bitterness (vv. 19-21). Naomi feels robbed by God and insists on being renamed “Bitter” (i.e., Marah).

(6) Chapter 2 apparently records Ruth’s first morning in Israel. The day starts early (2:7) and ends late (2:17). The day is filled with backbreaking labor. First, with stooping over picking up what the harvesters had dropped. Then with threshing and winnowing. Finally with carrying her gleanings back to Bethlehem and home . . . only to repeat the process on the morrow. (7) When lunch time comes she apparently had nothing to eat for Boaz directs her to eat what he had provided for his laborers (2:14). We may assume that she had eaten nothing for breakfast. Naomi and Ruth had returned to Bethlehem virtually empty-handed to a house that had been abandoned over 10+ years earlier. (8) Through Boaz’s generosity, Ruth is given more food then she can eat for lunch (2:14). (9) As we approach the end of chapter 2, Ruth has returned home to Naomi and is sharing an account of her day.

My point of discovery is in 2:18b. Naomi has been home all day apparently with little or no food. So Ruth reaches into her pocket for the left over food from lunch time. The version in front of me reads – Ruth “gave Naomi what she had left after she was satisfied.” The Hebrew text reads something like – Ruth “gave her what she had remaining from her abundance.” The word carries the basic idea of plenty or abundance.

Here in lies the question — “How do you measure abundance?” I’m not sure that many people in our contemporary, affluent society would have considered left overs from the only meal you had that day after over 10+ years of loss and deprivation as abundance. However, Ruth considered it abundance to be shared with others. We would do well to stop in the busyness of life and in making a living to check our definition of abundance. According to God’s Word, what is it? Do I already have it? Where can I share it? Perhaps it would help to read James 2:15-17 as a commentary both on Ruth 2:18 and on our lives.

If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

The First Thanksgiving Proclamation-June 20, 1676

The Holy God having by a long and Continual Series of his Afflictive dispensations in and by the present Warr with the Heathen Natives of this land, written and brought to pass bitter things against his own Covenant people in this wilderness, yet so that we evidently discern that in the midst of his judgements he hath remembered mercy, having remembered his Footstool in the day of his sore displeasure against us for our sins, with many singular Intimations of his Fatherly Compassion, and regard; reserving many of our Towns from Desolation Threatened, and attempted by the Enemy, and giving us especially of late with many of our Confederates many signal Advantages against them, without such Disadvantage to ourselves as formerly we have been sensible of, if it be the Lord’s mercy that we are not consumed,

It certainly bespeaks our positive Thankfulness, when our Enemies are in any measure disappointed or destroyed; and fearing the Lord should take notice under so many Intimations of his returning mercy, we should be found an Insensible people, as not standing before Him with Thanksgiving, as well as lading him with our Complaints in the time of pressing Afflictions:

The Council has thought meet to appoint and set apart the 29th day of this instant June, as a day of Solemn Thanksgiving and praise to God for such his Goodness and Favour, many Particulars of which mercy might be Instanced, but we doubt not those who are sensible of God’s Afflictions, have been as diligent to espy him returning to us; and that the Lord may behold us as a People offering Praise and thereby glorifying Him; the Council doth commend it to the Respective Ministers, Elders and people of this Jurisdiction; Solemnly and seriously to keep the same Beseeching that being perswaded by the mercies of God we may all, even this whole people offer up our bodies and soulds as a living and acceptable Service unto God by Jesus Christ.

Warren Vanhetloo, First CBS Dean, With the Lord

On October 31, Dr. Warren Vanhetloo passed peacefully into the presence of the Lord in his sleep. Doc Van led the seminary as dean from its founding in 1976 until 1987.  Dr. Van continued to teach and became interim dean from 1990 to 1991.  He taught part time until he retired and moved to Holland, Michigan, where he has been residing since that time. Funeral arrangements are to be announced. The Calvary Baptist Seminary community extends its heartfelt sympathy to the family – and rejoices in a life well lived to the glory of Jesus Christ.

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