Romans 1:21 - For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Much has been made over the last few years regarding the emergence of militant atheism’s evangelistic crusade to rid the world of ignorance. Specifically, these crusaders want to enlighten the minds of the masses who still believe God exists. For these spokesmen for atheism, belief in God is intellectually unsustainable and should by all means be abandoned. Not only that, these atheistic evangelists believe a person’s commitment to belief in God is actually harmful to children as well as to civilization as a whole.
Thankfully, their charges have been sufficiently answered at every turn by faithful Christian apologists. The atheists are getting all the press, but their arguments are unable to stand up to the Light of Truth.
A More Dangerous Breed of Atheism
Yet there is a more prevalent form of atheism that lurks in our land. Indeed, it can even be found in the church. It is what Cornelius Van Til called, “practical atheism.” A practical atheist is a person who professes to believe in God, and yet the God whose existence is professed does not seem to make any meaningful difference in that person’s daily life. His beliefs, values, morals, and actions are not prioritized by his supposed belief in God’s existence. Put another way: If this person was to wake up one day and decide he no longer believed in the existence of God, his life would change very little. This is practical atheism.
In Romans 1:21, Paul describes the person who has suppressed the truth he knows about God. Paul says that, in truth, all people know God exists. In fact, they even know things about his power and majesty. Yet, in order to maintain a certain way of living, they alter their belief system to accommodate their lifestyle. Like the hard atheist who formally declares there is no God, practical atheists deny God by the way in which they live their lives. Paul teaches us that “although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him…”
God at the Center
We glorify God when we seek to live purposefully and intentionally for him each day. We glorify God when we live to please, honor, obey, love, represent, bear witness to, and imitate him. That’s what a God-glorifying, God-informed life looks like. It’s also a life that is grateful to God for his goodness. This is more than tossing out a “thank you” every now and then at the beginning of a meal. Instead, it’s more of an all-encompassing attitude of gratitude. It becomes pervasive in one’s personality. This attitude glorifies God because it exalts God as the One who is worthy of such affection and appreciation.
How are you doing with this? Are you seeking to glorify God and be thankful to him in all things? Of course, none of us is perfect at this. We can all get fairly self-absorbed and self-centered in the goings on of our lives. We all, from time to time, become too preoccupied with lesser interests.
Yet the One who should be our greatest interest has told us we are to have no other gods before him. We are called to seek him first and foremost. We are instructed and encouraged to be holy because God is holy. His existence, in other words, should play a profound role in the lives of those who profess to believe in and follow him. He should be our ultimate influence and his influence should saturate every sphere of our lives, for his glory and our good.
Heavenly Father, the whole of creation testifies to your existence. It’s truly amazing what we have to go through to deny that you are there and are not silent. And yet, you are the God who is not to be merely believed in. Instead, you are the Triune, personal God who calls us into a relationship with yourself. You first loved us, not because we were so good, but because you are. You are our loving Father who is worthy of our love and devotion. Indeed, to know and love you is to seek to become increasingly like you and obey your commands. In my own strength I will fall short of this. Therefore, loving Father, I humbly ask you to please fill me with your Holy Spirit and spur me on to greater and greater love for you. And, I pray, this love for you will influence every sphere of my life so that, one day, my whole life will be a shining testimony of your glory. In Christ I pray. Amen.
John 8:23-24, 31-32 - But [Jesus] continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.  I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.”
To the Point
Jesus rarely, if ever, beat around the bush. Time was precious to him, so he usually cut straight to the chase. He knew how to get the attention of his hearers. In our Scripture, Jesus shares with those to whom he is speaking several important facts about them and the world in which they lived.
Faith in Action
True, biblical, and God-glorifying faith in Christ has teeth to it. It’s got a practicality that demands to be noticed. It’s unlikely the early church was so heavily persecuted and martyred simply because they intellectually accepted particular truth-claims about Jesus and then told others they needed to do the same to go to heaven.
Instead, because they believed Jesus was who he claimed to be and thus loved and followed him, they therefore obeyed him. Put another way: They put their faith into practice.
As their faith in Christ permeated every sphere of their lives they began to be noticed by the worldlings around them. It was this authentic non-conformity to the world around them that led to their persecution. They refused to be “squeezed into the mold” of this world.
The Shape of Discipleship
If we would be people of the truth, we must be Christ’s disciples. If we would be his disciples, we must believe in him, trust him, and obey him. Nothing less is worthy of the One who is the true Lord and King of the universe, which includes this world.
The “Pretenders to the Throne” notwithstanding, (their reign, after all, is temporary), our allegiance must be to Christ alone. And that allegiance has a shape to it. It is not mere intellectual ascent of a few doctrinal propositions (though it includes that). It is not simply a warm-fuzzy feeling in the pit of your stomach. It is far more. Allegiance to Christ is incarnational. It has skin on it. It has teeth to it. If we would be his, we must submit to his Lordship – his absolute authority – by obeying him in every sphere of our lives. Only then can we rightly claim to be his disciples.
“Know heaven to be the only treasure and labor to know also what a treasure it is. Be convinced once that you have no other happiness, and then be convinced what happiness is there. If you do not soundly believe it to be the chiefest good, you will never set your heart upon it; and this conviction must sink into your affections; for if it be only a notion, it will have little power. As long as your judgments undervalue it, your affections will be cold towards it. If your judgments once prefer the delights of the flesh before the delights in the presence of God, it will be impossible for your heart to be in heaven. As it is the ignorance of the emptiness of things below that makes men so over value them, so it is ignorance of the high delights above, which cause men to so little care about them. If you see a purse of gold, and believe it to be nothing but stones, it will not entice your affections to it. It is not a thing’s excellency in itself, but it is excellency known that provokes desire. If an ignorant man sees a book containing the secrets of arts or sciences, yet he values it no more than something common, it is because he knows not what is in it: but he that knows it, highly values it; his very mind is set up on it.”
by John Donne
Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Performed by Julian Glover
Performed by John Gielgud
He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap. (1 Timothy 3:7)
You have probably heard the definition of character as, “who you are when no one is looking.” You could also say that character is who you are when those who know you best are looking.
In the second chapter of The Measure of a Man, Gene Getz looks at what it takes to build a good reputation. This is rather a tricky area because some folks may enjoy a good reputation superficially because they’re able to reasonably fake it before people they don’t know well and with whom they associate only on an occasional basis. But living a life that builds a good reputation is hard to fake on a regular basis with those who know you best… such as the members of your family.
Let me hasten to add that the expectation here is not perfection. As one person I recently read put it, the idea here is direction, not perfection. The question is: Are you moving in a Christlike direction in your life? Is that your intention?
In our Scripture, Paul recommends to Timothy that the kind of person he should be looking for to exercise leadership in the church ought to have a good reputation. Christians are charged with hypocrisy enough as it is. And even if the charge isn’t always accurate, the mere perception can derail a life or a ministry. Worse still, we don’t want to misrepresent our Lord before a watching world.
Getz suggests that Timothy was such a person… a man with a good reputation. He highlights these three indicators…
1. People were saying positive things about Timothy.
2. More than one person was saying these positive things about Timothy.
3. People in more than one location were saying these positive things about Timothy.
It seems wherever Timothy was and whomever he was with, Timothy was a godly man living above reproach. Thus, he enjoyed a good reputation.
Getz suggests that if you really want to know your reputation (as it relates to your genuine character) ask someone who knows you best. This might sting a little, but it’s a good way to get an honest and accurate perception of who you are… and it will go a long way in helping you become the godly person you want to become.
Just as important, we occasionally need to conduct a personal assessment of who we are and what we’re about. Getz suggests asking yourself the following questions (these are great questions, by the way)
1. Do more and more people select me as a person to share their lives with?
2. Do people trust me with confidential information?
3. Do my relationships with people grow deeper and more significant the longer they know me and the closer they get to me? Or do my friendships grow strained and shallow as people learn what I am really like?
4. Does my circle of friends grow continually wider and larger? Do an increasing number of people trust me?
5. Do people recommend me for significant or difficult tasks without fear of my letting them down?
The point in all of this is not to build a reputation by duplicity and manipulation. To be sure, there are plenty of people doing that. Instead, our goal should be that as we grow in godliness, the authenticity of our increasingly Christlike character will be made evident to all. And that’s how we can represent our Lord well in this world.
Ultimately, those of us who are in Christ are seeking to advance the glory of our Lord’s reputation, and not our own. But we can’t avoid the connection that our reputation will be linked to his, so let us live lives above reproach and for his praise and glory.
by Natalie Tedder at The Gratitude of Wasps
Today’s entry doesn’t fit squarely into the Florilegium, it’s a composite of three quotations that have linked together in my mind, holding hands in a circle. I thought these passages prudent as we’re all thrust headlong into the school year.
The first comes from the prayer journal of Flannery O’Connor— I’ve not read the whole journal, but I keep coming upon this line and it so deeply resonates with me. Flannery writes:
“But dear God please give me some place, no matter how small, but let me know it and keep it. If I am the one to wash the second step everyday, let me know it and let me wash it and let my heart overflow with love washing it.”
In a world where the common call to people my age is to do big, enormous, ambitious things, it’s an act of resistance to stay rooted and revel in the mundane. And it’s also an act that takes me a great deal of courage. When I feel overwhelmed in my work, relationships, and world, it is too easy to desire the next best thing, too easy for me to see this season as a mere stepping stone leading to my “real adult life” that hasn’t arrived yet. So it’s often my prayer that the Lord opens my eyes to what’s right in front of me, that He would help me to love my people well, to do my job well, heartily, as unto the Lord.
However, the longing and groaning aren’t without cause. The broken and hard things underpinning my work, relationships, and world remind me that this is not my home. We walk through our days with with holy longing, pilgrim-hearted and glory bound.
It makes me think of of Psalm 84. “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God” (v 1-2). But the verse in Psalm 84 that really moves me and makes me think of the O’Connor quotation is verse 10, “For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.” This verse seems to ring with O’Connor’s plea of washing the second step: relishing and rejoicing in a small job, knowing it to be for the Lord. God may call some of us to platforms of large influence, but most of us will live precious yet relatively unspectacular lives. So I seek to dwell with the Lord in both the eternal and present, heaven and creation. Here and now, I hope to continually trek the path He has laid before me.
This brings me to my last quotation, the closing line from one of my favorite novels, Middlemarch by George Eliot. Our narrator closes, “For the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”
Just kidding— well— not really. I think of this quotation weekly, if not sometimes daily. As I long for eternity, the heavenly courts of the Lord, it shapes the way I view my everyday. I’m not made for this earth, but the Lord has me here for a reason. As Flannery asks to rejoice in washing the second step, and David confesses the great privilege of keeping the door, I likewise hope to live faithfully a hidden life, giving glory to my Maker.
A New Preface
When I first wrote this post, I think my oldest child was about twelve years old. She is now 25 years old, having double-majored in English and Philosophy and presently teaching high school juniors and seniors Literature and Rhetoric. My second oldest just graduated from college, while my third child finished his freshman year of college last week and my youngest, a high school freshman, will complete his freshman year later this week. Needless to say, a lot of years and “stuff” have transpired since I first wrote this post. Yet what fun it is to be on this side of things and to be able to now observe and comment on the fruitfulness of reading to my children when they were younger… fruitfulness I could have only dreamed of at the time.
“Leave me not, O gracious Presence, in such hours as I may today devote to the reading of books. Guide my mind to choose the right books and, having chosen them, to read them in the right way. When I read for profit, grant that all I read may lead me nearer to Thyself. When I read for recreation, grant that what I read may not lead me away from Thee. Let all my reading so refresh my mind that I may the more eagerly seek after whatsoever things are pure and fair and true.” John Baillie
What Did We Read to Our Kids?
Over the years, my wife, Suzanne, and I have been asked what we were reading to our children. In truth, that happened more when the kids were younger. Eventually, our children began to read books I couldn’t pronounce. At any rate, I thought I would take this time to share a little with you about what our reading time with the kids used to look like when they were younger.
I started reading to Natalie when she was around two years old. (All the years are beginning to run together.) After the requisite children’s books that we all read to our children (Little Engine That Could sort of stuff), we embarked on chapter books when she was around three or four. We started reading the Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner. The first book of the series, which is entitled, The Boxcar Children, was first published in 1942. I much preferred reading older books to the children because they were not so saturated in contemporary popular slang. And really, our kids are going to be knee-deep in that stuff sooner than we want, so what’s the rush?
Chronicles of Narnia
After reading a good number from that series, we started reading The Chronicles of Narnia. Dylan, who was then around three or four by that time, began to join us for these great stories. Now, to be sure, he did not pick up on every little nuance (nor do most adults for that matter), and sometimes he tuned out, or even fell asleep. However, quite often he tracked along with the story just fine (doing better as he got older). Of course, a quick review at the conclusion of each chapter was essential. It was a way for Dylan, Natalie, and Daddy to discuss what happened in that chapter as well as to talk about the important themes we found there.
For Christmas 2004, Suzanne and the kids gave me a gift of about 11 or 12 Lamplighter children’s books (which I loved as much as the children, by the way). These books were written in the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries. They are gospel-centered, Christ-exalting, character-building, interesting, exciting, and uplifting stories that were a huge hit around our home for both the kids, as well as their parents. There are many more to purchase in this series (they are continually finding old books to republish).
At some point during the middle of reading through the Lamplighter series, we took time out to read John Bunyan’s classic, The Pilgrim’s Progress (in modern English). I must say, even with the updated English, it was tough terrain. It was hard work to keep the kids tracking with the story. The review after, (and sometimes during), each chapter was absolutely vital for the kids to follow along and understand the book. However, it also was a big hit and Natalie said in her late teens that it was her favorite book we read when she was younger. It took us quite a while to complete, but we persevered, and it was worth the effort.
After The Pilgrim’s Progress, we returned to our Lamplighter series. Let me add that these books appeal to both boys and girls alike (If you visit their website, you will notice their catalog lists books for younger boys, older boys, younger girls, older girls, etc.). We’ve taken the time to go back and forth between them, and regardless of whether the main character is a boy or girl – the kids still love the stories. I ought to add that I loved this series, not only because it was not inundated with contemporary slang, but because the vocabulary was so rich. These books were written in a more literate culture and there’s not so much “dumbing down” as there is trying to lift the standards of the reader. Definitely a plus. And… we like these books not only because of those lofty reasons, but because the stories are really entertaining.
A Lesson and Regret
One of my, “I wonder if that was a good idea” books, was Robin Hood. I thought it would be a good swashbuckling, adventurous story. And, in many ways it was. But it didn’t flow terribly well, and we ended up reading only some of the chapters sporadically.
I miss reading to my children as I used to do when I first wrote this post. They have gotten older. As my younger two came on the scene, we started reading together too. But it really is true that things around the home change and I never ended up reading as much to my younger two as I did to the older two. I have always regretted that, but thankfully, because we homeschool, they have ended up reading many of the same sorts of books for their classes, so I’m grateful for that. But the time bonding together and developing our parent/child relationship was missed out on. I’ve looked for other ways to cultivate my relationship with them to make up for what was lost through less reading together. I do hope one day I’ll be a grandfather so I can start this whole process over again with them.
Why Read to Your Children? Five Reasons
Why read to your children? NBC use to show a public service announcement that recommended reading to your children at least 10 times a week. And what they say is true… it is a great bonding time. Reading together meant all the world to our family. But Suzanne and I also have these reasons as well…
1.) First and foremost, we want to impart a biblical worldview into the hearts, minds, and souls of our children. As parents we have a commandment from God to disciple our children for Christ and this is a fun and effective way to do it. We want to help prepare them to face the world once they leave our care.
2.) We wanted to pass on a love of reading to our children. I didn’t get excited about reading until much later in my life, and I wanted to do everything I could to ignite a fire in my children to love reading as early as possible.
3.) We wanted to help give our children an eye toward discerning the differences in literature – between the bad, the good, and the best.
4.) We wanted to magnify their imaginations, creativity, and ability to think. TV is such a passive activity. Reading requires more work…and produces more fruit.
5.) It’s just plain FUN!!!
Basically, we are charged with providing a covenant home and raising covenant children. Deuteronomy 6 exhorts covenant parents to raise their children in the faith all throughout the day – when the children rise, as they move throughout the day, and as they prepare for bed in the evening. Nurturing your children in the faith doesn’t have to be drudgery. Reading is a wonderful way to show your children how our Christian faith plays out (or should play out) in the real world…even in the context of imagination.
Best of all, all these years later, I can say that I have seen much of the fruit I had always prayed for, coming to fruition now that my kids are adults. And that’s hard to beat.
God never ceases to speak to us, but the noise of the world without and the tumult of our passions within bewilder us and prevent us from listening to him. (Francois Fenelon)
This Week’s Scripture
· Isaiah 11:1-10
· Psalm 72:1-19
· Romans 15:4-13
· Matthew 3:1-12
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
who alone does wondrous things.
19 Blessed be his glorious name forever;
may the whole earth be filled with his glory!
Amen and Amen!
For the Beauty of the Earth (verse 1)
For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies,
for the love which from our birth over and around us lies;
Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.
(Folliot S. Pierpoint)
Take time now to offer God your praise and worship.
Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (Matthew 3:8-10)
O holy and merciful God, we confess that we have not always taken upon ourselves the yoke of obedience, nor been willing to seek and to do your perfect will. We have not loved you with all our heart and mind and soul and strength, neither have we loved our neighbors as ourselves. You have called to us in the need of our sisters and brothers, and we have passed unheeding on our way. For all of this, we ask you to forgive us of our sins. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen. (United Methodist Book of Worship)
As David did in Psalm 139, ask the Lord to search you and know you through and through. Confess the sins God brings to mind, knowing you are forgiven and that He will cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
God of endurance and encouragement, we thank you for your Word made flesh as well as your written Word. We know that what was written long ago was written for our instruction, so that through our endurance and the encouragement we receive from the Scriptures, we may have hope. We praise you for not leaving us in the dark, groping for something to grasp. Instead, you have given us a lamp for our feet and a light for our path, that we might follow our Lord through this shadowy world. Almighty God, use this hope we have as followers of your Son to enable us live in harmony with fellow Christians so we may raise our voices together to bring you the glory and honor due your name. And we pray that when the rest of the world sees such worship, they too will turn to you and give you praise. For it is in the name of Christ we pray. Amen. (from Romans 15:4-7)
Spend some time reflecting on the prayer of thanksgiving above and then thank God for who he is and the many ways he has poured out his goodness and grace in your life.
Supplication (Petitions – prayers for yourself)
· My personal mission field
Ø Help me to identify those people who make up my personal mission field.
Ø Enable me to begin sharing the gospel with those who do not yet know you.
Ø Empower me to disciple those who are young in their faith.
Ø Allow me to encourage those who are struggling in their faith.
Ø Please give me perseverance in all areas of ministry.
· Today’s events and interactions with others, planned and unplanned
· Other needs
Supplication (Intercession – prayers for others)
· My family
· For missionaries throughout the world
· For those seeking to faithfully minister to loved ones at home
· For those who share the gospel in the inner city
· For those who bear witness to Christ in places of power
· Other needs
Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. (Daniel 12:3)
Hit with a Blunt Object
Have you ever met a person who believed they were given the spiritual gift of bludgeoning people over the head with their “honesty?” Are you such a person?
Such people appear to be focused only on what they “think” their intention is, which, as they might put it, is... “just being honest.” They wield their “honesty” like a “Get out of jail free card” to say what they want, when and how they want to say it. They seem to think they can be as offensive as they desire, as long as they follow their remarks with, “Hey, I’m just being honest.” Or, as others might put it, “I’m just keeping it real.” Once this magical incantation is invoked, at least to them, they should be absolved from all they’ve just said, regardless of how hurtful or insulting it may have been.
Three Helpful Questions
Perhaps you have heard the following questions before, but I wanted to share them because I have found them helpful in my own life. These are questions I ask myself before I decide to share my own unsolicited “honesty” with others.
1.) Is it true? Obviously, if you’re going to pass on your thoughts to someone else, you should be communicating the truth. Whether it’s objective truth, or even the truth of your opinion, it should be true. The 112th question and answer of The Heidelberg Catechism puts it this way:
Question: What is required in the ninth commandment?
While this is certainly helpful for us in thinking through our communication with others, this ought not be all there is to it. There are at least a couple more things for us to consider.
2.) Is it kind? Are your remarks bearing the fruit of Christian kindness? Are they words that will be a blessing and encouragement to the other person? Even if hard words must be spoken, we can still say them in such a way that will make it clear to the person to whom we’re speaking that we have their best interest at heart and not merely our personal agenda.
3.) Is it necessary? Does the person you are “being honest” with need to know you don’t like what they’re wearing, or how they’re raising their children, or how they decorate their house for Christmas? We may desperately want to share our opinions on all those issues and more, but that’s not the same thing as their need to know it.
As a Christian, truth and honesty should be paramount, yet not for the sake of merely sharing our own opinions, but for the sake of helping the other person. If God is not glorified in the transaction of honesty and truth, and if the purpose of the exchange is not the genuine benefit of the other person, then we’re not doing much more than sharing our opinions for the sake of lifting up ourselves. In which case, we should just keep our opinions to ourselves.
A Clear Purpose
“Love the Lord your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always.”
With these words from Deuteronomy 11:1, God, through Moses, gave Israel a purpose. Her purpose was to “love God and obey him… always.” That’s a pretty clear purpose. Solomon summed it up like this in Ecclesiastes 12:13,
Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.
But there’s more to it. It also included a “here’s what it looks like” portion. If the Israelites would be obedient to God, they would take possession of the land – the Promised Land – which God had set before them. Obedience would be tough, the risk may be great, but God assured them it would be worth their effort. More importantly, he promised to be with them always and never forsake them. In Deuteronomy 11:11-12 we read:
But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven.  It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end.
Love and Obey
The blessing of obedience to God’s covenantal commands was that Israel would get this coveted land and more. The curse of disobedience was that she wouldn’t… and more.
Obedience is an essential part of purpose. We can’t wiggle out of it in the New Testament, even though we know we are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone. Why? Because Christ reminds us multiple times in John 14 and 15, as well as in 1 John, that an expression of our love for him is doing what he says… it’s obeying his commands. This is to our Father’s glory, that we bear much fruit (John 15).
What would be the point of knowing God’s purpose for your life – the very reason for which you were created – if you didn’t pursue it? It’s only as we reveal our love for God by obeying him that we experience God’s blessing for our lives – which may take on a variety of manifestations as we travel down the path of righteousness.
But can any of us hope for more than the knowledge that the eyes of the Lord are continually on our purpose, from the beginning to the end? And it’s as we trust and obey God’s commands and pursue that purpose that we find ourselves aligned with his will for our lives, which is blessing enough for any of us.
Thanks be to God.