Drippings from the Honeycomb
More to be desired are [the rules of the Lord] than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:10)
A Child's Question
Children ask the best questions. I was recently asked how to respond to children who tease that Jesus never existed. It merited a simple answer that took the form of a posted letter. Here is my reply:
Thank you for sharing about your classmates teasing you about believing in Jesus when you cannot see Him. Don’t be surprised, however, for Jesus told His followers this would happen (Mt 5:11–12; Jn 15:18–19).
Christ’s sacrifice—an offence
Good Friday (and Easter) is a time when Christ’s sacrifice is put in public view along with the sin for which He went to the Cross.
The Cross and the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God), among others, are all early Christians symbols of Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross—they’ve been around for a long time. Indeed the Cross, the most famous of Christian symbols is worn (e.g. jewellery) or displayed (e.g. steeples) almost everywhere there are Christians.
When the brutality of Roman crucifixion is grasped (along with the implication that we are all sinners [Ro 3:23]), it is natural, one way or another, to be uncomfortable with this or even to find it revolting. Some understanding might help alleviate some of this disgust.
Why did Jesus have to die? Because Adam and Eve disobeyed God, the result was their (and our) Fall into sin, the consequence of which was spiritual and then physical death (Gen 2:16). They and we are separated from God, “The wages of sin is death.” (Ro 6:23). Throughout the Old Testament the sacrifice (or life) of another (e.g. a sheep or goat, etc) was required of God’s justice to be able to stand before Him forgiven and in a right relationship. That is because “the life is in the blood” (Lev 17:11). Our sin is so real it demands a penalty. God in His grace (undeserved favour) provided the ultimate substitute in Jesus.
Hebrews 10 tells us that Jesus is the final and perfect sacrifice that all the others pointed forward to. We can now look back in faith and trust in “the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” When we do we find forgiveness of sin and the gift of new and eternal life by God’s Holy Spirit. This is all because Jesus died and rose 3 days later so we might be forgiven and find the life we so desperately need (1 Cor 15:3–4; Ro 10:9).
For some this will be received as the Good News it is meant to be. For others, even with understanding, Jesus’ sacrifice will remain an offence. (But what is there in culture and media that doesn’t offend someone).
This should not surprise us, for throughout history this has always been the case:
For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, (2 Cor 2:15)
but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, (1 Cor 1:23).
May we not resist the gift of God’s Son and the forgiveness and life He offers, but through understanding soften our hearts and believe.
‘Salvation is of the Lord’ is a common phrase found throughout the Bible to express that God is the author and primary agent in rescuing lost sinners (e.g. Jon 2:9; Ps 3:8, 62:1). Phil 1:6 says, “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion…” Because salvation is of the Lord we can have confidence in faith and assurance in life. He planned it, provided His Son and applies this work by His Spirit who then keeps us and sanctifies us until the end. While God is the primary agent in salvation that does not negate that our faith (itself a gift, 2 Pet 1:1; Phil 1:29; Acts 3:16) is a real and meaningful choice or active trust in the finished work of God (otherwise faith is a work and adds to salvation).
In light of that consider how Paul saw his conversion:
“But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to me” (Gal 1:15–16)
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” (Phil 3:2)
Compare this “the Lord saved me” lingo with how conversion is often described today:
I got/was saved; I accepted Christ; I made a personal decision for Jesus; I gave my life to the Lord; I welcomed Jesus into my heart…
Again, this is not entirely untrue but do you see where the emphasis is=ME.
If salvation is ‘of the Lord’ let us honour Him in our gratitude by giving credit where credit is due.
The Order of Salvation
Acts is known for its conversion narratives, the most famous of which is Saul’s. These teach us what to look for in a genuine conversion: belief in Jesus, repentance, faith in the Gospel, forgiveness and new life (change) by the Holy Spirit and baptism. This essence of conversion is part of the Gospel we proclaim. It helps us know what to expect in conversion, to know what to do and it continues to give understanding to our spiritual journey.
Once we’ve believed Scripture makes this more specific. It offers us an order of salvation (ordo salutis in Latin). What appears instantaneous (and even man-centred) to the naked eye is actually noted as a dividable God centred process. For examples in Ro 8:30 says, And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. Likewise, Titus 3:5–7 says, And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. Many other passages speak of various steps along this order.
It is important to study this as a believer: a) because it is in the Bible, b) because it gives us a greater appreciation of God’s work in salvation, c) it creates humility, and d) it fosters praise.
Many have parsed the order of salvation to a great degree (e.g. William Perkin’s Golden Chain). Below is a simple version for quick reference.
 We don’t preach the order of salvation but the Gospel, however, we teach the order of salvation to believers for their benefit.
In this we can see the Father willing salvation; the Son accomplishing salvation; the Holy Spirit applying salvation.
May we stand in awe of the God who works such a marvellous salvation.
Religious Freedom Watch
Recently in our study on Acts we’ve considered the subject of persecution by the world. The world desires to conform us to their image and gets upset when we won’t. In a recent sermon I pondered whether persecution might be looming upon Christians in the West in a more concerted way. Beyond recent Covid arrests consider some visible Christians who have been persecuted in the last couple of weeks:
May we pray for these individuals and others like them who find themselves beset by the law that should protect them, the salvation of our culture and that we might be bold if faced with the world’s tactics of conformity.
Christianity: Simple but not simplistic
Simple but not simplistic is a mantra I developed many years ago to describe what Christianity is (or ought to be).
[It is similar to the illustration Jerome painted of the Bible, “shallow enough for a babe to come and drink without fear of drowning and deep enough for a theologian to swim in without ever touching bottom.” Christianity isn’t a kiddy pool, nor is it an raging ocean; it is like a real graduating pool, the same water, but different depths, with room for maturity but ever with mysterious humility.]
On the one hand it is simple vs. complex. One shouldn’t add to the Faith. This can happen in legalistic or nominal or ritualistic or highly intellectual settings, etc.
On the other hand, it is simple vs. simplistic. One shouldn’t take away from the Faith or make it less than it is. This can happen in popular or folk Christianity, nominalism, emotionalism, etc.
Like “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” Christianity should not be too hot or too cold but just right, as God intended.
Part of this mantra is informed by my own journey. Growing up in an evangelite denomination, exposed to theological liberalism, etc, gave me a desire for a more “robust” Faith; or one that richly accorded with Scripture.
The rest of the mantra comes from an acknowledgement that Scripture says as much (2 Pet 2:2; Heb 6:1–3), we should live (and hunger) for “every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Mt 4:4).
Consider how the Gospel is simple but not simplistic (Acts 2:38):
“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
The Gospel isn’t do all of this to be saved, or understand the depths of Christology to be saved. Nor is the Gospel just believe or any such pithy saying. It is a simple robust call to belief in who Jesus is, repentant of one’s sin, trust in Jesus for forgiveness, baptism and the promised Holy Spirit.
Consider how Discipleship is simple but not simplistic:
While some portions of God’s Word is difficult to understand (2 Pet 3:16) we trust that with the Spirit’s help, all Scripture is for our good (Dt 6:24), even the hard passages. This clarity of Scripture (2 Ti 3:16–17) encourages us to study God’s Word and not settle for over simplifications nor feel trapped as if it is all impossible to understand.
Consider how the study of Doctrine is simple but not simplistic
From the Gospel all Christian theology can be built, one brick at a time.
The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself and His will. This is good. God calls doctrine, if it is biblical vs. manmade, good, “If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.” (1 Ti 4:6; c.f. Tit 1:9, 2:1). He wants us to know more about Him and His ways and this does require training (effort). We might not all become elite athletes but we should all be healthy and fit.
Christianity is not trivial nor is it impossible, it is like an exciting adventure that is possible with the Spirit’s help. It turns out Christianity is simple but not simplistic after all.
Men's Breakfast On Leadership
[This talk was not recorded due to its discursive nature. It was also timely given the juncture we are at as a congregation.]
Q- Who or what do you think of when you hear the word “leadership”?
But I’m not a leader! (We may not all be called to lead in a formal sense but we are all called to leadership [just as those without the gift of hospitality or evangelism can still show hospitality or share the Gospel]. We often demonstrate leadership without knowing it; a child leading the others by suggesting they should clean up; a man noticing something should be done and then volunteering to lead others to do it; moral example, etc).
Definition (among many): [Spiritual] leadership is moving people unto God’s agenda [or will]—Blackaby.
Men have an innate call to display leadership.
Q- How did Adam exercise leadership? (Eve his helper, naming the animals, fulfilling Creation commands)
Q- What happens when men don’t lead? (women do; nothing gets done; families don’t thrive, etc).
Q-Why don’t men lead? (women do, no incentive or challenge, laziness, discouraged)
A biblical call to spiritual leadership: Ezk 22:30, “And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.” Ezekiel was among the first wave of exiles from Judah to Babylon. Missing his call as a priest he was called as a prophet. As God showed him visions of the spiritual corruption back in Jerusalem the LORD called him to prophesy against the city. In a courtroom scene in ch. 22 he said from among the priests and princes, etc, no spiritual leader, no man, could be found to fill the moral void in the spiritual wall around Jerusalem and thereby avert his wrath. The city was godless.
God wants men to take spiritual leadership in their homes, churches, communities, etc, for the benefit of others.
What typifies leadership in the Bible: F.A.I.T.H.
Acknowledgement (or responsibility)
Humility (before God and others)
Let us be men who rise to stand in the gap!
Grey Gables, Ps 23:1-4
Preached at Grey Gables Nursing Home, March 8, 2023.
“Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.” —Ephesians 5:4
*As a disclaimer, I believe humour is a gift of God and even that God has revealed He has a sense of humour in Scripture. Nevertheless, Christian humour is to be clean and godly and filled with true joy. We’re not called to be prudes.
I recently heard the following on a Christian podcast interview about education, “Who knows if there would have been a homicide if I had actually homeschooled my kids, the world will never know. [Laughter]” The individual demeaned her children and trivialized murder. She might rather have said, “I don’t think I was cut out to attempt homeschooling,” or “Because I’m naturally irritable it was by God’s grace that another option was presented to my family, etc.” Anything would have been better than this crude joke.
This is certainly an area for growth I have been seeking to address in recent years (and facetiousness or sarcasm) and it is likewise one that I’ve picked up on in Christian circles. Christians have room to grow when it comes to joking.
What is a Crude Joke?
A joke is something that is funny, that makes one laugh. Something that is crude is offensive or coarse. A crude joke essentially makes light of something God condemns. (Hence the saying a clean joke).
The Greek (eutrapelia) is a compound of good or easy and to turn, hence easily turning, witty, in the negative sense.
Examples of Crude Joking
A good clean joke that will make you laugh your pants off.
Jesting in marriage: “I might have to upgrade to a newer model.”
Jesting with children: “You must act that way because you’re adopted.”
Jesting in the worklife: “If you don’t get this right you might have to find another job.”
These of course are milder versions.
Solutions to Crude Joking
Crude jokes spring from our hearts.
When we passionately come to love what God loves we’ll hate what is evil. Loving God and yielding to the Spirit’s work produces godliness, truthfulness, discernment and self-control; all necessary to combat crude jokes.
Possible Responses to Crude Joking
You don’t need to necessarily disapprove but we shouldn’t show approval (e.g. don’t laugh even if you see the twisted logic that could be seen as humorous).
Ignore, walk away or limit time in their company.
Respectfully express your concern for what was said (and why), counter with a better turn of phrase or smoothly suggest having better taste.
Let our speech, including our jokes, always be seasoned with salt.
A Cut Flower Society
As March dawns I admit that I am itching to get back out into the garden. Flowers are such a delightful pleasure of God’s creation, a true gift of colour and joy. During the winter we can enjoy cut flowers, however, their beauty is temporary and fleeting. They only last so long. By contrast real flowers continue long in bloom and perennials return every year afresh to bless us once more.
There are many in our contemporary Canadian culture (itself being refashioned as we speak) who believe that our Christian past is a total blight and embarrassment to our national identity. It is a something to be reinvented and forgot rather than cherished and preserved. Recent studies show an increasing majority of Canadians see religion as a negative force, with only some 34% seeing Christianity as a positive element of society. There are some who even champion the idea that we must finally cut ourselves off from our Christian past to secure the bright dawn of a progressive future.
C.S. Lewis suggested that when one had gone down the wrong path the most progressive thing to do was to reverse and then progress down the true path (c.f. Jer 6:16–17). As Canada has become, and continues to become, more post-Christian, some non-Christian leaders have urged restraint in jettisoning our heritage because they recognize the immense value it has and that our country couldn’t existentially be what it is without it.
This is wise wisdom because Christianity gave us the very essence of what has made Canada such a glorious land. As we’ve slipped and then rushed away from this heritage we risk, well, everything. We are, you might say, living on borrowed time. To put it another way, the present generation is very much living off the merits of past generations. We still have some semblance of life but we are losing our bloom as we die a slow death. We are a cut flower society. We are cut off from the very roots that gave us life.
Consider what Christianity gave us and what it might look like without these values:
May society repent and see the worth of Christian values and the Lord who stands behind them ready to forgive and renew (Acts 3:19).
May the faithful remnant of Canadian Christians have a preserving and savoury effect as the salt of this land (Mt 5:13).
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