Monday, December 26, 2011

Tomorrow Never Comes

If I were to pick a motto (and I would have several), one candidate would probably be "tomorrow never comes."

Why would I say that? Isn't that kind of depressing?

Well, the idea isn't exactly original to me. A sentence in J.C. Ryle's excellent little book, Thoughts for Young Men, keeps coming back to me over the years, where he expresses this idea very well:
Tomorrow is the devil's day, but today is God's. Satan does not care how spiritual your intentions are, or how holy your resolutions, if only they are determined to be done tomorrow... When death comes, it will be vain to talk of tomorrow, you must go at once. (J.C. Ryle,Thoughts for Young Men, chapter 1)
Tomorrow never comes. Live your life today as though it were your last, and if it isn't, thank God for another day and then live it the same. Love those around you as though it were your last few hours with them. Forgive — there's no longer time for bitterness. Rejoice — Christ has gained the victory and there is nothing left to fear. Share the love of Christ with those around you — they too are fragile.

This is not a spirit of fear, but of confidence and hope!
For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. (Philippians 1:19-26 ESV)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

On the Incarnation

Jonathan posted this excerpt from Athanasius' On the Incarnation this morning, and I wanted to share it with you all.

"For this purpose, then, the incorporeal and incorruptible and immaterial Word of God entered our world. In one sense, indeed, He was not far from it before, for no part of creation had ever been without Him Who, while ever abiding in union with the Father, yet fills all things that are. But now He entered the world in a new way, stooping to our level in His love and Self-revealing to us... He saw that corruption held us all the closer, because it was the penalty for the Transgression; He saw, too, how unthinkable it would be for the law to be repealed before it was fulfilled...He saw how the surpassing wickedness of men was mounting up against them; He saw also their universal liability to death. All this He saw and, pitying our race, moved with compassion for our limitation, unable to endure that death should have the mastery...He took to Himself a body, a human body even as our own...

He, the Mighty One, the Artificer of all, Himself prepared this body in the virgin as a temple for Himself, and took it for His very own, as the instrument through which He was known and in which He dwelt. Thus, taking a body like our own, because all our bodies were liable to the corruption of death, He surrendered His body to death in place of all, and offered it to the Father. This He did out of sheer love for us, so that in His death all might die, and the law of death thereby be abolished...This He did that He might turn again to incorruption men who had turned back to corruption, and make them alive through death by the appropriation of His body and by the grace of His resurrection. Thus He would make death to disappear from them as utterly as straw from fire." (emphasis added)

Saturday, December 24, 2011


I sometimes like to read over my previous posts to check for errors, and, in my recent perusal, I discovered some things that needed clarifying in the post I wrote a few days ago, entitled "Skipping Church to Celebrate... Jesus' Birth?"; please allow me to clarify.
When churches decide that their celebration of Christmas can, and even ought, to preclude normally scheduled Sunday worship, it's clear that they have their priorities skewed.
First, here's what I'm not saying. I don't mean to argue that churches ought to disregard Christmas in order to observe regular Sunday worship.

The way I see it, the conjunction of Christmas and Sunday worship is a wonderful thing! What better time and place to commemorate the birth of Christ? What I failed to say in my post was that, when I referred to peoples' celebration of Christmas, I was referring to the "traditional," "material" things. I was talking about people who would rather stay home and open gifts than allow their festivities to be interrupted by church.

If what we are really celebrating is Christ's incarnation, then why the reluctance (for some) to go to church? The two overlap (i.e. Christmas and worshipping God) – they're not mutually exclusive!

It Really Happened

Sometimes the reality of something takes time to “hit home” with me. The reality and significance of another sibling getting married, for instance… We live in such a fast-paced fleeting society that the significance of things often fails to “stick.”

That’s not necessarily a problem. But it certainly can be!

We tend to be shortsighted toward the future and toward the past, living in the moment, allowing our sense of identity and place to slip away unchecked. Let’s take some time to consider where we fall in God’s redemptive history. Consider the reality of what He did through Christ’s incarnation – what that event meant for the human race. I must admit that, oftentimes, I take Scripture as a strictly theological resource (it certainly is that!) and forget that it is also intensely historical.

These things actually happened in time and space. Christ was born of Mary, lived a perfect life, suffered, died, and rose again that I might be reconciled with God; what a glorious reality!

 Try not to get caught up in trite symbolism this Christmas. Celebrate Christ and what He did for us!
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7 ESV)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Skipping Church to Celebrate... Jesus' Birth?

I don't know about you, but I enjoy Christmastime. The whole season. It's kind of hard not to, especially when your family has observed Christmas your entire life. This year, many churches and church-goers will be faced with a choice — something which, not too many years ago, would have been moot to most Christians. How will churches deal with the fact that Christmas falls on a Sunday this year?

 I can't decide whether to laugh or cry.

But some churches aren't treating this lightly. This is serious business for them. After all, they have to consider how best to use their staff and volunteer resources, as Cally Parkinson, a spokeswoman for Willow Creek Community Church, said back in 2005 when faced with this "dilemma."
"If our target and our mission is to reach the unchurched, basically the people who don't go to church, how likely is it that they'll be going to church on Christmas morning?" she said. (quoted from USA Today)
Huh? Come again? These types of arguments are sad, but also sadly predictable. When churches decide that their celebration of Christmas can, and even ought, to preclude normally scheduled Sunday worship, it's clear that they have their priorities skewed. Not to mention the insinuation (in the above) quote, that the church's "target and mission" is reach the unchurched... What about ministering to the believers who attend?

It's not just a problem with churches though. The blame rests equally on the churchgoers who decide to forego Sunday worship in order to celebrate... Jesus' birth? I sense a glaring disconnect here.

Thinking about this prompted me to ask myself some questions:

1) What exactly am I celebrating here? Am I truly celebrating Christ and what He has done? Or has "the season" become an idol?

2) Do my actions line up? Am I more eager to give or to receive? What did Christ model for me?

3) How can I spread the light of the Gospel this time of year? Is it not a golden opportunity for us to share what Christ has done?

4) How often will I think about or give thanks for Christ's incarnation throughout the rest of the year? Is it possible that I've allowed the Christmas season to become the only time I consider Christ's birth?

Monday, December 19, 2011

White River Canyon & the Beginning of "Adventure Season"

It should come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog that I’d be excited with the onset of winter and the outdoor opportunities it brings. The weekend before last, we kicked off “Adventure Season” with a nice 5-mile snowshoe hike at the base of Mt. Hood (down in OR).

We decided to hit White River Canyon and make it a church-wide invitation, so folks who hadn’t been snowshoeing before could get the experience. We were blessed with fabulous weather, low-risk avalanche conditions and great group of 13 intrepid adventurers, young and old(er). I would describe this hike as leisurely. There was one significant climb near the end, but once we reached the top we were treated to an area that was chock-full of great sledding slopes and excellent views of Mt. Hood.

Here are a few of my favorite photos from the hike (click through for captions and more details).

Sunday, December 18, 2011

I Will Prepare... Eventually

Guys, I know most — if not all — of you would like to be husbands and fathers some day. It’s a high calling for sure — something that you cannot afford to take lightly. Have you spent some time asking yourself, “what’s it going to take?” Have you considered what Scripture has to say about it?

The Bible is definitely not silent on this issue. There are a number of passages addressing what God requires of husbands (and potential husbands); if we would devote some quality time to studying these, we would find them immensely helpful as we prepare.

Sadly, too many otherwise promising young men decide to squander their time being goofy. “Eventually,” they reason, “I’ll shape up and develop the character I need to become a godly husband.” And they get noticed! Just not for the right reasons.

Guys, don’t kid yourselves. You won’t magically become a godly man when the time is right. Moreover, you can’t expect marriage to “solve your problems.” If you’re character is lacking, marriage will simplify amplify that fact! Think about it. Let’s say you enter marriage with a lack of self-sacrifice. You’re selfishly pursuing the things you like without regard for others. Do you honestly think that placing yourself in a position that demands a high level of self-sacrifice will automatically fix your problems in that area?

Don’t be naive here! Who you are today in relation to your family and friends is largely who you will be in relation to your wife and children. Am I saying that marriage won’t shape and change you? No — of course it will. But remember, the Bible has standards which, if you fail to meet them when entering into marriage, will be no less challenging to meet once you’re married. Either way, you have your orders. God has told you what He expects. Will you prepare now or will you push it off?

Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. (Titus 2:6-8 ESV)

Build Your House on the Rock

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.” (Luke 6:46-49)
Often we are told that the difference between the two men represented in this parable is that “one heard,” and the other “didn’t hear.” But no, they both heard the same thing! The difference is that the first man heard Christ’s words and did them whereas the second man heard His words and did not do them.

You see, the difference between life and death is often not what you know, but what you do with what you know.