Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Trinity

From The Valley of Vision:

Three in One, One in Three, God of My Salvation,

Heavenly Father, blessed Son, eternal Spirit,
I adore thee as one Being, one Essence,
one God in three distinct Persons,
for bringing sinners to thy knowledge and to thy kingdom.

O Father, thou hast loved me and sent Jesus to redeem me;
O Jesus, thou hast loved me and assumed my nature,
shed thine own blood to wash away my sins,
wrought righteousness to cover my unworthiness;
O Holy Spirit, thou hast loved me and entered my heart,
implanted there eternal life,
revealed to me the glories of Jesus.

Three Persons and one God, I bless and praise thee,
for love so unmerited, so unspeakable,
so wondrous, so mighty to save the lost
and raise them to glory.

O Father, I thank thee that in fullness of grace
thou hast given me to Jesus, to be his sheep, jewel, portion;
O Jesus, I thank thee that in fullness of grace
thou hast accepted, espoused, bound me;
O Holy Spirit, I thank thee that in fullness of grace thou hast
exhibited Jesus as my salvation,
implanted faith within me,
subdued my stubborn heart,
made me one with him for ever.

O Father, thou art enthroned to hear my prayers,
O Jesus, thy hand is outstretched to take my petitions,
O Holy Spirit, thou art willing to help my infirmities,
to show me my need, to supply words,
to pray within me, to strengthen me that I faint not in supplication.

O Triune God, who commandeth the universe,
thou hast commanded me to ask for those things
that concern thy kingdom and my soul.

Let me live and pray as one baptized into the threefold Name.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Unpacking 1 Peter 3:7

In Thursday's post, I described the "three-question" approach I use when studying the Bible:

1) What does this passage teach?
2) What does this passage command?
3) How can I put these truths into practice?

My daily reading several weeks ago brought me to 1 Peter 3. In context, Peter is describing for the church how to live as the people of God. Starting in the second chapter, he addresses first the believers collectively (2:11-2:17), then servants (2:18), wives (3:1), husbands (3:7), and once again returning to address all the saints as a group (3:8). I take my responsibility as a husband seriously, so I decided to take a closer look at 3:7:

"Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered."

1) What does this passage teach?

  • Women are the weaker vessel - Obviously, this does not mean that women are inferior to men. We know that both men and women are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27) and both are one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28). Peter is referring here to the fact that women in general are physically weaker than men, and that men in no way are to use physical or verbal force to be domineering over their wives.
  • My wife is an heir with me of the grace of life - It is unlikely that "the grace of life" refers to salvation, but rather the blessings and joys experienced in this life, specifically those offered by the marriage relationship. My wife and I are partners in life; I have the honor of sharing it with her.
  • If I don't live considerately towards my wife and don't honor her, my prayers will be hindered - The sentence structure clearly shows that "living in an understanding way" is what prevents my prayers from being hindered. As I learn to understand my wife, her needs and desires, I will be better equipped to know how to pray for her. 
2) What does this passage command?
  • I am to live with my wife in an understanding way - This means I am to live considerately towards her, placing her own feelings, needs, and desires above my own. 
  • I am to show her honor - This is for two reasons: 1) She is the weaker vessel; therefore I am to serve, support, protect, and lead her; and 2) She and I are heirs together of the grace of life; therefore, I honor her as my "helper" (see Gen. 2:20).
3) How can I put these truths into practice? 
  • I will strive to study and learn my wife's needs and desires, and learn to know her more deeply, so that I can better honor her and so that my prayers will not be hindered..
  • I will show interest in her and be considerate towards her.
  • I will honor her, serve her, protect her, lead her, and above all, PRAY FOR HER (The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working, James 5:16).
  • I will not keep my walk with Christ separate from hers, but will strive to share with her my encouragements, my struggles, and will come alongside her to be her support.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Digging Deeper into God's Word

One of the most popular New Year's Resolutions among evangelical Christians is that of reading through the Bible in a year. There are myriads of reading plans available, designed to take the reading through the Bible in many different ways. I have personally tried several different plans, including the Chronological plan, Robert M'Cheyne's plan, and I also experimented with Professor Horner's plan for a month or so. Many plans are divided up into OT and NT readings each day, so the reader does not get "bogged down" in the OT for an extended period of time. While these reading plans are helpful, and reading the Bible daily is something each Christian should practice, too often these plans turn the study of God's word into a checklist. It can play off of our Americanized "achievement mentality", where we base our success and our view of our self-worth on how much we can accomplish. A sense of failure can set in if we fall behind on the reading schedule, and we hurriedly try to catch up by skimming through the reading. 

This utterly defeats the purpose of the Word of God. The Bible is not meant to be read like a newspaper, skimming through chunks of text until we get to the good stuff (familiar passages), or avoiding the parts we are not interested in, those that we do not feel have any relevance to our lives today (Leviticus anybody?). The Bible is meant to be carefully perused, digested, and meditated upon. "All Scripture is breathed out by God" (2 Timothy 3:16), so all Scripture is equally relevant and applicable to our daily lives, if we are willing to be patient enough to let the Spirit illuminate it for us. 

I have recently begun the practice of taking a portion of Scripture and breaking it down over the course of days or weeks, wringing out all the possible meaning that God has put into it (I recommend using at least 3-4 verses, to enable you to get the full context). After reading the passage, I meditate on what I have read, asking the Spirit to open my heart to the truths contained in it. After I have obtained an understanding of the context and the main point of the passage, there are three questions that I ask myself to help clarify it in my mind:

1) What does this passage teach? - In other words, what truths are asserted here, about God, about me, about the world? Many 21st-century American Christians are biblically illiterate and feel that the Bible is utterly irrelevant to their lives. After all, the Bible is OLD. The problem with this view is that these people are searching for themselves in the Scripture instead of searching for God. The Bible is not about you, it is about God, and his plan for redeeming his people through Christ. When reading through difficult OT passages, instead of asking, "How does this passage apply to me?", ask, "What does this passage teach me about God and his character?" This approach will open up the Scriptures in a whole new way and teach you to see things from God's perspective.

2) What does this passage command? - Scripture is full of commandments, both direct and indirect. We must be discerning to identify which commandments apply to us today and which were specific to the original hearers. Ask the Holy Spirit for guidance as you discern God's will for your life.

3) How can I apply this passage to my life? - This is where the rubber meets the road. Some texts are easier than others to apply (Sermon on the Mount vs. 1 Chronicles). This step is where meditation on the text comes in. Be patient. Take time to be quiet before God and let the Spirit help you discern how you can apply the text to your circumstances. Remember, the Scriptures are first and foremost about God, so use that as the starting point. 

Reading the Scriptures is one of the most important spiritual disciplines the Christian should develop. The Bible should not be read haphazardly or flippantly. Taking time to dig into the word and be patient before God will reap many rewards.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Divine Will

From The Valley of Vision:

O Lord,

I hang on thee; I see, believe, live,
When thy will, not mine, is done;
I can plead nothing in myself
In regard of any worthiness and grace,
In regard of thy providence and promises,
But only thy good pleasure.
If thy mercy make me poor and vile, blessed be thou!
Prayers arising from my needs are preparations for future mercies;
Help me to honour thee by believing before I feel,
For great is the sin if I make feeling a cause of faith.