Category Archives: Theological Reflections

The Perspective of the Farmer (Pastor)


The Perspective of a Farmer (Pastor)

I like to look at the following passage through the eyes of a pastor and his concern about the spiritual production of his congregation.

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Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’

Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’” Luke 13:6-9

Suppose I have a church member that is faithful in church attendance, but has chosen to be an observer and not responded to call of the church or the Lord asking him/her to use their God-given talents and spiritual gifts. Suppose God says to the pastor, “I have waited patiently and this person is so unwilling to use their spiritual gifts.” Suppose God says “I am going to remove them from your farm.”

The loving pastor will say, “Please, Lord, give them another chance and I will try to do a better job of challenging them and giving him/her encouragement. Please give him/her a chance to become productive.”

Take care about your response to being given a “second chance.”

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The Everlasting Refuge of God


“The eternal God is your refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deut. 33:27)

 

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One Ceiling La Sagrada Familia

 

Most of us have days when we feel unstable and weak in the light of our own strength, particularly when we are sick or begin to feel the inevitable effects of aging. I woke up on June 21 with a lot of shaking (strong tremors in my hands). This is unusual for me since I have been blessed with such good health. It frightened me. The writer of Deuteronomy, along with many other Bible authors, like to focus on the REFUGE of God.

This term no longer finds a place in our daily conversations. It is good to remember why it is of value in the life of a Christian. I can’t describe it better than David Roach has:

“Refuge” calls our attention first of all to sin and the wreckage it causes. When the Old Testament speaks of refuge, it is always in the context of a threat, something wrong or dangerous in the world. Sometimes the threat is physical, as in seeking refuge from a rainstorm (Job 24:8; Isaiah 4:6), shade from hot sun (Judges 9:15), or protection from adversaries (Psalm 61:3). In other instances, the threat is spiritual or emotional, as in a refuge from shame (Psalm 31:1; 71:1) or loneliness (Psalm 142:4). But in all these cases, the Bible’s use of “refuge” reminds us that we live in a world wrecked by sin—a world of dangers around us and brokenness inside us. We cannot avoid these realities, only seek shelter from them.

Yet the word “refuge” also calls our attention to God’s power to save us from sin and its consequences. Many times, it references His ability to protect us from the dangers just described. He provides shelter in a storm, vindication in the face of shame, and friendship in times of loneliness. Even more significantly, the Lord is our refuge in the Day of Judgment. Though He will bring a day of reckoning for sin, He grants His people forgiveness and gives them refuge from His wrath (Nahum 1:7; Deuteronomy 32:37). Indeed, the greatest need of all men and women is shelter from the horrible consequences of sin, and this word in Scripture reminds us that God offers such shelter.”  (Bible Mesh Blog)

So, today, I praise God for his everlasting refuge.

Reasons to Praise God


The Psalmist reminds of reasons to praise God with our whole heart. You will see 6 good reasons in bold print below:

  • God’s love and faithfulness are unfailing.
  • God answers our prayers.
  • God emboldens us.
  • God looks kindly on the lowly.
  • God preserves our life in the midst of trouble.
  • God saves us with his strong hand.

 

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Organ in La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

 

I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart;
    before the “gods” I will sing your praise.
I will bow down toward your holy temple
    and will praise your name
    for your unfailing love and your faithfulness,
for you have so exalted your solemn decree
    that it surpasses your fame.
When I called, you answered me;
    you greatly emboldened me.

May all the kings of the earth praise you, Lord,
    when they hear what you have decreed.
May they sing of the ways of the Lord,
    for the glory of the Lord is great.

Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly;
    though lofty, he sees them from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
    you preserve my life.
You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes;
    with your right hand you save me.
The Lord will vindicate me;
    your love, Lord, endures forever
    do not abandon the works of your hands.

Dealing with Anxiety


I do a fairly decent job of being content wherever I am and whatever I am doing. This morning I read Psalm 131 as a part of my program to read through the Bible in one year. David writes in verse 2 “But I have calmed and quieted my self…” That couldn’t have been easy for David since he was constantly under siege by animals, giants, Saul, neighboring nations, and his own family.

I assume he sat down and got quiet wherever he could find peace and quiet. Maybe he turned in prayer to listen for a word from God and was reminded of God steadfastness love and mercy. Maybe he played a tune on his lyre since that always calmed Saul when he was disturbed. Perhaps he looked at his cat and said, “Let me relax like that little creature.”

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I find anxiety totally unproductive but often lapse into its vicious grasp. I hate those feelings of doubt and a troubled spirit. So, I have to consciously deny them in my life.

Here are some of my tools in seeking contentment.

  1. I resign myself to accept what has happened, both good and bad.
  2. I rest in the belief that God will work out whatever happens for my own good and God’s glory in the end.
  3. I really try to be optimistic about the future.IMG_1423
  4. I remember how faithful God has been in my life.
  5. I run toward the friends I enjoy and trust most.

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These four steps lead me to a better place in the land of contentment.

A Preacher Gets Listeners in an Unusual Place


I was in Lisbon, Portugal in April and saw a very interesting mosaic in a church. It pictured St. Antony preaching to a receptive multitude of fish. The following is the story behind the tile presentation.

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From “The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi,” 1476


Christ, the blessed one, was pleased to show forth the great sanctity of his most faithful servant St Anthony, and how men ought devoutly to listen to his preaching, be means of creatures without reason. On one occasion, amongst others, he made use of fish to reprove the folly of faithless heretics: even as we read in the Old Testament that in ancient times he reproved the ignorance of Balaam by the mouth of an ass.

St Anthony being at one time at Rimini, where there were a great number of heretics, and wishing to lead them by the light of faith into the way of truth, preached to them for several days and reasoned with them on the faith of Christ and on the Holy Scriptures. They not only resisted his words but were hardened and obstinate, refusing to listen to him.

At last St Anthony, inspired by God, went down to the sea-shore, where the river runs into the sea, and having placed himself on a bank between the river and the sea, he began to speak to the fishes as if the Lord had sent him to preach to them, and said: “Listen to the word of God, O ye fishes of the sea and of the river, seeing that the faithless heretics refuse to do so.”

No sooner had he spoken these words than suddenly so great a multitude of fishes, both small and great, approached the bank on which he stood, that never before had so many been seen in the sea or the river. All kept their heads out of the water, and seemed to be looking attentively on St Anthony’s face; all were ranged in perfect order and most peacefully, the smaller ones in front near the bank, after them came those a little bigger, and last of all, were the water was deeper, the largest.

When they had placed themselves in this order, St Anthony began to preach to them most solemnly, saying: “My brothers the fishes, you are bound, as much as is in your power, to return thanks to your Creator, who has given you so noble an element for your dwelling; for you have at your choice both sweet water and salt; you have many places of refuge from the tempest; you have likewise a pure and transparent element for your nourishment. God, your bountiful and kind Creator, when he made you, ordered you to increase and multiply, and gave you his blessing. In the universal deluge, all other creatures perished; you alone did God preserve from all harm. He has given you fins to enable you to go where you will. To you was it granted, according to the commandment of God, to keep the prophet Jonas, and after three days to throw him safe and sound on dry land.

At these words the fish began to open their mouths, and bow their heads, endeavouring as much as was in their power to express their reverence and show forth their praise.

St Anthony, seeing the reverence of the fish towards their Creator, rejoiced greatly in spirit, and said with a loud voice: “Blessed be the eternal God; for the fishes of the sea honour him more than men without faith, and animals without reason listen to his word with greater attention than sinful heretics.”

And whilst St Anthony was preaching, the number of fishes increased, and none of them left the place that he had chosen. And the people of the city hearing of the miracle made haste to go and witness it. With them also came the heretics of whom we have spoken above, who, seeing so wonderful and manifest a miracle, were touched in their hearts; and threw themselves at the feet of St Anthony to hear his words. The saint then began to expound to them the Catholic faith. He preached so eloquently, that all those heretics were converted, and returned to the true faith of Christ; the faithful also were filled with joy, and greatly comforted, being strengthened in the faith.

After this St Anthony sent away the fishes, with the blessing of God; and they all departed, rejoicing as they went, and the people returned to the city. But St Anthony remained at Rimini for several days, preaching and reaping much spiritual fruit in the souls of his hearers.

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Hints about Writing and Storytelling


 

Telling Your Story Is the Best Way to Witness

But there is one more important reason to recognize and write stories. Our stories are one of the best ways we have to witness without presumption to the “mighty acts of God.” Jesus asked his disciples to be his witnesses. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). He was really asking them to be His storytellers. Through the careful writing and telling of our stories, we shift a story about “me,” and use it as a testimony that demonstrates God’s intimate role in the life of people. Our stories remind the listener that God is actively pursuing every human on earth. His pursuit transcends religion, nationality, and race. That pursuit is a moment-by-moment process with significant events occurring at unforeseen and unpredictable times. The most spiritual people of the world may arguably be those who carefully build a structure in their life that heightens their awareness of God’s interaction in their life.

Some of the best of life is lost because important experiences are not recognized, are not written, and are not retold. If you don’t think your story is important enough to write and tell, then you have missed so much of what God has been trying to share with you. Your story is a LOVE STORY about God’s love for you. You cannot predict the importance of one of your stories. Erin Morgenstern wrote in The Night Circus, “You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.”1

The 23rd Psalm–David’s Best


IMG_0831This Psalm used to be one of the most memorized chapters of the Bible. It was probably the only chapter that most Christians knew by heart. I love it because it teaches us about the nature of God. I suspect that God revealed these truths to David while he sat alone at night tending his sheep.

Here is what I have learned from David’s reflections.

God is a personal caretaker of all who listen for His voice.  “The Lord is my shepherd” (vs. 1)

God is the great provider of our needs.  “I shall not be in want” (vs. 1).

God is a divine and perfect leader. “He leads me beside still waters” (vs. 2)

God provides constant opportunities to renew one’s faith.  “He restores my soul” (vs. 3)

God is always around interacting in our life. “For you are with me” (vs. 4).

God ultimately wins. “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” (vs. 4).

God is intent on us reaching the highest ethic possible. “He guides me in the path of righteousness” (vs. 5).

 

God is good and loving. “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life (vs. 6).

God is eternal. “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (vs. 6).