Today Was Supposed to Be My Wedding Day

The following was written by a Ms. Conner, on her scheduled wedding day:

May 26, 2012. It was supposed to be a momentous occasion—the day I would walk down the aisle in my mother’s lace wedding gown, peonies in hand, best friend at my side, family and friends looking on with joy. It was supposed to be the day I started a new chapter, the day my dreams would be fulfilled. Little did I know, God had other plans.

We met in the winter of 2010—me and God, that is. He always had his eye on me, but I barely even knew who he was. Once I began spending time with him, our relationship blossomed into something special. He cared for me and loved me like no other. He filled a huge void in my heart.

That’s how I came to know God. It’s also how I came to know the man I thought I would marry.

The relationship started out like many others, following cultural expectations rather than God’s design. Dating, sex, spending the night, meeting the parents, integrating the pets (him, a dog; me, two cats). After 10 months, on a snowy Sunday evening in front of the place we first met, he asked me to marry him. It was romantic indeed. Even strangers passing by yelled congratulations from their car windows.

I was excited to be engaged—to finally be moving toward marriage—but something never felt quite right. I sensed a resistance in my heart, like I wasn’t totally sure about something. But he was a good guy—the right age, handsome, fun, easy-going, from a decent family. What more could a girl want?

So I moved forward. Even though I had just bought my own home, I gave it up and moved in with him on a spring day in early March. Everyone has to make sacrifices for love, I reasoned. That’s where we’re going to end up anyway. Why not start now? At first, it was exciting and felt like the right thing to do. But a different story soon emerged.

After just a few months of living together, God shook things up. I accepted an awesome job opportunity in another state, so we left behind the house we just finished renovating and drove across the country (pets in tow) to set up our life far from home, family, friends, and church.

Shortly after we settled, a friend from work recommended we try out a small new Presbyterian church in the area. I was a tad leery, as I had recently been baptized in a non-denominational church, but I agreed to check it out. I immediately loved it and felt like this could be my church home. On my second visit, I filled out a visitor card, which asked a few questions about how I wanted to get involved. Did I want to join a life group? Be part of a ministry team? Have coffee with the pastor? Coffee sounded good. I checked the box.

Later that week, the pastor emailed me, asking when I wanted to get together. What a great opportunity to get to know him and learn more about the church, I thought. Maybe he would even be willing to officiate our wedding in a few months. High hopes turned to frustration when I mentioned the possibility to my fiancé. “Coffee? With a pastor?” he asked. “Heck, no. That’s just too weird.”

After weeks of my coercing, praying, hoping, and begging, he finally obliged. But we continued to fight about it—-all the way to the front door of the pastor’s house. Regardless, I enjoyed myself and looked forward to hanging out with the pastor and his wife again soon. I could see them being our friends—a couple who would help guide our marriage and bring us closer to God.

Before we could marry, the church asked us to complete a series of counseling sessions, so we set up time to meet with our new pastor. He recommended we start reading the book When Sinners Say I Do by Dave Harvey. I ordered it online, along with Tim and Kathy Keller’s book The Meaning of Marriage. And in my determination to be the very best Christian wife I could be, I also ordered a copy of Carolyn Mahaney’s Feminine Appeal. I thought these books would help us get ready for one of the biggest steps we would ever take.

Help they did, but in a way I didn’t expect. As I started reading Harvey’s book, the first chapter stopped me dead in my tracks. He explained that faith is the most important part of a marriage. Faith? Really? Even though I was now a Christian, I had never considered this point before. Harvey explains that faith is like the first button on a shirt—if you get that wrong, nothing else will line up right.

I began considering how this idea played out in the episode at the pastor’s house, not to mention the weekly task of begging my fiancé to go to church, trying to convince him to join a Bible study, and asking him to remember to pray before dinner. Is it supposed to be this difficult?

No, it’s not, I learned from Harvey, Keller, and my pastor. I began to realize that just as my thinking had been flawed about sex as a prerequisite for love, I also had the wrong idea about the most important traits in a marriage. As I kept reading and talking to other Christians, no one said it was a good idea for me to marry someone with a different worldview. In other words, I had come to love Jesus and make my decisions based on him; my fiancé had not. That discrepancy became poison in our relationship—barely noticeable at first but eventually corrupting nearly every aspect of our lives. As I grew closer to God, I grew further from wanting to marry someone who did not have a relationship with him.

Keller’s teaching on Ephesians 5 helped clarify what I was discovering. Ephesians 5:25-27 says:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit spoke to me on a weekday in early January when my friend opened the Bible to this passage and showed me the truth. I came to understand that God intends for marriage to mimic Jesus’ selfless love for his people. I was awestruck. My husband is supposed to lead me closer to God? I immediately broke down crying. I kept digging, trying to understand how I got so far off base. “He’s a good man,” I argued. “Yes, but is he a Christian? Does he know Jesus?” people asked me in response. “But if I leave him, won’t I be going against what God says, by not loving the unbeliever?” Surprisingly, no. I was not yet married. I had not made a covenant with him before God. I was not bound to him. As much as it would hurt to say goodbye, I knew this was not the relationship God intended for me. He promises much more, and I wasn’t going to find it in a marriage with an unbeliever.

As this devastating realization sunk in, we began the process of disentangling our lives. And within a few weeks, my ex-fiancé headed back to his home with his belongings, including the dog I had come to love and all of my hopes and dreams for a lifetime of happiness together. We both knew he had to find God on his own terms, in his own way.

Who could have guessed that simply checking a box on a church form would eventually end in heartbreak, financial loss, and unwanted singleness? Difficult and sad as it was, God was there every step of the way. He was there in the simple way it ended, despite our lives being intertwined in nearly every way. He was there in the support and love our family and friends provided. He was there to give me a sense of peace that transcended all understanding. Left to myself, previous breakups had knocked me down to my lowest points in life. But this time, with more riding on the relationship than ever before, I was truly okay. I suppose obedience to God made the difference. As much as it hurts, God is always there to pick up the pieces.

Marriage and family are still the two things I want most in life, but I know that they’re in God’s control—not mine. Before I knew God, I tried to control my relational life by making poor decisions and sacrifices that brought little reward. Now, I find fulfillment in God. He is my rock, the one who deserves my love and attention. While it is a daily struggle to trust him with the things I care about so deeply, he has proven that he’s looking out for me. I leave my future in his hands.

“I Asked the Lord” (Hymn)

“I Asked the Lord” is remarkable hymn (1779), that comes from the pen of the remarkable man, John Newton (1725-1807).

It’s a beautiful hymn that begins with a request that Christian growth in grace would occur. The song depicts the aftermath of this prayer, the immediate difficulties that come, the wrestling with personal sin, and the disappointment that is experienced when long hoped for plans never come to pass.

The ironic twist comes at the end. It is that by these means of difficulty, hardship, and frustration that his prayer was answered. In the end, he finds all his true joy and hoped for righteousness in Christ alone.

I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek, more earnestly, His face.

‘Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He, I trust, has answered prayer!
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once He’d answer my request;
And by His love’s constraining pow’r,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry pow’rs of hell
Assault my soul in every part.

Yea more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Cast our my feelings, and laid me low.

Lord, why is this, I trembling cried,
Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
“‘Tis in this way, the Lord replied,
I answer prayer for grace and faith.

These inward trials I employ,
From self, and pride, to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st find thy all in Me.”

The Story of Jacob DeShazer and Mitsuo Fuchida

During the era of World War II, there existed a tense mutual hostility between Japan and America, which was exacerbated after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Through the theater of war, which followed Pearl Harbor, two lives would be transformed in the most unexpected way – all through the transforming power of the gospel (Romans 1:16).

Mitsuo Fuchida was the combat general officer who gave the final order to bomb Pearl Harbor. Years later Fuchida reflected on this day: “Like a hurricane out of nowhere, my torpedo planes, dive bombers and fighters struck suddenly with indescribable fury. As smoke began to billow and the proud battleships, one by one, started tilting, my heart was almost ablaze with joy. . . . It was the most thrilling exploit of my career.”

On the other side of the ocean at an army base in Oregon, Jacob DeShazer was on KP duty when he heard that Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor. He hurled a potato at the wall and said, “Jap, just wait and see what we’ll do to you!

DeShazer took the first opportunity to fight against Japan. Four months after Pearl Harbor he served on the crew of one of the bombers led by Jimmy Doolittle. When the plane he was on ran out of fuel, DeShazer was captured by the Japanese. He endured forty horrific months as a prisoner of war. Some of his friends were executed instantly. The rest starved slowly. He hated the Japanese intensely. Anger ate away at the core of his being.

Finally, due in part to the testimony of a Christian POW who had died, DeShazer decided to turn to Scripture for answers. DeShazer wrote:

I was gripped with a strange longing to examine the Christian’s Bible to see if I could find the secret. I begged my captors to get a Bible for me. At last, in the month of May, 1944, a guard brought the Book, but told me I could have it for only three weeks. I eagerly began to read its pages. Chapter after chapter gripped my heart. . . . On June 8th, 1944, the words in Romans 10: 9 stood out boldly before my eyes: “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” In that very moment God gave me grace to confess my sins to Him, and He forgave me all my sins and saved me for Jesus’ sake, even as I later found that His Word again promises so clearly in 1 John 1: 9: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” How my heart rejoiced in my newness of spiritual life, even though my body was suffering so terribly from the physical beatings and lack of food. But suddenly I discovered that God had given me new spiritual eyes, and that when I looked at the Japanese officers and guards who had starved and beaten me and my companions so cruelly, I found my bitter hatred for them changed to loving pity.”

At last, on August 20, 1945 parachutists dropped into the prison camp and freed the prisoners from their cells. DeShazer was nearly dead physically, but he was a new man spiritually. He returned to the United States and attended Bible college. His heart now overflowed with such love that he decided to become a missionary to Japan.

DeShazer wrote out his story and distributed it in Japan. One of the people who read it was Mitsuo Fuchida, who was gripped by DeShazer’s story. He wrote:

[DeShazer’s testimony] was something I could not explain. Neither could I forget it. The peaceful motivation I had read about was exactly what I was seeking. Since the American had found it in the Bible, I decided to purchase one myself, despite my traditionally Buddhist heritage. In the ensuing weeks, I read this book eagerly. I came to the climactic drama— the Crucifixion. I read in Luke 23: 34 the prayer of Jesus Christ at His death: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” I was impressed that I was certainly one of those for whom He had prayed. The many men I had killed had been slaughtered in the name of patriotism, for I did not understand the love which Christ wishes to implant within every heart. Right at that moment, I seemed to meet Jesus for the first time. I understood the meaning of His death as a substitute for my wickedness, and so in prayer, I requested Him to forgive my sins and change me from a bitter, disillusioned ex-pilot into a well-balanced Christian with purpose in living. That date, April 14, 1950— became the second “day to remember” of my life. On that day, I became a new person. My complete view on life was changed by the intervention of the Christ I had always hated and ignored before.” 

“I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes.” -Romans 1:16

 

 

Adoniram Judson’s Letter to His Future Father-in-Law

Adoniram Judson, Jr. (August 9, 1788 – April 12, 1850) was one of the earliest Protestant missionaries to leave the shores of the young American nation to preach the gospel in a foreign land.

Before leaving for the mission field, he met and fell in love with Ann Hasseltine. Knowing that he wanted to marry Ann, but also knowing the hardships that they were sure to face being on the mission field, he wrote Ann’s father a letter asking for her hand in marriage with these words:

“I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world ? Whether you can consent to her departure to a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life? Whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death? Can you consent to all this, for the sake of Him who left His heavenly home and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with a crown of righteousness brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall resound to her Saviour from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?”

Adoniram Judson ended up spending thirty seven years on the mission field, not in India, but in Burma. During that time, he persevered through seventeen months of brutal imprisonment, several bouts of life-threatening illness, and the death of two wives and six children. He succeeded in translating the Bible into Burmese and compiling an English-Burmese dictionary. He waited six years for his first Burmese convert, but by the time of his death in 1850, there were a hundred Burmese churches and over 8,000 Burmese Christians. Today, there are approximately 2.5 million Evangelical Burmese Christians who have heard the gospel and come to faith in Christ, thanks in part to the pioneering efforts of Adoniram and Ann Judson.

A book that has had a profound impact in my life is the best known biography on Judson, To The Golden Shore, by Courtney Anderson. I remember finishing the book while flying home from Haiti, with tears coming down from my eyes, thankful to God for this man’s life and labors for the gospel.

How and Why Did God Create Us?

Q. How and why did God create us?

A. God created us male and female in his own image to know him, love him, live with him, and glorify him. And it is right that we who were created by God should live to his glory.

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” -Genesis 1:26-27

God created us…The first chapter of the bible chronicles God’s creative activity. The climax of creation in Genesis one is the special act of the creation of humans (This is seen in the change from the repeated phrase “Let there be” for the other elements of creation, to the special phrase “Let us make” for the creation of humans). As creator of us, he has the right to rule over us (Romans 9:20).

in his own image…Genesis one continues, “So God created man in his own image” (Genesis 1:26-27). Of all beings in creation, only humanity is said to be “created in the image of God.”  To be in God’s image means “to be like God and to represent God in his creation” -Wayne Grudem. An implication of this is that the biblical view of humanity is a necessary philosophical foundation for the notion of human dignity and human rights. All human beings have dignity, because they are a special creation of God, and are deserving of respect and regard for their life and welfare.

Created as Male and Female…We are also told that humanity is created as gendered beings. Now the idea that human sex or gender has an objective dimension, and is not simply a matter of identity and personal preference, flies in the face of much contemporary gender ideology. We need to deepen our appreciation of the Bible’s teaching about the nature of human sexuality. The way biological sex determines gender identity and gender roles, and the goodness of being either male-men or female-women (Gen 1:26-28; 2:18-25). God made men and women different. Our chromosomes are different. Our brains are different. Our voices are different. Our body shapes are different. Our body strengths are different. Our reproductive systems are different. The design for what our bodies are structured and destined for are different, and these designs bear witness to differences that reflect God’s creative will for humanity.

To know him, love him, live with him…God has graciously chosen to reveal himself. He has revealed himself through his creation (Psalm 19:1-4; Romans 1:18-20), and he has revealed himself specially through Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21) and supremely through Jesus Christ (John 1:14, 18). So, while we will never know God exhaustively, we can affirm that we can know him truly. As Jeremiah 9:23-24 says: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”

…and glorify him. And it is right that we who were created by God should live to his glory.Glory’ in the Old Testament carries associations of weight, worth, wealth, splendor, and dignity, all of which are present when God is said to have revealed his glory. God answered Moses’ plea to be shown God’s glory when he passed by and revealed his nature, character, and power, in Exodus 33:18–34:7. It was a glimpse of God’s intrinsic glory in his being.

New Testament writers proclaim that the glory of God’s nature, character, power, and purpose is now open to view in the person and work of Jesus Christ (John 1:14-18; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6; Hebrews 1:1-3). God’s glory, shown through Jesus Christ, supremely in his grace whereby he saves sinners, is meant to call forth praise and honor (Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14). All of our life then is to be pursued with the aim of giving God honor and glory in response to his grace (1 Corinthians 10:31).

 

 

 

 

How Many Persons Are There in God?

Q. How many persons are there in God?

A. There are three person in the one true and living God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are the same in substance, equal in power and glory.

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” -2 Corinthians 13:14

Augustine of Hippo (354-430 A.D.), renowned Christian theologian, at the time when he was writing a treatise on the doctrine of the Trinity, was once walking along the seashore when he noticed a small boy pouring seawater into a hole on the ground. On enquiring what he was doing, the boy told him that he was pouring the Mediterranean Sea into the hole. “Don’t be silly,” replied Augustine, “you can’t fit the sea into that little hole. You are wasting your time.” “And so are you,” replied the boy, “trying to write a book about God.”

The Trinity is simultaneously a difficult doctrine to comprehend, because there are not analogies to it in our natural world, and an essential doctrine, because without it there is no Christianity.

The doctrine is a summary affirmation of seven statements. (1) There is only one God. (2) The Father is God. (3) The Son is God. (4) The Holy Spirit is God. (5) The Father is not the Son. (6) The Son is not the Holy Spirit. (7) The Holy Spirit is not the Father.

One God in three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is how it has classically been articulated.

The ‘One God’ expresses the truth that all three persons (beings) are equally and uniquely God, not three gods. The ‘three persons’ expresses the truth that all share the same “Godness.” One is not more God than another.

We want to be true to the biblical witness that there is an indivisibility and unity of God, even though Father, Son, and Holy Spirit can all be rightly called God.

You might be tempted to say at this point “well, that’s all well and good, but where is it in the bible?”

To begin with, there are verses that clearly speak of God’s oneness (Duet. 6:4; Isa. 44:6; 1 Tim. 1:17).

Add to this that there are passages that speak of the deity (or “Godness”) of the Father (John 6:27; Titus 1:4), of the Son (John 1:1, 14; John 8:58; John 20:28 Col. 2:9; Titus 2:13) and of the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3-4; 1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19; Heb. 9:14).

The shape of Trinitarian doctrine is finally rounded off by texts that hint at the plurality of the persons in the Godhead (Gen. 1:1-3, 26) and texts like 1 Corinthians 8:6 which places Jesus Christ as Lord right in the middle of the Jewish Shema (Duet. 6:4) and the texts which speak of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the same breath, equating them in rank, while assuming distinction in personhood (Matt. 28:19; Eph. 1:13-14; 2 Cor. 13:14).

So, why does all this matter? While there are many possible answers, here are four:

One, the Trinity matters for creation. God can be both above creation (Col. 1:17) and involved with creation (Ps. 46:1). God is the only eternal being and as such has no beginning (unlike the universe that we inhabit). So, while we are depended on so much outside of ourselves for our existence, God is not.

Two, the Trinity matters for the notion of unity and diversity. If God exists in three distinct persons, who all share the same God identity, then it makes sense to believe that God’s creation would display the same quality of diversity and yet hold together with the understanding of true unity. Christians can affirm good, God-honoring, plurality without descending into the notion that every truth claim is simply relative to our experience.

Three, the Trinity matters for love. Without a plurality of persons in the Godhead, we would be forced to think that God created humans so that he might show love and know love. But, with a biblical understanding of the Trinity, we can say that God did not create in order to be loved, but rather, created out of the overflow of the perfect love that had always existed among Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who ever live in perfect and mutual relationship and delight.

Fourth, the Trinity matters for our salvation. The bible indicates that the trinity works in union to complete our salvation. The Father plans (Eph. 1:4), the Son accomplishes (John 3:16, and the Spirit applies (John 14:16-17). Salvation ultimately is the overflow of the love that experience perfectly within himself from all eternity. It is this love that he shares so freely with those who come to experience it through Jesus Christ.

Jesus is Better

“Apart from Christ, there is no explanation for such a life.” Said of William Borden by Professor Charles Erdman of Princeton University

In 1904 William Borden graduated from a Chicago high school. As heir to the Borden Condensed Milk Company (now Borden, Inc.), he inherited a fortune. For his high school graduation present, his parents gave sixteen-year-old Borden  trip around the world! As the young man traveled through Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, he felt a growing burden to bring the gospel to the nations.

Borden attended college at Yale. While there, he sat under the teaching of Dr. Samuel Zwemer, who was fervent about reaching Muslims for Christ. William learned that there were fifteen million Muslims in northwest China, yet not a single missionary had been sent to reach them. He was astounded that there were more Muslims in China than in Egypt, Persia, or even Arabia, and yet no one was sharing the gospel with them. It was then that he dedicated his life to reaching Chinese Muslims. He never wavered from his passionate pursuit of this goal.

Upon graduation from Yale, Borden turned down some high-paying job offers. He had decided that he wanted to be a missionary to the nations. A friend remarked that he was “throwing himself away as a missionary.”

William Borden went on to graduate study at Princeton Seminary. When he finished his studies at Princeton, he joined the China Inland Mission. Because he was hoping to work with the Muslim peoples of Western China, he stopped first in Egypt to study Arabic. While there, he contracted spinal meningitis.

Within a month, the twenty-five-year-old William Borden was dead.

When news of his death was cabled back to the U.S., nearly every American newspaper carried the story. One wrote, “A wave of sorrow went ’round the world…Borden not only gave away his wealth, but himself, in a way so joyous and natural that it seems a privilege rather than a sacrifice.”

While some contended that his life was a waste, on the contrary, his example and influence led to the ranks of the foreign mission agencies swelling, and the numbers of those applying to go with the China Inland Mission multiplied, as well.

After his death, friends found a paper under his pillow scrawled with the words “No reserve! No retreat! No regrets!”

What is God?

Q. What is God?

A. God is the creator and sustainer of everyone and everything. He is eternal, infinite, and unchangeable in his power and perfection, goodness and glory, wisdom, justice, and truth. Nothing happens except through him and by his will.

There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours. All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name. For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God…But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. -Psalm 86:8-10, 15

Question 2 of the New City Catechism addresses God, who he is and what he is like. The word God is often thought to be an empty concept that we may define however we like. However, when we talk about the God of the Bible, we are talking about a God who is self-defined. He defines himself and discloses who he is through revelation, i.e. the Bible.

The Catechism begins by defines him he does on the beginning pages of scripture: as creator and sustainer of everyone and everything. Genesis 1 tells us that in the beginning there was God and nothing else. He created the world ex nihilo, which is Latin for “out of nothing.” There was no stars, no planets, no light, no creatures, no water – nothing. Before anything physical was present, the eternal God was there. After countless eons of inter-Trinitarian fellowship, God decided he would make something. He simply commanded it, and it came forth. “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (Hebrews 11:3).

We also see from this definition of God in the Catechism, that he is in control of all things. The mindset of most of us is that we are in control and God responds to our circumstances. But not the Biblical God, he is in loving control of all things. God’s providence is to be seen through the lens of Scripture where we see a loving God who knows the numbers of hairs  on our head (Matthew 10:30) and directs the sparrows in the sky (Matthew 10:29), and who is working all things out for good for those who love him, and have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

This is important for us to grasp for three reasons. (1) We can be patient when things go against us. Joseph being sold into slavery in Egypt, then imprisoned, was a distressing sequence of events, but he took comfort knowing that God was in charge (Genesis 50:20).

(2) We can be thankful when things go well. How often do we pray for the test to go well, a spouse, the job, or for safe travel and then never get around to thanking God on the other side of the blessing? If we truly believe that he is in control of all things, then we have someone to give thanks to for providentially orchestrating the good things that come to pass.

(3) We can have confidence for the future. God moves in mysterious ways, and we may not have all the answers that we would desire as we navigate life. But we can trust the one who is creator and sustainer of all things and the one who loves us as a Father (Romans 8:15). He is worthy of our trust.

“I know who holds the future,
And I know who holds my hand,
With God things don’t just happen,
Everything by Him is planned;
So as I face tomorrow
With its problems large and small,
I’ll trust the God of miracles-
Give to Him my all.”

What is Our Only Hope in Life and Death?

Q: What is our only hope in life and death?

A. That we are not our own but belong, body and soul, both in life and death, to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ

This first question of the New City Catechism is a modification of the most famous question found in the 16th century Heidelberg Catechism (“What is your only comfort in life and in death”). It is an appropriate place to begin – the ultimate hope and security that comes only by God’s grace through Jesus Christ.

If you asks what brings ‘hope’ in life? There are countless possible answers – graduating college, getting the job promotion, marrying that ideal spouse, having the golden parachute at retirement. But, this is different, because of the word “only.” “What is your only comfort” gets at something much deeper. It is asking, ‘What is your solace in life? What is your real security?’

It gets at the most important question that we will ever face. What enables you to endure life and face death unafraid? Is it that you read your Bible every day? That you attend church every Sunday? That you give to the poor? That you haven’t committed any of the big sins in life?

We live in a world where we expect to find hope and security in possessions, pride, power, and position. But this Catechism reminds us that our only true security comes from the fact that we don’t even belong to ourselves! Listen to John Calvin’s emphasis on belonging to Christ and not ourselves:

We are not our own: let not our reason nor our will, therefore, sway our plans and deeds. We are not our own: let us therefore not set it as our goal to seek what is expedient for us according to the flesh. We are not our own: in so far as we can, let us therefore forget ourselves and all that is ours. Conversely, we are God’s: let us therefore live for him and die for him. We are God’s; Let his wisdom and will therefore rule all our actions. We are God’s : let all the parts of our life accordingly strive toward him as our only lawful goal.”

Question 1 of the Catechism shapes our whole existence. The first thing we need to know as a Christian is that we belong to Jesus and nor ourselves. We are meant to live and die in the joy of this hope.

Hope in Christ does not mean all the bad things in life go away. Hope in Christ puts before us a greater joy that outweighs present and future sufferings. Hope in Christ means we are not fundamentally hoping in ourselves and all that we can bring to the table, but in him who has done all that is spiritually necessary for us to have peace with God. It means knowing him, trusting him, resting in him, and looking to him in life and in death as our true source of comfort and security.

The New City Catechism – Introduction

In the circles that I run, Catechisms have tended to fall out of vogue. Historically, they have been employed as an important tool for Christian discipleship in the church.  Taking students through the Apostles’ Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer – biblical theology, practical ethics, and spiritual instruction. I do believe that they still have great value for Christian formation – which is why our family is working through The New City Catechism together each evening during our devotion time.

Catechism comes from the Greek Katechein, which means “to teach orally or to instruct by word of mouth.” Catechisms have provided a rich trove of theology for its students. They were written with at least three purposes in mind.

Frist, was to set forth a comprehensive exposition of the gospel – not only in order to explain what the gospel is but also doctrines upon which it is founded – doctrines of God, human nature, Christology, etc.

The second purpose was to do this exposition in a way that the heresies, errors, and the false beliefs of the time and culture were addressed and confronted.

The third and more pastoral purpose was to form a distinct people, a counterculture that reflect the likeness of Christ not simply individually, but communally, in families and within the church.

The New City Catechism is a modern-day resource aimed at helping children and adults alike learn the core doctrines of the Christian faith via 52 questions and answers. The New City Catechism is based on and adapted from Calvin’s Geneva Catechism, the Westminster Shorter and Larger catechisms, and especially the Heidelberg Catechism. This gives good exposure to some of the riches and insights across the spectrum of the great Reformation-era catechisms.

It is divided into three parts:
Part 1: God, creation and fall, law (twenty questions)
Part 2: Christ, redemption, grace (fifteen questions)
Part 3: Spirit, restoration, growing in grace (seventeen questions)

My hope is to proceed through this particular Catechism in coming weeks on this blog and reflect together upon God’s truth for our hearts and minds contained there within.