Provision: H.C. Question 125 (Part 2)

What does the fourth petition mean? 
 
James 1:17 – Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
 
Deuteronomy 8:3 – He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
 
Psalm 37:16 – Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked;
 
Psalm 127:1-2 – Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.  Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.  In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves.
 
1 Corinthians 15:58 – Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
 
Psalm 55:22 – Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.

Jeremiah 17:5-8 – This is what the Lord says:

“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who draws strength from mere flesh
and whose heart turns away from the Lord.
That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;
they will not see prosperity when it comes.
They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
in a salt land where no one lives.
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”

Hebrews 13:5-6 – Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

So we say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.  What can mere mortals do to me?”
 


All Our Needs: H.C. Question 125 (Part 1)

What does the fourth petition mean? 
 
Psalm 104:27-30 – All creatures look to you to give them their food at the proper time.  When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things.  When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust.  When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.
 
Psalm 145:15-16 – The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.  You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

Matthew 6:25-34 – “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
 
Acts 14:17 – Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”
 
Acts 17:25 – And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.


The Lord’s Prayer: H.C. Question 119

What is this prayer? 
 

Matthew 6:9-13 – “This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’
 

Luke 11:2-4 – He said to them, “When you pray, say:

“‘Father,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.’”


Good Good Father: H.C. Lord's Day 9

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 9

Q 26: What do you believe when you say, “I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth”?
A 26: That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who out of nothing created heaven and earth and everything in them, who still upholds and rules them by his eternal counsel and providence, is my God and Father because of Christ the Son.

I trust God so much that I do not doubt he will provide whatever I need for body and soul, and will turn to my good whatever adversity he sends upon me in this sad world.

God is able to do this because he is almighty God, and desires to do this because he is a faithful Father.

It did not use to be a great thing for one to say that they “believe in God.”  In fact, most people, if approached, would say that they believe in a divine being or creative power of some sort that, at the very least, created this universe and started it on its path.  But is this enough?  Can we hold to a very basic belief in something bigger than ourselves, calling ourselves “spiritual” but not “religious,” and get along well in this world?  Sure…  Is is enough for salvation?  No.

Scripture points out that this kind of faith, a simple belief in God, is the same faith that the Satan’s demons have.  And, while this general belief in God doesn’t seem to have a great impact on most humans, the demons’ belief makes them shudder (James 2:19).

As the question and answer 26 indicate, there is so much more to know about and wonder at in God, it stretches us beyond the limits of our ability to think and conceptualize.  Much of this we know as the attributes of God, some of which God shares with us and others that are solely God’s own.

One such attribute that belongs solely to God, something we call an “incommunicable” attribute, and something that goes far beyond our ability to understand, is God’s eternal nature.  Time itself is a concept that does not apply to God.  You may have heard the phrase “I have all the time in the world…”, but God literally holds time in His hand.  There has never been a time where God wasn’t.  Before anything was a thing, God was present and in eternal, perfect, trinitarian communion.

God’s eternal nature leads us to another belief that we hold to which God as the sole source of creation.  This belief is known as Creatio ex Nihilo, or creation out of nothing.  More specifically this means that God created the whole universe out of nothing; He simply spoke it into being and did so before there was even an “it” to speak to.  While this may seem like a relatively obvious thing, but it is profoundly important.  If part of the nature of God is that God is eternal, whereas nothing else is, then we effectually deny what science would tell us about the “Big Bang” and any pre-existent matter.  While the happening of the Big Bang may be the way in which God began creation, and there certainly is evidence to show that possibility, what science cannot and has not been able to prove is what happened in the seconds and eons before that event.  What is important, however, is that we understand that nothing existed alongside God prior to creation.  If we allow for something to exist alongside the Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) prior to creation, we are either elevating that thing to the same status as God or lowering God’s status to the realm of a thing; neither are true.  God is God; everything else is a creature, created by God.

Another thing that is, sadly, often forgotten when it comes to belief in God is His continual sustaining and providing action in the world.  Deism, the belief in an uninvolved divine being, has largely become the norm of belief in the world.  Many who believe in a higher being or an intelligent creator, also believe that He/She/It is no longer actively involved in the world.  Like a clockmaker who builds the clock, winds it us, and then lets it go, so too do we think God has done that with the universe and we are here just waiting for time to run its course.  That is, however, not what Christians (should) believe about God.  Scripture reveals to us a God who is loving and active, working His will in the world toward the redemption and restoration of the whole world.  We see this most vividly in the person of Jesus Christ, God incarnate.  If God were an uninvolved deity, the coming of Christ would be completely contradictory to God’s nature, arbitrarily showing up and a random point in time to bring salvation, only to disappear back into the sky with a promise (or perhaps threat) that He will come back some day as well.

All of theology moves us toward trust.  The purpose of our discussions here as we take the posture of “faith seeking understanding,” is one in which we are moving deeper and deeper toward trust in God.  Scripture reveals a loving God who is intimately aware of everything that is happening in His creation and one who is working to bring all things together under Chirst.  Paul writes that “all things work together for the good of those who love God,” and that is what we understand to be happening and what will happen when Jesus returns to set up His eternal Kingdom here and God dwells with us forever.



James 4 – Internal Desires

Read James 4

Practical Theology, which is one of the main themes of the book of James, doesn’t simply have to do with what we do outwardly as we live out our faith.  Though that is a big component of it, James has already pointed to the fact that what happens outside of us, our actions, come from what is happening inside of us.

Here, he draws on that theme, even more, when he points out that much of the fighting, quarreling, and division that is present in our lives comes from the internal desires that we have not being fulfilled.

Now, some of these desires might be good things and are worth standing up for.  But what James is referring to here is actually the negative things, the things we covet or want.  We may get these things confused for those things that we need, forgetting that God always provides for the things that we need.  When we lose our perspective like this, the little things seem to be way more important than they actually are and we make a big deal out of them, fighting and quarreling about things that are really non-issues.

How do we overcome this?  James tells us to submit ourselves to God and resist these temptations.  When we do this, the devil will flee from us.  He makes it sound so simple…

However, the reality of what James is saying here brings us back to the very core of our identity in Christ.  We are those who are unable to save ourselves, unable to free ourselves, and unable to provide for ourselves; WE NEED GOD.  James calls us to a life of daily dependence on God for our protection and provision.

While future planning is not necessarily a bad thing, as Christians we are called to do it through the lens of daily dependence.  We do not do things under our own power, but because of God’s provision and blessing in our lives.  This is the essence of practical theology too, that our lives would daily reflect our full dependence on God alone.



Philippians 1 – Advance of the Gospel

Read Philippians 1

Paul opens his letter to the church in Philippi on a decidedly happy note, not because of what is going on with him, but because of what he hears ash been going on in the church there.  He calls them “partners” in the Gospel and is overjoyed by the growth that has been taking place there, which he has heard about even in Rome.

It is not just the church in Philippi that is giving Paul a reason to celebrate, though.  Yes, they have been moving forward in the right direction, following God’s lead and seeing the Gospel advance whereas other churches that Paul wrote to were not.  But Paul himself is seeing the advance of the Gospel even in his own context where it was much less expected.

At the time of his writing, Paul was imprisoned in Rome under house arrest.  It would be understandable for us, as Paul talks about his chains, that he would be in a rather sour mood.  Yet he continues to rejoice because even in that context, the Gospel is moving forward!

Though Paul was in prison, the Gospel continued to advance.

Throughout Scripture, there are a myriad of narratives about God using seemingly bad situations for the good of those involved in them.  Once again, God is using Paul’s imprisonment for the advance of the Gospel.  This, Paul says, is also true when it comes to those preaching the Gospel.  Some do it for selfish reasons while others preach out of love.

“What does it matter?”  Paul says.  “The important thing is that in every way… Christ is preached.”

Sometimes we get caught up in denominationalism, questioning the motives of certain preachers, or criticizing the actions of other faith communities.  Paul, however, is not concerned with the minutia of what is going on in different churches as long as the Gospel is being faithfully preached.  Now, this isn’t a license to preach and teach whatever we want.  Yet, whatever the human motives are, when the Word of God goes out, it will not return empty.



Mark 8 – Desolate Place

Read Mark 8

We have all seen fads come and go many times in our lives.  Whether it’s a diet, a lifestyle, a game, or some technology, there are things in our life and culture that look like, and feel like they are leading us down a fulfilling and enjoyable path.  However, there will always come a point when we feel like we somehow stumbled into the middle of nowhere, and we find ourselves hungry and wondering when we will next be able to be nourished.

Everything in our life takes us places, whether we are aware of it or not.  We travel down the proverbial road, following it wherever it leads us.  Think about a marathon of watching your favorite show on Netflix, how you get wrapped up in the characters and begin feeling for them and with them.  But at some point, that show or series will end and you are left with a bit of an empty feeling, something this commercial calls the “show hole.”

Sure, you can start watching another show but they all lead to the same desolate place.

Jesus recognizes that there have been many people following Him all over the countryside, many have come from long distances.  For many of them, He isn’t the first teacher to come along and offer hope, yet He will not leave them, or us, in the wilderness with no nourishment.

Jesus’ call to take up our crosses daily is one in which we will find ourselves in desolate places, feeling alone and hungry, yet we are never abandoned.  Jesus is the only one who will truly give us the nourishment we need and not leave us stranded and hungry, left to fend for ourselves and find our own way home.  He always provides it for us.



Mark 6 – Abundance

Read Mark 6

If there is one thing that we could say defines America, it would be that we pride ourselves on having more than enough.  Maybe this is not something we like to claim, but the reality of how we act, what we own, and how we eat shows this to be true.  We don’t like to rely on anyone for anything.  Americans fulfill their own destiny, provide for themselves, and create their own abundance.

Jesus, however, creates a different picture of abundance; that of the Kingdom of Heaven.  It isn’t a picture of self-help books or 3-step guides to a better life, neither is it a list of rules and regulations you must follow to earn their keep, it is an image of full and complete dependence on God who provides far more than we could ask or imagine.

Our Savior provides food, more than they could possibly eat, out of scarcity.  Yet the lesson that is meant to be taught here is not one of physical nourishment, but rather the nature of God’s Kingdom which is illustrated in the following two narratives as well.

In all three cases, Jesus provides for the needs that they have.  This, I believe, is the true nature of God’s Kingdom economy, full provision.  There is never scarcity in the Kingdom of Heaven and never need.  God provides for it all at every moment and Jesus shows this as He provides for physical nourishment, safety, and healing.

The catch, if you could call it that, is our trust and dependence.  While the feeding of the 5,000 did not depend necessarily on the disciple’s trust in Jesus’ ability, nor did the calming of the storm, but healing, like that of the women in the previous chapter, happened because of faith, trust, and dependence on Jesus.