3/30/2009

We All Like Sheep Have Gone Astray

3/30/2009 Posted by Sheldon Clowdus , , , No comments
Last year on vacation at St. George Island, we lost our 2 year old daughter at the beach. We were all in one place, digging in the sand and sitting under the umbrella when we realized Sophie wasn't with us anymore. As expected we panicked and went searching frantically in every direction for her. I found her a couple hundred yards down the beach in the arms of a young couple who was walking her back our way. After the most heartfelt thank you I have ever given out, I took Sophie back to the rest of the family. I have never felt such fear before or since that day.

This evening in the van, we were talking about going on vacation this summer when Sophie asked us "Remember when I was looking for you at the beach?" We assured her we did remember (I don't think we will ever forget) and then asked her what happened that day. She responded, "You leaved me." We reminded her that we never moved and that she was the one who wandered off.

This reminds me of our relationship with our Father. How often do we get busy and distracted doing our own thing, only to look up one day and not be able to find God anywhere around. We search for Him, but can't seem to find Him. When He finally finds us and brings us back to safety, we ask Him, "Where did you go? Why did you leave me alone like that?" He reminds us ever so gently that He did not ever move, that it was us who left Him. The great news is that He always comes looking for us, He always brings us back to the safety of His presence no matter how often we stray.

What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?

Matthew 18:12

Thoughts on Calvin's Institutes

3/30/2009 Posted by Sheldon Clowdus , 3 comments
I have begun reading through Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion. One thing I am certain of is this......this is going to kick my tail in just about every manner conceivable. I have already found myself challenged intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.

Just a few thoughts on the first 2 chapters:

For Calvin, everything begins and end with God. There is nothing without Him and any pretense to the contrary is folly. To know God is to know that He is the author of every good thing. To find goodness or wisdom or virtue or anything else profitable apart from God is impossible. Calvin also understood the importance of knowing the awesome majesty of God.

Hence that dread and amazement with which as Scripture uniformly relates, holy men were struck and overwhelmed whenever they beheld the presence of God. When we see those who previously stood firm and secure so quaking with terror, that the fear of death takes hold of them, nay, they are, in a manner, swallowed up and annihilated, the inference to be drawn is that men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance, until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God.


The only thing that shakes us out of the idea that we are ok the way we are is seeing God for who He is. Once we have glimpsed the glory of God, no other option but to recognize our own sin and insignificance is possible. Without the majesty of God, we are content to live our lives believing that, while not perfect, we are not terrible either. We need a holy God to contrast ourselves against so we understand the depth and magnitude of our own sinfulness.



For, first of all, the pious mind does not devise for itself any kind of God, but looks alone to the one true God; nor does it feign for him any character it pleases, but is contented to have him in the character in which he manifests himself always guarding, with the utmost diligences against transgressing his will, and wandering, with daring presumptions from the right path.


We must be willing to receive God as He is, not as we would have Him be. He is not malleable, or moldable to our ideas of who He is or who He should be. He does not conduct Himself according to our concepts of love, justice, mercy, or kindness. He acts according to His own nature and cannot do otherwise. Our option is only to know Him as He is, or not to know Him at all. There is no middle ground.


Besides, it is not the mere fear of punishment that restrains him from sin. Loving and revering God as his father, honouring and obeying him as his master, although there were no hell, he would revolt at the very idea of offending him.

Such is pure and genuine religion, namely, confidence in God coupled with serious fear—fear, which both includes in it willing reverence, and brings along with it such legitimate worship as is prescribed by the law. And it ought to be more carefully considered that all men promiscuously do homage to God, but very few truly reverence him. On all hands there is abundance of ostentatious ceremonies, but sincerity of heart is rare.


This point really hit home with me. Even though our God is awe inspiring and fearful at times, fear is not the only reason we obey Him (although it does play a part). We also obey Him because the very thought of offending Him who gave His only Son for us we find appalling. It should turn our stomachs to think that by thought, speech, or action we are offending our Savior and Lord.


That is all for now.....I would like to point out that I have only read 8 of the 1000+ pages to this point. I think the most encouraging thing for me is to realize that I can know God the same way that Calvin did. God will reveal Himself to me just as He did to Calvin and the other great theologians of the past if I seek Him with all my heart.







3/27/2009

Institutes of the Christian Religion

3/27/2009 Posted by Sheldon Clowdus , No comments
I just purchased John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion today. As I read through all 1000 plus pages I am sure I will be challenged, inspired, confused, and humbled. As those things and more occur, I will post about them here. I look forward to delving into the mind of one of the greatest theologians to ever live. I pray that God will teach me more about who He is and how I can love and serve Him better.

Youversion.com

3/27/2009 Posted by Sheldon Clowdus No comments
Youversion is a pretty neat online bible site. It has numerous versions you can read from and a one year reading plan. What sets Youversion apart from other online bibles sites is you can interact with others reading on the site. You can also take notes, mark passages, and journal...all online. You can also read other users notes if they make them public. Pretty neat concept. Go check it out.

Knowledge of the Holy

3/27/2009 Posted by Sheldon Clowdus , , , , No comments
“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” - A.W. Tozer in The Knowledge of the Holy

What incredible insight Tozer displayed when saying this. What we think about God forms the foundation for everything else we think. It is the underpinning of our worldview.

Most every false doctrine can trace its roots ultimately back to a false understanding of who God is. Nothing is more important in your study of scripture than to acquire as much knowledge and wisdom concerning the nature of God as you can. Theology after all is the study of God.

How do we discover who God really is?
1. Prayer - Ask Him to reveal Himself to you. Ask Him to tear down any misconceptions and false constructs you may have.
2. Study His word - Nowhere else is God revealed as plainly as in His word. Study the scriptures, memorize them, meditate on them. God will speak to you through His word.
3. Read the classics - Read the works of theologians of the past. The one thing that should jump out at you more than anything else is the high view of God they held to.

We need to reacquaint ourselves with our God. If we have even a glimpse of the holiness and majesty of Christ we can't help but respond like Isaiah in his vision (Isaiah 6:5) or Peter in the boat with Christ (Luke 5:8).

3/24/2009

One Message

3/24/2009 Posted by Sheldon Clowdus , , , 1 comment
Ask anyone who works with me at the church and they will tell you my contention is that there is really only one message that people need to hear. It doesn't matter what they are going through or where they are in their walk with Christ. Fortunately, that message is the only one that the Bible tells. Because when you boil it down to basics, the bible only tells one message through the course of its 66 books.

What is that message?

That message is the gospel.

In a nutshell.....

-God is sovereign over all creation.
-He created everything for His glory.
-We are sinners separated from God by nature.
-Jesus Christ lived a perfect life and died to pay for our sins.
-He rose again to conquer death and sit at the right hand of the Father.
-He call us and saves us for His glory.
-Every promise, gift, and benefit described in scripture is ours through our obedience to Christ and His Word.

As far as I can tell (and I am no expert or Biblical scholar by any means) this is the story of the Bible. Nothing that we encounter in life cannot be solved, conquered, endured, or accepted by this one message.

It is needed to be told to and understood by sinners and elect alike. It is the power of God unto salvation to Jews and Greeks.

It is the story of the abundant life that God has provided and purchased for His elect.

It is the One Message worth living and dying for.

3/20/2009

Relativism in the Church

3/20/2009 Posted by Sheldon Clowdus , , , No comments
One of the most talked about aspects of our culture today is the prevalence of relativism. Relativism is the philosophy that absolute truth does not exist. There is no truth with a capital T, only many truths that only apply to individuals in there own lives. What is true or right or wrong for me, may not be for you.

As believers in Christ and as believers in His word, we know that relativism is a false belief. Unfortunately, its effects can be seen not only in the secular world, but also in many churches today.

How else do you explain the tolerance for false doctrines and incomplete (and sometimes completely false) views of God?

It seems that no one wants to talk about differences in theology between believers. This avoidance takes place in the name of love and unity. Allowing fellow believers to continue in false beliefs of who God is or how He operates is actually not loving at all. And Biblical unity begins with unity of mind. Of course, it is hard to remedy these misconceptions about the concepts of love and unit without being viewed as harsh and divisive.

I will readily admit that believers have rigidly stood their ground on less than essential points of theology. Sometimes to the point of breaking fellowship with those who disagree with them. We are not all going to agree on every single aspect of our theology. However, we need to be able to identify those areas of Scripture teaching that compromise our faith if we fail to rightly understand them.

It seems that in response to over zealous defense of less important points in theology, in some cases we have swung too far the other way. Now any defense of a particular view of scripture or a point of theology is looked at as divisive and unloving.

I sometimes wonder what Paul would say if he visited our churches today. What kind of letter would be write to us? Would it be one of gently teaching and encouraging? Or would it be a scathing rebuke that we have too often forsaken the God of scripture for a God of our own making?

3/19/2009

3/18/2009

Children and the Gospel

3/18/2009 Posted by Sheldon Clowdus , , No comments
It has been said that the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else. I would agree with that with one minor caveat. I think the best way to learn something is to teach it to children. Teaching something to a child forces you to take what you know and reformulate it in a way that is understandable to a person with much less knowledge and life experience than you have. You can't rely on cliche's or familiar metaphors because children do not have an understanding of those things. You must break down your material to its most basic form and in order to do that you must know your material intimately.

No where is that more true than the Gospel.

For something that at some levels is so simple, the Gospel of salvation contains some of the most hotly contested and deeply studied aspects of Christian theology.
Not much theologically is more simple than:

1)We are all sinners.
2)Christ died to pay for our sins.
3)Faith in Christ and His work on the cross is the only way to God.


On the other hand, nothing is more apt to divide two believers than their views on salvation.(That sentence is a very sad one, all the more so because it is true.)

Finding the best way to communicate the entire Gospel without completely going over the head of a young child can be challenging.

It also raises some interesting questions.

What are the most important aspects of the Gospel to communicate to children?

What is the best way to teach the Gospel so it is understandable to children without being a watered down version of itself?

Do we know the gospel so intimately that we can communicate it effectively to both mature Christians and to those young in years or young in faith?

Obviously as a children's pastor, these are pretty important questions to me.

Let me know what you think in the comments section below.




3/17/2009

Finding Life in Your Marriage - Session Four

3/17/2009 Posted by Sheldon Clowdus , , , , , No comments
Session four began with an illustration from the logging industry. What loggers can accomplish in days or weeks now used to take months. The difference is a tool that is available now that was not back then: the chainsaw. With a chainsaw, one man can do now what it took several men to do in the past. Of course, used improperly, a chainsaw can cause immense damage to people and property. To make sure that it is used property, safety classes are available to teach people how to operate them.

In the fourth session, a tool was introduced that if used properly, would allow couples to experience marriage the way God intended. If used improperly, however, it would lead to pain and heartache.

Sessions 1-3 were the safety lessons to help couples use this tool properly. Only by heeding the teachings that led to this point, will the marriage tool bring about what God intends for marriages.

To recap sessions 1-3:
Session 1 - God intended marriage to bring Himself glory in part by it reflecting the perfect unity and intimacy He shares with Himself through the relationship between husband and wife.

Session 2 - By choosing to disobey God, man commits spiritual suicide and no longer is marriage the way God intends for it to be. Now the man and woman struggle in the relationship to establish control.

Session 3 - Sin (both our own and those committed against us by others) has caused our souls to become damaged and prevents us from being a conduit of life to our mates. Sin also causes us to seek the source of life in things other than Christ. In order to cleanse our soul from the effects of sin, we must choose Christ as our source and allow Him to empower us (partly by reminding us how much He has forgiven us for) to forgive and release those who have sinned against us.


The tool that has been given us by God to bring our marriage back to the state he intended is The Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-39). The secret to finding life in your marriage is to love God and love others as yourself.

The first part of the command is to love God. Once again, agape is the love spoken of here. We are to love God as He loves us: unconditionally. No matter our circumstances we are to love God.

There are 3 practical steps to fulfilling this commandment.
1. Devote yourself to knowing God.
2. Devote yourself to learning God's design.
3. Give all of yourself away to him with reckless abandonment. He is the perfect one to practice agape with because He will never take advantage of us or forsake us. If we don't willingly place ourselves on His potter's wheel, eventually He will drag us there. It is better to go willingly....just ask someone who has been dragged there.
Only in giving Him all of who we are will we find joy and happiness.

The second command is to love our neighbor as ourself. Once again, agape is used to express unconditional love for ourselves and our neighbors. This command is predicated on us being rooted and grounded in Christ's love. If we seek to love ourselves and others while we are rooted in something other than Christ, if He is not our source of love and life, then this command becomes a dangerous thing. The difference between loving someone with Christ's love and loving someone with a worldly love is not in actions but in motivation. What inevitably happens is the worldly love eventually fails and the person being "loved" learns to associate the failed love with the action. Then they view the action with suspicion from then on, even when it is rooted in the love of Christ.

Loving ourselves and other with agape love is mimicking God's behavior towards us. There are some practical steps to follow to be able to effectively love ourselves and others. They are:
1. Forgive and release - both ourselves for our sin and others for sins against us
2. Cast off our burdens - give them to God
3. Rest - let your self take a break sometimes. Not a license for laziness.
4. Care for your spirit, soul, and body.
5. Stay connected to the source of life - Christ.
6. Set boundaries for unhealthy people.
7. Immerse yourself in biblical fellowship with likeminded people and couples.

3/16/2009

Fear

3/16/2009 Posted by Sheldon Clowdus , , No comments
Fear.

Ironic that the one thing that can lead us to complete joy, peace, and contentment is also the one thing that can prevent those very same things from ever taking root in our lives.

Fear.

The Bible says that it can be the beginning of wisdom (Psalms 111:10, Proverbs 1:7, Proverbs 9:10). It also indicates that it is the opposite of faith (Matthew 8:26).



Fear.

When we learn to fear God, the Bible says that we have begun our journey towards true wisdom. Many people today will tell you that what the Bible is talking about is reverence and respect when it tells us to fear God. There is no doubt that we should revere and respect our God. I think though that there should be real, honest fear when we contemplate our God as well. Hebrews 10:31 says "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." When we contemplate what our fate should be, and would be if not for the infinite love of our Savior, we should tremble in fear. We should tremble in fear when we think of eternity for those who don't yet know Him.
When we learn to fear God, we learn to love Him better, more.
When we learn to fear God, our evangelism becomes a more urgent matter.

Fear.

Unfortunately, fear of worldly things is most often what gets in the way of fear of God. We begin to doubt that God will actually, really do the things He promised us. We, like Eve, listen as the serpents whispers in our ear, "Hath God really said?"

God promises to provide for us if we seek Him first (Matthew 6:33).
But the economy is really shaky and what if I lose my job and what if.......fear.

God promises to give us the desires of our hearts if we delight in Him(Psalms 37:4).
But He is taking so long and this place I am in now hurts and..........fear.

God promises that in Him we can do all things and apart from Him nothing (John 15:5)
But I can do this and God wants me to be proactive and....fear.

God promises......
But....fear.

God promises.....
But....fear.

Fear.

We have to choose.

God's promises.....
a life lived in complete abandonment to our fearful, loving God. A life lived according to His commands. A live rich with His fruits for our lives.

or fear........
a life lived in fear that the world's troubles are somehow too big for God. A life lived in our own strength apart from Christ.

So what is your choice?
Fear of God
or just plain fear?

Finding Life in Your Marriage - Session Three

3/16/2009 Posted by Sheldon Clowdus , , , No comments
I will do my best to recreate the third session of our marriage retreat. It will be a little challenging because the extensive notes Brett planned to use for this teaching, he ended up not using. He felt led to go in a different direction so his notes are somewhat sparse. Between his notes and my own, I think I can get down the important aspects of this third session.
The main portion of this session was spent fleshing out the idea Paul puts forth in Ephesians 3:17 of being "rooted and grounded in love". Some translations use the term "established" in place of grounded.
The term grounded (or established) is a horticultural one. When a plant is established, it means it has developed a significant root structure and is able to withstand drought, disease, etc. The plant is able to sustain itself with less care than plants that are not yet established.

Paul says that we are to be established in love. The word translated love here is the Greek word agape. It is a love characterized by choosing to act in the best interest of another with no expectation of a return for yourself. It is a totally selfless love.
Jesus says much the same thing in John 15:9-15. In verse 9 we are commanded to "abide (or remain) in his love". To abide in Christ's love will result in our joy being made full (John 15:11). He then commands us to love one another as He loved us. Christ loved and loves us unconditionally and completely and commands us to love others with the same agape love. Failure to abide in the love of Christ will result in our inability to love others as we are commanded to do (John 15:5).
To sum up the message in these verses: We are to abide in and be grounded and rooted in the agape love of Christ so that we will be able to fulfill His command to love one another. In obeying this command, Christ promised that our joy will be made complete.

So what does this mean for our marriages from a practical standpoint?

We must choose where to abide.
We must choose where to look for life.

We can either choose to have Christ as the source of our life and our love or we can choose to attempt to find those things in worldly offerings. If we attempt to meet our spiritual needs for life and love in worldly things, the only thing we will find is death. The path that Jesus described (abide - obey - love - joy) is impossible to follow when He is not our source. We must choose Christ as our only source.
How do we do that?
We choose to love Christ with an agape love. We must surrender everything we are and all we have to Him. Then He will pour Himself into us and we will become reflections of His glory capable of loving others as He has loved us.

There is no other way to love your mate the way Christ has commanded outside of complete and total surrender to Him. He must be our everything, the place where all our life and love originates.

3/15/2009

Amazing Grace

3/15/2009 Posted by Sheldon Clowdus , , No comments
You have probably seen this posted somewhere else, but it is worth seeing again I think. When done right, "Amazing Grace" is the best song there both in being pleasing to the ear and pleasing to the soul. These guys do it right. This performance took place in the Colosseum in Rome, Italy. The same Colosseum where untold numbers of Christians were martyred.....

Go watch it HERE.....you won't be disappointed.

Thanks to the guys at Reformation Theology for posting it at their site (that is where I found it).

Finding Life in Your Marriage - Session Two, Part 2

3/15/2009 Posted by Sheldon Clowdus No comments
After God has cursed the man and woman as a result of their sin, He then does what only He can do adequately. In a foreshadowing of the work of Jesus to come, God sheds the blood of animals to fashion coverings for the man and woman out of animal skins. What they could not do (cover their sin and shame) themselves with fig leaves, God does with animal skins (and a sacrifice). Only God has the solution for our sin and shame.

Imagine a red plastic Solo cup. This cup is your soul. It was created to receive life from the Father and pass on that life to the people around you. Your soul was created for life. The problem is sin. Imagine that every time you sin, it is like putting a rock in your cup. Every time someone else sin's against you, they put a rock in your cup. When you try to pass life through your rocky cup (soul) to someone else, it becomes tainted by the rocks (sin) that reside in it. What is the solution to this? Get rid of the rocks!!

What we try to do instead is, like Adam and Eve, fashion a cover for our souls. It would be the equivalent of using plastic wrap to cover the mouth of the cup. It is a man made attempt to cover the sin that resides in us. The only solution is to get the sin, or poison, out of our souls.

How do we do that?

Forgiveness.

We must understand that God has forgiven us, and we must forgive others. Matthew 18:21-35 tells the story of a man with much debt who is forgiven by the king he owes. When he leaves the king, haven just been forgiven, he runs into a man who owes him some money. Instead of forgiving the man who owes him, he demands payment. The man cannot pay and the just forgiven debtor turns his debtor over to the jailers until he can pay back his debt. The king learns about what happens and is not pleased. He calls the man back into his presence and tells him that since he did not forgive as he was forgiven, he too will be turned over to the jailers until his debt is repaid. One translation for "jailers" is "tormentors". The debtor is turned over to tormentors because of his unforgiveness.

The bad news is that it is impossible for us to forgive ourselves and others the way God asks us to on our own. The good news is that Christ can do it through us and in us through the power of the Holy Spirit. Until we allow him to do that, we will walk around with poison in our souls and we will spread that poison to those around us, including and especially our mate.

What rocks are in your cup? Who has put them there? Go to God now and ask Him to take the rocks from you. He says to cast our cares on Him because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).

Realize Christ has forgiven you and allow Him to empower you to forgive those who have sinned against you. Then you will be able to live in the freedom He created you for.

3/13/2009

Belief

3/13/2009 Posted by Sheldon Clowdus , , No comments



Thanks to the guys at Pyromaniacs for the poster. You can check out more HERE. Some may seem a little harsh to you, but there is at least some truth in all of them. I am sure that at some time or another, I probably fit into more than one of the mindsets portrayed there.

3/12/2009

Finding Life in Your Marriage - Session Two, Part 1

3/12/2009 Posted by Sheldon Clowdus , , , No comments
Session One ended with us learning that God intends for married couples to have complete intimacy with each other. This intimacy is part of God's design for marriage. In Session Two, we will learn how sin destroys intimacy in the marriage relationship and God's plan to remedy what sin has wrought.

We begin session 2 with the account of a man out cutting his grass. This man lives in the country and has a good deal of property so he is out on his riding mower. He steps off the lawnmower for a moment to remove a tree branch from his path when a rattlesnake strikes from the grass and bites the man on his leg. The man is in shock. He thinks to himself, "How could this happen to me here, on my own property!?!" In his anger at the offense the snake has perpetrated, he grabs up the tree branch he had stopped to move and begins chasing the snake across his property.

We immediately see the terrible mistake the man has made. In his eagerness to punish the snake for what it has done to him, he has neglected to seek help for the poison that has been injected into his body. We know that if he continues to chase after the snake without taking care of the poison, he will die.

Genesis chapter 3 tells the story of the fall of man, when sin enters the perfect world that God has created and declared good. It begins when the serpent goes to the woman questions what God has commanded (Genesis 3:1). When Eve answers the serpent, he then lies to her and tells her that they will not die like God said if they eat from the tree. What will really happen is they will become like God. What Eve is being tempted with is control. The serpent has offered her a way to control her own life. She can become like God and decide how things should be for her. She and Adam will get to set the rules now, they will know what God knows.

Of course, as we know, Eve eats from the forbidden tree and then Adam follows suit. Sin has entered into Eden. Now, Adam and Eve are no longer living according to God's design for them. No longer are they under His blessing. Just as God promised, they have died spiritually. They now begin to live according to their own design which instead of leading to God's blessings, leads to man made results.

Now when they look into each other intimately, they see their own sin and they are filled with shame. To hide their shame and their selves, they fashion a man made cover from fig leaves. This is an attempt to hide their physical and spiritual selves from each other. When God comes to the garden to visit them, instead of running to him with joy, they run from Him in fear and try to hide.

When God questions them as to what has occurred, the blame game begins. The man blames the woman and the woman in turn blames the serpent. As a result of their decision to disobey God, they are cursed by God. The man is cursed with toiling for food from the ground. The woman is cursed with painful childbirth and difficult submission to her husband. As Matthew Henry says:
If man had not sinned, he would always have ruled with wisdom and love; and, if the woman had not sinned, she would always have obeyed with humility and meekness; and then the dominion would have been no grievance: but our own sin and folly make our yoke heavy.

The divine plan for man and woman, husband and wife, is now replaced with a struggle for control in the relationship.

To Be Continued......





3/11/2009

Finding Life in Your Marriage - Session One

3/11/2009 Posted by Sheldon Clowdus , , , , No comments
This is my first post detailing the teaching sessions at our church's marriage retreat this past weekend. The theme of the weekend was Finding Life in Your Marriage. Brett, who taught each session, was kind enough to let me use his notes so I should be able to communicate most of what he did during the teaching times.

Brett began by telling everyone that he was no expert in marriage and that he himself was still working on practicing the principles he would teach. In his words he was just a beggar showing other beggars where he found food. You should know that is doubly true for me. I just want this teaching to be available for anyone to access and I pray that God will use it to do a great work in someone's life and marriage.

The first thing we need to know is who gets to make the rules. Who gets to decide the way things (including my marriage) should be? Genesis 1 says that God made the world and everything in it. Therefore, this world is His and He gets to decide how it all works. This world exists for Him (Colossians 1:16)and His glory. He is our authority on life.

In reading about creation, we discover that all of God's creation is good and that the creation of man is very good. We also learn that God is not alone in Himself. "Let us" He says. The Father has relationships within Himself with the Son and the Holy Spirit.

In Genesis 2 we discover the first negative of the new created world. After seeing that all created things are good, God declares that is not good for the man to be alone. To be alone means that the man is also unknown. He has no relationship with one like himself. If it is not good to be alone or unknown, then it is good to be known. To be fully known, like God amongst Himself, is to have intimacy with the one who knows you.

God remedies the first negative with the first ministry - He creates the perfect complement to man in the woman. She is the crown jewel of creation and is designed to perfectly fit with the man (physically, spiritually, etc.). God's design for husband and wife is that they are fully known to one another, that they be intimate with one another. Their relationship should be the closest human approximation of the relationship between the three parts of the Godhead. Husband and wife should be one in flesh, in spirit, and in soul.




Do we really trust God?

3/11/2009 Posted by Sheldon Clowdus , , , No comments
I was reading this morning from Exodus 15 when I noticed these 2 verses: Exodus 15:25 and Exodus 16:4. What struck me in these verses was God's reasoning for what He was doing for the Israelites. Basically in both instances God tells Moses He is putting a process in place specifically to test the Israelites. He wants to see if they will obey His commands or not.

In chapter 16 God is setting up the process for collecting the manna He will send for the Israelites to eat. That process is to gather enough for everyone in the family to eat for one day and then whatever is left at the end of the day, throw away. The day before the sabbath they are to collect enough for 2 days.

According to the account, the reason for this process was basically to see if God's people would obey Him. In Exodus 16:4, God says,"Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day's portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not."

I have heard other explanations for why God chose to send manna in this fashion, including teaching the Israelites to trust Him for their daily provision. While that may be true, the text itself gives a reason: testing. Sometimes God does something in our lives or asks us to do something just to see if we will obey Him.

We can look for deep meaning and future ramifications of obedience, but what God wants is for us to obey Him because He asks us to and because we trust Him. The only way to determine that is to ask us to do something that has no "deep" purpose other than "God said so." What God is interested in seeing is will we obey when we cannot see a good reason to or when we don't understand why He is asking us to.

Really the questions is do we trust God. If we do, then why He asks us to obey is secondary to the fact that He does ask us to obey. If we really trust Him, then we know that whatever He asks us to do is the best thing for us to do.

So the next time God speaks, and you can't figure out why He is leading you in a certain direction, maybe He is testing you to find out if you really do trust Him implicitly.

Of course, He already knows the level of your trust, so maybe the testing is so you can see how much you trust Him.......





3/08/2009

Marriage Retreat

3/08/2009 Posted by Sheldon Clowdus , , No comments
Katherine and I just got back from a marriage retreat in Pigeon Forge, TN that our church sponsored. We had a great weekend and got to meet some new couples from our church. The teaching was very practical and more importantly biblical.



I will write about each session individually but I wanted to summarize the teachings here in this post. Most of the teaching came from Genesis 1-3. The general ideas was to show the couples how God intended life to be for His people. That life included intimacy with Him and intimacy with their mates. Sin enters the world and intimacy is destroyed. Christ comes, dies as the perfect sacrifice for sin, and the way to intimacy with the Father and with each other is made possible once again. At the end of the day the secret to a good marriage is the same as the secret to a good life......Love God and Love Others.

In a nutshell....the teaching on marriage consisted basically of the Gospel. So simple and so true.

I will break each session down individually in the days to come but you get the idea.


3/06/2009

The Church Parking Lot

3/06/2009 Posted by Sheldon Clowdus , , No comments
I found a link on Tim Challies' blog for a video from John Piper about being rich and how to handle wealth. Watching the video reminded me of some thoughts I had a while back about wealth and the people of God. Watch the video after the jump....






The thought that occurred to me a while back was this: Should the church parking lot really be full of BMW's, Hummers, and Lexuses (Lexi?). If a car is a means of transportation, then shouldn't we, as God's people, try to find a reliable means of transportation and nothing more. Isn't everything else beyond reliability just an expression of our own pride and vanity? Wouldn't the money spent on a car payment for that Hummer be better spent sponsoring children or given to a non-profit charity or even given to the local church to reach our communities for Christ?

Just a thought.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I drive a 2000 Mazda 626 with 112000 miles on it and my wife drives a 2002 Honda Odyssey with 102000 miles on it.)

3/05/2009

Godly Sorrow

3/05/2009 Posted by Sheldon Clowdus , , , , No comments
I was reading a post from Dan Phillips' blog here and I thought of Paul's writings in 2 Corinthians 7 about godly and worldly sorrow, specifically 2 Corinthians 7:10-11.



Paul writes that godly sorrow produces a zeal in the repentant to distant himself from his sin. I agree with Dan that this standard applies to all Christians but it does seem that as pastors we should be doubly certain to insure that our grief is Godly and not worldly. Not only should we repent publicly if our sins are public, but I think we should show what steps we have taken to make sure that particular sin does not overcome us again. The world has seen too many pastors in the public eye fall and claim repentance. What they need to see is the proof of repentance, the zeal to prove our turning from sin to righteousness. They need to see Godly sorrow.

Weekend Getaway

3/05/2009 Posted by Sheldon Clowdus No comments
My wife are going out of town this weekend on a marriage retreat with our church. Having 4 children, any reason to have a weekend away with Katherine is a good reason. (We actually will have our 5 month old Maddie Rose with us.) I am looking forward to seeing what God has in store for us in our marriage and for the other 20 or so couples going with us. God has already began to convict me in some areas that I need to improve as far as being a Godly husband and father. I look forward to hearing more from Him and to what He has in store for Katherine and I as we continue our second decade as a married couple.

3/04/2009

Greatest Frustration?

3/04/2009 Posted by Sheldon Clowdus , , No comments
This question is for anyone in any type of ministry position or occupation. I have been a pastor for only a couple of years now so I am interested in the answers of those of you with more experience than me.



What is or has been your greatest frustration in the ministry?

I detailed one of mine so far here. My other frustration to this point is having to spend more time than I would like doing other things besides teaching and preaching. I am Family and Children Pastor for our church and one of my responsibilities is to manage the weekday, full time daycare we operate. I spend more time than I would like managing money and enrollment and employees. It takes time away from the family and children's ministry where I would like to really focus on.

What about you?