Casing in the Hands of a Gentle God

This weekend simply moved fast. We’ve been working on a in home project for some time now and it is really coming to a head. We’ve been remodeling a 6.5×7.5′ bonus room in our home to be a craft room for my wife and kids. This weekend my wife’s dad came in town and I somewhat assisted him with the installation of the solid wood laminate we selected. This was a challenging task because we had just enough flooring to cover the entire space.

Since my weekends are busy with youth ministry, I did not get to contribute as much to the flooring installation. But I was given the task of removing the casing for the doorway so that we could get the flooring installed properly. I had to carefully break through the bead of caulk with a razor blade up and down the edges of the casing. Then I took a 5 in 1 and slowly pried and loosened the casing from the wall. After that I took my wonder bar and gently pried the casing from the wall. It was important to do this as gently as possible so that we could remove all the nails from the casing, install the flooring and use the same casing again. We did not want to crack the casing or break it making it useless for future purpose. Still we had to take it out to complete the flooring project.

Kendall’s dad showed me how to use pliers to simply pull the finishing nail through the back of the wood. This way we did not scar or damage the front of the casing. Then Kendall’s dad took the casing after he installed the finish of the flooring and used his finishing nail gun to nail the casing back into the wall.

My little part of the project caused me to reflect on how God crafts us into His creative workers. He works on us gently, showing us our flaws and the ways in which we prevent other members of his creative work from completing their task. I wonder how many times in my life I’ve been unaware of myself and not realized how I stood in the way of what others were supposed to accomplish. This is much like how the casing stood in the way of the completion of the flooring project.

Yet, God removes us gently from the situation if need be, He allows others to finish the task that they are meant to complete. Meanwhile, our Father gently takes us and works on us, removing the nails, adding a new finish, and nailing us back into the his creative work to fulfill the role we are meant to fulfill.

Eph. 2.10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

Rom. 8.28   And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

 

The Weekly Review

This is a post which covers my favorite reads from the week. I have carefully selected my favorite read from each day of the week, excepting Sundays. I encourage you to enjoy these blog posts and add these bloggers to your blog roll, rss feed, or follow them on twitter.

7/23 – Biblical Hermeneutics: Five Views reviewed by Nate Claiborne

7/24 – From Metro to Retro (1 of 4) by Kevin DeYoung

7/25 – Election: Handle with Care by David Mathis

7/26 – Where Holiness Begins by Tyler Braun

7/27 – America’s Slow Motion Suicide by Timothy Dalrymple

7/28 – Hurtado on the Hermeneutics of Agape by Ben Witherington

Bad Guy and Bad Guy

In situations of interpersonal conflict we often talk about how there is a good guy and  a bad guy. When spouses have marital conflict, a common statement that might be thrown out is, “Oh, I guess I am the bad guy now!” When two people do not get along at the same lunch table at school, in the war room at work, or in a small group at Church, someone might refer to one of the people as being, “…such a bad guy.”

We assume that when one person is the bad guy the other person must be the good guy. However, I believe that this viewpoint does not reflect a well-rounded understanding of sin and humanity. Time and again throughout the last thirty years of life I have mediated conflict between people. I want to be a peacemaker at heart. I also strive to reconcile whenever I conflict with others. During these years of experience, I have discovered that there isn’t a good guy and a bad guy when it comes to conflict. There is a bad guy and another bad guy. When humans conflict, sin rears its ugly head and tries its best to exploit the conflict. People occasionally conflict skillfully, respectfully, and full of grace. However, I think this is rare and takes a great amount of skill to hone conflicting elegantly. Most of us are not there yet.

Here are a few thoughts about biblically understanding conflict:

1. Our aim ought to be peace. With great intention we should isolate our differences and look towards a way to reconcile them, all with peace as the end goal. When people conflict, each person may never achieve their desired outcome, but they ought to achieve peace.

Romans 14.19 So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.

2. Conflict occurs between flawed human sinners. There are a few phrases that every Christian man and woman should practice, internalize, and use often and when appropriate.

  • I am a sinner. I need a savior.
  • I have sinned against my God and my brother/sister.
  • Will you forgive me for my sin.
  • I forgive you for your sin.

Being willing to say these phrases to a brother or sister in Christ at this juncture in the history of Christianity has never been a greater challenge as it is today. We have allowed sin to go from being a concrete concept to an abstract concept. We have tried to downplay the concept. We have a mixed bag of alternative phrases we use for sin. We say:

“I’m sorry I hurt your feelings.”

“I know now I made a mistake.”

“I wish we could have avoided this accident.”

“It’s sad when this stuff happens.”

“We see so much junk in the world.”

Why don’t we call sin, “Sin?” That is what this world really needs. Sinners willing to confess sin and reconcile with God and each other.

3. Leaning into the work of the cross is the only hope for resolving conflict. All healing of every sort ultimately comes through the old rugged cross. Blood soiled, splinter encompassed, and heavy is the cross. It is an ugly sight. The cross reminds us of the ugly consequence of our sin. Ironically, the cross is where we testify to healing. God’s wrath against sin is appeased on the cross. Our wrath against our brothers or sisters in Christ who sin against us, also ought to be appeased by the cross.  We cannot forgive those who sin against us until we see that it is not by the power of our words, “I forgive you” that forgiveness becomes effectual. Rather, forgiveness is only effectual by the power of Christ’s words, “it is finished.”

1Pet. 2.24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.

Luther on the Education of our Youth

At the cusp of the German reformation Luther wrote an Open Letter to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation Concerning the Reform of the Christian State. In this letter he remarks on the state and need of reformation for the Universities. If you happen to look upon the state of today’s scholastic setting for undergraduate work and beyond, you would echo Luther’s words and cry out, “We are still awaiting this reformation!”

Besides this there are the languages — Latin, Greek and Hebrew — the mathematical disciplines and history. But all this I give over to the specialists, and, indeed, the reform would come of itself, if we were only seriously bent upon it. In truth, much depends upon it; for it is here that the Christian youth and the best of our people, with whom the future of Christendom lies, are to be educated and trained. Therefore I consider that there is no work more worthy of pope or emperor than a thorough reformation of the universities, and there is nothing worse or more worthy of the devil than unreformed universities.

This block quote is sponsored by Accordance Bible Software. To learn more about Accordance click here.

YM Insights: Less Youthful More Pastor

The most common title for one who is engaged in youth ministry is “Youth Pastor.” This term refers to one who pastors youth. Yet, there is a stigma and stereo-type that goes with being a youth pastor. And all too often youth pastor’s live up to that stigma and stereo-type. Lately, I’ve found myself being prone to the self-fulfilling prophecy of being “too youthful” of a Pastor.

The best youth pastors are the ones that can navigate the tumultuous tension of being relational to both students, parents, other adults, and other pastors.

Here are three lessons that I have learned as I have attempted to become less youthful and more pastor.

1. Always respect and honor authority: High school students see how you respond to authority. When you lack respect for the rules and for other authorities, you become a model that only reinforces the rebellious nature that we all have to go against authority. This issue goes all the way back to the garden of Eden where the serpent deceived Adam and Eve and convinced them to doubt the authority of God.

2. Listen, listen, listen: When people bring concerns to you, carefully listen to those concerns. Do not dismiss their concerns. This is hard when you are a natural leader and you are confident in your plans. However, trouble may be ahead if you do not listen to the wise voices who counsel you. This is a lesson that can be learned from the son of Solomon, King Rehoboam in 1 Kings 12. He forsook the wisdom and counsel of Solomon’s advisers for the counsel of his own friends. This led to his downfall and the split of the kingdom.

3. Live in humility: It takes incredible humility to be a pastor because you will always be under great scrutiny. It takes a humble heart to be concerned primarily with leaning into God’s grace and mercy rather than try to press on in the flesh. The flesh says I can do better. I can fix this. I can…but the grace of God says let me transform you. The pastor who is less youthful and more pastor will flee youthful desire and pursue righteousness, love, faith, and peace (2 Tim. 2.22). It is interesting that so many people rip that verse out of context and talk about boy/girl relationships. 2 Tim. 2.22 is in the context of false teachers, leadership, and fruitful speech. Essentially, the youthful desire is pride not sensuality. I encourage you to read this chapter with that in mind and the verse will make so much more sense to you.

Pastor, I hope you find this encouraging to hold onto the maturity that is becoming of a pastor and cast aside your youthfulness. You were never meant to be a youth pastor, a junior pastor, or any other name that is less than pastor. You are simply a pastor whose niche is students and their families.

As Elrond said to Aragorn, “Put aside the ranger and become who you were born to be.” You were born to be more than a “youth pastor.” You were born to be a pastor. However, you have to become what you were born to be. You have to apprehend the role by embodying the maturity of the role. This is not something you are entitled to become. This is a role that others will perceive that you fulfill as you faithfully lead with maturity.

 

 

My Favorite Tweets

Occasionally at the end of the day I like to look through my tweets that I favorited and share some of them with my readers. Typically the people I favorite on Twitter are well worth a follow, so you should consider following these people. Here are my favorite tweets for yesterday.

 

 

 

 

 

Richard Baxter on the Goodness and Severity of God

The consequence of not responding to the claims of Christ in this life is experiencing the severity of Christ in the next. Richard Baxter provides this sobering look into the terrible and joyful day that is coming from chapter two of The Saints Everlasting Rest.

Young and old, of all estates and nations, that ever were from the creation to that day, must here come and receive their doom. O terrible! O joyful day! Terrible to those that have forgotten the coming of their Lord! joyful to the saints, whose waiting and hope was to see this day! Then shall the world behold the goodness and severity of God; on them who perish, severity; but to his chosen, goodness. Every one must give an account of his stewardship. Every talent of time, health, abilities, mercies, afflictions, means, warnings, must be reckoned for. The sins of youth, those which they had forgotten, and their secret sins, shall all be laid open before angels and men. They shall see the Lord Jesus, whom they neglected, whose word they disobeyed, whose ministers they abused, whose servants they hated, now sitting to judge them. Their own consciences shall cry out against them, and call to their remembrance all their misdoings. Which way will the wretched sinner look? Who can conceive the terrible thoughts of his heart? Now the world cannot help him; his old companions cannot; the saints neither can nor will. Only the Lord Jesus can…

This block quote is sponsored by Accordance Bible Software. Learn more about Accordance here.

Guest Post Opportunities

Hey Friends,

I will be going out of town from September 14 – 24. We’re taking a family vacation to Disney World, and all of us Cochrans are excited.

While I’m away I’d love to not be thinking about blogging, so if you would like to write a guest post for jtcochran.com, please let me know. You can e-mail me at jcochran AT fbctulsa DOT org. Please e-mail me a sentence describing what the blog post will be like and provide a blog post title. I’ll get back to you and let you know if I have a date for your post. I’ll need your final post by 8/31 for edits and scheduling.

Thank you for reading jtcochran.com and I look forward to interacting with many of you on guest posts.

The Weekly Review

This is a post which covers my favorite reads from the week. I have carefully selected my favorite read from each day of the week, excepting Sundays. I encourage you to enjoy these blog posts and add these bloggers to your blog roll, rss feed, or follow them on twitter.

7/16 – All Hipster Mortifications by Douglas Wilson

7/17 – How to Pray for Your Pastor by R. W. Glenn

7/18 – How can a pastor help his children appreciate his work, not resent it? by Brian Croft

7/19 – An Interview with John Piper by Tim Challies

7/20 – Reviving Christianity or Christendom by Michael Horton

7/21 – Help is a War Cry by John D. Barry

Irenaeus for River People Like Me

This weekend I am with 15 other guys floating the Buffalo River in Arkansas. God’s creation is beautiful and so worthy of our appreciation.

Right now we are cliff diving into the depths of the river.

When I think of God’s creation and the depths of the river I recognize I cannot fathom the depth of His work.

Irenaeus writes:

4. Preserve therefore the proper order of thy knowledge, and do not, as being ignorant of things really good, seek to rise above God Himself, for He cannot be surpassed; nor do thou seek after any one above the Creator, for thou wilt not discover such, For thy Former cannot be contained within limits; nor, although thou shouldst measure all this [universe], and pass through all His creation, and consider it in all its depth, and height, and length, wouldst thou be able to conceive of any other above the Father Himself. For thou wilt not be able to think Him fully out, but, indulging in trains of reflection opposed to thy nature, thou wilt prove thyself foolish; and if thou persevere in such a course, thou wilt fall into utter madness, whilst thou deemest thyself loftier and greater than thy Creator, and imaginest that thou canst penetrate beyond His dominions.

How deep and beautiful is all of God’s work! He is worthy of our pondering, which might go on infinitely.

This block quote is sponsored by Accordance Bible software.