Saturday, December 11, 2010

Who Are You Glorifying?

At the heart of Christianity is the heart - God's heart and yours. Who does your heart love the most? What does your heart treasure the most? Where do your affections run deepest?

I generally don't post sermons as many can run up to an hour and I am cognizant of the busyness of many who may be reading this. So, when I do post a sermon, you can be assured there is a good reason involved. I have been incredibly convicted this year regarding my relationship with Jesus Christ. I had fallen into the subtle trap of loving God more for what He could do for me than loving Him simply for who He is.

As my heart is being brought back into right standing with God, I am seeing many more examples of this in my Christian friends. Some I can talk to about it, some I can't. A few are well aware of this struggle in their lives without me having to say a word. If I could have every Christian friend of mine watch one 30-minute sermon, I think this would be it. I strongly encourage you to take the time to watch it and to think and pray about what God may have to say to you through this. Believe me...He is speaking to me and will do the same for you if you just listen.

As he started this sermon, I was thinking of a John Piper quote (from God is the Gospel) that I had recently read in Francis Chan's "Crazy Love". Lo and behold, Britt used it just a couple minutes later. Here it is:

"The critical question for our generation - and for every generation - is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there?"

Britt also used another Piper quote which he didn't actually ascribe to Piper. It's a question all of us need to take time to think about: "Do I ultimately love God because He makes much of me or because by giving His Son for me I am now enabled to make much of Him?

A few memorable lines from the sermon:

We have made good things into ultimate things.

We are willing to be God-centered as long as God is man-centered.

We are willing to boast in the cross as long as the cross is the witness of our worth.

From a Driscoll sermon that I think fits well here: "And I’m amazed at how many people buckle up and eat their vitamins and drink bottled water and watch their cholesterol and don’t even think about their eternity. They’re so consumed with their life they don’t remember that they will live forever somewhere."

"If you read history you find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next." - C.S. Lewis

Remember...nothing on this earth was meant to terminate on itself...especially our lives. Everything was meant to point to and glorify the Creator. Idols and addiction come when we make creation the end all.

FYI: This is a picture of Daisy with her 8-year old brother.

Owly Images

Friday, December 10, 2010

All Encompassing

Don't ever come to a point where you feel you have enough God in your life.

God wants more of your you.

Don't ever stop pursuing God.

He won't stop pursuing you.

Don't give up the fight because the battle is too hard.

He has already won the war.

Do you really know the One you call God...Heavenly Father...Savior and Lord?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

His Child, His Reflection, His Likeness

From Eldredge's "Waking the Dead"...

Certainly, you will admit that God is glorious. Is there anyone more kind? Is there anyone more creative? Is there anyone more valiant? Is there anyone more true? Is there anyone more daring? Is there anyone more beautiful? Is there anyone more wise? Is there anyone more generous? You are his offspring. His child. His reflection. His likeness. You bear his image. Do remember that though he made the heavens and the earth in all their glory, the desert and the open sea, the meadow and the Milky Way, and said, "It is good," it was only after he made you that he said, "It is very good" (Gen. 1:31). Think of it: your original glory was greater than anything that's ever taken your breath away in nature.

As for the saints who are in the land,
they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight.
(Psalm 16:3)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Are You in the World?

Go back to the 11/13 blog entry and re-read the paragraph from "The Prodigal God". I continue to think about why the American church tends to attract one kind of individual over another. I read a good blog entry from Mark Driscoll today which can be read in its entirety here:

It brings up another possible answer to the question of why we tend to get moralistic people in our churches rather than the broken and marginalized. The simple answer is we go after the first group more willingly than the latter. Most of us find discomfort in connecting with those who have been discarded by society due to crime, addiction, poverty, bad circumstances or have committed a sin that we have chosen to view as worse than others. But it's a lot easier to seek out and invite those with whom we have much in common. The cycle simply feeds on itself as individuals of similar backgrounds and worldviews tend to congregate together leaving little room for those on the outside - both literally and figuratively. Christianity wasn't meant to be comfortable yet we have layered our desire for comfort on top of the Gospel leaving us with a watered down version that does little to transform lives.

Jesus actually had more in common with those who were ostracized and ridiculed because He was as well. Those who were readily accepted and deemed important because of who they were or what they did didn't really need Jesus. They had themselves. Jesus went after those who had come to the end of themselves.

Do we do the same?

This is one reason I so appreciate my parents. They engage in ministries to those in prison, ESL outreach to Bosnian and Chinese immigrants, the homeless and single moms who are struggling. I see Jesus in both of them. It's good. I need to follow their example more.

5 Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD their God.
6 He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them—
he remains faithful forever.
7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets prisoners free,
8 the LORD gives sight to the blind,
the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down,
the LORD loves the righteous.
9 The LORD watches over the foreigner
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked. - Psalm 146:5-9

Sunday, December 5, 2010

When People Leave

Three or four months ago we had a new guy join our care group. He was invited by another member and was the first new face we had in awhile. He said he was incredibly thankful that he found this group and expressed a great desire to become a regular member. He was active in the discussion from the very beginning and seemed very willing to share his heart and lay out his struggles without fear or hesitation. In short, his presence and transparency were blessings.

This morning I received an email from him telling me to take him off the care group distribution list. No explanation.

Now, between this morning and the last time he attended a couple months ago he has taken a part-time evening job that has conflicted with the care group schedule. I had offered to move our schedule around to fit his if it would help but either his work schedule isn't consistent or he simply didn't want us to do that because he never responded to the offer.

I had sent two separate emails to him over the past month in an attempt to stay connected and to see how he is doing. That is in addition to the bi-weekly care group emails. I never got a response. Until this morning.

A month ago I bookmarked a blog entry that was geared toward pastors. It was about the range of emotions that a pastor endures when a member leaves and how they can best deal with that situation. At the time, I thought it might be useful for my friends in ministry. I wasn't thinking it was for me. God knew better. Here is one paragraph from that blog that describes how I am feeling:

"As much as they say “It’s not about you”, it usually feels like it is. It starts as a lump in the pit of your stomach that slowly makes it’s way up the twists and turns of internal plumbing, until it gets stuck firmly in the back of your throat. You didn’t see it coming and the hurt is commensurate to the level of the relationship. The closer the connection, the more intense the pain."

Granted, I had only known him a couple months but his enthusiasm and desire to be with us was good for my soul. When you open up your home, life and heart to another brother in Christ, and are quickly left with nothing, it can leave a significant void regardless of that relationship's duration.

So how should I process this? Here is what the blog suggests and I think they are good ideas:

* Be secure in the Fathers love. There was never any doubt in Jesus' mind about whether or not the Father loved him. I’ve got to believe that he knew His worth had nothing to do with how many were at the synagogue this Sabbath as compared to a year ago. The echo of the words of His baptism, “This is my son and I am really pleased with Him”, can’t be under estimated. A friend told me recently that our first thoughts every morning should focus on how much our Father loves us. Everyone else may think you are a jerk, but hey, what difference does it really make if God loves you?

* Try to play for an audience of one. Jesus says in John 6:38, “I have come to do the will of God who sent me, not what I want.” There’s a lot of pressure in trying to please everyone. As the crowd grows there will be more voices clamoring for your attention and potentially becoming offended if you don’t play their hand. One is a much less stressful number.

* Learn to process it with your inner circle. Even Jesus didn’t go at it alone. In response to his question Peter says, “Where are we going to go? You have the words of life.” You need people like that. “I’ve got your back” type of people. Sure you need some who will tell you when you’ve got spinach in your teeth, but you also need a few “I’m not going anywhere boss” types for situations like these. Do you have people like that in your inner circle? Do you have an inner circle?

* Trust in God’s sovereignty. Jesus knew ahead of time who would leave and who would stay. You and I don’t. It would be a great gift to have. It would certainly save time and a lot of grief. You may not know, but God does. And according to Romans 8:28, He will weave it into the plan in a way that serves both yours and His best interest.