Saturday, October 6, 2012

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Saying Goodbye

"Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be." - John Wooden

I haven't posted for almost a month but there is a good reason.  16 days ago I accepted a job on staff at the church in which I grew up in Iowa.  I believe God brought the right opportunity at the right time although there have been many days over the past few years when I wouldn't have minded this opportunity.  But His timing is right while mine is often colored by frustration, impatience and selfishness.  He had more work to do in me here and for me to do here before it was time to move on.  Now is that time.

It's been bittersweet saying goodbye to so many friends over the past two weeks.  One thing God had convicted me of many years ago was to always act with integrity, honesty and consistency.  Basically, He told me to stop being one person to one group of friends and somebody different to another group just to find acceptance.  The truth is that people accept you and are drawn to you when you bring two things to the table - authenticity and a sincere desire to simply be their friend and care about them without expecting anything in return.  It was very reassuring as I have spent time with many circles - old church friends, softball teammates, co-workers, neighbors, men's small group - that I was able to simply be the same person in every situation.  I was able to feel comfortable not because each of them affirmed the person I am but because God made me the person I am.

There have been lots of ups and downs here - financially, professionally, socially and spiritually.  I have had lots of things go wrong.  I have had the idea that I was in control shattered.  I have had the notion that I would have nothing but success turned upside down.  There is a great scene from the movie "Instinct" in which Anthony Hopkins' character attacked Cuba Gooding Jr.'s character.  As he had this man's life in his hands, he asked him what he had taken from him.  After a couple of unsuccessful answers and given one last chance, he finally answered, "My illusions."  My illusion that I am the center of the story and that things should turn out the way I envision has been taken away...and I am infinitely richer because of it.

The most important experience I had in St. Louis probably happened my second year here when I joined a small group from the church in which I was taking new member classes.  My understanding of Christianity up to that point was mostly head knowledge and a belief that restrictions outweighed freedoms when it came to living a holy and God-pleasing life, which they do, by the way, if you are basing your relationship with God strictly on your behavior, which I would argue is no relationship at all.

But then I walked in on a group of people my age who not only pursued God but delighted in Him.  It wasn't a counterfeit love that many Christians default to when their heart isn't really with their Lord.  It was real.  It was vibrant.  It was beautiful.

 “In your presence is the fullness of joy,
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” - Psalm 16:11

As Matt Chandler often says, God isn't after our begrudging submission.  That brings him NO glory.  He is after our joy - our absolute and complete joy IN HIM.  Happiness is based on circumstances.  It can be taken away in a heartbeat.  Joy runs so much deeper.  It endures and it strengthens and it is living water to the thirsty.  God has taught me a lot about where joy is found.  My heart still wanders from Him all too often but I am convicted almost immediately now that nothing good can be found where I am looking.  My spirit aches for my eyes to return above.

So, God worked and continues to work.  My love for Him is deeper and wider, and consequently, my love for others has grown in step.  My men's group just finished a book called "Man Alive".  I highly recommend it.  When do you feel most alive?  The answer may say a lot about the gifts God has given you and the calling that He has placed on this season of your life.  I feel most alive when I am helping and loving someone else...when the conversation turns deep, when heartaches and struggles surface, when defenses and walls are laid down and a broken sinner, just like me, aches to be reconciled with their Creator.  I love taking people as far in their walk with Jesus as they desire and then stepping back and witnessing the almighty power of the Comforter work.  I love being a part of God's redemptive work.  It still amazes me every day that He lets a rebellious traitor like me act as His ambassador.

But He does...and it is good...and I can't wait to see what He has in store for me next.

Monday, August 27, 2012

This Blog Part 2

I haven't posted lately as I find myself stuck with two many big topics in the hopper and not enough time to whittle down all of the resources I have accumulated for each one.  I am hoping that will change in the near future.

But for right now, I came across this today which was taken from a brief blog written by Mike Donehey in conjunction with Tenth Avenue North's release of The Struggle.

 Psalm 49:4
“I will incline my heart to a proverb;
I will solve my riddle to the music of the lyre”


After 11 or so years of playing and writing songs,
I’ve finally come to understand that I don’t write,
because I know what I’m talking about,
I write precisely because I don’t know what I’m talking about.
I write to understand.
I write to unriddle my heart.


This was very well said and I can completely relate.  I don't blog because I know what I am talking about.  I don't lead a men's small group because I have all the answers.  I don't witness my faith because I will have a compelling answer for every objection that is raised.

I do those things because I feel called by God to do them and because He is constantly teaching me through them while He is teaching others through me.  He is the source of all wisdom and these are simply some of the venues in which He unleashes His insights and understanding.  Even more so, these are times when I am still, submitting and ready to listen to what He has to say.

There is no doubt that many of my heart's questions, longings and struggles come out on these digital pages.  It is a place where the wrestling is plain to see and where God's promises of seeking Him first resulting in all that we need are put on display.  I don't write because I understand.  I write because He understands.

Friday, August 3, 2012

C.S. Lewis

"The sweetest thing in all my life, has been the longing to find the place where all the beauty came from.." - C.S. Lewis

"God is basic Fact. He must not be thought of as a featureless generality. He is the most concrete thing there is." - C.S. Lewis

This from a man who at one time scoffed at the very notion that God existed.

There has been lots of darkness lately.  The headlines scream of man's rebellion to God.  Broken lives testify to God being long forgotten.  Hardened hearts remind us that many have no knowledge of God.  I feel it in moments when the quiet drowns out the noise.  The burden in my soul for the lost is pervasive.  Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of it.

And then I hear a story of redemption.  I hear a story of God breaking through and changing a life forever.  I read about the lost being found.

And I find renewed strength because God is not dead nor doth He sleep.  He is still in the miracle business and He still pursues mockers, loves sinners and pleads with the rebellious.  He is not overwhelmed.  He is at work.  Always.  Therein lies hope.

And so it is with our friend C.S. Lewis.  A changed man and a changed life that God has used to change countless others.  We can not have an encounter with God and remain the same.  Nothing is ever the same again.

Thank you Lord for the modern day Paul...a man who once argued against you to a man who ended up arguing for you every day thereafter.







http://good-report.com/4130/c-s-lewis-time-cover-story-from-the-archive-sep-8-1947

http://www.verber.com/mark/xian/weight-of-glory.pdf

http://good-report.com/6989/top-50-c-s-lewis-quotes-full-list-gallery

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/765605350/CS-Lewis-still-has-much-to-offer-us.html

http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/new-publications-relating-to-c-s-lewis

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/culture/books/enduring-legacy-cs-lewis

An article on C.S. Lewis' brother:

http://good-report.com/5475/profiles-in-faith-major-warren-hamilton-lewis-1895-1973

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/gospeldrivenchurch/2012/07/25/the-beauty-of-conversion/

http://www.bloggingtheologically.com/2012/08/13/the-miracle-of-salvation/

http://www.iamsecond.com/seconds/


"The intellectual life is not the only road to God, nor the safest, but we find it to be a road, and it may be the appointed road for us. Of course it will be so only so long as we keep the impulse pure and disinterested; we may come to love knowledge - our knowing - more than the thing known: to delight not in our talents but in the fact that they are ours, or even in the reputation they bring us. Every success in a scholar's life increases this danger. If it becomes irresistible, he must give up his scholarly work. The time for plucking out the right eye has arrived. " - C. S. Lewis

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Aurora, Colorado

I awoke Friday morning, as many others did, to stories regarding the theater shooting at the midnight showing of the latest "Dark Knight" installment in Aurora, Colorado.  My first thought went to my brother and his wife knowing they live nearby and that while it was unlikely they attended the movie, it wasn't beyond the realm of possibility.  Thankfully, my brother quickly replied to my text message and he was fine.  But many others were not fine...

I have already read people who are blaming video games and a lack of gun control among the reasons why this tragedy happened.  That is not surprising given a society that is moving toward the viewpoint that evil does not exist.  But it does.  Without a belief in absolute truth and objective morality, evil seems like an outdated notion.  But it isn't.  Without the category of evil, we will forever search in vain for reasons to explain tragedy.  It will be a search with no end.

Oprah sent a tweet out this morning asking for a coordinated moment in which her followers should send "love vibes" to the victims and their families.  I am glad that Oprah was moved by this event.  I am glad she wants to help those who have been affected.  But I am utterly dismayed at the belief that love vibes, positive energy or thoughts of light will bring one moment of peace, heal one heart or dry one tear.

I understand the desire to want to help in any way possible.  Humanity cries out in moments like this.  But let us cry out to the God of the Bible rather than to ourselves.  Pray to the God who can heal inside and out.  Pray to the God who offers peace beyond all understanding.  Mourn with those who mourn.  Weep with those who weep.  But always point back to the God who has promised us that one day there will be no more tears.


http://aminiatureclaypot.wordpress.com/2012/07/20/so-you-still-think-god-is-a-merciful-god/

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2012/07/21/tragedy-and-moral-language/

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/07/20/the-true-knight-is-risen/

http://www.christianpost.com/news/lee-strobel-probes-why-during-first-sunday-service-after-colorado-shooting-78727/

http://www.gotquestions.org/meaning-in-tragedy.html
 
http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/articles/how-shall-we-minister-to-people-after-the-world-trade-tower-terrorism-of-september-11-2001

http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/08/04/my-faith-the-danger-of-asking-god-why-me/

http://www.biblegateway.com/blog/2012/07/why-does-god-allow-tragedy-and-suffering/

http://thisoughtabegood.blogspot.com/2008/08/aleksandr-solzhenitsyn-1918-2008.html

Saturday, July 7, 2012

What is the Gospel?

We can never stray from the central point of everything...

You and I are sinners.  We have all fallen short of the glory of God.  We do not measure up to the holiness God requires.  Not us in our worst, but we at our best are still not righteous enough for the favor and justification of God Almighty.  So God in Christ makes a way.  He imputes to us the righteousness of Christ.  Your righteousness is inadequate, so if you could check off all those things on your box of what Christians do, the Bible still says your righteous deeds are as filthy rags to Him.  So we're going to need a righteousness that goes well beyond our own
righteousness, and we get that in Jesus Christ.

Jesus gives to us His perfection. He gives to us His righteousness. Then on top of that, on the cross of Christ Jesus takes from us the wrath of God due us for our rebellion against Him. So you have imputed righteousness, wrath-absorbing death, and in the resurrection we see the great exchange is complete.  Here is the most spectacular part of it all: You didn't do anything to get that. So God saved you. God rescued you. God opened up your heart. God revealed this to you. You played no part in your salvation except glad submission.

http://theresurgence.com/2012/08/14/why-the-gospel-is-offensive

"The gospel is not that Jesus Christ comes to earth, tells us how to live, we live a good life, and then God owes us blessing. The gospel is that Jesus Christ came to earth, lived the life we should have lived and died the death we should have died." - Tim Keller

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Infinite Becomes Intimate

I borrowed a phrase from last Sunday's sermon at The Journey because it is perfectly said.  Last night, I was listening to this song and it brought tears to my eyes though I have heard it many times...



I think we are sometimes so focused on our faith, on our sin, on our struggles, on our needs, on our response to God, that we fail to see things from God's perspective.  It is true that God's thoughts and ways are higher than ours and there will always be an inability for a finite sinner to grasp the infinite holiness of God.  But God shares His heart with us through His word.  We get glimpses of His purity, power, goodness, justice, mercy and grace.

So, take what you know about God from the Bible and immerse yourself in how He must see you and think of you in order to do what He has done for you.  When I do that, all the other stuff fades into the background and I am left with a perfect Father in heaven who came to rescue me at a cost to Himself that I can never comprehend.

He gave everything.  He did everything.  There is no price He did not pay.  It is finished.

And this is the sermon I referenced earlier.  It is one of the best sermons I have heard on who God is and what He has done for us.





Saturday, June 23, 2012

Subtle Idolatry

"Wanting forgiveness of sins is idolatry if we don't want it as a means to enjoying God." - John Piper

“Every one of us is, even from his mother's womb, a master craftsman of idols.” – John Calvin

"Unless it is Him, that which we long for more than anything else will not satisfy. It will only enslave and disappoint." - Eric Geiger

"It is possible to avoid Jesus as Savior as much by keeping all the biblical rules as by breaking them." - Tim Keller

I wrote on deeper idols about a year ago and it is worth revisiting before reading this post:

 http://thisoughtabegood.blogspot.com/2011/07/idolatry.html

So, I mentioned in my most recent post (Idolatry Part 2) that God is continuing to show me the idols in my life.  Some have been easier to see than others.  As the Spirit reveals and convicts me on my more obvious idols, introspection continues into what is yet deeper and ultimately at the root of all my idolatry.

I mean...if you are Christian, does it not simply boggle your mind that, regardless of your age or the amount of time you have called Jesus your Savior, you continue to choose things over Him?  You continue to place your trust in yourself instead of Him?  You continue to doubt that what He has planned for you is better than your own ideas?

It does boggle my mind.  It gnaws at me.  What is it that I am not believing?  Why am I not fully trusting?  Do I not truly grasp Jesus' death and resurrection?  Do I not comprehend that every breath I take and every involuntary beat of my heart is a constant reminder of mercy and grace?  Or is it that I am not fully satisfied with the way my life has gone or what happened yesterday or a disappointing experience just moments ago?  Am I still clinging to my ideals rather than what God has made real?

From John Eldredge's "Beautiful Outlaw" (page 79)...

Late into the night, early in the morning, walking down the road, in the middle of his supper, at home, abroad, Jesus offers.  His time, his words, his touch, flowing like the wine at Cana.  To appreciate the reality of it all, remember, this is not Superman.  Remember his loneliness, his weariness, his humanity.  This is utterly remarkable - particularly in light of the fact that this is a man on a life-or-death mission.  He is lavish with himself.

And that's the key, right there - that giving of himself.  That is what is so precious.  Moses offered leadership, and tirelessly.  Solomon handed out the rarest of wisdom free of charge.  Pilate seemed willing to toss to the crowds anyone they wanted.  But Jesus gives himself.  That is, after all, what he came to give, and what we most desperately need.

What do we most desperately need?  Jesus.  That's it.  Yes, we need other things - provision, love, purpose, rest.  But they all start and end with Jesus.  Any of those things separated from the One who made us will offer no fulfillment, no peace, no hope.

Oh, but we have become adept at pretending that they can offer what we need.  We can pretend to the point of addiction (that blog is coming next).  But why do we pretend when deep down we know that only God can truly satisfy?  I can only believe that it is pride...that desire to elevate ourselves above our Creator that ushered sin into the world and haunts us to this day.  My desire to be the center of the story is unrelenting.

As I walked down the street to Whole Foods a few weeks ago, I found myself having an inner dialogue that is unfortunately not terribly uncommon.  "Why have things gone the way they have?  Why do I find myself single and struggling at 39 when life was all laid out for me to be successful on every level?"  And then the Spirit intervenes and says, "You have God."  You see, my sense of entitlement shows how quickly, how easily, my heart can replace God with myself.  If you want to know whether or not you have made yourself the center of the story, just pay attention to how you react when someone treats you in a way that you don't think you deserve or when you feel taken for granted or when you aren't patted on the back for a job well done or when a driver cuts you off in heavy traffic.  Even worse, what is your stance toward God when life doesn't go the way you want?

My first reaction, all too often, is to lash out because being the center of the story means that everyone and everything else, including God, exists to serve me.  And when they aren't serving me, there is a big problem.

The idea that we exist to be served by others is not usually something of which we are truly aware.  It is embedded deep down and has become such an integral part of the way we live and think that it is extremely difficult to isolate and decipher.  The more I think about it, the more this is key to everything.  We will always be miserable if our sense of entitlement continually puts demands on everyone around us that they were never meant to carry.  We will always be disappointed if we put expectations of joy and fulfillment on our idols as they were never meant to bear that weight.  The creation was made to point to the Creator but our greatest temptation is to stop our worship at the creation because to go one step further is to admit that it is not about us.

I have said it to many people.  The idea that "it is not about us" is the most difficult lesson for any human being to earn.  But once you see that there is greater joy from giving up yourself for the sake of God and others, your eyes begin opening up to the purpose for which we were created.  All of the angst, frustration and despair we encounter in defending our "rights" starts to melt away.  It is replaced with peace, gratitude and joy.

"Christianity is voluntary crucifixion." - Darrin Patrick

"There is nothing that makes you more miserable (or less interesting) than self-absorption." - Tim Keller

Why are you strivin these days?
Why are you tryin to earn grace?
Why are you cryin?  Let me lift up your face
Just don't turn away

Why are you lookin for love?
Why are you still searchin as if I'm not enough?
To where will you go child?
Tell me where you will you run?
To where will you run?

Cause I'll be by your side
Wherever you fall
In the dead of night
Whenever you call
So please don't fight
These hands that are holdin you
My hands are holdin you

http://sukofamily.org/?p=3048




Saturday, June 16, 2012

Father's Day

"My father didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it." - Clarence B. Kelland

"Father! - to God himself we cannot give a holier name." - William Wordsworth

"It is not flesh and blood but the heart which makes us fathers and sons." - Johann Schiller


To learn to be a father and a husband
Is not an easy task
Particularly when one's own father
Is not someone you should ask
Required to learn in the midst of the job
And overcome what you have seen
In order to break the cycle of anguish
And bring reversion to the mean
But my Dad was able to do just that
With a godly wife by his side
A man who learned over many years
The joy that comes from losing pride
Although his earthly father was broken
With difficult issues and regrets
He found his peace and ultimate worth
From the Father in heaven who protects
Every man should leave a legacy
For his loved ones to thank God above
My father's greatest gift to me
A living example of THE father's unfailing love

In a way that mirrors my Heavenly Father, my earthly father has stood beside me through all my trials, sins and imperfections.  Thank you Pops.  I love you.


 Hear, O sons, a father's instruction,
    and be attentive, that you may gain insight - Proverbs 4:1

http://patrickmorley.com/blog/2014/6/15/7-lessons-i-learned-from-my-dad

http://www.rzim.org/blog/cultural-issues/a-noble-four-letter-word/

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/scottysmith/2014/06/15/a-prayer-for-fathers-day/

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Tim Keller Evangelism Tips


  1. Let people around you know you are a Christian (in a natural, unforced way)
  2. Ask friends about their faith – and just listen!
  3. Listen to your friends problems – maybe offer to pray for them
  4. Share your problems with others – testify to how your faith helps you
  5. Give them a book to read
  6. Share your story
  7. Answer objections and questions
  8. Invite them to a church event
  9. Offer to read the Bible with them
  10. Take them to an explore course
What Keller also advises is that we (generally) start with 1-4. If people are interested and want to talk more you can move them to stages 5-7. If they’re still interested go on to stages 8-10. Sometimes people will want to go straight to 10, but often people start from way back and need some time to think and discuss things in a non-pressured way. We often think that only stages 8-10 count and invest all our energy there. TK suggests that to get people at stages 8,9,10 you have to put the work in at 1-4. Sometimes you’ll have to keep going round the loop multiple times.






http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/that-awkward-moment-when-we-speak-the-gospel

http://kellerquotes.com/persuasion/

http://www.danieldarling.com/2013/03/what-evangelism-is/

http://magazine.biola.edu/article/14-summer/how-can-we-be-better-disagree-ers/

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2012/08/07/when-will-christ-return

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Relationships

"Take the emotional risk and build deep relationships with friends who care.  There is no physician like a true friend." - Lecrae

From Jeff Bethke...

I seriously love it here. Yesterday we played soccer with the kids while a group of them practiced a performance for the first lady of Uganda. The kids here are insane–they play all day, never get sweaty, and don’t get tired. They put me to shame.

 

For dinner all the guys I’m with split up and we all eat with a different orphan home. The mom in the one I went to was named Beatrice. It was such a special moment. Here the girls prepare the food and then come kneel before the guys as they give it to them. Then the girl who served me my food said “let us pray” in one of the cutest voices ever. For dinner we have beans and this mashed up corn type stuff called “porsha” I think. It was good! The serving size here is ridiculous though. They all made fun of me for eating like a “muzungu” and not eating a lot. When mama Beatrice brought me my food I thought it was for the whole table haha.

 

Today we are going to do lots of work around the property to get it ready for the First Lady. There’s a special buzz around here because everyone is really looking forward to it. Excited to do a small part in maintaining this awesome property. Also hope it’ll be a good time of conversation with the workers who live here.

 

Lastly, I’m just so reminded here of where true joy comes from. All the kids here have such joy and such a beautiful spirit among them despite their circumstances. Frankly sometimes it’s embarrassing to me. Here you can’t help but realize what’s really important in life.  There is such a heavy emphasis on relationships here. Joy comes from friendship, conversation, and loving each other. Because of Dollar For The Poor they’ve been blessed here to have their basics needs met like durable shelter, 3 hot meals a day, water, and education. And all that happens from people giving a dollar a month. It’s crazy that it’s such a small amount I never even notice it coming out of my bank, yet it provides so much for the kids. I mean what would it look like if the each person in the Body gave a dollar? It could be from a CEO’s salary or a 12 year old’s allowance. It’s a level playing field and we all can have a part. What’s holding you back? It took me awhile to sign up but once I did I’ve never regretted it. Especially after seeing the faces and schools that it’s helping.

 

Seriously if you have a chance checkout Dollar For The Poor. Humbled by their work and seeing it first hand I can vouch they have a kingdom mindset. Their main priority is to restore and invest in relationships, and seeing the fruit of that here is beautiful. I have so much to learn and thankful for God’s grace in teaching me so much while over here.

 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I posted this because it harkens back to why we are here.  Do you know why you were created?  The Bible teaches we were made to love, worship and glorify God.  We were made to have a relationship with Him.  From that flows relationships with others.  But many have missed the point.  Even those who have gotten the point often approach it with a take-it-or-leave-it attitude.  Why?  Because it takes time to get to know someone.  It takes effort to share life with another.  It takes courage to be vulnerable, to love, to give oneself to another.  Even our pride gets in the way as it tells us we are capable of going through this life on our own.  Others will just let us down anyway.


So why does anyone do it at all?  Because the reward is so much greater than the risk.  It is so much sweeter than the potential heartbreak of the investment.  The destination makes the journey, no matter how treacherous, completely worthwhile.

 

Sadly, many only see the risks and not only rob themselves of the blessings of community in this life but put themselves in jeopardy of missing the blessings of eternity with God.  Relationship matters...much more than most of us know or are willing to admit...

 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Idolatry Part 2

"All these toys were never intended to possess my heart.  My true good is in another world and my only real treasure is Christ." - C.S. Lewis

"If we turn from God to treasure something more, it will prove to be a hard master. An eternally hard master." - John Piper

"We all worship something. What do you bow to in your heart? If it ain't Jesus, it ain't worth it." - Jefferson Bethke

"Idols always break the hearts of their worshipers." - C.S. Lewis

"Sin is not simply doing bad things. It is putting good things in the place of God." - Tim Keller

From Pastor Tim Keller...

"The Ten Commandments begin with two commandments against idolatry. Then come commandments 3 – 10. Why this order? It is because the fundamental problem in law breaking is always idolatry. In other words, we never break commandments 3 – 10 without first breaking 1 and 2.

We will either worship God or other things. We cannot eliminate God without creating God substitutes. Something will capture our hearts and imaginations and be the most important thing to us – our ultimate concern, value, and allegiance. So every personality, community, and thought form will be based on either God himself or on some God substitute, an idol.

This means that idolatry is ultimately the reason for all wrongdoing. Why do we ever lie or steal or covet? Of course, the general answer is “because we are weak and sinful,” but the specific answer is always because there is something besides Jesus Christ that we feel we must have to be happy, something that is more important to our hearts than God, something that is enslaving our hearts through inordinate desires. All our failures to trust God wholly or to live rightly are rooted in idolatry – something we make more important than God.

…Therefore, in sin we are always forgetting what God has done for us and instead are being moved by some idol. That is precisely what happened to the Israelites in the desert.

Note also that God first rescues the people from Egypt, and then he gives them the Ten Commandments. Keeping the Ten Commandments is not what saved them; God had already done that. God did not first give the Law and then deliver the people - first he delivered his people, and then he gave them the Law. Thus we are not saved by the Law, but saved for the Law. The Law is how we regulate our love relationship with God, not the way we merit the relationship. We are saved by faith in Christ alone.


Over the past few years God has spoken to me most about two things - idolatry and grace.  I never realized how much of my heart was given to things rather than God and I never realized the depth of God's love and grace that He would continue to pursue me through my constant rebellion.  Some of my idols have been taken away, others have been lessened and still others remain.  It is almost unfathomable to me, knowing what I now know, that idolatry remains an issue in my life.  I know that attempting to find my hope, joy and comfort in anything besides Jesus leads to addiction, depression and despair.  Yet, the pull remains - a pull that I am not always successful in defeating.  In fact, idolatry is more than just a battle between humans and their vices.  It is more than just a test of our willpower.  It is ultimately about good vs. evil.

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? - Galatians 4:8-9 (ESV)

What is Paul talking about here?  He's not pulling any punches...that's for sure.  This is a letter written to the church in Galatia that was losing its grip on the Gospel.  Notice that it was God who found them.  Not the other way around.  Paul doesn't allow self-righteousness to creep in for one second.  But what about this phrase - "worthless elementary principles of the world"?  From Matt Chandler...

Now, what we know about that phrase “elementary principles” is it’s a reference to demonic spiritual forces. In the ancient world, they attributed to the elements of nature a kind of a spiritual force that needed to be appeased in order to get what you want from that spiritual force. If you were a farmer and you needed rain, you would need to appease the god that controlled the rain in order to make it rain. If you were going to go on a trip via the sea, then you wanted to appease Poseidon so that you would get there safely. If you wanted to become pregnant, you go to a fertility god. If you wanted to get married, you’d go to Aphrodite and you’d make these sacrifices and you would take part in these kinds of rituals to get from that god whatever you wanted from that god.

Paul’s saying that these gods are not gods; they’re elementary principles. Which means there are spiritual forces, powerful spiritual forces, behind our idols.  Paul’s pointing out the reality that these spiritual powers cannot deliver what they promise. They cannot deliver what they promise because ultimately they are not sovereign and all powerful. They can only do what they’re allowed to do.


This should get our attention.  Idolatry is essentially demonic worship.  That should make you more than tremble a little.  It got my attention.  With certain battles that have lasted years and years, there can exist a level of comfort within that battle.  This teaching takes any level of comfort away.

God gave us many gifts - food, drink, sex, money, health, marriage, success, etc.  These gifts were all meant to not only be blessings to us, but to point back to the Creator, so that our love and affection would rise up to Him.  Instead, we regularly choose to have our affections terminate on the gift itself.  When we do that we do not worship God...we worship His creation.  This is simply paganism.  It is being enslaved to those things that by nature are not gods.  You were created to glorify God.  To use creation to glorify yourself is to worship things other than God.  We have been fooled into thinking this isn't a big deal, or even worse, we no longer even think about it all.

There are some great questions in the following sermon that can help each of us determine what our idols are...



"Want to know if you have an idol? If you're willing to sin to get it, or if you're sinning because you're not getting it." - Jeff Bethke

http://www.justinbuzzard.net/2012/04/25/that-idol-that-you-love-it-doesnt-love-you-back/

http://www.stevekmccoy.com/keller-idoaltry.pdf

http://www.bloggingtheologically.com/2015/08/26/idolatry-is-dumb-jesus-is-not/

http://kellerquotes.com/the-definition-of-idolatry/

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Tonight's Thought

God has known you at your worst and yet has loved you with His best.

Worth thinking about.


And from Tim Keller a few days later...

"If there is not radical growth in humble love toward everyone (even your enemies), you don’t really know you are a SINNER saved by grace. If there is not radical, concrete growth in confidence and joy (even in difficulties) you don’t really know you are a sinner saved by GRACE.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mother's Day

“Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children.” - William Makepeace Thackeray

“A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.” - Tenneva Jordan

“You may have tangible wealth untold: Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold. Richer than I you can never be, I had a Mother who read to me.” - Strickland Gillilan

"Motherhood is a joyful call to nurture life and a deep summons to die to oneself." - Kevin DeYoung

A poem for you from me...

Thank you Mom for all you've done
It is truly a blessing to be called your son
You have given me more than I could ever ask
Although I admit I made it a pretty easy task
But you have taught me patience and persistence
To deal with a teenager is just a for instance
I have never met someone as selfless as you
Always willing to take less to see others through
And that is the greatest lesson I know
To cultivate the harvest while continuing to sow
To give of yourself and to pour out your life
On those around you is what best showed me Christ
Thinking of what is praiseworthy, right and true
As well as what is noble, I took from you
We are conquerors and ambassadors for the One above
And you have demonstrated that in your unfailing love
So thank you Mom for all you've done
It is truly a blessing to be called your son






“A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials, heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine, desert us when troubles thicken around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.” - Washington Irving

"If evolution was true, mothers would have more than two hands." - Milton Berle

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Journey

Gospel.  Community.  Mission.

Tonight I attended the newcomer's dinner at the Hanley Road campus for The Journey Church here in St. Louis.  God has been calling me to get back into a more traditional church community after a few years without a home church.  I have been dragging my feet...to put it lightly.  I do love the church and believe it is still the primary means by which God calls and saves the lost.  Yet, memories of my last experience in what had become a close church family have been difficult to overcome even after much healing has taken place.  There certainly was some selfishness in there as well as I do like freedom on the weekends to do as I please.  It's sad that I know in my head that God's way is better than mine yet I have not fully embraced that truth with my heart and life.

I am blessed to have family and friends who have gently held me accountable to being obedient to God's desire for me to be part of a church community once again.  They understand my past experiences but don't let me use that as an excuse to drown out the Spirit's calling.  But then again...how does one drown out the Spirit?  I can't.  The Holy Spirit has persisted in this command on my life and my heart has been restless because of it.  I am thankful that God is relentless.  I am thankful that He allows little peace when I am not walking the path He has laid before me.  The worst case scenario would be that He would simply go quiet...that He would become passive.  I pray that never happens.

What I appreciated about tonight was the compelling simplicity with which this church operates.  They are not big on programs.  They aren't big on meetings.  You won't find a Tuesday morning men's group.  I am OK with that.  I already have a men's small group that I greatly cherish.  I was wondering how I would juggle multiple groups.  Given the fact that their community groups are only opened to new members a couple times a year and space is usually tight, I probably won't have to be concerned with that for awhile. 

Yes, some meetings are necessary within a church.  It's also true that the more programs you have the more meetings seem to become necessary in order to manage them effectively.  What I learned at my old church is that not all meetings are created equal.  Some meetings happen out of habit.  Some happen because someone is trying to promote a personal agenda.  Some are not God saturated.  To the extent those kinds of meetings are taking place, I want no part of it.  That culture can be debilitating to the hearts of individuals and to the mission of the church.

Tonight I heard about a church that wants to be a place for the sinful, for the skeptics and for those who have been wounded by other churches.  Preaching the Gospel and discipling others to live transformed lives is paramount.  Another reason why programs are minimized is because they want you spending that time in your community and in your circle of friends, discipling others and being an ambassador for Christ.  After all, if you are spending all of your spare time in programs at the church, how many non-Christians are you really interacting with?  That makes it kinda hard to live out the Great Commission.

I asked for discernment from the Holy Spirit before I arrived tonight...that I would know whether or not this is where God is calling me.  I was given enough conviction to sign up for a membership class that commences at the end of this month.  It's been a long time in coming but it is the right step...out of the boat...and onto the water.

Lord...increase my faith and trust in you to not look down.


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Don't Water Down the Gospel

Clear your mind, open your heart and listen... Now replay it and listen again. Powerful truth being spoken.

 http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/2012/04/29/two-hundred-proof-grace/

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter

"In 36 years of searching, the only thing I've found bigger than the depth of my own sin is the cross Christ died on for it." - Jon Acuff

"Why do bad things happen to good people? Something bad only happened to someone good once and He volunteered for it." - Craig Groeschel

"We share the humility and suffering of Christ and also share His conquest of death and find a new life after we've died." - C.S. Lewis

"The resurrection was God’s way of stamping PAID IN FULL right across history so that nobody could miss it." - Tim Keller

A recent Rasmussen poll found that 77% of Americans believe Jesus rose from the dead. That is a shockingly high number to me because 77% of people I encounter don't live like it. There are plenty of times I don't live like it. To have this truth permeate our minds but not our hearts is a tragedy of untold proportions.

What are the implications of Jesus rising from the dead?

How should that fact change the way we think and live?

Trying to live each day like Easter -- with its power, its promise, its hope, its truth. That should be our mission.

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From Jason Johnson, lead pastor of Woodlands Point Community Church in Texas...

Throughout Scripture the marriage relationship is used as a picture of God's relationship with his people. The bride and groom imagery highlights not only the covenantal love of God for his people but also their position within that relationship as the beneficiaries of his redemptive pursuit. A common theme woven within the thread of Scripture, from the Old to the New Testament, is God's unwavering, unalterable, unceasing pursuit of his people into the consecrating and cleansing relationship of eternal marriage.

This is why the hallmark of all God's grievances against his people is spiritual adultery, a heinous infidelity on the part of his people as they pursue lesser lovers and stray outside the conditions of the covenantal relationship (Jeremiah 13:27; Mark 8:38). God is a jealous God (Exodus 20:3-5; Deuteronomy 6:14-15), not because he lacks in companionship but because he longs for the exclusive affections of his people, as a groom does for his bride.

Jesus adopts the imagery of bride and groom as it pertains to his present application of the New Covenant and his future consummation of salvation through the great, eternal marriage with the church. In the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), Jesus allegorizes himself as the bridegroom and urges his disciples to stay alert, because they do not know the day or the hour he will return and take them to the eternal wedding celebration, i.e., the kingdom. He again refers to himself as the bridegroom while instructing his disciples on the proper purpose and function of fasting (Mark 2:18-20). As the bridegroom he will return to take his bride home, yet in the meantime, while he is present with them, fasting and longing for his return is not necessary.
Anticipation, Expectation, Preparation

The central focus of the wedding imagery in Scripture is anticipation, expectation, and preparation. It closely mirrors the traditional order of a first-century wedding, which involved a father arranging a bride for his son and paying the predetermined "bride price" on her behalf. The son would then return to his father's house to make arrangements while the bride consecrated herself in eager anticipation for his final return for her. The terms of the relationship were sealed with ceremonial sharing of a glass of wine before the two parted ways and entered a time of anticipation and preparation leading up to the final wedding feast.

In strikingly similar fashion, God the Father has sent Jesus the Son to secure his bride, the church. The terms of the covenantal relationship between God and his people have been outlined in the gospel, and a great price has been paid by the Father to secure the relationship, namely, through the sacrifice of the Son on the Cross (1 Corinthians 6:20). The night before he would go to the Cross, Jesus shared a cup with his disciples as a means of symbolically sealing their new covenantal relationship. He instructed them to partake of this cup after his departure in remembrance of the price he paid for them and in anticipation of his future and final return for them.

Upon departure he will go to his Father's house to prepare a place but will return one day to bring his bride home with him forever (John 14:2-3). The day and the hour of his return are unknown by all but the Father (Matthew 24:26). The bride of Christ, the church, eagerly waits and makes herself ready, setting herself apart for him and him alone, purifying herself for the day when he will return for her forever (1 Peter 1:13-16). He will come, and when he does the eternal wedding feast will commence (Revelation 19:7-8).

The recognition of the death and resurrection of Jesus at Easter is not an isolated act of God but a pinnacle point in the ongoing bride-groom narrative running throughout the current of Scripture. It's the celebration of God acquiring a bride for his Son through the ultimate price of death paid on the Cross. It's the height of God's radical, redemptive pursuit of a sinful and broken people to secure them as his beautifully treasured Bride.
Wonder of the Gospel

Easter is the joyous celebration of the wonder of the gospel---that God has gone to great lengths to secure us for his Son. We are forever bound to Jesus by his death that purchased us and his resurrection that secured us into a future inheritance that is "imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Peter 1:4-5).

So we live in this present day as those who are consecrated to our future Groom---holy, set apart, uniquely and distinctively his. We live today with an eager sense of anticipation for the return of our Groom on a tomorrow yet to come. We live today as those who are valued not by the standards of this world but by the infinite price our Savior was willing to pay for us on the Cross. We are invaluably his, and he is ours.

We anticipate, we expect, and we prepare. Our Groom is coming back to take us home.

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http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/deeper-walk/features/25243-a-case-for-resurrection

http://www.bloggingtheologically.com/2011/04/21/the-power-of-the-resurrection/

http://marshill.com/2012/04/08/the-day-jesus-rose

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday

"Jesus Christ did not suffer so that you would not suffer. He suffered so that when you suffer, you’ll become more like him. The gospel does not promise you better life circumstances; it promises you a better life." - Tim Keller

"It cost God nothing, so far as we know, to create nice things: but to convert rebellious wills cost Him crucifixion." - C.S. Lewis

"The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me." - Tim Keller

"No matter how dark the hour, do not lose heart. Redemption is at work here." - Mike Donehey



On the cross, we see the greatest act of love ever demonstrated, its effects reverberating down through history and permanently altering the lives of those who believe. The importance of the cross will never diminish. In heaven, Scripture tells us, the majestic beings around the throne of God worship by saying, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12) When the love of God is extolled, both in heaven and on earth, the sacrifice of Christ on the cross is always the focal point, for there God showed his love in the most real and powerful way imaginable—by dying for those who hate him.

But the cross did not simply display love. On the cross, Jesus performed a real, tangible, beneficial action on our behalf. Though we are by nature children of wrath, Jesus died in order to achieve something for us. He “died for our sins” (1 Corinthians 15:3), so that we can be “justified by his blood” and “saved by him from the wrath of God” (Romans 5:9).

Perhaps no writer in Scripture says it better than the prophet Isaiah, despite the fact that he preceded Christ by centuries: “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4–5). Scripture plainly and clearly teaches that Jesus died in our place, as our substitute, taking from God the punishment for our sins.

On the cross, Jesus performed the ultimate act of love, and that act genuinely accomplished something—the Son of God absorbed the wrath of God on our behalf, taking our guilt away and enabling us to receive Christ’s perfect righteousness credited to us, so that we might be presented before him as righteous.


Adapted from Casey Lute, “But God…“ (Kindle Edition)




Mercy there was great and grace was free.
Pardon there was multiplied to me.
There my burdened soul found liberty.
At Calvary.




http://www.whatsbestnext.com/2011/04/6-things-christ-accomplished-by-his-death/

http://marshill.com/2008/06/02/resurrection-god-saves/

http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/barabbas-and-me

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/thabitianyabwile/2012/04/05/the-death-of-death-in-the-death-of-christ-means-victory-over-death-for-those-who-believe/

http://www.gotquestions.org/why-believe-resurrection.html?utm_source=iContact&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Question%20of%20the%20Week&utm_content=QOTW-04-06-12

http://www.apologetics315.com/2012/04/top-ten-myths-about-resurrection.html

http://www.timothypauljones.com/2012/04/06/is-it-possible-that-jesus-body-was-left-on-the-cross/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=4iyxR8uE9GQ#!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Puritan Prayer

Lord Jesus, give me a deeper repentance, a horror of sin, a dread of its approach. Help me chastely to flee it and jealously to resolve that my heart shall be Thine alone.

Give me a deeper trust, that I may lose myself to find myself in Thee, the ground of my rest, the spring of my being. Give me a deeper knowledge of Thyself as saviour, master, lord, and king. Give me deeper power in private prayer, more sweetness in Thy Word, more steadfast grip on its truth. Give me deeper holiness in speech, thought, action, and let me not seek moral virtue apart from Thee.

Plough deep in me, great Lord, heavenly husbandman, that my being may be a tilled field, the roots of grace spreading far and wide, until Thou alone art seen in me, Thy beauty golden like summer harvest, Thy fruitfulness as autumn plenty.

I have no master but Thee, no law but Thy will, no delight but Thyself, no wealth but that Thou givest, no good but that Thou blessest, no peace but that Thou bestowest. I am nothing but that Thou makest me. I have nothing but that I receive from Thee. I can be nothing but that grace adorns me. Quarry me deep, dear Lord, and then fill me to overflowing with living water.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

This Blog

I had one idea about what this blog would look like when I started a few years ago. God had another idea. I thought it would be a place where I could unload thoughts on any subject that were circling my brain. I thought it might bring peace to my mind so I could sleep better instead of lying awake thinking endlessly.

"In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps." - Proverbs 16:9 (NIV)

God's plan was to turn this blog into an online spiritual journal...something I had always meant to start keeping offline but had never really embraced. It became a way for me to spend time with God, to listen to the Holy Spirit, to work through things He was teaching me and to reach a deeper understanding of His truth. It has also become a wonderful resource deposit on a variety of spiritual topics.

I occasionally look at the number of page views this blog gets, which posts are receiving the most views and where readers of this blog are from. In just the last week, this blog has had multiple views from the U.S., Germany, France, Argentina, Brazil, Japan, Britain, Ukraine, Hong Kong and Russia. There have been almost 6,500 page views since it began.

That is pretty mind boggling as I never set out to generate any type of audience. I figured just a few friends and family members would ever see this or even have an interest. I didn't know what God had in store. I couldn't see that He would ultimately use this for His glory.

It amazes me what God has done and is doing right here. It amazes me that God chooses to use sinners to advance His kingdom. He always has and it still is shocking. I am a mess. I am a broken sinner. I deal with temptation every day of my life and fail miserably all too often. I am only made alive again through His grace, through the cross of Jesus, through His pursuit of me. And yet, here I am, called to be part of His redeeming work in this fallen world.

It is incredibly humbling and sobering...and awesome. All the glory goes to God for what is written on these pages. Thank you Lord.

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." - 2 Corinthians 4:7 (NIV)

"We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God." - 2 Corinthians 5:20 (NIV)

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Tim Keller at Oxford

I love Tim Keller. I love his heart for God and for people. I love his ability to teach plainly yet with insight. He makes the Gospel relatable and compelling. His book, "A Prodigal God" greatly changed and improved the way I viewed my relationship with God.

I aspire to teach like Keller, preach like Chandler and love like Chan. OK...my ultimate example is, of course, Jesus Christ, but I think these men are great examples to follow on my way to Him.

In the following videos, Keller takes on some big questions about Christianity from Oxford students. His approach in his answers is worth taking notes - for believers and non-believers alike.

Question 1: What is Christianity’s stand on other religions and do we call people of other faiths our brothers and sisters?

Keller @ Oxford Question 1 from March of Morn on Vimeo.


Question 2: I’m gay, but I want to be a Christian. I feel the need for a transcendent Savior and lover as you said last night, but I also long for human intimacy while on this earth. And the two following Christ and this seemingly innate desire for human intimacy and companionship appear mutually exclusive. What is your response?

Keller @ Oxford Question 2 from March of Morn on Vimeo.


Question 3: Why does the Bible make no mention of evolution or of lands outside its immediate context, of foreign creatures or those extinct before the book was written?



Question 4: Yesterday you said that the wages of sin are death. Can you explain what you meant by that?



Question 5: How is the God of love the same being who commands the extermination of whole ethnic groups?



Question 6: Can religion be explained as simply a product of social evolution?

Keller @ Oxford Question 6 from March of Morn on Vimeo.


Question 7: How can I be sure Christ has entered my life?

Keller @ Oxford Question 7 from March of Morn on Vimeo.


Question 8: The Christians in the Crusades justified some of their actions because they saw armies of angels with them and heard God telling them what to do. They backed this up with testimonies of many eyewitness. Is this not the same as justifying the Bible by many eyewitnesses who saw Jesus after he died? If the people in the Crusades were mistaken why were the eyewitness of Jesus not?

Keller @ Oxford Question 8 from March of Morn on Vimeo.


Question 9: Why did God create man in the first place?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Bible

"Unless we go to the Bible to see Jesus and His work for us, even our Bible reading can become fuel for our own self-improvement plans." - Pastor Tullian

"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." - 2 Timothy 3:16-17

"The Bible feeds our souls, warms our hearts, illuminates our minds and changes our lives."

"We do not ultimately interpret scripture; scripture interprets us." -- Oswald Bayer

"The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me." – Martin Luther

"Don't change the Word of God.  Do allow the Word of God to change you!" - Mark Driscoll

"It must be said there is a difference between going through the Bible, like a tourist, and the Bible going through you, like a spear." - Douglas Wilson

"But He answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” - Matthew 4:4

"Let us measure everything by the Bible, and resolve, by God’s help, to conform to it." ~ J.C. Ryle

As Christians, many of us struggle with head knowledge translating into heart knowledge. We state that we believe many things and we are sincere in our proclamations. However, deeper within us, in areas that we may or may not even be aware of, we have yet to embrace these truths wholeheartedly.

For example, we may say that we trust God. Yet, we create and pursue idols out of what has been created rather than the Creator Himself. We don't really trust God for complete fulfillment and joy so we do our best to arrange for those things elsewhere.

We say that we believe God loves us and all things work to the good of those who love Him. Yet, when we find our dreams unfulfilled, our plans unsatisfied and our comforts compromised, we question why a loving God would allow these disappointments into our lives. We don't truly believe God loves us. We only believe in His love when things seem to meet our definition of going in a "loving" way.

I still struggle with the first but have come a long way on the second. Still, there is another Christian belief I profess that is not mirrored in my life. I believe that the Bible is the inspired and inerrant Word of God. I believe that God's Spirit worked in and through the human writers of the Bible so that what was written on those pages is a direct communication from the Creator of the universe.

And yet...on most days...there my Bible sits...unopened and untouched. Sure, I get some daily Bible exposure through devotionals that occupy my inbox or when I prepare for care group. But that is a poor substitute for simply sitting down, opening the Bible and drinking deeply and meaningfully from the truths and promises of God. If I TRULY believed that God's words were included in that book, it would never be closed.

"Your mistake is that you don't know the Scriptures, and you don't know the power of God." - Matthew 22:29

As Patrick Morley writes in the first chapter of "Man Alive", "Jesus made a direct connection between the Bible and leading a powerful life. Lukewarm men are in error because they 'don't know the Scriptures' and therefore 'don't know the power of God.' Their capabilities don't equal their intentions. Without the right training, their soil remains bare, stony and full of weeds."

And God just brought this to mind...if we say that God isn't speaking to us or that we can't hear Him and we aren't reading our Bibles every day then we are acting incredibly foolish. His words, His counsel, His wisdom are available to us every minute, carried from the pages of the Bible to the depths of our heart by the Holy Spirit. Let's at least open up the cover and start to listen.

"Let the man who would hear God speak read Holy Scripture." - Martin Luther

Lord, ignite a passion in me for your Word that I may live a more powerful life that glorifies you more greatly, changes me more deeply and impacts the world around me more profoundly. Amen.

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From John Piper...

Don’t rest on past reading. Read your Bible more and more every year. Read it whether you feel like reading it or not. And pray without ceasing that the joy return and pleasures increase.

Three reasons this is not legalism:

You are confessing your lack of desire as sin, and pleading as a helpless child for the desire you long to have. Legalists don’t cry like that. They strut.

You are reading out of desperation for the effects of this heavenly medicine. Bible-reading is not a cure for a bad conscience; it’s chemo for your cancer. Legalists feel better because the box is checked. Saints feel better when their blindness lifts, and they see Jesus in the Word. Let’s get real. We are desperately sick with worldliness, and only the Holy Spirit, by the word of God, can cure this terminal disease.

It is not legalism because only justified people can see the preciousness and power of the Word of God. Legalists trudge with their Bibles on the path toward justification. Saints sit down in the shade of the cross and plead for the blood-bought pleasures.

So lets give heed to Mr. Ryle and never grow weary of the slow, steady, growth that comes from the daily, disciplined, increasing, love affair with reading the Bible.

"Do not think you are getting no good from the Bible, merely because you do not see that good day by day. The greatest effects are by no means those which make the most noise, and are most easily observed. The greatest effects are often silent, quiet, and hard to detect at the time they are being produced.

Think of the influence of the moon upon the earth, and of the air upon the human lungs. Remember how silently the dew falls, and how imperceptibly the grass grows. There may be far more doing than you think in your soul by your Bible-reading." (J. C. Ryle, Practical Religion, 136)


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Is the Bible the Word of God? Then mind that you do not neglect it. Read it! Begin to read it this very day. What greater insult to God can a man be guilty of than to refuse to read the letter God sends him from heaven? Oh, be sure, if you will not read your Bible, you are in fearful danger of losing your soul!

Is the Bible the Word of God? Then be sure you always read it with deep reverence. Say to your soul, whenever you open the Bible, “O my soul, you are going to read a message from God!”

Is the Bible the Word of God? Then be sure you never read it without fervent prayer for the help and teaching of the Holy Spirit. Humble prayer will throw more light on your Bible than any commentary that ever was written. You will not understand it unless your heart is right. You will find it a sealed book without the teaching of the Holy Spirit. Its contents are often hidden from the wise and learned, and revealed to babes.

Is the Bible the Word of God? Then let us all resolve from this day forward to prize the Bible more. God has given us the Bible to be a light to guide us to everlasting life. Let us not neglect this precious gift. Let us read it diligently, and walk in its light.

adapted from J.C. Ryle, Inspiration (tract)

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"The Bible is not a record of good people earning God's blessing, but bad people receiving God's blessing because Jesus earned it for them." - Pastor Tullian

"If you are having trouble reading your Bible with deep and affecting meaning, imagine that you will die in about eight hours." - John Piper

http://gma.yahoo.com/blogs/abc-blogs/woman-uses-bible-verses-ward-off-attacker-181056926--abc-news.html

http://www.communicatejesus.com/2012/08/were-not-reading-the-bible-and-why-its-a-problem/

http://www.conversantlife.com/theology/ten-verses-to-defend-your-faith#continue

http://www.bestcommentaries.com/

"A Bible that's falling apart, usually belongs to someone who isn't." - C.H. Spurgeon

"Advice to aspiring ministers: Get in the Word. Stay in the Word. Master the Word. And for heaven's sake, preach the Word!" – R.C. Sproul

"Men dismiss the Bible because they say it contradicts itself. Their real beef is that it contradicts them." - Douglas Wilson

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2012/03/21/an-interview-with-daniel-b-wallace-on-the-new-testament-manuscripts/

http://www.reformation21.org/articles/can-the-new-testament-canon-be-defended-derek-thomas-interviews-michael-kruger.php

http://theresurgence.com/2012/05/28/what-to-say-when-someone-says-the-bible-has-errors

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2012/06/06/theological-primer-the-attributes-of-scripture/

http://kellerquotes.com/can-we-trust-the-bible/

How were books of the New Testament chosen?

http://www.bpnews.net/BPFirstPerson.asp?ID=37993

http://matthiasmedia.com/briefing/2012/05/why-you-shouldnt-memorize-bible-verses/

Are the Gospels contradictory?   http://vimeo.com/35638727

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/07/09/making-sense-of-scriptures-inconsistency/

http://www.bloggingtheologically.com/2012/07/09/questions-to-ask-when-studying-the-bible/

http://www.bloggingtheologically.com/2012/08/08/11-ways-to-reignite-your-passion-for-the-bible/

http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/2012/10/18/how-do-other-ancient-texts-compare-to-the-new-testament/

http://www.bloggingtheologically.com/2013/06/24/most-compelling-reason-read-bible/

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2013/07/29/you-asked-is-all-scripture-from-the-lord/

http://www.bloggingtheologically.com/2012/08/23/if-i-were-the-devil/

http://www.dyerthoughts.com/home/gods-cure-for-mans-doubt

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Whose Image - God or Yours?

The following is an excerpt from Matt Chandler's sermon, Affections Matter, preached on 1/29/12:

Now I want to show you how deep the gospel penetration went into Ephesus. We are going to go to verse 21 (Acts 19). “Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, ‘After I have been there, I must also see Rome.’ And having sent into Macedonia two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while. About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines to Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods.”

I love Demetrius. I want to have him in my house for dinner. Because one of two things just happened. Either he legitimately believes that, when he is making these silver images, he is making a god, or he thinks he just got busted by Paul. But either way, he’s undeterred from continuing on from his course of action. I don’t know what’s crazier. He either thinks that, when he is hammering silver into shape, he is building a god.

Just for the record, how powerful is a god if you made it? Like if you could manipulate it and make it, how could it possibly be god? How tiny and weak is your god, if your god is dependent upon you? This is Paul’s argument in Acts 17, “God is not made by any, He is not served by any human hands. As if He needed anything. He gives breath and life to all.” This is a very subversive attack on idolatry in Athens and Ephesus.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I was not intending to write this blog tonight but I just had to share this. It is so awesome. I have heard the teaching before that says, "Are you trying to create God in your image instead of learning what it means to be made in His?" And that is absolutely spot on and something we should continually ask ourselves. But I love the way Matt has expanded that thought.

I am thinking back to some of my witnessing experiences and the individual across the table from me would constantly try to dismiss the attributes of God that are laid out in the Bible and replace them with things they found more appropriate. Examples include:

-God is love so everyone will be saved
-God is a passive observer because I don't feel or hear Him in my life
-God is the one who gave me these desires so how can it be sin to act on them
-God allows pain, illness and depression to persist so He doesn't care about me
-God is the only one who can change me so I will just wait until He does something
-God can't be eternal because I can't comprehend eternity
-God can't possibly know everyone intimately as well as everything that is happening
-God can't exist because I can't see Him and you can't prove He does

Notice what these all have in common...they either make God much smaller or inept than He actually is, or in the case of the last point, take him out of the equation completely. The primary motivation to make God smaller is that it makes us seem bigger by comparison. The more important we perceive ourselves to be, the more relevance and self-worth we have according to this world we live in. But that couldn't be further from the truth.

The temptation is to create a god that you want. That does not bring about the reality of that god anymore than it did when a silversmith created a figurine with his hands. All you have done is fabricate the existence of a god that reflects your logic, your desires and your incredibly limited and finite understanding. How tiny and weak is your god, if your god is dependent on you.

I will worship the Creator of the Universe, the Alpha and the Omega, the eternal, omnipotent and sovereign Lord of all. I would much rather lack complete understanding and insight into the one true God than to delude myself into thinking that I have complete control and mastery of a god that only exists in my head. The only reason to do that is so you can continue to live and think the way you want without the conviction of having to answer to a higher Authority that may see things differently than you.

Is your narcissism so great that you would rather make up something useless than obey the One who created you to be truly useful?

"Make your choice. You can shut Him up for a fool, spit at Him as a demon, or fall at His feet and call him Lord and God." - C.S. Lewis

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Abortion

http://www.abort73.com/

http://thegospelcoalition.org/mobile/article/tgc/9-things-you-should-know-about-planned-parenthood

http://time.com/4028258/planned-parenthood/

http://www.creationmoments.com/radio/transcripts/abortion-and-mothers-mental-health-0

"The right created by the Court in Roe is a constitutional right of some human beings to kill other human beings." - M.S. Paulson

"When a woman has a baby in her womb, parenthood for her and the baby's father is not a choice. It's a definition." - John Piper



"Abortion is this generation's slavery. People will look back in horror & disbelief and say 'they used to kill babies in the mother's womb?!'"

As the 39th anniversary of Roe v Wade has just passed (January 22nd), I felt it was time to publish this post as I have been collecting abortion resources for the past year. Abortion is now responsible for 41% of deaths worldwide. There is seemingly no topic more divisive or emotional as abortion. Both sides are vehement in their positions with little willingness to budge or consider the other side. I have a theory on what is at the heart of this contention.

I think abortion serves as the climactic intersection for a world torn between doing things the way it wants versus the way God wants. Those with a worldview that rests on them being the center of the story have a natural abhorrence to the idea that anyone would dare tell them what to do or not to do with their body. Those with a Biblical worldview that God is Lord and Creator have a natural abhorrence to the idea that anyone would willingly murder an innocent child.

I am a pro-life Christian. I come from a family who lost a son before he was even a week old and who later adopted a daughter from South Korea. My parents grieved the loss of a child and celebrated the gift of another. I grew up learning that life is indeed precious and a gift...a gift born out of God's power and grace. What I find particularly saddening is the way pro-choice advocates have chosen to view an unborn child. They have to use a word such as "fetus" to make their argument seem less horrific yet I have never heard a pregnant woman, Christian or not, refer to her unborn child as "this fetus inside of me".

Many pro-choice advocates are outraged when a pregnant woman is killed and her baby perishes with her. They demand a stiffer punishment for the killer than if only one death had occurred. But why, if the fetus inside her is not yet a person?

Further advances in science have given us new and amazing insights to the physical appearance of an unborn child after only a few weeks. Furthermore, surgeries are now performed on a child who is still in the womb. Science continues to show us just how much of a human being resides within his or her mother. Yet, in this case, science tends to be ignored by those who are dogmatically unwavering in their position.

My hope is that God will use the following resources to open up the minds and hearts of those who believe abortion is a legitimate option. I also hope that pro-life individuals can use these resources to grow in their convictions and share this truth with others in a way that is saturated in grace and love.

Abortion has taken over 53 million lives since Roe v Wade was decided in 1973. I was born in 1972. All of those lives have been destroyed within my lifetime. There are no words to describe that tragedy.


Britt Merrick - Abortion, the Bible and a Way Forward from Reality on Vimeo.

http://online.worldmag.com/2011/03/02/too-missional-for-abortion/

A reader passed along this story from ScienceNews:

The remains of seven children apparently killed in a ritual, and buried beneath a 500- to 600-year-old building in Peru’s Cuzco Valley have given scientists new glimpses of the sketchily understood Inca practice of sacrificing select children in elaborate ceremonies.

The children were buried at the same time, apparently after having been killed in a sacrificial rite that honored Inca deities and promoted political unity across the far-flung empire, say anthropologist Valerie Andrushko of Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven and her colleagues.

Chemical analyses of the bones indicate that at least two of the children came from distant parts of the Inca realm.

The findings lend credence to the accounts of Spanish conquistadors that described how children were selected for sacrifice from all across the empire, based on their physical perfection. We shudder at such brutal backwardness.

Today, using prenatal screening, we scour the empire for children with physical imperfections and sacrifice them to ourselves.
(First Things, “While We’re at It”, January 2011, 68)

And to show just how far in the wrong direction our society is going, how about a day where a dolphin is given the legal standing of a person while an unborn child is not?  Think I am kidding?  Read this...

http://www.bloggingtheologically.com/2015/08/13/planned-parenthood-grace-god

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/07/cetacean-rights/

http://theworksofgod.com/2011/11/28/three-continents-six-children-dead-every-headline-mistaken/

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/10/31/why-your-friends-are-pro-choice-and-what-to-do-about-it/

http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/what-does-roe-v-wade-actually-say

http://www.lifenews.com/2012/01/22/obama-celebrates-roe-vs-wade-decision-54-million-abortions/

Please take 33 minutes and watch the following video:

http://www.180movie.com/

http://theresurgence.com/2012/01/22/15-things-to-consider-about-abortion

http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/online-books/exposing-the-dark-work-of-abortion

In 2010, Planned Parenthood referred 841 women for adoptions and 329,445 for abortions:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/05/opinion/sunday/douthat-the-medias-blinders-on-abortion.html?_r=2&hp

http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/abortionist-admits-babies-sometimes-born-alive-and-left-wiggling-around-in

http://www.creationmoments.com/radio/transcripts/abortion-and-mothers-mental-health



http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/bonhoeffer-on-abortion



http://www.ncregister.com/blog/the_baby_speaks

http://www.humanlife.org/Resources/DYK/DYK%20WEB.pdf

http://www.therightscoop.com/nbc-chief-medical-editor-its-pro-science-to-abort-children-with-genetic-defects/

http://www.christiannewswire.com/news/6030020312.html

thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2012/09/02/if-you-dont-know-if-abortion-is-wrong-choose-the-pro-life-position-by-default

http://www.bpnews.net/BPFirstPerson.asp?ID=38920

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2012/10/24/10-questions-a-pro-choice-candidate-is-never-asked-by-the-media/

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2013/01/18/9-things-you-should-know-about-roe-v-wade/

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2013/01/13/thank-you-mr-president-for-these-pro-life-marching-orders/

http://www.radical.net/blog/2013/01/the-most-important-question-in-the-abortion-debate/

http://www.passionlife.org/john-piper-interview/

http://p.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/jan/20/hagelin-obama-fails-kings-ideals-when-it-comes-to-/

http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/we-know-they-are-killing-children-all-of-us-know

marshill.com/2013/01/20/abortion-and-reconciliation-holly-has-been-changed-by-jesus

http://www.prolifetraining.com/FiveMinute1.asp

http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/the-truth-about-abortion-will-set-you-free

www.worldmag.com/2013/05/read_about_abortion_reality_if_you_dare

http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/the-truth-about-abortion-will-set-you-free

http://www.thevillagechurch.net/sermon/the-sanctity-of-human-life/

http://www.skepticink.com/prussian/2014/03/13/the-atheist-case-for-being-anti-abortion/

http://www.inquisitr.com/1236243/abortion-survivor-finds-doctor-who-aborted-her-twin-brother-you-wont-believe-what-happened/

http://www.epm.org/blog/2015/Sep/28/abortion-womens-health

http://www.nationalreview.com/article/424721/bill-nye-youtube-abortion

http://erlc.com/resource-library/articles/the-supreme-courts-devastating-ruling-for-the-rights-of-women-and-children

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/current/deep-problem-narals-latest-propaganda-video

"If 16 year old messes with turtle eggs: up to $100,000 fine and one year in jail. If the same 16 year old aborts a baby.....she doesn't even need a permission slip."

1/18/14 - 38 states now have fetal homicide laws, which means you can be charged with two crimes if you crash into and kill a woman on her way to an abortion clinic.  But if she gets to the clinic and pays a fee, a doctor will kill her child and there will be no crime.  We have lost all sanity on this issue.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Being Transformed

"Motivation built on guilt never leads to transformation. Conviction by the Holy Spirit leads to repentance and transformation."

See the difference?

This quote came from Matt Chandler's sermon on 1/15 entitled "Here to the Ends of the Earth." He was talking about our desire to witness our faith to others. In 21st century America, we have the opposite problem of the disciples after Christ ascended into heaven. Starting in Acts 2, Peter and the others were driven by the Holy Spirit to preach the crucified and risen Christ to all who would hear...in Jerusalem. But the thought of taking that message into Judea and Samaria as Jesus commanded wasn't quite so appealing. They were more comfortable sticking around at home. So what does God do? He uses Saul to persecute the church and disperse the disciples to where God wanted them to go. Amazing how God works sometimes, isn't it? You think you are making headway in attacking Christianity and all God does is use your efforts to advance His Kingdom in another way.

For a lot of Christians in the U.S., we have a sense that we could be very bold in sharing the gospel in a far off land. But ask us to walk next door to our neighbor's house and share the Gospel and we immediately hesitate. What if he/she thinks I am weird? I don't want things to get awkward between us. I really wouldn't know what to say.

Proximity MATTERS. You are where you are for a reason, for a purpose, for God's delight and glory. Whether it is at work, at home, at the gym, at the grocery store...it doesn't matter. And now that the Spirit brings it to mind...this mentality that says "witness at all times and use words when necessary" is not Biblical and is simply rationalizing your unwillingness to clearly state the Gospel that your faith is based upon to someone who may desperately need to HEAR it. It's a convenient excuse to say that we don't need to talk to witness our faith. Yes, by all means, LIVE as a Christian and be a Godly example to those around you. But don't ever feel like you have done what God has commanded by stopping there and calling it a day. Jesus didn't just perform a miracle and walk away. He taught. He spoke the truth. He engaged people. We are called to do the same.

"You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say." - Martin Luther

So, just as a New Year's resolution to lose weight is motivated by guilt and quickly fades into inaction, so are our best human efforts at being "good people". Don't be a good person for the sake of being a good person. After all, you won't ever completely succeed, and to the extent you do, you will face the sin of pride at every turn. Rather, repent of your sin and weakness, that you may be filled with the strength of the Holy Spirit who can truly transform hearts and lives.

In Christ, we are no longer struggling to be free. We are free to struggle. This simply means that we are now free from looking to ourselves for validation and victory because we are assured of our identity in what Christ did for us on the cross. So now we can live in that freedom and fight the battles of sin in our life in His strength knowing that the war is already won. That perspective...that freedom...that truth is truly transformational.


Friday, January 13, 2012

Does Jesus Hate Religion?

Felt this was worth posting here as it has gotten a lot of attention on YouTube and I have used the phrase "Jesus came to abolish religion" in my conversations with Christians and non-Christians alike.



Now please read this theological response from Kevin DeYoung at The Gospel Coalition.

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2012/01/13/does-jesus-hate-religion-kinda-sorta-not-really/

Here is another helpful resource from Pastor Tullian:

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/2012/01/14/religion-and-the-gospel/

We must always strive to be more Biblically centered when it comes to our faith and our witness.

Addendum: What I love most about this is Jefferson's humble spirit. Here is his tweet after reading the aforementioned articles:

Thankful for these men! Humbled by @PastorTullian (http://shar.es/WO2ur) and Deyoung's (http://ow.ly/8txbY) words to me. Heb 13:17-18!

FYI...Hebrews 13:17-18 says, "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. 18 Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things."

You can follow Jefferson on Twitter: @JeffuhsonBethke

An interview with Jefferson:



http://jeffbethke.com/my-thoughts-after-writing-why-i-hate-religion-but-love-jesus/

His website is www.jeffbethke.com

http://jeffbethke.com/do-you-really-love-jesus-or-do-you-just-play-the-game/