Sunday, January 31, 2010
Saturday, January 30, 2010
You and I are not integrated, unified, whole persons. Our hearts are multi-divided. There is a board room in every heart. Big table. Leather chairs. Coffee. Bottled water. Whiteboard. A committee sits around the table. There is the social self, the private self, the work self, the sexual self, the recreational self, the religious self, and others. The committee is arguing and debating and voting. Constantly agitated and upset. Rarely can they come to a unanimous, wholehearted decision. We tell ourselves we’re this way because we’re so busy with so many responsibilities. The truth is, we’re just divided, unfocused, hesitant, unfree.
That kind of person can “accept Jesus” in either of two ways.
One way is to invite him onto the committee. Give him a vote too. But then he becomes just one more complication.
The other way to “accept Jesus” is to say to him, “My life isn’t working. Please come in and fire my committee, every last one of them. I hand myself over to you. Please run my whole life for me.” That is not complication; that is salvation.
“Accepting Jesus” is not just adding Jesus. It is also subtracting the idols.
Because God’s absolute and perfect holiness demands an equivalent holiness from all who come before him, in ourselves we are hopelessly lost and condemned. But Jesus, who had no sin of his won to pay for, took our place, paid our penalty, and suffered our punishment. Because his death as our substitute was perfectly sufficient to pay for our sin, God vindicated him by raising him from the dead. So now all who place their trust in Jesus’ work on their behalf and turn from their sin will be forgiven, counted righteous in him, and saved from judgment for all eternity . . . all by God’s marvelous grace. This is the gospel. This is the good news. Better news simply does not exist!”
- Gary & Betsy Ricucci (Love That Lasts: When Marriage Meets Grace)
Friday, January 29, 2010
Okay, okay, I'm out of adjectives. But I was slapped across the face this morning during my (pretty) regular morning-time-in-the-Word.
This is Tomlinson's (not to be confused with worship guy Chris Tomlin) provoking "state of my union":
The state of my union is not that good. I don’t think you’re supposed to say that sort of thing, but it’s true, so I guess it’s worth saying.
I’m not talking about our country, which remains strong despite its many issues. And I’m not talking about my marriage, which is still my greatest earthly delight. The union I’m talking about is the union that matters most: my union with Christ.
The struggle I face today is the cavern that exists between what I know and what I live. I say that Jesus is the greatest satisfaction to our soul’s deepest cravings, and I believe this deeply. But I’m not living in the embrace of this reality today. There are just far too many concerns on my heart. I tell myself this is simply a busy season of life, and this will all soon pass, and I’ll be able to reconnect with God once more before long.
But tomorrow is never the best day to commit to the Lord. James wrote that we “do not know what tomorrow will bring,” and he’s right. Today is always the best day to abide in Christ.
The state of my union is not Jesus’ fault—His faithfulness has never wavered. I suppose I could get down on myself, working to summon the motivation to go and make our relationship right again. But this kind of striving never produces lasting results. I know that we’re supposed to work out our salvation, but it’s telling that Jesus’ teachings on the vine and the branch in John 15 are that we should remain in Him.
Remaining means we were there in the first place. “You did not choose me, but I chose you [to] go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide” (John 15:16). Just as it is the vine which first produces the union with the branch, so too it is Christ who brings us to Himself as we first become new creations. His command is to then remain in Him. This is what I have been failing to do, and it’s something I’ve now confessed to God.
Whenever our nation’s leaders talk about the State of our Union, they generally express great resolve and optimism, no matter what the state of our country is in. And despite the state of my union today, I also have great hope. I don’t have this hope because of my own resolve. I have this hope because of the greatness of my God.
God bless me, in spite of my wandering heart, for His glory. And God bless you as well as you strengthen your union with Christ by remaining in Him.
Question: What is the state of your union?
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Psalm 62 (ESV)
1) For God alone my soul waits in silence; from Him comes my salvation.
2) He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortrss; I shall not be greatly shaken.
5) For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him.
6) He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
Notice the difference between verse 2 and verse 6?
Verse 2 says "greatly shaken," verse 6 drops the "greatly."
Verse 2 implies, "yeah, I may get shook up, but not too badly!"
Verse 6 states "I will not be shaken...period."
Focusing thought/prayer (over the years I have grown convinced that, for the active pursuer of God, one's thought life is a huge part of one's prayer life) on God takes the psalmist from "greatly shaken" to "un-shaken."
Lesson? Don't focus on problem, focus on Jesus.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
As in any war, statistics are carefully kept as to how many died, but statistics don't have faces, nor can they tell stories.
The following video tells a story:
MSNBC - Vietnam War Photo from Family First on Vimeo.
As you (hopefully) know, Tim Tebow is to be featured in a pro-life ad during the Super Bowl. Planned Deathhood and its cohorts are in a fury over this "free speech"...pray, even as you watch this video, that the enemies don't get the ad bumped, and that this controversy causes more 'choice' people to pay attention to the ad and have their hearts turned...
Monday, January 25, 2010
"Now some people think the Bible is a book of rules, telling you what you should and shouldn't do. The Bible certainly does have some rules in it. They show you how life works best. But the Bible isn't mainly about you and what you should be doing. It's about God and what He has done.
Other people think the Bible is a book of heroes, showing you people you should copy. The Bible does have some heroes in it, but (as you'll soon find out) most of the people in the Bible aren't heroes at all. They make some big mistakes (sometimes on purpose). They get afraid and run away. At times they are downright mean.
No, the Bible isn't a book of rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story. It's an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It's a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne- everything- to rescue the one He loves. It's like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!
You, see the best thing about this Story is- it's true. There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story. The Story of how God loves His children and comes to rescue them.
It takes the whole Bible to tell this Story. And at the center of the Story, there is a baby. Every Story in the Bible whispers His Name."
How to wreck your church in three weeks
Week One: Walk into church today and think about how long you’ve been a member, how much you’ve sacrificed, how under-appreciated you are. Take note of every way you’re dissatisfied with your church now. Take note of every person who displeases you.
Meet for coffee this week with another member and “share your heart.” Discuss how your church is changing, how you are being left out. Ask your friend who else in the church has “concerns.” Agree together that you must “pray about it.”
Week Two: Send an email to a few other “concerned” members. Inform them that a groundswell of grievance is surfacing in your church. Problems have gone unaddressed for too long. Ask them to keep the matter to themselves “for the sake of the body.”
As complaints come in, form them into a petition to demand an accounting from the leaders of the church. Circulate the petition quietly. Gathering support will be easy. Even happy members can be used if you appeal to their sense of fairness – that your side deserves a hearing. Be sure to proceed in a way that conforms to your church constitution, so that your petition is procedurally correct.
Week Three: When the growing moral fervor, ill-defined but powerful, reaches critical mass, confront the elders with your demands. Inform them of all the woundedness in the church, which leaves you with no choice but to put your petition forward. Inform them that, for the sake of reconciliation, the concerns of the body must be satisfied.
Whatever happens from this point on, you have won. You have changed the subject in your church from gospel advance to your own grievances. To some degree, you will get your way. Your church will need three or four years for recovery. But at any future time, you can do it all again. It only takes three weeks.
Just one question. Even if you are being wronged, “Why not rather suffer wrong?” (1 Corinthians 6:7).
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Another gem from Mark Batterson's blog:
Earlier this week I read an article with one little quip that I cannot get out of my spirit: the only applause we are meant to seek is that of nail-scarred hands.
It was so inspiring and so convicting. We care so much about our reputation. We care so much about our approval ratings. We care so much about what people think. But we need to die to those things. I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but we don't really care for people until we don't care what they think. We can't really help them until we've been crucified to their opinions. Only then do we preach with an anointed boldness.
I have a distant memory from many years ago when I didn't feel good about a message and my wise wife asked me a brilliant question: did you say what God wanted you to say? That is the only litmus test when it comes to preaching. Was God pleased with my message? Unfortunately, many of us measure our messages by human applause.
May we be deafened to human applause. After all, the only applause we are meant to seek is that of nail-scarred hands.
Friday, January 22, 2010
Thursday, January 21, 2010
The first is to underestimate the sin that remains in us; it’s still there and it can still hurt us.
The second is to underestimate the strength of God’s grace; God is determined to make us new.
As a result, all Christians need to say two things.
We admit that we are redeemed sinners.
But we also say boldly and joyously that we are redeemed sinners."
Cornelis Plantinga Jr, Beyond Doubt
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
"We take our phones with us everywhere, we consult them constantly, and we panic when the battery begins to fade. We can’t seem to live without them!
What if we treated our Bible like our cell phone?
Someone sent me an e-mail that asks the fascinating question, “What if we treated our Bible like our cell phone?” So check this out. Ever wonder what would happen if we treated our Bible like we treat our cell phone? What if we carried it around in our purse or pocket? What if we flipped through it several times a day? What if we turned back to go get it if we forgot it? What if we used it to receive messages from the text? What if we treated it like we couldn’t live without it? What if we gave it to kids as gifts? What if we used it when we traveled? What if we used it in case of emergency? This is something to make you go . . .
Hmm, where is my Bible? Oh, and one more thing. Unlike our cell phone, we don’t have to worry about our Bible being disconnected because Jesus already paid the bill. Makes you stop and think, where are my priorities? And no dropped calls!
"One of the lessons I've learned in ministry is that you cannot control outcomes. We plant and water, but God gives the increase! That drives us crazy as control freaks, but it also takes all of the pressure off of us. We can't do it. Only He can!
The most gratifying thing is ministry is when God does something you cannot take credit for. That's what I live for! And the truth of the matter is this: most of the good things that happen don't happen because of us. They happen inspite of us. We just need to stay out of the way!"
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Monday, January 18, 2010
We continued our "Primal" series this weekend and I talked about the mind. Just thought I'd share one excerpt.
A few years ago, researchers from the National Institutes of Mental Health did a study that involved a simple motor task. As subjects performed a finger-tapping exercise, researchers did MRI brain scans to identity which part of the brain was involved in the exercise. The subjects were then asked to perform that simple motor task everyday for four weeks. At the end of four weeks, researchers repeated their brain scans and found that in every instance, that area of the brain had expanded. Their brains had literally recruited new nerve cells and rerouted neuronal connections.
Juxtapose that with Romans 12.
"Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind."
How is our mind renewed? The one word answer is Scripture. Scripture literally re-scripts our brain. As we read Scripture, much like the finger-tapping exercise, we are recruiting new nerve cells and rewiring neuronal connections. The end goal? Not knowledge! The end goal is the mind of Christ. As you read Scripture you are downloading the mind of Christ. His words become our operating system.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Friday, January 15, 2010
“Let every student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life (John 17:3) and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning. And seeing the Lord only giveth wisdom, let every one seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seek it of him (Proverbs 2, 3).”
I was reading II Corinthians 10:10 today: "His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing." That text triggered this thought: some of us are very different people "in person" than we are "behind the computer." And I don't think that is healthy or holy.
I'm not just talking about bloggers who write irresponsibly about that which they do not know. I think it's easier to slander someone or spread gossip from the comfortable confines of your computer. Somehow the medium excuses the sin. It doesn't. All it does is a keep a written record of what you've done wrong. I'm not trying to get on a soapbox. I just think communication mediums can be used for good or evil. They can help us grow spiritually or become a spiritual snare.
To redeem an old saying: be careful little thumbs what you text. That goes for blogging, twittering, and emailing too! Keep it righteous! After all, God is blind copied (BCC) on everything we write!
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
—R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of a Godly Man, p. 139.
God has been doing some serious heart surgery on me over the past few weeks. I’m a little embarrassed to admit this but God has pointed out to me, through a couple different situations, that I need to address the issue of pride in my ministry. Pride has become this insidious and destructive thing that has kept me from becoming the leader God wants me to be and furthermore it’s become a thick barrier to my relationship with God.
It was C.S. Lewis who said,
As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.This recent journey has led me to three questions that have been keeping me up late at night, causing me to break out in a cold sweat, and exposing traces of pride I didn’t even know existed. I dare you. No, I double dog dare you to slow down for a minute and honestly ask yourself these three questions.
1) Am I willing to allow another person to do what I think I must do?
2) Am I willing to do what I am doing, even if no one else knows I am doing it?
3) Am I willing to let God use me for a season, and then be okay with Him later for putting my work into the hands of another?
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
"...It's a bad day for us when a snake slithers into the lobby and we all encircle the reptile to assess the situation, discuss where it came from, who let it in, and what species it is. It's a good day when someone just grabs a shovel and cuts its head off."
Sunday, January 10, 2010
The YMCA's, health clubs and fitness centers are presently burgeoning with post-holiday-feasting traffic. We're ready to leave the sugar/butter/carbohydrate binge of the past six weeks for the purge of cardio-care and sweat. Indeed, the beginning of a new year usually brings all kinds of resolutions including ones related to getting into shape and taking care of our "ticker." Certainly, this is a good thing, for stewardship of our hearts and health does bring you glory.
Yet I've never been more aware that spiritual formation based on the "binge and purge" cycle simply will not do. My heart needs to be strengthened by the grace of the gospel all year long. I cannot afford periods of "cruise control" when I leave the banquet of your love for the buffet of wanna-be "comfort foods". Just like the physical heart you've given me, the muscle of my "spiritual" heart will atrophy if I do not steward it well.
Here's my thanksgiving. I praise you for the "means of grace"--the good gifts you've freely given us to help us grow in grace. Thank you for the Bible, your very Word, through which you reveal yourself. Thank you for prayer, meditation and corporate worship, by which you meet with us and commune with us. Thank you for the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper, these tangible expressions of your covenant love. I praise you that I do not need to take out any kind of membership or join a club to take advantage of these and other wonderful "means of grace."
Here's my prayer. Because you love me, let me feel like the moron I am when I avoid the means of grace--when I simply do not take advantage of the primary ways my heart can be strengthened by your grace. By the convicting work of your Holy Spirit, let me far be more concerned about a flabby graceless-heart than bigger love handles. So very Amen, I pray, in Jesus' name.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Dr. F. W. Krummacher
Friday, January 8, 2010
When we protect it with provisos, guard it with exceptions and qualify it with observations, it is like David in Saul’s armor—it is hampered and hindered and you may even hear it cry, ‘I cannot go with these.’
Let the Gospel alone and it will save! Qualify it and the salt has lost its savor.”
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
“Christianity is uniquely and especially about redemption and forgiveness. That is what the cornerstone of what the faith is about. Now other faiths aren’t hostile to the idea, but think of what the message of Christ and Christianity is. It is that the God of the universe sent His only begotten Son, who died a hideous death on the cross, to atone for all of our sins. And we are thereby offered through that act a new covenant in which we are offered forgiveness and redemption on a continuing basis in return for our faith in God and our continuing efforts to live the Christian life. That is a unique doctrine.”
Monday, January 4, 2010
Friday, January 1, 2010
Length of days does not profit me
except the days are passed in Thy presence,
in Thy service, to Thy glory.
Give me a grace that precedes, follows, guides,
sustains, sanctifies, aids every hour,
that I may not be one moment apart from Thee,
but may rely on Thy Spirit
to supply every thought,
speak in every word,
direct every step,
prosper every work,
build up every mote of faith,
and give me a desire
to show forth Thy praise;
testify Thy love,
advance Thy kingdom.
with Thee, O Father as my harbour,
Thee, O Son, at my helm,
Thee O Holy Spirit, filling my sails.
Guide me to heaven with my loins girt,
my lamp burning,
my ear open to Thy calls,
my heart full of love,
my soul free.
Thy comforts to cheer,
Thy wisdom to teach,
Thy right hand to guide,
Thy counsel to instruct,
Thy law to judge,
Thy presence to stabilize.
May Thy fear by my awe,
Thy triumphs my joy.