Archives For February 2012

In Pursuit of the Father

February 29, 2012 — Leave a comment

When you were a kid, did you ever get lost in the store?

You know the moment. You’ve wandered away even though your parents told you not to and all the sudden you look up and realize they’re missing.

I remember a time that it happened and I’m pretty sure I was in a hardware store. I had gone there with my dad and somehow he went somewhere that I didn’t follow. Or perhaps it was me that left; I’m not sure. What I do know is that I looked up, grabbed the pant leg of someone who I thought was him, and quickly discovered that it wasn’t.

At that moment, my world began falling apart. If I could’t find my dad, it meant that I couldn’t find anything. He was my touch stone – knowing where he was is how I made sense of the long aisles filled with what seemed like an unending supply of nails, screws and other home improvement paraphernalia.  I immediately began my quest to right this wrong. I intently looked for the familiar baseball cap and an outfit like he would wear. I was careful to scan faces so I didn’t mistakenly identify someone else as him for the second time. My pursuit of him was relentless, and thankfully, short. I quickly found him, and everything was once again o.k. with my world. 

In the moment though – for those few seconds when I realized that I had no earthly clue where my father was and that in all likelihood he didn’t know where I was – I had a single-minded pursuit. I needed to find my dad.

As a Christian, I still need that single-minded focus. I need it to diligently and relentlessly pursue my Father in Heaven. Nothing else matters in comparison to running after Him. I need to be intent on seeking Him, much like I was intent on finding my dad after I lost him in the store. Just as my dad was the way that I navigated the long aisles, God is the touch point for navigating the aisles of life. Without Him, all the stuff that surrounds me doesn’t make sense. With Him, I can trust that I will get safely Home.

When you’re pursuing something like I was pursuing my father, you look for any sign of that which you are seeking. You don’t pay attention to anything else – but only to those things that will lead you to the one that you are after. May we have a similar intensity as we pursue God and what He has for us. Knowing that just like any good Dad, not only is He displeased when His children wander off, but when they do, He’s pursuing them too.

Bits & Pieces (2/29/12)

February 29, 2012 — Leave a comment

Happy Leap Year! I love that every four years we get an extra day to add to the calendar. It’s like an extra day to accomplish the things that seem to get put off year after year. Enjoy your leap day. And if you happen to have a Leap Day Birthday  - a very happy birthday to you!

  • 8 Ways to Pray During Sermon Prep – A helpful post for anyone who gets the privilege of publicly teaching on God’s Word. Contains specific ways to pray as you prepare your heart, your mind, and your words to be used as an instrument in God’s hands.

 

  • The Santorum Predicament: A Sign of the Times – Although we are all taught to avoid discussion of politics, it is a great arena to use as a cultural lens. In this post, Al Mohler discusses the challenges with Rick Santorum’s candidacy – and what it says about modern-day America.

 

  • Forty-Year Old Light - John Piper reflects on J.I. Packer’s useful instruction on the book of John and gives us a tool to navigate the tension those of a Muslim background may experience when they hear the phrase “Son of God.”

 

 

 

Water in the Valleys

February 28, 2012 — Leave a comment

A few years ago, I heard a series of messages on Psalm 23. In discussing the “valleys of the shadows and death,” one speaker made the excellent point that sometimes the sheep needed to go into the valleys to get water. This seemed like a logical observation but one that I had never considered before. Water is not found on the mountain tops, but in the places in between. We may think of valleys as detours, inconveniences on the way to our true destination, yet they often contain something good. . The fact that the valley may contain something beneficial is usually not something that we consider. In fact, we are often tempted to avoid walking down that path, if we can.

However, water, doesn’t just nourish the sheep it also strengthens them and prepares them for the journey ahead. If the sheep don’t go into the valley to quench their thirst, they may not last the rest of the way.  In other words, the benefit to the sheep isn’t just in the moment. It brings them good then, yes, but it also prepares them for the future.

Sometimes, we’re called to walk in valleys too. Those valleys may be watered with the tears of anguish and of pain or they may simply be “detours” on the path that the Shepherd is leading us. Sometimes we see the good that God is bringing in the moment, and sometimes, we might not. Regardless, we can trust that for His children He is using the times in the valley to bring about their good and His glory. Not only for the moment, but for their future as well.

Often times sheep have to go in the valleys in order to be prepared for what lies ahead. Sometimes they may wonder why when the path ahead of them seems certain and clear. In those cases, they must trust the Shepherd and follow where He leads. They must drink of His goodness and remember that not only has He prepared the path, He knows what they need to get safely to the end.

Bits & Pieces (2/28/12)

February 28, 2012 — Leave a comment

 

  • Lessons in Forgiveness – How should we ask for forgiveness? How should we extend it? This post provides some helpful tips.

 

  • Where the Keys Are Lost - Have we lost the art of self-examination in favor of critiquing that with which we are unfamiliar? This article examines that tendency.

 

  • When is Indecision Loveless and Sinful – A lesson from Dietrich Bonhoeffer and history about the temptation to do nothing, and in the process make things worse than we could ever imagine.

 

Prepared Path

February 27, 2012 — 1 Comment

The 23rd Psalm used to scare me.

I realize that might be a strange thing to admit, and maybe a stranger thing to be a reality, but nonetheless, it’s the truth.

If you think about it, for a young child there’s a lot of scary words in there -”valley of the shadow of death,” “in the presence of my enemies” even talk of not fearing any evil can be fear-inducing if you don’t really understand what the words mean.

So what was intended to bring comfort brought me concern. As an adult, however, I’ve realized something very important about the 23rd Psalm – God is the One who is doing most of the action.

He’s leading.

He’s restoring.

He’s preparing.

The reason that the 23rd Psalm brings comfort is because the sheep can trust in the work of the Shepherd. We can have confidence that the One who is in charge will not take us somewhere that He has not already scoped out, ensuring the safety of the sheep’s arrival. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be dangers along the way – after all, sometimes the way to the destination involves some rugged paths. It does mean, however, that He knows how to thwart whatever perils there may be. Like all sheep, our job is to follow. It is the Shepherd who determines the way.

And perhaps, this is scary too. In a day where we are used to precise directions on how to get from Point A to Point B it can be difficult to not know every step along the path. But we don’t have to – because He does. We just need to walk the path that He’s already prepared.

 

Bits & Pieces (2/27/12)

February 27, 2012 — Leave a comment
  • Thoughts on Midnight in Paris – Dr. Russell Moore writes his thoughts on the Oscar-winning film and how it relates to the truth of Scripture.

 

 

 

  • Justified by Faith or By Works – Tim Challies writes about the seeming tension between what Paul and James write about faith and works, and our justification.

 

  • Don’t Skip the Postscript - Tempted to skip the genealogies in the Bible? A reminder why they are important and how God uses the postscripts to tell a greater story.

Starts with the Heart

February 24, 2012 — Leave a comment

You are probably familiar with the story of David and Bathsheba. David, the king of Israel, stays home from battle (when he should have been leading the charge). During this lapse in leadership, he sees Bathsheba, desires her, impregnates her, and then tries to cover it up, eventually resulting in the murder  of her husband (See 2 Samuel 11 for more details). Later he is confronted by the prophet Nathan and he confesses and repents of his sin.

Psalm 51 is the song that David writes after this confrontation and throughout the psalm David writes about the condition of his heart. He asks God to create a new heart and renew a right spirit within him (v. 10). He pleads with God to give him a “willing spirit” (v. 11) and acknowledges that God delights not in sacrifices but in “a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart” (v. 12). David recognizes that although the sin action was physical, it didn’t start with the physical act. It came from a heart that was focused on what he desired rather than what God did.

The same is true for us. When we sin, it demonstrates a heart condition that existed prior to the sinful act in which we engaged. The visible evidence of our sinful nature only confirms that the condition existed; it doesn’t create it. When our hearts are not right before God, when we’ve replaced Him as the priority, that’s when we act in ways that are contrary to His Word. That’s when we act in ways that are contrary to Him.

That’s why it is important that we guard our hearts. We do so not only to experience the sweetness of fellowship with our Savior, but because in doing so we are putting up barriers against future sin. We protect what our heart ingests and what it consumes because while we may think that it is not effecting us, experience and Scripture say that it does. Maybe not immediately, and maybe not in obvious ways, but if sin starts with the heart, then what we let into our heart are either the ingredients for obedience, or for sin.

This requires vigilance. As David learned, one poor decision can lead to others, until eventually he was ensnared in a conspiracy of massive proportions. The small choices we make – to give into a lazy disposition, to laugh at an inappropriate joke, to obscure the truth – have consequences for our future actions as well.  But the impetus for those choices is found in the degree to which we protect our hearts, because ultimately that’s where sin, and obedience, both start. 

Bits & Pieces (2/24/11)

February 24, 2012 — Leave a comment
  • The Darling Object – A look at William Wilberforce’s life and what happens when Jesus, and not our “own distinction” becomes what is important to us.

 

  • Come and Die - Jared Wilson reminds us that God does not call us to an easy life, but in answering His call, we find a life of truly living.

 

 

  • Practice What You Tweet – A reminder not to use social media to pretend to be the person that we should be in real life.

 

Forgive First

February 23, 2012 — Leave a comment

It’s not uncommon for people to talk about their distaste for conflict. When a situation develops that needs to be addressed, it’s tempting to want to head for the hills – hoping that someone else will handle the issue. There may be a little bit more comfort in initiating an uncomfortable discussion with those that we love, but even then it’s not uncommon to find a man or a woman complaining about their significant other rather than talking to their significant other. It seems easier to address the issue with someone else, rather than the person with whom the issue exists.

Scripture tells us that we should handle conflict differently. First, it says that if we can, we should overlook the offense against us. While at times this may be difficult, by God’s grace – it’s not impossible. Of course, it’s important when we choose this route that we are doing it for the good of the other person, and not to avoid a situation that will be difficult for us. If, for instance, we recognize that this particular sin is unlikely to be repeated and the only purpose of confronting it would be to bring restitution to us, we may choose to brush our “rights” to restitution aside and overlook the offense. However, if the situation needs to be addressed because a continued pattern of sin is being developed, than oftentimes the most loving thing we can do is to talk about it with the other person. We may be willing to overlook it, but if it’s creating discord in their relationship with God,  we should address it.

The real question becomes how we should address it and again, Scripture makes this clear. It says to go to the person, not to anyone else, and bring the issue before them. The purpose of this dialogue is to restore the other person – into a right relationship with you, the person the person they offended, but more importantly into a right relationship with God. If this is the goal – if this is our aim – I’m increasingly convinced that we need to forgive them before the confrontation ever begins. After all – restoration is difficult if both people are at odds with each other. If the person addressing the issue has already forgiven, then with love and compassion they can help the offending individual see the consequences of their sinful actions. It doesn’t mean that having the confrontation is any less difficult, but it does mean that you can enter the conversation with confidence that your focus is on the good of the other – because you have already forgiven the sin against you.

While this may be easy to write, this isn’t easy to do. To offer forgiveness before it is sought is only possible because we recognize how much our Heavenly Father has forgiven us. In all honesty, the closer that the person is to us, the harder it is because we think that they should “know better” than to hurt us in this way. And in all likelihood, maybe they should. But God’s own children – the ones that He created – sinned against Him. Our decisions to act contrary to His will were the reasons that His Son willing gave up His throne room in Heaven in order to die a gruesome death on the cross. If He was willing to go to such extremes to offer us a restored relationship, can’t we forgive others who sin against us?

Bits & Pieces (2/23/12)

February 23, 2012 — Leave a comment
  • America’s Got Baggage – Tim Keller and Gabe Lyons talks about approaching a post-Christian culture and what it means for churches and evangelism.

 

  • A New Acronym – John Piper gives us a new way to help us aim at remembering Christ throughout our days and by consequence, our lives.

 

 

  • The Hungering Spirit – Ravi Zacharias on the disappointment that pleasure can bring when it is found to be empty of lasting value, and people’s longing for God.