My Desires vs. His Will

April 4, 2013 — 2 Comments

One of the signs of Christian maturity is that my desires increasingly align with God’s will. After all, if I am truly seeking first His Kingdom than I can trust that what I want and what God desires are the same thing. This is by no means an easy thing to do. Our sinful nature constantly battles against it. But as we do so we find that no only is our heart aligned with God’s purposes and plans, but that “all these things” are added to us as well (see Mt. 6:33).

Pursuing God’s will over my desires becomes a whole new ballgame once you become a parent. It is a natural for a mom or a dad to desire good things for their child’s life – to give their child, as has often been said, a better life than they had. I have had a wonderfully blessed life – wonderful parents, caring friends, a godly and loving spouse, and opportunities that have far exceeded what I would have dreamed of – and I desire all these things – and more – for my little girl.  I want to protect her, to keep her from harm and to promote her happiness. Yet God’s desire for her is not merely that she would be happy but that she would be holy. And as anyone who has walked with God for a while can tell you, holiness is not also engendered through the happiest of means.

This means that sometimes what God wills for her life and what I instinctively desire for her may not be the same thing. It means that I will not be able to protect her from every difficulty or help her overcome every challenge. It even means that I must give up my fleshly expectations in order to pursue heavenly ones. But as I do so, I’m trusting her to the will of a Heavenly Father who loves her more than I could imagine, and whose desire for good things in her life is even greater than my own.

So as I’m contemplating my child’s future, and dreaming dreams on her behalf, I must constantly say “Father, not my will, but Yours be done” and as she grows, I must strive to teach my little one to say the same.

Glorious Weight

April 3, 2013 — Leave a comment

Overwhelmed.

Burdened.

Weighed Down.

As we face the hustle and bustle of our get-it-done lives it can be easy to humbled by our inability to do all that we want.

Our lists grow longer, our concerns become heavier, and we wonder how we are going to face a new day.

Yet as Scripture often reminds us, this life isn’t what we are striving for. Our eyes shouldn’t be primarily focused on the next day, but on that Day. We’re not waiting merely for temporary relief from our problems; we are anticipating the place where there will no more tears and no more pain. Our focus shouldn’t be on the here and now but on the then and there.

This doesn’t mean that the problems we face today aren’t real; Scripture makes it clear that the Christian will face difficulties. Instead, as 2 Corinthians 4:17 states, they are “light and momentary” compared to what is in store for the believer. Not only that, but the burdens we bear here are preparing us for the “weight of glory” that we will encounter there. As any body builder can tell you the way that you prepare to carry a greater weight is by slowly adding to the light amount you are currently able to bear. The loads of pain and sorrow that we shoulder on Earth are making us ready for the capacity of glory that we will sustain in Heaven. The disappointments and difficulties of today are not superfluous to what we will encounter in the next life; they are preparing us for it  – strengthening our faith, building the Fruit of the Spirit into us and yielding the commendation “Well done, good and faithful servant…Enter into the joy of your Master” (Mt. 25:21). The weight there will be glorious; God uses the sorrows here to prepare and strengthen us for it.

This may seem like a disappointment, as we tend to think of Heaven as relief. Hearing about bearing any type of weight sounds like further difficulty and discomfort. This is why the word “glorious” is so important. In Heaven we will be doing what we were created to do – bringing glory to our Heavenly Father. Just like a glass carrying water bears a weight, it doesn’t seem like it to the glass as it is doing what it created for. So it will be in Heaven. Our lives will be fully oriented to pursue the purpose for which God created us and as we do so, we will rejoice and celebrate that we have been counted worthy of such pursuits.

So as we encounter pain and burdens on Earth, let us remember that they are preparing us for our future “occupation.” Let us be glad that we are being strengthened for the “weight” that is to come. And let us remember that the light and momentary afflictions of this life are nothing compared to the glory of Heaven.

 

 

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified – “There’s a lot of emphasis on sharing your stories with others. The reasoning is that people won’t dismiss a personal testimony as easily. I think there is some value in that, because it helps people see that they’re not alone. And how else can you explain “the hope that you have” without sharing your story? But if we let ourselves get too wrapped in our story, it can become more about us and less about God. To a person who is wrestling with some big issues, we can inadvertently make them feel worse.”

Popularity vs. Pleasing God – “If we’re trying to please people through our sharing of the Gospel, then we’re going to end up revising God’s message and taking out the parts about sin and hell. What we’ll be left with is not the Gospel.”

Repentance Should Grow from Relationship – “When coming to God’s Word, it is so important for me to remember that it is the revelation of God Himself to me that is the priority. The avoidance of and repentance from sin is the result of seeking God with all my heart.”

Not A Waste of Time – A wonderful reminder from Edith Schaeffer about hospitality, service and treating others as if we were doing so unto Jesus.

Our National Pastime – Baseball is often maligned and I understand the reasons why, but it will always have a special place in my heart. This post reminds us some of the reasons that baseball is treasured. For example – “Baseball is unique in the pantheon of professional American sports. It’s the only one where time doesn’t end your game. It’s the only one where offense and defense are totally compartmentalized. And it’s the only sport that actually works on radio.”

Present Help

April 2, 2013 — Leave a comment
©iStockphoto.com/FOTOGRAF-77

©iStockphoto.com/FOTOGRAF-77

When I was considering what colleges to apply to, I had one criteria that was probably a little different than most. I cared about the school’s academics, extracurricular activities and residential living areas, but what I found myself repeating most often was that I wanted to go to a college that was far enough away that I wouldn’t be home every weekend but close enough that if my car broke down my dad could come and fix it. It was the last part of that equation that was especially important. If I encountered a mechanical problem I wanted to make sure that my dad could physically be there to give me the help that I knew I would need.

It may seem like an odd condition. After all, mechanics abound and I’m sure that if I chose a college that wasn’t within the designated proximity I could find someone who would be willing to fix my car. And my dad could have always discussed the problem over the phone and try to do some long-distance diagnostics. But what I knew then, even if I didn’t articulate it, is that nothing compares to having the physical presence of the one you trust to help you. My dad could have been my advisor and coach from afar, but he couldn’t actually open the hood of the car, take a look at the engine and get to work. I wanted to know that he would be there providing the assistance, not delegating it to another or providing advice so that I could do it on my home.

Unfortunately, I fear that many times I think God’s help is more like the long-distance dad than like the father who is physically there. I intellectually know that God is able to fix my problems, but instead of expecting Him to figuratively open the hood and get to work, I think that He will provide some appropriate advice that will allow me to dig in and do it myself. Yet Psalm 46:1 tells us that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”  He is not merely providing assistance remotely, hoping that we can figure out what we need to do. He is present, providing us real help in our time of need.

This distinction is important for at least two reasons. First, when I ask God for help I need to have the expectation that He may choose to directly intervene in the situation. I shouldn’t merely anticipate that He will tell me what I should do; instead, He may rectify the problem Himself. This should change not only what I look for when I await solutions; it should also change how I pray when I’m faced with difficulties and concerns.

Secondly, the fact that God is a present help should change my attitude to problems to begin with. It would have been one thing for my car to break down and for me to be able to call my dad and know he’d be there. It would have been an entirely different thing if my dad was in the car with me when the problem occurred. I would have no need for panic or worry; the one who could rectify the situation was right there. He would know exactly what happened and what needed to be done to fix it. He could also provide assurance that everything would be alright, So it is with God when we face breakdowns on our own journey.

Just because God is a “present help” doesn’t mean that we should stop seeking His assistance, assuming that He will know if we need it. If my dad was in the car and it started having problems, I would still ask him to intervene, even if my need for his assistance seemed obvious. Instead, the fact that God is not providing His help from afar should make us seek Him even more diligently, knowing as we do so that He usable to immediately and directly intervene.

 

Why the Resurrection Changes Everything – “Have we, as gospel-centered, gospel-saturated believers, left the resurrection out of our gospel message? I know I am guilty. After reflecting on an opportunity I had to share the gospel with an unbeliever, I suddenly realized that not once had I mentioned, at least in any depth, the resurrection of Christ. I fear that my experience is not my own, but that of evangelicals everywhere. But Paul teaches us that we must come to grips with the biblical reality that the resurrection of Christ cannot be divorced from the death of Christ when we speak about the gospel. Should we separate the two, we will seriously miss the significance of the resurrection for our salvation.”

What Does It Mean for Jesus to Despise Shame? – “Shame was stripping away every earthly support that Jesus had: his friends gave way in shaming abandonment; his reputation gave way in shaming mockery; his decency gave way in shaming nakedness; his comfort gave way in shaming torture. His glorious dignity gave way to the utterly undignified, degrading reflexes of grunting and groaning and screeching.”

The Joy of Being Given More Than You Can You Handle – “We don’t have to hold out for vain consolations that we will eventually muster our own strength and rise to the occasion to prove our competence. Instead, we have blood-bought promises purchased for us through the work of Jesus on the cross.”

Evidences & Resources – Fourteen concise descriptions of evidence of Christ’s resurrection.

Expiation & Propitiation – “Together, expiation and propitiation constitute an act of placation. Christ did His work on the cross to placate the wrath of God. This idea of placating the wrath of God has done little to placate the wrath of modern theologians. In fact, they become very wrathful about the whole idea of placating God’s wrath. They think it is beneath the dignity of God to have to be placated, that we should have to do something to soothe Him or appease Him. We need to be very careful in how we understand the wrath of God, but let me remind you that the concept of placating the wrath of God has to do here not with a peripheral, tangential point of theology, but with the essence of salvation.”

Good

March 29, 2013 — 2 Comments

It had to be a strange scene. A man approaches Jesus to ask him what he must do in order to obtain eternal life. Instead of answering the man’s question, Jesus’ immediate response asks why the man called Him good. The crowd had to wonder at the query. Jesus was known as a healer – He had cured leprosy (Lk. 17:11-19) and raised a girl from the dead (Lk 8:4-56). If that wasn’t enough, He had miraculously provided a hungry crowd with food (Lk 9:10-17).  And yet He questioned why this man would call Him good. It must have seemed obvious to the crowd. They had to wonder why Jesus would even ask (Lk 18:18-30).

Yet He did ask. And He did so to help the man realize that not only was He good compared to other teachers, He was the standard of good. And if the man truly believed that than it necessitated that he orient his life in obedience to His Word. It meant be willing to sacrifice anything for the sake of Him and His Kingdom. The man’s unwillingness to do this, his refusal to give up his wealth in order to follow Christ revealed what Jesus knew all along – that the man did not really believe that He was Good. Instead, for the rich young ruler, his wealth was of more value than Christ Himself.

Later, however, Jesus would demonstratively prove why He alone deserved to be called good. The perfect One not only gave up the riches of Heaven for the sake of those He loved, but He took on the punishment that was rightly theirs so that they could be saved. He abdicated His Heavenly throne to unjustly suffer and die so that His followers could stand justified before a holy God. That Friday didn’t seem good to those who were with Him at the time, but it was on that day that His goodness was on full display. Not only did He die for those who were His enemies, but it was only because He is Good, the ultimate Good, that His sacrifice could pay the penalty for our sins and restore our relationship with God. Three days later He would rise from the dead and demonstrate what He had already conveyed to the rich young ruler – God was good and He was God. May we honor His sacrifice and may we remember why that Friday is called good.

Holy Week and the Insomnia of Jesus – “I lose sleep quite often over the things Jesus tells me I should not worry about: my life, my possessions, my future. Such is not of the Spirit. Why is it easier for me to worry about next week’s schedule, and to lose sleep over that, than over those around me who could be moments away from judgment? Why am I more concerned about the way my peers judge my actions than about the Judgment Seat of Christ?”

Nothing Wasted – “Today may hold hard things—a sick child, a grouchy boss, an unforgiving friend. Or it may hold beautiful things—a new love, a chat with a neighbor, an affectionate pet. Either way, we can trust God that He is collecting the pieces of our life in His hand and creating something more beautiful than we can imagine.”

Maundy Thursday – “Like millions of Christians around the world, we will have a Maundy Thursday service tonight. If you’ve never heard the term, it’s not Monday-Thursday (which always confused me as a kid), but Maundy Thursday, as in Mandatum Thursday. Mandatum is the Latin word for “command” or “mandate”, and the day is called Maundy Thursday because on the night before his death Jesus gave his disciples a new command. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34).

You Killed the Author of Life – “Humanity has never heaped upon itself more self-condemning guilt than on Good Friday. This simple phrase — you killed — pierces through all vain excuses. It was a conspiracy to kill the God-man, and success in the evil plot has stained our hands with God’s own blood, blood on the hands of both scheming Jews and acquiescing Gentiles”

Lessons from A Spending Fast – One man pledged not to buy anything new for a year. Here are some of the lessons that he learned. (H/T)

Choosing to Remain

March 28, 2013 — 2 Comments
©iStockphoto.com/YasmineV

©iStockphoto.com/YasmineV

A lot of time when we think about the decisions that weigh on our mind, we are making a choice about what’s next. With alternatives presented before us, we have to decide what option we are going to pursue. We equate making a choice with selecting a certain course of action, and action of course means doing something different.

It is true that many times when we are making a decision we are discontinuing what we have been doing in order to do something new. However continuing to do the same thing is a choice as well. I can make a decision about where to go on vacation, but I can also go to work and not take a vacation at all. It may not seem like maintaining my normal routine involves much decision-making prowess, but making that call is just as much as a decision as selecting between Hawaii and the Bahamas. This is why people are rightly aghast when witnesses to a crime do not intervene. Continuing on with what they had been doing instead of helping someone in need is choosing their own priorities over someone that needed their assistance.

In a similar way, I’m convinced that the collapse of many marriages is caused because people do not recognize that choosing to remain in that marriage is not a matter of habit but a matter of decision. This is a choice that must not just be made in crisis moments; it is one that must be selected each and every day. People may think that staying in a marriage is simply a routine that is formed over time, however, in reality it is a proactive commitment that each partner makes and reinforces on a regular basis.

We can see that remaining in a relationship is a choice because Christ commanded His followers to remain in a relationship with Him. “Abide in Me” He stated (John 15:4). In other words, stay with Me; choose each and every day to remain My dedicated follower, committed to doing My Will and intent on demonstrating My love. If following this directive didn’t necessitate some volition on our part, than it would be a nonsensical command. If abiding in Christ simply happened as a matter of course than He wouldn’t need to provide His followers with this direction. Similarly, remaining in a marriage isn’t just second nature; it requires dedication, commitment and daily perseverance.

Recognizing this distinction is important because it is too easy to think that marriages remain intact based solely on some unknown quantification of whether a couple was “meant to be.” Instead, marriages remain together if, by the grace of God, the couple regularly and intentionally purposes to stay that way. It may seem like couples only makes a proactive choice when a marriage ends, but that is not the case. Husbands and wives also choose to remain, and marriages that last will make that choice, time and time again.

What Happened to Hospitality? – “I think some of it is a failure to understand the value of opening our homes to others. Beyond the service and the feeding of the meal, there’s something wonderful about the conversations that can come out of having people over. Some of the greatest discussions are centered around meals.”

No, It Actually Is More Blessed To Give Than to Receive – “But I can attest–and have to remind myself often–that the Lord means what he says, and that the joy that comes through obedience, the joy that comes through giving, is deeper and better and more satisfying than the fleeting joy that comes through hoarding. It actually is more blessed to give than to receive.”

8 Questions to Assess Your Evangelism – “What questions might a believer ask himself in order to assess his evangelistic practices? In “Tell It Often-Tell It Well,” Mark McCloskey offers three essential questions every believer should ask himself/herself in order to assess his/her evangelism and its methods biblically. In addition to McCloskey’s three questions (which are enumerated first in the list below), I suggest five additional questions. A believer’s response to each of these questions assists him in discerning 1) whether or not someone else’s critique of his evangelism proves warranted, and 2) what aspects of his evangelism fall short of the biblical ideal and need adjusting.” (H/T)

7 Words from the Cross – “How different were Jesus cries from the cross. Jesus was neither a criminal nor a captive. He sacrificed himself voluntarily. His cries were neither curses nor complaints.  Instead he forgave his enemies, assured a repentant criminal of salvation, provided for his mother, showed us that he bore God’s wrath in our place, displayed his human nature, proclaimed his victory, and committed his spirit to his Father.”

Christ Forsaken – “With Jesus as our substitute, God’s wrath is satisfied and God can justify those who believe in Jesus (Rom. 3:26). Christ’s penal suffering, therefore, is vicarious — He suffered on our behalf. He did not simply share our forsakenness, but He saved us from it. He endured it for us, not with us. You are immune to condemnation (Rom. 8:1) and to God’s anathema (Gal. 3:13) because Christ bore it for you in that outer darkness. Golgotha secured our immunity, not mere sympathy.”

Promises in Sight

March 27, 2013 — Leave a comment
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©iStockphoto.com/sasasasa

Reading the Psalms can often feel like you are viewing pages ripped from David’s diary. You get the “inside story” as you eavesdrop on his prayers. Instead of simply reading about what happened, you get glimpses into the heart of the man that endured it.

Several of the Psalms of David are written as he is running from King Saul. In this time between his ordination and his coronation, as my pastor likes to call it, David knew that he was rightfully the king. However, his predecessor wasn’t eager to hand him the keys to the kingdom. In fact, King Saul was intent on hunting down and killing David ensuring that Saul’s son, and not David, would be the successor. Having once obtained a position of honor in the king’s house, David was now on the run. His comrades were the ragamuffins and outcasts, people who, like him, were not acceptable in “polite” society (I Sam. 22:2).

As David evades captures and waits for the time when he will wear the crown that is rightfully his, it must have been tempting to wonder if the prophecy about his rule would ever come to past.  After all, hiding in caves and camping out with the enemy weren’t exactly kingly activities. I wonder if David worried about his reputation or whether he was too busy simply trying to stay alive. If he were to be king one day, as Samuel had pronounced and God had promised (I Samuel 16:1-13), would anyone take him seriously – this misfit and loser?

While we might suspect that these questions would permeate David’s mind, the Psalms give us a much different perspective. As we peer into his heart, we see that David was not fretting over whether God’s promises would come to past. Instead, despite the many potential reasons for despair, David remained confident in what was to come. We see a prime example of this in Psalm 59:10 when David writes:

My God in his steadfast love will meet me;

God will let me look in triumph on my enemies.

Earlier, in Psalm 57:2-3, David additionally proclaims:

I cry out to God Most High,

to God who fulfills his purpose for me.

He will send from heaven and save me;

he will put to shame him who tramples on me. Selah

God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!

Read these carefully and what you’ll see is that David is sure of what is to come. He knows what God has promised him and he believes that those promises will come to past. He is not concerned that his enemies will triumph; he knows his eventual victory is secured in the Lord. Because God has vowed to him that he would be king, he knows that one day he will be so.

While it may seem easy to look at the situation retrospectively and say “Well of course David would be confident; he became king!” what we must remember is that David was not given a timeline or an itinerary of when these events would take place. As far as we know, he was unaware of whether his time in the wilderness would be short or long. His temporary conditions didn’t shake his permanent confidence in God. He lived with the promises that God had made him firmly in his sight. He focused on what was sure, even in the midst of a lot of uncertainty.

David was given specific promises and eagerly waited for their fulfillment. In a similar way, Scripture is replete with promises for the children of God. We would do well to live with these promises firmly in our sight. We should constantly refer back to them, reminding ourselves of the good that God has in store. We should be encouraged that no temptation will face us for which God has not provided a way of escape (I Cor. 10:13). We should be emboldened to share what God has given us, knowing that He has promised to provide all our needs (Phil. 4:19). We should be passionate about doing the work that God has called us to, persevering through trials and difficulties, knowing that one day He will reward us with eternal commendations (Jam. 1:12). In other words, just like David lived his life with the constant awareness that God had a future plan for him, we should live our lives with a similar mindset. God is molding the lives of His children to bring about our good and His glory (Rom. 8:28). Even on the days when it feels like we’ve been abandoned to a cave, that the enemy surrounds us and there is no feasible way to escape, we should be encouraged that nothing will thwart God’s purposes (Job 42:2). We can live with the surety of His promises being fulfilled. We can have confidence that on the near or far horizon what He has vowed to us will come to fruition.