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Game Time…

I found myself in a rather unusual place on Tues Morning of this week.  Yes, the maternity ward of Piedmont hospital is not my normal hang-out, but that is not the place I am speaking of.  At 6:00am in the prep room, waiting for the 7:30am C-section to begin I was transported back in time…and I wanted to throw up!  I felt like I was back in high school playing football on a Friday night.  Prior to almost every game I would be so nervous/excited I would throw up before to leaving the locker room for kick-off.  Well, this was o Friday night, and my wife’s belly resembled more of a basketball than a football, but I was there…in game mode.  I was not nervous that something would go wrong.  I had full faith and assurance in God and our great doctor Nancy Cook that Tenly was in the best hands possible.  For me it was the anticipation of what was to come.  In a few short minutes I would not be gazing across the field and sizing up my opponents, but look upon mine and Tenly’s new-born. Tenly, while having the pains that come with contractions was attempting to calm my nerves and temper my excitement, but all her attempts were in vain, it was game time.  The nurses came and took Tenly back to the OR to prep her for surgery.  the doctor and nurses cam in to give me the rundown of what was to come.  I sat in the transition room where Tenly would return after surgery playing out in my mind what was to come, just like I did many, many time over prior to kickoff. I was figatity, I was anxious, I was focused. Already decked out in my hospital issued OR room attire, the nurse came through the door and called for me.  I was in, and now the game was on.  I walked in the OR where they were beginning the surgery.  They guided me over to where Tenly’s head was and they told me I could sit on the stool next to her.  She was lying on her back, arms out o each side in restraints, with a curtain 2-3 three feet high in front of her.  Tenly  could not see or feel a thing.  I would be the first one of us to see the baby.  Last time I watched none of the procedure.  However, this time I decided to stand and glance over the curtain.  I cautiously looked a few times at the urging of Tenly.  Then, I decided I would just watch.  I had to be all in this time, I had to keep Tenly informed on what was happening, it was my responsibility and it was my role.  Before I knew it, I was the top of a head.  I told Tenly, there is the baby’s head.  Then, the doctor freed the head, and began to pull the baby up by the neck.  I wa ssure at this point it was a boy.  The baby had dark hair and dark skin like me.  I told Tenly the baby is almost here…we are almost there!  And then it happend…Dr. Cook pulled the baby from Tenly’s womb and hoisted my descendent in the air, and what I thought was a boy, what Tenly and I suspected all along was a little man turned out to be a Sammie.  Not a boy Sammie, but a 9lb 7 ounce baby girl, Samantha McKay Stewart.  My heart leapt with joy.  I had secretly wanted another girl.  I looked down in Tenly’s eyes and said Sammie is beautiful.  Tenly’s eyes filled with tears and said we have another little girl.  I wiped a lone tear from her eye and told my wife I was hoping for  Sammie.  That moment was pure joy!  I felt no more nerves, no more anxiety, only peace, joy, and love.  I left the OR nd went with Sammie to the transition room where she would get a thorough inspection and a bath.  While the nurse was cleaning her up, I said wow, she has a lot of hair, would you make her a mohawk?  And, so the nurse made little (well actually big 9.7)  Sammie a mohawk.  All that was left to do now was make the walk down the hall and out the door to the waiting room.  I had made this walk once before, but this time would be different.  This time, I had a 2 & 1/2 year old waiting to her if she had a brother or sister.  Perry was on the shoulders of Tenly’s dad looking through the window in the door to the waiting area.  I opened the door, everyone gathered quickly to meet me.  Perry, now standing before me  looked up to me with anxious eyes.  I bent over grabbed her hands, looked her in the eyes and said, Perry Rose you have a little sister named Sammie.  Mine and Tenly’s parents (as well as my brother ) all said what a surprise, we thought for sure it was a boy.  But that friends is why we play the game, why we don’t find out the gender of the baby, because in that moment the game reaches an epic climax, and with a new life, we all win.  Having a baby game over…raising another daugter…just in the first minute of the first quarter.

Let’ s just say it will be a welcome suprise to us all..until then!

If God were to speak to you what would he say?  By this time anyone who is reading this blog will likely say, God has spoken to me and he still speaks to me.  Fair enough, I too believe God has spoken and is still speaking.  I believe his primary and preferred means of communication is His Word.  I also know God can and does speak to the conscience and spirit of individuals.  Where I would likely disagree with most is God’s topic of choice while speaking.  Most who claim to have heard God speak almost always tell of God speaking to them about them.  Rarely, have I heard another (John Piper not withstanding)  say that when God spoke to them, he spoke of himself.  Almost always “God-speak”  is centered on and around the individual who heard from God.  In Isaiah 6, when Isaiah receives is call from the Lord to beProphet to God’s people, God shows himself in a vision in which his own holiness and person were on display.  When God gives Moses and his covenant people (though not all were God followers) the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai from Exodus 20, God’s character are the point of emphasis.  The Law, is meant to show us the holiness of the Lord.  Without the knowledge of his holiness, we would never even begin to understand our own sinfulness.  I’m not saying God does not speak to people about their own lives.  I am simply stating that far to often people would rather hear a word about themselves than a word about God.  We need look no further than the state of preaching that exists in the vast majority of pulpits on Sunday’s…sermons saturated with “ME”, and “I”, and “YOU”.  The church as a whole is suffering from a lack of reverence for God in his holiness.  We need far less sermons that deal with personal application, and far more that deal with the glory of God.   I hope we can see the connection, we are so accustomed to hearing sermons each week that focus on the individual what else should we expect to hear from God through prayer and his word then something pertaining to our own lives.  Also, if God does speak to you outside of his word, be careful.  It is not as though I doubt God’s ability to speak, but rather, our own ability to hear and interpret in light of his word.  When someone declares they have received a word from God and share that word, it is not “Thus Sayeth The Lord”.  The word of God is our complete and final authority on all matters without exception.  It is my hope that we would all seek daily to hear the voice of God, not so that we might learn more about ourselves and our own lives (we all do enough of that already).  Rather, that we might be awe-struck by his person and wonder as Isaiah was during his vision of the Lord.  We would all do well to focus on God more and make less of our selves and our own lives.

Jesus did not chiefly die to save sinners.  Nor, was Christ’s greatest accomplishment keeping sinners from an eternal hell.  If you were to ask most in the church today what is the primary purpose in God sending his own son to die in the place of sinners, most would say to save them.  Well, if that is the case, then God is an idolater.  If God sent Jesus into the world with the chief end being to save sinners like you and me, then God has just placed something/someone else above himself.  Likely, no one has radically/biblically shaped my view of God more than John Piper.  During my time reading portions of Desiring God, and The Pleasures of God, I was introduced (rightly so) for the first time that God was chiefly about God.  As Piper writes, “God is upper-most in his own affections” (DG).  Some will argue, well, God is an ego-driven maniac.  No, he is the most supremely valuable and important being in existence.  If God does not value himself above all others, then he puts something else above himself and he becomes idolatris.  Simply, God must value himself above all else and all others because of who he is.  Secondly, many in the church believe that Christ’s greatest effort on their behalf in salvation was saving them from an eternal hell.  While I’m quite happy that I will not ever taste the death and despair of eternal hell, the real prize in salvation is God himself.  The great benefit we receive in Christ’s death is being reconciled to God by Christ in a way that is both pleasing and acceptable to God.  It is right of no man to say, I was saved because I did not want to go to hell.  Fear of hell is a good thing, and God can use that fear to lead us to himself.  But, the primary reason we should desire to come to God is, we see him as he is meant to be seen (though with still fallen eyes), as the greatest, most beautiful, most satisfying being in all the cosmos.  We come to God in Christ because we want him, all of him for all of eternity.  We have tasted and seen the cheap tricks and gimmicks of the world, and now we long for true pleasure and satisfaction.  As John Piper will often say, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”  The very purpose of our existence is to worship, glorify, and enjoy the ultimate and supreme being of the universe, God.  God wants us to enjoy him and find our deepest level of satisfaction and happiness in his very person.  Piper call this Christian hedonism.  A hedonist pursues his/her pleasure as the chief end of their existence.  A hedonist does whatever it takes to be happy and pleased here and now.  It is a path of all pleasure and minimal pain.  We as Christians should pursue our greatest pleasure in God, and find our only and ultimate satisfaction in him.  We should not however strive to lead a painless life, nor should we go looking for pain…it will come.  But, we should expect pain and suffering and see it as  a way of drawing near to God and trusting in his person all the more.  Our God is great well  beyond our ability to comprehend.  His salvation is great because it leads sinners to himself and we are to enjoy his person here and evermore.

Revelation 7:9-11

9After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with(palm branches in their hands, 10and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they) fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,

From Pastor John Piper: 

 Let me tell you about a most wonderful experience I had early Monday morning, March 19, 2007, a little after six o’clock. God actually spoke to me. There is no doubt that it was God. I heard the words in my head just as clearly as when a memory of a conversation passes across your consciousness. The words were in English, but they had about them an absolutely self-authenticating ring of truth. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that God still speaks today. I couldn’t sleep for some reason. I was at Shalom House in northern Minnesota on a staff couples’ retreat. It was about five thirty in the morning. I lay there wondering if I should get up or wait till I got sleepy again. In his mercy, God moved me out of bed. It was mostly dark, but I managed to find my clothing, got dressed, grabbed my briefcase, and slipped out of the room without waking up Noël. In the main room below, it was totally quiet. No one else seemed to be up. So I sat down on a couch in the corner to pray. As I prayed and mused, suddenly it happened. God said, “Come and see what I have done.” There was not the slightest doubt in my mind that these were the very words of God. In this very moment. At this very place in the twenty-first century, 2007, God was speaking to me with absolute authority and self-evidencing reality. I paused to let this sink in. There was a sweetness about it. Time seemed to matter little. God was near. He had me in his sights. He had something to say to me. When God draws near, hurry ceases. Time slows down. I wondered what he meant by “come and see.” Would he take me somewhere, like he did Paul into heaven to see what can’t be spoken? Did “see” mean that I would have a vision of some great deed of God that no one has seen? I am not sure how much time elapsed between God’s initial word, “Come and see what I have done,” and his next words. It doesn’t matter. I was being enveloped in the love of his personal communication. The God of the universe was speaking to me. Then he said, as clearly as any words have ever come into my mind, “I am awesome in my deeds toward the children of man.” My heart leaped up, “Yes, Lord! You are awesome in your deeds. Yes, to all men whether they see it or not. Yes! Now what will you show me?” The words came again. Just as clear as before, but increasingly specific: “I turned the sea into dry land; they passed through the river on foot. There they rejoiced in me—who rules by my might forever.” Suddenly I realized God was taking me back several thousand years to the time when he dried up the Red Sea and the Jordan River. I was being transported by his word back into history to those great deeds. This is what he meant by “come and see.” He was transporting me back by his words to those two glorious deeds before the children of men. These were the “awesome deeds” he referred to. God himself was narrating the mighty works of God. He was doing it for me. He was doing it with words that were resounding in my own mind. There settled over me a wonderful reverence. A palpable peace came down. This was a holy moment and a holy corner of the world in northern Minnesota. God Almighty had come down and was giving me the stillness and the openness and the willingness to hear his very voice. As I marveled at his power to dry the sea and the river, he spoke again. “I keep watch over the nations—let not the rebellious exalt themselves.” This was breathtaking. It was very serious. It was almost a rebuke. At least a warning. He may as well have taken me by the collar of my shirt, lifted me off the ground with one hand, and said, with an incomparable mixture of fierceness and love, “Never, never, never exalt yourself. Never rebel against me.” I sat staring at nothing. My mind was full of the global glory of God. “I keep watch over the nations.” He had said this to me. It was not just that he had said it. Yes, that is glorious. But he had said this to me. The very words of God were in my head. They were there in my head just as much as the words that I am writing at this moment are in my head. They were heard as clearly as if at this moment I recalled that my wife said, “Come down for supper whenever you are ready.” I know those are the words of my wife. And I know these are the words of God. Think of it. Marvel at this. Stand in awe of this. The God who keeps watch over the nations, like some people keep watch over cattle or stock markets or construction sites—this God still speaks in the twenty-first century. I heard his very words. He spoke personally to me. What effect did this have on me? It filled me with a fresh sense of God’s reality. It assured me more deeply that he acts in history and in our time. It strengthened my faith that he is for me and cares about me and will use his global power to watch over me. Why else would he come and tell me these things? It has increased my love for the Bible as God’s very word, because it was through the Bible that I heard these divine words, and through the Bible I have experiences like this almost every day. The very God of the universe speaks on every page into my mind—and your mind. We hear his very words. God himself has multiplied his wondrous deeds and thoughts toward us; none can compare with him! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told (Psalm 40:5). And best of all, they are available to all. If you would like to hear the very same words I heard on the couch in northern Minnesota, read Psalm 66:5-7. That is where I heard them. O how precious is the Bible. It is the very word of God. In it God speaks in the twenty-first century. This is the very voice of God. By this voice, he speaks with absolute truth and personal force. By this voice, he reveals his all-surpassing beauty. By this voice, he reveals the deepest secrets of our hearts. No voice anywhere anytime can reach as deep or lift as high or carry as far as the voice of God that we hear in the Bible. It is a great wonder that God still speaks today through the Bible with greater force and greater glory and greater assurance and greater sweetness and greater hope and greater guidance and greater transforming power and greater Christ-exalting truth than can be heard through any voice in any human soul on the planet from outside the Bible. This is why I found the article in this month’s Christianity Today, “My Conversation with God,” so sad. Written by an anonymous professor at a “well-known Christian University,” it tells of his experience of hearing God. What God said was that he must give all his royalties from a new book toward the tuition of a needy student. What makes me sad about the article is not that it isn’t true or didn’t happen. What’s sad is that it really does give the impression that extra-biblical communication with God is surpassingly wonderful and faith-deepening. All the while, the supremely-glorious communication of the living God which personally and powerfully and transformingly explodes in the receptive heart through the Bible everyday is passed over in silence. I am sure this professor of theology did not mean it this way, but what he actually said was, “For years I’ve taught that God still speaks, but I couldn’t testify to it personally. I can only do so now anonymously, for reasons I hope will be clear” (emphasis added). Surely he does not mean what he seems to imply—that only when one hears an extra-biblical voice like, “The money is not yours,” can you testify personally that God still speaks. Surely he does not mean to belittle the voice of God in the Bible which speaks this very day with power and truth and wisdom and glory and joy and hope and wonder and helpfulness ten thousand times more decisively than anything we can hear outside the Bible. I grieve at what is being communicated here. The great need of our time is for people to experience the living reality of God by hearing his word personally and transformingly in Scripture. Something is incredibly wrong when the words we hear outside Scripture are more powerful and more affecting to us than the inspired word of God. Let us cry with the psalmist, “Incline my heart to your word” (Psalm 119:36). “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Psalm 119:18). Grant that the eyes of our hearts would be enlightened to know our hope and our inheritance and the love of Christ that passes knowledge and be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 1:18; 3:19). O God, don’t let us be so deaf to your word and so unaffected with its ineffable, evidential excellency that we celebrate lesser things as more thrilling, and even consider this misplacement of amazement worthy of printing in a national magazine. Still hearing his voice in the Bible, Pastor John cribe to… Text Only Feed Sermon Audio Sermon Video Sermon Text View list of podcasts and feeds .You’re listening to The Morning I Heard the Voice of God Listen: Full Length Download Audio: Full Length Let me tell you about a most wonderful experience I had early Monday morning, March 19, 2007, a little after six o’clock. God actually spoke to me. There is no doubt that it was God. I heard the words in my head just as clearly as when a memory of a conversation passes across your consciousness. The words were in English, but they had about them an absolutely self-authenticating ring of truth. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that God still speaks today. I couldn’t sleep for some reason. I was at Shalom House in northern Minnesota on a staff couples’ retreat. It was about five thirty in the morning. I lay there wondering if I should get up or wait till I got sleepy again. In his mercy, God moved me out of bed. It was mostly dark, but I managed to find my clothing, got dressed, grabbed my briefcase, and slipped out of the room without waking up Noël. In the main room below, it was totally quiet. No one else seemed to be up. So I sat down on a couch in the corner to pray. As I prayed and mused, suddenly it happened. God said, “Come and see what I have done.” There was not the slightest doubt in my mind that these were the very words of God. In this very moment. At this very place in the twenty-first century, 2007, God was speaking to me with absolute authority and self-evidencing reality. I paused to let this sink in. There was a sweetness about it. Time seemed to matter little. God was near. He had me in his sights. He had something to say to me. When God draws near, hurry ceases. Time slows down. I wondered what he meant by “come and see.” Would he take me somewhere, like he did Paul into heaven to see what can’t be spoken? Did “see” mean that I would have a vision of some great deed of God that no one has seen? I am not sure how much time elapsed between God’s initial word, “Come and see what I have done,” and his next words. It doesn’t matter. I was being enveloped in the love of his personal communication. The God of the universe was speaking to me. Then he said, as clearly as any words have ever come into my mind, “I am awesome in my deeds toward the children of man.” My heart leaped up, “Yes, Lord! You are awesome in your deeds. Yes, to all men whether they see it or not. Yes! Now what will you show me?” The words came again. Just as clear as before, but increasingly specific: “I turned the sea into dry land; they passed through the river on foot. There they rejoiced in me—who rules by my might forever.” Suddenly I realized God was taking me back several thousand years to the time when he dried up the Red Sea and the Jordan River. I was being transported by his word back into history to those great deeds. This is what he meant by “come and see.” He was transporting me back by his words to those two glorious deeds before the children of men. These were the “awesome deeds” he referred to. God himself was narrating the mighty works of God. He was doing it for me. He was doing it with words that were resounding in my own mind. There settled over me a wonderful reverence. A palpable peace came down. This was a holy moment and a holy corner of the world in northern Minnesota. God Almighty had come down and was giving me the stillness and the openness and the willingness to hear his very voice. As I marveled at his power to dry the sea and the river, he spoke again. “I keep watch over the nations—let not the rebellious exalt themselves.” This was breathtaking. It was very serious. It was almost a rebuke. At least a warning. He may as well have taken me by the collar of my shirt, lifted me off the ground with one hand, and said, with an incomparable mixture of fierceness and love, “Never, never, never exalt yourself. Never rebel against me.” I sat staring at nothing. My mind was full of the global glory of God. “I keep watch over the nations.” He had said this to me. It was not just that he had said it. Yes, that is glorious. But he had said this to me. The very words of God were in my head. They were there in my head just as much as the words that I am writing at this moment are in my head. They were heard as clearly as if at this moment I recalled that my wife said, “Come down for supper whenever you are ready.” I know those are the words of my wife. And I know these are the words of God. Think of it. Marvel at this. Stand in awe of this. The God who keeps watch over the nations, like some people keep watch over cattle or stock markets or construction sites—this God still speaks in the twenty-first century. I heard his very words. He spoke personally to me. What effect did this have on me? It filled me with a fresh sense of God’s reality. It assured me more deeply that he acts in history and in our time. It strengthened my faith that he is for me and cares about me and will use his global power to watch over me. Why else would he come and tell me these things? It has increased my love for the Bible as God’s very word, because it was through the Bible that I heard these divine words, and through the Bible I have experiences like this almost every day. The very God of the universe speaks on every page into my mind—and your mind. We hear his very words. God himself has multiplied his wondrous deeds and thoughts toward us; none can compare with him! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told (Psalm 40:5). And best of all, they are available to all. If you would like to hear the very same words I heard on the couch in northern Minnesota, read Psalm 66:5-7. That is where I heard them. O how precious is the Bible. It is the very word of God. In it God speaks in the twenty-first century. This is the very voice of God. By this voice, he speaks with absolute truth and personal force. By this voice, he reveals his all-surpassing beauty. By this voice, he reveals the deepest secrets of our hearts. No voice anywhere anytime can reach as deep or lift as high or carry as far as the voice of God that we hear in the Bible. It is a great wonder that God still speaks today through the Bible with greater force and greater glory and greater assurance and greater sweetness and greater hope and greater guidance and greater transforming power and greater Christ-exalting truth than can be heard through any voice in any human soul on the planet from outside the Bible. This is why I found the article in this month’s Christianity Today, “My Conversation with God,” so sad. Written by an anonymous professor at a “well-known Christian University,” it tells of his experience of hearing God. What God said was that he must give all his royalties from a new book toward the tuition of a needy student. What makes me sad about the article is not that it isn’t true or didn’t happen. What’s sad is that it really does give the impression that extra-biblical communication with God is surpassingly wonderful and faith-deepening. All the while, the supremely-glorious communication of the living God which personally and powerfully and transformingly explodes in the receptive heart through the Bible everyday is passed over in silence. I am sure this professor of theology did not mean it this way, but what he actually said was, “For years I’ve taught that God still speaks, but I couldn’t testify to it personally. I can only do so now anonymously, for reasons I hope will be clear” (emphasis added). Surely he does not mean what he seems to imply—that only when one hears an extra-biblical voice like, “The money is not yours,” can you testify personally that God still speaks. Surely he does not mean to belittle the voice of God in the Bible which speaks this very day with power and truth and wisdom and glory and joy and hope and wonder and helpfulness ten thousand times more decisively than anything we can hear outside the Bible. I grieve at what is being communicated here. The great need of our time is for people to experience the living reality of God by hearing his word personally and transformingly in Scripture. Something is incredibly wrong when the words we hear outside Scripture are more powerful and more affecting to us than the inspired word of God. Let us cry with the psalmist, “Incline my heart to your word” (Psalm 119:36). “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Psalm 119:18). Grant that the eyes of our hearts would be enlightened to know our hope and our inheritance and the love of Christ that passes knowledge and be filled with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 1:18; 3:19). O God, don’t let us be so deaf to your word and so unaffected with its ineffable, evidential excellency that we celebrate lesser things as more thrilling, and even consider this misplacement of amazement worthy of printing in a national magazine.

Still hearing his voice in the Bible, Pastor John

This is the second interview I have seen today with Rob Bell speaking about his new book.  The more I hear him talk, the less sense he makes.  I get what he is trying to say…I’m just not sure he does.  Check this interview out with Martin Bashir.  And, please, please stay away from Rob Bell’s book Love Wins.  It’s a poor theologian doing very bad theology. 

   http://www.dennyburk.com/martin-bashir-takes-on-rob-bell/#more-11841

Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived 

If you have heard of, or, are intrested in this book I encourage you to read Kevin DeYoung’ s review of the book.  The review is a bit lengthy, but if you are intrested, well worth your time. 

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2011/03/14/rob-bell-love-wins-review/