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Archive for May, 2010

There are honestly some things in scripture that we would rather not be there.  Still, they are there and we usually choose to deal with them on our own terms.  I am thinking about this just after having finished reading David Platt’s new book Radical.  The book would probably be better titled What We Wish the Bible Didn’t Say.  It is without doubt, one of the best books I have read, not in years, but ever.David’s book is a wake up call to Christians in America to die to our “stuff” and the “American Dream” and an urgent call to fulfill the Great Comission of Jesus Christ.  We American Christians seem love buffets (not me…I hate them).  We can choose what we want and get as much as we want.  We often treat the scriptures the same way.  We focus heavily on the Jesus that saves our souls, but not the one who calls us to completely deny ourselves for the gospel.  We like the Jesus who provides for our every need, provided he doesn’t interfere too much with our comforts and lives.  We prefer the Jesus who will not ask us to sale all our “stuff” and give it to the poor.  We would better like a Jesus who would never ask us to take the gospel to a hard place where we might not have air conditioning, or running water, or even adequate shelter.  Friends, I am not preaching, I am confessing.  I have long prefered a Jesus who would bless me in all the comforts I have long enjoyed in our culture.  But now I am confronted not just with the Jesus I want to believe in, but all of him.  Take a look at a couple of these passages with me,    I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16).  Jesus is sending his sheep out to wolves.  Does anyone know from watching the discovery channel what wolves do to sheep?     Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20).  So, Jesus was homeless for most of his ministry, but God wants us all to have a nice, big, comfortable house?   And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (Luke 9:22).  Jesus had to suffer, we say we want to be like Christ and yet we avoid suffering, hard things, hard people and hard places at all costs.    29For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him (Phillipians 1:29).  We are not only to believe in Christ, but to suffer for him.   1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope (Romans 5:1-4).  Now on top of all this…we are to rejoice in our sufferings?   When was the last time you or I heard a sermon on “Rejoicing in Our Sufferings”?  Well friends the truth is, we avoid difficult texts like these because of the way they make us feel.  The very thought that maybe me are missing “it” when it comes to Jesus and His Word strikes fear in our hearts.  This would mean we would have to evaluate every area of our lives in view of scripture and Jesus Christ.  We like our lives, we like our lifestyle, our friends, our money, our entertainment, our hobbies, our family’s.  God would never call us to leave any of this behind for him…we think.  Yet Jesus says in Matthew 10:37-38, 37“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  Again Jesus said in Luke 9:59-62,59He said to another man, “Follow me.”
      But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”  60Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.” 62Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”  No time to say goodbye to family?  No time to bury your own father?  Surely Jesus would never ask you or me to do things like this. Well, I can’t answer that for you or for me, but here is what I do know, Jesus is saying that he must be so superior to us in our affections and in our devotion that we would give up everything for him.  He s also communicating a sense of urgency regarding the gospel.  There is no time to waste anymore, eternity is on the doorstep of many who are unbelieving and many more who have not yet heard.  David estimates that 1.o billion or more people in the world today have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The question for you and me is do we care?  Or do we more about our comforts, our lives than those destined for an eternal hell?  Try as we may, we can not make Jesus of the Bible say what we would like for it to say…Christ has spoken and it is final.  We must deal with Jesus and His Word on his terms, not ours.  What legacy will we leave behind?  Will we leave the legacy of self pleasure and self advancement, or will we leave the legacy that our greatest and highest pleasure was found in Christ?  Decide today for yourself while there still is time.  Billions in the world are headed for hell without Christ, what will we do about it? 

Matthew 9:36-38

      36When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

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“You are ever active, yet always at rest.  You gather all things to yourself, though you suffer no need…You grieve for wrong, but suffer no pain.  You can be angry and yet serene.  Your works are varied, but your purpose is one in the same…You welcome those who come to you, though you never lost them.  You are never in need yet are glad to gain, never  covetous yet you exact a return for your gifts…You relaese us from our debts, but you lose nothing thereby.  You are my God, my life, my holy Delight, but is this enough to say of you?  Can a man say enough when he speaks of you?  Yet woe betide those who are silent about you”.  

Augustine, Confessions p. 23 (I, 4)

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I have been eating just fine…in fact because I have been lifting weights regularly, I am eating more than usual.  My hunger problem comes in the form of my lack of desire for God.  Well, it’s more complicated than that.  It’s more I haven’t been desiring God like I know I should, and would even like to.  And it’s not that I’m in unrepentant or habitual sin which is usually a key contributor to a person not spending time with God (John Piper’s mom wisely told him, Johnny this book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book).  In spite of my lack of desire, I have tried to stay in the Word, and be more diligent in my prayer life.  Still, I have not had that burning desire for God in my heart. Lately,  I believed I was “fighting the good fight”  with the sins in my life.  I was intentional about identifying them , resisting them, and asking God for strength to overcome them.  I was confessing my sins to God, and asking him for the strength to repent of them.  Even in my efforts to fight against my sins I felt I was coming up short, lacking, and not able to put them away. My sins seemed to keep coming back, again and again.  No doubt we will fight sin our whole life, even in our final hours on our deathbed.  But I wanted victory over them, I wanted to lay them aside. Then last night, while reading about Augustine It occurred to me what my problem had been…focus.  I had been focusing more on my sin than God.  My sins had become bigger than my God.  That does not mean that my sin was actually larger than God, or somehow he had shrunk, No, rather I mean to say I had allowed the bigger focus on my life be on fighting sin and not worshiping God.  For me it was an easy mistake to make.  I felt like I was honoring God and doing well by fighting the sin and my life, and yet I was wrong, because as much as God wants me to wage war against sin, even more he wants me to want Him.  Augustine once wrote “The whole life of a good Christian is a holy desire.” (Hand, Augustine on Prayer, p. 20)  John Piper went on to further explain this as meaning “the key to Christian living is hunger and thirst for God”  (Piper, The Legacy of Sovereign Joy, p. 63). I said to myself, that’s it, that’s my problem I haven’t been hungry enough for God.  This may sound a bit strange since I began this post admitting I had not been desiring God like I should, but it all came together last night when I was reading about Augustine.  I realized the reason I had been having so few victories over sin in my life was my lack of hunger.  I had not been desperate enough for God.  Silly I know, I realized I had a hunger issue, and wondered why I was living victoriously.  But, the truth is, I didn’t have a hunger issue, I had a hunger problem, and my hunger or lack there of was the key to be defeated of victorias in my battle against sin.  When I was focusing more on my sins, I was feeling down and defeated. It wasn’t until I refocused and looked unto my sweet savior that I found my joy and my hunger again.  Sin and this life can be overwhelming, that is why we need to stay focused on Christ above all.  It is good and right for us to know what specific sins we struggle with the most and battle them, but we err when we allow them to become our main focus.  The writer of Hebrews rightly says, 1Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  2fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2).  We do need to “lay aside” our sins which “so easily entangle us”, but the only way we can truly overcome and defeat them is through the power and person of Jesus Christ.  Our joy comes from knowing God through Christ.  We will feel joy-less if for even a moment we focus of energy and efforts on something, or someone else.  I guess if you really get down to the root of the problem, my hunger problem stems from a focus problem.  When I focused too much on my sin and myself I took my eyes off God.  When I took my eyes off God I became distracted and lost my appetite.  I can now sense my hunger for God being restored Now I just need to stay focused and not allow my supreme focus to shift from anything other than God.  I guess even in the Christian life it’s so easy to miss the mark, when you take your eyes even slightly off the target. 

Matthew 5:6   

    6“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

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Well, today our TV was repaired on the company’s dime…that is the good news.  The bad is, well the TV is back on.  I must say, outside of the screaming outbursts for Barney (my wife is a huge fan), the TV was not missed by our family.  It took a day or so to get used to the quietness, but after that…it was great.  The only time I really even found myself wanting to watch TV was when I was bored at night after all were asleep (I have insomnia).  With no TV, family time, family dialogue improved, as well as personal reading and devotion.  At dinner tonight, Tenly and I decided every couple of months we are going to turn the TV off for 5-7 days.  I don’t consider this to be a fast, because in a fast you really are giving up something that is of great value and importance (i.e. food).  I think you will find if you go a few days or even a week without Television you actually won’t miss it at all.  I’m not down on watching television, I just believe a lot of the time you and I could be better stewards of our time.  To be quite honest, I can’t find to many instances where TV has added great value to my life (outside of the occasional epic sporting event, or the weather channel).  This is not a call to totally abandon television, rather a careful consideration of why we are watching TV at all, and how could we better spend our time.  Praying for you and I as we consider all things like this in light of who Christ is, what he has done for us, and how we can better serve him with our time, all of the time.          

 Phillipians 3:8

What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.

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