Friday, July 04, 2008

Grow - Edition #7

So I have had some great studies in the past 48 hours, including Bible study, some sermons on the ipod, and a biography of Tozer. I am currently feeling challenged that I am not spending enough time pursuing my Saviour - through prayer, study, and living. Let me share with you a few things that have caused me to grow in this thirst for more of Him.

Tozer book. First, this guy was crazy radical about Bible study and prayer. He spent most mornings (like four hours a day) in prayer and study. He recognized that He needs to pursue God. As you know, Pursuit of God is one of my three favorite books (along with Cost of Discipleship and Money, Possessions and Eternity). So this is the story of how Tozer wrote the book. He had to go on a train ride from Chicago to Texas. At about 7pm, he decides he needs to start writing (not planned). He asks the train porter for a glass of water and some crackers. By 7am when the train rolled in to the station in Texas, Pursuit of God was written. This guy starts scribbling on paper, and twelve hours later he is done writing one of the best books of the past one hundred years. Clearly, God had anointed Him that night, but Tozer was working off of nearly 40 years of prayer and Bible study. That causes me to want to know Him so much more. So here are some great quotes by Tozer on the biography.
  • Save me from the curse that lies dark across the face of the modern clergy, the curse of compromise, of imitation, of professionalism. (note: this is but one of many great quotes from this open letter he wrote when he was ordained as a pastor)
  • Tens of thousands of believers who pride themselves in their understanding of Romans and Ephesians cannot conceal the sharp spiritual contradiction that exists between their hearts and the heart of Paul. That difference may be stated this way: Paul was a seeker and a finder and a seeker still. They seek and find and seek no more. After "accepting" Christ they tend to substitute logic for life and doctrine for experience. For them the truth becomes a veil to hide the face of God; for Paul it was a door into His very Presence.
  • Memorize Scripture, pray over it, and then seek God's help to enter into the truth revealed.
  • If you want to be happy, never ask for the gift of discernment. (note: this made me laugh a lot)
  • I know I don't know, so I keep on trying to find out

So I was reading Alcorn's blog two days ago, and he gave a review of a C.J. Mahaney sermon that might have been the most glowing review I have ever read about a sermon. Given how much I respect Alcorn, I had to listen to it. I have to say that this sermon gave me a fresher perspective on the crucifixion than I have ever had before. I better recognized how damned I am, but for my Saviour. Mahaney has clearly poured over Mark 15 hundreds of times in his lifetime. Similar to Tozer, Mahaney put together this sermon only a couple hours before he presented it to these young college students. Once again, this sermon made me want to pursue my Saviour more, through time studying and meditating on His word. I encourage you to listen to this sermon if you can make the time.

Natalie is reading a book right now that speaks of the impact parents have on their kids. She has shared some sound bites with me, and this one particularly stuck out - President Eisenhower's mother had memorized the entire New Testament, and she frequently referenced this Scripture in guiding her son. That really encouraged me as I am trying very hard to consistently study Scripture one-on-one with my kids each night. I really want to build into myself and my kids through Scripture...sola scriptura.

Then I get an e-mail from my brother in Christ Michael this afternoon that lists out a guy's suggested reading with your kids by grade from first through twelfth and beyond. Gotta love it when a guy is recommending Grudem in seventh grade! I ordered three of the first grade books to work through with my kids during the balance of the summer.

Lord, I want to know You in a way that I know You want me to know You. You have given me life everlasting, You have given me Your Spirit, You have softened my wicked heart. Lord, I still don't pursue you as I should, and that is crazy...even scandalous. Tonight, I want to know You more intimately. In the words of William Culbertson, I want to "be faithful in the human side of the talents You gave me...and know the presence and power of the Spirit of God." I want to understand the "scream of the damned" that I am guilty of, been freed of, yet don't appreciate as I should. Amen.

Side note - Wes, Spurgeon would be proud of me tonight...if you know what I mean :)

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Grow - Edition #6

So reading 2 Corinthians 6:1-10 this morning as I Journey through the early church. In verse 3 Paul speaks of how his life is a testimony in itself of His walk with Christ. Then, in verses 4-10, Paul fleshes that out with a list of 9 trials he has dealt with in a God honoring way, followed by 9 inner qualities to possess, followed by 9 paradoxes of the Chrisitan walk.

So as I was reading this, I wrote this in my Bible: I need to be a *faithful* follower of Christ no matter the circumstances. Christianity is not an "if only this" religion; rather, it is a "no matter what" religion.

So where in my life am I using life's circumstances as an excuse to not be faithful to my Father? Where am I asking for "if only this" when I should have the faith and perspective of "no matter what"?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Grow - Edition #5

So I was reading Piper again today and came across this great blog post. It speaks of how we overcome (or avoid falling into) coveting or desiring something more than God.

For example, common things we might desire more than being in the presence of God includes
1. Long term financial security
2. Material possessions; enhanced lifestyle
3. Comfort
4. Praise of man; acceptance
5. A different marriage (different spouse; spouse change; etc)
6. Control of circumstances

The list could go on and on. I like how Piper defines bad coveting as desiring something in a way that it deminishes our desire for God or or competes for God's supreme place in our lives. So there is room for coveting, if the coveting draws us closer to God and increases His centering in our lives. For example, coveting a cleaner schedule to allow for more consistent and less rished time in the Word is a good thing! So is coveting solid friends around you to help you grow in Christ.

Piper then really hammers two points to help us "keep the main thing the main thing." First, he says we need to be in the Word and know the Word to lean on God's promises (Psalm 119:11). Second, we need people in our lives to model Christlikeness for us (1 Corinthians 11:1).

So three questions for each of you
1. What are the most common idols in your life aside from Christ?
2. How is your time in the Word and trusting in His Word throughout life's circumstances?
3. Who are the people in your life whom you are studying? Are you authentic with them to allow for deep, prodcutive relationships?

Praying for all of us.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Grow - Edition #4

So a good buddy of mine sent me this quiz last week. I printed it out and went through it with each of my kids last night during our bedtime routine. I thought they were good questions and provided a springboard for conversation. I encourage each of you to give it a try with your kids.

A quote I love that ties well with the spirit of this quiz. "A lot of people can replace you at work, but only you can be your wife's husband and your kids' daddy."

One last thing...I have forwarded this link in the past as well, though I will note it here since it is relevant to the quiz and Randy continues to stretch me.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Grow - Edition #3

Apologies in advance for the long post.

“God is great, God is good, thank you for this meal. Amen.” I have heard Caleb (my boy) say this so many times that I hardly process it when he says it. I want to unpack that a bit in this post and challenge all of us as to whether we really believe this.

So I spent my quiet time this morning in 2 Corinthians 1:1-11. I was specifically drawn to verses 3-10. I have included them here.

Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we may be able to comfort those experiencing any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow toward us, so also our comfort through Christ overflows to you.  But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort that you experience in your patient endurance of the same sufferings that we also suffer. And our hope for you is steadfast because we know that as you share in our sufferings, so also you will share in our comfort. For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters,  regarding the affliction that happened to us in the province of Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of living. Indeed we felt as if the sentence of death had been passed against us, so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead. He delivered us from so great a risk of death, and he will deliver us. We have set our hope on him that he will deliver us yet again.

In looking at this, I have to keep as my perspective what Paul says in verse one, which is that his life is guided “by the will of God” (see also Psalm 139:13-16, 2 Corinthians 4:7, Romans 8:26-30, Deuteronomy 8:11-18, Psalm 100). Do I believe God is sovereign (self-governing, supreme power, in control, etc)? In other words, do I believe God is great (all-powerful)? This is a foundational issue, and my perspective on this question affects every experience in my life. I am a black and white thinker. Sort of like the guns on a fighter plane. You know what I mean from the movies (think Top Gun) where they show the cross-hairs, it takes a while for the red cross hairs to lock in on target, then you hear a beep, the cross hairs turn green, and there is no way to unlock the missile from its target. When it comes to my belief in the Word of God, that is how I tend to operate. When I understand a truth from God’s Word, I can fully, emotionally lock in on the truth. While my black and white mentality gets me in trouble in lots of areas of life (disagreements with wife, making social plans, etc), in the area of accepting God’s truth, it is a great blessing. So, how are you doing? Do you think God is sovereign?

So as you cats know, we have been going through an adoption process for about twelve months now (actually filled our first document one year ago Sunday). It has lasted way longer than we had originally anticipated. To be honest, I thought we would have been done by January or February. Natalie and I have been asked lots of questions (or really people sharing presumptive statements with us) such as “You must be so frustrated. You have got to be upset that this isn’t happening quickly enough. Why is your agency taking so long?” I have consistently shared God’s truth on this which is something like “God is sovereign. His timing and His plan are far better than my plans, so while this is not the timing I had originally hoped for, I am convinced this is the timing the Lord has willed.” I will then often be asked “But when do you think it will happen?” Clearly, the listener didn’t fully understand what I had just said. So then I often answer, “I don’t know. God knows the exact day, but He hasn’t told me about it.”

I have heard and seen lots of people get really frustrated with the timing of things in life, most recently the timing of adoptions has been a frequent one. When I hear most people get frustrated like this, I really feel sorry for them and hurt for them. I am not surprised, as most people don’t believe in the mighty power of the Lord. At the same time I hurt for them, because I know this world is fallen and not understanding sin and the ultimate victory of Christ can make this world and life pretty hopeless. But when I see Christians get frustrated, it is really disappointing to me. As we see in 2 Corinthians 1:1-11, how we respond to the trials of life is an integral part of our witness to the Lord. For example, in verse six Paul says “ But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort that you experience in your patient endurance of the same sufferings that we also suffer.” Later in chapter six, Paul says something similar “We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry.” Colossians 4:5 says it more directly as it pertains to our witness to non-believers when Paul says “Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity.” You see, when we don’t believe in the sovereignty of God, everyone suffers – I suffer, those I lead (family, etc) suffer, and those who don’t know Christ suffer.

So why do Christians respond this way (other than the fact that we are all sinners; see Jeremiah 17:9)? This is tied to a pivotal way the Lord has grown me over the past twelve months. I have believed in the sovereignty of God (God is great!) for quite some time. I believe that many of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who are quick to get frustrated with life’s undesired circumstances also believe God is sovereign. So I don’t think that is always the issue. So what is it? I think the question goes one step further. ARE YOU COMFORTABLE RESTING IN THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD? Do you think His ways are better than your ways. In other words, do you think God is good? It is one thing to believe God is sovereign; it is another thing to rest in that sovereignty.

As we have waited quite some time for our adoption, I have frequently told myself “God is in control (great). God loves me and has my best interest at heart (good). I may not have planned it this way, but why on earth would I desire to be outside of God’s holy and perfect will? I will rest, knowing my Savior is my leader.” I often listen to the song “Blessed Be Your Name” by Tree63 which is so full of theology and best expresses the idea of how we as followers of Christ need to face life’s circumstances. All of the verses are here ( but I will note the following line “You give and take away; you give and take away; my heart will choose to say; Lord, blessed be your name.”

So what is the application of this long rant of mine…
1. Do you believe God is sovereign (great)? List any areas of your life where you have little hope that God is in control.
2. Are you resting in God’s sovereignty, wanting His ways to be your ways (good)? What areas of your life are your struggling to control instead of resting in the hands of your Daddy?

I will wrap up with three passages that really strike home for me.

Joshua was leading the Israelites soon after Moses died as God’s people had just entered the promised land. Many people were complaining about their life’s circumstances. Joshua stood before the people and reminded them of God’s greatness and God’s goodness. Then he said “If you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve…But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). In Matthew 6 we see Christ tell us that we cannot serve multiple gods in life. Only one can be preeminent.

Job was the man stripped completely of every earthly privilege – family, health, wealth. All of it taken away from him. He got lots of questions and advice from others similar to recent questions we have gotten. Remember earlier I said “You must be so frustrated. You have got to be upset that this isn’t happening quickly enough. Why is your agency taking so long?” So how did Job respond. Job 42:1-6 says,

Then Job answered the Lord: “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted; you asked, ‘Who is this who darkens counsel without knowledge?’ But I have declared without understanding things too wonderful for me to know. You said, ‘Pay attention, and I will speak; I will question you, and you will answer me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye has seen you. Therefore I despise myself, and I repent in dust and ashes!

Finally, Paul spoke later in 2 Corinthians (chapter 12) about the “thorn in his side.” As he wrestled with God to understand why he continued to struggle with the thorn, I love what God lovingly told Paul “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” Then Paul realizes this truth and says himself “So now I am glad to boast about my weakness, so that the power of Christ can work through me…For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (see also Philippians 4)

Praying we all rest in the greatness and goodness of God, no matter life’s circumstances, and praying that like Job and Paul, we come back to the foot of the cross when we stumble in our pursuit of trusting His plan, becoming all the stronger in our faith.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Grow - Edition #2

This morning I read 1 Corinthians 15:1-19 as I am "journeying through the early church" with my local church body. I honed in on verses 9 and 10.

For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been in vain. In fact, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God with me.

I can go lots of directions with this passage, but what I really want to hone in on is this - why would God choose a complete whacked out evil guy like Paul to plant the early church? What can we learn from that? Three things immediately come to mind for me:

First, God can do anything [that is consistent with His character]. If He can create the world, create man, etc, then He can obviously transform the character of any whacked out dude. A good question for you is to assess whether there is something in your life that you are not bringing to the foot of the cross because you have no hope that God can take it from you.

Second, this short passage mentions "grace" three times. Grace is well-defined as "unmerited favor." Unmerited, as in I DON'T DESERVE IT. Favor, as in IT IS GREAT TO HAVE. So while we see (verse 9) that Paul is well-aware of his past decisions, he is not overwhelmed and imprisoned by shame from his past. A good application question for you is to assess whether you have any deep shame in your life that is holding you down. For instance, two years ago, there was a guy in my men's group that did something he shouldn't have done. He immediately assumed the rest of us guys thought he was awful, what he did was sick, etc. He basically assumed we judged him. The truth is, none of us did. We all knew we were capable of the same thing! While we wanted to enter his life and help him rest in the grace of God and lean on the Spirit to grow through it, he wanted to block us out because he assumed we were judging him. Remember, Jesus said He came to hang out with those who RECOGNIZED they are sick. We are all sick...but only some of us are fortunate enough to see we are sick.

Third, Paul really busted his butt to faithfully be used by God for His work. As he said "In fact, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God with me." God used Paul to write more epistles than anyone else. God used Paul to plant more of the early church than anyone else. Paul wasn't a pacifist. He got after it. I pray five traits on my kids - love, integrity, wisdom, SERVANTHOOD and SELF-DISCIPLINE. Paul clearly had these five traits, and the point I am trying to make here ties to the last two. A good application question for you is to assess where you aren't being a man who takes responsibility for his calling in life. Where are you the guy who buries his talents in the field due to fear and pacifism?

Ephesians 2:10...

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Grow - Edition #1

Read this today. Worth your reading.

Of the five ideas listed, which one can you gain the most ground in? Why? What is a step you can take?

My answer
  • “Tenthly…genteel living.” I think nothing is more seductive than this. James 1:2-4…Why? It both pulls me into non-productive stuff (waste, sin, etc) and pulls me away from God’s plan (great commandment and great commission). It causes me to start thinking in terms of “needs” (that are really desires), “prudence” (which is a misleading term for “secular wisdom with no regard for the urgency of the gospel”), “comfort” (Satan’s supreme tool…that we now tell ourselves God wants us to be comfortable…tell that to Moses, Joseph, Noah, Elijah, Abraham, Paul, John the Baptist, Christ…). o Next step? I need to take check of my life at an overall level for any “genteel living” elephants in the room. Also, I need to inventory days periodically for what is comfortable/genteel that is not God’s best for me.
  • “Eighthly…never lay up money.” Money is biggest competitor of God for our hearts. 1 Timothy 6:9-10 and Matthew 6:19-24...Why? Been thinking about this a bit lately. So obviously I stored up money last year to pay for this adoption, potential need for larger car, etc. I felt good about that because I didn’t sock away a ton of money in the past “for a rainy day” but waited until there was a real need/use for the money. Should I save in the near-term to pay for a future adoption that I feel my heart saying we will do again? Is this the last year of the “seven years of plenty before the seven years of famine…” where I should store up for a *specific* future need? Thinking...