Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Where Else Can I Go?

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life..." - John 6:68

I mentioned before how I often struggle with doubt and unbelief. Though it is still present, God had really strengthened my faith. He uses many ways to minister to my doubting soul and the most recent would be through a passage in John I read this morning.

And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

There are times when each of us will struggle with faith. Faith by definition is the "assurance of things hoped for, the convictions of things not seen." It isn't tangible, it isn't something I can point to. It is simply a gift from God, a gift that is often hard to accept. We want proof, and many times my soul does not give me the proof I so desire. But even when my spirit is cast down, even when we are as low as can be, one fact remains: Christ is the Son of God and He alone has the words of eternal life. Sure, I don't always feel that it is true but praise God that it isn't subjective, fleeting like my emotions. It is an objective truth, the truth where we either stand or fall. Where else can we go? Where else would we want to go?

No matter the circumstance, along with the words of Peter, remember the beautiful words of Job before him, "Though He slay me, I will hope in Him."

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Turning Our Hearts Back To You

Aren't you glad that God is a sovereign God, a Father who lovingly holds on to us even when we desperately pull away? How often do we thank Him for His promise that none who comes to Him will ever be cast out,
that "He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ"? Have you ever considered the situation we would be in if salvation was completely and solely dependent on our own faith? I would have fallen a long time ago and so would you. Paul promised in his first letter to Timothy that even "if we are faithless, He remains faithful." Praise God! It's not up to me, it's not up to you. We are faithfully held in His sovereign arms, never to fall away.

Father, how often we become self-dependent in our lives. We seek to be independent, to make You love us through our actions. Yes, faith without works is dead, but without faith, our deeds are worthless. You call them filthy rags in Your sight. Help us to love You, to desire You. Only the children will see the kingdom of Heaven, blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see You. Make us children in our dependence, grant us innocent faith in You. The sacrifice You acknowledge is a broken and contrite heart. Break us, humble us, that we may submit the lordship of our lives to You and You alone. Forgive us where we've turned our hearts from You. Turn them back to You. Thank You Father for Your sovereignty, Your grace, Your love, Your mercy, and even Your justice. Thank You that we are not in control, but You are in control; for what disarray and madness would be prevalent had we been left to ourselves! Keep us Lord where we should always be, knelt before the cross of Your Son Jesus Christ. Thank You for His sacrifice. Your word says that because of His righteousness, Your servant, made many to be accounted righteous, because He poured out His soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors. Make us to be holy as Your are holy...show us what it means to be holy as You are holy. Thank You God for Your wonderful salvation through Your beautiful Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

It's great to know that our Father in heaven is Lord over all. We should praise Him each day for His sovereignty in our salvation, that even when we are faithless, He remains faithful. On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand. All other ground, including myself, including yourself, is sinking sand.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

God's Fatherly Love and His Bratty Children

Technically I'm still in my writer's block situation. Even still, I've been thinking lately about some things. I finished this book today called God's Smuggler, by Brother Andrew, and I grew a bit convicted in two areas. This guy, Brother Andrew, went into communist and totalitarian countries, smuggling in a beautiful rarity, the precious Word of God. From the Ukraine to Romania, Cuba to Russia, Brother Andrew, along with his band of twelve full of faith, smuggled Bibles where there were literally none.

I was convicted to the core of my lack of faith and my absence of true appreciation for the Word of God. For the latter, I've just counted a sum of twenty-two bibles in my own home. I rarely think of people who have none. Or much less, people who've never seen a bible in their life. As I pictured the lovingly and disbelieving faces of our brothers and sisters around the world upon holding a Bible that Brother Andrew smuggled in, I can't help but think of how I don't give it the same reverence. In one scene, Andrew lays a bible in front of a pastor who doesn't have one. This pastor stops talking, looks at the bible and begins to run his fingers gently down its sides. What love! Guys, this is the Word of God, a privilege that was not necessary. God, because of His love and desire for relationship, gave us His written word that we might love it as Himself. I think its time to treat the Word as what it is, the golden, strong as steel string that ties our hearts to God's.

To the former, I feel as if I'm at a slight disadvantage. I wonder why it seems that people in impoverished countries tend to be more stronger and faithful. I suppose that what they lack physically, they make up spiritually. Every care is cast upon God, and every need is subsequently met by His faithful hand. I, however, depend on myself for nearly everything physically. And to be honest, I think nothing of it. Doesn't everyone rely on themselves for their needs? Do you, yourself, do the same? I think this is our disadvantage. We have so much, our faith is never tested. But isn't that the only way it can grow?

I don't have an answer but I'd love one. How can we, people of great privilege and blessing, practice a day to day childlike dependence on Christ and Him alone? Seems to me that God requires nothing less.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Are All Writers Ugly?

In the back of my mind, even without a hint of detection, there seems to be a reoccurring theme. I hear past comments made to me like "hey, you look like you should write a book." I mean, what does a person who looks like they should write a book look like? I don't have a very pleasant picture in mind.

So I sit and stare at words and none of them seem to desire to form themselves into a bookly context so I suppose I'm in that dreaded stalemate...writer's block. But since I don't have anything intellectual to talk about, there are some updates worth mentioning:

1) I've recently discovered that I'm a tad tight with my currency...I say thrifty, mom says it's being cheap.

2) This week I read perhaps two of the most convicting books about indwelling sin. Totally recommend them if you don't mind feeling like a jerk: The Enemy Within by Kris Lundgaard and The Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges.

3) Tomorrow is my driver's test, Lord help me.

4) I've reached new heights in my domestic skills. I can now officially prepare hot dogs...and as pathetic as that sounds, it is yet another breakthrough for yours truly.

I think that's about it. Back to pangs of writing. Ah the woes of a creative spirit...

Monday, July 7, 2008

Joseph...the Idol Christian?

Though I've already established my love of Donald Miller (just read Searching for God Knows What..amazing book, better than Blue Like Jazz!), I wanted to share a little something he persuaded me to do. So like I just said, well typed, less than two seconds ago, I read his book and he had talked about how he went through the gospels and observed Christ's life. He gushed and rambled about the things that were revealed to him when he stripped everything else away and focused on Jesus and His example of a righteous life. I thought the idea was fascinating and now I'm attempting to do it myself.

Obviously, I started with Matthew. The first story told is the story of Joseph and Mary, verses 18 and 19.

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.

So as I see it, Mary and Joseph weren't married yet, but practically so. I have to imagine that Joseph loved Mary very much. Can you imagine his reaction when he found out Mary was pregnant? In his mind, he justly perceived that she had defiled their commitment, the text plainly call him a "just man". If I'm not mistaken, this type of defilement was punishable by death from stoning. Joseph would have been totally justified in turning her in and giving her over to death. He didn't. "Unwilling to put her to shame, [he] resolved to divorce her quietly." Joseph possessed a different kind of love for Mary, a love that loved more than it hated, a love that sought merciful mercy instead of justified justice.

Now flipping the tide, imagine when someone has wronged us. Imagine, or remember a time when you were betrayed by someone. "Revenge! Revenge! Revenge!", is the impending cry, is it not? This would be according to the way of this world, but Christ calls us to radical love, a love that seeks the good of our enemies rather than retaliation. Besides Joseph, who better to view this new kind of love than God, Himself! Consider the passage found in Romans 5:5-12. Joseph only perceived, and perceived wrongly, that he had been wronged. But God was wronged, a creation that was made to love Him sought pleasure in equality with Him. Like Joseph, God was more than justified to leave us in our condition, yet He "shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Sin is rebellion, we were in "enmity with God." As Joseph showed Mary loving mercy instead of righteous judgment, as God Himself showed us loving mercy instead of righteous judgment, so are we to display mercy to our enemies.

I don't know or even understand the randomness of this thought, but I tend to be quite vindictive and vengeful, even when I can be justified in being so. But Christ has called us to a new love. These are His words, His demand(yep, this idea was fueled by What Jesus Demands from the World...):

"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you..."

He says to us differently. We are called to ultimate love, a self-sacrificial love that seeks mercy rather than justice. After all, weren't we shown the same? If it's good for Christ, it's good for us. "Truly truly I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him." Sure, maybe it's out of context, but hey, it works!

What Jesus Demands from the World

Well this was my latest Piper fix, and it was perhaps the best Piper book I've ever read. In What Jesus Demands from the World, Piper presents fifty commands from the very mouth of Jesus and explains how to live out these demands. When I think of Christians like Paul, Peter, James, the writer of Hebrews, I love reading their letters and receiving assistance in this tough Christian walk. But I don't know, it was something about reading this book and reading the actual words of Christ.

I mean, after all we are Christians, not Paulians, or Peterians, or Jamesians. We follow Christ. Not that there is anything wrong with following those men. Paul himself said "Follow me as I follow Christ." I love what they've done for me in my relationship with Christ. I can't imagine having to figure out what they explained so simply(sometimes) on my own. And in essence these are the words of Christ because they are Spirit inspired. But still, these are Jesus very words from God's own mouth!

Many of these demands went totally unnoticed. One demand that really slapped me in the face was the demand that my righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees. The few chapters that talk about this demand truly changed my thoughts about living my life for Christ from the inside out, not just outward as the Pharisees. Some other shiners were "Love God with all Your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength", "Worship God in Spirit and Truth", all the chapters about loving your enemies, especially "Love Your Neighbor with the Same Commitment You Have to Your Own Well-Being" (a huge blow to the pride) but really, I'd have to cite them all to say which ones I love the most. Besides, I don't want to spoil it. Needless to say, every chapter is worth dissecting to the very punctuation.

What Jesus Demands from the World is definitely one of Piper's easier books to read. He really explains quite simply what Jesus was commanding of his followers.
Many demands are actually different sub-demands from the actual one that Christ said. Each chapter is no more than five pages, a rarity with Piper. Not to say that it isn't loaded with information and Scripture references. It is as Bible-saturated as ever. It is one of Piper's best in my opinion and a book that every true disciple of Christ should read, and not only read it, but to abide in them. After all, didn't Christ also say, "If you love me, keep my commandments"? We don't love Him by keeping His commandments, but because of our love for Him, we can't help but obey. What Jesus Demands from the World is a priceless gem in this pursuit of love.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

When I Don't Desire God

It's been a while since I've read Desiring God, the book that really put John Piper at the top of my favorite authors' list. His declaration that Christians should be hedonists, though foreign, was an enlightening idea for me. The summary sentence, "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him", has truly become an attitude I try to fashion my life toward. Desiring God showed how we should seek Christ as the ultimate treasure and treat Him as such. When I Don't Desire God seems more like an instructional sequel. The first assumed that we desire God, the second shows us what to do when we don't.

You really can't go wrong with any Piper book. The man is truly a man after God's own heart and my favorite thing about Piper, what really attracts me to his writing, is that I see how he desires to desire God. We tend to get caught up in obedience and knowing God just intellectually, which can easily turn into drudgery unless we seek a true and loving relationship with God. Piper has shown me that yes I should obey God and yes I should learn about Him, but all in an effort, an end to know Him, to love Him, to desire Him.

Piper drastically changed many assumptions I had before reading this book. The most important and relevant was my assumption that not only is joy an emotion, but it's something that we either have or don't. I mean, some people are predisposed to being happier than others. Some people are easily depressed, others are easily joyful. But what I realized is that joy in God was not an option, not a decision based on people's predispositions. Rather, it was a command! And when we don't desire God, it is breaking His command, sin! Obviously I was taken quite aback, baffled even. God is constantly commanding that we "rejoice always", that we "count it all joy", that we "rejoice with joy". These aren't mere suggestions, their commandments and Piper calls us to take it just as seriously as we take following any other command. After making that point as strong as possible, Piper then lists weapons, such as prayer and the Word, and strategies to assist in our fight for joy.

I have been persuaded that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. It should be a Christian's desire to love and desire God more than any other. Donald Miller, another favorite, says it this way: "...if God is a perfect and loving Being, the most selfless thing He could do would be to create other beings to enjoy Him. And then I started thinking that if those creatures fell away from Him, the most selfless thing a perfect and loving Being could do would be to go and get them, to try to save them from the death that would take place in His absence." The most selfless act we can do when we get a gift we love is to share it with others.
Christ is the ultimate treasure. God, being selfless, created humans to enjoy Himself. What a love! When I Don't Desire God is a wonderful read that truly inspires us to forsake mere knowledge of God and rather seek wholeheartedly a loving relationship with our Father and Lord.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Back from the Rebelution Conference...

And what an awesome conference it was! Who cares about the long...long drive to Dallas? Actually, I thought the eight hour drive was quite enjoyable but that's just me. We even "made some memories" as my pastor's wife says, getting flat tires, missing turns, reading signs incorrectly, attempting to keep our bottoms from generating bed sores...and that is quite a task with limited space. But really, I'm sure you don't care to know about that stuff.

I can't praise God enough for inciting a new wave in our generation. A revival of some sorts to do hard things and live for the glory of God. He is truly turning our hearts back to Him. Over 1900 young people came together from all around (two siblings came so far as Saudi Arabia!) to worship and learn ways to live for Christ by doing hard things. The conference was from 9 AM to 5PM, split into four sessions, built upon the Rebelution's three pillars of character, competence, and collaboration. Through the twins' three messages and their father's beautiful sermon of the gospel, forty young people and adults made professions of faith.

It was truly a blessing to be able to go back to the Dallas conference again. Alex and Brett, the founders of this movement, are going to college this fall but if they decide to do the Rebelution tour again, I highly recommend people of all ages, anyone with a desire to passionately live for Christ, to attend. They try to hold the tours in places where groups of states can access them in a matter of hours. If that's not a possibility, read their book Do Hard Things or visit their website www.therebelution.com. I believe you'll be truly blessed by this powerful message. May we all emphatically embrace this movement to forsake laziness and idleness that has become so praised and prevalent in our society and rather seek to ditch comfort and do hard this for the glory of God.