November 26, 2011

Reading with the Holy Spirit


Gently on my roof I hear the rain
It drips on down the window pane
My weary eyes gaze through the glass
I wait and hope this storm shall pass
This falling flood reflects my soul
Where deeply I have sensed a hole
It has come to where my body aches
Because so oft my heart does break
They say out yonder looms the sun
Oh I pray those days would come
That grey times from me would flee
And my heart instead be filled with glee
But indeed I know my need is more
Than my circumstances have in store
My deepest longing is for joy
But life's schemes are so coy
They steal from me that which I seek
And make my place here feel so bleak
In spite of this I thank the One
Who gave for me His only Son
And so I need not clear skies
I need the One who for me dies
To wreck my joy pain may endeavor
But my joy in Him endures forever
In circumstance it's found no longer
So even when the storm grows stronger
I know that I can still find peace
For at last I've been released
From this dark cloud inside my heart
And I am glad to with it part

November 23, 2011

Honor, Love, Fear.

“Honor all people.  Love the brotherhood.  Fear God.  Honor the king.”  1 Peter 2:17
I love that verse.  It’s in the middle of a section where Peter deals a lot with submission.  Submission to government, submission to masters, submission of wives to their husbands, and so on.  And I love this verse because in 11 words we’re told basically what we need to know in order to live our lives in a godly way.

“Honor all people.”  Do we do that?  No.  We judge people for the simple fact that they are different than us.  We condemn people because of their outward appearances.  We call people -who God created- ugly; or refer to them as a “waste of air.”  Really?  Is that congruent with how the Bible would speak of us?  Genesis 1:26-27 talks about God doing what?  Making man in His own image.  And in verse 31 He refers to that as “very good.”  Interesting.  God has declared that man being made in His own image is very good…and I call it ugly.  Now obviously, you can bring up the fact that in Genesis 3 man sins and the image of God in us is marred (Colossians 3:10 says it is being renewed in Christians).  But even at that, in our sinful state the Psalmist would still affirm that each of us is knitted together by God in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139).  We are still, each one of us, a unique creation of God.  A creation so valued an loved by Him, that in spite of our sinful rebellion and hatred of Him which made us His enemies (Romans 5:10), He loved us enough to send His Son to die in our place (John 3:16).  So if everyone is created by God…in His own image…and loved by Him so much that He sent His Son to be killed for them-what right do I have to despise those whom God has loved?  Do we confront sin in people’s lives?  Absolutely.  Do we have any right to do so in a condescending way?  No.  To do that simply makes you a Pharisee, for whom Jesus had some pretty harsh words.  We need to share God’s heart for this fallen and sinful world.  That is, not one of condemnation, but rather one of love and compassion.  Honor people so as not to be a stumbling block between them and the cross.

“Love the brotherhood.”  If we’re bad at honoring people, then we’re awful at loving the brotherhood.  The old joke is that Christian firing squads align in a circle.  Sad, but true.  We are far from the exhortation of Paul in Philippians 2:3-4, “Let nothing be done out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each not look out only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”  God loves everyone, but we see pretty clearly throughout Scripture that He has a special love for His people (Deuteronomy 10:14,15; Malachi 1:2,3; John 10:25-29; Ephesians 2:4,5; Revelation 21:3).  We need to look out for our brothers and sisters in Christ.  These are the people for whom Jesus loved so much as to bear the wrath of God on their account (Isaiah 53:7).  And I get mad at people and break fellowship because I don’t agree over what kind of music to play in church?  I judge my brothers and sisters for wearing sweatpants to church?  I get upset over the carpet being a little mud stained instead of being glad that the person with muddy boots is part of the fellowship?  We are no better than anyone else!  We all are wretched sinners and deserve the wrath of God; yet Christ took that on the cross for us…this should be the basis of our fellowship and our joy in each other!  In the book of Philippians, Paul’s most personal letter, we see a man who loves the ones he is writing to.  He has a deep, genuine affection for them.  Why?  Philippians 1:5 tells us it is because of their fellowship with him in the gospel.  Jesus is what unifies us.  The church so often looks like the world.  Our friendships are based on common interests and experiences.  We hang out with people because we like the same things or do the same things.  Be it football, baseball, hunting, fishing, knitting, sewing, cars, beer, photography, gossip, coffee, technology, of course this list could run on for days.  But all of these things change.  Our interests change.  Our experiences change.  Where we live can change.  All of these superficial basis’s of commonality and friendship are shifting and will change.  (Which, I believe is perhaps one of the strongest arguments against age-segregated Sunday School, Bible studies, etc….but that will wait for another day).  What doesn’t change?  God.  And what He has done for us, in Jesus.  That is the only constant, firm, unmoving foundation for our relationships.  We need to love as Christ has first loved us. And this must first extend to the body of believers.

“Fear God.”  This echoes Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”  Now I could not tell you how many times I have heard it said that this doesn’t mean fear, but simply “respect” or “awe.”  So, in light of that, a few years ago I decided to bust out the old concordance and check out both the Greek and Hebrew words…and I found out this really funny thing…the both meant “fear.”  Could respect and awe be included?  Absolutely.  But the basic meaning was to have a real and literal fear.  Should we not?  Correct me if I am in error, but if I-a small, tiny, miniscule creation-have offended the Almighty, Omnipotent, Sovereign, Creator God of the universe…I have reason to fear.  Especially in the knowledge that He is just and hates sin.  Now, I also know that Christ has died for me, propitiating God’s wrath towards me (Romans 3:25), and because of this there is no condemnation for me (Romans 8:1), and I can boldly approach the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16).  But I still ought to be working out my “salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).  I need to be ever mindful of both my sinfulness and God’s mercy.  And aware of the fact that His mercy has given me not the ability to sin freely, but to freely follow Him (Romans 6:1-2, 14; 1 Peter 2:16).

“Honor the king.”  The rampant absence of this among the “Christian right” is quite honestly a very shameful thing.  People bomb abortion clinics, slander the President, bash homosexuals, and chastise as unpatriotic or un-American anyone with whom the disagree (there recently has been the development of the “Christian left“ as well…they are present at protests such as Occupy Wall Street, etc…this group another set of problems equally as great.   Perhaps I will address those at another point).  All of this under the guise of “protecting Christian values.”  Do not get me wrong.  I am in no way for apathy, pacifism, or sitting idly by while the government grows out of control.  We have a very unique situation in our country where we have not only the opportunity, but truly the responsibility to stand up for what is right and to work for the changes which may be necessary.  We can elect people to office who agree with our values, and we charge them with the responsibility to carry out their duties in a way that represents us well.  What I am saying is that to disrespect and slander those who are in authority is totally, completely, categorically, and undeniably unbiblical.  You cannot look at Romans 13, 1 Peter 2, and other places and with any intellectual honesty say to dishonor or disobey authority is “okay.”  (There are some obvious exceptions, such as in the case that we are told not to preach the Gospel…but we’d have to be doing that before anyone would be telling us not to).  God Himself has established authority.  At times to bless a nation, at other times to judge it.  Does that make them good?  No.  Does that mean that just because he is President now I will be voting for President Obama’s reelection in 2012?  Nope.  But we need to get over the idea that we are the center of the universe and anything we disagree with or think is wrong is okay to be slandered, ripped to shreds, or disrespected and dishonored.  The people writing the Bible lived under some of the worst dictators in the Roman empire.  Peter himself was executed under Nero.  Yet, he is the one saying “Honor the King.”  We need to bear these things in mind.

In summary, I think the big point is that we are to follow our God.  We are to reflect His character.  We are to esteem Him above all else, and others above ourselves.  Do we call out sin?  Yes.  Can we do so in what at times is a mocking way?  I think there is a time and a place for that, sometimes even Jesus’ used satire to illustrate the absurdity of our sin.  Should we work for social reforms and desire godly leaders for our cities, states, and countries?  For sure.  But of far more importance is the message of the Gospel.  Christ and Him crucified.  God reconciling man to Himself on account of Jesus.  We need to be lights to this dark world.  That starts by loving God, pours out into loving His people, and overflows into loving this world that so desperately needs Him.

November 15, 2011

A world of resources...

Hey folks.
This isn't meant to be a lengthy post full of original thought, I just want to point out a few things that perhaps ought to be obvious, but are often times overlooked, especially by your truly.

We live in a world full of informational resources.  By that I mean that you have, at your fingertips, on your PC, laptop, phone, tablet, etc., more access to information than any other generation in history.  In a matter of seconds you have the ability to pull up resources on topics that would have taken you days or months of library searching to amass information on just 20 years ago.  That is crazy, isn't it?  How much crazier is it, then, that we fail to utilize this?  I personally tend to be a little puzzled by people when they claim they want to know more about something but just don't know where to look.  Hello, the world is at your fingertips, this is the 21st Century.  But instead of ripping people's laziness to shreds...which I am apt to do...but rather, I want to suggest that there are a multitude of resources that you not only can utilize, but rather you ought to utilize.  That being said, there is also a lot of garbage out there.  So I want to offer you some suggestions of websites and a few books that I have found profoundly helpful.  Is a collection of resources, primarily from John Piper.  Hundreds of video and audio sermons, transcripts, articles, essays, interviews, and poems.  A ministry branch of Mars Hill Church in Seattle devoted to information for leaders.  Tons and tons of info on everything from music, to preaching, to church planting, to counseling, and beyond.  Incredibly helpful.  Another collection of resources, ranging from video sermons, many interviews and round table discussions, along with articles and blogs.  Focused on the proclamation of the Gospel.  If you appreciate the ministry of Mark Driscoll...which I certainly do, this is the place to find all his content in one spot.

This is just a very small selection of the many, many resources available online.  As for books, I would highly suggest the following:

Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe, by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears

The Holiness of God, by R.C. Sproul

Don't Waste Your Life, by John Piper

Pierced by the Word, by John Piper

A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible, by Robert Stein

For those of you who know me know I'm a book nerd...I tried to restrict these five to books that anyone can read, and all of which were exceptionally helpful for me in such a way that I believe they also will be to you.

With any of these things, there is another caution to give.  It is very easy to become so saturated in "Christian stuff" that we forget about the Bible and the God of the Bible.  Our primary source of spiritual food, as it were, needs to be Scripture.  God has given us the revelation of Himself in written form; I can read every book published and read every article written, and listen to every sermon preached-but if I am not reading the revelation of God Himself and praying for the Holy Spirit to open my eyes to it's truth, then all the rest of it is mute.  So view these things as resources to help you understand what God has said and what it means, and how it applies in your life, but do not ever let it replace time in God's Word.  That being said, I encourage you all to take advantage of these things that God has blessed us with in the 21st Century.  I am grateful for these things, they are gifts.  Use them wisely.

About Me

Follower of Jesus. Husband of one. Father of four. Pastor at Remsen Bible Fellowship (