"God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him in the midst of loss, not prosperity." --John Piper

Friday, January 13, 2012

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Good stuff from Colossians

I have started reading Tullian Tchividjian's book, "Jesus + Nothing = Everything." At the same time, I am listening to Matt Chandler preach through Colossians. Kind of a double whammy, since Tullian takes a lot of what he says from Colossians. Anyway, here are some thoughts/quotes from the first 3 sermons by Matt.

  • You can't love God and hate the church. (But that doesn't mean you have to agree with everything that is going on in current Evangelical churches either).
  • According to the Bible, it is not just your badness that falls short, it is your goodness too. (So just showing up for church doesn't give me any brownie points? What about all the pain I am going through! Has God heard my preacher?)
  • We don't do good works to fall in love with God, we fall in love and then do good works. (Just like obeying the speed limit really doesn't make me love that cop sitting behind that sign.)
I obey the speed limit because I don't want a ticket. If that is all there is to my religion, I fear that I am just wasting my time. If I don't see God as beautiful, I would feel just as out of place in heaven as I do when my wife hosts a Pampered Chef party. And I don't think that is any way to spend eternity. Do you?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Reasons 5-8

I want to finish up my post on the 8 reasons to read your Bible, as shared by our pastor.

My original post is here.

5.  So I can get the most out of life. (Josh 1:8)
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

Sounds like a verse that Joel Osteen would quote. It is not that I do not believe God's promises, it is our interpretation of them I struggle with. Instead of Joel, how would John the Baptist interpret this verse? Remember him? The one about whom Jesus said, "Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." (Mt 11:11) This man was the ultimate prophet, yet he was imprisoned and his life sold for a lap dance. I think it is a matter of perspective. I think that John did get the most out of life. I just think that most people would not interpret this statement in that manner. I have heard my pastor preach, and I don't think he would either.

6.  So I can know what is true. (Acts 17:11)
Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

There is no greater tool for truth than God's word. If only we didn't let our preconceptions get in the way so often.

7.  So I can be close to God and learn from Him.(Heb 10:22)
let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

I love this verse, but not sure how this snippet of a much larger section is appropriate here. Read the entire paragraph! He is talking about a life style here, not just 10-20 minutes of reading and a journal entry on the "zinger" verse. He is talking about the confidence we can now have because of what Christ has done for us, and how that confidence should change us and the way we treat others. Perhaps more appropriate would be Deut. 5:6 "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." which conveys the very essence of our faith. Yet I remember a man who knew this verse and quoted it to Jesus and was then told that he was close to the kingdom of God. I find that one of the saddest verses in the Bible, because while we were told that he was close, we never know if he made it. I want to be more than close.

8.  So I will have hope. (Rom 15:4)
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Read the entire paragraph here. It is not that reading the Scriptures shouldn't give us hope, it is just that the hope should not end on us, but rather it has the purpose of changing us so that we might glorify God by how we live and treat others.

So I will end with this...Read your Bible, whether it be on a plan or not. A lover of God should want to know all that he or she can about the object of their love. In fact, if all you do is attend church, tithe, and even do read your Bible, but do it in a sense that you are fulfilling your obligation to God, then I think you need to question your love for Him and maybe even question your salvation. (You won't hear that coming out of our pulpit on a Sunday.) Selah.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Reasons 3 & 4

I want to quickly touch on numbers 3 and 4 of our pastor's reasons to read the Bible.

3.  So I will not sin. (Ps 119:11)
"I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you."

Bible reading is a great place to start when it comes to not sinning against God. Knowing God and His ways, and seeing Him for who He truly is should keep us from sinning against Him, shouldn't it? So how come it didn't work out that way for David when it came to Bathsheba? I think the answer lies in Ps 119:10:
"With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!"
Verse 11 must be understood in light of verse 10. It is not just storing up God's Word that keeps us from sin, it is storing up His Word because of our great love for Him. Without that part, it is just a legalistic trap that will only make us think more of ourselves than we ought.

4.  So I can find comfort. (Ps 119:52)
"When I think of your rules from of old, I take comfort, O LORD."

Yes, there are times when I find comfort in reading the word of God. And yet, there are times when I find it down right uncomfortable too. Especially some of those red-letter words of Christ. I find comfort in a Savior who loves me and gave Himself for me. But I get a bit squeemish when He calls me to carry my cross and die to myself. Rules I can live with. But if reading the Bible doesn't make me a bit uncomfortable at times, I question if I am reading it right.

Reason 2

As I continue to blog about our pastor's 8 reasons to read the Bible, we come to #2.

Reason #2: So my decisions will be wise. (Ps 32:8)

Ps 32:8 
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.


Reading the Bible to become wiser is an admirable goal. I think I might have used He 4:12 or James 1:5 or James 3:17 as a proof text, but perhaps that is being picky.

Wisdom is an admirable thing. Unfortunately, wisdom is not guaranteed just because one reads the Bible. When I think of wisdom, I think of Solomon. When given the chance to have anything his heart desired, he asked for wisdom. Yet even Solomon made his share of mistakes. I think the counsel that I get from here is that with wisdom comes responsibility. We preach about change, and how we can achieve it, but change does not come just from the desire for change. Our President should be able to tell you that. Change is a desirable message, but without a new heart, change is only surface and will not last.

Our Youth Pastor confirmed this yesterday as he preached. He concluded with an impassioned plea to get on board with the reading program. Yet he also confessed his previous experiences with such plans and how they always fizzled out after a period of time.

Reading the Bible to achieve wisdom is admirable. But perhaps even more admirable is to first lay yourself at the foot of the cross. I have always liked the way the Message Bible translates Proverbs 1:7,

Start with God—the first step in learning is bowing down to God;
only fools thumb their noses at such wisdom and learning.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Reason 1

I want to address the 8 reasons our church's pastor has given as to why one should read the Bible.

Reason 1: So my prayers will be answered. (Jn 15:7)

John 15:7 reads... "If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you."

So is what Jesus was saying here is, "If you read my word, your prayers will be answered?" Or is He speaking of something much more demanding. He is not talking about reading the Bible, He is talking about abiding in Him and His word. ABIDING. Living, dwelling, growing in these things. Doing them, and not just reading about them.

Again I want to emphasize that I am not against reading the Bible, and some people do well with reading plans. Good for them. And some people just read.

I think it is a mistake to think that because we read the Bible, God will do a better job of answering our prayers. I believe it borders on prosperity theology. And it is selfish.

This verse belongs on a coffee cup, and it probably is on some. But it is not a proof text for Bible reading.

At least that is my opinion.

Added 1/2: I kept thinking about the Lord's Prayer after I posted this. "Thy will be done." If we always pray with an attitude of thy will be done, will our prayers ever go unanswered? So perhaps instead of praying to get our prayers answered, we should read the Bible to get a better understanding of prayer and how to pray.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

He would have been 49 today.

I stopped in my insurance agent today, and had to sign a paper. When I hesitated before putting the date, she said, "It's the 29th." I responded with a "sheesh." and she said, "Yes, the year has gone fast."

But my "sheesh" came for a different reason. My brother would have been 49 today. He died several years ago of an intentional overdose. He just couldn't take being an addict anymore. It was so bad that he chose to take his life over it. So much for drugs being an escape from one's problems.

I do not know his eternal destiny, although things don't look good. He was antagonistically agnostic. He had a Buddha in his house, but when questioned about Buddhism, he admitted he did not really know much about it. I think it was mostly there to antagonize any Christians who might enter, like me.

He tried 12 step programs, but they don't work so well when you refuse to have anything to do with a higher-power. And yet, he believed in something. He was, among other things, a mountain climber. He said once, "You can't stand on a mountain and look around and say this all happened by chance. There has to be a creator."

Yet, he didn't like the creator. He didn't want to have anything to do with a god who would let children starve, or any of the other seemingly unexplainable miseries that befall mankind.

Brother, you are still loved and missed. I wish we could have talked more, although I don't know if it would have changed anything. I wish you peace. I pray that in those last moments, you wrestled with God and lost, that you might win something greater.

Why don't I like what I see?

Jesus asked Peter, "Do you love me?" and Peter replied, "Yeah, sure, Lord. I like ya."

This comes to mind because our church is encouraging a Bible reading plan for this year. Now, I am all for Bible reading, but it is their motivation for the plan that concerns me. Here are their "8 good reasons to listen to God daily through His Word:

  1. So my prayers will be answered. (Jn 15:7)
  2. So my decisions will be wise. (Ps 32:8)
  3. So I will not sin. (Ps 119:11)
  4. So I can find comfort. (Ps 119:52)
  5. So I can get the most out of life. (Josh 1:8)
  6. So I can know what is true. (Acts 17:11)
  7. So I can be close to God and learn from Him.(Heb 10:22)
  8. So I will have hope. (Rom 15:4)
 On the surface, these all sound like great things. But why is it I keep hearing, "Yeah, sure, Lord, we like ya." 

Like I stated already, I am all for the reading of God's word, and I think it is powerful and can transform lives. But I also know that the scribes and pharisees were very devout in their knowledge and reading of God's Word, and that didn't work out so well for them.

Jesus question holds the answer. "Do you love me?" What is our motivation for reading the Word? Is it for what I will get out of it? Or is it because I love God and desperately want to draw closer to Him? Mere obedience does not bring about change. I (try to) obey the speed limit, but that does not make me love the police. I do it to not exact the consequence.

I guess that is why I think of this passage when I heard about the reading plan. I have contacted the pastor about some of the statements I hear from the pulpit. He puts me off for months. When he finally does talk to me, he promises to pray about it and get back with me. What he does is then send me a letter saying that if I do not have full confidence in his preaching, perhaps I should find another church. He follows that up with a meeting with myself and a couple of elders. No mention is made of my questions, just a meeting to say that we need to get along and start over. I left for a few weeks, but decided that I should not allow this bullying to chase me away from a church. I now attend again, but listen to my i-pod during sermons. Although many have seen this, no one questions anything. (What elephant in the room?)

"If you love me, feed my sheep."

"Yeah, sure, Lord, we like ya."

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Late night ramblings...why I won't give up

I am lucky to post 1 to 3 times a month these days. A far cry from what I am used to. Several reasons. The main being life is so busy right now. Work load is awful, father-in-law not doing well, mother-in-law driving everyone crazy. Wife struggling with her father's decline and mother's expectations (they live with us). Oldest son lives out of state, and we are not sure how he is really doing. The list goes on. And through it all, our church ignores us, treats us like outcasts or as non-existent, and just lives in a glory that isn't really there at all.

And yet, I believe in a sovereign God. So I can smile sometimes during the day. I can continue to praise Him, even though times are tougher than I would like. (Take that, Joel Osteen!) Like Job, I am sure that some would just advise me to curse God and die (or quit or leave or find another church). But my God allows me to stay, even in the midst of trials. Somehow, I should be glorifying Him through all of this, and I pray that I am. I do not seek to be a martyr, but I dare not run either.

Contrary to what I read in the Purpose Driven sequel called SHAPE, it is not my strengths and abilities that honor God, but it is my weaknesses and inabilities. It is the things that drop me to my knees that draw me to Him. Maybe I don't have the most read, coolest, most techno-savy blog. But maybe I touch a heart or two. Maybe I don't lead a platoon to Christ, but maybe I just fill the gaps that God desires I fill.

Just a little late night rambling from a man who is tired, but who clings to a faith that will not let me down, and a God who cannot fail.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I have really done this, and still do it!

We had been in limbo for a while, searching for a place to worship. We either had issues with doctrine or theology or both. So we tried worshipping a home, but felt something was missing.

We decided to go back where we had previously worshipped, even though we felt the preaching sucks. Really, I can't think of a politically correct word for what I hear. Like recently, two of points were that 1) We should trust the promiser and not his promises; and 2) We should focus on the relationship and not the results.

But why would I trust a promiser who does not keep his promises? Why does God make promises and swear by Himself? I need to trust His promises, not as I understand them, but as He gives them. God is completely faithful. And to tell me not to trust in His promises belittles Him.

And why have a relationship and not consider the results? Unless we go in with selfish motives and then of course we will be unhappy. One of the greatest things about a true relationship with God is the result of the changed life I have as a result. That is why I seek a relationship, because I know God is good and I trust in Him.

So what have I done to resolve my dilemma? I use my i-pod during services to listen to preachers that uplift God rather than try to sell some god to me that needs to have someone give excuses for his imperfections. Really. And the preacher has seen me with them in. And no one says a word about it. Now, I must have had them a little loud a couple of weeks ago, because the little old lady in the row in front of me looked back at me a few times, but no one has said a word in the 4 weeks we have been back. Because if you ignore the elephant in the room, it isn't there, is it?

Why go back if it is that bad? Because we have made some connections there that will likely fade if we leave, and we don't feel that we should have to give them up. Strong, gospel centered connections.

Maybe someday they will talk to me. Maybe someday I will have an opportunity to say something that will change them. I am going to leave that in God's hands. I am not seeking to create controversy, but you really can't have a controversy if one party refuses to participate. I just want to worship.

Maybe I do need to turn up the volume a bit more though.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

D is for Death

Jesus said to live for Him, we must die to self. That is so contrary to what we hear today in our churches.

When did Jesus have a hog roast, carnival, picnic, basketball team, or other event just to draw in new members. Yes, I know about the feeding of the 5,000, but read it, it was not a membership draw. In fact, after feeding them, he tells them they were only there for the food! Harsh!

But as I read through the gospels, I see a lot of harsh teachings. That is about the only place I see harsh teaching, in the church it is often non-existant or buried in a load of fluff.

Dying is not a pretty thought. But perhaps we need to get over that idea. Carrying a cross is not a pretty thought, but we are told to do that too. But the cross we carry too often has wheels on it, and padding where it touches our shoulder. Blisters and blood would turn people off, and that crown of thorns is over the top.

All that talk about turning the other cheek, going the extra mile...

D is for death, but I will have to blog more about that later...my carpal tunnel is kicking in and it hurts to type too much. (No, I don't have carpal tunnel, I am being sarcastic).

Sunday, November 6, 2011

C is for Christ

Matthew 16:16
16Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Matthew 16:22
22And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you."

I am often intrigued by Peter. One moment calling Him the Christ, and the next, rebuking Him. How could Peter do that.

Then I look at me. Haven't I accepted Him as Lord of my life? Don't I confess Him as Christ. So why is it that I often want to rebuke Him? Isn't that what I do every time I take matters into my own hands? If He is Lord, He should be in control. If I confess He is Christ, don't I also confess that I am not?

Aren't I just like Peter, walking on the water, looking around and seeing all the turmoil, and starting to sink. I need to see Him as more than just my Savior, I need Christ.

Monday, October 10, 2011

B is for Beautiful

God is beautiful. How can He not be? He is perfect in all ways. I cannot imagine what it will be like to someday behold Him, although the thought puts both joy and fear in me. I know that some would disagree with me here. What about evil? What about disease and starvation and poverty and death? Are these not a reflection of our creator, if indeed we are created? And I could argue about the birth of a child, the sunset, the blooming of a rose, a cool, starry evening. But it is not a competition of which is greater. I don't understand all of creation, but I know that I am not at its center. He is beautiful in my eyes because I see Him. Looking at anything else is just a distraction.

I sometimes wonder what kind of parents these people are, who fault God for the calamities that befall man. Are they the kind of parents who only give their children good, even if they do not deserve it? Do they pat the child on the back after he has just taken a knife and carved their name in the walls of the house or the dining table and say, "Look how cute? I wonder what he could do if we gave him a chainsaw?" Or do they come home and ask their child how to spend their paycheck? Surely, if there is a God, He has the right to make creation as He sees fit. And it does not take away from His beauty any more than my deciding how to spend my paycheck takes away from my love for my children.

Kids have such a funny concept of money. I remember when my oldest son was much younger. We drove by a house and he thought we should buy it. Trying to deter him, I said that house must cost $100,000! He said, no problem, had $100, if I had the $1,000. I wish it worked that way, I'd own more real estate. But I explained to him it would take 100-thousand dollar bills, and that was a lot. We drove on, him understanding a bit more about finances, me amused at his understanding.

God is beautiful. Perfect in ways I cannot understand. He does things I sometimes wish were done in other ways. But He is infinite in knowledge, I am finite. But if you have a house you want to sell for about $100,000.00, I have $100...and I am sure I can get a loan for the $1,000. Do we have a deal?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A is for Almighty

God is God. There is nothing that I can do to change that. Even unbelief does not change that. God knows this. He is not threatened by me or any other individual for that matter. That is one thing that makes Him such an awesome God.

He is the Almighty, the creator of Heaven and Earth. He alone is worthy of all worship and praise.

And this Almighty God loves me. Now, I shouldn't let that go to my head. His love gives me a reason to live, but it does not make me more important than anyone else.

I say this because I need to be reminded of it. I look at all of the philosophies and thrologies that are out there, and I make a conscious effort to choose what I believe is right. I hear a lot about how God is love. But I have to wonder how His love is different from my idea of love. His love is not just a gushy feeling, but it encompasses things like justice and judgment. It has to, or it would not be love.

He is Almighty, and I am not. He wants my praise, but He will not compromise who He is to get it. Nor will He be changed if He does not. God does not change. He is not like the fickle people we are, who alter our behavior if something or someone does not cater to Him. He is God.

I guess that is why reformed theology appeals to me. I used to think so much less of God. I used to think that my importance to Him could change Him. But that is unscriptural. I used to think that He was content with whatever I had to offer. Imagine, an Almighty God who was impressed by my returning his sixpence. How much more beautiful to think of Him as a Father who looks and the sixpence and smiles, lovingly, knowing it is a gift from the heart. How much more damning that He is also the Almighty God who knows when it is not. I cannot fool Him, even if I fool myself.

A is for Almighty.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pat Robertson and Love

I read a few days ago a few posts about Pat Robertson's comment regarding a man who wanted to divorce his wife because she had Alzheimer's. In case you did not hear, Pat Robertson (supposedly, I did not hear the comments myself) said that the man should go ahead and divorce her.

When his co-anchor asked if this broke his wedding vows, Pat responded that vows were "until death do us part, and this is a kind of death."

Does this bother anyone? While I am sure Pat took some heat for this, is this just a non-issue for most folks. Isn't Pat just stating what our itching ears want to hear? Isn't he just stating what most of us practice in some form or another? Isn't he just stating our truth. When the going gets tough, the tough find a loophole or a justification for their actions.

  • We live in time of economic crisis. Will borrowing more money really get us out of this mess?
  • We see the poor and afflicted. What do we do to help them in Jesus' name? Not even a cup of cold water?
  • We make vows to our spouses. We tell them we love them. But when that beauty fades or they are no longer of service to us, we cast them aside. Was not the person we loved really ourselves? As long as we get what we want, we love and stay together. Was that the vow we took?
It is no wonder that non-Christians are not affected by us. We don't clothe ourselves in Christ, we just put on a t-shirt that says, "I love Jesus because saying so gets me into heaven." Problem is, we have never read the back of the shirt. It says, "I wanted to go to heaven, but all I got was this lousy t-shirt!"