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

Saturday, November 27, 2010

How not to start a new ministry

Don't randomly call people who don't already know what they want. (John 1:38)

Don't let people know about your past. (John 1:46)

Don't talk about the subject of alcohol. (John 2:9-11)

Don't mess with traditions that are in place. (John 2:15)

Don't tell it like it really is (John 2:24-25)

Don't do any of these things, unless you want to be like Jesus.

I wonder, if Jesus were starting a ministry today, would it look like our ministries? Would he put a coffee bar in a large building where he encouraged everyone to meet on Sunday? What would he talk about? Would he worry if people were offended? Would he judge his success by how many came?

I was just wondering.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Follow him

Jn 1:35-39

John the Baptist has baptized Jesus, and sees him walking by. John was with 2 of his disciples, and he nudges them and points to Jesus. "Behold, the Lamb of God."

What would you say if you were one of the disciples with John? We have no record if they said anything at all. Just that they heard and left him to follow Jesus. I wonder if this was John's intent, to show them who they should really be following. Had there been conversations? After all, John was sent to prepare the way. Was a part of that preparation getting these specific men ready to follow Jesus. Was this John's way of saying, "What are you waiting for, there He is!"

Jesus turns and sees them following and asks an interesting question, one that they don't answer, "What are you seeking?" I think it is a legitimate question, especially since He knew who He was, and at this point they really don't understand all of the implications of who He was.

I wonder what my answer would have been, had Jesus asked me that question on the day I began to follow Him. I wonder if, like the disciples, I would have not said anything. I don't know what I am seeking, Rabbi, but there is just something about you.

So they (the disciples) instead ask him where He is staying. Jesus replies, "Come and you will see."

They did not know what they were getting themselves into. They probably didn't even know what they were looking for. But they were willing to take the risk. They saw something that drew them in.

I wonder if it still shouldn't be that way today. Just Christians living like Jesus, drawing in followers by lives that reveal the glory of God. Not everyone is going to follow, Jesus didn't bat 100% either. But it didn't change who He was or how He approached others. As a matter of fact, He sometimes said the hard things that drove people away. I believe you might call that "pruning."

So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It must have been enough, for they continued to follow him even after that day.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

This is what I am talking about...

Hosea 8:14 "For Israel has forgotten his Maker and built palaces..."

Hosea 10:13 "You have plowed iniquity; you have reaped injustice; you have eaten the fruit of lies. Because you have trusted in your own way and in the multitude of your warriors."

Hosea 13:4 "But I am the LORD your God from the land of Egypt; you know no God by me, and besides me there is no savior."

Hosea 14:9 "...for the ways of the LORD are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them."

Something to be thankful for

Hosea 6:1,2
"Come, let us return to the LORD;
for he has torn us, that he may heal us;
he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.
After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live before him.Let us know;
let us press on to know the LORD;
his going out is sure as the dawn;
he will come to us as the showers,
as the spring rains that water the earth.

Thanks that we can be restored to the LORD.
Thanks that he will heal us.
Thanks that he will raise US up. More on this in a bit.
Thanks that we may live before him.
Thanks that we may know him.
Thanks for the rains and showers.

I love that it says that on the third day he will raise US up. My mind immediately goes to the cross, and how on the third day he rose Christ from the dead. But in doing so, His purpose was to raise us up as well. I don't need to get a big head about that, and think that I am more important that I am, but I should be extremely humbled and thankful for that.

Praise God.

And Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

For crying out loud

I wasn't able to attend church service yesterday (probably a good thing), but I did have the opportunity to listen to the speaker's message. (I say speaker because preachers preach about Jesus, don't they?

He spoke of "Disciplining Your Child." He talked about 4 types of disciplining styles. He gave four benefits of discipline. He listed 4 ways to discipline. He gave an invitation at the end.

That's how people know they are in church.

Had I been there and had been wearing a robe, I am sure I would have torn it. Does tearing a polo shirt have the same impact?

Hosea 5:4 "Their deeds do not permit them to return to God. For the spirit of whoredom is within them, and they do not know the LORD."

What was their sin? It was making things other than God ultimate. Now I am sure that some do not like the use of the word whore. Talk to God, it was His illustration, not mine.

I am not really sure what needs to be said here, but I hope that God will guide me to say it when the time is right. Pray for me!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Tough words.

Hosea 4:6 "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children."

In some regards, I don't think you can say this about the American church culture. We have more knowledge floating around out there than is comprehensible. I don't think that is what God is concerned about, the quantity of the knowledge. I think he is more concerned about the quality, is it really knowledge, or is it the latest psycho-babble wrapped in a Scripture text?

Because many have rejected the truth, the knowledge that comes from God, and have followed whatever tickles ears, you will stumble (see 4:5).

But that is not us, because our church is growing. Read on...

(Vs. 7) "The more they increased, the more they sinned against me; I will change their glory into shame."

So maybe it is not talking about church growth, but rather their own supposed intelletual growth. Yet I see a parallel.

The writers of the New Testament warn us to guard our doctrine. Not the doctrine of a particular denomination, but the teachings of Christ. Yet so much of what is taught in not centered in Christ, but rather wrapped in a layer or two of Christianity.

To quote Mark Driscoll, "...if we ever study anything and don't connect it to Jesus, we are bound to get into a lot of trouble."


Thursday, November 18, 2010

I am geting married!

Hosea 2:19-20 "And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD."

God is speaking those words, and He is speaking them to a whore. He is speaking them to Isreal. He is speaking them to me! Gomer was the wife Hosea took after God told him to "take a wife of whoredom." And she was a living parable of Israel. And I figured out a long time ago that Israel is just a living parable of me.

So those words are amazing. They are life-giving. They put the free in freedom.

I'll bet they would preach pretty good on a Sunday morning too.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

You want me to what???

The book of Hosea fascinates me. If you don't know, God tells the prophet Hosea to "take yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom". (1:2) Wow, that cannot be the message of the Lord, can it?

It can be, and it was.

So Hosea did it. I have to wonder what he was thinking? Was he glad in any way? Did he think this was a good thing? That he was in for a good time? That he was going to convert this woman? Was she a looker? Was he just like most men, thinking more with his manhood than his brain?

And a son was conceived. And then a daughter. His name was Jezreel, and her name was No Mercy. Then the next son was named Not My People. That kind of name can't do a lot for your self-esteem.

But in Chapter 1, it is verse 7 that strikes me the most.

"But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the Lord their God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or horsemen."

Sounds like God had a plan. A plan that would demonstrate who He is. A plan that could not be attributed to anything other than the greatness and the grace of God. A plan that is out of man's power, a plan that only God could do. Maybe like the plan that He also had in mind when He sent His Son.

Sounds like a good plan.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

...and tonight's secret ingredient is...

Galatians 6:14 "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."

Have you ever seen that cooking show where the man unveils the secret ingredient? "...and tonights secret ingredient is...SUSHI!" Then the competitors must create a dish or meal around the secret ingredient? Imagine if one of the competitors went to work, creating a fantastic meal, but did not include any sushi. So when he stood before the judges at the end, what should he expect? Perhaps he might argue that he didn't really care for sushi. I doubt that would change their decision.

And when we stand in judgment, what will we say if we have ignored the cross. Do you really think God will accept something like, "But I really don't care for the cross. That whole Mel Gibson thing was so gross. But I got everything else right."

Without the cross, nothing else is right. Nothing.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Running a good race

Based on Galatians 5:7-12

The Galatians had started out on the right foot. They were "running a good race." The picture I see here is of a marathon runner who has kept a good pace, is running with a good strategy. One that is not too fast or too slow, but will give them a good chance of finishing and even winning the race.

But someone cut in on them. Maybe it was a supposedly slower runner who wasn't supposed to be so good. So they doubted their strategy. Maybe they needed to pick up the pace, do something different.

Doesn't that sound like the way that Satan works? Faith? How do you expect to get to heaven merely on faith? Look, see my works? See how God has blessed me? God wants more than just faith. Now if you will just send a $20 seed gift of faith, then God will surely bless you. If you will tithe and even throw in some extra, surely that will make an impression on God. If you will throw away that beer and wine, that is what God wants from you. If you will...

That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.

Paraphrase: Jesus wouldn't ask you to do that.

Huh? Didn't Jesus say, "go the extra mile?" Didn't he say, "to marry a woman who was divorced is adultery?" Didn't he say to the rich young man, "Go and sell all you have, then come and follow me?"

Yes, he said all of those things and more. But always in the context of "and that still isn't enough." Jesus understood and taught that it is not the act that saves us, it is our heart, our faith. And real faith demands a response. No response is valid unless done out of faith.

If I am confident in my strategy, seeing a slower runner in front of me does not make me doubt myself.

That silly circumcision group, trying to bring the law back into that which only comes by grace! If I am required to do anything to obtain salvation, then why the cross?

Paul makes an interesting statement in verse 11. "If I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted?" In other words, if I give in and just preach what they want me to, then why all the hubub? If I preach a cross-less message, all will be well with these trouble-makers. And heck, that sells much better anyway. But I can't do that. Because a cross-less message is meaningless for salvation. It might make for a better community, but it is meaningless for salvation.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Its half-time!

Galatians 5:1 states, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."

Why is it that Christians are more often defined by what we don't do than by anything else? Don't smoke, don't chew, don't date the girls who do.

Paul doesn't seem to think too much of this idea either. Stand firm (in Christ, not in legalism), and do NOT let yourselves be burdened by a yoke of slavery.

He goes on to say that "if you let yourselves by circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all." Could that be stated any stronger???

It is not about circumcision, it is about depending on anything other than Christ. Remember Jesus' statement that we "cannot serve two masters?" (Matt 6:24) I don't think that this only refers to money! I do not think we can serve the law and Christ either. I think Paul agrees

To depend on the law, any law, any set of do's and don'ts, only alienates us from Christ. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. (Vs. 6)

So why do it? One reason comes to mind, fear. Fear that grace alone isn't really enough. Fear that God really will hold us accountable for our deeds. Fear that there really is a good/bad scale when we stand before God in judgment.

What is it that Isaiah says about our righteous acts? Calling them filthy rags? How does that play out on a balance scale? (Is. 64:6)

Or is it a fear of leadership as well? If we don't tell people to tithe, we might not have enough income. If we don't tell people to stay away from R rated movies (except ones about the death of Christ), they might go (and like them). Or perhaps it is just easier to preach works rather than the Gospel?

I am not advocating not doing good works. What I am saying is that any works not born out of faith and love are a wasted effort. And if any works born out of faith and love are meaningless, then wouldn't it make sense to spend more time on the why than on the how?

I wonder how many coaches spend their half-time talks going over the fundamentals? Don't they rather talk about the motivation to win? Isn't that how we get ordinary people to do extra-ordinary things?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The basics of the Gospel

I posted this a while back, and was watching it again. Man is it powerful. Hard to watch this and think about church tomorrow. I think of the girl he sat with, and it makes me think of sitting next to my brother who was addicted to heroine. At least Matt realized how awful the message was...it took me a while to do the same.

And if you watched the first, here is another....

Sometimes the truth hurts

Galatians 4:16 "Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?"

Paul had brought the Gospel to the Galatians, and they had received it with joy. They had received Paul with joy as well. If they could have, they would have torn out their own eyes and given them to Paul.

What happened?

Paul had left for a while, and humanness took over. Instead of clinging to the Gospel, the law crept back in. Their joy disappated as they forgot about that which is primary, and again focused on themselves and the law. And Paul doesn't hold back in letting them know the error of their way. So much so, that he fears it might make him their enemy.

But Paul does not let that fear hold him back. Because the truth is more important. It is almost as if he fears God more than men.

Verse 17 "Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them."

They wanted to turn it into a popularity contest. Paul knew all about being zealous, both for the right reasons and the wrong reasons.

If being zealous were all that mattered, Paul would have been saved as a Jew. But he wasn't. If fact, God delivered him from that state. Delivered him from knowing the law to knowing Christ. And Paul didn't want to go back at any cost, because he knew where he belonged. And he wanted the Galatians to know it too.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Found this over at the Mockingbird blog.

So I found myself wondering....

Is it ironic or is it fitting that the Capitol Building is seen in the background of this song? What do you think?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Found this quote on Jarod Wilson's blog (he was quoting Martin Luther). Read it several times and finally thought I needed to post it on my blog. Not because I want you to read it, but because when I look back at old posts, as I do from time to time, I want to see this again.
The heart of man finds it difficult to believe that so great a treasure as the Holy Ghost is gotten by the mere hearing of faith. The hearer likes to reason like this: Forgiveness of sins, deliverance from death, the gift of the Holy Ghost, everlasting life are grand things. If you want to obtain these priceless benefits, you must engage in correspondingly great efforts. And the devil says, "Amen."
Yeah, I need to be reminded of this from time to time.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Where did my joy go?

Galatians 4:15 "What has happened to your joy? I can testify that , if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me."

When Paul first gave the Gospel to the Galatians, they were overwhelmed with joy. They loved the Gospel and they loved Paul for sharing it with them. I find that awesome. They loved it so much they would have torn out their own eyes and given them to Paul.

"Here, Paul, you take these eyes. Yours do not seem to be functioning so well, and having my eyes might enable you to be a more effective minister of the Gospel. "


Then the law crept back in. Jews were the culprit in this case, but they don't have to be the only ones responsible for this kind of thought. Don't we still do it today whenever we fall back on the trap of focusing on ourselves and what we do. But isn't it ironic that when we focus on ourselves our joy fades!

Remember Moses? Whenever he returned from the mountain, he had to wear a veil to hide is face, which was glowing from being in the presence of God. But over time, his face returned to normal. Perhaps it was just the day to day dealing with it all that helped it go.

Maybe that is why, when I sit in church sometimes, instead of being filled with joy, I find myself squirming in my seat. I am hearing social gospel, or moral deism instead of The Gospel. The Good News.

So I sit here and wonder...where do I go from here? I was reading in Ezekiel, and came across this verse (2:5) And whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that a prophet has been among them.

So it is not whether or not I am happy, or whether or not they might be offended if I speak a truth that they might not be comfortable with. It is not about me convicting them or failing to convict them. It is not about me or them at all, it is about GOD. I think in some ways I have been letting them rob me of my joy. I have been robbing myself of my joy. And I want it back.

The prophets were never guaranteed success. God told them to go, and they went. Okay, so sometimes they grumbled...

So I believe that I must find my joy only in Christ. And I must speak freely and honestly about what I believe the Gospel to be.

So I suppose I better get ready for the ride. Somehow, reading the book of Jonah seems appropriate right now...

Friday, November 5, 2010

I just can't get comfortable...

I was reading a bit in the back of my copy of "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan, and I read a bit about how he feels that lukewarm Christians will not make it into heaven, that God will spew them out of his mouth. He uses Revelation Chapter 3 to confirm this. (See verse 16).

So, let's see a show of hands, how many of the Christians that will (or won't) be in church this Sunday think they are lukewarm? Are you willing to bet your soul on it?

I went to the Crazy Love study at the church we have been attending. That lasted 2 weeks. That was the week that they were talking about why God created us, and of course the typical "for fellowship" answer came up. A few years ago I would have bought into this. This time, I just sat there wondering what to say, wondering if it was appropriate to upset the apple cart at this moment.

The church we have been attending is full of nice people. The preacher preaches nice sermons. They do nice things and encourage others to do nice things. It all feels so comfortable.

But I don't feel comfortable.

Sometimes I want to scream.

Is this what Jesus died for? So nice people could do comfortable things? So we could gather on Sunday to sing a few songs and listen to a couple of jokes or stories from the internet? So we could be challenged to volunteer in the community (not a bad thing, but not the primary thing), give, pray, do this or that, etc. These are not bad things, but are they what the church should be built upon?

I thought the church was to be built upon the ROCK, the confession that Jesus Christ is LORD. (Matt 16:16-18)

What about Matthew 7:21-23?

Is Jesus primary? Or have we made that which is secondary the primary thing we talk about, thereby making the primary (Jesus, the Gospel) a secondary issue?

Is anyone else uncomfortable, or is it just me?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

To know or to be known?

Galatians 4:9 "But now that you know God - or rather are known by God - how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles?"

Paul begins stating things one way, that we know God. But then he corrects himself, and states that we are known by God. So what is the difference?
  • Me knowing God puts the emphasis on me. Perhaps as if I found it myself. The Gospel is never about me, and Paul deeply understands this.
  • God knowing me is profoundly more humbling. It means nothing that I have met and spoke to ________ (insert famous person's name here). I may know them, but I doubt they know, let alone care about me. But suppose _________ (insert famous person's name here) goes out of his way to let others know that he has met me! That changes everything. Suddenly, I matter. Not because I have done anything, but it is because they know me. I had no idea this person was aware of me at all. I am humbled.
God knows me. Me, the speck on this rock floating in a vast universe He created. Amazing. Humbling. How can I help but respond in awe and respect? Anyone want an autograph? (Oops! I better not let this go to my head!)