November 29, 2008

This should be fun!

In a previous post, we talked about "Men and Cars". Now we'll talk about women and chocolate Cake. Does that make me a sexist? "Whatever"--she said tongue-in-cheek.

I recently met someone who got me thinking a great deal along the lines of "morality" and "Christianity"; will power vs. grace; the old nature and the new nature; and, what happens after the "new birth". I'm not sure why, but it got me also thinking about chocolate cake. I wanted to invite you along for the ride. This should actually be fun:

Picture the scene: There are seven (7) women in a room who are all on a diet to lose weight. Someone brings a four-layer chocolate cake into the room and places it on the table.

Questions #1: Will all seven women struggle with temptation?

One actually doesn’t care for chocolate cake at all. No temptation whatsoever. However, if it were a plate of deep fried jalapeño poppers, that would be another story. So the answer is "No".

Question #2: Those who are tempted, will they all struggle with the same degree of temptation?

One is allergic to chocolate and although they love the taste of it, they know that if they give into their desire for it, they will pay a huge price and therefore the temptation is there but it is fleeting.

One loves chocolate cake and yet they happen to know that the one who baked the cake, lets her cats up on the kitchen counter while she is cooking; picks her nose a lot; and rarely is seen washing here hands after using the lady’s room. So a much as this person is tempted by chocolate cake; and the cake looks delicious, the knowledge of who made the cake quickly squelches their desire for it. So the answer again is, "No".

Question #3: The remaining four women in the room all love chocolate cake and their mouths are watering. They all really want a piece of that cake. They are all equally tempted. Will they all have a piece of cake?

#1) Declines (as much as they want that cake) because they are strong willed and self-disciplined.

#2) Declines a piece of cake, but when no one is looking they run their finger along the bottom icing and quickly lick the delicious frosting off of their finger.

#3) Breaks down and takes a piece of cake.

#4) Decides to take a piece home for their daughter and on the way home eats it in the car and cleans up all the evidence.

So what is my point?

Question #4: Do these “natural” differences (in how we struggle with sin and temptation as individuals) change instantly once we are “born-again”?

We will visit this more tomorrow--or at least I will.

An Encouraging Reminder to All Women

What should all women aspire to be? Being a wife and mother is a good and noble thing, but it is not the highest thing

Instead, ALL women should aspire to present themselves a living sacrifice to the Lord. God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him and His will for our lives. This is why some marry, some stay single, some have children, and some are barren. Glorify God in your present circumstance (the one you are in right now). The one who loves the Lord with her whole heart, soul, and mind—she is the one who pleases God and whose life brings glory to God. This is the good news– that no matter who you are, what you’re doing, or where you’re at—that your love for God and your faith in the work of His son Jesus Christ pleases Him.

Paraphrased from a quote by Amy Scott

I will glory in my Redeemer
Whose priceless blood has ransomed me
Mine was the sin that drove the bitter nails
And hung Him on that judgment tree

I will glory in my Redeemer
Who crushed the power of sin and death
My only Savior before the Holy Judge
The Lamb Who is my righteousness

I will glory in my Redeemer
My life He bought, my love He owns
I have no longings for another
I’m satisfied in Him alone

Morality vs. Christianity (Part Two)

Morality is a neat cover for foul venom,
but it does not alter the fact that the heart is vile,
and the man himself is under damnation.

Men will be damned with good works
as well as without them,
if they make them their confidence.

You may go to hell as well dressed

in the garnishings of morality
as in the rags of immorality.

It is still the old nature- wash it, and cleanse it,
and bind it, and curb it, and bridle it-
it is still the old fallen nature,
and cannot understand spiritual things.
C.H. Spurgeon

To the eye of one who sees not as God sees, there is much that is comparatively illustrious in the character and conduct of such men. But while we cheerfully make these concessions, we may not substitute a mere visible morality, however exemplary, however vivid and useful, for true holiness. It is easy to conceive all the virtues of an unexceptional moral deportment concentrated in men who are at heart strangers to the spirit of Jesus Christ. A person of the character to which we refer may, for example, be a professed disbeliever in the truths and doctrines of the Gospel. There are not lacking even infidels who rarely disregard the laws of good neighborhood and civil society. David Hume would have blushed at the imputation of moral dishonesty and yet could boldly deny his God and Savior.

Seneca and Socrates inculcated by their writings and sustained by their conduct a morality which, though not faultless, did honor to the pagan world, but they were pagans still. There are also men in these Christian lands who from the peculiarity of their condition, from the restraints of education and habit, from high notions of honor from a keen sense of propriety and gentlemanly deportment, or from motives of mere ambition and personal aggrandizement, would seldom be detected in an immoral action; who, at the same time, disclaim every principle of the Holy Scriptures.

The morality of which we speak, with all its excellencies, is subjected to a lamentable defect. It regards only a part of the divine law. A merely moral man may be very scrupulous of duties he owes to his fellow men, while the infinitely important duties he owes to God are kept entirely out of sight. Of loving and serving God, he knows nothing. Whatever he does or whatever he leaves undone, he does nothing for God. He is honest in his dealings with all except God, he robs none but God, he is thankless and faithless to none but God, he feels contemptuously, and speaks reproachfully of none but God. A just perception of the relations he sustains to God constitutes no part of his principles, and the duties which result from those relations constitute no part of his piety. He may not only disbelieve the Scriptures, but may never read them; may not only disregard the divine authority, but every form of divine worship, and live and die as though he had no concern with God and God had not concern with him.

The character of the young man in the Gospel presents a painful and affecting view of the deficiencies of external morality (see Mat. 19:16-22). He was not dishonest, nor untrue; he was not impure nor malignant; and not a few of the divine commands he had externally observed. No, he says, “All these have I kept.” Nor was his a mere sporadic goodness, but steady and uniform. He had performed these services “from his youth up.” Nor was this all. He professed a willingness to become acquainted with his whole duty. “What lack I yet?” And yet when brought to the test, this poor youth saw that, with all his boasted morality, he could not deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Christ. I said that mere morality regarded only a part of the divine law, but to speak more correctly, it disregards the whole of it.

The sum and soul of obedience to the divine law consists in love to God. But the people whom we describe, though they many have some knowledge of God and may confess his worthiness to be loved, love almost everything else more than He. They have no supreme delight and complacency in His excellence; it is no source of congratulation to those who He is what He is, and that He sways the empire of the universe; and if they ever fix their thoughts upon God, their contemplation of His holiness, justice, and sovereignty are rather the sources of suspicion, alarm, and uneasiness, than of tranquility, confidence, and holy pleasure. Men of this description, therefore, are wholly destitute of the radical and essential principle of conformity to the law of God. However they may have the appearance of rectitude, they fail in all the essential parts of holy obedience. Nor is there in such a character any conformity to the requisitions of the Gospel. Repentance, faith, humility, submission, hope, and joy are acts of a mind that delights in God.

There is a wide distinction between moral virtues and Christian graces. Christian graces spring from holy love and have their origin in holy motives. They regard chiefly the glory of God and the interests of His Kingdom and then govern the relationships of men with their fellow men as God has required. Moral virtues spring from supreme selfishness. They have their origin in motives that are never recognized by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They have no regard for the glory of God and the interests of His Kingdom and go just so far as a well-regulated self-interest leads the way and there they stop.

Author Unknown
To be continued....

Morality vs. Christianity (Part One)

Let us talk about unregenerate, sinful man.

Before we are “born-again”, we all live lives of varying degrees of outward and inward morality. Yes?

We all have different strengths and weaknesses. Some are strong-willed and disciplined and some are weak willed and undisciplined. Some, when they put their mind to a task stick to it and win the battle. Some decide to quite smoking, and with shear determination, quit smoking. One may try the patch and gum and nothing seems to work for them. Some struggle with drugs and alcohol abuse and some do not. Not every lost sinner is a drug addict. Some see what drugs do to people and decide to never indulge. Some are raised by an alcoholic parent and decide to never touch the stuff. Some have too much respect for their own bodies and for others to be used or use others as toys to satisfy their own sexual desires, and some are sexually promiscuous; for various reasons. Some decide to stick to a diet and are successful, some simply cannot seem to deny themselves pleasure for more than three days; some find coarse and vulgar language distasteful and crude and some cuss like a sailor; and the list goes on. I think you get the point. Unregenerate man has varying levels of natural strength based on the strength of their will, self-determination and self-discipline and live varying degrees of “sinful” or moral lives.

Why is this so important to understand? It is important to understand because as Christians we seem to have a very short sighted, and perhaps even erroneous, understanding of what occurs when a person is “saved”. We get confused about the outward life of a person and the inward change that has taken place.

A person who (because of their own nature and strength) lived a life outwardly less sinful (was loving and giving; didn’t practice habitual sinful activities--was “morally” a very strong and disciplined person) will appear as a “strong” Christian after they are reconciled to God through Christ. A person who was weaker “morally” will struggle more with the old nature.

The work of regeneration is perfect as to kind, and perfect as to parts, extending to all his powers and faculties—but is not yet perfect as to degree—as an infant has all the parts of a man, though it is not arrived at the full stature of the perfect man. And thus it is with souls that are new-born, which made a worthy divine say, "every regenerate man is two men"—that is, he has a new nature in him, which is wholly for God, and an old nature still in part remaining, which is wholly for sin. And these two natures residing in the same soul and in all of its faculties, which are but in part sanctified—the corrupt nature, the flesh, lusts against the spirit, or holy nature in his heart—and the spirit against the flesh; and these being contrary, the one to the other, souls that are born again cannot do perfectly the things that they desire, because of sin that dwells in them.

There is then no true holiness in mere morality. Much as there is in such a character that is highly esteemed among men, there is nothing that is right in the sight of God. The principle and motive of such a character is at a great distance from all that God requires and loves. “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” The moral quality of actions lies in the disposition of heart with which they are performed. A man may be very moral, but if the disposition of heart with which the acts of morality are performed be not such as God requires and approves, though he may believe he is going to Heaven, he is in the broad way to hell. Mere morality never aims at the heart and would never touch it if it should. It may lop off the luxuriances of human depravity, but it never strikes at the root. It may not sink into the baseness of degeneracy, but it never soars to the purity of holiness. It is a fascinating picture, but it is cold and spiritless as the canvas on which it is delineated. It is like the twinkling glow worm which borrows all its light from the putrescent and earthy substances of which it is composed, but sustains no relation to the luminary which imparts light and heat to the universe. However fair this exterior, and however accordant with the expectations of the world, it falls far short of what a man must be to become either holy or happy.

Reader: If our old nature was more disciplined and strong willed prior to being saved we will have less of a struggle mortifying the flesh since we have been doing that most of our life (not in a “saving” way, in a temporal way). It is our disposition that has been changed, not our old nature.

Let us not judge our brothers and sisters based on outward morality. Let us have compassion on one another and understand that sanctification is a process and there is, and will always be, (while the old nature still resides) an inner battle. Ask a man about Christ before you ask a man about his “walk with Christ” and you will find out a lot more about the disposition of this man’s heart and soul.

To be continued……

Do you sit on the throne of judgment?

It is hard for a fish to know that it is wet. Wet is all there is for a fish. A fish doesn't even think of it. So it's hard for a modern person —a person living in the last two hundred years—to know that he is arrogant toward God. Arrogance toward God is all there is in the modern world. It's the ocean we swim in—the air we breathe. It's woven into the fabric of our minds. We don't even know it's there. We can't see it, because we look through it to see everything else. Here's the way C. S. Lewis put it:

The ancient man approached God . . . as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man the roles are reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock. He is quite a kindly judge: if God should have a reasonable defence for being the god who permits war, poverty and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God's acquittal. But the important thing is that man is on the Bench and God in the Dock.

That's virtually what it means to be modern: the imperceptible feeling - the assumption we don't even know we have—that it is fitting for us to question and even judge God. It is good for us to be tested in the crucible of God's sovereignty, so that we may say with Job: "I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes"

Do you despise yourself; or do you secretly think that you are a pretty neat person and God should feel honored that you have found Him worthy of your love and devotion?

What makes Christ "Good News"

There are cultural forces at work inside and outside the church that make me eager to defend my Father’s wrath against me before I was adopted. He does not need my defense. But I believe he would be honored by it.

The calumny I have in mind is the following paragraph from a popular British writer:

The fact is that the cross isn’t a form of cosmic child abuse—a vengeful Father, punishing his Son for an offence he has not even committed. Understandably, both people inside and outside of the Church have found this twisted version of events morally dubious and a huge barrier to faith. Deeper than that, however, is that such a concept stands in total contradiction to the statement: "God is love". If the cross is a personal act of violence perpetrated by God towards humankind but borne by his Son, then it makes a mockery of Jesus’ own teaching to love your enemies and to refuse to repay evil with evil
(Steve Chalke and Alan Mann, The Lost Message of Jesus, [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003], pp. 182-183).

This is breathtaking coming from a professing Christian. On behalf of my Father in heaven, I would like to bear witness to the truth that before he adopted me his terrible wrath was upon me. Jesus said, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey . . . the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36). Wrath remains on us as long as there is no faith in Jesus. Paul puts it like this: We “were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Ephesians 2:3). My very nature made me worthy of wrath.

My destiny was to endure “flaming fire” and “vengeance on those . . . who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus . . . [and who] suffer the punishment of eternal destruction” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). I was not a son of God. God was not my Father. He was my judge and executioner. I was a “son of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). I was dead in trespasses and sins. And the sentence of my Judge was clear and terrifying: “Because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 5:6).

There was only one hope for me—that the infinite wisdom of God might make a way for the love of God to satisfy the wrath of God so that I might become a son of God.

This is exactly what happened, and I will sing of it forever. After saying that I was by nature a child of wrath, Paul says, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5). “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son . . . to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” God sent his Son to rescue me from his wrath and make me his child.

How did he do it? He did it in the way Steve Chalke slanderously calls “cosmic child abuse.” God’s Son bore God’s curse in my place. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’” (Galatians 3:13).

If people in the twenty-first century find this greatest act of love “morally dubious and a huge barrier to faith,” it was not different in Paul’s day. “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:23).

But for those who are called by God and believe in Jesus, this is “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24). This is my life. This is the only way God could become my Father. Now that his wrath no longer rests on me (John 3:36), he has sent the Spirit of sonship flooding into my heart crying Abba Father (Romans 8:15).

Therefore, I pray, “Please know, heavenly Father, that I thank you with all my heart, and that I measure your love for me by the magnitude of the wrath I deserved and the wonder of your mercy by putting Christ in my place.

Have you veiled the Truth?

It is sad to find so many professing Christians who appear to regard the wrath of God as something for which they need to make an apology, or at least they wish there were no such thing. While some would not go so far as to openly admit that they consider it a blemish on the Divine character, yet they are far from regarding it with delight, they like not to think about it, and they rarely hear it mentioned without a secret resentment rising up in their hearts against it. Even with those who are more sober in their judgment, not a few seem to imagine that there is a severity about the Divine wrath which is too terrifying to form a theme for profitable contemplation. Others harbor the delusion that God’s wrath is not consistent with His goodness, and so seek to banish it from their thoughts.

Yes, many there are who turn away from a vision of God’s wrath as though they were called to look upon some blotch in the Divine character, or some blot upon the Divine government. But what saith the Scriptures? As we turn to them we find that God has made no attempt to conceal the fact of His wrath. He is not ashamed to make it known that vengeance and fury belong unto Him. His own challenge is, ‘See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no god with Me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal; neither is there any that can deliver out of My hand. For I lift up My hand to heaven, and say, I live forever, If I whet My glittering sword, and Mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to Mine enemies, and will reward them that hate Me’. A study of the concordance will show that there are more references in Scripture to the anger, fury, and wrath of God, than there are to His love and tenderness. Because God is holy, He hates all sin; And because He hates all sin, His anger burns against the sinner.

Our readiness or our reluctancy to meditate upon the wrath of God becomes a sure test of how our hearts’ really stand affected toward Him. If we do not truly rejoice in God, for what He is in Himself, and that because of all the perfections which are eternally resident in Him, then how dwelleth the love of God in us? Each of us needs to be most prayerfully on his guard against devising an image of God in our thoughts which is patterned after our own evil inclinations. Of old the Lord complained, ‘Thou thoughtest that I was altogether as thyself’, If we rejoice not ‘at the remembrance of His holiness’, if we rejoice not to know that in a soon coming Day God will make a most glorious display of His wrath, by taking vengeance on all who now oppose Him, it is proof positive that our hearts are not in subjection to Him, that we are yet in our sins, on the way to the everlasting burnings.

That Divine wrath is one of the perfections of God is not only evident from the considerations presented above, but is also clearly established by the express declarations of His own Word. ‘For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven’.

The wrath of God is a perfection of the Divine character upon which we need to frequently meditate. First, that our hearts may be duly impressed by God’s detestation of sin. We are ever prone to regard sin lightly, to gloss over its hideousness, to make excuses for it. But the more we study and ponder God’s abhorrence of sin and His frightful vengeance upon it, the more likely are we to realize its heinousness. Second, to beget a true fear in our souls for God: ‘Let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire’. We cannot serve Him ‘acceptably’ unless there is due ‘reverence’ for His awful Majesty and ‘godly fear’ of His righteous anger, and these are best promoted by frequently calling to mind that ‘our God is a consuming fire.’ Third, to draw out our souls in fervent praise for having delivered us from ‘the wrath to come’.

A.W. Pink

Of course, if one has concluded that there is no “wrath to come” or they have diminished it's severity and the sinfulness of man; then THEY have veiled the truth of God’s Word and have embraced and are perpetuating a lie of their own finite and limited mind. God has clearly revealed His nature and character within His Word. Without His wrath, His mercy would be meaningless and unnecessary.

November 28, 2008

For Michael

O Lord, Whose power is infinite and wisdom infallible, order things that they may neither hinder, nor discourage me, nor prove obstacles to the progress of Thy cause. Stand between me and all strife, that no evil befall, no sin corrupt my gifts, zeal, attainments.

May I follow duty and not any foolish device of my own. Permit me not to labour at work which Thou wilt not bless, that I may serve thee without disgrace or debt. Let me dwell in Thy most secret place under thy shadow, where is safe impenetrable protection from the arrow that flieth by day, the pestilence that walketh in darkness, the strife of tongues, the malice of ill-will, the hurt of unkind talk, the snares of company, the perils of youth, the temptations of middle life, the moumings of old age, the fear of death.

I am entirely dependent upon Thee for support, counsel, consolation. Uphold me by Thy free Spirit, and may I not think it enough to be preserved from falling, but may I always go forward, always abounding in the work Thou givest me to do. Strengthen me by Thy Spirit in my inner self for every purpose of my Christian life.

All my treasures I give to the shadow of the safety that is in Thee—my name anew in Christ, my body, soul, talents, character, my success, children, friends, work, my present, my future, my end. Take them, they are Thine, and I am thine, now and for ever.

November 27, 2008

They weren't just men with funny collars.

Each Thanksgiving Day, when our family gathered together, and right before the meal, we would all join hands in the kitchen where my grandmother would recite (from memory) the following poem. Note: It was actually required reading and she had to memorize it and recite it as part of the class curriculum when she was in grammar school. Boy have things changed! My grandma went to be with the Lord on June 6, 2007.

The Landing of the Pilgrims

The breaking waves dashed high,
On a stern and rock-bound coast,
And the woods against a stormy sky
Their giant branches tossed;

And the heavy night hung dark
The hills and waters o'er,
When a band of exiles moored their bark
On the wild New England shore.

Not as the conqueror comes,
They, the true-hearted came;
Not with the roll of the stirring drums,
And the trumpet that sings of fame;

Not as the flying come,
In silence and in fear;--
They shook the depths of the desert gloom
With their hymns of lofty cheer.

Amidst the storm they sang,
And the stars heard, and the sea;
And the sounding aisles of the dim woods rang
To the anthem of the free!

The ocean eagle soared
From his nest by the white wave's foam;
And the rocking pines of the forest roared—
This was their welcome home!

There were men with hoary hair.
Amidst that pilgrim band:
Why had they come to wither there,
Away from their childhood's land?

There was woman's fearless eye,
Lit by her deep love's truth;
There was manhood's brow serenely high,
And the fiery heart of youth.

What sought they thus afar?
Bright jewels of the mine?
The wealth of seas, the spoils of war?—
They sought a faith's pure shrine!

Ay, call it holy ground,
The soil where first they trod.
They have left unstained what there they found—
Freedom to worship God.

If you have never studied the history of the Church of England; the “Act of Conformity”; the Pilgrims; the Geneva Bible; followed by the “Great Awakening” I encourage you to do so. So many of us have no idea who the Pilgrim's were and why they came to America. Here's just a taste:

The story of the Pilgrims is a riveting chronicle of a small group of everyday folks who changed the world. They laid the foundation for what would eventually evolve into our Constitutional form of government; a form of government that, in the beginning (at least), clearly recognized the God of the Bible as the holy sovereign He is, and applied principles of His law as the basic foundation for all civil government.

It is worth noting that the Pilgrims did not change the world as they did by conquering nations with powerful armies, or with political wrangling and domination. On the contrary, they changed the course of history by living simple, separate, deliberate, and obedient lives for the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom. Christians of today can learn much from the Pilgrim example.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Giving of Thanks!

Gratitude is such a great and wonderful thing in Scripture. There are ways that gratitude helps bring about obedience to Christ. One way is that the spirit of gratitude is simply incompatible with some sinful attitudes. I think this is why Paul wrote, "There must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks".

Gratitude is a humble, happy response to the good will of someone who has done or tried to do you a favor. This humility and happiness cannot coexist in the heart with coarse, ugly, mean attitudes. Therefore the cultivation of a thankful heart leaves little room for such sins.

There is a sense in which gratitude and faith are interwoven joys that strengthen each other. As gratitude joyfully revels in the benefits of past grace, so faith joyfully relies on the benefits of future grace. Therefore when gratitude for God's past grace is strong, the message is sent that God is supremely trustworthy in the future because of what he has done in thepast. In this way faith is strengthened by a lively gratitude for God's pasttrustworthiness.

On the other hand, when faith in God's future grace is strong, the message is sent that this kind of God makes no mistakes, so that everything he has done in the past is part of a good plan and can be remembered with gratitude. In this way gratitude is strengthened by a lively faith in God's future grace.

Surely it is only the heart of faith in future grace that can follow the apostle Paul in "giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 5:20). Only if we trust God to turn past calamities into future comfort can we look back with gratitude for all things.

It seems to me that this interwovenness of future-oriented faith and past-oriented gratitude is what prevents gratitude from degenerating into the debtor's ethic. Gratitude for bygone grace is constantly saying to faith, "Be strong, and do not doubt that God will be as gracious in the future as I know he's been in the past."

And faith in future grace is constantly saying to gratitude, "There is more grace to come, and all our obedience is to be done in reliance on that future grace. Relax and exult in your appointed feast. I will take responsibility for tomorrow's obedience." Or, as Jesus would say, "O ye of little faith. Do not be anxious"

Let these three humbling truths penetrate our hearts today, and empty us of pride and fill us with overflowing thankfulness to God.

1. Nature teaches us that an infinitely marvelous, eternally powerful being created us and all we have. Therefore we are his creatures. He owns us. Our life, our breath, and everything we have is a gift. Our duty is simply to be thankful to Him from our heart and to cherish His glory.

2. All of us have fallen short of this duty. We have not consistently prized the diamond of God's glory with an affection anywhere near its value. Instead, we've exchanged it again and again for the cracked marbles that in our great "wisdom" we have determined are more valuable.

3. God, in his great mercy, sent his Son to suffer the judgment of people who are broken and contrite in spirit and who trust in him.

We are utterly dependent; we are depraved sinners; and we are redeemed and forgiven through contrite faith.

Excerpts from Future Grace by John Piper
Everyday is Thanksgiving Day!

November 25, 2008

Let's talk about "Men and Cars" Shall we?

This is really off topic in terms of the major theme of this blog. But, I felt a pressing need to express it. So, here we go:

Man #1: He sees a new model and must have it. He loves the way it looks. He imagines himself inside of that car. He thinks about how good he will feel when he pulls up to a stoplight and people look at him in that car. “Boy, he must be someone special and successful to be driving that car”. He works two jobs in order to buy that car. He finally has the necessary funds to buy it and he goes down to the dealer and purchases his dream car. Every night he pulls it into his garage, dusts it off, stands back and looks at it with a great deal of pride and affection. Five years later, he pulls up to a stop light, glances over and sees the new model of his same car. He looks at it for quite awhile and realizes that there are features on this latest model that he finds more appealing.

That night, he pulls his car into the garage and as he is dusting it off, images of the other car keep flashing into his mind. The car he once loved more than any other car and that he could not live without, all of a sudden, has lost some of its appeal. The next day, he visits the dealer to find out how much he can get for his old car as a trade-in and is delighted to find out that he can afford the newer model. He trades in his old car and drives off the lot in his new car. Happy once again!

Man #2: He would never dream of buying a car. He leases them. He finds one that he likes; one that will meet his needs at the time and leases it. While he is driving it, he is satisfied. He leases one when he feels the need for adventure; he leases a different one when he feels the need for speed; he leases the next one when he wants to feel the wind in his face. He is a happy man. He never has to deal with an old car that won’t start in the morning; or a small car if he has the need for lots of storage space. As soon as his needs change, he leases a different car. He is a happy man.

Man #3: He sees a car that appeals to him visually. He wants this car in a big way. Although he likes the looks of it, he is also concerned about the comfort, reliability, and the overall integrity of its engine. Before he buys it, he talks to mechanics and reads all the consumer reports. He finally concludes that this car is for him. He works 2 jobs to buy it and finally saves up enough money to purchase his new car. He loves his car. He keeps it waxed and shinning; he does all of the required oil changes and regular maintenance; he buys new tires for it when it needs new tires, gets new brakes and a timing belt. He takes really good care of his car. After ten years, he notices that its clear coat is starting to peel and its leaking a small amount of oil and its transmission is starting to slip. When he goes in for a regular scheduled maintenance, he is told that he needs the head gasket replaced and it will cost him $1,200. The service clerk says, “Hey buddy, perhaps its time to trade her in. I mean she’s got over 200,000 miles on her; she is looking pretty shabby; she is costing you some money. Perhaps it’s time for a new car?”

The man ponders this and says, “You know what buddy, I don’t care how much this car costs me; she will never cost me as much as a new car would; I have invested years of my life into this car; I love my car. I don’t care what she looks like; I’m willing to fork over whatever it costs to keep her running. She has been good to me and I will be good to her. After driving this car for 19 years, he is loyal to his car. He brags about her, and he does whatever is required to keep her running. He gets his needs met when he pulls up to a stop light and someone rolls down there window and says, "Man, what year is that car?"

Man #4. This man decides he wants a truck. He wants a vehicle that will serve him. He is very aware of his desire for a shiny new vehicle that will make him look good, but his real desire is for a vehicle that will simply perform. He buys a beautiful new red Ram 3500 truck. As he drives it off the lot, he says to himself, “I refuse to be in bondage to your beauty”. I will not park you where nobody can make a ding in my driver side door." On his way home with his new shiny, beautiful vehicle he decides to pull off the highway and to test this vehicle. He drives over pot holes, rocks and crevices; he drives through brush and weeds and rubble. He then pulls back onto the smooth highway. When he arrives home he steps outside of his truck and looks at her and says, “There, now I will longer care about a little nick or scratch. I will not be in bondage to your beauty; I will be free to enjoy you for how you perform and serve my needs instead of how you look.

So, what kind of man are you? Which man do you relate to the most? In case you missed the analogy; replace the car in each one of the above examples, with your attitude about a woman.

November 24, 2008

Do you tell them?

When you feed the hungry; cloth the naked; heal the hurting; rescue the slaves; do you care about their souls or are you doing all of that as a "humanatarian" and somehow hope that they will see the love of Christ in your efforts? Do you tell them?

"Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

The God-Centeredness of God

We think that a person who is all about their own glory is arrogant and yet God created us mainly to show His glory. So, I ask you, "Is God arrogant?"

It is crucial to understand how the God-centeredness of God relates to his love for sinners like us. Most people do not immediately see God’s passion for the glory of God as an act of love. One reason for this is that we have absorbed the world’s definition of love. It says: You are loved when you are made much of.

John Piper uses a wonderful example to illustrate this when he asks, "Does someone go to the Grand Canyon to increase their self-esteem?" No. When one stands on the edge of the Grand Canyon they forget all about themselves and are swept away by the majesty, beauty, and awesomeness of something outside of themselves. That same person then also finds additional pleasure in telling someone about the Grand Canyon; how moved they were; how breathtaking it is; how overwhelming beautiful it is. They do not say, "Wow, you should have seen me at the Grand Canyon. I was really something!" God designed us to find the greatest pleasure in things outside of ourself, things that make us forget about ourselves.

God’s love for us is not mainly his making much of us, but his giving us the ability to enjoy making much of Him, forever. In other words, God’s love for us keeps God at the center. God’s love for us exalts his value and our satisfaction in it. If God’s love made us central and focused on our value, it would distract us from what is most precious, namely, Himself. It would be like someone taking you to the Grand Canyon and then making you wear a blindfold. Okay, bad analogy; but, you get the point.

Love labors and suffers to enthrall us with what is infinitely and eternally satisfying: God. Therefore God’s love labors and suffers to break our bondage to the idol of self and focus our affections on the treasure of God.

Until we understand this we do not understand the meaning of life, who God is, why we were created, and we will waste our life seeking joy and pleasure in things of no lasting value. We will never find the joy and satisfaction that flow out of and from this understanding and we will never be able to share this joy with others. If you doubt that God does everything for His own glory, let us listen to God:

God creates for his glory.
Isaiah 43:6-7 "Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, every one who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory."

God elects Israel for his glory.
Jeremiah 13:11 "I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, says the LORD, that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory."

God saves them from Egypt for his glory.
Psalm 106:7-8 "Our fathers rebelled against the Most High at the Red Sea. Yet he saved them for his name's sake that he might make known his power."

God restrains his anger in exile for his glory.
Isaiah 48:9,11 "For my names sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you . . . For my own sake, for my own sake I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another."

God sends his Son, Jesus Christ, to earth for his glory.
Romans 15:7-8 "Christ became a servant to the circumcision to show God's truthfulness . . . and in order that the gentiles might glorify God for his mercy." John 17:1 "Father, the hour has come; glorify thy Son that the Son may glorify thee."

God sends his Son the second time for his glory.
2 Thessalonians 1:9-10 "He comes on that day to be glorified in his saints and to be marveled at in all who have believed."

That’s enough to give you the flavor. This is the way God is. He is utterly committed to preserving and displaying the greatness of his glory and the honor of his name in all that he does.
Therefore, in Philippians 1:20 Paul is not merely making his life’s aim to magnify Christ. He is joining God in his own God-centeredness. He is joining God’s ultimate purpose for the universe. He aims to magnify his own glory—and Jesus is the apex of that glory.

This is difficult to grasp on a human level, but I pray you will ponder this and really think about who God is and how "He is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him". He created us for His glory and He wants His glory to seen by others as it is magnified in us and through us to others.

HE is NOT the "Big Guy in the Sky"

Do you ever find yourself questioning God or bringing Him down to your level. I know I have. My entire orientation towards God was radically changed forever when I heard him address his servant Job after everything (and I mean everything--home, children, possessions, riches, his health, his standing in the community, his friends - everything) had been taken from Job and Job had been lying on a mound of ashes for months scrapping his boils with pieces of broken pottery. From our point of view, Job had good reason to complain and question God. After God listened to Job's questioning, He (in a rather sarcastic and seemingly unloving way), reminded Job who HE IS. In over 120 versus, God sets the record straight. Listen to just a view of His Words and then listen to the impact it had on Job:

“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.

Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?

“Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place, that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it? From the wicked their light is withheld, and their uplifted arm is broken.

“Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep? Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of deep darkness? Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare, if you know all this.

Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it.”

“I will question you, and you make it known to me. Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right? Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his?

“Adorn yourself with majesty and dignity; clothe yourself with glory and splendor. Pour out the overflowings of your anger, and look on everyone who is proud and abase him. Look on everyone who is proud and bring him low and tread down the wicked where they stand. Hide them all in the dust together; bind their faces in the world below. Then will I also acknowledge to you that your own right hand can save you.

Then Job answered the Lord and said: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

Do you “see” the Lord for who He really is and who you are in light of that? Has this reality made you despise yourself and repent in dust and ashes? The Lord Jesus Christ said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple." (Note: He doesn't mean "hate" the way you and I understand it)

“Therefore men fear him; he does not regard any who are wise in their own conceit.”

November 22, 2008

God (through Paul) is asking you the same questions.

What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”

So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?

What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

Is this the God you know? How do you "feel" about this God? Is this the God you worship? or Have you dismissed these passages and created a God that lines up better with your flawed and finite idea of love and justice? God was not created for you--you were created for Him and he can do with you whatever He pleases. Oh the arrogance and pride of fallen man.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to HIS great mercy, HE has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

"Satan's Possibility Thinking!"

I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the children of man.

So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun. Solomon

"What shadows we are--and what shadows we pursue!"

When we think we deserve something good at God's hands--it is impossible to satisfy us. But with the humble is wisdom, quietness, gentleness and contentment. He who expects nothing, because he deserves nothing, is sure to be satisfied with the treatment he receives at God's hands.

The proud man is like a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke. He is turbulent and fiery. He has much trouble and sorrow--where the humble man passes quietly along. Pride and contentment do not go together. Neither do contentment and carnal ambition. "Do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not!" (Jeremiah 45:5)

Our actual needs are not many; but the ambitious create a thousand desires and demands, which are hard, if not impossible to meet. He who is carnally ambitious, will not be content with whatever he gains, because each elevation widens his horizon, and gives him a view of something else which he greatly longs for. And so he is tossed from vanity to vanity--a stranger to solid peace.

Do you think that you deserve happiness? Do you think that any of us deserve to be spared from pain and suffering? Do you think you deserve God's mercy? Do you think that God owes us anything? Are you ambitious for the things of this world? Then you are your own tormentor!

"Those who realize that they deserve nothing, will be content with anything."

Love and Sex

Did Christianity really destroy"eros"?

Let us take a look at the pre- Christian world. The Greeks—not unlike other cultures—considered eros principally as a kind of intoxication, the overpowering of reason by a “divine madness” which tears man away from his finite existence and enables him, in the very process of being overwhelmed by divine power, to experience supreme happiness. All other powers in heaven and on earth thus appear secondary: “Omnia vincit amor” says Virgil in the Bucolics—love conquers all—and he adds: “et nos cedamus amori”—let us, too, yield to love.

In the religions, this attitude found expression in fertility cults, part of which was the “sacred” prostitution which flourished in many temples. Eros was thus celebrated as divine power, as fellowship with the Divine.

The Old Testament firmly opposed this form of religion, which represents a powerful temptation against monotheistic faith, combating it as a perversion of religiosity. But it in no way rejected eros as such; rather, it declared war on a warped and destructive form of it, because this counterfeit divinization of eros actually strips it of its dignity and dehumanizes it. Indeed, the prostitutes in the temple, who had to bestow this divine intoxication, were not treated as human beings and persons, but simply used as a means of arousing “divine madness”: far from being goddesses, they were human persons being exploited. An intoxicated and undisciplined eros, then, is not an ascent in “ecstasy” towards the Divine, but a fall, a degradation of man.

Evidently, eros needs to be disciplined and purified if it is to provide not just fleeting pleasure, but a certain foretaste of the pinnacle of our existence, of that beatitude for which our whole being yearns.

Two things emerge clearly from this rapid overview of the concept of eros past and present. First, there is a certain relationship between love and the Divine: love promises infinity, eternity—a reality far greater and totally other than our everyday existence. Yet we have also seen that the way to attain this goal is not simply by submitting to instinct. Purification and growth in maturity are called for; and these also pass through the path of renunciation. Far from rejecting or “poisoning” eros, they heal it and restore its true grandeur.

This is due first and foremost to the fact that man is a being made up of body and soul. Man is truly himself when his body and soul are intimately united; the challenge of eros can be said to be truly overcome when this unification is achieved. Should he aspire to be pure spirit and to reject the flesh as pertaining to his animal nature alone, then spirit and body would both lose their dignity. On the other hand, should he deny the spirit and consider matter, the body, as the only reality, he would likewise lose his greatness. The epicure Gassendi used to offer Descartes the humorous greeting: “O Soul!” And Descartes would reply: “O Flesh!”.

Yet it is neither the spirit alone nor the body alone that loves: it is man, the person, a unified creature composed of body and soul, who loves. Only when both dimensions are truly united, does man attain his full stature. Only thus is love —eros—able to mature and attain its authentic grandeur.

Nowadays Christianity of the past is often criticized as having been opposed to the body; and it is quite true that tendencies of this sort have always existed. Yet the contemporary way of exalting the body is deceptive. Eros, reduced to pure “sex”, has become a commodity, a mere “thing” to be bought and sold, or rather, man himself becomes a commodity. This is hardly man's great “yes” to the body. On the contrary, he now considers his body and his sexuality as the purely material part of himself, to be used and exploited at will. Nor does he see it as an arena for the exercise of his freedom, but as a mere object that he attempts, as he pleases, to make both enjoyable and harmless.

Here we are actually dealing with a debasement of the human body: no longer is it integrated into our overall existential freedom; no longer is it a vital expression of our whole being, but it is more or less relegated to the purely biological sphere. The apparent exaltation of the body can quickly turn into a hatred of bodiliness. Christian faith, on the other hand, has always considered man a unity in duality, a reality in which spirit and matter compenetrate, and in which each is brought to a new nobility. True, eros tends to rise “in ecstasy” towards the Divine, to lead us beyond ourselves; yet for this very reason it calls for a path of ascent, renunciation, purification and healing.

Concretely, what does this path of ascent and purification entail? How might love be experienced so that it can fully realize its human and divine promise? Here we can find a first, important indication in the "Song of Songs", an Old Testament book well known to the mystics. According to the interpretation generally held today, the poems contained in this book were originally love-songs, perhaps intended for a Jewish wedding feast and meant to exalt conjugal love. In this context it is highly instructive to note that in the course of the book two different Hebrew words are used to indicate “love”.

First there is the word dodim, a plural form suggesting a love that is still insecure, indeterminate and searching. This comes to be replaced by the word ahabà, which the Greek version of the Old Testament translates with the similar-sounding agape, which, as we have seen, becomes the typical expression for the biblical notion of love. By contrast with an indeterminate, “searching” love, this word expresses the experience of a love which involves a real discovery of the other, moving beyond the selfish character that prevailed earlier. Love now becomes concern and care for the other. No longer is it self-seeking, a sinking in the intoxication of happiness; instead it seeks the good of the beloved: it becomes renunciation and it is ready, and even willing, for sacrifice.

It is part of love's growth towards higher levels and inward purification that it now seeks to become definitive, and it does so in a twofold sense: both in the sense of exclusivity (this particular person alone) and in the sense of being “for ever”. Love embraces the whole of existence in each of its dimensions, including the dimension of time. It could hardly be otherwise, since its promise looks towards its definitive goal: love looks to the eternal.

Love is indeed “ecstasy”, not in the sense of a moment of intoxication, but rather as a journey, an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self towards its liberation through self-giving, and thus towards authentic self-discovery and indeed the discovery of God:

“Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it” (Lk 17:33), as Jesus says throughout the Gospels (cf. Mt 10:39; 16:25; Mk 8:35; Lk 9:24; Jn 12:25). In these words, Jesus portrays his own path, which leads through the Cross to the Resurrection: the path of the grain of wheat that falls to the ground and dies, and in this way bears much fruit. Starting from the depths of his own sacrifice and of the love that reaches fulfilment therein, he also portrays in these words the essence of love and indeed of human life itself.

By their own inner logic, these initial, somewhat philosophical reflections on the essence of love have now brought us to the threshold of biblical faith. We began by asking whether the different, or even opposed, meanings of the word “love” point to some profound underlying unity, or whether on the contrary they must remain unconnected, one alongside the other. More significantly, though, we questioned whether the message of love proclaimed to us by the Bible and the Church's Tradition has some points of contact with the common human experience of love, or whether it is opposed to that experience. This in turn led us to consider two fundamental words: eros, as a term to indicate “worldly” love and agape, referring to love grounded in and shaped by faith. The two notions are often contrasted as “ascending” love and “descending” love. There are other, similar classifications, such as the distinction between possessive love and oblative love (amor concupiscentiae – amor benevolentiae), to which is sometimes also added love that seeks its own advantage.

In philosophical and theological debate, these distinctions have often been radicalized to the point of establishing a clear antithesis between them: descending, oblative love—agape—would be typically Christian, while on the other hand ascending, possessive or covetous love —eros—would be typical of non-Christian, and particularly Greek culture. Were this antithesis to be taken to extremes, the essence of Christianity would be detached from the vital relations fundamental to human existence, and would become a world apart, admirable perhaps, but decisively cut off from the complex fabric of human life.

Yet eros and agape—ascending love and descending love—can never be completely separated.

The more the two, in their different aspects, find a proper unity in the one reality of love, the more the true nature of love in general is realized. Even if eros is at first mainly covetous and ascending, a fascination for the great promise of happiness, in drawing near to the other, it is less and less concerned with itself, increasingly seeks the happiness of the other, is concerned more and more with the beloved, bestows itself and wants to “be there for” the other. The element of agape thus enters into this love, for otherwise eros is impoverished and even loses its own nature.

On the other hand, man cannot live by oblative, descending love alone. He cannot always give, he must also receive. Anyone who wishes to give love must also receive love as a gift. Certainly, as the Lord tells us, one can become a source from which rivers of living water flow (cf. Jn 7:37-38). Yet to become such a source, one must constantly drink anew from the original source, which is Jesus Christ, from whose pierced heart flows the love of God (cf. Jn 19:34).

November 21, 2008

I guess I don't play well with others....

Why is everyone so afraid of criticism?

I tend to welcome criticism and have found that even if 99% of any given critical remark is unwarranted; there is always at least 1% that contains truth. It is that grain of truth that I hunger for because it makes me ponder and reflect on my own thoughts, ideas, and behavior and in so doing helps me to grow.

I love what Piper says when preaching from Hebrews 6:9-12

“The writer to the Hebrews is calling us by his example to grow up and to take the risks of love. He is also calling us to be less easily offended. And less easily hurt. We have a massive foundation for our salvation in the death of the Son of God and we have an advocate in heaven more powerful and more compelling than any accuser on earth. We should be the freest of all people to listen to criticism and take it into account and not be wounded or self-pitying or resentful.”

Just listen to these lines from the Book of Proverbs:

“Better is open rebuke from a friend than hidden love.”

“Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”

“Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is a wise man’s rebuke to a listening ear.”

“Rebuke a discerning man, and he will gain knowledge.”

“A rebuke impresses a man of discernment.”

“He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.”

“Rebuke a wise man and he will love you.“

I realize that some people are more sensitive than others and the pill of criticism must be crushed and mixed with honey before administered. I am not one of those people. I will readily take the pill whole and taste the bitterness because I look forward to the healing effects of the medicine it contains.

If someone feels I need medicine, I don't want to put someone through the extra time and effort it takes to crush the pill; give it time to dissolve in the honey; and make sure that it won't taste to bitter. Frankly, that seems incredibly self-centered to me. But, there I go again, being insensitive.

November 18, 2008

A painted harlot is less dangerous--than a painted hypocrite.

The sheep's clothing will soon be
stripped from the wolf's back!

(William Secker, "The Consistent Christian" 1660)

"Having a form of godliness--but denying its power."
2 Timothy 3:5

Formality frequently takes its dwelling near the chambers of integrity, and so assumes its name; the soul not suspecting that hell should make so near an approach to heaven. A rotten post, though covered with gold, is more fit to be burned in the fire, than for the building of a fabric. Where there is a pure conscience--there will be a pure conversation. The dial of our faces does not infallibly show--the time of day in our hearts. The humblest looks may enamel the face--while unbounded pride governs the heart!

A hypocrite may be both the fairest creature--and the foulest creature in the world! He may be fairest outwardly in the eyes of man--and foulest inwardly in the sight of God. How commonly do such unclean swans cover their black flesh with their white feathers! Though such wear the mantle of Samuel--they should bear the name of Satan!

Many appear righteous--who are only righteous in appearance. But while they are deceiving others with the false shows of holiness--they are also deceiving themselves with the false hopes of happiness. The hypocrite would not willingly appear evil--and yet would inwardly be evil. He would gladly be accounted godly--and yet would not be godly.

Man, either appear what you are--or be what you appear. What will the form of godliness do for you--if you deny the power thereof? Those who have the power of godliness, cannot deny the form; while those who have the form of godliness, may deny the power.

Hypocrites resemble looking-glasses--which present faces that are not in them. Oh, how desirous are men to put the fairest gloves--upon the foulest hands; and the finest paint--upon the rottenest posts!

Hypocrites are better in show--than in substance. They are like painted tombs--which enclose decayed bones. That is a sad charge, which the God of truth brings against certain false professors, "I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews, and are not--but are the synagogue of Satan!" A false friend--is worse than an open enemy. A painted harlot is less dangerous--than a painted hypocrite. A treacherous Judas is more abhorred by God--than a bloody Pilate!

Professors! Remember--the sheep's clothing will soon be stripped from the wolf's back! The velvet plaster of profession--shall not always conceal the offensive ulcer of corruption. Neither the ship of formality nor hypocrisy--will carry a person to the harbor of felicity. The blazing lamps of foolish virgins may light them to the bridegroom's gate--but not into His chamber. Either get the nature of Christ within you--or take name of Christ away from you.

A bad man is certainly the worst--when he is seemingly the best. We must not account everyone a soldier--who swaggers with a sword. A rusty sword--may frequently be found in a highly decorated scabbard. What good is it to have our hands as white as snow--if our hearts are as black as the bottomless pit! Such professors resemble soap bubbles--smooth and pretty without--yet only filled with air!

A man may wear the Savior's livery--and yet be busied in Satan's drudgery! The skin of an apple may be fair--when it is rotten at the core! Though all gold may glitter--yet all is not gold that glitters. The worst hypocrite may have the color of gold--but not the value of gold!

Have you experienced this work of God?

Can you just imagine sitting in a pew and hearing this being heralded from the pulpit today! How God’s Spirit would move among the people. I can almost hear the “hush” and stillness that would come over the sanctuary.

Thank you Lord for the “dead men” who you have used as vessels, throughout the history of the church, to proclaim Your Word and Your Glory! Their sermons are like cool pure water to this parched and thirsty soul.

Preached at Zoar Chapel, London, on Thursday Evening, July 8th, 1841, by J. C. Philpot.

"A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance."
Ecclesiastes 3:3,4.

O cursed pride, that is ever lifting up its head in our hearts! Pride, that would even pull down God that it might sit upon His throne. Pride, that would trample under foot the holiest things to exalt itself! Pride, that can feed upon the letter of truth as well as upon garbage! Pride, that can wrap up itself in the monk's cowl and flaunt abroad in the attire of the harlot! Pride, that can soar aloft to the heights of creature-holiness, and wallow in the filthy kennel of impurity! That monstrous creature within us, of such ravenous and indiscriminate gluttony, that the more it devours, the more it craves, and "enlarges its desire as hell, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied" Hab 2:5. Pride, that chameleon which assumes every color, that actor which can play every part, and yet which is constant to no one object or purpose but to exalt and glorify self!

There is, then, "a time to kill" pride. And oh, what cutting weapons the Lord will sometimes make use of to kill a man's pride! How He will bring him sometimes into the depths of temporal poverty, that He may make a stab at his worldly pride! How He will bring to light the iniquities of his youth, that He may mortify his self-righteous pride! How He will allow sin to break forth, if not openly, yet so powerfully within, that piercing convictions shall kill his spiritual pride! And what deep discoveries of internal corruption, what a breaking up of "the fountains of the great deep," what a leading into the chambers of imagery will the Lord sometimes employ to dig down to the root, and cut off the core of that poisonous tree– pride!

The Searcher of hearts dissects and anatomizes this inbred evil, cuts down to it through the quivering and bleeding flesh, and pursues with His keen knife its multiplied windings and ramifications.

But there is "a time to kill" not only a man's pride, but also his WISDOM; to slaughter it, and, as it were, drain away the life-blood from it. How delusively does this fleshly wisdom of ours act, in endeavoring to substitute the 'mere knowledge of truth in the letter', for the teachings of God in the soul! And how many are deceived in various ways by leaning to their own wisdom, instead of feeling as fools before God, and looking up to Him for His blessed instruction! But the Lord will effectually kill creature-wisdom in the hearts of His people, by bringing them into those straits and difficulties, into those sharp and severe exercises, into those bitter and distressing temptations; where all human reasoning gives up the spirit, where knowledge and understanding are baffled and confounded, and the arm of the creature is so palsy-stricken that it cannot take any one promise out of the Word of God, to administer comfort to the troubled soul.

"I will destroy," says the Lord, "the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?" 1Cor 1:19,20; The wise man is not to "glory in his wisdom" Jer 9:23, but glory in it he will until it is killed, and he learns, at the knife's point, that the Lord "turns wise men backward, and makes their knowledge foolish" Isaiah 44:25. The best lessons are learned in affliction. A man never learns anything to profit while standing upon a lofty mountain. It is in the valley of humiliation, it is in seasons of distress, trouble, anxiety, perplexity, and temptation, that a man learns the secrets of heavenly wisdom, for in them he learns his own folly, and that "the Lord gives wisdom– out of His mouth comes knowledge and understanding" Pr 2:6.

But it is not all killing work. If God kills His people, it is to make them alive 1Sa 2:6; if He wounds them, it is that He may heal; if He brings down, it is that He may lift up.

November 16, 2008

What are you doing?

Ho do you spend your time, "christian"? Picketing and protesting against the homosexual agenda? Poking lost sinners in the eye, so that they will respond back in anger, so that you can feel persecuted for righteousness sake? Recently students on a local college campus had a captive audience of unregenerate souls, and instead of using that opportunity to preach the beauty of Christ and the gospel of Christ, they used that opportunity to fight their "moral" and "political" agenda's. It was UGLY!

Hundred's of young lost souls were gathered and the opportunity was wasted. Instead of them using this opportunity to herald the loveliness of the Savior, they poked people in their eyes with self-righteous, angry and hostile talk because, the truth is, that many of them would probably rather eliminate all of the lost sinners from their campus than to see them come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

What shame and dishonor we bring to the name of Christ when we care more about making this a moral, "christian" nation were everyone adheres to the laws of God without ever knowing the Savior. Their overall message was, "homosexuality is a sin and we fight against sin". Contrast this with the words of J.C. Ryle regarding what our purpose is on earth:

You are called to represent Christ to the world as He is, by your behavior towards Him. Is He altogether lovely? Let all the world see and know that He is so, by your delights in Him and communion with Him; zeal for Him, and readiness to part with any other lovely thing upon His account. Proclaim His excellencies to the world.

Persuade them how much your beloved is better than any other beloved. Show His glorious excellencies as you speak of Him; hold Him forth to others, as He is in Himself; altogether lovely.

See that you "walk worthy of Him unto all well pleasing," Col. 1:10. "Show forth the praises of Christ," 1 Pet. 2:19. Let not that "worthy name be blasphemed through you," James 2:7.

He is glorious in Himself, and He is sure to put glory upon you; take heed that you do not put shame and dishonors upon Him; He has committed his honor to you, do not betray that trust.

Young "christian" ask yourself why you do what you do. Is it driven by a desire to make everyone conform to God's moral standards whether they like it or not? Do you secretly hope to wipe sin and sinners off the face of the earth?

We are called to be His ambassadors. To proclaim His beauty to a lost and dying world. To preach Christ and the Cross whenever we have the opportunity. We are called to be salt and light, not pepper spray and flame throwing bayonets.

If you are truly a "born-again" believer and spend your time attemppting to "moralize" the lost world with anger and zeal, perhaps God is whispering in your ear, "Shhhhhh....please don't tell them you are one of mine"

November 15, 2008

The Imagination

One of the great duties of the Christian mind is imagination. It is not the only thing the mind does. The mind observes. The mind analyzes and organizes. The mind memorizes. But imagination is different. It does not observe or analyze what's there; it imagines what is not seen but might be there and might explain what is there (as in the case of most scientific discoveries). Or it imagines a new way of saying what is there that no one has said before (as in the case of creative writing and music and art).

I say that imagination is a Christian duty for two reasons. One is that you can't apply Jesus' golden rule without it. He said, "Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them" (Matthew 7:12). We must imagine ourselves in their place and imagine what we would like done to us. Compassionate, sympathetic, helpful love hangs much on the imagination of the lover.

The other reason I say that imagination is a Christian duty is that the supremacy of God in the life of the mind is not honored when God and his amazing world are observed truly, analyzed duly, and yet communicated boringly. Imagination is the key to killing boredom. We must imagine ways to say truth for what it really is. And it is not boring. God's world - all of it - rings with wonders. The imagination calls up new words, new images, new analogies, new metaphors, new illustrations, new connections to say old, glorious truth. Imagination is the faculty of the mind that God has given us to make the communication of his beauty beautiful.

Imagination may be the hardest work of the human mind. And perhaps the most God-like. It is the closest we get to creation out of nothing. When we speak of beautiful truth, we must think of a pattern of words, perhaps a poem. We must conceive something that has never existed before and does not now exist in any human mind. We must think of an analogy or metaphor or illustration which has no existence. The imagination must exert itself to see it in our mind, when it is not there. We must create word combinations and music that have never existed before. All of this we do, because we are like God and because he is infinitely worthy of ever-new words and songs.

A college - or a church - committed to the supremacy of God in the life of the mind will cultivate many fertile, and a few great, imaginations. And O how the world needs God-besotted minds that can say the great things of God and sing the great things of God and play the great things of God in ways that have never been said or sung or played before.

Imagination is like a muscle. It grows stronger when you flex it. And you must flex it. It does not usually put itself into action. It awaits the will. Imagination is also contagious. When you are around someone (alive or dead) who uses it a lot, you tend to catch it. So I suggest that you hang out with some people (mainly dead poets) who are full of imagination, and that you exert yourself to think up a new way to say an old truth. God is worthy. "Oh sing to the LORD a new song" - or picture, or poem, or figure of speech.

Fleeing with you from the sin of boring other people with God,
John Piper

"Oh, Thank Heaven for 7-11!"

I needed some cash to tip the dog groomer today and realized that I had no “real” money on me; so, I pulled into 7-11 to use their ATM. As I was entering the store, a woman was leaving and our eyes briefly met.

While in line, I ran into a black pastor that I knew from my involvement with his ministry to a “gang” street in our town and we visited for a short time. After using the “slot machine” I exited the store and proceeded towards my car. “Excuse me ma'am; can you spare a few dollars” was what she said as she stood on the side of the building clutching a plastic bag.

It was that same woman; the one I passed while entering the store a few minutes earlier. I smiled and walked up to her. I asked her to tell me why she needed the money. She explained that she had been laid off from her job and had lost her home. I asked her if she had children and she stated that she did but that she had family that were taking care of them. I asked her why “family” was not also taking care of her during this hardship. Although she had kept eye contact up to that point in the conversion; she broke her gaze and looked down as she said, “That’s a long story”.

I told her that she need not worry about sharing that story with me and that I intended to give her money. I told her that I was a follower of Jesus Christ and that she could be lying to me and use the money for drugs or alcohol and that was her choice, but that she could not hide the truth from the Lord. I asked her if she knew the Lord Jesus Christ. She said, “I was a church go-er for years when I lived in Folsom”. I said to her, “the church will not reconcile you to God, only Christ can do that. Do you understand who Christ is and what He accomplished on the cross?” She said, she understood that He came to die for our sins and that if we turn to Him for forgiveness and trust Him we will be saved. I asked her if she had turned to Him. She said, “No, I have not”.

At that point, she looked intently into my eyes and here was what came out of my mouth,

“If your soul is not reconciled to God it matters not how much money I or anyone gives to you. Someone could give you $100,000 dollars and that might solve your temporal problems for a while, but your soul will still be lost and there will be no eternal hope for your soul. If on the other hand, God has brought the suffering and hardships, that you are facing now, into your life, so that you will realize your need for Him; and if through your pain and suffering you should turn to Him, and trust in Christ’s sacrifice as the full payment for your sins; bow down to Him and give your life to Him, even if you find yourself having 2 more years of hardship and suffering, you will know that you have been reconciled to God through Christ and you will know that you can look forward to an eternity of joy (with no more suffering) once you leave this earth. I hope you think about your soul and you will think about Christ tonight. I would rather see you homeless for 2 more years and reconciled to God, than living comfortably in a nice home never knowing the Lord.”

She said to me “What you are saying is that without Christ there is no hope for my soul even if my situation were to improve”. “Yes, yes” I said.

She placed her hand on my arm; looked into my eyes; and said, with tears flowing down her face, “Thank you for caring enough about me to stop and tell me this; I love you”. I gave her a hug and said, “I love you too” as I handed her some money. I got into my car and started backing out of the parking lot. As I looked up, she was looking at me smiling and waving. I smiled, waved back and silently said a prayer for her as I drove off.

I’m so glad I stopped at 7-11 today!


There are times when solitude is better than society, and silence is wiser than speech. We should be better Christians if we were more alone, waiting upon God, and gathering through meditation on His Word spiritual strength for labour in His service. We ought to muse upon the things of God, because we thus get the real nutriment out of them.

Truth is something like the cluster of the vine: if we would have wine from it, we must bruise it; we must press and squeeze it many times. The bruiser’s feet must come down joyfully upon the bunches, or else the juice will not flow; and they must well tread the grapes, or else much of the precious liquid will be wasted. So we must, by meditation, tread the clusters of truth, if we would get the wine of consolation therefrom.

Our bodies are not supported by merely taking food into the mouth, but the process which really supplies the muscle, and the nerve, and the sinew, and the bone, is the process of digestion. It is by digestion that the outward food becomes assimilated with the inner life.

Our souls are not nourished merely by listening awhile to this, and then to that, and then to the other part of divine truth. Hearing, reading, marking, and learning, all require inwardly digesting to complete their usefulness, and the inward digesting of the truth lies for the most part in meditating upon it.

Why is it that some Christians, although they hear many sermons, make but slow advances in the divine life? Because they neglect their closets, and do not thoughtfully meditate on God’s Word. They love the wheat, but they do not grind it; they would have the corn, but they will not go forth into the fields to gather it; the fruit hangs upon the tree, but they will not pluck it; the water flows at their feet, but they will not stoop to drink it.

From such folly deliver us, O Lord, and be this our resolve this morning, “I will meditate in Thy precepts.”

Charles Spurgeon, from Morning Devotions, October 12th.

Spared from Suffering or Spared from Sin. What do you pray for?

Above every evil, we should consider sin as the greatest evil--as it is the fountain and origin of all evils. Sin is the only target--at which all the arrows of divine vengeance are shot! Sinners are those spiders which weave their own webs--and are afterwards entangled in them! Our own destruction--is but the fruit of our own transgression.

There is more real evil in a particle of corruption--than in an ocean of tribulation! The evil of suffering is transient--but the evil of sin is permanent. The consistent Christian will always choose the worst of sorrows--before he will commit the least of sins! The wicked entirely reverse this--for they prefer the greatest sin--to the least sufferings!

This is to leap out of the hot pan--into the consuming fire! By seeking to shun an external calamity--they rush into eternal misery! This is as if a man should lose his head--to preserve his hat! As the works of sin are dishonorable; so the wages of sin are deadly! "The wages of sin--is death." The corruption of nature is the cause of the dissolution of nature.

The candle of our lives--is blown out by the wind of our lusts! Were it not for sin--death would never have had a beginning! Were it not for death--sin would never have an ending! What is so sweet a good as Christ? And what is so great an evil as lust?

Sin has brought many a believer into suffering--and suffering has instrumentally kept many a believer out of sin! It is better to be preserved in brine--than to rot in honey! The bitterest medicine is to be preferred--before the sweetest poison! The consistent Christian will always choose the worst of sorrows--before he will commit the least of sins!

William Secker, "The Consistent Christian" 1660

Sometimes you just gotta laugh....

I came across this news release (it's a satire on the state of the modern "christian" community) and it was just what the doctor ordered. Although the condition of the church is really no laughing matter and it brings me great sorrow--sometimes you just gotta laugh to get through another day.

Pastor Admits Himself for Treatment
November 15, 2008 - Boise, Idaho

Church officials for Jerusalem’s Bus Stop, a gathering of Christ-followers in Boise, Idaho have reported that Pastor/Head Facilitator Tucker Wynn has taken a leave of absence in the wake of what they describe as Wynn “hitting a major pothole in his faith journey” when he told several people during his sermon to “shut up and read your Bible.”

Jacob Mason, the church’s Supervisor of Holistic Meditation, witnessed the shocking event. “Tuck was facilitating our usual sermon-dialogue time on Sunday when Karen, our director of pottery, tried to express her inner feelings on what God was saying to her. Before she could share her feelings, however, Tuck said that he had a feeling to share, too. He said he felt like she needed to shut up and focus on God’s word instead of her feelings. Needless to say, Karen’s feelings were hurt, so she told him how she felt about his feelings toward her. Then we opened up the discussion for others to express how they felt.”

According to several eyewitnesses, Pastor Wynn then screamed, “What is WRONG with you people!” and fled the building.

Sadly, this was not the first time Wynn had exhibited a drift toward fundamentalism and biblical certainty. Two months earlier, church leaders became concerned when Wynn became noticeably excited about ordering the new ESV Study Bible. “Things just didn’t seem right with Tuck after that,” said tattoo and piercing minister Leslie Moore. “First he started using big words like hermeneutics, exegesis, and perspicuity. Then he started hammering us on doctrine, of all things. Before we knew it, he was blowing out our candles and turning up the dimmer switch in the sanctuary so we could read the Bible during worship. Talk about a buzz kill. We could barely see the Nooma videos with all the lights on.”

During his leave of absence, Pastor Wynn will be under medical supervision at Intermountain Hospital on a voluntary basis. “This break will be good for me,” Wynn confided from his bed. “The doctors have made me understand that I’m powerless to make people focus on the clear teachings of Scripture instead of their feelings. Obviously I can’t compete with their feelings, so I need to take a deep breath and stay calm. But it’s hard, you know? Talking to them is like banging my head against a wall over and over and over again. Bam! Bam! Bam! I mean, what is with these people?! Why do they do this? Why?! Tell me, why?! WHY?!!— Um, can you excuse me a minute?… Nurse! I think I need another pill!”

While Wynn remains in padded wrist restraints, the church will continue their Sunday gatherings under the leadership of Associate Pastor Justin Hanna, who is confident of Wynn’s future return. “Everyone at Jerusalem’s Bus Stop has had a chance to share their feelings about what happened, and we’ve decided that our diverse faith community is tolerant enough to include rabid fundamentalists like Tuck who are hung up on the centrality of the Bible,” Hanna explained. “Of course, if he keeps trying to shove scripture down our throats all the time, we might have to share our feelings with him again.”

End of Article

Hope I didn't offend or hurt anyone's feelings. I have been experiencing so many groups where those who know little about God or His Word, spend hours sitting around confusing each other with their opinions and feelings about Him. Although these types of gatherings may be interesting; help everyone get to no one another; and provoke thought, they will not result in believers growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. These types of gatherings are rapidly replacing "real" bible study.

And, yes, many times I have found myself thinking, "I don't care what you think; I want to know what God thinks. Can I relate to "Shut up and read your Bible's"? Oh, yes I can. If we would do just that, we would spend a lot less time thinking we have some insightful thing to share; and, when we do share, it might actually be something that will feed the soul instead of the flesh.

November 14, 2008

The Truth Matters

I decided to copy this over from my private journal blog. Perhaps it will help put to ease the mind of any one desiring to comment on any future posts. I am not a "sensitive" person and it takes a great deal to offend me. So comment away. But, if you do--expect that I will be as forthright with you as I hope you are with me.

The Truth Matters!

"Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!"

I want the truth! I hunger for the truth! No matter how hard it is to swallow; no matter how ugly and painful it might be. I have found no benefit in living in a false reality. If I ask you if these pants make my butt look big (and they indeed do) I want you to say, "Yes, dear, those pants make your butt look big".

Even better still--"Actually honey, the pants don't make your butt look big--the truth is your butt is big." Of course, that would only apply if I indeed had a big butt.

That is the kind of communication I can respect and that I desire from those who say that they love me. That is a person I can trust!