Giving Away “Worldliness”

On Monday we’ll be giving away a copy of the book “Worldliness“, edited by C.J. Mahaney, as part of the 2009 Great American Book Giveaway.

Let me whet your appetite with a quote from this book:

All too often, we think about neither what we watch nor how much.? Our watching is just inevitable. We watch by habit. We watch because we’re bored. We unwatchingly watch as the TV stays on for background noise. We watch alone or with others. We gather with friends on Friday night and rent a DVD because there’s nothing else to do…

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying it’s wrong to watch television, rent a DVD, surf the Internet, or spend an evening at the cinema. The hazard is thoughtless watching. Glorifying God is an intentional pursuit. We don’t accidentally drift into holiness; rather, we mature gradually and purposefully, one choice at a time. (From “God, My Heart, and Media” by Craig Cabaniss)

This is a book worth reading!

And it’s not too late to enter the 2009 Great American Book Giveaway.

More Blessings Than Sand

Thou Eternal God,
Thine is surpassing greatness, unspeakable goodness; super-abundant grace
I can as soon count the sands of ocean’s lip
as number thy favours towards me;
I know but a part, but that part exceeds all praise

Valley of Vision – “Divine Mercies”

When was the last time you pressed the “pause” button of life and took stock of God’s mercies toward you? It’s so easy for us to become fixated on the one thing that’s “wrong” in our lives that we miss the staggering heaps of divine blessing strewn about us.

Try to make a list of God’s blessings toward you. Don’t forget to include:

  • Your salvation. If this was the only thing on my list I would have reason to spend my entire life singing.
  • Your health. Walking, breathing unaided, playing sports – all grace. Why can I do these things and others can’t?
  • Your family. I get to spend every day with my best friend, my wife Jen. I have a daughter that’s cuter than a bucket of puppies.
  • Your house. Every day I enjoy hot showers, warm covers, and three square meals.
  • Your job. I’m not rich by American standards, but I make more money in a day than most of the world makes in a year.
  • Your church. I can worship without fear of government assassination. I own at least five Bibles. My church meets in a building, not under a tree in the African plains.

The list could keep going for pages. I didn’t even mention friends, times my life has been saved, my pastor, my parents, my computer, my spiritual resources, the correction of the Holy Spirit, and ten-thousand other things. God has been kind, hasn’t he? I don’t want to stumble past mountains by staring at a grain of sand.

So what’s on your list?

+photo by photoxgo

We Shall Fight!

These were ?stern days? for England as Winston Churchill called them.

Much of Europe had fallen before the Nazi juggernaut, and Germany was poised to attack England.? There were many who hoped that Churchill would negotiate with Germany to save their necks.? But speaking to the British Parliament on June 4, 1940 he gave a ringing call to fight.? Here?s an excerpt:

We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France,
we shall fight on the seas and oceans,
we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be,
we shall fight on the beaches,
we shall fight on the landing grounds,
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
we shall fight in the hills;
we shall never surrender?

Shouldn’t we who have trusted the Lord of hosts have even greater resolve?? Shouldn’t we who are heirs with Christ set our faces like flint, determined to fight the good fight to the end?? Let us take up the whole armor of God, and resolve that by his grace:

We shall go on to the end,
We shall fight for the gospel in our own hearts and the hearts of our children and fellow believers,
We shall fight to believe God is sovereign and good and loving at all times, even in tragedy,
We shall fight with growing confidence and strength in Christ, the power of God,
We shall fight to forgive and do good to those who sin against us,
We shall fight to not forsake fellowship, even when we feel like quitting,
We shall fight to keep pursuing God in his Word and prayer,
We shall fight to put sin to death in our lives,
We shall fight to keep the simplicity of devotion to Jesus,
We shall fight for the glory of God, whatever the cost may be,
We shall never surrender?

Are you suffering ?? Cast down?? Weary?? Don?t surrender!? Get up, pick up your sword and shield and fight the good fight of faith! (1 TI 6:11-12)

photo by cstm-mstc pgc-mpc

Don’t Touch the Mountain

Moses probably wouldn’t do so well in my church. We sing cheerful songs and chit-chat in the lobby as we munch on chocolate doughnuts. Sometimes we get distracted. Cell phones create mid-sermon jam sessions. Babies have mid-service freak out sessions. We wonder if the Steelers are going to win the Super Bowl.

But you know what would really shock Moses? The fact that all of us draw near to God. Personally. Intimately. Daily.

Moses’ experience of God was different. Incredibly different. Out of all the Israelites, only one person, Moses himself, was allowed to draw near to God. Anyone else that came remotely close to the presence of God was playing with death.

Exodus 19:9-12 paints a frightening picture.

When Moses told the words of the people to the Lord, the Lord said to Moses, ?Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ?Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death. No hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot.

Don’t go near the mountain of God. Don’t touch it. Don’t even mess around the edges. You touch the mountain and you get stoned. Why? Because you’re sinful and God is holy. Moses is the mediator between God and Israel. No one else comes near.

So what changed? Why aren’t I engulfed in flames the moment I open my mouth in prayer? Why doesn’t the ground swallow me up when I open my Bible? Why am I allowed to come near when Israel was told to fall back? Because I have an infinitely better mediator. Moses couldn’t bring Israel with him into the presence of God.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 10:16)

What would our lives be like apart from this mediator? What would prayer, Bible reading, and church look like? Jesus brings us up the mountain.

A Heroic Cup Of Tea

On January 15, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger guided US Airlines Flight 1549 to an emergency landing in the Hudson river in New York City.? All 155 people on board the plane survived and Sullenberger is being hailed as a hero.

Sullenberger’s wife, Lorraine, at a homecoming celebration for the hero in their home town in California, said with tears in her eyes, “I have always known him to be an exemplary pilot.? I knew what the outcome would be that day because I knew my husband.? But mostly for me, he’s the man that makes my cup of tea every morning.”

Now that’s a true hero.? A man who makes his wife a cup of tea every morning.? And it wouldn’t surprise me that he serves his wife in a thousand other ways.

Most of us won’t ever do anything as monumental as plopping a jetliner onto the Hudson.? Most of us will live rather ordinary lives.? At least from a worldly point of view.? But believers can live glorious lives as we faithfully walk in the works God has prepared for us, be they ever so ordinary and unremarkable.

Jesus said that if we give a cup of water to a disciple we’ll be rewarded.? If we receive a child in his name he takes special note.? Jesus said a poor widow who gave her last penny gave more than all the rich who gave out of their abundance.? Most Christians’ lives are made up of thousands of small, faithful acts of service which glorify Jesus more than we know.

Like my friends Bob and Twila. For the past twenty-two years they’ve been foster parents to 43 children, and adopted 6. How many thousands of acts of kindness and service have Bob and Twila done that only Jesus remembers?

For the past 2 years, Twila has been battling cancer. She’s been in the hospital a lot.? And many nights, Bob, who drives a coal truck, comes in after work at 8 at night, stays with Twila till 2 a.m., then quietly heads out into the darkness for another day on the road.

A true hero is a servant. He makes his wife a cup of tea every morning. Ordinary.? Faithful.? Incredible.

photo: Daily News

Lessons From Smart Guys

If you spend more than three minutes with me, you’ll come to the solid conclusion that I’m not particularly smart. In fact, you may come away from a conversation with me actually feeling dumber.

Now, lest (isn’t that a great word?) I be accused of playing the false humility card, let me clarify. I’m not a complete moron. I did well in college. I don’t go around sticking forks into plugs. But if it came down to me and Jonny-Smart-Guy in an intellectual showdown, I’d lose.

For the past five months I’ve been studying at the Sovereign Grace Ministries Pastor’s College and have had the opportunity to be around some genuinely smart people. I’ve been taught by first-rate biblical scholars, men who are intimately familiar with all of scripture and know the finer points of Greek and Hebrew. It probably wouldn’t be a good idea to challenge any of these guys to a Bible triva-off.

There seems to be an idea floating around in idea-world that guys like this don’t really love God. They’re so full of doctrine that there’s no room left for loving Jesus. How can they love God with all that cold, dry doctrine in their head? Just give me experience with Jesus, not any dogma. You get the point.

The critics should spend some time with these guys and then reevaluate their position. The truth is, these men are passionate about Jesus precisely because of their deep knowledge!

They know the contours of the Old Testament. They see the big picture of God’s redemptive plan revealed throughout all of scripture. They understand the connections between Matthew and Genesis, and don’t get freaked out by long genealogies. They are precise in their knowledge of scripture, and it’s this precision that causes their love for Jesus to burn white-hot. It’s their understanding of the animal sacrifices in Leviticus, and the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53, and the bloodied Savior hanging on a cross that causes them to weep as they consider the cross. They love God because they know God.

After all, it’s hard to love somebody that you don’t know.

And so I want to be like these men. I want to grow in my knowledge of scripture. I want to know it well, intimately, intricately. Not for the sake of knowledge accumulation. For the sake of loving Christ more deeply.

A Father’s Yearning Heart

His eyes squinted against the hot sun as he scanned the horizon.

For the hundredth time that day.? Just like he had every day for months.? Or was it years now?? Sometimes he thought he saw him, but it was only his deceitful imagination.? Or the heat shimmering.? He’d often seen a lone figure approaching and run to meet him.? As hard and fast as he could.? But he was always disappointed.? It was always only a trader or some other lone sojourner.

How long would he keep fanning this dying flame?? Surely the boy was dead.? It had been too long.? He’d expected him to come home in a month or two.? Maybe he would realize how good he’d had it.? The man thought maybe he despises me so much he won’t come back even if he’s starving.? Does he even think about us at all?

The young man had wanted his inheritance early.? He wanted his money now.? In other words, he wished I was dead.? The old man wasn’t angry though.? He just sat there with a gaping heart, gazing at the unchanging horizon.

The young man had been so confident.? So proud.? So godless.? Demanding, not even asking.? He didn’t even kiss me when he left.? Didn’t even thank me.? He just strode over the horizon, not looking back.? Oh, my son.

The man thought he detected the faintest speck of a solitary figure on the shimmering horizon.? Another illusion.? No, there it is again.? A silhouette, barely discernible.? Don’t hope, my heart.? You’ll only be crushed.? The figure plodded closer.? A man.? Head down.? Still a long way off.

He could barely begin to make out the features.? It looks like…could it possibly be?

Running across baking sand, heart pounding.? Streaming eyes.? I’m coming, my son!? I’m coming.

Sadness on the young sunken face.? Shame in the lowered eyes.? Dropping to his knees.? The father falling upon him, embracing, kissing the dirty neck.? My son, my son.

The two men slowly drew near the house, the father supporting the young man, who was gaunt, emaciated.? The father called the servants.? Draw a bath!? Get my best robe.? And my ring!? Kill the fattened calf!? Tell all my friends and neighbors. Tonight we celebrate!? For my son was dead, and now he’s alive!? He was lost, but now he’s found.

How our Father loves us.

photo by Allard One

A Prayer for Barack Obama

Father,

This is your world, and you do with it as you please. You’re the King of Presidents and the true director of all nations. A man can’t become president, or pastor, or prime minister, or plumber, without your consent. There isn’t a country or king or child or bird or insect that sustains itself. You work all things according to your plans, and no human plan can stand apart from you.

We bless you for allowing Barack Obama to be elected as President of the United States. We know that he wasn’t ultimately elected by Democrats or Republicans, but by You. So we trust you. You knew exactly what you were doing.

Lord, our greatest desire is not that the economy would be righted, or that health care would be solved, or that the war in Iraq would be resolved. We want to see You glorified in whatever way you choose. Glorify Yourself through Barack Obama. We pray that four years from now more people would know and love you because Barack Obama was in office.

We pray that you would draw Barack Obama to yourself. Open his eyes to see the glories of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Press Your hand upon him. Allow him to feel the fragility of this country.

Your word tells us that you control his heart like a waterway. Please cause him to enact godly laws, laws that will promote the spread of your gospel. Breathe into him a love for human life, a heart that moves with compassion for the needy, and a deep sense of Your justice.

Above all else, use Barack Obama as a channel for Your kingdom.

In Jesus name, amen.

Winners of “The Gospel Primer”

It’s your moment of destiny, your time to shine like a shooting star, the day you were born for (okay enough cliches). It’s time to announce the first winners of the 2009 Great American Book Giveaway. They are:

Lisa Bailes

Mitch McGinnis

Lisa Harding

Kendra Cleavenger

Brandon Minich

Congrats to the winners! If you won, please send me your address so I can send you your copy of The Gospel Primer.

It’s not to late to enter the 2009 Great American Book Giveaway. More winners to come!