When Doing God’s Will Is Hard

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How can we come to delight to do Godís will when it’s contrary to our desires?

When we donít feel like reading the Bible or praying or going to Care Group or asking forgiveness. †How do we rejoice when we feel like cursing or crying? †5 suggestions:

Confess. Tell Jesus you donít feel like doing this. †Ask him to forgive you for your coldness heart and lack of desire to obey him. Confess your inability to do anything apart from him.

Pray. Ask Jesus to help you delight to do his will and to give you joy in obeying him.

Remind yourself of the truth of Godís word. His commands are not burdensome. †None of our work in the Lord is in vain. †His yoke is easy. †This is the reality of the situation. †The good fight of faith is to battle to believe Godís word and not our feelings.

Look ahead. Look to Christís reward. †For the joy set before him Jesus endured the cross. †He looked past the cross to the joy he would experience later. †Look past the immediate hardness of your situation to the joy afterward.

Obey until it becomes delightful. ďYour words were found, and I ate them, and your words BECAME to me a joy and the delight of my heartĒ (JE 15.16).

“Not only did Jesus do the will of the Father, not only was that His whole goal in life, but Psalm 40:8 tells us that He delighted to do the will of the Father. To become like Jesus, then, is to come to the place where we delight to do the will of God, however sacrificial or unpleasant that will may seem to us at the time, simply because it is His will.” — Jerry Bridges

What would you add to these suggestions?

photo by ground.zero

If the Church Was Like the World Cup

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I walked into church this past Sunday.

That’s strange, I thought. The place is packed. There must be thousands of new people here. I walked up to one guy who was wearing a gold cross, a “Got Jesus?” t-shirt, a WWJD bracelet, and a hat with a fish on it. I asked him if this was his first time attending a church.

“Yeah it is, but dude, I’ve always loved church. I mean, it’s totally awesome.”† I then asked him what he loved about church. “Well you know. It’s just amazing. You know, there’s stuff about God and prayer. And, what’s that book called?”

I just looked at him and kept going.

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As I walked toward the main sanctuary I heard a strange noise. It sounded like…

“Hey man here’s your trumpet,” someone shouted in my ear. A young couple was standing at the entrance to the sanctuary, handing trumpets to everyone who came in. I looked around and saw that everyone in the auditorium was wildly blowing on their trumpet.

“What am I supposed to do with it?” I shouted.

“You just blow on it the whole service. Especially when you get excited, like when the worship band starts playing something by Chris Tomlin or the pastor gives an awesome illustration from the show Lost.” The noise in the auditorium was deafening, but nobody seemed to care.

Another greeter came over and asked the young couple if they could help him clean up a mess in the bathroom. The couple instantly flopped forward, landing dramatically on the ground. They both grabbed their ankles and began rolling around on the ground. Apparently they couldn’t help with the bathroom.

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The worship band got started, and everything was going well until the worship leader tried an unexpected key change. Suddenly the band was thrown into chaos. Instantly the congregation began booing and throwing bulletins, Bible covers, and anything else they could get there hands on. Finally the band got back on track and everything resumed as normal.

After worship, the offering basket was passed around. Every time someone put a significant donation in they yelled, “TTTTTTIIIIITTTTTHHHHHEEEEE!” and the crowd broke into applause.

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Then the pastor came up on stage and began his sermon. Things were progressing normally (other than the continuous trumpeting) for 15 minutes when the pastor suddenly stopped. He pointed at a man who was walking toward the restroom.

“No using the restroom until minute 17 of the service!” The pastor then pointed to a woman who was fanning herself with a bulletin.

“No right handed fanning,” he shouted. He then proceeded to mysteriously disallow several other things, such as chewing spearmint gum and taking notes with a BIC ballpoint pen.

After forty minutes of preaching I thought things were coming to an end, but the pastor spontaneously decided to add two extra points to his sermon. At minute sixty seven, he concluded with, “Let’s pray.”

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The moment the pastor said, “Amen,” he ripped off his shirt, threw it into the congregation, and sprinted around the auditorium. He concluded his sprint by sliding on his knees across the stage and pumping his fists. The worship team dog piled on top of him.

That signaled the end of church, and I quickly made my out of the auditorium and into the parking lot.

I didn’t want to be there when the congregation started setting chairs on fire.

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Why Must We Keep Asking?

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Why does God make us persevere in prayer?

Why does he tell us to keep ďpraying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance?Ē (EPH 6.18)

If he intends to answer our prayers, why doesnít he answer the moment we ask? †If heís going to save a rebellious child, for example, why doesnít he save him sooner rather than later? †Why must we ask again and again? †A few thoughts:

Higher priorities

God has higher priorities than quickly answering our prayers, like his own glory. †Sometimes by delaying he displays his glory more brilliantly. †Authors often put a character in a life-threatening situation, then makes it more and more desperate, till all hope is gone. †Then at the last second, the hero rides in and against unbelievable odds, overcomes every obstacle and rescues the character. †The hero gets much more glory this way. †The more desperate our situation, the more Godís power, mercy and wisdom shine when he comes through.

Unfinished business

Sometimes he delays because he has work to do in us. †Forming Christ in us is more important than immediately meeting our needs. †By delaying God raises our faith to new heights, fortifies our patience, and cultivates our dependence on him.

Perseverance in prayer also deepens our relationship with our Father. If he always responded the second we asked weíd only come to him when we wanted something, like a big quick stop convenience store in the sky.

God is after our joy

Don’t we appreciate the answer more when we have to wait? †Our joy is greater, our thankfulness more heartfelt, our relief sweeter. †God is after our highest joy and knows how and when to give it to us.

photo (and isn’t this a cool photo?) by toolmantim

All I Need Is A Miracle

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The gospel is more astonishing than any miracle.

In Acts 13 Paul shares the gospel with Sergius Paulus, proconsul of Cyprus.† When the local sorcerer tries to turn him from faith in Christ, Paul pronounces judgment of temporary blindness, which falls upon the magician immediately.

Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord. (AC 13.12)

Though the proconsul witnessed a stunning miracle, which definitely got his attention, what astonished him was “the teaching of the Lord.”† The gospel is more astonishing than any miracles that accompany it.† It is more astonishing that Jesus would become a man, take our sins, be punished for them, and rise from the dead than it is for a man to be blinded by God’s power.

Isn’t it amazing, astounding, incredible that God opened your blind eyes, gave life to your dead heart, justified you in his sight, adopted you as his child and made you an heir with Christ?† I want to see miracles, but I want to be astonished at the gospel.

How Much Condemnation Is Okay?

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How much condemnation is it okay for the Christian to experience?

Many times after I sin, I have a sense that condemnation is okay, that it’s the right, penitent response to sin. As if my feeling of condemnation somehow atones for the sin that I committed against God. As if I need to punish myself for the sin I committed.

I harbor this sense that a little condemnation is good, that it will keep me from sinning and help me repent.

And so sometimes I labor for hours, or even days, under this vague sense of divine displeasure. There is no joy in Stephen on those days. Just the sense that I’m a sinner. End of sentence. Nothing more.

But there really is NO room for condemnation in the Christian life. Paul did not say, ďThere is therefore now a little bit of condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

There is no condemnation. Zero. Not one drop.

Condemnation doesn’t please God. It doesn’t make him happy. It doesn’t exalt the work of Jesus, and it doesn’t highlight the free grace of God. Condemnation is centered on self.

I can’t atone for my sin, and it really doesn’t please God when I try.

Jesus was condemned in my place, so I don’t ever have to experience condemnation.

Does anyone else feel like they need to allow a little condemnation into their lives?

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+photo by Cuba Gallery

That’s OK, Tonto, I Can Figure It Out

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God commands believers to bear one another’s burdens. †Implied in this command is that we must allow others to bear our burdens as well. †To me, this is harder than bearing the burdens of others.

I would rather shoulder my own load and not bother others. †Sometimes this is because of pride. †I donít want to appear weak. †I donít want others to know that Iím struggling with discouragement or unbelief.

Many times itís because of the fear of man, or craving the approval of others that I donít share my burdens. †I donít want others to know I fail as a parent. †I donít want others to know Iím having challenges with my teen or that Iíve been harsh or lax. †I want to look like I have it all together, that Iím the perfect parent.

I donít want others to know Iíve sinned. †I donít like to admit Iíve lied or given a false impression, or given in to lust or anger. †I donít want others to know Iíve been living in unbelief. †Iíll just work through this myself.

Sometimes I fail to let others bear my burdens because Iím unteachable.† I think I can figure things out on my own.† Thanks for your suggestions, Tonto, but I got this one under control. †After all, Iím the LONE Ranger, remember? †Maybe the Marlboro Man could use your advice.

We need friends who will ask questions, like, ďHow are you doing in your heart? †Are you tempted to unbelief or discouragement? †Are you tempted to anger or being cold toward your child? †Is Facebook a source of temptation for you in the midst of your marriage problems? †Are you feeling bitter toward that person who sinned against you?Ē

Itís humbling. †But humility is the path to victory. †If we seek to cover our sins we wonít prosper, but if we confess and forsake them, weíll find mercy.

How about you? †Do you struggle to allow others to bear your burdens?

Obsessed For The Glory Of God

Some of you out there think you’re good Scrabble players. You play the letter ‘X’ on a triple letter score, rack up 250 points in a game, and walk away feeling pretty good about yourself. Let me tell you straight up, you stink at Scrabble. Joel Sherman is good at Scrabble.

Sherman is a self-proclaimed professional Scrabble player, a man whose very existence revolves around playing and winning Scrabble. He has no job other than playing Scrabble. Joel lives off of disability, which allows him to devote all his waking time to playing, studying, and mastering the game of Scrabble. For several years he studied word lists on his computer for 1-2 hours a day, four days a week, so that he could master the game of Scrabble. Joel is obsessed with the game of Scrabble. In his own words, Scrabble, “…basically validates my existence.”

Joel Sherman doesn’t play Scrabble, he dominates Scrabble. Listen to this short excerpt from the book Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players. In this excerpt Joel is relaying how he won a particular game:

Joel breathlessly explains how he worked his way though a troubling opening rack in the 603-point game, why he kept the three vowels IIO to go with a blank, how he saw that he would be able to turn the word BICES into IBICES (the plural of IBEX), how he drew the second blank and was able to play VICHIES for 100 points.”

Joel’s obsession with Scrabble challenges me. All of his thought, and creativity, and energy are poured into a board game. I want to obsessed with pursuing the Lord like Joel is obsessed with the game of Scrabble. I want to study scripture like Joel Sherman studies word lists. It shames me that an unbeliever would love the game of Scrabble more than I love the God who died for me. If a non-Christian can be that passionate about a game, I should be infinitely more passionate about pursuing Christ, the source of all joy and satisfaction. I want all my thought, and energy, and devotion to be given to my Savior. I want to be obsessed for the glory of God.

Give me one pure and holy passion / give me one magnificent obsession / Jesus give me one glorious ambition for my life / to know and follow hard after you

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Originally published December, 2007