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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Proclamation!

"What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life -- and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us -- what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete." [1 John 1:1-4]

Commenting on this passage, Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote the following.
__________________________________________________________________________________

The gospel is a declaration, a manifestation, a showing. ... The trouble with so many of us (is that) we persist in regarding it as an outlook, as something which results from the meditation and thought of man on the whole problem of life and living. That has been the real tragedy of the last century or so, when philosophy took the place of revelation and people said that the Bible is nothing after all but human thoughts, man's ideas, man's search after God.

But that is not the gospel! The whole position of the Apostles, John and the rest, is that they have something to declare, something to say. They have seen something, they are reporting it, and that something is so wonderful that John can scarcely contain himself. ...There is nothing uncertain about this message, it is a proclamation; there is an urge and an authority behind it.

I know that the old charge which has so often been brought up against the Church and her preachers is that we are dogmatic; but the preacher who is not dogmatic is not a preacher in the New Testament sense. We should be modest about our own opinions and careful as to how we voice our own speculations, but here, thank God, we are not in such a realm, we are not concerned about such things. What we do is not to put forward a theory which commends itself to us as a possible explanation of the world and what we can do about it; the whole basis of the New Testament is that here is an announcement, a proclamation - those are New Testament words.

The gospel, according to the New Testament, is a herald; it is like a man with a trumpet who is calling people to listen. There is nothing tentative about what he has to say; something has been delivered unto him, and his business is to repeat it. ...We are ambassadors, and the business of the ambassador is not to say to the foreign country what he thinks or believes; it is to deliver the message which has been delivered to him by his home government and the King he represents. That is the position of these New Testament preachers, and that is how John puts it here - 'I have an amazing thing to reveal,' he says.


Monday, March 26, 2012

'Idols of the Heart' - Chapters 7-8

Ask someone to tell you what God is like and chances are they'll tell you about their personal conception of God. There's only one way we can accurately know the character of God, however, and it's not achieved by creating our own ideas and impressions about Him. It is to conceive of Him as He has revealed Himself to actually be in Scripture. In fact, God warns against ever imagining that He is like us. Through Asaph the Psalmist, God rebuked His people for creating a false image of Him, writing, "You thought that I was just like you; I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes." (Ps.50:21). When we create a false picture of God in our mind (our thoughts, beliefs, judgments & imaginations), we have created an idol, a false god, a god of our own imagination. It's only "by immersing ourselves in Spirit-enlightened study of God through Scripture" that we can avoid the error of creating "the comfort of a loving god without the demands of a holy god." Rather than wanting God to be like us, we need to apply our thinking, reasoning & discernment to our becoming more like Him, holy and set apart for His use. 
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment..." [Romans 12:1-3]
It is through the renewing of our mind, the putting off of wrong conceptions and the putting on of Scriptural truth, that we are able to obtain an accurate view of who God really is and who we really are. It is in this way that we can avoid "the sin of worshiping a god of our imagination ... a god who thinks just like us, whom we can command and manipulate for our pleasure. ... We need concentrated doses of truth on a daily basis about the God who really is."

The danger of creating false gods in our minds is that they breed disobedience. "We sin because we believe that there's some happiness to be gained by it. It's then that our thoughts about happiness become our god." Rather than using our minds to discern God's truth and guard ourselves from idolatry, when we think wrong thoughts about God and wrong thoughts about ourselves we can actually come to believe the lie, rather than God! Fitzpatrick offers several questions we can use to test ourselves so that we may discover exactly what/who it is that we are trusting in God's place.
  • What do I believe about the source of true happiness in this circumstance? 
  • What do I believe about God in this circumstance?
  • What do I believe about myself - my rights, my goals, my desires? [Anytime we start thinking about our "rights" an alarm should go off in our minds!]
  • What am I trusting in?
Believers are to be continuously "destroying/demolishing/casting down speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and ... (be) taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ," (2Cor.10:5) 

Fitzpatrick points out in Chapter 8: "Longing for God," that God created man "with the capacity to experience great happiness in obedience to Him." But because of sin, man's nature has been "warped out of shape." 
Our hearts, the fount from which all our sin flows (Mt.12:34), have ceased to be God-centered and have become self-centered. Rather than living life to reflect God for His glory, man lives for his own glory, seeking happiness in his own reflection. Rather than living in humble submission to God's word, trusting that His way is best, we rely on our own understanding. (Prov.3:5) ... Now, rather than worshiping his Creator and finding happiness in God, he'll create a god in his own image; rather than reflecting oneness with others for God's glory, he'll pursue relationships primarily for his glory and pleasure; rather than working so that God's works would be known and glorified by others, he chases after and loves money, respect, and prestige.
Our only hope for restoring our relationship with God is "to be reborn in the image of Jesus Christ - the only Man who ever fulfilled His role in creation." It's only through accepting God's gracious provision through His Son that God's wrath can be averted, His justice be fulfilled and reconciliation can take place. Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." (John 14:6) When we believe Him and come to Him in faith, we are no longer in bondage to our sin nature. That's not to say that we're sinless. It means we have a God-given ability to see and understand God's truth instead of the lie and through the work of the Holy Spirit, we have the God-given empowerment to obey Him, thus bringing Him glory and giving us increasing joy in Him.
The wonderful truth is that all our longings are met in Christ. He's come to give us abundant life, but He doesn't do so by satisfying sinful desires. He satisfies us by turning our hearts away from them toward Him. He shows us the emptiness in our cravings and the great joy of oneness with Him and with His children. He's the source and satisfaction of all our happiness. All we need is found in Him.

Idols of the Heart, Elyse Fitzpatrick
[Review: Intro, Chapters 1-2; Chapters 3-4; Chapters 5-6]



Monday, March 12, 2012

'Idols of the Heart' - Chapters 5-6

When we read about Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego's refusal to bow down before the idol in Babylon and of their bold response to King Nebuchadnezzar's threats (Dan.3:17-18), we might imagine ourselves in their place. We can see taking a brave stand for God against the highest power in a pagan land. We can picture ourselves being willing to suffer the consequences through the power of the Holy Spirit. It's so very black and white, isn't it? Yet when we're challenged to choose God today, when God asks us to repudiate our personal idols and love Him with all of our heart, mind and will at this particular moment, it can seem a lot harder to accomplish. A bold stand in a crisis situation can often be much easier than choosing God above all else on a day-to-day, moment-by-moment basis. We may have the confidence of Shadrack and his friends "that death in faith was indeed better than an idolatrous life" and yet be unwilling to live out a life reflecting that truth in the numerous "small" choices of mundane living. Can we honestly declare with David that God's "lovingkindness is better than life"? (Ps.63:3)

Our outer actions reflect our inner attitude, our "heart" as the Bible calls it. Our "heart" is the root out of which our myriad choices to either value Christ or something/someone else grow. "We always choose what we believe to be our best good. We always choose what we believe will bring us the most delight." Puritan Richard Baxter rightly warns, "The will never desires evil as evil but as ...seeming good." Too often we choose to believe the lie that something or someone other than God can make us happy, rather than believing God. We're no different than Eve. We're easily deceived.
We create images out of our thoughts of our highest good or happiness. And whether we're aware of it or not, those images are the driving forces in our lives. They direct our worship, either toward or away from God. They tell us what we should cherish more than Him.
God can teach you that He is your highest good. He can show you that all your happiness is in Him. He delights in bringing His people face to face with the happiness that is His alone. ...the Holy Spirit can illumine your heart and cause you to grow in your esteem of Christ and disdain for the charms of the world.
Chapter 6, Knowing the Heart, looks more closely at our inner man, what the Bible frequently refers to as the heart, by looking at what Scripture reveals about its three main facets - the mind, the affections and the will.

 The Mind: your ability to think, understand, doubt, reason, discern & remember
  • For even though they knew God ... they became futile in their speculations and their foolish heart was darkened. (Rom.1:21)
  • But some of the scribes were sitting there & reasoning in their hearts. (Mark 2:6)
  • And He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?'" (Lk.24:38)
  • But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (1 Tim.1:5)

The Affections: our longings, desires, feelings, imaginations & emotions
  • Do not be eager in your heart to be angry. (Ecclesiastes 7:9)
  • ...serve the LORD your God with joy and a glad heart. (Deut.28:47)
  • Say to those with anxious heart, "Take courage, fear not." (Isa.35:4)
  • But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart... (James 3:14)
  • ...the imaginations of their heart run riot. (Ps.73:7)
  • For consider Him ... so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Heb.12:3)

The Will:  informed by the Mind & the Affections, it chooses a course of action
  • ...choose for yourselves today whom you will serve. (Joshua 24:15)
  • ...knows enough to refuse evil and choose good. (Isaiah 7:15)
  • He shall live ...in the place which he shall choose ...where it pleases him." (Deut.23:15-16)
  • Who is the man who fears the LORD? He will instruct him in the way he should choose. (Ps. 25:12)
Everywhere we turn  in our culture we are urged to just "trust your heart". The individual human heart is viewed as the most reliable source of truth for all personal decision making. Scripture has exactly the opposite advice. Indeed, in stark contrast God declares through the prophet Jeremiah that, "The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?" (Jer.17:9)  Man has the ability to convince himself of anything. We can convince ourselves that black is white, that day is night ... that evil is good. Once convinced, the belief we've invested our emotions into will manifest itself in our actions. Therefore, the heart (our mind, affection & will) needs to be the focus of our attention. That is the site of our spiritual battle! Instead of trusting our own hearts, we need to trust, to believe God. Scripture reveals, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom." (Prov.9:10)
Your mind should inform your affections of the source of your highest happiness; your affections imagine it, cause you to long for it, and apply the impetus needed to awaken your will to choose. No one sits around thinking about whether it's his affections, mind or will that caused him to choose vanilla over chocolate ice cream. We just do it.
God has made provision of the very tools a believer needs to properly discern and focus his heart upon Him - His revealed Word (to be heard preached & taught and to be personally read, studied, meditated upon, obeyed) and the power of the Holy Spirit, who incorporates God's truth deeply into his life. To the extent that we avail ourselves of these loving, God-given provisions, we become increasingly able to discern that our highest good, our greatest joy is found in God alone (knowing Him, trusting Him, obeying Him, serving Him).
Only the Holy Spirit, as He works in union with his Word, can reveal our thoughts and intentions. As we read, meditate on, study, and hear preaching of the Word we're able to get a glimpse of our inner self. ...God has given you the Word so that you can grow in your knowledge of yourself and develop true worship of Him.
Idols of the Heart, Elyse Fitzpatrick
[Review: Intro, Chapters 1-2; Chapters 3-4]




Tuesday, February 28, 2012

'Idols of the Heart' - Chapters 3-4

These next chapters remind us of the basic truths underlying our salvation & Christian life. There's often much confusion in these areas, resulting in a lack of understanding and appreciation for the hopelessness of our former position before a holy God and His past, current and future work of grace in our lives. Note how all three persons of the Godhead work together for the benefit of those whom He "foreknew ...predestined ...called ...justified ...glorified" (Romans 8:29-30). As humans we're very ego-centric, viewing reality from our own limited perspective. It's humbling to consider the work of God behind the scenes to bring about His purposes.

Fitzpatrick examines God's moral law as a reflection of His holy character and as a revealer of our own sinfulness. The law was never intended to be the means of salvation. Its function was to be our "tutor" to make us aware of our great spiritual need and then lead us to Christ, that "we may be justified by faith". (Gal.3:24) In the sermon on the mount Jesus carefully explained the only possible terms by which a man can come to God ... by approaching Him as one who is fully aware of his own spiritual bankruptcy and neediness before a holy God. "Blessed are the poor in spirit," He taught. Theirs is the kingdom of heaven because only they can understand the futility of an already unrighteous man ever becoming righteous through self-effort! (Mt.5:3) Only they can "mourn" over their sins before a holy God and be comforted by Him. (Mt.5:4) Only they can be "meek/submissive/obedient" before God. (Mt.5:5) Only they can "hunger and thirst for (God's) righteousness". (Mt.5:6) Only they "shall see God." (Mt.5:8) Fitzpatrick echoes Jesus' words...
The law helps me by serving as a tutor. ("Blessed are the poor in spirit" - those who understand their own spiritual bankruptcy before a holy God.) ...if I examine myself in God's mirror (the perfect law), I find that I am failing in every conceivable way.
The law also humbles me and brings me to the end of my self-righteousness. ("Blessed are those that mourn" - over their sin against a holy God.) As Paul writes, "I would not have come to know sin except through the Law" (Rom.7:7). ...I have nothing for which to commend myself before a completely holy God. That's a good place for my soul to be in because it causes me to throw myself wholly on His mercy to me through Christ. It strips away my illusions of goodness and helps me to see how much I am in need of God's forgiveness.
The law teaches me how thankful I am to be for Christ's perfect keeping of it. ("Blessed are the meek" - those who are meekly/humbly obedient before a holy God.) I am bound to Christ because He kept it perfectly, then bore the punishment for my law breaking in His body. By this my heart is prompted to overflow with love and obedience.
The law becomes the standard of righteousness that I seek to obey out of thankfulness. ("Blessed are those who hunger & thirst after [God's] righteousness.") Like a thankful child seeking to please a favored parent, my desire for holiness wells up out of a heart filled with gratitude. ...My righteousness is secure in Christ's perfect obedience for me, and by the work of His Spirit, I am becoming "zealous for good deeds." (Titus 2:14)
At salvation God begins His work of sanctification (Chapter 4, 'The Heart Changer') in the lives of His people. His goal is for us "to be conformed to the image of His Son" (Rom.8:29). At salvation the Holy Spirit indwells the believer and begins His life-long work of sanctification ... a "setting apart" for God's holy purpose. 
There is only one life-changing power in all the world: the Holy Spirit. He continuously works in mysterious yet profound ways causing us to be holy, even as He is.
The means He uses is God's revealed Word. We're not passive in the process; it's a cooperative effort energized by God and resulting in our willing obedience. God commands, "putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation" (i.e. sanctification). (1 Peter 2:1-2) There's both a "putting off" of the works of the flesh/sin nature and a "putting on" of a desire to know God's Word, so that we may  know Him at an ever-increasing depth of understanding! Fitzpatrick outlines the different ways the Holy Spirit uses God's Word to make us holy. "You shall be holy for I am holy," (1Pet.1:6) He has determined for those united to Christ.
Teaching Us the Glories of Christ. Like a master artist, the Spirit paints an exquisite portrait of Christ's perfections upon the canvas of our souls: illustrating His love, mercy, wisdom, kindness, humility, holiness, sorrows, and sweet amiableness. ...Embracing Christ's beauty and glory is essential, because worship is a product of love. As the Holy Spirit illumines your heart to Christ's beauty, your love will grow. The false gods that entice will lose their appeal. The Spirit makes us God-worshipers."
Conviction of Sin. The Spirit powerfully convicts the world about the sin of unbelief. The sin of unbelief lies at the heart of all other sins and particularly at the heart of idolatry.
Conviction about Righteousness. It is particularly important for us to contemplate Christ's perfect nature because idolatry is always an assault against the character of God. Every time our hearts turn toward the worship of false gods we're saying, God isn't really good. He's not righteous. He's not loving or holy. I have to find other gods who will satisfy me because Jesus either can't or won't.
Conviction about Judgment. "The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil" (1Jn.3:8) When you are tempted to think that the battle is lost and you might as well give up and serve other gods, plead with the Spirit to help you know that your enemy is a condemned death-row criminal awaiting execution of his sentence (Rev.20:10).
Writing His word on our hearts. God's law now governs our lives internally, from our heart, as the Spirit helps us understand its meaning and applies it in our day-to-day lives. ...This anointing from the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth (Jn.16:13). He teaches us so that we can come to know God as He is, rather than how we imagine Him to be.
Inclining our hearts to worship Him. Without the work of God's Spirit, we'll worship everything, rather anything, but God. He must work, then, to incline our hearts to worship Him. (1 Kings 8:57-58) Solomon understood that the Holy Spirit needed to incline the hearts of his people to proper worship.
Convincing us we are God's children. (Rom.8:15-16) The realization of His close relation to you should encourage you to focus all your love and devotion on Him.
Teaching us to pray. As we struggle with our sinful idolatry, we'll frequently find ourselves in prayer for wisdom, strength, true hatred of sin, and love of righteousness. ...The Spirit knows what the Father's will is, and He guides us in our prayers.
The work of God in our lives demonstrates His faithfulness to us and is our strongest weapon against idolatry. "God is faithful ... Therefore, flee from idolatry." (1Cor.10:13-14) These are the truths we need to steep ourselves in, to remember always, to cherish closely whenever we are tempted to trust anything or anyone other than God.

Idols of the Heart, Elyse Fitzpatrick
[Review: Intro, Chapters 1-2]

Monday, February 20, 2012

'Idols of the Heart' - Chapters 1-2

When most believers read the first commandment in Exodus 20:3, "You shall have no other gods before Me," they breathe a sigh of relief and mentally cross that sin off their list. Phew! No problem there! No little stone statues in my house! When we read of Israel's struggles with idolatry in the Old Testament, how often do we think, "What pointless behavior to replace the eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing Creator God with an impotent idol!"? In her book, Idols of the Heart: Learning to Long for God Alone, Elyse Fitzpatrick notes how "we've conveniently categorized idolatry as something that exists outside of us (little stone statues) rather than something that lives within our hearts." If you spend much time in Scripture, you'll begin to notice how many times NT believers are warned against idolatry. It's as much of a struggle for us today as it was for the nation Israel then, because the issue of idolatry is much larger than just those little stone statues. (Col.3:5) The Apostle John, addressing church age believers, warns, "Little children, guard yourselves from idols." (1 John 5:21) Think about it. What is really most "precious" to you?

Chapter 1 "Rachel's Gods and You"
Admittedly, I am not a fan of "speculative bibliology". God holds me accountable to "rightly divide" His Word and I try to be very careful to never go beyond what has been written. In order to determine God's main point in each passage one must pay strict attention to what IS said as well as what IS NOT said. Though Fitzpatrick gives a disclaimer that her speculations behind biblical accounts are not inspired, they do have the effect of influencing your opinion about a passage. I recommend skipping over these introductory speculations and going straight to her exposition. 

Rachel's childlessness is offered as a prime example of creating an idol in your heart. She allowed her childlessness to take the place of primary importance in her life, thereby devaluing God's position. This becomes evident in Genesis 30:1, 'Now when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she became jealous of her sister; and she said to Jacob, "Give me children, or else I die."' Thus begins a downward spiral in her life, taking her further and further away from her God. By the next chapter we discover she has stolen her father Laban's household gods. Fitzpatrick writes,
Because of her infertility and everything it represented to her, Rachel had come face to face with an insurmountable problem .. She feared that she had to take steps to protect her position. She believed her father's gods would somehow bless her, so she took them. Perhaps she believed that there might be a God who ruled the earth, but He was too far away and too unmanageable for her comfort. She couldn't trust Him to order life as she desired. She needed a tamer, more docile god - one she could control. She wanted a god that would give her what she needed.
Commentators suggest several possibilities for why Rachel may have taken Laban's household gods. Whatever that reason may have been, taking them demonstrates her lack of trust in God's sovereign control of her life, replacing it with a trust in herself and her own abilities to bring about her desires. John Calvin commented on this passage ...
When [Moses] relates that Rachel stole her father's idols, he is speaking of a vice that was common. From this we may gather that man's nature ... is a perpetual factory of idols.
Fitzpatrick defines the problem, "Idols aren't just stone statues. No, idols are the thoughts, desires, longings, and expectations that we worship in the place of the true God. Idols cause us to ignore the true God in search of what we think we need." How do we recognize the idols in our heart? "If you're willing to sin to obtain your goal or if you sin when you don't get what you want, then your desire has taken God's place and you're functioning as an idolater. ...Jesus said that the primary love in your heart has to be centered on God. Anything less than that is idolatry." (Mt.22:37-38)

Chapter 2 "Undivided Adoration"
Chapter 2 opens with a look at Martha and Mary. Have you ever noticed you're more likely to struggle to find time to spend with the Lord in His Word and in prayer than you are to serve Him? Many of us are such "doers" we forget we're primarily meant to be "worshipers". The "doing" is to be an outcome of worship, not our primary focus or goal! How often we get that confused! "Yes, I love God, but I'm a little busy working for Him right now ... so I'll spend time with Him later." Ouch.

Another idol-making temptation common to women is in dealing with our children. Fitzpatrick offers the example of Eli who did not discipline his sons, thinking more of pleasing them than of pleasing God. God charged him with his idolatry, "Why do you ... honor your sons above Me?" (1 Sam.2:29) 
Eli thought more of peace in his household than peace with God, so he neglected his duty and brought disgrace on the Lord. The pleasure of having a peaceful relationship with his sons functioned as his god. ...Honoring God means that the Lord's pleasure and glory come first. It means giving respect and deference to Him and esteeming Him above the thoughts of those we love.
A third area where we may be tempted to become idol worshipers is during times of adversity. We "know" we can trust God in all things. We "know" He is good in every sense. We "know" He loves His people. We "know" He is in control of all things. But we don't trust His providence in our life at this moment, in this situation, under these circumstances. Fitzpatrick confesses,
I frequently find myself hedging my bets and questioning God's goodness and truthfulness. I do believe that God is good and that I can trust His word, but that belief is always in competition with other beliefs and fears in my heart:
  • You can trust God for salvation and those religious things, but when it comes to your marriage, you need to follow your way.
  • When it comes to living a self-disciplined, joyful life, God doesn't expect obedience from you. Your disobedience isn't idolatry, sinful fear, or the love of the world.
Are you convinced yet about the danger of idols in your life? If so, be encouraged that God provides believers with the ability to turn from idols to serve the living God. "...His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through/by means of the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence." (2Pet.1:3) I've certainly seen Him chipping away at the idols in my own life. It's not something that happens quickly or magically or without pain. It calls for a steadily increasing knowledge of who God is, of what it means to become Christ-like (God's sanctifying goal for all believers) and a concentration on faithful obedience to God's truth whatever our "feelings/emotions" may be at the moment. It takes time ... it takes making one step after another ... it takes spiritual warfare. But the rewards of full joy in Christ, of freedom from our idols, of glorifying God in our attitudes and actions is of infinite worth! May God open our eyes to the idols we may be cherishing in His place as we read through this book together! To God be the glory.




Monday, February 13, 2012

Exhort Your Soul (Psalm 103)

I've been reading through Psalms lately and as usual find myself so encouraged by the observations and practical biblical worldview of the Psalmists. In the following post, Ryan Griffith at Desiring God echos the biblical insights Martyn Lloyd-Jones offered in his book, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes & Cures. [see related post] May Griffiths' words help you gain a God-honoring, soul-satisfying perspective.
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Do you talk to yourself? 

I don’t mean when you’re wrestling through your taxes or walking through your to-do list. But do you talk yourself, really? When you are fearful, do you command your soul to trust in the Lord?  When your affections are low, do you command your heart to bless the Lord? As Paul Tripp is fond of saying, “no one is more influential in your life than you are because no one talks to you more than you do.” 

In the particularly difficult moments of the day, how do you talk to yourself? How do you specifically exhort yourself to hope in God? 

Psalm 103 has been immensely helpful for me as a pattern for commanding my soul in seasons of low affection. The Psalm begins (Ps.103:1-2) and ends (Ps.103:20-22) with David’s exhortation to his own soul to bless the Lord. While there is much to draw out of this rich text, I’d like to highlight two observations:

1. Remind yourself of what the Lord has done

Sin, pain, or sorrow can blind us to God’s present working and, occasionally, even the miraculous ways He's worked in our lives in the past. And while we might argue with our journal or with our memory, God’s work in redemptive history is unassailable. David helps us by reminding himself (and us) of God’s irrevocable work for His people in history:
The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed. He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the people of Israel.
David takes us (and himself) back to the most pivotal event he can think of. And it's not in the valley of Elah with three smooth stones in his hand and a sling by his side. In fact, it's not even an event from his lifetime. Instead, David brings us back to Sinai (Ex.6:6-9). He brings us back to the moment when the Lord worked powerfully and victoriously and decisively to redeem His people out of Egyptian bondage. He brings us back to the moments when God demonstrated His covenant-keeping love.   

In the fight to command our souls to bless the Lord, we not only call to mind the things in general that are true about the Lord (Ps.103:3-5), we follow David’s example to get our arms around concrete, unassailable realities of His work in redemptive history. We lift our gaze above our own circumstances and fix it upon the Lord’s acts of provision and deliverance in the past. We tell ourselves what God has done — in history, for us.  

2. Hold fast to a specific truth about the Lord

 

David does something very instructive next. Having reminded himself of who God is and what God has done in redemptive history, he latches on to a particular text, specifically Psalm 103:8. 
The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
David is quoting Exodus 34:6. At the heart of David’s self-exhortation, he has a particular text in mind — one frequently recalled by Old Testament authors in the midst of sin (Joel 2:12), sorrow (Lam.3:21–23), and pain (Psalm 86:15).

David, Moses, Jonah, Jeremiah, Joel, Nehemiah, and Hezekiah — they all went here for help (Jonah 4:2; Neh.9:16; 2Chron.30:9). And David, having to mind this text, begins to spin out all its implications — God’s anger does not last forever, sin has been cast as far as the east is from the west, God’s compassion will not fail because David is His (Ps.103:9–19). 

David is moved. A heart that was faltering is now soaring. A deeply wrought gratitude now swells up to expression. He cannot keep it in: “Bless the Lord, O my soul” (Psalm 103:20–22).

When you’re talking to yourself, are you reminding yourself of what God has done for you in Christ Jesus? Do you have specific texts with which you exhort your soul? When the days are darkest, don’t let your flesh take command. Summon your soul to bless the Lord.  Find specific texts by which you can fight the fight of faith — perhaps some short ones like these: Mt.28:20; Heb.13:5–6; Isa.41:10 and long ones: Romans 8:26–39; John 10:7–18; Psalm 103!

"May the word of Christ dwell in you richly. . ." (Colossians 3:16).


Friday, February 03, 2012

Pack Your Bag and Go!

Seeing this short video, "Move", reminded me how much I've loved traveling to different countries over the years! I might not be up to that final shot in the video any longer, but my how I've loved experiencing the people, the food, the culture, the art and the beauty of other lands! Yes, getting there and back may be a pain. Yes, you have to forfeit the familiar. But what you'll gain far exceeds any hassle you might meet along the way. So if you can afford to travel (or can get funded like these guys did!) .... GO!


MOVE from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.


Wednesday, February 01, 2012

"This Grace In Which We Stand"


 Paul Zahl, in his book Grace in Practice: A Theology of Everyday Life, writes:
What is grace? Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. Grace is love coming at you that has nothing to do with you. Grace is being loved when you are unlovable. The cliché definition of grace is “unconditional love.” It is a true cliché, for it is a good description of the thing…Let’s go a little further, though.

Grace is a love that has nothing to do with you, the beloved. It has everything and only to do with the lover. Grace is irrational in the sense that it has nothing to do with weights and measures. It has nothing to do with my intrinsic qualities or so-called “gifts” (whatever they may be). It reflects a decision on the part of the giver (the one who loves) in relation to the receiver (the one who is loved) that negates any qualifications the receiver may personally hold…Grace is one-way love.
"For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:6-8)


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Tick-Tock

As I head ever-closer to eternity, I often find myself contemplating time. I think about how little time I may have left to use the spiritual gifts God has so graciously given me to use for His glory. (Not that He necessarily needs me, mind you. He's quite capable of raising up another to take my place!)  My grandchildren are growing up quickly and I realize how little time I may have to build memories, to interact with them and shine God's truth into their lives. I think of those I teach... the bi-weekly women's Bible study, my 5th/6th Sunday School class, the women I do one-on-one studies with, and my driving desire to transmit to them all the necessary "how-to's" for studying God's Word for themselves, that they may personally know Jesus Christ at an ever-increasing, life-changing depth. The passing of time also leads me to consider how much of it I waste in useless, worthless pursuits. I recall my daughter pointing out once how we all have the same amount of hours in a day. It's how we choose to use them that makes the difference.

Kevin DeYoung (The Gospel Coalition) recently posted a quote from Peter Drucker's The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done. Though not a Christian book, Drucker does offer useful considerations about time applicable to all of us. He writes...
The supply of time is totally inelastic. No matter how high the demand, the supply will not go up. There is no price for it and no marginal utility curve for it. Moreover, time is totally perishable and cannot be stored. Yesterday’s time is gone forever and will never come back. Time is, therefore, always in exceedingly short supply.
Time is totally irreplaceable. Within limits we can substitute one resource for another, copper for aluminum, for instance. We can substitute capital for human labor. We can use more knowledge or more brawn. But there is no substitute for time.
Everything requires time. It is the one truly universal condition. All work takes place in time and uses up time. Yet most people take for granted this unique, irreplaceable, and necessary resource. Nothing else, perhaps, distinguishes an effective executive as much as their tender loving care of time.
You may not be as old as me. You may think you have all the time in the world ahead of you. You need to realize that age may have absolutely nothing to do with the amount of time you'll spend here. None of us knows which day will be our last! That should lead us to carefully consider our own use of this commodity called time. Don't allow yourself to get caught up with the notion that "someday when I have more time I'll study God's Word  ... someday when I have more time I'll live for Christ ... someday when I have more time I'll get serious about prayer ... someday when I have more time I'll tell others the good news of the gospel". Your "some day" might not arrive.
Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit"-- yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. [James 4:13-14]

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Guard Your Mind, Increase Your Joy

John Piper...
I think that much exposure to sensuality, banality, and God-absent entertainment does more to deaden our capacities for joy in Jesus than it does to make us spiritually powerful in the lives of the living dead. Sources of spiritual power—which are what we desperately need—are not in the cinema. You will not want your biographer to write: Prick him and he bleeds movies.
If you want to be relevant, say, for prostitutes, don’t watch a movie with a lot of tumbles in a brothel. Immerse yourself in the gospel, which is tailor-made for prostitutes; then watch Jesus deal with them in the Bible; then go find a prostitute and talk to her. Listen to her, not the movie. Being entertained by sin does not increase compassion for sinners.
One more smaller concern with TV (besides its addictive tendencies, trivialization of life, and deadening effects): It takes time. I have so many things I want to accomplish in this one short life. Don’t waste your life is not a catchphrase for me; it’s a cliff I walk beside every day with trembling.
TV consumes more and more time for those who get used to watching it. You start to feel like it belongs. You wonder how you could get along without it. I am jealous for my evenings. There are so many things in life I want to accomplish. I simply could not do what I do if I watched television.
Commenting on the absence of a TV in the Piper home, Sam Storms writes in For the Fame of God's Name (a collection of essays in honor of Piper's ministry)...
[Piper's] decision to rid his home of the influence of television was not from a disdain for pleasure, but an expression of his radical pursuit of it. What John regards as the banal and mind-numbing distractions of TV serve only to diminish his capacity to enjoy the one preeminent delight that never fails to satisfy, namely, the mind-expanding and ever-fascinating knowledge of God as revealed in the face of Jesus Christ.
 [via Andy Naselli]

Monday, January 16, 2012

Winter Reading Club

"Remote" blog readers are welcome to join us for the Ladies "Winter Doldrums" Book Club. This year we'll be reading Elyse Fitzpatrick's Idols of the Heart: Learning to Long for God Alone starting in mid-February. As we read through the book together, there will be weekly postings on this blog covering the chapters read with an opportunity for your comments. So grab a copy and join us!

From the back cover:
"Many desire to live godly lives, but feel trapped in habitual sins. This book reveals that idolatry lies at the heart of every besetting sin."

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Satisfied in Christ


"the Father... has qualified us [past tense, it is finished] to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. For He rescued/delivered us [past tense; the rescue/deliverance is complete] from the domain of darkness, and transferred us [past tense; the transferal is already concluded] to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have [present tense (ongoing, progressive action), this very moment we possess it] redemption, the forgiveness of sins." Colossians 1:12-14
In his book, Jesus + Nothing = Everything, Tullian Tchividjian writes ...
Sometimes God puts us in a position where our only comfort comes not from what others think about us but from what God thinks about us in Christ - that we're forever qualified, delivered, loved, accepted, forgiven, clean, and approved. ...Because of Christ's finished work, Christians already possess the approval, the love, the security, the freedom, the meaning, the purpose, the protection, the new beginning, the cleansing, the forgiveness, the righteousness, and the rescue we intensely long for and, in fact, look for in a thousand things smaller than Jesus every day - things transient, things incapable of delivering the goods.
The gospel is the only thing big enough to satisfy our deepest, eternal longings - both now and forever.
Believer, where are you seeking your satisfaction? Spend time reading, rereading and meditating upon the truths of Colossians, chapter 1. Believe God! Value Christ! Have 20/20 spiritual vision! (Mt.6:22-23) Don't look for satisfaction in transient things/people/circumstances. You'll never find it.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Everyone's An Expert...

 
Blessed is the man who having nothing to say abstains from giving wordy evidence of the fact. —George Eliot

It is a mark of the current age that everyone is an expert... in all possible fields of study. Everyone has an opinion and all opinions are considered equally valid. This particularly pains me when someone has a misunderstanding  of biblical truth, yet assumes his opinion is as equally likely as that of someone who is carefully dividing the Word. A careful exegete is always open to clarification and correction, but requires it be based on careful biblical analysis and follow the primary rules of interpretation, not on mere opinion or wishful thinking, wrenching verses out their context and assigning a meaning that was never intended. The primary emphasis needs to be on God's main point, not ours. Engaging in real discourse is always welcome. 

Perhaps nowhere is an uneducated opinion more painfully displayed than in the comments section on amazon. It's not the possession of an uninformed opinion that is the problem, it's the automatic assumption that your uninformed opinion carries any valid weight. Certainly opinions can be held at various levels of understanding. We should all be teachable and open in that respect. We're all learning and the real experts are not always right. But at the minimum, a person should ask themselves the simple question, "Do I know enough about this subject to set myself up as an authority on its analysis?" 

I've started to save some of the worst examples as I peruse through amazon. I'd love to privately take these folks aside and get them thinking about what they have written for all to see. Discretion is an art we all need to learn. Here are a few examples reviewing a classic work of Homer, the Iliad ....
"All the zombies kept telling me to purchase the Iliad and were raving about how intellectual it was. The age of it should have been a first clue. Really a rather boring read that is tripe with inept ideals. Homer Simpson was named after this guy but I believe that he has more insight into the subject matter than the original home boy they call Homer. Good for using to set your coffee mug on and start a fire with in the fireplace, but beyond that it is really a lot of rubbish. I wish Penguin Classics would actually publish classic reading material instead of a lot of blah blah." [Comment on The Iliad] (It would be interesting to hear his definition of "classic"!)
"Seriously. Homer wasn't all that, and I'm so thankful to amazon.com to allow me to give it only two stars. Homer's boring, and he's totally overrated. He's always using the same lines- "bit the dust", "rosy-fingered dawn", "the wine-dark sea", "night filled his eyes", "Achilles swift of foot"- Homer needs to be more original. And what's with the one name- "Homer"- who does he think he is, Madonna?"  [Comment on The Iliad]
The teacher in me yearns to introduce them to Bronze Age history, culture and literary forms, to  the progression in oral storytelling, to the peek we're allowed to have into one of the earliest surviving written story forms. If nothing else, I'd love to help them become aware that time did not begin when they were born, nor is culture exclusively 21st century American. Give me an honest, but humble student any time, one who recognizes they have a lack of information, that life is full of things they can learn. I'd love to meet the young man who wrote this next review. Oh, the discussions we could have! May we all have such teachable spirits!
"ill put my $.02 in here i guess... honestly i didnt like this book much the first time i read it (over this past summer for a 10th grade reading list) i found it boring and at times gory. but then we started reading it again in class and something strange happened, i started to actually understand what was going on and i started to analyze the characters more deeply and i started to almost like it. im not going to go as far as saying id read it again on my own free will cause i definitely wont, but if you read this book read the odyssey as well i liked it better"
.




Thursday, January 12, 2012

Are You Good Or Are You Righteous?

 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. (Romans 5:6-9)

As mentioned in my earlier post, Peace With God, one of the great advantages of memorizing passages from Scripture is that it gives you an opportunity to meditate upon God's truth throughout all those little "down times" in life ... when you awake in the morning, as you prepare meals, while driving, waiting in line, ironing, eating your lunch and so forth, all those little moments when you can recite the passage to yourself and think about it from all different aspects. In this next passage (Rom.5:6-9) we discover how undeserving believers really are. As Jesus said in His sermon on the mount, "Blessed are the poor in spirit...", those who realize their complete spiritual bankruptcy before a holy God. (Mt.5:3). Only they are willing to approach God on His terms, rather than in their own imagined righteousness.

And that led me, totally apart from the context, to considering the terms "good man" and "righteous man". Are you a "good man" or are you a "righteous man"? The difference lies in one's perspective. Compared to other men, we can often label ourselves as "good". We look at murderers, rapists, child molesters and that ever-popular whipping boy, the "hypocrite" sitting next to us in church, and come away with a positive self-evaluation that we are "basically a good person". We remembered our Mom on her birthday. We've never murdered, nor raped, nor molested the innocent. And certainly we've never said we believed something to be true while living as if we didn't believe it all! So, all in all, we pat ourselves on the back and come away with the self-evaluation that we are basically "good". Isn't that what we most often hear when we proclaim the gospel of Christ to others, that they don't need Christ because they're basically a "good person"?

But God does not want us to be "good". God wants us to be "righteous". He wants us to reflect His own holiness. He wants us to have an obedient heart like Christ's, one that says, "Not my will, but Thine be done." He wants us to love others more than ourselves, in the manner Christ did. Our own righteousness will never be "good" enough. Only Christ's righteousness will do! We must be clothed in His righteousness, God's own righteousness, to have a right-standing before God.
I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, FOR he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness... (Isa.61:10)
(So that I) "may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith." (Phil.3:9)
"My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus' name...           
When He shall come with trumpet sound, O may I then in Him be found,
Dressed in His righteousness alone, Faultless to stand before the throne.       
     On Christ the Solid Rock I stand,
     All other ground is sinking sand,      
     All other ground is sinking sand."    [The Solid Rock, Edward Mote]



Monday, January 09, 2012

One Flesh

R.C. Sproul Jr's wife recently went home to be with the Lord following a 9 month battle with cancer, which led to his following musing. Though painfully honest, it is also incredibly encouraging. It's my hope that reading it will make you look at your marriage in a more biblical light. Pray for this brother and his eight children. "For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh." (Gen.2:24)
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Children, and their parents, crave stability. When their world is rocked by change, they are comforted by that which remains the same. I have been reminding my children of late that the loss of their mother, for all the pain, doesn’t mean that everything has changed. Indeed when I put my littles to bed each night I, as I have always done, remind them of these bedrock truths, “Daddy loves you. Mommy loves you. Daddy and Mommy love each other. And Jesus loves you.” These are the unchanging truths they can always count on, the solid ground on which they walk. We that are left behind are still together. And I am still me.

I am afraid, however, that I am not still me. This melancholy that follows me about like a cloud hovering over Charlie Brown, that’s not me. Waking up with less energy than when I went to sleep, that’s not me. Uninterested in food, that’s definitely not me. I don’t recognize myself in the mirror. Neither do I hear my own voice in what I write. It’s a stranger that sits here crying in my office. ...

The Bible says that husbands and wives are one flesh. Christian marriage pundits turn this into “Be nice to each other.” That is, we are told about the importance of open communication. We are encouraged to be as concerned for our spouse as we are for ourselves. We, in rephrasing what God has said so that we might understand it, end up further from the truth. We are not commanded to live as if we were one flesh. Instead we are told that such is the actual truth. The one-flesh reality means that I haven’t just lost the love of my life, but half of me. How could I recognize me, when I am now only half the man I once was? It isn’t quite accurate to say that when she drew her last breath a part of me died. Instead, half of me died.

The good news, however, is the same. Half of me has died, and is with Jesus. Half of me has no melancholy, but only joy. Half of me cries no more. Half of me sins no more. Half of me loves me, and the children, with a perfect love. Mourning, over the coming weeks and months, will move to dancing, as this half of me begins to more deeply believe the blessings I have in my better half.

I love Denise all the way to heaven and back. She in turn loves me all the way from heaven and back. And Jesus loves us both as the great bridge that not only brought us together, but keeps us together. May these gospel truths give me gentle sleep tonight.

[Sproul Jr.s' post on Ligonier]

Friday, January 06, 2012

Another Look at "O Holy Night"

“O Holy Night” is rooted in the French poem, “Minuit, chrétiens” (“Midnight, Christians”), by Placide Cappeau (1808-1877).  Sometimes we gain greater insight if we move away from the overly familiar lyrics of a Christmas carol. Below is a direct English translation of Cappeau's poem...
“Minuit chrétiens” (“Midnight, Christians”)

Midnight, Christians, it is the solemn hour,
When God-man descended to us
To erase the stain of original sin
And to end the wrath of His Father.
The entire world thrills with hope
On this night that gives it a Savior.
People kneel down, wait for your deliverance.
Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer,
Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer!
May the ardent light of our Faith
Guide us all to the cradle of the infant,
As in ancient times a brilliant star
Guided the Oriental kings there.
The King of Kings was born in a humble manger;
O mighty ones of today, proud of your greatness,
It is to your pride that God preaches.
Bow your heads before the Redeemer!
Bow your heads before the Redeemer!
The Redeemer has overcome every obstacle:
The Earth is free, and Heaven is open.
He sees a brother where there was only a slave,
Love unites those that iron had chained.
Who will tell Him of our gratitude,
For all of us He is born, He suffers and dies.
People stand up! Sing of your deliverance,
Christmas, Christmas, sing of the Redeemer,
Christmas, Christmas, sing of the Redeemer!
[via Raw Christianity ("Gunner" Gundersen's blog)]
[Poem & translation found here.]

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Eyes on God: A Lesson from Edwards

Last week's post on Christian Resolutions and July's post about personal relationship with God being the primary focus out of which ministry for God must flow (Who's Running the Show?) coincide nicely with this recent post on the Ligonier site. Buck Parsons revisits Jonathan Edwards' preface to his resolutions to "work out his own salvation with fear and trembling" in the power of the Holy Spirit (sanctification), that he might glorify God and enjoy Him forever. He looks at three particular areas where believers tend to be the most needy: dependency upon God, humility before Him and living for God's glory. "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him ... Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men" (Col.3:17, 23).
____________________________________________________________________________________

At nineteen, as a ministerial student preparing for the pastorate, I grew concerned that someday I could get to the point in ministry that my passion for ministry would usurp my passion for God — that ministry would become my religion, that the idol of success in ministry would replace my heart’s desire to be faithful to God. With all of this weighing heavily on my mind, early one morning, I slid from my bed onto my knees and cried out to God that He would equip me for ministry, sustain me in ministry, and give me passion for ministry — a passion that would flow out of my love and passion for God Himself. That morning I penned the following words in the front of my Bible: “I shall live for God, not for the ministry.” Every year since then, by God’s sustaining grace, I have surrendered myself to the Lord, imploring Him to help me live for Him and trusting Him alone to equip, sustain, and empower me for His ministry.

In order to remain steadfast in this pursuit of active surrender of living for the sake of God and not for the sake of ministry, I must not only regularly confess my sin of self-reliance I must also resolve to remain resolved every day of my life — living a life of repentance and faith, with every step and every breath, delighting in the Lord’s abundant love and assurance. For if I confide in my own strength, my striving would indeed be losing. 

The Resolve of Edwards
The nineteen-year-old Jonathan Edwards knew his weaknesses and was aware of the destructive nature of his sin, so he resolved to make and keep certain resolutions in his effort to live for God’s glory. He helped pave the way for us all as he prefaced his seventy resolutions with these words:

Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.

These simple, introductory words of Edwards not only provide a glimpse into the mind of one of history’s greatest minds, they provide us with a glorious insight into the heart of a young man whose heart had been humbled and mastered by the Lord God Almighty. We would therefore do well to consider Edwards’ prefatory remarks as we seek to glorify God and enjoy Him forever in our churches, our homes, and our hearts...

Resolving Dependently
I am unable to do anything without God’s help,” Edwards admits. We must be sensible in grasping the simple truth that every resolution must be made in dependence on God. And while every Christian would respond by saying, “Well, of course we must depend on God for all things,” most Christians have been sold the world’s bill of goods. They think that once they become dependent on God, then they will have immediate strength. They mimic the world’s mantra: “Whatever doesn’t kill me will make me stronger.” While the principle is generally true, such thinking can foster an attitude of proud independence. We must understand that in being able to do all things through Christ who strengthens us means that we must depend on His strength continuously in order to do all things and to keep all our resolutions (Eph. 3:16; Col. 1:11). In truth, whatever doesn’t kill us, by God’s conforming grace, makes us weak so that in our weakness we will rely continuously on the strength of our Lord (2 Cor. 12:7–10).

Resolving Humbly
I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these resolutions.” In making resolutions for the glory of God and before the face of God, we must not come into His presence pounding our chests in triumphal arrogance as if God must now love and bless us more because we have made certain resolutions to follow Him more. In reality, the Lord in His providence may choose to allow even more trials to enter our lives; in His unchanging fatherly love for us, He may decide to discipline us even more in order that we might more so detest our sin and delight in Him. We should approach Him in humble reliance on His grace as we seek not merely the blessings but the one who blesses.

Resolving For Christ’s Sake
So far as they are agreeable to his will for Christ’s sake.” We cannot resolve to do anything with a presumptuous attitude before God. The whole matter of making resolutions is not just goal setting so that we might have happier lives. We are called by God to live according to His will, not our own — for Christ’s sake, not our own — for it is not unto us but unto Him that all glory belongs.

[Burk Parson's full post at Ligonier site]

Monday, January 02, 2012

Blessed Are the Underappreciated

Here's an interesting little excerpt from a post Tim Challies wrote back in 2006. It's a reminder we need in the midst of our self-promoting culture. The believer's goal is faithfulness to God, not recognition by others.
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As I have pondered underappreciation, I have come to see that this is exactly where Christians ought to be. Yet far too often we seek to raise ourselves or other people to a level that is simply too high. It would be interesting to know how some people become popular within Christian circles. Sometimes we look at the men leading huge churches or massive, international ministries and can only wonder how they achieved such a position. So often it seems that they have forsaken the gospel and sound theology, yet somehow have been propelled to great heights. Surely there are people with greater talent, greater gifting and more holy lives laboring throughout the kingdom. They may preach from the pulpits of tiny churches far from the lights and the cameras. They may labor overseas as missionaries in near-total isolation. They may drive the buses or taxis you took to work this morning.

Jesus taught us “blessed are the meek.” The meek are the humble, those who show humility and submission before God. They are the underappreciated, yet those who know that in reality they are overappreciated. They have nothing to offer God, but have been accepted by Him. They are aware of the signifance of the gift that has been given them.

Blessed are the underappreciated.

[Challies blog can be found here.]