Monday, May 30, 2011

It's an Old Path

Thousands and tens of thousands have sought for pardon at the mercy-seat of Christ, and not one has ever returned to say that he sought in vain. Sinners of every name and nation—sinners of every sort and description—have knocked at the door of the fold, and none have ever been refused admission.

If the way which the Gospel sets before us were a new and untraveled way—we might well feel faint-hearted. But it is not so. It is an old path. It is a path worn by the feet of many pilgrims, and a path in which the footsteps are all one way. The treasury of Christ’s mercies has never been found empty. The well of living waters has never proved dry.
— J.C. Ryle

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Jesus of Scripture or Jesus of CNN

More by Donald Miller in "Searching for God Knows What"

"Sometimes I think it is easier for you and me to believe Jesus is God now that He is in heaven than it might have been back when He was walking around on earth. If you would have seen Jesus do miracles, and if you were one of those who were healed by Him or if you were one of the disciples, then it would have been easier, but for most people, especially the Jews, Jesus would have been a stumbling block.

At the same time, however, we are at a disadvantage because the Jesus that exists in our minds is hardly the real Jesus. The Jesus on CNN, the Jesus in our books and in our movies, the Jesus that is a collection of evangelical personalities, is often a Jesus of the suburbs, a Jesus who wants you to be a better yuppie, a Jesus who is extremely political and supports a specific party, a Jesus who has declared a kind of culture war in the name of our children, a Jesus who worked through the founding fathers to begin America, a Jesus who dresses very well, speaks perfect English, has three points that fulfill any number of promises and wants you and me to be, above all, comfortable. Is this the real Jesus?

Is Jesus sitting in the lifeboat with us, stroking our backs and telling us we are the ones who are right and one day these other infidels are going to pay, that we are the ones who are going to survive and the others are going to be thrown over because we are Calvinist, Armenians, Baptist, Methodist, Catholics; because we are Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, or liberals; because we attend a big church, a small church, an ethnically diverse church, a house church.........

Or is Jesus acting in our hearts to reach out to the person who isn't like us....the oppressed, the poor, the unchurched.......and to humble ourselves, give of our money, build communities in love, give our time, our creativity, get on our knees before our enemies in humility, treating them as Scripture says, as people who are more important than we are? The latter is the Jesus of Scripture; the former, which is infinitely more popular in evangelical culture, is a myth sharing a genre with unicorns."

Monday, May 23, 2011

Life Happens While You’re Doing Something Else

By Donald Miller

Just yesterday my girl Paige and I were doing some grocery shopping and started talking about how much of life is lived to maintain life itself, that is we farm (or shop) to eat, we make (or buy) clothes, we monitor our bodies and employ them to rest and to exercise, all to farm and make clothes.

After thinking about this idea more, I meshed it in my mind to the story of the Tower of Babel and how God destroyed a cultures attempts to reach God, a luxurious and ridiculous effort born from the modernization of the culture, the existence of a slave culture, no doubt, and a lot of free time.

The narrative of that account combined with the amount of time it takes our God-designed bodies and minds to simply sustain our temporary existence leads me to some comforting facts:
1. God is not interested in using you to build anything that might be used to replace him or give you the false sense you can interact with him without giving him all agency.

2. What God wants us to do here on earth is something we can do while doing something else.
And so I’m learning that the stuff that God wants us to do happens while we are shopping for food and making clothes and walking the dog and clearing the table to do the dishes.

In my opinion, the stuff of life is about this, then:
1. Loving each other, and learning to do so as unconditionally as possible, which will also require a leaning on God.

2. Forgiving each other, and leaning on God to do so.

3. Providing for each other and working together for the good of those we love.

4. Giving our lives to God in the sense we must learn not to grapple for control.
I don’t believe God is helping you build a Tower of Babel, be that your career or your church or your perfect family. But I do believe God wants to help you love, forgive, be patient, provide for those you love and give him control of your life.

What gets built with God’s help, then, is less tangible. The Kingdom of God, at least on earth in our time, is perhaps a relational construct.

What do you think God is helping you do? And what do you think people believe God is doing that you aren’t so sure he’s involved?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Who Knows?

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! 

How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out! 

“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”

“Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”

For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.

                               Romans 11:33-36 (New International Version)

"When the apostle Paul, with great wonder, asks, 'Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become his counselor?' (Rom. 11:34), he is not expecting an upstart in the back row to raise his hand" (Douglas Wilson; Back to Basics, p. 8).

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What Are You Receiving in Return for the Price of a Spent Day?

From Allan R. Bevere:
Some words to consider each morning from the Trappist Monks in the Abbey of the Genesee:

This is the beginning of a new day. God has given me this day to use as I will. I can waste it or use it for good. What I do today is important because I’m exchanging a day of my life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever, leaving in its place something I have traded for it. I want it to be gain, not loss; good, not evil; success, not failure; in order that I shall not regret the price I paid for it.

When this day is over what will you have received in exchange for it?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Three Ways to Spoil the Gospel

The Gospel in fact is a most curiously and delicately compounded medicine, and is a medicine that is very easily spoiled.

You may spoil the gospel by substitution. You have only to withdraw from the eyes of the sinner the grand object which the Bible proposes to Faith, — Jesus Christ; and to substitute another object in His place, — the Church, the Ministry … and the mischief is done …

You may spoil the Gospel by addition. You only have to add to Christ, the grand object of faith, some other objects as equally worthy of honour, and the mischief is done …

You may spoil the Gospel by disproportion. You only have to attach an exaggerated importance to the secondary things of Christianity, and a diminished importance to the first things, and the mischief is done. Once alter the proportion of the parts of the truth, and truth soon becomes downright error …  — J. C. Ryle, quoted by Peter Adam inHearing God's Word

Friday, May 13, 2011

Why We Need to Throw Out the Term "Good Christian"

From Francis Chan, formerly the pastor of Cornerstorne Church in Simi Valley.  Chan has authored two books, Crazy Love & Forgotten God. 
I think it's time we stop asking ourselves the question: "Am I a good Christian?" We live in a time when the term "Christian" has been so diluted that millions of immoral but nice people genuinely consider themselves "good Christians." We have reduced the idea of a good Christian to someone who believes in Jesus, loves his or her family, and attends church regularly. Others will label you a good Christian even though your life has no semblance to the way Christ spent His days on earth. Perhaps we should start asking the question: "Am I a good Christ?" In other words, do I look anything like Jesus? This question never even entered my mind until a friend of mine made a passing comment to me one day.
Dan is a long time friend of mine. In fact, he's the pastor who performed my wedding. He was talking to me about a pastor named Von. Von has been working with youth in the San Diego area for decades. Many of his students have gone on to become amazing missionaries and powerful servants of God. Dan described a trip to Tijuana, Mexico, with Pastor Von. (Von has been ministering to the poor in the dumps of Tijuana for years.) Dan didn't speak of the awful living conditions of those who made their homes amidst the rubbish. What impacted Dan the most was the relationship he saw between Von and the people of this community. He spoke of the compassion, sacrifice, and love that he witnessed in Von's words and actions as he held these malnourished and un-bathed children. Then he made the statement that sent me reeling:
"The day I spent with Von was the closest thing I've ever experienced to walking with Jesus."
Dan explained that the whole experience was so eerie because he kept thinking to himself: "If Jesus were still walking on Earth in the flesh, this is what it would feel like to walk alongside of Him!" After that discussion, I kept wondering if anyone had ever said that about me-"The day I spent with Francis was the closest thing I've ever experienced to walking with Jesus." The answer was an obvious "no." Would any honest person say that about you?
What bothered me was not that I hadn't "arrived," but that I wasn't even heading in the right direction. I hadn't made it my goal to resemble Christ. I wasn't striving to become the kind of person who could be mistaken for Jesus Christ. Isn't it ironic that a man can be known as a successful pastor, speaker, and CHRISTian even if his life doesn't resemble Christ's?

1 John 2:6 "Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did."
When John made that statement, he wasn't speaking about how to be a church leader or even how to be a "good" Christian. He merely stated that anyone who calls himself Christian must live like Jesus did. So how did Jesus live? You could make a list of character traits to compare yourself to, but it would be far more beneficial to simply read through one of the Gospels. After you get a bird's-eye view of the life of Christ, do the same with your own. Are you comfortable with the similarities and differences?
It's easy to get caught up in the pursuit of "success" as American churchgoers define it. The thought of being well known and respected is alluring. There have been times when I've been caught up in the fun of popularity. I've even mistaken it for success. Biblically, however, success is when our lives parallel Christ's. Truth is there are many good Christs that you'll never read about in a magazine. They are walking as Jesus walked, but they are too focused and humble to pursue their own recognition.
May we make it our goal to someday have someone say of us: "The day/hour/15 minutes I spent with ______ was the closest thing I've ever experienced to walking with Jesus."
As Christians in America, we often complain about how antagonistic people are toward Christ. Personally, I'm not sure that Americans are really rejecting Christ. Maybe they just haven't seen Him.
Try to be COMPLETELY honest with yourself right now. Is the following true of you?
You passionately love Jesus, but you don't really want to be like Him. You admire His humility, but you don't want to be THAT humble. You think it's beautiful that He washed the feet of the disciples, but that's not exactly the direction your life is headed. You're thankful He was spit upon and abused, but you would never let that happen to you. You praise Him for loving you enough to suffer during His whole time on Earth, but you're going to do everything within your power to make sure you enjoy your time down here.
In short: You think He's a great Savior, but not a great role model.
The American church has abandoned the most simple and obvious truth of what it means to follow Jesus: You actually follow His pattern of life. I pray for those who read this article- that we don't become cynical or negative toward the church. Instead, let's make a personal decision to stop talking so much and begin living like Jesus. Then we can say as the Apostle Paul, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." (1 Corinthians 11:1) My guess is that you've never had someone say that to you, and you've never said it to anyone else. Why Not?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Satan Won't Care

Pastor, Satan doesn’t mind if you preach on the decrees of God with fervor and passion, reconciling all the tensions between sovereignty and freedom, as long as you don’t preach the gospel. Homeschooling mom, Satan doesn’t mind if your children can recite the catechism and translate the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” from English to Latin, as long as they don’t hear the gospel. Churches, Satan doesn’t care if your people vote for pro-life candidates, stay married, have sex with whom they’re supposed to, and tear up at all the praise choruses, as long as they don’t see the only power that cancels condemnation—the gospel of Christ crucified. Satan so fears that gospel, he was willing to surrender his entire empire just to stave it off. He still is.

- Russell Moore from Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ

Monday, May 9, 2011

Up and Out

"The gospel causes us to look up to Christ and what he did, out to our neighbor and what they need, not in to ourselves and how we’re doing. There’s nothing about the gospel that fixes my eyes on me. Any version of Christianity, therefore, that encourages you to think mostly about you is detrimental to the faith – whether it’s your failures or your successes; your good works or your bad works; your strengths or your weaknesses; your obedience or your disobedience."

- Tullian Tchividjian

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Incessantly Gossip the Gospel

Yet another amazing prayer by Scotty Smith.
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Psalm 143:8
Dear heavenly Father, in the morning, at mid-day, in the afternoon and throughout the night, keep on bringing us word of your unfailing love. That’s all we need, that’s all we really need. By the Holy Spirit, incessantly gossip the gospel in our inmost ear. Wrap the good news of your boundless, endless affections around our hearts, tighter and tighter and tighter. Permeate every bit of our being with your fresh mercies, steadfast love and transforming grace, for we have put our trust in you.
Father, it’s the assurance of your unfailing love which enables us to trust you with the transitions we go through in life and the uncertainties about the future. Change is never easy. Change makes us feel vulnerable, fearful and insecure.
We get tempted, once again, to be our own savior. Spare us that misery, Father, spare us and those we love.  May our broken cisterns hold bitter water and our idols of choice fail us quickly. May your Word dwell in us richly; your peace rule in us powerfully; and your glory be our main passion and delight.
We’ve entrusted our lives to you, Father, because you alone are trustworthy. We’ve given you our sins, wounds, brokenness and weakness. Now, in fresh surrender, we give you our planning for the next season of our lives. Show us the way we should go through our transitions—transitions of age and stage; career and calling; health and finances; relationships and ministries. Write stories of redemption beyond our wildest dreams and hopes. It’s all about you, Jesus, not us, you.
We’re not so arrogant as to expect all the details. Just take us by the hand and lead the way. Father, continue to open doors we cannot shut and shut doors we cannot open. All we need to know is that you love us and that you’re with us. You’ve promised us both, and you do not lie. So very Amen, we pray, in Jesus’ peerless and priceless name.

A Prayer of Trust for Seasons of Change is a post from: Heavenward by Scotty Smith