Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Out of the Office...

Gone on vacation...sans computer!

Merry Christmas!!!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Recovering a Huge Vision of God

The final chapter of The Knowledge of the Holy (two earlier posts here and here) is perhaps the best because it puts application to the thoughts and musings of the previous 100 pages. Tozer’s desire is that the name of God be glorified in the church again, and for that to happen, the individual must glorify God through personal revival.

He says there is only one secret… “Acquaint thyself with God.”

Tozer then goes on to present a brief summary of the conditions necessary in order to do this acquaintance.

First… “We must forsake our sins.”

Second… “There must be an utter committal of the whole life to Christ in faith.” He describes this as involving a “…volitional and emotional attachment to Him accompanied by a firm purpose to obey Him in all things.” Consider some of my earlier posts (here and here) on the necessity of obedience. And note his intentional use of the words “utter” and “whole” and their implications to how we live here in America.

Third… “There must be a reckoning of ourselves to have died unto sin and to be alive unto God in Christ Jesus, followed by a throwing open of the entire personality to the inflow of the Holy Spirit.”

Fourth… “We must boldly repudiate the cheap values of the fallen world and become completely detached in spirit from everything that unbelieving men set their hearts upon, allowing ourselves only the simplest enjoyments of nature which God has bestowed alike upon the just and the unjust.” This one really sounds difficult to me. However, I suspect that as I accomplish the first three, the fourth will naturally follow.

Fifth… “We must practice the art of long and loving meditation upon the majesty of God.” Tozer warns that as we progress deeper in becoming acquainted with God, we may for a time, lose friends and gain a passing reputation for being holier-than-thou. But he also states that if we were to turn from this effort simply because of these things, then we are not fit for the Kingdom of God. We fear the world more than we fear God.

Sixth… “As the knowledge of God becomes more wonderful, greater service to our fellow men will become for us imperative. This blessed knowledge is not given to be enjoyed selfishly.”

Tozer concludes that as we develop an intensified knowledge of God, there is no way it cannot begin to affect those around us, especially those in our circle of Christian friends. We must purposefully share our increasing light with our brothers and sisters. As this happens, the church as a whole grows to bring more glory to God.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Implications of Knowledge of the Holy

Tozer says that it is often easier to understand about God from the negative. In other words, when we consider what He is not like, we better understand what He is like. For instance: God had no origin; He had no beginning; He requires no helpers; He suffers no change; He has no limitations in His essential being; there is no place God isn’t; nothing can sway His hand.

What does this mean to us in everyday life? In a word…majesty. We have such a low view of God, often (if we are brutally honest) as not much more than the big vending machine in the sky. Think how often our prayers are nothing more than a list of requests! Yes, we have been adopted as sons of God and have been given permission to address Him as “Abba.” But in no way does that change Who He is relative to who we are. But since we now consider Him to be our “big buddy in the sky,” we feel free to live our lives in whatever way we see fit. We don’t see our sin as a big deal…yes, maybe our bigger sins, but certainly not the smaller ones. We don’t strive for holiness. We don’t fall on our faces in awe of God, especially in light of what He did for us on the Cross! God and His demands on our lives fall to a distant second place when compared to the demands and cares of the world.

Oh, how I want to go back and study, internalizing the insights Tozer has compiled here, praying that the Holy Spirit will help me to develop a massive view of God that leaves me in stunned awe and adoration. Just consider what a motivation such a view would be when it comes to the difficulties of challenging our culture with a life lived wholly sold-out to Christ.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Aircraft Operating Manuals

As a short reprieve from A.W. Tozer, I'm going to continue my airplane analogies a bit further.

In the airline world we have massive books that tell us about the systems of the plane, how they work, how they are to be operated, and how to handle things when they don't work as advertised. We also have books that tell us how to most efficiently fly the plane within the safest parameters.

For instance, let's say the book tells us to fly a final approach speed of 142 knots. That would be the designer's calculation as the speed which gives us the best stall protection (assuming we are flying something that could actually stall...not an Airbus) and maneuvering capability while giving us the least energy necessary to dissipate on landing.

As the pilot, I can override the designer's calculations and increase or decrease the speed. If I increase it, I then the result will be a longer landing roll. This could result in something as minor as hotter brakes, or in something as major as going off the end of the runway! If I decide to fly slower than the designer's calculated speed, I could stall the airplane and crash.

The bottom line is the designer built the plane. He knows how it is best flown. If I am smart, I will listen to what he has to say and do it!

The spiritual lesson is that God "built" the human being (us). He knows how we are to operate best. He has given us a "manual" telling us the best way for us. If I am smart, I will heed what it has to say and live according to its patterns, principles, precepts, and commands. If I don't, I can expect anything from minor difficulties to major crashes...and perhaps an eternity in hell!

Bottom line... Read your Bible. Repent and trust in Christ for the forgiveness of your sins if you have not already done so. And then follow the Bible, thus becoming more and more like your Lord Jesus every day, and thus operating the human being that is you in the "best way possible according to the Designer!"

Friday, December 01, 2006

In the Center of the Cross

This is a picture of the Primary Flight Display on an Airbus A320. It shows our attitude in relation to the horizon, our heading, our airspeed in knots, our altitude, our mach number, our vertical velocity, and the particulars of our automation.

Specifically what I would like to draw your attention to are the two lines that form a cross right in the center of the instrument. Those form what is called the "Flight Director." There is a little black box that is right in the center of the cross. By pitching the plane up or down or rolling it right or left, you move that box to center it up underneath the crosshairs. The function of the crosshairs is to tell you where to put the airplane in order for it to fly in the manner you have asked it to. In short, if I were to set the automation up, you as a non-pilot could fly the little box into the cross, and you would be able to make the plane do something you would not be able to do on your own. On the other hand, if you were to ignore the cross, really bad things usually happen!

I took one of our pastors in the simulator one day and after learning how to keep the box under the cross, he came up with the following insightful application to real life:

If you want to get to your proper destination in this life, you must stay in the center of the Cross. When you are not in the center of the Cross, really bad things usually happen!

A Message from the Grave

We recently returned from a wonderful week-long tour of Plymouth, Boston, Salem, and Lexington/Concord. Believe me when I say that being in Plymouth over Thanksgiving is something everyone should endeavor to do once in their lifetime!

Anyway, if you were to tour Burial Hill Cemetery in Plymouth (William Bradford is only one of many famous people from our history buried there), you would find many, many gravestones from the Puritan era. One of the things the Puritans tried to do was communicate a message with what they put on those stones. Here is a quote I found that relates to one of my previous posts.

Short is our longest day of life
And soon its prospect ends.
Yet on that day's uncertain date
Eternity begins.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Knowledge of the Holy

A.W. Tozer has a wonderful little book (slightly over 100 pages) entitled, The Knowledge of the Holy. The premise is that our view of God is far too small, which in turn inhibits our ability to experience the transforming power of the Spirit in our lives. My family attends a church that has a much higher view of God than most, but as I read this book, I find that we are sorely lacking as well. “The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him—and of her.”

The purpose of this post is to outline and summarize the attributes Tozer brings out about God, to include their definitions. An “attribute” is something God has revealed as being true about Himself. It isn’t a definition of Him, but rather is something intrinsic to His nature. We must also consider all of the attributes as one, with each attribute contributing to the others. You will note that most every one of these attributes deals with the concept of infinity, something of which finite man can scarcely conceive, yet it is still worth our efforts…for without the attempt, we can never know about our God. Tozer says we absolutely must break ourselves of the habit of thinking of the Creator as we think of His creatures. Please take some quiet time and muse and wrestle with the implications of each of these attributes. Look at how often we define God in a manner similar to that of a creature. Even better…get the book, and see some of the musing and implications Tozer comes up with.

God Incomprehensible- An infinite God is not comprehensible by man. Bits and pieces as He chooses to reveal, yes; otherwise He cannot be known. We tend to reduce Him to manageable terms, and the result is a God we can in some measure control…in other words, not God at all. I think of the things I teach about God. I can have confidence they are true and I can proclaim them confidently. However, this particular attribute opens my eyes to how easily I come to think I have God “figured out.” The only things I can “figure out” about God are those which He tells me, and even then it will only be partially since I as a finite being cannot begin to comprehend His infinitude.

God as the Holy Trinity- No matter how hard one tries or how many deep theological words he uses, this attribute cannot be satisfactorily explained, only believed as “truth for the heart.” Three, yet One. Separate, yet in total, perfect, complete unity. Perfect in love.

The Self-Existence of God- Origin can only apply to that which is created. That God was not created means He has no origin. He is “Someone Who was made by none.”

The Self-Sufficiency of God- God is what He is in Himself, and as such, He has no need. “Need” can only be referenced to a creature, and not to the Creator.

The Eternity of God- Since time came into being at the creation, God is outside of time. God is unaffected by the farthest reaches we can consider in both past and future. “God dwells in eternity, but time dwells in God.”

God’s Infinitude- This is something we cannot grasp, yet we must at least make the attempt for it will help us to come to grips with the other attributes. Infinitude can only belong to One, and it says God is measureless. Measuring is something we do as Creatures. The infinite cannot be measured, and when we try, we end up with something that isn’t God!

God’s Immutability- God never differs from Himself. He never grows or develops. Since He is already perfect, any change is impossible.

God’s Divine Omniscience- God possesses perfect knowledge and has no need to learn. It also means God has never learned and cannot learn.

The Wisdom of God- God’s understanding is infinite, and this infinite wisdom is the root of all truth. Among other things, it “…is the ability to devise perfect ends and to achieve those ends by the most perfect means.”

The Omnipotence of God- Because God is infinite and He is self-existent, He must have limitless power as well. This perfect, complete, limitless power must go hand-in-hand with the idea of sovereignty as well.

God’s Divine Transcendence- God is exalted far above the created universe. He is not just the highest in an ascending order of beings. He stands fully and completely apart.

God’s Omnipresence- “God is everywhere here, close to everything, next to everyone.” “In His infinitude He surrounds the finite creation and contains it.”

God’s Faithfulness- To be unfaithful is to change. Since God cannot change, He is absolutely faithful in all He does. He is perfectly consistent, with all He does in perfect agreement with all He is.

God’s Goodness- This is the attribute that disposes God to be “…kind, cordial, benevolent, and full of good will toward men.” It is this goodness that allows a distinction between kindness and cruelty and even between heaven and hell.

God’s Justice- Justice and righteousness are almost perfect synonyms in Scripture. Justice is the way God is. His acts are the perfect definition of justice. In no way should we ever attempt to think of God as conforming to an external, independent criterion.

God’s Mercy- This is “…an infinite and inexhaustible energy within the divine nature which disposes God to be actively compassionate.” Mercy is God’s goodness confronting human misery and guilt. Tozer also goes to great length to dispel the idea that God in the Old Testament is a God of justice whereas the God of the New Testament is a God of mercy. Remember…God is immutable!

God’s Grace- While similar to mercy, grace is God’s goodness directed toward man’s debt and demerit.

God’s Love- God is not literally “love” as is so often ascribed, but love is an essential attribute of God. It’s very difficult to actually define “love,” but we can describe how love manifests itself. Good will, friendly, giving freely to the object of its affection, self-sacrificial, taking pleasure in the object of its affection are examples of this manifestation.

God’s Holiness- “We cannot grasp the true meaning of the divine holiness by thinking of someone or something very pure and then raising the concept to the highest degree we are capable of. God’s holiness is not the best we know infinitely bettered.” God’s holiness is something “…unique, unapproachable, incomprehensible, and unattainable.” Holiness is who God is; He is the standard.

God’s Sovereignty- This is the absolute freedom of God to do that which He desires. Nothing can hinder, compel, or stop Him.

I know this resulted in a long post. I hope you will take the time along with me to ponder these attributes in a heart-felt attempt to know and thus love the God of our salvation more and more. I hope to place another couple of posts on this book, one involving some implications of furthering our understanding of God’s attributes and another summarizing Tozer’s final chapter wherein he “puts feet to the ideas” and challenges us to rise to the occasion of glorifying God more and more.

Giving thanks to my Lord, Who is far more than I could ever imagine…

Sunday, November 19, 2006


Some people who read my blogs and who know me personally have leveled the charge of "hypocrite" at me, claiming that my life and what I write here and on my HomeDisciplingDad blog don't match.

You know what?

They are right.

My life does not conform with what I write here, and I doubt that most of the people who read this blog could state that their lives do either. My purpose in writing these blogs is not to expound from on high as a person who has "made it," but rather to compile thoughts and musings of what I find in the Bible and what I read from respected authors that show what my life should be like...almost like a series of goals at which to aim.

I can honestly and sadly say that I fall far short of most of what I write. But if I don't at least have these thoughts in front of me, then I don't have direction. I would like to be the person who has made great strides against idolatry, whose life illustrates strong obedience to God's commands, who always loves his wife as perfectly as Christ loved the church, who has shepherded his family away from the ways of the world and into following Christ unashamedly, who witnesses the Gospel and the love of Christ daily to a lost and hurting world, who prays unceasingly, who loves God with every ounce of his being, 100% of the time.

But I fall short, often very short. I know that.

But without vision, the people perish; and these blogs are places for me to compile what I hope is a God-centered vision for myself and for my family... and just maybe, for those who do me the honor of reading them as well.

So, yes, in a sense, I am a hypocrite; but in another, I am a sinner, justified by faith, living in grace, and praying for a life more conformed to Christ.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A Foolish Life

I was reading a back-issue of Randy Alcorn's Eternal Perspectives Newsletter (free subscription at Eternal Perspectives Ministries) and came across the following quote:

"Any life that leaves us unprepared for death is a foolish life."

This has a similar flavor to the couplet inscribed on a Puritan-era tombstone in Boston:

As you are now, so once was I.
As I am now, so you will be.
So prepare for death,
And follow me.

We in America absolutely detest even thinking that our lives are finite. It is an uncomfortable subject for many reasons, not the least of which is that we unconsciously consider this life to be superior to the next. As Christians, we should know better!

But the bottom line is that each of us will face death, and only God knows the span of our life. Both Randy Alcorn and this voice crying out to us from the grave are pleading with us to consider our lives in light of their finitude. To a Christian, this should call us to consider if we are truly living our lives in a manner worthy of our status as God's adopted children. Are we building His Kingdom? Are we finding joy in doing His will? Are we shining light into a dark world?

Or...are we living for ourselves, for our "Disneyland" experience here in America (as my pastor likes to put it)? Are we so chummy with the culture that we cannot begin to fathom God's radical call on our lives?

How does one prepare for death? I propose that one prepares for death by the intentional living of his life, becoming more and more like Christ every day, obeying Him, and doing His will. By the end of our lives, our only plea on our deathbed should be, "Oh, that I had more time to show the love of Christ to the world...but to die is gain!!!"

We should be striving to hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant"...not "Well done, good and faithful servant, for you broke that sporting record" or "Well done, good and faithful servant, for you died with the most toys" or even "Well done good and faithful servant, for you attended church faithfully." The key word here is servant. We serve the risen Lord, doing His bidding in the world. We don't ascertain that bidding through circumstance and feeling, but rather through careful study and application of the Scripture. And I dare say that most of what we in the American Evangelical Culture are doing reflect the intent of the latter comments above, and will burn up as the chaff it is.

Trust me when I say part of the reason I write is to preach to myself. I admit it... I love my vacations. I love my home. I love my toys. I love the accolades I get from my job. I take for granted God's blessings in my life. And NONE of these things will amount to a hill of beans from God's viewpoint. In fact, there is a good argument to be made that they may even be idols! And if you've read some of my earlier posts on idolatry, you know how God abhors idolatry. Where is my focus? When will my actions match my words?

Oh Lord, in the name of your Son, Jesus, please make it so!!! Please give me, and all who read this, the desire to conform our lives to that of our Savior. And when that desire is there; please turn it into action. Give us a vision for what You want from us on this earth. Give us a vision of what truly matters, and grant the joy and desire to do those things! Then Lord, take all the glory from our transformed lives!! Amen!

May we have a healthy understanding of death... and how to prepare for it....

Tozer on "The Exaltation of God"

A.W. Tozer has something to challenge me on almost every page I read. In his book, The Pursuit of God, he has an essay on The Exaltation of God. In it I found the following quotes:

"Every soul belongs to God and exists by His pleasure. God being who He is, and we being who we are, the only thinkable relation between us is one of full Lordship on His part and complete submission on ours."

This is the point that the evangelical culture in our country seems to have conveniently forgotten. The EC ignores Lordship...especially "full Lordship." And if you don't recognize full Lordship, then complete submission is not even on your radar screen. Do we really take time to get quiet before the Lord for an extended period of time and ponder who He really is? Maybe if we did that, we would arrive at the same conclusion as Tozer.

"The pursuit of God will embrace the labor of bringing our total personality into conformity to His. And this is not judicially, but actually."

Tozer makes the point of mentioning "judicially" because he understands that we are justified by faith alone, which makes us right with God judicially. But we then have the challenge of sanctification, which is the act of bringing our total personality into conformity to God's. This is an actual, intentional, laborious process, and it involves, in the power of the Holy Spirit, actually changing who we are.

"The moment we make up our minds that we are going on with this determination to exalt God over all, we step out of the world's parade."

Doing the above means determining to exalt God... and that means being different from the world. How many of us quickly get defensive here, professing that we don't really love the world, but are just living in it? God's way and the way of the world are completely antithetical; you can't have it both ways. Tozer goes on to quickly cut our excuses out from under us with the next quote:

"Our break with the world will be the direct outcome of our changed relation to God. For the world of fallen men does not honor God. Millions call themselves by His name, it is true, and pay some token respect to Him, but a simple test will show how little He is really honored among them. Let the average man be put to the proof on the question of who or what is above, and his true position will be exposed. Let him be forced into making a choice between God and money, between God and men, between God and personal ambition, God and self, God and human love, and God will take second place every time."

(In Tozer's day, he probably didn't have to deal as much with this one: Between God and sports!) When the rubber meets the road, which choice will it be? If the answer isn't 100% "God," then we are not honoring Him and He is not our true Lord. Note that Tozer phrases it as "forced to make a choice." This is not an intellectual agreement; he means it to be real life. If we know what God is asking of us, and yet refuse to willingly conform ourselves with a joyful heart, then we are dishonoring our Lord...and that raises the question of what we truly believe. That's the whole point of this blog. Are you serious about your faith? If so, then it has to show as you grow in Jesus' righteousness. You can't sit still; you must be becoming more like your Lord.

And I write/preach this to myself as well....

May we all seriously consider what we need to do to pass Tozer's test on honoring the Father of our Lord and Savior.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Practical Tips for Obedience and Change- Part II

This morning I had the pleasure of sitting under the teaching of Dr. John Piper as he conducted a seminar on "Christian Hedonism." (Yes...sounds like an oxymoron, but it's not!) The purpose here isn't to describe or defend Christian Hedonism. If you would like more information on it, go to Desiring God and put it in the search box. You will have more information than you can possibly digest! While you are there, purchase a copy of Desiring God for a more thorough treatment of the subject...AND a life-changing view of our Lord and Savior!

I took away from his seminar several items that relate to obedience and Christ's Lordship. First and foremost is that Christ IS Lord, but that for the believer, it is not a thing of duty and burden. In fact, if you are acting out of simple duty, you probably don't really know Christ! Instead, our actions...including the keeping of God's commands...are to be motivated by joy! We are actually commanded to have joy! I won't go into the theological defense of how God can command an emotion...go to the website for that. So bottom line... obedience to the commands of God is a joyful thing! But Pastor Piper also said that it is a continual fight...you must fight for joy, probably on a daily basis...or even more often! And he gave some strategies that are applicable (there are more, probably available on the website or through some of the other books he's written).

1. Meditate on Scripture day and night. That means reading it, memorizing it, and musing upon it.

2. Pray. Pray for joy. Pray for what you are learning in your meditations on Scripture.

3. Preach to yourself instead of listening to yourself! I highlight this because it struck me as important, yet immensely practical, simply because it is something we don't do! We wake up in the morning and listen to ourselves grumble. We listen to ourselves all day long, and if we were to actually pay attention, we would be amazed at how often what we are telling ourselves is negative and joy-killing. Quit doing that! Instead, preach to yourself sermons based on the Scripture you are reading and meditating upon. Preach about God's goodness and glory. Preach about His promises. Preach about His expectations of you in your sanctification. Train yourself to listen only when you are preaching and not when you are grumbling.

Becoming more like Christ isn't a burdensome work of drudgery. Make no mistake; it IS work and it DOES require change. But it is a joyful thing to become more like our Lord! Let's make the most of every day in doing so!

Toward more joy and more Christlikeness!!!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Practical Tips for Obedience and Change

In my last post I challenged every Christian reading it to consider God's commands for obedience to His Word and how that would require a person to change his attitudes, his actions, and his life in conformity with Scripture. That's a huge challenge. In fact, it is a challenge that will take your entire life!

So how would one go about this? Here's a suggestion for how to start. If you are serious about this, you should already be reading your Bible. The next time you are reading, ask God to reveal his commands, principles, and patterns to you. Get a journal and write them down. Then take some time to muse and pray over how you would apply that particular command, principle, or pattern to your life personally, to your relations with those in your family, to your relations with those in your circle of influence, and to the world at large. Each command, principle, or pattern will not necessarily apply to each of these realms, but consider each as you muse. And then make a point of actually applying what you are discovering!

Here's an example (I just went to a book of the Bible and looked to find a command.)

I found First Peter 4:9- "Show hospitality to one another without grumbling". First I would ask what "hospitality" means. If I'm going to show it to someone, I'd better know what it is as God defines it. Use a Vine's Expository Dictionary for this sort of thing...it works great for the layman like me!

So how do I show hospitality to my immediate family? Could it be in the atmosphere I create in my home? Could it be in how I express my love for each of them? Could it be regular meals around the dinner table instead of on the run?

How do I show hospitality to my circle of influence? Do I invite people over to share meals regularly? What kind of meal- fancy or normal? Do I make them feel a part of the family? Are they comfortable in my home? Do they feel the love of Christ in me and in my family as we converse?

How about to the world at large? Am I quick to invite someone I've just met to break bread in my home?

And of course, we can't forget the last part. How do I do this without grumbling? Prayer, of course. But what should my attitude be toward showing hospitality to anyone? Am I not showing them the love of Christ in a real, tangible way and thus witnessing a changed life in action? Does that not take grumbling out of it?

I hope this will challenge you to take seriously God's commands, and to strive to apply them daily in your life such that you look more and more like your Savior each day!

Obedience and Change

Using my computer NAS Bible softward, I did a search of the New Testament for the words, "obey," "obedient," and "obedience." It generated forty-four hits. A quick scan of them showed that the first five pertained to the water "obeying" Jesus when He calmed it. The rest typically had something to do with believers and their relation to God, His Son, and His Word or to their carrying out of everyday life in reference to the Word.

Here are links to the ESV Online Bible with the individual words searched:

Click here for a search of the NT for the word, "obey."
Click here for a search of the NT for the word, "obedient."
Click here for a search of the NT for the word, "obedience."

If you were to do the same search and peruse these verses, you would come away with the understanding that God actually cares that we as believers obey Him! That is something that goes against almost everyone's basic nature, especially here in America. We loath being told we have to do something a certain way; we cherish our independence and our right to do and to act in the way we please. We prefer to focus on grace, and ignore that God has a claim on our lives. But we are not our own; we are bought with a price and are now slaves of Christ. He has every right to command us how to live our lives and to expect our obedience.

Also consider the analogy of a parent and a child. We as parents expect obedience from our children for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that we typically know better than they what is good for them. One of the steps of salvation is "adoption," where we as believers become adopted children of God. In this case, though, we never grow up. We will always be His children, and He has every right as our Father to expect our obedience and we should expect that His commands for us result in what is best, even if we can't see it.

The bottom line is that Christ obeyed perfectly. If we are to become like Christ in sanctification, we also should be obeying more and more each day. Obviously we won't have perfect obedience this side of heaven, but we certainly should be progressing that way.

...which brings me to the second point. If we are progressing in obedience to the Word of God, then our lives are going to change. You cannot be the same person this year that you were last year if you are concentrating on conforming your life to God's commands. For example, you will be more patient, more loving, more God-centered, more service-focused, more joyful, more ______ (you fill in the blank). Your life should be more organized according to the standards in the Bible rather than the standards of our culture. You cannot be the same person; your life must reflect more of Christ and His way today then it did at a previous point in time. (The longer the time frame, the more obvious the change should be.) If you are the same person and haven't been moving toward Christ-likeness in obedience, then you should seriously question your progress in sanctification. And if there is a problem with sanctification, then you should have a serious self-examination of your salvation.

The bottom line for the Christian is that a major part of your sanctification is obeying God as He revealed His will in the Word, thus conforming your life to that of Christ. That requires work. It requires the power of the Holy Spirit. It requires that you actually renounce/repent of the way you are and change, sometime dramatically, the way you act and live. If more people who go by the name, "Christian," would do this, then we would actually look different to the pagan world, and would be a far better witness.

Praying for obedience and change, both in my life and in the lives of those I love....

Sunday, November 05, 2006

"I 'Made' Jesus my Lord!"

I've been doing some reading lately of material by John MacArthur as well as listening to different podcast programs. I have blogged on the Lordship issue previously, but I want to return to it in light of some of the things I've learned.

First, it was pointed out that every time the term, "Lord," and the term, "Savior," are used together, "Lord" is always given first billing. It is always "Lord and Savior" and never "Savior and Lord." This indicates the relative importance of the two in God's eyes. Unfortunately we in the evangelical culture see it in the latter when in reality, God sees it in the former. This results in our pretty much ignoring the implications of Jesus as Lord while enjoying the benefits of Jesus as Savior. This is to our peril.

Secondly, how often do you hear someone say they "made Jesus Lord of my life" or something similar? MacArthur points out a glaring error in this sort of thinking. It requires quite a large amount of arrogance to even consider that you as the creature made your creator your Lord, as if it were up to you! The fact is, Jesus is Lord and there is nothing you or I can do about it. In fact, there is no question that one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father!

The real issue isn't that Jesus is suddenly Lord of one's life; He's always been Lord of one's life. The real issue is that you have been disobedient. A more thoughtful way to put it is something like, "Jesus has always been Lord, and I've sinned in disobedience. In the power of the Holy Spirit, I am endeavoring to grow more and more like Jesus through obedience to His Lordship!"

So, how about it? Shall we put Jesus' Lordship in its proper place and focus on obedience as we strive in the power of the Holy Spirit toward sanctification? I fear this is missing in most every evangelical heart today, including mine.

Let's change that, starting now....

Monday, October 30, 2006

Anemia or Power?

As I continue upon my A.W. Tozer readings, I am finding him to be immensely quotable, with pearls of wisdom and challenge sprinkled liberally throughout his writings.

In The Pursuit of God, Tozer addresses why we in modern Christianity are so devoid of "spiritual receptivity." Spiritual receptivity is crucial because it is the ability for us as saved sinners to "hear" God as He speaks in His Word. It is only when we hear God speaking to us personally in the present tense that we experience the power of a transformed life. Tozer points out that we often view God as having been silent, then speaking as the Word was written, and then going silent again. We say "God spoke" in the past tense. But he contends that God has never been silent and that His Word "speaks" (present tense) today to those who are spiritually receptive enough to hear. And the fruit of hearing that speaking is a changed life that is decidedly counter-cultural, yet undeniably powerful.

But he contends that far too few people who go by the name "Christian" ever develop this spiritual receptivity. Instead they develop, in the manner described in the following quote, the theology and standards they apply to their lives...and the results are powerless and anemic at best.

"We have been too blind to see, or too timid to speak out, or too self-satisfied to desire anything better than the poor average diet with which others appear satisfied. To put it differently, we have accepted one another's notions, copied one another's lives and made one another's experiences the model for our own. And for a generation, the trend has been downward. ... It will require a determined heart and more than a little courage to wrench ourselves loose from the grip of our times and return to biblical ways. But it can be done."

In other words, we look around and endeavor to copy others we think of as "spiritual" and "mature" and compare ourselves to still others who are not as spiritual, and then say we are doing well, or "growing." Tozer describes that as distinctly unbiblical, as he should because what he describes is the making of a standard out of our friends' and peers' lives. If our standard for anything in our life is "That's the way 'Joe Smith' (or 'the Smith family') does it," then we are living as Tozer delineates. Note that he says it will require a determined heart and a large amount of courage to turn from this pattern. A person who desires to break out will be going against not only the worldly culture, but the church culture as well. He will be different, and that difference will not be appreciated by those unwilling to consider how their lives are being lived.

What is Tozer's answer? How can this be accomplished?

"Let any man turn to God in earnest, let him begin to exercise himself unto godliness, let him seek to develop his powers of spiritual receptivity by trust and obedience and humility, and the results will exceed anything he may have hoped in his leaner and weaker days. Any man who by repentance and a sincere return to God will break himself out of the mold in which he has been held, and will go to the Bible itself for his spiritual standards, will be delighted with what he finds there."

Note some specific parts of this quote, with some expounding thoughts in amplification:

"Exercising one's self unto godliness."
Exercise is work. It is a determined effort with a particular goal in mind. In this case, it is hard work toward godliness. (No, this isn't works righteousness; this is for the Christian who is saved by grace through faith, and is in the sanctification process.)


Trust that God intends for you to achieve that godliness and that His Word is sufficient.

Obey the commands, precepts, and patterns you find in God's Word, trusting that God knows better than your peers, and if He desires your holiness and godliness, He alone knows how to achieve it in you.

Humble yourself before God and His Word, acknowledging the weakness of your own strength and knowledge, along with your willingness and desire to learn by listening to God speak.

The action of repentance is "to turn." Turn away from and question your current practices, no matter where they came from (for example, family worship...or lack of it...how you conduct your personal time with the Lord, how you raise and educate your children, how you interact with your neighbors, how you and your spouse organize your home, the impact of sports, vacations, how money is spent, and on and on and on...don't leave a stone unturned, understanding this is a process and isn't something that will occur or change overnight; but it needs to start). Until it is validated in Scripture, each and every practice you bring forth is suspect as being cultural instead of Biblical. Repent before God of how you've always done things, and humbly ask that He speak through His Word in direction for your life and the way you live it.

"Sincere return to God"
The flip-side of the repentance coin is when you turn from your life as you've always known it, you are sincerely, humbly, obediently turning to God alone as your source.

"Go to the Bible itself for spiritual standards"
This is the key to the entire list. The whole point of not being spiritually receptive, and thus lacking in spiritual power is that we don't use the Bible as our standard; we use one another! The exercise, the trust, the obedience, the humility, the repentance, and the return to God all hinge on making the Bible the final and complete standard for life. Anything else will lead right back down the path to spiritual weakness and anemia.

"Delight in what one finds in the Bible" (like what was found in my post on Psalm 1?!)
This isn't to be drudgery. What we find in the Bible is Life!!! It is a salve to the injured soul. These spiritual standards are an easy yoke and a light burden. In short, they cause delight. And as we saw in Psalm 1, a delight in the Law of the Lord produces a solid life characterized by fruit that nourishes all who cross our path.

So what will it be? More of the same anemic, powerless faith? Or a break from the standard of man to the Standard of God, His Word... and the Kingdom power to affect our world and win souls for eternity... all in joy and delight?

Doesn't seem to require a lot of debate in my mind....

Saturday, October 28, 2006

True Spirituality

In today's day and age, many talk about "spirituality" instead of "Christianity" or "religion." It is as if being spiritual is the name of the game. Here is what A.W. Tozer (from That Incredible Christian) said were the marks of someone who is truly spiritual...and it is a far cry from anything that passes for "spirituality" today!

1. First is the desire to be holy rather than happy.

2. A man may be considered spiritual when he wants to see the honor of God advanced through his life.

3. The spiritual man wants to carry his cross.

4. Again, a Christian is spiritual when he sees everything from God's viewpoint.

5. Another desire of the spiritual man is to die right rather than to live wrong.

6. The desire to see others advance at his expense is another mark of the spiritual man.

7. The spiritual man habitually makes eternity-judgments instead of time-judgments.

Muse on these for a while, asking honestly if they describe you. If your answer is similar to mine, then some humble appealing to your Heavenly Father is in order....

The Dangers of Intellectualism

A.W. Tozer says in the book, The Pursuit of God, "God will not hold us responsible to understand the mysteries of election, predestination and divine sovereignty. The best and safest way to deal with these truths is to raise our eyes to God and in deepest reverence say, 'O Lord, Thou knowest.' Those things belong to the deep and mysterious Profound of God's omniscience. Prying into them may make theologians, but it will never make saints."

I am all for theology, for good doctrine, for the solid meat of Biblical truth, for these things keep us on the narrow road that leads to salvation and ultimately to God. But I can understand what Tozer is getting at here.

He's not saying to never study these things. Rather, I think he is warning us against two very real dangers.

First, it is very, very easy to get lost in the intellectual deepness of the Bible and miss out on actually having it work in our lives. We feel spiritual because we are studying Bible, but in reality, we are far from God.

A second danger is that intellectualism can allow us to keep God and His commands for us at a safe distance. We can pick them up, mull them over, discuss and bicker about them...and then put them down again, never allowing them to actually impact our lives and change us.

How do I know this? Am I just that smart? No. I know it because I've done it...and it is a lie, and it is sin.

Tozer is crying out for us to know God, to seek Him while He may be found, to be spiritually receptive to God's stirring in our heart. This is what I want! Yes, I want to stir around in the deep, wonderful doctrines of God and to understand Him more by understanding them more. But I want to be careful that it isn't intellectualism, but instead leads me to actually know God and to be more like His Son. That requires that I not "put the commands back down again," but rather own them and keep them through the power of the Holy Spirit.

I want to be as Tozer says at the end of his quote: A saint.

May all of us understand and fight the dangers of intellectualism, and instead keep the study of the Bible in its rightful sphere...as a path to knowing God and being like His Son!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Musings on Destiny

I suppose it's probably against some unwritten blog-rule to link to my own post on another blog. But the topic addressed is one that works for the mission of this blog as well.

So click here to link over to my HomeDisciplingDad blog for some musings on "Destiny."

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Meek as Jesus!


To our culture, the term implies weakness, wimpiness, shyness...certainly not something to which most people would aspire. But the Bible calls Jesus "meek" and speaks highly of meekness in several places. Does that mean Jesus was a shy, wimpy weakling... and that we should all aspire to the same? Of course not!

The term "meekness" doesn't translate easily from the Greek word "prautes". Another possibility is "gentleness." But that doesn't do it justice either because it implies outward action whereas the actual word focuses primarily upon a heart condition. Vine's Expository Dictionary refers to it as "...that temper of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting." It goes on to say that meekness is "...the fruit of power." Note carefully that this is NOT a sulking resignation, but is rather a firm, heart-felt understanding that what God is doing in our lives is GOOD, regardless of how it may feel at the moment. The result is an intensity of character that comes with the power associated with it. Just think about Jesus. Weak and resigned would never describe Him; instead think of His single-minded focus on His Father's will, think of His cleansing of the Temple, think of His raising of Lazarus. This is power in meekness!

Now combine that with "quietness," as is commended for women in I Peter 3:4. The idea of quietness (or leading a quiet life) is listed elsewhere as a commendable quality for all, but here is the only place the two ideas are placed together. "Quietness" could easily be rendered "tranquil."

In effect, quietness could very well be the result of meekness. A person who is accepting of God's dealings with them as good would find it very easy to be tranquil.

Think of a large body of water where there is nothing to disturb it. It is "tranquil." Also consider a small puddle that is also tranquil. Now toss a fairly good sized rock into the puddle. It will splash about, rock and roll, and be quite disturbed overall. Now toss that same rock into a mile-wide tranquil lake. It will cause a splash, but the lake will quickly soak up the energy from the rock and return to its tranquil state, the majority of it having never felt its effects.

The large lake is a picture of the fruit of meekness and of quietness. The "rocks" that come into our lives are quickly absorbed and our countenance retains the tranquility of godly affections. People with these qualities can witness the love of God in Christ when others around them are falling apart because these people have a strength and power of character to persevere in dignity, calmness, and tranquility through times of difficulty.

While I would commend the qualities of meekness and quietness to all Christians, Peter obviously commended them both as a grouping to women in particular. Does that mean women are to be silent, weak fixtures in the background? Of course not. Based on what we know above, it means that a woman of meek and quiet spirit will exude a strength to absorb the hard things of her world, which allows her to carry on as the massive rock that supports her husband as his helpmeet. The world may attempt to dash her about, but she will remain steady...and that solid foundation is exactly what enables her husband to affect his world (i.e. sitting in the gate...Prov 31). If she breaks, he falls alongside her. Make no mistake... a woman of meek and quiet spirit in her role as helpmeet to a husband with vision is an indispensable part of God's order in the family and His plan for their effectiveness as Kingdom-bearers to the world. With her, her family is strong and powerful; without her, they are weak and ineffective. She is vital in her role.

Are we there yet? Probably most are not... both because they do not understand what it truly means to be meek and quiet, and because these have not been qualities prayed for and sought after.

So I pray... for me and my family, and for the church at large... through the power of the Holy Spirit, may we all seek and gain the power found in a meek and quiet spirit.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Musings on Psalm 1

The ESV rendition of Psalm 1 can be found here and will open in a separate page for reference.

This is not meant to be an be-all and end-all commentary on Psalm 1, but rather my musings as I contemplated it during and after my quiet time today....

Blessed is the man...

Obviously being "blessed" is a good thing to which we should want to aspire. It implies favor with God, joy, contentment, and happiness. So how is one to be "blessed?" The author of Psalm 1 points to three negatives and then a positive. The negatives are:

Don't walk in the way of the wicked.
Don't stand in the path of sinners.
Don't sit in the seat of scoffers.

These are all ways we would humanly try to acquire "blessing," and yet they will not work. There may be temporary, earthly riches, but there will not be blessing by God. Note they all entail a willful, decisive activity...walking, standing, sitting, and they involve using that activity to pursue the ways of the wicked, the sinner, and the scoffer.

In looking for other usages of the word translated, "wicked," I came across a strong description in Psalm 10:2-10. The wicked have pride at their core, pursuing the afflicted, boasting of his heart's desire, haughty in countenance. There is greed and a desire for material gain. He curses and spurns (same as a scoffer) the Lord, intentionally not seeking Him and thinking, "There is no God." And it goes on...but this is sufficient.

The word translated "sinner" brought up many of the same verses, although it is not the same word as wicked. Literally is could be rendered "sinner," "sinful," or "offender." This person may know of God and His ways and intentionally violates them.

The word "scoffer" brings with it the connotation of scorn. This is scorn for God and His ways.

So in effect, we are to practice an avoidance ethic of sorts (in spite of what I have said in other sections of this blog). We are to avoid the way of the wicked, the path of the sinner, and the seat of the scoffer.

But alone, this isn't enough. There is a positive requirement as well. To be blessed, a man is to delight in the Law of the Lord and to meditate on it day and night. Note carefully the requirement to "delight." This isn't a command to dutifully go through the motions of doing the commands of God, which would be similar to physical activities alluded to in the three negatives. Instead, think about "delight." There are internal components of joy, of child-like excitement, of wonder,... These are feelings and emotions that arise from our inner being, not something that can be conjured up. They must be brought about by the Holy Spirit. He is the only One who can bring you those feelings, so if you don't have them, pray for Him to give them to you. And once one delights in the Law of the Lord, would it be necessary to encourage meditating on it day and night? It almost seems redundant to say that! Of course you would meditate on it day and night.

So what are the results of avoiding the way of the wicked, the path of the sinner, and the seat of the scoffer, all the while delighting in the Law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night?

You become solidly grounded in the ways of the Lord, in His wisdom. And if you delight in the Law of the Lord (Scripture), you cannot possibly keep it to an intellectual enterprise. You will implement the commands of the Lord in your life. As such, your life becomes more and more conformed to the likeness of Christ, and less and less conformed to the likeness and desires of the world (do you really want to be like the wicked???).

And as you become conformed to the likeness of Christ, you become like the tree planted by the water...always yielding fruit, firmly planted with deep roots that enable it not to yield, regardless of the pressures around it. And there is blessing, both for you and for those around you. If you are yielding fruit, who is going to eat it? Those who encounter you! Your fruit nourishes others, showing them the beauty and glory of Christ. And what better witness could there be?

So note the progression:

Avoid the wrong ways of the world.
Delight in the Law of the Lord (the Scripture)
Meditate on it, and conform your life to it.
Your changed life is strong in the storm, and provides nourishment and blessing to others.
You glorify Christ!

May God grant us delight!!!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Will of God- Part II

This morning we had a guest preacher, Dr. David Wells of Gordon-Conwell. He put some theological terms on what I was trying to describe in my previous post on the will of God.

He called them by two names: "Particular Will" and "Moral Will."

He said particular will is very difficult or impossible to discern. That is what I meant by watching out for people who claim special revelation from God. If I were to say God told me to take my family, marry some more wives, and move to Waco to resurrect David Koresh's compound...well...let's just say anyone in their right mind would be correct to run the other way. In effect, I would be trying to ascertain God's particular will...and not doing a very good job at it!

On the other hand, he mentioned that His moral will IS possible to understand, for it is found in Biblical revelation. When God commands, or gives precepts, or establishes patterns, then we can say with great confidence that organizing our lives in response to them would be living in God's will.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Will Of God

Have you ever been told you can't know the will of God? Or have you been counseled to run away from anyone who says he does know the will of God? In almost every case, those statements form the premise of an argument for rejecting some part of the Bible. They are a straw man argument in that they shift focus from the conclusion of the argument to supposed damning evidence in the premise. Think about it for a minute. If those statements are true, then they are denying that God's will can be known. If that's the case, then you might as well put up your Bible, for it would be a book of nice stories. If that's the case, then you might as well quit going to church to hear a sermon (at least a good, expository one) because the preacher can't possibly know that what he is preaching is true.

So...can one know the will of God? And can he do it without a doctorate from seminary? In a word...yes!!!

How? Simply by looking at the Scriptures and seeing what He is requiring of you. Love your neighbor as yourself...and you are doing the will of God. Love your enemy...and you are doing the will of God. Raise up your children in fear and admonition of the Lord...and you are doing the will of God. Take the Gospel to your neighbors...and you are doing the will of God. This is not hard. And anyone who is carefully expositing Scripture can discern the will of God. Of course, anyone who is claiming special revelation ("Last night God spoke to me...") commanding something...well...you better exercise some seriously critical discernment on that person. But if it is simply a matter of a person putting feet to the commands of Scripture...that is nothing more than pursuing the Lordship of Christ, and that certainly is the will of God!

Toward knowing His will more and more...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


America is known as being a land of "rugged individualists" who "pull themselves up by their own bootstraps." Movie heroes such as John Wayne epitomized the person who stood alone and took on their world.

But is that an accurate portrayal? Is individualism a good thing for our society? And even more importantly, is it a Biblical idea?

As for accuracy in portraying Americans as individualists, one would have to ask what time frame was being examined. When DeTocqueville came over from France to do his study of the United States in the early 1800's, he actually had to bring a word to describe "individualism," for it was starting to emerge here, but was so new we didn't have an accurate word to describe it in the English language. Prior to that time, people were typically known by their family. They were a part of a group larger than themselves, to which they owed allegiance and upon which their actions reflected. Individualism didn't really start taking hold until late in the 1800's.

But does it really matter? I would say it does. Individualism decreases some of the most important facets of societal life: the family and the community.

When families are collections of individuals without a familial identity and without a group allegiance, then they become entities that go in every which direction, burning their candles at both ends in attempts to please everyone and to give every child their launch to a successful "individual" life. As a Christian witness, they are ineffectual.

This problem with the family then spills over into the community at large. There is no commitment to the people of a community. There is no incentive to put up with someone's irritable personality for the sake of relationship...just move on! Everyone is doing their own thing. Woe be it to the community that suffers a catastrophe like Hurricane Katrina...or a terrorist attack. They no longer have the bedrock of relationship that would allow them to hold themselves together. Instead, they fall apart like so much dry clay...and then cry for the government to come in and pick up the pieces.

And it can also be argued that a lot of the issues in the culture war can be traced partially to a radical individualism that really came to fruition in the '50s. Judge Robert Bork wrote a compelling book in 1996 entitled, "Slouching Toward Gomorrah." His thesis was that the cultural problems of today could be traced back to two overarching cultural characteristics that came to a head in the 1950's: Radical Egalitarianism (the equality of outcomes rather than of opportunities) and Radical Individualism (the drastic reduction of limits to personal gratification). When you are part of any group (family, community, etc), limits to personal gratification come naturally because you have responsibilities to that group. If you want to be free from those limits, then you must break free from the group and do your own thing as an individual. I'll leave it to you to read the rest of the book...just know it's frightening reading.

What about the Bible? I can see it from a couple of perspectives. When it comes to salvation, the Bible is absolutely individualistic. Each person must come to a saving faith in Christ individually. No one is saved by virtue of membership in a group--racial, family, or otherwise.

But what about from a cultural perspective? I can't think of specific commands, but I can think of examples which would serve as a pattern. First is the culture of the original people of God: the Israelites and their Hebrew culture. That culture was based around family. Children were raised as part of that family, with the education usually coming from the family and culture handed down through the family. The second is the church as it was formed after Pentecost. Those people were from all walks of life. They needed each other. They had to minister to each other; monies were given to help those less fortunate. Paul reminds us using the illustration of the body, that all parts are required in order to function. That is the case with the church. We must help each other...and the only way to do that is to be in each other's lives. You can't do that as a bunch of individuals, even as a bunch of individuals who happen to meet together once a week as a small group.

We have to see ourselves first as members of our respective families with a single family direction. That family direction may make our family an "eye" or a "hand" or a "mouth" or a "foot." And then we must see our families as part of the larger group of the bride of Christ, preparing for the day of the wedding by adding our specialized direction to the church by actually being in each other's lives.

Neither of those will happen if we keep looking like a spiritualized version of the world. Being a family with a single direction that is then part of the church preparing for meeting our Bridegroom implies priorities that aren't currently at the forefront of most people's thinking. Both of those things imply a change of heart and an intentional change of direction from that of individuals to that of a Christian family...and a church.

And should both of those things come about...the pagans will see Christian love in action, for we will be known by our love for one another, which eventually spills out into the world. That's a far different witness than we now have...and what a spectacular witness that would be!

Praying for an end to individualism in the church....

(Note: I have added more thoughts as to how this plays out in the individual family over at my HomeDisciplingDad blog.)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Lordship and Salvation

One of the themes that seems to run throughout many of my posts on this blog is that of Jesus as Lord of a Christian's life. I recently was reminded of an article written by Dr. John Piper on the issue of "Christian Lordship," so I wandered over to Desiring God to reread it. The gist of the article (here's the direct link to the article, which will open in another page) is an answer to a friend's question about "two-step salvation." A very common testimony is that a person repents, prays for God to forgive them based on Jesus' atoning sacrifice...and then many years later they finally "make Jesus Lord of their life." John's letter is to dispel the idea that there was a time-gap in which a person was "saved" but in which Jesus was not yet "Lord." For those who have similar experiences, it is a good article to help you get a grasp on what has really happened in your life.

So how does that apply here on this blog? It applies because John also points out that Jesus MUST be Lord of a Christian's life, or that person is not saved. Period.

The sanctification process will bring a Christian closer and closer to obedience to that Lordship, so a mature Christian can look back and see a time when he didn't really behave as if Jesus was his Lord. Yet a person who has been a Christian absolutely must move in his life toward obedience to the Lordship of Christ, for obedience to the commands of God makes one more and more like Jesus, which is what sanctification is all about. Will we be perfect in this life? Of course not; to be so would be to be without sin. However, we will be moving in that direction, as obedience and Lordship are part and parcel of sanctification.

So the challenge to all Christians (but especially to those who have been professing believers for a while) is to ask yourselves if you are noting in the Scriptures the commands of God and are actively pursuing implementing them in your lives with the help of the Holy Spirit. If you aren't, then either your growth is stunted, or you need to seriously question your conversion.

Bottom line:
No Obedience=> No Lordship.
No Lordship=> No Sanctification.
No Sanctification=> No Salvation.
No Salvation=> A False Conversion!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Don't Worry About the Small Stuff?

In keeping with the line of thinking of Jesus being our Lord and with being serious about living our lives in a manner consistent with our faith and consistent with the commands of our Lord, I came across a really good article on "The Small Sins" written by Tim Challies (He often blogs really respected national conferences...and will be live-blogging Desiring God's conference at the end of September).

You can find the article here. I highly commend it to anyone reading my blog, for the small sins really DO lead to the large ones, and a person committed to holiness and sanctification cannot let this pass.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Is Idolatry REALLY That Serious?

In my earlier post on Ezekiel and idolatry, I mentioned that the first thought that came to mind when reading a particular verse was "Quit playing games!" Over and over again, God warns Israel to stop their idolatry and turn to Him alone. How serious is God about idolatry?

Look at Ezekiel 23 for the a clue to the answer. Samaria and Jerusalem are compared to women who are prostitutes. The language is graphically disgusting in its ugliness.

These women are said
..."to lust"
..."to be defiled by"
..."to flaunt her nakedness"
..."to long for the lewdness of your youth"
..."to commit adultery"
..."to be worn out by her adultery"
..."to whore after"
..."to whore after"
..."to whore after"
..."to whore after"

Going after idols is compared to the ugliest, most degrading action a woman can take: the intentional giving of her body to numerous men for money...with no regard to the holiness of the act. She is defiled. God says He "turned from her in disgust." Can you imagine? God turning away in disgust?! What does that say about the depths of depravity associated with the act?

This is idolatry. This is how seriously God takes it. How can we possibly gloss it over, ignoring the fact that God isn't reigning in our hearts and lives? Do we want God to turn away from us in disgust? That thought alone is terrifying!

Please...I plead with anyone reading this...implore God to search your heart and to reveal idolatry where He finds it. Then do as He instructed in Chapter 20...cast out the idol; stop defiling yourself. There is no doubt that it will be hard, for we love our idols; they are a part of us and a part of our lives. But the more we muse about what God is saying in Chapter 23 about the seriousness of idolatry, the easier it will be....

Toward more holiness and away from idolatry....

The Dominion Mandate

If we are to "stop playing games" as advocated in the previous post, one of the ways to do that would be to bring the Dominion Mandate to the forefront of our thinking.

In Genesis 1:28-29, God presents what is commonly referred to as "The Dominion Mandate," the command to take dominion over creation. This was an original command, presented in the Garden prior to the fall. It has never been revoked. Thus, it is still applicable for the Christian today and should guide his every thought.

"How is what I am doing today helping to take dominion over the earth and advance the Kingdom of God in my sphere of influence?"

How would a question like that affect our lives if asked and answered each and every day? How would it affect our spending patterns? How would it affect our prayer life? How would it affect our relations with our neighbors? How would it affect our recreational choices? How would it affect our choice of vocation? How would it affect our family relations? How would it affect the way we choose to raise our children? How would it affect...you fill in the blank!

When you consider the implications of our responsibility as Christians to take dominion and to work to spread the Kingdom, it should jar your thinking out of the rut that is our evangelical culture. What a massive vision! What an incredible responsibility! We have only been given so much time on this earth. Will we let another day pass without turning our hearts and our minds away from the trivial items which so often clog our lives to the big picture of what our Lord and God has commanded us to do? Will we let this command serve as a framework in which we organize our lives? Can you imagine what a different culture we would live in if all those who named the name of Jesus as Lord and Savior actually started living in such a manner that they took dominion and spread the Kingdom?

Hoping and praying for more Dominion-takers....

Monday, August 14, 2006

Quit Playing Games

As I am making my way through Ezekiel, I am struck by a couple of passages in Chapter 20. They can be found here and here.

Over and over and over again, God continually tells the Israelites through his prophets to quit worshipping idols, to tear them down. And over and over and over again, the Israelites turn back to worshipping the idols of wood and stone.

In verse seven, God is telling them to cast away their idols and to not defile themselves with them. Why? Because He is the Lord their God! That means he has every right to command them to cast away those idols, and they have the responsibility to do so because they know He is their God.

In verse 39, it appears God is through playing games. If the Israelites will not listen to Him, then he consigns them to serving their own idols forever. But He will no longer tolerate the double-mindedness of their attempts to be His people and yet worship and serve idols.

Let us never forget that Israel is a "lesson book for the nations"...and for all of us who claim the name of Jesus Christ. Their lives, as well as what God's direction for them and response to them applies right here and right now for each of us.

So what is my idol(s)? What is yours? I seriously doubt many of us bow down to a carved image of stone and wood. But what are we serving? In America, I can almost guarantee each of us struggles with serving money and materialism. We succomb to the marketing strategies of the advertisers that convince us that we are discontented with what we have. What are we serving? An idol doesn't have to be material; it can be anything that sits in the throne of our heart, the throne that is rightfully God's. When we allow that, and yet claim to be Christians, we are being double-minded. Scripture says that a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways (James 1:8).

So what is the solution? Start with, "Quit playing games!" That is the first thought that came to mind when I read verse 39. God is tired of it. If we are listening to God, then turn away from the idols. Who exactly IS your God? The triune God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Or something else? Ask God to show you what is uppermost in your heart...that's what I did this morning, and it will be a continual request until I can say with confidence that the Lord alone occupies the uppermost of my affections. And as God allows you to discern your idols, do what He says in verse 7: Cast out your idols and quit defiling yourself. Idols may look nice, and we may even have them packaged in nice spiritual language...but they defile us in the eyes of God. It's going to be very difficult to continually be defiled by our idols and yet move toward our wedding day when we will be the spotless bride of Christ. We must take action. We must cast them out. We must make the conscious, active decision to live as one for whom Christ died.

May God grant each of us the wisdom and insight to identify our idols...and to quit playing games with them, turning wholly to God with ALL our heart!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Vacation and Brain Freeze

Go on vacation...
Have a great time...
Don't post for a while...

And watch your brain freeze up for topics!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

"Stepping" Out in Faith

How many times have you asked God to "sanctify you," or to "change you?" And then you sit back and wait for the heavenly "zap"... and when it doesn't come, it's easy to assume God doesn't want you to change.

Sanctification is absolutely required for salvation. We must be becoming more and more like Jesus every day. Yes, we will still sin...but the overall trajectory is upward toward Christ-likeness. But the thing that most Christians don't realize is that sanctification requires action. It is not a heavenly "zap," but rather an action taken by us, in the power of the Holy Spirit, according to the guidance of Scripture.

A perfect example of the result following action/obedience is that of the Israelites crossing the Jordan. Joshua 3:13 (NASB) says, "And it shall come about when the soles of the feet of the priests who carry the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off, and the waters which are flowing down from above shall stand in one heap."

Note the priests weren't to stand on the side of the Jordan, waiting for God to stop the waters. They were to step out in faith...taking the step into the water, knowing God will do what he says in His Word. In this case, He had promised to stop the waters. In your case, what might it be? Bring peace to a relationship? Or deal with a besetting sin? Or draw closer to the Lord? Or disciple your children? Or, Or, Or.... If it involves sanctification (changing you into Christ-likeness) or obedience to God's commands, then you will have Scriptural guidance for how you are to act or what you are to do. You MUST step out in faith, doing that which Scripture commands, and then watch the Holy Spirit move to confirm your action!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

No Matter What...

I was reading through Jeremiah today in an effort to "catch up" my OT with the rest of my read-through-the-Bible bookmarks when I came across a short section that really piqued my interest. It's the story in Jeremiah 42 of the remnant left after the exile of Judah to Babylon. You can get Jeremiah 42 in another window by clicking here.

The background to the event is that all of Jeremiah's prophecies concerning Judah have come to pass with the Babylonians taking virtually all of Judah into captivity, along with their king. A remnant of the very poor was left under the rule of a Babylonian governor. Jeremiah prophesies that a specific person is going to murder the governor. The governor doesn't believe him...and is murdered. The murderer takes the remnant captive...but they are freed by the actions of Johanan and return to Jerusalem. Chapter 42 opens with all of them approaching Jeremiah, asking him to intercede for them and asking him to find out what God wants them to do. In verse 6, they promise to obey the Lord, no matter what. So far, so good.

Jeremiah comes back and announces that God wants them to stay in Jerusalem and not go to Egypt out of fear of the Babylonians. He announces that God will destroy them if they should do so.

And he announces that God already knows they are going to disobey.... It was ten days from their original request to God's answer, and they had already decided on a course of action.

And of course, chapter 43 and 44 chronicle that journey and their destruction.

So what do we learn?

When we are in a tight spot, we often turn to God for help. We intend to listen and obey, since we believe He will help us out of that tight spot. However, we also have our own plan on the side...just in case...just in case we don't like the answer or don't like God's timing. Then, assuming we have actually gone to the Scriptures to ascertain God's position on our plight, we decide we really don't like God's way of doing things. It doesn't sound logical; it requires faith and trust. It isn't like what our "Christian" friends and neighbors counsel.

So what do we do? All too often, I'm afraid that answer is that we follow our own plans, ignoring God's. Is the result destruction like the remnant of Judah? Not usually. But the result is that we miss out on God's blessing, on the joy of seeing our faith worked out, on the witness to our trust in our Lord and Savior. And in essence, we have sinned using the original sin from the garden: wanting to do things our way.

God's way will often be a direction that doesn't look normal, that appears to leave us open to further harm. That was certainly the case for the remnant...they were defenseless against the Babylonians who may or may not believe they were responsible for the death of the governor! Yet, had they chosen God's way, He would have protected them. Good grief! They had just seen that Jeremiah's prophecies were accurate...yet they had already cooked up an alternate plan as they waited for God to speak through him.

So...how about you (and me)? What will we do? Follow God's ways through a careful study of His Word (commandments, patterns, precepts) or will we follow the oldest sin from the garden...and do things our own way?

Friday, July 07, 2006

No Spiritual Switzerland

Doug Wilson has a great essay (rather lengthy) from which I drew this section. I commend the entire essay to you to read (here's the direct link), but just this short section applies to the overall mission of my blog, to be serious about our faith. As you read through the latter parts of this quote, ask how the information applies first to the Evangelical Culture in which we partake, and then to yourself personally. The answer is convicting to me, that's for sure! The next question, though, is what to do about that conviction. Part of the EC is to acknowledge a convicting sermon, and even feel bad for a while...but then shrug it off and not actually change.

And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house. He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad (Matt. 12:25-30).

Jesus is speaking in the first place about the kingdoms of God and Satan respectively. He had been accused of fighting Satan even though His accusers said He was on Satan’s side. Jesus responds by saying that a house divided cannot stand, and so Satan would not be so foolish (vv.25-26). Jesus goes on to say if His power over Beelzebub was a demonic power, then what power was being used by His adversaries’ children (v. 27)? But if Jesus is empowered by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God really had come to them (v. 28). And, continuing the argument, if the kingdom of God has come, why should anyone be surprised that the strong man’s house was being pillaged? The strong man was bound, wasn’t he? And then Jesus says what we all need to hear—one who is not with Christ is against Christ. One who does not gather with Christ is attempting to scatter (v. 30).

The claims of Christ are therefore total. There is no way to read through the New Testament and miss this. The claims of Christ are total. He is the King of kings, and the Lord of lords. He has been given all authority in heaven and on earth, and over any creature that can be named. Christ is King. Jesus is Lord. This is the basic Christian confession (Rom. 10:9-10). And here, if you are not with Him, you are therefore against Him. There is no spiritual equivalent of Switzerland. In the cosmic war between in light and darkness, there are no neutral parties, and there is no third way. There are only two activities in every realm of human existence, and those two activities are obedient gathering and disobedient scattering. Only two.

Obviously, for modern and momentary man, these total claims on the part of Christ just won’t do. We need to have our personal space. We need to protect our favorite forms of autonomy. But at the same time, those of us who are religious, particularly in the Christian Lite Community of Faith, need to give some sort of lip service to the language of totality that comes up so often in Scripture. We should want to bring every thought captive, the apostle Paul says (2 Cor. 10: 5). Obviously, we have to figure out a way to use this kind of total language while ensuring that it remains partial in effect. God calls this sort of thing by the name of hypocrisy.

But we have developed various intellectual tricks for doing this, and we may describe these tricks as forms of American individualism, gnosticism, constitutionalism, or rationalism. A man can pick one of the following, or mix up his own combinations. Disobedience is protean and can take many forms.

Individualism: in this view, Jesus is Lord of my heart, and not that which is outside the realm of my heart. This is not thought of as partialism because the heart is what counts, right? But Jesus is Lord of your toes as well as your heart, and your world as well as your heart.

Gnosticism: in this perspective, Jesus is Lord of all spiritual things, not thought of as the Lord over foreign policy, sewage disposal, botany, law, and weed control. But Jesus is Lord of both heaven and earth, and every manifestation of culture.

Constitutionalism: this excuse points to the non-establishment clause of the First Amendment, misunderstanding that amendment in a grotesque fashion. But even if the amendment said what its distorters claim, that just makes it laughable instead of being bad constitutional interpretation. Regardless of what we, Congress, or the Supreme Court may think about it, Jesus is still the King of the United States.

Rationalism: this is the approach that appeals to natural law, but to a natural law that is sure to exclude the revelation of God in Christ. But natural law is fulfilled in Christ.

These evasions will not work. All culture is religious, and the only question to consider is whether it is faithfully religious or idolatrously religious. It has been said that all culture is religion externalized, but even this helpful insight can be interpreted in too weak a fashion. All culture is religion. Turning Henry Van Til’s insight around, we should say that all religion is culture internalized. So the question is not whether our culture has a god, but rather which god it has. The question is not whether we will impose morality, but rather which morality it will be. The question is not whether we will restrict blasphemy, but rather which blasphemy. And it is not whether we will embrace sexual politics, but rather which sexual politics it will be.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Apollumi...The "Ignored" Doctrine

At my other blog, I wrote a series on issues with raising children, culminating with a post concerning the drastic number of children from evangelical homes who turn from their faith once free from their home and the influence of their parents. That got me to wondering why Christian parents don't take more serious and more drastic steps to disciple their children, given the enormity of the problem and the implications of anyone (but especially one's own child) rejecting the Savior.

As I pondered, it came down to one major point: we don't really believe in the reality of hell. Sure, we give it lip-service...but when was the last time you pondered what it would really be like? (I'm writing to myself here as well!) When was the last time you heard a sermon on the subject? (Here's one by Dr. John Piper of Bethlehem Baptist in Minneapolis.) It's been said that Jesus spoke more of hell than he did of heaven! At the 1990 Bethlehem Conference for Pastors, Dr. Sinclair Ferguson preached a message on the realities and justification of the doctrine of eternal punishment and hell. It was one of the finest sermons on the topic I've encountered (unfortunately I can't find it at the Desiring God website.)

So I thought this would be the appropriate blog to bring the topic of eternal judgment and hell to the forefront.

In Romans 1, Paul says he is under obligation both to the Greek and to the barbarian. This obligation is for the Gospel. It can easily be considered that we, too, are under that same obligation. If we really believed in the eternal conscious torment that is hell, then I truly believe we would structure our lives differently, for who would want anyone to end up there, especially those we love and care about? We would own up to our obligation and wouldn't be so casual and fearful about witnessing. We wouldn't be so casual about discipling our children. We wouldn't be so casual about our own faith!

An understanding of the reality of eternal conscious punishment at the hands of an infinitely holy and powerful God would take captive our every thought with concern for the lost. Is it not love for the lost that would bring about that concern? Would we not be fulfilling the second greatest commandment, to love our neighbors as ourselves, by seeking their salvation?

Give consideration to John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." Note particularly the word "perish." In our language, "perish" often brings with it the imagery of annihilation. For example, when I squash the mosquito on my arm in the Minnesota summer, it "perishes"...it "ceases to exist." However the Greek word translated "perish" doesn't translate that easily into English. "Apollumi" literally means both "to destroy" and "to perish" but it carries with it a more complex understanding. Vines Expository Dictionary (pp 164) says this "...idea is not extinction but ruin; loss, not of being, but of well-being."

Think about the implications of ruin and loss of well-being for eternity. Think about an eternal, unquenchable fire in which you are burning but not being destroyed. Think about a devouring worm eating you, yet not consuming you. Think about existing in this pain and suffering in the midst of complete and total darkness. And then think about the absolute lack of hope amidst this suffering...it will never end!! A person can endure tremendous suffering when there is a glimmer of hope. This was illustrated by the years and years of torture endured by our POWs in Vietnam, and is currently being shown by the suffering of millions of persecuted Christians around the world. But take away hope...and I can't even find words to describe the utter despair that would ensue. And this would be for eternity...forever...infinitely. Maybe this is part of the reason the Bible describes it as a place of "weeping and gnashing of teeth." What else could one so condemned do?

At least in this posting, I am not going to argue the case for the justness of hell. My only interest here is to try to encourage both myself and others to consider its reality and then act accordingly. Reread the first portion of the previous paragraph inserting the words "my child" in place of "you." That brings a whole new gravity to the doctrine of hell, doesn't it?

Andre Seu once wrote an essay in "World Magazine" where she mentioned the preoccupation of some with the "rapture." Her point was that a silent "rapture" is happening each and every day, with untold thousands of people departing this world for eternity.

And in eternity, there are only two options: heaven because you are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb...or eternal conscious punishment in the outer darkness of hell because you aren't. Do we love enough to do what is necessary to bring the Good News to our family and friends? And I mean doing it personally...not just in round-about ways or by bringing them to church in hopes that the pastor will do it. I mean living the Gospel in love and service to our neighbor. I mean actually regularly discipling our children. I mean going against both the worldly culture and the evangelical culture by being radically committed to showing the love of God in Christ to a lost and perishing world. So, I ask again, "Do we love enough...?"

Sadly, I think the answer is often, "no." Let us pray for God to change our hearts and give us the courage to do otherwise....