For the next ten months, I will be spending a lot of time in the New Testament book of Hebrews. I will be walking our teachers through this great epistle week week, and I will also be teaching a Sunday School class on Hebrews beginning in July. As you probably know, the main theme of the book is the supremacy of Jesus. Simply put, Christ is better! That point is made immediately in the first chapter. Without wasting any time in salutation, the writer loudly proclaims that Jesus is better than angels. He is more superior to angelic beings because (1) He has a better name (1:4,5), (2) He is worthy of their worship (1:6), (3) they serve, but He reigns (1:7-9,13), He created all that is material and immaterial (1:10) and He is indestructable (1:11,12)! That’s my Jesus! I sure look forward to my time in this book and pray that God might continue His work of changing me from the inside out for His great glory! It’s a quiet morning here in Dayton, TN. Jodi and the children are still sleeping. I have enjoyed my time with God in prayer and the Word, and look forward to what He has planned for me today. Have a great day! Thanks for reading! Worship the LORD who is greater than the angels!
As I prepare to teach another Introduction to the Bible class for Bryan College, I find myself drawn again to Psalm 119. We might call this particular psalm autobiographical. When we read the various sections, we learn quite a bit about the unnamed author. I think what stands out to me most at this period of my life is the author’s wholehearted devotion to God. He proclaimed to God, “With all my heart I have sought You” (119:10) and “I sought Your favor with all my heart” (119:58). He also spoke of his radical relationship with the Word of God (“With all my heart, I will observe Your commandments” [119:69]). Yesterday I reminded someone of the rich young ruler who went to talk to Jesus (Lk. 18:18-30). You probably recall the situation. A well-meaning Jewish leader asked Jesus a very important question: “What shall I do to inherit eternal life” (18:18)? After Jesus reminded him of half of the ten commandments, the man replied, “All these things I have kept from my youth” (18:21). Jesus’ reply illustrates His ability to know the heart of men. Rather than point out to the young man the fact that he had indeed broken all of the commandments throughout his life, Jesus said, “sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor” (18:22). What did the man do at that point? Yes, “he became very sad” (18:23). Why? He loved stuff more than God. He lacked wholehearted devotion. Enter: Self-examination. I will admit that I both know and love God. However, I will also admit that my love for God is not where it should be. Like the author of Psalm 119, I do seek God. I do observe His commandments. But my seeking is often weak, and my obedience is often coupled with disobedience. I do praise God for how I have matured as a Christian since my rebirth, but I pray that I will continue to make progress and–eventually–be somone who is wholeheartedly devoted to the Lord Jesus Christ. I hope that that is your passion as well.
Within the past year or so I was introduced to the ministry of Paul Washer. Have you heard of Paul? He is a minister of the gospel with HeartCry Missionary Society. I found a particularly convicting video on You Tube featuring Paul entitled “Do You Desire God?” I strongly encourage you to surf on over to the You Tube site to watch that six-minute presentation. In the title above, I utilized the term “friend.” I then began to mention someone I found on You Tube. No, I have not met Paul Washer personally. I hope he’s a good guy. But one thing I do know: God has used him to help me know and love Christ. For that I am grateful. I am thankful for everyone God uses to help me see and savor Jesus Christ; individuals who help me know, love and proclaim the excellencies of God (1 Peter 2:9,10). And–if someone does that consciously, if they truly care about my soul–they have become my friend. It is my hope that many consider me to be their friend because I care about their souls.
The past several days I have been having my personal devotions in the “front room.” That room is also called the playroom. I enjoy beginning the day there because it is first to receive the light from the rising sun. Maybe I should call it the “first room.” Well…this morning I read in Psalm 119, and was reminded again of the writer’s radical relationship with the Word of God. It is clear that the author knew God intimately and very much cared about what He had to say. His life was devoted to the knowledge of and obedience to the Word of God. I cannot help but examine my own life in comparison. I will admit that I have a passion for knowing God and knowing about God. I even have a zeal to glorify God through my life and ministry. However, I don’t come close to the level of desire expressed in this Psalm. That’s one of the reasons I revisit this passage. I want to have such a radical relationship. Do you? Are you satisfied today with your spiritual condition? I trust that you are not. Keep seeking God, friend. Renew your mind (Rom. 12:1,2). Set you mind on things above (Col. 3:1,2). Don’t become luke-warm in the quest. Don’t allow me to do so either. Have a good day.
In his small book entitled Pierced By The Word: Thirty-One Meditations for Your Soul (Multnomah, 2003), John Piper writes, “If you want forgiveness only for the sake of savoring the creation, then the Creator is not honored and you are not saved. Forgiveness is precious for one final reason: It enables you to enjoy fellowship with God. If you don’t want forgiveness for that reason, you won’t have it at all. God will not be used as currency for the purchase of idols” (p.18). Piper went on to quote a selection from a Jonathan Edwards’ sermon which proclaims to believers that God is, and forever shall be, their greatest good. Over the past fifteen years, God has particularly used John Piper to enable me see more of the glories of God in the face of Christ (2 Cor. 4). Pastor John has repeatedly challenged me to desire God both objectively (knowledge of Him) and subjectively (relationship with Him). I prasie God today for the writings of men such as Edwards and Piper, men who bleed Bible and whom the Lord has used to wean me from a love of the world. If you have yet to read Piper, purchase and read his book Desiring God. You can find Piper resources at www.desiringgod.org If you would like a taste of Edwards, and, consequently, a taste of what eternity will be like for believers, listen to or watch the Sam Storms’ sermon from the 2003 Desiring God National Conference. Here’s the link: (http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/ConferenceMessages/ByConference/3/2245_Joys_Eternal_Increase_Edwards_on_the_Beauty_of_Heaven/).
Apart from Christ, my greatest treasure is my wife. King Lemuel asks this rhetorical question: “A wife of noble character who can find” (Prov. 31:10)? His next statement reads, “She is worth far more than rubies.” Earlier in the book, Solomon wrote, “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord” (Prov. 18:22). Last month (May 25th) Jodi and I celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary. Although the event came and went without much fanfare, I communicated to my wife that my commitment to my vows are stronger today than the day I said them publicly. Without any doubt in my heart, I can honestly say that my love for Jodi is stronger today than on the day of our wedding. I have “found” a good thing! I repeatedly thank God for the gift of my wife. She is an excellent wife. She is my best friend. She is a wonderful mother. GOD HAS BEEN VERY KIND!
I simply am unable to write anything profound at the end of a long day and at the conclusion of a long weekend. This was a good Lord’s Day, and yesterday we celebrated God’s goodness to us with an open house and BBQ. Many hours were spent in preparation for both events. Today we spent the entire day in Chattanooga. Doing anything with four children for a day is challenging! I love the monsters, but I will also rejoice when they are all tucked into their beds in just a couple of moments. Knowing that I can expedite that event, I shall end my entry. Good night.
My reading in God’s Word took me to Psalm 103 this morning. I often pray aloud with my family the following: “Thank You, Lord, for not treating us as our sins deserve.” That sentiment is found in Psalm 103:10, which reads, “He has not dealt with us according to our sins” (NASB). I cannot begin to describe how grateful I am that that is indeed the case! I sin, and I sin continuously! This is exactly why I very much need a gracious God, a God that is slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindnesses (Ps. 103:8). Without Jesus Christ–who sprinkled me with His blood–(1 Pet. 1:2), I would be in a very sad state today. But God, who knows that I am nothing (Ps. 103:14,15), lavished His grace upon me (Eph. 1:8). Thus I reply with David: “Bless the Lord, O my soul” (Ps. 103:22)!
After making a couple comments to my neighbor about my past, she asked me yesterday when I “turned my life around.” That’s a great question, and I appreciated her genuine interest in my story. My reply illustrates my understanding of soteriology (the doctrines of salvation). I stated that I did not turn my life around, but God had invaded and changed me from the inside out. That happened in December of 1984 when I was in basic training for the U.S. Army. Having grown up in a spiritual desert in Wisconsin (there were eight bars in our small town and not one evangelical church), I had never been explicitly told something that I inherently knew–that I was a sinner. That cold morning at Ft. Leonard Wood, MO, I was also told that God had offered a remedy for my “sin problem.” A Savior had come from heaven, and if I believed (an action of head and heart working together), I could experience both abundant and eternal life. About one week later, the miraculous wind of the Holy Spirit (Jn. 3) blew upon my spiritually dead bones (Eph. 2:1-3) and I became a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). My life has never been the same. “I once was lost”, but God found me. “I once was blind”, but God gave me eyes to see His glory in the face of Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). He turned my life around! Any good seen in me is due to His gracious work in and through me (Eph. 2:8-10). I remain amazed that a holy, holy, holy God would bend so low as to select me and choose to accomplish His awesome and mysterious plan with me. A biblical understanding of salvation only leads an individual to boast in the Lord (1 Cor. 1:31). So–on a beautiful Friday morning in sleepy little American town, I glory in my Redeemer–Jesus Christ, and thank Him that He rescued and saved (Dan. 6:27) “a wretch like me.”
On this beautiful morning in Tennessee, my devotional reminded me that God is BIG. Thomas Watson wrote, “God is Lord supreme with sovereign power” (Glorifying God: A Yearlong Collection of Classic Devotional Writings, Thomas Nelson, 2009, Patti M. Hummel, ed.). When I read words like that, I often think of Nebuchadnezzar’s affirmation in Daniel, chapter four. He wrote, “It has seemed good to me to declare the signs and wonders which the Most High God has done for me. How great are His signs And how mighty are His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom And His dominion is from generation to generation” (Dan. 4:2,3). This morning I rejoiced as I was reminded that God is great and greatly to be praised. This is a God deserving of my worship. He is worthy of my affections and obedience.