66 races. That’s an eternity in NASCAR. That’s how many races Jeff Gordon drove since his last victory. He won in Pheonix on Sunday. It’s almost hard to believe. The four-time champion who used to dominate the field went just about two years between victories. I can only imagine the elation he feels. As I consider 66 races without a win, I find myself appreciating Jeff’s faithfulness to do his best each and every week. The same could be said of most–if not all–NASCAR drivers. They all want to win, and each is doing whatever possible to finish first in points. I watched a sermon on Sunday by Mark Driscoll. The text was Luke 14:25-35. The topic was the cost of discipleship. His repeated message to his congregation was, “Don’t quit.” We have all known individuals who have seemingly begun the Christian life, only to give up when “the going gets tough.” In the parable of the sower, Jesus describes such people as seed either thrown on a rock or amidst thorns (Lk. 8:6,7). There are quitters and there are finishers in the Christian life. Which are you? I personally believe that the reason we have seen so many quitters is due to the easy-believism propagated too long by the American church (Driscoll makes this point as well). Evangelists, pastors and teachers have not preached the complete gospel message. Faith is crucial, but genuine faith is a faith which continues. Repentance is necessary, but genuine repentance is a repentance which remains. Coming to Christ in both faith and repentance is required for salvation, but abiding in Christ is just as important. These truths were reborn in the Protestant Reformation and continue to be stressed by those who rightly divide the Word of truth. I am thankful today for my pastor and for the authors and pastors who have encouraged me to live out Hebrews 12:1-4 (“let us run with perseverance“). I am also grateful for the “great cloud of witnesses” who ran the race to its completion before me, and those still running this very day! Jeff Gordon didn’t quit. I don’t want to quit, either. Don’t let me!
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Ps. 19:14).
Those words were uttered by David after considering the knowledge of God found in both General and Special Revelation. Psalm 19 begins with a discussion of creation (19:1-6) followed by a beautiful list of the character and function of the Word of God (19:7-11) and concludes with David’s self-examination (19:12-13) and heart-felt prayer (19:14). Because of what he learned about God and about himself from looking up at the sky and down in the Scriptures, David prayed that his audible and inaudible words be pleasing to the Lord. He wanted the words of his mouth and the meditation of his heart to glorify God–his rock (hiding place; safe place) and Redeemer (Savior). Isn’t that a great prayer for each of us to adopt?! I know that I do not exalt God with my speech and contemplations near to the extent that I should. Do you? Didn’t think so! With that being the case, why don’t we pray this prayer more often? Here’s the rendering in the Living Bible:
“May my spoken words and my unspoken thoughts be pleasing even to you, O Lord my Rock and my Redeemer.”
Repeated kisses on the leg from a five-year-old.
A conversation consisting of more “meows” than words (for some reason Cascade thinks she’s 1/2 kitty cat).
Monster Trucks at the MacKenzie Arena last night with the boys and Uncle Paul.
A good documentary on the U.S. Marines.
Earlier this week, my mother told me to “enjoy the small stuff.” Wise words. If you are like me, you tend to put much hope in the big things–the large events of life that we are looking forward to so much that we fail to enjoy the “regular blessings” from the Lord. Many years ago I was profoundly impacted by the movie The Color Purple. In one particular scene, two of the main characters are walking through a beautiful patch of flowers when the sage of the two stated, “I think it really ticks” (she used a different word which I changed so as not to offend)…“I think it really ticks God off to walk by the color purple in a field and don’t notice it.” Let me ask you: Are you noticing the color purple? We were meditating upon Psalm 18 this past week. The verse reads, “He (God) brought me forth also into a broad place” (NASB). That’s where I find myself this day–in a broad place. I’ve been very blessed. All I need to do is take stock. The blessings far outweigh the curses (difficulties). Most of you have to admit the same. Let’s not stop hoping and praying, but let’s also follow the advice of my mom. Enjoy the small stuff!
Did you see the recent Daytona 500? The racing technique was interesting. Due to the off-season paving, the long lines of cars drafting behind one another, pushing each other at 190 mph was gone. This year, pairs of stock cars were literally pushing one another past other cars at those same speeds. For me, it was a great picture of the Christian life. Just as a single car could not reach its full potential in the 500, neither can an individual Christian progress adequately without help. On a blog titled “Iron Sharpens Iron,” the host wrote, “On our own we get misled, discouraged, or lazy” (http://aaronsbiz.blogspot.com/). Very true! We need one another! I need the local church and I need Christian friends in my daily fight for faith and joy. Now let me quote Proverbs 27:17. It reads, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” It is easy to see what is inferred from this verse. Men need to be sharpened. We become dull. The author of Hebrews stated that his readers had allowed themselves to become dull of hearing (Heb. 5:11). Jesus described the Jews of His day as dull of heart (Mt. 13:15). Later–in Revelation–He stated that the church in Ephesus had become lukewarm (Rev. 3:16). Friends, I do not want these assessments to be true of me! I don’t want to be accurately described as “dull” or “lukewarm”! That’s why I stay involved in a church. That’s why I fellowship with other believers. I cannot do it on my own! Neither can you. Without Bobby Labonte’s pushing, it is probable that Trevor Bayne would not have won the Daytona 500. Without the continual pushing of my church and my friends, it is quite possible that I will not finish well as a Christian. Please–keep pushing! I want to cross the finish line!
Balance. I am trying to teach my eleven-year-old balance–particularly balance as it relates to that which we meditate upon. She loves to watch movies and shows produced by the Disney Channel. If I would let her, she would do so all weekend. I won’t allow that to happen! So–on Sunday evening, I led her in a discussion of Psalm 7. She read that passage in various translations and journaled about it before I began to ask her questions. She then turned the table on me and asked: “What does, ‘And a God who has indignation every day’ (Ps. 7:11b; NASB) mean?” I replied, “God is always mad; He hates.” Her response was indicative of many. “I thought God was a God of love.” Talk about a teaching moment! God is a God of love. The Bible makes that point very clear. However, the Scripture also clearly teaches us that God is a “righteous Judge” (Ps. 7:11a). He is a holy, holy, holy God (Is. 6) who hates sin. That’s why there is enmity between God and unrepentant sinners (Eph. 2:16). They have offended God. Paul called them “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3). This is why David employs such vivid pictures in the following verses of Psalm 7. He wrote,
“If a man does not repent, He will sharpen His sword; He has bent His bow and made it ready. He has also prepared for Himself deadly weapons; He makes His arrows fiery shafts” (7:12,13).
Sort of reminds one of Jonathan Edwards’ famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” This is serious stuff–deep theology, but very biblical. Of course, I discussed with Celena the concept of repentance. We all need to repent initially as we agree with God that we are sinners, as we turn from our sin, our idolatry, to serve the living and true God (1 Thess. 2:9). Furthermore, we all need to continually repent of our sins–the times that our actions and reactions, our deeds and our words are not glorifying to God. I don’t do that enough. Do you? I’m not sure my daughter ever has. That’s why I pray for her daily.
I’ll close with this question: How big is your God? (Sing that to the awesome tune of the Bee Gee’s “How Deep is Your Love?”) On his first pulpit, R.C. Sproul attached the following: “I am required to believe and to teach what the Bible says, not what I want the Bible to say.” We all need to be that submissive to the Word of God. We must take God on His terms, rather than continue to make Him in our own image. As we do, we slowly begin to realize just how incredibly HUGE HE is!
I dare you to click this link:
“We prayed a prayer. We prayed a lot.”
Those are the words of Daytona 500 Champion Trevor Bayne in victory lane. The kid is twenty. Today he won the biggest of all races. Pretty impressive. I bet he prayed. My guess is that his prayer was even passionate. But it cannot be compared to the prayer I have been meditating upon for a week–the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus from John, chapter seventeen. When is the last time you read that amazing prayer from the Lord Jesus Christ? You can find it here:
This particular prayer can be divided into three parts:
I. Jesus Prayed for Himself (17:1-5)
II. Jesus Prayed for His Eleven Disciples (17:6-19)
III. Jesus Prayed for all His Disciples (17:20-26).
In Sunday School class this morning, I likened Jesus’ prayer to my relationship with the Grand Canyon. I’ve been to the Grand Canyon 8-10 times. Two of those trips took me to the bottom. Compared to most people, I have seen the Canyon! However, I estimate that I’ve probably only viewed 1/100th of it! It’s that big! After reading Jesus’ prayer many times, and after studying it on several occasions, the same can be said. It’s that big! In a sermon on this prayer, Spurgeon mentions its “intensity.” It is intense. It is a serious prayer. The topics at hand are far more important than a NASCAR race! Jesus prayed for His glory to be restored. Jesus prayed for God the Father to protect His friends. He prayed for His disciples–then and now–to be united. His prayer was intimate. His prayer was passionate. And I am so thankful that we have such a glimpse into the heart of God!
Is it OK to pray for safety? For flawless pit stops? For an accident-free race for your team? Sure it is! I’m not ridiculing Trevor for praying. God cares. God hears and answers prayer. We ought to be praying–all the time about everything. We also ought to pray “intense prayers.” Munch on this prayer of unfathomable depths uttered by Jesus as He enters His passion (the events surrounding His sufferings and death). Then, join me today in prayer to His Father!
Perhaps nothing gives me more comfort than to remember the sovereign goodness of God. He is in complete control of His creation and He controls that creation with absolute goodness. During the dark storms of my life, these truths have served as a trustworthy anchor. Many times I have quoted Psalm 119:68. Here’s the NIV rendering:
“You are good, and what You do is good.”
My guess is that Christians from all denominations believe and cherish both of those points–that God is good and that God does good. The majority of Christians also believe–to some extent–the doctrine of the sovereignty of God. I say “to some extent” because I’ve met several genuine believers in Christ who adhere to an understanding that God is sovereign in all areas but salvation. Jonathan Edwards initially struggled with these issues. After finally submitting to the overwhelming clear argument of Scripture in support of the complete or full kingship of Christ, Edwards wrote, “Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God.” In other words, after coming to the conclusion that God was truly in charge, Edwards began a mission to proclaim His excellencies (1 Pet. 2:9). I’m on that mission as well! I love to speak of God and His wonders. And–I need to do that first and foremost to myself. Life is difficult. Let’s be honest–it can be downright disappointing. That’s why I preach to myself. That’s why you need to do the same. It is essential that we believe the truth about God and daily remind ourselves of it! Some days I simply cannot move forward without clinging to sovereign goodness!
If you have a moment, ck out this blog entry I found online:
David Wells is a living sage. Many of us have been blessed by his thought-provoking books including No Place for Truth and God in the Wasteland. I am currently making my way through Above All Earthly Pow’rs: Christ in a Postmodern World (Eerdmans, 2005). When I came across the paragraph below, I realized that I had to share it with someone!
“It has been said that in the Bible we have not so much a doctrine of creation as that of the Creator; and, within limits, this is true, for no part of the creation is ever finally or fully meaningful until it is understood in relation to its Creator. From this flow the main distinctive ways in which Christian faith thinks about life. If everything is made by God, then everything belongs to Him and is used rightly only when it is used in accordance with His will. Not only so, but if God is the source of all life then all meaning derives from Him in much the same way as it is the artist who can say definitively what the work of art means. The purpose of God’s redemption, then, is that on the one hand, we should take our place in His world, through Christ, and own Him as our Maker and, on the other hand, live in His world by His ethical will. Then it is that we see with new eyes God’s power in creation (Is. 40:12-14; Amos 4:13), His greatness (Ps. 90:2; Acts 17:24), His wisdom (Is. 40:12-14), and from our experiences as frail, fading creatures we are also constantly reminded of His eternality (Ps. 103:14-18). Thus it is that creation is connected both with redemption and ethics, with worship and service” (p.255-256; I capitalized the pronouns used for God).
Good stuff, eh?! God is BIG, and His bigness makes a difference in our lives. His incommunicable attributes (those He does not share with mankind) and his communicable attributes (those He does share) combined with His actions past, present and future should determine how we act and react, feel and think during our short stay on planet Earth (Wells accurately called us “frail, fading creatures”). I appreciate authors who make me think deeply about what I should believe and how I should live. David Wells is such an author. I could list others. Who has particularly challenged you? If you think of a name or two, thank God for them today.
Last night was the prettiest sunset I’ve seen in years. I don’t get to view many due to being enclosed by all of the rolling Tennessee hills where we live. But yesterday we were in Chattanooga next to the river, and I can honestly say that the heavens declared the glory of God (Ps. 19:1). The clouds gloriously transitioned from white to orange to red to pink to purple and–finally–to gray. At the apex of color, Cascade (2 1/2) remarked, “It’s a fire sky!” Indeed! It was amazing! That morning, however, I viewed something even more amazing–God’s Word. My wife and I read and discussed John, chapter seventeen. Talk about colors! Psalm 19 begins with a discussion of the value of General Revelation and concludes with a description of the grandeur of Special Revelation. Creation is a wonderful gift of God, but it is trumped by the beauties of the Scripture. Have you viewed its majesty yet today? Consider David’s words regarding the words of God and their purpose from the King James Version.
7The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
8The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.
9The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
10More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
Now that’s fire from heaven! As I mentioned in a blog recently, what a glorious gift!
If you have a moment, navigate over to the Quick Takes page for a brief discussion on our appropriate response to the Word.
Do we truly understand how blessed we are to have the Bible?
Last night we did something that we do far too infrequently as a family. We sat down together for the purpose of reading God’s Word together. If you have ever made the attempt to have regular family devotions with more than one child, you understand the challenges inherent with the practice. The end result is more that of a family zoo than family devotions! Last evening was no different. The children were full of energy and not interested in the least with what the Bible had to say.
So I thought.
When he noticed that I was giving up and choosing prayer instead of reading the Bible, TJ began to cry. He’s my emotional boy. He cries at the drop of a hat. However, this time he had a genuine reason. He was sad, seeing that his Dad was not going to do something that he should, something good for the family. When I asked him why he was crying, he stated that he really wanted to hear the Bible being read! Now there’s a heart for the Word of God. He may be young (8), but he already values the Bible. He grasps that God has given us a glorious gift. I was talking with a brother the other day at McDonald’s. He told me of an illustration he had heard. The question a speaker proposed was related to how valuable a portion of the Bible would be to us if we were locked up in a prison and it were our only copy. Would the translation of our copy be an issue for us, or would we greatly prize our portion of the Scriptures? You know the answer! The issue of translation preference would cease to occupy our attention! We would cherish God’s glorious gift!
I am looking at one of my bookshelves right now. Believe it or not, I see thirteen Bibles. Within arm’s length is my favorite Bible–a New American Standard, Updated in LARGE PRINT. I am surrounded by copies of the Word of God. Perhaps the same can be said of you. Let’s not become too accustomed to this incredible blessing! We cannot over-value God’s glorious gift. Have you read the Bible today? If not, it’s not too late. Minimize this page and open the pages of the Scriptures! You’ll be blessed if you do!