Monthly Archives: November, 2011

Putting Aside and Putting On–Your Thoughts?

I am teaching the second half of Romans 13 on Sunday.  It is the passage the Lord used to “close the deal” in the life of Augustine.  I find it very help in my life today.  Please allow me to quote it below.  I’d love to hear your thoughts–interpretive obsservations or steps of application! 

Section I (13:1-7 [We covered that last week in Sunday School.])

Section II (13:8-10):

“Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (NASB).

Thoughts?  Reply below! 

Section III (13:11-14):

“Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from your sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (NASB). 

Thoughts?  Respond below!

In many respects, my life before Christ is described in verse thirteen (carousing, drunkenness, etc.).  Hopefully, my new life is one of putting aside the bad (sin) and putting on the Good–the Best–Jesus Christ (13:14)! I very much desire to “behave properly” (13:13)!  In other words, because I am in Christ, I want to wear Christ! 

Have you a minute?  Let me know your thoughts about one or both of the sections quoted above!  Thanks!

“Timber!” Common and Saving Grace

Common grace might be adequately described as God’s kindnesses experienced in our daily lives.  Well, we rejoice today in a very small thing the Lord did for us–He pushed over a tree in our neighbor’s yard!  Here’s the photo:

It truly was an ugly tree, distorted and leaning, obstructing our view.  Jodi had actually prayed for it to fall, and for it to fall on our neighbor’s yard (after all, it is his tree).  Although I might question the kindness of my otherwise extremely kind wife, I do very much appreciate God both hearing and answering her prayer!  He is a God of grace!

I was reminded this morning that God is a God of grace as we studied the prologue of John (1:1-18).  Consider the following:

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (1:12,13).  In other words–grace!  Salvation and adoption are gifts, not the result of any human effort! 

“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (1:14).

“For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace (1:16).  All of God’s people (that’s the context– “as many as received Him” [1:12]) have received grace in abundance (common grace, saving grace, sanctifying grace)! 

“For the Law was  given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ” (1:17).  Jesus–Grace-with-legs!  He was grace.  He gave grace.  Still is.  Still does! 

Thanksgiving is a feast in celebration of God’s grace (atleast it should be).  Christmas is a party, honoring the greatest example of grace–the Incarnation (the Word becoming flesh [1:14])!  Don’t you love this time of the year?!  And–don’t you love it when God knocks an ugly tree over so you don’t have to look at it?!  I sure do!

I hope you had a great November!

Black Friday: A Question

A question to ponder as you prepare to purchase:

Here it is: 

Would God rather I use the money I was planning to spend on gifts or purchases to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ in some manner or alleviate the sufferings of the poor?

Am I serious?  I am!  It’s a question we should all ask ourselves.  It’s an answer only God can provide.  Are you courageous enough to ask it?  Think through the two parts of the question.  First, would God rather I use the money I was planning to spend on gifts or purchases to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  In other words, would the Lord have me invest eternally this holiday season rather than using my resources for that which is good, but temporal?

Second,  would God rather I use the money I was planning to spend on gifts or purchases to alleviate the sufferings of the poor?  Perhaps another way of considering this concept is in this manner:  Do I need the item(s) I am planning to purchase?  Do the individuals on my list truly need the objects I am contemplating buying?  We are surrounded by people who have genuine needs.  If you are not currently struggling to make-ends-meet each and every week or month, someone you know is.  Others are sinking.  Can you help?  You can!  Whom might the Lord have you help this holiday season? 

Disclaimer:  There is nothing wrong with giving gifts to others!  God set the example!  Nor is there anything inherently sinful with looking for a good deal on an item you either need or want.  Wise stewardship is a biblical concept.  The point I am making is simply this:  If we are not very careful, this holiday season will be a celebration of greed and selfishness and unwise spending rather than another opportunity to illustrate that we love God more than money and that we love people more than stuff.

Munch on these thoughts as you prepare to enter the malls and stores on Friday!  More importantly, pray.  God will answer your prayers for wisdom.  He promised to do so (Js. 1)! 

Have a great Black Friday–continuing to thank God for His many gifts!

God is not fair!

With Thanksgiving just days away, I am celebrating the fact that God is not fair.  Imagine if He were.  Consider the hypothetical situation of a neutral deity treating us as our sins deserve.  What if God treated all  people the same–those who love Him and those who hate Him?  What if God punished us after every sin we commit?  Scared yet?!  Thankfully, these horrid thoughts are not reality.  Rather than treating us “fairly,” God dispenses grace and mercy.  He forgives all those who come to Him through His Son, Jesus Christ.  He patiently works with us as we walk with Him and as we battle our sin.  He does not treat us as our sins deserve–especially those who are in Christ and will experience eternal bliss in glory.

“That’s not fair.” 

 How many times have you heard that?  Paul heard it as he discussed the concept of God’s sovereignty  in salvation (Romans, chapter nine).  I hear it on a regular basis from students as well as some adults in my life.  Thinking God is completely fair in all His doings, they believe everything we do should translate to fairness in our doings.  But is that possible?  Although their premise is faulty, is their application?  Can we be “fair”?  Should we attempt to be “fair”?  In other words, are we under the obligation to treat everyone the same? 

Yes!

And no!

Yes–we should treat everyone the same!  We should love them and put their needs above our own, actually considering them to be more important than ourselves.  Want a list of Scripture verses to prove these points?  Romans 12 is a great place to start!

But…

No–we should not treat everyone the same!  I unashamedly love my wife more than any other woman in the world.  I love my children more than I love any other children on the planet.  My mother is the most important senior citizen to me on our continent.  Make sense?  Yes.  Fair? No.  I do not treat every person the same.  You wouldn’t want me to.  Hopefully I am treating everyone with love–the God-exalting, practical love described in the Word of God (passages like Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 13). 

Back to the character of God and how the person and works of God relates to Thanksgiving.  God is not fair!  How glad I am!  Rather than proving to be fair, God has showered me with undeserved gifts!  The list of blessings for which I am grateful this year is indeed long!  Isn’t your list long as well? 

Celebrate God’s faithfulness and ever-new mercies this week (Lam. 3:22, 23)! 

I close with Psalm 62:11,12–a passage  from my devotional reading this morning:

“One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard: that You, O God, are strong, and that You, O God, are loving.”

“All Creatures of Our God and King”

As we relaxed on Friday night, we watched the IMAX movie Beavers.  On my way home from Sam’s Club on Saturday, I saw a hawk rising from the ground with a rodent in its’ talons.  The kids were wrestling the other day in the living room as they watched a documentary with animation on dinosaurs.  The thought came to my mind again that God is the primary audience for so many amazing sights and sounds within the animal kingdom.  All of these amazing creatures–those extinct and those still in existence–were first and foremost created for His great glory.  Did you ever hear the sound beavers make?  It’s hilarious!  God has a sense of humor!  We can only see the evidence of the existence of the dinosaurs.  Jesus made each one uniquely.  He is creative!  The creatures of our God and King are remarkable.  But HE is even more remarkable!  That’s why the creaturely primarily exist for His glory.  HE deserves praise from creation.  HE deserves praise from me. 

A good reminder as we begin Thanksgiving week.

To aid you in your worship, here’s the You Tube link to the Dave Crowder version of the hymn:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cObXwn-EgGY&feature=related

Pressing on in the “misty lowland”

On a genuine day of rest I am very aware of my desparate need of Christ.  As a result, I am pressing on, fighting the flesh while renewing my mind (Rom. 12:2).  This morning I watched a sermon online.  Later I led our family in devotions.  Just a minute ago I was reading on the Desiring God website.  In a blog entry from John Piper, I found the following:

We must go hard after Christ because we are so imperfect. Philippians 3:12, “Not that I have already obtained or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own.” We must go hard after Christ because we are so deficient. A failing student should pursue a special tutor. Nearsighted people should pursue an optometrist. People with strep throat should take antibiotics. Alcoholics should pursue a support group. Young apprentices should follow their master at his work.  Not to go hard after Christ means that either you don’t trust his power and willingness to change your imperfections, or that you want to cling to your imperfections. In either case, Christ is scorned and we are lost.

That hits!  I do not want to cling to my imperfections–and there are many!  Instead, I desire to cling to Christ (Rom. 12:9).  I want to go hard after Christ.  This morning I was reminded to remain persistent in prayer.  Jesus teaches nothing less (Lk. 18:1-5).  One of my regular prayer requests which clearly aligns with the Word of God is that I will become a godly man.  Shouldn’t that be a request for all of us–that we might become God-honoring, people-blessing individuals?  We should not “lose heart” in praying to that end (Lk. 18:1).  We should also not give up in our pursuit of God.  No matter the emotional roller coaster I might ride, I am determined to continue seeking the face of God.  That passion was instilled in me as a young Christian and it remains to this day.

One of the books God used to kindle the flame of spiritual passion was A.W. Tozer’s classic The Pursuit of God.  I return to it from time to time as I often feel that I reside in the “misty lowland.”  I close with the prayer which ends chapter one:

“O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, that so I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, ‘Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.’  Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long. In Jesus’ name. Amen” (Christian Publications, Inc., 1982, p.20). 

The blog entry in which I found the above section from John Piper is at:  http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/four-reasons-to-passionately-pursue-god

My Confusing List

The top ten things today which confuse me (from least to the greatest):

10.  Watching Dancing with the Stars when you can do something worthwhile with your time (Why would we even care which “star” can dance better than another?!).

9.  Individuals who insist Lady Diana belongs on a list of the world’s most important people (I wonder who would make your top ten list). 

8.  The United States Government.

7.  In general—women (followed closely by the opposite sex).

6.  Professing Christians who repeatedly watch garbage on television (I once heard several people talking about their love for Desperate Housewives!). 

5.  Islamic leaders who attempt to distance themselves from the Quran’s (Koran) solution to unbelievers who refuse to convert (The solution–BTW–is Jihad).

4.  Christian leaders who attempt to make the offensive message of the Gospel less offensive (Jesus offended people.  His message is indeed narrow).

3.  My children (Can’t quite figure these beasts out).

2.  God (Understatement:  “My thoughts are not your thoughts…” [Is. 55:8]). 

1.  Me (I continually confuse myself!).

Thanks for stopping by the blog!  I apologise for such a weird entry.  Sometimes a strange entry is better than no entry at all!  Hope all is well!

Tim vs. Evil

We began a study of Romans, chapter twelve this morning in Sunday School (I finished Romans 11 last week).  Three times in this chapter the Apostle Paul contrasts that which is good with that which is evil.  Consider:

1.  “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (12:2).

2.  “Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good” (12:9).

3.  “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (12:21).

First, God commands me not to be conformed to this world (that’s the evil), but to be transformed by the renewing of my mind (that’s the good).  I am to be continually on guard regarding the negative, ungodly influences seeking to pull me away from Christ.  Instead, I am to take advantage of the positive, godly opportunities to draw closer to Christ.   Nothing is more valuable to me in that endeavor than God’s Word.  Nothing has proved more beneficial than the reading and meditation of the Bible in my transformation process.  As a result, I remain committed to my daily devotional times each morning.  I also continue to carefully choose my entertainment options.  Everything I view changes me.  Earlier this week, my friend Andy gave me several handouts related to God-honoring decision-making.  Two pages by separate authors mentioned a principle put forth in the form of a question:  “Will it be profitable to me spiritually?”  (based upon 1 Cor. 10:23).  We need to ask ourselves that question when evaluating our leisure choices.  R&R is a good and necessary gift of God, but wrongly used it can cause us to stumble rather than run with patience (Heb. 12:1).  As I strive for reality, I must renew my mind!

Second, God commands me to hate that which is evil and hold tenaciously to that which is good.  Immediately preceding this imperative are these words: “Let love be without hypocrisy” (12:9).  What is evil?  What should I hate?  Self-centered love!  Why?  Because self-centered love in humans is sinful.  And, that which is sinful is, by definition, evil.  I need to cultivate my hatred of hypocrisy in me and in others, and I need to learn to genuinely hate all sin rather than simply disliking it. 

Third, God commands me to not be overcome by that which is evil, but to overcome that which is evil with that which is good.  Evil seeks to destroy me.  Outward powers and principalities and an inside presence remain intent upon my defeat.  However, I am called to fight victoriously–overcoming rather than being overcome.  How is that possible?  By living out the commands given in this chapter!  I can overcome evil by being an agent of good.  My actions and reactions can loudly declare that God is good and all the good He has bestowed upon me allows me to be good to you.  Unfortunately, I do not always do good to you.  May I become more and more consistent in doing so!

I loved our study of the first eleven chapters of Romans.  The mind of the Apostle Paul is amazing.  The theology proclaimed in the first half of this letter is stunning.  But I also very much appreciate the emphasis on the Christian life in chapters twelve through fifteen.  Theology should never be minimized.  However, it should also never be isolated from application.  Theology is meant to be believed and lived.  Consequently, I am thankful that in this rubber-meets-the-road twelfth chapter of Romans, I was reminded that good should prevail over evil in my life–today as it will in eternity. 

Will you join me in transforming your mind?  Will you join me in cultivating a deeper hatred of sin?  Will you join me in overcoming evil with good?

A Really Red Rear

I hate it.  I hate it for her.  I hate it for us.  Cascade continues to struggle using the toilet.  Tonight I changed her after her loose stool sat in her pull-up for over an hour as she played outside.  She had a really red rear!  I cleaned her, bathed her, covered her with lotion and dressed her.  It was a traumatic experience for her.  It was a stinky, time-consuming experience for me. 

Why won’t she make a better decision?  Why won’t she do the right thing? 

Probably because she is too much like her father!  OK–I’ve progressed past potty training, but I’m nowhere near the maturity level at which I have set my sights!  Far too often, my decisions and my actions are fleshly rather than spiritual.  They are self-centered instead of Christ-centered.  Sin permeates every aspect of our lives.  Our unwise decisions and our ungodly actions and reactions are proof positive that we have a SERIOUS PROBLEM!

Cascade has a problem–sin!  I have a problem–sin!  You have a problem–sin!  We are born with it and we do it as soon as we are able!  My three-year-old probably isn’t sinning by choosing to poop in her pull-up while playing outside.  But I could give you a list of examples when she has indeed acted and reacted consistent to her nature.  My four children have convinced me that sin is inherent, not the result of negative influences or environmental stimuli.  My own experience is enough to lead me to despair.  Yet–in spite of how sin affects me on a daily basis–I do not despair.  I may say with the Apostle Paul:

“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24)

But–like him–I am quick to add:

“Thanks be to God thought Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7:25)

As I was thinking through my life recently, I wondered where I would be today without Christ.  It’s a scary thought!  Earlier this week, I tried to explain to my Ethics class the miraculous change that has transpired in my life.  That which is old became new (2 Cor. 5:17) by the grace of God (Eph. 2:8,9).  I am not what I once was.  I have warts now, but you should be thankful that God began a good work in me over twenty years ago (Phil. 1:6)!  He recreated me in Christ and He continues to change me from within as I seek His face (Rom. 12:2, Phil. 2:13).  That’s one of those continuing prayers I mentioned yesterday.  I need to “just keep praying”! 

Would you pray for me?  I want to be a godly man.  I want to love what God loves and I want to hate what God hates.  I especially desire to love Christ and hate sin.  If you would pray for me to do that, I would be grateful!  I would also appreciate your prayers for Cascade.  She really needs to conquer her fear of pain on the potty and use the toilet rather than the pull-ups.  It would be good for her really red rear and our noses!  Thanks!

Have a great weekend!

Just keep praying. Just keep praying.

Didn’t Dory tell the mass of fish in the net to “just keep praying”?

Earlier this week that is exactly the message I heard from the Lord.  I awoke in the 4:00AM hour–still adjusting to the time change.  Since I could not fall back asleep, I began praying and talking to myself.  Although I had not read this particular text in quite a while, the words of Psalm 121 resonated in my heart:

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Ps. 121:1,2).

Then–an hour later as Jodi and I were having our devotional time, this verse stood out to me:

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Rom. 12:12).

Another hour later, this verse was found in the passage of the day for our devotions in 7th & 8th grade homeroom:

“And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of Him” (1 Jn. 5:14,15). 

The clincher to the message received from the Lord was heard–very unexpectedly–in the national anthem to the Netherlands (I student at RCA had a power point presentation on the country that morning).  Here’s the English translation of the second stanza:

“You, my God and Lord, are my shield, on You I rely.  On You I will build; never leave me,  So that I may remain pious, your servant at all moments,  Dispelling the tyranny that wounds my heart.”

God’s message was clear:  Just keep praying.  I am not to abandon my prayer list!  God remains my Help (Ps. 121:2) and my Shield (the anthem).  He hears me as I cast my cares upon Him (1 Pet. 5:7), prayers which compliment rather than contradict His revealed will (1 Jn. 5:14,15).  As a result, I should be contant in prayer (Rom. 12:12 [NASB:  “devoted”]).  God is absolutely sovereign.  To deny that is to deny the heart of the Scriptures.  However, my absolutely sovereign God has also promised to both hear and answer the prayers of His people.  I take great comfort in these truths as I continue to go to God in prayer (Lk. 18:3). 

Have you become weary in your praying–losing heart (Lk. 181)?  If so, I hope this has served as a shot in the arm of your faith.  Don’t give up!

Just keep praying.  Just keep praying.