Monthly Archives: September, 2012

Remembering and Experiencing Truth

I watched a sermon this morning by Jerry Bridges (link below).  The fourth point in his exhortation to finish well as a Christian was the need to remember the sovereignty and love of God.  I have stated the same many times.  This weekend, however, I needed to hear it.  During this particular season of my life, it is quite easy to lose perspective.  I find myself giving in too quickly to negative thoughts.  Rather than “taking every thought captive” (2 Cor. 10:5), my flesh encourages me to question the Lord.  I don’t necessarily question God’s sovereignty.  I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that He is both sovereign and providentially active in my life.  My specific sin is questioning His love.  Bridges–using God’s Word–challenged me to remember truth.  God does indeed love me.  In fact, He has a passionate love for me–a love based upon a covenant He initiated and sealed with His own blood.  “Jesus loves me this I know; for the Bible tells me so.”

Today I am remembering truth.

But I am also experiencing truth.

My  eyes today are open to the gifts of God–His grace upon my life.

Consider:

  • Rather than remain home to get some extra rest this morning, my wife went to church to fulfill her commitment to serve in the nursery.  I rejoice again that I have married a woman of integrity.  She is beautiful both on the inside and the outside!
  • Within ten seconds, I found a great sermon on finishing well (so thankful for the great stuff I can find on You Tube).
  • My son loved his little sister so much that he took all the cash that he had and bought her a new bike.
  • Wooden Apples from Dayton Mountain are awesome–especially Mutsus!
  • Bible Gateway–a wonderful resource I have used repeatedly (link below).
  • The Book of Romans continues to captivate me.  I love the  argument of Paul throughout the book and for how much the Apostle points to Jesus Christ–The Savior!
  • Even more–I am eternally grateful that the truths described in that rich epistle are applied to me!  I have been justified by God through Christ.  WOW!
  • The return of the NFL officials.  I just saw some great calls in the Atlanta-Carolina game.
  • I finally get to watch a Packer game on TV (sure hoping their offense starts to click…TOUCHDOWN!)
  • Today also finds me thankful that I have a job on Monday.  I’ve been unemployed.  I remain grateful that I am employed and that I work with hardworking individuals who care about others and desire to excel!
  • And–what beautiful weather we have had in TN (I finished cutting the grass today and hardly broke a sweat in the process)!

I will stop.  I could continue.

How long is your list today?  Have you taken the opportunity to remember truth today?  Have you spent time in God’s Word?  Second, do you have eyes to see God’s love today?  My eyes were only opened to see God’s love operating in my life today after I contemplated God’s Word.  As a result, my closing exhortation to you today is to open the Scriptures.  Perhaps these links can be useful in that process.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-06pL7zxWnE

http://www.biblegateway.com/

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IPod Touch or a Love Touch

Celena is almost thirteen and she  is slowly growing up.  She proved that this past weekend by doing something only a mature person would do.  Allow me to explain.  First, let me set the context.  Aunt Vonnie offered Celena the opportunity to earn some cash by helping her make applesauce.  Celena jumped at the chance to make money for the next toy she desires to have–an IPod Touch.  Celena helped. Aunt Vonnie paid generously.  Celena was happy.

And that’s when she began to shine.

After only a couple minutes of being home, Celena came to me with the cash and said, “I want an IPod Touch, but here’s the money for the family.”

WOW!

Some of what we have been teaching is sticking!

“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).

Celena put the needs of the family before the desires of her flesh!

Don’t get me wrong.  I do not believe that there is anything bad with my daughter desiring an IPod Touch.  Sometimes I buy wants rather than needs.  However, we are in a season of lean, not plenty.  Needs are trumping wants.  And the kids understand.  We have decided to keep them in the loop of our situation so that they can pray with us and watch God provide.

And God provided–through one of the kiddos!  It was a “love touch” from God through Celena.

Pretty cool, eh?!

The Man Journal

Several years ago, I was given an empty journal as a gift.  I decided to call it The Man Journal and use it to write to my sons.  Mind if I share the initial entry?  It will give you a glimpse of my passions as well as what I deeply desire in my boys.  I wrote,

I do not want to begin this devotional with the assumption that you, my sons, know God. Do you know Him through His Son Jesus Christ? Do you know and love the Savior? Your introduction to the faith in which I firmly stand is a prayer I regularly lift to God. My heart’s desire is the salvation of my children. Believe the truth, my sons. God is real. The Bible is His written Word. Jesus is the Savior. Believe. Receive. Trust. Worship. Love Him, and live for Him. There is nothing more important I could tell you in this first journal entry. You need Christ as much as I need Christ. You need Him for salvation and you need Him to live for His glory and  the benefit of others. Do not live for yourself. Do not be self-centered. Instead, live for Christ.  Be God-centered!

I know–it’s not very poetic.  I wasn’t particularly eloquent in my expression that Monday morning some five years ago.  However, I did hit on the majors–God–Christ–His Word–how we are to respond, etc.  It is very important to me that my sons and daughters hear the truth, and see it lived out day by day.  I am doing a decent job on the former.  I wouldn’t give myself high marks on the latter.

Someone I knew from college died of a heart attack this week.  He was a couple years younger than me, married with two kids.  One moment he was alive.  The next moment he was in glory.  Things couldn’t be better for Michael.  Things couldn’t be worse for his wife and children.  The funeral was yesterday.  The burial is today.  The loss will always be felt.  The tears will eventually subside.  The memories will be precious.  What will his children remember of their daddy?  My impression is that they will have fond memories of their father and that they will recall–from his words and his ways–that he did indeed know and love Christ.  That remains my hope as well.  I, too, could unexpectedly pass away.  God could call me to glory today.  What will my children remember?

What will my children remember?

What I leave behind is very important to me for a variety of reasons.  That is why I invest time with my children.  That is why I talk with them.  That is why I write in The Man Journal.  That is why I will put my work down for a few hours today and Sunday.  My kids need me.  About ten years ago, one of the Bryan professors packed his bags and left his wife and children.  I did not know the man.  Those who did told me that he left because the responsibility was simply too much.  He ran away.  Believe me–the responsibility can be overwhelming.  But I will not run.  In God’s strength, I will stay and I will stay engaged.  Your prayers are greatly appreciated.

In closing, let me pose this question:  How do you want to be remembered?

What God Desperately Needs

Complete this sentence:
What God desperately needs is…
I hope you put the only truly acceptible answer.  What God desperately needs is NOTHING!
I know he meant well.  He was passionate in his radio devotional yesterday morning, exhorting me and all the listeners to not fizzle out in our walk with Christ.  In the process, however, the speaker unfortunately used two words which simply do not apply to the God of the Bible–the Only Wise God.
Depserately
Needs
My friends, I have been a student of God’s Word now for almost twenty-five years.  And while I have much to learn, I can confidently tell you that God is not desperate.  He never has been.  He never will be.  If the Bible teaches us anything, it is that God always accomplishes His will.  Simply put, if the Lord wants to do something, He does it.  If God wants something to happen, it happens.  He is God.  Martin Luther stated, “For the will of God is effectual and cannot be hindered” (On the Bondage of the Will).  Consider:
“Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere him. For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations” (Psalm 33:8-10).
Even a Babylonian king was caused to acknowledge to granduer of God:

“And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” (Dan. 4:34-35).

 

Second, the Bible also thoroughly demonstrates that God is without need.  He does not need me.  He does not need you.  He does not–as the man on the radio would state–need some more heroes.  God does not need.  The Apostle Paul wrote,

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.  And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:24, 25; NIV)

 

In closing, let me point out something that you surely noticed–I did not mention the name of the man I heard on the radio.  That was not a slight.  I like the guy–a lot.  He ministers to me almost every time I hear his devotional.  I also greatly appreciate his effective ministry over the years, and I admire the fact that it appears he is finishing well, not fizzling out in his walk with Christ.  I have no desire for you to think less of him.  He’s a good guy.  However, he did not choose good words to describe our pefect, all-sufficient God.  God has never been desperate.  God has never been needy.  God has always been God.
Let’s carefully choose our words when discussing the character and ways of God.
May the words Luther directed at Erasmus so many years ago never be said of us– “Your thoughts about God are all too human.”

When God Won’t

Subtitled: Coming to Terms with Divine Benevolence Purposely Withheld by the Omnipotent God

Translation:  How we should respond when the God Who can, won’t (alter, change our circumstances).

I admitted this morning in church that this endeavor called “life” is a lot harder than I had anticipated.  Disappointments have multiplied.  Suffering induced from the fall of man has fallen–repeatedly.

Sometimes the glass actually is half-empty.

A dear friend often describes his currently undiagnosed illness as “excruciating pain.”  Another friend is fighting to save his wife’s life.  Yet another friend continues to live the life of a single while very much desiring to be married.

And the list could go on
and on
and

Life is hard.

Thankfully, God often will.
But sometimes God won’t.

This morning our Scripture reading passage in the worship service was Psalm 62.  In my comments prior to reading the passage, I pointed out two of the anchors of my life: God’s sovereign omnipotence and God’s divine benevolence.  David wrote,

“Once God has spoken; twice I have heard this: That power belongs to God; And lovingkindness is Yours, O Lord” (62:11).

Here is how the NIV renders the verse:

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

Ponder these thoughts from Charles Spurgeon:

“What reason for faith is here! It can never be unwise to rest upon the almighty arm. Out of all troubles He can release us, under all burdens sustain us…[and regarding God’s lovingkindness]…This tender attribute sweetens this grand thought of His power: the divine strength will not crush us, but will be used for our good” (The Treasury of David, p.52).

Something displeasing to David was happening. It is clear from verses 3 & 4 and 9 & 10 that David was facing opposition from ungodly individuals (a rather frequent experience for him). His life was being affected by two-faced liars (62:4).

Question–How is your life being affected? What opposition are you currently facing?

Surely your life isn’t “a bed of roses.” You may sense God’s friendship over your tent (Job 29:4). You may be in a season of ease.  If so, give thanks to God.  He is proving to be exceedingly kind to you.

Most of you, however, are feeling the fire of trials.  You are experiencing the natural results of the fall.  You intimately relate to:  When God won’t.  If that accurately describes you, allow me to share the words David spoke to himself in Psalm 62:5-7.

“My soul, wait in silence of God only, For my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken. On God my salvation and my glory rests; The rock of my strength, my refuge is God.”

David called the Lord his Rock, his Salvation, his Stronghold.  It is clear that amidst the difficulties he was facing, David was running to God, not away from Him.

Where are you running?

Let’s be honest. We have run from God rather than to God.  We’ve all been guilty of that insanity.  Hopefully we are running in the right direction today.

In fact–that is David’s exhortation to all of us.  He wrote,

“Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah.”

Do you see the word “Selah”?  That particular word appears twice in this Pslam.  It literally means: pause and consider. God’s people are to contemplate that God is omnipotent and omnibenevolent (69:11).  He is all-powerful and all-good.

In light of these eternal truths, we are to trust Him “at all times.” We are to pray honestly–pouring out our hearts to Him. We are to remember–and take great comfort in the fact–that He is our refuge.

Cup half-empty?  Circumstances overwhelming? Trials untimely?

Join me in running to Christ, not from Him!

Six Days of Tired

A big yawn.

Another full day has come to a close.  Yet another work week has concluded.

As I continue to yawn, I remain grateful for the gift of the Lord’s Day.  I am hours away from a day in which I willingly choose to be unproductive–something very contrary to my nature.  I am a “worker bee.”  Over the past six days, I worked each day at my full-time job as well as a couple hours each night on my second job.

Another yawn.

Writer John Mason penned the following:

Blessed day of God, most calm, most bright,
The first and best of days;
The laborer’s rest, the saint’s delight,
A day of mirth and praise.

Without a doubt, I am delighting in the coming rest.  In the morning, I will gather with God’s people to meditate upon the Scriptures and encourage my friends to love God more and love sin less.  I trust that they will do the same for me. In the afternoon, I will watch football and drift in-and-out of consciousness.  My hope is that my physical and spiritual tanks will fill with the refreshment and rest slated on the “blessed day of God.”

The older I get the more I feel six days of tired.  The older I get the more I appreciate times of rest.

I hope you can rest as well.

One final yawn.

As you can see…I am headed to bed!

A New Bike! Simple joys. Shared joy. Thou shalt not covet!

TJ got a new bike Monday night–his first new bike!

Do you remember when you got your first new bike?  I’m talking new, not a cleaned up hand-me-down, not a deal from a yard sale.  Don’t misread me here.  Most of our things were either purchased through Craig’s List or at a garage sale.  Sometimes, however, a Daddy wants to give his kid a new bike.  As you can imagine, TJ repeatedly thanked me.  What brought me even greater joy was what transpired upon our return home.

My other children rejoiced with TJ rather than ask where their new bike was located!

Each was genuinely happy for TJ, knowing it was time for him to receive a much-neeeded upgrade.  Their response reminded me of my pastor’s sermon this past Sunday.  Wayne is currently preaching through 1 Corinthians 13–“The Love Chapter.”  This week he camped on the concept of envy (covetousness/lust).  He had some very good (edifying/truthful) things to say on the topic (a link to the sermon is given below).  He also shared a helpful quote by Charles Spurgeon.  Here it is for your contemplation:

“The cure for envy lies in living under a constant sense of the divine presence, worshiping God and communing with Him all the day long, however long the day may seem. True religion lifts the soul into a higher region, where the judgment becomes more clear and the desires are more elevated. The more of heaven there is in our lives, the less of earth we shall covet. The fear of God casts out envy of men.”

We could meditate upon that paragraph for hours.  The line which caught my attention was:  “The more of heaven there is in our lives, the less of earth we shall covet.”  Indeed!  I believe that it could also be stated that the more of heaven there is in our lives, the more joy we will share in the joy of others.  In a passage which has sincere love as its theme (Rom. 12:9), the Apostle Paul wrote:

“Rejoice with those who rejoice” (12:15).

Envy kills joy.  Covetousness crushes cheer.

Monday night was a happy night in our home.  TJ was happy because he got a new bike.  Celena, Dayton, and Cascade were happy because he got a new bike.  And Mommy and Daddy were happy because–for a brief few minutes–all four of our children were happy.

Joy was present.  Envy was absent.  God was glorified.

You know–I might need to buy bikes more often!

http://www.grbchurch.org/sermonaudio.htm

Thankful for God’s “common grace”

Sleeping in on a Saturday morning
A long conversation with my best friend as we sipped coffee
Cascade’s personality (and funny statements)
Two boys laughing as they play the Wii
A lawn cut by my awesome wife on Friday so I did not have to do so today
The opportunity before me to spend the day studying/preparing to teach
A German-Wehse meal being planned for supper
Sunday worship at Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN
Green Bay vs San Fransisco Sunday afternoon

You have heard me say it before:  God does not treat me as my sins deserve.  “It is of the Lord’s mercy that I am not consumed” (Lam. 3:22).  God has lavished upon me both saving grace and common grace.  He has saved me.  He has sanctified me (in reality–He continues to do both).  And–He has showered me with blessings.  You read my list.  I did not just win the lottery (I think you need to play to win).  I did not just inherit a large piece of property.  I did not land a new job or do anything exceptionally worthy of praise.

Today simply finds me thankful for God’s “common grace.”

In other words, I am grateful for His small gifts–for the people in my life, for the things which make me chuckle, for something productive to do on the last day of the week.

Life could be worse.  My life could be much worse.

Jeremiah rightly stated that God’s compassions “fail not.”  Every morning God proves Himself to be a compassionate God.  David comforted himself with these words, “But You, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Ps. 86:15).  I love how The Message begins Psalm 78:38–“And God? Compassionate!” 

When I am tuckered out (tired, worn) from a long week of work, it is helpful for me to “take stock” of my situation.  This morning I paused to consider God’s many blessings.  By doing so, I was reminded afresh of God’s character.  Because of what God has done for me in Christ, I am His child.  And seasons like this allow me to subjectively experience that which is an objective reality–God is a very good–a perfect–Father to His kids.

How long is your list today?  I know everything isn’t going as you had hoped.  Trust me–I’d change some things as well.  But can you slow down enough to jot down your own list of the Lord’s mercies?  Friend–He has not treated you as your sins deserve either!

Unbelievers are described as individuals who refuse to glorify God and give Him thanks (Romans 1:21).  May this condemnation not be true of us.  May today–this weekend–find us glorying in Christ and glorifying Christ as we thank God for His many gifts!

Regaining the Wonder

I took the three youngest children to a local nursery that sells birds, reptiles and small animals.  They thoroughly enjoyed looking at all of the creatures our Lord created.  But I was disappointed.  Their private road needs some serious work. The place itself is a dive.  The outside looks like a war zone.  The inside was filled with cobwebs and mold.

I wanted to leave as soon as I could.

The kids didn’t want to leave at all.

They were lost in wonder.

When does wonder leave?  Does life suck it out of us?  Is it replaced by cynicism?  Do we cease to marvel at mystery at the arrival of maturity? At some point in our journey, wonder transitions from a regular experience to an infrequent response.  I am thankful that I have children who are still in awe of reptiles and rodents.  I am also grateful that a time will come when I find myself regaining the wonder.

I am looking forward to heaven.

Jodi and I were talking about heaven on Saturday morning.  Words cannot express the depth of my yearning to be separated from my sin and united with my Savior.  I rejoice to remember that I will see Him just as He is (1 John 3:2).  My fuzzy, static-filled, black-and-white glimpse of Jesus from the Gospels will turn into clear, colorful, never-ending 4D experience of Him!

German philosopher Friedrich Nietzche is attributed with this statement:  “In heaven, all the interesting people are missing.”  These, of course, are the words of a man who–some have said–eventually claimed to be Jesus Christ.

He lied.

There is only one Jesus Christ!  And He is in heaven!  And He is interesting!  That’s why His biographies still hold my attention.  That’s why I cannot teach my Gospels course from a disengaged perspective.  That’s why I desire to depart–for that is much better (Phil. 1:23)!

I long to be lost in wonder.

Perhaps wonder can truly only be regained in glory.