Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for June, 2008

 

John 21:18-22 just keeps coming back to me.

After Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love Me?” He told Peter to follow Him at the end of verse 17. Then, beginning in verse 18, the Lord Jesus said to him, “Truly. truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who had been reclining at table close to him and had said, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”

Jesus tells Peter, in no uncertain terms, that he shouldn’t worry about John or what the Lord has in store for him – that’s the Lord’s business. Peter’s business, if you will, is to follow Jesus and be faithful to Him.

I ran across this theme again as I finished “The Horse and His Boy” by C.S. Lewis. Aslan explains to the boy Shasta how he has worked in his life – the lion who forced him to join with the girl Aravis, the cat who comforted him among the houses of the dead, the lion who drove the jackals away from him as he slept, the lion who gave the horses (Bree and Hwin) the strength to go the last mile, and more.

Shasta then said, “Then it was you who wounded Aravis?”

“It was I.”

“But what for?”

“Child,” said the voice, “I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no-one any story but his own.”

There it is again! Don’t worry about what the Lord is doing with someone else, just follow Him and be faithful to Him yourself. I’ve been reminded of that idea numerous times in the last several years. It must be important!

Read Full Post »

 

“For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (2 Tim. 1:12).

What did Paul entrust, or give to the Lord for safe-keeping?

He entrusted his desires, his plans, his talents, his abilities, his ministry, his life, his past, his present, and his future. In short, Paul entrusted everything to the Triune God – the One he believed in and the One he was convinced could (and would) guard him and keep him, no matter what he might suffer.

It’s no different for you and me, either. We entrust everything to Him. May we be convinced that He can guard it (and us).

Read Full Post »

Update on the Chapman family

 

Here’s an update on Steven Curtis Chapman and his family following the death of his five-year old daughter. Please keep praying for Steven, Mary Beth, and their children. You can read the update here.

Read Full Post »

 

How can we be more grateful? Just about every believer in Jesus Christ has a problem with gratitude (it’s called our fallen, sinful nature – we’re bent that way), but is there a way to get better at gratitude? I think we can and there is. Here are some suggestions for increasing our gratitude:

  1. Acknowledge that everything we have comes from God. Psalm 24:1 says, The earth is the LORD’s and the fulness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein. The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 6:7, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 1 Corinthians 4:7, also written by Paul, says, What do you have that you did not receive (from God)? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?
  2. Visit and minister to those who have less. Short-term mission trips are an excellent way to accomplish this up close and personal. Of all the people I know who have went on these trips, none of them has come back unchanged. They’ve all been struck by how much they have compared to people in other parts of the world. They’ve also realized the world is a whole lot bigger than themselves. As a result, they’re more grateful.
  3. Avoid grumbling like the plague. It’s deadly – believe me, I know. Do all things without grumbling or complaining, says Philippians 2:14. We’re exhorted in 1 Corinthians 10:10 not to grumble.
  4. Express thanks frequently to God. Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will fo God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:18). The Lord has blessed us tremendously, so we should never run short of items for thanksgiving. Thank Him for the foods you enjoy, the friends you have, and the abilities you have. Be grateful for the fact that if you have one copy of the Bible, you have one more than one-third of the people in the world.
  5. Live a joyful life. Joy is one of the fruit of the Spirit in Glaatians 5:22-23. Christians are to be characterized by joy which comes from gratitude and helps develop it, as well.

You and I can increase our gratitude, but only through the power of God the Holy Spirit.

Gratitude pleases God, glorifies Him, and draws the lost to Christ. So don’t be an ingrate! (That’s directed at me more than anyone else.)

Read Full Post »

My Six Words

 

After some thought and help from Karen, here are my six words:

Guilty sinner, graciously saved, forever grateful.

Read Full Post »

Six Words

 

Could you write a story in only six words

Ernest Hemingway did it: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

Larry Smith founded started an online magazine – “SMITH” – where anyone can contribute a six-word story. It could be the story of your life, but it doesn’t have to be. You can find it here.

Smith has put a number of these stories together in a book called, “Not Quite What I Was Planning,” which sounds like a good six-word story.

What would yours be? I’m not sure what mine would be, yet – still thinking.

Read Full Post »

 

As Karen was working in our front yard yesterday (summer may have finally arrived!), one of the neighbors who was walking her dog made an interesting comment. She said it was nice to see the yard looking so nice compared to how it has looked in the past. What a nice compliment! (By the way, all the credit for it goes to Karen, not me – I’m horticulturally challenged and averse.)

It reminded me that this is an application of what God had in mind when He commanded us to subdue the earth and rule over it. Genesis 1:26-28 says,

Then God said, “”Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish and the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Here, God gives His image-bearers the command to take dominion. Some have called this “the cultural mandate.” The theme is continued when the LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. Taking dominion, then, means to “tend your garden,” to take care of what God has given you, to make it better and improve, and to bring it under submission.

Karen was “tending the garden” which is our front yard. She is bringing it under submission and ruling it, and it’s been noticed.

Tending our garden doesn’t apply only to our yard, but also to our life. Dominion extends to every area of life because Jesus Christ is Lord of all of life. Nothing is excluded. We should tend the garden of our finances, our bodies (meaning how we eat and how much exercise we get), our families, our relationships, and our work. The list goes on and on – anything we can think of.

If you’re a student, you can tend the garden of your homework and keeping your room clean. If you’re like me, you can tend the garden of your study by keeping it orderly and clean (which would involve a lot of subduing!). If you’re married, you absolutely must tend the garden of your spouse and marriage. Fathers and mothers must tend the garden of their children. We all should tend the garden which is our church. Out task is to take care of whatever God has given us wherever He has put us.

By and large, I think this is what it means to take dominion, rule over, and subdue His creation as His image-bearers. It’s not real flashy, just day-to-day stuff, but it’s what God calls us to.

 

Read Full Post »

 

What are some of the obstacles to being the grateful person God expects us to be? What gets in the way of thankfulness? Here are several:

  1. The “Missing Tile Syndrome” – When we sit in a room and look at the ceiling, we almost always focus on the one missing tile rather than the ninety-nine that aren’t. We seem to stew over the one thing wrong with our life and ignore the rest of it which is probably pretty good. Obsessing over the one missing or broken tile makes it hard to be grateful.
  2. Unrealistic Expectations – We all have an idea of how things should go and what they should look like, especially as it relates to our life. Graduate from high school; graduate from college; get a good job; get married; buy a house in a good neighborhood; have kids; continue to climb the corporate ladder; find a good church; coach Little League; take vacations; and then retire. When things don’t happen that way – when God in His sovereignty intervenes – we develop a strong case of ingratitude because things didn’t go the way we thought they should.
  3. Affluence – The more we have, the more we want. The more we have, the more we grumble. Ecclesiastes 6:7 says, All a man’s labor is for his mouth and yet the appetite is not satisfied. No matter how much we make, we could always make more. We could always have more than we have. the attitude of “it’s never enough” doesn’t promote a feeling of gratitude.
  4. Negative Companions – Who we hang out with matters. If people we spend a lot of time in the company of are ungrateful and unthankful, the chances are excellent it will rub off on us, too. Grumbling and complaining are part of our sinful and fallen nature, therefore it’s easy to “go with the flow” so to speak. Paul puts it well in 1 Corinthians 15:33 when he says that Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”
  5. Frequent Comparisons – Gratitude becomes far less likely when we compare ourselves to others. It’s obvious that God has not given everyone the same gifts, talents, or abilities. It’s also painfully obvious that God has not blessed each person with the same “station in life,” level of success, visibility, notoriety (or dozens of other things that could be mentioned). You and I are responsible for what we’ve been given by God. We’ll never have to answer to God for what He’s given to someone else. Remember what Jesus told Peter in John 21:20-23, “Peter, don’t worry about John. You follow Me!” (my paraphrase).

Read Full Post »

 

Tim Russert’s death got me thinking about gratitude.

Russert was always thankful and grateful when he spoke about his own life. Gratitude seemed to characterize him.

Gratitude is, or should be, a huge part of the Christian life. We find gratitude and thankfulness all throughout the Bible. Faithful Jews in the Old Testament were commanded to give thanks to God and to make thank offerings. Many of the Psalms are lyrical examples of gratitude. The New Testament is no less filled with gratitude and grateful believers. It’s a theme that runs through the entire Word of God.

What is gratitude? John Piper has defined it in the following way:

So gratitude is more than delighting in a gift. It is a feeling of happiness directed toward a person for giving you something good. It is a happiness that comes not merely from the gift, but from the act of giving. Gratitude is a happy feeling you have about a giver because of his giving something good to you or doing something good for you. (From the sermon “Grace, Gratitude, and the Glory of God” – Nov. 26, 1981)

Piper also makes the important point that gratitude is especially felt when the gift is undeserved and unearned – when it’s grace, in other words.

Luke 17:11-19 is a classic example of gratitude, and by contrast, ingratitude.

Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us.” When they saw him, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him – and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

The immediate context of Luke’s Gospel (16:1-17:19) deals with a number of the sayings and teachings of Jesus dealing with wealth, power, money, service, and humility. One of the main undercurrents of what Jesus taught is that the Jews shouldn’t presume any of God’s blessings – they’re not automatic – and they should be grateful for what He had given them.

The cleansing of the ten lepers illustrates the points Jesus was making. The Samaritan showed thankfulness and expressed his gratitude, which was proper, while the other nine – equally healed – may have felt grateful but never expressed it.

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Eph. 5:18-20)

(To be continued)

Read Full Post »

 

I’ll get to the bottom line first – listen to last week’s White Horse Inn. It’s called “Assuming the Gospel.”

I’ve had the same dream – more like a nightmare – several times. In the dream, I’m standing before the Lord, presumably to be judged. In that moment, I ask Him the question, “Have I done enough?”

In other words, have I done enough good works to earn a place in heaven in the presence of God? Have I loved Him enough? Have I loved people enough? Have I preached and taught well enough? Do I know the Bible well enough? Do I have enough knowledge of theology? Have I prayed enough? Have I witnessed to enough people? Have I loved my wife enough? Have I had enough faith?

Right after I ask the question, the dream comes to an end. There is no answer from the Lord.

What makes this dream a nightmare is not that the Lord doesn’t answer – I know exactly what He would say – it’s that I even have these thoughts at all. I know beyond any doubt that God has saved His people by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone – the Bible clearly teaches it. Works, deeds, and merit have no place in the plan of salvation.

If the dream would continue and God were actually to answer my question, He would say, “Of course you haven’t done enough! Nobody has and nobody can. Because you’re sinful, you can’t earn My favor no matter how hard you work or what you do. You can’t do enough, but Someone else has – My Son Jesus! He lived the perfect life you could never live. He died a sacrificial death for your sins as your substitute. He rose again from the dead for your justification. He takes your sins and you get His righteousness because of My grace and through faith (which I gave you as a gift) in who He is and what He’s done. Of course you can’t do enough, but trust the One who has – Jesus.”

Romans 3:28 says, For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. In Galatians 2:16, Paul wrote, Nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. One of the most familiar statements in the entire Bible on the subject is Ephesians 2:8-9, which says, For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

I am firmly convinced that the Bible teaches salvation is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. I teach it. I preach it. I defend it. So, why the dream? Because all of us are Pelagians at heart. In other words, we – deep down in our souls – think we can earn God’s favor by our works and deeds. It’s part of our fallen DNA to think that if we do more good things than bad, God will reward us with salvation. Grace is something we have a hard time understanding and accepting. How many times have we heard “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”?

All of us have to “unlearn” the false idea that salvation is earned by works, and it takes awhile to wash that spot out. That’s why we can’t assume the gospel. It’s a mistake to assume that our students and church members understand the gospel of God’s grace. We can’t assume that our family understands it, our frineds understand it, the people in our Bible studies understand it, or that we understand it.

We can’t assume the gospel. Eternity is a long time to be wrong.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »