Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Bonus Readings

Hello, friends - I have a few fun things for you to read today.  First, in prepping for study this week, I looked at  I Corinthians 6:18-20.  It's the passage that reminds us that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.  As I read these verses, something stood out to me and I found myself on a rabbit trail, trying to figure out what the first part of these verses meant.  I came across this story about St. Augustine (www.preceptaustin.org site) as told by Harry Ironside and found it amusing and encouraging!  Enjoy:

Other sins do not affect the body, but this one sin is ruinous to body and soul alike, and so, Paul says, "Flee fornication,run from anything that would tend to stir the body to unholy lust. 
In his "Confessions" St. Augustine tells how in his unconverted days he had allowed himself to become the willing victim of vile and fleshly lusts. He lived his careless life as the pagans of that day, and associated with the corrupt and wicked members of society. When he got converted, the great question upon his mind was this, "Will I ever be able to live according to the Christian standard of holiness, will I ever be able to keep myself from the vile, sensuous life in which I have lived so long?" When he first yielded himself to Christ, he took as his life-text Ro 13:1314 (note), where the apostle exhorts the believer to
"Put on (aorist imperative = Command to make a decisive choice to do this!) the Lord Jesus Christ  and make (present imperative + negative = Stop doing this!) no provision (pronoia - word study) for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts."
For long after his conversion he did not dare even to go near that part of the city where his godless companions of former days lived. But one day a matter of business called him there, and as he was walking along the street he suddenly saw one of the beautiful yet wicked companions of his folly. The moment her eyes lit upon him her face was illuminated with delight, and she came running with outstretched arms and said, "Austin! where have you been for so long? We have missed you so," and he turned and gathered up his long philosopher's gown and started to run. It was not a very dignified proceeding for a doctor, a professor of rhetoric, to run up the street with a godless girl running after him. She called to him, "Austin, Austin, why do you run? It is only I!" He looked back and exclaimed,
"I run because it is not I."

And he was off again. "The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me" (Gal. 2:20-note). That is our standard, and so in all our behavior in the use of the body we are thus to glorify Him. (H A Ironside Expository Commentary)

And finally, here is the statement I read at the end of study.  Several of you asked for it: (from home.snu.edu/~hculbert/commit.htm)

I'm a part of the fellowship of the unashamed. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I'm a disciple of His and I won't look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still.

My past is redeemed. My present makes sense. My future is secure. I'm done and finished with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, mundane talking, cheap living, and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don't have to be right, or first, or tops, or recognized, or praised, or rewarded. I live by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience, lift by prayer, and labor by Holy Spirit power.

My face is set. My gait is fast. My goal is heaven. My road may be narrow, my way rough, my companions few, but my guide is reliable and my mission is clear.

I will not be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded or delayed.

I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice or hesitate in the presence of the adversary. I will not negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won't give up, shut up, or let up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, and preached up for the cause of Christ.

I am a disciple of Jesus. I must give until I drop, preach until all know, and work until He comes. And when He does come for His own, He'll have no problems recognizing me. My colors will be clear!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Living with a Gospel Awareness

"…that which is known about God is evident within them…"
Romans 1:19

CSI had an ongoing storyline this fall that culminated recently in an episode where two fathers were contrasted.  One father, whose daughter was kidnapped by a serial killer, was forced to act on behalf of the killer to save his daughter.  The other father made the choice to use his own daughter as bait to catch the killer.  He willingly put his daughter's life at risk, with her permission, I might add, to put an end to this man's killing spree.

In the end, the first father (who was a police officer, as well) was sent to prison and the second father was praised, as his sacrifice paid off and the killer was caught.  Well…actually he wasn't caught but he was identified and escaped, but I'm pretty sure they'll get him…so the story goes on…

Here's my point today - the gospel is everywhere.  Show me a good superhero movie and I'll show you a world who cannot save itself but needs a Savior.  Our movies and TV shows are filled with helpless characters who need saving.  And then there's the news - the brokenness of this world is the main storyline and occasionally a hero is exalted, though much of our news still needs a Savior.  We look to government or the police to swoop down and bring justice, but too often it falls short.

I just read a news report of a man in Georgia who was at a creek with his 9 year old son and heard the cries of a 4 year old girl.  He dove in the creek to save her and hit his head on the bottom, cracking his spine and immediately paralyzing his legs and one arm.  He was still able to save the girl and now a week later, he passed away in the hospital from complications.  Terribly sad story but in it we see sacrificial love - the helpless needing a willing savior and the savior, giving his life for the helpless.

The gospel is everywhere - look for it daily and you will see it.

One of the criticisms of Christianity is that the Father gave His Son - some have said, what kind of father would do that?  I've heard God accused of "cosmic child abuse."  But when we watched that CSI episode, the father who was willing to use his child as a lure for the killer, fully knowing the risks, he was hailed as the hero, rather than the father who protected his child.  It's a crazy world we live in, right?

Friends, I truly believe that the gospel basics are sown into our hearts.  Like King Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 3, God has set eternity in the hearts of men. Deep down we know there is a God, we know He has standards, we know we don't meet them and we long for a savior.  It's the plot line for much of our entertainment.  So my challenge to you is to open your eyes and look for the gospel in everyday life.  When you do this, you will be surprised where it shows up…and remember, this longing is only filled in Jesus, so when you meet broken people in the midst of a gospel crisis, point them to the perfect Savior who will never let them down, miss His cue or fail at rescuing them.  

Monday, January 26, 2015

Thoughts vs Prayers

"The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much."
James 5:16

Just a quick note today - I was working on dinner and had FOXNEWS on this morning, and much of the coverage is the big blizzard that is hitting the east coast later today.  The anchor was explaining that this storm not only affects the 50 million people in its path, but the rest of our country and potentially the world, considering 1700 flights have already been cancelled which throws off travel worldwide.  At the end of her segment, the anchor looked into the camera and said, "Your thoughts for America are appreciated."


Thoughts or prayers?  Do our thoughts affect the heart of God?  What a strange comment.  Let's say I am in Paris, sipping some hot chocolate at a street cafe and my thoughts turn to the blizzard.  Does that do anyone any good?

I think you get my point.  I am not saying that we can pray the storm away, but I am saying that God hears the prayers of righteous men.  Not only are there many believers on the east coast, but there are 50 million image bearers who are going to be affected by this blizzard.  Lives will be lost, power will be out, there will be shortages of food and kids will not be in school.  Flights will still be cancelled and all travel will be inconvenienced. I heard this morning that crews from Michigan are already on their way to help with the power outages.  These are but a few of the consequences of a major storm like this, and who knows how long these difficulties will last?

We must pray for our country. We must ask God to be merciful and to protect the people, restore the power, provide the help, and minimize the suffering from this storm.  It's not that we deserve His grace, but He loves us and wants to hear our prayers.

So friends, stop thinking about it and please pray.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Power of Underestimating

"Or do you think lightly the riches 
of His kindness and tolerance and patience, 
not knowing that the kindness of God 
leads you to repentance?"
Romans 2:4

John MacArthur in his commentary on Romans says that self-righteous people make two mistakes - they underestimate the heights of God's standards and the depths of their sin.  In other words, they think too highly of themselves and too little of God.

This past lesson in Romans we were confronted with a question about God's all-powerfulness, His love and His goodness. The question was posed to one of our women at Harvest in regards to a horrific crime forced upon an 8 year old girl, how can God be all-powerful or even good if something like this happens?  

Really bad things happen every day, and there are definitely bad things that are worse than others.  A dishonest "I'm fine" pales in comparison to rape and murder, right?  All of these bad things fall on the sin scale - it comes in all shapes and sizes.  Lies, murder, gossip, envy, arrogance, untrustworthy, unloving - it's a long list (Romans 1:28-32) but we've got to own it.  So, yeah, bad things happen every day - some because of us and some to us - all of it sin.

In addition to sin, there are also bad things on the "Life is Hard" scale - accidents, droughts, illnesses, starvation, down-sizing, suffering and storms - things that make life broken but are not necessarily directly connected to a sinful act.  We have to accept the fact that these things are results of our sin, however.  In God's perfect created world, car accidents and cancers weren't in the design.  But sin has affected all of life - Romans 8:22 tells us that all creation groans in the pains of sin and longs to be restored to its original state.  All life suffers under the weight of man's sin.

But when bad things happen our first question tends to be, Where was God?  Ding, ding, ding!  The Underestimation Machine just went off.  Or when we are cornered by that old high-school-friend-turned-atheist with a really hard question, we begin to wonder, Why did God let that happen?  Ding, ding, ding!  Or when ISIS beheads another kidnapped reporter, we cry out, God, why?  Ding, ding...ding.

Friends, God is not the author of sin…we are.  He has also placed the care of this world in our hands. As image bearers of God, we have been not only given the task of stewarding the physical world and cleaning up the messes our sin has caused, but also the task of bringing the evil we brought into this world to justice.  When we point our finger at God and blame Him for "bad things", we are underestimating the depths of our sin and the heights of His holiness.

Does God answer to us?  The world would say yes (ding) and they have already arrested, tried and convicted Him.  But when we demand answers of God, we are humanizing the Almighty (ding).  We are bringing Him down to our level (ding) and demanding performance and explanation of Him (ding) which can readily be found if we turn our gaze inward.  The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked - this is the same heart that accuses God and denies responsibility.

Oh, friends, let us not take for granted the kindness, tolerance and patience of our holy God! When we mourn over sin, I get it - we want justice!  The scriptures guarantee that justice is coming but in our haste to see it, we are neglecting to see God's kindness in salvation towards man.  He is working in and through the brokenness of life to draw men to Himself. Do we forget that had justice been immediately poured out on our own sin that salvation would not have occurred?  Had Adam and Eve dropped dead in the garden, all life would have ended.  But God, being rich in mercy because of the great love with which He loved us, when we were dead in our sin made us alive Christ - let us not forget His drawing, His patience and His tolerance of our sin that brought us to repentance, let alone the price He paid for that sin.

The world underestimates God and sin - it is a powerful tool of Satan, for if the world would look realistically at both, the results would be devastating to the enemy.  Let us not live self-righteous lives who judge others, as well as God - but let us humbly and graciously live in the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and let us immerse ourselves in the Word of God so that we may be able to answer the questions of those who are lost, pointing them to the truth of Jesus.