Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Great Quote from Dallas Willard

Here is a great quote from Dallas Willard in his book, Divine Conspiracy, which I think accurately describes how many modern "Christians" live.

P. 90 The idea of an all-encompassing, all-penetrating world of God, interactive at every point with our lives, where we can always be totally at home and sage regardless of what happens in the visible dimension of the universe, is routinely treated as ridiculous.
Many people including supposed Christians do not live as if God is real, and that He impact or should impact all aspects of our lives.

Later Willard says,

P. 91 I personally have become convinced that many people who believe in Jesus do not actually believe in God. By saying this I do not mean to condemn anyone, but to cast light on why the lives of professed believers go as they do, and often quite contrary even to what they sincerely intend. 
How do you know if you really believe in God? If you really trust in Jesus?

Ask yourself, "Does God impact my real life?"

Read Isaiah with me

Over the last few weeks I have begun to preach from Isaiah. At the same time I have been reading through Isaiah in my personal time with the Lord. I generally only read one chapter a day, but I am finding it so rich. Isaiah has so many applicable lessons for me. If you come to Harvest, I want to encourage you to read it with me. Write out one (or more) lessons from each chapter.

Here are a few of my notes from the last couple of days.

Today, I read chapter 30
15 For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
“In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength
(Isaiah 30:15 ESV)

I had just prayed for strength when I read this verse. I wrote this note:

Wow I just prayed this. Lord please be my strength. Let m me sit in quiet at your feet.

In chapter 29, this section struck me:

 13 And the Lord said:
“Because this people draw near with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
while their hearts are far from me,
and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men,
14 therefore, behold, I will again
do wonderful things with this people,
with wonder upon wonder;
and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish,
and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.”
15 Ah, you who hide deep from the Lord your counsel,
whose deeds are in the dark,
and who say, “Who sees us? Who knows us
(Isaiah 29:13-15 ESV)

I wrote this in response:

Secrets from God

When we hide our hearts from God, He hides his message from us. Probably rather, when our hearts are far from Him, we won't even hear when He roars! Think of the dwarves in The Last Battle.
That is a reference to a C.S. Lewis book, The Last Battle, where some dwarves are brought into heaven but refuse to believe because the "won't be taken in."

In chapter 28 I read:

14 Therefore hear the word of the Lord, you scoffers,
who rule this people in Jerusalem!
15 Because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death,
and with Sheol we have an agreement,
when the overwhelming whip passes through
it will not come to us,
for we have made lies our refuge,
and in falsehood we have taken shelter”;
16 therefore thus says the Lord God,
 “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion,
a stone, a tested stone,
a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation:
‘Whoever believes will not be in haste
(Isaiah 28:14-16 ESV)

In response I wrote:

A standard
The leaders thought they could make up their own rules, but God had established a standard upon which they will be judged. The same is true now. We think we can make it up as we go along but we eventually run up against reality. 

What is God teaching daily?

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Great God

I have been reading/ praying through a book of Puritan prayers, called Valley of Vision. Here is one that really hit me. I have highlighted several lines in particular that meant a lot to me.


The Great God

O Fountain of All Good

Destroy in me every lofty thought,
     Break pride to pieces and scatter it to the winds,
Annihilate each clinging shred of self-righteousness,
Implant in me true lowliness of spirit,
Abase me to self-loathing and self-abhorrence,
Open in me a found of penitential tears,
Break me, then bind me up;
Thus will my heart be a prepared dwelling 
     for my God;
     Then can the Father take up his abode in me,
     Then can the blessed Jesus come with healing in his touch,
     Then can the Holy Spirit descend in sanctifying grace;
O Holy Trinity, three Persons and one God,
     inhabit me, a temple consecrated to thy glory.
When though are present, evil cannot abide;
In they fellowship is fullness of joy,
Beneath thy smile is peace of conscience,
By the side no fears disturb,
     no apprehension banish rest of mind,
With thee my heart shall bloom with fragrance;
Make me meet, through repentance,
     for thine indwelling.
Nothing exceeds thy power,
Nothing is too great for thee to do,
Nothing too good for thee to give.
     Infinite is thy might, boundless thy love,
     limitless thy grace, glorious they saving name.
Let angels sing for
     sinners repenting,
     prodigals restored,
     backsliders reclaimed,
     Satan’s captives released,
     blind eyes opened,
     broken hearts bound up,
     the despondent cheered,
     the self-righteous stripped,
     the formalist driven from a refuge of lies,
     the ignorant enlightened,
     and saints built up in their holy faith.
I ask great things of a great God.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Sim Gospel

In the computer game Sim City along with many role playing games you can create a second identity and fake world that fits the way you think things should be. I believe that many people want a Sim Gospel. They want to have all the benefits that they think God can give them, such as love, security, meaning, and hope for the future without the perceived negatives such as sin, submission, wrath, repentance, obedience,  etc.

This creates a real danger when sharing with others about Jesus that we fail to share the whole gospel, because some of the gospel is going to make people feel uncomfortable and that in turn makes us feel uncomfortable. Most people do not want to hear about their sin problem and the need for them to repent before a holy God. I know repentance does not make me feel good initially. It is generally easier to believe that the problems in my life and the world around me are the fault of circumstances beyond my control or are cause primarily by someone else's wrong doing.

Also God's wrath and eternal judgment are hard ideas to discuss, but they are true parts of the gospel because that is how serious sin is. We really have rejected God and the good, and unless we repent we will face God's wrath. Now the gospel is good news in that God does not want us to face this wrath and does want the best for us, which means coming into relationship with Him, but we have to understand the negative about ourselves and our condition to truly understand what God is offering.

I have been guilty of sharing a Sim gospel with people and I believe I know some people who have accepted a Sim gospel. These people's lives tend not to be transformed and they fail to become like Jesus because they have never truly repented and submitted their lives to Him. They liked the idea that Jesus loves them unconditionally, but they have never really recognized that their condition without Jesus is truly awful, so they have never wept over their own sin and come to the cross in true repentance.

Recently as I have tried to be more careful in sharing the complete gospel with people I am noticing the resistance to the negative parts. I am getting push back but I have noticed it is not intellectual doubts that are the problem, rather there seems to be an emotional/spiritual barrier. I think this is what scripture means when it talks about the eyes of unbelievers having scales on them. It is not a problem of intelligence or information, rather it is a problem of the will.

My response is to continue to love people so that they can see God's love in action, continue to share the whole gospel, and then pray that the Holy Spirit will break down the barrier so that they can see that God truly is good.

Have you accepted the true gospel or do have you rejected the parts that seem uncomfortable to you? If you have accepted the true gospel, do you share it with others or perhaps do you only share those parts that seem good to others? In the long run we are not doing anyone any good if we let them think that they can have a relationship with God without repenting of their sin and submitting to God.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Faith

Here are two quotes from Joni Erickson Tada's book,  Glorious Intruder.

"Faith, as the a Bible defines it, is a present-tense action. It's taking God's promises and acting on them today. "

" Great faith isn't the ability to believe long and far into the misty future. It's simply taking God at His word and taking the next step."

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Lessons for fathers

I do not claim to have fathering figured out, and I cannot yet be considered fully successful as a Dad because the oldest of my kids is just 12, so how they might turn out is still in question. That being said, I have studied parenting a lot, and I have a great Dad as well, so I wanted to share some lessons for Dads that I have learned and that I try to live out.

1. Give your kids to God, because they do not belong to you anyway.
  • I once heard Dennis Rainey, a family life specialist, say that his goal for his kids was that they become independently dependent on God. I adopted this as my goal as well. This starts with a recognition that while I have a responsibility to love, discipline and teach my kids, they are not really mine in the first place. They were created by God and should be pointed toward him, not me. So this idea helps me to recognize that I cannot keep them and also helps me understand where they should be pointed.
  • Your kids were made by God for God, so point them in his direction, so that they have the best chance to become who he made them to be.
2. Let God change you into the man you should be. 
  • One of the best things you can give your kids is a good example. More than any other person your kids are going to look to you for their priorities in life. If you are consistent, honest, and growing, it is much more likely that your kids will be too. If you love Jesus, it is much more likely that your kids will too. In fact, kids take their first (and sometimes lasting) image of God from their father. If he is loving, kind, and consistent, that is how they will view God. If he is distant, absent, or demanding, that is how they will see God.
  • This is a scary one for me because I know how much I still need to grow, but I am encouraged by my own father who at 77 is still learning and growing and being an example for me.
3. Love their mother.
  • Guys get married and stay married. A loving and long lasting marriage has great benefits for you and your kids. It takes work, but it is worth it. Loving and prioritizing your spouse even over your children is the best thing for your kids. (Ladies this is true for you too.)
  • Even before Traci and I had our 10th anniversary (we have now had our 15th), we were making plans for a trip on our 25th. It is not a question for either of us whether that will happen as long as we both stay healthy and living (and we save enough money!). For us marriage is for life. It has not always been easy and I know it will not always be easy in the future. But for us and for our family, the security of knowing that that person can be trusted to be their when we get home helps our kids have a safe place to develop.
  • I know that for some of you this ideal is not now possible, but we should at least know the right goals toward which we strive.
4. Discipline your kids in love.
  • There are two parts to this one. First, we need to understand that correcting kids is not the opposite of loving them, as much as they may protest and as hard as it is sometimes. Kids need to learn boundaries and if you do not discipline them then they will not learn self-discipline.
  • Second, discipline is not about you. It should not be done out of anger or frustration, but rather out of love and thinking out their needs. For instance, when one of my kids disrespects their mother it drives me crazy and makes me mad, but those emotions should not be my motivation for discipline. The motivation is that it is bad for my child to selfishly disrespect one in authority over them, and so my discipline should focus on helping them see their sin and the harm it is causing. Now that may mean some temporary discomfort for them, but I also talk to them about why it is necessary and what they have done wrong specifically. 
  • If I discipline out of anger, all they see is my anger. What they learn is not how wrong their actions or motives were, but how to avoid Dad's anger. 
  • Admittedly this is a lesson I have failed at a number of times, but God has helped me over the years to be more intentional in my discipline.
5. Be present with your kids.
  • Spend time with your family. Your kids need you more than stuff. If work does not allow you to spend time with your family, change shifts or get another job. If that means you take less pay and have to do with less, then take less pay. It is that important.
  • If you don't like spending time with your kids, do it anyway. You will find that the more you do it the more you will enjoy it.
  • Also, you don't always have to spend time doing their activities. Let them come along with you in your activities. If you have to change a tire or replace a window, let them help. Yes it will take longer, but you will get more accomplished then just changing a tire. You will be building character for yourself and your child.
6. Pray with and for them.
  • This goes back to my first point. Even if you did everything perfect your kids would still make mistakes and get hurt by others in this hard world. Pray for their hearts and character. Life will bring problems, and my prayer is not that my kids will be saved from all problems, but that through them they will learn to trust Jesus more and become more like Him all the time.
  • Your kids will go away and be independent someday (if you have trained them right!), so learn to pray for them because eventually you have to give them into God's hands anyway.
Final thoughts.
  •  If you have gotten this far in this post then you probably know my recent history, namely that my oldest son Micah died of illness last year when he was 11. God recently gave me some comfort in the fact that his life was not a failure nor was my parenting. Micah was a talented, smart, funny young man, who knew Jesus as his savior, and was very loving toward his mother and I and toward others. We miss him terribly, but I know that he lived a life that was more and more being oriented toward Jesus. Finally, I know that the end of this life was not the end of his life. I literally got to be there when Micah went to be with Jesus, so in all the times before when I had prayed to give him to Jesus, I saw the successful conclusion of his young life here. It was successful because the point of this life is not to make something of yourself or to live a long life, but to give yourself to Jesus and Micah had done that. My prayer for my other 4 kids is the same. That they will as long as they have breath give themselves to the God who loves them.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Asking in faith

Today I was reading this,

Matthew 21:18-22 HCSB

Early in the morning,  as He was returning to the city, He was hungry. Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He went up to it and found nothing on it except leaves. And He said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again! ” At once the fig tree withered. When the disciples saw it, they were amazed and said, “How did the fig tree wither so quickly? ” Jesus answered them, “I assure you: If you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you tell this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will be done.   And if you believe, you will receive  whatever you ask for in prayer.”

We are supposed to have faith and to ask in faith, but can we simply ask for anything and expect to receive it? That does not appear to be the case in the rest of scripture.

First faith must transform us, and then our desires will be in line with what the a Lord desires. We will be then asking not based on simple human desires, but desires transformed by the Lord. Further when our request is not met exactly as we expected we will then be able to accept the answer and also to be better able to apprehend what God really had in mind.

The whole idea that we can simply believe hard enough for something that we want and it will be done simply does not square with the hardship faced by people of great faith in the rest of the Bible.

This is confirmed by James who also talks about asking in faith (James 1:5-7, 4:3-4). Here James explains that we do need to ask in faith but that if we ask with the wrong motives we should not expect to receive from the Lord. The more we pray in faith the more we are transformed to be the people God created us to be.

Jesus could have cursed all bad plants that he saw, and he could have healed everyone in the world. Why didn't he? Because he knew this was not the will of his Father in that moment. He also knew that in the end he was going to redeem the earth, so he could allow temporary suffering and temporary fallenness to affect the earth because he knew that greater glory for His father would come in the long run.

When we pray we do not know the whole plan in detail, but we do know that in the end God wins. Therefore as our faith in Him grows we learn to pray with His purposes in mind. For example when we pray for someone who is sick, we want that person not to feel the effects of pain but we do not know the whole picture. So we pray out of the knowledge we have but perhaps God is using that pain to help them trust Him more, or perhaps to also help those around to grow in their faith.

Therefore, I am learning to pray always that God will be glorified in and through the circumstance. I then pray my desire that I think will bring more joy and less pain in the moment. But if God chooses a different path I learn to trust Him that He knows best.

This does not mean that I do not believe He is capable doing what I asked for, but rather that I know ultimately He knows best. God promises not to give us a snake when we ask for fish (Luke 11:11), but this does not mean we always get the fish. At least not right away.

Our faith rests not in getting what we think we need, but in God who gives us what we need!