Keepin’ It Balanced

This has been a very full week for me… and it’s only Wednesday morning! Sometimes when things get busy, I tended to get unbalanced. No, I don’t mean I’m losing my mind! I mean I tend to hyperfocus on some things, and almost lose sight of other things. 

One thing I always make time for is my Bible reading time. So as I was reading Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians, I quickly spotted the balance Paul called us to:

  • Watch for God and stay occupied.
  • Be aware of evil but not obsessed with it.
  • Be sensitive but not reactionary.
  • Keep an eye on current events and balance them with Scripture.
  • Pray for yourself and pray for others.
  • Be busy but not a busybody.
  • Work hard and trust God.
  • Warn a brother that’s in error and continue to love him.

Ah, yes, I needed that! I hope it helps you too.

Nicest Of Compliments

On Sunday my amazing church took some time to expression their appreciation to me. It was very humbling and gratifying to hear how God has allowed me to invest into the lives of such wonderful people.

After the service I was munching on some cake and talking with some folks. I approached one lady in our church to ask about a situation in her life. It turns out that the situation I was asking about was one of those “tip of the iceberg” things. She then proceeded to unload all of the frustrations she’s been carrying around over the past couple of weeks.

It was nice hearing the kind words of my congregations, but this lady’s rant (that was her word for it) was one of the nicest compliments!

Why do I say this? Because she felt comfortable enough to lose the mask, drop the pose, and be real! 

Read the Psalms and you will see how many times the psalmists let loose in God’s presence. They tell God how difficult things have been, how many bad guys are out to get them, and how rotten they feel. They unload all of these raw emotions in His presence, and that is the first step toward receiving God’s healing.

In the New Testament, Christians are encouraged to bear one another’s burdens, but that’s awfully hard to do if we keep our burdens to ourselves.

Church should be the safest place for us to unload the burdens we are carrying! That’s why I felt like I received such an amazing compliment when this precious lady felt secure enough to share what was really going on.

I pray that you have a church or Christian friends with whom you can unload your over-taxing burdens. And I pray that you can be the church where others feel safe enough to trust you with their burdens.

Sola Christo

Sola Christo means that it is by Christ’s work alone are we saved. We must get this firmly in our minds, and be aware of anything which reduces Christ, augments Christ, or replaces Christ. 

I don’t believe in studying cults (the counterfeit). Instead I study the Real, the Authentic, the One and Only. I want to know Jesus so well, that I can easily spot a counterfeit.

God is Spirit (John 4:24)

Jesus is God made flesh (John 1:14)

God is invisible; Jesus is the visible representation of the Godhead (1 Timothy 1:17; Colossians 1:15; Isaiah 9:6)

There’s no way to the Father but through Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5-6)

Jesus wasn’t created; He is Creator (John 1:1-3)

Jesus isn’t a greater angel; He is God (Philippians 2:6)

Jesus isn’t a superior human being; He became a human to save us (Philippians 2:7-8)

Jesus did have a physical body (Luke 24:39)

Jesus did feel pain, experience emotion, wrestle with temptation; get tired and hungry (Matthew 4:2; Matthew 26:38; Hebrews 4:15)

Jesus actually physically died on the Cross and was actually physically resurrected (1 Peter 3:18; 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, 12-28)

Jesus is fully Man and fully God without diluting either of them (Matthew 3:16-17)

Jesus is…

Creator

Sustainer

Savior 

Redeemer

King

Judge

Lord

That’s my King!

The Height Of Arrogance

Warning: this post may step on your toes.

We have to find out God’s methods, not try to get God to approve our methods. (Oswald Chambers)

Pastor, are you telling God what your church is going to do, and then asking God to bless your efforts?

Sadly, many churches innocently slide into this mode. But watch out: this is the height of arrogance!

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you know how to reach your community, or organize your church, or even accurately select your next sermon. You can’t do it!

But God can!

He knows your community and your church better than you do. So try a better approach by starting with humility.

Don’t tell God what you’re going to do and then ask Him to bless your plans. Instead ask God what He is already blessing, and then go do that.

Thursdays With Oswald—My Standard Of Conduct

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

My Standard Of Conduct

     Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 5:20)

     The practical outcome of these words is astonishing; it means that my standard of moral conduct must exceed the standards of the most moral, upright man I know who lives apart from the grace of God. …Instead of our Lord lowering the standards of our moral conduct, He pushes it to a tremendous extreme. We have not only to do right things, but our motives have to be right, the springs of our thinking have to be right; we have to be so unblameable that God Himself can see nothing to censure in us. 

From Biblical Psychology

There are some very moral people in the world, but their morality is of their own design, and not the morality that comes from a relationship in God’s grace (i.e. just like the first century Pharisees). I cannot try to match their moral lifestyle, because my morality will not be God-centered.

My thoughts have to be perfectly moral. My thoughts about how I’m going to behave must be God pleasing. This prayer of David needs to be my prayer as well if my thoughts and conduct are to be unblameable in God’s sight—

How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults. Keep Your servant from deliberate sins! Don’t let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to You, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:12-14)

No Competition In Church

What great words from A.W. Tozer!

It is too bad that anything so obvious should need to be said at this late date, but from all appearances, we Christians have about forgotten the lesson so carefully taught by Paul: God’s servants are not to be competitors, but co-workers…. A local church, as long as it is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, cannot entertain the psychology of competition. When it begins to compete with another church, it is a true church of God no longer; it has voided its character and gone down onto a lower level. The Spirit that indwells it is no longer divine; it is human merely, and its activities are pitched on the plane of the natural…. The Holy Spirit always cooperates with Himself in His members. The Spirit-directed body does not tear itself apart by competition. The ambitions of the various members are submerged in the glory of the Head, and whatever brings honor to the Head meets with the most eager approval of the members. We should cultivate the idea that we are co-workers rather than competitors. We should ask God to give us the psychology of cooperation. We should learn to think of ourselves as being members in particular of one and the same body, and we should reject with indignation every suggestion of the enemy designed to divide our efforts.

As Tozer said, it is too bad that we have to be reminded of the fact that the church should never be in competition with itself. It make me appreciate all the more the relationship the churches in Cedar Springs have with each other!

My Part

The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy—

…God our Savior, Who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4).

And we all say, “Yes!!” Then I quickly ask, “So what’s my part in this?”

The quick and easy answer springs to my mind, “I have to tell others about Jesus!” This is true—and it is needed—but this is NOT what Paul says here.

Did you notice the ellipsis (the …) at the beginning of the verse I quoted above? Here’s the part that comes before—

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, Who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (verses 1-4)

My part in all men coming to a knowledge of the truth is PRAYER. Specifically, prayer for those in authority over us. These prayers translate into an environment where we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.

It’s in this peaceful environment that we are better able to be “a teacher of the true faith” (verse 7).

My part is not to add to the noise.

My part is not to argue my position.

My part is not to protest.

My part is to pray.

I hope you will join me in prayer not only for the upcoming election, but all year-round for those in authority so that all … may come to a knowledge of the truth.

When A Christian Goes To Prison

Special Guest Blogger: Dick Brogden

Over two weeks ago some very good friends and colleagues were arrested by security police. Two men representing two families, and there has been minimal contact. Their wives are still unable to see their husbands after two long weeks. Events like these help us remember and pray through our priorities. We must approach these situations with the long term view in mind.

Emotionally this is very hard to do. When we are in the middle of the situation our priority naturally shifts to the welfare (and in our minds this means the release) of our loved one. I am not so sure God’s priority ever shifts. There are several things more important than the health and comfort and release of the incarcerated.  Let me list some of them:

1)  THE GLORY OF GOD

It is informative how central prison is to the plan of God. Joseph, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, James, Peter, Paul, and many others in Scripture and history all testify to God being glorified in confinement. We remind ourselves with Joseph that it is not about us, and that what “man intended

for evil, God intended for good.” We encourage ourselves in the Pauline Epistles and forget that many of them were written from prison repose.

2)  THE CREDIBILITY OF THE GOSPEL

When followers of Jesus go to prison, it puts the gospel on display. Do we live what we preach? Do we believe what we say? Is God enough? Is Jesus our strong tower? Is the Holy Spirit a comfort? Are these platitudes of the insulated or are they truths burned into our souls by trial? When missionaries suffer well, it sends a message to indigenous believers (who suffer much more than we do) that Jesus is indeed worth suffering for and that we are in solidarity with their difficulty. Suffering well also is a witness to our tormentors. Athanasius insisted that one of the proofs of the resurrection was the joy with which women and children faced physical abuse and death.

3)  THE CHARACTER OF THE PRISONER AND HIS FAMILY

God works in us when we are stripped down, confined, abused, and mistreated. There is a joy in the fellowship of His sufferings. The seldom-experienced (for we fear the process) reward of prison and persecution is unimaginable intimacy with Jesus, which delights our soul. Tales from the released surprise us as they pine for the good old days of the cement cell because Jesus’ presence was unmitigated and pristine. God also works in the hearts of spouses and children in these admittedly painful times, if we let Him.

All the above are more important than the health and release of the captive. This is not callous, this is Christ. It is not about us and it is not about our security. Helen Keller—who knew much about being confined—said,

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run that outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.

If we take the short view, we move heaven and earth to see our loved one released. In one sense this is admirable. In another sense, it can be self-serving. When I was arrested some years ago, I appreciated the efforts of those working to free me, but I would have been livid if they pursued my freedom in such a way that affected my longevity in the land (and among the people) I have been called to serve—and die for if necessary. The long term view undergirds the prisoner in his lonely cell. He does not want a frantic, panicked effort to release him. He wants to stay in the country after his release. He does not want external voices to shame the local authorities or force his expulsion … that can be a fate more cruel than lonely prison days.

Those who speak to us from prison say, “We are fine. Jesus is real. We are being upheld by the Holy Spirit and are in sweet communion with the Father. Don’t worry about us. Don’t panic. Don’t rush the process. We are improving our language skills, we have plenty of time to pray, we are witnessing to our captors. We appreciate your efforts, but we beg of you: proceed slowly and respectfully, for our greatest desire is for Jesus to be glorified in the process and to continue exalting Him in this beloved land (if at all possible) even after our release. So if we have to sit here a few extra weeks or months, so be it.”

Time is on the side of the righteous. Let’s remember who really is in prison after all, and let’s take the long term view, let’s endure what we must that THEY may be set free.

And what of the children of the imprisoned? If you are interested, read the letter I wrote to the children of our dear imprisoned friend—children we love as much as we love our own. It is what I want someone to tell my boys if I ever go back to prison or if we ever are asked to lay down our lives for Jesus.

Endless Noise

The Psalmist said it this way, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

The Apostle Paul said, “Study to be quiet” (1 Thessalonians 4:11).

And the prophet Elijah learned that God was not in the big crashing, jarring noises but in “a still small Voice” (1 Kings 19:12).

We are bombarded by noise. Are we missing God in all the noise? When was the last time I was quiet? Quiet enough to hear His still small Voice?

Nearly 80 years ago T.S. Eliot wrote a poem called Choruses From The Rock. Check out this passage—

The endless cycle of idea and action,

Endless invention, endless experiment,

Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;

Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;

Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.

All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,

All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,

But nearness to death no nearer to God.

Where is the Life we have lost in living?

Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?

Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries

Bring us farther from God and nearer to the Dust.

Sola Gratia

Another great thought that the Reformation brought us is sola gratia—salvation is by grace alone.

If you are a Christian you have probably said something like, “I thank God that I’m saved!” This is a wonderful thing, but it’s also an incomplete statement. In order to fully appreciate God’s grace, and in order to have a full testimony for others, we need to work on completing this statement.

We’re saved FROM the punishment of justice.

We’re saved TO eternal life.

We’re saved FOR God’s glory.

But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-7)

—Saved From Death— …it is by grace you have been saved…

—Saved To Eternal Life—…God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus…

—Saved For God’s Glory— …in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace…

You can fully appreciate the incomparable riches of God’s grace when you understand all that your salvation includes: from, to, and for. Look at the incredible testimony of grace that the Apostle Paul had in the from, to, and for thoughts in his statement in 1 Timothy 1:12-17.

That’s the same type of testimony we can all have! Don’t just tell people, “I’m saved!” Tell them how God’s grace saved you from the penalty of your sins, to eternal life in Christ, and for the glory of God.

I hope you can join me next Sunday as we continue this series on the five solas of the Reformation.

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