Archive for July, 2010

The Hammer and the Chisel

Watched a great movie tonight entitled “The Heart of Texas” It is a great work on forgiveness and the life of suffering and tragedy that often times besets the believer. In the movie is a wonderful quote by A.W.Tozer. I share it with you praying that it may speak to your heart as it has mine.

Piles of Ashes

Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. –Hebrews 12:11

If God has singled you out to be a special object of His grace you may expect Him to honor you with stricter discipline and greater suffering than less favored ones are called upon to endure….

If God sets out to make you an unusual Christian He is not likely to be as gentle as He is usually pictured by the popular teachers. A sculptor does not use a manicure set to reduce the rude, unshapely marble to a thing of beauty. The saw, the hammer and the chisel are cruel tools, but without them the rough stone must remain forever formless and unbeautiful.

To do His supreme work of grace within you He will take from your heart everything you love most. Everything you trust in will go from you. Piles of ashes will lie where your most precious treasures used to be.


Watch this movie – cry, grow, learn and love…I dare you!

…following…

John Piper – The Christian Life is Marked by Suffering, Not Prosperity

Dont know how Joel Osteen would respond -but I think I know how Jesus would!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

There is a move afoot in evangelical Christianity that recognizes the call of the gospel and the power of the gospel as being central to our well being as Christ followers. For years we have heard that God has a wonderful plan for our life, and although this may have some reality to it, we have certainly interpreted incorrectly. What we have said is that God has a wonderful plan for my life and that plan is that I be peaceful and happy and all the fluffy good stuff that comes with it. NOT SO! Gods plan has never changed. Gods plan is HIS PLAN. His plan is simple. We are called to make disciples of the Nations. Our convenience and well being is of no consequence. His glory and His renown are to be our only desire. A very different message that is being preached by the masses today. May God grant us the desire and the willingness to take up our cross, forsake our own life, and FOLLOW Him…no matter what…no matter where…

…following…

God’s plan versus my good intentions

This is an article I posted to our church family at FBC Garfield. Although not directly related to christian suffering, it does challenge us to rethink some of the motifs of our “Americanized” Christianity.

God has really been working in my life here of late. No, I really mean it! I am talking ministry direction type stuff. Have you ever been to a place where God has begun to show you something and you say – uh oh…I am not sure about this. Now I do not mean to imply I am fixing to pack up and go to the jungles of the Philippines or go back to seminary and pursue more education. It is nothing quite like that. Yet still, God is showing me some remarkable truths about who we are to be and how we are to be as believers. If we are to model the life of Jesus, and we are, then can we honestly look at the western church with all of her modernity and convenience and honestly say that Jesus has called us to pursue these things?, that these icons of western christianity are to be our main focus.

Now do not get me wrong, I am not about to suggest we turn off the AC and break out the sack-clothes! I am however asking some serious questions about what our focus is to be as believers. I was raised spiritually in a church growth culture. I cut my pastoral teeth on the premise that bigger is better, programs are to direct us, organization is everything and that corporate and structural improvement will be the automatic outgrowth of spiritual maturity and formation in the lives of our people. I was wrong…let me say that again…I was wrong! This kind of thinking presumes that God is obligated to bless our motives and or good intentions, no matter how noble. This is simply not the case. It has caused us in many ways to exchange the good for Gods best…in short, we have sold out cheap.

There are many things we do in the name of Christ which are well intended and born out of proper motivation, but are they beneficial and do they lead to the glory of God and the gospel being sent to the nations? David Platt, author of “Radical”, states that the only thing God will bless is His plan. He is not obligated one iota to bless that which we formulate in our mind. What does all this mean for us at FBC? I am not sure…but I know this; It is my desire to lead our church to pursue God’s plan and God’s way and not so much Gods blessing. I want to be blessed, don’t get me wrong, but I want the blessing to be from God and not my own self effort.

I pray we will order our ministry in the days to come to not so much model our good intentions and motives, yet better, to follow Gods plan. His plan is simple…MAKE DISCIPLES OF ALL NATIONS. The ‘Great Commission’ is not the ‘good suggestion’. It is however Gods plan for His people to literally expend themselves in obedience to this wonderful mission. May our ministry and indeed our own personal lives model and be a picture of this very thing. It may challenge many of our ‘sacred cows’ and cause us to examine much of our habitual routines…but my prayer is that it will also cause us to pursue God plan…and not simply that which we think is beneficial, no matter how well motivated we may be…

Now, let us pray…

…following…

Set aside to suffer

A great montage from a message by John Piper on the Christian and suffering. Could it be that the American dream and the prosperity gospel preached and believed by so many is robbing the gospel of its power and the church of her place in our culture.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

 

Piper does an excellent job in demonstrating that scripture is filled with the call to suffer by those who are followers of Jesus Christ. My next post will deal with several of the texts that Piper referred to.

…following…

The place of suffering in the life of the follower of Christ

A while back I made the statement that at times ministry could be tough. Well it can; however, it is not that ministry itself is tough,yet often times the simple circumstances of ministry.

Ministry in its basic component is demonstrating the life of Jesus to people throughout the stages and events of their lives. There are often times that involve seasons of suffering in the lives of those you love and serve. I cannot ‘minister’ to people when I myself am not exhibiting Christ likeness in my daily walk and my daily life. They need to see Jesus in me and not me myself, in fact, I really have little to offer. This past week has certainly given me the opportunity to do just that. I am not going to go into it and those close to me will know what I am talking about, but there has simply been many in our church and in my life that are undergoing a time of suffering. Now suffering defined is simply

an individual’s basic effective experience of unpleasantness and aversion associated with harm or threat of harm or pain of some sort.

Suffering however for the Christian, although not necessarily exempt from the above definition, encompasses so much more. Suffering for the follower of Christ is that place where we experience the hurt and pain of life, but for the believer it is always through the shared experience of our Savior. Jesus was a man who suffered. He suffered through the pain of incarnation. He suffered in his life. He was born in a time of great suffering. He suffered from rejection. He suffered in the garden. He suffered at the effects of the thorns and the whip. He suffered with the pain of the nails. He suffered on the cross. He suffered separation from His Father. Jesus was a man of suffering. What is ironic is that through His life of suffering Jesus also was a man of joy. Somehow Jesus in the midst of suffering found a place of joy and peace .

Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.—Hebrews 12:2

I am known for saying, “We are never more like Jesus than when we suffer” and I mean it. However, who in the world WANTS TO SUFFER?  It is like David Crowder said in one of his songs; ‘Everybody wants to go to Heaven, but nobody wants to die’ Amen!

Yet, in many ways I believe the follower of Jesus is called to suffering. I do not believe we go out and find it. I believe it will find us! As I have said, this has been true this past week for me as I have come face to face with suffering in the lives of people who are followers of Jesus Christ. It is my prayer that I have not shrunk from the reality and necessity of it, but that I have helped them take it head on through the love of God, the wisdom of His Word and the fellowship of His people.

My next few posts are going to deal with suffering in the life of the believer. The various aspects it can take and maybe why we in the western church do such a poor job in responding to it. I hope to address suffering in other nations, the persecuted church, and suffering here in America. When I am through I hope we will have a new and fresh approach to suffering in the life of the believer. Suffering, hurt and pain…we do not need to go and find it, however we need to know that eventually, one day, often when it’s least expected… it will find us.

And that’s ok…

…following…

“The King is dead! Long live the King!”

Yesterday vaunted and highly celebrated basketball mega star Lebron James announced that he would depart from Cleveland and take his game to the South beach of Miami and begin playing for the Miami Heat. There, he would be joining fellow superstars Dwyain Wade and Chris Bosh thus forming the nucleus of what many have said will be the team of the century. Lebron’s decision was not about money, but about his desire to win a championship, and in fact many championships, thus solidifying his position as the greatest NBA player ever. In leaving Cleveland where he has played the past seven years, James has left a trail of very disapointed and indeed angry fans. Cav fans feel betrayed, let down, abused and neglected. I will say this about Lebron, no one has garnered the attention and the accolades that this young man has ever in professional sports. Tiger Woods comes close, but that is it. Lebron has been called by many “The King” “King James” “The Chosen One” “The Anointed” and various other titles of royalty and deity.

Now please do not misunderstand me, sports is sports and nicknames are nicknames and I will lose no sleep over the shenanigans of the over hyped, over paid, over scrutinized ‘man children’ that we idolize and worship in our age of modernity. Yet there is a lesson we can learn here. We in our own spiritual walk often times cry out for loyalty yet at the same time attach our selves to what we call ‘the winning team’ and then often squander that which is ‘right’ for that which is convenient.

Just like James, we justify our decisions based upon a very western, self centered, yet also popular and accepted philosophy. James offered this explanation for his decision to leave, thus turning his back on his Cleveland fans. James stated “I made the decision that I thought was best for ME and would make ME happy, at the end of the day I have to be happy with my decision that it is the best choice for ME and my family”. Now again, I do not care where Lebron plays and I must admit that if he would have decided to become a Houston Rocket I would feel very different, (Tongue in cheek) but it does speak to what motivates and guides the majority of us in our decision making process. We are more often than not driven by self centered pragmatism instead of self offering sacrifice. We even teach this to our children and then it is modeled if the lives of their idols. It is simple…”what is in it for me?”

There was another who was called King, Anointed, and Chosen who also was faced with a decision. We are told that His decision was not to take the course of self indulgence or self satisfaction or accomplishment, but to lay aside everything for the sake on another. King Jesus epitomizes loyalty, love, faithfulness and self sacrifice for the good of others at the cost of His own convenience and even life. The Bible tells us that “He who knew no sin became sin for us” Jesus was certainly not concerned with the winning team, or even his own standing or reputation. He lived among beggars and he died between thieves…all so that you and I could live the life of a champion! By that I mean that we would not lose the battle of sin and death but would share in His victory over hell, death and the grave! Paul said it so well in the second chapter of Philippians.

3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature[a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7 but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

In Cleveland Ohio the King is dead…but I say for my life and hopefully yours “LONG LIVE THE KING!”

following…

ps – The Miami Heat will win 3 out of the next 5 NBA Championships, thus in the minds of pontiffs everywhere, justifying the decision of Lebron James. Sleep well Lebron, sleep well.

The Church – Oh how I love her!

It has been a very busy 2 weeks and not a lot of time for original thought. I have borrowed this from the guys over at SBC Today – namely David Worley – good stuff David. – Enjoy!

Here are some one liners from a Pastor named Kevin DeYoung, who is the Pastor of the University Reformed Church in E. Lansing, Michigan. These one liners are great quotes. Read, enjoy, and learn from them. Here they are:

• The Church is Christ’s bride. And why is it that so many people think it is cool to diss Jesus’ girlfriend?
• In this day with so much postmodern squishitude people are hungry to listen to someone winsomely, humbly, wisely, say—with passion and conviction—‘Thus saith the Lord.’
• What will it profit a man if he tries to transform the culture, but loses his own children?
• As long as God is interested in his glory, he will be interested and committed to the local church. He has a vested interest in your church. Nobody loves your church more than God.
• Those of you who have issues with the church, let me warn you that disillusionment can become an idol. You can easily find your identity in being jaded.
• Our generation in particular is prone to radicalism without follow-through. We want to change the world and we have never changed a diaper.
• Can we be the young generation that loves and respects and looks up to the older generation?
• The Church is, in fact, the hope of the world, not because she gets it all right, but because she is a body with Christ for her head. So do not give up on the church. The New Testament knows nothing of churchless Christianity.