Winter Snow

Yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent—we have the next 4 weeks to get our hearts ready to welcome the coming of the King of Glory.  A friend shared this song with me and the lyrics and the sound are perfect for this Advent Music Monday!

Our Worship and Our Fears

Tullian Over Thanksgiving, my daughter Casey has been preparing for a CRU small group meeting next week. She wants to talk with her freshman girls about the meaning and importance of worship. 

Because of Casey’s interest and because I have been reading Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by Being Different by Tullian Tchividjian, his blog post on our worship and our fears caught my eye this morning.  I find his writing clear and concise – he said in a few paragraphs what it takes some authors a book to say!

Occupied with Gladness

“Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work–this is a gift of God.
He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.”
  Ecclesiastes 5:19-20 (NIV)

Joy

I am not sure I have ever read this verse.  If not, it sure caught my eye this morning so that I had to read and re-read it. Its message is stunning! The ability to enjoy our work, our lot in life or to experience contentment in our present circumstances is a gift from God—that is, it is a grace from God if you are enjoying your life!  There seems to be no area of living that is not grace enabled!

Packer had me pondering joy as he shared that God’s gift of joy flows from four sources.

First, joy flows from the awareness of being loved.  No one has joy who does not know that there is someone who values, accepts and cares for him or her. When human love disappoints you, go to the cross and become aware again of how much you are loved.

Second, joy flows from accepting one’s situation as good.  People are always fretting about the way things are, wishing they were different, and longing for things to happen that are not likely to happen—these anxious thoughts disqualify you from joy. Ponder that your present circumstance and experiences have passed through the heart of a Sovereign God and been approved for your life as preparation for glory.

Third, joy flows from having something worthwhile. You have something of incomparable worth in a saving relationship with Christ.  Added to this precious gift you have spouse, children, home, hobbies, work,  and friends that make life worth living.  Are you more focused on what you lack rather than on the worthwhile things that you have been given?

Fourth, joy flows from giving something worth giving. If you belong to Christ you possess the one thing that is of supreme worth. Joy abounds as you share what is precious to you.

Joy is like jam – it sticks to you as you spread it. 

 

J.I.Packer, Knowing and Doing the Will of God, Vine Books, 1995, p. 348-9

 

Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.  John 16:24 (ESV)

 

Willing to be made willing

freewill If I could ban one phrase from our language I would ban the phrase “free will.”  This little phrase takes scriptural teaching about our moral responsibility and inability and turns it on its head so that nothing but clouds of confusion remain.

The Bible teaches that our wills were irreparably bent away from God’s will at the time of Adam’s fall – that sin has so tainted all our faculties that apart from God’s grace, we are unable – yet responsible to will what God wills.  Nevertheless, in endless Sunday school discussions the last word that hangs in the air as an answer for the hard questions is, “Well, it is because God gave us free will”.

With this frustration in mind, I was grateful for Will Metzger’s insights as he made a “Top Ten Reasons Christians Believe in Free Will” list.  It was his hope that it would help Christians pinpoint their own reluctance to surrender their wills to God’s control.

10. A desire to hold humans responsible for actions

9. Confusion of the philosophical (nonscriptural) concept of free will with “human responsibility”

8. A lack of emphasis on the holiness, righteousness and justice of God

7. Encounters with Christians who play intellectual games about the sovereignty of God without lovingly living this truth

6. The display of outward morality by many non-Christians

5. Dislike for the alternative, which seems to make God responsible for our sin, or even the author of it

4. The concept that the ability to choose Jesus is necessary for doing evangelism

3. A human concept of God’s love that leads to sentimentalism and me-centeredness

2. Neglect by pastors and authors to emphasize the importance of theology and the avoidance of teaching the so-called controversial issues

1. A reluctance to allow God to be totally sovereign

Will Metzger, Tell the Truth, IVP Books, 2002, p. 125

Agassi and Atonement

andre Last week I watched the 60 Minutes interview with Andre Agassi and rather than being shocked by his admissions of meth use, of not wanting to marry Brooke Shields or hating to play tennis professionally — I was heart sick saddened. Seriously, who can be “shocked” by anything a celebrity says anymore after all we have heard from the likes of Monica Lewinsky, Mackenzie Phillips, Jodie Sweetin, Brittany Spear’s Mother, Valerie Bertinelli, Marsha Brady, Anne Heche and even Barbara Walters?

There has been such endless vulgar “true” confession monologue in the public arena that we are all immune to being shocked.  What saddened me with Andre was that here was one more celebrity who thinks that they can find “atonement” by spilling their guts to the public. The truth is that now all their muck has been spilled on everyone else and rather than finding atonement we all now share in the filth of those confessions.

Here are Agassi’s own words:

WSJ: One of the themes of the book is that you didn’t want the limelight. You’ve settled into a life outside of tennis. Why put yourself in the spotlight again?

Mr. Agassi: I think one is always tempted to take the easy road and I certainly understood the cost that this would come with because I understood my process. I knew I couldn’t just go halfway up this road. But anything worthwhile in life comes with work and risk. This was part atonement, as well. I had something that most people don’t get, which is a second chance at my life. Everyday has been a form of atonement. And this book is that. 

Jim Chairusmi, Wall Street Journal, November 14, 2009

imageThe word atonement means “to effect reconciliation” more specifically it references a broken union that needs to be restored or an ideal union that needs to be realized.  In reading Hebrews this morning I was struck by how the Scripture clarifies that the broken union that needs reconciling is not between me and my fellow man but first me and the God who created me.

I was also struck with the truth that atonement is not something that we can do for ourselves. These words if trusted would end Andre’s futile conscience cleansing effort of seeing every day as another day that he has to work for atonement. 

In Christ, this once for all work has already been done!  His completed work is the trophy of life.

14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance–now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. ..
28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
   Hebrews 9:14-15, 28 (NIV)

Remembering God

image“What one thing about God in Christ speaks directly into today’s trouble? …

Just as we don’t change all at once, so we don’t swallow all of truth in one gulp.

We are simple people. You can’t remember ten things at once. Invariably, if you could remember just ONE true thing in the moment of trial, you’d be different. Bible “verses” aren’t magic.

But God’s words are revelations of God from God for our redemption. When you actually remember God, you do not sin. The only way we ever sin is by suppressing God, by forgetting, by tuning out his voice, switching channels, and listening to other voices.

When you actually remember, you actually change. In fact, remembering is the first change.”

– David Powlison

Our hearts the Idol Factory

image  “They went after false idols and became false, and they followed the nations that were around them, concerning whom the Lord had commanded them that they should not do like them.” 2 Kings 17:15

Since attending the Advance ‘09 conference in June, I have been thinking about idolatry and trying to identify the idols that claim the affections of modern believers. These quotes have been helpful to my thinking.

“Idolatry is the most discussed problem in the Bible and one of the most powerful spiritual and intellectual concepts in the believer’s arsenal.  Yet for Christians today it is one of the least meaningful notions and is surrounded by ironies.  Perhaps this is why many evangelicals are ignorant of the idols in their lives…Contemporary evangelicals are little better at recognizing and resisting idols than modern secular people are…There can be no believing communities without an unswerving eye to the detection and destruction of idols”

Os Guiness & John Seel

imageAn idol is not simply a statue of wood, stone or metal; it is anything we love and pursue in place of God, and can also be referred to as a ‘false god’ or a ‘functional god.’ In biblical terms, an idol is something other than God that we set our hearts on, that motivates us, that masters or rules us, or that we serve.”  Luke 12:29, 1 Corinthians 10:6, 1 Corinthians 4:5, Ps. 119:133, Matt. 6:24

Ken Sande

“There is always a reason for sin.  Under our sins are idolatrous desires…Sin isn’t only doing bad things, it is more fundamentally making good things into ultimate things.  Sins is building your life and meaning on anything, even a very good thing more than God.  Whatever we build our life on will drive us and enslave us.  Sin is primarily idolatry.”

Tim Keller

“A triune God could never be a God of human invention. Our idols, our made up gods, are monads – self centered autonomous deities, a bit like bigger versions of us really, a million miles away from the true, and stunningly beautiful, three-personed, eternally loving God.”

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