Broken Hearted Boldness

sad teenage boy with head in hands I had coffee with a friend recently and as we sipped, the conversation veered to a vulnerable place.  With trusting rather than guarded hearts, we began to talk about times when life became emotionally flat rather than joyous.  When life began to feel more like going through the motions than “purpose driven”.  Both of us confessed that these times of dullness came when we sensed that we had “failed” the Lord in some area. Or they came when we were satisfied to describe our sin rather than to be broken heartedly repentant of it. It is a struggling–defeated place to live.

With that conversation still swirling in my mind, I found so much help this morning when in my quiet time I read the following words from John Piper’s sermon “How to Deal with the Guilt of Sexual Failure for the Glory of Christ and His Global Cause”.

The sense of failure that I struggle with is not of a sexual kind… and that phrase was included so that you would not be distracted from the real help that is in this teaching on how to deal with failure of any kind!

“Listen to these amazing words. Mark them. Memorize them. Use them whenever Satan tempts you to throw away your life on trifles because that’s all you’re good for.

Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication. (Micah 7:8-9)

This is what victory looks like the morning after failure. Meditate on it long and hard when I am gone. Learn to take your theology and speak like this to the devil or anyone else who tells you that Christ is not capable of using you mightily for his global cause. Here is what you say:

“Rejoice not over me, O my enemy.” You make merry over my failure? You think you will draw me into your deception? Think again.

“When I fall, I shall rise.” Yes, I have fallen. And I hate what I have done. I grieve at the dishonor I have brought on my king. But hear this, O my enemy, I will rise. I will rise.

“When I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.” Yes, I am sitting in darkness. I feel miserable. I feel guilty. I am guilty. But that is not all that is true about me and my God. The same God who makes my darkness is a sustaining light to me in this very darkness. He will not forsake me.

“I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me.” O yes, my enemy, this much truth you say, I have sinned. I am bearing the indignation of the Lord. But that is where your truth stops and my theology begins: He—the very one who is indignant with me—he will plead my cause. You say he is against me and that I have no future with him because of my failure. That’s what Job’s friends said. That is a lie. And you are a liar. My God, whose Son’s life is my righteousness and whose Son’s death is my punishment, will execute judgment for me. For me! FOR me! And not against me.

“He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication.” This misery that I now feel because of my failure, I will bear as long as my dear God ordains. And this I know for sure—as sure as Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is my punishment and my righteousness—God will bring me out to the light, and I will look upon his righteousness, my Lord and my God.

John Piper, “How to Deal with the Guilt of Sexual Failure for the Glory of Christ and His Global Cause”,  Passion 07’ Conference, January 4, 2007

2014 Women’s Conference

overview-bannerRecently, a pastor at our church shared that if we had never studied the book of Nehemiah— we were missing something enriching to our souls. The next day I ran across the promotion for this year’s Gospel Coalition Conference for Women. The topic for this year is Nehemiah and a new Bible study written by Kathleen Nielsen will be introduced.

As a woman in ministry, it is so encouraging that the Gospel Coalition is providing these annual conferences to strengthen and equip women in the Word so that they may minister in the Body of Christ.

Deceitful Senses

Isaac blesses JacobWhen rereading the familiar Genesis 27 story of Jacob’s attempt to steal the firstborn blessing from Isaac, I was struck with how clearly Scripture portrays the fervor and futility of self will.

Isaac, fearful that he will die without passing on the blessing that ensured the destiny of the firstborn, hatches a plan to subvert God’s will.

He was determined to interrupt God’s plan to have the blessing fall on the younger Jacob and so substituted his own plan to bless Esau.  The story highlights how easily we yield to self determination and are deceived by the very senses that we seek to satisfy.

Isaac’s blindness made him desperate to verify that the son who entered his tent was Esau.  It becomes clear to the reader that Isaac is captive to his own deceit.

If he calls for a witness who has eyes to see, his plan will be exposed—he chooses to rely on his senses and this heightens the readers understanding that Isaac is more than physically blind.

  • “Come near so I can touch you…” (21)  -  touched hair and believed it was Esau

  • “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau” (22) – rejected his accurate sense of hearing in favor of what he had touched.
  • “Bring me some of your game to eat.” (25) — relying on his sense of taste to determine if this was really Esau.
  • “Come here, my son, and kiss me” (26) – sought a kiss in order to get close enough to use the sense of smell to see if this was really Esau.

Isaac’s senses failed him.  He was the one who was deceived and he inadvertently blessed the son that God intended to bless.

What are the lessons that God teaches through the 4 characters in this narrative?

  • Isaac- “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (Prov. 19:21)
  • Rebekah- wrong methods never accomplish right ends!
  • Jacob- blessings are given by God not gained by deceit!
  • Esau- pleasure of sin is never worth the price we pay for it!

Walking like a Christian

0107WRK13 In Ephesians, the Apostle Paul is intent on helping Christians learn how to walk!  This skill is something that we do without thinking.  In fact, it is something we all think we mastered around the first year of life. Paul seems to think we need to be re-taught.

When you take a walk it is with the intent of being steady and consistent in your steps—not too fast, not too slow. You keep up the pace mile after mile. This image is the image Paul had in mind as he instructs us to think of the Christian life as a new walk.

    • “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world…” (2:2)
    • “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  (2:10)
    • “walk in a manner worthy of your calling” (4:1)
    • “you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds” (4:17)
    • “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us…” (5:1)
    • "for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Walk as children of the light.”  (5:8)
    • “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise.”  (5:15)

Walking doesn’t seem to be as easy as it once was.  Paul’s thoughts make me know why the hymn writer wrote “Just a Closer Walk with Thee.” 

Renovation usurped by Restoration

“One day in the eighteenth year of his kingship, with the cleanup of country and Temple complete, King Josiah sent Shaphan …to renovate The Temple of God.”  2 Chronicles 34:8

  The story of King Josiah is such a soul refreshing read.  This young king began ruling at the age of 8 years old.  If he had lived in our time we would say he did not grow up in a Christian home.  In fact, his grandfather, King Manasseh, and his father, Amon, both modeled depraved, evil lifestyles before his eyes. Yet, Scripture records that Josiah by the grace of God "did what was right in the eyes of the Lord".

josiah_ The way Josiah "did what was right" was through a personal spiritual resolve to clean up and renovate the land that he ruled. That clean up included tearing down all the repulsive idols that had been built in rebellion to the living God. Beyond that, he desired to renovate the dwelling place of God–the Temple in Jerusalem.

It makes me smile when reading Scripture get caught up in the story of man–the thoughts and plans of characters are unfolded and it is easy to think that you are reading the real story.  It is then that God grabs you through the text and tells a greater story!  In this account God weaves His storyline right in with Josiah’s surpassing the plans of man that can only accomplish renovations–fixing up external ruins. God on the other hand is shown to be on the march to do His favorite work–He is pressing inward to the heart of the king He is accomplishing an internal restoration of the soul!

Josiah was earnestly seeking to show his love for God by fixing the Temple— a building that represented his God. God displayed His love for Josiah by allowing him to uncover a tool that goes beyond renovation –one that is powerful in the redemptive work of restoration!

During the Temple renovation, Josiah’s workmen "discovered" the Book of the Law.  Scripture is clear that it was "found" which highlights the fact that God’s people were no longer people of the Word–His Word –His agent of restoration had been lost to His people.

a_lost_book_found When Josiah heard the Word of God read aloud he was horror struck!  He realized how far his heart was from the heart of God.  His plans for renovation were dropped and he fell humbly before God in repentance.  That is the picture of devotion to  God–our external works are not the goal of God –restored hearts are.

My mother has a saying that she repeats often, "What you don’t know can’t hurt you."  The truth is, God reveals in this story of Josiah that what His people don’t know can indeed hurt them.  He has given the gift of His revealed Word–the communication of His heart–the owner’s manual for living. Losing or ignoring the manual results in the saddest waste of life as it was intended to be lived. Listen to God’s commentary on all of this as He spoke to Josiah.

"Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the LORD, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you heard: Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before God when you heard what he spoke against this place and its people, and because you humbled yourself before me and tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you, declares the LORD. Now I will gather you to your fathers, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place and on those who live here.’”  2 Chronicles 34:26-28

Come restore your people again O Lord.  Guide us to discover your living and active Word.  Repentance and Restoration what a good way to live. AMEN

Christ Colored Lens

two-eyes (Small)Recently, I studied the Book of Hebrews with a group of women in my church.  Sometimes, when you lead a study you forget to reflect and think personally about how God’s Word is changing you.

This morning as I reflected on the 13 chapters of Hebrews, I realized God has taught me to look at my circumstances, my culture, and my future through Christ colored lens.

Here are some of the glorious truths that are newly precious to my heart:

  • God speaks to us through His Son Jesus (1:2)
  • Jesus represents God exactly (1:3)

christJesus provides the solution for my sin problem (1:3)

  • Jesus is supreme over all that is created (1:2, 4; 2:8)
  • Jesus authored–or pioneered my salvation (2:10;5:8-9)
  • Ignoring Jesus is ignoring salvation (2:3, 10)
  • Jesus is making me holy and is not ashamed of me (2:11; 10:14)

Jesus’ death defeated the devil and freed me from the fear of death! (2:14-15)

Jesus’ incarnation made it possible for Him to become a merciful and faithful High Priest who can help when I am tempted and in need. (2:17; 4:14-16)

  • Jesus is my destination and the source of perfect rest. (4:2-7)
  • The Word of God is my guidebook to spiritual maturity.  By constant use it trains me to distinguish good from evil  (4:12; 5:14;6:1)
  • Jesus is my anchor in heaven–firm and secure (6:19)
  • Jesus is praying for me day after day–how can I fail? (7:25)
  • Jesus is my guarantee that God’s standard of perfection has been met. (7:18-22)
  • Because of Jesus, my sins are remembered no more–ever–ever–ever (8:12;9:15)
  • Jesus has written His law on my mind and heart so that I am more inclined to care about what He cares about. (8:10)
  • Jesus’ sacrifice is the basis of my service — even when my conscience wants to accuse me of unworthiness (9:14;10:22)
  • With Jesus, believing is seeing! (10:39-11:1)
  • Jesus (Small)Jesus’ indwelling Spirit gives me "eyes" to see and believe the reality and activity of the invisible God (11:1-3)
  • With eyes fixed on Jesus,  I can face the future with hope regardless of my circumstances.  (11:13, 12:2-11)
  • With eyes fixed on Jesus, I can endure hardship sure that it is productive rather than destructive! (12:7-11)
  • Because of Jesus, I have entered a kingdom that cannot be shaken as the Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Roman, German, Japanese, etc. have been. (12:28)
  • Because Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever– there is no possibility of being disappointed in or by Him (13:8)
  • Jesus is a great Shepherd–He equips me–His sheep with everything I need for doing His will. (13:20-21)
  • Jesus is able to strengthen my heart for the journey of faith–it does not come by my efforts but by the sweet gift of grace

Hallelujah!  It is all about you Jesus!

Moses’ Prosperity Doctrine

By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.

He considered abuse suffered for Christ to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to the reward.

By faith he left Egypt, unafraid of the king’s anger; for he persevered as though he saw him who is invisible. (Hebrews 11:24-27)

learnenglish-central-stories-treasure-story-330x220 Talk about a radical reorientation to everything that we think in the natural!

  • Who wouldn’t want to be known–isn’t fame the greatest treasure?
  • Who wouldn’t want to have the place of son in the royal family–isn’t celebrity and having people look up to you a major rush in life?
  • Who wouldn’t want to be well thought of and treated well–isn’t good treatment our just desserts?

Continue reading “Moses’ Prosperity Doctrine”