Extravagant Grace

After reading Barbara Duguid’s book, I found myself recommending it to everyone. I would use phrases like “paradigm shifting,” and “life changing” to communicate the importance of this read in my life.  

Before I read this book I thought I understood grace. However as I read page after page of this 228 page book,  I experienced Mrs. Duguid uncovering and kicking the legs out from under my non-stop tendency to try to please God and “win” His approval by means of my own goodness. In fact, she gets in the face of every Christian with statements like,

You will never be able to find steady joy in this life until you understand, submit to, and even embrace the fact that you are weak and sinful.

Let’s be honest: if the chief work of the Holy Spirit in sanctification is to make Christians more sin-free, then he isn’t doing a very good job.

Having spent years soaking in the writings of John Newton, Barbara Duguid has written a tremendously helpful work that challenges us to believe that our God has sovereign purposes in allowing our sin and failures to remain. Beyond that, as Tullian Tchividjian says, “we need more and more books like this that remind us that the focus of the Christian faith is not the life of the Christian but Christ.” 

Full of Leaks

22616740Under the conviction of your Spirit I learn that

the more I do, the worse I am,

the more I know, the less I know,

the more holiness I have, the more sinful I am,

the more I love, the more there is to love.

O wretched man that I am!

O Lord, I have a wild heart,

and I cannot stand before thee;

I am like a bird before a man.

How little I love thy truth and ways!

I neglect prayer, by thinking I have prayed enough and earnestly,

by knowing

that you have saved my soul.

 

Of all hypocrites, grant that I may not be an evangelical leakyBuckethypocrite,

who sins more safely because grace abounds,

who tells his lusts that Christ’s blood cleanses them,

who reasons that God cannot cast him into hell,

for he is saved,

who loves evangelical preaching, churches, Christians, but lives unholy.

My mind is a bucket without a bottom,

with no spiritual understanding,

no desire for the Lord’s Day,

ever learning but never reaching the truth,

always at the gospel-well but never holding water.

am_porteuse_d_eauMy conscience is without conviction or contrition, with nothing to repent of.

My will is without power of decision or resolution.

My heart is without affection, and full of leaks.

My memory has no retention,

so I forget easily the lessons learned,

and they truths seep away.

   Give me a broken heart that yet carries home the water of grace. ((Arthur Bennett, The Valley of Vision, A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions, Banner of Truth, p.128-9))

 

The Dark Side

 after-american-idol-its-time-for-vietnam-idol_14  The 7th season of American Idol has begun!  Once again we get to listen to the good, the bad and the ugly as they audition before Simon, Paula and Randy.

This year the judges are trying to relax the contestants before they sing by asking them, “What do we need to know about you?  What about you would we find interesting?” 

On the first night of auditions, a young woman with no guile simply said, “I have never seen an “R” rated movie.”  Shocked, Simon asked, “Why not?”

The young woman with gentleness said that this was just something she had grown up observing and that she simply continued it in adulthood because it suited her. 

When asked if she was married, she responded, “Yes, I have been married for three years.”  The judges asked if her husband had ever seen an “R” movie and she again with winsome simplicity respondedamerican-idol-judges. “No.”

At that, Randy and Simon cut eyes at each other and with disbelieving sneers suggested that this woman did not know her husband and that he surely was lying to her and probably enjoyed Internet porn. 

After her audition she was invited to go to Hollywood and Simon suggested that given a week he could bring her over to the “dark side.”

The next night a boyishly good looking young man answered the question, “What do we need to know about you?’ by saying, “I’ve never kissed a girl.”

Again, the male judges pounced with condescending sneers.  The young man explained that his desire was to save expressions of physical intimacy for the woman he would marry.  His audition was not that strong and he was not invited to Hollywood.  When he asked what he could do to improve, Randy snidely replied, “Kiss some girls!’

It makes me sad that values that seem ennobling of  human nature are the source of such settled and unchallenged derision. It makes me sad that being drawn from purity and chastity to the “dark side” of sensual indulgence is presented as something to be valued.

It occurs to me that the show is very aptly named–it is all abut the idolatry of America! 

We lust after fame, after what is material, after what is pleasing to the senses, what is erotic and self indulgent. 

The warning of Psalm 115 resonates in my heart–we become like what we worship!  Simon by his own admission says it is dark where he lives—I want to live in the light of His Presence!

For our God is in the heavens,
    and he does as he wishes.
4    Their idols are merely things of silver and gold,
    shaped by human hands.
5    They cannot talk, though they have mouths,
    or see, though they have eyes!
6    They cannot hear with their ears,
    or smell with their noses,
7    or feel with their hands,
    or walk with their feet,
    or utter sounds with their throats!
8    And those who make them are just like them,
    as are all who trust in them.
(Psalm 115)

 

15    Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you,
    who walk in the light of your presence, O LORD.
16    They rejoice in your name all day long;
    they exult in your righteousness.  (Psalm 89)

Family Likeness

I began the day by reading Hebrews 2:10-18.  I lingered over these verses and was captured by the frequency of familial words that the author used and the theme of “family likeness” that he emphasizes.

  • bringing many children to glory (vs. 10)
  • Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. (vs. 11)
  • Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters (vs. 11)
  • I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters (vs. 12)
  • Here am I and the children whom God has given me (vs. 13)
  • the children share flesh and blood (vs. 14)
  • he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect (vs. 17)

post-68-1179042653I got a Christmas card with a family photo in it yesterday.  Casey’s first words when she saw the picture were, “Boy, Levi sure looks like his Dad!”

She was exactly right!  The little boy bore a striking resemblance to his father.  In fact, the word “likeness” means the quality of resembling, or corresponding to another. 

I was once again struck by the wonder of Jesus becoming like us in order to make a way for us to become like Him!  These verses even delineate what that means:

  • It means pursuing holiness–a life set apart for God’s exclusive use. (vs. 11)
  • It means being caught up in a life of worship. (vs. 12)
    • How cool to see that we sing because Jesus sings praises!
    • We proclaim God’s glory because our brother Jesus showed us that was what gives our life significance.
  • It means living by faith not sight.  (vs. 13)
  • It means making ourselves available to serve. (vs. 13)
  • It means sharing the suffering of others — identifying ourselves with them in order to help overcome freedom robbing bondage. (vs. 14-15)
  • It means helping those who cannot help themselves–not from a place of superiority but from a place of identity (vs. 18)

Amazing that Jesus was not ashamed to become like us. 

The word “like” means to be “suitable or agreeable to, to feel attraction toward or pleasure in, to wish to have.” 

Am I ashamed for others to see me agreeable to, taking pleasure in or wishing to have more of Jesus? 

If my “like” does not result in “like-ness” to brother Jesus…whose likeness will I bear?

“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”  (John 8:44)

Living Hope

Yesterday, I heard a sermon from 1 Peter entitled “A Living Hope”.  Last night, I talked with a friend who shared her excitement that she may be able to adopt a little 1 year old boy after the first of the year.

my-life-gods-story

She knew that was the hook I needed to keep me on the phone when the Survivor China finale was on!

She and her husband have two other adopted children and they have been praying for a few months about this particular little boy and how all the finances and other considerations might be worked out.

Well, the “God story” piece of this call was that the little boy has an inheritance!  His college education will be paid for as well as all the adoption costs!  When my friend protested that this was not necessary…the response she got was, “You don’t understand, you cannot say ‘no’, it is an inheritance!’

That conversation must have been meant to seal the sermon on 1 Peter deeper in my heart because I have pondered it all morning.

This letter written to exiles whose lives were anything but hope filled was built around the idea of the sure hope that one can have in an inheritance.

Peter’s heart was as full as my friend’s when he spoke the truth to suffering saints as deep encouragement and powerful help to persevere.

He wanted them to see with the eyes of faith to the other side of the persecution and alienation that they were enduring.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!

In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

1 Peter 1:3-9

I was struck by the interweaving of hope and faith in Peter’s words.

Hope has come to us as part of the new birth–we do not have to work it up–it is a grace gift!

  • it rests not on a vague feeling or wishful positive thoughts–it rests on the sure evidence that death was not the last word for Jesus–He was resurrected victoriously over death!
  • since He lives eternally–we have a living hope–one that knows no end.
  • since the inheritance is being guarded by the power of omnipotent and eternal God, we need not fear loss or that we will come to the end of our days and face bankruptcy.
  • he describes the inheritance as imperishable, unspoiled, and gloriously and permanently brilliant — life eternal.
  • Peter assures the readers that their hope is as secure as an inheritance–and gives them perspective on the present by reminding them that an inheritance is something you wait to receive.

However: The life he was promising as an inheritance contrasted with the reality they were living in the moment–their eyes saw people perishing, beauty and goodness spoiled by evil and light fading into suffocating darkness.

  • Faith is introduced as the instrument that would give these suffering saints the “eyes” to  “see” a greater reality than the one before their physical eyes.
  • Faith would be the instrument through which they would receive God’s sustaining grace as they suffered and anticipated their secure inheritance that was being shielded and protected by the power of God.

Why?  Peter’s answer is that what we cannot see is more precious to God than what we can!

  • We don’t have eyes to see the dross of unbelief mixed in with faith–God does–faith is precious to Him so He refines it with the fires of suffering.
  • We don’t have eyes to see the praiseworthiness of the Living One–Jesus —God does and He uses persevering faith through suffering to gain praise and glory for His precious Son!

How grateful I am for my friend’s phone call!

God used her words to reorient my vision…there was a real Survivor finale that took place over 2000 years ago and His victory–having survived death– secured my inheritance—I have a Living Hope!

Though I have not seen Him — I love Him and the unbeckoned joy that wells up and generates inexpressible delight as I ponder Peter’s words is evidence that I am receiving in the present an installment on my future inheritance.

I can’t say “No” it is an inheritance!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Kidnapped Priest Released in Turkey

I read this report from Mission Network News this morning and thought of the Apostle Paul’s feet that walked miles and miles through Turkey sharing the gospel. He penetrated the inner regions spreading the message of peace and reconciliation in the ancient cities of Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, Troas, and Ephesus.

Today, Christians are constantly under attack.  As recently as April of this year, 3 workers in a Christian publishing office had their throats slit in a gruesome attack motivated by religious hatred.

May God protect what He planted and is planting in this country–in the Book of Acts we see that the Word of God cannot be imprisoned, murdered or snuffed out–it is a Living Word.

7 December, 2007

turkeymap.gif

Turkey (MNN) ― Compass Direct reports good news in a kidnapping in southeastern Turkey.  According to their sources, unidentified assailants kidnapped Father Edip Daniel Savci, 42, last Wednesday. 

Two days later, he was freed by his captors 43 miles north of Midyat where he was kidnapped.   Church officials can’t confirm the identity of his kidnappers or whether a ransom was paid, but kidnappers had made a ransom demand of 300,000 euros. 

Deputy Governor Aziz Mercan said, “Given the information obtained from the priest, we now know who the perpetrators are, and security forces are tracking them down now.” He declined, however, to give the suspects’ names.

Most of Turkey’s 75 million people are Muslim, and it has barely 100,000 Christians–mostly of Greek and Armenian origin.

Although the incident appears to have been motivated by money, there are scattered reports that mission groups think Turkey’s anti-Christian atmosphere may have influenced the kidnappers.

Pray for opportunities for Christians in Turkey to share the truth of Christ. Despite the government reforms to facilitate joining the European Union, there is no indication of increasing religious freedom.

While the Turkish constitution includes freedom of religion, worship services are only permitted in “buildings created for this purpose,” and officials have restricted the construction of buildings for minority religions. In other cases, those who dare to profess Christ face harassment, threats and prison. Evangelism is difficult.

However, Glenn Penner of Voice of the Martyrs Canada says, “The church is continuing to move forward, and Christians are continuing to witness. But, of course, it does cause some anxiety. There have been a number of attacks on evangelicals in the last two years, and they’re wanting to know, ‘Will our government stand up for us? Will they defend us? Or will they allow us to be shot, killed and attacked with impunity?'”

Pray for those in Christian work in Turkey.

Core Issue

Hebrews 3Today, I started a personal study of the Book of Hebrews.

It seems a perfect follow up to the study of Acts from the Fall. It is fun to speculate with the scholars about whether the eloquent Apollos or the encouraging Barnabas wrote this book.  For now I do not think it was Paul.

Richard D. Phillips suggests that this book was most likely written to Jewish Christians living in Rome in the A.D. 60’s.  These were the ones that God had Paul heading to Rome to encourage in faith.

With the audience in mind it is easy to see why it opens with “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophes, but in the last days he has spoken to us by his Son,…”

Having come through the persecution of Christianity under Claudius in A.D. 49, these Christians were facing another wave of dangerous hostility and evidently were now tempted to escape the suffering by reverting to Judaism and renouncing their loyalty to Jesus. 

I am anxious to see Christ unfolded in all His Supremacy and to believe again that He has dealt with the core issue that separates us from God in a way that no other religion offers.  This study will be another journey of seeing with the eyes of faith what is real (Hebrew 2:8). 

When I do not “see” reality–that everything is subject to Prophet, Priest and King Jesus; I live in unbelief and there the ground is fertile for growing hefty branches of ugly, sinful heart attitudes!

“Lord I believe, help my unbelief”  (Mark 9:24)