Wednesday

Tragedy and Worship

One of the greatest stumbling blocks of believers today is the belief that our faith is, at its core, man-centered.  We confess that it is all about God, but our actions and our reactions betray our true belief that we expect God to behave as though we are the most important thing to Him.  The reality is that we serve a God centered God who exalts Himself and His glory above all things, including us.

Where this false belief becomes most evident, and most damaging, is when tragedy or the possibility of tragedy comes upon us.  We cannot reconcile the idea of a me-centered God allowing such hardships to happen to me.  It doesn't make sense.  So when tragedy and hardships occur (and they are going to occur) we have no foundation on which to stand.

All this brings me to the story of Job.  Most of us know the basics of this story.  Satan is in heaven in the presence of God and the angels.  God points out Job to Satan as an example of an upright, righteous man.  Satan thinks Job worships God because God has blessed Job tremendously so God allows Satan to have his way with Job.  Satan immediately destroys Jobs wealth and kills his 10 children.

First, there is no way this fits into a man-centered view of following God.  If choosing to submit to Christ is ultimately about pursuing the gifts and blessings of God, then where in the world does this account of Job fit?  Job has received the blessings of God.  He has health, wealth, and a family.  Then God turns him over to Satan as some sort of test or experiment?  Without the proper understanding of God and our relationship to Him, we will never be able to reconcile this account of Job with our man-centered approach to following God.

How can God do this?  Because ultimately what God is about is His glory and seeing it displayed.  Our primary role as His followers is to be examples and displays of His glory, to sing His praise to the whole world.  God is going to use Job to demonstrate His greatness and His glory.

What is interesting is that Job understands all this.  Look at his first response to the tragedy that God has allowed to overtake him.

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”  --Job 1:20-21--

Upon hearing of all his wealth being destroyed and the death of all his children, Job's first response is not to ask "Why?" or to blame God.

It is to worship!

He falls to the ground in his grief and praises his God.  Job understood that God is good no matter what circumstances we face.  Job understood that we live in a God centered universe and that the God we serve and obey, who loves us as His children, is above all else concerned with His glory.

I pray that God will help us to understand Him and His ways and that we will have a solid foundation as Job did.
When tragedy comes my way, I want my first response to be praising the name of my God.

Captured by Grace Review

The concept behind this book is to show how no one is beyond the reach of a loving God.  Dr. Jeremiah use the stories of Saul of Tarsus and John Newton among others to demonstrate this.  I will be honest....I had a really hard time getting into this book.  I don't know if it is Dr. Jeremiah's writhing style or what but I struggled to spend time in this book.  I think the message is great and there is no doubt that we need to know we are never beyond God's reach.  This particular book just didn't hold my interest long enough to engage me deeply on that topic.


I review for BookSneeze

Tuesday

The Miracle of God's Love for Us

One of the most amazing truths of the bible is that God love us.  I know this isn't a new concept to most of us, but I think a great number of us have forgotten or never realized how much of a miracle this is.  We have grown up in the American church hearing pretty much our entire lives that God loves us.  When we are small children we sing "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so".  Christian radio is full of songs telling us of God's love for us.  At church, hardly a Sunday service goes by without hearing how much God loves us.

None of this is a bad thing.  We need to be reminded of God's love for us.  The problem comes when the repeated refrain of "God loves you" is combined with the verse of  "You are important because you are you and you have rights and privileges that come with being you" that our culture just as constantly sends our way.  When those two ideas are merged together, too often the result is that God's love for us becomes less of a miracle and more of a right and a necessity because of who we are.

We need to go back to scripture to see the truth of who we really are and how important we really aren't.

Daniel 4:34-35.....
At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;   all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”

Isaiah 40:7-8....
The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.

 Psalm 103:14-16...

For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dustAs for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.

 The truth is that, no matter what our culture may tell us, scriptures teaches that in the grand scheme of things we just aren't that important.  Creation isn't designed primarily for us, it is primarily to demonstrate and display the glory of God.  The bible is not a book about us, it is a book that teaches the character and nature of God.  Even mankind itself exists first and foremost to be a testimony to the glory of it's Creator.

Consider all that and then factor in that while being created to display the glory of God our first impulse is always to glorify ourselves.  We are constantly showering praise and worship on everything but God.

Suddenly the fact that this God loves us takes on a new light.  What mercy!  What grace!  What love!  That he would choose to forgive our sins, that he would send His Son to take our punishment, that He would choose to make a way to reconcile us to Himself.  These are not our rights but are a miracle given to us by a sovereign Creator who, in no way, was obligated to extend to us anything but wrath and punishment.

And yet, He loves us......

Thursday

Blessed Are The Peacemakers

I am preaching this Sunday at my church.  Our senior pastor is doing a series on the Beatitudes and this week's sermon is on being a peacemaker.  I am still working and praying through exactly where God would like me to go with this but one thing I am sure of.

True peace is impossible, in any situation, without the gospel of Christ.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  --Romans 5:1--
We were enemies of God, objects of His just and holy wrath but through the shed blood of Jesus Christ we are now reconciled to our Creator and are at peace with Him.  Any talk of being a peacemaker must begin and end with the message of the Gospel.  Only through Christ can we experience peace or hope to bring peace to those around us.

Wednesday

Camping and Community

My family went camping this weekend with the other two families in our small group.  We had an incredible time, especially considering that the adults were outnumbered 13 to 6 by our kids.  We spent two nights at a campground on Lake Lanier in Cumming, GA and spent most of our days swimming, kayaking, and playing on the beach at the lake.  At night we sat around the campfire, made smores, and I played guitar with one of our friends' 18 year old son.  All in all, a great weekend and one I hope to be able to experience again soon.

One of the reasons the weekend was so enjoyable and satisfying was the fact that I know the other families who went with us.  Now, this may sound obvious.  After all, who wants to spend a weekend away with strangers?  When I say I "know" these families, I mean beyond just knowing their names and their interests and the other relatively trivial things that often accompany "knowing" someone.  What I mean, is that I have prayed with these people, I have studied God's word with them, and I have heard them express their desire to pursue God.  I know them in a more intimate way than I know most of the other people in my life.

Why does knowing them in this way make a weekend trip like we took together more enjoyable?  Because I never once had to worry about my kids hanging around their kids because I know how they raise their kids and the biblical values they want to pass on.  I know that our view of God is compatible.  I know our dreams and desires for our families, our church, and our city is the same: the advancement of God's glory and gospel.

In short, the weekend was as enjoyable as it was because my family and these families experience biblical fellowship when we are together.

My prayer is that you have people like this in your life.  If you do, don't take them for granted.  People who truly seek to love God with all their hearts are harder to find than you might think.  If you don't have people in your life like this, pray that God would bring them around.  Pray that He would open your eyes to find them.  Not only will your life become fuller and more satisfying, but you need people like that in your life to help you as you run after God.

How Do I Love God With All My Heart?

I meet with a couple of guys on Tuesday nights after our families all meet for small group.  I love the time with these guys because we are able to discuss deep spiritual things.  We talk about where God has us, how we are struggling, what our deepest desires are, and then we pray for each other.  I wouldn't trade that time for anything.

Last night our conversation turned to Jesus' commandment to us to love Him with all our hearts. This was a command that God gave the Israelites in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 6:5) that Jesus confirmed in the New Testament as the single most important act of His disciples (Matthew 22:37-38). This idea of loving, serving, following God with all our heart is a common one throughout the scriptures.

 In Jeremiah 29:13 and Deuteronomy 4:29, God informs Israel that they will find Him when they seek Him with all their heart.

Deuteronomy 10:12 and 11:13 God commands that His people serve Him with all their hearts.

Proverbs 3:5 tells us to trust God with all our heart.

Joel 2:12 and 1 Samuel 7:3 speak of returning to God with all our heart.

Ephesians 5:19 tells us to sing and make melody to God with all our heart.

Obviously God desires that all our heart be devoted completely to Him.  Sounds simple enough, right?  Just figure out how to devote all our heart to God.  The problem?  Jeremiah 17:9 is the problem.

Jeremiah 17:9 says "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?"  So the problem is that our own heart will deceive us.  It will tell us we are loving God and others when we are not.  We cannot truly know what lies in the depths of our own heart.


So what do we do?  How can we truly love God with our heart if we cannot even know our heart?  I think we can only go before God, confess our inability to love Him as He commands, and ask Him to do it through us.

Have you asked God to help you love Him with all your heart?  Have you confessed that you don't know how to do it?  Have you humbled yourself before Him confessing your total dependence on Him in this and in every other area in your life?

Now would be a great time to start.

What Are Our Men Doing?

This video is a trailer for a book that is being released in September called "Church Planter" but it is extremely applicable to all men regardless of whether or not you plan on planting a church or not.

Do we have a man problem?  Maybe so........