Sunday, April 25, 2010

Somebody Else

Thoughts from my reading in Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul David Tripp. The devotional is indented.

. . . so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Psalm 51:4

I really wish I could blame somebody else.
I wish I could place the responsibility on somebody else.
I would love to point the finger at somebody else.
I wish I could convince myself that it was somebody else.
Isn’t that how we are? Our tendency is to try to blame someone else or something else for the bad things we do. “You made me mad.” “I’m sorry but….” “I was tired.”

But in the darkness of bedtime the logic melts out of my heart.
In the moments before sleep the pain begins to squeeze away my breath.
As my mind replays the day's moments the conclusion is like a slap.
There is no monster to hide from.
There is no excuse that holds.
My war is not external, the enemy is not outside.
What caught my attention in the above section was the passage of time. Sometimes that’s what it takes. We don’t see it right away. Sometimes we look back with a different perspective and sometimes, when we are all alone and it is quiet, the voice of God can be heard. He gently and persuasively speaks: I was wrong, what I said was not right or I said it in the wrong way. I see it and grace appears to help me change and to do the right thing.

I see this in my kids too. Sometime later they appear expressing repentance and sorrow but not when I pressed them to do so. I have to realize that I am not a very good Holy Spirit. I can teach them truth and right principles but I can’t touch their heart the way God can.

The struggle rages within me, nowhere to point or run.
No independent righteousness, no reason for smugness or rest.
I am my greatest enemy and rescue my only hope.
In the quiet I face it
I cannot blame somebody else.
One more time I close my eyes admitting my only hope is found in
Somebody else.
I love how that ends. There is somebody else. I can’t blame him but he takes the blame. The only finger pointing is toward the cross. Hope comes; I don’t have to hide, I can be changed and things can be different.

Here is a question from the meditation:

Are there places where you have been tempted to blame inside (heart) struggles on outside pressures? ("He makes me so jealous!" "This traffic makes me so angry!" "I wasn't this irritable until I got this job.")
There is no denying that outside things to have an effect on us. What I want to take away from this is the hope that I will recognize that the outside pressure is helping me realize what is really going on in my heart.

I once heard singer Barry McGuire say this: “If somebody’s got your goat, then you got a goat to get.” That really makes it clear. Somebody may be doing something on the outside but I need to deal with the inside.

Philip
.

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Gospel of Prosperity

Thoughts from my reading in Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul David Tripp. Devotional is indented.

Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; build up the walls of Jerusalem. Psalm 51:18

It is an interesting way to conclude a prayer of humble confession. Yes, this prayer of confession really does end with a prayer for prosperity. David is so bold as to not only ask God for mercy, but also to ask God that he would bless him, and not only him but all of Israel!

What David is requesting is completely different from the modern "health and wealth gospel" prayers for prosperity. Those prayers for prosperity have one fatal flaw in them. They are prayers for prosperity for the purpose of the delight of the person praying the prayer. Not so with David. He has lived a little, self-focused life. He has now been caught up in the call to live large, that is, for a kingdom greater than his own. This prayer is evidence that he's learned the lesson of the danger of living for his own delight. This prayer for prosperity is the result of a radically changed heart.
As I was thinking about this, I thought how close sin and self-focus are. When we are bound up in our sin, it’s all about us. We are not focused on God or other people. It’s all about our kingdom and pleasure.

Why does David pray for prosperity? For one reason, he asks it for the glory and delight of the Lord. Give wisdom to a man who is living for God's kingdom and he'll use that wisdom to advance God's kingdom. Give money to a man who loves God's kingdom and he'll look for ways to invest that money in kingdom causes. Give a house to a person who seeks God's kingdom and his house will be a place of hospitality, love, and ministry. David prays for prosperity, not for his glory but for the glory of the Lord to whom his heart has now turned.
As our heart turns away from sin, a whole new focus is gained. God and other people become more important. Our thoughts are on what can be done to advance God’s kingdom and to help other people.

The truth though is that we are never completely free from sin and we will never be completely other focused. It will be back and forth. You might say we will have our good days and our bad days. Still, we move forward by God’s grace and mercy.

When people are blessed by the Lord they turn to him in humble, sacrificial worship. It's in those moments when I am cogently aware of God's forgiveness and gratefully aware of his undeserved blessing that I willingly offer to him what I would have once held to tightly. When I've quit looking for satisfaction in the created world and begin to find my satisfaction in the Lord, then I'm willing to hold loosely to the things that once held me. It's here that my delight is the Lord's delight.
So in our failure we get the opportunity of experiencing grace and mercy. Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more. Romans 5:20 In the back and forth between sin and forgiveness, we get a bigger and bigger glimpse of how much better Jesus is than the sins that entice us.

So is it right to pray for prosperity? It is and you should, not for the sake of your kingdom, but for the success of his. Not for the sake of your delight, but for his. You see, when God prospers people who are living for him, they use that blessing to serve him all the more, and for this he gets glory and in this he finds great delight.
Here is a question from the meditation:

What kind of blessing do you crave? What are the "good things" that you wish God would give you? If you had your way, how would God prosper you?
To be honest I have to say that money is my first answer. There never seems to be enough. Yet the truth is that my needs have always been met and there is money in the bank. Maybe what I crave is cushion. I want to see the future taken care of. I don’t want to have to trust up to the last minute.

My better answer is to be prospered with a better vision of God’s kingdom. I want to remember the feeling of being caught up in that; the experience of time passing and not thinking of self and its desires.

Philip
.

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sinners and Unafraid

Thoughts from my reading in Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul David Tripp. Devotional is indented.


. . . according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy. Psalm 51:1

The older you get the more you move from being an astronaut to an archaeologist. When you're young, you're excitedly launching to worlds unknown. You have all of the major decisions of life before you, and you can spend your time assessing your potential and considering opportunities. It's a time of exploration and discovery. It's a time to go where you've never been before and to do what you've never done. It's a time to begin to use your training and to gain experience. But as you get older, you begin to look back at least as much as you look forward. As you look back, you tend to dig through the mound of the civilization that was your past life, looking for pottery shards of thoughts, desires, choices, actions, words, decisions, relationships, and situations. And as you do this, you can't help but assess how you have done with what you have been given.
In one sense, I think part of maturity is when you look at the whole picture. Of course, some of the "whole picture" is things that didn’t go right, bad decisions, broken relationships, and other things that can be hard to face.

If you and I are at all willing to humbly and honestly look at our lives, we will be forced to conclude that we are flawed human beings. And yet we don't have to beat our selves up. We don't have to work to minimize or deny our failures. We don't have to be defensive when our weaknesses are revealed. We don't have to rewrite our own histories to make ourselves look better than we actually were. We don't have to be paralyzed by remorse and regret.
This is one of the amazing things God has done for us: the price for sin has been paid and all the guilt and shame can be gone. When we understand this we are free to live with the reality of our life. We don’t have to hide what we did or were and our past doesn’t have to invade the present.

Here is a question from the meditation:

Is there a place in your life where you are still holding on to regret even though God has forgiven you and does not respond to you based on your past performance?
Of things that come to mind, I don’t have a problem with receiving God’s forgiveness and I don’t view Him as holding a grudge. Sometimes what gets to me is when I see the effect that my behavior or actions had on someone else. That can be hard to let go of.

Philip
.

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Leadership?

Read this good article which questions if leadership is a healthy Christian aim.

As a young Christian I aspired to “leadership.” I wanted to be a pastor or missionary; full-time ministry was the aim. What I’ve found out through the years is that I would make a horrible pastor and I am not a very good leader either. In some places, like my family, I have no choice so I stumble along and others suffer the consequences.

I am involved in a prolife ministry where I have a leadership position that I have tried to get out of over the years but God won’t let me. There must be some reason. I try to do my best but feel completely incompetent most of the time and wish someone more qualified was doing the job.

According to so many Christian books and schools out there, I just need to learn the secrets of being a good leader. While there are some things I could learn that may help, I think my place is in doing other things. There is a lot of support work that needs to be done and behind-the-scenes is a place where I feel most useful. Of course, in a place like my family I need to learn to do the proper things that a husband and father need to do and leadership is involved with that.

Someone once said that those who desire power are not fit to possess it. In many cases that is true. I know many people who are “natural born leaders” who use that ability to manipulate and coerce people to do their will which is not God’s will. Some people want to be leaders so they no longer have to do the mundane tasks of a job. Tim Timmons in speaking of the associate pastor position said that he gets to do all the things that the big guy doesn’t want to do. That can be true in many places.

Speaking of pastors, there are some very good ones out there but some of the guys who have risen to that job are some of the most egotistical and dysfunctional people I have ever met. There are the dictator pastors, the ones who lie about their success or failure, the ones who desire adulation and worship and the ones who are so afraid of the offense of the truth that they pat people on the back as they stroll along in their sin. Okay, finished grinding that ax.

So to the point of the article mentioned at the beginning of this post: being a servant. I don’t do very well with that either but it is an area that I know God wants me to excel at. If I succeed, many will be supported and blessed.

Philip

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sin-It's Everywhere, It's Everywhere!

Thoughts from my reading in Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul David Tripp. Devotional is indented.

My sin is ever before me. Psalm 51:3

"Sin is not hurtful because it is forbidden, but forbidden because it is hurtful."
Benjamin Franklin

"Other men's sins are before our eyes; our own are behind our backs."
Seneca

"Pleasure is the bait of sin."
Plato

"Do not bite at the bait of pleasure till you know there is no hook beneath it."
Thomas Jefferson

"Sin is sweet in the beginning, but bitter in the end."
The Talmud

"If you have sinned, do not lie down without repentance; for the want of repentance after one has sinned makes the heart harder and harder."
John Bunyan

"We have a strange illusion that mere time cancels sin. But mere time does nothing either to the fact or the guilt of sin."
C. S. Lewis

"The temptation of the age is to look good without being good."
Brennan Manning

"Personal sin reflected upon breeds compassion."
John M. Shanahan

"I would rather feel remorse than know how to define it."
Thomas A Kempis

"Adam ate the apple, and our teeth still ache."
Hungarian Proverb

"Sin is never at a stay; if we do not retreat from it, we shall advance in it, and the farther we go, the more we have to come back."
Isaac Barrow
These are some of the thoughts from the meditation that stood out to me. There were others that I left out for space.

Here is a question from the meditation.

What fresh things does God want you to learn and remember about sin?
It is so deceptive and dangerous. How far can we go and not get bit? The truth is that we can rarely walk into its territory without paying a high price. The effect and consequences are more than we planned for. Sometimes we never make it back.

I also see how blind it can make me. Life looked at through the lens of sin is far from reality. It looks good and pleasurable but the danger is not seen.

I must ask God for his protection, power and revelation.

Philip
.

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