Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Fear God

I heard a good message in Sunday school about what it means to fear God. It was from a new video by Francis Chan: Fear God.

He started out by talking about how Christians have a hard time defining the fear of God. A common term used is respect. He disagreed and I do too. If Scripture had meant respect then that is what it would have said.

I think one reason we have a problem is that we want to present God as all love. Fear just doesn’t fit with that. We tell people that God loves them. Maybe what we need to tell people is they better be terrified of God also.

As I thought about it, I think fearing God means to take Him seriously. He is love but he is also a judge. If someone rejects the Gospel they will spend eternity in hell. So too, if a Christian messes around with pet sins, they will face certain consequences.

As a parent I want my kids to know I love them but I also want them to take me seriously. I want them to fear the consequences of disobedience and I hope that what they learn in their relationship with me will be transferred to their relationship with God. I want them to know that if they sin there will be consequences.

Another reason we may have a problem with understanding the fear of God is if we have a deficient understanding of God. Where do we get our standards? How do we know what God is like? How should we live? For many people, the answers come from the world. They are discipled by TV, movies and their friends.

The Bible is the source of the right answers. It’s not enough to have one on the shelf or to hear it talked about in church. If we want to know the fear of God and how He wants us to live then we must become disciplined students. We must have enough washing of our minds with the Word to counteract the steady diet we all receive every day from the things our eyes see, our ears hear and out hearts feel.

Philip

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Longing for Jesus

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

Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation. Psalm 51:14

It is dramatic anticipation at its finest. It is the best of foreshadowing. Every line drips with the drama of the necessity of what's to come. It's one of those moments when it's very clear that the present makes no sense without the future. If you know your Bible at all, you can't read Psalm 51 without feeling it. If this psalm has no future, then its cries are the vain screams of the tormented heart of a desperate man and little more. David's entire hope in the present is tied to an event in the future. No future, no hope. Welcome to the story of redemption.

You see, David's sin, Nathan's confrontation, and the resultant conviction and confession are a mini-chapter in the grand, origin-to-destiny story of redemption. David's prayer for forgiveness cries for more than a God who's willing to forgive. David's plea reaches out for an actual means of forgiveness.

As this meditation goes on to point out, there was a system of sacrifices that “covered” sin but something was missing. The blood of bulls and goats wasn’t enough. There was covering but not cleansing.

David didn't fully understand it, but the cries he prayed and penned in Psalm 51 were a cry for the final Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the drama of this psalm. In acknowledging the power and pervasiveness of his sin, David isn't reaching out only for full and complete forgiveness, but for deliverance as well, the kind of deliverance that can only be found in the spilt blood of the promised Messiah, who would someday hang willingly on the hill of Calvary. Psalm 51 is a hymn of longing. Psalm 51 longs for Jesus.

Living on this side of the cross, it’s hard to imagine what it must have been like before. It’s easy to take things for granted. I know what the Bible says about what Jesus did on the cross. I know that I can come boldly before the throne of grace but before the cross, sacrifice was brought with fear. I have the indwelling Spirit of God living in me that bears witness that I am a child of God.

As David prayed for mercy, unfailing love, and great compassion powerful enough to wash away transgression and create purity of heart, he wasn't praying for a thing; no he was praying for a Person. Jesus is the mercy for which David prays. Jesus is the unfailing love that is his hope. Jesus is the compassion for which he cries.

Every time you acknowledge your sin, you long for Jesus too. But you're not longing for the final sacrifice, because it's been made. No, you and I long for the final deliverance. We long for that moment when we'll be taken to the place where sin will be no more.

I do understand that longing; I have it. I long for a place of righteousness, where sin will be no more and where I will be all that God wants me to be.

A question from the meditation:

Is there any evidence in your life of hopelessness, discouragement, cynicism, or despair? Take time to confess your struggle to believe and bask once again in the reliable promises of your Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Yes, these things can be a part of my life. I see what I am inside and I see the effects of sin all around me. In losing sight of the victory to come, I can become tempted to give up.

Philip


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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Happy Birthday to me

I was adopted. If it was today rather than 55 years ago, there is a good chance I would never have been born. I don’t know the circumstances of my conception or what was going on with my birth mother when she decided to give me up for adoption. I am glad she gave me life and that she gave Ida and Al Faustin the opportunity to make me a part of their family.

Abortion is the “easy” way out these days. I’m glad that it wasn’t available 55 years ago like it is today and I’m glad society didn’t sanction it back then.

I celebrate my birth mother today as I do every year. I don’t know who she is and she probably doesn’t know who I am. Thanks Mom for giving me life!

Thanks also to my adopted parents who were everything a child could ever want or need. God placed me in their hands and I am ever thankful for that. I look forward to seeing them both again in heaven.

Thanks to my heavenly Father for giving me a new birth and making my life worth living.

Philip

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Terrible Trinity

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

Blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! Psalm 51:1 – 2

The Bible doesn't pull any punches as it describes the scary reality of sin. You have the powerful words of Genesis 6:5: "The Lord saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time". Every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time! Could there be a more forceful way of characterizing the pervasive influence of sin on everything we do?

Isn’t that the battle we face? Evil is always staring us in the face. The world is always trying to squeeze us into its mould. If we let down our guard, sin will get the upper hand.

Psalm 51 is also one of the definitional passages when it comes to sin. David employs three words for sin that really define the nature of what our struggle with it is all about. The first definitional word he uses is the word transgression. To transgress means to acknowledge the boundaries and to step willingly over them. I transgress when I knowingly park in a no-parking zone. I know I'm not supposed to park there, but for the sake of personal convenience, I do so anyway. Often our sin is just like this. We know that God has forbidden what we're about to do, but for personal success, comfort, or pleasure we step over God's prohibition and do exactly what we want to do.

When I was a young Christian I heard a teaching that pointed out that I am to obey the laws of the land. This includes things like speeding. It changed the way I drove. Another good benefit is that it probably kept me from getting a lot of traffic tickets. That’s what came to mind as I read this description of transgression. There are a lot of things I want to do because they benefit me in some way but they are wrong to do.

But not all of our sin is conscious, high-handed rebellion. So David uses a second word, iniquity. Iniquity is best described as moral uncleanness. This word points to the comprehensive nature of the effect of sin on us. Sin is a moral infection that stains every thing we desire, think, speak, and do. Sadly, no infant since the fall of the world into sin has been born morally clean. We all entered this world dirty and there's nothing we can do to clean ourselves up. Iniquity is like inadvertently putting a pair of bright red socks into the wash with a load of whites. There'll be nothing that escapes the red stain and remains completely white. In the same way, sin is pervasive. It really does alter everything we do in some way.

Bad to the bone fits with this description of iniquty. This is the stuff we don’t even think about; it’s what we are. It’s why selfishness and self-centeredness are so a part of my life. I view everything through this lens.

But there's a third word that David uses that gets at another aspect of sin's damage. It's the word sin. Sin is best defined as falling short of a standard. In our moments of best intention and best effort we still fall short. We're simply unable to reach the level of the standards that God has set for us. Sin has simply removed our ability to keep God's law. So, we fall short of his standard again and again and again. In your thoughts you fall short. In your desires you fall short. In your marriage or family you fall short. In your communication you fall short. At your job you fall short. With your friends you fall short. We simply are not able to meet God's requirements.

Isn’t this frustrating? I know what I should do and want to do it but I don’t. I don’t want to speak evil with my mouth but the words just slip out.

This "terrible trinity" of words for sin really does capture with power and clarity the nature of the war that rages inside each one of us. Sometimes I do not do exactly what God requires, but I don't care because I want what I want, and so I step over his wise boundaries. Sometimes I look back on what I've done, having thought that I'd done pretty well, only to see ways in which my words and behavior were once more stained with sin. And over and over again I'm confronted with my weakness and inability. I fall short of God's standard even in moments of good intention.

How can this terrible trinity do anything other than drive us to seek the grace that can only be found in the divine Trinity? In our sin we need a Father who's not satisfied with leaving us in this sad state of affairs but will exercise his sovereign power to set a plan in place that will rescue us from us. In our sin we need a Son who is willing to take our punishment so that we can be forgiven. And in our sin, we need a Spirit who will dwell within us, empowering us to do what we would not otherwise be able to do.

A question from the meditation:

How do the three biblical words for sin - transgression, iniquity, and sin - help you to understand the daily battle in your heart between right and wrong?

One way it helps it to show the different battles I face. There are the desires I must fight against. There is my nature that needs to be transformed. There is failure even when I want to act differently.

Thankfully, I am not in this battle alone. I don’t have the strength or ability in myself but with God’s strength and grace I can do different that I have before.

Philip


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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Whose disciple are you?

I read earlier today that John Piper is a disciple of Jonathan Edwards. I’m not sure if that is true but I wondered why anyone would want to be a disciple of another man.

As Christians, we should be disciples of Jesus. There is nothing in Him that I wouldn’t want reproduced in my life. As far as other people go, they are all imperfect. Luke 6:40 says: A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. Do I want to be just like another person? A word of warning: watch out for the person who thinks you should be their disciple; they may have a too high view of themselves.

There does seem to be a long standing desire for Christian people to have a label. Lutherans, Wesleyans, Calvinists and Baptist are a few examples. In 1 Corinthians 1:12 Paul talks about the problem: I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas. He asks the question: has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you?

Maybe it’s easier to live under some of these labels than to live as a Christian. It may be easier to believe what your church or pastor believes than to take the time to find out what Jesus wants you to believe. Now I’m not saying that what these labels represent is completely wrong. What I am saying is that we need to follow Jesus first and be willing to dump anything that doesn’t line up with him. If we did that, it would spare us from so many of the faddish beliefs that infect the church so often.

To be specific, the word disciple in the New Testament means a pupil or learner. So in that sense anyone could be a disciple of another person if we are learning from them. My point is that ultimately we must be disciples of Jesus; we must be learning from Him and the Bible so we know if what other people are teaching us is true.

Discipleship is a lifelong process; it’s not easy and it takes a lot of effort. Here are a couple of verses that sum up the goal. John 13:35: By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 15:8: By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. So it’s not what I know that matters but if I have love and fruit. That both simplifies it and makes it harder.

Here is a list of the fruit of the spirit I should have: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23) Thankfully, my salvation is not determined by my possession of these attributes but my lack of them says something about what kind of disciple I am. May the image of God be perfected in me.

Philip

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Holy of Holies

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

I have formatted this with alternating color to break up the thoughts for easier reading. My thoughts are in blue.

Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being. Psalm 51:6

In the holy of holies,
Where my deepest thought dwells.
In the secret place,
Of the heart,
Where no one sees,
And no one knows.

This is what I really am. When no one is around to see or hear.

In that place where worship,
Sets the course,
For all I say,
And all I do.

Of course, worship determines what I am. So just what do I worship?

In the holy of holies
Where thoughts,
Afraid to be verbal,
And desires,
Never quite spoken
Determine,
What I will seek,
And say,
And do.

In this private place, I ponder and dwell. What thoughts do I feed? Which ones are tended like a garden that will surely bear fruit?

In the holy of holies,
Where greed lurks dark,
And anger stands dangerous.

The battle rages. Good verses evil.

In the shadows,
Where lust captivates,
And envy enslaves.

Am I satisfied with what God has given or do I want something else? Do I trust Him to provide all I need or do I think He needs help from me?

In that sacred place,
Of the heart,
Where I plan what I will do,
And rehearse what I will say.

These deep thoughts are about to appear on the outside. Have I mastered them or will I blow it again?

In the holy of holies,
Where love is born,
Or succumbs to hate.
Where gentleness,
Falls to vengeance.

God is offering grace and strength. Will I accept it?

In that place where,
Thinking never ends,
And interpretations,
Become a way of seeing.

What is guiding my thinking? Does His Word become the filter?

In the holy of holies,
Where feelings grow in power,
And overwhelm,
What is sensible,
Good,
And true.

I don’t want this. I want good and truth to prevail.

In the holy of holies,
Where I stand naked,
All covering gone,
Before You,
What I am,
As I am,
Void of defense,
Stripped of excuse.
Nowhere to hide,
No reputation to polish.

You know the truth so well. You know when I really want help and when I am content to blunder along. You see me as I am.

In the place where You,
Can see,
And hear,
And know.
May you do there,
What I cannot do.
May you create there,
What only mercy can give.
May you hold back,
What I deserve,
And give what,
I could never earn.
May you create in me,
A clean heart.

I have failed. I need your help. Yes, I need mercy and forgiveness. Thank you that it comes freely and even more…a clean heart, a new beginning.

Take a Moment

Take time to celebrate God's jealous zeal to inhabit the holiest place in your heart without competition or challenge.

Thank you for pursuing me and for loving me when I didn’t care a bit about you. Thank you that you still do, every day as I stray, pulling me back on course without a hint of disgust.

Philip


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Sunday, July 4, 2010

Sin is a Relationship

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

Against you, you only, have I sinned. Psalm 51:4

Sin is much, much more than the violation of a set of rules. Sin is more profound than rebellion against a moral code. Sin is about something deeper than behaving inappropriately. It's deeper than bad actions and wrong words.

As we noted earlier, when you witness the body of an infant, who's not yet able to communicate with words, stiffen up in anger, you know you're dealing with something bigger, deeper, more fundamentally disturbing than a failure to observe a code of conduct. He wants to make up his own rules; rules that would, of course, follow the shape of what he wants, what he feels, and what he determines he needs.

As I read this I thought of how I act when I am in the place of this infant; when I don’t get what I want. I may not throw a tantrum like the baby but I accomplish the same thing in a more sophisticated way. I may close off to others; I may feel God isn’t taking care of me in the right way; I may become sullen.

The desire to be God rather than to serve God lies at the bottom of every sin that anyone has ever committed. Sin isn't first rooted in a philosophical debate of the appropriateness or healthiness of a certain ethic. No, sin is rooted in my unwillingness to find joy in living my life under the authority of, and for the glory of, Another. Sin is rooted in my desire to live for me. It's driven by my propensity to indulge my every feeling, satisfy my every desire, and meet my every need.

This is where I live when I don’t trust God to be the Sovereign. I think about what I want rather than living for Him and in the service of others. The focus of life is ME and what I don’t have.

This is why David says, "Against you, you only, have I sinned." He isn't denying the enormity of his sin against Bathsheba, his violation of his calling to the citizens of Israel, or his capital crimes against Uriah, Bathsheba's husband. What he's understanding in his confession is that every sin is against God. In his conviction, David under-stands that sin is an act of relationship or, better stated, a violation of the one relationship that's to be the shaping factor of everything I do or say. Every sin is vertical, no matter how thunderous the horizontal implications of it arc. It's God, for whom and through whom we were created to live, whose boundaries we step over, because we don't love him the way that we should.

Sin breaks my relationship with God and hurts other people. Because I did what I wanted, the pain is spread around. I hurt, God hurts and most of the time, others are hurt.

Because sin is about the breaking of relationship, restoration of relationship is the only hope for us in our struggle with sin. It's through the gift of adoption into relationship with him that we find what we need to gain power over sin. And what do we need? A greater love for him than we have for ourselves. His love for us is the only thing that has the power to produce in us that kind of love for him.

God’s amazing grace shines again. We love because He first loved us. We are able to love because He first loved us. And He keeps loving us even when we mess us.

Here is a question from the meditation:

Think about a place in your life where you tend to want to be God rather than wanting to serve God. What would change in your decisions, words, and actions if you intentionally sought to please God in this situation?

I like to control my own schedule. I can get bugged when people or things get in the way of my carefully laid plans. If I rested more in God’s schedule, I would be less irritated when plans need to change. As a result I would be more pleasant to be around.

Philip


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Saturday, July 3, 2010

July 4 – Independence Day

I thought it was all about fireworks. What does Independence Day have to do with that? Oh, I thought that was a movie title.

The Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, Christmas presents and fireworks are all things that divert our minds from what each day is all about.

I was reminded to read the Declaration of Independence (read it yourself here) in preparation of our July 4th celebration. Wow, the words came alive as I pondered the present government. For many people reading it, their minds would jump ahead to the thought of revolution and overthrowing the government. I thought how premature such thoughts would be. Most of us are hardly involved in making our government better by doing such a simple thing as voting.

Read the Declaration, ponder the present governmental injustices and commit to political involvement. If each of us would simply vote in accord with our beliefs there would be a radical change in the course of our country.

As you watch fireworks this weekend remember what those explosions symbolize. Get involved in changing our government for the better and pray that God will again shine His grace on this wonderful country.

Philip

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