Tuesday, July 29, 2008

For God Alone

"For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken."

Psalms 62:5&6




Just a quick, simple meditation tonight. What are you waiting for? A new job? More money? Perhaps you are waiting for things to improve financially at your church even? Maybe you are still waiting for the right guy or girl to walk into your life and make everything right and "complete." Perhaps illness has beset you and you await that final relief/cure.

True, I desire things for my life as well, but I do not wait for them. No, for God alone we must wait, in silence and in peace. Our hope is from Him and in Him. It is He alone who is our solid, unchanging and unmoving foundation. He alone is our rescuer in times of need.

For those of you who have read or seen the Lord of the Rings, bring to your mind an image of Helm's Deep and the Battle of the Hornburg. God is that great impenetrable fortress, but greater. He is also our salvation, when all hope seems gone. Whenever I see the scene in the second of the Lord of the Rings movies where Gandalf comes riding in at the dawn of the third day (sound familiar) and descends down the hill on a white horse with thousands of soldiers behind him blinding the enemy and bringing hope to the hopeless in Helm's Deep, I cry.

Tonight I remind myself, and hopefully others, to stop waiting for things, people or events, but to instead wait in silence for the God of Hope. Hold up in the fortress that is God Himself and fight in His strength (Eph. 6:10; ESV) till the dawn of his promise breaks and the Lord descends to bring about the victory!

Monday, July 21, 2008

First Love

"But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first." (Rev. 2:4)

When Christ first laid His hands upon your heart, who was He to you? Did you feel lighter yet fuller? Did you feel the bitterness of His death and yet the sweetness of the forgiveness that flowed there from? Staring into His inexplicably magnificent face did you fall deeply in love, resulting in a desire to do whatever He asked of you? Forsaking all worldliness, did you take up your cross in service of His glory, the saints and the lost? If so, why have you turned away from your first love? G. Campbell Morgan finishes the sermon I mentioned in the last blog entry as follows:


"What answer do you give to the Apostle's question. "Did ye receive the Holy Ghost when ye believed?" If you say honestly, in this hour of clear vision, "No," then receive Him now. You say, "How can I receive Him?" Not by opening your heart to the Spirit, but by opening your heart to Jesus Christ. Not by believing the Christ is the perfect example, but by enlisting under His banner and putting your whole life at His disposal. By trusting Him for yesterday, today, tomorrow, and the infinite forever, with your whole life, physical, mental, and spiritual. If your answer to the Apostle's question is "Yes," then in God's name remember your peril, for we are all in peril...

That was the foundation of the Ephesian Church. It was a wonderful church, so great that Paul wrote the last flaming glory of his letters to it. But that is not all about the church. There is another letter to the Church of Ephesus, which the great Lord, believing in whom, they had received the Spirit, sent to them through John from Patmos. In that letter he says such tragic things as these, "I have this against thee, that thou didst leave thy first love." As God is my witness, I can hardly take up my Bible and read these words without my heart being ready to break. It is the sigh of Christ over the lost love of people who had received the Spirit, and who once had tongues and prophesied...

Here me again patiently. Do not think this harsh, unkind. I deliver it as the message that is on my heart. I am not half as much anxious about you as I am about the multitudes who are outside. I want to reach you in order to reach them. I would far rather see this place in ashes than see it the tomb of a dead, lifeless mob that admires Jesus and feels nothing of His life pulsating in them. We stand upon the threshold of tremendous opportunities. Are we ready for them? The question we are to ask our own souls is, "Did we receive the Holy Ghost when we believed?" If not, here and now, let us yield ourselves to Christ, and we shall receive. If we have received and have lost the thrill, and the saffron of morning has become the gray of eventide, let us go back. Through the way be rough, even though it means the cross, even if shame attends our going, let us go back to the first works, and out of the valley of humiliation shall rise Emmanuel's land of light and love and service for everyone of us."

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Lack of the Spirit

I recently started reading a five volume set entitled "The Westminster Pulpit" which is a set of about 300 sermons as preached by G. Campbell Morgan at the Westminster Chapel in London. G. Campbell morgan was a contemporary of D.L. Moody and Charles H. Spurgeon. Morgan is renowned for being one of the greatest Biblical expositors of his time and his famous Friday night Bible class was easily the biggest London had ever seen drawing somewhere between 1,500 to 1,700 people on a weekly basis.

Below is a quote from one of his sermons I am currently reading entitled "The Lack of the Spirit" which was an expository sermon on Acts 19:2. His words are astonishingly stiring and could most certainly be a description of the church today, though the man has been in the ground for some 63 years now.


There are hundreds and thousands of people who in some measure believe in Jesus Christ who have never received the Spirit, who have never been baptized with the Spirit, who have never been born again, for the terms are synonymous. Ethic without enthusiam, principle without passion, desire without dynamic, negation of the wrong things without position in the soil of the new life--this is a perilous state in which to live. It is a perilous state because to continue in that state is to become in the one tremendous word of the writer of the letter to the Hebrews, "hardened."

The ethic merely accepted as true becomes traditional bondage. The principle obeyed with no passion of fire burning through it becomes heartlessness. Desire for the higher life and the broadening of the outlook long unfulfilled become cynicism. The negation becomes chaos. This is what is happening everywhere. You believe on Jesus, yes, and you believe on Jesus very reverently; you have never taken His name in vain. So far from that, you have always attended what we call the means of grace, you have sung hymns of the sanctuary, you have attentively listened to the message delivered by the servants of God. You have come so far as to believe the ideals of Jesus, you accept them, but there is no passion, no fire, no force, no light upon the mountains, no song in the heart.

Faultily faultless, icily regular, Splendidly null.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Out Of My Hands

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.
(Isa 26:3-4)


Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
(Pro 3:5-6)


In honor of some upcoming lay-offs that are about to possibly effect my job, and in honor of general reality; I thought I would post the lyrics to a song by Matthew West that I have always liked. When I listen to this song, I personally don't hear anxiety, fear or reluctant trust. No, instead I hear freedom!

"So it's into your will, and it's out of my hands" is the phrase that sticks with me the most. The reason I say "in honor of reality" is simply because a great deal of things in all of ours lives are truly out of our hands.

Thank you God that so many things (most things really) are out of our hands, out of our reach, over our heads and out of our league! Let us rejoice that such important things are indeed out of our fumbling, hasty, and uninformed hands and are in your completely informed, firm and loving hands! Oh how amazing thou art!

Out Of My Hands

There you go changing my plans again
There you go shifting my sands again
For reasons I don't understand again
Lately I don't have a clue

Just when I start liking what I see
There you go changing my scenery
I never know where you're taking me
But I'm trying just to follow you

It's out of my hands
It's out of my reach
It's over my head
And it's out of my league
There's too many things
That I don't understand
So it's into your will
And it's out of my hands

There you go healing these scars again
Showing me right where you are again
I'm helpless, and that's where I start again
I'm giving it all up to you

Refrain

Move me, make me
Choose me, change me
Send me, shake me
Find me, remind me
The past is behind me
Take it all away
Take it all from me, I pray

Refrain

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Fallacy of the God Shaped Hole


I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20 ESV)


How easily do we all fall into using common and often trite phrases without thinking of the theological statements behind them. Though some may see them to be quite innocent and not worth "over-analyzing," I would argue to the contrary.

The Bible compares the word of God to life giving sustenance or 'bread." The implication there is that words have an effect on the well-being of our souls. If the Word of God (truth) equates to a necessary and healthy spiritual diet, then what, consequently, do lies and falsehood equate to? And what about those phrases that aren't false but are the equivalent of "empty calories"?

Falsehood, lies and "empty calorie" phrases compare to nothing more accurately than poison. It is not, however, as though one eats a piece of bad fruit and gets food poisoning from it, only to have that poison flushed out of the system. No, instead it (lies and falsehood) gets into the system and stays there, slowly and most often stealthily killing its host. This poison effects the way we see and react to God, to others and how we view ourselves. It is like having one wrong line of programming in a computer program that throws the whole program out of whack. Though sometimes small in appearance, these lies are potent and have a deep and long lasting impact on our entire life.

There is one such lie that I would like to expose, and, hopefully, provide an antidote for. This lie looks innocent enough and some may argue it is really no lie at all. These lies, the ones that look far too much like the truth, are arguably the most dangerous and hardest to prove as lies. However, just as one little lie can cause big problems, so too can a little truth dissolve the lie and bring life to its recipient.

"There is, in all of us, a God shaped hole that only He can fill," is a phrase that most people have heard, especially those in the Christian world. The thrust behind the phrase is one that attempts to prove to others that there is a mysterious need or want within all of us that we try to fill with all sorts of things but ultimately can only be filled by God Himself. Though the phrase seems to communicate something about our need for God, I think that it insinuates things that are discreetly harmful to our relationship with God.

1) The first insinuation I see in this, is that God only fills one particular hole within us, and thus only satisfies one of many needs. The best illustration I can think of for this is the old children's toy that has various differently shaped holes with corresponding yellow pieces that fit into their respective holes. God, in this illustration, would be perhaps the star shaped piece. We, in the illustration, are the blue and red ball, and God alone can fit through the star shaped hole in us. Obviously we are in need of the star because the hole exists. Subsequently, however, we are in "need" of all the other shaped blocks and only those blocks can fill those holes. God, being a star, cannot fit through the hole for the circular shape. The implication here is that there is a need that God cannot satisfy.

This fact, that most Christians perceive God as fulfilling but one need in their lives, is well proven by the constant usage (if not verbally most at least think it) of the phrase "Yeah God, but..." Yes, God exists, and God is faithful, but... Can anyone finish that sentence for me to make it true, reasonable, logical or not heretical? Some might say this "Yes God, but we are human and in the flesh." To say that our sinful nature and humanity somehow negates and cancels out some part of the nature and promises of God is both illogical and ludicrous, not to mention it is in no way supportable by any text in the Scriptures. Our faithlessness does not cancel God's faithfulness. Instead of saying "Yeah God, but..." we should instead be saying "Yes this thing about my life is true, but God is/will..."

2) Secondly, nowhere in the Bible is there any implication that God fills some mysterious vacuum in our being. Instead, the Bible depicts man as being utterly sinful and in need of death and re-birth. There is not a single aspect of our life that does not depend on God's sovereign love and faithfulness. To think that we will finally feel relief when we "get God into our life," is a misrepresentation of the Christian life. With this sort of philosophy, one may "get God" in their life and never die to self, but instead think that their "self" is complete and not lacking.

The person who sees life this way, for one, sees that "self" the way it is is only lacking something. This person will not see the need for a death and re-birth, because to them the Christian life is about completion, not renewal. God, to many, is just an means to an end, the end being self-satisfaction and the placing of the "last piece of the puzzle."

God does not satisfy a part, but the whole. To perceive God as an entity that satisfies just one of many parts, is to all too often equate him to those other things that gives us some sort of quasi or apparent satisfaction. God is not just some other puzzle piece likened to many of our other desires. Instead God, through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, is the whole--the All in All. God does not come in and fill a blank, rather he puts us to death as Paul refers to in Galatians 2:20, and He takes up residence inside of us changing our desires and fulfilling them all at once.

N. T. Wright in an interview with Tim Stafford for Christianity Today magazine (Jan 2007) says it this way

“… If you simply address the God-shaped blank that people think they’ve got, the God you end up with is the God shaped by the blank. The real God specializes in taking the blanks in people's lives and pulling and tugging and turning them into a new shape.”

What I think Mr. Wright is getting at here is that God is about the business of a new shape, or new creation. God does not just fulfill desires and fill holes, rather He changes our desires altogether.

God does not fill the hole, but instead becomes The Whole. Paul stated that it was no longer he that lived, but Christ living through him. There is a very real danger in trying to make God an addition to a life that we perceive simply needs such an addition, and that danger is death and damnation. Jesus says that unless we be born again, we cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3). Trying to "fill the God shaped hole" opens way to a life time of perceiving and wrestling with trying to keep God in that hole, and thus stay complete. It is not a small hole inside of us that cries out for God to fill, but our entire being screaming to be put to death and re-created.

We must come to see our lives as not being completed, but put to death and transformed into a new being with Christ intermingled within every part of who we are, obliterating old desires, making new ones and satisfying them all.

Buried With Christ

Buried with Christ and raised with Him, too, What is there left for me to do? Simply to cease from struggling and strife, Simply to walk in newness of life.

Refrain

Buried with Christ and dead unto sin;Dying but living, Jesus within;Ruling and reigning day after day,Guiding and keeping all of the way.

Refrain

Risen with Christ my glorious Head,Holiness now the pathway I tread;Beautiful thought from walking therein,He that is dead is freed from all sin.

Refrain

Living with Christ, who dieth no more,Following Christ, who goeth before;Not under law, I’m now under grace,Sin is dethroned, and Christ takes its place.

Refrain

Thursday, July 10, 2008

'Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus

So I was going to attach the lyrics for this hymn to the end of post on a segment of scripture, but I decided not to wait because I love it so much and wanted to share it. It is indeed a sweet delicacy to trust in Jesus. What a great grace it is that we are allowed the privilege to trust in our precious Jesus, savior and friend!

'Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His word;
Just to rest upon His promise;
Just to know, Thus saith the Lord.

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him,
How I've proved Him o'er and o'er,
Jesus, Jesus, Precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust Him more.

O how sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to trust His cleansing blood;
Just in simple faith to plunge me,
'Neath the healing, cleansing flood.

Yes, 'tis sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just from sin and self to cease;
Just from Jesus simply taking
Life, and rest, and joy, and peace.

I'm so glad I learned to trust Thee,
Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;
And I know that Thou art with me,
Wilt be with me to the end.

Monday, July 7, 2008

True Religion

"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." (James 1:27; ESV)

"What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." (James 2:14-17; ESV)

I read an article today that just about drew a few tears (which to those of you who know how easily I cry perhaps this is not so amazing). My tears, however, are quite warranted I think.

The amazing article tells the story of how a comment a father's daughter made, after seeing a mercedes stopped next to a homeless man on the curb, prompted them to sell their extravagant home to provide for those less fortunate than they. I've no idea if this family is Christian by confession, but their actions sure preach the Gospel and are Christian at the core.

While reading this article, please consider the thought process that prompted them to give the they did. What do you have that you don't need? Are you challenged at all by the teenagers response (notice the kind of lifestyle the teenager is used to)?

This is the sort of thing people in the Church should be doing! Rise up Church!

"The word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.
(Eze 34:1-4; ESV)


Now certainly this passage was speaking to the gluttons that were the religious leaders of Israel, but I think it applies to any of us who are Christians and have both spiritual and physical things to give to others. Let's not be Christian Gluttons!

The Revolution By Tree63


Who will feed the hungry if we don’t?
There’s people losing their lives ‘cos we won’t
If we believe but we still do not follow
Then maybe we don’t believe

If we could only love this world like we’ve been loved
Then all the world would know what love is really made of
We live in plenty, there is more than enough
For what the world needs, but not for our greed

Another world is possible yeah
Another world is possible yeah
The revolution’s far from over – it’s not over, it’s not over

Once upon a time a small seed
Died in the soil and became a small tree
Now it’s a forest still growing silently
And waterless earth turns green

Another world…

Full stomachs and both parents
and a church that acts like it really believes that the Good News
is is good news for everybody everywhere.

My Apologies

To those of you who actually read this; my deepest apologies for not getting to a new post sooner. Finding time to sit down and write a well thought out reflection on the scriptures has been a hard task. Though I have had time here and there to write; I have not had enough to write well and without just trying to throw something together. Because of my deep respect for the power, force and depth of the scriptures; I don't want to short change a passage or over simplify it.

I do, however, have a lot of ideas that I am working on, so expect quite a few posts this week. I hope they inspire, encourage, admonish and challenge.