In my couple’s small group, we are reading “What Jesus Demands from the World” by John Piper. This is another good read if you are ready to dig in and be challenged. Piper studied through the gospels and looked at all the commands/demands Jesus made in his teaching. Before this summer, it had been a long time since I had camped in the gospels to study. It seems that I had been in Paul’s letters a lot (to borrow a Seinfeld line–not that there’s anything wrong with that). It is so easy to read what we want to read to help ourselves feel comfortable. A lot of Jesus words are so blunt, and I had not camped there to listen in a long while. I have really grown and been challenged as I have led a study through Matthew (for my young women’s small group) and read this book. Today I was in a chapter about loving your enemies. It was filled with a lot of good meat. Piper made a point that true doctrine is the root of love. That is how Jesus lived. He did not compromise the truth to win a following. So many movements in the church today abandon the truth or bend it when God’s word does not produce a response that is popular. I loved how Piper stated that love is not pitted against the truth but it lives by it and burns by it and stands on it. It seems weekly I hear, “lets put our differences aside and love one another.” Well, when the differences are preferences, sure that is fine. But, we have to be so careful that we are not abandoning the very message of Christ just to make ourselves comfortable. Jesus said that a servant is not above his master. If the world hated him (Truth), it will surely hate us as we live out and share him. It is so easy to want to be liked, but we are accountable to God for how we compromise. Piper made an excellent point that in today’s culture ‘love is not defined by the quality of the act and its motives but the subjective response of others.’ In our culture and the church, we have allowed a person’s response to an act to define whether the act was truly loving. Let’s think about this. The Pharisees responded poorly to Jesus teaching. They were offended, angered, etc. Does that mean that Jesus did not love them with the truth? We forget that the true gospel is offensive to our sin loving, self-serving ears. So, I have to go to Him daily to decide whether I want to serve someone’s comfort for the moment or love them with words of life for eternity. I have dear friends who have confronted me in my sin over the years. I did not respond well at first, but as the Spirit worked, I was exceedingly greatful that they would love me deeply to give up their comfort to spur me on. They did this in gentleness and respect and truth, and that is how we are to walk. We are not to speak within our own pride or authority. We are to speak in humility and to trust God. I have had several really hard conversations with others in the last 6 months where I have had to speak the truth in love. The reaction of others was not good. The people were angry and/or hurt. I dreaded the conversations. I did not take delight in them. It was not comfortable, but I knew it was for their edification in Christ. I had to examine my heart, pray for strength and trust my Father in heaven and the Spirit to work in them. Piper reminded me in this chapter that I give an account to God…He is the absolute and not the person’s feelings of woundedness. May we each examine within ourselves how we define loving others. May we listen to Him and be in his word to walk forward instead of our own definition.
Hymns are so rich in truth. This is one of my favorites…drink in its truth. Jesus, I am resting, resting, In the joy of what thou art; I am finding out the greatness of Thy loving heart. Thou hast bid me gaze upon Thee, And Thy beauty fills my soul, For by Thy transforming power, Thou hast made me whole.
Chorus: Jesus, I am resting, resting, In the joy of what Thou art: I am finding out the greatness of Thy loving heart.
O, How great Thy lovingkindness, Vaster, broader than the sea! O, how marvelous Thy goodness, Lavished all on me! Yes, I rest in Thee, Beloved, Know what wealth of grace is Thine, Know Thy certainty of promise And have made it mine.
Ever Lift Thy face upon me As I work and wait for Thee; Resting ‘neath Thy smile, Lord Jesus, Earth’s dark shadows flee. Brightness of my Father’s glory Sunshine of my Father’s face, Keep me ever trusting, resting, Fill me with Thy grace.
I am reading a book by Jerry Bridges called Respectable Sins. I HIGHLY recommend this book for those who are ready to grow deeper in Christ. Jerry Bridges is a highly respected teacher, leader and writer who works for the Navigators organization.
This book takes a realistic look at sin and the gospel of grace while helping to expose those sins that are tolerated in the church. He touches on ungodliness, anxiety, anger, frustration, gossip, discontentment. It is a biblically solid look at the command of putting to death sins. He reminds the reader of the deep hope in the gospel of where we stand in Christ.
In the book, he also speaks of the concept of dependent responsibility. We do not grow on our own, yet we do not sit back and not work at our Christian lives. “We are responsible before God to obey His Word, to put to death the sins in our lives, both the so-called acceptable sins and the obviously non-acceptable ones. At the same time, we do not have the ability within ourselves to carry out this responsibility. We are in fact totally dependent upon the enabling power of the Holy Spirit.”
Check this book out. However, you may only find it on Amazon.com if you are in the Knoxville area. Quite the irony that none if any Christian retailers in the area are carrying it. Think on that one…
Bailey, our boxer, is a quirky dog. She loves to play with her pink ball, and she will go find it on command. She loves for us to throw the ball to catch it, but she will not let the ball go for us to throw it again. She runs around the room taunting us with the ball for us to catch her to throw it. She does not get the concept that if she gives us the ball, we will throw it for her to have fun. We will not take it away and punish her, but she acts as if that is what she believes will happen. The light went on in my head. That is exactly what I do with God. He holds all good things in his hand, and He promises to work for our good. Yet, I hold on to things in fear thinking that I know better. He longs for me to let go and live in the joy and peace of trusting his Sovreign hand. When I do trust and let go, I remember that. My memory does not last for long, though. I begin to worry about finances or friendships or the future or that I know better how to take care of myself. Oh to remember today the joy of trusting my father to lead me in running in the path of his commands. The freedom of surrender bounding to get the ball.
Today, I spent most of my day at Panera on campus. We were finishing up a study and discussion on Esau trading his birthright for a meal. We were discussing the great hope and inheritance we have in Christ and how we trade it at times for circumstantial numbing and temporal things when out of the corner of my eye, a woman was hit by a car. In an instant, boom…our total perspective changed. It happens that fast–our lives are changed. Sometimes we are prepared and sometimes we fall apart. The woman was taken away in an ambulance, and the woman who hit her was hysterical. The girls I was with waited with me to see if we could talk to the woman who was the driver, but we were not able to stay until after the police left. I pray for both of these women. I pray that they know Christ or meet him in this painful journey. The whole scene took me back to two years ago when I was riding with Greg and J.C. Neely, and we saw a hit and run accident where a motorcyclist was sent flying through the air after being hit by a truck. It was so scary and very sobering. I attempted to call 911 that day, and I fell completely apart. This time, one of the girls with me dialed 911, and I saw that she was about to fall apart. I grabbed the phone and was able to make the call, and I made sense by remaining calm. I had thought about how to make emergency calls…I was prepared. (I think I needed to prove it to Greg after my prior phone call is one of his favorite stories to tell.) I want to be prepared in all situations. I was actually reminded of a conversation I had with a girl earlier in the day about telling others about Christ. It takes instances like these to remind me of the eternal perspective of our hope in Christ…and the urgency of sharing that hope disregarding the fear of man. When something like this happens, we are jarred into reality. A reminder of 1 Peter 3:15. Oh, that I live with an eternal lens to throw off my selfish love of comfort and love others with the truth being ever mindful that life changes in an instant.
As those in Christ, our utmost calling is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. Last night, in my Bible Study, we studied Matthew 5:11-16. The passage states that as disciples we are salt and we are light. There is nothing that is to be hidden about that. In fact, our very identities as new creations in Christ are very distinguishable from the world. We are the light of the world now because the Spirit is in us. We take forth his message to the world. That happens when the fruit of good works moves out of our hearts.
Matthew 5:16 says,‘In the same way (as the characteristics of salt and light), let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.’
A point we discussed last night was the importance of pointing people to the reason for our good works…the source of the light. A lot of people may do kind things for others, but our call in bringing God glory and enjoying him is to make him look supreme–not ourselves.
1 Peter 3:15-16 speaks in this same vein in response to suffering for the sake of righteousness in Christ…’But in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.’
Both of these passages speak of suffering and persecution for doing good in Christ. I shudder to think of the practice of letting my life do the talking at the expense of not speaking for the very reason and existence and purpose of my life. So many times I have heard and bought into ‘being Jesus’ to others without words. Are heart motives and actions important? Oh yes.
But as Romans 10:14 states ‘But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?’
It is easier not to say…but it is also a denial of him. Oh Lord, that I may be quick to give an answer for the hope I have in you. May my heart beat be for your glory whether pointing to you brings hardship for me or brings opened eyes by the Spirit for that heart to call on you and render glory to you.
As I was studying yesterday, I was gripped with the challenge that our job as disciples is not fufilled by mere personal pursuit of holiness (even though very important) or membership in the body with quiet involvement. Salt and light are very distiguishable. They are publically exposed. We, body, are a lit city on a hill…we cannot be hidden. Today, I pray that in your workplace, classroom, roomate situation, marriage, parenting, etc. that your light shine and that you continually give a reason for the hope that he has given you. May he be given the ultimate glory.
Well, here goes. I have been pondering about this for awhile, and what better day is there to start blogging than January 1? I have an obsessive habit of reading blogs, and so I thought I would give back. I have many hopes for the new year, but they are mostly cloudy at the moment. Yesterday, I drove to my hometown to have breakfast with two dear friends, and on the way, I drove in complete fog. As I passed over the bridge on the Tennessee River, I could see a few feet in front of me. Fog encapsulated the whole bridge…over, under, around. I was reminded of my future. I can see shadows of where God is leading, but there is no clear sunny path. He is showing me what is directly in front of me for the day. Yet, I am reminded deep inside that He is the foundation of the bridge–He is the foundation of everything. Fear and anxiety can overtake me, and then I am reminded of how little I am and how big and faithful He is. There were brief snippets of sun yesterday that illuminated the way, and then the fog came back around. It was not an audible voice that spoke, but an impression that communicated…”I will show you where you need to go…I am here with you.” I am reminded of conversations of the last few days with people around me…those whose bodies are battling cancer, those whose marriages are under fierce attack, those whose hearts are broken by loss. My heart hurts and I pray on their behalf. And, I reflect on the fact that Christ is LORD even when we lose our hair or job or way or our husband. In times of complete loss of control, I have seen the truest glimpse of Jesus and experienced Him in the fullest. I thank God for the troubles He has brought into my life this year–for sleepless nights, deep heartache, uncertainty. Those things did not feel good, but they have driven my heart and soul and mind to Christ. They are the very things that call me to the cross and his mercy and goodness. They are the things that cause me to cry out for help. And, in that time, my heart is transformed. My circumstances may or may not change. Or they may change at such a snail’s pace that if I was focused on them, I would truly be driven mad. But, something happens when I go to God. He draws me to himself and shows me the beauty of who He is. I come to experience the joy of the Lord as my strength and not the counterfeit joy of ego strokes or new clothes or cars or good food or a baby or a job promotion. All of those things are not bad in themselves, per say, but when I put my hope in them, I put my hope in things that are the false comforts of this world. In comparison to the riches and fullness in Christ, they are dead. They are treasure on earth. We are called not to store up treasures on earth but treasures in heaven.My prayer for this year is that He continue to grow me deeply in Him. That is my prayer for those around me, as well. I pray that the true gift of fellowship with Him grow. I realize soberly that that means hardship in this world. I swallow down my fear knowing who holds me in His hand. I would not trade these last few years for comfort because I would have gloried in the comfort and not my Lord. I pray that we not be consumed with comfort but consumed with the all surpassing greatness of His name and His presence.2 Corinthians 4:16-18 English Standard Version’So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. for this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.’ Jen