It is so hard to escape the gravity of being self-absorbed. We fixate both on our sin and our “victories.” C. S. Lewis encourages to look the other direction:

We should, I believe, distrust states of mind which turn our attention upon ourselves. Even at our sins we should look no longer than is necessary to know and to repent them; and our virtues or progress (if any) are certainly a dangerous object of contemplation. When the sun is vertically above a man he casts no shadow: similarly when we have come to the Divine meridian our spiritual shadow (that is, our consciousness of self) will vanish. One will thus in a sense be almost nothing: a room to be filled by God and our blessed fellow creatures, who in their turn are rooms we help to fill.

— C. S. Lewis

I Surrender All

June 4, 2014

I personally have trouble with a song that makes me lie. I Surender All is one of those hymns. Blessed Assurance is another one. The chorus of Fanny Crosby’s famous hymn goes like this, “Perfect submission, perfect delight, Visions of rapture now burst on my sight; Angels, descending, bring from above Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.” “Perfect submission, perfect delight”? I can’t sing those words with any degree of honesty. Typically, the hymns that are laden with this theological perspective are from the Keswick Movement. Some of you might be arguing with what I’m saying. Zac Hicks grapples with the song “I Surrender All,” and offers a rework that focuses on the work of Jesus, instead of my work. For me personally, songs about God work better for worship than songs about me.

What Is Idolatry?

May 21, 2014

“Idolatry is not the ceasing of worship. Rather, it is misdirected worship, and at the core of idolatry is self-worship.”

– Justin Holcomb

The Spiritual Life

April 10, 2014

We often expect a highly spiritual life to include mystical reveries, superhuman virtue, or the possession of a supernatural power that overcomes all obstacles. Actually, the spiritual life turns out to be somewhat ordinary–on the surface. It involves the universal experiences of forming relationships, marrying and rearing children, struggling with problems, working …

It is thus not simply moments of transcendent ecstasy that are “spiritual.” Human relationships are spiritual. The pleasure of being so caught up with someone you love that you forget yourself–as happens so often in marriage–is a high and holy experience. When you act as a parent–you are intimately close to God, who is hidden and active in what you do for your child.

— Gene Veith, Jr.

The Spirituality of the Cross

Working For God

April 8, 2014

Continuing in yesterday’s vein, here is a quote by Gene Veith, Jr.

But laypeople–and their pastors–must remember that they do not have to be doing “church work” in order to be working for God. It is easy to spend every night at a church meeting, “doing the Lord’s work,” but the doctrine of vocation teaches that spending time with your spouse and children and fulfilling the demands of your job are also ways of working for God–or rather, of God working through you.

The Moses Syndrome

October 16, 2013

I read an insightful blog yesterday over at True Woman about spiritual gifts. Essentially, the blog said that the Bible doesn’t command us to discern our spiritual gifts. I know that I’ve sung this song before, but I think it is worth revisiting. The problem, as I see it, is that we can evaluate ministry opportunities based on our perceived gifts. When confronted with a need, we might dismiss the opportunity because the need calls for gifts that we don’t think we have. This isn’t what believers are called to do.

Sadly, I’ve dismissed ministry opportunities because I didn’t think that the need matched my gifts. I say this to say that I’m preaching to the choir. I realize that there are often needs that we can’t meet. For example, there are financial needs that are way beyond our bank accounts. On balance, there are those opportunities that come our way that are well within our skill sets that we dismiss without any serious thought because we don’t feel gifted in a particular area.

This sort of ministry evasion has many expressions. We might not visit a skilled nursing home because we don’t think we are good at encouraging people struggling with end of life issues. There might be a family with a desperate financial need that we don’t feel compelled to help even with a sandwich because we don’t have the gift of giving. You get the idea.

While we don’t find encouragement to track down our spiritual gift in Scripture, we do find many admonitions to help people with needs. Hebrews 13:16 for example says, “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” Notice there is no exemption here. Ministry is need-driven, not gift-driven.

How about the Sheep and the Goats passage in Matthew 25? You probably remember what the goats didn’t do. They didn’t feed Jesus or give him something to drink or welcome him or clothe him or visit him in prison. How did they miss serving Jesus? By failing to serve his brothers they failed to serve Him. There is a unity between Jesus and his people. Again, there is no gift exemption here. I think we ought to be very wary of playing that card. It leads to goat-like behavior.

Moses tried to evade ministry using this tactic. In Exodus 4:10 Moses said, “I am not eloquent.” He was saying, “Hey God, this isn’t my gift.” God responded in essence by saying, “Who made your mouth?” Ultimately, Moses was critiquing the way God had made him. In v13 of that passage, Moses begged God to send someone else. The next line in v14 says, “Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses …” Avoiding service by claiming that God didn’t put me together in a way appropriate for the task at hand is not wise. We don’t want God angry with us.

Again, I realize that there are many needs that we can’t address. However, often we don’t serve because of laziness (we don’t want to do it), faithlessness (we don’t believe God will enable us), and lovelessness. James 4:17 says, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” The right thing more often than not is to serve, not look for a way out. Isn’t this simply following Jesus? Roll up your sleeves, quit griping and start serving.

Destinations

October 16, 2013

B003D0TAM8.01._SX490_SCLZZZZZZZ_V190274968_Want to grow spiritually? Erik Raymond offers three tips.

It won’t surprise you that children of same sex couples don’t fare as well as children with opposite sex mom and dads. This article leaves many questions, however it does further the conversation. It will be interesting to digest the data over the years as this phenomenon becomes more studied.

Do you ever wonder what all the fuss over the debt ceiling is all about? Joe Carter sorts through the issue in a helpful way.

In a style reminiscent of “The Screwtape Letters,” John Knight in The Subtle Art of Destroying Humans highlights the strategies of the pro-abortion mindset. Think tissue not babies.

Eric Simmons piece, I Hate Porn, highlights the temporal and eternal impacts of porn. I’ve said this many times, but parents must guard the gate. Porn is a drug that the human spirit is often predisposed to. Lifelong addiction can start at a very young age. The destruction caused by porn is incalculable.

Stand to Reason reviews O’Reilly’s book “Killing Jesus: A History.” The review is rather positive except for its criticism of the way O’Reilly refers to some of the gospel accounts as myths.

Finally, “Help for Women Under Stress” by Randy and Nanci Alcorn is free today only for Kindle. My guess is that it is probably a pretty good book. I appreciate Randy Alcorn.

Destinations

October 8, 2013

B003D0TAM8.01._SX490_SCLZZZZZZZ_V190274968_Your Pastor Needs YOU! is a post that I really appreciated. Short and sweet, but good stuff.

Mark Altrogge in Keep. On. Praying encourages his readers to be persistent in prayer. It is so easy to fail in this critical area.

There are many good ebook deals today. Here are a few: Stephen Altrogge’s “The Greener Grass Conspiracy” is $0.99.   Lydia Brownback’s  “Joy: A Godly Woman’s Adornment” is $0.99. “Work Matters” by Tom Nelson is $0.99. Mike Horton’s “The Gospel-Driven Life” is $3.99 for Nook and Kindle.

Something is seriously wrong with us as a race:

Destinations

June 19, 2012

Here is an interesting infographic. It seems that when we use Google, Google gives us more Google than it has in the past.

In this piece, Kevin DeYoung parses Paul and tells us what it really means to be spiritual. Turns out that the cross is central to authentic spirituality.

Barnabas Piper helps us see how we can be legalistic about legalists. I mostly track with what he writes. My one thought is that legalism is a sin that is perhaps more insidious and dangerous than say, fornication. This is because it promises eternal life while fornication clearly doesn’t.

Joni Eareckson Tada’s A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God’s Sovereignty is free today for Kindle and Nook.

Destinations

April 4, 2012

This morning in my annual trek through the Bible, I read about David’s mighty men. My mind went back to a sermon I once heard where the preacher read through the names of the passage in an impeccable manner. It is a somewhat interesting patch of divine revelation but application can be challenging. Here, in the providence of God, Ray Ortlund helps us mine application from this otherwise obscure passage. Good stuff.

What is true spirituality? Here’s Richard Lovelace’s gospel-centered answer:

True spirituality is not a superhuman religiosity; it is simply true humanity released from bondage to sin and renewed by the Holy Spirit. This is given to us as we grasp by faith the full content of Christ’s redemptive work: freedom from the guilt and power of sin, and newness of life through the indwelling and outpouring of hisSpirit.

(HT: Of First Importance)

Page CXVI is offering their new album for free. I suspect you will either love or hate what they do. It is different. Here is one of their songs that I’ve very much appreciated the past several years. I’ve got the joy but I’m also sad. Be sure to read the artist’s story detailing how this rendition of the song came about below the video.

The first time I played Joy was the night my father passed away. He had a short and painful battle with cancer. My dad was not perfect but he did the best he could with what he had. A year before he died he was diagnosed with dementia. The day he told me he had cancer he said it was a blessing. To him, cancer was a better way to end his story than a mind with no memory of his family or his life. So as I sat at the piano, the only place that felt safe that night to me, the weight of loss hit my chest. I remembered my eyes were blurred with tears and I literally began to play the now familiar progression of Joy. I kept cycling through the progression and then, as if it had already been written, I began to sing a different melody to a song I sang in VBS as a child, “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart…”

The truth is that I was terribly and profoundly sad. The reality of grief had not even entirely hit me yet. But at the same moment I had a deep sense of peace. He was no longer in pain. He was no longer sick. He was free from all his ailments and restored. Although I still miss him, I know that God has weaved redemption through death into my father’s story. That brings me great joy. It was not until grief became a part of my story that I realized that joy is not simply an expression, but an attitude and acknowledgment of the deep peace of knowing a Savior.