Saturday, September 13, 2014

The fight in me

It's so much easier to stop a behavior than it is to deal with the root of why you behave the way you do. Let me be more specific; at times I have a problem with anger. It's like I constantly pull a Kanye; walk up to God, grab the mic and say "I know you said vengeance is yours, but I got this one." It plays out in different ways, from road rage to my wife having to stop me from getting into verbal altercations to fighting not to respond to people on Facebook with what I'm immediately thinking about their response to me.
 It's not just a fight to not respond to things that upset me in anger, it's dealing with that thing in my heart that makes me feel like I should respond that way. I know that my need to respond to people and circumstances that upset me with anger is saturated with pride. I need to get the last word and win the argument. I need the guy who cut me off to learn how to drive as well as I do so the streets with be a more pleasant place to drive. The bottom line is:

1. When I am the center of my life, sin wins.
2.  If I am at the center, it's likely a result of neglecting the disciplines of prayer, study, fellowship and confession.

I was looking over Jonathan Edwards' resolutions today and was reminded that sin won't commit suicide. If I don't actively fight to kill it, it will not die. Although God is constantly perusing me, if I don't make my pursuit of him intentional, I'll find it difficult to consider him in my daily thought life and in those interactions that push me to the edge...

3. Resolved, if ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again. - Jonathan Edwards

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

15 years a Christian, 2 years a husband, 3 months a father

When I was 19 years old, God totally rocked my life by saving me. I can remember who I was just an hour before hearing the message. I wasn't a seeker. I didn't go to church that morning because I had burdens on my mind that I needed a spiritual fix for. I just went because I was asked to go, and the last thing I’d ever expect to happen… happened. It’s been 15 years now, and through the ups and downs, I’m still standing by God’s grace. Now that I’m 35, it’s been interesting trying to navigate through this stage in my life. Being saved at 19, I didn't exactly see what Godly parenting and child rearing should look like. I have the scriptures which are absolutely sufficient, with all that I need to know to walk every stage of my life out to His glory, but even the scripture speaks about the value of our brothers and sisters being examples in the faith for how to live. 
Getting married and recently having Lincoln came with a lot of questions: What does the role of a Godly husband and father look like for me? How do we work through disagreements? How do I raise him to be a Godly child/man in a culture that wants God out? How will we work through disappointments which are bound to happen? What about the fears I deal with internally about what his future may hold?
I don’t have answers for most of my questions, but here are 7 things I've learned/I see God teaching me through my journey as a husband and father:
  1. Trust in the Sovereignty of God. I don’t know what Lincoln’s future holds, but I can be assured that God is faithful. No matter how crazy this world gets, God and his word will stand forever.
  2. Disappointment and hard times are inevitable. Face that fact now and don’t be overwhelmed by it. The scriptures make that clear but offers hope in Christ.
  3. Learn to be increasingly eternity facing. Being on a single income can make me envious and resentful for what I don’t have if I’m not careful to look at what this life is really about.
  4. Be intentional about loving your wife deeply. Life can get busy with work, church, children etc. You know she’s precious to you, but she needs to know it too. It’s also important if you’re going to model Godly manhood to your son.
  5. Never stop reading and building strong relationships with Godly men and families. This one has been difficult for me lately. I have great books that I know can aid me in strengthening my prospective of Godly parenting and I’m sure there are plenty of great examples at GCC, but I've been so lazy. I need to use what God has given me to aid in my maturing for myself and my family.
  6. Keep in mind that when it comes to Godly character, you cannot give what you don’t have. I've always wanted to avoid being that parent that’s trying to do Godly things so my kid can be “good” instead of modeling a Godly life so that he can value Christ above all. You can’t hide what you truly value. Your kids will figure it out.
  7. Keep legacy in mind. This uphill climb doesn't end with my life. My son will have many challenges in his life when I’m gone and so will his children. My wife has her own questions and fears that she takes to God. The last thing I want to do is be selfish with the decisions I make daily. I want the generations after me to know what it means to love and enjoy Christ. I want to spend myself for the glory of God and the Godward growth of my family. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Class is always in session

Two important reminders/lessons I've learned this weekend:

1. When you're aware and grateful for the sovereignty of God, none of life's happenings feel mundane. It's a remedy for pride and entitlement. If He is sovereign, nothing happens on accident.

2. Putting another persons interest before yours is easy when it pertains to a thing that doesn't mean much to you. It's when you face the choice of surrendering one of your REAL interests for the sake of another that your heart is tested and, in some cases, you get to experience gladness in doing it. It's an amazing evidence of the Spirits gradual work of sanctification in the heart.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

just a few post election thoughts...

The ballots have been counted, the negative adds are gone, and the world seems a little less politically opinionated than it was yesterday. The 2012 presidential elections have been very thought provoking for me. I can remember listening to a sermon by Francis Chan that both terrified and challenged me. He spoke about a church during the holocaust that was near a rail road track. Sometimes during their services, trains full of people would pass by on their way to concentration camps. When the worshiping congregation would hear the screams and cries of the people in the trains, they’d sing louder to drown out the sound. He also spoke of churches that were built during the dark ages with small slits in them that you could see through from outside. The reason the churches were built that way was because they didn’t want lepers to worship inside and expose the believers to their illness. We look at these examples and are disheartened by the thought of Christians behaving this way. We are astonished that these generations of believers could read the same bibles that we do and violate what God makes so plain in scripture.

After looking at my Twitter timeline and the responses on Facebook to the elections, I couldn’t help but to consider MY generation. What will future generations read in Christian literature about us? Will their jaws drop in amazement as they wonder how we could have read the same bible they're reading and make the decisions we've made/are making with a clear conscience? My grief is not so much over who was elected as president (though I disagree with many of his policies), it is more pointed at the responses of those who call themselves Christ followers. Am I out of line to believe we should be more vocally disheartened with society’s warm embrace of things that offend God than we are vocally glad with seeing the political result that we want? I don’t think anyone would be out of line if they equated that kind of gladness with wholehearted agreement. Don’t misunderstand me. I am not a democrat or a republican and I believe that no matter who wins, our hope is in God and his sovereignty. He has proven time and again that he’s able to use crooked sticks to make straight lines.  I’m just a man who strongly believes that our agreements and affiliations should be shaped by the truth of scripture. I believe that “When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.” This election has spoken volumes about what many “evangelicals” actually value and believe about God.  There’s so much more I could say, but I want to be brief…

This seems a bit incomplete, but I don’t really know how to end it… sort of just typing what’s on my heart at the moment. I’ll continue to pray for our President and I hope you’ll do the same.  I guess I’ll end with this long but appropriate quote from Art Katz:

“I know that I have not yet recovered from a recent overseas trip which continues now traveling through the States in the homes not only of Christians, but ministers, to learn that the basis by which their important decisions are made is not the Gospel but the values of the world. You parents that are sitting in this auditorium tonight – on what basis have you determined that your kids, when they graduate high school, shall go on to college or university? What is the basis by which you decided to enter the business or the vocation that you are in? Have any of the real decisions of your life – though you may speak generally about ‘the Lord’s will’ – how much more true is it that the decision is predicated on the values of the world that have to do with comfort, convenience, security and the like?...

In a word, our Christianity is degenerating into a middle-class culture, a sanctifying cover-up for the status quo, a vacuous praise club, an equating of ‘gain as godliness’, a comfortable religiosity that leaves our real interests unchallenged and undisturbed in the avoidance of the Cross of Christ Jesus. How many professing Christians live effectually as atheists, having no substantial difference in their lives from those in the world anywhere about them? Somehow am I naive to think that we ought to look different, think differently, act differently; that there ought to be such a savor and fragrance about us of Christ that it’s a savor of death unto death to some and life unto life to others?

The fact that the world can so easily tolerate us, the fact of the almost complete absence of reproach (let alone of persecution) is itself a shameful testimony that we are so like the world that we cannot be distinguished from it, and that despite the things that we verbally profess, our lives are lived hardly any differently from those that are effectual atheists. We ought rather to be citizens of another Kingdom, citizens of Heaven, but there is just simply no way to get there except through the Cross.” -And They Crucified Him -by Art Katz

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Gospel....

I just got a chance to listen to a message by Voddie Baucham on the Gospel.... and I'll say again, if you get the gospel wrong, NOTHING in Christianity will make sense! It is absolutely essential that the Gospel is never assumed but carefully defined and understood. Check out this brief exert from an article by Tim Keller entitled "The Centrality of the Gospel":

We never “get beyond the gospel” in our Christian life to something more “advanced.” The gospel is not the first “step” in a “stairway” of truths, rather, it is more like the “hub” in a “wheel” of truth. The gospel is not just the A-B-C’s but the A-Z of Christianity. The gospel is not just the minimum required doctrine necessary to enter the kingdom, but the way we make progress in the kingdom.
We are not justified by the gospel and then sanctified by obedience, but the gospel is the way we grow (Gal. 3:1-3) and are renewed (Col. 1:6). It is the solution to each problem, the key to each closed door, the power through every barrier (Rom. 1:16-17). It is very common in the church to think as follows. “The gospel is for non-Christians. One needs it to be saved. But once saved, you grow through hard work and obedience.” But Col. 1:6 shows that this is a mistake. Both confession and “hard work” that is not arising from and “in line” with the gospel will not sanctify you–it will strangle you. All our problems come from a failure to apply the gospel. Thus when Paul left the Ephesians he committed them “to the word of his grace, which can build you up” (Acts 20:32).
The main problem, then, in the Christian life is that we have not thought out the deep implications of the gospel, we have not “used” the gospel in and on all parts of our life. Richard Lovelace says that most people’s problems are just a failure to be oriented to the gospel–a failure to grasp and believe it through and through. Luther says, “The truth of the Gospel is the principle article of all Christian doctrine. . . . Most necessary is it that we know this article well, teach it to others, and beat it into their heads continually.” The gospel is not easily comprehended. Paul says that the gospel only does its renewing work in us as we understand it in all its truth. All of us, to some degree live around the truth of the gospel but do not “get” it. So the key to continual and deeper spiritual renewal and revival is the continual re-discovery of the gospel. A stage of renewal is always the discovery of a new implication or application of the gospel–seeing more of its truth. This is true for either an individual or a church.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Fight for Joy: don't mistake the scent for the flower

“The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited."
— C.S. Lewis (The Weight of Glory)

This quote sounds kind of strange, but is a beautiful and accurate description of where I am right now. Words fail me as I try to type it out so I might ramble a bit, but here is my attempt…… There are times in my walk with Christ where I feel weak. The weakness in this case is not one that comes from walking strong and just getting tired. It's a weakness that catches up to you when the gradual sin of serving and living for self makes you forget about the mission. Once you realize where you are, there's a longing for intimacy with God that results in searching, but in my searching I begin to look for an experience. By experience I mean the feelings and things that were closely associated with the times where I felt the most strong.  The experiences points to things that are landmarks (or reminders of the destination) but not the actual destination, better yet, the actual Person I’m searching for. 

It’s like a child being told that she is going to be taken to Disney World. On the day of the trip, she stares at the brochure she pinned to her bedroom wall and refuses to go on the trip because she's mesmerized by the glossy images of the place she longs to go to.  A reminder of the goal in essence becomes the great barrier that separates the child from the goal.  The reminders are not bad just like the poster isn't bad. It can serve as a great deterrent from distraction.  But isn't it funny how we can be well meaning in our goals and practices, all the while what we do with good intentions becomes the construction of idols. The things that were meant to fuel us toward relentlessly perusing the Goal capture our hearts. We want joy in Christ, but joy itself becomes the goal and Christ simply becomes the person we employ to bring us joys rather than him being the joy we run after.  In essence, we mistake the scent of the flower for the flower. I love to read books. I love to be able to clearly communicate what I believe and to study to understand it more clearly. I love having God glorifying relationships and conversations that point my soul Godward and stir my affections toward Christ. These are all great, but they are not the goal. The goal is Christ himself. To know Him.

The whole notion of trusting him for our salvation and in our salvation is the most simple yet foreign concept to us as people who are fallen but have been saved by grace.  It’s so easy for lesser joys, both those that are designed to stir our hearts toward God and ones that make us forget about God, to become what we trust in for our strength. We allow the kindness that is fashioned by God to lead us to repentance to be what breeds contempt and lazyness in us. When I consider where my heart is at times, my confidence has no choice but to lean on the reality that Christ started the work in me and will finish it (this should be my FIRST choice, but too often it's my last resort). There is a world of hope in this reality if we understand the weight of it and much grief if we forget it and lean on our performance.  He is our goal. He can be trusted even in our discomfort and when our hearts are discontented and disoriented.  David cried out at times that he felt the agony of feeling far from God and that it felt like he was dying….. but the strange thing is, we read it in the scriptures which are God breathed; written by men carried along by the Spirit. God was involved (not at fault). I find contentment in knowing that God does all that he does to glorify himself and I can trust him when my affections for Him are weak and frail.  Life is a continuous fight to die to the flesh, trust and rely on the Holy Spirit, and fight to find our joy in Christ when everything in our lives tend to war against it.  My hope remains in the faithfulness of Christ and these three truths are a constant help to me:
  • He is a good Father… so when things seem cloudy, our good and sovereign Father can be trusted.
  • He does not withhold any good thing from those who walk upright…. so my confidence is in Christ's perfect sacrifice being credited to my by faith and not my performance. I can be assured that if living in ease was good, he wouldn’t withhold it from me. His choices are best.
  • He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him…. I don’t have to search for lesser joys to satisfy me. The triviality and easy joy found in TV, games and entertainment often rob me of real satisfaction in Christ. These things may not be bad in and of themselves, but the question is, can I handle them? For the most part, the answer is no.  So I’ll flee them and trust His promise. If I seek Him, he promises to reward me with Himself and there is nothing more precious than that.
Trust His promises. He is faithful and He is good. 

Friday, October 15, 2010

the bitter fruits of self-pity

HELLO EVERYONE!!!  It's been such a long time since I've blogged.  God is really doing some amazing things in my life right now; things I find hard to put in words. I'm sort of shocked that for 10 years, I went to church, read the bible, hung with Christians and I didn't get it..... It has been such an amazing display of the power of the gospel and the work of the Spirit.  I don't think I have ever been so in love with His church and so in love with his word.  I don't think I have ever loved people as much as I do now.  That's kind of disturbing when I consider that these are two of the many clear distinctions of what the church looked like in Acts.....  OK, I'll go more in depth at another time. 

For now, I want to post something that God used to impact me tremendously early this year.  I don't know who wrote it, but it is about self pity; something I dealt with for years. This helped me to really see that my problem was rooted in selfishness and my misunderstanding of the gospel.  I constantly emphasize this in my blog and I don't think I do an adequate job of speaking this loudly enough...... If you don't get the gospel right, every part of your walk with Christ will suffer in direct proportion to that misunderstanding.  As Tim Keller stated "The gospel is not just the A-B-C’s but the A-Z of Christianity."  Getting a biblical understanding of conversion and the gospel was a great help in me realizing what was done on the cross.  Christ became so much greater than I ever imagined and I realized how undeserving I am....  Read, think, repent, and enjoy Christ more fully.

The bitter fruits of self-pity
Self-pity leads to resentment, despair, and cowardice.
All problems that can be dealt with and solved in Christian counseling sessions are always due to the pride, self-centeredness and self-pity of the counselee.

If this proposition sounds harsh, unloving and crude, then I will propose that you listen carefully for the BIBLICAL evidence.

But it is important at the very outset to distinguish between organic illnesses (that do not make us sin) and spiritual and moral failures in man (from which man is held responsible to repent). I am seeking hereby to restore a right balance between that for which a counselee cannot be held responsible and that for which he is fully responsible, before God and society.

It is known for a fact that where there is said to be a medical problem, whether it is true or not, or where they have been classified as "mentally ill," self-pitying counselees invariably use this to excuse their behavior. They anchor themselves in this comfortable and convenient excuse. Their tendency, just like everybody else, is to find an external excuse for them that avoids any guilt devolving upon themselves. When they hear the physiatrist pontificating that they are ill, what else would they need?

On the contrary, it is found that once the counselee has realized that he is responsible for his present situation, he will begin to put his own life in order and little additional counseling may be actually needed.

Now it is both scriptural and crucial in our case to come to grips with the human situation, as fallen creatures in Adam. Pride and self-centeredness, our natural state in sin, include self-pity. It is when people cannot get their own way and feel frustrated in their designs that they can descend into self-pity, an ever-increasing spiral (unless confronted with and repented of).

They then may begin to display one or more of the many forms of "mental illness." But once they repent of self-pity, then all the rest of their troubles melt away. Self-pity leads to all the behavior patterns common to counselors.

The terms used in psychoanalysis and other related pseudo-sciences are actually descriptions of various kinds of sinful behavior arising from self-pity, such as we constantly find in the record of God's Word, beginning from the case of Cain: "My punishment is more than I can bear...".

No-one is a hysteric, or a schizoid or paranoid by nature. They are rebellious against God by nature (original sin), and therefore are behaving in an hysteric, schizoid or paranoid way.

There is only one situation that precipitates bad behavior. In a nutshell it is: "I can't have my own way." Adam was the first one to, if not express it explicitly, to act upon this philosophy of life. All men, fallen in him, act the same way.

This can be realized in three different situations:

1. "That which makes me happy has been denied me or taken away." This leads to resentment.
2. "That which gives meaning and purpose to life has been denied me or taken away." This leads to despair.
3. "That which enables me to cope with life has been denied me or taken away." This leads to cowardice and timidity.

And it is the outworkings of these three attitudes that lead to all forms of irresponsible behavior which psychiatrists have called "mental illness."

Christian counseling will seek to lay the cards on the table for the counselee to look at. It will endeavor to prove that such attitudes are all stemming from self-pity, loving self rather than loving God and neighbor, paying too much attention on yourself rather than self-denial, as the gospel demands of us all.

By the grace of God these corrupt attitudes can be broken down and replaced with godly and loving attitudes. In such breakdown, and in recovering from them, we realize how good they have been to us, for thus we are delivered from passionately loving ourselves (thus self-pity) to such an extent that we would want the world to revolve around us. But the moral order of things, of course, is not built around us. It is built around Christ.

The answer to self-pity is to see our worthlessness, but also to rejoice in God who graciously opened the way of reconciliation to Him through the blood of the cross. We should not pity ourselves, but the gospel says that God has pitied us, in Christ, who died as our substitute to bring us unto God (1 Peter 2:24; 3:18).

This does not mean that we deserved pity; it only exalts the greatness of God's unmerited love towards us; and if God so loved us, then we also ought to love one another (not only ourselves).