Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Word Became Flesh

Wow! What a year it has been. I think that we have been in Alabama long enough now that it is safe to say that our feet have been firmly planted in our new home and place of ministry. We love it! No doubt God has bestowed on us blessing after blessing. We have been in awe while watching the hand of the LORD work in marvelous ways. However, this year has been far from easy. There have been some real heartaches that we have had to deal with all throughout the year.

As most of you know-we lost my grandmother this year. She was the only grandmother that I knew and I was the only grandchild she knew. So, needless to say our relationship was very special. Her death allowed me to spend lots of time reflecting on wonderful memories that God had given me with her. And for those memories I am so thankful. She was precious and I miss her dearly. Another heartache - has been the news of my father being diagnosed with cancer. I can’t describe the pain that I have faced while watching my parents endure such a difficult road. Being far away from them during this time has been excruciating. Its times like these that make life far more valuable and precious than we often realize.

Mingled in with the heartaches have been many challenges this year as well. I think that we’d all agree that life is not easy. Honestly, it is just plain hard sometimes. But, the one thing on earth that I can not fathom is living through life’s difficulties without the One who became flesh and dwelt among us. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:1-2; 14.

We can see through the Inspired penmanship of the Beloved Disciple, that in the beginning the WORD was God and He became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus- the Eternal Son of God stepped out of eternity- broke into time and put on human flesh. God, remaining fully divine now also fully man. Why? So He could dwell among us. There are really no words in our language to describe the incarnation of Christ. The word amazing falls extremely short.

God dwelt among us. The original Greek word for dwelt is eskhnwsen. It literally means to fix one's tabernacle, to live in a tabernacle (or tent). In other words, God set up His tent and lived right where we are so He could interact with us and get personal with us. Truly this is more than we can understand. To touch the Transcendent- how can this be?

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created………through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. …..For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things…… making peace by the blood of his cross. Colossians 1:15-20.
Through this incredible act on the cross, the all satisfying God has made it possible for us to have our sins forgiven so we can know Him and fellowship with Him now. We can have an intimate relationship with El Elyon (The Most High God). There is no greater joy.

This Christmas we can choose to allow the birth of Christ to be some distant historical story or we can recognize and receive this Divine intervention made available to us now. This is the reason for all the joy we proclaim during the Christmas season. We can have every pleasure and find the deepest comfort in times of pain in this life through Jesus Christ. This is how someone on earth can endure life’s difficulties. The Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us so we could know Him. Embrace Jesus with me today.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


1My heart is stirred by a noble theme
as I recite my verses for the king;
my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.

2 You are the most excellent of men
and your lips have been anointed with grace,
since God has blessed you forever.

3 Gird your sword upon your side, O mighty one;
clothe yourself with splendor and majesty.

4 In your majesty ride forth victoriously
in behalf of truth, humility and righteousness;
let your right hand display awesome deeds.

5 Let your sharp arrows pierce the hearts of the king's enemies;
let the nations fall beneath your feet.

6 Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever;
a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.

7 You love righteousness and hate wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.

8 All your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia;from palaces adorned with ivory the music of the strings makes you glad.

9 Daughters of kings are among your honored women;
at your right hand is the royal bride in gold of Ophir.

10 Listen, O daughter, consider and give ear:
Forget your people and your father's house.

11 The king is enthralled by your beauty;
honor him, for he is your lord.

12 The Daughter of Tyre will come with a gift,
men of wealth will seek your favor.

13 All glorious is the princess within her chamber ;
her gown is interwoven with gold.

14 In embroidered garments she is led to the king;
her virgin companions follow her and are brought to you.

15 They are led in with joy and gladness;
they enter the palace of the king.

16 Your sons will take the place of your fathers;
you will make them princes throughout the land.

17 I will perpetuate your memory through all generations;
therefore the nations will praise you for ever and ever.
Psalm 45:1-17

This link to Youtube is video clips from One Night with the King with the song Everything by Lifehouse.
This video is a beautiful picture of the Bride and the KING!!

Oh, how I am longing for that day, when we come face to face with our Glorious KING!

Everything, lyrics by LIFEHOUSE.

Find Me Here
Speak To Me
I want to feel you
I need to hear you
You are the light
That's leading me
To the place where
I find peace again.

You are the strength, that keeps me walking.
You are the hope, that keeps me trusting.Y
ou are the light to my soul.You are my're everything.

How can I stand here with you and not be moved by you?
Would you tell me how could it be any better than this?
You calm the storms, and you give me rest.
You hold me in your hands, you won't let me fall.
You steal my heart, and you take my breath away.
Would you take me in? Take me deeper now?

How can I stand here with you and not be moved by you?
Would you tell me how could it be any better than this?
And how can I stand here with you and not be moved by you?
Would you tell me how could it be any better than this?

Cause you're all I want, You're all I needYou're everything,everything
You're all I want your all I needYou're everything, everything.
You're all I want you're all I need.You're everything, everything
You're all I want you're all I need, you're everything, everything.

And How can I stand here with you and not be moved by you?
Would you tell me how could it be any better than this?
How can I stand here with you and not be moved by you?
Would you tell me how could it be any better than this?

How can I stand here with you and not be moved by you?
Would you tell me how could it be any better than this?
Would you tell me how could it be any better than this?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Gift of Jesus

This is from last year. Had to share it as well as I reminisce over what God has done the last couple of years.

December 14, 2006
The Gift of Jesus

This year has been such a blessing from the LORD. Our family has been on a wonderful journey. As you may remember last year was quite a difficult year for our family as we sought God and waited patiently for Him to show us where we were to serve. But this year, not only did God give Jeff an incredible place to serve in ministry; He has allowed me to stay home with our precious children. What an experience this has been and a complete change in our lifestyle! For Jeff- from part time ministry and seminary to Full time ministry. For me- from a full time business career to full time motherhood. Not to mention all of this taking place 3 states away from Texas.

We have had so much fun getting adjusted to a new place, making new friends and watching God unfold His plan for our lives. But amidst all the fun, there have also been hard lessons learned. God obviously had a lot that He needed to show me this year. He used our changes and transitions as teachable moments. Interestingly enough, most of my lessons were revealing how sinful in nature that I really am. In comparison to a Holy God I know that even my righteous acts are as filthy rags. (Isaiah 64:6) But this time, God showed me some of my not so righteous ways. He uncovered areas in my life that I had not recognized before.

Now before you get to thinking that there is some deep secret or hidden sin that I am talking about, let me clarify. To sum it all up in one word it would be called “selfishness”. (NO, not this only child who grew up thinking that life was all about her?!!) I don’t know about you, but whenever something unpleasant in my own life is laid bare, it’s not fun at all. Nobody likes to have the ugly things exposed. There were days that felt almost gloomy when I would get a good inside look of myself. Why would God allow a season of such hard lessons? Yes, some changes were needed for sure….but, was God being cruel? Would He really want to cause me to feel worthless? Before you are quick to answer, let me say that this revealing of my sinfulness was actually a treasure- A beautiful gift. I’ll tell you why.

Isaiah 53:5 says “But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds.” Today God reminded me that all my sin was placed on Jesus when He died on the cross. He paid the full price for all my sin and gave me peace and healing in its place. You see, I’ll never be good enough or sinless but because of Jesus and having received Him, my life is beautiful to God even in my sinfulness. God allowed me to go through a time of seeing more of who I really am without Him and in return, it caused me to have a much deeper love and appreciation for my Savior. What a GIFT!

There is nothing more fulfilling than knowing and loving Jesus more. To think that God would reveal more of Himself to me in this way is amazing! Today my heart rejoices in God alone! I could not live with out Him. He has covered all my transgressions and iniquities. This season as you reflect on Christmas and it’s meaning, do not leave Jesus in the manger. Yes, He was born and placed in a manger, but He did not stay there!!! He is now our risen and victorious LORD who has given us the most beautiful gift. Himself.

Adoring Jesus this Christmas.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

What was I thinking?

I told you last month that I would post part 2 of KP's sermon on my blog and I totally forgot! What was I thinking? Sorry. Any way, some of you have already gone and watched part 2 on your own, but just in case you haven't and are interested..... here it is.

For those of you that are subscribed to my blog you can follow this link.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Our Immanuel

Here is something that I wrote 2 years ago at Christmast that I thought that I would share again.

December 22, 2005
Our Immanuel

This year during the Christmas season, God has brought the name Immanuel to the forefront of my mind. It has been a name on which I have spent a lot of time reflecting. Matthew 1:23 says, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel which means, God with us”. Think about that for a moment. God with us! I can’t think of anything more profound.

The God of the universe, Creator of heaven and earth, Everlasting Father, King of kings, LORD of Lords, Self Sustaining, Omnipotent, Omniscient, All Sufficient GOD does not “need” us. He is complete and perfect just as He is! But He “wants” to be with us. Amazing! Immanuel, God became flesh. If you break into parts the name Immanuel, you would find this meaning. Im = with, An = us and El= God. So you might call Him the “With” us GOD. God with us! Have you ever heard of such a thing?

This year has been particularly difficult for our family due to Jeff’s final semester at the seminary as well as the journey we have been on now for 7 months of waiting for Gods unrevealed place of ministry for us. The last several months my focus has been on what we are “without”. But, because of Jesus, in contrast to the “without” I also have a really BIG “with”. I have a God who is with me and loves me. So I have no reason to dwell on the “without”.

Psalm 63:3 tells us that Gods love is better than life. This week, God reminded me of His personal love for me. Early one morning, I was up and spending my quiet time with the Lord at the kitchen table. I have really been trying to practice sitting quietly before Him to allow His word to sink in as I read it. (I am better at talking instead of listening) As I sat in the quiet and stillness of the moment, I requested from my heart to hear God speak to me. Just anything, Lord, will do. Oh, to hear an audible word from God! At that very moment, I heard little feet coming my way. I was irritated knowing that my quiet time with the Lord had ended and that now I would not hear from Him, as my youngest child was obviously awake and headed in my direction.

I want you to know what happened next. That precious child came over to me, quietly crawled up into my lap, put his small hands on my face, looked straight into my eyes and whispered, “I LOVE YOU SO MUCH”. Suddenly, I felt a feeling flood my body like nothing else. What I thought would be an interruption was actually an answer to prayer. I had just heard from my heavenly Father. Sure, it was in a four year old voice, but it was from the mouth of God. “I LOVE YOU” is what my God wanted to tell me as I eagerly awaited any word from HIM. Can you IMAGINE? Oh, yes Lord your love is better than life! I can testify with the psalmist now.

I can’t think of anything more wonderful than to be loved by a God that is “with us”. Avoid all the busyness and chaos that has been brought into the Christmas season. Sit back with me and reflect on a God that loved us SO much that He stepped out of heaven and came to earth to be “with us”. What more could we ask for? He is with us this very moment. We are surrounded by Him and His love at all times. Today, you may be “without” someone or something like me. But, do not spend your time focusing on the “without”. For we have a greater focus. Jesus our IMMANUEL!

May your Christmas be full of JESUS!!!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

My Heart for the Lost

Hey all,

I came across this powerful sermon by K.P. Yohannan today and couldn't help but post it. I met K.P. (indirectly) years ago when God began to lay Asia on my heart. He is awesome! What he speaks is what God speaks to me through His word! Not many people will stand up and say the things that he says. But, don't worry, John Piper is among the few who will! AMEN! Thank God for John Piper. He speaks my language!

Anyway, my Sunday school class is wrapping up our study on "Desiring God" with the last chapter on Suffering. The chapter is so good and once again speaks about the things that God speaks to me in His word. K.P.'s sermon is so similar to what we are learning together in class. I hope you will all take a few minutes to listen to him. The sermon is in two parts. I'll post part 2 in a couple of days. In the mean time, I am praying that when you listen to K.P. you'll hear the Father's heart. The world is dying, the lost are not being reached while prosperous America builds bigger house, drives fancier cars and is paralyzed in front of the T.V.

I pray God will open eyes and move hearts for the lost. Join me in prayer and fasting over how God can use us to make a difference in the Kingdom!

Also, K.P. has an incredible book called REVOLUTION in World Missions. He offers it free at this link. Take advantage, you won't regret it!'ll need to hit the pause button on the music player on the lower right hand side of the page in order to hear the video.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

I Surrender All

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

When the Bridegroom Is Taken Away, They Will Fast—With New Wineskins

Matthew 9:14-17
Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?" And Jesus said to them, "The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. But no one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and a worse tear results. Nor do men put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out, and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved."

I have come across this verse a couple of times in the last few days and it is heavy on my heart. I can't seem to get it out of my mind. I was researching it some today and about to write about what God was stirring in my heart, then along comes John Piper who writes it all out so perfectly that I could not bring myself to butcher this message. So, I am going to let Piper give it to you.

Fasting in the History of the Church

The Didache, a manual of church instruction from near the end of the first century says,
Let not your fasts be with the hypocrites, for they fast on Mondays and Thursdays, but do your fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. (7:1) In other words the early church sought to distance itself of the emptiness of fasting without losing the value of the practice.

Epiphanius, a bishop in Italy in the fifth century, said, Who does not know that the fast of the fourth and sixth days of the week are observed by Christians throughout the world? John Calvin, in the 16th century, said, Let us say something about fasting, because many, for want of knowing its usefulness, undervalue its necessity, and some reject it as almost superfluous; while, on the other hand where the use of it is not well understood, it easily degenerates into perstition. Holy and legitimate fasting is directed to three ends; for we practice it either as a restraint on the flesh, to preserve it from licentiousness, or as a preparation for prayers and pious meditations, or as a testimony of our humiliation in the presence of God when we are desirous of confessing our guilt before him. (Institutes, IV.12, 14, 15)

Martin Luther wrote, Of fasting I say this: It is right to fast frequently in order to subdue and control the body. For when the stomach is full, the body does not serve for preaching, for praying, or studying, or for doing anything else that is good. Under such circumstances God's Word cannot remain. But one should not fast with a view to meriting something by it as by a good work.
In more recent times the evangelical church in South Korea has taught the rest of the world a lesson in prayer and fasting. The first Protestant church was planted in Korea in 1884. One hundred years later there were 30,000 churches. That's an average of 300 new churches a year for 100 years. Today evangelicals comprise about 30% of the population. God has used many means to do this great work. One of them is a recovery not just of dynamic prayer, but of fasting-prayer. In the OMS (Overseas Missionary Society) churches alone more than 20,000 people have completed a 40-day fast—usually at one of their "prayer houses" in the mountains.

A Call to Fasting
God has confirmed in my own experience this week the value of fasting in getting long-prayed-for breakthroughs. I believe that if we seek the Lord with the hunger of fasting, there will be many more such breakthroughs that we long for. Is there something you have been praying for a long time? Is there an unbeliever you would like God to awaken to spiritual things? Is there a broken relationship you would like God to reconcile? Is there a perplexity of direction on the horizon of your life? I believe that God is calling us to rediscover the place of fasting in appropriating his power.

I suggested that as a church we fast corporately for 24 hours, skipping breakfast and lunch each Wednesday. Thus we would not eat between supper Tuesday and supper Wednesday. Instead we would try to devote some of the time given to those meals to meditation on God's Word and to prayer for spiritual awakening and for the advancement of Christ's kingdom around the world.

Many Ways to Join the Spirit of Fasting
I realize that this will not work for everyone. Some have schedules on Wednesday that make that unworkable. Others have physical conditions that make fasting unsafe. Don't worry about that. There are many ways to join the spirit of fasting. One woman wrote me this week whose job won't fit with this schedule. So she said,
So I have a couple things that I believe are from the Spirit that may be more of a fast for some than food. I thought that not watching television for a week or a month or a night of the week when I normally watch it may be more of a fast than food. Instead of watching my favorite program I spend the time talking and listening to God. I wonder if there might be others for whom this would be a fast and would be a focused time of payer for them.
Don't ignore God's call on your life to fast if you can't be a part of the Wednesday focus. If your heart is willing, he will lead you, as he did this woman, to something fruitful for you.

Martin Lloyd-Jones said in his great book on the Sermon on the Mount,
Fasting, if we conceive of it truly, must not . . . be confined to the question of food and drink; fasting should really be made to include abstinence from anything which is legitimate in and of itself for the sake of some special spiritual purpose. There are many bodily functions which are right and normal and perfectly legitimate, but which for special peculiar reasons in certain circumstances should be controlled. That is fasting.

Fasting: An Intensification of Prayer
I pointed out last week from Acts 13:1–3 that the course of history was changed when the leaders of the church in Antioch were worshiping, praying, and fasting. I suggested that in our day there has been reawakening in worship around the world and reawakening in prayer around the world. But not yet does there seem to be a reawakening in fasting, except in some places like Korea. I asked, Might God not ordain that his fullest blessings will come to the church when we prevail in prayer with the intensity of fasting? That's what I think fasting is at heart. It's an intensification of prayer. It's a physical explanation point at the end of the sentence, "We hunger for you to come in power." It's a cry with your body, "I really mean it, Lord! This much, I hunger for you."
I want to turn our attention to the words of Jesus on fasting. Does he teach us to fast? Or is it part of the old wineskins left over from the Old Testament that has no place in the new, free, celebrating people of God?
Richard Foster, who wrote the book Celebration of Discipline, said in his chapter on fasting of Matthew 9:15, "That is perhaps the most important statement in the New Testament on whether Christians should fast today." That's probably true. So let's give close attention to this text and ask the Lord to teach us from it what we should know and what we should do in regard to fasting.

Why Didn't Jesus' Disciples Fast?
In Matthew 9:14 the disciples of John the Baptist come to Jesus and ask why Jesus' disciples don't fast? So evidently Jesus' disciples were not fasting while he was with them.

While the Bridegroom Is with His Attendants
Jesus answers with a word picture. He says, "The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they?" With those words Jesus teaches us two things: one is that fasting was by and large associated with mourning in that day. It was an expression of broken-heartedness and desperation, usually over sin or over some danger. It was something you did when things were not going the way you want them to.
But that's not the situation with the disciples of Jesus. This is the second thing he teaches: the Messiah has come and his coming is like the coming of a bridegroom to a wedding feast. This is just too good to mingle with fasting. So Jesus was making a tremendous claim for himself here. In the Old Testament God had pictured himself as the husband of his people Israel (Isaiah 62:4f.; Jeremiah 2:2; 3:20; Ezekiel 16:8; Hosea 2:19f.). Now his Son, the Messiah, the long hoped-for one, has come and he claims to be the Bridegroom—that is, the husband of his people, who will be the true Israel (cf. John 3:29). This is the kind of partially veiled claim Jesus made about his identity with God. If you had ears to hear, you could hear it. God, the one who betrothed Israel to himself in covenant love, has come.

This is so stunning and so glorious and so unexpected in this form that Jesus said, you just can't fast now in this situation. It is too happy and to spectacularly exhilarating. Fasting is for times of yearning and aching and longing. But the bridegroom of Israel is here. After a thousand years of dreaming and longing and hoping and waiting, he is here! The absence of fasting in the band of disciples was a witness to the presence of God in their midst.

"Then They Will Fast"
But then Jesus said, "But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast." This is the key sentence: "Then they will fast." When is he referring to?
Some have suggested he was referring just to the several days between his death and resurrection. They would fast just for those days. But that is very unlikely. For several reasons. One is that the early church fasted after the resurrection, as we have seen in Acts 13:1–3 (cf. Acts 14:23; 2 Corinthians 6:5; 11:27). The other is that in Matthew 25:1–13 Jesus pictures his second coming as the arrival of the bridegroom. In other words, the Bridegroom is taken away until the second coming of Christ.

So I think Arthur Wallis is right in his sixth chapter of God's Chosen Fast: "The time is now." Jesus is saying: Now while I am here in your midst as the Bridegroom, you can't fast, but I am not going to remain with you. There will come a time when I return to my Father in heaven. And during that time you will fast. That time is now.

It's true that Jesus is present with us by his Spirit. But Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:8, "We [would] prefer to be absent from the body and at home with the Lord." In other words, in this age there is an ache and a longing—a homesickness—inside every Christian that Jesus is not here as fully and intimately and as powerfully and as gloriously as we want him to be. And that is why we fast.

A Patch of Unshrunk Cloth and New Wine
But then Jesus says something very crucial in verse 16–17. He says,
But no one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and a worse tear results. 17 "Nor do men put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out, and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.
The patch of unshrunk cloth and the new wine represent the new reality that has come with Jesus—the kingdom of God is here. The Bridegroom has come. The Messiah is in our midst. And that is not merely temporary. He is not merely here and then gone. The kingdom of God did not come in Jesus and then just vanish out of the world.
Jesus died for our sins once for all. He rose from the dead once for all. The Spirit was sent into the world as the real presence of Jesus among us. The kingdom is the reigning power of Christ in the world subduing hearts to the king and creating a people who believe him and serve him. The Spirit of the Bridegroom is gathering and purifying a bride for Christ. This is the new wine.
Old Wineskins Can't Contain the New Wine
And Jesus says, The old wineskins can't contain it. What is the old wineskin? In the context it seems to be fasting. Fasting was inherited from the Old Testament and had been used as part of the Jewish system of relating to God. Now Jesus says, the old wineskins of Judaism can't contain the new wine.
So what shall we say? In verse 15 Jesus says that we will fast when the Bridegroom is gone. And in verse 17 he says that the old fasting cannot contain the new wine of the kingdom.

New Wine Demands New Fasting
My answer is that the new wine demands new fasting. Years ago I wrote in the margin of my Greek Testament beside this text, "The new fasting is based on the mystery that the Bridegroom has come, not just will come. The new wine of his presence calls for new fasting."
In other words the yearning and longing and ache of the old fasting was not based on the glorious truth that the Messiah had come. The mourning over sin and the yearning in danger was not based on the great finished work of the Redeemer and the great revelation of himself and his grace in history. But now the Bridegroom has come. In coming he struck the decisive blow against sin and against Satan and against death.
The great, central, decisive act of salvation for us today is past, not future. And on the basis of that past work of the Bridegroom, nothing can ever be the same again. The wine is new. The blood is shed. The Lamb is slain. The punishment of or sins is executed. Death is defeated. The Bridegroom is risen. The Spirit is sent. The wine is new. And the old fasting mindset is simply not adequate.
What's New About the New Fasting
What's new about the fasting is that it rests on all this finished work of the Bridegroom. The yearning that we feel for revival or awakening or deliverance from corruption is not merely longing and aching. The first fruits of what we long for have already come. The down payment of what we yearn for is already paid. The fullness that we are longing for and fasting for has appeared in history and we have beheld his glory. It is not merely future.
We have tasted the powers of the age to come, and our new fasting is not because we are hungry for something we have not tasted, but because the new wine of Christ's presence is so real and so satisfying. The newness of our fasting is this: its intensity comes not because we have never tasted the wine of Christ's presence, but because we have tasted it so wonderfully by his Spirit and cannot now be satisfied until the consummation of joy arrives. We must have all he promised. And as much now as possible.
So I urge you to join in the fasting. Not because you haven't tasted the new wine of Christ's presence, but because you have tasted it, and long, with a deep joyful aching of soul, to know more of his presence and power in our midst.
- John Piper

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Understanding the Times

Daniel 9:1-3 In the first year of Darius son of Ahasuerus, who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom- in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.

This passage so stuck out to me that I couldn’t help but write about it. Let’s look at this together. For a little background- All Israel had transgressed God’s law and turned away, refusing to obey the LORD their God. (Dan 9:11) and because of their unfaithfulness to the LORD, He scattered them both near and far in all the countries. (vs.7) In particular God had exiled Judah to Babylon and the people were in captivity. Daniel was one of those from the tribe of Judah who had been exiled to Babylon. But Daniel, even as a young teenage boy resolved not to let the pagan culture in which he now lived to be an influence on his life as a child of God. He lived in faithfulness to his God all the days of His life.

And here we are at this passage when Daniel was old in age and we see him searching the scriptures. He is reading the prophecies of Jeremiah which tell of a 70 year captivity and he understands that the LORD will deliver His people out of captivity just as He delivered them from slavery in Egypt. Daniel understands the times. He realizes that through the Prophecies of Jeremiah and the length the people have been exiled that the time of captivity is drawing to a close and the LORD will be faithful to restore His people.

Now Daniel, understanding the prophecies and believing in God’s soon coming restoration does something so interesting. He turns to the LORD God and pleads to him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes. Amazing! Why did He do this? Why wasn’t he sitting back and carrying on with his life while waiting for Gods restoration? We see very clearly through his incredibly passionate prayer that he offers up to the LORD in verses 4-19 that he is praying for his sins and the sins of God’s people will be forgiven and he is mourning over them. The people that bore the very name of GOD had been living life their way and were not turning to the LORD and God punished them. Daniel prayed for his people to turn from their sins and return to God.

This raises the hair on the back of my neck. Daniel KNEW the times and he prayed and fasted for his people! Do we know the times that we are in? As believers are we searching scripture to understand where we are at in our day and age? In Matthew chapter 24 Jesus gives us signs of the close of the age. Jesus tells us in vs.12 that in the last days we will see an increase in wickedness and the love of many will grow cold. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 tells that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.

I’d say that describes our day pretty accurately, wouldn’t you? And by reading these God breathed texts what are we doing about it? Jesus says in Matthew 24:32-33 that we can learn a good lesson from the fig tree: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he (Jesus) is near, at the very gates. Check your own spiritual pulse and the pulse of professing believers today. Do we understand the times? Or are we still going about our daily lives unconcerned about the sin in our lives or the spreading of the Gospel and totally disconnected from the Kingdom work that is to be done before Jesus’ return.

I am quickly reminded of Matthew 24:37-40 which says for as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Let this not be us! Let us be like Daniel who searched the scriptures and understood the times and cried out to God with prayers and petitions and with fasting on behalf of their sin and let us return to the LORD with all our hearts to be ready on the day that the Son of Man appears. The time is drawing near.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

I'm Going To Fight

Hey everyone,

I just had to share this today. For the last several weeks and in particular the last couple of days, I have been the enemy's target. I have been so weighted under his lies and his accusations and I just have to say that I am SICK of it. I am sick of walking in defeat! Anyone else feel like that today?

What is the enemy feeding you? What lies have you listened to and have started to believe? You and I are to be a threat to the kingdom of darkness. We have a weapon so sharp that the enemy will flee when we wield it! Stand up, pick up your weapon, get in the battle, stand firm and look the enemy in the face and tell him where he belongs.

Today, I am standing strong. I will not let the enemy get me down, I will not let him slow me down and I refuse to believe His lies. I WILL be a threat, I will be bold and by faith I WILL press on and I will advance the Kingdom of God. I am a child of The King and I am getting back in the battle today and I am going to FIGHT!!!

(watch this video attached)

Monday, September 24, 2007

A Reckless Pursuit

A Reckless Pursuit, Fascination, Passion, Faith, Abandoning All Else, Fervency, Letting Go, Eyes Fixed, Dedicated, No Turning Back........

King David proclaimed that, above all, he sought one thing- the face of God. "One thing I have desired, one thing I seek, to behold the beauty of the Lord. Even to seek the very face of God." (Psalm 27:4,8)

Inspired by such a lifestyle, I abandon myself to this reality, reckless in my pursuit, fascinated in my devotion, stricken by love, wounded by grace. I am impassioned to seek His face because I am desperate for more.

Even now, the Spirit of God is moving in our midst, setting the pace for a worldwide movement of lovesick worshippers, inspired to live holy before God. Laying worldly pleasures aside and striving after the heart of God and longing to experience the power of the Holy Spirit.

The world may offer grand substitutes, and that is all they are; substitutes for the real thing. The Kingdom of Heaven holds a different reality; True Beauty, True Satisfaction, True Life. God is longing for us to pursue him in boldness as we abandon fleshly distractions to give ourselves wholly to Him with all our hearts. (Mt.22:37).

Today, multitude's are crying out to Jesus, "We will seek You with all our heart. We will indeed live a counter-culture lifestyle!" The Lord is preparing these people now in intimacy with His heart in the secret place to be vessels of His power. In their weak but sincere devotion, He is strong and will manifest His glory through them.

God is calling forth forerunners who will live in the spirit of John the Baptist who prepared the people for the coming of Christ. Even now God is searching the earth for forerunners young and old who will give it all up for Him, His will and his ways in fearless devotion. (taken from "The Call Kansas City" article)

Are you abandoned to this reckless pursuit of God? Are you willing to cast EVERYTHING aside to know Him in the fullness of who He is and to love Him with all your heart? God is seeking you out right now, He is pursuing you and drawing you to Himself. Get rid of everything that hinders you from coming to Him whole heartedly and be prepared to be overwhelmingly satisfied in God. There is no greater joy or satisfaction in this life than knowing the Father through Jesus. Are you ready to live for Jesus and fulfill His plan for you in the Kingdom of God? Much work is left to do before He returns. Surrender, let go, forsake all, keeping your eyes fixed and NO turning back! You will have no regrets!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Consider Your Investments

If you are looking for a good devotional book, I would highly recommend Chris Tiegreen's "At His Feet". I mention his writings often on my blog. Each day is always SO good, but today's topic was something that God is talking to me about lately and I couldn't help but share it.

"What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?" Mark 8:36

IN WORD- If someone has a sum of money to invest, he or she will have to make some choices. The money can be put in full into one investment, or it can be divided among more than one. Many people choose this latter option in order to hedge their bets. But when one option is considered far superior to all the others, diversification takes a back seat to opportunism. Attractive investment opportunities draw all of our attention and all of our money for the possibilities they entail. We want to capitalize.
In the economy of God, one investment is clearly superior to all other's. It's a sure thing. And Jesus calls us to place all of our resources, time, and talents there-exclusively. Why? Because He knows the return it will yield, and he knows we will not be disappointed. But there is often a part of us that wants to diversify. We want to invest some in God's kingdom, certainly, but also some in this world. We're afraid to put our resources only in one place. Whether we put a lot or a little into the temporal, Jesus says, it's a bad deal. The world will end in bankruptcy, and the kingdom of God will inherit all wealth. And its wealth will be everlasting.

IN DEED- Human beings pursue comfort and pleasure with an alarming passion. It isn't that comfort and pleasure are wrong; God created both for us to enjoy. But He never called us to pursue them. He never asked us to focus our attention on our earthly time span in order to make it as easy or profitable as possible. To the contrary, he constantly calls His disciples to take everything they have now and invest it in everything they know about God's eternal Kingdom. "Whoever wants to save his life [i.e., live for the "now"] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel [i.e., lives for the kingdom] will save it" (v. 35) Consider your investments well, and avoid the pursuits of this world. Whatever you do, do it for the glory of God.

God has really opened my eyes to the fact that the things of His Kingdom are done completely backwards from the things of this world. So many believers spend so much of their time, money and energy towards things of this world and Jesus clearly tells us NOT TO! All of our time, energy, talents, money should be invested in things of the Kingdom of God. Every earthly thing that we pursue in the here and now will not stand when its all said and done.

As my relationship with Jesus grows, I have come to realize that in comparison to knowing Him more intimately that the things of this world become increasingly unappealing. As Paul says in Philippians 3 that all those earthly things are rubbish compared to knowing Christ Jesus our LORD. My prayer for me is that every minute of each day, relationship, word spoken, ministry and dollar spent would bring God glory and serve to advance the Kingdom of God. I so badly want to be sold out 100% in every aspect of my life. The more I know Him the more I love Him and the more I want to give every part of my being to Him. NOTHING else compares to knowing Christ Jesus our LORD and giving everything we have to Him! When we do, our eternal benefits will far outweigh anything this world has to offer. What investments are you making?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Be Praised!!

Consider the following passages from John Pipers book "Desiring God".

Consider this question: In view of God's infinite power and wisdom and beauty, what would his love to a human being involve? Or to put it another way: What could God give us to enjoy that would prove him most loving? There is only one possible answer: himself! If he withholds himself from our contemplation and companionship, no matter what else he gives us, he is not loving.

Now we are on the brink of what for me was a life-changing discovery. What do we all do when we are given or shown something beautiful or excellent? We praise it! We praise new little babies: "Oh, look at that nice round head! And all that hair! And her hands, aren't they perfect!" We praise a lover after a long absence: "Your eyes are like a cloudless sky! Your hair like forest silk!" We praise a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth when we are down by three. We praise the October trees along the banks of the St. Croix.

But the great discovery for me, as I said, came when reading "A Word about Praise" in C. S. Lewis's Reflections on the Psalms. His recorded thoughts-born from wrestling with the idea that God not only wants our praise but commands it--bear looking at again, in fuller form:

But the most obvious fact about praise-whether of God or any thing-strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honor. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless (sometimes even if) shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought in to check it. The world rings with praise-lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game-praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars. I had not noticed how the humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious, minds, praised most, while the cranks, misfits and malcontents praised least . . .

I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise what ever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: "Isn't she lovely? Wasn't it glorious? Don't you think that magnificent?" The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about. My whole, more general, difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can't help doing, about everything else we value.

I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.

There is the solution! We praise what we enjoy because the delight is incomplete until it is expressed in praise. If we were not allowed to speak of what we value, and celebrate what we love, and praise what we admire, our joy would not be full. So if God loves us enough to make our joy full, he must not only give us himself; he must also win from us the praise of our hearts-not because he needs to shore up some weakness in himself or compensate for some deficiency, but because he loves us and seeks the fullness of our joy that can be found only in knowing and praising him, the most magnificent of all Beings. If he is truly for us he must be for himself!

God is the one Being in all the universe for whom seeking his own praise is the ultimately loving act. For him, self-exaltation is the highest virtue. When he does all things ``for the praise of his glory," he preserves for us and offers to us the only thing in all the world which can satisfy our longings. God is for us! And the foundation of this love is that God has been, is now, and always will be, for himself.

Ok, so with that said, why don't we complete our joy in God today by expressing it in our praise to HIM! The song attached will help you with this task!

Be Praised oh GOD!


Thursday, September 6, 2007

Wear Does Our Value Come From?

Hey everyone!
My sweet sister in law has something on her heart that she wants to share with you all. What she shares is a huge issue among us women today. I asked her to put her heart into words and to let me post it here on my blog. Would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

The following write up by Kristi:

As a young woman I suffered many abuses, including sexual abuse and rape, by the one man meant to protect me, my father. This left me with deep wounds I know many of you have as well. As a result I was constantly searching for the answers to the questions every woman and girl want and need answered; "Am I worthwhile? Am I enough? Am I VALUABLE?" Of course, I was looking in all the wrong places for all the right answers. I dressed as if my value came from the way men saw me physically, because for a long time I didn’t know any other way to get my questions answered. Thankfully we are blessed with a Loving, Patient, and Forgiving God, who knows our true hearts. He has been working on mine for many years and continues to, daily. I’d like to share a few of the things I’ve learned through the Holy Spirit and our Heavenly Fathers word. I pray that it might be of help to you, as well.

Wear Does Our Value Come From?

As Christian women, where are we getting validated? Is it in our daily quiet time with our Savior or is it in the looks and comments we get from men, because of the way we are dressed? There are so many frustrating issues in our world today that need to be bathed in prayer, but few are so completely within our control.

We are called to be salt and light in a dark world. Matt.5:14-16 says "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven." These verses are calling us to look differently than the world, yet how many of us read fashion magazines and try to imitate what we see or feel bad about ourselves because we will never be able to imitate what are on the pages? We have become so tolerant of worldly ways that I fear we don’t shine very brightly, if at all. When I allowed these images to get into my mind, through magazines, inappropriate TV shows, movies and videos, I gave the devil a foothold in my mind and heart. Eph.5:3 warns" But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s Holy people." Spiritual warfare is real and I had to get into the battle, for the sake of my marriage, my family and my own walk with Christ.

So, I had to ask myself; did I dress in hopes of catching a second glance or, did I see how valuable I was/am to God and want to honor Him because of His love for me?
This was a very hard question to address, and has taken a lot of humble tears to answer. How could Christ love me when I didn’t love myself?

Proverbs 31:10-12 states "A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her, and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good not harm all the days of her life." Yet how could my husband trust me as his wife if I was advertising what was rightfully for his eyes only?
If we are dressing to impress others who are not our husbands or to compete with other women we are doing evil to ourselves, which in turn is doing evil to our husbands and our marriages because we become one body with our mates when we marry them. (Genesis 2:24) If you are not married yet, how will you know if your future husband loves you for who you are inside, if he’s distracted by how much he is seeing on the outside? I struggled with this fact for many years, wondering if my husband really loved me for who I was inside.

For a long time I was scared to have more children, because of what it might do to my figure, until I read these verses; Luke 23:27-29 states A large number of people followed him including women, who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bear and the breasts that never nursed!" These verses weigh so heavily on my heart. Even on the way to His death for OUR sins, Christ is warning us. This issue runs so deep in our society. How many babies have not been born, how many warriors for Christ are not in the battle because we have become too vain to birth, and raise them?
What about the women who do choose to have more than a few children? How many of us have thought to ourselves" At least I don’t look as bad as her!"? How many of us can say we have never compared ourselves to another woman and thought ourselves better because we have perkier breasts, a flatter tummy, or a thinner figure?
The mothers of many should be honored, for they sustain the next generation of warriors of our faith.

Proverbs 31:30 says” Favor is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." I believe this too is a warning, that as Christian women we are not heeding. The reality of life is that we all are going to get old. I know no one wants to hear this, but it is true. We are missing the point and the beauty of this fact. We are not meant to be here forever! We are meant for a better place, forever praising our Heavenly Father.

I had to ask myself" When I get older will I be happy with the person I have become? Will I be able to hear my master say 'Well done good and faithful servant'?" I wasn’t so sure, actually I knew I wouldn’t. I needed to make some serious changes, and through the help of my TRUE Father, my Heavenly Father I have begun to turn a new page.

Proverbs 31:22 says "She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple." We are obviously called in this verse to look nice and make an effort, but not in an Earthly way. When we have Christ’s light in our hearts, it fills us and HE shines through us. That is a beauty everyone will notice and can’t be faked or duplicated.

If you struggle with this same problem I have a few questions you can ask your self that might help; -Am I trying to say look a me in this?
-Will this outfit bring honor or shame to my husband and our marriage covenant with God?
-Am I dressing to compete with another woman, am I trying to look as good as or better than another woman?
-Would I wear this outfit if Christ was physically standing next to me?
(Because He is!)

The devil feeds us all lies, and wants to distract us from God’s plan for our lives, but we do not have to succumb to his efforts. We have the power of our Creator on our side. We may be low, but we are lifted up because of Christ.

You are valuable. You are loved. You are worthy. God created you for an intimate relationship with Him, and He sent His only son to die for you. He chose you.
He chose me. Let’s honor His love and sacrifice with our hearts, minds, bodies, and our lives. May we be shining examples of His love, for our children and each other, now and always.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Desiring God- Money Part 4

Desiring God- by John Piper
Our Calling: A Wartime Lifestyle

The mention of “war" is not merely rhetorical. What is specifically called for today is a "wartime lifestyle." I have used the phrase "simple necessities of life" earlier in this chapter because Paul said in 1Timothy 6:8, "If we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content." But this idea of simplicity can be very misleading. I mean it to refer to a style of life that is unencumbered with nonessentials-and the criterion for "essential" should not be primitive "simplicity," but wartime effectiveness.

Ralph Winter illustrates this idea of a wartime lifestyle:

The Queen Mary, lying in repose in the harbor at Long Beach, California, is a fascinating museum of the past. Used both as a luxury liner in peacetime and a troop transport during the Second World War, its present status as a museum the length of three football fields affords a stunning contrast between the lifestyles appropriate in peace and war. On one side of a partition you see the dining room reconstructed to depict the peacetime table setting that was appropriate to the wealthy patrons of high culture for whom a dazzling array of knives and forks and spoons held no mysteries. On the other side of the partition the evidences of wartime austerities are in sharp contrast. One metal tray with indentations replaces fifteen plates and saucers. Bunks, not just double but eight tiers high, explain why the peacetime complement of 3000 gave way to 15,000 people on board in wartime. How repugnant to the peacetime masters this transformation must have been! To do it took a national emergency, of course. The survival of a nation depended upon it. The essence of the Great Commission today is that the survival of many millions of people depends on its fulfillment.

There is a war going on. All talk of a Christian's right to live luxuriantly "as a child of the King" in this atmosphere sounds hollow-especially since the King himself is stripped for battle. It is more helpful to think of a "wartime" lifestyle than a merely "simple" lifestyle. Simplicity can be very inward directed, and may benefit no one else. A wartime lifestyle implies that there is a great and worthy cause for which to spend and be spent (2 Corinthians 12:15).

Winter continues:

America today is a save-yourself society if there ever was one. But does it really work? The underdeveloped societies suffer from one set of diseases: tuberculosis, malnutrition, pneumonia, parasites, typhoid, cholera, typhus, etc. Affluent America has virtually invented a whole new set of diseases: obesity, arteriosclerosis, heart disease, strokes, lung cancer, venereal disease, cirrhosis of the liver, drug addiction, alcoholism, divorce, battered children, suicide, murder. Take your choice. Laborsaving machines have turned out to be body-killing devices. Our affluence has allowed both mobility and isolation of the nuclear family, and as a result our divorce courts, our prisons and our mental institutions are flooded. In saving ourselves we have nearly lost ourselves.

How hard have we tried to save others? Consider the fact that the U.S. evangelical slogan, "Pray, give, or go" allows people merely to pray, if that is their choice! By contrast the Friends Missionary Prayer Band of South India numbers 8000 people in their prayer bands and supports 80 full-time missionaries in North India. If my denomination (with its unbelievably greater wealth per person) were to do that well, we would not be sending 500 missionaries, but 26,000. In spite of their true poverty, those poor people in South India are sending 50 times as many cross-cultural missionaries as we are.

The point here is to show that those who encourage Christians to pursue a luxuriant peacetime lifestyle are missing the point of all Jesus taught about money. He called us to lose our lives in order that we might gain them again (and the context is indeed money-"What does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?"- Mark 8:36. And the way he means for us to lose our lives is in fulfilling the mission of love he gave us.

Be Rich in Good Deeds

Which leads us to the final admonition Paul makes to the rich: "They are to do good, to be rich in good deeds, liberal and generous" (1Timothy 6:18). Once they are liberated from the magnet of pride and once their hope is set on God, not money, only one thing can happen: Their money will flow freely to multiply the manifold ministries of Christ.

What about the Lake Home?

So what does a pastor say to his people concerning the purchase and ownership of two homes in a world where 2,000 people starve to death every day and mission agencies cannot penetrate more unreached peoples for lack of funds? First, he may quote Amos 3: 15-"I will smite the winter house and the summer house; and the houses of ivory shall perish; and the great houses shall come to an end." Then he may read Luke 3:11, "He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none."

Then he might tell about the family in St. Petersburg, Florida, who caught a vision for the housing needs of the poor. They sold their second home in Ohio and used the funds to build houses for several families in Immokalee, Florida.

Then he will ask, is it wrong to own a second home that sits empty part of the year? And he will answer, maybe and maybe not. He will not make it easy by creating a law. Laws can be obeyed under constraint with no change of heart; prophets want new hearts for God, not just new real estate arrangements. He will empathize with their uncertainty and share his own struggle to discover the way of love. He will not presume to have a simple answer to every lifestyle question.

But he will help them decide. He will say, "Does your house signify or encourage a level of luxury enjoyed in heedless unconcern of the needs of others? Or is it a simple, oft-used retreat for needed rest and prayer and meditation that sends people back to the city with a passion to deny themselves for the evangelization of the unreached and the pursuit of justice?"

He will leave the arrow lodged in their conscience and challenge them to seek a lifestyle in sync with the teaching and life of the Lord Jesus.

Why Has God Given Us So Much?

In Ephesians 4:28, Paul says, "Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need." In other words, there are three levels of how to live with things: (1) you can steal to get; (2) or you can work to get; (3) or you can work to get in order to give.

Too many professing Christians live on level two. Almost all the forces of our culture urge them to live on level two. But the Bible pushes us relentlessly to level three. "God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work" (2 Corinthians 9: 8). Why does God bless us with abundance? So we can have enough to live on and then use the rest for all manner of good works that alleviate spiritual and physical misery. Enough for us; abundance for others.

The issue is not how much a person makes. Big industry and big salaries are a fact of our times, and they are not necessarily evil. The evil is in being deceived into thinking a $100,000 salary must be accompanied by a $100,000 lifestyle. God has made us to be conduits of his grace. The danger is in thinking the conduit should be lined with gold. It shouldn't. Copper will do.

Living on the Brink of Eternity

Our final summary emphasis should be this: In 1 Timothy 6, Paul's purpose is to help us lay hold on eternal life and not lose it. Paul never dabbles in unessentials. He lives on the brink of eternity. That's why he sees things so clearly. He stands there like God's gatekeeper and treats us like reasonable Christian Hedonists: You want life which is life indeed; don't you (verse 19)? You don't want ruin, destruction and pangs of heart, do you (verses 9-10)? You do want all the gain that godliness can bring; don't you (verse 6)? Then use the currency of Christian Hedonism wisely: do not desire to be rich, be content with the wartime necessities of life, set your hope fully on God, guard yourself from pride and let your joy in God overflow in a wealth of liberality to a lost and needy world.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Are You a Disciple?

I am attaching a link for everyone to watch this video called "Experience the Life" when you get a few minutes. In the video Bill Hull is discussing something that God has been teaching me over the last several years. When I read God's word He convicts me of the state of the Church today. Becoming a Christian these days has been lowered to "just walking an aisle" or "praying a prayer" etc in order to be saved. Yet it is so obvious in America today that "so called" Christians have no transformation in their lives. They continue to live life the way they have or at best they may have cleaned up their act a little and go to church to check off a set of religious acts. But, what God has showed me is that to be a Christian, means to be a disciple of Jesus.

Bill Hull states in his article "What must change now" that: The word Christian-used three times in the New Testament has been preferred over Disciple, used 269 times. Christian seems to be a word that has lost its meaning more so than those who think Disciple is passé. It seems that outside the Church Christians are thought of as intolerant, even hateful, they are critics and judges. It is a title that has disappeared into the fog of Western culture to define religious origin. Inside the Church, Christian has become a word that describes agreement with a set of religious ideas; it does not require action or movement.

Disciple is a robust word; it calls upon a person to give an answer to God, to do something, to follow and in doing so create an opportunity for transformation. Answering the call to discipleship means positioning oneself for spiritual formation. It requires intentionality, self-denial, and commitment to follow Jesus wherever He leads. As Bonhoeffer aptly stated, “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.”

We are called to be disciples of Jesus. Are you a disciple?


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Desiring God- Money Part 3

Desiring God- by John Piper
Laying Up for Yourself a Good Foundation

Paul's teaching to the rich in 1 Timothy 6:19 continues and applies these teachings of Jesus from the Gospels. He says rich people should use their money in a way that "lays up for themselves a good foundation for the future and takes hold on life which is life indeed." In other words, there is a way to use your money that forfeits eternal life.3

We know Paul has eternal life in view because seven verses earlier he uses the same kind of expression in reference to eternal life: "Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses" (1 Timothy 6:12).

The reason the use of your money provides a good foundation for eternal life is not that generosity earns eternal life, but that it shows where your heart is. Generosity confirms that our hope is in God and not in ourselves or our money. We don't earn eternal life. It is a gift of grace (2 Timothy 1:9). We receive it by resting in God's promise. Then how we use our money confirms or denies the reality of that rest.

Pride of Possessions

Paul gives three directions to the rich about how to use their money to confirm their eternal future.

First, don't let your money produce pride. "As for the rich in this world, charge them not to be haughty" ( 1 Timothy 6:17). How deceptive our hearts are when it comes to money! Every one of us has felt the smug sense of superiority that creeps in after a clever investment or new purchase or a big deposit. Money's chief attractions is the power it gives and the pride it feeds. Paul says, don't let this happen.

Why It Is Hard for the Rich to Inherit Life

Second, he adds in verse 17, "Don't set your hope on uncertain riches, but on God who richly furnishes you all things to enjoy." This is not easy for the rich to do. That's why Jesus said it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Mark 10:23) . It is hard to look at all the earthly hope that riches offer and then turn away from that to God, and rest all your hope on him. It is hard not to love the gift instead of the Giver. But this is the only hope for the rich. If they can't do it, they are lost.

They must remember the warning Moses gave the people of Israel as they entered the promised land:

Beware lest you say in your heart, "My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth." You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth; that he may confirm his covenant which he swore to your fathers, as at this day. (Deuteronomy 8:17-18)

The great danger of riches is that our affections will be carried away from God to his gifts.

Is This a Health-Wealth-and-Prosperity Teaching?

Before moving on to Paul's third exhortation for the rich, we must consider a common abuse of verse 17. The verse says that "God richly furnishes us with everything to enjoy." This means, first, that God is usually generous in the provision he makes to meet our needs. He furnishes things "richly." Second, it means we need not feel guilty for enjoying the things he gives us. They are given "for enjoyment." Fasting, celibacy, and other forms of self-denial are right and good in the service of God, but they must not be elevated as the spiritual norm. The provisions of nature are given for our good and, by our Godward joy, can become occasions of thanksgiving and worship ( 1 Timothy 4:2-5).

But a wealth-and-prosperity doctrine is afoot today, shaped by the half-truth that says, "We glorify God with our money by enjoying thankfully all the things he enables us to buy. Why should a son of the King live like a pauper?" And so on. The true half of this is that we should give thanks for every good thing God enables us to have. That does glorify him. The false half is the subtle implication that God can be glorified in this way by all kinds of luxurious purchases.

If this were true, Jesus would not have said, "Sell your possessions and give alms" (Luke 12 :33). He would not have said, "Do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink" (Luke 12:29). John the Baptist would not have said, "He who has two coats, let him share with who has none" (Luke 3:11). The Son of Man would not have walked around with no place to lay his head (Luke 9:58). And Zacchaeus would not have given half his goods to the poor (Luke 19:8).

God is not glorified when we keep for ourselves (no matter how thankfully) what we ought to be using to alleviate the misery of unevangelized, uneducated, unmedicated, and unfed millions. The evidence that many professing Christians have been deceived by this doctrine is how little they give and how much they own. God has prospered them. And by an almost irresistible law of consumer culture (baptized by a doctrine of health, wealth, and prosperity) they have bought bigger (and more) houses, newer (and more) cars, fancier (and more) clothes, better (and more) meat, and all manner of trinkets and gadgets and containers and devices and equipment to make life more fun.

Why God Prospers Many Saints

They will object: Does not the Old Testament promise that God will prosper his people? Indeed! God increases our yield so that by giving we can prove our yield is not our god. God does not prosper a man's business so he can move from a Ford to a Cadillac. God prospers a business so that 17,000 unreached peoples can be reached with the gospel. He prospers a business so that twelve percent of the world's population can move a step back from the precipice of starvation.

I am a pastor, not an economist. Therefore I see my role today the way James Stewart saw it in Scotland thirty years ago. It is the function of economists, not the pulpit, to work out plans of reconstruction. But it is emphatically the function of the pulpit to stab men broad awake to the terrible pity of Jesus, to expose their hearts to the constraint of that divine compassion which halos the oppressed and the suffering, and flames in judgment against every social wrong.... There is no room for a preaching devoid of ethical directness and social passion, in a day when heaven's trumpets sound and the Son of God goes forth to war.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Desiring God- Money Part 2

Desiring God by John Piper
The Images of Wealth

I recall a full-page ad for a popular office chair which showed a man in a plush office. The ad's headline read, "His suits are custom tailored. His watch is solid gold. His office chair is________________. " Below the man's picture was this quote:

I've worked hard and had my share of luck: my business is a success. I wanted my office to reflect this and I think it does. For my chair I chose a________________. It fits the image I wanted . . . If you can't say this about your office chair, isn't it about time you sat in a _________________? After all, haven't you been without one long enough?

The philosophy of wealth in those lines goes like this: If you've earned them, you would be foolish to deny yourself the images of wealth. If 1 Timothy 6:9 is true, and the desire to be rich brings us into Satan's trap and the destruction of hell, then this advertisement, which exploits and promotes that desire, is just as destructive as anything you might read in the sex ads of a big city daily.

Are you awake and free from the false messages of American merchandising? Or has the omnipresent economic lie deceived you so that the only sin you can imagine in relation to money is stealing? I believe in free speech and free enterprise because I have no faith whatsoever in the moral capacity of sinful civil government to improve upon the institutions created by sinful individuals. But for God's sake let us use our freedom as Christians to say no to the desire for riches and yes to the truth: There is great gain in godliness when we are content with the simple necessities of life.

What Should the Rich Do?

So far we have been pondering the words addressed in 1 Timothy 6:6-10 to people who are not rich but who may be tempted to want to be rich. In 1 Timothy 6:17-19 Paul addresses a group in the church who are already rich. What should a rich person do with his money if he becomes a Christian? And what should a Christian do if God prospers his business so that great wealth is at his disposal? Paul answers like this:

(17) As for the rich in this world, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on uncertain riches but on God who richly furnishes us with everything to enjoy. (18) They are to do good, to be rich in good deeds, liberal and generous, (19) thus laying up for themselves a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life which is life indeed.

The words of verse 19 simply paraphrase Jesus' teaching. Jesus said

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

Jesus is not against investment. He is against bad investment- namely, setting your heart on the comforts and securities that money can afford in this world. Money is to be invested for eternal yields in heaven-"Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven!" How?

Luke 12:32-34 gives one answer:

Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

So the answer to how to lay up treasures in heaven is to spend your earthly treasures for merciful purposes in Christ's name here on earth. Give alms-that is, provide yourself with purses in heaven. Notice carefully that Jesus does not merely say that treasure in heaven will be the unexpected result of generosity on earth. No, he says we should pursue treasure in heaven. Lay it up! Provide yourselves with unfailing purses and treasures! This is pure Christian Hedonism.

You Will Be Repaid at the Resurrection of the Just

Another instance of it in the teaching of Jesus is Luke 14:13-14, where he is more specific about how to use our resources to lay up treasures in heaven.

Whenever you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot pay you back, for it will be paid back to you in the resurrection of the just.

This is virtually the same as saying, "Give alms; provide yourselves purses in heaven." Don't seek the reward of an earthly tit for tat. Be generous. Don't pad your life with luxuries and comforts. Look to the resurrection and the great reward in God "whose presence is fullness of joy and at whose right hand are pleasures for evermore" (Psalm 16:11).

Beware of Being Wiser than the Bible

Beware of commentators who divert attention from the plain meaning of these texts. What would you think, for example, of the following typical comrnent on Luke 14:13-14: "The promise of reward for this kind of life is there as a fact. You do not live this way for the sake of reward. If you do you are not living in this way but in the old selfish way.'' 1

Is this true-that we are selfish and not loving if we are motivated by the promised reward? If so, why did Jesus entice us by mentioning the reward, even giving it as the basis ("for") of our action? And what would this commentator say concerning Luke 12:33, where we are not told that reward will result from our giving alms, but we are told to actively seek to get the reward-"Provide yourselves with purses!"?

And what would he say concerning the parable of the unrighteous steward (Luke 16:1-13), where Jesus concludes, "Make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal habitations" ( 16:9)? The aim of this parable is to instruct the disciples in the right and loving use of worldly possessions. Jesus does not say the result of such use is to receive eternal habitations. He says, Make it your aim to secure an eternal habitation by the use of your possessions.

So it is simply wrong to say that Jesus does not want us to pursue the reward he promises. He commands that we pursue it (Luke 12:33, 16:9). More than forty times in the Gospel of Luke there are promises of reward and threats of punishment connected with the commands of Jesus.2

Of course, we must not seek the reward of earthly praise or material gain. This is clear not only from Luke 14:14, but also from Luke 6:35, "Love your enemies, and do good, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High." In other words, don't care about earthly reward; look to the heavenly reward, namely, the infinite joys of being a son of God!

Or, as Jesus put it in Matthew 6: 3-4, don't care about human praise for your merciful acts. If that is your goal, that's all you will get, and that will be a pitiful reward compared to the reward of God. "When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you."

Luring Others to the Reward by Loving It Ourselves

The reason our generosity toward others is not a sham-love when we are motivated by the longing for God's promise is that we are aiming to take those others with us into that reward. We know our joy in heaven will be greater if the people we treat with mercy are won over to the surpassing worth of Christ, and join us in praising him.

But how will we ever point them to Christ's infinite worth if we are not driven, in all we do, by the longing to have more of him? It would only be unloving if we pursued our joy at the expense of others. But if our very pursuit includes the pursuit of their joy, how is that selfish ? How am I the less loving if my longing for God moves me to give away my earthly possessions so that my joy in him can be forever doubled in your partnership of praise?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Desiring God- Money Part 1

In my Sunday School class I am currently teaching from John Piper's book called, Desiring God. This month we are on the Chapter that deals with money. This lesson has been very difficult for all of us but one that WE as believers need to hear especially in this day and age of wealth. Compared to the rest of the world we are extremely wealthy people. God has a plan and purpose for our prosperity and how we are to handle it. So, I thought that I would post this chapter online. I have broken it up into 4 segments and will post a segment every couple of days. I would love to hear your feed back on it. This chapter is very convicting and my prayer is that Christians today would really grasp this. It would be life changing if we did.

The Currency of Christian Hedonism

Money is the currency of Christian Hedonism. What you do with it-or desire to do with it-can make or break your happiness forever. The Bible makes clear that what you feel about money can destroy you:

Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. (l Timothy6:9)

Or what you do with your money can secure the foundation of eternal life:

They are to be liberal and generous, thus laying up for themselves a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life which is life indeed. (l Timothy6:18,19)

These verses teach us to use our money in a way that will bring us the greatest and longest gain. That is, they advocate Christian Hedonism. They confirm that it is not only permitted but commanded by God that we flee from destruction and pursue our full and lasting pleasure. They imply that all the evils in the world come not because our desires for happiness are too strong, but because they are so weak that we settle for fleeting pleasures that do not satisfy our deepest souls, but in the end destroy them. The root of all evil is that we are the kind of people who settle for the love of money instead of the love of God ( 1 Timothy 6:10) .

Beware the Desire to Be Rich

This text in 1 Timothy 6 is so crucial that we should meditate on it in more detail. Paul is warning Timothy against

[They are] people who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. Now, there is great gain in godliness with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world; but if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to bc rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs.

Paul writes to Timothy a word of warning about slick deceivers who discovered they could cash in on the upsurge of godliness in Ephesus. According to verse five, these puffed-up controversialists treat godliness as a means of gain. They are so addicted to the love of money that truth occupies a very subordinate place in their affections. They don't "rejoice in the truth." They rejoice in tax evasion. They are willing to use any new, popular interest to make a few bucks.

Nothing is sacred. If the bottom line is big and black, the advertising strategies are a matter of indifference. If godliness is in, then sell godliness.

This text is very timely. Ours are good days for profits in godliness. The godliness market is hot for booksellers and music makers and dispensers of silver crosses and fish buckles and olivewood letter-openers and bumper stickers and lucky-water crosses with Jesus on the front and miracle water inside guaranteed to make you win at Bingo or your money back in ninety days. These are good days for gain in godliness!

He Didn't Say, "Don't Live for Gain."

In his day or in ours, Paul could have responded to this effort to turn godliness into gain by saying, "Christians don't live for gain. Christians do what's right for its own sake. Christians aren't motivated by profit." But that's not what Paul said. He said (in verse six), "There is great gain in godliness with contentment."

Instead of saying Christians don't live for gain, he says Christians ought to live for greater gain than the slick money lovers do. Godliness is the way to get this great gain, but only if we are content with simplicity rather than greedy for riches. "Godliness with contentment is great gain."

If your godliness has freed you from the desire to be rich and has helped you be content with what you have, then your godliness is tremendously profitable. "For while physical training is a little profitable, godliness is profitable for all things, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come" (1 Timothy 4: 8). Godliness that overcomes the craving for material wealth produces great spiritual wealth. The point of verse six is that it is very profitable not to pursue wealth.

What follows in verses 7-10 are three reasons why we should not pursue riches.

Getting Raises Is Not the Same as Getting Rich

But first let me insert a clarification. We live in a society in which many legitimate businesses depend on large concentrations of capital. You can't build a new manufacturing plant without millions of dollars in equity. Therefore, financial offers in big businesses often have the responsibility to build reserves, for example, by selling shares to the community. When the Bible condemns the desire to get rich, it IS not necessarily condemning a business which aims to expand and therefore seeks larger capital reserves. The of ficers of the business may be greedy for more personal wealth, or they may have larger, nobler motives of how their expanded productivity will benefit people.

Even when a competent person in business is offered a raise or a higher paying job and accepts it, that is not enough to condemn him for the desire to be rich. He may have accepted the job because he craves the power and status and luxuries the money could bring. Or, content with what he has, he may intend to use the extra money for founding an adoption agency or giving a scholarship or sending a missionary or funding an inner-city ministry.

Working to earn money for the cause of Christ is not the same as desiring to be rich. What Paul is warning against is not the desire to earn money to meet our needs and the needs of others; he is warning against the desire to have more and more money and the ego boost and material luxuries it can provide.

There Are No U-Hauls behind Hearses

Let's look at the three reasons Paul gives in verses 7-10 for why we should not aspire to be rich.

(1) In verse seven he says, "For we brought nothing into the world and we cannot take anything out of the world."There are no U-Hauls behind hearses.

Suppose someone passes empty-handed through the turnstiles at a big city art museum and begins to take the pictures off the wall and carry them importantly under his arm. You come up to him and say, "What are you doing?"

He answers, "I'm becoming an art collector."

"But they're not really yours," you say, "and besides, they won't let you take any of those out of here. You'll have to go out just like you came in."

But he answers again, "Sure, they're mine. I've got them under my arm. people in the halls look at me as an important dealer. And I don't bother myself with thoughts about leaving. Don't be a kill-joy."

We would call this man a fool ! He is out of touch with reality. So is the person who spends himself to get rich in this life. We will go out just the way we came in.

Or picture 269 people entering eternity in a plane crash in the Sea of Japan. Before the crash there is a noted politician, a millionaire corporate executive, a playboy and his playmate, a missionary kid on the way back from visiting grandparents.

After the crash they stand before God utterly stripped of Mastercards, checkbooks, credit lines, image clothes, how-to-succeed books, and Hilton reservations. Here are the politician, the executive, the playboy, and the missionary kid, all on level ground with nothing, absolutely nothing in their hands, possessing only what they brought in their hearts. How absurd and tragic the lover of money will seem on that day-like a man who spends his whole life collecting train tickets and in the end is so weighed down by the collection he misses the last train. Don't spend your precious life trying to get rich, Paul says, "for we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of the world."

Simplicity Is Possible and Good

(2) Then in verse eight Paul adds the second reason not to pursue wealth: "If we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content." Christians can be and ought to be content with the simple necessities of life.

I'll mention three reasons why such simplicity is possible and good.

First, when you have God near you and for you, you don't need extra money or extra things to give you peace and security.

Keep your life free from the love of money. Be content with what you have. For he has said, "I will never fail you nor forsake you." Hence we can confidently say, "The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid; what can man do to me?" (Hebrews 13:5-6)

No matter which way the market is moving, God is always better than gold. Therefore, by God's help we can be and we should be con tent with the simple necessities of life.

Second, we can be content with simplicity because the deepest, most satisfying delights God gives us through creation are free gifts from nature and from loving relationships with people. After your basic needs are met, accumulated money begins to diminish your capacity for these pleasures rather than increase them. Buying things contributes absolutely nothing to the heart's capacity for joy.

There is a deep difference between the temporary thrill of a new toy and a homecoming hug from a devoted friend. Who do you think has the deepest, most satisfying joy in life, the man who pays $140 for a fortieth-floor suite downtown and spends his evening in the half-lit, smoke-filled lounge impressing strange women with ten-dollar cocktails, or the man who chooses the Motel 6 by a vacant lot of sunflowers and spends his evening watching the sunset and writing a love letter to his wife?

Third, we should be content with the simple necessities of life because we could invest the extra we make for what really counts. For example, the "Annual Statistical Table on Global Mission 2002" by David Barrett and Todd Johnson reports that there are 1,645,685,000 unevangelized people in the world. That means 26.5 percent of the world's population live in people groups that do not have indigenous evangelizing churches. This does not count the third of the world that does live in evangelized peoples but makes no profession of faith. If the unevangelized are to hear- and Christ commands that they hear-then cross cultural missionaries will have to be sent and paid for.
All the wealth needed to send this army of good news ambassadors is already in the church. And yet in 1999, the average Protestant gave 2.6 percent of his income to his church.

According to the website of Mission Frontiers.

1. The total global church member annual income is $12.3 Trillion ($213 billion)
2. Of this, $213 billion (1.73 percent) is given to Christian causes.
3. Of this, $11.4 billion (5.4 percent of the 1.73 percent) goes to Foreign Missions.
4. Of this, 87 percent goes for work among those already Christian; 12 percent goes for work among already evangelized non-Christians, and one percent-$114 million- goes to the unreached.

If we, like Paul, are content with the simple necessities of life, hundreds of millions of dollars in the church would be released to take the gospel to the frontiers. The revolution of joy and freedom it would cause at home would be the best local witness imaginable. The biblical call is that you can and ought to be content with life's simple necessities.

How to Pierce the Heart with Many Pangs

(3) The third reason not to pursue wealth is that the pursuit will end in the destruction of your life. This is the point of verses nine and ten:

Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs.

No Christian Hedonist wants to plunge into ruin and destruction and be pierced with many pangs. Therefore, no Christian Hedonist desires to be rich.

Test yourself. Have you learned your attitude toward money from the Bible, or have you absorbed it from contemporary American merchandising? When you ride an airplane and read the airline magazine, almost every page teaches and pushes a view of wealth exactly opposite from the view in 1 Timothy 6:9 that those desiring to be rich will fall into ruin and destruction. Paul makes vivid the peril of the same desire which the airline magazines exploit and promote.