Baby, You’re A Rich Man

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So goes one of my favorite Beatle songs.

I don’t know how it feels to be one of the beautiful people (first line in the song), but I’m a rich man.  Not monetarily, but spiritually.  And if you’re a child of God, you’re rich too.

If there’s one thing the health and wealth guys have right, it’s that God is rich.  And he’s generous.  Combine the fuel of God’s wealth with the fire of his generosity and you’ve got an explosion of blessing for us who realize we have nothing to offer the galaxy-Maker, but that he has the storehouses of heaven to shower on us.

To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ (Eph 3.8).

The whole universe can’t hold the wealth of Christ, for his riches are “unsearchable” – immeasurable, unimaginable, unfathomable.  If the whole universe were bursting with treasure, jewels, crowns and coins, we could eventually search them all out, given enough time.  But for all eternity we’ll keep discovering new troves of treasures in Christ, for they are “unsearchable.”  After 10,000 years, we won’t even have made a dent exploring the vastness of God’s glory in Jesus.

And because believers are joined to Christ, all that is Christ’s is ours!

So what do you need today?  Do you need mercy?  Ask for it and don’t expect a mere trickle – Jesus has a tsunami of mercy for you.  Need comfort?  Faith?  Wisdom?  Strength?  Jesus has unlimited supplies.  God’s not like the shopping network.  He never runs out, never has to back order.  There are no hidden shipping charges – his riches are all free!  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.  His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.  Great is his faithfulness.

Take heart today.  Jesus is a vast storehouse of joy, mercy, and help for you.  As John Bunyan said, God has bags and bags of grace stored up for you.  Baby, you’re a rich man.

photo by borman818

Making Bible Reading Simple

Simple

Have you ever gotten lost while reading your Bible? You’re wandering through Judges, and as you’re reading about bloody sacrifices, bloodier battles, and a long-haired strong man killing hundred of Philistines with a jaw bone, you suddenly realize, I have no idea what this means for me today. What do ram sacrifices, the sun going backwards, and a long line of oddly named judges, have to do with budgets, disciplining your children, and spending eight hours in a cubicle? I’ve been there, and frankly, it can be pretty discouraging.

Let me give you two simple questions to ask when you’re reading Scripture and feeling lost. These questions came directly from a sermon by a man named Mike Bullmore. The questions are:

What Does This Passage Tell Me About God?

At times we forget the obvious: the Bible is all about God. Every passage points to God, revealing something about his character, his desires, or his actions. The OT sacrifices tell me that God is holy and that he takes sin seriously. The Psalms tell me that God is sovereign, and yet he’s also an intensely personal. In every book of the Bible, the glory of God bursts through and the story of salvation is unfolded. So when you feel lost, step back a moment and ask, Where is God in this picture? What work is he doing in this scene? How does this passage point to God’s saving work in Christ? Where’s the glory, and where’s the story?

What Does This Passage Tell Me About Myself?

For each revelation of God there is an appropriate response from us. His majesty calls us to humbly worship him, His goodness compels us to thank him. His commands require obedience, which in turn leads us to ask him for the grace to obey. The Bible isn’t simply information to be digested, it requires a heartfelt response. So as you read, ask yourself, How should I respond to what I just read? Is there a command I must obey, a sin I must repent of, or a blessing for which I should be grateful?

I find these questions to be tremendously helpful, and they have a simplifying effect on my devotional life. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t dive deep into Scripture, or read commentaries, or do word studies. Those are all wonderful tools. But ultimately Scripture is the story of God revealing himself to and redeeming sinners. When we keep that in mind, things get much simpler.

+photo by Sarah Jane

Originally published May, 2008

Just A Little Sin

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May I take my sin more seriously.

So often I don’t view it as being that big a deal.  “Oh, it’s just a little bit of fear of man…I was kind of proud…I was just a little jealous…some slight discontentment…got a little hot under the collar.”

I think that often I don’t take my sin as seriously as I should because I view it in terms of its effect on me.  It hinders me, it makes me unhappy, it hurts me.

God stood David on his ear when he spoke through Nathan the prophet about David’s sin:

Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? … because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah… Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord… (2 SA 12.9, 10, 14).

Despised…despised…scorned…

David’s sin of adultery was horrible because of what it did to Bathsheba and Uriah her husband.  It was horrible because of the consequences it would have for David and his family.  But the worst thing about his sin was that it was despising God, the God who had blessed and prospered David so much.

That “little fear of man” is despising God’s word.

That “slight discontentment” is despising God.

All sin – even “small” sin – is scorning the Lord.

May we see our sin for what it is and vigorously hate it.  May we hate every sin, even those that don’t seem that blatantly foul.  And may we continually appropriate the mighty power of the Holy Spirit to put sin to death and run hard after God.

photo by Prof. Jas. Mundie

Pray Like the Pitbull Widow

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The widow is relentless with her requests. She comes before the judge day after day, singing the same song: “Give me justice against my adversary…” (Lk. 18:3).

The judge is selfish, heartless, and profane. He has no compassion for others and doesn’t give a rip about God.

The widow’s plea falls on the judge’s deaf ears. What did he tell her? Go to someone who cares. Go ask someone else. Sorry you’re out of luck.

But the widow is a pitbull. She won’t let go. She comes before the judge every day with the same request. She won’t stop, can’t stop asking. The judge is being ground into the submission by the pesky widow.

Finally the judge can’t take it anymore. He’s been pulverized, one faithful request at a time:

Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.

Why does Jesus tell this parable?

…that they ought always to pray and not lose heart

The judge doesn’t feel a beat of compassion for the widow or an ounce of reverence for God. Yet because of the widow’s persistence he grants her request. Our God overflows with compassion for his blood-bought children. They are precious in his sight. His ear is inclined to their cries. He shepherds them, walks with them, and INVITES them to bring him their requests.

Every request. All the time. God wants us to be in prayerful dependence on him. He listens, and he responds to faithful, repeated requests.

Always pray, don’t lose heart.

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+photo by lanchongzi

Humble, Yet Sort Of…Humble

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Anybody reading this remember Pepe Le Pew?

If not, Pepe Le Pew is a skunk in Looney Tune’s pantheon of cartoon characters that features Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Tweety Bird and Daffy Duck.

I only remember one line Pepe ever said, and I regularly quote it to my wife.  In one episode, after doing something successful, Pepe said in his French accent, “Makes me feel humble, yet sort of proud.”  That statement rings so true to my sinful motivations it’s uncanny.  It’s so tempting to be proud of “my” puny accomplishments.  I must seem as comical and absurd to God as Pepe Le Pew.

In 2 SA 7 David thought he would do something great for God – build him a house to dwell in.  But God sent Nathan the prophet to tell David it wasn’t about what he would do for God, but what God would do for him.

Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel.  And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth’ (8,9).

God says, “David, don’t forget that I took you from tending sheep in the field and made you King of Israel.  I’ve been the one that’s given you success.”  God then goes on to tell David that rather than David building him a house, God would give David a heritage.

In other words, what did David have to boast about?  He hadn’t done anything for God; God had done everything for him.  I love David’s humble response:

Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and said, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? … Because of your promise, and according to your own heart, you have brought about all this greatness, to make your servant know it.  Therefore you are great, O Lord God. For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears (18, 21-22).

Whenever God enables us to do anything for him, we should pray similarly – “Who am I that you have brought me thus far?  You have saved me from hell and brought about any good I’ve accomplished.  Any success in my school or family or work or ministry is all from you.  Therefore YOU are great, O Lord God.  There is none like YOU.”

Makes me feel humble, yet sort of….humble.

photo by annalise.ellen

Your Prayer Is A Beggar

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I’ve talked a lot about how my prayers often feel weak and powerless. I found this quote by Paul Miller from A Praying Life to be very encouraging:

Imagine that your prayer is a poorly dressed beggar reeking of alcohol and body odor, stumbling toward the palace of the great king. You have become your prayer. As you shuffle toward the barred gate, the guards stiffen. Your smell has preceded you. You stammer out a message for the great king: “I want to see the king.” Your words are barely intelligible, but you whisper one final word, “Jesus. I come in the name of Jesus.”

At the name of Jesus, as if by magic, the palace comes alive. The guards snap to attention, bowing low in front of you. Lights come on, and the door flies open. You are ushered into the palace and down a long hallway in to the throne room of the great king, who comes running to you and wraps you in his arms.

The name of Jesus gives my prayers royal access. They get through. Jesus isn’t just the Savior of my soul. He’s also the Savior of my prayers. My prayers come before the throne of God as the prayers of Jesus. “Asking in Jesus’ name” isn’t another thing I have to get right so my prayers are perfect. It is one more gift of God because my prayers are so imperfect.

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+photo by Sukanto Debnath

With Or Without You

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There are only 2 ways to live – with or without abiding in Jesus.

Jesus is the believer’s strength, but we can so easily slip into living our Christian lives under our own power.  We try to serve, be content, or love others in our own strength.  We may as well try to fly a 747 across the ocean on fumes.

We must keep in mind these two truths:

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing (JN 15.5).

I can do all things through him who strengthens me (PHP 4.13).

First, Jesus tells us that apart from him we can do nothing.  He doesn’t say Apart from me you can do some things, or a few things, but Apart from me you can do NOTHING.  He doesn’t say, Apart from me you can do some things but you’ll do them poorly.  He says Apart from me you can do NO THING - nothing, nada, zip.  Not one single thing.*

But in Philippians, God promises that we can do ALL THINGS through him – Christ – who strengthens us.  Paul is specifically talking about contentment in the verses that precede verse 13.  He says that through Christ and the strength he gives, we can be content in poverty and need.  And through that same strength from Christ we can be content in abundance.

When Paul says I can do all things through him who strengthens me, he doesn’t mean that I can play in the NBA or sing like Sting if I just believe; it means I can do all things that God calls me to do through the strength Christ supplies; I can do all things necessary to glorify God by the power of Jesus.  If Christ calls me to suffer, he will strengthen me to suffer in such a way that God is glorified.  If he calls me to poverty or abundance, Jesus will strengthen me to endure in such a way as to honor his Father.

Next time you have to do some hard thing, insert it into PHP 4.13.  Say, “I can do THIS THING through him who strengthens me.  I can love this difficult person through him who strengthens me.  I can rejoice in this affliction through him who strengthens me.  I can put this sin to death through him who strengthens me.

In our own strength, all God’s commands are impossible.  But in Jesus’ strength we can do the impossible.  With or without him, that is the question.

*these thoughts are from The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs

photo by roberthuffstutter

7 Steps to the Most Incredible Worship Experience of Your Life

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Okay, I sucked you in with the title.

I’ve always wanted to write a post that promised something extraordinary in seven simple steps. Like “Seven Simple Steps to Conquer Your Greatest Fear” or “Seven Simple Steps to Clean Teeth, a Clean Colon, and a Clean Credit Rating”. And maybe these things can be done in seven simple steps.

But worship doesn’t fit into that mold. Because there’s only one step involved. Coming.

A brief clarification: worship is both all of life and an event. When I serve my wife, that’s worship. When I read my Bible and pray, that also is worship. When I sing with others on Sunday, that’s corporate worship. In this post I’m referring more to the event of worship, such as Bible reading or corporate singing. Now back to your regularly scheduled program.

My Sunday morning worship is usually a debacle. The band starts playing, I start singing, and within 25 seconds I’m totally distracted. The following thoughts pinball in my head:

  • Wow, the band is rocking this morning! Is Foreigner on a reunion tour?
  • Is it just me or did someone forget to turn the volcano off in here? I’m dripping in sweat.
  • The bass guitar is just a hair too loud.

It doesn’t take too long for me to become aware that I’m no longer worshiping. Then the guilt sets in. I’m supposed to be worshiping God, but instead I’m performing an in-depth analysis of the sweat trickling into my eyes. It’s pathetic. And sinful. How can I worship God when I’m so distracted?

So what to do when I’m playing Captain Distraction instead of extolling the glories of God? Hebrews 4:15-16 provides the answer:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

When I’m distracted, the only thing I’m required to do is come to God again. I don’t have to work up more feelings of love for God, don’t have to feel anything spiritual. I simply return to worship, distractions and all. Why?

Because I have a high priest who clears a path to the throne of God.

Jesus makes it possible for me to come freely into God’s presence, again and again. I’m distracted, I repent, I come back. Rinse, lather, repeat. And my Father welcomes me with open arms every time.

Aren’t you grateful for our high priest who makes it possible for distracted sinners to worship God?

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+photo by Todd Baker

The Winner Is…

The winner of “Religion Saves: And Nine Other Misconceptions” by Mark Driscoll is…

Number 110!

At least that’s what my random number generator tells me. Number 110 is a person who has identified themselves as:

Jenna

Congrats Jenna.

I’ll be emailing Jenna to tell her of the extraordinary fortune that has come her way. Stay tuned for more extraordinary giveaways.

How Will God Do It?

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Too often we try to figure out how God will keep his promises.

Like predicting how the game Mouse Trap will work.   “If God turns this gear, then the ball will roll down this channel and trip that switch, which will turn that wheel, thus dropping the answer to my prayers.”  We try to imagine how God will provide.  “Let’s see, Joe owes me $50.00 and I have a birthday coming up – maybe Grandma will send me some cash.  And if I take a second job, sell my baseball cards, and quit giving to the church for a while…”  Sometimes we just can’t see how God will possibly come through for us.

We never consider that God can open the eyes of the blind with clay and spittle, he can work above, beyond, and even contrary to means…’Ye shall not see wind, neither shall ye see rain, yet the valley shall be filled with water’ (2 Kings 3.17).  God would have us depend on him though we do not see how the thing may be brought about…  — Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

God isn’t limited to the means and channels we can see for him to answer our prayers.  We may not see a cloud in the sky, yet God can water our thirsty souls.  God doesn’t need our company to give us money.  He doesn’t check polls and odds.  The disciples saw no natural means for Jesus to feed the multitudes but it wasn’t a problem to the him.  When Jesus needed money for the temple tax he told Peter to throw his line in the lake, and he’d catch a fish with a coin in its mouth.  Imagine Peter trying to figure how that would work.  “Let’s see, if I can get Zacchaeus to go out in the boat, and I ask him for some change, and he slips and drops a coin into the lake and I can get my line into the water quick enough…”

We trust God based on his promises, not on what we can see.  If we can figure it out, we don’t need trust.

If God has promised fire, we don’t need to worry if he has matches.  Our task is to ask and trust, not try to figure out how God will do it.

Photo by graciepoo