Making Resolutions Is Good, But This Is Far Better

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.  1 Pe 5:6-7

God tells us to humble ourselves when we’re concerned about the future.  To take the first step and acknowledge that we are not in control.

It’s not our mighty hand that directs our lives, but God’s mighty hand.  It’s not our mighty hand that provides for us, but God’s mighty hand.  To humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand means to acknowledge that he rules the universe and that we desire to submit to his will for our lives.

To humble ourselves means to acknowledge that we are powerless.  That we don’t control our lives. To humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand is bow down before our Creator and say, “Lord you are infinitely great, sovereign and wise, and I am not.”

We humble ourselves by casting all our anxieties on God in prayer.  By lifting our fears, needs, worries, and pressures to him.

Proud people don’t pray. When we don’t pray we are saying we can handle this. We don’t need any outside help, thanks. My mighty hand can take care of this.

Years ago I thought God was too busy running the universe to care about my pitiful little needs. But amazingly – the one who created the galaxies cares about every detail of our lives.  He cares about our children. About whether we’re lonely or not. About that situation that tempts us to be anxious. He cares for “you” – individually. He knows us by name. He’s engraved us on the palms of his hands (Isaiah 49:16).  He’s moved by our suffering. Jesus is a sympathetic high priest, for he’s suffered too.

He’s numbered every hair on our heads. If he knows when a single sparrow falls, he knows exactly we need.

What happens when we humble ourselves?  At the proper time God will exalt us.  He’ll lift us up. He will lift us out of our pit, out of our anxiety.  And he’ll do this “at the proper time” – it might not be when we would desire, but it will be at the very best time – the time that will give him maximum glory and bring us maximum joy.

What a great way to start the new year. Rather than making all kinds of resolutions about what WE will do, let’s bow down and acknowledge whose hand directs our lives.  Resolutions and goals are good – but what is far better is to humble ourselves before God and pray.  Pray constantly.  This year lets keep casting all our cares on the one who cares for us.

The Best Apps For Your New iPad, iPod, or iPhone

You are delirious with joy because you got a new Apple device for Christmas! Congratulations! You have been born again a third time. But then you enter the App Store, and you are confronted by hundreds of thousands of apps. You go into shock. You curl up in the fetal position and begin to weep. Curse you Apple developers, curses upon you and a thousand generations! So many apps, so little time! Where to start?

That’s where I come in. Consider me your Apple optimal experience consultant. I’ve been using Apple products for some time now, and have experimented with hundreds of apps. Let me tell you where to get started. Here is a list of my favorite apps…

ESV Bible – The ESV Bible app is hands down, the most user friendly Bible app out there. Don’t mess around with YouVersion, or any of the other Bible apps. Simple, elegant, fast, no need for Wi-Fi. This one is your ticket to ride.

Desiring God – This app gives you free access to the enormous amount of material on the Desiring God website. Sermons, blog posts, books, it’s all there, and it’s all free.

Kindle – I do almost all my reading on the Kindle app for iPad. Why? Because Kindle versions are so much cheaper than physical books!Plus, I have all my books in one place, with all of my highlights instantly available. It’s really pretty incredible.

Facebook / Twitter – If you use Facebook or Twitter you should get the official apps.

Overdrive – This handy little app lets you borrow Kindle books from your local library.

Goodreads – If you are a prolific reader you should probably use the Goodreads website. If you use the Goodreads website, you should probably have the app.

ESPN ScoreCenter – You need to keep up on your teams. The ScoreCenter app makes that possible.

The Weather Channel – This is a dream come true for all you weather nerds. Instant access to 10 day forecasts, detailed maps, and extreme weather alerts.

Feedly – If you read more than three blogs, you need to use Google Reader. If you use Google Reader, you need to use Feedly. It allows you to quickly fly through hundreds of blog posts, picking out the ones that look interesting, and skipping over the rest. I’ve used the highly toted Reeder app, and I like Feedly much better. It syncs with Instapaper, which makes it even better.

30/30 – If you’re looking for a simple, elegant timer, this is your app.

iA Writer – If you’re planning on doing any serious writing on your iPad, this is a great, distraction free writing app. I use it a lot, both on my Mac and on my iPad. I sync between them by using Dropbox.

iAnnotatePDF – If you want to mark up a PDF file for potential changes, this is the perfect app.

Guitar Toolkit – This app is an absolute must have for any guitar player. It’s a tuner, it shows chord formations, it demonstrates various scales. I use this app all the time.

This American Life – “This American Life” is one of my favorite podcasts. The producers of the podcast weave together multiple true stories every week, the end result being a fascinating, intriguing podcast, that explores the depths of humanity. This app gives you access to every episode they’ve ever done.

Stitcher – Don’t mess around with downloading podcasts every week, then transferring them to your device. Stitcher lets you select your favorite podcasts, then listen to them on demand. Much simpler, much less downloading and transferring.

Dropbox – This service is the best way to share files with others, and the best way to sync files between multiple devices, such as an iPad and a computer.

Snapseed – A great photo editor that is relatively simple to learn. Useful for bloggers as well.

Spelltower – A great game for all you word game nerds. Scrabble and Boggle fans will especially like this one.

Reckless 2 – I don’t play many games on my iPad, but this one is a favorite.

Okay, those are my favorites. What about you?

The Simple Solution For Producing Fruit

Christian growth seems so complicated at times, doesn’t it?

I need to pray, and I need to make sure that my prayers aren’t too self-centered, and I need to be praying for the spread of God’s kingdom, and to be sure that I’m not distracted by my iPhone. I need to read God’s word. And meditate on it. And memorize it. I need to evangelize, fast, serve, reach out, love my wife, serve my daughters, and give money to God’s work.

Man, this stuff can be so confusing! With limited time and limited energy, what the heck am I supposed to do? Sometimes I get anxious when I think about all that I should be doing. I want to be a fruitful Christian but I worry that I’m missing something. How can I be sure that I’m doing the right stuff at the right time?

I find Jesus’ words in John 15:5 very helpful:

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.

Isn’t that refreshingly simple? If I want to bear much fruit I need to abide in Jesus. That’s it.

To abide with Jesus is to be with him. To spend time with him. To be near to him.

It’s important to think through the various spiritual disciplines we pursue. But let’s not get overly worked up or worried about producing fruit for the Lord. If we abide with Jesus, we will produce fruit. Actually, let me correct that. If we abide with Jesus, He will produce fruit.

Should You “Choose” To Be Attracted To Your Potential Spouse?

Recently Mike McKinley and Tim Challies both wrote articles which argued that young people, particularly men, should choose to be attracted primarily to a potential spouse’s spiritual beauty rather than physical beauty. I really respect both of these guys, love their gospel work, and usually agree with them, but as a pastor, both of these articles made me nervous. They made me nervous for two reasons.

First, the articles don’t fully appreciate the place of physical attraction in scripture. Yes, scripture is clear that in a marriage relationship, character is more important than physical attraction. But physical attraction matters. When Adam first laid eyes on Eve, there was a definite physical attraction. There was a flash of affection when he first laid eyes on her. He loved what he saw. When Adam saw Eve he burst into praise:

Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” (Genesis 2:23 ESV)

The Song of Solomon devotes chapter upon chapter to describing the physical attraction between a man and woman. Song of Solomon 1:9-10 says:

I compare you, my love, to a mare among Pharaoh’s chariots. Your cheeks are lovely with ornaments, your neck with strings of jewels.

Just a few verses later Solomon says to his spouse:

Behold, you are beautiful, my love; behold, you are beautiful; your eyes are doves. (Song of Solomon 1:15)

Solomon clearly delights in the physical beauty of his bride. He doesn’t go on and on about her quiet spirit and devotion to God, as important as those things are. He is enraptured by her beauty. He is magnetically drawn to her appearance, and can’t stop thinking about her. Throughout scripture there is an underlying assumption that a man will be physically and spiritually attracted to a woman.

If a young man came to me, and said he was thinking about a particular girl, I would ask him two questions:

  1. Is she godly? If yes, proceed to question number two.
  2. Do you think she is attractive?

If he answered “no” to number two, I would counsel him to pause, and pray, and wait before pursuing the relationship. I wouldn’t want to press him into a relationship based solely on spiritual attraction, and then later have him feeling trapped in the relationship. Scripture is clear that spiritual character is most important when considering a potential spouse, but physical attraction also plays a significant part.

This leads me to a second, pastoral concern, regarding these articles. As a pastor, I’ve seen difficult marriages in which one spouse felt pressured into marriage, even though they weren’t particularly attracted to their spouse. Basing a relationship primarily on spiritual attraction creates unhelpful, hyper-spiritual pressure in relationships. It creates an unsaid, unbiblical rule that only reason a relationship can end is for spiritual causes.

Yes, our idea of beauty has been distorted by media and pornography, and this should be a topic of conversation when considering any relationship. But we can’t dismiss the ideas of beauty and attraction all together.

A husband and wife should be spiritually compatible AND physically attracted to each other. This doesn’t mean that the man or woman is a supermodel. Beauty is fleeting, and charm is deceitful, which is why we don’t make those things the primary factors in a relationship. But God created us as both spiritual and physical beings. We are not sexless, spiritual beings. God made us to have flesh and blood. He created us to be attracted to the opposite sex.

If you are considering entering into a relationship, consider both the spiritual aspect and the physical aspect. Don’t let your values be determined by media or pornography, let them be determined by scripture. Find a beautiful, attractive spouse, who loves Jesus.