Friday, August 31, 2012

Making Others Idols

Gal 2:6 But from those who seemed to be something—whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man—for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me. 

What I am about to say may upset you and shake up the way you see people, not because I have discovered some new revelation, nor in an attempt to fluff and advertise this, but because it did to me and as you'll see, all of us love putting others at "higher levels" or "holier than thou".

Before I dive into the verse, lets set up some context. Paul is writing to the church at Galatia who at this point is neck deep in works based theology. False teachers have come in and told them all that while yes Jesus is good unto salvation, you need something else, in fact in order to keep your salvation, you must continue doing XYZ, you must also, in order to finalize your salvation, do the whole believe His name PLUS a bunch of other Jewish traditions.

Enter Paul, a man marked by the false teachers as a preacher of some foreign gospel made up by Paul. But Paul, being the amazing arguer he is, already in the first chapter builds up this argument about where he got his salvation, his apostleship and his gospel.

The sources for all three, according to Paul were God through His Son Jesus Christ. He begins by saying that any gospel other than his deserves for the preacher of it (angels included) to be accursed, a word in the greek which literally means "set aside for the purposes of being burned".

Then in verse 11 of chapter 1 he identifies the source of his gospel, in verse 15 we see the source of his salvation and the source of his call. All throughout, he makes clear that he never "conferred with flesh and blood" or in modern vernacular, "spoke to a man about it for counsel". No Paul was very sure of the call God had given to him by His grace ALONE. He continues this well into the end of chapter 1 and beginning of chapter 2 where we pick up.

See Paul is telling these people, He received his gospel and his call straight from God, that no one was about to add or take away from it. So who is he talking about in verse 6?

He isn't talking about false teachers, he addressed them in verse 5, and the word "but" in verse 6 implies there has been a change in topic. Verse 6 then can only speak of the other people already mentioned in context, the other apostles and if we continue into verse 7 all the way down we see this confirmed.

So when Paul says "it makes no difference to me, God shows no personal favoritism" I don't believe he said it with a sense of pride, but instead with a sense of confidence. He wasn't claiming he was better than them, but rather, that he was so sure of his call that no one, not even the apostles were going to change his mind. Now that isn't me advocating not listening to those older in the faith or with more wisdom, but that is saying the following:

We need to stop putting men on pedestals and thinking they are some great savior, there is only one Savior. I say this because if you are anything like me, you tend to put others on some pedestal as someone you aspire to, so much so, that you begin to play the game of compare and contrast. You want their walk, you want to be "free" like them, you want to be "humble or perfect" like them. We get this sense that some pastors are just so above us that they struggle with nothing. We then get down on ourselves and begin placing bogus demands, condemning demands and observations that lead us to despair as we wallow in the fact that we aren't as "saved" as the pastor, or the leader, or the speaker.

That can't be further from the truth. I think we as Christians today need to take off our masks and begin acting like the broken, desperate sinners we are who can stand only because of the grace which God has given us. Stop sugar coating your words with amens and hallelujahs, stop acting like nothing is wrong and really begin to share with others. Don't always answer with the perfect verse, or the best quote, those things don't help people suffering.

If a man is honest, he'll tell you, just as Paul told the Romans in Romans 7, he is a wretched man who struggles with the same things you do and it is only by the reality that "nothing can separate us from the love of God" that he even stands. This isn't about advocating we throw excuses around and take God's grace for granted and justify our sin, nor is it that we throw our wounds around like rag dolls and let the world know how rotten we are, but that we humble ourselves to where we begin acting like we are in desperate need of grace on a DAILY basis, not just a one and done things.

Life isn't always cupcakes and butterflies and any real pastor will tell you, he has more problems that just speeding or taking stop signs in traffic. He deals with the same issues you do, he has the same idol problems you do. He isn't qualified to teach by any definition of man, but like Paul has received his call from above and it is that grace that allows him to stand.

Don't go running to your pastor now and yell at him, hopefully, he wasn't the one that put himself up on that pedestal (if he did then pray for him), but regardless, we tend to be the ones that make idols of other people (you see it in American Idol, Next Food Network Star, X Factor and all those other reality TV shows). We all long for the image, the acceptance, when in reality, we have "the image of the invisible God" in our hearts in whom "our lives are now hidden" and our identity is now in Christ.

This isn't about rebelling against leadership or removing the anointing God has placed on certain men to do His work according to the talents and abilities He has given them and I want to make that clear. This is about helping you and me kill the sin nature in us that idolizes and makes men, rather than God, our aim. And the beauty of making God your aim is that in Christ, you've already hit the bullseye...

It helps me fight this battle against all my insecurities....hope it helps you.

Only on the footing of free grace can the most experienced and most honoured of the saints approach their God. The best of men are conscious above all others that they are men at the best. Empty boats float high, but heavily laden vessels are low in the water; mere professors can boast, but true children of God cry for mercy upon their unprofitableness. - Spurgeon

Friday, February 24, 2012

Praying for Hope when I have none...

Romans 4:16 Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all 17 (as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations”) in the presence of Him whom he believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; 18 who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be. 19 And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb.

God, sometimes I feel like there is so little I can say to you, even more so I feel as though it is so hard to hope against all hope. I look in myself and I see the worst of the worst and I ask myself how it is possible I can ever be fixed, how is it possible I can ever be accepted. In me I see a stone hearted cold person, who isn’t always moved by touching moments or charitable opportunities. I see someone who immediately defaults to worrying about me. I see someone who is bent for comfort and at the expense of others wants it. How is it you could possible love or even desire to use me? God I look in myself and am discouraged. I often question whether or not I am yours, and at times I ask myself why it is I am the way I am.

You tell me to hope against all hope. God I have no hope outside of you. I am so glad that righteousness is about believing, not about doing, meriting or earning. It doesn’t matter that I am as bad as they come, as bad as I am, you are better still. Where I abound, You abound infinitely so. Through one man sin entered into the world and by one Man, the God Man, grace entered. Lord, which is greater the one brought forth by man or the One brought forth by God? I am so glad the answer is clear, though sometimes it doesn’t seem so clear in the clouds of doubt and fog of fear that often invade the vision of you I so desperately grip in the depths of my heart.

I am so glad it isn’t about me. I am so glad that You have shown me how a person who is redeemed is not valued based on themselves, but on the price willing to be paid by the One doing the redemption. You paid a heavy price via your own blood and that speaks volumes of what you think of me, more than any commentary, person, loved one or book could possibly speak. God please help me to live there. To live in the position I have in Christ. God I don’t want to look at myself anymore, I hate looking, but God if looking means knowing and better appreciating You, then I’ll look, but give me the strength and the grace to see You, to look past me and see You.

To hope against all hope that you truly are enough and no matter how disgusting or dead I think I am on the inside, not matter how bent on sin I can be at times, no matter how hell bound I may sometimes feel, God you are bigger than all those thoughts and in me You, because of Your blood, You see “Your beloved Son, in whom You are well pleased.” "Though my heart condemn me, you are greater than my heart." Please help me live and move and have my being in that. Help my decisions be governed by that, help my words be filtered through that, and please help me glorify you. Don’t let me get so caught up in living in victory that I forget the Victor of this all.

Please keep me weak so that I can rely on you...for when I am weak, then I am strong, for when I realize it is not I who live, but you who live in me, then I can truly live by faith in You.

Help me to die into life...

Friday, February 10, 2012

24-Hour Armor

Taken from:

24-Hour Armor
by Jared C. Wilson

“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God . . .”

– Ephesians 6:11-17

Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:10 to “be strong,” but he tells us to be strong in the Lord’s might, not ours, which is why before we get to praying and making supplication, we are to put on the armor of God. Notice that this armor consists entirely of things God does or provides for us. We don’t put on the helmet of self-affirmation. We don’t put on the shoes of motivation. We don’t put on the belt of intestinal fortitude. No, we put on what God has done for us in Christ, which is to say, we put on Christ.

When the enemy attacks my heart, I don’t want my self-righteousness standing guard, but the breastplate of actual righteousness, Christ’s righteousness. When the enemy whispers his accusations into my ear with his forked tongue, I don’t want Stuart Smalley-esque daily affirmations sitting there; those would protect me about as much as cotton-ball earmuffs. But the helmet of salvation is another story. If my mind is ready with the great salvation of the gospel encasing it like a force-field of grace, I am really prepared.

Which is why we must wear this armor constantly. We should never take it off. We should wear it to bed as pajamas. We should make sure we’ve got it on first thing in the morning by turning to the gospel as immediately as possible. This is wartime. Don’t take the armor off. You don’t try putting on your seatbelt when you see the Mack truck bearing down on you at 60 mph; you put it on before you pull out of the garage. Likewise, don’t wait for the enemy to show himself before you start suiting up.

You don’t know when the attacks will come; best to sleep with your boots on and your sword by your hand.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Turn on the Ignition

Gen 39:2 The LORD was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.

Gen 39 …20b And he was there in the prison. 21 But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.

The theme of Gen 39, at least from the perspective of Joseph is that the Lord was with him, whether it was in the house of a foreigner, whose people hated Hebrews, or in the cell of a prison, whose walls hate anyone, the Lord was with Him. How can that apply to us? Often we ask ourselves, “Is God with me right now?” I know I do. I ask more often than I should. I should be confident to know He is with me, especially after He has told me to “Be strong and courageous, for the Lord your God is with you.” But how does that translate over as applicable. We hear all the time of how God is with us, and He loves us, is with those that fear Him. Why is it then that we don’t always “feel” like He is.

See this is the part where I quote “We live by faith not by sight,” or I give you some cookie cut answers, as if the bible were just a magical box in which you stick your hand and pull out an answer. While those answers hold truth, we can’t just always aimlessly give answers to others without context, much less, without any practical application to their lives.

I can quote Romans 8:28 every time I have a friend who doesn’t understand why things happen as they do, but sometimes, that is like quoting an axiom most of the secular world often quotes: “Everything happens for a reason.” And I am not saying this from the outside, oh no, I am saying this as a person who loves having all the answers. But what good is having all the answers? What good does giving someone the answer to a question and then just leaving them there. That’s like giving someone who needs a lift your car, and not giving them the keys to turn the ignition.

So then what is the key? The answer is simple, yet so often we undermine its power. The Gospel. I don’t know who said it, I think it was Dave Harvey in his book “When Sinners say I Do” (and yes this is a marriage book) that says (and I paraphrase) “Today we treat the gospel as a simply a means to attain salvation, however, what we need to understand is its power to transform every aspect of our lives, especially our marriages.”

I have to say, at first I didn’t really understand that statement, but as I continued reading guys like Tulian Tchividjian, Paul Tripp, David Powlison, Oswald Chambers, Charles Spurgeon, you’ll see the overwhelming theme of these guys, is the gospel. We are so good at glorifying our sanctification above and beyond the means by which it happens. It doesn’t take place because I do good things and therefore God accepts me and makes me better. This is precisely what Paul calls “another gospel” in Galatians. It takes place because Jesus has already done it, and therefore, I am free to respond. I can love others because He already did it, I can love my wife because He already did it, I can work hard at work because He already did it.

How does this play into Joseph? Because like Joseph, God is with YOU. How do I know? Because this is the gospel. “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14) Immanuel, “GOD WITH US”

We do a great job of quoting it when we evangelize and proclaim the gospel, but when was the last time we used these verses and spoke them into our own hearts in response to our most troubling moments? Try it, preach the gospel to yourself. No it won’t solve the problem you are facing, but it will solve the issue of having strength and power enough to endure.

True peace is not a tranquil lake scene with a beautiful sunset and a bird perched lovingly on a branch chirping away the sweetest of songs. No real peace, is tornado’s and winds, rain and lighting falling, torment all around, and that bird still sitting on that branch, singing the same sweet song. Not oblivious to the issues, but also, not oblivious to the presence of his God, who controls all things and not only sees our problems, but knows and understands them, because He Himself came down from heaven onto earth and dwelt among us. (Phil 2:5-8, John 1:1-15, Heb 4:12-5:2)

Friday, February 3, 2012

A prayer for wanting just Jesus

Job 1:9 So Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing?

Job 1:20 Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.”

Dear Lord, I come before you right now asking you to forgive me. Forgive me for those moments that I am not much of a person for you to brag about. I know that no matter what I do, and no matter what is happening, nothing can separate me from Your love. This isn’t what this is about. It is those moments where Satan comes and asks me “Do you fear God for NOTHING?” Lord, I will admit, there are moments and sometimes periods in my life where I don’t. Where I love you more for what you have given me and for what you can do for me than just for the fact that You are God and you are all I need.

Forgive me for those times I pray what I know you want to hear and convince myself that by doing so, I’ll get what I want. Lord forgive me when I take your promises for granted and place them above you. Forgive me when I fail to thank you for what I do have and instead complain about all I don’t have. Forgive me when the most important thing in my life is me. God my biggest idol is me. It is a gold statue of myself, with a big bright smile on my face that hides the lack of depth I have, the lack of satisfaction that I have and the emptiness that so often comes with placing something ahead of you.

Give me what Job has. Teach me to understand my life in such a way that everything my eyes lay sight on is seen as something you have allowed me to have. Teach me to release my claim of ownership to anything. Teach me like Paul to say “I am not my own, I am bought at a price” with what Peter calls “the precious blood, not a perishable thing.” God please break me and make me a servant of You and of others, not of my own desires, ideals, likes, dislikes, peeves and anything else that belong to me.

Control and ownership is a myth. You are ultimately sovereign over all things. Help me to realize this on a daily basis. Help me to look to you, author and finisher of my faith. May I find in you everything I need to exist. May you be my main goal, my inheritance. May you not be just means to an end, but just the end, the Alpha and Omega.

Please do this in me and please show me how to love as you do. Give me more of You. Don’t give me solutions to my problems, don’t give me answers to my questions, just give me You and You alone, and then You go from there. Let me love you more. In your name, amen.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Me Me, all Me

It is so funny, how things come together. I logged on to check my blogger....really I logged on to check if anyone had commented on what I thought was a great recent blog...what a sinner I am man...then I came across this blog that I subscribe to...hope it blesses you (convicts) the way it did me...

I don't even know this guy and yet, most of what he discusses has thus far been right at me in the current season I am in and what God has been showing me. All credit goes to Brian Mayfield and his blog "Bring the Kingdom"

This past Sunday, preaching through Revelation 3, the issue of Repentance was front and center. The churches in Sardis and Laodicea were both in desperate need of waking up to their true condition and turning back to God. As a pastor, if Im' being honest, repentance is a whole lot easier to preach than it is to practice.

The day before, I had just dug in to J.D. Greear's new book, "Gospel". It only took a few pages for me to know that these were words my soul needed to hear at this crossroad in my life. But somewhere near the end of Chapter 2 a painful realization began to take place. Greear shared that he had begun to investigate what recurring sins were present in his life. He started down his list: worry, anger, overworking & neglecting his family, depression, lying.... His list was very troubling to me. Not because of judgment. But because of identification. His list was my list. And that stung. But then we moved from the sting to the blow to the head (or maybe I should say, the heart). Greear began to humbly confess that, while these sins are exactly that - SIN - there was a deeper root to them. They were just symptoms of a much greater, deeper-rooted corruption. All these recurring rebellions were simply the ripple effect and byproduct of his need for people's approval. Listen to what he says:

"My problem is that my heart so craves the approval of others that these sins come as instinctively to me as breathing! I delight more in the approval of others than I do in the approval of God. I am an idolater. That is my depravity."

I sat there in my chair in the corner of my bedroom, broken. Exposed. Humiliated. And at the same time, somehow beautifully and wonderfully relieved! How could I not have seen this? How could it not have been crystal clear? I had spent so much time and energy trying to trim off the branches and snip the limbs of a diseased, dying tree rather than digging down to the root of it all, pulling it up, and carrying that filth out of my yard. No more! I'm not called to live this way. And neither are you. And if the tree keeps showing signs of rot, decay, or death, it might be time to check the roots.

I am so grateful for my church family. As I stood there this past Sunday, having to confess that the underlying root of most of the sin in my life is "the need for your approval and admiration", never did I feel condemned or isolated. I felt loved. Forgiven. Hopeful. Relishing the truth that "the Gospel shows me a God who is better than the approval of others and a God more valuable than their praise. The Gospel shows me that God's presence and approval are the greatest treasure in the universe." (Greear) I don't need their approval. Or yours. And my church family, they don't need mine. We are all in desperate need of God's approval. And in Christ Jesus, I am found righteous, purified, and redeemed. Approved! Thank You, Jesus!

Have you taken time to dig below the surface of your "sins"?
Is confession and repentance a regular part of your life and walk with Christ?

"God made him who knew no sin to be sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." 2 Corinthians 5:21

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sums up me...

Below is a prayer from Scotty Smith, a pastor who frequently writes prayers and sends them out as emails. The man is brutally honest with himself and God and this is something I love about him because it shows me how I have to be. I loved this prayer in specific because it speaks to me so much of that struggle to perform, something I have done my whole life.

Growing up always under the gun to get the best grades and what have you, this built in me over time a need to be something. Living my life as though I had something to prove to others by way of whatever I was doing, this over time made me a prideful person who lived for the approval of others. This is something God has been showing me a lot about myself. So much so, how this same mindset has come out in my relationship with God, with others, with my fiance and at work. This does so much in me and as a result I am prone to do what is expected rather than do what flows from my heart. This is an issue because as long as I perform, my heart will go unchanged, but when I see what is expected, see that my heart doesn't measure up, I am then ready for the REAL change that can only be brought about by God and His Spirit...

Any way...enough about me (no seriously, enough...this may seem as humility, but this too can also be a sense of pride, after all, look at how "honest and humiliating" I am being...Yeah God has shown me a lot...a lot more than I wanted to see)

Here is the prayer he wrote yesterday... enjoy!

A Prayer for Recovering Performers and Those with Residual Legalism

I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. 1 Cor. 9:23-27

Dear Jesus, how I praise you for showing me the difference between doing all things for the sake of the gospel, and doing all things just to ease my guilt and fuel my pride. The difference is enormous.

For too long I believed that by my doing I could intensify your loving; that by my obedience I could earn more of your blessings; that by my good works I could deserve less hard things in life. The recovering performer and residual legalist in me still defaults to that foolish way of thinking, so I praise you for the ongoing teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit. I praise you for showing me more about living in line with the truth of the gospel (Gal. 2:14). I praise you for all the freedoms you have won for us, including the freedom to obey you from our hearts.

Thank you for setting us free from a wage-earning view of salvation and obedience. We run for a crown; we don’t work for a paycheck, and, ultimately, every crown will be laid at your feet, Jesus, for you have earned our salvation for us; you deserve every crown. It’s what you have already done for us that enables us to serve you as a beloved Bride, not a fearful slave. Though our obedience demonstrates our love for you (John 14:15), it merits absolutely nothing—zilch, nada, zero.

Thank you for setting us free from beating ourselves up out of shame, or bloating ourselves up out of pride. We now train ourselves for godliness, not acceptance. As we bring our appetites and bodies in submission to the gospel (1Tim. 4:7-8), you free us for fruitful discipleship. Forgive us when we are more disciplined out of vanity than out of a commitment to grow as your disciples.

Thank you for setting us free running aimlessly and beating the air. We now live in a story of redemption and restoration. All of history is bound up with your commitment to redeem your people from the nations and to make all things new. We praise you for rescuing us from little narratives of self-fulfillment for a life of kingdom advancement. We praise you for the promise of enough grace for the whole race.

Jesus, you won the ultimate prize for us by your life of perfect obedience—even obedience to death upon the cross (Phil. 2:1-11). Only this gospel—this good news qualifies us to “share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col. 1:12). We do not fear losing our salvation, but do let us grieve the ways we misrepresent you and “fritter away” this one short life you’ve given us. Show us how to do all things for the sake of the gospel, by the grace and truth of the gospel, for the ultimate goal of the gospel—your glory. So very Amen we pray, in your holy and loving name.