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Blogs I Follow

The Presidents Club

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The Surest Defense Against Evil

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The Triumph of Grace

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Contemplating God’s Sovereignty

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How Should We Then Live?

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Not a Timid Christianity

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Finishing the Race

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Because the Time is Near

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Revelation Song (YouTube)

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Where The Wind Blows

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Doing Great Things

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Recognizing a False Prophet

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The Power of Forgiveness

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Created for Relationships

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The Only Way I Know

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Faith: The Misunderstood Doctrine

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Our True Home Address

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‘Tis the Season . . . for L-O-V-E

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The Paris Terrorist Attack and the Problem of Evil

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Cherry Picking 101

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Love Sweet Love

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So Goes The Culture

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Idols of the Heart

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Divisions Are Not Always Bad

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The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

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Don’t Substitute Praying for Obeying

Lord teach us to pray“Prayer changes everything”–it’s a motto we find plastered everywhere on posters and mugs and coffee cups, and we’ve all heard it expressed over and over again. And the Bible has a lot to say about prayer, and how it is an absolutely vital part of a Christian’s life. In fact, it is his or her lifeline to the very throne of God.

Jesus taught us how to pray in Matthew 6:5-15 (NKJV) when he stated:

And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.

Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. In this manner, therefore, pray:

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power
And the glory forever. Amen.

For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

It seems as if a zillion books have been written on the subject of prayer, and it is an area that we sometimes (or often) struggle with (at least I know that I do). Often, it’s not just praying that is a struggle but also receiving an answer from God regarding those prayers. Sometimes the answer comes quickly, sometimes it takes years, and sometimes it seems as if there is no answer at all no matter how long we wait (which some folks will say is an answer in itself regardless of how unsatisfying that explanation happens to be).

I’ve been a Christian since I was a young girl, and about the time I got into my late teens or early twenties, I started hearing an expression that is fairly pervasive in the Christian culture when it comes to “answered prayers.” And it goes like this: There are three basic answers God gives us to every prayer we pray–“Yes,” “No,” or “Wait” (“wait” can also be translated to mean “God has something better in mind”). And that’s pretty much it. More often then I’d like to remember the answers to some of my prayers have remained in the “Wait” category to the point that it no longer has any meaning to me anymore, or I’ve lost interest or moved beyond what I wanted years ago–like when I’ve prayed in years past about finding a husband to the point of ad nauseam. And after many of the bad or boring marriages I’ve witnessed (along with the number of married men who tried to seduce me when I was younger), I concluded that single is far better than marrying someone just to be married and, hence, more “acceptable” to society (and the Christian culture) at large. And, I have always thought there was something not quite right in that very simplistic answer regarding how God answers prayers.

The other day I ran across a chapter titled, Does God Always Answer Prayer? in the book, Man: The Dwelling Place of God,” by A.W. Tozer (1897-1963), and compiled by Anita M. Bailey. The book in its entirety is available online at this link. Here is what Tozer stated about the subject:

Does God Always Answer Prayer?

CONTRARY TO POPULAR OPINION, the cultivation of a psychology of uncritical belief is not an unqualified good, and if carried too far it may be a positive evil. The whole world has been booby-trapped by the devil, and the deadliest trap of all is the religious one. Error never looks so innocent as when it is found in the sanctuary.

One field where harmless-looking but deadly traps appear in great profusion is the field of prayer. There are more sweet notions about prayer than could be contained in a large book, all of them wrong and all highly injurious to the souls of men.

I think of one such false notion that is found often in pleasant places consorting smilingly with other notions of unquestionable orthodoxy. It is that God always answers prayer.

This error appears among the saints as a kind of all-purpose philosophic therapy to prevent any disappointed Christian from suffering too great a shock when it becomes evident to him that his prayer expectations are not being fulfilled. It is explained that God always answers prayer, either by saying Yes or by saying No, or by substituting something else for the desired favor.

Now, it would be hard to invent a neater trick than this to save face for the petitioner whose requests have been rejected for non-obedience. Thus when a prayer is not answered he has but to smile brightly and explain, “God said No.” It is all so very comfortable. His wobbly faith is saved from confusion and his conscience is permitted to lie undisturbed. But I wonder if it is honest.

To receive an answer to prayer as the Bible uses the term and as Christians have understood it historically, two elements must be present: (1) A clear-cut request made to God for a specific favor; (2) A clear-cut granting of that favor by God in answer to the request. There must be no semantic twisting, no changing of labels, no altering of the map during the journey to help the embarrassed tourist to find himself.

When we go to God with a request that He modify the existing situation for us, that is, that He answer prayer, there are two conditions that we must meet: (1) We must pray in the will of God and (2) we must be on what old-fashioned Christians often call “praying ground”; that is, we must be living lives pleasing to God.

It is futile to beg God to act contrary to His revealed purposes. To pray with confidence the petitioner must be certain that his request falls within the broad will of God for His people.

The second condition is also vitally important. God has not placed Himself under obligation to honor the requests of worldly, carnal or disobedient Christians. He hears and answers the prayers only of those who walk in His way. “Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight . . . . If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (I John 3:21, 22; John 15:7).

God wants us to pray and He wants to answer our prayers, but He makes our use of prayer as a privilege to commingle with His use of prayer as a discipline. To receive answers to prayer we must meet God’s terms. If we neglect His commandments our petitions will not be honored. He will alter situations only at the request of obedient and humble souls.

The God-always-answers-prayer sophistry leaves the praying man without discipline. By the exercise of this bit of smooth casuistry he ignores the necessity to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world, and actually takes God’s flat refusal to answer his prayer as the very answer itself. Of course such a man will not grow in holiness; he will never learn how to wrestle and wait; he will never know correction; he will not hear the voice of God calling him forward; he will never arrive at the place where he is morally and spiritually fit to have his prayers answered. His wrong philosophy has ruined him.

That is why I turn aside to expose the bit of bad theology upon which his bad philosophy is founded. The man who accepts it never knows where he stands; he never knows whether or not he has true faith, for if his request is not granted he avoids the implication by the simple dodge of declaring that God switched the whole thing around and gave him something else. He will not allow himself to shoot at a target, so he cannot tell how good or how bad a marksman he is.

Of certain persons James says plainly: “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” From that brief sentence we may learn that God refuses some requests because they who make them are not morally worthy to receive the answer. But this means nothing to the one who has been seduced into the belief that God always answers prayer. When such a man asks and receives not he passes his hand over the hat and comes up with the answer in some other form. One thing he clings to with great tenacity: God never turns anyone away, but invariably grants every request.

The truth is that God always answers the prayer that accords with His will as revealed in the Scriptures, provided the one who prays is obedient and trustful. Further than this we dare not go.

if you love me keep my commandmentsAs Tozer stated above, “The God-always-answers-prayer sophistry leaves the praying man without discipline. By the exercise of this bit of smooth casuistry he ignores the necessity to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world, and actually takes God’s flat refusal to answer his prayer as the very answer itself. Of course such a man will not grow in holiness; he will never learn how to wrestle and wait; he will never know correction; he will not hear the voice of God calling him forward; he will never arrive at the place where he is morally and spiritually fit to have his prayers answered. His wrong philosophy has ruined him.”

We live in a “how to be a Christian in one easy step” culture today where we put all the emphasis on God to do everything for us and that we aren’t expected to, or worst yet, don’t have to do anything in return (as in obedience to God and Jesus Christ) once we have said a little Jesus prayer to accept Jesus as our Savior. Tozer didn’t mince any words about that kind of philosophy either in what he stated above. And it’s a deadly philosophy that ruins people spiritually at every turn.

I ran across a devotion yesterday titled “Don’t Substitute Praying for Obeying,” in the devotional book, Tozer on Christian Leadership,” that states the following:

Don’t Substitute Praying for Obeying

So Samuel said: “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.” —1 Samuel 15:22

Have you noticed how much praying for revival has been going on of late–and how little revival has resulted?

Considering the volume of prayer that is ascending these days, rivers of revival should be flowing in blessing throughout the land. That no such results are in evidence should not discourage us; rather it should stir us to find out why our prayers are not answered….

I believe our problem is that we have been trying to substitute praying for obeying; and it simply will not work….

Prayer is never an acceptable substitute for obedience. The sovereign Lord accepts no offering from His creatures that is not accompanied by obedience. To pray for revival while ignoring or actually flouting the plain precept laid down in the Scriptures is to waste a lot of words and get nothing for our trouble. Of God and Men, 55-57.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; show me any wicked way that needs to be corrected in my own life before revival can come. I’m praying for revival; help me to also be obeying. Amen.” (Devotion for September 23.)

As I was thinking about the implications of what Tozer has to say regarding prayer and our expectations when it comes to God answering our prayers, I thought back on these past six years since I lost my job in Houston and how, during the first couple of years, the prayer at the forefront of all of my prayer requests was my need to find a job and an income again as soon as possible. It was a very legitimate need since I am my only means of financial support (e.g., I don’t have a husband or family I can rely on for financial support). It seemed to me to be clearly obvious that this was a very viable prayer to be praying, and I had witnessed many other Christians during this time who were also unemployed finding jobs and getting their lives back from the brink of financial disaster in answer to their own prayers. That it wasn’t happening to me was a perplexity of major proportions. Was I not as “Christian” as those other folks who had prayed and received jobs? It was a real stumbling block for me those first two years as I simply did not understand what was going on and I didn’t know if there was something I was personally doing that was holding God back from answering my very legitimate request for a very viable need in my life.

During these past six years I have come to understand that there is a whole lot more going on in this world of ours that oftentimes overshadows what we think are our immediate needs. Yes, there is definitely an “obedience” factor on our part when it comes to receiving genuine answered prayers from God, but there is also a very specific area that we tend to ignore (oftentimes not on purpose) that is a part of how Jesus taught us to pray. That part is this: “Your kingdom come; Your will be done; on earth as it is in Heaven.” We rarely see God’s kingdom as He sees it in our own everyday lives.

While the answer to my prayer for a job so that I could be financially solvent again (as in a regular paycheck and keeping a roof over my head) has gone unanswered for almost six years now, I have experienced the “care” of God in miraculous ways that I never could have experienced had He just plopped down another job in front of me back when I lost that job six years ago. These past six years, while frustrating to their very core at times, have provided me with the most enlightening and awe-inspiring evidence in my life for the existence of the God that I have always said I believed in and it has, indeed, increased my faith and my understanding exponentially.

Has it been hard? You bet it has. Have I suffered loss? Of course I have. Have I had challenges that I absolutely did not know how to maneuver around and that only God could guide me through? Yes, more times that I can even count. But He has always been there every single step of the way to keep me from stepping on landmines and veering off course in the wrong direction. And he has taken care of every need of mine even if it wasn’t in the way I wanted it to be. He has been there for me when I didn’t even have a clue anymore exactly how to pray or what to pray for. And he has been there when I just didn’t want to keep going on in this trial of mine anymore and I was desperate to try and twist his arm to get me out of it.

“Thy will be done.” If we could only understand with our finite minds exactly what that means we wouldn’t be nearly are harried or hurried or as selfish as we are in this life. If we could just get a glimpse of what is really going on behind the curtain of our own lives and see this world from God’s perspective, it would humble us in a way that would change us forever, and for the rest of our lives here on earth, too. And the only way to really see that is to experience it through the trials God allows to come our way. And if we try to wiggle out of them too soon, it can ruin us spiritually.

The truth is that we don’t know how to pray or what to pray for so much of the time because we can’t see beyond our own needs or desires. And when we don’t have a vision of God “high and lifted up” in all areas of our lives our prayers can become trite and myopic and we try to answer them on our own if we have the wherewithall to do it.

Obedience to God is not an option for Christians, but it has to be done from a heart of love, and not from just following a list of rules. It has to be something we want to do (through the power of the Holy Spirit as we can’t accomplish it on our own) and not viewed as a negative as it so often is anymore. And, it is just as Paul describes in Romans 7 & 8 (click here to read that passage).

Tozer made the following statement in a chapter titled, On Wrestling in Prayer,” in the book, This World: Playground or Battleground?(available online in its entirety at this link):

The spiritual quality of a prayer is determined not by its intensity but by its origin. In evaluating prayer we should inquire who is doing the praying–our determined hearts or the Holy Spirit? If the prayer originates with the Holy Spirit, then the wrestling can be beautiful and wonderful; but if we are the victims of our own overheated desires, our praying can be as carnal as any other act . . . .

Only the Spirit can pray effectively. “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” (Romans 8:26).

Well, enough said. You get the picture . . . .

My will be done . . .

Or Thy will be done . . . .

YouTube Video: “Revelation Song” by Phillips, Craig & Dean:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

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Idols of the Heart

idolatryIdolatry . . . it’s everywhere and we all do it. “The definition of idolatry, according to Webster, is ‘the worship of idols or excessive devotion to, or reverence for some person or thing.’ An idol is anything that replaces the one, true God” (quote source here). And if we don’t think we do it, just take away the object of our desire and see what happens.

Money, materialism, status, ego, sex, celebrity worship, self . . . the list is endless. If we say we don’t have issues with idolatry, we are only fooling ourselves. 1 John 2:16 pretty much sums it up: “For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.” The J.B. Phillips translation of this verse, along with the two surrounding verses (1 John 2:15-17) states:

See “the world” for what it is

Never give your hearts to this world or to any of the things in it. A man cannot love the Father and love the world at the same time. For the whole world-system, based as it is on men’s primitive desires, their greedy ambitions and the glamour of all that they think splendid, is not derived from the Father at all, but from the world itself. The world and all its passionate desires will one day disappear. But the man who is following God’s will is part of the permanent and cannot die.

It’s hard to separate ourselves from the material world. In fact, it’s impossible. And living in a prosperous society like America presents us with an innumerable number of things to attach our hearts and desires to–including other people (such as celebrity worship). We idolize so many things and people, and God gets shoved to the background if we even believe in Him at all, and most of us do according to a 2013 Harris Poll which found that 74% of Americans say they believe in God (source here).

Idolatry, without a doubt, is one of the hardest areas for Christians to get a handle on since it is so incredibly easy to attach ourselves to things and/or people. In fact, it is so common that we don’t even recognize it for what it is–an affront to the very God we say we serve. The first and second commandments of the Ten Commandments listed in Exodus 20 state:

You shall have no other gods before me.

You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments (Exodus 20:2-6).

Unfortunately, we fail to realize just how much our lives are filled with desires for everything we can see, touch, feel, possess, own, etc., above our desire for God, and these things/and or people are the real gods we worship.

I ran across an excellent description regarding these idols in a book I mentioned in my recent blog post titled, So Goes The Culture.” The book is titled, Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity” (2004, 2005) by Nancy Pearcey, who is Professor of Apologetics, Scholar in Residence, and Director of the Francis Schaeffer Center for Worldview and Culture at Houston Baptist UniversityThe description is found in Chapter 13: True Spirituality and Christian Worldview, under the title “Idols of the Heart” (pp. 356-358):

Idols of the Heart

A pervasive theme throughout the New Testament is that Christ’s death and resurrection were not merely objective events that happened in history–though certainly they were that first of all. We should never give up our conviction that the objective truths of Christ’s death and resurrection are the basis for our justification. But the next step is to take Christ as the ongoing model for our lives. As the medieval spiritual writers put it, we are called to practice “the imitation of Christ.” Not in a moralistic sense of trying to mold our behavior by certain ethical precepts, but rather in a mystical sense that our own suffering becomes a participation in Christ’s suffering. That’s why Paul wrote, “Our old self was crucified with him” (Rom. 6:6); and, “That world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14).

Only after sharing in Christ’s death is there a promise of sharing in His resurrection power. Again, the order is crucial. “Therefore we were buried with him by baptism into death,” Paul writes, “that, as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so also we may walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). It is impossible for us to receive a new life until we have truly given up the old one. We do that at our conversion, of course, in a once-for-all transaction where God, as the Judge, declares us forgiven of our sins and adopts us into His family. But being declared righteous in a judicial sense in only the beginning. After that, we are called to begin a process in which we die spiritually, day by day, to deeply ingrained sinful patterns, so that we can be liberated from sin and grow spiritually into a new person.

Moment by moment, we must learn to say no to sin and worldly motivations. In a world of moral relativism, where everything is reduced to personal choice, simply saying no is in itself a very hard teaching. If it does not seem hard, then we are probably accommodating to the world without realizing it. If we are no saying no in ways that bring us to our knees to seek God’s enabling power, then it is likely that we are no standing against the sinful system of the world as we ought.

The principle of dying to worldly systems applies beyond obvious sins. In a culture that measures everything in terms of size, success, and influence, we have to say no to these worldly values as well. In a culture of material affluence, we have to say no to coveting a better house, a sleeker car, a more upscale neighborhood, a more impressive ministry. In a culture that judges people by reputation and achievements, we have to resist the lure of living for professional recognition and advancement. Not that those things are wrong in themselves. But when they fill our hearts and define our motivations, then they become barriers to our relationship with God–which means they become sin for us. As Paul says, anything not of faith is sin, because it blocks our singleminded devotion to God and hinders our growth in holiness.

God calls such barriers “idols of the heart” (see Ezek. 14:1-11)–and they can even include genuine needs that are completely right and proper in themselves. This is where the principle becomes really difficult. When our natural needs become a cause of anger and bitterness, or a reason to oppress or attack others, then we must say not to them as well. For example, it’s perfectly proper to want intimacy and respect in our marriage. But people are sinners, and at times even Christian spouses may find themselves lonely and unloved. The one of two things will happen: Either we will become angry and reject the other person–or we will learn how to die to even our valid personal needs, and trust God to work good even in an imperfect situation. Again, it is proper and right to want a job that fulfills our God-given talents, where we enjoy the respect of colleagues and supervisors. But in a fallen world, we may have to accept work that is less than fulfilling; we may not be successful; or we may work for bosses who are demeaning and exploitative. What then? Either we will find ourselves shaking our fist at God–or we will put our talents on the altar and die to them, trusting God to honor our sacrifice to  Him.

Putting our valid needs on the altar does not mean shutting our mouths and closing our eyes to a sinful situation. If someone is truly in the wrong, then the loving response is not to give in but to confront the person. It is not an act of love to allow someone to sin against you with impunity. Sin is a cancer within the other person’s soul, and genuine love must be strong and courageous in bringing that sin to the light, where it can be diagnosed and dealt with.

Yet it is all too easy to do the right thing in the wrong spirit. Only as we offer up to God our anger, fear, and drive for control do we develop the kind of spirit God can use in confronting others. “Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps,” Peter writes–with the ultimate purpose “that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 2:21; 3:18). So, too, when we suffer, even unjustly, the ultimate purpose is to equip us to bring others to God. Moment by moment, as we suffer the effects of sin and brokenness in a fallen world, we need to ask Him to use those trials to unite us to Christ in His sacrifice and death–so that we can then be used to bring others to repentance and renewal. (Source: Total Truth pp. 356-358).

divided-heartWe do live in a culture that measures everything in terms of size, success, and influence, and it’s not often that we say no if/when it comes our way. In fact, it has invaded the church culture in America and oftentimes has become our own “model for success” by superimposing itself on what the New Testament has to say about what the true church should be and act like in any culture at any time in history. It’s a hard sin to break when it appears that everyone else is doing it even in most Christian circles.

Let’s take a closer look at what idolatry looks like in our culture today. In answer to a question on GotQuestions?org,” which asks, What are some modern forms of idolatry? four “altars” that we regularly worship at are mentioned:

All the various forms of modern idolatry have one thing at their core: self. We no longer bow down to idols and images. Instead we worship at the altar of the god of self. This brand of modern idolatry takes various forms.

First, we worship at the altar of materialism which feeds our need to build our egos through the acquisition of more “stuff.” Our homes are filled with all manner of possessions. We build bigger and bigger houses with more closets and storage space in order to house all the things we buy, much of which we haven’t even paid for yet. Most of our stuff has “planned obsolescence” built into it, making it useless in no time, and so we consign it to the garage or other storage space. Then we rush out to buy the newest item, garment or gadget and the whole process starts over. This insatiable desire for more, better, and newer stuff is nothing more than covetousness. The tenth commandment tells us not to fall victim to coveting: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:17). God doesn’t just want to rain on our buying sprees. He knows we will never be happy indulging our materialistic desires because it is Satan’s trap to keep our focus on ourselves and not on Him.

Second, we worship at the altar of our own pride and ego. This often takes the form of obsession with careers and jobs. Millions of men—and increasingly more women—spend 60-80 hours a week working. Even on the weekends and during vacations, our laptops are humming and our minds are whirling with thoughts of how to make our businesses more successful, how to get that promotion, how to get the next raise, how to close the next deal. In the meantime, our children are starving for attention and love. We fool ourselves into thinking we are doing it for them, to give them a better life. But the truth is we are doing it for ourselves, to increase our self-esteem by appearing more successful in the eyes of the world. This is folly. All our labors and accomplishments will be of no use to us after we die, nor will the admiration of the world, because these things have no eternal value. As King Solomon put it, “For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 2:21-23).

Third, we idolize mankind—and by extension ourselves—through naturalism and the power of science. This gives us the illusion that we are lords of our world and builds our self-esteem to godlike proportions. We reject God’s Word and His description of how He created the heavens and the earth, and we accept the nonsense of evolution and naturalism. We embrace the goddess of environmentalism and fool ourselves into thinking we can preserve the earth indefinitely when God has declared the earth has a limited lifespan and will last only until the end of the age. At that time, He will destroy all that He has made and create a new heaven and new earth. “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness” (2 Peter 3:10-13). As this passage so clearly states, our focus should not be on worshiping the environment, but on living holy lives as we wait eagerly for the return of our Lord and Savior, who alone deserves worship.

Finally, and perhaps most destructively, we worship at the altar of self-aggrandizement or the fulfillment of the self to the exclusion of all others and their needs and desires. This manifests itself in self-indulgence through alcohol, drugs, and food. Those in affluent countries have unlimited access to alcohol, drugs (prescription drug use is at an all-time high, even among children), and food. Obesity rates in the U.S. have skyrocketed, and childhood diabetes brought on by overeating is epidemic. The self-control we so desperately need is spurned in our insatiable desire to eat, drink, and medicate more and more. We resist any effort to get us to curb our appetites, and we are determined to make ourselves the god of our lives. This has its origin in the Garden of Eden where Satan tempted Eve to eat of the tree with the words “you will be like God” (Genesis 3:5). This has been man’s desire ever since—to be god and, as we have seen, the worship of self is the basis of all modern idolatry.

All idolatry of self has at its core the three lusts found in 1 John 2:16: “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” If we are to escape modern idolatry, we have to admit that it is rampant and reject it in all its forms. It is not of God, but of Satan, and in it we will never find fulfillment. This is the great lie and the same one Satan has been telling since he first lied to Adam and Eve. Sadly, we are still falling for it. Even more sadly, many churches are propagating it in the preaching of the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel built on the idol of self-esteem. But we will never find happiness focusing on ourselves. Our hearts and minds must be centered on God and on others. This is why when asked what is the greatest commandment, Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). When we love the Lord and others with everything that is in us, there will be no room in our hearts for idolatry. (Quote source here.)

Idolatry is deadly to our spiritual life and relationship with God and Jesus Christ. As Jesus proclaimed in Matthew 16:26-27, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.”

So what are we doing?

Living for ourselves?

Or living for God . . . .

YouTube Video: “Change Me” by Shannon Wexelberg:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Man: The Dwelling Place of God – A.W. Tozer

as the deer pants for streams of water“The man who would truly know God must give time to Him.”
~A.W. Tozer (1897-1963)

During Dr. A.W. Tozer’s 44 years of ministry, he authored “more than 40 books, and two are regarded as Christian classics: ‘The Pursuit of God’ and ‘The Knowledge of the Holy. His books impress on the reader the possibility and necessity for a deeper relationship with God. Living a simple and non-materialistic lifestyle, he and his wife never owned a car, preferring bus and train travel. Even after becoming a well-known Christian author, Tozer signed away much of his royalties to those who were in need. Prayer was of vital personal importance for Tozer. ‘His preaching as well as his writings were but extensions of his prayer life,’ comments his biographer, James L. Snyder, in the book, ‘In Pursuit of God: The Life of A.W. Tozer.’ ‘He had the ability to make his listeners face themselves in the light of what God was saying to them,’ writes Snyder” (quote sourcehere).

The two books mentioned above are available to read in their entirety online. The Knowledge of the Holyis available to read online at this link and also by PDF download at this link, and The Pursuit of God is available to read online at this link and also by PDF download at this link). I have included both online books in my two previous blog posts, The Knowledge of the Holy,” and The Pursuit of God,” and I want to bring to your attention a third book that is available online in its entirety titled, Man: The Dwelling Place of God,” at this link and below. It was compiled in 1966 by Anita M. Bailey, and here is her introduction to the book:

Introduction to Man: The Dwelling Place of God

The supreme interest in the life of A.W. Tozer was God: He who spoke and brought the world into being, Who justly rules over men and nations, yet deigns to make man His dwelling place. He believed that all that really matters is for man to be in right relationship with God, that his first duty-and privilege-is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” For this reason he delighted to speak to men of God’s majesty and wonder and grace and he ever sought to instruct and exhort Christians to let this be the purpose of their lives. He grieved that they should be content with less.

Nothing he preached or wrote was merely academic or theoretical. What he said about God came out of many hours spent in His presence and with His Word. What he wrote about men was what he knew of his own heart and observed in others. With the Spirit’s anointing came discernment; perception and clarity issued out of a disciplined mind. A broad knowledge averted dullness, and a lively wit brought freshness.

The chapters in this book deal with many aspects of one subject: the relationship of God and man. They are above all practical and all who read them will profit. (Quote source here.)

Below are links to the online chapters contained in the book (original source here):

MAN: THE DWELLING PLACE OF GOD

by A. W. Tozer

man the dwelling place of god-tozerMan: The Dwelling Place of God
Compiled by Anita M. Bailey
Published in 1966
by Christian Publications
ISBN: 0-87509-415-5

YouTube Video: “I Lift My Hands” sung by Chris Tomlin:

Photo #1 credit here

The Pursuit of God – A.W. Tozer

as the deer pants for streams of water“The man who would truly know God must give time to Him.”
~A.W. Tozer (1897-1963)

During Dr. A.W. Tozer’s 44 years of ministry, he authored “more than 40 books, and two are regarded as Christian classics: ‘The Pursuit of God’ and ‘The Knowledge of the Holy. His books impress on the reader the possibility and necessity for a deeper relationship with God. Living a simple and non-materialistic lifestyle, he and his wife never owned a car, preferring bus and train travel. Even after becoming a well-known Christian author, Tozer signed away much of his royalties to those who were in need. Prayer was of vital personal importance for Tozer. ‘His preaching as well as his writings were but extensions of his prayer life,’ comments his biographer, James L. Snyder, in the book, ‘In Pursuit of God: The Life of A.W. Tozer.’ ‘He had the ability to make his listeners face themselves in the light of what God was saying to them,’ writes Snyder” (quote source here).

The two books mentioned above are available to read in their entirety online. The Knowledge of the Holyis available to read online at this link and also by PDF download at this link, and The Pursuit of God is available to read online at this link and also by PDF download at this link).

This blog post references the book, The Pursuit of God,” and I’ve included the preface to the book below to whet your appetite to continue reading the rest of the book.  Links to the entire online version of the book are located below the preface (the book is also available for purchase in most online and walk-in bookstores).

Preface to The Pursuit of God

In this hour of all-but-universal darkness one cheering gleam appears: within the fold of conservative Christianity there are to be found increasing numbers of persons whose religious lives are marked by a growing hunger after God Himself. They are eager for spiritual realities and will not be put off with words, nor will they be content with correct ‘interpretations’ of truth. They are athirst for God, and they will not be satisfied till they have drunk deep at the Fountain of Living Water. This is the only real harbinger of revival which I have been able to detect anywhere on the religious horizon. It may be the cloud the size of a man’s hand for which a few saints here and there have been looking. It can result in a resurrection of life for many souls and a recapture of that radiant wonder which should accompany faith in Christ, that wonder which has all but fled the Church of God in our day. But this hunger must be recognized by our religious leaders.

Current evangelicalism has (to change the figure) laid the altar and divided the sacrifice into parts, but now seems satisfied to count the stones and rearrange the pieces with never a care that there is not a sign of fire upon the top of lofty Carmel. [See 1 Kings 18 for the allusions.] But God be thanked that there are a few who care. They are those who, while they love the altar and delight in the sacrifice, are yet unable to reconcile themselves to the continued absence of fire. They desire God above all. They are athirst to taste for themselves the ‘piercing sweetness’ of the love of Christ about Whom all the holy prophets did write and the psalmists did sing.

There is today no lack of Bible teachers to set forth correctly the principles of the doctrines of Christ, but too many of these seem satisfied to teach the fundamentals of the faith year after year, strangely unaware that there is in their ministry no manifest Presence, nor anything unusual in their personal lives. They minister constantly to believers who feel within their breasts a longing which their teaching simply does not satisfy. I trust I speak in charity, but the lack in our pulpits is real. Milton’s terrible sentence applies to our day as accurately as it did to his: ‘The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed.’

It is a solemn thing, and no small scandal in the Kingdom, to see God’s children starving while actually seated at the Father’s table. The truth of Wesley’s words is established before our eyes: ‘Orthodoxy, or right opinion, is, at best, a very slender part of religion. Though right tempers cannot subsist without right opinions,yet right opinions may subsist without right tempers. There may be a right opinion of God without either love or one right temper toward Him. Satan is proof of this.’

Thanks to our splendid Bible societies and to other effective agencies for the dissemination of the Word, there are today many millions of people who hold ‘right opinions,’ probably more than ever before in the history of the Church.Yet I wonder if there was ever a time when true spiritual worship was ever a time when true spiritual worship was at a lower ebb. To great sections of the Church the art of worship has been lost entirely, and in its place has come that strange and foreign thing called the ‘program.’ This word has been borrowed from the stage and applied with sad wisdom to the type of public service which now passes for worship among us.

Sound Bible exposition is an imperative must in the Church of the living God. Without it no church can be a New Testament church in any strict meaning of that term. But exposition may be carried on in such way as to leave the hearers devoid of any true spiritual nourishment whatever. For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God Himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience, they are not the better for having heard the truth. The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts.

This book is a modest attempt to aid God’s hungry children so to find Him. Nothing here is new except in the sense that it is a discovery which my own heart has made of spiritual realities most delightful and wonderful to me. Others before me have gone much farther into these holy mysteries than I have done, but if my fire is not large it is yet real, and there may be those who can light their candle at its flame. (Quote source here.)

~A. W. Tozer Chicago, IL. June 16, 1948.

The following links for the book are compliments of Heaven Dwellers:

THE PURSUIT OF GOD

by A.W. Tozer

The Pursuit of God book coverCONTENTS
Introduction
Preface
1. Following Hard After God
2. The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing
3. Removing the Veil
4. Apprehending God
5. The Universal Presence
6. The Speaking Voice
7. The Gaze of the Soul
8. Restoring the Creator-Creature Relation
9. Meekness and Rest
10. The Sacrament of Living

YouTube Video: “How Great is Our God (World Edition)” featuring Chris Tomlin:

Photo #1 credit here

The Knowledge of The Holy – A.W. Tozer

as the deer pants for streams of water“The man who would truly know God must give time to Him.”
~A.W. Tozer (1897-1963)

During Dr. A.W. Tozer’s 44 years of ministry, he authored “more than 40 books, and two are regarded as Christian classics: ‘The Pursuit of God’ and ‘The Knowledge of the Holy. His books impress on the reader the possibility and necessity for a deeper relationship with God. Living a simple and non-materialistic lifestyle, he and his wife never owned a car, preferring bus and train travel. Even after becoming a well-known Christian author, Tozer signed away much of his royalties to those who were in need. Prayer was of vital personal importance for Tozer. ‘His preaching as well as his writings were but extensions of his prayer life,’ comments his biographer, James L. Snyder, in the book, ‘In Pursuit of God: The Life of A.W. Tozer.’ ‘He had the ability to make his listeners face themselves in the light of what God was saying to them,’ writes Snyder” (quote source here).

The two books mentioned above are available to read in their entirety online. The Knowledge of the Holyis available to read online at this link and also by PDF download at this link, and The Pursuit of God is available to read online at this link and also by PDF download at this link).

This blog post references the book, The Knowledge of the Holy,” and I’ve included the preface to the book below to whet your appetite to continue reading the rest of the book. Links to the entire online version of the book are located below the preface (the book is also available for purchase in most online and walk-in bookstores).

Preface to The Knowledge of the Holy

True religion confronts earth with heaven and brings eternity to bear upon time. The messenger of Christ, though he speaks from God, must also, as the Quakers used to say, “speak to the condition” of his hearers; otherwise he will speak a language known only to himself. His message must be not only timeless but timely. He must speak to his own generation.

The message of this book does not grow out of these times but it is appropriate to them. It is called forth by a condition which has existed in the Church for some years and is steadily growing worse. I refer to the loss of the concept of majesty from the popular religious mind. The Church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble, as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshipping men. This she has done not deliberately, but little by little and without her knowledge; and her very unawareness only makes her situation all the more tragic.

The low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us. A whole new philosophy of the Christian life has resulted from this one basic error in our religious thinking.

With our loss of the sense of majesty has come the further loss of religious awe and consciousness of the divine Presence. We have lost our spirit of worship and our ability to withdraw inwardly to meet God in adoring silence. Modern Christianity is simply not producing the kind of Christian who can appreciate or experience the life in the Spirit. The words, “Be still, and know that I am God,” mean next to nothing to the self-confident, bustling worshiper in this middle period of the twentieth century.

This loss of the concept of majesty has come just when the forces of religion are making dramatic gains and the churches are more prosperous than at any time within the past several hundred years. But the alarming thing is that our gains are mostly external and our losses wholly internal; and since it is the quality of our religion that is affected by internal conditions, it may be that our supposed gains are but losses spread over a wider field.

The only way to recoup our spiritual losses is to go back to the cause of them and make such corrections as the truth warrants. The decline of the knowledge of the holy has brought on our troubles. A rediscovery of the majesty of God will go a long way toward curing them. It is impossible to keep our moral practices sound and our inward attitudes right while our idea of God is erroneous or inadequate. If we would bring back spiritual power to our lives, we must begin to think of God more nearly as He is.

As my humble contribution to a better understanding of the Majesty in the heavens I offer this reverent study of the attributes of God. Were Christians today reading such works as those of Augustine or Anselm a book like this would have no reason for being. But such illuminated masters are known to modern Christians only by name. Publishers dutifully reprint their books and in due time these appear on the shelves of our studies. But the whole trouble lies right there: they remain on the shelves. The current religious mood makes the reading of them virtually impossible even for educated Christians.

Apparently not many Christians will wade through hundreds of pages of heavy religious matter requiring sustained concentration. Such books remind too many persons of the secular classics they were forced to read while they were in school and they turn away from them with a feeling of discouragement.

For that reason an effort such as this may be not without some beneficial effect. Since this book is neither esoteric nor technical, and since it is written in the language of worship with no pretension to elegant literary style, perhaps some persons may be drawn to read it. While I believe that nothing will be found here contrary to sound Christian theology, I yet write not for professional theologians but for plain persons whose hearts stir them up to seek after God Himself.

It is my hope that this small book may contribute somewhat to the promotion of personal heart religion among us; and should a few persons by reading it be encouraged to begin the practice of reverent meditation on the being of God, that will more than repay the labor required to produce it. (Quote source here.)

~A.W. Tozer

The following links for the book are compliments of Heaven Dwellers:

The Knowledge of the Holy

by A.W. Tozer

The Knowledge of the  Holy book coverCONTENTS
PREFACE
CHAPTER 1 Why We Must Think Rightly About God
CHAPTER 2 God Incomprehensible
CHAPTER 3 A Divine Attribute: Something True About God
CHAPTER 4 The Holy Trinity
CHAPTER 5 The Self-existence Of God
CHAPTER 6 The self-sufficiency Of God
CHAPTER 7 The Eternity Of God
CHAPTER 8 God’s Infinitude
CHAPTER 9 The Immutability Of God
CHAPTER 10 The Divine Omniscience
CHAPTER 11 The Wisdom Of God
CHAPTER 12 The Omnipotence Of God
CHAPTER 13 The Divine Transcendence
CHAPTER 14 God’s Omnipresence
CHAPTER 15 The Faithfulness Of God
CHAPTER 16 The Goodness Of God
CHAPTER 17 The Justice Of God
CHAPTER 18 The Mercy Of God
CHAPTER 19 The Grace Of God
CHAPTER 20 The Love Of God
CHAPTER 21 The Holiness Of God
CHAPTER 22 The Sovereignty Of God
CHAPTER 23 The Open Secret

YouTube Video: “Holy is the Lord” sung by Chris Tomlin:

Photo #1 credit here

So Goes The Culture

Girl surrounded by books

I cannot remember the books I’ve read
any more than the meals I have eaten;
even so, they have made me.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson 

I remember the day in 2011 when Borders, a major player among bookstore chains, declared bankruptcy and closed its doors for good. At the time it was my most favorite “go to” bookstore, and the company’s CEO, Mike Edwards, stated at the time of its demise, “working at the company in it final days ‘was like finding out your best friend has cancer and there’s nothing you can do. We were in perpetual crisis’” (quote source here). Book lovers everywhere understand his words. Good books are very much akin to best friends to those of us with an insatiable desire to learn and experience what others have written and experienced themselves.

When I have free time, and I’ve had a lot of free time during these past almost six years of perpetual unemployment, I’d rather be roaming around in a library or browsing the shelves and discount tables in a bookstore than doing just about anything else. There is something about bookstores that just pulls me in like a magnet. And used bookstores, especially, contain some real gems often at greatly reduced prices that one won’t often find, even on discount tables, in a regular bookstore. In fact, just yesterday I found tucked away on a high shelf in one of my favorite used bookstores, BrightLights Books, a gem of a book on a topic that I have often expressed a fair amount of passion for in many of my previous blog posts.

The book is titled, Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity (2004, 2005) by Nancy Pearcey, who was born the same year I was born and received her bachelor’s degree from the same place I did–Iowa State University. However, the comparison stops there except for her passion, which is also a passion of mine, of “liberating Christianity from its cultural captivity.” Nancy Pearcey is currently Professor of Apologetics, Scholar in Residence, and Director of the Francis Schaeffer Center for Worldview and Culture at Houston Baptist University.

So often, as has been the case here in America for quite some time now, we tend to separate the secular (e.g., things that are not regarded as religious, spiritual, or sacred; and not pertaining to or connected with religion”–quote source herefrom the sacred (e.g., devoted or dedicated to a deity or to some religious purpose; consecrated; pertaining to or connected with religion”–quote source here). Even among those of us who call ourselves Christian there is often a distinct line that we draw, whether conscious or unconscious, between what we do with our time during the week as opposed to what we do with it for two or so hours on Sunday morning (or whenever we attend worship services inside a church building with others). Indeed, part of the crisis we encounter in our current culture is the fact that once we get out of our “Christian settings” and we are surrounded by the rest of society (e.g., work places, for example, unless one works in a specifically Christian setting), one can’t often tell the difference (in words or in actions) between those with Christian beliefs from anyone else. And the outward proclivity to “be nice and act nice,” at least on the surface, is no indication of genuine Christian faith. Anyone is capable of being and acting like that.

In the introduction to Pearcey’s book, she states the following:

“The gospel is like a caged lion,” said the great Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon. “It does not need to be defended, it just needs to be let out of its cage.” Today the cage is our accommodation to the secular/sacred split that reduces Christianity to a matter of private personal belief. To unlock the cage, we need to become utterly convinced that, as Francis Schaeffer said, Christianity is not merely religious truth, it is total truth–truth about the whole of reality (pp. 17-18).

Regarding this secular/sacred divide, Pearcey states:

On a global scale . . . the secular/sacred dichotomy is an anomally–a distinctive of Western culture alone. “The sharp line which modern Western culture has drawn between religious affairs and secular affairs is itself one of the most significant peculiarities of our culture, and would be incomprehensible to the vast majority of people.” In order to communicate the gospel in the West we face a unique challenge: We need to learn how to liberate it from the private sphere and present it in its glorious fullness as the truth about all reality.

The first step in the process is simply identifying the split mentality in our own minds, and diagnosing the way it functions. The dichotomy is so familiar that Christians often find it difficult even to recognize it in their own thinking. This struck me personally when I read about a survey conducted a few years ago by Christian Smith, a sociologist at the University of North Carolina (and himself an evangelical believer). The results of the survey highlight both the good news and the bad news about American evangelicalism (pp. 69-70).

worldviewThe good news is that the survey found that evangelicals are highly committed to their faith, but when asked to articulate a Christian worldview perspective in other areas in their lives–work, business, and politics–they had very little to say and seemed unable to translate a faith perspective appropriate for the public square (p. 70). Some of the results of the survey are cited on pp. 70-73. Pearcey states the following at the end of the review of the survey results:

Before we can even begin to craft a Christian worldview, we first need to identify the barriers that prevent us from applying our faith to areas like work, business, and politics. We need to try to understand why Western Christians lost sight of the comprehensive call God makes on our lives. How did we succumb to a secular/sacred grid that cripples our effectiveness in the public sphere? To break free of this destructive thought pattern, we need to understand where it came from, identify the forms it has taken, and trace the way it became woven into the pervasive patterns of our thinking. We will discover that, from the beginning, Christianity has been plagued by dualisms and dichotomies of various kinds. And the only way to free ourselves from dualistic thinking is to make a clear diagnosis of the problem (p. 73).

Of course, this is the subject of the rest of Pearcey’s excellent book which includes a study guide in the 2005 edition. In the many endorsements for the book, the following statements reflect on its research and readability for the average person (in other words, the reader won’t get lost in a lot of academic jargon and will, in fact, find it to be quite fascinating, enlightening, and informative):

“Lucid, easy to understand. . . . For all of it’s intellectual and theological sophistication, ‘Total Truth’ is written in a way that the average layperson will understand and appreciate.” ~World

“Easy to read, well-documented, sometimes provocative. . . . A superb worldview lens through which we can see things more clearly. All who read it will live their lives differently.” ~Becky Norton Dunlop, VP for External Relations, the Heritage Foundation

Dr. Timothy Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, and Chairman of Redeemer City to City, which starts new churches in New York and other global cities, is another prolific author of many books and articles on a variety of Christian topics to include the relationship of Christians to their culture. In an article published in 2006 titled, A New Kind of Urban Christian,” published in Christianity Today, he states:

The relationship of Christians to culture is the singular current crisis point for the church. Evangelicals are deeply divided over how to interact with a social order that is growing increasingly post-Christian. Some advise a reemphasis on tradition and on “letting the church be the church,” rejecting any direct attempt to influence society as a whole. Others are hostile to culture, but hopeful that they can change it through aggressive action, often of a political sort. Still others believe that “you change culture one heart at a time.” Finally, many are attracted to the new culture and want to reengineer the church to modify its adversarial relationship with culture. Many in the “one heart at a time” party play down doctrine and stress experience, while some in the reengineering group are changing distinctives of evangelical doctrine in the name of cultural engagement. That is fueling much theological controversy, but even people who agree on the need for change disagree over what to do to our doctrine to reach the culture.

Indeed, how Christians interact and/or reach out to their culture is a complex matter. Keller does stress that while none of the strategies he mentions above should be abandoned, he also stressed that we need a new and different strategy as explained in his article (click here for article). Specifically regarding the worldview of work, Keller states:

Most fields of work today are dominated by a very different set of answers from those of Christianity. But when many Christians enter a vocational field, they either seal off their faith and work like everyone else around them, or they spout Bible verses to their coworkers. We do not know very well how to persuade people of Christianity’s answers by showing them the faith-based, worldview roots of everyone’s work. We do not know how to equip our people to think out the implications of the gospel for art, business, government, journalism, entertainment, and scholarship. Developing humane, creative, and excellent business environments out of our understanding of the gospel can be part of this work. The embodiment of joy, hope, and truth in the arts is also part of this work. If Christians live in major cultural centers in great numbers, doing their work in an excellent but distinctive manner, that alone will produce a different kind of culture than the one in which we live now (quote source here).

One of the key points he makes in his article is this statement:

We must neither just denounce the culture nor adopt it. We must sacrificially serve the common good, expecting to be constantly misunderstood and sometimes attacked. We must walk in the steps of the One who laid down his life for his opponents (quote source here).

Jesus Christ made the following statement to his disciples which extends down through the ages to us today who claim to follow him (John 15:18-25):

 If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’

Once again as Keller states, We must neither just denounce the culture nor adopt it. We must sacrificially serve the common good, expecting to be constantly misunderstood and sometimes attacked. We must walk in the steps of the One who laid down his life for his opponents (quote source here).

With all the complexities involved in living in the midst of our culture, we need to keep our focus always on the One who we claim to follow. For the Christian, there is no separation between the secular and the sacred. We either serve God or we serve self no matter the setting or who we are with or what we are doing. And it really boils down to who we love the most–ourselves, or Jesus. . . .

We cannot serve two masters . . .

So who will it be?

YouTube Video: “He Reigns” by the Newsboys:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

POTUS Day 2015

president_bannerToday, February 16, 2015, is Presidents Day here in the United States. Two years ago I wrote a blog post honoring those men who have served in the Office of the President of the United States (POTUS). Today I am reblogging that post to commemorate them again on this Presidents Day 2015. So without further ado, here it is:

The Presidents Club

Seal_Of_The_President_Of_The_United_States_Of_AmericaMonday, February 18, 2013, is Presidents Day in the United States. It is a federal holiday which originated as two holidays before 1971–it was primarily noted as George Washington’s birthday on February 22, and secondarily includes Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on February 12. The 90th Congress in 1968 created a uniform system of federal Monday holidays and they voted to shift three existing holidays–which included Washington’s birthday–to Mondays, and that law took effect in 1971 (quote source here).

Our first President, George Washington, born on February 22, 1732, served as President from 1789 to 1797. “On April 30, 1789, George Washington, standing on the balcony of Federal Hall on Wall Street in New York, took his oath of office as the first President of the United States” (quote source WhiteHouse.gov). Under his presidency, The Constitution of the United States was ratified and the Supreme Court met for the first time in 1790. Also, the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the Constitution) was ratified on December 15 of that same year (quote source: Forward: America’s Presidents from Washington to Obama,” Whitman Publishing, 2013, p. 221). It was on September 18, 1793, in his second term, that “he laid the first foundation stone for the United States Capital building in what was to be called Federal City, in the District of Columbia, carved out of Maryland and Washington not far from his Mount Vernon estate” (quote source,Forward et al, p. 217). The city was renamed “Washington” in honor of George Washington in 1791 (source here).

In George Washington’s famous Farewell Address,” published in The Independent Chronicle on September 26, 1796, he announced his withdrawal from politics after 45 years of service. In his Farewell Address,” he “extolled the benefits of the federal government (it’s unity is ‘a main pillar in the edifice of real independence . . . of tranquility at home, peace abroad; of safety; of prosperity; of that very liberty which we so highly prize’); he warned against the party system; he stressed the importance of religion and morality; he stressed ‘stable public credit’ and warned against an accumulation of debt; and he warned against permanent foreign alliances and an over-powerful military establishment” (quote source here).

Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln“George Washington finished his second term as the first President of the United States in 1797. Weary of the political infighting surrounding the presidency, he longed for the peace of retirement to his beloved Mount Vernon. Unfortunately, his solitude lasted less than three years as he died on December 14, 1799 at age 67 (quote source here). The nation went into mourning.

Abraham Lincoln, born on February 12, 1809,  served as our 16th President from 1861 to 1865. Many excellent books and biographies have been written on Abraham Lincoln (here’s a list of several of them on Amazon.com) who is considered to be one of our greatest presidents. During his presidency the country was split and marked by the Civil War and the issue of slavery. As president-elect in November 1860, his “stance against slavery was intolerable to the South, and in December 1860 the state of South Carolina seceded from the Union, followed by six others, and these states soon formed the Confederate States of America (quote source: Forward: America’s Presidents from Washington to Obama,” Whitman Publishing, 2013, p. 273).

“By the time of his inauguration in March 1861, the Civil War began barely a month later. Contrary to expectations, Lincoln proved to be a shrewd military strategist and a savvy leader during what became the costliest conflict ever fought on American soil. His Emancipation Proclamation, issued in 1863, freed all slaves in the rebellious states and paved the way for slavery’s eventual abolition, while his Gettysburg Address later that year stands as one of the most famous and influential pieces of oratory in American history” (quote source here).

Abraham Lincoln was reelected to a second term in 1865, and on April 9, 1865, General Robert E. Lee (Confederate) surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant (Union) thus ending the Civil War–“but not before more than a million men had been killed or injured, making it the nation’s bloodiest conflict” (quote source, Forward et al, p. 281). It was less than a week later, on April 14, 1865, that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C. by John Wilkes Booth, a famous stage actor who was sympathetic to the Confederacy. Lincoln died in the early morning hours on April 15th (source, Forward et al, p. 281).

2009-01-07-ap-five-presidentsPresidents’ Day not only commemorates George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, but all of the past presidents of the United States. Currently, there are four past presidents still living and active (Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush) and, of course, our current president, Barack Obama.

The other day when I was at the public library, I ran across a wonderful book by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy titled, The Presidents Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity,” published by Simon and Schuster, 2012. It starts with President Truman and ends with President Obama and is about the relationships between presidents and ex-presidents. As one reviewer, “Doyle,” at Amazon.com states, “When one is about fed up with politics and elections, this read is reassuring–that the U.S. system works: the transition of presidents is reasonably smooth, conversations with predecessors does occur, and the service of former presidents has great value.” Another reviewer, “Grandma Sue,” wrote: “My book club loved this pick and learned so much about how things get done in government. The personal stories of how the ex-presidents became friends, assisted one another, and protected the office of the president despite party affiliation was fascinating and lead to so many topics to discuss as a group. Book clubs tend to be women but there is much interest among men whom I have told about this book.”

Before I go any further, I must admit that I am not a political animal. In fact, I have steered clear of politics, other than voting, my entire life. The bickering between the two parties grinds on my nerves, and I found it best to leave it with those folks who have been elected to hash out. Of course, I love my country and want the very best for it and for all of us who live in America, but I found that if I got too involved in what the media (on both the right and the left) puts out I would get so upset and in the long run, it just wasn’t worth it since both sides pander to their own agenda. And the truth gets lost in the shuffle.

And to tell you how very tired I was of it all, I almost didn’t vote this past November. I tore up the first mail-in ballot I received and then in a patriotic moment ordered a second mail-in ballot. I won’t say how I voted as that is a private matter but I was terribly conflicted and ended up voting with regard to two issues close to my heart. When the election was over I breathed a sigh of relief and told myself I wasn’t getting involved anymore with the hype the media puts out on a daily basis. The decision had been made and I was going back to my usual “non-political” and still unemployed self.

. . . And, I’ve stuck to it, too (although I wish the “unemployed” part in my description would end very, very soon). No more bickering on Facebook from “friends” on either side of the political spectrum; no more mudslinging in campaign ads; and no more opinions on who thinks who is best (or worst) for our country. And since I haven’t had TV for almost a year now (the new owners of my seasonal rental took out the satellite TV last April that was included in my rent under the old owners) my life has become a lot more serene without the blare of everyone’s opinions coming out of that box.

. . . And, I’ve found myself more open to “dissenting” opinions–at least willing to give them a second chance. I’ve always been willing to listen to them, but all the rhetoric and media stuff got in the way. And on a personal level, I’ve liked all of the presidents that have been a part of my adult life whether or not I voted for them. I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to wear their shoes, and what they do is way above my pay level (which happens to be zero at the moment).

ForwardSo with that being said, a month ago I ran across a wonderful book that I have already quoted in this blog post that was published in January 2013. It’s titled, Forward: America’s Presidents From Washington to Obama (An Illustrated History of Barack Obama’s First Term and Historic Reelection),” by Q. David Bowers and Dave Lifton and published by Whitman Publishing, 2013. The first 211 pages are devoted to the Presidency of Barack Obama and while I haven’t read all 211 pages yet, I have been inspired by what I’ve been reading. The heart of the man shines through. And the rest of the book is about the rest of the presidents and some of the first ladies, too. It’s beautifully written and illustrated with many, many photographs.

the-presidents-clubThen I stumbled upon the 2012 book, The Presidents Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity,” just this past week at the public library, and to my own astonishment (because I rarely ever read anything regarding politics or politicians), I love what I’ve read so far and so much so that I just ordered a paperback copy of the book (available February 2013) to add to my book collection. While the book starts with the Truman presidency, I chose to start reading with the “Baby Boomer” presidents (Clinton and George W.) and the chapters on the two Bushes (father and son) to include the last chapter on Obama. Turns out that Bush (George W.) and Clinton were born only forty four days apart in 1946 (p. 457) and they are only six years older then me. However, they have accomplished far more in their lifetimes (and presidencies) than I could ever accomplish in five lifetimes (and especially since I’ve been unemployed for the past four years, too, just spinning my wheels trying to find employment). It is truly fascinating reading as well as heart-warming in many places.

Keep in mind that this book is not just about what our presidents since Truman have accomplished. It’s about their personal relationships and connections with each other, across political parties and differing viewpoints, that makes this book a real gem. It’s a side the public never gets to see. The Presidency of the United States is, indeed, “the world’s most exclusive fraternity.” It’s truly a shame in America today that we spend so much time trashing the current administration (whatever administration happens to be in charge at the time) that we’ve lost respect for what the Office of the President stands for as the Commander in Chief of the Free World. And he’s also human just like the rest of us.

When I read about how the friendship with George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton started and how it has developed into a very unique and endearing friendship, and the same thing happened between Clinton and George W., it made me realize that even though politically these folks are polar opposites, what they have accomplished together in genuine friendship far surpasses all of the political stuff. And in the final chapter before the conclusion, when Barack Obama was elected President, “the ‘club’ swooped in to pat him on the back, teach him the secret handshake–and let him in on it’s oldest secret, ‘You know, they were all incredibly gracious,’ Obama said, after hearing from the brethren a few days after his election. ‘I think all of them recognized that there’s a certain loneliness to the job. You’ll get advice and you’ll get counsel. Ultimately, you’re the person who’s going to be making decisions. You can already feel that fact’” (p. 505).

Well, I haven’t begun to do justice to the book, but I do highly recommend it as it has been an eye-opening read for me regarding the friendships of folks many of us would think of as political enemies. An endorsement on the back of the book by Tom Brokaw states,“Michael Duffy and Nancy Gibbs have taken us inside one of the most powerful and unusual families in American life–the brotherhood of former presidents of the United States. Political junkies, historians, psychologists, and Main Street citizens will find the tales of friendship, envy, conspiracy, competition, and common cause irresistible.” And he’s right! The book is irresistible!

Presidents Day is right around the corner. While it may not get as much fanfare as Christmas or Valentine’s Day, the men who hold this office are deserving of the honor we can give them on this day–they hold or have held the most powerful office on earth, the Presidency of the United States of America. Regardless of our political affiliations and whether or not “our man” is in office, the President of the United States of America deserves our utmost respect and sincere appreciation–past Presidents included.

I’ll end this post with the words of Abraham Lincoln in the last sentence of the Gettysburg Address:

“. . . that this nation under God
shall have a new birth of freedom,
and that government of the people,
by the people, for the people
shall not perish from the earth.”

 May God greatly bless you,
President Barack Obama,
and all of your predecessors, too.

And may God Bless America

YouTubeVideo: “US National Anthem” by the Academy Choirs (2006):

Photo #1 credit here
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What Love Does

Valentine-Day-2015-GreetingsHappy Valentine’s Day, 2015!

Love is patient,
love is kind.
It does not envy,
it does not boast,
it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others,
it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered,
it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil
but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects,
always trusts,
always hopes,
always perseveres.
Love never fails.

~I Corinthians 13:4-8

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“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” ~Jesus (John 13:34-35)

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Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like JesusThere is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
~1 John 4:7-21

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For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Sonthat whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. ~John 3:16-18

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And now these three remain:
faith, hope and
love.
But the greatest of these is love.
~I Corinthians 13:13

YouTube Video: “Love Does,” by Brandon Heath:

Photo credit here

The God Who Is There

TheGodWhoIsThereI woke up this morning thinking about faith–the kind of faith that steadfastly believes in the invisible God–the God of all Creation; the God of the Bible; the God Who Is There. In fact, the only God there is. Unfortunately, we often worship at the altar of a thousand lesser gods that cry out for our attention–money, fame, power, position, sex, materialism, pride, ego (and that list is endless)–as well as what we can actually see, hear, and touch. And all of these lesser gods get in the way of our knowledge, obedience, and love for the One True God, and we allow them to do that on a very regular basis.

Consider the fact that printed on our money here in America is “In God We Trust” (and sometimes even printed on the designer license plates on our vehicles). It tends to twist the concept of who or what we really believe in. In fact, it gets twisted so much of the time that we convince ourselves that it is God we are serving when in reality it is anything but God. We are mostly serving ourselves with an occasional nod in God’s direction to thank Him for all the stuff we’ve been accumulating. However, how often did we seek His guidance before we went headlong into the day to seek our own way and accumulate more stuff?

Let me ask a question. Do we spend more time thinking about ways to get more money (or whatever it is we focus on) then we do seeking after God and how He would have us to live? And what are we willing to do to get “more” of whatever it is we want to get? And where does God fit into that equation, or is He even considered in the many choices we make throughout any given day? And do we even seek His advice? What about what God wants? Where does He fit in? He’s not just a “Sunday Morning” God that we worship for a couple of hours each week that we have allotted to Him. He is the Creator of the entire universe and He has made Himself known to us through the prophets in the Old Testament and His only Son, Jesus Christ, in the New Testament.

A favorite verse we often like to quote is Jeremiah 29:11 which states–For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” However, we don’t pay much attention to the requirement in the following two verses–12 & 13. Jeremiah 29:11-13 states:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Ah, there’s the rub . . . “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” And our hearts are mostly divided between what we want and what God wants. We are very good at deceiving ourselves into thinking that what we want is what God wants for us without giving any consideration as to how He would have us to live. I think we’d be shocked if we really knew how much we try to control our own lives and move them in the direction we want to take as opposed to what God would have us to do. We give God a “wish list” of our own wants and desires and then try every way we know how to get them on our own. And that’s not living by faith in the One True God to give us what we need instead of running after all of our “wants” and doing our best to accumulate them in our own wily ways. And we know a few wily ways, too, that can get us into deep trouble down the road of life.

As I look back on these past almost six years now of unemployment plus an additional issue related to housing that has popped up since late September and is still ongoing, we tend to have a somewhat warped view in America as to what the Christian life is supposed to look like. If you believe a lot of the hype out there you might believe that what has happened to me and many, many others across America is a sign of, at the very least, being out of the will of God or some sort of proof that we have somehow gotten on the wrong side of the track with this whole Christianity thing. Of course, I can speculate on my own set of circumstances and why they happened and have lasted this long, but the bottom line is this: God has His reasons. And as Isaiah 55:8-9 state (and we often forget because we have such a low view of God and a too high view of ourselves):

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
    declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

James 1v2-4We are far too used to hearing all of the “Success ‘N More” hype that is portrayed as the real Christian experience we should be seeking after here in America. And you won’t find that kind of hype in the pages of the New Testament or the experiences of the early Church is the Book of Acts. In fact, what you will find is a whole lot more of the type of experiences some folks are going through today that make us wonder what they did wrong. And often they didn’t do anything wrong. Trials come to test our faith, and if our faith is never tested, something is definitely wrong in our Christian experience.

As Christians, we are not in this life to accumulate as much as we can get our hands on so we can impress ourselves and others and live “the good life.” James 1:2-18 has a lot to say about the trials we find ourselves in (and there is no time limit as to how long they will last):

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

The kind of “wealth” James mentions has nothing to do with our material world and acquiring as much “stuff” as possible. He states that our trials come as a test of our faith in order to produce perseverance so that we can be mature and complete, lacking nothing. And further down he states: “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” That is far more valuable than seeking after and acquiring material wealth in this world.

James tells us to ask God for wisdom and God will give it to us generously and without finding fault if we believe and do not doubt. And wisdom is far better then a Porsche, or a bigger house, higher salary, and fancy title. Now I’m not saying there is anything wrong with nice possessions, a high salary, or fancy title, but it’s where our heart’s desire is located that matters–on God or on this material world. And God has a way of showing each and every one of us who call ourselves Christian at some point in time exactly where our heart is really located (and on who or what it is focused on).

Trials are necessary in the Christian life. It is through trials that our faith is tested, and we either learn to trust God completely and persevere through them (without trying to wiggle out of them or finding our own solutions) so that we can be mature and complete, lacking nothing, and receive the crown of life (which is eternal life), which is far greater than anything this material world of ours, which is so incredibly temporal compared to eternity, has to offer. Faith and perseverance . . . these are the gifts that no amount of money can buy and can only be acquired by going through trials.

No matter what we may be going through at any given point it time, it comes down to this: Do we believe in the invisible God, the God Who Is There, or do we believe in what we can see, hear, and touch? If it’s the latter, we are on very shaky ground, especially when the trials of life hit hard and heavy. The only path to knowing the God Who Is There is through his Son, Jesus Christ. As the apostle Paul states in Colossians 1:15-23:

The Son [Jesus Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

We need to place our total trust in Jesus Christ. As Hebrews 13:5 states:

“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.”

I’ll end this post with what the apostle Paul had to say to his young protégé, Timothy, in I Timothy 1:15-17:

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God . . .

Be honor and glory for ever and ever . . .

Amen . . . .

YouTube Video: “God of Wonders” sung by Third Day:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Love Sweet Love

love-sweet-true-love

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and at this time of year our thoughts often turn to love . . . or maybe not . . .

From the current state of world affairs, love is sorely lacking. Back in August 2012 I wrote a blog post on this very topic, and since Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, now is a good time to repost it. So without further ado, here is it . . .

What The World Needs Now

“What The World Needs Now (is love sweet love)–if you’re old enough you might remember this song made famous by Jackie DeShannon back in 1965 (YouTube video below). Doesn’t seem like much has changed in our world since she sang that song. This old world is still in great need of “love, sweet love.” And now more than ever.

Of course, this type of love is not the sexual or “romantic” love between two people that we find so often as a theme in books or plays or movies, but an “agape” type of love. Agape love is defined as: (1) the love of God or Jesus Christ for humankind; (2) the love of Christians for other persons, corresponding to the love of God for humankind; and (3) unselfish love of one person for another without sexual implications; brotherly love (source: Dictionary.com). Agape love–at it’s core–is sacrificial.

Compassion travels right alongside agape love. Compassion is defined as “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering” (source: Dictionary.com). In short, the combination of the two describe what Christian community should be all about–unselfish, sacrificial love for others with a strong desire to alleviate suffering wherever we may find it–and we don’t have to look very far to find suffering in this world.

If you’ve read some of my previous posts you’ll know that I’ve often quoted a devotion I’ve found in Day by Day by Dr. Charles Swindoll, (Thomas Nelson Publishers: 2000, 2005). I discovered this gem of a book several months ago on Amazon.com and my copy happens to be the first edition published in 2000. Well, once again, this morning I found a great devotion on compassion by Dr. Swindoll, so let’s read it together:

Compassion

Colossians 3:12-14; James 5:11

It was one of those backhanded compliments. The guy had listened to me talk during several sessions at a pastors’ conference. All he knew about me was what he’d heard in the past few days: ex-marine . . . schooled in an independent seminary . . . committed to biblical exposition . . . noncharismatic . . . premil . . . pretrib . . . pro this . . . anti that.

Toward the end of the week, he decided to drink a cup of coffee with me and risk saying it straight. It went something like this: “You don’t fit. You’ve got the roots of a fundamentalist, but you don’t sound like it. Your theology is narrow, but you’re not rigid. You take God seriously, but you laugh like there’s no tomorrow. You have definite convictions, but you aren’t legalistic and demanding.” Then he added: “Even though you’re a firm believer in the Bible, you’re still having fun, still enjoying life. You’ve even got some compassion!”

“You’ve even got some compassion!” Like, if you’re committed to the truth of Scripture, you shouldn’t get that concerned about people stuff–heartaches, hunger, illness, fractured lives, insecurities, failures, and grief–because those are only temporal problems. Mere horizontal hassles. Leave that to the liberals. Our main job is to give ‘em the gospel. Get ‘em saved!

Be honest now. Isn’t that the way it usually is? Isn’t it a fact that the more conservative one becomes, the less compassionate?

I want to know why. Why either–or? Why not both–and?

I’d also like to know when we departed from the biblical model. When did we begin to ignore Christ’s care for the needy?

Maybe when we realized that one is much easier than the other. It’s also faster. When you don’t concern yourself with being your brother’s keeper, you don’t have to get dirty or take risks or lose your objectivity or run up against the thorny side of an issue that lacks easy answers.

And what will happen when we traffic in such compassion. The Living Bible says, “Then the Lord will be your delight, and I will see to it that you ride high, and get your full share of the blessings I promised to Jacob, your father” (Isaiah 58:14).

If you really want to “ride high, and get your full share of the blessings,” prefer compassion to information. We need both, but in the right order.

Come on, let’s break the mold and surprise ‘em. That’s exactly what Jesus did with you and me and a whole bunch of other sinners who deserved and expected a full dose of condemnation, but got compassion instead.

Others won’t care how much we know until they know how much we care.

Source:Day by Dayby Dr. Charles Swindoll, p. 258
Word Publishing, Thomas Nelson, 2000

Let me run one of his statements above by you again (e.g., regarding “a fact that the more conservative one becomes, the less compassionate”): “When did we begin to ignore Christ’s care for the needy? Maybe when we realized that one is much easier than the other. It’s also faster. When you don’t concern yourself with being your brother’s keeper, you don’t have to get dirty or take risks or lose your objectivity or run up against the thorny side of an issue that lacks easy answers.” Ouch, that one stings, doesn’t it? I know I can feel the pain of what it says.

Let’s look at the two scripture quotations he cites at the beginning of this devotion. The first one is Colossians 3:12-14:

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Read through that list slowly and let it sink in: “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience . . bear with each other . . . forgive grievances . . . forgive as the Lord forgave you . . . and put on love.”

The second scripture cited is James 5:11:

As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

I like how The Message Bible states this verse along with the previous verse 10:

Take the old prophets as your mentors. They put up with anything, went through everything, and never once quit, all the time honoring God. What a gift life is to those who stay the course! You’ve heard, of course, of Job’s staying power, and you know how God brought it all together for him at the end. That’s because God cares, cares right down to the last detail.

They put up with what? Anything! They went through what? Everything! AND THEY NEVER ONCE QUIT! Not one time!!! That’s perseverance in a nutshell, folks! And all the time they HONORED GOD! In other words, no grumbling allowed! And just look at Job’s staying power! I dare say none of us have had to endure all that Job had to endure (see Job 1-42 for the full story), and he still remained faithful to God through it all–and God rewarded Him with twice what he originally had when his incredible trial first started. The Lord is, indeed, full of compassion and mercy!

And we should be, too . . . .

I’d like to end this post with a few of the verses in the greatest chapter on love in the Bible–I Cor. 13:3-8 from The Message Bible:

“If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. 

  “Love never gives up. 
   Love cares more for others than for self. 
   Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. 
   Love doesn’t strut, 
   Doesn’t have a swelled head, 
   Doesn’t force itself on others, 
   Isn’t always ‘me first,’ 
   Doesn’t fly off the handle, 
   Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, 
   Doesn’t revel when others grovel, 
   Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, 
   Puts up with anything, 
   Trusts God always, 
   Always looks for the best, 
   Never looks back, 
   But keeps going to the end.
   Love never dies . . . .”

Love never dies . . . .

And I certainly don’t want to be bankrupt without love . . . 

How about you?

YouTube Video: “What The World Needs Now” by Jackie DeShannon (1965):

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

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