Tag Archives: God Centered

When Wrestling gives way to Worshipping

“A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, according to Shigionoth.   O LORD, I have heard the report of you, and your work, O LORD, do I fear. In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy. God came from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah His splendor covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. His brightness was like the light; rays flashed from his hand; and there he veiled his power. Before him went pestilence, and plague followed at his heels. He stood and measured the earth; he looked and shook the nations; then the eternal mountains were scattered; the everlasting hills sank low. His were the everlasting ways. I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction; the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble. Was your wrath against the rivers, O LORD? Was your anger against the rivers, or your indignation against the sea, when you rode on your horses, on your chariot of salvation? You stripped the sheath from your bow, calling for many arrows. Selah You split the earth with rivers. The mountains saw you and writhed; the raging waters swept on; the deep gave forth its voice; it lifted its hands on high. The sun and moon stood still in their place at the light of your arrows as they sped, at the flash of your glittering spear. You marched through the earth in fury; you threshed the nations in anger. You went out for the salvation of your people, for the salvation of your anointed. You crushed the head of the house of the wicked, laying him bare from thigh to neck. Selah You pierced with his own arrows the heads of his warriors, who came like a whirlwind to scatter me, rejoicing as if to devour the poor in secret. You trampled the sea with your horses, the surging of mighty waters.

I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me. Yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us.

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.”

(Habakkuk 3:1–19 ESV)

This section sounds so much like Job who had heard of God, but now sees Him (Job 42:5).  Habakkuk had heard of God and knew His laws and commands, but now he was asking that God remember mercy when His justice provokes His wrath.  Habakkuk remembers how God’s mighty, sovereign saving power had been displayed in the past – at the Nile, the Jordan & the Red Sea and in the desert during the Exodus.  He is an all powerful deliverer.

Majestic power is on display here.  As God measures the earth (I envision a couple of small steps), He shakes the nations (like in a brown lunch sack), then the eternal mountains were scattered (only God can shake what they viewed as a foundation to the world).  His ways are eternal.  Habakkuk is doing in these verses what we must do – we must recite and remember who God is and the truths about Him – when we do this, things come in to perspective.  Apart from this perspective, you will always struggle and wrestle because you have no real perspective on things.  Like Asaph, the Psalmist you will be able to say, “but when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.” (Psalms 73:16–17 ESV)

The majestic power of God is seen in the spectacular display of lightning & flash flooding in thunderstorms.  Mountains quake at His power (earthquakes) and He causes even the sun & moon to stand still (Joshua 10:12-13).  This God is all powerful, unequaled & sovereignly ruling.  When difficulty and hardship comes, knowing that our God is ruling and reigning in all power is a comforting thing.  And not just that He is sovereign, but He does good to His people.  Habakkuk is calling to recollection that.  God had protected and miraculously delivered His people before.  He will indeed do it again – but they were needing punishment for their wickedness.  God delivered them from Pharaoh and from Canaanite kings.  God is willing and able to deliver; He is the great Deliverer.

Habakkuk physically responds with a trembling body and quivering lips to the impending judgement that is coming, but he will wait for God to finish His judgement and then judge the invaders.  Habakkuk is finished wrestling, complaining & accusing God.  He is now resting on the sweet sovereignty of God.  The battle in his soul is over and he is beginning to worship and rest.  He does not have all of His questions answered, but He sees God and that is enough for him.  Oh, that we would land in the same spot.  When we wrestle, complain & accuse God of injustice or of silence – we need to be looking to get to this place.  A place where we are done wrestling and we begin worshipping.  Worship is the only thing that will satiate the wrestler’s soul.  God satiates Habakkuk’s soul by giving him a grander view of Himself – God gives Habakkuk God, and it proves to be enough.

Habakkuk concludes that if there is absolute famine in the land and hardship – no figs, no fruit, olives, food or live stock – he will still praise the Lord his God.  He will take joy in the God of His salvation.  He trusts in God’s sovereignty and God’s goodness, what a place to rest your feet in the midst of adversity.  Trusting God leads to joy.  Faith that God is in control and working all things out for His kid’s good is profoundly comforting and joyful, despite the physical hardships that may come our way.  In verse 19, Habakkuk clarifies that it is the LORD (Yahweh, the personal covenant keeping God) that is His strength.  Whether deliverance, comfort & prosperity come or not – God is Habakkuk’s strength.  There are struggles to be had, tears to be cried and doubts to wrestle through, but when we find that God alone is enough to satisfy joy ensues.  When we still believe that anything created can satisfy the longings in our soul, unrest & discontentedness are not far behind.

We want to accuse God of not running His world the way that we think is right.  It’s His world and He gets to run it the way that He wants.  And we must always rest on the fact that He is good and is doing good – even when we can’t see it.  This is walking by faith and not by sight (feelings, emotions or current experiences).  There comes a time (or many times) in our lives, if God is gracious, that we press and ask questions seeking to understand, but where the questions no longer matter because we see God and trust Him – regardless of the circumstances of life.  God, alone, is enough.  Regardless of where you find yourself today, remember that the eternal God of the universe set His saving affections on you before a star was breathed into space.  Why?  For His glory and YOUR JOY.  Meditate on this truth, mull it over, think about it and see if it doesn’t move your heart.

Enemies of Christianity from Within the Church

There are many enemies to Christianity.  The greatest enemies come in the form of different ways we seek to save ourselves.  Every other religion is about things you must do to be saved, but Christianity is about what God has already done to save us.  What makes us Christian is our acknowledgement that we can’t save ourselves, and our confession that Jesus Christ did for us what we could not in coming to save us. Some of the biggest enemies of the Christian faith in the Southern United States are: Cultural Christianity, Moralism, and Legalism. Whether we look at the church as the organization, or the church as the people, both are promoting and pushing these enemies of Christianity as ways to be saved.

The goal of Cultural Christianity is doing religious activities to be saved. Cultural Christianity tells us that we are good with God if we do religious things for or to God.  Christianity becomes event and meeting driven, but doesn’t apply to other areas of my life such my work, family, marriage, friendships, time or resources.  We are saved by our church attendance, serving in some capacity at the church, how many bible studies we are involved in, or small group community involvement.  While these are things we do to worship and experience God, we turn them into an end in themselves as good works that save us.

The goal of moralism is behavior modification. In moralism, we seek to just be a good behavior to show we are a good person or Christian. We live by a certain code of goodness, whether defined some principles of Christianity, our culture, or even ourselves.  In their book Gospel Coach, Scott Thomas & Tom Wood address moralism and its dangers, “We rely on our own moral ability or on the way other people perceive us as good, moral people. Moralism leads to methods of behavior modification where we seek to change what we do without addressing who we are as sinful people.”  Being a moralist, we seek to save ourselves by our own goodness therefore God must accept me.

The goal legalism is keeping the rules. Self-righteously, we believe we can keep God’s rules. Legalism says we are saved by the grace of God, but here are the rules you must now follow in order to keep that grace or dare I say add to grace. The legalist wants everyone to just “be a better Christian” by following all the right rules, and forgets about the grace that saved them.

The goal of the gospel is freedom.  “Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. Acts 13:38-39” The good news is God sent Jesus is his love for us, and gave us grace in Jesus coming to save us.  The law could not save us, but is gracious in showing us we can’t save ourselves. We need someone outside of us to save us. It is good news because Jesus saves us from our sin by living the perfect life we could not.  He paid the penalty of sin, which was death. He willingly took our place on the cross dying our death.  He resurrected from the grave defeating sin, and now he is alive reigning and ruling with God.  We place our trust in what Jesus has done, and not what we can do to save ourselves. We believe the gospel frees us from sin and self-effort in trying to save ourselves.  Now we are freed to know God, to love God because he first loved us, and love others as God has loved us.

We respond to this good news of the gospel of Jesus in repentance & belief.  We repent of trying to save ourselves even in our good works whether church activity, good behavior, or trying to keep the rules.  Paul says, “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. Galatians 2:21.” We nullify the grace of God when we try and save ourselves. So we repent of trying to save ourselves, and we turn in belief to the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  There he meets us with grace, and makes us new people in Christ.  The gospel brings freedom, and we need to watch out for enemies of the gospel that spring up in the church.  There is only one gospel and it is found in who Jesus is and what he has done to save us.

Guest Post by Clay Adkisson (@clayadkisson)

Contract or Covenant

“You have wearied the LORD with your words. But you say, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice?”” (Malachi 2:17 ESV)

The people have wearied the Lord by accusing Him of being unjust and uninvolved.  It is funny that the eternal God of the universe would describe Himself as being “wearied,” for our God never sleeps (Psalm 121:3).  The people were back in the land and had rebuilt the temple, but they were still under foreign rule, were insignificant on the global stage and prosperity was nowhere to be found.  They looked around at other, pagan, nations and saw their prosperity and they were bitter.  They reckoned that God was not upholding His end of the bargain – the part where He promised to bless them (Deuteronomy 27-28).

The entire book of Malachi is addressing the people’s low view of God.  A low view of God and an elevated view of ourselves always produces bitterness.  This is because God is there to serve us & meet our needs because we have done our part.  This is contractual language, not covenantal language.  We have paid our rent, done our part, followed the rules and now God is letting down His end of the bargain.  That is exactly where the people are – they are going through the religious motions and “doing their part” and God was not blessing them.  They were so blind and calloused that they could not even understand God’s dissatisfaction with them.  The weren’t loving God with their heart, mind & strength (Deuteronomy 6:5) – they were loving themselves.  They didn’t want God, they only wanted what God could give them. 

If you find yourself struggling with bitterness, is it because you believe that God owes you something that He has not delivered because you have prayed & obeyed?  In the gospel, we get God – that’s it; we get reconciled with the God of the universe and we become family.  Disappointment and difficulty are part of life, but we need to beg God to get us to a place where we no longer believe that He owes us anything.  He does not and yet He gracious provides all that we need.  Lord, help us to see you as you really are!

Being like Jesus involves believing like Jesus

“Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:13–25 ESV)

If the gospel has transformed us internally then it will necessarily transform our social interactions.  We are to submit to governmental authorities which promote order & justice.  It is interesting that Peter is telling a group of dispersed (and likely persecuted) people this.  For as we submit (in attitude in action), God is glorified and the accusations of others become increasingly baseless.  We are free people and should live that way – not as a license to sin, but rather as an expression of good for God’s glory.  We don’t have the need to make ourselves into something in this world because God has already made us His chosen children; therefore, we are free to trust in God’s goodness and sovereignty.  The fuel for living free is tied back to our identity as sojourners in this world.

We are to honor, revere, glorify and respect everyone, even those who persecute us.  This honor is to be extended even by slaves to their masters – whether good or harsh.    It is a gracious thing to endure suffering while being mindful of God.  Enduring harsh treatment is viewed as a credit to the account – a credit that will be redeemed in the life that is to come.  God’s grace (which includes His favor and blessing) are what enables & empowers us to suffer graciously.  Jesus is the greatest example of suffering – unjust suffering at that!  We normally don’t suffer unjustly because we often times bring on our suffering by our own sinfulness.  Regardless of the cause of our suffering, Jesus is our example.  Jesus endured to redeem us, so too should we endure.  When Jesus was reviled & suffered, He did not retaliate.  Instead He entrusted that God was a just Judge, who is able to bring about ultimate justice.

With Jesus as our example of how to suffer graciously, it seems that our ability to suffer graciously is not tied to our own steady resolve or strong willed effort.  It seems that it is directly connected to what we believe about God.  Our endurance is connected to whether we really believe that God is capitol “S” sovereign and capitol “G” good.  Is He able to bring sense to our suffering, Is He able to deliver?  Only those who say “absolutely”, with no hesitation, will find true endurance to suffer well.  We should be like Jesus, but the way to be like Jesus is to believe like Jesus.

God will justly judge all sinfulness so let us leave vengeance to Him.  All people will have to give an account for what they have said and done.  All sin will be paid for – either at the cross of Jesus Christ or by the sinner himself.  Justice will be served.  This enables the saint to persevere when he suffers injustices.  Jesus takes our sins and gives us His righteousness.  It is by His wounds that we are healed.  We die to sin and live to righteousness.  We were straying sheep and now we have returned to the Shepherd & Overseer of our souls.  Let us rest in our identity in Christ and our inheritance in glory.  This life is brief and glory is forever.

Faithfulness’s Fuel

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” (1 Peter 1:13–21 ESV)

This section starts with “therefore” which causes us to first reflect on Peter’s previous train of thought which was because God has saved you & is ensuring an inheritance that is spectacular – let us set our hope FULLY on the grace of Jesus Christ!  We are to do this by dwelling on, mulling over & meditating upon true & transcendent things – things which we easily forget.  We have to get outside of ourselves and our worlds and the difficulties that we face and think on ultimate realities.  Realities like this world is transient and is coming to an end, a perfect and never ending kingdom is coming in which we will dwell as sons of God.  God’s undeserved approval has been showered upon us, not because of what we have done or can do, but solely upon His sovereign goodness & grace.

Peter calls us not to be conformed to the “passions of our former ignorance.”  Passions are our inner drives and desires, deep down things, not merely behavioral things.  Peter’s exhortation to his readers is to be like Dad.  Our holiness & sanctification is tied to our identity as His children.  If you read this as a list of what you must do and how you must behave without marrying it to your identity in Jesus Christ then you have departed from the gospel of grace and have embraced a works based righteousness theological system.  The entire book of Galatians is a treatise on how they had departed from the gospel and embraced works based righteousness.  Paul deploys strong words in his epistle to the Galatians like bewitched (3:1), emasculate (5:12) and accursed (1:8) to communicate the danger of departing from grace and embracing works based righteousness.  Gospel oriented sanctification, or grace driven effort, is rooted in what God has done for us and our identity as His children.  It seeks to root out idols of the heart by identifying the false beliefs that drive our external behaviors.  It is root focuses, not fruit focused.  Works based righteousness places the responsibility for change primarily upon our shoulders – it is up to us to manage our sin.  It is primarily focused on our behavior and never asks the deeper question of what is driving our sinful behavior.  It is fruit focused, not root focused.

Our God is our Father and Judge.  We will be called to account for how we stewarded our lives in this world which should strike sobriety in our souls.  We should have a reverent fear and awe of God as we live our lives.  God is still a consuming fire Who is too glorious for man to see; He’s not our buddy, He’s the Almighty Creator who breathes galaxies into place.  Because of our identity as His children, we should walk in ways that are in keeping with our identity – this is not by focusing upon external behavior modification.  The external things that we do that are sinful should be ferociously attacked on the surface to hold them at bay, but the deeper question of what is driving them needs to be answered.  When their source is identified, God can remove the roots that are causing the sin.  We should walk in holy, reverent awe of God as our time as exiles in this world knowing that a perfect place in the presence of God is our future inheritance (a new Eden).

We are to walk in reverent awe (fear) because we were rescued at great cost – the cost was the blood of God Himself.  God died for our sins.  What sacrifice?  He tasted death, wrath & separation; the God who was never created and is perfectly holy was dipped in the disgust of sin, was separated from all goodness and bore His own wrath for me.  I was indeed bought with a price.  We were delivered from a life of meaningless futility where we are constantly chasing after the wind to one of profound significance; He breaks our bondage to generational sins and frees us.

The cross was the plan before time began.  It is not plan “B” because plan “A” did not work out.  Before anything was formed or put into motion, Jesus knew He would die to atone for the sins of His chosen people.  But, this complete revelation was not made known until recently (2000 years ago) for our sake.  Jesus was raised so our hope is firmly planted on the One that death could not hold.  What profound encouragement & glory.  Understanding and embracing that God has bought us with a profound price and that our inheritance is glorious provides fuel for us to walk faithfully.

The Satiated Soul

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.
But those who seek to destroy my life shall go down into the depths of the earth; they shall be given over to the power of the sword; they shall be a portion for jackals. But the king shall rejoice in God; all who swear by him shall exult, for the mouths of liars will be stopped.” (Psalms 63:1–11 ESV)

This psalm of David is not just a corporate song, but is intensely personal as well.  David writes this when he is a refugee, on the run for his life either from Saul (1 Samuel 23:14-15, 24:1) or from Absalom (2 Samuel 15:23-28).  It is more likely that it was written during his time fleeing from Absalom because He refers to himself as king in 63:11 and he also uses the same Hebrew word here as in 2 Samuel 16:14.  The Hebrew word (key 5889 }aœyeœph) means “weary,” “exhausted,” or “faint.”  Regardless of the time, he is hard pressed on every side, oppressed, tired and constantly looking over his shoulder.  Simple pleasures and luxuries are nowhere to be found.  David sees that the presence of God supersedes all earthly comforts & concerns.  So much so that he uses language that displays a desperation for God’s presence more than his deliverance.  He needs God as much as he needs food or water.  The question is, why don’t we desire God this way?  Is it because we are so distracted and have never really tasted His goodness?  Is it because life is so good that we don’t really see a need for Him?

David finds profound confidence in His times of trouble, a confidence that every soul longs for.  When life is difficult, it has the ability to push aside the periphery things that distract and cause us to have laser focus on ultimate things.  David sees that being in the presence of God, in His sanctuary, is a gift that He eagerly longs to partake in.  He knows that the steadfast love of God and being in His presence is better than life itself.  David recalls corporate worship as they are called to behold the power and glory of the LORD.  As we behold God’s glory, we become more like Him (2 Corinthians 3:18), Moses asked to see God’s glory (Exodus 33:18) and he shone with the glory of the LORD because he had been in God’s presence (Exodus 34:34).  There is something about being in the presence of the LORD when He reveals His glory to us that changes us; it marks us, it enables us to say (with David) that His “steadfast love is better than life.”  We should do everything that we can to get in His presence.  It is only through beholding the Lord through the power of the Holy Spirit that we are transformed over time into more accurate image bearers.  As we see Him more clearly, the Spirit sanctifies us more completely (Gen. 1:26–27; 2 Cor. 4:4; 5:17; also 1 John 3:2)

We have to ask, “do we have an insatiable hunger and thirst for God?”  Why not?  Is it because we’ve not partaken of Him in a way that has touched our souls deeply?  Is it because our faith has been largely intellectual?  Is it because we have rarely or ever seen His glory?  Lord, give us eyes to see, ears to hear and hearts to believe.  Show us your glory, fill us with your Spirit, give us believing hearts!  We don’t have the power to do this on our own – we are utterly dependent upon you!

Only an abiding relationship with God provides complete soul satisfaction.  David likens his satiated soul to that of being full after a fine meal (verse 5).  David remembers God and meditates upon His goodness not just in the sanctuary, but everywhere in His life.  What a gift, Lord please give us this gift of seeing you more clearly and desiring you more fully.  Satisfaction & safety are found in the presence of God as David proclaims “My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.” (Psalms 63:8 ESV).  God’s purposes always prevail, He wins.  We can trust in that!

Remember

““Do not say in your heart, after the LORD your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,’”
Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land
“Know, therefore, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people. Remember and do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness.”
(Deuteronomy 9:4-7 ESV)

The people are called to go into an intimidating land and conquer it – a land that is populated with those who are greater & mightier with fortified cities.  This is why they didn’t go into the land the first time – the spies (except Joshua & Caleb) said that the people were too mighty for Israel to over throw (Numbers 13:28-14:10).  The Israelites are reminded that these people were indeed mighty and their cities were fortified, but their God was mightier!

God then issues a warning to the people: “Do not say in your heart, ‘it is because of my righteousness that the LORD has brought me in to possess this land” (verse 4, also 8:17).  They would have viewed their military victories as God rewarding them for their righteousness; God completely obliterates that thinking.  God reminds them that they were the recipients of His grace – unearned, undeserved, unmerited.  They were not receiving the land because they followed or obeyed well enough, trusted deeply enough or were more spiritually attuned.  No!  They were being given the land because of God’s righteousness, glory and grace (see verses 5-7).

We are not much different than the Israelites.  We tend to believe that the good things in our lives are the result of our obedience, intelligence or hard work.  We think that God is our cosmic genie who is obligated to reward us; He owes us.  Nothing could be further from the truth that the bible paints for us.  The goodness in our lives is not because we are awesome & obedient; the goodness in our lives is because God is gracious – we deserve nothing, but wrath because of our (ongoing) rebellion.  All good things are a gift as Paul affirms in 1 Corinthians 4:7: “what do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”  We are owed nothing, not even breath – everything is a gift from on high, it is not because you unlocked the secret spiritual code, executed better than others, worked harder, were wiser or did something on your own to deserve the good that you have.  God’s grace is the reason that you have any good things.

It seems like we are hard wired to take credit for the good in our lives and forget the grace of God.  So how do keep the right perspective that it is God who benevolently gives us good because He is gracious, not because we are deserving?  The answer is to REMEMBER.  Deuteronomy 8:18 tells us to “remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth” and 9:7 tells us to “remember and do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness.”  The people were called to remember their moral failures and disobedience in the wilderness to crush their self righteous pride.

You are called to remember that God delivered you, led you, provided for you, loved you – even in your rebellion.  You were dead in your trespasses, but God, being rich in mercy, made you alive (Ephesians 2:4–5).  You did not do anything to deserve it, you didn’t earn it, it is only by His benevolent grace that He made your heart alive to spiritual things.

Remembering involves deliberate, dependent discipline.  There is indeed action on our part.  Our role is to get ourselves in proximity to the waterfall of God’s grace and beg Him to ignite our hearts.  The Spirit ignites the kindling that we gather around us.  So let us work at gathering kindling and get ourselves in close proximity to the Almighty and beg Him to ignite our souls.

Honor Mom & Dad

“‘Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.”
(Deuteronomy 5:16 ESV)

This is the beginning of human authority which ultimately points to God’s authority.  Honor respects the role and the person.  Some of the time, the person is harder to respect because of some of life’s decisions that they have made, but we should strive to honor them nonetheless.  Jesus & Paul highlight this command as well in Mark 7:1–13; Ephesians 6:1–3; 1 Timothy 5:4.  This commandment is the only one that offers the follower a reward if obeyed:  a life filled with God’s presence and favor.  Authority is central in the scriptures because it is central to life – we are a people under authority.  That was the reason for the tree in the garden, to remind Adam & Eve that they were not ultimate or autonomous, to remind them that they were under God’s authority.  Parents are to protect, provide & teach their children to love and obey God.  Parents are to provide a picture of redemption – a little Eden on earth.

For some, mom & dad were absent, disconnected or just plain wicked.  How do you honor them when there is very little in them that seems worthy of honor or when the wounds & scars that you carry are deep & debilitating?  There are no simple answers to this – for some it might be a life long struggle.  It is important to remember that most (though not all) parents try to do the best that they can, though they fall woefully short and their sins scar those around them.  The real power to forgive & honor those closest to us that have wounded us is found in the cross of Christ.  The more deeply that we understand and embrace that there was nothing good in us that inclined God toward us (or that inclined us toward Him); the more that we deeply understand & embrace that before He formed a star, planet or carved out a river He determined to love you and made a way for you to be reconciled with Him.  The more deeply that we understand our own depravity, rebellion & self-centeredness and see the beauty of grace in the cross, the more empowered (supernaturally) we are to forgive, honor & love.

Heart of the Matter Review

““This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”” (John 6:29 ESV)

What is the work that we need to be doing?  That is the same question that was asked of Jesus in John 6:29.  His answer?  Be disciplined, work hard, feed the poor, love the unloveable, memorize the scriptures?  No.  All of these are good things, but they are secondary things.  The work we need to be doing in our faith is belief:  “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”  The real battle for us is to remember and rely upon the seemingly unbelievable good news of the Gospel – that a good and all powerful God has made a way for rebellious creatures to return and be reconciled with Him.  We don’t forget this in our minds, but the glory of God & His gospel readily creeps out of our hearts.

Heart of the Matter: Daily Reflections for Changing Hearts and Lives by Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation helps us to remember the staggering promises of the gospel by providing short, gospel saturated daily devotions that are aimed at penetrating the reader’s heart.  Paul Tripp, Ed Welch, Timothy S. Lane, William Smith, Michael Emlet, David Powlison and others share profoundly practical & impactful truths on subjects that include fear & anxiety, anger, contentment, faith, relationships, stress, suffering, identity and trials & suffering.  If you find yourself in the battle for belief, then Heart of the Matter: Daily Reflections for Changing Hearts and Lives is an excellent resource to help you on your journey.  It is available from New Growth Press at their online store, Amazon or WTS Books.  You can sign up to win a free copy here.

Singular Devotion, First Affection

You shall have no other gods before me.” (Deuteronomy 5:7 ESV).

The New Living Translation says “no other god but me.”  God demands exclusive worship because He is incomparable and because there are no other true gods; our God is not part of the created order (i.e. sun, moon, etc), He reigns over creation with all power.  God created all things and sustains all things (John 1:3, Colossians 1:17, Hebrews 1:3).  He is not some distant deity, He is all powerful, just and holy and yet He still draws near to His creation.

Our primary problem is a worship problem – we worship all sorts of things to which we ascribe godlike grandeur, but there is only one true God.  When we place the weight of our worship on created things, they buckle because they are not designed to hold the weight that our worship places upon themSingular devotion to Him is how the created order was designed to operate.  This is not because He is insecure or needs anything from us (Acts 17:25), but because it glorifies Him and gives us maximum joy (Psalm 16:11).  What are you worshiping, what is your first affection?