Saturday, February 11, 2012

Miscellaneous Thoughts from Think '11

Think '11 is the annual theology conference at College Park.  The speaker this year was D.A. Carson, and the topic was some selected Biblical texts, which make up his book Scandalous.

* A quote from his dad: "A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text."  Scripture must be taken in context.

* "Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me."  -Matt. 16:24.  "Taking up our cross" is not fully understood today.  It is not just something tough that goes on (e.g. the loss of a family member).  The cross was absolutely shameful in that day.  It meant you were literally about to die.  Do I really want to be His disciple?  If so, I must daily die to myself and my needs, and follow Him so radically to the point of shame and ridicule.

* Servant leadership.  The "servant" of Jesus' servant leadership is often highlighted.  It's important to remember that He was still the disciples' leader and He demanded high levels of obedience while still serving them.  Also, if I ever get to a "high position" in a church, ministry or work, it will be critical to not do some service for others while actually getting pretty comfy in my position and subconsciously expecting to be served the rest of the time.

* We must not confuse the gospel with the entailments of the gospel.  "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength" is of utmost importance.  Loving our neighbors as ourselves is as well.  But these are not the gospel.  Becoming more focused in our lives, being more productive and being joyful are not the gospel.  There are "Christian" movements where this is becoming the gospel and it will not be long before those movements will degrade into a strictly moralistic institution where God can't be found.  We are all sinners (Ro. 1:18 - Ro. 3:20) and the gospel is that God the Father sent Jesus the Son down to this earth as fully man and fully God.  He lived a sinless life, and died a substitutionary death for us.

How do we see light when it's dark?

This is not a how-to post.  This is not six easy steps.  This is just processing/journaling/blabbing.  

It's really easy to look at someone in a tough spot and see exactly what they need to do.  It's really easy to see someone who struggles with singleness and tell them they need to find their identity in God.  It's easy to tell someone who's unemployed that God will provide.  It's not challenging to tell someone who's plagued by recurring sickness that God is right there with them, and He hates to see His children in pain.

First of all, those are weak and pithy statements that help me deal with the reality of God's sovereignty.  Second, who's to say that that's really the issue?  But I diverge just slightly...

My real question is, what do you do when you're the person in the difficult situation?  What do you do when it seems all you hear is lies?  When the bleak just continues to get bleaker?  When it's dark around you and try as you might and see God's goodness, it's as though you can't find it?  When, as my pastor says, all you seem to see is the "dark side of God's sovereignty."

I'm not sure.  

I have plenty of good things to do: cling to the Word, pray without ceasing, spend time in fellowship, continue to generously give, serve others, yada, yada, (other Christian-ese word here), etc.  All great things.  All necessary things for a true relationship with our heavenly father.  But I just don't think the answer is in the "do".   

I'm not sure of the answer.  I think it involves wiping away the scales of sin that can cloud our vision and begin seeing God again as He truly is.  He is my Heavenly Father and I am His child.  Having children has helped me see this even clearer and understand how big of a deal that is.  There are not many (if any) world religions whose deity claims to view his followers as his children.  Yet God claims this.  Having a gentle yet strong father in my life has probably contributed to this clarity as well.

Jesus even says, "You are my friends if you do what I command you."  (John 15:14)  He is our friend.  That's hard to wrap my head around.

I'm still not sure of the answer, but I know that the answer is not in the "why" question.  That will never satisfy.  The answer is in the "who" question and that's Jesus.

For more on that, check out: and click "I Choose to Bless:...." under the Series tab.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

PSALM 100:3

"Know that the LORD Himself is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture."

Self-made man (or woman).  Ha!  The phrase is ironic.  First, God has made us from birth.  He has made us exactly who we are.  "What do you have that you did not receive?" (I Cor 4:7).  We think because we "put ourselves through school" and have such wonderful gifts and talents that we are responsible for amazing things.  Ha!  "It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves."  Second, we get nowhere in life alone.  From a practical standpoint, anywhere we go in life is with others.  Parents, friends, family, teachers, mentors, co-workers, bosses and others help shape us, develop us and encourage us.

"We are His people and the sheep of His pasture."  I can't imagine how God feels when I sit on this earth and fawn over my "gifts".  It's preposterous and ridiculous.  Inconceivable really.  It's like Nebuchadnezzar: "Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence and by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?" (Daniel 4:30).  That did not initially turn out too well for him.  Or Herod in Acts 12: "On an appointed day Herod, having put on his royal apparel, took his seat on the rostrum and began delivering an address to them.  The people kept crying out, 'The voice of a god and not of a man!'  And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died."  His fate was even worse.  Why do I always compare my strengths to others' weaknesses, totally neglecting their strengths altogether?

Oh Lord, please correct me and change me.  So what's the solution?  Praising God.  Having an accurate view of the height of God's grandeur.  This does not mean I grovel and just call everything about myself poopy, but that He is so mighty and holy and awesome that I do not really even think about myself that much.  It's that my thoughts are occupied first with Jesus, then others, then myself.  J-O-Y (Jesus-Others-You).  Help this verse to be known deep within me: 

"Know that the LORD Himself is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving
And His courts with praise.
Give thanks to Him, bless His name.
For the LORD is good;
His lovingkindness is everlasting
And His faithfulness to all generations."

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Broadripple and the last few weeks

The Lord is good, and He alone is faithful.  I am a wimp and a weakling, and I turn at the potential for discomfort and ridicule and shame, but God is powerful.  He goes out before us and works out every teeny little detail.

I went to Broadripple tonight and walked around for a while and handed out tracts.  I only talked to one guy, Douglas, who was a neat guy but needs a lot of prayer.  I definitely received ridicule and shame tonight.  For whatever reason, there was a lot of laughing at me and shaking of heads with scornful smirks.  I can't express how good it felt.  This has such a cleansing affect on us.  The average Christian (me included) is so enslaved to the fear of man that they are hardly willing to share their faith.  We hide behind "being an example", and "I'm just really loving on them", and "I'm just trying to be a light".  These are all things we should obviously do, but as far as this being our only witnessing method, it's not very biblical.

I don't say this smugly or with disdain (because I have the same struggle), but honestly think when the last time you were laughed at or persecuted for your beliefs?  I avoid these opportunities like the plague, yet when they come and I actually take them on with the Lord's help, it's so wonderful and cleansing.  The Lord uses these situations to forge our faith...

[10] "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. [11] "Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. [12] "Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.  -Matthew 5:10-12 (NASB)

Again, for my vast readership of two, please don't take this as judgment but take this as a challenge to be more bold in your faith.  We know the cure for the worst disease to ever strike the world, yet we don't share it because we are afraid of what others might think of us.  Those words are so repulsive that they're even hard to type.  The fact that I am so concerned with my well being that I am unwilling to intrude upon that to share the antidote with someone who has a spiritual disease they don't fully understand and has an eternally fatal prognosis.

Again, again, please don't take this as judgment.  If this post sounds like I'm criticizing you and it has a bit of a bite to it, please know this is only because I am the guiltiest of all.  I have known this good news for many years now and have been so fearful to share it.

I am reminded of a story about Hudson Taylor, the great missionary pioneer to China.  He had troubles in getting prepared and eventually getting over to China (hang ups with missionary boards and the like).  He met a man who was recently saved and his father had just passed away.  This man asked why no one had come earlier, even though they knew the good news for centuries, because never hearing the gospel, he believed his father was now in hell.  We have this good news and there are friends, family, neighbors and strangers who don't.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Went to Broadripple tonight.  Was a very interesting night.  I had four lengthy conversations that took up the whole night. First with a guy who was very intoxicated but actually gave good witnessing advice.  Two high school guys who are trying to figure out how this all works.  A guy named Pepper who was arrested during our conversation (I would love to share more details but that's now what this is about).  And a guy at McDonalds.

I see God's sovereignty and people's stubbornness clearly right now.  God is in charge.  I am so thankful that I need not determine people's eternal fate.  There are so many people that are distracted with the world and think they know God but really don't.  They raised their hand in a church service as a kid and think they're covered; or were baptized at some point in their lives and think that gets them in; or go to church regularly; or (most commonly) I try to be really good and do things for others to the best of my ability.  Yet so often there is not a glimmer of godliness in their lives.  How do we deal with this, especially with those close to us?  God has made a way for each and every person to know Him, yet so may people deny Him.  Matthew 7 says "many" go to destruction and "few" go to heaven.  So most people you bump into on any given day are headed for hell.  This is difficult to meditate through, yet God is sovereign and just and fair.  No matter what happens in someone's life (e.g. growing up in the hood in a house with no heat and not knowing your dad, or they lose a loved one, or they just have it easy in life), we are all held accountable to the God of the universe, and He is a good and fair judge.  And I rest easy knowing that He has covered my sin and He is good.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Tonight: God is Faithful

About tonight in a minute, but first, a little blurb about this blog.  I like to teach and explain things and tell stories.  This blog is not about that.  This is about my personal ramblings with God.  So I may or may not share background to certain stories so things may or may not make total sense.  Please bear with me.

So, I went down to Broadripple tonight.  I specifically prayed that the Lord would put a burden for lost souls on my heart tonight (and forever).  He helped me by showing me a simple fact.  The eternality of it all.  That's not a word, but that's what's in my head.  The eternality of it all.  That forever, the lost will be in a Christ-less, painful, lonely, dark place.  Forever.  This is nothing new, the Lord just emblazoned it on my heart tonight.  As I passed by the front windows of bars, and saw people laughing and having a great time, my heart just sank.  They are enjoying the pleasures of this world for a short season, and trading it for a painful horrible eternity!  Eternity!  This might be the only God moment they have for years.  Totally heartbreaking. 

I did have a very encouraging conversation with a 19 year old couple.  They Lord just filled my mouth with words and I was able to share the whole gospel with them in a way that seemed to resonate with them.  Their names were George and Emily.  I came up to them as they were turning around from Noodles & Company because it had a gas leak.  If it wasn't for that, I would not have been able to share the gospel with them!  It astounds me how the Lord works through totally ordinary circumstances to bring about His will.  If it weren't for that gas leak, they'd have been inside when I came by.  Please pray for them.  They were open to the things of God.

All in all for tonight, I can easily say God is so faithful. He brings about His will in our lives.  My key prayer point for this year is faith.  He has used going down to Broadripple to accomplish this.  I had wanted to go down with others tonight, but I felt Him say to go alone.  I whined and cried internally about this for a few days, fearful to go down alone.  When I finally consented, He came alongside and encouraged me.  He kept me safe, allowed me to continue to develop relationships with two Starbucks baristas and Mason the parking guy (who hooks me up with free parking every time!), kept me calm and allowed me to clearly articulate the gospel to a young couple who is seeking answers, increased a burden for the lost, fought back the fear of man, and let me know His sovereignty even deeper.

It brings a new meaning to true, heartfelt worship when you see difficult things.  Spent some time with some inner city kids who live very rough lives today.  Had a couple from our church lose a few day old baby this past week.  Understanding even deeper the fact of the wide and narrow gate (that most will perish and go to hell for eternity).  Seeing Psalm 106:8 clearer (we have been saved for His sake).  Knowing some family members and/or friends will spend eternity in an intense, forever pain.  When these things are at the front of our minds, it's harder to just sing the church songs.  We must accept God's sovereignty and still praise Him even when we don't understand it all.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

3rd Time in Broadripple

Went down to Broadripple tonight alone and walked around for a while talking to people and handing out tracts.  This was different than the previous two times.  But God is still teaching me a lot (maybe even more so in this)...

*He is SO faithful.  The Lord is so faithful.  Not only by answering our prayers (prayers for boldness in sharing, for deliverance of the fear of man, for safety, for courage, for faith) but by holding on so much tighter than we do.  I worry about slipping away some times, that my heart might grow cold, and I tend to get legalistic to "prevent" myself from doing so.  This is foolishness.  The Lord holds on to me so tight.  So when the darkness closes in, I can have confidence that He's holding on to me, not vice versa.

*God is broken-hearted for the lost.  It's not easy to talk to someone about their faith who thinks that you are a religious fanatic.  Yet we are to put on this same view as God's.  When we take a step towards that direction, He meets us there.  He grows this in us.

*Persecution.  Hearing snickers and having girls yell, "Thank you Jesus Christ man!" has an odd effect.  The Lord gives this gift to those who are willing to embrace it.  Yes, a gift.  Persecution has a wonderful cleansing effect, eliminating the fear of man and steeling our devotion to Him.  Per the Word, we will be blessed as well.  Entering where you know it will come, that's just a little hard.  It's easier to sit next to the fire and read my Bible and ask for depth of relationship with Him and greater faith.

*The blessing of the Spirit's power.  What an awesome blessing we receive when as weak human vessels, the Lord uses us!  He doesn't need to use us, but He does.  And He pours out His power on us.  It's a joy-filled experience to be used by God.  "When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” (Luke 12:11-12)  When we need it, the Lord pours Himself into us.

Thank You, Lord, for being so much more faithful than me.  Thank You for being so much more powerful than me.  Thanks for empowering Your will and for equipping the called.  Thank You for being so gracious, and forgiving and gentle.