Lenten thoughts

This past Wednesday marked the beginning of Lent. Part of my preparation for Easter this year is the abstinence from a few small things. The purpose (by God’s grace) is to lay aside things I like to do that I may enjoy Jesus more and in some small way use the time I might have saved in abstinence to serve others.

I don’t feel compelled to argue that you should observe Lent. But I think there is freedom to observe it found here–

Romans 14:5-6
One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.

Our trouble with words…

If we are going to understand our trouble with words, we must begin with the heart. Our tongues are a restless evil because the “heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9). Word problems reveal heart problems. The people and situations around us do not make us say what we say; they are only the occasion for our hearts to reveal themselves in words.

Paul David Tripp, War of Words, page 55

On Spiders

In the sunshine of the patio at GCC yesterday I observed an intricately spun spiders web, certain damaged by the weather. I don’t think the spider minded much, I saw some remains of some bugs from past meals.

On campus there were probably thousands of people, all of them (unless they were young children) had specific intentions to be there. Even the plants and trees, someone planted with a landscape in mind. The water from the fountain was running intentionally.

Here is this little spider, enjoying a small feast on these bugs. He’ll likely meet his end by another, perhaps larger, spider. Or he’ll suffer at the end of a broom. Or because of a curious young boy’s foot. His life is short, here for a purpose and then gone.

I’m not wanting to stretch too far for this one, but here goes. I’m love understanding and learning about the sovereignty of God. This is God’s world, he creates it, he sustains it. He is the Author. But sometimes I forget the story that he’s weaving. Sometimes I think evolutionary type thoughts, thinking that God’s given the world a push in the right direction and while He controls it, He lets things go as they go. But God is not like that, He is there. He is in control.

It was God’s plan for our pastor to be on vacation this Sunday. It was God’s plan for a guest preacher to be filling the pulpit. Perhaps to the chagrin of some human guests. (I’m thankful for the pulpit-fillers and guests.) It was God’s plan to feed the spider those other insects.

I am thankful for a God who is infinite, who created galaxies that no earth-dweller will ever see. I’m thankful to worship a God who created oceans with depths so deep no instrument will ever be able to document what is there. These depths, along with that little spider exist for his glory, and we must be mindful that they are part of his story. They don’t exist for nothing.

Being in the middle of the ocean reminds you how small you are. We’re tiny in this massive world. And yet, the Creator of all of it, sacrificed His son, offering a substitute, our sin for His son’s righteousness. He not only provides for your greatest need, but He also provides for your daily needs. Don’t worry, if He takes care of the spider, how much more will He care for you? We’ll here for a purpose and then we’re gone, just like that spider.

Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves

A friend of mine recommended a series of sermons by Art Azurdia on Ephesians 5:25-27. I want to say that this is first experience listening to Art Azurdia, and I hope it is not my last. He is a great herald of the truth. The series is four parts, and it is well-worth your time, in fact I just finished it this morning on the train.

I listened to third talk on Saturday morning, while I was mowing the lawn and I was struck in a profound way by how he introduced point three in the series. The heading was, He has loved her with an undeserved love. He said,

Spent much time around the church? Spent much time around this church? A group of worthy, righteous, consistent, deserving, upstanding models of godliness, right? Not right. A group of gypsies, tramps and thieves get a closer to the point. And the reason why I draw this to your attention dear friends is because a part of what makes the love of Jesus Christ for the church so spectacular is the realization that he loved us when we least deserved it.

This was striking to me. First, I think pastors or leaders have the tendency to coddle their people. They speak of their excellence and virtue. But I appreciate his honesty. Not only because honesty is truth, because he uses it in such a way to magnify the love of Jesus for the undeserving church. Second, I observe that Art Azurdia has a deep relationship with the people he ministers to so that he can, without flinching, call them gypsies, tramps and thieves without creating a mass exodus. What he said is true, but it’s hard to hear that and we prefer to be tickled. His congregation must have a sense of pastoral love and care, they must know he had their best interests in mind. Perhaps I’m wrong and giving went down the next week, maybe people tuned him out after that statement, I know I didn’t. He spoke the truth with love and we need more of that.

I don’t want to distract you from the main lesson in the series. I’d highly recommend the talks to husbands, download them now. But I will quickly say how I will attempt to make good use of these observations. I’m not a pastor, nor the son of a pastor, but I want to be a good friend. I have to ask myself, do my friends have a sense of real genuine care from me? Would they know if I had their best interest in mind? Does my wife feel this way? Also, as people in the pew, do we have thin-skin? Would I be willing to hear this from my pastor? Or would language like this give me an excuse to seek greener pastures? I hope not, because understanding the weight of sinfulness magnifies Christ. I am a gypsy, tramp and a thief.

You can find this series at his website, under the heading The Holy Responsibility of the Christian Family, Husbands: The Romance Of Jesus Christ.

Husbands: The Romance Of Jesus Christ – Part 1
Husbands: The Romance Of Jesus Christ – Part 2
Husbands: The Romance Of Jesus Christ – Part 3
Husbands: The Romance Of Jesus Christ – Part 4

The apex of the glory of Christ

The apex of the glory of Christ is the glory of his grace–treating people infinitely better than they deserve–giving himself for the everlasting joy of the worst of sinners who will have him as their highest Treasure. And the apex of this grace is the murder of the God-man outside Jerusalem around A.D. 33. The death of Jesus Christ was murder. It was the most spectacular sin ever committed.

John Piper, Spectacular Sins, pages 11 and 12

Did you always believe?

My son is now four years old. He loves to play and he loves to compete (as long as he is never “it” in tag, or never loses). He usually runs instead of walks and brings intensity to mundane activities. He balances affection and aggression, some times better than other times. I think that he thinks he is his big sister’s age.

As fun as these things are, they need careful shepherding. He needs to learn to participate fully in tag, which may require being “it”. He’ll also need to learn that you may have to lose if you’re going to battle. He’ll need to learn also that there’s an appropriate time to be aggressive. I think I’ll let him learn on his own that basketball, though it is fun, will not likely be something he has a professional future in.

In our prayers for our children we try to place an emphasis on believing in Jesus. We ask God to reveal to them their need for a Savior and for a heart to believe Jesus is able to save. We ask the same thing for ourselves. On Monday evening, after Bible reading, Evan asked, “Dad, when you were a little boy did you always believe?” I told him that I didn’t always believe. I didn’t truly believe until I was 14. After I said this, he said, “Because I don’t think I believe.” We discussed why he thought he didn’t believe and I told him if he has any questions to ask them.

My heart desperately wants him to believe in Jesus. But I know I can’t make him believe. What is significant is that he admits he doesn’t believe. I knew at age 8 that I didn’t believe and that I didn’t want to. I never admitted to anyone that I didn’t believe until I was 14. He is demonstrating a maturity at age four that I didn’t have until age fourteen. We hope that one day we’ll rejoice in the new birth of our son, but for now, we are thankful to see that he knows he doesn’t have it. Praying for God’s grace.

Breaking the slavery of custom

Earlier this month a friend recommended a book by C.H. Spurgeon called “Eccentric Preachers”. I have read a few pages and if has been compelling. In the introductory chapter there are three sentences I wanted to share that remind me that the people God uses to bring about change in the world are those most would consider eccentric.

“The slavery of custom is as hard and crushing as any other form of human bondage, and blessed is he who for the the truth’s sake disdains to wear the galling chain, preferring rather to be charged with singularity and held up to ridicule. It is clear, then, that eccentricity may in certain cases be a virtue. When it touches the moral and the spiritual it may be worthy of all honour.”

In the West a modest pursuit of anything spiritual may be viewed as something noble by cultural standards this practice lends itself to evangelical Christians contently living a modestly “Christian” life. We tend to live so that we would not be bothered. Contrast that with the Apostle Paul’s attitude.

Philippians 3:8-10
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

May we be so eccentric.