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For Your Consideration 7.12.13

I received “God’s Favorite Place on Earth” by Frank Viola today! Very excited to dig in and offer a review in the coming days.

In the meantime,here are a couple of blog posts published at Desiring God that challenged and encouraged me this week:

If you have not read anything by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield, you really must. This piece will give you a taste of not only her story, but her exceptional writing style. An excerpt:

The Bible is not some pragmatist’s paradigm. It is the double-edged sword that chiseled truth into my stony heart, rendering it new and with it, recreating me as a new creature in Christ, a daughter of the King. I have no personal sexual orientation to call my own after Christ chisels my heart anew — and neither do you. We have Christ orientation, an alien identity to which we claim no rights. Do we struggle with sin? Yes. Is temptation a sin? No. What distinguishes temptation from sin? Temptation clobbers you from the outside and lures you to do its bidding. Sin makes temptation a house pet, gets it a collar and leash, and is deceived to believe that it can be restrained by impositions of civility. What you do with temptation reveals Who owns your heart. How you talk about other people’s sin patterns reveals Who owns your heart.

Read the rest here in her post called, DOMA and the Rock.

The second, written by Jonathan Parnell, is Three Things We Should Know About God. And I confess, “Creator” was one of my three. Think of three things that come to your heart and mind when you think of God then read this post. I promise you will be thankful and encouraged. Here’s a sample:

When you think of God, do you think happy? Or do you think stern? Sadly, it is common for us to think of God as a negative caricature would depict him. Do you think of him frowning? Is he seething with anger like a capricious despot? Or do you see him who is glad at heart — glad in the glory of his Son and the communion that they share? Do we see him as the Father who said of Jesus, with no hesitation, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17)? Do we see him as the Father who delights to give us the kingdom (Luke 12:32)? Do we see him as the God who overflows with joy when a sinner repents (Luke 15:7)?

So long as sin exists, he feels indignation every day (Psalm 7:11). But at heart — who he is in himself — God is happy. To grasp this truth will work wonders in our souls.

Keep feeding your mind and soul with GOOD things. Drink deeply from God’s rich word, and never stop learning, seeking, growing, thirsting, following hard after Him.

Blessings on you this weekend!

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God Speaks

I just returned from a week in Europe, the longest and best portion spent in Austria with an amazing group of women serving as missionaries in surrounding countries (Czech, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania, Ukraine, and Latvia). They were there to meet God.

I was there because my sister invited me. My sister was there because she was invited back to lead worship for the women’s retreat. I ended up with the wonderful task of running sound and media at the back of the room during worship and meeting times as well as taking photos throughout the three days, so I had the unique view of seeing God move in hearts and watch the women respond. I noticed several things. 

1. Worship was immediate and deep. Before three words were sung the entire room of 40 women were singing—loudly, boldly, and urgently. There was no “easing into it,” no “waiting for the mood to strike.” It was as if moments like this were rare and precious and they were determined not to miss a minute of it. Each time they gathered together this intensified. There was no mistaking their love for God and desire to meet with Him and it was evident that He honored that.

2. Worship was nearly as unique as each woman. There was no set pattern, no pretense, no expectations. There were raised arms, bent bodies, tears, smiles, the works. Response to what the Spirit of God was doing in each heart and mind was evident.

3. Worship didn’t stop with the music. Attitude of prayer and worship continued throughout the day — and this doesn’t mean these folks walked around like monks with a vow of silence, just that it was clear that gratitude and communion with the most Important Person in their lives was constant.

4. Identification and confession of sin was common — a habit that seemed as normal as breathing. I found the contrast here to be striking: The typical American pew sitter probably has more sin to unload than all 40 of these women put together, yet these women were quick to respond to the Spirit’s revelation and repent, confessing to God and one another — then moved forward in happy freedom. We can learn a huge lesson here…

5. God is Everything. Not just for Sunday. Not just for a few minutes each morning. He is Everything, all the time. He is food and water and breath and life. He is not compartmentalized, minimized, or any other kind of ized.

Granted, I was seeing these women at a retreat — where we expect to meet God and experience life change. But hearing their stories over meals and watching them in all kinds of settings, I could tell their dependence and reliance on God was greater than the typical American Christian. And I’ve been to dozens of retreats over the course of my life, and this was not typical in my experience.

I have been challenged over the last several months to not be a Babylonian even though I live in Babylon. I could tell these women were doing a masterful job at just that. And because of that, God spoke. In different ways to different hearts, but He responds to those hearts that worship freely, that depend on Him, that despise any sin that has crept in, that want badly to shine a bright Light in the dark places, and to glorify Him above all else.

God speaks to the listening heart.

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2012 in Prayer, The Heart, Worship

 

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Love and Wrath

I’ve been praying for many months for a deeper sense of God’s love. My motivation has been partly to get a glimpse at how He loves others so I can love others better, and partly to “feel better” about myself as I gain a greater understanding of His perfect redeeming love. (How’s that for selfish?)

This morning I was continuing to read in the book of James and in chapter four he writes:

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.

The last part of this passage really popped out at me and I began to ponder whether the harsh realization of how much God hates our sin, and the accompanying sorrow that signals true repentance, is the beginning of knowing God’s love. The text just before that urges us to draw close to God so God will draw close to us. There is initial and humble action on our part and perhaps that action of coming toward God includes the realization of and sorrow for our shortcomings.

Then I received a link to a new post on one of my favorite blogs which also discussed this subject. (Hmm… coincidence or “a God thing”?) In it, Tim Challies declares, “Were you to ask where in the Bible we see the clearest picture of God’s wrath, I would have to point to Jesus’ final hours, from the Garden of Gethsemane to his death on the cross. After all, what but the need for satisfaction of God’s wrath, could compel the Father to send his Son to such a horrible, painful, death?”  He goes on to point out that there is no sin or excuse for sin that God overlooks. He hates sin, even the littlest one, and every sin demands an accounting.

Have I misunderstood God’s love? In general, does the American Christian treat sin lightly or misinterpret God’s perfect love through our imperfect, changing, emotional, sentimental, untrustworthy love? Challies goes on to paraphrases Leon Morris: “When the Bible speaks of God’s love, it does not refer to a warm, fuzzy sentimentality, but a love that is so jealous for the good of the one who is loved that it blazes out in wrath against all evil. The writers of the New Testament had no concept of a love that did not react in the strongest fashion against all sin…. God is able to be both perfectly loving and wrathful. Unlike us, he is not given to outbursts of emotion or to irrationality. His wrath is as perfectly and completely manifested as his love.”

Only when I understand the desperation of my condition can I understand the love and wrath of God. Until I know my sin and God’s wrath against it, I cannot know love. Until I know love, I cannot know the Savior.

God loves me so much that my sin killed His Son. I am changing the way I pray.

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2011 in Grace, Love, Prayer, Sin

 

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Creation Calls

Our Pastor is taking us through the beginning of Genesis, the account of the six days when God created. To accompany the series, the worship band has introduced some new songs. The lyrics of these songs are so powerful, so wonderful. Here is a sampling:

How could I say there is no God
When all around creation calls?
A singing bird, a mighty tree;
The vast expanse of open sea.

I love to stand at ocean’s shore
And feel the thundering breakers roar;
To walk through golden fields of grain
‘Neath endless blue horizon’s frame.
I believe.
(“Creation Calls” by Brian Doerksen)

It’s falling from the clouds, a strange and lovely sound;
I hear it in the thunder and the rain.
It’s ringing in the skies, like cannons in the night,
As the music of the universe plays; it’s singing

You are Holy, great and mighty;
The moon and the stars, declare who You are.
I’m so unworthy, but still You love me.
Forever my heart, will sing of how great You are.
(“Cannons” by Phil Wickham)

Our Pastor made a great point this morning: God created everything for us. God said it was good. He wants us to discover and enjoy what He made so we can discover and enjoy Him. He wants us to know Him.

“Ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” 

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2011 in Creation

 

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And I Will Give You Rest

Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

When He walked on this earth people did come to Him. They crowded Him, followed Him wherever He went and took up a lot of His time. He could reach a lot of people by standing on a hillside or standing in a boat just off shore. Today, I don’t know, maybe He would blog. Maybe not. But I can blog about Him and about His words. About what He did two thousand years ago and what He continues to do today.

Today is a rainy day. Quiet. Lots of time to think about what’s important. What matters. Not work, not errands, not the leak above the window. I think reminding each other about God’s grace, mercy and sacrifice are what matter. And so this blog. A way to remind myself, anyone else who cares to read, about what is really important in this life.

“Man’s chief aim is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2011 in Purpose

 

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