Thursday, April 26, 2012

Idols can't love you back

That Idol That You Love, It Doesn’t Love You Back

By Justin Buzzard

Everyone has to live for something and if that something isn’t the one true God, it will be a false God–an idol.

An idol is anything more important to you than God. Therefore, you can turn even very good things into idols. You can turn a good thing like family, success, acceptance, money, your plans, etc. into a god thing–into something you worship and place at the center of your life.

This is what sin is. Sin is building your life and meaning on anything (even a good thing) more than God.
Do you know the idols you’re prone to worship? At our church we talk about 4 root idols that we tend to attach our lives to.
CONTROL. You know you have a control idol if your greatest nightmare is uncertainty.
APPROVAL. You know you have an approval idol if your greatest nightmare is rejection.
COMFORT. You know you have a comfort idol if your greatest nightmare is stress/demands.
POWER. You know you have a power idol if your greatest nightmare is humiliation.
Here’s what you need to know about your idol: That idol that you love, it doesn’t love you back. False gods don’t love you. Idols don’t keep their promises. Anything you worship and build your life on other than God will suck the life out of you and destroy you.

A relationship with Jesus starts when you identify and turn from your idols. Notice what Jesus was always doing with people during his ministry–he was constantly identifying and challenging people’s idols, calling them to turn from their false objects of worship in order to follow and worship him.

I’m convinced that the reason there is so much shallow Christianity in our culture is because many people never displace the idolatry in their lives with Jesus, but instead simply bring in Jesus as an “add on” to their life, keeping their idolatry firmly in the center.

Americans think freedom is found in casting off all restraint and being masters of our own lives. What we are blind to is the reality that everybody has a master. We all worship something and whatever we worship is our master. Idols make bad masters. They enslave. Until you identify the idols in your life you will feel enslaved, tired, and unhappy and you won’t know why. You will feel this way until you discover the only master who can set  you free: Jesus.

Jesus is the one master who will love you even when you fail him. Your idols don’t do that. Jesus is the one master who loved you when you were at your worst and who reigns over your life with perfect wisdom, power, and goodness. He’s the one master you can trust. Only he can give you freedom.

“Little children, keep yourselves from idols” 1 John 5:21

Related Link: Revolt at the Idol Factory by Justin Buzzard

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Seven Daily Sins: How the Gospel Redeems Our Deepest Desires

Excerpt from Trevin Wax's interview with Jared Wilson on a new small groups study called Seven Daily Sins:
"What we need is not *initially* a set of new behaviors — although new behaviors are required and expected — but a new set of affections. According to 2 Corinthians 3, the only way to change ('from one degree of glory to another,' even) is by beholding the glory of God in Christ. So Thomas Chalmers talks about how the only thing that can remove an idol from our heart is the expulsive power of a new affection. This is what happens when grace comes home to roost in our hearts." - Jared Wilson
HT: Kingdom People

This small group study sounds like an awesome read. Initially, I added it to my wishlist, with the intention of buying when my budget allows and digging into right away. Interestingly though, it is not available on Amazon. Hmmm. What's that about? Oh, because it's a Small Group Study!  Then I think to myself, self, guess I'm not going to buy a whole study kit just so I can sit home and read it to myself (like I've done with hundreds of other great Christian books).

That said, I would sure love to meet the small group that is actually willing to seriously tackle a deep, life changing study like this one together. Guess I should pray that where ever those folks are hiding out, we might find one another.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Strong Emotions; Extreme Confidence

Strong Emotions; Extreme Confidence by Ed Welch

On Controversy

On Controversy from Ligonier Ministries
Nathan Bingham quotes John Newton here in a post entitled On Controversy. So much wisdom and discernment in this entire article. Here is a little snippet that I enjoyed and wanted to share:

"If we act in a wrong spirit, we shall bring little glory to God, do little good to our fellow creatures, and procure neither honor nor comfort to ourselves. If you can be content with showing your wit, and gaining the laugh on your side, you have an easy task; but I hope you have a far nobler aim, and that, sensible of the solemn importance of gospel truths, and the compassion due to the souls of men, you would rather be a means of removing prejudices in a single instance, than obtain the empty applause of thousands. Go forth, therefore, in the name and strength of the Lord of hosts, speaking the truth in love."

Ghosts of the past

For people who have walked with Christ for any length of time and have experienced the ministry of the Holy Spirit, there will be inevitable moments when present circumstances will bring to light remaining sin in our hearts. Though we may have tried to avoid or to refuse to deal with it, He brings up an opportunity to uncover hidden sin patterns that we thought were buried far enough down so as never to see the light of day. At just the right time, right when we think our walk is safe and predictable, we are sometimes a little surprised and taken off guard by being unprepared.

Perhaps it is a well-nursed resentment or grudge that we cling to in the recesses of our minds toward another believer that goes back to the early days of conversion. Or perhaps it is an unresolved conflict with family members in which we simply don't believe we have any hope at all to change.

Or maybe it is a past sinful relationship that we still treasure secretly, deep inside our heart of hearts. It's the one situation that we fear we are powerless over in ourselves, defenseless against apart from God's intervention.

Now imagine, God has given us a divine appointment -- the opportunity to interact with this person, the one with whom there is some small part of unresolved sin or conflict in us. This post explores some ideas on how we might respond in such a hypothetical situation.

The really funny thing about most Christians (well maybe it's just me, but maybe not just me) is that we tend to think in distorted ways.

We may start out with a vertical motivation, such as, how can I be obedient in this situation and do what God wants? But the action that follows is mostly focused on the horizontal relationship.

We might ask ourselves: Should I witness to this person and tell them about how Jesus Christ has changed my life and how I'm a better person now? This type of thing is so common and such a natural knee-jerk reaction for us as Christians that almost everyone, believer and unbeliever alike, is totally on to us and unimpressed. "A prophet has no honor in his hometown" as the saying goes, and in cases like these it is just so incredibly obvious, because we already know that we still have "issues" with unforgiveness, lust, and other things mentioned above.

If we are very good students of the Bible and have even a small acquaintenance with the ministry of reconciliation and all that it entails, we will likely want to "Go and Be Reconciled" to the person with whom we have concern. This would make perfect sense if it is a recent or current conflict, but we're talking about past stuff here, so, I don't think the standard formula works completely.

The traditional model is helpful though, if we are in conflict with another believer in Christ, since being reconciled brings us back into right relationship with each other, but is based first and foremost upon our right relationship with Jesus Christ. We will want to spend the majority of our effort though getting the log out of our own eye, and maybe deemphasize the part of helping the other person with their splinter, if the problem is far in the past. With the end goal of cultivating a repaired fellowship with another Christian brother or sister in Christ, some splints may need to be examined once we have effectively dealt with those huge beams blocking our own better judgement.

In God's providence, very often, especially for those of us who were saved later in life, the Lord will bring someone back into our lives who is not a believer. And perhaps their very presence sort of rewinds us all the way back emotionally to where we were when we parted ways early on in our Christian walk.

If this happens and we think that the reason is so that we can "witness to them" (see comment above) or because we think God wants to see how strong we are under the temptation of the situation, I think we might be missing the big point. He already knows that anyway and is probably using this situation to reveal the darkness in our own hearts to us.

When I was in a 12-step program, we had something called the 9th step, which is to make amends to those whom we have hurt or wronged. This is substantially different from being reconciled, because there is no expectation placed on the other person to respond. The main purpose is to confess, to repay any debt, and to ask forgiveness without bringing any judgement or condemnation on the other person.

I'm convinced that making this type of an amend with a non-Christian is exactly the right action. It requires almost entirely a vertical perspective. Our horizontal action toward the other person flows completely from God, whether the person accepts us and forgives us or not is not the point. In fact, it is not the relationship between the two individuals that is the focus primarily, but rather the acknowledgement of hidden sin against God that we've been harboring and a reconciled relationship with Him.

Doing this might provide an opportunity to share the Gospel later on, but we must be very careful not to fall prey to the common deception whereby we justify impure motives with evangelism.

That said, I'd just like to conclude by saying that in dealing with ghosts of the past, or skeletons in the closet as it were, it's primarily an issue of hidden sin in our own hearts against our holy God and not really about the other person that much at all.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Fellowship and Community in the Church

When God first saved me, He blessed me with many amazing fellowship opportunities. For instance, before I ever attended Bible study, I had experienced the strong bonds of friendship, community and fellowship in a 12-step program. By the grace of God, I made many fruitful connections there that led me to have a hunger to know God better.

After I was saved and found a regular Bible study to attend, the friendships and community in that group of other believers was powerful and profound. In my early years, these relationships were key as I developed into greater maturity and Christ-likeness.

After a few years, however, I found myself in another country where I was unable to speak the language, deployed with a unit in which I was the only Christian. Suddenly, the Lord challenged me to rely more steadfastly upon Him alone, rather than finding my joy, comfort and acceptance in other people. My self-proclaimed need to gain acceptance from others had been a bit of an idol, so the Lord was weaning me away from my people-pleasing self. I will probably always struggle with this to a certain extent.

Alas, here I am fifteen years later, looking back from a life of experience in the Church. I must say that I was quite naive in my younger Christian years to think that the common and usual experience of one's life in the church would be that of deep fellowship and community with other believers -- people whose bonds ought to run thicker than blood and deeper than oceans. Yes, I was naive in those days to believe that. The sad, yet real, truth is that I take up my cross daily, living this life as a Christian in the Church of Christ in this day and age. True fellowship and community in ANY church is simply one of the rarest things that any real believer will ever experience or discover. Dear saints, this should not be.
Not my will but Thine be done.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Music and Memory

This is a powerful video about the power of music. I was amazed at how a simple iPod could help lift people out of a severely depressed and unresponsive state and help them regain coherence, communication, and community with others. Pretty amazing.

(this site has a wealth of information on the topic, if you are as intrigued as I am about this particular topic.)

Here's another sample from the video series called "Alive Inside":

Friday, April 6, 2012

When “Abba” Became “My God”

When “Abba” Became “My God” by Michael Kelley is the ideal blog post for today - Good Friday.

Here is an excerpt:
As Jesus was suspended in the air, nailed to two cross beams, He felt the broken relationship with His Father as sin was thrust upon Him. The unthinkable happened, and Jesus responded by quoting Psalm 22.
“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
“Abba” became “My God” at the cross.
But gloriously, “My God” also became “Abba” at the cross.
The unthinkable happened. Those held at a distance from God because of their sin suddenly had access into the unseen realms of glory. The far were brought near. The alienated were brought inside the house. The enemies became children.
And we now cry, “Abba, Father,” precisely because He cried “My God.”
That’s what we celebrate today – this Good Friday. We remember today, of all days, that now we can gratefully approach God in the way Jesus did – as children do to their loving Father.
As I was reading my devotional this morning, I was thinking about Romans 8 and our adoption as sons. And about how the Holy Spirit testifies with our spirit that God is our Daddy, if we truly have been crucified with Christ. But alas my thoughts were pretty scattered and my prayer bordered on the chaotic.
Then, Mr. Kelley's article is brought to my attention by Trevin Wax's wonderful blog.
And I'm very grateful. Thank you Trevin and Micheal. Have a blessed weekend in our Lord everyone!!

"you can see a black spider crawling up your shirt a lot better if you are wearing a white shirt than if you are wearing a black shirt" (Key Insight to Romans 7)

Ken Berding at the Good Book Blog recounts an exchange with J.I. Packer while he was attending college that helped him with some key insight into Romans 7:
Packer gently leaned over the table, looked me in the eye, and said, “Young man, Paul wasn’t struggling with sin because he was such a sinner.  Paul was struggling because he was such a saint.  Sin makes you numb.  People who sin over and over again become desensitized to sin.  The reason Paul’s “struggle” was so intense was not because he was caught in a web of sin, or because he thought of himself as hopelessly doomed to giving into the temptations that he faced.  Rather, it was because Paul lived a life so sensitive to the Holy Spirit and passionate about the glory of God that he intensely felt his sins whenever he became aware that he had committed a sin (since he was not, of course, sinlessly perfect).”
One of the analogies Mr. Berding gave in his article was actually used for the title of this post.
I greatly enjoyed his story and Dr. Packer's insight into understanding what a Christian of Paul's stature could mean by writing Romans 7 right smack dab between Romans 6 and 8. Excellent!

Just a few notes of my own:
Romans 6 - Paul as a new creation; having been crucified with Christ.
Romans 7 - Paul's newfound sensitivity toward conviction of remaining sin he still experiences in this life.
Romans 8 - Paul is empowered by the post-resurrection given Holy Spirit to do battle against remaining indwelling sin, so he does not still live as a slave to sin, but rather as a son of God.
We walk in Paul's footsteps -- no condemnation in our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus!
All Praise and Thanks be to God!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

PresWIC Pics

2012 PresWIC in Pictures

(audio recordings on the way)
from March 17th