Saturday, November 27, 2010

Real Faith: God or Total Collapse

Be of good courage, and let us be courageous for our people, and for the cities of our God, and may the LORD do what seems good to him.
2 Samuel 10:12

Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.
Esther 4:16

And the tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread." But he answered, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.' "
Matthew 4:3-4
"Pseudo-faith always arranges a way out to serve in case God fails it. Real faith knows only one way and gladly allows itself to be stripped of any second way or makeshift substitutes. For true faith, it is either God or total collapse. And not since Adam first stood up on the earth has God failed a single man or woman who trusted him."

--A. W. Tozer, "True Faith Brings Committal," In The Root of the Righteous (Harrisburg, 1955), pages 49-50.
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
Hebrews 11:6

Friday, November 26, 2010

Giving Thanks

We give thanks to you, O God;
we give thanks, for your name is near.
We recount your wondrous deeds.
Psalm 75:1
That was the beginning of the psalm that my latest journey through the Psalms providentially brought me to on Thanksgiving yesterday. Perfect.

Two days earlier I read Psalm 73 and was especially struck by what I saw as the connection between the first and last verse of the psalm:
Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
Psalm 73:1 (emphasis added)


But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the LORD GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.
Psalm 73:29 (emphasis added)
What's the connection between these two verses in light of everything that comes in between them? The way God is good to Israel is by bringing Israel near to Himself.

And then the next day (the day before Thanksgiving) I read Psalm 74 which draws a connection between the way God seems to at times abandon His people and the way He seems to at times ignore the dishonoring of His name. What's the connection between the two? Because of the covenant that God made with Israel, the cause of God's people is inextricably bound up with the cause of God's name. The God who seems to look on idly while His name is being reviled is the same God who seems to look on idly as His people suffer. But verse 12 tells us that He is NOT idle:
Yet God my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth.
Psalm 74:12
His glory. Our good, our joy. Inseparable.

So by the time Thanksgiving day came and I found myself in Psalm 75, verse 1 made perfect sense.
We give thanks to you, O God;
we give you thanks, for your name is near.
We recount your wondrous deeds.
Psalm 75:1 (emphasis added)
Why are the people giving thanks to God? Because His name--which not only represents His presence (Psalm 73) but also is bound up with their cause (Psalm 74)--has drawn near. And so they love to rejoice in the exaltation of His name! This is the greatest possible reason for thanksgiving, not just on the last Thursday of November but every day (and every moment of every day).

So today I celebrate no less than I did yesterday that Jesus "suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18). There's no greater good than this.

For the gospel that brings me near to God, I give thanks. And I recount some of His wondrous deeds from this past year that I'm thankful for (in no particular order):
  • I'm thankful for the local church: the mothers, brothers, and sisters that Jesus surrounds me with so that even though I may be single, I'm not alone (Genesis 2:18, Mark 3:33-35, Mark 10:29-30)
  • I'm thankful for the infinitely powerful, fear-destroying love of God for me through Jesus' wrath-bearing death in my place (1 John 4:10, 18, Revelation 1:5) that gives me invincible joy today and bold hope as I look to an unknown tomorrow
  • I'm thankful that in spite of the ups and downs of transferring to a new position at work at the beginning of this year, I still have a great job in this unstable economy when, all things considered, I really should have been laid off (Daniel 2:20-21)
  • I'm thankful for the Christ-exalting, Scripture-saturated army of gospel soldiers that God is using to bring revival and reformation in His church through rap and hip-hop culture (Romans 11:4-5). Just yesterday, as we were reminiscing about some of the songs we used to listen to, I was telling my sister how, in my opinion, this past decade can't touch the 90's when it comes to music in general (no pun intended =P ). But when it comes to the genre of rap and hip hop, this music seems to be a recent, supernatural phenomena of this past decade with no other explanation but a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit in a particular sphere of culture.
  • I'm thankful for the ever-fresh, ever-relevant, ever-fascinating, Holy Spirit-inspired Scriptures that daily root me in an otherwise imperceptible reality (Psalm 119:18, Psalm 119:105, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Hebrews 4:12)
  • I'm thankful for several meetings with my pastor discussing my plans for Kenya that left me mindful of my insufficiencies as a leader (let alone church planter) and the many messages I preached (just about all of them) that left me mindful of my inabilities as a preacher because each has served to establish me more deeply in the gospel of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection as my only boast (Galatians 6:14)
  • I'm thankful for the significant recovery of my former roommate whose illness brought him literally into the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 64:19-20, Psalm 69:13, Psalm 40:1-3, Psalm 103:3)
  • I'm thankful for being surrounded by fellow believers who, in the midst of hardship, strive to submit to the sovereign Father of spirits and live (Hebrews 12:9, Job 1:21) rather than disapprove of or question His wisdom (Job 2:9-10, Romans 11:33-34) which is the default impulse of our fallen nature
  • I'm thankful for fellow laborers in my church whose lives are marked by a passionate urgency to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10, John 17:18, John 20:21)
  • I'm thankful for a new resurgence of the gospel and biblical theology in Nairobi among young adults; and the missionally-minded community that is graciously extending to me the honor of joining them in the new year as God continues to direct the greatest story ever told that He wrote in eternity past (Ephesians 1:9-11, Isaiah 46:9-11)
Just a few things I'm thankful for this year. And there's so much more.
We give thanks to you, O God;
we give thanks, for your name is near.
We recount your wondrous deeds.
Psalm 75:1
What are you thankful for?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Which One?

Great stuff from Strawberry-Rhubarb Theology:
I recently asked four brothers: What would you rather have--

One billion dollars deposited into your checking account when you roll out of bed in the morning


the assurance of Isaiah 43: 'But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you."'

Which one?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Make War!

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death [make war against!] the deeds of the body, you will live.
Romans 8:13

And the official music video...

HT: Be Transformed

Friday, November 19, 2010

And From No Other... whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge...
Colossians 2:3
“We see that our whole salvation and all its parts are comprehended in Christ. We should therefore take care not to derive the least portion of it from anywhere else. If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is of him. If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, they will be found in his anointing. If we seek strength, it lies in his dominion; if purity, in his conception; if gentleness, it appears in his birth. For by his birth he was made like us in all respects, that he might learn to feel our pain. If we seek redemption, it lies in his passion; if acquittal, in his condemnation; if remission of the curse, in his cross; if satisfaction, in his sacrifice; if purification, in his blood; if reconciliation, in his descent into hell; if mortification of the flesh, in his tomb; if newness of life, in his resurrection; if immortality, in the same; if inheritance of the Heavenly Kingdom, in his entrance into heaven; if protection, if security, if abundant supply of all blessings, in his Kingdom; if untroubled expectation of judgment, in the power given to him to judge. In short, since rich store of every kind of good abounds in him, let us drink our fill from this fountain, and from no other.”
--John Calvin, Institutes, 2.16.19.
Yup...Christ is deeper still...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Actions Speak Louder

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
1 John 4:10-12

HT: Christ Is Deeper Still

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Who's Voice Are You Listening To Most Today?

Jesus' blood speaks a better word. Period.
[You have come] to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
Hebrews 12:24

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Limitations: This Is By Design

Consider the work of God: who can make straight what he has made crooked? In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.
Ecclesiastes 7:13-14

by Trip Lee ft. Leah Smith

You know we feelin like we cant move many times
So we waitin for a break through at any time
So many things that we cant do, we really find
That any climb can be strangled in any grind
Can get tangled we get behind
And in the end they find, we feelin trapped like prison time
Got big vision, we're beginning tryin
But ain't grinnin when we gettin to the finish line

And we all feelin like we been tryin for too long
This day been racin through my mind for too long
I can't be runnin in place, do i need to save face and move on?

I watched friends fall short, i've seen many cryin
I watched my dad breath his last, we are really dyin
If I can grasp in my past, I see many times
When I was really tryin, but was limited by His design

This is the way that life will be, limitless You put limits on me
By Your grace, help us see, this is Your design
This is the way that life will be, infinite You made finite me
By Your grace, help us see, this is the way this is the way that life will be

So many things that we wanna get our hands on
So many heights we wanna reach that we planned on
And we was thinkin we just missed our chance homes
But our reach ain't long enough no matter what we stand on
I'll never be the kind of rapper that I like to be (yea, yea)
And I can see all the books that I like to read (yea, yea)
And twice the speed all the folks that i'd like to reach
I like to speak, but i'm limited my might is weak

Though God was pleased with the creation of man
We still gotta understand the limitations of man
Many of us stuck in the days of the trance
Man, thinking we can do some things that we cant

You may be thinkin you a beast but believe me
You still gotta sleep in the evening,
Ya you still gotta eat, need heat when its freezing
You peak for a season, but peep what we speakin

This is the way that life will be, limitless You put limits on me
By Your grace, help us see, this is Your design
This is the way that life will be, infinite You made finite me
By Your grace, help us see, this is the way this is the way that life will be

I know some folks who aint poor they crusin
We can work hard but if the Lord aint movin
No fruit in store man before they ruin
They should trust God who supports they doin
We not in control of the earth He's the owner
One day we get work, next day we a goner
Humanity's not getting any stronger, so we shouldn't front any longer

Behold the God of wonders, He has no hunger
Never does He sleep or He slumber
He's never limited, no enemies can ever come up
We're the victory He's got the one up, He runs us (He runs us)

So let's submit to that King who's in the skies
This is something that we cant do in our pride
Humble yourself under His name dude He is God
All powerful until the end of time

This is the way that life will be, limitless You put limits on me
By Your grace, help us see, this is Your design
This is the way that life will be, infinite You made finite me
By Your grace, help us see, this is the way this is the way that life will be

This is the way that life will be, limitless You put limits on me
By Your grace, help us see, this is Your design
This is the way that life will be, infinite You made finite me
By Your grace, help us see, this is the way this is the way that life will be

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Lausanne 2010: The Unfinished Task

And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Matthew 24:14

The following is Piper's prophetic exposition of Ephesians 3 at Lausanne where he pleads for Christians with a passion for social action and Christians with a passion for evangelism to, instead of being suspicious of one another, come together as one church united with a single passion to alleviate every kind of suffering--especially eternal suffering--for the joy of the nations and the glory of Christ. Highly recommended.
Of this gospel I was made a that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 3:7,10
Part 1:

Part 2:

Monday, November 01, 2010

Change: Speed and Longevity

The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
John 12:23-24
The faster a given layer of culture changes, the less long-term effect it has on the horizons of possibility and impossibility...The bigger the change we hope for, the longer we must be willing to invest, work, and wait for it ... Nothing that matters, no matter how sudden, does not have a long history and take part in a long future ... the most beneficial events have little positive effect in the short run...

As Christians tell the story, the three days encompassing the condemnation crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth where the most extraordinary sequence of events in human history--events accompanied by physical earthquakes, splitting the temple veil and opening tombs, which mirrored the historical and spiritual drama of that divine intervention...

And yet the cultural implications of Jesus' resurrection, one day or one week after the event, were exactly nil. The following Sunday, according to the Gospels, the witnesses to that earth-shattering event were hidden in an obscure corner of Jerusalem in fear for their lives. The event that would do more than any other in history to alter the horizons of possibility and impossibility had not yet had the slightest effect on the life of a typical resident of Jerusalem. Arguably, it had not even had much effect on the few who had seen evidence of the event with their own eyes.

A few decades later there was a burgeoning movement of witnesses to the resurrection and those who believed their testimony. But their cultural impact was still minimal, meriting only the most cursory references in the correspondence of Roman officials and the annals of contemporary historians. It was not until seven hundred years had passed that the Christian movement, with the assistance of a possibly converted and certainly savvy emperor named Constantine, began to shape the horizons of the Roman Empire. Even the resurrection of Jesus, the most extraordinary intervention of God in history, took hundreds of years to have widespread cultural effects.

So hope in a future revolution, or revival, to solve the problems of our contemporary culture is usually misplaced. And such a hope makes us especially vulnerable to fashion, mistaking shifts in the wind for changes in the climate. Fads sweep across the cultural landscape and believers invest outsized portions of energy and commitment in furthering the fad, mistaking it for real change.

--Andy Crouch, Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling, p.56-59 (emphasis added)
Other seed fell on rocky ground where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away...And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.
Mark 4:5-6,8 (emphasis added)