We who preach and write, do so in a manner different from which the Scriptures have been written. We write while we make progress. We learn something new every day. We speak as we still knock for understanding...If anyone criticizes me when I have said what is right, he does me an injustice. But I would be more angry with the one who praises me and takes what I have written for Gospel truth than I would be with the one who criticizes me unfairly. -Augustine


Permission or Presumption, Part 1

In Judges chapter 1, Israel asks God who should go first into battle to defeat the enemy. God says that Judah should go up first. So after prayer and direct revelation from God, Judah goes out to war and annihilates the enemy. Wouldn’t it be nice if we, too, could hear from God each time we had a battle to fight?

In Judges 20, Israel again asks God who should lead the way into battle. But this time the battle is against their own brethren, the tribe of Benjamin. Once again, through direct revelation, God says that Judah should go first. Now if you asked God for direction and received indisputable evidence that He was leading you, how would you respond if His direction led only to your defeat and destruction? Twenty-two thousand-dead!

To make matters worse, they asked God a second time, only this time with prayer and weeping. The result was the same! Eighteen thousand more-dead! Can you imagine? Why would a God of love lead a praying people into such catastrophic defeat?

Perhaps you have experienced something similar. You prayed for your marriage, but it ended in divorce. You prayed for your teen, but he ended up enslaved to drugs. You prayed for your daughter, but she ran off with an undesirable young man. You have prayed and prayed and prayed, yet you have experienced utter defeat. Why? The answer is found in the book of Judges, where we learn that every man did that which was right in his own eyes. And tomorrow we will learn . . . the rest of the story.

Published in: on January 31, 2011 at 3:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

Permission or Presumption? Part 1

In Judges chapter 1, Israel asks God who should go first into battle to defeat the enemy. God says that Judah should go up first. So after prayer and direct revelation from God, Judah goes out to war and annihilates the enemy. Wouldn’t it be nice if we, too, could hear from God each time we had a battle to fight?

In Judges 20, Israel again asks God who should lead the way into battle. But this time the battle is against their own brethren, the tribe of Benjamin. Once again, through direct revelation, God says that Judah should go first. Now if you asked God for direction and received indisputable evidence that He was leading you, how would you respond if His direction led only to your defeat and destruction? Twenty-two thousand-dead!

To make matters worse, they asked God a second time, only this time with prayer and weeping. The result was the same! Eighteen thousand more-dead! Can you imagine? Why would a God of love lead a praying people into such catastrophic defeat?

Perhaps you have experienced something similar. You prayed for your marriage, but it ended in divorce. You prayed for your teen, but he ended up enslaved to drugs. You prayed for your daughter, but she ran off with an undesirable young man. You have prayed and prayed and prayed, yet you have experienced utter defeat. Why? The answer is found in the book of Judges, where we learn that every man did that which was right in his own eyes. And tomorrow we will learn . . . the rest of the story.

Published in: on January 31, 2011 at 3:45 am  Leave a Comment  

Let God’s Creatures Be the Teachers!

In the beginning, God commanded Adam to tend the garden and to name the animals (Gen. 21:15, 19). Why were these the first two tasks given to Adam?

As I contemplated Adam naming the animals and tending the garden, I began to realize that creation itself is a master teacher. Every aspect of creation speaks clearly of the character of God. From the simplicity of the sparrow to the unfolding of the petals on a rose, all of creation reveals God in His beauty, goodness, and magnificence.

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead” (Romans 1:20).

Seeking the revelation of God through creation is a life-long pursuit. But searching for treasure is exciting and rewarding–especially when you find it! And God promises that we will: “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart,” he says in Jeremiah 29:13.

I can think of no other pursuit in life that is of more value than the pursuit of God. Enjoying God requires knowing Him intimately. But if we desire to know someone intimately, we must spend time with them. I think this is what God had in mind when he gave Adam the assignment to name the animals and tend the garden–certainly a time consuming task.

This is an important lesson for us as parents. Our children need to spend time among the splendor of God’s unfathomable creation so they can know Him more intimately. We all need time to observe, interacting with, and enjoy the infinite treasures that surround us. Perhaps it’s time to turn off the hypnotic, non-productive media screens and return to the garden.

Published in: on January 30, 2011 at 3:43 am  Leave a Comment  

Training the Imagination

“The imagination tends to reflect the preoccupations and the spiritual condition of the society around us.

In addition, the imagination is a screen onto which the evil spirits can “project” images, temptations presented as stimulating entertainments, offering us pleasurable rewards if we give in to the temptation. The more we give in, the more this dimension of the imagination grows, the more it becomes a vehicle of enchantment of the will, then obsession, and if not wholly repented of, ending in some degree of bondage to evil. If we want to become whole and healthy, the imagination must be trained, just as the body, the rational intellect, and the will must be trained. Any one of these aspects of our personhood, if not brought under discipline and self-mastery with the help of grace, can lead to the domination of the part over the whole. The development of a moral imagination, therefore, demands as much self-restraint and proper direction as an athlete exercises over his body.” (excerpt from Michael O’Brien’s book on The Pagination of the Western Culture & Harry Potter)

Published in: on January 29, 2011 at 10:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

In Gentleness He Has Made Me Great

One of my least favorite assignments from God is to admit wrong. It was Tuesday morning, and we were recording the epic drama of Sir Knight of the Splendid Way. We had been praying for over a month that God would do a great work through this epic drama. Never have I been involved in such a life-changing production. But something happened. One of our engineers strongly voiced his opinion about what he thought would be best for a particular scene. I disagreed, but he persisted. I felt that he was out of line, so I voiced a stronger disagreement. After all, as executive producer my decisions are final!

That is, until One higher than me revealed that I was wrong. I have heard this Voice before. To deny that you have heard the Voice is to restrict the blessing-forward motion is hindered. Then I was reminded by the words spoken by one of our actors in the next scene. It was the scene where Sir Constant tries to force his comrade from the error of his way. But suddenly his attention is diverted by a servant who says, “Thou wilt not win him over with harsh words; in gentleness he is made great.”

I was immediately reminded of Psalm 18:35 “In gentleness he made me great.” My assignment was clear-to deny or avoid it would be disobeying a direct assignment from my King. So this morning, while at breakfast, I apologized to our engineer in front of the group. The effect upon the team was evident. It was as if the bars of an iron gate had been lifted. Our quest to the City of the Splendid Way would no longer be impeded. All was restored; in gentleness we were being made great!

Published in: on January 29, 2011 at 3:43 am  Leave a Comment  

Unexpected Redemption

Imagine this: your husband and sons have died, and you’re broke. You’ve lost your home. Years ago you left your extended family to join your wealthy husband. Your friends back home have suffered severe economic times while you have lived on the high end. Now you have nowhere to go except back home.

You must send your son’s wives back to their homes. You love them deeply, but you cannot support them. But one clings to you, insisting that your home will be her home, and your losses will be her losses. She will not leave you. Her love is deep, and you cannot refuse, so you pack up the little that you have and together begin your journey.

After facing gossip from your kin, you find lodging in a barely affordable one-room apartment. Early in the morning, your daughter-in-law slips out to find work. Day after day she brings you her meager earnings along with some leftovers kindly given by her boss.

Curiosity stirs. Who is this girl who works day and night to care for her mother-in-law, without thought or care for herself? Ruth’s unique character, evidenced by her hard work and sacrifice, piques the interest of the wealthy owner.

“Then Boaz said to his young man who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?” and he said, “The young Moabitess who came back with Naomi. She came, and she has continued from early morning until now, except for a short rest” (Ruth 2).

Yes, this is the story of Naomi and Ruth-a story that teaches us that our care for others, at our own expense, may open the door to unexpected redemption.

Published in: on January 28, 2011 at 2:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

Unexpected Redemption

Imagine this: your husband and sons have died, and you’re broke. You’ve lost your home. Years ago you left your extended family to join your wealthy husband. Your friends back home have suffered severe economic times while you have lived on the high end. Now you have nowhere to go except back home.

You must send your son’s wives back to their homes. You love them deeply, but you cannot support them. But one clings to you, insisting that your home will be her home, and your losses will be her losses. She will not leave you. Her love is deep, and you cannot refuse, so you pack up the little that you have and together begin your journey.

After facing gossip from your kin, you find lodging in a barely affordable one-room apartment. Early in the morning, your daughter-in-law slips out to find work. Day after day she brings you her meager earnings along with some leftovers kindly given by her boss.

Curiosity stirs. Who is this girl who works day and night to care for her mother-in-law, without thought or care for herself? Ruth’s unique character, evidenced by her hard work and sacrifice, piques the interest of the wealthy owner.

“Then Boaz said to his young man who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?” and he said, “The young Moabitess who came back with Naomi. She came, and she has continued from early morning until now, except for a short rest” (Ruth 2).

Yes, this is the story of Naomi and Ruth-a story that teaches us that our care for others, at our own expense, may open the door to unexpected redemption.

Published in: on January 28, 2011 at 3:42 am  Leave a Comment  

Christian Hedonism

Have you ever heard of Christian Hedonism before? Christian Hedonism was first introduced to me through author and Bible teacher John Piper. When I first read about Christian Hedonism in his book, Desiring God, I read that particular chapter over and over again.

You see, that chapter sparked something in me that has remained with me years later. In fact, there is rarely a morning when I wake up that my first thoughts are not influenced by Christian Hedonism. Christian Hedonism has so influenced my life that I am happier than I have ever been. But enough delay–the word “hedonism” refers to one who lives for pleasure. Christian Hedonism is simply living for the pleasure of God.

In his Desiring God, John Piper first quotes the old Westminster Confession, which reads, “The chief end of man is to glorify God AND enjoy him forever.” But John changed one word in the Confession and changed my life and those of countless others who are also now Christian Hedonists. John Piper’s alternate Westminster Confession now reads, “The chief end of man is to glorify God BY enjoying him forever.” Yes, it is that simple–God wants us to enjoy him and he desires to enjoy us. Thinking this way can change your entire outlook on life. Everything you do can now be done with the thought that you are living life in partnership with God–He receives enjoyment or glory as you live your life creatively, or kindly, mercifully, or humbly. At the same time, you receive enjoyment in how God lives his life through you.

Galatians 2:20 reminds me that “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live yet not I but Christ lives in me, and the live which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” Let’s stop living our own lives and start enjoying the life that God is giving us through Himself!

Published in: on January 27, 2011 at 3:58 am  Leave a Comment  

A Faithful Mother

“But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile.”

In the 2nd chapter of Exodus, we learn how the mother of Moses took extraordinary risks to protect her infant son. No matter what she did, the boy had little chance of survival. Can we even imagine the courage she must have had to carry out such an act?

This Old Testament account illustrates how a mother’s faith and actions can be the most powerful and redeeming influences upon a child’s life. Obviously fathers have an impact as well. But not enough can be said about the role of a godly mom.

The Apostle Paul shared this perspective in 1st Timothy 2:15 when he said,

“Women will be saved through childbearing –if they continue in faith, love and holiness with self control.”

In other words, mothers who have a redemptive influence upon their children also have a redemptive influence upon the culture and the world. As the result of one mother’s courageous faith, her son was able to bring redemption to his own family and an entire nation.

A mother’s faith and influence are part of the miraculous redemptive process used by God. Though sin entered the world through a woman, it can be overcome through the faith of a mother. Although Jesus Christ is our ultimate salvation, a mother’s faith and influence upon her children may be the instrument God uses to deliver a nation.

Published in: on January 26, 2011 at 2:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Faithful Mother

“But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile.”

In the 2nd chapter of Exodus, we learn how the mother of Moses took extraordinary risks to protect her infant son. No matter what she did, the boy had little chance of survival. Can we even imagine the courage she must have had to carry out such an act?

This Old Testament account illustrates how a mother’s faith and actions can be the most powerful and redeeming influences upon a child’s life. Obviously fathers have an impact as well. But not enough can be said about the role of a godly mom.

The Apostle Paul shared this perspective in 1st Timothy 2:15 when he said,

“Women will be saved through childbearing –if they continue in faith, love and holiness with self control.”

In other words, mothers who have a redemptive influence upon their children also have a redemptive influence upon the culture and the world. As the result of one mother’s courageous faith, her son was able to bring redemption to his own family and an entire nation.
A mother’s faith and influence are part of the miraculous redemptive process used by God. Though sin entered the world through a woman, it can be overcome through the faith of a mother. Although Jesus Christ is our ultimate salvation, a mother’s faith and influence upon her children may be the instrument God uses to deliver a nation.

Published in: on January 26, 2011 at 3:41 am  Leave a Comment