Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Music of Proverbs

How timely that just as we are deep into our series on Proverbs, the godly musicians from Sovereign Grace Music have released a cd based on this book of the Bible. Download a song or two - or buy the whole album and 'paint the walls of your home' as it were with the musical wisdom of God. You can find it here.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Deeply disturbed

In Numbers 25 we find a singularly disturbing individual. We know the story: just prior to Israel's crossing of the Jordan into the Promised Land, some Moabite women seduced Israelite men to take part in their pagan love-feasts. As a result, God's anger burned against Israel. Moses commanded the leaders who allowed such sin to be slain and hung in the sun.

With the Israelites weeping in response to God's judgment for their egregious sin, a Simeonite named Zimri brought a Moabite woman named Cozbi into the Israelite camp in broad daylight and into his tent. Zimri's sin could not have been more high-handed.

Still, Zimri's not the man in the story I find singularly disturbing. The truly disturbing one is Phineas, the son of Eleazer the high priest, who - out of zeal for the Lord and the holiness of His people - pursues the unequally yoked couple and runs them through with his spear. God adds to our disturbance by commending Phineas' zeal by saying in v. 11, "Phineas...has turned back my wrath from the people of Israel, in that he was jealous with my jealousy among them, so that I did not consume the people of Israel in my jealousy."

Too often our temptation is to read a story like Numbers 25, commend Phineas' spiritual zeal and apply it rather lamely to ourselves in terms of more zeal for reading our Bibles or taking a stand for Jesus in the marketplace. But the context demands that we apply Phineas' zeal in terms of our relationships with one another in the church - taking bold risks for the sake of holiness as we make war against idolatry in one another's lives.

This is where Phineas becomes truly disturbing. We like him as a model of zeal, but we want the right to pick and choose in which realms we express our holy zeal. Zeal for God which boldly challenges sin in one another's lives? We're rarely willing to go there. Challenging our Christian friends for whom church attendance is an optional extra in the summer? Challenging that person in your small group who cracks disrespectful jokes about her husband? Challenging that teen who dresses immodestly or that church member who has sat on the margins of church life for years without deeply investing in the lives of other believers toward mutual sanctification? When it comes to zeal in our relationships in the church toward greater holiness, we find the example of Phineas deeply disturbing.

And, yet, Numbers 25 commends Phineas as 'jealous for his God.' Could you or I be so labeled? Are we willing to take bold risks to make it so? If not, perhaps that is the fact, more than any other, we should find most disturbing.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Resting in God's providential plan

Do you ever wish you were somewhere else - a different city, job or climate? We all feel that way at times because, this side of heaven, we live in the realm of the 'imperfect' and the 'incomplete.'
Even great Christians feel that way at times. That's certainly true of the reformer John Calvin. Despite the fact that God had called him to minister to the people in Geneva, Switzerland in 1536, the city fathers banished him in 1538, unwilling to stomach his proposed reforms. For three years he found refuge in Strasbourg, France and flourished in ministry there. When asked by his friend Pierre Viret if he planned to return to Geneva, Calvin answered, "...it would be perferable to perish for eternity than be tormented in that place. If you wish me well, my dear Viret, do not mention the subject!" (Gordon, Calvin, p. 121) Nevertheless, in 1541 Calvin was back in Geneva where he knew God wanted him and the church needed him. Were it not for his location in Geneva over the next quarter century, John Calvin would likely not have played such an influential role in the Protestant Reformation as he did.
God's sovereignty is the ultimate corrective to our discontent. Are you 'someplace' you'd rather not be right now? Someday you may understand just how strategic your location was for the glory of God and the extension of His Kingdom. For now, you can trust Him and find contentment even there - even if you, like Calvin, think you would rather 'perish for eternity than be tormented in that place.' From God's perspective, our places are always better than we think.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

If you care about worship....

For the past thirty years or so, an inordinate amount of attention has been given to the style, sound and executional details of Christian worship. Unfortunately, this has often overshadowed the far more important biblical nature of true worship. If you are serious about understanding and making much of God in true Christian worship, please read the excellent article found here.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Awestruck beyond despair to worship

David's famous exclamation in Psalm 8:3-4 teaches us about the purpose for God's creation of moons and planets: a staggering recognition of our smallness and frailty and God's condescending care designed to increase our trust and worship of Him.
When I look at your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars
which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
Perhaps the same logic compelled God to put creativity and engineering know-how into the minds of our world's great builders. Though their creations make us feel safer and travel farther, they equally display our innate inabilities and human limitations in a way designed to force us back to the only One in Whom there is no limitation. Unexpectedly, this insight is teased out by a very perceptive unbeliever who's books are more than worth reading: Alain De Botton. He writes,
"We see beauty in thick slate roofs that challenge hailstones to do their worst, in sea defences that shrug off the waves which batter them, and in bolts, rivets, cables, beams and buttresses. We feel moved by edifices - cathedral, skyscrapers, hangars, tunnels and pylons - which compensate for our inadequacies, our inability to cross mountains or carry cables between cities. We respond with emotion to creations which transport us across distances we could never walk, which shelter us during storms we could not weather, which pick up signals we could never hear with our own ears and which hang daintily off cliffs from which we would fall instantly to our deaths."
- The Architecture of Happiness, p. 204
If bridges, buildings, trains and communication devices do all this for us to our good to make up for our inadequacies, how much more sufficient is our God Who rules the universe and spoke it into being with a word? Can He not care for us today? Yes, He can and He will.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Discouraged?

If you're like me, many things in life discourage you, but none more than yourself. Given the depth of our sin-prone hearts that shouldn't surprise us. Where, then, can we find encouragement to keep going to get optimistically joyful? In God.

"Your Lord is not away somewhere and He never sleeps. He never greets your calls with a busy signal. He is never too tired or too busy to respond. He will never mock your ignorance or weakness, and He does not cruelly throw your failure in your face. He will never threaten that He is at the end of His rope with you. He will not grow weary of your inconsistencies, bored with your ambivalence or irritated when once again you fall short.

His loving face will always be toward you and, because of the cross, you will never see the back of His head. He will meet your moment by moment needs - providing strength from His Spirit, wisdom from His Word, resources from the body of Christ, forgiveness that is your daily need and deliverance from constant temptation. Even the trials He sends your way will supply what you need: the character to live for Him more effectively. These are all the evidences of His commitment to you, that you might be who you are supposed to be and do what He has created you to do."

- Paul Tripp, Broken-Down House, p. 223

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Vacation means ministry

Time for vacation? For many of us, that's what at least part of summer means. A couple of years ago we posted a piece by CJ Mahaney on godly, fatherly leadership which lives to serve our wives and children while on vacation. Since, that piece was so helpfully received by so many of us men who tend to make our vactations worse through self-service, we want to point you to it again. You can read it here.

At the same time, lest we think that vacation time equals ministry time only for fathers and husbands, think again as you consider the following words from Paul Tripp:

"Imagine going on a family vacation without realizing that life and ministry are one. Instead, you see vacation as an opportunity to separate yourself from the normal routine and duties of daily life. The flaw in that logic is pretty simple. If you brought sinners in the car with you, then you've brought ministry, too. So, when you're down the road all of about three miles, and already your children are arguing about who is intruding into whose personal space, you can't believe it. You tell them, not too politely, that you feel like turning around and going home. You tell them you're not paying all this money just so they can do in a different and much more expensive location all the same despicable things they do at home. Your voice gets louder as you become more irritated. It doesn't seem like a vacation anymore.

What's gone wrong? You have forgotten to live with a ministry mentality....God loves your children and has put them in a family of faith: your family. In his restorative zeal, he will expose their sin to you so that you can be his tool of rescue and redemption for them. Ever intent on his mission, he will again and again expose their need (for redemption) to you. And he won't wait for a convenient opening in your schedule." (Broken-Down House, pp. 194-195)

Tripp's words, along with Mahaney's, may be particularly apropos for us fathers. Yet, for any Christian vacationers - moms and kids included - God wants to use us to help point the sinners around us toward the Cross in hope of redemption and sanctified restoration. Therefore, vacation for Christians will never mean complete relaxation. It will involve sin, tension and demand Christ-hoping resolution (loving rebuke and forgiveness). Too often our problem on vacation is we demand what we cannot yet have: a moment in time without sin. We'll have to wait till heaven for that. Meanwhile, let's go on vacation armed for ministry.