Monthly Archives: November 2009
The holidays with family are the best of times and sometimes the not-so-best of times. I find the holidays to be very hard because I want to share the joy I have in Jesus, but for many reasons I find it difficult. The difficulties may vary considerably, but whatever they are, they keep me from being loving with the gospel. For instance, my relationship with certain family members may not be solid, or perhaps the family that I want to share with knows of some of my sin history. Perhaps I have put off loving family with the gospel so long that all the lost opportunities of years gone by make me feel like a hypocrite for just now bringing it up. Or maybe the reason I don’t share is that I am just not intentional. Whatever the reason or excuse, if I really want to be loving toward my family over the holidays, then there is not greater gift than eternal life through Jesus Christ. Here are a few suggestions on how to share the gospel during Thanksgiving and the holidays.
- Get Yourself Thankful In Jesus. It is hard to joyfully give or share something with a thankless heart. Take the time amidst all the busyness of hosting, going and cooking to spend time with God in His word and praying. Ask that God would give you joy and thankfulness in Jesus so that you would overflow with the gospel. You can’t help others until you have been helped by the supernatural empowerment of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18-20).
- Ask For Opportunities. After you have refreshed yourself in God’s word and prayer, ask God to give you opportunities and then boldness when He gives you opportunities. Don’t go without giving the gospel because you didn’t ask to share the gospel. God wants you to share, so ask (Matt. 7:7-11).
- Tell Why You Are Thankful Before You Pray For The Meal. No need for a homily or sermon, but you can share in just a few minutes that all your thankfulness flows from the certainty of the life you have in Christ. Simply say, “No matter what happens I can be thankful because that while I was sinner, Christ died for me so that by believing and trusting in Him alone, I might have eternal life.”
- Pray The Gospel In The Prayer Before The Big Meal. Be thankful for the food and family and health, but be most enthusiastically thankful for Jesus and His life and death. There is no lasting thanks without Jesus, so pray that way.
- Beg People With Your Life On Behalf Of Christ. Display Christ joyfully to people in all your actions and words and let that compel people to wonder about Jesus and His worth. Remember, you are an ambassador for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through you; beg your family on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God. Be reconciled through the one who never sinned, yet became sin for us, so that we might be declared righteous by God (2 Cor. 5:20-21).
Would there be any greater reason for thanks than knowing that family and friends heard the gospel and surrendered their life to Christ by faith?
I like Thanksgiving a lot. What a great holiday. Maybe my favorite holiday. I am glad the Pilgrims inspired us to create a holiday so we can take off work to get together and think about all that we have to be thankful for. I doubt the Pilgrims had this in mind since they were probably just thankful to be breathing, but now we get together for food, and family and football and to give thanks. But for the Spirit-led, Christ-follower, every day is thanksgiving day because thankful is what a Christian is. Christians ought to be 365 days thankful, the most thankful people on the earth.
In Ephesians 5:17-21, Paul tells us that this is both true and how it can be true:
“So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.
If my memory serves me correctly, there are four participles of result in this passage. To say it another way, there are four actions that should flow out of being filled with the Spirit. There are four results that the Spirit should produce in the lives of those who are filled continually by the indwelling Holy Spirit that seals us from the day we believe. (Ephesians 1:13)
In honor of Thanksgiving, I want to focus on the third result, which is of course thanksgiving. It is curious to me regarding the many ways that people identify what being Spirit-led looks like. For instance, a lot of people think that being Spirit-led is being spontaneous or unrehearsed. Maybe and maybe not. Some people think that being Spirit-led is being free and uninhibited in worship. Maybe and maybe not. There are many ideas about what it looks like to be Spirit-led, but a very secure indicator of the work of the Spirit in a person’s life is that of thankfulness. A person who perseveres in thankfulness is a Spirit-led person. Let me type it again, if you are a thankful person, you are probably Spirit-led.
Question: But aren’t there a lot of people in this world who are thankful but are not Christians and therefore not Spirit-led? Absolutely. A person could be a very thankful atheist, a very thankful Hindu, a very thankful agnostic and not be Spirit-led. Thankfully, so as not to be confused, Ephesians 5:20 provides us with two authenticators that validate whether our thankfulness is Spirit-led.
First, we can know our thankfulness is Spirit-led if it is unconditional. Paul says in verse 20, “always giving thanks for all things.” Always and all are incredibly daunting and absolute words. We are to be “always giving thanks for all things.” We are to give thanks when we receive the news of cancer in our body. We are to give thanks when our tire goes flat or our car doesn’t start. We are to always give thanks in the good and the bad. A person might object, “That is unrealistic or even impossible.” Exactly. That is how we know that thankfulness is from the Spirit, because only God can accomplish “always” and “all”.
But there is a second authenticator. We know our thankfulness is Spirit-led if it overflows from us to God in the name of Jesus Christ. This is what separates Christian thankfulness from all other thankfulness. Spirit-led thankfulness is ultimately directed toward God. In the Bible the words thanks, in its various forms, is mentioned 168 times and I am almost 100 percent certain that it is always directed to God. That is worth pondering in and of itself. I mean, I try to be thankful to others for all sorts of legitimate reasons, but in the Bible thankfulness is always directed to God.
Our thankfulness might be for someone else, as it was for Paul, (1 Thess. 1:2) but it is always directed to God. I am not saying we shouldn’t be thankful to others, but thankfulness to others should be secondary and not ultimate, for who else deserves our thanks besides the One who created all things and speaks all things into existence. All thanksgiving belongs ultimately to God through Jesus because of the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Thankfulness to God is Spirit-led thankfulness. All other thankfulness flows out of a thankfulness to God for Jesus and through Jesus.
One other thought. Many people often ask, “What is God’s will for my life?” Verse 17 says not only that we can know what God’s will is, but that His will is for us to be Spirit-filled, resulting in thankfulness to God in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. God’s will is for His people to be thankful, always to God in Christ Jesus, because in Christ everyday is a day of thanksgiving.
What is the best thing a father can do for his children? What is the best thing he can give them?
Several years ago I had a conversation with a young man about his hopes and dreams for life after college. He was telling me that the combination of his father being absent and the fact that he didn’t have a lot of material things, made him want to be a good father by giving his children all of the things he never had.
What father doesn’t want to give his children good things? A loaf of bread instead of stone? A fish instead of a snake? (Matthew 7:7-11) An Iphone or Android instead of a can with a string on the end, otherwise known as a Blackberry? A Wii instead of an Atari? We all want for our children and better life than the life we lived. But what is a better life? If we could really give and leave something significant and lasting with our children, what would it be? Would it be more stuff that is destined for a thrift store or a junk yard? Junk yards are full of the must-have stuff that someone thought they needed so they could be happy. Is that the legacy we want to leave with our children? Junk waiting to happen?
I have a couple of very firm convictions about what I want to give to my sons. The first is obvious to me, but probably not to most in this world. I want to give them the gospel that results in eternal life. (John 5:24; 20:30-31) I want to give them the exclusive gospel message of Jesus Christ. (John 14:6) I want to tell it and show it to them with my life. If I can give them something eternal in a world that is very temporal, then that is something worth diligent effort. If I fail at disciplining myself with the strength that God supplies in order to get the gospel to my sons, then I have failed at my first priority and responsibility. If I can’t be faithful with the gospel to those closest to me, then I have no business being a pastor. My home is the front line for the gospel and my boys need it more than anything I can give them. Anything. There is no good gift without the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
But there is something else that I give them that is very important and it is closely tied to the gospel. The second greatest gift I can give to them, in my opinion, is an unwavering love for their mommy.
I’ll illustrate. My wife and I were being appropriately affectionate in front of Luke (our 6 year-old) one morning as he was reading his Bible and eating breakfast and when I glanced at him I found that he was carefully observing us with a slight grin on his face. He was watching me love his mother. When the moment calls for it, and this one did, I will ask both of my boys, “Do you know that daddy loves your mommy?” “Do you know that I love your mommy more than any person in this world, except for Jesus?” Their reactions to my questions are usually less than enthusiastic, but my sons need the gift of hearing and seeing that I love their mother. Let me be clear, it doesn’t mean Lacey and I always get along, but it does mean that when my boys see that life is less than perfect, they can still know we are committed to love one another. There are so many life lessons here that my sons need to see and eventually live, but they need to know that their dad is in a covenant and biblical commitment to their mommy.
But besides the stability of knowing that their dad and mom love each other, and all the other benefits (whether spiritual, emotional or physical) that come a long with a thriving marriage between a man and a woman, there is a greater significance here. It is a significance that might not be realized for a long time by my sons, but one day they will get it and then hopefully live it. Here it is: When I love my wife according to God’s word (Ephesians 5:21-33) I am living out the gospel for them because marriage is for Jesus (Colossians 1:16) by displaying the way He loved and continues to love the Church and the way the Church is to respond to Christ. (Ephesians 5:31-32)
“Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her…” “This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the Church.” (Ephesians 5:22, 25, 32) Jesus is the ultimate point and purpose of marriage. Not the only purpose, but the primary purpose, and my boys get a front row seat in seeing Jesus displayed or blasphemed. Pretty sobering stuff.
Getting the gospel to my boys is important and the beauty in God’s design is that my marriage and my desire to pass the gospel to my sons is married to my marriage. When I live out marriage biblically, I am sharing the story of the gospel, however imperfect I may be at it.
What then is the greatest gift I can give to my sons? Jesus and Jesus in my marriage because it is all for Jesus. (Ephesians 1:10; Col. 1:16)
I really like a good deal. Feel proud of myself when I get one. On big ticket items I will shop and research and wait patiently until I think I can get something at the lowest amount possible. As a matter of fact, just bought a Bosch Dryer from Lowe’s on Saturday. It would delight me to tell you the story because it is a good one.
The dryer that we did own, which is the dryer my mom and dad gave us, just wasn’t gettin er done. It took twice as long to dry laundry as it should have. Lacey and I have been saving money for months now to furnish our new house, but a dryer wasn’t really what I was thinking about when I was disciplining our family to save, save and then save. So, we started shopping here and there, which means we went to Lowe’s, and we came across a Bosch that was about 15% off. Some guy tried to sell it to me and get me to put it on my Lowe’s consumer credit card for six months with no interest, but I was disciplined and looked him in the eye and said, “We might be back.” I was hoping he would say, “Let me see what I can do.” He didn’t so we walked. All of this happened on Friday.
Saturday rolled around and we still had no dryer and we might as well had been hanging our clothes to dry out in the wind that is never still in Stillwater. I decided I should go to Lowe’s and see what I could see, cause that is what men, and sometimes women, do on Saturday in Stillwater. I pulled up and I see a sign at the entrance saying Lowe’s was having a “clearance sale event.” I thought to myself, “Maybe there is a dryer to be had at a remarkable reduced rate.” I walk up and lo and behold, there is the Bosch Dryer with the same sticker on it advertising it at 15 percent off. So I walk over and asked the kind lady who is working the clearance event, “On the Bosch Dryer, is that the lowest price?” She walks over and looks at it, contemplates for about 30 seconds and says, “How about ………… dollars?” I couldn’t believe it, she had marked it down 65 percent. Without hesitation I said, “I’ll take it.”
I couldn’t wait to get home and tell Lacey about the deal I had secured for our family. I didn’t make it home, I called her. It was like Christmas for a little boy. That night I went to Tulsa for my mother’s birthday and proclaimed to all my family what a deal I had secured. To quote Lewis, “I was delighting to praise that which I enjoyed.” I was enjoying our good deal. I enjoy paying a lot less for something that cost a lot of other people a lot more, and because I enjoy paying less, I have no problem telling others and praising my accomplishment.
Why is it so hard for myself and so many of us to praise Jesus, to proclaim that He has found us and offered us a deal that is absolutely free at the cost of His life on a criminal’s tree? Why don’t I delight to say, “Jesus has bought for me eternal life and there is nothing I can do but trust in what He has accomplished for the forgiveness of my sins.” Why is it that I can’t wait to praise Jesus to others?
Maybe Lewis gives us the answer and it maybe an answer we don’t want to hear but need to nonetheless. Here it is: We don’t enjoy God through Jesus. Could it be that despite all our singing and talking that we really don’t love God the way we say we do? We don’t gladly praise Him to others because we really don’t enjoy all that He has done for us and all that He is for us.
For those who might read this, I challenge you to read Psalms 111 to 118 (chapters) and notice how many times the Psalmist exhorts us to, “Praise the Lord.” But not only that, notice how many times the Psalmist almost begs us and the nations and every created thing to praise the Lord. Why does he do that? Because he enjoys the God who hears and saves. (Ps. 116:1-6)
Do you delight to praise the God you should enjoy? Or do you praise music, or a person, or a car, or an education, or an accomplishment or maybe even a Bosch Dryer? I hope it is God, because at the end of this life He is the only person that matters and He alone makes everything else matter.
Are you passionate about scattering and filling? You should be. God is. God’s passion for missions is unmistakably evident from the beginning of the 66 books of the Bible right to the end, or to say it another way, the whole Bible is written in the context of mission. God has been on mission from the very beginning of creation to display his glory for all to see so that He might be worshiped. Part of being in relationship with God is understanding that we are on mission with God, and that means everyone without exception or option.
In Genesis 1:26-28 we are told that God made man, “In Our image, in our likeness.” We go on to read again that “God created them male and female in His own image, in the image of God He created them.” So twice the text states that man, both male and female are image bearers for God to say something about God, to display God, to show God, to communicate God, and the reason we know this is because verse 28 says that God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” This is significant because before sin ever came into the world, God wanted people to scatter and fill the earth with His image and glory. Even though sin had not yet infected the creation of God, God’s command was to multiply and fill creation with his image and likeness.
Unfortunately sin did come into creation and yet the mission did not change, but scattering and filling became a point of resistance to God as seen in Genesis 11 and the story of Babel. In verse 5 the people come together to build a tower that reaches the sky so that they would not be scattered. I verse 7-8 God goes down and confounds their language and scatters them all over the face of the earth, and again in verse 10 it says that God scattered them over the whole face of the earth. The point is that God wants us to scatter with His image, and if we won’t scatter as image bearers who enjoy God then God will scatter us Himself. Perhaps this is why He scattered the Jews in the Old Testament with the exile and why He again scattered the early church with persecution in the book of Acts. But back to Genesis. In chapter 12 God finds in Abraham someone who will scatter and be a blessing to all the families of the earth. Abraham left his home, scattering to fill.
Scattering and filling the earth with God’s image and glory is God’s passion, and God’s passion and our joy meet at the point of extending God through Jesus to others. Our resisting or ignoring this truth results in short-circuiting the blessing others would receive from us and the blessing we receive from extending others the message of Jesus.
God’s plan is for us to be a missions-minded people for His glory because God is a missions-minded God. There are 6.6 billion people in the world who need the mercy of God through Jesus. There are at least 2029 unreached people groups (ethnic groups) in the world and 1.6 billion people who have no sustainable gospel witness. God is not being worshiped and glorified through Jesus by one-fourth of the world’s population because those 1.6 billion people cannot worship what they do not know (Romans 10). I suppose the question we should pray and ask is not “should I give and go?”, but “how can I not give and go?”
Our missions goal at Eagle Heights is $12,000.00. That is the least we can do when we have 6.6 billion reasons to do more for a Missions-minded God who has always been on mission to save us and others for His glory.
Over the past 8 months or so I have been trying to discipline myself to write down quotes that I want to remember for the future benefit of myself and others. Believe it or not, I have actually come up with a few statements myself that I think are ink worthy. I realize of course that my own quotes have probably been said another way and by someone else, but ignorance can be bliss. Right?
I read a lot so I don’t know how I decide what I like and don’t like, but I thought I would publish what I have written down so that some of these pithy statements might encourage or challenge those who read them.
- People who are rowing the boat are hardly ever the ones rocking it.” Ed Stetzer
- Because God works we work. John Murray
- The excellency of the believer is not that he has a large apprehension of things, but that what he does apprehend, which perhaps may be very little, he sees it in light of the Spirit of God, in a saving, soul-transforming light; and this is that which gives us communion with God, and not prying thoughts or curious-raised notions.” John Owen
- The legacy of a leader will only be as great as the thing or person to which they point people to.
- God’s working in us (sanctification) is not suspended because we work, nor our working suspended because God works. God works in us and we also work. But the relation is that because God works we work.” John Murray
- Life is appropriately about us when it is all about Jesus.
- Being a Christian is just as much about making decisions as it is about a decision made.
- Less is more when less is excellent.
- Even the mere word, cross, must remain far not only from the lips of the citizens of Rome, but also from their thoughts, their eyes, their ears. Cicero Pro Rabirio
- The most wretched of all ways of dying. Josephus on crucifixion
- I renounce you, Satan, and all your works and ways. The confession of 2nd and 3rd Century Christians before baptism.
- If you keep walking through spider webs, the problem isn’t the web, it’s the spider.
- Those with the most compelling and best ideas will eventually win the day and the days to come. The importance of Theology
- Whatever God is, (i.e. merciful, just, loving, etc.) He is perfectly that.
- Interpreting the Bible is like examining a puzzle and its pieces. If you try to decide what a single piece is outside of the big picture, you might come to a very unbiblical and inaccurate conclusion.
- Ministry is a slow and often long grind.
- If atheism is the ultimate reality in the universe then you and I can be our own god and our lives are nothing but a temporary fantasy.
- “The universe doesn’t care.” Doug Wilson on suffering in a godless universe.
- How many Bible Studies do you have to go to before you do what Jesus plainly commands?