Monthly Archives: June 2018

The Starving Soul of The Sluggard

sluggard

There is nothing good about a lazy person. Right? Wrong. Even the lazy person longs for good and satisfying realities. Desire is something, but it is not everything.

Proverbs 13:4 contends: “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the soul of the diligent is made fat (fully satisfied).” 

You see, there it is. The sluggish and lazy person really wants to live the good life. They want something; apparently they want a fat or fully satisfied soul. But they get nothing because they do nothing, or at least not enough.

This passage might be applied to many areas of life. For instance, I desire to be more physically fit and have more energy, but the couch is way more comfortable and so my desire does me no good. Someone else might crave financial freedom from debt, but it is way easier to eat out all of the time instead of sticking to a budget. Another person may want to have a healthy marriage, but the miserable peace that exists is better than having to have a hard conversation about the reality and the needed adjustments that would have to take place for the relationship to improve.

As it relates to this verse, the category I most often think about is the spiritually atrophied soul. This person wants to know the blessed life of walking with Jesus by faith (Matthew 5), but instead they choose a life that does not satisfy. Many who claim to have a life-changing relationship (2 Corinthians 5:17) with the Creator of the world in Jesus Christ, seem to know so little of the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) that is produced by the same Spirit of God that raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 8:11). And by the way, all of us struggle or fail at this, but there is a difference between struggling forward and believing the present situation is the inevitable reality we were destined to endure.

CS Lewis was right, so many are playing with mud pies in the slums of life and craving more, when they could be enjoying a vacation at the beach.

The answer to this problem is clearly stated in the text. If you want to be satisfied in anything (Psalms 128:1-4), and particularly in God, you must diligently seek it and work at it. You most go after what you want. You must train yourself for godliness (1 Timothy 4:8). You must abide in Christ, for without Him you can do nothing (John 15:5). You must apply all diligence to attain godliness (2 Peter 1:5-11).

To be clear, I am not talking about earning salvation. God is not opposed to effort, He is opposed to earning grace. But grace should drive us away from being sluggishly lazy (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).

In light of the wisdom probability that is Proverbs 13:4, craving or desiring is a start, but if you want to live a full and satisfying life in Christ, you must get busy living with all diligence. You must pursue God and the things of God. Otherwise, your soul will be starving and weak. God wants something better for you than the life of the sluggard.

If you desire more, but don’t know the way of the satisfied soul, find someone who appears to have love, joy, peace, etc. The satisfied soul is glad to help others be satisfied in Christ because God is an overflowing, forever God who wants the best for those who love Him and know Him. Do you believe that? Then be diligent.

Parenting and Learning From Those Who Have Gone Before Us

generations

Life experience is really important, and it is one of the realities that makes the local church so important and practically helpful. We would do well to learn from the people who have gone before us and experienced the ups and downs that life will throw at us. A multi-generational church is a gift, if we recognize it and embrace it.

Tomorrow morning at 9:15 a.m. in the worship center,  I have asked four empty-nester couples to share one parenting strategy that they successfully employed when they were parenting. But I have also asked them to share something they wished they would have done, or something they would do differently. We will then have 20-25 minutes of Q&A.

If you are a parent of any age, with children in the home of any age, I highly recommend you make the effort to join us and learn from the life experience of others in the body of Christ.

07.11.18 – Below is the video from our time together.

 

What Is “The Fear of the Lord”?

fear cloud

I continue to find that that the “fear of the Lord” is an oft misunderstood biblical concept. That’s not good because we must understand the fear of the Lord if we are to know and love God and live according to His design.

Ray Ortlund Jr. describes the fear of the Lord in Proverbs 1:7 as the threshold by which Christians are able to embrace true wisdom for living in God’s world. Ortlund writes, “The whole of the book of Proverbs can be distilled into a Proverbs 1:7 drop.” To say it another way, no one can access the wisdom of God and the good it brings without the fear of the Lord. We need a new beginning – “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” – and we can’t have it without the fear of the Lord.

But what is this fear of the Lord?

Ortlund writes: “It is not a cringing dread before the Lord. It is not a guilty “Oh no, here comes God. I’m in for it now.” The fear of the Lord is openness to Him, eagerness to please Him, humility to be instructed by Him (Proverbs 15:33). The fear of the Lord is willingness to turn from evil and change (Job 28:28). The fear of the Lord is surrender to His will (Genesis 22:12). The fear of the Lord is one way we love Him (Deuteronomy 6:2, 5). The fear of Christ is meekly fitting in with one another (Ephesians 5:21). The fear of the Lord is when we realize, “I am not the measure of all things. I am measured.” p. 31 – Proverbs; Wisdom That Works

CS Lewis describes the antithesis of the fear of the Lord:

In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that-and, therefore, know yourself as nothing in comparison-you do not know God at all. As long as you are proud, you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you. Mere Christianity 

John Piper provides a helpful picture from The Pleasures of God:

Suppose you were exploring an unknown glacier in the north of Greenland in the dead of winter. Just as you reach a sheer cliff with a spectacular view of miles and miles of jagged ice and mountains of snow, a terrible storm breaks in. The wind is so strong that the fear rises in your heart that it might blow you over the cliff. But in the midst of the storm you discover a cleft in the ice where you can hide. Here you feel secure. But, even though secure, the awesome might of the storm rages on, and you watch it with a kind of trembling pleasure as it surges out across the distant glaciers.

At first there was fear that this terrible storm and awesome terrain might claim your life. But then you found a refuge and gained the hope the that you would be safe. But not everything in the feeling called fear vanished from your heart. Only the life-threatening part. There remained the trembling, the awe, the wonder, the feeling that you would never want to tangle with such a storm or be the adversary of such a power.

After all, “it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31), and not be hidden the cleft of the Rock that is Christ, who has bore our wrath on the cross.

So the fear of the Lord is not just the dread of God, as though there was a constant worry that God might smite us. However, if we are not in Christ by repentance toward God and faith in the finished work of Christ, then we have real reason to fear the eternal wrath that awaits us. But if we are safe and secure in Christ, then the fear of the Lord is simply an attitude or disposition that comes from knowing our place in the world as created beings of the Creator. In Christ, we live in awe and reverence toward God, because He is so powerful, wonderful and magnificent to us. Without this fear, we will believe the lie that we are god and the captain of our own ship, doing what we think will bring us the most pleasure a part from God, (Genesis 3:1-6) and we will not see our need to trust and follow Christ, who is wisdom from God for us (1 Corinthians 1:30).

To fear the Lord is to humbly know your place in the universe God created, and by faith to think and act appropriately toward our only hope, Jesus Christ.

“So Will I (100 Billion X)” The Good and The Questionable

On Sunday we watched the following video as an illustration of the sermon from John 1:1-3:

WHAT IS HELPFUL ABOUT THIS SONG

There is so much to embrace and enjoy about this song. I am edified by this song because of the grand and sweeping Biblical meta-narrative it artistically and emotively proclaims. It begins with creation and prods us to attempt to ponder what it might look like for God to make everything from nothing by the sheer force of His speaking; the movement of His breath. It invites us to to imagine and remember how big God really is. He always has been, and always is, and always will be majestic and grand and mind-boggling. But then it reminds us that this cosmic God is personal and merciful and loving in that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us to live perfectly, and die for the sins of many (John 1:1-3, 14; Mark 10:45). Finally, the song models for us to respond by faith with surrender and worship.

We need more songs like this to stretch our minds to see as much of the fullness of God as we can. We need more songs that biblically provoke awe and wonder.

WHAT IS QUESTIONABLE AND CONCERNING ABOUT THIS SONG

I chose to use this video in our worship gathering with some trepidation, concerned  there might be a few lines that would distract and maybe even mislead. To be clear, I don’t mean to be uncharitable and overly critical. After all, I am a teaching preacher who sometimes says things that don’t roll off the tongue the way I want them to. Having said that, there is something to be said for being as precise and clear as possible about the truth we sing, teach and preach. So I hope my critique of this song models the need for precise and biblical thinking, but with a spirit of humility.

  • “With no point of reference” After the worship gathering I was sharing with one theologically astute man some of my hesitations about the song, and he pointed out one possible deficiency that I had not thought of when the song says that God created from nothing when there was “no point of reference.” The truth is that there was a point of reference, namely, the Triune God. To be fair, what I think the song was referencing was that there was no point of reference as it relates to time and space. But there is an important lesson to be learned from the observation that God was there. Just as we often ignore the creator in favor of the creation, so it is always possible to forget or underestimate God. If time and space never came into being, God would still exist as the ultimate point of reference. As a matter of divinely declared truth, He is the only reality that ultimately matters, for in Him are all things and He is in need of nothing (Acts 17:22-31).
  • “Evolving in pursuit of what You said” If you go to YouTube and search “So Do I”, you might see a video titled: “So Will I (100 Billion X) mentions evolution. Should we stop singing it?” My concern is there are those who see the word “evolution” as a sort of anti-Christian word, and therefore, be distracted from the good the song delivers. To begin with, let’s look at the context of the aforementioned line. “As You speak, a hundred billion creatures catch Your breath, evolving in pursuit of what You said.” Now I don’t know what the author(s) believe about Darwinian, macro-evolution. Maybe they see no conflict between the Bible and this scientific theory. But it seems to me in the reading of their lyrics that they might be talking about micro-evolution. I say this because they mention creatures that have already been created and now have the breath of life as given by God. Then they write about those creatures evolving in pursuit of what God has said. I, like most people, believe creatures are capable of adapting to their environment as it changes. This affirms the wisdom of God. Do I believe we are advanced chimps? No. I believe God created mankind in His image, distinct from all other creatures (Genesis 1:26-28). But I do believe in micro-evolution. That is how I interpret the song, and therefore, it is not a problem for me.
  • “A Hundred Billion Failures Disappear” What is wrong with this line? After all, I have most certainly failed. I am the chief of failures. Wait, that isn’t quite right, is it? Paul said, “I am the chief of sinners.” (1 Timothy 1:15) All have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). But I have failed, along with everyone else, because I have rebelled. I have fallen short of the glory of God because I am a sinner who has willfully sinned (Romans 3:23). It is worth emphasizing that we needed the cross not just because we tried for holiness and came up short, as though it were only a lack of skill or effort, but because we are rebels in rebellion against a perfect and holy God. We all have shook our fists at the LORD God. I wish the language was biblically stronger about the reason that Jesus lost His life on the Hill that was created through Him.
  • “Like You would again 100 billion times” My good friend, Ryan Smith, said something like, “Why is there always just one line you have to change in the songs that Hillsong writes?” It seems that way in this song too. If I were going to change one line in the whole song, it would be this one. In the final crescendo of the song it declares the passion of God for people as displayed in the gospel and then says, “If You gave your life to love them, so will I.” That’s fantastic. The love of Christ displayed on the cross for us should propel us to love others by sharing with them the good news of Jesus. Amen and Amen! But then we hear these words: “Like You would again 100 Billion Times”. I wish they would have just ended it with the  previous line. Here is my beef. I can’t think of a time in the Bible that it says, or suggests, that God would send Jesus to die again if need be. First of all, the Bible is clear that the work of redemption is complete and perfect. It is finished (John 19:30). It was a once for all endeavor. There is no need be for another try. Second, there is only one Son of God. There is only one Jesus. Yes, I suppose it is a nice sentiment, but it is not like Jesus is “the one” of the Matrix, only to find out there have been six others before Him. Isn’t Jesus enough? Isn’t He enough to convince us of God’s love and mercy and grace and justice? Why is there a need to try to improve on God’s incomprehensible love (Ephesians 3:18-19)? If you doubt God’s goodness toward you, there is no need to guess that He might do it again to show His deep love. Just look to the once and for all, “it is finished” work (Romans 8:32). God loved His glory and humans so much that He got it right the first and only time with His One and only Son. Enough said and done. Let’s celebrate and rejoice in what is finished, not what will never be needed.

One final thought. Music is such an important vehicle of truth. The Psalms are proof of that. But so many songs today are wrong, superficial or unclear. If our theology is strong and sound, we can listen to a lot of songs with clear and biblical thinking. More than being nit-picky, I hope I have modeled that with regard to a song that has really helped and challenged me to love Jesus and glorify God more and more. Let’s listen to and sing the song, but let’s think biblically as we do.