God, All-Sufficient


From The Valley of Vision, pg. 214:
King of Glory, Divine Majesty,

Every perfection adorns thy nature and sustains thy throne;

The heavens and earth are thine,

The world is thine and thy fullness.

Thy power created the universe from nothing;

Thy wisdom has managed all its multiple concerns, presiding over nations, families, individuals.

Thy goodness is boundless; all creatures wait on thee

                                                                         are supplied by thee,

                                                                         are satisfied in thee.

How precious are the thoughts of thy mercy and grace!

How excellent thy lovingkindness that draws men to thee!

Teach us to place our happiness in thee, the blessed God, never seeking life among the dead things of earth,

or asking for that which satifies the deluded;

But may we prize the light of thy salvation,

                       implore the joy of thy salvation,

                       find our heaven in thee.

Thou hast attended to our happiness more than we can do;

Though we are fallen creatures thou hast not neglected us.

In love and pity thou hast provided us a Saviour;

Apply His redemption to our hearts,

by justifying our persons,

and sanctifying our natures.

We confess our transgressions, have mercy on us.

We are weary, give us rest,

              ignorant, make us wise unto salvation,

             helpless, let thy strength be made perfect in our weakness,

             poor and needy, bless us with Christ’s unsearchable riches,

             perplexed and tempted, let us travel on, unchecked, undismayed,

             knowing thou hast said,

“I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”

Blessed be thy name!

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The Lord Who Lifts From the Miry Bog


From Carrie Sandom, speaking on Psalm 40:

There are those who are compromised, consumed, and cold-hearted. And they’re all in a miry bog. And they aren’t the only ones. In a group this size, there are many of us trapped in a miry bog as well. Bogs come in various shapes. We know what it’s like, and many have experienced that the more we struggle to escape, the more bound we become.

But God knows we desire to escape, and in the Psalms, God gives us words to the desperation of our hearts. The Psalms were written supremely to each them about God; who He is and how He relates to His people. But the also taught how to respond to Him, regardless of the situation in which we find ourselves.

http://kd316.com/2012/06/23/carrie-sandom-plenary-session-four/

Sex to the Glory of God?


(This post is the first in a series of three addressing specific ideas and principles found in the following passage of Scripture.They will post on three consecutive days.)

The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God with your body.
1 Corinthians 6:15-20

People spend hours each week engrossed in television shows whose story lines center around the illicit relationships of the main characters. Teen girls are now intentionally getting pregnant, hoping they’ll be selected as the next “star” of a teen mom reality show. More and more church members are involved in immoral sexual activity or cohabiting, all while the church has historically kept silent on the issue of sex, rarely teaching a godly, biblical theology of sex. Unbiblical sexual activity has become an acceptable sin in the body of Christ. It’s been so normalized in culture that the church has surrendered and thrown up her hands in defeat. The attitude seems to be that we can’t stop people from having sex, so we’ll just hope they use protection and we’ll be here to help them pick up the pieces when their lives explode.

The church ignores the topic of sex as if it has nothing to do with the church or the God we worship. Here’s where the problem comes occurs. Sex was God’s idea, not something he wants to limit, control, or destroy. Here is God’s view of sex. Sex is good. Very good, in fact, according to Genesis 2. But, much like a fine luxury car, sex is best when it functions within the manufacturer’s suggested guidelines.

And, whether we like it or not, God gives very specific guidelines for how sex is best enjoyed and most fully experienced in its original purpose.

God is perfect. He’s the perfect teacher. He not only tells us what not to do, he tells us what to do. He gives us the one right, best way to do things and then gives illustrations of consequences of what will happen when we don’t follow His guidelines.

One of my favorite examples of this type of teaching is the inclusion of polygamy in Scripture. Christians of a more liberal or emerging mindset think along this line of logic: polygamy is in the Bible, so God must be ok with it. Polygamy is oppressive to women, therefore, this must also mean God hates women.

OR maybe he included stories of polygamy in Scripture to show us the consequences of engaging in sexual relationships in ways other than His one, best way. One of my favorite defenses of the Bible and Christianity coming from a Being greater than humanity is that the Bible graphically displays the greatest failures of its “greatest” human characters. Humans tend to cover our faults and deify our leaders. Not the Bible. God ensures we know that it is He who does the miraculous work, not any man.

In my area of counseling, I spend a lot of time pondering relationships and gender and sex, and what God has to say about these issues in the Bible. I also ponder them because I spent so many years struggling with my own understanding of those very issues. Many people go into counseling because they’re trying to figure themselves out, and I guess I’m no exception. But during my time in seminary, I spent more time studying the nature of God than I spent talking about mankind and relationships.

And the more I learned about God, the more I learned about myself and people in general. This is the conclusion that I came to concerning sex and my stance on sex as I learned more and more about God and his purposes for creating humanity and sexuality.

1. God designed sex with a good purpose.
2. God created sex to produce good results– trust, pleasure, intimacy, connection, procreation…
3. God determined sex was so precious and powerful that it was best reserved for only one person.
4. To accurately show God’s image and nature in procreation and diverse unity, sex should be expressed only between a man and a woman.
5. To be a faithful picture of God’s covenant with His people, sex should only only take place within the confines of a covenant relationship, specifically marriage.

These are the guidelines for God’s good gift of sex. Seems pretty simple and straightforward. It gets complicated when we start making exceptions for our own “happiness”. But notice that “it makes me happy” is not included in that short list above.

As believers, we need to remember the statement my mom repeats often: quit expecting people who aren’t Christians to behave like Christians. They aren’t. Our “rules” don’t apply to unbelievers. If unbelievers follow God’s guidelines, their lives will be better, more peaceful, healthier simply because God’s way is best. But it makes sense that unbelievers are concerned foremost with their own happiness; their lives revolve around themselves and their own fulfillment.

I don’t want lost homosexuals to just stop being homosexuals; I want them to meet the only fulfilling Lover of their soul and completer of their heart.

I don’t want heterosexual sinners to just stop having sex outside of marriage, or to break their addictions to porn or self-pleasure; I want them to discover that the pleasure and fulfillment they are seeking in sex or relationships will only be found by fulfilling their souls’ deepest desires in Christ instead hopelessly trying to fulfill their bodies’ most intense urges.

I don’t want lost drug addicts to just get clean; I want them to meet the Most High.

I don’t want lost people struggling with depression to just figure out how to be happy and self-fulfilled, and I want them to discover eternal joy in Christ.
And I don’t want saved homosexuals, sex addicts, drug addicts, or those suffering from depression to just stop their behavior, either. I desire the same thing God desires for them. To stop being so easily pleased with mere happiness and and begin seeking true and lasting joy, found only in seeking after His glory.

So what happens, as believers, to our relationship with God when, through sex (or any other thing), we seek our own happiness instead of His glory? We’ll see the answer to that tomorrow in Paul’s graphic illustration in 1 Corinthians 6.

The Difference Between Grace and Karma


I appreciate what Bono, the lead singer of the rock group U2, has to say about grace: “It’s a mind-blowing concept that the God of the Universe might be looking for company, real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.” Bono explains that the idea of karma is central to all religions:

What you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics– in physical laws– every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the the very heart of the Universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “As you reap, so you will sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of our actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff…. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope that I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.

The above quote, found in Joanna Weaver’s book Lazarus Awakening, may have shot it’s way into my top five all time favorite quotes.

I teach World Cultures and Geography, and in that class we spend nearly an entire quarter studying various world religions. One thing that I stress to my students is that there are various themes that are found in ALL religions, Christianity included, because there are certain questions that all of mankind asks: “Why am I here?” “Why is there evil in the world?” “How do I make sense of this life?” “What happens when I die?” What sets Christianity apart from other religions, is that other religions stop at an answer that satisfies the intellectual understanding of man.

The above example is perfect. Karma really is a concept found within every religion because it is a fundamental principle of life, written on the hearts of all people. It is easy to understand and easy to blame for both the good and the bad that occurs in this life. It is also the natural instinct of people; you do good to me, I’ll return the favor. You do bad to me, you’ve asked me to also return the favor. Karma is fleshly man at his best and worst, but it’s flesh. The cosmic balance of the Universe would be upended if something were to happen that changed Karma. I have friends who live their lives attempting to keep the balance of Karma and often proclaim their frustration with said Universe when they feel their good outweighs their bad yet bad keeps happening. “What gives, Universe?”

What gives is that Someone did enter history and upend the cosmic balance of Karma. “Grace defies reason and logic.” Karma only “works” if we are able to do more good than bad, but if we are honest with ourselves, even attempting to keep up with our own good and bad actions is more than the average person can manage. We give too much credit to our good and not enough to our bad. We only count acts of commission, not neglectful omission. Karma is something that keeps us in control; in control of our lives, our destinies. Grace takes control from us and places it firmly on the shoulders of another. And that is a concept at which self-sufficient humanity balks.

That is why I know within the depths of my heart that Grace trumps Karma. I know because it makes no sense to me. It truly defies human logic, therefore it transcends me. And any faith worth following better be a faith deeper than I can understand. Because I know me. And if all the answers can be found within myself, then I’m in trouble. Much like Bono, I have done a lot of stupid stuff, and I for one am thankful that I can look beyond the Karmic laws of the Universe to the Graceful love of the Creator of the Universe who reached into Karma and offered Grace.

The Great Physician


The Lord Jesus did not come into the world, as some suppose, to be nothing more than a law giver, a king, a teacher, an example. Had this been all the purpose of his coming,  there would have been small comfort for us…. A teacher and an example might be sufficient for an unfallen being like Adam in the Garden of Eden. But fallen sinners like ourselves want healing first, before we can value rules.

The Lord Jesus came into the world to be a physician as well as a teacher. He knew the needs of human nature. He saw us all sick of a mortal disease, stricken with the plague of sin, and dying daily. He pitied us, and came down to bring divine medicine for our relief. He came to give health and cure to the dying, to heal the broken-hearted, and to offer strength to the weak. No sin-sick soul has gone too far for him. It is his glory to heal and restore to life the most desperate cases. For unfailing skill, for unwearied tenderness, for long experience of people’s spiritual ailments, the great Physician of souls stands alone. There is none like him.

But what do we know ourselves of this special role of Christ’s? Have we ever felt our spiritual sickness and applied to him for relief? We are never right in the sight of God until we do. We have got nothing right in religion if we think the sense of sin should keep us back from Christ. To feel our sins and know our sickness is the beginning of real Christianity. To be aware of our corruption and abhor our own transgressions is the first symptom of spiritual health. Happy indeed are those who have found out their soul’s disease! Let them know that Christ is the very physician they require, and let them consult him without delay.

J.C. Ryle (1816-1900), in Mark, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, pp 23-24.

Philippians 1.6


“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Paul has just had a moment of prayerful thanksgiving for these friends of his in Philippi. He is thankful for their partnership in the Gospel, and in verse 6 he further explains to them why he is so confident in his thanksgiving to God. In this one sentence, Paul sums up the entire Christian life.

  1. We can have confidence in one thing in life.
    1. Possessions will come and go. People will always fail us. Paul is joyful that the Philippian church is faithful, but he does not place his confidence in them. He places his confidence in the one Person who will never leave us nor forsake us: Jesus Christ.
    2. Our confidence is found in the work of Christ in our salvation. In this one verse, Paul explains the three parts of our salvation in Christ. There are theological terms for each aspect of salvation; look them up, study them, and consider how God is still working out your salvation, even today.
  2. God began a work in us—this is justification. This is the moment that you receive salvation from the Lord. In Baptist circles, this is when you “get saved.” J There’s a handy book you can buy or order from Lifeway called Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms. It’s helped me tremendously when I have been in classes and didn’t understand the conversation because I didn’t know the terms being used. It’s very handy, and I would encourage you to pick one up!
    1. The Pocket Dictionary gives this definition of justification: A legal term related to the idea of acquittal; refers to the divine act whereby God makes humans, who are sinful and therefore worthy of condemnation, acceptable before a God who is holy and righteous.
    2. The simple fact that God even chose to begin a good work in us should cause us to praise Him! Paul says in Romans that humanity is the enemy of God when we are in our sin, yet “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5.8).” We would never choose God on our own. There is nothing good in us; even the best things that we do with the best of intentions are but filthy rags when compared to the holiness of God. Paul described our situation this way to the church in Ephesus: “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked, according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of the flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind and were by nature children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:1-3). Sounds like a great place to be: dead people, walking in indulgence and wrath and lust. Lost humanity is a pleasant group to be around. We weren’t in a neutral spot, we weren’t good people who just needed a relationship with God to be complete. WE WERE DEAD. And then comes the greatest transition in all of Scripture: “But God.” We were those things, but God was rich in mercy, and because of his great love for sinful dead humanity, made us alive in Christ Jesus!
    3. Justification means that the penalty for our sin, which is death (Romans 6.23), was paid for by Jesus, and we are now seen as sinless and forgiven, debt free in the eyes of God. All of that was done for us, through no work or merit of our own.
  3. The work God began in you will be completed—this is sanctification.
    1. Again, from the Pocket Dictionary: From the Hebrew and Greek, “to be set apart” from common use, “to be made holy.” The nature of sanctification is twofold in that Christians have been made holy through Christ and re called to continue to grow into and strive for holiness by cooperating with the indwelling Holy Spirit until they enjoy complete conformity to Christ.
    2. If you are a Christian, if you have surrendered your life to the calling and work of Christ, this is where you are in your walk of salvation. Sanctification is the hard part of salvation. While our justification is a work done by God, sanctification requires our participation. We are enabled by the Holy Spirit to conform to Christ’s image, but we must daily choose to die to self and become like Christ in word and deed.
    3. So often, we spend our time focused on thanking God for our justification and then looking forward to our glorification—that time when we will be with Christ for eternity. But hear this and think about it carefully: God did not save us just so we could go to heaven when we die! If that were the sole purpose of salvation, he would take us the moment He saved us! But He leaves us here to do a work for Him. We are to be His ambassadors; we are to take time to learn about Him and to teach others about Him as well. Our purpose is not to just make it through this life so we can get on to eternal life. Our purpose is live abundantly to the glory of God! We are to laugh and love and serve and sacrifice and LIVE for Jesus! Our Christianity should not be compartmentalized into Sundays and Wednesday nights. Instead, our Christianity should permeate every part of our lives. We should eat and drink and do everything to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10.31). This means we should scrapbook to the glory of God. We should play ball to glorify God. We should care for our children or our grandchildren or our parents for God’s glory. We should have coffee with our friends and God should receive glory through what we do and say. As we enjoy life on earth (which is what God intended for us to do here), we are to enjoy it in a way that points a lost and dying world to its Creator.
    4. The bulk of the New Testament is devoted to letters written to churches, explaining to them how to walk in this life in a manner that is set apart and holy in the eyes of God. There is a two fold reason for striving for sanctification: 1) a life set apart from this world brings glory to God, and 2) anything that brings glory to God will be a light for a lost and dying world.
    5. I know in my own life, I have looked at sanctification as a list of things to mark off of a To-Do List. My To-Do List inevitably becomes a prideful list of the things that I have accomplished. Sanctification is not about us and how good we become. Rather, it is about pouring ourselves out as a sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise to the God who loved us enough to save us from ourselves and an eternity in Hell.
  4. The day of Christ Jesus will come—this will be our glorification.
    1. One more time from the Pocket Dictionary: The last stage in the process of salvation, namely the resurrection of the body at the second coming of Jesus Christ and the entrance into the eternal kingdom of God. In glorification believers attain complete conformity to the image and likeness of the glorified Christ and are freed from both physical and spiritual defect. Glorification ensures that believers will never again experience bodily decay, death or illness, and will never again struggle with sin.
    2. I don’t know about you, but that’s the first time in my life that a dictionary entry has caused me to rejoice! It’s no wonder that we spend so much time pining away for heaven and glory. Paul says later in Philippians that our citizenship is in heaven. He told the church in Corinth that “now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13.12).
    3. Our glorification is a work of God that is worthy of our praise. It is an act of His grace and mercy that we do not deserve. It is something to look forward to. But never let a preoccupation of what is to come distract you from the work He left you here to do! While our citizenship is in heaven, we are ambassadors of Christ in this world, and as a good ambassador, you are to do the work of the One who sent you until He calls you home again. Paul was torn when he thought about this: He wanted to stay and do the work of an ambassador, but he desired to be with his Lord. He says in Philippians 1.21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” We love to talk about the gain we will receive when He calls us home. No more dying, no more pain, no more sin. But we miss the first part of that statement so often—to LIVE is Christ! We are to live for Him powerfully and victoriously for as long as He has on this planet.

So here’s what I want you to think about the next few days:

1. Take a few minute and think about your justification. When were you saved? How would you share that experience with another person? How is your life different now than it was before you surrendered your life to Christ? While remembering the exact date and time is not that important, you should be able to tell about a time when you realized that you were a sinner who was separated from a holy God and that you knew that trusting Jesus to save your sins was the only way for you to be reconciled to God. For some people, it was an instantaneous moment and they can give you the exact date, time and location. For others, like me, it was a journey, a process of learning truth and trusting God slowly. But think about how you would share your story of salvation with another. First Peter 3:15 says: “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

2. The above verse goes along with the next question: in view of God’s command that we live lives set apart for the Gospel, since we are to be working towards sanctification, what about you will cause people to ask you about the reason for the hope that you have? Do you live a life that is set apart from the world? Would your co-workers be surprised if they found out you go to church? What do you intentionally do to keep you walking in a direction toward Christlikeness? Sanctification will not happen passively. It is an active, intentional process; what’s your plan?

3. Do you think about your glorification? Take some time in your “sanctified imagination” and picture what it might be like when we finally see our Savior face to face. Write a prayer of thanksgiving to God for His mighty love and grace and mercy. Think about what it is that He has called you to accomplish before that day. More than anything else, as a way of thanking Him for what He has done for me, out of love and gratitude, I want Him to be able to say to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25.21). He gave His life for us, as a ransom. What more can we give Him but our very lives in return?