Wednesday, March 29, 2006

showing Christ clearly

Last Sunday night we talked about the Simple Life (no, not the stupid reality show. I'd like to say that I've never actually seen an episode, at least a whole episode, of the show). We talked about the life that has one single focus, one pure and holy passion (to quote the song). This becomes evident in external ways, but we have to be careful not to focus on the externals of simplicity before we have addressed and moved towards inner simplicity. I think that is a problem with much of the stuff I have read about simplicity recently - it jumps right to ways to strip your life of luxuries and frivolities without addressing the inner source of this lifestyle.

What I didn't have time to emphasize enough is the "Why". We spent most of our time talking about the "What" and the "How", so I thought I would used the website to push into that a little bit more. Why strive for a life of simplicity?

I can see two very compelling reasons to pursue a life of simplicity: First, it allows the world to see with clarity what our treasure it. Have you ever seen those old Where's Waldo pages. It was a page full of optical busyness. Within the scene there was a man named Waldo, wearing his trademarked red and white stripped shirt and glasses (if you've never seen it, check it out to see how hard it can be). It is very hard to find Waldo in these pictures because there is so many things that distract the eye.

Unfortunately, I think that is the problem the world has when the look at us who call ourselves followers of Christ. We claim that Jesus is the treasure of our hearts, but frankly, he's hard to see because our lives are so cluttered and busy. Pursuing a life of inner and outer simplicity strips those distractions away and puts Christ as our Treasure on full display. That is what our witness needs - lives that back up what we claim. That is the first reason I see to pursue simplicity.

The second reasons is...(check back tomorrow)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

books on the cross

There are 22 days between today (Thursday, March 23rd) and Good Friday (Friday, April 14th). That's plenty of time to pick up and read a really good book on the cross of Jesus. I think we need to get a lot closer to the cross, to think and meditate on it's meaning and signficance, and what better time to do that than the time leading up to Good Friday. Here are a few good books on the cross I would highly recommend:

* The Cross Centered Life or Living the Cross Centered Life, both by CJ Mahaney (short, easy, yet deep and shaping)
* The Gospel for Real Life: Turn to the Liberating Power of the Cross Everyday, by Jerry Bridges (practical, very good)
* The Passion of Jesus Christ, by John Piper (answers the question why Jesus died on the cross)
* The Atonement or The Cross of Jesus by Leon Morris (in depth examination of the doctrine of the atonement)
* Spurgeon's Sermons on the Cross of Christ, Charles Haddon Spurgeon (he is deep theologically and a master of using language)
* The Cross and Salvation, by Bruce Demarest (honestly, i haven't read this one yet)
* The Cross of Christ, by John Stott (ok, not this one either)
* The Heart of the Cross, by Philip Graham Ryken and James Montgomery Boice (short devotionals centered on the cross)
* The Cross from a Distance: Atonement in Marks Gospel, by Peter Bolt (I'm reading this one now)

Monday, March 20, 2006

adoniram judson's letter of courting

Last night I mentioned that I had been listening to a short bio of a man named Adoniram Judson. He was the first missionary to Burma, and America's first foreign missionary. He went with his wife named Ann two weeks after they were married. The story of his life and ministry are remarkable, but I found his letter of courting to Ana's father absolutely incredible...

He wrote:

"I have now to ask, whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean, to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death. Can you consent to all this, for the sake of him who left is heavily home, and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion, and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with the crown of righteous, brightened with the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Savior from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?"

Unbelievably, Ann's father left the decision up to her, and she agreed to marry him and go. Praise God for a father who held is daughter loosely, and for a godly woman who held her own life loosely!

If you want to read more of this story, I would recommend reading from John Pipers bio of him. You find it at

Monday, March 13, 2006

faith is more than an aspirin

last night i was enjoying being home on a sunday night for the first time in a while. my family has made it a 'thing' to watch extreme makeover: home edition together every sunday night, usually without me. but last night i had the chance to lay on the bed with my fam and watch this feel good show. the crew was helping out a family who lost their dad nine months ago. he was a pastor in a small church in oklahoma, and when he died, the family needed to move out of the parsonage to make room for the new pastor. the only thing the could afford was an old, used trailer - it wasn't even a home, it was an office trailer with no hot water, no heat, no shower, no stove. in comes ty pennington with his crew to give them a house of their dreams. it was incredible.

however, i was getting really annoyed as i watched (typical when i watch tv. ask my wife how many times i yell 'shut up, just shut up' at the tv on any given night). the source of my frustration was how the designers were talking about the obviously strong faith of the family. the kept saying things like, 'it's not about being a certain religion, it's about finding what works for you'. in other words, they were making faith seem like it was an aspirin for the pains of life - something will just help you cope (or, as a more articulate philosopher put it, an 'opiate for the masses').

is that how we should treat faith and religion. find whatever works for you, whatever helps you cope or make sense out of life and go with that. or, should we plead with people to find what is true. thinking that i am a millionaire might help feel good, but in the end, this wrong thinking will catch up with me when the bill collectors come knocking to reposes things i thought i had the money to pay for. finding a religion that 'works for you' is the same. if 'what works for you' isn't true, if it doesn't correspond to reality, it will catch up with you.

God doesn't present him or his Son as a great pain killing aspirin, but as the truth, as the one cosmic truth that defines all other truths. He gives meaning to life. any other meaning is contrived and false. the only thing that will truly 'work for you' or anyone else is submitting to, following, trusting and loving this one and only God.

hadn't ranted in while. felt good!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

thoughts on john 3:36

I was reading today through the first few chapters of the Gospel of John. I love this book and have decided to read through it once a week for the next few months. It may sound like a lot, but it boils down to three chapters a day.

Today I read John 3:36 and was struck by something once again. John the Baptist testifies about Jesus and says, "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him".

Sometimes we begin to think of wrath as something that is coming in the future - you know, the book of revelation and stuff like that. But several places in Scripture make it perfectly clear that wrath is already being expressed. In the future, things will be more fully expressed. Saints get full joy in heaven when the more fully experience God and his love. But that doesn't mean we don't experience joy or God or his love now. We do, thank God! The same is true of those who are under God's wrath. In the future, those who do not believe in the Son will experience God's wrath in the fullest. However, this does not mean they aren't under and experiencing wrath now.

John the Baptist makes this clear. "Whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him". Paul also emphasizes this truth in Ephesians 2:1-3, "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience - among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.".

We were under wrath, and had God not done something, we would have remained there. In fact, Paul goes on to say in the next verse, "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved..."

Even in the context of John 3 it is clear that it is God who decisively acts to bring us out from under wrath and grant us life. In talking with Nicodemus, Jesus says "unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God". We must be born of the Spirit before we can enter the kingdom (which happens at our conversion). In other words, God's sovereign act of regeneration precedes our exercise of faith and repentance. They are the fruits of being made spiritually alive. They, faith and repentance, are gifts from God. All this is from God so that no one may boast in his presence.

Thanks be to God for what he has done to move us out from under his wrath and into his love.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

more thoughts on prayer

last week i had a problem. it was a problem very different from the problem i had when i spoke on dating. that week, the week on dating, my problem was where to do in the bible to find anything remotely applicable to our dating culture. this week, as i contemplated prayer, the problem wasn't a lack of biblical texts, it was an overwhelming amount of them that was problematic. when the bible has so much to teach us about prayer, and you've only got 35-40 minutes to communicate something about prayer, you obviously can't say all the bible has to say, or all you want to say. hence, the problem - what pearls do you pick to share.

anyway, that's a long way of getting to what i wanted to say (a typical problem for me). one of the issues i mentioned but didn't talk enough about is our petitionary prayers - the times in prayer where we are asking God to answer specific requests. along these lines i would like to challenge you to think about the requests you are making.

first, are they God centered requests? are they requests that a God who is passionate for his glory will be quick to answer? notice in the psalms how many times David appeals to God's passion for his glory and asks him to do something. for example, psalm 25 david asks God to pardon his guilt for "his names sake". or consider psalms 79:8-10 "do not remember against us our former iniquities; let your compassion come speedily to meet us,for we are brought very low. help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name's sake! why should the nations say, "where is their God?" let the avenging of the outpoured blood of your servants be known among the nations before our eyes!" (esv). notice david is appealing to God's passion for his glory, and to God's desire for his fame and reputation to grow among the nations. (look also at psalm 109:21, 143:11, jeremiah 14:7-21).

now please, don't think i'm encouraging you to try and coerce or manipulate God into action. but i do think that when our passion is for God's glory, that is our main concern and that all our problems are seen in light of this. it is clear that Jesus, when he taught his disciples to pray in a God centered way. the first three requests he made were for God's name to to regarded as holy, for His kingdom to come, and for His will to be done (on earth as it is in heaven). God centered!

second, are your prayers big, God sized prayers? again, think about the kind of requests Jesus taught his disciples to make. these are huge, God sized requests: God's name being hallowed among people who spurn it, a kingdom coming, God's will to be done among rebels... huge! most of my requests are pathetically small (ie. help the missions team to work out the logistics of getting to boston), or big and vague (ie. be with the missionaries). what about huge specific requests? what about, "God, be so near and dear to the missionaries serving in dangerous places that they speak with a holy boldness. be so near the center of their affections that no sin can compete with the pleasure of knowing you and no suffering can shake them either. God, change the religious landscape of (fill in the blank) through the efforts of (again, fill in the blank)"

i have a friend who used to talk about bhag - big, hairy, audacious goals. i would like to recommend to you bhap - big, hairy, audacious prayers. not big vague prayers. but big specific prayers - prayers so big that God will get the glory cause everyone watching will see clearly that the fruit couldn't be the result of human effort - God did it. and one more thing, let's ask God to do big things, for his glory, not just in the missionaries, but also in our ministry to the iu campus.

finally, about the specific daily requests we make for our needs: Jesus did not shy away from instructing his disciples to pray for their needs. in fact, we are commanded to do so. but notice in the Lord's prayer what it is that Jesus tells us to pray for - daily bread, forgiveness, deliverance from evil. they aren't for steak and caviar, or new suvs or other luxuries, but for daily necessities. they display an absolute dependence upon God as the provider of these essential things.

again, think about your prayer requests. do they reflect a dependence upon God? do we ask him to meet our needs or do we suppose that we can do that on our own? i was talking with someone yesterday about the challenge in our modern non-agrarian society of seeing that our provisions come from God when we can go to the store and buy some chicken wrapped in plastic that says purdue. i think it is harder today to see that God is the ultimate provider, but it is still true. it's just that this truth has been obscured by supermarkets, mass production, etc. still though, it doesn't take much mental effort to see what would happen if God withheld the rain that he sends to the crops, or the sunshine that is essential for photosynthesis, or, or, or...

as you pray, consciously think through some of these things. remember how dependent you are upon God for life and breath and everything. remember that in him we live and move and have our being. and make requests in this attitude of dependence. then you'll experience the joy of thankfulness, the joy of seeing God provide. moreover, God will get the glory as the provider, the forgiver, the deliverer.

dan waugh