Monday, June 30, 2008

Blind Spots and Bearing One Another’s Burdens

During the first week of June, when our family was at Long Hollow Ranch in Oregon, I backed our Jeep into a tree. I was initially puzzled when I felt the vehicle hit something hard and heard the breaking of the taillight – because I had looked in my rear view mirror and in my side view mirror, and had also turned my head and looked out the back window before I backed up. Yet in spite of my caution I hit a tree that was directly in the “blind spot” that is situated in the back corner of the driver’s side of the Jeep. (Here is a picture - in order to drive it home we taped up the shattered taillight as best we could).

This also seems happens to us spiritually at times in life in our constant attempt to follow Jesus in this life. I reflected on this after this past Sunday morning when I shared from Galatians 6:1-5 regarding how God calls us to “bear one another’s burdens.” In this text the apostle Paul is speaking of a believer, a follower of Christ, who for one reason or another has suddenly tripped and fallen into sin - and needs help getting back on his spiritual feet. In Galatians 6:1-2 he writes:

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

How so very often in our walk with the Lord we too “back into” sin issues in our lives that are destructive to us (and to others) because of our own emotional, physical and spiritual “blind spots.” Of course in reading this we tend to think of the “blind spots” we see in others rather than our own – yet God tells us here to “keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” The assumption behind “bear one another’s burdens” is that we all will have our own personal “burdens” of “transgression” at times in this life. Thus the exhortation to “restore” one another ‘in a spirit of gentleness.”

After coming home and praying through what to do next regarding my shattered taillight and dented bumper, I sensed God prodding me to live out the "one another” texts I've been preaching on – and so I sought counsel from a couple of my brothers in Christ at Arrowsmith. Within a week we decided to buy the parts and fix it ourselves. After a few hours the damaged Jeep was like new again.

Thanks to George Koning and Dan Molly for their counsel and help in restoring our vehicle. I am thankful also that in our feeble and weak attempts to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” (Colossians 1:10) our most merciful and sovereign God of grace restores us when we humbly seek His forgiveness and help at times when we find our hearts broken and spirits dented by the sins hidden in the “blind spots” of our lives.

After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 1 Peter 5:10

Saturday, June 21, 2008

God-centered Worship Songs

I have now included a playlist for God-centered Worship Songs on the right sidebar area of this blog - where I will post some of my favorites on a regular basis, if they are available for public posting. You can listen to them simply by double-clicking the song you want to listen to with your mouse while you are this page.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Loving One Another - and Sportsmanship

If we love one another,
God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
1 John 4:12

Here is a video about a recent sporting event that reflects how we are to live out the message I shared this past Sunday (2008-06-15) regarding our call to
"love one another".

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Is God's Sovereignty Limited?

Here is John Piper's answer to the major question of our day - even for many Christians. Below is simply an edited transcript of the short audio that was posted yesterday (2008-06-16), which can heard by clicking here.

Is God's sovereignty limited?

I reject this idea because the Bible doesn't teach it. In fact, it teaches the opposite.

  • It teaches that not a bird falls to the ground apart from our Father's will.
  • It teaches that the king's heart is like a river in the hands of the Lord; he turns it wherever he wills.
  • It teaches that when Joseph was sold into Egypt and finally turns around and his brothers are found to be guilty, God says, "You meant it for evil, but I meant it for good."
  • I reject it because the book of Proverbs says that the die is cast into the lap and its every decision is from the Lord; a man designs his way, but the Lord directs his steps; and on and on...

The Bible teaches that God is sovereign, that he rules over all things.

There are emotional reasons as well for believing in God's absolute sovereignty. If I rejected the sovereignty of God over all things including my will and my life, I would lose the very God, the very power that stands behind all the promises that make my life livable in pain.

So when you surrender the sovereignty of God in order to get him off the hook of calamity, you also lose him at the point where you need power to endure the calamity and see all the calamity turned for good. If God is going to be rejected here, then what have I got except God-less calamity?

If that is what people want to choose, they can make that existential decision; but it would be unbiblical and, I think, it would be folly for life.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Brian Regan on Pride - The Me Monster

The Thorn of Pride and the Humility of Grace

I recently finished reading Jonathan Aitken’s new book “John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace.” Newton has been always been one of my favorite “dead guy” mentors, one whom from whom continue to learn what it means to be both a follow of Jesus Christ and a pastor. The outstanding trait that defined John Newton’s life was that he never lost the sense of the undeservedness of God’s grace in his life. Aitken writes:

The outstanding features of Newton’s’ private character were faith, humility, and gratitude. The faith was his certainty of God’s faithfulness. The humility was a genuine sense of a sinner’s unworthiness. The gratitude was the overflowing thankfulness of his heart to God for the “amazing grace” that in the lines of the immortal hymn, “saved a wretch like me.”

Of late I have been overwhelmed by my own sense of unworthiness, which at the same time has brought great conviction regarding my own sense of pride. Pride, as we all know, is the root of all sin, as pride is the centering our hearts and our lives on self rather than on God. This is an issue for all of us, especially for those of us who pridefully don’t think we have a pride problem! "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9).
On the retaining wall of our driveway we have picture of our struggle in this. The thorn of pride can grow out of the smallest crack of our character, crowding out the beauty of the God in whose image we were created after.

I am deeply grateful that God loves me enough to convict me of my pride and that He is leading me in these days to the place of ever-deepening humility. I do have far to go, but rather than being discouraged by my struggles in this area, I again found solace in the example of Newton’s life, which reflected that “a sinner is not transformed into a Christ-centered soul by a single conversion experience but by the long, unremitting, and courageous effort that conversion begins.”

Newton grew in humility through his prayer life – “giving glory to the sovereign God, struggling to obey and suffer with the crucified Christ, and confiding in his Heavenly Father with a heartfelt penitence of a sinner.” And so this is also my heart commitment in these days – to seek an ever-deepening relationship through a life of prayer with the source of humility: the sovereign God of all grace.

I praise God for his love, mercy, and faithfulness in the unworthiness of my life because - in the words of Jonathan Aitken regarding John Newton’s life – “grace, like water, always flows downward, to the lowest place.” That place is the low humble place before God - in constant and continuous need of his undeserved grace.

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Long Hollow Ranch and Glorious Landscapes

Here a a few photos of the beauty of Long Hollow Ranch, just outside of Sisters, Oregon - where we recently spent our holiday/vacation as a family.

So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy,
because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.
Genesis 2:3

Raising Kids

The other side of raising children by David Dean.

Sermons for Parents

Here is a series of four recent sermons by Ryan Kelly, Pastor at Desert Springs Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico on parenting. As I listened to them I found them to be insightful not only for those who have children but for everyone in the family of God. Clicking on these links allows you to download the sermons and then listen to them in MP3 form.

"The Wisdom of Parenting with Toughness"
"The Wisdom of Parenting with Instruction"
"The Family Together in Corporate Worship"
"The Wisdom of Parenting Toward the Gospel"

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Puzzle of Caring for One Another - Video

But God has so composed the body,
giving greater honor to the part that lacked it,
that there may be no division in the body,
but that the members may have the same care for one another.
1 Corinthians 12:24-25

For the second time in three weeks we have lost the audio recording for this past Sunday morning's sermon (2008-06-08) due to technical issues. During this week we will be working through a major transition in the way we record the messages – and hopefully, by God’s grace, we will have the issues corrected in the future.

Though we are unable to upload the audio file for this past Sunday, the manuscript is still available to read and/or download (click here). When you do go to the sermon area of our webpage, you will find that we recently made the adjustment on the church’s website so that you can now also download the audios when they are posted.

As a replacement for the audio we are missing this week, I am posting an online video that was sent to me from two different sources who heard the message Sunday morning. In watching it you will see a reference to the puzzle pieces I spoke of. The whole of the video puts forth our biblical call to care for one another. To watch,
click here.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Back From the Ranch!!!

My family and I just returned from riding horses for 10 days at Long Hollow Ranch, which is located about 15 miles NE of Sisters, Oregon – thus the reason I have not posted on this blog for some time. There is something about spending a great deal of time on the back of a horse for hours in the high plains desert surrounded by snow-capped mountains that opens the mind and stirs the soul. In the days ahead I plan on posting a number of thoughts and reflections that came to me during my time away. I pray God will stir and settle your spirit as I share them with you what He has done in me.