Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Cross-centered Confidence of Trusting in God

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous. (Psalm 25:1-3)

Excerpt from "Prayer of Confidence for the Guidance of God” – 2011-03-27
David prayed that God would guide him through a difficult time when he was struggling with fear, loneliness, guilt, and confusion. David could pray with confidence for God’s guidance during his time of struggle because he trusted God. In his struggles David turned to God; he lifted up his soul to the God without shame because he trusted God would answer his prayers. To “be put to shame” is to be publicly shown to have trusted in someone or something other than God in times of trial and trouble. To be “wantonly treacherous” is to trust in someone or something that is unworthy of that trust.

This is where the rubber hits the road for those of us who claim Christ. Because we are fallen sinners who live in a fallen sinful world, our fallen sinful nature default in times of difficult situations and circumstances is to trust in ourselves - in our choices, our decisions, our reason, our gifts, our skills, our strength, our power, our will. And even when we do first turn to God, because of our fallen sinful nature, our tendency is to demand or suggest or manipulate or make deals with God in order to have the outcome we desire for the situation or circumstance work out according to our plan and purpose. This trusting in ourselves began with the first sin in the Garden, when we bought in to the suggestion of the evil one that God was holding out on us. . . .

Our fallen, sinful desire to trust in ourselves reveals how naked we are in not being able to control anything. We live every moment of our lives trusting in someone or something other than ourselves. We trust the cook at the restaurant will properly cook our food. We trust our employers will pay us. We trust the bank will give us back our money. We trust every driver who drives a car will not run into us. We trust our spouses will love us. We trust our friends will not betray us. We trust our hearts will keep beating and our lungs will keep breathing. Trust is the glue that holds our lives together.

If we trust people, we get what only people can do; if we trust money, we get only what money can do; if we trust ourselves, we get what only we can do. But if we trust God, we get only what God can do. We are saved from our sin and eternal death not because of who people are or what money is or we can do - but because of who God is. We are saved from our sin and eternal death because Jesus entered our fallen, sinful struggle with fear, loneliness, guilt, and confusion and made it his own – sacrificing it all on a bloody cross. We can trust Jesus in any circumstance and every situation we will ever face in life: “To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust.” Because King David knew he could trust God, David knew he could pray with confidence for the guidance of God in his time of struggle.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Technological Temptations to Distractedness - John Piper

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

Monday, March 21, 2011

"Be Still and Know that I am God!"

Why can't we predict the next big quake?

CNN - March 21, 2011
Why can't seismologists predict earthquakes? It's a question and a frustration that understandably springs to mind in the aftermath of a tragedy like the one that continues to unfold in Japan.

In the 1970s and 1980s (not exactly ancient times), leading scientists were quoted in the media expressing optimism that reliable, short-term prediction was just around the corner. Several decades later, the earthquake science community is older and wiser.

We have learned, in short, that prediction is a tough nut to crack. To make the kind of accurate, short-term predictions people want, one would need to identify a reliable precursor -- some signal that we could observe that tells us that a big quake is imminent.

Any number of possible precursors have been suggested and explored. Many seemed promising, but none has stood up to rigorous examination. So far as we have been able to tell, the earth simply does not provide any observable signal to tell us a big quake is on the way. . . .
Click here to read the entire article.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. . .

Come, behold the works of the LORD,

how he has brought desolations on the earth. . . .

“Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”

Psalm 46: 1-3; 8; 10

Created for Joy

“Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalms 16:9-11)

Excerpt from by "Prayer of Joy for the Protection of God" – 2011-03-13
David took comfort in the fact that God would not, at that time, allow his body to die and decay in the grave. Because God was David’s “refuge” and “portion” and “cup”; because God had promised him a “beautiful inheritance”; because God had given him “counsel” and “instructed” his heart; because he had “set” God before anything else - David was not “shaken” and he rejoiced because with God his “flesh” could “dwell secure” even when confronted with death. Death posed no threat to David because David was already experiencing the great joy of communion and fellowship with the Lord. Because David had such an intimate relationship with God, he knew God would not permit death and the grave to interrupt the joyful communion and fellowship he was currently experiencing. But even when that day came, David could also proclaim: “My heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure” because the “path of life” he had already walked in God’s presence in this life caused him to know the joyful anticipation living in God’s presence in the future: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” . . .

In Philippians 1:21 the apostle Paul said: "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." What Paul is saying here is the person who fully trusts in Jesus - whose security is in God - is a person who is full of joy because they know they really have nothing to lose in this life; Jesus (who is God) is everything! Augustine once prayerfully wrote: “You have made us for Yourself O God, and the heart of man is restless until it finds its rest in You.” Since we were and are made for God, then it is only in Him that we shall be profoundly contented and know our greatest delight and joy. In His presence there will be “fullness of joy” and in His right hand we will find “pleasures forevermore.” But we struggle in life -because don’t see it that way. We have no problem recognizing the distress of a fish out of water. The fish gasps, it twitches, it convulses. As soon as it's put back into the water it soon swims away without much distress. While we aren’t fish, we are people – human beings created by God in the image of God to live for the glory of God. We weren’t created to live in water - but we were created to live in the living presence of God. Because of our sin, we were cast out of the living presence of God (out of the Garden) – and now like fish out of water we gasp and twitch and convulse and struggle and fear because we are out of our created element, out of the living presence of God. We are no longer in the environment for which we were made - apart from which we are always going to be distressed.

Yet we don’t see it that way. We are so used to living out fallen sinful lives in a fallen sinful world that we don’t see our struggles as being the real struggle of living out of the presence of God. While it is true we are always in God’s presence - the “presence” David spoke of and the “presence” the Bible speaks of us is the deep, joyful, intimate, relational, communion presence of God we were created for.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Days of Elijah - The Awesome Day of the Lord

"Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes." (Malachi 4:5)

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Glory of God in the Reality of Hell that Leads to Heaven

It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:27-28)

Excerpt from “The Glory of God in the Second Coming: The Consummation of God's Grace” – 2011-03-06
At the final judgment God will sovereignly declare His complete and final victory over Satan. The evil one will be sent with his followers to be tormented in eternal hell, separated from God forever. Revelation 20:10: "The devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever." God’s Word also tells us that those who have rejected the grace of God through Jesus Christ, who have not fully given their hearts and lives to Jesus Christ, will be there also for an eternity of pain and torment: 2 Thessalonians 1:9:“These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.” Hell is one of those subjects that makes people uncomfortable. The reality of hell is not without its controversy. Some people don’t believe in hell. Some say it is only the grave with no consciousness; others see it is a temporary place of correction. The most common argument against hell is that a loving God would never punish people in eternal torment. Yet the Bible clearly tells us there is a hell and that our loving God does send people there. Jesus said: "Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear" (Matthew 13:40-43).

Yes God is loving but He is also holy and just; He must punish sin. The Bible clearly tells us that hell is a real place. Hell is not unconsciousness; it is not temporal. Hell is a place of horrendous suffering, eternal pain, and unbearable torment. Jesus spoke more about hell than he did about heaven; because hell is real and because he is loving Jesus spent a lot of time warning people not to go there. Hell is painful, conscious and eternal. Those without God’s grace through Jesus Christ are destined to go there forever. Brothers and sisters, the real issue here is that there are many around us - family, friends, neighbours - who are headed to hell. They need Jesus. They need God’s grace. May the Lord stir us up to earnestly, lovingly, and boldly warn as many people as we can before it’s too late.

We must warn them by telling them about Jesus because those who have fully surrendered their hearts and lives to him as Lord and Saviour will not to go hell - they will go to heaven. In having received the fullness of God’s grace they will be recognized as being sovereignly chosen, called, regenerated, converted, justified, sanctified and glorified with Jesus. At the judgment those in Christ will know the grace and joy of being blessed by being intimately forever in God’s presence. Heaven will be more beautiful and glorious than we could ever imagine. 1 Corinthians 2:9: “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him."