Monthly Archives: September 2012

A Life of Raucous Joy!

I really enjoyed this article by Bob Kellemen:
Yesterday I was invited by close family friends to attend their son’s elementary school talent contest. Since our children are young adults and since our first grandchild will not arrive until this summer, it has been quite some time since I have been at an elementary school event.

I had a great time! The 25 participants sang, danced, played instruments, and also performed what the program described as “unique” talents. The hundreds of students in the bleachers were appropriately raucous—clapping, cheering, stomping, enjoying.

CELEBRATE LIFE

Yes, they were enjoying and celebrating life. As I was enjoying life with them, I was struck by the fact that sometimes Christians—who have the most reasons to enjoy life—enjoy it the least.

If you were to assess the level of life enjoyment by the state of the Evangelical Christian blogosphere, for example, you might find little joy. Post after post, we emphasize what we are against. Post after post, we highlight how other Christians are wrong.

Evangelical Christian sermons and books often seem the same: all about sin, which is clearly our central problem. Yet, you would think that we were still dead in our sins by the emphasis we seem to have on sinfulness.

Whatever happened to grace? To the resurrection? To victory in Jesus? To where sin abounds, grace superabounds (Rom. 5:20)?

There seems to be a Pharisaical emphasis on exposing evil in others that results in a dour, down, negative focus that is the opposite of raucous joy. It is a false puritanical spirit. I say false, because the Puritans, despite the inaccurate representations, knew how to celebrate life. Yes, they were deeply aware of sin, but they were more deeply impacted by grace.

CELEBRATE ALL OF LIFE

I was also struck by the words of the various songs that the children sang or danced to. They enjoyed and celebrated all of life.

In our Evangelical Christian circles, it seems that a song is deemed “Christian” only if it specifically references Christ. Now, those who read my blog know that I am all about being Christ-focused and that I am all about worship music that is gospel-centered.

But shouldn’t our Christ-focused and gospel-centered mindsets result in songs about all of life since Christ came to give us abundant life (John 10:10)? Do our “Christian” radio stations play songs from a Christian perspective that celebrate marriage? Dating? Life? Friendship? Success? Is a song “Christian” simply because Christ is mentioned, or because our new abundant life in Christ is the foundation for lyrics that celebrate any and all of the wonders of life?

DEMONIC DOCTRINES

In Soul Physicians, I ask this question: what are demonic doctrines? Using that question from the book, I’ve asked seminary students and seminar audiences to give me examples of “demonic doctrines.” Repeatedly they fail to come up with a biblical answer.

How would you answer that question?

Consider how the Apostle Paul defines demonic doctrines in 1 Timothy 4:1–5 (NIV):

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

Demonic doctrines focus on forbidding!

Demonic doctrines focus on abstaining!

Demonic doctrines focus on against-ness!

Demonic doctrines are the opposite of celebrating and enjoying life.

God created life to be enjoyed with thanksgiving. Everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.

Now, I bet your mind immediately went to, “But, Bob, many things are to be rejected because they are sinful!”

You just proved my point. We can’t even read a biblical passage about celebrating and enjoying life without being sure we remind God about sin!

In the same letter to young Timothy, Paul reminds him to remind people to trust in the living God who gives us all things richly to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17).

Do you richly enjoy all things? All things?!

ADORN THE GOSPEL BY JUMPING FOR JOY!

Is your Christian life, is my Christian life, a model of raucous joy?

Is the way Christians live life and talk about life a portrait of celebration and joy?

Paul, in another letter to another young Christian (Titus) reminds us that the way we live life is to make attractive the teaching about God our Savior. We adorn doctrine by our joyous celebration of life.

Which set of words describes how we as Christians live?

  • Exuberant, enthusiastic, energetic, boisterous, vivacious, positive, excited, thrilled, animated, lively, spirited
  • Lethargic, exhausted, dull, lifeless, listless, dour, negative, weary, boring, subdued., bleak, stern, gloomy, severe, dreary

A Monday Morning Prayer

O Lord, give us more charity,
     more self-denial,
     more likeness to thee.
Teach us to sacrifice our comforts to others,
     and our likings for the sake of doing good.

Make us kindly in thought, gentle in word, generous in deed.
Teach us that it is better to give than to receive;
     better to forget ourselves than to put ourselves forward;
     better to minister than to be ministered unto.
And unto thee, the God of love, be glory and praise for ever.

-Henry Alford (1810-1871)


A Monday Morning Prayer

I pray, O God, that I may know you,

that I may love you,

so that I may rejoice in you.

And if I cannot do this to the full in this life, aqt least let me  go forward from day to day until that joy comes to fullness.

Let the knowledge of you go forward in me here, and there let it be made full.

Let love for you increase, and there let it be full, so that here my joy may be great in hope and there it may be full in reality.

O Lord, through your Son, you command us – rather, you counsel us – to ask, and you promise that we shall receive, that our joy may be full.

O Lord, I ask what you counsel through our wonderful Counselor.

Let me receive what you promise through yoru truth, that my joy may be full.

Meanwhile, let my mind meditate upon it, let my tongue speak of it.

Let my heart love it, let my tongue discourse upon it.

Let my sould hunger for it, let my flesh thirst for it, let my whole being desire it, until I enter into the joy of my Lord,

who is the triune and one God, blessed forever. Amen.

Anselm, Italian monk (1033-1109)


A Steadying Hand

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 24–25, ESV)

Sometimes I feel a little shaky. Like that baby-becoming-a-toddler taking his first step. There’s much wobbling and uncertainty. Doubt and discouragement. There are many things which can unsettle our faith — health problems, depression, a spiritually antagonistic family member, financial hardship — this list could go on forever.

Thankfully I have a God who is able to keep me from making a total train wreck of my life. He is able to keep me in his family. He is able to permanently ensure my adoption. He boldly proclaims his love for me and that I am fully accepted by Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. No matter how unsettled I feel, I always know God’s loving arms will be there to steady me.

We all stumble (James 3:2), but our God is powerful enough to ensure that it is not a permanent falling away from Him. Rather, he will keep us safe in his arms until that great day when he will present us “blameless before His presence with glory and great joy”!

 though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand. (Psalm 37:24, ESV)


When God Pulls the Rug Out


Has this happened to you?

You read all the signs that were so blatantly from the Lord—“yes, this is the path, go this way, I am with you.”

You have been amazed at the way he opened doors—you were scared but you walked through them.

The Lord confirmed his will for you through other people too—they were excited that God was doing this.

Finally, you were on board. You were excited. You were all in. You had peace about your decision.

And then, splat, he pulled the rug out from under you.

How will you be able to trust God again?

This, I think, is a common experience. Very common. It happens with all kinds of decisions: business, vocational, financial and relationships. You pray earnestly, you see God moving, you are amazed, and then…  it looks as if he simply vanished and left you on your own. You especially see it in broken relationships. That is, you seek the Lord about a marriage or relationship decision, it starts almost too well, and then the relationship takes a sudden and tragic turn, and there is no explanation for it.

You want to know why

Some problems are universal, but this one is for those who are spiritually mature. It happens to people who are earnestly seeking God, and only the mature do such things. And though anger toward God might flash occasionally, it isn’t the real issue. The real problem is that you feel you no longer know him. You want to know why God did this, yet he is silent. It doesn’t make sense: he gives with one hand and takes away with the other.

“Why?”

When no response comes, you start filling in the blanks. Maybe you deserved it. Maybe you have done wrong and you need to figure out what it is. That’s what maturity gets you; you see yourself as the culprit. This approach is understandable and—misguided.

Not a scavenger hunt for sin

“Why, O Lord?” is a recurring question in Scripture. In response, God does not send anyone on a scavenger hunt for sin, and does not fill in all the details that the asker might want to know either. Instead, he reaffirms that he does see trouble and grief (Ps. 10:14), and he will strengthen those who are weak (Is. 40:27-31). With these words he is revealing to us what we really need to know.

Check your assumptions

But there is another matter to consider.

All this started with our assumptions about how God works—we had confidence that we could know the will of God. We could discern the “open doors” and had that “peace.” Even more, we were confident that those open doors would lead to blessing, according to our definition of blessing. Perhaps it is time to re-evaluate.

The Apostle Paul held very different assumptions yet he believed that he knew plenty about God’s will. The King reigns, the Spirit has been poured out, the nations are ripe for the picking—that was enough for him. The times he received specific direction, he was confident that it would mean blessing for the larger church and hardships for him. He knew that if God was in it there would be challenges—challenges that reveal weaknesses and test faith.

God is not playing games when he pulls the rug out from under you. He is up to something, but it is probably not what you think it is.


A Monday Morning Prayer

“Lord Jesus, we are silly sheep who have dared to stand before you and try to bribe you with our preposterous portfolios. Suddenly we have come to our senses. We are sorry adn ask you to forgive us. Give us the grace to admit we are ragamuffins, to embrace our brokenness, to celebrate your mercy when we are at our weakest, to rely on your mercy no matter what we may do. Dear Jesus, gift us to stop grandstanding and trying to get attention, to do the truth quietly without display, to let the dishonesties in our lives fade away, to accepted our limitations, to cling to the gospel of grace, and to delight in your love.”
–Brennan Manning

A Man of Compassion

Perhaps you’ve never looked at Jesus this way, but there are times when I catch myself looking at him as if he methodically and emotionlessly moved through his ministry. Each morning he awoke, completed his assignments and went to bed knowing tomorrow would be the same. He came to die, but the rest was not just details.

He came to love people. He came to serve them. He came to care for the hurting, suffering, marginalized — all of us who have been decimated by the effects of sin.

He is the compassionate Son of God.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36, ESV)

When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. (Matthew 14:14, ESV)

Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” (Matthew 15:32, ESV)

And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” (Luke 7:13, ESV)