Monday, February 25, 2013

Counting the Cost!

     TO BE A CHRISTIAN means citizenship in God’s Kingdom. It means a transfer of authority from self to Christ. It means a clear decision to obey Christ no matter the cost. It means no compromise on essential issues. Because the cost to follow Jesus can be very great, Jesus told us to count the cost before deciding to follow him.

(Luke 14:27–30) "27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’"

     Although we need to count the cost in every area, the issue that we need to think hardest about today is the willingness to take a stand on the sinfulness of homosexual behavior.

     The pressure is ramping up. Our opponents are aggressively and publicly bullying anyone willing to take a stand on biblical morality. In recent weeks we have watched Louie Giglio step down from the president’s request to pray at the Presidential Inauguration.

     When Chick-Fil-A announced that they were going to open a restaurant in Philadelphia the media erupted into a feeding frenzy because the CEO, Mr. Cathy, publicly stated that homosexual behavior was wrong.

     This week Tim Tebow was publicly and brutally bullied into not giving the Easter sermon at the First Baptist Church in Dallas, TX. Why? The pastor, an evangelical, has stated that homosexual practice is sinful. Al Mohler's comments on this event in Christianity Today are insightful.

     As I look to the short-term future, I don’t expect our culture to change. In fact, I expect it to get progressively worse, but I also joyfully expect God to use that for the good of the church.

    So, where are you today? Have you counted the cost? What if a stand on this issue should mean the loss of your job, the destruction of your property, the loss of your tax deduction for giving to the church, being cut out of Medicare or the Social Security system, ridicule from friends and neighbors, being labeled a bigot, or a hate-monger?

     We are not saved until we persevere to the end. We need to persevere in the truth until the Lord calls us home. Jesus told his disciples, “You will be hated by all men for my name’s sake.”  But then he also promised, “he that endures to the end will be saved” (Matt. 10:22). In the parable of the sower Jesus grieved over the seed that fell on rocky soil. It endured for a while, but when persecution came it immediately fell away (Matt 13:20). We don't want to end up in this category. 

     I am not writing this not to frighten you. I am writing this to fortify you. I want us to endure to the end together. I have written this blog because it is unlikely that you will do this unless you carefully, soberly, and prudently count the cost. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Testimony of a Converted Lesbian

Rosaria Champagne Butterfield
CHRISTIANITY TODAY HAS done us a favor. They recently published the testimony of a converted lesbian. This was not just any lesbian. She was a tenured faculty member at Syracuse University. (Founded by Methodists). She was a professor of "Queer Studies," ultra left, and aggressively involved in the GLBT community.
     Her story is one of amazing grace. Through a Presbyterian pastor God reached out, and she responded. Eventually, she married a pastor and now has four children of her own. Read here amazing story here, and be amazed by God's Amazing Grace.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

God Shows Up At Downton Abbey

     CHARLES MURRAY RECENTLY commented that one thing that separates the American working class from the American upper class is TV. The lower classes watch reality TV while the upper classes watch "Downton Abbey," the new smash hit on public TV.

     For those of you who are "Downton" fans the following article from Christianity Today will be interesting. Entitled "God Shows Up At Downton Abbey," the article chronicles the religious insertions of the script writer, Julian Fellowes into the plot.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Rejoicing in the Grace of Friendship

IDENTIFYING EVIDENCES of grace in those close to you is a useful  exercise, and one that I hope  you practice. Our proud hearts think we deserve good from God. But the cross shows us what we deserve––crucifixion. Because the proud person is not aware of this they expect good treatment from their family members, and they are disappointed when they don't get it.  All they are aware of are the sins and failings of their spouse, children, or parents and how they are not getting what they deserve.

     By contrast, humble people know what they deserve. They know that hell is a place of total social isolation. They know they deserve hell. They know they don't deserve family. They don't deserve friends. They certainly don't deserve to be part of a loving church. As a result they are amazed by the good relationships God has graciously given them. They search their close relationships for virtues, successes, and triumphs so that they can be amazed by them. Then they express gratitude for these expressions of grace verbally. The humble cultivate this discipline. In fact, it is a crucial exercise for those who want to grow in humility. 

Are you searching for and communicating evidences of grace to those you love? Blessed are those who do so. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Gift of Utter Dependence...

Mt. Sinai from the Base
I HAVE BEEN READING through Exodus lately, specifically the journey of Israel from Egypt to Mt. Sinai. Here are some reflections.

The first thing we notice is that the Holy Spirit is leading the Jews to the Promised Land, a land of milk and honey. However, he does not take them the easy way, nor does he lead them directly to "milk and honey." Instead, he leads them away from the Promised Land. He leads them south into the howling wilderness.

Curios to visualize the scene, I looked up Mt. Sinai on Google Images. The pictures at right say it all. Not a blade of grass, not a bush, not a tree. Nothing but boulders, gravel, sand, and granite. It is a waste land where nothing lives. Why would  the Spirit lead them to a place like this? It is definitely not the land of "Milk and Honey."

The Holy Spirit led Israel into this wilderness to strip them of their reliance on everything but God. In Egypt  they relied upon the work of their own hands. They ate leeks, garlic, fish, chicken, etc. But now the Spirit leads them to a place without water or food. Naturally, the Jews complain. "Why are you leading us here?" God answers by graciously giving them Manna from heaven and a water-gushing-rock that follows them on their wanderings. In this desolate place they are utterly dependent upon God for everything, even the most basic bodily needs. Through this stripping they learn that God is faithful.

Mt Sinai from the Air
God wants Israel to learn dependence upon him and nothing or no-one else. In the words of Jesus, "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God."

Is it possible that God leads us the same way today? Is God leading when we lose that special  job, a child gets sick, a loved one dies, or we pass through a period of clinical depression?  God is teaching us to lean on him and nothing else. Even Jesus had to learn dependence. The Holy Spirit  also led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted (Matt. 4:1), and he learned obedience through his sufferings (Heb. 2:10)

If Jesus needed temptation to produce this kind of dependence, how much more you and I? No wonder James exulted, "Count it all joy my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing" (James 1:2-4).

Trials, temptations, and tests give us the gift of utter dependence upon One greater than ourselves. In the end, the benefit gained is always worth the cost. We become "perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Exodus From Marriage

A RECENT ARTICLE in Commentary Magazine points to the dire condition of contemporary marriage. You can read it here. Because the socialization of our children depends upon marriage, the state of marriage in North America  matters greatly. Twenty five percent of our children are growing up with out fathers. The Fatherhood Initiative notes that children growing up without fathers are 5 times more likely to commit suicide, 32 times more likely to run away, 20 times more likely to have behvioral disorders, 14 times more likely to commit rape, 9 times more likely to drop out of high school, 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances, 9 ties more likely to end up in a state-operated institution, and 20 times more likely to end up in prison." 

That is why this article in Commentary Magazine is so important. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Does God Need Us?

I just came across two examples of people thinking "it's a good thing that Christ has us to help him."

The first occurs at the Transfiguration.  Peter wants to put up tents.  "And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”— not knowing what he said. As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud" (Luke 9:33-34). 

The second occurs when James and John ask Jesus to punish the Samaritans who reject Him. (As if Jesus couldn't call on legions of angels to incinerate the Samaritans).  "And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, 'Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?'” (Luke 9:54). 

As if Jesus needs us! 

How often have I in my proud independence thought that I could accomplish something good for Christ, especially when it was a bit costly, i.e. reaching out to an unlovable person, or some financial sacrifice.

Does Christ want us to do things? Of course! But we are the recipients. We are the beneficiaries, not Christ. He can easily get the job done without us. If we aren't available he'll find someone else to be the blessed vessel. Or, He'll just do a miracle and take care of whatever needs doing without any help from a needy human agent. 

After all, he is the God who has aseity. Aseity is just big word that just means "No need!" God has no needs that we can satisfy. By contrast, our needs are infinite. ––Judy Farley