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Saturday, October 31, 2009


Sometimes I wonder how it is that I can still struggle with the same sins but feel as though I have a sincere faith in Christ. Why is it that we struggle so much?

I found a great passage in Sam Storms book Signs of the Spirit that points to a great theme of Christianity: perseverance.
"There is hardly anything more explicit in the teachings of Jesus himself than the rules by which we are to judge the sincerity of someone's profession o faith. we must judge the nature of the tree by the quality of its fruit. But if the fruit of saving virtue is subject to being counterfeited, what good is this as a rule for discerning true from false? The answer is found not in the mere presence of what appears to be fruit, but in its perseverance. If the fruit shows itself not merely once, no matter how fervently and sweetly, but endures and matures over time and through trial, we can more solidly judge whether they are be truly of God (although even then our judgement is still fallible).
I quote Same Storms not because I'm particular interested in judging (or meditating) on whether others are sincere in their faith, but whether I am.

Paul writing in his 1st letter to the Corinthians:
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, [2] lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified (ch. 9).
Father, give me the strength to run the race with perseverance. Give me endurance, Father. In Jesus name, Amen.

Friday, October 30, 2009

How long can you go without praying?

Gary A. Haugen does a wonderful job of working up to the following statement and question in his book, Just Courage. Haugen explains how taking the "safe" route will not satisfy our "desire for ...significant and meaningful" experiences on this earth and now "we're created by God for adventure."
"Mother Teresa said that she couldn’t imagine doing her work for more than thirty minutes without prayer. Do you and I have work that we can’t imagine doing for thirty minutes without prayer?"
You can read the first chapter here:

This question is near the end...and it is really making me think about my priorities.

Needs and Wants

My friend Amy is serving for one year in a basic medical clinic in the Sudan and I just have to share the email she just sent out. She has been there about one month now. Here is her latest report, which gives me much to reflect upon, and to give thanks to God for!
The majority of my last two weeks have been spent learning as much Arabic as I can. I’ve spent a few hours with my wonderful Sudanese tutor Andrew, lots of time with my language books (in case you were wondering, studying grammar is NOT any more fun than you remember), and some practice time in the markets or visiting with people. It’s a great thing to be able to go out for lunch and call it educational. :)

My goal for these 2 weeks has been to acquire enough language in order to shop on my own in the market. Praise the Lord I have been able to achieve that and more! I put a lot of time into learning words for foods and how to ask for things/prices, etc. As I slowly walked home in the rain one day with 3 inches of thick mud stuck to the bottom of my flip-flops I had some time to think and realized something. When shopping I always used the word for “want” when asking for items, but rarely did I hear the Sudanese use that word. Instead nearly everyone used the word for “need”. It made me think about the people I am working with and getting to know. The average person here does not think of food in terms of calories or indulgences but rather in terms of hunger and survival. Needs. Fruit is a somewhat expensive treat because the cheaper grains and starches can feed more mouths. Life does not come easy here. It’s hard work. The idea of exercise for fun is completely foreign. Someone tried explaining the concept of a gym and exercise to my language tutor. He had quite a laugh. So as I prepare to set my goals and expectations for the rest of this year I’ve been asking myself, what are the essentials? Wants are nice, and I could really go for some thin mint ice cream right now but what is needed?

I've have enjoyed rest and a more relaxed pace of life while in Malakal which has been a great blessing as I adjusted to Sudan. In the morning, however, the time comes to say good-bye and leave for Doro. It’s about an hour ride in a small plane, and then I’ll start settling in to my home for the next year. The clinic awaits!

...not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved. 1 Cor. 10:33
Wow, that makes me think...

Heavenly Father, I ask that you open my eyes to see all the wonderful things you given me not because I "need" them, but simply "want" them. You are such a good God! Thank you. Open my eyes to see where I've been overindulgent and can better as serving you and your people more with the abundance you've given me. In Jesus name, Amen.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Expressions of Faith

My pastor Doug Hon posted a great blog entry on how easy it is to judge how others express their faith when we compare it to how we prefer to express our "religious affections," as Jonathon Edwards would say.

Doug writes:
"I have personally chosen to reject any idea that I have a corner on intimacy with Christ. I also reject the idea that I am an expert in intimacy. But what does fascinate me is what all of these expressions have in common, faith."
But even more, when we are not experiencing Christ fully, Doug suggests that
"If you feel that you are lacking in intimacy with Christ, don’t look to your church’s song leaders, Sunday school teachers, or pastors to give you the formula for intimacy. Look to Christ in the assurance of faith—there are no formulas, only faith."
Read his entire post here:

Signs of the Spirit

Why am I not stirred more to know God?

Sam Storms writes:
If the great things of religion are rightly understood, they will affect the heart....

If our thesis is correct, and true spirituality lies in the experience, enjoyment, and expression of holy affections, it is to our shame that we are no more affected with the great truths of Scripture than we are. This is especially the case when we consider how profoundly moved and affected people are by world things that have little if anything to do with God and the revelation of himself in the face of Jesus Christ.
Oh, how easily I am distracted and blind to the greatness of the gospel.

Jonathon Edwards asks:
But is there anything which Christians can find in heaven or earth, so worthy to be the objects of their admiration and love, their earnest and longing desires, their hope, and their rejoicing, and their fervent zeal, as those things that are held forth to us in the gospel of Jesus Christ?

....All the virtues of the Lamb of God, his humility, patience, meekness, submission, obedience, love and compassion, are exhibited to our view, in a manner the most tending to move our affections, of any that can be imagined; as they all had their greatest trial, and their highest exercise, and so their brightest manifestation, when he was in the most affecting circumstances; even when he was under his last sufferings, those unutterable and unparalled sufferings he endured, from his tender love and pity to us."

Quotes are from Signs of the Spirit: An Interpretation of Jonathan Edwards' Religious Affections by Sam Storms.

Monday, October 12, 2009

blind to my own blindness

John Calvin’s Institutes, begins with this sentence:
“Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.” What we may need reminding of in our day is not that the knowledge of God is difficult to comprehend and to embrace—that’s more or less obvious—but that the knowledge of ourselves is just as difficult to comprehend and to embrace. Indeed, it may be more difficult, first, because a true knowledge of ourselves assumes a true knowledge of God, and, second, because we tend to think we do know ourselves, when, in fact, the depths or our condition are beyond our comprehension without the help of God (emphasis mine).
Blind. I'm utterly blind without God's grace...

needing perspective

I get bogged trying to figure out life. I'm on of those types that tries to "reduce the mystery of life manageable strategies and following them." Why can't it be that easy?

But this begs the question, where is my confidence: in myself to figure everything out or trust in the God who made it all?

"For those who enjoy discovery because they know a good God is moving through the chaos towards a wonderful conclusion, mystery is no problem."

You see, I want to have the complete plan, right now. I don't like the feeling that I'm "keeping busy" until I eventually marry or die.

Yes, I fall prey to what I call "singleness syndrome" common in Evangelical Christian circles where "marriage" is deemed by women "the solution" to all of life's problems. Funny how it didn't work that way for my parents or for most married people I know.

Ok, no, I really don't think the complete plan is marriage. ; )

But I don't like the idea of just finding things to do with my time to make myself feel like I'm moving forward. I want to put my hands to do those things that have eternal value.

What is it that I'm suppose to be doing with my time? (Note to self: marriage is not eternal.)

To know what to do, I feel I need to know where I'm going. What is all of history moving towards? (This assumes history moves forward, not backwards, and not in circles...)

John Piper expanded my perspective this afternoon when on how the regeneration of our souls is our hope for things to come. John Piper suggests, "the newness we have by virtue of our regeneration now is the firstfruits of the greater newness we will have when our bodies are made new as a part of the universe being made new."
19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8, ESV)
Lord, please give me a renewed perspective that isn't "me" focused. Amen.

Suffering & Perspective

God grants us perspective though suffering.

Jack Crabtree explains
Suffering is intended by God to lead to my resolving my sorrow and disappointment into wisdom and true perspective. I am not so likely to resolve sorrow and disappointment into wisdom and true perspective if and when I do not allow myself to feel it.
Lord, thank you for the ability to feel. Grant me the the strength to move from feeling to conviction through the beautiful experiences you lead me through.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

flexibility not formulas

A Spirit led life demands flexibility not formulas. By flexibility, I mean learning to be led by God and not trying to lead him using some thought process like, "if I do this, then God will do that." Or probably more like, "if I do this, God owes me that." Or even worse, "God owes me this."

A couple of days ago, woman exhorted me something to "tell God what you want so that he can give it to you, know you, his will."

I'm serious. Really, I am.

Any yet even though it sounds silly to my ears, my heart also echos silliness like:

"How do I let God lead me to what I want?"

"How to I find peace in his plan when I don't want to see my plan executed right now"

"How do I desire his will over my own seeing that I certainly know what I want."

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Would Jesus use "what about me" rhetoric?

I found this short article on called "My Personal National Healthcare Plan" by Todd Steinberg. It's good, but missing a helpful component: reaching out to those who find the "what about me" rhetoric used by conservatives and libertarians none compelling.

What many conservatives and libertarians, myself included, are not doing well is explaining why it's okay to think about "me" when were discussing coercion by the State. The phrase "coercion by the State" refers to the fact that that the State (government) is required to enforce all laws, and may use force (police, imprisonment, fines etc.) to carry out laws.

As Christians or compassionate people, I agree that we are not suppose to merely think about "me" and "my health care" and "my money," but consider the poor and less fortunate--like Jesus commands us to do. However, Jesus did not force--neither personally nor through the Roman Empire--anyone to be charitable. He did not advocate forcing people to love and care for other people.

The most devastating aspect of the gospel is you can't make yourself genuinely believe the gospel, authentically love God or thoroughly want to reflect his character. In like manner, people can't make others genuine believe or authentically love God or want to reflect his character.

Similarly, only genuine display of compassion for the poor by its nature is voluntary. If it's not voluntary, it's not compassion.

Jesus would not use rhetoric like Steinberg uses in his essay emphasizing "me first" but that doesn't mean he would support use of the State to coerce or force people not be selfish.

But this then begs the question: is doing something for a oneself wrong? Who says when an action is "selfish" and when it's not? By who's standard do we decide?

Friday, October 09, 2009

Intimacy with Christ

"I have personally chosen to reject any idea that I have a corner on intimacy with Christ. I also reject the idea that I am an expert in intimacy. But what does fascinate me is what all of these expressions have in common, faith."

Great blog post by my pastor on developing intimacy with Christ:

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

From the Inside Out

One of the most devastating but liberating discoveries, according John Piper, is that we can't make ourselves love God.

Love, by definition, is something that can't be forced. We have to want to love.

What do we do if we don't love God from the inside out, wholly and totally, with our all of our hearts and minds?

A. W. Tozer, in his book The Pursuit of God, writes that "if we cooperate with Him in loving obedience, God will manifest Himself to us, and that manifestation will be the difference between a nominal Christian life and a life radiant with the light of His face."

I wonder: Where does the "love obedience" come from?

Tozer asks: "Why do some persons 'find' God in a way that others do not?"

Tozer defines "finding God" as "becoming more closely united in mind and heart" with God. And those who exercise and not neglect the longing within to know God in the deepest ways possible this side of Heaven will develop "spiritual receptivity."

This "spiritual receptivity" is a gift from God and requires a "determined heart" and "courage to wrench ourselves loose from the grip of our times."

"Let any man turn to God in earnest, let him begin to exercise himself unto godliness, let him seek to develop his powers of spiritual receptivity by trust and obedience and humility, and the results will exceed anything he may have hoped in his leaner and weaker days," writes Tozer.

I pray Tozer's words:

O God and Father, I repent of my sinful preoccupation with visible things. The world has been too much with me. Thou hast been here and I knew it not. I have been blind to Thy presence. Open my eyes that I may behold Thee in and around me. For Christ's sake, Amen.

Hillsong's From the Inside Out: