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The Enemy of Security

We should not let sin make us feel distant from God. Rather, we should let Him draw us closer as we confess and repent.
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The New NAMB: Part 4

Dr. Will McRaney Founder, The Church Strengthening Network For decades, the Southern Baptist ecosystem of missions support has been the envy of other networks and denominations. However, it is in danger of crumbling down like the walls of Jericho. Sounds rumbling from the earth indicate this crumbling has already begun. Our NAMB President has damaged […]
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God Plans for the Unexpected and Inconvenient

God Plans for the Unexpected and Inconvenient

When Luke recorded his version of the Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:2–4), he included Jesus expounding on this prayer through an odd parable that would have made his original hearers cringe:

“Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.” (Luke 11:5–8)

What’s odd is that a story about a socially humiliating situation and a reluctant, irritated benefactor is supposed to encourage us to pray. What does Jesus want us to see in this kind of need and this kind of provider?

1. Expect Unexpected Needs

The first thing to see is that the protagonist’s guest was unexpected. Jesus’s original hearers would have implicitly understood this.

In first-century near-Eastern cultures, having no food to offer a guest was deeply shameful. Note that this man would rather wake his sleeping friend’s entire family in the middle of the night than fail to provide food for his unexpected guest. Both situations (no food and sleeping friend) would have been deeply embarrassing and he would have avoided them if at all foreseen.

Lesson One: Jesus wants us to expect unexpected needs and respond to them.

2. Prepare Yourself for Inconvenience

A second thing to see is that the protagonist’s unexpected guest arrives at midnight. Of course it would have to be midnight.

Most of us today would consider midnight an inconvenient time to meet an unexpected need. Back then it was a really inconvenient time. We could assume our protagonist also had a family who also had their sleep interrupted. It’s not hard to imagine the crankiness and culturally equivalent grumbling whispers of “Are you serious?” when suddenly forced to entertain an unexpected midnight guest — especially when there’s no food to offer them. With no 24-hour convenience stores, and no phones to discreetly call for help, the man is required to trudge over to a friend’s house in the dead of night, and wake an entire family to ask for three small loaves of bread.

Lesson Two: Jesus wants us to expect to respond to unexpected needs at very inconvenient times.

3. Admit Your Insufficiency

A third thing to notice is what the protagonist says to his sleepy friend: “Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him.”

“I have nothing.” These are powerful words about impotence. The man in the parable found himself suddenly called on to respond to a need he lacked the resources to meet, and this forced him to beg provision from someone who had the resources.

Remember, this is a parable about prayer, not hospitality. In the man’s words, “I have nothing,” Jesus means for us to see our condition before God. Does this not describe our frequent sense of desperation in the face of someone else’s need? I feel this daily as a husband, father, friend, pastor, writer — as a Christian. I don’t have resident in me the resources to meet the needs around me. Our lack tempts us to avoid others’ needs rather than expose our insufficiency.

But Jesus not only knows our impoverished condition; he designed it. He’s the Vine; we’re the branches. “Apart from [him we] can do nothing” (John 15:5). He wants us to feel keenly that we have nothing to offer on our own because this desperation moves us to ask God for what we need. That’s why immediately after telling this parable, Jesus says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Luke 11:9).

Lesson Three: Jesus wants our inability to meet unexpected, inconvenient needs to drive us to plead with God to supply the resources we need to serve others.

4. Remember God Is Eager to Help

A fourth thing to notice is the sleepy friend’s reluctance to help his desperate friend. This is what really makes the parable odd. The sleepy friend doesn’t want to be bothered. This forces the already inconvenienced and humiliated protagonist to become impudent (stubbornly persistent) in begging for help.

Why did Jesus use a reluctant friend to encourage us in prayer? We can see his reason in a similar point he made a few sentences later:

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13)

Jesus’s point here is that our heavenly Father is more inclined to give us good gifts than we evil fathers are inclined to give our children good gifts. Similarly, the friend’s reluctance in the parable is not a reflection of our heavenly Father; he is a contrast to our heavenly Father. If a selfish, inconvenience-avoiding friend can be moved by “impudence” to meet his friend’s need, how much more will our eager, generous heavenly Father be moved by our persistent prayers! If God delays in answering our prayers, it is not due to reluctance on his part.

Lesson Four: Jesus wants us to respond to unexpected, inconvenient needs we cannot meet, with persistent prayer, remembering our Father’s eagerness to provide for us.

Will You Accept the Invitation?

This odd parable about prayer is a wonderful gift. Jesus is reassuring us that unexpected needs, arising at the most inconvenient times, which are beyond our ability to meet, and so press us to plead with God for provision, are part of the normal Christian life.

They are, in fact, God’s design. Few things have the power to make people feel more loved than our willingness to joyfully sacrifice to make them a priority. And few things honor God more than our willingness to really trust him to provide for our needs. The two forces combine when we face unexpected, inconvenient, overwhelming needs. They are opportunities to sacrificially love like Jesus and radically trust in Jesus at the same time.

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The First Followers and the Fight for Jesus

The First Followers and the Fight for Jesus

The dominating issue of the early church revolved around the question, “Who exactly is Jesus?” The orthodox church had to fight to show that Jesus is truly God and truly man.

Watch Now

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#107 – The Girlfriend’s Guide to Organization at Home

This week we tackle another #lifehack for living — organization at home.

While I wouldn’t claim to be a Pinterest-ready organizational role model, I have learned a few tips and tricks for keeping my stuff under control.

Ya’ll.  Stuff seems to have a life of it’s own. I’m a lover of systems and efficiency and hacks and I thought I’d share of my random ideas for keeping my home life organized.

On today’s podcast, I take you on a journey through my home and give you a few ideas for how you might be able to rule your stuff.  I’m convinced that one of the easiest and quickest ways to reach for peace in a world that is constantly trying to crowd it out is to refuse to let the stuff that come in your house to make you a slave.

Be a ruthless gatekeeper of what comes in your home and be sure to vigilantly and constantly look around your house for the things whose time has come to go.  Look around and ask the question what is here that I don’t need, love, or use.  And when the answer is no, get rid of that thing.

 

 

Highlight from Today’s Episode:

  • Get the clothes you don’t wear out of your closet
  • Decrowd your kitchen pantry.
  • Be prepared for the day when you get hit by a bus.

Quick Links

 ==> Links for Today’s Show

 ==> General Links 

  1. Want to subscribe to the blog and grab a freebie? CLICK HERE
  2. Did you miss last week’s podcast?  Check it out here!
  3. Kingdom Woman by Chrystal Evans Hurst and Tony Evans

Let’s Talk!

After you’ve listened to the podcast, I’d love to continue the conversation. Be sure and leave a comment!

  • What is your biggest challenge with home organization?
  • What tips, tricks, or hacks do you have for keeping your stuff under control?
  • Do you consider yourself naturally organized or organized challenged? And no judgement here. It takes all types to make the world go round!


Connect with me…

How to Listen to The Podcast

If you’re new to podcasts, think of them like little radio shows that you can listen to at your convenience. They are perfect to listen to and learn from as you workout, fold laundry, wash dishes or conquer the world.

1. Listen right here on the blog. Click the little play button at the beginning of this post.

2. Listen on iTunes or Stitcher or Google Play! – Be sure and subscribe so you don’t miss an episode! Also, if you would be so kind as to leave a rating on iTunes and/or write a 2-3 sentence review there or on Stitcher?  Your commentary or rating helps make the podcast more “findable” by others who might not know it exists!

3. Share today’s show –   Email the link to a friend or share on social media. Just click on the sharing buttons at the bottom of this post!

You have been so great to join me on the journey here on the blog, I hope you jump right in do the same on the podcast!

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To Ph.D or Not to Ph.D?

This sponsored post was prepared by Dr. Todd Chipman of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

If you’ve ever wondered whether pursuing a Ph.D. in your theological training would be worth it, there are lots of factors to consider aside from wondering how it might impact your career aspirations. If you’re sorting through whether Ph.D studies are for you, think and pray through the following questions.

1. Can you be single-minded and voracious in your studies?

The Ph.D allows students to devote their time to a specific area of interest, mastering its content. The Ph.D curriculum becomes an all-you-can eat buffet. Some dishes are tasty and some will not get a second helping, but the student makes the choices and discovers the tastes for himself. And there is joy here. For the student who, after completing the Master’s degree, yet finds himself wandering the library, combing the bibliographies of his favorite books, the Ph.D is for him.

2. Are you prepared to expand your understanding to wider contexts?

As a student engages the content specific to his area of research, be becomes aware that all literature — not just the New or Old Testament — has a context. In the Ph.D program, seminars and directed studies aim to help the student engage a content domain with a view to understanding the broad scope of that literature: why it was written, when it was written; specific authors and texts in conversation with other specific authors and texts. Investigating the context of a specific content domain often launches the student to his dissertation issue but can also equip the student to engage a number of issues related to that sphere of literature.

For instance, my dissertation is an investigation of the background and worldview that might explain the Epistle to the Hebrews. Studying the background of Hebrews specifically required me to study the literature of the ancient world, both Greco-Roman and Jewish, generally. I learned to read through — as opposed to skipping around in — many of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Roman historians. One of the more famous historians is Suetonius and his Lives of the Caesars, biographies of twelve Roman Emperors from Julius Caesar to Domitian. Suetonius provides much of what we know about these Roman leaders; like any good biographer Suetonius sketches their greatness and weaknesses.

This kind of background knowledge, sensitivity to context of literature, equips the student to disarm arguments that might skew these background sources. If you’re not prepared to go deep and wide, Ph.D studies may not be for you.

3. Will you commit to academic rigor while maintaining devotional affection?

Here I speak personally. For me, engaging the Dead Sea Scrolls, apocryphal and pseudepigraphal texts, and Greco-Roman historians — while meditating on Hebrews in Greek — settled in my mind that the authors of the New Testament distinguished themselves from authors of other literature: they understood the answers to life’s quest to have arrived in Jesus. Jesus’s death and resurrection fulfilled humanity’s great longing for liberation — a theme common to nearly all background texts. As God in the flesh, Jesus defeated the great enemy of humanity, the devil, and assured eternal life with God for His followers. The quest of the ages had been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Keeping him in focus allowed my studies to fuel for my affections for Christ. If all you’re pursuing is a degree and not a greater devotion to Christ through it, I would caution you in your doctoral ambitions.

4. Will you place your confidence in the gospel and not in your career options?

In my case, Content led to Context, and Context to Conviction. And Conviction was followed by Confidence. I shared in an MBTS chapel sermon that completing the Ph.D made me a better pastor because I now enjoy greater confidence in the New Testament. I am able to deal more aptly with those who doubt its integrity; I can disarm the skeptics because I understand the world of the New Testament and its literary background. Because I know Content and Context I am equipped to explain the message of the New Testament. In my mind, the burden of proof has been shifted from me to those who opposed the New Testament and the message of Jesus. It is in this sense that the Ph.D is widely valuable.

Few are the jobs to teach professionally in a Christian college or seminary. But if the PhD is done well, the student will not worry about getting a job because he will be useful in whatever capacity God has him.

And there are a few other factors that should give potential Ph.D students pause:

5. Is your family ready?

If a student’s spouse is not well and supportive, his marriage will take a hit. The Ph.D demands extra time and long hours and personal discipline that can escalate the tensions of life. If the student is a man and is not leading wife and children spirituality then the Ph.D will be of little value.

6. Is your fellowship supportive?

Most Ph.D students enrolling in an evangelical institution are serving in a church in some capacity. And the Ph.D curriculum will infringe upon time and energy the church might be expecting to be theirs. Thus the student must be open with the church about his desires and help the leaders around him to understand the value the Ph.D will bring to the church as a whole. Best to sell the Ph.D to a church and then let them enjoy the fruit of it.

7. Is it financially viable?

Tuition is costly, and books and materials will need to be purchased as well. If the student is not financially sound, the bills can cause tensions on family and church. God provides but the student must be wise to discern the costs involved in higher education.

More could be said, but these factors provide a frame for discerning God’s direction.

Learn more about Midwestern Seminary’s various doctoral options, both modular and residential, including The Residency, our enhanced residential Ph.D component.

Dr. Todd Chipman has been the Pastor for Discipleship at The Master’s Community Church in Kansas City, Kansas since 2000. He also serves as an Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

To Ph.D or Not to Ph.D

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The Baby with the Bathwater

Most have heard the proverbial warning: “Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.” The meaning of the expression is that one should be careful not to throw out or get rid of something good in an attempt to get rid of something bad. But that is exactly what I have been observing lately as […]
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The Five Jurisdictions that rule over the Mountains of Culture

In scripture there are five basic jurisdictions (or governments) God has set up in His Kingdom: 1-Self Government 2-Family Government 3-Voluntary Associations 4-Civic Government 5-Religious or church government Each of these five have separate and distinct functions, although they are to function interdependently. To show how much the body of Christ has been brainwashed by […]

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Contentment in Trials: My Son Has a Brain Tumor

Contentment in Trials

When I first began leading women’s Bible studies, I was surprised (and a little unsettled) that almost always, after teaching on a practical topic of Christian living, I would very soon be tested on that very point. If I taught on the sin of worry, something would invariably come up that would be a sore temptation for me to worry about.

I soon learned that God will have no hypocrites. If I’m going to teach women to submit to their own husbands, as to the Lord (Ephesians 5:22), I had better be doing that myself. So, I would often pray ahead of time that I would be ready for the test that was sure to come. And I might steer away from topics I thought I wasn’t quite ready for yet. But then, who is ever ready? Do we ever think we have mastered the material? But the tests are coming, guaranteed.

Since we know God gives us all tests, we should not be the least bit surprised by them. After all, we are all enrolled in his Bible course, and what kind of class has no testing? So, we should expect tests. And we all know how to prepare for tests: we pay attention to the material, we review, we study, and we apply. Thankfully, God’s tests are always open book.

A few months ago, I undertook the job of writing a book on the subject of contentment, something that I have wanted to do for a very long time. Having learned so much from the Puritans Jeremiah Burroughs and Thomas Watson on contentment, I wanted to assemble something simple for women, something to make contentment attainable and understandable and practical. I wanted the title to be Learning Contentment because it is definitely an ongoing study for me.

After many hours at the computer, I turned in the manuscript for my book the end of February. Two weeks later, my son Nate learned that he has a brain tumor. Though not cancerous, it is life-threatening. His brain surgery is scheduled for May 2, and my little book on contentment will be released on the same day.

Do I think this is a coincidence? Not even close. As I said, God will have no hypocrites.

Study Hall

God was obviously preparing me for this trial during those weeks of writing. I thought I was writing a book. But God had enrolled me in a focused study hall to prepare me for a test. A big test. He knew full well that I was going to be applying the material in ways I could not see. So, not only was he going to test me on the material, but he was also kindly preparing me for the test. He could have given me the opportunity to write about contentment any time. But he chose this time. And he chose well.

When Nate was a boy, I remember telling him that someday in the future I would be learning from him. He would be the teacher, and I would be the student. That day came long ago. He is an author and filmmaker, writing fiction for children and nonfiction for adults.

And I continue to learn from him, from his books, his films, his observations about life, his humor, his love of life, and his love of story. Nate understands that God is the great Author, and he loves being the character God has chosen for him to be. He is content. This brain tumor is a new plot point, and we are all waiting to see what comes next. As he has said, he writes his own characters into very hard circumstances that require great courage, so how can he object when God writes him into a tough spot that will require courage of his own?

The Basics of Contentment

So, now what? Do I believe what I wrote about being content in our good God? Absolutely. He will never leave us or forsake us. He wants us to exercise our faith and lean on him, and this happens most when we are in the midst of trial. As God tests us, he wants us to test him, to see if he is as faithful as he promised. And he is. He wants us to have practice knowing that our lives are governed entirely by his wisdom and grace.

God knows what he is about, and he’s told us what to do: we are to cast our cares on him (1 Peter 5:7), set our minds on things above where Christ is (Colossians 3:1–2), and walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7). And on top of this, he wants us to rejoice in all things, giving thanks for everything (Philippians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:18). This is not amazing, super-special Christian living. This is basic Christian living.

When my children were small, there were times I wanted their undivided attention. I wanted them to listen carefully to my words and hear me: “No running across the street!” So, I would take a little, fat face into my hands, pull it close to mine, and tell the child to look me in the eye. Then I would speak, and they would listen. I have often thought that in trial, this is what God is doing to us. In this particular moment, he has my undivided attention. I am listening. I hear him.

Are You Ready for Your Test?

Your trials are tests. You know the material. It is your almighty Maker who is giving you this test now, and it is perfectly suited for you. You have gone over this material before. You know what to do. Sharpen your pencil. Get to work. If you do poorly, he provides forgiveness, but you may never get another chance like this one. Don’t squander it. As Pastor John Piper has said before (and I quote him often), “Don’t waste your trials.” There is much profit to be gained through trials. Look for it. Expect it. Be eager for it.

Contentment is a deep satisfaction with the will of God. Contentment enables me and you to rest quietly in his hands, knowing we are safe, even (and especially) in the midst of trouble. Remember that open-book tests are not helpful if the Book isn’t open. And when the Book is open, our hearts must be open too. We follow where God leads, and he will never leave us or forsake us. “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread . . . for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

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The First 100 Days to Securing America

President Donald Trump is nearing his 100th day in office. Unlike his predecessor, President Trump doesn’t spend much time on the golf course....
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Marine Le Pen and the Jews of France: It’s Complicated, but Clear

Should French Jews fear the potential election of Marine Le Pen? Should they leave France if she wins the presidency, per the advice of a leading rabbi? Is she rightly characterized as a "hate" candidate, following in the footsteps of her Holocaust-denying father? And is she right in calling for France's Jews to make certain sacrifices, since she will ask Muslims to do the same?

The short answer is: It's complicated but clear. Let me explain why.

According to Francis Kalifat, president of the CRIF umbrella group of French Jewish communities, Le Pen is a "candidate of hate" and Jews should unite around Emmanuel Marcon, even if they differ with his policies. That's how dangerous Le Pen will be for France's Jews.

Speaking from Moscow, Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar warned that France is "heading toward radicalization." He stated plainly that, "If Marine Le Pen is elected president of France, the Jews must leave."

Are these men overreacting?

Let's remember that Marine Le Pen is not her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of the right-wing National Front Party, now led by Marine.

Jean-Marie has been fined multiple times for Holocaust denial, once saying, "If you take a 1,000-page book on World War II, the concentration camps take up only two pages and the gas chambers 10 to 15 lines. This is what one calls a detail."

But Marine Le Pen has thrown her father out of the party and denounced his views. Why should she be held accountable for her father's transgressions?

Let's also remember that the threat of radical Islam is real and requires some extreme measures. That's why Le Pen recently tweeted, "Hate preachers must be expelled, the Islamist mosques closed." (Note that "Islamist" means "radical Muslim.")

Shouldn't French Jews embrace this kind of thinking, since they have often been targets of Islamic violence? Or is it possible that French Jews skew liberal by default, just as American Jews do, meaning that they will not side with a strong nationalism even when it's in their best interest?

This is why I say that the relationship between Marine Le Pen and French Jews is complicated. She is not her father, and she has expelled other anti-Semites from her party. Perhaps her policies would be in the best interest of France's Jews?

I think not. As much as radical Islam requires a firm hand of resistance, Le Pen presents real problems for French Jews.

As noted by the JTA, "Le Pen recently called for banning the wearing of the kippah in public and for making it illegal for French nationals to also have an Israeli passport—steps she said were necessary because of the principle of equality in order to facilitate similar limitations on Muslims.

Le Pen has said radical Islam is a 'threat on French culture' and has called on Jews to make certain 'sacrifices' in order to fight jihadism."

And herein lies the problem: She is treating Jews and Muslims alike to the point of penalizing Jews for the crimes of radical Muslims.

Why shouldn't French Jews be allowed dual citizenship? Has their solidary with Israel over the decades damaged the people of France? Has it made them any less loyal citizens? Have they plundered France to aid and abet Israel?

And why shouldn't a Jewish man be allowed to wear a head-covering? And what about his beard, if that is part of his religious identification? Must he shave his beard too? And is Le Pen requiring Catholic priests and nuns not to wear their ritual attire? For that matter, is she requiring Catholics not to wear crosses? If not, why single out religious Jews? Why not deal with radical Muslims as such without penalizing everyone else (including moderate Muslims)?

Where are the Jewish terrorists in France? How many have murdered policemen in cold blood while shouting out pro-Israeli slogans? How many have rammed trucks into civilians, slaughtering dozens? How many have massacred scores of concert-goers? How many have attacked restaurants and killed as many diners as they could? How many have broken into magazine headquarters and butchered anti-Jewish journalists?

As Amiel Unger wrote in an op-ed for HaAretz, "Marine Le Pen's instinct is right: fighting an Islamic takeover requires France to shed its guilt and shame over its past. But her desire for a foolish 'consistency' means Vichy and Jewish identity are also included."

All too often in Jewish history, the Jewish people have been scapegoated whenever hard times befell the countries in which they lived. It's all because of the Jews! The Jews poisoned the wells and caused the Black Plague! The Jews caused the economic collapse of Germany! It's the fault of the Jews!

Should extreme nationalism prevail in France, it could be dangerous for France's Jews. "Why can't they just be French? Why must they insist on being Israelis too? Why must they insist on being Jews? Either they shed their identity, or they go."

Ideally, France must resist the Islamization of their country and deal forcefully with radical Islam. But they must do it without penalizing their loyal Jewish population.

If Le Pen wins the election, they should be on their guard. {eoa}

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Every Hill You Face Is Not Worth Dying On

There are times that I could have carried more people with me along the church’s vision path if I had been more patient and personal along the way. In the name of “urgency” or “reaching,” we can sometimes push “hurry” too much and too often. This is not an asset, but a liability.
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Should you rent or own a home in retirement?

Five questions you should ask yourself when you’re debating renting vs. buying

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Rule #8: Purpose to be Godly (8 Rules for Growing in Godliness)

We cannot overstate the importance of knowing our purpose. There is no doubt our lives will go awry and even go to waste if we neglect to learn the purpose for our existence and the purpose for our salvation. And central to understanding our purpose is understanding why God placed us on this earth. This is why the old catechism begins with the question of purpose: “What is the chief end of man?” This is the question that has provided fodder for theologians and philosophers since time immemorial.

Many believe the purpose of life is pleasure. Since we do not know what lies beyond, they say, we owe it to ourselves to satiate our thirst for pleasure with whatever appeals to mind or body. Perhaps this is what the old sage calls for in Ecclesiastes: “I commend joy, for man has nothing better under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun” (8:15). A man dying of thirst will wring out a moist cloth to gain the very last drop of water. In the same way, many live for pleasure and die trying to wring out every last pleasure before they depart into an unknown eternity. Others fall on the opposite extreme, lauding austerity in place of pleasure, monasticism in place of hedonism, less instead of more.

There is a better answer that directs us to greater pleasure. The catechism’s first answer summarizes the wisdom of the Bible and calls us to something far more satisfying: Our purpose is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Godliness is the path to pleasure, for by godliness we glorify God, and in glorifying God, we enjoy God. There is no greater pleasure than close fellowship with our Creator and, therefore, no higher purpose than godliness. As we come to the close of this series on “8 Rules for Growing in Godliness,” we see that our final instruction is one that encapsulates them all: Purpose to be godly.

The Power of Purpose

The old priest Zechariah was given a remarkable privilege—the privilege of an unexpected son who would serve as the forerunner to the Messiah. This son would be the voice crying, “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3). This son would be the one to baptize Jesus so that Jesus, as our substitute, could fulfill all righteousness (Matthew 3:15). And at John’s birth, Zechariah suddenly found himself prophesying of this coming Messiah and the purpose he would accomplish in and through the people he would save: “That we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve [God] without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days” (Luke 1:74-75).

We who are delivered from the world to be followers of Christ have the privilege and responsibility to serve God in holiness and righteousness, to be set apart for service to God by our conformity to God. This is why God plants within each of his people a deep loathing for sin and a great longing for godliness. The prayer of David should often be heard coming from our lips: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14). We, too, should pray that all of us—our heart, our mouth, our inner man, and outer man—are marked by God and consecrated to God.

When we put our faith in Jesus Christ, we are immediately justified, declared righteous in the sight of God. Simultaneously, we receive the guarantee that we will eventually be glorified, that we will some day be perfected in the presence of God. But between the two lies the task of growing in conformity to Jesus Christ. Between justification and glorification—each accomplished in a moment—lies sanctification, which is accomplished in a lifetime. This is a lifetime of relying on the Spirit, taking hold of his promises and power, and joining with him in this great task.

This world is our training ground, in which we respond to justification and ready ourselves for glorification. We do this by putting off what we were and becoming what we are. We see this task pictured vividly in Jesus’s friend Lazarus. Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days when suddenly Jesus cried, “Lazarus, come out!” Miraculously, Lazarus heard and awoke and breathed and rose. He came shuffling out of that dark tomb, eyes blinking in the glaring light of day. “The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go’” (John 11:44).

Lazarus emerged from his tomb wrapped in the clothes of a dead man. But having returned to life, it was only fitting that his garments of death be removed, so that he could be clothed in garments suited to a living man. It would be absurd and inappropriate to go through life wearing the clothes of death. And this is the task God gives us as Christians, to “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24). This life is a dressing room, in which we dress our souls for eternity.

The Need for Determination

To attire ourselves for eternity, we must approach godliness with tenacity. We must be deliberate in our approach and determined in our pursuit. The driver who takes his foot off the gas pedal will first coast, then slow, then stop. Coming to a halt becomes inevitable the moment the engine returns to idle. In much the same way, the Christian who loses his determination to be godly will find his sanctification first slowing, then stopping. Godliness always requires effort.

This is why, time and again, we have returned to Philippians 2:12 and its instruction that we “work out” our salvation. This is why Peter traces a steady, purposeful progression in the Christian life: “Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:5-8). Effort and increase, this is godly living, for “without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14 NIV). Without effort and increase, we will only ever be ungodly and ineffective.

Conclusion

To be Christians who are growing in conformity to Jesus Christ first requires us to know the sheer importance of godliness and then to approach it with purpose, confidence, tenacity, determination. We must not allow ourselves to be waylaid, interrupted, or distracted. We must be single-minded in putting off all that smacks of the old man and his ways and resolute in putting on all that is associated with the new.

Those who accumulate worldly treasures while neglecting godliness have inverted and frustrated the very purpose for which they were created. They may have gained the whole world, but in the end they will lose their souls. “But godliness with contentment is great gain,” and those who pursue godliness have set out upon the greatest task of all (1 Timothy 6:6). These are the ones who succeed in finding and achieving the highest purpose. These are the ones who will gain the immense privilege of glorifying God and enjoying him forever.

The “8 Rules for Growing in Godliness” are drawn from the work of Thomas Watson. Here are the words that inspired this article: “Possess yourself with this maxim, that godliness is the end of your creation; God never sent men into the world, only to eat and drink and put on fine clothes, but that they ‘might serve him in righteousness and holiness.’ Luke i. 75. God made the world only as an attiring-room to dress our souls in; he sent us hither upon the grand errand of godliness: should nothing but the body, the brutish part, be looked after? This were basely to degenerate, yea, to invert and frustrate the very end of our being.”

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The Ministry of Christ

The Ministry of Christ

He is also the head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. – Colossians 1:18

Christ has ascended into the heavens and sits at the right hand of God the Father. What is He currently doing—what is His present ministry to His people? Scripture paints several pictures of Christ’s present ministry to help us visualize, understand, comprehend, and appreciate what Christ is about today as He rules on high.

First, Christ is the leader of a new creation. Adam was the head of the human race, and when he fell, sin entered the world and each of us because Adam was our representative. Jesus Christ represents the new man as the last Adam. He brings life, hope, and restoration to the environment that had been cursed because of the first Adam. The last Adam is the reversal of the curse of the first Adam. And He transforms us so that our new life in Christ shows through.

Christ also sits as the head of the body. The body of Christ is the church, and He is its head. The job of the body is to carry out the instructions of the head. Just as physical bodies rely on the mind for direction, so the members of the church look to Christ for direction.

Christ is also the Shepherd of the sheep. In John 10:14, Jesus said, “I am the good Shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me.” Jesus makes provision for His sheep. Jesus said we are His sheep, and we must be guided through the right door—His door—to salvation. In Him we are not only saved but also safe. That truth can help you to rest well today.

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A La Carte (April 24)

Today’s Kindle deals include a series of titles from Crossway that deal with deep theology.

God Desires To Bless You Infinitely More Than You Can Imagine

There’s an encouraging thought: “He has made an unbreakable, unchangeable promise to never stop doing good to us.”

The Quiet Plague of Painkillers

This one is from Desiring God: “Although heroin accounts for many such deaths, more familiar medications pave a path to heroin. Coincident with rising death rates, sales of prescription opioids such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and hydromorphone quadrupled between 1999 and 2010.”

When Anger Rears Its Ugly Head

“It happened again, at the end of a very long day with our young children, when my husband called on his way home from work and asked me how I was. I told him. And it wasn’t pretty. And when he got home I told him again. It was loud, it was thoughtless, and our kids witnessed it all.”

If the Arabian Empire Reunited (Video)

I enjoy this kind of what-if video. “The Arabian Empire once extended from the Atlantic Ocean to the border of India. It was the largest empire that the world had ever seen up to that point, so what would things look like if this empire was suddenly re-created today? Watch this video and satisfy your curiosity!”

3 Problems with the Benedict Option

Jesse Johnson points out 3 issues with the Benedict Option: “necessitates a revisionist view of history (which I’ll call a “racial” problem), lacks the gospel (or, the “Catholic problem”), and sacrifices religious freedom (a “Baptist” problem).”

Verses to Meditate on When Considering Missions

Here are some verses that are good to ponder if you are feeling that tug to missions.

African American Preaching

Barry York, who represents a Reformed Presbyterian denomination, considers why African American preachers are often such effective communicators. “Instead of the linear style of preaching common to Reformed churches, African American preaching is usually rich in themes that are woven into their discourse and which are meditated upon for an extended time.”

Flashback: Stuff Christians Say

We don’t all need to run around like young seminarians, thrilled with new words and assuming that everyone else shares that enthusiasm. But neither should we run away from them.

Knowledge is proud that she knows so much; wisdom is humble that she knows no more. —William Cowper

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Five Common but Unreasonable Requests Church Members Make of Pastors

“I need you to do a funeral for my cat.”

Yes, that is a request made to a pastor by a church member. And here’s the stranger reality. I have heard from dozens of pastors who have had this very request.

I assume the cats in question were dead.

Though I have heard hundreds of strange and unreasonable requests made to pastors, five of them are common. In fact, most pastors will encounter all five of these requests in the course of their ministries.

  1. Ask certain people to leave the church. The common theme is the request to get people who are not like us to leave the church. A church member asked one pastor to have a separate church service in the trailer park for “those people coming to our church.” Yes, really.
  2. Accept a gift with unreasonable expectations. The most recent was the offer of a $10,000 gift if the church signed a document agreeing to keep fresh flowers on his grave in perpetuity. I assume he meant the request to be posthumous.
  3. Do a pet funeral. A recent example was the request to do the funeral of a turtle. Can we really know if the turtle is dead? I guess our olfactory senses will confirm its death.
  4. Travel out of town to minister to a distant relative. I lead a pastors forum called Church Answers and get a lot of great input and questions. One pastor in the forum asked me about a request a church member made for him to visit a cousin in the hospital. But the surgery was minor and outpatient. The one-way distance was 225 miles. And the cousin was active in a church in her hometown. The church member left the church because the pastor declined.
  5. Leave the church. Many pastors are asked to leave the church for the most outlandish reasons. I remember the first time a church member asked me to leave the church. She said, “God told her” I was supposed to leave because I was bringing too many unbelievers and new Christians to the church. And then she said the cringe-worthy words, “They are just not like us.”

Keep in mind, these five unreasonable requests are common. These are not the outliers. In fact, they are so common that I am now suggesting seminaries add a course for every one of them (tongue in cheek, of course).

You just have to love pastors. Their lives are often stressful, but never boring.

Posted in Tammy Wynette, The Cross and the Jukebox | Comments Off

Cut People Some Slack

Everybody has bad days. Kay knows that I have two touchy times every week. I’m touchy on Saturday afternoon because I’m focused on the message I am about to preach. And the other time I’m touchy is Monday morning, because I’m drained from preaching all weekend and talking to people between services. So Kay makes allowances for that. She cuts me some slack.
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What Is Your True Purpose?

Fulfillment in life comes from knowing the Father and serving Him.
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What Can You Do for God?

We serve God and bear witness to Him in many ways, including through our character and attitudes.
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