Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Stuff to Ponder

Here is a quote from Wilbur Rees to make you think:

"I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please - not enough to
explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of
warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don't want enough of him to make
me love a foreigner or pick beets with a migrant worker. I want ecstasy,
not transformation; I want the warmth of a womb, not a new birth. I want
a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack. I'd like to buy $3 worth of God,

That is a lot different than these words by Charles Spurgeon:

"But I now do from my very soul call upon thy name. Trembling, yet believing, I cast myself wholly upon thee, O Lord. I trust the blood and righteousness of thy dear Son...Lord, save me tonight, for Jesus' sake."

Song of the Week

I remember listening to this song by Delirious after I visited Andrew in the hospital (the guy who overdosed). I was driving home and it hit me how beautiful that name would be to a man so close to death because of his own bad choices.

The whole night seemed to illustrate his situation: It was dark out and it was late so hardly anyone was out on the road. Kind of erie and very lonely. Similarly, he was facing the darkest time of his life, alone in that hospital bed to consider how he had gotten to that place, and what he would say to God if he didn't live through the night. And then the words of the song come through - "Jesus, how sweet the name - the name that saves!

I don't know if Andrew was saved or not. He prayed the prayer, but I haven't seen him since. It will be tragic if he rejects the lifeline that Jesus threw to him that night. I can't imagine being more receptive to God than when we are near death! God had his full attention that night.

Then again, Andrew is not that different from any of us, is he? None of us are that far from death. Knowing how sinful we are, how fragile our lives are, and how fragile the circumstances are in which we live our lives (like the economy!), how sweet that Name should be to us. It should make us tremble and yet leap for joy. Makes it kind of hard to imagine just wanting 3$ worth.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Quote of the Week

I really have to start notating who says this stuff. I cut and pasted this without the author's name, but it's too good not to share:

It is, of course, a uniquely Christian emphasis that all blessings are in our Lord Jesus Christ. We are not interested in a teaching or theory or rule of life which may be very good in and of itself, and may even say a lot about God the Father. If it does not include Christ, and make him central, we are not interested; it is not Christianity (page 48).

You'll notice that I thought it was important to remember that it was on page 48. It also, in hindsight, might have been helpful to remember what book I was talking about. Anyway, just another good reminder that it is Christ and him crucified that has to be at the center of all of our thinking and teaching.

Since God in His wisdom saw to it that the world would never know Him through human wisdom, He has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it's all nonsense. But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God's weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength.
(1 Corinthians 1:21-25 NLT

If we take Christ and him crucified out of the center, we remove the power and the wisdom of God. It occurs to me that applies to even truth that is taught in church. Good biblical principles are great and helpful for our lives, but the real power of a Christian is in Christ crucified. Any teaching without that as the foundation will always lack the life changing power that we are seeking when we read God's Word.

And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.
(1 Corinthians 2:1-5 NASB)

Again, here, the preaching of Jesus crucified is connected to the power of God. In fact, Paul says that if that was all we ever heard, it would be enough! He backs that up in this passage:

As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world's interest in me has also died. It doesn't matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. May God's peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God.
(Galatians 6:14-16 NLT)

It is the most important principle we will ever know as a Christian, and, if we want God's peace and mercy, our whole life should be built around it. And, as Bill Oreilly says - that's the memo.

I mean, what else could we tell this guy....

Maybe if He just thought about it for a minute...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Happy Freezing Tuesday!

Good morning, everyone!

Let me just start by saying my office is colder than Sarah Palin's hometown of Wasilla, Alaska. If you need somewhere to hang raw meat, come on over.

I have a lot of studying to do for Sunday so I can't take a long time here, but I wanted to throw out a couple of thoughts.

One hit me as I was driving down Walnut Ave. last week. A reality dawned on me that I thought might be a broader spiritual principle that applies to others also.

The Count family budget is very, very tight right now. Tighter than it's been in a long time thanks to a couple things. 1. The Pool. (I know you feel reaaallly bad for me right now, don't you?) 2. Amy's change from a salary job, to 100% commission.

As I was driving down Walnut, I was lifting this up to God and praying for Him to supply our needs. Not overly stressed, just relying on Him to get us through - and then it hit me: I couldn't remember the last time I had done that. There hadn't been a need to pray for that because paying our bills hadn't been a problem.

That led me to ask myself a question - Was I really depending upon God when I had more than enough in the same way that I was depending upon Him now? Who was I really trusting in for my daily bread? Was it God or my salary?

In my life, I've found that when I have more than enough I become self-reliant and less God-reliant. The urgency of the need for God's provision isn't there. I hit cruise control and I enjoy the ride. On the other hand, need brings me to my knees and therefore, to God.

It's funny, isn't it, that we try to get to the point where we are comfortable financially and yet that very thing might create distance between us and Him. Is it any wonder that God has to yank everything out from under us from time to time so that we don't forget who we are to depend upon?

And, silly us, as soon as we are knocked down from the top of Sunshine Mountain, we're trying to figure out how to get back up there - even though we might never be as close to Jesus as we were at the bottom.

I consider myself a lot like the rich young ruler. Jesus told him what He should do: Sell everything he had and give it to the poor.* He gave him the opportunity to voluntarily lay it down. Unfortunately, the guy just couldn't do it.

Everyday, each one of us can look around and see ways that we could voluntarily lay it down for Jesus - but the pull of materialism and self-preservation is just too strong. We can't do it. And so God, in His mercy, takes it away from time to time so that we will remember to rely on Him (and probably a host of other reasons).

I have less money right now than I have had in a long time, but ironically, I am more aware of how blessed I am than I was before. Praise God for His superior ways and wisdom!

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
(Philippians 4:11-13 NLT)

I don't think Paul is asking us to pat him on the back because he was able to be content when he had plenty. It's the fact that even when he had plenty, he knew it was a temporary thing. He knew he would face more times of need and perhaps that is what enabled him to be so spiritually minded and so close to Christ - he was never that far away from needing to totally rely on Jesus just to survive.

The blessing is needing Jesus and Him providing what we need. I wonder if we miss out on that blessing because we never really need anything.

Just a thought...

*incidentally, Jewish scholars don't believe that Jesus was saying that everyone should sell everything and give it to the poor, but he knew it was specifically what the rich young ruler needed to do because of his attachment to his money.

Song of the Week

Just to drive last Sunday's sermon home. I thought about using it in the service, but it seems like we are always short on time.
It's by one of the runner ups from American Idol, either last year, or the year before.
Some people think we could be twins.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A thought before bed

Hey, I just happened to notice that our last post generated 16 comments. That's great! in fact, all of them have done pretty well, except the post on tithing, which had only four.

Interesting....ehh, I'm sure it's just a coincidence.

Maybe there is a solution. There is a lot of talk going on right now about change. Do you need change in your life? Maybe I can help...(be patient and let them load)

And one more:

Ok, no excuses now, right? With the correct change everyone will be tithing from now on. No need to thank me, it's just my job.

I deleted another post!

Wonderful = The sunrise, a rainbow, Bluebonnets in the Spring.

Not wonderful = Getting halfway through a blog post and then deleting it by accident.


I'll try again later.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Good Morning!

Helloooo out there!

Just in case someone is listening in from Christ for the Nations, it was great to see Carmen and Rebecca in service Sunday. They prayed with Amy and I up front and it was greatly appreciated. (or as Wesleyans say - a good time was had by all)

I wanted to give you an insight into what I'm reading right now. I've become a bit of a revival fanatic of late and I went to Amazon.com to see what I could find on the subject. The nice thing about Amazon is that you can buy used books so I took a chance on some three dollar titles to see if I could hit paydirt.

The first book is entitled, "The Ten Greatest Revivals Ever" by Elmer Towns and Douglas Porter. Elmer Towns is a familiar name to me, so I took a chance. The Jury's out so far on the book as a whole (and I always hated giving book reports as a kid anyway), but I took a quote away from the introduction:

"When most people pray for revival, they're probably asking for a wonderful experience at church next Sunday at 11:00 A.M. But revival is more than a Sunday morning experience. When you pray for revival, you're asking God for life-shaking experiences that will cost you plenty.

Revival is agonizing: It so terrorizes you over your sin that you repent deeply. Revival is consuming: It leaves no time for hobbies, for chores around the house, for work, for sleep. Revival wrecks your appointment calender, interrupts TV times, demands your full attention...and wears you out.

Usually when we pray for revival, we're thinking about the bad guys, and we're telling God to "sic 'em" Little do we realize that revival begins with us, the people of God."

That jives with everything I've been learning about true revival. And I'm convinced that it is what has to happen before God will do anything of real significance in our church.

I've been studying for the new sermon series based on the sermon on the mount. It is interesting that the very first thing out of Jesus' mouth is this:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
(Matthew 5:3 NASB)

The Greek word here for poor means to crouch like a cringing begger. One of the meanings for the word Spirit here means our mental disposition. So, if you put the two words together, the ones who inherit the kingdom of God will be those whose attitude or disposition is that of a cringing beggar. Not in a pathetic way, but in a "I'm terrorized over my sin" kind of way.

The next verse:

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
(Matthew 5:4 NASB)

The greek word for mourn means "wail". Also, the word for comforted means, not to soothe, but to "to call near", ie. to invite. So those who wail will be invited to come near to God. He pulls those people closer to Him.

Now, I've always attributed this verse to sadness. If you are going through difficulty, turn to God because he will comfort you. I think we all would say that principle is true, but I don't think it necessarily applies here.

I find it interesting that he doesn't say what the people are wailing about. Wailing is defined in the notes on the verse as "audible grief." These people are clearly struggling, in agony even. Why? There is no context given except the previous verse - Those who are already poor in spirit. Those who are already crouched low because of their recognition of their sin. They not only recognize it, they are despondent over it. How could I have done this to God?

I love the fact that, instead of condemnation, they receive comfort and are drawn near to God. God loves, even rewards, this posture from us! These are the people that will inherit His kingdom! The next verse implies that the humble (the actual word used is mild) will inherit the earth. These verses seem to tie in pretty well together, don't they?

Question: Are will willing to agonize and be terrorized if it means revival will come? I guess the question really is, how bad do we want it? I guess we'll see...

And this is totally off the subject, but wasn't that a killer song at the end of worship Sunday? Wow.

Anyway, have a great week and be sure to share your thoughts with the rest of us.