Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The same God

The same God
The same One who says, "Follow me"
Is the One who enables obedience to that very command
The One who says "Don't save your life"
Is the One who gives grace in the moment
The moment in which we waver
The moment in which we hold on to our lives
The moment our value system is more earthly than eternal

The same One who says "Deny yourself"
Is the One who denied Himself
The One who then works in His people
The One who impresses on their hearts
a Life that counts
a Life that is more than 'the abundance of things we possess'
a Life that leaves no regrets
Supplying grace to live a life that costs us something

The same One who says "Take up your cross"
Is the One who took up His willingly
The One who then calls to his followers
Live your life crucified with me
Give your life to me in faith
Faith that sees beyond public humiliation
Faith that looks forward to Christ's ultimate vindication
Faith that hopes in victorious resurrection

God commands. God enables.
God exemplifies. God enables.
God calls. God enables.
The same God

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"Follow me" to where?

This past Sunday, we looked at the command of Jesus to "follow him." It struck me again this morning how that must have landed in the ears of the disciples who heard the command (in Mark 8).

"Follow me," he says. But he has already indicated to them an idea of the circumstances that would confront him in the immediate future. He told them he would suffer. He pulled no punches in telling them that he was about to be rejected by authority figures. The suffering would result in death (and a later vindicating resurrection). And then he says, "Follow me!"

Is it any wonder that Peter had some hefty reservations, and then verbalized them to Jesus? Is it any wonder that the disciples were confused? Is it any wonder that often our heart would rather serve ourselves than deny ourselves? Is it any wonder that we resist the offense of the cross? Is it surprising that Jesus would say in Matthew 7, that actually only a 'few' would walk on the path that he walked?

I want to follow him. I honestly do, but I want to be careful to search my heart with Spirit-filled discernment (and not make boastful statements assuring Jesus that 'although everyone else may leave him'...), I want to look closely at where his steps lead, and then follow him all the while trusting the Good Shepherd to not abandon me even as he leads me through the valley of the shadow of death.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Cheap grace?

In preparing for Sunday's message, I came across this...
“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer - The Cost of Discipleship

Revisiting a discussion

A couple of weeks ago, we had the privilege of recording an interview with the speaker of our upcoming Marriage Conference. I came across some of the notes of the discussion that day with Winston Smith. Winston had some great insights and pulling these notes our reminded me of how beneficial that conference could be for our church.
The words vision, love, hope capture the 3 dimensions and 3 critical ingredients essential to change in marriage.

Vision--People often come hoping for a dramatic fix to problems in their relationship but more often the pathway to change is a long path. They need to get a bigger picture of what marriage is about. Laying down one's life for another in marriage is an act of worship to the Lord and we need to learn to be excited about that.

Love--People need to see the intersection between the love of Christ for me and the details of my life with my spouse. We need to ask ourselves what the love of Christ has to do with communication, conflict, and other marital issues.

Hope--People need to learn to love for the long haul. It isn't about responding well to your wife 5 times but 50,000 times. Around the 10,000 mark real change begins. Christ gives us life giving manna but it just tastes like bread sometimes and we have to manage our expectations to be in it for the long haul. We need to see eternity in the things we are doing now. Even when our spouse is being unkind or unreasonable we need to know the love of Christ and be OK with that.
Great thoughts, and I think that only whets our appetite for the Conference. If you haven't registered, you can do it today.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Why Mark? Why Now?

I cannot believe I am entering year 3 at Ogletown. The time has gone by quickly in some respects, and yet in other ways, it does seem like I have been here for a while.

This coming Sunday I am going to begin a new series that is installment 3 through the book of Mark. The first year I was here (2007), we covered the first 2.5 chapters in a series called "When Jesus Said the 'Wrong' Thing." Last year (2008), we looked at chapters 3-8 in a series called "Defining Jesus." This year we will pick up again in chapter 8 and go through chapter 10.

Why do we take time each year to go through a portion of a gospel? A couple of reasons.
  • I love the discipline of "coming back to Jesus" every year. Of course, the ENTIRE BIBLE is about Him, but there is something special about reading the theological biographies of a gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John). I see things about Him every time that make me stand in awe, and come to Him for grace.
  • I do try to preach through different portions of Scripture, but if there is one portion that cannot be missed it's the life, ministry, and death of Christ.
  • I have chosen to divide the portions of Mark into 4-5 sections, because I think it may be a little too much right now for me to preach 60 weeks on the book of Mark. A little bit each year helps me process the book in pieces and understand it as a whole. I remember someone in seminary sharing this approach, but I don't remember who it was, so I can't give them credit (I am told your memory fails you as you get older!).
  • This particular section emphasizes what it means to follow Jesus. I am calling the series "The Shape of a Disciple," because in this section Jesus spells out what it looks like when we are following Him. I think I need to hear this, and I think our church needs to hear it. We owe it to the glory of God to look more and more like Jesus, but I am also impressed that the world needs to see us really following Christ.
So, I cannot wait for Sunday, as we begin by looking at Mark 8:22-9:1.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Resources on being single

This morning we are studying together Paul's teaching from 1 Corinthians 7 concerning those who are single. Each of the resources below have broadened my understanding of God's design, particularly with those who are unmarried.

Singleness Redefined - This was one of the more personal books that I read from a single woman at Tim Keller's church in Manhattan. It was easy to read, but extremely useful for personal applied theology.

With One Voice - This particular book was helpful in thinking through singleness, but also what dating and marriage could and should look like for the believer.

Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood - I read through several pages of the preface and it seemed helpful in laying foundations for understanding God's design in people being single and being married.
- In various things that I have read, I have been directed to this site and have never been disappointed with its content.

The Rich Single Life - This book seemed to emphasize the wealth of opportunities available to those who are single. It focused on moving from the mindset of 'coping' with a stage of life you wish you want to change, and seeing things with a strategic view. This is available as a free PDF.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The 3 P's

I was reading an article written by Jean Williams and came across the 3 P's that often hinder ministry.

They are pride, perfectionism, and people-pleasing. In pride, I am showing that I love to steal God's glory for myself. In perfectionism, I am showing that although I profess to know grace, I still feel that I have to prove myself. And in people-pleasing, I am showing that I value people's opinion more than God's.

So what can counteract these? Jean suggests these things...
  • For pride: All that I have, I have from God, and it is all for His glory.
  • For perfectionism: I am perfect in God's eyes, clothed with the righteousness of Christ.
  • For people-pleasing: What people think of me doesn't matter; the only thing that matters is what God thinks of me, and he cares about faithfulness, not success.
Some great things to think about.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Memorizing and meditating

While I understand and appreciate and seek to apply many of the spiritual disciplines in my life, it seems like I have varying degrees of obedience in the area of Scripture memory.

However, God is good to remind me of my need to pursue Him by memorizing and soaking on His Word. In particular, I pulled out some of my memory cards, and came across these verses.

Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name. You are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned. The flame will not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. - Isaiah 43:1-3a (fyi, I typed that from memory, so I might have missed a word or two, but progress is progress)

I was reminded by these verses of so many good things.
  • My identity is that I am His. I bear His name. I need nothing else than His redemption.
  • I will pass through rivers and fire. It is a 'when' question, not an 'if' question.
  • God is MY God, and MY Savior. As all-powerful and sovereign as He is, He still is a personal Savior.
Good words to meditate on.

Interview with Winston Smith

We have put on our website (and on our podcast if you are subscribed) an audio interview I did with Winston Smith, who will be speaking at our marriage conference coming up in October.

The interview is about 20 minutes and we answer some questions...
  • Who is Winston Smith and what does he do?

  • What are some issues that the conference will address?

  • What is the big vision for the conference?

  • Why should people with healthy and unhealthy marriages be there?
You can download the audio interview.