Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Promise

And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.

Romans 8.28-29

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ten Ways: Pray Consistently

Do you want to see God's glory and see your life dramatically transformed by Him? Then you've got to pray consistently. Pray repeatedly. For the same thing. Every day. Again and again.

For the rest of 2010, pick one request. Maybe for a character trait in you or a friend. Maybe for somebody's salvation. Maybe for resolution to a problem.

And watch God work.

See what Jesus says about it:

Whatever you ask in My name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son (John 14.13)

If you ask me anything in My name, I will do it (John 14.14)

If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you (John 15.7)

You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He may give it to you (John 15.16)

In that day you will ask nothing of Me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He will give it to you (John 16.23)

Until now, you have asked for nothing in My name, ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full (John 16.24)

James 4.2 says that we don't have because we don't ask. Luke 11 tells us that God wants to give us good gifts. Luke 18 tells us that we are to be persistent in prayer and not lose heart.

But we get impatient. We want God to hurry. We pray and things get worse. We pray and don't see progress. Maybe we even develop a bitterness towards God for promising and not delivering.

Isaiah 5.19 says: "Woe to those who say: 'Let Him be quick. Let Him speed His work that we may see'."

Pray and be persistent (Luke 18.1). Wait on the Lord and you'll never be put to shame (Psalm 25.3). God is working even when we don't see it (Habakkuk 1.5).

Pray. You'll see God's glory and you'll be changed.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ten Ways: Fast

You want to bring glory to God's name? You don't just want to profess to be a Christian, but you want to love and enjoy God? You've got to see God's glory.

A fourth way of doing this is by fasting. Fasting is the voluntary denial of a normal thing for a spiritual purpose. Being punished and having your car keys taken away isn't fasting (fasting is voluntary). If you don't eat broccoli, you can't give it up and call it fasting (fasting is from a normal part of your life). And if you give up soda because you are on a diet, it isn't fasting (fasting is for a spiritual purpose).

In America, we live in a society that never says no. Just do it. Have it your way. If you can afford it, buy it. We indulge ourselves in every possible luxury at every possible turn. We love comfort. We love more. We love stuff.

Fasting teaches us to deny our impulses. In short, fasting teaches us to say "no."

Just look at King David. He slowly built a harem for himself. Even though God's law taught one man and one woman, David followed in step with the other kings of the times and added wife upon wife. He got used to saying yes. He got used to indulging in physical pleasure. He got used to doing what he wanted to do. Then, he saw Bathsheba. He was so used to saying yes to his desire for women, his sin was almost inevitable.

Fasting can be an expression of finding your greatest pleasure and joy in this life from Jesus. It shows that seeking God is more important to you than: ____________.

Of course, denying the flesh doesn't save us or even grow us. God does that. But, we can use fasting to show that we do love God most. That knowing Him is our highest pursuit. That following Him is our greatest desire.

In the Bible, fasting involved giving up food for a time. That's a great way to start. Skip a meal, like lunch, and spend that time praying. Have a goal in mind when you fast. Don't just skip a meal and hope God zaps you. Pray for an unsaved friend, pray for a sin you are struggling with, or cast a trial/care on Him.

Another type of fasting could be for a season of time. Giving up the Internet, the movies, or sports would be a great way to carve out more time in your schedule for prayer.

You want to see God's glory? You want to see God work? Fast.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Being Sick to the Glory of God...

I got sick recently. It wasn't too bad, but sickness is sickness. Doesn't feel good. It did give me time to think about how I could be sick to the glory of God.

1. Reminds us that we are mortal: Illness is one of the best things for remembering that we do not live forever. When we are healthy, especially if we are young, we take every day for granted. We assume we will wake up tomorrow. We assume life like this will go on forever. Illness reminds us how weak and frail we really are. We really are a mist that vanishes and we really do fade like the flower. "For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now" (Romans 8.22)

2. Reminds us of our default selfishness: Selfishness is always a struggle for us. Especially so when we are sick. Our friends and family turn into butlers and maids who should do our every bidding. No one should expect anything from us, because, after all, we are sick. As difficult as it can be to be others-centered when sick, we must fight through the selfishness and look for ways to serve others. "Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others" (Philippians 2.4)

3. Provides a time and reason for prayer: When sick, you probably have unexpected free time in your schedule. Use this time for prayer. Jesus beckons us to pray, so that the Father can answer our requests (John 14:13; 14:14; 15:7; 15:16; 16:23; 16:24). Prayer gives us this opportunity. While you may feel as you lie on the couch or in bed that you are accomplishing very little of your to-do list, God has provided you the chance to accomplish much in the spiritual realm. Pray. "You do not have because you do not ask" (James 4.2)

4. Reminds us of our dependance: Once we hit about sixteen, we feel pretty autonomous. We feel pretty independent. We forget just how dependent on God we are. Sickness cripples our own abilities and functions, showing us our need for Him. Jesus wants us to have child-like faith, always relying on the Father for needs, life, and desires. "Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18.4)

5. Reminds us of the gospel: We shouldn't need to be reminded of the gospel. I sin just about every second, so that alone should keep my mind fixed on the gospel. The fact that the "good news" is the greatest news in the history of the world should keep my mind fixed on the gospel. But I forget. So, God uses sickness to remind me of the gospel. We are all sick with sin--an incurable disease--that leads to eternal death. There was no cure, but One. Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, taking our wages of sin on Himself. Death, guilt, judgment, being an enemy of God, being a slave to sin--all gone through Jesus. In our sanctification, as we struggle with sin, we look forward to heaven. We look forward to being with the Great Physician. We look forward to the place where there will be no more sickness, where we will be seated with Jesus forever. This is the good news of the gospel. "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall their be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away" (Revelation 21.4)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Top Ten: Leaders Retreat 2010

Last weekend, some of the youth leaders went up to Fort. We prayed, served, loved, laughed, and got sick. Here's the top ten...

10. Pioneer Restaurant--For the first time (ever), we ate at the Pioneer Restaurant. This restaurant has no known claim to fame. However, our group annually stops to take pictures with the statue in front of the restaurant. This is a tradition we have done with the Project Serve group the last four years. Below, is my first picture of the statue eight years ago (apparently when I thought: I could grow long hair, I was the coolest person on earth (see: the pose) and when I was 200 pounds lighter).

9. Safety Force--TK did a great job of taking a simple privilege that Fort had given him (walkie-talkie) and abusing it. He was told the walkie-talkie was only for use in an emergency/medical situation as he watched the tube hill. Instead, he used talkie to make jokes, cry wolf, and radio in for hot chocolate. Below is a picture of a girl who went down the tube hill without shoes because TK told her "that's the rules":

8. Ace's Uncontrollable Laughter--On Saturday night, Ace lost it. He could not stop laughing. Didn't matter what was being talked about, he couldn't stop. This, of course, caused the rest of us to start laughing. Fact: We weren't very productive during that devotion time.

7. Unity--One thing that I am so thankful to God about is the leaders. God has so blessed the youth ministry and me personally with a great staff of leaders. God has brought men and women with different backgrounds, personalities, and gifts to serve. It amazes me how well these people work together, how they encourage one another in Jesus, and how they are so content for God (and not them) to get the glory. Winners: God (he gets the glory), Me (I get blessed), and the students in the youth group (they see Jesus through them).

6. Don Francisco--As we were taking a rather boring ride to Fort, Bryce got the great idea to listen to Don Francisco as we drove. Soon, the whole van was chanting, "Don Fran-cis-co" and there was nothing I could do but happily oblige.

5. John 15--Over the weekend, we studied John 15 together. This is a wonderful chapter, with many rich themes. Sunday morning, we sat together and discussed things like: God answers prayer, the importance of abiding in Christ, what pruning looks like, the love of God, obedience, real joy, loving others, and the Holy Spirit. These leaders shared deep truths they saw and also how God was working in their lives. Exciting stuff!

4. Banquet Dinner--Lobster. Steak. Moose something-or-other. 'nuff said.

3. One-on-Ones--I got a chance to sit down with several of the leaders and talk to them about how things were going in ministry. I went in wanting to encourage them as they served. I left being encouraged. They love God. They love the students. They are willing to serve God in any way to see that the students grow.

2. Ace's Comeback--Tom, the camp's head honcho, came into the room where all of us leaders were eating to greet our group. He, apparently, was a friend of Ace's and decided to take the opportunity to embarrass Ace in front of his friends. Mistake. What resulted was the single greatest comeback ever witnessed live.

Tom: Hey, I didn't know they let old guys like you up to Fort.
Ace: Look at you.
Tom: Well, at least I'm better looking.
Ace: That's not what your wife said.
Tom: (leaves room)


1. Prayer Time--The best part of the weekend was how it ended. We spent time praying for ourselves, each other, and the group as a whole. There is something about praying together with other believers that is so refreshing. This was one of those times.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ten Ways: Read a Book

"So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, 'Do you understand what you are reading?' And he said, 'How can I, unless someone guides me?' And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him." --Acts 8.30-31

Do you really want to know God more deeply? Do you want to grow in passion for God? Then you need to see God's glory! You need to see how great God is!

One way to to do that is to read a book. For most people "reading" and "fun" don't belong in the sentence. Maybe you don't feel like you're very good at reading, maybe you don't know any good books, or maybe you've been force-fed a steady diet of Shakespeare, Hawthorne, and Chaucer to the point that you think all books are written in unintelligible old English.

Reading in general has its benefits, but that's not a way to see God's glory. To see God's glory, read books about Jesus by authors who really love Him. These kind of books help us to better understand the Bible. They take truth from God's Word and help us to understand it and do it. They magnify Christ, cause us to more deeply appreciate the gospel, and help us to live holy Christian life.

I want to recommend three books, two that have really changed my life (and helped me to see God's glory) and one that has really changed other people's lives (and that I want to read this month).

1. The Gospel According to Jesus--I read this book when I was in high school and it gave me a totally new understanding of what it means to be saved. I read it when I was a new Christian and it blew me away to learn that not everyone who says they are a Christian really is one. The chapter that still sticks out to me is on the parable of the soils. Dr. MacArthur explains that only the fourth soil--the soil that actually produces fruit--is a believer. This encouraged me to talk to other students in the youth group about their walks with God and to challenge them with their need to repent.

2. Living the Cross-Centered Life--This book is written by CJ Mahaney, who breaks down the gospel--what God has done for us. Each chapter makes you stop to thank God for His wonderful gift of salvation. The best part of the book is the end, when he explains how the gospel is essential for everything in the Christian life. The gospel is the basis for our prayer life, is at the heart of our hope for the end times, and is the foundation for human relationships. We can never fully appreciate the gospel, but this book helps us better stand in awe of the God who won this salvation for us.

3. Crazy Love--I haven't read this book yet, but hopefully it will be on the February book log. Several people in the church, and several more in the youth group, have been really encouraged to walk more obediently because of Pastor Chan's book. God calls His children to live radically holy lives--totally distinct from the world. This book is a push/encouragement towards that end.

I hope that you take time this month to read one of these books. There are many others that I could add to the list, but these are three of the best. I want to know God and see His glory. And what better way than learning from three great men of God and hearing how they've seen God's glory?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Ten Ways: Give Money

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also"--Matthew 6.21

You want to be on fire? You want to know God more deeply, love Him more fully, and enjoy Him more richly? Then you need to see God's glory. One way you can see God's glory is to spend time with every day. Another way is pretty simple, give money to God.

Why Give? We are naturally greedy, especially in America. God has blessed us with so much and, yet, we want more. We confuse needs and wants. We are materialistic, covetous, and discontent.

While the Bible is clear about the sinfulness and deceit of greed, we don't see in ourselves. We don't see the problem. We don't see how it affects our relationship with God.

But, it does. Jesus said that where your treasure (read: money) is, there your heart will be also. You can claim to love Jesus. You can claim that Jesus has first place in your heart. You can claim that God is your top priority.

But the proof is found in how you use your money. Does your money show that your priority is God and His Kingdom or that your priority is Yourself and Your Kingdom? Do you look forward to giving? Do you seek out ways that you can give to God? Do you give at all?

So, take a look at how you spend your money. It will be a good test to see where your heart is.
Essential Way 1: Give to Your Local Church
God has specially designed the Church (read: Bride of Christ) to represent Jesus, magnify God, build up the saints, and preach the truth.

As you can see, God views the church highly. You should too. God wants you to give to the local church to support this ongoing ministry. Your offering helps heat the building, support the pastors (thanks!), and funds world-wide missions. Give, and give generously.

Essential Way 2: Creatively Be Generous to Others
Obvious Statement 1: Instead of always spending your money on yourself, spend it on others. Obvious Statement 2: After all, God's the One who gave you that money in the first place.
Obvious Statement 3: Other people will really like it if you are generous to them.

Five quick ideas:
- pay for everyone when you go out to eat
- buy a friend a book you like
- pick up a nice gift for your folks
- over-tip
- get someone a gift card and slip it to them anonymously

Result of Giving: Joy! (Don't believe me? Try it!)

Few things break the power of greed in your life like giving...

Monday, February 8, 2010

Ten Ways: QT Every Day

"Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation--if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good." --1 Peter 2.2-3

I don't want to be lukewarm. I don't want to live a lame, hypocritical Christian life. I really want to love Jesus. To do so, I need to see the glory of God regularly. One of the best ways to see God's glory at work in your life is to spend time with God. A lot of time. Like, every day.

If you really are a Christian, if you really have passed from death to life, if you really love Jesus, won't you spend time with Him? It seems like in some Christians this most basic, foundational part of life is missing.

Peter says that we are to long for God's Word. We are to desire God's Word. Like a baby craves food, we are to crave God and how He's revealed Himself--through His Word.

A big problem, though, is that many Christians have their appetites filled elsewhere. Like a little child stuffing his face with candy before dinner, Christians fill themselves up on junk food rather than on the nourishing Word of God.

How is it that we have so much time for Internet, Facebook, Twitter, TV, music, friends, worried thoughts, lazy times of laying around, entertainment, and sleep? How is it that we don't have time for what really matters?

It is hard for me to look at pictures of children overseas who are malnourished. It is sad to see young children lacking what is needed for life. It is harder and sadder for God to look at His children, who are spiritually malnourished, when the food is sitting right next to them. Seeing Jesus in God's Word is how we grow and are fed.

Peter's reasoning for spending time with God in the Bible couldn't be better. He doesn't give threats or try to logically convince us. He says, "if you have tasted that the Lord is good."

Haven't you tasted how good God is? Haven't you had times where you've shut the door, turned off the cell phone, shut down the computer, gotten away from friends, woken up early, whatever, and had God really speak to you?

Haven't you seen God's goodness in your life? Don't you know how wonderful Jesus is? Don't you know God's love for you? Don't you know where true life is found? Don't you know where true peace can be had? Where worry can end? Where hope is renewed? Where joy abounds?

Once you've tasted how good God is, you want more. And, He always satisfies.

How can you do it? Try reading through John. 21 days left in February. 21 chapters in John. Read a chapter a day. Taste the goodness of the Lord.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Glory of God

But when Jesus heard it He said, "This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it." --John 11.4

Do you have a lame spiritual life? Are you lukewarm? Do you feel like your love for Jesus is getting weak? Maybe its because you don't see God's glory.

In John 11, Jesus raises His friend Lazarus from the dead. Jesus, at the very beginning of the story, tells His disciples that the reason Lazarus is sick (and will die) is so that the glory of God can be seen. God allows a horrible event to happen so that Jesus can be glorified (v. 4).

God allows all kinds of circumstances to come into our lives--good and bad, exciting and mundane, new and routine--all so that Jesus can be glorified.

But we often miss it.

We miss God's glory.

Like Martha in John 11 (read the chapter and watch Martha and Jesus' conversation), we take our eyes off God and we stop believing in God. Yes, we know God exists. Yes, we believe He can do anything. Yes, we know He works out all things for good. But we stop believing Him. We look at our problems and our trials. We forget that this world serves to bring God glory (and not immediate comfort and pleasure to us). We miss what God is doing, because we aren't living to bring Him glory.

When we don't see God doing amazing things around us, our walk with Jesus can get boring and lame pretty quick. The problem isn't with God (He is always living for His glory), the problem is with us (we aren't always living for His glory).

So, for February, I'll post ten ideas on how to see God's glory in 2010.

Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?" --John 11.40

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Top Ten: Meeting Kevin DeYoung

Today, Drew Papillon and I drove down to Moody to hear Kevin DeYoung speak at Founder's Week. Kevin DeYoung is one of my favorite people to read, because he loves the gospel and communicates it clearly and understandably. He blogs, writes books, and, like today, speaks at conferences. While this list will be meaningful to just me, here is a top ten list of the trip:

10. Cake Shakes--A trip to Chicago is never complete until one hits up Portillo's for a cake shake. They are delicious. Despite being mocked (by me) and threatened with a mysterious "thighmaster" (by David), Drew refused to get one.

9. Directions--As we pulled up to Moody, we approached a Moody security guard who was handling parking for the event. We rolled down our window and asked where to park. He directed us to a parking garage, which was directly across the street (and in plain view). He then proceeded to give us several steps of directions to get to this parking garage (again, which was right across the street). Thankfully, we didn't get lost.

8. Seeing LT--Surprisingly, I got to see my old roommate, who was also in town bringing some of his high school students to the conference. He's doing well, teaching high school in Ohio. It is really cool to see old friends that God is using in ministry.

7. Happy Day--Ride home. Pitch black outside. Blasting Tim Hughes. Air drums and guitar. Rejoicing in the forgiveness of sins. Real joy because of Jesus' love.

6. David--Since David works for Moody security, Drew and I had a good time needling David about his job and security guards in general.

5. Picture--I wanted a picture with DeYoung. So, we got in line to meet him after his message. As we inched closer to him, I showed a guy standing next to me in line how to take a picture with my phone. He failed. No picture. Not even a blurry one. I almost cried. So, we had to naggingly ask him to take another one with us (shown above).

4. Memorizing Romans--I meet with Drew each week and we spend a few hours together, mostly made up of me whining about my sin and Drew encouraging me with the gospel. Its great (for me). Drew also keeps me accountable in memorizing verses. We worked on 1 Peter 1 and 2 this fall with the youth and now we're starting Romans 3. I really appreciate Drew helping to keep God's Word in my thinking.

3. My Interaction--So, I get up to DeYoung in line to meet him. I should have rehearsed some lines or something. I got nervous. I stumbled my way through the conversation. It was about as smooth as asking a woman who's not pregnant if she is having a baby. It was about as smooth as getting someone's gender wrong. It was about as smooth as my interactions with girls in middle school. In short, I choked.

2. Drew's Interaction--Not surprisingly, Drew immediately brought Bob Kauflin up in conversation:

Drew (to DeYoung): "I only like you because Bob Kauflin likes you."

DeYoung: "Oh, I love Bob. He's a great guy. How do you know Bob?"

Drew: (in tears) "I don't really know Bob" (then softly, to himself) "But I wish I did."

Ok, I made that last part up.

1. DeYoung's Message--The message he gave was really good. He preached out of Leviticus 1 and did an excellent job of explaining the chapter (tough to pull off in Leviticus) and applying it to us today. Take home points:
A. True Worship of God is Costly
B. God Is Holy and Without His Provision, We Are Not
C. God Provided an Acceptable Substitute for Our Sin
D. Christ Is the End of the Law for Everyone Who Believes

He closed by connecting the sacrificed lambs of the Old Testament to the Lamb of God (Jesus) in the book of John. Because of Jesus' sacrifice, our sin has been paid for. We are covered by His blood. When God, then, looks at those who have been forgiven, He can say to us: "You are My beloved son, in you I am well-pleased."

Talk about a reason for a joy. Jesus loves me.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Book Log: January 2010

Not much this month...

1. Douglas Wilson. Future Men. 199 pages. Canon Press. This book talks about raising young men to become spiritual leaders. A friend suggested I read this book, not because I'm raising sons, but because one of the primary goals of my ministry is to build young men into men of God. This book provoked much thought and I hope to do a study of manhood on the blog for an upcoming month. A good read.

2. Donald Whitney. 10 Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health. 112 pages. NavPress. This book systematically asks 10 questions on the state of one's soul. Whitney is an easy writer to follow and he cuts right to the heart with many of his questions. The youth ministry at RBC is using the book on Wednesday nights in the spring semester as we help students grow in their walks with Christ.