Sunday, March 28, 2010

Lord's Day 1: Heidelberg Catechism

Q1: What is your only comfort in life and in death?

A1: That I am not my own, but belong--body and soul, in life and in death--to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven: in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to Him, Christ, by His Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for Him.

Q2: What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort?

A2: Three things: first, how great my sin and misery are; second, how I am set free from all my sins and misery; third, how I am to thank God for such deliverance.

The Gospel--> Guilt, Grace, Gratitude

Saturday, March 27, 2010

5 Quick Reasons for Joy

5. In Christ, I don't have to despair about my constant sin. "And from Jesus' fullness we have all received, grace upon grace." John 1.16

4. In Christ, God graciously gives me all things. "He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?" Romans 8.32

3. In Christ, I stand before God perfect. "For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified." Hebrews 10.14

2. In Christ, my sins have been washed away. "Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven." Matthew 9.2

1. In Christ, my name is written in heaven. "Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." Luke 10.20

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Top Ten: Spring Training

This past weekend, I traveled to Phoenix with Rob and Wayne. We spent time hanging out with the Brewers and relaxing in the sun. Here's a top ten list:

10. In-N-Out--On the final night of our trip, we had dinner at In-N-Out. Rob had never had eaten there before. After tasting it, Rob said: "This tastes exactly like George Webb."

9. Fellowship--Wayne got to spend time with several players, encouraging them in their walks with Jesus. One of them in particular recently professed faith and is really excited to grow. It is always really cool to spend time with other believers.

8. Sermon--Sunday night we went to church and heard a great sermon on God's work in salvation. The pastor preached unconditional election and limited atonement without ever saying those terms. I'm blessed to often be able to hear God's Word explained simply and clearly.

7. Tim Dillard--Friday night, we hung out with Brewers pitcher Tim Dillard. He is a cool brother, who does a hilarious impression of Harry Caray. We had a blast hanging out with him at Wayne's favorite coffee place--Tully's.

6. Brewers Game--We got great seats to the Brewers' games every day. Spring training games are more fun than regular season games--just a more fun crowd and more enjoyable atmosphere. It helped that the Brewers won every day we were there, too.

5. Dinner with the Hanels--After the game on Saturday, Rob and I ate dinner with the Hanel family. We sat around the pool, ate a well-prepared dinner, and just enjoyed a perfect Arizona night.

4. Early Flight--Friday morning, I wanted to catch an earlier flight to Arizona, but the flight was full. God graciously opened up a seat on the early flight.

3. Prodigal God--While waiting for my flight home on Tuesday, I finished the book "The Prodigal God" by Tim Keller. This is a great book, describing the joy of God and detailing the subtle sins that creep into our lives. I had to constantly repent while reading.

2. Weather--No clouds. 70s. Sunscreen. Shorts. Very nice.

1. Hotel--Single funniest moment (only to me, I think). We had just gotten to our hotel and we were walking down the hall looking for our room. When we got to our room, the maid had the door open a crack and was spraying some kind of "freshner" into the room and onto the carpet. Wayne tried to crack a joke as we stood there waiting for her to finish. He asked: "Did someone just throw up in here?" The maid just nodded and walked away.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Ten Ways: Worship in Trial

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.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that Lazarus was ill, He stayed two days longer in the place where He was. (John 11.4-6)

You want to see God work? You want to know God in a deeper way than you ever have before? Then you need to see the glory of God!

One final way that the glory of God can be seen in your life is if you worship God during hard times. If you rejoice in the Lord, singing praises to Him--when life is tough--you will see the glory of God.

It should be relatively easy for a child of God to praise his or her Father in good times. When you meet someone you love, and you get married. When you want to get pregnant, and you have a child. When you're short on funds, and money shows up. When you want to do things, and your health is good. When you feel down, and friends show up.

It can be harder, however, for a believer to worship God when he or she is in trial, in suffering, or in difficulty. Maybe the last thing you feel like singing about is God's love, when you feel rejected. Or God's sovereignty, when life seems to be swirling out of control. Or God's holiness, when sin around you seems so prevalent.

God calls us to know Him and be close to Him. He is sovereign. He is in complete control. He knows everything. He is all-powerful. And He loves us. He is working all things for good. He lives for His glory (which is our joy).

The above story illustrates this so clearly. Jesus loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. A lot. Strikingly to us, when He hears that Lazarus is sick, He doesn't rush to Lazarus' side to heal him. Rather He lets Lazarus die (v. 6), for the glory of God (v. 4).

He loves Mary, Martha, and Lazarus so much that He lets Lazarus die--so that God would be glorified. This is hard for me to understand. Piper helps when he says: "Love is doing whatever you need to do to help people see and savor the glory of God in Christ forever."

Jesus was working so that God would be glorified, so that the three siblings would love Jesus even more, and so that even greater good would come.

Rather than complain, whine, despair, and get frustrated at God for our misunderstandings of what He is doing, we ought to be trusting our God and worshipping Him, even when we can't see the outcome.

God calls His people to a life of faith. (Understatement coming...) God has a good track record. He keeps His Word.

Even if we never received one more good gift from God for the rest of our earthly life, we would still have enough (in Christ) to worship, rejoice, and love God forever.

Worshipping God in trial is the mark of a believer. He gives and takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ten Ways: Witness

“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come preaching to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” --1 Corinthians 2.1-5

We want to see the glory of God. We want to see God at work. We want fuel for our Christian life. The 9th way: Witness.

Share your faith. Tell someone else about Jesus. Tell someone the good news. If you claim to be a Christian, you should know the Gospel. You should know the message that saved you.

Here's the Gospel in a sentence from John Piper: The Gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, died for our sins and rose again, eternally triumphant over all His enemies, so that there is now no condemnation, for those who believe, but only everlasting joy.

This is the good news we are to preach. You don't have to know the ins-and-outs of the creation/evolution debate, you don't need to have the end times all figured out, and you don't have to have the minds of Tim Keller, Cornelius Van Til, and C.S. Lewis all rolled into one. You just need to know and believe the good news. That's it.

The reason a lot of Christians don't share their faith is fear. They're afraid of people or afraid of the unknown, or afraid they'll mess something up. From the above verses, we can see Paul was afraid when he shared the Gospel. It says he came in weakness and fear and much trembling. Sounds like a lot of us. Weakness. Fear. Much Trembling. In spite of his fears, Paul was compelled to preach. Though he had fear, he prayed that God would give him boldness. He didn't wait for his fear to subside, he prayed and he witnessed.

Even if you're not the most eloquent speaker, God still wants you to share your faith. You don't need to have a slick sales pitch or be really great at speaking in front of groups (again, see verses above). God is the One who saves people and changes people's hearts. Its not up to us. Its not up to you. God just wants us to preach the Gospel--Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

I need to get better at sharing my faith--telling other people about Jesus. Every time I have, I get the biggest boost of joy and faith. I'm so excited to be a Christian and I so believe God exists and loves me. I get these feelings regardless of the reaction of the person I was witnessing to.

You want to see God's glory? Get out of your comfort zone (aka: your selfish, prideful, fleshly zone) and share your faith.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Ten Ways: Stay in One Book

You want to see the glory of God? You want to see God at work and know Him better? Do you want to be changed by beholding His glory?

An eighth way to see God's glory is to spend significant time in one book of the Bible. Pick a book and read through it (or part of it) every day.

While it is beneficial to read through any part of the Bible, there is real profit in spending time in one book. God commands His people to meditate on His Word. Meditation involves thinking about what one has read: what it means, how it fits with the rest of the Scripture, and how it applies to your life. Without meditation, God's Word often seems boring, irrelevant, or ineffective.

Meditation deepens our walk with God. God's Word is no longer just another line on our daily checklist, it involves the whole of our being. We think about it when we are in the car, we see its meaning in our relationships with others, and we have it in our minds when temptation comes.

Some people get only a little out of their time in the Bible because they fail to meditate on what God's Word says. They bounce around God's Word, getting bits and pieces of it, while failing to dwell on what they have read.

By spending time in one book--and really soaking in God's Word--meditation on God's Word is more natural. If you spend a month (or more) reading the same book, you'll better see how powerful and meaningful God's Word is.

I spent time in 2009 trying this. Every day in my time with God from March through August I spent time in 1 Peter. Some days I would read through the whole book, some days I would read through just a paragraph. It changed my life. Really.

The first week was great. I was seeing new things, having verses pop out at me, and enjoying the freshness of the book.

The next week was a little harder. Some days I would read 1 Peter and say, "I just read this yesterday. I don't know if I learned anything new."

Then, slowly, the book really came to life. I started seeing the flow of what Peter was talking about. I saw little connections between some of the verses. Parts were becoming familiar. I was unintentionally beginning to memorize what I was reading.

It just kept getting deeper. Sundays were deeper: I'd hear sermons from other parts of the Bible and see the relation to 1 Peter. Worship was deeper: Themes like salvation and forgiveness in 1 Peter meant more as I sang or praised God. Fellowship was deeper: Talking with friends about what God was teaching them from 1 Peter and being blown away at how rich God's Word is. Prayer was deeper: I knew how to pray for people--I'd pray verses for them right from 1 Peter.

Soaking in God's Word had such a powerful effect on me last year, I'm doing it again this year. I'm reading through the Gospel of John. Its harder to read through all in one sitting, but reading about Jesus is fantastic.

So, if you want to see God's glory, soak in His Word.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Ten Ways: Pray Because You Need To

You want to see the glory of God? Then you need to pray.

Prayer is one of those obvious things in the Christian life. We all know we should do it. It doesn't cost us anything to do it and its pretty easy to pray. Yet, I haven't met too many people who would give themselves an "A" for their prayer life.

One of the biggest reasons we don't pray more is because we don't believe. If we really thought prayer worked, if we really thought we desperately needed to pray all the time, if we really believed we were weak creatures who had a special link to the God of the universe, we would pray more.

Pastor Kevin DeYoung wrote a blog post about this topic and it really hit home for me. If you've got two minutes, check it out.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ten Ways: Visitation

You want to deepen your walk with God, obey Him, and grow in your love for His Son Jesus? Then you need to see God's glory at work!

Another way to see God's glory in your life (today!) is to do visitation. You can visit someone from your local church who is in the hospital, bed-ridden, or unable to get out from where they live.

These senior saints are older and often failing in health, but they have much to offer the body of Christ. They have ample time to pray and some of them pray--literally--hours a day. Some have walked with Jesus for 30, 50, or 70 years or more and are a great source of encouragement to those who are younger.

By spending even 30 minutes with them, sharing what God is teaching you, and praying together, both you and the one you are visiting will be encouraged. I have gone in to visit people, hoping to brighten their day. More often than not, I have left encouraged, joyful, and having had my day brightened by them.

If it seems uncomfortable for you to visit someone you don't know alone, bring some friends and go as a group. Many older saints/shut-ins struggle with loneliness and are unable to get out of the house to even come to church. Having some younger, growing followers of Jesus drop by will encourage them and build them up.

Ask to hear their testimony of how God saved them, have them share with you stories of God's faithfulness in their life, and have them pray for you. It won't be long in your visit before you are seeing God's glory at work.

Book Log: February 2010

1. John Piper. Finally Alive. 160 pages. Christian Focus Press. One of my favorite books. Piper makes clear what it means to be saved--breaking it down for us to understand. This book gave me a deeper love for the gospel, a greater sense of who God is (and thus, I can worship God more richly), and motivated me for evangelism.

2. Francis Chan. Crazy Love. 192 pages. David C. Cook Press. This was a great book--challenging me in areas of my lukewarmness and giving me a better sense of God's love for me. I really appreciated the online videos that went with the chapters--really worthwhile.

3. D.A. Carson. Call to Spiritual Reformation. 230 pages. Baker Academic Press. Great book on prayer. This helped me to pray richer, fuller, more expectant prayers. I often struggle with what to pray for people. This book showed me how to better use Scripture in praying for others.

4. Owen Strachan and Doug Sweeney. Jonathon Edwards on True Christianity. 160 pages. Moody Publishers. Really challenging. These two authors take 18th century preacher Jonathon Edwards sermons and admonish the present-day readers to take his words seriously. This book focused on nominal Christianity--where people claim the name of Jesus, but don't have His fruit in their life.