A child's prayer

Our Father in heaven, You are above all this world and You are our loving Father. We our your children. Impress our new and permanent identity on our souls - we are your kids. You gave us new life and caused us to be born again. And there's so much more! You gave us a perfect inheritance which is being saved for us in heaven. And that treasure is Yourself, for what else is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading? And there is still more. You made us co-heirs with our elder brother and savior Jesus.

Jesus, you suffered for us so that we wouldn't have to. You suffered to make us sons and daughters, heirs of your Father. You suffered to cancel our sin and break its power over us. We act foolishly and so often run after our sinful passions instead of the Father's will. We are sorry. Teach us that these things will only increase our sorrows.

We're coming back to You, O God! Help us live for your will and sink the gospel deep into our hearts. Give us the eyes of faith, to look to the unseen things, the wonderful things You have in store when we will be with You and You will be with us and we will dwell with God forever.

Our soul thirsts for You. Satisfy us with your love!
Through the Beloved Son, Jesus, amen.

When Satan tempts me to despair

When the devil throws our sins up to us and declares we deserve death and hell, we ought to speak thus: "I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? Does this mean that I shall be sentenced to eternal damnation? By no means. For I know One who suffered and made a satisfaction in my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Where he is, there I shall be also."
- Martin Luther


God's unchanging holiness

 Here's a mediation from one of the elders of Missio Church:

“These searched for their family records, but they could not find them and so were excluded from the priesthood as unclean. The governor ordered them not to eat any of the most sacred food until there was a priest ministering with the Urim and Thummim.” (Ezra 2:62-63)

God’s holiness was understood clearly and taken seriously by the governor of the returning exiles in Ezra.  Even a hint of impurity barred people from standing in God’s presence.  They could not be a part of the priesthood if there was any question regarding their identity.  

God’s holiness has not changed.  He is the same God.  He is still jealous for his glory.  Yet we are called “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God” by Peter in spite of our countless offences against this perfect God.  

What’s the difference?  We stand as beneficiaries of the person and work of Jesus.  Our spiritual sacrifices are acceptable to God only because of Christ.  May this profoundly shape the way we live and worship.


Jesus' activity in my life

Recently, on my Tumblr blog, someone asked me this:
What is Jesus doing in the life of Trevor today?
I was glad to give an answer to a good question; I've always been leery of giving anonymous internet users the ability to ask me things. Here's my response:
Jesus is working in my life in thousands of ways, but I am only able to discern one or two. And for that I am thankful. “A thousand things are happening in this one thing.”
I was reading 1 Peter 3 yesterday in my study through one of the more difficult passages I’ve come across in Scripture (3:18-22) and I was taught a few things:
  1. God’s patience with sinners is off-the-charts. (“when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah” is but one example)
  2. Jesus is very much like the ark of Noah for all who believe in him; it delivers us from the waters of God’s wrath.
  3. I am safe in Jesus, through his death and resurrection, from all wrath of God. Anything “bad” I experience is not God’s punitive wrath.
Separate from that, I was outside in a park on my lunch break reading when a young man (probably around my age) saw me reading the Bible and he asked if I read the whole thing and how long it took and then shared his frustrations with trying to understand the Bible when he has read it in the past. I told him that it is helpful to ask the Bible questions, like, “What does this passage say about God? What does it tell me about Jesus? What should my response to this passage be?” I never caught his name, but I prayed for him then and there. I can guarantee if you sit out in a public park in downtown Syracuse, you will find someone to converse with. Also, I regretted not having some evangelistic literature with me when the man was speaking to me. I should spend more time outside. The fields are so ripe.


The aim of worship

God is the one we want to impress, the one we most want to honor. Our first aim must not be to win over the culture or appeal to the unregenerate. Worship is for the Worthy One.
- Kevin DeYoung

Our worship, corporate worship being the focus here, is meant for God. Any ideology that approaches our activities of worship with man as the focus has begun to lose their footing on a slippery slope of sub-biblical methodology. Our worship is for God alone. If our worship has the unregenerate man as it's focus, we have become humanistic and are performing a mere show of religious pomp. Worship the worthy one (Rev. 5:5-14).


Why should we suffer?

Now, if Christ was not exempted from sufferings, why should Christians expect it? If he suffered, to expiate sins, why should not we be content when our sufferings are only for trial and correction, but not for expiation? If he, though perfectly just, why should not we, who are all criminals? If he once suffered, and then entered into glory, shall not we be patient under trouble, since it will be but a little time and we shall follow him to glory? If he suffered, to bring us to God, shall not we submit to difficulties, since they are of so much use to quicken us in our return to God, and in the performance of our duty to him?
- Matthew Henry commenting on 1 Peter 3:18


Book Review: True North

I stumbled across a tweet somewhere on the tangled nest that is Twitter a few months ago where I learned that Kregel, a publishing company, had a program where they gave books away to those who agreed to post a review of the book on their blog. I opted in, chose a book, and here I am writing this review.

The book I chose to receive and review was True North, by Gary and Lisa Heim. Gary and Lisa are Christian counselors who have been in practice many years and the book definitely reflects this. I had never heard of the authors before nor was I even very familiar with Kregel, but their book's subject was most appealing to me out of the choices I had, so I chose True North. It turned out to be a very good decision, and not just because I have a somewhat inordinate affection for books.

If you asked me, "What did this book teach you?" I would tell you this: 

Through life, we experience groaning; we experience the longing of desire. When we are confronted with one of life's many frustrations, we groan. We can go in two directions with our groaning: north or south. We can go south, begin to grumble in discontent, believe the lie that God is not enough for us, and seek the fulfillment of our desire in idols or we can go north, identify the lie that says we need something other than God to be satisfied, reject that lie, find satisfaction in God, and then spread our joy in God with others in generous, sacrificial giving. Experience groaning again and repeat.

The authors summarized their book well with this diagram:

Their stated purpose of the book is, "to stir and stoke the fire of your heart's affections for Jesus Christ" (p.24). I have found that this book accomplishes its purpose well. While it focuses largely on instruction on how we can face our groaning and the frustrations of life, the instruction Gary and Lisa give, heeded well, will certainly lead the reader to become a greater lover of Jesus and their fellow man. Here's a few poignant excerpts from the book that stirred my affections:
"Whether the daily problems I'm facing are big or small, I'm learning to stop and prayerfully ask myself questions like these: Do I believe God is sovereign and in control in this painful moment? Do I believe he is good right now, that his love is enough to sustain me no matter what happens? Do I believe God has a good purpose for allowing that car to go slow in front of me, for allowing Lisa to get up from the table and leave? Will I remember God, surrender and submit to him right now, and stop grumbling? Will I stop going south into anger and unbelief and pray for help to go north to Jesus so I can love God and love people from my heart?" (p. 35)
"Frustration and locked doors are gifts from God. They are God's agents of change. Disappointments, annoying people, and difficult circumstances are all used by God to surface the lies we believe." (p. 127)
"Godly grief is sorrow mixed with faith. Grumbling, on the other hand, feels the pain of broken dreams and raises a fist at God. It's sorrow mixed with unbelief." (p. 132)
"You never really see your own folly until you see it in writing." (p. 167)
"[Truth] transforms us when we trust in God's love enough to take the risk of being fully honest and emotionally naked with him; letting him see all our brokenness, sin, and failure. We must linger with him in prayer and confession, allowing him to look deep into our eyes. We must not pull back in shame or try harder to shape up in order to earn his love. In those vulnerable and intimate moments, we have the opportunity to receive and experience God's love." (p. 172)
"We can't become wholehearted followers of Jesus while hiding secrets and cowering in fear or shame." (p. 200)
"We long for safe friends who are not demanding. We long for friendships where we share deep belly laughs around good food at our favorite restaurant. We yearn for good people with whom we can be ourselves, having no need to pretend. But it's easy to have friends who are just fun, convenient, and comfortable. That poses a problem. There's no risk and little chance of growth. People who are hungry for God long for something more than safety and good times." (p. 232)
Gary and Lisa quote a number of helpful people throughout the book, such as John Piper (the authors reiterate Piper's thesis of christian hedonism in their own words at one point), C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, A.W. Tozer, John Ortberg, and Larry Crabb (who wrote the foreword). If you are wondering about the author's commitment to orthodox, biblical Christianity, then fear not. They are solid. I particularly liked their thoughts on how God's word changes us (starts at p. 217). The only thing that made me scratch my head and feel a little disconnect was their usage of the phrase "still, small voice." I can't find the passage where they used such language (sorry), but my point is that I think more clear language could be used instead of that cliche term which carries some strange baggage with it (a.k.a. the "God told me so syndrome").

One interesting thing was that this book heavily uses the New Living Translation (NLT) of the Bible and to a lesser extent The Message by Eugene Peterson. I had not been a huge fan of these two biblical sources before but I have come to appreciate them more through this book, especially the NLT. I might pick a copy up.

To conclude, I recommend True North for your reading pleasure and edification. It presents a biblical, God-honoring framework that can help you address frustrations and direct you to worship God in how you live life. This is very much a whole life book - you can apply something from this book to every day of your life. Oh, and it has wonderful end-of-chapter discussion/reflection questions!


Immediate grace

Times of quiet prayer are often the times when my soul tastes the sweetest communion with Christ. And though it is pleasant to find a silent atmosphere in which to pray, it is a greater pleasure to shatter that silence with prayers transforming into the praise of my lips.

Where do you find the sweetest, experiential, and immediate connections with our gracious Lord?

You have said, "Seek my face." My heart says to you, "Your face, LORD, do I seek." - Psalm 27:8


Homosexuality and the gospel

The normalization of homosexuality simply cannot be accepted by anyone committed to biblical Christianity. The new secular orthodoxy demands that Christians abandon the clear teachings of Scripture, and Christians must understand that the sinfulness of all homosexual behaviors is not only a matter of biblical authority, but also of the Gospel. To deny that sin is sin is to deny our need for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Christians cannot accept any teaching that minimizes sin, for it is the knowledge of our sin that points us to our need for atonement, salvation, and the forgiveness of that sin through the cross of Jesus Christ.

- Albert Mohler, "Reparative Therapy, Homosexuality, and the Gospel of Jesus"


Gospel work and secular work

Gospel work has a unique significance in God’s plans for the world. We don’t make disciples of Jesus by building better bridges, but by prayerfully bringing the word of God to people. And this is the duty, joy and privilege of every disciple, in whatever circumstance of life they find themselves. Secular work is valuable and good, and must not be despised or downgraded. But it is not the centre or purpose of our lives, nor the means by which God will save the world.
 - Colin Marshal and Tony Payne, The Trellis and the Vine, (Kingsford NSW: Matthias Media, 2009), p. 139


Never-ending Peace

God shall be our life and the length of our days, and that will be indeed long life, with an addition. But, because length of days may possibly become a burden and a trouble, it is promised, (2.) That it shall prove the way to be easy too, so that even the days of old age shall not be evil days, but days in which thou shalt have pleasure: Peace shall they be continually adding to thee. As grace increases, peace shall increase; and of the increase of Christ's government and peace, in the heart as well as in the world, there shall be no end. Great and growing peace have those that love the law.

- Matthew Henry commenting on Proverbs 3:1-4 (bold added)


8 Things Jesus Does For Us

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4-5)

Look at what is said of Jesus in this passage:

-As you come to him
We can actually approach Jesus. We, depraved and unclean sinners, can approach Jesus for personal fellowship, communion, love, unity, help, and joy.

-a living stone
Jesus is alive. He is the cornerstone and foundation of the spiritual house of his people, the Church. Jesus is alive! This cornerstone will never crumble.

-rejected by men
As in the time of his life on Earth, he is still rejected by men. Mankind inherently wants nothing to do with Jesus. His words and very being make sinners bristle with hate. We don't come to him for love, forgiveness, and acceptance naturally.

-in the sight of God chosen and precious
Though rejected by men, Jesus is perfectly loved by God his Father. Jesus alone is the chosen vessel of God sent to save his people. Jesus is infinitely precious. God recognizes this and loves him accordingly. We constantly fail to grasp the preciousness of Jesus and love him with the vigor that he is worthy of. The commandment to "love God" makes the most sense viewed in light of the preciousness of Jesus, who is God.

-you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house
When we come to Jesus simply to be with him, hear from him, and receive his help, we are built up. We are spiritually fortified, made into strong people with vibrant spirits. We are built together in community. God is a master builder who brings the living stones of men and women into a community, into a corporate structure that has a purpose. This building of people is greater than the individual parts. A single stone can fulfill no real purpose, but when myriads of stones are built together, they form a structure that can be used by God.

-to be a holy priesthood
Jesus is building up a plethora of priests - those who serve God and point others to God. This new breed of servants are made holy by God himself. As the high priest could only enter into the inner room of the tabernacle/temple once a year after completing all the appointed sacrifices, now the new priests of God can enter into the holy place of God's presence at any time because the greater and final Lamb has been sacrificed once for all, opening access to the dwelling place of God for the new priests. Every Christian is made a priest by Jesus, who grants full and unhindered access to God through the sacrifice of his life. The Christian needs no man to stand between him and God to mediate for he himself has been made a priest.

-to offer spiritual sacrifices
God grants us the privilege and service of offering spiritual sacrifices to himself. What are these spiritual things but our very lives and bodies (Rom. 12:1-2)? To offer our very being to God is a great privilege indeed, akin to the honor a lowly servant may experience in his service to the king, or like the affection between a willing and loving bondservant and his master (Deut. 15:16-17).

-acceptable to God through Jesus Christ
The only sacrifice of our life that is acceptable to God is the one that is made holy through Jesus Christ. We are the blemished and defect-ridden sheep of the flock but Jesus is the spotless Lamb of God. Even though our sacrifices to God are impure of themselves, they are made holy by the pure sacrifice of Jesus.

I'm thrilled with Jesus and all he does for us. Aren't you too?

10 Resolutions for Mental Health

1. At least once every day I shall look steadily up at the sky and remember that I, a consciousness with a conscience, am on a planet traveling in space with wonderfully mysterious things above and about me.

2. Instead of the accustomed idea of a mindless and endless evolutionary change to which we can neither add nor subtract, I shall suppose the universe guided by an Intelligence which, as Aristotle said of Greek drama, requires a beginning, a middle, and an end. I think this will save me from the cynicism expressed by Bertrand Russell before his death when he said: "There is darkness without, and when I die there will be darkness within. There is no splendor, no vastness anywhere, only triviality for a moment, and then nothing."

3. I shall not fall into the falsehood that this day, or any day, is merely another ambiguous and plodding twenty-four hours, but rather a unique event, filled, if I so wish, with worthy potentialities. I shall not be fool enough to suppose that trouble and pain are wholly evil parentheses in my existence, but just as likely ladders to be climbed toward moral and spiritual manhood.

4. I shall not turn my life into a thin, straight line which prefers abstractions to reality. I shall know what I am doing when I abstract, which of course I shall often have to do.

5. I shall not demean my own uniqueness by envy of others. I shall stop boring into myself to discover what psychological or social categories I might belong to. Mostly I shall simply forget about myself and do my work.

6. I shall open my eyes and ears. Once every day I shall simply stare at a tree, a flower, a cloud, or a person. I shall not then be concerned at all to ask what they are but simply be glad that they are. I shall joyfully allow them the mystery of what Lewis calls their "divine, magical, terrifying and ecstatic" existence.

7. I shall sometimes look back at the freshness of vision I had in childhood and try, at least for a little while, to be, in the words of Lewis Carroll, the "child of the pure unclouded brow, and dreaming eyes of wonder."

8. I shall follow Darwin's advice and turn frequently to imaginative things such as good literature and good music, preferably, as Lewis suggests, an old book and timeless music.

9. I shall not allow the devilish onrush of this century to usurp all my energies but will instead, as Charles Williams suggested, "fulfill the moment as the moment." I shall try to live well just now because the only time that exists is now.

10. Even if I turn out to be wrong, I shall bet my life on the assumption that this world is not idiotic, neither run by an absentee landlord, but that today, this very day, some stroke is being added to the cosmic canvas that in due course I shall understand with joy as a stroke made by the architect who calls himself Alpha and Omega.

 - Dr. Clyde Kilby

(Taken shamelessly from Desiring God)