Tuesday, August 20, 2013

John Barros - Proverbs 24:10-12

This video found here made me weep with sorrow and shame and encouragement and conviction. Do you doubt that standing outside of an abortion clinic can do any good? Meet John Barros. God has used him to rescue 1,000 babies, and minister to countless women in crisis. What honor is due a man who willingly embraces such shame, to rescue souls from death. How like our Savior!

Monday, August 19, 2013

When You Don't Like Your Job

Recently we've been studying the book of Job on Sunday mornings in our series on suffering. The catalytic question of the book is found on the lips of Satan in mocking challenge of God's assessment of his servant Job:
Then Satan answered the LORD and said, "Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face." (Job 1:9-11)
Satan is saying that Job is an religious mercenary. He claims that Job "fears" and "trusts" and "loves" and "worships" God because God has given him so many gifts. Were God to take them away, Job's fair weather faith would be exposed and he would curse God. His fear of God is suspect precisely because his life is so circumstantially blessed. How can it be clear that Job wants God for God when he has it so good?

So the challenge begins. Is God worthy of fear and trust and love and worship "for nothing," that is, for who he is in himself alone -- even if all else is taken away?

If you've read this far, you're probably wondering what in the world this could have to do with advice for someone who doesn't like his or her job (yes, you read the title correctly the first time - this post is not about not liking the man from Uz). Here is the connection.

The main reason you are in your present place of employment is to glorify God (because that is the main reason for existence, and everything in it! 1 Cor. 10:31). So, how do you magnify the glory and worth and goodness of God in your job? There are lots of ways. Doing your work with excellence. Refusing to be a slave of expedience and the bottom line and genuinely striving for good goods and services that really do have your clients' good in mind. And on and on. But the one I want to focus on is your attitude - of heart, in speech (what you say and don't say), in body language, etc.

If you had your dream job surrounded by a bunch of people who thought you walked on water and with whom you just loved to work, if the compensation was more than you could ask for and the benefits were great, if the work environment was always healthy and positive and growth was always up, up, up, then guess what? Your contentment and joy and gratitude would be suspect. Is he or she so happy because of God or because of enviable employ? Who needs grace to be gracious in an environment like that? Who needs supernatural support to stay away from slander and the gossip mill when there is no temptation? Who needs grace to be content and patient and grateful and joyful when the world is your oyster? Who needs grace to keep from complaining when there's nothing to complain about?

Job's faith was not mercenary. And yet God tested him sorely in order to make that fact abundantly clear (and to purify him to make him shine even more like gold). Job's life magnified the worth of God precisely because he didn't curse God when everything was taken away.

If you don't like your job, Job would like you to know that you have a unique opportunity to magnify the worth of your God. You can show even more clearly that your joy and contentment and gratitude and peace and hope and life are not dependent on a dream job. They are dependent on the God of Job.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Conveyer Belt of Time

The conveyor belt of time is moving. We're all on it. It slows for no one. It's either moving you away from the glory days and the good (ol') days, or it's moving you toward The Glory Days and the best is yet to come.

Trying to make heaven on earth is a futile business. You will drive yourself into the ground in disappointment. You will resent the sand-through-your-fingers slipperiness of the tastes and glimpses you do obtain (but can't retain). And you will keep buying the lie that your ultimate happiness is just around the next consumer or relational (or whatever) corner.

There is so much good in this life, but it is never going to fully satisfy you, and it most certainly never lasts forever. But fullness and forever satisfaction is what we long for, and we know so much discontent and dissatisfaction and frustration and emptiness because we keep falling short of it. But that is not a bad thing. In fact, it's an intentional thing. A divinely intentional thing. We long for fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore because we were made by God, for God. Only in him is that quality and quantity of joy ever really found.

Psalm 16:11
You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Hebrews 10:34
For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.
A place at the right hand of God is only obtained as a gracious gift, by faith in the Savior Son of God who sits now at his Father's right hand. The better and lasting possession is only inherited by the children of God, adopted by the grace of God, purchased on the cross by the Son of God. Fullness of joy and pleasures forever only come through Jesus; it's only found in Jesus.

John 6:35
Jesus said ... "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.
Revelation 7:15-17
Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
The conveyor belt is moving. For those who stop trying to make heaven on earth, counting all things as loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Jesus, each day on the conveyor belt is lived with their Treasure, moving closer to their Treasure.

Their lives echo Paul's from Philippians 1:21 & 3:7-8
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. ... [because] whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ
Their lips echo Asaph in Psalm 73:23-28
...I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.
God is at the end of the conveyor belt for every person. He will be there -- as glorious Treasure or awful Judge. You can travel the conveyor alone, trying to fight its indomitable control, and will you arrive alone at the foot of the Treasure you've "said" is not worth your time. Or, you can travel the conveyor with Jesus, glad for his indomitable control over your present and your future, and you arrive with him to enjoy fullness of joy, forever, in God's immediate presence.

You can't make heaven on earth. But when you know God through Jesus Christ, it's heaven on earth (John 17:3), until heaven comes to earth (Revelation 21:1-7).

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Action Plan For Anxiety

We all face anxiety. We don't all face it with a good game plan. No wonder we lose the battle so often. 

Justin Taylor summarizes a game plan for dealing with anxiety that was written by CCEF counselor David Powlison. His advice is sage and practical. I highly recommend it.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Steve Saint's Definition of Suffering

I quoted Steve Saint's definition of suffering this past Sunday as we looked at Job chapter 2 in our Suffering Series. Here it is, along with the link to the message in which it is found (which I highly recommend):
"Suffering is our expectation divided by our experience."
And then he said,
"As I was thinking about that, I thought, that's exactly the same definition for blessing. Both suffering and blessing are relative to what we expect."

There is profundity bound up in the simplicity of those definitions. I think they are worth pondering. In case you have trouble wrapping your mind around those definitions, I gave a little primer for the thought pump on Sunday in the form of four simple questions. 
  • Why are there extremely poor people who are extremely content and happy?
  • Why are there extremely rich people who are extremely discontent and unhappy?
  • Why are there people who suffer extreme physical pain or limitation who are extremely joyful?
  • Why are there people who are the picture of healthy and vitality who are mad at the world?
Why are these things the case? Because suffering is our expectation divided by our experience. And so is blessing. May the Word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ continue to inform and shape our expectations.

Philippians 4:12-13 
I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Together For Adoption

Have you heard of this online resource for adoption? If you have adopted or are thinking and praying about adoption, you may want to consider attending their upcoming conference. It's the weekend of October 4-5 in Louisville, KY. They've extended their early bird rate ($79) until next Friday (8/16).


Parents: Think About What "Just Wait" Means

You've heard it before -- especially if you're a parent of young children. You've had a tough day or you've shared a challenging parental moment with a parent of older children (or more children). What happy, hope-filled word of gospel-saturated encouragement do you hear?
"Just wait."
 "It only gets harder from here."
"I remember the days when I only..."
Mother Lindsey Carlson writes wisely about "The Phrase That Enslaves Moms In Every Season." It's applicable to dads as well. Please read it and then cut "Just wait," with all it's condescending, "That's nothing!" unhelpfulness, from your parent-to-parent conversations. Or, just wait...maybe you should read to the end of her post and find out how we can redefine and reuse "just wait" in a way to give grace to those who hear.