Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Drop Box Documentary

Unwanted children are abandoned on the streets of South Korean with heart-breaking regularity. One pastor decided to do something about it. Some of you may remember this story about "The Drop Box." I posted a video about it two years ago.

Thanks to Justin Taylor, I just learned that a full-length documentary called "Dropbox" will hit 700 theaters March 3, 4, & 5. It just so happens that the Regal Brandywine Town Center Theater will be showing it. I think we need to see this. We need to let it break our hearts, and then see how God might use our broken hearts to reach out to other broken hearts.

Here is the teaser trailer:

And the full trailer:

You can learn more at The Drop Box Film site.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Stories From The Salt Shaker

I was really encouraged to read this post this morning. In it, Kathleen Nielson (the author of our upcoming women's Bible study on Nehemiah) shares two brief stories of saltiness. Saltiness? Yes, saltiness.

Matthew 5:13
"You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.
Colossians 4:5-6
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
What does that saltiness look like, sound like, smell like? I hope you read her whole post, but here's an excerpt from one of the two stories:
Recently I had lunch with a new friend, whom I loved getting to know as a sister in the Lord. When you meet someone for the first time, you’re looking to learn all you can—by observing, by listening, by observing how she listens…
Let me tell you what offered the clearest window into this woman’s heart and mind. … It was her interaction with a young man who came to fill our water glasses.
That’s what threw open the window and revealed her heart. He was not a terribly noticeable guy—kind of pale, slightly stocky, with reddish scruffy-thick hair and beard—and with sleeves rolled up enough to reveal tattoos on each forearm. My friend leaned over to read the arm closest to her: a short sentence, something about fighting off foxes. As she tried to decipher it out loud, our waiter haltingly explained it was inspired by a line from an Eudora Welty story—“you know,” he said, “that woman from the South who was a really good writer.” …
In response to my friend’s continuing quizzical look and encouraging smile, our waiter explained those words remind him of the hard things we have to fight, the dark things we all face, the “foxes.” But my friend wasn’t done. Her next quick question was: “Well, on the other side of the hard things, what’s your hope?” This young man stopped, looked her in the eyes, and said, “Nobody ever asked me that before. Lots of people ask why the tattoo. Nobody ever asked that.” This led to his rather frank explanation of how he was “raised Christian,” rejected religion, but now chooses to believe there’s a God out there who made everything—a pretty extensive conversation for a guy who was supposed to be pouring water.
Good follow up to our consideration of 1 Cor 9:19-27 this past Sunday in the Renewing Disciplines series. Would you pray that the Lord would make you salty like that woman? Would you pray that Bethel will be filled with droves of such salty people?

Monday, January 26, 2015

He Did Not Like Playing For Safety

Commenting on the lukewarm Laodiceans of Rev. 3:14-22, Hugh Martin wrote: 
Jesus loved the enthusiast, the man who knew what side he was on and threw himself whole-heartedly into the struggle. He liked energetic action, as in the men who climbed the roof and broke a way through for their paralyzed friend, or in Zacchaeus who forgot his dignity and swarmed up a tree. He loved the generous giver. All four Gospels quote His saying, 'He who loves life loses it; he who spends keeps.' It sums up His attitude to life. He praised the man who banged on the door till he got an answer; He wanted men to show that kind of determination in the affairs of religion. He praised the widow who badgered the unjust judge into doing justice. He did not like playing for safety or burying one's talent. It is the peace-makers rather than the peace-keepers whom He blesses. Goodness is a positive active loyalty.”
The Seven Letters: Christ's Message to His Church (London: Carey Kingsgate, 1956), 107

HT: Ray Ortlund (in one of his messages I listened to recently)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Purity Thursday: A Grievous Connection You Must Make

Someone suggested this video for a Purity Thursday post. It exposes the very real connection between porn and human trafficking.


Monday, January 12, 2015

Hypocrisy And How I Feel

Erik Thoennes (found here, boldface added):
There's this idea that to live out of conformity with how I feel is hypocrisy; but that's a wrong definition of hypocrisy. To live out of conformity to what I believe is hypocrisy. To live in conformity with what I believe, in spite of what I feel, isn't hypocrisy; it's integrity. 
Another way to say this is: there is a world of difference between faking it and fighting it.

You wake up in the morning feeling blue. You're down and you're not even sure why. What is the authentic Christian response? Put on a happy face and bury your emotions? Choke it down and get on with your day, pretending you're fine? That is faking it.

Is the only other alternative to drag through the day like Eeyore? Is that the most authentic way to live?

Take 2. You wake up feeling depressed. You don't want to even get out of bed. You just want to throw in the towel. What is the authentic Christian response?

Is this authentic? Psalm 42:5-6, 8-9, 11:
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you... 
By day the LORD commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. I say to God, my rock: "Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?" ... 
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.
Or this? Psalm 103:1-5:
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
If you preach to yourself like the Psalmist, fighting back the blues, rehearsing God's grace, grasping for hope and joy despite how you feel, is that the same as faking it? No. It's called the fight of faith. It's the REAL Christian life in a broken, painful world where God, still seated on his throne, is doing something about it.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Fasting: What, Why, How

Last Sunday, Alex Kirk preached on fasting and challenged us to complete one 24 hour fast in the month of January. His message was part 2 of a series entitled "Renewing Disciplines,." If you missed Alex's message (or Pastor Tyler's message on prayer), be sure to take the time to listen

A few years ago, I addressed the topic of fasting and we placed an insert in the bulletin with some basic info on the what, why, and how of fasting. Someone wrote me this week and suggested that we make it available again as we follow through on Alex's challenge. So, here it is (slightly updated):

Fasting: What, Why, How

1) What is fasting? 

“Voluntary abstinence from food for spiritual purposes” (Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines of Christian Life).

2) Why fast? 

There is no spiritual magic to fasting. We can never manipulate or coerce God (Ps. 115:3). Fasting is not a means of meriting favor or earning blessings. We can never put God in our debt (Rom. 11:35). Fasting, instead, is a God-ordained means of GRACE, just like prayer.

God doesn’t need our prayers, but prayer is a normal means of grace. God doesn’t need our fasts, but fasting is a normal means of grace. Jesus clearly said “when you fast,” not “if you fast” (Mt. 6:16).

Sometimes the motivation for fasting is spontaneous. The need is so great that you can’t do otherwise (e.g. a wayward child, devastating loss, etc.). Usually, however, the motivation will flow out of a settled desire to see change (e.g. a spiritual breakthrough), seek guidance on a major decision, or experience God’s blessing (Mt. 6:18) in some important aspect of life.

The purpose of fasting is to deny physical hunger for the sake of heightening hunger for God and His will. You “say” with a fast:
“God, I want you and your blessing more than I want food.”
“I do not want to be mastered by anything but you.”
“I don’t want my stomach to be my god. I want you to rule me, not my appetites. You are my God.”
3) How do you fast?

A few practical bits of advice might help as you take up Alex’s invitation to fast for at least one 24 hour period in the month of January:

Work your way into it.  If you’re not a runner, it’s not wise to begin with 5 miles on your first day. Start with one or two meals the first time and work your way from there.

Replace your normal meal time with time in prayer. The physical hunger pains remind you of the purpose of your fast. They can serve as alarm clocks for prayer.

Feed your faith with the promise of Matt 6:18. It helps to remind yourself why you’re doing this fast, and what you’re after.

Grab a sticky note and write "What I'm hungry for today:" on the top. Make a short bullet list of the purposes for your fast to guide your prayers throughout the day.

Drink water. There’s nothing spiritual about dehydration.
Expect it to be a struggle. Don’t be too quick to give in or depend on something other than God. Remember (Alex made this point so well in his message): the irritability, impatience, etc. that rise up are not reasons to quit. Fasting often functions like spiritual detox, exposing the sludge that is in our souls. 

Modify if necessary. Assuming the previous point, some people find they do much better if they drink a little juice while they fast. They simply get too weak and can't function well without it. You might be one of them.

Don’t be mechanical. Be sure not to think about fasting in mechanical or formulaic terms. This is a relational process with your Heavenly Father (e.g. – “If I drink a little juice in the morning, does it still count?”).

If you can’t fast for health reasons (e.g. pregnancy, diabetes), don’t feel guilty. The Lord knows your physical limitations. You can still set aside time to seek him with special intensity.

For further study see the chapter on fasting in Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life or A Hunger For God by John Piper.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Purity Thursday: Lust and Lot's Wife

Remember Lot’s wife? She was turned to a pillar of salt when, against the stern warning of the angel of the LORD, she looked back to Sodom (Genesis 19:15-26).

Why did she look back? Was it because she was curious and wanted to watch the pyrotechnics? No. It was because she was leaving her home. She wasn't willing to turn her back on and “die to” that ungodly place…and she died. 

She was turned to a pillar of salt as a very vivid illustration of an important truth found in Psalm 135:15-18 (emphasis added):
The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them.
In the words of Greg Beale, “People resemble what they revere, to their restoration or their ruin.” Or, others have said it something like this, “We all tend, by a secret law of the soul, to become like what we admire.” 

Lot’s wife valued that worldly place. She was too attached to it. She didn’t want to see it destroyed. And she was ruined. She became like the city that was being “salted” with fire. 

This story has something to say about our battle with lust. Why do we take a second look when we're tempted? The Bible gives us many serious and sober warnings -- warnings that make it clear our souls could be at stake. 

Matthew 5:27-30:
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
So, why do we look? It is because there is too much worldly desire in us. We love the world too much – the lust of the eyes and lust of the flesh (1 John 2:15-17). We are unwilling to die to that temptation and run to safety. We value what that temptation offers more than we value God’s promises of purity and holiness.

We should soberly take heed here. The desire to "look back" at The City of Man, the world with its lusts, must be met with ruthless action. Your soul is at stake! Whoever looks at a woman (or man) with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 

Am I saying that one second or lustful look and God will zap you? No. But don't fail to consider the fact that he would be just to do so. Adultery is deserving of destruction. Our lustful looks are like that look back to Sodom. They must be resisted. If you don’t make war with your desire to look, it may lead to your destruction.

Let the pillar of salt that was Lot’s wife be a reminder. And let’s turn and fix our eyes on Jesus, running the race set before us

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Purity Thursday: The Ironic Modesty of Lust

Have you ever noticed how modest lust is?

It covers itself well. It wears a thousand dresses. It co-opts sunglasses for cover. It strains peripheral vision to avoid being seen. It masquerades its clicks and google searches as “cultural curiosity” and “I wonder who that actress/actor is.” It cloaks itself behind descriptions like “appreciation of art (or beauty)” to keep from being exposed.

Ironic. You’d think lust would only deal in immodesty.

So, why is lust so modest?

Because it’s shameful. And what is shameful wants to be hidden.

Why is it shameful?

Because it desires to see what ought to be hidden. That selfish desire is perverted. Thus the need for modesty. What is perverted, if it’s going to be accepted, must be inverted or cloaked to hide its perversion.

This is not how God desires us to live. His will is for us to walk in the light and walk in love. Love is the inverse of lust. And love has nothing to hide. Love is honorable and can be exposed without shame.

Let’s not be fooled by the deceptive modesty of lust. Instead, let’s expose it for what it is. When we run openly to the light, we will have nothing to hide.

Let’s live provocatively in the light that others may see our good deeds and be drawn out of the shadows to live in the Light of the world.

See Ephesians 5:1-20, John 3:16-21, 1 John 1:5-10, and Matthew 5:14-16.