For it is by grace you have been saved...

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Discerning Disciples Needed

I’m sure you’ve heard the old joke about a woman bought a parrot to keep her company but returned it the next day. "This bird doesn't talk," she told the owner. "Does he have a mirror in his cage?" he asked. "Parrots love mirrors. They see their reflection and start a conversation." The woman bought a mirror and left.

The next day she returned; the bird still wasn't talking. "How about a ladder? Parrots love ladders. A happy parrot is a talkative parrot." The woman bought a ladder and left. But the next day, she was back. "Does your parrot have a swing? No? Well, that's the problem. Once he starts swinging, he'll talk up a storm." The woman reluctantly bought a swing and left.

When she walked into the store the next day, her countenance had changed. "The parrot died," she said. The pet storeowner was shocked. "I'm so sorry. Tell me, did he ever say a word?" he asked. "Yes, right before he died," the woman replied. "In a weak voice, he asked me, 'Don't they sell any food at that pet store?'"

We offer a lot of things in the church. A lot of activities, a lot of places to serve and things to do, etc. But unless we are offering genuine food, we're wasting our time. The Great Commission doesn’t tell us to go and entertain the masses, or go and draw big crowds, or go and build huge church machines. We are told to go and make disciples.

A disciple is a true follower. Once who studies the teachings of the teacher and follows them with his life. Jesus is our example. He is the standard by which we should be judging ourselves. Our goal should be encouraging one another to follow Christ with our lives. And to that end, the church needs to be giving genuine food, and the church needs members concerned with genuine food.

As for what comes from the pulpit, we need to be sure we are teaching the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Too often, preachers are more concerned with being hip and cool, flowing with the most recent trends, getting folks excited with the gospel gimmicks I’ve trashed here recently, etc. Paul told Timothy to “preach the Word.” Period. Preach the Word! There is no substitute for a solid diet of God’s Word when it comes to the making of disciples.

And yet, as important as that is, there is also a great need on the part of the church to be discerning in what they hear, read, etc. We need discerning disciples. Too often, we’re ready to believe something just because some preacher on TV or radio said it, and because it fits nicely with our self-centered desires.

I can’t count how many times I’ve had conversations with folks who start talking about the most outlandish applications of Scripture simply because they heard it on the radio, even though it counteracts the plain teaching of the rest of Scripture. They never thought to check it out, to put it through a “systematic theology filter” and see if it all lines up.

The internet has just made this worse. Old stories, old made-up stories, find new life on the internet. People email me stuff that was made up years ago, but with the change of a few names and dates, it’s a brand new fallacy flying around the internet. Spurgeon quoted what he called an “old Proverb, ‘A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on.’” That may be even more true today.

Now, more than ever there is the need for discernment. Folks, don’t just repeat stuff, forward it on, link in on Facebook. Check it out. Make sure it’s true. Most importantly, make sure it’s in line with Scripture. Don’t base your beliefs on the latest cute stories. They may be cute, but unless it lines up with Scripture, it will lead you astray.

So, preachers, do the research and present the truth of the Scripture, the solid meat of God’s Word. Don’t just look for bells and whistles to entertain. And church, use your God given brain to think things through before you jump too quickly. Don’t fall for the flash, but look for the solid nutrition of the Truth.

We are to be about the business of producing disciples, discerning followers of the Truth of God. We all have a part to play in that (even bloggers!). Here’s hoping God will grant us the grace to grow for His glory!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

No Bait...Update

Some time ago I posted a little piece about what it means to be “fishers of men.” I was, in short, bemoaning the “bait and switch” tactics used in the church as part of our “outreach” efforts. You can read the context of all that here if you’d like.

I just felt the need to bring the issue up again after reading a recent article from my own denomination’s state newspaper. Seems the Missouri Baptist Convention, with grant money from our North American Mission Board, will be sponsoring a night of “outreach” at a racetrack here in southwest Missouri.

So far, I’m on board. I love racing. I’m a bit of a recovering NASCAR-aholic and have to admit that I was favorably impressed with some of the local ministry efforts at the big NASCAR race in Bristol, TN a few years ago. One of my wonderful deacons had tickets and invited me along for the ride. What a guy! Anyway, it was a fun day, and I appreciated the presence of folks trying to offer ministry at the track.

So when I first read about this effort at a local dirt track, I thought it sounded great. Growing up south of St. Louis, I had occasion to attend a few races at the track owned by NASCAR legend (at least I think he is) Kenny Schrader. Again, good times, and I think a ministry presence in that kind of venue would be good.

As I’m reading the article in our state paper, I’m enjoying the idea, thinking of how I can manage to get in on the “action,” when I come across this sentence: “Race-goers can enter to win several donated giveaways by listening to a short gospel presentation in the areas surrounding the grandstands.”

Are you serious?! You can enter the prize drawing by listening to a gospel presentation? This is outrageous. In that previous article I mentioned how distasteful it is to use “giveaways” as a draw to bring guys into this or that event, just so we can shove a quick “come to Jesus” speech at them. Again, you can read that post if you want more details.

But this? This tops it all. Now, we not only offer a giveaway to get you to attend the event, but now, sitting through a “short gospel presentation” is your lottery ticket. If you want to win, you gotta sit through this first. What a mockery this makes of the gospel. "Here let me tell you about Jesus; you might just win a new car!" Heaven help us! Suddenly I have images of golden calves and Simon the Sorcerer in my head.

Hear me clearly. I have no problem with using an event like this as opportunity to share the gospel with folks. I have no problem setting up a booth and inviting folks to come by and visit, walking the grandstands offering to help folks and inviting them to come by the booth, etc.

But please, I’m begging you on hands and knees: Don’t make the gospel a cheap lottery ticket! Please! Christ’s atoning death on behalf of lost sinners is so much more precious than this. As I said in the previous article, the Gospel is sufficient on its own, we don’t need to “bait” folks with the promise of prizes. Preach the Gospel! Be fishers of men…still no bait required.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dig Another Well

One of my undergraduate majors was in communication, and I actually spent several years in the radio biz. In addition to my four year experience working with our college radio station, I worked briefly for Christian stations in both Kansas City and Ft. Worth, Texas. I was an intern copywriter for the main news station in Kansas City. All of those were good experiences.

But one radio experience wasn’t all that great. While doing mission work in North Dakota, when the financial support started to dry up, I started looking for another job to supplement our income. Since my only real education and experience outside the church was in radio, that was one of the first things I looked into. And in Rugby, North Dakota, there was only one radio station: KZZJ. Not bad, except that it was a country music station.

Now, before going any further, please don’t be insulted if you happen to like country music. It’s just a matter of personal taste and personal preference. And my personal taste and personal preference just happens to be NOT country music.

In fact, I have a rather strong aversion to it. It gives me a headache. Again, just my personal taste, and if you disagree, there’s nothing wrong with that at all. But for me, to sit there for five hours at a time playing country music and being the announcer who has to sound like he’s enjoying it was like a waking nightmare. I had all the boot scootin’ boogie I could take.

But even in that bad experience, there are positives. In addition to the fact that it helped out with that extra income, I actually did come across a song or to that weren’t all that bad. One guy in particular, Paul Overstreet, had a whole album full of songs that were taken from stories in Scripture. And the one song that sticks out in my mind was called, Dig Another Well.

It’s based on the story in Genesis 26, where Isaac’s “neighbors” continue stealing all the wells he digs, and Isaac responds by simply moving on a digging another well. Actually, these were wells dug by his father Abraham, but his enemies had filled them all in with dirt, and Isaac was re-opening them, only to have them stolen away.

The song talks about the devil thwarting our efforts—stopping up our wells—and says,
When I go out for my morning drink, a
nd get a dipper full of dirt, my heart does sink,
but I think of old Ike and I have to grin—
God blessed me once and He can do it again.

The chorus then says:
When the rains don’t fall and the crops all fail
When the cow ain’t puttin’ any milk in the pail
Don’t sit around waitin’ for a check in the mail
You gotta pick up your shovel and dig another well

Believe it or not, in spite of my feelings about country music, that song has come back to me on more than one occasion. It reminds me of this episode in Isaac’s life and the encouragement that we find there. Like those nuggets of gold even in the bad old memories, this story reminds me of the encouragement we can find even in the midst of our struggles: God blessed me once and He can do it again.

Pick up your shovel and dig another well. Perseverance. Don’t let circumstances overwhelm you, just keep at it. Keep doing what you know God has called you to do. That song and Isaac’s story remind of several truths:

To begin with, it reminds me that WE WILL FACE OPPOSITION. This is a theme that runs throughout the text of Scripture and throughout the history of the church. God’s people will face opposition in this world. Face it, get used to it, deal with it.

Throughout the history of God’s people there have been very few times of peace, and those have all been relatively short. The Kingdom of God is constantly at war. We are at war with the devil. We are at war with the sinful nature. We are at war with a world system that is opposed to God and the things of God. And we’re foolish to think that our life will just sail along perfectly with no trouble, no trials, no temptations.

In spite of that WE NEED TO PERSEVERE. Isaac showed by his very life both patience and perseverance; and we ought to show the same. In that great passage in Ephesians 6 where we are told to put on the armor of God, Paul concludes that wonderful encouragement with an admonition to pray and to keep on praying. He says to pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance.” Keep alert with all perseverance.

Be ready and keep at it. There is nothing, there is no one who should dissuade us from continuing to give our selves earnestly to God in obedience. That doesn’t mean we don’t get discouraged at times, or even frustrated. It just means that in spite of it, we pick up our shovel, and dig another well.

And the reason we can do that is because we know GOD WILL BE FAITHFUL. Isaac persevered because He knew God was faithful to His promises. His promises are firm. If you read the verses on either side of this story in Genesis, both before and after this time in Isaac’s life, God reminds him of the promise. It’s like God is saying, “regardless of what circumstance you find yourself in, Isaac, remember these promises.”

Likewise, God continually reminds us of His promises. Over and over He says I will never leave you nor forsake you. He says I will strengthen you by My mighty hand. He says I will lead you and guide you in the way you should go. And over and over again, God shows Himself faithful to those promises.

So persevere. Opposition will come, but persevere. I don’t know what trials might be in your life right now. They may be physical trials that are threatening to discourage your faith, or financial trials that are a distraction to your faith, or even spiritual trials that are seeking to undermine your faith. Whatever it is, I simply want to encourage you to persevere because God is faithful. It may feel like having you well stolen or filled in for the umpteenth time. But don’t give in. Pick up your shovel and dig another well. God is faithful.

Now, for those who don’t share my aversion to country music, you may enjoy listening to the song that reminds me of all this.

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Baby's Prayer

In light of the recent Roe v. Wade anniversary, I thought some might enjoy this powerful song from one of my wife's favorite singers, Kathy Troccoli. You can find this and other videos from Kathy here.

And here's a good word from John Piper about living as a pro-life person in the midst of a pro-death administration.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Another Reason Not to Trust the GOP

I recently posted about my frustrations with the Republican Party, how they continue to thumb their noses at conservatives, how they seem focused so intensely on being “middle of the road” and forcing their candidates down our throats. I wrote about this being the reason for abandoning the GOP in favor of the Constitution Party.

Many people buck and bristle about those things. They are enslaved to the idea of a 2 party system, forgetting that the GOP itself started out as a third party. They seem to be blinded by the idea that the GOP is the only alternative to the radical liberalism/socialism of our current administration. Some even say that while it’s not perfect, the GOP is still a “good” group of folks.

Then how do you explain this: Rick Santorum actually won the Iowa Caucus, but the GOP “machine” made sure Mitt Romney came out on top. I know it sounds like a conspiracy theory, but read the article. Read things like “the final caucus count would remain unresolved because the results from eight precincts were mislaid and will never be certified.” Mislaid? What does that mean? How does that happen?

Or how about this: “Officials discovered inaccuracies in 131 precincts, with changes in one precinct alone shifting the vote by 50.” 131 precincts with “inaccuracies??” This is ridiculous. It’s obvious the machine is already at work to force the liberal Romney down our throats, so why should conservatives continue to turn a blind eye and say “Well, it’s still better than Obama.” Is it? Is it really? Watch this:

Folks, face it. Both of the major parties are bankrupt morally and have conspired together to bankrupt our nation literally. Neither can be trusted. Both serve up candidates who are nothing but wolves in sheep’s clothing. The time for a change has never been clearer.

We need to stop giving into the 2-party-only mentality, remember our history, remember that a third party can make a difference, and start voting conscience and principles. As John Quincy Adams so wisely said: “Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.”

Monday, January 16, 2012

She's Still the Church

I know I’m late to this party. I’ve always been a little slow on things, and with the lightning speed of Twitter and such, I don’t catch up with things until it’s all blow over. But I’ll drop my two cents anyway.

There’s been a lot of hoopla over a video-poem bemoaning “religion” in favor of Jesus. Loving Jesus, it supposes, is not religion. Being a Christian is not the same as being “the Church.” Just love Jesus, and don’t worry about the organized religion stuff.

Now, granted there is some glimmer of truth in that. The Church down through the years has suffered from the same sort of maladies that the Jewish temple goers of days gone by suffered from. Namely, an outward show of “religion” that denies the reality behind it. Some equate the building and the ritual with religion and have no true heart for God. That’s true in any religious expression really.

The problem is, this religion vs. Jesus idea puts up a false division. Voddie Baucham addresses this very well (in fact he did so back in 2008 when his article was first posted), so I’ll urge you to read that and not repeat it here.

The point is, this kind of religion vs. relationship idea puts people in a mind to see the Church as a big, bad wolf to be avoided. Real Christians, they suggest, are just the warm, squishy folks who walk around loving Jesus. This may not have been the point of the video, but it's the conclusion many draw. We have to remember that the Church is the Bride of Christ. No it’s not perfect. Yes, we have our problems. But if you love Jesus, you will love His Bride, blemishes and all.

To be sure, we don’t settle for the blemishes. Men like Martin Luther and John Calvin and John Knox and others have all fought for the purity and reform of the church. But I never read/heard a one of them suggesting that to love Jesus means to hate “religion” and the “organized church.”

I understand that the author of this viral video has since seen the danger of some of his language. You can read a brief account of a conversation between him and one of his critics here.

Still, this isn’t the first time someone has set up this Jesus vs. religion, or even Jesus vs. the Church idea. And it won’t be the last. We need to remember that no Church is perfect, we will always fall short, and we should always challenge one another to do more, better, etc. But the Church, as I said, is still the Bride of Christ, and if we truly love Christ, it will be seen in our love for His Church.

Consider these words from Charles Spurgeon concerning demonstrating our love for Christ’s Church.

Show proofs of your love in reference to God’s people. How can that be done? Some of you need to have this thing gone over with you because you have evidently forgotten it. If you are God’s servants you love his people, and the first proof you should give is to go and join with them…

And then unite with them in all their service. The school wants Sunday school teachers. You love Christ, you say, and you love the young: show us a proof of your love. Come and help in that good work. There is something or other that you can do for Jesus, and for his church; do it, and thus show us a proof of your love.

Show the proof of your love by comforting the saints in affliction; by helping them as much as you can when they are in need; by defending their good name whenever you hear them railed at; by suffering nobody to speak against them falsely when you are by. Stand up for them.

Show them the proof of your love by bearing with their infirmities. The church is not perfect, and if it were it would not be perfect after you had joined it. You who have so many infirmities yourself should patiently bear with the infirmities of others. If the saints are not all you would like them to be, remember, nevertheless, that they are dear to the heart of Christ; and he, perhaps, sees in them beauties which you would see, too, if you had more beauties yourself. Perhaps your power to find fault arises from your having so many faults yourself; and if you were more sanctified, and more like Christ, you would fix your eye as well upon the beauties of their character as upon their defects. Show us the proof of your love. (Spurgeon #1522)

Show the proof of your love for Jesus by loving His Church, as well as the other things mentioned in the video-poem. His Church may not be perfect, but as the old wise man said, “It’s the only boat floatin’.”

Or if you really feel the need to be “hip,” think of it in terms of how Lecrae says it in his song, The Bride:

Verse 3: Some don't get it so they hate
They say she's on a paper chase, they say she's really fake
So they go start a ministry so they can do the work
But they don't understand how Jesus feel about His Church
And yeah they make disciples, got plenty conversions
They take care of the widows and the orphans, man they be workin'
But none of them are Church and no church structure
No elders and no discipline, they have no conductor
And they don't submit, but quite a few of them are baptized
People how I pray that you'd look at this thing from God's eyes
Take responsibility inside the whole council
Not just the area where you might have a mouthful
Who should folks submit to, who'll conduct the discipline?
If excommunicated, what body will they be missin' then?
Peep Ephesians 4 where Paul gets practical
1 Timothy and Titus if you thinkin' I'm irrational

I know she may look gritty
When her Man come back she gone look so pretty
She the Church
You might see her actin' crazy
Be patient with her though cause she still God's baby
She the Church
Before you diss her, get to know her
Jesus got a thing for her and He died just to show her
She the Church
She ain't bricks and buildings
She all of God's people, men women and children
We the Church

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

GOP – Here We Go Again

Four years ago the Republican Party nominated a non-conservative, John McCain, for President. They assumed then, as they do now, that conservative folks will vote for the GOP candidate just to avoid voting for the even more liberal Democrat. Unfortunately, that has been the case far too often in the past, the old “lesser of two evils” kind of thing. Well, I thought they would have learned from the McCain debacle that this just ain’t so. I guess they haven’t.

As everyone knows, Mitt Romney has won the first two primaries of this election cycle. That alone is an historical feat. Anything can still happen, but as of now Romney looks like he’s on the fast track to the GOP nod. Once again, Republicans will assume that we’ll support this guy simply because he’s not Obama. Maybe, at one time that would have worked. Not any more.

Four years ago I wrote a piece saying farewell to the Grand Old Party. I’m tired of true conservative values being ignored; tired of having mediocre at best candidates shoved down our throats while the GOP tries to play “middle of the road.” Everyone knows what happens when you stand in the middle of the road, right? Splat!

As I wrote then, I can’t in good conscience vote for one man simply because he’s NOT another man. I can’t vote for anyone who’s not solidly pro-life, period. That always narrows the choices. I don’t see how any self-respecting Christian citizen can EVER vote for a candidate who’s not solidly pro-life (as you know, Romney is wishy-washy on the issue, among other things).

I don’t understand why Christian folks don’t rise up as one and cry out against this sort of thing. As I said before, if true, God-fearing folks united together, we could win an election in a landslide. Unfortunately, folks won’t stand up. They are content to sit back and let the GOP continue to thumb their noses and true conservatives and our values.

Which is why I will once again reiterate my support of the Constitution Party. I wrote twice after the last election about why this is the only sensible choice. You can read here and here about that, so I don’t just repeat myself. You can go here and read the party platform, and then compare that against the stands of the other two parties.

Honestly, I don’t know how that will work out at this point for the Presidential vote. I do know there are local CP candidates whom I will support as much as I can. If the CP emerges with a Presidential candidate, no matter how “unknown” I will support that candidate (given that he truly supports the platform). Regardless, if Romney is the nominee, I will not vote for him. I’ll write in Mike Huckabee or something! I’m sick and tired of being taken for granted by the GOP; “oh they have to vote for us, we’re not Democrats.”

If enough folks would stand up against that thinking and support truly conservative candidates, we might actually be able to turn this nation around. I urge you to go back and read those three articles I mentioned (again, they are here, here and here). Go to the Constitution Party’s national website. Let’s band together and really make a difference.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Is God Behind Tebow and the Broncos?

I’m sure most people have heard the saga of Tim Tebow. College football star quarterback, wins National Championship, wins Heismann Trophy, but questionable NFL prospect. Gets drafted by the Denver Broncos, much to the shock of some, the delight of others. But all of that takes a back seat to one other issue: his faith in Jesus Christ.

Grabbing more headlines than anything he does as a player is his bold, outspoken, consistent mention of his faith. In every interview. All the time. Everywhere. Even takes a knee on the field frequently.

Some love him for it. Some hate him for it. Some mock him. Some cheer. When he suddenly gets a shot at starting for the struggling Broncos, and they start winning, his fans cheer louder and his detractors jeer louder. Of course, when they go on a three game losing skid, the fans moan and the critics rejoice.

In fact, one loud-mouth, arrogant and ignorant liberal talking head said some vile things after that first loss that had it been said about a prominent Muslim, there would have been legal action, protests, etc. But Tebow just smiles and goes on praising God. And that’s what bugs folks the most I think. His humble, consistent confession.

But all of this begs the question: Is God behind Tebow and the Broncos? There have been other outspoken Christian athletes. My favorite NFL quarterback, Kurt Warner, led a Cinderella season for our St. Louis Rams years ago, taking us all the way to Super Bowl glory. Some at the time grumbled about Warner’s faith, and teased about God being on the Rams’ side, etc. Of course Warner then lost his next Super Bowl, and after leading the Arizona Cardinals to the same hallowed ground, fell short again. So did God abandon him?

With the Broncos amazing and unlikely victory over the Steelers in the playoffs yesterday, the question come up again, Is God behind Tebow and the Bronco? Well, actually, it’s a ridiculous question.

It ridiculous to ask if God plays favorites in sports. Does God have a rooting interest in the NFL? Does he favor the Christian players on the Broncos more than the Christian players on the Steelers, or any other team that might win or lose? Is God “rooting” for one team over another, one player over another. Of course not. It’s a ridiculous question.

God doesn’t play favorites. The Broncos didn’t win just because Tebow was the quarterback and he has an “in” with God. Doesn’t work that way. Never has. (In spite of one column suggesting something magic about the number 316, as in John 3:16. Read here). Even though I find myself rooting for players that I know are brothers in Christ, doesn’t mean they will win just because they’re Christians. In spite of what the health and wealth heretics tell you, God doesn’t exist to make you happy, ensure your career success, and so on.

However, the question is also ridiculous to ask on this front. Does a Sovereign God know, even orchestrate the outcome of a game? Did He not know who would win before the game even started? Of course He did. Jesus told us that not even a sparrow falls outside the knowledge, plan, and care of God. If that’s true, can we not also say that not a pass falls outside His knowledge, plan and care?

God’s sovereignty, an issue I mentioned in my last post, doesn’t just apply to major historical events. God isn’t just sovereign over nations and history and creation; He is sovereign over the lives of His people. It was part of God’s plan for Tim Tebow to win that game, just as it was part of His plan for him to lose the last three. Not because God’s a Broncos fan, or a Tebow fan, but because God is at work in the lives of His people shaping them for His purpose and His glory.

Sometimes, God’s plan involves success. David and Goliath sort of stuff. Sometimes God’s plan involves failure. David and Bathsheba kind of stuff. I don’t understand it. To be honest, I often don’t agree with it. I don’t like when my plans don’t work the way I want them to. Shoot, I don’t like it when my team doesn’t win in the playoffs.

But if we truly believe in the Sovereignty of God we have to say that even the outcomes of football games are part of His plans and purposes, for His glory; win or lose. Not because He’s rooting for a certain team, but because He has a purpose for that win or loss in the lives of countless individuals. Just as he has a plan for the success or failure of each of us; business, health, family, etc. Again, I don’t always fully comprehend it; don’t always like it.

God even knows who our next president will be. We don’t even know the players yet, but God knows who will win the game, and whether we like it or not, the winner will win because it is part of God’s plan. Scripture clearly tells us that God sets up kings and brings them down. I don’t understand it, or have to like it.

But I’m content to rest in the truth that God is God and I’m not. He doesn’t have to explain Himself to me; He’s God. He doesn’t have to explain Himself to you either. His answer to Job is His answer to us: Where were you when I laid the foundations of the world, hung the stars, and so on. Or as the apostle Paul put it: Who are you, O man, to talk back to God?

So is God behind Tebow and the Broncos? What a ridiculous question. Of course He’s not; God doesn’t play favorites. And yet, what a ridiculous question. Of course He is. He is the Sovereign God of all things. But either way you look at it, I’m still going to root for Tebow and the Broncos!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

My God is So Big...So I Worship

Remember the children’s song?

My God is so big, so strong and so mighty,
There’s nothing my God cannot do.
The rivers are His, the mountains are His
The stars are His handiwork too
My God is so big, so strong and so mighty
There's nothing my God cannot do.

That’s the way I remember it anyway. Sorry if I messed up the official lyrics. Anyway, it’s amazing what we can teach in a children’s song that somehow we can then grow up and forget.

I’ve spent a lot of time lately enjoying Shai Linne’s project on the Attributes of God. I know not everyone is a fan of rap, Christian or otherwise, but the content of the lyrics on this project is amazing. Two of my favorites are based on the opening verses of Psalm 115: Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! … Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. (Psalm 115:1,3, ESV)

Two things stand out in those songs and in those verses. One, we need to remember that it’s all about God and His glory; a theme we often repeat around our church. And two, my God is so big, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do. Or as the Psalm says, “He does all that He pleases.”

As children, we seem fine with all that. God really is big and all. But as we grow, we seem to struggle with the “He does all that He pleases” bit. In short, we sometimes buck against the whole Sovereignty of God idea. We like it when it fits our agenda: God is sovereign over the nations, over history, etc. We’re not so keen on it when it comes to the “sovereign over my life” issue.

I’m not going to sink into all the arguments regarding that particular doctrine. As far as I’m concerned, you can accept what Scripture says about our Sovereign King or you can reject it, and only His Spirit will convince you.

What I want to do is simply remind you of the awe of it all. That childlike awe you might have felt when singing “My God is So Big.” That’s really the issue here. Once we grasp that God is God, that He is Sovereign, it’s not a matter of arguing the minutia of what He’s sovereign over (because He does all that He pleases), but a matter of worshiping such a magnificent God. It really is all about Him and His glory.

Children often see the works of God, they hear about His power and majesty, and they just wonder at it all. Unfortunately, adults sometimes get jaded and calloused, and we loose that. Wouldn’t it be great to reclaim that awe? We ought to sit back and simply be amazed at the handiworks of God.

We ought to be in awe of the marvelous gift of salvation we’ve been given. To celebrate this holiday we’ve just celebrated, to know that God sent His own Son, God in the flesh, born as a babe in a manger. To know that this Son lived a perfect life and died as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. To know that He gave His life as a ransom for filthy sinners like you and me; that He exchanged His righteousness for our rebellion; His glory for our garbage; His riches for our rags. That ought to cause us to sit back and just oohh and aahh over the majesty of our maker; and to throw ourselves on His mercy.

But even beyond that is the simple wonder we ought to experience as we consider God Himself. My God is so big, He is so glorious, so beautiful, so magnificent, so splendid in His very being, that our minds can’t even comprehend Him. There’s nothing my God cannot do, He does all that He pleases, and so I will simply worship Him and give Him the glory due His name.

For those who enjoy great lyrics regardless of the musical vehicle, here are the two songs from Shai Linne I mentioned. Just sit back and let the words remind you of the greatness of our God, and worship Him. (Those who are strongly adverse to Christian hip-hop, you can just click here and read the lyrics if you'd like: The Glory of God, Our God is in the Heavens). Soli Deo Gloria!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Another Year

Samuel Medley (1738-1799) was the son of an English school master. He joined the British Royal Navy but was wounded in battle in 1759. It’s said that he nearly lost a limb, but God miraculously intervened. During his recovery, his grandfather read to him a sermon by Isaac Watts, the great English pastor and hymn writer. God used that sermon as an instrument of Medley’s conversion, and he gave himself to study for the ministry. He eventually served 27 years as a Baptist pastor in Liverpool.

In addition to his pastoral ministry, Medley wrote several hymns (some of which you can find here). Sadly, our Baptist churches have not passed down many of these fine Baptist verses over the years, much to our loss. Along with contemporary John Newton, Medley wrote of God’s amazing grace:

O what amazing words of grace Are in the Gospel found!
Suited to every sinner’s case Who knows the joyful sound.

Come, then, with all your wants and wounds; Your every burden bring;
Here love, unchanging love, abounds, A deep, celestial spring.

Anyway, all of that is simply to get to this. Samuel Medley in 1789 gave us this lyric for “another year.” I share it with you as a prayer for each of us as we seek His will, His goodness, His grace and guidance for another year:

Father of mercies! God of love!
Whose kind compassion still we prove,
Our praise accept, and bless us here,
As brought to this – another year.

We sing Thy goodness all divine,
Whose radiant beams around us shine;
‘Tis through Thy goodness we appear
Preserved to this – another year.

Our souls, our all we here resign;
Make us, and keep us ever Thine;
And grant that in Thy love and fear
We may begin – another year.

Be this our sweet experience still,
To know and do Thine holy will;
Then shall our souls, with joy sincere,
Bless Thee for this – another year.

Still, Lord, through life Thy love display,
And then in death’s approaching day,
We’ll joyful part with all that’s here,
Nor wish on earth – another year.