Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Words on Wednesday: Lloyd-Jones on Expectancy

Martyn Lloyd-Jones was a pastor in the mid-20th century, known for his passion in the pulpit and powerful ministry through some tough days at Westminster Chapel in London.  He speaks, below, about preaching, but what if we applied to our anticipation of Sunday?  How would that shape our readying ourselves to meet God?
Seek Him!  What can we do without Him?  Seek Him!  Seek Him always.  But go beyond seeking Him; expect Him.
~ MLJ, Preachers and Preaching, italics added
I wonder what our church gatherings would be like if we let that quote shape our preparation for the gatherings...

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Why I'm Anti-Antinomian

Confusing enough title?  I don't typically like to be anti-anything, but this has to be.

Antinomianism is the term theologians give to the teaching that we are no longer under the Law of God therefore have no need to obey it.  We have license to do as we will, the point being to get to the place where we "will" the good things God wants us to do.

The problem with that line of thinking is this:  God reveals what He wants us to do in His Word, through His commands, precepts, instructions, and...yes...laws.

Quickly, when you talk about The Law, you have to understand which parts we're talking about.  In the Old Testament, there are three divisions of The Law:

Civil Law:  this doesn't apply to us because we're not part of the political entity of the second millennia B.C. that was called the nation of Israel.

Cultic Law:  this is the law given to the people of Israel to govern their worship.  We are no longer under obligation to this because Jesus has fulfilled this for us.  Basically, look at the book of Hebrews.  We don't worship in the temple, Jesus is our Temple.  We don't need to make sacrifices, Jesus is our sacrifice.  We don't need a high priest, Jesus is our High Priest (and on and on).

Moral Law:  it gets a little tricky here because the moral laws were wrapped in and around the civil and cultic laws and had consequences in both realms.  But my argument is that the moral law is still in force for us in this way:  NOT so that we can be right before God (only the blood of Jesus does this), but because it is the path on which we are to walk.  Furthermore, the Spirit of Jesus is in us...that Jesus, the Law-Keeper and Law-Fulfiller.  And so, it would make sense that the Spirit of Jesus would help us do what He did.  And the New Testament uses the same summations as the Old:  the law can be summarized as loving God and neighbor.

Two quick verses that help make the case and give us some wisdom when thinking about this.

Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but those who keep the law strive against them (Prov 28.4)

If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination (Prov 28.9)

Want to be a wicked praiser?  Want to have your prayers rise like abominations to God?  I don't either.

I don't depend on the Law to make me right with God.  I'm hopeless if that's the case.  I depend on Christ and Him alone.  But I believe He empowers me, by His Spirit, to live according to God's standard.  And that's why I'm anti-antinomian.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The eye is the lamp of the body

The eye is the lamp of the body.  So says Jesus.

What that practically means is that your gaze has gravity.

The Ninja likes to ride his bike one-handed.  And then he looks at something he passes.  His hand follows his look, and he ends up on the ground.

When I was learning to drive, my dad always talked about looking where I was going and I'd help the car get there.

At Family Camp every year, Swanee (the wrangler-in-chief) tells us to look to where we want to go and the horse will go there, because our body will direct him that way.

When I was learning to ski, I remember the ski instructor talking about looking where I wanted to go and my body would follow.

The eye is the lamp of the body.

If I look at temptation, I will go there.  If I look at Christ, I will go to Him.  If I look at my trial, I will go where it leads.  If I look at Jesus, I go where He leads.  If I look at things I ought not, I will go there.  If I look at the Bible, I go there.  If I look at money, I'll seek it.  If I look at the Kingdom, I'll seek it.

Your gaze has gravity.  Put it in the right place.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Words on Wednesday: Willard on Grace

If you know me at all, you know that Dallas Willard was a literary mentor of mine.  I met him a few times too, but I've devoured what he's written.  Here's a helpful quote from him on grace:
To "grow in grace" means to utilize more and more grace to live by, until everything we do is assisted by grace.  Then, whatever we do in word or deed will all be done in the name of the Lord Jesus (Colossians 3.17).  The greatest saints are not those who need less grace, but those who consume the most grace, who indeed are most in need of grace - those who are saturated by grace in every dimension of their being.  Grace to them is like breath.
~ Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart
Did you catch that?  Grace isn't for the immature but the mature.  It's not for the baby but for the seasoned.  It's the immature that thinks they can do stuff that matters on their own, in their own power.  The seasoned saint knows the folly of that approach.

Yield to Him.  Depend on Him.  Rely on His grace.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Anesthesia for your Soul

Do you have THAT thing?

You know what I'm talking about.  THAT thing that will make you happy, or so you think.  THAT thing that, if you had it, would ensure your significance and value.  THAT thing that, if yours, would make sure you felt secure and safe.

In preaching through Galatians, it seems like THAT thing for the Galatian churches was their religion.  It's a good salve, really.  You feel like you're handling the holy while staying in control.  It's the best of both worlds:  something beyond myself that is still about myself.

Some people don't do religion.  It's pleasure.  It's money.  It's power.  In days gone by, it was statues or mountains or the ocean.

Here's the rub.  We take on the characteristics of whatever we worship.  And make no mistake, whatever the identity of THAT thing is, that's your object of worship.  If it's not Christ, it's idolatry.  But even worse, we become as empty as the idols we give our allegiance and affections to.  What we behold is what we become.

Why do we pursue it?  Because it provides anesthesia for our soul.  We feel the ache.  So we drink.  We have the emptiness haunting us.  So we try a lover.  We feel the pain of our finite lives.  So we earn and earn and earn.

Maybe those aren't your vices.  Maybe you, like me, can't stand rejection and addict yourself to the approval of others, or at the very least their lack of disapproval.

The list could go on.

The lack of pain is no substitute for genuine healing.  It can numb us, true.  But we need more the next time around.  And if we don't get healed up in the right way, the wounds fester and get misshapen and cause problems elsewhere in the system of our soul.

The only thing can heal your soul and mine is Jesus.  It's by His stripes we are healed.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Monday, May 12, 2014

How Jack Bauer helps me prepare for worship


I'm not kidding.

The whole deal is this:  expectancy.  I have been waiting on the 24: Live Another Day premiere last week and can't wait for tonight's episode.  I know it's weird, but I'm serious.

I love the whole idea of the show.  I love the supporting cast.  And I love Jack Bauer.  How great a character is he?  Has there ever been a character so conflicted and yet so confident on television or the movies?  Ever?

And tonight, don't call my house while it's on.  I won't answer.  I'll call you back.  But don't call.  Seriously.  I.Won't.Answer.

Is it pathetic?  Maybe.  Is it addictive?  Certainly.

But it points me to worship on Sundays.  No, I don't equate Jack Bauer and Jesus.  Jesus never talked about how He was running out of time.  Or shot someone in the knee to get information.  Or stuff like that.

The expectancy that's in my heart for 24 when it comes on is a challenge to match for Sunday when it comes.  Does my pulse rate go up?  Do I think about Sunday more than once?  Do you?

Can I, as a pastor, offer a couple of quick application thoughts to help you be expectant for Sunday?

First, get some sleep.  Try to go to bed at a decent hour.  However many hours you need for a normal workday, do the same for Sunday.

Second, get up 15 minutes earlier.  It'll save you the stress of not finding the other sandal in time.

Third, start singing before the worship service.  You will be surprised what a song in the shower or in the car on the way or other places shapes your thoughts and readies your heart.

Fourth, read a psalm.  Any of them.  But 1-27 or 145-150 are terrific for revealing God and readying your heart.

Last, forgive someone.  That argument with your spouse.  That sassy remark from your kid.  That coworker issue.  Forgive them.  See their sin against you nailed to the cross.  And then see your sin right next to it.  And the fires of worship will start to smolder.  And a little wind from the Spirit will fan them into flame.

Sundays matter.  Be ready for them.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Monday, May 5, 2014

Back in the Game - a reflection on ministry and technology

Well, after a week where I was computer-less after a bad hard drive experience and answering emails on an iPad but not doing much else, I have two reflections...

First, having a computer go down and an iPad to turn to for email is very much a First World Problem.  There are faithful pastors, pastors more faithful than me in 1000 ways, who have neither computer nor iPad.  They do ministry sans technology or on borrowed computers.  And Jesus is pleased.  So I'm not griping, I promise.

Second, I am amazed just how technologically dependent I have become in my ministry.  Email.  Facebook.  Twitter.  Blogs.  Research.  Web.  Illustrations.  Even text messages (via iMessage).  All of that tech is designed to help me stay up with people and get better at communicating with them, etc.  But it was all tech-related.

I'm not really sure I'm proud of the second.  In fact, let me say it might have been a little eye-opening when I found myself, for a moment or ten, sitting in my office saying to myself, "Uhm...normally at this point I do X.  I can't do that.  What should I do, then?"

My answers that I worked out that I will employ more often, even when I don't have a jonesed up computer:  read more, write more handwritten notes, and make more phone calls.

I don't know if that intersects with your life at any point of your week, but I thought it was worth noting here.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...