Resting in His Faithfulness

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Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

~ 1 Corinthians 12:4-7

You, me, your co-worker, my neighbor, the lady at the supermarket, we all have them; special gifts that make us come alive. Those gifts and desires that we long for opportunities to use them. They are part of who we are, and come naturally to us, and that is because we have been created this way. All of us have special gifts and talents the Lord has specifically designed us with; the reason we have these longings is because He created us to express them and use them, to serve the Church, and to honor Him.

Over the past ten days I have been reminded that much like everything else in our lives we can completely rest in His Faithfulness regarding our gifts and talents. We can trust Him, because if He has created us with these specific talents and longings, He will provide us opportunities to express them. David writes in Psalm 139 that God, formed our inward parts, knitted us together, and that every day we would live He wrote out for us before there was anything in creation. This is an intensely personal God being extremely active in creating us.

If He has hardwired us with these desires and talents, we can trust Him for the opportunities to use them. We don’t have to stress over when will we get to express them, we don’t have to wonder will the opportunities come, they will because He was written them out for us before the foundations of the world (Ephesians 2:10; Psalm 139:16). We simply have to be faithful and obedient in our pursuit of Him. When we are faithful in our pursuit of Him and faithful in our exercising of our gifts, He is faithful to provide those opportunities.

Since He is the One gifting us, shaping us, and writing out our days we can trust Him with our gifts and talents for opportunities to use them. I spent the past ten days with a team in East India using our gifts and talents the Lord has granted us for kingdom work. There were several on the team that a month ago this opportunity wasn’t even on the radar, but yet the Lord opened the door, provided the means, and made much of Himself to strengthen His Church. Our role was to walk in obedience and faithfulness by putting in the appropriate preparation time, and then to trust Him.

As we are in pursuit of Him and seeking to honor Him with our lives, giftings, and talents, let us remember that He is the one writing our stories. Because He is the One writing, we may be given opportunities that we don’t expect; He may lead us to places we never could have even thought of, and He can be trusted in those moments. For He has prepared these moments for us to make much of His Name and to bring us ultimate joy.


He has wired us with special gifts and talents that we may worship Him in the use of them.


The Greater Story

FullSizeRender-4And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

~ Genesis 1:28

 

Its simple to do, the alarm goes off in the morning maybe you hit snooze, or maybe you jump out of bed and begin your day of work, errands, meetings and before you know it the day is over and you’re back in bed wondering if you accomplished anything at all. Asking if tomorrow will be the same busy pace as today; if this is what you will do with the rest of your life? Will the bills be paid this month? Will my co-worker annoy me again tomorrow? Is this all there is?

What about the future? Will I work here forever? In 5 years or 10 years, where will I be? In the same city? Same Job? Will I be married? Have Kids? Will I be retired? These questions and many more run through our brains, keeping our focus simply on ourself, and on trying to write and finish our stories.

But, there is a Greater Story being written, one that is being written across the course of history, since the creation of the world, and we have been invited in to play a part. From the Garden in Genesis One and Two and the First Commission of, “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it;” that is to Edenize the rest of the world to look like to Garden; that all of creation may be brought to the footstool of Christ in worship. Through the Fall of Man in Genesis 3, and into God’s glorious working of redemption as He establishes His dwelling, dominion, and dynasty over and with all creation across the pages of the Bible. To today and into the future, God is writing a story, one that is more glorious than anything we could write ourselves and we have been invited in.

To see the Greater Story we simply have to look around, to take our eyes off self and our small stories. Only then are we able to see the Greater Story and how our stories play a part in it.

Earlier this month I traveled to Guatemala and was reminded yet again that the Lord is doing a great work in and around the world, and we have been invited into the story to be active participates not simply spectators. Seeing the Greater Story play out and actively participating along with others left me encouraged.

Encouraged by:

  1. Gospel: The Gospel crosses boundaries of language, cultures, and all barriers and simply does work. The power of the Gospel is going forth in lives that have been forever changed by it, and into lives of others never leaving them the same.
  2. Students: Seeing former students the Lord allowed me to opportunity to pour into over the years, take time away after the school year to go and participate in the Story.
  3. Missionaries: Being around and serving alongside those who have stepped out in obedience into the Lord’s Greater Story, left me greatly encouraged. As I had conversations with them and many shared how they don’t know where they will be in a few months but currently the Lord has them in Guatemala and that they trust if the Lord shuts that door He will open another for them to walk though.
  4. Creation: Guatemala is beautiful, to stare in awe and remember there is a Creator God that spoke all of this into being and who holds it all in His hands.
  5.  Changed Lives: To hear the stories of lives that have been changed by the Gospel and to see how they are now participating in the Greater Story.
  6. Love: Love of God’s people. Love for friends to come to know Him. The love and joy that only comes from the Father impacting and filling the lives of those around us.
  7. Friendship: This trip created friends amongst those who were strangers at the beginning of the week. Centered on the Gospel not only are friends but family. Brothers and sisters in Christ who have been called to be active participates in the Greater Story.

There is a Greater Story being written, and we have been invited in to be active participates for the Glory of God and joy of His people. The people of Guatemala helped remind me of this. We are all writing a story, and our story only has purpose and fulfillment when it is part of the Greater Story, let us look up and see.


“The church has become the theater of the gospel, and in this theater, there are no passive spectators, only engaged participants, acting out what is in Christ.” 

~ Kevin Vanhoozer 

Without Love a Vain Show

Read this tonight:

Reason testifies that Divine Love is so essential in Religion that all Religion is but hypocrisy and a “vain show” without it. What is Religion but the exercise and expressions of regard to the Divine Being? But certainly if there be no love to Him, there is no sincere regard to Him; and all pretences and show of respect to Him, whether it be in word or deed, must be hypocrisy, and of no value in the eyes of Him who sees the heart How manifest is it that without love there can be no true honour, no sincere praise! And how can obedience be hearty, if it be not a testimony of respect to God! The fear of God without love is no other than the fear of devils; and all that outward respect and obedience, all that resignation, that repentance and sorrow for sin, that form in religion, that outward devotion that is performed merely from such a fear without love, is all of it a practical lie, as in Psalm 66:3– “…How terrible art Thou in Thy works! through the greatness of Thy power shall Thine enemies submit themselves unto Thee.” In the original it is “shall thine enemies lie unto Thee” — i.e., shall yield a feigned or lying obedience and respect to Thee, when still they remain enemies in their hearts. There is never a devil in hell but what would perform all that many a man [has] performed in religion, that had no love to God; and a great deal more if they were in like circumstances and the like hope of gain by it, and be as much of a devil in this heart as he is now. The Devil once seemed to be religious from fear of torment: Luke 8:28– “When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high? I beseech Thee, torment me not.” Here is external worship. The Devil is religious; he prays — he prays in a humble posture; he falls down before Christ, he lies prostrate; he prays earnestly, he cries with a loud voice; he uses humble expressions — “I beseech Thee, torment me not;” he uses respectful, honourable, adoring expressions — “Jesus, Thou Son of God most high.”Nothing was wanting but LOVE.

~ Jonathan Edwards,  Treatise on Grace

Is It Not Enough?

095k_sandown_pulpit_view_med I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

~ 2 Timothy 4:1-2

 

Paul’s urge to Timothy was to PREACH the WORD, to be ready! To reprove, rebuke, and exhort? How? By preaching the Word. I fear that often times in ministry we spend as much or maybe even more time in preparing other parts of our service, that we neglect the Word.

  • We worry about how to draw a crowd
  • How to keep a crowd
  • Lets make sure they are entertained
  • Make sure everyone is comfortable

These things aren’t necessarily bad by themselves, but the focal point of any and every ministry ought to be to Preach the Word. In the end we must remember that the Gospel alone has the power to save! It’s the Gospel alone that has the power to sustain! It’s the Gospel alone that has the power to sanctify! The Gospel has the power to draw men to Christ! The Gospel alone has the power to convert someone from death to life!

Let us not neglect giving the Gospel! We ought to be ready in season and out of season, meaning we should always be ready to present the Gospel. If we gather together in church, at a conference or some other gathering and the Gospel isn’t presented, have we wasted everyone’s time if the Gospel is not the focal point? I wonder this a lot when I attend conferences and other youth events, as I have worked with youth ministry for the past ten years in some shape or form. There seems to be a huge push of what can we do to get the students to come? How can we best connect with them? What will make want them to come back and bring a friend? All good questions again, we should want them to come and connect and bring a friend; whats better at doing that then the Gospel? Often times at these events it seems the attraction is the band or the funny speaker. It breaks my heart when after these events when talking to  students there or seeing the Facebook and Twitter post and they are all about the band or the speakers funny stories, have we missed the point? Have we done our best attempt at drawing students in and left them empty? Maybe liking a cool band or only remembering the speakers funny stories, other than walking out going, “WOW God!” If the main thing remembered from a conference is the band or jokes, have we missed our opportunity? In an attempt to draw and to connect, do we allow these things to become the focal point of our ministry / event? Again, its ok to have bands, its ok to have a funny speaker, but if the funny stories are remembered and the passages taught and points made aren’t remembered, then the stories have become larger than the Gospel in our presentation.

No matter how cool or how funny, lives will only be changed by the power of the Gospel.

We must not forget this!

A few examples from Heroes paving the way before us:

Jesus

If there was ever someone who could draw a crowd it was Him, but yet how many times do we see Him teach in such a way that the people who were only there for the show turned around a left sad, as He continued to pour into the ones who were serious about following Him, into the good soil.

In John 6, we see a large crowd following Him after He just fed 4000 people, and He turns to them and tells them you are only following me because I fed you; so unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you cannot follow me. The crowds went away sad. Then He focused on teaching HIs 12.

Jesus, performed many miracles, and did many signs, but were these for the sole purpose of getting the crowds to come? Or were they to point to who He was, and the ones who were searching and believed He poured into them.

Paul

The one we started with charing Timothy to preach the Word at all times, and may the preaching of the Word be the way that we go about reproving, rebuking, and exhorting one another.

I think you can sum up Paul’s aim in ministry in two verses:

Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

~ Colossians 1:28-29

 Paul used all his energy, all his strength that the Lord worked in him for the purpose to teach will all that he had in order to present everyone mature in Christ. This has become my ministry verse. What a goal, to be able to present all those that you have taught and poured into, as mature in Christ! Only the Gospel has the power to mature us in Him!

 Charles Spurgeon “The Prince of Preachers”

A man who has quickly become a favorite to read, a man who who continually points me to Christ and makes me want to understand and love Him more. I came across this on Justin Taylor’s blog on The Gospel Coalition website last week:

Why Spurgeon Thought the Plain Preaching of the Gospel Was Sufficient to Grow a Church

Spurgeon:

Are you afraid that preaching the gospel will not win souls? Are you despondent as to success in God’s way? Is this why you pine for clever oratory? Is this why you must have music, and architecture, and flowers and millinery? After all, is it by might and power, and not by the Spirit of God? It is even so in the opinion of many.

Brethren beloved, there are many things which I might allow to other worshippers which I have denied myself in conducting the worship of this congregation. I have long worked out before your very eyes the experiment of the unaided attractiveness of the gospel of Jesus. Our service is severely plain. No man ever comes hither to gratify his eye with art, or his ear with music. I have set before you, these many years, nothing but Christ crucified, and the simplicity of the gospel; yet where will you find such a crowd as this gathered together this morning? Where will you find such a multitude as this meeting Sabbath after Sabbath, for five-and-thirty years? I have shown you nothing but the cross, the cross without flowers of oratory, the cross without diamonds of ecclesiastical rank, the cross without the buttress of boastful science. It is abundantly sufficient to attract men first to itself, and afterwards to eternal life!

In this house we have proved successfully, these many years, this great truth, that the gospel plainly preached will gain an audience, convert sinners, and build up and sustain a church. We beseech the people of God to mark that there is no need to try doubtful expedients and questionable methods. God will save by the gospel still: only let it be the gospel in its purity. This grand old sword will cleave a man’s chine [i.e., spine], and split a rock in halves.

How is it that it does so little of its old conquering work? I will tell you. Do you see the scabbard of artistic work, so wonderfully elaborated? Full many keep the sword in this scabbard, and therefore its edge never gets to its work. Pull off that scabbard. Fling that fine sheath to Hades, and then see how, in the Lord’s hands, that glorious two-handed sword will mow down fields of men as mowers level the grass with their scythes.

There is no need to go down to Egypt for help. To invite the devil to help Christ is shameful. Please God, we shall see prosperity yet, when the church of God is resolved never to seek it except in God’s own way.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 1888, vol. 34, p. 563

John Piper

He has constantly over the past 5-10 years of my life pointed me to Christ, through his books, sermons, and blogs,  to love Christ more and find joy in following Him. I have written in the front of my bible a tweet he sent out almost two years ago:

“Every person who hears me preach will very soon be in Heaven or Hell. There is a seriousness that goes with this truth” 

When asked about takeaways from speaking at Passion, Piper states that:

“In my 17 years with Passion I have never heard a joke or seen a silly skit from the stage. And that’s remarkable when you really think about it because a lot of student leaders think you have to yuck it up with college students and be as silly as the latest comedian or the latest talk show host in order to make them feel like your real. And Louie’s not like that and neither is Passion and 60,000 students are coming to a God honoring singing and preaching event that exalts Jesus Christ.”

Is it enough? Is the Gospel enough to draw, save, sanctify, and grow?

Yes let’s do our part to the best of our God-given abilities to draw in and connect with, but let us not forget that it’s the Gospel that saves! And if we are not giving them that, we are simply having a fun time with people who will soon be in Heaven or Hell, leaving happy, but perhaps not eternally satisfied!

As Paul would say to Timothy:

 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

________________________________________________________________

* All Scripture taken from English Standard Version (ESV)

* The Gospel Coalition site of Justin Taylor’s blog: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2013/01/10/spurgeon-church-growt/

* Link to Piper interview: https://soundcloud.com/askpastorjohn/john-piper-passion-2013

Reminder in the Little Things

In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind

~ Job 12:10

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Take a deep breath…

Exhale…

Again…

Again…

Again…

Again…

One More Time…

This past Monday I sat in a doctor’s office dying (Ok not really dying but if I was in at a doctor’s office its safe to say I was real sick); hoping for a shot maybe a few antibiotics and told I will be better soon. As probably with a lot of people when sick being a little selfish, wanting to hurry up and get past this sickness, I have too much to do to get sick right now, this is not a good time for me to be sick, work will be crazy tomorrow, etc. Then along came one of those small moments in time, that we generally look past hundreds of times weekly if not daily, that this world isn’t centered around us, or even all about us, but that there is a God in heaven who is currently holding everything together, and what does He ask of us? To love Him with all that we have then love others as ourselves.

My reminder? The doctor walking into the room asking me my symptoms, and saying ok lets have a look, then grabbing his stethoscope he places it on my back and says “breath”. He repeated this about 6 times as he was listening to my breath, but every time I took a breath for him, my thought was simple, wow God allowed me to do that! He allowed me to do it again! This may not seem like much, but have you every stopped to think that you are breathing right now because God in heaven is allowing you to?

So many times we thank God for the LARGE things in life, or the BIG miracles He has done for us, which yes we should. Just been wondering lately how many small things do we neglect to thank God for on a daily basis?

  • Our breathe
  • Our family
  • Our friends
  • Our Church He’s placed us in
  • The people He has placed in our life that have greatly influenced us
  • The abilities He has given us
  • The fact that we can have a His Holy Word in our language readily available to us
  • Nature, sunsets, sunrises,
  • Books
  • and so on…

Yes lets take time to thank Him for the LARGE things He has done for us, but lets also be mindful of those things that often get neglected in giving Him praise for and remember to thank Him!

Take a deep breath….

Yeah God let you do that!

Its Not About You

Last Sunday Night, my pastor spoke on Worship, as he continued through Psalms, and made some points that have stuck with me all week; even as I was reading this week, ran across some thoughts that continued to make me dwell on it.

The passage the sermon was on :

Psalm 134

1Come, bless the LORD, all you servants of the LORD,
who stand by night in the house of the LORD!
2 Lift up your hands to the holy place
and bless the LORD!

3May the LORD bless you from Zion,
he who made heaven and earth!

Short Psalm, but has a lot to say about worship and what our attitude towards it should be. First two verses we are told to come and Bless the Lord. We are to Bless the Lord through worship, in our worship times, to lift Him up, and make much of Him. This is opposite of the way we think, a lot of times when we enter into our “worship services” we are solely thinking of ourselves, hoping we get a lot out of it. Hoping that we sing this song or that song, and really hoping that we don’t sing these type of songs because those just do nothing for me. We often time enter our times of worship not as worshippers but as consumers, looking for the best option for satisfy our needs, instead of looking to Him, and lifting Him up. As consumers we begin to shop around for what we think is best for us, and what makes us the happiest. And if the worship leader chooses the wrong songs, worship will be horrible for us, and we simply won’t get anything out of it, but if they are to choose the correct songs, the ones that stir us up, then worship experience will be great.

Years ago I heard a pastor give a definition of worship, that he got from a Seminary professor, and it has always stuck with me:

Worship – is setting your minds attention, and hearts affection on Him, and praising Him for who He is and what He has done. 

Setting our hearts and mind on Him, not on us, but on Him and praising Him, this takes all the personal want out of it because everything that we have is set on Him; looking at who He is and what He has done. In view of this we see that we are nothing and have done nothing, and so it’s all about Him. And our response is that of praise and surrender, ok God it’s all for You, its all to You, and we surrender to You.

What drove home this thinking this week was as I was reading “A Hunger for God” by John Piper, I read this paragraph:

Beware Loving Loving God Rather Than Loving God

This is a very relevant warning for us in a day of great worship renewal. Many people are discovering the joy of meeting God in extended times of emotionally charged singing to the Lord. I personally find such seasons of lingering before the Lord a very rich communion with him. But I see a danger. The danger is that we will subtly slip from loving God in these moments into loving loving God. That’s the way one of my colleagues put it recently. In other words, we begin to savor not the glory of God but the atmosphere created by worship. When this happens we open ourselves to hypocrisy. And under the cloak of great religious fervor, deadly inconsistencies can emerge in our lives (A Hunger for God. pg 133, Piper).

Loving loving God over loving God, has stuck with me since I read it. Seeking satisfaction not in the One who can satisfy but satisfaction in the act of worshipping God, the atmosphere, the emotions stirred up, the songs we love. Making worship all about us and what we want. When its intention is to be all about Him, and lifting Him up, not that He needs us to, but because He and He alone is worthy of all honor and praise for He alone created everything (Revelation 4:11).

Worship begins and ends with Christ, it’s not about us, and if we make it about us we are not worshippers but consumers, simply trying to satisfy a need.