Monthly Archives: August 2011

How Do You Know What You Really Need?

Here’s a heavy question: what do you need?  I don’t know anyone who would argue that we have needs, but what exactly are they?  Does every person have different needs?  Are they many or are they few?  We throw around the word “need” so much that coffee, afternoon naps, and sun tans become things we need.  If we’re honest, we all know that these are things we don’t ultimately need, but rather things that we want…  things that would be nice to have.

However, determining what we need and what we don’t need is crucial because if we believe that something is an actual need, then we will give great amounts of time and energy toward getting it.  So, if we’re treating something as a need that really isn’t a need, it would be good to know so that we can divert our efforts toward things that are real needs.  But instead of just of listing out what everyone’s needs are, I think a better approach would be to give you a question to ask yourself to help you determine what you actually need.  Here it is: why do you exist?  What you need corresponds to why you exist because your needs, when provided, are the things that achieve your purpose for existing.  Let me give an example.  If a person believes he exists to be comfortable, then his needs will be a well-paying job, well-behaved kids, and a wife who doesn’t argue with his decisions.

This sounds nice, but there’s another question you should ask to help you further: do you get to determine why you exist?  Are you in charge of your life, so that you have the right to decide your purpose for living?  The reality is we don’t have the right to decide why we exist because God, our creator and sustainer, is in charge of our lives and he has already told us why we exist.  Isaiah 43:6-7 says, “Bring my sons from afar and my daughter from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory.”  God says we exist for his glory.  Since we are all sinner who have fallen short of God’s glory, our first need for fulfilling our purpose for existence is forgiveness.  We first need God’s forgiveness, which means we also need Jesus Christ who died so we could be forgiven.  There…  I’ve started your list of needs as determined by your reason for existing.  Your job will be to complete it and then focus on meeting those needs over meeting your wants and desires so that God will be glorified in you.

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The Gospel is Like a Diamond

The puritans used to describe the Gospel as a multifaceted diamond.  Like a diamond, the Gospel has many sides that create a new glimmer or sparkle with the slightest rotation in any direction.  We associate diamonds with beauty so that we stare at them, study them, and admire them.  The Gospel should be treated the same way (but to a much greater degree), but too often we act as if the Gospel is just the ticket that gets us into the club called “Christianity” and then the  ticket is left with the guy working the entrance.  The Gospel is more than a message for the conversion of unbelievers, it’s a message that gives reason and motivation for living a life of worship to God through the many decisions we face from day to day.

An example of this can be seen in 1 Corinthians 15.  Here, Paul spends the entire chapter detailing the essential importance of Jesus’ resurrection (one of the Gospel’s many facets) for the hope of the believer.  Then, in the very last verse of the chapter, Paul writes, “Therefore, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (v. 58).  Paul is taking one side of the Gospel (the resurrection) and using it to motivate believers to increase in the Lord’s work.  He’s not writing to people who need to be converted, he’s writing to a church of believers who need to be influenced toward godly living, and he’s using the Gospel to get them there.

When a woman is given a diamond engagement ring, she doesn’t scream, cry, giggle and then put the ring back in the box.  She puts it on her finger, examines it, looks at it from every angle, delights in its beauty, and keeps it on her finger to remind her of her fiancée’s love so that she will continue to love him in return.  This is what the Gospel should be like for every believer: let’s study the Gospel from all its angles, delight in its beauty, and keep it with us to be reminded of God’s love for us so that we will return that love in passionate, committed obedience.

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Does More Hearing Equal Less Doing?

Part of me wishes that I lived 250 years ago in colonial America.  Yes, life would be much harder without all of our modern-day conveniences, but without being surrounded by distractions on every side, life would also be much simpler.  Colonial America Brent wouldn’t have a smart phone, a laptop, or a tv…  just a Bible, a few other books, and monthly ride into town.

Part of our distraction today is the amount of information we have access to with the simple tapping of a screen or clicking of a mouse…  and most of it is free.  Christian blogs, Bible study resources, online books, sermon podcasts, and inspirational tweets are there for the taking at anytime day or night. This can be a tremendous thing!  Oodles of Gospel ministries have been able to make their resources available to a world-wide audience, and for that I praise Jesus.  But as my friend stated in a conversation we had yesterday, the increased availability of Gospel truth has increased our hearing of that truth, but, in many ways, has also decreased our doing of that truth.  We are called to be both hearers of God’s word and doers of God’s word (James 1:22); people who don’t just nod our heads in agreement with it, but also actively change as a result of it.

Let me suggest a way for us to bring balance back to our Christian lives in this way.  Once we have read a blog or listened to a sermon, let’s take the same time and energy we would use to feed ourselves more Gospel information and instead seek to apply the truth we have already received.  Sure, this will be hard because everyone knows it’s easier to hear than it is to do, but remember what else James said in his letter, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (4:17).  The more truth we take in, the more responsible we become for acting on that truth.  In fact, you have become more responsible for taking action by simply reading this post.  Brothers and sisters, more truth is wonderful, but it needs to lead to more life!

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The Consequences of De-emphasizing Hell

If we’re honest with ourselves, we’re kind of embarrassed by the doctrine of hell.  Most of us think that in order to be good evangelical Christians we need to believe it because Jesus and his followers talk about it quite a bit, but have we ever been passionate about hell like we are with the more palatable truths of the faith?  Or perhaps, at times, do we think to ourselves that if we were in charge we could do a better job than God with this whole judgment thing?  Even still, though we’ll admit that Rob Bell is wrong in his assessment of hell, are there occasions when we wish he were right about it not being eternal?

Before we hide this doctrine away in the attic of our hearts and just tolerate its existence, let’s think about the domino effect that de-emphasizing hell has on the rest of the Christian faith.  First, we know that hell is God’s just punishment for sin and it is eternal in length (Matthew 25:31-36).  As a punishment for sin, hell speaks directly to the seriousness of our crimes.  God has chosen a punishment for sin that corresponds perfectly to the wickedness of our violations.  If we diminish the importance of the doctrine of hell, then we diminish the severity of sin and if we diminish the severity of sin then we downgrade the holiness of God because sin is, first and foremost, an offense against his name (Psalm 51:4).  Sin would not be as awful if people were the only ones we sinned against, but because every sin is essentially an act of rebellion wherein we choose not to give glory to a holy God (1 Corinthians 10:31), then hell is perfectly just.  Going further, if we diminish the seriousness of sin, then we fail to understand the Gospel.  If sin is not really as bad as hell says it is, then Jesus’ death on the cross becomes less loving and less sacrificial because our need to be rescued is not as dire as we once believed.  Then, if our rescue from sin loses its magnificence, suddenly our motivation for living an obedient life of service is also diminished and we become even lazier in our devotion to the King.

The doctrine of hell affects the doctrine of sin which affects the doctrine of God and the doctrine of the atonement which in turn affects the doctrine of sanctification.  Lord, help us to remember that hell, along with every other choice you’ve made in your plan of redemption, is wise, good, and right, and grant us the grace to embrace the truth of your Word over the emotional appeals of our culture.

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An Important Practice In Godly Parenting That May Surprise You

Our senior pastor, Dan Kirk, has been my mentor for the last eight years as I’ve gone through seminary and started out as a young pastor.  Over those years he has helped me see the stunning beauty of the Gospel and it’s practical implications for even the most mundane moments of our lives.  Dan continues to be a wealth of wisdom to me on that topic and for this I cannot praise the Lord enough.  At one point within the last year, I asked Dan what things are most important in being a godly parent and one of his answers surprised me in a good way.  He first emphasized things like the role of God’s Word as it is used in regular family devotions (or “family worship”), loving discipline in response to disobedience, and asking forgiveness of your kids when you’ve sinned against them.  But then he closed with this counsel: “have lots of fun”.  I did not expect this and in all the parenting sermons and seminars I’ve heard since becoming a dad, no one has ever thrown that out there as a help for Christian parents.

Why is having lots of fun an important ingredient in godly parenting?  Because, as Dan has taught me, being a good parent means showing your kids what God is like.  When we discipline our kids we are showing them that God hates sin, when we forgive our kids we are showing them that God is gracious, and when we have family devotions we are showing them that God is our authority.  But what are we communicating about God by having lots of fun with our kids?  We are showing them that God is infinitely happy (1 Timothy 1:11) and that he pours out joy on those who seek him (Psalm 16:11; 37:4; John 15:11).  As parents we have a responsibility to reveal the character of God with balance in raising our children.  We dare not misrepresent him by leaving out one of his attributes in neglecting to have fun!

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How Our Baby Girl Is Leading Me To Repentance

I write this blog post as a tired man.  With a newborn at home, as any parent knows, I’m not getting the sleep I want.  Our daughter, in all her dainty cuteness, does not seem to care that we have responsibilities to tend to the next day.  It seems as though she lost the copy of my schedule I to gave her and she is creating one of her own in each moment.  It may seem like I’m complaining, but I actually see my lack of sleep and my constantly adapting schedule to be good things because they are leading me to repentance.

I have come to realize that I often trust in sleep more than I trust in God for the strength I need to take care of my responsibilities each day.  In my mind I treat sleep as the all-benevolent provider of my daily needs.  Sleep becomes my rest, sleep becomes my refuge, sleep becomes what I yearn for, and sleep is what I think about in my free moments.  But sleep never died for me, sleep never adopted me into its family, sleep isn’t going to wipe away every tear from my eyes in eternity, and sleep never said to me “My grace is sufficient”.  I am being reminded again that God is the one I need.

Also, I am realizing once again that I’m not in control…  God is.  I can’t seem to get my daughter to do exactly what I want her to do when I want her to do it.  This is maddening until I remember God is in control of every dirty diaper, every squawk of desperation, and every 3 am feeding.  When things seem a bit chaotic, they are in perfect working order in God’s plan for my life.

Thank you Lord, and thank you baby Jane for teaching me this.

Look at your own life, what are some pressures you are going through?  Now let them lead you to repentance.

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Praying in Print

There can be great value in occasionally writing out your prayers.  It causes you to slow down, think, and be specific.  We live in a world where we’re often in bondage to the next thing on the schedule.  This can be detrimental to our prayers, making them like unfocused passing thoughts instead of petitions of desperate dependence on our heavenly Father that result in soul-saturating fellowship with him.  Here is a prayer I am praying for us and our daughter who will be born today by c-section at 12:30 pm.

Gracious Father, you are worthy to be praised for creating our daughter and sustaining every second of her life.

As sinners who have offended you deeply with our rebellion, we do not deserve such an amazing blessing, so I thank you for this gift of your grace that we know can only be ours because Jesus died and rose again on our behalf.

As we see our daughter for the first time, may we take much time to marvel at the beauty of your handiwork and stand in awe of the careful precision you used in knitting her together.

May the doctors and nurses, our friends and family witness us worshiping you upon such a happy occasion and may you lead them to do the same.

If there is anything uncommon about her, help us to remember that you do not make mistakes and your goodness is permeating this moment in our lives.

In these first weeks and months of her life, may you give us enabling grace to nurture her and care for her the way you care for us as your children…  especially in the hours when sleep has been minimal and life is hectic.

May you grow her and develop her in good health, but much more importantly, at some point in the future, I pray that you would save this little girl through the death and resurrection of your only Son.  Make her to embrace the Lord Jesus Christ by faith and transform her into your committed worshiper.

If you choose to save her, please give her mother and I the privilege of being used by you in the process so that we will have opportunity to delight in you more.

May she love every word of the Bible and delight to submit to it as her final authority in life.   By your grace may she reject the feminism and immodesty that is so rampant in our culture, and be happy to fulfill the role of a dedicated woman of God set out in its pages.

May her life reflect the resplendence of your character and gospel in big and small ways wherever you take her and may you use her as you please.

In the precious name of Jesus, Amen

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