Some Practical Helps for Willing God’s Will and Wanting God’s Glory

Toward the end of May, we were looking at John 7:1-24.  You can listen to that sermon here if you are so inclined.  In verses 17 and 18 Jesus says,

“If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.  The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.”

A marker of true belief is that we will want God’s will and we will seek God’s glory more than our own.

But that leaves us with the question, even if I want to want God’s will and wished that I desired God’s glory more in my life, how do I do that?  How do I cultivate a taste for God’s Glory?  Let’s be honest.  After all, we don’t always want God’s Glory and His will is too often the furthest thing from our desires.

What are some practical steps to changing my tastes so that God’s will becomes more and more my will and God’s glory becomes more and more my chief and driving desire that sets all other desires in their proper place?

Maybe an illustration would help us.

When my son came home from school this Spring he announced to us that he wanted to learn to play the piano.  At first I thought, “Sure.  Don’t we all?”  But when his older sister also came home from school he told her the same thing.  He asked her if she would spend time with him teaching him the basics of piano.  Now, full disclosure time.  My oldest son and daughter are like any other brother and sister.  They do not always see eye to eye on things.  And when his sister points out things that he ought to be doing my son’s response is not always the most mature.  But she agreed, and they have been spending time downstairs at the piano side by side many nights.  She has been showing him some basics from old piano books she has, and he has also been spending about a half hour every day at the piano on his own.

My son wanted to develop a taste for the glory of the piano.  He sought out someone who already had that taste and asked for help.  He also began spending his own free time seeking to develop that taste on his own.

If you wanted to develop a taste for fishing you would spend time—well, fishing.  You would read articles and books on fishing techniques and you would find a group of people who either already had a taste for fishing or who, like you, wanted to develop a taste and appreciation for fishing.

Why is it that when it comes to our desire to grow more and more delighted in God’s will and God’s glory we expect that desire to miraculously (magically?) grow in us?  How do you develop a taste for God’s glory?  You spend time with others who also want that same taste cultivated in themselves.  You spend time with others who already have a taste and delight in God’s will and God’s glory.  You spend time reading God’s word and reading articles and books by others who have shown that they delight in God’s will and God’s glory.

There are so many opportunities at Hope of Christ for just such cultivation.  Our vision at Hope of Christ is to help one another know Jesus Christ, grow in grace, and go into the world with the hope of Christ.  Sunday morning worship is the first of those opportunities.  It is the one day of the week God invites us to set everything else aside and just rest in his glory and grace.  Are you making Sunday worship a priority in your life?  Care groups and Bible studies are another place where you can begin to cultivate your taste for God’s will and God’s glory.  Even our new classes, Theology Thursdays, are an excellent place to begin developing your tastes for God’s will and God’s glory.  After all, it is hard to truly know a person’s desires when we don’t really know much about that person.  Theology Thursdays are a great place to be reminded of who God is and why it is essential to our well-being to desire his glory and his will.

If you want to start wanting God’s will, if you want to begin to be delighted in what brings God glory, you must seek out places and people where that is being cultivated regularly.  Make Sunday morning worship a priority in your week.  Make Bible studies and care groups a priority in your week.  Spend time on your own in prayer and in God’s word.  And watch as the Holy Spirit begins to change your desires and correct your tastes.  Soon you will find the glory of God your goal and the desires of God your desires.

I love you all.  Enjoy the Journey!

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Rejoice in the Lord, Only?

Last month, as we continue to worship our way through the Gospel According to John at Hope of Christ Church, we found ourselves in John 2.13-25 and the account of Jesus cleansing the Temple.  You may listen to that sermon here if you are interested.  In that passage, we were shown that the Old Testament prophesied that Jesus would delight in and be consumed with the worship of God:

“His disciples remembered that is was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’” – John 2.17

In an attempt to emphasize the attitude of Christ toward worship, I fear I overstated and went beyond even God’s thoughts on how you ought to view the rest of your life and the gifts of God in your life.

While it is true that we ought to be consumed by God’s love for us, especially as displayed in Christ and on the cross, this does not mean that we cannot or even ought not find joy and delight in other smaller, even temporary gifts from God.

My mother once told me about a woman in the church where I grew up.  Her attitude toward ministry was that it wasn’t serving Christ if you enjoyed it.  You were really only serving and ministering if it was something you didn’t like.  She was my 3-4-year-old Sunday School teacher.  This revelation explained a lot.

Maybe none of us would go this far, but I wonder if this is not our assumption about most of the rest of life – if you are enjoying it, it is probably an idol.  But is this true?  Is this the attitude God wants us to have toward our work, our possessions, our endeavors?  I think not.

God has given to each of us certain abilities, passions, possessions, and opportunities.  If these are all gifts from God, he has not given them so that we despise or ignore them, but that we might enjoy the gifts and even share them with other people.

James 1.17 states, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”  This reminder comes right after James has warned believers of the temptations and trials that come our way.  He points out that these temptations don’t come from God but form our own lusts and desires.  The good and perfect gifts are from God.  Our wrong uses and attitudes toward those gifts are from our own lusts and desires.  The answer is not to deny the goodness of the gifts nor to avoid those gifts, but to take those gifts captive for the glory of God.

Psalm 104 is a great celebration of all of creation.  The psalmist celebrates everything from the Sun and moon, the mountains and seas, the forests and pasturelands, the wild beasts and domestic animals, labor and toil and rest, and even oil and wine and bread.  Certainly, none of the pieces of creation are delighted in as an end in themselves, but always as a means to delighting in God.  But the delight is there all the same.

It is good for us, and even an act of worship, when we enjoy the gifts God has given.  You worship God when you enjoy your work and your abilities.  You worship God when you are passionate about aspects of creation and delight to share that passion with others.

Certainly, we each need to know our own hearts, and seek to keep our desires in a healthy God-honoring place and confess our lusts as the Holy Spirit exposes them.  But when we enjoy our work or our hobbies or passions or any other aspect of creation we are enjoying things the way God first intended creation to be before sin affected it and the way things will one day be again when the old is passed away and the new comes.  God is delighted when we find delight in his gifts as any earthly parent is delighted when the gift they give their child is enjoyed and appreciated.

C. S. Lewis describes the difference between looking at a sunbeam and looking along a sunbeam and at the sun. The sunbeam has a beauty and glory in itself, but that beauty and glory are not from itself. The glory of a sunbeam comes from the sun.  the beam cannot exist without the sun.  The sun can easily exist without the beam.  We need not deny the beauty of the beam in order to properly value the sun.

Enjoy the beams of your work, your passions, your abilities, your children, your relationships.  And let those beams of goodness draw your eyes upward to the Son.  Look along the gift to see the Giver.

Daddy, Fix It

I used this illustration in a talk I gave last Sunday evening and was asked to share it here for others.

Jesus encourages us to receive the Kingdom of God like children (Luke 18.17).  What does that mean?  What does it look like?  How are we to approach our heavenly father like little children?

 

When my son turned three years old I bought him a radio controlled, “Crocodile Hunter” Jeep.  Admittedly, this gift entertained his father as much as it entertained him, but that is not the point.

Before wrapping his present I went ahead and charged the batteries so that it would be ready to go right out of the box.  That afternoon, we took the jeep out to the driveway and had a blast – a very short-lived blast.  I was not aware that as the battery in the car lost its charge, the ability to maintain control over the vehicle would also decrease.  I was maneuvering the jeep down the driveway (that had a downward slope to the street) when I no longer had control of the vehicle.  It was lined up perfectly to roll straight into the street — at the exact time that a full-sized vehicle was coming down the road.

I could not have timed it better if I wanted to.  The small Jeep rolled under the car perfectly lined up with the rear tire.  The driver never knew what that bump was and never stopped.  The Jeep was completely smashed.  We hadn’t even had the toy for two hours and it was toast.

I was devastated, but my young son seemed unaffected.  He walked straight out to the mangled wreck, scooped it up in his little arms, walked back up the driveway to me, looked up and said, “Daddy, fix it.”

My son was absolutely convinced that I could fix it.  Perhaps one of the saddest (yet most necessary) days in the relationship between a dad and his child is the day a your child realizes that you can’t do everything.

 

Many things in our lives feel broken, crushed, mangled because of foolishness on our part or drive-by negligence in the world.  You have a heavenly Father who loves you so deeply that he organized history itself to move toward one particular moment in time in which He sent His one and only Son to die for your sin, to “fix it.”

You can come to your Father and hold up the mess you have made and say simply, “Daddy, fix it.”  He immediately forgives and accepts you; He begins at once restoring and redeeming you, changing your heart to desire Him more and more, helping you to turn away form your own self-destructive desires.  He begins to give you eyes to see the pain of others so that you might be a source of hope and encouragement for them, keeping them from running headlong into the street.

As a chid of God you will never have to come to a day when you realize that He cannot fix everything.  Your heavenly Father watches over you to such a degree that not a hair can fall from your head without His will (Luke 12.7); in fact He causes all things to work together for your salvation (Romans 8.28).

Have you trusted God with the mangled mess of your life?  You can.  He is good and loving; gracious and kind.  He can fix it.

Closet Space and Room in the Garage

The other day I was meeting with a fellow pastor and church planter.  At the end of our time together he asked me to pray for him – that he find time for quiet reflection and meditation; that he find time to be still before the Lord.

Sounds like a pretty reasonable request.  Sounds like something I might ask someone to pray for.  Sounds like something that will… never happen.

Finding time to sit still and do–let’s face it–nothing is impossible.  How would you go about finding this time?  Where would you look?  It’s harder than that even, because this ‘nothing’ is an intentional ‘nothing.’  Quietness before the Lord.  Stillness in the[did my email just chime.  I’ll just check that, it could be important. Oh, someone commented on my last FB post.  How many is that?  wow people really liked that post[[Oh someone posted an article.  I should read that.  It is from the Gospel Coalition, after all[[[did my phone vibrate? I should return that text.  It’s about tomorrow’s meeting[[[[That reminds me, I should call that other person too and make sure he’s doing okay.  He sounded discouraged yesterday[[[[[Isn’t my sermon on discouragement?  Where is that book I was looking for?]]]]] where was I?  Oh, the phone call.]]]] where was I?  Oh yeah, the text.  about the meeting.]]] now, where was I?  Oh right, the article from the Gospel Coalition.  How did NFL.com get pulled up?]] Now where was I?  Oh right, Facebook.  Gosh my cleverness amazes even me sometimes] midst of a very distracting culture.  

Imagine coming home one day and you walk past a door you’ve never noticed before right next to the kitchen.  You open it and there before you is an empty closet.  “Honey, what’s this?”  “Looks like a closet dear.” “Yes, I realize it’s a closet.  Has it always been here?” “Um.” “I think just found another closet!”

There are exactly three times you find empty closets in your house.  The day you move in, the day you move out, and the day you clean out your stupid closet and MAKE some room in it.

You will NEVER find time to sit quietly, waiting on God, meditating on His kindnesses, praying, reading, listening.  You must MAKE the time.

This sounds like work.  Yes.  It sounds like you are saying the Christian life takes effort.  Yes.  The Christian Life takes effort.  If someone told you it doesn’t, demand your money back.

The irony in this case is how much effort it takes to take a moment and stop putting in the effort.

But it’s easier to say I want to find the time.  When I say I want to find the time, I can now sit back and wait for God to make some quiet time available.  If He wants me to spend time in quiet meditation, He will have to do something about my days and schedule.  Nothing has changed.  Obviously it’s just not as important to God as it is to me.

When I moved my family to Northern VA it was the first home we owned with a garage and a basement.  We were very excited.  The first morning we woke up, my wife asked me what my plans were.  “I’m going to get both cars into the garage by the end of the day” (my wife and I grew up in Cleveland where, if you had a garage, you used your garage for–this sounds crazy– your cars).  So I spent the entire day rearranging my garage – moving things out that didn’t need to be there, rearranging other things that needed to be in the garage but didn’t need to take up as much space as they were.

You have 168 hours this week.  God gave them to you.  It’s the same number of hours you had last week.  It’s the same number of hours you had the week before.  It’s the same number of hours you will have next week and the week after.  Maybe there are some things in your week that could be rearranged or removed entirely.  Maybe it’s time to throw out some of that moth-eaten stuff and MAKE room in your closet for the stuff of eternal quality.

“Be still, and know that I am God.

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth!”

Psalm 46:10

To find time, you need to begin to make time.  And this like all worthy endeavors will take effort and sacrifice and change and you will do great sometimes and you fail sometimes and you will love it and be amazed by the time with God sometimes and you will hate it and feel like a hypocrite, and a lazy one at that, sometimes.

I suggest starting with a pretty specifically small time limit.  start with ten minutes.  Ten small minutes when you close your computer and turn off your phone or put it in another room and you close the door and you open your Bible.  It might help you to take out a piece of paper and write on it.  It might also help you to throw the paper away when you are done so that you aren’t writing your next blog or sermon or… oh, maybe I’m the only one that does that.  Anyway, you get the picture.  Start at ten minutes.  Meditate on God’s goodness.  Write down five people in your life you are thankful for and pray for them.  Read a portion of Scripture that has nothing to do with a lesson or sermon or book you are preparing.  Ask the Lord to create in you a clean heart and to renew His steadfast Spirit in you.  Ask Him to restore to your heart the joy of His salvation. (Psalm 51.10,12)

In a week make it fifteen minutes.  A week after that make it twenty.  By the time January rolls around you’ll be up to thirty and by the end of January over forty-five minutes of quietness before the Lord.

I do not claim this is going to be easy.  It will require sacrifices.  It will require rearranging some things and getting rid of some things.  Easy is leaving the cars outside and having a ginormous, there’s-no-where-else-to-put-it-let’s-throw-it-out-there space.

It won’t be easy.  It will be worth it.  Stop looking for the time as if it’s a misplaced set of car keys.  Start making the time.

Enjoy the journey.

Hope for Hump Day, November 20

 

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  Psalm 119.105

 

We seem to be obsessed with the future these days.  Companies have five and ten and twenty year plans.  We think our churches should also have five and ten year vision or mission statements.  Even for ourselves we want to know the future.  We want to know God’s will for our lives.

 

It’s good to have dreams to a certain extent, and it is definitely good to want my dreams to be in line with God’s dreams for me.  But wanting to know or see or understand the future is not always as noble as all that.

 

Sometimes I want to know the future because I want to know the outcome of a particular trial.  “If I just knew what God was doing I’d be okay with all of this.”  That’s not actually faith.  That’s “knowing the end of the book.”  In that case knowing is easier than trusting.

 

“Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”  Romans 8.24,25

 

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11.1

 

It is safe to say that Joseph in Genesis and Job in—well—Job and even Mary in Luke did not know how their stories were going to play out.

 

But God’s word is a lamp to your feet—not a flood lamp for your horizon.

 

When you are driving through fog at night, the worst thing you can do is turn on your high beams.  Your high beam headlights are positioned to cast the light farther out in front of your vehicle, but in the fog they just bounce light off all the particulates floating in the air and make it harder for you to see.  You want your low beams or even fog lamps that are positioned lower on the car and light up the road immediately in front of you.

 

Sometimes we are too busy trying to prepare for the momentous that we forget to be faithful in the moment.  What does faith and faithfulness look like right now?  In this moment?  I don’t have to try to be faithful for the next six years or six months or six days.  I am called to faithfulness right now.  In the quiet morning hours or evening hours when no one else is awake.  In the conversation with my teenage daughter.  In this mundane moment of speaking with love to my toddler who is—surprise, surprise—acting like a toddler.  In this conversation with a woman at work.  In this interaction with my wife.  In this decision over another drink, another cookie, another episode, another post, another look, another book (yes, self control sometimes means not buying the next Keller book).

 

Trusting God means following him with this step and not even worrying about whether I will keep following him with the next twelve steps (see what I did there?).  “I’ll never do that again,” is not the repentance God seeks.  Never again is too far out there.  It’s too dark and foggy and twisted to see.  It’s so big and overwhelming that “I’ll never do that again,” practically guarantees I will be doing it again—and soon—because it’s not in me to see that far forward and focusing that far down the long and winding road only makes it harder to see curve right in front of me.

 

So I light the Lamp and look down at my feet and I take the next step.  And then the next step.  And sometimes the next step is forward in faithfulness.  And sometimes the next step is backward in repentance.  And even when it’s backward it’s not starting all over again, but somehow even the backward steps of repentance are moving me forward toward Christ.

 

I am not pushing the rock of my own righteousness up the hill toward the goal, stumbling and needing to start all over every time the rock rolls back down.  I am standing firmly on the rock of Christ’s righteousness, trusting him to complete the work he began in me.

 

So light the lamp.  Use the lamp.  Take the next step of faith and this next step of repentance.  And soon you’ll be walking cross the floor! (cue the music)

 

yes.  I know.  There are some theological holes in the song.  Santa is singing it, for crying out loud.  What did you expect?