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!

via Left Unsaid… for better or worse ‹ Log In

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A Secret Decoder Ring for Your Best Life Now – Hope for Hump Day with a View toward Sunday

This week at Hope of Christ, we will continue to look at the last chapter of Philippians.  Specifically verses 10-13:

I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me

Everyone loves secrets and mysteries.  Whether you’re Colonel Sanders with your 11 secret herbs and spices, or Coca Cola with your secret recipe for Coke, New Coke, Coke Classic (which was the new, new Coke, making the old new coke, the new old coke), or Coke Zero (which is the new, new, new Coke based on the old New Coke which, again, is the new old coke, recipe).

Even Paul loves mysteries.

Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen. -Romans 16.25-27

For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. -Ephesians 3:1-6

Even authors today delight in claiming that they have found the secret to life’s mysteries.  It’s what sells.  Write a book claiming that you’ve tried a few things; they worked for you; they may or may not work for others.  See how many copies you sell.  But announce to the world that you have figured out “the secret.”  and watch those royalty checks roll in.  But the secret has to be exciting.  It has to be something that I can do by focussing more on me. In fact, If you could spend about 200 pages telling me that the secret to my happiness is just a little more selfishness and self-will and self-love and self-promotion and self-esteem, I won’t even mind (or notice the hypocrisy) of a couple pages claiming I should think about others too.

We love secrets.  As long as they’re not too secret.  We like secrets that are decodable.

And Paul says he has figured out the secret.  He has figured out the secret to living your best life now.  And it seems to be a slightly different take than others who write books focussing on that very idea.  Whereas one author tells you that the secret to your best life now is, “don’t ever get satisfied with where you are,” Paul has found that the secret is actually the opposite of that advice.  The secret is…

well, some secrets are better revealed Sunday mornings.  But I promise one thing.  It won’t be a crummy commercial.

New Year’s Resignations

Well, it’s January 8 and you know what that means? Yes it means it’s Hump Day again, but more than that, statistically speaking it means most of us who made any sort of New Year’s resolutions have already failed at most of them. And some who haven’t failed are already finding sticking to their resolution to be a struggle and frustrating and you are questioning why you are even bothering.

Maybe you resolved to make healthier choices with food or drink. You resolved that what you eat and what you drink will not be your source of comfort and joy this year. You will show self control. You won’t become one of those self-righteous sticks in the mud who can’t enjoy a good meal or dessert or beer or glass of wine, but you will enjoy them as gifts from God, not as lifelines.

But then there’s the invitation to a friends house and you don’t want to be rude. And there are all those cookies and candy and you don’t want to be wasteful so they HAVE to be eaten so that you can get them out of the house and start your resolution in earnest. And now you’re feeling like your resolution is pretty much a failure.

Or maybe you resolved to have a little more unconditional love in your heart. Maybe toward your wife or maybe toward your children. A little more patience, a little more compassion, a little more empathy and listening and less talking and correcting and screaming and ignoring. The problem is that conditions aren’t always that optimal for unconditional love. Sometimes it’s too early in the morning for this conversation again. Sometimes it’s too late in the evening to listen to them. Sometimes they are acting like CHILDREN. Sometimes he is so frustrating. Sometimes she is so cold. And you fall and you fail and your resolution didn’t get you anything except, if you told your family what it was, a dirty look or critical comment.

You tried. You meant well. you fell flat. Now what?

For half of us, we will resolve more better. Dig in your heals. Do better. Try harder. Take that hill. Move that barge. You thought you were resolved, but you ain’t seen nothin yet. Grab those boot straps and get up!

For half of us we will resign. You tried, you failed, but who could possibly succeed surrounded by these sinners? You don’t know my wife. You don’t know my husband. You don’t know my children. You don’t know my circumstances.

Or, worse, you realize you failed and it is entirely your own doing. You resolved. You were earnest. You were sincere. You wanted to do good, but the more you wanted to do better the more there was something there pulling you back down, tripping you up, tempting you to give up or give in.

“So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand (No, not in your spouse or your children or your pantry, but right there in your own heart). For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin.” Romans 7.21-23.

“I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” Romans 7.19.

What is there for resolvers and resigned alike? What hope do you have if you couldn’t even make it through the first seven days of 2014? Wretched person that you are, who can deliver you from this body of death? (Romans 7.24)

There is Christ. There is always and only Christ. Christ for the resolvers so sure that their sins only exist in response to other people’s sins. Christ for the resigned who are certain that they have blown it for the umpteenth and final time.

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 7.25-8.1

If you are going to resolve this year, resolve that you will know nothing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified. Resolve that you will not take even one step away from total and absolute dependence on Christ for your deliverance. Resolve to remember that if grace were something you deserved it wouldn’t be grace. Resolve that the gospel not be something those annoying sinners in your life need but something you need this year, this day, everyday.

If you are going to resign this year, resign yourself to the fact that you are indeed the worst sinner in your life and God loves you and sent his Son to die for you and He does not condemn you anymore, so neither should you. Resign yourself to understand that if grace were something you could earn it wouldn’t be grace anymore. Resign yourself to absolute and utter dependence on Christ and His work this year, this day, everyday.

Resolve to know Christ and Christ alone. Resign to need Christ and Christ always. And enjoy the journey.

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 6

I saw this video the other day.

What had this Dad weeping tears of joy for his son?  A ‘C.’  His son got a ‘C’ on a Math exam that would determine the direction of the rest of his academic career.

This got me thinking two simultaneous thoughts.

My first thought was as a dad.  Do my children know that I rejoice in their God-given mediocrity?   Do I rejoice in their God-given mediocrity?  Or have I bought the lie that the only things worth celebrating in my child are stand out, out of the park performances?  Social media is overflowing with those humble brags about all the amazing accomplishments of our kids.  Have we made them the most arrogant and anxious generation?  One reason children are “specializing” earlier and earlier is that the world only recognizes and praises above average performances.  As a parent am I supporting this lie?  When is the last time you rewarded mediocrity (or even a sub-par performance according to the world’s scale)?  This is not a post about everyone getting a trophy and no longer keeping score at little league games.  If anything that makes my point.  But as a parent are you vocally, regularly, genuinely joyful with your child over every aspect of his or her life?  I am not advocating laziness or working below one’s ability but simply as parents helping our children, as Tony Horton would say, “Do your best, and forget the rest.”

My second thought was as a son.  My heavenly Father has this same heart toward me.  He has created me with some abilities that may be above average, but mostly with abilities that are average and quite a few that are below average.  And when I use any of them at the level He has gifted them to me, He is pleased.  My Father in heaven shouts with joy over me like this Dad:

Let not your hands grow weak.
The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing

Zephaniah 3.16,17

My Father in heaven throws a party every time I admit failure and return to him.  In fact He happier over one admitted failure than ninety-nine humble brags

Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety- nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Luke 15.7

Your Father in heaven is delighted n every aspect of who you are as His child.  He knows the areas you are above average and is pleased by them.  He knows the ways in which you are average and is pleased in those areas.  He knows where you are even below average, and He rejoices.

May you know the weeping joy of your Heavenly Father over your average performances today and this week.

Enjoy the journey.

Hope for Hump Day, October 30

Never Use ‘Always’ – Always Avoid ‘Never’ – Unless…

It happened again. Your spouse, your teenager, your brother or sister, your friend has let you down. An argument, a disagreement, a misunderstanding, a missed opportunity. And now the words begin to flow – maybe to the offending party, maybe to someone else about the offending party. Soon the words are not merely flowing, they are flying with the speed and accuracy – and deadliness – of an arrow off a crossbow. And then it comes:

“You always…”

“She never…”

“You never…”

“He always…”

They are such easy words to say. And they certainly communicate well your frustration and hurt. But do they over-communicate? Do they say more than you intended to say? And is it true?

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4.29-32).

Hello, My Name Is…

When you use words like, “You always,” or “You never,” what you are saying is, “This trait, this offense is your identity. This defines you.” In other words, nothing else in the person’s past has any capital or impact on who this person is at his or her core. This, and this only, is their identifier. It becomes the monochromatic lens through which you view the person. Everything they do is colored by this one fault or flaw or sin.

But if you can take a moment to be honest you have to admit, that is simply not true. Hyperbolic language is always over-the-top and never accurate (see what I did there?). This sin is NOT the defining character trait of your husband or wife, your teenager or sibling or friend. Our sin is not our identifier. It is certainly true that our sin used to be our identity, but no longer. Christ has delivered us.

“You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6.11

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.” Romans 8.14-17

If God himself does not identify us by our sins, we ought not use each other’s faults as identifiers either.

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here

When we use the language of “you always” and “you never” and other phrases like them, what we are saying is that there is no hope for change. “This is so much your definer that the Holy Spirit is not going to change you.” “I have no hope for anything ever changing in you.”

Is that what we are seeking to communicate with one another? Is that an accurate assessment of the ongoing struggle with the power of sin?

“He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.” Philippians 1.6

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4.8,9

If God’s view of us is that we are washed, justified and sanctified shouldn’t that be our view of each other?

Our words have meaning and power, power to heal and help or power to tear down and destroy.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18.21

Where ‘always’ will always work and ‘never’ will never be out of place

So, how does God use always and never when he describes our relationships on earth? Won’t we always be dealing with each other’s sin? Won’t we never be perfected before the Lord returns? Yes, and so we need love… always.

1 Corinthians 13 is that well-known passage that is read at so many weddings. It’s the “love” chapter. Have you ever noticed that most of the descriptors of love are in response to a negative situation? “Love is patient.” When is it that you need patience? “Love does not insist on its own way; it is not resentful or irritable.” When is it we are most insistent that others follow our way? When are you tempted to be irritable or resentful?

The passage ends with four “always” and one “never.”

“love bears all things (always bears), believes all things (always believes), hopes all things (always has hope), endures all things (always endures). Love never ends.

Love never gives up. This is the love God has for you. This is the love God grants to you for each other. The next time you are tempted to throw the “always” and “nevers” into an argument. Remember the always and nevers of the Gospel, of Christ’s love for you, of the Spirit’s presence both in you and in the other person. And never give up.

Enjoy the journey.

Hope for Hump Day

Just a little note to offer you some encouragement on this dreary Wednesday morning.

Transmission Problems

Last month I was perusing Facebook and came across this status from my mother-in-law.

“Transmission problems…car will not reverse but hey, who wants to go backwards anyhow!”

Isn’t that the truth? Who wants to go backwards? To go backwards is to correct a course. To admit a wrong direction. To give ground in a stand-off. To go backwards requires more effort. I need mirrors and flexibility as I twist around to see where I came from. I need to move slower so that I don’t drive off into a ditch because, let’s face it, I’m not used to going backwards. To go backwards requires patience with myself, because if I have been driving full-throttle down the wrong road it may take a while to back up to the correct path again.

The Christian journey is often described as “two steps forward and one step back.” I suppose the idea is to offer hope to those struggling with the walk that, although the going seems slow, there is progress. But I wonder if from another angle the walk looks more like “one step forward three steps back.”

C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity pointed out:

We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.

You’re Going the Wrong Way!

I love the scene in the 1987 movie, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, in which Del (John Candy) and Neal (Steve Martin) are driving down the highway in the middle of the night—on the wrong side of the highway. Another driver comes up along side of them (on the other side of the median) and frantically tries to convince them, “You’re going the wrong way!”

Did you start the morning with yet another belittling outburst against your children? Are you stuck on a one-lane, one-way alley of irritation with and disappointment in your spouse? Have you damaged a friendship through neglect? Maybe you feel like you’ve been on this path for far too long. Maybe you can’t even see the fork behind you where you got off course. Maybe you feel like it’s hopeless since you will only get off track again at the next intersection. As a good friend reminded me recently, “It’s never too late to do the right thing.” Hit the brakes. Grind the gears. Throw it into reverse. There are no cut-overs. There is no amount of religious winding that will maneuver you back to the right path.

“So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5.23-24

No amount of religious activity can make the paths we’ve taken away from one another holy and good paths. No worship, no offerings, no service replaces the simple yet hard work of repentance. Going backwards. Turning around The way forward is back. And is only possible because of the One who backed up first for us.

Reversal of Fortune

At the cross God turns around from the wrath intended for us, turns that wrath from us to his beloved Son who willingly took the punishment our paths held for us. In the greatest back up in History God reversed the effects of sin, raising His Son from the dead, so that we could have life in His Name. The great hope we have that we can back up quickly or even back up after a long wandering is that God opened the path back to himself through the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And if we can back up from the path leading away from our heavenly Father, then we can back up from the paths we have taken from each other. Turn around. Christ has replaced your transmission so you can back up regularly, daily, early or late. What a picture of glory, each of us-arm on the backrest, head twisted around, front of the car fishtailing in the back as we fly down the road toward one another, glad for the capital ‘R’ Jesus has put in our gear box.

Enjoy the Journey!