Saturday, September 4, 2010

Reflections on Chapter 1 from Radical by David Platt

I am honored to have as a guest blogger my dear friend and member of our Connect Group family, Mr. Bruce Wayne Morgan...or as I affectionately call him, Batman!

See His thoughts below and we would love to hear your thoughts. You can post your comments here on the blog or as a comment on the Facebook post.

Here ya go:

A lesson I’m learning over and over again is that when one of my extremities gets kicked, it’s because I had it in the wrong place.

“Someone Worth Losing Everything for,” Chapter 1 of David Platt’s book Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, is a painful but well-deserved kick to the head.

Mr. Platt described differences between the churches we know here in the United States and the underground house churches he visited in Asia. In particular, he contrasted the way people in each church live out their faith. The differences were as stark as that between “I pray that I don’t run out of gas before I get to work. I need the money,” and “I pray that I don’t get killed before I get to the next village. They need my help.”

Further, he relates the promises Jesus made to those who would follow him. They would be poor, homeless, separated from friends and family, always hard at work. But they would have treasure in heaven! Jesus was telling them that they must put him above all else, the needs of others ahead of themselves. Without hesitation. Without planning. Without doing it our way.

Our culture surrounds us with reasons to talk up selflessness while we chase after our own wants. We no longer have “wants” when we can rationalize everything we have as necessary. All things have become “needs.” The second car, the big comfy house, high-speed internet service. Blessed are those suffering in an unfriendly economy, for they will re-evaluate their needs. Historically, though, this trend reverses itself elastically once the economy improves.

We rationalize wants into needs with ease. I’m sure the people who built the $23 million church building didn’t feel like they were spending $23 million. The cost wasn’t dollars but time. I don’t imagine the executive pastor wrote a check for the entire amount, backed by the accumulated gifts of the congregation. The church leaders most likely signed for a loan that would turn $23 million cash into $40 million in time-leveraged debt. Stretching out the pain over 20 years makes it a trivial matter. We get what we want right now. After a few months, the payments will be a routine matter. It suddenly becomes a monthly bill.

“If we build this beautiful new building, we’ll draw more people who will give more money. Therefore, we can make the payments on this beautiful new building to draw more people. It’s an investment!”

Can you imagine anyone saying, “The victims of this latest natural disaster desperately need relief. The most effective way we can help is to send as much money as we can for supplies. Let’s get the largest loan we can and send it all to them, then spend the next several years paying off the loan.

That just doesn’t make sense. We will admire a new building for years, but we will have forgotten the sufferers by the time the first mortgage payment comes due.

That knife cuts at least two ways, though. It is just as wrong to be boastful of a small congregation. “We don’t spend money on a church building. We channel almost all of our funds to those in need. We are doing a better job than the megachurches are.” Too bad that’s just another tale of the prodigal son becoming his own big brother. Inevitably, when we get close in to examine the mote in our brother’s eye, we beat him over the head with the log in our own. Do we ask if we are doing the best we can? Have we made the best decisions on how to use our resources? Have we even considered what our resources are? Or are we doing just enough to feel satisfied?

The point is not what we are, but what we do. Jesus was known for His actions. He walked to where He was needed, tending to those on His way. He met needs while He rested. He suffered the ultimate punishment to meet our deepest need. He has done for us because of who He is. We are insignificant, except in light of who He is. His being is all that matters. We are meant to do. To love, to meet needs, to provide comfort, to glorify Christ Jesus in everything we do, say, feel, and think. Not to build irresistible storefronts, to invent persecutions, to entice people to perch with us on our pedestal, to reason the Gospel into a comfortable fit. We are a people called by His name, not our own.

“22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Galatians 5:22-24

"23 Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit." Matthew 12:33

Just before we parted company, Zach made a particular point, one which brought questions to my mind for which I have no answers. “What does the face of our congregation look like to the community? What are we known by?” As I reflected on that, I realized that I know what the effect of that appearance should be, but I am missing some very important details. What do we do to present those fruits in the most evident and effective way to the community? Put another way, what are the pressing needs of our Royse City neighbors? How do we discover what those needs are? Once known, what do we do to meet them, gently and faithfully?

We are centered in our own worlds. We know what we need (or think we need!) but not everyone’s circumstances are identical to our own. We know they all need to know the love of Jesus. What we do is how we introduce them to Him.

Great thoughts Bruce. I look forward to hearing from the rest of you.



Saturday, August 14, 2010

Reflections on James 1:21-25

Thomas Bilney, a sixteenth century English reformer, spoke of his encounter and ongoing experience of God’s Word. He described one of the early turning points like this:

I chanced upon this sentence of St. Paul (O most sweet and comfortable sentence to my soul!) in 1 Timothy 1: “It is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be embraced, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am the chief and principal.” This one sentence, through God's instruction and inward working, which I did not then perceive, did so exhilarate my heart, being before wounded with the guilt of my sins, and being almost in despair, that . . . immediately I . . . felt a marvelous comfort and quietness, in so much that “my bruised bones leaped for joy.” After this, the Scriptures began to be more pleasant to me than the honey or the honeycomb.

In order to see fully what is revealed in verses James 1:21-25 we must back up and look at verse 18. “In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the Word of Truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.”

The words “brought us forth” (greek – apokyeo) is in reference to being created or produced or born.

The “first fruit among all His creatures”, the first and the best. This is the description of the “first fruit”.

1 Peter 1:23 - for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.

Now, jump to verse 21.

Vs. 21 – putting aside all filthiness and all that REMAINS of wickedness.

It’s okay if you’re not okay…just don’t stay there.

Vs. 21 – “…in humility or meekness receive the word implanted…”

We need to take very seriously the command to "in meekness receive (greek – dexasthe which means to welcome) the word implanted". What is meekness? Meekness can be defined as submissive humbleness. Both are key characteristics of being like Jesus. The word also makes me think of being “teachable”. Do you have a teachable spirit?

This is why it is so important to keep this in context because verse 21 is not possible without what we saw in verse 18. We were dead. We had no place for the word of God in us. We did not desire it or love it. Jesus said of the leaders who were trying to kill him: “You seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you” (John 8:37). The word of truth was not implanted in them.

Pay attention to what is happening here though, these leader of whom Jesus spoke “knew” the Word of God…but , the Word of God “found no place in them”. It was not implanted in them.

Before we are born again, our hearts are so full of so many things that they have no room for the Word of God. It’s like when your kids do not want dinner because they snuck into the pantry and they were eating candy while you were making dinner…true story! When the real meal is ready, they have no place for it nor any desire for it.

Vs. 21 – “…is able to save your soul”

Do not underestimate the Words ability to save your soul. Please understand that the Word of God is not just a book that sits on your shelf of that you carried with you today. The Word of God literally has super natural power. The Scriptures are the inspired breath of God whispered into the hearts of men who cannot save themselves. The implanted Word is able to save your soul.

“So the word of God is “implanted” in us, and “is at work” in us, and “abides” in us, and (James 1:21 says) “saves” us. We cannot easily overstate how profoundly powerful and important the word of God is for our lives. If the word of God does not rank with your most cherished possessions, you need to do a reality check on your life. Nothing apart from God himself is more important and powerful than his word.” - John Piper

Vs. 22 – “becoming doers of the Word and not just hearers…”

This is quite simply allowing the words of God to affect your daily activities…everything you do in life can be held up to the light of the Scriptures.

Vs. 23-24 – Forgiven…but don’t forget…

For me personally, it is best for me to leave forgetting the way I use to be to God. I need His forgiveness and for Him to remember my sin no more. However, I think it's good for me to remember the way I was...It makes me more grateful for His grace and mercy and it makes me want to press harder for continued sanctification.

Vs. 25 – The Law of Liberty - this brings me so much hope because the natural results of the law is not liberty but condemnation. But, thanks be to God, that through Jesus Christ, I am not condemned.

At what point will the Word of God become the breath of God to you.

The implanted Word of God is the Gospel to which you have been called and saved. The external Word of God is what you have to live well in this life. But they are so united that they really cannot be separated. Our soul needs both. If you make the decision that you do not need the external Word of God, it is like you making a decision to stop breathing, which leads to death. Separation from the external Word will cause you to stagnate. The implanted Word is powerful, producing life and breathing and demands the life giving external Word. If the Word is implanted in you, you will not be able to hold your breath forever.



Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Place of Personal Discipline

I was reminded this morning of a time when God grabbed me by my ankles and shook me loose of everything that I held onto so tightly.

About 5 years ago I was serving at a church working with students. In the summer of 2005 I took a small group of young men through a little book that turned out to have huge implications on all of our lives. Jerry Bridges' "The Pursuit Of Holiness" is a book that God used to begin in me a process that pushed me to the Scriptures and made me more aware of my own depravity and need for the mercy and grace of Jesus. The beginning of a season of change and re-working (so to speak) in my life.

As I sat on the couch at my brother's house this morning, with my belly full of pancakes, I picked this book up off of his end table and turned to chapter 10, "The Place of Personal Discipline".

1 Timothy 4:7 - Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness...

This is so timely for where I am in life right now. God has really been working me over in the area of personal discipline...or discipleship. Specifically with regards to the Scriptures. I feel like the key to our churches moving in power and seeing the Gospel advance, both in our local context and globally, is that the Church make the Word of God a priority once again.

What we must understand, however, is that this is a process and not an instant, go to bed one night with no discipline or love for God's Word then wake up the next day more aware of your own sin and need for simply doesn't happen like that. We have to discipline ourselves to seek God, then allow Him to change our hearts. That He would give us over to the things that are life giving instead of that which robs us of intimacy with Holiness. Jay Adams put it this way, "You have sought and tried to obtain instant godliness. There is no such thing...We want somebody to give us three easy steps to godliness, and we'll take them next Friday and be godly. The trouble is, godliness doesn't come that way."

While I still have you, let me share this and I'll be done...for now. Webster's new Collegiate Dictionary list as one definition of discipline this, "training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character."

In order to pursue holiness in our own lives we must be willing to correct, mold and train our moral character.

Tough stuff...I know.

A worthy pursuit.

Let's go!


Friday, August 6, 2010

Occasionally you will encounter something that needs to be shouted about, last night I witnessed one of those things.

We have some very good friends, Scott and Christiana Finch, who have a couple of girls, Lily and London, who are very important to my boys. Seriously, they love each other. They've spent most of their lives together and a lot of the time they are kind of like brothers and sister. Lily is about to turn 5 years old and had her birthday party last night. Instead of gifts Lily encouraged everyone to bring a pair of new or gently used shoes. Yeah, you heard me, INSTEAD OF GIFTS! The shoes that were given will be sent to a great organization called Soles4Souls. You can find out more about them here. To date, they have given out more than 10 million pairs of shoes.

I'm thankful for friends like this because parenting is so hard. It's very difficult to teach your children how to put other people's very difficult to teach adults to put other people first. I'm thankful that we were given an opportunity to teach last night. As we enjoyed all the "normal" birthday party stuff (splash park, swings and gluten free cupcakes) Jacob asked me, "Daddy, when is Lily going to open up her presents?" I had another opportunity to talk to him about how important it is to put other people first.

We have been given so much and it's always refreshing to see people trying to teach their children that we are not to terminate the grace and mercy of Christ on ourselves.

Jacob gave a pair of Spider-Man sandals and Eli gave a pair of Buster Brown velcroes. All told I think Lily collected 49 pair of shoes. Thats 49 children in various parts of the world that will very soon have, possibly, their first pair of shoes.

Lily's doing her part...what will you do to change the world?


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Incapable of good...or anything else for that matter

I have been in a constant state of mental meditation on John 15 the past three or four days. More specifically verse five, "I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." (ESV)

On the surface I love this picture of Christ being the center point of life. The point at which everthing else in creation flows.

But then, things get very serious very quickly. The word ABIDE is the one that Jesus uses here (at least that is the English word used to convey what Jesus was saying). The Greek word here is menos, which just simply means to tarry, stay, not depart from, continually, TO LIVE IN...that is a little bit weightier, right?

Where is our passion for the word's of God? The thing that I have been begging Christ for more than anything else lately is an unquenchable desire for more of Him...and for the source of that to be from His Scriptures. This is how I am praying for you also.

And then, this..."...apart from me you can do NOTHING."

I am completely incapable of doing anything at all apart from God allowing me or giving me the ability to do so. I want my words to be words that bring hope and peace and not words that bring hurt and pain. I must abide in Him...

Please Father, may the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing unto you, oh Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)