Paul Madson

THOUGHTS, QUOTES & REFLECTIONS

Year: 2012 (page 1 of 2)

Thoughts for the New Year

“Don’t question in the dark what God showed you in the light.”  (V. Raymond Edman)

As we approach the end of 2012 and enter 2013 in just hours, I thought I would share a few brief year-end thoughts and quotes.

For those of you looking for a good plan to read through the Bible in 2013, Justin Taylor on his Gospel Coalition Blog gives one of the best, most comprehensive lists I’ve come across. I would encourage you to set aside time each day to read through the Bible in 2013.

“When all your favorite preachers are gone, and all their books forgotten, you will have your Bible. Master it. Master it.”  (John Piper)

And finally, NBC Nightly News put together a video montage of many of the well-known people that died in 2012. Here are a few of the people they mention…

Whitney Houston, Dick Clark, Davy Jones, Etta James, Robin Gibb, Andy Williams, Marvin Hamlisch, Donna Summer, Andy Griffith, Ernest Borgnine, Jack Klugman, Sherman Hemsley, Richard Dawson, Larry Hagman, Phyllis Diller, Neil Armstrong, Sally Ride, Daniel Inouye, Arlen Specter, George McGovern, J. Christopher Stevens, Mike Wallace, Vidal Sassoon, Ray Bradbury

As I watched the video, I was reminded of what Scripture says in James 4:13-15

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” (NASB)

As the video montage scrolled through so many well-known people the world admired, I couldn’t help but think about those that didn’t make the“Nightly News” list who served Christ faithfully and used their life to influence others for the glory of God.

One of those individuals was a dear friend of mine, Dr. Roland Niednagel, who just went home to be with Jesus on Christmas Day.

Roland, and his wife Patricia, were one of the first couples to come on staff with GTN back when we were just getting started.

Roland served Christ faithfully and fully right up to the last year of his life. He had a deep impact upon me personally, as well as our entire organization. He will be deeply missed.

“The best use of one’s life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.” (Oswald Sanders)

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?”  (Jesus) (from Matthew 16:26 ESV)

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” (Jim Elliot)

“Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death.”  (Anonymous) 

“I have held many things in my hands and I have lost them all. But whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.”  (Martin Luther)

As you enter 2013, may you remember the promise of God’s “steadfast love”

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV)

P.S. Thank you to all of you who have so faithfully prayed for Lisa and I and the ministry of Global Training Network this past year. We are eternally grateful! Please continue to bring us and our staff before God’s throne in 2013. The longer I live, the more I realize how deeply I need the prayers of fellow believers in Christ! Thank you!  

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12 NIV) 

“All of us would be wiser if we would resolve never to put people down, except on our prayer lists.”  (D.A. Carson)

Your Sin…Nailed to the Cross

“It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. And yet for this reason I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”

(1 Timothy 1:15 NASB)

Recently I sat at my desk listening to the song “It Is Well With My Soul” recorded live at the 2008 Together for the Gospel conference. Thousands of pastors gathered to learn from God’s Word and worship Him together (I have to say that there’s nothing quite like the experience of worshiping with thousands of pastors who are robustly praising God with all that is within them). When it came to the verse that says…

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!

My sin, not in part but the whole,

Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,

praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

…I was overwhelmed with the deepest sense of gratitude for God’s grace and mercy.

Do you really believe (I mean really believe) that Christ paid it all – when He hung upon the cross in payment for your sins?

“Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” (Romans 5:9 ESV)

One of the keys to walking in greater holiness in the future is believing the truth that your sins have been forgiven and paid for – completely – through the atoning sacrifice of Christ’s death on the cross.

Eternal life doesn’t start when you die-it starts the moment Jesus saves you from your sin. Here are ten things that happen at salvation:

1. You are reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:18-20).

2. You are forgiven for all of your sins (Col. 2:13).

3. You become a child of God (John 3:3, 7).

4. You are accepted by God (Eph. 1:6).

5. You are justified by Jesus Christ (Rom. 4:1-5:1).

6. You are brought close to God (Eph. 2:13).

7. You are delivered from the power of darkness (2 Cor. 4:3-4; Col. 1:13).

8. You join the people of God (1 Pet. 2:9).

9. You are granted access to God (Heb. 4:16; 10:10-20).

10. You receive an inheritance (Eph. 1:14; Col. 3:24; 1 Pet 1:4; Heb. 9:15).

 (This post is adapted from Pastor Bill Clem’s Re:Lit book, Disciple: Getting Your Identity from Jesus.) 

“And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions.” (Colossians 2:13 NASB)

One of my all-time favorite hymns of the faith is Before the Throne of God Above. Let these words sink deep into the far recesses of your soul:

 

Before the throne of God above

I have a strong and perfect plea

A great high Priest whose Name is Love

Who ever lives and pleads for me

 

My name is graven on His hands

My name is written on His heart

I know that while in heaven He stands

No tongue can bid me thence depart

No tongue can bid me thence depart

 

When Satan tempts me to despair

And tells me of the guilt within

Upward I look and see Him there

Who made an end to all my sin

 

Because the sinless Savior died

My sinful soul is counted free

For God the just is satisfied

To look on Him and pardon me

To look on Him and pardon me

 

“Either He bore all our sins, or none; and He either saves us once for all, or not at all.” (Charles Spurgeon)

“At the cross, the love of God and the wrath of God shake hands; the mercy of God and the justice of God embrace; and the holiness of God and the sinfulness of humanity appear in stark contrast.” (William P. Farely, from his book – Outrageous Mercy)

Do You Love Controversy or People?

“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29 NASB)

When Christians have different opinions over various issues of doctrine or convictions, humility and civility, as well as grace and kindness, should always rule the “tone” of those conversations.

You can win the battle, but lose the war.

You can win the argument, but lose the relationship.

Over the years (even reaching back three decades to my years working in Youth Ministry), I’ve observed people who were experts at “argument” win a doctrinal “battle” hands down, but then end up losing the “war” of relationship.

I’ve watched as fathers crucified the ideas of their teenage sons and made mincemeat of all that they said, only to have the young man walk away and say quietly under his breath, “You’re right dad! You’re right! You’re always right…” And the son walks away and emotionally detaches himself from his father, rejecting the faith that his dad so desperately wanted him to embrace.

“Kindness makes a person attractive. If you would win the world, melt it, do not hammer it.”  (Alexander MacLaren)

Scripture makes it very clear…

The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24-26 ESV)

I came across a great article this week by Jim Hamilton, professor of biblical theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. It’s entitled: Do You Love Controversy or People?

There is no conflict between loving truth and loving people. You really can love people as you obey Titus 1:9, which says an elder should “hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict.”You can even love people as you follow Jude’s appeal that you“contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

A few years ago I would have been suspicious of anyone who mentioned the need to engage in theological controversy in a lovingway. I would have done one of those mental clucks of the tongue and inched the person toward the “needs-to-firm-up-conviction” column.

As time has passed, though, I’ve participated in a few controversies (many connected to the sovereignty of God in salvation or the roles of men and women) and I’ve watched some controversialists take issue with views that I hold. Obviously I haven’t been in all these battles, only a skirmish or two, and sometimes I found myself wondering if those involved loved God, people, and truth, or just loved controversy.

I don’t muse on that possibility because of a softening of my own convictions, nor because I don’t like to mix it up, because I’m tired of the fight, or because I think my views worsted. The question arises because some of the caricatures have seemed so obvious I wondered whether they were intentional. The controversialists surely should have known they were fighting misrepresentations, and I am certain that they would not want their views treated the way they treat those they attack. 

I found myself thinking things like this: You’re using the name of the view I hold, but you’re not describing anything like my understanding of it. Only an idiot or a monster would hold it the way you describe it. You know you’re attacking a straw man, right? 

This line of though led me to wonder whether the controversialists were concerned for me as a brother in Christ. I began to ask whether they loved me, because if they really loved me, they would want to help me see the benightedness of a position they thought was so awful, they would want to liberate me from the bondage of bad ideas, and their desire to help me in these ways would surely cause them to use a different tone of voice and a better method of argumentation.

Such thoughts led to suspicions about such controversialists. I began to wonder whether they were really interested in the truth, or whether they were just rabble-rousers scoring rhetorical points without regard for the Bible, theology, logic, and sound doctrine. I began to question whether they were driven by a need to advance their political position in the theological discussion, and whether they cared about the spiritual state of their hearers. They didn’t seem to care about the spiritual well-being of the people whose views they savaged.

I don’t claim that all my views are infallible (if I knew which ones were wrong I would change my mind!), and please don’t think I speak as one who thinks he has always fulfilled the love command. But in spite of my own failures to live up to the ideal, I can affirm that the desire to engage in controversy should flow from love for God and neighbor. Love for God results in a desire to uphold his truth. Love for neighbor results in a desire for people to enjoy the goodness of God’s truth. 

Is it love for God and neighbor that gets you into controversy, or is it a proud desire to strut your opinions, flaunt your learning, and see your enemy discomfited?

Or, are you just a knucklehead who likes to contradict what others say?

When we engage in controversy, understanding is the first thing we owe our opponents. Only a fool would argue with someone he hasn’t understood. We’re all fools, and repentance and an apology are the first steps down the path to wisdom.

Once we’ve understood our opponents, loving them means applying the golden rule to themDo as you would be done by. Present another’s view as you would want your own view presented. Don’t distort. Don’t cheat. Don’t misrepresent. Don’t caricature and don’t set up straw men. Be a man. Take on a real opponent. Take on the best opponent you can find. Don’t pick the lunatic fringe representative of the view you’re attacking. Pick the best advocate. Let the best advocate make his best argument. Let them say that you have accurately presented their position, then launch your offensive with a smile and a sincere desire to do good for both your opponent and the watching multitude.

If you love truth and you love people, be prepared to let the truth correct you where you’re wrong. You’re not Jesus. The world’s salvation does not depend on you being right about everything. If you love the truth you’ll want the truth to have its way more than you want to be thought right. If you love people you’ll want them to think what is true more than you want them to think you’ve won the argument.

The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24-26 ESV)

James Hamilton serves as associate professor of biblical theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has written Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches (Crossway) God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgement: A Biblical Theology (Crossway) and God’s Indwelling Presence: The Ministry of the Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments (B&H). He blogs regularly at For His Renown. You can follow Dr. Hamilton on Twitter @DrJimHamilton

Freedom Comes Through Surrender: Have You Signed Yourself Over?


“Paul, a bond-servant (lit. “slave” – Greek word is doulos) of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.” (Romans 1:1 NASB) 

Several times a week I visit the Gospel Coalition website because of the excellent resources I find there. Recently Ray Ortlund posted this article on his blog (highlights and emphasis are mine)

Bill and Vonette Bright, who went on to found Campus Crusade for Christ, came to a defining moment with God in 1951.

They were frustrated with each other, each with expectations contrary to the other. After much discussion, they decided to give it all to the Lord. They in fact gave everything in their lives to the control of Christ. They put themselves and their home and car and business, all that they owned or ever would own, entirely under his lordship.

They actually wrote it down on a piece of paper and signed it – not to bind their Lord to themselves but to bind themselves to him as his slaves. That’s when they saw that their future was brighter than ever.

Later Bill wrote, “Apart from my salvation, this was to be the most important decision of my life. That day I became a slave of our Lord Jesus Christ, and for the first time in my life I was actually free.”

“We chose that day to put aside our own little dreams, our own aspirations, and our own little puny plans, and embrace his magnificent plans. That day was the beginning of a whole new era, a whole new lifestyle.” 

Bill became convinced that Campus Crusade for Christ would never have happened “had I not first surrendered my life totally, completely and irrevocably to the lordship of Christ. I was no longer my own; I had been bought with a price – the blood of my beloved Savior.”

(Michael Richardson, Amazing Faith (Colorado Springs, 2000), pages 59-60.)

God’s Inscrutable Ways

The longer I walk with God the more I realize how much I still have to learn. The longer I study the Scriptures, the more I realize how much of God I still don’t understand. Why should that surprise us?

In Romans 11, the Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Spirit, wrote…

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of GodHow unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’ ‘Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:33-36 ESV)

David Needham, former Distinguished Professor of Theology at Multnomah University (formerly Multnomah School of the Bible), wrote the following about what the Apostle Paul might have felt after penning the above words…

Dropping his pen and throwing up his hands, Paul says in effect, “Oh!  What a God!  Who can second-guess Him?  Who can begin to grasp the vastness of His truth?  Who can predict what He will do?  Who can trace out His logic?  Who can say “Now I’ve got Him all figured out”?

This God we worship is a most mysterious God.  Incomprehensible.  He refuses to be impressed with our neat theological boxes, as though we could write down a list of statements about God, draw a circle around them, and say we have it all…as though His being and His ways could be bound by the limits of our intelligence.

Not only is God higher than all our wisdom, Paul writes to the Corinthians, but even “the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:25). In other words, if God were capable of a stupid thought – if He were – that thought would be wiser than the wisest thought man has ever conceived.

So many of us struggle with pride at this very point. Somehow we feel we deserve to know and comprehend to the same degree God knows and comprehends.  As though he owes us an explanation for His actions! Yet for all eternity, you and I will bow before God who will always be greater than our greatest thought. His love, His patience, His holiness, His power, His purposes, His wisdom will forever leave us in a state of astonished wonder.

Does this mean that what we say or teach about God is wrong? Not necessarily. Yet it does mean that our grasp of what we say or teach scarcely begins to encircle the greatness of his being.  We stand only at the merest edge of comprehension.

And then Needham goes on to talk about God’s plan of salvation to save sinners from His wrath (i.e. “…we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” – Ephesians 2:3)…

“The ultimate expression of God’s hatred of sin is found in what He did to His beloved Son. Is it possible for us to even begin to comprehend that huge mass of burning indignation against sin that hung over our Lord Jesus as they nailed Him to the cross?

What human being would have dreamed what God in His highest wisdom had in mind to do? That His plan was to pour out all of His vented wrath upon the Son of His love instead of upon us? That He had chosen a plan in which They – both the Father and the Son – would suffer most? Such thoughts are indeed as high above yours and mine as heaven is above the earth (Isaiah 55:7-9)!”

(David Needham – Close To His Majesty)

I have found that it’s only in humbling ourselves under God’s “unsearchable judgments” and “inscrutable ways” that true gratitude and thanksgiving can blossom. As long as I feel as though “God owes me an explanation,” I will always miss experiencing the joy that comes from genuine gratitude for all that God is and all that God has done – whether I fully understand it or not.

“Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”

(1 Timothy 1:17 NASB)

Selah.

One Thousand Gifts

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!”
(Psalm 100:4 ESV)

“Our culture is riddled with a poisonous spirit of entitlement. We always think we deserve more. We’re disappointed with our family, neighbors, church, the waitress, the sales clerk, and the department of motor vehicles. Ultimately we’re disappointed with God. He hasn’t given us everything we want.

What madness! If only we could see our situation clearly-even for a moment.

We deserved expulsion; He gives us a diploma.

We deserved the electric chair; He gives us a parade.

Anything less than overwhelming gratitude should be unthinkable. He owes us nothing. We owe Him everything. When you realize you deserve nothing better than hell, it puts a “bad day” in perspective, doesn’t it?”

– Randy Alcorn

As we approach the Thanksgiving season in just over four weeks, I thought it would be appropriate to focus my next series of blog posts upon the profoundly important biblical concept of “gratitude.” Randy Alcorn shared some excellent thoughts on this subject a few weeks ago.

Be blessed.

Choosing Gratitude: A Must Read

Years ago, I determined that I wanted to write a book on theimportance of gratitude in the Christian life. But not long ago I readNancy Leigh DeMoss’s book Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy and realized I no longer needed to!

In fact, the two greatest books I’ve ever read on being thankful I read this year within a few months of each other, the other one being Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. My list of 1,000 gifts includes Ann Voskamp and Nancy Leigh DeMoss for prompting us to cultivate a deeper and richer thankfulness.

Nancy’s Choosing Gratitude speaks powerfully to one of our most important issues as individuals, families, and churches. Nancy is biblical, honest, challenging, and practical. I enthusiastically recommend this book.

Thankfulness to God for His common grace and His saving grace and His special graces to us each day is something that should fill our hearts, and show our children and grandchildren and co-workers and neighbors the joy of Christ. Given what Jesus has done for us, our lives should overflow with gratitude. Sadly, too often they don’t.

“Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?” (Romans 11:35). The answer is nobody.

Our culture is riddled with a poisonous spirit of entitlement. We always think we deserve more. We’re disappointed with our family, neighbors, church, the waitress, the sales clerk, and the department of motor vehicles. Ultimately we’re disappointed with God. He hasn’t given us everything we want.

What madness! If only we could see our situation clearly-even for a moment.

We deserved expulsion;

He gives us a diploma.

We deserved the electric chair;

He gives us a parade.

Anything less than overwhelming gratitudeshould be unthinkable. He owes us nothing.We owe Him everything. When you realize you deserve nothing better than hell, it puts a “bad day” in perspective, doesn’t it?

Christians in Sudan – who’ve suffered unspeakably for their faith-are deeply grateful for God’s daily blessings. But us? We whine and pout.

Thankfulness should draw a clear line between us and a Christ-less world. If the same spirit of entitlement and ingratitude that characterizes our culture characterizes us, what do we have to offer?

If I grasp that I deserve hell, I’ll be filled with gratitude not only for God’s huge blessings – including my redemption and home in heaven – but also for His smaller blessings: sun, rain, a beating heart, eyes that see, legs that walk, a mind that thinks. If I don’t have these, I’ll be overwhelmed with the knowledge that I have plenty else I don’t deserve. And because Christ allowed Himself to be crushed under the weight of my sin, I’ll enjoy forever a clear mind and perfect body.

Lord, help us to be thankful people. Help us to be grateful for ordinary days. And during our bad days, remind us of what you are preparing for us-endless days filled with goodness and abundance, where we will look back with amazed delight at your deliverance and look forward with anticipation of the endless wonders yet to come.

“…giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:20 ESV)

“…having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.” (Colossians 2:7 ESV)

Selah.

 

Three truths that can change your life

Today, as Lisa and I celebrate 32 years of marriage, I thought I would share with you THREE truths (from an article by Pastor Justin Buzzard) that have formed the bedrock of our personal lives, our ministries and our marriage. I hope you are deeply encouraged and ministered to by these brief thoughts.

#1. God is Sovereign

God is sovereign. Nearly every page of the Bible proclaims God’s absolute sovereignty, his supremacy and power over all things. Every detail of your life, the decisions of kings and presidents, the lifespan of sparrows, swine flu, today’s weather, and each passing second of human history takes place under the umbrella of God’s sovereignty. God is in control of everything. Nothing is outside of God’s control.

If a single circumstance in the universe could occur outside of God’s sovereign control, then God is not God and he cannot be trusted. But the Scriptures reveal that God is completely sovereign and can be completely trusted.

“For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps” (Psalm 135:5-6).

#2. God is Wise

God is wise. Nearly every page of the Bible speaks of God’s infinite wisdom. God looks down upon the galaxies and upon your problems, plans, and prayers with perfect perspective. God is never confused, worried, or uncertain about the course of this world or the course of your future. God never makes mistakes. Yesterday God governed the universe with infallible wisdom. Today God is doing the same. Tomorrow and forever God will govern the galaxies and the ghettos with absolute wisdom.

If God were sovereign, but not wise, we could not trust him. We’d always be worried about him making a mistake, always thinking we know better than God. But from Genesis to Revelation we encounter the portrait of a completely sovereign and completely wise God who can be completely trusted.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts”(Isaiah 55:8-9).

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes” (Proverbs 3:5-7a).

#3. God is Good

God is good. Nearly every page of the Bible testifies that God is good, that God is loving. Not an inch of evil, deceit, or indifference dwells in God. God is love. God abounds in steadfast goodness, love, mercy, and grace. The Bible tells a single story of a good God taking relentless action to love, rescue, and bless people who don’t deserve it. God has always been good and always will be good. God’s goodness is not a mood. God’s goodness is not a mood that changes based upon your performance or circumstances; his loving goodness is an eternally-solid attribute that the fires of hell cannot melt.

If God were sovereign and wise, but not good, you could not trust him. People who are powerful and smart, but not loving, scare me. We’d live endlessly insecure lives if we knew God to be sovereign and wise, but not also good. But the Bible consistently presents a threefold picture of God as totally sovereign, wise, and good, as one who can be totally trusted.

“The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made” (Psalm 145:8-9).

“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10).

Preach These 3 Truths to Yourself

For the past few months I’ve been preaching these 3 truths to myself over and over again.

I do this because, by default, I don’t navigate life as though God is sovereign, wise, and good. Over the past year I’ve been convicted that my actions and attitudes reveal that I operate as though God is mostly sovereign, somewhat wise, and kind of good. I would never say I believe this, but my living reveals that I’ve built much of my life on a vision of God that is much smaller than the Bible’s gigantic vision of God as completely sovereign, wise, and good.

I feel Satan has been quick to attack me in this season, quick to lodge in my mind doubts about God’s sovereignty, wisdom, and goodness. And I imagine, in these uncertain times, Satan is quick to attack many of you, quick to tempt you to view God through your circumstances rather than view your circumstances through a biblical lens.

So, Join Me. Fight back!

When you wake up in the morning, when you feel anxious or discouraged, when you’re driving home from work, preach to yourself:“God is Sovereign! God is Wise! God is Good!” Say this to yourself over and over again. Choose to live by faith, rather than by sight.

Forget your past. Forget how you used to operate, how you used to be a prisoner to your circumstances and feelings. Build your life on the truth. Preach more gospel to yourself. Tell yourself every hour that God is sovereign, wise, and good. The truth will set you free. Your emotions will begin to come in line with the truth.

Doubt your old doubts and saturate yourself in the Scriptures. Be transformed by the renewal of your mind. Read and meditate on and pray through your Bible with this threefold lens, always on the hunt for indications of God’s sovereignty, wisdom, and love. Meditate on Romans 8 or Matthew 6 or Psalm 139. Soak in a book like Jerry Bridges’Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts.

Let your imagination begin to be filled with true images of God. See him as sovereign. See him sitting on his throne, wise and good. See Jesus-behold what he did for you at the cross, the place where God’s sovereignty, wisdom, and goodness show in clearest expression. Never again think of yourself or your problems or your plans without Jesus and his blood shed for you in clear view. Let the Spirit sanctify you and your brain chemistry as you rebuild your life on a true vision of God.

God is Sovereign. God is Wise. God is Good.

These 3 truths have been changing my life. God is changing my life. May he change yours.

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

Brothers and sisters, can I hear an Amen?

Source: Pastor Justin Buzzard

 

The Gift of Forgiveness

“…and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12 ESV)

“Refusing to forgive someone is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

One of my favorite blogs is by Ray Ortlund (of The Gospel Coalition). Here is a recent post of his on renouncing violence.”

“Without entrusting oneself to the God who judges justly, it will hardly be possible to follow the crucified Messiah and refuse to retaliate when abused.  The certainty of God’s just judgment at the end of history is the presupposition for the renunciation of violence in the middle of it.” (Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace (Nashville, 1996), page 302.)

The biblical message of God’s final judgment is our reason for gentleness now.

“But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God…So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore…” (Romans 14:10,12,13a NASB)

“Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19 NASB)

“…and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.” (1 Peter 2:23 NASB)

John Piper wrote the following about “revenge”…

“Who is a better candidate to take vengeance – you or God?

Consider God for a minute. No wrong ever committed against you, not in the darkest hour of any night, has ever been missed. It is written in a book in heaven. He knows every wrong committed against you. He sees the evil of the wrong far better than you see it. He hates the evil of the wrong 10,000 times more purely and righteously than you hate the evil of the wrong. He claims the right to settle accounts for you. And the big issue then is, do you believe he will?”

“When you are wronged, God is saying to you: I saw it. You’re right. They’re wrong. I hate what they did to you. You give me that anger. I’m going to settle this for you, and I will settle it better than you could ever settle it. Justice will prevail. Do you trust me?”

Four ways to battle the unbelief of bitterness

1. Believe that what the Good Physician prescribes for you is good! (Colossians 3:8)

2. Cherish being forgiven by God! (Ephesians 4:32)

3. Trust that God’s justice will prevail! (1 Peter 2:23)

a. We must leave room for God’s wrath.

b. God hates evil far more righteously than you ever could.

c. Though absurd, Jesus entrusted himself to the Righteous Judge.

d. If you hold a grudge, you slight the Judge.

4. Trust God’s purpose to turn the cause of your anger for your good! (1 Peter 1:6-7)

Here’s C. S. Lewis, ‘On Forgiveness’…

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you. This is hard. It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single person great injury. But to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life – to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son – how can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say our prayers each night ‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.’ We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse is to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves.”

Are you carrying the overwhelming, massively heavy burden of “unforgiveness” on your back (in your heart)? Isn’t it time to “let it go?” Isn’t it time to extend the forgiveness that God has given to you to the person(s) that offended you?

Life is too short and eternity is too long…to carry any unnecessary baggage as we journey through this sin-filled world.

“Be kind to one another,

tender-hearted,

forgiving each other,

just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

(Ephesians 4:32 NASB)

Selah.

 

 

A Sacred Sorrow

“He was despised and forsaken of men,

A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”

(Isaiah 53:3a NASB)

Several years ago, I read Michael Card’s excellent book, A Sacred Sorrow: Reaching Out to God in the Lost Language of Lament. It ministered to me deeply then, and continues on to this day.

Here is a brief description of the book:

“It’s easy to praise God when things in your life are going well, but what about the other times? What happens when mountaintop experiences cascade into seasons of struggling in the valley?

God desires for us to pour out our hearts to Him, whether in joy or pain. But many of us don’t feel right expressing our anger, frustration, and sadness in prayer. Our personal worship experience is not complete unless we understand the lost language of lament.

From Job to David to Jesus, men and women of the Bible understood the importance of pouring one’s heart out to the Father. Examine their stories and expand your definition of worship. Let your pain, questions, and sorrow respond with praise to a God who is moved by your tears.”

Here are a few other quotes from the book that I found helpful…

Page 11

“It’s an odd thing. Jesus wept. Job wept. David wept. Jeremiah wept. They did it openly. Their weeping became a matter of public record. Their weeping, sanctioned by inclusion in our Holy Scriptures, a continuing and reliable witness that weeping has an honored place in the life of faith.

Why are Christians, of all people, embarrassed by tears, uneasy in the presence of sorrow, unpracticed in the language of lament? It certainly is not a biblical heritage, for virtually all our ancestors in the faith were thoroughly ‘acquainted with grief.’ And our Savior was, as everyone knows, ‘a Man of Sorrows.'”

Page 20

“The bottom line: We are all born into a world we were not really made to inhabit. We were created for God, made to flourish in the comfort of the Presence of our Father within the warm context of His undeniable hesed (the Hebrew word “hesed” is often rendered ‘mercy’ or ‘loving-kindness’).

Now, in this fallen world, we are cut off from them both. Only the loving sovereignty of an all-wise God could redeem such a hopeless situation. His solution? To use suffering to save us. To redeem our own suffering and most significantly to redeem all mankind, through His own suffering on the cross to pay the price for our sin. In order to turn around and move once more in the direction of God, we must find this path He has carved out. We must call out to Him in the language He has provided. We must regain the tearful trail. We must relearn lament.”

It should be no wonder then that lament is so much a part of the fabric of the Word of God. The Scriptures are filled with lament. Every major biblical character, from Abraham to Paul, is heard praying their protests to God and sorrowing for their sin by means of lament.

The complaints are eerily similar throughout the chorus: “Why do You hide Your face from me?” “Where are You, O Lord?” “If You really love me with an everlasting love (hesed), then why am I sick, why do my enemies triumph over me, why am I forsaken, what am I to do with my sin?”

Depending on which commentary you pick up, you’ll read that from one-third to over one-half of the psalms are laments. With the exception of one psalm (88), each lament turns eventually into praise, revealing an important truth that has been lost; lament is one of the most direct paths to the true praise we know we have lost.

“There is an appointed time for everything…a time to weep.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4)

Page 22

“Our inability or refusal to enter into personal lament betrays the fact that we do not recognize the depth of our sin. We stubbornly refuse to have our hearts broken by it. The only result is that our sins continue to break the heart of God. It is only after lamenting our sin that our eyes can be truly open to the glorious truth that we stand forgiven, with the righteousness of Christ, and realize that we are in the Presence of the One who has heard our cries with tender and sympathetic ears.

Apart from lament, you and I are robbed of our true identity before God. We remain unaware of the depth of our fallen identities as sinners and blind to the reality and depth of the costly forgiveness that is offered to us through Jesus Christ.

The laments of Scripture can help us relearn this lost language. Characters like Job, David, Jeremiah, and even Jesus provide us with paradigms of lament.

This book is simply an attempt to look at their lives and listen to their laments. This is not a book about some new way to get what we want from God. Rather, it is a biblical exploration of the spiritual lives of broken men who gave up all they ever wanted to discover what it was that God wanted most to give.”

“The truth is that there are such things as Christian tears, and too few of us ever weep them.”  (John R. W. Stott)

“Entrust the past to God’s mercy, the present to His love, and the future to His providence.” (St. Augustine, from Confessions)

Selah.

P.S. A personal note about the format of my blog…

Some may wonder why it is so often filled with quotes from other Christian leaders and writers – both past and present. I realize that most blogs are filled with original thoughts (or mostly original) written by the blogger in their desire to help us understand God’s Word better. My reason for quoting others (rather than primarily writing my own thoughts) is simply because I truly do not believe that I have much of anything original worth sharing – that hasn’t been said better by others that have gone before me. But I do find great help and encouragement from very gifted pastors and leaders throughout church history whom God has used to help “explain” and“expound” God’s holy Word. Ultimately, only God’s Word is divinely inspired and fully trustworthy. Pastors’ sermons, articles, blogs and books are simply their attempt to help all of us understand better, and apply more deeplyGod’s timeless Word.

 

Quit the Sweatshop Religion Game

My question for you today is simply this:

Do you really (really?) believe that Jesus “paid it all”…and that you now (as a believer in Jesus Christ) stand before Him totally and completely forgiven and clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ?

Here’s an excellent post I came across from Pastor Justin Buzzard on the “gospel of grace and sweatshop religion.”

The gospel of grace is the end of all sweatshop religion. We are saved by Jesus’ sweat and blood, not our own.

I think the existence of sweatshop religion can only be attributed to Satan, the Enemy of God and grace. Somehow Satan has so deceived the world that most people confuse Christianity with a sweatshop: sweating and laboring in cramped, love-less conditions in order to make a buck.

Read the Bible or hear the true gospel preached and you discover that Christianity is actually the announcement that the sweatshop is closed! God has fixed our greatest problem for us. The Son of God lived, sweat, and worked for us. Jesus did the labor that we could never do: performing perfectly for God. And along with his perfect life, his perfect performance, Jesus received the punishment we all deserve.

Instead of pridefully and sheepishly trying to make up for our very imperfect lives in the sweatshop, we are free to exit the building. Listen closely and you’ll hear the announcement made from Calvary 2,000 years ago: “It is finished!” The sweatshop is closed!

Sinner, quit the sweatshop. Your sins are forgiven. There’s a new life waiting for you.

In case you still have doubts, I challenge you to ponder deeply the following Scripture verses…

“…but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God.” (Hebrews 10:13 NASB)

“…He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” (Hebrews 9:12 NASB)

“…having forgiven us all our transgressions, having cancelled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13b-14 NASB)

“…and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.” (Philippians 3:9 NASB)

“…to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us.” (Ephesians 1:6-8a NASB)

“When Jesus therefore had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit.” (John 19:30 NASB)

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

THAT… is the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

Selah!

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