Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I'm Writing this Week

Many of you know by now that I'm writing a book that's due to be published this fall. I have a long way to go, so I've dedicated this whole week to (almost) nothing but writing. This morning in my quiet time I read Psalm 119:66 which says, "Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments."

And this is my prayer: that by his Word the Lord will empower me to write well about his Word! Please join me in this prayer, that his name might be glorified as his Word is exalted.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

How Should a Christian Buy a Home?

A few weeks ago an opportunity arose for Kim, Rachel, and I to acquire a home—our first home. It is a “lease with option to buy” deal, and it’s being offered to us by a man we know and trust. We think we’ll be ready to buy a house on our own in a year or so, but this would allow us to get into something now while the market is at, or near, the bottom.

Thus, we’ve been looking at several homes and working through lots of details. Along the way, I’ve tried to keep our family’s hearts focused on the right things and this entry is a brief summary of some of those things. To put it in the form of a question, How should a Christian go about buying a home?

1. Guard your heart by remembering that your hope is in Christ alone. Paul writes, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4). And Peter adds, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13).

Christians must die to the American dream and be born to the Kingdom of God dream. We must fix our eyes and Christ and set our hope fully on the day when we will see Jesus Christ face-to-face and commune with him and worship him forever! We must inflame affections in our hearts for that day when we, together with people from every tribe and tongue and nation, will shout from the depths of our hearts, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12) This leads to the second thing.

2. Guard your heart by remembering that this world is not your home and that Christ is preparing your true home even now. Just before he went to the cross Jesus said to his disciples, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going” (John 14:1-4).

Why would I give my heart to an earthly home that will one day be destroyed or otherwise fade away, when Christ is preparing for me an eternal home that can neither be destroyed nor fade away? As the writer of Hebrews said, “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14). Reason being, this “city” will not last but that “city” will. And the wise put their hope in that which lasts.

3. Guard your heart by remembering that your resources have been entrusted to you by Christ and that he wants you to be a good steward. To be very honest with you, owning a house in and of itself means nothing to me because my hope truly is in Christ. But at the same time, I’m building wealth for my landlord even as I write when I could be building wealth that at least has a good chance of being invested in the Kingdom of God. As a steward of God’s resources, I would like to deliberately glorify him with the resources he gives me. This doesn’t mean that every Christian should buy a house, but it does mean that Christians have good reason for doing so if the Lord so leads.

At the same time, another part of stewardship is committing not to stretch resources too far. It is all to easy in the process of buying a house to reach for the little more than you can afford, but the good steward will guard his or her heart and discipline the flesh away from this. After all, the point of stewardship is the glory of God not the comfort of the flesh. This leads to the next point.

4. Guard your heart by remembering that the purpose of life is the glory of God, and therefore Christians should want their homes, as well as the process of buying those homes, to bring glory to him. How does one glorify God in buying and owning a home? Here a few thoughts: (a) Have integrity throughout the process and be absolutely honest with everyone. (b) Be open about the fact that this world is not your home, and that you’re looking for another lasting city. Look for opportunities to share the gospel along the way and so help others acquire an eternal home. (c) Strive for simplicity. Display the fact that Christ is your hope and heaven is your home by buying only what you need for your family and the outworking of your life in Christ. (d) Assess your home for its usefulness in ministering to others. In other words, don’t just look for the home that will meet your needs but the one that will help you be who you are in Christ. (e) Everyone’s situation is different and thus I don’t want to mentions specifics here, but pray that God will allow you to avoid even the appearance of evil. Ask questions like this: What about this house makes God look glorious? What about this house makes God look ugly? Can the latter things be changed so that he looks as he is?

5. Guard your heart by remembering the warnings of Scripture against trusting in wealth. Consider, for example, Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 6:17-19: “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.”

We must take great pains to ensure that we are not feeding the vanity of our flesh, to ensure that we are not subtly living for ourselves in the guise of living for the “glory of God.” At the same time it is true that God, our Father, gives us all things to enjoy and it’s not a sin to like living in your home. I suppose the point is, why do you like it? And if part of the answer is, “Because it meets my needs,” does the meeting of your “needs” bring glory to God?

Well, I have to go to a meeting now so I better stop writing. But I hope these few thoughts bless you as you consider buying a home or living in the one you’ve already bought.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

On the Basis and Essence of Worship

It was my privilege to preach on worship this morning from Ephesians 5:18-21. Here are a few excerpts from my sermon, you can listen to the sermon here.

In light of the biblical words used to express the concept of worship, here’s the picture that emerges: (1) The basis for true worship is that God is infinitely superior to us, and we are infinitely inferior to him. He is infinite; we are finite. He is the Creator; we are the created. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the source of all things and the completer of all things; we are utterly dependent on him for every breath we take and every moment we live; He is unimaginably strong; we are weak. He is incalculably rich; we are poor. He is the vine; we are the branches, and without him we can do nothing and we are in fact nothing. The absolute superiority of God, and the absolute inferiority of ourselves in relation to God, is the biblical basis for true worship. This leads to number two.

(2) The essence of true worship is awe and humility. True worship is a holy fear of God that’s born from seeing something of the sheer magnitude of who he is. It’s a sense of astonishment at the beauty of his glory. It’s a sense of being enthralled with him and captivated by him and drawn to him like a moth to a flame. It’s a sense of curiosity and a desire to explore him and come to know the breadth and length and height and depth of him.

True worship is also a bowing of our hearts before the Lord in light of who he is. It’s a willingness to let go of the things of the world and grasp onto the things of God to such an extent that even our speech is marked by the praise of God. It’s a disposition to give thanks to God always and for everything because we know that he is God and we are not. We know that he has absolute control over all circumstances and therefore that he has some intention or purpose in mind for everything we go through. We know that we are nothing before him and that we deserve nothing from him and that every comfort we have in this life is an immense mercy. True worship is submitting ourselves to God in all circumstances of life and obeying him at every turn, and it’s demonstrating that submission by submitting to one another out of reverence for him.

The essence of true worship is awe and humility—awe is most often expressed through singing and otherwise praising God, humility is most often expressed through obedience and submission to God. And so when I think of worship, I like to picture a coin one side of which is called praise—this side represents our sense of awe and wonderment before God. The other side of the coin is called submission—this side represents our sense of humility and bowing before the Lord in the way we live our lives. Praise is the expression of awe, submission is the expression of humility, and taken together these two things represent the essence of true worship.