Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Joy of Obedience

I've been preaching through the book of Ephesians at our church for a couple of years now, I think, and I'm finally to the last major section, 6:10-20 which deals with spiritual warfare. My task this week was to deal with our enemy because of what Paul says at the end of verse 11 and all of verse 12:

"Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, over the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."

To be honest about it, as I sat down to begin my studies earlier this week, I was very reluctant to deal with this subject in detail because, frankly, I’m deeply repulsed by Satan and I didn’t want to spend hours and hours meditating on him. When I think about things like war and genocide and AIDS and abortion and suicide and political tyranny and the exploitation of women and children, when I think about the anguish I’ve seen on the faces of so many saints because of his evil ways, when I think about how that old serpent has wreaked havoc on my own life and taken me captive in a variety of ways to do his will—I must confess that something deep within me despises him and everything he stands for and the last thing I want to do is give myself to meditating on him.

But, by the grace of the Lord, I humbled myself and followed our Father in the way he was leading me and as I did he helped me see anew that warriors who fail to understand their enemies well rarely win battles or wars. Thoroughgoing insight does not guarantee victory, but it is a necessary component of victory, especially when your enemy is much stronger than you are.

So, in order to display his power through our weakness, our Father has provided us with our enemy’s play-book, if you will. Our Father has revealed to us our enemy’s history and identity and purposes and tactics and weaknesses and destiny. Our Father has given us clear and effective countermeasures against him that, when used according to his wisdom and power, guarantee us the victory.

Now, you may think that’s an overstatement, but I would submit to you that the reason we lose battles with the enemy is not because God’s plan is flawed but because we fail to follow it to the “Nth” degree. If we will only take the time to comprehend what our Father has taught us, if we will only listen to his wisdom and walk in his ways, we will eventually find ourselves, in Christ, with our hands upon the neck of the enemy. So it turns out that taking the time to meditate on biblical texts that deal with Satan is less about him and more about our Father’s wisdom and purposes and passion for victory.

This truth became very sweet to me for reasons I'll be spelling out in my next three sermons, but for the moment what's most immediate for me is that I'm tasting something of the joy of obedience--and I'm grateful for our Father's grace!

If you want to listen to the sermons click here.

May you be made strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

What does it Mean to Give Glory to God?

I've posted this in the past, but just this morning I spent some time with a brother in the Lord glorying in the truths that are, in part, expressed here. I hope this helps you to increase in your passion to glorify the Name of the Lord.

Some thoughts on what it means to give glory to God:

Some years ago I undertook a study of the glory of God in which I located, read, and categorized every occurrence of the word “glory” in the Bible, as well as several corollary words. Part of the way through this study I became a bit perplexed at what the Bible could possibly mean by the phrases “give glory to God” or “glorify God” (see, e.g., Jer. 13:16 & Rev. 14:7). After all, I reasoned, what do I have to give God that he does not already have? How can I in any way, or in any sense, give God anything?

I was greatly helped in this by getting clear in my mind what the two primary meanings of the words for “glory” are. First, “glory” means radiance, effulgence, brilliance, brightness, and the like. It is the intrinsic brilliance of God that is of necessity, and in a variety of ways, displayed and beheld and prized and praised. As one carefully studies the Bible, he will see that we are never commanded to give God glory in this sense of the word. That would be like asking a book of matches to add to the brilliance of the sun—not only would it fail, it would be utterly consumed in the attempt!

Second, “glory” means honor or respect or praise or credit. Take, for example, Matthew 15:29-31, “Jesus went on from there and walked beside the Sea of Galilee. And he went up on the mountain and sat down there. And great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at his feet, and he healed them, so that the crowd wondered, when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they glorified the God of Israel.”

What happened here? The crowd (1) beheld the outworking of the great power of God through Jesus, (2) they had a natural and irrepressible sense of awe and wonder in their souls about it, and (3) they expressed that awe and wonder by giving verbal honor or credit or praise where these things were due, namely, to God. What the Bible means, therefore, when it commands us to give glory to God is that we should give him honor in all things, for it is due him in all things—whether in healing or eating or drinking or sleeping or working or playing, ad infinitum.

It is tempting to say, then, that giving glory to God is simply a matter of integrity and honesty, that it is a matter of giving credit where credit is due. But the Bible is calling for more than this: the Bible is calling for us to behold the glory of God, which is manifested in a variety of ways, to prize and love and rejoice and stand in awe of the glory of God, and then, with glad and sincere hearts, to declare the beauty of what we have seen, first to God and then to others. In other words, the Bible is calling for deep, heart-felt, authentic, grateful, humble responses to the surpassing greatness of the glory of God beheld. It’s calling for the kind of honor that is completely enamored of the person being honored.

But this raises a question: Why did God design creation to elicit this kind of response? Or put another way, why did God make himself the ultimate end of creation if he was already full in himself? To state the answer briefly, God did not create the world to add to his fullness, he created the world to display his fullness and to share his delight in himself. To say that the glory of God is the end or the ultimate purpose of all things, including our joy in him, is to say that he created us to delight with him in the infinitely delightful, i.e., in God himself. The God-centeredness of God, far from being the death of joy, is the very fountain and life and fullness and longevity of joy. And hence John Piper’s now famous dictum, God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Please Pray for Mike & Suzanne Wagner

Yesterday morning my fellow Pastor, Kevin Feder, and I had the privilege of meeting with a young man who is raising support so that he and his wife can relocate to Manila, Philippines as missionaries. His passion, after soaking in the language and culture for two or more years, is to serve the Filipinos by helping them train, mobilize, and send missionaries around the world, especially the Asian world. The national organization that has asked him to come has a vision of sending 200,000 missionaries into the world!

May the Lord grant them success for the glory of his Name!

Unfortunately, our church's missions dollars are already committed for the foreseeable future but I told Mike that we'd pray for him and ask others to pray as well. Sorry that I don't have a picture of him and his family, but if you have a chance will you please pray for success as he waits on the Lord and tries to raise the remaining 50% of his needed support? And will you please pray for the vision of the Lord for the Philippines? It seems to me such a strategic place from which to launch out in several directions.

Thanks for your partnership in prayer.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Spiritual Warfare

Over the last couple of years, I've had the privilege of preaching through the book of Ephesians. Just last week I hit the home stretch with the Words, "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil" (Eph. 6:10-11). I plan to take a few months preaching through this final section, 6:10-20 that is, thinking with some depth about what it means to be a warrior in the Kingdom of God and how we can "stand against the schemes of the devil."

If you want to listen to my sermons on this final section of Ephesians click here.

Also, please join us in prayer as the Lord leads you. Several of us have been sensing that the Lord is up to something unique in this season of Glory of Christ and we simply want to be awake to what He's doing. Thanks for your partnership in Christ!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Thanks for Praying

Just got home from the Missionary Care Conference and I'm really pumped up to put my hand to the plow of missions all the more. Better put, I'm just so honored to have any part in the global exaltation of the Name of Jesus and I want to play my part well.

So thanks so much for praying. Now, Kim and I have to do a few last things to prepare for worship tomorrow when I'll have the privilege, Lord willing, of preaching a message on Ephesians 6:10-11. I'm very excited about it!

Thanks again,

Friday, February 20, 2009

Hello, Again!

It's been so long since I've blogged! On the one hand, I suppose, I'm just not the blogging type, that is, the type who spends a good deal of my life on the computer. But on the other hand, I think there's something in me that feels I have to have something profound to say every time I sit down to write, or at least that I have to write something worth reading. But as I've pondered this attitude in me today I've come to think that this may be--re-write, most certainly is--a false assumption and I'm just going to relax and shoot from the hip on my blog.

Hope that works for you!

So my rather brief, not so profound thought for the day is this: please pray for five of us from Glory of Christ who are going to a conference in Minneapolis on how to care well for missionaries. We support three missionaries right now and we want to be a "dream supporting church" for them; hopefully this conference will help us figure how to get that accomplished.

So again, I really plead for your prayers--caring for those who've laid it all down for the glory of Jesus around the world is as serious of business as there is in the world and we long to do it well.

By the way, while you're at it, please pray for a missionary acquaintance of mine who has served in Bologna, Italy for over 20 years and just had a severe stroke upon his return from furlough. (To the left is a picture of me preaching last November at the church he founded.) His family and church are hoping in Christ and surrounding him with love but the fallout from this stroke will likely be serious and last for a lifetime.

Thanks so much for your partnership in prayer!