Small Things With Love

“I don’t do big things. I do small things with big love.” So wrote Mother Teresa. In today’s modern age where schedules are full and there is always more things to do, we must remember that every action we take must be done for One audience with love. Today I was cleaning windows at my work, and a question dawned on me. “Why do I want these windows to be so darn clean?” As I contemplated between my personality and pride, I realized that the reason I should want them as see-through as possible is for the glory of God and love of those who live at that dormitory. After that, cleaning up irresponsible messes made by college students became much easier because of God’s transformation of my heart.

Living Sacrifice, Holy and Pleasing

Romans 12:1-2 is an excellent passage to reflect upon for the new year. Verse 1 says to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.” In the Greek, living, holy, and pleasing are in the same case as sacrifice, thus these three modify the word sacrifice. As a sacrifice, we are to die to ourselves: “crucified with Christ.” We are to take up our cross daily and follow him.

As holy, we are to be set apart from the people of the world: “light on a hill,” “salt of the earth.”

As living, we are to go into all the world preaching the gospel. We have been raised with Christ in his resurrection, and we live now as he lives.

Pleasing to God takes us back to Psalm 51. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart.” We are to be set apart from the world and we are to be doing that by humbly serving God. We can humbly serve him by knowing that when we serve him, its actually him serving us and showing us his mercy. (For a fuller development of thought on this, see John Piper, Desiring God)

In light of Psalm 51, it states “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right/steadfast spirit within me.” Next it says that these are only capable when the Holy Spirit is upon us; he gives us the ability to be willing to find joy in salvation by God.

These verses correlate well with Romans 12:2. Our minds are to be transformed by its renewal. Psalm 51 says only the Holy Spirit may renew our minds. He creates in us a clean heart and renews a right spirit in us. He is the power allowing us to no longer “be conformed to the pattern of this age.”

Much more, living by the Spirit will not only grant us to live lives unlike the world, be living sacrifices, and be holy and pleasing to the Lord, but also to disern God’s perfect purpose of our lives.

This is our “spiritual act of worship” to him.

“I Believe in Father Christmas”

I went to Starbucks the other day to pick up my new favorite blend of coffee beans, their Starbucks Christmas Blend, and purchase a peppermint mocha. Since I had spent over $15, the cashier gave me a free CD with four songs. Among the four artists is U2. The song they sing is called “I Believe in Father Christmas.” How should Christians respond to these lyrics? The lyrics seem a bit confusing. Let me know your thoughts.

They said there’ll be snow at Christmas
They said there’ll be peace on earth
But instead it just kept on raining
A veil of tears for the virgin’s birth
I remember one Christmas morning
A winter’s light and a distant choir
And the peal of a bell and that Christmas tree smell
And their eyes full of tinsel and fire

They sold me a dream of Christmas
They sold me a silent night
And they told me a fairy story
’till I believed in the Israelite
And I believed in Father Christmas
And I looked at the sky with excited eyes
’till I woke with a yawn in the first light of dawn
And I saw him and through his disguise

I wish you a hopeful Christmas
I wish you a brave new year
All anguish pain and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear
They said there’ll be snow at Christmas
They said there’ll be peace on earth
Hallelujah, Noel, be it heaven or hell
The Christmas you get you deserve

John Stott on Tolerance

“First, there is legal tolerance: fighting for the equal rights before the law of all ethnic and religious minorities. Christians should be in the forefront of this campaign.

“Second, there is social tolerance, going out of our way to make friends with adherents of other faiths, since they are God’s creation who bear his image.

“Third, there is intellectual tolerance. This is to cultivate a mind so broad and open as to accommodate all views and reject none. This is to forget G. K. Chesterton’s bon mot [witty remark] that ‘the purpose of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.’ To open the mind so wide as to keep nothing in it or out of it is not a virtue; it is the vice of the feebleminded.’”

“Finally Alive” and “The Reason for God”

My current reading undertakings are the books Finally Alive by John Piper and The Reason for God by Timothy Keller. I’m about a third through each book and, so far, have good things to say.

Finally Alive. One of Piper’s new books deals with the “re-birth” or “regeneration” of a follower of Christ. What happens when one is regenerated by the Holy Spirit? How does salvation of a believer occur? Piper begins by answering the “how” questions by constantly referring to several key soteria texts in Scripture, including John 3 (Nicodemus), Ephesians 2, and 1 Peter. He gradually eases his way into the practical by detailing the texts previously mentioned in addition to Ezekiel 36 and 1 John. This book is great for any Christian to read, young or mature.

The Reason For God. Why does a good God allow suffering? Why would a loving God send people to hell? Isn’t Christianity a straitjacket of religion? These a just a few skeptical questions Keller answers in this book. The first half of the book is devoting to answering common questions skeptics to the Christian faith have. He hopes to establish a better understanding of Christianity. The second half of the book explores the reasons to believe the Gospel and contends to its reality.

Benjamin Franklin: A Kaleidoscope of Religious Theory

American Evangelicals, for almost two centuries, have attempted to find their identity in the establishment of the most influential country in the modern Western world. Whether they cling to the religious connotations mentioned in the writings of the “Founding Fathers” or interpret the Bill of Rights from the vantage point of a pulpit, American Evangelicals often base their vote upon the religiousity of each candidate. As often coined by media, the “Evangelical Right” is a major deciding factor in presidential elections, especially in issues concerning school prayer, abortion, same-sex marriage, and other “moral” issues. They want to take the United States back to “the faith” – Evangelical Protestantism – of their Founding Fathers.

Although prominent in Evangelical culture, this line of reasoning lacks substance. This mindset sparked especially after the publishing of an article printed during 1832 in the widely circulating Christian Advocate and Zion’s Herald. It stated that when Benjamin Franklin proposed to pray during the Constitutional Convention in 1787, the members sat in awe with only a lone dissenter who was quickly rebuked by George Washington. After the members prayed, so goes the article, the Constitutional Convention harmoniously continued. In 1834, James Madison, the only living Federalist and member of the Constitutional Convention, wrote a letter to the newspaper’s editor, Thomas S. Grimké, opposing the article’s information labeling it “erroneous.” Next, he relayed to Grimké what actually occurred, using his detailed notes of the Convention. Madison writes that after Franklin motioned for a corporate prayer, “Mr. HAMILTON & several others expressed their apprehensions…[and might] bring on it some disagreeable animadversions.” Next, “Mr. RANDOLPH proposed…that a sermon be preached at the request of the convention on 4th of July.” Franklin seconded the proposition, but the motion never passed, and the meeting adjourned.

To read the rest of my essay on the religion of Benjamin Franklin and his epitomization of the America’s Founding Fathers’ faith, click here.

Resolved,…

Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’ s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many soever, and how great soever.

Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.

Resolved, when I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell.

These are just three of the seventy resolutions Jonathan Edwards resolved to live by. Throughout his life, he would add new resolutions as he saw fit. In a similar manner, I am attempting to do the same. Of course, even if I hold true to these resolutions, they are but filthy rags compared to the surpassing worth of knowing our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Here are a few:

Resolved, not let a minute pass without being mindful of the sovereignty of God in all things, particularly pertaining to his plan for my life, but, more ultimately, his established purpose from eternity-past to eternity-future. (Jeremiah 29:11; Psalm 139; Ephesians 1)

Resolved, to the best of my recollection, repent of my iniquities, which nailed Jesus, who before the foundation of the world foreknew my willingness to rebel against him, to the cross. (Luke 5:32; Romans 2:4; II Corinthians 7:10; I Peter 2:24)

Resolved, to never attain contentment in repentance nor grow dissatisfied of God’s grace. (Romans 5:20; 7:7-21; 12:3; II Corinthians 12:9; Ephesians 2:1-10)

Resolved, whenever my thoughts grow anxious, weary, and worrisome, if no deterrent, cease my current task and focus on my Jesus suffering on the cross, to defeat my malcontent thoughts, until my mind’s unrest is tamed. (Psalm 40; Matthew 11:28-30; Romans 12:2; II Corinthians 4:16-18 )

Resolved, to protect and preserve the sanctity of life across all ages, cultures, ethnicities, “races,” and religions, especially the helpless, needy, and poor (Psalm 72; Proverbs 31:9; Ezekiel 16:49; Matthew 5:3; James 1:27)

I Just Discovered Mark Driscoll

Before the Throne of God

Before the Throne of God
By: Charitie Lees Smith Bancroft

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

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

Behold Him there, the risen Lamb
My perfect spotless righteousness
The great unchangeable I Am
The King of glory and of grace

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

One with Himself I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my Savior and my God

It’s Cold Outside

Here’s some food for thought from the cold day God’s given us:

  • John Piper on practicing self-control by the Spirit and not of man’s power and might, “The Fierce Fruit of Self-Control.”
  • Guess who’s having a baby on Saturday? Jon and Lisa Hessel!
  • My friend, Brittany Howard, wrote a short, but strong, blog post on how brokenness is essential in our pursuit of God.
  • Here is an intriguing discussion between Don Carson, Tim Keller, and John Piper on such issues as hiring pastors, legalism, preaching the gospel, battling pornography, attributes of God, and more from a gospel-centered perspective. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6
  • “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the LORD of hosts” Zechariah 4:6.

Influence of Theology on Healing

Psalm 143:10, 11 (ESV)
Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God!
Let your good Spirit lead me
on level ground!

For your name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life!
In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble!

Saturday, my band and I performed at a concert in Washington, MO. Afterward, I drove my friend and fellow band-member, Kaleb, back to his home in New Haven. During our ride, and about half an hour after reaching our destination, we discussed how our theology affects our spiritual behavior during a time of emotional and physical drought.

We concluded two great comforts during discomforting phases in our lives: the sovereignty of God and the glory of God. When we dwell upon the sovereignty of God we recognize his control and plan during circumstances in our lives. God’s plan supremely rests upon his righteousness and justice. His purposes are higher than our purposes. He controls our live’s path.

Secondly, fixing our eyes on God’s glory gives us a glimpse of his higher purpose. Ultimately, God allows circumstances to occur in order to glorify his own name…even pain and death. Our relational Lord is familiar with suffering, as his Son gruesomely died at the hands of men. Why? Because God chose to glorify himself through Jesus’ death (John 12:29-43; Philippians 2:1-11). He wills for his own glory.

This mindset assures believers of a higher purpose for their suffering. We are sinners deserving of death, saved only by God’s declaration of righteousness (justification) through Jesus Christ. So, what we experience is actually his grace and mercy. Moreover, nothing we do or have done can change God’s plan to glorify himself. What are blessing! We get to serve for his purposes. God knew his plan before the dawn of creation, and he is fulfilling it according to his good measure.

Take heart! We are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. He is the guarentee of our future inheritance, “to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:3-11).

The Word of God

“No language ever stirs the deeps of my nature like the Word of God and none produces such a profound calm within my spirit As no other voice can it melts me to tears it humbles me in the dust it fires me with enthusiasm it fills me with felicity it elevates me to holiness Every faculty of my being owns the power of the sacred Word it sweetens my memory it brightens my hope it stimulates my imagination it directs my judgment it commands my will and it cheers my heart The word of man charms me for the time but I outlive and outgrow its power it is altogether the reverse with the Word of the King of kings it rules me more sovereignly more practically more habitually more completely every day Its power is for all seasons for sickness and for health for solitude and for company for personal emergencies and for public assemblies I had sooner have the Word of God at my back than all the armies and navies of all the great powers ay than all the forces of nature for the Word of the Lord is the source of all the power in the universe and within it there is an infinite supply in reserve.”

My Sermon-notes A Selection from Outlines of Discourses Delivered at the Metropolitan Tabernacle
Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Change

You deserve a new post.

Obama is the President-Elect.

Currently reading: 1 Samuel

Currently watching: Mark Green play “Rock Band 2″

Check out my friend, Brittany’s, blog: http://brittanyhoward.wordpress.com/

More to come when my brain isn’t fried.

Guest Post – Testimony

I met Alli while playing at a youth event held by West County Community Church (ZOE House) with the Kaleb Krueger Band. Soon after the retreat, God moved upon her heart to follow Him. We’ve kept in contact, and I encouraged her to write her testimony so I could share it with you. She is sixteen years old and has developed a passion to share the love God’s given her. Here’s her story:

A year ago right now, I would probably be passed out on my friends couch while thinking about how it sucks that I have to get up for church the next morning. Hangovers at church were a typical situation for me. As sad as it was, I was victim to the temptations of the material world, and it was all I saw and thought about. I was someone who could go to church and think, “hey I want to go to heaven someday,” then that night I would think up a plan with my friends about how we were going to lie to our parents the next weekend so we could go party.

Certain events took place, and my mind and body snapped, leaving me without friends and a vacancy in my life I had tried so hard to fill with every sinful thing you can imagine. Then I found ZOE, and it all clicked: I was missing the love of Jesus.

My life after I realized this could be summarized as two steps forward, one step back. Nothing is easy, especially living for the Lord in this world; I had setbacks, but, with the help of loving friends, old and new, I feel I’ve made substantial improvements. I’ve given my life to the Lord and try to live it to the fullest through him. I feel like an all around happier person now, and I can’t get enough of that feeling.

On the other side it’s opened my eyes to how ridiculous the world and the people in it are. People would be so much better off with the love and knowledge of Jesus in them, but the material world warps our views of success and happiness, making things like “fitting in” and “being cool” a priority. Kids, literally pre-teen, are drinking and doing things they shouldn’t be, and it’s all because of this world’s one-sided propaganda.

Personally this hits close to home, with my struggles at a young age, and other family members I’ve found out about recently. It just blows my mind, how far some people will go to get the approval they think they need to fill that void in their life, when they will always have the approval of Jesus Christ if they look to him! I mean, he created us just the way he wanted to, and we feel as though we’re not good enough, so we turn to human and material comfort to try and make us feel better; but the truth is, God wants us to come to him, he wants to be our father, and he wants us to be in his presence to know, serve, and love him. I just wish more people would realize that, before they end up hurting themselves…like I did.

So its our job, as believers, to show them this wonderful love Jesus has to offer, and to show them the great things God is capable of; how it’s much greater than anything this earth has to offer.

Wisdom From Above

A few nights ago, I came across a passage I had read several times before but not realizing the capacity of its full meaning until that night. It never seems to fail: God gives me these passages at pivotal points in my life. Of course, his purpose never changes, but the unveiling of his will to us comes in bits and pieces.

James 3:13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Verse thirteen asks who is truly wise and understanding among those on earth. Honestly, I’ve not met many people I would consider truly wise. Maybe my dad, my dad’s mentor, my youth pastor, and a few others, but they stand out to me. Answer: The truly wise prove their wisdom by their humble works.

Many of us like to think of ourselves as wise. Verse fourteen says, however, that if jealousy and selfish ambition spawn our wisdom, we boast false truth. If someone asks you for advice and you answer them according to your own benefit, put simply, you lied to them. This type of wisdom, according to verse fifteen, is “earthly and demonic.” Your wisdom will not prevail in eternity. “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice” (verse sixteen). As someone guilty of this sin, I would advise those of you convicted to examine other areas of your life where jealousy and selfish ambition spur your actions.

The next verse sequentially describes characteristics of true wisdom – that which originates from God. First, it must be pure, untainted by the selfishness in our hearts. Second, true wisdom is peaceable, helping resolve or persevere that situation needing wisdom. Next, wisdom shows gentleness to those who need it; wisdom sensitively understands bad experiences and predicaments that could affect the carrying-out of the wise decision. Fourth, wisdom opens itself to reason. It allows itself to examine different solutions to the same problem. Wisdom does not, however, compromise its purity. Wisdom, next, proves itself through good works. The wisdom is not just ideal but real. Lastly, wisdom is impartial and sincere.

Wisdom’s end result might not be the easiest, but “a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” If we desire peace, we must sow peace. Peace, in its heavenly form, produces righteousness, because peace is given to us by God.

See You At The Pole (SYATP)

Heavenly Father,
Thank you for your goodness to us.
Thank you for a country we can freely celebrate your redeeming grace through the blood of Jesus.
We acknowledge your blessing to us, God, for giving us this liberty to worship you openly, unlike many countries.
God, our forefathers fought to give us this right, but, Lord, we know, in actuality, we have no rights.
We are bound by the chains of sin; our eternity rests in your Word.
Thank you for sending your Son, Jesus, to unlock the chains.
Through you, Jesus, we are counted as righteous, according to the will of your Father.
And having no real rights or freedoms except that which comes through Christ, I pray that no follower of yours will cling to the idols of political ideologies, forms of government, or American-ism, but God I pray we willingly humble ourselves to you and you alone, Lord.
For though our freedoms in this life waver, we know your Word never changes. You remain the same, from eternity past to eternity future.
When persecution comes, give us the strength to still praise you.
Jesus, you said to not fear those who can destroy only the body and not the soul but to fear only him who can destroy both body and soul.
In the name of Jesus, give us the strength to endure,
Unify your body,
And keep us from idols.
Amen.

A Late Night Discovery

Last night after RA duty (2:00am), I read the latter chapters of Hebrews before I went to sleep. Though I had read these chapters dozens of times before, God revealed to me his word in a manner which I had yet to gaze upon before

“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. THEREFORE lift up your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be out of joint but rather be healed” Hebrews 12:11-13.

God says that though discipline is tough, quit shaking your knees, lift up your hands in reverent praise to him, and keep walking the path he directs us toward. Through the unpleasantries of life, we must continue to show him our praise. No matter our changing hardships, he never changes. He remains the same. And if he remains the same, and if he is worthy of praise during the pleasant periods of our lives, logically, he deserves praise during the disjointed periods of our lives. Through the praising his name, God heals us and gives us the peaceful fruit of his righteousness which we can find only in Christ Jesus.

“For the Lord disciplines the one he loves…” Proverbs 3:12. “…the ONE…” Our God develops an individual relationship with each of his children.

His love for us reaches from the highest of heavens to the lowest of depths. How vast and measureless is our Father’s love for man that his Son would step down from the glories of heaven so the Father could pour out our deserved wrath on him! Who else can conquer God’s wrath but God alone? Who is like him?

Death’s chains were torn with the veil. And who else but our loving and just God would make sinful creatures co-heirs to the thrown of Christ? By Jesus our sins are imputed. God looks upon Jesus as a fully paid debt of our sin. By these truths we can know the steadfastness of God’s love towards us.

May my heart strive only toward the blazed path of my God’s grace.

“…for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them” Hebrews 13:9.

A New Blog, A New Face

For whatever reason, I feel like starting a new blog page. The simplicity of WordPress parallels my style. Plus, I want to try something not owned and operated by Google, and with the options of either my email, RSS reader, calendar, or blog, I decided it would be the easiest to transfer and revert to if WordPress disappoints. And considering the world is turning into a Google application, perhaps I have only a few years to try something new.

Don’t judge the new blog now because I have yet to work on personalizing the content.

The New FacebookMy first post will cover a controversial topic: the NEW Facebook. Yes, folks, welcome to new.facebook.com. (Formally known as) The Facebook implemented a new tab-driven, wider layout for their infamous social-network. This new template has driven some people mad. A few of my friends have called me “ridic” and are not ashamed of their hatred for this. Many of my Facebook friends exasperate their bitterness toward Facebook’s developers for “ruining” their lives. No joke.

Personally, I rather enjoy the new Facebook. Call me a heretic, call me “ridic,” but I find it’s use rather enjoyable and easy to navigate. It definitely meets my needs.

Too bad I enjoy the new Facebook or else I’d probably be spending a lot less time on it. Wouldn’t that be a shame.

Reason 15

“For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” Hebrews 10:14 (ESV)

In his book Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die, John Piper lists fifty reasons why Jesus came to die. Of course, Jesus’ ultimate motivation was to follow the will of the Father, but this book gives details as to what glorifying God entails. Piper’s fifteenth reason why Jesus came to die is “to make us holy, blameless, and perfect.” Here’s what Piper says about Hebrews 10:14:

One of the greatest sources of joyu and endurance for the Christian is knowing that in the imperfection of our progress we have already been perfect-and that this is owing to the suffering and death of Christ. “For by a single offering [namely, himself!] he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14). This is amazing! In the same sentence he says we are “being sanctified” and we are already “perfected.”

Being sanctified means we are imperfect being made holy – a work in progress! It is those who are being sanctified who are already perfect. Piper adds, “The joyful encouragement here is that the evidence of our perfection before God is not our experienced perfection, but our experienced progress. The good news is that being on the way is proof that we have already arrived.”