Powered by Squarespace
Videos

Below are some videos I've run across that I've found to be a blessing. Be sure to double-click so you can view the larger screen...

My grandparents were married for 77 years. And one of the greatest gifts my father gave to me before he died was his love and faithfulness to my mom for over 60 yrs. Here's a moving song about staying by one of my favorite artists...

 An excellent message from Pastor Tim Keller on The Reason for God. 

 

Tuesday
May062014

Thoughts on Ambition vs. Calling

As you can see, I haven't been very good at posting blog entries here. But I recently was given a homework assignment for a Ministry Training course I was taking at our church. Our pastor asked us to write a 1000 word essay on Ambition vs. Calling. And so, I took the opportunity to use it here as a blog entry. Hope that wasn't ambitious of me!

There are some who would say that there are two kinds of ambition. One is a godly ambition that seeks to glorify God.  The other is an ungodly ambition or vainglory that seeks man’s approval.  These proponents of godly ambition quote Romans 2:7 and John 12:43, and say that seeking glory is ok as long as it’s from God. They believe ambition needs to be rescued from its fallen state, because God actually desires for us to be ambitious for Him.

I think the problem with this line of reasoning is much the same problem John Piper had with his phrase “Christian Hedonism.”  And it’s not just the confusion of juxtaposing holy and unholy words together.  Christian Hedonism is about pursuing one’s own happiness, as long as the happiness is found in God.  Ambition, like hedonism, also begins with self.  So “godly ambition” is about pursuing one’s own goals, as long as those goals bring glory to God.

Over the years, I have been greatly blessed by Dr. Piper’s preaching and insight, and this subject is something he has devoted his life to helping people discover.  It’s woven through every message he gives.  I don’t agree with the phrase- though, to be honest, I’m uncertain if I understand him correctly to disagree.  Like godly ambition, when the rationale for the term is explained, it sounds right.

But here’s where I struggle with these phrases.  No matter how they’re prefaced, the terms seem to imply God blesses works that are self-initiated, self-discerned, and self-satisfying.  They seem to be saying I can achieve a godly selfishness.  Since we’re all selfish, better to be selfish for the things of God.  And that makes my head spin.

We may have the best of intentions.  We may even pray first.  But if we haven’t died first, then our flesh is likely going to corrupt whatever we’re ambitious about.  As Paul declares in Gal 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.”  So I must first die to myself.  If I am dead and He now lives in me, then I am to take up the basin and towel as my Savior showed me.  It is a life of servanthood.  Joyful, yes!  But joyful servanthood, not selfishness.

Many times we hear Christians misquoting 1 Cor 10:31 as a defense for why they’re doing something questionable (if not sinful).  Do everything to the glory of God!  So now we have Christian actors partaking in ungodly movies “to the glory of God.”  Christian singers singing ungodly songs “to the glory of God.”  Christian casino workers, Christian pole dancers (as in the news recently), etc… It’s the same scripture used to defend entertainment in our worship services.

But again, even if our ambitions are biblically God-honoring, they do not honor God if they originate with us.  He is the Potter and we are the clay.  No matter how much I want to honor Him as a beautiful vase, if God’s purpose for me is to be a useful commode, then I will be a useful commode for His glory!  Our joy isn’t in getting to do what we want, but in bringing joy to our Creator.

 

David had a God-honoring desire to build a temple for the Lord.  But God said he was a man of war who had shed too much blood, so the task was to be given to his son Solomon.  David honored God by obeying God, rather than by going ahead with his own ambitious plan.  It would never have worked out- or if it did, it would have been an immense and marvelous-to-behold structure, devoid of God’s presence.

And so everything must start with Him.  Whether corporately as a church or personally in our own life’s work, every idea, every plan must initiate with Him if it is to be blessed by Him.  As the writer of Proverbs points out, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”  We’re not to follow worldly wisdom or business models.  Pragmatism is the antithesis of all that is Spirit-led.  Surveys and censuses are what cost David his greatest losses.  If we truly seek to know God and have His blessing on our lives, then we are to listen to His still, small voice, (however contrary to logic and common sense it may be at times), and obey.

It is His voice that first shows us our need for a Savior and calls us into a relationship with Him.  The deeper our relationship, the more we listen to and obey His voice (and visa versa).  It is His voice that calls us to service.  By obeying His calling on our life, we find great joy and peace, and He makes us a blessing to others. 

Most of us first learn (or are in the process of learning) what we’re not called to.  We assume because we enjoy doing something, or because we have a certain gift or talent, that God must want us to use it.  But again, we must submit to the Potter.  He may call us to use the gift, but perhaps not in the way we wanted.  Or maybe He’s working on our heart, and the timing is for a later opportunity.

Simon the magician (Acts 8:9-24) had great gifts- so great that he was called “the power of God.”  And this was before he believed and was baptized!  But he was so amazed and enamored by the power of the Holy Spirit that he sought to buy it from the apostles.  Peter rebuked him for thinking he could obtain it with money, and said his heart was not right before God.  He needed to repent. 

The calling of God is not something we can manufacture or choose for ourselves.  And it is often opposite of what the world would expect (1 Cor. 1:25-27).  It is all part of the mystery of God and His choosing.

 

Friday
Oct112013

Peace

"But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."  Jer. 17:7-8 (NIV)

I hope this finds you enjoying God's grace, and that you're able to get out and experience the beauty of His awesome handiwork this fall! We've had quite a stretch of beautiful days here in southeastern PA, the likes and length of which I can't remember.

Jeannie and I had some groupons from Longwood Gardens that we needed to use before they expired, so we made a couple day trips down there. While at Longwood, I was overtaken with the peaceful beauty of a tree by a quiet stream. I took these photographs to try and capture the moment, a picture of the peace and rest we have in trusting Christ. Like the tree which the Lord spoke of to the prophet Jeremiah, we are blessed with peace when our confidence is in God, when our roots are supplied by the spring of His living water.

"What a blessedness, what a peace is mine, leaning on the Everlasting arms..." And as we learn to lean, we truly are "safe and secure from all alarms." So often, when trials come I try to take things into my own arms before ever going to prayer. Or when things are going well, how easy it is for us to forget our Source and become self-sufficient. Or we may begin to put our trust in others, or trends, or what works, or what seems right in our own eyes. Yet we're to live by faith! We miss so much when we operate in fear. We miss out on the great things only God can do. 

And not only do we miss the blessings of trusting Him, we experience painful consequences (Jer. 17: 5-6). Think of what happened when David took the census to size up his army before going to battle and 70,000 died (1 Chron. 21). Or when the men who went with Caleb and Joshua to explore Canaan came back with a fear-filled account, and a whole generation of Israelites wandered 40 years and missed entering the promised land (Num 13-14). Our lack of faith doesn't just debilitate us but it poisons the water and pinions the wings of those around us.

You may not believe it, but for many years I had debilitating fear. It started in kindergarten when I used to hide in the closet. I was so deathly shy I couldn't talk in front of people, so I hid with the wet raincoats and ate my lunch there each day. My mom let me go til Halloween, thinking maybe dressed up as Zorro with a mask and a sword (we were allowed those back then) I'd be empowered to open up. But as soon as I came into the room, everyone guessed who I was and back to the closet I went with my candy corn. 

Eventually I did "come out of the closet" but I was still bound up with fears. I had a Peanuts poster on my wall of Charlie Brown saying, "I've developed a new philosophy. I only dread one day at a time." Even after I first trusted Christ as my Savior, and as He used music to help me come out of my shell, I still worried about what people thought. How I looked. Every mistake I made. He was the Prince of Peace and yet, I was still worrying. Why?

An ephiphany came when the Lord opened my eyes to see that it was never about me or my efforts. I had forgotten my Source. Like a root-bound plant in its container, I was all bound up in me. I wasn't able to experience the abundant life because I wasn't truly abiding in Him. And left in that state I would've surely died.

But praise God, like a wise and gracious gardner, He shook me free and pruned my roots. And helped me to see that all along He was the One accomplishing any good thing that I had done (Isa. 26:12). To trust Him and abide in Him, knowing that He goes before me and will accomplish His desire through me brought the peace I had lacked. No more concern for man's expectations. No more broken cisterns. No more fears. Peace.

"O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together! I sought the Lord and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed."  Ps. 34:3-5 (ESV)