Tuesday, March 24, 2015

In All Things, Christ First

    In preparing for a blog post on a different topic, I happened to run across this verse and get distracted from my original thoughts. So, you'll have to wait for my previous post for a while longer, while I post on Col. 1:18 today.

    "And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence." (Col. 1:18) This is the KJV translation, the following is from my preferred NASV: "He is also the head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything."

    Both these translations reflect clearly the point I will be writing about today: the preeminence of Christ. Part of this lesson I will be borrowing from one of my favorite speakers, Dr. Jerry Benjamin, who has spoken on this topic every time I've ever heard him preach.

    One very poignant lesson that Dr. Benjamin preaches on is that of the difference between preeminence and prominence. Here's an example that I've heard him use to teach on this topic. If a man were to tell his wife that she is prominent among his affections, she would probably be offended. Why?

    Because prominent reflects the idea of one among many. Sure, the prominent person is important, but prominent over what? Obviously, there's other people there that her husband has noticed! That wouldn't be taken as a compliment. Prominence refers to a high status, but not the highest.

    However, if a husband were to tell his wife that she is preeminent in his affection, it has a whole other meaning. Preeminent reflects supremacy, to the point that others are hardly noticed. It's no contest at all, and requires no thought as to who is highest in one's affections.

    This is the word that Paul, inspired by God, chose to use in this verse to describe God's rightful due. Jesus Christ is to Himself be the preeminent one in our affections, with no one else even remotely second. Our love, our affection, and our obedience to Christ should make our relationship to any other human on earth appear to be hatred in comparison (Lk. 14:26-27).

    But Paul said something else that should catch our attention. In what is Christ to have the preeminence? In the previous verse, Paul states that by Christ, all things exist and are held together (v. 17). However, v. 18 specifically addresses Christ as head of the Body (the church) and the first-born of the dead, targeting his role as Head of the church and Head of the corner (Ps. 118:22). As such, Paul proclaims that in all things, but particularly in the matter he's addressing at the moment (the church), Christ should have the preeminence.

    So first of all, Christ is to be preeminent in all things. Every single thing we do is to have Christ intermingled throughout it, with the focus being Him, with  the glory going to Him. As I write this, I can feel all the times I've failed to do this, and all the times I have done things for the sole purpose of bringing glory and reward to myself. So, I am guilty of this more than anyone else reading this post.

    But specifically, I want to mention Christ's position of preeminence in the church. I fear that many Christians, myself included all too often, do not come to church with Christ as our single, all-consuming focus. Instead, Christ can be simply a name to bring a group of people together to church and hear a motivational speech on clean, moral living. Christ can be a slogan in the church to convince people to go out and vote. Christ can be a badge of the church to be worn to show our own superiority over the world.

    But in none of these things is Christ given the preeminence. None of these things reflect an attitude that church is supposed to reflect: that of total admiration, worship, awe, reverence, and love for Jesus Christ. Church is not a place to do my business, whether or not it is morally good, but instead a place to pursue Christ, and to allow Him to pursue me.

    Now, this could easily be interpreted to be dismissing all fellowship and healthy interaction between believers. Certainly that is not my intention! But Christ is the one that demands preeminence, not I. So, in order to try to obey Scripture, we must attempt to give Christ the preeminence He deserves, even if that is by bringing up as a topic of conversation during a ball game with your friends after a church service, or in the car on the way home.

    Jesus is not something to be talked about during a 45 minute sermon, then left at the door when we leave. He is to be constantly on our thoughts and lips, constantly shown through our actions, and constantly taught to others by our example. Christ is to be lived and breathed through every fiber of our being.

    So, this next week (and after that) try to keep Christ in our thoughts. Think of Him constantly, and serve Him as we go about our lives.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

But God, Don't You Want Me To Be Happy?

Life does not go our way.

I’m not even going to use the word “often” because it really doesn't go the way we think it will at all. Nothing happens the way we thought it would, and while we can sometimes have a general idea of what’s ahead, the circumstances will still surprise us. More often though, there are times when life goes the very opposite of the way we would have desired. Like Job, we also sometimes begin to complain and question what God is doing. I was in this place recently, and here’s what the Lord revealed to me….

But God, don’t You want me to be happy?

No dear one… at least not if it’s your definition of happy. My child, you do not know for what you ask. You think you ask for what is best and what will bring happiness and joy, but I alone know what is best for you. Your happiness is not MY goal. My glory and conforming you to Christ is MY goal. If your sense of happiness is defined by your expectations than you will live your life disappointed; but if you surrender and trust Me, hold on to both My sovereignty and My goodness you shall have peace and joy that no one can take from you. In this world you will have trouble, but do not fear, for I have overcome the world. I have a purpose and a plan that is bigger than you can see and it is for your good, just not the good that you have in mind. Trust Me dear one, I am good. I love you with a love that is deeper, wider and higher than anything in existence. I have forgiven you your sins, I have made you My child, I have cleansed and purified you and made you righteous. All this was through Christ’s work and none of your own. It is finished and done and you are perfect in Him. There is no spot in you. I delight in you and rejoice over you with singing. I shall never leave you nor forsake you, for I am yours by covenant. Delight in My love and walk in My steps. I am what you need, I am all you need, and I will satisfy you abundantly.” 

But God, don’t You want me to have dreams?

“Oh yes. I have lots of dreams and desires too. Do you want to know what my biggest dream is? It’s that what I desire might be your desire. You see beloved, your dreams come from a heart that is not pure, eyes that are not all-seeing, and a mind that is not all-knowing. Dear one, I know your desires and dreams seem so precious and important, I know that your heart aches with hardship and sorrow, with hurt and disappointment; but there is more that I have for you. I desire for you to desire none upon the earth besides Me. I dream of My glory being displayed in your life; I long for your heart to be fully given to Me. I gave up much for this dream. Actually, I died for it. Christ died that this passion of My heart might be fulfilled, that people could be redeemed from their sin and brought into fellowship with Me. I am the One you desire, I am the creator of all dreams. Beloved, My desire is towards you, will you not put your desire in Me and give Me your dreams?

But God, don’t You want me to be healthy?
But God, don’t You want me to succeed?
But God, don’t You want me to have a spouse?
But God, don’t You want me to have good things?

“My child… I desire to give you many good things… but while there are many things that you and I can both call good, there is one ultimate good that I desire for you beloved, and that is Me. I am the “good thing” that you long for. If I give you something, is it not good being from My hand? Am I not good? If I withhold something “good” from you, am I not still good? If I did give you many other good things in this world you would not long for the greater good, that is, Me. What you think is good for you would lead to your ruin, it would merely feed your selfishness. So I may often withhold good things from you My child, because I desire for you to have what is eternally good – a heart that is undivided in its love for Me. What is your good is that you walk before Me in faith and obedience, for that is the way of life. Trust Me beloved, for I am good.” 

But God, I thought life with You was supposed to be happy!?!?

“Oh beloved, you are still looking at your life based on your feelings. It is faith you need, not happy feelings. Feelings change and deceive. I never change, I am the same yesterday, today and forever. Shall not I, the Judge of all the earth, do what is right? I am faithful. I will fulfill My purposes through you. I am good and will work all things for your ultimate good – conformity to the image of Christ. No, it’s not easy, but I bore the worst of it for you and made it possible for you to walk at all. And I will walk with you and carry you through. I will never give up on you. I will always forgive you, for you are Mine. Trust Me, not your feelings. Give Me your heart. In My presence is fullness of joy and at My right hand pleasures forevermore.”

While Job questioned, He also held fast to the sovereignty and goodness of God. He said, “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10) and “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15). That last sentence always amazed me. “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” How can you trust a God who could bring you to your death, even a painful one like it appeared to be for Job? Because He is good. Even when we don’t understand, even when it looks impossibly difficult, even when it hurts, we can trust in a God who is sovereign, faithful and good. We must trust Him, for otherwise we shall find ourselves resisting Him.
May we find the grace to surrender to His purposes and rest in His everlasting love. That perfect love that will never let us go.

 “If we could see what God could see (which we never will, because we will never be infinite), we would see millions upon millions of purposes in every action of the Son of God. God is never doing just one thing in what He does with us. He is always doing thousands of things that we cannot see. He never has only one purpose in what He does. He always has thousands of purposes in everything He does… For those who love Him and are called according to His purpose, all of them – all of them! – work together for good.”  – John Piper

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Do You Know Theology, Or God?

Piper really gets this spot on! :D

"You can read theology 10 hours a day, 40 years long and not know God as beautiful, all satisfying and highest treasure of your life" ~John Piper

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Love of God As Portrayed By A Puritan

    While I am not a fan of poetry, I do like certain poems. In studying for a literature test today, I ran across this poem by Puritan Edward Taylor.

"What love is this of Thine, that cannot be
  In Thine infinity, O Lord, confined,
  Unless it in Thy very person see
  Infinity and Finity conjoined?
  What! hath Thy godhead, as not satisfied,
  Married our manhood, making it its bride?"

"Oh, matchless love! filling heaven to the brim!
  O'errunning it, all running o'er beside
  This world! Nay, overflowing hell, wherein
  For Thine elect there rose a mighty tide!
  That there our veins might through Thy Person bleed
  To quench those flames that else would on us feed."

"Oh! that thy love might overflow my heart
   To fire the same with love! For love I would,
   But oh! my straitened breast! my lifeless spark!
   My fireless flame! What chilly love and cold!
   In measure small! in measure chilly! See!
   Lord, blow the coal, Thy love enflame in me."

                  Meditation One, by Edward Taylor

Friday, March 13, 2015

No Zeal In The Reformed?

I would agree that in the Reformed spheres, there is certainly a need for more spiritual zeal. HOWEVER, it IS there. Here are some quotes from some of the most prominent Reformers to prove it:

 Charles Spurgeon- You do not know the beginning of true zeal, for the foundation of Christian zeal lies in the heart. The heart must be heavy with grief and yet must beat high with holy ardour. The heart must be vehement in desire, panting continually for God’s glory, or else we shall never attain to anything like the zeal which God would have us know.

Charles Spurgeon- “If you want that splendid power in prayer, you must remain in loving, living, lasting, conscious, practical, abiding union with the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Jonathan Edwards- “The happiness of the creature consists of rejoicing in God, by which also God is magnified and exalted.”

Jonathan Edwards- “To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here.”

John Calvin - “There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice.”

John Calvin- “The gospel is not a doctrine of the tongue, but of life. It cannot be grasped by reason and memory only, but it is fully understood when it possesses the whole soul and penetrates to the inner recesses of the heart.” 

R.C. Sproul- “I was new Christian. My conversation had been sudden and dramatic, a replica for me of the Damascus Road. My life had been turned upside down,, and I was filled with zeal for the sweetness of Christ. I was consumed with a new passion. To study the Scripture. To learn how to pray. To conquer the vices that assaulted my character. To grow in grace. I wanted desperately to make my life count for Christ. My soul was singing, "Lord, I want to be a Christian.”

John Piper- “But to enjoy him we must know him. Seeing is savoring. If he remains a blurry, vague fog, we may be intrigued for a season. But we will not be stunned with joy, as when the fog clears and you find yourself on the brink of some vast precipice.”

John Piper- “Minimizing the importance of transformed feelings makes Christian conversion less supernatural and less radical. It is humanly manageable to make decisions of the will for Christ. No supernatural power is required to pray prayers, sign cards, walk aisles, or even stop sleeping around. Those are good. They just don’t prove that anything spiritual has happened. Christian conversion, on the other hand, is a supernatural, radical thing. The heart is changed. And the evidence of it is not just new decisions, but new affections, new feelings.” 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Political Jesus(NEW AUTHOR)

    Today's post may be somewhat controversial (thus the reason it has taken me three days to think through it all), but I think it is a very important concept for Christians to grasp. I've spent the last few days trying to calm my anger at a statement a speaker I heard on Sunday said. Since his statement reflects very well the very point of my post today, I'm going to begin with his statements.

    In attempt to combat Christians listening to rock music, this particular speaker went so far as to guarantee that there would not be drums in heaven, or any of that "chaos", and that maybe God would give rock artists a harp when they got to heaven. It would probably be insulting to any cultures (for example, African) who use drums extensively in their worship music to be told with no Biblical backing that their instruments will be left out of heaven in favor of the ones I'm comfortable with. Not only this statement ludicrous because of the demonization of an inanimate object, namely drums, that can be used for good or bad, but because the "chaos" seems to exist in most accounts of heaven in Scripture. It will be the most beautiful, organized, harmonious chaos the universe has ever known. It will be billions of people, standing around the throne of the Lamb, singing with different voices, playing different instruments, with all the chaos blending into one beautiful song of praise to Jesus Christ. I think it very likely that every instrument will be included in this song of praise, particularly those in Ps. 150 (yes, even the "loud, clashing cymbals").

    Yet this statement points to one of the more innocent looking, yet dangerous lies the American church has fallen prey to. You may have guessed from the title, but the idea I am attacking today is that of Jesus as simply a proponent of whichever culture, race, political idea, or particular argument which I happen to be a part of or defending.

    We see it clearly in that comment. This particular speaker pictured heaven, and praise to God, as simply an extension of how he worshiped the best. He enjoyed worship with pianos and soft instruments, so he concluded that God likes that best too. He didn't like rock music, or a hard beat, so he concluded that God must not like it either. His error then came from his attempt to make his own opinion God's opinion, and change it from a personal preference to an all-encompassing religious principle.

    So I can sum up this particular problem with one sentence. We must not conform Jesus into the image which we are most comfortable with, because we will be left with simply a mere shell of the beauty, holiness, and majesty of God that reflects my own personal (possibly even unBiblical) bias and opinions. (Okay, yes, that was a really long one sentence, probably a run-on, but still!) We see this problem every two years when election time rolls around. Each party (Republicans particularly, but Democrats too) attempt to present their candidate as the "Christian candidate" in attempt to get more and more votes, essentially turning their party into the "Christian party", while obviously implying that the other party must be the "Dark Side".

    Are there religious questions in politics? Absolutely! Abortion, homosexuality, capital punishment, all these can and are religious questions. So, as Christians, we should answer them with the light and insight of Scripture. That's not what I'm arguing against. What I am instead arguing against is our attempts (ignorantly or otherwise) to portray one group as "God's side" (in my circles, Republicans) and the other side as, well, obviously the other side.

    Don't get me wrong! I am a conservative, borderline between libertarian and Republican. If there was a Constitutional party (there might be, I don't know. I can't vote yet.), I would probably fit somewhere in there. I'm not protesting political activism or conservative/liberal views. I'm simply attacking a certain habit, whether liberals or conservatives use it.

    We've done the same with America as a nation. We have made America a "Christian nation". What is a Christian nation anyway? Does America have soul? Did America ask Jesus to come in and save it from its sins and repent? Okay, I get that many of our founders were Christian. Many of our foundational principles of freedom are pillared on the Bible. But it doesn't make the whole nation Christian, and thus superior!

    From the NT onward, we don't see God taking a certain country's side. We don't see him favoring one country more than another. And I'm going to break a very sad truth to some of y'all. Jesus wasn't white, and He doesn't love America any more than he does Sudan, Thailand, or Turkmenistan. We are not God's favored race because we put "In God we trust" on all our coins or "one nation under God" in our pledge. Republicans are not God's favored candidates because they are anti-abortion. All Democrats are not unbelievers because their party may represent pro-abortion ideas.

    It's very hard to put what I'm trying to say into writing, so this may take a little while! Jesus is not a flag to be waved to rally all Christians to my political side or personal opinion. Jesus, although sovereignly involved in all events on earth, is working to make His will come to pass, not mine. And although we should make all our decisions coincide with His Word and the leading of His Spirit, I should be moving myself to His cause, not He to mine.

    When we make Jesus the rallying cry to protest music styles I don't like in churches, Jesus is simply a footnote on a page of my own personal opinions and agendas. I'm using this example since it is freshest in my mind, but there are others.

    This speaker also made a similar mistake that touches the same topic. In attacking the instruments that he, in his culture, was not comfortable with, he attacked every other culture that does use those instruments for good. For example, drums and an emphasized beat are a huge part of African cultural music. As someone who loves Africa, it's almost insulting to hear someone say that in heaven, Africans will give up the instruments that are their cultural heritage in favor of the instruments that are a part of my cultural heritage. Yeah, 'cause God likes American culture better, right? No! Wrong! We have once again made the same mistake of making God an American God, one who likes American music and culture, and made our mental concept of heaven a giant American church, where we will sing American songs to American tunes with American instruments.

    My point is this. Do not, do NOT, force God into an image or box of your own making. Do not use God to force a personal preference or cultural norm of the rest of humanity. Let the Spirit lead them. God is the God of the world, not of America, and His children are just as beloved in the Democrat party as in the Republican party; in Sudan just as much as in Texas; and our cultural pianos and organs are no more well loved by God than an Indian flute or an African drum. God is not a national God. He's a personal God. He wants a relationship, not just with Republicans or Democrats, not just with Americans or Chinese, not just with rock musicians or with traditional musicians, but with the world. And we are to communicate that love to those people, yes, those people who we disagree with and find unlovable or hard to accept. Yeah, those people.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Raise A Light Project 1 Year Anniversary Update

Yesterday was the one year anniversary for Raise A Light Project! :D I am So glad for everything that has happened this year!

For those of you who don't know, RALP is more than just a blog, it is also a movement, that is, a movement dedicated to spreading truth regardless of what people may think about it. It also extends into a Facebook community which you can see on one of the blog tabs. Hopefully, as this blog grows, we will also see an active community on the blog itself!

Here is a one year overview:

Number of Posts: 22

Posts With The Most Views: "What Is Raise A Light Project", and "Exchanging Thoughts With Charles Spurgeon: The Preeminence Of Christ"

Number of Comments: 21

Total Pageviews: 1,415

Top 10 Countries Reached: (in order) the USA, Canada, Germany, United Kingdom, Romania, Taiwan, Australia, Netherlands, France, and China.  A couple other countries I know I have reached are Israel, the Philippines, Austria, and Poland.

To a lot of people this probably does not seem like a lot, I know I could certainly improve on my number of posts, and will probably be working on that most of all this next year!

Thank you to all of my faithful readers, and those who comment!  Although I enjoy writing, part of the joy in blogging, particular for this type of blog, is knowing that what you write is affecting people! :)

To my readers I ask,

What was your favorite post this year?

Is there anything you think could be improved?

Are there any particular topics you would like me to address more often, or a particular article you would like me to write?

Do you prefer the longer posts, such as Listen To The Fish You Sluggard and 4 Things God Gives Us or the shorter posts like Do Not Be Yourself or God Is Love But Love Is Not God? Which would you like to see more/less of?

Thank you everyone! I hope this movement will go into a more prosperous year! :)

Saturday, March 7, 2015

What Will Thou Do In The Valley?

“Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness,” ~2 Corinthians 9:10

“Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food”
God gives us all that we need for a spiritual relationship with Him. Simply put, Him, the Bible, and us.

“supply and multiply the seed”
He has the power, and WILL multiply what He has given us.

“you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness”
BUT, before He will “multiply the seed”; we have to put in effort. For example, we cannot expect a deep, spiritual relationship with God if we do not regularly read our Bibles, etc.  This reality is further emphasized by the following passage:

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.  For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.  And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” ~Galatians 6:7-9

To put this passage into more easy-to-understand terms:

God is not a God of the lazy, but a God of those who put in effort. If you put your effort into things that are of a sin nature, you will get results of a sin nature. But if you sow according to that which is good and comes from God you will get results that are good and come from God.  This won’t come instantly however. You may have to go quite a while of simply putting in effort before you get the results. But don’t worry, it WILL come, even if it takes a while.

If we think about this in terms of a spiritual relationship with God; we will come to realize that we need to put effort (such as reading our Bibles, prayer, etc.) into a spiritual relationship before we can expect results (spirit of wisdom, revelation in the knowledge of Himself, enlightened eyes of understanding, knowing hope, etc. See Eph. 1:17). 

In my personal opinion, I think we all go through ups and downs in our spiritual relationship with God; or at least I know I have. But one thing I have learned time and time again is that I need to SOW before I can REAP. So badly do we want to reap without sowing; but I am afraid that is not the way life works.

So I encourage you, if right now you are in a valley and not a mountain, read you Bible, pray, get in touch with you God and at the proper time you will reap a harvest if you do not give up.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

We Truly Are Not Our Own

This is a REALLY good article about how our chief end is truly to glorify God.

I love what the author (Nathan Tasker) says" "Our generation of Christians has become the epitome of lukewarmness. We have become so much like the world, either in a compromising state of spiritual laziness or in a vain attempt to make Christianity look easy-going and free-spirited, that we have made it nearly impossible for unbelievers to see the difference between us and our non-Christian peers."

New Facebook Group

We now have a Facebook Group for those who are interested in actively conversing with others in the Raise A Light Project and who want to and are willing to discuss hard-to-discuss topics. Share whatever God has been showing you lately, discuss articles, or debate challenging topics. Spread truth within the Christian spheres and join! :D