Saturday, July 30, 2011

His Burden fell off his back!

(for more on Pilgrim's Progress, see my blog:
Have you read John Bunyan's "The Pilgrim's Progress"?  I have, more than once, but much less than Spurgeon. 
Charles Spurgeon
is reported to have read it over 100 times. It was his favorite book outside the Bible.
Alistair Begg references it frequently in his sermons, as do many other solid preacher/teachers of today.

Bunyan's book starts out with Christian, a man with a huge burden (sin) on his back, and a book (Bible) in his hand.  Eventually, through many trials and tribulations, he gets to the foot of the Cross, where his burden falls off and rolls down the hill, into an empty tomb.  At this point, his story is really just getting started, as Christian heads toward that "Celestial City".  It's an excellent read for those interested, especially if you're familiar with the Bible, because much detail in the book is allegorical to Scripture, and might not be well understood without a background in Scripture.  Those unfamiliar with Holy Scripture, or those with little time to read would do better to read the Bible Itself, for that's where God truly speaks to us.  

Although my huge burden of sin was lifted at the Cross years ago by His Grace, there have been a few smaller "burdens" that have been weighing me down lately.  With stresses in life which include medical and health problems with my wife and myself, raising three children (two which are teenagers), working, paying bills, meeting deadlines, busy schedules, excessive comittments, etc. etc., (I could list pages of details, but you all have your own, right?) in addition to Scripture passages such as Matthew 6:33, Philippians Chapter 4, 1 Peter 5:7, etc., I was reminded of this great allegory by Bunyan.

His burden was great, but the Cross was greater!  As the old hymn goes,  
"burdens are lifted at Calvary"!

Days are filled with sorrow and care,
Hearts are lonely and drear.
Burdens are lifted at Calvary,
Jesus is very near.

Burdens are lifted at Calvary, Calvary, Calvary;
Burdens are lifted at Calvary, Jesus is very near.

Cast your care on Jesus today,
Leave your worry and fear.
Burdens are lifted at Calvary,
Jesus is very near.

Troubled soul, the Savior can feel
Every heartache and tear.
Burdens are lifted at Calvary,
Jesus is very near.
Burdens are lifted at Calvary, Calvary, Calvary;
Burdens are lifted at Calvary, Jesus is very near.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Detoured? Things not turning out like you planned? God is still Sovereign and You can trust Him!

(Update 3-8-2011, This is a re-post of a blog written in April 2010, as I was about to take my wife to MD Anderson Cancer Center for the second time last spring, a totally unexpected "detour" in our lives. But God is still in control, and is still Sovereign!! He is sustaining her (and our family). We give Worship, Praise, and Glory to Him now and forever, Amen!! )

(Update 7-12-2011, While reading through old posts, I reposted this one AGAIN (and may do so often) for my own encouragement, as I am recovering from shoulder surgery for which I was off work for a month, but seems trivial compared to my wife who continues to be in constant pain.  She just received the worst set of labwork in a year from the Oncologist, who's counsel was not very encouraging to her)

While studying through the gospel narratives of Jesus' birth with my family around Christmas, followed by a study through Daniel, and recently reading/studying through Genesis, I've been pondering how Scripture consistently teaches that God is Sovereign in all things! Not just some things, as you hear all-too-often today. His Sovereignty is never limited by Himself nor any outside source.
Nothing ever takes Him by surprise. He never has to wring His hands and say "uh-oh, I didn't expect that, what do I do now". No, He sits enthroned in the Heavens and "works all things according to the counsel of His Will." (Ephesians 1:11) We can trust Him!

If, and when we make our plans, but our plans seem to get detoured, we can still trust in God's Sovereignty.
Proverbs 16:9 ESV
The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.

I think of Joseph in Genesis. He had those dreams which he knew God had given him and would fulfill. What he didn't know was how the LORD was going bring it to pass. Hated by his brothers, thrown into a pit, sold into slavery, falsely accused by Potiphar's wife, thrown into prison, etc...probably not the way he had "planned it". But later, He didn't simply tell his brothers God just turned things around and USED them for good. He told them God MEANT it for good. Big difference there. Some people like to use the Rick Warren approach, and search through 10 or 15 translations or paraphrases till they find a Bible version that says what they want the verse to say (as he did in his book The Purpose Driven Life.) But the NASB and the ESV (2 of today's best translations according to the scholars I respect)say "MEANT" in both places of vs. 20.
Genesis 50:20(ESV)As for you, you MEANT evil against me, but God MEANT it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive...
Genesis 50:20(NASB)As for you, you MEANT evil against me, but God MEANT it for good,in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive...
Genesis 50:20 (NIV)You INTENDED to harm me, but God INTENDED it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. Also, the KJV Strong's Hebrew original for both words are the same.
Joseph's brothers were fully responsible before God and Joseph for their sinful actions, and at the same time, God was working all things according to the counsel of His will. How can man be held responsible for his actions if God is Sovereign over all? I can't explain how it all works but God is All-Sovereign-All-The-Time, I'm just simple enough to believe what Scripture teaches. It teaches both man's responsibility, and God's Sovereignty.
Deuteronomy 29:29(ESV)The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law

I also think of Joseph in Matthew. He probably planned to marry Mary and live a quiet, settled, secluded family life in his hometown. No idea what was about to happen. God had plans he didn't know about. He found out that Mary was with child before their wedding was final, and was about to "put her away privately, because he was a just man". Enter Gabriel, sent from God. Things changed in a major way! He was informed that his espoused wife would give birth to the Son of God, conceived by the Holy Spirit. Wow! What a change of plans! This Son of God whom Joseph was entrusted to raise was heralded by an Angelic Host, laid in a lowly manger, visited by shepherds, and later worshiped by Magi from the East who brought gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. Now things may have looked to Joseph like they would live a "Royal" life. But King Herod sought to kill Jesus. "Enter Gabriel" again. He told him to take Jesus and flee to Egypt. Then "enter Gabriel" again, told him to return home. Then as he returned to Israel, Joseph was told in another dream to "withdraw" to Nazareth of Galilee. Seemed like every time he may have thought things might settle down, God had other plans.

In both of these examples, as well as all throughout Scripture, and all throughout history, God was working out all the details as He revealed HIS GLORY in a mighty way! I know and believe He's doing the same in our lives even now!
I could type for days on this subject, but must wrap up this blog for now.
(I may write more on this later as time permits, and as God continues to work in our lives)

Job 42:2 ESV
"I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.

Psalm 50:15 ESV
and call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me

I also think of Romans 8:28(ESV) And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Is the saying "Too Heavenly Minded to be any Earthly Good" Biblical?

C. S. Lewis once said:  "Aim at Heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither"  (This is a Re-post from September 2010, which encouraged and challenged me afresh this morning)  
Isn't it amazing how God often uses others in your life to confirm, expound, and build upon things He's been showing you through Scripture? I was having a phone conversation with Randy, my brother in Christ this morning, as we often do on my way to work, (iron sharpens iron) and he asked me to give him a "good Word". I told him I read in Colossians last night where we are to set our minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
Colossians 3:1-2 (ESV) 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.
I told Randy I think the old saying about someone being "too heavenly minded to be any earthly good" is not a Biblical idea, and certainly doesn't line up with this text. I told him things on earth will line up in their proper place if we are focusing on Christ, and things above, keeping an "Eternal Perspective".  
(of course I'm not talking about the extreme cases of date setters, people quitting their jobs, selling everything they have, and climbing trees or mountains waiting on the "Rapture", thinking they know the day and the hour, which even the Son of Man Himself did not know while on earth)
"Aim at Heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither" C.S. Lewis
Randy responded with a quote from Piper about when Christ is the burning blazing center of our universe, everything else will line up in its proper orbit. I liked that, and searched for the exact quote, because I knew I would soon forget it if I didn't. I found it, copied and pasted it below, and it blessed me in a mighty way! It also convicted me in a mighty way, which I needed! Thanks, Randy!
Here's the excerpt from the transcript by John Piper, Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (photo added from wiki commons)
I have a picture in my mind of the majesty of Christ like the sun at the center of the solar system of your life. The massive sun, 333,000 times the mass of the earth, holds all the planets in orbit, even little Pluto, 3.6 billion miles away. So it is with the supremacy of Christ in your life. All the planets of your life—your sexuality and desires, your commitments and beliefs, your aspirations and dreams, your attitudes and convictions, your habits and disciplines, your solitude and relationships, your labor and leisure, your thinking and feeling--all the planets of your life are held in orbit by the greatness and gravity and blazing brightness of the supremacy of Jesus Christ at the center of your life. And if He ceases to be the bright, blazing, satisfying beauty at the center of your life, the planets will fly into confusion, and a hundred things will be out of control, and sooner or later they will crash into destruction.
2004 Desiring God National Conference, Sex and the Supremacy of Christ
After pondering some of my actions, attitudes, behaviors, etc., I've been strongly convicted from this passage in Colossians, as well as this sermon by Piper, that I'm to blame when things "fly into confusion", and "out of control", because I am not at that moment giving Christ His proper place in my life.
Father, help me to keep you "High and Lifted Up" in my life, and to submit to the Lordship and Leadership of Jesus Christ in all things daily, by the Power of Your Holy Spirit! Amen!