Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What We Deserve: Do You Really Want That?

Wonderful piece from The Shepherd Press:

What Do You Deserve?

The news this week is filled with outrage about bonuses paid to employees of the government-bailed-out insurance giant AIG. Every day we hear cries of unfairness, greed and shock. Even the President has said that he is stunned by these bonuses. We seem to be caught in an unending series of outrageous events. Have you noticed the underlying conviction that is driving the outrage? This conviction has to do with fairness and what we deserve. We don’t deserve to have out of control spending and increased taxes. We don’t deserve to have business executives who are greedy. We don’t deserve to have government leaders who are incompetent. We don’t deserve to have a bad economy and its resulting complications. And the list goes on and on.

How should Christians respond to all of this? We can certainly agree that things are economically challenging. We can agree that political leadership has been less than exemplary. We can agree that the housing markets have fallen. But do we really agree that all of this is not fair and that we deserve better? The solutions offered all appear to lie in the arena of government doing more or less. Some political persuasions want the government to be more involved. Others want the government to be less involved. But all seem to agree that things are not fair – we don't deserve this.

The economic problems that we face are the result of a people who functionally believe that God is not necessary anymore. Listen to the words of our political and business leaders. I have yet to hear any government leader or political pundit call for a national day of prayer and repentance as an appropriate response to the difficulties we now face. Repentance? What does repentance have to do with any of this?

When people think first of financial security and what they deserve, they automatically lose sight of God. If that seems too strong a statement, consider what Christ says about the rich fool in Luke 12:16-21:
And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.'
"Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." '
"But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'
"This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God."
Notice carefully the thinking of the rich fool. He believes that his hard work has produced a rich harvest—one that will produce a life of ease for years to come. It is what he deserves. Perhaps he even plans to share some of his wealth with family and friends. The life that he deserves, the good life, is now within his grasp. But how does God respond?

God is concerned with building riches that go beyond the material. The rich fool reasoned that he was deserving of his good fortune. Sadly, this man's attitude is not unlike the attitude of our own culture. We believe the good life is for us. It is our right to take life easy, to eat, drink and be merry. The rich fool, like many today, thinks of only what he deserves.

However, do we want to join the mood of the world around us and start asking God to give us what we deserve? I think not. That is why I mentioned repentance. Collectively, our country has not been rich toward God. We have become preoccupied with the good life. But when we consider the holiness of God, crying out in repentance is in order, rather than clamoring for what we deserve. If Christians are to be salt and light, then we must distance ourselves from the demands for fairness and the insistence on what is due us. What we deserve is hell—but we have been the recipients of the mercy and grace of God lavished upon us (Ephesians 1:8).

Parents, these uncertain financial and political times provide an opportunity to show your children what true riches are. Do you delight in being rich towards God? The world says that responsibility is following the formula of the rich fool: work hard, get a good return, and take life easy. God says in Luke 12 that life is about more than this. Life is about building true riches, riches that are certain and will not take wings and vanish. What is fair? When you consider what is really fair, what you really deserve, you must immediately think of repentance, not gains in the stock market. Let us rejoice in the mercy of Christ that gives to us what we do not deserve.

(HT: What Do You Deserve?, Shepherd Press Newsletter, No. 45, March 20, 2009)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Quest for More: Only by Death

From pages 115-116 of Paul David Tripp's A Quest for More: Living for Something Bigger Than You:

"The cross sticks out in Scripture. It seems crazy, like the greatest aberrant moment of all of history. It seems like a big mistake, a very bad joke. Surely nothing good could come out of God taking on human life and then being publicly, viciously, and unjustly mutilated. There were no positive connections to the cross. It was the most horrible punishment reserved for the lowliest and vilest of criminals. It was a public shame on a hill outside of the city, and it always ended in death.

Yet the cross is not a bad joke. It is history's most beautiful paradox. The death of the Messiah was the only way he could give life to those who would believe in him. The hope of the cross is in its willing sacrifice of One for the sake of another. This is exactly what Christ's call to daily take up your cross is all about. The one who sacrificed his life so that we might have life now calls his disciples to sacrifice their lives for him. In a world that only understands the kingdom of self, living for the big kingdom of Christ will always require suffering and sacrifice.

What are you unwilling to offer? Your money? Your lifestyle? Your reputation? Your house? Prestige? Power? The esteem of others? Your car? Your friendships? Your plan for the future? Which of these pleasures would you refuse to nail to your daily cross?

... Only when we die to the glory of our claim on our own lives will we begin to experience the transcendent glories of living for the Lord. Only when we are willing to do the unthinkable (preside over our own deaths) does the wonderful (the transcendendence for which we were created) become our possession."

Paul D. Tripp, A Quest for More (New Growth Press 2007, ISBN: 0978556747

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Song Suggestions: Jesus Is My Boyfriend Songs?

I've been working with the Junior Higher's of our church to get them to think when it comes to the music to which they listen. Similar to some of my earlier posts over the past couple of weeks, I've been encouraging them to think! - think about what they're listening to and give thought to the scriptural foundation (if any) to the songs they sing at church or sing along to on the radio.

I've given them a couples of songs each month, usually a hymn and a contemporary worship or praise song that we either sing in church or that's popular on Christian radio. I've asked them to take the songs, work their way through the lyrics with a Bible and Concordance in hand, looking up the words and messages/themes contained therein to see if they're supported by scripture. My desire is that through these exercises they learn the use of Biblically-driven discretion as they consider and test the words and messages conveyed in their music (much as the Bereans did with Paul's teaching [Acts 17:11; see also I Thessalonians 5:21-22 and I John 4:1]).

So, just how many of the songs commonly and popularly sung during Sunday services throughout the country are "me" centered - what and how I feel, and what the Lord will do for me; rather than Gospel- and Christ-focused - about Christ and Him crucified, about His glory and worth?

And where's our focus when we sing that Jesus, while on the cross, thought of us above all else (Above All)? Or when we sing "I love You, I need You, Though my world may fall, I'll never let You go, My Saviour, my closest Friend, I will worship You until the very end (Jesus, Lover of my Soul)? Come to think of it, I'm only aware of Christ's promise to never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5); not man promising that to God.

What I'd like to hear from you are suggestions of songs with which I may be able to challenge them. Perhaps a few "Jesus is my boyfriend"-type songs that are well know, or commonly song in most churches, or that you'll hear often on any given Christian radio station.

Any suggestions? And along with the song suggestion, how about sharing your thoughts on the song as well.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Painted By Blood, Gripped by Undeserved Love & Grace

Today on my commute to the office I was listening to J.J. Heller's recent album, Painted Red, and was really struck by some simple yet powerful truths in her song by the same name -

"You have bought me with Your blood; And I am painted red by Your love."

>> I am so thankful for His blood. Oh, what a price was paid to save a wretch like me (1 Corinthians 7:23); one redeemed, covered by His blood (Ephesians 1:7).

"If I could not say a word; My life would speak of love I don’t deserve."

>> Such undeserved love! How can I say "thank you" enough for the fact that when I was still yet a sinner, in enmity with God and in utter rebellion, He, who is rich in mercy, showed His love to me by dying in my stead (Romans 5:8, 8:7; Ephesians 2:4-5, 2:8-9; 2 Corinthians 5:21)?!

"Hope means holding on to You; Grace means You’re holding me too."

>> It is God who is faithful and whose hand of grace holds and sustains me (Psalm 18:35, 37:24; Isaiah 41:13; Acts 17:28a). I may lay hold of Him as my hope in glory (Colossians 1:27), but it is by His saving grace that I am gripped by Him - the one who promised to never leave or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5), or allow anyone to snatch me from His hand (John 10:28-29).

Yes, these truths set to song struck a chord with me today. And I am humbled and thankful for Christ, my Savior and Lord, for His covering blood, His undeserved love, and His gripping and sustaining grace!

(J.J. Heller, Painted Red, Stone Table Records 2008)