Christian life


On this side of the western world, it’s been one year.

One year of trying. One year of failing. One year of encouraging. One year of prodding. Sometimes gently. Sometimes a little too strong. Lord, forgive me. But it has all been worth it.

A lazy afternoon.  I’m tired on this Sunday.  It’s been a long morning.  But warmer weather is sneaking into March eager for spring, and so is my daughter as she tugs on my leg wanting to go outside.

Out we go.  But only to do one thing we’ve been doing this year.

Mastering that two-wheel bike.

We’re not much of a bike culture on this side of the western world.  Unless it’s a Harley Davidson, of course.  And I don’t ride my bike to work that often. Unless, a stroke of insanity dances across my brain.  It did one day.  So I took out my bike worn from its college days and whispered, “It’s just you and me baby.”  To the road we flew taking the route I am so familiar with each morning.  The freedom.  The thrill.  The work.  Now I’m sweating.  And complaining.  Will I get there?

But there’s no complaining from my daughter on this day. Or this side of the western world.  She wants to ride her bike.  She wants to stare down that asphalt that has taken skinned knees.  But most importantly she wants to know.  Do I have her back?

Yes I do sweetheart.

Will you catch me if I fall?

Yes.

Will you help me as I ride?

Yes.

Do you think I can do this?

Yes. And I will be running alongside of you never taking my eye off of you.

She grips the handlebars.  The white around her knuckles shows.  Relax.  She takes a deep breath.  She straps on the helmet of her salvation, protecting her skull.  Bludgeoning from the rock-hard pavement is not in the schedule today.

And not on my watch.

She’s ready.

We set out along the driveway.  I hold her shoulders. She begins to pedal.  I’m holding. Running.  She wobbles with the wheel.  My grip is firm. She’s pedaling.  I’m running. Faster.  And it happens so fast. Time stops.

I’m no longer holding. She’s riding.

I keep running.  I’m cheering her on. But she’s focused. She hasn’t taken this one year on just to share a few moments of glory on the driveway.  The road is on her sights.

I’m breathing faster. Running beside her. Holding my hands out just in case.  She turns.  The road is hers. No turning back. I cheer out loud.  Who cares about the neighbors right now.  I want the whole world to hear.

I watch her ride.  The wind whipping her hair. Her legs pumping the pedals.  And the joy that spreads to her heart as she glides into the sunset.  One year rolling by.

On this side of the western world.

But there’s another world.  I want to ride. I want to gaze into the bright Son and feel His presence, like the wind hitting my face.  But I still ask. Do you have my back?

Yes.

Will you catch me if I fall?

Yes.

Will you help me as I ride?

Yes.

Do you think I can do this?

Yes. And I will be running alongside of you never taking my eye off of you.

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It’s getting pretty warm outside.  And with the warmer weather comes the bane of my yard… weeds.  However, I thought this article by Paul Tripp on tending the weeds of our own soul, especially as it relates to the people we love and serve, was quite appropriate for anyone… at any season.

“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise.”    ~Hebrews 11:8-9

As I read today from Genesis and a cross-reference passage from Hebrews (the passage quoted above), the Lord impressed this hard upon me… it should not be of our concern where we are going when God calls us to obey that gives us assurance of faith, but with whom is going with us: God himself.  By faith Abraham obeyed.  Not because he trusted he knew where he was going. It says, “he went out, not knowing where he was going.” No, he obeyed because he trusted in the one He knew who was going with him.  That’s what mattered.  Not where, but with whom is going with him.  God. His faith was in God and His character.  Oh, to trust Him more.  It’s my prayer this morning and for our church today.

There are no “grey areas” when the Bible speaks about the heart- the central core of who you are.  It’s pretty much black or white on its description of the heart. I subscribe to Tabletalk magazine, and I thought Sinclair Ferguson wrote an excellent article titled “A Catechism on the Heart“.  Do we not as Christians want to have a heart for God?  Then read Sinclair Ferguson explain below…

Sometimes people ask authors, “Which of your books is your favorite?” The first time the question is asked, the response is likely to be “I am not sure; I have never really thought about it.” But forced to think about it, my own standard response has become, “I am not sure what my favorite book is; but my favorite title is A Heart for God.” I am rarely asked, “Why?” but (in case you ask) the title simply expresses what I want to be: a Christian with a heart for God.

Perhaps that is in part a reflection of the fact that we sit on the shoulders of the giants of the past. Think of John Calvin’s seal and motto: a heart held out in the palm of a hand and the words “I offer my heart to you, Lord, readily and sincerely.” Or consider Charles Wesley’s hymn: 

                  O for a heart to praise my God!
A heart from sin set free.

Some hymnbooks don’t include Wesley’s hymn, presumably in part because it is read as an expression of his doctrine of perfect love and entire sanctification. (He thought it possible to have his longing fulfilled in this world.) But the sentiment itself is surely biblical.

But behind the giants of church history stands the testimony of Scripture. The first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord our God with all our heart (Deut. 6:5). That is why, in replacing Saul as king, God “sought out a man after his own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14), for “the Lord looks on the heart” (16:7). It is a truism to say that, in terms of our response to the gospel, the heart of the matter is a matter of the heart. But truism or not, it is true.

What this looks like, how it is developed, in what ways it can be threatened, and how it expresses itself will be explored little by little in this new column. But at this stage, perhaps it will help us if we map out some preliminary matters in the form of a catechism on the heart:

Q.1. What is the heart?
A. The heart is the central core and drive of my life intellectually (it involves my mind), affectionately (it shapes my soul), and totally (it provides the energy for my living).

Q.2. Is my heart healthy?
A. No. By nature I have a diseased heart. From birth, my heart is deformed and antagonistic to God. The intentions of its thoughts are evil continually.

Q.3. Can my diseased heart be healed?
A. Yes. God, in His grace, can give me a new heart to love Him and to desire to serve Him.

Q.4. How does God do this?
A. God does this through the work of the Lord Jesus for me and the ministry of the Holy Spirit in me. He illumines my mind through the truth of the gospel, frees my enslaved will from its bondage to sin, cleanses my affections by His grace, and motivates me inwardly to live for Him by rewriting His law into my heart so that I begin to love what He loves. The Bible calls this being “born from above.”

Q.5. Does this mean I will never sin again?
A. No. I will continue to struggle with sin until I am glorified. God has given me a new heart, but for the moment He wants me to keep living in a fallen world. So day by day I face the pressures to sin that come from the world, the flesh, and the Devil. But God’s Word promises that over all these enemies I can be “more than a conqueror through him who loved us.”

Q.6. What four things does God counsel me to do so that my heart may be kept for Him?
A. First, I must guard my heart as if everything depended on it. This means that I should keep my heart like a sanctuary for the presence of the Lord Jesus and allow nothing and no one else to enter.

Second, I must keep my heart healthy by proper diet, growing strong on a regular diet of God’s Word — reading it for myself, meditating on its truth, but especially being fed on it in the preaching of the Word. I also will remember that my heart has eyes as well as ears. The Spirit shows me baptism as a sign that I bear God’s triune name, while the Lord’s Supper stimulates heart love for the Lord Jesus.

Third, I must take regular spiritual exercise, since my heart will be strengthened by worship when my whole being is given over to God in expressions of love for and trust in Him.

Fourth, I must give myself to prayer in which my heart holds on to the promises of God, rests in His will, and asks for His sustaining grace — and do this not only on my own but with others so that we may encourage one another to maintain a heart for God.

This — and much else — requires development, elaboration, and exposition. But it can be summed up in a single biblical sentence. Listen to your Father’s appeal: “My son, give Me your heart.”

Yes, it’s Halloween and it’s also… Reformation Day!  Last year, I dressed up as Martin Luther (head shaved like a monk and the whole shabang), but no promises this year!

If you don’t know what Reformation Day is, well then, if you’re a Christian, you better get to know your roots!  It was on this day October 31st, 1517 that is credited as the unofficial start of the reformation of the church, the recovery of the gospel, and a call back for the church to stand alone on the authority of the Scriptures, when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses (or concerns) to a church door (a common practice by the way for public community announcements).

Justin Holcomb from the Resurgence has a great overview of the 95 theses and the hammer heard around the world… Read it here.

So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: “I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where he is there I shall be also!”

— Martin Luther

Very thorough post by the Resurgence on the origins of Halloween and good advice in helping you decide how you should respond as a Christian to this nationwide event.  Here’s a quote from the article…

Halloween has an uneasy history with the church; Christians have not always been sure what to do with a holiday of apparently pagan origins. Is Halloween unredeemable, such that any Christian participating in the holiday will necessarily compromise their faith? Is it something Christians can participate in as a cultural celebration with no religious ramifications? Or is there the opportunity for Christians to emphasize certain aspects of our own faith within the holiday?

Read the whole article here.

“Grace is the pleasure of God to magnify the worth of God by giving sinners the right and power to delight in God without obscuring the glory of God.”  — John Piper, The Pleasures of God

I keep coming back to this quote by John Piper in his book The Pleasures of God.  I’ve read a lot by John Piper, but for some reason or another never got around to reading The Pleasures of God.  Man, what was I thinking??  It’s probably one of the best books he has written!  And this quote is biblically God-centered.  It points to the fact that grace aims to magnify God by giving me joy in God.  He is the prize!  Grace is not grace if it doesn’t give me the pleasure of God Himself.

If you haven’t read anything by John Piper, I encourage you to pick up this book.  It takes you into the blazing center and heart of what God is most passionate about:  the pleasure He has in His glory.  Read the book to see why this is good news for you and I!

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