Stop and Think

I am a deliberate person by nature. I have often told my wife, my family, that I am a unitasker — that is, I do one thing at a time. I always thought this was a character flaw, but only recently I’ve discovered it’s really how we all are.

I’ve been slowly reading through Matt Perman’s great book What’s Best Next: How The Gospel Transforms The Way You Get Things Done. What I’ve learned is that being a multitasker is not ideal because you end up doing everything just a little less than your best. What we think of as being more efficient has the opposite effect — we become less so. In fact, Perman says, the only one who’s truly a multitasker is God. He does all things well, all at the same time. What we need to do, rather than a bunch of things at the same time, is do what we need to do well. This is not only better but more glorifying to God.

In light of that, I’ve been thinking of my own way of doing things. As I’ve said, I’m deliberate but that doesn’t mean I’ve been as efficient as I could be. What I’ve come to see is that I need to take a look at the bigger picture — my goals, my motivations, my purposes — and see where I’m headed and where I want to go. This isn’t just a worldly ideal, it’s a spiritual consideration as well. God does not want us to do less than our best. That certainly doesn’t bring him glory when we are careless or lazy about how we live our lives.

So, before I plunge into another new year I’ve been taking stock of where I am and the habits I’ve formed. I am looking at my purposes and motivations. What are my goals? Are they what they should be, in light of what God desires me to be? God is gracious and he is able to continually work in us his will. It is a good thing to stop and think about where I am headed. John Piper talks about drifting leaves that do a great deal of moving but accomplish nothing. God did not create us to be aimless, but to live with a purpose. If there is a advantage of a calendar it’s that it gives us the opportunity to take stock of our situations on a regular basis and, hopefully, make corrections to our course.

God willing, that is my plan for 2016. I encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity as well.

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Still in school: Learning from a book about failures

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” — John 8:31-33

There is a tendency for me not to get it. And not only to I not get it, I do what I don’t want to do again and again. That is why I am encouraged when I take up the Bible and read it. Why? Because over and over I see people who fail miserably yet are able, with God’s help, to come back to God. I agree with Scotty Smith, who prays “As you dealt with Peter, so deal with me. Give me all the life-giving rebukes I need to keep me living in gospel-sanity.”

We have not graduated from the gospel. We need it each day. The hard lessons are a good thing for me. I am glad for the imperfect people of the Bible who are there to show me that only God can make me what I need to be, what I hope to be.

Scotty’s prayer is a great one. Read it all and let it soak it.

Getting a grip on how much we’re not worth it: You’re looking the wrong way.

For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:7-8

The other day I saw a portion of a new book by D.A. Carson called “Scandalous.” In it, he says “Those who draw really close to Jesus think of themselves, first and foremost, as those loved by him rather than those who profess their love for him.” He is talking about the instances in the New Testament where writers described themselves as being loved by Jesus. The point is is that the attention is focused not on them and their efforts but on Christ and what he has done. This is a good thing to think about because we — me, you, all of us — have a tendancy to inflate our self-worth when talking about our salvation.

But, if that’s the case, then how do we read and understand the verse above? When it says God loved us “while we were yet sinners” it doesn’t mean that we were especially valuable. Rather, it points to the depth of his grace and love. We have a tendancy to get it backwards because we are so intent on protecting our self esteem. In Fifty Ways Jesus Came To Die, John Piper addresses this kind of thinking:

I have heard it said, “God didn’t die for frogs. So he was responding to our value as humans.” This turns grace on its head. We are worse off than frogs. They have not sinned. They have not rebelled and treated God with the contempt of being inconsequential in their lives. God did not have to die for frogs. They aren’t bad enough. We are. Our debt is so great, only a divine sacrifice could pay it.

There is only one explanation for God’s sacrifice for us. It is not us. It is “the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7). It is all free. It is not a response to our worth. It is the overflow of his infinite worth. In fact, that is what divine love is in the end: a passion to enthrall undeserving sinners, at great cost, with what will make us supremely happy forever, namely, his infinite beauty. 

Christ’s death on the cross is a magnificent event. We should all look at it and marvel. But if we come away thinking it’s a lesson about our worth, then we’ve tragically missed the point.

Thy Blood Was Shed For Me (Because there was no other way)

Matthew Smith says it for me, but I know where he’s coming from. I have had this album, All I Owe, for awhile but it ministers to me greatly, particularly this song. Treasure Jesus.

One of the subtle ways I avoid God is by pretending that I’m not very sinful, or that sin is a minor issue in my life that I will overcome soon. I find myself taking comfort in thinking that I am a pretty good guy. But this is, of course, a total lie. The only thing I can cling to for hope in this world is the fact that Jesus shed his blood for me. Every virtue or bit of righteousness I try to create for myself will ultimately betray me, but Jesus’ blood has bought an inheritance for me that is kept in heaven, where it will never fade or perish (1 Peter 1:3-5).

Let the world their virtue boast and works of righteousness
I a wretch undone and lost am freely saved by grace
Take me Savior as I am
Let me lose my sins in Thee
Friend of sinners, spotless Lamb
Thy blood was shed for me
Thy blood was shed for me

Full of truth and grace Thou art and here is all my hope
False and foul as hell my heart to Thee I offer up
Thou wast given to redeem
My soul from iniquity
Friend of sinners, spotless Lamb
Thy blood was shed for me
Thy blood was shed for me

Nothing have I Lord to pay nor can Thy grace procure
Empty, send me not away for Thou knowest I am poor
Dust and ashes is my name
My all is sin and misery
Friend of sinners, spotless Lamb
Thy blood was shed for me
Thy blood was shed for me

A reason to smile as a Christian

There’s a lot of “self” in our culture, even as Christians. But the truth is, if we were just left to ourselves, we would be in dire straits. Thankfully, God breaks through our lives to show us something truly wonderful that we can look at with great joy. Thanks much to Erik Raymond at Irish Calvinist for this great post. Here is just a portion of it:

Apart from Christ we are alienated; we have no way to God. But on top of this, we are neither able nor willing to come. We are content in the giving God the stiff arm with one hand and with the other, holding up the mirror as we admire our own perceived glory.

But God does not leave us there.

He powerfully, lovingly, mercifully, and graciously overtakes the sinner with an irresistible view of the glory of Jesus Christ. This is called sovereign grace.

In 2 Corinthians 4 we learn that in addition to being totally depraved we are under the influence of Satan’s eye blinding techniques (2 Cor. 4..4). But notice what we can’t see? The text says “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

It is the glory of Christ that we are blinded from seeing.

Ah, but what does the ever gracious and sovereign God do?

The God “who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor. 4.6).

God has made us to see the glory of Christ! We did not stumble upon this truth. We were not taught it by men. We didn’t inherit it in this country like some sort of unalienable right. NO! The sovereign God of the universe has crashed through your sinfully barricaded heart with his powerful sovereign grace so that you would be able to see the beauty, worth, goodness, power, and attractiveness of Christ! He has done this for you!