November 29, 2012

Vision

What I am about to say applies in large part to women as well, but I want to address men.

Most men have a vision for their life that is far too small. Perhaps you are among them. Many of you may have no vision for your life at all. I want to get at what lies behind that. There obviously can be many reasons for not having a driving vision for your life, but what I want to propose is that many of you simply need to wake up to the reality that you think far too little of God, and consequently, you expect far too little of what He can do in you and through you.


Perhaps you hope to be a nice person. Perhaps you hope to raise a nice family. Perhaps you hope to be a good worker. Perhaps you hope to go to heaven when you die. These are all nice things. But it that is all you expect out of life, something is missing.
In the book of Ecclesiastes chapter seven, Solomon says this:


"A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth. It is better to go into a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure." (Ecclesiastes 7:1-4)


Solomon here tells us, in essence, that more wisdom is gained from mourning and pondering death, than from partying and being merry. Why is this? Because "death is the destiny of every man." That includes you. You will die. The question becomes, are you living in light of that? We all know on some level that facing death forces us to face how we're living. Whether it's the death of someone close, or a near death encounter of our own, or being told by the doctor that our time is short. Staring at death has a way of realigning our priorities. The question I have though, is what set those priorities in the first place? On page 23 of Justin Buzzard's book "Date Your Wife" (an excellent read for single men too!), he puts it this way,
"A dream is a collection of ideas, feelings, and beliefs about a particular topic. A dream is what drives a man...Some men are aware of this, some are not." That is to say, it is a dream that drives us, and our priorities, our actions, will fall in line with what that dream is. Most guys aren't thinking about this, and aren't purposefully dreaming somehing of import. Lives are lived floating along without any point, any vision, without a conscious dream. The result is lives that end up not accomplishng much.


What I want to challenge you to-what I believe Scripture challenges us to-is a far bigger dream than anything we could come up with on our own. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." Even our eating and drinking, lifes most mundane actionnns, are to be done for God's glory. Does that leave any room whatsoever for mindless drifting along? Or for chasing insignificant dreams? Do all for the glory of God.
I love the following quote from page 32 of John Piper's book "Don't Waste Your Life."


"We waste our lives when we do not pray and think and dream and plan and work toward magnifying God in all spheres of life."


Are you wasting your life? Are you failing to dream a dream of glorifying God with your every moment? The answer is yes. You are failing. So am I. But here is the Good News of the Gospel. God loves failures like us. He loved us when we were still His enemies (Romans 5:10). How much more now that we are adopted as His sons (1:12)? Now, this loving us and saving us was most obviously not because we were awesome and God somehow needed us. Isaiah 43:7 says that those God has called, He has done for His own glory, for the sake of His name. And He gains fame and glory for His name not only through saving us from sin, hell, and His own righteous wrath; but also through using us to demonstrate obedience to Him and to bring glory to His name among all the nations by making them His disciples. (See: Matthew 28:18-20, Romans 1:1-7). Which means this. God means not only to save you, but to use you for His glory. And whether you are dreaming a dream right now or not, nothing you could be contriving on your own is as big as living for the glory of the God of all the universe. Nothing.

So how does that play out in your life? You need to find out how God has gifted you. You need to figure out whats skills and talents you have, and develop those. You need to figure out what you're interested in and how God can use all of those interests and talents and abilities. You need to earnestly seek God and ask Him to show you where He would have you be and what He would have you do. And you need to open up your Bible and read it. Don't expect God to speak to you when you won't read the book He wrote. Men, you have a God given purpose. Find it. Live it.

November 20, 2012

Crappy Offerings and the Pointlessness of Thanksgiving.

“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the LORD's table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts. And now entreat the favor of God, that he may be gracious to us. With such a gift from your hand, will he show favor to any of you? says the LORD of hosts. Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the LORD of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand. For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts. But you profane it when you say that the Lord's table is polluted, and its fruit, that is, its food may be despised. But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the LORD of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the LORD. Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the LORD of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.
(Malachi 1:6-14 ESV)   There's one of those stupid virtual cards kicking around Facebook right now that makes a rather ironic point. This gist of it is that we go berserk trampling over people in order to buy things the day after supposedly giving thanks for what we already have. Normally I enjoy such ironies and might have enjoyed a laugh over it, but I had already read this passage in Malachi earlier that morning. So rather than seeing humor I was bugged by the haunting similarity between Israel 400 BC and America 2012 AD.   The Israelite people are bringing sacrifices that aren't what God wants. Rather than bringing their first fruits, the proverbial cream of the crop, offerings and sacrifices that would display hearts that were grateful to God for what He had given, these people instead bring their junk. They bring the lame and the sick. They see worship as wearisome and a duty. And God flat out rejects it. He calls it evil and pronounces cursing upon those who would bring such a sacrifice before the God of all the universe. It might seem like an over reaction at first, but when we stop to think about it, I think most of us will agree that it is justified. Not only does God deserve their worship based on the simple fact that He is God and deserves the worship of all of His creation, but furthermore He has bestowed special blessing upon Israel. He has called them His own and made them a special nation-and yet they respond like this. Yeah, I think cursing them is pretty reasonable. Discomfort gone.   Except for that inconvenient similarity I mentioned earlier. What do I present to God? In Romans 12 the Apostle Paul tells us that it is reasonable-not extravagent, exceptional, amazing, or above and beyond-simply reasonable, to offer our entire bodies as a living sacrifice to God. The idea being that, considering who God is and what He has done in salvation, you give Him your everything. Not because you are a super-Christian, but because it is the logical thing to do. And yet, how often do we live in what is the logical fashion? The average "Christian" (disclaimer #1: Now, just because a peep calls themself a Christian doesn't mean it's true, so that's gonna skew statistics. But that's what we have to work with.) gives 2% of their income to charity. Not their local church. Just charity. So let's just guesstimate that church giving is in the 1.5% range. The average income in America is over $40,000, but we'll use that for simple math. 1.5% of 40,000 is 600. Six hundred freaking dollars. Divide by 12. That's 50. Fifty bucks a month. So God is roughly as important to us, financially speaking, as a plain Jane cell phone plan or a crappy Dish package. Now, I wonder if God is going to accept that. (disclaimer #2: God and church aren't the same thing. But the church is His bride. Writing in the 3rd century Cyprian said, "He cannot have God as his Father who does not have the church for his Mother.") My point is this-what the average person offers God financially is, if you will, an offering of dung. If you think that's a little dramatic, let's check the next chapter in Malachi.   Behold, I will rebuke your offspring, and spread dung on your faces, the dung of your offerings, and you shall be taken away with it. (Malachi 2:3 ESV)   This is hardcore rejection. God not only calls their offerings dung, He says that He will spread it in their faces. The point is this. God wants your heart. He doesn't need your stupid money, but you need to give the money, because where your money is your heart is going to follow (Matthew 6:21). If you aren't giving, it speaks to a heart problem. And this isn't just financial, it also applies to how you use your time, your talents, and the very way in which you structure your life. Money is just an easy one to pick on, and it's obviously important because Jesus talks about money more than anyone else in the Bible does.   So my point is this. Most of us are offering God dung. Most of the "thanks" we throw up on Thanksgiving, most of the Sunday mornings sat in church when we're zoning out wishing we weren't there, and that spare change we toss in the plate because that's "all we can afford" is just dung in God's eyes that will be rubbed in our faces in the long run. It's been said (if I knew who said it I'd give them credit) that if it doesn't mean anything to you it won't mean anything to God. That's an ouch statement. The personal application question is this-are you among the many? Are you offering crap to God?

November 12, 2012

a Prayer

I wrote this quite a while back. It was a Saturday Morning in Missoula. I woke up and tried to pray before I started reading my Bible. Prayer can be a real labor for me, and this morning was worse than usual, so I decided to write it down.

As I went back over it a while later, I thought it might be worth sharing, and so I sent it into the eZine I write for, Genuine Motivation. I think a lot of what I wrote down comes from desires most Christians have. We want to love God more, and we want to be used by Him. We want our lives to matter. We don't want a wasted existence. Realizing that my readership there is quite different than who reads GenMo, I thought it worthwhile to post here as well.



Father God,
Thank You for who You are. I thank You for being so enormous and majestic that even the rocks will cry out if we fail to. I praise You and thank You for the fact that You made creation in such a way that it really does speak so plainly that it is not only a statement of Your existence, but also a declaration of Your glory! I thank You for manifesting Yourself to us through what are called "common" or "general" ways. What flimsy words for such marvelous truths are these?

Lord, I pray that You would use me mightily in the proclamation of these truths. You have been so gracious in showing them to me. I cannot keep silent. Make Your voice loud through me. Use me effectively. Work in spite of me, as You so often have done in the past. Mold me. Shape me. Make me more useful for Your work and kingdom. Lord, I pray for my words both written and spoken. I also pray for my life. I pray that my words would be true to Your character and to Your word, even to the Living Word, Jesus Christ. Allow me to point others to Your clearest revelation to us, that is, Your Son. I pray that I would be unambiguous when I communicate your gospel. May I be so deeply rooted in, soaked in, steeped in, and saturated with Your Word that I may be authoritative. I pray my life would follow Your powerful Word, so that Your grace would continue to be poured out on me by means of sanctification. May it point out, call out and remove my sin. Point me towards You, graciously showing more and more of Your all-consuming beauty. Don’t allow me to desire and to chase trivial things like power, prestige, money, popularity or comfort. Keep ever before me the flightiness of this life and the endurance of You. Be the One who consumes me. Allow me ever to see the joy of exalting and glorifying You, my Savior, Lord and King. I pray this most especially when suffering comes. I thank You that Christ has endured and removed my condemnation and that any trial or suffering that I encounter is not punitive, but sanctifying.
You are conforming me to the image of Your Son. What a gift this is! Allow me to find my joy in You and not my circumstance. Keep me humbled under Your righteous right hand that in due time I may be lifted up. Allow me to see the suffering in my life as a sculptor’s chisel, a refiner’s fire or as a sanctifying agent. Soften my heart to be the proverbial clay in the potter’s hand. Make my life a megaphone to this world proclaiming Your sufficiency.

I pray You would make me a husband who loves his wife as Christ loves His church. I pray I would indeed give myself up for her, as well. Allow me to dwell with her in an understanding way and teach me to better cherish this wonderful co-heir in the grace of eternal life with whom You have allowed me to walk through this life. Teach me to be a humble servant laying aside my selfish desires. Teach me to be a strong leader fearlessly following You and shepherding my wife appropriately. I pray you would allow me to provide for her well and to take care of her.
You, Lord, are my only hope. Without You I am nothing. Keep this ever before my eyes. Keep me desperate for You. Don’t let me be satisfied with how I’m doing. Don’t allow me to be content with the quality of my walk. Don’t let me feel as if I have arrived. I pray that I would press on toward the goal and that I would be faithful to You.
God, I am needy. This You obviously know since You killed Your Son to pay for my need and You have sent Your Spirit to make me, a dead man, alive.
Thank You,

In the name which is above every name, Jesus Christ,
Amen.



Here are some passages of Scripture related to what's here.
Psalm 42
Isaiah 43
1 Corinthians 15
Ephesians 1-2
Philippians 1:29, 2:5-11, 3:1, 7-11
1 Peter 2:24, 3:7

About Me

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I love Jesus, my wife, and my kids. Writing and teaching are two things I have a passion for. Gardening and fishing are cool, too. I blog @ willdole.com, you can reach me @ contact@willdole.com