To Give what You Love for what You Love Most.

 

Samuel Dedicated by Hannah at the Temple by Frank W.W. Topham

As I was reading the book of Samuel, conviction struck hard within the first serval pages.

Most know the story well: Hannah is longing for a son because up till this point, she has been barren. There were many cultural pressures around having children at this time (though in the opposite way our current culture’s is), but the Scriptures show that this was truly a desire from the deepest depths of her heart.

After much faithful prayer, God grants her request, but what was convicting to me was her response; she takes what she desired so desperately, and gives back to Him who she desires and loved most.

Hannah gave her Son to work in the service of YHWH her God because she revered God more.

She knows she is only going to be able to see her Son once a year, and this would tear any loving parent’s heart, yet the passage does not indicate she made this sacrifice begrudgingly. In fact, Hannah prays a magnificent prayer of worship and praise:

“My heart exults in the Lord;
my horn is exalted in the Lord.
My mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in your salvation.
“There is none holy like the Lord:
for there is none besides you;
there is no rock like our God.
Talk no more so very proudly,
let not arrogance come from your mouth;
for the Lord is a God of knowledge,
and by him actions are weighed.
The bows of the mighty are broken,
but the feeble bind on strength.
Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger.
The barren has borne seven,
but she who has many children is forlorn.
The Lord kills and brings to life;
he brings down to Sheol and raises up.
The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
he brings low and he exalts.
He raises up the poor from the dust;
he lifts the needy from the ash heap
to make them sit with princes
and inherit a seat of honor.
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s,
and on them he has set the world.
“He will guard the feet of his faithful ones,
but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness,
for not by might shall a man prevail.
The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces;
against them he will thunder in heaven.
The Lord will judge the ends of the earth;
he will give strength to his king
and exalt the horn of his anointed.” (I Samuel 2:1-10)

This was a true act of worship and joy on Hannah’s part; to give back to her God what He had given her.

She who longed for a child so desperately, longed for the worship of her God more.

The emotions of that sacrifice were real to her, but she had a faith and love for God that most of us will probably never obtain this side of eternity.

Convicting.

Of Suffering and Evil

I was visiting my parents home in Pennsylvania about a month ago and was blessed by the fact that both of my brothers were there as well. This rarely happens anymore so it really was a special time. Naturally, my mom had scheduled us to sing in church together, seeing that all of us can at least change notes…and sometimes carry a tune (them more than I).

So my brother Seth chose a Shane and Shane song called “Though You Slay Me”. I love this song. It is melancholy and hopeful at the same time, and there is a reason for that.

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Christianity has a theology of suffering. In fact, the “problem of evil” was a very large part of my embracing the Doctrines of Grace. God either has to be in sovereign control over all things or the following two options are true: suffering is meaningles-or God is impotent (or both). These options though are not able to be derived from the Bible, which is were we draw our knowledge of God. So we are left with option 1: God is in sovereign control of evil.

Many Christians would acknowledge this, but to varying degrees. I would guess that the majority of Christendom would advocate that God is sovereign over the ends, but what about the means? God must have to let it ride because- you know, free will.  BUT is this what the Bible says?

Genesis 50: 19-20 “But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 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, as they are today.”

God most certainly controlled the ends…but He also most certainly was not passive in the means.

What does Paul tell us to expect as Christians?

Phil 1:29 “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.”

This is part of God’s plan. Not some uncontrollable thing that God has to work around.

To address the immediate objection: “Doesn’t this make God the author of sin?” I will most quickly and emphatically answer “NO!”

To use an analogy I have heard; No one in their right mind would condemn Shakespeare for the murder of King Duncan. Shakespeare may have wrote the play but Macbeth done dood the deed.

This is just a fraction of the level of disparity between our level of existence and God’s. He is the play writer but He does not commit the sins in the play Himself. God was not surprised by Adam and Eve’s sin. He had planned to redeem mankind before He had ever created the world. (Rev 13:8) Why? Because everything is about God showing His glory, His awesomeness, and His holiness. And so as not to confuse anyone, it is not about God needing to receiving glory  (see Austin Fischer’s book “Young, Restless, and No Longer Reformed”, and also see the following interactions between Kevin DeYoung and Austin) but rather about Him showing His glory. No action did this greater than the cross.

We suffer now, but there will be a day when all sorrow will cease, where there will be no suffering. Those whom God saved will live eternally in peace in His presence.

So until then, we can quote Romans 8:28 with full confidence because we know that God also controls the means. No suffering is pointless, though we may not see or understand. Take heart Christian, your Lord loves you; so cry out with Job “Though he slay me, I will hope in him”

Sailing, Sailing Over the…Lake

Sailing 1

 

I have the privilege of having an awesome friend, Tom, who bought a sail boat. This friend invited me along a couple days ago to join him on an excursion as he continues to improve as a sailor. For only being his 4th time out (and what was essentially my 1st), his skill has me predicting that he will be swashbuckling the seven seas soon…or at least Lake Minnetonka.

If you listen, there is always something to learn that not only applies to the “regular world” (like the parts of the boat, turn types, course patterns), but also our spiritual lives.

-As a side note this is actually a distinction I reject. Christianity is not a system, or a Sunday/Wednesday thing- it is our lives. Every part of our life is to be in the pursuit of Christ-likenss and the glorifying of God. This means that whether we are sailing, shopping, synchronized swimming, or sitting in a pew, we are to be worshiping God-

Tom was brave enough to hand me the steering-thingy (just kidding Tom, you taught well) and instruct me in the ways of bringing the boat about 180 degrees. Here was what struck me (not the boom, though close): no matter which way you turned, into the wind or with the wind, you could not afford to turn half-heartedly or hesitantly or you would end up in the “no go zone” (where you are directly into the wind, ergo not able to move except maybe backwards) or flipping. You had to commit. Push that rudder hard and hold it till you come full about.

Commitment. Basic principle of life. You cannot be a halfhearted Christian. I will read my Bible right before small group, or pray right before church, or sing in the choir on Sunday, than essentially be like every other heathen the rest of the week.

This doesn’t mean you are doing sinful things necessarily, but as a Christian, life is so much deeper for us than it is for the unbelieving. There is another dimension to everything we do-

We taste a steak and realize that God is good. We lose a loved one and realize that God is good.

There should be a joy, a peace, a patience, a kindness, a gentleness, a meekness, etc about a Christian that is the light of the gospel in every action. This is for what we should be striving. We are sinful, we will fail, but God always forgives and never condemns His children.

We also must realize that is is only through the Spirit that this can be accomplished. This means we must be in constant communion with God and cannot live a compartmentalized “Christian” life.

We must commit lest we stall or flip.

 

Of Politics and Such

Cruz

The Outcry! As we all know by now Cruz did not endorse Donald Trump, which he told him he was not going to do days before he gave his speech. This was not a cloak and dagger move. Cruz is now being lambasted by many for going back on his word.

While I believe that your “yes” needs to be “yes”, and your “no” needs to be “no”, is there a place for concession to be made? I think, Biblically, yes.

I will make this short: It is not ok for you to agree to do something wrong. If you signed a business deal, and later found out that there were unlawful dealings going on, you would be obligated as a Christian to pull out of that agreement.

Anther example given by the well articulate, Ben Thompson:

“Hey Steve, I’ll come help you move all your stuff on Saturday. I promise!”

“That’s cool. Oh, by the way, hey everybody! Bob’s wife is crazy, Bob’s a man-slut, and I think his dad wanted to assassinate the president! And he lies, like, ALL THE TIME!”

“Uh, Steve? I don’t think I’m going to help you move anymore.”

“CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS GUY? BOB HAS NO INTEGRITY!”

 

Yes, I am equating endorsing Trump with doing the wrong thing, but before you tear into me let me explain the difference between possibly voting for him and endorsing him:

I think there are some very good reasons to vote for the Trump platform vs the Hillary platform. A friend of mine gave some very sound political reasoning for voting for Trump that had practically nothing to do with Trump. I can even understand the “better of two evils argument” even if I disagree. But to outright support the person that is Donald Trump I think is wrong, the same as I would not endorse any other blatantly immoral celebrity or person.

Yes, all people are sinful on some level but this is often a red herring argument. There is a difference between a sinful person trying to do what is right and a person who boasts of their sin.

Cruz may be making a purely selfish political move. I think that is speculative. I think he has shown consistency during his entire campaign. I watched almost every debate, I read the articles, I read the accusations, and I read the rebuttals. Cruz could have wiped the…well you know..of the Republican Nominee like he was supposed to at the RNC, but instead He chose to stay principled.

We should be voting by our conscience, not by partisan loyalties. That may mean you need to vote for Trump, but that doesn’t mean Cruz is disloyal, a promise breaker, or a liar because he opted not to endorse a man who celebrates his immorality, and is not qualified on character alone to lead a nation. Cruz may even vote for Trump, but that is not the same as publicly endorsing.

To Break Though

This is might be more of a confessional post than a informative one. In my small group, us guys are reading A.W. Tozer’s The Pursuit of God. Fantastic. In chapter 3-Removing the Veil, he talks about how the veil to the holy of holies was torn but that there is still a veil over our hearts even as regenerate Christians that we have left in place, and that is the veil of sinful self. It keeps us from entering the Presence.

I would say that currently the vast majority of my time as a Christian is standing outside the holy of holies and not entering into the presence of God in a meaningful way. I still am in the temple and have access, but have not fully entered in to commune. By that I mean, I love to read, I love to learn but to really desire God in such a way that he truly is my treasure, truly is my passion, and truly is my motivation is something I long to have as part of my normative Christian walk.

Yes, this is partially an emotional experience, but so much more. It is a conscious awareness of being in the Presence. It is excitement for the things of God; it is an excitement to learn of God, and an excitement to spend time with God. Many can probably relate to Christianity as a chore. Bible reading is hard, committed prayer is hard, and just keeping a good testimony is hard. This is because my treasure is misplaced, not necessarily sinful in things either, but just wrongly prioritized.

I love to learn, which has been God’s gracious way of motivating me to still learn about Him even without a consistent spiritual connection; but the main thing that drew me to John Piper’s ministry was that he seemed to have an essential part of Christianity that I lacked-sincere, consistent desire.

So, I desire to break through the veil of my selfishness and enter into the Presence; to truly commune with God; to be consciously aware of Him, and to be doing the things I do out of a heartfelt passion for God.

For example, when reading chapters 3 and 4 of Tozer’s book I literally was having a worship experience. I was so grateful to God for the truths that were being expounded upon, for the council being given, and the exhortation being infused into my person. I found myself internally saying “Yes, this is right! Thank you God!”.

I do have moments like these and I understand that since I am a sinful human that it will always be a life long pursuit of God, but I believe it is obtainable to have an awareness and communion with God in the every day and have that be the normative experience vs the exception.

Here are three books that have helped many, including myself, with this topic:

Desiring God-John Piper

When I Don’t Desire God-John Piper

The Pursuit of God-A.W. Tozer

With Great Pomp

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Paul is on his way to Rome. He had been accused, threatened, and had several attempts made on his life. Currently he is under arrest and having to appear, numerous times, on trial. Now comes the most recent judge-King Aggripa, and his wife Bernice (lovely name). Festus catches Agrippa up on the situation that was left to him by Felix-with some minor exaggerations to make himself look good (hey-we’ve all done it). Apparently Paul’s situation fascinates Aggripa because he wants to hear directly from Paul.

Back up-Paul was under arrest because the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem had arrested him in the temple. Ironically, Paul had gone to Jerusalem trying not to be a contrarian, but they had their agenda. The Jews wanted to kill Paul but the Roman tribune stepped in. He than assembled the Chief Priests, Pharisees and Sadducees and put Paul on trial before them. Paul knows he is going to be sentenced to death but, being the very educated man he was and recognizing his audience, saw an opportunity-and took it. He stated that he was on trial for the thing that the two religious camps disagreed over the most-resurrection. This could not have been more true. Paul was preaching the resurrection of Christ. Things got violent and the Romans stepped in and took Paul away. Paul than pulls out his Roman citizen I.D. card (not very easy to get) and says he has a right to trial before Caesar. So Paul is on his way to Rome. God has told Him this was His will.

Fast Forward-Paul has now had 2 additional trials before Felix and Festus, and here comes Agrippa. Here is how Acts 25 describes the situation:

“Then Agrippa said to Festus, ‘I would like to hear the man for myself.”…So the next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp, and they entered the audience hall with the military tribunes and the prominent men of the city.” (Acts 25:22-23a)

You never know what God has for you. Paul was being persecuted for preaching the truth and sharing the gospel. Yet he was not, seemingly, being blessed for his faithfulness. Instead he was under arrest and appearing before trial after trial. But look at what God is doing with this situation-not in reaction to men’s actions mind you, but providentially. Paul is getting to preach the gospel to more and different people than had he not been arrested and on his way to Rome. These are not more peasants either, but men of great influence. And this is exactly what God had said “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.” (Acts 23:11b)

Just as his ancestral father Joseph, Paul was wrongly being persecuted in accordance with God’s plan to spread His Word and save His people.

Christian, do not be discouraged when you feel persecuted. When the world, with great pomp, parades you out as a religious numbskull, or a backwater-moron, use the situation to proclaim the gospel faithfully.

As my former Pastor said “Don’t waste your suffering”