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Enjoying God for All He’s Worth

April 22, 2015 6 comments

The other day I enjoyed a particularly breath-taking moment with God. I had just finished a good work out and was eating some fruit in the living room while my wife rested from a long day. I like fruit, but for some reason, I was particularly aware of it’s sweetness this day.

I intentionally slowed my pace so that I could really enjoy the sweetness more thoroughly. As I did I began to take note of a few other delights as well. I focused on the beauty of some roses sitting on our coffee table, relished the companionship of my wife and relaxed in the silence of a nice Spring evening.

This was the first time in several weeks, maybe even months, that I had slowed down enough to really savor life. My wife and I have been busy preparing for our first child, selling our house and taking care of our daily affairs. It has been particularly easy to miss out on all the good around us.

A Taste of Something Sweeter

For some reason, on this particular night, however, God seemed to put the world on pause so that I could enjoy him in a way I hadn’t for quite some time. Then it hit me. I wasn’t just enjoying the fruit, the flowers or my wife, I was enjoying God through the fruit, the flowers and my wife.

Psalm 19:1 says, “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” The same is true of the rest of creation as well. God radiates his glory, excellence and beauty. It proceeds from him, like light and heat proceed forth from the sun. All of creation then reflects God’s glory, excellence and beauty in one way or another to one degree or another, like the moon reflects the light of the sun.

That’s breath taking enough as it is. When we take a step back to meditate on this Scripture a little longer, it becomes even more breath taking. This ultimately means that fruit is only sweet because it reflects the sweetness of God’s glory. Roses are only beautiful because they reflect the beauty of God. Companionship is only enjoyable because it reflects the companionship we can have with God through Jesus.

Image via colindye.com

Image via colindye.com

Seeing and Savoring Christ

Amazing right? It gets even better. Hebrews 1:3 tells us that Jesus is the “radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.” Romans 1:19-20 reminds us that God has made himself known plainly through creation. This means that things like a refreshing Spring rain, a savory meal or an adventurous road trip are all means by which we can enjoy more of all that God is for us in Jesus.

It is through Jesus that we enjoy, as Ephesians 1 says, “every spiritual blessing.” It is through creation that we get to savor those spiritual blessings through tangible experiences that bring the many benefits of Christ’s work to life for us. God’s glory is to be seen and savored through all of creation as creation redirects our hearts back to the good things we have in Jesus Christ. Next time you do something that you enjoy, let your enjoyment of God’s creation redirect your heart to God so that you can enjoy him for all that he’s worth.

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The Science of God

As a pastor living in a college town I run into skeptics, doubters and unbelievers regularly. One of the most common objections I hear about the Christian faith is in regards to science. People just can’t seem to wrap their minds around God.

I get it.  I really do. I have a degree in biology and psychology.  I’m more than familiar with naturalistic evolution, evolutionary psychology and the behavioral sciences than I’d like to be.  I’ve taken physics, chemistry and genetics.  I, like many of my peers, appreciate hard facts, empirical evidence and measurable results.

In a world of scientific questions, factual evidence is our friend. Measurable outcomes are important, but when it comes to God I’ve learned that they just aren’t enough.

theosophical.wordpress.com

theosophical.wordpress.com

When Science Isn’t Enough

Science is built on the premise that what can be known is measurable.  It can be quantified with empirical evidence. This is true to an extent.

When it comes to the natural world we can use natural means to measure natural outcomes.  The problem is, God is not natural.  He is supernatural. He is beyond that which is natural and is therefore immeasurable by natural standards.

It is absurd to conclude that a supernatural God does not exist because he cannot be measured through natural means. How can what is limited measure that which is unlimited?  That’s like concluding that the ocean doesn’t exist because it doesn’t fit in a five gallon bucket.

The famed physicist Albert Einstein is credited with rightly saying, “What’s measurable isn’t always important and what’s important isn’t always measurable.” He, a self described agnostic, understood that even the most skeptical among us should have “an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.”¹

Scientific Limitations

The infinite God cannot be defined by that which is finite. He who is limitless cannot be comprehended by that which has limits, unless he chooses to reveal himself within the context of those limits.

Imagine that we live in a two dimensional world with a three dimensional God. If this three dimensional God were to stick his finger into our two dimensional world we would describe his cylindrical finger as a flat circle because we wouldn’t have any way of accurately seeing his finger for what it is.

Our two dimensional science just doesn’t have what it takes to measure this three dimensional God. The limitless God is beyond the limits of science. Furthermore, to say that God must submit to the laws of science is to make science God.

Giving God His Rightful Place

The very definition of God refers to a supreme being who retains ultimate authority over the world he created.  By definition he cannot be bound by science, since he the Great Scientist is the one who put it’s laws into effect.

Just like a software developer has the power to by-pass the codes he put in place to make a software function in a particular way, so God also has the power and authority to by-pass the natural laws if he so chooses, and sometimes does. You cannot say that God must be measurable by science because that would make science God, which it by definition cannot be.

A Window Through Which to See the Creator

What does science tell us about God, then? A great deal actually.  In Romans 1:19-20, the apostle Paul explains that God has made himself known to us in part through creation.  We can learn about his attributes and enjoy his glory through that which his hands have made.

Jesus himself also used creation to teach his disciples about the Father, particular in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5-7). In them he used plants, animals, agriculture, seasons and weather to help his followers better understand the nature of God. It was from this very notion that many of the first scientists, who happened to be Christian or influenced by Christianity, pursued the sciences, because they believed that the study of science would better help us understand the Great Scientist

Science cannot, however, tell us all that there is to know about God. It is just too limited. The only way for man to fully know God is for God to fully reveal himself to man. The remarkable truth is that God has chosen to make himself known to us through his Son Jesus Christ.   John 1:18 tells us that “no one has ever seen God” but that “the only God, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.”

We don’t have to stress over how to scientifically prove God. He validated and vindicated himself in Christ. He can be known and enjoyed through Jesus and Jesus can be known through the Word of God.

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*For more on the historical Jesus and the Bible check out “Simply Jesus: Does the Church have Him Wrong?“, a sermon series from Living Hope Church about the person and work of Jesus Christ.

¹ Isaacson, Walter (2008). Einstein: His Life and Universe. New York: Simon and Schuster, pp. 390.

² Driscoll, Mark (2010). Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, pp. 97-104.

Starting Spiritual Conversations Part 1

A few weeks back a group of leaders from our church and I were attending a conference with other churches in our worldwide

Image via dominant worldwide.com.

Image via dominant worldwide.com.

family, Newfrontiers.  In between sessions I made it a point to talk with people that I didn’t know.  I wanted to expand my horizons, meet new people, learn from guys wiser than myself and, Lord willing, maybe even inspire greater faith in others.

This is a recent trend for me.  In the past, I would have relegated myself to the group of people I came with and only spoken with the people that I know.  Now, I can’t help but talk with the people around me.  On the way back from the conference, one of the guys riding with us asked how I learned to strike up in-depth spiritual conversations with people I don’t know, even non-Christians.

After thinking about it for a few brief moments, God reminded me that there are two sides to the equation: a spiritual side and a practical side.  The practical side is important (and we’ll get to it), but it’s the spiritual side that we must get first because we will never do the practical if we’re not prepared in the spiritual.  Here are a few things God has used to spiritually prepare me for gospel conversations with people I don’t know.

1. Know the love of Christ. In 2 Corinthians 5:14 the church leader Paul says that it is the love of Christ that compels us.  A compulsion is an irresistible urge to act on a thought, feeling or idea.  To say that the love of Christ compels us is to say that the Holy Spirit has given us an irresistible urge to live for Jesus and share his good news.   In other words, when we truly understand the love God has for us in Christ it produces an overwhelming desire to invite others to know his love to.

2. Know who you are in Christ. Insecurity is one of the biggest obstacles to initiating conversations with people we don’t know.  When we believe the lie that our significance and worth are dependent on our ability to impress people, we stray away from talking with them because we feel as though we need their approval and acceptance. It’s only after we’ve been convinced that Jesus has secured everything we need from God that we can be free to engage others without fear of how they will respond.

3. Understand the authority you have from Christ. Jesus Christ rules and reigns over all things with complete authority and power.  He has given this authority to his disciples for the purpose of making disciples and advancing the Kingdom.  We can overcome the subtle accusation that we have no right to talk with others about Jesus through the simple truth that we do have the right to talk with others about our Lord because he gave us that right. (Matthew 28:18-20)

4. Anticipate the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is our power to witness about Jesus.  When we expect him to show up, he multiplies our faith and does big things. Instead of thinking “I might screw it up,” try thinking “the Holy Spirit might show up.”  This will change your entire approach (demeanor, attitude, tone, etc) and you’ll be amazed at how exciting conversations with strangers can be.

If we’re honest, it’s the spiritual side of things that gives us more trouble than the practical.  Put these big ideas into practice and watch the Lord prepare your heart for more significant conversations to come.

A Theology of Manhood: How Masculine Are You?

When I was a kid being “a man” was measured by who could spit the farthest, run the fastest, burp the loudest and win the most. In high school, being “a man” was measured by the number of girls that liked you, your place on the popularity ladder and how rebellious you were. By college being “a man” was measured by who could drink the most, party the hardest and sleep with the most women.  Now that I’ve graduated, it seems like being “a man” is measured by the job you work, the amount of money you make, how much weight you can bench press or the toys you have.

In ancient times, becoming a man was a right of passage.  It wasn’t something that was assumed, it was bestowed.  Masculinity wasn’t measured in age or accomplishments, it was measured in one’s willingness to assume responsibility for his family and his tribe.  Boys knew what it was to be a man because they were told, by their fathers, what it meant to be a man.  They had treks, hunts, voyages, tests and various other ceremonies that taught them what masculinity was really all about.

 

Image from blogformen.wordpress.com

Image from blogformen.wordpress.com

In our day, it’s safe to say that dudes are confused at best and downright adrift at worst.  We live in a world where every guy wants to be a truly masculine man, but nobody knows what that actually means… or even looks like.  This generation grew up with single moms and drug addicted, alcoholic and absentee fathers.

Our role models were often work-a-holic dads and degrading coaches.  It’s no wonder we don’t know what it looks like to be a man, we didn’t have any to look up to. There were no rights of passage that told us when we’d become men.  We’ve just been pretending this whole time.

This same generation of guys is now marked by irresponsibility, passivity, laziness, cowardice, addiction, selfishness, disrespect for authority, rebellion, egotism and escape.  And those are the positive qualities. We (myself included) are a generation of boys who never grew up.

Restoring Masculinity

If this generation of boys really want to become men, then we must radically redefine, rather restore, what it means to be truly masculine. We must identify a new set of metrics for what it looks like to be a real man. In order to know what masculinity means and looks like, we must look to the man who embodied it better than anyone else who has ever lived.

Jesus Christ embodied masculinity better than anyone.  He, being without sin, lived as the perfect representation of all that masculinity was intended to be from the beginning.  If we want to know what it means and looks like to be a man, we need to look no further than his example.  Looking at Christ’s life reveals several things about masculinity. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

A man submits to God and the authority God has placed over him, like Jesus submitted to the Father. (Matthew 26:36-46)

A man relies on God for help in all things (not himself), like Jesus relied on the Holy Spirit throughout his ministry. (Luke 4:1-15)

A man matures physically, emotionally and spiritually, like Jesus matured in “wisdom and stature.” (Luke 2:52)

A man takes responsibility for himself and others, like Jesus took responsibility for humanity when he died for our sins on the cross. (1 Peter 3:18; Philippians 2:5-8))

A man selflessly sacrifices his own wants and desires for the sake of others, like Jesus selflessly sacrificed himself on the cross to bring sinners back to God. (1 John 4:9-10; 1 Peter 3:18)

A man is tough for others, but tender with them, like Jesus who defended the weak and marginalized, while caring for their needs. (John 8:1-11)

A man feels deeply, but controls his emotions, like Jesus who wept for his friend Lazarus without being paralyzed by what he felt. (John 11:1-16)

A man is actively involved in the lives of his family, friends and community, like Jesus who actively involved himself in humanity instead of waiting for us to figure things out. (Philippians 2:5-8)

A man protects those he loves, like Jesus who protects his people from Satan, sin and death by the power of his resurrection. (1 Corinthians 15:50-58; Hebrews 2:14-18)

A man provides for those he loves, like Jesus who provides for the forgiveness of our sins through his death on the cross. (Ephesians 1:7)

A man bestows masculinity on others by teaching them, like Jesus who taught his disciples what it means to be men of God. (Matthew 11:1)

A man serves others, like Jesus who served us through the sacrifice of his own life. (Mark 10:45)

A man is humble, like Jesus who lowered himself from heaven in order to elevate those who believe to heaven. (Philippians 2:5-8)

A man respects others, like Jesus who respected all people regardless of race, religion, gender or nationality. (John 4:1-45)

A man does life with other men (and women) in community, like Jesus who spent most of his time with the disciples. (Luke 5:1-11)

A man is secure in who he is, like Jesus who didn’t let the opinions of others keep him for openly confessing that he is the Son of God. (Mark 12:13-14; John 10:27)

Measuring Up

If you’re like me, Jesus’ example is a painful reminder of how much we fail to measure up.  I can’t say I embody these characteristics and I’m willing to bet you can’t either, at least not like Jesus did.  But before you give up and return to extended adolescence, take delight in knowing that Jesus is not only our example of masculinity, he is also our means for masculinity.

In 2 Peter 1:3, the Apostle Peter says that Christ’s “divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.” Since a masculine man is a godly man, you could say that Jesus has given us everything we need for masculinity. By his death, Jesus secured for us everything we need to know and live for God as truly masculine men.

This means that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to us through the Holy Spirit.  We have the power to put childish ways to death, in Christ. We have the means to live a truly masculine life, in Christ. We simply need to look to Jesus as our example, trust him as our Savior and submit to him as our Lord.

What the Gospel Means for You.

There are at least two types of Bible passages related to the Christian life. One type are called “indicatives” and the other type “imperatives.” Indicative Bible passages are those that indicate a benefit Christians have received by virtue of their faith in Christ. This is what Ephesians 1:3 refers to when it mentions “every spiritual blessing” given to those who believe. In other words, the indicative passages communicate that which is true for believers in Christ.

Imperative Bible passages are those that command Christians to live in a particular way. These passages inform Christians on what it looks like to live for God. The idea is that if you want to live for Christ you must first believe that which is true for you in Christ.

Identity in Christ

When Jesus died on the cross he not only secured our salvation, he also secured our identity. The truth of the gospel is not simply a change in where you will go, it is fundamentally a change in who you are. (1 John 3:1; 2 Corinthians 5:17) This essentially means whatever is true of Christ is now true for those in Christ.

When you turn to the Lord none of your sins or wrong-doings are counted against you anymore, while all of Christ’s perfection, accomplishments and obedience are credited to your name. Jesus takes your sin and he gives you his righteousness. (2 Corinthians 5:21; Psalm 103) God not only sees you as though you have never sinned, he now sees you as though you have always obeyed.

This is the good news! Jesus has eternally secured our right standing and acceptance before God through what he has accomplished on the cross. God no longer sees you as an ill-deserving sinner, but as his dearly loved son or daughter. (Galatians 4:4-7)  He will never condemn you, never shame you, never guilt you and never forsake you. He will always love you, always accept you and always welcome you into his presence; not because of what you do for him, but because of what he has done for you in Christ. (1 Peter 3:18; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:23-25; Romans 8:1-4) These are the indicative truths of the gospel.

Image via thecenterforgospelculture.org

Image via thecenterforgospelculture.org

Living for Christ

The result of believing the gospel’s indicative truths is power to live Scripture’s imperative commands. When we believe what Jesus has done for us it empowers us to live in obedience to God. For example, the most basic command in all of Scripture is to love God and to love people (the imperative). (Mark 12:30-31) The power to love God and people comes from understanding and believing that you are loved by God in Christ (the indicative). (Romans 5:1-5; 1 John 4:9-10)

The New Testament is filled with indicative truths for us to believe and imperative commands for us to obey. It’s critical that we obey God, but it’s only possible when we believe Jesus.  Faith in Jesus empowers obedience to Jesus.

Christ Our Life

This short clip is from a sermon called “Christ Our Life” preached by Bryan Mowrey, Jordan Dillon and David Qaoud at Jubilee Church in St. Louis, MO on May 11, 2014. This particular clip is of David, my good friend, preaching from Colossians 3:4.

I share this clip with you for two reasons:

1. David does an absolutely phenomenal job of communicating what this text means, why it matters and how it applies. He rightly emphasizes the importance of Jesus Christ being the sum total of our lives and not just a modest addition to our lives. This clip is well worth every second.

2. David and I have been friends for quite some time. He has sensed God’s call to preach the Bible for as long as I can remember. He has preached several short chapels to his college football team before games and a time or two at Living Hope before moving to St. Louis, but this is the first opportunity he’s had to preach at Jubilee.

Unlike many men who desire to preach, however, David’s all-consuming desire has simply been to know Jesus and make him known. He has submitted himself to church leadership, focused primarily on maturity as a disciple of Jesus and has refused to let a pre-occupation with preaching keep him from making disciples by serving the church where he is needed most, even in areas I know he wouldn’t be thrilled about for any other reason than to serve. He has been a good friend and a great example of what it looks like for Christ be be our life.

Therefore, this clip is worth watching not simply because David has preached a great message, but because I’ve seen him live this message every day for the past five years.  The best sermons are not only preached, they are lived by the preacher.  David does that and, for that reason, I commend his words to you today.

To watch the full-length sermon click here.

 

 

 

 

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