Day 5: The Christmas Word Game

Published on December 9, 2011 by CT in Blog, Thoughts

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The English have the 12 days of Christmas in song.  The high churches have the 24 (ish) days of advent.  Here at Crave Something More, I’ll be writing a series called the “21 Days of CSM Christmas.”  Starting December 5 and finishing on Christmas Day, I will write once a day about all things Christmas, in the hopes that we will all continue to see Jesus as the greatest satisfaction to our soul’s deepest cravings.

Day 5:  The Christmas Word Game

What words or images do you associate with the Christmas story? Let’s make a list (here’s mine, in order, off the top of my head):

Bright star.

Dark blue sky.

Cool evening.

Angels in song.

Hay.

Shepherds.

Sheep.

Shepherd stick (staff, right, the crooked one?).

Dark streets in town.

Mary on a donkey (was she on a donkey?).

Wreath (??).

Cows.

Mary in blue with a white sash.

Joseph in the dark (kinda obscured).

Manger.

Baby Jesus (but just because I’ve felt guilty for not including Him so far).

So this is craziness.  I suspect much of my Christmas imagery comes from some movie I’ve seen or a sprawling imagination.  Some of these things aren’t in the Biblical accounts, and I’m not sure how the wreath made it into my mind.  But I do find it telling that the words I associate with Christmas do not quickly bring up the one Word the whole story is about.

John tells us beautifully:  “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Question:  What words do you think of when you imagine the Christmas story?

For the rest of the 21 Days of Crave Something More Christmas, go here.

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Day 4: The Sacred Conspiracy of Christmas

Published on December 8, 2011 by CT in Blog, Thoughts

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The English have the 12 days of Christmas in song.  The high churches have the 24 (ish) days of advent.  Here at Crave Something More, I’ll be writing a series called the “21 Days of CSM Christmas.”  Starting December 5 and finishing on Christmas Day, I will write once a day about all things Christmas, in the hopes that we will all continue to see Jesus as the greatest satisfaction to our soul’s deepest cravings.

Day 4:  The Sacred Conspiracy of Christmas

Let’s be conspiracy theorists for a moment.  Say you are a guy (let’s call you Joseph), and you’re engaged to this sweet hometown girl (let’s call her Mary), and you have watched this girl for years and years and have finally mustered up the courage to ask her to be your wife.  And then she goes to visit relatives for a few months, and she comes back pregos, and you’re wondering what you should do.

The law gives you the right to have her killed, but you are a just man, and you love this girl, and she swears she has broken no law, so you resolve to break the engagement quietly.  But then an angel comes to you and tells you that the conceived child belongs to no man, but to God, through the work of His Holy Spirit.

Now let’s say you start to get this devious plan in your mind.  You remember your teacher telling you that there was this Coming One, the Messiah who would restore Israel to its former glory, and that this Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, because the prophet Micah foretold it.  And you also remember a story about the coming one being born of a virgin, because the prophet Isaiah foretold it.  And you have watched foreign occupiers suck the life out of your village and your people, and you want to see your nation restored.  More than that, you want power yourself.

So you come up with this plan to take advantage of Mary’s situation, and your family happens to be from Bethlehem, so when Caesar issues a decree that everyone should return to their hometown for the census, you see this is your chance.  You can work the situation into fulfilling a couple of prophecies by going to Bethlehem and having Mary deliver this child there.  And then you could start telling people that your son is the long awaited Messiah!  And then you’d coach your son into fulfilling other prophecies, and as he rose to power, you’d rise along with him.

You could do all of that right? I mean, it would be really strange, and you’d be a megalomaniac, and it’d be a super long shot, but it’s possible, right?

Clearly, Joseph and Mary do no such thing.  They probably had no idea that any of these prophecies were actually being fulfilled—they were likely just dealing with the really difficult situation they found themselves in.  But what strikes me most in this story is the impossibility of any power-hungry man fulfilling Micah’s prophecy himself.  You can maybe ride into Jerusalem on a donkey because Zechariah said the king would come into the city in this way, but you can’t control your birth.  You can’t, as a child in the womb, control where your mom and dad go to deliver you (or control that pesky star).

Unless, of course, you’re God.  And this is the wonder of Christmas.  When Micah, facing the prospect of siege, spoke hope into the crumbling heart of Israel, “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from old, from ancient of days,” it meant that the deliverance of Israel was going to be of God.

This is why Christmas was God’s doing.  It was the sacred conspiracy, a plan formulated in secret before the ages began, and not one of evil (as conspiracies are), but one of holy origins.  Jesus was to be born in Bethlehem, and He would be a ruler in Israel who would “shepherd his flock” of God’s people, and He would be “their peace”, all because God planned it long ago and promised it through His prophet, Micah.

Let us wonder at the delight God has in taking small things (Bethlehem, a manger, a baby; us) and making great things from them (a Messiah who would shepherd His people and be their peace; a redeemed people who are conformed into the image of God’s Son).  Let us realize that Christmas was promised long ago, in the midst of great trial, by a God who has our good in mind, and loves to use the weak in this world to shame the strong.  And let us feel the love God has for us in this promised Messiah, a love that was made clear some 33 years after that miraculous birth, and a love that gives the substance to our Christmastime today.

For the rest of the 21 Days of Crave Something More Christmas, go here.

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Day 3: The Sign of Christmas

Published on December 7, 2011 by CT in Blog, Thoughts

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The English have the 12 days of Christmas in song.  The high churches have the 24 (ish) days of advent.  Here at Crave Something More, I’ll be writing a series called the “21 Days of CSM Christmas.”  Starting December 5 and finishing on Christmas Day, I will write once a day about all things Christmas, in the hopes that we will all continue to see Jesus as the greatest satisfaction to our soul’s deepest cravings.

Day 3:  The Sign of Christmas

If you had to pick just one symbol or sign for Christmas, what would it be? If Google Images is of any help, then Christmas is symbolized by the Christmas tree, or bells, or snow fall against a lit home, or Santa, or ornaments, or gifts, or candy canes, or Homer Simpson on a rooftop in a Santa costume.

But God’s sign was much simpler than all of this.  God’s sign was a baby.

“Ask a sign of the LORD your God,” the Lord said to King Ahaz of Judah, “let it be deep as Sheol or as high as heaven.”  Ahaz was facing a great threat when he heard this from the Lord.  Rezin, the king of Syria, and Pekah, the king of Israel were at the foothills of Jerusalem, readying an attack.  And the hearts of Ahaz and his people “shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.”  There was no steadiness of heart; there was no resolve.  There was only the unsettling fear that blew gusts of dread among the people.

So the Lord sent Isaiah to calm Ahaz and his people:  “Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint…It shall not stand, and it shall  not come to pass…If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.”

Ahaz’s faith must not have been firm, because this is where the Lord came to Ahaz to tell him to ask for a sign—an impossible sign!  How deep is Sheol?  There is no depth to speak of.  How high is heaven?  There is no height to measure.  God was basically saying this:  My word will stand, Ahaz.  What I have promised, I will bring about.  I will deliver My people.  In fact, you can ask anything you can think of as a sign to prove it—anything at all.  Because I have power and control over all things.

And when Ahaz refused God’s offer, saying “I will not put the Lord to the test,” God promised a sign anyway.  “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (which means, “God is with us”).”  This is a strange sign to be sure.  I’m not sure how Ahaz would have felt at hearing this sign.  Great, who is the virgin?  Is she conceiving soon, because those two armies are still encamped against us?

But God’s story was greater than Ahaz’s story, just as God’s story is greater than our own.  And God’s sign was the impossible sign.  Virgin’s don’t conceive and bear sons.  No one would think to ask for a sign like this.  But all things are possible with God.  And wrapped up in this sign, for Ahaz and for us, is the promise of God for deliverance, the promise for salvation from our enemies, the promise that God has our good in mind.

Jesus is this sign.  He is this promise.  He is our deliverance from sin, and our salvation from Satan’s grasps, and our promise of God’s goodness to us.  So when we see the symbols of Christmas in our homes and on our streets and in the public squares this month, let us see through them to the impossible sign that God promised, the glory of a helpless baby who would be our great Deliverer.

For the rest of the 21 Days of Crave Something More Christmas, go here.

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Day 2: The Hint of Christmas in the Garden

Published on December 6, 2011 by CT in Blog, Thoughts

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The English have the 12 days of Christmas in song.  The high churches have the 24 (ish) days of advent.  Here at Crave Something More, I’ll be writing a series called the “21 Days of CSM Christmas.”  Starting December 5 and finishing on Christmas Day, I will write once a day about all things Christmas, in the hopes that we will all continue to see Jesus as the greatest satisfaction to our soul’s deepest cravings.

Day 2:  The Hint of Christmas in the Garden

If you consume any sort of media these days, you’re likely party to the sport of Christmas.  By sport, I mean the struggle that rages on the field of a slowly dying religious society between those who seek to destroy Christmas (or so one team says) and those who seek to shove Christmas on everyone whether they like it not (or so the other team says).  Just as businesses have come to count on the massive revenues generated during this season, so too have talk radio hosts and bloggers and reporters come to expect the instant fodder that’s created every year as December rolls around.

No matter that much of our Christmas celebrations—the tree, decorations, gift-giving, Santa Claus, Father Christmas, feasting, carols, card-exchanges—have no Biblical significance at all.  Even our most religious traditions—the Christmas hymns, special worship services, nativity scenes—have no Biblical basis.  From the Bible’s standpoint, the celebration of Christmas as a holiday doesn’t exist.

But that doesn’t mean the Bible doesn’t tell a Christmas story.  It just means the Bible doesn’t tell our kind of Christmas story.

The story begins where most good stories begin:  at the beginning.  “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”  Here is the word of God, or more accurately, the Word of God, doing something amazing.  His Word is making something out of nothing.  He’s making everything out of nothing.  As humans, we can create things, but we also created out of something that already exists.  God, God’s Word, creates out of things that do not exist.  So already this story starts with a bang, with a hint of mystery, almost with a sense of otherworldly power.

John and Paul (not those ones, but the other ones) clarify something important for us:  That this Word is not a force, it’s not a power, it’s a person!  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.” John writes.  And Paul chimes in:  “All things were created by Him and through Him and for Him.”

We need John and Paul to help us make this connection, but we don’t need them to meet the Word.  Moses introduces us to this Person back at the beginning of his story. God has created all things through His Word, including people and a garden.  And God puts those people in a garden, and He loves them, and lavishes them with beautiful things, and enjoys His relationship with them.  But they soon fall prey to the same thing we all fall prey to:  they sought to satisfy themselves with something other than God.

“Where are you?”  God calls to the man.  “Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”  And the man points his finger at the woman, and the woman points her finger at the serpent, and the serpent has nowhere to point.  All three are responsible, and all three bear the burden of their sin.

This is where we see the Word.  “I will put enmity between you and the woman,” God says to the serpent, “and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”  A seed of woman would one day come, and while Satan would win a skirmish, he would lose the battle.

Christmas marks the arrival of this seed, the beginning of the fulfillment of this prophecy, the first shots of the Battle at Calvary, and we are free from their burden because He came.  Let us be grateful today, as we look forward to the Christmas story we will write with our families this year, and let us remember that God’s story is the best of stories.

For the rest of the 21 Days of Crave Something More Christmas, go here.

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Day 1: My Top 5 Favorite Things About Christmas

Published on December 5, 2011 by CT in Blog, Thoughts

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The English have the 12 days of Christmas in song.  The high churches have the 24 (ish) days of advent.  Here at Crave Something More, I’ll be writing a series called the “21 Days of CSM Christmas.”  Starting December 5 and finishing on Christmas Day, I will write once a day about all things Christmas, in the hopes that we will all continue to see Jesus as the greatest satisfaction to our soul’s deepest cravings.

Day 1:  My Top 5 Favorite Things About Christmas

This past week, I thought of the five things I love most about Christmas.  Here they are, in no particular order:  food (particularly Mama T’s fudge and chex mix), physical warmth on a cold day (to include fires, warm slippers, thick plaid shirts, and the like), aesthetic warmth (soft lights in a cozy room, the greens and reds and golds and silvers about the house), candle light services (although I’m partial to the now-rare old-school, long-burning, multi-song services), and being with family.  (Oh, and A Charlie Brown Christmas, and the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and, my favorite of all, The Night They Saved Christmas).

You’ll notice that Jesus isn’t on that list.  I love Jesus, and I want to celebrate His birth, but for whatever reason, when I think of Christmas, I don’t first think about Jesus.  Which, of course, is puzzling, since this day is set aside to celebrate His birth.

In some senses, that’s not a huge problem.  Feeling affections towards family traditions or food or worship services is all fine and well.  And the passage of time helps here as well—memory tends to chip away the bad and polish the good, so that when I make up a list of Top 5 Christmas Memories, they are all idealized versions of what actually happened.  But in another sense, this is a huge problem.  “All things exist,” Paul tells us, “for Him.”  He is the center of the universe and the peak of history, so surely His birthday should be about Him too.

You’ll also notice that gifts aren’t on that list either.  I’ve never been a big gift kind of guy; I always feel a little awkward as the center of attention, which every gift-opener always is, I’m not very good at coming up with things I want.  Of course, this leads to all sorts of problems, because I tend to treat others as if they were just like me, because I think being just like me is great and all, so I struggle with giving gifts as well.  And I can rationalize that all that I want, saying Christmas isn’t about the presents, and we should all be content with what we have, but really, I’m just masking the part of my heart that doesn’t think of others as more important than myself.

It’s a little strange that we celebrate Jesus’ birthday by giving each other gifts.  I guess that’s in part because we can’t physically hand Jesus a gift, and He owns everything in the universe anyway and doesn’t need anything from us.  But there’s clearly a connection between this idea of giving and Jesus.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son,” John writes, and perhaps we give to each other as a reminder of the Gift God gave to the world two thousand years ago.

I know that this year, I want Jesus to be number 1 on my list.  Or to say it more accurately, I want Jesus to pervade the other 5 things on my list, to be the means for enjoying them, and the cause for joy in them, and the ultimate end of them.

Question:  What are your Top 5 Favorite Things About Christmas?

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The Mother-ness Of The Holy Spirit

Published on October 19, 2011 by CT in Blog, Thoughts

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I never thought of this before.  At least not in this way.

John 3:3, 5-6 :  “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God…unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

John 6:63:  “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.”

We are born of the Spirit (or we are birthed by the Spirit, spiritually speaking).  It is the Spirit who gives life.  This kind of sounds like a mother, doesn’t it?

I’m not saying the Holy Spirit is Sarayu (of The Shack fame).  He is not our heavenly mother any more than He is our heavenly father.  The Spirit is referred to as a “He” throughout Scripture, and He’s clearly a distinct person in the triune Godhead.  But God created both male and female in His image (Genesis 1:27).  And Jesus promised that the Father who send another helper (the Spirit), reminiscent of the helper given to Adam in the garden (Genesis 2:18).

So I find some comfort in contemplating the mother-ness of the Holy Spirit.  I’m grateful that His nourishment, the Bread of Life, is indeed life giving!  And I’m amazed that I have a flesh birthday, thanks to my mother, and a spiritual birthday, thanks to the Spirit.  I wonder if that means two cakes?

Question:  What’s your take on being born of the Spirit?

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Don’t Just Hear…See!

Published on October 10, 2011 by CT in Blog, Thoughts

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Job:  “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6).

Here was the most righteous man of his day, steadfastly withstanding the condemnation of his three close and misguided friends.  These friends came to Job in his misery and waited with him in silence for seven days.  Then they began their escalating (in directness) and diminishing (in effectiveness) arguments against Job, trying to show him that wickedness produces suffering.  And Job was right to fight this argument by maintaining His innocence.  God was not bringing suffering on Job because of his wickedness.

But then Elihu came to Job, and he spoke of God’s purpose in suffering, to bring sinners to repentance.  “If they are bound in chains and caught in the cords of affliction, then he declares to them their work and their transgressions…he opens their ears to instruction and commands that they return from iniquity” (Job 36:8-10).  And Job realized that, despite his righteousness, he was still a sinner before a holy God.

There is a kind of hearing of God that produces pride in man.  And there is a kind of seeing God that reduces a man to his knees in repentance.  Don’t just hear of God, or think of God, or consider God.  See, and behold, and delight in Him, that He is a God who is good, and just, and sovereign, and loving, and full of mercy, all for His great glory and our great joy!

Question:  Do you ever find yourself hearing of God without seeing Him?

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I’ve Decided To Pray In Church Of All Places

Published on August 15, 2011 by CT in Blog, Thoughts

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As I have been contemplating prayer of late, I’ve found my times of prayer to be growing in both occasion and place.  I find myself before God in prayer as I face a decision that needs to be made, or to ask Him wisdom as I read His word.  Or I find myself offering bursts of praise as I see His hand in a sunrise, or asking Him for grace when I need help with a hard conversation.  But I have also realized there is one place where I’m pretty certain to not be praying:  church.

You’d think this is all mixed up, and you would have a point.  But our church doesn’t have a specific time for congregational prayer.  We have corporate prayer, but I can just listen to a pastor pray over the service or the congregation without doing much of anything other than listening to him pray over the service or the congregation.  We also have prayer over the Word, and prayer over our singing, but again, I find it far too easy to watch rather than pray.

But Paul tells us to pray without ceasing, and I want to connect more deeply with God, so I’ve decided that I’m going to pray at church.  And short of disrupting everyone throughout the service with constant, outspoken prayers, I’ve realized there are plenty of opportunities to be praying.

  1. Pray as we drive in to churchGod, do a work in your people this morning, to open our eyes to Your glory and to awaken our affections for You above all other things.
  2. Pray as we walk in the doorGod, may I be a minister of grace to someone in need, and may You bring someone to minister to my needs as You see fit.
  3. Pray as the band begins to playGod, grant us to worship you together with united hearts of praise and adoration for Your name!
  4. Pray as we begin to sing:  [Insert song lyric, and mean it rather than mouth it].
  5. Pray as we shake each other’s hands for 15 secondsGod, love this person through me right now.  Give us words to build a relationship of mutual love and encouragement.
  6. Pray as the pastor prays for our service:  [As he prays], God, may this be so.  Do this, for Your glory and our joy.
  7. Pray as the teaching pastor walks on stageGod, grant His lips to speak and our ears to hear the wisdom and beauty of Your word, and awaken our minds to understand and our hearts to feel the weight of Your truth.
  8. Pray as the Word is being taughtGod, shine the light of your Word deep in my heart; show me my sin, reveal to me Your grace, teach me Your truth, and do this for all who are here.
  9. Pray as the gospel is being sharedGod, awaken faith in those who don’t know You.  Help them to see their sin and delight in Your mercy, and help them to respond to the gospel and receive Your Son as their righteousness, their Lord, their Savior, and their Treasure.
  10. Pray as we giveGod, I give because You own everything I have.  Multiply this offering to expand Your kingdom and the reach of Your name.
  11. Pray as we leave the sanctuaryGod, give me eyes to see friends to encourage and loners to befriend before I reach the door to leave.
  12. Pray as we talk to a friend in need:  [Stopping to pray during a discussion rather than saying “I’ll be sure to pray for you.”]
  13. Pray as we walk out the doorGod, consecrate this day for Your sake.  Help me to rest in You, obey Your Word, follow Your lead, and love others today while I have breath.

Pray with me this Sunday. And each day until then.  May God help us to see our need for Him throughout each day, and may we be found in unceasing prayer before His throne.

Question:  When do you pray at your church gathering?

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The Realness of God

Published on July 11, 2011 by CT in Blog, Thoughts

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I have been contemplating prayer recently.  By contemplating, I mean I’ve been thinking much more about prayer than actually talking to God about prayer, which of course would be praying and might just help the whole situation.  But here I find myself, wondering why something so central to this faith we share is such a mystery.

Here’s what I do know about prayer.  It’s hard.  It’s important.  It’s much simpler than we care to make it.  And it’s far more complex than we understand.

I also know that pretty much every Christian thinks his or her prayer life isn’t all that great.  When you ask a Christian if Jesus died for their sins, they will say yes. When you ask a Christian if communion wafers are too dry, they will say yes.  And when you ask a Christian if their prayer life could be better, they will say yes.

I am no different, but I’m also tired of lamenting this fact.  I can see spending the next forty years dipping my toes into the shallow pools of God while shouting over my shoulder that’s it’s just too far to jump into the deep end.  But who wants to stay in the shallow end shouting all the time?

As I consider why my prayer life “isn’t as good as it could be,” I have to acknowledge the reason this is so: because my experience in prayer hasn’t been worth the effort.  By this I mean that the reward hasn’t been worth the cost.  While there are a hundred other reasons I don’t pray more earnestly, or more fervently, or more expectantly, or more willfully, or more joyfully, the ground-level reason is because I don’t think it’s worth my time.

I say this with conviction because I believe that tasting the sweetness of God and seeing the beauty of God will lead to the savoring of God over anything else, because He is the greatest of all realities.  And I’m coming to see that taking hold of this truth, that God is real, with all the strength I can muster, is necessary if I’m ever going to change my mind and see that time spent with God is absolutely time best spent.

It sounds silly to say God is real.  Of course we believe God is real.  We’d take a bullet to show that God is real.  We’ll give our money and our time so that more people will see that He is real.  We’re committed our lives to following Jesus, and worshipping God, and serving Him, and repenting from sin, and sharing the gospel, and all sorts of things that pour from a well-deep belief that God is real.

But if God is real to us, why do we cut Him off mid-sentence? God, I pray for our group tomorrow, that you would work…oh shoot, I forgot to send out that email about the time change.

If God is real to us, why do we continue to teach when we pray in front of a group we just taught? God, help us to see, that as you say in your word in the passage we looked at today, that actions speak louder than words, that we need to let go and let God, that the knowledge we gained today should change our hearts and sink down into the roots of our soul, which will bring forth the fruit that will evidence the change in our hearts and [fill in any other bullet points you might want to reinforce from the message].

Real people having real conversations speak in a certain way, and people praying to a God they aren’t deeply convinced is listening speak in a different way.  Now this may be a reality of our faith, that the process of being made into the image of Christ comes with stretching and growing and yearning, and that’s OK.  But as one preacher says, “It’s OK to not be OK.  It’s just not OK to stay that way.”

So this is my prayer today for all of usGod, be real to us.  Help us to pray, hear us, speak to us, and give us a heart that desires you most.

Question:  How’s your prayer life?

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Convicted On Judgment Day

Published on May 24, 2011 by CT in Blog, Thoughts

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You might have recently heard about Harold Camping. A California-based radio broadcaster, he has made news for his end of days predictions and his influence over thousands of followers who have given to and supported his claim of the coming Judgment Day.  Camping predicted that the end of the world would be ushered in last Saturday, May 21, 2011, and that 200 million Christians would be raptured amidst global earthquakes.

Many have written in jest or condemnation or love about this topic, but what struck me most was a thought I had on Saturday morning.  Knowing that Camping’s Judgment Day had arrived, and assuming it was another false prophecy consistent with a ministry rife with false teaching, I still wondered what it would be like for Christ to return that day.  As I contemplated this Second Coming, here’s what I thought:  I’d really like to finish the house first.

You see, we’ve been building our first home for the past year, and we’ve poured ourselves, our time, and our money into finishing this project.  The process has gone much slower than we’ve liked, or even thought possible, and we have found ourselves “2 weeks away” from being done for about 3 months now.  As of today, I think we’re about two weeks away =).

In all this, I’m reminded of a question John Piper poses in God Is The Gospel:  “If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauty you ever saw….could you be satisfied…if Christ was not there?”  The question I ask myself today is similar:  What do I want most today—Jesus, or something else?

Paul contemplated this question and chose well.  “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Phil 3:8).  So while we live on earth, and work our jobs, and build our houses, and love our families, and fellowship with believers, and share the gospel with others, and enjoy God’s goodness to us, let us also desire with Paul to see, know, and have Christ above all other things.

Question:  What in your life are you treasuring above Christ these days?

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Another Update In Thoughts

Published on May 18, 2011 by CT in Blog, Thoughts

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These kinds of posts seem easier than explaining where I’ve been for 2 months.  Here is what I have been learning since we last connected.

  1. People that are connected to God are never bored in their lives.
  2. Pondering what God pondered as He considered creating the world is hard work.
  3. I tend to think that paying someone to work on our house gives me license to treat them with less grace than if I wasn’t paying them.
  4. Ditra is way easier to put down than Durock.
  5. The intensity of our fleshly desires always exceeds the satisfaction that comes in fulfilling those desires (Minter).
  6. I think I’m an infralapsarian.
  7. Painters don’t paint the tops of doors or window trim, unless you ask them…six times.
  8. God loves us through grace, and we love God through obedience.
  9. I prefer days when the amount of voluntary time in front of a screen is kept at a minimum.
  10. Feeding babies real food rather than milk or formula, um, changes things.
  11. Waiting until ______ happens in my life in order to start ______ is a dumb way to live.
  12. Debates about God’s sovereignty in salvation ultimately center on the question of what God values most.
  13. True thinking about God leads to truer worship of God.
  14. My advice on handling well the self-promotion involved in writing:  throw yourself in, and confess your sins as they come up.
  15. Duets like The Civil Wars are rare and exquisite.
  16. The Sleeve Monster seems to victimize people who listen to conservative talk radio more than others.
  17. Jesus is the means and the end of creation, redemption, and restoration.
  18. Teaching older men who know more about the Bible than me is surprisingly pleasing.
  19. Mother’s Day and birthdays and the like are great excuses to celebrate someone worth celebrating.
  20. We write to understand, and we publish to influence.
  21. All things, including blessing, others, discipline, evil, suffering, and persecution, work together for our good, for those who love God and are called according to His purpose, because they serve in conforming us to the image of Christ, so He might be firstborn among many brothers and preeminent over all things.
  22. Laying sod for a living must be incredibly hard work.
  23. Psalm 27:4 and Philippians 3:7-8 both essentially talk about wanting the same thing.
  24. If our end is not worship, then we study and think in vain.
  25. Each day with Jesus, Anna, and Avery gets better than the last.

Question:  What have you been learning recently?

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I Am God’s Gift To…

Published on March 16, 2011 by CT in Blog, Thoughts

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I am God’s gift…

…not to women.

…not to writing.

…not to business.

…not to my family.

…not to the world.

…but to Jesus.  “I have manifested my name to the people whom you gave me out of the world.  Yours they were, and you gave them to me” (John 17:6).

Let this stunning truth grip your mind and settle into your heart.  It’s true to say that God gives us many gifts, and that our friends, or our family, or our co-workers are in one sense gifts from God for our enjoyment and our good.  But above all others, God gives us to Jesus.  Let the affections of your soul rise up at the thought of being a precious gift, given to Jesus, who loved us enough to lay down His life to gain us as His own.

Question:  What do think about being a gift God has given to Jesus?

*Thanks to Ray Shoaff for pointing out this verse and thought.

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Don’t Ignore…Submit

Published on March 8, 2011 by CT in Blog, Thoughts

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You may have heard a pastor say something like this in prayer during a service: God, help us to set aside the cares and concerns of this world and worship you. They say this to help us refocus our hearts and our minds as we come to worship God corporately.  And they are kind to do so; we’re not only like sheep, but we’re often distracted, worrisome sheep.

I don’t mean to quibble, but this thought occurred to me the last time I heard this sort of thing in a prayer. We do well to set aside the cares and concerns of our daily lives when we come each week to worship God.  But we do better to bring those cares and concerns in submission to God in worship.

Paul tells us what this is like:  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

The antidote to anxiousness is prayer, and the cured heart and mind will be guarded by God’s peace.  That sounds like a cure I need each week—and each day.

So the next time you find your heart beating with worry or your mind racing with anxiety, don’t simply push them aside to focus on God.  Bring them to God as a prayer and a request, all with a spirit of thanksgiving that He hears and heals.  And He will give us peace!

Question:  Do you find your mind racing and your heart worrying when you come to church—or each day?

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25 Things I’d Rather Do Than Pray

Published on February 22, 2011 by CT in Blog, Thoughts

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Based on the way I’ve been spending my time the past few weeks, here are 25 things I’ve found that I prefer to praying.

  1. Sleeping.
  2. Eating toast.
  3. Laying in bed thinking.
  4. Watching John Daker on You Tube.
  5. Thinking about my future.
  6. Mentally rehearsing conversations (over and over) I need to have with my builder.
  7. Spending time with my wife.
  8. Reading a book.
  9. Cutting vines out of trees on our property.
  10. Avoiding doing what I wrote what I would do in the book I’m writing.
  11. Watching Iron Man 2.
  12. Researching chairs and fabrics online for our new house.
  13. Watching Beauty and the Beast and wondering why little kids aren’t scared more than they are.
  14. Reading my Bible.
  15. Snoozing.
  16. Reading espn.com
  17. Checking my Facebook and Twitter accounts.
  18. Reading other blogs.
  19. Hanging out with my baby.
  20. Wondering (to myself) why I don’t want to pray.
  21. Watching NCIS.
  22. Leaving early to lay tile at our house.
  23. Flipping on the radio in the car.
  24. Sitting on my couch thinking.
  25. Writing this blog post.

I’ve also realized a few things about these time choices: Some are worthwhile, others less so, most are self-serving, and nearly all are less important than spending time talking with and listening to my God.

God grant me, and us, the grace to have deeper affections, more faith, more patience, and a greater love for time with you in prayer.

Question:  Do you have a hard time praying?  If so, why?

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