Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Praise Him While You Can

In Isaiah 38 Hezekiah's prayer life shines through again. God spares his life. Two things caught my attention in this chapter. First, God is gracious to put our sins behind his back...

Isaiah 38:17 Surely it was for my benefit
that I suffered such anguish.
In your love you kept me
from the pit of destruction;
you have put all my sins
behind your back.

The second thing that stands out, is that we only have so much time on this earth, and that means we only have so much time to praise our maker. I must make sure that I praise the Lord each and every day and that those around me know what I think about him.

18 For the grave cannot praise you,
death cannot sing your praise;
those who go down to the pit
cannot hope for your faithfulness.

19 The living, the living—they praise you,
as I am doing today;
fathers tell their children
about your faithfulness.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The King of Prayer...The Praying King

I don't know exactly what made Hezekiah so special, but his prayer life was tremendous. The Lord added years to his life because of his prayer, and in Isaiah 37 the Lord spares His people in part because Hezekiah prayed.
Isaiah 37:21 Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent a message to Hezekiah: "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: Because you have prayed to me concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria, 22 this is the word the LORD has spoken against him:

"The Virgin Daughter of Zion
despises and mocks you.
The Daughter of Jerusalem
tosses her head as you flee.

23 Who is it you have insulted and blasphemed?
Against whom have you raised your voice
and lifted your eyes in pride?
Against the Holy One of Israel!

33 "Therefore this is what the LORD says concerning the king of Assyria:
"He will not enter this city
or shoot an arrow here.
He will not come before it with shield
or build a siege ramp against it.

34 By the way that he came he will return;
he will not enter this city,"
declares the LORD.

35 "I will defend this city and save it,
for my sake and for the sake of David my servant!"

36 Then the angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! 37 So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there.

This is amazing. Hezekiah prays and God not only gives victory, he does all of the fighting. One of the most arrogant kingdoms on earth is brought to its knees because of Hezekiah, God's humble servant.

I've got to spend more time on my knees.


Saturday, January 27, 2007

Ignition

You'll have to excuse my ramblings here - Chapter 3 of Desiring God has my mind spinning with all kinds of thoughts. All of the quotes below are from Piper unless otherwise stated. I guess the main point that I take with me from chapter 3 is that worship is an end in itself. That getting pleasure from loving God, does not make worship wrong, it testifies to its "rightness". I really like the idea that Piper gives stating that worship is not just a nice rest from the wicked world on Sundays...


The first thing we learn is that worship has to do with real life. It is not a mythical interlude in a week of reality. Worship has to do with adultery and hunger and racial conflict.
But although worship is all about feeling deeply, it is about knowing deeply as well. Worship is about spirit AND truth.


It matters whether you know the One you worship!

My next sermon series is going to be on Passion - Igniting the fire of love for God. But in order to have a fire, we must be first indwelt by God's Spirit.


The fuel of worship is the truth of God, the furnace of worship is the spirit of man, and the heat of worship is the vital affections of reverence, contrition, trust, gratitude and joy.But there is something missing from this picture. There is furnace, fuel and heat, but no fire. The fuel of truth in the furnace of our spirit does not automatically produce the heat of worship. There must be ignition and fire. This is the Holy Spirit.
A clearer picture...


The fuel of worship is a true vision of the greatness of God; the fire that makes the fuel burn white hot is the quickening of the Holy Spirit; the furnace made alive and warm by the flame of truth is our renewed spirit; and the resulting heat of our affections is powerful worship, pushing its way out in confessions, longings, acclamations, tears, songs, shouts, bowed heads, lifted hands and obedient lives.
Worship is spontaneous adoration for God. It is when we can't help but say that we love him. We can't help but sing his praises.


Worship is authentic when affections for God arise in the heart as an end in them selves.
Now onto the problem: We are a pleasure seeking people, but we seek pathetic pleasures or as Piper puts it...


The great hindrance to worship is not that we are a pleasure-seeking people, but that we are willing to settle for such pitiful pleasures.
We need to bring back the sense of awe and wonder into the Church. Where has it gone?

Worship services across the land bear the scars of this process. For many, Christianity has become the grinding out of general doctrinal laws from collections of biblical facts. But childlike wonder and awe have died. The scenery and poetry and music of the majesty of God have dried up like a forgotten peach at the back of the refrigerator.
We need a love like this...


Jesus, priceless treasure
Source of purest pleasure,
Truest friend to me:
Long my heart hath panted,
`Til it well-nigh fainted,
Thirsting after Thee.
Thine I am,
O spotless Lamb,
I will suffer nought to hide Thee,
Ask for nought beside Thee.
--Johann Franck

Another picture of the way we have chosen to "settle."

The irony of our human condition is that God has put us within sight of the Himalayas of his glory in Jesus Christ, but we have chosen to pull down the
shades of our chalet and show slides of Buck Hill-even in church.
I should probably write another post about David's undignified dance before the Lord, but let it suffice to say that he reminded me to please the Lord first and worry about the exhibition of my passion second.

I really enjoy Desiring God. Can you tell?

Mighty To Save

I had the great privilege of sitting under Dr. T.V. Farris. He wrote a commentary on Isaiah called "Mighty to Save". Verses like these remind me of his love for this book.
Isaiah 35:4 say to those with fearful hearts,
"Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
he will come to save you."

What a great comfort to know that God is in control. That even when we think he is never coming, he is not far away. In this very passage it was prophesied that the mute would speak, and the lame would dance. And these things did happen through Christ.

This passage also reminds us that great days are yet to come...
10 and the ransomed of the LORD will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

Praise the Lord that a Remant Will Return!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Velvet Elvis - Bricks and Trampolines

This past summer I saw a video from a series called Nooma. I really enjoyed it and I began to search for more stuff from Rob Bell. I then heard that he had some strange theological views and I was very worried about showing the Nooma videos to others. So I started listening to Mr. Bell. He is the founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids Michigan. He presents things with a fresh perspective. I always learn something when I hear him, (and I always seem to disagree with something too) So I have finally broken down and have started reading his book "Velvet Elvis".

I'll try to save most of my criticisms until I finish the book. I have to say that after just reading the first chapter, I am already hooked. His writing is fresh and even the way that the sentences are laid out are appealing to me.

The main contrast in the first chapter was between bricks and trampolines. We build with bricks. We start with the foundation and work our way upwards. If one brick is removed, it can cause the entire wall to fall. We defend our brick walls, to make sure they have no holes in them. Sometimes this is what we do with truth. You have to believe everything I believe and if you are missing one of the bricks, then your whole wall will come crashing down. If you don't have "perfect" understanding, then you must not be "right" with God.

On the other hand you have the trampoline. You don't usually defend the trampoline. You invite others to come and jump with you. You want to share your joy. Sometimes I have done this with my faith. I have been so worried about defending, and holding to the right position - that I missed the opportunity to invite someone to come and share in my joy.

Mr. Bell (though I am tempted to just call him Rob - anyone who's ever been to Donelson will get this) has a very thought provoking quote:
"Perhaps a better question than who's right, is who's living
rightly?"

Can you live right and not be right? Don't shoot me just yet, but what I am asking is this... Can a person be mistaken in some of their beliefs and still live a life pleasing to God? Is living rightly more important than thinking rightly? Or vice versa?

I'll leave you to think on that note.

God is Angry

I hate to stay on the same theme here, but again I am amazed that anyone would read the scriptures and not be able to see that sometimes God is not only love, but vengeance, wrath, and anger.
Isaiah 33:2 The LORD is angry with all nations;
his wrath is upon all their armies.
He will totally destroy them,
he will give them over to slaughter.

3 Their slain will be thrown out,
their dead bodies will send up a stench;
the mountains will be soaked with their blood.

Here is a question for anyone reading this blog. I've been taught that basically there are 5 fundamentals to the Christian faith.

1. The Virgin Birth
2. The Inerrancy of the Scriptures
3. The Substitutionary Atonement
4. The Physical and Literal Resurrection of Jesus
5. The Physical and Literal Return of Jesus.

I'm wondering if a Literal Eternal Heaven and a Literal Eternal Gehenna (Hell), should be number 6?

Please don't take this the wrong way. I'm so thankful for the forgiveness I have found in Jesus. I think our belief in the truth of God's wrath is what increases our appreciation for the grace of God. But we've got to take the bad news if we are going to take the good.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Bad News...Good News

I've had some interesting conversations recently about the doctrine of Hell. It seems that there are quite a few people who want the good news without the bad news. Yet the scripture seems to clearly speak not only of God's love, but also of His wrath. I don't know if this passage in Isaiah is an allusion to Hell, but it is a reminder for us to truly fear the Lord.


First the Bad News...

Isaiah 33:11 You conceive chaff,
you give birth to straw;
your breath is a fire that consumes you.

12 The peoples will be burned as if to lime;
like cut thornbushes they will be set ablaze."

13 You who are far away, hear what I have done;
you who are near, acknowledge my power!

14 The sinners in Zion are terrified;
trembling grips the godless:
"Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire?
Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?"


Then the Good News...
Isaiah 33:15 He who walks righteously

and speaks what is right,
who rejects gain from extortion
and keeps his hand from accepting bribes,
who stops his ears against plots of murder
and shuts his eyes against contemplating evil-

16 this is the man who will dwell on the heights,
whose refuge will be the mountain fortress.
His bread will be supplied,
and water will not fail him.

17 Your eyes will see the king in his beauty
and view a land that stretches afar.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I Want To Be A Liberal

Isaiah 32:8 But the noble man makes noble plans, and by noble deeds he stands.

This is from the NIV. The King James Version reads like this...

8But the liberal deviseth liberal things;
and by liberal things shall he stand.

I thought that was very interesting. Most of the time liberal has a negative connotation in our culture, but here it has a very positive one. I think it is good to do things nobly, and probably the point here is that the noble or "liberal" person is known for their generosity and dealing with integrity. In that sense, I think we all should desire to be liberal.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

He Does Not Take Back His Words

Isaiah 31:2a Yet he too is wise and can bring disaster;
he does not take back his words.

These words bring confidence and fear at the same time. I've often said things that I wish I could take back. Sometimes I have had to "eat" my words and take them back. God never takes back his words. What he speaks will come to pass. His promises are true. The promises of destruction and the promises of blessing will happen. You can always count on God's words.
Joshua 21:45 Not one of all the LORD's good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.

Can a Believer Hate Church?

We had another good day of services this past Sunday. I preached on Ephesians 5:22-33 and I went with a different approach than normal. I was impressed by the Lord's love for His Church. I know that recently there has been a push by some Christians to say they love Jesus, but hate Church. After reading this passage, it's pretty obvious that Jesus loves the Church. He gave himself for her; He will present her radiant, holy and blameless. He feeds her and cares for her.

I find it very difficult to say that I hate something that Jesus loves, cares for and gave his life to save. I understand that people are referring to "Church" as traditions, or rituals, or clubs of highly respected moral people. And they really aren't talking about the body of believers transformed by their encounter with the risen Christ. But I don't think you would ever hear Jesus say that he hates Church.

Let us love the Church with the same passion that our Savior and Lord does. Let's us seek its increase and pray that it will bring Glory to our great God!
Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Repentance and Rest

Isaiah 30:15 This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says:
"In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it.

The Israelites went to Pharaoh for protection instead of letting the Lord be their shield. The looked for help from man instead of seeking help from God. They didn't need to seek the help of mighty men, but the Almighty God.

In an age of manufacturing all kinds of feeling and religious emotion through whatever means possible, it is refreshing to me to think about finding Salvation through rest. Sometimes I wonder if our American Ambition gets in the way of truly trusting in God.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

A Passion for the Pleasure of God's Presence.

In chapter 2 of Desiring God, Piper reveals his theological stripes. Yet even though I may not agree with all of his system, I still found some wonderful truths in this chapter.
"It does no good to tell these people to believe in the Lord Jesus. The phrase is empty. My responsibility as a preacher of the gospel and a teacher in the church is not to preserve and repeat cherished biblical sentences, but to pierce the heart with biblical truth." --Piper
There truly is a "lost and dying world" that needs our compassion. But part of my calling is not just to repeat this phrase, but to prayerfully preach so that the people in our pews would have their hearts pierced by the call of the lost and the dying.

Here is a great description of sin. It reminds me of how Joseph felt when he was tempted by Potiphar's wife. He was much more worried about sinning against God, than any other damages he might incur.
"The wickedness of sin is owing to the implicit disdain for God. When David committed adultery with Bathsheba and even had her husband killed, what did God say to him through the prophet Nathan? He did not remind the king that marriage is inviolable or that human life is sacred. He said, "You have despised me. . . . You have utterly scorned the Lord" (2 Samuel 12: 10,14)." --Piper

From Sin to Salvation...
"This means that saving faith in Christ always involves a profound change of heart. It is not merely agreement with the truth of a doctrine. Satan agrees with true doctrine (James 2: 19). Saving faith is far deeper and more pervasive than that." --Piper
This is so true. Worship is so much more than doctrinal acceptance. It is a change in the heart. I've been reviewing the doctrines about the deity of Christ recently. And yet this reminds me that even the Devil believes the truth. It must hit us straight in the heart. We cannot go on just worshipping through the rules taught by men.

Faith is more than just the idea "I can depend upon Jesus." It is also the idea, I want to know Jesus more than anything else.

Piper's take on this...
"Saving faith is the heartfelt conviction that Christ is both solidly reliable and supremely desirable."
The Apostle Paul's take on this...
Philippians 3:7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.
More Piper...
"The tree of faith grows only in the heart that craves the supreme gift that Christ died to give: not health, not wealth, not prestige, but God!"
Piper basically says that at the root of conversion is a passion for the pleasure of God's presence. How thirsty are you?

Worship Rules...

Isaiah 29: 13 The Lord says:
"These people come near to me with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me is made up
only of rules taught by men.

I wonder sometimes, how much of our worship is simply rules taught by men. We know the right answers, we ask the right questions, and we speak the truth. But where are our hearts? How much of our corporate worship is just rules taught by men. Maybe even our daily personal worship, how much of this is just following rules taught by men?

I thoroughly enjoy teaching my kids Sunday School Class. We often work very hard at coming up with the right answers, but sometimes I wonder if it is getting from their heads down to their hearts. How does the truth get from the mind to the heart? God said that he would show himself through the works of his hands, and that would turn their hearts back to a place of awe.

23 When they see among them their children,
the work of my hands,
they will keep my name holy;
they will acknowledge the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob,
and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.

Dear God, I'm almost afraid to ask, but please show yourself among us, that the Truth would not just fill our minds, but would cause us to step back in awe of You.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A Precious Cornerstone

Isaiah 28:16 So this is what the Sovereign LORD says:
"See, I lay a stone in Zion,
a tested stone,
a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation;
the one who trusts will never be dismayed.

Isn't it amazing how often Isaiah prophecies about Jesus. I don't know why God chose Isaiah, but it must have been amazing to have the privilege to see so much about the Messiah. Jesus has been tested. Jesus is worthy of our trust. Even more, if we will trust in Jesus, we will never, NEVER, be dismayed. Jesus is the Solid Rock, that is why we can wholly lean on Him. He will not disappoint.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Desire of our Hearts

There are so many wonderful truths in just this one chapter of the scriptures...

The promise of peace for the steadfast...
Isaiah 26:3 You will keep in perfect peace
him whose mind is steadfast,
because he trusts in you.

It is not our glory, but it is God's glory proclaimed among the nations that we desire. His renown.
8 Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws,
we wait for you;
your name and renown
are the desire of our hearts.

Even in the midst of chastisement, we should seek the Lord...
16 LORD, they came to you in their distress;
when you disciplined them,
they could barely whisper a prayer.

Another one of these great Old Testament passages that point to the Resurrection of the Saints...
19 But your dead will live;
their bodies will rise.
You who dwell in the dust,
wake up and shout for joy.
Your dew is like the dew of the morning;
the earth will give birth to her dead.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Contagious Faith

We had an excellent day during our worship services today. Tonight I was reminded what great faith does, it increases the boldness and faith of others. I have some friends whose faith has pushed me out of my zone and into wholly leaning on Jesus' name. I appreciate them so much.

Tonight we placed one of the taller members of our church on a chair on the stage until he was 9 feet 6 inches tall. And then we put someone who was about 6 feet tall next to him. Goliath was huge! Many feared him, and no one would face him until David went out to meet him with 5 smooth stones. Can you imagine the gasp of the Philistines and the roar of the Israelites when Goliath hit the ground. The incredible faith of the shepherd boy, emboldened the whole army of Israel. This one great act of faith was the turning point in a nation.
1 Samuel 17:52 Then the men of Israel and Judah surged forward with a shout and pursued the Philistines to the entrance of Gath and to the gates of Ekron. Their
dead were strewn along the Shaaraim road to Gath and Ekron.

I say all of this to remind us that when we exercise faith, it's not just about us. Our small steps of faith not only prepare us for great things in God's kingdom, but it lifts up our brothers and sisters in Christ and helps them as they fight the battle. Please don't hesitate to share what God is doing in and through your life.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Did You See That?

Something has really stuck with me about the first chapter of Desiring God. Praise completes our enjoyment of God. And maybe more than this, we love to share how excited we are about the things we love. It is almost as if the sharing, completes our worship. This is why I enjoy church services so much. I love to share with other people in our common love of the Almighty. Some things are just better shared with a friend and maybe worship is one of those things.

I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise what ever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: "Isn't she lovely? Wasn't it glorious? Don't you think that magnificent?" The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about. My whole, more general, difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can't help doing, about everything else we value.
I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.

--C.S. Lewis


So the next time you see that beautiful sunset or are just in awe of the stars - go ahead and call your friend and tell them what a great God you serve!

We Trusted in Him, and He Saved Us

Isaiah 25
8 he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove the disgrace of his people
from all the earth.
The LORD has spoken.

9 In that day they will say,
"Surely this is our God;
we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the LORD, we trusted in him;
let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation."

I've heard people complain that some are so heavenly minded they are no earthly good. But more often I think we are so earthly minded that we are no heavenly good. There is coming a day when death shall die, a day when God shall wipe away all tears. That day will be a glorious day for the people of faith. The people who believed that God would save them.

Lord help me to trust you in all things that I can rejoice in that day.

Friday, January 12, 2007

God is a Happy God. OR Happy is a Yuppie Word

Today was interesting to say the least. I started reading the chapter on happiness from desiring God. Here is the quote that is probably the main point of this chapter:
The climax of God's happiness
is the delight he takes
in the echoes of his excellence
in the praises of his people.
--John Piper
Then later this morning I was listening to Switchfoot in the car and this song really stuck with me...
Happy is a yuppie word
Nothing in the world could fail me now
It's empty as an argument
I'm running down a life that won't cash out (cash out)
--Switchfoot
So who has the hold on happiness? God or the Yuppies? No offence to Switchfoot, but I think I'm going with God on this one. Piper's thesis is very interesting. Basically God is in love with himself. I know that sounds wrong. Because we don't respect people who are in love with themselves and we are taught from the scriptures that love "seeketh not her own". But with God it is different because he is perfect.
God is the one being in the universe
for whom self-exaltation
is the highest virtue
and the most loving act.
It is right for God to glory in His Glory.

Piper on the idea of "glory"...
God's glory is the beauty of his manifold perfections. It can refer to the bright and awesome radiance that sometimes breaks forth in visible manifestations. Or it can refer to the infinite moral excellence of his character.
God is glorified by his creation. The stars, the sunsets, the Grand Canyon, all of these things give glory to God. We will find our greatest happiness when the totality of our lives gives glory to Him.

Piper words it this way:
For God is most glorified in us
when we are most satisfied in him.
This gives legitimacy to the pursuit of happiness. It ends up at the feet of God.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Emerging Church Ramblings

I'm just starting to get acquainted with the "Movement" or "Conversation" identified as the Emerging Church. What I can't believe so far is how many buzz-words go with this movement. Here are a few I got from Purgatorio:

Missional, Liquid/Aqua, Ancient-Future,
Post ___________, Jesus, Community, Derrida, Liturgy, Global, Creed, Experience,
Social Justice, Conversation, Spiritual, Ritual, Beauty, Art, Blog, Ooze,
Journey, Discussion, Open, Random, Culture, Technology

(I would recommend reading about the Emerging Church Movement for a while and then come back and read Purgatorio's blog. It is actually a good and humorous way of picturing the face of the movement. I've also realized that maybe why I'm so interested in the ECM is because I recently purchased a Mac!)

So far the most helpful article I've read about identifying this "ooze" is by Scot McKnight. You can find it here. For those of you looking for labels, I believe Scot is somewhat Arminian. I became familiar with him through his commentary on Galatians.

I imagine I'll be continuing my conversation about this conversation on a regular basis. I'll leave you with something to think on before I retire for tonight:

Are modernists simply left-brained people and post moderns right-brained? This may be the only place that you'll ever see postmodern's characterized as part of the right. Here's some fodder from wikipedia:
LEFT BRAIN FUNCTIONS
linear (concrete) oriented,
science of math (quantity), present and past, linear language (grammar/words),
pattern perception.
RIGHT BRAIN FUNCTIONS
holistical (abstract) oriented,
science of philosophy (quality), present and future, holistic language
(intonation/emphasis), spatial perception.

It's amazing how some of the same buzz-words used to describe modernity vs postmodernity fit into these spatial categories of the brain. What sayest thou?

What is to Come

Isaiah 24:6 Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt. Therefore earth's inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left.

Peter tells us the earth will be laid bare by fire. Isn't interesting that Isaiah said the same thing hundreds of years before him. I am confident in this, just as this earth was judged by water, so it will also be judged by fire. God's word is sure.

This destruction will give way to the glorious kingdom of Christ...

23 The moon will be abashed, the sun ashamed; for the LORD Almighty will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before its elders, gloriously.

Lord, please help me to long for the day of your glorious kingdom, and help me live that I will not be ashamed in that day.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Chief End of Man...The Pursuit of Happiness

I am already loving "Desiring God" and I haven't even made it past the introduction yet. Piper quotes the Westminster Catechism and changes one little word in it to begin to introduce us to his term "Christian Hedonism". He changes

The chief end of man is to glorify God
AND
enjoy him forever.

to

The chief end of man is to glorify God
BY
enjoying him forever.

His basic premise so far is that he is building a philosophy of life based on 5 convictions derived from the scriptures.

l. The longing to be happy is a universal human experience, and it is good, not sinful.
2. We should never try to deny or resist our longing to be happy, as though it were a bad impulse. Instead we should seek to intensify this longing and nourish it with whatever will provide the deepest and most enduring satisfaction.
3. The deepest and most enduring happiness is found only in God.
4. The happiness we find in God reaches its consummation when it is shared with others in the manifold ways of love.
5. To the extent we try to abandon the pursuit of our own pleasure, we fail to honor God and love people. Or, to put it positively: the pursuit of pleasure is a necessary part of all worship and virtue.

Two of my favorite quotes in the introduction:

"All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves." --Blaise Pascal

"If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased." --C. S. Lewis

Piper goes on to warn about distortions of this pursuit of happiness and basically to tell us that this is a meditation on the scriptures.

My only concern so far was when I read this statement, "Worship is basically adoration, and we adore only what delights us. There is no such thing as sad adoration or unhappy praise." My thought is this, when Abraham takes Isaac up the mountain to slay his son, I don't think he was happy, I think he was very sad. Yet, he went there to worship God, his greatest passion. I think that there actually may be such a thing as sad adoration, that is not hypocrisy and I think this is a Biblical example of that.

I love the idea that we should pursue happiness with passion and as a people of faith we know that the only truly satisfying thing is God himself.

I look forward to the days ahead.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Desiring God

I am finally going to read the book "Desiring God" by John Piper. I have had good friends tell me to read Piper for many years, but I have never cultivated a love of reading. I am truly going to try and work on that.

Just from the preface I already can tell that this book is going to be good for me. I have already read two quotes that I really like...

"May the Living God, who is the portion and rest of the saints, make these our carnal minds so spiritual, and our earthly hearts so heavenly, that loving him, and delighting in him, may be the work of our lives." -- Richard Baxter

"The joy of the Lord will arm us against the assaults of our spiritual enemies and put our mouths out of taste for those pleasures with which the tempter baits his hooks." -- Matthew Henry

I hope by blogging what I learn from this book that maybe I will retain it better. I have a feeling that this book may be a great help in my journey to wholly lean on Jesus' Name.

Eat and Drink for Tomorrow We Die...

Isaiah 23:12 The Lord, the LORD Almighty, called you on that day to weep and to wail, to tear out your hair and put on sackcloth. 13 But see, there is joy and revelry, slaughtering of cattle and killing of sheep, eating of meat and drinking of wine! "Let us eat and drink," you say, "for tomorrow we die!"

They just didn't get it. God was about to destroy many of them and send many away and they didn't believe. They had an opportunity to repent and possibly find grace, but instead they laughed.

There is a time to be serious. I like to play (especially sports) as much as the next guy, but sometimes I wonder if we spend too much time eating and drinking and not enough time weeping and wailing for the hurting and Christless all around us. God give us grace to be serious when we need to be and to celebrate and play when it is time.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Blessed be Egypt My People?

Isaiah 19:24 In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. 25 The LORD Almighty will bless them, saying, "Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance."

Isaiah says that Egypt will seek the Lord and will be found. Then he goes on to say that they will be loved. Isn't God's love for the nations amazing?