Posts Tagged ‘Christian Journey’
Desolation and Purgation in the Wilderness
“Steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the LORD. Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, O you righteous, and shout for joy all you upright in heart.” (Psalm 32:10-11)
It is easy for me to think more highly of myself than I should. I need not look far to make comparisons to my former self and see that I am not the man I once was. I am leaps and bounds a better man than I was. This truth is affirmed from the lips and words of others too…I do not lie. I am a better man than I used to be. There are a couple problems with this.
Problem number one is the comparison I make is an invalid comparison; it might be an accurate comparison, but it is an invalid one. The way of the Christian journey is not one looking back at my former self, but it is a journey looking forward and following the Christ who is now my model and the image I seek to become more like. In the case of this example, I am no longer a better man. I am a man marked by humility, frail in comparison to the Christ I follow and endeavor to be made like.
The second problem with thinking more highly of myself is in the self-righteous attitude that I am a “good” Christian…or that I have attained a level of maturity. This too might be true, but at the point that I begin to think this of myself, I am in danger of being fed lies from the false self. It is comforting and satisfying to think I have arrived at a destination or reached a new plateau in my Christian journey. It can be an exhilarating and self-important to think I know more than others…maybe even to the point that I don’t have to do certain exercises or participate in certain disciplines. This is a dangerous place to be spiritually and exactly the reason an excursion exercise that takes me into the “desert” with Jesus is a good thing for me.
Reading again today from the Book of Deuteronomy revealed how resolute God was in his instruction about “purging” the evil from amongst the people of Israel. The following references seem only to scratch the surface of the point I make:
*Deut. 17:7 So you shall purge the evil from your midst…
*Deut. 17:12 So you shall purge the evil from Israel…
*Deut. 19:13 You shall purge the guilt of innocent blood from Israel…
*Deut. 19:19 You shall purge the evil from your midst…
The same is true for me as was true for Israel; of this I am sure. God is just as resolute about “purging the evil from me” as He is/was about Israel. Where there are vestiges of the old man, the false self in me, God desires to make it known so it can be dealt with and purged from my midst. This type of purgation can take place in the solitary and desolate place—being alone with God—tuning out the noises of the world and its busy-ness. The problem we often have with this line of thinking is the point I was trying to shed light on earlier. We do not like inconvenience or sacrifice. We like comfort, warm-fuzzies, and hearing affirmation from people as well as God. The truth; however, might be more difficult for us to come to terms with. Hear the words of Kathleen Norris:
“If grace is so wonderful, why do we have such difficulty recognizing and accepting it? Maybe it’s because grace is not gentle or made-to-order. It often comes disguised as loss, or failure, or unwelcome change.”
Those words smart, probably because they are full of truth. If I accept the notion that I need purging of evil, that means I have not arrived. I might not be who I think I am. I might not be the image I have created for everyone to see. A trip into the “desert” may involve elements of change that I do not want to incorporate into my life. These are some of the means by which God pours out His grace to me; they are definitive places God has ordained to meet with me. It is needful for me and good for me to accept His invitation. My backpack is ready. Into the desert we go.
A Prayer for the 1st Sunday in Lent
Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Installment #4 was my assignment for this weekend’s worship services. My title for this message was “Rules of the Road: God’s Way of Loving Ourselves and Loving Others.” As is my custom, I have included the manuscript, sermon outline, and small group discussion questions along with the audio file. I am always interested in constructive critique and feedback.
download manuscript (.pdf file)
download outline and sm.grp. discussion (.pdf file)
It’s always a joy to share God’s Word…
It was my privilege to “kick off” the first message in our new series The Christian Journey this past Sunday. My message topic was to share the goal of the Christian Journey and to set the stage for the remaining eight weeks of this study. My manuscript can be downloaded here and I’ve included a link to the small group discussion and sermon outline here. As is my practice, I am including the audio file here for streaming or for download.
- Title: If God Is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil
- Author: Randy Alcorn
- Publisher: Multnomah Books
- ISBN-10: 160142132X
I must admit, this one caught me completely off guard. Before I explain, let me say that I have not read cover-to-cover If God is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil by Randy Alcorn, but I have had the time to get very acquainted with it. In my opinion, this book is monumental. I am aware of the many books that have been written on the topic of God, evil, and suffering; however, I have yet to come across one that is as broad, deep, and still conversational at the same time as this one.
As a pastor, I think this book can be (and should be) recommended for any congregational care leader and any person struggling with the questions of God and evil. I think it should also be a ready resource for the pastor-counselor. The way the book is written; topical and conversational, it would make a great small group study and it could probably serve quite well in the role of textbook for the Bible student or seminarian…it’s that good.
Did I say I love the layout and order of the book? Oh, and I said it caught me off-guard. No disrespect to Randy Alcorn, but I wasn’t expecting such an exhaustive work when I was invited to review the book. It is extremely well organized and extensively documented with scripture references, bibliographical citations, and a very thorough scriptural and topical index. I love that Alcorn gives as many sides (or the most popular arguments) to the debate as possible with each topic discussed. I think it helps to give a more unbiased presentation of the material and still allows the reader to decide.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I think it serves the budding apologist, evangelist, pastor, lay-leader, seminarian, Bible student, curious seeker, and doubter equally well. As much as it might be a reference book, it can also be read casually as one would a novel. I think it is a rare thing for a book to have both qualities, but I think Randy Alcorn has done just that with If God is Good. I don’t think this one is just a “must read;” it’s a “belongs on your shelf.” Thank you Mr. Alcorn, and thank you Multnomah.