30 December 2008

A Quest For More - Presuming on God

I've used my holiday vacation to relax, re-energize, and spend time with family. As you may have noticed, I've taken back up 'riting. I've laid off on the 'rithmetic. And naturally, I've taken up more reading.

I just finished Paul David Tripp's A Quest For More. The basic premise is that as humans we were made to live for God's kingdom, but our sinful tendency is to live for our own personal kingdoms. I really like how he takes seriously everyday life, avoiding making the material lofty philosophy but instead practical.

Since you likely have your own books to read, I don't expect you to read this one. So I'll give a little excerpt that I found profound. It touches on a concept I once dealt with: I made a deal with God. I told him I would make a certain sacrifice, and in return I trusted that he would bring what I wanted (real vague, I know). Well the basic fact of the matter is God doesn't work like this. The whole thing was my idea, not connected to or based on any promise in Scripture. And so the excerpt:

The problem is that when you elevate your little kingdom desires to "needs," you no longer live with guarantees. But God has not promised to deliver all the things you have hoped, desired, and convinced yourself that you cannot live without. You have attached your happiness to a deeply romantic marriage, but God hasn't promised to give you one. You have connected your identity to a long and successful career, but God has not promised to deliver it...Of course these things are all wonderful to desire and worthwhile to experience, but they are out of your control, and your Redeemer has not guaranteed to give them to you.

Further, when these things control your heart and command your hopes, you will tend to judge God's faithfulness, not by whether he has been true to his promises, but by whether he has given you the things that you have set your heart on. But this is right where the redemptive quandary lies. If God gives you the things that are playing a role in your life that only he is supposed to play, wouldn't he be encouraging in you the very addictions from which his grace is meant to free you?

In fact, I am convinced that much of the resistance we attribute to the enemy is actually the resistance of the Lord. He stands against us, not because he doesn't love us, but because he does love us.
(emphasis in original)

What are you expecting from God? Our hopes will only disappoint if they are not founded upon God's truth.

24 December 2008

Christmas Gifts

I've had blogger's block. Or maybe just lack of time and energy.

Either way, I'm back.

Since it's Christmastime (yep, it's one word), one thing on my mind is gift-giving. Maybe your Christmas gift experiences are full of fulfilling joy and glorify God by exemplifying Him as the giver of every good and perfect gift. But what I see in our culture is far from that.

Giving gifts at Christmas is part of the tradition. And it is the same as any tradition linked to Christianity in that in our sin nature we will always tend to strip the heart from the tradition and reduce it to an empty self-serving ritual.

1Sa 15:22 And Samuel said, "Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.

Ecc 5:1 Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil.

But God instituted the sacrificial system. If it is better to listen and obey than to make burnt offerings, did God mess something up? Or what about commands regarding the Sabbath? The Pharisees provide a prime example of neglecting the spirit of the law, as they condemned Jesus for healing people on the Sabbath. So was the law itself bad? No, but our fallen sinful tendency fouls it.

It is particularly sad when we mess up a tradition like gift-giving that wasn't even instituted by God but is man-made. In this aspect we can see how it is like legalism: you can't keep the law and feel guilty about it, so you make up your own rules that you are able to keep so you can feel good about yourself. We made up the tradition of Christmas gift giving, and we still don't do it with the right spirit, but we pat ourselves on the back for it.

Too much negativity, not enough cheesy nativity? Okay. We don't need to stop the tradition. I hope this Christmastime you make every effort to give in the right spirit, without any expectation of receiving anything in return. And thank God for the gifts He has given you, all of which flow through the greatest gift of Jesus.

2 Peter 1:3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.