jump to navigation

In Pursuit of True Treasure July 31, 2006

Posted by Joe in Uncategorized.
add a comment

Lar,

Amen to that verse and prayer. You just can’t get enough of Hebrews 11. Of course, I suppose you just can’t get enough of Scripture as a whole (except maybe some portions of 1 or 2 Chronicles). Anyhow, that verse is so incredibly practical to us in America today isn’t it?

24By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.”

Think about it: here we have Moses in possession of all the treasures of Egypt. He has it all–fame, pleasure, wealth, success, a secured future, etc. etc. Come to think of it, he has the American dream! And what does he do but turn away from it, considering it rubbish, for the sake of following the Lord–actually, for the sake of suffering for Him!
What an apt picture for Americans today! Here is a guy we can relate to. Not Peter, a poor fisherman living day to day, but Moses, the man with the 401k and IRA and every other kind of worldly comfort and security! Yet my O my how far we fall short. How sad it is that we so easily become caught up in the treasures of Egypt and miss out on the reward of the riches of Christ! We seek the reward temporal rather than the rewards eternal. What shall we do?

There seems to be only one answer: we need to see those riches! We need contours on the glory of our God. We need to be confronted with His glory day after day so that by the power of the Spirit, we might see the “riches” of America for what they really are–rubbish! There is simply no escaping it: the reason why so many middle to upper-class Christians get caught up in the bogus old American dream is because they have never been confronted with the majesty and glory of our infinitely beautiful God. They have never seen Him Lar. They have sat in church for years and never seen Him! It is indeed a tragedy.

In the providence of God, your timing in posting that verse was impeccable. Here’s why: Erin and I visited a church around here yesterday. It is a solid church with good, biblical preaching. The music is great, building is great, preaching is great, people are great, etc. etc. But you know what? Amidst all of this, it was just obvious in looking around at the people during the time of worship that many of them were on spiritual cruise control. I know that some might think that I was being judgmental, but honestly, you could sense it. It was just another sunday!

And you know why this was sad? Not b/c it is a bad church, but b/c it is a good one! Yet sadly in our day and age, even the good ones lack the fire of the Holy Spirit. Even the good ones lack that fire that turns the religious routine of worship into a divine encounter! Even the good ones lack that sweet fire that so fills the souls of the worshipers that the presence of God enteres the place!

I hate to say it Lar, but the fact is that despite all the good stuff, the manifest presence of God wasn’t there. I mean, of course He was there in the omnipresent sense. That is a given. But that is not what is expected among the children of the Living God! Manifest presence is what we need and long for. Manifest presence is what changes our hearts and overflows to attract the world!

And I can’t help but think that the main reason that we lack this sweet presence is that the treasures of Egypt have a hold on our suburban, middle-class hearts. It is tough stuff brother, tough stuff. Prosperity is the blessing of God, no doubt, but as we well know, those blessings can easily turn the table and end up hindering the work of the kingdom. Bit by bit the blessings take a place that only belongs to the Lord. The passion for Christ fades amidst life’s lesser pursuits.

May we always be reminded brother that without a daily vision of the glory of Christ, we too could fall away into ruin. Our hearts could grow cold even as we enjoy the blessings of God. We could move on into the religious routine and all the while, lose sight of the God that we supposedly seek. And even if we do not fall into ruin, we could easily find ourselves settling into religious cruise-control, with no real fire for the manifest presence of God, with no real burden for the countless millions enslaved to the ways of Egypt–indeed, with no real burden for a church enslaved to Egypt! Let the pseudo treasures of Egypt be forsaken as we seek the glory of Christ! May the Lord grant us the grace to be like Moses and lead others to the same! For it is desperately needed in American today.

Seeking His riches with you,

Joe

I’m Still Here July 31, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Uncategorized.
add a comment

Joe,

It’s been a chaotic couple of days here so I will try to wrap up my thoughts on your previous post regarding reading tomorrow.  But since I know how jealous you are that something be posted daily, here is something I read this morning from Hebrews 11.  Very familiar words I know, but how earnesly I pray that we could live them out day after day!

24By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.”

May the infinitely great reward that is Christ be so much more satisfying than the fleeting pleasures of Egypt that we are not lured away by their deceptively sweet taste.

Larry

A Big Amen and another God-entranced Recommendation July 30, 2006

Posted by Joe in Uncategorized.
add a comment

Lar,

First, I changed the look a bit. What do you think? In fact, I welcome input from all our readers. I thought it was a little cleaner and easier to read, not to mention we had more room to write. And surely it is obvious that we need a lot of room!

Second, all I can say is Amen and Amen to that book recommendation. I am tempted to make that recommendation the focus of the weekend, but I do have one other that I would like to mention. As you might remember though Lar, I had read through Piper’s The Pleasures of God a little bit before you, but failed to get too far in. Maybe I just couldn’t handle it at that time. Either way, the Lord used you to stir me to give it a full and in depth read during that same winter or 2003. And O how thankful I am!

18816f543d7e4ede034f6508b62089.gifThe vision of God found in that book is, it is safe to say, the vision that I want to permeate my every thought and feeling and word and action. A God of infinite joy who desires nothing more than the manifestation and exaltation of His own glory is the greatest news in all the world. It is captivating and in need of proclamation all over the globe. I concur with your every exhortation in the last post and would encourage everyone to get it and read it until it burns deep within your soul. As with all reading, this book must not be read as a mere intellectual exercie (although it will require that), but as a theologocial exercise that helps stir up the affections of your soul for our glorious Maker and Savior and King.

I am with you on chapter 4, but would personally say that chapter one was the defining one for me. That God the Father loves and delights in God the Son forever–with infinite pleasure and joy–radically changed the way I viewed everything. In fact, it still does. The simple reality is that I never really thought of God as being happy, infinitely happy. And I of course never would have thought that His happiness was central to His being and to all His works. I love this truth and believe it is much too neglected, even in the best of theological circles. If only we could understand and embrace the infinite pleasure God the Father has in God the Son! Everything would change brother. Everything would change.

1581346689.jpgI could go on, but that leads me to my weekend recommendation. I mentioned a week or two ago about reading a book by Bruce Ware entitled, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Well, I just finished it and believe that its content would be best read and understood alongside of Piper’s The Pleasures of God. The focus of the book should be obvious–the Trinitarian nature of God. Ware does a wonderful job of explaining the relationships and roles of each Person in the Trinity, all the while emphasizing each Person’s fullness of deity. He also shows how all the truths he explained have practical relevance (a great emphasis in our day as we know). Overall it was a great read and one I would recommend to everyone.
I did, however, have one humble complaint. The joy of God in God–particularly the Father in the Son and the Son the Father–didn’t receive much space. Ware spoke of the love between the two, but he did so rather briefly. His chief emphasis was on the roles of authority and submission within the Trinity. And he was masterful in this emphasis. I learned a lot. However, the infinite love of God for God and infinite joy of God in God was by no means central. And as I have said, I believe it should be central. I believe that everyone in heaven and earth needs to know and feel that it is central.

Consequently, I recommend this book right alongside of Piper’s The Pleasures of God. It is my conviction that if you put the two together (and maybe even read them one after the other or side by side) your vision of God will be that much more glorious. The pieces of the puzzle might come together to give you a grand vision of the Almighty–that great grand vision that is worthy of His Trinitarian excellence!

Enough for now. Let’s move back to our previous conversation tomorrow, if possible. And after we finish that thread, we need to answer a difficult question posted by our good friend and brother Kevin Bonner. I’ll let you know what that one is, but I have a feeling that you will probably throw it back to me!

Seeking to see and savor and share His triune excellence with you,

Joe

p.s. when I get home, I’ll show you how to post those sweet pictures!

God’s Pleasure in His Fame July 29, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Uncategorized.
1 comment so far

Saturday means book recommendations, right?  I will add more about our present discussion some other time, but I had this thought on Thursday and I was going to share it then but decided to wait until today.  I want to recommend – no, plead with – anyone reading this site to read the book The Pleasures of God by John Piper.  If you contact me, I will gladly give you a copy for free as long as you promise to read it!  I figure I can still do that with our current readership hovering in single digits!   

I first read the Pleasures of God in January of 2003, and I think I’ve read it cover to cover three times, with other selected parts many times more.  Even the way that book came into my hands was a testament to the providence of God, but that is for another post.   

The reason I remember so well the time I read this book is because I know that apart from the Bible, nothing has shaped my life more than reading this book.  I don’t use the term “life-changing” flippantly, but for me the Pleasures of God truly was. 

I was reminded of that this week because of preparing my sermon for Sunday night on Psalm 57.  The message concerns the role of prayer in the life of worship, and a focus is on the words of David repeated in verses 5 and 11, “Be exalted O God, above the heavens!  Let Your glory be over all the earth!”  I am making much of David’s burden to see the glory of God spread, even in the midst of intense personal conflict in his life.  Despite his trials, David was consumed in the desire not for comfort, but for the exaltation of the name and renown of his God. 

In preparing for the message I picked up the Pleasures of God, because I remembered so vividly how this burden of David became my own when I read it three and a half years ago.  So I was skimming through Chapter 4, “The Pleasure of God in His Fame”, and it hit me for the first time: this chapter is why this book has so changed my life.  The whole book is outstanding, and Chapter 2 comes close in its impact upon me, but I really think I can say that “The Pleasure of God in His Fame” is the most important thing I have ever read outside the Bible.  And of course it impacted me because it is so thoroughly rooted in the Scriptures. 

In the first paragraph of the chapter Piper quotes David Brainerd’s words to a young ministerial candidate: “Give yourself to prayer, to reading and meditation on divine truths: strive to penetrate to the bottom of them and never be content with a superficial knowledge.” Piper then continues, 

It was good advice.  And not just for pastors, because at the bottom of things you find a granite foundation of hope for victory in the global mission of the church.  You find a God whose commitment to the cause of His people is grounded not in His people but in Himself.  His passion to save and to purify feeds itself not from the shallow soil of our value, but from the infinite depths of His own.   

Those last two sentences sum up the portrait of God that is the burning passion of my life, and the theme of the entire Bible.  God’s commitment to His people is rooted in His commitment to display the infinite value of His own worth, and His highest passion is His passion for His own glory.  Every good gift that comes to me and every other living thing, comes because of the pleasure of God in His fame spreading throughout the ends of the earth.   

To say any more would be inadequate; this chapter, and this book, must speak for itself.  By all means, get it and read it twice!  And as you read, be good Bereans and test everything by the Word of God.  John Piper is no infallible author, but I praise God for the way He has equipped Piper to discern and reveal the passions of God’s heart through his books and sermons.   

Celebrating with you God’s pleasure in Himself,  

Larry 

Faithfully Reading for the Sake of His Name July 28, 2006

Posted by Joe in Uncategorized.
2 comments

Lar,

That’s good stuff for sure, really good stuff. Here are a few things that came to mind.

First, you mentioned that you would like to have more time for “leisure” reading. Here is what I am thinking: let’s not look at it as leisure reading, but as necessary to true gospel living and ministering. You preach; and in order to do so powerfully, I believe that you must read (a lot in fact). Therefore, your reading is not so much leisure, as it is an essential component to your ministry. Of course, I know there is a place for leisure reading, but my point in setting aside the time was to read and wrestle with the great truths of Scripture. And how you think of it does make a difference. Just a thought. Take it for what it’s worth.

Second, that is great question regarding the necessity of reading good books. Here is the first thing that comes to mind: “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more” (Luke 12:48). If you could grant me some grace, I would like to revise my statement just a bit in light of this verse and your question. Now I would say that to the degree that we have time and opportunity, it is necessary for us to read in order to live and lead and minister to the glory of our great God.

That verse seems to shed light on a lot of kingdom things for me. I know it is only part of the answer, but the reality is that we will be judged on the basis of our faithfulness. I believe the Lord grants special grace to those who do not have His Word, or who do not have men who can aptly teach and preach His Word with depth and clarity. Clearly this is true in those countries of which you speak. Is the Lord at work? Absolutely. He is granting a special grace. But surely our great God did not inspire the Scriptures–the many times hard to understand Scriptures–so that we can settle for a superficial knowledge. By no means! (And I know you would agree). Instead, He inspired the Scriptures so that we could search Him out with diligence and discipline through study and thought and listening (preaching) and much reading!

If the Lord were content for us to possess a superficial knowledge–even if we would die for it–He would not have inspired a book of such massive proportions. He would just have given us some simple truths to embrace. But He did not. Instead, He inspired a book of such depth that we will not fully understand it until we are welcomed into glory. And His wisdom in doing so must not go unnoticed.

I don’t know if I can explain this faithfully, but I’ll try. God inspired such a hard book, b/c He is not simply concerned with helping us to live moral lives rooted in a basic gospel, but about the transformation of society and culture–the transformation of the whole world through all the truths of Scripture as unleashed through that basic gospel. And the complexity of the Bible serves to do just that. Why is it that everywhere Christianity spreads, schools spread? Why else but b/c the complexity of the Word of God stirs us to educate others so that they might come a greater understanding of the Scriptures and therefore, a greater understanding of our great God? Education is never an end in and of itself. It is a means to the end of knowing and loving the Lord our God. The Lord wants us to learn how to read, b/c He has revealed Himself primarily in a book. Of course, in His wisdom, His plan of salvation does not require that we know how to read. That is glorious! Whether educated or uneducated, one can understand the truths concerning Christ, and so be saved. But when one is saved, the first thing one learns how to do is read–b/c the Lord has revealed Himself in a book! Missionaries preach the gospel, then translate the Scriptures into a language the people can understand. Why? B/c it is vital to the success of the Christian mission. If simple believers stay simple, the church dies out.

I even heard a story a few weeks ago from Rod Conner (www.toeverytribe.com) about an illiterate man who, after He was converted, was supernaturally given the gift to read! He was the lone believer in his community, so the Lord saw fit to miraculously enable Him to read the Scriptures! And why else, but b/c it was vital to this man’s faith, and vital to the good of the community that he be able to read and understand and thus, communicate the truths of God’s Word?

There is more. Much more in fact, but the point is that wherever there is most light, the people in that light are most responsible to get and give more light! And much of this comes through reading–and not just the simple reading of the Scriptures, but reading (and writing) books of all disciplines, so that the light of Christ might aptly stream forth and permeate the whole of God’s creation–just as the Lord intends it to do! Everything must come under the dominion of Christ. And the writing and reading of good books is essential to this mission. Of course, the writing and reading of such books must be rooted in a deep, foundational understanding of the Scriptures and the mission of God to fill the earth with the knowledge of His glory as the waters cover the sea. But with that said, let is be emphasized that the writing and reading of all kinds of books are necessary.

I am thankful for our brothers and sisters who possess little more than a simple understanding and faith in Jesus Christ–and who consequently die for Him and His gospel. I pray for them daily. But I also hope and pray that they do not remain simple, but grow in depth so that the Lord Jesus Christ might transform their cultures and societies and kingdoms in such a way, that His glory shines forth! He is doing it all over Asia, and there is nothing wicked men in power can do about it. Indeed, Christ is doing it all over the world through his church. The leaven of gospel is permeating the lump.

And you know what else I am thankful for (among others things of course)? I am also thankful for the abundance of opportunity that we have to further the Christian mission through the reading of good books and the communication of rich, theological truths concerning the Person of Jesus Christ and His everlasting kingdom. They are being faithful with what they have. But the sad reality is, we are not. In our busyness and laziness and worldliness, we are failing our brothers and sisters in Christ by settling for a superficial understanding of Christ and His kingdom, while glorious depths of knowledge and joy lie just beyond our reach. Let us repent and get down to business for the glory of His name. Whether it be 20 minutes or 2 hours (and Lord willing, it will be 2 hours some day), let us be faithful with what we have for the sake of the kingdom.

Seeking to be faithful with you,

Joe

p.s. let’s dialogue some more on this, b/c there is much more to be searched out and said.
p.s.s. even Jeff has 15-20 minutes!

Some More on Reading July 28, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Uncategorized.
add a comment

Joe,

You are certainly right about how we often take the providences of God for granted.  Your mentioning the dinner that you went to six years ago where you met Erin made me think not only about the circumstances which led to my meeting Michelle, but also to meeting you at PSU almost nine years ago.  My decision to go to PSU, to get involved with a mediocre basketball program, your decision to choose PSU over other schools, and on and on we could go.  It is astounding to think that He is directing all things according the counsel of His will!  I feel like I keep mentioning that verse, but it is just amazing.  I thank God for the little ways in which He has brought about massive things in my life far too infrequently.

Anyway, I certainly agree with you that reading is a priority, and I think scheduling time to read is a great idea.  I think one of my problems is that I have unreasonable expectations as to how much reading that will entail.  I mean, twenty minutes is not what I am looking for brother!  What I really want is a couple of hours a day!  I mean apart from devotions.  When I was living in State College, I had that.  And I know it’s not because of anything I’ve done wrong that I don’t have that time now.  A wife and a lot more ministry commitments have lessened my time for leisure.  Of course those are “sacrifices” which are extremely rewarding, both in this life and the life to come.  But for me, I know I need to just get used to being okay with ten or fifteen minutes of reading, and trust that, as you said, I can read through some incredible books as I do.

But I wanted to probe a bit deeper into this reading issue, especially for the sake of one Jeff Crispin (I believe he is one of the four faithful readers who make up Blog Nation).  In your post you wrote, “Reading is a priority right?  It is necessary if we want to live and parent and minister and do everything else to the glory of our great God.”

Now, I agree with you, that it is necessary to read to live for the glory of God.  But what shall we say of those in countries like Iran, Pakistan, China, India, etc. who have a very minimal understanding of the Scriptures, and yet I would say their devotion to the glory of God puts mine to shame.  I mean, they are daily exposing themselves to beatings, imprisonment and martyrdom, yet I am hesitant to talk to my students in the driving school about Jesus Christ.  Yet my knowledge of the Word, my access to non-biblical books, is far greater than theirs.  So what do you say to the person who says, “Look at my brothers and sisters around the world; clearly it is not necessary to read a lot in order to live to God’s glory.”

I can run circles around Christians in other nations when it comes to my understanding of major Christian doctrines like substitutionary atonement, unconditional election, the sovereignty of God, sanctification, whatever.  I am not saying that, I trust you know, to trumpet my own knowledge.  But having been to India, I know how limited their knowledge of the Word is.  And yet, if a persecutor said to me, “Renounce Jesus or I will rape your wife in front of your eyes,” what would I do?  What would you do? 

I don’t know; but I do know people are standing for Jesus in the midst of that with far more zeal and boldness than I currently am, yet with far less knowledge than I have.  So what would you say to all of that?

Awaiting your (lengthy?) reply,

Larry   

Blogmaniac’s Catch-up Post #2 July 27, 2006

Posted by Joe in Uncategorized.
add a comment

Lar,

So I know you wanted to see this one, but we just finished watching Glory Road.  Maybe I’ll watch it a second time with you, b/c it was good.  Although I don’t think they captured the intensity of the situation as well as they might have been able, the story itself is really awesome.  It just made me marvel at the way in which the Lord uses sport to bring cultural and societal change.  For those who don’t know the story, check out the link.  I am sure it gives you more information.  It really is inspiring, particularly if you understand the sovereignty of God!  I enjoyed it and believe others will as well.

Anyhow, I just wanted to post in response to one of your earlier posts, in particular, the part regarding reading.  You asked how I find the time to read the way I think I need to and want to.  Well, the reality is that right now, I don’t!  And I am dead set on changing that now, so how about you (and everyone else reading this blog) do it with me?  Game on?  Well then, here is my idea…

Reading is a priority right?  It is necessary if we want to live and parent and minister and do everything else to the glory of our great God.  Well if that is true (which it is), then shouldn’t it follow that we schedule it as such?  I think so.  Therefore, my idea is to actually make an appointment with myself for reading.  I am going to put it on my daily schedule (and of course, it might change day to day as to length and time of day), and treat it as I would an appointment.  Of course, I’m not going to set it in stone, as if I were going to turn something urgent down in order to read, but I am going to look carefully at my day and more or less make myself unavailable for that time period (whenever and how long it might be).

What do you think?  I mean, we do it with our time with the Lord don’t we?  We do it with meetings and lunches and workouts and everything else.  So whey shouldn’t we do it with reading?  I can’t think of a reason.  And I think this goes not just for you and me, but for everyone.  Whether it is 20 minutes a day or 1 hour, making an appointment with ourselves to read seems like just what we need.  And just 20 minutes a day can help us get through countless great books!

One more thing.  I would emphasize the aspect of scheduling reading times–that is, actually putting it on your calendar and treating it as an appointment (and if you don’t have a calendar, you need to get one).  I know for me, putting it on a to-do list just doesn’t work.  It has to be written down on my calendar, b/c that is top priority.  That is appointment central.  That is where I look first.

Ok, last thing for real.  The book Getting Things Done really helps in this regard.  The organizational aspect of 014200028001_bo2204203200_pisitb-dp-500-arrowtopright45-64_aa240_sh20_sclzzzzzzz_.jpgthings is vital.  I mention this b/c it just hit me that there are probably many who don’t actually use a calendar (or who don’t use it well).  David Allen (the author) is not a Christian, but his organizational techniques are second to none in my mind.  If we want to make the best use of the time b/c the days are evil, I suggest we check out his book (which I know you are doing soon).  How can we make the best use of the time while we are unorganized?  It just doesn’t line up!

Alright Lar, catch you soon.  Let me know what you think of all this.

Growing in grace with you,

Joe

Blogmaniac’s Catch-up Post #1 July 27, 2006

Posted by Joe in Uncategorized.
add a comment

Brother Lar,

Thanks for the anniversary wishes.  I do appreciate it.  Interestingly enough, I was commenting yesterday on the providence of God during a Bible study I enjoyed in State College, and I made mention of the Lord’s gracious providence in meeting my beautiful wife, Erin.  What stirred this thought was the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8.  It is just breathtaking isn’t it?
Here you have the angel of the Lord telling Philip to rise and go toward the south road (apparently a road with which he is familiar).  He obeys and happens to find an Ethiopian eunuch who had just left Jerusalem after worshiping the Lord–who is reading Isaiah 53!  Is that just coincidence?  I think not.  It is the sovereign will of our omniscient God.

Just imagine the timing of it all.  Perfect timing.  Literally perfect.  The time Philip received the word, to the time Philip left the house, to the pace Philip walked, to the pace of the chariot, to the thought in the Ethiopian’s head to read Isaiah 53–or the pace of his Bible reading plan. I don’t know the distance they both had to travel, but what about some stranger they talked to on the way, or a wheel that had to be fixed for the chariot, or a ‘bathroom’ break.  Any number of factors, hundreds probably, went into this “chance” encounter.  I love it!  Doesn’t it just make you stand in awe of our glorious God?

The man is converted and quickly baptized.  Philip then disappears, but isn’t it beautiful how the Lord saw fit to take the gospel to Ethiopia?  And this is just one of trillions of small examples of the providence and goodness of our sovereign God.  He has a plan as we walk through our days.  The Lord works in such a way that we have a hard time seeing it!  He is the God of all circumstances.  We bump into a friend we haven’t see in years.  Coincidence?  No.  A divine encounter.  We walk into a church and hear a message that changes our lives.  Coincidence.  No.  Another divine encounter.  A phone call that interrupts what we think we need to be doing.  Coincidence?  A bad thing?  By no means!  Just another divine encounter.  I attend a charity event 6 years ago (or so) and a pretty girl from the soccer team catches my eye.  Coincidence?  No.  Once again, another glorious divine enounter.  Just our great and sovereign God working all things out according to the counsel of His will.  And O how thankful I am!

That’s enough for now.  I’ll check back in later with a little response regarding the discipline and habit of reading.

Basking in the glory of His providence with you,

Joe

Happy Anniversary July 27, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Uncategorized.
add a comment

Joe and Erin,

 Just wanted to wish you a happy four-year anniversary.  As I wrote to you on your wedding day, silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give to you: a prayer that the name and renown of Jesus Christ be exalted in and through you all the days of your life together on earth:

11To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, 12so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12)

Your brother in Christ,

Larry

I’m Back! July 26, 2006

Posted by Joe in Uncategorized.
add a comment

Lar,
So I have been running around brother, and have been online for literally, 3-4 minutes the past few days–pretty rare for me to say the least!  I am very thankful for your keeping up with the blog though.  Your commitment to it the past few days serves as a wonderful encouragement to me.  The blogosphere (or ‘blog nation’ as you like to call it) thanks you!

Anyhow, it is late here, so I am officially pronouncing tomorrow as blog catch-up day (along with some other catch up things).  And I am excited to get caught up b/c you threw down some great stuff.  I was actually up in State College and in Lewisburg, PA the past few days running around.  It was great, a definite blessing, as I was able to see some new and old faces.  The Lord was working for sure, as He always is forever!

I will tell you that I was able to make a stop by the gym to shoot a few hoops.  While there, I couldn’t help but reminisce of our long hours after practice, with me losing my mind over missing a free throw (this was mostly pre-Jesus folks).  You were patient brother and gracious.  Those times were much appreciated.  Also, I will mention that I was able to visit with the Conners from To Every Tribe Ministries.  You haven’t met them, but Lord willing, you will someday.  It was great to hear of the triumph of the gospel!  I would encourage anyone who hasn’t heard of them to check out their website and to sign up for their next available trip!  Here is the link.

Alright, I’m out for the night.  If the Lord gives me breath, I’ll catch you tomorrow!
In His joy,
Joe

I Love the Providence of God July 26, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Uncategorized.
add a comment

Well, it seems as though my blogomaniac friend has gone MIA as he visits the in-laws in PA, so I guess I will just have to pick up the slack here. 

Yesterday I posted Psalm 143 and felt like I had my text for Sunday night, but since then I just haven’t felt a peace about that passage.  It is a great text and there is much that I could say about it, but for some reason I felt like I didn’t yet have the one He wanted for me.  So here I am on Wednesday morning without a text for Sunday, and this is very unlike me. 

I am starting now (I think) to see what God is doing.  Last night Michelle and I had a conversation about her family, and how her relationship with them has gone downhill quite a bit since she came to Christ a few years ago.  It was causing her a great deal of pain last night, because of something that I think it unnecessary to share in this public forum.  We talked some and I believe she was feeling a bit better by the end of the night. 

So this morning I am back in the Psalms struggling to find one for Sunday night to talk about the role of prayer in the life of worship.  And I was drawn to Psalm 57, which I had been thinking about quite a bit in May but decided not to preach on when I put together my schedule for the summer series on the Psalms.  As I read it again, I saw a few things that captured what I am wanting to say about prayer, and was thinking that I might possibly have my text.  As I was researching the Psalm I checked a website called Spurgeon Gems, to see what that great preacher had to say about Psalm 57. 

On the site I found a sermon called Among Lions; you can read it here.  It is based on Psalm 57:4, “My soul is in the midst of lions…”  and Spurgeon’s whole point in the sermon was to provide comfort and advice to those who are surrounded by lions who are hostile to our faith and love for Christ — exactly what Michelle deals with her family.  Having read most of the sermon, I think it will be a great comfort to her.  So I plan to print this sermon out and read it with her, and I never would have come across it had I not felt this uneasiness about my sermon text for Sunday night.  

God indeed moves in a mysterious way, doing ten thousand things that we know nothing about in every one thing that we cannot seem to understand!

Worshiping the Sovereign One with you,

Larry

A Prayer July 25, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Uncategorized.
add a comment

Joe,

I’ve arrived at a text for this Sunday night (I think!), and thought I would ask you to meditate on this one and let me know your thoughts.  Of course that will make the sermon pretty boring to anyone who reads this site, but I don’t think the Koinonians have caught on to the fact that we are blogging.  I wanted to post the Psalm here because I believe it is such a marvelous example of prayer in the life of a worshiper.  May all of us strive to pray these kinds of prayers:

Psalm 143

1Hear my prayer, O Lord; give ear to my pleas for mercy! In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness! 2Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.

3For the enemy has pursued my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead. 4Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled.

5I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands. 6I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah

7Answer me quickly, O Lord! My spirit fails! Hide not your face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the pit. 8Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.

9Deliver me from my enemies, O Lord! I have fled to you for refuge! 10Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!

11For your name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life! In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble! 12And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies, and you will destroy all the adversaries of my soul, for I am your servant.”

So Joe, let me throw you a nice lob here: what does this psalm teach us about the kind of prayer that glorifies God?

Larry

In the World, but Not of It July 25, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Uncategorized.
add a comment

Joe,

I think you really like putting up those pictures of the books you are reading; do you just do that to remind me that I don’t know how to do it?!  Certainly your post got me thinking, because I have not read the DaVinci Code nor have I seen the movie, nor do I plan to.  I am not opposed to those Christians who have done so, because I think it is very important that we as believers not seek to detach ourselves from what is happening in the culture/world around us. 

That is what your post mainly impressed upon me.  Yes, I wholeheartedly agree that Christians should be informed about church history and ought to acqauint ourselves with some good books to help us see where we have come from.  In fact, there sits on my shelf a pretty good overview of Church History titled Church History in Plain Language, by Bruce Shelley (Really that was just a way of sneaking in another book recommendation; am I excused from doing that this weekend now?).  I’ll add it to the ever-increasing list of books that I need to read. 

But what I was thinking about personally as I read your post was how detached I am from popular culture.  Of course the Scriptures call us to come out and be separate from the world and not to be conformed to this world (2 Corinthians 6:17, Romans 12:2, etc.).  But I know that personally I am too far removed from the world around me.  The fighting in the Middle East is a huge current example.  I know absolutely nothing of what’s going on there, and yet so many people are talking about the Middle East!  How desperately does the unbelieving world around us need people to bring in a Christ-centered worldview to this conflict, and to every conflict, and to every current event that happens in this world!  Because we know that God works “all things according to the counsel of His will (Eph. 1:11), we as Christians ought to be informed about all that He is doing in His world.  Sadly, I am far too ignorant.  How am I to shine the light of Christ into this dark world when I know nothing about what’s happening in the world? 

Knowing the history of the church is important, but knowing the current world is also important if we are to make an impact on it for the glory of Christ.  To that end, Michelle and I got a subscription to Newsweek a few months ago.  It has helped, but only when I make the time to actually read it!

And that leads me to one final thought.  You said in your last post that we as Christians ought to be reading more.  While I agree wholeheartedly, where do you find the time?  How do you, as Paul spoke of in Ephesians 5:15-16, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”  Between writing sermons and counseling others and spending time with my wife and driving students and responding to emails and on and on we could go, how do I set all that aside to read a 500 page book on church history?  Or Newsweek? 

I think I have a feeling how you will respond, but I’ll just wait and see.  One suggestion for myself (and maybe others will profit as well) is to read a great sermon by Jonathan Edwards called the Preciousness of Time.  It has been a couple of years since I read that one, but perhaps I will take a look at that this afternoon…if I can find the time!  I vaguely remember that it was a challenging one.

Seeking Him with you,

 Larry

The DaVinci Code July 24, 2006

Posted by Joe in Uncategorized.
add a comment

Lar,

Those were some good suggestions regarding biographies.  I especially appreciated your willingness to follow in my footsteps by recommending books that you have not yet finished.  Personally, I consider Jeff the master at doing so, but I run a close second.  Although Jeff is by far the best at not merely recommending books that he hasn’t read yet, but recommending books that he hasn’t read with passion–with such passion in fact that if you did not know any better, you would think that he had not only read the work, but immersed himself in it for weeks!  Jeff, if you are reading this, I love every second of those moments!  Of this you can be sure.

Of course, it deserves mention that in this life, we will probably have to practice this to some extent.  We just don’t have all the time in the world to read every book, but we can at least become acquainted with many and thus, be able to give others discerning viewpoints regarding a variety of works in a variety of fields.  At the same time, we should probably be reading more than we do.  Actually, even though this isn’t supposed to be another recommendation post, I would also make mention of a rather new website/ministry called Discerning Reader.  It is filled with some ‘discerning’ book reviews for all sorts of books, with more reviews being added all the time.  I am sure I wouldn’t agree with every detail of every review, but on the whole it is a trustworthy site.  For anyone listening to our online conversation here, it is worth bookmarking and referencing anytime you have a question regarding a book.

joshbook.jpgOk, anyhow, this wasn’t what I set out to talk about as you can see by the title of this post.  The DaVinci Code sensation continues to rush onward in various circles across America.  I have not yet read the book, but it is on my short (and growing longer by the day) reading list.  I’ll get to it within the next couple of years probably.  Well, actually I hope to get to it somewhat soon (and maybe get to see the movie as well).  Anyhow, I read a short work by Josh McDowell during the past few days called

It is only 90 pages of rather easy reading, but it is packed with some great truth.  He sets up the book as a continued conversation between friends, which makes it all the more easy to digest.  Of course, McDowell sets out to shine light on the many (and there are so many!) inconsistencies and I guess it could be said, lies, in the work by Dan Brown.  He does a fine job of doing so.  But what is worth more in my estimation is the way he is able to educate Christians on some basic historical realities that I believe we should all have some sort of grasp of–in particular, how the Scriptures came to be and the strong theological convictions of the early church fathers regarding Christ.  Actually, I suppose it could be said that this little work (and others like it) might serve the church best by pointing us to gain a greater understanding (or basic understanding) of church history.  This is sadly a subject in which most of us are lacking.  And what is worse is that there is an abundance of material at hand!  Of course, such is the case for everything Christian in America.

We should know our Bible history first–that is, the history of redemption as described in the Scriptures.  But the history of the Christian church should be second on the list.  And why not?  God has chosen to reveal Himself in Scripture as the God of history.  And if we know our Bibles well enough, we should be able to see His sovereign hand on the last two thousand years as well.  Studying church history should lead us to a greater and more passionate worship our great God.  It is not a dull intellectual exercise when done rightly.  It is instead an exciting even that should lead us to possess a great love for and delight in our Lord and Savior. I could go one, but that is enough for now.  Give me some of your thoughts brother.

Seeking the behold the God of history with you,

Joe

Biographies July 24, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Uncategorized.
add a comment

Joe,

So I don’t know if I can really say my five favorite biographies.  Even though I wrote last week how important it is to read Christian biography, I haven’t read as much as I should have!  But if I can use your frequent habit of recommending books that I haven’t read, then I think I can get to five.

1. The Diary of David Brainerd.  I know we have written a lot about this one over the last week or so, and I actually haven’t read the whole thing, but I do believe it is a must read.  From the parts that I have read, it is incredibly convicting and made me question whether or not I was even a believer.  I know that doesn’t sound like a great thing, but it is very humbling. 

2. Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot.  This one I have read all the way through, and it is outstanding. 

3. To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson.  Judson was the first American missionary to go overseas, reaching the country of Burma.  I haven’t read this one but Piper’s biographical sketch relied heavily on this book and it was one of my favorites by Piper.

4. George Mueller: All Things are Possible.  Hey, I’ve actually read this one in its entirety and it is great.  From what I understand Mueller’s personal journals are much more complete, but Mueller’s son in law said this one was the definitive biography of Mueller’s life. 

5. Not sure if this counts as a biography or not, but Augustine’s Confessions ought to go on here as well.  I mean, the first paragraph has his amazing quote, “You made us for Yourself and our hearts find no rest until they rest in You.”  I haven’t read the whole thing but I think I have read enough to recommend it highly. 

Happy reading!

Larry

Quick Update July 23, 2006

Posted by Joe in Uncategorized.
add a comment

Lar,

So we more or less missed out on our resource recommendations for the weekend.  I am sure the sermon preparation time paid off though.  The Lord is good.  But now that I am away for the week, the blogging should really begin.  You are right, it is more difficult to blog when we can see each other face to face everyday.  Of course, we have plenty more to say, even if we talked all day (at least I do that is)!  That being said, I don’t think it would hurt to post a short resource recommendaton.  My question for you Lar (relating to resources that is) is this:  If you could only give someone 5 biographical books, which ones would you choose?

I know your knowledge is by no means exhaustive on the biographies, but I was just curious to see what you would mention. For those interested, here is the link to our suggested biography list at Seek Him Ministries.  It by no means covers everything, but it isn’t a bad place to start.

Also, let’s spread the word on the question of the week–even if it has to come from one of our two lovely wives, or from one of our other 4 readers.  Let the questions come pouring in!  By God’s grace we’ll seek to give some good, God-centered answers.  The subsequent discussions could be fun.

Looking forward to blogging a bunch this week with you,

Joe

The Impact of The Big Picture Story Bible July 22, 2006

Posted by Joe in Uncategorized.
add a comment

bigpicbible2772.jpg Among our thousands(?) of readers, I am sure there are a few of you who remember my recommendation of The Big Picture Story Bible last weekend.  Well, a few days after that post, Erin (my wonderful wife) was reading a friend’s blog and found this great post.  Her friend, Alexandra, doesn’t say it in there, but her kids love The Big Picture Story Bible.  I think we can be sure that their strong convictions stemed from their numerous readings through this great book.  Erin was also the one who recommended this book to Alexandra, so we enjoyed this story all the more.

In the end though, I had to ask myself this:  why aren’t we as strong in our convictions concerning the Word of God?  The first thing that came to mind is that we probably don’t fill our minds up with it as much as Nathaniel and Isabelle.  I know they love this book and have read it numerous times.  Might we be just as strong in our conviction if we would do the same?  I can’t help but think so.

What fills our minds determines who we become and what we are willing to take a hard stance for.  So let it be the Word of Truth!

Seeking to stand firm for Christ with you,

Joe

Laying it All Down and Raising up Others to Do So July 21, 2006

Posted by Joe in Uncategorized.
add a comment

Lar,

Just the mere mention of Brainerd’s name brings conviction–particularly for my enslavement to comfort and ease. It is amazing isn’t it what the Lord does with a humble saint who lives with a single eye to the manifestation of God’s glory among the lost? I marvel at Brainerd and thus, at our great Lord. He dies at age 29 after ministering for what, 7 maybe 8 years? And the Lord uses his humble testimony to stir many to frontier missions and to sustain them while they work! His diary is read up until this day!

Brainerd wasn’t caught up in being great in the eyes of the world. He could preach with the best of them and was called to a suburban pastorate. But he forsook it all and considered it but rubbish for the sake of Jesus Christ. What was his gain? Christ was his gain! He lived to know Him and to make Him known. O for such a heart! O for such a single eye of devotion! Might the Lord see fit to raise up a harvest of men! Yet, He probably will not. Such men are few and far between, sadly. In this day and age, they are hard to find to say the least.

I would simply say this: Even if we might not be called to live such a life, we should at least learn of and from such men, and admire such men, and seek to raise up and encourage such men. This goes for us as parents and pastors and whoever really. We should be diligent to cultivate such hearts for the Lord. Brainerds don’t come out of nowhere. They are encouraged by a few they respect to follow their radical hearts to its desired end, even if it means death.

I have had to think about this much after having children. Well, I guess I haven’t had to, but I have. My heart seems to demand it. What if little Abigail or Elijah were called to live such a life? What if it was their heart’s desire to lay down their lives for the Lord–literally? Am I willing to encourage that, or will I stifle that passion? Is death for Christ success, or I am just as enslaved as every other American to the bogus old “American dream.” No. If the Lord would will, let them lay it all down for the kingdom and receive the martyr’s crown! It is difficult to say, but when the Lord has captured the inner essence of your soul, you cannot say anything else.

Jesus Christ is coming soon, and we can be sure that before He comes, many will die for the sake of His great name. As far as I can see it, the church (all over the world, but especially here in American) is desperate for men and women who will become so captured by the truth that the Lord makes known His glory among the nations through suffering saints, that they will become jealous to do one of two things: either to be those radical saints themselves, or to raise up such ones!

O I pray that the Lord might capture the hearts of His people once again! For when He does, many will not only be willing to lay down their lives for His name’s sake; many will actually desire to do so. Then they will risk for His cause while staring death right in the face!

May the Lord grant us such grace to either be such ones or raise up such ones! And O how we need grace!
Longing to lay it all down for Jesus,

Joe

Brainerd and Sickness July 21, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Uncategorized.
add a comment

Last week I mentioned how valuable Christian Biography is to me, and I mentioned specifically David Brainerd.  Well today I came across a quote of his that brought great conviction to me.  For those who have not heard of him, David Brainerd was a young missionary to American Indians who died in 1747 at 29 years old from tuberculosis. Toward the end of his struggle, he was on his deathbed coughing up blood, coming in and out of consciousness, and saying out loud, “Oh for Holiness! Oh, for more of God in my soul! Oh, this pleasing pain! It makes my soul press after God.”

I have been bugged by a throat/cough thing for close to a week now, and I certainly feel rebuked as I read Brainerd’s words!  My little sickness has been ever so slight, and yet I grumble in my soul and wonder how long this annoying cough will drag on.  Yet this man sat on death’s doorsteps, coughed up blood and longed for more of God.  The pain of sickness made his soul more thirsty for God.  And as I read his words, I grew more thirsty be this zealous for more of God, whether in health or in sickness.

That is why I love reading Christian biography!

Larry 

“Tell me some more about God” July 20, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Uncategorized.
add a comment

The student that I drove with today said this to me, and it was quite an amazing comment.  I have shared my love for Christ with several of my students in the past, but I have never had someone who was so eager to hear than this guy today.  And it really got me thinking, “Am I really prepared to give anyone who asks a reason for the hope that I have?”  We all know we are supposed to, at least that’s what 1 Peter 3:15 says: always be ready.  Well today, I was but I wasn’t.  I shared with him, but these words, “Tell me some more about God” really made me think about how you communicate the glory of God to someone who has no clue.

 I encourage anyone who is reading this to give that some serious thought.  If someone asked you tomorrow at work or school or anywhere else, “What is God like?”  how would you answer?

If He’s really that beautiful to us, let us be prepared to tell them!

Alright, brother, you know I must go to sleep!

Larry