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Sunday August 31, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Random Musings.
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Joe,

Struck today at what Sunday worship looks like in certain places around the world:

INDIA (VOM sources)
Official sources reported that on August 20th, one person was killed and five others injured when unidentified persons fired at a congregation in Churachandpur district of Manipu. Evening services were being held in the Evangelical Baptist Church in Vengnuom area when some armed persons in combat dress came in a vehicle and started firing in the direction of the church. The incident happened when armed persons in a van were challenged by armed miscreants near the church. Immediately after they were challenged, the occupants of the van, whom local residents suspect to be security forces in mufti, emerged from the vehicle and started indiscriminate firing towards the church which was filled with people. One believer died at the spot, while another succumbed to his injuries at the district hospital. Four others were injured. In addition, one man was hurt when he was knocked down by someone evacuating the injured on a scooter.That same day, Pastor Jwala was conducting a morning worship service in Sheopur near Jhalsy when a group of radicals with a local leader entered the meeting with hockey sticks and mercilessly attacked Pastor Jwala and members of the congregation. After the brutal attacks, they were taken to the police station where pastor Jwala was booked under the Anti Conversion Law. Bail was not granted to the victims.

Jesus says, “10“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matt. 5:10-12).

Oh to have a heart that sought this kind of reward! Lord willing, I will preach this Sunday morning, doing the very thing that got a man in India beaten with hockey sticks. And yet will I be afraid of what others think of my preaching? Free me, Father, from self-absorption. Grant me a heart that would endure hardship of any kind if only the surpassing worth of Jesus Christ might be displayed in me.

Only in the right-side up world of Jesus does reviling mean blessing and popularity indicate woe: “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.” (Luke 6:26). We are in a scary place when we can find no one who will say a bad word about us. Of course, we shouldn’t go out seeking to alienate people and act like a jerk in order to get people to hate us. But if we faithfully declare the whole counsel of God and are imitators of Jesus, people will hate us. They hated Him, and they will hate us (John 15:18-21). What an indictment against me, that in three years of teaching students how to drive, there has not been one complaint to the boss about me preaching the gospel to my students.

Pray for me, brother (and anyone else who reads this), that I would seek the path of blessing, not woe. Do not allow me to seek hostility for its own sake, but exhort me to make much of Christ in all situations and to all people.

Larry

Quick Scripture August 30, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Scripture Meditation.
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Not a lot to say today, but here are some words that God brought to my attention this afternoon from 2 Timothy. I love reading this letter, because I can sense the urgency with which Paul is writing. This is the last letter he wrote, shortly before his death, and it is absolutely full of wisdom for young pastors.

8Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, 9for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! 10Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” (2:8-10)

24And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” (2:24-26)

6For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” (4:6-8)

I pray that I would be willing to pour out my life as a drink offering, if only those to whom I minister to would be brought into a deeper enjoyment of the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ. And I pray that this resolve would not be for a fleeting moment, but for a lifetime, as long as God would give me on this earth. May we all use our lives to speed the coming of our Lord!

Larry

I Love It! August 29, 2006

Posted by Joe in Random Musings.
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Lar,

So I have been a little MIA the last few days, been running around as you can imagine. But I was definitely excited to see your post today. I’ve never done a word study on the word, but I must say, I was by no means surprised by your findings! And I am so thankful that that is what you found!

With every passing day, the conviction grows stronger and stronger that our one great need as a church is the proclamation of Jesus Christ–His kingdom, His work, His gospel! Is it not true that we are languishing simply because we are so focused on peripheral issues? I believe so. We have to ask ourselves the question today–is Jesus Christ enough? Is proclaiming the crucified and risen and reigning Savior enough to strengthen the church and bring many to faith in His name? We have to be honest here, I’m not sure how many of us really believe it. I mean, if you think about it, can we honestly say that we are constantly bombarded with Jesus in the church today? Sadly, this is not the case.

To be frank, I think one of our underlying assumptions is that Jesus is not enough–probably b/c He is boring or will grow boring the more we search Him out. We surely won’t say it that way, but our actions speak louder than our words. We are desperate to see His glory as revealed throughout the whole of Scripture–that is, the glory of Jesus Christ–for He is what the Holy Spirit has written about through human agents. He is the One whom the Holy Spirit aims to exalt in the world to the glory of God the Father. Never can His infinite riches be exhausted. Forever and ever we will enjoy searching out His glory. O what a joy it is and forever will be! There is surely no greater happiness.

As far as ministry is concerned, I think it should be said simply that Jesus works. Preaching the crucified and risen and reigning Savior works. We lift Him up and He draws all people to Himself. We marginalize Him and then we have to come up with a thousand gimmicks to get people into our assemblies. Then we have to teach (yes, teach

But I’ll leave with one thing: we don’t proclaim Him and His gospel unashamedly and powerfully and apologetically b/c we don’t really know Him. He hasn’t captured the inner reaches of our hearts. It is the naked truth, but it is reality that if our aim in life is anything but knowing God through Christ and making Him known, we haven’t really tasted of His goodness. We need a revival brother. We need new eyes to see the risen and reigning Savior! Preach it for me. Don’t be shy. The church and the nations await with eager expectation.

Seeking first His kingdom with you,

Joe

So What Shall We Preach? August 29, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Scripture Meditation.
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Well, it seems as though my blogging buddy has gone MIA again. I know how zealous he is that something be posted daily, so now seems as good a time as any to share what I found from my word study of the Greek word for “preach”. For those who missed, I did this study on Saturday to see what was the content of the preaching that was done in the New Testament. There are 61 uses of the Greek word κηρυσσω, and so I looked up all 61 to see what insight I could glean from what the content of New Testament preaching was. The word can be translated as “preach” or “proclaim” (as my examples below will show).

Immediately I discarded 11 uses of the word. In 8 of those cases, I discarded them because it was unclear what the content was, but was a part of a generic statement like “Jesus went around preaching and teaching…” The other I discarded was from Galatians 5:11. The direct object there was “circumcision”, but here Paul was saying what he was not preaching, so I discarded that one. I also discarded two uses of the word that were part of a quotation from an Old Testament verse. The direct objects there were “liberty” and “the year of the Lord’s favor”.

That left 50 uses of the word κηρυσσω. Here’s what I found:

Two subjects were clearly more central than any others. The first is Jesus Christ (Hopefully that’s not a shock to anyone!). Sometimes there are a few qualifying words (Christ crucified, Jesus Christ as Lord, etc.), but I put these all together. An example would be Acts 9:20, “And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’” Fifteen of the 50 uses were speaking of Christ.

The other common direct object was the gospel, with 13 uses. Again, sometimes there were qualifying words like “of God” or “of the Kingdom”, but I put them all together. An example: “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God,” (Mark 1:14).

So 28 of the 50 uses of κηρυσσω (56%) dealt with Jesus and the gospel. Then there were 7 references to forgiveness of sins and repentance: “and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:47)

There were 6 references to the Kingdom of God: “and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.” (Luke 9:2).

There were four references to what Jesus had done for a person: “And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.” (Mark 5:20)

That makes 45 out of 50 references (90%) of the word κηρυσσω dealing with Jesus Christ, the gospel, the Kingdom of God, repentance and forgiveness of sins, and the works of Christ.

The other seven uses refer to what Jesus had told people (Matt. 10:27 and Luke 12:13), the word of faith (Romans 10:8, and this one seems to be referring to the gospel message of salvation), “the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2, meaning all of Scripture), and one reference to Moses (Acts 15:21, speaking of how Moses had been proclaimed in all the synagogues).

I finished this study more resolute in my commitment to preach the person of Christ, the gospel of Christ, the kingdom of Christ, the works of Christ, the word of Christ, and repentance and forgiveness of sins through the cross of Christ. Anything less seems to be a kind of preaching that is alien to the New Testament.

Keep me in prayer, brothers and sisters, that I would be that kind of preacher, whether my topic is the fear of man or worship or service or anything else under the sun. I wonder what might happen in the Church in this nation if pastors were committed to preaching what the New Testament beckons us to preach.

I long to be a person (and a preacher) who finds out!

Larry

The Aquarium August 28, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Random Musings.
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fish2.jpgfish1.jpg

Here’s a couple of pictures that Michelle took from our trip to the aquarium in Camden this morning. I have not been to an aquarium in many years, and it really is so much cooler knowing that Jesus Christ is the One who created every living thing by the mere word of His power.

Maybe Joe can figure out how to make the pictures a little bigger, but at least Michelle was able to get the pictures up!

Larry

Regeneration August 28, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Random Musings, Scripture Meditation.
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Joe,

Glad that the Lord ministered to you through the Word yesterday. It is truly astounding to preach a message and then talk to people afterwards to hear what God was doing in people’s lives through the exposition of His word. Some testimonies just about brought tears to my eyes. It is just amazing to me that God uses someone as foolish as me (a sick dude, as I said yesterday morning!) to speak His truth into the lives of others. But as the Scripture says, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7). He uses fools like us to magnify His greatness, not ours.

Speaking of 2 Corinthians 4, that is a part of my sermon yesterday that I hope was both understood and cherished:

4In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

It is impossible to overcome the fear of man — or any other crippling sin — without having this experience of seeing the light of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ. As I think I said in the first service yesterday, we do not believe in order to get born again, but we get born again by the sovereign work of the Spirit opening our eyes to divine glory, and that experience of being born again enables us to believe.

This understanding of salvation seems to be sorely lacking in the Church today, and the failure of pastors to embrace it is the cause of almost all the pragmatic approaches to do ministry that results in so many false professions of faith and churches that are spiritually dead, though they may be growing in number. We have made it easy to “get saved”, yet how saved is a person if they have never seen glory in the face of Jesus Christ in a way that makes them want to leave everything in order to have Him as the supreme treasure of our lives? The answer is, they’re not saved. But we have put so much emphasis on the commitment of the will that flows from this sight of glory, that it seems like many churches have lost the very essence of salvation.

I know it was only one part of my sermon yesterday, but I hope people got that, and that it leads to the praise of God’s grace for opening our eyes to see His beauty for what it really is. If not for that decisive work, none of us would come to Him in a genuine, saving way.

Ever seeking to see more clearly,

Larry

A Good Sunday August 27, 2006

Posted by Joe in Random Musings.
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Lar,

I am thankful that I was able to hear two good messages this morning. After hearing you preach this morning, I went down to hear Rob. He brought some light and heat from Galatians 3:13, “Chirst redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” As you know, you just can’t get enough of that.

As for you, I am intrigued to see what else you have to say next week! For you packed a heavy punch this morning–and for that I give thanks. In particular, you know that your last point is dearest to my heart. I could spend the rest of my days trumpeting the truth that our most desperate need is to see Jesus for who He really is–for who He is revealed to be in the Scriptures. When all is said and done, this is where our deliverance is found. Let’s trumpet it together until we die–for it is always needed, and it can never get old.

Contrary to some of your comments to me, I do struggle with the fear of man. In fact, I think it is a great struggle that manifests itself in a variety of ways. It is tough stuff, b/c the deceptiveness of my heart can be so subtle–or apparently spiritual. Like any battle, constant diligence is necessary. And I was thinking about that this morning in fact: the simple reality that constant diligence is needed in fighting this battle, but we cannot allow this constant diligence to consume our lives.

Here is what I mean. It has been my experience that once we listen to a message like yours and realize that we have a fear of man problem (or problemsss), the tendency might be to look in too much–to spend too much time focusing on the fact that we are fearing men at any particular moment. Some struggle with this more than others for sure, but it is a reality that I believe many will wrestle with. What struck me as I reflected on what you said was how important it is to have a solid ‘balance’ (for lack of a better term), between looking in and recognizing the fear of man and looking out to Christ so that you might be delivered from the fear of man.

For it seems to me that sin can many times have a paralyzing effect–in that it can attract too much attention. For as we know, if we look in too much, the darkness will not lift nor the sin die. A careful balance between looking in and out are desperately needed. And that is surely what you pointed to at the end, but what I have in mind right now is the importance of looking to Christ in that very moment of struggle. Failure at any point in our Christian walk is always a failure to think rightly of God.

I could go on, but give me some dialogue with this at some point (tomorrow I am assuming), for this battle is a big one for us all. Like all sins, once you think you have it in one aspect of life, it creeps up in another! I can’t wait for the consumation of the kingdom! No battle then–just eternal peace and joy! But until then, let’s fight together to be like Jesus by looking not at men’s faces, but truly teaching the way of God.

Seeking His delivering countenance with you,

Joe

p.s. I am definitely looking forward to more on your word study of kerusso (and to your telling me how you got the Greek letters on there! If you teach me how to put the Greek on there, I’ll teach you how to put up pictures!).

My Saturday Morning… August 26, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Random Musings, Scripture Meditation.
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Was supposed to be spent looking over my sermon for tomorrow morning, but instead I got side-tracked in a very exciting way. At least, it was exciting for me! I have been thinking a lot lately about preaching, as is probably evident from some of the quotes I share here sometimes. Well, last night I got an idea (and I would chalk up that idea to the grace of God) to do a word study on the Greek word κηρυσσω, which is the word for preach used in the New Testament.

Specifically I had this goal: I wanted to look at every use of the word κηρυσσω (there are 61 in all) to see what the direct object was in each use. Not every use has a clear direct object, for example, Matthew 11:1, “When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.” Nothing is said there about what was the content of His preaching.

But my aim was to look for direct objects (and also look at the context where there was no explicit direct object) to see what it was that biblical preaching consisted of. What was the focus? What did the bulk of the content of New Testament preaching deal with?

So I spent this morning looking at all 61 uses, and O how my heart was stirred as a result! I’m eager to share what I found, but I’ve not organized my findings quite clearly enough to post yet. Hopefully that will come early next week.

But for now, I’ve got to look at tomorrow’s sermon!

Larry

PS — I really just wanted to check whether my Greek font could be used on this thing! I know I could have just written kerusso and that would have been easier to read!

Article and Audio August 25, 2006

Posted by Joe in Links.
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Lar,

I can say a hearty “Amen” to that prayer brother–always. Edwards’ insights were discerning to say the least–and exposing to every heart. May the Lord grant some in this generation such wisdom and insight–and the diligence to pursue it.

Anyhow, I was cleaning out my email today and happened to come accross this article by Tim Keller. The article isn’t as good as his ‘sermon’ on the topic. He’s a thinker who I believe we have a lot to learn from. Also, here is the link for the Reform and Resurge Conference (where you can get both audio and video). He spoke in sessions 6-8. And here is his church’s link to check out as well.

His understanding of the kingdom and how the church is supposed to relate to culture is some of the best I have heard. I aim to ‘sit at his feet’ for a bit. I know we will continue to converse as the days and weeks pass.

Seeking His kingdom with you,

Joe

When in Doubt… August 25, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Quotes, Random Musings.
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I go to a great quote from someone who breathed in God-intoxicated air far more than I do. 

My next two days are going to be filled with letting my fear of man sermon burn within me, so I may not be posting much in the next 48 hours or so.  So I thought a good quote from Jonathan Edwards would get the weekend off to a good start:

“This is . . .the difference between the joy of the hypocrite, and the joy of the true saint. The [hypocrite] rejoices in himself; self is the first foundation of his joy: the [true saint] rejoices in God. . . . True saints have their minds, in the first place, inexpressibly pleased and delighted with the sweet ideas of the glorious and amiable nature of the things of God. And this is the spring of all their delights, and the cream of all their pleasures. . . But the dependence of the affections of hypocrites is in a contrary order: they first rejoice. . . that they are made so much of by God; and then on that ground, he seems in a sort, lovely to them.  They are pleased in the highest degree, in hearing how much God and Christ make of them.  So that their joy is really a joy in themselves, and not in God.

What an indictment of American Christianity.  There are millions of professing Christians whose love for God goes no deeper than this: He is a means to their self-exaltation, a tool in their hands to make them love themselves more.  God is not their treasure; rather, the image they see in the mirror is their treasure.  God is valuable to them only insomuch that He gives them a better self-image.  This is the joy of the hypocrite, according to Edwards.  And it appears to me to be a joy that is in abundance in churches all across this land.  

Join me in praying that a revival of genuine passion for the glory of God seen in the face of Jesus Christ would fall upon us in America, so that we might be inflamed to be God’s instruments of filling the whole earth with the knowledge of His glory and grace.

Have a good weekend, 

Larry 

Christians Can Laugh? August 24, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Links.
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Sometimes I have been told that I am too serious.  I think it’s good to be serious.  The fact that every human being I encounter every day of my life will spend eternity either in everlasting joy or everlasting torment ought to bring a certain seriousness to life.  I do not believe that the evangelical Christian world is suffering from an abundance of people who are too serious. 

But I do not have any opposition to laughter, and I want blog nation to know that I had a pretty good laugh today.  Here’s what caused it: http://www.challies.com/archives/002042.php

Enjoy…but please don’t take it seriously. 

Larry

Controversy! August 24, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Random Musings.
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Joe,

Thanks for posting the Piper article, I had seen it online but actually not had the chance to read it yet when you posted it.  It certainly is a bit wordy!  I’ve read a lot of Piper and I had to re-read several sentences to make sure I was following what he was saying.  Piper answers the question “Why does God delight in His children?” by saying that He delights in us because we delight in Him.  I probably would have answered the question by saying, He delights in us because He has made us each with the ability to uniquely reflect His infinite worth, and that our worth comes from magnifying His worth.  I think both answers are pretty similar actually, since our delighting in Him is the fundamental way in which we reflect His worth.

But I titled this post “Controversy” because I am puzzled sometimes at the way Piper uses proof-texts to show that joy in God is commanded.  Now I have no doubt that I need not elaborate on how much I have profited from Piper’s ministry and how God has used him to show me the unsearchable riches of God’s glory.  All you have to do is go back into the archives of this blog and find my recommendation of the Pleasures of God. 

But in my opinion, his use of texts here (and I’ve seen it in other places too) leaves something to be desired.  He says in the article that God commands us to delight in Him, and he supports that statement with six proof-texts.  Four of the six verses that he cites are clearly not commandments.  One is a prayer (Ps. 70:4), and three are statements of fact (Ps. 43:4, 63:3, Rom. 5:2).  That leaves only two commandments left, one of which (Phil.4:4) is definitely a commandment.  The other (Psalm 37:4) does not read like a command in english (it sounds more like a promise), but I do believe it’s in the Hebrew imperative. 

Let’s assume that his use of Psalm 37:4 is legitimate; why use six proof-texts to support the statement that God commands us to delight in Him, when only two of those six verses are even commandments?  I almost wish he would have just used Philippians 4:4 and left it at that.  That one is clear, and you really don’t need any more evidence. 

I have no doubt that joy in God is a commandment, because I believe it is fundamental in the greatest commandment to love God with all of our heart and soul and mind and strength.  And 1 Peter 1:8-9 seems to make plain that love, faith and joy are inseparable movements of the soul in the person who has seen Christ in a saving way: “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

I suspect that a good Berean would not be impressed with Piper’s effort in this article to show that delight in God is commanded.  Certainly he has written much on this topic, but doesn’t it seem to you that his handling of it in this article was somewhat weak?  

I should add that the way he deals with his second question, why God tells us that he delights in us, is very good and very necessary for our self-esteem loving, pragmatic church age to understand.  If you’ve not taken the time, check out the link in Joe’s last post and give it a read!

Anxious to see whether I am still permitted to blog with you,

Larry    

Worth the Read August 23, 2006

Posted by Joe in Links.
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Lar,

You might have already seen this one, but if not, it’s a must read for you and everyone else.

Peace,

Joe

p.s. Now this broke the record for shortest post right?

The Pursuit of Pleasure August 23, 2006

Posted by Joe in Random Musings.
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Lar,

That is a phenomenal quote. I have read it a few times before, but you just can’t get enough of something like that. The thing that stood out to me immediately (particularly in his reflection) is how misguided and blind the world is in pursuit of its pleasures. And not only that, but how lukewarm we all are in pursuit of the happiness our hearts desire.

It really is striking how the fall not only made us blind to the Source of all true and lasting happiness and peace and pleasure and joy and satisfaction (and any other good word you can think of!), but how it stifled our ability to most fully enjoy that Source when found. It made us, as C.S. Lewis said, half-hearted creatures. It is as if our hearts are now willing to make a bargain of sorts, to pretend that we really are happy even though a longing remains deep within.

Of course, this points to the simple fact that because of the fall, our hearts are deceitful above all else and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). Those who say they are happy apart from God really believe it, but sadly they are deceived. They convince themselves that all is well, and silence the longing within. Only by God’s grace is it awakened through whatever means the Lord may employ. In particular, continual exposure to the truth–in both word and practice–serves to stir up that inner longing of the heart, that great longing for the happiness that is full and forever.

Yet it is worth mentioning (as you alluded to) that it is every Christian’s duty to cultivate that inner longing for greater and greater happiness in God through Jesus Christ. And it really does take cultivation. That needs to be emphasized, particularly in America, because there are so many things screaming at us, promising to bring us the happiness we desire. It is no coincidence that we find many in the American church sleeping. They have made a bargain with their hearts and settled for the American dream–which for many includes church involvement. And this might be the saddest thing of all: millions who have been exposed to Christ (and even worse, been vessels through which He has been exposed) have settled into the comfortable routine of American, moral, external, nice-guy Christianity. There is no longing. There is no burden. There is no fire. They are content with less than God’s best and are desperate to be awakened.

This is my burden Lar, as you well know. There are millions who think they know Jesus Christ when in fact, all they know is a comfortable, bargain with your hearts, nice-guy Christianity. These people have had just enough of Jesus to be inoculated to the real thing. Even when they are confrontedby the truth of hypocrisy or whatever else, they always think that you are talking about someone else. It really is amazing and very sad.

It is hard to go to the furthest reaches of the earth for the sake of the gospel. But I would also argue that it can be just as hard ministering to those who already think they have the answers. Both are frustrating. And I am praying that the Lord might raise up many men who would be used by Him to awaken His sleeping people (or at least, His professing sleepy people). The road is narrow that leads to life and few find it. The broad road is a religious and moral one and many travel it to hell. This is serious business and it can be frustrating and disheartening business. But let us persevere in prayer and preaching and writing and sharing and living so that the Lord might pour out His Spirit upon us and awaken all those who think they are where they are supposed to be!

Those who are not passionately pursuing their highest happiness in God should count themselves in a dangerous position. Every day is a battle, it’s a war, that we need to fight by doing all we can to cultivate a deeper longing for joy in God. The moment we get content, in that moment, we begin to die.

Never resting until we meet Jesus,

Joe

Augustine’s Victory over Fruitless Joys August 23, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Quotes, Random Musings.
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As I prepare this week for a message for Sunday morning on the fear of man, I am surprised to find myself devoting much time to contemplating Saint Augustine’s dramatic conversion and the way in which he found victory in his battle against the lusts of the world. I don’t think this reflection will make it explicitly into Sunday’s message (although there is hope that it will find its way into part 2 on Sept. 3rd), so I thought I would post it here. In his autobiographical Confessions, he describes the day of his conversion; at the time he was entrenched in a violent battle against the lusts of his flesh and he seemingly could find no freedom:

“I flung myself down beneath a fig tree and gave way to the tears which now streamed from my eyes . . . In my misery I kept crying, “How long shall I go on saying ‘tomorrow, tomorrow’? Why not now? Why not make an end of my ugly sins at this moment?” . . . All at once I heard the singsong voice of a child in a nearby house. Whether it was the voice of a boy or a girl I cannot say, but again and again it repeated the refrain ‘Take it and read, take it and read.’ At this I looked up, thinking hard whether there was any kind of game in which children used to chant words like these, but I could not remember ever hearing them before. I stemmed my flood of tears and stood up, telling myself that this could only be a divine command to open my book of Scripture and read the first passage on which my eyes should fall.

So I hurried back to the place where Alypius was sitting . . . seized [the book of Paul’s epistles] and opened it, and in silence I read the first passage on which my eyes fell: “Not in reveling in drunkenness, not in lust and wantonness, not in quarrels and rivalries. Rather, arm yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ; spend no more thought on nature and nature’s appetites” (Romans 13:13-14). I had no wish to read more and no need to do so. For in an instant, as I came to the end of the sentence, it was as though the light of confidence flooded into my heart and all the darkness of doubt was dispelled.”

Looking back on this glorious triumph of grace, he wrote,

“How sweet all at once it was for me to be rid of those fruitless joys which I had once feared to lose . . ! You drove them from me, you who are the true, the sovereign joy. You drove them from me and took their place, you who are sweeter than all pleasure, though not to flesh and blood, you who outshine all light, yet are hidden deeper than any secret in our hearts, you who surpass all honor, though not in the eyes of men who see all honor in themselves. . . . O Lord my God, my Light, my Wealth, and my Salvation.”

Victory over the fleeting pleasures of sin comes from a taste of the superior pleasure that is found only at God’s right hand. Whether it is the fear of man, sexual purity, anger, greed, or any other sin under the sun, this is what we need: a sight of Jesus Christ in the fullness of His glory that is so breathtaking that it drives away every fruitless joy. Grace replaces pleasure in sin with the far greater pleasure of enjoying all that God is for us in Christ.

What an astounding gift we have in the Bible, the written word of God through which we see the eternal Word who alone can free us from every lesser pleasure. Lord, make us to exercise violence in putting to death inferior, fleeting joys by falling in love all the more with Your matchless worth!

Larry

1 Samuel on Success August 23, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Random Musings.
1 comment so far

Joe,

Thanks for the link, certainly that is a good way to look at success. It is a sad thing that in our day, so many churches measure success in terms of numerical growth. Will it really be successful for a church to have 20,000 people on Sunday morning, only to have 18,000 of them hear the Lord Jesus say on the last day, “Depart from Me, you evildoers. I never knew you.” If there is not a passion for the greatness of Jesus Christ, then it really doesn’t matter what appears to be going well to the external eye.

I have to battle this wrong notion of success as I serve the young people in Koinonia. How easy it is to fall into the temptation to evaluate the effectiveness of the ministry based on how many people are coming out each Sunday night. Yet how irrelevant that is, if they do not have a zeal for the glory of Christ that leads them to devote every area of their lives to the hallowing of His name!

We must always be mindful of the truth of 1 Samuel 16:7, “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

Longing for a heart that pleases Him,

Larry

PS — I think that was your personal record for shortest post!

Success August 22, 2006

Posted by Joe in Links.
1 comment so far

Lar,

Check out this post when you get a minute. It stirs the soul because he is right on. I need to listen to Matt Chandler a bit, so I will download those sermons. True success in the kingdom can only come when we love and delight in the King.

Seeking that sweet delight with you,

Joe

One Thing August 21, 2006

Posted by Joe in Random Musings.
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Lar,

One thing. Just one thing. I am convinced, very convinced I should say, that no matter what we might be called to as Christians, no matter what sphere of influence we might find ourselves in, one ultimate thing matters–how intimately do we know God through Jesus Christ? How much do we love Him? How rich is our delight in the riches of His Person? Our answer exposes the power of our life.

Of course, I don’t say that it is the only thing that matters. That is going too far. But it is the ultimate thing. And if I am going to err, I would rather err on the ultimate. I would rather risk becoming too caught up in God than becoming too caught up in a thousand other good things. For as far as I see it, this is where many sincere Christians (and churches and ministries and families) fail today. We are easily caught up in a thousand peripheral things, while the main thing–that one thing–is pushed off into the peripheral. It can be so subtle, but the effects are deadly. And I guess I would ask, is it possible to become too caught up in God?

Some might count me oversimplistic, but I don’t think this line of thinking really is. Think about it. Who can come to know and love God in the inner most reaches of their being only to live a life that ignores the highest good of their neighbor or their church or their world? It just can’t happen. The Spirit of God will not allow it. Love for God always overflows in love for the church and the world. It really is that simple.

Now, not everyone is called to live like David Brainerd, but everyone is called to have a heart for God like David Brainerd. We might not share in all his sufferings, but we can seek to share in his single-hearted devotion to the Lord (which, less face it, many times comes through suffering). If we learn nothing else from his life, we should learn this. And I would emphasize here that it doesn’t matter what vocation of life we might find ourselves in. A single-hearted devotion to God is not just for pastors or leaders. It is for every child of God. Indeed, the world is desperate for every child of God to live with such a heart for God–in the home, the neighborhood, the workplace, etc, etc. What might God do with a group (or groups!) of people who really live their life with this one aim? The possibilties stir my soul.

O Lord of Glory, I thank you that you love to spread Your fame. I thank you Father, that you have seen fit, in your providence, to bring us to a time and place such a this, and that you call us to serve our generation. Help us to do so faithfully Lord. Help us to do so fruitfully Lord. Give us wisdom. Give us discernment. Give us knowledge and understanding far beyond our years. But do so by giving us a single-hearted devotion of heart to you. Fill us up Lord. Make us love you the way you love you. Make us delight in you the way you delight in you. Make us men after your own heart for the sake of your great name. See fit, O Lord, to bless us with the knowledge of your Person so that we might bless others throughout the whole of your world. Raise up your people Lord. Raise up your people. Glorify the name of your Son that the Son may glorify you. Hear us because of Him. It is in His great name that we pray. Amen.

He promises us Lar, “Draw near to me and I will draw near to you.” Let us persist in drawing near and be content with nothing less that the manifestation His presence. Both the church and the world are desperate for it.

Drawing near to Him with you,

Joe

A Hearty Amen August 21, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Random Musings, Scripture Meditation.
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Joe,

Of course you know that I give a big Amen to your recommendation of Brainerd’s life and diary. I have not read the whole thing in its entirety (and I will begin to do so as soon as you get me my copy back!), but I have read enough to have it pierce my heart with conviction. You were right in saying in your message last night that Brainerd pursued God as an unbeliever with a fervency that makes my current pursuit look pitiful. I read Brainerd’s writings — both his heights of joy and his depths of despair and longings when God seemed absent — and I myself long for the kind of communion that he experienced.

Thanks for serving us so well last night as you set before us the story of this remarkable instrument of God’s grace. Surely it is to the praise of God’s glorious grace that a man who lived, believed, and ministered for such a short time would have such a powerful impact on missions even more than 250 years after dying.

Thanks also for the reminder that in all my sermon preparations, in all my counseling meetings, and in everything, that I must make one thing central:

One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.(Psalm 27:4)

Life in ministry can be very time-consuming and distracting, and I need to be reminded over and over that I am in ministry for one thing: to bring others into the enjoyment of dwelling in God’s presence and gazing upon His matchless beauty. If I can keep that perspective constantly before me, it should make the frustrations of ministry much more bearable.

Devoted to the pursuit of One Thing,

Larry

Just Making the Cut August 20, 2006

Posted by Joe in Recommendations.
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Lar,

We aren’t missing a day! I am just squeezing in a post at this late hour. But the Lord is good. It is surely a joy to be held up in prayer with the saints!

So any idea what my weekend recommendation might be? How about The Life and Diary of David Brainerd? Surprise, surprise considering that is what I preached on tonight, huh. But really, how could it not be? For there can be little doubt as to its ability to stir up souls unto a greater and more fervent pursuit of God, especially considering that it has never been out of print for the last 250 years. Amazing.

080100976601_aa240_sclzzzzzzz_.jpgFor those who don’t know, David Brainerd was a missionary to the Indians in the 1740’s. He died of tuberculosis at the age of 29 and ministered for only 4 years. But he was a man who walked with God, and who struggled with all His might to make God known among those who didn’t know Him. His diary and journal have inspired many throughout the years. I have no doubt that anyone who reads this book will understand why.

The call of Christ to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily to follow Him can be a little abstract until you see it in action, whoever it might be. Brainerd is one who lost his life in order that he might gain it. He was one who pursued last place to the glory of our great God. You just cannot walk away from his life without being convicted and challenged and encouraged. I might put a quote up tomorrow, but I just had to get that recommendation in!

Seeking the grace to seek last place with you,

Joe