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Final Words for Now December 31, 2006

Posted by Joe in Random Musings.
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Lar,

This will be a short one, but I just wanted to make my last post before my exit from the States.  The Lord is good brother and it will be a pleasure to blog with you from afar.  Of course, I suppose that that was part of the reason why we started blogging in the first place.  It was nice to get in a rhythm though and I trust it will benefit us during our time away.  I will definitely have to use the ‘timestamp’ while away, b/c I could be making all sorts of midnight posts while being 6 hours ahead.

Love you brother.  Let’s keep seeking Him together.

Peace,

Joe

p.s. that video at ‘Between Two Worlds’ was phenomenal.  I couldn’t stop laughing this afternoon.  I actually, it kind of tired me out.  Pray that the Lord might grant us all the grace to sleep on the plane!  For anyone who hasn’t seen the video, click here.

Repentance December 31, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Quotes, Random Musings.
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Joe,

As I am thinking about the retreat that I will be preaching on at the end of January regarding spiritual disciplines, one of the things that I have been thinking about is the discipline of confession. David wrote,

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” (Psalm 32:1)

Yet often we fail to attain his blessedness because we try to cover up our sins rather than run to Jesus for the mercy of the Cross. In keeping with that idea, I thought I would post these song lyrics from a guy names Derek Webb, who had been with Caedmon’s Call for awhile. I especially like the last verse:

I repent, I repent of my pursuit of america’s dream
I repent, I repent of living like I deserve anything
Of my house, my fence, my kids, my wife
In our suburb where we’re safe and white
I am wrong and of these things I repent

I repent, I repent of parading my liberty
I repent. I repent of paying for what I get for free
And for the way I believe that I am living right
By trading sins for others that are easier to hide
I am wrong and of these things I repent

Bridge
I repent judging by a law that even I can’t keep
Of wearing righteousness like a disguise
To see through the planks in my own eyes

I repent, I repent of trading truth for false unity
I repent, I repent of confusing peace and idolatry
By caring more of what they think than what I know of what we need
By domesticating you until you look just like me
I am wrong and of these things I repent

Let’s strive to practice the daily habit of confession and repentance. I say daily, because there are sins that we are in need of forgiveness of each and every day. Part of the reason why we don’t practice confession and repentance regularly is because we have such a small view of sin. If we exercise our minds and hearts to consider the blazing furnace of God’s holiness, it will not be hard to discern the ways in which we fall short of His glory. Then when we do, it is so wonderful to know that we have a merciful and faithful High Priest who has made atonement for all our sins; past, present, and future.

Larry

Sunday Prayer December 31, 2006

Posted by Joe in Prayer.
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“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from the ir eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:1-4).

O Lord, fill us with longing for the New Jerusalem. Make us live for the city that has the foundations that will never wear out. Fill our hearts with such joy in You and Your place that we begin to live like strangers and exiles here for the sake of Your name. Help us to take our eyes off the fleeting pleasures and possession of this life, and to set them on the pleasures and possession that last forevermore. Open our hearts, O God! Open our hearts! Enable us to see Your glory–the glory that fills the holy city and will one day give the New Earth its light. Give us a greater glimpse now so that we might more faithfully and fruitfully live for ‘then.’ Grant such mercy, O Father! Change our hearts! Make us long for You and Your dwelling until all else fades into proper place and perspective. Be central. Be all in all for Your name’s sake. In Jesus’ mighty name we pray. Amen and Amen.

Joe

Mp3 Players and the Great Commission December 30, 2006

Posted by Joe in Links, Random Musings.
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Lar,

I received an update email today from Biblicaltraining.org.   It’s a great ministry that I highly recommend for anyone who wants to dive into greater study.  Anyhow, here is the content of the email.  I am quite confident they won’t mind it being shared.  It reminded me of your post yesterday and a few of our conversations.  The possibilities for ministering to the world through today’s technologies are great!  Here are just a few examples.

“We just received an email from The South African Theological Seminary (www.sats.edu.za). They have already trained 2500 students as they partner with South African churches to train their future leaders. They tell us that

some of the [Biblical Training] lectures will serve as great supplements to our corresponding courses. We’ve also been considering providing our students, many of whom come from rural, underprivileged areas, with mp3 players to supplement their studies. Most Africans, even well educated Africans, are primarily oral learners; they will benefit greatly from audio supplements. Thank you once again for a wonderful initiative. We praise the Lord Jesus for it.

And just this week we heard from missionaries living in a Muslim country. They thanked us for recompressing all the lectures in mp3, explaining that

because of our environment, we cannot listen to the classes on a computer. But we can quietly download the mp3s and listen to them in private on mp3 players.”

The Lord is at work in a million ways that we will never know.  Let us expand our vision and rejoice!

Seeking Him with you,

Joe

Death of Hussein December 30, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Links.
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Joe,

Since I saw on CNN.com the news of Sadam Hussein’s execution this morning, I have been thinking of what to say.  It is a staggering thing to see images of a man being led to his hanging.  After reading some reflection on the execution from Tim Challies, I thought it would be better to simply link to him than to write anything more.  His words are, as always, carefully thought out and biblically grounded.

Larry

The Drama of Redemption December 30, 2006

Posted by Joe in Links, Recommendations.
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Lar,

That is the title of a teaching series by R.C. Sproul. He is currently going through it, so I want to take this short opportunity to highly recommend it. I’m not sure how long it is, but Ligonier Ministries really does a nice job of putting their short radio broadcast together. More or less you end up listening to Dr. Sproul for about 20 minutes at a time. It’s an investment that I have never regretted, so I would encourage you (and everyone else) to check this series out. I think it would fit into the category of wise use of one’s short time!

If you go to Ligonier.org and click on the “Renewing Your Mind Broadcast” tab you will see the beginning of the series. You can also find it in the bottom box of resources on the front page. Also, I need to make mention that I can’t recommend Ligonier Ministries enough. I have really grown to appreciate R.C. Sproul. He is a phenomenal teacher who not only knows what he is talking about, but who really feels it and communicates it with incredible clarity. He is a blessing to the Body of Christ. So check him out. Sign up for his podcast of listen to the series. Sit under his ministry for a bit. I think your soul will thank you!

Peace brother,

Joe

Saturday Morning Prayer December 30, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Prayer.
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“7How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. 8They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. 9For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.” (Psalm 36:7-9)

Father, we come before You with souls that thirst for the living water that only You can grant us. Turn us away from the broken cisterns that so easily lure us away from the river of Your delights. Empower us to seek our refuge in the shadow of Your hands. We thank You for Your gracious promise that whoever believes in You will never thirst forever (John 6:35). We praise You that to behold You in glory is to partake of a spiritual feast. Forbid that we should excuse ourselves from that great feast to nibble at the table of the world. Our hearts are restless until they rest in You, Lord. So give us a holy taste this day for heaven’s joys. Satisfy us this morning with Your steadfast love, that we might rejoice and be glad in You.

Larry

The Day’s Final Reflections December 29, 2006

Posted by Joe in Random Musings.
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Lar,

Way to keep the ball rolling brother.  I trust you will continue to do so if I am absent for a bit.  I was going to make a post earlier in the day, however, after reading your iPod reflections, I didn’t think it was necessary at all!  Everyone needs to read that and of course, then run out and buy an iPod!  Of course, that is not true, but I appreciated your thanksgiving over a piece of technology and recognition that no matter what we may think, the Lord is behind all technological developments and using them all to fulfill the perfect will of His good pleasure.  “He does according to His will in the hosts of heaven and among all the inhabitants of the earth and none can stay His hand or say, ‘What have you done?'”  He is accountable to none and sovereign over every detail.  In that I rejoice with you!

Second, I am going to file away that last quote brother.  That was a blessing.  It got me to thinking.  Not so much about prayer, I confess, but about how many people will really take that quote to heart and live it!  So often everyone will agree with a particular statement, but then make no radical change in their lives or ministry or home.  We need to ask ourselves the tough question:  does my life bear witness to a supernatural work?  Does this church bear witness to a supernatural work?  Does my home bear witness to a supernatural work?  On and on we could go.  But what is our answer?

If it is in the negative, let us look to our prayers, both individually and corporately.  Are we ‘workers’ or ‘waiters’?  Or better yet, what is holding us back from being both?  Let’s take a hard look brother and do what we must to be men who never labor in vain!  Let us go to our knees and plead with the Lord for power.  Deeds are not the need of the day!  Power is necessary.  The aroma of Christ we must bear!  Wood, hay, and straw, we must settle for no longer.

O how I long to see the Spirit poured out!  O how I long to see the people of God live with true power!  Let us stop our trifling with mere religious routine and let us wait upon the Lord until His presence and power comes!  We are more needy than we now know.  Indeed, our complacency betrays us.  Playing church just won’t cut it any longer.  We are desperate for the presence and power of God.  Let us pray until we really long for it as we should.

Longing for His presence and power with you,

Joe

The Necessity of Prayer December 29, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Quotes.
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Joe,

I thought you would like this quote on prayer from A.C. Dixon:

“When we depend upon organizations, we get what organizations can do; when we depend upon education, we get what education can do; when we depend upon man, we get what man can do; but when we depend upon prayer, we get what God can do.”

Larry

IPOD-Empowered Sanctification December 29, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Random Musings.
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Joe,

The title of this post is a funny one to me, because a short time ago I would have probably said that IPODs are an evidence of how unsanctified we are as a nation. As you know, the issues of how to deal with the technological innovations of our day and age is a difficult issue for Christians to deal with. On one extreme are those who are so ingrained in the ways of the world that they see nothing wrong with Christians who have all the same “toys” as the rest of the unbelieving world around them. They may give God thanks, but they live a life of total wordliness and materialism. Then on the other side you have people who totally reject all advancements in technology and look with scorn upon those who have the latest technological gadgets, like an IPOD.

Now you know that I tend towards the latter of these two extremes, and I strive to live a very simple life. So when I got an IPOD from my mom for Christmakkah (yes, that’s a combination of Christmas and Hanukkah for those Jews who have been born anew!) it was with mixed emotions. I wanted it for two reasons: to aid my times of personal worship during devotions, and to be able to listen to songs and sermons while I exercise. But on the other hand, I felt a bit “worldly”, and even felt a bit guilty for having one.

Then yesterday I went to the gym over at Rowan. I just got a membership for the winter months, and it was my first time to exercise with the IPOD. As I was stretching, in the gym they were playing some 80’s music (maybe early 90’s?), and a song came on that I think is called, “I want to be rich”. I want money, lots and lots of money, that was a repeated refrain in this song. And at that moment I was very grateful to have an IPOD, since I wouldn’t be subjected to listening to that garbage for my whole workout!

In Romans 12 Paul urges us to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” Transformation into the image of God comes by means of our minds being renewed. And it is very hard to have a mind renewed into the image of Christ when the mind is getting filled with messages telling us that lots and lots of money is the pathway to happiness.

So it was ironic to me that this new gadget which I thought was making me worldly actually empowered me to avoid worldliness by keeping me from listening involuntarily to music which would have polluted my mind with the wisdom of the world. Rather than feeling guilty about owning a new piece of technology, I now give God praise for blessing me with a gift to help me guard my heart and mind from the mind-numbing influence of secular, Christ-belittling music. And I must constantly be in prayer that God would always help me treasure Him more than an IPOD or any other good gift that He has blessed me with here in America.

By the way, the first song that came on when I turned my IPOD on was this one from Caedmon’s Call:

Before there was time,
There were visions in Your mind.
There was death in the fall of mankind,
But there was life in salvation’s design.
Before there were days,
There were nights I could not see Your face,
But the night couldn’t keep me from grace
When You came and took my place.

So I cry, “Holy, only begotten Son of God,
Ancient of Days.”
I cry, “Holy, only begotten Son of God.”
And sing the praises
Of the One who saved me,
And the promises He made.

Before there was time,
You counted the hairs on my head.
You knew all the words that I’ve said,
And You purchased me back from the dead.
And before I was made,
You searched me and knew my ways.
You numbered all of my days
And You set forth the steps I would take.

Well, You saved me.
And You raised me.
You saved me.
And You pulled me from the grave.

A far cry from “I want money, lots and lots of money…”, don’t you think?

Larry

Leaving God with Them December 29, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Quotes.
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Joe,

Here’s the quote I was mentioning at breakfast from Jonathan Edwards about faithful ministers of the gospel.  I think it actually fits nicely with what I wrote yesterday from 2 Corinthians 2 about successful ministry:

“Useful men are some of the greatest blessings of a people. To have many such is more for a people’s happiness than almost anything, unless it be God’s own gracious, spiritual presence amongst them: they are precious gifts of heaven…Particularly, I would beseech and exhort those aged ones that yet remain, while they do live with us, to let us have much of their prayers, that when they leave the younger generations, they may leave God with them.”

May we be people who strive to “leave God” with those to whom we minister.  Too many in this day and age would rather be popular and have big crowds than actually leave the surpassing greatness of Jesus Christ with their disciples.  Let us never be more enamored with popularity than with manifesting the aroma of Christ in every place,

Larry

Friday Morning Prayer December 29, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Prayer.
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“22If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come!” (1 Corinthians 16:22)

Father, stir our affections for You and Your beloved Son.  The one who has no love for Christ is accursed.  And You are worthy of a love infinitely greater than the love we have for the most precious of earthly gifts.  Help us to love Christ with such a deep and abiding love that all things would be rubbish compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ.  Make our souls pant with a holy desire for Your coming in glory to bring all thing to consummation.  We are powerless to love You and long for Your return apart from the gracious enablement of Your Spirit.  So revive us, Lord, with a soul-consuming love for Christ.  May we regard Jesus as the Joy of all other joys, the Treasure of our hearts and lives.

Larry

Preparing for 2007 December 28, 2006

Posted by Joe in Links, Recommendations.
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Lar,

This post coincides with my final “Weekly Word” over at seekhim.org. Essentially, I wrote about preparing for the New Year. In particular I emphasized setting certain and specific goals that we would like to see happen in 2007. I wanted to post two particular resources that I have helped me tremendously in my thinking. They are not ‘Christian’ in the way we would think, but I don’t think that matters much in this regard. I found them to be very helpful.

t_16175_01.gifThe first is a book by a man named David Allen called, Getting Things Done. Lar, you have heard me speak about this book time and again, so you know what a difference it has made in my life. Actually, it was close to my top ten! Organization and productivity are still not my specialties, but I’m growing in grace and praying for much more. This book will help tremendously. You can also learn more at his website. www.davidco.com

The second thing I would recommend in a short ‘webinar’ by a man named David Lakhani. Again, nothing Christian, but some really good practical stuff on goal setting. I would highly recommend this to everyone. The simple questions he has you ask regarding specific goals was a big one for me. I plan to use it personally for the rest of my days unless I find something better. The ‘webinar’ can be listened to and viewed here.

That’s it for now brother. I really would encourage everyone to look at their upcoming year and properly plan for how they are going to make the best use of it. “Look carefully then as you walk, not as unwise, but as wise, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15). No one changes and/or reaches their respective goals by accident! So no one makes the best use of God’s time by accident either. Let us labor to be faithful to the glory of His name!

Seeking to make the most of my time (and year) to the glory of our great God,

Joe

Successful Ministry December 28, 2006

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

I’ll try to get an answer to your question from the last post later today or tomorrow, but I actually wrote this up and was ready to post it before I read your last post.  I was talking to a friend of ours yesterday about what makes ministry successful; certainly we in the Church have some very twisted ways of defining success! Probably the most common key to success in our pragmatic day is numerical growth. But that seems quite impossible given the life and ministry of our Lord when He walked the earth. For large crowds abandoned Him (John 6:66), and when He was killed on the Cross He had practically zero followers. By our contemporary mindset, Jesus was a failure.

So we tried to probe deeper, and considered that successful ministry is one that sees people grow in conformity to the image of Christ and passion for His renown. But even that understanding is off the mark, I think. Was Jeremiah a successful prophet? He was hated by those whom he ministered to, and saw little tangible “fruit” from his ministry. While we should be earnestly desiring to see fruit from our ministry, and should be praying for fruit to abound, that too is a wrong way of measuring success.

As we talked more, the Lord led me to 2 Corinthians 2. I think these words from the Apostle Paul are an excellent definition of successful ministry, and how out of whack they are to the values of the contemporary evangelical church:

“14But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 17For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.”

Here is successful ministry: Men (and women, though not in leadership over men) of sincerity, commissioned by God who speak for Christ in the sight of God and spread the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere, spreading the aroma of life to some and the aroma of death to others.

May God grant that we be so successful as we serve others for Christ’s sake,

Larry

Preparation for Persecution December 28, 2006

Posted by Joe in Random Musings.
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Lar,

Thanks so much for your periodic reminders regarding the persecuted church. We all need it. That is for sure. So your post got me to thinking, as I suppose you hoped it would: What is the primary way the Lord prepares His people for persecution (or any kind of difficult related to following Jesus)?

I look forward to your answer. Here is the first thing that comes to my mind. Actually, I suppose it is two things, but they relate quite well. Either way, here they are.

First, I think He prepares us for persecution and difficulty by setting before us His life. He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with much grief. Jesus didn’t live the easy life. Of course, for His first thirty years, we don’t know much of what happened. His life might have been somewhat normal. However, either way, for the Son of God to come and become man and live like one of us and undergo the same kinds of temptations and difficulties of life that we endure, His life was anything but easy. I don’t care if He lived in the suburbs of Nazereth (which of course didn’t exist then, but follow along), if He was anywhere on this fallen planet, His life wasn’t easy. No one’s life is easy. He became like His brothers in every respect so that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest. This is all-encompassing.

Then when He enters His ministry, He shows us anything but the easy path. Those who subscibe to the ‘health and wealth’ Jesus must of necessity dimantle their Bible in the process. He begins by fasting for 40 days and being tempted by the devil. He had no where to lay His hand. He was busy all the time. He couldn’t go anywhere without being pushed upon by the needy. He led a group of knuckle-heads (which we all are) who couldn’t ‘get’ His mission no matter how much He spoke of it. Those whom He poured His life into finally leave Him, one betrays Him and He is strung up on a cross to die in complete innocence (the only innocent death ever). And we are called to ‘follow Him.’ That, in and of itself, should be enough to make it plain what kind of life awaits those who profess to follow Jesus.

But there is a second thing I would mention. I won’t take the time to cite all the various verses, but would simply like to ask: How often did Jesus warn us of suffering or simply state that suffering and persecution were a given for those who follow Him? The answer is plain. Time and again we hear Jesus say things like “A servant is not greater than his master, nor a disciple his teacher. If they have called the Master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household?” On and on we could go. Simply put, I believe that Jesus prepares His people for suffering by doing all He can to take out the element of surprise. Of course, we need to read our Bibles to hear such teaching. The lack of Bible study is a main reason why people are taken off guard when difficulty comes. But if we search the Scriptures and look and listen to Jesus, difficulty is just a ‘given.’ It’s the life we embrace as our own.

Those are two quick answers. I look forward to your thoughts. May the Lord continue to abound in grace and teach us to embrace a difficult and wearisome life on this earth for the glory of His great name! May He grant us grace to truly follow Jesus!

Seeking to follow Him with you,

Joe

Persecution Story December 28, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Links.
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Joe,

Thanks for the quote from Tozer last night. As I read it this morning, I thought of this article which I read yesterday about a teenage girl in Indonesia who survived a machete attack from radical Muslims. Her three friends did not survive, but now they are in paradise with Jesus.

I know it’s your conviction too that we need to hear these stories often, to protect us from the kind of cheap, comfortable Christianity that Tozer addresses in his quote. As the believers in Paul’s days were strengthened to preach the gospel with more boldness because of Paul’s imprisonment, may stories like these empower us to a more passionate life of heralding Christ’s glorious gospel, no matter what the consequences may be.

Along these lines, you may have noticed that I added to the side column the Voice of the Martyrs blog, which has many stories similar to this one from Indonesia. It, along with all the resources from VOM is a great resource to stir the hearts of God’s people to a greater devotion to Christ.

Larry

Thursday Morning Prayer December 28, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Prayer.
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“4My soul is in the midst of lions; I lie down amid fiery beasts— the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords. 5Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!” (Psalm 57:4-5)

Father, give us the grace to be so filled with desire for the spread of Your glory that even when we are in the midst of lions, that our heart’s prayer would be for You to exalt Your glory over all the earth. Surely in this wicked and godless world, we will face times when we are slandered, mocked, insulted and attacked by people who hate You and Your Word. In those times, Lord, help us to be unconcerned with how we are perceived. Let us pray for Your glory to be above the heavens, regardless of the pain that we will endure in this life.

Larry

Tozer Quote December 27, 2006

Posted by Joe in Quotes.
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Lar,

Way to keep things rolling today brother.  It has been a rare one for me today, very little time on-line!  Some might say that is a good thing, but whatever…..here’s a good one from Tozer that I received this morning.  It reminded me of a few of our posts from the past week or so.  How faithful are we being with the Christian message?  Have we been guilty of watering it down?  Considering Tozer penned these words about 50 years ago, I wonder what he would say now.

Any appeal to the public in the name of Christ that rises no higher than an invitation to tranquillity must be recognized as mere humanism with a few words of Jesus thrown in to make it appear Christian….

Christ calls men to carry a cross; we call them to have fun in His name. He calls them to forsake the world; we assure them that if they but accept Jesus the world is their oyster. He calls them to suffer; we call them to enjoy all the bourgeois comforts modern civilization affords. He calls them to self-abnegation and death; we call them to spread themselves like green bay trees or perchance even to become stars in a pitiful fifth-rate religious zodiac. He calls them to holiness; we call them to a cheap and tawdry happiness that would have been rejected with scorn by the least of the Stoic philosophers….

We can afford to suffer now; we’ll have a long eternity to enjoy ourselves. And our enjoyment will be valid and pure, for it will come in the right way at the right time.

Tozer might not have emphasized that joy that comes in the midst of suffering, but no matter what, he is on point.

I would also make mention in this post that I really appreciate your posting those questions by Don Whitney today.  I would encourage everyone to give them more than a casual glance.  Let’s answer them and put it in writing.  Then let’s draw up a plan for actually implementing them.  I could go on, but maybe I will blog more about that later.  It’s time for bed.

Peace brother,

Joe

Reflecting on the New Year December 27, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Links.
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Last week I posted some questions from Don Whitney to start up conversations at Christmas gatherings. Now Whitney gives several questions to reflect on as we begin a new year.

Let us consider how to make the best use of our days,

Larry

Romans Series Complete December 27, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Links.
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After 8 1/2 years, John Piper completed his series on the book of Romans this past Sunday. Justin Taylor provides a nice summary with his thoughts, and provides the link to read, listen or watch the final sermon. Michelle and I watched it last night, and it was a real blessing. Piper prayed the whole sermon, like Augustine’s confessions, which is an autobiography written as prayer. It was certainly a unique sermon, and I think a great conclusion to a series which has been a great blessing to Joe and me.

Larry