• QUOTE FOR TODAY

    "God is pursuing with omnipotent passion a worldwide purpose of gathering joyful worshipers for Himself from every tribe and tongue and people and nation…Therefore let us bring our affections into line with His, and, for the sake of His name, let us renounce the quest for worldly comforts and join His global purpose."
    -- John Piper

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  • James 2:14-17

    What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?

    In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

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Focus on Worship — Are we amazed?

I came across a song titled Amazed by Jared Anderson.  The lyrics really got me to thinking again on how we enter the presence of our HOLY God.  Take a look:
 
You dance over me,
While I am unaware.
You sing all around,
But I never hear the sound.
 
Lord I’m amazed by You.
Lord I’m amazed by You.
Lord I’m amazed by You.
How You love me.
 
How wide
How deep
How great
Is your love for me
 
My perspective these days is this:  One single sin separates us from God.  The simple fact of the matter is that when God sees the sin in our lives, he sees that his law has been broken.  The payment for breaking God’s law is death….eternal death.  Yet, when we trust in the blood of Christ poured out over our hearts and God sees our sin, instead of pouring out death on us, he is SATISFIED with the SACRIFICE of his perfect, sinless Son.  The payment for sin is poured out on him instead of us.  Read that again:  The payment for sin is poured out on JESUS INSTEAD OF US!!!!!  Somehow, this doesn’t overwhelm us like it should.  It doesn’t amaze us anymore.  Why it is that knowing that ALL OF GOD’S WRATH was poured out on JESUS CHRIST AND NOT YOU AND ME doesn’t knock our legs out from under us to where we have no choice but to fall on our face before him in worship?  Why doesn’t God’s love AMAZE us anymore?  Why Doesn’t Jesus’ sacrifice AMAZE us anymore?
 
Seriously, folks, do you think that Jesus sweat drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane in anticipation of the cross, or the flogging, or the nails?   Not a chance.  That torment was the direct result of anticipating ALL OF GOD’S WRATH being poured out on HIM!    This was the final sacrifice.  No ‘do overs’ with another lamb next month…no priests interceding again and again.  This was the final sacrifice.  Remember Jesus’  last words?  IT IS FINISHED.  (For some background go read Leviticus 16 and then read Hebrews 9)
 
GRACE, LOVE, and MERCY cannot just be something we pay lip-service to.  Very simply, we have been called (in part) to worship him.   For us, it is imperative that God’s grace, love, and mercy are hidden in our hearts and evident on our faces as we stand amazed before him. 

Radical–Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream-a review

I need to ask a question.  But, before you read any further, go get your Bible. 

Go ahead….I’ll wait.   

Seriously, go get it and come right back here. 

 OK, now that you have it, hold it in your hand and read this question out loud:

 Do I really believe this book? 

Just for good measure, look at the Bible in your hand and ask the question….out loud, so you hear it….Do I really believe this book? 

 Early in the first Radical sermon, we are asked if we ‘really believe what is contained in the Bible.’  As I read through the Radical book, I am constantly bothered by this question because if I claim to be a follower of Jesus, and the Bible is the word of God, then the reality is that there are certain implications for my life.  Dr. Platt refers to them as radical implications.  The thing is (and this is what hurts a little)….they are only radical by the world’s standards.  As far as God is concerned, they are simply the natural response to his love, grace and mercy. 

 While it is occasionally difficult to read the tough words he writes, Dr. Platt isn’t afraid to say it like it is, and back it up with scripture.  Before I go any further, I want to make sure you know that Platt whole-heartedly acknowledges that our salvation is by grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ.  But, where he starts to strike a nerve is with the assertion that God’s “gift of grace results in the gift of a new heart.”  If we have that new heart which is, in effect, God’s heart, shouldn’t there be an outward visible transformation in our actions as a result of that inward renewal?   And if there is no real outward transformation, Dr Platt suggests that…

            You and I desperately need to consider whether we have ever truly, authentically trusted in Christ for our salvation…

 Ouch….Like I said, there are some tough questions in this book.   Here’s another one (actually two):  “Is materialism a blind spot in American Christianity today?  More specifically, is materialism a blind spot in your Christianity today?”    Before you answer, go read the account of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16.  Really read through it and then come back and ask the question again.

 Radical—Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream is full of challenges like this.  Now, I want to be careful in placing too much importance on this or any other book because it might lead you to conclude that we don’t need the Bible.  Folks we need the Bible.  Ultimately, I believe that the only thing that can redeem the world is God, and the spread of his gospel.  No book can or should replace the gospel.  That said, I do believe this book has the power to move us to a point where we can recognize that the version of Christianity many of us are practicing may not be what God intended for us. 

I want to recommend this book to you; especially if something about your walk has been gnawing at you.  This might be just the thing to shine a light on a few ‘blind spots” in your Christian life.  Be careful though….once they are exposed, you are going to have to do something about them.  At that point God takes you and does something radical with your life. 

 In the coming weeks, I intend to spend some time writing about specific sections of the book and take a look at what I’m doing about applying it.  I hope you can get a copy and join me on this journey as it unfolds. 

Coming soon: A Book Review (yes…on this blog)

As some of you know, I have been listening to The Radical series by Dr. David Platt at Brook Hills Church.  A few of his messages prompted the occasional post here at Along The Way.  Frankly, I have notes for a few more things I wanted to write on the series, but time has been short. 

Anyway, it seems that one of my posts was noticed last week, and I was asked if I had any interest in reading through an advance copy of Dr. Platt’s new book “Radical                               and blogging about it.  Naturally I agreed (I mean, I was going to buy the book anyway) and am waiting for my copy to arrive.

Stay tuned for my thoughts.  And if you are looking for some more on the Radical Series be sure to visit the Brook Hills Site.  You can either watch the messages as a video or get the podcast from iTunes.

Over There

From “The Hole in Our Gospel”

Mr. Stearns is discussing the ‘Chasm’ he witnessed between the “haves” and the “have nots” on a trip to Cape Town, South Africa.  After describing the ‘run-down shantytowns reeling with hunger, poverty, crime, disease, and despair that border the luxury homes, hotels, wineries, and shopping malls’  He asks:

How can the rich and the middle class live like this, forced to see the stark contract between themselves and the desperately poor every single day?

His answer:

They do esactly what you and I do:  THEY IGNORE THEM.  The only difference is that it is easier for us to ignore the world’s poorest because they are “over there.”

One final thought as you ponder the comments above:

God can’t give you the blessing He has for you until you first put down teh other things you are clutching in your hands.

5000, The Roman’s Road, and other Ramblings

An interesting thing happended here today.  This little blog received its 5000th hit.   I know it’s not that big by world wide web standards, but it still amazes me.  What’s notable, is that more than half of the hits were to the Roman’s Road Page I set up when I started this blog.  Given the popularity of that page, this seems like a good time to discuss the Roman’s Road a bit. 

There is a concern I have when we consider the Roman’s Road that although the series of verses  is an excellent tool by which to explain God’s plan of salvation, maybe it’s just not that easy.  Maybe after reading through the road map, we can too easily jump on board without counting the true cost of following Jesus.  I would add Luke 9:57-62 to the road map….sort of a side trip if you will.

As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

 Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”   

He said to another man, “Follow me.”
      But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”    Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.”  Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

I guess I’m feeling that if we leave the Roman’s Road to stand on it’s own, becoming a Christian is more about checking off something on a “to-do” list and less about letting God show you his “to-do” list for your life.  

So, if you came here looking for the Roman’s Road verses via some internet search, please go read through that page.  Just take a few minutes to read the end of Luke 9 as well.   

If you’ve ever stopped by here and read a post, or a page, or clicked on a link, thanks for being one of the 5000 over the last couple of years.  I’m glad we could venture down this road together. 

Oh, and I want to take this time to ask you to consider sponsoring a child through Amazima.  Remember that $300 sends a child to school with a uniform and supplies for a year.  That $300 also includes two meals a day.  Most importantly, your gift allows another child to hear about Jesus.  Seems like $300 well spent, to me.  Please click on the badge in the upper left corner to learn all about Amazima Ministries International.

Looking forward to reaching 10,000 hits with all of you along the way. 

Terms and Conditions

Did you consider what you signed on for?  When you came to Christ, did you take time to consider what you signed on for?  I must admit that I never really paid much attention to the story Jesus tells in Luke 14:25-35.  I’m not sure I would have changed my mind about accepting Jesus, but I think I would have studied a little longer…..Actually counted the Cost.

Here’s the thing:  in the brand of Christianity many practice today, I don’t think too many folks considered the true cost of following Jesus.  I think there’s a whole bunch of people (myself included) who came to Jesus on their own terms, and not on Jesus’ terms.    It turns out that simply adding Jesus to the end of a list of stuff, accomplishments, and ideals that make up your life isn’t exactly what God had in mind.  In fact, it’s the exact opposite of what God calls for.

Luke 14:25-27

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

Have you ever really read this passage?  Do you understand it?  Maybe I’m wrong, but here’s my take:

My love for Jesus needs to be so great that what ever emotion/love/respect/compassion  I have for everyone else (including myself) appears as hatred by comparison to that Love for Jesus.

Where is Jesus at on your list?  Did you come to Jesus on his terms or yours?

The Numbers

6.7 Billion:  Total Population of the Globe

 Around 3 BillionThe total number of people worldwide living on less than $2.00 per day

 Approximately 30,000: The number of children who die each day due to poverty (lack of food, lack of clean water, and disease) – that’s 18 children dying every minute, a child every three seconds.  Put another way, the entire population of Cook County, IL under the age of 18 would perish in 46 days.

 Over 11 million children die each year from preventable causes like malaria, diarrhea and pneumonia.

 About 20% of the population in the developed nations consumes 86% of the world’s goods.

 The poorest 40% of the world’s population accounts for 5% of the global income.

 The richest 20% of the world’s population accounts for 75% of the global income.

 About 20% of the population in the developed nations consumes 86% of the world’s goods.

 Nearly 175 Million:  The number of orphans worldwide.

 Just sit and think about these numbers for a minute (or ten or twenty.)  The sources are pretty solid (www.mercycorps.org, http://www.globalissues.org, http://www.poverty.com) and these are generally pretty widely accepted numbers.  While you are pondering, consider another number:

 2.1 Billion:  The number of people who would generally label themselves as Christian. 

 (I want to be clear that I don’t think that the number of true Christ Followers worldwide is anywhere near that high—the number generally seems to be reflective of anyone who might wear the label but who is not necessarily living in an active relationship with Jesus) 

 That said, with nearly a third of the world’s population calling themselves Christian, why are the numbers previously cited so ridiculously high, and downright offensive? 

 Oh, I have a few more numbers to share:

 21:13 No, this isn’t a ratio.  It is a chapter and verse—from the book of Proverbs.  It reads like this:   If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered. (emphasis added)

 14:31 (Proverbs)  He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God. 

 28:27  (Proverbs)  He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses.

 I think you see where I’m going with this, but if you need it spelled out here you go:

 If you are going to wear the label, you better consider whether you believe everything that’s in the Bible.  Do you believe every word?  Is your Church living every word?  Is your life reflective of every word?  Some would say this is radical or even impossible.  I guess by the world’s standards it probably is.  By God’s standards, it’s just what he’s asked us to do.    You all know that I continue to struggle with the surrender thing, but as I continue to read, I don’t see any other way to live it out.  Illustrating that point is Luke 9:62:

 “Jesus Replied:  No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God’

 I keep looking back.  I’m not sure what else is back there, but it sure must be alluring. 

 Go back and read through the numbers again.  If you need some more references for how you should be feeling, take a look at the following scripture verses.

 Luke 6:20-25

Luke 18:18-25(spend a long time on this one)

James 5:1-5

Luke 14:25-35