"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. 


There is no Plan B

This might hurt a little, but you need to see it.

Chaos to thoughts to words….sort of

I’m not sure exactly why I decided to write this post.  I guess that somehow I needed to get it out of my head.  All the swirling around of random thoughts this morning needed out if I had any hope of productivity today. 

God continues to poke and push and prod (sometimes even dragging me along in the plan I am avoiding). Yet I resist.

We are all so good at avoiding it.  We look at the life WE have built for ourselves–at the tremendous comfort it brings–and we know that total surrender, while appealing in the heart of that moment, is so scary it sends us running for cover.  And there we live comfortably discontent amongst our ‘stuff’, occasionally peeking over the edge of the pile to see if it’s ok to jump in — like somehow this time will be less frigntening.  The list of fears is HUGE. The potential for pain or rejection is monumental, yet lingering in the back of our minds is the allure of the Holy Spirit (whom I have been doing a good job of ignoring–have you?). Wondering how others will ‘see’ us. Wondering if God will really come through. Discomfort, fatigue, hunger, poverty, lost souls, misguided mindsets, discontent, avoidance, the list goes on and on and on.  It’s about me and then ‘them’ and then about me again—yet, in fact, it isn’t about me at all….maybe that’s the problem.  Why isn’t the cross enough?  I mean, I know it’s enough…. I know God is bigger than all of it, but my heart forgets and it betrays me and it betrays Him and I retreat to the false safety of my stuff once again.

Well, this post is a mess, but I think I’ll leave it this way.  Good luck reading it.

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. 

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.

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

Go immediately and read this

If you are looking to know what it’s about.  What being completely surrendered to (and living radically for) Jesus is all about, you must go read what Katie at Amazima had to say today.  Seriously, drop whatever you are doing and go read.  Here’s the link to my heart spilled

For the record, I don’t know how to do this.  I think that there has to be something about not looking back.  Jump in with both feet when Jesus tells you to, and don’t look back.   And what happens to the life you’ve built for yourself?   You can’t ask about that either.  This is scary stuff and I don’t like it.  But the mere thought about the joy on the other side is what has me standing right here on the edge with my toes hanging over.