2015-08-30 19.05.59

A very quick update…very late

It’s been a very busy Fall and unfortunately I haven’t been able to update much.  We’ve been pushing through my second to last semester in the Counseling Program at RTS inching toward the finish line in May.  This has definitely been the most challenging semester for me personally as I’ve been hard at work in Church, in the family, in class and in the clinic, racking up over 250 clinical hours in since February.  The emotional toll has been heavy and Elise and I have been learning how to better struggle together.

We’ve survived the semester though and we had a really tough week and a half around thanksgiving due to some sick kiddos.  Luckily, Elise and I were able to avoid full blown sickness throughout it, but sick kids is no fun at all.  I will be sending out a more comprehensive update via email in the next month or so.  I just wanted to say how thankful I am for all the people that have supported us through prayer, financially, and in community.  This has been a wild ride as we are coming to the close of this chapter.  I’m very very thankful for my wonderful wife and my two beautiful girls.  Finally, I’m very very very thankful for God’s continuing faithfulness through it all.

If you would pray about supporting us for this Semester’s Tuition we would be very grateful.  For more information click here. 

Justin, Elise & the girls

2015-11-14 10.14.29-2

Idols? I don’t bow down to a stone statue…

I love Tim Keller’s book Counterfeit Gods.  In it, he dissects our common belief that idolscgods are a thing of the past.  Idols are little wooden or stone statues that people believe are gods and bow down to, worship and serve.

Surely we don’t do that today.  Especially in America and Europe where we are so scientifically advanced.

Yet in many countries today this “ancient” form is still widely practiced.  Talk a walk around in India or other hindu/buddhist nations and you will see this very thing.  Household gods.

idolBut what about us in America, does this talk of idols and idolatry in the bible have any significance to us.  Tim Keller, presbyterian ministry at Redeemer Church in New York City, says yes and he defines an idol as:

“whatever you look at and say, in your heart f hearts, ‘If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I’ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure.”

That is a devastating definition if you read it carefully.  What are you living for?  What do you strive for?  What is driving your life?  It could be sex, money, fame, prestige, success, being good person or parent.  We must honestly assess ourselves and answer this question.

The Bible then says that if anything other than God is the center of our life, then we are in trouble.  You see the problem is that God has created us for himself, and put “eternity in our hearts” so that only and infinite being can fulfill and eternal whole.  The problem is Idols can’t deliver, the promise satisfaction, but they can’t deliver.

C.S. Lewis says it this way, “A car is made to run on gas, and it would not run properly on anything else.   Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself.  He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food of our spirits were designed to feed on. ” (Mere Christianity p. 50)

Now the truth is Idols today have become much more subtle or have they?  Idolatry is not merely a surface thing, it runs deep into the human heart and can manifest itself in material ways and often does.  But the cruelest and the darkest idols are buried deep inside of us.

So although we may not bow down to the God of Mammon, do we worship money today? money Though we don’t bow down to the Goddess of beauty, how much money is spent on trying to make ourselves look younger and more beautiful?  Though we don’t bow down to the God of sex, are we consumed with finding our next mate?  Or are we locked to computer screens worshiping the unlimited amount of images available to us?  Though we don’t worship the God of Success, do we spend our whole lives trying to achieve something, neglected our families, friends and even our own health?

The truth is Idolatry is running rampant in America today.  Just turn on the television to be bombarded with images of what we “ought” to be like.  Idolatry.  Go to any magazine rack and see all the promises portrayed on the cover, Be a better loverGet the abs you’ve always wanted, How to make your business succeed.  And here’s the real kicker, every week, every month its the same promises.  But they never deliver.

Now let me say this before we close.  The things that we idolize are not in themselves bad things.  Sex is a good thing.  Success is a good thing.  Money is a good thing.  These things become idols when they are elevated to supreme position in our lives, when they sit on the proverbial throne of our lives.  A place that is meant for one being; God.

How God’s grace works in us

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” – The Apostle Paul, 1 Cor 15:10

Have you ever wondered just how God’s grace works in our lives?  This is one of the greatest mysteries for us who believe.  Yet, the answer is here in plain sight if we are able believe it.  So many of the truths of the Bible are so intermingled that when we start to unwind one of them, all the others become apparent.

Taking the verse above one could logically ask, is it then God who does the work or Paul? As Christians, we often want to fight over the verse and make it a much bigger deal than it is.  Can it be that the answer lies right in front of us?  To see it takes humility, something that itself is a miracle from God.

It is both God and Paul

Let’s try to thread this through very quickly.  The answer is yes, Paul is the one doing it, clearly, but at the same time, were it not for the grace of God working in Paul’s life he would not be doing it.

The Bible teaches that the heart is the center of a human being.  Jesus teaches that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  So if we are full of sewage water, we spew out dirty water, but if we are full of living water, we spew out life.  The truth is, we are often so unaware of how God is working in our lives that we often completely miss the miracle.

The miracle in this case is that a man like Paul would even seek to do the things he is talking about.   Paul, remember, was the most zealous persecutor of the early church.  What caused him to go from murderer to apostle?  It isn’t as if Paul woke up one day and just decided to be a better person, in fact, he already thought he was a pretty good person (Phil 3:5-6).  So good that he was killing those whom he thought were against God.

Evidence of the Miracle…

But the miracle is that Paul has been changed from sewage water to living water, and that is not something that we can do.  That is the miracle.  And so the fact that any of us would even think about, or have the desire to do a godly self-sacrificial act for the love of God is the very evidence that God’s grace is with us.  We are that bad.  We are even incapable of mustering up a truly good act for the good of another.  That is what the grace of God produces.

So that Paul can say that it was himself that was “working harder than anyone” but that it was evidence of that the Grace of God was with him, that he would even want to do these things.  And so grace, is far more subtle than we ever imagined.  It changes our very desires.  The problem is we don’t see ourselves as that bad.  We don’t accept that without the grace of God we could do anything godly.  But when we are brought to our knees to see this truth a whole world opens up to us.

Whose responsible for what

No longer are we responsible for producing Godliness, that is a work fully wrought by God, through Jesus.  All we are responsible for is responding to God’s work in our hearts and minds.  When we are given the urge to help another, or to read our bible, or to cast aside the anxieties of the day to just pray, it is our responsibility to do whatever action is presented, but it is not our responsibility nor are we even capable to produce that urge.  The urge itself is from God, through the Holy Spirit, made possible by Christ and is evidence of a new heart.

So often we fret over whether what we are feeling or doing is from God.  The problem is it goes much deeper than that to a point we can’t even discern.  We have urges or desires and they are either godly or ungodly.  Sometimes we don’t know until we act on them and the fruit is born.  That is why we must walk by Faith, we simply cannot know sometimes until after the act is done.

We are dependent…

Now, of course there are some easy ways to discern what is from God or not, namely is it inline with scripture, but most of us live our lives in a whirlpool of neutral moral decisions where there is no clear indication from scripture as to the will of God.  That is why Paul teaches elsewhere that we must walk by the Spirit.  What God is after is a childlike, moment by moment dependence on him.  That requires humility or rather is the result of being humbled before God, which itself is a miracle and an act of God.

So what I’m trying to say is God’s work in our life, his grace to us often flys under our radar’s ability to pick up what his work looks like.  But the answer is right here in this verse.  It is God’s grace in our lives that produces our “workings”.  It is as if God is working under the surface changing our hearts, giving us new desires to do the works of God, and then we respond by doing them.  It’s actually fairly simple, but we have to see that we are far more blind and ungodly than we had originally thought.

All because of Jesus…

All of this is made possible through the Cross of Christ.  It is God reconciling the world to himself to open the door for realtoinship between Creator and Creation through faith in Jesus.  He paid for our ungodliness, our sins, that we might be made new and gifted new hearts with the Holy Spirit, producing Godly affections in us, that we might walk in good works (Eph 2:10).