Hope-o-meter

One of the biggest things that biblical counselors try to do by God’s grace is impart hope.  Not of ourselves, but hope in a person – Jesus Christ.  I will frequently ask people “How is your hope-o-meter?”  Yes, it’s kind of a silly question, but it’s a way to gauge how hopeful they are.   Usually, when everything is hitting the fan, the hope-o-meter is very low.  But as we go thru God’s word as we see the glorious gospel of Jesus expanding before their eyes a funny thing happens – Hope emerges, and slowly but surely the needle on the hope-o-meter rises!

A Christians hope is not a fickle, tentative hope (like “I hope I get a pony”) it’s rather a confident expectation of what is to come, based on the person and work of Jesus as recorded in His revealed word – the Bible.

One of the clearest and most encouraging verses on hope is Romans 15:13 –

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit, you may abound in hope.

There is a prayer, there is proof that God is the God of hope.  Easter is drawing closer…our hope is grounded in the resurrection of Jesus.  He rose from the dead, literally and so we to can rise to a brand new life in Jesus, because of what he did.  Check out Romans 6 – thru faith we are united with him into his resurrection.  Leave our old life behind and start over!  There’s hope!  Unfortunately, there is a bit of a warning implicit here – there is hope in no other name, no other process.  Everything else is just putting a band-aid on…real hope, real lasting change, real healing is only found in one place:  Jesus.

So what if your hope-o-meter is low?

  • Pray – literally pray Rom 15:13 out loud. Yes, out loud, trust me, it makes a difference.  “I pray that you, the God of hope, will fill me with all joy and peace in believing YOU, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit I would abound in hope.”
  • Meditate on this truth
  • Lather, rinse, repeat.  Pray, mediate on that verse…
  • Find other verses and sections of scripture that deal with hope! (Hint…Romans has a lot – see Rom 5:1-5)
  • Dwell on the truth of the Gospel and literally preach it to yourself.  Read his word, read books about the gospel, like Milton Vincent’s “The Gospel Primer
    • For a quick link to the prose version, you can click to this blog here
  • Find a gospel-centered church that preaches the whole word of God and find some encouragement in Godly brothers and sisters…perhaps they may even have biblical counseling available.

How is your hope?

Advertisements

Speak or strike? Obedience = faith?

Again…so stoked to be running thru Numbers…you see the stories that shaped the whole story of God’s redemption.  I guess I just love getting to the core issue of things and when I run across things in the NT about Moses and the nation of Israel it is SO cool to remember why the things happened…today is a biggie, ironically from a very (seemingly) small thing…

Numbers 20 again finds the people complaining (I’m sensing a theme here), this time about the lack of food and water.  I can’t really believe that after everything these people have seen God do – amazing, crazy, awesome, supernatural things – they so quickly complain about little things…and I love that Moses and Aaron immediately (this time)  take it to the Lord – they go right into the tent of the meeting, reverently fall on their faces before God and seek his will.  God immediately tells them what he wants Moses to do.  Numbers 20:8

Take the staff and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and TELL the rock before their eyes to yield it’s water.

Moses and Aaron go out…they gather the congregation by the rock and for some reason Moses makes a seriously bad decision…he doesn’t TELL the rock, he STRIKES the rock….TWICE.

And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff, twice, and water came out abundantly…(v11)

Now, when I first read this, I was thinking…ok big deal.  So he didn’t do exactly as the LORD instructed.  I mean he has been instructed to bang the rock before to make water (Ex 17:6) and it worked this time again, so ?

Well, there is more to it then that…first of all God takes serious issue with this – v12

Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.

Holy Moses.  (sorry I couldn’t resist) Because of that “little” mistake God bans Moses from the promised land?!  The end goal of all this wandering is to get to the promised land and now, Moses just disqualified himself.

Yikes.

But there is more to it…three things I see:

  1. Anger – it’s kinda well known that Moses has an anger management problem.  (Remember the first tablets of stone?) The fact that he strikes the rock, not once…but TWICE, probably indicates that he was ticked off.  Moses, gives in to sin in the midst of intervening for the people – gives in to self…and therein directly disobeys God.  How many times do I give in to sin, even in the midst of “serving him” and selfishly chose to react with anger, bitterness, gossip?
  2. Assumption – we all know the saying about what happens when we ‘assume’….perhaps Moses assumed that because he had smashed the rock before with his staff and made water come out that this is “probably what God meant, so I’ll just do it this way.”  God had given him explicitly clear instructions, and he didn’t follow them.  God gives us explicitly clear instructions in his Word, the Bible, how often do we “sort of” follow them?  Is it even important to us to follow the instructions in his word or do we think we have wiggle room?  Have we rationalized certain sins – even the ones that are strictly prohibited in the Bible – and keep them around and assume that God is ok with them?  Listen carefully – God is never OK with sin and his will for us will NEVER include sin.  Don’t be deceived.  Follow God’s instructions in his word – submit your life to them and be changed by them…DAILY.
  3. A Lack of Faith – someone said that “anytime we sin, we become a temporary atheist.”  I think God may somewhat agree.  Look at his reaction in v12 – “because you did not BELIEVE IN ME.” God instantly equates Moses’ actions with a lack of belief – a lack of faith.  When we chose sin, we are really saying that what God has for us isn’t good enough.  We are finding (or trying to) joy in something other than God…

If this is resonating, if you feel God’s Holy Spirit moving within you – run…do not walk…run to Him.  Get on your knees and repent with sorrow for the sin of unbelief, a lack of faith..and everything that goes along with it (like #2 and #3)…ask God to forgive you by the action of his Son on the cross and the resurrection God has given.  He will forgive you and you will be free.

THEN, also run…do not walk…to the nearest computer and order a copy of “When I Don’t Desire God” by John Piper. (I say go to the computer because the odds of finding it in a “Christian” bookstore are pretty slim…you usually will only find very lame, weak, man-centered books on how to find your joy in cheese these days in most chain Christian stores….sorry…did I just say that out loud?) .  Crawl up by the fire and read the whole thing.

What you will learn is that we first need to find our treasure, our joy, our satisfaction, in God alone – he is the only thing that will truly satisfy us.  That’s the way he made us.  Get to know this God, read good books about GOD, his nature, his attributes, read the WHOLE Bible and see his hand throughout redemptive history…and in that you will find rock solid joy in a rock solid, unchangeable, eternal, infinitely good God.  Here have a taste of Piper….on the house….

…having a spiritual taste for the glory of Christ is not morally neutral. Not to have it is evil and deadly. Not to see and savor Christ is an insult to the beauty and worth of his character. Preferring anything above Christ is the very essence of sin. It must be fought.

UPDATE: I also read a great bit in “Milton Vincent’s ‘A Gospel Primer for Christians’ that really helps us understand here too….

Every time I deliberately disobey a command of God, it is because I am in that moment doubtful as to God’s true intentions in giving me that command. Does He really have my best interest at heart? Or is He withholding something from me that I would be better off having? Such questions, whether asked consciously or not, lie underneath every act of disobedience.

However the gospel changes my view of God’s commandments, in that it helps me to see the heart of the Person from whom those commandments come. When I begin my train of thought with the gospel, I realize that if God loved me enough to sacrifice His Son’s life for me, then He must be guided by that same love when He speaks His commandments to me. Viewing God’s commands and prohibitions in this light, I can see them for what they really are:  friendly signposts from a Heavenly Father who is seeking to love me thru each directive, so that I might experience His very fullness forever.

When controlling my thoughts as described above, the gospel cures me of my suspicion of God, thereby disposing me to walk more trustingly on the path of obedience to His commands.

Applying the Gospel to Life – 2009 ABC Men’s Conference Recap

I’ll bet you are wondering what a disco ball has to do with a confernce recap?  You think I’d tell you right off the bat? C’mon. What fun would that be? Read on, my friend.

Last weekend, I had the great joy of being with 180 other men deep in the Adirondack mountains – fellowshiping with them, worshipping with them, praying with them, listening to great teaching with them…and stuffing my face with them at Camp of the Woods.

The conference ran (“officially”) Fri PM to Sat PM…but once again, I stayed an extra night (thank you Ian and Susan!) in order to attend the Sunday AM service at Adirondack Bible Chapel. ABC actually hosted the whole conference and once again did an AMAZING job…they are some of the most humble, loving, hospitable, Christ-filled brothers anyone could hope to spend time with. It is a true joy to be with them.

I also was thoroughly blessed to play again with Mike Peck, Gary Mure, and Laura Peck with some great worship…to hear 180 men sing is pretty wild…kinda felt like I was in the Marines or something, but then realizing that they were all praising God made it sweeter!

Milton focused our attention on “Applying the Gospel to Life” in key areas such as the lost, those who wrong you, our wives, and our fellow Christians. Milton was also there last year, again saturating us with the Gospel and focusing us on the cross from his book The Gospel Primer. So, I kinda knew what to expect and was looking forward to another infusion of truth from this dear brother.

Milton defines “evangelize” as (1) to preach the gospel (2) to impart the gospel to others thru word and deed and -my fav – (3)to be a living embodiment of the gospel in relationship with others. Ouch. He hasn’t gotten past the first page of his overview…not even the first paragraph and already I’m convicted. Am I a “living embodiment” of the gospel to others? Ummm….sometimes?! His church has a saying “Always evangelizing, always being evangelized” – in other words we need to always be on mission, but we need to always, even (especially?) as Christians be reminded of the gospel and make it our center – always pointing to the gospel of Jesus and His work on the cross and applying it to every situation – it is the power of God!

Hopefully, I can do this well, but here are the high points from the outlines, with any relevant notes I made…

Session #1: Evangelizing the Lost

  1. Infuse the gospel into your life, and then give your life away to people…do we do this with our neighbors, co-workers, parents do we do this with our kids, husbands our wives?
  2. Be righteous, do good deeds, and suffer well. 
  3. Do loving community with your fellow Christians….thru these examples of community, of hospitality you give others a view into your family — do we treat our family in a way that “embodies the gospel?” — so much so that if people saw it as you ‘did loving community’ they would be drawn more to Christ?
  4. Care enough to weep and pray for the lost…if you don’t feel the burden, ask God to give it to you.   Here’s a thought ‘invite God to share in saving someone’.  Yikes.  How many times do we take that on our own?!  Hello…NOT our work to save, kids- we only scatter the seed, not change hearts. 
  5. When you share the gospel, begin with God…not sin, not the Law.  The 10 Commandments start with “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the the land of Egypt” (Ex 20:2) — why would we start with anything else other than God?  Also, this affects our perspective – We need to understand who we ALL have sinned against – ‘the greatness of our sin is the realization of how great is the one against whom we have sinned”
  6. Be willing to celebrate and make use of ways the God is already acting as their savior…this blew me away.  God does show kindness and goodness to those who even reject him.  First, by letting them breath his air (OK “sustaining them”), but why?  Don’t panic, this isn’t ‘universalism’ this instead points out the purpose of God’s kindness – it’s not to stop and dwell on the blessings, but it should lead to repentance…Rom 2:4.  God’s blessings are supposed to lead people back to GOD, not the blessings. Ask God to do “great kindness” that will lead someone to repentance.
  7. Speak of sin (and when you do, speak of it being against GOD)…they are not only sins, they are sins against God, that’s a much different perspective.  We can’t get around speaking of sin if we are truly sharing the gospel.  There are false prophets out there that will tell us that we can’t mention sin…they need ‘positive affirmation’ not ‘guilt’.  Unfortunately, that’s a load of doo-doo. We are ALL sinners, and God’s grace is AMAZING to save us from it thru Christ.
  8. Speak much of the Savior and His Cross…AMEN!  Fresh from #7, when we talk of the “bad news” of sin, be very quick to get to the good news of Christ – His mercy and grace that saves us and forgives us.
  9. Call upon people to repent and believe….at some point, we will need to get to that decision point, to obey the command of the Lord, the gospel isn’t just a set of facts, it is also a command — “Repent and believe” – (Mark 1:15)
  10. Leave the results to God

Session #2: Evangelizing those who wrong you…

Forgive – (v) to release a person from the consequences he deserves from you as a result of his sin against you; to positively show him favor he does not deserve.

Milton outlined 4 steps to forgiveness:

  1. Go to the cross and do some gospel thinking…great quote from JC Ryle “A spiteful, quarrelsome Christian is a scandal…it is doubtful that such a one has sat at  the foot of the cross.”  Seriously…it’s pretty easy to forgive someone when we get the perspective that Christ died for my MANY sins.  We all sent Christ to the cross by our sins, we all are “murderers of God”.  A slightly more accurate way of interpreting Is 53:5 may be “he was pierced FROM our transgressions, crushed FROM our sin.” Before you start to simmer and boil over about how you’ve been wronged, think about how you have wronged God…
    1. Realize that I have committed greater evils against God…how do you see your own sin?  It probably is in direct proportion to the measure of grace you feel from God.  If you see your sin as a “2” then maybe you think of God’s grace as a “2” – in actuality all sin is a great offense to God.  If we see our sin and thus our grace from God as a “10” — then aren’t you way more able to see evidences of God’s grace in someone else’s sin?
    2. Glory to God, Christ has purchased my forgiveness and justification
    3. Sometimes God purposes those whom he loves deeply to be painfully sinned against
    4. I am purchased and owned by God; and now I live to serve his purposes, not mine
    5. God the Father can be trusted completely on the receiving end of any wrongdoing
    6. Christ has suffered and I am suffering right now, which means I am never alone in any pain (Jesus also bore our “sorrows and griefs – Is 53:4)
    7. Forgiveness is suffering (that’s why people choose bitterness, it’s EASIER!)
  2. Chose to forgive the way you’ve been forgiven…and do this in prayer, before GOD, yeah…that’s right…forgive them in prayer before GOD himself, as if you need another reminder of YOUR own sin and how in light of that, you need to forgive others.
  3. Pray for the person who has wronged you…even pray that God blesses them….yikes.
  4. Make yourself an agent of blessing in that person’s life….dont’ stop at just praying for them, actively seek to be a blessing for them

Session #3 – Evangelizing your wife

I loved his comments in the intro here, how humble he was…still seeking to grow in his marriage…he said “I’m about a year away from being a good husband.”  AMEN.  Me too! By his grace!

Quick facts about marriage:

  1. Marriage was created by God, so it’s his intellectual property = we have no right to redefine it
  2. The first sins occurred in the context of marriage
  3. The institution of marriage got hammered as a result of the fall (remember what God said to Adam and Eve in Gen 3:16-19)
  4. God intends for Christian marriages to be molded and shaped by the Gospel…check out Eph 5:23-32 and how many times “as” and “just as” are used.  Ex. 5:23: For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church.” The better we understand the gospel, the better we will understand marriage!

Milton also talked about being “good news” or being the “embodiment of the gospel” to your wife…amazing…he identified 6 ways to be the good news to  your wife:

  1. Love your wife as Christ loveD the church. Notice that Eph 5:25 is PAST tense, Christ loveD the church by giving himself completely to her. In other words he loveD the church – look at the cross!
    • sacrificially –How many husbands would take a bullet for their wives, yet not give up their pride and selfishness?! True love is finding our joy in our wives joy.
    • purposefully  — be intentional
    • pre-emptively…don’t wait for her to start ‘doing what you want her to’ or ‘doing her part’ before you start loving her as Christ loved the church dude. 
  2. Love your wife as your own body, just like Christ loveS the church…now this is present tense.  How does he lovE the church now…look in Eph 5 again – v29: nourishes and cherishes…in other words — not lecturing your wife, not distancing yourself from your wife in silence…but actively nourishing it. 
    • Milton told a great story of a picture of a wilted plant he has in his office with a sign on the pot that says “Its the SOIL, stupid.”  We are caretakers of the soil, don’t look for another flower to put in your bad soil – take care of the soil.  You wonder why men go from wife to wife to wife?  They aren’t taking care of the soil and keep looking for another “prettier” flower to put in bad soil!!
    • Be a lavishing husband – love her as she wants to be loved, not how YOU want her to be loved.  Men are different…we process differently communicate differently…be aware of this and make an effort to communicate well
  3. Love your wife as you do yourself, just as Christ does the church…Eph 5:32
  4. Dwell with your wife according to knowledge….knowledge of God’s word, of HER (be a student of your wife), knowledge of your and her weaknesses, model repentance- confess your sins to your wife! 
  5. Honor her as a fellow heir of the grace of life…she will never be more beautiful than when you see her in the context of the gospel.
  6. Pray with your wife….DO this, amazing intimacy here dudes.
    1. Prayer is the pinnacle of marriage
    2. Prayer is the first miracle – the fact that we can even TALK to God is a miracle in and of itself, thank you Jesus for your work
    3. Prayer is hard…is makes us face our own helplessness…well it should if done right…
    4. Prayer provides an opportunity to celebrate evidences of His grace we see in our lives.
    5. Pray also for ways to be the good news to each other

Session #4 “Mopping Up”

Milton called this session “Mopping Up” and he used the time wisely to tie up some loose ends.

  1. The Gospel works…yes, it may seem obvious, but it really does.  As a matter of fact, it’s the ONLY thing that does:
    1. 2 Cor 3:18 – 18And we all, with unveiled face,(A) beholding(B) the glory of the Lord,[a](C) are being transformed into the same image(D) from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
    2. He brought an actual human rib with him that he keeps on his desk (I hope it was from reputable establishment!) to remind himself that we are all “Not very pretty and not much to work with”  – we are all created by God’s design and need the gospel daily.
  2. Marriage…the devil will often attack society by attacking families, and often the wife is the first target.   As husbands we cannot be so entangled and distracted by sin that we then allow satan to attack our unguarded wives. (Luke 11:21) – that is NOT being good  news to your wife.
  3. Ask yourself – “Do you really understand the gospel?” Embrace the opportunities to re-enact the gospel when you are wronged – model Christ. We are also called to be a conduit of his grace, we must pass it on if we understand the true gospel.
  4. Pray – for wisdom, for divinely crafted opportunities to show grace
  5. Be an agent of blessing – don’t even broadcast it, be willing to do a kind deed anonymously
  6. Crucifixion is required – again, modeling the gospel we are to take up our own crosses daily and die to our desires and live for Christ
  7. Forgiveness – if we are still angry…did it work?  The answer: yes, for 5 full minutes.  Now it’s time to forgive again!  Remember, sin is multifaceted like a disco ball having many mirrors that all reflect the light in different directions, you will come to see different aspects of someones sin against you and you will need to forgive each one of them.  As for when we mess up and need to be foregived…True humilty is confessing the wrong and owning the hurt, become a student of the hurt, be willing to look at the hurt…remember forgiveness is painful, but required.
  8. Does forgiveness = trust?  No: we can’t give wholesale trust back immediately after it’s been violated. The answer is also ‘yes’ – there is an opportunity to re-earn their trust, but it takes diligence in pursuing forgiveness (see #7 above!)
  9. When I mess up – RUN to the cross and keep it cross-centered…AMEN!
  10. Remember there are 2 qualifications for salvation:  (1) you must be a sinner!  (2) must believe in Jesus. 

Session #5 (At ABC Sunday AM) – Evangelizing Your Fellow Christians

I will link to the audio for this one, as I didn’t have my notebook with me for some stupid reason on Sunday AM!

Rest…solitude…fellowship…renewal…and a honkin’ huge buffet

Adirondack-Mountains-5

In a few hours I leave the annual Adirondack Bible Church Men’s Conference in beautiful NY state at Camp of the Woods. Our speaker again this year is Milton Vincent, author of The Gospel Primer. I LOVED his messages last year and can’t wait to hear him again this year and get fed with some truth from God’s Word. I’m also excited to be playing bass for worship again, with Mike Peck and some great servants.

Full update on my return!

-M