“Very few people think of God as supremely happy in the fellowship of the Trinity and in the work of creation and redemption. The volcanic exuberance of God over the worth of his Son and the work of his hands and welfare of his people is not well-known. God’s delight in being God is not sung the way it should be, with wonder and passion, in the worship places of the world. And we are the poorer and weaker for it.”
– John Piper, from The Pleasures of God, p. 18
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Most people who know me well would probably say I’m a creature of habit. I’m a routine-oriented person and have probably been that way as long as I can remember. The past year or so has changed that for me, in a variety of ways…
Going back over what’s happened since mid-2010…the company I worked for on and off for nearly nine years finally shut their doors as the result of being sold. I finished my graduate degree in library science and entered the job market, one with less than favorable prospects for new grads, as shrinking budgets and library closures have resulted in a very competitive market for full-time positions. I was put in the position of having to sell and promote myself to others, which is something I dread. John Piper had some helpful advice on this topic which really benefited me throughout that process. I was fortunate though to get called for interviews in different parts of the country and was able to explore new areas that might be places for my wife and I to settle into. In the end, none of these amounted to anything as 2010 came to a close. Being turned down for jobs was not new to me, and I thanked God for the opportunities to even speak with others about my qualifications. I did eventually find part-time work as a librarian last fall and have continued in that role to the present.
The latter part of 2010 brought a much greater upheaval to my world though, as my dad passed away after a short battle with lung cancer. I think my mom and other family members had a much better grasp of the situation as my dad was being treated and I probably had my head in the sand a bit thinking that my dad would eventually come out just fine. I think that’s also why it hit me much harder when he died. The nine months that have passed have helped to ease the pain a bit, and God has comforted me throughout this time as only He can. I’m grateful to family and friends who’ve also helped throughout this time, like my dear friend Pastor Bill. My friend Marianne, a fellow blogger, reminded me that my time with my dad was on loan from God. And God has reminded me of that as well, which has brought me some peace in that regard. I still miss him dearly though…
So 2011 is less than half over and the change continues. My wife and I are expecting our first child this fall! It is a great joy to think about being a dad, but it brings about other ideas as well. The struggles I feel each day to be a husband worthy of what God has called me to has really been heightened by the prospect of being a parent as well! I honestly don’t know where folks turn to if they don’t have the Rock of Christ to stand on. Jesus’ reminder in Matthew 6:11 to ask our Father to “give us this day our daily bread” has really taken on new meaning for me. His grace is sufficient and He gives what is necessary to tackle our fears and anxieties each day. In my impatience I want them all tackled right now! But we are to ask for our daily bread, not our rest of year bread. Another amazing testament to the power of God’s Word…the same Scripture read dozens of times in Matthew 6 brings about new meaning and strength as God puts another situation into our lives.
The other change of note is that after a year of job searching, I recently accepted an offer for a full-time librarian position at a Christian college in the Midwest, starting in July. I’ve never lived anywhere but the Northeast so this will be a major change as well. I am really looking forward to it though and can’t wait to get started. The next few months will certainly be a challenge, as I am setting out on my own until my wife and our baby join me after the little one’s arrival in November, God willing. My wife wanted her comfort level to be as high (routine ?) as possible until then with her job intact, doctors, family, etc. Although I would much rather have us all together from the get-go, this probably makes the most sense. I’ll be making plenty of return trips until then and scouting out the area to see where we all settle into. My ideal library position from the beginning was to work at a seminary or a Christian college. I’m thankful to God that He has provided this opportunity for myself and my family. Paul reminds us in Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” I will remember that as I begin this new position.
So change abounds…change that is exciting and nerve-wracking some days. What is a comfort as these changes continue though is the Rock that we stand on: “For I the Lord do not change…” (Malachi 3:6). I will stand on this Rock in the days, weeks and months ahead and look forward to what He has in store!
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“God is not honored by groundless love. In fact, there is no such thing. If we do not know anything about God, there is nothing in our mind to awaken love. If love does not come from knowing God, there is no point calling it love for God. There may be some vague attraction in our heart or some unfocused gratitude in our soul, but if they do not arise from knowing God, they are not love for God.”
– John Piper, from Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God, p. 90
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“As sin lures the body into sinful action, we call to mind a Christ-revealing word of Scripture and slay the temptation with the superior worth and beauty of Christ over what sin offers.”
– John Piper
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“Concerning the unity of the Father and the Son, we must be content to believe reverently, what we cannot grasp mentally or explain distinctly. Let it suffice us to know that our Savior was not like the prophets and patriarchs, a man sent by God the Father, a friend of God, and a witness for God. He was something far higher and greater than this.” – J.C. Ryle
Reading through the Gospel of John this month and am at chapter 13 today. I’ve been reflecting again on how often folks try to put Jesus in a category of their own choosing. Many people are happy to read about the way Jesus lived His life, and are content to take some of His teachings and add them to their own established philosophies of life. This is an aspect of the prosperity gospel, which adds all the sugar but leaves out the salt. But I think anyone who is a genuine seeker, someone who is really on a quest to find the true Jesus as He is depicted in the Bible, would not be able to reconcile this category of “good teacher” with what is found in the Gospel of John.
“This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” – John 5:18
This is difficult to get past, if you are only willing to consider Him as simply a good man or teacher. So is John 10:30, where Jesus says simply, “I and the Father are one.” C.S. Lewis of course famously remarked, “But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” If you are reading the Gospel of John carefully and reverently, you would have to agree – He did not intend to.
We are blessed to have four accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry in our Bibles. Of these four, the Gospel of John focuses the most clearly on who Jesus was, with less of an emphasis than Matthew, Mark and Luke on what He did. If you were convinced that Jesus was one in a long line of great men, philosophers, thinkers in history, then I would hand you my Bible, and point you to the Gospel of John. I’d tell you to take the next 2-1/2 hours or so and read it from beginning to end, and then tell me what you think. By the power of the Holy Spirit, you would not think the same.
John Piper once remarked that, “Whatever else you may enjoy about Jesus, John wants you to know and treasure Jesus in his infinite majesty.” That would be my hope and prayer for anyone who is seeking God today. I don’t have much of an audience here, but if you have stumbled on this site and are wondering about who the real Jesus is, then carve out some time for yourself today and read John’s Gospel. See Him and treasure Him for who He truly is, not what you may have heard or thought.
“So Jesus said to them, ‘The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.’”
– John 12:35-36
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“Our sin ruins us in two ways. It makes us guilty before God, so that we are under his just condemnation; and it makes us ugly in our behavior, so that we disfigure the image of God we were meant to display. It damns us with guilt, and it enslaves us to lovelessness.”
– John Piper
Yesterday I finished reading John Piper’s The Passion of Jesus Christ. It was reissued in later years as Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came To Die, but I believe the content is essentially the same. Pam over at By The Waters gave me the motivation to finally take this book off my shelf and read it. It runs 128 pages and is a good companion for Holy Week and Resurrection Sunday. Pastor John begins each of the 50 chapters with the statement “Christ Suffered and Died…” and then completes it with a specific reason and short meditation. This book has really helped me in seeing the Cross in a new way…
One chapter that stood out is “Christ Suffered and Died…To Free Us From The Slavery of Sin”. As noted in the quote above, the problem of sin often takes shape in two ways. First, it leaves us guilty before God, and second, it makes us vile in our behavior, which consequently, as Pastor John notes, “disfigure(s) the image of God we were meant to display.” I’ve been thinking about the second reason and how often there is an imbalance in my own thinking about this. So often, the guilt I feel regarding sin can lead me into a frenzy of “Christian” activity that I hope might balance the scorecard and remove the guilt. I might immediately take to an extended time of Bible reading or spend extra time in prayer pleading for forgiveness. Neither of these things are wrong, of course.
I think the problem occurs when I feel that a completed checklist of these types of activities helps to remove the guilt in God’s sight, when in fact I’ve not given any thought to the second part of the problem, and how ugly I am portraying the image of God in my actions. In Colossians 3 and Galatians 5, Paul explains what our new self in Christ should look like and what fruit should result from that new identity. When sin rears its ugly head, it’s as if those qualities are scribbled over with a Sharpie. The self we were made to display is all wrong, and we have weakened our witness and testimony with those around us. I don’t think I give enough thought to that. Jesus should be made to look glorious by my words and actions. The flurry of activity that I often use to attempt to make up for my guilt does not take into account this fact first and foremost, sadly. I do not rest often enough in the power of the Holy Spirit in my sanctification, and certainly do not focus on the Cross enough during those times. As Pastor John reminds us, “We are not passive in the defeat of our selfishness, but neither do we provide the decisive power.”
I’m so thankful to Pastor John for reminding me of that this week.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
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“What then shall we say in response to God’s word, ‘Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin’ (Romans 14:23)? I think we shall say nothing. ‘Whatever the law says it speaks . . . so that every mouth may be stopped’ (Romans 3:19). We will say nothing. It is folly to think that our good deeds will outweigh our bad deeds before God. Without Christ-exalting faith, our deeds will signify nothing but rebellion.”
– John Piper, from The Passion of Jesus Christ, p. 32-33
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