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Looking for God When Life is Messy

July 19, 2014
“For if Yahweh’s help were given only when we prayed for it, only when we asked for it, only when we had sense enough to seek it, what paupers and orphans we would be.” – Dale Ralph Davis

In my study of Judges this summer, I got stuck in the story of Samson. The story I remember from vacation Bible school is quite different than the Biblical account in Judges 13-16. The story I recollect is about an Israelite man who has an unusual amount of God-given strength that was to be used to deliver God’s people from the Philistines. Samson fell for a Philistine woman named Delilah who schemed to find out the secret of his immense strength so that she could sell this information to her people. He eventually tells her that his strength is from his long hair. While he sleeps, she cuts off his hair and his power is gone. In my memory, the hero and the victim are Samson and Delilah is the traitor.

While components of the story I learned as a child are true, it’s much more complicated and messier than I remember. In order to accurately interpret this portion of scripture, I had to slow down and spend time looking up the meaning of various Hebrew words, consult several commentaries, and outline the chapters in order to find patterns that would help me understand what lessons are being taught. The story of Samson is told in four chapters of the Bible. That’s a lot of space to be devoted to one man’s story which indicates that it’s a story worth studying.

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After Joshua led the twelve tribes of Israel into the promise land, they vowed to remember how God had delivered them from their enemies and how He provided what they needed while they wandered in the wilderness. They promised they would be completely devoted to Him and would not worship any other gods. However, a destructive pattern began to emerge. The tribes of Israel would begin to marry individuals who were not from Israel and did not worship the God of Isaac, Jacob, and Abraham. Instead, they worshiped Baal and other false gods. This led the people of Israel to break their covenant with God by worshiping these other gods. Over time, God would bring discipline to them by allowing other nations to conquer and oppress them. After a time, the Israelites would cry out to God asking Him to deliver them. He would hear their cry and would raise up a judge who would organize a rebellion against their oppressors, which would lead them back into a period of time of peace and prosperity. When the judge died, however, the people would turn back and follow other gods and the pattern would repeat.

We see the same pattern emerging in Samson’s story.

Now the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, so that the LORD gave them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years.” Judges 13:1 (NASB)

The difference in the story of Samson is that the Israelites did not cry out for God to rescue them. They had become accustomed to living under the oppression of the Philistines. They had accepted their position as serving their oppressors and in fact, were contented in their situation. They were even surprised that anyone would want to change the status quo. (Judges 15:11)

This brings me to the first lesson I’ve learned in studying the story Samson. When studying scripture we need to first ask ourselves what is God doing in the story.

  • How is He moving?
  • Who is He working through?
  • What actions is He taking in order to equip someone to be able to accomplish His plan?
  • Why is His intervention necessary?
  • Where has He chosen to take this action and why there?
  • What events has preceded His intervention?
  • How do these events fit into the greater story of redemption?

Too often we first focus on the actions of the characters in a biblical story. We see their triumphs, their courage, their mistakes, and their failures. We try to determine if their actions line up with our understanding of God’s desires or will. I believe that we are also trying to measure our lives against theirs.

We certainly can learn from the characters in the Bible, but before we get too deep into asking why Samson would do things so contrary to God’s plan for his life, we need to look to see what God is doing in the story. The Israelites were living in bondage and oppression and had become accustomed to it. Although they weren’t asking God to rescue thembecause of the long-suffering nature of God, in His grace, He decided to intervene on their behalf anyway.

According to Daniel Block,  “God would seek and create an occasion to disturb the relationship between oppressor and oppressed.”*

Dale Ralph Davis beautifully describes the situation:

Once you see this Israel you marvel at this Israel’s God. What does He do when He has a people who refuse to forsake Baal and have no desire to forsake Philistia? A people grown so used to bondage they don’t even have a sense to call out for relief? At least here the very God who judges them (v. 1b) begins to work their deliverance — anyway (vv 2-5). That is grace – grace greater than all our sin, than all our stupidity, than all our density…. For if Yahweh’s help were given only when we prayed for it, only when we asked for it, only when we had sense enough to seek it, what paupers and orphans we would be.”**

How moved we are when we ask for God’s grace and it’s provided. But time after time God is providing His grace when we didn’t ask for nor realize it had been given.

Like Samson and his fellow countrymen:

  • I’ve lusted after something I didn’t have
  • I’ve used my power to seek revenge
  • I’ve intervened in a situation without first asking what would God have me do
  • I’ve demanded my own way
  • I’ve worshiped something other than Yahweh
  • I‘ve selfishly sought what was in my best interest at the expense of others
  • I’ve thought I was smart enough, or clever enough to solve a problem that was way over my head

The good news is that even when I was in the midst of selfishly pursuing my own way, God’s grace was freely given. Regardless of whether I asked for it or deserved it. This doesn’t mean that He didn’t bring discipline into my life to bring me back into obedience to Him, but I certainly didn’t get what I deserved. Discipline, yes, but utter destruction, no.

The secret to studying any story in the Bible, especially the messy ones, is to focus on God’s actions and His purposes. That’s where you’ll find the gems that are worth treasuring.


*Block, Daniel, The American Commentary - Judges and Ruth, Vol. 6., Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 1999, Print  (Page 392)
**Davis, Dale Ralph, Judges; Such a Great Salvation, Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications Ltd., 2000. Print (Page 158)

 

When God Plans the Wedding

July 10, 2014
It's about to begin!

It’s about to begin!

Those that know me, know I don’t like details. Let me dream up the big picture or help imagine what’s possible, but I’m much more comfortable letting someone else deal with the details to make it happen. This reality is what made the announcement of the upcoming marriage of my daughter give me great joy and strike dread at the same moment. I was so excited that Stephanie was marrying such a godly man who adored her and she him. They had dated for over three years so we all knew that their relationship was leading to this moment. I couldn’t be happier for them, but at the same time, I saw this very public event, that demanded skills I don’t possess. I didn’t even know where to begin.

When I got married, things were pretty simple. You selected a dress, ordered the flowers and a cake, and selected a photographer. The location was not in question. You got married in your church and your local pastor performed the ceremony. You didn’t have to worry about decorations because the florist provided them. The reception was usually held at the church and was pretty simple. The biggest decision you might have to make was whether or not to have a grooms cake along with the wedding cake. I may have simplified this a bit because my penchant to avoid details probably goes back to my birth, so I don’t remember doing very much of the planning of my wedding. Luckily my mother was born with a piece of paper in one hand and a pen in the other, ready to make a list. She plans everything, even a trip to the nearest grocery store to avoid as many stop lights as she can.

Stephanie at the door

It’s time.

Weddings in 2014 are a tad more complicated than they were in 1979. Today very few couples get married in churches. Simple wedding receptions are rare. Themed decorations, favors, bands or DJs, dancing, a full dinner, participatory entertainment, and a dress the bride said “yes” to are in the dreams of modern-day brides. This not only increases the cost of the wedding but also the planning. Both of these increased my anxiety as soon as the excitement of the engagement announcement wore off.

The first thing we did was establish a budget we thought was reasonable. Stephanie made it clear that she would do much of the planning. My mother’s ability to make lists passed over my generation and landed in hers. Stephanie is a natural born planner, just like her sister. She makes lists, and then makes more lists to accomplish the items on the first list. But we soon discovered that she made sure there was enough money in the budget for the things she felt were important but left out some of the things that I thought were important. This ended up adding to the cost of the wedding and also to the planning. Although Stephanie gets MOST of the credit for the planning of her wedding, it became apparent that I wasn’t going to be able to avoid wedding planning like I did in 1979. I was going to have to face my dread of making lists if this was going to be the wedding of Stephanie’s dreams.

While the wedding plans were being formalized I was studying the Bible story of Gideon. This is a story of a very unlikely hero who quickly learned that because of his and Israel’s weaknesses, he was going to have to rely on God’s strength in order to win the battle that was looming ahead. I was also working on being more intentional about my prayer life. I had recently read Mark Batterson’s The Circle Maker and was now going through his devotional book on prayer. Batterson encourages the journaling of your prayer requests, so in January I began to write down my prayer requests in a notebook.

 

Holding back tears.

Holding back tears.

As the wedding came closer, I began to recognize that God had a stake in this wedding and there is absolutely no one that is a better planner than the Creator of the universe. My weakness in planning gave me a chance to rely on His strength by committing my anxiety of the wedding details to prayer.

At first my prayer requests were very practical. On March 12th I prayed for the decorations and the cake. On the 13th, I added the invitations and the flowers to the prayer list. By the 16th I had put the color of the flowers and the root beer floats on the list. By the 18th the decision about what type of utensils, plastic or stainless, were added. Eventually the hotel selection, where to purchase the ice cream, how to get the tea to the reception, and the exact quantities of the ingredients for a salad for 200 made it

The tea has arrived!

The tea has arrived!

on the list. As I prayed for each task, God began answering them by putting us in contact with friends or experts that inspired solutions to the prayers. As the prayer requests were answered I would either put a PTL (praise The Lord), a check mark, or circle the request to indicate that God had answered the prayer. Each request might be repeated several days until they were answered.

As I continued to add tasks to my prayer list, God began to speak to me about the ceremony. As the expense began to creep up I began to feel guilty. Should we spend this much money for one event? Was I falling into peer pressure? We were doing everything we could to curtail the cost of the wedding. In fact, compared to many weddings, ours was moderately priced. Stephanie and Eric were very frugal in many of their selections. We were also catering it with the help of our friends and family which greatly reduced the cost, but I still worried about the expense. As I prayed about it, I felt God reminding me that He very much cared about weddings. It was at a wedding that Jesus performed His first public miracle. A wedding is how Jesus illustrated His relationship with the church. Weddings are an important public event for Christians. It is an opportunity for those who don’t have a personal relationship with Christ to be in the presence of God and to be exposed to the gospel.

This realization took my prayer requests in a different direction. On March 22nd I began praying that Christ would be the center of the ceremony. I kept praying for the details but the purpose had changed. I began to see that if all the details were taken care of nothing would distract from the sacredness of the event.

This was my prayer request on May 21st:

“Supernatural presence of God at the wedding. Please use Ernest as he performs the ceremony. Please use this event for Your Glory and accomplish Your work in Stephanie and Eric’s lives and those in attendance.”

Yum!

Yum!

As the day approached, the planning began to be implemented. God had worked in ways that were completely beyond my control. My family and friends from both Bryan and the Austin area helped us accomplish all the many details that needed to be done. On the day of the wedding, Peggy and Alexis went to Bush’s Chicken to get the tea, Scott got the ice cream, and Jason set up the root beer freezer which held his home-made root beer. Arlen and Lail went to Costco to get ingredients for the meal. Scott, Matt, Kent, David G, Jason, Dick, and David B. helped set-up the tables. Preston and Amanda put the salad together. Stephane, Debbie, Janis, Mallory, Donna and Sylvia helped Kristin place her beautiful decorations on the tables and around the room. Janis helped coordinate all the events for the dress rehearsal and the day of the wedding. James and Debbie smoked the chicken. Ed and Donnella helped the line move smoothly. Kristy, Meaghan, and Chris created a super fun photo-booth experience and Dana made some of the best cupcakes I’ve ever eaten. Jessie and Keely ensured that the guests never ran out of food or drinks. Cassie and John created a beautiful floral and chandelier display for the arch at the ceremony site and Tiffany and Drew’s beautiful music brought us all the presence of God.

There was one prayer request that was prayed with increasing intensity as the wedding day drew near. The ceremony was outside.

Blessing given.

Blessing given.

The wedding was on June 22nd, at 5:00 pm in Texas. 5:00 pm in late June in Texas is hot! I knew that if people were going to be able to focus on the ceremony and whatever God wanted to do, the temperature had to be such that they were comfortable. I’ve been to outdoor weddings where the sun was beating down and pretty much all I remember is how hot I was, so I began to pray for a cool front. The day before the wedding my iPhone app indicated the temperature would be at least 93. 93 is certainly better than 99 but it still would be very hot if the sun was shining. We provided bottled water for the guests and the wedding program was made into a fan so that we could mitigate the hot weather. However, not many people took the water and I saw very few fans moving. There was no need. We didn’t have a cool front, but all day it was cloudy which kept the temperature in the 80s. At 5:00 pm, it was 87 with a slight breeze. It was perfect. While I was inside waiting for the wedding to start, one of my friends texted me this message prior to the start of the wedding: “It could not be a better day!” As soon as the wedding was over, the clouds parted and the sun came out.

Ernest praying

The weather was not a distraction. All attention was on Eric, Stephanie, and the presence of God. Ernest Smith was the pastor chosen by Eric to officiate the wedding. I didn’t know Ernest, but I began praying for him about three months before the wedding. I was so tempted to call him to let him know what I hoped God would do at the wedding, but God checked me. All I needed to do was pray and He would move through Ernest. The moment I met him and his precious wife Sara I knew why Eric chose him. His love for the Father was so evident in not only his language, but the way he interacted with those in attendance. Ernest reminded us that Jesus used a wedding as the symbolism to explain the gospel. The church is the bride and Christ is the bridegroom. We are that precious to Him. This is what God had reminded me back in March. This is the message that I hoped would be heard at the wedding. I prayed that people would feel the supernatural presence of God. Yes, I wanted the focus to be on Eric and Stephanie and it was, but the ceremony also glorified God. It is more than I hoped for. Every single detail was taken care of. He provided everything that was needed, including His presence.

Just for fun, I went back through my prayer journal to review the progression of my prayer list. I guess I do like lists after all! The difference is realizing that I don’t have to accomplish all the tasks on my own strength or ingenuity.

Wedding Prayer List

March 12th – Wedding planning – decorations and cake

March 13th - Invitations and flowers. Stephanie and Eric to find an apartment

March 14th – Cupcakes/cake, invitations, and flowers

March 15th – Finish invitations, and flowers

March 16th – Flowers, colors, root beer floats

March 18th -Flowers, root beer floats, utensils, invitations. Eric – leadership in relationship, 1st steps in his ministry

March 19th – Invitation, flowers. Eric and Stephanie – build a bond that no man can put asunder

March 20th – Flowers, root beer floats, hotel

March 22 – Flowers, hotel, invitations to be sent out. You are the center of the wedding

March 23rd – You are the center of the wedding, hotel, invitations, flowers

March 26th – You are the center of the wedding. Flowers, hotels, invitations

March 28th – Help Stephanie with the anxiety of all the wedding preparations. Ericfinish well (college), spiritual leader, draw him to You

April 2 – flowers for wedding decision made (thank you)

April 6th – send invitations out

April 7th – hotel

April 16th – Give Eric wisdom as he plans for Stephanie’s and his future.

April 26th – finances, stamina to accomplish everything, and that it is Christ centered

April 26th – finances, stamina to accomplish everything, and that it is Christ centered

May 4 – Finances and  details (drinks, plates, etc.)

May 5- Help Stephanie and Eric find an apartment in their budget in a safe neighborhood

May 7th – Help Stephanie and Eric finish the year strong. Help Eric as he prepares his sermon (for a class). Help them find a place to live.

May 9th – Stephanie and Eric – prep for wedding and beyond

May 21st – Finalize wedding tasks to be accomplished

Supernatural presence of God at the wedding. Please use Ernest as he performs the ceremony. Please use this event for Your Glory and accomplish Your work in Stephanie and Eric’s lives and those in attendance.

May 25th – Outline details so we can accomplish them.

Eric and Stephanie – bless their marriage and may their ceremony lead others to You.

May 31st – Please be with us as we make plans with Janis.

June 2 - Stephanie – wedding preparation, Get ice cream, ice, tea, flowers to event in good shape. Those in attendance would feel your presence – leading to salvations.

June 3 – Help Stephanie feel in control of the wedding prep.

June 5 - programs

June 6 – Programs

June 9 – Stephanie and Eric – have a wonderful honeymoon. They would leave their parents and cleave to each other, they would put you at the center of their relationship The wedding surpasses their expectations.

Your presence is felt by all in attendance. Nothing distract from the sacredness of the event. 5 people would come to know and surrender to you because of your presence at the event.

We have the finances to pay for the wedding.

June 16th  – All the details be taken care of so the focus will be on You and Stephanie and Eric.

Your Presence will be felt in a supernatural way. At least 5 people will be stirred which will eventually lead to new life in you. I‘m believing in expectation. Please let me know who they are are in due time.

We will experience pure joy that only comes from You.

Safety for travels. Health for all members of the wedding party. The heat not be so stiflingnoI pray for a cool front. Ernest as he conducts the service. Janis as she manages the event. James and Debbie as they manage the meal. Dick and I that we make everyone feel welcome and loved

June 19th – Help me figure out the quantities needed for the salad.

The Tulgas and Nickles get here safely.

 

And now we party!

And now we party!

Weary Yet Pursuing

March 22, 2014

As a former history teacher, I loved the study of battle and war strategy. My favorite two units to teach were the ones on the American Revolution Screen Shot 2014-03-22 at 10.39.23 AMand the Civil War. One lesson learned in these wars is that although an army is weary they should continue pursuing the enemy. You probably have heard the military axiom “win the battle but lose the war”.  When you have the enemy on the run, continue the pursuit to attain complete victory.

This was the case in the battle to expel the Midianites out of Israel as told in Judges 6-8. The Midianites were desert dwellers who invaded Israel at harvest time. The Midianites terrorized Israel for seven years. During this time, the Israelites hid in caves in order to avoid the invasion of the Midianites. These attacks were devastating. Judges 6:4b indicates that the Midianites would

.. leave no sustenance in Israel as well as no sheep, ox, or donkey.”

God brought up Gideon to defeat the Midianites. He’s an unlikely warrior. God often chooses the least likely to work through, so that in the end, it is obvious that God brought the victory.

But the LORD said to him, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat Midian as one man.” Judges 6:16 (NASB)

After a series of “signs” that demonstrated to Gideon that he really was listening to the LORD, Gideon did exactly as God said. He winnowed his army down to only 300 men. Using a battle strategy that only God could design (Judges 7:16-25), this rag-tag group of soldiers defeated the Midianites near the hill of Moreh. Some biblical scholars estimate that there were between 135,000 – 200,000 Midianites involved in this battle. After the initial battle, the Midianites were on the run. Gideon knew that just driving them out of Israel would not rid them of the threat of future invasions. They had to pursue the Midianites and completely destroy them. Judges 8:4 describes their strategy:

Then Gideon and the 300 men who were with him came to the Jordan and crossed over, weary yet pursuing. Judges 8:4 (NASB)

Though it would have been tempting to stop and celebrate the victory after the battle was won, Gideon and his army of 300 knew that they must press on to win the war.

This is true when fighting for spiritual victories. Some come easy, some require a long persistence and perseverance. In the battles that are tough to win, we must remain on our knees and not get weary but continue the pursuit.

I’m working through Mark Batterson’s 40 day prayer challenge described in his book, Draw the Circle. He calls these types of pursuits as ALAT prayers. ASAP prayers are what we desire. We want an immediate response. Sometimes that happens, but often it doesn’t. Mark Batterson admits that he too wanted immediate answers to his prayers. But over time, God taught him instead to pray as long as it takes prayers.

I don’t want easy or quick answers because I have a tendency to mishandle the blessings that come too easily or too quickly. I take the credit for them, or I take them for granted. So now I pray it will take long enough and be hard enough for God to receive all the glory. (Page 101-102 in Draw the Circle)

This changes the focus. Instead of achieving my comfort quickly, the prayer becomes about my need for God. Jesus desires a relationship with us. He desires the type of relation that is only forged in the midst of a battle. Foxhole friendships are forever friendships. Although weary, the soldiers keep pursuing the enemy knowing that their lives depend upon it. Their dependence upon each other intensifies during the battle.

Weary yet pursuing. Prayer that last as long as it takes. Forever friendships. That’s a victory worth pursuing.

Needing a Daily Reminder

March 16, 2014

Too often I view God’s ability or willingness to intervene in current circumstances based on my experience and not on His Word. This false understanding of God is not new. There are countless examples of men and women in scripture that struggled with faith in God’s desire and ability to intervene in their circumstances in a supernatural way.

In Judges 6:13, Gideon is asking God:

If the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, “Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?”

The Psalmist was expressing the same sentiment in Psalms 44:1-3

O God, we have heard with our ears, Our fathers have told us. The work that You did in their days, In the days of old. You with Your own hand drove out the nations; Then You planted them; You afflicted the peoples, Then You spread them abroad. For by their own sword, they did not possess the land, And their own arm did not save them, But Your right hand and Your arm and the light of Your presence, For You favored them.

When faced with difficult circumstances we often fall into the same pattern. We ask why is this happening? Where are You? God has to remind us daily who He is. What He is capable of. What He has already done. Why we can trust Him.

Before Gideon demonstrated his lack of faith, God had already declared in Judges 6:12 who Gideon was:

The LORD is with you, O valiant warrior.”

Valiant warrior? At this point in the story, Gideon doesn’t look much like a valiant warrior. When the angel of the LORD approaches Gideon, he is threshing the wheat in a wine press.  Normally, threshing floors were located in exposed areas so that the wind could easily blow away the chaff. A wine press is a pit that is carved out of the rocky ground. He was in a wine press because he was hiding from the Midianites. Not much of a warrior, huh?

The key to Gideon being a valiant warrior is not Gideon’s strength or his experiences, it is in the meaning behind the name of God. God’s name in Judges 6:12 is LORD, or Yahweh. In Exodus 3:13-15, God say that his name is: I AM WHO I AM. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary explains the meaning of Yahweh in this way.

I am truly he who exists and who will be dynamically present then and there in the situation to which I am sending you.”

We need a daily reminder that God’s very name indicates that He is not only capable of intervening in today’s circumstances, but that He desires to do so. It’s not our efforts or our abilities that accomplish God’s work in our everyday life. It is the faith in a God who has and will work supernaturally on our behalf.

A Tale of Two Lost Sons

August 6, 2013

Alistair Begg

 

On the way to work this morning, I listened to a sermon by Alistair Begg . He has been doing a series on the Bible story of the prodigal son. This morning’s sermon gave me a fresh perspective on this parable. It’s so much more than a story of a wayward son who has come home.

Take a few minutes to listen to it but be sure and stay until the end. His explanation of the brother who stayed home might surprise you. My favorite part….the Father pursues both sons.

The sermon was aired on August 6, 2013 and is called Amazing Love, Part 4, A. 

Chan at Verge 2013: Love is not Optional

March 13, 2013

The second speaker for Verge 2013 was Frances Chan. Just as David Platt left the stage, on walked Frances Chan. The schedule of when each speaker would speak was not in the program. We knew who would speak over the two days, but we didn’t know when. To have Platt and Chan back to back with little introduction was certainly unexpected. You could almost hear the crowd whisper, “First David Platt, now Frances Chan! Wow!” Of course, both of these men quickly put the focus on where it should be, Jesus.

Frances Chan

Frances Chan

Frances opened up with a prayer. He confessed to God that we trust too little in His Spirit and asked him to restore the joy of our salvation. After Platt reminded us of the cost of following Jesus, Chan reminded us that although it would cost us everything, it would be worth it.

His talk centered on how the love of God should flow so easily through us that when we are gathered together, an outsider could walk in and immediately recognize that the love among us (Christians) was supernatural. They would exclaim, “No way…the only way this is possible is if some supernatural thing happened here.”  He reminded us that as we gave it all to Christ and His mission and His priorities, we should draw strength upon one another and demonstrate sacrificial love for one another. What is mine, is yours. If you need something I have, I give it to you without a thought. If you need a place to stay, I make room for you in my home. If you are hungry, I invite you to dinner. That kind of love is compelling. It is attractive. It provides healing. It is supernatural. It is rare. It is a characteristic of a follower of Christ.

Chan reminded us that sadly, some of us have given up on this dream and have turned to other ways to “fill the room”. Instead of building God’s church His way, by loving others as described above, we try to attract people with programs and church growth strategies that may or may not be biblical. He reminded us of Paul’s exhortation in Philippians:

Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” Philippians 1:27 (NASB)

Chan also impressed upon us that we try too hard to impress others with our intellect. We try to reach others for Him with intellectual arguments. Paul was extremely intelligent. When it was necessary, he used his intelligence to help show the fallacy in other’s logic, but he made it clear in I Corinthians that the simple truth of the cross was enough.

For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” I Corinthians 2:2 (NASB)

Paul deliberately chose to know nothing except the cross. He didn’t let his words empty the cross of it’s power. He knew the simple message of the cross was all that was needed to reach others. The message of the cross is used by God to reveal Himself to the lost. It is the Spirit that gives life, not the flesh (our intellect).

He ended his talk by asking us if we have given up on Christ’s command to love our neighbor as ourselves. He said, “I’m not talking about strategy. There are things that are non-negotiable. When people in a church aren’t loving one another, it is just sin!”

David Platt Kicks Off Verge 2013

March 6, 2013

The 2013 Verge conference started off with a bang. After the Austin Stone Worship band led us in worship, David Platt quietly walked on the stage.  Platt would set the tone for the entire two days. He reminded us of the urgency of Christ’s commands. The theme of his message was similar to the one he gave at the 2012 Verge conference. He warned us that there are a whole lot of people who believe they are Christians but don’t really understand the meaning of the word and haven’t counted the cost. Culturally they call themselves Christians, but “Biblically they are not.”

I took notes throughout the two days. I will release them in several blog posts. Below are my notes from David Platt’s sermon.

David Platt, pastor of the Church of Brook Hills

Platt started by pointing out that when you know Christ, everything changes in your life. Everything changes when you follow this King. He wants us to consider the question, what does it mean to be a disciple of Christ.

After studying Matthew he believes that we can get a very good portrait of Christ in the first four chapters of this gospel.

Savior, Messiah, Son of David, Son of Abraham, center of history, fully human, fully divine, sovereign over the wise, shepherd over the weak, inaugurating a new exodus, He will end our exile, loves His fiercest enemies (sinners like you and me), Savior King, righteous Judge, filled with God the Spirit, Jesus is loved by God the Father, new Adam (doesn’t fall to satan’s temptations), true Israel (faithful and obedient Son who passed the temptation), Light of the world, the Hope for all nations not just Israel.

He then asked and answered the question, what does it mean to follow Jesus?

1. Live with radical abandonment for His Glory.
He reminded us that when Jesus’ disciples chose to follow Jesus, they followed Him with nothing in their hands. In Jesus’ day it was common to follow a “teacher” to step up the ladder. But not this teacher. With this teacher they would lose it all. Christ made it clear. If they followed Him, they must deny themselves. When we decide to follow Christ, comfort and certainty in this world are no longer our concerns. Followers of Christ do not bow down at the alter of safety.

2. Live with joyful dependence on His grace.
Jesus did not call the disciples because they had a lot to offer. We are all sinners, rebels to the core, running from God. The stunning reality is that Jesus is running after us.  Nothing in the Christian faith is born out of our merit.

3. Live with faithful adherence to His person. Christ said, follow Me. I’m the path, I’m the way.

4. Live with urgent obedience to His mission. He stated follow Me and I will make you fishers of men. This is not optional. Followers of Christ will make disciples. We’ve misunderstood what it means to be a follower of Christ. If we fully understood the meaning, we wouldn’t have to be cajoled to go make disciples. No one could hold us back.  The cost of non-discipleship is greater. Many people who call themselves Christians are deceived sitting in churches.

David Platt speaks with such authority and humility, a rare combination. I am always challenged when I read or listen to his words.

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