Pray for Paul Washer

Just heard the news that Paul Washer, evangelist and founder of Heart Cry Ministry, had a heart attack. He is apparently in critical condition and has been taken into surgery. If you are unfamiliar with his ministry, here is a video of the message that launched his ministry into a larger worldwide impact. The message was given at a youth conference in 2002.

It was a shocking message because of its blunt, passionate, clarity, and it fearless proclamation of the gospel of Christ. Pray for this brother.

Desiring God

Rereading Classic Books

Desiring GodLast night, while re-reading for the fourth time, John Piper’s Desiring God, I was reminded why I am a “Christian Hedonist.” Buy the book and read it slowly.

Back in college when I first came to trust in Christ, when I first starting reading the Bible regularly (hours a day at times), and became entranced with the teachings of Christ, I remember the seed of what John Piper has termed “Christian Hedonism” and how it began to take root in my soul. I remember a paper I wrote for a Philosophy class on why men (mankind) do what they do. What is it that drives their motivations? 

I wrote that all men do what they do, even the corrupt and evil things they do because they think that that thing is what is going to give them happiness. We are misguided but the thing we want, happiness, is a good thing, a moral thing.

Then I read C.S. Lewis and his book Reflections on the Psalms, (similar to Piper), and his discussion of why praise of God and the command to praise God, is not God on an ego trip but God inviting us to deeper happiness and truer joys. Years later I would read Piper’s book Desiring God and there, with far more eloquence and depth of understanding than I had ever developed, Piper explicated and named the thing, CHRISITAN HEDONISM.

Last night, while re-reading Desiring God I came across this:

Christian hedonism is a philosophy of life built on the following five convictions:

  1. The longing to be happy is a universal human experience, and it is good, not sinful.
  2. We should never try to deny or resist our longing to be happy, as though it were a bad impulse. Instead we should seek to intensify this longing and nourish it with whatever will provide the deepest and most enduring satisfaction.
  3. The deepest and most enduring happiness is found only in God. Not from God, but in God. [My addition, “in a joyful embrace of obedience to an always good God.” (mps)]
  4. The happiness we find in God reaches its consummation when it is shared with others in the manifold ways of love.
  5. To the extent we try to abandon the pursuit of our own pleasure, we fail to honor God and love people. Or, to put it positively: the pursuit of pleasure is a necessary part of all worship and virtue. That is, 

The chief end of man is to glorify God
BY
enjoying him forever.

p. 23

Yes!

I am a Christian Hedonist and I commend the philosophy to you.

I commend you to live for your greatest joy.
I commend you to live for the best and most flourishing of life.
I commend you to find all your joys in Him.
You will only be satisfied when you are most delighted in Him.
So delight yourself in Him and find yourself satisfied.

Goodbye Illinois

Saturday Afternoon Musings

I heard a marvelous message from Psalm 32 from my friend John Crooker, serving as the Interim Pastor at Trinity Church about a month or two ago when I visit Trinity Church. It is always a joy to hear the word of God poured through a godly man’s heart, with a love and desire to serve the people of God. And it is exciting to see a congregation listening, open, and responsive to his labor.

I covet that experience for every congregation and every pastor in America. 

So, as Stephnie and I complete the process of packing and accepting and getting settled in our new call to a new church, we also begin the process of saying goodbye to so many friends in Watseka but also to our friends and children in the Chicagoland area, our hearts are full and our hopes are deep that those we know would love Jesus with their whole heart and follow him.

The day after Easter we are scheduled to close on a house in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Over the month of May, we will be moving things out of storage and into our new home, getting to meet our new neighbors and making room in our hearts for new friends. But we won’t forget you. We miss and love you all and look forward to seeing you again soon, maybe when you come to visit!

With the apostle Paul, we say,

“Rejoice always,
pray without ceasing,
give thanks in all things;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

—1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

When Fear Threatens to Undo

FearI suppose every pastor has a certain number of “fear-dominated” parishioners. I’m thankful that in my current church there seems to be very few but I know the malady can be debilitating and destructive to gospel living. Christians ought not to be dominated by fear but by hope–an overwhelming hope, no matter what is or isn’t going on around us. 

Christian hope is not dependent on circumstances but on the truth of a resurrected Lord who promises to never leave us, never forsake us, who is preparing a place for us, and coming back for us that we may ever be with Him who is love personified and powerful and sovereign over every situation.

“Fear is not a Christian habit of mind,” as
author Marilynne Robinson put it.

And she is right. 

Or at least, she should be right, but increasingly some Christians, some Christian leaders have been spinning out fear for the flock of America. That ought not to be. We are a people of hope. We are a people of joy. And we should, we must, cultivate those two character traits every day.

“There is no fear in love;  but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loves us.”
                                                                               .(1 John 4:18-19)

“For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have recieved a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!'”
…..                                                                         (Romans 8:15)

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and discipline.”
…….                                                                      (2 Timothy 1:7)

Jesus is alive. Death has no sting. Our debt has been paid. We will live with the greatest lover in the Universe for all of time. With the apostle Paul, preach the gospel to your own soul every day and “Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I say, Rejoice. Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:4-5)

Don’t forget that.

The Constantinian Problem and Opportunity

Constantine Bust from Nish (Germany)

Yesterday I read a quote by John Howard Yoder, that prior to the conversion of Constantine and the Roman Empire, “it took great conviction to stand for Christ. After Constantine (A.D. 272-337), it took great courage and conviction to not stand for Christ.” The Church grew rapidly from the resurrection to Constantine but when Christianity became the norm, fake Christianity began an accelerated growth.  

Our culture is fast-moving toward a pre-Constantinian status. That is, in the foreseeable future, it will take “great conviction and courage to stand for Christ.” What does that mean? Well, in the years prior to Constantine and even after he became the emperor, persecution of Christians occurred in many places. Even as Constantine was consolidating his power, some of his rivals continued to lead large armies and persecuted Christians regularly. 

The following account comes to us from that period.

March 9, 320 (traditional date): Roman soldiers leave Christian soldiers naked on the ice of a frozen pond in Sebaste, Armenia.They placed baths of hot water around them to tempt them to renounce their faith. When one did so, a pagan guard—inspired by the fortitude of the remaining Christians—converted and joined the freezing Christians. They were all killed and made famous by Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of Nyssa.

(see issue 27 [of CHRISTIAN HISTORY magazine]: Persecution in the Early Church).

Will Christians be called to render such testimony in America? Will it happen soon? Will it happen in our lifetime? Will it happen in our children’s lifetime? Will Christ return before it comes to that in America?

I have no answers to any of those questions. 

This I do know.

As the culture declines, as it loses its Christian memory, as it drifts further and further from Christ and the call to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, as the culture works to shame our beliefs, and change long established biblical norms, and erase Christian influence from the public square—the cost for standing for Christ will grow steeper. 

It will be a new day and a new opportunity to show the world the difference the gospel makes and the beauty of the cross of Christ and wonder of our Savior. Let us be ready to stand by standing today and living passionately for and like Jesus every day that we draw breath.

The King and a Blade of Dry Grass (a meditation)

Cultivating humility is a constant battle. It is also a constant need. God’s word is a great tool to help the process

Sleep is over-rated. One hour, and then toss, switch sides, too hot, toilet, a thousand thoughts, turn them into prayers, what was that sound? more thoughts, more prayers, …

Source: The King and a Blade of Dry Grass (a meditation)