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Showing posts from April, 2010

Hedonize Your Marriage

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I have tried to offer commentary on John Piper’s book, Desiring God , that will make it more palatable to the lay reader.   In making that statement I know that I am also saying that I do not believe the book is palatable to the lay reader.   I will affirm; I believe this to be true.   Case in point is chapter 8 on Marriage, the Matrix for Christian Hedonism. On this chapter I do not believe commentary is as needed as editing.   If I were going to print this chapter I would begin on page 210.   The pages preceding this are what I feel makes the book less palatable for the lay reader.   In every chapter Piper spends some awkward moments waxing philosophically on Hedonism.   What makes this even more awkward for me is that I am still uncomfortable with trying to merge the ugly word “Hedonism” with the sacred word “Christian.”   I know Piper argued for this merger way back in the beginning of the book.   I am just not there yet, and I am not sure I will ever be.   At the same time, I agre

Keeping It Together (sermon audio: Sunday a.m.)

This week we learn from Acts 2:42-47 that we foster a sense of community in the church through devotion. People, by nature, find connection in groups of which they share something in common. They are bonded by mutual experiences and dependent on each other for support. Of all places, this connection should be found in the church among a body of believers who are also devoted to each other. The church in Acts exhibited this devotion, not weekly as many church-goers, but daily. In order to achieve this sense of community in the church we must first devote ourselves to Bible study, one another, prayer, and worship. These aspects are unifying and necessary for binding God’s people together. Listen to Audio

The First Move

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”   (Exodus 20:2) The first move has always been His.   He created the universe.   After the fall, God went to Adam.   Adam hid from God.   People are not seekers by nature.   No one seeks for God (Romans 3:11b).   He has always made the first move.   We respond. Before God reveals His commandments, He reminds Israel of His character.   Their relationship with Him has meant a great deal to them.   He is their salvation.   Following His commandments can only result in their good.   David believed this and wrote in Psalm 119:6, “Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.” With Israel, God made the first move.   It was a move to save them.   The precedent is clearly set.   If there is any suspicion or doubt that following God’s commandments is not a good thing, note the precedent.   He made the first move.   His commandments not only restrict; they also save

John Piper Doesn't Want You To Serve God

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Because of the misunderstandings and difficulties I anticipated with lay teachers trying to interpret John Piper’s Desiring God from Lifeway’s Masterworks series, I have tried to provide what I would consider to be a laymen’s guide to the text.     I started the project way ahead of time, hoping that I could somehow prophecy and discern what was to come.   My prophecy was correct, there is difficulty.   My discernment skills, however, are not quite so in tune.   As a result I have missed a thing or two in each of my reviews that would have been more helpful.   Today, in reviewing the edited version of chapter 6 on prayer, I have seen the light.   I can tell at least one thing that is about to come on the week of May 9 when Masterworks adopts Piper's teaching from Desiring God on prayer. Some will accuse Pastor Piper of teaching that we are not to serve God. Preachers are wordsmiths.   To our credit we are trying to hold the attention of a media/image driven society with words inst

A Million Ways to Live Ten Words

The commandments of God reveal the character of God.   He is aggressively good.   Psalm 119:1 says, “Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD!”   The ten commandments of Exodus 20 are the law of God on the atomic level.   Literally they are not the commandments, but the “words.”   Words have a variety of meanings and uses.   When it comes to the commandments of God, each one of them can be applied in a million different ways.   Life is circumstantial.   There are a hundred different ways to kill, even more ways to steal, and there are several different color shades of lying.   The books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy outline that when it comes to killing we should not do it accidentally, innocently, or intentionally.   White or black, there is no good reason to lie.   If you steal and get away with it, it is still wrong.   The law of God is the Ten Commandments or ten “words” expressed in morality, society, family, and religion.   The law is the words bei

Happy Earth Day

Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness. Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows on them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble. To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing. Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord , and my right is dis

The Commandments and Character of God

Commandments are not just prohibitions, they are also permissions.   They are restrictive and affirming.   You shall not murder (Exodus 20:13).   The restriction is from taking human life.   The affirmation is that man has the right to live.   Do not kill.   Live.   Human life is unique and should be respected.   The commandments reveal the character of God.   In telling us what we should not do, He reveals to us what He is like.   He is not like the other gods.   Other gods demand that you sacrifice your babies.   The God of Israel and Creation loves your child.   He loves it when men and women fall in love, devote themselves to one another in marriage, and remain faithful.   He protects His name and He has also taken care to protect yours.   People should not take His name in vain and they should not tell lies about you. The commandments of God reveal that He is good.   Because He is good, He is not passive.   He is aggressive to protect His name, His glory, human life, property, and

The Heaven and Hell of Money

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On Chapter 7 of John Piper's Desiring God   Money cannot save the human soul, but loving it can certainly bring about its damnation.  In 1 Timothy 6:9 Paul teaches that the desire to be rich is a temptation that ensnares and brings one, “into many senseless and harmless desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.”  I think people take warning labels about trans-fats more seriously than they do the teachings of the Bible about money. If money can lead the soul to its greatest miseries then why not develop an attitude towards it that can result in the soul’s greatest delight?  Paul teaches in 1 Timothy 6:17-19 that this end can certainly be achieved.  We are to be, “rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for” ourselves “as a good foundation for the future, so that” we “ may take hold of that which is TRULY LIFE.”  A person’s attitudes toward money will impact their eternity.  Money is a curse and a blessing.  It is in many ways a

Pagan Church Buildings

A couple of years ago Frank Viola and George Barna published their apologetic of why basically everything about the current state of the church is wrong.  It is the 2008 book, Pagan Christianity . I heard a lot about it, but didn’t read it.  The primary reason I didn’t read it is because books like this and people who talk about things like this exhaust me.  They spin an endless web of why everything finds its root in something devilish and therefore you should renounce it.  My wife calls this sort of thing, “Finding the devil in a dollar.”  I have even heard that speech.  The one about how the symbols on dollars and U.S. government institutions are insignias of the New World Order, or atheism, or devil worship, on and on it goes – and then the speaker receives an offering.  These are usually the same people who tell you not to eat cereal because it too contains something on the box about the devil.  To me, Pagan Christianity , is that same genre. The

Prayer, the Power of Christian Hedonism

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On chapter 6 of John Piper's Desiring God Piper often opens his chapters with an objection to Christian Hedonism.    Here the objection is that Christian Hedonism, “puts the interests of man above the glory of God (159).”   Logically, this could not be so for two reasons.   One, our pursuit of happiness in God could never be greater than the pursuit of His own happiness in Himself.   We could never want God to be glorified more than He desires the same for Himself.   Secondly, our pursuit of happiness in God is something He is doing in us for His glory.   Our happiness if found in only one place, in Him, not without Him.   Our happiness in Him is a byproduct of His work , in us, to glorify Himself.   Piper sums this up characteristic of his style that at times is less like a sermon and more like a debate by saying, “Therefore, Christian Hedonists do not put their happiness above God’s glory when they pursue happiness in Him (160).”   The two are the same. As evidence that his con

Keeping It Real (sermon audio: Sunday a.m.)

As common as hypocrisy is in the church, we should tap into the power of confession even more in order to “keep it real.” God has set up the church as an authority to exhibit his mercy and forgiveness in the lives of His people. It is designed for accountability, exhortation, and ultimately reconciliation in dealing with sin and becoming more Christ-like, holy people of God. For this reason, confession is vital to the fellowship, message, and maturity of the church. We serve a holy God, therefore we should be a holy people. Listen to Audio

The Good Guy Wins

I am not as much a golf fan as I am a “human story behind sports” fan.  As much as the media tries to separate golfers, b-ballers, and sports icons from morality - it can’t be done.  Basketball does not say as much about a man as pulling a gun on a teammate does.  Birdies do not say as much about a man as faithfulness does. How ironic is it that as much as the media, the tournament directors, and Tiger tried to avoid it happening, the Masters became a morality play.  How would Tiger be portrayed by the media and received by the audience?  In the end, amazingly, his story was trumped and a greater story prevailed.  A man whose wife is suffering from breast cancer won a major.  His wife able to get out of the bed only long enough to see her husband birdie the final hole and win The Masters.  She watched her husband win.  He has watched her suffer.  Tiger played Augusta markedly alone.  Mickelson played Augusta with a pink bow on his hat.  Mickelson walks to the 18th green, to get his j

Kindling Not Killjoy

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On Chapter 5 of John Piper's Desiring God Our hedonism is scratched with chapter 5 in the mere fact that it is much easier to follow than some of its predecessors.  This is not to say that chapter 5 requires less thought than the others.  Reading Piper always demands the brain be switched on.  Chapter 5 will fill the starving mind with good things, meditations on the Word of God. I think many people will find it surprising that Pastor Piper calls the Bible kindling and not a killjoy (144).  In my experience as a pastor my observation has been that most people, even within the church find the Bible boring and not refreshing/reviving/nourishing as Pastor Piper teaches.  If these were writing this book, I believe that by their practice they would not be given to include the Bible in anything remotely related to Hedonism.  So what’s the problem? “Almost everybody in the world would agree that if the one and true God has spoken, then people who ignore His Word can have no lasting

Loving to Love, The Labor of Christian Hedonism

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You will love, loving.   At least I think that is what Pastor Piper is trying to say with chapter 4 of his book Desiring God .   My wife is full of weird country sayings.   They are metaphors of the front porch and sometimes, for me, they need interpretation.   One such saying is, “You went around your elbow to get to your thumb.”   I interpret this to mean that someone took the long route instead of the shorter, more direct one.   When it comes to talking about love I think Pastor Piper here, has taken the elbow route. In Desiring God, Piper has taught us that God takes pleasure in Himself and that He takes pleasure in inviting others to share in that pleasure.   This being the case the logical next step is that others who have accepted this invitation from God to delight in Him will really enjoy what they find.   They will then do as God has done.   They will seek to invite others to enter the same joy.   Piper refers to this as horizontal Christian Hedonism.   It is the way our deli

Easter All Over Again

Jesus did not rise from the dead on April 4, 33 A.D. All we know is that He rose a few days after Passover on the first day of the week (Matthew 28:1). Post resurrection His followers began to gather on the first day of the week, which is on our calendars, Sunday. One indication of this is in 1 Corinthians 16:2 in which Paul directs the church to collect and offering on the first day of every week. Acts 20:7 indicates that the regular habit of the church was to meet on the first day of the week and take communion together. When Jesus rose from the dead, the first day of the week became a marker on the calendar of His followers. We know that for the nation of Israel the sacred day was the last day of the week, the Sabbath, Saturday. As the followers of God, they marked their calendars weekly to commemorate the day on which God finished His work in creation (Genesis 2). God set this day apart, He made it Holy, and commanded them to carefully observe and protect the Sabbath day (

The Danger of Doing Nothing (sermon audio: Sunday a.m.)

Most Easter messages will expound on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, this time we look at it from a different perspective. What about our own resurrection? Because He rose, we will too, and either enter an eternity of blessing or judgement. In 1 Corinthians 15:50-58, Paul encourages us to live what we believe. If we believe that Jesus rose from the dead, then we should do something about it. We should work and prepare as though we’re going somewhere, as though our resurrection is imminent. He also suggests that a lack of labor is evidence of a lack of faith. What are you preparing for? Hopefully, it is the return of Jesus Christ. Listen to Audio

Happy Easter!