Archive for June, 2011
Greetings, any and all readers!
Today, I’m posting a guest blog – something I don’t usually do. This was written by my friend, Chris Dial, with a word of encouragement:
By Chris Dial –
We’ve all been there. We look back over the recent events in our lives and think, what in the world happened? Everything was going fine when BAM! Something bad happens and you sink to the ground from the shock of the impact. I’ve had many an experience like that over my short 19 year lifespan. For example, I was going along my merry way when BAM!! College fears jumped out and grabbed hold of me. I didn’t know what to do. I’m not getting the Hope scholarship, and at the time I didn’t know what major I was going to go into, plus I just really wanted to make my parents proud. All of this fell on my shoulders the instant I saw my GPA. But even when life seems to get impossible and I just can’t see what God is doing, I like to refer to two things:
Number one: Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Here is the setting behind Jeremiah’s words: God has just led his people into exile. The Babylonians have ransacked, and burned Jerusalem, the Holy City. The Temple is gone. David’s mighty palace – nothing but a skeleton of a building. Jeremiah is writing to the exiles in Babylon as an encouragement in that dark time. He is telling them that there is still hope and that God won’t abandon them. This is a promise that still rings true to this day. No matter what, God has a plan for you and He will see it done.
Number two: I like to read the story of Isaac’s beginning. Genesis 18:1-16 tells about how God promised Abraham and Sarah a son to call their own. God comes to Abraham in the form of a man. Two angels are with Him. Abraham asks them to sit and eat. During this time God tells Abraham that He is going to give Abraham a son; one that will be the beginning of a huge nation and a blessing to the nations. Sarah, who is eavesdropping from a nearby tent, couldn’t help but laugh. God looks at the tent and asks why Sarah is laughing. Sarah and Abraham were old by this time (just shy of a hundred). I find this encouraging because it shows me that God’s ways are not our ways. It gives me comfort to know that when God doesn’t make sense to me, He knows what He’s doing.
So, if life has you down and you don’t know what’s going to happen next, rest assured that God has a plan for you, and it’s the best plan for you, whether you see it or not.
One final note, I know Nik has stated this already, but don’t take my word for anything about the Bible that I have written about. Go and find out for yourself to see if I’m right. Delve in deep and find what God is saying.
Chris is a good friend of mine who hails from Watkinsville, GA. He is a young man who has a genuine desire to please God in all he does. For more of his works, check out his blog (which shows he also has a similar love to mine for dead languages):
For the statement that Chris spoke of, see my old blog’s post “Canon Testing/Truth”: http://nikatellerslie.blogspot.com/2010/11/canon-testing.html
Knowing that God is sovereign over all is one thing. But how do we put that into practice when it seems the darkness of current events is unbreakable? Charles Spurgeon, a legendary preacher from yesteryear, addressed that very thing in his incredible, dark-chocolate rich sermon “Songs in the Night”. I cannot encourage you enough to read this sermon: http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/2558.htm
I hope you have been blessed by Chris’s words and the Word of God!
“Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.” – 1 Peter 1:6-9 (KJV)
I recently finished reading the book Not for Sale: the Return of the Global Slave Trade – and How We Can Fight It by David Batstone. The title says it all. This book is a blatant, straightforward assessment of the current state of human trafficking all over the world. I can’t necessarily say I enjoyed the book (as one might enjoy candy), but I can say it definitely gave me a good wakeup call to this great need in our day. For those of you who are interested in battling human trafficking and slavery, I can definitely recommend it.
For me, however, it brought up many interesting thoughts. There are many problems in this world that, as a Christian, I want to see ended, slavery being one. But as I began to think about how I would go about battling this cause specifically, this though occurred to me: “This is exactly why we need a revival in our churches.”
Go with me for a second: let’s say the hot topic of abortion is settled once and for all in our country, with the pro-life movement coming out on top. Abortion is illegalized – that’s great! However, there is just one problem… are there still girls getting pregnant because they haven’t been taught otherwise? We’ve still got the crisis of teen pregnancies on hand. And we don’t want those kids going to the foster care system, because it’s practically worthless. What about pornography? That abomination is still fueling young men to pursue women as objects for their own pleasure.
What I came to realize was this: we don’t just need a few laws to be passed and the police force to crack down on these issues. We need something more. We need our entire country to be radically changed.
Here’s the point I’m trying to make: you can’t separate Christian morals from Christianity. It just doesn’t work that way. William Wilberforce saw this clearly in his battle against the slave trade. He penned, “Almighty God has set before me two great objectives: the abolition of the slave trade and the reformation of manners.” By “manners”, Wilberforce meant morals. He understood that in order for the slave trade to be abolished once and for all, it would take more than just new laws – it would take revival. His book, A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians in the Higher and Middle Classes in this Country Contrasted with Real Christianity (also known as, A Practical View of Christianity for short), proves this point. Wilberforce desired to reform not just the laws of England, but the state of Christianity in England. Without Christianity to back up the morals, any system of law will quickly fall apart.
In my (limited) understanding of history, I have seen a pattern of societal degradation. Let’s take the issue of sexual immorality as an example. The first generation says, “We remain pure because we are Christians. God commands it, so we agree and hold to it.” If Christianity isn’t fully passed on in this same manner, the second generation will say, “We remain pure just because that’s the proper and right thing to do.” There isn’t much support to hold up the morals, so the third generation comes along and begins to bend the rules by saying, “So why do we stay pure anyway?” Of course, this question is passed along to the next generation, who break the boundaries and say, “Well, it doesn’t really matter anyhow. You can stay pure if you want, but some of us are going to seek sexual gratification our own way.” This compromise leads to the fifth generation, which not only allows this immorality, but boldly declares, “We are sexually immoral, and proud of it! No one can tell us what to do! Sexual immorality is a good thing!”
The system of morals fell apart because it had no strength in it. Though generation one succeeded in passing on the morality to their progeny, they failed in passing along their Christianity. Thus, when the second generation faced the questions of the third, they had nothing with which to answer them.
I see our society on the edge of plunging into the darkness of applauding immorality and sin. Listen to the words of King David in Psalm 12; how well it describes our country’s state:
Help, LORD; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men. They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak. The LORD shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things: who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us? For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the LORD; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him. The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever. The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted.
I see the despair of King David. But I also see the hope. I do see something beginning to stir in the body of Christ. My prayer now is that the Spirit of God will blow it into a large and consuming fire. When revival comes, all wickedness is driven out. If we truly want these battles to be won, we need the aid in our hands and the gospel on our tongue. And may God get all the glory.
Help, Lord; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men. 2 They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak. 3 The Lord shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things: 4 Who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us? 5 For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the Lord; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him. 6 The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. 7 Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever. 8 The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted.Psalms 12:1-8 (KJV)
As a Christian, one of my goals is to be entirely counter-cultural. There are so many lies floating around in our culture today that it is inevitable that some have penetrated our lives. Especially for those of you who are stuck on Facebook, Youtube, or watching television on a regular basis, you are in great danger of taking in these lies. All I want to begin to do is expose them.
One of the biggest lies I have seen evident in not just our culture, but in people all around me, is narcissism – a deep love for self. The word’s origins can be traced back to the story of Narcissus, a Roman myth. Narcissus was an incredibly handsome, which caused him to be incredibly proud. One of his enemies saw this and took it as an opportunity against him. Leading Narcissus to a pool, the enemy showed him his own reflection. Narcissus, smitten with his own reflection, would not move away from the pool until death took him.
Though this tale is somewhat ridiculous, it paints an interesting portrait of where much of American culture is today.
Adam Holz writes in an article on narcissism:
“[In] a recent study conducted by C. Nathan DeWall and Richard S. Pond Jr. (both from the University of Kentucky) that investigated the increase of narcissism in pop music between 1980 and 2007. Published in March by the American Psychological Association, the research shows that incidents of the words I and me in pop music have increased, while uses of we and us have decreased. “I’m teaching people to worship themselves,” pop queen of the moment Lady Gaga says, as if to prove the point. Narcissism has apparently increased so much that the forthcoming fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the resource used by psychiatrists and psychologists to diagnose psychiatric disorders) has eliminated “narcissistic personality disorder” from its entries. So if enough people meet the criteria for a mental disorder, does it cease to be a disorder and become … the new normal?”
This is the exact same lie I hear from the serpent in Eden: “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4-5). John the Apostle writes, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:16, emphasis added).
Naturally, we are all self-lovers. Apart from Christ, what else should we love, except ourselves? The problem comes in when we, as confessing Christians, are still in love with ourselves. This is evident by our conversation, the way we behave around others – but I have seen few other places that narcissism is fueled than the wonderful world of Facebook.
Dr. Baarendse of Columbia International University wrote an open letter to Christian college students called “13 Reasons Why I’m Not on Facebook”. Reason number 7? Narcissism:
“Corresponding to voyeurism in our peek-a-boo world is the lure of exhibitionism. We’re so tempted today to make our lives the central story, to turn our biography into the stuff of fiction. It’s the self-promotional pop-art world of Andy Warhol, where everyone seeks his 15 minutes of YouTube fame. C. S. Lewis said that humility doesn’t mean thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less. But with the constant demand for personal updates, Facebook fosters a culture of narcissism, where we come to inhabit the harmful delusion that the world revolves around us. Marcel Proust recorded every tedious detail of his life in the thousands of pages of Remembrance of Things Past. Facebook is the Proustian medium par excellence. The temptation for self-promotion is inexhaustible: we construct a personal profile that would please an ad agency; we post witticisms and breathlessly await our courtiers’ adulations. We think of ourselves all the time, because we have to keep up with the Joneses. If we don’t update, people may think we’re anti-social. Horrors, they may unfriend us! But how much do we tell? Does the world really need to know what flavor of pizza we ate for dinner?”
I want you to understand that I am not anti-Facebook. I have a profile myself. I like having Facebook because I can check on my friends all around and see what they’re up to. It’s a useful ministry tool as well. More than a few times, however, I have seen status updates, pictures, and comments posted that have no other purpose than drawing attention to self. They shout out, “Hey, look at me!”
I see something different in scripture. Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…”
My challenge to you is that you would be contra mundum – stand “against the world” – and all its ways. Rather than occupying your time with selfish, vain pursuits, pursue the one thing that really matters: Jesus Christ and the Word of God. Facebook and all these things are temporal; they will pass away. But the things of God are eternal and settled forever. May this become our creed:
“Only one life, ‘twill soon be past; only what is done for Christ will last”
– C.T. Studd
Adam Holz Article: http://www.pluggedin.com/upfront/2011/nailingdownthenuancesofnarcissism.aspx
Since I’ve been at home, I’ve felt a little bit of stagnation in my spiritual life. Not too much, but enough to bother me. I thought nothing of it until it led me down a road towards compromise. It was then that I began to focus and see what the problem was.
I examined the way I was spending my time. I was praying in the mornings and reading the Word… what was the problem then?
“Delight thyself also in the Lord…” – Psalms 37:4a
“I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.” – Psalms 40:8
It was these two things that I realized I was not doing. Sure, I was doing all the right things, but the problem was that it was not my delight to do them. I would pray, sure… but after I had spent an extra 20, 30, 60 minutes in bed. I would read my Bible… but after I had gone for a run or checked my email or taken a shower. None of these things are intrinsically wrong. But I found that I had preferred other things over being in the presence of God.
My roommate at Ellerslie, Johnny, told me a story about his dad, and I found it quite profound.
Dad said, “Johnny, sit down, please.”
“Johnny, sit down now.”
“Fine!” And Johnny reluctantly did what his father wanted. However, Johnny’s dad could see through the actions. “Johnny, you may be sitting down, but in your heart you’re still standing up. Obedience isn’t just doing something; it’s doing it with a good attitude.”
I saw that this is what I was doing in my own life, and it manifested itself with all my distractions. Whether it was sleeping, running, Facebooking, or emailing, I was finding my delight in things apart from my God and King.
Paul wrote in Ephesians 6, “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.
It’s almost a direct parallel with the verse in Psalms. When I looked at not only what I was doing, but why I was doing it, it was because I had delighted myself in things other than the Lord. So even when I was doing the right things in obedience, I wasn’t doing it out of love for my Jesus or as joyful worship; I was doing it, well, because I felt I had to.
As I was reading through Deuteronomy, I came across this verse (10:12-13):
“And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, to keep the commandments of the Lord and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?”
God didn’t just desire the Israelites to do the things He had said. His desire was for them to love Him, and out of the increase of their love for Him obey all the words and keep them well. It’s just like what Jesus said about the greatest commandments: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”(Matthew 22:37-40)
Without love for God, obedience isn’t worth very much. This was the lesson I learned, that if I wanted to find fulfillment in my prayer time, if I wanted to find satisfaction in the Word, than the thing I must do is delight myself in my God and King. For the pleasures of this earth are so vain, so empty, so worthless. But the pleasures, the life, the love, the joy that God offers to those who will delight themselves in Him is everlasting and richer than a river of gold.