04/21/13

Gift of Renewed Thirst

A prayer by Scotty Smith based on Psalm 63:1-5, from his book Everyday Prayers.

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, (Psalm 63:1-5, ESV)

Dear Jesus, we come before you today asking for the gift of thirst. Renew and intensify our thirst for you. Make us so faint that unless you hydrate our hearts with the gospel, we will surely perish.

It’s a perilous thing to no longer deeply crave fellowship with you, Jesus. It’s a deceptive thing to enjoy, but no longer actually need you. It’s a deceitful thing to be satisfied with correct theology about you, without experiencing rich communion with you. It’s a demonic thing to find our ultimate satisfaction in anyone or anything else but you.

Only your steadfast love is better than life, Jesus—only your contra-conditional, irrepressible affection for us. Nothing else will do. You have created a gospel-shaped vacuum in our hearts—a screaming empty place that fits only you. Forgive us when we try to cram human love, creature comforts, or anything else into that place. Don’t let us be so easily satisfied. Give us redemptive discontent until our hearts rest again in you.

Jesus, we’re not just asking this for ourselves as individuals, but for our churches as well. Forgive us when we get so organized, creative and “right” that we no longer miss your presence. Is it really you we are worshipping, or are we just worshipping worship? Is it really you we are serving, or are we just serving ourselves as religious consumers?

If you actually “left the house,” how long would it take before we knew the difference? In all honesty, Jesus, how much of what we do in our churches doesn’t require the Holy Spirit at all? Show us, convict us, forgive us, and change us.

Let us see and experience your power and glory in fresh ways, Jesus. We want to lift our hearts, voices, hands and whole lives to you, as a sacrifice of praise. May the truth and grace of the gospel satisfy us as fat and rich food. So very Amen, we pray, with longing hearts.



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03/11/10

An Open Letter to Non-Christians

1803780526 d49a807a52 An Open Letter to Non Christians Dear Non-Christian,

I’ve known you for a while now, ever since I broke out of my Christian bubble and met you on the college campus. It has been refreshing to engage a bigger world. It has spurred me along in growth and understanding.


Yeah, I Envied Your Swagger

To be honest, I was a bit envious of you when we first met. I envied your humor, your carefree attitude, and your swagger. So when you first opened up and told me you were insecure and desperately seeking hope and change…it came as a bit of a shock. I didn’t know you were so much like me.


What I Never Told You, and Why

There’s something I never told you though. I knew where to find those things. I knew where to find hope. I knew the secret to change. I knew the path to peace. I knew the key to unlocking joy. It is all found in a relationship with God through salvation in Jesus Christ.

Why didn’t I tell you? I blamed it on fear. What if you rejected me, scorned my message, mocked my weakness, or laughed at my childlike faith?


Fear Wasn’t The Root Problem

Fear, though, never was my problem. It was just a convenient excuse. You see, fear is just a surface symptom of a deeper problem. I myself lacked deep enough relationship with God in Christ. I had been able to speak of Him as a lover speaking of his loved one, I would been unafraid.

But things have changed now. I’ve never known God before like I do now. I’ve never loved the gospel of Jesus Christ like I do now. And I want you to find the same things. It is impossible to have such a high appreciation of Christ and have a silent tongue. There is real change and hope in Jesus Christ.

I’m not talking about using a lot of vague theological terms to describe some sort of uselessly abstract path to salvation.


Know the Real God

I’m talking about really knowing the real God. Stop running from Him towards things that never satisfy. Find freedom from destructive desires and habits, and replace them with a lifestyle that is filled with hope, love, sacrifice, humility, security, and contentment. It is all found in Jesus Christ. It is radical. It will completely change who you are, how you view life, work and people.

I hope to keep writing and explain these things further. There isn’t a discussion of greater importance that we could engage in together.

Sincerely,

Daniel Wilson



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02/4/10

Play Like a Child — Again

Red Tricycle 300x245 Play Like a Child    Again**Guest post by Demian Farnworth at Fallen and Flawed.**

My son owns a red tricycle. Behind that tricycle he likes to pull a red wagon. He likes to haul stuff around in that little wagon.

One day he lugged a large, faded plastic Joseph (from an old nativity set) around. I asked my son, “Who’s in your wagon?”

“Joseph.”

“Jesus’ father,” I said.

He looked back at the faded Joseph. Then back at me. “Yeah, God’s dad.”

I chuckled. But then it struck me–that’s exactly what we do with God…that’s exactly what I did with God. Let me explain.

Destroying My Family

Not long ago there was a time in my life when, as a Christian, I toyed with God. Yes, I said the prayer, bought the Bible, spent a lot of time at church.

But something was wrong. Very wrong.

See, throughout the first ten years of my so called Christian walk, I obsessed about one thing and one thing only: Becoming a world famous writer.

Much to the disappointment of my wife, this ambition took first place to everything else–my marriage, children, work–and even church.

In fact, I believed it was a very natural thing to neglect your wife, children and God for the sake of art. But you want to know the really sad part? I was miserable.

I lived that way for ten years until I finally crashed and burned. And it’s no surprise that when we are bent on our own way that we eventually crash and burn. The Bible teaches that pride comes before the fall.

So true.

The Happy Ending

In the end, I wasn’t pulling God around in my little wagon. I pulled around a resin coated image of God. The real God was waiting for me to surrender.

Listen: God is not a toy. Nor someone who tags along. He’s not our “co-pilot.” He’s the Creator. The guide who blazes the path. The pilot who’s behind the divine rescue mission called salvation.

In essence: He’s in control. And usually we’re out of control.

So let me challenge you with this: How’s your spiritual life? Is it full of joy? Peace? Or is it dominated by frustration and anxiety?

If the latter, there’s good news: You don’t have to live like that. A full, complete surrender to God means incomprehensible joy and peace.

It means you get to play like a child again. Which sounds like a lot of fun, don’t you think?

Author Bio: Demian Farnworth is keynote blogger for Fallen and Flawed.



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01/26/10

Apologetics Is Not For Convincing Atheists

3185534518 d9d53b1f09 Apologetics Is Not For Convincing Atheists 

A rodeo mentality hinders apologetics. But that is exactly what I had during my battle with skepticism.

When confronting skeptics, I thought there must be an answer so faultless that it would give all opposing arguments whiplash on the takedown. If my brain was sufficiently developed, brute intellectual muscle could hogtie and drag screaming atheists to salvation. The Holy Spirit does need a sidekick, right?

No. He doesn’t. I was missing the whole point of apologetics


The Purpose of Apologetics

Faith is not a product of intellectual strength on the inside or coercive persuasion from the outside. It is a gift from God from start to finish.

Thus the purpose of making a reasoned defense of our beliefs -  apologetics – is not to create faith in someone by arguing them to God. Apologetics is not a trump card, a cowboy’s lasso, or a checkmate move.  No man comes to the Son unless he is drawn by the Father (John 6:44).

The purpose of apologetics is to present a map that ultimately points the doubter toward Jesus Christ. There are two parts to this purpose…

1. Strengthen Believers in Their Faith

Acts 18:24-28 tells a short story of Apollos. He was eloquent, competent in the Scriptures, and instructed in the way of the Lord. He was an accurate and fervent teacher. When he showed up on the scene in Achaia, “he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.” That is Christ-centered apologetics in action, a means God uses to channel His grace to believers in need of strength.

2. Present the Gospel to the Unbeliever

In Acts 17:16-34, we find Paul reasoning with the Stoic philosophers. But Paul wasn’t there just to argue endlessly in the name of apologetics. His mission was to present the gospel, and once that was done, he left.


How to Respond to Those Who Reject the Truth

Why did Paul walk away from the stoics who mocked the gospel? Why didn’t he stay to convince them? Because that is not the goal of apologetics. Apologetics can’t convert people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

“The heart must be kept tender and pliable; otherwise agnosticism converts to skepticism. In such a case the value of apologetics is voided, for apologetics is aimed at persuading doubters, not at refuting the defiant. He who demands a kind of proof that the nature of the case renders impossible, is determined that no possible evidence shall convince him.”

- The Case for Orthodox Theology, Edward John Carnell

That is not to say that we should just blurt out the gospel and then walk away if no one responds. We are to be gentle and merciful to those who doubt or are blinded to the truth (Jude 22, 2 Timothy 2:23-26), and that might take the form of a long-term discussion with an unbeliever.

Know When to Walk Away

However, when someone is openly hostile to even hearing the truth – which is often evidenced by mockery – apologetics is not the answer. Only the Holy Spirit’s work can enlightened their minds and open their hearts to the truth. It is ok to walk away and seek another opportunity to speak to the truth to a ready heart.

As C.H. Spurgeon put it,

“How many hours in a day ought a man to give to [becoming acquainted with all the phases of modern doubt]? Twenty-five out of the twenty-four would hardly be sufficient…Am I to spend my time in going about to knock his cardhouses over?

“Not I! I have something else to do; and so has every Christian minister. He has real doubts to deal with, which vex true hearts; he has anxieties to relieve in converted souls, and in minds that are pining after the truth and the right; he has these to meet, without everlastingly tilting at windmills, and running all over the country to put down every scarecrow which learned simpletons may set up.”

- The Weaned Child, sermon by CH Spurgeon





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12/24/09

Go Hastily to Find the Savior

Shepherds Hear of Their Savior 300x244 Go Hastily to Find the Savior“And the shepherds went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, lying in a manger” (Luke 2:16).

The shepherds were hurriedly seeking Jesus. Why didn’t they wait until morning? What was the rush?

Because falling at the feet of Jesus was better than anything else they could have been doing that night. “Well that’s easy to say,” one might think, “All they had to do that night was watch a herd of sheep.” Truthfully, we are no better off than the shepherds. The best thing we can do apart from Christ doesn’t compare any more favorably than watching sheep.

If you knew He was your Savior from sin that destroys, you’d run to Him.

If you knew that He offered the joy and peace you seek, you’d run to Him.


We’ll Find Nothing More Worthy of Pursuit

If we are not hurriedly seeking Jesus, it is not because we have found something better. It is because we don’t know who He is to properly value Him. We don’t know how real and immediately needed the gospel is for everyday life.


How Needed is the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Let’s just focus on one area where the gospel is practical: our work.

Apart from Christ,

» You can earn and pay money, but we will all still use it to seek worthless things with no eternal value and remain impoverished in all meaningful accounts.

» You can bring someone healing, but they’ll only use their strength to continue heading to the grave.

» You can give someone legal advice, but they’ll keep breaking the laws of heaven and face legal condemnation before a just and righteous Judge.

» You can build people’s houses and buildings, but that will still leave them homeless in the next world.

» You can offer insight and advice, but all of our earthly wisdom is futile and foolish in light of living unprepared to die and face eternity.

You can bring people a lot of earthly things, but you cannot change the hearts that destine them for hell apart from salvation in Christ.

Apart from Christ, all our greatest efforts are ultimately worthless and futile. We are wandering, destroying ourselves, purposeless, enjoying a moment of pleasure while storing up a harvest of ache and woe.

Unless you intimately know Christ yourself and bring Christ to to the people in the workplace and anyone else you try to serve here on earth.

No surprise the shepherds ran to the One who was called their Savior.


How Close is Close Enough?

Is hearing the angels say Jesus exists enough for you?
Is running to the stable door close enough?
Or is running all the way to the side of the manger where you want to be?

What level of intimacy do you let pass as “finding Christ”?



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10/14/09

A Parable That Works Like a Judo Master

Judo Master 300x299 A Parable That Works Like a Judo Master

Through the eyes of Luke, I watched the Pharisee slowly climbed the temple steps. Self-righteousness oozed from his every move, pooling beneath him every time he paused. It’s a miracle he never drowns in the ooze while laying in bed at night.

The Pharisee opened his mouth and spoke as if to himself but in a tone loud enough for two dozen other worshipers to hear.

“God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector…”

The wretched tax collector stood alone a little ways off. His pained eyes were downcast, and his shoulders were slumped. I wondered if the Pharisee’s self-righteousness might drown the tax collector as well.

I couldn’t help but utter my own prayer to God.

“God, I thank you that I am not like that Pharisee at the temple praying, looking down on the tax collector.”

Did I miss something?
Yes Daniel, you did indeed miss something.

Luke front loaded the story (Luke 18:9-14) with an explosive charge: “[Jesus] also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt.”

Naturally, I condemn the Pharisee as soon as I read his grimy, self-righteousness prayer. I compared myself to him, and reassured myself that my deeds prove that I am much more righteous than he is.

Then I become the Pharisee. Like the hands of a Judo master, the parable uses my own weight against me. I condemn myself by condemning the Pharisee.

Now I am ready to hear where righteousness comes from.

1. Righteousness is not found by comparison
The Pharisee first compared himself to other men. That’s the first hint that I am looking in the wrong place to find my righteousness.

If two men were sitting side by side, suffering heart attacks, they wouldn’t judge their chances of survival by comparing shoe sizes. Neither should I judge my eternal condition by how I stack up against another man’s external appearance.

2. Righteousness is not found in works
The Pharisee proceeded to list a sampling of his good deeds. I am sure he could have gone on further, but God wasn’t taking notice anyway.

The Pharisee was not righteous by his own right any more than he was righteous by comparison. Neither am I.

3. Righteousness is found in Christ, always
Paul had the Pharisee beat, hands down.

“If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.” (Philipians 3:4-6)

Paul also knew all of man’s righteousness is rubbish.

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ…in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Philipians 3:7-9).

Charles Spurgeon comments,

“You will enter Heaven as fully by grace as if you had never lived a godly life, nor had practiced a single virtue.”

Now that I have been thrown to the floor, I am ready to kneel beside the tax collector, beat my breast, and say, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”



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08/12/09

Proclaiming the gospel: What we learn from casting nets

800px Sea of Galilee 19001 300x220 Proclaiming the gospel: What we learn from casting netsIt was the tenth or so time I had slung the 12-foot net into the waves while fishing where I am vacationing in Florida. As my biceps burned from casting the lead-weighted net into the gulf, the text of Mark 1:16-20 came to life. Indian Shores, Florida, started feeling a lot like Galilee. I could taste a little of how Simon, Andrew, James, and John experienced as they spit sand and mopped sweat.

4 observations on fishing with nets
In the text, the soon-to-be disciples of Jesus Christ (Simon, Andrew, James, and John) teach us about casting nets.

1. Fishermen.
They cast their nets because they were fishermen. Fishermen cast nets, it is just what they do. Notice also that they fished in teams instead of trying to manage boats and nets alone.

2. Fatigue.
They cast nets even with fatigued biceps, wiping sweat from their brows with calloused hands. Casting nets exhausts the body.

3. Failure.
They cast nets even after pulling many empty nets into the boat, shaking their heads and wondering where all the fish went. It is ridiculous to expect a large catch with every cast.

4. Fish.
They cast nets with the goal of catching fish. This involves being in a place where there are fish, and pursing the catch.

4 challenges to the fishermen

1. Proclaim the gospel as a lifestyle, because that is just what disciples do. It is expected that a Christian will witness in the same we that we think “duh!” when told that fishermen fish. Also, work with a team to share the gospel by supporting and encouraging one another to keep fishing. Hold each other accountable. Being a loner is arrogance, not bravery.

2.
Persevere in sharing the gospel. When you’ve have a grueling work schedule, proclaim the gospel. Calloused hands belong to those who have pushed on through pain and exhaustion, not to those too self-conscious to try. The marks on Christ’s hands show that He gave His life to the Father’s business. Let our hands show that we are about our Father’s business.

3.
When the nets come up empty and we fail to see the results we expected, by all means, analyze the situation and figure out what might have gone wrong. Mend nets. But never let the fear of failure keep you from fishing. The only reason to stop and mend nets is for the purpose of gearing up to try again the next morning at sunrise.

4.
Be where the fish are. Sitting on a pew is not fishing. Listening in the pews on Sunday morning may serve to help you mend your net, but go out and engage the lost.

We proclaim the gospel by His power for His glory. Let’s cast our nets.

Can you think of any other elements of fishing with nets that have parallels to proclaiming the gospel? The idea of drawing a net in reminds me of John 6:44. Fish can’t resist the net once drawn up in it. Fish don’t willingly go into nets, they are surprised by them (and we don’t willingly love God first either). The net brings death. I haven’t fully thought out all of that though…

Lastly, a prayer request
I have a prayer request. I spent time casting my nets and fishing Tuesday afternoon with a man named Mark. He was doing some construction work on a beach house nearby and we joined up for the afternoon to fish. Lord willing, this morning (Wednesday) I will be fishing at sunrise with Mark. And I will put some of this to practice and share the gospel. Will you lift Mark and I up in prayer to the Father who alone can change hearts, open eyes, and save sinners?



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08/9/09

The struggle to believe in rebirth

1201952 61178703 300x164 The struggle to believe in rebirthAs the movie screen went black, the concluding feeling was one of unsatisfied needs in the characters. The popular movie reflects the hungers in the hearts of the ordinary McDonalds cashier, school kid, tennis coach, and everyone else.

They are starved for truth that brings freedom. The fascination with themes of redemption point to the heart’s longing for the gospel message, the very message the movie can only crudely hint at.

That gospel message has been entrusted to followers of Jesus Christ. God opens eyes to the truth, and chooses to use us to bring His gospel of grace to the lost.

The honest truth: I struggled to believe the power of the gospel.
Do you want the honest truth? I have not always believed all men really needed the gospel. I knew I needed salvation, and that the Bible says other men need it.  But when I engaged in a conversation with an agnostic on campus, he seemed to be getting along fine without God. He was decently moral. More conscious of poor than I am. Hard working. What did he need God for, other than to avoid hell (which he didn’t believe in)?

What does man need God for? Everything. Even the seemingly moral and compassionate agnostic needs to be set free to serve God and enjoy the relationship. Even if he blindly denies it, the agnostic’s daily existence was a life-size testimony to his inability to satisfy his extreme desires with earthly vanities. The question is not “Does man need God?” The question is, “Does man see his need for a Savior to reconcile him to God?”

Thanks be to our Lord for opening my eyes to the reality of man’s need for the gospel. I may not confidently say that I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16)

Real beliefs change real life: Living like we know there is a way to be born again.
When I really believe that all men need the blood of Jesus Christ to bring them into the relationship they crave, it opens my mouth. There is hope to proclaim. Men can indeed be born again.
Let me close with a quote from Spurgeon:

“…he who really has this high estimate of Jesus will think much of him, and as the thoughts are sure to run over at the mouth, he will talk much of him. Do we so? If Jesus is precious to you, you will not be able to keep your good news to yourself; you will be whispering it into your child’s ear; you will be telling it to your husband; you will be earnestly imparting it to your friend; without the charms of eloquence you will be more than eloquent; your heart will speak, and your eyes will flash as you talk of his sweet love. Every Christian here is either a missionary or an impostor. Recollect that. You either try to spread abroad the kingdom of Christ, or else you do not love him at all. It cannot be that there is a high appreciation of Jesus and a totally silent tongue about him.”

Do you believe the gospel is powerful? Have you ever fought these same struggles? What did God use to bring you to understand your need, and see others’ need in such a real way that it motivates you to verbally proclaim the word of God that brings saving faith to lost men?



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08/5/09

12 Bloggers Summarize the Gospel in 10 Words or Less

1072078 67368573 300x162  12 Bloggers Summarize the Gospel in 10 Words or LessDemian Farnworth, a man committed to the gospel, just did a post giving the answer from 12 bloggers to the question: What is the gospel, in 10 words or less?

His reasoning: If we can’t sum up the gospel in 10 words or less, we don’t really have a handle on what we believe. The question was a challenge to think clearly and concisely.

Here is a link to the article. One of the 12 answers is from yours truly.

Also check out Demian’s own answer here.



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