Saturday, March 14, 2009

I love free stuff

Here are a few of the really amazing offers going on around the web:

Justin Taylor over at Between Two Worlds wrote about a project called Page CXVI. They have taken hymns and remixed them with an Indie Rock sound that is wonderful. I greatly enjoyed listening to them last night. The best news is that right now you can download seven of their hymns for free. At the top of the website page you can preview the music.

This month amazingly the people over at the ESV Study Bible site are making all of the content available for free for everyone. If you own a print version of this Bible you can access this content with the code that came with the Bible. But for all of March everyone can see all of the amazing note, articles, maps, and other features that make this Bible so amazing. You can also listen to any of it while you study.

But here's the best part of what the ESV offers online. There is another site to access the Bible online by going through the publisher. And here is my favorite part...from this site you can download audio files of an text of Scripture free...whether you want a passage, single verse, or an entire book. This has been unbelievably helpful to me when I've been reading lately. I find I can really focus hard on the text when I'm reading along with someone else. And I'm seeing more in it than ever! I love it. And yes. They know you can do this!

To do it...just go to this the "options" button...under audio options click whichever MP3 option you'd like. I am really enjoying David Cochran Heath which is the second option. Click save and type in the search bar whatever Scripture you'd like. I'm headed there to do 1 Peter 1. Right click on the word (Listen) and a small window should pop with the option to "Save link as..." Click that and save it wherever you have your music files under the Scripture reference. Repeat for however many you want! I've always wanted to be able to listen to Scripture on my iPod but could never afford I can have whatever I want when I want it. Fantastic.

For an even more comprehensive list of what else ESV offers for free just click here. And don't worry...Justin Taylor is an editor for Crossway and the managing editor of the ESV Study Bible.

Last but not least, Christian Audio's free download of the month is Don Whitney's Spriritual Disciplines. He covers everything from reading and prayer to worship and fasting to silence and stewardship...with more between. It's a fantastic book that is full of practical wisdom for incorporating Christ in more areas of our lives. I've greatly enjoyed it.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Gutsy guilt

I want to linger a little more on the glorious truth of Romans 8:1 that I mentioned in the last post. How is it when we sin that no matter how deep, persistent or heinous those sins may be, God could still look with favor on us? How do we use that knowledge to rise up from our sins ready to fight the good fight of faith? How can we use it when people look down on us for our sins? How do we proclaim Christ instead of ourselves when we fight off sin in our lives?

"Gutsy guilt" is a Piper term I learned in his book, When I Don't Desire God. He puts it like this in a sermon on Romans 8:1 (emphasis mine)...

Now that is a picture of how to think and act when you sin against your Father whose whole disposition toward you is almighty mercy and omnipotent love. He will not always handle you gently. But he will always love you. And always be for you and not against you.

So we take our sins seriously. We hate them. We see them as a contradiction of who we are in Christ and a contradiction of our Father's love. We confess our sins (1 John 1:9). We look to the cross where all our pardon and righteousness was fully secured. We accept the Father's displeasure and discipline, and may dwell in darkness for a season. But if our enemy rejoices and says to us in our night of sorrow, "See, God is against you. He is angry. You are guilty and under his condemnation," then we will say, with the authority of Romans 8:1 and on the basis of Jesus Christ's death and righteousness, and in the words of Micah 7:

"Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy. Though I fall I will rise;

Though I dwell in darkness, the Lord is a light for me.

I will bear the indignation of the Lord

Because I have sinned against Him,

Until He pleads my case and executes justice for me.

He will bring me out to the light, And I will see His righteousness."

That is what I mean by gutsy guilt. I know of no other way to persevere in the Christian life in view of our constant failings - no other way to stay married for Christ's sake, to rear children, and be single and chaste, and maintain hope and fruitfulness in ministry, than this gutsy guilt: When I fall I will rise . . . though I have sinned, the very one against whom I have sinned will plead my case and execute justice for me - not against me, but FOR me! Oh, love this gospel, [Church]! Love and live this gospel!

The question is whether we will live the gospel. We must believe...finally and fully...that Christ really did all that was necessary to appease the wrath, displeasure, disappointment, despising of God. On our bad days when sin seems to reign over us we must hold firmly that God is not against us. When we have those rare good days when we seek Him, we must believe in our hearts that we've not added to the righteousness of Christ.

Christ is our righteousness! Not our good works. We can never replace what Christ has done. We can never undo what Christ has done. Say it to yourself...over and over. Say with John Bunyan...My righteousness is in heaven...the same yesterday, today and forever! Listen to John Piper once more from the same sermon...
So I say it again: what God wants us to understand from Romans 8:1 when he says through the apostle Paul, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus," is that all of God's condemning wrath and all of his omnipotent opposition against us in our sin has been entirely replaced by almighty mercy and omnipotent assistance. In Christ Jesus God is always for you. Always! This is where Paul is going in Romans 8. He gets there in verse 31 and says, "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us!" His point is that in Christ Jesus "no condemnation" means that God is always omnipotently for us and not against us. Always!
Hold on to that truth. Rejoice in it. Exalt it. Love it. Live it today.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

You're just not that special

One of the most disabling deceptions that Satan perpetrates over the church is being revealed in so many women around me. And I am not immune. How is it that we can be in a crowd of people committed to our Savior and still feel so alone?

In large part I'm coming to see that it is because we all believe that where we are is unique to us. No one struggles with the things we struggle with. No one would believe it if we told them the truth of who we are. No one would stand with us if they knew...I mean, really knew...who we were.

What if they knew about...
  • the apathy that fills you each Sunday morning during worship?
  • the fact that you haven't been one on one with God in a decade? Or two?
  • the bitterness you still feel at the loss of a loved one?
  • the unbelief that leaves you questioning what everyone else seems to grasp so easily?
  • the fact that you say I'll pray for you almost every day and can't remember it five minutes after you leave them?
  • the fear you have not for yourself but what God might do to your children?
  • the envy that fills your heart for what God's given another?
  • the marriage that feels more dead than alive?
  • the fact that you've been a Christian for decades but have never...never...even tried to learn His Word?
  • the deep despair you feel about yawning blackness that stays only just off to the side but threatens to pull you under every day?
  • how hard you work, hoping to earn just a little favor for God...while knowing all along that it'll never be enough?
  • the fact that you don't even give God a thought really as you go about your day?
And through it all, the loneliness grips you even among friends who love you because no one struggles like you. So, you go through the motions of life. Asking the same question and getting the same answer...Hi. How are you? Good. How 'bout you? Good. And you walk away once more knowing deep within you that she is good, but you lied. Oh, how Satan would love for you to believe it.

But the truth is you are not alone. Nothing you're going through is any different than what we all struggle with. I mean it. But I'm not sure I can convince you. I've learned that even if I shared every struggle I've ever had, you'd probably say that I overcame it, but you never will. Or I may have felt it a little, but I have no idea how bad it is in you. Or you'll just flat out deny it because you've never seen it in my life. Even if I share that I'm going through the very same thing you are right now, you'll have confidence that I'll get through it, but leave still knowing that you never will.

So, let me see if I can convince you from His Word that you are just not that special...that the way you are is not something new to God...that the way you're wired or what you're going through is something that He's already made provision for.

First read this with me...
None is righteous,
no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside;
together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.
Romans 3:10-12

Your sinfulness is not a shock to God. Frankly, you have no idea how bad you really are. It is one of His manifold graces that He doesn't reveal all that we are in one huge lump for we, like Isaiah, would be undone. What has been revealed about you isn't any different than what resides in me. When you look at another and say that no one could possibly understand your sinfulness, your shortfalls, your deny this very truth. You are one amongst us. A sinner. Saved by grace alone.

No temptation has overtaken you
that is not common to man.
God is faithful,
and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability,
but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape,
that you may be able to endure it.
1 Corinthians 10:13

It's just common, ordinary temptation. And it's common to all mankind. Everyone battles. Everyone has to fight. No one gets a pass. Not you. Not me. Not Paul...

For I do not understand my own actions.
For I do not do what I want,
but I do the very thing I hate.

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.
For I have the desire to do what is right,
but not the ability to carry it out.
For I do not do the good I want,
but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.
Romans 7:15, 18-19

Sound familiar? But are you dismissing Paul like you'd dismiss me? Don't you know that God wrote these Words so that you would find help in time of need? He didn't have to inspire Paul to write about his own personal struggles. What was written was for your sake as an example for you to persevere in the know that you are not alone. If an apostle struggled? One who'd seen Jesus face to face? Well then, you and I can be sure that it will happen to us.

So, how did Paul fight through it? Just know that it's common and keep trying harder? No, no, no. He did what Micah and Jeremiah taught him to do from the Scriptures he had learned. But now he could do it in a cross-centered way...

Wretched man that I am!
Who will deliver me from this body of death?
Romans 7:24

He knows that he is the lowest of the low. He knows that nothing good dwells within him. He knows that he will have to fight for the rest of his life to resist temptation. And he knows he'll never win on his own. What can he do? What hope does he have? His very next words reveal the secret...

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
There is therefore now no condemnation
for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Romans 7:25a, 8:1

Believe it? It's His Word. Who's right...Him or you? You stand before the throne as a justified sinner. You are not yet what you will be. But you are not what you were. And you do not stand alone. The rest of the body stands with you at the foot of the cross having no righteousness of our own. We are all equal there both in our sin...and in the grace to withstand our sin.

It is the truth that we must walk in when we speak to one another. We need to say when declaring our own sin...I know you'll understand that I'm struggling to have the faith to believe that God can get me through this. Pray for me that I won't fall.

And if they do react in a way that makes you feel stupid, alone or far from grace? Walk away uncondemned and find another. They haven't changed the truth. And don't walk away angry with them. Have compassion. Remember to keep in mind that you are just like them as you know they are just like you. They just don't know it yet. They will fall one day. Be ready to meet them with the truth that will bring them hope.

And we need to say when someone shares with us their sin...Of course, I understand. I'm just like you. But I can see the way through it. Take my hand. I'll help you to walk. We'll get through this together in Christ.

No gasps. No shocked faces. Just a deep, deep awareness that we are them...and would be stuck in the mire with them today, if not for His grace. If you can see, help someone who's blind. And if you are blind, find someone who's been given some sight. After a while, we'll all be standing together...hand in hand...until we all attain to the unity of the mature longer deceived by the craftiness of schemes to keep us believing that we are alone in the fight for faith.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Lord, I want to be out of breath for You

Oh, what a message this little trailer carries. I would love to attend the conference it promotes, but that's not why I want you to see this. It will resonate with you. I promise.

Can you feel yourself right with them? Living your life...riding along...doing the next thing next. But we have inside of us a treasure, a hope of glory. We were made to know...let us press on to know...the Lord. And we don't need a conference invitation. He invites us to meet Him again right here, right now, right where you are, reading this. He has not changed. He is the same, yesterday, today and forever.

And He waits for you...not to punish you. He did that to His Son.
He waits for you...not to afflict you. He did that to His Son.
He waits for you...not to despise you. He did that to His Son.
He waits for you...not to wound you or to crush you. He did that to His Son.

He waits for be gracious to you.
He waits for you...has exalted Himself for show you mercy.

So, let's run to Him. Let's return to Him. Let's renew our passion for Him. Let's recall Him to mind and find hope and rest for our souls.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Took a second for this one to click

And then it was so funny. If it takes you a minute to see the humor, focus on the score at the end.

I can't tell you how many times we've been watching some sporting event, usually football, when a guy breaks out into dance (and sometimes song and dance) after a play. If you're sitting beside Wayne you'll hear a disgusted mutter...Come on. Act like you've done it before.

We love to see guys who don't think a tackle is worthy of an Academy Award or one sack out of 75 attempts is newsworthy. Hilarious to see it so very vividly portrayed...and he's celebrating over PING-PONG! Down here in Texas, that's not a sport...that's not even a game. It's a...I don't even know what. A thing you send the kids to play so the grown-ups can talk sort of thing. Takes a real secure guy to dance after a ping-pong point...especially point one.