worship Posts

The Destructive Power of Disordered Love

The Destructive Power of Disordered Love

In his classic work, “Confessions”, Augustine explains that sin is “disordered love”. It is love out of order. We most often think of sin in terms of behavior, bad deeds, actions- but Augustine helps us from another angle. There is an order to love. He said we should love God, love others, and then love ourselves. The problem comes when you love something you should love but that you should not love supremely. That’s when a good thing becomes a God thing. It’s about finding your superior satisfaction in God alone, and nothing else.

The Problem: We make good things god things.

Love out of order is what the Bible calls idolatry. Friedrich Nietzsche said there are “more idols than there are realities”. John Calvin said, “The human heart is an idol factory.” How do you discern what you’re idols are? Tim Keller asks, “What thing, if you lost it, would almost mean that you would lose the will to live? What thing, lost, gone from your life, would mean that almost all value and significance- identity and worth- would be drained out of your life?” Whatever that thing is, the Bible calls it an idol. It’s an alternate god, a counterfeit god – anything that is more fundamental to your happiness, sense of value, or identity- other than God. Anything you love more than God or rest your heart in other than God. These are not necessarily bad things but they are created things that you’re looking to for worth and value- family, spouse, comfort, health, friends, your body, your intelligence, your position, your reputation as a certain person/character that you’ve created over time. Consider the many idols in our lives today.

American Idols

  • People -sports heroes, rock stars, “American Idols”, even your kids, your spouse
  • Prosperity - money, all that money can bring- nice house, car, retirement
  • Posterity – youthfulness, being young/vibrant, even health
  • Pleasure – substance abuse, sex, next great diversion, even family
  • Power – image, success, popularity, fame, this includes ministry

The Gospel challenges our idols. The Gospel challenges the gods that we have already established. And before you think this doesn’t apply to you, I would argue that the process of sanctification in a disciple’s life is our willingness to allow the Spirit of God to dismantle of our idols. The Gospel attacks our idols, destroys them. Jesus put it this way: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33

There’s only one first. This disordered love, this idolatry, is not easily discerned. Psychologist, Alfred Adler, noted that it’s very hard to figure out what you’re really living for by simply asking yourself. He says you’re not that self-aware. You may think, “I’m living for God.” But the way to find out is not to ask that question. Instead, Adler said: Look at your nightmare. What thing, if absent, would almost (or would) take away your reasons to live. He says your deepest emotions- anxiety, fear, despair will point you to your god. It can lead to uncontrollable anger- toward any obstacle or person that stands in the way of you possessing it, despair if you cannot have it, bitterness. You must discern the idols in your life, expose it, and then destroy it or it will destroy you. Paul said, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Colossians 3:5

The Solution: The Gospel makes God our One Good Thing.

  • The Gospel demands repentance from idol worship. You may think, “I don’t have any idols.” Therein lies your problem- you don’t even know that you are an idol-worshipper. “I don’t feel spiritually dead.” A fish doesn’t feel wet. You’ve become so accustom to your environment, your idol worship, you don’t even know you’re doing it. Until it starts to be taken away from you. Again, look at your deepest emotions of fear, anger and anxiety. They reveal your idols. Jesus said: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21
  • The Gospel delivers real satisfaction. Studies have been done of professional athletes who have career-ending injuries show that they don’t always need physical care for their injury only- they also need therapy. The injury sends them into an existential crisis. Usually depression sets in. Often the loss of their athleticism suddenly tosses them into a downward spiral. “Who am I anyway?” The loss of their athleticism causes them to question their existence. What’s the difference between making a great thing the best thing- the number one thing? All the difference in the world. Only God’s grace satisfies the human heart.
  • The Gospel divides God worshippers from idol worshippers. An obsession with the Gospel – with Jesus – is the only cure for idol-worship. French Christian philosopher, Simone Weil, noted that we either worship the one true God or we worship idols. There is no other option. And idols will crush us. Only when we worship God through Christ do we find life through worship, not death. Psalm 115:8 says that those who worship idols will “become like them”. We are shaped by whatever it is that we worship. Worship Christ and you will be shaped by Him, glorifying Him through your life- all to the praise of His glorious grace.

The Gospel makes God our One Good Thing.

 

 

“Why is this night different from all the other night?”

images

On the night of Passover, the first of four questions leads the Jewish family into a journey of remembrance: “Ma nishtanah halailah hazeh mikol haleilot?” The seder (“service” or “arrangement”) meal presents a quest to rediscover the ancient mystery and meaning of the Passover, God’s liberation of His people out of Egypt. For thousands of years (according to Levitical Law), Passover has been observed on the evening of the 14th day of Nisan, the first month of the Jewish calendar (Leviticus 23:5).

From the time He was a child Jesus kept the Passover. The Gospel of Luke tells us that His parents went to Jerusalem every year. When He was twelve years old, He went up to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover (Luke 2:41-42). He observed the Passover throughout His life and did so with His disciples. (Luke 22:7-13). On the night before His crucifixion Jesus observed His last Passover (on earth)  and said, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God” (Luke 22:15-16).

Jesus brought new meaning to several key aspects of the meal, revealing how He was the fulfillment of the long-awaited Messiah. He explained that the bread of affliction (matzah bread- always pierced, always striped), broken before them, represented His body. The next day His body would be broken on the Cross, providing forgiveness of sins, accomplishing the ultimate Exodus of the human heart. He explained that cup of redemption would be fulfilled by the shedding of His own blood upon the cross.

Consider the backdrop of the Passover in light of Easter. Central to the Passover meal was the Passover Lamb. Each family in Israel would select a lamb from the rest of the flock- a male, without blemish, chosen five days before Passover. All the lambs were to be killed during a two-hour period just before sunset. Though no more that two men from each family could go into the Temple area of sacrifice, as many as a half-million people would move through that area in the two to three hour period and a quarter of a million lambs were sacrificed each Passover season in Jesus’ lifetime. This was a bloody religion. And on Good Friday (due to a chronological twist in how the Galileans kept time and how the inhabitants of Jerusalem kept time), Jesus was being crucified at the exact same time lambs were being slaughtered for the sins of the people. As He died on the Cross He cried out, “It is finished”, announcing that God’s redemption was now made possible for all who would believe.

And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God…” Hebrews 10:11-12

Do you believe that Jesus, the Lamb of God, is the only Way to the Father? Receive His forgiveness now and give your life to Him as an act of worship. And experience the greatest Easter you’ve ever known. He’s done all that is necessary to rescue you from your sin. It is finished.

 

The Question

As we move into this new year, it’s good to remember that there are two mistakes we can make regarding the past. First we can stay in it, allowing past failures or past successes define us. This is why Paul said, “… but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.” Philippians 3:13  He’s saying, “Don’t live in the past”.  Don’t let it define you. Move on. But another mistake we make regarding the past is to disregard it altogether. And in our transient culture many tend to have no past, no connection with the past, and then feel that they live unto ourselves. We don’t know where we came from and so we live in the now and for the now. And when you live only in the present, you live only for yourself and not as a part of a community, a tribe, a family – a STORY.

As a pastor, one of the recurring questions I get (in varying forms) is essentially, “What is God’s will for my life?” We believe God has a specific plan and we want to know what it is. But the question itself betrays our misunderstanding. We’re asking the wrong question. The better question is, “What is God’s will?” Period. The first question centers on me; the second centers on God. He is the Source, Purpose, and Reason for life, not us. So what is God’s will? What is He up to? What is He doing that He wants me to join?

God is really about one thing: Himself.

Initially that sounds strange. Immediately we think that’s egotistical or self-centered. If we were to say that about ourselves it would be. But not God. He is already the Center of all things and because He is perfect, loving and good, anything- or anyone- who comes to Him experiences His perfection, love and goodness. So God wants everyone to come to Him to receive all that He has to give – for our good and to His glory. And what He has to give is always good and right for all things created because He created all things.

So, what God is up to primarily is bringing everything and everyone under His sovereign reign and perfect love. What He’s up to specifically is rescuing all of mankind from sin (from ourselves apart from Him) and renewing all things created. And all of this, “to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved..” Ephesians 1:6. He wants all people to come to Him through the Beloved, Jesus Christ, Who alone has made provision for us to do so. Christ alone came from God. Christ alone lived the perfect life and met the holy demands of God for us, when we could not. Christ alone has provided the sacrifice for our sin and He alone will lead us to new life in Him.

God has a mission and He has formed a Church (a called-out people) to bring all other people to Him. He’s calling us out. He’s calling us to Himself. He’s calling us together. He gives us power to accomplish what He;s called us out to do. Jesus said it this way:

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8

That is God’s will. That’s what’s up.

“Under New Management”- the Stewardship of Time

If you live in the Dallas area you may know that a two-word message has gone forth from our church out into the city for decades. Two words: “Night Cometh”. It is not unintentional that these words are found on the steeple clock that rises high above the hustle and bustle of NW highway. Though foreboding and ominous, this message expresses an urgency and unavoidable reality: our lives are finite and limited. Jesus said, “I must work the works of Him who sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” John 9:4-5

Life is a stewardship, it’s temporary, and you’re accountable.  A steward is a manager, someone who has been given a trust, a responsibility to manage or supervise someone else’s property or belongings. We are stewards of the precious gift of this one & only life, given to us by God. Paul said it like this: “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.” 1 Corinthians 4:1-2  Stewarding this gift means that we recognize that we are under new management- there’s now a complete shift in mindset, attention, and focus. We now set our “minds on things above” (Col. 3:2). We have a completely new trajectory, a deed transfer (from the domain of darkness into His glorious light)- everything we do is now to be done for His glory- as a response, an act of worship- for all He has done for us! As Christ followers we have a choice to make. Jesus said we now have choice. But we cannot serve two masters. No can serve both God and “Mammon” – the pursuit of wealth and financial acumen. He followed that challenge with this: “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” Matthew 6:25 Every time Jesus talks about time He talks about anxiety. Consider the connection of time and anxiety. We become anxious over those things we cannot control. You cannot control time. You can’t stop it and you’re running out of it.

You may not know that the watch you have on your wrist and the clocks you have in your home were in large part the invention of Benedictine monks- a group of ascetic, monastics committed to a life of prayer and solitude. The clock was invented to keep them on regular patterns of prayer- waking them up in the middle of the night & in the mornings to pray. Interestingly, the clock (and subsequent alarm clock that woke you up today) was invented to steward our lives toward worship- and to do so in community- corporately, not individually. With their invention of the mechanical clock, the Benedictines became the first humans to devise a system of telling time not directly related to the cycle of nature. The relationship between time-keeping and celestial motion- or the change of seasons- quickly became too abstract to be noticed anymore. Subtly clock time came to have an existence of its own. And the clock moved from a tool to a task-master.

“We have become tools of our tools.” Henry David Thoreau

Many of us here today are mastered by our possessions. If you don’t think so just look at a family w/ middle school & high school students- if someone doesn’t demand that we put our phones away we may not even look at each other. (What if we were as obsessed w/ our Bible as we are w/ our cell phones). The clock was designed to be our tool but it has become our master. To live in a way not mastered by the clock is to live a life that is counter-cultural.

Luke 10:38-42 In this passage we see the progression, the steps that lead to a misdirected life. The stewardship of time demands a Christ-centered identity, Spirit-directed priorities, Spirit-led activities, resulting in a God-honoring life. The same thing that happened to Martha can happen to us.

The Stewardship of Time

1. Mistaken identity Martha believed that her identity was found in her activities and her ability to accomplish things. Understandably, all the ladies in the house respond with “Someone has to work!” But Jesus said that Mary chose “the better thing (the one thing, the best thing) that will not be taken away”. Instead our identity is found in Christ and what He has done for us. In His performance for us not our performance. In His approval of us not our ability to gain the approval of others. In Christ we fully forgiven, totally loved, and completely accepted by Him. A mistaken identity leads to…

2. Misplaced priorities For those of us who are busy with many competing time demands- family, work, exercise, solitude, service, etc.- we seek to “balance our time”. I’ve come to realize that the concept of “balance” is a myth. Jesus didn’t talk about balance. He talked an all-out pursuit of one thing. “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33 Then He follows in vs. 34 with, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Jesus talked about a singular focus and pursuit: the “kingdom of God”. What is “the kingdom of God”? This is critical to understand because it’s the ONE thing Jesus said we should seek first. The kingdom of God is the reign, and subsequent renewal of God in all things, starting with me. It is His reign and rule in all things.

3. Misguided activities Your priorities will guide your activities. We all want to be productive. We have sense of wanting to use our time wisely or maximize our time. Here’s the problem: “productivity” is defined as “a quantifiable amount of work achieved in a specifiable amount of time”. Many of us seek to define ourselves by our activities and the more we accomplish the more we feel good about ourselves. But because time can’t increase, the more activities we add to our lives, the more out of control we become. This is why Karl Jung said, “Busy-ness is not from the devil. Busy-ness is the devil”. Counter to popular opinion, busyness is not the sign of a significant life. Busyness is the sign of a misguided life. What do you need to stop doing?

4. Misdirected life Every minute we make decisions that reflect our priorities, directing our activities. Days become weeks, weeks become months, then years- and years become lifetimes- either squandered or lived to the glory of God.

“Time is not to be understood as a scarce commodity, the shortage of which hangs over our heads like a cloud and threatens our feverish attempts to make something of ourselves and our lives. Instead, by the grace of God and with a view to what God has done in the past and desires to do in the future, Christians are freed to view time as a gift and to dwell graciously in the present, knowing that God has liberated us from the necessity of justifying ourselves. God has created a “timeful” people whose existence offers the world a foretaste of the kingdom. These people have been freed from the tyranny of believing that their ultimate destiny or joy is tied to how they “spend” their time. This freedom makes possible the appearance of a “new” time: a time for caring for those – like the elderly, children and the mentally handicapped – whose productivity is suspect; a time for being with those – like the poor, the downtrodden and the discouraged – who do not promise to contribute to our status or to guarantee that we will leave feeling upbeat; and a time for entering into the gratuitous and joyful worship of a God who promises not that things will always work out the way we believe they should, but of a God who promises NEVER to leave us or forsake us.” Phil Kenneson, Life on the Vine

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:21 God, His glory, His kingdom lasts from generation to generation, and forever. Our time is running out. “Night is coming” when no one will be able to do anymore work. But as we steward this one and only life we’ve been given, all to the praise of His glorious grace, He will help us redeem the time and maximize the days we have remaining. Don’t waste your life. Live for Christ while it is still called today. There’s a marked “contrast between Martha as she tells Jesus what He must say and Mary who listens to what Jesus desires to say to her.”

A mistaken identity leads to misplaced priorities that lead to misguided activities that result in a misdirected life.

How can I know God exists? (part one)

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  Hebrews 11:1

Immediately we’re challenged by the verse. Why did God “set it up” this way- that we must come to Him by way of faith? If we think about it, this actually the great gift that god has given us. If He is truly God- infinite in all His qualities and eternal in time- how else would we come to Him? We cannot think our way to God any more than we can work our way to God. So it is by faith that we come to God.

Popular thought in our day, is the idea that fi you faith in something then it doesn’t matter so much what you believe as long as you are sincere. Really? You believe you can fly? Sincerely jump out of a plane without a parachute. People who are “sincere” can be sincerely wrong. It is the Object of your faith that matters. Biblical faith is not simply a leap in the dark but faith in a historical Person and a historical event- namely Jesus Christ- His perfect life, death, and resurrection.

How can I know that God exists? Recent surveys continue to show that 90% of all Americans believe in God. 80% said, “I never doubt the existence of God”. But can the Christian show that the God of the Bible truly is the only God- the One everyone must believe in- the One who claims He is the one and only God above all other gods (Exodus 20:1-5)?  We must be clear from the start that it is impossible to put God in a test tube or prove Him by science. In order for something to be proven by science it must be repeatable. History by its very nature is non-repeatable. You can’t prove a lot of things scientifically: How the world began; whether or not George Washington ever lived; what you did yesterday… but there is clear evidence that points directly to the existence of God.

Let’s check out eight arguments for the existence of the God of the Bible. Be ready pick the three that you think are the best arguments for the existence of God.

Eight Evidences for the Existence of God (part one- 1-4)

1. The Search for Something More

We all possess a need for God. Blaise Pascal, the great 17th century mathematician described this as the “God shaped vacuum” in every person. We all intuitively know that there is something more, something outside of us. This comes at us in many ways. We know we our world is broken, something is wrong. The challenge in the affluent West is that we live relatively comfortable lives and we have the ability to run to so many diversions, in order to medicate our pain. But now and then the fog is lifted when something happens that we cannot deny- a baby dies, we get cancer, someone opens fire in an elementary school or a theater and we think, “Wow, our world is broken! This is a mess.” But then we run back to our diversions. But they never last for long. We run to a new and improved self, we run to others, we run to the good things of the world, and we run to religion but none of it ends our search for something more. And here’s why: the solution to our problem is not found in us. It is something that comes from completely outside of us. It is Someone who is completely outside of us and it’s not another person. It’s not another girl or another guy. Men and women: it’s not your spouse. Parents: your child may be “student of the year” but your child makes a lousy god. If you’re running to them for purpose and meaning you will ultimately crush them. Do you believe that every person has an empty place that they are seeking to fill? Romans 1:18-22 affirms all of this.

 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools..” Romans 1:18-22

We know that God exists and if we do not embrace this truth it means that, “that by our unrighteousness we suppress the truth”. God placed within us a kind of homing device that calls us to Him. There is grace in this longing for something more and it should drive us to the Answer! Ecclesiastes 3:11 says God, “set eternity in the hearts of men”.

 2. Cause and Effect

This train of thought is simple Aristotelian logic based on the work of the great philospher, Aristotle and his foundational laws of logic. The Law of Cause and Effect is simple (note- “law” not a theory): No effect can be produced without a cause. We, humans, and the universe itself are effects that must have a cause. You eventually come to the “Uncaused Cause”- God. The fact that you exist is a great argument for the existence of God.

The context out of which atheistic evolutionary thought arose was the theological vacuum of the mid to late 1800s. The prevailing theological view at that time (particularly in western Europe) was summarized by Nietzche when he wrote, “God is dead.” – Nietzsche, 1883

Nietzche meant we had killed the concept of God, that He was “dead” to us in regard to His influence in our lives. Many theologians agreed that the concept of transcendence had lost any meaningful place in modern thought. God was no longer in the equation. So, with that prevailing thought already dominant in Europe in particular, we see the emergence of scientists and thought leaders who had eliminated God from their thought and work. So, by the mid to late 1800s scientists, like Charles Darwin began asking the ultimate questions of life: “Where did we come from?” (the question of origin), “What are we doing here?” (the question purpose), and “Where are we going”- (the question destiny). They came to the first question. “Where did we come from?” Well, not God because God is dead. God does not exist. So, they eliminated the answer before asking the question. “There is no God” So then, where did we come from? Let me suggest that when you eliminate the answer before you ask the question it will always lead to absurdity. It would be like eliminated the number 4 and then asking what is 2 + 2? 3.8? 5-ish? Absurd. Where did we come from? The response: Not God, we came from nothing! But, alas, that’s scientifically impossible. You can’t something from nothing and you can’t get living matter from non-living matter. But the dominant “scientific” position became that there is no God, so we came from nothing. Absurd. Impossible. Of course, someone noted: “Nietzsche is dead.” – God, 1900

3. Order and Design

No one would find a watch in the woods and their first thought be, “Wow, all these sticks and rocks, dirt and leaves must have come together and formed this thing, ticking away, keeping perfect time. No, the first thing we would think would be, “Someone has been here and someone made that watch. It didn’t just appear.” In fact, we would say that would be impossible. And yet, I look around in creation and I see things much more complex than a watch: the human eye that sees in 3-D and color, the heart that pumps on it’s own! Could a computer suddenly come into being without an intelligent designer? Could a monkey in a print shop randomly set Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in type? Could an eye that sees in 3-D and color happen by accident? Could the universe or the human body come into being without a Supreme Creator? Looking at the universe we see that there is design. Look at plain water. Water has a high specific heat. This means that chemical reactions in the human body are kept rather stable. If water had a low specific heat, we would “boil over” with the least amount of activity. The ocean is the world’s thermostat. The ocean keeps the earth warm in the winter and cool in the summer! If the earth were much smaller an atmosphere would be impossible. If larger the atmosphere would contain free hydrogen (like Jupiter and Saturn) and life would be impossible on earth. The distance from the sun is perfect for life on earth. The smallest percentage of change would make it to hot or too cold for life. These examples (and a million more) have led prominent Princeton physicist Freeman Dyson: “In some sense, the Universe knew we were coming.” SomeONE knew we were coming and created it all and with that we see a purpose in all things. The Universe is not an accident. You are not an accident. God has placed you here on purpose.

4. Meaning and Purpose

Apart from order outside ourselves, we all long for order within. Men and women through the ages have asked: “Why am I here?”

“What is life for? To die?  To kill myself at once?  No, I am afraid. To wait for death till it comes?  I fear that even more.  Then I must live. But what for? To die? And I could not escape that circle.” – Leo Tolstoy

“Life is just a dirty trick, a short journey from nothingness to nothingness.” – Ernest Hemingway

“Vanity of vanities!  All is vanity!” Ecclesiastes 1:2- King Solomon (at the beginning of his search for meaning) It’s this pattern of thinking that led C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, to say: “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

“The conclusion, when all has been heard is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.”  Eccl. 12:13 – King Solomon (after his search for meaning) Our desire to live full and meaningful lives comes from God who made us for a purpose.

“Without God, what am I but a guide to my own destruction?” – St. Augustine

What will you do with the overwhelming evidence that points us to God? Winston Churchill said, “Men occasionally stumble over truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.” Will you embrace the truth and worship God today or will you run off as if nothing happened? Tomorrow we’ll explore four more evidences for the existence of God and look further into exactly what has happened.