worship Posts

“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.

The God We Worship

“As nothing is more easy than to think, so nothing is more difficult than to think well.” – Thomas Traherne (17th Century English poet and theologian)

If we ever think well, it should be when we think of God. Surely Tozer was right: “What comes into our minds when we think of God is the most important thing about us”. You and I are shaped by who (or what) we worship. At the end of Romans 11, Paul finishes major theological treatise to the Roman Christians. Then, his theology bursts forth into doxology:

33 “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
    How unsearchable his judgments,
    and his paths beyond tracing out!
34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord?
    Or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Who has ever given to God,
    that God should repay them?”
36 For from Him and through Him and for Him are all things.
    To Him be the glory forever! Amen.” Romans 11:33-35

God is… In all of these traits we remember that, when it comes to God, we must first believe and then understand. Faith precedes reason when we approach God because He is beyond our understanding.

  • all-wise (vs. 33) – the wisdom of God is unfathomable. All God’s acts are done with perfect wisdom. His wisdom is His ability to devise perfect ends and to achieve perfect ends with the most perfect means. A.W. Tozer- in “The Knowledge of the Holy” wrote, “All of God’s acts are done with perfect wisdom, first for His glory, and then for the highest good for the greatest number for the longest time.” Not only could His acts not be better done: a better way to do them could not be imagined. His plans cannot be improved. He is wisdom unimagined.
  • all-just (vs. 33) Revelation 4 tells us that Jesus is seated on His throne- He is in the highest place- of all authority and all judgment. He is just, righteous, perfect in everything He does. Every decision He makes is perfect. He does not seek counsel from anyone. He does not conform to some other opinion. He is always right, simply acting like Himself in every situation. His goodness and compassion flows out of His justice, because goodness without justice is not goodness.
  • all-knowing (vs. 34) To say that God is omniscient is to say that He has perfect knowledge and therefore has no need to learn- who’s going to teach Him something? God knows instantly and effortlessly all things. Because God knows all things perfectly, He knows nothing more than He knows anything else, but all things equally well. He never discovers anything. His knowledge is infinite. He is never surprised, never amazed. He never wonders about anything, He doesn’t seek information or ask questions. He is self-existent and self-contained and knows what no creature knows- Himself, perfectly. Only the Infinite can know the infinite. He is eternal and infinite. He is eternal in time and He is infinite in all of His qualities. When Moses said He is “from everlasting to everlasting” (Ps. 90), he was saying that God has no beginning and no end. That God appears at time’s beginning is not too difficult to grasp but to say that He appears at the beginning and the end- at the same time is hard to grasp. But it is true. He is the God of the past AND the God of the future. He is the eternal NOW- He has no past and no future. When words that describe “time” are used in the Bible they refer to us not Him. It’s why Revelation 4 says, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty- Who was, and is, and is to come.” He has already lived all of our tomorrows just as He has lived all of our yesterdays. From Him everything that will happen has already happened. God is beyond our comprehension and what God thinks when He thinks of Himself, only He can know. All this to say- He is transcendent, that is, He is far above what human thought can imagine. T.S. Eliot asked, “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”
  • all-sufficient (vs. 35)  No one can give Him anything. He is self-existent. No onemade Him. A more positive assertion of selfhood could not be imagined than the words of God to Moses: “I AM THAT I AM.” You cannot add to me. I don’t need anything. “Need” is a creature word. Nothing is complete in and of itself but requires something outside of itself in order to exist. All breathing things need air; every organism needs food & water. Every created thing needs some other created thing to keep it alive & all things need God. To God alone nothing is necessary. In fact, the word “necessary” is completely foreign to God. He is Supreme over all and cannot be elevated. You can’t add to Him. You can’t give Him anything that He needs. He doesn’t need our praise. God doesn’t need our approval. We are so prideful, and we think so lofty of ourselves, it is quite easy- even enjoyable- to think that we are necessary to God. He loves us, but He doesn’t need us. We cannot add to His infinite worth, we do not enhance Him, increase His value. And our worship of Him adds nothing to Him. If every man on earth were to become an atheist it would not effect Him in the least.

As Paul closes this doxology he says that all things are “from Him”. God is the Giver, is the Source; He is the Initiator. He says all things are “through Him”. God is the Deliverer the Provider, the Sustainer; He is the avenue by which the gift is delivered. All things come “through Him”. Not only that, but God is, at the same time, the Receiver. All things are “to Him”.  He is the beginning and the end. His glory is the goal. And Jesus teaches us that God IS the Gift. He is delivering Himself to us. Not only is it from Him, through Him and to Him but it is Him!

“For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him.” Colossians 1:16

What is God receiving? Look at the gift that God is giving and receiving through us! He is receiving THE GLORY. The word here is doxa. It translates literally as “an opinion”. In the New Testament it is always a good opinion that results in praise. What is God giving Himself through you? He wants you to respond to who He is and what He has done with such a high opinion of Him that results in praise. Commentator Douglas Moo asks, “What should be our response to our contemplation of God’s supremacy in all the universe? Like Paul’s, doxology.”

Perhaps the greatest of all of God’s qualities is the fact that He is all-loving. All of God’s greatness- every one of His eternal and infinite qualities- have found their expression most perfectly in a single Person. His name is Jesus. In Him our worship takes a dramatic Christological shift. Scotty Ward Smith writes, “Jesus turns our theology into doxology.” In the end, the purpose of our lives is live every day, and throughout eternity, “to the praise of His glorious grace!” Colossians 1:6

And the Angels were Silent – Saturday

“He put Jesus’ body in a new tomb that he had cut out of rock, and he rolled a very large stone to block the entrance of the tomb.”  Matthew 27:60

How quiet it is on Saturday before Easter.  How sad it is.  How despairing it must have been for those who had seen their teacher, their friend, and their hope die right before them.  All of creation held its breath to see what would happen next.  All of heaven peered toward earth to see how we would respond.  And God didn’t move.  Not one word; not even a sign.  Have you ever been there?  You had great expectations that God was up to something big, something life changing, and then…nothing.  Have you ever put all of your hopes in a person or in yourself, only to see them come crashing down before you?  Then you know how the disciples must have felt.

They had all run away scared.  They couldn’t believe it.  Their leader, their master was dead.  He was really dead!  It was all over.  No hope, nowhere to turn, no plans.  On Saturday all they could do was run for their lives and hide out hoping no one would find them.  Do you ever think God is silent?  Do you ever pray thinking it doesn’t get past the ceiling?  Let Easter Saturday serve as a lesson for every day of the year.  God may seem to be silent, but in reality, He’s about to bring about His greatest work!  If you ever wonder if He’s at work on your behalf, ponder the difference between Saturday and Sunday.  Remember, God may seem slow, but He’s never late.

Pray:  Lord, I confess I have not trusted You in Your silence. I want You to work in my time and in ways that don’t require a lot of waiting and wondering. I realize that when You are silent is when You will soon show your greatest work.  And when You are silent, I can show my greatest faith and trust in You.

 

You’re Invited to a Party – Tuesday

“Come to the wedding feast.”  Matthew 22:4

I once heard Billy Graham say, “Jesus has two verbs in His vocabulary: Come and Go.”  Our God is an inviting God.  He says, “Come.”  “Come let us reason.  Come and drink.  Come to me all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, I will give you rest.  Come and I will make you fishers of men.”  And, “Come to the wedding feast”, He says on the last Tuesday of His life.  His invitation is to life eternal with Him.  His invitation is to come eat at His banquet table.  Who can come?  Whoever wishes.  The invitation is both universal and personal.  But you must decide.

Have you ever had a personal invitation ignored?  If so, then you know a fraction of how Jesus must feel.  It’s amazing that He leaves this choice to us.  You can’t choose the weather, or your parents, or whether you’re born with a little nose or blond hair – or born at all.  But you can choose to attend the wedding feast.  You can choose to “come”, but you can also choose to “go”.  The other side of this story, told with great urgency, is that we have a choice to go as well.  This Holy Week many people are thinking about Christ’s death.  Many more are not and have no idea what Easter is about.  Will you go to them?  Look for opportunities to tell others about the wedding feast.  Invite someone to church this Sunday!

“For many are invited, but few are chosen.”  Matthew 22:14

Pray:  Lord, I praise You for putting me on Your guest list for the big wedding feast.  I praise You that You have made a way for me to have eternal life.  This week I’m especially mindful of what it cost You for me to come.  Today I will watch for others I can invite to the party.