grace 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.

 

 

Five Things Mom Can Live Without

Five Things Mom Can Live Without

 

We often think of motherhood (and parenting) as a kind of recipe.

If we add just the right ingredients to the mix, a dash of this or that, and put it in the oven long enough, then out will come this perfect child and the proverbial perfect life. Motherhood and life never work that way. Most moms know the things they ought to be doing. In fact, that’s a big part of the problem- most moms feel guilty precisely because they feel they are not doing all that they think they should do.

Some “supermoms”, thinking they’re helping inspire or encourage other moms, actually create an opposite reaction resulting in guilt and shame from an inaccurate view of motherhood. I took an informal survey on Facebook and had a great response from moms to help me with this post. My hope is for moms to lighten up. Let’s all determine to leave some things behind. When asked what moms can do without, some funny responses included: whining, tattling, all those Legos, Brite Lights, pantyhose (tights) for babies, and extra pounds. Some not-so-funny responses included: an uninvolved dad, absent father, deadbeat dad, condemning looks from others while trying to care for my special needs child. Five things emerged as recurring themes. I want to present them with a biblical response to each one.

1. Unnecessary Guilt

“Mommy guilt” results from the myth of the Supermom. Supermoms are driven by the unnecessary need and unrealistic expectation of perfect kids – a clean house, excellent meals, and an always-cheerful spirit. If you know a woman who seems to be the perfect mom, I can assure you, she is not. Let’s just destroy the myth of Supermom. And if you’re trying to live up to that: Give it up. Be real. Live in the freedom that is yours in Christ.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

2. Unrealistic Body Image

Many moms struggle with a worldly self-image (body image). One mom said, “After a few kids the perfect body is gone.”  This, of course, is natural and though our culture says otherwise, the Lord tells us our worth and value in Christ trumps all worldly measures. Finding your worth in anything apart from the freedom we have in Christ results in crushing personal demands. Moms: Recognize that you are in a spiritual battle and it is for your soul, not your body. Give up trying to have the perfect body. 1 Samuel 16:7 reminds us that God doesn’t look at the outward appearance anyway- He looks at the heart!

“Do not let your adorning be external… but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” 1 Peter 3:3-4

3. Unimportant Things

Contrary to what many moms may think, they don’t need more stuff (more toys for the kids, a nicer house, better clothes, a newer car, a promotion or raise, more activities, extravagant jewelry, an uninterrupted career path, etc.). Moms: Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have. Your Savior is enough and Hebrews 13:5 reminds us that He “will never leave you nor forsake you.”

And He said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 22:15 

4. Unintended Pressure On Your Kids

Many moms, in an effort to protect their kids from the stress of life, actually induce more stress in their children. Parents are to be the “non-anxious presence” in the family. Moms and dads must find their worth in Christ and not in the performance of their children. This sets their children free to risk, to fail, and to learn from their mistakes. Non-anxious moms find their rest in Christ, who has become their Righteousness, their Perfection, their Peace. These moms raise well-adjusted children who recognize their identity is found in Christ as well. Moms must also remember that each child is unique. Allow each child to be himself/herself and do not bring unintended pressure by comparing your children to one another.

But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 19:14

5. Unwanted Worry 

Moms have many things in their lives that could lead to worry- but they don’t have to worry. The Bible tells us to be anxious for nothing. Some of the moms in my informal survey noted that they also don’t need unresponsive, unmanageable, or unruly children. It is true that many things in life can distract a peaceful heart. Moms can eliminate worry as they determine to have one priority: Christ Himself. As we seek Him above all else, all else will fall into place.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  Philippians 4:6

This Mother’s Day let’s commit to give our moms what they deserve the most: Lots of love and encouragement.

How to throw a party

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Jesus was once invited to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees. Luke adds that they “were watching Him closely” (Luke 14:1). He had already silenced them by asking if it was unlawful for Him to heal a man on the Sabbath or if any of them would not save their own son if he fell into a well on the Sabbath. They would not answer Him. Following the letter of the law while disregarding the spirit of the law leads to absurdity. The radically religious are often blinded by their heartless obsession with the law.

Then Jesus said to the man who had invited Him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:12-14).

Tonight, Park Cities Baptist Church threw a party. Not your normal North Dallas party mind you, but a BIG throw down, dance party for the crippled, the lame, the marginalized, and those too often ostracized in our culture. Hundreds of volunteers set the stage for the most amazing prom any of us had ever seen. Special needs students from Richardson I.S.D., Highland Park I.S.D. and other parts of North Dallas, were matched up with “buddies” from our student ministry. Crowds screamed and applauded as each student was dropped off, introduced on the red carpet, and welcomed into the Commons. Prom pics were taken and dinner was served as a band provided music for hours of non-stop dancing into the night. We had more fun than any of us have had in one night in a long time.

It was unforgettable. Together we experienced the Kingdom of God. I believe it was a foreshadowing of Heaven where the last will be first, the weak will be made strong, and all that’s broken will be made right. As we pray the prayer of Jesus-  for God’s will to be done “on earth as it is in heaven”, let us be the answer to His prayer. Love the unlovely, give to those who cannot repay you, forgive before the other makes the first move, and out-grace everyone in your life.

Big thanks to our student ministry team for a night that none of us will ever forget.

Better late than never.

"The Three Crosses" by Rembrandt

“The Three Crosses” by Rembrandt

Luke 23:32-43 describes the story of the crucifixion and Jesus’ conversation with the men on either side of Him of the cross at Golgotha. Why were they not put together? The prophet Isaiah tells us why:

“He was numbered among the transgressors.”  Isaiah 53:12

God decreed that the most holy should die with the most unholy. At His birth He was surrounded by beasts, and now, at His death He is surrounded by criminals, deserving of capital punishment. This “friend of sinners” finds Himself with them once again. In fact, it seemed that was where He was always most comfortable. He lived among them, now He dies among them. Our attention turns to the two men crucified on either side of Jesus. One particularly captures our attention because he received the promise that we must share if we are to see our Lord in Paradise. Pastor Erwin Lutzer wrote, “What a day for the thief!  In the morning he was justly crucified on a cross; by late that evening he was justly welcomed into Paradise by Jesus!”  Let’s look at this thief who is each of us.

The thief in the mirror 

I think we’ll discover he is you and me.  In fact, the two thieves on the cross represent every human being who has ever lived.

  • His failure – We don’t know what he had done but we know, whatever it was, it deserved the death penalty. He was the vilest of offenders.  Like us, he was trapped by his sin.
  • His fate – His fate was determined by his sin. He, like us, is paying the consequences for his sin. Every person in the world is bound for the same fate, the same destination as this man- were it not for the intervention of Jesus. Romans 3:23- “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God…”
  • His faith – Consider the faith of this man. It was a simple, yet amazing faith. Consider what he had seen. On the one hand he had heard Jesus say, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” No doubt that prayer pierced his conscience. He heard the inadvertent testimony of the crowd: “He saved others…but he can’t save Himself.” No doubt he pondered, “What do they mean- “He saved others”. And then there was the “first Gospel tract” ever- nailed to the cross proclaiming, “This is the king of the Jews.” And then he had this conversation with Jesus.

Do you think his faith came easy? Does faith come easy for you? For most of us it doesn’t. Consider that this man had perhaps never seen Jesus before. It’s one thing to believe in Jesus when He does a miracle or has just provided some great teaching or act of love. But this man believed at a time when it appeared that Jesus was entirely helpless to save anyone. In fact, it seemed that Jesus Himself needed saving! Jesus hung there as the hapless victim, not a king. When you need saving, you don’t turn to someone in the same predicament that you’re in. You don’t turn to someone who is dying in disgrace. Or do you? The scandal of the Gospel is that we worship the God who died. This thief believed before the darkness fell over the land. He believed before the earthquake rocked the place, and before the veil of the Temple was torn in two. Improbable as it was, he believed.

Here’s the point- you too can believe. Does God seem distant to you? Does Jesus seem weak and powerless in your situation, in your life?  How can we explain the fact that this dying thief took a suffering, bleeding man for his God!? There’s only one answer- it was the work of the Holy Spirit drawing this man toward the Man in the middle. The Spirit is drawing you as well.  His faith was simple. It was courageous. It was enough.

  • His future  - This man, whose entire life was consumed with a never-ending struggle to find meaning and purpose, enslaved to sin, now finds himself about to enter eternal paradise. Notice the reunion would be that very day!  “Today.” Jesus died before this man did. Charles Spurgeon noted that “this man, who was our Lord’s last companion on earth” was His “first companion at the gates of paradise”. Notice, he did not make a pit stop in purgatory en route to paradise. His future- in heaven- secured by Jesus alone, began that day. With such a dark past, how bright was the future of this dying thief!

One commentator wrote, “There is one such case recorded that none need despair, but only one that none might presume.”  Warren Wiersbe points out that this man was not saved at his last opportunity, but at his first. Don’t wait another minute.

“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

William Cowper, the great hymn writer, though plagued with doubts in his own life, understood that if the thief could be saved, then he could too. He wrote a song entitled, “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood”. One of my favorite stanzas reads: “The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day; and there may I, though vile as he, wash all my sins away.” The thief’s forgiveness should remind you that there is more grace in God’s heart than sin in your past.

It’s better late than never… but it’s better now than later.

 

The Saddest Day in History

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“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Matthew 27:46

We call it “Good Friday” but like so many things in the Kingdom of God, it was good for us, but bad for Him. What we call “Good” was terrible for our Lord Jesus. As you go about your day today, consider these facts: Early on that Friday morning, after no sleep the night before, Jesus was taken to Pilate’s prison. He was beaten by professional torturers who knew their craft all too well. He was then presented to the crowd who chose a notorious prisoner over the very Son of God. Throughout the day Jesus was silent and ironically, directing every move that was taking place. He was taken into the courtyard (called the Praetorium) and the entire company of soldiers surrounded Him.  They stripped Him, put a crown of thorns on His head, a staff in His hand, and knelt down before Him in mockery. They spat on Him and punched Him many times, as hard as they could. Tortured nearly to death, exhausted and famished, He carried His own cross to Golgotha and was nailed to it about noon. Darkness came over the earth from noon until 3:00 p.m. Close to 3:00 p.m. Jesus cried out “It is finished!” and He died. Around 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. the women came to prepare His body for burial and they placed His corpse in a borrowed tomb. The massive stone was rolled into place as the sun went down on the saddest day in history… and the angels were silent as all creation watched to see what would happen next.

As you go throughout the day today, be in a constant state of remembering what happened to our Lord Jesus. Think about each event as though it was all happening today. Consider the horrific emotional strain of knowing you are about to be killed, and greater still, the anticipation of the very wrath of God upon sin that would come upon you. And remember, He did all of this for one reason: you. Of all the faces that came to the divine mind of Jesus, one of them was yours. And it was enough to kill Him.

Pray: Lord, today I will walk with You through Your sufferings. I will meditate on every phase of Your sacrifice for me.  My heart breaks over my sin that put You on the cross.