Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Will you be happy in Heaven?

In the introduction of John Piper’s book, God is the Gospel, Piper proposes a question, one that I found both intriguing and convicting.

“The critical question for our generation—and for every generation—is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there?”

When I was reading this question my first inclination was to say, “of course I would be,” but I couldn’t help contemplate how my heart seemed to soar in reading his description of heaven. Friends, Food, Leisure, and Pleasures, what more could I ask for? “Oh yea of course, Christ,” almost adding Him on like a bonus. Piper in his book tries to show how the greatest gift of our salvation given to us through the gospel is not the amazing gifts of God, but rather God Himself. We tend worship the gifts and not the Giver, as Kevin so wonderfully shared in an early post. We live our lives making much of the underserved blessings from heaven which usually make much of ourselves, not making Christ our All in All.

Heaven will be all about God and his Glory, all about Christ and magnifying His name. If heaven is where I long to be, then I should be preparing myself for it, and this is done by beholding the Glory of Christ Crucified today. May I be able to say with Paul:

My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. Phil 1:23


Being Well Thought Of For The Sake Of Christ

"Life is too short to spend time and energy worrying
about what others think of us. Or should we care
about what others think precisely because that
really matters in this short life?" - John Piper

I've often wondered how exactly to balance not caring what others think while maintaining a good reputation for the sake of the gospel. But through reading scripture, I've come to see that not caring what the world thinks doesn't have to be a cold and indifferent attitude. If we are truly striving to honor God with our lives, than we will behave in a manner that is kind toward others while still living for an audience of One. Our desire for a good reputation will not be for our own sakes, but for that of Christ's. In the stories of Daniel he made it clear whom he served and that he did not care what others thought. The way he lived his life in God brought him favor with kings, and as a result, some of the kings men became jealous and sought to discredit Daniel. "...but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him."-Daniel 6:4. How then is the tension between not caring what others think and being "well thought of by outsiders. 1 Tim 3:7" to be navigated? John Piper says the answer to this is "By realizing that our aim in life is that Christ is magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. In other words, we do care, really care, about what others think...of Christ. Their salvation hangs on what they think of Christ. And our lives are to display His truth and beauty. So we must care what others think of us as representatives of Christ. Love demands it."

I'm sure I will still struggle with wanting others approval for purely selfish reasons, but I am sobered when I consider who's reputation I have been entrusted with. May this prayer from Life Is A Vapor be my prayer O Lord!

"Father, at times the way of Christ is complex to our sin-stained and finite minds. Forgive us for the times we have justified our vanity in the name of a good reputation. O Lord, grant us, in this brief life, the wisdom and courage to please others, or not to please others, for the sake of Christ alone, and not our own praise. In Jesus' name, Amen."

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Family Resemblence and Fleeing Temptation

1 Corinthians 10: 12- 13 says this: Therefore Let anyone who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and 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.

I listened to a message today by Joshua Harris. He told a story that was shared with him by a member of Covenant Life Church. This guy works at a construction site among a few non-believers who know he's a Christian and sometimes mock him because of it. One day this group of workers were gathered around in a circle gawking, carrying on, and making cat noises. The reason for this is because they were all looking at a pornographic magazine. They saw that the Christian was staying away from where they were, so one of the guys started to call his name. "Hey, come over here and look at this.The guy started to walk toward the christian. Because of this, the christian walked in the opposite direction. The guy with the magazine then started running. The Christian would still not give in and he started to run as well. The non-believer chased him around the construction site five or six times and the christian would still not give in.
This is an incredible example for all of us. It really puts it in perspective for me. No matter what the sin is, we always have a choice. We do not have to sin. We are free from the bondage of sin. This should not discourage us, but rather encourage us. Because we are free from sin, we are free to exalt Christ above all every day of our lives! That story helps me in my battle against sin. When we are tempted God is pleased and glorified to see His children run as fast as they can in the other direction.

A couple days ago, I also listened to a message by Bob Donahue entitled "Family Resemblance".
Donahue's main point was this: The way you know if someone is born of God is the resemblance they have to Him. If someone acts like God, They must be born of Him. This message convicted me. Looking at my life, I bare a closer resemblance to the world than I do to God. God has been so merciful to me to constantly correct me when I have sinned against Him. In spite of my evil, God takes me in His arms and turns my evil to good.

Oh Father God in Heaven, you have poured out undeserved mercy upon me. You took my filthy stains and made them white as snow. Lord guide me as I walk through my days on this earth, for it will soon be gone. Lord, I've failed many times but you are always faithful to forgive. Forgive me for my self seeking desires. Lord, thank you for your love and your kindness. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.


Monday, July 23, 2007

The Haunted Heart

It is becoming increasingly apparent to me that my heart is "deceitful above all things." Whether it be through sin in my life, books I've read, sermons I've heard, or an accountability partners wisdom, God continues to show me the painful truth about myself. I am the worst sinner that I know. Denial of this only succeeds in confirming it. Here is what Kris Lundgaard has to say about the matter:

The heart is a maze that only God can solve. Computers can't decipher its floor plan. We modestly admit we don't know someone else's heart, but the truth is that we can't even know our own. Do you always know why you choose chocolate over vanilla? Why one day your passions sizzle and another you're a dead leaf in the wind? Can you number all the events and images that impress your heart and make it lean this way or that? Haven't you been surprised by the insincerity and even intrigue you've found in your heart?

en more scary than being horrified by your own heart is the prospect of examining it and not being disturbed in the least. How often this is the case with myself. I make a passing glance at my heart and proclaim, "not guilty!" But scripture clearly disputes this on all accounts. Our need for a savior stems directly the wickedness that abides in every man's soul. Lundgaard elaborates on this,

But the heart is more than complicated and unsearchable: it is "deceitful above all things. Every night Tom Brokaw tells us about shady politics and business scams. People finding loopholes in the law to use their sweat-earned money to build stately pleasure domes in Xanadu. But the sleaziest back-room Mafia deal can't equal the deceitfulness in you heart. The heart is deceitful above all things. Do you doubt it? Think how fickle you are. One day you're a sage, the next a clown. You can be open and cheery or reserved and gloomy, easy to get along with or a real crank, romantic or frosty, One day Jesus is all the world to you; the next, you love the world more than King Midas did.

For me, this is one of those passages of literature that you read and immediately become convicted. Countless times I have told myself that tonight I will guard my actions and watch my tongue when hanging out with friends only to find myself an hour later literally eating those words and making a fool of myself. For many, this paints a picture of exasperation and hopelessness. However, for Christians this is not the case at all. Once again, Kris Lundgaard explains this very effectively,

As endless and complicated as this war is, believers rush in with confidence: the Holy Spirit takes the horror out of the horror show. We don't know our hearts, but he does (Psalm 139). He is a blazing torch we carry into the haunted house, and he ferrets our the monsters. He leads us into a closet and under the stairs and uncovers seething hatred. He shines under the bed and exposes a sniveling lust. No sin escapes his searching eye.

The joy of being a Christian is that "God is for us, who can be against us?" Not even the sin in our hearts. In light of all of this however, it is import to note that sanctification, though inspired and carried out by God's grace, must be accompanied by action on our parts. Just as our sin is constantly barraging our hearts, we must be actively seeking the grace and wisdom of our Lord. God has given us many instruments by which this can be accomplished; through prayer, the church, and most importantly, by the Word of God. Let our prayer be that of David in Psalm 139,

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."


Sunday, July 22, 2007

The ibible

Thought this video was funny even if it is slightly blasphemous. Hopefully you can appreciate the humorous and creative side of it :)

I repeat, this video does not represent the views of Single Focus :)


Friday, July 20, 2007

Walk By Faith

Once again I have been convicted by how often I lack to “walk by faith.” Because of some recent circumstances that have come up I have been so tempted to try and figure things out my self instead of giving my all to my Father in Heaven. Linda Dillow has helped me see this through her book “Calm My Anxious Heart”

Walking by faith in a way has been difficult for me because I’m asked to believe what I can’t see. This means I have to walk on a dark path. And this I don’t always enjoy! God as always has been so faithful to me, to show me where I am weak!

My problem is I don’t like darkness. But if I can see what God is doing- how He is working everything together for good. Then sometimes I’m tempted to think I don’t need faith. I think many people have this problem. We say we want more faith, but what we really want is sight. Sight says, “I see that it’s good for me, so God must have sent it,” but faith says, “God sent it so it must be good for me. “ God asks us to walk by faith, not by sight. Faith is walking in the dark with God, holding His hand.

Linda Dillow says:

“As God weaves His pattern into the fabric of our lives, sometimes we sit in a “darkened room.” The darkness seems suffocating. We can’t understand what he’s doing and can’t discover any possible good in darkness. Yet, if we fix our focus on our faithful weaver, we will someday know that the most exquisite work of all our life was done in those days of darkness.”- How encouraging!

While dwelling on this topic, I remembered the lyrics of a song by Jeremy Camp that were very encouraging to me.

“Walk By Faith”

Will I believe you when you say
Your hand will guide my every way
Will I receive the words you say
Every moment of every day

I will walk by faith even when I cannot see
Because this broken road prepares you will for me

Help me to rid my endless fears
You’ve been so faithful for all my years
With one breath you made me new
Your grace covers all I do.

Isaiah 50:10- “Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.”

Holy Father, I desire to trust you when I can’t see what you are doing. You are my steadfast rock. Please help me to look only to you. I want to believe you for what I don’t understand, what I can’t see, and what doesn’t make sense to me. May I become one who pleases you because I walk “by faith.”

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Wales Update, #2

Hey, On Sunday we had a chance to lead worship in Sovereign Grace church here in Myrther Tydville. The church is fairly small seeing that it has only been around for two years. Kyle did an awesome job leading the church as we worshiped our holy saviour. Mike then preached on Luke 15, which tells the stories of the woman and the coin, the Shepherd who had a sheep go astray, and the prodigal son. He did a great job of describing how low he had dropped to as a pig feeder. A Jew could arguably not fall any lower than feeding pigs, you wouldn't find a Jew in that place ever. But, the love of the father never changed, as soon as the son realized his sin the father was there waiting for him. It was a great service. Afterwards our family(Kyle, Fran, Linda, Matt, Amy, and I) went back to the house and had a nice relaxing afternoon. After tea time(dinner) we had a wonderful time sitting around the piano and singing worship songs. Monday consisted of us scavenging neighborhoods handing out leaflets about the church and the fun day happening on Saturday. At first we were just putting them through the mail slots, but then we tried knocking on doors and interacting with people. Everyone liked talking to people and having conversations with the local people much better so we continued that after lunch. That night we had a chance to congregate with the whole church as we had Chinese food(lol) of all things. Tuesday and Wednesday morning consisted of handing out many leaflets also and a few fun things. Last night we had a chance to go spend some time at a historical village, which was very cool and informative. Then we experienced the best play of the year(haha) jokingly. It was entertaining, but not because it was good but because we could laugh at it. Then today after passing out leaflets in the morning we had a chance to go to Cardiff, the capital of wales. There was a castle right in the center of the city, we did some shopping and then had dinner. I hope everything in Jville is nice and dandy, I am having a great time.

In Christ,


P.S. pray for Saturday, that it will be clear.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Girls Going Mild(er)

Newsweek had an interesting article that I found online earlier this week. According to some "experts" our culture is beginning to see a budding interest in the concept of dressing modestly. Here is an excerpt from the article that I thought most girls would find helpful and maybe even encouraging.

Consider the following style tips for girls: skirts and dresses should fall no more than four fingers above the knee. No tank tops without a sweater or jacket over them. Choose a bra that has a little padding to help disguise when you are cold. These fashion hints may sound like the prim mandates of a 1950s "health" film. But they are from the Web site of Pure Fashion, a modeling and etiquette program for teen girls whose goal is "to show the public it is possible to be cute, stylish and modest." Pure Fashion has put on 13 shows in 2007 featuring 600 models. National director Brenda Sharman estimates there will be 25 shows in 2008. It is not the only newfangled outlet for old-school ideas about how girls should dress: ModestApparelUSA.com, ModestByDesign.com and DressModestly.com all advocate a return to styles that leave almost everything to the imagination.

I'm not sure if this is a "Christian" movement or not, but either way it would be very nice to see more clothes on women theses days :) click here to read the entire article.


Monday, July 16, 2007

Calm My Anxious Heart

Recently I have been reading the book “Calm My Anxious Heart” by Linda Dillow and have been freshly reminded of what it is to be content in the Lord.

It is amazing to me how two different people can have two completely opposite opinions. Most of us categorize our lives in both positive and negative ways. You could write a list of the positive things in your life, and you can then write a list of sobering negatives. Both lists are true, but the focus of each list is the problem. Linda Dillow gives us a great example. She says….

“Two women looked through prison bars
One saw mud, the other saw stars.”

I asked my self the question, which list do I spend the most amount of time dwelling on? Sad, but true I often find myself dwelling on the one with the sobering negatives.

We can focus on the mud or lift our eyes up to the stars. Every one of us occasionally has circumstances that appear to be prison bars and feel that there is no escape. Linda Dillow says, “God wants you and me to be content in our circumstances, not when they improve.” She asks, “How is this possible?”

Philippians 4:6- Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanks giving, let your requests be made known to God.

Our part in the process of learning to be content is a heart choice, a choice to pray rather than be anxious. Paul commands us to have nothing to do with anxiety and everything to do with prayer, sadly many of us reverse this and worry about everything, praying as a last resort! Psalm 116:17 helps me to understand what it means to pray with thanksgivings.

“I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord.”

Linda Dillow reminds us that “when confronted with negative circumstances, we will have a choice: will we pray about the problem or will we worry about it?” If we make the choice to pray instead of worry, we will personally experience God’s peace, what a promise! In a world of problems, heart ache, and anxiety, all of us need peace.

Matthew 6:34- “Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Father I pray that when I’m faced with hard circumstances that I would make you my blessed controller. Please help me to accept your ways, accept your outcome, and let my trust be in you alone. Give me grace not to look down at the mud, but to lift my eyes up to the stars!


Friday, July 13, 2007

Wales update

Hey, we just arrived about 3 hours ago. the plan from Charlotte to London was delayed about 2 hours so we didn't get off until about 10 PM. We then landed in London around 10 AM local time, 5 AM eastern time. We then preceded to travel by car to myrther where I am now. We hit a little traffic but not to much, if couldn't have guessed it is now raining. Please pray for it to be clear for the family fun day next Saturday, which is mainly why we are here. It is so beautiful, my mom would be so jealous of where I am staying. The house is in the hills surrounded by trees and fields where sheep are meandering. The house has a stand alone fireplace and is very antiquey homy. The people are wonderful. Linda and Fran are their names if you would like to pray specifically and thank God for them, because I know I am grateful. I hope everything is going well back home. I have this internet connection probably every night from their house so there I will probably blog pretty regularly. Pray for God to work while we are here. I miss you guys but this is an unbelievable experience.

In Christ,

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

God's Steadfast Love & Faithfulness

April 1, 2007, my sister Brittany was in a grease fire in her kitchen. After two weeks in the hospital, multiple hyper-barrack treatments, daily gut-wrenching burn treatments and three skin grafts, she was released from the hospital. She was released with the prognosis that she would need intense physical therapy and would not walk for a couple of months. She would not be able to operate at full capacity for a year and even then, they weren’t sure.

It has been three months since my sister’s accident and she is a “walking” testimony of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness. After only a month, her skin was healing incredibly fast and she was walking around. Total days of physical therapy were zero.

Brittany came to visit last Friday. Several thoughts flooded my mind upon seeing her. My thoughts were something like, “Wow I’m so glad she’s here!”, “She looks great!”, and some other “sisterly” thoughts I’m sure. =) But on the backend of those thoughts were, “Wow I’m so glad she’s here, and that God spared her life when she was in a grease fire three months ago.” and “She looks great! God has been so good to have healed her burns so quickly.” Then I felt God say to me, “Look at my faithfulness sitting right before you. Look at my grace and mercy manifested before your eyes. Yes, the fire harmed your sister and might have taken her life, but I have taken those trials and afflictions and worked them out for everyone’s good and for my glory.” How kind of God to grant these thoughts to me. On my own I would not think them!

I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word. Psalm 138:2

Whenever I am tempted to be anxious about something or try to be a “back seat driver”, as Ryan so appropriately put it, I often feel the Lord prompt me to remember His faithfulness. If I recount every single decision or trial in my life, I would not be able to come up with one time that God was not faithful or my plans were better than His. Why then do I ever doubt Him or try to take control? God is teaching me to take a moment each time I am tempted to worry or be self-sufficient and “remember” His faithfulness.

When I look at my sister now, by His grace, I see a beautiful picture of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness.

“Thank you Lord for Your steadfast love and faithfulness. How patient You are with me when I try to take matters into my own hands or worry about the outcome of something. Thank you for Your faithfulness to my sister and for working this trial out for our good and Your glory! With each passing day, may I become more prone to remember and less prone to forget. May I have the awe inspired tears of knowing what I deserve, and instead receiving the grace and faithfulness of a Holy God. ”

For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD! Psalm 117:2


Monday, July 9, 2007

Keep Me Near

In my daily flight to trust in the God for whom nothing is too hard I have recently found myself searching for my strength and joy to be found in the Lord. God in his great mercy has been doing such a work in me.

Recently there have been two songs that I find myself listening to over and over again throughout my days. So much so that I have written certain lines of the songs on index cards and posted them in areas of my house I’m in the most.

"Keep Me Near"

Keep me near O precious Jesus when
My days are filled with light
When the sun is warm and golden
And your goodness fills my eyes
Let me not forget whose mercies
Poured such grace upon my life
Keep me ever looking to you
Walking always at you side

"It Was Your Grace"

In you alone my strength is found
In you alone my hope abounds
In you alone my strength is found
My life is bound up in you

And in my weakness give me still more grace
Grace to cast myself on you
In every trial let me find you peace and joy
Grace to humbly walk with you

Give me more grace O God,
And new mercies every morning!

Habakkuk 3:18-19 "Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength!"

One thing I know that I have found through every trouble that surrounds God is the rock that never fails and He is good, He is great, His love is never ending, and He is the only one I need. I can’t comprehend his love for me and by his grace I know I can live free. To God is the glory for all that He has recently done in my life!

Father my prayer is that in my recent days of needing you more to trust you for the unknown that I would seek to know you more and find you as my strength. Thank you for the grace you have so richly poured out on my life. Psalm 31:14-15 "But I trust in you, O Lord; I say “you are my God.” My times are in your hand!


Thursday, July 5, 2007

Putting God in the Driver Seat

So your driving with your buddies and its somewhere not as familiar to you. And then it starts to happen, the buddy in the back seat seems to know exactly where to go and the best way to get there. "What are doing" "The left lane is faster" "Should have turned there, too late" And it finally gets to the point when you have had enough and ask, "Would you like to Drive?"

I was reading in Acts and was amazed how this applies to our walk with God. I pray all the time to God to help me live a life pleasing to Lord and according to His will, I tell Him I want to surrender all to him and put Him in the driver seat of my life. Meanwhile I turn into the annoying buddy in the back seat who thinks he knows everything. Leaning over God's shoulder, I seek to give direction and insight on the best route for my life.

God is good to give us a clear picture of what it looks like to put God in the driver seat of our life. In Acts 16 we can see how Paul truly submits the direction of his life to God and his Glory. Paul has been going from town to town preaching the gospel, working wonders, and seeing hurdreds coming to the Lord. After joining up with Timothy they move on to the next town but it is here where we see Paul take the back seat. It says they passed through the town "having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia." Alright no problem one city, but then again at the next city. They pass because, "the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them." So here Paul is moving along in his mighty ministry only to get denied in two cities and then get called to a city thats at least a 3 days travel. When Paul arrives there is not much happening till he "gets annoyed" and casts out an evil spirit then finds himself brutality beaten and in prison.

It is at this point when I would begin to start questioning the "Drivers" ability to get me where I need to go. I would probably see the path of taking a Rod to the face and my feet in chains as a missed turn somewhere. Responding something like this, "Clearly I should have stopped in those other towns, I knew it, how did I get here." But Paul, being filled with the spirit and more aware of grace then I has a totally different response, one that is both convicting and encouraging. Acts 16:25 "About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God..." This is first convicting because it is far from my response but encouraging to know that there is joy to be found when God is in the driver seat of our lives. We all know the rest of the story: They are a witness to the jailer, God works , and His Name is Glorified. But all of this could have been missed if Paul did not yield to the Lord's "driving ability. "

I thank God for showing me my shortcomings but also His Abundant Grace. May I put God in the Driver Seat and sing praises in the back seat.

- Ryan -

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Fully God and Fully Man

For the past 6 months, my accountability partners and I have been studying and discussing Bible Doctrine by Wayne Grudem (the watered down version of systematic theology). Currently we are going through the section on the Person of Christ and more than anything I have found this to extremely informative and great for brushing up on my apologetics. Recently I had been looking for a good definition of the deity of Christ in regards to the Incarnation. How does one biblically and clearly explain the divine and human nature that is Christ Jesus? Apparently this was an issue in the early Christian church as well. In an effort to suppress the rising confusion and heresy within the local church concerning the deity of Christ, the Chalcedonian Definition of A.D 451 was written over a period of 24 days (Oct. 8 till Nov. 1) in Constantinople, which is modern day Istanbul. The quote itself was not only biblically sound but very edifying and encouraging. The Chalcedonian Definition epitomizes the roll of Christ in His descension to earth. Here it is as I found it in Bible Doctrine:

"We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable soul and body; con substantial (co essential) with the Father according to the Godhead, and con substantial with us according to the Manhood; In all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all the ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, in confusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in on Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God, the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the prophets from the beginning have declared concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has been handed down to us."

Praise be to God for preserving His Word so that we might derive such helpful and influential doctrine as the Person and Deity of Christ. This is not an accident. God is very purposeful in bringing glory to His Son.