will not hurt them

Please read THIS ARTICLE. It is a profoundly moving explanation of suffering in the light of God's love. It links suffering to the Gospel message, and the triumph of God over evil. It is one of the few articles I've read that helps make the problem of suffering make sense. It is a model of Christian testimony: perfectly instructive, and simply beautiful.


has filled your heart

I'm going to veer dangerously close to (or possibly over into) blasphemy. I'll start by making it clear that I believe wholeheartedly in the Trinity. That I worship the Father, Son, & Holy Spirit -- growing up Catholic, how could I not? That I understand and believe all three are Almighty and Divine and worthy of all praise. You don't need to convince me of their individual and collective importance.

That is not to say I love all three the same way.

All of us will say, for instance, that we love our mother and father the same. It is for most of us, of course, a complete and utter lie. Every child either loves one parent more than the other, or at the very least, loves them the same but differently. And that is not a bad thing. Mothers and fathers have different roles and different personalities. It would be unnatural to love them exactly the same. In the same way, I love the different persons of the Godhead differently.

I love the Father the way I love my earthly father. I respect and revere Him. I have a holy fear of Him. I understand that all I have comes from Him. I serve Him and am obedient to His will. I know He is in complete and utter control of every millisecond of my life. I love the Spirit in much the same way. I appreciate that my gifts come from Him. I am grateful that my salvation was through His moving in my heart. I am thankful that when I utilize gifts such as teaching or preaching, I am completely dependent on Him for getting me through it. But -- and here comes the blasphemy (?) -- I don't love the Father and Spirit the same way I love Jesus.

I love Jesus in the way I love my wife. I feel close to Him. I talk to Him more naturally and freely and casually about anything and everything. I can picture Him smiling and delighting in me. I think about Him all the time. When I am away from Him for long periods of time and realize it, I long to be with Him in the way I miss my wife when I'm on the road. My heart is bent toward wanting to please Him and make Him happy. His unhappiness and displeasure in something I do saddens my heart more than anything ever could.

I've mulled on this difference all week. And I have no problems reconciling or admitting this truth. And it is possibly why I struggle so much with the "Love God" vs "Love Christ" question. Because in my own heart, the latter is the clear choice; is always the clear choice. I suppose I can't lead others into my own brand of blasphemy (if it is such). But if Paul, the greatest preacher and teacher and evangelist who ever lived, agrees with me, how wrong could that love be?


and love which are found in Christ

For the last few months, been debating with other leaders over the wording of the church motto, with the focus of the arguments being who we state as the central recipient of our love. The default position was "Love God". I have been carrying the flag for the position that it should instead be "Love Christ". The God side of the argument has no credible argument save one: that as a Trinitarian faith, we can't focus exclusively on Christ; instead we are to love God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit -- condensed into simply God. Else we risk being modalistic, a theological position that believes there is only one God (not three) who appears in three separate forms.

I am willing to take that risk of false appearance.

No matter what position we choose, we risk some appearance. Any critic can find fault with whatever wording he wants. We should care less about how we are being perceived, and care more about stating our passion. And I will continue to carry the banner for the position that there is no more important statement of belief than loving Christ.

Christ is the difference-maker. The difference between us and a Unitarian church is that we love Christ not the generic term God. The difference between us and other theists is the existence of Jesus. You know who will get into Heaven? Not people who love God, but people who love Christ. God the Father even chooses to exalt Christ: He deferred Creation to Christ (John1, Col1) and is deferring Judgment to Christ. The NT is filled with very clear thoughts on whom we should be focusing on, and it is Christ. Paul says that to live is Christ. He says he counts all things as loss in view of the surpassing value in knowing Jesus Christ. Heb12:2 tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus. In John14, Jesus is letting His disciples know that when they follow and obey and love Him, they in turn love God. Acts4 tells us there is no other name under which men will be saved. We are taught to be more Christ-like not God-like. Christ is part of our main identity: we are to be CHRISTians not theists. More and more, serious disciples of Christ are distancing themselves from the label Christian, actually, and using the term "follower of Jesus." Our focus has to be, it has to be on Christ, not God, and I am unapologetic about that.


and chases after rewards

Long layoff. Returning from vacation. Fighting through the fog. More tomorrow.

"The Joy of Pursuing Christ" {Phil3:12-21}
* No formula or switch for spiritual maturity -- must pursue it
* Hunger (v12-13a)
- Typical Christian not hungry for more
- Obtained "all this" -- refers back to v11 and Christlikeness
* Devotion (v13b): Narrow focus
* Direction (v13c, Heb12:2}
* Determination (v14, 1Cor9:24-27}: Like hunter stalking prey
* Discipline (v15-16): "live up to" = live by rules
* Discernment (v17-19): Choose to follow Christ over His enemies
* Decision (v20-21)


Do not think that I will accuse you

Internet Monk always has thought-provoking ways to examine Christianity and the practice thereof. This post has just such a thoughtprovoker. What kind of a sermon would Satan preach? Unfortunately, I disagree with the argument that's set up here.

Satan is more than an accuser of sin. Satan doesn't have to assist us in identifying what we do wrong. The Bible says in Rom1 that the evidence of God is clear, and that man knows right from wrong. Even infants feel shame when they've done wrong; it is inherent in us. What Satan actually accuses is God. That God is at fault for all this. That God made us this way. That God has planned our life in every little detail so He's responsible for our sin and our failure. That God must not love us. That God ultimately, is not worth following or loving or giving our lives over to. That's the damaging part of what Satan does, not just telling us what we aren't getting right. Satan's goal is not to make us feel guilty or forget our freedom from sin in Christ; his goal is to drive a wedge between man and God. That part shouldn't be forgotten.

Secondly, it is not Gospel-less for Pastors to be preaching and teaching about our failures. Doing so is not, in fact, repeating the message of Satan. The Bible says in 2Tim3:16, "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness." Pointing out our failings and giving us instruction on what we should be doing is preaching the Word of God. It is neither legalism nor Satanic. In Rom6, doesn't Paul go over the whole "May it never be" spiel where he discusses the relationship of his sin to the Gospel? And while he ends by pointing out that we are free from the condemnation of sin, he begins Rom6 by making it clear that we shouldn't be sinning. And a good pastor will, in fact, teach on proper behavior.

Good question. Wrong argument. But a great future post would, in fact, be the sermon the devil would give. Although I don't know that I should be spending the energy on that, given that he doesn't need the help.


continued to grow and to become strong in spirit

"The Joy of Finishing Well" {Phil2:12-18}
* Work out your own salvation (v12-13)
- "Work out" = to finish something/to complete; not same as "work FOR" salvation
- Remember 3D salvation
- Believer's role (v12)
- Believer's attitude {v12, Eph6:5-6}: w/ fear & trembling -- "proper reaction to who God is & our weakness/tendency to sin"
- God's role (v13): more than an example -- "to will and to act"; "not by imitation, but by incarnation" (Christ in me)
* Stop complaining (v14-18)
- DO everything sans complaining or disputing (v14): reminiscent of Israelites in wilderness {Deut32:5}
- "Don't let your mind wander into doubt & disobedience simply because you don't understand God's will"
- For the sake of the unsaved (v15-16a)
- "No darkness so dark a single light doesn't dispel it"
* Application
- Pursue spiritual growth
- Serve others w/o complaint
- Shine for Christ
- Bear fruit