In your kindness, for your glory, through the power of the Spirit of Christ, I ask that you would make the students, staff, and faculty of North County Christian School people who. . .
- Gaze up upon the cross and see the result of their sin
- Stand at the empty tomb and know the greater power of God
- Are filled with the Fruit of the Spirit, because the Spirit is in them
- Remember their creator in the days of their youth, that when they are old they might not depart from your Holy Word
- Live lives that make unbelievers stand back in wonder about the power of the gospel
- Confess their sin to you and to the brothers and sisters they have sinned against
- Experience and hold forth the fullness of forgiveness
- Gladly suffer ridicule for righteousness’ sake, knowing they are being treated the same way as their master
- Are sowing small seeds of faithfulness to inherit large fields of harvest
- Find Truth to be unalterable, though all else may ebb and flow
- Love honesty, even though it might be injurious to their circumstances
- Yearn for holiness rather than worldly honor
- Saturate their minds with Scripture, not Spotify
- Care more for compassion than cleverness
- Are known for respect, not rebellion
- Desire diligence, not dissipation
- Love maturity more than movies
- Would rather be educated than entertained
- Live to make much of Christ and not themselves
- Endure to the end
You are the God who is worthy of all honor and praise and glory. Transform our hearts that we may magnify you. Amen.
I stumbled across a folder entitled “Prayer” on my computer today. I didn’t remember creating it, and I don’t remember the few moments spent writing the solitary document that made up the folder’s entire contents. I am no great penner of prayers like those faithful men whose words appear in the Valley of Vision. But it is an encouragement to see answers in the present to forgotten prayers in the past. That God answers even the prayers I forget makes me come before him more.
I cannot begin but by thanking you, and not for the circumstances you have brought to pass alone, but for your person and work that stands far above every wave of shifting happiness or sorrow. The strength and value of a rock, a refuge, a bulwark is measured by the forces it can repel without suffering harm. You are the bulwark never failing, the refuge unbreakable, the rock immovable. Beyond this you are my bulwark, my rock, my refuge. You who by all rights ought to be my enemy for good and just cause have not laid down your arms but struck another and considered the strike against me. Mercy in the highest degree you have shown: mercy to ransom, mercy to justify, mercy to qualify to stand before you as a son, prodigal though I am.
As I look inward, Lord, I see insufficiency and weakness, timidity and smallness of soul. And yet I also see courage and strength, qualification to be used and faith. These are of your doing, grown in me through the regenerating and sanctifying work of the Spirit of Christ. Father, thank you for growing in me a tenderness of conscience to see sin. Thank you for the courage to pursue —— ——— to ask forgiveness even when he did not perceive offense, though I knew the motives of my heart were impure and my words matched the suit of their origin. Even as I feel the tentacles of smug satisfaction over the fact that I would recognize and repent of sin which so many others would brush off encircle my heart I pray you would protect me. Please do not allow the good you are growing in me grow what is evil, a pride that would undo me. And not because it would undo me in the eyes of others, though that would grieve me for bringing disrepute upon the gospel. I pray you would keep me from sin because it is against your face. Against you and you only have I sinned. Restrain me as you restrained Abimelech before Sarah, not to allow sin.
In the name of your Son, Jesus Christ,
Sometimes the Lord’s blessings can be convicting. I received a call from Southern Seminary a couple of days ago finalizing a few details: housing, parking permits, etc. During the conversation I was informed that my on-campus apartment wouldn’t be available until August 9th. Given that I was planning on rolling into Louisville on August 3rd, this was a small problem. Grumbling internally, I hung up the phone.
The next day I opened my email inbox to find a message from Student Housing telling me that things had changed and I could move in on the 3rd. First thought: happiness that I wouldn’t have to couch-surf for a week while trying to find a job. Second thought: conviction that I never once prayed about this situation and, even worse, I never gave a second thought to my grumbling heart.
It is incredible when God gives blessings in response to prayer. Our prayers merit nothing, yet He answers them because of the blood of Christ. It is even more incredible when God gives blessings despite the fact that I offered up not prayer, but offense. What a reminder that God’s grace is not dependent upon my sinlessness. It is dependent upon Christ’s sinlessness. Even when I sin, God’s favor does not slacken or contract. His favor is not grounded in me, but Himself.
Psalm 67:7 has long been a favorite verse of mine: “God blesses us that the ends of the earth may fear Him.” How thankful I am that I am blanketed inside the ends of the earth. God’s blessings are about His glory, about Him being made much of before His creation. There are a thousand things I don’t understand about redemption, but I do understand that the cross made it possible for me to receive what I do not deserve. Including an early move-in date.
August is TMC’s version of Football Camp. The leadership staff has been doing the ministerial equivilent of three a days for the last three weeks, and everyone is dead tired. School begins Tuesday, and all the new students and SLS staffers are excited to be able to sleep again. Rather than try to write a well-ordered post at this point, I’ll just put the following two thoughts down.
1. I realize that Mark Driscoll’s ministry style has nearly been talked to death. However, look at Paul’s description of a minister approved by God. “Therefore an overseer must be above reproach” (1 Tim 3:2). There are no options, no escape clauses. I’ve listened to some of Driscoll’s sermons and read part of his Confessions of a Reformission Reverend book, as well as actively read his blog for a number of months. I was amazed at how much of he talks about sex. Very few of his sexual remarks are intended to teach or instruct the biblical position on the topic, but rather are sugar-coated, shock-value marketing ploys. We’re frustrated when a good movie is ruined by an absolutely irrelevant sex scene written into the script solely to cater to a base audience. Why are we not outraged when the gospel is interlaced with irrelevant, sexually-driven hooks? Sex sells in church just as well as it sells in the theater. Striptease sermons and “above reproach” don’t equate.
2. How would God bless His kingdom on earth if we prayed for Christian ministries instead of (only) criticizing them? I’m tempted to make this thought part of the previous one, but it is applicable beyond Driscoll and Mars Hill, so I’ll keep it separate. I read Brothers We Are NOT Professionals this summer. In the last chapter, entitled Brothers, Pray for the Seminaries, Piper pleads with pastors to pray for the institutions training the next generation of leaders. Here at Masters we pride ourselves for being absolutely uncompromising on the Scriptures. Sadly, we’re also adept at holding those who are not as uncompromising in contempt. God loves Biola. God loves charismatics. God even loves arminians. Do we? Even more than love, do we pray for them with nearly as much zeal as when we criticize them? There is a place for discussion and critique. But let us also pray for spiritual growth and renewal! God will judge us how we judge them, which is one of the scariest concepts in the Bible.
Today marks the start of Outreach Week at TMC. This evening, I’ve been asked to preach for a church high school youth group. This is my first full-length sermon, so pray for me! I’ll be preaching out of Numbers 23:19-24. Here’s the conclusion of the sermon. It will be a little choppy, because you don’t have the context of the first twenty-five minutes of sermon.
Having grown up in the church, I am really concerned that kids think about their faith. They don’t realize that God has no grandchildren. I can easily fill up both hands with friends who have walked away from the church and the gospel after graduating high school. I know how easy it is to become a parrot, who speaks what he hears and never believes what he says. The Lord looks at the heart, not the words. And this means all my goods words avail me nothing if my heart does not love the Lord. I praise God that my parents instilled into me from an early age that Jesus doesn’t love me just because He loves them. The point of my sermon can be summed up as this: Are you a parrot? Or are you a child of God?
ARE YOU A PARROT?
C. It’s Matter of Life and Death
It is absolutely critical to realize something: Balaam was not a believer. I cannot stress this enough. Look at what Balaam said about God. And then understand that he was not a believer.
Balaam heard the words of God. He spoke the words of God. He evangelized for God. And Balaam is in hell.
He is proof that it is entirely possible to agree with the words of God—what we would call the Bible—and never actually believe it.
I grew up in church. I’ve attended Sunday morning services, Sunday evening services, Wednesday prayer services, AWANA, youth group. And you know what; none of it justifies me before the Lord. Attending church does not mean believing Jesus.
Let me ask you a question: Have you come to the place where you realized that you can’t save yourself? Have you said, “Jesus, I am a sinner, please come and be Lord of my life”? Have you surrendered your life to Christ fully?
Balaam was unwilling to surrender his life to Christ. Remember what Peter said in 2 Peter 2: 15? Balaam “loved the wages of unrighteousness.” Balaam was unwilling to humble himself before the Lord and admit he needed to obey God.
Jesus warned us against following the foolishness of Balaam. In Matthew 6:20 He says But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Another famous verse, I know. But remember—God does not lie. Balaam refused to submit himself to the very words he was speaking. He didn’t believe the words. He didn’t trust the words. In the end, Balaam understood the words he spoke. Remember how we said God was on the warpath and He would win? Balaam joined the losing side, and now is suffering for that decision. Balaam stored up for himself treasures on this earth, and they availed him nothing.
Unlike Balaam, we are still alive today. We still have the opportunity to trust Jesus. Guys, if you haven’t trusted the Lord, you need to. Learn from a man who didn’t. Balaam wishes right now he had truly listened to what he was saying. If you don’t know Jesus Christ personally; if you haven’t admitted your need for Him; if you don’t have a desire to obey Him and His Word—please, learn from the foolishness of Balaam.
Success is not:
Having a very good wing event
Dying a martyr’s death for the sake of Christ in a brutal way in an unreached place
Having daily devotions
Praying for an hour a day
Writing books which impact thousands or millions for the cause of Christ
Pastoring a church where the attendance is six times larger than the town you grew up in
Ministering in a place where you will be forgotten
Leading the most dynamic small group in Oak Manor
Being liked or perceived as a nice guy by the people I see frequently
Being known by people at The Master’s College
Being an RA
Getting three hours of sleep because I was at the emergency room with someone all night
Reading a book on humility
Writing a book on humility
Being hated by the world because I’m obnoxious for the gospel
Enforcing the dress code
Being percieved as an “up and comer”
Going to every chapel and taking good notes
Embarking on a great humanitarian crusade
Having a worn-out, heavily-underlined Bible
All of the above can be evidences of a successful life. However, in and of themselves, they are not successful. The Lord looks at and cares about the heart. Many of these will and must spring out of a heart which passionately beats to know the Lord more deeply. However, there is only one true measure of success as God defines it.
Ministering worthy of the glory of God wherever He has placed you with whatever responsibilities He has given you out of a desire to glorify Him and love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL,
AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.