Monday, October 25, 2010

Making Room for Athiesm - by Dr. John Piper

(from the pen of John Piper)

Our church (Bethlehem Baptist Church) exists "to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ." That is our mission. "All things" means business, industry, education, media, sports, arts, leisure, government, and all the details of our lives. Ideally this means God should be recognized and trusted as supreme by every person he has made. But the Bible teaches plainly that there will never be a time before Jesus comes back when all people will honor him as supreme (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10).

So how do we express a passion for God's supremacy in a pluralistic world where most people do not recognize God as an important part of their lives, let alone an important part of government or education or business or industry or art or recreation or entertainment?

Answer: We express a passion for the supremacy of God...

1) by maintaining a conviction at all times that God is ever-present and gives all things their most important meaning. He is the Creator, Sustainer, and Governor of all things. We must keep in our minds the truth that all things exist to reveal something of God's infinite perfections. The full meaning of everything, from shoestrings to space shuttles, is the way they relate to God.

2) by trusting God in every circumstance to use his creative, sustaining, governing wisdom and power to work all things together for the good of all who love him. This is faith in the future grace of all that God promises to be for us in Jesus.

3) by making life choices that reveal the supreme worth of God above what the world values supremely. "The steadfast love of the Lord is better than life" (Psalm 63:3). So we will choose to die rather than lose sweet fellowship with God. This will show his supremacy over all that life offers.

4) by speaking to people of God's supreme worth in creative and persuasive ways, and by telling people how they can be reconciled to God through Christ, so that they can enjoy God's supremacy as protection and help, rather than fear it as judgment.

5) by making clear that God himself is the foundation for our commitment to a pluralistic democratic order-not because pluralism is his ultimate ideal, but because in a fallen world, legal coercion will not produce the kingdom of God. Christians agree to make room for non-Christian faiths (including naturalistic, materialistic faiths), not because commitment to God's supremacy is unimportant, but because it must be voluntary, or it is worthless. We have a God-centered ground for making room for atheism. "If my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight" (John 18:36). The fact that God establishes his kingdom through the supernatural miracle of faith, not firearms, means that Christians in this age will not endorse coercive governments-Christian or secular.

This is why we resist the coercive secularization implied in some laws that repress Christian activity in public places. It is not that we want to establish Christianity as the law of the land. That is intrinsically impossible, because of the spiritual nature of the kingdom. It is rather because repression of free exercise of religion and persuasion is as wrong against Christians as it is against secularists. We believe this tolerance is rooted in the very nature of the gospel of Christ. In one sense, tolerance is pragmatic: freedom and democracy seem to be the best political order humans have conceived. But for Christians it is not purely pragmatic: the spiritual, relational nature of God's kingdom is the ground of our endorsement of pluralism, until Christ comes with rights and authority that we do not have.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Waiting on the Lord

True confession: I'd rather walk out of HEB without my groceries than wait in line at the register. Especially when I'm behind coupon users and check writers. Or worse, those shoppers that divide up their groceries and pay some with cash and the rest with check. Ugh. (Do people ever think about writing out the words HEB, the date, and their signature before they find out the total?) We should be able to buy our groceries by weight. Just set it all on a scale, calculate the cost, swipe our debit card and get outta there! That's why I love that Frozen Yogurt place on LaSalle (Fro Yo). Dump yogurt in a cup, cover it with chocolate chips and strawberries, weigh it, pay it... and enjoy that tasty goodness. No waiting.

Yesterday I was at the 10 item express check out and there was a "check writer". No fault of his but his check jammed up the machine and I kid you not.... The check out lady proceeded to bang on the top and side of the machine. Didn't work. The wait was agonizing as the line of "10 items or less shoppers" piled up behind me. I just wanted to leave. I really don't like to wait.

However... there is a kind of waiting that I'm getting better at.

Isaiah said in chapter 40:28-31 tells us that to "those who wait on the Lord" He will "renew their strength". Now that gets me thinking. If I'm lousy at waiting in lines at HEB when I'm buying milk and bread, what makes me think I'll do any better waiting around for the Lord. When you wait at HEB you can see the progress of the line, but with the Lord you literally have to wait in faith. We don't know the mind of God or His timing. Waiting on the Lord to renew our strength may mean that we will have to be weak for a while. It might mean we will not see immdeiate results of our waiting. Consider the people of Israel as they wandered through the dessert, or Noah's family as they waited for that bird to fly back, or the disciples who labored to start the early churches, or the missionaries in Ecuador who waited over 30 years before violent villagers repented and turned to Jesus. What do I know about waiting?? And yet, I can think of many times I have set quietly before the Lord and he instantly offers me peace, answers to problems and even supernatural results. And other times I've had to wait, and wait, and wait. Only to find that the results weren't what I had planned. The promise to waiting is not that we always get what we want. The promise is that He will give us the strength that we need.

For example, sometimes we wait for healing and it comes quickly. Sometimes the healing, like that of Sierra, is greeted us as we cross over into eternal life and receive our great reward in heaven. My friends the Fedelem's are a testimony to waiting. For 3 years they waited with grace and perseverance that is seldom seen today, but God chose to bring their precious Sierra home. They will take comfort in Isaiah's words when he says; "those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up on wings of eagles, they shall want and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint." I'm convinced that this promise is to Jason and Rosetta in this life, and for Seirra in the life she now lives. Their strength will be renewed and they will run this race and not grow weary as they look to Him. Sierra was taken up to her eternal home on the wings of angels where she walks and runs, sings and shouts, and looks upon the One who saved her... and in heaven she will never grow weary. We have all been blessed by this family and their godly waiting.

Are you ready to wait on the Lord my friends. Wait on Him to heal you, tend to your daily needs, restore your marriage, raise your children, comfort your grief, and guide your every step. I believe waiting is a discipline that we must nurture and strive for. We must diligently wait on the Lord to renew our strength... in His timing. Let the words of the Psalmist bring your comfort and encouragement today as you rise up and seek His face and wait on Him. (Psalm 130:5-6)

5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. 6 My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Friday, October 8, 2010

90 Days of Prayer: Day 8: Intercession - One body, many members

90 Days of Prayer: Day 8: Intercession - One body, many members: "Romans 12:4-6 - For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one bo..."