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Archive for April, 2008

Quiet service

“When I think of a faithful willingness to serve, I remember a quiet little man from a church where I was a staff member. On Sundays his arrival was always unnoticed, for he would come long before anyone else. Yet he burrowed his old car into an obscure corner of the parking lot to leave the best places for others. He unlocked all the doors, got the bulletins, and then waited outside. When you walked up he’d give you a bulletin and a big smile. But he couldn’t talk. He was embarrassed when newcomers asked him questions. Something had happened to his voice long ago. When I met him he was into his sixties and living alone. When he had car trouble, which was often, he never let anyone know and so would walk more than a mile to the church. Because of his vulnerability he was robbed and beaten several times, at least twice during the three years I was in that church. Some long-time church members told me they suspected he lost his voice as the result of being beaten years before. He has extensive arthritis, which stooped his shoulders and prevented him from turning his neck. It made hard work of unlocking doors and handing out bulletins. But he was always there, always smiling, even though he couldn’t speak a word. Everything about his life worked to keep him unheralded and in the background, even his name–Jimmy Small. Yet despite his drawbacks, setbacks, handicaps, and a plethora of potential excuses, he willingly served God. And he served in a disciplined way, which in the sight of God was neither small nor in vain.”

From Don Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life

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“To repent doesn’t mean to beat myself up or to try to make myself feel bad. It means to change my mind. It means to stop seeing things one way and to start seeing them another way, regardless of how I may feel or how things may look, and then to order my life around this new way of seeing.”

“The finished work of Christ means that with God you are both fully safe and completely known.”

“I will never be able to begin to unscramble the web of interior contradiction unless I am confident that, no matter how scrambled and ugly things are inside, I am safe, loved, and on the road to full recovery. I will never be able to open myself to people, and I will never be able to take the risks of love, until I no longer need people for my deepest validation. The gospel frees me from that need. Plenty about me may shock people, but nothing can shock God, and all of it has been covered by the cross.”

All quotes from A Journey Worth Taking by Charles Drew

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“We tend either to devalue work or make it to important. On the one hand, we make it little more than a necessary evil, whose purpose is to enable us to do something else. Or, on the other hand, we turn it into a substitute god, in which our sense of value is too tightly bound to how well we succeed at it. We live out these tendencies in many arenas—including school, sports, and the workplace.” –Charles Drew

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Sovereign God, thy cause, not my own, engages my heart, and I appeal to thee with the greatest freedom to set up thy kingdom in every place where Satan reigns.  Glorify thyself and I shall rejoice, for to bring honor to thy name is my sole desire.  I adore thee, that thou art God, and long that others should know it, feel it, and rejoice in it.  O that all men might love and praise thee, that thou mightest have all glory from the intelligent world!   Let sinners be brought to thee for thy dear name.  To the eye of reason everything respecting the conversation of others is as dark as midnight, but thou canst accomplish great things; the cause is thine, and it is to thy glory that men should be saved.   Lord, use me as thou wilt, do with me what thou wilt; but, O, promote thy cause, let thy kingdom come, let thy blessed interest be advanced in this world!  …While I live let me labor for thee to the utmost of my strength, spending time profitably in this work, both in health and in weakness.  It is thy cause and kingdom I long for, not my own.  O, answer thou my request.

From the Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers

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“When we remove God from the center, we do not replace him with one false god; we replace him with many.”–Charles Drew

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A bulwark never failing

Pastor Steve Lawson relates, “Martin Luther is one of the key figures in church history, a man mightily used by God to bring reformation to the church. The year 1527 was the most difficult of his life. After ten demanding years of leading the Reformation, a dizzy spell overcome him in the middle of a sermon on April 22 of that year, forcing him to stop preaching. Luther feared for his life. On July 6, while eating dinner with friends, he felt an acute buzzing in his eart and lay down, again convinced he was at the end of his life. He partially regained his strength, but a debilitating discouragement set in as a result. In addition, heart problems and severe intestinal complications escalated the pangs of death.”

“What was worse, the dreaded black plague had entered Germany and spread into Wittenberg. Many people fled, fearing for their lives. Yet Luther and his wife Katy remained, believing it was their duty to care for the sick and dying. Although Katy was pregnant with their second child, Luther’s house was transformed into a hospital where he watched many friends die. Then without warning Luthers’ one-year-old son Hans became desperately ill. With death surrounding him on every side, Luther was driven to seek refuge in God as never before. Psalm 46 became the strength of his soul!”

Like Martin Luther, the author of Psalm 46 found solace in God during difficult times—and we can as well.

James Boice noted, “So often he was greatly discouraged and depressed. But at such times, he would turn to his friend and co-worker Philipp Melancthon and say, “Come, Phillipp, let’s sing the forty-sixth Psalm.”

One commentator Leupold wrote of this psalm, “Few psalms breathe the spirit of sturdy confidence in the Lord in the midst of very real dangers as strongly as does this one.”

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“Wanted: Gifted volunteers for difficult service in the local expression of the Kingdom of God. Motivation to serve should be obedience to God, gratitude, gladness, forgiveness, humility, and love. Service will rarely be glorious. Temptation to quit place of service will sometimes be strong. Volunteers must be faithful in spite of long hours, little of nor visible results, and possibly no recognition except from God in eternity.”

–From Don Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life

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Here’s a bold challenge from John Piper:

How will you make much of Christ with your “economic stimulus payment”? The president says it will be in the mail in time for Cinco de Mayo.

Clue: Nobody in the world will see you spend your money on yourself and conclude that Christ is your treasure. They will assume you are just like them, no matter how loudly you thank God for this boon. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t spend it on yourself (the way we do with most of what we earn). Not everything we do can look different from the world—eat, pay utilities, fill up the car, wear clothes (even thrift-store clothes). And yes, we hope (somehow) that spending on ourselves in some way contributes to our being more Christ-exalting people.

But do we really need this money? Very few do. We would have gotten on fine without it. If we didn’t know it was coming, we wouldn’t even be feeling the desires we are feeling right now.

May I encourage you to be radically creative and hedonistic. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). And those crazy Macedonians in a “severe test of affliction” and in “extreme poverty” had an “abundance of joy” that overflowed in a “wealth of generosity.” They even begged Paul “for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints” (2 Corinthians 8:2-4). They really believed what Jesus said. Really.

Before the check comes dream of some person or ministry which might make much of Christ because you treasured him above your next home project.

The reason God created money and enabled us to earn it is so that we could show by the way we use it that money is not our treasure, Christ is. That’s why the checks are coming. So we can make Christ look great.

“Be content with what you have, for he has said,
‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5-6).

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It has been over a week since I last spoke of the Christian and his work, but here is more from what I learned from Charles Drew’s A Journey Worth Taking.

To say that all work is sacred is to say that all work, like everything else, is for God.  The seven dwarfs whistled while they worked.  We should worship while we work as well.

And our worship is not extraneous to the work. We don’t, in other words, simply praise God that the math homework is done, or that we got a good grade in math. We worship in the work itself. We praise God by the diligence with which we undertake it, we praise him by depending on him for the strength to do it, we praise him for the beauty of the math itself, we seek appropriate ways to show colleagues his beauty there, and (as we have opportunity) we use the math skills we have acquired for God-honoring purposes.

Harvard astronomy professor Owen Gingerich developed a passion for the stars as a child. But he struggled as a young man over whether to make a career of it. What tipped the scales for him was the advice of a believing professor. Here is a portion of his story:

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by the stars. My parents said that it all began on a stifling hot night in Iowa, when my mother moved cots outside for sleeping-and as a five-year-old I discovered the stars. Later, in a liberal arts college in Indiana, I built my own telescope, but I studied chemistry because that seemed so much more useful for mankind than something as arcane as astronomy. Through a quite unpredictable series of circumstances I had an opportunity to spend a summer at the Harvard Observatory as an assistant to the famous astronomer Harlow Shapley, and this inflamed my enthusiasm for the celestial science. But still I held back, uneasy about the justification of astronomy as a career choice. At that point my college math professor gave me some advice. “If you really want to be an astronomer,” he said, “You really ought to go for it. After all, we shouldn’t let the atheists take over any field.” So I applied to the Harvard graduate program in astronomy and was accepted.

Professor Gingerich’s passion gave him insight into God’s call on his life. But what gave him confidence to commit his life professionally to that passion, what has harnessed that passion through the years, and what has kept that passion from degrading over time into mere personal indulgence has been, it seems, a God-honoring purpose. He writes: ‘The heavens declare the glory of God, says the psalmist, and I believe that is true in many wonderful ways.’

If I make God’s glory and honor “everything,” then everything else, including figuring myself out, will fall in line.  But if I make my glory and honor everything, I will be looking at things through the wrong end of the telescope.  Reality will be distorted and far away. I will miss my true purpose.

Are you whistling while you work (at school, at your job, or at home)?  Are you worshiping while you work today?

For other parts in this series

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

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More martyrs

In 1932 John Stam from New Jersey traveled to China with the China Inland Mission. He did his language study, and then in 1933, he married Betty Scott. In September of 1934, John and Betty had a baby girl. Several months later after the birth of their daughter, on December 6, 1934, John and Betty Stam were arrested by communist soldiers amid the great political turmoil in southern China. The next day, on December 7, 1934, the communist soldiers took them to the house of a wealthy man who ad fled the area, where they were kept overnight. The next morning, they were tied tightly and led through the town and out to a little hill. They were questioned and then, in quick succession beheaded. First John, then Betty. At the time, both of them were 27 years old. They had gone to China to tell people that God would give them another life through mercy in Christ, since everyone’s first life had been spent by sin. John and Betty knew their work would be dangerous. But they had an important message to give. Their faithfulness to proclaim and then even die for this message led many others, including the famous missionary Jim Elliot, to then go and tell the good news–the message of Zechariah. “Return to me!” says the Lord Almighty. ”

From Mark Dever’s The Message of the Old Testament

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