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“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:13-16).

I know the title of this study seems wrong. That’s because we have been consistently taught that living a holy (please understand I use the term “holy” in this post in a relative sense) life before God enables us to experience happiness (joy or contentment). I’m not arguing this isn’t true. On the contrary, the Scriptures often reveal that living according to God’s ways produces a cleaner conscience and a clearer view of Him. Proverbs 3:7-8 is but one good example of this truth: “Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil, It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.”

It is true – living in a way that pleases God brings pleasure to those who love Him. But this seeking to please God, to be holy and Christ-like, is not some sort of manipulation in order to achieve happiness, as if we can “win” God’s favor. It is actually the byproduct of loving and adoring and treasuring Him above all else because of His grace and glory. This is why we seek to please Him and the blessed benefit is that it brings us closer to Him and thus more joyous. As Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied…”Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:6, 8). Our motivation, however, in this model is His pleasure (happiness) first and ours is secondary, yet our contentment is realized in the pursuit.

Not disputing this profound reality, please bear with me. Let’s go a bit deeper. You see, I think this can be turned around as well. Maybe we are to pursue holiness (which, if I may, makes God “happy”) because we find our happiness (contentment or joy) in Him and Him alone. John Calvin said, ”Unless they establish their complete happiness in [God] they will never give themselves to truly and sincerely to him.” This may sound like semantics, but it isn’t. When we are content in Christ, holiness (pleasing God) is the supernatural (not natural) byproduct of this love and adoration. The first paradigm – we are happy when we are holy – though true, has a distinct ring of obligation and duty. Pursuing a righteous lifestyle, however, because we are so enamored with Christ, echoes authentic worship and genuine devotion.

I think we see this modeled in our focal passage. As you look at verse 13, think of joy or happiness instead of hope. The principle is similar – Peter is telling us that focusing on our hope (or joy or happiness) in Christ is a precursor to the holiness God demands. And that makes perfect sense. In this pattern we see relationship with Christ, not religion, as the motivator of good works. We pursue holiness because of the happiness we have in Him. His being our greatest treasure and the object of the affections of our minds and hearts compels us “to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10). In other words, because Jesus is our prize and possession nothing less than living like Him will satisfy or suffice.

Once again these ideas are not mutually exclusive or contradictory – they are gloriously symmetrical. We are happier when we are living a holier life because this pleases God and magnifies our vision of His majesty. And we intuitively seek happiness. But, just as importantly, we pursue righteousness because we find Jesus as our all-satisfying and all-sufficient Savior and sustainer. And to live in a way that dishonors Him would contradict Him as our greatest pleasure.

Interestingly, the writer of Hebrews suggests both of these ideas in 12:1-4. See for yourself – he tells us to pursue holiness (v.1) but do so compelled and empowered by hearts and minds fixated on the initiator and completer of our faith, Jesus (v.2). And that focusing on our Lord is what enables us to not grow weary in our struggle with sin (v.3,4):

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”

So we see a continuum. We find all of our happiness in Christ. This adoration compels us to live a holier, more Christ-like life. The closer we get to Him and the more of His fruit we bear, the happier we are and the more we experience Him who is our greatest pleasure. This experience motivates us to an even more God-pleasing life. And this glorious cycle moves onward and upward! But, as in everything else, it always starts with Jesus.

Phoney Rabbis, Lost Discernment and the Eddie Long Disaster

Line between megachurch and Eddie Long’s estate is blurry |

Because I have such strong convictions about (against) the “Word of Faith” (or prosperity gospel) movement, I am going to keep my comments to a minimum. However, I urge you to read this post (at the top) from a widely read charismatic periodical. Study it closely, click the links (even though I couldn’t watch the entire “coronation” video due to the nausea – literally – it induced), and research what has led up to this mockery. Also search for Paula White’s involvement in a similar scenario. And, while you are at it, look up the definition of “king” and “coronation.”

Although I admit to some serious bias, this article nails it. This is scandalous but, it seems to me, this is the logical progression of a theology that is so overtly ethnocentric – putting man’s wants at the center of faith and treating God as if He is some kind of cosmic ATM. And that is exactly what the prosperity gospel espouses (subtly and not so subtly) – put distorted promises in and get earthly prosperity in return. It’s all about “us” and not about Him. Forgive my bluntness but there is a Hebrew word for this. It’s translated “garbage!”

Tragically, hordes have been blinded from seeing what a travesty this is. Way too many have been led to buy into what I believe is a false gospel, taught by false teachers, and have had their faith shipwrecked in the process. Can we not see how man-centered this is? How it dishonors the Lord of glory (who is the only King we are called to follow) and exalts depraved men (and women)? I am unwilling to speculate on the potential collateral  damage that has been done by these teachings and these teachers.

But enough of my ramblings – I’m fallible but God’s Word isn’t. So let’s hear from the Apostle Peter, who is much more of an authority on false prophets and doctrine than I am. Don’t just trust me. Read the Scriptures and test these things with biblical truth. And may we all pray for discernment, God’s will be done, and Jesus alone be exalted.

“But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, and will bring swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their unrestrained ways, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. In their greed they will exploit you with deceptive words. Their condemnation, [pronounced] long ago, is not idle, and their destruction does not sleep… then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, especially those who follow the polluting desires of the flesh and despise authority. Bold, arrogant people! They do not tremble when they blaspheme the glorious ones; however, angels, who are greater in might and power, do not bring a slanderous charge against them before the Lord. But these people, like irrational animals-creatures of instinct born to be caught and destroyed-speak blasphemies about things they don’t understand, and in their destruction they too will be destroyed, suffering harm as the payment for unrighteousness. They consider it a pleasure to carouse in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, delighting in their deceptions as they feast with you, having eyes full of adultery and always looking for sin, seducing unstable people, and with hearts trained in greed. Accursed children…These people are springs without water, mists driven by a whirlwind. The gloom of darkness has been reserved for them. For uttering bombastic, empty words, they seduce, by fleshly desires and debauchery, people who have barely escaped from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption, since people are enslaved to whatever defeats them. For if, having escaped the world’s impurity through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in these things and defeated, the last state is worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than, after knowing it, to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb: A dog returns to its own vomit, and, “a sow, after washing itself, wallows in the mud” (2 Peter 2:1-3; 9-14; 17-22).

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:9).

Bible-thumping on Bourbon Street at night barred by ordinance

Have you ever been to the French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana? I have on several occasions. Many a business conference has taken me there due to the city’s bizarre drawing power. Bourbon Street is central to the city’s pull on tourists and social rubberneckers. Why? Because, after traveling a large part of these United States, it is the closest thing I’ve ever seen to Sodom and Gomorrah in America (Las Vegas and Key West are a pretty close 2nd). Bourbon Street can be likened to observing a hedonistic car crash – even the purest of heart have difficulty keeping their gaze from the titillating and ostentatious sinfulness and drunken revelry. And the air reeks of the musty, dark odor of voodoo shops, “adult” venues, and alcohol induced vomit.

So what is the city’s answer to the environment that has encouraged the ruin of many lives and souls? Ban the Bible. Never mind the first amendment – let it be noted that every lifestyle known to man (civilized or not) is vociferously promoted and proclaimed on that street. It will both amaze and frighten you. But no Bible…no evangelism? Why don’t we just let the place melt into a pillar of salt? Because God apparently doesn’t want that. And the Bible suggests this.

The most amazing thing to me about the biblical account of Sodom and Gomorrah is God’s patience and grace, not His eventual devastation of that perverse and vile city. Read the story for yourself. You can find it in Genesis 18–19. We all know about the judgement and destruction that marks the end of the saga but often forget that Abraham sought God’s mercy on that scandalous town. And God did relent until it became obvious that the townsfolk would not repent. For there weren’t even 10 righteous men to be found there. But I want to leave you with the part that, as I mentioned before, most impressed me – God’s patience and grace. Maybe they should influence the way we view places like New Orleans and the sad and hopeless people who endlessly and godlessly party on its streets:

“The men turned from there and went toward Sodom while Abraham remained standing before the Lord. Abraham stepped forward and said, “Will You really sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are 50 righteous people in the city? Will You really sweep it away instead of sparing the place for the sake of the 50 righteous people who are in it? You could not possibly do such a thing: to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. You could not possibly do that! Won’t the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” The Lord said, “If at Sodom I find 50 righteous people in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” Then Abraham answered, “Since I have ventured to speak to the Lord-even though I am dust and ashes- suppose the 50 righteous lack five. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” He replied, “I will not destroy [it] if I find 45 there.” Then he spoke to Him again, “Suppose 40 are found there?” He answered, “I will not do [it] on account of 40.” Then he said, “Let the Lord not be angry, and I will speak further. Suppose 30 are found there?” He answered, “I will not do [it] if I find 30 there.” Then he said, “Since I have ventured to speak to the Lord, suppose 20 are found there?” He replied, “I will not destroy [it] on account of 20.” Then he said, “Let the Lord not be angry, and I will speak one more time. Suppose 10 are found there?” He answered, “I will not destroy [it] on account of 10.” When the Lord had finished speaking with Abraham, He departed, and Abraham returned to his place” Genesis 18:22-33, HCSB).

“And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. The one who doesn’t have the Son of God does not have life. I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 1:11-13).

It was a nervous plane ride to Texas for some. Not for me; I’m used to traveling by air. But for the man seated in the same row, with an empty seat in between, it was uncomfortable and unfamiliar. “I haven’t flown since 9/11,” he said. In my fatigue, all I could babble was, “things have changed, haven’t they?” He asked me a couple of questions before disappearing into an uneasy stare towards the skies from his window seat. I disappeared into my Christian book and was all too happy to have no further dialogue. Though he was pleasant enough, I wanted to lose myself in the lofty thoughts of great theologians and apologists. Shame on me…God had a different plan.

Given my small bladder and that a friend was going to pick me up immediately upon landing, I decided to go to the restroom (as if one can get any rest in the bathroom of a commercial airliner). I laid down my book on the empty middle seat and made the trek to the back of the plane. With the flight nearing its conclusion, I didn’t expect any more conversation. But I was very wrong. The blue-collar gentleman next to me was about to startle me from my missional slumber and into my Great Commission mandate.

“Are you are Christian man?” he inquired. “Well, yes, I certainly am…are you?” He paused and mumbled, “I think so.” I was unprepared for this turn of events (that’s the norm for me) and tried to gather myself. But I failed to come up with a coherent response. So I quickly asked God for wisdom and guidance. Soon my thoughts began to organize and I was empowered to speak again. But I could only think to say, “God wants you to know for sure. In the Bible, John wrote a letter for this very purpose.” Even though silence ensued, at this point I knew that I had nothing to do with my retort – the Holy Spirit had taken control.

Then came a flood of questions and answers. He had been baptized, gone to church, left the church, had faith, lost his faith, had hope and now doubted. He believed he was a good man but knew, deep in his being, that wasn’t enough. He understood that it was about a relationship with Jesus and not about religious dogma and practice. He knew the Bible held the key to understanding and knowing Who held his future. He comprehended that he was a sinner, that he must cast himself upon God’s mercy, and surrender all of who he is to all of Who God is. All I could then do was to ask if I could pray for him. He  appreciatively said yes.

Suddenly I was reminded of Jesus’ encounter with the religious of his day:

“One of the scribes approached. When he heard them debating and saw that Jesus answered them well, he asked Him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”“This is the most important,” Jesus answered: Listen, Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. “The second is: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Then the scribe said to Him, “You are right, Teacher! You have correctly said that He is One, and there is no one else except Him. And to love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding, and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself, is far more [important] than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he answered intelligently, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:28-34).

Perry is not far from the kingdom of God. How many teeter on the edge of hope and assurance? Many don’t embrace the simple yet profound words of the Apostle John: “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. The one who doesn’t have the Son of God does not have life. I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” And we most fully know that we know that we have Jesus’ life, His new life, His eternal life when we “Love the Lord [our] God with all [our] heart, with all [our] soul, with all [our] mind, and with all [our] strength. [And we] love [our] neighbor as [our self].”

I am praying for Perry. I pray that Perry knows that he knows that Jesus is His and Jesus has him – now and forever. And I pray that one day I will see him in Heaven and we can talk about how wonderful Jesus is…and that bumpy flight between Nashville and Dallas. The one, I hope, where he began his pilgrimage from doubt to assurance. When he affirmed in his head and his heart that he loved Jesus above all else – with all that he is, with all that he has, based upon all of Christ’s worth.

So, what about you?

Kim Kardashian Goes to Church; Wants to Start Bible Study Group, Christian News 

But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. For who sees anything different in you?” (1 Corinthians 4:3-7, ESV). 

I’m one of the few people in America who doesn’t know much of anything about Kim Kardashian. For those who know me well, this will not come as a shock. But I do know that she and her family have a Reality TV show (Isn’t that an oxymoron?). And I understand she recently married a professional basketball player and the union legally lasted only a few weeks. I’m also guessing, due to her immense ability to draw media attention, she is a hero and role-model to millions of girls (and I expect some adult women as well). 

To recap: KK is a celebrity, who has a TV show, who recently got married, who more recently divorced, who now is attending church before she has pictures taken of herself in, what I would presume to be, skimpy negligees. I guess the article above (see link) tells me this much. But I really don’t know her and, though probably dubious of her motives, I don’t know what she is thinking or feeling. I am guessing, at least, that she is desperately seeking something – whether it be secular or spiritual. But aren’t we all?

So what do I think? Does it really matter? Not really – it’s what God knows and thinks that matters. He is the omniscient judge.  

So I believe this is one situation where I (maybe “we”) need to heed Paul’s admonition to the Corinthian church in the passage above. Maybe we shouldn’t pridefully “go beyond what is written” and get all self-righteous and puffed up thinking we can determine motives that only the Lord can discern. And though I’m tempted by my cynicism of “Celebrity Christianity,” I will bite my fingers and leave KK’s evaluation (the term the HCSB uses for “judge” in this text) to Him who knows all things. Instead I pray that Jesus gets such a hold of her that He completely rocks her world, and the entertainment industry in the process. And I pray that, as Paul suggested in verse 7, Jesus gets such a hold of me that people who need to see Him will see in my life the radical difference that He will make.

“O my God, I say, take me not away in the midst of my days– you whose years endure throughout all generations!” Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but you are the same, and your years have no end. The children of your servants shall dwell secure; their offspring shall be established before you” (Psalm 102:24-28). 

Whoever wrote Psalm 102 (some say David, some say Asaph) was extremely insecure. But, if we are honest, aren’t we all? We look for affirmation from various things and people – academic credentials, jobs, spouses, ministries, family, possessions, supervisors, financial savings, etc. – wanting to feel good about ourselves and our situation. This writer was no different. He understood the fleeting nature of his life (Psalm 102: 2, 11) and was in the midst of a time of great turmoil, pain, and affliction. Even worse, he felt God was uninvolved (102:2) and had abandoned him in anger (102:10). The psalmist was, by any definition, insecure about himself and his circumstances. Although maybe not to this extreme, can you identify? I sure can. 

I’m so glad the Bible shows God’s people with “warts and all.” They were frail and filled with foibles. And so are we. Insecurity is such a common theme in fallen humanity that, I believe, this passage and others give us guidance on how to deal with our lack of confidence. In this Psalm, like us, the writer tended to look at himself rather than God. When he turned from his feelings and looked at the facts, He saw the greatness and goodness of his God. Not in himself or his circumstances did he find the salve to soothe his insecurity. It was in the immutability of God. 

And what is God’s immutability? Maybe the word “unchangeableness” would be easier to understand. In his systematic theology, Wayne Grudem  (if you don’t have one, get it) defines this attribute of God by explaining that “God is unchanging in His being, perfections, purposes, and promises, yet God does act and feel emotions, and He acts and feels differently in response to different situations.” Beyond being changeless God is also timeless. Both of these concepts are found in the psalmist’s consolation in this passage (see 102:26-27). In the midst of his weakness, this child of God chose to cling to God’s ultimate prominence and infinite power as opposed to his own limitations. The Psalmist understood that contemplating our God’s immutability is a wonderful antidote to our insecurity. His comforting conclusion is found in verse 28: “The children of your servants shall dwell secure; their offspring shall be established before you.”

So what’s the application? In ourselves we are insecure (and have every reason to be). But as blood-bought followers of Jesus our security and identity are found not in ourselves but in the unchanging immensity and integrity of God. And this becomes a reality when we embrace that “who we are” is found only in the person of God’s son, Jesus. And, even more amazing, His identity has been placed into us. This is Paul’s thought when he says in Colossians 2:6-7, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” Walking in Him means that, no matter our situation, we are persevering in faith-filled hopefulness and trusting He is at work in us. In other words, Jesus, and nothing else, is our identity and security! We know this because we, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). This means that part of His good news is that, no matter how imperceptible it may be, He is building us up!

As we battle our insecurity with the immutability of God that is experienced through our union with Christ, let’s ponder James 1:17-18: Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” Consider what makes you feel whole, fulfilled, or complete. Is there something outside of Jesus that is your identity or security? Ask God to reveal and imprint the sufficiency of Christ in every aspect of your life and pray that you never look to anything or anyone else to make you feel complete.

Insecure? Let’s find our identity in “Jesus Christ [who] is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). The God who promises that He never changes His mind or breaks His promises (Numbers 23:19). He is the One that has “granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). Our immutable Lord is worthy of our faith – He can be trusted in our weakness. For through Him we have the confidence that only comes because we have “Christ in [us], the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah…“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah” (Psalm 46:1-4; 10-11).

Psalm 46:10 – “Be still and know that I am God” – has comforted many a Christ-follower. And rightly so – it stands as a reminder that in the stiff winds of strife, suffering, and sorrow there is a sovereign God who still rules and reigns. And One who cares for and guides His chosen for His glory and their eternal good. Because of the power inherent in this command, we often forget the quote above is but the first half of this verse. It is also sometimes lost on us what the overarching theme and message of this song is. So what is the context here? What does this sentence infer? And, maybe most importantly, what does the phrase “Be still,” which has been the subject of much debate, actually mean? All of this, I believe, has a very practical application for us and does a great deal to help us to more fully know the God who is “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

Working from the back of Psalm 46 to the front, let’s take the last question first. According to Hebrew scholars (trust me, I’m not one of them) the term translated “Be still” (raphah) is interpreted in various ways. Literally, it could be translated “to be weak, to let go, or to release.” It also suggests to cease, desist, or surrender (hence the HCSB translates this verse as “Stop [your fighting]”). In order that you are encouraged to read on, that you know this isn’t just some academic discourse, this makes a huge difference.

This verse is telling us the posture necessary to know God (which should be our greatest goal) is one of weakness, dependence, and capitulation. Don’t miss the point: this verse is not just saying that we are to find a solitary place, get quiet, and ponder God. It is telling us that humbling ourselves before Him is the means to knowing Him, being gripped by His greatness, and finding strength based on His activity, comfort, and providence in our trials. This humility represents a spiritual disposition that ought to characterize those to whom God’s unfailing promises have been given. For a New Testament point of reference, read Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount description of those who are the blessed dwellers in His kingdom (Matthew 5:3-6).

It is this kind of broken posture that leads us to better understand the nature of a God we can know, one who is described in the last half of verse 10 as “[the] God [who] will be exalted among the nations, [who] will be exalted in the earth!” This dictate – “be still” – forces us to think on two critical points: we are finite, and God is infinite. In other words, He is God and we aren’t! That being the case, we need to assume an attitude of weakness, dependence, and surrender so that we can “come, behold the works of Jehovah” (v. 8). Know that He is God, the psalmist cries! Know this practically, spiritually, and emotionally; not just intellectually. Our God is the ruler of the kingdoms of this earth and the all-powerful Creator of the universe. He has not lost control.

This leads us to the greater context of “Be still and know that I am God.” We see the works and witness of this great God is the 9 verses that precede our focal text. God has revealed the manifestations of His character, His acts of might and mercy, so that we might know Him and that we may enjoy a quiet confidence in Him who gave us his Son. Spiritual serenity, the psalmist indicates, ought to be cultivated in midst of the difficulties we face in this life. This inner calm that the writer professes does not come from a lack of troubles; instead it is nurtured in steady, deep reflection on the ways God has intervened in history on behalf of his people (see Romans 15:4). It is God’s work in the past that provides assurance in our present and our future. So, when our world seemingly crumbles around us, the call from Scripture is to not flinch, but to have faith in this great God of ours. Stand still, He decrees. Not because of a self-made confidence, not because we can cope or deal with life’s uncertainties, not because we have a plan. Instead, be strong and calm because of what we know about our God.

Now we see a certain progression as we work from the back to the front of this comforting passage. Brokenness leads to a greater knowledge of our incomprehensibly mighty God. Our faith in God is confirmed (and affirmed) as we recall His history of great works on behalf of His chosen children, including us. This means, no matter our situation or circumstances, as one of His beloved, we can be at rest and experience the tranquility that comes only from knowing that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Therefore, we will not fear even though the world around us convulses and we struggle under the heavy weight of our troubles. For “[He is] God. [He] will be exalted among the nations, [He] will be exalted in the earth!” And we can never be separated from His loving care. So in humility and faith-filled dependence, let’s “be still, and know that He is [our] God…The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

Oral Roberts’ Son Arrested for Allegedly Speeding, Driving Drunk in Okla., Christian News

No one is a smaller fan of Richard Roberts and his ministry than I am. I consider his theology and ministry to be terribly misguided and a blemish on all that the true Gospel and Scripture stand for. But this is no time to cast stones. I’m praying for him, his family, and all those who follow him. I pray for all of those whose faith might falter due to this news. For, no matter the sin or the sinner in question, I couldn’t be more thankful that our Heavenly Father is a God of mercy, grace, forgiveness, and multiple second chances. And I write knowing this redemptive truth applies more to me than anyone else I know.

Welcome to 2012! 

Our God is an amazing God! What started out a couple of years ago as “journaling posted on the internet,” the Captivated by Christ Blog has been blessed beyond measure. Incredibly, the Lord has directed readers from 6 continents and over 20 countries to this site during 2011. We will only fully know how God has moved in this ministry when we reach Heaven and enter into His presence.

Thanks to all who have shared with me in this simple ministry, one which seeks to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  I pray that He uses this small gift to spread His kingdom and exalt Himself. May the beauty of Jesus and His Gospel be trumpeted to all peoples. And, if He is willing, may He use this work to do so in an even greater way in the new year.

Happy New Year and  grace to you!

The information below is furnished by the fine folks at WordPress – here are the numbers:

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.


Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 12,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

“When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands? For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear” (Ecclesiastes 5:4-7).

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions because I don’t like failure. I’ve tried – because it seemed like a good idea – but usually what I resolved to do had little spiritual value – exercise more, eat less, stop and smell the roses…that kind of thing. And, inevitably, my vows had little sticking power. By February it was back to the same old Linden. But maybe my focus was wrong. And maybe my motives were as well.

Jonathan Edwards is famous for his 70 resolutions (which he read weekly). As my gift to you for 2012, I want to share some of them. Maybe you’ll find them as inspirational as I did. Maybe we all can find a way to integrate these kind of resolutions into the way we live; a way that should always seek to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. The older English language may be a bit challenging (it is for me), but I believe there is great value in considering these vows. Here is my sampling for you:

The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards (1722-1723)

Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.

Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.

1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriad’s of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever.

5. Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.

6. Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.

7. Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.

9. Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.

10. Resolved, when I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell.

13. Resolved, to be endeavoring to find out fit objects of charity and liberality.

14. Resolved, never to do anything out of revenge.

17. Resolved, that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.

18. Resolved, to live so at all times, as I think is best in my devout frames, and when I have clearest notions of things of the gospel, and another world.

20. Resolved, to maintain the strictest temperance in eating and drinking.

25. Resolved, to examine carefully, and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and to direct all my forces against it.

26. Resolved, to cast away such things, as I find do abate my assurance.

28. Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.

32. Resolved, to be strictly and firmly faithful to my trust, that that in Prov. 20:6, “A faithful man who can find?” may not be partly fulfilled in me.

33. Resolved, always to do what I can towards making, maintaining, establishing and preserving peace, when it can be without over-balancing detriment in other respects. Dec.26, 1722.

34. Resolved, in narration’s never to speak anything but the pure and simple [truth].

37. Resolved, to inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent, what sin I have committed, and wherein I have denied myself: also at the end of every week, month and year. Dec.22 and 26, 1722.

41. Resolved, to ask myself at the end of every day, week, month and year, wherein I could possibly in any respect have done better. Jan. 11, 1723.

42. Resolved, frequently to renew the dedication of myself to God, which was made at my baptism; which I solemnly renewed, when I was received into the communion of the church; and which I have solemnly re-made this twelfth day of January, 1722-23.

43. Resolved, never henceforward, till I die, to act as if I were any way my own, but entirely and altogether God’s, agreeable to what is to be found in Saturday, January 12. Jan.12, 1723.

48. Resolved, constantly, with the utmost niceness and diligence, and the strictest scrutiny, to be looking into the state of my soul, that I may know whether I have truly an interest in Christ or no; that when I come to die, I may not have any negligence respecting this to repent of. May 26, 1723.

52. I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, that I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age. July 8, 1723.

53. Resolved, to improve every opportunity, when I am in the best and happiest frame of mind, to cast and venture my soul on the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and confide in him, and consecrate myself wholly to him; that from this I may have assurance of my safety, knowing that I confide in my Redeemer. July 8, 1723.

60. Resolved, whenever my feelings begin to appear in the least out of order, when I am conscious of the least uneasiness within, or the least irregularity without, I will then subject myself to the strictest examination. July 4, and 13, 1723.

62. Resolved, never to do anything but duty; and then according to Eph. 6:6-8, do it willingly and cheerfully as unto the Lord, and not to man; “knowing that whatever good thing any man doth, the same shall he receive of the Lord.” June 25 and July 13, 1723.

67. Resolved, after afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them, what good I have got by them, and what I might have got by them.

68. Resolved, to confess frankly to myself all that which I find in myself, either infirmity or sin; and, if it be what concerns religion, also to confess the whole case to God, and implore needed help. July 23, and August 10, 1723.

70. Let there be something of benevolence, in all that I speak.

Aug. 17, 1723

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