Archive for the 'Biblical Thinking' Category

Sometimes life is hard…

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

…and we may never know why, but God has a great plan.

How Great is Our God

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

This is an awesome video that displays the greatness of our Creator God.  After watching this video I felt both insignificant and special. 


(The video is on the long side and there are a couple of advertisements throughout, but it is worth the time.)

As long as You are glorified

Friday, September 16th, 2011

As Long As You Are Glorified By Mark Altrogge

Shall I take from Your hand Your blessings
Yet not welcome any pain
Shall I thank You for days of sunshine
Yet grumble in days of rain
Shall I love You in times of plenty
Then leave You in days of drought
Shall I trust when I reap a harvest
But when winter winds blow, then doubt

Oh let Your will be done in me
In Your love I will abide
Oh I long for nothing else as long
As You are glorified

Are You good only when I prosper
And true only when I’m filled
Are You King only when I’m carefree
And God only when I’m well
You are good when I’m poor and needy
You are true when I’m parched and dry
You still reign in the deepest valley
You’re still God in the darkest night

You can listen to this beautiful song here.

You can purchase the CD here.

Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe.

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

Good Friday is the day that Christians remember Christ’s death on the cross on their behalf and celebrate the gift of eternal life that His death has provided for those who believe.

Songs that celebrate the sacrifice that Jesus made for mankind:

When I Survey The Wondrous Cross – Fernando Ortega

The Wonderful Cross – Matt Redman and Chris Tomlin

How Deep The Father’s Love For Us – Phillips, Craig, and Dean

You shall have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:3)

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Lindsay from Passionate Homemaking has a GREAT 2 part blog post on the dangers of making an idol out of healthy eating and natural living.  She tells of her own emotional journey to realizing the consequences of this sin and the changes she has made to allow for more joy and freedom in her life.

Read Part One here.

Read Part Two here.

“The Heart of Frugality”

Friday, November 19th, 2010

A friend recently passed on this article to me about frugality.  It is an AWESOME article that was very encouraging to me!  In it, Tim Challies discusses the true meaning of being frugal and compares it with the way the world, specifically Christian circles, have warped it.  I must admit, I like chasing a good deal, but I never really feel like I am pro at regularly getting a bargain.  Occasionally I can get jeans for $2 (ok, that happened once!) but most often I spend $50 for a pair.  Or sometimes I can get more cleaning supplies than I know what to do with, for $15, but that is a rarity.  I often times find myself looking at my grocery receipt wondering, “How come I can’t seem to get a weeks worth of food for a mere $30 like some of the bloggers I follow?”  I always think, “Maybe if I didn’t work, I would have more time to scour the circulars or search the sale bins or clip stacks of coupons.”  Peter graciously reminds me time and time again, “Some people God blesses with time and some people God blesses with money.”  We are so very thankful that God has provided for our every need and has allowed us to have great careers that enable us to live in a metropolitan area and own a house and still have money left over to use in service for His people.  But I must admit, the thought that I am not a “good” Christian has crossed my mind time and time again because I haven’t been able to pinch as many pennies as my Christian friends.  I was thankful for Tim’s article that reminded me of God’s provision and His care for His people.  Our God is an awesome God who is generous in what He gives.

The Heart of Frugality By Tim Challies

Over the weekend I came across some video of America’s self-proclaimed cheapest family. They got me thinking about frugality, a topic that is all the rage in Christian circles today (or at least in some Christian circles). I have discussed this issue once or twice in the past but want to return to it today. Why? Because a lot of people put a lot of effort into frugality and I think many of them do so without thinking deeply whether what they are doing is right or wrong. They are saving money and this must be good, right? I’m not entirely convinced. So hear me out.

One reality about frugality is that it is contagious. I think it can be especially difficult issue for women. When one or two women in a church emphasize frugality and talk of all the amazing deals they’ve been able to find—how they managed to find a lifetime’s supply of Baby Aspirin for $4 or how they’ve gotten 180 rolls of toilet paper for the cost of 18 rolls—other women may feel like they are being spendthrifts for paying full price. It is difficult to say, or even to believe, that there may be no inherent virtue in frugality. And yet I want to suggest that very thing: there may be no inherent value in it.


What Is Frugality?

The Bible is clear that money issues are very closely connected to heart issues. Money has the ability to expose all kinds of idols of the heart. This is true whether a person is a miser or a spendthrift. Money can be an idol in want and in plenty; frugality can be done wrong and done right. When we discuss frugality, we must realize that we are talking about the heart more than the home.

The actual definition of frugality can differ from person-to-person. Some see it as meaning little more than economical so that a frugal person is a person who buys things at lower prices than another person might. I think this is what most people mean by the term and how most people live out their attempts at frugality. They feel they are being frugal when they buy things using coupons rather than paying full price and when they purchase clothes or other necessities at thrift stores instead of buying them at regular stores.

Of course there is certainly nothing wrong with saving money on life’s necessities and if such a thing is possible, it is usually wise. The problem with this kind of frugality, though, is that a person can still have an irrational or unbiblical love of “stuff” while trying to be frugal. Saving money can be a good thing, but it doesn’t matter much if we are saving money in one area so we can just spend it in another. By saving money on groceries a person may then just use his savings to buy more of other things—more than is unnecessary. Is it really frugal to save fifteen cents on a box of macaroni but to have a house stuffed to the rafters with things purchased at the local Goodwill?

I think the greater ideal with frugality, and something a lot of people miss, is the ideal of not just paying less, but buying less and thus avoiding waste and avoiding becoming captive to stuff. True frugality is not spending less but having less. A truly frugal person doesn’t buy just as much stuff at lower prices, but learns to live with less of it. If you find that your efforts in frugality help you spend less but leave you with a house that is equally filled with stuff, you are not being frugal. A kind of frugality that really hits the mark is this one: “It’s about a simpler, less complicated lifestyle, not about being cheap. While those who put a frugal lifestyle into practice do tend to be thrifty, there is a method to their madness” (source). It goes on to say “People who practice frugal living tend to look for ways to save time as well as money, and generally prefer a slower, more laid back pace instead of the hectic ‘rat race’ life so many others lead.” Now we’re talking.

So in this article when I discuss frugality, I am talking about it as I believe many live it—involving a great emphasis on saving money, not necessarily on living with less stuff. It’s about the deals and bargains, about the thrill of saving a few pennies here and a few dollars there. It is something that can go from a minor distraction to a passion to a lifestyle and almost to a way people define themselves.
The Heart of Frugality

The first thing I want to point to is the heart. There are few more accurate barometers for our hearts than money. Whether you are spending too much or pinching every penny so hard that it bleeds, your actions and attitudes reflect something in your heart. If you spend more than you have, perhaps you are reflecting greed or a bravado that rejects the fact that God expects us to be in control of our spending. If you pinch every penny, perhaps it shows that you live in fear or that you somehow think God will provide only through what may be excessive control.

The fact is, there is no guarantee that a frugal person is less addicted to money and less under the control of money than a person who spends all he has (and more). And this is really the main thing I want you to take away from this article. Frugal people can be every bit as worldly, as obsessed with money, as those who spend like it’s going out of style. Frugality is not inherently good. It is the kind of thing that can masquerade as good even while it is an idol.

Always we need to remember that it is God who provides for us and that he has promised us our daily bread. He will provide what we need and our confidence must be in him, not in our own efforts. This is true of the great issues like salvation and sanctification, but also of the smaller issues like finances. So always look to the heart! If you find that your frugality has extended too far—that you do not buy what you need even if you have the money, or if you find that you are reluctant or stingy in giving money to the church or to others in need, you can be certain that your frugality has taken you captive.

We need to live in that spot somewhere between confidence in God’s provision and the need for financial self-control. We do not want to presume upon his provision and neither do we want to act as if we do not believe it is true. All the while we want to make sure that we do not make an idol out of stuff and that we do not make an idol out of frugality. We can take as much pride in what we save as what we spend. Both reflect a sinful heart.

A second issue relates to the necessity of frugality. Many people who emphasize frugality could doubtless get along just fine without being frugal. For such people the amount of time it takes to scour the racks of thrift stores, to clip coupons, to read the frugal blogs and to search for deals online could be better spent in other more significant pursuits. The fact is that frugality is a significant investment in time and effort. Many of the most frugal people make a hobby (or more!) out of it.

Here’s the thing. A man who brings in millions of dollars a year probably doesn’t need to have his wife work at the local donut store to bring in $300 a month; her time is doubtless better spent in some other pursuit. The same is true for those who don’t absolutely need to be frugal. If God has given great blessing, the time it takes to be very frugal can be spent doing something else. Instead of spending days hunting for the perfect and perfectly cheap cake pan so you can bake a cake and have people over to share the gospel with them, it might be best to just buy it for full price and have the people over a couple of weeks earlier. The finances of some families dictate that great time and care must be given to each dollar, but I am concerned that those with lots of money make a mockery of God’s abundant provision when they pinch every penny. God doesn’t give us money so it can accumulate in bank accounts. He gives it to us so we can give it away and so we can use it to free ourselves up for other, better things.

God has graciously released some people from imminent concerns over finances. It makes little sense, then, for these people to act as if finances are still an pressing concern and that they must be frugal with each and every dollar. I have known people who, though so rich they could not possibly come to the end of their finances, worry about the expenditure of a single dollar on something that is good and necessary. Surely there is no good reason for a person with such money to be too concerned about one dollar. Is this substantially different from a person with no money using credit to purchase something frivolous and something that will sink him further into debt?

Frugality can have its place and for some people is good and necessary. But doing it well takes time and effort; it may be that for some people that time and effort is best used in other pursuits. Again, somewhere between financial self-control and trust in God’s sovereignty is a sweet spot where we spend not too much and not too little, always trusting in the Lord to care for us.

One more quick note. As I think about frugality I am always drawn to the biblical concept of gleaning. In the Old Testament God commanded that people who pick crops leave gleanings behind. Rather than picking the fields clean they were to leave portions that had fallen so the impoverished could follow behind and gather them. Of course the wealthy landowners would have wanted to pick these up and increase their profits, but God used gleaning as a way to provide for the poor. This makes me think of wealthy people who often pick through thrift stores or who line up first for the big sales and I wonder if the gleaning principles has something to say to us here. If we can easily afford $10 for a t-shirt, should we really take the last marked-down one on the rack when for another person this might make the difference between being able to afford it and not being able to? I realize I am on slightly shaky ground with this one, but it probably bears thinking about. Somehow all of this frugality can become a form of greed if we are not careful.

I guess it comes down to this: money can be as big an idol when you seek not to spend it as it can when you do nothing but spend it. Frugality should not be an end in itself but must be a means to a greater end of bringing glory to God and of serving others. Ever and always it is a matter of the heart.

a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench…

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

In his post entitled “My Love For Jesus Stinks”, Stephen Altrogge gives hope for Christians who are experiencing a “dry spell” in their spiritual life.  I am so thankful I stumbled upon this blog post… this encouragement came at the perfect time.

It’s time for a little heart-to-heart, Stephen to [insert your name, address, and credit card #] confession: my love for Jesus stinks. Honestly, that’s how it feels right now. For the past month-and-a-half my devotional times have stunk. I sit down to read my Bible, and within minutes I’m distracted. I’m thinking about March Madness (my bracket is a mess), about this blog, about projects at work, and about my little girl Charis, who I can hear stirring in her crib. I look up to the ceiling and I can actually see my prayers bouncing back at me. At least that’s what it feels like. It’s really frustrating. Can you relate to me?

But honestly, I’m not discouraged. Why? Because I see desire in my heart. I really do want to love Jesus. I really do want to treasure his word, and delight in prayer, and love the Lord with all my heart. And that brings me great comfort. Sure my love for Jesus stinks right now, but there’s a spark of love, and that’s not from me. Sparks come from God.

Jesus doesn’t blow out sparks of love. That’s sweet news to this smoldering heart. Matthew 12:20 says:

a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench…

Right now it feels like my love for Jesus is nothing more than a smoldering wick. Jesus is the one who breathes new flame into a smoldering wick. He was the one who lit the flame of love in my heart, and he’s the one who will keep it alive. Sweet news for faint-hearted folks like me.

So here’s my prayer: Jesus set my heart aflame with love for You! I want to love you with all my heart, but right now I’m cold. Change me, cleanse me, and renew me. Renew again the joy of my salvation. Thank you that you promise to do this.

“The Unexpected Justice of God”

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

This post (at The Blazing Center) by Stephen Altrogge is a beautiful reminder of the what the Gospel means for those who accept God’s gift.

Putting my daughter to bed can be a trying experience.  Charis is three years old, and like most young children, going to bed is on her “least favorite things” list. As bedtime approaches she starts pulling all sorts of tricks and stall tactics out of the bag in an attempt to delay the inevitable. She wants me to put socks on her, take the socks off, adjust the socks so that the seam on the toe is perfectly flat, tell her a second story, pray for her a third time, and on and on.

It doesn’t take long before I can feel impatience beginning to simmer and then boil within me. I want some peace, and I want some quiet, and I want to put Charis to bed without a thirty minute epic battle.

Many times I sin in impatience against my little three year old girl.

Because God is kind, he won’t let me get away with my impatience, and it’s not long before I feel his gentle hand pressing against my conscience and leading me to repentance.

When I repent I’m often aware of God’s mercy. I know that God is merciful, and that mercy ripples out from the gospel to sinners like me, but I don’t usually connect repentance with the justice of God. 1 John 1:9 makes that connection:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

This seems backward or something, doesn’t it? God’s justice is displayed in my forgiveness. His perfect, holy, righteous, never flinching, never failing justice is put on display when he forgives my sin. How is that possible?

It’s possible because justice was already executed upon Jesus Christ. Jesus really has received the justice that I should have received. At the cross, God treated Jesus like the impatient father. My sentence has already been fulfilled, and God’s justice has been completely satisfied.

If God didn’t forgive my sins, that would be unjust. It would be double jeopardy, making me atone for a crime that has already been resolved. The just, right, good, wonderful thing for God to do is forgive my sins.

Sometimes the gospel just takes your breath away, doesn’t it?

“Not by Might nor by Power”

Friday, August 13th, 2010

Daily devotions by Oswald Chambers. This particular devotion is from December 3rd in My Utmost for His Highest.

My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power . . .1 Corinthians 2:4

If in preaching the gospel you substitute your knowledge of the way of salvation for confidence in the power of the gospel, you hinder people from getting to reality. Take care to see while you proclaim your knowledge of the way of salvation, that you yourself are rooted and grounded by faith in God. Never rely on the clearness of your presentation, but as you give your explanation make sure that you are relying on the Holy Spirit. Rely on the certainty of God’s redemptive power, and He will create His own life in people.

Once you are rooted in reality, nothing can shake you. If your faith is in experiences, anything that happens is likely to upset that faith. But nothing can ever change God or the reality of redemption. Base your faith on that, and you are as eternally secure as God Himself. Once you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you will never be moved again. That is the meaning of sanctification. God disapproves of our human efforts to cling to the concept that sanctification is merely an experience, while forgetting that even our sanctification must also be sanctified (see John 17:19 ). I must deliberately give my sanctified life to God for His service, so that He can use me as His hands and His feet.

Confronting Sin

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

John Piper answers a question about when to confront someone else’s sin.  The original post can be found at Desiring God.

When you see sin or damaging behavior in someone else’s life, how do you know when to keep quiet and when to speak with them?

The first principle that Paul lays down for us is, “Who are we to judge those who are outside? It is those in the church that we are to judge.” So the first answer is, I’m watching sinful destructive behavior all day in the world. Television, movies, YouTube, on the street, in advertising, people are destroying themselves all day long—neighbors and people all around us.

You don’t go to everybody. You are not called to spend 18 hours a day walking up to people saying, “Don’t smoke!” or, “Don’t drink!” or, “Don’t swear!” or, “Don’t hit your wife!” or, “Don’t fail to discipline your children!”

That’s not our job. We preach the gospel to the world, and as occasion arises we might link some destructive behavior to the gospel as a way out.

In the church the question becomes more urgent. In the church, the answer to the question is going to hang on criteria like, how serious is the sin? If it is really serious, immediately urgent, and you know that the person is a part of the church—even if you don’t know them personally—you might go and do Galatians 6:2. “If you find a brother taken in a fault, restore such a one in a spirit of meekness lest you too be tempted.”

So the mindset is, I’ve got a log hanging out of my eye. Now compared to a log, this person’s behavior is a speck. Or even if it is a log, I’ve got my own log. I can’t go to him with a log hanging out of my eye because the log will hit him on the head and do more damage than if I took my log out first.

So my first job is to take out my own log. Then I see clearly, Jesus says, to take the speck out of my brother’s eye. So I’ve become a successful eye surgeon of the sin speck in my brother’s eye by getting the log out of my own eye.

So the criteria is, how serious is the sin, and am I spiritually equipped. And you go in there and try to speak in a way that wouldn’t feel condemning—at least at first. You may have to get tough later, but at first you want to win them. You want to create a bubble of grace in which they feel some hope that even though this is sin, they are loved and accepted.

Another criterion would be, how close is your relationship? Are there other people in this person’s life? If I saw somebody in your small group doing something, and you are the leader of that little group, I might ask you, “Are you concerned about this kind of thing? You might watch out for it in your group.” Because I would rather have someone they know pursue them this way than somebody that has less of a relationship with them.

My final answer would be, have spiritual discernment and spiritual wisdom for the moment about whether this is an auspicious helpful time to talk, or whether another angle would be better.