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Forsaking All Others

wedding rings vow“I love you.”

Sorry to disillusion any remaining gullible women in the crowd, but those are pretty easy words for a man to say.  They can reflect almost any level of emotional attachment, fondness, and/or commitment.

 ”To cherish and continually bestow upon her your heart’s deepest devotion, forsaking all others, keep yourself only unto her as long as you both shall live.”

Whoa.  That’s a lot harder to say (and mean it).  Deepest devotion.  Forever.  Forsaking all others.  It’s one thing to say you “love” someone, but it’s entirely in a different category to say that you decide to forsake any other desire or fondness or interest and be SOLELY DEVOTED to one.

“I love God.”

Gotcha.

Easy to say that, isn’t it?  I love God, I love chocolate, I love my family, I love my career, I love…

That’s not the kind of love, the kind of desire that God wants.

I think He’s in the “forsaking all others” business.

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26)

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:45-46)

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.  (Philippians 3:8)

Do we find God so captivating, so attractive, that we have forsaken all others, and pledged to focus solely on our devotion to Him and making Him happy?  I far too easily have other desires that compete with God. I am like the Christians that James wrote to:

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.  (James 4:1-4)

James said that “passions are at war within you” — passions and desires for other things, other dreams, other priorities other than God’s glory.

If we are Christ’s bride, then let us be true to Him.  Let us “forsake all others”— any other desire that competes with God or disquiets our soul, and find the joy & peace & fulfillment that only comes from a life wholly lived for Him.

The Cost of Discipleship

Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.  (Luke 14:25-33)

I’ve read this passage dozens of times, and I guess like most my attention focuses on Christ’s first sentence, about hating family.  But what about the context?  Why did Jesus say these words?  “Great crowds” were following Him, wanting to learn of Him, associate with Him, maybe get some free food or a healing thrown in.  In other words, they were all wanting something from Jesus. 

towerBut, as He so often did, Jesus turned their expectations upside down.  He starts giving them word pictures of what they will have to give up, not receive, if they are to follow Him, to be His disciple.  Look at His word picture of building a tower: He is saying that a man who hasn’t already decided at the start that he has enough is a fool to even begin building. He is asking us to count the cost, to sit down and figure out exactly how much it is going to take to be a disciple of Jesus.

How much does it take?  Christ makes the conclusion blunt in verse 33: to renounce ALL that he has.  How much will it cost to build that tower?  Most of what you have?  Quite a bit of your time, money, relationships, and dreams?  A substantial part of your future?

ALL.

ALL.

ALL of it. 

Jesus is telling us, “You CANNOT be my disciple if you give up half of your money.  You CANNOT be my disciple if you are willing to walk away from all but one of your dreams.  You CANNOT be my disciple if you are willing to give 98% of your time to me.”

The cost of building the tower is ALL.  All that you have, you must walk away from.  Nothing can be held back, or the tower won’t be built. Don’t even bother to try unless you are willing to pay the cost with all of your life.

Are you willing?

Daily Prayer

Written prayers have been part of the church since the prayers of Jesus were recorded by the apostles.  Because of the warning of Jesus against rote prayers and the abuses of written prayers in the past, many within the evangelical church have little experience with praying written prayers.  There is a danger with written prayers becoming rote, just like there is a danger of singing a hymn and just voicing the words, but that doesn’t stop us from singing hymns.  I believe there is a place for written prayers in our private worship of God, to help focus and communicate clearly what we truly want to say to God.  There are many prayers of ancient saints that can be meaningfully used, but I think it is also a useful spiritual exercise to write out our own, what we personally want to express to God.  It can be just adoration or just petition or a combination.  Here is a written prayer that had its beginning in my prayer life about ten years ago, and has changed and grown as I have.  It’s in my palm pilot for ready access (no, I haven’t memorized it!).  I share it to help perhaps to spark some others to consider writing out what is within their heart to God for their own prayer time:

 

Father,

Holy and righteous,
Strong and just,
Loving and merciful,
Hear my prayer.

I worship You, Father, & I love You.
Father, I love to draw near to You,
to gaze on Your glory, to commune with You, to receive Your love & joy.

Father, Increase my thirst for You,
Inflame my passion for You .
Let me see Your glory & beauty
And treasure it above all else.
Let the fire of my love for You burn white hot with ever-increasing heat.
Let it burn away all the dross in my heart and stoke the furnace of my strength and devotion.

Father, protect me from treasuring or desiring anything above You.
Father,
incline my heart,
open my heart,
unite my heart,
satisfy my heart.
Fill me with Your love & joy.
I abandon myself to You.

Father, thank You for creating me.
Father, thank You for loving me.
Father, thank You for choosing me
to be a son, a saint, a steward, a sage,  a soldier, a servant & a shepherd for Your kingdom.   Father, thank You for singing over me with delight.  Today, help me live as Your son to bring You glory.

Jesus, I love You.
Jesus, thank You for dying on the cross to save & set me free from sin.
Jesus, thank You for clothing me
with Your perfect righteousness.
Jesus, You are the true vine,
and I am Your  branch– I want to abide in You as You abide in me.
Jesus, You are my shepherd.

Jesus, I want to be your doulos more than anything else in the world. Every gift, every desire, everything I have
I lay at your feet. Jesus, help me to know You clearer,  love You deeper, and follow You closer today .  Jesus, protect me from letting guilt, frustration or discouragement distract me from Your Presence.

Spirit, I love You. Thank You for regenerating, indwelling, teaching, comforting. Thank You I’m not alone.
Spirit, I am Your temple.
Fill me, deeply, fully, powerfully.
I want Your strength and wisdom
and not my own.
I want You like a fountain to be pouring out of my deepest being.

Spirit, search me and know me.
Show me my flesh—the pride,
the lust, the self-centeredness.
Spirit, I repent.  Forgive me of my sins. Help me crucify, reject, abandon, mortify this flesh today.  Cleanse me, renew me.
Bathe me in Your Presence.
Immerse me in You.

Help me to grow strong & solid
Like a mighty tree firmly planted
By Your living waters,
able to stand against the storms,
Giving shelter to those under me.
Help me to be the man You have intended—humble, honest, brave, selfless, holy, strong, trustworthy, passionate, patient, wise, and deep.

Help me to accept everything
that You bring to me today–
gratitude in blessing, longsuffering in trial, as from Your hand.  Let me redeem every moment today as precious. Father, I trust You. You know best what You need for the kingdom & what will mold me into the man You want me to become.

Father, thank You for my body
and the health You have granted me.
Thank You for the knowledge, skills & ministry You have entrusted to me. Help me use them for Your glory.
Thank You for Gail my wife,
Andrew, Lily, and Michael.
Help me to lead them, bless them,
& care for them today.

May I be sober & vigilant against the enemy. May I gird myself with truth, put on the breastplate of
righteousness & the shoes of the gospel. May I always hold firm the shield of faith, knowing I am protected by the helmet of salvation. May I wield the sword of the Spirit as a warrior for You.

May I worship, work, & rest in Your presence every moment this day.
Let the words of my mouth,
the meditations of my heart,
every thought and deed,
Be acceptable and well pleasing in Your sight, O Lord,
my strength and my Redeemer.
With the passion & wisdom of Christ,
I now move into Your world.

Alone with God

Alone with God: A Practical Plan for Dynamic DevotionsIf you only read one book this year, read Alone with God.

Why do I say that?

Well, for starters, if you currently have a consistent daily time with God which is incredibly rich and truly transforming your life, then you can stop reading right here; you don’t need this book.

What, still reading? I thought so. Me too.

There are usually 2 classes of books: books of deep insight and impeccable doctrine which I enjoy reading, but 2 months later if I was asked how the book actually changed my life I would be stumped. The other class of book is one which is a great read and contains a lot of practical tips which I can incorporate into my life, but which merely contains human wisdom (even if it is wrapped in a Bible verse), and never really approaches the level of life transformation that true teaching of the Word should.

Alone with God belongs to that rare 3rd class of book which starts with the word of God accurately taught and then applies it in concrete, practical terms that can truly transform the life.

Chapter by chapter, Jason lays it out: Chapter One: It’s All About a Relationship, introducing how important investing ourselves in time with God is. Chapter Two: The Foundation— salvation, the Holy Spirit, prayer, the Bible, and the goal of a growing relationship with God. Chapter Three: The Need, opens up our need for inner renewal, to seek God, to depend on God, to find satisfaction in God, to realize the work of the Spirit, for immersion in the Word of God, for focused prayer, for spiritual discipline, for quality time, and for planning. In Chapter Four he next confronts the myths, such as “I’m the only one who struggles with daily devotions” and “I don’t have time.”

After laying the groundwork, he then launches into a planned eight step approach for spending either 20 or 30 minutes with God each day, broken down into confession, revelation, adoration, transformation, communication, meditation, and application. There are also chapters on meditation, friendship, and several helpful appendixes.

So, what’s the bottom line? First, this is well written stuff, bringing together a lot of diverse teaching and wisdom about time with God organized in one book, and is great to help prime the pump of our eagerness to spend time with God. Any guy that quotes Bonar, Sanders, Boice, Grudem, Piper, Pierson, Mueller, Edwards, Packer, Horton, Lewis, Murray, Tozer, & MacArthur all in one book gets an A+ from me.

Second, although it is easy (at least for non-regimented types like me) to reject seemingly artificial constructs for spending time with God, there’s wisdom here. Although it seems constricting to say I’m going to spend 5 minutes praying then 10 minutes reading then 5 minutes meditating, what it really boils down to is a personal liturgy, a personal order of worship. If any of us attended a church worship service with no structure whatsoever, not knowing for sure how long or if there was going to be singing or preaching or praying, we would immediately realize we were in trouble. So why is our “daily personal worship service” with God any different?

To change the metaphor, if you went to a gym every day with no plan of what machines you were going to work out on or how long you were going to spend, there’s not much reason to believe that you would end up accomplishing much. Jason says we should not think any differently of spiritual growth, and he’s right. We have to have a structured plan, and we have to execute it. If reading Alone with God stimulates you to come up with a different plan than outlined in the book, that’s great. But plan you must, and act you must, to produce real growth in your life that will transform you and advance the Kingdom. Why not make a daily, structured time with God, either with help from Jason’s book or else on your own, your #1 New Year’s priority?

More information from the publisher is here.

More information from Amazon.com is here.

Also posted on soapadoo

Blogging Up Is Hard to Do

I received an email last year asking me whether it was difficult to keep writing things regularly on my blog.

This was my reply:

I’ve only been doing it a few weeks, but I find it very difficult.
 
But I often find that the Spirit will bring something to my mind,
and I will think that it is of value,
and the next day it has completely evaporated due to my absent-mindedness
and the effects of living in this fragmented culture.
So I am trying to think of blogging as a spiritual discipline,
recording and meditating and fixing in my mind what God is whispering to me,
with the hope that it will help both me and other fellow pilgrims—
that’s really what I was thinking about when I came up with the name
“light along the journey” 

Men’s Liberation

 

 

 

Actress Uma Thurman, speaking on being a single Mom to Parade magazine July 2006:

The stay-at-home mom is over not just because of women’s liberation but because of men’s liberation from wanting to be the breadwinners.

I think the consequences of “men’s liberation” are just as dramatic and pervasive in this culture as of “women’s liberation.” 

We have men by either active decision or by passive indecision setting a lifestyle requiring more income than their paycheck, or even worse being so lazy as not to be able to hold down a honest job and de facto forcing their wives to work.

We have men not taking active leadership in their home, leaving their wives to try and fill the gap. We have men not working and leading in their churches and the schooling of their children.  We have men who want to be liberated from any form of marital, fatherly or other masculine responsibility through figuratively or literally walking away from wives, children, job, or any situation, difficulty, or relationship that doesn’t suit them.

For all these men I have a few choice words:

Husbands, love your wives… as your own bodies, nourishing and cherishing (Ephesians 5)

But if any man does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.  (1 Timothy 5)

Be men of courage, be strong. ( 1 Cor 16:13)

 

 

Not Knowing Where He Was Going

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. (Hebrews 11:8 ESV)

To follow Jesus, we must go with no conditions attached; we must also go not knowing where we are going. 

When he walked down the sawdust tent meeting floor, the young boy named Billy Graham never knew that following Jesus would mean traveling to dozens of countries to proclaim the gospel to millions of people.

Corrie Ten Boom didn’t know as a young girl that following Jesus would mean seeing her sister die in a German concentration camp.

Eric Liddell didn’t know that saying no to competing on Sunday would gain him Olympic gold, and he didn’t know that saying no to a professional athletic career would mean dying in a Japanese prison camp.

It may be fame or obscurity, wealth or poverty, joy or suffering, long life or tragic death.  The issue isn’t “What will my life be like if I follow Jesus?”  The issue will always be “Will I follow, regardless of the path, not knowing where I am going?”

Devoted to God

One of my favorite early Dilbert panels shows some space aliens coming down to Dogbert saying that they want to share their advanced technology to rid the Earth of disease and bring peace to the world.  Dogbert’s reply is “What’s in it for me?”—which prompts the aliens to get back into their spaceship and take off.  Dogbert then muses, “I’ll always wonder if I could have handled that better.”

“What’s in it for me?” is the core question in every human heart.  The whole structure of our soul is built on our total devotion to our own self interest, ever since the Fall.  That is the core question that Adam and Eve asked themselves when they first disobeyed God, and their children have asked it every day since.  Whether it is what food we eat, or how we treat someone else, or our goals or aspirations, our natural devotion is irrevocably “what’s in it for me?”

The problem is, humans weren’t designed to live this way—with our programming fixated on the self.  As Douglas Wilson once said in a post, with every step we take focused on “what’s in it for me”, we become more hollow, empty, and wretched.

What’s the alternative?  It is what we were originally designed for, to be devoted to the glory of God.  Our souls were originially designed to continually focus on “What’s in it for God?”  Devotion to God was meant to guide our every thought, our every word, our every deed.  Through having a life solely and purely focused on God we were meant to live in freedom and love and joy and peace and fulfillment.

Only through Christ, only through the new birth, do we gain a new nature that can shift our paradigm from self to God.  This paradigm shift is one part of being in “the kingdom of God”.  If you are in a kingdom, if you a subject of the king, your life is consummed with whatever the king’s business is, whatever will benefit and glorify the king, and your joy rests in being a good and faithful servant.  When we enter the Kingdom of God through regeneration, then we gain a new heart that is inclined to God, that lives and works and dreams unto God.  Living in this new state of “God-devotion” vs. “self-devotion” frees us from so much that brings confusion and pain into our lives and allows us to fulfill God’s purpose for our lives.

If we have a new heart, we don’t have to be slaves to self-devotion anymore.  We can choose to live from our new heart, to live joyous lives of devotion to our God.