Bitter Sweet

by George Herbert

Ah my dear angry Lord,
Since thou dost love, yet strike;
Cast down, yet help afford;
Sure I will do the like.

I will complain, yet praise;
I will bewail, approve:
And all my sour-sweet days
I will lament, and love.

God sometimes does the opposite of what we desire. In response, we must more often act in the reverse of how we feel.

Gratitude Versus the American Dream

How the Gospel Confronts Entitlement

This time of year most Christians in particular and non-Christians in general stop and give thanks. We pause if only for a moment to remember the gifts that we have been given. The act of remembering and the discipline of Gratitude are central to the Christian faith and to the development of any disciple of Christ. The challenge of gratitude is that it requires humility. You can not properly give God Glory or give honor to others if you believe that you achieved what you have on your own.

The irony of the Puritanical work ethic that came from an understanding of Salvation by grace alone that led to good works has changed over the years to a work hard to achieve the American dream. In America you are told if you work hard enough you can have anything you want, you can be anything you want and do anything you want. This is true as long as we maintain a clear understanding that our lives our not our own. Freedoms that are not based in ultimate truth become cruel taskmasters. Our country has evolved from a land founded by flawed but gracious leaders who gave birth to generations who worked hard to get what they wanted who then gave birth to future generations who believe that this country owes us things that only God can give. We have moved from the land of the free and the home of the brave to the land of the safe and the home of the entitled.

We rightly lament the loss of meaning of Thanksgiving with more and more mega sales creeping into to the time mean for family, humility and reflection. We as a nation as a culture must fight the idea that we are owed a good life, which we deserve certain things and learn to be grateful for the good gifts that we are given. Entitlement is the very antithesis of the Gospel. It is what Paul calls in Galatians “another gospel.” Entitlement sees everything in life not from the lens of what God had done for us in Christ but from what we believe we deserve because of our social standing, race or economic status. Paul tells Timothy this very thing contentment is not settling and a lack of faith but is evidence of who has your heart, where your affections lie and whom you ultimately trust.

1 Timothy 6:6-9

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and[a] we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.

Are riches bad no but they are deceitful because if we do not learn the value of contentment, humility and gratitude we will never have enough. Our right desire for good things turns into an over desire for things that are not ultimate things. Gratitude is central to the life of a believer because if you do not see salvation as a gift you will go about in a thousand ways trying to earn the security that your heart desperately needs and longs for. You fight to earn what can only be given. Teaching our kids the spiritual discipline is small things connects everything to the most important thing, the Cross of Christ.

When we say thank you we are in a small way recognizing the soverignty of God in all things. Prolific writer and blogger Ann VosKamp explains how she passess gratitude to her children. cultivating a life of gratitude is a long process. “It’s not instant. You can feel like you’ve arrived, but there will always be a situation that can make you un-arrive very quickly. But even that is good news because it’s the Lord’s way of saying, ‘You know what? You need me.’ And you’re back to being laid low before the cross again.” Voskamp emphasizes that writing down her gifts is not about gratitude. “It’s acknowledging the sovereignty of God in all situations and recognizing that God can redeem any situation. He’s using everything to refine me more and bring me into Christ. And we are made to give God glory. That’s what this list is for me. It’s seeing God’s work in any situation. It leads me back into his presence and the fullness of his joy.”

Strong, J. (2014). Ann Voskamp: Seeing God at Work.

True gratitude leads us to worship. To see all things in light of the work of Christ and position as adopted sons and daughters who receive all that we have including the ability to work hard soli deo gloria – for the glory of God alone.

This week at your dinner table don’t just dig in we fight for gratitude.

Ask your kids these questions.

  1. What is the greatest gift you have been given?
  2. Write down 3 things you are thankful for.
  3. Take turns praying have each person thank God for the five following things that R.T. Kendall outlined in Understanding Theology.  Think of things about God and his Word:
    (1)      Thank him for being as he is.
    (2)      Thank him for Jesus and his blood.
    (3)      Thank him for the Holy Spirit.
    (4)      Thank him for the Bible.
    (5)      Thank him for saving you.

Gratitude will always lead you away from what you have done and if followed logically to the end conclusion and by Divine revelation you will be lead to worship. I pray that you and your family enjoy each other the gifts you have been given and the God who graciously gave them to you.

Soli Deo Gloria

5 Timeless Truths from Washington’s Farewell Speech.

For the Fourth of July, I thought it fitting to revisit the final words of the greatest leader our Republic has ever seen. In the current political climate, we find ourselves in his words are particularly instructive. Here are a few things I found from George Washington’s farewell speech that if we apply we will be better citizens our great union.

1. George Washington was a man of great humility and honor.

In looking forward to the moment which is intended to terminate the career of my public life, my feelings do not permit me to suspend the deep acknowledgment of that debt of gratitude which I owe to my beloved country for the many honors it has conferred upon me; still more for the steadfast confidence with which it has supported me; and for the opportunities I have thence enjoyed of manifesting my inviolable attachment, by services faithful and persevering, though in usefulness unequal to my zeal. If benefits have resulted to our country from these services, let it always be remembered to your praise, and as an instructive example in our annals, that under circumstances in which the passions, agitated in every direction, were liable to mislead, amidst appearances sometimes dubious, vicissitudes of fortune often discouraging, in situations in which not unfrequently want of success has countenanced the spirit of criticism, the constancy of your support was the essential prop of the efforts, and a guarantee of the plans by which they were effected. Profoundly penetrated with this idea, I shall carry it with me to my grave, as a strong incitement to unceasing vows that heaven may continue to you the choicest tokens of its beneficence; that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free Constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained; that its administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and virtue; that, in fine, the happiness of the people of these States, under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing as will acquire to them the glory of recommending it to the applause, the affection, and adoption of every nation which is yet a stranger to it…..

2. Washington saw that public union was far more important that party affiliation. We must be more concerned with not alienating any portion of our society. It’s ok to dislike Trump or Clinton but when you think of the other as your enemy our nation is weakened.

The Hidden Blessings of Smaller and Having Less.

I love the United States, but one of the things I have come to notice through spending time in other countries is we are obsessed with extra-large everything. Nothing is exempt from our obsession, from sodas to cars to the homes we live in, we are hypnotized by truth we hear seemly all around us Bigger is always better. But is it really?

How the gospel keeps wonder alive.

In all my years of kids ministry, I have always been so amazed at the wonder kids have. I have been equally amazed at how uncomfortable I can be and many adults can be with the idea of wonder itself. Here is the problem with wonder. You can’t explain it. You can’t reason with it. It is what it is.

I try my best to keep wonder alive in my kids. My three year old loves the color pink. I ask her every time she says she loves pink and it’s her favorite color “Baby, who made the color pink?” She says “Daddy, God did” I say “That’s right He did because He loves you so much”

I want my kids to grow up with no box to put Jesus in. We start off as kids thinking Jesus can do anything because he can. We then spend our entire life trying to fit Jesus into our carry-on luggage. Something we successfully do with every pat answer we are given and we give others. I love what C.S. Lewis says in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe “He is not a safe lion but he’s good” I can think of no quote that sums up how we must always view Christ to maintain that heart of wonder. A few years ago I begin a journey that I believe has lead to the greatest tool in keeping wonder alive.  In rediscovering the gospel much of my striving turned to grace-filled wonder. I moved from trying to earn my father’s love to grace-filled gratitude for his love he demonstrated to me in Christ Jesus.

How does the gospel keep wonder alive?

1. The gospel address our sinfulness and His sufficiency. It makes no attempt to solve every mystery. The gospel is good news. It’s a declaration, not a doctrinal dissertation. Should we search things out? Yes. Does Theology matter. Absolutely. But if we think have an answer to every question of the human heart will help us we are mistaken. The surest way to kill wonder is to believe you have an answer to every question.

2. Bring everything back to Jesus. – There are few things that I have found that have brought me to a place of wonder more than the meditation on scripture. When you start to think and speak of the greatness of the majesty of who Jesus is and the power of what He has done you are overcome with wonder because the grace of God is truly wondrously amazing.

3. Wonder springs from the a place of passion – I believe law kills wonder because you are so worried about do what is right, about being good enough, about trying harder. When you really believe that there is a God who loved you enough to send his one and only son into the world because He thought you and I were worth saving. It creates wonder. It instills passion.

4. When you start to understand the power of the gospel you see the sovereignty of God at work. The more aware I because of the sovereign work of God in my life and in lives of others I am filled with worship and wonder because I am constantly reminded He is God and I am not.

As we celebrate Easter let your mind drift to the wonder of His grace.