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Sunday, August 12, 2012


image courtesy of google images
All I have to do is open my eyes.  Whether I am watching my television, browsing Facebook, or stepping out my front door, it beckons to me…awakening a desire that ironically has less to do with what is outside of me than what is within me.  A healthy and attractive body, a great personality, a meaningful and interesting occupation, a secure income, a retirement plan, a loving and appealing spouse, 2.5 healthy and obedient kids, cool and engaging friends, a comfortable home filled with beautiful and innovative things, experiences that appeal to our physical senses, the praise of others…it’s the American Dream.  Add going to a “successful” (read: large, hip, program-rich, entertaining church) and participating in a satisfying ministry and the Christian American Dream is not much different.

Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with any of these things.  To the contrary, all of these things at their best are simply good gifts given by a gracious Heavenly Father. When received with the grateful, God-focused heart, they are blessings.  When sought after with a ravenous, lustful, insatiable, idolatrous, apathetic heart, they breed bondage and discontentment.

As fallen humans, we turn at least some of these things into distractions from our true purpose as children of God, either because: 1) we are so satiated by these things that we no longer feel our need for God and we no longer live for what is beyond this life--the hope of glory—a life where we will joyfully experience the presence of God with no limitations; or 2) we lust after these things more than we hunger after God and His kingdom; or 3) we wallow in our self-pity when we do not have these things; or 4) we are driven by and for these things and so we order our lives based on the pursuit of these things.  Most of us have struggled in all of these ways.

I recently had a conversation with a good friend about how our lives did not turn out as we had expected or planned.  We were talking about how much of our expectations of life had more to do with our own comfort than it did with the fact that God is preparing us for something that is so much more than this life.

Today I listened to this sermon from John Piper:

This section really spoke to me:

O how easy it is to slip into a morose pity-party that our little heaven on earth is becoming a hell! We were never promised that earth would be our heaven before Christ returns. And you are preparing for yourself a great disappointment if you try to make it so.

“We rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2). “In this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” — joyful patience (Romans 8:24–25). “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Peter 1:8).

I am reminded that this life is not all that there is.  As I once heard a friend describe it, we are in the middle! This life is not an end, but rather this life is a means to an end.  It is leading us somewhere.  For those who belong to Christ, all the things of this life—the good, the bad, the easy, the difficult—all of it is being used to conform our character to Christ’s character and to transform us from one degree of glory to the next. 

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Romans 8:28-30 ESV)

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV)

Believing that there is a God who is greater than anything we can imagine and believing our life has a bigger purpose than what we see around us on a daily basis, leads us to the following:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  (Matthew 6:19-21 ESV)

The things we treasure above God are often so subtley interwoven into our lives and motives that we do not even conciously recognize them.  How can we know where our treasure is? 

            What occupies our thoughts and why?

            What occupies our time and why?

            Where does our money go and why?            

            Where does our energy go and why?

            What makes us happy and why?

            What makes us depressed and why?

            What makes us feel desperate and why?

            What could we not live without and why?

            What makes us feel insecure or confident and why?

            How do we define success?

Oh Lord, teach us to sing from the depths of hearts along with the Psalmist and to live out with our thoughts, plans, actions, and affections the following:

            How lovely is your dwelling place,
                        O LORD of hosts!
            My soul longs, yes, faints
                        for the courts of the LORD;
            my heart and flesh sing for joy
                        to the living God.

            Even the sparrow finds a home,
                        and the swallow a nest for herself,
                        where she may lay her young,
            at your altars, O LORD of hosts,
                        my King and my God.

            Blessed are those who dwell in your house,
                        ever singing your praise! Selah
            Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
                        in whose heart are the highways to Zion.

            As they go through the Valley of Baca
                        they make it a place of springs;
                        the early rain also covers it with pools.
            They go from strength to strength;
                        each one appears before God in Zion.

            O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;
                        give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah

            Behold our shield, O God;
                        look on the face of your anointed!

            For a day in your courts is better
                        than a thousand elsewhere.

            I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
                       than dwell in the tents of wickedness.

            For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
                        the LORD bestows favor and honor.

            No good thing does he withhold
                        from those who walk uprightly.

            O LORD of hosts,

                        blessed is the one who trusts in you!

(Psalm 84 ESV)



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