Sunday, February 15, 2009

God's Goodness in the Midst of Tragedy

This is a powerful testimony from Contemporary Christian artist, Steven Curtis Chapman, on how God has brought him and his family through the recent difficult time of the loss of his young daughter and used this time to strengthen their faith and glorify Him. May this testimony encourage you! While we don't always understand why God does certain things (Isaiah 55:8-9), we can be sure that He is there to comfort us and be with us through the terrible times and use them to bring out some good and glorify Him!

In Christ,
Soli Deo Gloria!

Friday, February 13, 2009

“Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”-John Piper

This was a surprising question coming from John the Baptist.

It’s unclear exactly when John first consciously knew that Jesus was the Son of God, whose way he had come to prepare. The Apostle John quotes him as saying, “I myself did not know him” (John 1:31) around the time he baptized Jesus.

This is remarkable because John’s mother, Elizabeth, had known. She knew because John announced it to her in utero by leaping when she heard Mary’s voice. Was she not allowed to tell him? We don’t know. Regardless, John had known even before he knew.

What is clear is that when the revelation came it was an overwhelming experience for John. That day, when Jesus approached him at the Jordan near Bethany, John couldn’t contain the shout: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” With awe and trembling hands he had baptized his Lord. And then saw the Spirit descend and remain on him.

That day had also marked the beginning of the end of his ministry. From that point he had joyfully directed people away from himself to follow Jesus. And they had.

Now he sat in Antipas’ filthy prison. He had expected this. Prophets who rebuke sinful kings usually do not fare well. Unfortunately, he had not been an exception. Herodias wanted him dead. John could see no reason why she would be denied her wish.

What he hadn’t expected was to be tormented by such oppressive doubts and fears. Since the Jordan, John had not doubted that Jesus was the Christ. But stuck alone in this putrid cell he was assaulted by horrible, accusing thoughts.

What if he had been wrong? There had been many false prophets in Israel. What made him so sure that he wasn’t one? What if he had led thousands astray?

There had been false messiahs. What if Jesus was just another? So far Jesus’ ministry wasn’t exactly what John had always imagined the Messiah’s would look like. Could this imprisonment be God’s judgment?

It felt as if God had left him and the devil himself had taken his place. He tried to recall all the prophecies and signs that had seemed so clear to him before. But it was difficult to think straight. Comfort just wouldn’t stick to his soul. Doubts buzzed around his brain like the flies around his face.

The thought of being executed for the sake of righteousness and justice he could bear. But he could not bear the thought that he might have been wrong about Jesus. His one task was to prepare the way of the Lord. If he had gotten that wrong, his ministry, his life, was in vain.

But even with his doubts, there remained in John a deep, unshakable trust in Jesus. Jesus would tell him the truth. He just needed to hear from him again.

So he sent two of his closest disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

The affection that radiated from Jesus was palpable. Jesus was familiar with John’s sorrows and grief and the satanic storms that break on the saints when they are weak and alone. He loved John.

So he invited John’s faithful friends to sit near him as he healed many and delivered many from demonic prisons.

Then he turned them with kind tears glistening in his eyes and said, “Tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” John would recognize Isaiah’s prophecy in those words. This promise would bring the peace John needed to sustain him for the few difficult days he had remaining.

Out of love for his friend, Jesus didn’t include Isaiah’s phrase “proclaim liberty to the captives.” John would understand.

When Jesus had sent John’s disciples away, he said something stunning about John: no one born of women had ever been greater. This, right after John questioned who Jesus was.

In this age, even the greatest, strongest saints experience deep darkness. None of us are spared sorrow or satanic oppression. Most of us suffer agonizing affliction at some point. Most of us will experience seasons when we feel as if we’ve been abandoned. Most of us will die hard deaths.

The Savior does not break the bruised reed. He hears our pleas for help and is patient with our doubts. He does not condemn us. He has paid completely for any sin that is exposed in our pain.

He does not always answer with the speed we desire, nor is his answer always the deliverance we hope for. But he will always send the help that is needed. His grace will always be sufficient for those who trust him. The hope we taste in the promises we trust will often be the sweetest thing we experience in this age. And his reward will be beyond our imagination.

In John’s darkness and pain Jesus sent a promise to sustain John’s faith. He will do the same for you.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Is it biblical to think that physical attraction must be a component of a godly marriage?

By: John Piper

No, I don't think it is biblical to think that way. And I don't think it's rational to think that way either.

It would have two implications:

1. No homely people, no plain people, would get married.
2. Those who get married when they are pretty, and then change when they get old—lose their hair, get wrinkles, and get flabby—would fall out of love and would have no good marriages anymore.

I mean, that's just ridiculous. And yet I suppose the question is asked because there is such an emphasis, I guess, in our culture that if you don't look really attractive you're probably not going to get married. If you don't look really attractive, you're probably going to cause your wife or husband to go looking for somebody else. And there's a lot of books out there, I suppose, that say to a wife that you're going to lose this guy if you don't stay really pretty.

Well, she should try to stay as attractive as she can. But you can't put that on her. You can't make his faithfulness the outcome of her looks. That's just not the way it works.

We are called as men to be faithful the way Jesus is faithful to his bride. And his bride, frankly, stinks! We are not that attractive! He died to make us attractive, according to Ephesians.

I think when Jesus looks at us, if he doesn't look at us in himself, he's not going to be excited about this marriage feast at the end of the age.

The word "biblical" in this question is perhaps intended to take me to a text. And of course the text that comes to mind is, when it speaks to beauty, 1 Peter 3:3: "Don't let your beauty be the outward beauty of the wearing of gold, and the braiding of hair, and the wearing of clothes."

It doesn't say "fine clothes." It's just "clothes," so you know it's not an absolute, as though not wearing clothes is good thing. It means the jewelry, the hair, and the clothes are not the focus. And our culture needs to hear that unbelievably. Marriages need to hear it, men need to hear it. That's not the main focus of beauty. The focus should be the inner spirit.

So women should ask, "What kind of spirit should I cultivate for my man?" as well as, "How should I eat and dress and exercise for my man?" And the man should do the same: "What kind of inner spirit makes her flourish?" because there is a kind of spirit in a man that kills a woman or frightens or bores her.

And a man shouldn't mainly be pumping iron. Because, frankly, most women could care very little about what their husbands look like, unless they're just making fools of themselves. They want a spirit, a strength, a humility, a nobility. They want someone to pick them up and sweep them away.

In their worst moments women don't look at pornography, usually. Mostly they read novels about exciting romances, because their husbands are so boring!

And so it cuts both ways. I think we husbands should labor not so much with the outward man, and the women shouldn't labor so much with the outward woman. Rather, we should all cultivate the kind of beauty that we all deeply long for in relationships.

A marriage is a relationship. When you're old, gray, wrinkled, overweight (or underweight), squinty, bent over, and hobbling along, maybe you'll be holding hands at 85 because of the inner beauty.