When I Don’t Desire God

June 28, 2008

[Our small group just completed a several month study of John Piper's book, When I Don't Desire God. My study guide to this book is now available online (Word document, pdf). Here are my introductory paragraphs - Coty]

God created mankind for a purpose: To bring glory to His Name (Isaiah 43:7). How do we glorify Him? For over twenty years, John Piper has argued that the Bible teaches that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” That is, we glorify God when we can say with the psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:25-26). We show that God is great and precious and trustworthy and beautiful when we live and act and feel in ways that magnify His value compared to the value of the world around us. This is our calling. This is our reason for existence.

Yet we don’t wake up spontaneously each day feeling that God is great and marvelous. Quite the contrary. Most mornings we wake up feeling groggy and cranky, acting self-centered and self-absorbed. If we depend on our spontaneous feelings, most of us will spontaneously act like this world is all that is important, that our time and our comfort and our success are the overarching values in life.

So how do naturally self-centered persons live a life of joy in God? Read more

Sins We Blame on Others

June 26, 2008

My friend Ben Reaoch, a pastor in Pittsburgh who frequently attends our church planter network meetings, has a challenging and convicting post on the Desiring God blog, listing 12 sins that we regularly blame on others. Here are the first two; read all twelve, and ask God to search your heart:

1) Anger

I wouldn’t lose my temper if my co-workers were easier to get along with, or if my kids behaved better, or if my spouse were more considerate.

2) Impatience

I would be a very patient person if it weren’t for traffic jams and long lines in the grocery store. If I didn’t have so many things to do, and if the people around me weren’t so slow, I would never become impatient!

Elijah and the Priests of Baal

June 19, 2008

As part of my devotions this morning from the Bible Unity Reading Plan, I read the story of Elijah and the priests of Baal from 1 Kings 18. The king of Israel is apostate, worshiping false gods, the Baals and the Asherim. The people – though they were chosen as special to the Lord a thousand years previously, and though their very name, Israel, was given by God (see verse 31) – are “limping between two opinions” (verse 21); not really knowing who is mighty, they are trying to cover all bases by worshiping both Yahweh, the Lord God of Israel, and the local Canaanite deities.

So Elijah tells them this makes no sense. Either Yahweh is God or He is not. If He is God, follow Him; if Baal is god, follow him (verse 21). Yahweh’s claims are exclusive: “Know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that Yahweh is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other” (Deuteronomy 4:39). He won’t share the pantheon with other supposed gods.

Elijah therefore sets up a contest on Mt Carmel between Yahweh and Baal through their representatives: Himself on the one hand and the 450 priests of Baal on the other. Both build altars, kill bulls, and prepare the bulls to be burned as a sacrifice, but neither is to set the wood of the altar on fire. “And the God who answers by fire, He is God” (verse 24). Interestingly enough, the priests of Baal are amenable to this. Do they really believe Baal will answer? Or do they anticipate that neither offering will be burned, and they will win simply by force of numbers? Read more

Church Membership and the SBC

June 14, 2008

An encouraging vote took place this week in Indianapolis at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. Before telling you about it, some background:

We gladly cooperate with the SBC through sending a proportion of our offerings – at present, five percent – to local, state, national, and international efforts to spread the Gospel. We ourselves were beneficiaries of this cooperation among independent churches, receiving in our first years about $25,000 in grants through the SBC, as well as practical help on a number of issues. I am particularly pleased that our giving supports the International Mission Board of the SBC – one of the very best mission agencies, which over the last 25 years has refocused its efforts on church planting among unreached people groups – and seminaries such as Southeastern here in North Carolina and Southern in Louisville, which are now staffed by dedicated biblical scholars committed to raising up the next generation of expository preachers. Read more

How Do I Respond to God?

June 5, 2008

In the sermon text for this coming Sunday, God says that missionaries will bring “all your brethren from all the nations as a grain offering to the LORD” (Isaiah 66:20 NAS). In this context, the grain offering is a particularly powerful symbol. Unfortunately, I doubt that I will have time to bring out the rich imagery of this offering on Sunday. So here is an excerpt from a sermon I preached ten years ago on this offering. You can see the entire sermon – about twice as long – here. May we present ourselves – all of ourselves – as this type of offering, holy and acceptable to God – Coty

How should we respond to God’s love? The grain offering described in Leviticus 2 pictures our proper response beautifully.

In this offering, God shows us that we should respond to His love by offering our entire lives back to him. And He shows that a life holy and acceptable to God is not the result of our naturally sweet disposition; there should be no self-glorification, no pride in our status before God. Instead, a life offered to God needs to be characterized by prayer, infused with the Holy Spirit, and based on the promises of God

This is the picture of the grain offering. Let’s look at now in greater detail. Read more