Saturday, August 29, 2009

Counting the seconds vs. Counting the cost...

A few weeks ago, as I was driving home from the beach, I thought, "I wonder if Tiger is winning the PGA Championship." Then I immediately thought of several ways that I could obtain this information within seconds, even though the tournament was being played 1,903 miles away. I could flip on the radio, and 710 ESPN will have updates every 20 mins or so. I could hop on the internet on my phone (while hiding it from cops) and quickly get this information within seconds.

Often times, when it comes to obtaining information, we are impatient when cell service is bad, the internet is down, or the TV has bad reception (yes, I still have a "rabbit ears" antenna!). We 'count the seconds' until we can obtain this information. In fact many successful industries make it their sole purpose to make the world smaller, to make you and me more "connected" to anyone and anything from anywhere.

I really do love this. I love that I can follow the Angels from Chino, even if they're playing in Chicago. I love that I can communicate instantaneously with great friends in Israel, England, Australia, New York, Texas, Washington, and basically any other location. However, I have seen in myself and in those believers around me a tendency that our "information age" has created. Everything is so simple, so efficient, so "google", so instantaneous- except spiritual growth. I can get you any information you may need in seconds (though if you ask me to do it for you I will send you a snide link to But you or I cannot be like Jesus in seconds. We cannot learn the intracacies of God's Word or God's character in seconds. We cannot successfully evangelize to our friends in seconds. We cannot kill our sin in seconds. We cannot counsel each other through trials in seconds. Spiritual growth, discipleship, pursuing Christlikeness is something that bears fruit in years. It is a grand task for which we must count the cost.

Much of my spiritual struggle in my pursuit of Christ in post-college days has come because it is not easy, it is not "efficient" on the surface, and it doesn't always grant instant gratification. I also see many peers and fellow church members who seem to think that sanctification should be structured more like a Google Search or a Starbucks Drive-Thru.

But I humbly remind myself and you that we must count the cost. We are giving our lives to Jesus, and he is taking us on a journey of knowing him and becoming like him. You should pursue him this second, but results may not appear for you this second. His plans and his ways are much grander and much bigger than we can imagine. True commitment causes a pursuit of Christ, a study of His word, a commitment to church & discipleship to last for decades, not seconds. May we not allow our "counting the seconds" culture destroy our "counting the cost" discipleship.

"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.’"

Monday, August 24, 2009

Google Homepage & Idols of the Heart

In the Bible, God's people are often rebuked & even mocked for practicing idolatry. "They are turned back and utterly put to shame, who trust in carved idols, who say to metal images, 'You are our gods'" (Isaiah 42:17; see also Psalm 115:4-9). What is ridiculous is that man would bow down to a material object which he created and give it worth, glory, and exaltation as God!

It may sound foreign in both time and culture, but the rebuke of idolatry is not simply aimed toward the physical bowing of the knee to a scuplted idol. Ezekiel 14:1-8 indicates that the problem of idolatry is in the heart of man. In this passage, Israel's problem was not simply a physical action; rather, the 'idol' controlled the desires, emotions, and volitions of their heart (Ez. 14:3- "they have taken idols into their hearts..."). Likewise, you and I in 21st century America (or wherever you may be reading this from), take 'idols into our hearts.' Oh, these idols are never false gods of other organized religions- we are far too sneaky for that sort of thing! Rather, our idols- our functional gods- are those priorities which govern the use of our recourses- time, energy, money.

Ken Sande ( defines an idol this way- "An idol, as we have seen, is any desire that has grown into a consuming demand that rules our heart; it is something we think we must have to be happy, fulfilled, or secure. To put it another way, it is something we love, fear, or trust." If we love, fear, trust, demand, need something/someone to the point that it governs your time OR you need it to be happy, you and I have created an idol. Do you need to be respected? Do you need to be praised? Do you need to be in shape, to have comfort, to be served, to play video games, to follow sports, to ____________ (fill in the blank)? Congratulations, you and I are in the same boat of idol worshippers!

One professor once told me, "It is easy for me to see what you worship. All I need to do is follow you around for a week, and look at your bank statements!" The way we spend our time & money is telling to what our hearts truly value.

Now, as I've thought about this recently, I have begun to analyze my own life (2 Cor. 13:5). When I open a new page my internet browser (Google Chrome- very good), Google Homepage gives me links to all my most visited pages. Seeing as I spend alot of time at a computer and on the internet, this should be a great indicator of what I value, right? Below is the Top 9, with categories in parentheses-
- Free Fantasy Baseball on ESPN (SPORTS- 2nd place in my league though!)
- Welcome to Facebook (Social)
- (Financial)
- Gmail (Social/Spiritual)
- ESPN Homepage (Spiritu...I mean SPORTS)
- ESV Bible Online (Spiritual)
- Embrace the Tension (my blog, spiritual)
- Arrowhead Credit Union (Financial)
- MLB Baseball Scoreboard (SPORTS)

One can see the breakdown- 3 SPORTS; 2 Financial; 2 Social; 2 Spiritual. Uh Oh. Based on the above, with the resource of the internet, I seem to give great value (aka 'worship') to sports, social life, and my money. Sure, Jesus is thrown in there, but apparently he is not running the show. (I can also predict that the baseball links will probably change to football in a few weeks, but that doesn't solve the problem now does it?) It seems, sadly, that Jesus is important to me, but is he my God? Meaning- does he dictate what I do and how I spend my time, or do other interests, priorities, hobbies, and values?

My point is this- don't kid yourself. God is all, and he must be worshipped above all else. We've all got some repenting to do, and google homepage provides some great analysis to help you do it!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Jesus embraced the tension! (clarified)

We (the Christian church- particularly the conservative evangelical, semi-educated) go around and around debating the whole Calvinism/Arminianism topic. Often times, however, our comments and thoughts do not have feet, cannot be applied or lived out, and therefore offer minimal impact to our lives and do little for the progression of the gospel. Interesting juxtaposition I found in Matthew 11. Jesus affirms the sovereignty of God in saving people and awakening their hearts to the gospel, yet turns around and offers, pleads, and sincerely begs for all men to come to Him, leave their burdens, and be saved! Most of us would run from, or try and philosophize (that's not a word) this theological 'tension'- Jesus embraced it. Read on:

"At that time Jesus declared, 'I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.'”

Jesus here affirms two truths that usually create "theological tension" in our minds.
- 1) God reveals or hides his gospel sovereignly to those he chooses.
- 2) Jesus gives a legitimate invitation to "come to me" to anyone who is willing.

These two truths may be in tension in our finite minds, but it must not prevent us from embracing these great facts from God's word and applying them to our lives!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Wisdom from the dead Buddha

This morning, I read an inglorious little quote from Buddha on the side of my 'Good Earth' tea bag. The Buddhster says, in some of his last words (before he died and was buried and stayed dead like the rest of mankind- that was for free!) according to tradition, "Doubt everything. Find your own light." Um, forgive me, Mr. Buddha, for perhaps taking your words too literally, but if I am supposed to 'doubt everything,' as you claim, should I not then doubt my ability to 'find my own light'? I'm just saying....

The sad reality that truly brings me great sadness is that many who bite the glittering lure of this self-glorifying advice soon see the "Light of the world." And Buddha would surely acknowledge now, that Jesus' glory and worth is what we should not doubt.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Thoughts on Lust Part 2

I wrote the below in response to a question I got from a good friend about the last post. How do we do it? By grace, yes. And I pray there is grace enclosed in the below...Once again, these thoughts have undoubtedly been gathered from God's word, and counsel I've received from godly guys. If I used something one of you said to me once, don't get mad that I plagiarized, praise God that your counsel stuck with me!

Matt. 5:27- "I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart..."
Remember that what Jesus is talking about is looking at a girl with the purpose of lusting. That means looking at her and thinking about acting on the attraction. The attraction or presence of initial temptation is not wrong, since that's the way God wired us, but thinking on how you would fulfill that desire is sinful. Now practically speaking...
- REPLACE- Eph 4 tells us to "put off the old man...put on the new man"...What we need to realize is that you can never simply stop doing/thinking something sinful. You need to "replace" the sinful action with a "Godward" action. For example, turn the temptation into an opportunity to pray (it's funny how talking to God will chase away many a temptation!) Say, "Jesus, thank you for making women attractive. Please help show me how to serve the girls around me in a brotherly way so I can honor you and them, like you told me to in 1 Tim. 5:2. I thank you for my future wife and pray that I can honor her the best way possible. Thank you for the gift of sexuality and please help me to only act on it in accord with your word." You have just turned temptation into thanksgiving.
- RELOCATE- Make sure you are never putting yourself in harm's way. I never struggled with porn, but I knew which TV shows would have hot/semi-dressed girls on them. I knew that my Surfer magazine would have a few such ads. When I defeated my sin was often times when I didn't go near these areas of known temptation. We have enough temptation that simply comes up, we need relocate to avoid the ones we know clearly about! This principle applies here- "Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?" (Prov 6:27-28). If you go into areas of known temptation, odds are, you will be scorched.
- REVERE- I literally think to myself, "What if Jesus comes back right now? Would I want my Lord and Savior to return to me thinking about that? Aren't there better things to be doing when the teacher walks back into the class than imitating her or stealing her answer keys?" True reverence for Jesus chases sin away. Often times, we don't just need a behavior change; we need a heart change that leads to a behavior change. A heart that bleeds Bible, that thinks lofty thoughts of Jesus, is a safeguard against giving in to quick temptation.
- REFLECT- Defeating lust is like marinating meat. You must let the ribs sit in the marinade for awhile so that the tasty goodness sinks in. In the same way, when you are tempted, act slowly. For me, God's promises may not "work" the first time I tell them to myself. I need to let my heart sit in the marinade of His word for awhile before I can "taste and see that the Lord is good" (Ps. 34:8). Don't act quickly. The best thing to do when temptation arises is slow your emotions and thoughts down and just reflect.
- REHEARSE- Your heart is a muscle and it must be worked out. When you first start running, lifting weights, or exercising, your muscles hurt like crazy, and you can't stand it. You almost want to quit (I usually do and go sit on the couch!) In the same way, spiritually, realize that your heart is a muscle, and defeating lust is not easy at all! It will require so much discipline, and will hurt like crazy alot of the time. But you must keep going. Many guys have problems because its too hard, and they think it should be easier. But it's not easy. Not at all. Real men don't give in to lust because it's too hard. That's wimpy. Real men conquer lust (with Jesus' power).
- REALIZE- That there is victory in Jesus. You can defeat your sin in His strength (the same power that rose Jesus from the dead is in you!) Don't buy into the lie that it cannot be done.