The best antidote to Potty-Mouth Trump: Worship the Lord Tomorrow!

We’ll sing this tomorrow in worship! Based on Isaiah 6, this song gives our hearts a voice to express humility and wonder for who Christ is – what he has done – and the great mercy that he has shown us. It’s a psalm-like meditation, moving gently and slowly so that we may come quietly before the Lord. Worshiping the Sovereign Lord with his people in his house is the best medicine for the heart after a week like this!

(written and sung by Steve and Vikki Cook)

I Bow Down

Around You such beauty
Your majesty could fill
An endless sky
Holy are You Lord
Transcendent exalted
The heavens cannot contain
Your presence
Holy are You Lord
And as I behold Your glory
I’m undone

CHORUS
I bow down at Your feet
I bow down at Your feet
I bow down at Your feet for
You are my God
My God

VERSE 2
You saved me the sinner
With crimson red You washed me
White as snow
How I love You Lord
You loved me the mocker
With kindness You won my
Heart forever
How I love You Lord
And as I behold this mercy
I’m undone 

 

Thankful to God for Time

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It’s February 24, 2016 – a mildly cool day upon this earth that Cheryl and I spent with my parents in WV. The Lord says,

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2a). 

Overlooking the valley approaching Birch River, we are thankful for time together. Like a plant, we sprout up – but then, so quickly we go down; time is evasive – like grasping at wind. But when wind still blows upon your face, you enjoy and give thanks.

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Our turn. A second is a tick on the clock for everyone alike, young and old. But the older you get, the more precious life gets. And the more precious life gets, the quicker time goes by. It’s supposed to be that way. The more you see the value of something, the more you feel its presence slipping away from you. Mom and dad have been married for over 53 years, and we are approaching 32 years. May the following always be true:

“Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised” – (Song of Solomon 8:6-7).

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At the grave-site of my dad’s grandpa: James William Truman (1882-1953). Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock. Are you ready? It’s coming you know. Sooner than you think – it will be your turn. Are you wasting your life fretting over (you fill in the blank)? Are you wasting your life loving God’s gifts more than Christ himself? Are you living a life right now that tells others: Walk this way – this is the way – “follow me as I follow Christ”? All the grace that you need to live for Christ is yours, purchased by the one that you follow.

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This may not seem to look like a big deal, but this is monumental – dad has the strength to get out and stop by Wally World (which he really does not care to ever venture in the first place). We picked up a few things to clean his guns. I told dad that this was his “bucket list” item: checking out the sports section.

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Back home, evening time in the garage. This past year dad got behind on cleaning his guns. All caught up. Ready for another year of hunting. Or whatever else is fun to do with these babies!

Thank you Lord for another day – you are very, very good.

“Hillary, Bernie, Donald, and Me”

Hillary, Bernie, Donald, and Me nvxmbtlz

Another great post by John Piper – very needful at this hour. Enjoy!

“At 70, I am energized to dream great things, because this year Hillary turns 69, Bernie turns 75, and Donald turns 70. My rising energy has nothing to do with their policies or character. It has to do with the incredible fact that all of them want to spend their seventies doing the hardest job in the world.

This is wonderfully counter-cultural. I doubt that it’s motivated by a passion to magnify the greatness of Jesus. But that makes it all the more inspiring for me, because nothing gets me more excited than spending my seventies spreading a passion for the glory of Christ and his word. Paul is still my hero when he says, “My eager expectation and hope is that Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death” (Philippians 1:20).

So if Hillary and Bernie and Donald want to bear the weight of the world for the next four to eight years out of man-centered, philanthropic motives, I find my seventy-something zeal for Jesus heating up. They only get to be president of a tiny territory called the U.S.A. I get to be an ambassador of the Sovereign of the universe. They only get to change the way some people live for a few decades. I get to change the way some people live forever — with a lot of good spill-over for this world in the process.

But this is not an article mainly about me. It’s about the 70 million Baby Boomers coming behind me. I’m the oldest (born in 1946; the youngest born in 1964). Ten thousand Americans turn 70 every day. And they will continue to do so for about nineteen years. Billions of dollars are spent every year trying to get us to waste the last chapter of our lives on leisure. I’m spending one afternoon to plead with the rising seventy-somethings:Don’t waste it.

A History of Impact over Seventy

Hillary, Bernie, and Donald are not unique. Let them — and all the others — inspire you.

Five of the eight current Supreme Court justices are over 65, and three are over 75. Ronald Reagan served as president from age 70 to 78. He was shot at age 70 and recovered. Then at 76, he stood against the U.S.S.R. in West Berlin and said to Mikhail Gorbachev, “Tear down this wall!”

Winston Churchill became the prime minister of the United Kingdom in 1940 at the age of 66. He wielded his mighty eloquence against the Nazis till he was 70. Six years later, he was reelected and served till he was 81. At 82, he wrote A History of the English-Speaking Peoples.

Theologian Charles Hodge (1797–1878) lived to be 80. His biographer, Paul Gutjahr, wrote, “His last years were among his most productive . . . wielding his favorite pen to compose literally thousands of manuscript pages, which would eventually become his monumental Systematic Theology and his incisive What Is Darwinism?.”

At 70, Benjamin Franklin helped draft the Declaration of Independence. John Glenn became the oldest person to go into space at age 77. At the same age, Grandma Moses started painting. Started! At 82, Goethe finished writing his famous Faust. At 89, Albert Schweitzer ran a hospital in Africa. At 93, Strom Thurmond won reelection after promising not to run again at age 99. He lived to be 100. At 93, P.G. Wodehouse worked on his 97th novel, got knighted, and then died.

“Make no mistake. The Bible believes in retirement. It’s called heaven.”

I heard J. Oswald Sanders lecture when he was 89. He said, “I have written a book a year since I was 70.” So I have just arrived at the beginning of this writing life. The beginning! What a thrilling example!

Ralph Winter, the great missions visionary and activist was thinking and writing and strategizing for world evangelization until he died at 84. He was passionate about non-retirement. He wrote,

Most men don’t die of old age, they die of retirement. I read somewhere that half the men retiring in the state of New York die within two years. Save your life and you’ll lose it. Just like other drugs, other psychological addictions, retirement is a virulent disease, not a blessing. . . . Where in the Bible do they see that? Did Moses retire? Did Paul retire? Peter? John? Do military officers retire in the middle of a war?

Whether in Weakness or Strength

I am not unaware — my body makes me aware — that not everyone has the wonderful privilege of health and resources in old age. Over four million people over 65 live in poverty. Millions more suffer from the dreaded woes of aging — heart disease, arthritis, cancer, lung disease, Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis. Not to mention the typical loss of hearing and eyesight and energy.

I do not want to add a burden to those who would love to dream with me, but can’t act on their dreams. You have your calling to live where you are, with all your weaknesses, for the glory of Christ. And, yes, he does get glory in our weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9–10). God has great promises for those of you who trust your precious and ever-present Savior, Jesus Christ: “Even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save” (Isaiah 46:4).

Rather, I am writing to the 25 million Americans over 65 who are healthy and have resources — and to the seven thousand Boomers who turn 70 every day with health and wealth. I am inviting you to look around you. Look at Hillary and Bernie and Donald, and thousands of others, who are dreaming their dreams. Whatever their motives are, what are yours?

Without Excuse

“Jesus gave himself for us to purify for himself a people who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14). No age limit. Zealous. Passionate. To the end. For good works. Works that he has gifted you to do. He has given you a lifetime of experience and wisdom and resources. You have a decade of freedom in front of you. This is a trust. All your previous life was designed for this season of fruitfulness. What is your dream?

“Most men don’t die of old age, they die of retirement.”

“The righteous . . . still bear fruit in old age . . . to declare that the Lord is upright” (Psalm 92:12–15). Why would God tell us that? Because he wants us to dream that. He wants us to pray for that.

Not everyone gets the privilege. Some die young. Some must bear the burden of immobilizing pain. But millions of you are free. If you do not dream a joyful dream of productive service for Christ in your seventies, what will you say to the Savior? Your only excuse will be that you listened to the voice of this age rather than to God’s. It will not be a good excuse.

Redefine Retirement

The apostle Paul was on his way to evangelize Spain when he died in his sixties (Romans 15:23–28). He called himself an “old man” (Philemon 1:9). But as an “old man,” he planned, while he had breath, to do all he could for Christ and his kingdom. Spending the last season of his life playing games in a perishing world was not in his plan. It should not be in yours.

Join the happy psalmist: “My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all the day. Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent” (Psalm 71:8–9). We have good reason to believe God will answer that prayer for Christ’s sake.

Break free from the spirit of this age. See the world — see your life — the way God sees it. In his reckoning, sweet soul-rest begins when you are born again (Hebrews 4:3, 10), and rest from our labor — true retirement — begins when you die.

Make no mistake. The Bible believes in retirement. It’s called heaven. Then the new earth. It lasts forever. Compared to it, this life is a vapor’s breath. All our trials here are “a light and momentary affliction” that are preparing for us an “eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17). Keep your eyes on this prize. Such a rest the world has never dreamed of.

“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord . . . that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” (Revelation 14:13). Be up and doing. Joyfully. For Christ. Full of hope.

“Do Christian Parents Flirt with the Idol of Sports?”

I found this very helpful – sent to me by a friend who loves sports and yet sees what this writer sees. Enjoy this insight by Todd Hill. 

“As I walked into the middle school auditorium for a recent school event, another mom asked how I was doing. I told her our family was grateful to be able to breathe again after finally finishing soccer season. “Our family never breathes,” she said, and proceeded to describe how travel soccer overlaps with travel lacrosse all year long. They were going to try squeezing basketball into their son’s schedule as well. She listed each responsibility in her family’s schedule like a badge of honor.

I was exhausted just listening.

Playing with Idolatry

I live in suburban America. Our town has four elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school. Our district is ranked quite comfortably in the state as high-achieving. We have one post office and two fire stations. We are 25 minutes from Philadelphia, and about 90 minutes from New York City.

People move here to realize the American Dream. Minivans, pet stores, and picket fences abound. We’re a carbon copy of thousands of other small towns across the country. And these towns are filled with families like the Smiths, who have determined their kids’ success in sports and other extracurricular activities is the top priority.

My wife and I are wading through the murky waters of youth sports with our kids as well. They play for travel soccer teams, which keeps us busy each weekend for about two-thirds of the year. We have two children, but numerous sports-overwhelmed families have more.

There’s an idolatry problem in our community related to youth sports. I see this problem every weekend as families gather at the field rather than their church. It’s a problem in my heart, too.

I feel deep tension as we walk through this season of family life. Jesus makes it clear we cannot serve two masters (Matt. 6:24). And the taskmaster of sports success always demands my attention.

Here are some guiding principles to help navigate the sports scene.

1. Sports are not bad.

Sports often provide great opportunities for ministry. The apostle Paul even uses sports to illustrate how we should live (1 Cor. 9:24–27). He affirms that physical training has value (1 Tim. 4:8).

The problem comes when sports—and in particular my kids’ success in sports—begin to take first place in my family’s economy.

2. My family does sports in our community rather than outside it.

God has called our family to the mission field of our neighborhood. And one of the best ways to build relationships is to go where the people are—local fields, gyms, and pools.

There are some excellent sports programs run by Christian ministries, but we’ve chosen to do life in our community, which includes church, school, and sports. We hope this will provide regular opportunities to be on mission by encountering the same people repeatedly.

3. We must set limits.

Sports programs in our community are always offering more. They will take as much as we will give them.

Our family must somtimes say no to programs or fundraisers or tournaments. The next three principles help us choose when we need to do so.

4. God has called our family to worship with our church on a weekly basis.

One of the biggest shifts in youth sports is the consistent use of Sunday as a game day. My children play games on Sunday. Those games, however, are not our first priority. We will attend church together as a family on a weekly basis. It’s okay if this worship requires us to arrive late or even miss a game. I communicate that priority graciously to their coaches.

5. I want my children to find stronger community with fellow Christians than with their sports teams.

This one is tricky. Intensity within a sports team binds players together. Since most of my kids’ teammates are not Christians, though, there’s no opportunity for gospel fellowship and community with their teammates.

So we fight to have our kids attend church youth functions consistently and even miss games occasionally for retreats or other events. We also provide regular opportunities for interaction between our kids and godly adults.

6. When “breathing” is not optional, it’s time for a heart check.

If our schedule is so regularly insane that we can’t rest, then perhaps our heart has subtly shifted. We always have time for what is most important to us. If our calendars leave room for nothing but the kids’ activities, then maybe those activities have become what we value most. Family devotional times are challenging in the best of times, but during soccer season they often disappear.

What are we communicating to our children about priorities when we have time for all of their sports but never to read God’s Word together?

Jesus rested and escaped his hectic ministry to pray (Luke 5:16). God established a sabbath principle for our protection and joy. He summons us to be still (Ps. 46:10). And in those quiet moments our family learns what is most important: the need to inhale the life-giving truth and love of Jesus our King.

Grace for the Sports-Entranced Family

While these guidelines provide a helpful framework for us to approach sports in a healthy way, their power is limited. No matter how many rules I put in place, my heart still bends toward counterfeit gods (Jer. 17:9).

Am I guilty of being a sports idolater? Yes. Does this mean I may continue modeling this pattern of behavior for my family? By no means! (Rom. 6:2). Rather, in God’s amazing way, he continually takes my idolatry and redeems it by the power of his gospel. He gives me opportunities to model for my children repentance and the outpouring of his grace (Rom. 5:20). And he continues to grow us as we live in this tension.

Thankfully, my greatest hope lies not in our family’s ability to navigate sports without idolatry; it lies in God’s faithfulness to grant grace that leads us to love him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.”

When Greatness meets Emptiness – Michael Jordan at 50

Another great post by Matt Smethhurst! at thegospelcoalition.org.

Matt raises the valid question: Do you still want to be like Mike?

“If you’ve watched ESPN at any point in the last week, you know Michael Jordan just turned 50. With six NBA titles, five MVPs, ten scoring titles, 14 All-Star appearances, and many other feats posterized on my childhood bedroom wall, Jordan’s legacy on the basketball court is unmatched. But life off the court, particularly since his final retirement in 2003, hasn’t been so pristine.

In anticipation of Jordan’s 50th birthday, ESPN senior writer Wright Thompson spent some time with Number 23. The product is an Outside the Lines article titled “Michael Jordan Has Not Left the Building,” a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse into the mind of the man who revolutionized the world of sports.

Unquenchable Fire

Thompson’s piece pulsates with the sense that Jordan isn’t happy. “I would give up everything now to go back and play the game of basketball,” the Hall of Famer confesses. When asked how he replaces it, Jordan simply states, “You don’t. You learn to live with it.”

For almost three decades on basketball’s supreme stage, Jordan lived for the next challenge, the next challenger. Naysayers became friends, for they brought the nightly fuel that reignited his drive to perform, to conquer, to vindicate his name. This insatiable drive to prove himself propelled Jordan to the pinnacle of the sporting world—and motivated him to remain there. Even today, Thompson writes, he cares what his critics say. “He needs to know, a needle for a hungry vein.”

Jordan might have stopped playing basketball, but the rage is still there. The fire remains, which is why he searches for release, on the golf course or at a blackjack table, why he spends so much time and energy on [the Charlotte Bobcats] and why he dreams of returning to play.

The man has left the court, but the addictions won’t leave the man.

Even ‘Yahweh’ Ages

Jordan’s surroundings only reinforce a perception of otherworldly status. Thompson remarks:

Jordan is at the center of several overlapping universes, at the top of the billion-dollar Jordan Brand at Nike, of the Bobcats, of his own company, with dozens of employees and contractors on the payroll. In case anyone in the inner circle forgets who’s in charge, they only have to recall the code names given to them by the private security team assigned to overseas trips. Estee is Venom. George is Butler. Yvette is Harmony. Jordan is called Yahweh—a Hebrew word for God.

Yahweh. I am who I am. I will be what I will be. Not exactly the sort of nickname that fosters meekness.

“My ego is so big now that I expect certain things,” Jordan admits. But, as Thompson observes, this is a natural consequence of life at the very top. “Jordan is used to being the most important person in every room he enters and, going a step further, in the lives of everyone he meets. . . . People cater to his every whim.”

Imagine that life for a moment. Put yourself in his shoes (Air Jordans, of course). You can’t recall the last time you weren’t the most important person in the room. No matter where on Planet Earth you go, you’re king. Thirty years and counting. What would that recognition do to someone? To you?

The Flicker that Fades

Such an abnormal existence brings certain abnormal hopes, promises, expectations. As Thompson observes:

Most people live anonymous lives, and when they grow old and die, any record of their existence is blown away. They’re forgotten, some more slowly than others, but eventually it happens to virtually everyone. Yet for the few people in each generation who reach the very pinnacle of fame and achievement, a mirage flickers: immortality. They come to believe in it. Even after Jordan is gone, he knows people will remember him. Here lies the greatest basketball player of all time. That’s his epitaph.

There’s a fable about returning Roman generals who rode in victory parades through the streets of the capital; a slave stood behind them, whispering in their ears, “All glory is fleeting.” Nobody does that for professional athletes. Jordan couldn’t have known that the closest he’d get to immortality was during that final walk off the court. . . . All that can happen in the days and years that follow is for the shining monument he built to be chipped away, eroded. His self-esteem has always been, as he says, “tied directly to the game.” Without it, he feels adrift. Who am I? What am I doing? For the past 10 years, since retiring for the third time, he has been running, moving as fast as he could, creating distractions, distance.

In his supercilious 2009 Hall of Fame speech, Jordan called the game of basketball his “refuge,” the “place where I’ve gone when I needed to find comfort and peace.” Three years later, the restlessness remains.

It turns out the voracious drive that turned a shy North Carolina youngster into a household name comes with a price tag. And as the flicker of immortality fades, Jordan stares in the mirror, wondering where to turn. “How can I enjoy the next 20 years without so much of this consuming me?” he ponders. “How can I find peace away from the game of basketball?”

From Chicago to Calvary

As a Christian, it’s easy to read a piece like Thompson’s and feel discouraged by Jordan’s egotism. Yet as psychologists clamor to diagnose Jordan’s condition, we feel no surprise. The distance between him and us is, after all, uncomfortably slim. We want to be the most important person in every room; he is. As the apostle Paul might say, who is sufficient for these things?

In the world, status is tethered to performance. It’s the same in the gospel. The difference, however, is that our status as believers is not tethered to our performance, but Christ’s. Only the gospel can offer the resources to combat our pride, expose our emptiness, and flood our hearts with peace.

“How can I find peace away from the game of basketball?” the aging legend asks.

Michael, you never had peace. Triumph and fame, yes, but not peace. James Naismith invented a game that brought you a sense of purpose, of value, of calm. But it was only that—a sense, a counterfeit of the real thing. You will never find life outside the game for the same reason you never found life in it. It’s not there.

The peace you seek isn’t available on a basketball court or a golf course but on a little hill outside Jerusalem. There, Yahweh incarnate hung in the place of sinners—wannabe Yahwehs like you and like me.

You’ve gained the world and found it lacking, Mike. Don’t lose your soul.”

Finishing a Task Unfinished

 

This coming Sunday, Feb. 21, our church, Grace Community Church, will join thousands of congregations around the world in singing this song. Above is a warm invitation from Christian Artists, Keith and Kristyn Getty, to join them in worship, encouraging the churches across the globe to finish a task that is still unfinished. Below is the song – Enjoy!

Valentines Day: Hide Away in the Love of Jesus

For Valentines Day tomorrow (Feb. 14, 2016), we sing this in worship as one of our congregational songs. There is no greater love than the love that was demonstrated at the cross of Christ. The love that exists all around us is because there is a God who sent his son to propitiate, that is, to remove and exhaust the deserved wrath that was aimed at all who would believe upon Christ (1 John 4:7-11). The love that exists between a husband and wife is meant to display before the world that kind of sacrificial love. But loving others is exhausting; our own sin and limitations cause us to fall short. And there is the Good News for weary saints: Hide away in the love of Jesus – he never grows weary loving his bride.

Enjoy!