He Is Building a Palace

palace“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”  (Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis)

Have you ever been on a construction site for a new home?  It can be pretty ugly.  While walking through an unfinished building, it’s hard for homeowners to imagine exactly how their home will look when they finally are handed the keys. But when that day arrives, they breathe a sigh of relief.  Their new home is absolutely beautiful.

You and I are under construction, and it can be ugly, too. Changes need to be made. Habitual sins need to be hammered. A self-righteous heart needs to be drilled. A view of God needs to be expanded. It hurts. These changes aren’t simply made by adding a fresh coat of paint. These changes often come through pain. Ripping. Pushing. Pulling. Dragging. Nailing.

Oh, but there is hope.  Not a wishing hope.  Rather, a true, rock-solid hope.  It is a sure hope that stands on the promise of God spoken by Paul, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)  God is changing us.  Building us.  Sanctifying us.  He won’t stop until the job is done.  By His free grace, He has made us new creations and has set us apart to be holy, and now He is working in our sinful hearts to change us so that we will love righteousness and hate our sin.  Throughout this life we will grow less sinful and more obedient to Him, and in heaven God’s sanctifying work in our lives will be complete.  But, like walking through a home under construction, it’s difficult to imagine the finished product.

Take heart for you are in the hands of the Master Builder.  His skill is flawless, and His plans are perfect.  You will be made complete.  When that day arrives, you will breathe a sigh of relief.  You will be absolutely beautiful.

Love Divine

Timeline-Of-Napoleon-BonaparteI experienced a rather strange convergence this week:  Napoleon, Ravi Zacharias, and I John.  Huh?  I’ll explain.

First, yesterday my twins were having a discussion in the back seat of our van about . . . Napoleon.  Really?  Yes.  It started with, “Mommy, is Napoleon in heaven?”  The other jumped in, “Of course not!!  He was a horrible man and left his army in Egypt!”  Really?  Yes, he did.

Second, last night I told my husband about the kids’ conversation and he directed me to the following quote about Christ by Napoleon found in Ravi Zacharias’ book Jesus Among Other Gods (p. 149).  I’ll include it in a moment, but for now, on to I John.

Third, this morning during our family devotions we were in I John and discussing love–the love of God for us which leads to our love for others.  “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.  By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent his only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.  In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiaion for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (I John 4:7-11).  It is the love of God that saves us from the penalty and rule of sin.  In Christ, we are now free to sacrificially love as He has loved us.

So, back to Napoleon . . .

After a lifetime of seeking to conquer the world with an iron fist, Napoleon realized that his conquests–and the means of his conquests–were infinitely inferior to Christ’s conquest of humanity through Divine Love.  Napoleon was right, Jesus rules like no other Man for Jesus loves like no other Man.

When exiled on the rock of St. Helena, Napoleon called Count Montholon to his side and asked him, “Can you tell me who Jesus Christ was?” The count declined to answer, and Napoleon responded,

Well then, I will tell you. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne and I myself have founded great empires; but upon what did these creations of our genius depend? Upon force. Jesus alone founded His empire upon love, and to this very day millions will die for Him. I think I understand something of human nature; and I tell you, all these were men, and I am a man: none else is like Him; Jesus Christ was more than a man. I have inspired multitudes with such an enthusiastic devotion that they would have died for me but to do this it was necessary that I should be visibly present with the electric influence of my looks, my words, of my voice. When I saw men and spoke to them, I lighted up the flame of self-devotion in their hearts. Christ alone has succeeded in so raising the mind of man toward the unseen, that it becomes insensible to the barriers of time and space. Across a chasm of eighteen hundred years, Jesus Christ makes a demand which is beyond all others difficult to satisfy; He asks for that which a philosopher may often seek in vain at the hands of his friends, or a father of his children, or a bride of her spouse, or a man of his brother. He asks for the human heart; He will have it entirely to Himself. He demands it unconditionally; and forthwith His demand is granted. Wonderful! In defiance of time and space, the soul of man, with all its powers and faculties, becomes an annexation to the empire of Christ. All who sincerely believe in Him, experience that remarkable, supernatural love toward Him. This phenomenon is unaccountable; it is altogether beyond the scope of man’s creative powers. Time, the great destroyer, is powerless to extinguish this sacred flame; time can neither exhaust its strength nor put a limit to its range. This is it, which strikes me most; I have often thought of it. This it is which proves to me quite convincingly the Divinity of Jesus Christ.

Reread.  Think.  And ponder the love of our Great God.

A Widow, Osteen, and Piper: The Gospel in Focus

telescope-sam-1This morning I shared a cup of tea with an elderly widow from my church.  Later, I caught a few minutes of a Victoria Osteen sermon.  This evening I happened upon a two-minute John Piper video.

The widow told me how she found comfort and purpose in knowing Jesus when her husband suddenly passed away ten years ago.

Victoria Osteen told me that I will find comfort and purpose when I think positive thoughts, say good things, replace what doesn’t work in life with what does work (huh?), be determined in all I do, believe that my miracle is right around the corner, and focus on realizing my hopes and dreams—getting the best in life for me. . . me . . . me.

John Piper told me that “God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in Him—in the midst of loss, not prosperity.”

The widow and John Piper pointed me to Christ and his glorious Gospel.  Victoria Osteen didn’t.

The widow’s singular, trusting love for her Savior and Piper’s articulate, passionate cry against the false prosperity “gospel” of our day could not have more dramatically highlighted how irrelevant, corrupt, and dangerous Osteen’s message is.  It is irrelevant in that her message has nothing to do with biblical spirituality, corrupt in that it is a complete distortion of the Gospel, and dangerous in that it propogates a self-absorbtion that leads many down the broad road to destruction.

I began my day gleaning from the beautiful and simple life-long faith of a woman who has known the Lord for over seventy years.  Her life has been marked by both suffering and blessing.  She has learned the secret of being content in plenty or in want: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”  She told me that Jesus is her everything.  She has walked the road of loss and found Him to be her All.

On the other hand, after listening to Osteen, apparently getting the good life is everything.  The focus of her gospel is not Jesus, but rather on self and what one hopes to attain by mixing a bit of “faith” with good ol’ gumption—favorable feelings, possessions, and circumstances.  Where is the Christ to be adored?  Where is the Christ to be served?  Where is the Christ to be worshiped?

Here is the short Piper video I came across this evening.  I won’t try to restate what he communicates so well, but what I will say is this:  Tonight I give thanks for the faithful example of a widow and the poignant words of a preacher that have put the Gospel in proper focus—on Christ—and have spurred me on to love and adore Him all the more.   And tonight, as I lay my head down, I will be asking these questions:  Whom do I love above all else?  Who is the center of my world?  Who is the focus of my faith?  Whom have I in heaven but You?  And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:25-26)

In Honor of the Children

Today is the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, a day to mourn the loss of millions of unborn children since 1973.  In their honor, John Piper shares his poetic reflection—and a charge to those who live.

Quit Listening and Start Talking!

“Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc.

Somebody is talking. Who is talking? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment was this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul?’ he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: ‘Self, listen for a moment, I will speak to you.’…

The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why art thou cast down’– what business have you to be disquieted?

You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’– instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do.

Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: ‘I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God.’”

–D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Its Cure (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965/2002), 20-1.

The Thorn (by Martha Snell Nicholson)

“God writes the best stories from the hardest beginnings,” I heard Steve Saint say on YouTube this evening.  Steve Saint would know.  He was only a small child in 1956 when his father, Nate Saint, was murdered by a few men from the Waorani, or Auca, tribe of Ecuador.  Steve’s father, a Christian missionary pilot, was slain along with four other missionaries by the very people with whom they were seeking to share Christ’s gospel.  A couple years later, Elizabeth Elliot (the wife of one of the missionaries) and Rachel Saint (Nate’s sister and Steve’s aunt) returned to the Waorani tribe to carry on the martyrs’ mission.  Many Waorani repented and trusted in Christ.  As a youth, Steve joined his Aunt Rachel in Ecuador, and later with his wife and children he returned once again to Ecuador to live with the Waorani . . . and to love them.

Yet, the Steve Saint YouTube I saw this evening was not about his devoted father, the redeemed Waorani, or the missionaries’ horrific death over 50 years ago.  Instead, it was about Steve Saint’s hospital stay this year after a tragic flying accident that left him paralyzed.  Throughout the challenging circumstances of his childhood, youth, and adult life, the Lord has taught Steve to “walk by faith and not by sight” and has prepared him to endure this new, incredible trial.  Steve’s steadfast trust the Lord is evident for all to see during the many painful weeks of recovery in the hospital as he humbly shares (in a series of four YouTubes) his thoughts about the accident, his faith and dependency, the sufferings of Christ, and the good purposes of God.

Steve Saint quotes the following poem, “The Thorn” by Martha Snell Nicholson.  As Saint spoke the poignant words, I was reminded of Apostle Paul’s circumstances in II Corinthians 12:7-10.  Paul writes, ” . . there was given me a thorn in the flesh . . . to keep me from exalting myself!  Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me.  And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’  Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Do you have a thorn?  Is there a burden or circumstance in your life that is making you acutely aware of your weakness?  Are you realizing how utterly dependent you are upon the Lord in order to press on?

Learn from Nate Saint, Martha Snell Nicholson, and Paul.  Sometimes we are given a thorn to see Christ more clearly and to cherish Him like never before.  Is that not worth the thorn?

The Thorn by Martha Snell Nicholson

I stood a mendicant of God before His royal throne
And begged him for one priceless gift, which I could call my own.
I took the gift from out His hand, but as I would depart
I cried, “But Lord this is a thorn and it has pierced my heart.
This is a strange, a hurtful gift, which Thou hast given me.”
He said, “My child, I give good gifts and gave My best to thee.”
I took it home and though at first the cruel thorn hurt sore,
As long years passed I learned at last to love it more and more.
I learned He never gives a thorn without this added grace:
He takes the thorn to pin aside the veil which hides His face.