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August 17, 2015

Can you imagine your life without worship? Can you imagine your life without regularly gathering with God’s people to worship him together? Corporate worship is one of the great privileges of the Christian life. And perhaps it is one of those privileges that over time we can take for granted. When I pause to think about it, I can’t imagine my life without it. I don’t even want to. But I guess it is worth considering: What would I lose if I lost worship?

We live in a consumeristic culture where we tend to evaluate life in very selfish ways. We do this even with worship. “The sermon really didn’t speak to me today. I just couldn’t get into the songs we sang this morning. That Scripture reading was a little bit too long in my books.” When we speak this way we may be proving that we are coming to church as consumers, people who want to be served rather than to serve.

Yet the primary point and purpose of worshipping God is his glory, not the meeting of our felt needs. We worship God in order to glorify God. God is glorified in our worship. We is honored. He is magnified in the sight of those who join with us.

In this way worship cuts completely against the grain of consumerism and demands that I worship for his sake and for his glory. I have heard it said that “Worship is the art of losing self in the adoration of another.” And that is exactly the case. I forget all about me and give all honor and glory to him.

What would I lose without worship? I would lose the opportunity to grow through hearing a sermon and to experience joy through singing great hymns. I would lose the opportunity to join with other Christians in prayer and to recite great creeds with them. But more than anything else, I would lose an opportunity to bring glory to God. If I stopped worshipping, I would neglect a means through which I can bring glory to him.

Do you see it? Worship is not about you or me. Worship is about God. And really, this changes everything.

When I view worship as something that ultimately exists for my good and my satisfaction, it is easy to take a day off, to think that my presence makes no difference. But when I come to bring glory to God, I understand that no one else can take my place. God means for me to lift my hands, to lift my heart, to lift my voice to him.

When I view worship as something that is really all about me, it is easy to jump from church to church, to always be looking for a better fit for me. But when I view church as something that is really all about God, I find myself looking for the church that is the purest and best at worshipping in exactly the ways the Bible demands—I look for the church through which I can bring him the most glory.

Worship is a privilege, to be sure. But it is also a requirement, a responsibility. And the greatest responsibility and the greatest privilege in worship is to bring glory to God.

My Own Personal Bollywood
August 12, 2015

Bollywood movies crack me up. Every now and again a friend will send me a clip, a highlight, from one of the Bollywood blockbusters, and inevitably the scene is utterly preposterous. Many of these films are known for their far-too-long and over-the-top fight scenes where the mighty hero defies all the laws of physics and all the constraints of the human body to conquer an entire army of enemies—inevitably with fists a-flying.

I suppose that people who enjoy Bollywood accept a certain level of unrealism. Implicit in the genre is a very different understanding of how the human body functions, not unlike all the superhero movies that are so popular today. Just like the flowery dialog in the movies of the 60’s or the “aw shucks mister” way of speaking in the films of the 50’s, there is a level of unrealism that is deemed acceptable. Why shouldn’t one man stop a train with his fists? Who is to say that a hero can’t pick up an entire jeep and throw it off a jetty? The genre allows it.

At the suggestion of a friend, I recently laughed my way through another of these corny scenes. But as I watched Singham commit another great feat of strength, I saw a bit of a parallel between Bollywood and its big brother Hollywood. Hollywood allows its own version of unrealism in the movies we enjoy. We just take our fantasy on a different level.

If the Bollywood fantasy is all about physical strength, the Hollywood fantasy is about emotional connection that quickly works its way into sexual intimacy. The Bollywood fantasy tells us that a man can single-handedly intercept and destroy an army, and when he does this, the woman will swoon and he will have earned his right to marry her. The Hollywood fantasy tells us that we can meet a soul-mate, feel a powerful relational connection, and experience perfect, regret-free sexual intimacy all in the span of just a few scenes.

In both cases, reality takes a back seat, and we just allow ourselves to get immersed in fantasy. All of the struggles of a real sexual relationship disappear into this Hollywood fantasy. She is always eager. He is always able. They are always in the right location. Nothing is ever awkward. Nothing ever hurts. Nobody ever has next-day regrets. Everything just works perfectly.

This fantasy is not harmless. It teaches those who watch it. It presents a form of reality that we may desire, but cannot attain. The Bollywood hero can’t actually stop a train and human begins created in God’s image cannot actually experience that Hollywood kind of intimacy just the way it is presented. This Hollywood fantasy allows us to believe that sex precedes love, that I can’t possibly know I love you until I’ve slept with you and a lot of other people besides. It allows us to believe that sex is powerful enough to be a unique form of union between a man and woman, but that sex is also meaningless enough that it can be experienced with many people over a lifetime without regret and without consequence. It allows us to believe that a sex life can be carried on through the passion of a relationship that doesn’t involve investment, difficulty, and self-denial. It is a particularly unhealthy and unrealistic fantasy.

We can laugh at Bollywood and all they accept as realistic. But we should be laughing at ourselves as well.

An Introverted Christian
August 11, 2015

Who would have guessed that introversion would become such a popular subject? Who would have guessed it would even carry a book to the New York Times list of bestsellers in Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking? Her book brought into the public eye a personality type that is both common and misunderstood. While I cannot agree with all she wrote, I was glad to see her open up what has become a fascinating conversation.

There is no doubt that I am an introvert. If we place introversion and extroversion on opposite sides of a line and say that each one of us falls somewhere between the two extremes, I would be pretty far from center along the introvert side of the scale. I may not be as far along as some people, and I still enjoy some exposure to crowds of people, but at heart I gain energy and perspective in solitude and then expend it in a crowd. My default reaction to a crowd is to run away to find a place of quiet. I love and enjoy people, but do better with small groups than large ones. Even after several years of public speaking, it still takes a lot of effort and self-denial to stand in front of a crowd. I walk to the front of a room slowly and, when finished, sprint to the back. That’s just the way I am.

Quiet allowed me to better understand myself. In some ways Cain introduced me to me. I had all kinds of those “Aha!” moments where things I’ve long thought or felt suddenly made sense. It was refreshing. Yet as I progressed through the book, I found it doing something unexpected deep inside. I began to feel a kind of peace with my introversion that may have gone a little too far. Even Aileen noticed it in me and pointed it out. She noticed that I began to feel justified in fleeing crowds and being by myself. She said I was becoming selfish.

I believe that God made me introverted. It seems clear that some of us are naturally more outgoing while others are naturally inclined to be quiet. I am naturally quiet and this is part of God’s good design. Neither one is inherently wrong and neither one is intrinsically better than the other. But what Cain does not acknowledge, writing as she does from a secular perspective, is that we inhabit a world of sin where any trait or quality can be used for God-glorifying ends or for self-glorifying ends. Not only that, but God calls us to be always willing to deny our desires in order to serve others. Both introverts and extroverts will face particular temptations to sin. My temptation as an introvert is to run away from people instead of serve people. It is to be selfish instead of giving.

The Christian life is a life of self-denial. It is a life of saying, “Even though this may be what I want, duty compels me to do something different.” There are many times when I am to deny my own desires in order to serve others. Even the desire to be alone. David Powlison says it well:

The Christian life is a great paradox. Those who die to self, find self. Those who die to their cravings will receive many times as much in this age, and, in the age to come, eternal life (Luke 18:29). They will find new passions worth living for and dying for. If I crave happiness, I will receive misery. If I crave to be loved, I will receive rejection. If I crave significance, I will receive futility. If I crave control, I will receive chaos. If I crave reputation, I will receive humiliation. But if I long for God and His wisdom and mercy, I will receive God and wisdom and mercy. Along the way, sooner or later, I will also receive happiness, love, meaning, order, and glory.

I have no right to crave introverted solitude. Rather, the gospel compels me to deny even that trait and all its desires in order to serve other people. I am introverted, but this does not give me a different calling in life than the gregarious Christian.

What I had to face as in Quiet is that introversion is what I am, not who I am. And this is where the discussion of introversion and extroversion often seems to go wrong. We elevate these traits too high and use them to justify selfishness instead of selflessness. I have to be slow to define myself in a-biblical categories. This is not to say that it is wrong to say that I am an introvert, but that this is a distinction the Bible does not make. With this being the case, I don’t want to allow introversion to define me or to dictate my behavior. Introversion is a useful description, but a poor definition.

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The Man Who Is Most Free
August 10, 2015

I don’t mean to brag, but yesterday I preached the greatest sermon of my life. I’d say it was downright inspired. Let me explain. Through the summer we’ve been using our evening services to look briefly at some of the shorter books of the Bible. We read the entire book one Sunday, then teach the book’s major themes over the next two Sundays. Then we move to the next book and do it again. So my task last night was simply to read Colossians. And it makes for a brilliant sermon.

I did not have a lot of time to think about the book as I read it—my primary concern was reading it well and reading it fluently. But there was one part that still managed to jump out at me. It was right at the beginning of chapter 3 where Paul transitions from theology to practice, from the good news of what Christ has done to the Christian’s response. And right there Paul makes a powerful contrast.

In many ways the New Testament is about the contrasts. There is new versus old, clean versus dirty, alive versus dead, gospel versus law, and many more. And here in Colossians Paul contrasts above with below. “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2). Then he goes on to explain what that means, to describe what it means to live with your mind set on earthly things or your mind set on heavenly things. Those who live with their minds below are consumed with sexual immorality, idolatry, evil desire. They are full of malice and strife and envy. It’s an ugly picture. But those who have experienced salvation are now free to be holy and compassionate and patient and self-controlled.

We live in a world obsessed with the very sins that Paul provides as evidence of earthliness, of living below, of living in that way that God hates. People love to live below. And yes, there are times that even Christians love to live below, to continue on in those old patterns of sin.

In that contrast of below and above, we see that sin feels like freedom but is actually captivity. What feels like joyful self-expression is actually harmful wallowing. Sin is like a pig proclaiming his cleanliness while he wallows in the muddy filth of his pen. We look at him and realize he is deluded, that he is filthy. And those who continue with their minds set on earthly things may believe they are free and clean, but they are actually wallowing in the very sins they are meant to hate. True freedom is not found in pursuing sin but in rejecting sin. The man who is most free is the one who is freed from the power of sin.

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Be Careful of Nice People
August 06, 2015

Now you be nice to your sister.” “Make sure you play nice tonight.” “He is such a nice young man.” As human beings, it seems that we are drawn to niceness. We like nice people and encourage people to behave in nice ways. We dislike people who aren’t nice or who don’t behave in nice ways. We teach our children to be nice and juxtapose niceness with a host of vices: grumpiness, cruelty, mean-spiritedness.

In Galatians 5, Paul contrasts the qualities of fleshly, worldly people with the qualities of Spirit-filled, godly people. He lists the fruit of the Spirit, those character traits that ought to mark God’s people, saying, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (vv. 22–23). Conspicuously absent from Paul’s list is niceness. Kindness is there; patience and gentleness too. But not niceness.

Why isn’t niceness a fruit of the Spirit? Because niceness is a hollow trait that a human can generate even without the inner working of the Holy Spirit. Niceness may require some force of will in the face of disagreement or controversy. It may require restraint. But it does not require an inward transformation.

True love, true joy, true faithfulness and gentleness—these are all qualities for which we are completely dependent upon the Holy Spirit’s work in conforming us to the image of Christ through the Word of God. As we immerse ourselves in God’s Word, as we carefully seek God and His will through the Bible, the Holy Spirit gradually but surely grants us these qualities in growing measure. Now we are able to love—truly love—whereas before we could only hate and brood and love selfishly; now we are able to display patience whereas before we would always explode with anger or perhaps simply simmer with anger; now we are able to be gentle whereas before we were so consistently harsh.

But niceness? Niceness doesn’t require that work of the Spirit. In fact, niceness is often a clever ruse Satan employs to fool us into following ungodly leaders. Be careful around nice people. Evil and ungodly men often rely upon niceness to cover their sin. Where Christians can be fast and blunt in defending the truth, unbelievers—and especially unbelievers claiming to be Christians—can look good in contrast. They can seem so nice as they nicely undermine the very foundations of the Christian faith. Their smiles, their soft words, their sympathetic questions, their niceness—these are all tools designed to mask their opposition to God.

It is not bad to be nice. It is not an evil trait. But it is far better to strive for the higher qualities, the Spirit-given qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law, because such Spirit-given qualities cannot be faked forever.

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Planned Parenthood: 4 Ways to Respond
August 05, 2015

We have come to a singularly important moment in the battle against abortion (which is to say, the battle for life). The stunning undercover videos by the Center for Medical Progress have taken us right to the heart of the abortion industry. They have shown that Planned Parenthood is enriching themselves with the bodies of murdered babies. Not only that, but Planned Parenthood is willingly increasing the risk to the women they serve in order to enrich themselves—altering the abortion procedures to deliver intact bodies. Planned Parenthood is a business, a government-supported business, that buys and sells death.

Yesterday’s video, the fifth, is the most horrendous yet. It shows a Planned Parenthood representative discussing babies as line items, considering how she can maximize profit as she sells “the products of conception.” It continues to the lab where we see people picking through the slaughtered remains of a child, lifting up pieces, separating an arm and a leg, lifting up the intestines and lungs, considering the monetary value of each one. It is absolutely sickening, absolutely shocking, absolutely unflinching, absolutely real. It exposes the industry, shining a billion-watt light into its darkest recesses. What was meant to remain hidden has now been made plain.

Once you see this, you cannot unsee it. Once you know what happens in Planned Parenthood and a host of other clinics, you cannot unknow it. That’s true even for those of us who live on the other side of an international border. What happens in America doubtless happens in Canada, England, and everywhere else.

This is an important moment.

In the face of such overwhelming evil, it can be difficult to know what we, as individuals, can actually do. Few of us have any significant power or ability. We do not have access to the ear of the President or the front page of the Times. But we can still act.

Share

Aborted Baby HandOne small but important thing you can do is share this news. The mainstream media is largely avoiding it, but this is exactly where power has shifted in an age of social media. CNN may control what is broadcast to a few million people on the television, but we control what is shared with hundreds of millions through Facebook. Hashtag activism has been much-maligned, but it is activism nonetheless. Perhaps we have overdone Twitter and Facebook outrage in the past. But not this time. Share. Share this story through your social media channels. Use hashtags like #PPSellsBabyParts and #DefundPP. Share it widely and share it consistently.

I would focus on sharing especially well-written stories, but also the few you will find in major media outlets like the Washington Post or The Atlantic. Where the mainstream press is covering the issue, share it or like it. Don’t let it go away.

Talk

Also, talk to people about this—people in your home, your church, your school, your neighborhood, your workplace. Ask them if they have seen the videos. Ask them if they are willing to watch them.

This is a good time to arm yourself with SLED, a very helpful way of Making the Case for life. A little while ago I prepared a slideshow on the issue, and you may find it helpful.

You are free to download and adapt the slides for your own purposes. Note: The slideshow uses the font Museo Slab. It is available as a free download if you plan to use the Keynote or Powerpoint.

Contact

And, of course, you can and should contact your legislator. March for Life offers some help in that. Contact them, express your horror, and demand action.

Pray

Finally, and most importantly, pray. Pray that God would use this situation to promote the cause of life, to stop the evildoers, to save the lost, and to bring glory to his name.

As I conclude, here are some helpful articles I have collected over the past few days:

And a few books that are worth reading:

Fractured Christians
August 04, 2015

Have you ever considered how books of the Bible would be changed if God had left out their final chapter?

Matthew without chapter 28 would leave us as Christians without a Great Commission. Ruth without chapter 4 would never allow us to marvel that this Moabite woman was the great-grand-mother of the great King David and the great-(many times over)-grandmother of our Savior, the greater King David.

And what if Jonah was a book with three chapters instead of four? A three-chapter Jonah is a powerful story of a man running from God, being transformed by God, obeying God, and witnessing a great and unexpected revival. But Jonah has four chapters, and it is in that final chapter that everything changes. In chapter four, Jonah goes off the rails; he witnesses the mighty power of God in bringing revival to an entire city, but he responds in a disconcerting way: 

But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:1-3)

There is a challenge here for the theologically minded Christian—the Christian who loves doctrine and, even better, loves sound doctrine.

Even in the midst of his complaining, Jonah described some of the best and greatest qualities of God. He was correct in describing God as merciful and gracious, as slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, as relenting from disaster. Yet these qualities of this sovereign God were qualities Jonah came to resent.
Jonah hated the people of Nineveh. He believed that he and his people were worthy of God’s attention and worthy of God’s salvation. And he believed the people of Nineveh were unworthy of God’s affection and salvation. Jonah failed to see that the very qualities that allowed God to save Nineveh were the qualities that allowed Him to extend grace to Israel. He was blind to his own desperate need.

Jonah warns us that we too can have correct doctrine even while we neglect to love God for being who He is. In our minds and hearts, we can partition God, embracing the qualities we like while rejecting the qualities we dislike. We can be fractured Christians, speaking glorious facts even while feeling bitter resentment.

The book closes with this tension unresolved, and I am convinced it remains unresolved so that you and I can ponder and apply this truth: to resent even the smallest part of God’s perfect, holy character is to resent all that God is.

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Through New Eyes
August 03, 2015

One of the great joys of being a Christian is the ability we gain to look at the Bible and, through the Bible, to see the world in the way God sees it. It is like the Bible is a pair of glasses through which we gain God’s vision and God’s perspective. The Holy Spirit illumines our minds so that suddenly we see God as He really is and we see ourselves as we really are. We see God and respond with fear and awe. We see ourselves and respond with sorrow or shame—and sometimes both.

The gospel of Matthew describes several occasions from the life of Jesus when He reacted with the full force of righteous indignation, when He exemplified justified anger that was free from any hint of sin. These culminate in chapter 23 when seven times He cries, “Woe!” to the scribes and Pharisees. Seven times He points out their hypocrisy and warns them of the judgment they are calling down upon themselves.

I am following a Bible reading plan and often listen to God’s Word in place of reading it. As I listened to Matthew 23 recently, I found myself laughing out loud as Jesus unleashed on these religious rulers. If words were sticks and stones, He would have left these men battered and bruised and bleeding. Of course, these words were more powerful and painful than sticks and stones, and the scribes and Pharisees would react to them by bruising and battering Jesus.

As I pondered Matthew 23, my laughter soon turned somber because God gave me eyes to see myself in those religious authorities who had so infuriated Jesus. I saw in myself the tendency that marked them.

The Pharisee looks at God’s commands and either takes them only at face value or shrinks them down to a manageable size. He reads God’s command to Israel that His people are to tithe, that they are to give to the Lord the firstfruits of their labor. The Pharisee responds by carefully measuring ten percent of everything he owns and making a big production of presenting it at the temple. He gives his ten percent, but neglects other parts of the law. He extends the law only as far as he is able to keep it, and he thinks he has done enough.

Jesus will not stand for this. He considers all of God’s law. He shows that no man can possibly keep all of it. Keeping one command is good, but insufficient. God’s law includes the tithe, when ten percent is counted and carried to the temple, but it includes other commands as well. It requires us to care for justice and mercy and faithfulness (Matt. 23:23). Jesus meant for His disciples to see that the Pharisees were not keeping the whole law. In fact, no man can keep all of God’s commandments. No man but Jesus, that is.

As my laughter turned to sorrow, I was able to respond by looking once more to the cross, to see the One who perfectly fulfilled the law on my behalf.

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Why We Fail at Family Devotions
July 29, 2015

I have written about family devotions a number of times (most recently in How We Do Family Devotions), and it always leads to a response. Whenever I write about the subject, I immediately receive emails and messages from people who have tried and failed, or who are still trying and are convinced they are failing. I compiled some of that feedback and came up with a list of reasons we fail at family devotions.

We Make it Too Hard

I think the main reason we fail is that we make it too hard. Family devotions are the simplest thing in the world. We just need to get the family together, and then read the Bible and pray. Anything beyond that is gravy. Sing a song if you like. Engage in discussion if you like. Memorize a catechism if you like. Don’t feel like you need to begin with more than the basics. Don’t feel like you have failed if you do not get beyond the very basics. Read a few verses and pray. Then, the next day, read and pray. And the day after that. And the one after that. Take Sunday off (Hey, you’ve been to church, right?) but then pick it right up again on Monday. And just keep going.

I am convinced a lot of people fail because we feel that Word and prayer are not enough. We read books and blogs by people who do so much more and feel that we do not measure up. We finish, see that only 5 minutes have elapsed, and feel like that can’t possibly be enough. It is easier to not do devotions at all than to do them simply. Don’t fall into that trap. Word and prayer are enough. Word and prayer are awesome. Make the fact that you do them more important than how you do them.

We Measure Too Short

Another reason we fail at family devotions is that we give up too quickly. We measure short instead of long. We do it for a few weeks or a few months and don’t see any significant results. Our kids still look bored. Our spouse still doesn’t really buy into it. We ourselves find any excuse to take a day off. And we begin to wonder if this is really worth it, if this is really making a difference.

But we need to measure long, not short. We need to think more about eighteen or twenty years of exposure to the Bible than eighteen days or eighteen weeks. We need to think about our own lives and how we need to hear things a hundred times, not one or two times, before we respond to that conviction. We need to remember and believe that God works through these simple means, but that he does so at his own pace. We need to believe that God honors the means he provides.

We Do It Out of Guilt, Not Conviction

Here is a third reason we fail: We do family devotions out of guilt, not conviction. We hear a sermon illustration about family devotions or get challenged by a book we read. We decide that it is time to finally do this thing, to finally begin this habit. But we are doing so out of guilt rather than real conviction. Our motives are all wrong.

Guilt can motivate for a while, but not for long. When times get difficult or when the guilt begins to fade, it is only conviction that will keep us going. Make sure that you are doing family devotions out of true conviction. Know in your own mind that this is a valuable habit and that God calls you, as the parent, to lead your family in this way. Go to the Word of God and allow God to challenge you with the importance of reading his Word and praying to him.

Our Spouse Won’t Do It

This may be the most difficult scenario: We do not do family devotions because our spouse will not participate. Sometimes dad wants to do family devotions but mom will not agree. Far more commonly, though, mom is desperate to see dad lead family devotions but he is just not interested. I can’t even tell you all the times I have seen or heard of this very scenario.

Each one of these situations needs to be approached differently and carefully. Husband, speak to your wife and appeal to her to participate. If she will not, then consider going ahead and doing devotions with your children. Wife, appeal to your husband to take the lead in devotions and full-out support him, affirming his every move. If he will not take the lead, perhaps consider leading devotions on your own. In either case, remember that the local church is your ally here, both through other members who may be able to offer counsel and through pastors or elders.

We Get Proud

Finally, we also fail because we get proud. Here’s what I mean: We try family devotions. It goes well for a week. Then we forget all about it. A couple of months later we try again, feeling a little sheepish this time. We explain to the family “It’s my fault, but I really want us to commit to this and to make it work.” This time we do it for a couple of weeks, but then stop again. The third time around we feel even more embarrassed about telling our family that yes, we are doing this again and that yes, it’s dad’s fault again. Pride rears its ugly head and it seems easier to just succumb to the failure than to rise to the challenge. We get proud and allow pride to withhold a blessing from our family.

Look, family devotions is a sweet and simple habit, a sweet and simple discipline. It is called family devotions not only because it is a gathering of the family, but because it is meant to be by and for your family. Make sure you allow your family devotions to reflect the uniqueness of your family. Make them your own, and do them for the good of your family and the glory of God. Mostly, just do them.

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What Gives God Pleasure
July 28, 2015

You can tell a lot about a person by learning what brings him pleasure. Pleasure is good. God has wired us to pursue pleasure. The question is: Will we seek the truest and highest pleasures, or will we settle for lesser ones? Will we, in the oft-quoted words of C.S. Lewis, accept the holiday by the sea or will we continue to fuss about in the slums with our little mud pies?

What makes you happy? What pleasures do you pursue? That might be one of the most important things about you. Where your pleasures are, there your heart will be. And let’s ask a related question: What makes God happy? What pleasures does God pursue? That might be one of the most important things about God.

Paul has an interesting answer for us in 1 Timothy 2:4: God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” God’s desire unveils his pleasure: God loves to save the lost. This brings him great joy.

God’s desire to save the lost is not idle or casual. It is not a desire he merely feels. Rather, this desire has led him to action—the action of providing “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:5-6). God’s desire to save people from their sin has led him to take the costliest action imaginable in the sending and sacrificing of his own Son.

Do you share God’s desire? Do you long to share God’s pleasure? If it is so good to God, shouldn’t it be so good to you?

What fascinates me about this text is how God calls us to action. He does not immediately tell us to go out and share the gospel. Not yet. The clear call to action is prayer: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions…” He goes on to say, “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior…” The good here is the good of prayer. God deems it good that we plead with him for the souls of the lost. He deems it good that we pray before we go, that we pray as we go, that we pray after we go. God’s desire and God’s provision meet at the point of prayer.

If you share God’s desire for the pleasure of seeing the lost come to a saving knowledge of Christ, you will pray. You must pray. You must pray that God will extend his grace by extending the gift of faith.

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