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March 29, 2010 / beidson

Pure Progress: Moving Forward in Ministry Without Being Pushy

One of the greatest difficulties Christian leaders must face is learning to get what they want without grasping for it.  We all have a sinful urge to grasp and clamor after the things we think we need, and for leaders especially, nothing will be so tempting as to use your leadership to push your way to success.  But this is demonic, the stuff you would find in books on leadership written by Satan (if he were to write such books).

James is quick to point out that great leaders have wisdom that is from above.  He asks rhetorically, “Who is wise and understanding among you?”, then answers, “By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.” (3:13).  True leadership is evidenced, not by claiming to be wise and understanding, savvy and cutting edge, but by displaying the meekness of wisdom.  “Which one of you is a leader?” James asks.  “Prove it in meekness.” he answers.

Easy to say, hard to do.  The moment you begin to think you are not that guy, you are becoming that guy.  Not that you can’t seek to be humble–you can and should seek to display true humility.  But we are often more eager to be recognized by others than to serve others, sometimes even as we claim to be serving them.

James says, “If you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.” (v. 14).  He goes on, “This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual demonic.” (v.15).  How many of us as “spiritual” leaders are marked by a sort of grasping after what we want, like the kid at the birthday party who sees the last piece of cake and knocks everyone down to get to it?  How many of us are unsatisfied with what God has given us and are obsessed with some other ministry model or person or gadget, to the point that it causes us to use others?

Is your ambition selfish?  Just ask yourself that question.  What in the world is driving you to succeed?  Is your goal to outdo others in being honored, or would you submit to the Scriptures, “Outdo one another is showing honor”? (Romans 12:10b).  Do you have bitter jealousy in your heart, the kind that eats away at you and compels you toward a malignant sort of aggressiveness, because you are afraid of being left in the dust and forgotten?  James warns us, where these things exist, there will be disorder and every sort of evil practice (v. 16).  So don’t point fingers when your work is unfruitful, unless you’re willing to point them at yourself.

We are all driven this way apart from Christ.  And this isn’t a momentary affliction either–it is perennial.  We are like those who wandered in the desert, grasping continually for what we didn’t have and thought we should have.  And to make it worse, we often disguise our grasping as asking.  But who are we fooling.  Selfish ambition doesn’t ask; it demands.

But we have the mind of Christ, right?  “Wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and goof fruits, impartial and sincere.  And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace (vv. 17-18).  Godly leaders are marked by wisdom, and wisdom is recognized by its fruit.  There is no jealousy, but purity.  There is no grasping, but giving.  There is no bulldozing and bullying, but mercy, reasonableness and sincerity.  And most importantly, wise leaders make peace because they sow peace.  Like Jesus, wherever they have been, they have put away disorder and replaced it with peace.

There is no need to be pushy and to barge your way through life, unless you want to be a disciple of demons.  Move forward in the meekness of wisdom.  This is progress, pure and simple.

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March 9, 2010 / beidson

Faithfulness Over Excellence: The Biblical Mandate for Ministry

Somewhere along the way local church ministry took a hard turn toward professionalism, and maybe one of the most prevalent signs of this is the extreme emphasis on excellence.  Not the excellence of Philippians 4:8, which speaks of moral goodness and beauty, but excellence in a technical sense, an excellence which makes us more marketable, not necessarily more biblical.

With modernism, many churches changed their strategies, whatever they were, to become more efficient, more productive.  Like excellence, though, this sort of efficiency tended toward man-centered growth models, not responsible stewardship.  In fact, excellence and efficiency are both good qualities and practices when used for good purposes.  But they are not points–they are subpoints.  They belong under faithfulness.

What we need to keep in mind most is that God has called us to be faithful in the work he has given us to do.  Technological relevance and cultural savvy are good, but they are not our driving force.  Or are they?  Ask yourself these questions: would you be more upset if you failed to pray with your child or if somebody thought your church wasn’t cool?  Would you be more disturbed by the faithlessness of many of the men in your church or by some irritating feedback from the pastor’s mic?  Would you be more embarrassed by facilities that weren’t state of the art or by your lack of prayerlessness?  Where is your heart?  Has “excellence” become more about technical precision to you than moral goodness?

If excellence is more about performance than character, you’ve got some major work to do on your life.  If excellence means having an attractive product over having an attractive heart, then you need to repent.  Excellent work is an overflow of a faithful heart.  Faithful people will do all things well because they are driven by a love for Christ, not a fear of failure.

We might find a lot more freedom in ministry if we lifted the burden of “excellence” off of our shoulders and began to do little things consistently well.  Now don’t misunderstand: nice brochures and a well rehearsed music set are very important–sloppiness in no way reflects the majesty of God.  But so often we are too easily driven by the cool factor and not nearly enough by the faithfulness factor.  So what if your building doesn’t have cool floors?  Who cares if your flyers have a misspelled word?  Does it really matter if you can’t teach like the guy everyone loves to hear?  But are you cleaning those floors and designing those flyers and engaging others in gospel conversations faithfully?

Jesus is better and more excellent than any of us.  He made excellent wine, right.  But was that the point?  No.  The miracle was the point–his divinity was the point.  He turned a small lunch basket into a brown bag picnic for thousands, and we can be sure the fish and bread were delicious.  But were they the point?  No.  The point was the provision.

Do small things well, and do them well consistently.  This will stick out more to the lost world than any brochure or brand ever could.

March 8, 2010 / beidson

Particle Marriage: Will Your Cheap Furniture Outlast Your Promise?

Particle board furniture seems to fit our cultural temperament well: it gives the appearance of being sturdy, but under extreme pressure, it will break every time.  For all of its counterfeit beauty, particle board can’t match the strength of real wood.  Of course, it was never meant to.  It is imitation, and imitation can’t do what the real thing can do.  And this is precisely the point.

My daughter had a little table in her room that she got for Christmas about 2 years ago.  It had two chairs that went with it–one of them broke within months after the first Christmas, and the other had a huge crack on the back leg that made sitting very precarious.  A couple of months ago my son tried to push her table across the carpeted floor–bad idea.  As you know, carpet is not the best sliding surface.  It only took a few bulldozing-shoves and the legs of the table snapped right off.  It was going to happen sooner or later.  This table wasn’t meant to last forever.  It was the perfect little girl’s table, decorated with sparkling butterflies and cute pink chairs, but in reality, it was only an illusion.  This table looked solid, but it was built to fall apart.

A lot of marriages are like this.  They look solid on the outside, but they are cracked and unstable where it really counts.  A few hard shoves and it will all be over.  Bills, children, sickness, conflict, frustration . . . all shoving them and pushing them over.  The sad thing is that many of our marriages will not outlast our cheap furniture.  When the divorce papers are signed and belongings are divided, many of us will be arguing over who gets the $100 bookcase.

Marriage is meant to last.  It is not cheap imitation; it is a true reflection.  Our covenant with God and one another is not meant to be broken like scraps of cheap dormitory furniture.  Our lives together reflect the lovingkindness of Christ toward his Church, a love which no enemy will every destroy, no matter how hard he pushes.  So many of the trees in our own yards will be around for generations after we are forgotten.  This is okay, because trees were made to live for a long time.  But if we can’t stick together longer than wood chips and glue, we’ve got some major issues that need to be resolved.  What we need is to see the glory of marriage in the cross of Christ, a love that breaks the Husband on a cheap wooden structure, dying to redeem a bride he will always call his own.

There is a message in our $75 newly-wed table: be together when the chairs fall apart and the surface is marked by water damage–be together when the time comes to replace it.  Promises are permanent–particle board isn’t.  One is imitation–the other, illumination.  Both are gifts from God designed to give different messages.  Don’t get the two confused.

March 8, 2010 / beidson

No Time for Temptation: A Simple Strategy for Killing Sin

I think one of the best ways to get away from sin is to be busy doing good things.  It may sound simplistic, but I think it is biblical. Every idle second is an open door for temptation.  Hard continuous work will keep the door shut.

For instance, consider the Israelites who fooled around at the foot of the mountain while Moses ascended to the top.  They fell into sin quickly and were judged just as quickly.  Consider their sons and daughters, who after entering the Promised Land, became comfortable and lazy and spun into a cyclical pattern of sin, judgment and repentance.  The book of  Proverbs too is abundantly clear that the one who wastes time is a fool, even the one who works hard at devising evil.

It seems that we are tempted to slow down from our labors after we have come through difficult periods in our lives.  Oddly enough, times of difficulty keep us looking forward, perhaps wondering if they will ever end, looking for some sort of light at the end of the tunnel.  But when we come out of the tunnel and are through with our hard labor, it is all too easy to get used to our “frictionless” life.  It is possible to rest the wrong way.  Sabbath is good, but our rest is in Christ, not in a recliner.  We need to work while we rest, or rest may become an occasion for idolatry, as with the Israelites.

Think of Jesus’ hard work of prayer while he fasted for over a month in the dessert.  Can you think of an easier way to have nothing to do than to be alone in the dessert, and yet Jesus fasted and prayed, working hard and spending time in communion with his Father.  And when he had finished fasting and was resting from his labor, he was tempted by Satan.  But he did the hard work of resisting the devil.  He did the hard work of prayer.  He found rest while laboring in fighting off temptation.  He did not sit down on a rock and wait for the angels to come to his side–he pushed through his trial with prayer, even though he must have been exhausted, no doubt.

We are delusional if we believe that rest means worklessness–rest means labor of a different degree.  Though we do need physical rest daily and retreats occasionally, we cannot afford to be still doing nothing.  Be still, right, but be still and know God, that is, know him by continual prayer and sanctification, know him by resisting the devil, know him by not knowing the world, know him by wrestling with him like Jacob.  Temptation will come when we think we deserve a break, so beware–your adversary is prowling around, even while you lay on the couch or read a book by the pool.

A simple strategy for killing sin: don’t be idle.  Rest, yes, but rest while you work.

February 3, 2010 / beidson

The Terror of Tears: Weeping and Wailing as Horror and Hope

The sound of someone crying is unmistakable.  Even the faintest sound of sobbing does something to arrest our attention.  Crying is universally captivating.

The other night my daughter and I were listening to music in our living room and the voice we heard began to tremor as the artist recounted the loss of a close friend.  I looked over at my daughter and her face was distressed.  She looked like she was viewing the wreckage of an awful accident.  And really, wreckage is exactly what she was seeing.

Tears reveal something tragic about our world, that joy has been interrupted by terrible loss.  In our better moments, we forget what it is like to weep in agony, to put our face in our hands and lay on our bed and wish that we were dead.  We have all experienced grief, and nothing betrays our rock-star autonomy like salty tears rolling down our cheeks.  When we cry, we know we are not right.

There are good reasons to cry.  Scripture says we should mourn and cry.  But it also says that in the New City, Jesus will touch our face and put a plug in our tear ducts.  He will wipe away every tear and put an end to grief and suffering.

There are also bad reasons for crying.  For instance, hell is described as a place where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  When God’s people are subdued into slavery, they leave their homeland crying, wailing in sorrow and fear.  Women cried out in horror as their children were killed.  The nation wept as its great buildings became rubble before them.

There is a bit of the future in our tears as well.  Crying isn’t merely consequential; it is prophetic as well.  We cry over what has been lost, yes.  But it may be that we cry because we do not see how things can be good for us in the future.  This sort of crying is not mourning, really; it is more like the woman in the closet in a horror movie, quietly wimpering because she fears for her life.  This sort of crying is hopeless, and it exposes our unbelief.

But there is too a sort of crying which anticipates deliverance–a joy expressed through tears of relief.  We cry out to God, not because we do not believe him, but precisely because we believe him–we trust him and hope in him.  Our tears tell a tale, for sure, and we would do well to listen to them when they fall.

I think my daughter understood that the artist had lost something.  That’s what was so disturbing.  He cried because he had been cut off from something in his past; I think she was horrified because she feared the future.  She understood that something was not right.  But our tears are not all bad.  Jesus wept.  Our tears should give us an occasion to reflect on the wreckage of sin, and the ensuing terror it causes among a lost and frantic humanity.  But we cry with Jesus, who cried out to his Father, and committed his spirit to him.  We wait for his return–we anticipate the touch of his almighty hand.  He has promised to turn our mourning into laughter.  So let every tear be a reason to weep over sin, but to welcome the future as well.

February 2, 2010 / beidson

Be Wretched: Doing the Hard and Holy Work of Humiliation

Perhaps we should practice wretchedness as a spiritual discipline–put it in all of the books on how to be like Jesus.  James seems to think that this is very important.  He gives an imperative, “Be wretched and mourn and weep.  Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (4:9).  God opposes us when we bow our chest.  The answer: bend our backs in prayer.  This requires wretchedness.

Paul too understood this.  He exclaimed, “Wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24).  Jesus, of course, the one who lifts the face in the dirt, who strengthens knees on the floor, who shoulders the burden of the heavy-hearted.  Paul was here responding in shock, almost, at his warring flesh which presented him with an ever-present struggle with sin.  But still, he understood he was wretched, the chief of sinners.  He humbled himself–he was humiliated.

We don’t typically think of humiliation as a good thing, especially not something we would do to ourselves. But this is exactly what we need to do–strip away pride and self-concern and make ourselves nothing before God and men.  It is no easy task to abase ourselves–we are not built that way in our flesh.  But it is holy work we must set ourselves to do.  We cannot reign with Christ unless we become nothing with him, the Man who was wretched on a cross, a cursed Man who embraced the hard work of humiliation.

January 7, 2010 / beidson

Hard Pleasure: The Best Fruit of Our Toil

For those of us who may easily grow weary in doing good, remember the words of Solomon to us: “I perceive that there is nothing better for them (workers/children of man) than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live, also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil–this is God’s gift to man” (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13).

Pleasure is not the gift–pleasure in all our toil is the gift.  It is true, our work can be hard and difficult, and sometimes even fruitless as far as we can tell.  And yet, there would be much fruit in our work if we found pleasure in doing it, regardless of what we are given to do.  But that’s precisely the point–our work is given to us; it is a gift, and gifts bring pleasure.

I am sure you are tempted as I am to write off much of your life as useless and fruitless.  Even those of us who know better still find ourselves staring at a mess in the kitchen or a mile marker on the highway and thinking, “Is this really getting me anywhere?”  Yes, it is the way God will teach you to enjoy him.  You may build an ark or hear a voice out of the fire, but mostly your life will be normal, lived on dry land and even in the wilderness.

Toil is not the problem; wasting it is.  Be careful not to moan about the tedious things you have to do.  And get rid of romantic notions of pleasure, or glamorous hopes for success.  Rather do the work you have been given to do and learn to find pleasure in doing it well.  It has been given to you.  This is evidence of God’s grace to us, even as we continue to suffer under the heavy weight of the curse.  Let the fruit of pleasure sweeten every hour of you toil.  And be joyful.  There is nothing better for you than this.

January 5, 2010 / beidson

Is It Any Wonder You Love So Much? An Open Letter to My Father

Dear Dad,

Is it any wonder that you love so much?  You have been forgiven a debt you could never repay.  It was a great and awful debt, and I know it must have haunted you to death–I know because I carried it too.  It was never as heavy on my shoulders as it was on yours, but I could feel it.  You are my father, and what hurts you hurts me.

You have endured suffering beyond anything I could begin to imagine, and I have no explanation except to say that God intends to do you great good through such great evil.  What your enemies meant for harm, God has only ever intended for your eternal good.  Even now, you know his kindness has led you to repentance.  Your tears of mourning have become tears of joy, and I am sure that in the future, when you are in the pit again, God will lift you up once more and give you gladness beyond the weight of grief which burdens you.

I do not know all of the reasons God permitted violence against you.  But he gave his son to be murdered–he gave him gladly as a sacrifice.  Jesus knows your suffering as one who endured it as well.  He knows what it is to be mocked and laughed at and cursed and stripped.  But he was cast down so that he might be lifted up.  He was thrown into the pit so that he might pull you out.

When you were in that darkness, I know you could not see the goodness which God intended for you.  But when he sent a Light for you, how happy you must have been.  I know you see goodness when you look at a bloody lamb, because you yourself have bled at the hands of wicked men.  But you were cast down so that you could be lifted up.

Dad, I love you.  And I know you love me.  You love me so much because you have been forgiven so much.  I can hardly remember any pain you ever caused me because of the pleasure you brought me as a father–your loving playfulness and laughter have outlived dark moments we endured.  And when I do recall things done against me, I am reminded of my own sins against you, and greater still, I am reminded of God’s goodness toward the both of us.  How can we who have been forgiven so much not love in kind?  His grace compels us toward reconciliation.

If there comes a time when your mind takes you back to corners and closets where dark stories wait to be told, remember, God does not condemn you.  “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers . . . By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our hearts before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:16, 19-20).

As far as you can find sin in your heart, so far has Jesus gone to remove it.  As deep as you go into despair, just as deeply has he descended to give you hope.  And when you don’t know that God loves you, remember, I do.  Let my love for you be proof that God loves you still, for I cannot love you except that I have first been loved by him.

And when your sin and suffering swell again, remember that God has used them for our good, so that your love for me might be even greater.  One day, your suffering will be swallowed with the grave, and the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet.  I will be there with you, laughing in delight that we were rescued from him.

I love you Dad,

Benjamin

December 29, 2009 / beidson

Will It Take Cancer To Cure Me? Reflections On My Own Depravity and Rebellion

I wish I thought I had cancer.  Let me explain.  I do not wish I had cancer–that would be ridiculous, even sinful.  But sometimes I wish I thought I had it, that is, I wish I looked at life the way a person does when they have cancer–like they don’t have long to live, and like every moment matters, and like I need to spend my dying days doing good, forgiving and being forgiven.

But why don’t I have this perspective anyway, because the truth is that I am dying and my life is short.  I’m always shocked to hear about well-known people who develop cancer, as if I really believe that people are supposed to live forever.  I imagine what it would be like to hear the doctor tell me those words, “You have cancer, and it is killing you.”  I think that somehow I would do things differently, get my priorities in line, tie up loose ends and go out like a burning star.  But I’m not so sure that I would.  Maybe I would stay the same.  And that is probably the worst thing that could ever happen, even worse than dying from cancer.

God has given us boundaries in our bodies–we live by his power, we die according to his mysterious will.  Our time is very short.  We are all dying.  We all have a sentence of death upon our bodies.  And yet, we love to pretend we are immortal, and to fantasize about living forever.  We do this and that with little regard for threat of death which awaits us.  This is foolish.  This is rebellion.  We ought instead to realize we are dying, and live accordingly.

I ask God daily to give me a heart to know my brevity, to give me a mind that understands how small I really am.  I also ask God to save me from cancer, if he would.  But I do pray he would help me to think like one who has cancer, and cure me of my delusions of immortality.  He will raise me up one day, but until then, I am going down into the grave more and more each day.  In a strange way, this knowledge of death has become a source of new life for me, by God’s grace.

December 28, 2009 / beidson

Feet Speak: Hearing The Voice That Rules With Sole Authority

You know feet can make noise.  But did you know they can talk?  The Scriptures say that our feet leave more than footprints in the dirt; they leave a message in the heavens.

The book of Proverbs is replete with this feet language, speaking of feet that run to evil, that lead down to death, that send signals, that are swift to shed blood, that wander from home, etc.  You get the point.  Likewise, the faithful man watches his feet carefully (Psalm 119), and knows his enemies have set traps for his feet, in order to snare him and take him off course.  Again, you get the point.  Our feet do more than move us–they mark us.  What we run after, what we stand on, and what we fall over reveal the nature of our hearts.  Our feet speak volumes about our motivations and desires.

But feet do more than speak.  Our feet rule.  The self-controlled man will not wander downtown toward the prostitute’s house (Proverbs 7).  No, his feet will be planted firmly in the grace of God (Psalm 37:31).  He will not be ruled by evil, but he will flee from it.  He will not chase after idols, but he will walk faithfully, carrying his cross.  He will not grow idle, but will run with endurance the race that is set before him.

And this makes sense.  Jesus’ feet send the greatest message of all, a message of messianic monarchy.  The Father is making his enemies a footstool for his feet–all things will be under his feet one day.  His are the feet that will crush the head of our footless serpentine enemy, who crawls on his belly with no feet to rule with.

And our hope is this: “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Romans 16:20).  We too will hear cracking bones under our toes when Jesus returns to slay our enemy.

People who love Christ will control their feet.  And this is why we must listen to our feet, because they are telling us about authority–either we rule over the fallen cosmos or it rules over us.  Will you stand over your grave beside your Brother as one rescued from death, or will you be under the feet of Jesus, a footstool for the One your feet turned away from?

Look at your feet and listen.  Where are they going?  Will you follow fools in their folly and find judgment, or will you follow Wisdom and rule with him in a new city?  Which feet will you listen to?

December 22, 2009 / beidson

I Cannot Believe Myself: Why We Must Refuse To Hear Our Hearts

How often do you get out of bed in the morning and immediately run through a list of things you don’t like about your life?  You haven’t even made coffee yet, and already complaining and grumbling are brewing in your heart.  I know this to be true in my life.  Every morning I fight a battle with my mind and heart.  I keep telling myself lies and I keep believing them, but the truth is, I can’t believe myself–my heart lies to me.  And so I turn immediately to the Scriptures–they tell me the truth.

The Scriptures warn us, “Let no one deceive himself” (1 Cor. 3:18).  We are so prone to lie to ourselves about anything and everything.  We tend to be in despair when there is reason for great hope.  We tend to exalt ourselves when we really have no reason to boast in ourselves at all.  We doubt when we ought to trust God.  We feel at peace in our sin when the Scriptures clearly condemn us in our sin.  Apart from Christ, we are like our father the devil, and even for those of us who have been adopted into God’s family, our sinful origin is clearly evident still, even in the kitchen at the coffee maker, before the sun has even come up.

John tell us, “whenever our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:20).  We cannot always trust our treacherous hearts.  We must put our confidence in God’s sure Word to us.  Jesus has removed me from under the condemning power of sin and the furious anger of God against that sin.  My heart may condemn me, even with true statements.  But my flesh tries to disconnect my sin from God’s provision, and leave me in the grave to die alone.  It tells me half-truths, and I almost believe them.  But God has given us the whole truth, so that when our hearts condemn us, we can know that God is greater than all our sin, and able to save to the uttermost those who hope in him.

So tell yourself the truth.  When your heart and mind begin to condemn you, start talking to yourself, to borrow a biblical counseling tool.  Do not believe yourself when you are lying–believe the words God has spoken to you.  And drink your coffee with gladness.

December 16, 2009 / beidson

Does Sarah Condemn You? Why You Should Not Be Afraid of Frightening Things

Can you think of anything more frightening than obedience?  Certainly evil clowns and chainsaw murderers might seem to befirst on the list, if you asked me.  But the Scriptures tell a different story.

The Apostle Peter explains that Sarah, Abraham’s wife, was a remarkable woman because of her submission and obedience.  In fact, women who imitate her faith are known as her children, which is only fitting seeing that Abraham is the father of those who are righteous through faith.  What’s more, Sarah is held up as a model of bravery and fearlessness.  Peter writes, “And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening” (2 Peter 3:6).  This is a strange way of talking.  Be definition, frightening things are scary, and typically we are not prone to feel comfortable around frightening things.  This is why horror movies are so popular–they allow us to examine evil from a safe distance.  But if we were to ever find ourselves in a moment of horror and terror, well, again, that’s a different story altogether.

Sarah was not afraid of submission or obedience.  She followed Abraham into an unknown land, trusting God to make good on his promise.  And God did.  Sarah obeyed God beautifully.  She adorned herself with hope.  She had the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.  Her confidence was in the goodness of God to give her what he had promised, so she did not fear the frightening prospect of following her husband into another land.  No longer would she observe the unknown from a safe distance–now she would walk right into it.

But really, the moral of the story is not to trust God with your future, though this is certainly an implication.  The point is this: do not be afraid of frightening things–trust God and obey him.  Those who do not know God fear for their lives–they are afraid to be confronted by evil.  But those who belong to Jesus have overcome evil.  They are not afraid of frightening things.

This is not about laughing at murder and perversion and crookedness–certainly not.  We acknowledge the evil and horror of these things.  But we must think more in terms of our craving for immediate comfort and satisfaction, “What will we eat?  What will we wear?”  Jesus said that pagans are consumed with these questions.  But we must not be afraid of what we do not understand; rather, we must trust God and obey him.  We are Abraham and Sarah’s children if we put our hope and confidence in the promises of One who has been before us to battle the dark forces in the heavenly places.  We are not afraid of frightening things because we fear the one who is able to cast the soul and body into hell, and he is for us and not against us.

Would you be condemned by a woman with a gentle and quiet spirit?  Then trust God and obey him, and you will not be orphans, but children of the one who was not afraid of frightening things.

December 15, 2009 / beidson

Does Noah Condemn You? Why You Should Be Afraid of Fearlessness

Maybe the last image that comes to our mind when we think of Noah is that of a powerful judge.  More likely would be the image of a gentle, smiling man surrounded by happy animals in a small boat floating in a pond.  At least, that’s what comes to my mind.  It’s hard to escape this image when it is everywhere presented, almost as fiction.  But the truth is that far from saving a few animals, Noah actually condemned the entire world.  Yep.  He did.  Me and you included.

Hebrews tells us that Noah built his ark out of “reverent fear” and in doing so, he condemned the world and became an heir of righteousness, the righteousness that comes by faith (11:7).  No condemnatory words came out of Noah’s mouth, at least not that we  know about, but by building a mammoth ship to save himself and his family, he left the rest to perish. He never spoke a word about what was to come, and yet he is called a “herald of righteousness” (2 Pt. 2:5).  Why?  Because out of fear he fled from the wrath to come.  He built an ark because he was afraid.

Not so for others in his day.  Jesus tells us that those in Noah’s day were unaware of the impending doom which loomed over their world, until the day when the floods consumed them (Matt. 24:38-39).  They were eating and drinking and living normal lives.  But they were not afraid, so they did not understand their plight.  They were safe on land, away from the waters of judgment.

But the baptismal waters soon covered them, and the seas were filled with their lifeless corpses, soon to be fertilizer for dry ground.  And Noah came safely through the waters because he was in a boat–that’s it.  If he had not built the ark, he too would have been covered.  But he was fearful, and so he was saved.

And here is the message from the mouth of this herald of righteousness: flee from the wrath to come.  If we do not take judgment seriously, we will most surely not escape it.  Just as in the days of Noah, we may continue to live normal lives, and yet if we do not see storm clouds forming overhead, we too will be consumed by the flood of wrath.

All this to say, there is a greater judgment to come, and we have been warned.  Jesus too obeyed his Father and underwent the waters of judgment, now bringing us through them as well, if we find ourselves in him.  And if we choose to remain outside of Christ, there is nothing but a fiery judgment for us.  God’s wrath is the penalty for our infinite offenses against him.  But like Noah, fear brings the faith that God reckons to us as righteousness.  There is no reason to fear if we are afraid.

The question then is “Does Noah condemn you too?”  If you are not afraid, he does.

December 15, 2009 / beidson

Prosperity Lies

December 8, 2009 / beidson

Inheritance Over Halo: Why It is Better to be a Son than an Angel

We like to speak in angelic terms when talking about people who are exceptionally good: “Isn’t she an angel” or “he looked like an angel.”  But really, that isn’t saying much at all.  It would be better to be called a son.  As the Scriptures ask, “to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you?'” (Hebrews 1:5).  None.  Not one.  It is better to be a son.

And why?  Because the Father says to the Son, “God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions” (v. 9).  Do the angels know this joy?  And the Scriptures ask again, “to which of the angels has he ever said, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet?'” (v. 13).  Only the Son will crush his enemies underfoot.  The angels may be in God’s presence, but the Son receives his Father’s inheritance: exaltation.

But sonship is not just for Jesus.  Christ has made a way for all sinners to get back to the Father, even us, who have squandered our inheritance.  And we are not just welcomed back as sons, we are given a place at the table with the Father.  “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1).  We are sons and daughters of God in Christ; by his blood we are given a sonship, that is, a right to the inheritance.  And what is that?  To be exalted with Christ, that is, to rule with him as small kings and queens.  In Jesus the Son of God, we become heirs of eternal salvation and gain the power to overcome our enemies.  We are set free from the prisons of our past and given passage into the New Jerusalem, the paradise of God.  To which angel has God ever granted these things?

It might be better to get away from angelic labels, since all they have is halos.  I’d rather have an inheritance.  As for angels: “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” (v. 14).

November 23, 2009 / beidson

Door of Death: How to Get Back to God from Here

People are always looking for doors.  Some of them are hoping to find fortune on the other side, some security, some companionship.  But everyone is looking.  And we all look because we all want to pass from this life into another, from our present situation to a greater and better way of living.  None of this is by accident.  We are destined to pass through doors.

When Adam and Even were pushed out of their garden home to be wanderers in the desert, the passage back to Eden was guarded by cherubim.  And we wonder with them, “Is there a way back into God’s presence?  Is there a way back to life?”

Then people tried to build a door into the heavens, a tower that soared above the clouds, upward into God’s presence.  But the Lord crumbled their tower and scattered them across the earth.  They were not using the right door.

Then came judgment, when God sent the angel of death to Egypt.  The only households which were spared were those that had splattered blood across the doorway.  Here we begin to see a doorway back into the Garden, but it came at the price of blood.  The way back to God was deadly and fearful and scary; nevertheless, it offered mercy and new life.

Then there was the Temple, but God was separated and holy–there was a veil which kept us away from him.  Only one could pass through the veil, but even he was not worthy.  God was still inaccessible.  No one was worthy to go behind the veil and pull it back for us so that we might be with God.

Then Jesus comes, saying “Enter by the narrow gate.”  There is a way back to God, he said, but it is much different than you think.  It’s not through sanctification first, but through sacrifice; it’s not by religious service, but by a Redeemer-Savior.

Then Jesus says, “I am the door.”

Then he was crucified.  Sin was crouching at the door, and its desire was to overcome him.  But it could not.  He died, but the veil was torn in two.  He was buried, but Jesus was raised, and he rolled back the door of death that held him in and the way out of the grave was opened up.  Jesus stood in the flesh just a few feet in front of the door that had held his body captive.  Now he stood there, breathing and seeing and hearing, as the doorway to new life.

No longer were there angels guarding the way to the door.  In fact, they said, “He is not here.  He is risen.”  They marvel at the grace and wonder which would welcome sinners back into the paradise of God.

The truth is, we are all born on the inside of the grave, and none of us can pass through it.  We are literally buried alive, kept out of the presence of God.  But there is a door which is opened to us that leads back into the presence of God.  It is splattered with blood; it has been shredded apart.  And Jesus alone leads us through it.  But we must die to enter through it.  It is a door that demands our death, but its promise is eternal life.  Many try to climb in another way; they are robbers and thieves.  Jesus, however, is the Shepherd.  His sheep know his voice, and they follow him through the door.  He died first for us, and now we die with him so that we may reign with him on the other side of the door.

Everyone is looking for a door, but few want to die to enter it.  Many people would rather live in the grave, held in by the door of death, than die so that they may pass through the door of life.  Don’t let that be you.  There is nothing but judgment on the other side of the door.  Repent, and walk through the blood-splattered door of God’s Lamb.  Jesus is the door back to God.  Hear his voice, and follow him, through death, back into the presence of God.

November 3, 2009 / beidson

A Reason To Laugh (and Mourn)

Planned Parenthood Director Leaves, Has Change of Heart

October 23, 2009 / beidson

A Mother’s Home and a Devil’s Hell: How One Can Save You from the Other

Motherhood is warfare. It is about saving lives. It is about fighting for your children’s lives. And I don’t mean fighting for a better education, or fighting for a drug-free teenager. For Christ-loving mothers, motherhoood is about saving people from God’s wrath.
Most women are called to be mothers. This is how God has designed the world, and to avoid motherhood is to avoid one of the greatest opportunities to overcome the evil one and his evil schemes. Motherhood ought to be gladly embraced as a calling, not as a career, or even worse, something to do after you’ve finished you’re career.
Motherhood is a ministry that saves people from hell, or at least, it should be, and it can be for those mothers who are hoping in Christ. A mother’s home ought to be the one place, even if it is the only place, where her children and husband can see the gospel lived out before them. The home is the perfect place for the gospel because it is the perfect place for sin. The sinfulness of our flesh may manifest itself most in our homes, where there is the most potential for hating and fighting and dissension. Yet this is the perfect place for a mother to display the humility of Christ by humbling herself to do the dirty work of motherhood.
When a mother embraces her rebellious teenage son and forgives his recklessness time and again, for the sake of saving him from hell, the gospel is being lived out. When a weeping mother can barely stand to face her indifferent husband, but loves him in humility anyway, she is displaying the gospel of Jesus Christ. When a sorrowful mother confronts her teenage daughter about her dangerous behavior, knowing that she will face tremendous conflict, she is proving in a very real way that Jesus Christ is Lord and will give her grace in her time of need.
A mother’s heart and behavior have a direct affect on the direction of her children and husband’s lives. This is why Titus tells us that young women ought to “love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled” (2:4-5). Paul also instructs Timothy to tell the younger widows to “marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander” (1 Tim. 5:14). There is a connection between the mother’s home and the Word of God: by keeping a Christ-centered home, the mother keeps the Word of God from being rejected and despised. This is spiritual warfare; this is the gospel overcoming the evil world.
So the next time your toddler screams at you, or the next time your adolescent son hides himself away in his room, or the next time your teenage daughter struggles with relating to boys, remember: motherhood is about saving lives. Your home is the perfect place for the gospel. Pray to God that he will use you to bring your family to faith in Christ. Pray to God that they will love Christ and his gospel, so that on Judgment Day, they will stand before Christ and escape a Devil’s hell because of their mother’s home.
October 22, 2009 / beidson

Tasting Tomorrow: Do You Have a Palate for the Powers to Come?

You’ve heard people talk about “tomorrow” in visionary terms, like “I can just see it.”  But have you ever heard anyone say they cantongue feel it on their tongues?  Maybe the future is so bright you have to wear shades, but does it taste so good you that you salivate?

The author of Hebrews speaks of those who “taste” better things to come, but have no appetite for them.  He says, “It is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then fall away, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt” (Hebrews 6:4-6).  What is the problem here?  That those who hunger for greater things reject the greatest thing, namely, the knowledge of Christ.  They have tasted God’s grace and spit it out–what hope do they have of anything better?

But how do you taste the “powers of the age to come”?  It would seem that this flavor is found among the people of God, which is the Bride of Christ, the Church, and specifically, local churches.  If after experiencing the transforming grace of God working in and through the lives of believers a person still rejects Christ, they have no other hope; it’s not like they can crucify Jesus again.  Herein lies the warning for believers: if we turn away from Christ, there is no further hope, so do not turn away.

Our palates must be pleased with the powers of the age to come.  So many of us long for better things and grow weary of battling so many of the things that we deal with daily.  But if we fail to recognize the goodness of God to us in our churches today, we fail to understand the nature of the days to come, and thus we have misguided taste buds.  The Church is displaying the manifold wisdom of God to the cosmos–this is his eternal plan, the mystery now revealed.  The Church is a resurrected body of saints rushing toward a final day of suffering under sin’s awful dominion, a day on which we will look down at the head of our enemy as he squirms beneath our Warrior-King’s feet.  But this is not just a future event.  Even now his foot is pressing down, and the gates of hell cannot overcome him.

Don’t miss this.  The powers of the age to come are on display now in local church congregations across the globe.  Men and women are turning from cherished sin toward Christ.  Families are refusing to give in to cultural pressures which would separate them.  Brave believers are dying at the hands of ruthless oppressors.  And countless numbers of people are being transferred from a kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son.  When we see this, we get a taste of the days to come, when death itself will be destroyed.  This is what we must long for.  This is what our glands should salivate over.  This is what our tongues ought to tingle for.

The power of the ages to come is working even now.  Do you like the way it tastes?

October 12, 2009 / beidson

Receiving is Believing: Why Truth Must Be Welcomed To Be Believed

Biblical belief is more than recognizing and giving ascent to truth–it is rejoicing over truth.  Luke tells us that after Peter preached at Pentecost, those who received his word celebrated by being baptized (Acts 2:41).  They recognized truth and rejoiced in it to the point that they publicly identified themselves with the gospel of Jesus.  They believed, and you knew they believed because they welcomed the truth with gladness.  They received it, and that meant more than merely believing it.

James warns us against being only “hearers” of the word and not “doers” (1:22).  Hearers are those who recognize truth but do not welcome it–they do not receive it.  But doers are those who “receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save [their] souls” (v. 21).  They receive the word, unlike those who only believe it.

The danger is that we come to the place where we no longer rejoice over the gospel, the point at which we recognize truth as good and holy, but do not see it as desirable and lovely.  There is the danger of becoming dull in our hearing (Hebrews 5:11), so that we hear but do not hear, and see but do not see.  Truth is meant to be loved and delighted in and rejoiced over.  The man who found a treasure in a field sold all that he had so that he could purchase the field–in his joy he sold everything, so that he might have the treasure.  This is what it means to rejoice over truth.

It is so easy to grow dull in our hearing.  Lawlessness abounds when we do not receive the truth–our love grows cold because we do not delight in truth.  If you want to see wickedness at work, look for those who know the truth but have not been set free by it.  Look for those who can point to truth, but walk away from it.  And when I say truth, I mean the gospel.  Everything belongs within this redemptive context–the gospel is the framework for all truth.  It is the end of all questioning, indeed, even the beginning, as we groan inwardly for redemption and salvation.

For this redemption we wait with eager expectation . . . waiting to welcome our Lord Jesus in the clouds “when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed” (2 Thess. 1:10).  We welcome you here, Lord Jesus–come quickly.