Finding God on Top of the Mountain

On top of the mountain

This post is a guest post by my friend Matt Popovits.  Matt is a pastor at Our Saviour New York and is without a doubt one of my favorite preachers around.  This post began as a part of one of Matt’s sermons at OSNY and with some of my editing work, Matt and I were able to come up with a great post to share here.

We all have a crazy collection of religious ideas that we’ve gathered throughout our life.  It’s a crazy collection with ideas from Grandma and Grandpa and Oprah and all kinds of other influential people in our life that we’ve crammed into a spiritual junk drawer that shapes what we believe.

Some of the ideas are just not helpful at all and others are part of biblical historic Christianity.  If we rummage through that drawer, one of the most common items you will find is a ruler, one  of those old 12 inch rulers that you probably took to middle school.  If you pull that out of your spiritual junk drawer it’ll be just like that little ruler that you took to middle school or elementary school; it’s got drawings all over it, you colored on it with marker and pencil.

What that ruler represents in your spiritual junk drawer is this urge that we all have in our spirituality to measure.  This urge that we all have to measure where we are in our faith, how far we’ve climbed in our faith and the desire to compare ourselves and measure ourselves against other people in our faith.

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The Preacher of Grace

Preacher of grace

My son is almost three years old, which means he is now at the age where I can give him a rule and with evil in his eyes and a grin on his face, he will happily ignore my rules. Since he’s just a toddler, he’s not very good at being naughty and it’s usually more entertaining than frustrating.  But nonetheless, he at times shows this childlike joy in testing the limits of what is right and wrong.

Robert Capon describes good preachers in a similar way to a naughty toddler:

“I think good preachers should be like bad kids. They ought to be naughty enough to tiptoe up on dozing congregations, steal their bottles of religion pills…and flush them all down the drain. The church, by and large, has drugged itself into thinking that proper human behavior is the key to its relationship with God. What preachers need to do is force it to go cold turkey with nothing but the word of the cross-and then be brave enough to stick around while [the congregation] goes through the inevitable withdrawal symptoms.”

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The Lost Doctrine of the Reformation

Lost doctrine

There is no question that the Reformation was crucial to the development of Christianity and incredibly important in the recovery of the central teaching of grace. In Luther’s day, the Church had by and large abandoned a true teaching of the Gospel for something that was nothing more than buy-your-own-forgiveness. The Church under the guise of Christianity began selling people false hope.

The Reformation recovered what the Bible actually taught and this centered around what is traditionally called “justification.”

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Band-Aids on Cancer

Band aids

Behavior modification is like putting band-aids on cancer. It’s not really going to fix the underlying problem. You know when you were little and you thought that your mom’s kiss could fix any scraped knee? Relying on your own ability to change is just like that; it makes you feel better but it doesn’t actually fix anything.

In order to really deal with the real problems, it involves something much more serious. With cancer, a poison actually has to start to kill the body in order that it might heal. In surgery, the surgeon cuts in order to heal. The law, the full weight of the law has this same kind of effect. It cuts to the heart of the issue. It kills the cancer that thinks your salvation rests on you.

The law kills in order to make us alive.

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I’m Definitely Not My Own Worst Critic

Worst critic

I’ve heard people often say, “I’m my own worst critic.” I’ve even said this before about myself. But I don’t really think it’s true. At least not all the time, and definitely not for myself. Sure, when it comes to critiquing my own preaching or writing, I might be more critical than other people. But if I’m talking generally about my life, I’m not my own worst critic.

If I’m honest, I often think I’m much better than I really am.

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25 Quotes on Grace

Grace quotes

Grace changes everything. In a world of “do more” and “try harder,” we are need of people who are willing to continue to resound the call of “it is finished.”  Grace is the intoxicating message of the extravagant, relentless love of our savior.

And I’m thankful for the theologians, present and past, who have written these words that have messed with me as I’ve thought, written, and preached the message of grace.

25 Quotes on Grace

“Humility is not a technique to get God’s grace, it is not a merchandise to be exchanged for grace; it is rather the admission of one’s wretchedness; it is about being plain and honest to ourselves and the world by naming things for what they are.” – Vitor Westhelle, The Scandalous God

“We do not, as we follow Jesus, become increasingly self-sufficient. Rather, we learn, bit by bit, the art of begging from God the Father, until at our death we can do nothing but say, “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me!” – John Kleinig, Grace Upon Grace

“Grace is given to heal the spiritually sick, not to decorate spiritual heroes.” – Martin Luther

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Grace & 50 Shades of Grey

50

The hype has calmed down a little bit and the bloggers have all weighed in. 50 Shades of Grey is a blockbuster movie, a bestselling book, and the hot topic of journalists, and reporters.  And I realize that I’m adding to that by being another voice jumping in on the topic, but the reason I’m doing so is going to be a bit different.

I have no questions that 50 Shades of Grey is a bad thing.

It presents a view of sex that is far from God’s design and the book is pornographic in its depiction of sex; the images that it has created in the minds of its readers and the images that are portrayed on the big screen are not the way God intended sexuality to work.

And this is why it’s been talked about so much.

And if you’re looking for a list of reasons why it’s wrong to read or watch 50 Shades, this isn’t the post for you.

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When God Speaks Through Asses

God speaks

There’s an awesome story in the book of Numbers when God decides to use a donkey to get his message across.  For effect, let’s use the KJV:

And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab.

And God’s anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the Lord stood in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him.

KJV is just fun, I should use it to teach far more often.

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God’s Terrible Mission Strategy

Mission strategy

When it coms to the salvation of man, God is always the one doing the work. God does the rescuing. God does the redeeming. God is the one who forgives. But then in the midst of God’s grace that he gives, he decides to give this message to a people.

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:20-21

God rescues.

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What Family Devotions Really Look Like

Devotions

When I envisioned family devotions in my head, it was always a picture of my kids hanging onto every word I say as I opened up the scriptures for them. I pictured my son interacting with me about the Bible story. I pictured my daughter quietly sitting in bed next to us and occasionally pointing and babbling. And I pictured my wife happily watching on as her super husband leads family devotions.

Reality isn’t anything like that.

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