CoffeeSwirls

heart. soul. mind. strength. gospel.

Thought for the day 07/18/12

Thought for the day 07/18/12

Thought for the day 07/18/12

Life

I just thought I’d share something I’ve been thinking about for a few weeks.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
(Matthew 5:17 ESV)

Jesus came to fulfill the law because mankind is marred by sin and unable to fulfill the law on our own. The Law is never declared a bad thing either. It is a good thing that is fulfilled and not abolished. Let’s not forget that.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
(Galatians 6:2 ESV)

The law of Christ is not contrary to the Law or the Prophets. We are commanded to bear one another’s burdens, and fulfill the law of Christ. What is that law? When Jesus was asked to give the most important law, this is what He said:

And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
(Luke 10:27 ESV)

One way for you love the Lord and to love your neighbor is by bearing their burdens for them and with them. So ask yourself how you are bearing other people’s burdens. And if you are burdened, share that burden with someone who is eager to walk beside you and help you. And please do not consider yourself to be a nuisance. You are NOT imposing! You are presenting yourself to others that they may joyfully fulfill the law of Christ.

Even if they are sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. Especially if they are sorrowful yet always rejoicing!

Chicken Sandwiches and the Reason for Man

Life

I sat in the food court at the local mall yesterday, wolfing down a wonderful grilled chicken sandwich from Wendy’s, and contemplating certain theological matters. I was alone, and when left to my own devices I have a tendency to think in that direction. I thought it would be good to share with you the thoughts that I was having, since I usually forget to write them down. So here goes.

Why did God create us? He didn’t do so out of loneliness or any lack of His own. Our existence does not “complete” God in any way. And even as He created us for His glory, He is no more glorious for having created us and would be no less glorious if He hadn’t. This is not only true regarding the creation of mankind, but for all of creation.

God would be content without us. Think about that for just a second. This means that God doesn’t need you for anything. So why are we here?

We were created to glorify God by enjoying Him forever. He created us so that we might joyfully reflect His glory upon all of creation. So while we exist to extol the virtues of God, our praise does not create the attributes of God, but rather it celebrates who He is. Much like the person who visits the Grand Canyon does not make it any more magnificent by their enjoyment. And even then, their own enjoyment would be incomplete if they were prevented from responding to it with praise.

So God created us for His glory that is properly responded to with our enjoyment of Him, and our enjoyment is incomplete until we express it.

There are aspects to God’s glory that never would have been revealed had He not created us. In the garden, God presented Himself to Adam as creator and provider. He empowered Adam to act as His regent among all of creation to subdue it and bring order wherever he would find chaos. And when Adam failed, God was able to reveal other aspects of Himself that would never have come through. His mercy, His justice, His love for the undeserving. All of that made possible because of the sin of mankind.

So God created man in His image, not because of any shortcomings or anything like that. But we were created that the glory of God would be enjoyed and celebrated. And God did this out of His love for us. John 3:16 explains the reason why God sent Jesus. He expressed His love to us by sending His only son to die. Had mankind not been created and had we not fallen, God’s love for us would have never been revealed to this degree.

God is in the business of revealing Himself to us. We need to be in the business of enjoying Him and praising His revelations.

Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”
(Revelation 5:11-12 ESV)

Right about then, my sandwich, fries and Arnold Palmer iced tea were finished, the food court was busy and it was time for me to head to a painting party for a family at church. I may pick up where I left off here, but I’m pretty sure I would need another chicken sandwich to get going again.

Beautiful Scandalous Night

Life

I started my day off right. I played this song on repeat all the way into West Des Moines to meet with my discipleship group. That’s a good half hour plus, for those keeping score at home.This is my favorite song to sing at church right now, and even if we sang it weekly I would still say that we don’t sing it often enough. It’s called “Beautiful Scandalous Night” and it takes ownership of the contradictions that people try to attach to the cross.

The cross is where the love of God is revealed and also where the wrath of God is revealed. Not two events, but one. It is the great exchange, where a holy and righteous God took His own punishment in our place. It was a beautiful, scandalous, miraculous event to be sure. The gospel frees us. The gospel gives life abundant. The gospel sustains us. The greatest event in all of history is the most scandalous.

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 5:21 ESV)

Enjoy the song in the YouTube video. And I suggest you follow along in the lyrics I’ve provided. Let it nourish your soul today.

Beautiful Scandalous Night

Go on up to the mountain of mercy,
To the crimson perpetual tide.
Kneel down on the shore,
Be thirsty no more,
Go under and be purified.

Follow Christ to the Holy Mountain,
Sinner, sorry and wrecked by the fall,
Cleanse your heart and your soul.
In the fountain that flows,
For you and for me and for all

At the wonderful tragic mysterious tree,
On that beautiful scandalous night you and me,
Were atoned by His blood and forever washed white,
On that beautiful scandalous night.

On the hillside you will be delivered,
At the foot of the cross, justified.
And your spirit restored,
By the river that pours,
From our blessed Saviour’s side

At the wonderful tragic mysterious tree,
On that beautiful scandalous night you and me,
Were atoned by His blood and forever washed white,
On that beautiful scandalous night.

You carry the sin of mankind on your back,
And the sky went black.

Go on up to the mountain of mercy,
Go the crimson perpetual tide.
Kneel down on the shore,
Be thirsty no more,
Go under and be purified.

At the wonderful tragic mysterious tree,
On that beautiful scandalous night you and me,
Were atoned by His blood and forever washed white,
On that beautiful scandalous night.

At the wonderful tragic mysterious tree,
On that beautiful scandalous night you and me,
Were atoned by His blood and forever washed white,
On that beautiful scandalous night.

On that beautiful scandalous night,
Beautiful scandalous,
Miraculous night…

My Church

Life

If you were a regular reader of this blog once upon a time, you probably don’t may remember that I was a member of the Polk City Evangelical Free Church. For reasons I won’t get into today, that church no longer remains. The people of PCEFC have scattered. Many joined another church in town that bought the building, some went to other towns and other churches, some just stopped going altogether. This all happened in conjunction with a very traumatic event in my life and I was uprooted from the support of the local body at the worst possible time.

During this period of turmoil, a man who I had met through the blogosphere (do people still say that?) contacted me to tell me that he had moved into the area and had been visiting a great church in a nearby town. He invited me to visit with his family and I am glad I did.

I met him at Waukee Community Church (WCC) and really enjoyed my time there. Sure, the songs were a bit different and the crowd trended a bit younger than what I was used to, but there was a sense of health that was extremely attractive. And many of the factors that proved to be the downfall of my previous church were either not present or were taken care of as they popped up. I don’t know if the elders have ever read “9 Marks of a Healthy Church” before, but I came to see that this church hits all of the marks. WCC is an imperfect church, to be sure, but it is not for a lack of seeking after God’s will in the life of the church.

To my shame, I attended without joining for far too long. To my greater shame, my attendance was sporadic at best. The reason for that is something else I won’t discuss in a public forum such as this. I did accept what correction the leadership of the church gave me as well as I thought I could, but the dynamic of correction for a “regular visitor” can not compare to the level it reaches once you have bought in to the church as a disciple and member.

Since I have humbled myself to be placed under the watch of the elders of WCC, I have been challenged to do some things that really made me angry. It’s not that I was being asked to do anything wrong. Rather, I was being challenged to do things that were right, but they were things that I didn’t want to do. I had to do them, though, because I am under the watchful eye of the church. I don’t know how else to say that. Besides, there are decisions in my past that I look upon now and see that I should have listened to the advice that was offered to me and can see the carnage that happened because I thought I knew better.

The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes
than seven men who can answer sensibly.
(Proverbs 26:16 ESV)

So, as a part of my life reboot, I have complied with the instructions given to me. I can’t tell you how conflicted I have been during these times, pursuing things that I didn’t want, and having to pursue them wholeheartedly. But when you follow the instructions given to you by the men God has placed over you for your benefit, there is blessing. My initial instruction was obeyed and my attempts failed. But I am so glad today that I tried so hard to get that which I didn’t want. If I hadn’t complied or if I had done so with a negative tone, I would have doubts for the rest of my life.

So I have been replanted. The roots are delving deeper than they had before. I am in a life group and a discipleship group. Both of these provide encouragement and challenge to me, and I need a healthy dose of both. This combination is helping me BLOSM, which is an acronym of our church’s vision. A disciple is one who Believes, Loves, Obeys, Serves and Multiplies. That “O” in the vision sure is tough, but is so rewarding! I thank God for planting me where I am able to BLOSM the way that I am!

In Tribute to John Piper

Life

Most of the people who read this blog are very familiar with the work of John Piper. John is the pastor for preaching & vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is also the author of many books and other resources, all of which I recommend to you without exception. He is most noted for the book “Desiring God” which asserts that the chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.

Pastor John is in his final year in his current role at his church, and there is already a successor in place to continue the ministry of Bethlehem Baptist. He isn’t going to disappear, but with his ministry behind the pulpit winding down, I wanted to share just a few thoughts.

I first encountered “Desiring God” when I had been a Christian for less than a year. I was zealous and hungry and wanted to learn all that I could about this God who I had misunderstood for so long. A friend of mine invited me for coffee and began speaking things to me about God that I had no categories for. I understood God is good, for example, but this man was telling me that God is happy, God is sovereign, God is the one thing that we all must crave, and not just His gifts. We are commanded in scripture to delight in God alone and to seek our highest joy in Him. To be engulfed in the joy of the Lord.

For someone new to the faith, that was mind blowing. I had been reading my Bible and blogging through it, but these were things that defied my comprehension. So I went out and bought the book. The introduction alone challenged me so much that I actually made several unsuccessful attempts to read it.

Enter our good friend, Tim Challies. He came along beside me and offered to go through the book with me. He would post his thoughts to his blog and I would post mine. I could send him an email when I got stuck on a concept and he readily responded and helped me understand what was being communicated. As I look at my archives from this blog’s earlier days, there is a definite change in the quality of my writing before this event and after. And as those around me can attest, this change in writing was caused by a change in what kind of a worshiper I was becoming through the refining of my understanding of God. This would not have been possible had Tim not been there to answer my questions and my objections.

I have heard John Piper preach many times since then, mostly at conferences and on his podcast. The time that stands out the most to me, though, is when I visited his church to see him on a typical Sunday. His schedule had him at one of the satellite locations of his church in a high school auditorium. We sat in the room with 100 or so other people, sang with them, prayed with them, Pastor John took prayer requests and prayed for specific people in the congregation, including names that weren’t brought up that morning. After the service, he stayed at the front and anyone could go up to him just as your pastor makes himself available after a service. He was, and is, a pastor first and foremost. He is NOT a celebrity by any stretch of the imagination.

John Piper is authentic. When you look at the core vision and values of his ministry of preaching the supremacy of God in all things, I can bestow no greater compliment. Thank you Pastor John, for presenting a joyful pursuit of God to us in your books, your messages and your life. I trust your retirement is only the beginning of a whole new chapter of ministry. You have had a profound effect on my walk with God and I praise Him for your joyful work. Thank you for teaching me that God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in Him.

Naked and Unashamed

Life

Without question, the book of the Bible I’ve read the most times has to be Genesis. This is for a number of reasons. To my credit, I love the book and love to explore various questions that come up as I read it both on my own and with others. To my shame, it is the first book in the Bible and I have numerous failed attempts to re-read the Bible from cover to cover. That’s one way to get really familiar with Genesis!

One question that has been nagging at my brain is the concept of Adam and Eve being naked and unashamed. Don’t worry, by the way, I plan to keep this post rated G. Having said that, I’ll ask again. What does it mean to be naked and unashamed?

Of course there is a literal aspect to this. Our first parents had no clothes and were not bothered in the least by it. After the fall, they sought to find their own substandard coverings until God covered their nakedness.

But what about pondering another angle of what it means to be naked and unashamed? There is a lot of symbolism going on in this part of Genesis that is manifested in literal actions and events. God providing a suitable covering when the leaves wouldn’t do is both a literal and a symbolic act for example, and is meant to give a small glimpse of the gospel to come. Humans will try to cover their own shame but only God can provide the covering we all need. And that covering is obtained only by blood. The gospel isn’t explicitly stated in the covering provided only by God, but make no mistake. It is there.

So, aside from the literal answer, what does it mean to be naked? And why is being naked presented as a good thing before the fall, but as a bad thing for the rest of the Bible?

Job 1:21  (Job 1)

And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Job 24:7  (Job 24)

They lie all night naked, without clothing,

and have no covering in the cold.

Looking at the book of Job, being naked implies a lack of possessions and a lack of protection from the elements. Naked = exposed

Hebrews 4:13  (Hebrews 4)

And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Hebrews shows us that being naked before God means that we cannot hide any of our deeds. Naked = exposed

Revelation 3:17  (Revelation 3)

For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

Revelation 16:15  (Revelation 16)

(“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”)

In the book of Revelation, being naked is shown as a state of being oblivious to the fact that you are unprepared and in dire need. And again, naked = exposed.

So Adam and Eve were naked in the garden and they were unashamed. Or you could say that they were exposed, but they were not ashamed by this and did not see any reason to protect themselves from the elements.

Aside from the elements, how else were Adam and Eve exposed without worry? Sin had not yet entered the world, that is an important fact to remember here. They had nothing to hide whatsoever, from each other or from God. They had full communion with one another. No emotional scars from previous arguments. No self-serving plans to hide from the other. They were exposed to each other in all ways, able to speak whatever came to mind, knowing that the other would not take it badly. And they were exposed openly to each other with no reason to be ashamed.

As you read the flow of the Bible, much of what once was will one day be restored in this world. There will be a New Heavens and a New Earth. Our rightful place of intertwining work and worship will delight us to the glory of God forever. And yet we will no longer be naked. We will be given our clothes from the same savior who earned our salvation. I believe that these clothes will be an ever-present reminder of the worthiness of Lamb who was slain and who now is enthroned and is Lord over all.

Soli Deo Gloria

Blogging Intentionally

Life

In my reboot post of this blog, I did something I hadn’t done before. I laid out the focus of my blog. In the past, I kept it pretty vague, as if that would give me license to write about things outside of a set of parameters. To be honest with you, I set up needless boundaries for myself all too often and I tear down important boundaries too often as well.

I think that one helpful way to live within the good boundaries of life is to live intentionally. And one helpful way to live intentionally is to come out and say that this is your goal. There are many ways to do this. I know many families from church who have a household mission statement displayed in a prominent place in their homes. If you ask any of them, not a one of them will say that they wish they hadn’t put their intentionalities on display.

The closest thing to this commonly found in a blog format is in the tag line. Look around at your favorite blogs. The blog name is usually followed by a short, pithy statement intended to hold a lot of meaning in just a few words. Kind of like Twitter, I suppose.

My original tag line is kind of embarrassing now, but at the time I thought I was pretty clever.

CoffeeSwirls is the minty fresh blog of Doug McHone, which snaps back wash after wash!

Yeah. Pretty lame. I kept that for a while. Then I changed my focus in life and spun some rhetorical hula hoops and came up with the tag line that I kept for several years.

Walking the Path of Least Resistance

It was shorter, which is good. It was provocative, which can be good. The trouble is, I spent more time defending it than I should have. I eventually wrote a post for the sole purpose of defending an admittedly poorly written tagline. But, to quote the great prophet Tom Petty, I was a rebel without a clue, and I enjoyed the mental gymnastics. Shorter, good. More complicated, bad.

So for this relaunch, I looked to Mark 12:28-31 as a good tagline inspiration and went with the tagline “heart. soul. mind. strength.” for almost 24 hours. Why would something that concise, biblical and simple only last that long? Because it is incomplete.

Loving God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength and loving your neighbor as yourself are wonderful goals that everyone should have. But let’s not forget that Jesus described these commandments as the linchpin statements that hold the entire law together. Jesus was speaking to the experts in the Mosaic law, men living under that law, having no other option because their sins had not been placed upon Jesus on the cross. The law had not been fulfilled in Christ. The gospel was still a promise.

On this side of the resurrection, we have the fullness of the gospel to fall upon when we fail to meet the good standards of the law. To say that my only focus for this blog is to follow the law is dishonoring to the savior who took my sins upon himself. And to be clear, saying that I should sin that grace may abound is just as dishonoring to my savior.

So for the time being, the tagline of CoffeeSwirls will be thus:

heart. soul. mind. strength. gospel.

I think it celebrates the newness of life that is a parallel to the fresh start that my life is undergoing. I like it. What do you think?

Has it really been four years?

Life

If you are reading this post because it just popped up in your RSS reader, that’s wonderful but you may want to go through your reader and remove the old links. Just sayin’. Allow me to re-introduce myself. My name is Doug McHone and this is my blog. This blog has taken me from my home in central Iowa to conferences as close as Cedar Rapids, Iowa to Minneapolis and as far as Los Angeles. I was never as happy in my life as I was when I was reading and meditating about biblical matters and blogging my thoughts.

I used to think that my blogging time was fairly recent until I reactivated this website and pondered bringing in my archives from before. I was shocked to see that my last post was in 2008. 2008! Are you serious? Where did the time go? Because of this, I have decided to rethink my approach fully.

“Choose your ruts carefully, you will be in them for the next 200 miles.” -Some supposed road sign in Alaska

I am currently in the process rebooting my life. There are things that have taken place in my life during this four year void that will not be discussed in this public blog. That is a huge change from my transparency stance in the past. I remain transparent to the man at church who is directly discipling me and to the eldership in the church. To reflect my rebooting of life, I’m also rebooting the blog. Fresh start. That is, I am not bringing a full archive of my past back.

But what about that one post covering a certain topic that was so good? I will periodically bring in certain posts from before into this blog. If you have a favorite, I can look for it and bring it in. But let’s face it. I had more whiffs than hits back in the day.

Also, I will not even try to adhere to the schedule of blogging I once had. I was a daily blogger once upon a time. Often more than once a day. No more. I can’t keep the edifying content going like that the way Tim Challies can.

So I’ve discussed my reboot at a slower pace than before. Now everyone tells me I need to have a focus in what the blog is about. A lack of focus seemed to work pretty well for me back in the day though, right? OK, you’re out of practice recognizing my sense of humor. I do have a focus, but I reserve the right to post outside of that focus for any reason. Such as a description of how good my prize-winning smoked chicken tastes.

The focus of this blog is as follows:

Mark 12:28-31

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”  Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

In my life reboot, I see a lot of areas in my life where I have failed to love the Lord in those ways. I want to love Him with my whole heart, I want to love Him with my entire soul and I want to love Him with my mind. Finally I want to love Him with my strength. This vertical focus of loving God should manifest itself also in a horizontal way as I relate to people in the ways that God would want me to.

So tell your friends that I’m back, but don’t expect a high frequency of blog posts. I plan on covering topics raised in Church, my life group, my discipling lessons and in my own reading and pondering. If you want to get in touch with me outside this blog, the best place to do so is on Google+. I also have a twitter and a facebook account, but those are willfully neglected for the most part. Give Google+ an honest try! And do let me know if you post an awesome picture of your breakfast on facebook so I can log in and check it out.

The Path of Least Resistance

Life

Doug-Wondering why your tagline says that you are walking the path of least resistance? Please explain and use Bible verses before I start using some of my own! :-)

Amy recently asked me what the big deal is about walking this path of least resistance that I bring up from time to time. On occasion, I will ask someone about something they have blogged about and get that sort of response, so I’ll just provide such a link (done) and try to explain where I’m coming from.

 Psalm 25:4-5
Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

If you take the word “way” out of many of the Psalms, and insert “path” or “trail,” the meaning is essentially the same. This trail is comprised of the pre-ordained steps that are prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10), not those sidesteps and shortcuts that we choose to take on our own from time to time. This imagery of a trail is one that I have used since my blog first began. If I’ve encountered a rough period in my life, I will say that I am in a valley and when all is well, I may say that I am at the top of a hill. It’s all imagery.

For this imagery to work, you have to realize that everyone is currently walking a path. I am not referring to the wide and narrow paths that Jesus spoke of quite so much as the personal paths for each one of us. They are paths that represent our lives. The paths have periods of difficulty and ease, beauty and wretchedness, pride and shame. The paths of our lives intersect each other at certain points. There is room for us to move about on the path, but certain things are destined to happen.

For example, if God has elected some before the foundation of the world, it makes sense that He made sure your parents met each other. And your grandparents. And so on and so forth. If God knew you from the beginning, He had to have a direct hand in making sure that you would be here. In short, you are not an accident. You are not some chance occurrence. An unplanned pregnancy is only unplanned by the parents, but this is an event that God had determined eons ago. This does not absolve us of any responsibility regarding premarital sex or any other sin, but it does mean that God is in control.

Everybody’s path of life is unique to the individual, though most paths have similar events that are found at different points, depending on the path you are on. Each path has landmarks, some more than others, and anything that can be considered a life changing event is a landmark. A marriage, the birth of a child, a permanent change in health and more are examples of landmarks. When I looked down a few weeks ago into the coffin of a man my age, I looked face to face with my own mortality. I am the same man that I was, but there has been a change in me. This is a small landmark when compared with my conversion to Christianity, but it is there all the same. My marriage is a large landmark. So is the day I was tested and cleared of epilepsy.

Psalm 25:8-10
Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

The paths we walk also are marked out for us. We are on a marked trail, just as the settlers on the Oregon trail were on a trail that was marked. There are times that I don’t know which way to go in certain situations, and I can turn to my Bible and see the trail markers more clearly. Society has been moving the boundary stones of the righteous path for generations. Inch by inch they have been moved without too much fuss from the church, but now they are moving far enough that Christians are becoming emboldened by the stakes we fight for. We didn’t change anything about marriage, neither did we defend it. Now we can see that we were wrong not to fight for the first inch that the boundary marker was moved. The trail markers have become covered in moss and many are almost invisible. You have to kneel down with the word of God and look for them, but they are there. God placed them there and nothing society can do will ever change that. All it can do is make the path harder to see and less attractive to walk, but Jesus never promised that following Him would be easy, did he?

This is where you may think that a path of least resistance would be found in leaving the trail that God has laid out for me, but that is not so. You see, I just subtly mentioned that I have a guide on my trail. He is the one that knows how to get where I need to be and how to get there. When I stumble or veer off the trail, He gathers me back up and gets me moving again. I can resist Him for a time, but that is never a fruitful proposition. If I am to walk my trail of least resistance, I need to walk in the path that I am called.

 Romans 6:20-23 
When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

If I am truly a slave to righteousness, I would resist my new nature by acting like a slave to sin. Sadly, we all do that from time to time and those who are in Christ realize it, often before and during the sinful act. There is no such thing as a good shortcut on the trail of life. The only good path to follow is the one God has placed before me. I long to remain on this path no matter the cost, and am comforted that He will get me back on the path when I do fail to stay there on my own. Stating this in my tagline is more than just a way to build conversation. It is a healthy reminder that I use to maintain my focus on the trail boss.

Introduction

Life

Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise: seek what they sought.
-Basho

I debated the use of a non-Christian quote to begin this post, but it really sums up what I am doing here. I could follow the book I’m reading and trust in John Piper’s wisdom in what he says and I can trust that the Biblical passages he cites are accurate, or I can follow along in my Bible and see where his information is coming from. I do trust the word of Mr. Piper, but I don’t want to follow in his footsteps. I am seeking what he once sought.


The Introduction to Desiring God is entitled, “How I Became a Christian Hedonist.” I will admit that I was a bit guarded at that title of choice, and I am sure that Piper has encountered questions over his choice in self-description. Admittedly, had I not explored his website and had there not been several recommendations from trusted brothers in Christ, I would never have had the desire to read this book. A hedonist is often thought of as a selfish glutton, even to the point that a person’s religion was the pursuit of their carnal pleasures. Piper has chosen to give us a taste of what he means by this declaration to help us understand his self-depiction.

According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever. Many people separate those two fundamental ends of God in their own understanding, when their separation was not the intention of the scholars who wrote the catechism. How can we say this so boldly? The scholars who assembled these foundations made it their life’s joy in the subtleties of language. An entire sermon (and more) can depend on the tense of a verb or the choice of one word over another, when both words mean almost the same thing. These scholars did not say that “the chief ends of man are to glorify God and then to enjoy Him forever” as if they were two separate things. They used singular terminology in this catechism. Glorifying God and enjoying Him are one end, not two!

With that knowledge, rest assured that John Piper hasn’t changed anything by changing the wording to “The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.” All he has done is clarified the semantics for a generation of believers who grew up watching their parents attend church out of the obligations to them as their children or to avoid disappointing the generation before them. I have never visited any church that didn’t have somebody there who looked grumpy. They may not truly desire to be there, for whatever reason, or perhaps they feel that a somber stonewalled look is the most appropriate expression for worshiping God. Maybe it is just the way they were raised! This is a cycle of gloom that could be detrimental to a curious unbeliever, so I say that it is paramount that these church families lock arms and have a revival of praise!

As the book progresses, Piper will show that it is both unbiblical and dangerously arrogant to try to worship God for any other reason than the pleasure to be had in Him.

Christian Hedonism is a philosophy of life built on the following five convictions:

The longing to be happy is a universal human experience, and it is good, not sinful.

While in college, Piper had a philosophical notion that so many people are burdened with. He thought that if he did something good because it would make him happy, the goodness of the act would be lost. That thought is reworded to say that the goodness of any moral action is lessened to the degree that pleasure is a motivator. The higher the activity, the less self-interest should be involved, and worship became a duty to be performed. The very heart of worship is removed when this is the case.

We should never try to deny or resist our longing to be happy. Instead, we should seek to intensify this longing and nourish it with whatever will provide the deepest and most enduring satisfaction.

From the sermon, “The Weight of Glory” by C.S. Lewis: If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not to be too strong, but too weak. Humanity is busy wading through the muck of our own design and looking for contentment in the acts of man.

The deepest and most enduring satisfaction (happiness) is found only in God. Not from God, but in God.

I just mentioned the muck we wade through on our never-ending quest for satisfaction. This fool’s errand has us so busy that we often overlook the infinite satisfaction that is found in the Lord. Our undeniable yearning for happiness should not be suppressed, but needs to be consumed in God. We need to feast on Him to the point of gluttony!

The happiness we find in God reaches its consummation when it is shared with others in the manifold ways of love.

Praise is not foreign to our lives. I remember witnessing a sunset on the western beach of Key West, Florida twelve years ago. I stood there in awe at the beauty and majesty of the sun as it seemed to sizzle into the unreachable depths of the waters. My heart was moved and I spoke about it for many days after that. When the Green Bay Packers won their Super Bowl against the New England Patriots, I jumped and shouted for joy. This morning, I told my wife how beautiful she is. We delight to praise what we enjoy! Stifled praise is conflicting, while expressed praise completes our enjoyment. So how could God be worshiped where He is not treasured and enjoyed? How can we just sit there with our arms crossed in church and say that we are praising Him? If we are not enjoying God, we are dishonoring Him. To allow something else to satisfy our desires more than Him is a sacrilege. It truly is as simple as that! Joy and awe are not options during worship. They are essential components of our worship. And to try to give praise without pleasure is hypocrisy.

To the extent that we try to abandon the pursuit of our own pleasure, we fail to honor God and love people. To word this statement positively: The pursuit of pleasure is a necessary part of all worship and virtue.

The Psalms are filled with hedonistic scripture! Do note that in all of these passages are a few important consistencies:

  • God is not the means to an end, but He is the end of our search for pleasure. He doesn’t reveal treasures to us, He is the treasure!
  • This Christian Hedonism does not make a god out of pleasure. The Christian Hedonist worships that which gives the most pleasure, and there is nothing that can give a fraction of the pleasure that we gain from God.
  • The Christian Hedonist does not put oneself above God by seeking Him out of self-interest.
  • Christian Hedonism is not a theory of moral justification. An act is not right because it provides pleasure. Joy is not a moral criteria. The goal is to proclaim that joy is a moral duty in all true worship and virtuous acts.
  • The distinguishing feature of Christian Hedonism is not that pleasure seeking demands virtue, but that virtue consists essentially, but not only, in pleasure seeking.

We are commanded to act out of joy in situations that the world does not often recognize. As followers of Christ, we are to:

Christian Hedonism is not a distortion of the earlier-mentioned Catechisms of faith.

The underlying questions of those statements is truly, “What is the source of my comfort and happiness?”

Jesus tells us to deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow Him. When we deny ourselves, we are denying the carnal joys of the world in favor of the limitless pleasures of following our Lord and Savior in the gratification that only He can provide.