Bought by the Blood

May 9, 2011

A Review of The Greener Grass Conspiracy by Stephen Altrogge

As I was reading “The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment On Your Side Of The Fence,” by Stephen Altrogge my first thought was that this is a book that the devil does not want you to read.  Satan is the father of lies and he has created a conspiracy based on the lie that God is not good and that someone else has a better life then you.  Stephen Altrogge’s aim in this book is to equip the reader with gospel truths to be on guard against Satan’s lies.  Altrogge does not write as someone who has it all together or as someone who has vanquished the sin of discontentment in his life.  The attitude of Altrogge is that of a seasoned soldier who has been to war with discontentment and has the battle scars to prove it, as well as strategies from battle that have kept him alive.

The truths that Altrogge presents the reader with to help them fight for contentment are not psychological, self-help, therapeutic answers to tickle your ears.  The key to contentment is found in worship and understanding how the great the God is that we are called to worship and how little we are. “Content is created in the shadow of the majesty of God. I become content when I see and treasure and embrace the glory of God. I find contentment when I grasp the fact that life is not primarily about me and my comfort and my happiness. My soul is satisfied when I stop trying to elbow my way to the center of the universe and instead rejoice in and worship the God who really is at the center of all things (P.23)”

Altrogge goes on in the book to flesh out what contentment is and what contentment is not.  Using the example of King Solomon, the man who had every reason to be content Altrogge presents a character study of how all in this life is vanity and can provide no true satisfaction.  Later on Altrogge presents another character study using the apostle Paul and how he learned contentment.  Learning contentment isn’t easy, but it is a requirement for all who have Heaven as their home and desire to be transformed to be like Christ.

For those unfamiliar with Altrogge, definitely pause from reading this to get familiar with him through his blog, twitter and facebook.  Blog: twitter: facebook: One of the first things you notice as you become familiar with him is his amazing use of wit and humor.  Sometimes he may appear over the top, but if you like Brian Regan and Jon Acuff then you will definitely appreciate his musings.

This book is written in an accessible fashion for anyone to be able to grasp and benefit from.  Each chapter ends with application questions that make it great for a group study or to read in your own personal devotional times.  A chapter that is worth its weight in gold is the one on the sin of complaining.  Complaining is a fruit of discontentment and does not get enough discussion in most Christian circles.  That chapter is worth the price of the book alone.

Here are a couple more prize quotes from this book to whet your appetite:

“True contentment is found in a Person. It’s not found in getting what we want or in having difficulty removed from our lives. Contentment isn’t the result of the absence of pain or the presence of material blessing.  It’s found in Jesus Christ. Period. Without Christ we can never be truly content, regardless of the blessing that surround us. And with Christ we can be content in the midst of every circumstance. (P. 87) “

“Every event that occurs in our lives has been ordained by God for our good. God is moving all things – singleness, sickness, riches, poverty, children, and infertility – toward one destination: our good and his glory. God is using your constant headaches for good. He’s weaving together your recent job promotion, sick daughter, and inability to fix your flooding basement into something glorious and good. There is nothing us to us that God won’t use for our good. In fact, the very things that tempt us to be discontent are being used by God for our good (P. 92).”


January 19, 2010

Evangelism Is Not Something We Do

Filed under: evangelism,Matt Chandler,Missions,Suffering,trials,Trusting God — cubsfan1980 @ 3:03 pm
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Matt Chandler recently preached on missions and evangelism.  His perspective on how missions relates to his recent diagnoses of brain cancer is really convicting.

Mission is about the reign and rule of God…Evangelism isn’t something we do, it is the lenses by which we see the entire world.  We don’t do evangelism, our whole lives are about the rule and reign of God almighty…Six weeks ago when I found out malignant brain cancer I began a whole new set of relationships that in the end are about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the rule and reign of God.  I met a neurosurgeon and I am not going in thinking, “This is a neurosurgeon,” but instead I think, “The Lord is crossing my path with a neurosurgeon.  If he is a brother I will try to encourage him.  If not, I will try to reveal faith in Christ and the cross of Christ to him.”

-Matt Chandler

December 29, 2009

Character Vs. Comfort

Filed under: communion with God,Francis Chan,Sanctification,trials — cubsfan1980 @ 12:14 pm

In a recent sermon by Francis Chan he is talking about character qualities that are born by the Spirit’s work in us and he makes the convicting statement that we are too often more concerned with our circumstances that we are with our character.  He then goes on to this present this scenario that really challenges us on where our hopes and desires are.

2010 is coming up.  Let’s say, Jesus came in the room today and said, “2010 is coming, I’m going to give you an option. Plan A or Plan B.

Plan A: I can make 2010 a very easy and comfortable year for you.  Everything will go your way.  You want a great marriage, it will be there.  If you’re not married, the perfect mate will come.  You want a new job where you make three times as much as last year, you will get it.  You want everyone in your family not to get sick, you don’t want to get sick and have a six-pack, it will all supernaturally happen.  It is all going to be there.  At the end of the year you won’t be any stranger then in 2009.  You’re not going to be any closer to me, we won’t be any more intimate.  But it will have been a fun year.

Plan B: I am going to have you go through some hardships and it won’t be an easy year.  But during those times you and I are going to grow so close.  You will experience me like never before.  At the end of the year you will be this man or woman that is so far beyond where you are today.  You will have a steadfastness and strength you have never had before.  I am going to get you through it, but it will be tough.”

Which plan will you choose?

-Francis Chan

December 13, 2009

He Does All Things Well

Filed under: J.C. Ryle,Mark,trials,Trusting God,Will of God — cubsfan1980 @ 12:28 pm
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“And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well.” Mark 7:37

Let us remember it as we look forward to the days yet to come.  We know what they may be, bright or dark, may or few.  But we know that we are in the hands of Him who “doeth all things well.  He will not err in any of  His dealings with us.  He will take away and give – He will afflict and bereave – He will move and He will settle, with perfect wisdom, at the right time, in the right way.  The great Shepherd of the sheep makes no mistakes.  He leaves every lamb of  His flock by the right way to the city of habitation.

We shall never see the full beauty of these words till the resurrection morning.  We shall then look back over our lives, and know the meaning of everything that happened from first to last.  We shall remember all the way by which we were led, and confess that all was “well done.”  The why and the wherefore, the causes and the reasons of everything which now perplexes, will be clear and plain as the sun at noon-day.

-J.C. Ryle

September 10, 2009

Good and Perfect Gifts

Filed under: God's Goodness,God's providence,James,Pete Wilson,trials — cubsfan1980 @ 3:16 pm

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. – James 1:17

Good thoughts from Pete Wilson about receiving all things from God as a gift with gratefulness:

I’m wondering how different today would be for each one of us if we seek to go through this day today viewing our life, our circumstances, our relationships and yes, even our hardships and challenges as gifts. As opportunities to be the men or women God has created us to be.

August 17, 2009

It Is Well With My Soul

You prepare a table before me
the presence of my enemies;
anoint my head with oil;
cup overflows.

-Psalm 23:5
Satan and our flesh are tied in the top spot for enemy number one.  They want us to leave the flock of God’s sheep, deny Him and bow the knee to God.  If we take our focus off of the cross, then that is exactly what will happen.  When our lives are centered on the cross, then our perspective can be the same as the Psalmist.  Satan will come, trial will prove as temptation and our flesh will attempt to lure us away, but God has prepared a table before us in the presence of our enemies, this table has the blood of Christ as the table of cloth to keep us safe.

Horatio Spafford, the author of the hymn, “It is Well,” can attest to this truth.  Spafford penned this hymn not at a time of great prosperity or earthly blessing, but shortly after the trial of losing of real estate investments in the Great Chicago Fire which was followed by his four daughters dieing at sea.  The peace that Spafford had was found in te redemptive work on the cross.  Without the hope of Christ return Spafford would have been knocked over by the billows of sorrow.  His anchor was not in this world, but in the unshakeable rock of Christ which says that the cup is not half full or half empty, but that the cup runs over.

When trials comes, we have two options, they can either break us or strengthen us.  God’s purpose in trials so that we may be annointed as instruments of righteousness and reflect the light of His glory.  When we encounter trials and satan’s attack, we do not have dread or fear, but we can count it all joy knowing that God is using it to promote steadfastness in our lives.  This is not steadfastness for steadfastness sake, but instead so that we may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing (James 1:2-4).  Moses in the wilderness, David running from Saul, Joseph sold into slavery and sent to prison; all of these people needed trials to wean them from this world and teach them to lean on God.  The Bible is full of people who faced trials so that they can be strengthened to fulfill God’s calling.

August 12, 2009

How is God doing?

Filed under: Attributes of God,trials — cubsfan1980 @ 10:11 am
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When dealing with a friend who is downcast it is much better to ask “How is God doing” instead of “How are you doing?”  Chris Braun takes a look at Psalm 77 and tells us why this is the case.

Here is a hint about how God is doing:  He is glorious, His love is unfailing and he never changes

June 29, 2009

How Salvation Puts Trials In Perspective

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!
O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleas for mercy! – Psalm 130:1-2

The state of the Psalmist is not any different then yours or mine.  Any cry or plea that we made to God is made from the depths.  Due to the sinfulness of our fallen hearts, we can never reach up to God and any striving that we make will still leave us in the depths.  In our own strength and power we can do nothing to come close to God, therefore we need a mediator to bring us from the depths and into God’s presence.  If God were to come down to us and we didn’t have a mediator we would cry out like Isaiah, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts! (Isaiah 9:6).”

Thankfully, God has provided a mediator.  It is the man, Christ Jesus, He lived a perfect and sinless life which we could never do.  His life was offered up as a ransom to purchase us from the power of sin and death.  By the blood of Jesus we have been brought into a covenant of grace that makes us the recipients of His steadfast love.  Through this covenant we have been redeemed from the slavery of our flesh and our captor the devil that once held us prisoner (1 Timothy 2:5, Hebrews 9:15, 12:24).  We now have the Holy Spirit as a down payment of our eternal inheritance, the benefits of this we already enjoy because we have been lifted up from the depths and are seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3,13-14).

Even though we are seated with Christ above, emotionally the circumstances of life can still make us feel like we are in the depths.  At times like this we must be become the most talkative people that we know.  First, we have to talk to ourselves instead of listening ourselves.  We need to drown out the voice of our feelings and remind ourselves of the truth that if God would send His Son to die for us, how will He not do all other things (Romans 8:28).  We must also use our voices to speak to God and cry out to Him.  He is ready to listen and ready to answer our prayers.  He is rich in mercy and like all good fathers He is a protector of His children.

April 23, 2009

Jehovah Jirah

The first small group discussion I ever led was on Genesis 22.  Without a doubt this is one of my favorite Bible passages.  With a rare opportunity to create a discussion I jumped at the opportunity to use this passage again for a discussion topic.  I actually didn’t lead the discussion, but I passed the outline off to my friend Dave to lead as I was home with my dear newborn daughter Miya.  Dave made some edits and improvements to the outline, so I can’t take 100% credit for what you see below.

In  light of Easter Sunday we are discussing Genesis 22.  There are two questions that Lew wants us to consider.  Actually, three questions, but we be providentially blessed to make it through two questions.  The two questions are:

  1. How does this passage foreshadow the cross?
  2. what do we learn about God from this passage?
There are many things that we learn about God from this passage, to get us headed in the direction that Lew wants our conversation to go, we are going to play a little game.  At this point, split the group up in half for the game.  Tell them that the group who wins get an ultra special prize.  The point of the game is to have them list out all of the names of God that they can think of in five minutes.  They can use a Bible if they want to.  After the time limit have one group read their list, if the other group has that name then they need to both cross  it off.  Next, have the other group read their names that were not crossed off.  Each group gets a point for each unique name.  At this point, before you announce the prize, hype it up as something ultra special.  The group with the most points gets a pat on the back.

Ask them to look at the list of names they have and ask if based on the list what specifically I want them to discuss about God’s character.  The correct answer is the name “Jehovah Jirah,” this name means that “God will see to it.”

  • Read Gen 22:1-14

1. How does this passage foreshadow the cross?

Before we discuss how this passage foreshadows the cross, I want to read a quote from James Montgomery Boice: “Genesis 22 is the first passage since Genesis 3:15 in which we are pointed to the love and provision of God for guilty sinners through Christ’s crucifixion.”  There are some obvious and some not so obvious ways that we see the cross.  Since some of these ways are not so obvious, I have included questions that you can ask the group to give them clues.  I have listed out 7 ways, there might be more that people find, but try to get them to find at least these seven ways.  If any of these are unclear let me know, the second one will probably be the toughest for the group to get.

  • Answer: Sacrifice of beloved Son
    1. Question:  How are the sons being offered viewed by their fathers John 3:16 and Genesis 22:2
  • Answer: Mt. Moriah is Jerusalem, where Jesus went to die
    1. Question: what is the significance of the location 2 Chronicles 3:1
  • Answer: There is a confidence in the ressurrection
    1. Question:  Why can these sons be offered up Hebrews 11:17-19
  • Answer: The father initiated
    1. Question: What is the role of the father
  • Answer: The son was willing
    1. Question: what was the role of the son
      1. Important note: Many commentators and scholars believe that Isaac was in his late teens/early twenties.  He willingly let Abraham tie him up as the sacrifice because he could have easily overpowered his father and not allowed himself to be tied up.
  • Answer: a lamb was provided for us
    1. Question: what did God provide Genesis 22:8 and John 1:29
  • Answer: There three days of uncertainty
    1. question: Length of Abraham’s journey and Christ time in the tomb Genesis 22:4 and 1 Corinthians 15:4/Matthew16:21
      1. Important Note:  The difference between this and number 2 is that Abraham didn’t know what the resurrection would be and there was doubt to the outcome of his and Isaac’s journey.  Christ didn’t have any uncertainty, but when we look at the disciples and the woman they had uncertainty as they surely thought that the crucifixion was the end.

Encourage them to get into the habit to look for the promise of Christ, the cross and ressurrection on every page of the Old Testament.  the Old Testament isn’t just history, a book of rules, but it is God speaking to us about the salvation that He is preparing through His Son.  It is a love story that finds its resolution in the New Testament.  Let me know if you want more info on this to share with the group.

2. What do we learn about God from this passage?

  • Why do you think Abraham choose the name, “God will see to it” instead of “God has seen to it.”?
  • Ask for volunteers to read Philippians 4:19 and Romans 8:32

19And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

  • How does knowing about Christ’s sacrifice for us enable us to say “God will see to it?”

[God’s provision isn’t just a one time thing, but He will always provide for our needs; furthermore, we can trust that because He has provided i) what is most costly to Him (His Son), and ii) what is most important for us (justification before God), we can have confidence that He will preserve us until the day we see Him face to face – in Piper’s words, we can have faith in future grace through experiencing God’s past grace]

  • What comfort do we find in this truth?
  • Does anyone have any testimonty of how God has met their needs?
  • How do we battle doubts about God meeting our needs? [look back to the cross]

January 24, 2009

Tough Questions of Faith – Chapter 2

This chapter is on the offense of evil.  Wright starts out talking about “natural evil” (i.e. natural disasters) and how the moral and rational explanations that we typically come up with are lacking.  In conclusion he states:

There is just not, as far as I can see or find in Scripture, any “right explanation” as to why such things happen.  Science can tell us their natural causes, and they are awesome enough.  That is the achievement, but also the limit of scientific explanation of “what really happened.” But neither science nor faith can give a deeper or meaningful reason or a purpose for a disaster.  thus we are left with the agony of baffeled grief and protest.  “God, how can you allow such things?  Why don’t you stop them?”  I don’t think it is wrong to cry out such things, even if we know that no answer is going to come from Heaven.

Wright argues that we can cry out as lamenting to God.  Our laments are not accusatory of God, but they hone Godly anger.  Laments are common in Scripture and they help us to reflect the image of God as we develop hearts of compassion.  The grief I experience due to suffering is only a drop in the ocean compared to God’s grief over suffering.  My lamenting over pain draws me closer to the heart of God, which is why we find people in Scripture often lamenting over evil, injustice and heartache.  

The point we should notice (possibly to our surprise is that)  questions are all hurled at God, not by his enemies, but by those who loved and trusted Him most.  It seems, indeed, that it is precisely those who have the closest relationship with God who feel most at liberty to pour out their pain and protest to God -without fear of reproach.  Lament is not only allowed in the bible; it is modeled for us in abundance.  God seems to wants to give us as many word with which to fill in our complaint forms as to write our thank you notes…

You have to pour out your true feelings before God, feelings that include anger, disbelief, incomprehension, and the sheer pain of too many contradictions.

Only then can I come back to praise God with integrity.  Praise does not eliminate or override all such emotions.  Rather, it is the safe framework of total ackowledgement of God and utter dependence on him within they can be given their full expression.

Wright gives Psalm 13 as an example of a lament Psalm

 1 How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
   How long will you hide your face from me?
2How long must I take counsel in my soul
   and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? 3 Consider and answer me, O LORD my God;
    light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
4 lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
   lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

 5But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
   my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
6I will sing to the LORD,
   because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Notice in verses 1-2, David’s questioning of God.  In verses 3-4 David requests of God that he be preserved and have victory over his enemies.  David closes is verses 5-6 praising God and confident of God’s character despite his circumstances.
Over at Vitamin Z’s blog you can read a modern day lament over the murder of the unborn
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