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: www.theblazingcenter.com/ twitter: twitter.com/stephenaltrogge facebook: www.facebook.com/StephenMAltrogge 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).”

December 14, 2009

The Christmas Spirit

The Christmas message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity – hope of pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory – because at the Father’s will Jesus Christ became poor and was born in a stable so that thirty years later he might hang on a cross.  It is the most wonderful message that the world has ever heard or will hear.

We talk glibly of the “Christmas Spirit,” rarely meaning more by this than sentimental jollity on a family basis.  But what we have said makes it clear that the phrase should in fact carry a tremendous weight of meaning.  It ought to mean the reproducing in human lives of the temper of him who for our sakes became poor at the first Christmas.  And the Christmas spirit itself ought to be the mark of every Christian all year round.

It is our shame and disgrace today that so many Christians – I will be more specific: so many of the soundest and most orthodox Christians – go through this world in the Spirit of the priest and Levite in our Lord’s parable, seeing human needs all around them, but (after a pious wish, and a perhaps a prayer, that God might meet those needs) averting their eyes and passing by on the other side.  That is not the Christmas spirit.  Nor is it the spirit of those Christians – alas, they are many – whose ambition in life seems limited to building a nice middle-class Christian home, and making nice middle-class Christian friends, and bringing up their children in nice middle-class Christian ways, and who leave the submiddle class sections of the community, Christian and non-Christian, to get on by themselves.

The Christmas spirit does not shine out in the Christian snob.  For the Christmas spirit is the spirit of those who, like their Master, live their whole lives on the principle of making themselves poor – spending and being spent – to enrich their fellow  humans, giving time, trouble, care and concern, to do good to others – not just their own friends – in whatever way there seems need.

-J.I. Packer

November 15, 2009

Aspirations for Children

Filed under: Boice,Family,Hope,humility,worldliness — cubsfan1980 @ 10:21 am
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The question that every parents needs to ask is if they want their kids to be great in the world’s eyes or in God’s eyes.  That will dictate every aspect of how we parent and the direction that we set our kids on.

“We are highly impressed with what we imagine men and women can do, and we want to achieve greatness ourselves. But usually this is mere wishful thinking. Very few of us will be great in the world’s terms. And the greatness we do achieve, if we achieve it, soon passes away and we are forgotten like the builders of Babylon. It is different when God acts for us; then, the results are permanent, and the greatness he creates is true greatness.” James Montgomery Boice

October 5, 2009

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” Proverbs 9:10

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared.
-Psalm 130:3-4

“What does this mean?  It means that filial fer, the fear of a son for His father, is produced by God’s love for us.  More exactly, it is the result of discovering that the God whom we thought of with slavish, servile fear, the holy righteous, terrifying God of judgment and majesty, is also the God who forgives us through Jesus Christ.  He is just, yet he justifies the ungodly (Romans 3:26; 5:6).  He is righteous, yet he counts sinners as righteous.  One reason why we know so little of such filial fear is that we do not appreciate the Gospel!  If we would grow in grace so that we fear God like this, we must first return to the Gospel, and to the meaning of the cross…Filial fear is always the grateful response of sinners who have become saints.”  Sinclair Ferguson on the above verse.

There are two kinds of fear that we can experience.  The first kind of fear is one that we typically think of when it comes to fear, that of dread and worrying of if we can measure up to God’s approval.  This is servile fear, from servile we get servant or slave, this is a fear for those that are working to pay off someone they are underneath.  The other kind of fear is filial and it means reverence and awe.  The latin of filius is “son” and that is where this type of fear comes from.  It is in reference to how a child fears their father and because we have been forgiven through the blood of Christ, this allows us to experience filial fear with God.  Sinclair Ferguson says about this kind of fear:

“It is that indefinable mixture of reverence and pleasure, joy and awe which fills our hearts when we realize who God is and what he has done for us.  It is a love for God which is so great that we would be ashamed to do anything which would displease or grieve him, and makes us happiest when we are doing what pleases him.”

Yesterday I talked about how our standing with God never changes.  The way we walk in fear of God can change our experience of God.  We were created for intimacy and communion with God, but sin brings a barrier between us and God.  Through Christ death on the cross that relationship has been restored, but it won’t be fully realized until we are in Heaven.  While in this life, our walk with God will have varying degrees of closeness based on how we fear Him and if we choose closeness with God or closeness with the world.  The more I fear God the closer my friendship with Him. “The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him,” Psalm 25:14

We were not given grace to remain stagnant in it, but we were given grace to grow in it (2 Peter 3:18).  As we grow in grace we will be made more like Christ and our intimacy with God will increase.  Experience is very subjective and not always the best measure of if we are growing in the fear of the Lord.  Some effects of fearing God that we can be on the lookout for that will positively impact our experience of knowing God are as follows:

If I am fearing God I will grow in my desire to live a life of obedience.  “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him. (John 14:21)”  My life will be characterized by wanting to bring pleasure to God.  Ultimately I will place my hope in finishing the race well and hearing “Well done good and faithful servant.”  The smile of God will be more important to me then the praise of the world.  Children are called to respect and obey their parents and I am called to respect and obey God.  “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecclesiastes 12:13).”

On the flip side of that, fearing God will mean not wanting to displease God or grieve the Spirit (Ephesians 4:30).  I will desire to put death to sin as sin blocks my view of God and feeds me lies about God’s love for me and who He is.  If I believe the promise of God and what He has done for me through the cross then I will seek to lay aside everything that hinders me from knowing Him more fully (Hebrews 12:1).  Fearing God means fiercely doing battle with my sin so that I can make my Father proud and give Him no reason to grieve over me.

Fearing God changes how I view the circumstances of this world.  If I fear God then I have nothing to fear in this life.  He is my stronghold and refuge, if He can save me from the hopeless situation that my sin had me in, then I can have hope no matter what I am facing.  “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1).”  When I fear God my perspective is changed and I see that if God is worthy of awe and reverence then He is also worthy of my trust.  Just a child trust their parents for everything, I can trust God for all that I need.  “In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge. (Proverbs 14:26)”

We have the privilege of being considered sons and daughters of God because of His awesome and unconditional love.  We were orphans with nothing good to contribute to God’s family and no merit of our own, but God freely chose us to be His own.  Our status before God saved us was dead in sin with nothing desirable to offer, but God didn’t bring us to life because of what we could bring to the table, but only by His grace did He regenerate us.  The reality of what God has done for us should transform how we view our blessing of knowing and communing with Him because we are completely undeserving.  His praises should ever be on our lips because He has given us everything.  My fear of God should be evident by how I proclaim His love for sinners because of what He has done for me.  As a child likes to look up to and brag on their parents I should do the same thing with God .

Psalm 111
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
2 Great are the works of the Lord,
studied by all who delight in them.
3 Full of splendor and majesty is his work,
and his righteousness endures forever.
4 He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered;
the Lord is gracious and merciful.
5 He provides food for those who fear him;
he remembers his covenant forever.
6 He has shown his people the power of his works,
in giving them the inheritance of the nations.
7 The works of his hands are faithful and just;
all his precepts are trustworthy;
8 they are established forever and ever,
to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
9 He sent redemption to his people;
he has commanded his covenant forever.
Holy and awesome is his name!
10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.
His praise endures forever!P
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
2 Great are the works of the Lord,
studied by all who delight in them.
3 Full of splendor and majesty is his work,
and his righteousness endures forever.
4 He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered;
the Lord is gracious and merciful.
5 He provides food for those who fear him;
he remembers his covenant forever.
6 He has shown his people the power of his works,
in giving them the inheritance of the nations.
7 The works of his hands are faithful and just;
all his precepts are trustworthy;
8 they are established forever and ever,
to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
9 He sent redemption to his people;
he has commanded his covenant forever.
Holy and awesome is his name!
10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.
His praise endures forever!

September 25, 2009

What Are You Being Filled With

Filed under: contentment,covetousness,worldliness — cubsfan1980 @ 11:05 pm
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“We may compass ourselves with sparks of security, and afterwards be secured in eternal misery.  This world is a floating island, and so sure as we cast anchor upon it, we shall be carried away by it. God, and all that he has made, is not more than God without anything that he has made.  He can never want treasure who has such a golden mine.  He is enough without the creature, but the creature is not anything without Him.  It is, therefore, better to enjoy him without anything else, than to enjoy everything else without him.  It is better to be a wooden vessel filled with wine, than a golden one filled with water.” William Secker’s Nonsuch Professor, 1660

June 16, 2009

How are the faithless made right with God

“‘Return, faithless Israel,
declares the Lord.
I will not look on you in anger,
for I am merciful,
declares the Lord;
I will not be angry forever. – Jeremiah 3:12

A key question that we all must wrestle with as we come to this text is, “who is faithless Israel?”  If we are being honest, faithless Israel is none other than you and I.  We are the one who have the played the adulteress and worshiped other God’s.  When we examine our hearts we realize that you and I are the one who have placed faith in peoples and things other than the living God.  There is no one who does God or seeks God, we are all deserving of death and God’s wrath (Romans 3:14 and 6:23).

Despite the sad state that we are in, we’re not completely without hope.  Although God has every right to strike us down and make us pay the penalty for our sins, God has called us to return to Him.  Our hope for returning is not on the basis of anything we have done or any goodness in us.  The only way we can return to God is because of Christ completed work on the cross.  On the cross God has offered to exchange my sin for Christ righteousness, but if I am to receive this free gift from God it comes on the one condition that I must confess with my mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in my heart that God raised him from the dead (Romans 10:9)

If we return to God, we will receive mercy.  To receive mercy we must turn from our sins and turn to God, this a process called repentance and it must be done daily.  The puritan Thomas Watson once said, “”Be as speedy in your repentance as you would have God speedy in His mercies.”  We have gained everything through the cross, God has promised to no longer be angry with us.  There is no more fear of condemnation and are viewed as loved in God’s sight forever more.  What greater motivation do we need to live lives of worship that are characterized by putting off sin and putting on holiness (Colossians 3).  Let us be quick to turn from the things of this world, for God’s love is in us and His will is for us to abide in Him by denying our flesh and all forms of worldiness. (1 John 2:15-17).

June 15, 2009

The walls came tumbling down

And the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor…So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city. – Joshua 6:2 & 20

The story of the fall of Jericho is without a doubt one of the most faith inspiring stories of the Old Testament.  For Joshua to lead the Israelites in conquest over Jericho involved having eyes of faith.  God told Joshua to see that the kings and mighty men of valor of Jericho had been given into Joshua’s hands.  With his physical eyes, Joshua saw a city with large walls that had its inhabitants walled up and safe from attack.  For Joshua to see what God was referring, he needed to walk by faith and not by sight aware that those that were on the Israelites side is greater and more powerful than any earthly army.

It is not enough just to have eyes of faith, if Joshua saw what God was doing, but did not have an obedient heart then the Israelites would have never conquered Jericho.  Eyes of faith must be accompanied by actions that are informed and motivated by faith in the unseen.  Imagine the Israelites and the faith it took to march around the walls for not one, but six days without seeing any results.  Faith did not involve doing anything practical that would appear to give them a chance for victory.  Faith for them probably involved being mocked by the soldiers who stood on the wall and saw them do nothing but fruitless marching.  What reason or hope did they have for shouting, none that they could see, only that God had told them to.  By faithfully obeying they reaped a harvest and had the conquest.

For all of those who have placed their faith in Jesus, God wants to give them hearts that are characterized by faith.  A heart that is characterized by faith is bold in sharing in the Gospel knowing that it isn’t based on outward appearance or eloquence of speech, but it is because of the fact that God is faithful that others will respond to the good news.  When our lives are led by faith then our lives are no longer our own, but we are eager to give away our money and time for the purpose of the kingdom.  A life of faith prioritizes the exaltation of God over self and makes its rallying cry, “He must increase and I must decrease.”  When we have eyes of faith we are blinded to the things of this world because our gaze is set on the world to come.  When we have faith in God as our compass then the fleeting pleasures of sin are nothing compared to the reward of the great wealth of Christ that has been freely offered to us on the cross by His sacrifice that reconciles us to God.

June 2, 2009

Pleasure

Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun. – Ecclesiastes 2:11

If I had all the pleasures that this world could offer, none of it would fulfill me.  In Ecclesiastes two, Solomon had everything that a man could ever hope for and he knew it was all pointless.  Solomon was the richest man ever and had mansions beyond belief, the choicest food and wine, many wives for his sexual fulfillment and anything else that we our hearts could ran after to find satisfaction.  None of this filled Solomon.  It all left him yearning for something more.  We are all made for a relationship with God and our lives will be lacking until we find fullness of joy in His presence.

If my life is about gaining stuff then I miss my God’s intention for me.  His  purpose in my life is to make me holy and set apart from this world.  If my hope is for a great life now, then my desires are too weak.  Instead I set my gaze for Christ return, when His kingdom comes and I am able to see Him face to face.  God does not want me to get comfortable in this world because it is not my home.  I am a sojourner in this world and I do not seek an earthly treasure, but an inheritance awaits in my Lord and Savior.

In this life I find myself through dieing, by losing my life I gain it.  The greatest gain is found in sacrifice for the Gospel and denying the pleasures of this world.  Jesus gave His life for me, so that I may live, in Him I am made complete.  He became a servant for my sake, so I become a servant so others may know Him.  For Jesus, joy was not found in the exaltation of this word, but at the cross where shame and wrath met so that the Father could exalt Him.

April 15, 2009

John Calvin on the final redemption

9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. -1 Thessalonians 1:9-10

“For unless we are stirred up to the hope of eternal life, the world will quickly draw us to itself.  As it is only confidence in the divine goodness that induces us to serve God, so it is only the expectation of final redemption that keeps us from giving way and losing heart. Let every one, therefore, who wants to persevere in the path of a holy life apply his whole mind to an expectation of Christ coming.” John Calvin

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