God is My Co-Pilot?

My wife gave me a drone as a gift this past Christmas. I immediately learned the benefits of drones when an unsuspecting neighborhood cat walked into our back yard. Unfortunately, it was my first flight, and in an attempt to scare the cat away I crashed the drone in the woods behind our house. Flying a drone is tricky to learn- it can fly up, down, backward, forward, right, left, rotate right, rotate left, and any combination in between. Every time I started to lose control, I panicked, and my drone would crash to the ground. And I have the live video footage to prove it.

Control Freaks

It doesn’t matter if you are crashing a drone or overcooking tonight’s supper, losing control is a very frustrating thing. Do you yearn for control over your own life? It’s a common temptation, perhaps propelled by a natural desire for security or an inordinate hunger for power. We all are, to some degree or another, control freaks. We may go about it quietly through subtle manipulation, or we may throw our weight around to get our own way. It’s the way our sinful flesh works; we all are control freaks.

But control in life is as finicky as learning to fly a drone. You may feel like you have started to figure things out, but in a split-second life may spiral out of control. And it does. We all know it does. Our inability to control life is a good thing, though. We weren’t meant to be in the driver’s seat.

Not Even a Co-Pilot

You may have seen the bumper-sticker that says, “God is my co-pilot.” Those words actually represent a low view of God. God is the Pilot. Life is automatically under His control. When we pretend we can somehow control all of this, we ignore reality and place a weight on ourselves we were never meant, or able, to carry.

I love the words to the song Our Great Savior by J. Wilbur Chapman. The fourth stanza reminds us that we aren’t the pilot. Of course, he’s not talking about flying drones but rather steering a ship. And in this ship called life, we aren’t even a co-pilot. No, God is the Pilot, and we cry to Him when life spins out of control.

Jesus! what a Guide and Keeper!
While the tempest still is high,
Storms about me, night o’er takes me,
He, my Pilot hears my cry.

Hallelujah! what a Savior!
Hallelujah! what a Friend!
Saving, helping, keeping, loving,
He is with me to the end.

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God controls all things. He, your Pilot, hears your cry. So Psalm 3:8a tells us, “Salvation belongs to the LORD.” And this deliverance is both personal and corporate. Think of a young couple’s quiet, hidden struggle with infertility. Then think of our nation’s horrendous, grotesque promotion and practice of abortion. One struggle is personal and may be relatively unknown. The other is very public. Yet in both situations, God’s people desperately need help, right now!

I don’t know your struggle, but I do know God is in control. In the Psalms David and other writers model for us how we can approach God when life seems to be spinning out of control. Let me share a few verses that may help you start your conversation with your Guide and Keeper. May you rest in our great Savior as the Pilot of your life.

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; 142:5a, 6-7a

I cry out to God Most High, 
to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
~Psalm 57:2; 142:1-2

O Lord, God of my salvation;
I cry out day and night before You.
Let my prayer come before You;
incline Your ear to my cry.
~Psalm 10:17b; 17:6; 31:2a; 45:10a; 71:2; 78:1; 86:1a; 102:1,2c

But I, O Lord, cry to You;
in the morning my prayer comes before You.
~Psalm 88:1-2, 13

C.P.

Sitting at the Feet of Jesus

It’s a week into January, and the New Year sparkle has already started to fade. It only takes a few days to remind us all that we are still sinners in need of a Savior. And because we are sinners, we need to remember that all our resolve, all our good intentions, and all our desires for reform will be pointless if we fail to hit the one goal that matters most.

One Thing is Necessary

Just this morning I read a story in my devotions that re-oriented my priorities. Jesus reminds us that, when push comes to shove, you and I really need one thing more than anything else today.

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village.
And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.

And she had a sister called Mary,
who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.

But Martha was distracted with much serving.
And she went up to him and said,
“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?
Tell her then to help me.”

But the Lord answered her,
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things,
but one thing is necessary.
Mary has chosen the good portion,
which will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:38-42

Do the words of Jesus describe you and me? “You are anxious and troubled about many things.” I’m certain they do, more than we would like to admit. We use busyness as a cloak and a noble excuse, but here Jesus exposes it for what it truly is- an idol. We love our checklists, our goals, our discipline, our efficiency, our timeliness.

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But, according to Jesus, “one thing is necessary.” What is it? To sit at the Lord’s feet and listen to His teaching. He is the Savior, He has the words of life, and He alone can give us what we truly need for each day. Spending time with Jesus is not simply another task to add to our checklist. Mary lingers at the feet of Jesus. Have you quieted your heart and listened to His teaching? Nothing else matters more.

One Thing Satisfies

Perhaps part of the reason we make an idol of our busyness is that we like being busy. We enjoy a sense of purpose and accomplishment. It’s not wrong to get a lot done; in fact, when done in faith, getting a lot done can be a God-glorifying endeavor. But getting a lot done will never satisfy you. Getting a lot done will never provide the power you need to overcome your sin today. Getting a lot done may actually destroy your soul by keeping you from the one thing you need most. 

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Notice the benefit Mary receives from lingering at the feet of Jesus- her “good portion…will not be taken away from her.” Our temporary to-do lists will end up crumpled at that bottom of our trash cans or in a deleted files folder, but not one moment spent with Jesus is ever wasted. When you eat the Bread of Life, you nourish your soul with eternal truth that reaps eternal benefits for your soul.

Instead of succumbing to the idol of busyness, Jesus calls you to soak up soul-satisfying truth that only comes from sitting at the Lord’s feet and listening to His teaching. My favorite passage in all the Bible mentions just a few of these benefits- we behold God’s steadfast love; we feast on the Bread of Life; we drink from the Fountain that will never run dry; we see the truth illuminated by the Light of the world; we enjoy and seek the love of God poured out on us.

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
    The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
    and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
    in your light do we see light.

Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you,
    and your righteousness to the upright of heart!

Psalm 36:7-10

 

So, whatever you do today and this year, make sure you take time every day to sit at the feet of Jesus. And don’t make it yet another chore- listen, linger, delight. One thing is necessary, and I pray you choose the good portion which will not be taken away from you.

 

C.P.

First Aid for Depression

Believer, are you discouraged today? Perhaps you feel as if you couldn’t sink any lower. I have found that in the darkest moments of my life the simplest passages of Scripture mean the most. Raging emotions and sleepless nights mean my mind and heart can only handle so much.

Today I would like to give you an emergency kit for your soul. I’ve gathered and listed all the verses in the Psalms that make this simple point: pray to God because He loves you like no one else. God’s love is unchanging, unswerving, unbreakable, unassailable because that is what God is like. His love is not fickle, or passive, or capricious. And on the days when we despair of life, you and I need to wage war on our minds from a thousand different vantage points. These simple verses do just that. Read them again and again. Pray them. Memorize them. Cherish them.

Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
Psalm 25:6

Make your face shine on your servant;
save me in your steadfast love!
Psalm 31:16

Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you,
    and your righteousness to the upright of heart!
Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me,

nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.
Psalm 36:10-11

Rise up; come to our help!
Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!
Psalm 44:26

Wondrously show your steadfast love,
O Savior of those who seek refuge
from their adversaries at your right hand.
Psalm 17:7a

Great salvation he brings to his king,
and shows steadfast love to his anointed,
to David and his offspring forever.
Psalm 18:50

Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good;
according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.
Psalm 69:16

Help me, O Lord my God!
Save me according to your steadfast love!
Psalm 109:26

Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love,
and teach me your statutes.

Psalm 119:124

Hear my voice according to your steadfast love;
Lord, according to your justice give me life.
Psalm 119:149

Consider how I love your precepts!
Give me life according to your steadfast love.
Psalm 119:159

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love,Lord, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands.
Psalm 138:8

If you want to go deeper, read these verses again and notice how God shows His steadfast love, who receives His steadfast love, and what God’s steadfast love is like (How? Who? What?). I can promise you this emergency kit works because God always has good plans for those who turn to Him. Notice,

I cry out to God Most High,
to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
Psalm 57:2

You may not always feel like turning to the Word of God in your despair, but you will never regret it. Turn to the Word, then turn to God in prayer. When you do, you will find that God is with you even in the darkest of nights.

By day the Lord commands His steadfast love,
and at night His song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
Psalm 42:8

C.P.

Competing with Christmas?

Emily and I have a deep-seated desire raise our 4 year-old daughter with Christ at the center of our family this Christmas. But it can be hard to compete with the excitement of presents, the glow of lights, and the taste of treats. I have confession to make- it’s not just my daughter who has a hard time concentrating on “the reason for the season.” It is hard for Evelyn to keep Christ in Christmas because it is hard for me to keep Christ in Christmas.

If you are like me, you have a lot going on. Gifts to order, a tree to decorate, lights to string up, parties and programs to attend, Christmas music to play (gotta hear ’em all!)- the list seems endless. How can we keep focused in the midst of the craziness?

I’d like to recommend that instead of competing with Christmas this year you leverage it. Earlier I made the argument that we should emphasize the season of Thanksgiving in order to adequately comprehend the meaning of Thanksgiving. And we can carry that same mentality into the Christmas season. Every good teacher knows repetition aids learning. You need to establish a pattern of worship this Christmas season that will help you see the beauty of the incarnation in a fresh way every day this month. With that thought in mind, here are a few recommended resources to help you keep Christ at the center of your Christmas every day in December.

Come, Let Us Adore Him by Paul David Tripp

This book is a daily advent devotional designed to keep you meditating on the incarnation all throughout December. For example, last night Emily and I read the devotional for December 3rd which focused on the promises of God as fulfilled in Jesus Christ. You can click on the link here and read about the book for yourself. But, in summary, I like this book for it’s

  1. accessibility (short, 2-3 page devotional readings)
  2. theology (Bible-saturated truths about the incarnation with a recommended short Scripture reading at the end)
  3. relevance (each reading includes suggested ways to discuss that day’s topic with your child or family)
  4. repetition (it covers every day in the month of December)

Creative Connections

If we are going to leverage Christmas, we need to be creative. However, I would not recommend reading Christian symbolism into cultural Christmas elements (like Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas) as if pagans intended the Christmas tree to always represent the cross. I think that practice is misleading at best and dangerously confusing at worst.

However, I am a fan of using cultural Christmas elements as a springboard into gospel-centered discussion. This year I bought a Lego advent calendar for Evelyn. She was kind of disappointed at the size of the first set we opened, but has since caught on to the fact that we get to open a new set every day and put it on the tree. Now she reminds me that we need to do the Lego advent calendar.

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And every time we reach for that box, I am reminded to start the discussion of what I have read the night before in Tripp’s advent devotional. This morning as I built a Lego fireplace with her, I explained to her what a promise was and how God kept his promises by sending his Son Jesus Christ to die for our sins. We talked about how we can be confident that Jesus will save us, because God always keeps his promises. We will have this type of discussion every day in the month of December as we build sets from her Lego advent calendar. Thank you, Lego!

You can do this with any type of Christmas cultural element that you cherish. The beauty of it is we all have the opportunity to create our own family traditions, to be creative in how we keep the gospel fresh on our minds every day.

Isaiah Christmas

One final spiritual exercise I would recommend relates to your Bible reading habits. Author Tony Reinke has produced a simple Bible reading plan that takes you through the book of Isaiah in the month of December. Every day Reinke helps you know what to look for by sharing a few insights about the upcoming reading. He also helps you understand the overarching purpose of the book of Isaiah and how it relates to the incarnation of Jesus Christ. I would recommend reading his introductory comments by clicking on the link here. There is one extra step, and that is to create a Twitter account if you don’t already have one. Perhaps someday he’ll make everything available on his website, but until then you will need to search #IsaiahChristmas on Twitter to read his comments.

This format has given greater meaning and depth to my daily devotional reading. I look forward every day to opening my Bible and learning more about Christ’s incarnation from the Old Testament. Then I just take a moment to Tweet my favorite verse from each day’s reading. Today’s verse was Isaiah 9:6:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

My hope and prayer for you is that you will truly be able to keep Christ in the center of your Christmas, not by competing with Christmas, but by leveraging it. I encourage you to establish a routine every day that keeps the gospel in the forefront of your mind. May you see more of Christ this Christmas than ever before.

C.P.

Deliver Me!

Ever had someone let you down? I did, just today. Over the last two weeks, I have spent hours upon hours dealing with a certain office supply store that shall remain unnamed. I planned to pick up a printer for my new office. No big deal, right?

We Fail

Unfortunately, the store did not have the printer in stock that I preferred. So I ordered it online with the guarantee that it would be delivered to my office at church the next day (Thursday). Thursday came and went- no printer. Friday came and went- no printer. I waited over the weekend, then gave my local friendly office supply store a call. They explained they were not able to deliver my printer because no one was available for pickup. They had returned the printer to a warehouse and refunded my order (because I didn’t want a printer, of course).

After reassuring customer service that my office was located at a church, and we receive deliveries multiple times a week without any problems, I re-ordered the printer, once again with the guarantee of next-day delivery. It did not come Tuesday. It did not come Wednesday. Finally, on Thursday, it arrived- five minutes before a funeral service started at our church. I quickly showed the delivery guy where to drop off the printer and then hurried back to join the pastor and family members for prayer before the funeral. Impeccable timing.

But wait- there’s more! Today I took out my  new printer from the box, naïvely expecting a quick setup and a happy ending. But when I plugged in the printer, I received an error message. After another phone call to tech support, I was informed I should drop my new printer off at a repair shop 45 minutes away or have a refurbished printer delivered to my office as replacement for my new one (with 1-day delivery, of course). I had had enough of these shenanigans. I returned the defunct printer to the office supply store and asked for a refund. All I can say is, that wasn’t easy.

How many of us could share the same sob stories of times when life throws us a lemon? It’s probably a good practice to not place too much hope in your local office supply store. You probably shouldn’t bank on receiving life-saving products in 1-day delivery, because people in this world will fail you. They can’t always deliver. None of us can. But the good news is, God can.

God Delivers

God promises to deliver those who turn to him because he is a God of steadfast love (Ps. 6:4b; 86:13; 94:18). I wasn’t feeling a lot of love waiting in the return line today. That’s because I was dealing with broken, needy people like myself. But we can confidently declare that God will deliver us (Ps. 13:5; 145:13c-14) because we know God loves us (Ps. 21:7b; 31:10b; 52:1,8b). If you tend to doubt that God loves you, I encourage you to click on the verses I have listed for you. Read through each one. Meditate on them. God’s love is for us all is written about over and over again in Scripture, if only we would take time to look!

This is so much the case that the act of God saving his people is equated with God loving his people. They are, in fact, two sides of the same coin—love in word and love in deed. God loves you, so God will deliver you if you turn to him.

God will send from heaven and save me;
He will put to shame him who tramples on me. Selah
God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!
~Ps. 57:3c; cf. vs. 10; 69:13

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Photo by Neil Thomas on Unsplash

Unfortunately, though, you may not think about God’s love too much until you need deliverance. Maybe you need a new printer today, like me. Life throws us lemons in a variety of ways; sometimes our troubles are insignificant, and sometimes they are very serious. You may need restored health. You may need to mend a broken relationship. You may need a large financial debt forgiven.

There is no easy button in life. Don’t count on your own resources, or on other broken people, to do for you what only God can do. At our core, we are all sinners in need of a Savior. That means, at the very least, we all need to cry out to God today for deliverance from our sin. No matter who you are, we all need deliverance. And only Jesus can deliver us from ourselves and our eternally damning sinfulness. What’s more, only Jesus loves us enough and is strong enough to deliver us from our temporary trouble life. Have you trusted in Jesus to save you eternally from sin? Are you trusting him now to save you from your temporary troubles?

After receiving a refund for my troublesome printer, I went back to my desk in my office. In 45 minutes I picked out and purchased a different printer on Amazon. It had more ink, better reviews, and cost me $40 less than the printer I had just returned to the store. Sometimes, there really is a better way. And make no mistake- trusting Jesus to deliver you from your eternal and temporary troubles is always the better way. Turn to the One who loves you most.

C.P.

Audio Book Review: The Life of David Brainerd (5 stars)

I am, by nature, a bookworm. Since I started this blog, I thought it might help others and aid my memory retention to post reviews of books as I finish them. However, I digest books slowly. Occasionally I will pick up a good book that I can’t put down, and finish it in a week or so, but that is not the norm for me. So don’t expect a massive amount of output. I hope these reviews will pique your interest and encourage you to dive into a new book, or perhaps help provide a refresher for you about a book you have enjoyed in the past but don’t have time to read again.

Also, I realize there is a big difference between reading a book and listening to it. I do both, and I think both approaches can develop unique skills. I’d encourage you to do the same. If you have a library card, you can gain access to all sorts of powerful educational tools. I use Hoopla to download almost all of my audio books for free. I prefer to read books in print so I can jot down notes and underline quotes, but sometimes I download and read on a device. In the near future, I plan to do both at the same time (listen to an audio book while reading the text).

Hard to Go Wrong with Autobiography

Any time you can spend reading from the diary of a past spiritual giant is time well-spent. As people, we find the lives of other people inherently fascinating, and David Brainerd is no exception. David Brainerd was an American missionary to the Delaware Indians of New Jersey in the early to mid-1700s. I had heard about his diary several times. I even had a copy given to me as I graduated from high school and headed to Bible college, but I never read it. Why? Because, honestly, he sounded kind of boring. I had never heard much about Brainerd’s life. He seemed dwarfed by his impressive contemporary, Jonathan Edwards, the greatest theologian in the history of America and a major leader in the Great Awakening.

But I was wrong, very wrong. Think about this fact- Jonathan Edwards compiled and edited David Brainerd’s diary, adding his own additional comments, precisely because Edwards perceived such a work as worthy of his time and beneficial to the glory of God’s kingdom. So, while this book is mainly an autobiography, it is also a biography of sorts (bonus points!). You get to read Brainerd’s own thoughts and the observations of Brainerd’s life from one of the greatest minds of his day. Here is one fascinating connection I never before considered. Brainerd was absorbed throughout his life with prayers for the advancement of God’s kingdom across the globe. And, at the very same time Brainerd persisted in prayer, Edwards was witnessing the Great Awakening spreading like wildfire across America. I cannot deny the clear link between the prayers of David Brainerd and the work of God in the Great Awakening.

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Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Redeeming the Time

A constant theme from the life of David Brainerd was his compulsion to use time well. Brainerd died when he was twenty-nine and a half years old from exhausting his body through the intense physical labors of his early studies at Yale, and later his missionary service to the Delaware Indians. Literally in the prime of his youth, he spent himself for the sake of the gospel. I will be twenty-nine next month. I couldn’t help but marvel at his relentless desire to pray for and pursue the advancement of God’s kingdom with every step, every breath, every thought, every deed. And, as I read his journal entries in the days leading up to his death, I did not find a young man anxious and despairing over having wasted his life. I find a young man at peace, content, and satisfied that he had done all he could, no matter how small it seemed, to advance God’s kingdom. He redeemed the time, and he never once regretted it.

The Necessity of “True Religion”

I also see in Brainerd a life of what Edwards would call “true religion.” Brainerd spent more time in secret prayer with God and pursued personal holiness more devoutly in one day than most of us would in a week or a month. Prayer was the air he breathed, the Word of God the bread he ate. He frequently fasted and, as Edwards notes, enjoyed the spiritual fruits that came from this kind of sincere wrestling with God. I love his early journal entries because they record plainly his struggles with the conscience that so many believers, including me, have faced at different points in their spiritual life. He had an honest, humble relationship with God. And his pursuits were not anchored in some strict regimen of self-improvement; rather, Brainerd points to the doctrines of grace as the source of his joy and the life of his ministry. He worshiped and served a gracious God who was marvelous in his eyes. As a result, he could faithfully minister because he knew the grace of God at work in his own life through prayer, meditation on the Word, and frequent confession of sin.

I heartily recommend this autobiography to you. It is well worth your time.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Format: Audio book (available on Amazon.com)
Listening time: 10 hours