Moves Like Jagger

Being a wedding photographer affords me the opportunity to hear an array of popular dance music, most of which I detest. However, there are a few gems in the mountain of rubbish which pop music comprises. For one reason or another, I’ve found myself oddly addicted to the two-chord song Moves Like Jagger by Maroon 5 with it’s catchy whistle melody and driving bass drum beat.

After listening and dancing to the song a number of times, I was struck by the lines I’ve put in parentheses below.

Baby it’s hard
When you feel like you’re broken and scarred
Nothing feels right
But when you’re with me
I’ll make you believe
That I’ve got the key

These lyrics hint at a problem that all human hearts encounter: the deep feeling of inadequacy. Notice how our lyricist perceptively detects the insecurity that, in this case, a young lady feels. She is “broken and scarred”, used by many men but loved by none. The cure to this disease offered by the song is the hope of fulfillment in this young man’s affections.

Inadequacy is alien to none of us. We have all come up woefully, embarrassingly short at one time or another. Whether it’s the moment that you missed the game winning shot, were turned down by the guy you had harbored a crush on for a year, or found yourself still jobless even after tons of applications and interviews, inadequate feelings are something we all share in.

The salves that we apply to these uncomfortable feelings are diverse but similar. Diverse in the sense that there are an endless amount of things we do to feel better, but similar in the sense that we are trying to satisfy an eternal soul with a temporal experience. Perhaps, if you’re the woman pictured in Moves Like Jagger, you will look for adequacy by becoming the object of a man’s sexual attention. But that is a flimsy patch for a gaping hole. It’s like trying to use FlatFix on a tire that has been completely shredded. At that point you aren’t even addressing the problem. No, our struggles with inadequacy can’t be fixed by mere carnal experience. We need something much more satisfying.

In the Bible, God addresses our struggle for lasting contentment. Psalm 4:7 reads: “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.” This verse pictures two different people: the man who contents himself in God and the man contents himself in temporal experience (feasting and drinking). What’s striking here is that the man who seeks pleasure in the eternal God is more temporally satisfied than the one who seeks it in food and drink! The psalmist is not hoping for joy in the future, he has it right now even in the midst of shameful circumstances (Ps. 4:2).

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be content. In fact, the feelings of discontentment presently burdening us are whispers of the greater pleasures for which we’ve been made. The trouble is that our sinful hearts have distorted this desire by looking for relief in created things rather than the Creator. The invitation, then, is not just to flee from sexual experiences, drinking, eating, and so forth, but to flee toward God who satisfies.

And do you want to know the greatest thing? God’s pleasure in you is much greater than your pleasure in Him will ever be. You are the satisfying reward of Christ’s suffering (Isa. 53:11) and in your restoration God finds so much joy that He rejoices and sings (Zeph. 3:17)!

This experience of God’s affection is precisely what your soul needs to be satisfied. When it is, the offers of our dissipating world become repulsive and God becomes your true delight. Who would run into the arms of a guy who has “moves like Jagger” when the arms of the eternally-loving and all-satisfying God are open to them?

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Being a “Man After God’s Own Heart”

Most of us, at one point or another, have pointed to 1 Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22 zealously declaring we should be men after God’s own heart just like David! This is a mistake. When we say that, we mean that David is a man who seeks after God’s heart. But do you see the word “seek” in either of those passages? It’s not there and here’s why. King David being designated by God as a man after His heart is about God choosing David, not David’s character.

The phrase “after my own heart” was commonly employed by other ancient near easterners.* It simply means, “this is the person I’ve chosen.” When a god or king chose someone to rule, he would describe the successor as a man after his heart. When God utilized this phrase to describe David, He was not commenting on David’s stellar character (which was anything but stellar), He was alerting the audience that David was the chosen ruler of His people. This is contrasted with Saul who was appointed king as a judgment on Israel for their rejection of God’s kingship and their sinful request for a king like all of the other nations (see 1 Samuel 8:1-9).

A Lesson from This Phrase

King DavidDavid’s installment and perseverance as Israel’s king was a result of divine election and promise-keeping (cf. Psalm 78:70, 1 Kings 8:16), not the result of any particular merit he possessed. God is the one with the wisdom and authority to designate this son of Jesse as the “man after his own heart.” When David commits his egregious sins, he is kept in office because God picked him. This points us to one of the most notable features of the Old Testament narrative: the major figures are incredible sinners. And yet, they remain God’s instruments in advancing the redemptive story because He ordained their part in it.

In like manner, we who are chosen by God have confidence in His promise to keep us as His own. God has “predestined us for adoption” (Eph. 1:5) and we have complete assurance that no sin can take God’s favor from us. All former, present, and future transgressions have been paid for by Christ and we can confidently enjoy God’s abounding love. The point is that our character does not determine whether or not we are men and women “after God’s own heart.” God has already picked us. Rather, knowing that God chooses to save us despite our glaring deficiencies is precisely what shapes our character.

The Anticipated “Man After God’s Own Heart”

The selection of David as a king “after God’s own heart” is not an end in and of itself, but rather serves as a foreshadow. When God promises in Jeremiah 33:17 that David’s throne “shall never lack a man” He is pointing us to a much greater figure than King David. Isaiah 9:7 describes the Messiah as one who would assume the “throne of David.” Then, in Luke 1:32, the angel Gabriel explicitly tells a trembling, frightened Mary that “the Lord God will give to [Jesus] the throne of his father David.” Christ is the eternal King from David’s line. He will be called King of Kings and His kingdom shall know no end. He is the King that God has chosen to rule and reign forever. Jesus is the longed for “man after God’s own heart”, the royal Son of the Almighty, who gave His life to transform rebellious subjects into sons and heirs.

We all want to be people after God’s heart. The beautiful thing is that – because of Christ – we already are.

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*For example, see this excerpt from Henri Frankfort’s book Kingship and the Gods – a study of Ancient Near Eastern Religion as the Integration of Society and Nature. Scroll half way down the page, look for the heading THE CHOICE OF THE GODS and examine the end of the last paragraph. You will see Cyrus the Persian describing the god, Marduk, as searching for “a king after his own heart.”

Poem for a Dark Day (Re-visit)

I wrote this poem for Good Friday last year. I read it again today and my affections and gratitude for Christ were reignited. I can only hope and pray that if you read or listen, the same will happen for you.

They breached the laws of men
Took Him to trial by night
They told Him to defend
He gave to them no fight

A poem for a dark day

Took the flesh off of His back
Whips and glass and bones and nails
Healed our wounds in the attack
Filled He the air with wails

Some poetry on this dark day

The cross He bore of wood
It’s weight crushed He to bear
Yet something greater stood
At the Father’s wrath He stared

A verse for this dark day

Raised upon that cursed hill
Heaves He a heavy sigh
The Almighty’s perfect will
This begotten Son must die

A bit of lyric on a dark day

Crushed Him for our trespasses
He enduring matchless pain
God’s just judgment passes
The Lamb for sinners slain

A poem for this darkest day

And yet soon, the dawn shall rise

The Forgetful God – TG4OC

In case you hadn’t seen it, The Gospel for OC has published another of my articles. It’s actually a re-working from one I’d written a while back, but I hope you find joy and encouragement in the God I’m writing about and who I treasure. A God who “will not remember your sins.” O Hallelujah, there is mercy for us! Here’s the link:

http://thegospelforoc.com/2012/01/the-forgetful-god/

For His glory and fame,
Dustin

The Children in the Road

Last Sunday, Dec. 4th, I was privileged to preach at Cornerstone Fellowship Bible Church in Riverside, CA. This church was incredibly gracious, kind, receptive and encouraging! It built me up and convicted me to see their hearts to serve.

If you’d like to have a listen, you can access the audio for this message on their website by clicking here or you can listen to it on this post where I’ve embedded it below. If, after listening, you feel the desire to serve children in foster care please let me know! I’d love to connect you with opportunities so that you could be a blessing to these kids and they could be a blessing to you. Also, if you would be interested in having me come to share this message or a similar one at your church please don’t hesitate to ask. Blessings in the Savior!

The Children in the Road

The Sensibility God

God is not who you and I think He is. He is who He says He is. What we think is inconsequential. We do not define Him, He defines Himself for us.

Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God and there is none like me…I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it” (Isa. 46:8-9, 11b).

Perhaps one of the biggest distortions in our view of God flows from our escalated view of humanity. We have such a high view of our ability to reason that we end up subjecting Him to our sensibilities instead of letting our sensibilities be shaped by His self-revelation. Have you ever said or heard somebody else say “I couldn’t believe in a God who ________.” This disease of the Western mind is one huge barrier to a real and impactful relationship with God. As long as we confine Him to our limited scope of understanding, we forego the transformative power which comes from knowing the Living God through Jesus Christ (cf. Isa. 6, 1 Cor. 1:18-25).

There are basically two ways that we redefine God according to our sensibilities. The first is by willful ignorance. The second is by over-dependance on subjective provision. Let me explore each since I am confident that all of us make these mistakes and need to be lovingly redirected.

1. Ignoring God’s Revealed Character Willfully
God has disclosed Himself supremely through His Son, Jesus Christ, who is one with Him and who was sent by Him (Jn. 10:30, Jn. 5:23, 36, 37). Jesus lived a sinless life (Heb. 4:15), died a sinner’s death (2 Cor. 5:21), and rose again conquering death and the grave (Hos. 13:14, Acts 2:31). He embodies God’s love, mercy, grace, justice, patience, might, and wisdom. We know Jesus through the work of God’s Spirit (1 Jn. 5:6) and through the Scriptures (Lk. 24:27) both working in conjunction. If we ignore Jesus Christ and the truths He taught, we willfully ignore God. If we embrace the Messiah, we enjoy forgiveness of our sins and joyful acceptance by God.

Those who do not accept these truths about Christ are certainly ignoring God. But how can those of us who are Christians willfully ignore Jesus? A few ways would be through 1) neglecting to spend time seeking Him through prayer and Bible study, 2) failing to fellowship with other believers, and 3) forgetting the gospel which reminds us of His great love. All of us must be cautious not to fall into these traps and instead we should continually be “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…” (Heb. 12:2). The positive sides of the three failures I listed above all serve us in “looking to Jesus.” We don’t merely participate in personal devotion, church life, and preaching the gospel to ourselves as some religious exercises, but instead as the means God has given us to know our Savior more deeply and truly.

2. Putting Too Much Stock in Subjective Provision
It is all too easy to want God to do something for us now instead of being satisfied with all that He’s already done. Many of us are discontent because God isn’t coming through in some present circumstance in the manner which we expect. Maybe you’ve been frustrated because He isn’t letting you into the college you want to go to, you’re still single but want to be married, or you have been hunting for a job but still find yourself unemployed. Why is God holding out on you? If that’s the line of thinking you’ve slipped into, beware of idolatry. You don’t really want God, you just want His blessings. And yet, at great personal cost, He has ransomed you from death and granted eternal life. The objective provision that you need has already been freely given to you! What more could you ask for? There is enough joy and satisfaction in knowing the gospel of His grace. Even if He takes all of your relationships and possessions away, you still have Him forever and He is enough.

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Forgive me if my tone has come across as harsh. This has been a bit confrontational but that is not always bad. Sometimes we need a wake-up call though it may be unpleasant. Please know that I’m just as convicted by these things as you are. My prayer is that we would all ditch our sensibilities and look to Jesus to find out who God really is. Rely no more on your own capabilities to know God but instead trust in His revelation through Jesus Christ. May you find rich, gospel blessings as you do.

For His glory and fame,
Dustin

Morality Can’t Save

There are a number of voices today heralding a powerless gospel: the morality gospel. It goes something like, “I don’t really know about Jesus or faith or sin or anything like that. But, I know that God wants us to live a good life by being nice to our neighbors and non-judgmental.” While this sounds appealing on the surface, there is no way to demonstrate that God would be pleased by that kind of lifestyle.

And yet this sounds like such an agreeable way to live. Why won’t God be pleased by such a simple, moralistic lifestyle? Let me answer in three parts.

1. Without Christ’s intervention we are under God’s wrath not His favor
Romans 5:18 states plainly that “one trespass led to condemnation for all men.” Without a shift in our relationship with God, we all start out in danger of being served God’s justice. Things are not okay between us and God until Christ enters the picture and removes God’s wrath. But He only removes it for those who are united with Him in His death and resurrection. We see it later in Romans with the glorious promise of chapter 8 verse 1: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

2. Our good deeds do not please God
The natural passage to turn to is Isa. 64:6 which reads, “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” In and of ourselves we cannot be selfless. Our attempts to be charitable are stained by an insatiable desire for recognition. We are incapable to “do good for goodness’ sake” precisely because when we do good our goal is to be worshiped. Since our attempts at sacrificial love are selfish, God cannot be pleased by them.

3. Our self-righteousness robs us of our need for God’s mercy
If we could attain the righteousness which God requires all by ourselves we would not be in need of His charity. What makes God so loving is our desperate need for pardon. If we were not in need of that mercy how would we ever know that He loved us? We are only capable of grasping His love because He had to make such a radical sacrifice for us to be saved. And when we do grasp that, we are finally free to show His love to others.

The bottom line is this: our morality is utterly incapable of saving us from God’s righteous retribution. He is a just judge who must punish wrongdoing. How could He do otherwise? Either Jesus was punished for our sins or we will be punished for them, but payment must be made.

If you have succumbed to the idea that living a “good life” will keep you in God’s good graces, then please hear my plea. He will not see your good deeds because sinful condition has so profoundly tainted them. Know that Christ has lived your “good life” and died your death so that God may be pleased with you. And for those who are in Christ, be assured He is exceedingly pleased with you! As a father delights in his child, as a groom delights in his bride, as a king delights in his people, in all of these ways God richly delights in you. Respond to His jealous love with profound gratitude and supreme devotion.

May you ditch all efforts to save yourself and be wholly satisfied with all that God has done for you in Christ Jesus!

For His glory and fame,
Dustin