A Spiritual Tour

I made a discovery last year when I was studying Hebrews 11:6

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because everyone that comes to him must believe that he exists and that rewards those who earnestly seek him”

I concluded that there were two elements that made Christian faith real: 1) believing in God and 2) believing that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

When I discoverered that faith involves believing and relentlessly pursuing a reward, it mezmorized me.  The idea that our seeking a reward for ourselves from God was actually not only glorifying to God but unconditionally central to Christian faith (without which it is impossible to please God) is one of the most freeing truths I have found in scripture.  It led me to go deeper, and seek the connections of faith and reward, and how they are intertwined.

I did a series on it over the summer.  We talked about Christian self-denial, which I explained as giving up something good now for something infinitely better in the future.  We talked about sacrifice.  And we ended there.

My spiritual nose sensed there was something more, something deeper– but I couldn’t figure it out.  Eventually, as ministry goes, we moved on to different subjects.  I thought my teaching on faith and its relation to reward was complete.

And then I started reading John Piper’s The Purifying Power of Living by Faith in Future Grace. And it baffled me.

It’s like I was walking along in a forest, and found an old, gnarled off-shoot path in the forest, dark and unpromising but a path nonetheless.  I explored it, but potholes and low hanging branches prevented me from going in too deep.

So I went back to the main path, only to find expert forest explorer and tour guide John Piper with his long, cutting machette and his hemp hat, saying, “Wait! Come back! I’ve found gold!”

And he takes down the path I had previously abandoned and points out beauties and I had imagined but had never seen with my own eyes.  He talks about how the plants and trees and birds and butterflies all live together in harmony.  He recites the names of the trees as if they were old friends.  He winks at the blue jay as it whistles by.  And at the end of the path there is a river, with gold sparkling in the current.  And then he stops and says, “Enjoy. I must find another.”

That is what Future Grace has been to me so far.  So I commend it to you.

Future Grace

Two Mentors: One Dead, One Alive

I have found that one of the most inspiring devices God uses to spur on his people to live like they should is a mentor.  And though there is nothing as good as a physically present mentor, there is great benefit in learning about the great men of God who have set examples for us.  In my life right now, I am purposefully letting myself be mentored by two people who don’t know me, one dead, one alive.

I’ll start with the living mentor.  He’s 63 and he lives in Minneapolis.  He’s a father, a grandfather, and an incredibly passionate man–with special gift to preach and teach.  He has a passion for God’s glory, and is widely known for his rhyming couplet:

God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him.

By now you might know I’m talking about John Piper.  For a more official biography, go here.

I was first became intrigued in his life and ministry after reading his most famous work, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist. There a few books in my life that have changed the my perspective on life– but this is one of them.  It was the beginning a quest to understand the relationship between my joy and God’s glory.  He affirmed my hunger for happiness and joy, and pointed me in the direction of God to find it.

One thing I’ve noticed about Piper is that he’s quick to jump on to any kind of technology to use it to magnify God.  Piper (maybe not Piper himself, but definitely his ministry) was a pioneer in using the internet as a new way to get his resources out there.  In the early days of the internet, as Piper’s ministry was becoming more widely known, DesiringGod.org was launched– a website dedicated to “God-centered resources from from the ministry of John Piper“.  Most websites dedicated to a certain pastor’s ministry had a small fee to download sermons, videos, books, etc; but Desiring God was free.  Even when you choose to buy a book online, there is a as much as you can afford policy for those who cannot pay full price.

When I discovered Desiring God, with full free access to 30 years of articles, books, sermons, conferences, and videos, I became a mentee of John Piper.  I thank God for men like him, who can boldly say to a younger generation, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.”

My other mentor is dead.  He has been dead for 111 years.  He was a Prussian who spent most of his life in Bristol, England.  He primarily worked with orphans. His name is George Muller.

If you haven’t read George Muller’s autobiography yet, put it on the list.  Reading an autobiography is like living in the same house as the man.  You see strengths and weaknesses; struggles and victories.  You have a first-hand account of how he feels about things; how he consoles himself in despair; how he motivates himself in ministry.  It is window into his habits and his discipline.  It’s a testimony to how God works in a man’s life that is dedicated to the Lord.  In the Muller’s case, it is specifically a testimony to the power of prayer.

For the next few weeks, I am going to let him mentor me.  I’ll be reading through his book, Releasing the Power of Prayer, and his biography by A.T. Pierson.

The best mentor is one you can talk to– but men like Piper and Muller are examples of the incredible grace of God, and we can learn much from them.  I always think it’s a good for us to “think the thoughts of great men after them.”