Friday, September 25, 2009

Seeking the Lord- John Piper

Recently I signed up to receive an email devotion from John Piper every 4 days or so. I've always found myself challenged by Piper and his writings but I was thinking how big of an impact can a simple email devotion have, how in-depth can it be,etc. I have to say that I have kept each one of them an I read them over and over again. I love looking into the depth of the Word the way Piper does. I find myself challenged in my my disciple or lack thereof to get into the Word like this on my own time and I'm seeing the grace, mercy and love of the Lord in whole new lights. So here's one that I enjoyed recently. Thought I'd share it with you.

What Does It Mean to Seek the Lord?

August 19, 2009
By John Piper

Read this article on our website.

Seeking the Lord means seeking his presence. “Presence” is a common translation of the Hebrew word “face.” Literally, we are to seek his “face.” But this is the Hebraic way of having access to God. To be before his face is to be in his presence.

But aren't his children always in his presence? Yes and no. Yes in two senses: First, in the sense that God is omnipresent and therefore always near everything and everyone. He holds everything in being. His power is ever-present in sustaining and governing all things.

And second, yes, he is always present with his children in the sense of his covenant commitment to always stand by us and work for us and turn everything for our good. “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

But there is a sense in which God’s presence is not with us always. For this reason, the Bible repeatedly calls us to “seek the his presence continually.” God’s manifest, conscious, trusted presence is not our constant experience. There are seasons when we become neglectful of the Lord and give him no thought and do not put trust in him and we find him “unmanifested”—that is, unperceived as great and beautiful and valuable by the eyes of our hearts.

His face—the brightness of his personal character—is hidden behind the curtain of our carnal desires. This condition is always ready to overtake us. That is why we are told to “seek his presence continually.” God calls us to enjoy continual consciousness of his supreme greatness and beauty and worth.

This happens through “seeking.” Continual seeking. But what does that mean practically? Both the Old and New Testaments say it is a “setting of the mind and heart” on God. It is the conscious fixing or focusing of our mind’s attention and our heart’s affection on God.

“Now set your mind and heart to seek the Lord your God.” (1 Chronicles 22:19)

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:1–2)

This setting of the mind is the opposite of mental coasting. It is a conscious choice to direct the heart toward God. This is what Paul prays for the church: “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ” (2 Thessalonians 3:5). It is a conscious effort on our part. But that effort to seek God is a gift from God.

We do not make this mental and emotional effort to seek God because he is lost. That’s why we would seek a coin or a sheep. But God is not lost. Nevertheless, there is always something through which or around which we must go to meet him consciously. This going through or around is what seeking is. He is often hidden. Veiled. We must go through mediators and around obstacles.

The heavens are telling the glory of God. So we can seek him through that. He reveals himself in his word. So we can seek him through that. He shows himself to us in the evidences of grace in other people. So we can seek him through that. The seeking is the conscious effort to get through the natural means to God himself—to constantly set our minds toward God in all our experiences, to direct our minds and hearts toward him through the means of his revelation. This is what seeking God means.

And there are endless obstacles that we must get around in order to see him clearly, and so that we can be in the light of his presence. We must flee every spiritually dulling activity. We must run from it and get around it. It is blocking our way.

We know what makes us vitally sensitive to God’s appearances in the world and in the word. And we know what dulls us and blinds us and makes us not even want to seek him. These things we must move away from and go around if we would see God. That is what seeking God involves.

And as we direct our minds and hearts Godward in all our experiences, we cry out to him. This too is what seeking him means.

“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.” (Isaiah 55:6)

“If you will seek God and plead with the Almighty for mercy...” (Job 8:5)

Seeking involves calling and pleading. O Lord, open my eyes. O Lord, pull back the curtain of my own blindness. Lord, have mercy and reveal yourself. I long to see your face.

The great obstacle to seeking the Lord is pride. “In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him” (Psalm 10:4). Therefore, humility is essential to seeking the Lord.

The great promise to those who seek the Lord is that he will be found. “If you seek him, he will be found by you” (1 Chronicles 28:9). And when he is found, there is great reward. “Whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). God himself is our greatest reward. And when we have him, we have everything. Therefore, “Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!”

Seeking with you,

Pastor John

Friday, September 18, 2009

New Summer Pics

Be sure to check out the right hand side of this page as you will find albums of photos from Bari summer camp, Africa and the rest of summer down south. Enjoy!

New Arrivals

Tuesday marked the official start of our year at the Univ. of Florence. The start was a little bittersweet as most of the Florence team had to postpone their arrival for several more weeks. But we are more than excited to host part of the Siena team until their apartments are ready in Siena. At the moment we have a total of 4, 1 year, stitners here. Most have spent some time in Italy before and have even taken a few language classes. Kylie, the lone Florence stinter, has actually never set foot in Italy yet she is unafraid to use her language skills learned in the States. It has been a joy to go back a little in time and remember my first days in Italy when all was strange, unfamiliar, and confusing but yet so exciting at the same time. Though year to year I find myself a little more tired of continually beginning new friendships and relationships I know that it is worth it if not for my sake for theirs. I love getting to help them learn and discover a whole new world. Watching their eyes light up, their confused looks, their embarrassed smiles as they attempt to speak Italian, and so much more provides joy in my days. It's a very simple thing I know but I get much satisfaction out of it. The Florence stint gals have also chosen an apartment very near to my house so I get to spend a lot more time with them than I did last year. I'm looking forward to dinners together, Grey's anatomy dinner nights, and just hanging out as friends. Pray for relationships to be built quickly and that the rest of our team would arrive soon so that we can all start off on this great adventure together.

So Dark is Europe

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