Wednesday, March 28, 2012

This is not our home



If you happen to listen to contemporary Christian music you will most likely have heard the song "Where I Belong," by building 429. The chorus of the song reminds us that this is not our home, the song reinforces what the Bible teaches that we are strangers and pilgrims here and now, we are to be looking for our heavenly home (Hebrews 11:13).

Chorus:

- All i know is I'm not home yet this is not where I belong take this world and give me Jesus this is not where I belong

Have you ever been somewhere and did not feel that you fit-in or that you just did not belong, it could be a social setting, work environment, or even at church---that feeling of just not belonging SHOULD be part of the christian psyche as we are just passing through this world; because we really belong to another. 

This world-view changes that way the believer lives his life in this world. As this Biblical truth takes root in your life, it begins to change you from the inside out. We are to "set our affection" on things that are above (Colossians 3:1), we are to ''store up treasure in heaven" (Matthew 6:20). 

One of the most fascinating passages in the entire Bible is found in 11 Corinthians 4:18, where the apostle Paul tell the believers:

While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.



 Some thoughts on this verse:

1. Believers are "not to look at those things that are seen.
2. Believers are to "be looking" at those things that are eternal.
3. The reason why we should not look at the things that are seen---they are just temporary.
4. The reason we should "fix" our attention (spiritual eye) on the things that are not seen---they are eternal.

Father, help us to walk by faith and not by sight. Father, help us to set our affections on those things that are eternal (those things that really matter to You). Give us the wisdom to walk with the thought that this life is like a vapor, it appears for a little time and then it goes away.


















Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The poison of sin



A deadly injection:

We know there are certain injections that can kill a person almost instantly. My grandson (5 years old) is just fascinated by poisonous snakes. The rattlesnake really gets his attention, he is just amazed at the damage that rattlesnake venom can inflict on its prey---the Rattlesnake venom is highly Hemotoxic. The venom travels through the bloodstream, destroying tissue and causing swelling, internal bleeding and intense pain.

We have a book on rattlesnakes and he demands that I explain to him all of the technical words that describe the venom of the rattlesnake. For instance, (Rattlesnake venom is a mixture of 5-15 enyzmes, various metal ions, biogenic amines, lipids, free amino acids, proteins, and polypeptides. It contains components designed to immobilize and disable the prey, as well as digestive enzymes which break down tissue to prepare for later ingestion)---so, I must goggle these words and give him a breakdown, it really is pretty cool to see the hunger for knowledge in such a little guy.

When Adam and Eve turned on God, the poison of sin entered their spiritual veins. The venom of sin destroyed their unbroken fellowship with God, and for the first time they suffered the feeling of being guilty before God.

Now, here is some theology: we all have inherited Adam's guilt and corruption, we all have the venom of sin coursing through our veins. This is what theologians call "original sin." Adam included us in his rebellion against God. Adam represented us; Adam's sin was communicated to us all by imputation (a legal declaration), and also by impartation (moral corruption).

This Biblical idea of imputed sin will cause the sinner to raise his head and deny that he/she is in a state of rebellion against God and in need of a Savior. The Biblical doctrine of sin will cause the unconverted to exclaim, " I'm not really that bad, I may have done some bad things, but I've certainly done more good than bad."

The psalmist puts it like this, "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me" (Ps. 51:5). The Apostle Paul tells us " All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).

Listen finally to the Apostle Paul, where he starts out with our condition before God and then finishes with God's remedy:

 "Yes, Adam's one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ's one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone (Romans 5:18).

 Father, thank You for bringing us into a right relationship with Yourself. Thank you for Your provision and remedy for our sin---To God be all honor and all glory, Amen.





Monday, March 26, 2012

The Invictus






                    The "Invictus"

The "Invictus" a  nineteenth-century poem by William Earnest Henley, express the lie that Satan told in the garden so long ago: "You will be like God" (Gen. 3:5).

I thank whatever gods that be
For my unconquerable soul...
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

As Christians we must understand the effects of the fall---we now have a predisposition to "do (life) our way." After the fall humanity has had the natural inclination to be autonomous and to throw off the creature-Creator relationship.

The song, 'My Way', by Paul Anka, sums up our desire to "do it our way:"
And now the end is near
And so I face the final curtain,
My friends, I'll say it clear...
And more, much more than this, I did it my way.
For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself...
The record shows I took the blows -
And did it my way!

It is interesting to understand that there was never a defect in our nature (our humanness), after creating man God declared that His creation was "very good" (Gen.1:31). The tragedy came as a result of what Adam did with the free will that he was created with---Adam and Eve declared their independence from God when they chose to disobey, and do life their own way.


These following lines were found on a painting in a cafe:
I have Taken the pill.
I have hoisted my skirts to my thighs,
Dropped them to may ankles,
Rebelled at the Universities,
Skied at Aspen,
Lived with two men,
married one.
Earned my keep,
Kept my identity,
And frankly...
I'M LOST.

 The Old Testament prophet Isaiah tells us this about ourselves:

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way... (53:6).

BUT

God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

And that my friend is the gospel.



Thursday, March 22, 2012

A few gold nuggets





Here are a few gold nuggets (with some brief commentary) from Robert Murray M'Cheyne (21 May 1813 – 25 March 1843) he was a minister in the Church of Scotland from 1835 to 1843. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Murray_M%27Cheyne



1. For every look at self--take ten looks at Christ! (This keeps us from discouragement and from becoming inward Christians)

2. The greatest need of my people--is my personal holiness. Take heed to yourself. Your own soul is your first and greatest care. Keep up close communion with God. Study likeness to Him in all things. ( We must look at our own sinfulness before we approach others)


3. Unfathomable oceans of grace are in Christ for you. Dive and dive again--you will never come to the bottom of these depths! (This truth will drive away all and any hopelessness)


4. Get your texts from God--your thoughts, your words, from God. In great measure, according to the purity and perfections of the instrument, will be success. It is not great talents God blesses--so much as great likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is a powerful weapon in the hand of God. (God can use any of us, just walk close to Him)


5. A man is what he is on his knees before God--and nothing more.(Nothing to say on this one, but WOW!)

6. Live near to God--and all things will appear little to you in comparison with eternal realities.(Hold all things in this life very, very, very, loosely)


7. Lord make me as holy as a pardoned sinner can be!(The one thing that the Church so desperately needs to have taught to her--the holiness of God)


 Father help us to be HOLY, amen.



Wednesday, March 21, 2012

HUMILITY




 The one lesson that I've learned in my walk with Jesus is that without the working of humility in my life I truly don't have a solid foundation.


When I look at kingdom principles they are all upside down, think about it: when you're weak, you're strong, if you want to be wise become foolish, the first will be last, the greatest among us shall be the servants of all, wow!


It is easy to go to Bible college, seminary, learn the languages (well maybe not the languages), and study theology, but humility is hard, not just hard, it is the dying to your pride and self will. Humility is seeing yourself as God sees you, A.W. Tozer said this of humility:


 "the meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority. Rather he may be in his moral life as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson; but he has stopped being fooled about himself. He has accepted God's estimate of his own life". 

Father forgive us of our pride---help us to know that we have nothing that we have not received . Help us to walk humbly before you, and help us to have the mind (attitude of Christ) as we journey through life. Give us the grace to ask for your hand to bring about humility into our lives even  if it hurts, AMEN.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Stones in your shoes?




Have you ever tried to walk with stones in your shoes?  It makes the walk very unpleasant and depending on the size of the stone it can make the walk nearly impossible.

There are several mounds of dirt in our neighborhood---the last house is being built, so as you would think those large dirt mounds have been calling out very loudly to my five year old grandson, beckoning him to come down and climb to the top and slide all the way down, again and again.

Every time he would climb to the top and come down he would let me know that he had stones in his shoes.

Think how our sins make our walk with God unpleasant! The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us:

...Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us (12:1).


And we all know that if we IGNORE those pesky stones in our shoes they eventually will cause some serious damage to our soft-tender feet.  And the worst thing that can happen is that we "get used" to those pesky stones and we learn to live with them.


This is one of the scariest verses in the entire Bible:

Holding on to faith and a good conscience, some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith (1Tim. 1:19).


 Christians while we are secure in our salvation it is possible to wound our consciences, and in so doing shipwreck our precious faith. I've seen many believers walking with stones in their shoes and don't even realize the damage that they are doing to their own feet.


Father we know that we can always restore our relationship with you through repentance and confession---help us to keep our feet soft and tender, and allow your word and the work of the Holy Spirit to have its way in our lives. Keep us from wounding our consciences and making our faith powerless.












Monday, March 19, 2012

The Difference Between Enabling and Equipping




I would like to try something a little different in today's post. I've spent a little time doing social work, and during that time, I came across certain patterns of behavior in the clients that I had contact with.

One behavior that was evident to some degree in all clients was their ability to enable negative behaviors in those around them. This was seen in parents toward their children, brothers toward their sisters, and just within the context of the whole family unit.

Enabling behavior is such a broad topic--- with an abundance of research and good books to help one get a good understanding of the topic.

In this post I would like to compare the difference between enabling and the Biblical idea of equipping.

I came across this excellent article on the warning signs of enabling behavior, here are the 20 signs that were listed in the article:


EARLY WARNING SIGNS OF ENABLING

1. Do you find yourself worrying about a person in ways that consume your time, or do you find yourself trying to come up with solutions to his/ her problems rather than letting that person do the solving?

2. Do you find yourself afraid for this person, or convinced that he/she “cannot handle” a situation or relationship without “falling apart”?

3. Do you ever do something for a person which he/she could and even should be doing, in order to learn him/herself?

4. Do you ever excuse this person’s behavior as being a result of “stress, misunderstanding, or difficulty coping,” even when the behavior hurts or inconveniences you?

5. Have you ever considered - or have you - giving this person money, your car, or talked to someone for this person as a way of reducing this person’s pain?

6. Do you feel angry if this person does not follow through with something you have suggested -- or do you worry that you may not be doing enough for this person?

7. Do you ever feel you have a unique and special relationship with this person?

8. Do you feel protective of this person - even though he/she is an adult and is capable of taking care of his/her life?

9. Do you ever wish others in this person’s life would change their behavior or attitudes to make things easier for this person?

10. Do you feel responsible for getting this person help?

11. Do you feel reluctant to refer an individual to a source of help or assistance, uncertain if another person can understand or appreciate this person’s situation the way you do?

12. Do you ever feel manipulated by this person but ignore your feelings?

13. Do you ever feel that no one understands this person as you do?

14. Do you ever feel that you know best what another person needs to do or that you recognize his/her needs better than he/she does?

15. Do you sometimes feel alone in your attempts to help a person or do you feel you may be the only person to help this individual?

16. Do you ever want to make yourself more available to another person, at the expense of your own energy, time, commitments?

17. Do you find yourself realizing that an individual may have more problems than you initially sensed and that you will need to give him/her your support or help for a long time?

18. Do you ever feel, as a result of getting to know this person, that you feel energized and can see yourself helping people like him/her to solve their problems?

19. Have you ever begun to “see yourself” in this person and his/her problems?

20. Has anyone ever suggested to you that you are “too close” to this person or this situation?
Source: http://shalomplace.com/res/enabling.html




After reading and thinking through the above list take the time and ask yourself if you exhibit any of these negative enabling characteristics.

Now, lets look at what it means to equip those around us---and compare the difference between enabling others and equipping them. 

The Apostle Paul's letter to the Church at Ephesus tells us why Christ  gave  believers pastors, teachers, and prophets, Paul says this, now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.Their responsibility is to EQUIP God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.

Vincents Word Studies says this about the word equip that is used in Ephesians: " Only here in the New Testament. In classical Greek of refitting a ship or setting a bone. 

The purpose of pastors, teachers, mothers, fathers, are to bring others to "maturity," (refit the ship, set the bone),  baby Christians are not to stay baby Christians-toddlers are not to stay toddlers-teenagers are not to stay teenagers---and the whole idea behind equipping is to bring a person to be "set on the right course." In the Christian context it is to bring a person to  full trust and dependence on the Lord Jesus Christ.

In the parenting context---parents are to allow their own children to "feel" the weight of their own bad choices---parents are to allow their own children to fail, and not pick up the pieces for them. Parents are to provide the "tools" that their children need in order to be independent and not dependent on them.


In the end we as the body of Christ grow in our dependence on Christ---for the Christian being equipped is having the wisdom to know that when we are weak we are strong---it is having the wisdom to know that our sin natures can lead us astray---it is having the wisdom to know that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.

Father give us the wisdom to understand the difference between helping others and enabling others. Father help us to grow in our dependence on you. Help us to grow into full mature believers so that we in turn can minister to the needs of others in the body of Christ.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Multiple Intelligences


I thought that I would share one particular subject with you that really caught my attention during my masters program at Lancaster Bible College (leadership studies). One of my class assignments was to do research on Howard Gardner's, multiple Intelligence theory.

Howard Gardner, amongst other researchers have explored how individual competencies affect the way that one learns. This concept was new to me, so I began to read not only the required books for the course, but I went out and purchased several others to read.

The reason that this topic fascinated me was the fact that I'd struggled so much while I was in school (k-12). Because of my academic struggles, I became the "class clown" and I became pretty good at it too. Looking back on my academic career, ha-ha, I spent more time in the office than in the classroom. 

So, when I found out that there was actually different kinds of "smarts,"  I thought, well maybe, I have one of them. I'll list them for you and see if you can relate, now other researchers may call them by different names, but they are basically all the same. Source of information: ( 7 Kinds of smart, Thomas Armstrong, PH.D).

1. Word Smart: Expressing your verbal intelligences
2. Picture Smart: Thinking with your mind's eye
3. Music Smart: Making the most of your melodic mind
4. Body Smart: Using your kinesthetic intelligence
5. Logic Smart: Calculating your mathematical and scientific abilities
6. People Smart: Connection with your social sense
7. Self Smart: Developing your intrapersonal intellect


Anyway, my assignment was to pick one of the 7 intelligences and do some research and give an oral report to the professor on my findings. I picked number 6, people smart, feeling that I always had the ability to connect with other people. This intelligence also includes the ability to read others-it is having "social awareness," it also includes the ability to see yourself as others see you-in other words, you see yourself in the context of reality.

One thought on the ability to "read others"- Psychologist estimate that nonverbal communication accounts for 60 to 90 percent of all the information transmitted between people. Robert Bolton, teaches that  interpersonal intelligence comes in four basic ways: listening skills, assertion skill, conflict resolution skills, and collaborative problem-solving skills.

Look at this fascinating break down of how people learn, taken from Eight ways of knowing, by David Lazear:

  People learn....
          10% of what they read
          20% of what they hear
          30% of what they see
          50% of what they both see and hear
          70% of what they say as they talk
          90% of what they say as they do a thing 
          95% of what they teach to someone else

Now, how about if I told you I know a person who has all 7 intelligences, and has them at one-hundred percent capacity. A person who knows you so well that it has been said of him that he knows your very thoughts even before you think them. A person who knows all of your joys and equally knows all of your sorrows, I know this man-his name is Jesus, the Mighty God, the Prince of Peace, the Ever-Everlasting God, Savior of the world.




Thursday, March 15, 2012

Set Your Hope in God


Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:13).

For me looking at the news can get quite discouraging at times, especially since my nature is that of a political junkie. I'm drawn into the drama of  the debates, studying the character of those in Washington (most of the time that is an empty chapter), I also by nature am a competitive individual, so the fight between the right and left intrigues me.

I also love my Country and it saddens me to see the direction we are heading-humanism, secularism, and all of the ungodly philosophies that are daily attacking the home and the family. I know that Satan who is the god of this world ( 2 Cor. 4:4) is active and will be relentless in his hatred toward God's truth.

This brings me to the verse that I posted...let me share a few thoughts on the topic of Biblical hope. We all need hope, we all experience pain, sorrow, and disappointment, and as long as we live in this world we will have many a large servings of pain, sorrow, and disappointment.

The one thing that I find so fascinating about God's word is that it always has the ANSWERS to all of my problems. There are certainly times when I have to do my homework and discover these truths, but it is always so worth it.

Let me share one of the 5 W's we all need to do before we do any Biblical interpretation- that is the WHY of  biblical interpretation, in other words, why was was 1 Peter written?

The believers that  were addressed were suffering intense persecution under the Roman emperor Nero, remember him, he burnt Rome and needed a scapegoat, so he blamed the Christians, so this letter was to teach these believers how to live victoriously in the midst of suffering without losing their hope.

Here are two encouraging thoughts from the text:

1. The battle is won or lost in the mind (therefore prepare your minds and be sober minded)-believers have to "think right" and the only way to think right is to think Biblically. In counseling others, the one big problem that people present is a "faulty thinking pattern" which can lead to all kinds of mental and emotional problems.


2. The believer must never lose hope (set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the return of Christ)-Hope is a portion of faith, hope is faith in the future tense. The believer lives his life believing that this world is not his home, he sets his sights on eternal realities. The believer assures himself that his salvation will be secured by his sovereign Lord.


Summary: Christian, no matter how bad things are for you right now you are encouraged to set your hope in God's grace that He will bring about your salvation to the end. Many times the hard things have a way of showing us that our hope is still in this world...the hard times are used by God to wean us off this worlds pleasures and bring us to set our affections on things above.


Father, help us to set our hope on your grace...give us the confidence that You will bring us safely home.Help us to set our thinking on the things that are eternal, give us the grace to hold onto the fact that one day we will be glorified and have all our pains and sorrows removed.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Unbelief the Greatest Sin!


What is the greatest SIN of all? Is it one of the seven deadly sins?

 lust, envy, anger, pride, sloth, gluttony, or greed?



 Or perhaps the sins listed by Solomon in Proverbs 6: 16-19:
 Solomon stated that the Lord specifically regards "six things the Lord hates, and the seventh His soul detesteth." namely:
  1. A proud look.
  2. A lying tongue.
  3. Hands that shed innocent blood.
  4. A heart that devises wicked plots.
  5. Feet that are swift to run into mischief.
  6. A deceitful witness that uttereth lies.
  7. He that soweth discord among brethren.


Or perhaps the list of sins named by the Apostle Paul in Galatians 5:19-21, which include:

adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings. " 



All of the above mentioned sins put together do not match the sin of UNBELIEF, hear the words of the great Apostle John,  "The one who believes in the Son has eternal life; but the one who refuses to believe in the Son will not see life; instead, the wrath of God remains on him" (John 3:36).


 William Bacon Stevens sums it up best when he gives this detailed account of the dangers of unbelief:

Unbelief is the crowning sin of the ungodly! And until Christ is believed in, by a faith which "purifies the soul"--all other changes will be of no avail.
We may correct this evil habit;
we may prune away that sin;
we may turn from debauchery to purity;
we may turn from profanity to reverence;
we may turn from covetousness to charity;
we may polish our characters until we shall appear beautiful to ourselves and others;
we may even have a sentimental regard for Christ, and experience a sort of respect for His ordinances, and join with external devotion in the praises of the sanctuary--
yet, build up these characters as high as we may, adorn them with every worldly ornament, set them off with every earthly virtue--unless Christ is formed in our hearts as the hope of glory--they are nothing "but white-washed sepulchers, which, indeed, appear beautiful outwardly--but within are full of dead bones and all uncleanness!"

On the other hand, no matter how evil may have been our former course, no matter what the turpitude of our character--though our sins are as black as midnight, and as numberless as the stars, and as vile as Hell itself; yet, if we now receive Christ into our hearts in the fullness of a faith that trusts in Him alone--all will be well! "Though your sins are like scarlet--I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson--I will make them as white as wool!" Isaiah 1:18






Father help us to come to You in faith---realizing that, "without faith it is impossible to please You." Father help us to understand that the faith that pleases You comes to us as a gift from Your great grace and mercy, let this thought bring us to our knees in humble adoration of Your goodness and mercy. God help us to never fall into the danger of cleaning up the outside of the cup and platter while our hearts remain unchanged by the active renewing of Your Holy Spirit, AMEN







Monday, March 12, 2012

FORGIVENESS


All Christians know personally what it means to be forgiven, oh but do we really, I mean really understand forgiveness? 

Do we really know what it means to have our sins forgiven? do we understand the great cost? Do we really understand that it took God becoming man and becoming a sacrifice for us?

Let's take a look at a few Bible passages that describe how God viewed us before we were reconciled to Him by the death of His son Jesus:

This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions ( Colossians 1:21).

For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life ( Romans 5:10)!

Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others ( Ephesians 2:3).

Quick Summary of our condition when God decided to reconcile us to Himself.

1. We were far away from God.
2. We were enemies of God.
3. We were separated from God (because of our evil thoughts and actions).
4. We were the objects of God's wrath.

In light of God's forgiveness, how can we not forgive those who have wronged us? God calls us to release anyone who may have wronged us.

I've always thought, who am I to hold an offense against any person who has wronged me when God has forgiven me when I was His enemy?



Father-thank you for Your forgiveness. Help us to release others of their offenses against us (help us to realize that forgiveness is for us to help us heal and not be griped by the evil of bitterness). Our great God help us to bask in the light of the great cost to You so that our sins could be forgiven, AMEN.










Friday, March 9, 2012

Apply God's Word to yourself First!



Have you ever counseled others, prepared for a message, or studied to teach a small group and the message turned on you? Happens to me every time, and as it should.

The word of God is always first for us---and then as we allow the word of God to master our thought lives and our actions, then and only then are we qualified to "teach" others. It should only be with great humility that we would even consider or even attempt to speak into the lives of others.

I'm going to repeat that last sentence again because it is so important: " It should only be with great humility that we would even consider or even attempt to speak into the lives of others."

 The words from Mercy Me should speak very loudly to us all:

I'm finding myself at a loss for words
And the funny thing is it's okay
The last thing I need is to be heard
But to hear what You would say

[Chorus:]
Word of God speak
Would you pour down like rain
Washing my eyes to see
Your majesty
To be still and know
That you're in this place
Please let me stay and rest
In your holiness
Word of God speak


How about it folks, the last thing that we need is to be talking---oh,  but how we need to be listening!

Let me leave you with the two verses that I gave to another and came back to grip my own soul:

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you" (1Peter 5:6,7).

Real quick---let me offer a explanation of this marvelous verse. 

When we humble ourselves under the Mighty Hand Of God we are putting ourselves in complete submission to His will. The term "mighty hand of God" is used throughout the Old Testament to show that God's Sovereign purposes will always come to fruition (cf Ex. 3:19-20; Job 30:20-21; Exek. 20:33,37; Mic.6:8).

So, before I (we) can cast our anxieties on God, we must first place our lives under His control and allow whatever it is that He is trying to accomplish in our lives to come to fruition. The hard part is that we may not like what God is attempting to "do" in our lives, but regardless if we like it or not we must submit ourselves to His rule and authority in our lives

 Father help us to submit to Your will even when we don't want to. Help us to allow Your plan to come to fruition in our lives. Let us know that  we must be willing to be in subjection to Your will before we cast our anxieties on You. AMEN. 







 


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Sins and Self-Examination




Have you ever been critical, short, irritable, and then have a complaining attitude to boot? Well, if you can't identify with any of these sins that plague the rest of us---let me know your secret?


 Now, I realize that these sins may be peculiar to those with certain personalities and temperament types, and I know that our physical health may weigh in on our propensity to have a nasty attitude from time to time, but in the end we recognize that being critical, short, irritable, and having a complaining attitude is nothing short of displays of our sinful nature.


I think that we are to quick to brush these less desirable character traits off as mere inconveniences, but it is critical for the follower of Christ to understand that these character traits are the exact opposite of the fruit that God desires for his people, see Galatians 5:22,23, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."


If you take notice these character traits are all attitudinal---so how do we check them? how do we even see that we may be evidencing them in our daily lives? And how do we deal with them?

Every Christian must be a person who develops the spiritual discipline of self examination---without it the weeds will grow in the garden of our hearts unchecked. Socrates noted that, "The unexamined life is not worth living."








Before we go any further on the idea of self-examination let me point out that there is no virtue alone in the act of self-examination, but it is the motive of our self-examination that counts. First, the follower of Christ is to do all to the "glory of God" ( 1 Corinthians 10:31). The believer should know that the sins of the flesh don't bring glory to God, so therefore they must be weeded out of the garden of our hearts.


 In addition to the motive (glory of God), self-examination must take place in the context of measuring ourselves against the standard of the Word of God. Paul gave young Timothy this encouragement when he said,"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).




 Let's put this all together: 


All believers struggle with the sins of the flesh ( being critical, short, irritable, and complaining).

We as believers must live a life of self-examination in order to keep these sins in check.

Self-examination in and of itself has no virtue---only when it is done for the glory of God.

All self-examination must be guided by the absolute authority of the Word of God.

 The believer has no power in his own flesh to affect heart change---any change must be the result of the Holy Spirit's application of the Living Word to our lives.




Father help us to take the time to come before You and allow Your Word to be a light in our inner lives--- we know Father that it is You that must change us, help us to depend on Your grace to do its work in our lives.  Father let us feel the weight of our sin, so that it drives us continually to Your fountain of mercy and love, AMEN.



Tuesday, March 6, 2012

CHEAP GRACE

"COSTLY GRACE TURNS INTO CHEAP GRACE WITHOUT DISCIPLESHIP."


I have recently started to read the Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and I would like to share some of the rich and deep spiritual truths from a man who gave his life for Christ. Here is a brief summary of  Dietrich Bonhoeffer taken from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:


Dietrich Bonhoeffer (February 4, 1906 – April 9, 1945) was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian, and anti-fascist. He was a participant in the German resistance movement against Nazism and a founding member of the Confessing Church. He was involved in plans by members of the Abwehr (the German Military Intelligence Office) to assassinate Adolf Hitler. This led to his arrest in April 1943 and execution by hanging in April 1945, 23 days before the Nazis' surrender. His view of Christianity's role in the secular world has become very influential. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dietrich_Bonhoeffer

Let me share a few thoughts from chapter one of the book, Costly Grace:

1. Bonhoeffer starts out in chapter one with this powerful observation: "CHEAP GRACE is the deadly enemy of our Church."  The definition of cheap grace takes up most of chapter one, but one thought by Bonhoeffer encapsulates the whole of the chapter; when cheap grace is said to be a grace that requires no contrition of sin, and no desire to be delivered from sin.Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, it is grace without the cross, it is grace without embracing a living risen savior.

2. Bonhoeffer then offers for us some insights on Costly Grace--- Costly grace is a grace that confronts us with a call to follow Jesus, it calls us to submit to the authority of Christ. Later in chapter one there is a quote from Luther showing that even man at his best carries with him a "sin nature" that is at war with God. "Luther had taught that man cannot stand before God, however religious his works and ways may be, because at bottom he is always seeking his own interests."


Father give us the understanding to know the difference between costly grace and cheap grace-help us to know the great cost for our salvation-help us to know that while you forgive the sinner, your never justify the sin.


For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).



Friday, March 2, 2012

Aesop's Fables and the Sovereignty of God







Remember Aesop’s fable about the flea on the chariot wheel looking back and saying, "My, what a dust storm I’ve caused ?"

It seems that in many respects the church culture has created many "fleas"---Christians who feel that the universe (or this Christianity thing is all about them).

I think we need a dose of the Sovereignty of God---an infusion of Biblical teaching about our relationship toward God. How about a shot from that Old Testament sage Daniel:

 God has the power to do what He desires with His universe. "All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing," Daniel wrote. "He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: What have you done?'" (4:35).


It seems that the Psalmist had it right in Psalm 8:4 when he declares:

"What are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?"

This understanding of who God is and who we are in comparison was fully understood by the old Puritan pastor and theologians-let's listen to their voices:

  “The will of God is the supreme and first cause of all things, because nothing happens but by his command or permission” (John Calvin).

"The Sovereignty of the God of Scripture is absolute, irresistible, infinite. When we say that God is Sovereign we affirm His right to govern the universe which He has made for His own glory, just as He pleases.

 We affirm that His right is the right of the Potter over the clay, i.e., that He may mold that clay into whatsoever form He chooses, fashioning out of the same lump one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor.

 We affirm that He is under no rule or law outside of His own will and nature, that God is a law unto Himself, and that He is under no obligation to give an account of His matters to any"  
( A.W. Pink)


"Let our hearts admit, "I am poor and weak. Satan is too subtle, too cunning, too powerful; he watches constantly for advantages over my soul.

 The world presses in upon me with all sorts of pressures, pleas, and pretences. My own corruption is violent, tumultuous, enticing, and entangling. As it conceives sin, it wars within me and against me.

 Occasions and opportunities for temptation are innumerable. No wonder I do not know how deeply involved I have been with sin. Therefore, on God alone will I rely for my keeping. I will continually look to Him" (John Owen).

Christian, drink from the fountain that fills you with an awe of the sovereignty of God. Seek to have all your needs met in His goodness and kindness. Stop looking at yourself and practice looking to your heavenly Father who promises to take you under His wing.

Father, give us a glimpse of your sovereignty---help us to get our eyes off of ourselves and place the eyes of our faith on you--Amen.



Thursday, March 1, 2012

THE PSALMS




As you read the Psalms, what is the one thing that is a constant throughout this amazing collection of songs?

Here it is! God is sovereign! The central focus of the entire collection of songs (all one-hundred and fifty) of them is that God is supreme---the drama, the narrative, the script is all about God.

God is viewed as out-side of ourselves---it is God who is acknowledged as the one who can help us, deliver us, save us, and restore us to Himself.

Christian friend---take the time to reorient your spiritual life and make God's rule and sovereignty the one thing that you desire and pursue.

 This pursuit proves to be so difficult since our churches have turned Christianity up-side down---Christianity has become all about US, our NEEDS, our FULFILLMENT, and our reaching our full POTENTIAL---see the teachings of Joel Osteen et al.



Two dangers that I see in our church today:

1. The danger of the old heresy of Gnosticism---Let me quote from Michael Horton's book a "Christless Christianity."

 Gnosticism identified God with the inner self, but [Biblical] Christianity has focused all of its resources on God outside of us, who creates, rules, judges, and saves us in our complete personal and corporate existence. It stands to reason that in the Gnostic scheme the inner self could stand above (even over against) not only the external church but its external ministry of preaching and sacrament, discipline, and order, catechesis and communion. After all, it is not the public, historical, visible, and messy world that concerns the Gnostics but the private, spiritual, invisible, and manageable world of the inner spirit (p. 186).


In summation, when we do not look to God as outside of ourselves we risk the danger of developing a spirituality that assimilates God to our own experiences, felt needs, and aspirations---remember the Jesus genie from a previous post.





2. The danger of the "doing church"--- Michael Horton defines the "doing church" as the church that creates the ethos that you come to church to "do something."


The preaching concentrates on principles and steps to live a better life, with a constant stream of exhortations: be more committed. Read your Bible more. Pray More. Witness more. Give more. Get involved in this cause or that movement to save the world.... [Most of the sheep] are malnourished because of a ministry defined by personal charisma and motivational skills rather than by knowledge and godliness, these same sheep are expected to be shepherds themselves (p. 190).


In summation, when the emphasis of the church is on doing and being busy etc, the church again takes away from our looking at God's work and grace; and the church creates a bunch of tired and worn out people. Remember what the Apostle Paul said to the Galatians who began their Christian lives in the Spirit---he admonishes them for turning back to using performance in order to be "right" with God.



Psalm 144: 3 ..."what is man that you regard him."


Father help us to look to you. Father help us to live in grace and in the rest that Your Son Jesus provided for us. Father help us to come to the gathering of Your people to worship You and receive Your life and grace through the means that You have provided. Father help  us to understand that we live in a driven, performance culture---help us not to allow ourselves to be measured by how busy we are in our churches-Amen           

The Renewing of the Mind

I've have written in the past on the life of the mind. I cannot stress enough the importance for the Christian to develop the life of ...