Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Time to do some hard soul searching!

Today's devotion will be short but extremely encouraging, but also extremely challenging. In the past I've talked about the life of David Brainerd the missionary who brought the gospel to the Native American Indians of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

John Piper in his book The Hidden Smile Of God writes about the lives of John Bunyan, William Cowper, and David Brainerd. Towards the end of the chapter on Brainerd, Piper lists some of the character and spiritual qualities that puts Brainerd in the Christian hall of fame.

I'd like to list these qualities and allow you to do some hard soul searching to see how many of these character and spiritual qualities are alive and practiced in your daily life. In other words would the people who know you best say that you emulate these character traits in your life?

Okay, here we go. Brainerd was characterized by having a:

1. Passion for prayer
2. Passion for practicing the spiritual discipline of fasting.
3. Passion for the Word of God.
4. Displaying an unremitting perseverance through hardship.
5. Having a relentless focus on the glory of God.
6. Having an utter dependence on God's grace.
7. Totally depending on the Righteousness of Christ alone.
8. Having a burning desire to reach those who were unsaved.
9. Maintaining his personal holiness while he suffered (remember Brainerd dies at age 29 of tuberculous. It is recorded in his diary that he would ride his horse while spitting up blood on his way to bring the gospel to the Indian's in Pennsylvania).
10. His mind was fixed on those things that are eternal.
11. And finally finishing well, without cursing the disease that cut him down in the prime of his life.

This is how Brainerd is described by John Piper through Brainerd's own personal diary writings. Piper ends this chapter by saying: "With all his weaknesses and imbalances and sins, I love David Brainerd."

Not too much to say here Christian, this is between you and your God, but I'd encourage you to be intentional and pick one or two of Brainerd's character traits and make them part of your spiritual life; to God's glory and honor.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Its Not About You!

I've written in the past about who my hero's are, men like John Bunyan, David Brainerd, William Cowper, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and many others. What these men all have in common is that they were totally and unconditionally sold out to Jesus Christ, in other words they practiced the gospel.

The call of our savior is to deny ourselves and take up our cross, ""If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (Matthew 16:24). The one unmistakable characteristic of a truly regenerate person is that they die to themselves, listen to the words of the Apostle Paul, "And He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf" (1Corinthians 5:15).

Now, you have to know that before I make a critique of our church culture, I always start at home first, which is my own lack of dying to my own self will, or my own old man who is sinful at its very core. The critique of our church culture is certainly not of any one individual, but what I have observed and experienced in the church culture as a whole.

Where is the discipleship in our churches that echoes the words of our Savior to die to self ? to become slaves to Christ? to be that kernel of wheat that falls into the ground and dies cf. John 12:24? Where is the emphasis that the christian life is not about us being happy and getting our dreams fulfilled; why is the emphasis on us getting the most out of life?

This is an extremely serious flaw in many of our churches today. The ethos that many of our churches have adopted is the Joel Osteen theology of getting "your best life now." This theology certainly appeals to many sitting in the pews, but it is not the gospel and it truly is man centered.

When I read the lives of the above mentioned men, I'm impacted with the truth of the REAL gospel, the gospel that calls for a daily death to ourselves. Let us be like the Apostle Paul whose motto for his life was: " for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21).

Be intentional and get alone with God and ask God to show you the areas in your life that must be nailed to the cross. Make a list of those areas that the Holy Spirit shows you, and then find passages in the Holy Bible that speak to those areas and then begin to apply the power of God's word to those areas that need to be crucified.

My own personal axiom for living is "its not about us, its about His glory and honor."

Christian, be that living sacrifice for His glory and honor!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Who are you before God?

Robert Murray M' Cheyne (1813-1843) said one of the most profound and weighty comments that I've ever heard:

"A man is what he is on his knees before God, and nothing more."


M'Cheyne was a minister of the gospel in the Church of Scotland. He died at the young age of 29 from typhus. If you take the time to look at the life of this young man of God you will be struck with his personal holiness and deep passion for the things of God.

Take this short sentence and make it your own maxim.

Today, think what you are before your God, for his opinion is the only one that matters!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Who are your heroes?

Heroes, that's what childhood is made of. We all had our heroes and most of us still do. Do you recall those supermen and women who could leap buildings in a single bound, or who had a pair of bracelets that were indestructible.

How about a superhero who could turn invisible or run faster than the speed of light? All of those childhood superheros stay in our psyches even as adults. We all need to be able to look to others who seem taller and bigger than life itself.

What about now as adults? who are your heroes now?

 Well, let me share just a few of my personal heroes that I've come to look up to and hope to emulate their faith in my life.

First:  It would have to be John Bunyan the simple, British, Baptist pastor who while in prison wrote the book that to this day remains the widest circulating single piece of literature in the history of the human race outside of the Bible, The Pilgrim's Progress. 

John Bunyan could have at any time walked out of his prison; he only needed to agree to stop preaching, but he remained in prison for 12 years. In Bunyan's writings we see his intense struggle and anguish-he tells us that when his oldest child Mary -born blind from birth-visited him in prison, it was like the "pulling of the Flesh from my bones." 

I could write for hours on the life of John Bunyan who stayed in that Bedford prison because of his love of the Gospel-This one phrase captures the heart and soul of my hero; Bunyan wrote, " To live upon God that is invisible." Yes, that is the life of this great hero-to live his life, trusting in the invisible God.

Second: Dietrich Bonhoeffer-Bonhoeffer gave his life under the brutal Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler. Bonhoeffer was a pastor, prophet, theologian, martyr and spy. He lived his live always looking for the will of God, and he had a constant longing to "hear God's voice." 

Bonhoeffer wrote, "To endure the cross is not tragedy; it is the suffering which is the fruit of an exclusive allegiance to Jesus Christ. As Bonhoeffer was being led to the gallows, "The doctor who witnessed Bonhoeffer's execution wrote, "I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God." That's because Bonhoeffer knew what Christians know. Death is not the end, but a beginning. His hanging was not final; it was merely a transition. 

I've come to love this man, and can't wait to see him.

Third, Pastor, teacher John MacArthur. John is my hero not for his personal suffering like Bunyan and Bonhoeffer, but for his love of the truth of God's Word. 

In today's politically correct atmosphere, and yes it is in the church-MacArthur has stood tall and unashamedly proclaimed the truth of God's word. His attention to detail and his careful handling of God's word causes me to want to emulate and follow his stalwart example. 

This one statement by MacArthur sums his ministry up best, when he says, " If Jesus, the sinless and perfect Son of God, limited Himself to speaking nothing during His incarnation except the truth He received from His Father, how much more should those who have been called into ministry speak only on the authority of divine Scripture."

Christian, make your heroes those of the faith-put off this worlds models and superstars, God give us the wisdom to make our hero's those who have a kind of faith we can follow and emulate. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Are You Being Intentional In Your Spiritual Growth?

I love the word intention. Listen to Merriam Webster's definition of intention:

1: a determination to act in a certain way: resolve.

A list of synonyms include:aim, ambition design, intent, goal, mark, plan, purpose.
I want to plant this word with its deep meaning into our minds and souls and let it speak to us about our own relationship with Jesus Christ or our own spiritual growth.
I can tell you for a fact that you or I can't or won't grow spiritually unless we are intentional about our growth.

What then does it look like for us to live our lives with intentionality? For certain, we must have a game plan to develop our relationship with Christ, we need to go to the game book to get started. No Christian can grow into Christ-likeness without meditating daily in God's Word cf. Joshua 1:8 and Psalm 1:1-3 which tells us that we are to meditate “day and night.”
We need ambition  to "grow in Christ," but where does this ambition come from when we feel barren and dry? Listen to the words of Philippians 2:13, " For it is God who works in you...," the word work is in a verb form (action) it has the idea that there is action going on while producing an effect. 

Brothers and Sisters in Christ-He will never let you go, for he is inside of you exerting his powerful influence over you in ways that you are not even aware of. You my fellow-believers are His! He will give you the ambition (desire) to continue your spiritual growth. The old hymn writer Robert Robinson (who often wandered from his God after his conversion) penned the well known verse in his most famous hymn "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing:"

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love

We need a design (plan) to grow in Christ. Take the time to write-out an individual plan for your own spiritual growth. Be intentional in your plan. list specific areas in your life that are weak and are not bringing glory to God and then find scripture that speaks to those weaknesses.

Find someone in the body of Christ that you can confess your sins to and follow the advice of James "therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed...(5:16). The Christian life was not designed to be done "alone." 

In conclusion: Live your life for Him. We are not our own, but we have been bought with a great price (1 Cor.6:20). Live your Christian life with intention for His Glory!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Know your Bible, your eternal destinity depends on it

There was a national study done on the religious health of teenagers' in the United States by Christian Smith, a sociologist. This study gives us some interesting things to think about.

Smith's summary of data from teens about their understanding of God is as follows:

 1. "A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth."

 2. "God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions."

 3. "The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself."

4. "God does not need to be particularly involved in one's life except when God is needed to resolve a problem."

 5. "Good people go to heaven when they die."

This seems to be the Creed of most of American teens concerning religion. After conducting more than 3,000 interviews with American adolescents, the researchers reported that, when it came to the most crucial questions of faith and beliefs, many adolescents responded with a shrug and "whatever."

The thought of cultural Christianity or cafeteria style Christianity has always been the bane of the Church, it is the natural inclination of sinful man; to be conformed to religion on the outside, while there is no change on the inside.

However, it does seem that Smith's research shows an even more deeper problem than mere formality, it suggests that American teens are totally theologically ignorant, Albert Mohler Jr puts it like this:

The casual "whatever" that marks so much of the American moral and theological landscapes--adolescent and otherwise--is a substitute for serious and responsible thinking. More importantly, it is a verbal cover for an embrace of relativism. Accordingly, "most religious teenager's opinions and views--one can hardly call them worldviews--are vague, limited, and often quite at variance with the actual teachings of their own religion."

Remember the words of the prophet Hosea "my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge" (4:6). The pathos (relativism) of our culture has permeated not only our homes, but even our churches. Mohler tells us "We now face the challenge of evangelizing a nation that largely considers itself Christian, overwhelmingly believes in some deity, considers itself fervently religious, but has virtually no connection to historic Christianity. Christian Smith and his colleagues have performed an enormous service for the church of the Lord Jesus Christ in identifying Moralistic Therapeutic Deism as the dominant religion of this American age.

My call to the Church, the home, and the individual believer is to understand the theology of salvation---our eternal destiny depends on it. 

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 ...