Psalm 61; Matthew 13

April 26, 2010

My Heavenly Father,

Just being able to call You Father is a sign of Your grace. It shows how You have adopted me, through Christ, into the Family. How I have been “delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of [Your] beloved Son, in Whom [I] have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” In this “great exchange” I receive a new identity. My life is hid in Christ in God, meaning that the unending, unfailing, inexhaustible love that You have for the Son, You now have for me. How beautiful. I’m just amazed that the God of the universe has made it possible to be close enough to call Him “Abba, Father.”

With the psalmist, I ask that You hear my prayer. As Christ stands in my defense, I have confidence that You not only listen, but enjoy and take pleasure in the voices of Your needy children. We are body and soul, and I think I do well in focusing on disciplining the physical body. Eating, drinking, sleeping, exercising, and so on are all necessary and “feed” the physical. But You made us body and soul. Not that we are compartmentalized or anything, but these two come together in a synergistic way that makes me who I am. However, they are nourished (or neglected) in different ways. Jesus, You said “I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me shall not hunger, whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” In Jeremiah 2:13, a beautiful picture of You is painted as the “fountain of living waters.” And when You said “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God,” I believe You were speaking of our souls. There is a constant longing within me to know You more. Sometimes it is strong, and often it is weak – but it is always there. To neglect this God-given desire is to ultimately neglect ourselves, since our body and soul seem to be infused. It’s easy for me to only focus on the physical and allow the spiritual to feed off of the leftovers. But I think this leads me to a point where I can say with the psalmist “my heart is faint.” The essence of my being, the force that drives the physical, is weak. It needs food. It needs You, Lord. “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Well up this passion within me to know and cherish You, and grant me the grace and discipline to feed this desire. May the Word become  to me as fulfilling and necessary as a cold cup of water after a long run on a hot day. May prayer be a pleasing and desirable aroma to my soul like a Sunday roast that you can smell before you even enter the house. Fill me Lord, from the inside out, so that I will “ever sing praises to Your name, as I perform my vows day after day.”

I’m thankful that Your Word is living and active, and that the same Holy Spirit who provided the words therein, lives inside me to help apply them. It’s amazing how a verse can be read over a hundred times and not get the slightest recognition from the reader, but on the 101st reading, You may speak directly to their heart with that same verse. I feel like that today with the parable of the sower. Every time I’ve read it in the past, I’ve thought of how this relates to others (explaining how some seemingly “fall away,” or how the ways of the world stunted someone’s growth, etc). But You gave me the Holy Spirit to sanctify me, and so I must listen. And today I hear the warning of the seed that fell among the thorns. Lord, I see how it would be possible for this to be me. To allow the “cares of the world” to choke out my growth. When I think of “cares of the world” I see it as seeking to please man over seeking Your glory. The scary thing is this type of living may not always be noticeable. It may look good. It may look churchy. But its end is deadly. And when I think about not living for the approval of others, it really seems like an impossible task – because it is! This takes me back to what I was praying about earlier – how I tend to focus on the physical first, and leave what’s left for the spiritual. People see the physical, so my tendency is to make that look good/in order/holy/etc., even if it means misrepresenting my soul – which is just wearing a mask. Wow. That’s what characterized my life before Christ. Lord, let me be transparent. It’s hard to be authentic in this world, so I ask that Your power be made perfect in my weakness. I ask that You give me a Holy-Spirit empowered ability to humbly live for You. That You would work in me a bigger view of You and Your grace, which will lead to a relentless pursuit of You, and not man. Dig Your truths deep down within my heart into good, Spirit-softened soil.

Thank You Father for the grace which sustains me, the love which upholds me, and the hope which spurs me on.

Amen.

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Matthew 11

April 23, 2010

My Lord and my God,

I can relate to John the Baptist. Even though he seemingly knew from his mother’s womb that You were the Messiah (Luke 1:41), and many years later was the one to prepare the way for You and perform Your baptism, he still had doubts. He was stuck in jail. He would soon have his head chopped off. Things were not looking good. And in the moment where he needed to rely on You the most, he doubted. His doubt crept in from a misunderstanding of who the Messiah should really be. He was thinking about an earthly king who would rule and reign physically in their present time. Yet You had bigger and better plans. Your plan looked like a failure. Your plan didn’t make sense. Yet, Your plan was determined from eternity past and was no mistake. Like John, it’s easy to forget the magnificent miracles I’ve seen You perform in my life, and the lives of those around me. The greatest miracle You perform, I believe, is turning wicked people with hearts that hate you into God-exalting, Christ-worshiping, Spirit-filled believers. Death to life. Like the dry bones coming to life by the Breath in Ezekiel 36, You are in the process of redeeming a people by replacing hearts of stones with hearts of flesh. The fact that You’ve done this in my life – solely because of Your sovereign choice and not based on any merit or goodness in me – testifies to the fact that You are still ruling and reigning, though not physically in sight as we will one Day see. Every time the gospel goes forth, the Kingdom expands, and Your reign is made known in the hearts of people. It’s amazing! So, when things aren’t looking bright, when life seems grim and the darkness surrounds me, remind me of the grace that has transformed my life. Remind me of your plan. Remind me of the fact that You are presently reigning, ruling and working. Don’t let me redefine You and make You out to be some cold, distant, impotent god. That’s not who You are. You are THE Messiah. My Lord, and my God.

“The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands.” Psalm 138:8

Thank You Lord for the grace which sustains me, the love which upholds me, and the hope which spurs me on.

Amen.

Psalm 58; Matthew 9,10

April 20, 2010

Lord,

Thank you for a new day. I’m reminded of Your truth that “joy comes with the morning.” It’s easy for me to take each day for granted and to not see that even waking up is an extension of your grace. Since Your Word tells me that “in [Christ] all things hold together,” there’s not a breath I could take without You upholding all things. When I dwell on these truths, it really shows me how independent and self-centered I live my life. Since You uphold all things and “from Him and through Him and to Him are all things,” my life should reflect a daily dependency on You. I confess that in not turning to You always, it’s as if I am saying “no, I don’t need Your help with this God. I got it. Let me be lord.” It’s pretty ridiculous now that I think about it. Thank You that Your grace is more than sufficient. That my most vilest thoughts and deeds (both bad and good) are covered by the blood of the Lamb. That Your right hand always upholds me. Now that I see Your mercy and love, help me to live a life that is Christ-centered, not Scott-centered. Denying myself and taking up my cross is impossible on my own, so I ask for Your Spirit’s strength and guidance. Give me opportunities today to be selfless.

Psalm 58 shows me the depravity of man, and particularly my own self. The psalmist writes how “from the womb” the wicked are estranged. Elsewhere we see that man is conceived in sin. Yet our darkened minds suppress that truth and the knowledge of You. We default to self-righteousness and think we can relate to You by doing religious things or being good people. Lord, I see myself allowing my performance to dictate how I am feeling that day. “Be gone Satan!” It is Christ’s performance imputed to me that earns Your love for me. You smile upon me because of Christ’s finished work on the cross. On this side of the cross I am still able to fall into legalism. Jesus, turn my heart to the Gospel throughout the day. Don’t let me be fooled.

Jesus it is amazing just how You have the ability to captivate people. I look back in my life and see the times where I’ve just been in awe of You, and I’m grateful. But familiarity breeds contempt, and this amazement doesn’t hit me everyday. Is it my fascination with the ways of the world? My apathy towards knowing You? My pursuit of religion instead of just knowing and receiving You? These people that you healed in Matthew took You for who You are. They saw or heard of the work You had done, and they believed. I want to live a life that reflects the transformation You’ve brought about in me. Anytime someone is excited about something, the first thing they want to do is tell someone else about it. The same is true with knowing You. Lord, I want me soul to be happy in You so that it overflows into a life of obedience, love, and fruit-bearing, grace-motivated work. You say that “it is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master.” Oh to be like You! May it be so today.

Thank You Jesus for the grace which sustains me, the love which upholds me, and the hope which spurs me on.

Amen.

Here We Go…

April 20, 2010

I think best when I write things down. That’s just how my mind works. This also is true for typing. And since I spend 8+ hours a (week)day on a laptop, electronically logging my thoughts is more feasible.

This is something that I need. Without mulling over the right words and trying to formulate my thoughts into coherent statements, I’m not going deep enough. For me, it’s like having a deep conversation with someone. I love those talks!

So with that, I want to begin to blog what God is showing me from what I’ve been reading more consistently.

Here we go…

Charles Spurgeon: Scripture Is a Lion to be Unleashed

December 30, 2009

I found this article on the Resurgence blog and found it to be very interesting. To think of the Scriptures as a lion to be unleashed is new thought for me. Perhaps that’s why Paul can say that using words of eloquent wisdom actually empties the cross of its power. May we trust and confide in the Truth.

by: Justin Holcomb Academic Dean of Re:Train

taken from the Resurgence

“Defend the Bible? Would you defend a lion? Loose him; and let him go!”

When he spoke of Scripture, Charles Haddon Spurgeon consistently returned to two closely related themes. First, the Bible is the inspired and authoritative Word of God. Second, this inspired Word bears testimony to the Word of God incarnate, Jesus Christ.

Authority and Inspiration

The authority and inspiration of Scripture was especially important to Spurgeon throughout his life. As Lewis Drummond concludes, “Spurgeon realized the ultimate question in all theology has to be the question of authority. Where does one find the source of reliable truth concerning the Christian faith?” (Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers). The answer to this question for Spurgeon was clearly and unequivocally Scripture.

Reflecting on Psalm 119, Spurgeon comments: “What is truth? The holy Scriptures are the only answer to that question. Note, that they are not only true, but the truth itself. We may not say of them that they contain the truth, but that they are the truth: ‘thy law is the truth.’ There is nothing false about the law or preceptory part of Scripture. Those who are obedient thereto shall find that they are walking in a way consistent with fact, while those who act contrary thereto are walking in a vain show.” (Treasury of David: Spurgeon’s Classic Work on the Psalms)

Full and Complete Authority

In fact, for Spurgeon, recognition of the full and complete authority of the Bible was essential to theological dialogue. Without this, there is no room for further discussion: “We can be tolerant of divergent opinions, so long as we perceive an honest intent to follow the Statute-book. But if it comes to this, that the Book itself is of small authority to you, then we have no need of further parley: we are in different camps, and the sooner we recognize this, the better for all parties concerned. If we are to have a church of God at all in the land, Scripture must be regarded as holy, and to be had in reverence.” (A Book for Parents and Teachers on the Christian Training of Children)

A Sword in the Hand of the Holy Spirit

For Spurgeon, the authority of the Bible was based on its inspiration. Therefore, this inspired and authoritative book is the Holy Spirit’s tool for accomplishing his work in the believer: “When work is done nowadays, it is, as a rule, badly done. Work done by contract is usually scamped in some part or another; but when a man does a work for himself he is likely to do it thoroughly, and produce an article which he can depend upon. The Holy Ghost has made this Book himself: every portion of it bears his initial and impress; and thus he has a sword worthy of his own hand, a true Jerusalem blade of heavenly fabric. He delights to use a weapon so divinely made, and he does use it right gloriously.” (The Sword of the Spirit)

Unleash the Lion

At the end of the day, Spurgeon was adamant about the authority of the Bible because without it, there is no sure foundation for the church and the gospel. Ultimately, the message of the Bible is Jesus Christ:

    “Jesus Christ is the Alpha and Omega of the Bible. He is the constant theme of its sacred pages; from first to last they testify of him… The Scriptures are the swaddling bands of the holy child Jesus; unroll them and you find your Saviour. The quintessence of the word of God is Christ” (Morning and Evening).

Throughout his ministry, Spurgeon willingly entered controversy only because of his uncompromising commitment to the authority of the Scripture. However, Spurgeon’s aim in such controversy was not a meticulous defense of the Bible’s inspiration and authority. Instead, his aim was simply to “unleash the lion.”

What We Believe, Repentance, and God’s Presence

December 22, 2009

What We Believe


People don’t question what they believe enough. I think it’s caused by:

  • fear of being wrong
  • fear of having to change (beliefs and actions)
  • ingrained fear of breaking orthodoxy
  • apathy

1 Peter 3:15 says “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect”

I think we need to ask ourselves hard questions and be prepared for hard answers. This verse assumes people are going to be asking “why do you believe what you believe?” Am I living my life in a way that causes people to see my beliefs in action, and thus question me about them? Am I intentionally sharing my faith, which would put me in a situation to answer this question? If we are never put in this kind of situation, we never have to answer this question. But what if you believe the wrong thing? I mean billions of people on earth have faith in something or someone other than Christ, and if they are never brought to a point in this lifewhere they have to question what they believe and why they believe it, well it’s not going to be good. But what about us? Shouldn’t we be asking these same questions. If anything, I think it will produce the following:

  1. An assurance in the things we hope for (Heb. 11:1), as our faith is solidified
  2. A heart that cherishes Christ for being truth in the midst of a world of lies
  3. Such a strong conviction about our beliefs that it pains us to the point of compassion to see lost people believing lies.
  4. A boldness in proclaiming the Gospel as the power to save people
  5. Passion, Passion, Passion. Who wants to convert to a dead, boring faith?
  6. Theology leads to biography which should culminate into Doxology. What we believe changes who we are which culminates into worship and praise. But I don’t see this happening unless you know why your theology is what it is.

Repentance

I was hit hard with this truth the other day. There are many counterfeits to true repentance:

  1. Mere Confession: repentance is changing, not just confessing you need to.
  2. Religious Repentance: seeing everyone else’s sin and repenting of that, or thanking God you don’t do that. No, it’s dealing with your own sin.
  3. Worldly Sorrow/Grief: where you feel bad, but don’t change. You feel sorry, but nothing comes out of it. Like Tiger Woods, he messed up, admitted it, but does he have the power to change? He may go on Oprah and make a public apology and look good. We do the same thing by making up for our sin by doing good in another part of life, but never dealing with the issue. Everyone in the world can have sorrow, but only Christians have the power to change. Ouch, it hurts.
  4. Pagan Repentance: when you repent so God will bless you, like appeasing the old gods.
  5. General Repentance: saying “Well, nobody’s perfect.” and just trying to be overall better. Jesus calls people out for specific sins, and we are to repent of specific sins.
  6. Excuse making: “I’m a guy, it’s what we do.” or “I’m Irish, we drink and cuss a lot.” or “It’s my personality.” etc.

We’re not seeking penance, but an ongoing lifestyle of repentance that may include restitution, if needed. The worldly sorrow thing hit me pretty hard. If I don’t repent, I’m just like Tiger Woods –feel bad, grieve a little, maybe make a public confession and apology, but NO heart change.

God’s Presence

Christianity is an experiential religion. It’s not solely focused on the afterlife. The kingdom of God is here, Christ proclaimed. Our body’s become temples where God chooses to dwell. Yet, just presuming on this fact is not enough.

Ways’ that I neglect God’s presence (from Haggai 1):

  1. Living a life that is consumed with more stuff than I need, and allowing that stuff to control me. A life of excess. Man, it creeps in.
  2. In Haggai 1:7-8, God told them that the way to please and glorify Him was the build the temple. That was a representation of God’s presence. The way I can please and glorify Him is to see that through Christ, my body has become the temple. Doing things that grieves the Spirit and His presence is not what pleases Him. Building this temple takes discipline working itself out from grace. His presence is met and understood in obedience. When I am not obedient or disciplining myself, I am not “losing my salvation” but I am reaping the consequences of the sin that I have sewn. Part of those consequences are grieving the Spirit, hardening my ability to hear Him, and decreasing in a desire to pursue His presence.

I desire to experience God the way that His people did in the OT. My body is a temple, and there is no reason we shouldn’t know him in the same way today. Sometimes I find this hard to believe. Most of the time I don’t sense God’s presence. But tying it back into my first topic, I believe He is still with me. And because of this, because of His grace, I will choose to act and be obedient out of the acceptance I have, rather than for acceptance.

Keep running hard.

Unbelief

December 22, 2009

Do we believe the bible? I’m not asking do we believe that it is inerrant or that it is divinely inspired (which I do). But, do we believe it in our hearts? To the point that what Christ is saying, if we believe it (not just in ACKNOWLEDGEMENT), our lives will have to change. If we believe Jesus’ bold words, ALL OF THEM, somethings got to give in our lives. I mean, consider Jesus’ views on sacrifice in Mark 12:

“And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. 43 And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. 44 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

He’s saying that sacrificing is not just giving what you are able to, but giving to the point that it hurts. This lady had close to nothing. And that close to nothing that she had, she gave. Sacrificial giving where you are no longer dependent on yourself, but God. Now, elsewhere Jesus says that whatver you ask in His name, you will receive. And we can know that when we pray according to His will, that it will be answered. So put all of this together. I know I should sacrifice. I know that in doing so, it makes me dependent on God. I know that He will never forsake me or leave me. I know that He is my Dad, my provider. I know that if I am in need, I can ask and He will provide. But….do I act? Do I give sacrificially. Regretfully, no. The question is WHY? We all KNOW this. But why don’t we act???? Because of disbelief. Not disbelief in inerrancy. Not disbelief in authority. But disbelief in the teachings, and ultimately, the One behind the teachings.

I think that’s why the dude in Mark 9:24 says “…I believe; help my unbelief!”

Lord, I do believe. But help my heart to believe.

A couple of weeks ago, one of our pastors said in his sermon, “The Christian life is a journey from distrust to trust.” (paraphrase).

So true. We should be seeing an increasing awareness of our dependency on Christ, and acting because of this awareness. A heart awareness.

Lord, help my unbelief.

Crying Stones or Whining Rocks? The Living Stone and the living stones

November 3, 2009

 

http://www.sbts.edu/resources/chapel/chapel-fall-2009/crying-stones-or-whining-rocks-the-living-stone-and-the-living-stones/?play=true

What Gospel Are We Proclaiming?

October 29, 2009

“Jesus’s teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day. However, in the main, our churches today do not have this effect. The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church. That can only mean one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did.” – Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God

Prodigal Sons

October 19, 2009

The idea of the “other prodigal son” was brought to my attention in a bible study on Galatians written by Tim Keller.

In the story of the Prodigal Son, we tend to focus on the son who wandered away and wasted all of his money on various fleshly passions. He was the epitome of what Christianity would label as sinful and worldly. Upon his return, the father ran to him and embraced his long lost son. It’s easy to look over the fact that the other son, who presumably did the right things, stayed home, wore sweater vests and never said a cuss word, had to be brought back into the home as well. He was angry that the father had not only let a dirty-mouthed ragamuffin into the house, but that he had given him the family ring, showing that the boy who had screwed his life up now could enjoy a restored relationship with the father. And so, the son who cried, “Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command,” thought he was more worthy of love because of what he had done. Yet Jesus did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance. He saves by the work that He has done. Nothing more. Nothing less. We need to repent from of our religion as much as our irreligion.

“If it feels like holiness to tend towards legalism, you need to start regarding your holiness as a temptation and a sin.” Ryan Fullerton, Pastor/Elder at Immanuel Baptist Church Louisville.

The Prodigal Son