Monday, June 29, 2009

How's Your Love?

"Has the luster of the infinite holiness of God ever shone upon your heart and drawn your heart to him? And has your heart ever leaped at the sight of the brightness of His holiness? Is this why you love Him? If so, you know God correctly and your love is correct."
--Jeremiah Burroughs
Why do we love God? More often than not it is because of what we receive or get from Him. We love His grace, His goodness, and His greatness, but do we love Him for Him alone? Periodically we have to step back from our selfish desires and legitimate needs and evaluate who or what it is that we really love - the God of gifts or the gifts of God.
It certainly is not wrong to love God because He gives good gifts to His children, as a matter of fact James tells us that every good and perfect gift comes from our Father. We are to be appreciative of all that God gives to us because we do not deserve any of it.
In the midst of all the good that God showers on us let's strive to love Him because of His holy character. May our hearts leap with admiration and adoration at the sight of His bright holiness in our hearts. May we as Jeremiah Burroughs says, know God correctly and love Him correctly!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Five Giants to Slay with Prayer

  • Many times I have come across some very special points of teaching that affect my soul in a tremendous manner. I try to give credit where credit is due and have no desire to be guilty of the sin of plagiarism. As careful as I try to be there are times I have forgotten, lost, or otherwise mishandled the originator of some of these truths that have been such a special blessing to me. I have made it a practice to keep in my prayer journal various prayers, ideas, and teachings that I have deemed valuable to my spiritual well being. I use these various ideas, thoughts, and suggestions as guides and springboards in my praying. I am not a slave to them nor would I suggest that you use them in this fashion, but I desire to share some with you periodically that I think could be both a blessing and help. I do not know where I came across these suggestions or whom to credit to, may they and God forgive me for my carelessness. Here are five suggestions to be included in your daily devotions as you seek to grow in grace and Christ likeness. I hope that you can benefit from them and shape them for your use by asking God to: 1. Expose and eradicate any form of self-righteousness in my life. · Especially in daily devotions – it is not a system or activity that will make me Christlike, but Christ working in me that rescues me from sin · I cannot always see the evidence of self-righteousness 2. expose and eradicate the sin that resides in me · I need to see how desperate my condition really is · I need to have my heart changed everyday 3. expose and eradicate my constant desire for independence · help me to see how weak, blind, & vulnerable I really am · I need wisdom and correction everyday · I am needy and weak, and am to be dependent on Christ at all times 4. expose and eradicate the distorted view of who I am · remind me that I am a sinner saved by grace · remind me that I need Christ and his grace daily · remind to ask for the maturing work of Christ daily 5. expose and eradicate anything that usurps the place of Christ in my heart · I need to be patient in the life of faith, God will give me what he knows I need · I need to keep my eyes focused on eternity vs today

I need to be more thankful for God has given me

Friday, June 26, 2009

Why I Don’t Have a Television and Rarely Go to Movies

I received this in my email inbox today and read it three times. I am glad he (Piper) replied as he did - it caused him to write this article and I became a recipient of it. Had he answered this question at the conference he was at, I might never have had the chance to read it three times this morning and print it out. I think what he wrote is worth contemplating. I have a burning desire also not to "waste my life," yet I realize how much time I do waste in watching programs that will have no eternal value. I decided to reprint his article here in case anyone has not seen it. Enjoy!
June 25, 2009
By John Piper
Read this article on our website.
Now that the video of the Q&A at Advance 09 is available, I can look at it and feel bad all over again. Here’s what I regret, indeed what I have apologized for to the person who asked the question.
The first question to me and Mark Driscoll was, “Piper says get rid of my TV, and Driscoll says buy extra DVRs. How do you reconcile this difference?”
I responded, “Get your sources right. . . . I never said that in my life.”
Almost as soon as it was out of my mouth, I felt: “What a jerk, Piper!” A jerk is a person who nitpicks about the way a question is worded rather than taking the opportunity to address the issue in a serious way. I blew it at multiple levels.
So I was very glad when the person who asked the question wrote to me. I wrote back, Be totally relieved that YOU did not ask a bad question. I gave a useless and unhelpful, and I think snide, answer and missed a GOLDEN opportunity to make plain the dangers of the triviality you referred to. . . . I don’t know why I snapped about the wording of the question instead of using it for what it was intended for. It was foolish and I think sinful.
So let me see if I can do better now. I can’t give an answer for what Mark means by “buy extra DVRs,” but I can tell you why my advice sounds different. I suspect that Mark and I would not agree on the degree to which the average pastor needs to be movie-savvy in order to be relevant, and the degree to which we should expose ourselves to the world’s entertainment.
I think relevance in preaching hangs very little on watching movies, and I think that much exposure to sensuality, banality, and God-absent entertainment does more to deaden our capacities for joy in Jesus than it does to make us spiritually powerful in the lives of the living dead. Sources of spiritual power—which are what we desperately need—are not in the cinema. You will not want your biographer to write: Prick him and he bleeds movies.
If you want to be relevant, say, for prostitutes, don’t watch a movie with a lot of tumbles in a brothel. Immerse yourself in the gospel, which is tailor-made for prostitutes; then watch Jesus deal with them in the Bible; then go find a prostitute and talk to her. Listen to her, not the movie. Being entertained by sin does not increase compassion for sinners.
There are, perhaps, a few extraordinary men who can watch action-packed, suspenseful, sexually explicit films and come away more godly. But there are not many. And I am certainly not one of them.
I have a high tolerance for violence, high tolerance for bad language, and zero tolerance for nudity. There is a reason for these differences. The violence is make-believe. They don’t really mean those bad words. But that lady is really naked, and I am really watching. And somewhere she has a brokenhearted father.
I’ll put it bluntly. The only nude female body a guy should ever lay his eyes on is his wife’s. The few exceptions include doctors, morticians, and fathers changing diapers. “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?” (Job 31:1). What the eyes see really matters. “Everyone who looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Better to gouge your eye than go to hell (verse 29).
Brothers, that is serious. Really serious. Jesus is violent about this. What we do with our eyes can damn us. One reason is that it is virtually impossible to transition from being entertained by nudity to an act of “beholding the glory of the Lord.” But this means the entire Christian life is threatened by the deadening effects of sexual titillation.
All Christ-exalting transformation comes from “beholding the glory of Christ.” “Beholding the glory of the Lord, [we] are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Whatever dulls the eyes of our mind from seeing Christ powerfully and purely is destroying us. There is not one man in a thousand whose spiritual eyes are more readily moved by the beauty of Christ because he has just seen a bare breast with his buddies.
But leave sex aside (as if that were possible for fifteen minutes on TV). It’s the unremitting triviality that makes television so deadly. What we desperately need is help to enlarge our capacities to be moved by the immeasurable glories of Christ. Television takes us almost constantly in the opposite direction, lowering, shrinking, and deadening our capacities for worshiping Christ.
One more smaller concern with TV (besides its addictive tendencies, trivialization of life, and deadening effects): It takes time. I have so many things I want to accomplish in this one short life. Don’t waste your life is not a catchphrase for me; it’s a cliff I walk beside every day with trembling.
TV consumes more and more time for those who get used to watching it. You start to feel like it belongs. You wonder how you could get along without it. I am jealous for my evenings. There are so many things in life I want to accomplish. I simply could not do what I do if I watched television. So we have never had a TV in 40 years of marriage (except in Germany, to help learn the language). I don’t regret it.
Sorry again, for the bad answer. I hope this helps. Pastor John

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Mouth Piece For God

During a lecture at the Westminster Chapel in London, Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones made this statement: “The most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and the most urgent need in the Church, it is the greatest need of the world also.” Steve Lawson in 2003 wrote a book called Famine in the Land, where he stated: “If the doctor’s diagnosis is correct, and this writer believes it is, then a return to preaching – true preaching, biblical preaching – it is the greatest need in this critical hour. If a reformation is to come to the church, it must be preceded by a reformation in the pulpit. As the pulpit goes, so goes the church.” Having recently visited a “Christian bookstore” (which by the way, I call Holy Hardware stores), looking for a book on a “Christian book publishing house” website, and finally, having a member of my Adult Bible Class ask about a particular series they wanted to do in their ladies bible study, it is obvious that exegetical, expositional, and contextual preaching is not being promoted today. We are fostering an environment of consumer oriented “Christian-etts” who have no idea of biblical understanding. Pep-talks, how-tos, do it yourself guides have replaced solid, biblical convicting application of the word of God. It is simply amazing and heart-breaking that in a country where more and more people are claiming to be “Christian,” those same people state that they do not believe the bible to be a divinely written source for life. Not only do they not believe the bible to from God, they do not believe it to be true in many areas. A Gallup survey from 2007 related that: About one-third of the American adult population believes the Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally word for word. This percentage is slightly lower than several decades ago. The majority of those Americans who don't believe that the Bible is literally true believe that it is the inspired word of God but that not everything it in should be taken literally. About one in five Americans believe the Bible is an ancient book of "fables, legends, history, and moral precepts recorded by man." A Barna survey also from 2007 shared this interesting but tragic fact: "On the one hand we have tens of millions of people who view these narratives as reflections of the reality, the authority and the involvement of God in our lives. On the other hand, a majority of those same people harbor a stubborn indifference toward God and His desire to have intimacy with them”. "It seems that millions of Americans believe the Bible content is true, but are not willing to translate those stories into action. Sadly, for many people, the Bible has become a respected but impersonal religious history lesson that stays removed from their life." J. I. Packer in his book God Has Spoken said this, “The true idea of preaching is that the preacher should become a mouthpiece for his text, opening it up and applying it as a word from God to his hearers, talking only in order that the text itself may speak and be heard”
God, give us more preachers who will accept and operate the true task of their calling by being a mouthpiece for the text so that we can hear from God. We need to address this issue of a famine in the land immediately!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Prayer and Politics

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (I Tim 4:1-2 ESV) Regardless of what we think or have thought about the past elections and the choices that this country made, as I thumb through my bible I still find I Timothy 2:1-4 is still a binding imperative from the Apostle Paul. We are, as believers, to pray for those whom God has allowed to ascend to positions of authority. Since God is absolutely sovereign and that “promotion comes from the LORD", and that “the heart of the king" is still in the hands of our sovereign God, politics aside, party aside, and ideologies aside, we as God’s people can not abandon the one responsibility that we have been given. As I reached for my prayer journal and discovered today is the day I have designated to “pray for those in authority” I wanted to take a moment and share with you some points that should be included in our prayers. I think, as we think of these men and women, many who did not know the Lord Jesus Christ, who do not know that it was God who “arranged” for them to be so highly exalted, our hearts should be broken for them. They may have reached their goals and aspirations, they may have even reached the highest office in our great nation, but will they ever know the peace and joy of a risen Christ who will forever intercede for them as their great high priest? Or will they enjoy the perks and privileges of being dignitaries and spend a Christ-less eternity suffering punishment? Let me share at least seven things we can pray for those who are “kings and all who are in high positions and why we should be so faithful to do so. Pray so that… …we may lead a quiet & peaceable life in our communities characterized by godliness and fear …we may freely, without restriction and molestation, share the gospel with every creature …they (government officials) would be a terror to the wicked and a blessing to those who are “good” …they may be drawn to Christ (John 6:44) and perhaps, if God should be so gracious, enable them to experience and enjoy the blessing of salvation …they may exercise the power that God has given them with utmost wisdom, mercy, decorum, and honor …we, as believers, would be thankful for God’s wisdom and provision in providing us with government and the officials in government, even when they drastically differ from our values and morals …we would be able to always trust God implicitly as He sovereignly works out His express will and purposes in and through our local, state, and federal government.
These are the things that I have found in Scripture that we should pray for our government and government officials. I like the number seven for obvious reasons, including it is a shorter list to remember and pray. If you have other things I certainly would be interested in seeing them. May God bless you as you pray faithfully for those whom He, and He alone has established in these positions of authority for either, our blessing, or our chastisement!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Good Preaching Vs Bad Listening

There is an extreme, and yet unwarranted pressure put on preachers and teachers that periodically need to be addressed. It seems that since the days of Chrysostom, riveting oratorio prowess is the main qualification of a pastor. Men are chosen or selected by a congregation more so on his ability to effectively hold the attention of a congregation than any spiritual qualities. I am well aware that one of the qualifications for an elder is the ability to teach, or transmit God’s word to His people. There is certainly no excuse for men who do not study or prepare or who have no ability in the delivery of a message or lesson. I have heard my share of bad sermons that should never have been delivered. I recognize the toughness of today’s competition in reaching and holding the common attention span. In an age of special effects and CGI, preaching without added animation can seem to be boring. We must keep in mind, preaching is not an art form of entertainment, nor is simply an inspirational message. Preaching is God speaking to our hearts through His Word. Just as there is a skill in communicating principles from God’s word, there is an art or skill, if you would in listening. When people complain about the fact that they, “didn’t get anything out the message”, or that the message was boring or dry, I wonder how much effort was spent in really listening to what was being said. We need to prepare ourselves to hear, actively listen, and then work to retain what we have heard. Christopher Love (d. 1651), was a pastor of a church in London, and he wrote a book of his sermons on mortification called The Mortified Christian He included a chapter called “The Right Hearing of Sermons.” Here are seven practical directions for listening to the preaching of the word. 1) Take heed that you hear the Word of God preparedly. As the preacher must take care to find acceptable words, so the people should labor to bring acceptable affections to the work – when we come to the service of God we should hear with all attention and pray with affection. 2) Hear the Word attentively, as those did in Acts 8.6. Those who hear the Word with gazing eyes, wandering thoughts, and sleepy bodies cannot hear it attentively, but are to be reproved. 3) Hear the Word of God retentively. Labor to keep in your memory what you hear, that you may put it into practice for your life. Hearing is for practice’s sake. This also has to do with treasuring the Word, so it will have a continual impression upon your hearts. 4) Hear the Word understandingly. Christ called the multitude and bade them hear and understand. This is what the Bereans did. 5) Hear the Word applicatively. If a patient has never such excellent counsel given him, never so powerful a medicine prescribed, if he does not apply it, it will do him no more good than if he had never known it. 6) Hear the Word of God reverentially. Many people represent God to themselves in such familiar notions that they ultimately breed a contempt of God which we ought not to have. We must demean ourselves with a humble reverence in His presence.
7) Hear the Word of God obediently. Come…ready, prepared, and disposed to stoop and submit to all the instructions, corrections, and reproofs of the Word of God, like those spoken of in Acts 10.33

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Harvesting Humility & Pulverizing Pride

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have read C. J. Mahaney’s book Humility: True Greatness and I certainly recommend it. I found it to be not only very informative but extremely practical, (a rare combination.) I made myself a short, “reader’s digest” version of some simple practices that he designed to help cultivate humility and weaken pride. I entitled it: (since at the time it was for me) “Practices of Special Focus with Extended Concentration.” Since these practices are so practical, valuable, and indispensable I thought I would share them with you. Here they are as I developed them for myself to utilize over the remaining portion of the year. 1. Study the Doctrine of our Sovereignthe incommunicable attributes Study Wayne Gruden’s Systematic Theology, Chapter 11 Study A. W. Pink’s Attributes of God Study A. W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of God Study Stephen Charnock’s The Existence and Attributes of God 2. Study the Doctrine of Salvationsalvation from first to last is of God, God alone Study the doctrine of election Study the doctrine of calling Study the doctrine of justification Study the doctrine of perseverance 3. Study the Doctrine of Sinsin is our mean & abject condition Study the delicacy of sin – we are so imperceptive of sin & its subtle ways Study the destructiveness of sin – guard against the hardening effect of sin Study the deceitfulness of sin – by its nature sin is difficult to discern & detect Study the desire of sin – sin desires to lull me to sleep & to kill holiness in me 4. Study the Doctrine of Sanctification in others Actively look for ways that God is @ work in others Accurately examine the apostle Paul as an example Attentively familiarize yourself with the fruit of the Spirit

Affectionately look to God to lead you to real evidence in others & yourself

Friday, June 12, 2009

Time? Where does it go?

“making the best use of the time, because they days are evil.” (Eph 5:16 ESV) Paul encourages the Ephesian believers to make the best use of the time that God has given them, since the age in which they lived was filled with evil. This phrase, “making the best use” is also known as “redeem” or even “purchase.” The idea of course is clear, we are to utilize every minute that we have for the valuable things of God since time as we know it, is so short. We are encouraged to be proactive in taking advantage of every opportunity to do good for one another and for the glory of God. As we all know, this is certainly easier said than done! Circumstances and events in our lives have a way of encroaching upon what little time we think we have. C. S. Lewis once wrote; “The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.” Benjamin Franklin made an interesting observation about time when he said, “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that the stuff life is made of.” Paul, goes on to say that we need wisdom in order to utilize and prioritize our time in ways which are profitable. God’s will or direction is not always easily detected or determined, therefore we need to constantly seek him by meditating on His precious Word. Of course, it is in the word that I can discern God’s principles that govern my choices. I am conscious of “time” these last several days because I seem to have so short supply of it. Yet, Lewis is right, regardless of whatever I am doing, or not doing, I still have sixty minutes an hour to wisely make the best use of. Yet, it has been difficult to fit everything in I needed to do, including writing this blog.
But, alas, I shall meditate on God’s word, I will try not to be foolish with the time I have been given, and I will attempt (with your prayers) to understand what the will of the Lord is.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Humility: The Chief Mark

“Thus says the LORD: Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made and so all these things came to be declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:1-2 ESV)
“When I look back upon my own religious experience, or round upon the Church of Christ in the world, I stand amazed at the thought of how little humility is sought after as the distinguishing feature of the discipleship of Jesus. In preaching and living, in the daily intercourse of the home and social life, in the more special fellowship with Christians, in the direction and performance of work for Christ,-alas! how much proof there is that humility is not esteemed the cardinal virtue, the only root from which the graces can grow, the one indispensable condition of true fellowship with Jesus. That it should have been possible for men to say of those who claim to be seeking the higher holiness, that the profession has not been accompanied with increasing humility, is a loud call to all earnest Christians, however much or little truth there be in the charge, to prove that meekness and lowliness of heart are the chief mark by which they who follow the meek and lowly Lamb of God are to be known.” (Andrew Murray)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

God's Promise Is Certain!

“where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever…” (Heb 6:20 ESV) This passage certainly would have had more meaning to the first century Jews who had become Christians than to most of us today. We who are 21st century Gentiles don’t really comprehend in it fullness the role of the Old Testament Jewish priest. We don’t recognize or utilize priests in the Christian Church today. The high priest, among many other duties, would once a year go behind that curtain that separated mankind from the presence of God. On Yom Kippur he alone entered the Holy of Holies, to make atonement for his house and for the people (Lev. 16). He alone could offer the sacrifices for the sins of the priests, or of the people, or of himself. He would enter the holy of holies to burn incense and sprinkle sacrificial animal blood to expiate his own sins and those of the people of Israel. Of course, if God chose to accept this offering and sacrifice then the judgment of God’s people would be rolled back another year. Jesus Christ was appointed as our high priest. He went behind the curtain into the very presence of God and offered a blood sacrifice to God on our behalf. What made this different was the fact that the blood that was offered to appease God was His very own blood which testified to his sacrificial death. Thanks be unto God for accepting this blood, this sacrifice! Not only did God accept it then, he continues to accept this sacrifice, and he will forever. This becomes our rock-solid hope the writer of Hebrews tell us (Chapter 6) – it is an anchor for our soul! The contrast between Aaron and Melchizedek is that Christ is a priest forever, never loosing his viability as my high priest before God! I need to constantly be reminded of this truth in order not to grow dull in my patient waiting upon the return of Christ to fully redeem us. What great sin of mine to take this for granted.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Good News / Bad News for a Pastor

Good News: You baptised seven people today in the river. Bad News: You lost two of them in the swift current.
Good News: The women's group voted to send you a get-well card.Bad News: The vote passed by 31-30.
Good News: The pastor-parish relations committee accepted your job description the way you wrote it.Bad News: They were so inspired by it that they asked the bishop to send a new minister capable of filling the position.
Good News: The trustees finally voted to add more church parking.Bad News: They are going to blacktop the front lawn of the parsonage.
Good News: Church attendance rose dramatically the last three weeks.Bad News: You were on vacation.
Good News: Your biggest critic just left your community. Bad News: He has been appointed as your conference bishop.
Good News: The youth of the church came to your house for a visit.Bad News: It was in the middle of the night and they were armed with toilet paper and shaving cream.
Good News: The Church Council has agreed to send you to the Holy Land for study.Bad News: They are waiting for war to breakout before sending you

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Trouble With Wealth

Thomas Watson - (ca. 1620-1686), English non-conformist Puritan preacher and author Watson was educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he was noted for remarkably intense study.
In 1646 he commenced a sixteen year pastorate at St. Stephen's, Walbrook. He showed strong Presbyterian views during the civil war, with, however, an attachment to the king, and in 1651 he was imprisoned briefly with some other ministers for his share in Christopher Love's plot to recall Charles II of England. He was released on June 30, 1652, and was formally reinstated as vicar of St. Stephen's Walbrook.
Watson obtained great fame and popularity as a preacher until the Restoration, when he was ejected for nonconformity. Notwithstanding the rigor of the acts against dissenters, Watson continued to exercise his ministry privately as he found opportunity. Upon the Declaration of Indulgence in 1672 he obtained a license to preach at the great hall in Crosby House. After preaching there for several years, his health gave way, and he retired to Barnston, Essex, where he died suddenly while praying in secret. He was buried on 28 July 1686.
Regarding riches and worldly wealth: "The bee may suck a little honey from the leaf, but put it in a barrel of honey and it dies."
Christians must stave of the world so that it does not get into their heart (Psalm 62:10). "Water is useful to the ship and helps it to sail better to the haven, but let the water get into the ship, if it is not pumped out, it drowns the ship."
"So riches are useful and convenient for our passage. We sail more comfortably with them through the troubles of this world; but if the water gets into the ship, if love of riches gets into the heart, then we are drowned by them" (1 Timothy 6:9).
- The Puritan Pulpit - Thomas Watson

Friday, June 5, 2009

Humility: True Greatness

There is no doubt that when this book arrived on the scene in 2005 that it caused quiet a stir. Its topic is one that we all treat as the “500 pound gorilla” in the room. We realize that pride is the number one sin that God hates and despises, yet it is the one sin that we seem to have the greatest difficulty getting a handle on. Pride is so elusive, so subtle, so deceptive, and it is so prevalent in everything that we are in our being. C. J. Mahaney does an excellent job in tackling this “500 pound gorilla.” In a very humble, yet powerful way he walks us through this sin that plagues us all. He states that; “Humility draws the gaze of our Sovereign God.” He makes the point that humility gets God’s attention, especially as he uses Isaiah 66:2 as support: “…this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” (ESV) When I read this I immediately stopped and bowed my head to say to God, “This is the man I want to be, please work these things in my life!” I don't know why I was not aware of this book until this past month. Of course, all things are in God's sovereign timing. If there is someone like me who is not aware of this book I want to take this time to recommend it to you! What I found to be most valuable was his list of practical suggestions to do what he calls, “How to weaken pride and cultivate humility by always maintaining a focus on the cross, practicing several exercises as each day begins, through a special focused study on certain pertinent subjects, and with a very practical on going exercise. These are so practical that I have begun to practice them in anticipation of God reducing the pride I battle with in order to be the man that draws His attention.
I have read and am re-reading this book. It is challenging but I highly recommend it. Reading Humility: True Greatness will change the way you think about this sin called pride. Reading it can transform your thinking and your life. If you haven’t read it yet, stop putting it off, today is the day!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

That Old Rugged Cross

“In all the creatures, indeed, both high and low, the glory of God shines, but nowhere has it shone more brightly than in the cross, in which there has been an astonishing change of things, the condemnation of all men as been manifested, sin has been blotted out, salvation has been restored to men; and in short, the whole world has been renewed, and everything restored to good order.” --John Calvin In his book, Humility: True Greatness, C. J. Mahaney encourages us, for the purpose of killing pride, to begin each day reflecting on the wonder of the cross. Thomas Ascol noted, “The crucifixion of Jesus Christ is the hinge on which all biblical revelation turns. Together with the resurrection of Christ, it is the apex of redemptive history.” Can you not be moved when you hear or read the words of Isaac Watts – “When I survey the wondrous cross, on which the Prince of glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride. See, from His head, His hands, His feet, Sorrow and love flow mingled down, did e’er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown?”
As I reflect on that old rugged cross that so long ago was stained with blood so divine I am still amazed! The cross is a constant reminder that my sin and guilt has been divinely and eternally dealt with. I am humbled and my pride does crumble as I reflect and realize, although I deserved punishment, judgment, death, and hell, God provided a satisfactory sacrifice for my sins, apart from anything I could ever warrant or do.
When I do survey that wonderful cross I do see the glory of God shine the brightest and I marvel that God used the cross to blot out my sin and provided salvation. At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light! (Isaac Watts)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Wonder of Our Self-Sufficient God!

Gen 1:1 – “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Have you ever stopped to contemplate or mediate on that sentence? It is so rich and full that I don’t know if we could ever wring the fullness of what it is saying to us in a lifetime. What does this really mean? It means that there was a time when God lived alone in the unity of His nature. He was complete and He was happy. Most human beings are social creatures and it is extremely difficult for most people to be alone for lengthy periods of time. We crave, need, and thrive off of the company or the society of other people. As a matter of fact, one form of discipline or punishment that we impose on people is “forcing them to be alone.” We impose this practice on very young children by sending them from our presence to their rooms, or to the corner, or to a designated place where they can not interact with the presence of others and they are “alone.” We punish prisoners with time in the “box” or what is humanely called “solitary confinement.” How long did God exist before He chose to reveal His glorious and majestic character? Of course they answer is that He existed eternally. The next question to contemplate is how long is eternity? Stop, and at some point attempt to contemplate God existing alone in His nature for eternity. It is mind blowing. Once you have tried to comprehend the fact that God existed with absolutely no beginning for what we can only call "forever", think about the fact that … …there was no heaven where His glory was manifested …there were no angels to sing his praise and worship …there was no universe to uphold by the power of His word …there was no earth to engage his attention …there was nothing- no one but God – not for a day, or a month, or a year, or even an age, but from everlasting! Through a past eternity God was alone. He was self-contained – He had everything that He “needed.” God has always been everything that He is, and has always had everything that "makes" Him God. It is absolutely impossible to add to God in anyway at all. He was self-sufficient – He needed nothing. God did not lack in any capacity. He was self-satisfied – He was totally happy and pleased. He did not need anything! If heaven, angels, a universe, an earth, or even mankind had been necessary to complete God in any way, they would have been spoken into existence from eternity past. The creating of them did not add one thing to the essential nature of God. His essential nature and glory can not be added to or subtracted from! Next time you are alone, take some time and contemplate the solitariness of God in which there was an eternity past in which God lived alone. In this “aloneness” He was completely sufficient, completely satisfied, and completely self-contained.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Think Great Thoughts of God!

Charles Spurgeon introduced his first sermon at New Park Street Chapel with these words: “It has been said by some one that "the proper study of mankind is man." I will not oppose the idea, but I believe it is equally true that the proper study of God's elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father. There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought, "Behold I am wise." But when we come to this master-science, finding that our plumb-line cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought, that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass's colt; and with the solemn exclamation, "I am but of yesterday, and know nothing." No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God. We shall be obliged to feel—
"Great God, how infinite art thou, what worthless worms are we!" A. W. Pink wrote:
"The foundation of all true knowledge of God must be a clear mental apprehension of His perfections as revealed in Holy Scripture. An unknown God can neither be trusted, served, nor worshipped.
Something more than a theoretical knowledge of God is needed by us. God is only truly known in the soul as we yield ourselves to Him, submit to His authority, and regulate all the details of our lives by His holy precepts and commandments. "Then shall we know, if we follow on (in the path of obedience) to know the Lord" (Hosea 6:3). "If any man will do His will, he shall know" (John 7:17
What is amazing, and better said by Richard Baxter, "I bewail that my apprehensions are so dull, my thoughts so mean, my affections so stupid, and my expressions so low and unbecoming such a glory." As I write this first blog of June, my mind races to think of things that would be witty, penetrating, and on the cutting edge. I realize that I am not that witty, rarely penetrating, and certainly not on the cutting edge of all that is happening today. I am simply a pastor with a heart for God’s people. I think and write pastoral for the glory of God and the joy of all peoples through our glorious Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. As I begin the month of June my mind is drawn to contemplate God. I urge you to think great and frequent thoughts on God and His glorious character. It is harder to take the time these days amidst all of the intrusions and interruptions in our lives. Secret time and secret places alone with God are almost a thing of the past.
Let me encourage you to do as Jonathan Edwards did: “I frequently used to retire into a solitary place, on the banks of the Hudson River, at some distance from the city for contemplation on divine things and secret converse with God; and had many sweet hours there.” "Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?" Exodus 15:11 (ESV)