Thursday, April 24, 2008

Alone with God

Prayer is something in which we turn our backs upon everything else, excluding everything else, while, for the time being, we find ourselves face to face with God alone.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Alone with God and face to face with God. Maybe that is why we don't pray as often or as much as we should. Are you avoiding prayer because it is just you and God and it makes you uncomfortable or makes you feel vulnerable? Are you uncomfortable in the presence of God because you know you aren't walking in the light, as He Himself is in the light, and that the darkness of your sinful ways and thoughts will be exposed? Are you afraid of exposing the dark corners of your heart, or are you harboring a sin that you don't want to let go? Are you afraid of coming into the holiness of His presence and being confronted by His righteousness? Are you ashamed to come before Him because you know you should be spending time in prayer and you are not? Or is it a matter of rebellion because praying to God requires our acknowledgment of His superiority, our submission to His authority, and our subjection to His sovereignty? Is it that it is hard to justify taking time out of your busy schedule? Is it that you take your relationship with Him for granted until you need Him for something? Or, somehow, is it a little of all of the above.

Brethren, don't let your heart become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. The nearness of our God, your God and my God, is our good (Psalm 73:28). His promise is that if we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us, and that if we seek Him, He will let us find Him (James 4:8, Jeremiah 29:13); and His command is for us to seek His face (Amos 5:4, Psalm 27:8). Whatever you are holding on to that is hindering you from fully coming into His presence, let it go. Come as Jacob did, to wrestle with God until he received the blessing, and you will leave His presence changed and marked by God.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Delusion of Pleasing Self

In listening to all the cries that the church must be relevant, new, cutting edge, abreast of all things modern to reach the current age, I wonder if those making such claims have bothered to look at the heart of man to see if it has changed in lo these many ages since the fall. From all the cries to contextualize you would think that somehow the heart has morphed, or been subjected to some evolutionary influence so that we must approach it differently than ever before. No, the heart has always been the same, wicked and desperately sick. Its main goal has always been to please itself at the expense of all else.

I ran across a poem by Charles Wesley written in the early 1700's that reveals the timeless self-absorption of the heart with all its vices. This poem is based upon I Timothy 5:6 "But she who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead, even while she lives."

How hapless is th'applauded virgin's lot,
Her God forgetting, by her God forgot!
Stranger to truth, unknowing to obey,
In error nurs'd and disciplin'd to stray;
Swoln with self-will, and principled with pride,
Sense all her good, and passion all her guide:
Pleasure its tide, and flatt'ry lends it breath,
And smoothly waft her to eternal death!
A goddess here she sees her vot'ries meet,
Crowd to her shrine, and tremble at her feet;
She hears their vows, believes their life and death
Hangs on the wrath and mercy of her breath;
Supreme in fancied state she reigns her hour,
And glories in her plenitude of power.
Herself the only object worth her care,
Since all the kneeling world was made for her.
For her creation all its stores displays;
The silkworm's labour, and the diamond's blaze;
Air, earth, and sea conspire to tempt her taste,
And ransack'd Nature furnishes the feast.
Life's gaudiest pride attracts her willing eyes,
And balls, and theatres, and courts arise:
Italian songsters pant her ear to please,
Bid the first cries of infant reason cease,
Save her from thought, and lull her soul to peace.
Deep sunk the imprison'd soul remains,
Nor knows its fall from God, nor feels its chains;
Unconscious still, sleeps on in error's night,
Nor strives to rise, nor struggles into light:
Heaven-born in vain, degen'rate cleaves to earth,
(No pangs experienc'd of the second birth)
She only fallen, yet unwaken'd found,
While all th'enthrall'd creation groans around!
Father, deliver us from ourselves!

A Prayer for Today

Dearest Redeemer, make me humble, prepare me for Thy future mercies; and whenever Thou see me in danger of being exalted above measure, graciously send me a thorn in the flesh, so that Thy blessings may not prove my ruin.

It takes a humble person to pray a prayer like this, one who knows his own heart, his own sin, and his own proclivity to pride. No wonder God used him to fan the Great Awakening in America and England.

George Whitefield
From his journal, Thursday, November 29, 1739, at age 24.
Wilmington, Pa

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Thought for Today

"To live without a sense of God's particular Providence, is in effect, to live without God in the world."

George Whitefield
Monday, November 5, 1739
Philadelphia, Pa

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Devotional Reading

My favorite form of devotional reading is just studying and meditating on a passage of Scripture. Many people enjoy and benefit from reading and meditating on the Psalms. However, there are times when it is good to have some variety in your devotionals and there are many books that would serve that purpose. Let me recommend a few in no particular order.

1. Tabletalk magazine. It is a monthly devotional magazine published by Ligonier Ministries. It gives an expositional treatise on a certain topic or section of Scripture. It also has articles that deal with the topic of the month. The articles are excellent and educational, and cover a good breadth of topics.

2. Awake my Heart. Written by J. Sidlow Baxter. It was originally published in 1960 and was republished in 1994. It is devotional readings for a year, and really it is more like a years worth of mini-sermons as it is expositional in nature. It offers wisdom, insight, and application.

3. George Whitefield's Journals. Published by Banner of Truth. This may seem like a strange book for devotional reading, but it is very personal, and reveals Whitefield's heart for Christ and his allegiance to the Word of God. It also reveals the working of God during the time of the Great awakening in England and America. It also is an inspiring example of faithfulness and trust; and most modern preachers should read it and be ashamed at how little we preach and at the shallowness of our knowledge of the Scriptures.

4. Gems from Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Written by Tony Sargent. It is a collection of quotations from the sermons of one of the great biblical minds and preachers of the twentieth century. It is arranged topically and covers a plethora of topics. It is robust, full of wisdom, and prompts you to think.

5. Pulpit Magazine. This is the online magazine of John MacArthur's ministry. It has daily articles, which are usually excerpts from John's sermons, but occasionally they have guest authors contribute articles. Of course, since these are excerpts from John's sermons they are expositional, but they are arranged around different topics. The comments are usually interesting and it is a way you can interact with the article.

The key thing about devotional time is that you need to take the time to think about and pray about what you are reading. Don't approach it as something to be done or as a task to be accomplished, but consider how what you are reading applies to your life and take it to heart.

An additional thought...three of the above books were written by English "chaps". There are two countries that I have had a particular burden for, and that is England and the former Soviet bloc. I have been blessed to preach and teach twelve times in the Ukraine, and once in Siberia. I have asked the Lord to let me do the same in England. Who knows how He will answer that prayer.

A Prayer for the Day

O Lord, It is not just that apart from You I can do nothing, it is apart from You I have nothing, apart from You I have no life, apart from You I am dead. You are life-inYou is life-the life that is the light of all men. I am undone without You. It is You that is my Rock, my Shield, my Fortress, my Deliverer, my Strong Tower, my Stronghold, my Very Present Help, my Dread Champion, my Shepherd, my soul's Guardian, my Intecessor, my Advocate, my Savior, my Wisdom, my Sanctifier, my Redeemer, my Reconciler, my Propitator, my Hope, my Standard, my Goal, my High Priest, my Expiator, my Ruler, my King, my Lord, my Encourager, my Comforter, my Consoler, my Joy, my Security, my Sustainer, my Great Reward, my Life, my Song, my Peace, and my God. May Your name be exalted in me today. May Your name be exalted in Your church today. This day may Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, starting with me. Come Lord Jesus and subdue Your enemies under Your feet, and rule and reign forever. AMEN