Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Word from Francis Schaffer

If you have not read any of Francis Schaffer, you should.  He was probably the greatest prophetic voice in evangelicalism in the last century.  Even though he has been with the Lord for a number of years, his is still a prescient voice today...maybe because he had his finger on the humanness of evangelicals and its weaknesses, but nevertheless his voice still rings true, and issues he pointed out are still with us today.

I read his last book, The Great Evangelical Disaster, in 1984, the year he went home.  It was one of the defining books that I have read, and I have been re-reading it the last few weeks.  I am going to quote some of it as he draws the book to a conclusion, as it hits the church where it lives today.

"We need a revolutionary message in the midst of today's relativistic thinking.  By revolutionary or radical, I mean standing against the all-pervasive form which the world spirit has taken in our day.  This is the real meaning of radical....We need a young generation and others who will be willing to stand in loving confrontation, but real confrontation, in contrast to the mentality of constant accommodation with the current forms of the world spirit as they surround us today, and in contrast to the way in which so much of evangelicalism has developed the automatic mentality of accommodation at each successive point.....the evangelical accommodation has constantly been in one direction--that is, to accommodate with whatever is in vogue with the form of the world spirit which is dominant today.  It is the same world spirit which is destroying both church and society.  Balance must be considered constantly.  But the accommodation we have been speaking of has constantly taken the form of giving in to the humanistic, secular consensus which is the dominant destructive force of our day.'

'It does seem to me that evangelical leaders, and every evangelical Christian, have a very special responsibility not to just go along with the "blue-jean syndrome" of not noticing that their attempts to be "with it" so often take the same forms as those who deny the existence or holiness of the living God.  Accommodation leads to accommodation--which leads to accommodation..."

A true prophetic voice is timeless.  This was written in 1984, but we see the same issue alive and well in the church today.  As Solomon said, "There is nothing new under the sun."  We see the same accommodation today, as so many pastors/churches/Christians have fallen into the "we must be relevant to the culture" trap.  The pursuit of relevance has led to accommodation.  It is only when we are truly counter cultural, truly radical to the culture that we have any true impact.  We are not salt and light by accommodating the world spirit of our times, but only when we are stopping the corruption of the world spirit, and exposing the corruption of the world spirit can we call ourselves truly radical; and you cannot be relevant and radical at the same time. 

I would recommend that you read this book.  Think about what Francis Schaffer has to say, and see how he recaptures the true meaning of living the radical Christian life.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Making the World a Better Place

I think it is safe to say that wanting the world to be a better place would be common sentiment the world over.  In many places it is even a popular sentiment.  And we see great efforts from many quarters of society to achieve this goal, from breast cancer awareness, to clean water initiatives, to homeless shelters, to aids research and education, to disaster relief, to famine relief, to refugee aid, to save the whales, to anti-abortion measures, to racism awareness, to anti-poverty campaigns, to enviromental concerns, to soil conservation, to water conservation, to energy conservation, to operation Christmas child, to no child left behind, to school drop-out initiatives, to Unicef, to UN peace keeping, to Mid-East diplomacy, to anti-terrorist measures, to social justice concerns, to mercy ministries, to the Salvation Army, to food banks, to welfare, to...whew, the list goes on and on.

All of us, who inhabit this world, want it to be a cleaner, safer, nicer, peaceful, friendly, beautiful, and even loving place to live.  But, alas, it is a sentiment doomed to failure, and a desire that will never come to fruition.  Why, you might ask?  Because the root issue of all of the problems in this world, sin, is ignored by the world; and all the attempts that those in the world make to make the world a better place to live, treat the symptoms, not the disease. 

Man is a slave to sin, he is blinded by his sin, he is deceived in his sin, he loves his sin, he is an inventor of sin, he is an encourager of sin, he flaunts his sin, he feeds his sin, he exalts his sin, he is incapable of not sinning, he excuses his sin, he justifies his sin, he promotes sin, he uses sin to accomplish his purposes, he won't give up his sin, he cherishes his sin, he worships his sin, he speaks sin, he thinks sin, he acts sin; in other words he is thoroughly permeated and dominated by sin.  He is born in sin, and sin is inescapable.

The earth is cursed because of sin.  All creation groans because of sin.  The world and all that is in it is passing away because of sin.  Man is condemned because of sin.  Since man rules over the world and sin rules over man, therefore sin is the ruling and guiding force in this world.

Enter the church, the greatest sin-fighting agent in the world; and not the corporate or organized church, but the church as the body of Christ, the church as represented by each individual Christian as they live out the life of Christ in their daily affairs.  Christ told us in the Sermon on the Mount that we are salt and light.  Salt stops the corruption of sin in its tracks (Matthew 5:13), light exposes sin and causes it to flee (John 3:18-21, Ephesians 5:8-13).  In addition to this, through the church the gospel is proclaimed; and it is the gospel, the living Word of the living God, that brings cleansing to sinful man (John 13:8-10, John 15:3, Ephesians 5:25-27).

The church has been given the mandate to go into all the world and make disciples, and the church does that by preaching and sharing the gospel, the Word of God.  It is the gospel that cleanses man from sin, it is the Word of God that keeps man's way pure, and keeps him from sinning (Psalm 119:9, 11).  True believers do not practice sin, but practice holiness (I John 3:7-10), and as they do they are salt and light in the world.  It is the gospel that deals with the sin that dominates and controls man; first by cleansing him from sin and freeing him from the bondage to sin, and then by empowering him to have victory over ongoing sin as he is obedient to the Word of God. 

So, what is the most important thing the church must do to make the world a better place?  What is its mandate from its head, the Lord Jesus Christ?  It is to preach, teach, and live the gospel.  So as we, the living body of the living Lord, go about our daily affairs, sharing the gospel and living the gospel, the world is made a better place, literally one Christian at a time.  But if all of God's people, those that are truly His, would make this their focus; we would see the world become a better place, not a perfect place...that is yet to come (Revelation 21-22).  So as we minister to those around us, our neighbor, let us make their world a better place by introducing them to the One who has overcome the world and all of its sin, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Gauging Our Worship

I Chronicles 16:
7 Then on that day David first assigned Asaph and
his relatives to give thanks to the Lord.
8 Oh give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name;
Make known His deeds among the peoples.
9 Sing to Him, sing praises to Him;
Speak of all His wonders.
10 Glory (boast) in His holy name;
Let the heart of those who seek the Lord be glad.
11 Seek the Lord and His strength;
Seek His face continually.
12 Remember His wonderful deeds which He has done,
His marvels and the judgments from His mouth, 
13 O seed of Israel His servant,
Sons of Jacob, His chosen ones!
14 He is the Lord our God;
His judgments are in all the earth.
15 Remember His covenant forever,
The word which He commanded to a thousand generations,
16 The covenant which He made with Abraham,
And His oath to Isaac.
17 He also confirmed it to Jacob as a statute,
To Israel as an everlasting covenant,
18 Saying, "To you I will give the land of Cannan,
As the portion of your inheritance."
19 When they were only a few in number,
Very few, and strangers in it,
20 And they wandered about from nation to nation,
And from one kingdom to another people,
21 He permitted no man to oppress them,
And He reproved kings for their sakes, saying,
22 "Do not touch My anointed ones,
And do my prophets no harm."
23 Sing to the Lord, all the earth;
Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day.
24 Tell of His glory among the nations,
His wonderful deeds among all the peoples.
25 For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
He also is to be feared above all gods.
26 For the gods of the peoples are idols,
But the Lord made the heavens.
27 Splendor and majesty are before Him,
Strength and joy are in His place.
28 Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
29 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name;
Bring an offering, and come before Him;
Worship the Lord in holy array (the splendor of holiness)
30 Tremble before Him, all the earth;
Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved.
31 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
And let them say among the nations,
"The Lord reigns."
32 Let the sea roar, and all it contains;
Let the field exult, and all that is in it.
33 Then the trees of the forest will sing for joy
before the Lord;
For He is coming to judge the earth.
34 O give thinks to the Lord, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
35 The say, "Save us, O God of our salvation,
And gather us and deliver us from the nations,
To give thanks to Your holy name,
And glory in Your praise."
36 Blessed be the Lord, The God of Israel,
From everlasting to everlasting.
Then all the people said, "Amen," and praised the Lord.

When you gather for worship each Sunday, is this what you are doing?  Is this what is accomplished during the time of your gathering that you call praise and worship?  Does what you do and what you sing about elevate the Lord as this does, or do you find yourself singing songs to yourself, about yourself ?  Do you sing of His mighty deeds, the greatness of His salvation, the wonder of His majesty, the glory of His name?  Does what you call worship boast in Him?  Does what you do on Sunday bless the Lord, or is it designed to bless you?  Can you really be blessed if you are not blessing the Lord?  Would you call your gathering a holy array?  Do your people come to present themselves before the Lord, and have that sense of trembling before Him?  Are you ascribing to the Lord the glory due His name?  Does what you do bring glory to His name?  Does your worship time cause the people attending to say, "Amen," and praise the Lord.?

Just asking.....But God has given us the means, by His word, to gauge our corporate worship.  Hopefully, this is how you are gauging your worship; to know if it is acceptable in His sight, and a pleasing fragrance and soothing aroma to Him.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Impediments to Spiritual Growth--Fear

This is a repost of #4 in a series.

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity,
but of power and love and discipline.
II Timothy 1:7

Those of you who learned this from the King James would substitute the word fear for timidity, and, of course, both words are correct.  The Greek word used here is deilia, and it is the only time it is used in the New Testament.  The normal word for fear that is used in the NT is phobeo, from which we get our word phobia; and it usually conveys being frightened.  The word deilia conveys more the result, the condition of the psyche because of the fear; and, as such, is most literally translated cowardice.  If you read the book of II Timothy you understand that Paul is telling Timothy not to be a coward in light of the persecution, suffering, and hardship he is facing.  Fear was causing Timothy to retreat from the ministry to which God had called him, and Paul is encouraging Timothy to rekindle the gift God had given him and to stand firm in preaching the word amidst all obstacles.

Fear is one of the great weapons of the enemy, and all of us have our fears; and if I were to list them all, this would be the longest post in history.  Fear is a great controller and most of us let our fears, whether rational or irrational, control us; which is just what the enemy wants.  And it can be the biggest impediment to our spiritual growth and progress in Christlikeness.  You notice that I said, "Let our fears control us." because fear only has the power over us that we allow it to have.  What then is the antidote to fear?  How do we combat it?  How do we control it, versus letting it control us? 

We need to understand how to handle fear, our fear(s), because we all have them.  The question then is not do we have fear, but how do we handle fear when it comes up and puts its grip on us. Courage is not the absence of fear, but doing what needs to be done, doing what is right, in spite of the fear.  So how do we appropriate spiritual courage?

Paul gives us both general and specific remedies for fear in this letter to Timothy. The general remedy is found in II Timothy 2:1 as he tells Timothy, "You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus."  And in II Timothy 1:7 we see what God, by His grace, has specifically supplied to all of us to combat fear/spiritual cowardice, and that is power, love, and discipline.  In fact, what the verse tells us is that spiritual timidity is not from the Lord, He has not given it to us; but instead has given us the opposite.  Power, love, and discipline are the elements of spiritual courage, and God by His grace has supplied them to us.  So let's see how they aid us in our battle against fear.

Power Overcomes Fear
In essence, power overpowers fear, and God has given us a spirit of power, or spiritual power.  It is not our power, but His power in us, working in us and through us.  Listen to these verses from Ephesians:
1:18-20 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know...what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe, in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.
3:16, 20 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man...Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us..

Where does God's power reside, His resurrection power?  Within you, in your inner man, through the indwelling person and presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, Himself.  I John 4:4 tells us this, "Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world."  The same power that raised Christ from the dead is the same power that resides in you, and God's power in Christ, in all its greatness and magnificence, is directed toward you like a laser beam.

How do we access this power?  We do so by humbling ourselves in obedience to Him.  James 4:7 tells us, "God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble."  In Isaiah 66:2 God tells us this, "But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word."  We have the perfect example of humility and its corresponding obedience in Christ.  Philippians 2:8 tells us this, "Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." When we are confronted by fear, we are to look obediently to Him, and be obedient to Him; and in our obedience His power will be supplied to us, and in our obedience we will overcome the fear.  Our focus on Him and being obedient to Him will take our focus off of the fear. 

Love Casts Out Fear
Where there is love there is no room for fear.  Sounds almost too simple doesn't it?  We must understand that fear is a great motivator, and most of us, really all of us, are motivated by fear.  In other words, the reason we do what we do is because of fear.  However, as great a motivator as fear is, there is a greater motivator, really the greatest motivator, and that is love.  Our love of God and love of others should always be the reason we do what we do.

I John 4:18 tells us, "There is no fear in love; but perfect (mature) love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment (retribution/consequences we don't want), and the one who fears is not perfected (mature) in love."  Also, in II Corinthians 5:14-15 we learn, "For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; 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."  If you are living for yourself, concentrating on yourself, worrying about yourself, then fear will always control you.  When you love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; love your neighbor as your self and love the brethren as Christ loved them; then you aren't preoccupied with yourself and it is the love of Christ that is controlling you, and fear has been moved out of the driver's seat and to the back of the bus.  When it is our love for God that is motiviating us we will be like Paul, who suffered the loss of all things and considered them but rubbish because he had gained Christ.

Discipline Controls Fear
The Greek word for discipline is sophronismos, and means a sound mind, sound judgment, literally a mind under control.  It is a rational mind in contrast to the irrationality of fear.  It is a mind controlled by the truth, thoughts that are guided by the truth, thinking that is permeated with the truth.  Proverbs 3:25 tells us, "Do not be afraid of sudden fear."  This speaks to the terror that irrationality, those irrational fears, bring upon us.  We are not to be gripped and controlled by such fear.  In John 8:32 we see that when we know the truth, the truth will make us free.  In other words the knowledge of the truth releases us from bondage.  Knowing the truth breaks the grip that fear has on our life and controls our thoughts instead of fear.  It does not let fear in the driver's seat of our mind. 

Philippians 4:8 tells us what our minds are to dwell upon, and these attributes serve as filters to keep fear in its proper place, under control.  First, we are to think only on what is true.  If it is not true, totally true, we are to reject it. Fear always dwells around the borders of the truth, and will always skew the truth or be based on partial truth.  Secondly, even if it is true, if it's not honorable we are not to dwell on it.  Thirdly, it must be right, the right thing to think about, something that causes and promotes right thoughts...right about God, right about others, right about ourselves, and right about the situation (It is amazing how fear promotes thoughts that are not right or true about God, others and ourselves, dishonoring all; and causes us to blow the situation out of proportion).  Next, it must be pure, promoting holiness in our thinking, not rottenness.  This is to be followed by thinking about what is lovely and is of good repute.  Thoughts based on fear are never lovely.  And, interestingly, the word for good repute means words of good omen.  Fear never brings about words of good omen, but always the opposite...doom, gloom, and tragedy.  Finally, we are to have our minds dwell on those things which are excellent and praiseworthy.  When we allow ourselves to think upon and dwell upon what is less than the best, thoughts that are worthy only of the gutter, we are supplying fear with rich fertile soil from which to grow.  Fear always assumes the worst and dwells upon all that is bad.

So when fear assails you remember it is not from the Lord, but from the enemy, through our flesh.  God has given through His Spirit and by His grace, all that we need to combat fear so that it is not the victor; and thanks be to God that He always leads us in triumph in Christ. (II Corthians 2:14, I Corthians 15:57)  Our victory was achieved by Christ on the cross.  Christ tells us in John 16:33 that in this world we will have tribulation (which is the truth), but to take courage (literally, to be of good cheer) because He has overcome (subdued, prevailed, conquered, achieved the victory).  So let us live in light of that victory, ever mindful of the power, love, and sound mind that are ours in Christ as the result of Him abiding in us and us abiding in Him. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Confident Patience

This is a repost of #3 in a series

I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait.
And in His word do I hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
More than the watchman for the morning;
Indeed, more than the watchman for the morning.
Psalm 130:5-6

After Psalm 119, the longest Psalm and longest chapter in the Bible, there is a group of short Psalms from Psalm 120-Psalm 134.  Each of these short Psalms contains great and profound truths, and this is a great section of the Scriptures to read and mediate upon.

In my last post I talked about impatience being an impediment to Spiritual growth, and how the Lord is at work instilling patience in us.  In Psalm 130 we see a wonderful example of patience, and the Psalmist paints a picture for us of someone who is not only patient, but confidently patient.  In these verses we see three keys to this confident patience.

  1. The object of our patience.  The object of our patience, the One on whom we are waiting is the Lord.  Our realization must be that the Lord is sovereign and in control, and will work our situation out according to His timing.  He is neither too early nor too late.  We know that when the fullness of time came He sent forth His Son (Galatians 4:4), and at the right time Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6)  We see that the timing of the most important event in the history of mankind was under the control of God.  It is the Lord whom we wait upon and His timing is always perfect.  It is perfect in completing His plan and pupose for us.  So if our desire is for His will to be done in our life, we can be content  and wait for the unfolding of His will for our life.  This kind of waiting is an active submission to the Lord's will and plan for our life, and puts our will in its proper place.

  2. The ground of our patience.  The ground of our patience is the word of God.  The word of God is yay and amen.  His yes is always yes, and His no is always no.  In Jeremiah 1:12 He tells us that He stands over His word to perform it.  So we know that we can stand on whatever He says, for He will fulfill it.  His word is a lamp to our feet and a light for our path.  It does guide us and is our ground to stand on when we are having to be patient and wait for the Lord.  His word literally guides us into patience, and aids us and strengthens us to remain in that state of patience that looks unto the Lord.

  3. The confidence of our patience.  I really love the picture of confident patience the Psalmist paints here.  His soul waits for the Lord more than the watchman waits for the morning.  How does the watchman wait for the morning?  Confidently, very confidently, because he knows that the morning absolutely will come.  In fact, the morning cannot be stopped from coming...at the exact time it should come.  The Psalmist is saying that He is more confident in the Lord, and has a better ground of confidence than the watchman who knows the dawn is coming.  In the darkness of the night, the watchman may not know how much longer before the dawn, but he knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it is approaching nearer with every beat of his heart.  His is a knowing anticipation of the dawn breaking no matter how long or dark the night.  This is a firm ground of confidence.  Our confidence should be greater and more secure than this watchman's because it is the Lord we are waiting upon, and we have His word as our guarantee. 
This is faith in action, faith being put to the test and being strengthened and refined.  This is the faith the Lord wants to develop in you.  This is faith that is willing to wait for the Lord no matter how dark or long the night because it knows the breaking of the dawn is certain.  This is the faith that endures as seeing Him who is unseen. 

Let us wait upon the Lord with confidence in His care and concern for us, and the knowledge that His plan is always the best plan.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Impediments to Spiritual Growth--Impatience

This is a repost of #2 in a series

Then they set out from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea,to go around
the land of Edom; and the people became impatient because of the journey.
The people spoke against God and Moses, "Why have you brought us up
 out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?  For there is no food and no water,
and we loathe this miserable food."
Numbers 21:4-5

Have you ever noticed that in almost every situation that the Lord allows or brings about patience is required?  Somehow God never seems to work on our timetable, and His timetable always seems much longer than we think is necessary.  But, you know, He knows ultimately and eternally what is necessary.  So if patience...much patience... is required, then for some reason, usually unknown to us at the time, patience is necessary.  Personally, I think patience is required so often because it may be the hardest virtue to develop; and out of patience and through patience many other virtues are developed. 

Patience is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), and we receive the fruit of the Spirit the minute we are born again and the Holy Spirit comes and takes up residence in our heart (Romans 8:9).  But although the fruit is given, it must be developed and cultivated, which is part of our working out our salvation (Philippians 2:13).  So, in His divine providence, situations arise that require patience, sometimes mega patience. 

In the example of the Israelites in Numbers 21 they became impatient, not with the journey, but because of the journey.  It was hard and long.  They were meeting with opposition, they were subsisting only on manna, and every day was the same thing with no end, no relief, and no promised land in sight.  So they lost it and became impatient, not with the journey, but with the Lord because of the journey.  The word impatient in Numbers 21:4 literally means short.  They were short with the Lord.  Have you ever been short with someone?  Did you act in an unbecoming way toward them?  Were your words, harsh, mean, or demeaning?  Did you lose your temper with them?  Were you exasperated with them?  Get the picture?  The Israelites were stomping their collective feet and telling the Lord, in no uncertain terms, that they had had enough.

How often we are tempted to do that...to be short with the Lord because of our journey, especially if it is hard and long with no end in our sight.  Many times there are trials to be endured and seen through to their completed end, or sometimes the main trial is being patient.  When we become impatient because of the journey it severs and ends the lesson(s) we were learning, and the qualities of Christ that the Lord was building in us are left incomplete.  In other words, our growth was cut short or stunted.  What will the Lord, as the wise master builder, do?  He will begin all over again, usually using the consequences of our impatience to not only discipline us for our impatience, but also to train us anew.   

What are some keys for us to not become impatient with the Lord and short-circuit our growth?

  1. Understand I Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you but such is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape so that you will be able to endure it. (Italics mine)  In the Greek, the word for temptation and trial are the same and are translated according to the context.  It does present us with a great play on words, because in every trial there is an accompanying temptation, and in each temptation a trial is involved.  What is this verse saying to us?  It is telling us that in our trial and its accompanying temptation that we should not seek our way of escape, but be patient and seek the way of escape the Lord provides.  But unless we are patient we won't see the Lord's way of escape, and those early exits stop what God was accomplishing in us through the trial.

  2. Trust Isaiah 40:28-31 Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired.  His understanding is inscrutable.  He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power.  Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not get weary.  What a great picture of the grace of God; its strength for us and its sustaining power.  What is the key to obtaining this grace, this power that carries us on eagles wings?  It is a patient trust...waiting for the Lord...not being impatient because of the journey, but trusting the Lord in the journey.  This is the power that undergirds us so that we may endure the trial and temptation.  Our patient trusting in Him which leads us to our humbling ourselves before God, is the key to appropriating His grace and all that it brings.

  3. Realize I Kings 19:11-13 So He said, "Go forth and stand on the mountain before the Lord."  And behold, the Lord was passing by!  And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind.  And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing.  When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave.  And behold, a voice came to him and said, "What are you doing here Elijah?"  God works through ordinary means.  We all want that great miracle where the sea parts, and the sun stops in its steps; but most usually the Lord works through the order He has already established.  In other words, God works at the speed of life and at the pace of people.  God is patiently working, invisibly working, and we must be patient with His work.  After all, it is for our eternal good and His eternal glory.
Finally, I know a man who went through a ten year trial.  He will tell you that he was tempted to become impatient because of the journey, but that he trusted the Lord and the Lord was true to His word and was true to him.  There were times during this trial that the grace of God was so real and so present he could almost cut it with a knife, and God used this trial to grow him spiritually and bring him to where he is now.  Where would he be now if he had become impatient because of the journey, stopped trusting in the Lord, and had taken an early exit of his own making? 

How about you, my friends?  Are you being tempted to become impatient because of the journey?  Don't be!  Call out to the Lord for His strength, the strength necessary to wait for Him and His way of escape.  Trust Him to provide all that you need to wait for Him.  For in doing so your growth will not be impaired, but enhanced; and Christ will shine more brightly in you.

Living God, consuming fire,
burn the sin from my life.
Make Your will my desire.
Take my life in Your hands.
Purify me with Your love, 
  till I shine far brighter than purest gold
 in Your light.
Amen and Amen!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Impediments to Spiritual Growth--Pain

This is a repost of # 1 in a series.

There is an old adage, probably derived from sports, it is, "No pain, no gain."  I heard that many times growing up, as I was active in sports and faced the pain of training as I pushed myself to new levels of strength, fitness, toughness, speed, and endurance.  Why does someone push himself/herself like that, out of comfort into pain and exhaustion..time and time again?  It is because they have a goal in mind, a prize to be won, a victory to be achieved.  The goal, or prize, or victory is considered valuable enough, important enough, precious enough, to be worth the price of the pain paid for its achievement. All for what?  A temporal prize that will fade away with time, soon to be forgotten, if not by the individual, then by those who come after;  a faded ribbon, a rusted trophy, a yellowed and crumbling newspaper clipping, or an obsolete CD or DVD; a prize that will be burned up along with the rest of this world when God destroys this universe to make way for the new heavens and new earth.

But many gifted athletes are not willing to push themselves to that point of pain and exhaustion, they are not willing to become uncomfortable, and are willing to take what they can get without the sacrifice.  These are the ones who had such great potential, but never lived up to it.  Their goal was not worth the pain involved for its achievement.

Spiritual growth, spiritual maturity is much the same.  It does take sacrifice, and is at times painful and exhausting.  In Christianity, the ultimate goal is to become like Christ, in fact God promises in Philippians 1:6 that He Himself will complete that work He began in us until the day of Christ Jesus, but we have our part to play which is why we are to work out our salvation while God is at work in us.  So effort and striving are still required of us for us to continue down the path of Christ-likeness, and Paul uses the metaphors of the athlete and the hard working farmer in II Timothy 2 to give us an example of the discipline and effort required to advance and grow in our Christian maturity. 

Unfortunately, just as many athletes are not willing to push through the pain and endure the exhaustion, so many Christians are not willing to undergo pain and endure weariness to become more like Christ.  Mark Dever has made the statement that we, in our culture, are addicted to comfort.  It is this addiction to comfort and its corresponding aversion to pain that are one of the impediments to our growth in Christian maturity.  It cripples our discipline and hampers our efforts.

Christian growth, spiritual growth, growth in Christ-likeness, the continual conformation into His image is often painful; not necessarily physically painful, but mentally, spiritually,and emotionally painful.  Confronting our own sins, shortcomings, foibles, and weaknesses is uncomfortable for us; and only if we view the goal of being more like our Blessed Savior as worthwhile, as desirable above all else, as precious to us, will we engage the pain and endure the weariness that is required for confronting these things about ourselves and achieving victory over them.

Let's face it, none of us likes pain, none of us wants to be weary, but the reality is that pain is necessary and is useful in perfecting us.  It is when we seek to avoid the pain of self-examination and self-confrontation, and refuse to be wearied by enduring that battle that our Christian growth is stunted or stopped.  In seeking to make our lives more comfortable, we make our lives less glorious.  Yes, it is true for those of us in Christ, that if there is no pain there is no gain; but we must remember that He Himself is our gain, He is our very great reward. In words of Paul "To live is Christ, to die is gain."

Is our Lord's eternal pleasure more important to us than our temporal comfort?  Is our desire to hear Him say, "Well done, My good and faithful servant.  Enter into the joy of your Master."  greater than our desire for personal comfort?  Let's pray that it is, and ask Him to make it so.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Great Last Words

"I am going to the three Persons, with whom I have had communion...My bow abides in strength.  Is Christ divided?  No, I have the whole of His righteousness; I am found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but the righteousness which is of God, , which is by faith of Jesus Christ, who loved me, and gave Himself up for me.  Christ cannot love me better than He doth.  I think I cannot love Christ better than I do; I am swallowed up in God...Now I shall be ever with the Lord.

These are the last words of Thomas Goodwin
Banner of Truth
November 2011
Page 3

In our final hour, may we all have this confidence spawned from a life that has experienced the fullness of communion with the triune God.  May we all be swallowed up in God.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Preaching and Relevance

...we have to face the fact that the pursuit of relevance as being constantly timely is a mirage.  When relevance is invoked as self-authenticating concept, it becomes meaningless and dangerous because it begs the questions, Relevance for what?  Relevance to whom? 

Such questions are commonly ignored in today's headlong rush after the unholy trinity of the powerful, the practical, and the profitable.  But if we don't ask them, the constant appeal to relevance becomes an idol, a way of riding slipshod over truth, and a means of coralling opinion deceptively.  Until, that is, we finally deceive ourselves.

The fact is that nothing is finally relevant except in relation to the true and the eternal....Only truth and eternity give relevance to "relevance."  To think or do anything simply "because it is relevant" will always prove to be irrational, dangerous, and a sure road to burnout.  It may tast like unpleasant medicine to our practical modern thinking, but in fact it's a powerful antidote to perpetual folly.....God has broken into our silence.  He has spoken and has come down Himself.  And in His written and living Word we are given truth from outside our situation, truth that throws light on our little lives and our little world.  This word of God is the only true Archimedean point to gain the leverage to raise us above the forces of gravity in our human condition.

Os Guiness
Prophetic Untimeliness
Pages 106-107

Monday, November 07, 2011

Preaching the Gospel

People are brought to faith in Jesus Christ
not because a preacher happens to be exceptionally
dynamic one Sunday morning, or because he finishes
his sermon with a spellbinding story.  Rather, in a
mysterious work that is both sovereign in expression
and divine in origin, the power of God unites with the
proclamation of the word of God and produces effects
that are in keeping with the purposes of God. 
Arturo Azurdia III
Spirit Empowered Preaching
Page 44

Then the Lord said to me, "You have seen well,
for I am watching over My word to perform it."
Jeremiah 1:12