Wednesday, December 29, 2010

No Fishing With Nets

We had some unusually warm weather for the end of December today. So nice that a thaw was visible as the cold made way for the warmer tempatures. It may be only a temporary peek at the coming release from the winter cold, but it is a great reminder that though the days are cold and dreary, yet soon the spring will reappear and we will be liberated from the icy chill.

I sit in my car during lunch often, many times in the same spot. Today this sign posted beside the pond caught my attention. It said 'No Fishing With Nets'. I had probably saw this sign dozens of times before and paid no particular attention. Today, this sign's words seemed to capture my heart.

The warm weather had begun to thaw things out. The ice was breaking on the pond. Somehow my heart too was thawing after an overly long period of icy coldness. Months had past without a prayer, without a desire to hear the Gospel preached, without a desire to worship and praise God with my church family. Never has there been such a long, cold, spiritual freeze in my life. There did not even seem to be an ember in my heart for the Savior or the Gospel. Prayer! Glorious commune with the Father. Joy at the sermon on my car radio. And guilt and sadness over the lost time with God and the joy that I missed while my heart was frozen. God thawed my cold heart. Christ still loves me. Joy is still found in the Gospel.

Now, what about the sign? In the depths of my own spiritual deep freeze, the joy had gone out of my heart and my desire to tell others of the wonderful saving work of Christ was lost. I had not cast a net into the water to fish for the soul of another for so long now. But cast the net I must do. It is my Savior's command. It is my privilege. It's time to take the sign down and throw out the nets. Fishing for men. The gospel is the net and the duty to work and serve is ours. Tell men and women everywhere of God's love for sinners and the Grace and mercy that is found in Jesus Christ.

Luk 5:1-11
(1) On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret,
(2) and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets.
(3) Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
(4) And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch."
(5) And Simon answered, "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets."
(6) And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking.
(7) They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.
(8) But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord."
(9) For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken,
(10) and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men."
(11) And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

I Looked For Love In Your Eyes- From Tim Challies blog

As the 1 year anniversary of this blog has come and gone I am reflecting on the past year. After much time without a post... I have been wasting time on fruitless endeavors... I am sad about the loss of time and the many opportunities to serve Christ that have been squandered. This poem found on Tim Challies web site brought tears to my eyes. I realized that there are many avenues of service and many sins to be fought, in my own life and in the lives of my brothers and sisters in Christ. I do not normally post whole articles from other sites, but this one is worth your reading whether you are a wife, mom, dad, son, daughter or friend of another who has struggled or may struggle with the sin of lust in their lives.

I Looked For Love In Your Eyes Tim Challies
A few days ago I received an email from a reader of this site, a woman who was responding to some of the articles I’ve written on the subject of pornography. She shared a poem, a bit of free verse she had written in the midst of her husband’s addiction. I wish I could say it was the only email I’ve received from such a woman. Sadly it’s not; not by a long shot. That same day I received another email from another woman looking for resources for dealing with the wife’s response to a husband’s sin (rather a gap in the available literature right now, I think).

Anyway, I thought I would share this poem. It’s a little bit graphic, but only so far as it needs to be. I think it’s particularly heartbreaking in drawing out the clear connection between pornography and violence. And it’s just a realistic look at how so many men are damaging and destroying their wives and families. It’s reality.

So here it is, “I Looked For Love in Your Eyes.”

I saved my best for you.
Other girls may have given themselves away,
But I believed in the dream.
A husband, a wife, united as one forever.

Nervous, first time, needing assurance of your love,
I looked for it in your eyes
Mere inches from mine.
But what I saw made my soul run and hide.

Gone was the tenderness I’d come to know
I saw a stranger, cold and hard
Distant, evil, revolting.
I looked for love in your eyes
And my soul wept.

Who am I that you cannot make love to me?
Why do I feel as if I’m not even here?
I don’t matter.
I’m a prop in a filthy play.
Not an object of tender devotion.

Where are you?

Years pass
But the hardness in your eyes does not.
You think I’m cold
But how can I warm to eyes that are making hate to someone else
Instead of making love to me?

I know where you are.
I’ve seen the pictures.
I know now what it takes to turn you on.
Women…people like me
Tortured, humiliated, hated, used
Images burned into your brain.
How could you think they would not show in your eyes?

Did you ever imagine,
The first time you picked up a dirty picture
That you were dooming all intimacy between us
Shipwrecking your marriage
Breaking the heart of a wife you wouldn’t meet for many years?

If it stopped here, I could bear it.
But you brought the evil into our home
And our little boys found it.
Six and eight years old.
I heard them laughing, I found them ogling.

Hands bound, mouth gagged.
Fisheye photo, contorting reality
Distorting the woman into exaggerated breasts.
The haunted eyes, windows of a tormented soul
Warped by the lens into the background,
Because souls don’t matter, only bodies do
To men who consume them.

Little boys
My little boys
Laughing and ogling the sexual torture
Of a woman, a woman like me.
Someone like me.

An image burned into their brains.

Will their wives’ souls have to run and hide like mine does?
When does it end?

I can tell you this. It has not ended in your soul.
It has eaten you up. It is cancer.
Do you think you can feed on a diet of hatred
And come out of your locked room to love?

You say the words, but love has no meaning in your mouth
When hatred rules in your heart.
Your cruelty has eaten up every vestige of the man
I thought I was marrying.
Did you ever dream it would so consume you
That your wife and children would live in fear of your rage?

That is what you have become
Feeding your soul on poison.

I’ve never used porn.
But it has devastated my marriage, my family, my world.

Was it worth it?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

New Parish Psalms - Great new hymns

I am interested in this new CD featuring modern compositions of the Psalms of David.

My Cry Ascends Greg Wilbur from Compass Cinema on Vimeo.

My Cry Ascends is a graceful collection of new Psalms and hymns for the church composed by Greg Wilbur. The music is recorded in a folk tradition with elements of Celtic style and southern harmony. Listeners will enjoy the hardy musical instrumentation: piano, viola, flutes, tin whistle, acoustic guitar, mandolin, bagpipe, hammer dulcimer and percussion. Rich biblical texts and expressive tunes feature the singing of Michael Card, Steve Green, Wes King, Katy Snow, Nathan Clark George and Bruce Carroll. The songs were written with congregational singing in mind, and it is our hope that this CD will bring these wonderful pieces into wider familiarity as an appropriate offering to the Most High God as He calls His people into worship.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Keith & Kristyn Getty "In Christ Alone"

Here is perhaps one of my favorite songs. It packs so much truth in such a beautiful tune.

Monday, June 7, 2010

An Urgent Letter. - Mike T.

Rom 1:1-7 ESV
(1) Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,
(2) which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures,
(3) concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh
(4) and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,
(5) through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,
(6) including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,
(7) To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Have you ever sat down to write a letter to a friend or a relative or even a prospective employer? There is a purpose, a reason, an objective to your effort. What you mean to say is important and needs to be heard clearly and persuasively. There is a struggle to find just the right words, just the right argument, just the right thoughts. You want the one you are sending the letter to understand you clearly and favorably respond to your proposal or your request or point of view. Your heart agonizes in the struggle to find the perfect words and sentences to obtain the reader’s attention and win their favor or commitment or support.

And have you ever received a letter like that written from the heart and addressed personally to you by one who loved you or desperately wanted to gain your support or favor or commitment? The words can be compelling and forceful and draw you in. You find your opinion changing or your heart breaking or melting at the author’s plea.

Paul set out to write just such a letter to the Christians in Rome. It is from his heart and full of compassion and concern and he really desired to compel them to believe his words. He wanted them to know what he knew and to move them to a commitment to his message. Like any letter where the writer pours their heart and soul into this letter to the Romans couldn’t help but elicit a response from the ones who received it. It is packed with truth after truth and rich with meaning.

As I began to read it this evening I was captivated. I wanted to understand this Paul’s message and why he was so passionate about this gospel message. If only I could write with such passion and with such a heart for those I have written to or will write to in the future. This book of the Bible which is this letter that the apostle Paul wrote the Christians in Rome contains truth and salvation and I want my family and friends and any one else I can tell to understand its message.

Paul most likely dictated this letter. He addressed it to the Christians in Rome who he had longed to see face to face, but circumstances kept him from traveling to them. He was driven to tell them this message and to persuade them to believe what he had to tell them. As I read it today, the urgency of his words strikes me. What did he have to say that was so important? So necessary?

He had so much to say, but he started out magnificently, packing in the first seven sentences an opening statement that lays the foundation for all that he wants to say to these people, some no doubt he knew personally and others he desired to encourage and foster their faith. What he says had to draw them in and make them desire to hear more.
Today as I read these same words, translated to the English language, the message that he wrote those Roman Christians still holds meaning and urgency though separated by more than two thousand years of changes in culture and environment and circumstances. Paul’s message is timeless and its truths and power remain forceful, meaningful and life changing.

Paul begins telling them that what is first and foremost of importance to him is that he is a bond slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. He valued this above being a Roman citizen and his credentials and everything else. And he describes himself as one set apart for the gospel. It is equally important for us to understand what we are for as well. We are for two things… to come to Christ and submit to His Lordship and to go for Christ to take the message of the gospel into the world. As he addresses his audience and sends his greetings to them he provides a quick encapsulation of the message to come in verses 2 to 6. In these 5 short opening verses he gets right to the heart of the matter with a brief outline of the gospel message to come in the rest of his letter.

• The gospel is not a novelty. Paul talks about its advance preparation. This gospel is not plan B. The gospel is plan A from the very beginning. God had established the gospel and proclaimed it through the Old Testament prophets. He says that it is woven throughout all of the scriptures.
• Jesus, the Son Of God is the center of the gospel. The eternal Word took our frail flesh upon himself as the form of a servant and the likeness of men. Paul describes both the humanity and the divinity of Jesus Christ. He says that Christ was born of the seed of David. Appointed to be the Son of God in Power by the Resurrection from the dead. Jesus uniquely fulfills the promise of God in scripture and the resurrection for the dead clearly demonstrates its truth.
• Then Paul says that the goal of the gospel is to produce the obedience of faith. The indication that the gospel is mine is that I have been brought to obey the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s not my profession, it’s not my words, it’s not my ability to explain the gospel. The gospel changes lives and brings me to the obedience of faith.
• The Gospel is for everyone. Because it is for the sake of Christ name among all the nations we should be compelled to want to share its message. Called to belong to Jesus Christ. Jesus established the church on earth having prepared and appointed the apostles for the purpose sending forth this message of grace and hope.
• Its effect is that I belong to Christ and in Him belong to God.
• Its motivation is for the sake of His name. Paul knew what he was for. This one thing can transform your life through all of its changes and difficulties. Simply knowing that you are for the sake of His name.

In a nutshell Paul wrote Roman’s to tell us of the wonderful plan of God promised and woven throughout the Bible’s great message of hope that God came to earth and took on human form, rose from the dead in power to triumph over death and sin bearing the wrath due to all mankind that we might belong to Him in faith and obedience as the One who saved us for His glory. How can one not want to read the rest of Paul’s letter to learn more of this Gospel message. It is a message of hope and grace and mercy. It is a message for everyone. To belong to a loving redeemer, king and to praise His wonderful name, for His name sake. AMEN.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Jesus Loved The Unlovable - by Mike T.

Some time ago I wrote an article on Jesus's encounter with Zacchaeus. The compassion of Jesus and His love for the lowly, unrespected, imperfect amazes me everytime I read about it. I love this story. How thankful I am that the Gospel is for sinners. Remember what you were when you were saved and the mercy and grace of Christ freely given while you were still a sinner. Then be sure to bring that same grace and mercy to others in need.

Do you remember the day you were saved?
If you are a Christian, do you remember the day when you were saved? Does it rate up there among the most memorable days of your life? Perhaps the most important day ever? What happened to your heart that day? Were you changed forever? Does it still hold significance for you? Was your life changed on that blessed day? Do you still feel the same? Do you rejoice with the Psalmist saying, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (Ps 42:1-2)? Do you share the Psalmist’s refrain shouting “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (PS 73:25-26)? Did your decision to follow Jesus cost you anything? Did it change your heart?

A Man’s Memorable Encounter with the Savior
Luke tells us the story of a man who surely remembers the day that He accepted Christ as Savior. This is a simple story about an encounter with the living God… the God who saves. A man came to see a prophet along the roadside. His heart was fertile. The Savior came along and called to him and his life was changed forever. He became a new man inside and out. Is this your own story as well?

We are told that Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector. He was a very rich man and in charge of the tax collectors for the region. Tax collectors had an extremely bad reputation with the Jewish population. They were notorious for ruthlessness and using extreme measures to obtain the taxes. They were given a quota that they were required to collect and anything in excess of that amount that they collected they were able to boast to their profit. Because they obtained their wealth by extracting the profit from their fellow Jews, they were seen as traitors to their own people. A verse from Mathew shows that tax collectors were held with the lowest regard. “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector” .MT 18:17 Luke also shows that tax collector’s ranked at the bottom of society’s barrel.

After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. "Follow me," Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.

Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and `sinners'?" LK 5:27-30

Tax Collector’s and Pharisee’s
Because of that notorious reputation, the tax collector is represented in the Bible as an example of those that the Jews, particularly the Pharisees and teacher’s of the law regarded as outside the Kingdom of God. The Jewish leaders saw themselves as righteous because of their religious lifestyles and they labeled as “sinners” those who were not Jewish and those who were guilty of gross transgressions of the law like the tax collectors. Careful review of the texts where a tax collector is labeled a “sinner” it is interesting that it is the tax collector who comes out as righteous. The Bible turns everything around on its head.

The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: `God, I thank you that I am not like other men--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector. [12] I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'

"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, `God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' Lk 18:11-13

The Bible on numerous occasions uses the illustration of the Pharisee’s self-righteousness and the tax collector’s humility and repentance before God to drive home the point of the sinner’s need for a Savior. Just such an illustration becomes evident in our scriptural text from Luke 19. The Lord Jesus calls upon Zacchaeus the tax collector and draws criticism from the mostly Jewish crowd. Those who rely upon their own efforts and religious activity for access to God are given a lesson that true righteousness does not depend upon effort, but upon a Savior that changes hearts.

A Fertile Heart
Jesus had developed quite a following at the point that Luke relates the story of Zacchaeus. No doubt word of the miracles He performed and His teaching had spread. He had healed the lepers and recently a blind man’s sight was restored. A large crowd followed Him wherever He went. We are told that Zacchaeus was a short man and that he wanted desperately to see Jesus. So much so that he ran ahead of the crowd on the road that Jesus was on and climbed a sycamore-fig tree. This wealthy man with the notorious reputation had a desire to see this prophet that was passing by. Why Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus, the story does not tell us. We can’t speculate too much about why he was there, but we could probably imagine a few reasons why we might have been there along that road to catch a glimpse of Jesus ourselves. Perhaps there might be simple curiosity to see what all the commotion about Jesus was about? Maybe even it could have been possible we heard Jesus speak on a previous occasion and want another opportunity to hear him again? Perhaps others had been talking about Jesus and the words they shared with us were intriguing? Perhaps even a very real misery exists in our own hearts. We might know that there is something wrong with the way we are living. Maybe we met another who was forever changed by this Jesus of Nazareth who couldn’t stop talking about how He forgave their sins? It is even possible that we have been very religious all of our lives and faultless in observing and following all of the traditions and rules. Perhaps we never miss church and we tithe 10% and we are sure to try and live a good life? We might know that we harbor wicked thoughts in our minds and despite of all our religious activities we are still empty inside and really don’t know God? This Jesus was known to cut through to people’s hearts and remind them that they need a personal relationship with God to save them and not a religion. Perhaps as Zacchaeus clung to the branch of that tree and waited on Jesus to come down the road he also hoped that something about this prophet who attracted such a following really could liberate him from this miserable guilt and sin?

No Time For Excuses
Whatever it was that drove Zacchaeus to the tree along that road, he was ready when Jesus called him. Zacchaeus’s heart was fertile for the gospel. Jesus passed by, stopped and looked up and called Zacchaeus by name. God uses a variety of circumstances and people to get us to the place and time where he calls us by name. He sometimes uses trials and difficulties to drive us to our knees. He may bring the witness and testimony of others to soften our hearts. The most powerful tool is the preaching of His Word and the Gospel message to tell us the truth about our sin and the salvation offered by the cross of Jesus Christ. The witness of the Holy Spirit is working constantly to call people unto the Savior. Jesus told Nicodemus this truth in the book of John.

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." John 3:8

To put it simply, the Holy Spirit is mysteriously, perhaps invisibly, active in the world calling hearts to God. The Spirit’s activity is clearly visible as God’s saving grace is manifest and people are saved by the call of the Gospel. We know that the Spirit is present and active not because we know who or where or how God saves, but that in fact sinners are indeed being saved. Zacchaeus answers just such a personal call. When Jesus calls, He calls each of us personally. Though Zacchaeus was there in that tree, it was Jesus who initiated the encounter. Jesus told Zacchaeus to come down immediately while stating that He must stay at Zacchaeus’s house that evening. There was no hesitancy on Zacchaeus’s part regarding the forthright request that Jesus made. Luke says that Zacchaeus came down and at once and welcomed Jesus to his house gladly. He could have offered excuses. “The house is really quite a mess. Maybe another time after we get a chance to clean up a little?” “No, I don’t think you really want to be seen with me. Don’t you know what others will think?” “Love to have you, but really my wife doesn’t like it when I bring home strangers without calling ahead.” Zacchaeus offers no such attempts to put off the Lord’s demands. He offers immediate hospitality and does so graciously and with joy.

Has the Lord called your name? Did you receive Him immediately with joy? Or did you begin looking for excuses why now wasn’t a good time? Did you put off His call to come to you? Did you have more pressing matters? Did you want more time to prepare? Did you want to wait for a better time? Did you ask Him to come back later? Were you afraid that He would find what you were trying to hide from Him? Were you afraid of what might be exposed if you let Him into your life? Could it be that you were afraid that He might not like the company you keep? If you chose the excuses over His call, when will you heed His voice and come to Him? Is your heart fertile? Has His Word penetrated its stony depths? Are you ready to come quickly? Do you know that Jesus is your Lord and Master? Are you ready to serve Him? Do you desire to honor Him? Do you seek to please Him? Zacchaeus was such a person. He heard the Master’s call and came quickly and served Him joyfully. This was day to remember in Zacchaeus’s life.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Reaching the Unreached - by Tim Chester

Tim Chester shares some notes he took at the second Reaching the Unreached conference on his blog today. The last part of the article chimes in well with a theme I have been hearing over and over again lately. It is part of the passion that drives me to continue my own blog. I keep coming back to Zacchaeus the tax collector and the other gospel stories where Jesus heart for the lost was right there having dinner with them and talking with them and showing compassion for their needs. You can read the whole article at Tim's site but I am sharing the conclusion here for those not inclined to follow links.

Implication: the Missionary Heart of God

Nothing of this is new to us. But what are the implications?

1. There is one gospel for all people

Peter said: ‘“Can anyone keep these people from being baptised with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.’ (Acts 10:47-48) What happened to the Jewish believers in Jerusalem in Acts 2 has happened to Gentiles here in Acts 10. It is the same gospel for a respectable corporate lawyer, a hard-working single mother, a teenager toying with petty crime and so on.

2. The gospel is made for outsiders

In Luke-Acts there is a disproportionate number of people who are outsiders: Gentiles, prostitutes, tax-collectors, lepers – people who sins and failures go before them. The people who would attract ‘tuts’ in many churches. Jesus takes outsiders and brings them in and says, ‘Look what I’m going to do with you.’ Jesus is not the Messiah that the world wants. He did not use his power for his own ends. He gave it away so he could help those who are weak. He saves by serving and losing his power. And I get his salvation not by being strong or pure or accomplished, but by admitting I have none of these things.

If our churches do not communicate this then we are not being revolutionary enough. If outsiders do not feel welcome then we are mis-communicating the grace of God.

3. The gospel is not too hard for anyone

Many people in our area do not want to come through the church door because they view it has self-improvement. The first time one friend came to church he would not go inside. The next week he sat in the entrance lobby. The third week he sat by the door. It took four weeks to get him to sit in a pew.

Many people in our area look at the church and say, ‘I can’t be like them.’ They have understood a message, but it is not the gospel. If they hear the message of grace then they will think, ‘I can do that!’

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sibbes on relationships among christians

In the last place, there is something for private Christians, even for all of us in our common relations, to take notice of: we are debtors to the weak in many things.

1. Let us be watchful in the use of our liberty, and labour to be inoffensive in our behavior, that our example compel them not. There is a commanding force in an example, as there was in Peter (Gal. 2). Looseness of life is cruelty to ourselves and to the souls of others. Though we cannot keep those who will perish from perishing, yet if we do that which is apt of itself to destroy the souls of others their ruin is imputable to us.

2. Let men take heed of taking up Satan's office, in misrepresenting the good actions of others, as he did Job's case, `Doth Job fear God for naught?' (Job 1:9), or slandering their persons, judging of them according to the wickedness that is in their own hearts. The devil gets more by such discouragements and reproaches that are cast upon religion than by fire and faggot. These, as unseasonable frosts, nip all gracious inclinations in the bud, and as much as in them lies, with Herod, labour to kill Christ in young professors. A Christian is a hallowed and a sacred thing, Christ's temple; and he that destroys his temple, him will Christ destroy (1 Cor.3:17).

3. Among the things that are to be taken heed of, there is among ordinary Christians a bold usurpation of censure towards others, not considering their temptations. Some will unchurch and unbrother in a passion. But ill humours do not alter true relations; though the child in a fit should disclaim the mother, yet the mother will not disclaim the child.

There is therefore in these judging times good ground of James's caveat that there should not be `many masters' (James 3:1), that we should not smite one another by hasty censures, especially in things of an indifferent nature; some things are as the mind of him is that does them, or does them not; for both may be unto the Lord.

A holy aim in things neither clearly right nor wrong makes the judgments of men, although seemingly contrary, yet not so much blamable. Christ, for the good aims he sees in us, overlooks any ill in them, so far as not to lay it to our charge. Men must not be too curious in prying into the weaknesses of others. We should labour rather to see what they have that is for eternity, to incline our heart to love them, than into that weakness which the Spirit of God will in time consume, to estrange us. Some think it strength of grace to endure nothing in the weaker, whereas the strongest are readiest to bear with the infirmities of the weak.

Where most holiness is, there is most moderation, where it may be without prejudice of piety to God and the good of others. We see in Christ a marvelous temper of absolute holiness, with great moderation. What would have become of our salvation, if he had stood upon terms, and not stooped thus low unto us? We need not affect to be more holy than Christ. It is no flattery to do as he does, so long as it is to edification.

The Holy Ghost is content to dwell in smoky, offensive souls. Oh, that that Spirit would breathe into our spirits the same merciful disposition! We endure the bitterness of wormwood, and other distasteful plants and herbs, only because we have some experience of some wholesome quality in them; and why should we reject men of useful parts and graces, only for some harshness of disposition, which, as it is offensive to us, so it grieves themselves?

Grace, while we live here, is in souls which, because they are imperfectly renewed, dwell in bodies subject to several humours, and these will incline the soul sometimes to excess in one passion, sometimes to excess in another. Bucer was a deep and a moderate divine. After long experience he resolved to refuse none in whom he saw aliquid Christi, something of Christ. The best Christians in this state of imperfection are like gold that is a little too light, which needs some grains of allowance to make it pass. You must grant the best their allowance.

We must supply out of our love and mercy that which we see wanting in them. The church of Christ is a common hospital, wherein all are in some measure sick of some spiritual disease or other, so all have occasion to exercise the spirit of wisdom and meekness.

So that we may do this the better, let us put upon ourselves the Spirit of Christ. There is a majesty in the Spirit of God. Corruption will hardly yield to corruption in another. Pride is intolerable to pride. The weapons of this warfare must not be carnal (2 Cor. 10:4). The great apostles would not set upon the work of the ministry until they were `endued with power from on high' (Luke 24:49). The Spirit will only work with his own tools. And we should think what affection Christ would carry to the party in this case. That great physician, as he had a quick eye and a healing tongue, so had he a gentle hand, and a tender heart.

And, further, let us take to ourselves the condition of him with whom we deal. We are, or have been, or may be in that condition ourselves. Let us make the case our own, and also consider in what near relation a Christian stands to us, even as a brother, a fellow member, heir of the same salvation. And therefore let us take upon ourselves a tender care of them in every way; and especially in cherishing the peace of their consciences. Conscience is a tender and delicate thing, and must be so treated. It is like a lock: if its workings are faulty, it will be troublesome to open.

The Gospel Vs. Religion- from Buzzard Blog

Buzzard Blog has been a treasure chest lately. Here is another great posting.

PDF Verson at Buzzard Blog

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Mercy Spiller

I found this post about mercy on Buzzard Blog. Praise God that he does not withhold mercy from us!

Once in a while a sentence of Scripture stabs your heart and wakes you up to realities you hadn’t quite felt before.

This morning I sat on my porch reading and praying through a few psalms. Eventually I came to a sentence, Psalm 40:11. I’m sure I’ve read this sentence many times. This time the sentence read me.

As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain
your mercy from me;


I restrain mercy. I hold back mercy, grace, and love from other people, even the people I say I love the most. My mercy-giving has a limit.

And, other people restrain mercy. Other people have restrained mercy from me. Instead of receiving mercy, I’ve received judgment, punishment, and shunning. My mercy-receiving also has a limit.

But a relationship with the Lord has an entirely different operating system.

His mercy-giving has no limit. He doesn’t restrain his mercy from his children. He never runs out of mercy! There’s an eternal supply! He doesn’t hold back and conserve his mercy, the Lord spills his mercy all over me.

This means my mercy-receiving has no limit. Because the Father spilled all his wrath on Jesus, he can spill mercy all over me every single day of my life, even on my days of greatest failure. So far, today has been a big day of failure for me.

Guess what? News Flash. This just in: At approximately 9am this morning in the San Francisco Bay Area, there was an oil spill of God’s mercy, poured out all over Justin. You should see the spill. It’s beautiful.

God isn’t in the mercy-restraining business, he’s in the mercy-spilling business.

This is so, so hard for me to believe. I’m so used to a life of limiting the mercy I give to others and rationing the mercy others give to me. I’ve been so afraid of running out of mercy. I’ve been a Mercy Miser.

I don’t want to be a Mercy Miser.


Function: noun. Etymology: Latin miser miserable

a mean grasping person; especially : one who is extremely stingy
I want to be a Mercy Spiller.

Read more on Buzzard Blog

Friday, May 14, 2010

Resonating Worship - by Mike T.

I have been thinking about what the Christian family should be like. Is the connection as good as it should be in our churches and among our brothers and sisters? What came to mind is this illustration from a childhood Physics lesson. In grade school they demonstrated resonance with two tuning forks on a sound box. When one tuning fork was struck with a hammer the vibration from the first would cause the second to begin to vibrate too. Since the incoming sound waves share the same natural frequency as the second tuning fork, the tuning fork easily begins vibrating at its natural frequency. This is an example of resonance - when one object vibrating at the same natural frequency of a second object forces that second object into vibrational motion. To me that seems like a perfect analogy for the effect one Christian should have upon another. I was created to resound with praise for God. This is the natural response of the Christian. When Christians come together at church or share time together should they not naturally cause one another to sound forth praise. At times it feels like I am a lone tuning fork and I strike a note of praise for Christ in hopes that others will pick up the tune and begin to resonate as well. But it is dispappointing that there is so little response to the note of praise. Oh that we would all resonate a chord of praise and a song of joy for what Christ has done for us.

Shirley Logan - Beautiful Music

Here is a favorite post from an earlier time. Shirley's Music has always inspired me. I particularly like her songs "Water", "Baby Jane" and "Like A Father". They are deeply moving and quite beautiful.

I encourage you to check out her web pages and blog.

I was excited to hear from Shirley regarding the post. I encourage you to check out her music.

You can find her blog here.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Don't Keep People At Arms Length - by Dave Dorr


Dave Dorr:

Another way that we keep God at a distance is to hold people at arms length. And this keeping people at arms length is a behavior that is constantly reinforced culturally.

We feel that it is not spiritual to experience God in a community. For us the essence of spirituality is private religious experience. To have our spiritual experience weighed by a community of people seems to limit our freedom and calls into question our authenticity.

This is seen when we utter the words “organized religion.” It sounds about as appealing, and maybe even as sinister as “organized crime.” If religion is organized, then, to us Americans, it seems like something is taken away from a relationship with God, not added.

But God will not have it this way. His people are his way of speaking to us, his way of touching us. What else does it mean when God says that we are his body? If we are his body then, through people, God will make his will known to us.

And that is why keeping people at a distance, and not being part of an “organized” community, is so devastating to someone who wants to draw near to God. Because the true God dwells amongst his people, with all our problems, foibles, and sins. By dwelling among his people he hides from the arrogant, but draws near to those who have godly community.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Forgetting, Forgiving, Loving and Sharing Christ With Others - By Mike T.

I am a forgetful person. I forget to do things that I have told others I would do. I forget why I went to the kitchen. I forget where I put my keys. And there are times when I forget that I too am a sinner saved by grace by the goodness and loving kindness of God. I am justified not by what I have done or don't do but by what Christ did on the cross. When I withhold mercy from others I am forgetting that mercy that God gave freely to me in Christ when I was deserving of wrath instead. Don't begin to think of yourself as matured beyond certain sins especially if it makes you seperate yourself from the unbelievers who need the Gospel. And don't wall off certain Christian brothers and sisters who are still struggling with sin and need discipleship, exhortation and mentoring. Above all allow for the fact that people sin and some have more notorious pasts than others. We never take a light view of sin because God takes it seriously we must as well. But we must remember that God forgives sinners and gives us grace and mercy. If he forgives the vilest repentent sinner then we can do no less ourselves. There are those who have seen me do things in the past that I know that they can not look beyond. In spite of evidence to the contrary that those things are in the past they hold a low view of me. Probably always will and a cold shoulder from them is likely to continue indefinitely. But you know what, we are called to carry the gospel to sinners. That's right those who steal, cheat, lie, murder, perform evil acts, and to violent offenders, drug adicts, alcoholics, profane, wife beaters, rapists, deviants, depraved, lazy, selfish, rude, hipocrites, excons, prisoners, homeless, rich, poor, greedy, double-minded, idol worshippers, new agers, democrats, repubilicans, communists, dictators, tax collectors, pharasees and Christians who don't like us. There are unbelievers in need of Christ and there are believers in need of encouragement, exhortation, discipleship, fellowship and teaching. We miss the whole meaning of the mercy of God when we exclude taking and living that message out before all men. We never did or didn't do a thing to be saved in Christ. In fact everyone was a sinner when Christ saved them. And He calls us to tell others of this Grace. Paul reminds us of these things in Titus.

3:1 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. 3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. Titus 3:1-8

As Paul stated 'we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by othes and hating one another.' He makes sure we know we are justified by his grace to this eternal life that we have. From there he reminds them of these things:
1. submit to those in authority. 2. be obedient. 3. Eager to help. 4. Not spreading gossip. 5. To avoid fighting. 6. To be kind to one another. 7. And a tall order to be courteous to all people. No exclusions are given based upon past sins, race, religious affiliation, political leanings, current sins, etc. The list is endless... ALL PEOPLE. He closes the reminder saying that they are to 'insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works.

LORD help me to live up to these reminders to be courteous to all people. Don't let my pride stop me from reaching out to others with the message that salvation is in no one else but Christ. Thank you for your mercy and grace and your Holy Spirit which helps me to live obediently to your Word and to serve you and others. Put aside my prejudices, my reluctance to serve you wherever and for who ever you call me to tell of the wonder of Christ. Help me to pray for those who are are struggling with sin and its power. Help me to love my brothers and sisters in Christ when they fail and to forgive and encourage them toward maturity and faith. Help me to share your Son with them. AMEN.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Are You A Real Friend (Part 2)

The second part of a good post from "Every Square Inch" I have included the first bit of this excellent article. You can follow the link at the bottom to read the rest. Make the effort to begin to challenge your friends and to be willing to listen to their challenges. Accountability, exhortation, discipleship, forgiveness, humility and grace will help us all serve Christ with more joy.

Are You a Real Friend? Part 2

If you are going to have the kind of friends that the Bible says that we all need, then you're going to have to wrestle with the counter intuitive nature of Christianity. So much of the Christian life is out of step with the way the way world works or how we naturally think on our own. It even seems to run against what we might call "common sense."

For example, both our own nature and the wider culture affirm the one who gains the world while Jesus affirms the one who loses their life. Or we are repeatedly told that the road to greatness is paved in fairly traditional and self-serving ways but Jesus teaches that greatness is attained through servanthood. It's a huge step of faith in God to find your life by losing it or to serve your way to greatness.
Read the rest.

Are You A Real Friend

A good post from "Every Square Inch". Well worth the read of this and its follow up (part 2). This is a subject that has been on my mind lately. I currently don't seem to have a friend like this in my life. Seems to me that every Christian should have a good biblically grounded friendship. Proverbs 27:17 says "As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend." Two things stand out from this verse. 1) Iron upon iron has a mutual effect that both pieces get sharpened. So two both friends grw and encourage one another. 2) The sharpening of the iron does require contact. Sparks will fly. Likewise we need to be willing to generate some friction and sparks in a friendship for there to be a mutual sharpening.

Few of us have the kind of friends that the Bible says that we need. That's because what passes for friendship today is often a cheap imitation of the real thing.

I'd guess that there are all kinds of reasons that meaningful friendship is harder to find in the modern world. There are the usual culprits such as busyness and technology ranging from HD televisions that make everything fun to watch to text messaging.

But I think that there are deeper reasons that are more interesting.
Proverbs 27:6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.According to this verse we often get our friends and enemies confused. Sounds weird doesn't it? Who would be dumb enough to think that their friend is an enemy and their enemy a friend? Well I guess most (or all) of us at one time or another.

According to the book of Proverbs, a true friend will occasionally wound you. Now think about that for just a moment. A wound hurts. It isn't pleasant. It might take some time to recover from. No one wakes up in the morning and says, "I sure hope that I get wounded today!"

Read the rest

Monday, May 3, 2010

All I Have Is Christ

I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way.
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave.

I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will.
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still.

But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross.

And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace.

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life

Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me.

Oh Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose.
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You.

© 2008 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI), by Jordan Kauflin

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Christ Centered Evangelism

Ever heard a presentation of the Gospel that went something like this? Or perhaps you have approached evangelism this way yourself?

“We all know who God is don’t we? He’s the Big Guy and you’ve been avoiding Him haven’t you? Allow me to latch onto some guilt feelings you’ve experienced. Let me call that ‘conviction of sin’. And now let me promise relief from those feelings if you’ll only return to the Big Guy and bring this speech with you. I guarantee it’ll work (becausetherewasthisthingcalledthecrosswhichyoudon’tneedtoknowaboutnow butIneedtocrowbaritinbecausethesewordsaremagic). Anyway, the ball is now in your court. It’s all down to you. If you’re up to the challenge, carefully repeat this prayer after me…” The whole paradigm is one in which “God” is taken for granted, Jesus is a helpful mechanism to fix the guilt problem but the real Name above all names is Decision before Whom all must bow in self-willed surrender. Almighty Decision towers above you, are you equal to His call?

I stumbled upon this blog post on Christ The Truth. I am convinced that evangelism is a responsibility of every Christian. The presentation of the Gospel message with a heavy handed call to a quick decision often sounds like a Tommy Mayes sales pitch for Oxyclean or Miracle Wax. There are some good reasons for changing our methods besides the obvious that they often turn people away from our message. And besides if we are successful that way are we really drawing people to Christ or simply creating a temporary fix for the twinge of guilt that we suggested?

When we focus instead on Christ and who he is there are some major advantages.
"Decision is dethroned. We don’t so much tell the world to believe in Jesus. Far more than this, we tell the world about Jesus such that they do believe (Steve Holmes). Because faith is a response to contemplating Christ. The spotlight does not fall on the listener and their willingness to summon up the necessary response. The spotlight falls on Christ Himself."

Read the post here on Christ The Truth

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Discouragement is the sorrow of loving self- Encouragement the joy of giving love to others - By Mike T.

Recently I was in one of those really dark moods where everything seems hopeless and my faith in others turned to disdain. I could not see anything positive or joyful about life and no reason to trust or desire the company of others. While my mind considered low thoughts of family and friends I really began to doubt that God cared about my sorrows or needs and for sure most others were too self absorbed to care if I was hurting. My stomach turned sour, my thoughts jumped around, my heart beat loudly, and loneliness crept in and covered me like a thick blanket. What began to turn things around was the prayer list. My wife brought the bulletin back from church. I had been too depressed and discouraged to go that Sunday. As I wallowed in pity and even anger I restlessly scanned the bulletin. Pretty much the same old stuff and little hope that the church would offer any opportunities to pick up my spirits. Then I saw it... a prayer request for someone with cancer. And another with cancer and another with a serious health concern. Talk about conviction. I was being discouraged but maybe my reasoning for being so was less commendable than I believed it to be. Loneliness and dejection were some pretty good reasons to feel down a moment ago. But here God was showing me that I was focused too much on self and not enough on the others that my sorrow preferred to blame my misery. The people listed in the prayer requests needed encouragement and to know that others cared about their burdens and trials. To intercede on behalf of the sick and hurting is an opportunity for joy. To offer a hand to the needy, to visit those in jail or write a letter of encouragement is to delight in the grace of God. I felt ashamed to have been so focused on my self. The worst thing about loneliness is that it brings us to sorrow for self love. Discouragement is the sorrow of self love. Encouragement is the joy of giving love to others. Reach out when you feel down. Help a neighbor who is sick. Visit an elderly shut-in. Bring some groceries to someone without transportation. Send a note to someone in prison. Call up someone on the prayer list and let them know that you are praying for them. Tell a coworker about the Love of God demonstrated by Christ's bearing sin on the cross.

2:1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, [1] 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, [2] being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Lights in the World
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

14 Do all things without grumbling or questioning, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

Timothy and Epaphroditus
19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. 20 For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know Timothy's [3] proven worth, how as a son [4] with a father he has served with me in the gospel. 23 I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me, 24 and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also.

25 I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, 26 for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, 30 for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.
Phil 2:1-30

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

You are Christ's, and Christ is God's 1 Cor 3:1-23 - By Mike T.

I read 1 Corinthians 3 today. The following prayer arose from this meditation and continues the series on praying through 1 Corinthians.

Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. Each will receive his wages according to his labor. Lord, we often grumble and complain and want to be recognized for the labor that we have done for your kingdom. Though we do good and the Gospel is proclaimed and advanced we forget that it is by your grace that it goes forth. We want to be first, we want to be given accolades for our service, to be patted on the back and to take credit for the growth. This attitude our Lord condemned in his parable from Mathew 20. We should not expect rewards and recognition for the service we render unto the kingdom. Our Lord has called us and makes us worthy by the blood of Christ. It is all of grace and we can not boast. Whether we labor for 12 hours or only the last hour we owe it all to Christ. It is a priviledge to serve the King for His glory, not for our sakes. Let us put aside jealousies and self and work with humility and love to serve the Gospel that others will be brought into fellowship by Christ's good grace to serve and honor and glory God alone.

Let us remember that the church is yours and it is called to holiness. We must serve you as your holy people and put aside the strife and conflicts and self ambition. Lord we pray that you will remind us who's we are... for we are Christ's and Christ is God's. That is the security we have. Not in men and wise doctrine or fancy presentations or inspirational music or comfortable pews. Can we be content to be yours meeting in your presence while sitting on a hard log in a hot open space but with surrounded by your children and those who worship and love and serve you. May the foundation of our churches (your church) and our hope be Christ. May we not build a gospel on anything else. AMEN!

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not being merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw-- each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple. Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, "He catches the wise in their craftiness," and again, "The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile." So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future--all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's.
(1Co 3:1-23 ESV)

"For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, 'You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.' So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, 'Why do you stand here idle all day?' They said to him, 'Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, 'You go into the vineyard too.' And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.' And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, 'These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.' But he replied to one of them, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?' So the last will be first, and the first last."
(Mat 20:1-16 ESV)

The Message Of The Gospel Is Not Behave

Check out this post on 'The Gospel Driven Church' which hits the nail right on the head. This is as close as I will ever get to a political topic on this blog. I think you will see why. Because I agree with the author of this post. Christ crucified is the message that the Christian church must proclaim.

The message of the gospel is not "Behave!"

But that is the message American evangelicalism -- Southern and Northeastern, and most other places -- has been proclaiming. It is at its heart pharisaical.

We are called to preach not moralism but Christ crucified, foolishness to American culture and a stumbling block to American Christians.

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Christian Looks at Depression

A couple of video posts on clinical depression from "The Parchment and the Pen". Christians don't like to talk about this problem but many experience it and must learn how to deal with it. Spurgeon, Cowper, Luther all went through bouts of depression. So you are not alone. "It is a joyless black hole" and those going through it need our help and prayers. The author of the blog is currently experiencing this dark and frightening period of life. Please pray for C. Michael Patton and others like him.

Pray Without Ceasing - (Puritan Ezekiel Hopkins on Prayer)- By Mike T.

I have been reading a puritan devotional entitled 'Voices From The Past'. Today's reading was based upon Ezekiel Hopkins sermon from 1 Thes 5:17. I have posted a little piece of this writing as it appears online. I have modified it somewhat for length and readability. I hope you enjoy it.

Pray without ceasing. 1 Thes 5:17

To pray without ceasing is not always to be actually engaged in this duty of prayer; either orally, verbally, or mentally: it is not that all other duties shall be swallowed up and give place unto prayer. Yea, although prayer be so spiritual and so heavenly a duty, yet we are not to neglect the duties of our particular callings, only that we may have the more time for prayer: God hath divided out the work, and hath given unto every thing its season, in which alone it is beautiful. Prayer makes melody in God's ears, then only when it is well timed: when we justle out one duty by another, beside the sinful omission of what we should perform, that, which we do perform, becomes unacceptable, because unseasonable. Neither can we hope that that prayer will prevail with God, which appea;s before him guilty of the death and murder, if I may so phase it, of other duties. This, therefore, cannot be the meaning of it, that we should do nothing but pray. That may be said to be done without ceasing, which is done constantly, and at set times and seasons.

To pray without ceasing, is to pray with all importunity and vehemency. So, in Acts xii. 5. the Church is said to pray for St. Peter without ceasing: that is, they were very earnest and importunate, and would give God no rest until he heard them.

To pray without ceasing, is to take all occasions, at every turn, to be darting up our souls unto God in holy meditations. And this we may and ought to do, when we hear or read the word, or whatever duty of religion we are engaged about: per,
this we may and ought to do, in our worldly employments.

If your hearts and affections be heavenly, your thoughts will force out a passage, through the crowd and tumult of worldly businesses, to heaven. For there is a holy mystery in pointing our earthly employments with these heavenly arrows, as men point their writings sometimes with stops ; ever now and then shooting up a short mental prayer unto heaven : such pauses as these are you will find to be no impediments to your worldy affairs. This is the way for a Christian to be retired and private, in the midst of a multitude; to turn his shop or his field into a closet; to trade for earth, and yet to get haven also into the bargain. So we read of Nehemiah 5.4. that, while the king was discoursing to him of the state, of Judea, Nehemiah prayed unto God: that is, he sent up secret prayers to God, which, though they escaped the king's notice and observation, yet were so prevalent as to bow and incline his heart.

And that is this : we may then be said to pray without ceasing, when we keep our hearts in such a frame, as that we are fit at all times to vent ourselves before God in prayer. When we keep alive and cherish a praying spirit and can, upon all opportunities, draw near to God, with full souls and with quick and vigorous affections: this is to pray without ceasing.

And this I take to be the most genuine, natural sense of the words, and the true hope of the Apostle here; to have the habit of prayer, inclining them always freely and sweetly to breathe out their requests unto God, and to take all occasions to
prostrate themselves before his Throne of Grace.

Now those, who would maintain this praying temper, must be especially careful of Two things. That they do not too much engulf themselves in the Businesses and Pleasures of this life. For this will exceedingly damp and deaden the heart to this holy duty. As earth, cast upon the fire, puts it out; so the world, when it is spread over the affections, must needs stifle and extinguish that holy flame, which should ascend up to heaven. How hard is it for a man, who oppresseth himself with a heap of businesses, to raise his heart uhto God under all that load! How hard is it for those, who let out their hearts thus to and fro, a thousand ways, to summon them in the next moment to attend upon God, with that awful and serious frame which becomes all those who appear before him! When we come to prayer reaking hot out of the affairs of this world, we find our hearts subject to manifold distractions and discomposures; and our thoughts scattered like bees, still flying from one flower to another, still bringing some intelligence from worldly objects, even then when we are about divine employments.

If you would maintain a praying temper of soul, be careful not to fall into the commission of any known, presumptuous Sin. The guilt of sin lying upon the conscience, will exceedingly deaden the heart to prayer. Alas how can we go to God with any freedom of spirit; how can we call him Father, with any boldness and confidence ; while we are conscious to ourselves, that we have daringly provoked him by some wilful offence? I may appeal to your own experience in this: do not your consciences fly in your faces? do they not take you by the throat and even choke your speech, while you are praying, with some such suggestions as these? "What! can I pray for the pardon of sin, who frequently commit that, which I know to be sin. Shall I dare to lift up unclean hands before his pure and holy eyes, or to speak to him in prayer, when as those sins, which rankle and fester in my conscience, must needs make my breath unsavory and noisome to him? Will the Lord hear such prayers, or, if he doth hear them, will he not accouut them an abomination?" You now, whose consciences thus accuse you, do you not find such reflections as these to be great deadenings to your hearts, great damps to duty, and clippings of the wings of the Spirit of God and takings-off of the wheels of the soul, so that it drives on but slowly and heavily in the performance of that duty? Certainly, guilt is the greatest impediment to duty in the world: for it takes off from the freeness and filialness of our spirits ; and fills us with distrust, diffidence, and a slavish fear of coming before God, rather as our Judge than as our Father. And therefore we find, that, as soon as Adam had sinned against his Maker, he hid himself from him: yea, and we may observe in ourselves, what a slavish dejectedness and deadness seizeth upon us, when we come to God ip duty, after we have wronged him by any known sin: how doth this make us come with such misgiving fears, as if we would not have God to take notice that we were in his presence ; making us to be continually in pain until the duty be done!

And, thus, you see -what it is to pray without ceasing. It is to pray constantly, at set times and seasons: it is to pray importunately and vehemently: it is, upon all occasions, to be sending up holy petitions unto God: and, especially, to keep alive and sherish a praying frame of heart; which whosoever would do, he must beware of immerging himself in the, world, and of committing any known and presumptuous sin.

Ezekiel Hopkins; Works Volume 4; pp. 503-506

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Dealing with Doubt

Here are a couple of articles that I picked up on today. I am currently experiencing a great level of doubt about faith and spiritual matters. I can honestly say that I hope that something happens to turn it around. I am not one to take such things lightly and am reading two books right now that I had hoped would help. "Spiritual Depression (its causes and cure)"-by Martin Lloyd Jones which is a classic work in this area. The other book is "The Reason For God" by Tim Keller.
Above all the prayers of others may help. I can't pray myself at this time.

View the Parchment and Pen series of articles on doubt.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Won or Lost on Saturday Night

Won or Lost on Saturday Night

This quote on TakeYourVitaminZ by his guest blogger Darryl Dash raises the bar back where it belongs for the night before the Sabath. This generation of Christians is rather lazy when it comes to spiritual preparation. I find it very challenging and worthy of consideration.

Good advice from J.I. Packer in A Quest for Godliness:

Preparing the heart is the most important matter of all, for the Lord's Day is pre-eminently "a day for heart-work." From this point of view, the battle for our Sundays is usually won or lost on the foregoing Saturday night, when time should be set aside for self-examination, confession and prayer for the coming day. Richard Baxter's young people's fellowship used to spend three hours each Saturday evening preparing together for the Sabbath in this way. "If thou wouldst thus leave thy heart with God on the Saturday night," Swinnock assures us, "thou shouldest find it with him in the Lord's-day morning." The last rule for preparation comes from the supremely practical mind of Richard Baxter: "Go seasonably to bed, that you may not be sleepy on the Lord's Day."

Dealing With Disappointment in the Church (3)

Here is the third part of Kevin DeYoung's series on "Dealing with Disappointment In the Church". This time from the perspective of the individual members. This is perhaps the most useful section for me as I am just a member of my local church. Disppointment happens. I have experienced. I have heard others express it. Fact is that we are not perfect and can not be in this life. Others disppoint us and we disappoint others. If I look at it from the pastor's perspective I would say that there must be time they shake their heads in disbelief that 'these people just don't get it. Didn't they hear the sermon last Sunday?' Much the same as Jesus dealing with the dim witted apparent slowness of his disciples who had in Him right there in their midst and often blew it. Thank God for His Grace.

Dealing With Disappointment in the Church (3)

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Dealing With Disappointment in the Church (2)

Here is the second part of Kevin DeYoung's series on 'Dealing with Disappointment In the Church". This time reflecting on the questions leadership should ask in dealing with this subject.

Dealing With Disappointment in the Church (2)

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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Dealing With Disappointment in the Church (1)- Kevin DeYoung

Here is a new series by Kevin DeYoung that I am interested in seeing where it goes.

This is a problem I myself struggle with and recognize that there are two sides to every situation.

Dealing With Disappointment in the Church (1)

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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

1 Co 2:1-5 Nothing Except Jesus Christ and Him Crucified- Mike T.

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
(1Co 2:1-5 ESV)

These recent posts reflect the prayers that I have shared with the Lord as I have been reading 1 Corinthians. The study has been rich with new understanding and hope.

I pray for the ministers of the gospel. They have been called and purposed by God to do as the apostle Paul. Lord, please lift up these men and women that they be of a singular heart; that the center and focus of their work and ministry be on Jesus Christ and him crucified. The faith of the Christian is founded in Christ and the apostle always recognized the cross. The Lord Jesus and the cross go hand-in-hand. May they faithfully witness and proclaim the majesty of a saviour who did in fact die on the behalf of our sins to make atonement. Help the leaders of your church to not be afraid to proclaim the gospel in all of its splendor. In this gospel message God by his spirit saves the lost. May they not rely on their gifts and education and popularity and esteem but humbly proclaim simply Jesus and him crucified for the power of God becomes evident not in the eloquent delivery or the perfect blend of music and atmosphere but in the work of the spirit as the word goes out. Let us focus on our saviour and His work and let that be our message. Subdue our pride and our desire to rely on our wisdom and gifts. Help us to be like Paul to speak the words you called us to proclaim. Get rid of all the stuff we try to add to it.

Lord when we are faithful to your calling as the apostle Paul grant that your spirit would go forth and open the ears, eyes and hearts of those who so deperately need a saviour. As we are faithful to this message of Jesus Christ and him crucified you will act 'in demonstration of the Spirit and of power' to the conversion of sinners from among all classes, ages, and conditions when by all human estimate nothing could be done; that your saints will find peace, joy and happiness as their lives are transformed; that will we see the changes as they become different people - in making the drunkard sober, the thief honest, the pervert pure, the profane reverent, the lazy industrious, the harsh kind, the anxious peaceful. All this is the effect of the Gospel message; the work of Christ; the cross. When we rely on God and his power and not in our efforts then God is glorified and his power demonstrated. The gospel has thus evidenced from age to age that it is from God. Every converted sinner furnishes such a demonstration; and every instance where it produces peace, hope, joy, shows that it is from heaven.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

1 Cor 1:13-31 A prayer for all who believe they are wise - Mike T.

Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart." Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."
(1Co 1:13-31 ESV)

Lord Jesus we pray for the pastors of your church. Be with them that they would have the same heart as Paul and not be concerned with establishing a legacy, a building, a large congregation, accolades but that the gospel be preached to the lost. Today we look at our neighbors, collegues, friends, relatives and all those we come in contact with. For there are two classes of individuals in this world. Those who believe and are saved by the work of Jesus and those who do not believe and are perishing. We are called to proclaim to all men the grace of the gospel message and some will find it foolishness and reject its claim that the death of Jesus on the cross and His resurrection has provided an atonement for their sins. Some will embrace this gospel and be saved. In all of the work of saving men and women's souls it is God's work through and through. Not the work of men, not because of their eloquent words and slick arguments, but the Spirit of God that works to open their eyes and ears to this which before would sound foolish. Lord open our eyes and ears to your Gospel that we would embrace Jesus as our savior and redeemer; as King and our righteousness. May we not succumb to the foolish arguments of men who have their senses dulled and can not see or discern your marvelous grace and mercy that has been give to those in Christ Jesus. And above all let us boast only in Christ for we in and of ourselves have contributed nothing to our salvation which has been bought entirely and wholey by the blood of Jesus Christ. AMEN

Saturday, April 3, 2010

1 Corintians 1:1-12 A Prayer For All Who Call On The NAME Of The Lord Jesus

Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge-- even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you-- so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, "I follow Paul," or "I follow Apollos," or "I follow Cephas," or "I follow Christ."
(1Co 1:1-12 ESV)

What distinguishes the Christian church from any other institution is the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul wrote this letter specifically to the church in Corinth but he had in mind all those who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus in worship and unto salvation. We find fellowship with other saints throughout the world and in our own corner of the world because we all share in the worship and devotion to Jesus.

Lord it is a comfort to know that throughout this world, in China, Ethiopia, Iraq, Korea, Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, North America and in all places there are those who you have called and set aside and made holy by the precious work of Jesus Christ our Savior. You have established your church with Christ as the head and adopted a people who though they were sinners you have sanctified and made them saints in Christ and you promise us that you will bring us to the end, guiltless in the day of the Lord Jesus. You have given us your word that is spoken and as a testimony to the marvelous grace that is in Jesus Christ and you have made us knowledgeable of these great truths found in the Gospel. Oh that we would honor you with our testimony and by our actions. Unite us in purpose that others may be told of this Gospel, that there is no other name that we may be saved but the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. All other ways, all other efforts, all other gods, all other roads are false and lead only to destruction. Save us unto life and bring us to know and worship the true God. Lord you are faithful and you will sustain your holy people. Your saints will face hard times and trials and suffering for your sake but you are a faithful and righteous God and in you we trust. Thank you for your church and the body of believers that we share fellowship with Jesus. Let us worship in reverence and joy and remember the grace by which you established us as your saints and your possession for all eternity. AMEN.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Joining Tim Challies in 'Reading Through The Classics Together'

On he is doing the Thursday 'Reading the classics together' again with a new book. This time the book is The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes. I am planning on joining in the discussion. I have seen some of Richard Sibbes in the devotional that I started this year entitled 'Voices from the Past'. If you want to have fun and grow in your Christian walk join Tim Challies and the rest of the readers as we tackle this wonderful book. It is available for free online or you can pick it up for less than 5 bucks. I downloaded a PDF copy that is part of The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes Vol 1. Hope to see you there!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Why I Don't Like "Once Save Always Saved" by C. Michael Patton

In his blog "Parchment and the Pen" C. Michael Patton provides a thought provoking story about the misunderstanding of the doctrine of eternal security. In his article he describes an unusual race. We can do people more harm than good in their growing faith if we don't follow through completely in discipling new believers so that they know that they are saved. Read the whole blog by clicking here.

“In a town of ultimate boredom called Mundane, there was a great announcement. It was the announcement of a race. A great race that all could enter. A race that would rescue them from boredom. Most people did not believe that such an event would be held in Mundane so they scoffed. Others immediately prepared with great enthusiasm and joy.

Both the scoffers and the enthusiasts arrived at the appointed place on the day of the race. The scoffers sat and watched while the others prepared to run by stretching and making sure their shoes were tied. They lined up looking ahead with the intensity, fear, and excitement that accompanied such an event.

The gun sounded and off they went. Yet something very curious and unexplainable happened. They all stopped running after they had passed the starting line. Not only this, but they acted very peculiar. One person fell on his knees crying, thanking God that he crossed the starting line. Others gave each other high fives and hugs shouting, “Hooray, we are now race runners, we are now race runners.” Some shook hands and congratulated each other. One group relaxed and complemented one another on how well they crossed the starting line. Five or six others all gathered together and formed a prayer circle. They prayed that others would cross the starting line as they had.

Many others wanted to experience this joy so they decided to start the race as well. They were immediately stopped by the well-wishers who had started before them. They decided to stay as well. After a few days, there were people handing out pamphlets along with a certificate to all those who crossed the starting line. The pamphlet told them that once they had started the race they were guaranteed to finish. The certificate was to recognize their achievement in finishing the race even before they finished. It became very high on the agenda of all the race runners to make sure that people who had started knew of their assurance of completion. So much so that there was a printing press built right at the starting gate which produced millions of the pamphlets.

After a few months, there were so many who had crossed the starting line that they decided to build a town right there. They called this town “Starting Line Village.”

The spectators were confused. “I thought a race had to be finished,” they said to one another. They interviewed the people of Starting Line Village. “Why did you start the race and not continue?” they would ask. This made the people of Starting Line Village very uncomfortable. They would immediately show their certificate saying that they were guaranteed to finish. When people would encourage them to run the rest of the race, they would be ridiculed for not trusting the pamphlet. They were called legalists and were accused of trusting too much in their own ability to finish the race rather than the words on the pamphlet.

Please visit Parchment and Pen for C. Michael Patton's article and more on this parable.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

"Take Words With You"

Free little book on scriptural promises available. This little book is a neat little guide for your prayer life.

If you struggle to find the words when you pray try this little book to give you some ideas.
Visit the link above where you can find more about the book and down load a copy of it.