Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Humility of the Proud

Lord, You have taught us to love humility, but we have not learned. We have learned only to love the outward surface of it — the humility that makes a person charming and attractive. We sometimes pause to think about these qualities, and we often pretend that we possess them, and that we have gained them by “practicing humility.”
If we were really humble, we would know to what an extent we are liars!
Teach me to bear a humility which shows me, without ceasing, that I am a liar and a fraud and that, even though this is so, I have an obligation to strive after truth, to be as true as I can, even though I will inevitably find all my truth half poisoned with deceit. This is the terrible thing about humility: that it is never fully successful. If it were only possible to be completely humble on this earth. But no, that is the trouble: You, Lord, were humble. But our humility consists in being proud and knowing all about it, and being crushed by the unbearable weight of it, and to be able to do so little about it.
• Thomas Merton
HT: Internet Monk

Getting Started

4 Things To Do That Will Get You Reading Your Bible Again by Jack Wellman:
Discipline Yourself to Schedule a Time
This sounds easy enough but when you have a set time to read your Bible and a special place to do it, then it might become a habit. I try to start my day off with prayer first and then I read some out of the New and then the Old Testament every single day…even if I don’t feel like it. It is so important that I must discipline myself to do it. We might not like taking medicine, brushing our teeth or getting proper exercise but we usually find time to do these things and as important as these things are, the Bible is the most important part of your day, along with prayer. Set a time and then determine to make that your prescribed daily Bible reading time and then take the time to do it. During the times you don’t feel like reading the Bible are exactly the times you need it the most.
Get a New Translation
I have several different translations. I love the King James but the New King James and the ESV is a bit easier to read. If you are reading in a translation that is easier to read you might read it more. Sometimes a new Bible can give you a renewed sense of the Word of God. I try to avoid paraphrased versions of the Bible because they’re too liberal, in my opinion, in rewording the original Scriptures.
Get a Study Bible
For me, I have two study Bibles that I really love; The MacArthur Study Bible and the Reformation Study Bible. These Bible’s editors have outstanding commentaries and they give me a little bit more background about the particular book I am reading. For me, my King James has margins that give me some of the original Greek and Hebrew words so that some words have much more meaning than those which were translated into English. The commentary is not inspired but they are insightful and often give me more information on verses that are more difficult to understand.
Get a Bible Dictionary or Encyclopedia
I have a Bible dictionary and a Bible encyclopedia and in these books you can look at the different books in the Bible to see where and when a particular book was written. You can find out where the author was at the time like in the Prison Epistles where Paul was imprisoned at the time. You can also find out more about the cities or churches to which some of these books were written. For example, if you read about Ephesus you’ll find out that this city was a city that worshipped Artemis, a goddess of the ancient world, a “mother earth” deity and when Paul tried to teach about the One, True God, this caused a riot because it was cutting into the business of the local merchants who sold little idols (Acts 19:23).
Maybe you have better ideas than these and if so, please add them in the comment section below. Reading the Bible can keep you out of sin but also sin can keep you out of the Bible but when we neglect reading the Bible we lose a valuable resource for knowing more about the mind of God and tapping into the Word as a source of power for living the Christian faith.

Monday, March 30, 2015

No Need to Search

God Never Has to Go Looking for Your Righteousness, because He is sitting right beside Him!
“One day as I was passing into the field, this sentence fell upon my soul: ‘Thy righteousness is in heaven.’ And with the eyes of my soul I saw Jesus at the Father’s right hand. ‘There,’ I said, ‘is my righteousness!’ So that wherever I was or whatever I was doing, God could not say to me, ‘Where is your righteousness?’ For it is always right before him.
“I saw that it is not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse, for my righteousness is Christ. Now my chains fell off indeed. My temptations fled away, and I lived sweetly at peace with God.
“Now I could look from myself to him and could reckon that all my character was like the coins a rich man carries in his pocket when all his gold is safe in a trunk at home. Oh I saw that my gold was indeed in a trunk at home, in Christ my Lord. Now Christ was all: my righteousness, sanctification, redemption.”
– John Bunyan, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners

All Of Life Is....

From Darrin Patrick - All of Life is Repentance. He's right, of course.
Let me give you a simple description of repentance. When we are giving our hearts to sin, we are turning our backs to God. Repentance is a 180 degree-turn. We turn our backs to sin and give our hearts to God. You will be doing this the rest of your life.
Consider how Martin Luther began his ninety-five theses, which catalyzed the Protestant Reformation: When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said “Repent,” he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance. It’s the ongoing task of the Christian because when you become a Christian, you’re saved from sin’s power (its ultimate control of your heart) and sin’s penalty (its justly deserved eternal judgment), but not its presence (its eradication from your life).
One of the reasons it is so hard for us to deal with our remaining sin is that we think we are on our own. We approach God’s grace more like a bargain. Jesus takes care of two-thirds of the problem (sin’s power and penalty), but we’ve got to take care of our third (it’s presence). We rarely say this out loud, but that’s how we often function.
This mindset is so difficult to overcome because it’s a distortion of truth. We do have to take action against sin’s presence in our life. We’re in a constant battle. All of life is repentance. We’ve got to own our part. But we don’t fight against sin by relying on our own strength. We fight by turning to Jesus—over and over again.
It is Jesus, by the Holy Spirit, that reminds us that sin doesn’t have the upper hand, even when everything in our experience says otherwise. He reminds us that sin does not have as much power over us as we think. He reminds us that the full penalty of sin was paid for on the Cross. And he reminds us that there will be a day when sin’s presence will no longer affect us.
Remembrance is power in the fight against sin. Sin wants you to remember your failure. Repentance is remembering that Jesus’ victory is yours.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Your Seat Is Waiting

HT: Ed Stetzer

Eternal Threefold Exchanges

When Christ, the most high Lord, comes down
   from the heavens,
The brightest sign and standard of the Cross
   will shine forth.
The two principal lights being obscured,
The stars will fall to earth like the fruit of a fig
And the face of the world will be like the fire of
   a furnace
By the singing of hymns eagerly ringing out,
By thousands of angels rejoicing in holy
And by the four living creatures full of eyes,
With the twenty- four joyful elders
Casting their crowns under the feet of the
   Lamb of God,
The Trinity is praised in eternal threefold

The Altus Prosator, by St. Columba

From The Path of Celtic Prayer: An Ancient Way to Everyday Joy, by Calvin Miller

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Love Jesus, Love His Church

“Holding indifference, apathy, or bitterness toward the church sets you against what God holds dear. It shows that what Jesus loves and saves is not worth your own time, interest, and affection. This fact applies to the church universal and the church local. God has called you to himself to be a part of his people. How you interact with the people of God reveals much about your relationships with the Lord (Matt. 25:31-46). If you love the Lord, you will love his church (1 John 4:7-12).”

Friday, March 27, 2015

Prayer For Favor

Let us pray to God the Father,
God the Son and to God the Holy Spirit 
Whose infinite greatness Enfolds the whole world, 
In persons three and one, 
In essence simple and triune, 
Sustaining the earth above the waters, 
Hanging the upper air with stars, 
That he may be favorable to sinners 
Who righteously justifies all who err, 
Who ever- living lives. 
May God be blessed for ages. Amen.

8th Century Celtic Prayer

Be Yourself in Prayer

Some good counsel and advice on prayer can be found in this piece by Stephen Miller - Be Yourself in Prayer (at Desiring God)
Sometimes it seems as if many believers feel the need to alter who they are when they come to God in prayer, particularly when others are around. As if God will not hear them if they are themselves, they play characters, hoping to be more acceptable to God and others.
I have personally struggled over the years with what to say and how to say it when I pray. I’m in good company. Even the apostles asked Jesus to teach them to pray. And with kind, compassionate patience in his voice, he taught them to pray simply, humbly, confidently, according to God’s word, and for God’s glory.
You could sum up Jesus’s teaching into a few guiding principles.
1. Slow Down and Be Okay with Silence
There is no need to use filler language to take up every ounce of space in prayer, as if the Lord can’t handle the silence or doesn’t have time to listen. You don’t have to speed through like an auctioneer. I can’t imagine how I would react if someone came up to talk to me like, “Stephen Miller, just… just Stephen, we should just go to lunch together, Stephen Miller. Just let’s just go grab… just a burger, Stephen. Stephen, I know you like a good burger from time to time, Stephen Miller. Stephen, just then we could just grab a frozen custard, Stephen Miller.” I know that I am not God, but in my flesh, I might be too weirded out to get a burger with that guy. If we would naturally react to someone talking to us that way, why do we feel the need to speak that way to God? He knows our hearts. Slow down. Be okay with pauses. Perhaps God wants to speak to you in the silence.
2. Pray to God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
God is Trinity. One God, three distinct persons, each person fully God. It is truly a great mystery, and I don’t know that we will ever understand it this side of Heaven. Yet each person within the Trinity is distinct. The Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Spirit. We rightly relate to God as a Trinity, adoring and thanking and pleading with Father, Son, and Spirit in our prayers. Yet while doing this, it can be easy to get confused and begin to thank the Father for dying on the cross and so on and so forth.
While God knows what we mean and sees past our broken prayers, this has got to confuse people who are listening to our prayers, trying to pray along in agreement. When you pray, consider the person of the Trinity to whom you are praying. The Father sends the Son to be the Savior of the world. The Son came obediently, died in our place, rose from the dead, then sent his Spirit to convict of sin, to convince of truth, and to equip and empower us. So as we pray, pray with that in mind.
3. Use Normal Language
My great Grandpa was a firm believer that the only inspired word of Scripture was the King James Version. When he quoted scripture (and he could quote most of the Bible I think), it was always KJV. While he was one of the biggest spiritual influences in my life, it was odd to me when he began to pray out loud, because he prayed in old English. “Our Gracious Heavenly Father, Thou hast bestowed upon us this bountiful feast and the glory belongest to Thou and Thou alone. Wouldst Thou blesseth this meal by Thine own good pleasure…” Then, once he said amen, he would resume speaking in modern language. When you pray, there is no need to speak like someone from a bygone era in order to sound more spiritual or reverent. Use normal language, and pray like yourself.
4. Use Your Normal Voice
We have all heard the hyped-up emotional vocal inflections of a man trying to sell a prayer the way a voice-over actor sells a product. He may talk like Ron Burgundy in real life, but as soon as he begins praying, his voice takes on a reflective Enrique Iglesias whisper that sounds a bit like being on the verge of tears while trying to woo someone into making an emotional decision. We should pray with all of our emotions and affections, but it must be sincere and authentic. If you’re moved, be moved, but be real about it. No need to alter your voice or manufacture emotion. God knows our hearts better than we know ourselves.
5. Keep It Short and Simple
Our prayers can be simple and still faith-filled. I often say that God can use a three-minute worship song as much as a nine-minute worship song. The same is true of prayer. God won’t hear us any more because of our long-windedness. Prayer isn’t a love bank where many words equal a more substantive deposit. Our prayers don’t have to be long or eloquent. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he taught them a short prayer that exemplified the vertical (glorifying God) and the horizontal (edifying others) aspects of prayer. When praying with others, aim to build them up with short, thoughtful prayers, and if you feel the need to pray longer, go to God “in secret” (Matthew 6:6).
It’s never too late to be yourself. God is looking for a relationship with us, not whomever it is that we are trying to act like when we come to him. Prayer starts with our adoption in Christ. That’s why Jesus taught us to begin with God as “Our Father.” There is an intimate reverence there — a humble familiarity.
Prayer is naturally one of the most spiritual things we can do as believers, so we don’t need to add anything extra to over-spiritualize it. We can simply come as deeply joyful sons and daughters with reverent awe that we have been rescued by a God who loves us and hears us.