Friday, November 28, 2014

Never Lose The Awe

Outstanding video by Paul Tripp- Never Lose Your Awe of the Gospel- from Liberate

How to Pray When Drowning

Ever feel like you are drowning spiritually or emotionally? Take a lesson from one guy in the Bible who was saved from literally drowning- Jonah. The piece below is from Mike Shreve in Charisma Magazine:
Let's start by focusing on someone who actually did drown—literally—but God rescued him. His name was Jonah, a biblical character known to most people. Few, however, understand the profound depth of what really happened to him.
You might want to grab your Bible and read "The Prayer of Jonah" carefully (Jon. 2:2-9). Most of that pivotal prayer—seven out of eight verses—is actually a psalm of thanksgiving to God for having answered a previous prayer. Even more surprising—that previous prayer was apparently uttered in hell. You are probably squinting your eyes in skepticism at this point, but check it out in the Bible:
Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the fish's belly. And he said: "I cried out to the LORD because of my affliction, and He answered me. Out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and You heard my voice" (Jon. 2:1-2).
Though it can mean just the grave, the Hebrew word Sheol also refers to the underworld: the spiritual realm of departed souls, both the righteous and the wicked. According to Jesus' teaching, in that Old Testament era, Sheol contained two chambers: one of fiery torment for the wicked and then, across an impassable gulf, a pleasant but temporary abode for the righteous called "Abraham's bosom" (see Luke 16:19-31).
So apparently Jonah drowned when he was thrown overboard, and his soul descended into that horrid place reserved for the unrighteous who die in a state of sin. The erring prophet graphically described his plight:
    "I went down to the foundations of the mountains; the earth with its bars was around me forever" (Jon. 2:6).
So Jonah was in a spiritual prison in Sheol. Yet amazingly, he made a decision to seek God anyway, saying:
    "When my life was ebbing away, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer came to You, into Your holy temple" (Jon. 2:7).
What unshakable trust! What stubborn faith! His name may have been Jonah (which means dove—a very timid and docile bird). But his parents should have named him Chamor (which means donkey—a very stubborn animal). Because regardless of how terribly he had failed, or how severely he was chastised, Jonah refused to stop looking toward his Maker. It worked. Because at some point (we're not told when) his body was swallowed by a great fish, then his soul re-entered his body and he came back to life.
It was at that point that his heart erupted with gratitude, and he authored a prayer of thanksgiving with three short, concluding statements that captured the heart of the God:

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Nothing But Thanksgiving

"The whole life of a Christian should be nothing but praises and thanks to God; we should neither eat nor sleep, but eat to God and sleep to God and work to God and talk to God, do all to His glory and praise." - Richard Sibbes

HT: Dash House (picture and quote)

Purity of Heart

Grant us purity of heart
and strength of purpose,
that no selfish passion
may hinder us from knowing Your will,
and no weakness
hinder us from doing it;
but that in Your light
we may see light,
and in Your service
find our perfect freedom;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
    - Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (354-430)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Breathing Mercy


Spring Break

“For just as spring break is a taste of summer time in the midst of the semester, so also the kingdom of God is present in the midst of history, as we taste of its blessings now, and look forward to the summer time of God’s kingdom when Christ returns, the Holy City the New Jerusalem descends, and the whole creation is restored in new heavens and the new earth. Amen, come Lord Jesus.

      — David Naugle   "The Gospel of the Kingdom of God"

HT: Of First Importance

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Truth and Lies


To Good, But True!

"Please understand that when God speaks in ways that are completely contrary to our expectations, then we have encountered something genuine. No one could invent a god who, in response to rebellion, is so generous that he gives his entire kingdom. Since this is too good to be true, it must be true. This, indeed, must be the Holy One."

— Ed Welch  Running Scared  (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2007), page 68

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Matter of Timing

From Toby Mac Facebook Page

Deepest Law of Acceptance

"In the cross God demonstrates the deepest law of acceptance. For to be convinced that I have been accepted, I must be convinced that I have been accepted at my worst. This is the greatest gift an intimate relationship can offer — to know that we have been accepted and forgiven in the full knowledge of who we are, an even greater knowledge than we have about ourselves. This is what the cross offers."

— Rebecca Pippert, Hope Has Its Reasons  San Francisco, Ca.: Harper & Row, 1989), page 105

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Doubly Offensive Jesus

This post by Trevin Wax totally rocks!
The Jesus of the Gospels is offensive because of how inclusive He is.
The Jesus of the Gospels is offensive because of how exclusive He is.
The church is offended by His inclusivity, and the world is offended by His exclusivity.
Thus we are inclined to weaken the offense, either by minimizing His inclusive call or by downplaying His exclusive claims. Unfortunately, whenever we lop off one side or the other, we wind up with a Jesus in our own image.
Instead, we should celebrate both Jesus’ inclusiveness and His exclusivity, for this is the polarity that makes Jesus so irresistibly compelling.
The Offensive Inclusivity of Jesus
The Gospels portray Jesus as a Messiah who consistently and willfully angered many of the most religious in His day. His message presents hope; His miracles proclaim the kingdom.
But He celebrates with all the wrong people.
Jesus doesn’t kowtow to the religious elite. He won’t abide by their categories of who’s in and who’s out. He won’t join them in “writing off” the common sinners. He eats with tax collectors and prostitutes. He’s not afraid of their houses. He’s not disgusted by their impurity.
Jesus’ inclusivity shocks the religious leaders. He throws open the doors of the kingdom to sinners of all stripes, and He rails against the religious for their self-righteous piety of exclusivity.
Evangelicals often talk about how the exclusive claims of Christ are offensive in our culture today, but we sometimes miss how the inclusivity of Christ was so offensive in his first-century context. And in missing that truth, we are unlikely to spot the ways we have thrown up barriers and erected walls around the gospel.
We say we are like Jesus in calling everyone to repentance, but often, we’re really saying, “Be like us.”
The inclusive posture of Jesus toward women, toward the sick, toward the outcast, toward the worst of sinners poses a challenge to the church today, just as it did for the Pharisees two thousand years ago.
The prostitute in church may be closer to God than the self-righteous prig, C. S. Lewis wrote, echoing Jesus’ words that the tax collectors and prostitutes were entering the kingdom before the Pharisees. Until the radically offensive inclusiveness of God’s grace seeps into your bones, you will never join Jesus at the margins of society, welcoming and blessing repentant sinners of all kinds.
The Offensive Exclusivity of Jesus
The same Jesus who calls the weary to come to Him for rest is the One who demands we deny ourselves and follow Him to our deaths.
This Jesus says He is the one way to God, the Truth, the Life. No one comes to God except through Him. Got that? His way is narrow. The gate is small. He is the Bread of Heaven, and unless you consume Him, you will perish. If you’re offended by the shocking nature of these exclusive claims, then you can walk away, just like the crowds did in John 6.
So, with one hand, Jesus is beckoning everyone everywhere to come to Him. With the other hand, He is pushing people away. Have you counted the cost? Unless you repent, you will perish! Are you willing to give up your rights and bow the knee?
Let’s be frank. Exclusivity is offensive when we are used to having choices, when we think tolerance must mean variety. Jesus seems to think He’s special, that God’s grace comes throughHim alone.
The only heart that can receive such grace is the repentant heart. Repentance is the trading of your personal kingdom agenda for the kingdom agenda of Jesus Christ, and that’s an agenda that includes all the spheres of your life – how you live, how you love, how you give, how you worship, how you behave sexually, how you speak, how you follow Him as Lord.
The Doubly Offensive Jesus
Jesus said He came to call sinners to repentance. The church is offended that Jesus’ call is for sinners. The world is offended that He calls for repentance.
That’s why the world minimizes His exclusive claims until Jesus is reduced to a social justice warrior who affirms people as they are. And that’s why the church minimizes His inclusive call until Jesus is reduced to a badge of honor for church folks who think their obedience makes them right with God.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Letting the Bible Read You

Do you read the Bible....Or does the Bible read you? Good question from a post at Jesus Creed:
This set of images comes from a wonderful article by James Bryan Smith, at Friends University and with Apprentice Institute, and illustrates the differences of reading the Bible for information vs formation or reading the Bible vs being read by the Bible:Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 9.05.30 AMScreen Shot 2014-11-06 at 9.05.39 AM

Read more:

The Next Big Thing

Is there a "next big thing" in Christianity? Jarrid Wilson says no,  - And I so agree with him! Why? Becasue Jesus is the only "big thing" and He is already here

It’s nothing new that we live in a consumeristic, media-driven, fast-paced society that likes to have the newest, biggest, and coolest the moment it’s available. We’re always looking to obtain the next big thing, and I cannot help but wonder if we are doing this very thing in the way we view Christianity, the church and Jesus.
There is no such thing as “the next big thing” in Christianity. Why? Because Jesus is already here, and everything else is subsidiary. We tend to get so caught up in what’s next, that we forget the reality of Jesus standing right in front of us. We need to stop seeking for what’s next, and instead give our attention to He who is already here. We need more substance.
I’ve found myself extremely convicted over the last few months. In opening up this conviction, I have begun questioning a lot of what many would call important in the realm of church, ministry, and Christianity as a whole. Conferences, books, lights, branding, marketing, albums, etc. None of these things are bad, but when they become the foundation in which our faith is built upon, we’ve begun building a theology that is contrary to that of the Bible. Many are currently walking down this road.
The day I stepped into ministry I was taught the following:
1. You need to have great branding.

2. You need to have great marketing.

3. You need to have great music.

4. You need to be ahead of the curve.
5. Your ministry needs to be attractional.
Notice the word “need.” And while I appreciate the leaders who took time out of their schedules to pour into me, I can’t help but realize how much I disagree with much of what I was taught in my early years of ministry. None of these things are wrong, but they aren’t a need. They cannot be what my ministry is founded upon. They cannot be what your ministry is founded upon. What matters is Jesus.
I understand the zeal to always dream of something bigger, newer, and more relevant than what is currently being done. In fact, I find myself doing this quite often in my own life. But while this attribute can be viewed as a ministerial strength, it can also be detriment to ones job of preaching and teaching the true Gospel of Jesus if not monitored. Sometimes all this fluff can get in the way of what really matters.
My Conviction
I’ve personally apologized to God for ever using his name in order to create an event, or portray “the next big thing” over the years. My soul longs to be like Christ, and I believe through the refining fire of conviction I will find this to be true.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Greatest Source of Happiness


Maps and Boundaries

Interesting and thought-provoking piece by Ed Welch - Our (Implicit) Theological Maps:
We live with implicit theological maps. No one lives merely with a mental outline of his or her chosen confessional statement; no one lives with a mental transcription of Scripture that is their sole guide to life. Instead, Scripture is dispersed into the internal topography of our minds. That topography takes its shape from Scripture, our pasts, our personalities, our sins, and dozens of others influences. These “maps,” whether we know it or not, guide our ministry. 
Let me explain using the topic of divorce. There are at least three ways to respond to someone who is proposing divorce. Each way involves a different theological map.
Map 1. Divorce is against God’s law. Here is the simplest map. All we need to know is contained in one biblical teaching. In a sense, this map is one “country.” It takes up a huge area and nothing surrounds it. Nothing needs to. The Bible says that divorce is sin. Period.
Pastoral care, using this map to guide your response, is straightforward. You don’t have to ask who did what. Divorce is wrong, and you advise the person not to divorce.
Map 2. Divorce is sinful. God is faithful even when it hurts. This version includes the predetermined moral judgment about divorce, but it is more personal. Right next to the territory on the map that is identified “Divorce is sinful” is another territory labeled “God is faithful.”
This simple addition changes pastoral care. This care will be sensitive to the hardships of a difficult marriage, and it will remember God’s sworn faithfulness to us and the power he gives to faithfully imitate him. Pastoral care will vary though depending on which territory you gravitate to the most. If your emphasis is on God’s faithfulness, you will spend more time in that territory. If divorce-is-sin is the more dominant terrain for you, then the moral prescription will dominate. You can see how boundaries,  size, and placement all yield different pastoral emphasis.
Map 3. Divorce is so hard, divorce could be sinful. God hates the violence that can be part of divorce, and he hates the casual discarding of a spouse. He wants us to live in peace..Here are just some of the territories that might abut or surround the moral judgment on divorce. We can easily imagine that as these proliferate, the judgment on divorce that was so easy using Map 1 becomes much more difficult. Pastoral care using Map 3 is less predetermined. We emphasize the various neighbors of Jesus’ words against divorce as they seem to be relevant to the story that is unfolding in front of us.
By defining these maps, I am trying to illustrate a recurring phrase in theological studies: theology limits theology. It suggests that biblical teaching and theological judgments cannot be dominated by a favorite emphasis (or one map) in Scripture. Instead our theological maps typically include neighbors. God’s sovereignty shares a border with human responsibility. Victimization shares a border with God’s righteous and future judgment against the oppressor. Our task is to identify the relevant theological neighbors in each ministry opportunity. Since that can be complicated, we are compelled to humility and are quick to ask for help to enrich our maps.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Golden Rule

HT: Ed Stezer

That Inward Curve

I love me some Martin Luther. I've been fascinated by his teaching summarized in the Latin phrase "Incurvatus in se" referring to humanity's tendency to be "curved in upon oneself" by sin. Here's a good summary of the idea from Alex Dean
Augustine may have introduced it. Luther certainly formed it. But the Apostle Paul wrestled openly with it as he penned lines he most certainly knew would be authoritative for the Church of Jesus Christ. When you read Romans 7, you most certainly identify with Paul’s struggle. If you are honest, no matter how long you’ve been following Jesus, you must admit that, “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Rom. 7:18-19).
Most people would agree that the battle with the flesh rages throughout the life of a believer. But the question is: Why would Paul so openly confess this here? Surely toward the end of his life, he came to understand that his writings were being circulated. He knew that the letters he wrote were authoritative (1 Thess. 2:13). Paul, this great church-planting pastor, the leader of a movement, the greatest missionary in Christian history. Paul, who endured countless beatings, imprisonments, and persecutions for the sake of Christ. Paul, who would give his own life under the persecution of Nero. Why in the world would he openly admit this struggle?
Incurvatus in se is a Latin phrase, coined by Luther and rooted in Augustine’s thought, which simply describes the primordial evil in the world—humanity curved inward on itself. And it is precisely this idea that Paul wrestles with in Romans 7. How do I know? Turn the page.
In Romans 7:24, after Paul has written himself to the point of frustration over his own struggle with sin, he is completely undone. He writes, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” In other words, “I look within myself and I find absolutely nothing that is not wretched, depraved, and totally self-absorbed. I need deliverance from someone other than me!”
What happens next is stunning. “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (v. 25). And he doesn’t stop there. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 8:1).
Don’t you see what Paul is doing here? Are you catching the whole scope of what is going on? Paul struggles, he wrestles, as he acknowledges his inward curvature. As he looks within, he is given over to despair because of his total depravity. But . . . do you see where Paul’s gaze turns? Upward! To Christ! To the gospel! Romans 8 is one of the richest expositions of the gospel in all of Scripture, and we so often forget that it comes on the heels of Romans 7.
Why does Paul do this? Is he just given over to his own emotions, carried along by whim as he is writing? Certainly not. Paul is giving his readers a picture of exactly what the gospel does. It redirects our gaze. It restructures our natural curvature. We move from inward to upward.
When we look within, we find nothing but condemnation and despair.But when we look to Jesus, we find a banner which reads, “It is finished. No condemnation.” And perhaps the most gloriously counterintuitive part of this message is this—it has absolutely nothing to do with us.
So how does a man go from being a self-absorbed Pharisee (Paul’s former life), to being a selfless missionary who leverages everything he has for the cause of Christ? The gospel redirects his gaze. He meets Jesus, and his eyes are fixated on the cross.
Incurvatus in se (being curved inward on oneself) is the main enemy of making, maturing, and multiplying disciples. More than Satan’s plans to thwart our evangelistic efforts. More than the apologetic arguments of the leading atheists. More than the newest scientific discovery. Men and women curved inward will never desire to make, mature, and multiply disciples of Jesus.
This is why so many theologians have remarked about the power of the gospel especially for Christians. We need to have our gaze redirected every day. The gospel reminds us, over and over, that nothing good resides in our members, and yet, there is no condemnation because of the finished work of Christ. We are drawn to look on Jesus. We are moved to consider him. Something like worship begins to stir up in our hearts. And do you know what the automatic outflow of worship is? Making Disciples.
Christian, you are the chief enemy of the make, mature, and multiply mentality. You are not exempt from the natural curvature of all humanity. This is why being gospel-centered is absolutely necessary. It is not a catch phrase. It is not a buzz-word. It is the power of God for salvation.
When your heart is set on yourself, you will never look outside of yourself. You’ll get home from work and retreat inside your home, where you’ll neglect your wife and children, owing it to the need to decompress after a long day. You’ll never engage in small-group discipleship because it’s all about giving of yourself, not getting for yourself. You’ll hardly care about the lost and dying around you because you are probably too busy checking who has commented on your most recent self-glorifying status update.
If the gospel captures your gaze, day after day, you’ll be reminded of the glorious reality of no condemnation. You’ll spend your time looking up and out. You’ll be free to serve everyone because you need nothing from anyone. You will live a gloriously counterintuitive kind of life in which you won’t care about your own power, position, prominence, or praise. You’re only concern will be the glory of Jesus and the praise of his glorious grace.
Christians, let us come before the glory of the gospel each day, that our gaze may be lifted upward and outward. Let us remind each other of the glorious reality of no condemnation with ferocious vigilance. Let us seek to make, mature, and multiply because our gaze is fixed on the One who told us “There is no condemnation.”

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Come As You Are

From @DailyKeller and

The Prison of Self Expression

Found a great piece by Trevin Wax entitled Discipleship in the "Age of Authenticity." The excerpt below is the closing paragraphs. I highly recommend reading the entire post.
....On the other hand, we should be the kind of people who have good news to offer in an age where “gospel” is “self-actualization.” The whole idea of discovering and being true to yourself can be rather exhausting. The narrative paints a picture of exhilaration in casting off society’s restraints and doing whatever it takes to be true to yourself. 
But what if the self you are true to is one that no one else wants to be with? What if the self you become is dastardly in its final form, not beautiful and attractive? What if, like Elsa in Frozen, you “let it go,” “turn away and slam the door,” only to find yourself in a lonely ice palace of your own making, a palace that is also a prison?
The church’s response must be to proclaim a gospel that comes from outside ourselves – no matter how countercultural this may seem. When people in our culture discover how exhausting it is to try to be “true to themselves,” when looking further and further inward eventually shows them they haven’t the resources to transform their own lives, the church must be ready to break in with good news that life change isn’t mustered up from within but granted through grace from without.
We are to challenge the narrative that happiness is found solely in self-expression. The biblical view of the self is that we are broken, twisted, and sinful. The self is something that needs redemption, not expression. And this redemption takes place within a redeemed community, not as spiritual individuals piecing together our own strategy for personal spirituality and fulfillment, but walking together with people who shape and form us into the image of Christ.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Fuel For The Flame

Make Me Thy Fuel, Flame of God —Amy Wilson Carmichael

From prayer that asks that I may be
Sheltered from winds that beat on Thee,
From fearing when I should aspire,
From faltering when I should climb higher
From silken self, O Captain, free
Thy soldier who would follow Thee.
From subtle love of softening things,
From easy choices, weakenings,
(Not thus are spirits fortified,
Not this way went the Crucified)
From all that dims Thy Calvary
O Lamb of God, deliver me.
Give me the love that leads the way,
The faith that nothing can dismay
The hope no disappointments tire,
The passion that will burn like fire;
Let me not sink to be a clod;
Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.

What We Want, What We Need

Want vs. Need by Pete Wilson

Sometimes we believe we know more about our lives and what we need better than God does, but He is infinitely wiser than we are. We need to ask God to give us what we need, not what we think we want, because we trust that only He knows better.
“Ask and it shall be given to you.” Luke 11:9
What is one thing that you have asked God for, thinking it was exactly what you needed, only to find out He had something better in mind?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Authentic Prayer

Interesting question: Is politeness killing your prayer life? Read this piece by Christel Humfrey:
Christians in North America are generally polite pray-ers. We tend to pray correct, respectful words that we think God wants to hear. But let's be honest, many of our prayers are tentative, repetitive, and somewhat boring.
Intimate relationships require authentic feelings. Our innermost thoughts—however wrong or immature—are shared in trust. So why do we keep God at arm's length? Are we trying to be something we are not? Are we afraid to trouble Him? God is our Father, yet we often treat Him like a distant relative.I'm all for politeness with acquaintances. But real relationships require more. If my husband only spoke distant and polite words to me, our relationship would wither and die. I want to hear his struggles, his fears, his anger, and his joys. I want to process with him, not just hear his conclusions. I want him to trust me.
Be Authentic in Prayer
Recently, I was reading through Jeremiah, and I was struck by how real his prayers were. He didn't pretty up his words. He prayed heartfelt words. He brought his complaints to God and pleaded with Him.
"Why did I come out from the womb to see toil and sorrow, and spend my days in shame?" (Jer. 20:18)
"Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved" (Jer. 17:4).
What if we prayed what we really felt? Our words would come as no surprise to God, but we may be humbled when our foolish thoughts become words. Sometimes we feel things but can't really define or understand them until we speak them out loud. So we vent them to friends or shove them down deep not wanting to trouble God with our "little" cares. We make a critical mistake when we don't bring our troubles immediately to God. Not only does He care, but He also has the power to change things.
But the Christian can approach the Father with boldness (Heb. 4:16, Rom. 5:2). We are beloved children, not distant employees. We don't need to fear Him because the cross happened. Christ paid the penalty for our sin and clothed us in His own righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21). So we take an uncomfortable leap of faith, not because we have confidence in ourselves, but because Christ is trustworthy, and God has adopted us as His own.Prayer brings us to a vulnerable place. We lay bare our hearts to God in prayer. Our carefully created persona is peeled back until we stand naked and exposed before a holy God. This is an uncomfortable—no, terrifying—thought without Christ's blood shed on our behalf. There is no pretending with God. He knows our thoughts before we speak them (Ps. 139:4). Every hair on our head is numbered (Matt. 10:30). He knows us. The real us.
Expect to Be Changed

When we bring our complaints and requests before our heavenly Father, something unexpected happens. We come to Him hoping for a change of circumstances and leave with a new perspective. We are changed by prayer. We see this pattern often in the Psalms. A complaint turns to praise through the course of prayer. If we apply this template to our own prayer lives, we may be surprised by the fruit it bears.
When it's just you and God in private prayer, why not be brutally honest? You can trust Him with your heart because He cares for you. Authentic prayer deepens communion. It grows assurance and inflames love. Go ahead and jump in the deep end with God. Polite prayer may be more comfortable, but authentic prayer transforms hearts.
Do you feel free to be honest with God in prayer? If you stopped being polite, what would you say to God?
"Righteous are you, O LORD, when I complain to you; yet I would plead my case before you. Why does the way of the wicked prosper?" (Jer. 12:1)
Perhaps if we prayer with the authenticity of the Psalms, we'd have more authentic relationships with God. What a concept!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Liberated From Self

"Not self-conscious nor self-confident, a Christian is liberated to be self-forgetful."

— Tim Keller, Ministries of Mercy (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1989), page 64

Avoiding the Extremes on Healing

Far too much of the teaching out there on healing is at the extremes: Either "name it and claim it" or rejoice in your suffering. Glad to find this relatively balanced word on seeking physical healing by Larry Keefauver at Charisma:  4 Truths About Faith and Healing 
When God doesn't heal now, you can apply essential truths about faith and healing that are anchored in Scripture. I've identified four key actions we should take when we face a serious illness:
1. Have others join their faith to yours in bringing your infirmity to Jesus. "When the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them" (Luke 4:40; Matt. 8:16; Mark 1:32-34; 2:3-12).
Don't try to face sickness alone. An essential key to healing in the New Testament is the power of corporate faith and praying in agreement with others (see Matt. 18:19-20). When you gather with others to pray, the presence of Christ dwells in your midst. Because He is the Great Physician, with His presence comes healing power.
Throughout the healing miracle accounts in the Gospels, we observe that friends brought the sick to Jesus. In Mark 2, a paralytic man was brought by his friends to Jesus. The Syro-Phoenician woman brought her daughter to Jesus (see Matt. 15:22; Mark 7:24-30). A father brought his demonized child to Jesus (see Matt 17:14-18; Mark 9:17-27; Luke 9:38-42).
Join your faith with others to seek the Great Physician. When sickness has weakened, fatigued and discouraged you, seek out others who will pray in faith.
2. Seek to receive a touch from God. The woman with an issue of blood exercised her faith by going outside and searching for the Healer. She did all she knew to do to reach out through a crowd and touch Jesus (see Matt. 9:20; Mark 5:25-27; Luke 8:43-44).
When you are sick, you might be tempted to isolate yourself from settings in which you can touch and be touched by the presence of Christ. At times, you may not feel like going to worship services. You may feel too weak to sing and praise God. You may be too tired and discouraged to call the elders of your church to anoint you with oil and pray in faith for you.
Resist this temptation to stay at home in isolation. Healing flows through the body of Christ. His body is the church. Break out of your loneliness and seek the Healer.
3. Submit yourself to the authority and will of Christ, trusting Him as your Healer. The centurion's faith in Christ opened a door for his servant to be healed (see Matt. 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10). Likewise, the authority for your healing does not rest in you or your faith. Claiming your healing and speaking the right words do not guarantee your healing now or at any future time. Your faith opens a door for you to receive your healing from Christ.
I prayed with a woman who demanded that God heal her. When I questioned her attitude, she exclaimed, "I have the authority as a child of God to command God to fulfill His promise of healing for me." She believed a common myth that has been spread by some faith teachers, who believe that we can command God to do our bidding.
Our authority isn't over Christ but in Christ. We reign with Him in heavenly places (see Eph. 2:4-7). The sons of Sceva presumed to have healing authority but quickly learned that authority rested in the person of Jesus, not simply in the repetitious use of His name (see Acts 19:13-16).
The truth is that all authority for every matter, including healing, rests in Jesus: "'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth'" (Matt. 28:18). From Christ we receive imparted authority to say what He says and to do what He does. Submit to His authority for your healing.
4. Believe on His Word, not someone else's advice or counsel. Whenever Jesus spoke the Word, people were healed (see Matt. 8:8, 16; Luke 7:7). The psalmist said, "He [the Lord] sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions" (Ps. 107:20). Listen to the Word of the Lord for your healing. No one else's word, faith or assurance will do. When God doesn't heal now, trust His voice and believe His Word.
Proverbs 4:20-22 reads: "My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; for they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh."
When God doesn't heal now, trust His Word--not your circumstances or human advice. God has not abandoned you. He's not taking a vacation. He is right there by your side as you put your trust in His tender care.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Do You Know Hermen Newticks?

Preachers, don't go in the pulpit if you don't know Hermen Newticks, errr Hermeneutics.

Hermeneutics: "the study of the methodological principles of interpretation (as of the Bible)"



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Joyful Confession

"If you are truly trusting in Christ, you can’t confess a sin for which God has not provided forgiveness in Jesus.

Indeed, if you work at the discipline of confessing your sin, it should not lead to despair at all, but rather to rejoicing over the extent of God’s love to you in Christ. "

— Mark Dever and Michael Lawrence, It Is Well: Expositions on Substitutionary Atonement (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), page 42

Veterans Day 2014

Today is Veterans Day in the USA. November 11th was originally called Armistice Day, in memory of the end of World War I. It is now called Veterans Day in honor of all U.S. military veterans.Many of my family members are veterans. I wish to make special recognition today for and to:

1. My Dad (Col. B.F. Simmons, USAF, retired, pictured at left), my late Grandfather (Jefferson L. Simmons, Mississippi National Guard in WWI in France, pictured below Dad), my late Uncle Franklin Simmons (Navy "Sea Bee" in WWII), Uncle Charles Shirley (Air Force), Uncle Hal Shirley (Army National Guard), my late Uncle Cranford Nelson (Navy), Cousin Harry Nelson (Navy), Cousin Jimmy Walters (Marine Corps), Cousin Shain Vice (US Army), Brother-in-law Gary Meier (Army), nephew Dale Meier (Army, 82nd Airborne), and any other family members I'm forgetting.

2. All our men and women serving and protecting us on the front lines of Afghanistan, and many other dangerous places around the world.

3. All current and retired American veterans.

4. The families of those lost in Vietnam, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan, and so many other places.I am thankful and grateful for your service and sacrifice.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Keller on Prayer

I'm really looking forward to reading Tim Keller's new book on prayer entitled Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with GodHere's some excerpts from an interview with Keller by Tony Reinke:
Question 1: Prayerlessness
Among Christians today, how widespread is prayerlessness — and what does that reveal about our spiritual health?
We know from empirical secular studies that everyone in our Western society today has less solitude. There is less and less of our days or our months or our weeks in which we are unplugged, when we are not listening to something or talking to somebody or texting. This is due to the pervasiveness of social media, the Internet, and various sorts of electronic devices. In the past, most people couldn’t avoid solitude. But now there isn’t any.
This is anecdotal, but everybody I talk to seems so busy, and is communicating so incessantly, and around the clock, that I do think there is more and more prayerlessness. There is less and less time where people go into a solitary place to pray. And I am sure that we are more prayerless than we have been in the past, and that says our spiritual health is in freefall.
Question 2: Praying the Psalms
Your new book is clear: a profitable prayer life is impossible without solitude, but it’s also impossible without God’s word. You explain a time in your life when you were driven by desperation to pray, and so you opened the Psalms and prayed through them. Explain how you did this and what you learned from this season.
I am glad to talk about that. I came to see that the Psalms are extremely important for prayer. Perhaps that is because I read a book some years ago by Eugene Peterson called Answering God. He makes a strong case that we only pray well if we are immersed in Scripture. We learn our prayer vocabulary the way children learn their vocabulary — that is, by getting immersed in language and then speaking it back. And he said the prayer book of the Bible is the Psalms, and our prayer life would be immeasurably enriched if we were immersed in the Psalms. So that was the first step. I realized I needed to do that, but I didn’t know how.
Then I spent a couple of years studying the Psalms. At one point, I realized that there were a fair number of the Psalms that seemed repetitious or difficult to understand, so I couldn’t use them in prayer. So I decided to work through all 150 of them. I used Derek Kidner’s little commentaries on the Psalms (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries), Alec Motyer’s commentary on the Psalms (The New Bible Commentary, 21st century edition), and Michael Wilcock’s commentarieson the Psalms (Bible Speaks Today).
I worked through all 150 Psalms and wrote a small outline and a small description of what I thought the Psalm was basically about, and key verses that I thought were useful for prayer. Using nine-point font, I basically broke out all 150 Psalms on about 20 pages, which I now use in the morning when I pray.
By the way, I use the Book of Common Prayer schedule. I read Psalms in the morning and the evening, and then I pray. Sometimes I actually pray the psalm, but many times I just read the psalm and then pray. I do this morning and evening and get through all 150 Psalms every month. So that is what I learned and that is what I do now.
I love this intentional and disciplined approach. I presume over time you found Peterson’s point to be true, that this practice shaped your prayer language?
Yes. That is the reason why you don’t have to literally take the psalm and turn it into a prayer, though that can often be powerful. Just reading all the Psalms every month all the way through, and then praying after reading a psalm, changes your vocabulary, your language, your attitude.
On the one hand, the Psalms actually show you that you can be unhappy in God’s presence. The Psalms, in a sense, give you the permission to pour out your complaints in a way that we might think inappropriate, if it wasn’t there in the Scriptures. But on the other hand, the Psalms demand that you bow in the end to the sovereignty of God in a way that modern culture wouldn’t lead you to believe.
Alec Motyer said the Psalms are written by people who knew a lot less about God than we do, and loved God a lot more than we do. And by that, he meant that because they didn’t know about the cross, there are a number of places where you could say they don’t know as much about God’s saving purposes as I do now. But, he says, even though many of the psalmists don’t know God as well as we do, they loved God more than we do....
Much more at the link.

Tempered Zeal

HT: Radio Free Babylon

(Click on image to enlarge)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Hearts More Deeply Gripped By Reality

"At the root of all our disobedience are particular ways in which we continue to seek control of our lives through systems of works-righteousness.

The way to progress as a Christian is to continually repent and uproot these systems the same way we become Christians, namely by the vivid depiction (and re-depiction) of Christ’s saving work for us, and the abandoning of self-trusting efforts to complete ourselves.

We must go back again and again to the gospel of Christ-crucified, so that our hearts are more deeply gripped by the reality of what he did and who we are in him,"

— Tim Keller, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians (New York, NY: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2003), page 61

Friday, November 7, 2014

Living Repentance

What does it mean to really repent? Was Martin Luther right when he said all of the Christian life is repentance? Read Where Hazy Repentance Goes to Die by Jonathan Parnell at Desiring God:
If a cloud of ambiguity hovers around our understanding of repentance, it might have to do with how we understand faith.
We’re reminded of Luther’s introductory words, unfolding into 94 other theses nailed to the door at Wittenberg: “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said ‘Repent,’ he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance.”
Our entire lives repentance? In one sense, we understand what he means. We should continually be turning from sin toward Jesus. The one great business of the Christian life is, as John Flavel puts it, to “preserve our souls from sin and maintain sweet communion with God.” In other words, we mortify and vivify, we put off and put on.
But our entire lives? Even if we sign off on this theologically, chances are that few of us make this the practical work of our Christian existence, at least not explicitly. Few of us would answer, if asked to describe what it means to be a Christian, “You repent all the time.” Sure, we repent. When we sin — when we areconvicted of our sin — we repent. But it’s probably a far cry from our “entire life.”
Luther says, though, that Jesus intends our entire lives to be about repentance. And he’s on to something. So what do we do?
If It’s All in Our Heads
My sense is that the measure of opaqueness we feel in Luther’s statement likely corresponds to how much we view the nature of faith as primarily intellectual rather than affectional. In other words, we’ll never grasp repentance as an all-of-life ordeal so long as we see faith as a mental adherence to facts about Jesus, even if we consciously agree that the facts are wonderful and glorious. Reason being, we can hold a lot of different facts in our minds that co-exist without the slightest trouble. If faith was just facts, if believing in Jesus meant theoretically agreeing with what he says about himself, then we won’t necessarily sense any problem with theoretically agreeing with several other things. We can simultaneously hold Jesus as Treasure in our minds while we dig for rubies somewhere else. The word for this kind of Christianity is nominal (in name only).
Mental agreement that Jesus is glorious is like affirming the statement that honey is sweet. As much as you might agree on paper, it still doesn’t stop you from eating other things. We can crunch on salty cashews without changing our minds about the honey. And we don’t necessarily feel like the cashews are something we need to forgo in order to eat more honey. To suggest we should would seem strange. If faith is all in our heads, repentance is still opaque.
Seeing Is Embracing
But faith is mainly affectional, not intellectual.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Bridge Over Death

Glory to You, Lord Jesus Christ!
You built Your cross as a bridge over death,
so that departed souls might pass
from the realm of death to the realm of life.
Glory to You!
You put on the body of a mortal man
and made it the source of life
for all mortal human beings.
You are alive!
Your murderers handled Your life like farmers:
they sowed it like grain deep in the earth,
waiting for it to spring up and raise with itself a multitude of men.
We offer You the great, universal sacrifice of our love,
and pour out before You our richest hymns and prayers.
For You offered Your cross to God
as a sacrifice in order to make us all rich.
Ephrem the Syrian, 306-373

Monday, November 3, 2014

What's Good or Bad About Theology?

What is the difference between "good" and "bad" Theology? I like this definition form my friend Carey at "The Grumpy Theologian":
...If we dig back into the history of Christianity we find that periodically ideas pop up that are denounced as incompatible with the non-negotiables of the faith. If we dig a bit deeper we find that the most common reasons for these denunciations are pastoral. Docetism (Jesus was divine but not human), Ebionism (Jesus was human but not divine), Arianism (Jesus was neither human nor divine), and a number of other heretical "-isms"are denounced because their teaching has implications that obscure Christ's mediation between God and humanity. In other words, these doctrines are false because they point their adherents' eyes away from the Jesus of the Bible to a different Jesus, one built on human speculation rather than divine revelation. The consequences of believing a false Gospel are catastrophic if we listen to the New Testament (and we must do that listening if identifying ourselves as "Christians" is to mean anything substantive). Bad theology is bad most fundamentally because it is bad for the soul. It points hope toward things that ultimately disappoint (which is what happens when we try to make gods for ourselves out of anything other than the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) or it crushes hope altogether. False hope and no hope are both bad for the soul.

So far, so good, but what does this suggest about how we should go about doing goodtheology? Let me make a suggestion: Good theology is good for the same reason that bad theology is bad. Both have to do with how they function in pointing us to God. Bad theology is bad because it mis-portrays God and thus hinders our growing closer to Him as He really is. When our relationship to God is stunted by bad theology we suffer from soul starvation--an impoverished theology leads to an impoverished spiritual life. Now let's consider the flip-side of that statement. Good theology is good because it points us to God as He truly is (or, more properly, "Is"). Good theology facilitates transformative encounter with God and fosters ongoing, life-giving relationship with Him...
More worth reading at the link.