Wednesday, December 13, 2006

An Appraoch to the Extended Memorization of Scripture

Dr. Andy Davis spoke at a chapel service at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary this past semester, and he brought with him a box full of booklets he had written on "An Approach to the Extended Memorization of Scripture." Rumor has it that Dr. Davis has memorized the entire New Testament, and is working on portions of the Old Testament.

I am amazed by this extensive exercise, but at the same time I am terribly shamed. I have often struggled in my adult life to memorize Bible verses, and I often struggle to remember the words to a song I might be singing, and yet David lets us in on a secret to combating sin in Psalm 119:11; "I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you."

May God have mercy on us for our laziness and toleration of sin.

The Takamine EG361SC

Well, I think I have found the guitar for me. I never knew all the variables involved in producing great, rich sound from a guitar! Rosewood, apparently, is the Cadillac wood of guitars, and the sound it produces is much deeper and louder than most others. I think the Takamine EG361SC is my best bet for the money, and I have not played a guitar in its price range that comes close to the beautiful sound this guitar produces.

I have been practicing the guitar for almost two weeks. A good friend at work let me borrow a guitar that he learned on, and I've been playing almost every day. My fingers are starting to become calloused, but my inability to put together the chords fast enough to play a song really irks me! The guitar I am playing on is a bit difficult to play, and I am really looking forward to practicing on this guitar!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

One Way Christianity Is Different

I am reading a compilation of three of John Owen's works entitled Overcoming Sin & Temptation, edited by Kelly M. Kapic and Justin Taylor. Owen, in the first work, Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers, contrasts the work of the Spirit in "killing sin" with the normal way by which most of us try to be better Christians:

Mortification from a self-strength, carried on by ways of self-invention, unto the end of a self-righteousness, is the soul and substance of all false religion in the world.

Are you trying to be a better Christian by making yourself better? This is not biblical. Romans 8 tells us that the Spirit will do this in our lives.

Now, I have an idea that Bible intake and meditation play a big part in this, but I'll have to keep reading.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Two More Classes Down

I just completed two more classes on my way to a Masters degree from Southern Seminary. This was possibly one of the most difficult semesters I have taken. By the grace of God, I completed Elementary Greek and Church History I. Hopefully, I will have more time now to blog occasionally.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Esteeming Others More Highly...

"Try to be patient in bearing with the failings and weaknesses of other people, whatever they may be. You too have many faults, which others have to endure. If you cannot make yourself the kind of person that you wish, how can you expect to have someone else to your liking? We want perfection in other people, and yet we do not put right our own failings. It is clear how rarely we apply to our neighbors the same standards as to ourselves."
-- Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, 1.16

Forgive us, Heavenly Father.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Modern Hymns - "Oh To See the Dawn" or "The Power of the Cross"

Keith Getty and Stewart Townsend have written many modern hymns, incorporating sound biblical theology and new tunes. Many people recognize the Getty/Townsend song, "In Christ Alone"; here are the words to another awesome, truth-filled hymn:

Oh to see the dawn
Of the darkest day
Christ on the road to Calvary
Tried by sinful men
Torn and beaten then
Nailed to a cross of wood

This the power of the cross
Christ became sin for us
Took the blame bore the wrath
We stand forgiven at the cross

Oh to see the pain
Written on Your face
Bearing the awesome weight of sin
Every bitter thought
Every evil deed
Crowning Your bloodstained brow

Now the daylight flees
Now the groun beneath
Quakes as it's Maker bows His head
Curtain torn in two
Dead are raised to life
Finished the victory cry

Oh to see my name
Written in the wounds
For through Your suffering I am free
Death is crushed to death
Life is mine to live
Won through Your selfless love

This the power of the cross
Son of god slain for us
What a love What a cost
We stand forgiven at the cross

What an incredible testimony to the torture and death of the King of kings and the Lord of lords. With his obedience from birth to unjust death, Christ earned the right to sit on the throne of heaven and rule for all eternity, and by the power of the cross we too will reign with Christ for all eternity!!!

Saturday, September 30, 2006

What Was Said To The Rose?

I have been listening to some of David Crowder's music (a Christian artist), and I have noticed that his music seems to reflect some great reformation influence. One line I wanted to share is this:

And what was said to the rose to make it unfold
was said to me here in my chest so be quiet now and rest...

I cannot think of any other way to interpret this line, especially in the context of the song, Here Is Our King:

Here is our King, here is our Lord, here is our God who's come to bring us
back to Him;
He is the one, He is Jesus.
He is our King, He is our Lord, He is our God who's come to bring us back
to Him;
He is the one, He is Jesus.

Another section from another song (Wholly Yours) from the same album (A Collision) also points to reformation theology:

I am full of earth, you are heaven's worth,
I am stained with dirt, prone to depravity
And you are everything that is bright and clean, the antonym of me, you are
But the certain sign of grace is this,
That from the broken earth, flowers come, pushing through the dirt...

I praise God for lyrics like this on the radio! May God be praised among the nations!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

When He Returns

Check out these lyrics:
The iron hand it ain't no match for the iron rod,
The strongest wall will crumble and fall to a mighty God.
For all those who have eyes and all those who have ears
It is only He who can reduce me to tears.
Don't you cry and don't you die and don't you burn
For like a thief in the night, He'll replace wrong with right
When He returns.

Truth is an arrow and the gate is narrow that it passes through,
He unleashed His power at an unknown hour that no one knew.
How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?
Can I cast it aside, all this loyalty and this pride?
Will I ever learn that there'll be no peace, that the war won't cease
Until He returns?

Surrender your crown on this blood-stained ground, take off your mask,
He sees your deeds, He knows your needs even before you ask.
How long can you falsify and deny what is real?
How long can you hate yourself for the weakness you conceal?
Of every earthly plan that be known to man, He is unconcerned,
He's got plans of His own to set up His throne
When He returns.
I first heard these in a song by Kevin Max, but guess who wrote the lyrics? Bob Dylan, 1979.

Art For God's Sake

I subscribe to Chip Stam's Worship Quote of the Week, and this weeks quote made me stop and think. How do we view and understand the art?

There are many reasons why some churches have a negative view of the arts. Art trades in images, and images easily lend themselves to idolatry. Artists know this from their own experience. In their work they encounter the glory at the foundation of things, and they feel its power over the heart. . . .

Yet even Christians who are dismissive of art continue to use it. Doing so is inescapable. Every time we build a sanctuary, arrange furniture in a room, or produce a brochure, we are making artistic decisions. Even if we are not artists in our primary vocation, there is an inescapable artistic aspect to our daily experience. The question becomes, therefore, whether as Christians we will aspire to high aesthetic standards. All too often we settle for something that is functional, but not beautiful. We gravitate toward what is familiar, popular, or commercial, with little regard for the enduring values of artistic excellence. Sometimes what we produce can be describe only as KITSCH—tacky artwork of poor quality that appeals to low tastes. The average Christian bookstore is full of the stuff, as the real artist will tell us, if only we will listen.

Ultimately this kind of art dishonors God because it is not in keeping with the truth and beauty of his character. It also undermines the church's gospel message of salvation in Christ. Art has tremendous power to shape culture and touch the human heart. Its artifacts embody the ideas and desires of the coming generation. This means that what is happening in the arts today is prophetic of what will happen in our culture tomorrow. It also means that when Christians abandon the artistic community, we lose a significant opportunity to communicate Christ to our culture. Furthermore, when we settle for trivial expressions of the truth in worship and art, we ourselves are diminished, as we suffer a loss of transcendence. What we need to recover (or possibly discover for the first time) is a full biblical understanding of the arts—not for art's sake, but for God's sake. Then we will be able to produce better art that more effectively testifies to the truth about God and his grace. This goal is important and not just for artists, but for everyone else made in God's image and in need of redemption.

—Philip Graham Ryken, ART FOR GOD'S SAKE: A CALL TO RECOVER THE ARTS. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2006, p. 11, 13-14. ISBN10: 1-59638-007-1. The author looks at a biblical view of art by examining Exodus 31 where God calls Bezalel and Oholiab as artists to work on the tabernacle.
I hope you have a different perspective on that "artwork" hanging in your church.

Monday, August 07, 2006

"Called" in Romans

I am reading through Romans 1-3 every day for the month of August, and I noticed how Romans 1 describes our salvation as an act initiated by God:
  • 1:1 - "Paul, ... called to be an apostle"
  • 1:6 - "you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ"
  • 1:7 - "To all those ... called to be saints"
Why does Paul describe our salvation in terms of God's calling us? While it is completely true that we must answer the general gospel call to repent and believe the gospel, we must recognize the unbeliever's complete inability to do so without a "change of heart." Like Lazarus, an unbeliever cannot stir himself to life, or cry out for help, or say a prayer. Unless we are called by God out of our tombs, we cannot even cry out to God for rescue! Read the words to Amazing Grace again for the first time.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Watchmaker

Check out this animated story called "The Watchmaker." If you believe in atheistic evolution, this is at best a troubling analogy.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

A Different Kind of Violence

A brother just sent me a quote by Thomas Watson (the Puritan, not the golfer):

The exercises of the worship of God are contrary to nature; therefore, there must be a provoking of ourselves to them. The movement of the soul toward sin is natural, but its movement toward heaven is violent. The stone moves easily to the center. It has an innate propensity downward, but to draw up a millstone into the air is done by violence because it is against nature. So to lift up the heart to heaven in duty is done by violence and we must provoke ourselves to it. What is it to provoke ourselves to duty? It is to awaken ourselves and shake off spiritual slothfulness. Let us then examine whether we put forth this holy violence for heaven. Do we set time apart to call ourselves to account and to try our evidences for heaven? "My spirit made diligent search" (Ps. 77:6). Do we take our hearts, as a watch, all in pieces to see what is amiss and to mend it? Are we curiously inquisitive into the state of our souls? Are we afraid of artificial grace, as we are of artificial happiness? Do we use violence in prayer? Is there fire in our sacrifice? Is the wind of the Spirit filling our sails, causing unutterable groans (Rom. 8:26)? Do we pray in the morning as if we were to die at night? Do we thirst for the living God? Are our souls enlarged with holy desires? "There is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee" (Ps. 73:25). Do we desire holiness as well as heaven? Do we desire as much to look like Christ as to live with Christ? Is our desire constant? Is this spiritual pulse ever beating?

Are we skilled in self-denial? Can we deny our ease, our aims, our interests? Can we cross our own will to fulfill God's? Can we behead our beloved sin? To pluck out the right eye requires violence. (Matt. 18:9). Are we lovers of God? It is not how much we do, but how much we love. Does love command the castle of our hearts? Does Christ's beauty and sweetness constrain us? (2 Cor. 5:14). Do we love God more than we fear hell? Do we keep our spiritual watch? Do we set spies in every place, watching our thoughts, our eyes, our tongues? When we, have prayed against sin, do we watch against temptation? Do we press after further degrees of sanctity? "Reaching forth unto those things which are before" (Phil. 3:13). A good Christian is a wonder; he is the most contented yet the least satisfied. He is contented with a little of the world, but not satisfied with a little grace.

How violent Christ was about our salvation! He was in agony; He "continued all night in prayer" (Luke 6:12). He wept, He fasted, He died a violent death; He rose violently out of the grave. Was Christ so violent for our salvation, and does it not become us to be violent who are so intimately concerned in it? Christ's violence was not only satisfactory, but exemplary. It was not only to appease God, but to teach us. Christ was violent in dying to teach us to be violent in believing.

Let us also be violent in our quest for heaven!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Life is War

Life is war. The casualties are millions, and the stakes are eternal. What we need today is not a call to simplicity, but a call to war. We need to think in terms of a "wartime lifestyle" rather than a "simple lifestyle."
-- John Piper, The Dangerous Duty of Delight

Do you live a wartime lifestyle? Do you focus all your efforts and energies on accomplishing the mission given to all believers? All believers are not called to go to the mission field, just like every American was not called to fight on D-Day. But every American was called on to support the war against Nazi Germany during WWII. So are all believers called to support the mission of the gospel. God gives us talents and resources that we must employ to accomplish the mission! God gives to some believers wealth, to some courage, to some time, to some jungle huts, but to all believers God gives the very same mission! What are you living for?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Modern Pharisees

This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.
In Mark 7, Jesus quotes Isaiah 29:13 to rebuke the Pharisees' practice of ceremonial hand-washing. He applies the same principle to the other traditions that the Pharisees maintained.

Are we modern Pharisees? Do we hold so tightly to our traditions that we worship in vain? Do we teach as doctrines the commandments of men? What are some convictions we hold to that do not have biblical basis? What do we base the following convictions on?
  • Christians should not dance
  • Christians should not play cards
  • Christians must abstain from alcoholic beverages
  • The King James Version of the Bible is the only legitimate version
  • The church sanctuary is a holy place; we must not _________ in the sanctuary
  • __________ style of music is evil
  • __________ type of instrument is evil
This is a short list of the things I could think of quickly, but I am sure there are hundreds of convictions people hold that have questionable biblical support at best. It may be possible to show that some of these convictions are biblical, but how often do we simply accept the commandments of men as doctrines? How can we determine what is biblical? We must search the Scriptures and hold the Bible alone as our sole authority for faith and practice.

May our hearts draw close to God, and may we worship in Spirit and in truth.

An Exercise in Logic: Romans

The book of Romans is an intense exercise in logic. Most of us know Romans 6:23 - "For the wages of sin is death..." What about those who die without blatantly and willingly sinning against God? Who fits that category? Everyone chooses to sin, right? Everyone except infants. So, if death is earned by sinning, how can death claim infants?

Enter Romans 5:12-14 -
12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned-- 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
This passage helps us understand the extent of Adam's sin. Verse 13 tells us that before the law was given to man, people could not blatantly and willfully sin like Adam did. For example, I cannot break the speed limit if no law governing the speed limit has been given. So, how did death reign "from Adam to Moses"? Verse 12 tells us that death entered the world via Adam's sin, and even for those among us who have no sin (infants), we cannot escape the consequences of our fallen state. Adam plunged the whole of humanity into unrighteousness when he chose to eat the forbidden fruit.

But wait! This seems terribly unfair! Why are we judged for Adam's sin?

Before we rule our condition under Adam as unfair, we need to realize that a parallel relationship exists for those who believe in Christ. Romans 5 equates the unbeliever's relationship in Adam with the believer's relationship in Christ. If we reject the truth of our condition in Adam, we have no right to embrace the truth of the believer's condition in Christ.

Romans 5:17 is great news;
"If, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ."
Corruption is in our blood by nature of our physical birth. We must be "born again" to truly live.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Quotes of Note continued...

The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying him forever.
-- John Piper's slight modification of the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism

Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God.
-- Jonathan Edwards

Quotes of Note

The doctrines of grace humble a man without degrading him, and exalt a man without inflating him.
-- Charles Hodge

If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised us in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
-- C. S. Lewis

All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attending with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this objective. This is the motive of every man, even of those who hang themselves.
-- Blaise Pascal

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Piper on Corporate Worship

People ought to come to corporate worship services ... starved for God. They ought to come saying, "As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God" (Psalm 42:1). God is profoundly honored when people know that they will die of hunger and thirst unless they have God. And it is my job as a preacher to spread a banquet for them. I must show them from Scripture what they are really starving for--God--and then feed them well until they say, "Ahhh." That is worship.

-- John Piper, The Dangerous Duty of Delight, p. 56.

This should be the attitude of anyone who leads any portion of corporate worship; the preacher, the worship leader, someone who prays, someone who reads Scripture, etc. Our goal is to present Christ to our congregation so they may be satisfied in the only one who satisfies!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Where can we find true spiritual power to transform our communities?

Here is a brief outline of Vaughan Roberts' message from Monday on 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5:

Q: Where can we find true spiritual power to transform our communities?

A: Divine Power (in the:)

1. Weakness of the Cross - 1:18-25
___A. The cross is foolishness to the world
___B. The world hates the conviction of the gospel
___C. God has made human wisdom foolish (v. 20-21)
___D. The cross is not what the world wants - they want a sign (v. 22)
2. Weakness of the Church - 1:26-31
3. Weakness of Preaching - 2:1-5

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Judgment Day

"For all its apparent doom and gloom, the biblical teaching about the Day of Judgement is not a mere theological scare tactic designed to make us more religious. It is, in fact, God's pledge to wounded humanity that he hears their cries for justice, and will one day console them by bringing his justice to bear on every evil act. Thus, in a strange sort of way, God's judgement is a consequence of his love. It is precisely because God loved the victims of the Jewish holocaust that he pledges to punish the perpetrators of this great evil; it is precisely because he loved the massacred Aboriginal communities of 19th century Australia that he will vent his anger against those who took part in it. . . . As odd as it sounds, the Bible's teaching about divine judgement brings profound comfort. It reminds us that the Creator hears our cries for justice, and will one day console us with a display of loving justice the world has never witnessed."
-- John Dickson, If I Were God, I'd End All the Pain

All accounts will be settled on Judgment Day. Either we pay for the sins we committed while on earth, or Christ paid for them at the cross. You really do want him to cover that bill; if you reject his offer, you will spend eternity paying it, and you will always be upside down on that debt.


Well, I am home again, after my recent visit to Cleveland. What an incredible three days of worship and fellowship! I attended the Basics 2006 Conference at Parkside Church (as I mentioned in the last post). This conference is focused, obviously, on the "basics"; this year the subject was evangelism in and through the local church. Alistair Begg, pastor of Parkside, invited two speakers to the conference; Vaughan Roberts, rector (pastor) of St. Ebbe's Church in Oxford, England, and John Dickson, evangelist and writer from Sydney, Australia. I am still processing and contemplating the sessions, and I hope to share some of the insights I gained from the conference. I plan to type up notes that I took, books that I want, great quotes, and personal meditations.

Here is a list of the books that I purchased while at the conference:
  • On Being a Pastor, Derek Prime and Alistair Begg
  • Lasting Love: How to Avoid Marital Failure, Alistair Begg
  • If I Were God, I'd End All the Pain, John Dickson
  • Simply Christianity: A Modern Guide to the Ancient Faith, John Dickson
  • Life's Big Questions: Six Major Themes Traced Through the Bible, Vaughan Roberts
  • Reforming Marriage, Douglas Wilson
I have already started reading If I Were God, I'd End All the Pain, and it is a helpful treatment of the place of suffering in this life. Well, that's all for now...

Monday, May 15, 2006

Basics '06 Conference

I wanted to share with you a quote from John Dickson, a speaker at the Basics '06 Conference at Alistair Begg's Parkside Church:
"Anyone who claims that all religions are the same has an aversion to studying one of them."
What an awesome exposition against pluralism. I will try to update more as the conference continues!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


I have decided to begin using my blog as a quote repository. I have been reading The Dangerous Duty of Delight by John Piper, and he quotes several great men including C. S. Lewis and Jonathan Edwards. Once I heard Piper say that books don't change people; sentences change people. I think this is why quotes are so powerful.

I am planning to post these and many other great quotes, and I will begin my list with a quote from C. H. Spurgeon concerning the doctrine of election:
I believe the doctrine of election, because I am quite sure that if God had not chosen me I should never have chosen Him; and I am sure He chose me before I was born, or else He never would have chosen me afterwards; and He must have elected me for reasons unknown to me, for I never could find and reason in myself why He should have looked upon me with special love. So I am forced to accept that doctrine.
-- C. H. Spurgeon in Lectures to My Students

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Where did this month go?!

Well, you might have thought I permanently retired from blogging or something. Nope, I just got caught up in the ridiculousness of project deadlines for work, the grind of school, and fighting fatigue and illness resulting probably from stress. I am planning to get back to regular blogging, and for all my faithful reader or two, I am sorry for not keeping you up to date. :)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Give What You've Got

Another quote from Gary Thomas in Sacred Marriage:

Marriage teaches us to give what we have. God has given us one body. He has commanded our spouse to delight in that one body -- and that body alone. If we withhold from our spouse our body, it becomes an absolute denial. We may not think it is a perfect body, but it is the only body we have to give.

So many people fail to give God or others anything simply because they can't give everything. Learn to take small steps of obedience toward God -- offering what you have, with all its blemishes and limitations -- by offering what you have to your spouse.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Romans and James: Faith That Works

Many people argue that the book of Romans and the book of James disagree on the subject of faith. Paul writes that justification is by faith alone, yet James teaches that faith without works is dead. How do we reconcile these two teachings?

First of all, we must understand that Paul is discussing the beginning of one's spiritual life when he says, "And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness" in Romans 4:5. Paul is obviously stating that we cannot earn God's favor; through Christ, God must justify the ungodly if he will justify anyone.

But Paul does not stop writing with this statement. He goes on to discuss Abraham's circumcision. "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness." When was Abraham circumcised? He was circumcised years after God justified him. His circumcision was evidence of his faith in God, not the basis. Romans 4:11 tells us that his circumcision was the sign and the seal of his faith, not the grounds.

Rather than contradicting James, I believe this passage is in harmony with James 2:17 which says, "So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." Abraham was challenged to put his money where his mouth was in Genesis 17; "Every male among you shall be circumcised." While Abraham's faith alone was the grounds for his justification back in Genesis 15, Abraham's faith in God must have been working when he performed the first circumcision upon himself!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

True forgiveness is a process, not an event. It is rarely the case that we are able to forgive "one time" and the matter is settled. Far more often, we must relinquish our bitterness a dozen times or more, continually choosing to release the offender from our judgment.
-- Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage

Explaining "Sacred Marriage"

A mature husband and wife can grow leaps and bounds spiritually as they learn to compromise and move toward the other. But it is often the case that one spouse doesn't care about spiritual growth; they may be fully consumed with their own desires and sense of need. While such a situation may result in a less satisfying and less happy marriage, it can still provide the context for Christian growth. A Christian is never dependent on the response of others to grow spiritually. It's our own heart's decisions that matter.
-- Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage

Great Quotes...

I am reading a book called Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas; Thomas argues that marriage is less about happiness and more about holiness. I just wanted to post some significant quotes:
A good marriage is not something you find, it is something you work for.
-- Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage
If marriage ... is a disillusioning experience for many people, the reason is to be found in the passivity of their faith. People dislike the fact that the blessings of God may only be found and enjoyed when they are persistently sought (Matthew 7:7; Luke 11:9). Marriage is, therefore, both a gift and a task to be accomplished.
-- Otto Piper as quoted by Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage

Friday, February 24, 2006

What is the Will of God for My Life?

Often we hear or think the question, "What is God's will for my life?" Sometimes it seems so hard to make big or tough decisions and we do need wise guidance and counsel. However, we often forget that God's Word is filled with exactly what he expects us to do! Here are a few examples of what God's Word expects of his children:

And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets." -- Matthew 22:37-40
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. -- 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8
Many passages describe God's will for our lives; they are clear expressions of God's expectations for our lives. We should make it our first priority to evidence our love for God in the obedience of his commands. We cannot do this without the enabling of the Holy Spirit, but we cannot be filled with the Holy Spirit without evidence of his presence. Our lives must bear the fruit of our faith; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

In Ezekiel 33:11, God expresses his desire for humans; "I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways!" God desires that we turn from our sin, and turn to him, place the responsibility for our future in the hands of Christ Jesus, and then bear fruit productively.

So, God's will is easy. He tells us exactly what to do; "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." Do you really love God? Do you really try to keep his commandments with all you heart, soul, and mind?

May the Holy Spirit give us the strength and the will!

Friday, February 17, 2006

"It bids me fly and gives me wings!"

Incredibly, I just read this in Carl Stam's Worship Quote of the Week, and thought it fit nicely with my last post:

Run, John, run! The Law commands!
But gives me neither feet nor hands.
Far grander news the Gospel brings:
It bids me fly and gives me wings!”

–Attributed to John Bunyan (1628-88)

An Equation For Life

Wow, it has been way too long since I posted last. I have begun my second (and FINAL) semester of Hebrew, and it has really been hammering me! I had my first major exam of the semester yesterday, and hopefully I can now focus on new material instead of feeling like I need to constantly review from last semester.

On the way to work this morning I was listening to another sermon by Piper on Romans 2:25-29. Piper was focusing on verses 28-29:
For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.
In his treatment of this passage, Piper tried to help people understand this verse with several illustrations, including two equations. These equations were developed from these verses and the context of Romans, and they are helpful in understanding how the Jews could have the Law, but not get it, while the Gentiles could get the Law and not have it. Here are the two equations:

  • External Religious Rituals (circumcision, baptism?, Bible reading?)
  • The Need for the Praise of Man (it is amazing how the taste of a compliment is so POWERFUL to us)
  • Death
  • Internal Circumcision of the Heart (Jeremiah 31:33)
  • Satisfaction in the Praise of God (see verse 29b above)
  • Life

So LAW + SPIRIT is the fulfillment of the Law; without the Spirit, Piper points out that the law simply backs us into a corner and we rebel or we try to look like we are obeying the law and we try to climb a moral ladder to heaven. And we know that the only way we can have Law and Spirit is to trust in Christ alone for our forgiveness and righteousness.

This LAW - SPIRIT equation opens my eyes; maybe you too can see the Pharisees of the 21st century in our church pews.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Job and Jesus

As I have been reading through the book of Job, a couple of passages have caused me to stop and think. Job 9:33 tells us that Job desires for someone to stand between God and Job to mediate or arbitrate. "There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on both of us." Another passage, Job 16:19, states, "Even now, behold, my witness is in heaven, and he who testifies for me is on high."

Who is this witness? Was Job aware of the role the messiah would play thousands of years before he was born? I'm not sure about what Job knew or didn't know (and I will keep looking for references to Christ as I read through the book), but these verses describe very well the way in which Jesus Christ stands on our behalf before God. Only our High Priest can put one hand on God's shoulder and one hand on our shoulder and reconcile our differences. "For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf" (Hebrews 9:24).

Jesus is exactly what Job needed.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

A Blameless and Upright Man

Job 1:8 describes Job in God's own words; "Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?" God defines the blameless and upright man; he is one who fears God and turns away from evil. To have God say this of me is one of my greatest desires! It may never happen while I breathe with these lungs, but this is the goal at which I aim.

So what keeps us from "fearing God and turning away from evil"? How can we acheive this? Well, in one sense, we can never succeed in such a goal, since we are powerless to accomplish more than legalism in our good works apart from the Holy Spirit. However, with the Holy Spirit's work in us, we can accomplish this goal by the practice of spiritual discipline. 1 Timothy 4:7-8 describes both the process and the goal; "train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come." We must train ourselves to ingest and digest God's Word, spend time in prayer, guard against sin, serve others, and proclaim the gospel of Christ in our words and deeds. (Don Whitney has some great books on the spiritual disciplines.)

One of my biggest challenge to accomplishing this goal is simply remembering the goal during the daily grind. When we lose focus on the goal we will inevitably stray. May we all strive diligently for God to call us "blameless and upright," one "who fears God and turns away from evil."

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

"Sin is Crouching at the Door"

While reading my Bible last night (starting a new bible reading plan), I read again a passage that my pastor discussed in a recent sermon. Genesis 4:7 says, "if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it." This was God's warning to Cain prior to the murder of Able. This seems to be simple advice, but just like the words "giving birth" cannot adequately describe the intensity of the process, so do the words "you must rule over it" mask the intense process of conquering sin. This passage, however, does encourage us to be diligent, because sin is ready for us especially when we are not. May God give us diligence in good deeds and victory in Christ!