8.28.2010

Great peace

The below is a sample of what I do during my devotion times throughout the week. In general I read, write, and pray for 20 minutes each. This framework has been very helpful for my personal, private times of seeking God. I hope this might be of benefit to you as you seek our Lord, Jesus Christ. Please comment and discuss the questions in italics.
_____________________________________________________________________________
    "The unfolding of your words gives light;
        it imparts understanding to the simple."
 - Psalm 119:130
    "Great peace have those who love your law;
        nothing can make them stumble."
 - Psalm 119:165
Observations:
The lover of God's law has great peace. Their peace is not small or brief. The peace that is great is possessed by lover's of God's laws. They hold and own the peace that God's law brings.

If the law serves to show us our sin (Romans 7), then how can it ultimately bring peace?

Absolutely nothing can make this person stumble. They stand secure and firm. How does one love [the] law?

Interpretation:
To love something, you must know it. Lovers of God's law know his law. God has given the Law (Sinai) and sent the Son (Bethlehem).

When a person knows and loves the God's law, they will live a more secure life and forces of temptation and challenges will not trip up their step.

If one does not have great peace, they probably do not love God's law; vice versa.

How does the law give great peace? It gives light (Ps. 119:130). The bright path, illuminated by God's law dsplays all the snares and traps laid in every place to catch the lover og God.

Application:
Read much of your Bible, because it will give light to your path.
Meditate throughout the day on God's word. Place it as the highest priority item to think about.
Love the laws that brighten my path. Light is of God. Love and praise God for his illuminating law.
Examine where I have peace and fear. Test my love, heart, and affections.
Share what has been brought in the light by God's law with others.

Question for self / accountability: What has God's law shed light on for you during this [time period]?

Prayer:
Father of lights,
   illuminate my path by your law and words.
Give my way light from your testimonies,
   the Law, the Prophets, the Songs, the Proverbs, the Gospels, the Letters.
Guide my steps,
   I am prone to wonder.
The humble will be exalted,
   the proud will be brought low.
Show me the snares which Satan lays,
   for my entanglement and downfall.
Help me dodge and avoid them,
   they long to devour me.
Make known to your Church her corporate sins,
   guide us to make war against them.
You are not the deistic Watchmaker,
   you are the sovereign I AM.
Christ, you are eternal,
   you are King eternal.
Spirit, powerfully move in this city,
   dry the wits of the wicked
   and then light them ablaze.
Give them life,
   discard little dross from Syracuse.
Drive my fear away.
In the name of the Beloved, Jesus Christ. Amen.

8.22.2010

Obligatory Anne Rice Post

In Anne Rice's Christianity Today interview, she talks a bit about who she is currently reading and why she still engages Biblical scholars and teachers. I know next to nothing about Rice - it seems like all the hubbub about her recently has more of her to do with leaving Roman Catholicism than Christianity - but she has some honest words to say that you would almost never hear coming from the atheist/agnostic front of writers and bloggers in this below excerpt methinks.
Sometimes the most conservative people are the most biblically and scholastically sound. They have studied Scripture and have studied skeptical scholarship. They make brilliant arguments for the way something in the Bible reads and how it's been interpreted. I don't go to them necessarily to know more about their personal beliefs. It's the brilliance they bring to bear on the text that appeals to me. Of all the people I've read over the years, it's their work that I keep on my desk. They're all non-Catholics, but they're believers, they document their books well, they write well, they're scrupulously honest as scholars, and they don't have a bias. Many of the skeptical non-believer biblical scholars have a terrible bias. To them, Jesus didn't rise from the dead, so there's no point in discussing it. I want someone to approach the text and tell me what it says, how the language worked.
(HT: Dane Ortlund for the initial above quote.)

However, let me offer this excerpt from the interview (on page two at the CT website link above):
CT: What will it look like to follow Christ without being part of the institutional church?
Rice: The most important thing Christ demands of all of us is to love our enemies as much as our neighbors. That is the radical core of his teaching. If we do that, we can transform our lives.
Christ reaches out to us individually. He's saying "Come follow me; I am the way, the truth, and the life." These are beautiful things. I read Scripture every day, I study it every day, I'm mindful of it every day. I don't claim to have the right interpretation of every passage, but I wrestle with it, and that's what I think he wants us to do.
What is the radical center of Christ' teaching? If you asked Anne Rice, you would hear "to love our enemies as much as our neighbors." There is a problem in this. If Jesus only came with the ultimate message of "Hey! Love your neighbor! Stop being such punks!" What does this say of Jesus' sinless life, his death on a cross, and his resurrection? On a more specific thought, what does this say of Jesus' prayer throughout John 17? Specifically, this:
[17:1] When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, [2] since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. [3] And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. [4] I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. [5] And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
(John 17:1-5 ESV)
Part of Jesus' teaching was indeed "to love our enemies as much as our neighbors." (Luke 6:27) To say this was the radical core of his teaching would fail to consider the passage in John 17, which Christ himself prayed hours before he was to be sentenced to death on a cross. The radical message of Jesus was God. Jesus came to glorify the Father in his salvific work. Christ was always pointing to the Father as the ultimate message. Is not the very essence of eternal life to know "the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent"?

With that, I say this regarding Anne Rice's concept of the main teaching of Jesus: God is not man-centered. God is God-centered. If Christ came only to tell us to love - here I go repeating myself - then his work on the cross meant nothing. This is to belittle God, ignore our sin, and assume that all we need is a command to love, and that will fix the human race of all its misery and evil. May I be so bold and daring to say that this was the point of Jesus life and message: that the Father would glorify the Son through his loving, incomprehensibly gracious work of salvation wrought on this earth ~2000 years ago which was planed before time began. ( John 17:5, Eph. 1:3-10)

Comments? Perhaps I ruffled some feathers...

8.21.2010

A Request for Love

Here's a prayer inspired by Psalm 119:88 - "In your steadfast love give me life, that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth."

Father,
  
Give me life in your steadfast love. So fill me with a vitality, brightness, radiance divine, grace and peace that I keep your testimonies. Your solemn will declared for me is my sanctification.

Holy Father, wrap me up in your love. My "love" is pitiful. I am partial, prejudiced, lacking in zeal, selfish, and altogether unlovely. But your love is perfect. Your love is kind, patient, bountiful. It knows no bounds. It lasts forever. Its strength goes unmatched. It is rich and free. It is fixed on me eternally.

Who am I that you would see my sin and rebellion and still you would fix your gaze of love on me? The love of Christ provides the sacrifice for my sins and it is great enough to cleanse me from my sins.

May the life you give me, the life in the Spirit, bring me into conformity in thought and deed to your Son. Change my heart daily and renew me day by day until the great day of my full, final, complete redemption.

Your mouth utters only truth. Open my ears to hear your testimonies, your solemn, perfect will. Your word is fixed and cannot change. You will not withdraw your love from me. As my life inches closer to the day of the LORD, may I only know more of the rich life in your Spirit.

Cause my heart to feel your love and in your steadfast love give me life.

In the name of the loving, once bled, now enthroned Son of God does my prayer ascend to you. Amen.

8.20.2010

Get Rid of Your Idols!

Are we honest and sincere in our professed desire to be true Christians? Have we given up all our idols? Is there no secret sin that we are silently clinging to, and refusing to give up? Is there no thing or person that we are privately loving more than Christ and our souls? These are questions that ought to be answered. The true explanation of the unsatisfactory state of many hearers of the Gospel, is spiritual idolatry. We need not wonder that John says, "Keep yourselves from idols." (1 John 5:21.)

- J.C. Ryle

(HT: Get Rid of Your Idols!)

8.19.2010

Wrestling with Romans 8:10

Romans 8:10
"But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness." (ESV)

1st: What is "the body"? It is the same as "the flesh" in v. 11. The body is you, your actual physical being.

2nd: Why is the body dead? Sin (begun with Adam) brings death physically. This is actually a great grace of God that he didn't allow Adam and Eve to live in their physical bodies forever. To live in a fallen, sinful body forever would be terrible and utter misery.

3rd: All physical bodies will die because of sin. (Spiritual death also comes from sin, but we will set that thought aside for now.)

4th: The Spirit - speaking of the Holy Spirit - is life because of righteousness. What does it mean for the Spirit to actually be life? Look to verse 11. The Holy Spirit of God, who is God, is the person who raised Christ from the dead and the Spirit's presence in a person is a guarantee that their physical bodies will be raised, resurrected from the dead. The Holy Spirit is the only thing that "is life" for the Christian, because he will give them eternal life in a final, fully redeemed, completed manner when he raises from the dead those who he dwells in right now.

5th: Whose "righteousness" is referred to in this verse? This foreign righteousness is the cause of the Spirit to give and be life to the one in who the Spirit dwells. So whose is it? Allow me a summary statement of the Bible, but righteousness that is given to man always finds its source in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. (See Romans 3:21-26 for a brief support of this idea.)

6th: Something that may be confusing is the fact that Paul speaks in the present tense even as he refers to resurrection life from the dead. "The body is dead" and "the Spirit is life". Don't ask me about the Greek, because I don't know it and I don't want to pretend like I do.
What Paul seems to be getting at here is that the body, right now, is as good as dead. What is guaranteed in life? Death (and taxes, as the saying goes). Everyone who reads this post will physically die. (I'm not going to speculate on Christ' return and all that jazz here as so many feel the need to comment about. :-P ) Likewise, and I think this is where the Christian really can draw all of their hope from, Paul is saying that your new, eternal, glorified life, is basically in effect right now in the manner of speaking that this resurrection is 100% promised by God. On a similar note, and for your meditation, does not Romans 8:30 say that we are - present tense - glorified according to God's promise? Food for thought.

I think that is all I have for now on this. I hope it was helpful even though much of it was simply explanatory and I didn't seek to draw a ton of applicative points out of it...although I think we can find great joy, hope, exuberance in what I talked about in the 6th point.

Oh, and this post was spurred on by a request from a fellow friend on Twitter! Looks like the internet is good for something after all. :-)

8.17.2010

The Holy Spirit: Forgotten?

John Piper gives some words on the neglect of the address of the Holy Spirit (in different facets) in today's Christian circles:

8.16.2010

Life in God's Steadfast Love

In your steadfast love give me life,
    that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth.
Psalm 119:88

Observations / Interpretation:
The Psalmist is asking for life to be given to him. However, mere existence - one meaning of "life" - will not cause anyone to "keep the testimonies" of God. The psalmist thus is clearly asking for something more than mere existence. The psalmist is asking for a new vitality in living amidst pain, affliction, and persecution. The love of God will set vivification into motion in the psalmist's life.

God's love is steadfast. As eternity is infinite in time, God's love is infinite in endurance. The steadfast love of God is an unthinkably powerful force. It is indeed the only force that will bring life of any kind to man.

There is an implied lack of life when the psalmist asks for life wrapped up in the love of God. We should seek and ask the experience and live all of our life in the love of God. God is love. The Spirit of God brings "life and peace" (Romans 8:6). The live apart from God - The Holy Spirit - is to live in death, a paradox that all humans are born into until they are "born again" (John 3:3). Living in a dead state, man operates wholly in "the flesh" (Romans 8:5-8). "For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace." (Romans 8:6)

Application:
I must pray often for God to give me life in his steadfast love, for he is the sole giver of life and true love, so that I may keep the testimonies of his mouth.

I must acknowledge that the mind set on the flesh only produces death. Life is given by the Spirit alone.

Ask God for life so that I may keep his commands. Abandon all methods of obedience that stem from anything apart from God's love, grace, and life-giving. Forsake efforts of my flesh to keep God's laws.

Meditate as often as possible on the love of Christ.

Test my life, modes of thought, and actions and see if they are bringing me into conformity with God's spoken testimonies.

*Be positive* that this is the most epic movie line ever.



Regarding the title of this post: you can just call me...The Punisher.

(HT: Kevin DeYoung)

Books are Spiritual

I highly doubt I have an audience of pre-teen girls visiting my blog, but I do know a few Christian college-age women who might visit this blog, so therefore, have a listen everyone and for the love of literature and your mind, be discerning.

8.14.2010

How do I know God exists?



Here's a gem from Carson on the existence of God:

"...if, as the Bible says, we have been made by God and if there had been no sin or rebellion, no one would be sitting around thinking, "Now what are the philosophical evidences for the existence of God?" Rather, we would be so full of adoration and intimate knowledge of him, and walking with him, and enjoying him by his Spirit, and so utterly convinced of him and delighting in him and finding our joy in him, that to ask the sort of question, "Does God  exist?" would be thought not only in bad taste, but just idiotic." (starting at 2:32)

(HT: Challies)

8.08.2010

Romans 8:1-4

A few friends on Twitter and I have decided to memorize Romans 8 in its entirety over the next x number of weeks. Here is the first chunk (I'm not peeking, I promise!):
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death, for God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh in order that the righteousness requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
- Romans 8:1-4 (ESV)
Hover over that link and make sure I memorized it correctly!

I was first seriously turned on to the idea of Bible memorization by this sermon preached by John Piper. I imagine I listened to that sermon for the first time at some point in 2009. It took a good hold of me and began my journey into Bible memorization.

The chief motivations I have had for Bible memorization are the following passages: John 15:1-7 and Psalm 119:9-11. I especially like Psalm 119:9-11 because of its ridiculous relevancy to my life and extremely straightforward point.

Do you want to fight sin? Do you want to not sin against God? Are you a young man? Do you desire to have a pure heart, a pure mind? Pure thoughts? Let me offer the biblical address to your questions:
[9] How can a young man keep his way pure?
        By guarding it according to your word.
[10] With my whole heart I seek you;
        let me not wander from your commandments!
[11] I have stored up your word in my heart,
        that I might not sin against you.
 (Psalm 119:9-11)
 Let me offer you this stream of thoughts that went through my head when I read this verse:
  • I am a young man.
  • I want to keep my life pure, because I sure know that I am impure in many things.
  • Hmm, how can I do this? [Reads verse] Ooooohhhhh....
  • Ok, looks like I need to start packing away the Bible into my heart.
Now let me offer one brief thought (and this entire post is totally stream-of-consciousness style, so forgive me): memorizing Scripture won't strictly keep you from sin. Why do I say this? Because Satan memorized Scripture. (And he probably knows way more of it than we ever will!) Therefore, just because someone - even if they are a devil! - memorizes the words of the Bible, they will not become more holy in thought and deed.

There's the rub it seems. Even if you memorize the Bible, you are not necessarily going to sin less, become more sanctified, etc. The Pharisees and Satan memorized gobs of Scripture. And yet, this verse clearly says something about not sinning and storing up God's word in your heart.

Let me offer a few brief thoughts for you to consider regarding this seeming paradox of memorization and sanctification.
  •  To grow in holiness, one must guard their their path, their way, their life (thoughts, actions, decisions) according to and with the word of God. The only offensive spiritual weapon we see described in Ephesians 6 is the "sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God". Be as a soldier scouting through a forest, ready to attack and kill sin at the sound of the slightest rustle of the forest. Guard your life by reciting the promises, warnings, and admonitions of the Bible throughout the day as you memorize.
  • Let your efforts towards holiness be whole-hearted. When discouraged, flee to the promises given us by our Lord. Know that he will never leave us or forsake us. Know that God is 100% for us. Know that "He who spared not his own son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:32).Chase God and seek him wholeheartedly. Intently think about your life and your path and seek to stay on the way that leads to life, but it is the same path that so few find.
  • Store up the Bible in your heart, not just your mind. Merely storing and reciting words from the Bible will do nothing for you if they do not affect your heart and find their way deep into your soul. Let the words of God be as scalpels and surgical tools that are cutting away sin from a failing heart. Open your self to divine surgery.

8.06.2010

"The fire has burned on"


As sinners we deserved condemnation in our unregenerate state in spite of the struggle. But God offers pardon “to those in Christ Jesus”. This is Paul’s Gospel. The fire has burned on and around the Cross of Christ. There and there alone is safety. Those in Christ Jesus can lead the consecrated, the crucified, the baptized life.
 - A.T. Robertson

8.05.2010

Calvinism: Good or bad?

Are you:
 - A Calvinist?
 - Someone who doesn't know what Calvinism is?
 - An Arminian?
 - Anti-Calvinism?

If you fall in any of these camps (and I imagine that you will fall in one of them) then you really should have a listen to this message by Burk Parsons from the 2010 Ligionier national conference.

Here is the link: "Is Calvinism Good for the Church?"

8.04.2010

Psalm 119 Selections

(Ps. 119:57) The LORD is my inheritance. I can be staisfied in him because he has given to me that which is priceless. God "gave him up for us all" and with Jesus he will "graciously give us all things." (Rom. 8:32)

(Ps. 119:59) This verse shows us an effective call to meditation, reflection, and repentance. The psalmist pointedly considered his actions, decisions, course, and trajectory of life. As the psalmist revlected on his life he was brought to repentance. Out thoughts should often bring us to consider our heavenly Father and all the love that he has for us. We may often find ourselves "coming to our senses", much like the younger son (Luke 15:17). Take inventory of your life. Where have we wandered from God's commandments?

(Ps. 119:60) As you consider your ways and examine your heart, let your repentance be swift. Like a deer who hears an unfamiliar rustle in the bush, like a hand when it touches a hot pan, so let your repentance be quick to turn from wayward sin and to God's testimonies.

(Ps. 119:61) Even if the wicked hold you captive for a season, do not forget God's law.

(Ps. 119:64) The love of God is truly all around me.

Use this site, seriously

Do you read the Bible?
Then you need to use this site.
Prepare to get your mind blown by the depth and the scope of the resources provided here from a widely unknown website.
http://preceptaustin.org