Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Another message

I'm in correspondence with someone that has been sending me messages from his meditations. To provide a broader distribution, I will be posting these occasionally. See following:

Taking Up the Cross

And Jesus said to all, “if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

Today I would focus in on just one of Christ’s words, “daily”, as in taking up our cross daily. In today’s culture, we have a great tendency to segment our lives. We have our work life, our family life, and the life we share with our friends. Finally, we have our religious life, our relationship with God, which we often like to put into a little two or three hour block on Sunday. Now, how do you think the almighty God, creator of everything, feels about being so marginalized. Not to mention the fact that we would most certainly be shirking our duty to be Christ’s ambassadors to everyone we meet through our attitude of love, kindness, patience, and gentleness. We are not called to be Christians just one day a week. We are called to take up our cross every day, to daily crucify our impatience, our malice, our bitterness, our jealousy, our rivalries, and our divisions, all those things that darkens the light of Christ that should shine out from within each and every one of us.

Scripture is absolutely full of verses about the Christian way of life, about how followers of Christ are to live their lives day to day. Allow me to inundate you with several examples:

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those that hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to your own interests, but also to the interest of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)

“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5)

“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil.” (II Timothy 2:24)

“You have heard that it was said you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43-44)

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

Now, I will certainly admit it is often difficult to live up to these standards. It’s one thing when it’s a Sunday, the sun is shining, you’re feeling great, and everything looks like it’s going your way. It’s quite another when it’s the middle of the work week, your coworkers are being belligerent, your kids won’t listen to a word you say, and there seems to be a never ending pile of bills to be paid. So, we’re left with the question of how do we live our lives like Christ day to day to day, rain or shine, no matter what the world may throw at us. Ultimately, it comes down to having utter and absolute faith in and reliance upon God. Great. Now, in all practicality, what steps can we take to get to that place?

Fortunately, that question has a relatively simple answer. If we are to daily live a life pleasing to God, then we must daily seek Him through the means we have readily available. We must daily seek Him through prayer and reading His Word, the Bible.

Devotional, meaning regular and intentional, prayer and scriptural reading are two foundational keys to daily godly living. Prayer, to start with, is how we communicate with God. It is how we tell God of our hurts and our pains, our joys and our successes. It is how we express our thanks for our many blessings, and it is how we ask the Lord for His help. We are instructed to pray regularly, “continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 4:2) And we are promised some wonderful things through steadfast prayer. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phillipians 4:6-7) “If any of you lacks wisdom, let them ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given them. But let them ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:5-6) As if we needed more reason to continue in regular prayer, just think about what our faith really means. Christianity is not about some rote religious practices, it is a relationship with the one true living God and prayer is how we talk with Him. If we don’t talk to our friends, our spouses, our parents, our children, then those relationships suffer. It is much the same with God. If we don’t take the time to spend time with Him in prayer, then we are pushing ourselves farther away from Him. Conversely, when we come to God in prayer, we draw ourselves closer to Him and to knowing His will.
While prayer is our primary way of communicating with God, His primary way of communicating with us is through scripture, His Word. Scripture has in it all we need to know to live upright lives. “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. I have stored up your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:9,11) And it truly is given to us from God.

“All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for
correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (II Timothy 3:16-17)

A common thread in the lives of the most notable Christians through history is their commitment to regular devotional scripture reading and prayer. George Műller, a man whose life is certainly an example to be heeded made it is first priority each day to spend time on his knees before the Lord, and it was noted that he had read through the Bible in its entirety more than a hundred times. Martin Luther once exclaimed that he would hardly have the time nor the strength to accomplish what he needed to get done each day if he did not first spend three hours in prayer. Now, the amount of time we spend in prayer and the volume of reading we do are not the important thing. The important thing is how our hearts are towards God, and that we daily seek after Him. For those of you who like having a structured program, I thought I would give an example from my own practices. Again, the amount we read and the time we put into prayer is not what is important, and my way is certainly not the best way, it is merely an example. This is about developing our relationship with God, not just blindly following some mindless ritual. I generally start my devotional time with some scriptural reading. I’ve included a daily reading plan that I put together. It’s not the one I use, but this one is better about having around the same amount of reading each day and it focuses equally on Old Testament, New Testament, and Psalms and Proverbs. It works out to about 30-45 minutes of reading a day, depending on how fast of a reader you are. If you find that to be too big of a commitment with your busy schedule, I would first ask you to perhaps reevaluate your priorities, but then I would suggest maybe focusing on just one of the Testaments, old or new, at a time or use a different reading program, like the “one-year” Bible. In my reading, I also like to write down verses that particularly stand out to me, whether because I thought it to be a useful insight, or it was applicable to a situation in my life, or it was just plain interesting. I try to pick out about one verse like that each day. The several verses I quoted together earlier are examples of ones that I had picked out recently.

After my scripture reading, I go into a time of prayer. I often do it in that order on the advice of George Müller, who often found it easier to focus on his prayer time and not be distracted by stray thoughts after first spending some time in God’s Word. Now, it is important to reach out to God in prayer throughout our day, but I use this time I’ve set aside to really lay out my whole heart to Him. I start with a time of thankfulness and praise, just really thanking the Lord for the many blessings He showers on us, His constant provision, His beautiful creation He has given us, our loving families, etc. I then lay out to Him all my hopes, my cares, my worries, my plans, anything and everything important that I need to do with my day, and every big thing that is coming up. I lay this all out to God, trusting that He will help guide and lead me through it all in a way that is good and right and pleasing to Him. I finish up my prayer time with specific intercessions, prayers made on other people’s behalf. It may be for a certain person to come to know God, or for someone’s bodily healing, or for the healing of someone’s heart and emotions. I pray for whatever is on my heart for another person, knowing that God, who delights in our prayers, will take care of their situation as He, in His infinite wisdom, sees fit.

After I am done with my prayers, I finish up my devotional time by reviewing and meditating on those verses I had noted down on previous days. That way I am not just reading through the Bible without absorbing any of it. I take that time to really reflect on those verses that had seemed important to me and try to see how I can learn and grow from them, and how I can apply them to my life that day.
There is a third foundational key to the Christian life that I did not touch on, which is fellowship, but that is another subject for another day. Really, we can simply describe the whole of the Christian life as trying to emulate Christ in His love for our fellow man and His love for and reliance upon the Father. It is not always easy to live as He would have us live, but at least the instructions for gaining guidance are simple. We must daily seek after God through His Word and through prayer.

“And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek God’s kingdom, and these things will be added to you.” (Luke 12:29-31)

Anonymous

Monday, December 28, 2009

Passing on good stuff

Recently I received several sermons that I would like to make available:

The Inheritance of Moses and Esau

“[See to it] that no one is…unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.” (Hebrews 12:16-17)

As Christians, we share in a great inheritance of grace, mercy, peace, and joy, and after this world, eternal life and unending glory. With most worldly inheritances, you do little or nothing to earn it, you are merely born to it. Our Christian inheritance is much the same. We can by no way earn it, it is a gift. We gain this gift only by simply believing that it is there to be had, and by having faith in He who gives it. Faith, not being a matter of head-knowledge, but of heart-knowledge, a true and deep acceptance of Christ as our Lord and Savior. Let us take firm hold of this blessed inheritance, being fully assured without a doubt that it is ours.

There are a couple figures in the Bible that I want to briefly write about their inheritances, namely, Esau and Moses. Both were men with great inheritances promised to them, but what they did with the gifts they were given differs drastically. I will start with Esau. Esau was the grandchild of Abraham; the firstborn son of Isaac, who was the promised child in God’s covenant with Abraham. Thus, all the blessings of God’s covenant with Abraham should have been passed down as an inheritance to Esau. This was not to be, however. As it is written, “Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. And Esau said to Jacob, ‘Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!’ (Therefore his name was called Edom.) Jacob said, ‘Sell me your birthright now.’ Esau said, ‘I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?’ Jacob said, ‘Swear to me now.’ So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.” (Genesis 25:29-41) Because of his carnal, worldly desires, Esau hastily gave up the promise of greater things to come for a single meal.

Moses, much like Esau, was born among God’s chosen people, and thus was an heir to the inheritance of God’s great promises. Unlike Esau, Moses also had a great inheritance among foreigners, being raised by Pharaoh’s daughter, and he took a much different stance towards those things that were promised him. “By faith, Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ’s greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.” (Hebrews 11:24-27) Now Moses was a man who had gotten his priorities straight. He had tasted and seen the best this world had to offer, and he saw it was all a pale shadow next to the glory of God.

Much like Esau, how many people today reject God’s promises, preferring to partake in the pleasures of this world that do not last and do not satisfy. The scary part of the equation comes with the latter part of Hebrews 12:17, “for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.” Now, our Lord is merciful, forgiving the truly repentant sinner even upon his death bed unto salvation. However, how much blessing did said poor sinner miss out of in this life, and what treasures did he miss the opportunity to lay up in heaven. For the Christian life holds many blessings, even in this world. That is not to say we should expect a life of ease. I recently met a man who had once been a part of the leadership in his church, but now no longer goes to church and was unsure of his beliefs. His reasoning was that bad things kept happening in his life, and such things shouldn’t happen to believers, especially those in leadership. That idea is simply not Biblical. The Bible teaches us to expect tribulation and difficulty, as that is the way of the world. As Jesus said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Our inheritance in this life is peace, contentment, and joy, even in the midst of most dire circumstances.

Moses certainly has the example to follow. Money, physical pleasure, worldly acclaim; these things do not fill, only leaving us wanting more, and they surely are no great comfort when the world throws its worst at us. In fact, they are often the quickest to be lost. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on the earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)

How often do we see, in the media, celebrities driven to the brink of despair. They typically have everything the world has to offer; fame, possessions, influence, and yet we see them die from suicide or drug overdose. Obviously, I do not speak of everyone who spends their time in the limelight. But those who try to fill themselves with continuously more; more money, more fame, more parties, they are the ones heading for a train wreck. The only thing that remains, the only thing that lasts, the only thing that truly fills us, is God’s blessed assurance.

“Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” (I Timothy 6:6-8)

The secret to a happy life lies there in those simple facts. Good or bad, the things of this life are temporary, and are incomparable to the blessings to come. This is our inheritance in Christ, let us all be sure to lay claim to it.

Anonymous

Lighthouses

There is much misinformation about lighthouses. In my seventy years of reading books, poetry and having conversations, if lighthouses are in the text they have always had, with no exception, the wrong reason for lighthouses being lighthouses.

“They are on dangerous rocky shores to warn ships to stay clear of the rock and the surf.” This non truth is spoken authoritatively and seems to be accepted by the hearer or reader.

In reality it is a myth.

Here is the correct definition:

“A structure with a powerful light that gives a continuous or intermittent signal to navigators.”

Each lighthouse in the world has its own distinctive signal and its exact location. When that signal is seen, the ship’s navigator knows exactly where he is.

The lighthouse is navigational structure only. It has nothing to do with rocks and safety.

They are beautiful pieces of architecture as seen from the shore. From the sea the signal is the only thing worth seeing. The navigator does not want to see the beautiful building up close. He only wants to know where he is.

There are many other mythical untruths which are beautiful but have nothing to do with life and godliness, where we are, or how to get where we should be. They are not lighthouses.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

10th Commandment; last doesn't mean least.

We linked the Tenth Commandment with the Seventh. Today we will attach it very strongly with the First and Second Commandments.

No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Matthew 6:24

Money is the other god that is before the God of the First Command; “You shall have no other gods before me.”

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Colossians 3:5

Greed is idolatry.

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
1 Timothy 6:10