Friday, March 27, 2009

Spring Break

As you know, if you’ve read the “About Me” section of this blog, I’m a public school teacher. Well, today is the last day of classes before Spring Break. We don’t go back to school until April 6…and, God in heaven knows, I’m so glad about that!

I am weary. I’m tired, too, and need to catch up on my sleep but, mostly, I’m just weary. Do you know what I mean? Mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually, I need rest. I just want to spend some unhurried, quiet time talking to God and reading His word. And then, I want to relax with one or more of the books I’ve started but haven’t had the time, energy or motivation to read. Pray that the next week might prove to be a gracious time of refreshment from the Lord.

On another note, my father is coming to visit this weekend. The family and I are looking forward to it. As I wrote in a post this past summer, I only met my father a little over three-and-a-half years ago. This past summer was our first time to lay eyes on him. So, you see, we’re very excited to have the chance to see him again.

I hope you have a blessed week in the Lord, also.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Do not be anxious

Right now the country is mired deep in an economic recession. The hearts of many are anxious about the future. Christians ought to know better, yet we also occasionally fall victim to worry and fear concerning our futures. I want to encourage you, as I encourage myself, by directing you to the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 6:25-34. What the Master says here has helped and sustained me many times when my wife and I were facing economic uncertainty:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

There are two crucial questions you must ask yourself.

First: Do you truly trust God? You can’t control the future. You don’t know what crisis might be headed your way. God is in control, and your life is in His hands. He takes care of His own. Let unbelievers (“the Gentiles”) worry about how they will make ends meet. Your heavenly Father knows about your needs. Trust Him. Truly trust Him.

Secondly: Are you sure you belong to God? Is He your Father? “To all who did receive [Jesus Christ], who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13). I can’t find a single comforting promise for those who are not born of God, whose hope is not in the Lord Jesus Christ. If your hope is not “built on…Jesus’ blood and righteousness”, then you ought to be worried. Worried not only for the economy, but for your soul as well. Make certain you belong to God.

Our heavenly Father knows the needs of His children, and He will take care of His own.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

“More Love to Thee”

I love this beautiful hymn by Elizabeth Payson Prentiss (listen to it here; read a bit about Elizabeth Prentiss here). Nowadays, I rarely hear it sung (in fact, I never hear it anymore, unless I’m the one playing it). Christians ought to start singing it again; it would do us good.

Read and ponder these lyrics by Mrs. Prentiss and ask yourself this question: Can I sing the second and third verses, and really mean it?

More love to Thee, O Christ, more love to Thee!
Hear Thou the prayer I make on bended knee;
This is my earnest plea: More love, O Christ, to Thee,
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

Once earthly joy I craved, sought peace and rest;
Now Thee alone I seek, give what is best;
This all my prayer shall be: More love, O Christ, to Thee,
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

Let sorrow do its work, send grief and pain;
Sweet are Thy messengers, sweet their refrain,
When they can sing with me: More love, O Christ, to Thee,
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

Then shall my latest breath whisper Thy praise;
This be the parting cry my heart shall raise;
This still its prayer shall be: More love, O Christ, to Thee,
More love to Thee, more love to Thee!

—Elizabeth Prentiss (1818-1878), 1856

Monday, March 23, 2009

“The Living God”

The Bible teaches that our God is a God who is alive and active in our world. I believe that—or at least that’s what I say I believe—yet, how easily unbelief can creep into our lives. It is possible to fall into the habit praying to God in a perfunctory way, not actually believing that He’ll do anything in answer to our prayers. Some say that “we are God’s hands and feet”, but I wonder sometimes if that saying is not just a more religious-sounding way to deny that God actually acts and works in answer to prayer. Kind of like a Christianized form of “if it’s to be it’s up to me”. Yet, the God portrayed in the Bible is one who acts in answer to prayer without any help from human beings. Our God works wonders and performs miracles, according to His will, in answer to prayer.

These thoughts came to my mind after reading a blog post by Adrian Warnock in which he brings to his readers’ attention a talk given in 1971 by the late Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (a copy of Dr. Lloyd-Jones’ original talk can be found here). Here’s some of what Dr. Lloyd-Jones had to say:

“I believe the same thing is happening in the realm of what I call a ‘theological scholasticism’ which is beginning to manifest itself amongst us—a ‘theological scholasticism’ in which we talk about the doctrines of grace instead of talking about God, the doctrines of salvation instead of Christ, the living Saviour. I believe that this is a new form of Deism. I could convict so many today of a new Deism. You know what that means. It took this form at the beginning of the eighteenth century: God was regarded as the great Creator, described as a great watch-maker. He made the watch, He wound it up, and then He put it down and He has no more to do with it. That was their way, you see, of denying miracles. Miracles are nonsense, they said. God does not interfere. He has made the watch, He has put it down, and on it goes; He does not interfere with it. Deism! Well, I suspect a new kind of Deism is with us. I was referring to it partly yesterday in talking about miraculous healing and miracles and things of that kind. On some sort of theological and biblical grounds, as they would claim, they say that miracles cannot happen today, because all this ended with the Apostles. As if to say, ‘Oh yes, God acted then; but He hasn't acted like that since.’ He is shut out, on a priori grounds, on what they call biblical and theoretical grounds. They say, ‘God does not act like that now.’ They are shutting Him out. Is not that Deism? Who has given them the right to say this? The Scriptures do not say it, but they are saying it.”

Lloyd-Jones continues:

“Now I say that this shuts out God. The fact that men talk a lot about God does not mean that they really believe in the living God. They are talking about God; they are making statements about God; they are experts on the attributes of God; but they seem to shut out the living God, God Himself, the acting God. By their theories, He is not allowed to act. This is Deism; it is a kind of theological scholasticism. And this is the terrifying thing, that you can be talking about God and His attributes and so on, and yet have no contact with and no personal knowledge of this living God.”

“And now it seems to me that it comes to this. I feel that the message that God is giving to us in this conference is in the words of Malachi. I believe He is saying this to us: ‘Prove me now’—‘Prove Me. I am there; you prove Me.’ This has become a tremendous conviction with me. Maybe because I am facing my last years and I have been defending the faith—and people have praised me for doing it. Rubbish! What a miserable failure it has all been! From now on I am determined to do one thing only, and that is to give God no rest nor peace, until He does prove Himself and show Himself. I have expended so much energy in reasoning with the people about this faith. We have got to do that, it is part of preaching. But if we stop at that it will avail us nothing. But what I now am concerned about and I am concentrating on is this—asking God to show Himself, to do something, to give this touch, this manifestation of power. Nothing else will even make people listen to us. See, you bring out your apologetics; the others will answer. Every time you say something, you may say ‘This is unanswerable; nobody can turn this back.’ The reviewers wholly dismiss you, say you are a fool, you are ignorant, you do not know what you are talking about. That is what they will say. I can tell you now. You write your books. That is what you will get. I have had it! You see, one scholar…and another answers him. And they are satisfied. No, no! Nothing is going to call the attention of the masses of the people to the truth of this faith save a great phenomenon, such as the phenomenon of the day of Pentecost, the phenomenon of any one of the great revivals, the phenomenon of a single changed life. This is something that always arrests attention, maybe curiosity—what does it matter? The people come and listen. And the preacher has his opportunity. Nothing will avail us save this manifestation of the activity of God.

“My plea, therefore, is simply this—and with this I close—that we keep this ever in the forefront of all our thinking, all our preparation of sermons, and all our praying in particular. We must not be content until we have had some manifestation of the activity of God. We must concentrate on this. This is my plea, that we concentrate on this, because it is the great message of the Bible, so substantiated by the lessons of history. That is obviously today the only thing that gives us any hope as we face the future. And God seems to be saying that to us. ‘Prove Me now. Try Me. Risk your everything on Me. Be fools for My sake. Cast yourselves utterly upon this belief.’ Let us put it like this: Do we really believe that God can still act? That is the question; that is the ultimate challenge. Or have we, for theological or some other reasons, excluded the very possibility? Here is the crucial matter. Do we individually and personally really believe that God still acts, can act and will act—in individuals, in groups of individuals, in churches, localities, perhaps even in countries? Do we believe that He is as capable of doing that today as He was in ancient times—the Old Testament, the New Testament times, the book of Acts, Protestant Reformation, Puritans, Methodist Awakening, 1859, 1904-5? Do we really believe that He can still do it? You see, it is ultimately what you believe about God. If He is the great Jehovah—I am that I am, I am that I shall be, unchanged, unchanging, unchangeable, the everlasting and eternal God—well, He can still do it. And I believe He is saying to us, ‘Try Me. Prove Me. Cast your all upon Me. Go on until I have given you the proof you desire.’ Then we will forget the trees for a while, and we will see the grand power of our God, and God's gracious and eternal purposes in His dear Son. We will first be humbled, and I think many of us will feel that we have never been Christians at all. It will not be true; we are. But what we will experience then will be so great and glorious, so overwhelming, that we will scarcely believe that we have ever known anything about these things at all. May that day soon come!”

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Prayer request

I need some very specific help from God. I’ll soon be facing a situation about which I have absolutely no idea what to do. That’s why I’m praying for God’s clear, specific and particular guidance.

Does God guide in specific ways? I believe He does. I’m thinking along the lines of 1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12; Colossians 4:3; and Acts 16:7:

“…a wide door for effective work has opened to me…” (1 Corinthians 16:9)

“…a door was opened for me in the Lord…” (2 Corinthians 2:12)

“At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word…” (Colossians 4:3)

“…they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.” (Acts 16:7)

Clearly, God can guide in specific ways. That’s why I pray that He will guide me in a specific way. I need to know exactly what I should do.

If the Lord lays it on your mind, will you pray with me? Thanks.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Encouragement in the fight of faith

Yesterday, I read the following paragraph from the Introduction to John Piper’s newest book, Finally Alive: What Happens When We Are Born Again, and found it tremendously encouraging:

Nevertheless…I will distance myself from perfectionism. In other words, I don’t think that the new birth makes us perfect in this life. Sin remains, and the fight of faith is a daily necessity. Some unbelievers look like better people than some believers. But that is because some pretty bad people have been born again, and the process of transformation is not always as fast as we would like.

Dear Christian, maybe you, like me, are not where you want to be in the process of transformation, but think of where you would be if God had not saved you. By the grace of God, we’re a far cry from what we could have been. I encourage you to take heart at the evidences of grace that you do see in your life, and keep up the fight of faith. God has not given up on you and me.

And, get a couple copies of Finally Alive: one to read, and another to share with someone else.