Friday, September 30, 2011

Impatience Is An Enemy To Spiritual Growth

By Pete Wilson

I think all too often in Christian circles we view spiritual transformation as something that should always be charted up and to the right. While I wish this was true, the reality is it isn’t, is it?

I love to study the life of the apostle Peter. I’ve got way too much in common with that dude.
Matthew 16-23: “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
What a huge spiritual victory for Peter. You’ve been there.

You walked away from a certain temptation.
You loved someone you thought was unlovable.
You forgave someone you thought was unforgivable.
You had a moment of incredible generosity.

But just a few verses later we read…
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
 Listen, I don’t care where you are on your spiritual journey, when Jesus calls you “Satan” it’s a major set back. No matter how you look at it that’s a bad day.

Peter is a great reminder to me that this journey of having Christ formed in me is not an overnight deal. You can’t microwave spiritual formation.

And yet “impatience” which might be the most accepted sin in our culture today drives us to constantly want to speed up the process.

Can I encourage you today to slow down. Don’t beat yourself up if you’ve met recent spiritual failure or you just feel stuck. There are seasons to this spiritual growth process.

Today’s a new day full of new opportunities to connect to God’s grace in new ways.

Have you ever felt like Peter, up and down in your spiritual growth?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Such a Savior as your circumstances require.

“Jesus is no longer visible upon earth; but he has promised his spiritual presence to abide with his word, ordinances and people, to the end of time.  Weary and heavy laden souls have now no need to take a long journey to seek him, but he is always near them, and in a spiritual manner, where his Gospel is preached. . . . Therefore, come unto him.  That is, raise your hearts, and breathe forth your complaints to him. . . . He is just such a Savior as your circumstances require, as you yourself could wish for.”

John Newton, Works (Edinburgh, 1988), II:462.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Clear like the Sun

Luther on Galatians 3:6--
A Christian is both righteous and a sinner, holy and profane, an enemy of God and yet a child of God.

Those who do not know the true manner of justification will not admit such opposites. But we must teach and comfort the afflicted sinner, saying,

"Brother, it is not possible for you to become so righteous in this life that you feel no sin at all. Your body cannot be clear like the sun, without spot or blemish. You have wrinkles and spots—and yet you are holy. You will say, 'How can I be holy when I have and feel sin in me?' Your feeling and acknowledging your sin is a good sign. Give thanks to God, and do not despair. It is one step toward health when the sick person acknowledges his infirmity. 'But how can I be set free from sin?' Run to Christ, the physician, who heals those who are broken in heart and saves sinners. Do not follow the judgment of reason, which tells you that he is angry with sinners. Kill reason, and believe in Christ. If you believe, you are righteous. . . . The sin that remains in you is not laid to your charge but is pardoned for the sake of Christ, in whom you believe and who is perfectly just. His righteousness is your righteousness, and your sin is his sin."
--Martin Luther, Galatians (Crossway, 1998), 134

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Calvin and Hobbes on Principles

Sunday is not a second Saturday

Post from: Ray Ortlund

If we would stop treating Sunday as a second Saturday, one more day to run to Home Depot, one more day for the kids’ soccer games, another day for getting ready for Monday, if we would rediscover Sunday as The Lord’s Day, focusing on him for just one day each week, what would be the immediate impact between today and one year from today?

By one year from today, we will have spent 52 whole days given over to Jesus.  Seven and a half weeks of paid vacation with Jesus.

He’s a good King.  Maybe we should put him first in our weekly schedules.  Not fit him into the margins of our busy weekends, but build our whole weekly routine around him.

Just a thought.

What do you think?  Is Ray being like the Pharisees who criticized Jesus about the Sabbath?   Or is he on to something?  I think partly both...Jesus clearly changed the way we view the Sabbath:  “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”  Clearly all the rules that the religious leaders had put on the practicing Jews were wrong.   But Ray is right that we only fit Jesus into the margins of our week.   Especially for me the weekend.  What if we spent one Sunday a month only in worship, prayer, celebration.....?  Would our relationship with God look different?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I’m going to trade in my plan for a party.

By Jon Acuff at Stuff Christians Like 

“Are you going to be an author who speaks or a speaker who writes?”

Someone asked me that question the other day and the truth is, I’m not sure.

These have been three of the weirdest years of my life and people keep asking me things like that.

And right now, I feel like everyone on the planet has a plan for their life except me. Have you ever felt that way?

I look at other Christians and, in my head, I imagine that they’ve got a perfect ten-year plan. They’ve got some well defined vision and know exactly what they’re going to work on for the next year. They’ve got emotional, financial, spiritual and physical goals and are simply checking them off one by one as they march confidently into the land of awesome. They all know what they want to be when they grow up, and they are currently doing exactly that.

Me? I can’t seem to get my hands around a plan. I want to. I’ve got a few steps laid out, but they are floaty and soft and not at all structured with the level of detail the guy in the show Prison Break had. He had tattoos that outlined his plan perfectly. Me? I’m like the guy in Memento, scrawling messages in sharpie like “Write a new book. Be a better dad. Make sure your wife knows you love her. Work on your core.”

Now clearly the core’s not an issue. I do a lot of medicine ball exercises and push this weighted sled at the gym that I’m almost positive Satan himself handcrafted in the bowels of hell, but what about my plan?

Don’t I need a plan for my life? A perfectly structured, flawlessly executed plan?

That’s where I’m at, right this second, which is why I was caught off guard recently by the story of the prodigal son.

I’ve read that story a thousand times. I’ve blogged about it dozens of times. I wrote a draft of a book about it, but despite all of that, I saw something new in it last week. Here’s what I bumped into:
The prodigal son had to trade in his plan to get the party.

After wasting his inheritance and essentially telling his father he wished he was dead, he came home to the farm. And he did not return empty handed. He was carrying his plan. He crafted it carefully when he “came to his senses.” He filled his hands and his heart and his mouth with that plan.

On the road, his father ran to him. The son tried to pay his way back onto the farm with his plan. He thought that was the price of admission. The plan was what would bring him back to life. He was wrong.

His father met him and wouldn’t even let him say the entire plan out loud. The son didn’t even get to outline the whole plan. His father, God, cut him off. There was a party to discuss. And in that moment, the son had a choice, continue with his plan, or drop it to the ground, there in the road and open his hands.

He chose the party over the plan.
Into those empty hands, the father placed his ring.
Into those empty arms, the father placed his best robe.
Into that empty heart, the father placed his love.

I don’t know where you are on that road. Maybe life has fallen apart and you’re in the midst of a divorce and a new plan for a new you feels so appealing. Maybe you’re unemployed, and you feel like if you could just figure out the perfect plan, life would get back on track. Maybe you’re single and, while that’s fine for everyone else, for you that was never part of the plan. And a better plan would get you where you need to go.

I don’t know what’s in your hands right now, but I do know one thing.

I know what God wants to put into them.

His ring. His robe. His love.

Am I going to be an author who speaks or a speaker who writes? I’m not sure. This has unexpectedly become a season of letting go for me.

So that’s what I’m doing.

I’m going to trade in my plan for a party, which I think is always a deal worth making.

How about you?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Pity...maybe. Love....unbelievable.

“Can you imagine it, that God, who is greater than immensity, whose life is longer than time, that God the all-boundless One, should love you? That He should think of you, pity you, consider you, this is all very well—but that He should love you, that His heart should go out to you, that He should choose you, that He should have engraved you on the palms of His hands, that He should not rest in Heaven without you, that He should not think Heaven complete until He brings you there, that you should be the bride and Christ the Bridegroom, that there should be eternal love between Him and you—oh, as you think of it, lift up your hands with adoring wonder and say, ‘Your love to me was wonderful.’”
— Charles Spurgeon
"The Love of Jonathan and the Love of Jesus"

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Incessant Whisper

By Pete Wilson 
I think most of us begin our Christian journey with this simple truth.
I’m broken. I need Jesus. The end.

However as we launch out on this new journey it doesn’t take long before we begin to hear this growing and incessant whisper that says, “Try harder, do more.”

Sing more.
Memorize more.
Journal more.
Preach more.
Pray more.
Evangelize more.
Serve more.

This approach can look quite spiritual to those around us; however, it’s often rooted in a inner conviction that our worth as a Christian is dependent upon our ability to outperform those around us. Behind this spiritual facade is a fragile and insecure heart desperately attempting to get God to love us more.

The cross isn’t something we start with and then move on from. The cross isn’t just the starting line of our faith, it’s the centerpiece. Grace isn’t something we need just for salvation, it’s like air for the believer.

So today when you hear that whisper in your head that says “Try harder, do more,” go back to this.

I’m broken. I need Jesus. The end.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Picture of How the Gospel Cures What the Law Cannot

From Sarah Vowell's engaging history of the Puritans, The Wordy Shipmates:

When John Cotton's grandson, Cotton Mather, wrote his Ecclesiastical History of New England in 1702, he told a story about [John] Winthrop that I would like to believe is true. In the middle of winter, Boston was low on fuel and a man came to the governor complaining that a "needy person" was stealing from his woodpile. Winthrop mustered the appropriate outrage and requested that the thief come see him, presumably for punishment. According to Mather, Winthrop tells the man,
"Friend, it is a severe winter, and I doubt you are but meanly provided for wood; wherefore I would have you supply yourself at my woodpile till this cold season be over." And Winthrop then merrily asked his friends whether he had not effectually cured this man of stealing his wood.

I know what you are all thinking......."That's not fair...He didn't get what he deserved and got what he didn't deserve...."   Exactly.  Us too. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Prayer about God Owning Our Battles

From Heavenward by Scotty Smith:
The Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s. 1 Sam. 17:47
This is what the Lord says to you: “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” 2 Chron. 20:15
Dear Father, I’m thankful when you’re selfish with things I don’t really want anyway—especially when you claim ownership of my battles. Though following Jesus involves intense warfare and wearing the armor you provide (Eph. 6:10–18), you are the Divine Warrior we must trust. Whether it’s a mere skirmish or an all-out assault, the battle belongs to you, Lord. Fear and discouragement are not the order of the day, faith and hope are.

We’re never more than David standing before Goliath (1Sam. 17); Elijah facing 400 prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18); Gideon taking on the Midianite army (Judges 6-8); Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in a fiery furnace; Esther against the Persian government. It’s not our competence but your presence that matters. Not as disengaged pacifists, but as fully engaged worshipers, we will behold the salvation of the Lord.

Father, when it seems like evil and terror will triumph, let us hear the laughter of heaven. Give us eyes to see your already installed King, the Lord Jesus, reigning over all things (Psalm. 2).

When we’re under attack by the seducer, accuser, and condemner of the brethren, once again let us see Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. He is our wisdom, righteousness, holiness, and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30–31). Our boast is in Jesus, not in anything in us.

Lord, when we have to confront darkness in very broken people and very broken situations, protect us and empower us through the gospel. When we get pulled into petty fights with our brothers and sisters in Christ, humble all of us by your mercy and grace, and bring us back to faith expressing itself in love, quickly.

When my own divided heart wages war inside of me and I’m tempted to look for another savior; when I begin to lose confidence in the sufficiency of your grace, the trustworthiness of your promises and the hope of the gospel, come to me in the storm, Jesus, and make peace in the warzone of my soul. So very Amen I pray, in your loving and triumphant name.