Thursday, September 30, 2010

Jesus’ Story of Forgiveness

Unforgiving ServantIn my last post I wrote about what Jesus said about forgiveness in Matthew 18. Peter asked Jesus, “How often should I forgive my brother, seven times?" (Verse 21). And Jesus answered, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”
Then, as He often does, Jesus tells a story. It goes something like this: There was a slave who owed the king 10,000 talents. (Now if a talent was worth a dollar, most of us would think that would be a lot of money. But a talent was really equal to about 15 years wages! If the average annual income for us is $50,000, one talent would be worth $750,000. The slave owed 10,000 times that amount: that would be the equivalent of $7,500,000,000 – 7.5 billion dollars!)
How this servant ended up owing such a huge debt, Jesus doesn’t say. This fellow was a slave, and therefore had little personal earnings, if he earned the common wage of his day and gave all his income to the king, it would take him 150,000 years to pay off the debt!
I think Jesus used such a high amount (an impossible amount to pay back) to show how much we are in debt to God because of our sin. Remember, Jesus is talking about forgiveness. The impossibly huge debt shows how much I need to be forgiven by God. Just as the slave could never pay back what he owed, we could never pay back what we owe to God.
The king decides to settle his accounts, he calls the slave in, and since there is no way that the slave can pay, he orders him and his whole family thrown into prison. The slave cries out "just a little more time, and I will repay!" The king decides to have mercy on the man, and he completely cancels the debt! Wow!
Augustus Toplady wrote the song, Rock of Ages Cleft for Me – the second verse expresses so clearly the huge debt we owed and our inability to pay for it:
Could my tears forever flow, could my zeal no languor know,
These for sin could not atone, Thou must save and Thou alone
In my hand no price I bring, simply to thy cross I cling
If the story ended there we could all cheer for the master and the one he forgave. But Jesus continues the story and adds a twist.
The slave leaves and on his way out he finds a friend who owes him 100 denari. (A denarus was worth about a day’s wages, so he owed him about $15,000 in today’s money. This is no small amount, but it is absolutely nothing compared to the huge amount that he had just been forgiven.)
The slave grabbed his friend by the throat and said "Pay what you owe" The debtor said, “just a little more time, and I’ll repay!" the slave would have none of it and had him thrown into prison. When the king got wind of it, he summoned him and said "You wicked servant, I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow-servant just as I had on you?" In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
Understand this: unforgiveness is a self-inflicted prison. It is self-induced torture. It is a ball-and-chain of your own making. No matter what anybody did to you first, forgiveness or unforgiveness is your own choice.
After all, if it weren’t a choice, would we be told so many times to do it? If we had no say in the matter, would a loving God tell us to forgive? If it were impossible to forgive, would we be told to do it?
- Colossians 3:13 - Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
- Ephesians 4:32 - Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
- Luke 11:4 - Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’ "
And some of Jesus’ own words are even more severe:
- Matthew 6:14-15 - For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
- Mark 11:25 - And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."
"Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven… For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Luke 6:37-38)
These tie in with the conclusion of Jesus’ story:
- Matthew 18:35 - "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."
Jesus seems to imply that the extent that you forgive others is how much God will forgive you. Is that a scary thought? It sure looks as if God considers our forgiveness of others as important as His forgiveness of us.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What Jesus Said About Forgiveness

ForgivenessThe mother ran into the bedroom when she heard her seven-year-old son scream. She found his two-year-old sister pulling his hair. She gently released the little girl’s grip and said comfortingly to the boy, "There, there. She didn’t mean it. She doesn’t know that hurts." He nodded his acknowledgement, and she left the room.
As she started down the hall she heard the little girl scream. Rushing back in, she asked, "What happened?"
The little boy replied, "She knows now."
Jesus’ "Parable of the Unmerciful Servant" is preceeded by a succinct set of guidelines on what to do when a brother sins against you. (Matthew 18:15-17) Mark Roberts has done a whole series on this subject. Here is a summary:
1. First, deal with it one-on-one. Try to keep the matter private. Hopefully, this will be all that’s necessary to restore fellowship and friendship. (Verse 15)
2. If that doesn’t work, get help from others. (Verse 16)
3. If you aren’t successful with the first two steps, share the issue with the church. (Verse 17a)
4. If he refuses to listen to the church, put him out of the church. (Verse 17b)
If we would follow Christ’s clear commands we would have great blessings:
1. The blessing of heavenly power! (Verse 18)
2. The blessing of answered prayer! (Verse 19)
3. The blessing of Christ’s presence! (Verse 20)
Jesus has just given some teaching on restoring a church member who has sinned against you, and Peter comes and asks him, “How often should I forgive my brother, seven times?" (Verse 21)
We need to keep in mind here that a Jewish custom was floating around during this time that you were able to forgive a person three times for one specific sin. After that, you didn’t have to. So, when Peter said, “up to seven times” he was actually willing to go beyond the norm.
Jesus’ Answer on Forgiveness -- Christ answered the question with hyperbole. We aren’t to stop forgiving our brother at his seventh offence against us, but go on seventy times seven.
In other words, we aren’t really supposed to be counting. We’re supposed to be forgiving!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Finishing Well

FinishI was watching the NASCAR race last Sunday at New Hampshire (No, unfortunately I wasn’t at the race. I watched it from my living room). Tony Stewart was leading the race with one lap to go when his car ran out of gas. Rather than win the race he finished 24th. The guy who won the race, Clint Bowyer, later had problems of his own. Even though he won the race on Sunday, the car failed a post race inspection so on Wednesday, the team was docked 150 points and fined $150,000. The crew chief was suspended for 6 races. Instead of being launched forward toward the championship the team is now in last place, 185 points behind the leader.
Both these teams raced hard. Neither finished well. In Psalm 119 the psalmist prays in verse 33, “Teach me, O LORD, the way of Your statutes, And I shall keep it to the end.” His prayer and desire is that he would keep God’s statutes to the end; all the way; that he would end well.
You know, the Christian life is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Having been a Christian now for 28 years, coming to the Lord as a college sophomore, I have now lived longer as a believer than as an unbeliever. Sometimes I have done well as a Christian, but not always. But the older I get, the more I think about how I am finishing. I want to end well.
One of the hardest and most difficult challenges in life is to stay consistent. It seems like all of life is designed to force us onto a rollercoaster. On that roller coaster, we are always challenged with decisions and struggles which are perfectly and intentionally focused on “derailing” us. How many people do we know who have failed to finish well?
Psalm 119 has much help for us. This is a psalm all about God’s Word, with each verse referring to the Bible by one of many synonyms or titles (commandments, statutes, precepts, ways, ordinances, law, etc.). This is a psalm of loving and longing God and His word.
How did this writer have such a delight and longing for Scripture? How did he maintain this over a lifetime of trouble and pain? How did he finish well? How can we?
The person that would end well prays:
1. Teach Me (vs. 33-34).
Teach me, O LORD, the way of Your statutes, And I shall keep it to the end.
This prayer is the theme of the entire psalm. God Himself must be our teacher and His Word must be our textbook.
Kneel down in your private room and with sincere humility and earnestness pray to God, through His dear Son, graciously to grant you His Holy Spirit to enlighten and guide you and give you understanding.
2. Make Me Able. (Psalm 119:35-37)
True faith and prayer mobilizes action. We trust and obey. It’s not enough to be readers of the Word, or as James says, hearers of the Word only, we must be doers of the Word. Praying is essential and recognizes God’s sovereignty, but our responsibility is equally balanced in this passage.
This prayer is for obeying or heeding God’s Word with the whole person. I say “the whole person” because verses 34-37 unfold that way:
MIND - 34 Give me understanding
FEET - 35 Make me walk in the path
HEART - 36 Incline my heart to Your testimonies
EYES - 37 Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity
3. Revive My Life (Psalm 119:37b-40)
“Behold, I long for Your precepts; Revive me in Your righteousness,” (Ps. 119:40).
v. 33-34 RENEW MY MIND
rest of text REVIVE MY LIFE
Revived hearts do not see Bible reading as a bore or something they have to do. It’s a gracious gift they long for and get to read. Look at his longing in verse 29 “graciously grant me thy law”
Is this how we think of God’s law, as a gracious gift given by our Loving Father?
“Teach me Your ways, make me able to follow them, revive my life so that my great longing is for You, Oh Lord.” This is the prayer of the one who would finish well.
Are you running the race to finish well?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Revival: Dedication to Holiness

HolinessPsalm 119:25-32
Last week I began to write about personal revival from Psalm 119:25-32. Many Christians would love to see a true revival in our nation and world. I would too. But revival begins with the individual. Personal spiritual revival must precede any corporate revival. As we saw in Psalm 119:25, the real prayer we need to pray is, “Revive me! 
What does revival according to God’s Word look like? Four things are included in a personal spiritual revival. The first is Declaration of Sin and Our Need for God, (Psalm 119:25-26). The second is Devotion to God’s Word (119:26-27). The third is Dependence on God in Prayer.
Today we see the fourth indication of personal revival:
4. Dedication to Holiness: Obeying God’s Truth (119:30-32)
Lasting revival is not marked by numbers or emotions or feelings in the moment of a special church meeting, but by changed lives that now pursue obedience to Scripture and are dedicated to holiness, being set apart, sanctified by grace, different.
Verse 30 says “I have chosen the way of truth;” - way is a key word in this part of Psalm 119. It stands for the path and pattern of life: “my ways” (v. 26), “the way of Your precepts” (v. 27), “the way of lying” (v. 29), “the way of truth” (v. 30), “the way of Your commandments” (v. 32).
If we are going to choose to live the way of truth, we need to daily put God’s truth before us: “Your judgments I have laid before me,” (v. 30b). We must read God’s word. And not only read it; v. 31 goes beyond reading to clinging to Scripture, “I cling to Your testimonies.”
What a change from the beginning of this passage when he said his “soul clings to the dust,” (v. 25). The presence and power of God has revived him and now instead of clinging to the dust of this world he is clinging to the Divine Word of God. The Bible is his story and he’s sticking to it.
Verse 32 moves from walking in God’s ways to running in them. The psalmist began this prayer being down and out, now he’s up and running. He is determined to run the course … “I shall run” … His determination, however, is dependent on God’s strength: “For You shall enlarge my heart. “
The movement of personal revival in Psalm 119:25-32 is from death to life:
v. 25 laying in the dust, praying for life by the Word
v. 28 he prays, “raise me up by the Word”
v. 30 I have chosen the way of the Word – now he’s walking
v. 32 Now he’s running the way of God’s Word, with a full heart pumping with life
When my heart is set free from the cramping constraint of sin, trouble, and anxiety, then I am set free to run the course of God’s commandments. “The feet will follow the heart.” The key to personal revival is the person of Jesus Christ. It is His Holy Spirit enlarging our heart.
Revival is ultimately Christ Himself, seen, felt, heard, living, active, moving in and through His body on earth.” - Stephen Olford
Have I allowed God to graciously enlarge my heart?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Revival: Dependence on God in Prayer

Psalm 119:25-32
An awakening is ready to burst on the dismal scene when Christians have a deep, profound Spirit of prayer for an awakening.” - Lewis Drummond.
Last week I began to write about personal revival from Psalm 119:25-32. Many Christians would love to see a true revival in our nation and world. I would too. But revival begins with the individual. Personal spiritual revival must precede any corporate revival. As we saw in Psalm 119:25, the real prayer we need to pray is, “Revive me!” 
What does revival according to God’s Word look like? Four things are included in a personal spiritual revival. The first was Declaration of Sin and Our Need for God, (Psalm 119:25-26). The second was Devotion to God’s Word (119:26-27).
Today we see the third indication of personal revival:
3. Dependence on God in Prayer (119:28-29)
My soul melts from heaviness; Strengthen me according to Your word.”
Temptations to despair and spiritual depression are not often talked about in Christian circles, but they have been the struggles of some great Christians in church history, and even the author of this great psalm. What is the cure? Stop listening to the despair in our hearts and start listening instead to the truth of God’s word. It’s when we go to God in prayer that we find strength.
The one antidote for a weak and collapsing soul is hope in a strengthening God, which is what the 2nd half of verse 28 models. Jesus said “Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” This is the type of comforting strength the writer of Psalm 119 wanted and received.
When we are powerless, when our heart is melted, God’s power will strengthen all who humbly call out to Him. God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. We can endure all things through Christ who strengthens us. Christians may get discouraged and even depressed and downcast at times, but we do not despair completely if God is within us.
Prayer along with God’s word is the key. I don’t just pray “strengthen me” and leave God’s Word closed – this verse prays “strengthen me according to Your Word.” It’s a prayer with open an Bible that God blesses. We take God’s precious promises and enduring truths to Him in prayer.
Jonathan Edwards was greatly used by God in the greatest revival in North America, the Great Awakening in the 1700s. He experienced revival firsthand and saw as clear as anyone the connection with revival and prayer. He wrote: “When God has something very great for His church, it is His will that there should precede it the extraordinary prayers of His people.”
Remove from me the way of lying, And grant me Your law graciously.” (Psalm 119:29).
Power of Prayer
True prayer, real conversation and communion with God, makes the revived want to be free from all that is false. He prays for God to remove the way of lying or the “false way”. He wants to be free from anything false, whether false statements or even false motives, false religion, a false heart himself (hypocrisy), false notions of his own spiritual condition before God, false assessments of himself or others, false teaching –any falsification, delusion, deception, manipulation of the truth.
Have you prayed that kind of prayer lately?
(In the next post I will discuss the third indicator of personal revival: Dedication to Holiness).

Monday, September 20, 2010

Revival: Devotion to God’s Word

Revive Me Psalm 119Psalm 119:25-32
Revival awakens in our hearts an increased awareness of the presence of God, a new love for God, a new hatred for sin, and a hunger for His Word.” - Del Fehsenfeld Jr.
Last week I began to write about personal revival from Psalm 119:25-32. Many Christians would love to see a true revival in our nation and world. I would too. But revival begins with the individual. Personal spiritual revival must precede any corporate revival. As we saw in Psalm 119:25, the real prayer we need to pray is, “Revive me!” 
What does revival according to God’s Word look like? Four things are included in a personal spiritual revival. The first was Declaration of Sin and Our Need for God, (Psalm 119:25-26).
Today we see the second indication of personal revival:
2. Devotion to God’s Word (119:26-27)
Verse 26 ended with “Teach me your statutes” and verse 27 continues the same request in different words, “Make me understand the way of your precepts.”
The psalmist knew there were still lessons to learn in the school of life and he did not want to miss them. Too often we ask, “God, how can I get out of this trouble?” when we should be asking, “God, what do You want to teach me in this? What do you want me to get out of this experience?”
The psalmist wanted truth, truth that is set in stone and will never change. Oh, would that we wanted that today! … there is no way to exaggerate the vital importance of God’s teaching for our spiritual health. In a day when churches are built on empty entertainment, shallow sermonettes, and tainted tradition, we desparately need the reviving power of God’s truth.
I believe that one thing that can cure the anemic church of the 21st century is God’s absolute Truth. Oh that we would pray as the psalmist does: “teach me Your statutes!”
A devotion to understanding God’s word will strengthen our devotion God. A high view of God and a high view of God’s word go hand in hand. My purpose in studying the Bible is not just so I can have a ton of knowledge or so I can show-off what I have learned. I am not advocating anything even close to biblolatry. I study the Bible to know God; to meet Him in His word; to meditate on His wonders; to love Him with all my heart.
God’s word is really all about Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me,” (John 5:39). So a devotion to God’s word is not just devotion to a text, it is devotion to Jesus Christ whom the text reveals.
So I must ask myself:
Am I increasingly devoted to knowing and loving God through His word?
(In the next post I will discuss the third indicator of personal revival: Dependence on God in Prayer).

Friday, September 17, 2010

Catch the Wind of Heaven: Confess Your Ways

Set Your SailPsalm 119:25-32
We cannot organize revival, but we can set our sails to catch the wind from Heaven when God chooses to blow upon His people once again.” - G. Campbell Morgan.
Yesterday I began to write about revival. Many Christians would love to see a true revival in our nation and world. I would too. But as I wrote in my last post, revival begins with the individual. Personal spiritual revival must precede any corporate revival. As we saw in Psalm 119:25, the real prayer we need to pray is, “Revive me!”  
Revival, no matter how great or small in its ultimate scope, always begins with individual believers whose hearts are desperate for God, and who are willing to pay the price to meet Him”. - Del Fehsenfeld Jr.
What does revival according to God’s Word look like? How do we set our sails to catch the wind of Heaven? I believe Psalm 119:25-32 answers that question. Four things are included in a personal spiritual revival. The first is:
1. Declaration of Sin and Our Need for God. (119:25-26)
My soul clings to the dust; Revive me according to Your word.
 I have declared my ways, and You answered me; Teach me Your statutes
When a nation is in moral recession as ours appears to be, the tendency of many Christians is to bemoan the evils of our society. You can find plenty of Christians who spend a lot of time pointing out how wicked the world is. I don’t think this is especially helpful for revival. Real revival begins when we are more concerned with the evil in our own hearts, when we see our great need. The psalmist was concern with his own deadened spiritual state and the problem of his own sinful ways.
 “I have declared my ways,” (Ps. 119:26). This is open confession before an all-knowing God. Telling God “all our ways” includes our sinful ways. When I confess my sin I do not do it make God know my sin; He already knows it. I confess to make me know my sin. Declaring my ways shows that I am aware of my sad spiritual state. Confession is one way to set our sails to catch the wind of heaven.
But I think declaring our ways may mean more than just confessing our sin. It is also the unloading of all our heart; in all our ways acknowledging Him. 1 Peter 5 says to “cast all your cares upon Jesus because He cares for you.” All of our cares and concerns, all of our ways, should be declared to the Lord. He cares about every area of your life.
I don’t know exactly what the difficulties were in the life of this writer and I don’t know what difficulties today you face in your life. But I know this: if I am living in sin, or refusing to declare my ways to God, my misery will increase until I confess that sin; call it what it is; and come to Christ for forgiveness. This is where personal revival starts, instead of cleaving to this world and clinging to sin—confess it, renounce anything you hold onto more than Christ, and come humbly for mercy, saying “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to your cross I cling.”
God’s promise is that He will answer when we declare our ways. That’s what we need, an answer from God—and Jesus Christ is that answer. “Revival is ultimately Christ Himself, seen, felt, heard, living, active, moving in and through His body on earth,” - Stephen Olford.
How honest are you with yourself and God about your ways?
(In my next post I will share the second indicator of personal revival: Devotion to God’s Word).

Thursday, September 16, 2010

From Down and Out to Up and Running!

Psalm 119:25Psalm 119:25-32
All of us are painfully aware of the economic downturn in our country. Major banking institutions have failed. Millions of people are without jobs. Families are hurting. The government seems powerless to change it. The recession is fast turning into a depression.
But I believe that the bigger problem in our world today is not financial, but spiritual. Many in our world, and maybe even some of us, are suffering from a spiritual recession; maybe even a spiritual depression. But there is good news today– not from the world, but from the Word of God, where true encouragement is found for personal revival for your soul when you are in a spiritual recession.
Psalm 119 has places where its writer soars high in praise to God and love for the law of the Lord. But its writer also experienced the depths and heartaches we experience, and verse 25 begins with one of those down times. In eight verses the psalmist goes from “down and out in the dust” (v 25) to “up and running” (v 32). It is a prayer for revival, renewal, and restrengthening.
What a prayer for revival looks like:
The prayer: Downcast in the Dust, Revive me. (119:25). “My soul clings to the dust;” Dust was the language of humiliation or defeat in Bible times. Even in our day, we say “another one bites the dust” to refer to defeat. The psalmist certainly seems to feel defeated, emotionally and physically drained, as he says in v. 28, “My soul melts from heaviness.” Nothing is lower than dust. In the Bible, when people would intentionally put dust and ashes on themselves, it was a sign of devastation, mourning or repentance.
In biblical language, dust was also often associated with death, lack of life. Maybe the psalmist feels like he is on the brink of death. Or he may be talking about the spiritual deadness he feels, his diminished spiritual life. In the same way Adam was formed from the dust and was dependent on God’s breath of life—we are equally dependent spiritually. Apart from God’s reviving word we have no hope for spiritual vitality.
Many Christians are calling for prayer for revival for our nation. And certainly we should pray for our nation and our leaders, but let’s start where the psalmist started. Let’s pray for our own souls. “Revive me” is more than just “preserve my life” (NIV). It is “give me life” (ESV), or “quicken me” (KJV). He is as helpless to give himself life as Adam was, his total being is lying prostrate in the dust, but he cries to God for life.
The Bible is clear that revival is something man can pray for but it it’s equally clear that man cannot produce, predict or plan revival – it is a sovereign work of God’s grace. Man trying to plan a revival is kind of like man trying to plan an earthquake. We can’t control it, predict or manipulate it. God does it. That’s why we must pray for it.
A revival isn’t having a big tent meeting, filling a stadium of people for some crusade, having Christian entertainers perform, or having emotional music and long altar calls. Those things may be fine and my have their place, but revival is not the right word for that.
He prays, “Revive me according to Your Word” …
Spiritual revival is the re-awakening of God’s people joyfully to spiritual things, as well as the awakening of many for the first time to God’s saving grace in the process, after a time of spiritual dryness, dullness, deadness, even discipline. And it comes through prayer and God’s word.
Do you need revival?
What would revival look like in your life?
(In the next few posts we will gain more insight to a REVIVAL PRAYER from this Psalm).

Monday, September 13, 2010

Courage to Move Forward

Hal Moore"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."    (Josh 1:9 NKJV).
Courage is not the absence of fear. It takes no courage to face that which you are not afraid of. Courage is moving ahead despite your fears. I like what John Wayne said about courage: "Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway."
It is not enough simply to know the word of God....or to sense his presence, we must put into action what he tells us to do. Joshua has to begin that process. He takes action....he begins the task of moving forward, knowing that God is with him and will keep His promises.
The movie, We Were Soldiers, tells of true story of an army commander in Vietnam, Lt. Col. Hal Moore. He leads his troops into the first major engagement of US Troops against the Vietnamese Communists army. It turns out to be one of the bloodiest battles of the war. Col. Moore is a Christian, a great leader, and an American hero (recently he was honored at West Point for his service to America).
At the beginning of the movie Moore gives a stirring speech to his troops, promising his absolute commitment to them and his dedication to sacrificial leadership. With sternness he says:
Let us understand the situation. We are going into battle against a tough and determined enemy. I can't promise you that I'll bring you all home alive. But this I swear before you and before Almighty God: that when we go into battle I will be the first to set foot on the field and the last to step off. And I will leave no one behind. Dead or alive, we will all come home together, so help me God.
Not long after that speech Moore is on the battlefield, Army headquarters realizes they've made a mistake by attacking an enemy that's far too strong for them (they were outnumbered at least four to one). As intensifying enemy fire eliminated their air support, the officers back at the base decide to send in one last helicopter to evacuate Col. Moore so he can report to them directly what is happening, leaving his men behind to be overrun by the enemy.
When headquarters radios the orders for Moore to take this last helicopter back from the front line, he is outraged. He grabs the radio and barks into it, "I am in a fight! I object to this order! I will not leave my men!" and then he slams down the radio and returns to the battle.
Moore ends the firefight by taking his remaining men on a daring charge deeper into enemy territory. This turns the tide of the battle and leads to a dramatic victory.
What a great picture of courage! Hal Moore was committed to stand with his men no matter what. Hebrews 2:10 calls Jesus the captain of our salvation. He has done everything that is needed to give us the victory in the spiritual battle. And He has promised never to leave us. Joshua had that same promise from God and he was determined to move forward.
We Were Soldiers Once...and YoungHow about us? We’ve heard the word of God...we have sensed His presence, and His leading...but are we still just sitting? What are we waiting for? “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.”    (Eph 6:10 NKJV).
Let’s get going. There is ground to cover, battles to be won, a mission that is still unfinished.....let’s “be strong and courageous” and move forward!
(Read a 2007 interview with Lt. Gen. Moore, at

Friday, September 10, 2010

Peace in My Soul

Sinkign of the Ville du HavreHoratio G. Spafford, a forty-three-year-old Chicago businessman, suffered financial disaster in the Great Chicago fire of 1871.  Having lost in a fire virtually everything they owned, the Spafford family made new plans, including a trip from Chicago to Europe. Knowing that their friend, evangelist Dwight L. Moody, was going to be preaching in England that fall Spafford planned to take his entire family to England in November 1873.
Due to unexpected last minute business developments Spafford had to stay in Chicago. But he sent his wife and four daughters on ahead as scheduled on a huge ship, the SS Ville Du Havre.  He planned to join them a few days later. In spite of much careful preparation, Mr. Spafford's plans suddenly dissolved on the night of November 22 when the ship carrying his loved ones was rammed by another vessel and sank within twelve minutes. Two hundred and twenty-six lives were lost including his four beloved daughters.  Several days later the survivors finally landed at Cardiff, Wales and Mrs. Spafford sent a cable message to her husband with the words, “Saved alone.”
Spafford soon left by ship to join his grieving wife.  As they were crossing the Atlantic, the captain pointed out the place where he thought the Ville Du Havre had gone down.  That night Horatio Spafford sat down and penned the words:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
Anyone  who has ever had their plans disrupted by the hand of God can understand Spafford's plight.  But what I notice about this hymn is that the author did not simply focus on his own grief and sorrow.  No, the hymn focuses on the redemptive work of Christ and the glory of His coming again.
How could Spafford have such calm in his spirit, such peace in his soul?  He knew the Prince of Peace!
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,    (Rom 5:1 NKJV)
"Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”    (John 14:27 NKJV)
Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all.    (2 Th 3:16 NKJV)
Have you experienced that kind of peace?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

When Bible Reading Becomes Dry

Dry LandThere are times when I study the Bible that the very words seem to jump off the page and breath life into my weary soul. I rejoice at every verse, each story, and devour chapter upon chapter. God feeds my soul and revives my spirit.
But every now and then there are times when the Bible seems as inspiring as the New York City Area phone book. Every Christian has experienced them – dry times in their Bible study. Times it is a drudgery rather than a joy to pick up God’s word and read it.
What do you do at times like that? Here’s what I have found:
First, don’t ignore it. This is no small problem. It is a serious spiritual issue. Second, ask God. In other words, PRAY.
Prayer and the word of God go hand in hand. “Praying before the throne of God and meditating on the Word of God are like parallel rails that enable the train of our souls to stay on the track that leads to holiness and heaven.” –Piper.
How should I pray as I approach God’s word? Psalm 119 gives me some really good clues:
Pray for God’s Grace (119:17) “Deal bountifully with Your servant, That I may live and keep Your word.” The Psalmist is asking that God would deal with him according to God’s goodness, not according to his own merit. That is grace. There is bountiful riches in God’s grace toward us. Always go to the Bible humbly, dependently, asking for the abundant grace of Jesus Christ to fill you with understanding and mature you to do His word. Admit you can’t do it on your own.
Pray for Illumination (119:18) Open my eyes, that I may see Wondrous things from Your law.” There are wonderful things in God's teaching to us. But no one can see these wonderful things for what they really are without God's supernatural help. It is God through His Holy Spirit that enables us to comprehend His word. Again, you can’t—He can.
Pray as a Stranger on Earth (119:19)I am a stranger in the earth; Do not hide Your commandments from me.” The earth is not my home. I am traveling in a foreign land and I need a road map. The Bible is that guide. It is our roadmap through this sinful world to the bright land of eternity with the Father. Remember, the Bible speaks the language of heaven, and my citizenship is there.
Pray with Passion for God’s Word (119:20) My soul breaks with longing For Your judgments at all times.”  The Psalmist prayed with passion. He felt a crushing burden to read and ponder God’s ordinances. He said, “My soul breaks with longing.” When I go to study God’s word, I do not pray simply as a duty, I am desperate to know God and His word to me. And not just sometimes, “at all times.”
Pray Because of Opposition (119:21-23) You rebuke the proud; the cursed” those who “speak against me.” Few things cause believers to hide their faith more than fear of scorn or ridicule. Ask God to “Remove” that burden from you. Pray that in the midst of this sinful world, as you face opposition, that God would keep you faithful as you meditate on His word.
The Fruit of Prayerful Study of God’s Word (119:24) Your testimonies also are my delight And my counselors.” God gives us joy and pleasure through His word when we come to it prayerfully.
Have you experienced dry times in your Bible Study? What helped?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What If You Saw Jesus Today?

Jesus in a TortillaWhat would you do if you saw Jesus today? I read some true news stories about people who claimed to see images of the Lord:
A few years ago a woman in New Mexico was frying tortillas. One of the tortillas burned and the result was an image that looked like a face; she thought it looked like Jesus. She took the tortilla to her priest and he agreed it looked like Jesus, so he blessed it. The woman and her husband took the blessed tortilla back home and placed it in a box surrounded by cotton to make it appear as if it was floating on air. They built an altar around it and started praying there. Word began to spread about the holy tortilla and soon thousands of people visited their home to pray before the holy tortilla. People are desperate to catch a glimpse of Jesus.
Another lady in Arkansas turned on the kitchen light in her mobile home. The reflection of the light on the mobile home beside her looked like a man’s face. She turned the light off and the image disappeared. When she turned the light back on, the image reappeared. She was certain it was a miracle—she could see the face of Jesus! News soon spread and hundreds of people were visiting her trailer to walk into her kitchen and flip on the light. Because of the crowds, she started charging a dollar a person. A local television station interviewed one of the men who had paid his dollar to see the image. He was pretty skeptical. He said, “I want my dollar back, it looked more like Willie Nelson to me.”
Do you want to see Jesus? Don’t go to a tortilla or a trailer—go to the Word of God. Go read the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Gaze upon Him who healed the sick and raised the dead. Hear the voice of Him who taught as no one ever did. Behold the Son of God dying on the cross for our sins. Wonder at the risen Savior. Study the book of Acts and the Epistles and see Jesus at work through His church, turning the world upside down. Turn to Revelation 1 and see what Jesus looks like now in His majesty and authority. John saw Him and wrote “His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow and his eyes were like blazing fire. ... His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.” (Rev. 1:14, 16).
Have you seen Jesus lately?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

How to Keep Your Life Clean

Live according to the Word of GodI have been studying Psalm 119 over the last few days. The BIG IDEA in this psalm is that God blesses us when we are devoted to Him and His word. At the end of the first section in verse 8, the psalmist makes the bold promise, “I will keep your statutes.”
Next he asks the obvious question, “How can I do that?
In verse 9 he asks, “How can a young man cleanse his way?” He wants to know: How can I live a more holy life?   How can I sin less and have victory more?  How can I live to glorify God?  How can I keep my ways pure?
Good question. But why is the answer to that question important for us?
Because: Only a pure life is a life that pleases God. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.” (Matt. 5:8). 1 Peter 1:15-16 says, “but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’" Purity and holiness are essential. So he asks, “How do I get there?”
The answer? How can I keep my ways pure? “By taking heed according to Your word.” (Psalm 119:9).
The "cleansing" is through God's Word. The Scripture is purifying in its effect.  We must depend on God’s word, on His promises, on the gospel of what He has accomplished through Jesus Christ. See, it is not our promise to the Lord, but His promises to us that will give us victory over sin. It is only by His grace in us through Jesus Christ that we can have this victory. And the way that Jesus works in us is through His word, His promises in the Bible. We must live according to God’s word.
It is the Gospel message from the word of God that truly cleanses.  Paul says, “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Cor 7:1 NKJV)  John agrees: "And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure." (1 John 3:3). Peter sums it up, “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever," (1 Pet. 1:22-23).
So it is Jesus who purifies, cleanses us from sin. But how do we continue in that cleansing? How do we keep from sin? How do we live according to this gospel?
In the next few verses the psalmist shows us what it looks like to “take heed” or “live according to” His word.
To Live According to God’s Word Means:
A. I seek the Lord with my whole heart. (119:10) If our whole heart is seeking God our feet will not stray from God.
10  With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!
B. I hide God’s word in my heart (119:11) What would happen if you treasured His Word above everything else?
11  Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You!
C. I praise the Lord with His word (119:12). When God's Word is hidden in your heart praises come out of your mouth.
12  Blessed are You, O LORD! Teach me Your statutes!
D. I declare God’s word (119:13). Speak the Word of God. Speak it to yourself, and declare it to others.
13  With my lips I have declared All the judgments of Your mouth.
E. I rejoice in following God’s word (119:14). Following God’s word is not a drudgery it is a joy!
14  I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, As much as in all riches.
F. I mediate on God’s word (119:15). Make it a part of you.
15  I will meditate on Your precepts, And contemplate Your ways.
G. I delight in God’s word (119:16). When was the last time you had an old fashioned, Holy Spirit, joy-filled time in God’s Word?
16  I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word.
As disciples of Jesus who are in the world, we are daily exposed to "the pollutions of the world." So daily we need cleansing.  We need deep and regular washings.  God has provided a detergent in His Word.  It will make us "whiter than any fuller can whiten".  But it, like other soaps, will do us no good unless applied to the stain.  Are we willing to rub the His word into the grimy parts of our lives?  If we do--under the blessing of God--they'll come clean.
Will I take the steps necessary to cleanse my way with God’s word?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Saturday Smorgasbord (Some things worth tasting this week).

Below are some things I have read this week that caught my eye, my ear, or my heart. Give a click and maybe they will yours also.

  1. Kevin Weatherby, my cowboy pastor friend, takes a look at what would happen if the entire church institution became cowboys on a ranch to see how they would handle the day to day operations. “Don’t be fooled into thinking that this was written for someone else. It was written for you–and me.” Read more…
  2. Larry Westfall wrote a post called Help Your Pastor Before It’s Too Late. “Being a pastor is one of the most demanding roles on the face of the planet.  I want to encourage you today to support your pastor in any way that you can.  Here are a few suggestions that will tremendously help.” Read the 8 suggestions and the comments
  3. C Michael Patton from Parchment and Pen wrote an insightful post on the issue of legalism versus libertanianism. He says, “We need to be sensitive, but not to the point where we are simply fueling others’ faulty understanding and legalism. People will control you to the degree that you let them. If you allow this to go on without discernment, not only will you be immobile, but you will have lost your liberty. Lose liberty, lose the Gospel.” Read Beware of “Professional Weaker Brethren”.
  4. JUSTAPEN, Seiji Yamashita, at The Ignition Point gives us a shot in the arm and a kick in the pants with his post, Set Up for Success. “How can we even imagine that we might somehow fall and lose the day when we have been so thoroughly set up for victory?” The post is good. The comments are even better.
  5. Anne Jackson‘s second book, Permission to Speak Freely – Essays and Art on Fear, Confession and Grace released this week. Anne decided to share seven essays on seven different blogs. They are candid snap shots of her life as a preacher’s kid. They will touch your heart and bring tears to your eyes. I encourage you to read them all and if they impact you like they did me, you will want to buy the book and read all 22 essays. To read the essays, you can follow the links below:   

Donald Miller (Essay #1 – The First Brick)
Jon Acuff (Essay #2 – The Final Brick)
Carlos Whittaker (Essay #3 – Losing Faith)
Pete Wilson (Essay #4 – Finding Love in All the Wrong Places) (Essay #5 – Shattered Pixels)
Catalyst Conference (Essay #6 – Ghosts of Churches Past) (Essay #7 – Listening)

I hope you enjoy these as much as I did.

Friday, September 3, 2010


Where are you in the processThere are at least five different levels of spiritual commitment. Take a look and see where you might fit.
Are you:
1. Uninterested?  This would be a person who is not a Christian, someone who has no desire to know God. They are so controlled by Self and sin they don’t really want to follow Jesus. Some may be hostile to Christianity, others my just be indifferent. This person sees no need for Jesus and doesn’t care to.
2. Seeker?  This would be a person who is not yet a Christian but is really interested in knowing God. This person is interested in spiritual things; is open to the truth of the Bible; and may know some believers who have shown a winsome testimony. These people are on the right path to meet Jesus and be saved.
3. Believer?  You are at this level if you have repented of your sins and received Christ. You believe the truth of the Gospel that Jesus died for you and was raised to give you life. You have a desire to love God and follow Jesus. However, you may still at times be controlled by Self.
4. Disciple?  A disciple is one who is denying Self, taking up his cross daily and following Jesus. His main desire is to please and follow his Master, Jesus Christ. You have found that loving Jesus and serving Him by loving others is the great joy of your life. You feed upon God’s word. You commune with God in prayer. You fellowship with God’s people.
5. Disciple-maker? There is at least one level beyond a simple disciple. Jesus didn’t call us just to be disciples but to be disciple-makers. In other words, a real disciple is someone who has led someone to Christ and has nurtured and mentored him or her to become a real disciple as well.
Jesus said, "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24:46-48).
Where are you? Where would you like to be? If it is not your obsession to become a disciple and a disciple-maker, you may need to examine whether you are even a believer.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Ungreat Expectations

Photograph by Crystal Wolfe, National GeographicGeorge had attended church since he was a boy and now he was 60 years old. Everyone knew who George was, there wasn’t a Sunday that went by that George wasn’t in church. The truth however is no one really knew George at all. George had difficulty loving his wife. His children could not speak freely with him and felt no affection for him. George was not concerned about the poor and had little tolerance for those outside the church. George also tended to judge those in the church rather harshly. "Those kids shouldn’t be running around in the church; Look at what he is wearing to church; Why, I always liked the green carpeting, why change it? If it isn’t broke don’t try to fix it."
One day someone in the church asked George, “Are you happy, George?
Never changing his unpleasant frown, George replied, “Yes, Why?”
The church member then responded, “Well then George, you need to tell your face!”
You see George’s exterior mirrored his interior. The problem was George was not changing. He was stuck in his well practiced ways. But the most remarkable part of it all was, that if you brought this to the congregation's attention, they would have simply said, “So? That’s George, it’s just the way he is.”
No one seemed to care that George remained unchanged. No one called a special church meeting to consider this strange occurrence of a person who was not changing. No one really expected George to change, and therefore they were not surprised when that change did not happen.
They did have other expectations of George. Everyone expected that each Sunday morning George would be at church. He would sit there, right were he always sat. They trusted that George would take communion like he always did. They knew that George would read the scriptures, and give his offering faithfully. Whenever called upon George would help with moving the tables and chairs or volunteer on church work days. George was a faithful member of his church.
But people did not expect that day by day, month by month, decade by decade, George would be more transformed into the likeness of Jesus. People did not expect that he would become progressively more loving, more joyful, and more holy. So they were not shocked when it did not happen.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Cor. 5:17).
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Cor. 3:18)
that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph. 4:22-24).
What is the expectation in your church?
(I adapted this story from a sermon I heard by Chip Ingram).

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Whole Hearted

Balance Rock at Arches Nat ParkBlessed are those who keep His testimonies, Who seek Him with the whole heart! … I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands." (Psalm 119:2,10). Seek the Lord with my whole heart. Now what exactly does that mean? Does it mean going to church every Sunday? Does it mean putting some money in the offering plate? Is that what being a Christian is all about?
Some people would say, "Yes! That’s good enough for me! I come to church. I give money. What else is there?"
What if I came home to see my wife only once a week on Sunday? What if I said, "Hi honey! I’m home! For a whole hour! And guess what? This time, I brought you some money! I was going to spend it at McDonald’s. But I wanted you to have it so you would know how much I really love you and what a good husband I am! I have to go now so I won’t be late for the game. But I’m sure I’ll be back next week. Bye sweetheart!"
I’m sure you’re thinking, "What kind of a loser is that? What kind of a creep spends only an hour a week with his wife?"
But this is how some people treat God. They give him an hour a week on Sunday; a couple of bucks in the plate. And they think that everything’s Ok. Well, guess what? It’s not ok. Jeremiah 29:13 says "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with ALL OF YOUR HEART!"
It’s like God is saying, “I’m not looking for a 1 hour a week relationship! I don’t want a casual courtship! I want something more than that! I want all your heart! I want a commitment. I want to hear your voice in prayer every day. I want you to read my Bible. I want you to share the good news about my Son with others. I want you to visit the elderly. I want you to be compassionate on those who are less fortunate. I want you to represent Jesus Christ in all that you do."
The true evidence of seeking the Lord with my whole heart is I “keep His testimonies” and do not “stray from your commands.” (Psalm 119:2,10). Jesus said it this way, “If you love Me, keep My commandments,” "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me,” and "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word.” (John 14:15,21,23).
Am I whole hearted for God?