Thursday, July 28, 2011

Walking Around A War Zone Without a Weapon?

Last week, I ran across this short video on the value of memorizing Scripture. I needed this reminder and exhortation. Maybe you do too. Make sure you've got your seat belt on at 1:55!

"How anybody walks through this devil-ruled world without a sword in their hand is beyond me!"

Ephesians 6:10-17 (emphasis added)
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, ...and take...the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God
 What's your plan to ensure you have the Sword when you need it?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Don't Let Pain Put You Off

It hurts to grow. Do you remember those growing pains when you were a kid?
It hurts to get stronger. Have you ever lifted weights or trained for some sport or athletic competition?

We don't tend to like pain. So we often go the path of least resistance. And we suffer for it. In the long run, it's actually more painful (to you and others) to stop growing and choose atrophy.

Don't let pain put you off. The Bible makes it abundantly clear: the gain is worth the pain.

1 Timothy 4:7-8 (emphasis added)
...train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (emphasis added)
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
Hebrews 12:3-14 (emphasis added)
Therefore...let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives." It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. ...he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
Does your life look like the gain (of godliness and the imperishable wreath and sharing in God's holiness and the yield of the peaceful fruit of righteousness and seeing the Lord) is worth the pain? It will really hurt if you let the pain put you off.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Are You Still Scared of Sin? You Should Be!

Wisdom from Ed Welch.

Hebrews 4:1 (worth pondering in context from, say, 3:7 to 4:16)
Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. (emphasis added)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Monarchs That Display The Glory of The Monarch of Monarchs

There's Nothing New Under The Sun

Barry Webb, in his commentary on Zechariah, speaking of the second of the two great sins (idolatry and hypocrisy) that the prophets addressed, says this (emphasis added):
The other great sin of those earlier generations that the prophets had spoken against was hypocrisy: worship divorced from any serious commitment to obeying God in everyday life. Israel never, as far as we can tell, abandoned worship altogether - including the worship of the LORD. Rather, they corrupted it with idolatry, and divorced it from life, so that it became a form of superstition, a way of 'keeping God happy' and securing benefits from him, rather than of recognizing his kingship.
We are more prone to this than we realize. Which is why the prophetic wake-up call of Zechariah (and the other OT prophets) is so needed and relevant for us today.

Zechariah 1:3-6 (emphasis added):
Thus declares the LORD of hosts: Return to me, says the LORD of hosts, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets cried out, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts, Return from your evil ways and from your evil deeds.' But they did not hear or pay attention to me, declares the LORD. Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever? But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not overtake your fathers?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Speaking of Why Prayer is So Hard...

Have you ever wondered why so many things seem to go wrong on Sunday mornings?
  • Clothes
  • Hair
  • Breakfast
  • Attitudes (a la James 3:8-10)
  • Running behind
  • Etc.
Could it be that Satan takes Sunday morning more seriously than we do?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Why Is Prayer So Hard?

One reason: Satan.

We should learn a lesson from how hard it is to pray as we ought and how much the evil one opposes prayer. If you've got costume jewelry, there's no need to buy locks and alarms. If precious and rare jewels, the defense budget and strategies ramp up considerably.

John Flavel:
The devil is aware that one hour of close fellowship, of hearty converse with God in prayer, is able to pull down what he hath been contriving and building many a year. (John Flavel)
John Climacus:
We know the utility of prayer from the efforts of the wicked spirits to distract us during the Divine office (i.e. during prayer); and we experience the fruit of prayer in the defeat of our enemies.
Richard Sibbes:
When we go to God by prayer, the devil knows we go to fetch strength against him, and therefore he opposeth us all he can.
The Apostle Paul (Ephesians 6:10-14, 18, emphasis mine):
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore...praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.

Gospel Powered Prayer

David McIntyre writes in The Hidden Life of Prayer (p 24),
Moved by a divinely implanted instinct, our natures cry out for God, for the living God. And however this instinct may be crushed by sin, it awakes to power in the consciousness of redemption. (emphasis mine)
In other words, fresh awareness of the realities of the gospel ("in the consciousness of redemption") empowers prayer. For those of us who know the prayer-crushing, prayer-deadening effects of sin, this is good news. Let's run to the cross...and we'll be awakened to run to "our Father, who is in heaven."

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Parenting. Vacation.

You’ve burned the candle at both ends for a little too long. You’ve planned and anticipated. And it’s finally here. You’ve packed up and packed in. And now you’re off!

You’re not even a mile down the road and the bickering begins. Then your little parental tirade begins (or was that a temper tantrum?!). “WHAT is the problem?! We are going on VA-CATION!”

If you’re really peeved, you might even pull out the old “If you don’t stop it right now, we can just turn the car around and not go!” idle threat. As if.

You’re thinking, “What is their problem?! Why can’t they be happy and peaceful for just A FEW minutes?!”

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? (James 4:1)

We, the parents, are upset about the fights and quarrels in the back seat. But we fight and quarrel too. Hmmm…little mirrors, our kids. Our reactions are evidence of passions at war within us. What do we want? We want a hiatus from all hassles. We want a vacation from parenting. We want, as Paul Tripp says, “self-parenting children.” And when we don’t get it, we get angry. We fight and quarrel.

What can we learn from all this?

A few lessons learned from these impulses:
  • Our greatest problems are inside, not outside.
Sorry, you brought your biggest problem with you on vacation. It’s your own sinful heart.

We need to come to terms with our inveterate situational interpretation of sin. “I was tired….” “If he hadn’t….” “I had a bad day at work and so when she said…I just exploded.” As if everyone and everything else is at fault when we sin. As if we are not culpable. As if. Oh no. Circumstances and people “out there” can only tempt us to sinful responses. They cannot cause them. Situations and people don’t inject the sludge into our souls that spews out in times of conflict. It’s already in there. It just gets heated up by means of the friction of conflict and challenging circumstances.
  • The answers to our greatest problems are not situational.
Vacations don’t solve problems. No matter how perfect the location, weather, accommodations, etc., you will still take your sin with you and your kids will still take their sin with them. Don’t ever put your hope in vacation.

A few lessons to learn for these impulses:
  • Vacation is not a vacation from our need for Jesus.
Whether we “feel” it or not, we are just as much in need of God’s grace on vacation as any other time. In fact, on vacation it can be even easier to get lulled to sleep, forgetting that we are still at war (hyperlink Eph. 6:10-18).
  • Vacation is a special time to drink deep at the well of God’s grace.
How often do Christians say, “I just don’t have time to read and pray like I want to.” And then they get on vacation and…they don’t read and pray like they “want to.” We make time for what we want to make time for. If the desire fire is low, you’ve got to throw more wood on the fire if you’re ever going to burn hot again.
  • Vacation is an important time to invest grace in the souls of your children.
Die to the desire for a vacation from parenting. Your vacation is a wonderful opportunity to do some heavy investing.

Paul Tripp encourages parents, when conflict comes among the children, to stop and ask them, “What is important to you right now?” They want what they want and they want it now. They need to see that they want what they want more than they want to please God and love their neighbor (sibling).

This question can be helpfully asked by parents of themselves as well. When conflict comes with the children, stop and ask yourself (esp. when you start fuming that “ALL YOU WANT” is just a little peace and quiet, etc.), “What is important to me right now?” Is comfort, ease, “a break” more important to me than the glory of God, the good of my children, loving my neighbor (spouse or child), etc.?

Vacation time often exposes false hopes and expectations. It’s easy to put our hope in our vacation – as if true rest and comfort and refuge is a place and a time and a set of circumstances – and not a Person.

Matthew 11:28-30 is still the answer, even on vacation.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What Shames and Troubles You Most?

Many are ashamed to be seen as God made them; few are ashamed to be seen what the devil hath made them. Many are troubled at small defects in the outward man; few are troubled at the greatest deformities of the inward man; many buy artificial beauty to supply the natural; few spiritual, to supply the defects of the supernatural beauty of the soul. (Abraham Wright)

Re:flection 101: You Become Like What You Worship

One of the primary laws of human life is that you become like what you worship; what’s more, you reflect what you worship not only back to the object itself but also outward to the world around. Those who worship money increasingly define themselves in terms of it and increasingly treat other people as creditors, debtors, partners, or customers rather than as human beings. Those who worship sex define themselves in terms of it (their preferences, their practices, their past histories) and increasingly treat other people as actual or potential sexual objects. Those who worship power define themselves in terms of it and treat other people as either collaborators, competitors, or pawns. These and many other forms of idolatry combine in a thousand ways, all of them damaging to the image-bearing quality of the people concerned and of those whose lives they touch. (N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, 182)

Do You Want To Raise Boys That Read?

I sure do. I think this is helpful advice.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Have You Heard Josh Garrels?

I'm REALLY enjoying this guy's music and thoughtful lyrics. You can download his most recent album, "Love & War & The Sea In Between," for FREE. It's really good! Make sure you read the lyrics at some point while you're listening. You might want to start with the lyrics to "Farther Along" or "Revelator." You can find the lyrics to all the songs on this album by running your cursor over the song titles here. You'll see "lyrics" and "download" appear on the right. Click on "lyrics" and follow along. By the way, there are also 5 free downloads here. Click on the harmonica and you'll see the songs show up on the left. "Zion and Babylon" is a very powerful song.