Beating the Drum (Part 3)

Yep, I’m still beating that drum: we need to study the Bible! Today we consider briefly a third reason we each need our daily dose of God’s Word.

Reason #3: Scripture is Absolutely Essential to our Spiritual Growth

Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4, ESV)

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I’m a big fan and ardent supporter of eating. I just love it. Even as I write this post my stomach is rumbling for its next meal. I can’t imagine living without food…in fact I wouldn’t live without food (though I could probably live on a little less). Our bodies are designed to need the fuel which food provides.

In the same way, God has designed us to be dependent upon the fuel of God’s Word. Simply put, there can be no genuine, lasting spiritual growth lest we partake of the scriptures for ourselves. I highlighted those last words lest we think that Sunday’s sermon or a Christian radio program can give us the spiritual sustenance we need. However important they are, they can only take us so far. We are to “long” for the spiritual “milk” of God’s Word so that we can grow into spiritual maturity (1 Peter 2:2). If we wish to be equipped to fight sin and trained in righteousness, we need to remember that such virtues will not appear out of thin air (2 Tim 3:16-17). They come about as the Holy Spirit works in your life, using the truth you have gleaned from Bible study.

It is work, to be sure. It takes time away from something else. But the rewards are eternal and supremely gratifying. Not because you have something to brag about or to add to your spiritual resume, but because you will have spent time communing with the most high God and feasting at his bountiful table. And that is far better than any meal I can think of.

To be continued…

Beating the Drum (Part 2)

Yesterday I gave one reason why the study of God’s Word should be a part of our every day lives. For some of us, this is a drum we’ve heard pounded so many times from the pulpit that it no longer makes any sound. May these scriptures become “noisy” again so that we hear and obey.

Reason #2
God’s Word is Light

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105, ESV)

The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple. (Psalm 119:130, ESV)

When we purchased our house, there were no working lights in the garage. Not a big deal during the day time, however slightly more frustrating at night or in the wee hours of the morning when I want to go out there and run on the treadmill. Add to the mix that we park our cars in the garage (novel idea, I know) and that young children occasionally leave toys and tools amiss and my unlit treks to exercise can be quite treacherous (I know, there’s such a thing as flashlights, but I’m cheap about batteries).

It is in those times that I greatly appreciate light. It helps me find my way. Without it I am lost and occasionally find myself in danger (of bruised shins). In the same way, God’s message, the Bible, provides light to the daily paths we travel. We face so much during the course of the day that we need guidance with, we often don’t realize it.

·         Discipline issues with the kids
·         Disagreeing with your spouse on how to discipline them
·         Conflicts with a coworker
·         How to spend your income tax refund
·         How to reach out to a hurting relative
·         Struggling with depression

These are just a few very random but very real issues you may have encountered even today. The Bible will not give us the answer to every single decision we need to make (though it sometimes gives very specific answers), but its principles will guide us for these and other circumstances we come across. But, to state the obvious, if we don’t bother looking for the answers, we won’t have them. Regular Bible study will illuminate important principles and give you crucial wisdom to handle life. God does not intend for us to find the way by ourselves. His truth was specifically given so that we might find the way.

And just as a little light in my garage will keep my from taking an unexpected ride on a carelessly placed skateboard, so too does God’s Word keep us from danger. We our path is illuminated with his Word, we can avoid the disastrous pitfalls of sin and temptation.

So do yourself a favor and turn on the lights. Open God’s Word today!

Go Ahead, Beat that Drum

I recently read that only 18% of profession Christians in America read their Bible on a daily basis. I try not to be surprised by statistics but that one left me a bit unsettled. I used to groan at the “read your Bible, pray every day” mantra I heard almost weekly in sermons as I was growing up. I remember looking around and, trying to beam my thoughts to the pastor, would think to myself: “You’re beating that drum again? Haven’t we all got this one by now? Can’t we move on?” Apparently not.

I was listening to the audio version of Donald Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life on my drive into work today. Early in the book he reminds readers of the absolute necessity of daily immersing ourselves into God’s Word. But why? Why do I need to read the same book every day for the rest of my life? Is it really that important? Well, in a word…yes! “Yes” doesn’t cover it though. If I was standing in front of you I would jump up and down, waving my arms, getting red in the face and proclaim loudly: YES! So I want to take a couple of days telling why:

  1. Because the Bible is God’s message to us.

Christians have historically held that God communicated his message to certain me whom he chose (usually prophets or apostles) so that they could record it for others to read and hear. The Bible is a compilation of those messages. Such a view is affirmed in passages such as these:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, (2 Timothy 3:16, ESV)

knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20–21, ESV)

These writers were not simply recording their own thoughts and feelings, God spoke to them himself and gave them a message that he wanted us to hear. Think about that for a second. That book which is often a dust collector (or, in 2012, an app that never gets opened) contains a dispatch from the creator and sustainer of life itself — a memo written to you!

I once received a form letter from John McCain asking for money for his presidential campaign, but other than that, I don’t get much mail from really important people. So for me, the thought that God wrote a book for me is a pretty big deal.

I realize skeptics could raise many objections to the claims that I’m making. God…writing a book? Get real! I know, but many other more able scholars have dealt with the skeptics. I’m writing to Christians who know and believe the scriptures are from God but don’t live as though they really believe it. It is more than “the Good Book”, it is more than a devotional, it is more than a collection of cool stories or even some life principles that should guide our lives. It is God’s Word. Read it, believe it and put it into practice.

 To be continued…

From Slaves to Sons

In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (Galatians 4:3–7, ESV)

As I read these verses during my morning Bible study I was once again flooded with emotion as I reflected once again on what it means to be adopted by the Creator of the universe.

Growing up I had never given a whole lot of thought to this biblical teaching. I was raised in a stable home with two loving parents and all my needs met. I clearly never knew what it was like to be an orphan, let alone the uncertainty of my acceptance by my family.

But one day in Bible College as the professor explained these verses the lights went on. I had been an orphan and even worse. I had also been a slave of sin (see Romans 6), a slave of the “elementary principles of the world.” But God would not be content to leave me there. He called me to himself and saved me. Now I was no longer a slave, but a son. Could there have been a more drastic turn of events? A slave is owned, a son belongs. A slave is forced to obey one whom he doesn’t want to, a son is free to obey from love. A slave is oppressed, a son is liberated unto joy.

I went from calling sin, “master” to calling the most high God, “Daddy,” for that is the meaning of “Abba.” My sin had split a chasm between God and I. No further from him could I have been. But because of the loving death of Jesus on the cross, I can now come to him with as a dearly beloved son; an heir with all the rights, privileges and responsibilities that are a part of this family. I’m not his provisional kid nor am I on probation to see if I can measure up before final acceptance. I’ve got it. I’m in. I belong to him. I am no longer a slave, but a son.

Not a Fair-Weather Fan

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6–8, ESV)

As a baseball fan, this time of year is exciting for me. Now is the time for players to begin to arrive at training camps in warm-weather states such as Florida and Arizona. The spikes come out, the gloves dusted off and new teammates are greeted. That’s one of the reasons I’m excited about the Detroit Tigers this year. I know he’s overweight and will drive ticket prices up, but I can’t wait to see what Prince Fielder’s going to accomplish in a Tiger uniform; helping to build on last year’s success.

Since 2006 we Tigers fans have reason to hope again. After a long, barren stretch of abysmal and disappointing seasons, the boys of Motor City seem on the cusp of a championship. As a life-long Tigers fan I have to admit a little annoyance at seeing folks jump onto the team’s bandwagon with the addition or rise of superstars like Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera. It’s amazing how many “fans” come out of the woodwork when a local team rises to glory, only to return whence they came when their club doesn’t perform as expected.

It all reminds me to be thankful that our God is not a fair-weather fan. He doesn’t wait until we get our act together or pad our lineup with superstar-like good works before he will embrace us. Romans 5 tells us that God loved us far before we showed any promise — in fact when we were still taking up arms against him he sent his only Son Jesus to die as a payment for our sins. Not only did God shower his love on me when I was his enemy, he did so before I was born, nay, even before he carved out the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4). That is simply spectacular.

What’s just as exciting is that his love and forgiveness are inexhaustible, which means when I have a bad season (i.e. sin and screw up), he doesn’t turn off the games and tuck the big foam finger into storage. He won’t quit on us. He will never stop cheering for us to keep pressing on and growing in Christ.

So maybe the Tigers will live up to all the hype and maybe they won’t. I’m going to cheer for them anyways. I won’t give up on them because I’m not a fair-weather fan. And neither is God.

A Simple, Profound Faith

For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:2–3, ESV)

I never cease to be amazed at how beautifully profound yet astonishingly simple it is to receive righteousness from God. As a very sinful human being, my righteousness is grossly inadequate (Rom 3:23) to establish a relationship with God. The only righteousness which measures up to his impossible standards is his own! Enter Jesus, the Son of God. That is why placing our faith in Jesus Christ as our substitute, who through his death and resurrection made it possible to reconcile us to God, is the only way to achieve God’s righteousness.

And that is why, as the above verse states, I have no reason to toot my own horn. I did not merit God’s favor. I could not labor long and hard to meet his standards. I simply had to believe. Trusting in Jesus is so simple that even a child could do it, yet at the same time, it is not an easy thing to do. Our hearts must be awakened and drawn by God (John 6:44) and even our belief is an act of God’s grace (Acts 18:27). We would not naturally seek God (Rom 3:11). We would much rather choose the wide and easy path (Matt. 7:13-14).

Many today stumble over the idea of faith. They did in Jesus’ day too. We want to stack up our merit and our accomplishments. We are inclined to hold out to him our resume and petition for admittance into his kingdom. But none of that will do. Only faith. A simple and profound faith.

And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. (Hebrews 11:6, NLT)

Blind Guides

Luke 6:39 (ESV)  39 He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?

I’m no John Maxwell or Peter Drucker, but as I was reading Matthew yesterday I was struck by a simple but profound leadership principle: Leaders need to be able to see.

In Jesus day, the Pharisees were considered the spiritual elite and people were tripping over themselves to hear and emulate these supposed spiritual gurus. Jesus devoted several of his sermons and parables to destroying the myth that these men were worth following. Why? They were blind. They had no idea which direction to go, but had fooled the people (and themselves) into thinking otherwise.

If you are to be a successful leader in any walk of life, you must have vision. To be a spiritual leader requires that you know what it is that God wants. To charge forward and say to those behind you, “Come on! Follow me!” without direction is foolish and could have disastrous consequences. Jesus said that if a blind man comes along to guide another blind man on the road, they will both wind up in the ditch. If a spiritual leader does not understand what scripture teaches about the various circumstances he finds himself in, he will be that blind leader.

If you are going to lead your family, your church or your friends into a deeper relationship with God, get a head start on them. Go deeper yourself first, then you’ll know where you’re going when it’s time to take others along.

20 Ways Satan May Try to Destroy You This Week

I read this article by Paul Tautges yesterday and thought it was a great challenge to be aware of Satan’s methods.

He is the serpent, the Great Dragon, Beelzebul, the ruler of this world, the prince of the power of the air, the evil one, and the adversary. He is Satan. And—if you are a follower of Jesus Christ—he hates your guts with a passion. Like a roaring lion he is prowling about seeking to destroy you. How can you stand firm and resist the devil so that he will flee from you? First, do not be naive; you must consider his ways.

  1. He may      slander God to you in order to cast doubt on God’s goodness and shipwreck      your faith (Gen 3:4-5).
  2. He may tempt      you to deceive others in order to create, or maintain, the impression of      being more spiritual (Acts      5:3; Jn 8:44).
  3. He may      corrupt your mind and steer you away from the simplicity of Christ and His      gospel (2 Cor 11:3).
  4. He may      hinder [cut in on, as in a race] your gospel witness and steal it from      unsuspecting hearts (1      Thess 2:18; Matt      13:19).
  5. He may      wrestle against you, fighting against your progress in Christ (Eph 6:12).
  6. He may tempt      you to commit sexual immorality against your spouse as a result of      neglecting the intimacy of the marriage bed (1 Cor 7:5).
  7. He may      harass you with some form of fleshly affliction (2 Cor 12:7).
  8. He may blind      the spiritual eyes of your unsaved family, friends, and neighbors so that      they may not see the glory of Jesus in the gospel (2 Cor 4:4).
  9. He may keep      your unsaved acquaintances in bondage to sins that hinder them from coming      to God (Gal 4:8).
  10. He may smite      you with physical disease (Luke 13:16; Job 2:7).
  11. He may      murder you (Ps 106:37;      Jn 8:44).
  12. He may sow      tares [counterfeit Christians, sons of the evil one] within your assembly      of believers in order to deceive and create disunity (Mt 13:38-39; 2 Cor 11:13-15).
  13. He may lead      you toward theological compromise by causing you to be friendly to false      doctrine and its teachers (1 Tim 4:1-3).
  14. He may      persecute you for your godliness (Rev 2:10).
  15. He may tempt      you to do evil (Matt 4:1;      1 Thess 3:5).
  16. He is—at      this moment—prowling about seeking to capture and destroy you, chiefly      through pride (1 Pet      5:6-8).
  17. He will most      assuredly slander you before God in heaven (Rev 12:10).
  18. He may ask      God for permission to sift you out for concentrated attack and temptation      (Luke 22:31).
  19. He may use      the power of suggestion to move you away from the will of God (Matt 16:21-23).
  20. He may try      to cripple your effectiveness through confusion, discouragement, and      despair (2 Cor 4:8-9).

How can you stand firm and resist the devil so that he will flee? The Bible exhorts believers to war against the enemy of faith by not remaining ignorant of his schemes (2 Cor 2:11); by submitting to God (Jas 4:7), being sober and alert and resistant to him (Eph 4:27; Jas 4:7; 1 Pet 5:8), and by not speaking lightly of him (Jude 8; 2 Pet 2:10).

5 Defensive Pieces of Armor and 2 Offensive Weapons: We must put on the armor of God, which includes the defensive weapons of truth, righteousness, gospel proclamation, faith, and salvation. We must also employ the offensive weapons of the sword of Scripture and prayer (Eph 6:11-18). These are the only means by which we may firmly stand against the devil. “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Eph 6:12).

Been with Jesus?

I read this devotional from Spurgeon the other day and wanted to pass it along:

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13, ESV)

A Christian should be a striking likeness of Jesus Christ. You have read lives of Christ, beautifully and eloquently written, but the best life of Christ is his living biography, written out in the words and actions of his people. If we were what we profess to be, and what we should be, we should be pictures of Christ; yea, such striking likenesses of him, that the world would not have to hold us up by the hour together, and say, “Well, it seems somewhat of a likeness;” but they would, when they once beheld us, exclaim, “He has been with Jesus; he has been taught of him; he is like him; he has caught the very idea of the holy Man of Nazareth, and he works it out in his life and every-day actions.”

A Christian should be like Christ in his boldness. Never blush to own your religion; your profession will never disgrace you: take care you never disgrace that. Be like Jesus, very valiant for your God. Imitate him in your loving spirit; think kindly, speak kindly, and do kindly, that men may say of you, “He has been with Jesus.” Imitate Jesus in his holiness. Was he zealous for his Master? So be you; ever go about doing good. Let not time be wasted: it is too precious. Was he self-denying, never looking to his own interest? Be the same. Was he devout? Be you fervent in your prayers. Had he deference to his Father’s will? So submit yourselves to him. Was he patient? So learn to endure. And best of all, as the highest portraiture of Jesus, try to forgive your enemies, as he did; and let those sublime words of your Master, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,” always ring in your ears. Forgive, as you hope to be forgiven. Heap coals of fire on the head of your foe by your kindness to him. Good for evil, recollect, is godlike. Be godlike, then; and in all ways and by all means, so live that all may say of you, “He has been with Jesus.” [1]

[1] Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening : Daily Readings, Complete and unabridged; New modern edition. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006), February 11.

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