Archive for August, 2009

In Jesus’ name, amen.

Monday, August 31st, 2009

“The name of Jesus gives my prayers royal access. They get through. Jesus isn’t just the Savior of my soul. He’s also the Savior of my prayers. My prayers come before the throne of God as the prayers of Jesus. ‘Asking in Jesus’ name’ isn’t another thing I have to get right so my prayers are perfect. It is one more gift of God because my prayers are so imperfect.’

Paul E. Miller, A Praying Life (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2009), 135.

The Equipment for Prayer

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

“The equipment for the inner life of prayer is simple, if not always easily secured. It consists particularly of a quiet place, a quiet hour, and a quiet heart.”

David M. MacIntyre, The Hidden Life of Prayer (Tain, Ross-shire: Christian Focus Publications, 1989), 30.

What does God want?

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

Recently, in a burst of frustrated prayer, I asked the Lord, “What do you want from me?!” The answer came ringing through my mind as clearly as if God had spoken audibly. “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8 ESV)? Though spoken to Israel in the eighth century before Christ, these words remain a paradigm of the response we are to offer God in light of his great redemption. These are the “weightier matters of the law” (Matt. 23:23).

God wishes for us to do justice. All around us we see injustice. Day after day we can feel the mounting frustration as we watch the news and witness the discrimination that exists in this world. But then, if we turn our attention inward, the exasperation becomes quite maddening when we see all the things in our lives that don’t seem fair. God requires us to act with justice because that is exactly what he is doing. He acts and reacts in perfect conformity to his moral character and law. Justice is and will be the hallmark of Christ’s kingdom. The Lord promises that the Son, the Servant, “will bring forth justice to the nations” (Isa. 42:1). Now, in light of Calvary, this justice is to be our goal.

Next, we are to love kindness. God loves to be merciful, and so should we. The Lord delights to pour out on us the riches of his undeserved kindness. Without the mercy of the cross, all hope would be lost. Jesus came because God loves kindness. Each of us has a Shylock living in our hearts that longs to exact his pound of flesh, but vengeance belongs to the Lord (Rom. 12:19). Perhaps you’ve seen the bumper sticker that reads, “Practice Random Acts of Kindness.” Random acts are not enough. You and I should look for opportunities to shower kindness upon people. That kind of behavior will make them take notice and wonder, if not outright ask, “What makes you so different?”

Doing justice and loving kindness are just fine by me. I’m all in favor of justice and kindness, and though I fail to practice these gospel graces the way that I should, I think I can honestly say that I strive to be just and kind. It’s the third requirement that’s the kicker. The Lord wants me to walk humbly with him. It was at this point where I was struggling when I cried from my heart, “What do you want from me?!” Acting with justice and kindness are important, but it seems to me that walking humbly with God is the linchpin of the three. Without it, you can forget about justice and kindness.

The Bible has a lot to say about pride and humility. The Lord hates pride (Prov. 6:16-17). God warns that he will resist the proud but promises to give grace to the humble (James 4:6). He also promises to exalt the humble at just the right time (1 Pet. 5:6). But pride is just as much a part of us as breathing. How will we ever defeat it?

The church at Philippi supported the ministry of the apostle Paul and was a great source of joy to him, but it was a church that lacked unity because of pride. What Paul wrote to the Philippians is the battle plan for everyone who would take on pride in an attempt to overcome it. The only weapon that will slay this sin is the gospel.

5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:5-11 ESV)

What is pride? It’s “when sinful human beings aspire to the status and position of God and refuse to acknowledge their dependence upon Him” (C.J. Mahaney, Humility: True Greatness, Colorado Springs: Multnomah Books, 2005, 31). Ultimate humility was when Christ aspired to the status and position of a servant in full dependence upon the Father, obeying even to the point of death on a cross. The only way to conquer pride is to acknowledge it as a terrible sin and repent of it. As we appropriate the gospel by faith, the humility of Christ will humble our hearts before God.

My prayer of “What do you want from me?!” revealed my pride. It wasn’t so much what God wanted from me but what I wanted from God. I wanted my way, and he wasn’t giving it to me. What the Lord wants for me is far greater than what I want for me. He wants me to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with him. He wants me to be like Jesus, the crucified one. And crucifixion hurts.

Like, un-cool, man

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

Anyone remember Barbara Mandrell singing “I was country when country wasn’t cool”? I’ve thought of that song quite a bit lately, but I have my own version: “I was a Calvinist when Calvinism wasn’t cool.” Seems that these days Calvinism, especially the “New Calvinists” variety, is, like, way cool!

I guess it’s okay to be cool. I wouldn’t know. But the attraction of hip, cool, shock-jock preachers worries me. Thankfully, I’m not the only one concerned. Con Campbell, one of those exceptionally bright chaps from Australia, is also uneasy with this trend. Here are his musings. And hey, what’s cooler than an Australian accent?

Q&A

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

One of the great tools God has given to the church is the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Many Christians are familiar with its first question and answer: What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. What many don’t realize is that that amazing question and answer is followed by 106 more that cover the major doctrines of the faith, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer. If you’ve not studied this great little work, it’s time to familiarize yourself with it.

Fortunately, there a new edition of the Shorter Catechism available online for free. This edition contains all of the Scripture proofs printed in full in the English Standard Version. May I suggest that you download this resource and use it for your daily devotions? If you read one question and answer plus the Scripture proofs per day, you can study the entire work in just three months. Try it. I feel safe to say that your devotional life will take on a new depth.

Risky Business

Monday, August 24th, 2009

Living all-out for Jesus Christ is risky business. You never know where Jesus is going to lead you or what he’ll ask you to do. But is any other life worth living?

Most of us like security; I know I do. But if we settle for a nice, safe, care-free life, will we ever do anything worthy of the gospel, anything that will help to expand the kingdom of God?

Are you willing to take risks for the Savior? I love this quotation from Dr. Ralph D. Winter, “I am willing to fail. Risks are not to be evaluated in terms of the probability of success, but in terms of the value of the goal.”

Proper Contentment

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Phil. 4:11 ESV).

“When I lack proper contentment, either I have forgotten that God is God, or I have ceased to be submissive to him. We are now speaking about a practical test to judge if we are coveting against God. A quiet disposition and a heart giving thanks at any given moment is the real test of the extent to which we love God at that moment.”

Francis A. Schaeffer, True Spirituality (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1971), 9.

The Someone of Counseling

Friday, August 21st, 2009

Counseling is hard work. Whether you’re a pastor trying to help a member of the church or a friend talking with a friend over a cup of coffee, it’s often difficult to know what to say. If you’re like me, your mind races as you pray, think, and search for just the right words of wisdom. Biblical counseling is not, however, about coming up with apt phrases or racking our brains for what we think will pass for scriptural wisdom. Counseling is about an encounter.

David Powlison put it so well. “Never forget that you have someone to bring to the people you counsel. He animates the proceedings, because he is up to something in the lives of counselor and counseled alike. Our counsel becomes lively, attractive, and compelling when we express living faith in Christ, when we directly address people, and when we catch people up in who God is and what he is doing.”

Seeing with New Eyes (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2003), 44.

Slander and the Gospel

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

Today I’d like to return to Proverbs 30 and look further at the words of Agur. Truth and falsehood have been prominent themes so far in this chapter. Agur emphasized the truthfulness of God’s Word (vv. 5-6 and prayed that he be kept from or distanced from falsehood and lying (v. 8). In verse 10 he directs his attention to us, his readers, and warns, “Do not slander a servant to his master, lest he curse you, and you be held guilty” (ESV).

That the warning is “do not slander” indicates that the talebearer Agur addresses is a liar, unwilling to speak truthfully to the master about his servant. His desire is to damage the servant’s reputation or testimony. A person who slanders a servant may believe he will get a hearing because the servant would not possess the same rights as either the slanderer or the master. Agur warns, however, that the slanderer may find himself caught in a reversal of circumstances. The servant may curse him and the slanderer be held responsible for his words.

Agur sounds two clear notes in this verse: truth and justice. Both of these matter, not just to Agur, but to the God whose every word proves true (v. 5). God hates slander. That’s why he commanded, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exod. 20:16). In Psalm 101:5 God declares, “Whoever slanders his neighbor secretly I will destroy.” Our words matter and they must be truthful. But can any of us say that we are guiltless of this sin?

What about this servant who is cursed? If he turns the words of the slanderer back upon him and he is found guilty, then the servant may be cleared of the charge and justice served. The servant is entitled to have the truth spoken about him no matter what his social standing may be, and the slanderer must be punished.

These twin themes of truth and justice remind us of our obligations toward others, no matter who they are, but they also point us to the gospel, the only source of forgiveness for the times that we have been neither true nor just.

Truth and justice stand at the heart of what Jesus’ death and resurrection are all about. Jesus Christ is the very embodiment of truth (John 14:6), yet it was slander that led to his crucifixion.

56 For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. 57 And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” 59 Yet even about this their testimony did not agree. (Mark 14:56-59 ESV)

In his death, Jesus bore our sins (including slander) so that God might justly punish sin and justify those who believe in Christ (Rom. 3:26). In vindication of the truthfulness of Christ and the just satisfaction of God’s law and wrath, God raised Jesus from the dead (Rom. 4:25).

Think about the words you’ve spoken over the last few days. Have they been truthful? Have your words slandered or damaged the testimony of anyone? Our words matter, not just to the person to whom or about whom we’re speaking. They matter to God. Agur reminds us to speak the truth and points us to Christ’s gospel when we don’t.

A Camp in Hostile Country

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 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. 13 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. (Eph. 6:10-13 ESV)

Commenting on this passage, Sir Marcus Loane wrote, “There is a marked pause at the end of the long and salutary passage on home relationships; then Paul called on his scribe once more and the Letter was brought to a close with a call to arms. He knew that, just like the ancient Spartans, we were born for battle: therefore we must learn to ‘endure hardness’ as good soldiers of Christ (2 Tim. 2:3 A.V.). We have to live on ground where we will be under attack; it is like a camp in hostile country which must be held until the Captain returns in triumph. Attacks are launched against it by unseen adversaries, for the devil is in command of a vast host. He is always a most aggressive enemy, and that host is skilfully organised for war without quarter. No true soldier of Christ will be immune from its assaults, nor can he be neutral in that conflict. The battle field is overhung with clouds, and he will be forced to engage in hand-to-hand combat. But each member of that beleagured [sic] garrison can stand fast and prevail, because there are sources of strength available in Christ which can make them invincible.”

Marcus L. Loane, Grace and the Gentiles (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1981), 110.

Sir Marcus was a good soldier of Christ. This past April he went to that country where all battles have ceased. The Daily Telegraph carried this obituary.