Joy and Hope in prayer

•August 6, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Ok. So here I am back at work on the blog. My goal is to post twice a week, perhaps more, Lord willing.

This past Sunday, I had the privilege to teach our adult Sunday School class. Picking up where I left off the last time that I had taught (“The gospel in our evangelism”) I attempted to address the topic of “The gospel in our Sanctification”. We read from two different passages and made our way through small pieces at a time. The principal thing that we covered was prayer, our failure to do it and some of the reasons why.

So this week I’ll be trying to write some of the things that I had no time to teach about the grace given us concerning prayer, scripture and our walk with Jesus. I will be using the passages from Galatians 2:20-3:14 and Colossians 3:1-14.

But first a bit about hope and prayer.

Prayer is so very necessary. It is a means of grace in our walk with the Lord. By means of grace what I mean, is it is prayer is both a daily expression of our dependence upon God as well as the way that we receive His sufficiency. So then prayer exists not because the Lord needs us but because we need Him so very much.

If we are honest, most of us don’t feel that we pray well, and that feeling may very well be one of the greatest reasons that we don’t do it at all sometimes.

We often lack the assurance that with our sinfulness, lack of focus and frustration, the Lord hears us.

But He does hear us and we are commanded to pray.

There seems to be a paradox to our being commanded to do something that we need to do. “I command you to breathe.” or “I command you to eat or you’ll starve to death.”

We are commanded to pray because apart from prayer, and the Word we will spiritually starve and suffocate slowly.

Even worse, the deceitfulness of sin will lead us to enjoy the process. Right up until we find ourselves embracing the spiritual cancer that we know we hate.

But there is hope for our prayers, our praying, for us.

The understanding of the idea of hope in scripture is not what we normally attribute to hoping in our daily lives. We generally say “I hope” and we mean “I wish”. There is an uncertainty in our hope. But Scripture leaves no such uncertainty. The hope that God’s Word speaks of is so much more. Here are just two such mentions.

“For You are my hope; O Lord GOD, You are my confidence from my youth.”- Psalm 71:5

“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”- Lamentations 3:24

Hope is not a wish but a confidence. Imagine saying “I hope today is Monday”. If it is Monday, then your hope is rooted in what is. If today was Wednesday, all the hope in the world will not make it so. Our confidence, our hope in our praying and seeking after God is rooted in the risen Lord who reigns now and presents to our Father the scars of His suffering that crown His glory. Repent and be of good cheer, your sins (including not praying) are forgiven.

The Father is listening even now and the Spirit helps our weakness (Romans 8:26).

Pray.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”- Romans 15:13

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The name of the game

•January 23, 2012 • Leave a Comment

“Let him do anything but act. No amount of piety in his imagination and affections will harm us if we can keep it out of his will… Active habits are strengthened by repetition but passive ones are weakened. The more often he feels without acting, the less he will be able ever to act, and, in the long run, the less he will be able to feel”.

Screwtape to Wormwood, “The Screwtape letters

The dangerous thing about what happens on any given Sunday is that we will sing, pray, read along with the scriptures and listen to the sermon with a great deal of energy. But then what happens? We are, I fear too entirely prone to feel a great deal about the Word that we hear from God without doing anything in particular about it. This begs the question: did we really hear anything at all?

We must consider that the name of the game in the war for today is inaction.

When it comes to the truly preached word of God, Satan does not care if you hear, only that you never act on what you hear. Action. That is what can make you truly dangerous for Christ. Practice and pursuit of godliness in the grace of God makes us hungry for more of the same. We are imperfect and perfectly weak, but Christ has done all for us to redeem us and bring us to life eternal with himself and the Father(Hebrews 10:12). Let this sink down into your ears and your heart.

When we understand this, we have less to complain about in our church (the worship, the music, the people, the time/length of the service itself), worry about in our lives (spouses, children, money, jobs) and concerning our neighbors. Only then will we have more that we are seeking to do based out of God’s lavish love for us in Christ.

The Apostle James warns us about not acting on the truth of the gospel that we hear ..”If anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.(James 1:23-24 ESV).

The word of God is a like a mirror. As a reflection of the holy character of God, it can show us what is wrong with us by probing and revealing the depths of our sinful hearts. Like a signpost, it can point to the obedient, slain and risen, now exalted Christ who satisfies for all our righteousness. We are called to act on what we know that his Word reveals and turn to him, at the same time turning away from the false alternatives and idols that we are offered for our happiness. This turning, repentance is not just what happened at our conversion, though it did happen then in an absolute, definitive way. Now we must daily take up our cross and follow, denying ourselves(Luke 9:23).

What have you recently heard from the word of God that you need to act on? Do you know that the Holy Spirit was given to you, dwells with you to motivate your affections, empower you and make Christ’s life evident in you? Do you know that Jesus is already waiting for you to act, simply by turning to him in your obvious weakness?

Will you?

Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.
(John 6:28-29 ESV)

Grief

•October 24, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
my eye is wasted from grief;
my soul and my body also. Psalm 31:9

This is my first post in quite some time. The principal reason for the time not spent is the sudden, unexpected death of my wife Emily on June nineteenth of this year. I expected Emily to come home from the hospital a few days after she went in that Saturday. Instead, she went home to her Lord.  It has been one hundred and twenty-eight days. One of the last things my wife said was just a few hours before she lost conciousness for the last time. In the emergency room, room 12 I think, she was barely able to breathe and yet she said “My God is sovereign. He knew I would be sick before I was born. It’s going to be o.k. ” The sovereign goodness of God was something that Em believed in firmly, was convinced of certainly through His word and something she lived joyfully in the light of.

I love the Lord and I know that He is good and that he is sovereign. I don’t believe it all the time as much as other times, But I have never been more convinced of it, despite my sinful self, than when He chose to end my wife’s hard struggle to reach for his hand. I would never have been brave enough to let her go, and she was of too strong a love and will to choose to go. So, Jesus lovingly did what neither of us could.

I miss her, very much.

I can offer no words of comfort, no magic Christian formula, for those who grieve this moment. Only this truth:

But, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steadfast love-Lamentations 3:32

Man’s Glory or God’s Grace

•May 11, 2010 • Leave a Comment

In 1518, during the Heidelberg disputation, Martin Luther stridently declared that there was a theology of glory (theologia gloriae) that contended against the theology of the cross (theologia Crucis).  The difference between the two is nothing less than the difference between works and faith, damnation and salvation, the glory of men against the unmerited grace of God.

Now, in the 21st century, we evangelicals in the church would be loath to admit that any such thing is in contention. Is it the cross or is it man’s wisdom and efforts? Of course it is the cross! “God forbid”, we might say “that anything else would take preeminence”.  But these days, the distinction is much more subtle. With some new popular preaching, the focus is upon “Seeking the blessing that God has for you” and “Storing up the favor of God by doing what God wants”; “I think Bible principles are principles for life.” and “God wants to bless us where we are”. In other words, the power is yours to do what must be done in order to get God to save you or bless you.

Contrast this with the following statement by Luther: “The person who believes that he can obtain grace by doing what is in him adds sin to sin so that he becomes doubly guilty”.

Romans 4:5(ESV)- And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness- Does not work.

This isn’t a suggestion that you make no efforts to live out the implications of God’s grace through the cross, Paul has much to say about that in Romans and elsewhere (Phillipians 2:12-13; 1 Thessalonians 4:1). Rather, the apostle is insisting that our efforts are not the basis of anything that God does for us in either our salvation or life. Luther takes the next logical step and pronounces that such self-based efforts are in fact condemnatory in themselves.

The cross of Jesus Christ is a decisive, final humiliation of our constantly rising self-righteousness and a vindication of the righteousness in character and conduct of the almighty. We need to recover the meditation of the cross and its finality of verdict about what we are and what we can or should do.

Here is Luther again: “The law says ‘Do this’, and it is never done. Grace says, ‘believe in this’ and everything is already done.”

Today, remember that God accepts us, not due to anything we could ever do but only through the mighty, incomparable cross of Jesus. This silences our efforts to wrangle blessings by our puny efforts (temporal or eternal) and frees us to live a life based on obedient love.

Psalm 115:1 Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory,
for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!

God saves Sinners

•May 10, 2010 • Leave a Comment

We’re studying the doctrines of grace in our Sunday school class this quarter. Yesterday was the first class on the T in “TULIP”- Total Depravity, also know as Total Inability. I was reminded later in the day of this great statement about all the doctrines of grace or -“Calvinism” as it is more contemporarily called by J.I. Packer in “A Quest for Godliness”. Read what the old professor says and exult a bit about your salvation!

“For of Calvinism there is really only one point to be made in the field of soteriology: the point that God saves sinners. God– the Triune Jehovah, Father, Son and Spirit; three Persons working together in sovereign wisdom, power and love to achieve the salvation of a chosen people, the Father electing, the Son fulfilling the Father’s will by redeeming, the Spirit executing the purpose of Father and Son by renewing. Saves-does everything, first to last, that is involved in bringing man from death in sin to life in glory: plans, achieves and communicates redemption, calls and keeps, justifies, sanctifies, glorifies. Sinners-men as God finds them, guilty, vile, helpless, powerless, blind, unable to lift a finger to do God’s will or better their spiritual lot. God saves sinners-and the force of this confession may not be weakened by disrupting the unity of the work of the Trinity, or by dividing the achievement of salvation between God and man and making the decisive part man’s own, or by soft-pedalling the sinner’s inability so as to allow him to share the praise of his salvation with the Saviour. This is the one point of Calvinistic soteriology which the ‘five points’ are concerned to establish and Arminianism in all its forms to deny: namely, that sinners do no save themselves in any sense at all, but that salvation, first and last, whole and entire, past, present, and future, is of the Lord, to whom be glory for ever; amen!”