Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Power of God's Presence

In Hearing God, Dallas Willard writes:

My oldest brother, J. I. Willard, served for over 30 years as a minister under the blessing of God. But his entry into the ministry came through long and intense struggles with personal and financial issues.
One evening he faced a major decision that had to be made the next day, a decision that would commit him for years into the future. He prayed long into the night, falling asleep at around 1:30 a.m. But, he relates, at 2:00 a.m. "that room lit up with the glory of God. I saw a figure. I did not see a face, but I recognized it to be the person of Christ. I felt a hand on my shoulder, and I heard a voice that said, 'Feed my sheep.'"
As has been the case for many others who have been given such experiences, the presence of God almost overwhelmed his consciousness, and it also transformed various aspects of his personality. He was suddenly living in the study of the Bible, memorizing much of it without trying to do so, even though his days were spent in hard physical labor. He had been painfully addicted to tobacco all of his adult life; desire for it was removed without his asking. According to him, the "aroma" of that room full of the presence of God has stayed with him ever since.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Major Marriage Killers Wreaking Havoc on Families Today

Dr. James Dobson identifies 12 ways marriages are being destroyed today:

1. Over commitment and physical exhaustion
This condition is especially insidious for young couples who are trying to get started in a profession or in school. Do not try to go to college, work full time, have baby, manage toddler, fix up a house and start a business at the same time. It sounds ridiculous, but many young couples do just that, and are then surprised when their marriages fall apart. The only time they see each other is when they are worn out!

2. Excessive credit and conflict over how money will be spent
Pay cash for consumable items or don’t buy. Don’t spend more on a house or a car than you can afford, leaving too little resources for dating, short trips, baby sitters, etc. Allocate your finds with wisdom.

3. Selfishness
There are two kinds of people in the world, the givers and the takers. A marriage between two givers can be a beautiful thing. Friction is inevitable for a giver and a taker. But two takers can claw each other to pieces with a period of weeks.

4. Unhealthy relationships with in-laws
If either the husband or wife has not been fully emancipated from the parents, it is best not to live near them. Autonomy is difficult for some mothers and fathers to grant.

5. Unrealistic expectations
Some couples come into marriage anticipating rose-covered cottages, walks down primrose lanes and unmitigated joy. There is no way a marriage between two imperfect human beings can deliver on that expectation. The late counselor Jean Lush believed, and I agree, that this romantic illusion is particularly characteristic of American women, who expect more from their husbands than they are capable of providing.

6. Space invaders
My concern is for those who violate the “breathing room” needed by their partners, quickly suffocating them and destroying the attraction between them. Jealousy is one way the phenomenon manifests itself. Another is a poor self-concept, which leads the insecure spouse to build a cage around the other. It often suffocates the relationship. Love must be free and it must be confident.

7. Sexual frustration and its partner; the greener grass of infidelity. It is a deadly combination

8. Business Collapse
Failure in work does bad things to men especially. Their agitation over financial reverses sometimes sublimates to anger within the family.

9. Business Success
It is almost as risky to succeed wildly as it is to fail miserably in business. King Solomon wrote: Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Proverbs 30:8. It is true.

10. Getting married too young
Girls who marry between 14 and 17 years of age are more than twice as likely to divorce as those who marry at 18 or 19 years of age. Those who marry at 18 or 19 are 1.5 times as likely to divorce as those marry in their 20s. The pressures of adolescence and the stresses of adoption and the stresses of early married life do not mix well. Finish the first before taking on the second.

11. Alcohol and substance abuse
These are notorious killers, not only of marriages but also of the people who indulge excessively. It has been said that upward of a third of all Americans and Canadians are close family members of an alcoholic.

12. Pornography, gambling and other addictions
It should be obvious to everyone that the human personality is flawed. During an introductory stage, people think they can tamper with various enticements, such as pornography, gambling, hard drugs, etc., without being hurt. Indeed, many do walk away unaffected. For some, however, there is a weakness and vulnerability that is unknown until too late. Such people then become addicted to something that tears at the fabric of the family. This warning many seem foolish and even prudish to readers, but I’ve made a 20-year study of those who wreck lives. Their problem begins in experimentation with a known vice and ultimately ends in death – or the death of a marriage. These are a few of the common marriage killers. But in truth, the list is virtually limitless. If you are going to beat the odds and maintain an intimate, long-term marriage, you must take the task seriously.

Sins of the father

Standing in our local hardware store buying bulbs, I look up at the in-store television and saw this huge mushroom shaped silver object floating in the sky. I had no idea what I was looking at. Later that night I learned that the object in the sky was a homemade balloon that supposedly broke from its tether with a 6 year old boy inside.
The next day, every network brought wall-to-wall interviews of the Heene family and their close encounter with disaster. Everyone I knew breathed sighs of relief that Mr. Heene’s son Falcon was not in the balloon but was safely “hiding” in their attic.
Sympathy for Richard Heene evaporated like ice on a hot griddle when the world discovered that the whole incident was a massive hoax to attract publicity, fame, and money.
As a father raising boys, my emotions went from shock, anger, to sorrow. Sorrow because that’s not what fathers are called to do.

• Fathers are accountable to God for the nurture and spiritual development of their children. Paul says of fathers,” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4
• Fathers are to model the character of God. “Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you.” Deuteronomy 8:5
• Fathers are called to model integrity, honesty and humility. So much of what children learn is more caught, than taught. They will remember what we do more than what we say.

What kind of life lesson is Richard Heene teaching his children? Undoubtedly, the lesson is, “It's ok to lie when trying to achieve personal ambitions.” He seemed willing to sacrifice his family on the altar of fame and the pursuit of money. How tragic.

Let me be careful: I am not a perfect father. I am sure I have made my share of mistakes. While I could never do what Richard Heene did, my heart is in constant need of spiritual renovation. May the Lord help every father live with joy the words of Paul, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” This is the greatest safeguard against selfish ambition.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Faith No More: What Athiest learned from debating religious people around the world

Famous athiest, Christopher Hitchens speaks openly and somewhat honestly about what he is learning from his ongoing debates with Christian thinkers. Here's a sample quote:

Wilson (Pastor Douglas Wilson, who is a senior fellow at New St. Andrew's College) isn't one of those evasive Christians who mumble apologetically about how some of the Bible stories are really just "metaphors." He is willing to maintain very staunchly that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and that his sacrifice redeems our state of sin, which in turn is the outcome of our rebellion against God. He doesn't waffle when asked why God allows so much evil and suffering—of course he "allows" it since it is the inescapable state of rebellious sinners. I much prefer this sincerity to the vague and Python-esque witterings of the interfaith and ecumenical groups who barely respect their own traditions and who look upon faith as just another word for community organizing.

Read the rest of the article here

The Praying Christian

One of the Soul Food small groups meeting at the church on Thursdays is starting at new study on prayer. Chad Ubry's group would love to have you come and learn more about the theology and practice of prayer.

In preparation for that group I invite you to read a recent post written on the Resurgence Blog by Winfield Bevins, an Acts 29 Pastor - Outer Banks, North Carolina.

Before You Pray
Every believer can have a dynamic personal prayer life. The Bible gives us the keys that we need to develop a powerful prayer life. Scripture is full of examples of men and women who walked with God and used prayer to impact their world, and you can do the same thing through prayer.
However, before praying, there are four things that we should take into consideration.
1. Schedule a regular prayer time.
Find a time every day to spend in prayer. The important thing is that we should be consistent. The psalmist said that he prayed seven times a day.
2. Choose a private place to pray.
A prayer closet could be anywhere as long as it is private. You can use your garage, pantry, front porch, or any other creative place where you can get alone with God. Some people pray while driving in their car and others pray while working out or running.
3. Try to limit distractions.
Don't pray in the same room where you watch television or are tempted by other activities.
4. Have a prayer list to guide your prayers. You should pray for your family, friends, church, etc. This will ensure that you don't forget important things to pray for.

Passing the Gospel to the next Generation

I invite you to read Psalm 78: 1-7 in order to make sense of the following thoughts. Some call this a historical psalm because it looks back on the history of Israel and how Almighty God sustained his people. The longing of this historical psalm is that God's people would remember and never forget the greatness of God and then pass to the coming generation this intimate knowledge of God.

Scientists know that light travels at the speed of 5.87 trillion miles a year. They also know that the galaxy of which our solar system is a part is about 100,000 light years in diameter—about 587,000 trillion miles. It is one of about a million galaxies in the optical range of our most powerful telescopes. It has been estimated that in our galaxy there are more than 200 billion stars. The sun is one of them, a modest star burning at about 6,000 degrees centigrade on the surface and traveling in an orbit at 135 miles per second, which means it will take about 250 million years to complete a revolution around the galaxy.

Scientists know these things and are awed by them. And they say, “If there is a personal God, as the Christians say, who spoke this universe into being, then there is a certain respect and reverence and wonder and dread that would have to come through when we in the church talk about him and when we worship him.”(From Let the Nations be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions by Dr. John Piper)

When our passion and zeal for God is weak, then our mission of telling the next generation will be weak. Churches that are not centered on the exaltation of the majesty and beauty of God will scarcely kindle a fervent fire and example for the next generation.

Those coming behind us will see the disparity between our bold claims about God and the blandness of our engagement with God. The future of many of our mainline churches depend on how well we passionately know God through Jesus Christ and pass on faith to the next generation.

I have heard it said on many occasions, "Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living!" What will we pass on to the generation coming behind us?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Single-minded preaching

On preaching his first sermon to his congregation at Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, Charles Spurgeon explains to the members of the church where he stands and what the defining concern of his ministry will be.

His first words from the pulpit that day were:
I would propose that the subject of the ministry of this house, as long as this platform shall stand, and as long as this house shall be frequented by worshipers, shall be the person of Jesus Christ. I am never ashamed to avow myself a Calvinist; I do not hesitate to take the name of Baptist; but if I am asked what is my creed, I reply, "It is Jesus Christ." My venerated predecessor, Dr. Gill, has left a [theological heritage] admirable and excellent in its way. But the [legacy] to which I would pin and bind myself forever, God helping me, Jesus Christ, who is the arm and substance of the gospel, who is in Himself all theology, the incarnation of every precious truth.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Why the church matters

There are many compelling reasons why the Church is integral to our faith in Jesus Christ. Martin Luther fleshes out another very practical reason for the church...

No man should be alone when he opposes Satan. The church and the ministry of the Word were instituted for this purpose, that hands may be joined together and one may help another. If the prayer of one doesn't help, the prayer of another will.

Martin Luther, "Martin Luther--The Early Years," Christian History, no. 34.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Knowing and doing God's will

I Kings 13: 1-33 illustrates the importance of obeying God. Jeroboam, the renegade king of the 10 breakaway tribes of Israel was steadily overturning every semblance of Yahweh's commandments and ways.

The Lord called an unnamed prophet to visit the king while he was busy preparing sacrifices for the idolatrous golden calf. The unnamed prophet boldly denouced the king's practices:

"Then at the Lord’s command, he shouted, “O altar, altar! This is what the Lord says: A child named Josiah will be born into the dynasty of David. On you he will sacrifice the priests from the pagan shrines who come here to burn incense, and human bones will be burned on you.” I Kings 13: 2

Filled with rage, Jeroboam stretched out his hand to have the prophet arrested but God paralyzed the king's hand and he was unable to pull it back. In humility, the pompous king begs the prophet to pray for him so God might heal his paralyzed hand. So the man of God prayed to the Lord, and the king’s hand was restored and he could move it again.

As a gesture of kindness, the now chastened king tries to invite the man of God to come to his palace for a meal. The prophet refused: "For the Lord gave me this command: ‘You must not eat or drink anything while you are there, and do not return to Judah by the same way you came.’ ” So he left Bethel and went home another way." I kings 13: 9

The man's resolve to fully obey God was thwarted by a fellow prophet who used lies and manipulation to convince the man of God to bend God's word. The result was very tragic. Instead of going home as commanded by the Lord, he went to the home of the elderly prophet for a meal. His disobedience resulted in his death. On his way from the elderly prophet's house a lion attacked him and killed him.

Judith and I read this story several times this morning, noting the importance of listening and obeying God. Well intentioned people often try to redirect our lives. Sometimes it's important to listen to the wisdom of others; other times we have to reject their advice. We must never allow people's advice or opinion to sway us from God's revealed will. This story clearly illustrates the difficulty which is sometimes involved in discerning the true word of God. Difficulty because there is often a fine line between an arrogant know-it-all-attitude, and a confident, humble, settled assurance in God's word. May the Lord help us to confidently, and unswervingly walk in His truth!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Word of Encouragement

Jesus is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. How?

He was tempted in every way as we are but he did not sin. Some people wonder how Jesus could understand our struggle with sin since He Himself is sinless. A surgeon may have performed hundreds of operations without ever having had surgery himself. On the other hand, a person may know nothing of surgery in spite of having had many operations himself. If you were to be operated on, which person would you choose to perform the surgery? Merely experiencing something doesn't necessarily give us an understanding of it. Jesus never sinned, yet He understands sin better than any of us. He has seen it more clearly and fought it more diligently than any of us ever could.

Jesus knows about your temptation. He sees your struggles; he sees where you are falling and he is able to help you overcome the things that defeat you. He sees your struggles with drugs and alcohol; he knows the shame you feel about the things that weaken you; that relationship that is not good for you; your struggles with over eating; your search for significance, your lust for more and more things. He knows your strength is almost gone. He says to you come to me and I will give you rest. Come to me and I will forgive, cleanse, renew, restore and change you. A broken and contrite heart our God will not despise.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

How To Profit from Bible Reading

Reading Eugene Peterson's book, Eat This Book, I was reminded of the importance reading my bible. His testimony about long distance running helped me understand that I read the bible so that I can obey God.

At age 35 I bought running shoes and began enjoying the smooth rhythms of long-distance running. Soon I was competing in 10K races every month or so, and then a marathon once a year. By then I was subscribing to and reading three running magazines! Then I pulled a muscle and couldn't run for a couple of months. Those magazines were still all over the house, but I never opened one. The moment I resumed running, though, I started reading again.

That's when I realized that my reading was an extension of something I was a part of. I was reading for companionship and affirmation of the experience of running. I learned a few things along the way, but mostly it was to deepen my world of running. If I wasn't running, there was nothing to deepen.

The parallel with reading Scripture is striking. If I'm not living in active response to the living God, reading about his creation/salvation/holiness won't hold my interest for long. The most important question isn't "What does this mean," but "What can I obey?" Simple obedience will open up our lives to a text more quickly than any number of Bible studies, dictionaries, and concordances.

Fighting Temptation

In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis offer us profound wisdom when it comes to understanding temptation's power in our lives:

No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means.

This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting it, not by giving in. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later.

That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it.

Accepted at God's table

In his book, Connecting, Larry Crabb writes:

A friend of mine was raised in an angry family. Mealtimes were either silent or sarcastically noisy. Down the street was an old-fashioned house with a big porch where a happy family lived. My friend told me that when he was about ten, he began excusing himself from his dinner table as soon as he could without being yelled at, and walking to the old-fashioned house down the street. If he arrived during dinnertime, he would crawl under the porch and just sit there, listening to the sounds of laughter.
When he told me this story, I asked him to imagine what it would have been like if the father in the house somehow knew he was huddled beneath the porch and sent his son to invite him in. I asked him to envision what it would have meant to him to accept the invitation, to sit at the table, to accidentally spill his glass of water, and hear the father roar with delight, "Get him more water! And a dry shirt! I want him to enjoy the meal!"
Crabb goes on to say, "We need to hear the Father laugh. Change depends on experiencing the character of God."

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale votes Sunday to keep pastor -- South Florida

Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale votes Sunday to keep pastor -- South Florida

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Pray for the people and pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church

In its heyday, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, founded by Dr. D. James Kennedy, was famous for its evangelism ministry (Evangelism Explosion), its schools, seminary, and strong religious and politically conservative views. Dr. Kennedy died back on September 5, 2007.

In March 2009, the church called the grandson of famous evangelist Billy Graham to become the second pastor in the church's 50 year history. Pastor Tullian Tchividjian (pronounced cha-vi-jin), 37, has been on the job less than a year and already factions in the church have called for his ouster. At a specially called congregational meeting in early September 2009, the congregation voted to retain Tullian as their pastor.

Unfortunately, just last week over 400 members defected from the congregation to form a new church. How could a once thriving church be so embroiled in this kind of conflict and division? From what I can gather, some of the members appreciative of Dr. Kennedy's ministry are concerned about the pace of change happening in the church. Over the summer, several members of the church choir were upset at the speed of changes under Tchividjian, including what they felt were a watering down of evangelism, political advocacy and traditional worship.

Are these issues that important to divide and weaken this congregation? I don't think so. However, when it comes to church traditions in North America, people will go the mat over the most amazing things (I have heard of churches splitting over hymnals).

Please let us join together and remember the pastor and his family and all the members of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. I am sure the unbelieving community in Fort Lauderdale are shaking their heads and laughing at these Christians.

Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church is a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Mixed Message?

Mark Galli, the senior managing editor of Christianity Today, raises the question many of us are asking. He challenges us as orthodox believers to ask ourselves how we can argue for the sanctity of marriage and behave like heterosexual hypocrites:

We cannot very well argue for the sanctity of marriage as a crucial social institution while we blithely go about divorcing and approving of remarriage at a rate that destabilizes marriage. We cannot say that an institution, like the state, has a perfect right to insist on certain values and behavior from its citizens while we refuse to submit to denominational or local church authority. We cannot tell gay couples that marriage is about something much larger than self-fulfillment when we, like the rest of heterosexual culture, delay marriage until we can experience life, and delay having children until we can enjoy each other for a few years.

In short, we have been perfect hypocrites on this issue. Until we admit that, and take steps to amend our ways, our cries of alarm about gay marriage will echo off into oblivion. To read the whole article click here