Archive for the ‘Observations’ Category

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During this Election: Who Should Christians Pray For?

October 30, 2012

Christians are called to a life of humble character far above and beyond what the rest of the world expects.  We are to keep our conduct honorable among unbelievers, so that we might live above reproach and so they may see our good deeds and glorify God.  Part of that honorable life is a life lived in submission to the earthly authorities and institutions that God has placed over us.  We are to do this for presidents, and governors not just for our own sake, but for the sake of the Lord.  We are to live as a people who are free, not just free politically but free eternally.  Therefore we are to honor everyone; love our brothers and sisters in Christ; Fear our God, and honor the emperor.

 

 

1 Peter 2:12-17

12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. 13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

We find that in 1 Peter, Peter gives us the ethic that should inform evangelical Christians.   He says in chapter 2, “ Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.  Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.  Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.”

Christians are to live as a people who are free.  We are not bound to political parties or constrained by ideologies.  We are to show honor to everyone, above that honor we are to love our brothers and sisters in Christ, we are to fear God and we are to honor those he has placed in government above us.

So as you honor those above you, ask yourself, “Have I prayed this week for my president?”  “I am living subject to Human institutions, or am I trying to find loopholes in the system?”

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During This Election: Why Should Christians Pray?

October 29, 2012

Image Credit: Here

Christians occupy a tense space between being a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven and the kingdoms of this world.  While we are to have no other God’s above our Lord, we are commanded to show deference and respect to those that God has placed in positions of leadership over us.  That deference and respect is best manifested in prayer, prayer for those in governing authority over us.  For as God’s children living in our Father’s world we recognize that there is no authority over us except what God ordains.   Therefore, just as we pay taxes owed to the Government, we pay respect owed to those who God has placed over us. We pray in light of this truth, that God would grant us leaders who are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad; and that their character might reflect the One they govern under.

 

Romans 13:1-7

1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not “a terror to good conduct, but to bad.” Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

Paul Instructs believers in Romans chapter 13 to “be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”  We owe respect to those governing us, because they have risen to their position of power under the providence of God.  Paul encourages give respect to those who are owed respect, “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”  The greatest way to honor those above us is to pray for them.  Regardless of whether they have received your vote, they should receive your prayers.

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C.S. Lewis on Love is…

October 25, 2012

C.S. Lewis and the Pain of Love

http://www.colourbox.com/preview/2175362-832703-a-cross-whith-nails-on-a-greek-bible.jpg

Below is a poem by our great friend Jack, Love is tears, fire, spring, and nails…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love’s as warm as tears,
Love is tears:
Pressure within the brain,
Tension at the throat,
Deluge, weeks of rain,
Haystacks afloat,
Featureless seas between
Hedges, where once was green

Love’s as fierce as fire,
Love is fire:
All sorts–Infernal heat
Clinkered with greed and pride,
Lyric desire, sharp-sweet,
Laughing, even when denied,
And that empyreal flame
Whence all loves came.

Love’s as fresh as spring,
Love is spring:
Bird-song in the air,
Cool smells in a wood,
Whispering “Dare! Dare!”
To sap, to blood,
Telling “Ease, safety, rest,
Are good; not best.”

Love’s as hard as nails,
Love is nails:
Blunt, thick, hammered through
The medial nerves of One
Who, having made us, knew
The thing He had done,
Seeing (what all that is)
Our cross, and His.

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Charles Stanley on Walking with God Daily…

October 24, 2012

 

Noah walked with God, how do we walk with God today? 

This is a list of six points from Charles Stanley[1] regarding how we walk with God, I think that each point could easily be related to the Noah narrative. I have listed the points and then in parenthesis have included points of connection for the Noah narrative.

1. Commit to discovering and obeying the Father’s will. (Noah was favored by God and obeyed God when asked to do the seemingly impossible.)

2. Begin with faith—believing that God exists and that you have a new life in Christ. (Noah could have easily have written off God, and could have declined to build the ark, think of all the excuses he could have offered up, ‘you want me to build what?’ ‘what is rain?’ ‘but we’re not near any water?’ etc. but instead Noah believed that God existed and that there was life in obeying God.)

3. Pursue continual fellowship with the Lord, and seek to live in His presence daily—even when difficulties arise. (Think of the difficulty experienced by Noah and his family, the ridicule from the world as he built the ark and followed God. and yet he continued to walk with God.)

4. Walk in truth, obeying Him cheerfully, and your relationship with Him will grow more intimate. (You can not get anymore intimate than being one of the last eight people left on earth to have a relationship with God.  There is no sign from Noah of complaining or rebellion, he followed where God led and as a result received a covenant form God.)

5. Allow the Holy Spirit to work within you to bring peace, confidence, security, and joy into your life. (Following God may be difficult, but think that it always brings peace amid chaos, confidence in the face of complaint, security from danger, and ultimate joy.  Each one of these was experienced by Naoh and his family because they walked with God, they experienced peace confidence and security amidst the flood and ultimately the joy of salvation.)

6. Separate yourself from sin, and strive to make a positive impact on the lives of others. Rely on the Spirit to help you live in a way that pleases God. (This is what Noah excelled at, he separated himself from sin and followed God, even as the whole earth was under the sway of evil, Noah stood strong and separated himself following God, he called others to repent and believe, tried to make a difference.)


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The Heart of a Prayer Warrior…

October 8, 2012

When considering prayer in general and the Lord’s Prayer in particular, we should consider what kind of heart utters this prayer, and what kind of heart refuses to pray.

What Kind of heart prays this prayer?

An obedient heart. Jesus begins the passage by saying, “When you pray, pray like this…” it is an assumption that we will pray, and that we should pray. Paul encourages us in Thessalonians to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing give thanks in all circumstances…” An obedient heart asks how it should pray and when given the answer, it prays accordingly.

A humble heart. Jesus instructs his disciples that there are two ways to pray, you can pray like the Pharisees, who stand on a street corner, praying for the benefit of other people, in being seen, they have their reward. The other way, is not ‘me’ centered but God centered. Jesus says, in verse 6, “when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done is secret will reward you.” It takes humility to ask for the basic necessities of life. To admit that you need food, or clothing, or the basics. And yet we’re commanded to ask, and promised that when we do our Father who knows our needs, will meet those needs.

A servants heart. Do we ask merely for ourselves? Or do we ask that we might be enabled to serve Him, who gives so much to us? If we meant the first part of our prayer that God’s will be done on earth, then we must be ready to serve His will, and so we ask that he give us the time to work, and the sustenance necessary to live and serve.

What kind of heart doesn’t pray this prayer?

A proud heart. Some people have a difficult time asking for help. Implicit in this prayer is the fact that the person praying must put aside his/her pride and admit that they need help. They are asking for the most fundamental elements of life; a day to live, and food to eat. Often we do not have because we do not ask. James records as much in James 4:2,6,7a when he says “you do not have because you do not ask…God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble, submit therefore to God…”

A self-sufficient heart. “I don’t need God. I earn my bread, I don’t receive any handouts.” This is when I proud heart meets the means to supply ones needs. Often when we have been blessed with a lot, or we enjoy the fruits of many years of hard work and labor we begin to feel very self-sufficient. It becomes very difficult to admit that while we may work very hard, all we have comes from God, “he owns the cattle on a thousand hills.” (Ps. 50:10)

A selfish heart. When we ask that God give us our day and our daily bread, we are admitting that what we have comes from God, that it belongs to Him. But we are possessive, our stuff is our stuff, our bread is our bread. If you have children, or have been around children you will quickly see the human tendency toward selfishness. They can not get food apart from their parents, but give them a cookie, and then try and take it away and see what happens. One second they had nothing, the next they receive their gift, and they completely forget that they RECEIVED it. And you hear the word so common to children. MINE. We have to realize that we are children asking our Heavenly Father for bread. And when we receive it, we must acknowledge that it came from Him.

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Evangelical Engagement in Evil Times…

October 4, 2012

We live in an evil era. There is no doubt about this. One cursory look across the landscape of culture and media confirms that world lies under the domain of the evil one. In fact, it could be argued that from Jesus’ very ascension into heaven Christians have been living in what Paul would describe as “the last days.” With this in mind, how do christians engage this evil culture? Every four years this question becomes even more pertinent as Christians begin to navigate the unique and glorious responsibility of voting. God has given American Christians the opportunity to have a voice in their leadership and indeed in almost every level of governance. This was an opportunity denied Christians in the times of Paul, Constantine, Charlemagne and George III. But, with dawn of the American experiment came an unprecedented chance; Christians could now guide and participate in their government, in addition to praying for it. Ever since there has been a palpable tension in the heart of the conscientious Christian about which path is better: the political road of civic involvement, or the Kingdom road of spiritual reliance. Which path leads to the most effective engagement in repsone to these evil last days.

It should not surprise us that the Bible speaks to this issue with razor sharp clarity and concision. While there are many texts which speak to both governors and the governed, few texts provide evangelicals with the kind of roadmap we find in 2 TImothy 3:1-4:5 (See below quoted in length)

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.
You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
(2 Timothy 3-4:1-5 ESV)

There is much that one can draw from this text, so much that it far exceeds the reasonable length of a blog post. However, there some key elements worth drawing out and some conclusions worth making.

Key Elements:

I. Paul does not sugarcoat the existence of Evil. The first 9 verses of chapter 3 are devoted exclusively to the topic of evil’s existence in Paul’s day, with an eye toward its acceleration in the last days to come. This provides us with valuable encouragement. We take no small measure of comfort in knowing that the “good ole days” were not really that good. Evil has always stood in opposition to God and His people, and will until Christ’s return.

II. Paul accurately describes evil in realistic and relevant terms. Paul looks out onto his world and forward to our own with explicit realism. The times Paul describes are marked by people who will be “lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self control etc.” Does this sound at all familiar or reflective of our own time? We also must be conscientious enough to accurately define evil in our own time.

III. Paul stresses the primacy of the Word of God. Paul encourages Timothy (the evangelical engager) to root his hope in the all sufficient Word of God, which is “breathed out by God, profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness.” The only way this first-century evangelical was going to be equipped to engage his fallen culture with every good work was if he continued in what he learned from the sacred writings, the Scriptures.

IV. Paul delivers the method of engagement. Finally Paul instructs our early evangelical as to the manner in which he must engage this fallen culture; “preach the Word.” Paul could have said many things here; he could have said run for local magistrate, he could have suggested that Timothy lead a sit-in at the local basilica, but he did not. Paul’s advice, or rather his command to Timothy is to “preach the Word in season and out of season.” “To reprove” (with the Word), “to rebuke” (with the Word), “to exhort” (with the Word) and to do all this with patience.

What can we conclude from the above elements? Some would say that Paul was merely instructing a pastor on how to be a pastor. That this text has little to do the the lay christian. “After all,” one might say, “1-2 TImothy are pastoral epistles.” Leaving aside the fact that such a designation as “pastoral epistle” did not exist in Paul’s day, I would argue that his instruction is for all believers. As Christians, we are called to engage the culture, to be salt and light. And I think that we have reached an era when “people no longer listen to sound teaching.” Post-modernity has robbed our generation of ability to argue philosophical positions effectively on a broad scale. Once we as a culture were robbed of the definitions of right and wrong, sound teaching became nearly impossible to define, let alone engage in. The only hope we have is in the explicit unapologetic proclamation of God’s Word.

I am not arguing for a second fundamentalist retreat into the hills of cultural isolation. On the contrary, I am arguing that we must follow Paul’s model in this passage. We must recognize evil’s existence in our culture, we must be adept enough to realistically define it, we must root ourselves in God’s sufficient Word, and then we must engage the culture through the proclamation of that Word. This must be done in our churches, our homes, in our offices, at our jobs, in our neighborhoods, and even in the public square.

Vote, yes. Campaign, if you must. Advocate for life, absolutely. But above all preach unceasingly the glory of the Kingdom that here and is to come; it is the only hope we have in theses “last days.” We must all “do the work of an evangelist.”

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How to discern God’s will for your life…

October 3, 2012

How do you discern God’s will for your life?  Of all the questions a believer grapples with, that one is often first and foremost.  It can be difficult to discern God’s will, but thankfully He has given us His word which serves to guide and instruct us as we seek Him and His will.  There is a four word progression that I find helpful to remember when considering what God’s will for my life might be; Wisdom, Wait, Word and Will.  Exercise wisdom, wait on the Lord, obey His word and then discern His will.  Below are several texts that speak to this progression and hopefully illustrate the point.

The 4 W’s

Exercise WISDOM,

WAIT on the WORD,

To discern His WILL

WISDOM: Prov. 2:2 Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding, 2:10 For wisdom will enter your heart and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul, James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God who gives to all generously and without reproach and it will be given to him.

WAIT: Psalm 25:3 Indeed none of those who wait for you will be ashamed…25:5 Lead me in your truth and teach me, For you are the God of my salvation, For you I wait all the day long. Isa 40:31 For those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength, they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired they will walk and not get weary.

WORD: Ps. 33:6 By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, Ps 119:105 Your word is a lamp unto my feat and a light unto my path. 2 Tim. 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.

WILL-  Jer. 33:3 call unto me and I will answer you and I will tell you great and mighty things which you do not know. John 9:31 We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does his will, He hears him. Eph 1:9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which he purposed in Him (Christ).

 

Pray and seek after God, and He will make your paths straight.