Archive | January, 2014

Spiritual Disciplines For the Purpose of Godliness| Bible Intake |2nd in Series

30 Jan

bible

“Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7b NASB)

“If I were the devil, one of my first aims would be to stop folks from digging into the Bible. Knowing that it is the Word of God, teaching men to know and love and serve the God of the Word, I should do all I could to surround it with the spiritual equivalent of pits, thorn hedges, and man traps, to frighten people off…At all costs I should want to keep them from using their minds in a disciplined way to get the measure of its message” (J.I. Packer).

Bible intake is a broad term and encompasses the many ways the Word is made known to us. “[There is] no spiritual discipline…more important than the intake of God’s Word” (Don Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life). This particular discipline is inextricably linked to spiritual growth and maturity; where hearts opened to the knowledge of the glory of God crave “the pure milk of the word” (1 Peter 2:2-3) and yearn to know and love Him more. Our soul cries out as a “deer pants for water” and “thirsts for God” (Psalm 42:1-2). Quench this thirst by hearing purposefully, reading consistently, studying deeply, memorizing intentionally, meditating thoughtfully, and applying God’s Word accordingly.

Through Bible intake God’s attributes are revealed and His characteristics are highlighted in the Gospels through Jesus giving us access to a deeper understanding of how to glorify God and an amazing love. Seek Him, spend time with Him, obey Him, honor Him…He is jealous for us

How to Get People to Read the Bible Without Making Them Feel Dumb by Trevin Wax

“The Bible is easy.”

“The Bible is simple for a child to understand.”

“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand the Bible.”

I hear these and other statements at times from well-meaning church leaders and church members. The idea is to shrink the distance from us and the biblical text, to make the Bible seem accessible…with the hope that more people will read it. I think this is the wrong way to go about it. It’s just not going to happen. When we stress the Bible’s “easiness,” we lead our people into two wrong directions. Some will throw up their hands and say, “I must be really stupid because this seems very dense.” Or, even worse, we train people to only look for the easy parts, to be satisfied with daily nuggets of wisdom and never wade deep into the Bible’s waters. Either way, you wind up with people who never feel the satisfaction of studying the Bible on their own.

Instead, I suggest we be upfront about the demanding nature of the Bible.  Let your people know that it’s hard work. It’s a challenge…

Continue reading here: How to Get People to Read the Bible Without Making Them Feel Dumb – Trevin Wax

Additional Resources:

Three Tips for Better Bible Reading | Desiring God

Why Read the Bible? | Desiring God

Five Promises for Your Bible Reading and Prayer | Desiring God

3 Common Ways to Read Scripture – The Gospel Coalition Blog

Hearing Gods Voice 101 | Are YOU listening? | Connect to Women’s Ministry @TACC

 

We Don’t Have to Read the Book or See the Movie to Know Heaven Is Real

24 Jan

glory2“My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” John 14:2

The world places their hope in pop cultural near death experiences seeking to believe something eternal and glorious exists after death. The desire to have the “ears tickled” by the smoke and mirrors of crafty “myths” leads to a slippery slide down the road of junk ideology designed to entertain and muddle the “truth” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

God’s infallible Word makes it clear Heaven is real and as believers our citizenship (Philippians 3:20) and hope (Colossians 1:5) is there. A child’s purported account should not make it more so to believing Christians who place their trust and confidence in the Lord.

We Don’t Have to Read the Book or See the Movie to Know Heaven Is Real by Nancy Guthrie

“Have you read Heaven Is for Real? ” I’ve been asked this question more times than I can count. So let me just tell you—no, I haven’t. I was actually asked by the publisher to read the manuscript to offer an endorsement before the book came out, but I declined. And clearly the lack of an endorsement from me has not hindered sales.

I’ve been hoping that the hoopla surrounding this book and so many of the other” died and went to heaven and came back” books would end. And then I went to the theater over the holidays and saw previews for the upcoming movie based on Heaven Is for Real. So before you ask if I am going to see the movie, let me just tell you—no, I’m not.

The remainder of this article can be viewed here: We Don’t Have to Read the Book or See the Movie to Know Heaven Is Real – The Gospel Coalition Blog.

Other articles to ponder:

As citizens of heaven | Mars Hill Church

What Is Heaven Like? | The Resurgence

Citizens of Heaven | Desiring God

Love So Amazing, So Divine | Poured Out, Overflowing

17 Jan

 lovegodloveothers

“We love because He first loved us” 1 John 4:19

“God chose the moment…He sat His love upon you…He sent His Spirit to open your eyes to see the beauty of Christ…[to] take you for Himself” (Pastor Burris, The Affection of God in the Soul of the Church).

When the dank dark corners of our heart are flooded with the light of the knowledge of the glory of God we see in the face of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6) and the hidden corners are illuminated as we are chosen to Him; the goodness, kindness, faithfulness, and graciousness of the Lord shines through; made visible to a heart no longer blind. His Word ceases to be unintelligible, revealing cogent scripture we can examine and savor; a feast for a newly awakened palate. 

“…a mighty power from God coming upon their souls, conforming them to God, addicting them to God, uniting them with God, making them center on God,…The Spirit that is from God suits us to God and to divine things and makes us savor the things of God and take delight in them.” (John Howe, via Ray Ortlund, Has He Given You New Life).

As believers filled with the Lord’s love from everlasting to everlasting (Psalm 103:17) our desires change. We become preoccupied with the Gospel and crave spiritual sustenance with hunger pains welling up from the soul only the Word can quell. 

“I can’t stop thinking about it, talking about it, writing about it, reading about it, wrestling with it, reveling in it, standing on it, and thanking God for it. For better or for worse, my focus has become myopic. My passion has become singular.” (Tullian Tchividian, I’m Addicted).

As God’s own possession filled with love poured out, the scope and magnitude of His love via propitiation spectacularly displayed upon the cross creates a spiritual affection for Him and those who belong to Him. We cannot remain comfortable, complacent, apathetic, and outside of community in the shadow of such enormity nor can we not love fellow Christians deeply and intensely. Seek revival; transform and renew your mind; immerse yourselves in the Bible memorizing, meditating, reading, studying and praying scripture so as to truly know the love of God. Ache to love Him more; you cannot love too much. 

The following article offers a love expository and posits love is the most important pursuit:

Love Is Not a Verb, by Jon Bloom

Based on the following statements by Jesus, I would say that love is the most important thing to pursue this year.

[The greatest commandment:] You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22:37–39

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. John 15:12

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:35

However, we must be clear on what love actually is or else we will find ourselves lost in the pursuit of it and lose our resolve. Love Is Not Only a Verb…

Keep reading here: Love Is Not a Verb | Desiring God.

Additional Resources:

The Affection of God in the Soul of the Church

Love So Amazing, So Divine | Poured Out, Overflowing

Spiritual Disciplines For the Purpose of Godliness — Journaling | 1st in Series

9 Jan

journal“Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” 1 Timothy 4:7b NASB

“By divine design we are aliens…living in dramatic and serious times” (Pastor Burris, “Why We Don’t Belong Here“).

As believing Christians we live in a country increasingly hostile to the road we choose to travel as we seek after God (John 15:18). 

“We have become outsiders just as Jesus was an outsider. We are marginal in our culture because Jesus is marginal. The cross is the ultimate expression of marginalization and to follow him is to take up our cross daily. It is daily to experience marginalization and hostility. Being on the margins is normal Christian experience” (Tim Chester, “Everyday Church”). 

The prospect of negative public opinion or living on the fringe of society may frighten us into donning a veneer of secularization in order to fit in. A comfortable complacency may attach itself impeding one’s  pursuit of holiness and desire to know God. This is in direct opposition to what we are called to be —  obedient and holy (1 Peter 1:15-16); glorifying; a reflection of our Lord and Father to those who do not know Him (Matthew 5:15-16). We cannot become Christlike under our own power rather, God provides the impetus for change and spiritual maturity.

“The Spiritual Disciplines…promote spiritual growth. They are habits of devotion and experiential Christianity that have been practiced by the people of God since biblical times” (Don Whitney, “Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life”).

The spiritual disciplines we choose change us from the inside when we hone our focus and dependent on the Holy Spirit”…place ourselves before God…” (Whitney), allowing Him to do a good work in us. One of the most introspective disciplines is journaling. Pouring out our hearts to the Lord and trusting Him with our feelings (Psalm 62:8) allows us to articulate a contemporaneous account of where we are in our faith walk. Creating a snapshot of a moment in time allows us to see the course God is charting and resulting changes. 

“The pursuit of holiness is a joint venture between God and the Christian.  No one can attain any degree of holiness without God working in his life, but just as surely no one will attain it without effort on his own part” (Jerry Bridges, “The Pursuit of Holiness”).

Journaling can help us stay rooted in Christ by serving as a visual reminder of our goals and the need for continued spiritual discipline  maintenance. The following excerpt offers additional journaling assistance:

Journaling as a Spiritual Discipline, Larissa Arnault

The new year is finally here, which means resolutions might be on your mind. In lieu of a typical goal like losing 10 pounds, how about adding the practice of journaling to your 2014? Here are a few reasons to put pen to paper.

Leave it all on the page. When I have lots of thoughts dancing around my head, whether it’s a to-do list or how upset I am by the conversation I had earlier with so-and-so, putting what’s in my mind on paper unclutters my brain and frees me to think of other things or, even better, sleep. Giving those thoughts to God can help you sort things out in a way that surpasses your own understanding.

Let your thankfulness flow. If daily thought pouring feels like too much of a commitment, try keeping a gratitude journal. My dear friend Anne Marie sent me one last year, and I loved filling in the blanks each day. The daily deed is simple—write a list of five things you are thankful for. Mine ranged from the hot water in my shower to good conversations to God’s provision and everything in between. When you’re mindful of things you’re grateful for each day, your outlook on life changes dramatically.

Lift up your prayers. Journaling is a great way to pray. The act allows you to quiet yourself and hear from God in a more structured setting. It also helps you stay awake if you’re prone to falling asleep while praying (like me). Maybe you’ll have an epiphany as your pen glides over the page. Or perhaps you’ll look back over the past month and see God speaking to you a bit more clearly. Either way, journaling can provide divine perspective.

Look back. Writing down goals increases your chances of achieving them, so set yours on paper and hold yourself accountable. I like to write down a fun list of things to do (big and small) on my birthday—one goal for each year of my life. Last year’s list included paddle boarding, buying balloons, and being a better listener. Use the documented pages to reflect on how far you’ve come, and keep track of what you’d like to do next.

Let it all hang out. You can truly be yourself on the pages of a journal. Say what’s really on your mind. Go ahead and word vomit all over the page. YELL IN ALL CAPS IF YOU NEED TO. Cover the page with tears if they flow. Dot all your I’s with little hearts if you’re so inclined. No matter what the pages end up saying, God can handle it.

Excerpted from: LifeWay Women All Access — Journaling as a Spiritual Discipline.

Additional Resources:

The Hole in Our Holiness – Kevin DeYoung

The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap Between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness, Kevin DeYoung

Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald Whitney

You Can Change, Tim Chester

The Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges

Growing in holiness | Mars Hill Church

Happy New Year!|Resolution or a Real Solution

1 Jan

tide“but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” Isaiah 40:31.

According to Time magazine nearly 2/3 of Americans will make a New Years resolution. The top ten of these include 8 that emphasize some sort of a personal change designed to effect a transformation of sorts. The other 2 popular choices involve helping others and spending more time with family. Out of the myriad people making one of these commitments on January 1 2013, nearly 50% stopped pursuing their goal after the first month and only 8% successfully achieved their goal at the end of the year. This lack of accomplishment may emanate from a false hope. Pinning one’s expectation of success on the new year and unassisted effort will prove pointless.

“Believing that things will get better apart from Christ is a cruel deception. It truly is an exercise in futility. Even if bank accounts grow or fortunes appear to improve, the relief this provides is short-lived” (Jay Younts, Celebrating Insanity).

 Resolutions can be a good thing. Approach change with prayer (Philippians 4:6), wisdom (James 1:5), persistence (Galatians 6:9), and patience (Psalm 37:7a).

Lifeway Women offers the following 3 tips for a realistic approach:

Approach your goals with a healthy dose of reality. If you’re serious about making a true change, those goals have to be practical and reasonable.

Behavior modification won’t last. Only Jesus can bring true and lasting transformation…

Your own strength will ultimately fail you. …true success comes when you press hard into Jesus—through constant prayer—for a strength that only He can provide.

Whether you choose one word that encompasses a focused character change, ten thousand little moments of grace, or the typical dramatic pledge remember;

“…change takes place through faith…where our hearts lead, our emotions and behaviour will follow…look to God, to find hope and help and satisfaction in him” (Tim Chester, You Can Change).

Wait upon the Lord! Trust in His perfect timing. Do not attempt things in your own strength.

Additional Resources:

Don’t Waste Your Weaknesses in 2014 – Desiring God

On To The Next One… – Tullian Tchividjian

Hoping for the New Year | CBMW | The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

 

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