Wednesday, November 26, 2008
I submitted the first draft of my dissertation proposal last night! Woohooo! I could definitely tell that people were praying for me because the Lord really helped me a lot!
I'm headed back to the flatlands for Thanksgiving, and as I sit in the airport, I realize how blessed I am and what a trouble-free life I live.
Heavenly Father, I pray that my life will glorify you. I pray that I will experience true Thanksgiving, most especially for the Lord Jesus Christ and the salvation He offers. I pray that I will make profitable gain for the Kingdom with the blessings you have given. I pray that your name will be praised. I ask in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
2:2For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling.
4:For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men. 10We are fools for Christ ... 11To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.
Does that sound like my life? Or, does my life sound like, "I don't want to be a freak, so I'll just blend in and when they see that I'm just like them, they'll want what's different about me."
Heavenly Father, I pray that you will lead me away from esteeming the wisdom of the world. Lord, please help me focus on Christ, who is Wisdom. Father, please make me a fool to this world. I pray that I will preach the Gospel of Christ purely. Lord, I pray that you will live through me so that I will bless when cursed, endure persecution, and show mercy when offended. May I be crucified to this world, and may the life of Christ be resurrected in me. I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Monday, November 24, 2008
I am trying to finish the first draft of my dissertation proposal by tomorrow evening, so I'm a little stressed right now. I keep praying, "Lord Jesus, please help me." I know that He is helping me, but I still feel tired, frazzled, and stressed. I know that I have been very productive this past week, and I know that it is because people are praying for me and God is answering their prayers.
Here are some encouraging verses (manna) that I need to chew on today:
3:5May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance. ... 16Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. ... 18The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
I am also reminded of the following passage:
Phil. 4:6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Heavenly Father, thank you for your Holy Word that is the manna of Jesus Christ. Thank you for encouraging me and lifting me up on the eternal rock of your Word. Thank you for the beautiful morning. Thank you for good health and a place to live. Thank you for giving me a reliable job and a great education. Thank you letting me grow up in a wonderful family that loves me. Thank you for my sweet wife who loves and respects me. Thank you for friends who care about me. Thank you for this intellectual challenge that you have provided. Thank you for the professional desires that you have placed within me. Thank you for the gifts and talents that you have blessed me with so that I can bless you and other people. Thank you for a good adviser and office mate who are very helpful. Thank you for challenges that force me to rely on you and not on myself. Lord, please help me honor you with the way I live. I pray that I will demonstrate a righteous balance between working diligently towards my responsibilities and knowing my limits. Lord, please keep me pure in mind and devoted to you. I pray that my life will be a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to you. I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, the perfect sacrifice. Amen.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Religious people naturally add restrictions, caveats, corollaries, and other rules and regulations to grace. It is amazing how fast I can slip into the routine of religion. It's so easy - I just stop investing, and the natural consequence is mindless routine. The truth is, Grace is Grace. It comes through Faith in Jesus Christ.
16:13On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message.
Heavenly Father, thank you for the grace you have shown me through Jesus Christ. Lord, I pray that you will put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Lord, as you opened up Lydia's heart, I pray that you will open up my heart to trust you more. I also pray that you will open the hearts of the people I come in contact with that I will be bold in sharing the Gospel, and that the joy of my salvation will be evidence of your reality. I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Freedom is through the person and work of Jesus Christ, by the power of the Spirit! When set our mind on the Spirit (Romans 8), the Holy Spirit leads our spirit to obey the law of zoe life.
6:8The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. ... 14May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. ... 18The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.
My goal is to be a Spirit-spirit man, as was the Lord Jesus Christ. I can in no way crucify my self, but by drawing near to Christ through His Holy Spirit, the crucifixion of Christ is effective on my own flesh.
Heavenly Father, please fill me with your Holy Spirit and anoint me to do your will. I pray that I will set my mind on the Spirit and allow you to produce in me the fruit of your life. Please make me a man after your own heart, to be completely satisfied in you. I ask for the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to be with my spirit. May I sow diligently to please the Spirit, and may I never boast of my self but only the person and work of Jesus Christ. Lord, please deliver me from the enemy, this world, and my own self. May I enjoy and share the freedom that comes from your life, love, and light. I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
As Paul and Peter were leaving to go preach the Gospel to the Gentiles and the Jews, respectively,
I think many churches today have lost this perspective. Our pastor said it this past Sunday morning, "Social programs from the government would cease to exist if the Church would do what we were supposed to be doing." (i.e., helping orphans, widows, and foreigners)
What proportion of the average evangelical church budget is spent on helping the poor? Tragically, I think many churches have shifted to an inward focus instead of a Great Commission focus, which necessarily involves getting outside your comfort zone. Truth is, I don't do much in the way of helping the poor.
Heavenly Father, your heart is full of love for humanity. You are moved with compassion towards all of the people that are poor and hurting. Lord, will you please fill me with your love and compassion, and will you please use me to give physical and spiritual aid to the orphan, widow, and foreigner? I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, who cares for the hurting. Amen.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Paul and Barnabas went traveling around:
- filled with the Holy Spirit
- fasting and praying
- preaching the Gospel
- healing folks
I'm a long way from there, but by God's grace, He is growing me into that lifestyle. Some time ago I sat next to a guy (Herb) on the bus, and he engaged me in conversation about the Bible. Several times since then, I've had the chance to have spiritual discussion (and share the Gospel) as we walked from the bus stop to our offices, which are in adjacent buildings. I don't see him as often because I ride a different bus route, but this morning I caught the bus that he was on. Would you believe it? He was reading a Bible on the bus! He told me as we were walking to our offices that he found a Men's Devotional NIV Bible at Halfprice books, and he's simply reading through it; he just finished Genesis! Hooray! We had a great conversation about Joseph being a picture of Christ, and I gave him a heads up about some symbols of Christ and our Christian experience in the book of Exodus. I pray that the Lord will draw his heart to Him and give him understanding!
Heavenly Father, thank you for the encouraging conversation this morning. I praise you for your goodness and love, and I thank you for involving me in the process. May I be more willing to cooperate with your redemptive and regenerative plan. I pray that you will fill Herb with your love, light, and life! Please open up the Scriptures to come alive inside him. Lord, may I be filled with your Holy Spirit today. I pray that you will teach me how to fast and pray. Please give me opportunities and boldness to preach the Gospel, and I pray that you will heal people through my obedience to you. Please grow your Church to be the hands and feet of Christ. I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Precious Savior. Amen.
Monday, November 17, 2008
These are some of my favorite verses:
"God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."
7Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
I did a little digging and found that the book of James was probably written by James the half-brother of Christ.
Yesterday in our Bible study, we talked about suffering for the name of Jesus Christ (John 12:23-33 and 1 Peter 4). This morning, I was impressed with how the Lord chose to allow James, the brother of John, to die by the sword for his faith in Christ, yet God delivered Peter from death (Acts 12).
Heavenly Father, I pray that you will use me as you please. God, I pray that I will hate this evil world and love you. I pray that my spirit will be in harmony with your Holy Spirit. Please give me grace; I can't do anything on my own. Lord, please help me humble myself before you and submit to your will. Show me how to resist the devil. I pray that you will teach me how to draw near to you. Father, please draw near to me. Lord, please purify me and wash me with your Word. I am nothing apart from you, please fill me with your ZOE life. May I not be double-minded; please give me discernment. I pray this according to your Word and in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Friday, November 14, 2008
I discovered a while ago that the religious bureaucracy of the denomination that my congregation is a part of requires that someone may be baptized only by an "ordained minister." I just read about ordination of deacons yesterday (Acts 6:1-6), so I'm not knocking the concept of ordination itself, but I think the following two passages of Scripture challenge the validity of the aforementioned baptismal requirement.
Who was Jesus addressing? The Apostles. So, some might argue that since Jesus gave this command to the Church leaders, then church leaders should be the ones to baptize. But, I think that's dangerous because here baptism is sandwiched between "making disciples of all nations" and "teaching them to obey". So, if you're going to reserve baptism only for the spiritual elite, then you have to take evangelism and discipleship with it. If, however, Jesus gave the Great Commission to all believers, then shouldn't all believers have, under authority of Christ, the privilege and responsibility of baptizing?
Who was Philip? He was one of the seven original deacons. What were the seven original deacons ordained to do? The were distributing food daily to widows. They were SERVING! Wow! There is a concept. Deacons serving the church - can you imagine what our church would look like if all of the "deacons" were really deacons? But I digress. The point is, Philip is just a humble bro, sensitive to the Holy Spirit, preaching the Gospel, and explaining who Jesus is. So, when the Ethiopian eunuch professed faith in Jesus Christ, the appropriate think to do was for Philip to baptize him. It's too bad Philip wasn't an "ordained minister"; I guess the eunuch's baptism wasn't legitimate.
Another tough issue around baptism is whether or not we should baptize babies. If Communion is the New Covenant fulfillment of the Passover type, and baptism is the New Covenant fulfillment of the circumcision type, then maybe we should baptize babies when they are eight days old. From the following passage, I see two reasons why I don't think it is necessary to baptize infants:
- "believed ... baptized", "believed ... baptized" - You see this throughout the New Testament. It seems like the Biblical model is that baptism follows the profession of faith.
- v. 12 "they were baptized, both men and women" - Why didn't it say "both men, women, children, and infants"? Matthew 14:21 records, "The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.", so why are children omitted in Acts 8:12? Maybe the infants/children weren't baptized until they made a profession of faith.
Heavenly Father, would you please sanctify me. Please reveal yourself to me so that I may have a better understanding and experience of who you are. Holy Spirit, please guide me into all Truth. I pray that you will lead my congregation and the whole Church to orthodoxy and orthopraxy. Please break through our religion, idolatry, and preconceived doctrine. May we be refined by the crucible of suffering in the Name of Jesus Christ, in whose name I pray. Amen.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
5:17Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20"Go, stand in the temple courts," he said, "and tell the people the full message of this new life." ... 40[Gamaliel's] speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.
6:8Now Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. ... 12So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. ... 15All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
- Persecution and suffering are natural extensions of living a Spirit-led, Spirit-filled life.
- We should rejoice at the opportunity to suffer for the Name of Jesus Christ.
- Our perseverance in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ in spite of persecution validates to the world that He is real and alive.
- Proclaiming the Gospel should occur in public/civic/social settings as well as private community.
- It is through persecution and suffering that the Person of God is able to shine through us.
Heavenly Father, please fill me with your Life so that I am simply sharing with others out of the abundance of my experience with you. Lord, please give me boldness and opportunities to share your Love with others. Please help me walk with you according to the Spirit, crucifying the flesh. I pray this in the Name of Jesus Christ, for which you lead me to suffer. Amen.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Faith like a child, right? Man, I wish I had faith like a child. I wish I had faith like Peter and John demonstrated when they told the crippled beggar at the Beautiful gate that they didn't have any money but they could give him healing in the Name of Jesus Christ. I wish I had faith like Peter when he told the growing crowd, amazed at the healed beggar:
Of course, the Sadducees got hacked off that Peter was preaching in the resurrection, and Jesus on top of that. I wish I had the faith to speak in boldness like Peter did, straight to their face:
I wish I had faith like that because the result would be God working miraculously through me:
To be honest, that sure doesn't look like anything I've seen in my congregation. It's probably because we're so buried in the American Dream that we can't see the real Gospel of Jesus Christ. If I just had faith like a child ... man, would things be different!
Heavenly Father, please give me faith like a child. Lord, would you please lead me to give up my idols and religions so that I can know you and love you? Would you please show me that you are really more satisfying than anything in this world? Father, would you please call me to a life of holy obedience - to give up everything for the Name of Jesus Christ? Lord, would you please break through the callouses of my heart and revive me? Please fill me with your Holy Spirit to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ in boldness, to love people with your agape love, and to worship you in spirit and in truth. Please take my life and use me. I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, who was obedient, even to the Cross. Amen.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
I've always been impressed with how Peter knew that they should replace the empty spot left by Judas Iscariot. The Holy Spirit brought seemingly obscure Scriptures to bear on the situation. My Brother Ari says, "The language that the Holy Spirit speaks to us is called 'Bible'." It is the Living Word, alive in the hearts of those who Believe.
I am growing to appreciate the Lord's Supper more and more. I don't understand it, but I know that it is important. Sadly, for fear of over-emphasis or religious routine, I think our congregation errs with too little celebration for Communion. There is something sweet about the celebration of Christ's infinite work in the simplicity of bread and wine. I think this simplicity is especially important in our society. It is easy for church members to get lost in the machinery of a myriad of Bible studies and other activities, but we find substance in the organic simplicity of the bread and wine. This has become evident to me as I read Acts 2:
Heavenly Father, thank you for communicating your love to me through your Holy Spirit and your Holy Word, which is Jesus Christ. Thank you for the shed blood and broken body of Jesus Christ which gives us justification before the Holy Judge and life with the Creator. Lord, please lead me to a greater appreciation of the celebration of the Lord's Supper. I pray that I will neither neglect it nor let it be undermined by religion. I pray that I will always celebrate Communion in a way that honors you and edifies the Body. I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, who is the Bread from Heaven. Amen.
Monday, November 10, 2008
While the religious Jews had to lie to themselves and others about Christ's resurrection, there are others whose hearts burn within them as they experience the resurrected Christ. And how did they recognize him? In the breaking of bread. Now tell me again why we don't celebrate the Lord's Supper more often?
When we come to grips with the reality of Christ's death, and the supernatural power of His resurrection, we simply respond like Thomas:
When we consider the magnitude of our sin and the intensity of the wrath Christ bore on the cross for our sin, when we consider the infinite love of the Father to provide His only begotten Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sin, we will embrace His desire for all peoples to know this amazing love:
Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of your Son Jesus who died on the Cross bearing your wrath for my sin. Thank you for the promise of resurrection life because Christ was resurrected. Lord Jesus, I believe in you; please reveal yourself to me like you did to those two on the road to Emmaus. Please let me experience you each and every day. Please fill me with your Holy Spirit, and anoint me to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and do the Father's will. I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, the One with scars on His hands and feet.
Friday, November 7, 2008
Pilot tried to get out of a jam, but the Jews incited the crowd to demand Pilot to release Barabbas, and Pilot finally gave in to the crowd. Peer pressure is powerful, especially when it is connected to your job.
As I read of Christ's interrogations before the Pharisees, Pilot, Herod, and Pilot again, I am nearly unmoved. As I read of Christ being flogged and mocked, I am moved so little. How can my heart be so hard towards the most incredible display of patience and love? How can my heart be so calloused that I am not overwhelmed by the magnitude of His love.
Heavenly Father, please break my hard heart for the sin that broke Christ's flesh on the Cross. May I be captivated and motivated by the pain and suffering He endured, and may I be empowered by His death and resurrection. Please help me appreciate the reality of Christ's sufferings, not for the sake of emotional sensationalism but for the sake of the Gospel. I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, by whose stripes we are healed. Amen.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
They knew that they had paid to have Jesus killed (which is wrong), but they were so religious that they didn't put the money in the treasury.
They didn't want to compromise their religious status by entering the place so they could participate in their religious ceremony. It is especially tragic that the True Passover Lamb was right there in front of them, but they were so stuck in their religion that they missed the God of the universe.
I heard a preacher say that there are two principal enemies of the Gospel: idolatry and religion. Both are missing true worship which is simply communicating to God that we love Him and obeying Him to discover in Him our ultimate satisfaction.
Heavenly Father, would you please give me life today? Lord, please fill me with your Holy Spirit, and lead me to follow you. I pray that heart will desire you more than anything in this world. Lord, please keep me from slipping into empty religious practice without your presence. I pray that my life will be a sweet song of obedient worship to you. I ask in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
How could you be one of the most educated Jews in Jerusalem, be that close to the physical fulfillment of all of those Messianic prophecies, and miss it?
Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?"
62"I am," said Jesus. "And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven."
63The high priest tore his clothes. "Why do we need any more witnesses?" he asked. 64"You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?" They all condemned him as worthy of death. 65Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, "Prophesy!" And the guards took him and beat him.What is especially sad is that if I were there, I would have done the exact same thing. I would have punched Christ and spit in His face because I am a sinful, depraved, insolent, proud, and rebellious man. I need His saving grace. O how I need His grace to love him more.
Heavenly Father, please give me grace to love you and trust you more. Jesus Christ is the Messiah! May I never deny this Truth. I ask for your grace in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Christ's desire for us is to be united with Him in the fellowship of the Triune God! What else could we desire that would compare to such LIFE?
What?! You have got to be kidding!
Heavenly Father, I pray that you will accomplish Christ's prayer in my life. Lord, I ask that I will be united with you - that I will reject all of the junk of this world so that I may run to you and experience the joyous fellowship you desire. I pray that I will experience unity with my wife - a picture of Christ and the Church. Lord, I pray that you will bring unity to my Bible study group, to our local congregation, and to the congregations in this city. Lord, I ask you to miraculously unite the splintered denominations that claim to follow Christ - may we truly follow Christ in unity so that we may be the True Church. Lord, I ask in the name of Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church. Amen.
Monday, November 3, 2008
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
The Lord gives us so much Grace! Not only did He give us an infinite measure of Grace on the Cross, but He continues to give us Grace when we, like Simon Peter, profess our loyalty to Him when He knows full well that we will fail. His patience with us is as infinite as His love.
It is my desire to seek Him, but I am so weak. It is my desire to know Him, but am so ignorant. It is my desire to live with Him, but I am so dead. My only hope is that the Father replicates the Son in me:
What does it mean to abide in Christ. Thinking about the context of the vine, branches, and vinedresser, to abide in Christ is to be connected with Him in spirit so that His Holy Spirit is filling me with ZOE life and producing the Fruit of the Spirit in my life.
Heavenly Father, thank you for your incredible love, grace, and patience. I pray that I will be captivated by your love expressed through Christ on Calvary and motivated by your love to share your love with people in my sphere of influence. Jesus, I pray that I will know you as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Holy Spirit, please keep me connected to Christ so that your essence may flow through me. Father, please glorify yourself in me today. I pray that I will live in constant expectation of Christ's return. May I keep in step with the Holy Spirit. I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.