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Monthly Archives: August 2011

The Power of God

Today was an interesting day as Hurricane Irene blasted through the area ripping trees from the ground, shredding the tops of them, blowing shingles off of houses, tearing siding away from some houses, and dropping torrential rains across Eastern North Carolina. In light of this, I was reminded of some truths’ about God’s Word and I would like to share them with you.

As the wind roared and branches fell, I stood on my porch thinking about the power of God. Hurricane Irene was enormous with a wind field of tropical storm force winds extending out almost 300 miles from the center of circulation, yet this is nothing compared to the size of our planet. Then consider the size of the solar system we live in, the size of the universe which keeps going on and on and on, and yet God is still greater than all of these. In Jeremiah 10:12 it says ” It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom,and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.” Again Genesis 1 recounts the creation of the universe and all things in it by a much greater, more powerful God. The hurricane today reminded me God’s control over all things. If my God controls the hurricane, made the universe, even sustains each breath I take and heartbeat, how can I not do anything but give God the best each day of my life? The same God I serve who does all of these wonderful things and more is the same God who saved me from my sin by His grace. Even in a storm like this, God is still in control. In life, there is no “storm” or trial that we may encounter where God loses control. God made all things and is in control of all things no matter how terrible they may seem to be. Through the power of this hurricane today I am reminded just how much more powerful God is and His control over all things. No matter what may happen in life, always remember that God is with you and in complete control of every situation. If you can trust God with your soul, then you can trust Him with everything else as well.

Also, I was reminded today of how blessed we really are as a nation. When you have electricity, clean food and water, nice hot meals, and light to see we often take it for granted. However after losing electricity since this morning and finally gaining it back, I realized just how much even something like this is a blessing from God. Without electricity we were unable to use lights, charge our technology devices, cook meals, keep our food from spoiling and the list goes on and on. After losing the electricity for so long I saw how much even something we take for granted is a blessing from God. Think about the people in other countries who do not even have the opportunity to drink clean water or die of starvation. In America we are so blessed to have so much, but instead of being grateful for what we have been blessed with and thanking God for all of these wonderful daily provisions we tend to have an ungrateful spirit and complaining attitude. In relation to the Christian walk we have blessings spiritually we fail to see each day. The spiritual fruit produced in our life and others is overlooked. An opportunity to present the Gospel is viewed as a duty or burden more than a blessing. Even worse, our own salvation by God’s grace is often overlooked when we spend time praying for our own physical needs and other things rather than thanking God for the spiritual blessings He has given us. May we echo the words of Paul in Philippians 4:11 when he spoke of his provisions by God in this manner, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” As Christians we should be fully satisfied through Christ and Him alone, for He is our life and our life is only by His daily sufficient grace.

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Posted by on August 28, 2011 in Edification

 

Practice these things…

From Philippians 4:8-9

“Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

Due to adjusting to college lately and the New York student leadership trip, I have been unable to post much lately on my blog, but plan now to start regular posts again Lord willing. When reading this in my devotions tonight, I focused on the message Paul was trying to say to the church at Philippi. Paul has no doubt spent much time working with this church and had a very close relationship with them, for they were the only church supporting his missionary endeavors at times (4:15-16) and as a result were near to Paul’s heart. Paul had been teaching them different doctrines and spends the letter of Philippians encouraging them to pursue after a greater love, find life in Christ and live for Him daily, and to continue pursuing after that which is pleasing to God. However, many times we have a large “knowledge” of what is good and what we SHOULD do, but we fail to live it out. You can know a great deal about the Bible, memorize a lot of facts and Bible verses, but if a person does not allow the Gospel message to radically change their life and live it out then all of this knowledge is in vain. Indeed, many times we as Christians fall into a category of having a vast amount of knowledge about the Bible. Sermons are preached and we attend the services 3 times a week, perhaps you go to a Bible college as I do and hear the Bible preached every single day, but this does not do any good if you are not being changed by the Bible. The truth Paul is getting at here is to pursue after all the things mentioned in verse 8 as well as everything he has been teaching them; although a stipulation does come with that; “practice these things.” Paul challenges them to not only KNOW what to do but to LIVE it out. We should be doing the same in our personal walk with Christ by living out the Gospel each day to the best of our ability and striving by God’s grace to become more like Christ and continue producing spiritual fruit. A person cannot produce spiritual fruit if he is not first saved and then connected to the vine (Jesus Christ). Just as we are called to abide in Christ in John 15, we are also called to live out what the Bible has revealed to us as the lifestyle for disciples of Christ. The question to ask yourself as you read through this passage of Scripture in Philippians 4 is, “Am I living for Christ and living a life that represents Christ, or do I have a mere knowledge of the Bible and live as the Pharisees did with a vast biblical knowledge but no application in my life personally?” May our hearts and minds be filled with more than a knowledge of Christ but a life-changing relationship with our Savior Jesus Christ.

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2011 in Edification

 

John 15:2

Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.

In this second verse of John chapter 15, a bold but true statement is made by Jesus. In verse 1 Jesus claimed to be the vine, now in verse 2 He proclaims that those who are truly His followers will be known by the fruit (or lack of) which they produce. There are many people who “claim” to be a Christian, a disciple of Christ. They perform all of the outward areas such as coming to church faithfully, helping out in various church ministries, reading their Bible, praying, and various other aspects which make them look like a Christian. Through the Gospels Jesus is constantly declaring the hypocrisy seen in the Pharisees, for they perform all of these outward “religious duties” and think these are enough, yet they lacked any sign of spiritual life or fruit. The motivation of the Pharisees was also wrong for they did all of this for the “approval of men” as John 12:43 says, “for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.” The sobering reality is we have many people in church today who would fit in with the category of the Pharisees and the branches which fail to produce fruit. Many people have thought that just doing these things mentioned above is enough, that Christianity is just something which can be added on to their life, yet this will lead them straight to Hell. In John 12:24-25 Jesus said “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.” Jesus gives these people a simple illustration to understand, seen in the kernel of wheat which falls to the ground. In order for wheat to grow and first produce fruit, a kernel (or seed) of wheat must be planted. In turn, this seed will die but in doing so it will produce a plant producing much more fruit than originally was planted. This verse is a reference to what Jesus must do in dying and giving His life for us, but it is also applicable to how the Christian life is as verse 25 follows with saying those who live their life for the world and carnal desires will lose it in eternity, but those who diligently seek after God and focus on being submissive to the Father will gain spiritual life. The idea being a true follower of Christ is seen in a person who is submissive to the will of God, the commandments of God in Scripture, instead of rebelling against them and pursuing fleshly desires. No doubt there are many people in the church today who fit into this mold. They come to church and serve in areas so others will think they are a “good person”, yet they go home and live a completely different life than the way they act at church. The Pharisees acted like good people, but Jesus knew their heart and declared them to be in need of a new heart. One of the most sobering remarks I have heard from a person was a friend of mine who grew up in church, but was not a Christian. When I asked him why, he said this “I go to church and see all of these people who act good at church, but then when I go out with them and hang out with them during the week, they look just like me. They aren’t any different, they curse and drink just like me. Why do I need Jesus when these other Christians are so hypocritical?” The truth is, churches today are filled with people claiming Christianity but have no evidence of spiritual fruit in their own lives, and it is to this Jesus says that a true disciple of Christ will bear fruit and be pruned by the Father. The question a person must ask is, do I display evidence of a saved person? Am I walking in submission to Christ, obeying His commandments, trying to live for Christ each day? Or on the other hand, am I the hypocritical person who claims Christianity just as the Pharisees did, putting on a good front for others to see when in reality I am living in darkness? Am I focused and committed to serving Christ, or is my focus on everything else? Right now, the call to “examine your life” is a reality, and we must daily examine our lives and pray for God to reveal areas in our life which need His changing and saving grace.

The call to follow Christ is to give up everything, deny self, to follow Christ. The evidence that God has truly saved a person will be seen in the outward fruit in the person. As John MacArthur alludes to in his book “Saved without a Doubt” (thanks for telling me about this Cody!), he does not look back to a particular day or time for his salvation, he looks to the change seen in his life. Do others see a change in our life, or are we like the hypocritical “Christian” which my friend so honestly described?

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2011 in Edification

 

The Vine and the Vinedresser, John 15:1

In John 15 a famous teaching by Jesus is seen specifically verses 1-11 in which He teaches His disciples some important principles before He departs from this world. In John 14 the context shows us that Jesus is promising to send the Holy Spirit to aid the disciples’ in their work after His departure while also affirming His deity as One with the Father. This is especially important because oftentimes the disciples’ viewed Jesus as the One who would set up an earthly rule, the Messiah, but failed to see His standing with God and most importantly the eternal realm which Jesus is always directing their eyes towards. John 15 contains several truths which I have been studying recently and I will elaborate on a few of them, although there are certainly more which could be drawn from this passage. First of all, Jesus declares Himself to be the “true vine” while his Father is the “vinedresser.” The declaration by Christ to be the “true vine” is most likely a reference to the nation of Israel who in the Old Testament was called a vine (Isaiah 5:1-7 for example). In the Old Testament the Jews were God’s chosen people yet would continually rebel against God, thus as Isaiah 5:1-7 indicates Israel was compared in a negative sense to a vine. Jesus here affirms that with His coming he is the genuine, real, authentic vine. Salvation would be through Christ and only Christ. Throughout the New Testament the apostles as well as Jesus constantly teach that salvation is for both the Jews and Gentiles, through Christ. Jesus is taking an opportunity to teach His disciples that He alone is the source of salvation, but even further than that by comparing Himself to the vine He gives a wonderful illustration, as Albert Barnes put it below.

The point of the comparison or the meaning of the figure is this: A vine yields proper juice and nourishment to all the branches, whether these are large or small. All the nourishment of each branch and tendril passes through the main stalk, or the vine, that springs from the earth. So Jesus is the source of all real strength and grace to his disciples. He is their leader and teacher, and imparts to them, as they need, grace and strength to bear the fruits of holiness.

The teaching in this part of the verse is clear, namely, that Christ is the true vine and is our source as Christians of all we need. Additionally, God the Father is called the “vinedresser.” This appears to be a testament to how God works, for just as Christ is the vine from which all good flows to the Christians connected to Him, in the same manner God is the husbandman who takes care of the vine, pruning as needed and reaping the fruit produced by it. The comparison is that of God taking Christians and pruning, cleansing them and at the same time being the One who reaps the fruit from these Christians who are growing more in Christ. From this comparison Christ gives, one can clearly see the truths being taught. First, that Christ is our source of everything we need in life. He will provide us with the grace we need daily to serve Him, grow us stronger spiritually, teach us, etc. Christ is our life, without Him we would have nothing. Second, God is the One who oversees our Christian walk, disciplining us as necessary to keep His children on the right track. Additionally, the disciples of Christ ultimately produce fruit so that the Vinedresser may receive the fruit. We are to serve God, knowing that any fruit we produce is because of Christ not ourselves, and the fruit we do produce spiritually is for the glory of God alone! Tomorrow I will be posting some more from this passage, it has been very encouraging yet challenging as I have been studying out the truth of God’s Word.

Application: The application from John 15:1 is several fold.

1. Christians should focus on Christ as the source of all good in their life. We must be connected to the true vine or else we will not be able to produce fruit. Prayer and reading God’s Word are the two ways in which Christians should grow and maintain a relationship with Him.

2. God is overseeing every walk with our life, and even at times when we may feel as if God is not there or involved in our life, He is. Just as the vinedresser takes care of his vineyard and does what is necessary to help the plants grow, God is involved in our life similarly and uses events, circumstances, and trials to develop us into a follower of Christ who will grow and produce more fruit each year. What is encouraging to me personally is that even though there are seasons in our life which may be less fruitful and discouraging, we can rest assured that if we are abiding in Christ and growing in our walk with the Lord that there will be a season of multiplied fruitfulness by the grace of God. Even more encouraging to me personally is knowing my fruitfulness spiritually must find its source in the true vine; Jesus Christ.

I hope these truths from Scripture are a blessing to everyone else as much as they have been to me, any feedback or comments are certainly welcome!

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2011 in Edification, Encouragement

 

Two Principles On Prayer

As I am reading through Carson’s book on prayer, he is starting out with some principles on prayer which have opened my eyes to some things which I need to work on in my prayer life. I hope these principles will be of use not just to me but to those who read them. Today I will post the first two principles.

1. Much praying is not done because we do not plan to pray.
We do not drift into spiritual life; we do not drift into disciplined prayer. We will not grow in prayer unless we plan to pray. That means we must self-consciously set aside time to do nothing but pray. What we actually do reflects our highest priorities. That means we can proclaim our commitment to prayer until the cows come home, but unless we actually pray, our actions disown our words. The reason we pray so little is that we do not plan to pray. Wise planning will ensure that we devote ourselves to prayer often, even if for brief periods: it is better to pray often with brevity than rarely but at length. But the worst option is simply not to pray–and that will be the controlling pattern unless we plan to pray. If we intend to change our habits, we must start here.

2. Adopt practical ways to impede mental drift.
Anyone who has been on the Christian way for a while knows there are times when our private prayers run something like this: “Dear Lord I thank you for the opportunity of coming into your presence by the merits of Jesus. It is a wonderful blessing to call you Father…. I wonder where I left my car keys? [No, no! Back to business.] Heavenly Father, I began by asking that you will watch over my family–not just in the physical sphere, but in the moral and spiritual dimensions of our lives…. Boy, last Sunday’s sermon was sure bad. I wonder if I’ll get that report writ tong on time? [No, no!] Father, give real fruitfulness to that missionary couple we support, whatever their name is…. Oh, my! I had almost forgotten I promised to fix my son’s bike today….” Or am I the only Christian who has ever had problems with mental drift?
One of the most useful things is to vocalize your prayers. This does not mean they have to be so loud that they become a distraction to others, or worse, a kind of pious showing off. It simply means you articulate your prayers, moving your lips perhaps; the energy devoted to expressing your thoughts in words and sentences will order and discipline your mind, and help deter meandering. Another thing you can do is pray over the Scriptures; it is entirely appropriate to tie your praying to your Bible reading.
Also, at many periods in the history of the church, spiritually mature and disciplined Christians have kept what might be called spiritual journals. The Puritans often used them to record their experiences with God, their thoughts and prayers, their triumphs and failures. Bill Hybels, the senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, takes a page to record what he did and thought the day before, and then to write out some prayers for the day ahead of him. The real value of journaling, I think, is several-fold:

(a) It enforces a chance of pace, a slowing down. It ensures time for prayer. If you are writing your prayers, you are not daydreaming.
(b) It fosters self-examination. It is an old truism that only the examined life is worth living. If you do not take time to examine your own heart, mind, and conscience from time to time, in the light o fGod’s Word, and deal with what you find, you will become encrusted with the barnacles of destructive self-righteousness.
(c) It ensures quiet articulation both of your spiritual direction and of your prayers, and this in turn fosters self-examination and therefore growth. Thus, journaling impedes mental drift.

The danger in this one, as in all of them, is that the person who is formally conforming to such a regime may delude himself or herself into thinking that the discipline is an end in itself, or ensures one of an exalted place in the heavenlies: true spirituality can never be coerced. Such dangers aside, you can greatly improve your prayer life if you combine these first two principles: set apart time for praying, and then use practical ways to impede mental drift.

~From D.A. Carson’s book “A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers.”~

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2011 in Edification, Prayer

 
 
In Christ Jesus

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus