Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Prayer for a Hurting Land

"Now, therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love, let not all the hardship seem little to you that has come upon us, upon our kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers, and all your people, since the time of the kings of Assyria until this day. Yet you have been righteous in all that has come upon us, for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly. Our kings, our princes, our priests, and our fathers have not kept your law or paid attention to your commandments and your warnings that you gave them. Even in their own kingdom, and amid your great goodness that you gave them, and in the large and rich land that you set before them, they did not serve you or turn from their wicked works. Behold, we are slaves this day; in the land that you gave to our fathers to enjoy its fruit and its good gifts, behold, we are slaves. And its rich yield goes to the kings whom you have set over us because of our sins. They rule over our bodies and over our livestock as they please, and we are in great distress." (Nehemiah 9:32-37 ESV, emphasis added)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Making Void the Word of God

He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. (Matt. 15:3-6)

Blind Guides

The Pharisees and scribes were influential men in Israel. People looked to them to interpret and explain the Law of God — to lead them in righteousness. And yet, throughout the Gospels we find example after example of them being unfaithful in that duty. “Blind guides,” Christ called them (Matt. 15:14). They were well-deserving of His rebuke: “why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” (vs. 3)
You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:
“‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”
(Matt. 15:6-9)

The Commandments of Men vs. the Commandments of God

No man has the right to declare something as truth which God has not already declared to be truth (or, which is out of accord with His nature, since He is Truth itself). Let our appeal be to Scripture and Scripture alone — this is our standard!

Now, God has appointed preaching as one of the means by which we may come to understand His Word (see Romans 10:14), and there are many preachers who faithfully proclaim the truth, strengthening the church, and are worthy of honor (1 Tim. 5:17). Our brothers in Christ may (and should!) also come alongside us to encourage us, but we can’t ride on their coat-tails either. (Remember, we are not called to ‘be holy as your brother is holy’)

As the Reformers maintained, no man or earthly institution may stand between men and God’s Word. When the day is over, it is our responsibility to seek God through prayer and His Word, and by His grace, to apply what we learn to our lives.

Taking Every Thought Captive

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. (2 Cor. 10:5)
Nothing falls outside the realm of Christ’s Lordship. No thought is too far-flung, no action too personal, no word too casual, no emotion too uncontrollable. “He is the Lord our God; his judgments are in all the earth.” (Ps. 104:7)

How About Us?

Is God’s Word truly our standard for all of life? If we respond, “yes,” then are we truly willing to live our “yes”? Or did we say it because we know it’s the right thing to say?

Do we know what God hates, and do we, in turn, hate it? Or do we excuse it?

Do we truly love God, and, by consequence, love what He loves? Are we willing to unashamedly endorse what is true, right and beautiful, because God said it is? Or is that too embarrassing for us? 

When it comes to what we "like," are we willing to hold it up to the light of God’s Revelation and to reject it if it doesn’t stand? Or would we rather ‘break the commandment of God for the sake of our preferences?’ Some food for thought…
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
(Ps. 139:23-4)

Friday, September 16, 2011

What We Say and How We Live

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46)
Here, Jesus poses a sobering question to His disciples and the surrounding multitude. ‘Why do you profess one thing and live another?’ In the parallel passage in Matthew, we read:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)
We must learn that our acceptance into heaven is not a matter of us knowing the Lord, but is solely dependent on Him knowing us (see Matt. 7: 23). Furthermore, we can’t simply profess our faith in Christ — we must “do what He tells us” and live out that faith, lest we deceive ourselves.
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. 26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. (James 1:22-26)
Guys, it might be easy enough to impress people with a superficial profession of faith in Christ, but remember, one day you will be called to give an account before God and He won’t be deceived! You may be able to convince your friends that you are living a life of devotion to Christ, but are you really? Be honest. Do you say “Lord, Lord” but completely ignore what He tells you? True faith is never exercised in a vacuum; It bears fruit in the lives of those who possess it, and is characterized by obedience to God’s commands.
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27)
Lest we drift into legalism, remember that faith is impossible for those to whom it has not been given by God. This isn’t something we can conjure up ourselves. Only God can grant saving faith, and only He can draw us to Himself and preserve us from our own hypocrisy, giving us the grace to continue in obedience before Him.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Our Benefactor & Our Judge

To you I lift up my eyes,
O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
Behold, as the eyes of servants
look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maidservant
to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
till he has mercy upon us.

Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
for we have had more than enough of contempt.
Our soul has had more than enough
of the scorn of those who are at ease,
of the contempt of the proud.

~Psalm 123
As Calvinists we are known for our stance on God’s sovereignty, namely, that He sovereignly predestines the salvation of His elect, sovereignly allows the reprobate to remain in their sin, sovereignly exercises His irresistible grace to call His elect to Himself, and sovereignly governs and protects His saints (the church).

This doctrine, however, does not do away with our responsibility to obey. It’s all too easy to assent to the truth of God’s sovereignty and then live our lives in such a way that we deny it.

What many modern Christians need to understand (and some pastors need to start preaching) is that Jesus is not your “buddy.” He is your Lord and master! And as such, He is both our benefactor and our judge and is worthy of our love – and fear. Consider how the psalmist describes our position before the Lord: the eyes of servants
look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maidservant
to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
till he has mercy upon us.
May we look to Him as humble servants, with fear and love, and may He grant us mercy to walk rightly before Him.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Guys, if you're like me you have probably asked yourself questions like, "what should I be doing with my life?," "where should I go from here?," "what has God been teaching me these past few years and what direction does He want me to head?"

Though the practical "what, when," and "where" questions are important, I would suggest that we spend some time asking ourselves, "how," and "why." Scripture is often quite clear on what we should do to obey God - and we can grasp that - but when it comes down to actually doing it, we stare at our toes and scratch our heads.

Praise God that He has given us more than the "what," and has provided us with instruction on just "how" to obey Him!

But, as we all know, this will require work and study. The answers aren't always spelled out the way we wish they were. Sometimes we have to dig deep to understand how God wants us to live, and other times the practical applications are ripe for the picking.

Consider Psalm 119, specifically verses 9-16. This is a very well-known passage in which the author directs his comments primarily to young men (though everyone can find application here).
How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes! With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.
Here are 6 principles (you might even call them "action steps") which I draw from this passage:

1. Guard (verse 9)

How can we keep our way pure? Verse 9 tells us that we must guard it "according to thy word." But it is impossible to set up boundaries on something — to guard it — without first establishing a standard and God tells us that our standard must be His Word. In order to adhere to a standard, you first must know it, so it is critical that we study the Word that we might not wander away from His commandments.

2. Seek (verse 10)

Verse 10 makes it clear that our pursuit of God must not be a half-hearted attempt, but instead must be with our "whole heart." As David says in Psalm 63:1, "earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you." This is no easy thing, but God will not be content with partial dedication or halfhearted obedience.

3. Store up (verse 11)

Hiding God's Word in our hearts is something we ought to do as a preventative measure against sin. The devil is rendered inept by God's truth so his best tactic is to make sure we are forgetful and weak in the Word when temptation comes.

4. Declare (verse 13)

The author not only affirms God's testimonies in his heart but openly speaks them with His lips. Let us be quick to proclaim the truth and, more importantly, the Source of that truth.

5. Delight (verse 14)

While some men try to find fulfillment and satisfaction in earthly riches, the author declares that he delights in "Your testimonies... as much as in all riches." Do we truly delight in God's testimonies? To the point where people see it clearly in our lives?

6. Meditate (verse 15)

The author not only hides the Word in his heart, but he meditates on it — he spends quality time considering what God would have him learn from His Word. This discipline is woefully lacking in the lived of many Christians today. We may read our Bibles but do we ever stop and think (hard!) about how it applies to us?