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Sunday, January 30, 2011

I've Never Been Witnessed To!

Today marks the anniversary of the day I turned from all I knew to be sin (which was too much) to the little I knew about Jesus (which was just enough). Since I was "chosen in Him before the foundation of the world" it is not totally accurate to call it my spiritual birthday, but...

I was 26, felt I had done everything twice, was an alcoholic, a thief, a drug user and seller, and several other things...I had recently been arrested in Texas and was in a jail cell awaiting extradition to the West Coast.

Out of boredom I picked up a paperback book that had the word "prison" in the title. I had been in jail a few times over the years, but never in I thought I'd ignore the "religious junk" and see if the author had anything to tell me about what could very well be my home for the remainder of my life.

Back then I was dumber than I am now..I thought "religion" and "Christianity" meant the same thing.

I had only been in church a couple times, had never read the Bible, and, to the best of my recollection, had no accurate idea as to who Jesus was. Though I did not know the Bible said "The fool has said in his heart there is no god", nor did I know that He had placed "eternity in our hearts," I still did "believe in 'god', but he/it/she was a nebulous creator.

I was just smart enough to recognize that if there was a creator I was the created and, as such, accountable to the creator. Thus I ignored/put off "god" unless I was in trouble...when of course I'd pray to this "god".

But now as I read I began to comprehend (as the Spirit gave illumination) that God was revealed in His Son Jesus, who was not a superstar, not a founder of a major religion, and not a rebel...but was/is/will be God.

As the book referenced the Bible, I found a Gideon-supplied Bible and began to read. Over the process of several weeks the Spirit of God did His work in my soul, and on January 30, 1974 I repented and trusted Christ and His substitutionary death in my place, and "old things passed away and all things became new."

I have no idea who donated the book (I won't share the title, as it has some pretty whacky stuff in it...but it did contain the gospel). Don't know their color, denomination, or anything else. But I do know that the Lord sovereignly placed that book where I would read it...

So I've never been "witnessed" to in the normative interpretation. I "simply" read a book.

And the Lord used it.

I don't negate our responsibility to be "ambassadors for Christ," but I do encourage you...if you find it incredibly hard to verbally "witness," perhaps you could hand out tracts (that contain the gospel as opposed  to the easy-believism 'pray this prayer and you're in' stuff that is all too common) and/or donate good, solid Christian books to your local jail?

Don't get all caught up or distressed by what you "can't do," do what you can.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Highest Recommendation!

Very rarely do I recommend a book until I've completed it. But just yesterday I received my copy of Don't Call It a Comeback and after just a couple chapters I not only recommend it, but I urge you to get a copy (and, of course, if you follow the link below I'll "earn" a couple cents if you buy it)

Here's one of many sentences I underlined: "If the gospel is old news to you, it will be dull news to everyone else."

And, "There is a time for dialogue, but there is also a time for declaration."

Plus, "The world needs to see Christians burning, not with self-righteous fury at the sliding morals in our country, but with passion for God."

One more, "When the church discovers cool, it won't be cool anymore."

Last, for this time, "I think a lot of older Christians are desperate to figure out what young people are into because they are too embarrassed to be themselves and too unsure of themselves to simply love the people they are trying to reach."

A Prayer About Holy Spirit

When I attended Christ Unlimited Bible Institute a million years ago, Dr. Al Metsker and Dean Potratz would often thunder, "The Holy Spirit is not an 'it,' He is a He!  He is just as much a person as the Son!" Of course that is true...

Here is yet another great prayer from SCOTTY SMITH

    Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.  You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. Romans 8:5-9
     Heavenly Father, I’m particularly grateful today for the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Through I don’t understand everything he’s up to, these things I gladly affirm today.

     Just as assuredly as Jesus stood outside of Lazarus’ tomb and said, “Come forth”, you sent the Holy Spirit to preach the gospel to my heart, and I came out of the tomb of my sin and death. How I praise you for your sovereign goodness and power. Unless you had breathed new life into my spirit, I would never, could never have believed the gospel. Thank you!

     When you raised me up in Jesus, you baptized me with the Holy Spirit, making me a member of your family and Christ’s Bride. You sealed me for eternity by the Spirit, marking me as your very own possession. You sent the Spirit to live as a permanent resident in my heart—to constantly preach the gospel to my heart… convict me of sin… make me like Jesus… and constantly tell me that I’m your beloved child. I no longer just cry, I cry “Abba, Father.”

     According to your Word… according the truth of the gospel, I’m already controlled by the Holy Spirit. I am no longer controlled by my sinful nature. O, the joy this brings.

     You’ve given me all the gifts of the Spirit I need to live as a functioning member in the church and a caring servant in your kingdom. Life is no longer about me.  It never was.

     You gave the Spirit as the firstfruits and guarantee of the full inheritance Jesus earned for all your children. What a generous and loving God you are. Forgive me when I look for treasure anywhere else.

     Blessed Abba, I want to be more consistently filled with the Holy Spirit… walk according to the Spirit… keep in step with the Spirit… set my mind on what the Spirit desires. I want the freedom the Spirit alone gives. I want to be more like Jesus.

     “Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. Spirit of the living God, fall afresh of me. Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me. Spirit of the living God, fall afresh of me.” So very Amen, I pray, in Jesus’ faithful name.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thursday Tozer Tidbit of Truth

“It is a fact that God made us to worship Him, and if we had not fallen with Adam and Eve, worship would have been the most natural thing for us. Sinning was not the natural thing for Adam and Eve, but they disobeyed and fell, losing their privilege of perfect fellowship with God, the Creator. Sin is the unnatural thing; it was never intended by God to be our nature. Men and women who are out of fellowship with God, the Creator, still have an instinct towards some practice of worship.”
- A.W. Tozer, Renewed Day by Day

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Perverting "Gospel" into Law

This is very good, thought provoking stuff from MICHAEL KELLEY

I have a friend who is fond of saying, “Today’s gospel is tomorrow’s law.” I’ve heard him say it in a variety of contexts.

- When Christians believe that public school is the only appropriate way to be missional with your family.

- When Christians say that home schooling is the only good and proper way to educate your child.

- When the mark of your spirituality becomes whether or not you have adopted a child (or how many).

- When those believers who feel the liberty to consume alcohol turn up their noses at those who refrain.

Do you see it? We have an immense propensity to take the gospel and turn it into law. We love to take good and turn it into chains. Why do we do that?

The reasons are many, but I think a large part is that we love the measuring stick of the law. We love to compare ourselves to others, and to gauge our own spirituality based on performance. We love to take the law of God and make it into a ladder. Up, up, up we climb, and the more people below us the better we feel. For though we might not be close to the top, we’re sure doing better than those people below us.
So much do we love the law that we can form and fashion anything – even those wonderful examples of freedom or grace – into law. Our potential to distort the gifts of God to our own ends is limitless.

How is that the gospel remains the gospel – that those things in which there is liberty remain those things in which there is liberty? How can we be saved from our tendency toward distortion?

Surely not through our own power.

But herein lies again the wonder of the gospel, and here again is where we can be brought to awe because of its far-reaching power. For the gospel is the only answer for those, like me, who distort the gospel. There is grace for us, too. When we preach the gospel to ourselves daily, we will find that God will tear down the rungs of our carefully constructed ladders. And when those ladders are broken into shards and splinters, what will be left towering over the piles of rubble is the wooden beams of the cross.
And we’ll stand there at the base on perfectly level ground.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Saved From God

“According to the Christian revelation, God’s own great love propitiated his own holy wrath through the gift of his own dear Son, who took our place, bore our sin and died our death. Thus God himself gave himself to save us from himself.”
—John Stott

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ever Doubt His Love for YOU?

“When you’re tempted to doubt God’s love for you, stand before the cross and look at the wounded, dying, disfigured Savior, and realize why He is there. I believe His Father would whisper to us, ‘Isn’t this sufficient? I haven’t spared My own Son; I deformed and disfigured and crushed Him — for you. What more could I do to persuade you that I love you?’”
— C. J. Mahaney

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Hate to Call It an "Anniversary"

Cal Thomas:
On January 22, the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, think of it this way: 50 million branches of family trees cut off; 50 million regrets over what might have been; 50 million babies who could have brought joy out of sadness and a future that might have contributed substantially to the human race, snuffed out at the beginning of their lives. 
It is precisely because the 7-2 Supreme Court majority vote in 1973 read something into the Constitution that isn’t there, to wit, that a “right to privacy” means the right to kill an unborn child — even when it is capable of living outside the womb — that Congress must restore the original intent of the Framers, which includes the “endowed by their Creator” clause in the Declaration of Independence. The Constitution cannot be separated from the Declaration, its philosophical and moral foundation.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Another Great Prayer from Scotty Smith

So many comments I'm prone to add, but I'll let Scotty's prayer stand on it's own (which is a good thing):

     Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. Romans 14:1-4
     Jesus, the more I travel the more I realize just how diverse the Body of Christ is. We see many things quite differently, sometimes to the point of critical attitudes and painful separation from one another. So I find great comfort in the last affirmation of this text morning. We will stand on the Day of judgment, not in our “rightness” but in your righteousness. You will cause us to stand, and for this we will praise you eternally. The good work of the gospel will come to a perfect completion in each of us (Phil. 1:6). Hallelujah!

     But until then, it’s often complicated. I have a fresh appreciation of the challenges Paul faced in serving the multi-cultural, poly-perspective, socially-complex, theologically-diverse churches of Rome. The continuum of “weak faith” and “strong faith” has never seem broader to me, and the conflicts between “meat eaters” and “non-meat eaters” are increasing.
     Jesus, help us recognize the difference between disputable and indisputable matters. What is clear in the Scriptures, and what is not? The line often gets challenged, blurred or changed. I certainly realize your faithful servants will disagree about many issues until your second coming. But give us fresh humility to tremble at your Word, as the court and garden in which we will have these very important discussions. Help us steward our scruples with kindness and mutual respect.

     Jesus, give us wisdom and grace for relating to those who seem to relish the role of “vocational weaker-broker”—fault-finders, conspiracy-hunters, liberty-smashers and self-appointed prosecuting attorneys in the Body of Christ. Help me know how to love them. More often, I just want to avoid and run from them.

     And give us wisdom and courage for engaging friends who have turned Christian liberty into epicurean fantasies—“Eat, drink, and be merry, for we have a big gospel!” Having escaped legalism they now feel free to indulge, even over indulge in many things once considered taboo. I’m tempted to join them, Jesus, but show me… show all of us, what real gospel-freedom looks like. You are our loving Master, not our social masseur. Help us to do all things to your glory with your joy. So very Amen, we pray, in your holy and healing name.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thursday Tozer Tidbit of Truth

"God doesn't give us words of wisdom or great power...rather He is wisdom and great power working in and through us." AW Tozer

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Red and Yellow Black and White...Precious in His Sight

This is an ad for a BBC series (warning...there is a bit of very-non-sensual nudity) that is fascinating to watch:

Monday, January 17, 2011

Son & Spirit's "Job Description"

“Obviously the Spirit did not die for our sins, but there are less obvious implications of this fact. The work that Jesus Christ does for us is a vicarious, substitutionary work: he steps into the place that we occupy and offers himself to God in our place. As a propitiation for sin, the incarnate Son replaces us and bears the wrath of God on our behalf.

"The Spirit, on the other hand, does not substitute for us but empowers us. He does not take our place but puts us in our place. And in carrying out the great work of atonement, the Son completes the work once and for all in his death and resurrection, but the Holy Spirit takes that completed work and applies it to individual people.”
— Fred Sanders

Saturday, January 15, 2011

They'll Be Watching Us...

Don't remember where I first heard this, but it is so true in rhyme, and in Ryle's words after:

You're writing a gospel,
A chapter a day,
By things that you do,
By words that you say.
Men read what you write,
whether faithless or true,
Tell me, what is the gospel,
According to you? 

"Let us often ask ourselves whether we are doing good or harm in the world. We cannot live to ourselves, if we are Christians. The eyes of many will always be upon us. Men will judge by what they see, far more than by what they hear. If they see the Christian contradicting by his practice what he professes to believe, they are justly stumbled and offended. For the world’s sake, as well as for our own, let us labor to be eminently holy. Let us endeavor to make our religion beautiful in the eyes of men, and to adorn the doctrine of Christ in all things."
~ J.C. Ryle

Friday, January 14, 2011

Way Too me...

This was a tough read for me from PETE WILSON


Several months ago I learned via a phone call that a particular religious group was going to be picketing at our Cross Point Nashville campus. This religious group based out of Kansas is famous for showing up at churches, religious organizations, and funerals of service men with what I consider to be vulgar picket signs. A few of the signs I’ve read before have said…

-Thank God for 9/11
-God hates fags
-God hates Jews
-You’re going to hell

I don’t know any other way to describe them but as religious bigots.

They didn’t show on that particular Sunday. They did come to Nashville, as expected, but stopped at another church. There was a part of me that was really looking forward to confronting them. I’ve rehearsed my speech to them in my head over and over.  I was a bit embarrassed though by just how harsh my rehearsed speech had become.

I remember hearing Matt Chandler say, “We must be gracious to the grace killers.”

I honestly hate that. I really do. I deeply struggle with this concept.

Grace to sinners? Yep.

Grace to screw ups? No problem.

Grace to self righteous, pride filled, judgmental types? Ummmmmm, not so quick.

I’ve found that it’s much easier for me to show grace to the homeless drug addict then it is the person who thinks our music is too loud at church.

It’s easier to show grace to the unwed pregnant mom then it is the lady whose barking about the church not doing enough for her kids.

It’s easier to show grace to the guy whose had the affair then it is the person who thinks Christians should never watch TV.

The problem is if you don’t extend grace to the grace killers….well…. you are them.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thursday Tozer Tidbit of Truth

Okay, this is more than a tidbit...but it is important to remember that just because elements of the world abuse or ruin something, it ain't necessarily is not a "new age" is our thing, and here are wise words from Tozer:

I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your works; I muse on the work of Your hands, I spread out my hands to You; my soul longs for You like a thirsty land. --Psalm 143:5-6

Among Christians of all ages and of varying shades of doctrinal emphasis there has been fairly full agreement on one thing: They all believed that it was important that the Christian with serious spiritual aspirations should learn to meditate long and often on God.

Let a Christian insist upon rising above the poor average of current religious experience and he will soon come up against the need to know God Himself as the ultimate goal of all Christian doctrine. Let him seek to explore the sacred wonders of the Triune Godhead and he will discover that sustained and intelligently directed meditation on the Person of God is imperative. To know God well he must think on Him unceasingly. Nothing that man has discovered about himself or God has revealed any short cut to pure spirituality. It is still free, but tremendously costly. That Incredible Christian, 135.

"Slow me down, Lord, and quiet my heart this morning. Favor me with an acute awareness of Your presence as I meditate quietly for the next several minutes. I want to know You, God, so I can indeed move well beyond that 'poor average of current religious experience.' Amen."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Impudent Prayer!

This is a good reminder from RAY ORTLUND

“I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.” Luke 11:8

“Impudence” is the key word.  Other versions show “importunity,” “persistence,” “boldness,” “shamelessness,” and “brazen insistence.”  All good translations.

The word is anaideia.  That’s the negative prefix an + aideia (“shame, respect, modesty”).  Souter glosses it as “shameless persistence (e.g. in greed).”  The ESV translates it “impudence.”  More casually, we might call it “nerve.”

Jesus is teaching us to pray impudent, nervy prayers, because that’s when we get serious with God.  He likes that, and doors start opening up.  Matthew Henry: “We prevail with men by impudence because they are displeased with it, but with God because he is pleased with it.”

As we enter 2011, how are we praying?  Do we have the nerve to ask God for what we really long for and what would really display his glory?  Let’s not settle for polite prayers that bore us and change nothing.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Paradox of Grace

“This is the paradox of grace. He who insists he is right will be pronounced wrong, while he who admits he is wrong will be declared right. The righteousness of God is only given to those who stand in the sinners place.”
- Stanley Voke

Monday, January 10, 2011

Stay Cross-Eyed

“One moment’s believing, close contact with the cross will do more to break the heart for sin, deepen the conviction of its exceeding sinfulness, and disenthrall the soul from all its bondage and its fears, bringing it into a sense of pardon and acceptance and assured hope, than a lifetime of the most rigid legal duties that ever riveted their iron chain upon the soul.”
—Octavius Winslow

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Been Broken Lately?

The first step into fullness is a sense of emptiness, a sense of dissatisfaction with all that I am, a sense of disgust with all that I ever hope to be, a sense of utter frustration, a sense that if anything is going to happen, then God must do it. I must come to Him with a broken heart and hear Him say to me, "A humble and a Contrite heart I will not despise." Before God makes you, He breaks you.

Alan Redpath

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Does Sin Make You Curious? Or Furious?

How incredible it is that we do not hate sin more than we do! Sin is the cause of all the pain and disease in the world. God did not create man to be an ailing and suffering creature. It was sin, and nothing but sin, which brought in all the ills that flesh is heir to. It was sin to which we owe every racking pain, and every loathsome infirmity, and every humbling weakness to which our poor bodies are liable. Let us keep this ever in mind. Let us hate sin with a godly hatred.
~ J.C. Ryle

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Huge "Little" Word

"All." Appears throughout include Proverbs 3.5, "In all your ways acknowledge Him..."

It is an uncomfortable "little" word, a demanding "little" word, a self-explanatory "little" word...but here's some other words I find helpful:

“Let our confidence be uniform. In all thy ways acknowledge Him (Proverbs 3:6). Take one step at a time, every step under divine warrant and direction. Ever plan for yourself in simple dependence on God.
It is nothing less than self-idolatry to conceive that we can carry on even the ordinary matters of the day without His counsel. He loves to be consulted. Therefore take all thy difficulties to be resolved by Him.
Be in the habit of going to Him in the first place– before self-will, self-pleasing, self-wisdom, human friends, convenience, expediency. Before any of these have been consulted go to God at once.
Consider no circumstances too clear to need His direction. In all thy ways, small as well as great; in all thy concerns, personal or relative, temporal or eternal, let Him be supreme… This is indeed to walk with God as a Father. This is true faith.”
–Charles Bridge, A Commentary on Proverbs

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Don't Lucy!

Hmm...substitute "Christian" for "brother" in the we too often overload the answer to a genuine, sincere question? Too often older-in-the-faith Christians expect (demand?) so much more of new Christians than we did or do of ourselves...

Nothing to Lose

I have not seen this movie. Maybe someday I shall watch it. But I am informed that this conversation takes place in the is a great reminder that as men and women who have "been crucified with Christ" and who are "no longer our own" and who "pick up our cross daily" we really have nothing to lose...

Rose: "Don’t be worried, Mr. Allnut.
Allnut: "Oh, I ain’t worried, miss. I gave myself up for dead back when we started."

(from The African Queen, a film by John Huston)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Remember the Duck!

I found the following from Tullilan Tchividjian to be particularly helpful, clarifying, and share-able

This story told by my friend and former professor, Steve Brown, illustrates well the radical discrepancy between the ways in which we hold other people hostage in their sin and the unconditional forgiveness that God offers to us in Christ.
Do you remember the story about the little boy who killed his grandmother’s pet duck? He accidentally hit the duck with a rock from his slingshot. The boy didn’t think anybody saw the foul deed, so he buried the duck in the backyard and didn’t tell a soul.
Later, the boy found out that his sister had seen it all. Not only that, she now had the leverage of his secret and used it. Whenever it was the sister’s turn to wash the dishes, take out the garbage or wash the car, she would whisper in his ear, “Remember the duck.” And then the little boy would do what his sister should have done.
There is always a limit to that sort of thing. Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore–he’d had it! The boy went to his grandmother and, with great fear, confessed what he had done. To his surprise, she hugged him and thanked him. She said, “I was standing at the kitchen sink and saw the whole thing. I forgave you then. I was just wondering when you were going to get tired of your sister’s blackmail and come to me.”
If he already saw and forgave you, don’t let anybody say to you, “Remember the duck.”
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:19, “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.” The good news of the gospel is that, for all of us who trust in the finished work of Jesus, God does not count our sins against us–he counts our sins against Christ!
Our own failure to grasp the gospel shows itself when we demand penance from those who have wronged us. Whatever offense I’ve received is infinitely smaller than the offense God has received from me. And since God has freely, fully, and unconditionally forgiven us in Christ (counting our sins against him) we should be quick and desirous to freely, fully, and unconditionally forgive.
There’s simply no better way to get people to contemplate God’s unfathomable love and grace than by granting them what he’s already granted.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Worthy of Reflection as 2011 Begins...

I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot.  Would that you were either cold or hot!  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.  Revelation 3:15-16
“The idea of being on fire for Christ will strike some people as dangerous emotionalism.  ‘Surely,’ they will say, ‘we are not meant to go to extremes?  You are not asking us to become hot-gospel fanatics?’  Well, wait a minute.  It depends what you mean.  If by ‘fanaticism’ you really mean ‘wholeheartedness,’ then Christianity is a fanatical religion and every Christian should be a fanatic.  But fanaticism is not wholeheartedness, nor is wholeheartedness fanaticism.  Fanaticism is an unreasoning and unintelligent wholeheartedness.  It is the running away of the heart with the head.  At the end of a statement prepared for a conference on science, philosophy and religion at Princeton University in 1940 came these words: ‘Commitment without reflection is fanaticism in action; but reflection without commitment is the paralysis of all action.’  What Jesus Christ desires and deserves is the reflection which leads to commitment and the commitment which is born of reflection.  This is the meaning of wholeheartedness, of being aflame for God.

One longs today to see robust and virile men and women bringing to Jesus Christ their thoughtful and their total commitment.  Jesus Christ asks for this.  He even says that if we will not be hot, he would prefer us cold to lukewarm.  Better be frigid than tepid, he implies.  His meaning is not far to seek.  If he is true, if he is the Son of God who died for the sins of men, if Christmas Day, Good Friday and Easter Day are more than meaningless anniversaries, then nothing less than our wholehearted commitment to Christ will do.  I must put him first in my private and public life, seeking his glory and obeying his will.  Better be icy in my indifference or go into active opposition to him than insult him with an insipid compromise which nauseates him!”
John R. W. Stott, What Christ Thinks of the Church

Sunday, January 2, 2011

As a new year begins, I find this quote from Dorothy Sayers to be timely...even though it was written in 1938:

Official Christianity, of late years, has been having what is known as “a bad press.”
We are constantly assured that the churches are empty because preachers insist too much upon doctrine—”dull dogma,” as people call it.
The fact is the precise opposite. It is the neglect of dogma that makes for dullness.
The Christian faith is the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man—and the dogma is the drama. . . .
Now, we may call that doctrine exhilarating or we may call it devastating;
we may call it revelation or we may call it rubbish;
but if we call it dull, then words have no meaning at all.
You may read the whole book (The Greatest Drama Ever StagedHERE