Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Every Dream Lost. Every Dream Fulfilled.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us [the gospel!], to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 3:20-21
HT: Pure Church

Friday, August 27, 2010

After You Pray...

...do you watch?
O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I direct my prayer to you and watch.
Psalm 5:3

Sunday, August 22, 2010

T-Ball, The Major Leagues, and Evangelism

[Pray for me] that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel...that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
Ephesians 6:19-20
The point of T-ball is to help kids develop some baseball skills, not play great ball. The baseball is not thrown to the batter but set on a pole at the batter box. The kids are given three swings at the stationary ball. The ball is replaced if one of the kids hits the pole instead of the ball.

The skill that this develops is a level swing. You can't play in the majors if you don't have a level swing. You can't play in the majors with a T either. The T just helps train a skill.

That's what I think about a lot of methods and techniques. They help us take our first swings with the gospel. So get a copy of Romans Road, the Four Spiritual Laws, the Evangelism Explosion outline or First Steps to God, and learn how to use it. Many have made their first steps to Christ through these outlines.

But be ready to move on. These things are just tools. They aren't perfect or even complete; the gospel takes a lifetime to figure out. Remember, the goal is not to know Romans Road backwards and forwards. The goal is to know the gospel so well that you are able to teach its truth in your own words. Then you can teach with understanding and compassion for people's situations. That's playing in the majors.

--J. Mack Stiles, Speaking of Jesus: How to Tell Your Friends the Best News They Will Ever Hear, p. 58-59 (bold emphasis mine)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Born Again

The voice of the LORD makes the deer give birth...
Psalm 29:9

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
1 Peter 1:3-5

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.
John 3:3

...to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
John 1:12-13
Father in Heaven, thank You for the miracle of You causing my birth on this day 27 years ago. And thank You for the even greater miracle of You causing my new birth almost 8 years ago through the resurrection of Your Son from the dead so that I could become Your child, though formerly I wasn't. Wonder of wonders. I met the One with two scarred hands. Whether 7 months or 7 years or 7 decades, I'm giving Him the best of everything that's left of the life inside this man. I have no greater joy. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Parables: When Ordinary Warnings Are No Longer Heeded

Then the disciples came and said to [Jesus], "Why do you speak to them in parables?"...

This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:

'You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people's heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.' [Isaiah 6:9-10]

But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.
Matthew 13:10, 13-16
Symbolic parables cause those who "have ears to hear and hear not" to misunderstand further. The literary form of symbolic parable (maĊĦal) "appears whenever ordinary warnings are no longer heeded (cf. Matt. 13:10)," and no warning will ever be heeded by hardened people who are intent on continuing in disobedience. This is the point of Isa. 6:9–10, where the prophet is commissioned to tell Israel to "keep on listening but do not perceive.… Render the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears dull … lest they … hear with their ears … and repent and be healed."

--Beale, G. K. (1999). The book of Revelation : A commentary on the Greek text (237). Grand Rapids, Mich.; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press.
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Revelation 2:7

Monday, August 09, 2010

Where Jesus Would Have Us [Not] Be (Part 2)

And [Jesus] did not permit him but said to him, "Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you."
Mark 5:19
I cannot help remarking, in connection with our Lord's words in this passage, that it admits of question, whether men do not sometimes act unadvisedly in giving up a secular calling, in order to enter the ministry of the Gospel. In plain words, I doubt whether men, who have been suddenly converted to God in the army, the navy, the law, or the merchant's office, do not sometimes forsake their professions with undue precipitation, in order to become clergymen.

It seems to be forgotten that conversion alone is proof that we are called and qualified to become teachers of others. God may be glorified as really and truly in the secular calling as in the pulpit. Converted men can be eminently useful as landlords, magistrates, soldiers, sailors, barristers or merchants. We [lack] witnesses for Christ in all these professions. Colonel Gardiner and Captain Vicars have probably done more for the cause of Christ as military men, than they would ever have don if they had left the army and become clergymen.

In steering our course through life, we should carefully look for the call of providence as well as the call of inclination. The position that we choose for ourselves is often that which is the worst for our souls. When two conflicting paths of duty lie before a believer, the path which has least of the cross, and is most agreeable to his own taste, is seldom the right one.

I write all of this with a due recollection of many eminent Christians who began in a secular profession, and left it for the office of minister. John Newton and Edward Bickersteth are instances. But I apprehend such cases are exceptions. I apprehend moreover that in every such case there will be found to have been a remarkable call of providence as well as an inward call of the Holy Ghost. As a general rule, I believe that the rule of St. Paul ought to be carefully observed: "Let every man, wherein he is called [converted], therein abide with God." (1 Corinthians 7.24)

--J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Volume 1, p.95-96

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Where Jesus Would Have Us [Not] Be (Part 1)

As [Jesus] was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And [Jesus] did not permit him...
Mark 5:18-19
There are lessons of profound wisdom in these words. The place that Christians wish to be in, is not always the place which is best for their souls. The position that they would choose, if they could have their own way, is not always that which Jesus would have them occupy.

There are none who need this lesson so much as believers newly converted to God. Such persons are often very poor judges of what is really for their good. Full of the new views which they have been graciously taught, excited with the novelty of their present position, seeing everything around them in a new light, knowing little yet of the depths of Satan and the weakness of their own hearts--knowing only that a little time ago they were blind, and now, through mercy, they see--of all people they are in the greatest danger of making mistakes. With the best intentions, they are apt to fall into mistakes about their plans in life, their choices, their moves, their professions. They forget that what we like best is not always best for our souls, and that the seed of grace needs winter as well as summer, cold as well as heat, to ripen it for glory.

Let us pray that God would guide us in all our ways after conversion, and not allow us to err in our choices, or to make hasty decisions. That place and position is most healthful for us in which we are kept most humble--most taught of our own sinfulness--drawn most to the Bible and prayer--led most to live by faith and not by sight. It may bot be quite what we like. But if Christ by His providence has places us in it, let us not be in a hurry to leave it. Let us therein abide with God. The great thing is to have no will of our own, and to be where Jesus would have us be.

--J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Volume 1, p. 94-95

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Jeremiah and The Preacher's Paradox

O LORD, you have deceived me, and I was deceived; you are stronger than I, and you have prevailed.
Jeremiah 20:7
Why does Jeremiah feel as though the LORD has deceived him?

Because, on the one hand, Jeremiah pays a great cost to preach:
I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me. For whenever I speak, I cry out, I shout, "Violence and destruction!" For the word of the LORD has become for me a reproach and derision all day long."
Jeremiah 20:7-8

For I hear many whispering. Terror is on every side! "Denounce him! Let us denounce him!" say all my close friends, watching for my fall. "Perhaps he will be deceived; then we can over come him and take our revenge on him."
Jeremiah 20:10
Preaching is so costly to Jeremiah that it leads him to curse the day that he was born. He would prefer to have never been born than to be a preacher (Jeremiah 20:14-18).

But then, on the other hand, Jeremiah is compelled to preach:
If I say, "I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name, there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot."
Jeremiah 20:9
There is a passionate desire within Jeremiah to preach. He can't help but to preach. There's nothing else he'd rather do.

Jeremiah is caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place. And he knows that God has put him in this place. That's why he feels as though the LORD has deceived him (v.7).

So what's he going to do? Stop preaching in order to avoid having to pay the great costs that come with preaching? Or continue to preach in spite of the costs?
But the LORD is with me as a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble; they will not overcome me. They will be greatly ashamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten. O LORD of hosts, who tests the righteous, who sees the heart and the mind, let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you have I committed my cause.
Jeremiah 20:12 (emphasis added)
There's no stopping him. Jeremiah is going to preach. He's going to preach because, in spite of the reality of the hardship of his calling as a preacher, he trusts the God who called him. It's to this God that he commits his cause irrespective of whatever suffering comes with it. And not only will he commit his cause to his faithful God as he continues to pay the cost of preaching, he's going to sing praises to his God while he does so:
Sing to the LORD; praise the LORD! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hand of evildoers.
Jeremiah 20:13
This is the preacher's paradox. Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.