Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Thankfully Memorizing God's Word

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3:12-14

For the past year, I have committed myself to the discipline of memorizing the Word of God. In the past I usually would put to memory a few verses, usually something that has become meaningful to me in some way. This time I decided to tackle chapters and books of the Bible rather than just a few verses – and also to memorize not by rote (by memory alone, without thought) but rather by context (the parts of a discourse that surround a word or passage and can throw light on its meaning).

While in the short run context does take much longer than rote, in the long run the words are much easier to remember – because they are strung together by meaning rather than memory. And I have also found that in memorizing by context the Word of God becomes a much bigger part of who I am in the process – through reflection and understanding and meditation . Rather than memorizing it feels more like chewing, swallowing, and digesting.

That being said, while working my way through the book of Colossians, I was recently struck by how the apostle Paul finishes the admonition he lays before the church in Colossians 3:12-14 with an overwhelming flood of thankfulness to God in the verses that follow. Paul was deeply grateful for not only his salvation, but also deeply grateful for his call to live for God. I pray the same would be true for us all . . .

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:15-17

Monday, May 26, 2008

GPS

Recently I've spoken with a few people who have had some interesting experiences with the new GPS systems that they are now putting in cars. This is for you.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Derek Redmond and His Father

Here is a video of the illustration I referred to in my sermon "Releasing the Oppressed" (18 May 2008).

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Christ Is The Only Way - R.C. Sproul

Jesus said to him,
"I am the way, and the truth, and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me."
John 14:6

This is for the pluralists (those who believe that there are many ways to God) who see those of us who are exclusivists (those who believe Jesus Christ is the only way to God) as being too narrow minded. Actually, as an exclusivist - I found this video to be both deeply humbling and worthy of great praise!


Friday, May 16, 2008

The Goodness of God's Grace in Struggle

In the forward to Jonathan Aitken’s John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace, Philip Yancey begins the foreward of the book by writing: “Grace, like water, always flows downward to the lowest place.” This crossed my mind this morning as I was meditating on recent failures in my life as I continue to limp at times in my own walk with God. As I prayed through this, I was overwhelmed by the goodness of God as I reflected on three things:
  • The foundational verse of this blog: "Through him we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God" (Romans 5:2);
  • John Piper’s “It's Never Too Late to Keep Asking” which I quoted in one of my blog postings yesterday (“For Those Who Are Struggling” - Thursday, May 15, 2008); and
  • the song “Valley’s Fill First” by Caedmon’s Call. The words are below and the audio is on this link.

This is the valley that I'm walking through
And if fells like forever since I've been close to you
My friends up above me don't understand why I struggle like I do
My shadow's my only, only companion and at night he leaves too

Down in the valley, dying of thirst
Down in the valley, it seems that I'm at my worst
My consolation is that you baptize this earth
When I'm down in the valley, valleys fill first

Down in this wasteland
I miss
the mountaintop view
But it's here in this valley that I’m surrounded by you
Though I'm not here by my will
It's where your view is the most clear
So I'll stay in this valley it takes 40 years

And it's like that long Saturday your death and the rising day
When no one wrote a word, wondered is this the end
But you were down there in the well, saving those that fell
Bringing them to the mountain again

Satan is Everywhere?

Satan is not everywhere. Only God is! "He is before all things, and in him all things hold together" (Colossians 1:17).


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Forgiving As We Have Been Forgiven

This past week I put to memory Colossians 3:12-13: "Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive."

This morning I came across a news article posted on the CNN website with the headline: "Woman opens heart to man who slaughtered her family." It's about Iphigenia Mukantabana, a Christian from Rawanda, who is following Jesus in forgiving Jean-Bosco Bizimana, who hacked and clubbed to death her husband and five of her children. Here is the link.

For Those Who Are Struggling

Recently I've had conversations with a number of folk who are struggling in their walk with God. In reality, this is a way of life for all of us saved sinners who are truly trying to follow Jesus. This morning John Piper posted his thoughts on the Desiring God blog website (link) regarding this issue.

It's Never Too Late to Keep Asking
By John Piper

One of the greatest hope-killers is that you have tried for so long to change and have not succeeded. Now you look back and think: What’s the use? Even if I could experience a breakthrough, there would be so little time left to live in my new way it wouldn’t make much difference compared to so many decades of failure.

That’s not true. Suppose you only had five years left to live with a new victory over some old way. Or suppose you only had a year, or a month, or an hour? Would it matter?

At this point stir the thief on the cross into your thinking. At first he was railing at Jesus (Matthew 27:44). Then he was broken by what he saw and repented and cried out for mercy: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). Jesus received this faith-filled cry and promised, “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).

Then the former robber lived for another hour or so before he died. He was changed. He lived on the cross as a new man with new attitudes and actions (no more reviling). But 99.99% of his life was wasted. Did the last couple hours of newness matter?

They mattered infinitely. This former robber, like all of us, will stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give an account of his life. “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2Corinthians 5:10). How will his life witness in that day to his new birth and his union with Christ?

The last hours will tell the story. This man was new. His faith was real. He is truly united to Christ. Christ’s righteousness is his. His sins are forgiven. That is what the final hours will proclaim at the last judgment. His change mattered. It was, and it will be, a beautiful testimony to the power of God’s grace and the reality of his faith and his union with Christ.
Now back to our struggle with change. I am not saying that struggling believers are unsaved like the robber was. I am simply saying: the last years and the last hours of life matter.

If in the last 1% of our lives we can get a victory over some longstanding sinful habit or hurtful defect in our personality, it will be a beautiful testimony now to the power of grace; and it will be an added witness (not the only one) at the last judgment of our faith in Christ and our union with him.

Take heart, struggler. Keeping asking, seeking, knocking. Keep looking to Christ. If God gets glory by saving robbers in the 11th hour, he surely has his purposes why he has waited till now to give you the breakthrough you have sought for decades.

The Gospel: Prosperty or God is Enough?

Jim Fowler and I discussed the problem of the properity gospel over coffee yesterday - which we both agreed is a gospel that is nothing less than evil. In view of what is going on in the world today (see my post previous to this one) my prayer is that we as followers of Jesus would not buy into the teaching that God send Christ into the world to die for our sins so that we might live comfortable, prosperous lives. Rather may we proclaim that "God is enough" as we embrace Jesus as our greatest treasure!




If this video does not load, here is the link.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Hope of the Gospel in Today's News

World Headline News for Tuesday, May 14, 2008

Serial bomb blasts leave 60 dead – (India)
Eleven killed, 20 wounded in overnight fighting - (Iraq)
Heavy fighting, death toll rises – (Lebanon)

Earthquake death toll tops over 12,000; 60,000 missing - (China)
63,000 to 100,000 dead as a result of cyclone – (Myanmar)
North Koreans dying in rural areas; massive famine just a matter of time - (South Korea)

And Jesus began to say to them,
"See that no one leads you astray.
Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’
and they will lead many astray.
And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars,
do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet.
For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.
There will be earthquakes in various places;
there will be famines.
These are but the beginning of the birth pains."
(Mark 13:5-8)
"But in those days, after that tribulation,
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars will be falling from heaven,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds
with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels
and gather his elect from the four winds,
from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven."
(Mark 13:24-27)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Friday, May 9, 2008

Oprah Rejects Christ

This video speaks for itself.



If this video does not load, here is the link.

What Does Your Heart Say About Jesus?

Here is a clip of a video of Dr. John Piper speaking to a group of pastors. I was in attendance when he shared this and was deeply moved and convicted by his words.



If this video does not load, here is the link.

The Awe and Mystery of God's Creation


And God said,
“Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures,
and let birds fly above the earth
across the expanse of the heavens.”
So God created the great sea creatures
and every living creature that moves,
with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds,
and every winged bird according to its kind.
And God saw that it was good.
Genesis 1:20-21

Yesterday Ben Potter and Ken Noble took Eric, Micah and I down the Alberni Inlet to Barkley Sound to do some fishing. This was our first time out since we’ve moved to Vancouver Island. The day was truly an adventure for us not only in being both fruitful (in catching fish) and challenging (due to a fuel problem) – but also because Eric caught a rare Wolf Eel while we were bottom fishing.

The pictures below reflect the wonder and goodness of God in all His creation. As we wrestled with landing, unhooking, and releasing the wolf eel, we all stood in awe of a creature who seemed so fearsome and prehistoric in our presence. I was struck by the mystery of God’s creative hand – and was reminded of Isaiah 27:1: "In that day the Lord with his hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will slay the dragon that is in the sea."


Thank you Ken and Ben. We were truly blessed by our day together!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Freedom in Christ

In studying this week to preach on Jesus words: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me . . . sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners" (Luke 4:18, NIV) - I was reminded of a video that deeply moved my family and I when we first saw it. Here is is:



If this video does not load, here is the link.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Three-Steps Ahead, Two-Steps Back

Now the Lord is the Spirit,
and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord,
are being transformed into the same image
from one degree of glory to another.
For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:17-18

Recently someone mentioned to me that our walk with God (following Jesus) seems to be like trying to climb up a steep, slippery slope – three-steps ahead, two-steps back. I’ve often used that same phrase myself to describe my own struggle with walking with the Lord. This brought to mind the song Shifting Sand by Caedmon’s Call . . . listen to the song on this link.

Sometimes I believe all the lies
So I can do the things I should despise
And every day I am swayed
By whatever is on my mind

I hear it all depends on my faith
So I'm feeling precarious
The only problem I have with these mysteries
Is they're so mysterious

And like a consumer I've been thinking
If I could just get a bit more
More than my 15 minutes of faith,
Then I'd be secure

My faith is like shifting sand
Changed by every wave
My faith is like shifting sand
So I stand on grace

I've begged you for some proof
For my Thomas eyes to see
A slithering staff, a leprous hand
And lions resting lazily

A glimpse of your back-side glory
And this soaked altar going ablaze
But you know I've seen so much
I explained it away

My faith is like shifting sand
Changed by every wave
My faith is like shifting sand
So I stand on grace

Waters rose as my doubts reigned
My sand-castle faith, it slipped away
Found myself standing on your grace
It'd been there all the time

My faith is like shifting sand
Changed by every wave
My faith is like shifting sand
So I stand on grace

The reality of “three steps ahead, two steps back” is that we all are a work in progress – “being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” And while at times the struggle may seem fruitless, for the most part we are making progress, even if it’s only one step at a time by the means of “three- steps ahead, two-steps back.” Our ability to take three-steps ahead “comes from the Lord who is the Spirit" and our ability to only fall two-steps back also “comes from the Lord who is the Spirit." And in the midst of the back and forth of the shifting sand of our faith, we can take heart that we do stand on grace!

For by grace you have been saved through faith.
And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
For we are his workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand, t
hat we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:8-10