Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Spiritual Danger of Lust - John Piper

John Piper recently wrote an apology regarding somethings he had recently said, and in clarifying some of the points he was trying to make spoke of his views on sexuality on television and in the movies. Below is a quote - to read the whole article, Click Here.

I’ll put it bluntly. The only nude female body a guy should ever lay his eyes on is his wife’s. The few exceptions include doctors, morticians, and fathers changing diapers. “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?” (Job 31:1). What the eyes see really matters. “Everyone who looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Better to gouge your eye than go to hell (verse 29).

Brothers, that is serious. Really serious. Jesus is violent about this. What we do with our eyes can damn us. One reason is that it is virtually impossible to transition from being entertained by nudity to an act of “beholding the glory of the Lord.” But this means the entire Christian life is threatened by the deadening effects of sexual titillation.

All Christ-exalting transformation comes from “beholding the glory of Christ.” “Beholding the glory of the Lord, [we] are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Whatever dulls the eyes of our mind from seeing Christ powerfully and purely is destroying us. There is not one man in a thousand whose spiritual eyes are more readily moved by the beauty of Christ because he has just seen a bare breast with his buddies.

Sermon Podcasts are available again

For the last two months the podcasts for my sermons from Arrowsmith have not been updating and downloading very well. The problem has now been corrected by iTunes and - and both current and past sermons are now again available on iTunes.

For those who do not use iTunes podcast, the same sermons are available in three other places:

1 - by clicking the player icon on Most Recent Sermon Player on the right column of this blog.
2 - at my site which is assessable by either clicking on the Click Here for 2009 Sermons under Pastor Leland's 2009 Sermons on the right column of this blog or Clicking Here.
3 - by visiting sermon page of the website for Arrowsmith Baptist Church - which can also be accessed by clicking on the Arrowsmith Baptist Sermons picture on the right column of this blog.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Praying the Scriptures - Robert Benson

Much of my morning devotional time is spent praying through, over, and in the Word of God. I recently read Living Prayer by Robert Benson and found his description of praying the scriptures to be helpful in understanding how this kind of praying affects our hearts and lives. Here is an excerpt:
Much of the life of prayer seems to be about learning to pay attention. One finds and adapts and adopts the traditions of prayer that can be added to the fabric of one's life. They, in turn, lead to acts of devotion and oblation and sacrifice in the hope that one's heart will be increasingly prepared to be present to and shaped by the ways of God.

. . . to pray the scriptures is to commit oneself to the act of coming to attention at particular times in particular ways. It is to provide a frame upon which one's life can be lived and within which one's journey can be made.
Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray. O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch. (Psalm 5:2-3)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

I Lift My Eyes Up - Brian Doerksen

I lift my eyes up to the mountains,
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from You,
Maker of Heaven,
Creator of the earth.

O how I need You Lord,
You are my only hope,
You're my only prayer.
So I will wait for You,
To come and rescue me,
Come and give me life.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Mystery of God

Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory. (1 Timothy 3:16)

One of the great struggles I have observed in evangelicalism is that in seeking to be truly “fundamental” and “biblical” in our belief we have shunned and rejected that which is a “mystery.” While I am not supportive of “mysticism” (which focus on the internal subjective truth of self rather than external objective truth of God’s Word) I do believe there are things of God that are just too mysterious to wrap our fallen human minds around: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Clearly our western culture has lost its admiration and respect for a power and an authority beyond itself. I believe this a danger that Christian churches of all kinds continue to face. Without some sense of mystery in our faith, human reason and spiritual pride ultimately replace reverence and awe. Even in our deepest understanding we must embrace a sovereign God who is mysteriously beyond ourselves. The apostle Paul tells us we "must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience" (1 Timothy 3:9). In his book Living Prayer Robert Benson says this:

Our forebears’ fear of ostentation has pretty much faded from our memories. Our shirts say Polo, our shoes say Nike, our cars say Lexus, and our luggage says Hartman. Our lawns say we are successful, our houses say we are well off, our church buildings say we are pretty fair fund-raisers.

But I think our lives are saying that we need some sacred spaces and some sacred things in them. We need some things that are mysterious as the Mystery itself. What might happen to us and among us if we regained the sense of mystery that we have replaced with a list of answers and formulas and glib slogans that are of little help in the face of the troubling questions of our day?

“Silence, Please” – Susan Hill

One of the pervading issues of our society and culture - and also within the church - is the restlessness of our children and youth. While there is a plethora of voices debating the reasons why our children and youth are so restless – the solution lies within the truth of the Word of God: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). In a recent essay in Standpoint.Online (entitled “Silence, Please”) Susan Hill reflects on the need for children to learn the gift of silence. She argues - and I would wholeheartedly agree with her - that this is an issue not just for children and youth, but for all of us adults as well. Here's the closing paragraph of her essay:

If children do not learn to focus and concentrate in a pool of quietness, their minds become fragmented and their temperaments irritable, their ability to absorb knowledge and sift it, grade it and evaluate it do not develop fully. Reading a book quietly, watching a raindrop slide slowly down a windowpane or a ladybird crawl up a leaf, trying to hear the sound of a cat breathing when it is asleep, asking strange questions, such as, "Where do all the colours go at night?" and speculating about the possible answers — all of these are best done in silence where the imagination can flourish and the intricate minutiae of the world around us can be examined with the greatest concentration. If there is a constant jazzy buzz from which no one ever frees them, and which distracts and diverts until they are confused and then rendered punch-drunk by aural stimuli, children become unsettled and anxious — and life is an anxious business for them at the best of times. We are responsible for giving them the great gift of time spent in silence so that they can begin to understand and experience its healing properties and become aware that it will always be there for them to draw upon, if they are only taught how to find it. Once they have, they will never lose the longing for periods of silence or, when they have attained them, the enrichment they bring. We must not to deprive them of this as we have, though perhaps unknowingly, deprived them of so much else.
To read the entirety of Susan Hill’s essay – Click Here.
To read Al Mohler’s reflections ("Where Do All the Colors Go at Night?") on Susan Hill's essay – Click Here.


Friday, June 12, 2009

The Gospel of Self-Esteem – Robert Schuller

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:1-5)

The following was published in the Los Angeles Times on October 27, 2008. Click here for the full article.

"I was called to start a mission, not a church," Schuller told his audience Sunday. "There is a difference. . . . You don't try to preach . . . what is sin and what isn't sin. A mission is a place where you ask nonbelievers to come and find faith and hope and feel love. We're a mission first, a church second."
The following is a quote from the book “Self-Esteem: The New Reformation” by Robert Schuller

Today the sincere, Christian believer is a minority. So the church must be willing to die as a church and be born again as a mission. We cannot speak out with a "Thus saith the Lord" strategy when we are talking to people who couldn't care less about the Lord. We cannot start with "What does the text say?" if we're talking to persons who aren't about to affirm respect for or unquestioning obeisance to "the text."
Click here for Dr. Al Mohler’s comments on all of this.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Blessed Be Your Name - Robin Mark

Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed Be Your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name
Blessed be Your name
When the sun's shining down on me
When the world's 'all as it should be'
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

BCBC Annual Celebration messages

The messages from the 2009 British Columbia Baptist Conference Annual Celebration in Langley, BC are now posted on our conference website. My message on the opening night - "Reclaiming the BCBC through Prayer" - is included. To listen to the messages Click Here.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Simple Life

Lately the Lord has been working in my heart regarding the need to slow down the pace of my life. This song by Ricky Skaggs reflects some of my feelings in these days.

“Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”
(Luke 12:27)

The simple life is the life for me
A man and a wife and a family
And the Lord up above who knows I'm tryin'
To live a simple life in a difficult time.

I used to sit around fussin' at the phone all day
Windin' up alone and it'd make me say
Never again will I be that way
Never again will I be that way.

Well, I work six days and I rest for one
'Cause the ol' rat race ain't never been won
And I sit back and I watch 'em run
I kick on back and I watch 'em run.

The simple life is the life for me
A steak and a knife and a glass of tea
The Lord up above he knows I'm tryin'
To live a simple life in a difficult time...

Simple life in a difficult time.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Two Rules of Prayer – R.C. Sproul

There are really only two rules that you have to keep in mind when you're in prayer, two things that should drive and govern and control your prayer life with the Almighty.

You should remember who is being addressed and who is doing the speaking.

That is, the first thing you are to remember in prayer is who it is you're talking to, because nothing will condition your prayer life more deeply than remembering that you're in conversation with God, the sovereign Creator and ruler of the universe.

Second, you are to remember who you are. You are not God. You are a creature. So prayer is not a conversation between peers; it is not a fireside chat among equals. This is the creature speaking to his sovereign Creator.

From “The Prayer of Our Lord” by R.C. Sproul

The Rest of God - Mark Buchanan

I recently read "The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring the Sabbath" by Mark Buchanan – and would highly recommend it for anyone seeking to understand the heart of not only the biblical meaning of the “Sabbath” but the significance and implications for our everyday lives. Here is an excerpt from the end of the book.

Jesus’s Sabbath-keeping always looked, to his enemies, like Sabbath-breaking. That was one of the many ironies of their accusations against him; people who knew nothing of rest accused a man whose every word and gesture came from rest of Sabbath-breaking. Nevertheless, they hurled their accusations. . . .

“The Sabbath,” Jesus said, “was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).

And that, actually, is all we need to know to keep the Sabbath holy. This day was made for us. God gave it to you and me for our sake, for our benefit, for our strengthening and our replenishment. That is the point religion always forgets . . .

Religion did that to the Sabbath in Jesus’s day. What was meant to serve people ended up demanding tribute from them. . . .

It’s a day that God intended to fuss over us, not we over it. It was designed to protect us, pay tribute to us, coddle us, in all our created frailty and God-imprinted beauty and hard-won liberty, in our status and men and women whom God made in his own image and freed by his own hand and blood.

It’s a father’s gift to indulge his children.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Scratching the Itch of Ambition

Here is an interesting post I ran across not long ago on Red Letter Believers. Reading it made me think of 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12: "We always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ."

"Ambition often puts men upon doing the meanest offices, so climbing is performed in the same posture with creeping." -- Jonathan Swift, Miscellanies, 1711

We all have an itch. It’s an itch for something different. This longing is what creates new inventions and drives us to discovery.

It also leads us to a deeper walk with God, chasing the divine mysteries. But the ugly, dark side of that desire for something else finds its satisfaction in sin.

The itch is never really satisfied, scratching away at our very being. Ambition is the fulfillment of an itch.

Is there any such thing as 'healthy ambition'? Is it possible to live out the words of Christ and still be ambitious? Or is ambition in and of itself a vain, selfish pursuit with no inherent value for believers? Is it a fatal flaw that finds its roots in our sin nature?

In it’s purest form, it’s healthy. Ambition builds companies and drives capitalism. In the kingdom of God, its what can cause us to make a difference, to change a world gone crazy. It seems the sinful elements of ambition come from the deadly pursuit of ‘our will,’ a close cousin to ‘our want.’ When our ambition takes over, it pushes aside our desire to fulfill and live out God's will for us, then we're left headed down the wide path of our own making.

But get this – healthy ambition means aligning your ways with God’s ways. He’s full of ambition. “He is willing that none should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” God doesn’t want fulfill our wants but rather our wants should be to fulfill God's will.

Jesus could have shown selfish ambition. Certainly, all he had to do was say the word and he could have had the entire Roman command of Judea. He could have gained a country, but lost our eternities. Which ambition will you choose?
From RLB

Saving Us from Ourselves

Here are a few excepts from a recent commentary posting from Dave Burchett of World Magazine:

Following Jesus in the Real World: Saving us from ourselves

My youngest son Brett recently moved to San Antonio and unfortunately my schedule allowed me to help. I say unfortunately because he chose a third-floor apartment. Part of the fun was renting a U-Haul truck to transfer his stuff from Waco to the Alamo City. As we wrapped up the rental agreement I had to make a choice on insurance. The policy covered any damage except the area right over the truck cab. I asked why and got this answer:

“If you wedge our 12-foot clearance truck through the nine-foot McDonald’s drive-through then you are responsible. We don’t cover stupid.”

I laughed. But then I remembered how much stupid drives our policies and lawsuits. If someone might do something stupid then we have to issue warnings, print labels, and add cost to products for the rest of us to pay. It seems no one just makes a dumb mistake anymore. It is always someone else’s fault. . . .

. . . You cannot post enough labels to remove the risk to life. I think one of the dangerous and maybe even unintentionally deceitful things that Christians communicate is that coming to faith in Jesus will make your life trouble-free. Perhaps we should have a label with every presentation of the gospel: Caution—Jesus says, “in this world you will have trouble.” (Read the small print in the Gospels of Mark and John) . . .

Coming to faith does not remove the trouble from our lives. Jesus is not a money-back guarantee for perfect health, unlimited prosperity, and nonstop giddiness. Trouble is a part of life. Problems either refine us or ruin us. That is where Jesus comes in . . .

. . . Jesus came to give us real life and to help us get through the risks that living life brings. I can testify that it works. I can also testify that life is full of trouble. Consider yourself warned.

To read the whole article – Click Here.