Saturday, November 28, 2009

"There Was Darkness Over the Whole Land”

It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour . . . Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. (Luke 23:44, 46)

From The Big Picture “The Largest Cross in the Western Hemisphere" near Groom, Texas. Photo by Brad Maule.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Do We Have a Free Will?

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:18-25)

I was asked not long ago if we have a “free will.” I responded by stating that it depends on how one defines the word “free.” The Word of God never tells us that we have absolute freedom outside the boundaries of God’s will. Nor does the Bible tell us we have absolute freedom in the choices and decisions we make according to our own human will.. Because of the depravity of our fallen, sinful nature we are “free” only when we make decisions and choices that are in accordance to God's sovereign and providential will. This is why Jesus said: "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36).Thomas Merton said it this way:

The mere ability to choose between good and evil is the lowest limit of freedom, and the only thing that is free about it is the fact that we can still choose good. To the extent that you are free to choose evil, you are not free. An evil choice destroys freedom. We can never choose evil as evil; only as an apparent good. But when we decide to do something that seems to us to be good when it is not really so, we are doing something that we do not really want to do, and therefore we are not really free.

Perfect spiritual freedom is the total inability to make any evil choice.
Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:16-18)

Abide in Christ: As Your Sanctification – Andrew Murray

Because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption. (1 Corinthians 1:30)

A superficial acquaintance with God’s plan leads to the view that while justification is God’s work, by faith in Christ, sanctification is our work, to be performed under the influence of the gratitude we feel for the deliverance we have experienced, and by the aid of the Holy Spirit. But the earnest Christian soon finds how little gratitude can supply the power. . . .

Christ is made of God unto us sanctification. Holiness is the very nature of God, and that alone is holy which God takes possession of and fills with Himself. . . . In Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, God’s holiness was revealed incarnate, and brought within the reach of man. . . . There is no other way of our becoming holy, but by becoming partakes of the holiness o Christ. And there is not other way of this taking place than by our personal spiritual union with Him, so that through His Holy Spirit His holy life flows into us. . . . Abiding by faith in Christ our sanctification is the simple secret of a holy life. The measure of sanctification will depend on the measure of abiding in Him; as the soul learns wholly to abide in Christ, the promise is increasingly fulfilled. . . .

. . . if you would live a holy life, abide in Christ your sanctification. . . . Listen when Scripture teaches that there is within you a new nature, a new man, created in Christ Jesus in righteousness and true holiness. . . . believe most confidently that Jesus Christ Himself delights in maintaining that new nature within you, and imparting to it His own strength and wisdom for its work. Let that faith lead you daily to the surrender of all self-confidence, and the confession of the utter corruption of all there is in you by nature. Let it fill you with a quiet and assured confidence that you are indeed able to do what the Father expects of you as His child, under the covenant of His grace, because you have Christ strengthening you. . . Look not upon a life of holiness as strain and an effort, but as the natural outgrowth of the life of Christ within you. . . .

from "Abide in Christ: Thoughts on the Blessed Life of Fellowship with the Son of God" by Andrew Murray

Monday, November 23, 2009

He Leadeth Me

He leadeth me, O blessed thought!
O words with heavnly comfort fraught!
Whate’er I do, where’er I be
Still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me.

He leadeth me, He leadeth me,
By His own hand He leadeth me;
His faithful follower I would be,
For by His hand He leadeth me.

Sometimes mid scenes of deepest gloom,
Sometimes where Eden’s bowers bloom,
By waters still, over troubled sea,
Still ’tis His hand that leadeth me.

Lord, I would place my hand in Thine,
Nor ever murmur nor repine;
Content, whatever lot I see,
Since ’tis my God that leadeth me.

And when my task on earth is done,
When by Thy grace the victry’s won,
E’en death’s cold wave I will not flee,
Since God through Jordan leadeth me.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Abide in Christ: As Your Righteousness – Andrew Murray

Because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption. (1 Corinthians 1:30)

The righteousness of God, as it becomes ours, is connected with the Person of the Redeemer. . . .

The life and the righteousness are inseparably linked, and the believer becomes more conscious than before of a righteous nature planted within him. . . . The union to Jesus has effected a change not only in the relation to God, but in the personal state before God. And as the intimate fellowship to which the union has opened up the way is maintained, the growing renewal of the whole being makes righteousness to be his very nature. . . .

Abiding in Him personally is the only way to stand, at all times, complete and accepted before God, as it is the only way to realize how the new and righteous nature can be strengthened from Jesus our Head. . . .

Believer, abide in Christ as your righteousness. You bear about with you a nature altogether corrupt and vile, ever seeking to rise up and darken your sense of acceptance, and of access to unbroken fellowship with the Father. Nothing can enable you to dwell and walk in the light of God, without even the shadow of a cloud between, but the habitual abiding in Christ as your righteousness. To this you are called. Seek to walk worthy of that calling. Yield yourself to the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the wonderful grace that permits you to draw night to God, clothed in a divine righteousness. Take time to realize that the King’s own robe has indeed been put on, and that in it you need not fear entering His presence. It is the token that you are the man who the King delights to honour. . . . Live your daily life in the full consciousness of being righteous in God’s sight, an object of delight and pleasure in Christ. . . . So shall your inmost being be transformed into being righteous and doing righteousness. In your heart and life it will become manifest where you dwell; abiding in Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, you will share His position, His character, and His blessedness. . . .

from "Abide in Christ: Thoughts on the Blessed Life of Fellowship with the Son of God" by Andrew Murray

Thursday, November 19, 2009

We Do Not Define God’s Love – John Piper

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)

We love because he first loved us.
(1 John 4:19)

Abide in Christ: As Your Wisdom - Andrew Murray

Because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption. (1 Corinthians 1:30)

Just as at the creation the light was first called into existence, that in it all God’s other works might have their life and beauty, so in our text wisdom is mentioned first as the treasury in which are to be found the three precious gifts that follow. . . .

And of God you are in Him, and have but to abide in Him to be made partaker of these treasures of wisdom. . . .

The blessings prepared for us in Christ cannot be obtained as special gifts in answer to prayer apart from abiding in Him. . . .

How often have you longed for wisdom and spiritual understanding that you might know God better, whom to know is life eternal! Abide in Jesus; your life in Him will lead you to that fellowship with God in which the only true knowledge of God is to be had. . . . You may not be able to grasp it with the understanding, or to express it in words; but the knowledge which is deeper than thoughts or words will be given – the knowing of God which comes of being known of Him. . . .

Let it be your first care to abide in Him in undivided fervent devotion of heart; when the heart and the life are right, rooted in Christ, knowledge will come in such measure as Christ’s own wisdom sees meet. . . . Man seeks the knowledge first, and often alas! Never gets beyond it. . . . O let us be content to possess Christ, to dwell in Him, to make Him our life, and only in a deeper searching into Him, to search and find the knowledge we desire. . . .

Just as much as you need to know and are capable of apprehending, will be communicated, if you only trust Him. . . .

If you will be trust Him fully, and abide in Him entirely, you can be confident of having unerring guidance. . . . Surrender all your own wisdom; seek a deep conviction of the utter blindness of the natural understanding in the things of God . . . Abiding in Him, His wisdom will come to you as the spontaneous outflowing of a life rooted in Him.

from "Abide in Christ: Thoughts on the Blessed Life of Fellowship with the Son of God" by Andrew Murray

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Abide in Christ: God Himself Has United You to Him - Andrew Murray

Because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption. (1 Corinthians 1:30)

"My Father is the vinedresser.” (John 15:1)

The whole Christian life depends on the clear consciousness of our position in Christ. . . .

“Because of him you are in Christ Jesus.” He would have us not only remember our union to Christ, but specially that it is not our own doing, but the work of God Himself. . . . If it is of God alone that I am in Christ, then God Himself, the Infinite One, becomes my security for all I can need or wish in seeking to abide in Christ. . . .

It is of great consequence that the mind should be led to see that at the back of our turning, and believing, and accepting of Christ, there was God’s almighty power doing its work – inspiring our will, taking possession of us, and carrying out its own purpose of love in planting us into Christ Jesus. . . .

The God who has chosen me and planted me in Christ, has thereby engaged to secure, if I will be let Him, by yielding myself to Him, that I in every way be worthy of Christ Jesus. . . .

Oh my soul! Yield yourself to the mighty influence of this word: “Because of him you are in Christ Jesus.” It is the same god of Whom Christ is made all that He is for us, of Whom we also are in Christ, and will most surely be made what we must be to Him. . . .

From eternity Christ and I were ordained for each other; inseparably we belong to each other: it is God’s will; I shall abide in Christ. It is of God I am in Christ Jesus.

from "Abide in Christ: Thoughts on the Blessed Life of Fellowship with the Son of God" by Andrew Murray

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Glorious Hope of God's Sovereign Purpose in the Recession

The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. (Psalm 46:6)

Chris Isidore,, November 13, 2009

“Most economists agree the U.S. economy is in recovery.”

Joel Belz, World Magazine, November 21, 2009
The terrible recession of 2008-2009 may have been severe, we tend to think, but it's bound to end. Recessions always end. . . . We think that way because deep down, we are all at least a little bit committed to a cyclical view of history. We all have some tendency to think: Everything that goes around comes around. . . . there's a repetitive pattern to history. . . .

. . . Christians need to remember that God's big narrative involves much more than a long series of little overlapping circles. God's grand story is very deliberately headed from Point A, on one end of the canvas, way over to Point B at the other end. Because God is constant and faithful, that story includes a few patterns, to be sure. But it would be a huge mistake to see the God of history as simply doing the same little thing over and over again. He's going somewhere! . . .

Our inclination is to suppose that the question is not whether the current recession will end, but when. But what would happen to our culture if God's response this time to our spendthrift habits were simply to determine that the current recession will continue for the next generation or two? What happens if some of our children spend most of their adult years wandering from one temporary job to another? What will our response be if they never find themselves able to buy their first home?

But only people of small faith reduce their god to a deity who goes in circles. Instead of merely repeating the past, we are headed for something gloriously new and different. God's people should never aim for, or be satisfied with, anything less.

Abide in Christ: As You Came to Him, by Faith - Andrew Murray

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. (Colossians 2:6-7)

Abiding in Jesus can only be by faith. . . . the one daily and unceasing duty of the disciple is to believe, because believing is the one channel through which divine grace and strength flow out into the heart of man. The old nature of the believer remains evil and sinful to the last; it is only as he daily comes, all empty and helpless, to his Saviour to receive of His life and strength, that he can bring forth the fruits of righteousness to the glory of God. . . .

And if you would know how faith is to be exercised in thus abiding in Jesus, to be rooted more deeply and firmly in Him, you have only to look back to the time when first you received Him. . . .

Remember dear soul, how you then were led, contrary to all that your experience, and your feelings, and even your sober judgment said, to take Jesus at His word, and how you were not disappointed. . . . and if He did this for you when you were an enemy and a stranger, what think you, now that you are His own, will He not much more fulfill His promise? . . .

It is the faith that continually closes its eyes to the weakness of the creature, and finds it joy in the sufficiency of an Almighty Saviour, that makes the soul strong and glad. . . . it makes the soul strong with the strength of God, to be and to do all that is needed for abiding in Christ.
from "Abide in Christ: Thoughts on the Blessed Life of Fellowship with the Son of God" by Andrew Murray

Friday, November 13, 2009

Abide in Christ: As the Branch in the Vine – Andrew Murray

"I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)

The parable teaches us the nature of that union. The connection between the vine and the branch is a living one. . . . the branch, whether an original or an engrafted one, is such only by the Creator’s own work, in virtue of which the life, the sap, the fatness, and the fruitfulness of the vine communicate themselves to the branch. And just so it is with the believer too. His union with his Lord is no work of human wisdom or human will, but an act of God, by which the close and most complete life-union is effected between the Son of God and the sinner. . . . The same Spirit which dwelt and still dwells in the Son, becomes the life of the believer; in the unity of that one Spirit, and the fellowship of the same life which is in Christ, he is one with Him. As between the vine and branch, it is a life-union that makes them one. . . .

Without the vine the branch can do nothing. To the vine it owes its right of place in the vineyard, its life and its fruitfulness. . . . The believer can each day be pleasing to God only in that which he does through the power of Christ dwelling in him. . . .

Every power of his being, every moment of his life, every thought and feeling, belong to Jesus, that from Him and for Him he may bring forth fruit. . . .

The parable teaches us the object of the union. The branches are for fruit and for fruit alone. . . . It is for fruit, much fruit, that the Father has made us one for Jesus. . . .

How little I have understood how great my need, by also how perfect my claim, to all His fullness! . . . Let me listen and believe, until my whole being cries out, “Jesus is indeed to me the True Vine, bearing me, nourishing me, supplying me, using me, and filling the to the full to make me bring forth fruit abundantly. . .

On my part, abiding is nothing but the acceptance of my position, the consent to be kept there, the surrender of faith to the strong Vine still to hold the feeble branch. Yes, I will, I do abide in Thee, blessed Lord Jesus.
from "Abide in Christ: Thoughts on the Blessed Life of Fellowship with the Son of God" by Andrew Murray

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Abide in Christ: Trusting Him to Keep You – Andrew Murray

I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. (Philippians 3:12)

Is it possible, a life of unbroken fellowship with the Saviour? . . .

Abiding in Him is not a work that we have to do as the condition for enjoying His salvation, but a consenting to let Him do all for us, and in us, and through us. It is a work He does for us – the fruit and the power of His redeeming love. Our part is simply to yield, to trust, and to wait for what He has engaged to perform. . . .

The grace to come and the grace to abide are like from Him alone. The word Come, heard, meditated on, accepted, was the cord of love that drew you nigh; that word Abide is even so the band with which He holds you fast and binds you to Himself. . . .

Keep you gaze fixed on Himself, holding you and waiting to lift you up, O say, could you not this very day take the upward step, and rise to enter upon this blessed life of abiding in Christ? . . .

O yield yourself this very day to the blessed Saviour in the surrender of the one thing He asks of you; give up yourself to abide in Him. He Himself will work it in you. You can trust Him to keep you trusting and abiding. . . .

“It is because Jesus has taken hold of me, and because Jesus keeps me, that I dare say: Saviour, I abide in Thee.”
from "Abide in Christ: Thoughts on the Blessed Life of Fellowship with the Son of God" by Andrew Murray

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Why We Are So Busy - Peter Kreeft

We ought to have much more time, more leisure, than our ancestors did, because technology, which is the most obvious and radical difference between their lives and ours, is essentially a series of time-saving devices.

In ancient societies, if you were rich you had slaves to do the menial work so that you could be freed to enjoy your leisure time. Life was like a vacation for the rich because the poor slaves were their machines. . . .

[But] now that everyone has slave-substitutes (machines), why doesn’t everyone enjoy the leisurely, vacationy lifestyle of the ancient rich? Why have we killed time instead of saving it? . . .

We want to complexify our lives. We don’t have to, we want to. We wanted to be harried and hassled and busy. Unconsciously, we want the very things we complain about. For if we had leisure, we would look at ourselves and listen to our hearts and see the great gaping hold in our hearts and be terrified, because that hole is so big that nothing but God can fill it.

So we run around like conscientious little bugs, scared rabbits, dancing attendance on our machines, our slaves, and making them our masters. We think we want peace and silence and freedom and leisure, but deep down we know that this would be unendurable to us, like a dark and empty room without distractions where we would be forced to confront ourselves. . .

If you are typically modern, your life is like a mansion with a terrifying hole right in the middle of the living-room floor. So you paper over the hole with a very busy wallpaper pattern to distract yourself. You find a rhinoceros in the middle of your house. The rhinoceros is wretchedness and death. How in the world can you hide a rhinoceros? Easy: cover it with a million mice. Multiple diversions.
From “Christianity for Modern Pagans, Pascal’s Pensees Edited, Outlined, and Explained” by Peter Kreeft, pp. 167-169.


Abide in Christ: And You Shall Find Rest to Your Souls - Andrew Murray

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:28-29)

Rest for the soul: Such was the first promise with which the Saviour sought to win the heavy-laden sinner. . .

First the Saviour says, “Come unto me, and I will give you rest” . . . and so the Saviour repeats His promise, in words which clearly speak not so much of the initial rest with which He welcomes the weary one who comes, but of the deeper and personally appropriated rest of the soul that abides with Him. . . .

Entire surrender to Jesus is the secret of perfect rest. . . . the rest is in Christ, and not something He gives apart from Himself, and so it is only in having Him that the rest really be kept and enjoyed. . . .

The yoke gives the rest,
because the moment the soul yields itself to obey, the Lord Himself gives the strength and joy to do it. . . . These two, consecration and faith, are the essential elements of the Christian life – the giving up all to Jesus, the receiving all from Jesus. They are implied in each other; they are united in the one word – surrender. A full surrender is to obey as well as to trust, to trust as well as to obey. . . .

It is His own work to keep us abiding when we yield ourselves to Him, that we shall venture to cast ourselves into the arms of His love, and abandon ourselves to His blessed keeping. It is not the yoke, but resistance to the yoke, that makes the difficulty; the whole-hearted surrender to Jesus, as at once our Master and our Keeper, finds and secures the rest. . . .

The power and perseverance to abide in the rest, and the blessing in abiding – it belongs to the Saviour to see to this; ‘tis mine to obey, ‘tis His to provide. . . . Abiding in Jesus is nothing but the giving up of oneself to be ruled and taught and led, and so resting in the arms of Everlasting Love.
from "Abide in Christ: Thoughts on the Blessed Life of Fellowship with the Son of God" by Andrew Murray

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Abide in Christ: All You Who Have Come to Him - Andrew Murray

Having just finished memorizing John 15:1-12, I am now working through Andrew Murray’s 31 day devotional “Abide in Christ: Thoughts on the Blessed Life of Fellowship with the Son of God’ - which is based on John 15:1-12. I will be posting a few quotes from each day on a regular basis. Below is the first day.
Abide in Me: All You Who Have Come To Him

"Come to me . . ." Matthew 11:28)
"Abide in me . . ." (John 15:4)

Observe especially it was not that He said, “Come to me and abide with me,” but, “Abide in me.” The intercourse was not only to be unbroken, but most intimate and complete. He opened His arms, to press you to His bosom; He opened His heart, to welcome you there; He opened up all His divine fullness of life and love, and offered to take you up into its fellowship, and make you wholly with Himself.

. . . Oh, let us enter in and abide, and enjoy to the full all the rich supply His wondrous love hath prepare for us!

Come, my brethren, and let us day by day set ourselves at His feet, and meditate on this word of His, with an eye fixed on Him alone. Let us set ourselves in quiet trust before Him, waiting to hear His holy voice – the still small voice that is mightier than the storm that rends the rocks – breathing its quickening spirit within us, as He speaks, “Abide in me.”

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Beauty of Pain - Joe Eaton

Here is quote by Joe Eaton, a young man who is permanently disabled with spina bifida, posted by John Knight on the volunteer disability ministry blog of Bethlehem Baptist Church. To read the whole article Click Here.

Both pain and pleasure are meant to point us to the same reality; namely, that Jesus Christ is infinitely beautiful and so much more than enough for our every need. Living for Him, even suffering for Him, is worth every moment of affliction! Why? Because Jesus shows you such beauty in pain, because He is there and He is carrying us through.
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:16-17)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Living out the Greatest Commandment

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." (Mark 12:30)

Oh Lord I come with heart here open,
For in my hour of darkness I'm in need.
Seeking the joy of love unspoken
Oh Lord be Thou near to me.

And the holy voices sing “Hallelu!”
Ever will Thy reign be.
As I wander through this life,
Oh Lord, be Thou near to me.

Though in this burden of my making
Yet in the shadows still a light I see
Maker whose love is not forsaking
Oh Lord be thou near to me.

And the holy voices sing “Hallelu!”
Ever will Thy reign be.
As I wander through this life,
Oh Lord, be Thou near to me.

And the holy voices sing “Hallelu!”
Ever will Thy reign be.
As I wander through this life,
Oh Lord, be Thou near to me.

Oh Lord
Be thou near
To me