Monday, November 29, 2010

Giving Glory to God in Gain . . . and in Loss?

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)

from CNN Belief Blog by Eric Marrapodi - November 29th, 2010
Wide out blames God for dropped ball

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson dropped a game-winning touchdown in the end zone Sunday in overtime against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Anyone who has ever tossed the pigskin around in the back yard dreams of that scenario - minus the drop, of course.

Johnson did not even have to work for the ball. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's pass was text-book perfect, landing squarely in Johnson's hands. After the game, Johnson's twitter account filed this faithy tweet:


Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Powerful and Pain-filled Path of Victorious Prayer

. . . praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints . . . (Ephesians 6:18)

Excerpt from “Walking in Victory: The Power to Overcome” – 2010-11-28
History records that the early African converts to Christianity were earnest and regular in their prayer lives. Each one reportedly had a separate spot in the bush where he or she would pour out their hearts to God. Over time the paths to these prayer places became well worn. As a result, if one of these believers began to neglect their prayer life, it was soon apparent to the others, for they would kindly remind the negligent one: "Brother (or sister) there is grass growing on your path." Friends, how much grass is growing on your prayer path? Do you even have a prayer path? Do you have a path that leads to the throne of God, where you are pouring out your heart to Him? Without tapping in the heart of God through the power of prayer, you will never fully know victory over the presence of sin in your own life or over the forces of evil that abound in this world.

General Dwight Eisenhower once said: “There are no victories at discount prices.” Nothing less will than praying in the power of God that raised Jesus Christ from the dead will bring victory in the our lives over the darkness of sin and evil and death in us and around us. Jesus is our hope and our victory. Prayer is our power to overcome. That victory is ours when we pray. Though prayer may not rescue us from our circumstances, prayer will give us the power over our circumstances - because the power of the risen Christ will lift us above any and all circumstances, even death itself.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Sovereign Purposes of God in the Difficulties of Life

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

From the book “Knowing God” by J. I. Packer, pg. 97.
God in his wisdom means to make something of us which we have not attained yet, and he is dealing with us accordingly. . .

Perhaps he means to strengthen us in patience, good humor, compassion, humility, or meekness, by giving us some extra practice in exercising these graces under especially difficult conditions.

Perhaps he has new lessons in self-denial and self-distrust to teach us.

Perhaps he wishes to break us of complacency, or unreality, or undetected forms of pride and conceit.

Perhaps his purpose is simply to draw us closer to himself in conscious communion with him; for it is often the case, as all the saints know, that fellowship with the Father and the Son is most vivid and sweet, and Christian joy is greatest, when the cross is heaviest. . . .

Or perhaps God is preparing us for forms of service of which at present we have no inkling. . .

We may be frankly bewildered at things that happen to us, but God knows exactly what he is doing, and what he is after, in his handling of our affairs.

Always, and in everything, he is wise: we shall see that hereafter, even where we never saw it here. .

Meanwhile, we ought not to hesitate to trust his wisdom, even when he leaves us in the dark.

Praise the Lord for All You’ve Got

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
And his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 100:1-5

The following is a web-posting written by Alex Tokarev from World Magazine 2010-11-23
Eleven years ago my wife and I moved from Bulgaria to the United States. We came for the freedom and the opportunity this country offers to those who are willing to take risks and work hard in the pursuit of their dreams. For a few years we lived as students on my scholarship at Southern Illinois University. Teaching one undergraduate course in economics per semester provided us with about $2,500 annual income per capita (less than $7 per person per day).

I could not afford textbooks so I studied in the university bookstore. I took notes in class on old fliers and printed out my homework on the back of used sheets of paper. We had no cable, no TV, no DVD player. Instead of going to the movies, we would listen to the radio at home or go to the library and watch old videotapes. We would walk or hitch a ride to Walmart or Aldi to buy a medium frozen pizza for $1.99 and make lunch and dinner for two out of it. When our soccer team, F.C. Levski, won an important game, we would celebrate with a choice from the dollar menu at Taco Bell or McDonald’s.

You probably think that we must have felt financially distressed? The truth is that I felt lucky. I knew that my parents, tenured full-time professors at a Bulgarian university, made about the same amount of money (adjusted for the cost of living). Yes, our income was less than a quarter of the average bottom-earning household quintile of Americans. Yet we always paid our credit cards in full.

We were thankful for the used clothes and furniture we received from local churches. Even more so we were thankful for the encouragement and the friendship of the people in Carbondale, Ill., who shared meals and Scriptural lessons with us. We learned from them that the first step to happiness is to praise the Lord for all you’ve got. Statistics would label most of these people “poor” relative to the average American, but their thankful hearts knew how to resist envy and how to share their blessings with others. That attitude makes them the wealthiest people we have ever met in our lives.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

O God, In You I Take Refuge, Till the Storms of Destruction Pass By

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;

in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by

Psalm 57:1

A supercell thunderstorm rolls across the Montana prairie at sunset.
Photo by Sean Heavey from The Big Picture.

The Joyful Differences in the God-created Relationship of Marriage

Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. (Ephesians 5:24-25)

Excerpt from “Walk in Harmony: The Family of God” – 2010-11-21
When God created the world, he created Adam first. And even when the world was perfect, God looked at Adam and said: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18). What this means is that Eve had something Adam needed. Women were created by God because men lacked something that only women can provide. Eve was not a clone of Adam, but rather somebody like him – also created in God’s image - but also quite different. Adam and Eve together, in being one flesh, reflected the image of the beauty and glory and character of God.

This was the only perfect marriage that has ever existed. The differences between Adam and Eve were in perfect complement to one another: joyfully amazing, and filled with glorious love. Adam, in being created first and by lovingly sacrificing himself for Eve (his rib), became the leader of the relationship. Eve, in being created out of her husband, served the complementary role of helper. But the Bible tells us that sin distorted those roles. Their joy-filled differences suddenly became reasons for tension. We hear that when God said to Eve: "Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you" (Genesis 3:16). The word “desire” here in the Hebrew is not a good kind of desire but rather a “desire” to “rule over.” And so when sin came into Eve’s life, her desire would be to “rule over” Adam. As a result of the fall Eve would seek to reverse God’s plan and lead Adam; and Adam would stop lovingly leading and caring for his wife. Their desires become distorted, and we still live with the effects today. Rather than providing humble, loving, sacrificial leadership, a husband will be prone to becoming overbearing and harsh or emotionally distant. Rather than being a humble, loving, submissive helper to her husband, a wife will be prone to opposing her husband and asserting her leadership over him.

God’s Word tells us that we were designed to be incomplete as males and females by ourselves, but when a man and a women gets married - there is completeness that happens: "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). We were designed to be different, but complementary. We are equal in rank before God and one another, but unequal in created role by God and for one another. God created men and women with irreversible and wonderful differences that are to be enjoyed together - rather than struggled with or fought for. There is a difference between us - and before sin distorted us that difference was all good. The Word of God is not presenting a case for a traditional, patriarchal view of marriage. And neither is the Bible arguing against modern forms of marriage in our contemporary world. God is telling us here: “This is how I created men and women – and their relationship together. And this is how it is supposed to be.”

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Headship and Submission: The Recovery of Eden - John Piper

Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. . . (Ephesians 5:24-25)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pray for Iraqi Christians!

"Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved." (Matthew 10:21-22)

For Iraqi Christians, fear is knocking

(November 16, 2010 - CNN) -- She lives in a paralyzing state of "constant and fear" and it's forcing her to keep her children indoors and out of school.

That's how one Baghdad woman describes the dire predicament faced by her and other Iraqi Christians, a dwindling community that is enduring another string of anti-Christian sectarian assaults in Baghdad and in Mosul.

The woman, who didn't want to be identified because of fear for her life, said security hasn't been beefed up since the assaults began on October 31, when the Sayidat al-Nejat Cathedral, or Our Lady of Salvation Church, was attacked.

"We only have God," said the woman, who lost a family member in the church attack. "God is the only one watching over us."

Her words reflect the fears across the world of the ancient Iraqi Christian community, a people that numbered 1.4 million people in 2003, before the war in Iraq, and is estimated to now be only 500,000, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said.
To read the rest of the article, Click Here.

Gunmen kill two Christians in Northern Iraq

(November 16, 2010 - World Magazine) -- Still reeling from an al-Qaeda assault on a Baghdad Catholic church that killed 68 people, Iraq’s Christians received further reason to grieve after gunmen killed two Christians in Iraq’s northern city of Mosul, officials said Tuesday.

Days after the church slaughter, militants attacked houses of Christians across Baghdad, killing five people. The same al-Qaeda front group took responsibility for those assaults, saying both were in line with Islamic extremists’ resolve to strike Christians in Iraq and wherever they can be found.

In Tuesday’s attack, gunmen broke into the house of two Christian men and shot them, a police officer said, bringing the death toll among members of Iraq’s Christian community, who have fled en masse in the face of persecution after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, to 75 people this month.

The home of another Christian family in a different neighborhood of eastern Mosul was also bombed overnight. No one was killed, but the attack wounded a bystander.

Also Monday morning in Mosul, twin car bombs detonated outside a residential complex housing prison guards and staff killed a prison commander and his bodyguard.

Hundreds of terrified Christian families have fled Mosul to escape extremist attacks and sectarian violence between Sunni and Shiite militias unleashed by the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Mosul is Iraq’s third largest city. Christians have lived there for some 1,800 years and a number of centuries-old churches and monasteries still stand.

The city is also a former Sunni insurgents stronghold where Iraqi Christians have been subjected to abductions and a killing campaign since 2007 when al-Qaeda militants controlled many parts of the city.

Radical Faith

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?" (Matthew 16:24-26)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Walk in Love as Christ Loved Us

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2)

Excerpt from “Walking in Love: Imitators of God” - 2010-11-14
Jesus imitated God’s love by carrying a cross to Calvary so that we might know the forgiveness of our sins. His “walk in love” saved our souls. We are called to that same sacrificial “walk in love.” There is nothing that you or I can to do make God love us more; there is nothing we can do to make God love us less. His love is unconditional, impartial, everlasting, infinite, and perfect. If we are truly “imitators of God” our love with be the same. . . .

Not long ago I read part of a journal from a missionary who just returned from Africa. He writes the following: “She was lying on the ground. In her arms she held a tiny baby girl. As I put a cooked sweet potato into her outstretched hand, I wondered if she would live until morning. Her strength was almost gone, but her tired eyes acknowledged my gift. The sweet potato could help so little -- but it was all I had. Taking a bite she chewed it carefully. Then, placing her mouth over her baby's mouth, she forced the chewed up soft, warm food into the tiny infant’s throat. Although the mother was starving, she used the entire potato to keep her baby alive. Exhausted from her effort, she dropped her head on the ground and closed her eyes. In a few minutes the baby was asleep. I later learned that during the night the mother's heart stopped, but her little girl lived.” Jesus said: "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" (John 12:24); "For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it" (Luke 9:24). . . .

Love is a costly thing. God, in His love for us "did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all” (Romans 8:32). Love is costly, and “in Christ” we are called to walk in that same love. That kind of love will cost you. It will cost us as parents and as sons and as daughters and as brothers and as sisters and friends. That kind of love will cost a pastor or an evangelist or missionary their lives. Pastors and evangelists and missionaries must often give up everything they have – even life itself - to make the Jesus known. Yet, that’s the kind of “walk in love” we are all called to. Jesus loves us and gave his life for us. If we truly love him, we will do the same.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Cross-Answered Prayers

Prayer Answered by Crosses
by John Newton

I asked the Lord that I might grow 

In faith and love and every grace, 

Might more of his salvation know, 

And seek more earnestly his face.

‘Twas he who taught me thus to pray; 

And he, I trust, has answered prayer; 

But it has been in such a way 

As almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that, in some favoured hour, 

At once he’d answer my request, 

And by his love’s constraining power 

Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this, he made me feel 

The hidden evils of my heart, 

And let the angry powers of hell 

Assault my soul in every part.

Yea, more, with his own hand he seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe, 

Crossed all the fair designs I schemed, 

Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

Lord, why is this? I trembling cried; 

Wilt thou pursue this worm to death? 

This is the way, the Lord replied
I answer prayer for grace and faith.

These inward trials I now employ 

From self and pride to set thee free,
And break thy schemes of earthly joy, 

That thou may’st seek thy all in me.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Google vs. The Holy Spirit

These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.
For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.

(1 Corinthians 2:10)

Knowing Jesus Dramatically Changes Your Life

Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24)

Excerpt from
“Walking with Christ: The New Life” - 2010-11-07

The Bible teaches us the knowing Jesus happens when you have an encounter with Jesus that dramatically changes your life. Now that encounter may happen like a giant tidal wave or by the light pattering of rain over a long period of time. But nonetheless, it is a dramatic putting off the “old self” and a dramatic putting on the “new self” that is evidenced by a melting of the heart; by an acute self-awareness of sin; by a yearning for a greater understanding of God; by learning about Jesus and listening to Jesus and seeing Jesus in the context of our everyday lives; and by embracing of the truth God, an anger about sin, an honesty in relationships, a talk that matches our walk, a forgiving spirit that is rooted the grace and mercy and love we have received through Jesus Christ.

Jesus had a dramatic affect on every person he encountered in the Bible – they either angrily rejected him or they fully embraced him. Those who embraced him were looking for a new life; those who rejected him were not. A story it told of man who bought a new radio, brought it home, placed it on his refrigerator, plugged it in, and tuned it to WSM in Nashville, Tennessee - home of the Grand Ole Opry. He then pulled all the knobs off - because he had already tuned into all he ever wanted or expected to hear. The standard by which he set his musical tastes was set. I fear many who claim Jesus are settled into living their lives in the same way. . . .

Those who truly know Jesus want more of Jesus. And they don’t just talk like they want more of Jesus, they “walk” like that want more of Jesus – even in the face of mighty rivers filled with hazardous rapids, unknown waterfalls, mysterious currents, and unknown dangers around each bend. Yesterday morning I was blessed to spend time with brothers and sisters who are in process of joining our church. Our time together was filled with deep emotion and overflowing with tears as each one told of how Jesus had sovereignly entered their lives and rescued them from their “old selves” and gave them a new life. They are joining us because they want more Jesus with us.

The Sovereign Grace of God in Understanding

I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart! (Psalm 119:32)

Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. . . . As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty." (Matthew 13:10-12, 23).

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (2 Corinthians 4:6)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Martin Luther and Sanctification

Currently I am experiencing a season of which - between ministry and family and life - I am feeling a great deal of weight and heaviness. In such times it’s always abundantly clear God has a number of sovereign plans and purposes that He is carrying out, the most personal being - for my own sanctification. I deeply grateful that God loves me enough to do so! Martin Luther once wrote:

This life therefore is not righteousness but growth in righteousness;
not health but healing;
not being but becoming;
not rest but exercise.
We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it.
The process is not finished, but it is going on.
This is not the end, but it is the road.
All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified.