Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Word of God Saves

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18

New Testament Stops Bullets, Saves Man
By Julia Lull, CNN February 25, 2014

If not for the Bible, the bullets would have gone right through his heart.

A public transit bus driver in Dayton, Ohio, was attacked by three teenagers early Monday morning after his bus broke down on the side of the road, police told CNN affiliate WHIO.

Rickey Wagoner, 49, was shot three times at point-blank range and stabbed in the arm, but survived because both bullets aimed at his chest were stopped by a New Testament devotional Bible in his front pocket, according to WHIO. The third bullet struck him in the leg.

"There was obviously some kind of intervention involved in this incident, because he probably should not be here," Dayton Police Sgt. Michael Pauley told WHIO.

Wagoner told police he believes the assault was part of a gang initiation. Wagoner said he heard one suspect tell another that he needed to "kill the polar bear" in order to be "all the way in the club," according to WHIO.

Dayton police, however, said it was too early in the investigation to draw any conclusions about the motive.

During the attack, Wagoner told police, he used an aluminum pen from his pocket to stab one of the teenage boys in the leg, according to WHIO. The suspects dropped the gun and fled as Wagoner picked up the weapon and opened fire.

Wagoner was transported to a hospital and was being treated for a bullet wound to the leg, among other injuries, according to WHIO. His injuries are not life-threatening, police said.

Police were searching for the three male suspects.

The condition of the book, which police described as a religious devotional entitled "The Message," was unknown. "The Message" is a translation of the Bible into contemporary language by Eugene Peterson. 


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Giving to God: Humble Service

Mark 10:32-52              February 23, 2014               Link for audio/video/document

One of the greatest stumbling blocks we face in giving of ourselves to God is our natural fallen tendency to pursue our own selfish ambitions rather than the ambitions that God calls us to. But selfish ambition has no place in the life of a person who has received the gift of the ultimate self-sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We were created in the image of a grace-giving God, and we are called to graciously give of ourselves as God sacrificially gave to us through Jesus Christ. The greatest of ambition in life as defined by God is not about a life affirmed by position or praise or recognition or security or comfort – but rather about a life emptied into the person of Jesus Christ for service to God and service to others.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Giving to God: Fasting and Feeding

Isaiah 58:6-12                   February 16, 2014              Link for audio/video/document

Every person on earth has a story, but few people on earth know the story of Jesus. We all have a story to share - and God has a story for us to share. It’s the story of how God sent his only Son to die on a cross for the forgiveness of sins; a story of how when we receive Jesus as Lord and Savior we are forgiven, redeemed, healed and restored back to God. God calls us to a life of worship – and if we are truly worshipping and fasting for God we will be sharing and feeding Jesus with those in need, just as God sacrificially shared Jesus with us. God promises He will bless us when we do. God is active for His people when they are active for others in when we give to God through fasting and feeding!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Put Yourself in the Path of God's Grace - David Mathis

I can flip a switch, but I don’t provide the electricity. I can turn on a faucet, but I can’t make the water flow. There will be no light and no liquid refreshment without someone else providing it.
And so it is, in a limited sense, for the Christian with the ongoing grace of God. His grace is essential for our spiritual lives, but we don’t control the supply. We can’t make the grace flow, but God has given us circuits to connect and pipes to open in case it’s there.
Our God is lavish in his grace, often liberally dispensing his favor without even the least bit of cooperation and preparation on our part. But he also has his regular channels. And we can routinely avail ourselves of these revealed paths of blessing, or neglect them to our detriment.

The Places Where the Grace Keeps Passing

“The essence of the Christian life,” says one seasoned saint, “is learning to fight for joy in a way that does not replace grace.” We cannot earn God’s grace or make it flow apart from his free gift. But we can position ourselves to go on getting should he keep giving. We can “fight to walk in the paths where he has promised his blessings” (John Piper,When I Don’t Desire God, 43–44). We can ready ourselves for receiving along his regular route sometimes called “the spiritual disciplines.”
Such practices are not fancy or highfalutin. They are the stuff of everyday, basic Christianity — unimpressively mundane, but spectacularly potent by the Spirit. While there’s no final and complete list of such spiritual disciplines, the long tally of helpful habits can be clustered into three big groups: hearing God’s voice, having God’s ear, and being with God’s people. Or simply: word, prayer, and fellowship.
These were called “the means of grace” by previous generations. “The doctrine of the disciplines,” says J.I. Packer, “is really a restatement and extension of classical Protestant teaching on the means of grace” (Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, 9). Whatever the term, the key is that God has revealed certain channels through which he regularly pours out his favor. And we’re foolish not to take his word on it.

What “Means of Grace” Means

To put means with grace might endanger the free nature of grace. But it need not do so — not if the means are coordinate with receiving and the exertions of effort are graciously supplied. Which is emphatically the case for the Christian. Here there is no ground for boasting.
The one on whom we lean is “the God of all grace” (1 Peter 5:10). He not only elects the undeserving without condition, and works in them the miracle of new birth and the gift of faith, but he also freely declares them righteous by that faith, and begins supplying the flow of spiritual life and energy to experience the joy of increasing Christlikeness.
God’s immense flood of grace not only sees us as holy in Christ, but also progressively produces holy desires in us. It is grace to be forgiven of sinful acts, and grace to be supplied the heart for righteous ones. It is grace that we are increasingly “conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29), and grace that he doesn’t leave us in the misery of our sin but pledges to bring to completion the good work he has begun in us (Philippians 1:6).
For the glory of God, the good of others, and the satisfaction of our souls, the goal of the Christian life is such Christlikeness, or godliness, or holiness rightly understood. And all our exertions of effort toward that goal are gifts of grace.

Train Yourself for Godliness

Yes, it is grace, and yes, we expend effort. And so Paul says to his protégé, “Train yourself for godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7). Discipline yourself for growth. Take regular action to get more of God in your mind and your heart, and echo him in your life — this is “godliness.” It’s a gift, and we receive it as we become it.
Paul’s own reliance on God for ongoing grace is a powerful testimony to this means-of-grace dynamic. He says in 1 Corinthians 15:10, “by the grace of God I am what I am . . . . I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” God’s grace didn’t make Paul passive, but supplied the energy for discipline, and every ounce of energy expended was all of grace.
Or Romans 15:18: “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me.” Jesus’s grace didn’t mean accomplishing this purpose despite Paul, or apart from him, but through him. Where does Paul get the power to labor and expend such spiritual effort? “I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Colossians 1:29).

How to Receive the Gift of Effort

This dynamic is true not because Paul is an apostle, but because he is a Christian. So he says to every believer, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” because of this great promise: “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12–13). And so Hebrews closes his magisterial epistle with a prayer for God’s “working in us that which is pleasing in his sight” (Hebrews 13:20–21).
The way to receive the gift of God’s empowering our actions is to do the actions. If he gives the gift of effort, we receive that gift by expending the effort. When he gives the grace of growing in holiness, we don’t receive that gift apart from becoming more holy. When he gives us the desire to get more of him in his word, or in prayer, or among his people, we don’t receive that gift without experiencing the desire and living the pursuits which flow from it.

Lay Yourself in the Way of Allurement

Zacchaeus may have been a wee little man, but he modeled this big reality by positioning himself along the path of grace. He couldn’t force Jesus’s hand, he couldn’t make grace flow, but he could put himself along the path where Grace was coming (Luke 19:1–10). The same was true of blind Bartimaeus (Luke 18:35–43). He couldn’t earn the restoration of his sight, but he could position himself along the route of grace where Jesus might give the gift as he passed that way.
“Think of the Spiritual Disciplines,” says Don Whitney, “as ways we can place ourselves in the path of God’s grace and seek him as Bartimaeus and Zacchaeus placed themselves in Jesus’s path and sought him” (Spiritual Disciplines, 19). Or as Jonathan Edwards puts it, we can “endeavor to promote spiritual appetites by laying yourself in the way of allurement.”
God’s regular channels of grace are his word, his ear, and his people. So often, he showers his people with unexpected favor. But typically the grace that sends our roots deepest, truly grows us up in Christ, and produces lasting spiritual maturity, streams from the ordinary and unspectacular paths of fellowship, prayer, and Bible intake in its many forms.
While these simple “means of grace” may seem as unimpressive as everyday switches and faucets, through them God regularly stands ready to give his true light and the water of life.
© 2014 Desiring God

Monday, February 10, 2014

Giving to God: The Value of the Kingdom

Matthew 13:44-50          February 9, 2014          Link for audio/video/document

Decisions are difficult because every choice carries with it an element of risk and cost. Every choice we make is based on what we value; every decision carries with it consequences. Choosing treasures of this world may not cost us much in this life, but it will cost us at the end of this life. Choosing treasures of the kingdom of heaven may cost us much in this life, but the value of that cost is not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed to us through Jesus Christ. When we give to God first as He has given to us in Jesus, all other giving is then joyfully easy - because the greatest treasure and most joyful treasure we can ever know is Jesus Christ!