The Blessed Deliverance

A few weeks ago I presented a sermon on the story of Joseph. The main point of the sermon highlighted how God was able to use a terrible circumstance that Joseph experienced and use it for the deliverance of many people. Joseph himself in speaking with his brothers who sold him into slavery stated “You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result–the survival of many people” Genesis 50:20, CSB). In the past I read the story of Joseph in such a way that I focused on how God was able to deliver Joseph from the terrible circumstance. However, the story itself far transcends the individual life of Joseph. The story in Genesis accounts for how the people in Egypt and beyond were able to have food during a great famine because of the provisions Joseph had made prior to the famine. The people near and far would have surely starved if it was not for these provisions but due to the powerful position of Joseph salvation from the famine was at hand. Who could have predicted this result back in Genesis chapter 37? This is the God we serve. A God capable of transforming the evil pursuits of man and bringing about a greater good.

A Short Thought On Spiritual Discipline

“Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness—without it no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:4, CSB)

The Bible calls Christians to the pursuit of holiness. Holiness is a life long journey that requires intentional action in order to develop. To develop holiness a Christian needs to practice spiritual disciplines that are described in scripture. Spiritual disciplines are both personal and interpersonal.[1]

The biblical spiritual disciplines include scripture study, service in local church, fasting, prayer, and evangelism. This list is not complete but all of these are biblical. Working to develop each one of these disciplines will take time. However, given enough practice each discipline will begin to move the believer to a more Christ like demeanor.

[1] Donald, S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines For The Christian Life, (Colorado Springs, CO: Nav Press, 2014),5.

“Lord Have Mercy On Us”

As they were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. There were two blind men sitting by the road. When they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” The crowd demanded that they keep quiet, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” Jesus stopped, called them, and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord,” they said to him, “open our eyes.”  Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they could see, and they followed him (Matthew 20:29-34, CSB 2017).

The book of Matthew gives an account of two blind men who were being verbally admonished for crying out to Jesus Christ as he was passing through. The crowd wanted the men to keep quiet, but they refused to listen and cried out even louder to Christ. The cries of these men were heard, and Jesus took mercy on them and opened their eyes and their vision was restored.

Imagine for a moment what could have happened if these two men would have silenced their pleading once the crowd demanded they keep quiet. Would they have received a miracle from Christ or would have Christ continued on his journey without performing a miracle? Scripture does not provide a direct answer to this question in Matthew chapter 20. However, Matthew highlights the point that the men cried out louder as the crowd attempted to control their action. This resulted in them gaining the attention of Christ and their request being granted.

The Christian walk is filled with detractors and distractions. In our own walk with Christ we are faced with moments that we must decide to show faith or sit down and be quiet. Do we listen to our own detractors who are critical of our faith? Do we listen to our own inner crowd that whispers in the back of our mind that God surely would not listen to my prayers because I am not a perfect Christian, or do we cry out louder over all the voices, Lord, have mercy on us?

Servant Leadership

“Then a dispute also arose among them about who should be considered the greatest. But he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who have authority over them have themselves called‘Benefactors.’ It is not to be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever is greatest among you should become like the youngest, and whoever leads, like the one serving” (Luke 22:24-26, CSB)

A simple definition of the term leadership could be stated as the act of leading a group or association. The term leadership is a buzz word in modern America. There are countless web articles, books, and seminars devoted to making people better leaders. These are often created by men and women who hold high leadership positions within society.

The evangelical church in 21st century America has turned to men and women who have had great success leading in the business world. However, these secular business models for leadership fail to translate to the church. The renowned pastor MacArthur notes “Some contemporary church leaders fancy themselves to be business men, media figures, entertainers, psychologists, philosophers, or lawyers.  Those notions contrast sharply with the tenor of the symbolism Scripture employs to depict spiritual leaders”.[1]

Leadership as defined by scripture calls the Christian to be a leader through being a servant. Leadership in the worldly sense can be a position of status and power. In the biblical sense the leader is often defined as a shepherd. As MacArthur notes “ Shepherds are without status. In most cultures shepherds occupy the lower rungs of society’s ladder”.[2] The role of shepherd is for all mature Christians in the church not just the pastor. It is the duty of all Christians to be servant leaders not only in the church, but in their homes and personal life.

What does it mean to be a servant leader? Christ himself demonstrated servant leadership when he washed the disciples feet. This was a task that was customarily performed by servants. This act showed the example of humbleness that is needed for Christian leadership. Just a shepherds serve their flocks by ensuring food, water, and safety, so should the Christian leaders ensure those around them are being taken care of in such a manner.

 

 

[1] John MacArthur, Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Biblically, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2005), xii.

[2] Ibid.

Bibliography

MacArthur, John. Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Biblically. Nashville. TN: Thomas Nelson, 2005.

 

In Spirit and in Truth

“But an hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. Yes, the Father wants such people to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24, HCSB).

What comes to mind when you think about Christian worship? For many Christians the answer is the Sunday morning worship service. However, this display of public worship is only a small piece of true biblical worship. To worship God one needs to first ask the question how do I worship God according to His word?

The modern world is an extremely busy place for most Christians. The day to day schedule can be a frantic duty. It becomes very easy to become a great multitasker, and to develop the skill of allowing our mind to be in two places at once. While this skill may be useful at times, it can be disastrous for Christian worship.

When a Christian engages God in worship they must give themselves fully to God in both heart and thought. True worship requires the believer to understand that God is worthy of our worship and worshiping God is not done out of obligation but out of desire. When a Christian has a high view of God they are compelled to worship God because of his great majesty.

The book of John makes clear the teachings of Christ concerning right worship.  This right worship is done in spirit and truth. The Bible states “ Therefore I am informing you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3).

To worship God one must rely on the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will focus the heart and mind of the believer allowing them to properly worship God.The second aspect is to worship God in truth. The source of truth is the Bible. In order to understand the right worship of God one must turn to scripture to receive instruction from God on what is true worship.

Worship is not something Christians just do for an hour on Sunday morning. True Christian worship is spirit filled and rooted in biblical truth. A Christian worships God by spending time with Him daily. This can be done in prayer, scripture study, devotions, and song. A Christian should first worship God, and make time for everything else second because nothing deserves our time and adoration more than God.

Loving Your Neighbor Through Prayer

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 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is: Love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no other command greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31, HCSB).[1]

The above passage of scripture calls all Christians to an all-consuming  love of God that requires all aspects of an individual’s being. The second calling in this passage, is to love others as a Christian loves themselves. Both of these callings are challenging. However, for this post the second call of loving a neighbor will be the primary focus.

Loving ones neighbor is a broad subject. A Christian can show a Christ like love for their neighbors through many avenues. However, the greatest resource a Christian can offer a fellow brother or sister is their prayers. Christians do well to pray for others in church and at home, especially when someone they know is facing a difficult time.  These types of prayers are wonderful and should be a part of every Christians prayer list, but praying for others should not be exclusive to times of difficulty.

Paul provides several examples in scripture for how and why to pray for others. Paul does not only pray for people when they are sick but at all times for various reasons. 2 Thessalonians provides such examples of the diversity of the prayers of Paul.

“And in view of this, we always pray for you that our God will consider you worthy of His calling, and will, by His power, fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith,  so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified by you, and you by Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 1:11-12)

“May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal encouragement and good hope by grace,  encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good work and word” (2 Thess. 3:2-5).

 “And that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful; He will strengthen and guard you from the evil one. We have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do what we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to God’s love and Christ’s endurance” ( 2 Thess. 3:2-5)

The scholar D.A. Carson covers the topic of praying for others in chapter four of his book Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation. Carson provides many great insights on this subject but a particular point resonates. Carson states “our praying will be shaped by our profound desire to seek what is best for the people of God”.[2] If Christians truly love their neighbors then certainly this will be reflected in their prayer life. They will pray for others not only in times of illness or despair but at all times with a desire to see the best for their brothers and sisters achieved in their life.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages referenced are in the Holman Christian Standard Bible, (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009).

[2] D.A. Carson, Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014), 55.

Bibliography

Carson, D.A. Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014.

High View of God

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In the opening pages of his book Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer opens with a pressing proposition. According to Tozer many Christians fail to produce a high view of God. Instead they utilize a low concept of God that is completely unworthy of the heavenly Father. The problem of a low view of God is it effects every aspect of a Christian walk.

A Christian develops a low view of God when they construct their understanding of God from their own mind and experiences that are not based in scripture. God has revealed Himself to the world through His word. However, many Christians neglect reading scripture which in turn leaves them oblivious to the true nature of God.  This results in Christians practicing a form of idolatry.

The sin of idolatry is the worship of any other god or object outside of the true God as revealed in the Bible. Idolatry does not require bowing at an alter of a physical object. A Christian who builds God in their own image is guilty of idolatry because they have replaced the God of the Bible with one they have constructed. This in turn results in the adoration and worship of a god that is not based in scripture.

A Christian needs to seek after the true nature of God and ensure that a high view of God as found in scripture is at the foundation of their faith. A building is only as good as the foundation that it is positioned on and this is true of the Christian faith as well. A Christian who has a false belief about the true nature of God will discover every other aspect of their faith will be in error. A Christian who is devoted to a high view of God and seeks after His nature in the Bible will have a faith set on a true foundation and their relationship with God will prosper.

Psalm 104 Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

Psalm 104

God the Creator

My soul, praise Yahweh! Lord my God, You are very great; You are clothed with majesty and splendor. He wraps Himself in light as if it were a robe, spreading out the sky like a canopy, laying the beams of His palace on the waters above, making the clouds His chariot, walking on the wings of the wind, and making the winds His messengers,[a] flames of fire His servants.

He established the earth on its foundations; it will never be shaken. You covered it with the deep as if it were a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. At Your rebuke the waters fled; at the sound of Your thunder they hurried away— mountains rose and valleys sank[b]— to the place You established for them. You set a boundary they cannot cross; they will never cover the earth again.

10 He causes the springs to gush into the valleys; they flow between the mountains. 11 They supply water for every wild beast; the wild donkeys quench their thirst. 12 The birds of the sky live beside the springs; they sing among the foliage. 13 He waters the mountains from His palace; the earth is satisfied by the fruit of Your labor.

14 He causes grass to grow for the livestock and provides crops for man to cultivate, producing food from the earth, 15 wine that makes man’s heart glad— making his face shine with oil— and bread that sustains man’s heart.

16 The trees of the Lord flourish,[c] the cedars of Lebanon that He planted. 17 There the birds make their nests; the stork makes its home in the pine trees. 18 The high mountains are for the wild goats; the cliffs are a refuge for hyraxes.

19 He made the moon to mark the[d] festivals;[e] the sun knows when to set. 20 You bring darkness, and it becomes night, when all the forest animals stir. 21 The young lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God. 22 The sun rises; they go back and lie down in their dens. 23 Man goes out to his work and to his labor until evening.

24 How countless are Your works, Lord! In wisdom You have made them all; the earth is full of Your creatures.[f] 25 Here is the sea, vast and wide, teeming with creatures beyond number— living things both large and small. 26 There the ships move about, and Leviathan, which You formed to play there.

27 All of them wait for You to give them their food at the right time. 28 When You give it to them, they gather it; when You open Your hand, they are satisfied with good things. 29 When You hide Your face, they are terrified; when You take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. 30 When You send Your breath,[g] they are created, and You renew the face of the earth.

31 May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in His works. 32 He looks at the earth, and it trembles; He touches the mountains, and they pour out smoke. 33 I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God while I live. 34 May my meditation be pleasing to Him; I will rejoice in the Lord. 35 May sinners vanish from the earth and wicked people be no more. My soul, praise Yahweh! Hallelujah!

 

Growing in Faith

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“ His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. By these He has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge,  knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness,  godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love” (2 Peter 1:3-7, HCSB).[1]

The above passage of scripture is known by many as the ladder of faith. The Bible teaches Christians to nurture their faith throughout their earthly life. A Christian who becomes complacent and is not actively seeking to grow their faith, will run the risk of operating outside the will of God. To grow faith one must constantly seek God in prayer.

The importance of prayer to the Christian walk can never be overstated. There are many issues facing the church in modern times. There is a need to fix the issue of biblical illiteracy.[2]  A need exists to better engage the community with evangelism. Furthermore, there is a need to teach the importance of love. These issues and more need to be addressed by the church.

However, one could surmise these challenges could be reduced to one major problem. The church needs to rediscover God. This is not to claim all Christians need to receive a PhD in Theology. The academic pursuit of God through the study of Theology is a noble pursuit, but this head knowledge of God is not sufficient to confront the current challenges facing the church.  Christians need to know God through an intimate personal relationship with him.

The first step for a Christian to develop their faith and build a personal relationship with God is to develop a real prayer life. A Christian should be praying daily, and communicating with God about all aspects of their life. This type of prayer is far greater than a routine prayer. A Christian should have a prayer list and a conversation ready when they approach the throne of their heavenly Father.

Real prayer has great power. Scripture gives a shining example as to the magnitude of the grace of God when a servant of God approaches His throne through sincere prayer. Moses knew God on a personal level, and God knew Moses, scripture states  “Please pardon the wrongdoing of this people, in keeping with the greatness of Your faithful love, just as You have forgiven them from Egypt until now. The Lord responded, “I have pardoned them as you requested” (Numbers 14:19-20). This is the type of response one can receive when God is not only their King but their best friend as well.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages referenced are in the Holman Christian Standard Bible, (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009).

[2] D.A. Carson, Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014), xi.

Bibliography

Carson, D.A. Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014