Great Song!

Written By: John - Oct• 23•14

What are you Memorizing?

Written By: John - Oct• 22•14

We know what the Word says about memorization; “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you,” (Ps 119:11 ESV) but do we work on memorization. Do we work at it? Let me ask it a little differently…what passage are you memorizing right now? If you are not memorizing the Word of God day-by-day, you will not live a Christ-like life and you will continue to struggle with the same sins day after day.

Jerry Bridges said,

“I am very much aware that Scripture memorization has largely fallen by the wayside in our day…But let me say as graciously but firmly as I can: WE cannot effectively pursue holiness without the Word of God stored up in our minds where it can be used by the Holy Spirit to transform us…” (Disciplines of Grace, quoted in Don Whitney’s Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.)

Memorization is hard work and that is why so few do it, but it is also good work. Memorization takes effort and that is why so few do it, but it is effort that brings forth great fruit. Don Whitney lists several benefits of memorization:

  • It supplies spiritual power,
  • It strengthens your faith,
  • It prepares us for witnessing and counseling,
  • It provides a means of Gods’ guidance, and
  • It stimulates meditation.

You and I can memorize scripture, but we must work at it day after day. I’ve found times of great success, but I’ve also grown weary of the effort. I want to encourage you to understand just how important it is and to commit your life to hiding God’s Word into your heart. Let me give you a few things to consider.

First, choose a passage of Scripture. I’m working on Romans 8, but you might choose the Beatitudes, the Lord’s Prayer, a Psalm, or any number of passages. I think memorizing a chapter or a small book, like Jude would be very helpful.

Second, write out the verses you want to memorize. I’ve found index cards work the best. Write them out and go over them. Start with the first verse and memorize it phrase by phrase and then add to it day-by-day. I’ve found that sitting down and typing them out from memory helps me see my progress and it demonstrates the areas I need to work on as I continue to memorize.

Third, review, review, and review over and over again. I have found that MemVerse really helps with this. You can enter the passage you want to memorize and they will help you systematically memorize it.

Finally, do it until you have it in your long-term memory. I don’t have to review John 3:16 or John 10:10 or Romans 3:23 ever again…it is there in my mind and will stay there, but until I get those verses in my mind I must review.

There is More Beyond!

Written By: John - Oct• 21•14

In his commentary on 2 Corinthians, R Kent Hughes shares the following,

“When Spain has extended her conquests to the ends of the then-known world and controlled both sides of the Mediterranean at the Straits of Gibraltar, her coins proudly pictured the Pillars framing a scroll inscribed with the Latin words Ne Plus Ultra—‘No More Beyond.’ The Pillars gated the end of the earth. But in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue and discovered the New Word. The proud nation then admitted her ignorance and struck the negative Ne from her coinage, leaving the words Plus Ultra—‘More Beyond.’”

As Jesus followers our great creed for this life is simple—there is more beyond. We often fight to live as if there was nothing beyond us and we certainly often live as if this is all that there is, but any honest study of the Bible reveals that the best is yet to come. The greatest need in our culture is the need to live for something beyond ourselves and to know that in this life only what is done for Christ will last throughout the next life.

Three Expectations as we Make much of Jesus!

Written By: John - Oct• 20•14

Yesterday our Journey through Acts took us to the first leg of the first Missionary Journey in Acts 13:4-12. What I find interesting is that the worship, prayer, and fasting of verses 1-3 produced the missionary journey. As Matt Redman reminds us in one of his songs—worship is the fuel for missions flame.

I found three expectations in the passage that were true for Paul and Barnabas and will also be true for us.

First, we can expect God to provide the opportunity for us to make much of Jesus.

Second, as we make much of Jesus we can expect the enemy to provide the opposition.

And finally, we can also expect God to take care of the outcome of our making much of Jesus.

As you go about your day remember to make much of Jesus. That’s why you and I are here…we have no other purpose!

Thoughts on Meditation!

Written By: John - Oct• 16•14

Have you ever read the Bible from cover to cover? I try to read it through at least once a year and have done so for a number of years, but reading it for the sake of reading it doesn’t necessarily change one’s life. For example—let’s say, you look at your plan, find your selected verses, read your passage, close the Bible and go about your day, but if we are not careful we could find ourselves not being able to recall a single thing we’ve read five minutes after we read it.

I stopped and visited a Catholic Monastery yesterday as I drove back from Louisville. I was surprised to find several New Age and Buddhist works on meditation in their bookstore. There is a distinct difference between the meditation of the world and the meditation we find in the Word of God. God’s Word does not call for us to “empty our minds;” it calls for us to fill our minds with the Word of God. Don Whitney defines meditation as “deep thinking on the truths and spiritual realities revealed in Scripture, or upon life from a scriptural perspective, for the purpose of understanding, application, and prayer.” (Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, pages 46-47)

We find the call to meditate in Psalm 1:1-3,

“Blessed is the man

who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,

nor stands in the way of sinners,

nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

but his delight is in the law of the Lord,

and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree

planted by streams of water

that yields its fruit in its season,

and its leaf does not wither.

In all that he does, he prospers…”

Notice, the call is to meditate upon the Word of God day and night. It is something we delight in and enjoy over and over again. I thought I’d share two illustrations of meditation that might help us understand how we are to do it.

First, think about the cow chewing its cud. A cow has four sections in its stomach—it bites off some grass, chews, and swallows, but the grass only goes to the first section where it mixes with the stomach acids and does what grass does in the first section of the stomach. Then the grass comes back to the cows mouth where it chews and chews and then returns it to the second section and the process is done until the grass goes through the four sections and is completely digested.

That isn’t the most pleasant of illustrations, but imagine getting up tomorrow morning and reading a short passage of scripture—you eat it, you chew it, you might even work to memorize it, but you are not done—you must bring it back to your mind over and over again until you have it digested—which is another way of saying until you understand it and apply it and obey it. That takes time—“but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night.”

Second, a lion chewing a bone. Eugene Peterson, in his book, Eat This Book, points out an interesting concept of meditation. In Isaiah 31:4, we find these words, “As a lion or a young lion growls over his prey, and when a band of shepherds is called out against him he is not terrified by their shouting or daunted at their noise…” The word “growls” is most often translated as meditate. Think of a dog chewing its bone—it may growl if another animal approaches, like the lion growling over its prey, but if you listen to the dog or the lion eating its prey or chewing its bone you might also hear it growling with delight.

That’s another idea of meditation—we delight in it as we chew on it and when the enemy comes we are not afraid because we are like the “tree planted by the streams of water.” Spend time learning to delight in His Word by refusing to just gulp it down—spend time and enjoy it as you might enjoy as perfectly cooked steak.

Don Whitney, in his book, identifies 17 ways to meditate. I would encourage you to buy the book and spend time in each way, but let me close with something he says,

“What value is there to reading one, three, or more chapters of Scripture only to find that after you’ve finished, you can’t recall a thing you’ve read? It is better to read a small amount of Scripture and meditate on it than to read an extensive section without meditation.” (page 68) It is fine to read large quantities of Scripture, but take smaller sections and chew on them until you learn to delight in it. “Taste and see that the Lord is good!”

The Prayer of Confession

Written By: John - Oct• 15•14

This week we’ve been looking at The Hidden Life of Prayer by David MacIntyre. In his fifth chapter he deals with the prayer of confession. We must guard ourselves from thinking too casually about out sin. We must be careful not to just say a blanket, “forgive me for all I’ve done,” prayer; rather, we must learn to understand the seriousness of our sin and seek to specifically confess it before God.

We must be explicit when we confess our sin. In Leviticus 16:21 we find Aaron, on the Day of Atonement, laying his hands upon the head of the goat and confessing all of the sins of Israel upon it. MacIntyre quotes “a wise old writer” who said, “A child of God will confess sin in particular; an unsound Christian will confess sin by wholesale; he will acknowledge that he is a sinner in general; whereas David doth, as it were, point with his finger at the sore: ‘I have done this evil’ (Psalm 51:4); he doth not say, ‘I have done evil,’ but ‘this evil.’ He points to his blood-guiltiness.”

We must also yield to the Comforter. When the Holy Spirit reveals sin in our life we must not argue, we must not excuse, and we must not deny…we must confess it before Him. We know the truth of God’s Word, “If we confess our sin He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” but we must confess it. We must say what the Comforter is saying…this is sin, I have done it, I am sorry, and by Your power I will mortify it.

I would add one more thing that MacIntyre did not deal with in his chapter on confession. We must accept His forgiveness. The Holy Spirit will convict you of your sin, but when you confess that sin God forgives and chooses to remember it no more. The moment you’ve truly confessed your sin before God and repented the Holy Spirit will not remind you of that sin again…if you are still feeling tremendous guilt over the sin you’ve confessed—that is the work of the enemy and not of the Comforter. The enemy is your accuser—he is the one seeking to steal, kill, and destroy, but the Holy Spirit is your comforter. He will discipline you, He will convict you, and He will not let you go until you are right with God, but He does it for your good and not for your destruction. He does it to make you right—not to tear you down. Learn to see the difference between the conviction of the Comforter and the guilt of the enemy.

The Equipment for the Inner Life

Written By: John - Oct• 14•14

In The Hidden Life of Prayer, David MacIntyre spoke of the equipment needed for the inner life of prayer. I love how he put it…to do some things you simply need the right equipment. To play golf you need golf clubs, to run you need running shoes, to play music you need a musical instrument, but what do you need to be able to pray? MacIntyre suggests three things.

First, you need a quiet place. I can tell you that in a house full of girls my house is rarely quiet. I have to go outside on the porch, for a walk in the woods behind my house, or to my office. Jesus often went away to desolate places to pray. Where is your place? I love the quote from MacIntyre, “Cold mountains and the midnight air, witnessed the fervor of His prayer.”

Second, you need a quiet hour. In our busy society a quiet hour may be harder to find than a quiet place. Your “hour” may or may not be 60 minutes, but it does need to be a time set aside for the purpose of fellowship with God. We must plan these times or they won’t happen. I love MacIntyre’s statement,

“We must be prepared to forgo many things that are pleasant, and some things that are profitable. We shall have to redeem time, it may be from recreation, or from social interactions, or from study, or from works of benevolence, if we are to find leisure daily to enter our closet, and having shut the door, to pray to our Father who is in secret.”

Finally, you need a quiet heart. Realize you are a child of God with the invitation to approach the holy place through the work of the cross. Come to Him through the blood of Jesus. You also need to realize that you have the Holy Spirit indwelling you and He teaches you to pray. It is the Spirit who teaches us to cry Abba Father. It is the Spirit who intercedes for us. It is the Spirit who empowers us. Trust in Him and lean upon Him in prayer. As you pray, come through the blood of Jesus, come in the person of the Holy Spirit, and come with the Word of God. It is the Word that teaches us to pray according to His will.

When you come with these three things your heart can rest and know that you have an audience with the King. Find a quiet place, set aside a quiet hour, and, in faith, quiet your heart before God and know that you are accepted in the person of Jesus and in the person of the Holy Spirit.

The Hidden Life of Prayer

Written By: John - Oct• 13•14

A couple of nights ago Kim and I sat down and watched a sermon by Joel Beeke on prayer. John Piper introduced him and as he talked about prayer he referenced a book by David MacIntyre, The Hidden Life of Prayer. As I listened to the sermon I reached over and found the book on Kindle for .99, listened to sermon and then went outside to read the book. I finished it the next day and found it extremely helpful. I thought I’d let his thoughts drive my blogs this week as a way of encouraging you to continue to worship through prayer and fasting.

First, we must be on guard. As soldiers of Christ our great weapon is prayer—we must continually watch and pray so that we will not fall into temptation. Our only offensive weapon in the armor of God is the word of God, but all of the armor is held together by “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…” To pray with “all prayer” is to be on our guard and finding ways to pray about all things. We are at war and our wartime walkie talkie is prayer.

Second, we must pray without ceasing. God is always present and our conversation with Him must be continual. We are to pray steadfastly, we are to pray continually, and we are to pray without ceasing…constant communion with God…constantly keeping company with the God of the universe.

Third, we must pray on all occasions. We pray in times of need like Nehemiah who was asked why his heart was sad…he had prayed for months, but when the king asked him what he wanted he prayed before he answered. In that time of need he was smart enough to pray.

We pray for fellowship. We don’t just come to God when we have needs—we come simply to spend time with Him. We walk with Him, we talk with Him, we spend time listening and enjoying time with Him. Imagine the wonder of it—we get to fellowship with the Most High God. We come to Him as Abba Father! That’s intimate and that’s relationship.

So watch and pray, pray with out ceasing, and pray on all occasions. MacIntyre said, “Soldier of Christ, you are in an enemy’s country; ‘Keep to the Lord’s watch.’”

 

“A Prayerless Christian”

Written By: John - Oct• 11•14

Last night Kim and I listened to a sermon on prayer by Joel Beeke and he shared the following quote from Greg Nichols.

“A Prayerless person is ungrateful because he doesn’t thank God.
He is Self-righteous because he doesn’t confess his sins to God.
He is Self-centered because he doesn’t ask God to bless other people.
He is Presumptuous because he doesn’t pray for his daily needs.
He is Irreverent because he doesn’t praise God.
And he is Unfriendly to God because his prayerlessness evidences that he doesn’t enjoy being with God.”
I was convicted by that and I hope you’ll read it and join me in a renewed passion for prayer.

A Satisfied Soul

Written By: John - Oct• 10•14

Yesterday we started looking at Psalm 63. I told you that Derek Kidner broke it down into three sections—God as my desire, my delight, and my defender. We looked at verses 1-4 last week and talked about God as our desire, but tonight I want us to look at verses 5-8 and see God as our delight.

What brings you the greatest delight? What brings you the greatest joy? The way you answer that question will tell you volumes about your relationship with God. Do you remember what we said was the key to the whole Psalm? It was the line in verse one, “Oh God, you are my God.” When you really know God as your God—when you have a personal relationship with Him that goes beyond the superficial—that goes beyond following Him when things are going well—that goes beyond following Him when you get your way—that goes beyond the surface level and takes you to the debts of a relationship that will follow Him even when you are in the dry and weary land—there will be one thing and one thing alone that will satisfy you.

How can the same Psalmist write those words? He can write that because it is true in the dry places and it is true by the streams. David said, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” We want the desires of our heart without first desiring or delighting in Him, but it doesn’t work that way. If your heart does not desire Him and if you heart is not delighting in Him the desires of your heart will not bring glory to Him and they will not satisfy you. David knew that—do we?

David walked through the desert places—he walked through the valley of death, but his circumstances never impacted his thirst. His thirst for God impacted his circumstances. Look at what he said in verse 2—“So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live in your name I will lift up my hands.” That is a man who delighted in God because God was his God.

What is interesting is David moved from desire to delight while he was still in the dry and weary place. He was in the dry and weary land and his soul thirsted and his fleshed fainted, but looking upon God changed everything. Suddenly in the midst of the circumstances his thirst was met, but it was not just met—it was satisfied.

Look at verse one and verse five. “My soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you…” “My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips.” David went from having a soul that thirsted to having a soul that was feasted. His relationship with God, his gaze upon God, his remembrance of God’s love, and his praise of God in the midst of his circumstances changed everything.

There are times we find ourselves in the valley and we think if I could just get out of the valley I would praise God, but here we learn the secret to enjoying God even in the valley. Praise changes it all. Listen to the opening prayer of The Valley of Vision:

Lord, High and Holy, Meek and Lowly,

Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,

Where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;

Hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.

Let me learn by paradox

That the way down is the way up,

That to be low is to be high,

That the broken heart is the healed heart,

That the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit.

That the repenting soul is the victorious soul.

That to have nothing is to possess all,

That to bear the cross is to wear the crown,

That to give is to receive,

That the valley is the place of vision…

Let me find thy light in my darkness,

Thy life in my death,

Thy joy in my sorrow,

Thy grace in my sin,

Thy riches in my poverty,

Thy glory in my valley.

I have found that many believers today will never come to enjoy what it is to delight themselves in God for two reasons—first they do not desire God as an end in itself—they enjoy God as a means to an end. And second, because of that they cannot get beyond being in the dry and weary land. They are so full of themselves that they can’t see the beauty of the Lord in the midst of the valley. David was able to see the beauty of God even in the dry and weary land and that made the difference.

What is the secret to delighting in God? In Psalm 1 we find these words, “But his delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night…” and here in Psalm 63:6 we find, “When I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night for you have been my help. And in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.” David knew God because he knew the revelation of God. He meditated on God in the morning, “O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice, in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.”

David couldn’t sleep, but he could meditate. Meditation upon the Word of God drew him closer to the God of the Word and every thing changed. He remembered how God had delivered him before and he knew God could deliver him again, but even if God chose not to deliver him he knew God’s steadfast love was better than life and he was going to praise God regardless. That is a man who delights in his God.

Let’s look at two phrases—first in verse 7 we see the following, “in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.” In Psalm 17:8 David prayed, “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings…” We see both of those phrases in Deuteronomy 32:10-11. Verse 11 says, “Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions the Lord alone guided him…” We will never be what we are supposed to be if we stay in the nest and never get out of our comfort zone. God will lead us to the dry and weary places so that we can come to a fuller knowledge of Him.

We also see the phrase in Psalm 61:3-4. David speaks of the rock, he speaks of the strong tower, and then he speaks of the tent, but the greatest protection is found in taking refuge under the shelter of His wings! Do you know what it is to walk with God in the valley—to be in the depths, but to see him in the heights? The two are not mutually exclusive you know? There are times you’ll never see Him unless He first can show you the poverty of your soul.

Let me close by looking at verse 8, “My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.” First, my soul clings to you. The word cling is found in other places—first it is found in Genesis 2:24, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” The word hold fast is the word cling. Do you see the depth of intimacy that is found in David’s statement? It has the idea of being glued to something—in other words David was glued to God—he was not going to let him get away.

Think about the times you have seen a little boy follow his daddy around. He tries to walk like him, talk like him, act like him—the boy becomes just like his daddy for two reasons—he is born of him and he lives with him. We are born of God and if we are truly converted we will live in and with God. That changes everything.

What is the result of clinging to God? “Your right hand upholds me.” Again I see the picture of a child walking with his father. Suddenly something happens and the child is in danger or at least feels like he is in danger—suddenly the father does one of two things—he picks up the child or he holds the child’s hand. Everything is fine as long as daddy is holding you…Think about it—who is better equipped to protect you than a Daddy who is all powerful, all knowing, and all present? Cling to Him—follow hard after Him and trust in His right hand to uphold you!

When God is our Delight we also know Him as God our Defense and we trust Him even when others are seeking to “destroy my life.” David set his heart to do one things in the midst of it all—he was going to “rejoice in God.” Come what may he was going to rejoice.