Written By: John - Oct• 29•14

Every morning I try to read five Psalms to prepare my mind to pray and to prepare for the day. Today I was scheduled to read Psalm 29, 59, 89, 119, and 149 and as I turned to Psalm 119 I was once again refreshed by the writers commitment to the Word of God. Over and over again he refers to the Word, but this morning verse 131 jumped off the page at me,

“I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commandments.”

What a beautiful thought…we have seen that before, “As the deer pants for flowing streams so pants my soul for you, O God.” (Psalm 42:1) Why would we pant? Why should we long? Psalm 119 gives you 176 verses and each verse is full of reason after reason to pant for God and to long for His Word.

The other day, I picked up John Blanchard’s, How to Enjoy your Bible,  and he listed nine pictures the Bible uses to describe itself. I offer these word pictures to you as reason to pant for God and to long for His Word.

  1. The Word is a Treasure, “More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold…” (Psalm 19:10)
  2. The Word is book of Wisdom, “Through your precepts I get understanding…” (Psalm 119:104)
  3. The Word is a Searchlight, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path,” (Psalm 119:105)
  4. The Word is a Guidebook, “All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and testimonies.” (Psalm 25:10)
  5. The Word is a Mirror, “But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” (James 1:25)
  6. The Word is a Stabilizer, “Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.” (Psalm 119:165)
  7. The Word is a Purifier, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.” (Psalm 119:9)
  8. The Word is a Fixed Point of Reference, “Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.” (Psalm 119:89)
  9. The Word is a Powerful Weapon, “…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”  (Blanchard, pages 18-19, I changed the verse on number 7, he used Ephesians 5:26.)

Let me urge you to mediate on the truth in this list and to learn to pant for God and for His Word!

Do we weep for the lost?

Written By: John - Oct• 27•14

Please take five minutes and watch this video!

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.’”