Stand aside, let God shine.

God employs strange means to reveal His glory and righteousness among mankind.

Certainly the strangest, is that God’s perfect righteousness is reflected through the testimony of unrighteous sinners.

In this world when you want want to espouse the Glory of something,  you use the best models don’t you?       I’ve never seen a toothpaste commercial  declare their Glory by using people with rotten teeth.

Yet In God’s wisdom, He does just the opposite of the toothpaste commercials.  He reveals His Glory through the Gospel and saves sinners who have not just rotten teeth but rotten hearts and He undertakes to make them point to His perfect Glory and righteousness.

No true Christian could ever say  ,“ I am the poster boy or girl of righteousness” God accepts me because  “I am Good”.

in fact the Gospels very clearly illustrate that it is the broken hearted the “sinners” and the “Poor in spirit” who come into proper relationship to God through the redemption that is in Christ.

A Christian can and should say, “ I am a great sinner and God is a great savior”.

We should make it a practice to never stand in the way of God’s light by pretending to be better than we are.    Instead we should be intentionally Stepping aside from taking glory onto ourselves and point to God and behold God who is truly Glorious.

Beware of trying to make people “believe in you” it is a fools venture.

By saying this I mean that God will be seen in our life as we know and trust in Him and as we look to Him and are changing, admitting our weakness and need of Him. There will be fruit of growth toward Christ likeness but only as we trust in Him.

Others as a by-product will see that God is real and will see through us the Glory of God Himself, even though we may appear smaller to those same people because we have stepped out of Hypocrisy into reality.   And the reality is we are not righteous according to God’s standard.

Jesus accuses the Pharisees ( A very proud and good works oriented people) of keeping  people out of the Kingdom and of refusing to enter into the Kingdom themselves!!!”

The Pharisees did everything to be seen by others as being righteous. They actually did do many “good Deeds” but they blocked the way.  Indeed many looked at them and said,  “wow I could never be like those people they are very devout and I could never be accepted”

The Pharisee loved to see this kind of reaction because it made them feel artificially secure in their own Righteousness. The more “self- righteous” they became ,the further they went from God and God’s true Glory was darkened as they stood in the way.

Thus the Charge from Jesus in Matthew 23:13

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.”

As soon as we recognize the true Holy Righteousness of God we will not even dare to think of a    “self –righteousness”.

Instead we  see what God has provided in Jesus Christ  for the forgiveness of sins and as we trust only in His righteousness that is given to us by God as a gift through Jesus Christ, God will rightly receive all the Glory due His name as the only righteous one and as a merciful Savior.

It is this relationship based on salvation ,that we both get out of the way and also point to the Way.

If fact we perfectly testify to  the truth that Jesus Christ  declared when He said.  “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the father but through me”

And none of us who come this way block the righteousness or glory of God from others sight when we confess that we are sinners saved by grace.

The first outward note of our faith is that we no longer wear a mask before God and it then follows (sometimes slowly) that we no longer wear a mask before men.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is Glorious precisely because God Himself is Glorious.

*  “In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

Praise be to Jesus Christ the author and finisher of our faith.

(*In Christ alone- written by Stuart Townsend and Keith Getty)

Acknowledge sin, acknowledge Christ

Every gardener  knows that in order for something to grow upward it must first grow downward.  A healthy plant or tree must have a  deep  root system in order to be healthy enough to grow strong and produce fruit.

What is true of physical living things is  also true of spiritually living people. It is no accident that God created our environment to instruct us about how life works.

To plant properly you must dig deep, and  break up the ground so that the seed which is planted can grow deep roots. If you dig too shallow, the roots, when they grow will stop growing where they meet the hard layer and the root system will be hindered.

But the planting area must also be free of competing vegetation because competing vegetation or weeds will choke out the tender plant by sapping its nutrients and will also block its access to sunshine.

This applies to our Spiritual lives as well and we have a strong  directive from God in the O.T as to its spiritual application.

Jeremiah 4:3 NLT

“This is what the LORD says to the people of Judah and Jerusalem: “Plow up the hard ground of your hearts! Do not waste your good seed among thorns.

And from the New Testament we have a directive as well in the parable of the sower. In Matthew 13 Jesus begins by saying that some seed is stolen away and never germinates at all. (The Unbeliever) .

But even of the soil that received, Jesus  says to us  that the soil with no depth prevents the seedling from taking proper root and the plant dies. Thorns (uncleared ground) also choke out the seed.

So Spiritually speaking we are to be weed free and to go deep.

I think J.I Packer captures the essence of the situation in His statement,

“He that has learned to feel his sin, and to trust Christ as Savior, has learned the two hardest and greatest lessons in Christianity.”  J.I. Packer.

To  “feel our sin,”  is to throw the spade in the ground of our hearts “Hard Places”, and turn it over. It is a kind of violence really, just like breaking up tough ground, but oh so necessary.

This is the preparation for root growth. The spade must penetrate. As Dr. Packer says, its a “hard lesson”.

This activity of “feeling our sin”  is a means to an end… that we might grow upward and our upward growth happens when we see, that as bad as we are , Christ is a more than adequate Savior for us.

  But we must trust Him.

In trowing in the spade and  “feeling our sin” ,we will discover our inner motives that lead us into sin and be shocked, appalled, dismayed and depressed.  (I hope you read the puritans Like John Owen, Richard Baxter and John Bunyan)

But as we look to and trust in  our Savior, Jesus Christ, despite our knowledge of our own sinfulness, we find that in Him we are made alive, forgiven, loved and cleansed, we are given gifts and made to produce fruit.

Fresh righteousness  will appear on our branches and others will want to know our forgiving empowering Savior too!

Now let us keep growing and go and make disciples who will do the same.

 

Don’t be a Coward

The Oxford Dictionary defines the word  coward in its noun form as…

“A person who is contemptibly lacking in the courage to do or endure dangerous or unpleasant things.”

Coward in it’s adjectival form is defined as someone being …

“Excessively afraid of danger or pain”

Cowardice is not approved of by God.  In fact it’s downright dangerous, much more dangerous than the momentary loss, danger or pain that a coward chooses to avoid.

Revelation 21:8 speaking of final judgment is very strong in its description of the kinds of thing that we must repent of in this life through Christ and it starts with calling out the Cowards.

Revelation 21:8 is strong stuff.

Revelation 21:8

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

 

So with those strong words in mind, where cowardice appears as the first indictment against the damned  it is good to examine cowardice.

what does it  looks like when it shows up in our world and how can we  ourselves avoid being cowards?

To clarify, cowardice is not just fear  Cowardice is much more than fear, it is excessive fear.  Every one deals with fear and  it can show up in any heart yet that does not mean we are a coward.   Cowardice  is excessive  fear leading one to act, or fail to act,  solely based on one’s own  self-interest.

At the heart of cowardice is the primary motivation of self-preservation and a complete concern for one’s own well-being and comfort in the face of a situation that requires self sacrifice or would cause, personal loss or pain. The coward calculates everything through a grid that centers on the self and selfish desires.

But what does cowardice look like?

Here is a short-list of examples of the “Common Coward”.

Cowards can look like the person who takes another persons life in order to gain worldly possessions, position or seeks to destroy another  persons life in retaliation for injured pride.  Some even do under a religious guise.           A  “Murderer”  is a Coward.

Cowards can look like the guy that fathers a child and refuses to take his responsibility to raise that child.  He gives no concern for the well being of the child or the mother.    Mothers are certainly capable of this too.       An  “Irresponsible” person is a Coward.

Cowards can look like the person who  focuses on career and builds a comfortable nest egg and never gives to the causes of others around them who may be in desperate need. (remember the rich man and Lazarus). Some may give but mainly for being recognized by others.            A “Greedy” person is a Coward.

Cowards can look like the person who refuses to work (though they have able bodies and minds along with opportunities to do so) because they can lean on others to keep them comfortable.    A “Slothful” person is a Coward.

Cowards can look like the person who insulates themselves against unpleasant thoughts concerning their own mortality, Gods existence, and whether there exists an ultimate purpose for their life.  They are their own God and make an Idol out of themselves.          An “Idolator” is a Coward.

This is by no means a complete list but I think the point has been made.

God requires of us to trust and obey even if it will cause discomfort, loss, pain and rejection.

In the process you will enjoy the fruit of the Holy Spirit and partake of the divine nature. No one partaking of the divine nature can be a Coward.

The opposite of cowardice is not Heroism but it is Faith in God, (which may certainly lead to actions of heroic proportion).

I say to myself ….and to all.

Don’t be a coward.

Follow Christ wherever he may lead.

God is able to make us stand in Christ in any and every situation.

Unleavened bread, a picture of authenticity.

When we think of a relationship with God we intuitively know that we must always be real with him.

After all, God knows the heart. ‘Nothing is hidden from His sight”.  A person in true prayer before God comes quickly to recognize that there is no choice but to  be open and sincere, to be “unleavened”

We also have a wonderful promise of assurance that as we do come to Him, even to confess our many faults,—as David well knew ,— God will not reject us.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;   A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. Psalm 51:17

This of course is a principle of an Eternal Kingdom, where God ,…

“…who was and is and is to come”,      reigns now both in heaven and the hearts of His own children.

Yet, how difficult it is to be real in “This present  earthly world or kingdom”!!!

It is not a part of the value system of this” present earthly  kingdom” where God is ignored, denied, and where men  hide from, and even  hate God.

As a principle, “authenticity” may be given lip service and may even be applauded to a certain degree in this world. ( Of course all within respectable bounds). Never to acknowledge ones full spiritual poverty.  “Lets Just all agree that were OK and just need to “self improve”.

Personal reputation or the keeping up of false appearances will be the undoing of us if we try to hold on to it.  Holding on to this just shows that the “fear of man” (what people think of us) is more important than “The fear of God”.

Being completely unleavened is a work that only the Holy Spirit can perform in the heart.

As John the Baptist stood crying out on the shores of the Jordan, “Repent and be baptized” , it was those who knew themselves to be “Poor in spirit” and who desired above all else to be right with God who were drawn toward God ,  it was those ones who could  …step out from the crowd …and  identify themselves before their peers as needing God more than a reputation before man.  There stepping out  was not out of an abundance of personal virtue but out of a lack of it.   They chose to identify with God even though they would forever be self identified sinners in need of rescue.

And the really amazing thing is, that Jesus himself  at the very beginning of His ministry, stepped into the waters of the Jordan to be baptized by John!!

Why?!!!        I mean even John Knew that Jesus had no need to repent of sin. John almost refused to do it,  stating  to Jesus. “It is I who NEED be baptized by you and yet you come to me?”

Jesus stepped into those waters because He came to identify with “Sinners”.

Why?        Because Jesus would take upon Himself the very sins of those whom He came to save.

This is basic Christianity; Basic Gospel.  Lose this and there is no Gospel to tell.

Jesus is “The bread of Life”. The true and perfect unleavened —“bread of Life ,“who came down from heaven.

The way to God is through the “unleavened way”.  Coming as sinner to God through Christ, who identifies with sinners who are willing to let their knowledge of spiritual poverty drive them to Him.

The Law of God against sinners stands.  Yet as the Apostle Paul proclaims, “Christ is the end of the law for all who believe”, because Christ fulfills the law for us.

In the end, when this present  life is slipping away— and it will— our reputation before men will be a hollow comfort, even a torture to us, if we have not allowed the ultimate reality of the kingdom of God to supersede this temporary reality so that we act according to “Ultimate Reality” .

We see this if we follow the logic of Jesus, speaking of the “leavened” pharisees who stood upon their own righteousness and reputation before men, ” I tell you the truth they have already have their reward in full”.  Jesus said such are excluded from the Kingdom of God because they refuse to enter into it.

But to have God Himself, and the knowledge of His forgiveness and Love , because we have settled the issue through relationship to Christ while we could, will be more than a comfort at death.

It will be the entrance of eternal Joy, to a degree that as we slip away into Gods eternal presence, we will know the full, undiluted, unleavened joy of perfect fellowship through the eternal ages!!!   It is those who are”in Christ” that will enter.

That day will  most certainly come to all and the eternal realities will roll back every covering anyway so why not come and stand in the light of Christ as a trophy of God’s grace while we live?  Now is the time to be unleavened the cost will seem like nothing compared to what we gain in Christ!!

As John Newton , the author of Amazing Grace so famously said ,

“Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.”

Oh Lord, forgive, love, cleanse, guide and transform us as we look to you in unleavened honesty may we have no less than all you offer in Christ. Amen.

J.I Packer and his challenge to the church

  J.I Packer: A Christian worth listening to…

J.I packer, is a British-born Canadian Christian theologian in the  Low- Church- Anglican and Calvinist  traditions. He currently serves as the Board of Governors’ Professor of Theology at  Regent College in Vancouver British Columbia. He is considered one of the most influential Evangelicals in North America.

He has been the theologian emeritus of the Anglican Church in North America since its inception in 2009.    (courtesy of Wiki)

J.I Packer has written many  good theological books and articles including one of his best know entitled , “Knowing God”.

Make him a part of your theological library, ( I can count 5 of His books on my shelf currently)

What a privileged we have to speak to one another– and to listen– across denominational lines concerning struggles and the realities of our faith. we may even issue challenges to one another in the spirit of love as J.I Packer does in this short video

J.I Packer is a very wise elder brother in Christ and my prayer is  “Lord gives us more men like this!!”

 

Oh the Value of a bible in your hand!!!

pexels-photo-636010.jpeg

 

Technology is moving at the speed of light.  The common thumb-drive that fits in your pocket can potentially hold more information than the original NASA computers that were involved in the moon landing. Yes a thumb-drive!!

Your cell phone is way, way beyond that!!!

Technology is a great tool, it can be used in so many ways and the applications are virtually endless. Technology is very useful.

But I am going to raise an issue here that will sound very “Old School” and in fact it is, “Old School”.

The issue stems from a strong conviction that was ingrained into me during my Theological Schooling and in particular my Preaching (elocution) classes.

It was taught to us, that when  you are going to preach, you must enter the pulpit “Carrying your Bible”  and then you are to place that bible deliberately on the pulpit in an attitude and gesture of reverence.  Then you were to pray over it then read from its pages.

To that picture, let me add the words of a Pastor whose ministry I sat under for some time.  This pastor told me, “When you preach, STAND BEHIND THE WORD”.

“When you read the passage …”, I was told, “ …pick it up off the pulpit, hold it in your hands and show where it comes from”    ( Thus teaching them how to read it)

In other words, this is not about you, it is about God, His word and what He has to say to “US” today.

So what does this have to do with tech?

When that Bible is placed on the pulpit everyone knows its function, its power, its purpose and if we are “standing behind it” as a teacher or preacher we will know its application too and will be able to convey it.

If I carry my laptop, tablet or whatever into the pulpit, it is a common thing in my hand, often used for common purposes.  It just cannot convey the same singularity of focus and expectation required for a very uncommon and eternal message.

Oh sure you can preach a fine sermon, a very biblical sermon in fact from a tech screen.

But…

The value of a bible in your hand is beyond measure, not only for preaching but for your personal time with the Lord.

The only “call” that you will receive or “text” you will be presented with will come from God Himself, with a Bible in your hand.

Don’t get me wrong I have a bible app on my phone and top notch Bible study software on my lap-top.     But oh… there is nothing like a bible in your hand!!!

Oh, the feel of it when opening it up; the deliberate turning off of distractions to focus on it. The turning of the pages , back and forth. It catches your tears when they fall on the page, the pages crease when you grip it in frustration over passages you struggle over or in times of coming to grips with conviction.

There is nothing like the value of a Bible in your hand.

 

Gospel Light Vanquishes Sins Shadow.

In chapter V of Spiritual Depression,  D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones presses forward  with The Light of the Gospel and its practical implications for liberating the depressed believer who finds himself in a perpetual state of self loathing over the remembrance of some past sin.

(It is this readers opinion that the anointing of God continues to attend the work of Lloyd-Jones and use what was rendered  by him in service to God and His people.  I find it impossible to read This work  in Spiritual Depression and think of it only as it applied to “The people of Lloyd-Jones day” .  No , there is always that sense of  Lloyd -Jones being a minister grabbing my lapels and bringing me mind to mind with biblical doctrine as though he is saying. “This my friend, is a  doctrinal medicine for you, take it  and you will soon experience it’s healing effects upon your soul”   and I do.)

Lloyd-Jones  does take into consideration the interplay of Satan with regard to the  bringing of such accusing thoughts to the child of God but spends little time on that particular aspect of things. Instead, he delivers  sound doctrine to his primary subject, ( the child of God). It is a fully fleshed out doctrine in this chapter and I will not seek to cover the entire fleshing out in one Post.

A very perceptive Lloyd-Jones,  essentially calls such a spiritually depressed person to a new kind of  “wakefulness” ,to a , “standing at attention position”, and to an  “at  the ready” active participation in taking hold of the doctrine of   “Salvation”. Here Lloyd-Jones seeks to bring death to  any “spiritualized passivity”.

He heartily states:

Let me put this plainly and bluntly in order that I may emphasis it even at the risk of being misunderstood. There is a sense in which the one thing that these people who are in this condition must not do is to pray to be delivered from it!  That is what they always do, and that is what hey have invariably been doing when they come seeking help- indeed, it is what they are generally told they must do….but this is one of those points at which the Christian must stop praying for a moment and  begin to think!

At this point I think it is important to think. To think about what is being said here.  If I understand this correctly and take a look at Christian experience  I  can certainly see a very important truth here.  Lloyd -Jones is rightly stating  that fully actively engaging  our minds is as spiritual an act as prayer.  That though prayer is a wonderful privilege and a mighty tool, it is the wrong tool in this case. That the right tool, the most spiritually appropriate tool, in this case is, the mind fully engaged with the doctrinal truth of the gospel  of Salvation.

I think that this is plenty to chew on for a start.

Spiritual Depression, the quest.

In the interest of bringing a degree of objectivity I will answer some basic questions as to why I am reading “Spiritual Depression” authored by D. Martin Lloyd Jones.

Why do I want to read this book?

There are a few reasons, but certainly at the outset, the very combination of the first two words in the title of D. Martin Lloyd Jones book “Spiritual Depression” reach out and grab me. The stark honesty of that combination of words placed together speaks to my human soul where two realities often meet in my innermost being, that which is “Spiritual”, and that which is, “Depression”.

The title then actually brings me a small and immediate sense of relief in the fact that it authenticates a condition that is seldom (if ever) shared in conversation between people yet is often part of a person’s experience.  There is something in that alone that brings a breath of reviving.

The second reason, which quickly follows the first, is found in the last part of the title which  is (Its causes and its cure)  which promise insight and hope for the person who will sit down with the good Doctor Martin Lloyd Jones and  undergo a thorough examination and submit to receiving prescribed medicine.  (Lloyd Jones was a medical doctor before becoming a Theologian-Pastor.)

A third reason, which is surely the most objective, is that I have never read this book, though it has been in my personal library for years. I’m not completely sure how I even came to posses it.

Now I come to a few more honest questions.

Why don’t I want to read this book?

(Yes, why haven’t I read this book despite the fact that I have owned it so long?)

The first reason for not wanting to read this book, ironically, comes from the first two words of the title, Spiritual Depression. It seems much like a piercing light that threatens to exposes the rather darkened corners of the inner human experience, and not just any experience but one I know. So there is the relief of exposure on the positive side and the agony of exposure on the other.

Another reason, in the same irony and in a continuation of the same thoughts comes from the second part of the title “its causes and its cure”.  There are really two promises here, one to search for the roots of the problem and the other to remedy the problem but, (and this is the hard part), these promises in order to become effective, require a commitment from the reader; (in this case myself), a commitment to submit to the tools and process of perhaps radical surgery and all without the aid of either local or general anaesthetic.  In the economy of spiritual realities there can be no dulling of either pain or joy.

So I move forward hopeful, committed and with a slight perspiration on my brow as I currently sit in the waiting room of a pastor- theologian- physician, D. Martin Lloyd Jones, who had in his lifetime upon earth, served the Great Physician Jesus Christ in bringing health to people just like you and I for the purposes of God and man.