Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Sermon Jam: Ian Thomas "A Grain of Wheat"

[Video by Job29guy.  View more at www.job29guy.com]

An excerpt from Major Ian Thomas' sermon "A Grain of Wheat".

What must a grain of wheat do?  According to Jesus, it must die, that it might produce fruit.  So must we.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12:24, ESV)

By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. (John 15:8, ESV)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Feed the Spirit, Starve the Flesh

An appetite that you feed will grow.
An appetite that you starve will die.

I have seen this principle at work in my life.  The appetites that I have fed, grow.  The appetites that I have starved, die.  It doesn't matter whether the appetite is itself good or bad.  The principle is the same.

A bad appetite: let's say a physical appetite that is unlawful because I am unmarried.  If that appetite is fed, it grows.  If it is starved, it dies.

Even a good appetite: an appetite for the Word of God.  If I starve myself of the Word, my appetite shrinks and eventually dies.  If I feed my appetite for the Word, my appetite for the Word grows.

Therefore, we must know which appetites we are currently feeding, which we are starving, which we ought to be starving, and which we ought to be feeding.

Dear single sister, which appetites are you feeding?

Your physical appetite?  What are you watching?  How often are you around men?  What is your manner towards them?  What are you listening to?  What are you reading?  All of these things will feed your appetite.

Which appetites are you letting die?

Your appetite for prayer?  Your appetite for Bible reading?  If you feed these, they will grow.  If you starve them, do not be surprised when they die.

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:13, ESV)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

"It'll never happen to me...": A girl's pro-life convictions challenged

I have not written very often on the topic of abortion or rape; especially in this blog.  But this story came to me today as I was meditating on the worth of human life.  Perhaps God will use it to save someone.  For His glory!  Amen.

DISCLAIMER: This story is in no way meant to be based on actual people, places, or events. It is entirely a work of fiction, meant merely to provoke thought and stir emotions in the hope of awaking many to come to the defense of unborn children and the women who carry them.

I was in my twenty-second year. I was going to a good school and had a bright future ahead of me. I had no time for parties; if I spent a late night out anywhere it was usually in the library. I was a "good" girl. I never went anywhere I shouldn't; never did anything I shouldn't; didn't hang around folks who did. But that didn't save me in the end.

One night, walking back to my apartment alone, I was attacked. A man knocked me to the ground, raped me, and left me for dead. I was bleeding where I'd hit my head on the pavement, and I had a mild concussion, but I came to before anyone found me. I stumbled the rest of the way home and passed out on the living room floor. When I awoke the next day, I felt "better" so I dressed the cut on my forehead and went to class. I had an exam that morning. I don't remember how I did. I must not have done well, because I couldn't concentrate; I kept thinking about the attack. I kept wondering if I was... you know... pregnant... and if it turned out that I was, would it look... you know... like him... ?

Of course it's going to look like him, I thought, you've taken Biology.

Although I'd always believed firmly that conception was a gift from God, that life began in the womb, and that taking the life of an unborn child was murder, I found the rubber meeting the road. Now that I was being asked to live out this difficult "choice", I didn't know anymore whether I could go through with it. I couldn't help crying; saying things like It's not fair; why should I bear this burden? Doesn't my future matter? Don't I have a say? Do I have to carry this...this...? I didn't ask for it and I don't want it. I was going to get an education and be a responsible contributor to society.

I didn't even know if I was pregnant yet; still, these were the thoughts running through my mind, as I cried. It didn't take very long to confirm my fears, however. I was indeed pregnant...with my rapist's child. Now it fell on me and me alone as to what I would do about it.

Against my better judgement, I chose to abort. I couldn't go through with keeping this baby. I had to get rid of it. The trouble was that it took several months of tears and pain to convince me I couldn't keep it. And by that time, my good friend ___ knew about it; actually, she'd known about it since the day after when I came to class looking half-drunk. She knew something was up, but like any decent friend, she waited until study break to get me alone and pry the truth out of me.

She was dead against abortion. And I think she's the reason I was able to keep the child for so long. But one day, I broke down, and in a fit of sobs I ran to the nearest clinic, filled out the paperwork, paid the fee with my loan money, and laid down on the operating table, weeping the entire time, praying for God and the child to forgive me.

But the procedure didn't go as planned. I went into labor just before the doctor was going to start cutting, and I gave birth right there to a premature, yet healthy baby boy. A boy! If anything was ever going to remind me of the pain and humiliation that I'd endured, it would be a boy that looked just like his father!

I couldn't bear the cruel twist of fate.

"Oh why? Can't you take him away?"

"We can't, miss. That's against the law."

So they wrapped him up, put him in my arms, and pushed me out the door. The baby lived. He was my problem now.

I just held him in my arms, sobbing. I couldn't bare to look at him. I knew he'd look like him. I just wept all the way home.

My friend ___ found me. She'd obviously come from Theater; she carried a stage pistol in her hand.

"Is that your baby?" she asked.

"He's not my baby," I said.

She didn't correct me.  She just said, "You went to the clinic, didn't you?"

"How did you know?"

"It doesn't matter. May I see him?"

"Go ahead. Take him. I don't want him."

I pushed the little bundle into her arms and made as if to walk away. Then just when I'd turned my back on ___, I heard a shot.

"Noooo!" I screamed.

I turned around to see ___ holding my sweet little baby boy in her arms, the stage pistol smoking in her hand. My baby was crying. The noise had frightened him.

"Why would you do that?" I sobbed, tearing my child away from her.

"Why would you think it was ok to kill your baby?" she said.

My eyes filled with tears. "God forgive me, I was desperate. Not in my right mind."

My friend put her arm around me. "God forgives you, ___. And your son forgives you, too."

My son? I glanced down at the helpless little bundle, and for the first time, I looked at him. And as I stared into the face of my little boy, I saw something there I didn't expect to see--not just the face of my attacker--but another face, my face.

Then I realized: We're both victims. And this little life isn't to be hated because of my pain. It isn't his fault that he's the product of cruelty. I've been given this child to love, and as a comfort in my distress. I was a fool to think he was a punishment--a life sentence. He is a gift. I'm thankful to a wise friend for helping me see that; and thankful to You, God, for this, Your mercy.

Thank You, Father, for sending Jesus Christ, Your Son, that when I was helpless in my sins, He bore the penalty for me, so that I might go free.  Thank You for the mercy You have shown me--thank You for Your grace; Your love covers over a multitude of sins--may I be a conduit of that same mercy, grace, and love to others.


DISCLAIMER: This story is in no way meant to be based on actual people, places, or events. It is entirely a work of fiction, meant merely to provoke thought and stir emotions in the hope of awaking many to come to the defense of unborn children and the women who carry them.

Sadie Daniels, 2012

If you are or know of any women who are pregnant and in need, please direct them here: http://www.optionline.org/

And regardless of how you might feel about abortion, please watch this video: http://180movie.com/
[DISCLAIMER: Disturbing Holocaust footage!]

Monday, August 20, 2012

"Pressing Through": Until prayer is a joy

Pray until you can honestly say with that hymn writer: Sweet hour of prayer. - Paul Washer

I like to call this "pressing through".

If you are like me, you have often set your knee to pray and felt almost as if your prayers fluttered above your head but weren't reaching heaven--they kinda hit the ceiling and fell back down.  This, of course, is our own sinful unbelief getting in the way, because God has promised to hear us (Psalm 65:2); it is our job to believe what He says.

So, what is going to break through that barrier created by our unbelief?

Let me just say, that God is at all times present everywhere (Psalm 139:7), but the unbelieving eye does not have the power to see Him (2 Corinthians 4:4).  Just as a blind man can stand in the same room with an elephant and say there is no elephant there, an unbelieving man will always deny the thing right in front of his face because he does not have spiritual eyes to see it.

There is willful unbelief and there is unbelief that is not willful, like that of the father who came to Jesus on behalf of his child who said: "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief" (Mark 9:24).  Like that man, we are all tempted to doubt, but we need to recognize it as the sin that it is and not play games with it.  We have to act decisively against it and kill it where we find it (Romans 8:13); even so, God does not condemn those in Christ (Romans 8:1).  We are safe from condemnation; instead, He chastens us as sons and daughters (Hebrews 12:6).

Yet, knowing that your unbelief (your doubts) make your prayers cold and dead (just as James says: a man who doubts in prayer must not think he'll receive anything from God - James 1:7-8) ought to stir within you the desire to kill that unbelief so that you can pray to the God of mercy.  You should want to "press through" beyond the deadness to that place where prayer is sweet and communion with God is real and unbroken.

When I set to "pressing through" I like to sit alone in my room at night with all the lights out so that there's nothing to distract me, sit or kneel on the floor, and just talk to God out loud.  I pray until my prayers are a joy again and I don't want to stop.  I pray until I know I'm talking to my Best Friend--I'm communing with the Lover of my soul.  I pray until I know I'm speaking with a loving Father who cares for me and the people around me.  Then my prayers are sweet and easy and it's not so hard to imagine staying up all night like Jesus talking to the Father.  [No; I haven't stayed up all night in prayer yet, but it would be sweet; I hope to be able to do that some day.]

What an honour and a privilege it is to pray.

Friday, August 17, 2012

When Bible-reading Becomes Futile: A Warning

This post comes in a series of posts on prayer; scroll down to see a list of links to the rest of the posts in this series.

This post is specifically written in connection with "When Bible-reading Becomes Futile".  If you read that post and were thinking, Well, I really don't pray enough; I think I'll stop reading my Bible until I can pray more... don't be embarrassed; it's what I did ...then this post is for you.

Yes, it can be a futile pursuit to read your Bible and then not obey the direct commands you read in it.  However, if it is your sincere desire to grow in those areas where you see you are not yet giving full obedience, then be patient and call on God and He will help you.

But DO NOT cut out Bible reading all together until you can "pray more" or "pray better".  You'll be cutting off the legs on which you stand.

The Word of God is our source of growth.  It's our spiritual sustenance.  It's better than bread (Matthew 4:4) and it's like pure milk that helps us grow (1 Peter 2:2).  We need it!

And who needs milk more than the growing--the infants; those who have not yet learned how to fully obey everything that they read in Scripture?

As we read the Word, the Spirit of God convicts us--about sin; about areas where we need to grow in obedience.  It is folly to ignore that conviction--and if you harden your heart, then your reading has indeed become futile; you'll never obey, no matter how much you read--but it is also folly to say, Well, I'm just not going to read anymore until that area of my life is perfect.  What sort of pride is this?  [And I must confess I am guilty of it!]  We're never going to be perfect this side of Heaven.  There's always going to be more for us to learn.  We NEED the Word of God in our lives to teach us, to guide us, and to sanctify us in the truth.

And no one needs this reminder worse than I do!

Other posts in this series:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

They Said It: Andrew Murray on Christ as our Teacher in the school of Prayer

Perhaps you have been following my recent posts on prayer and you agree that 1) we ought to pray as a spiritual discipline and 2) we can pray boldly because Jesus bought that right with His blood.

But you now have the question: How do I pray?

I recently returned to reading a classic Christian book by Andrew Murray entitled With Christ in the School of Prayer.  In the first chapter, he begins by saying that we need to ask Jesus like His disciples did: "Lord, teach us to pray."

From the book, here is some encouragement that if we ask, Christ will be faithful to teach us:

"Lord, teach us to pray." Yes, we feel the need now of being taught to pray. At first there is no work that appears so simple; later on, none that is more difficult. And the confession is forced from us: We do not know how to pray as we should. It is true we have God's Word with its clear and sure promises, but sin has so darkened our mind that we don't always know how to apply the Word. In spiritual matters we do not always seek the most important things. In temporal matters we are still less able to use the wonderful liberty our Father has given us to ask for what we need. 
Even when we know what to ask for, so much is still needed to make prayer acceptable. It must be to the glory of God, in full surrender to His will, in full assurance of faith, in the Name of Jesus, and with a perseverance that, if need be, refuses to be denied. All this must be learned. It can only be learned in the school of much prayer, for practice makes perfect. 
Amid the painful consciousness of ignorance and unworthiness, in the struggle between believing and doubting, the heavenly art of effective prayer is learned. There is One--the Beginner and Finisher of faith and prayer--Who watches over our praying and sees to it that in all who trust Him for it, education in the school of prayer is carried on to perfection. Let the deep undertone of all our prayer be the teachableness that comes from faith in Him as a perfect Teacher, and we can be sure that we will be taught. We will learn to pray in power. Yes, we can depend on His teaching us to pray.

[From With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray, Whitaker House, public domain]

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

When Bible-reading Becomes Futile

Bible-reading without prayer can be a futile pursuit.

I will not deny that Scripture has power in and of itself.  Scripture is very powerful--it is sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit (Hebrews 4:12).

However, if we hear plainly the commands of Scripture to pray, and do not do it, we are living in disobedience to the Word--we are no longer doers of the Word, but hearers only, and we have deceived ourselves (James 1:22).

Here are some clear commands in Scripture to pray:

if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14, ESV)

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7, ESV)

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. (James 5:13a, ESV)

pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17, ESV)

There are many more than these.  Scripture is filled with exhortations to pray.  If we do not follow the clear teaching of Scripture, and the clear teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ (who spent many a night in solitary prayer), to be in much private prayer, then we are not being obedient to the truth we've been given.

Believe me, no one needs this exhortation more than I do, but I am going to resolve anew to pray and read my Bible daily.  I strongly encourage you to do the same, and then ask God to help you--we cannot live as we ought to on our own; we need His help.  But God has also given us each other to help along the way; you can encourage me and I can encourage you as we grow together into the fullness of Jesus Christ.

Please resolve to spend time with God daily, praying and reading your Bible, and then guard your time with God jealously!  These disciplines will be the means God uses to make you holy and transform you into the image of Jesus Christ and draw you into closer, sweeter communion with Him.

EDITED August 17, 2012 at 3:43PM

A warning to those of you like me who thought after this post: Well, now I have to stop reading my Bible until I'm able to pray more.  That is folly!  If you do that, you'll be cutting off the legs on which you stand.  Sure, resolve right now to obey what you read in Scripture, but even if that obedience is very imperfect (as we are imperfect) don't stop reading.  Scripture will help you to grow up into the fullness of Christ.  Don't harden your hearts to it--then it really will be futile to read it--but don't stop reading if your obedience is less than it ought to be.  Read more about this here: "When Bible-reading Becomes Futile: A Warning"

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Church without Jesus?

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6, NKJV)
Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12, NKJV)
For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2, NKJV)

If your church is not pointing you to Jesus Christ, you have a BIG problem!  Christ must be the whole reason you're a Christ-ian and Christ must be the whole reason we do church!

Remember that the Church is the Bride of Christ!  If the Bride forgets her Bridegroom or neglects Him, what would that say of their relationship?  What would that say to a watching world?

Remember that the Church is the Body of Christ!  If the Body forgets the Head or neglects Him, will it not quickly and utterly die?

Remember that we are the Branch and Christ is the Vine!  If the Branch ceases to be in the Vine, will it live?  And what if we become puffed-up, thinking that we do not need the Vine?  Will not the Vinedresser chasten us for our pride? [Indeed, the Apostle Paul says that the Vinedresser is able to cut us off completely from the Vine, should we become too proud. ref Romans 11:20-21]

Jesus Christ must be everything to you!  He must be everything to me!  He did, after-all, save us from the wrath of God!  Let's remember that this Sabbath!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

They Said It: Andrew Murray on Obedience

Andrew Murray (1828-1917) was a South African missionary and pastor.  He wrote many books about walking intimately with God in devotion and prayer.

Ye are My friends, if ye do the things which I command you. - John 15:14 
... This truth, of the imperative necessity of obedience, doing all that Christ commands us, has not the place in our Christian teaching and living that Christ meant it to have.  We have given far higher place to privilege than to duty.  We have not considered implicit obedience as a condition of true discipleship.  The secret thought that it is impossible to do the things He commands us, and that therefore it cannot be expected of us, and a subtle and unconscious feeling that sinning is a necessity have frequently robbed both precepts and promises of their power.  The whole relation to Christ has become clouded and lowered, the waiting on His teaching, the power to hear and obey His voice, and through obedience to enjoy His love and friendship, have been enfeebled by the terrible mistake.  Do let us try to return to the true position, take Christ's words as most literally true, and make nothing less the law of our life: "Ye are my friends, if ye do the things that I command you."  Surely our Lord asks nothing less than that we heartily and truthfully say: "Yea, Lord, what Thou dost command, that will I do." ...

[From The True Vine by Andrew Murray, Moody Press, public domain]

Friday, August 3, 2012

"I want to be like Mary...": a poem

To read the biblical account of the anointing of Jesus at Bethany, click HERE and HERE.

I want to be like Mary...

Oh I want to be like Mary
She broke her alabaster flask
Poured its oil out on Jesus
He didn't even have to ask

Mary do you love Me?
Will you do this thing for Me?
Do you trust Me with what's precious?
Would you give it all for Me?

Jesus, You are worthy
Of this and so much more
My blood instead of oil
I'd even gladly pour

But no one else understood
The beat of Mary's heart
They said it was a waste
--it surely wasn't smart

Why, that oil could be sold
The money given to the poor
Why'd she spend it all on Jesus
What did she do that for?

But Jesus did not rebuke her
Nor scorn the gift she gave
She's wrought a good work for Me, He said
And come to prepare Me for the grave

And where'er the Gospel's preached
Her deed will be told of, too
As a memorial to her
[And as a reminder to you]

Don't fear to be like Mary
To love Christ more than self
True, the world will mock you
And relegate you to the shelf

By the world you'll be forgotten
They won't even know your name
But where the Gospel of love is preached
Your love, too, will be proclaimed

Oh, I want to be like Mary
Who broke her alabaster flask
She poured its oil out on Jesus
He didn't even have to ask

Sadie Daniels, 2012

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Drawing Near: Sabotaging ourselves

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. (James 4:8a, NKJV)
With whom is the responsibility to draw near?  With us.  We are to draw near to God.  Then He will draw near to us.  Not the other way around.  It lies with us to make the first move.  We have to repent and seek God.  (Of course, no one can come unless the Father first draws him, but that's a lesson for another time. ref John 6:44)

The responsibility lies with us to draw near to God.  And we've learned that we draw near to God by purifying ourselves from sin and by making God our Master.

Do you know that we can sabotage ourselves in our pursuit of God?  Yes; we can.  By downplaying the significance of self and rebellion in our lives.  By denying that we have sin and by accepting the reign of the flesh instead of the reign of Christ in us.

I find that every time I say something like: What's the big deal anyway? about something the Holy Spirit is convicting me of, it is as if I am myself putting up a barrier between me and God.

There's nowhere I can go to get away from God (see Psalm 139), but there is a sense in which I can cease to draw near to God, in relationship, by refusing to acknowledge and put away sin.

By not acknowledging the gravity of sin, and by not denying self and putting it to death so that the Spirit of Christ might reign in me, I sabotage my walk with God and make it impossible to draw near to Him.

Let us this day resolve to deal seriously with sin, and not down-play it as being "not so bad".  Let us remember that because of sin, the perfect Lamb of God--Jesus Christ Himself--had to die a death He did not deserve.  Let us, therefore, treat sin with all of the violence and contempt that it deserves, and put it to a quick and decisive death so that we can draw near to God and experience all of the joy and beauty that is available to us in His presence.