How sad to see brilliant, creative people pouring hours and days of their lives into creating cities and armies and adventures that have no connection with reality. — John Piper, “Five Digital Dangers

If there is anything I would like for my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to critique me on, it’s on my interpretation of scripture and my faithfulness to sound doctrine.  I know that I can’t trust my heart, so I don’t trust it completely. Also, the Bible is clear that teachers will be judged more than others.  Since the gospel is not what comes naturally out of my mind and heart, I need the community of believers to sharpen me, just like others need me to sharpen them.  I can only be a help to others through a lifetime of spending time in scripture and in prayer.

As the old Steve Green song says, “May all who come behind us find us faithful.”

All of us have stories to tell of unjustified criticism, wrong readings of our motives, carnal injustice, and outright demonic attacks. The real issue, however, is how we have processed these incidents. Are we better or bitter as a result? — Joseph Umidi, Confirming the Pastoral Call, 64

"I love God, but I don’t love the church."

It’s like kissing your adoptive father on the cheek and then spitting in the face of his bride.

The whole era of the early church is more and more relevant to our new cultural setting. They had the challenge of living for Christ in a pluralistic, pagan, pre-Christian environment. We have the challenge of living for Christ in a pluralistic, neo-pagan, post Christian environment. We can learn a lot from the early church. — Dr. Don Sweeting, President of RTS-Orlando and Professor of Church History, writing for The Gospel Coalition

I was fighting temptation this morning…

This time, I prayed to God for help and then I opened the Bible and resumed my Bible reading instead. The first passage I read was in Acts 5, the account of Ananias and Sapphira.

I then read some commentary (IVP, by William J. Larkin Jr. - http://www.ciu.edu/discover-ciu/who-we-are/faculty-staff/william-j-larkin-jr?page=1) that helped me to remember to look past the cloud of temptation I am currently under.

Larkin writes, “So Ananias and Sapphira learn that in this life God can, and when he chooses will, punish sinners either by immediate death or by some other means. This can happen to those who claim to be, and may truly be, a part of his covenant people, enjoy his salvation blessings and yet deliberately sin and remain unrepentant (1 Cor 5:5; 1 Jn 5:16-17).

For Christians today this is still a temptation: to so luxuriate in the love and grace of God that we do not take seriously the consequences of our deliberate sinning. But God will not be mocked (Gal 6:7-8).”

Every temptation I come up against is not just a decision on whether or not to experience a thrill of the flesh, one that God will playfully dismiss because of grace…it is instead a direct offense toward the holiness of God. Without caution in the area of sin, it can easily snowball, even to the frightening point of outraging the spirit of grace (Hebrews 10:29).

I thought of Paul’s writing in Romans 6 as well. “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

How deep is God’s grace that He has not yet let death claim me, its rightful victim? How deeper still that He sanctifies His own, allowing me to put myself to death daily? And yet….the mystery of this…how vast, how deep is His grace that death has been utterly conquered through Christ’s sacrifice?

I know that all of my private successes in the war against sin point back to the cross.

Ears to hear…

Soon, my ears will hear no more. My heart will stop beating, the blood will no longer course through my body, oxygen will fail to reach my brain, and I will taste death, the bitter wages of my sin.

Jesus often used the expression, “he who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

While I have yet my hearing, physically and spiritually, I pray that I would continue to be given the grace to hear and receive what it is that the Lord is saying to me.

Miles and miles to go before I sleep…

A thought that went through my mind today…

While at work, I will often think through theology and different aspects of the Christian life. Today, the thought entered my mind that since the true followers of Christ will be doing works out of love anyway, what is the point of trying to get someone who is hesitant to act? Isn’t that between God and them?

Almost instantly, the Spirit brought to mind the passage that I read recently: Hebrews 10:19-25.

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Hebrews%2010&version=ESV

Since we have Jesus, we have a reason to a) be excited about good works, and b) stoke the fires of excitement about good works in our colaborers. The hour is soon at hand when Christ will come back for what is His, and we should earnestly desire to be found about the business of the Master.

As the Spirit gives us power, love, and self-discipline (1 Timothy 1:7) , He prepares us and excites us to great things for His glory…and it’s contagious in the body of Christ!

I have great news!

If the church realized that Jesus was actually physically here in Nashville, wouldn’t they run out to meet Him, dropping their plans immediately?  Who wouldn’t do that?  It’s Jesus, the Savior, God in flesh, the Redeemer!

Well, the good news is, (you might want to drop what you’re doing) He is actually here right now!   What’s better is that He is physically here in our city every single day. 

Here’s where to find Him:

Jesus shows up daily on street corners begging for money.  He sits alone, unspoken to, in the pew on Sunday morning.  He receives chemotherapy every day at the children’s hospital.  He sits in a sterile jail cell, hopelessly awaiting his next court date.  He weeps in sorrow at the recent loss of a loved one.  He resides in thousands of nursing homes, lonely, abandoned, neglected, cast aside.  His mouth is parched and cottony from lack of water.  His stomach is knotted and starving for food.  He is naked and cold, exposed to the harshest of elements.  He longs for someone to just reach out and show compassion.  He longs for a real friend to help carry a burden.

The true church will absolutely hear this soon: Matthew 25:40 - “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

The deluded “church” will absolutely hear this soon: Matthew 25:45 - “Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’”

Let the real church arise TODAY and love Jesus!

The road to integrity

   

The road to integrity often seems like a road that is maddeningly difficult and lonely.  On every side, I’m surrounded by those who are willing to compromise in one area or another.  Temptations come from without (Proverbs 1:10), but more often from within (Jeremiah 17:9).  I’m so weak, so easily swayed, so basically broken.  Failures of mind and body come all too easily.

"Wait until tomorrow, then you’ll start the fight."

"Nobody will know if you give in.  You can hide it well."

"This doesn’t really matter much, because nobody respects this rule."

"A spirit-filled life of true integrity is a destination that is unreachable."

"Isn’t everyone a hypocrite?"

Lies, lies, lies.  Jesus has cancelled the power of sin and death, and the Spirit has the power to sanctify, to change my heart, to renew my mind.

This road, this seemingly lonely road, doesn’t have to be so lonely.  We have to change!  This is a divided and conquered epoch of self-indulgence that is killing off camaraderie, and integrity is an unfortunate victim.  Reflect on these words of Qoheleth:

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.  For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!  Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?  And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” - Ecc. 4:9-12

The road to integrity looks much more promising with one or more to walk alongside us.

Prayer: Lord, make real men and women of authentic integrity in Your church.  In my local church!  Help us to aid and to encourage each other along this narrow path.  Grow our affection for Christ and the example we have in Him.  Give us the grace to be called “servants after Your own heart.”  Not so that we can be pious and better than the norm, nor so we can be falsely reliant on our works outside of Your grace, but so that we can just serve with clear conscience and humble spirit, and so that Your Spirit will work with tools that are sharpened, ready for service, fit for duty.  Lord, expand your kingdom through a resolved, unified body.

It all starts here: God, have mercy on me, a sinner.