Monday, January 28, 2008

Spiritual Growth

From “The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions”
Compiled by Arthur Bennett

In the way of thy appointment I am waiting for thee,
my desire is to thy name,
my mind to remembrance of thee.

I am a sinner, but not insensible of my state.

My iniquities are great and numberless,
but thou art adequate to my relief,
for thou art rich in mercy;
the blood of thy Son can cleanse from all sin;
the agency of thy spirit can subdue my most powerful lusts.

Give me a tender, wakeful conscience
that can smite and torment me when I sin.

May I be consistent in conversation and conduct,
the same alone as in company,
in prosperity and adversity,
accepting all thy commandments as right,
and hating every false way.

May I never be satisfied with my present spiritual progress,
but to faith add virtue, knowledge, temperance, godliness,
brotherly kindness, charity.

May I never neglect
what is necessary to constitute Christian character,
and needful to complete it.

May I cultivate the expedient,
develop the lovely, adorn the gospel,
recommend the religion of Jesus,
accommodate myself to thy providence.

Keep me from sinking or sinning in the evil day;
Help me to carry into ordinary life portions of divine truth
and use them on suitable occasions, so that
its doctrines may inform,
its warnings caution,
its rules guide,
its promises comfort me.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Where is Your Treasure?

19"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
20"But store up for yourselves
treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;
where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
(Matthew 6:19-21; NASB)

If I could point out one sin that is most pervasive in our society today-and has unfortunately invaded the church as well – I would say materialism would either take top place or at least come dangerously close to the top. Of course, this is not to say that there are not other sins that have become extremely problematic, because there are. And I could make a list of many that are in the forefront and devastating to our society and unfortunately the church as well. But remember, that it is often the love of material wealth that is at the center of instigating the rise of many others sins. 1 Timothy 6:10 tells us that “the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil”.

A Discipleship Journal survey ranked areas of greatest spiritual challenge to readers, and materialism ranked number one (Discipleship Journal, 11-12/92).

It is the love of money that causes man to set his priorities based on what yields the most opportunity for profit. It causes men to lust after wealth to the point that they are willing to lie, cheat and steal to gain more. Or let’s even take abortion for example. Some often view a pregnancy as an inhibition to furthering a career to pursue wealth, or simply view a child as too costly and opt to kill their unborn baby. This to me is heinous and not much different than what the children of Israel did when they offered their children in sacrifice in false worship of Molech (Jeremiah 7:31; 2 Kings 23:10). Think about it-the pursuit of wealth and furthering career growth becomes the focus of their worship to the point that they are sacrificing their child to their “god” of money or worldly pursuit. If that does not touch the apex of selfishness, I don’t know what does!

Jesus is exhorting His hearers to store up treasures in Heaven, rather than on earth. Treasure on earth is temporal. It is subject to decay and deterioration. Men seek to steal others wealth. These are the things that matter the least, and unfortunately, man places them at center stage. I am sure many can recall the saying “whoever dies with the most toys wins”. But that is absolutely and blatantly false. No one truly wins. And as King Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes came to realize, all of the earthly treasures and pleasures cannot provide lasting satisfaction (Ecclesiastes 2:1-11). You can’t take any of it with you when you go. It was once said by Billy Graham that he never saw a U-Haul towed behind a hearse. How true!

But where our treasure lies is where our focus in life is going to be. The word treasure comes from the Greek “thesaurus”, and refers to things laid in store as in a treasury, a collection of treasured valuables. The word heart (Gr. Kardia) refers to the central core of spiritual life, the very soul from where our thoughts, passions, affections and desires emanate. It includes our intellectual faculty, our will and character. And it is affected either for good or for bad, controlling our affections, emotions, passions and appetites. If our heart is focused on earthly wealth, then that is where we are going to focus our attention. We will spend most of our time pursuing possessions and earthly gain, and spiritual matters will be of little or no concern.

The sad reality is that many, even in the church have become too focused on temporal wealth and pleasures. Scripture teaches us that all of the things of this world will ultimately be destroyed, and admonishes us to live exemplary lives in light of this fact (2 Peter 3:10-13). We are to be holy in our conduct, and passionate in our pursuit of godliness. The Bible also tells us that there is coming a day when believers will be judged for the things that relate to activities concerning our eternal reward (2 Corinthians 5:9-10). The material things of this life are meaningless in light of eternity.

It is for this reason that Jesus exhorts us to store up treasures in heaven, things of eternal significance. A place where they are secure, cannot be taken by others or deteriorate over time. If our hearts are heaven bound, then we will pursue with great passion those things that bear the most eternal significance, and we will seek to keep our lives focused upon God and the furtherance of His kingdom.

In evaluating our attitude concerning material wealth, there are some important questions that can reveal where our heart is really focused. When we consider life goals, how many revolve around God and His work? What things are the object of our affections? How do we spend our time and efforts? What do we spend our resources on? Answers to these questions should help in evaluating where our focus in life really is.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Importance of Redeeming Time

Excerpt from:

The Preciousness of Time and the Importance of Redeeming It
By Jonathan Edwards
December 1734

"Fourth, time is very precious, because when it is past, it cannot be recovered. There are many things which men possess, which if they part with, they can obtain them again. If a man have parted with something which he had, not knowing the worth of it, or the need he should have of it; he often can regain it, at least with pains and cost. If a man have been overseen in a bargain, and have bartered away or sold something, and afterwards repents of it, he may often obtain a release, and recover what he had parted with. — But it is not so with respect to time. When once that is gone, it is gone forever; no pains, no cost will recover it. Though we repent ever so much that we let it pass, and did not improve it while we had it, it will be to no purpose. Every part of it is successively offered to us, that we may choose whether we will make it our own, or not. But there is no delay. It will not wait upon us to see whether or no we will comply with the offer. But if we refuse, it is immediately taken away, and never offered more. As to that part of time which is gone, however we have neglected to improve it, it is out of our possession and out of our reach.

If we have lived fifty, or sixty, or seventy years, and have not improved our time, now it cannot be helped. It is eternally gone from us. All that we can do, is to improve the little that remains. Yea, if a man have spent all his life but a few moments unimproved, all that is gone is lost, and only those few remaining moments can possibly be made his own. And if the whole of a man’s time be gone, and it be all lost, it is irrecoverable. — Eternity depends on the improvement of time. But when once the time of life is gone, when once death is come, we have no more to do with time; there is no possibility of obtaining the restoration of it, or another space in which to prepare for eternity. If a man should lose the whole of his worldly substance, and become a bankrupt, it is possible that his loss may be made up. He may have another estate as good. But when the time of life is gone, it is impossible that we should ever obtain another such time. All opportunity of obtaining eternal welfare is utterly and everlastingly gone."

[You can read this article in its entirety here at "A Puritan's Mind"]

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Thoughts on the 2008 Presidential Race from Al Mohler

Al Mohler had some comments concerning the 2008 presidential race this last Friday. I particularly agree with his following comment:

“The rhetoric of the race -- and the rhetoric of many evangelicals -- is disturbing. This race is important and necessarily so. We are talking about the next President of the United States, after all. But evangelicals have invested far too much hope in the political process. No government can make people good, transform humanity, or eliminate sin. The political sphere is important, but never ultimate. Jesus Christ is Lord -- and He will be Lord regardless of who sits in the Oval Office.”

How true. And I certainly wish evangelicals would put as much effort into building their relationship with Jesus Christ and knowledge of the truth of His Word, as they do in their political pursuits.

The battle will not be ultimately won on the political front. Only Jesus Christ can truly change the hearts of men and women. It is infinitely more important that we concentrate on the proclamation of the Gospel and the straight forward truth of Scripture. It is not that I advocate ignoring the political process altogether. Believers should be responsible citizens and vote for the condidates that best reflect our values, especially in a nation where we have the privilege to do so. But I think evangelicals have become too engrossed in the process to the point that we have dropped the ball on guarding the truth of Scripture in our churches.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Get the New Year Off to a Good Start

You may have set some new goals for 2008, and perhaps some of those thoughts were directed toward making a more concentrated effort at deepening your understanding of Biblical truth. You may want to check out Biblical Training. This is an excellent resource, offering both lay and seminary level courses. And these are offered free of charge. They are also involved in a project to offer classes to train leaders in churches in third world countries. I would recommend offering them a generous donation so that they can expand and continue to offer these courses. I think you would agree that it is definitely a worthy cause. Contributors to the material on Biblical Training include Dr. Bill Mounce and Dr. John Piper and faculty from various schools including Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. There is plenty of solid teaching there.

Another good resource is Founders Ministry Study Center. Most of these courses are offered for a fee of $75 per course plus books and materials. This is another great resource for those unable to relocate and attend a seminary.

These are only a couple of many resources that are available online. But these are great low cost options to receive biblical training.