Tuesday, May 31, 2011
The truth is that the term spiritual life is simply a way of referring to one’s life—every moment and facet of it—from God’s perspective. Another way of saying it is this: God is not interested in your “spiritual life.” God is just interested in your life. He intends to redeem it. ~ John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted, p. 15
Friday, May 27, 2011
"The astonishing power to use what is beyond ourselves is one of the main clues to who and what we are. Due to our intelligence and social organization alone, we extend our powers over the earth and its inhabitants to a degree both awe-inspiring and terrifying, promising to heal the agony of human history or threatening utterly to destroy the planet." ~ Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines, p. 61
Thursday, May 26, 2011
"We cannot hope to live like him [Jesus] without a similar depth of passion. Many people find that the dilemma of desire is too much to live with, and so they abandon, they disown their desire. This is certainly true of a majority of Christians at present. Somehow we believe that we can get on without it. We are mistaken." ~ John Eldredge, The Journey of Desire, p. 55
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
"The highest glory or the creature is in being only a vessel, to receive and enjoy and show forth the glory of God. It can do this only as it is willing to be nothing in itself, that God may be all." ~ Andrew Murray, Humility and Absolute Surrender, p. 55
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
"This certainly does not mean that our forgiveness of others earns us the right to be forgiven. It is rather that God forgives only the penitent and that one of the chief evidences of true penitence is a forgiving spirit." ~ John Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, p. 149
Monday, May 23, 2011
"Any theology that construes salvation as some sort of cooperative effort between God and man is false. Whatever man does in reference to his salvation may be seen as responsive, not causal. Jesus, God's gift, is the sole cause." ~ William Pile , What the Bible Says About Grace, p. 105
Sunday, May 22, 2011
"Only by the power of God, working in heart and mind, can we subdue the slumbering tyrant within. Only by the Holy Spirit's prevailing strength can we restrain the evil desires seeking to spring forth. Within each person, a battle rages; only through God is victory secured." ~ George MacDonald, The Best of George MacDonald, p. 144
Saturday, May 21, 2011
"The root of true religion lies in the heart. It is in the inmost soul. It is the union of the soul with God the life of God in the soul of man. But if this root is really in the heart, it must put forth branches. These branches are the many instances of outward obedience, which are of the same nature as is the root. Consequently, they are not only marks or signs, but substantial parts of true religion." ~ John Wesley, The Sermon on the Mount, p. 131
Two weeks ago Jenny and I had our engagement pictures taken in Rochester, MN by a couple of her friends. They did a great job and I thought I would share with you some of the pictures. You can find some posted at the photographer's blog: Justin Moreland's Design and Photography. Here are couple of my favorites that didn't make the blog.
These are my top two favorites since they focus on the Beauty and not the Beast.
As you can see from the count down our wedding day is fast approaching. Just 35 more days!!!!
Friday, May 20, 2011
"Don't be fooled by the apparent innocence of the object you've chosen. What is its function? Most of our idols also have a perfectly legitimate place in our lives. That's their cover. That's how we get away with our infidelity." ~ John Eldredge, The Journey of Desire, p. 80
Thursday, May 19, 2011
"Most of life's challenges are a test of first-dimension faith—trusting God with your relationships; trusting God with your finances; trusting God with your career; and making decisions based on His character in the midst of those arenas. The texture of this dimension of faith has everything to do with character. It is about trusting in God's character and God's testing your character. That's why you cannot speak about faith without talking about obedience." ~ Erwin McManus, Seizing Your Divine Moment, p. 71
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
It is no secret that life is filled with heartbreak, disappointment, tragedy, and all sorts of different trials. We understand that God has not promised us an easy life, and that He is able to use the junk that happens to us to mature our faith and transform us into the people He created us to be. That is why we should find joy in our suffering, because God is redeeming our pain to make us new creations.
Yet, we also know that this is easier said than done. When our lives are going smoothly, or at least manageable, we can say, "I trust God no matter what happens." Then the clouds descend and the storm hits and before long we are questioning God's heart. Some times we will even begin to question His existence.
How do we make the rubber meet the road here without sounding like a cheerleader? You know the person who says, "Just try a little harder. You can do it. Hang in there." That type of encouragement is worthless. It is like trying to encourage a guy with a compound leg facture to get up and run a marathon, "You can do it. I am in your corner. I will pray for you." We would recognize such behavior as cruel, and rightly so, because the problem isn't a lack of effort but a broken leg. Spiritual growth often isn't about a lack of effort, but it is about a wounded heart. A heart that doesn't trust that God is good.
So how can we use the tragedy and trials in our lives to mature our faith? I think first we have to lay a solid foundation. This has to be done before the storms hit, because once the rain starts to fall it is going to be awfully difficult to make any progress.
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it" (Matthew 7:24-27; ESV)
The reason it is so important to do the listening and the obey before the storm hits is because that gives us the experience we need to remind ourselves that God is good. He can be trusted to bring us life, even if at the moment the flood waters seem to be winning. Yet, even in the midst of the storm this is where we need to begin. We will not survive, we will not find healing and life, if we do not have the firm foundation of Jesus. So even if it is pouring down rain and the flood is rising we need to spend our time trying to find the rock that will keep us from being swept away.
Second I think we need to daily surrender our lives to God. Read what the apostle Paul wrote in Romans:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:1-2; ESV)In other words we have to give up control of our lives. The only way we will be changed is to allow God to change us. If we are going to insist on doing things our way we will never experience the life that God wants us to have. We won't be transformed. We won't be the salt of the earth or light of the world because we will be conformed to the world around us. This is scary because we our handing over the reins of our lives to God, giving Him control, and trusting Him for the results.
That is where the rubber meets the road: trust. Spiritual maturity isn't about trying harder, but it is about trusting more. We learn to trust through experience and so prayer and obedience become the route through which our faith is grown as we come to know that God is one we can trust with our lives.
"God made us for relationships, and we only begin to experience life fully when we move toward healthy relationships and healthy community. Your soul will never be satisfied with anything less." ~ Erwin McManus, Soul Cravings, entry 15
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
"The Bible is not a tool for sharpening our religious competence, but a living and active sword for cleaving our double-minded thoughts and motives, exposing and transforming the contents of our hearts (see Heb. 4:12). The best guard against any handling of the Scripture that leaves our souls untouched—and ourselves unchanged—is surrender to the cleansing, forming flow of the Holy Spirit." ~ Richard Foster, Life With God, p. 62
Monday, May 16, 2011
"As a result of the unique priesthood and perfect sacrifice of Jesus, to whom we have fled for refuge and through whom we have received a complete forgiveness, we may now constantly draw near to God. In Old Testament days only the priests might draw near. Through the veil into the very presence of God in the Most Holy Place, only the high priest might come, and then only once a year on the Day of Atonement. All others had to keep their distance, on pain of death. But now this distinction between priest and people has been abolished by Jesus. Now there is a 'priesthood of all believers'. For now through him all may draw near, pastors and people, sovereign and commoners, without any discrimination whatever." ~ John Stott, Life in Christ, p. 21
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
"When we know God, we have more than merely a body of truths about God. More importantly, we know the living personal God. The task of knowing God, then, does not focus on the possession of a list of statements about God, but on the enjoyment of fellowship with God." ~ Stanley Grenz, Theology for the Community of God, p. 49
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
"How much our Christianity suffers from this, that it is confined to certain times and places. A man, who seeks to pray earnestly in the church or in the closet, spends the greater part of the week or the day in a spirit entirely at variance with that in which he prayed. His worship was the work of a fixed place or hour, not of his whole being." ~ Andrew Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer - New Century Edition
Monday, May 09, 2011
"The primary snare for the Christian is not breaking moral laws, important thought that is, but the idolatry—the worshipping of false gods—that leads to such behaviour. That is the focus of Paul's plea here. Make sure you're worshipping the true God, and everything else will follow." ~ N. T. Wright, Paul for Everyone: Galatians and Thessalonians, p. 50
Sunday, May 08, 2011
"Yet how few of us live one life and live it in the open! We are tempted to wear a different mask and play a different role according to each occasion. This is not reality, but play-acting, which is the essence of hypocrisy. Some people weave round themselves such a tissue of lies that they can no longer tell which part of them is real and which is make-believe. Alone among men Jesus Christ was absolutely pure in heart, being entirely guileless." ~ John Stott, The Sermon on the Mount, p. 49
Motherhood is a sacrifice. It may mean putting off a college educationand a career, or even giving them up entirely. It may mean sacrificing a flawless figure. It may mean sacrificing dreams. It definitely means putting two, three, four or more lives ahead of your own. But motherhood is also an expression of hope. Motherhood is a vote of confidence in the future of mankind. Motherhood is the brave voice of a woman saying, "I will not live life for today. I will create life for many tomorrows."
Cards, gifts and flowers are no adequate expressions of gratitude for this living statement of faith. ~ Vox Day
Read more: The mother's war
Cards, gifts and flowers are no adequate expressions of gratitude for this living statement of faith. ~ Vox Day
Read more: The mother's war
Saturday, May 07, 2011
"The importance of knowing Bible doctrine is heightened even more when we realize that the Bible teaches truth not just about sin and salvation but about God, man, and the universe as a whole. The Bible presents a total world and life view, a comprehensive interpretation of everything that exists. All decisions and all deeds, directly or indirectly are related to what the Bible teaches, and should be determined by it." ~ Jack Cottrell, Solid, p. 100
Friday, May 06, 2011
"There are, indeed, various degrees of hope; but in the least degree of it there is desire combined with expectation. Things expected are not always desirable, nor are things desirable always to be expected: but hope embraces promises that are desirable and also expects the enjoyment of them. Hence, hope, like faith and love, may grow exceedingly. When based on the promises of God, and on the habitual patient conformity to his will, it will keep pace with our growing intelligence of the character of God; of the fulness and richness of the promises, and in the persuasion of our actual devotion to the manifestations of that will." ~ Alexander Campbell, The Christian System, pp. 51-52
Thursday, May 05, 2011
Repentance is not a welcome idea among many believers today; as a whole, people squirm when confronted with it. No one likes to see himself as a sinner; it is nicer to be a good Christian. Yet don't all four gospels make it clear that Christ came for sinners - not for saints- and that the way to Christ is humility and poverty of spirit, not human goodness?
J. Heinrich Arnold, Freedom from Sinful Thoughts
I have this tendency to diminish that sin in my life. It is easy to see it as no bigger deal, after all it was just a little over eating, over spending, or exaggeration; it is nothing to be concerned about. Other people have far worse sins than I what I have. All I need is a little bit of grace and a little bit of strength and I can become, with a little bit of effort, the person God calls me to be.
When I think this way I totally forget what sin is. Sin isn't simply breaking God's laws. It is that, but it is so much more. You see sin is rebellion against God. Sin is the path way which allows corruption, destruction, and death to enter into God's beautiful creation. This means every time I sin, even in the smallest way, I am participating with God's enemies to destroy what God loves.
It for this reason why repentance is more than just changing the way we live. Repentance does require a change of mind, a change of life direction, and a change of world view, but it also requires us to denounce our sins and to declare our loyalty to God. We need to break the attachments we have with with, we have to burn the bridges we have with the old life, and we need to accept God's way to live. Repentance is more about defecting then it is about a making a U turn.
I am convinced that one of the reasons we struggle so long against sin in our lives, especially when we have victory over sin in Christ Jesus, is because we have never truly repented. We have intellectually decided that Jesus is God's Son and the Way to Life, but we have not verbally denounced our former way of life and declared our undying loyalty to Jesus Christ. Until we do the bonds of sin will hold on to our hearts.
The apostle Paul wrote; For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death (2 Corinthians 7:10; NLT). To feel bad about our sin does not break the bond that has been established between sin and our hearts. Repentance breaks those bonds and allows us to experience the life God desires us to live.
"Our citizenship papers are in heaven. We should be speaking the language of heaven and we should be observing the ways and customs that heaven has designed for its citizens." ~ Bruce Oberst, Letters from Peter, p. 57
Wednesday, May 04, 2011
The future is the sum total of all the choices that are made in the present and in the past. Fortunately, that sum total includes the choices made by God.
Erwin McManus, Uprising, p. 237
If we took a minute to think about it we would realize that the world we live is the product of billions of choices. Each of every person who has every lived has had a hand in creating this world. I think this is why the idea of parallel universes is so appealing because it helps us to think about the what ifs of life. We can imagine what life would have been like if we would have gone out for the football team, ask a certain girl out of a date, or applied ourselves in the classroom. Just think there might be a universe out there where I am the President of the United States!
Though we know in our hearts of hearts, as the great theologian Eddie Money taught us, we can't go back. The past is the past and we can't go back and make different choices. Even if there were other parallel universes out there the alternate me making different or better choices doesn't affect my life. The only life that really matters is the life that I am currently living.
I have to realize that the life that I am living right now is largely the product of the choices I have made. Yes, I have been affected by the choices of other people, but those choices still required that I would respond in a certain way. So it all comes down to choices. Each day we are faced with hundreds of little choices, and those choices mold us into the people we are becoming.
This can sound a little scary. After all I know myself and I know how often I make the wrong choice. I know how easy it is not to exercise because I am to tired or how easy it is to eat the wrong thing (is that a Reeses Peanut Cup Blizzard calling my name?) because my body is craving it. Each and everyone of us have tired to become a different person, we have had the good intentions, and we have fallen short. Let me encourage you: Things can be different!
First we have to realize that our problem with making the wrong choice often comes from the fact that we are lead by our flesh. Our flesh focuses on the immediate and satisfying our bodily desires. It is our flesh which leads us to sin. It was Eve's flesh that convinced her to listen to the voice of Satan and eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It was Adam's flesh that caused him to desire Eve more than he desired God.
Read what Paul wrote about the flesh:
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:5-8; ESV).
When our choices are guided by the flesh we are unable to please God and to live the way He wants us to live. Thank God our lives and our futures are not totally dependent on our choices. We can have different lives because of the choices God has made. That is the good news! God's choices are added into the equation of our choices to shape the future.
Earlier in Romans Paul wrote:
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:6-11; ESV)
You see because God made the choice not to give up on humankind He did whatever it took to save us from sin, to rescue us from death, and to give us new life. He did this, not based on our good choices, but based on His character. God desired that we would be able to live lives which were guided by the Spirit and not the flesh. In this way we would have the resources we need to make good decisions.
Our futures are created by the choices that are made. Our lives are affected by our choices, the choices of the people around us, the choices of Satan, and most importantly the choices of our Heavenly Father. The reality that God is active in the world and in our lives is the good news that has the ability to change the trajectory of our lives. We can be different people and our futures shaped when we open our hearts to the choices God has made in this world. Thank God our futures are not totally dependent on the choices we make!
"If love is the goal, it could not be otherwise. God chose to create a world in which evil was possible only in the sense that he chose to create a world in which love was possible. The possibility of evil is not a second decision God makes; it is implied in the single decision to have a world in which love is possible. It is, in effect, the metaphysical price God must pay if he wants to arrive at a bride who says yes to his triune love." ~ Gregory Boyd, Satan and the Problem of Evil, p. 55
Tuesday, May 03, 2011
"Regardless of what a Christian goes though, it is better to suffer as a believer than to live as a pagan...We may suffer evil men's schemes. We may even suffer from natural disasters. But when we put our head to the pillow at night, we need not fear death, feel shame, wrestle with remorse, carry guilt, search for hope, worry over our destiny or wonder about our destination. We don't have to dodge demons, live with locusts, run from horsemen, or cower under Satanic attack. More than all this, we don't have to face God in a contest of colossal proportions. In fact, he stands with us as our shield and first line of defense." ~ Mark Moore, How to Dodge a Dragon: A Devotional Reading of Revelation, p. 53
Monday, May 02, 2011
"Comprehending the Bible is not only a matter of developing a fine studious mind; it is also a matter of the heart. We must desire to have seeing eyes and listening ears, coming to Scripture with a desire to hear what God wants us to say. We must beware of imposing our agendas and conclusions, even finding answers to our questions that God never intended to answer." ~ Robert Lowery, Revelation's Rhapsody, p. 115
Sunday, May 01, 2011
"The Bible knows nothing of a stoical god who is untouched and unmoved by human affairs. The God of Scripture is a passionate God who not only displays great emotion but who very frequently acts upon those emotions. He does so in perfect harmony with His divine holiness and love, never losing balance or perspective. In other words, he is not flawed with the emotional deficiencies or excesses of men. But he does manifest great emotion." ~ Gary Carpenter, What the Bible Says about the Heart, p. 87