Battle Plan Series – Intro – Part 2

Last time we asked the question, , “Do I really want to pursue righteousness and holiness, and count everything loss in order to know Christ and the power of His resurrection in my life?” Do I really want this? Am I willing to work hard, suffer and sweat to gain it?

 

This is not a trite question. You shouldn’t just read it and go on. In order to help us think about this, I’d like to look at several passages of Scripture.

 

The Bible speaks about fleeing some things and pursuing others. Hebrews 12:14 says, “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.”  One of the things that should be pursued is holiness. To pursue means to chase down or chase after. You’ve seen the police chases. Several squad cars are seen pursuing a car speeding to get away. The point is they are trying to catch the person. They are not just following along after it like they would be during non-chase normal traffic situations.  So we are to chase down holiness, which the writer says we need if we want to see the Lord. Do you have the desire to see the Lord? Do you have the desire to chase holiness? Are you chasing it?

 

1 Timothy 6:11 But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.

 

There are things to flee, but in this case I’m focusing on the pursuit. Here we are told to pursue several traits. Look these over and ask yourself, “Am I chasing these things?” Look at each one of these traits one at a time.  Do I have a desire chase them? Am I willing to ask God for the desire to chase them? Do I want to chase righteousness? Godliness? Faith? Love? Patience? Gentleness?

 

2 Timothy 2:22 Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

 

Am I fleeing and do I desire to flee youthful lusts. Older people can have youthful lusts. Sex is certainly one of these, but young people also have other inordinate desires for prestige, acceptance, power, recklessness, etc. Sometimes as we get older, these lusts don’t disappear. We need to run away from these lusts with as much energy as we can. And here again we are to pursue righteousness and other traits. So if you can picture this, we are to be running away from some things in hot pursuit of other things. This is not a lazy afternoon walk. This is a chase. Paul says he beats his body to keep it under control and in subjection to his mind (1 Corinthians 9:27). The author of Hebrews challenges us by saying that we haven’t resisted to bloodshed in our fight against sin (Hebrews 12:4).

 

And from Philippians 3:8-14 we learn that, like Paul, we should count things that are normally thought of as gain, we should count them loss. Keeping those things would be a negative. The reason is because of the excellence of Christ. Paul wanted to gain Christ. He described his effort as “pressing for the mark.”  He was like a runner stretching out to be the first person across the line. That is the kind of effort he was making in order to know Christ better and to be found in Him.

 

Before we go on to any of the strategies that I will outline for us, each one of us needs to ask ourselves the question: Do I really want this?  Do I want to pursue righteousness and holiness?  Do I really want Christ above all things? If the answer is “no” or if the answer is “I don’t think I really care.” or if the answer is a shrug of the shoulders, then there’s no point in going on.

 

Next time we’ll begin to look at some of the strategies in detail.

CL Discussion – Absolutes

These CL Discussions are imagined conversations between a conservative Christian and a liberal person. The conservative’s name is Charles. The liberal’s name is Larry. These are not real conversations. They are imagined and the conservative views are mine, a fact you would have had no trouble discerning yourself. The opinions of the Liberal are typical of people I have met over the years, but don’t reflect any one person’s point of view. I am not claiming that these discussions are unbiased. I’m using them as a means of organizing my own thoughts as well as possibly helping others clarify their own point of view as well.

(Check for further conversations like this on Fridays. Whenever I have a CL discussion, I’ll post it on Friday.)

 

C: Yesterday you said that there is nothing that is absolutely right or absolutely wrong. Would you agree that it is wrong for a man to break into a home and rape a 4 year old girl?

L: Of course.

C: Should it be absolutely wrong in France?

L: Yes

C: Should it have been wrong in 1705 in Sudan?

L: Well, I don’t know what their culture was like.

C: So you can visualize a civilization where it might be acceptable to rape a young girl?

L: Yes, but I’m not saying it would be right. I’m saying that maybe that culture would think it was right.

C: But would they be right or wrong to have such a practice as a normal and accepted practice in their culture?

L: Since they are self-determining I guess it would be ok.

C: If such a thing were going on today in some country and you had the opportunity to intervene, would you?

L: Of course.

C: Even if that culture was fine with the practice?

L: I would intervene, because I think that even though the culture is fine with it, it seems abusive to me and so I would try to stop it if I could.

C: Why is abuse wrong?

L: It just is.

C: Who said so.

L: Everybody know that. It’s internal.

C: Not everybody knows it because some people are abusive. Some people may even have fun being abusive.

L: They’re probably lunatics. You know what I’m saying. Most people realize that abuse is wrong and oppose it.

C: So it’s wrong because most people have a sense it shouldn’t be happening and should be stopped?

L: That’s right

C: What if most people have a conscience that babies shouldn’t be killed while they are still in their mother’s womb? What if they think that is abusive of the baby?

L: The mother’s right supersedes the baby’s right.

C: So if it’s in my best interest to be abusive of a 4 year old, that is fine because I’m older and stronger?

L: No, we were talking about an unborn baby.

C: So the day before a baby is born, the mother has the right to take its life, but a day later after the baby moves from inside the mother to the outside, then at that point it takes on the right not to be killed?  That doesn’t make any sense to me.

L: But that’s the way it is. Before a baby is born, the mother has a right to an abortion. But after the baby is born, it has its own rights.

C: Is that absolutely true?

L: Yes

C: Here we go again. I thought there was nothing that is absolutely true.

Basic Devotion Plan

Sometimes it’s hard for people to figure out how to have a regular devotional life when life is busy and time is limited. I’ve put together a 20 minute plan that might be helpful as a start. I’m not suggesting that only 20 minutes is ideal, but I’m trying to help get you started on a regular practice.

Basic Devotion Plan

20 minute quiet time; 10 minutes in the Word; 5-8 minutes in prayer; 2-3 minutes reviewing memory verse for the week. Do this at a time when you are alert, not just when you are ready to crash. If you have to, get up a little earlier, shower, eat a little something and then take time for this.

 

4 times a week. (You could make it 5 if you think you can). There’s no commitment as to which days, but by Wednesday night 2 should be done and by Sunday morning 2 more.

I’ve broken up Ephesians into small sections below. Do not read more than one section. Read and think about the same section for the full ten minutes.

Buy a small notebook to keep prayer list and notes in. Put your prayer list(s) starting in the back and use the front for writing down one comment or question or challenge or encouragement you got from the day’s reading. Every day write at least one sentence, comment, question or thought.

Don’t allow any interruptions.

Develop a prayer list – keep it simple: someone’s name and a word or two to remind you what the key point is. After you’ve added and crossed things out, create a fresh page.

 

Ephesians 1:1-6; 7-14; 15-23

Ephesians 2:1-7; 8-13; 14-22

Ephesians 3:1-7; 8-13; 14-21

Ephesians 4:1-6; 7-16; 17-24; 25-32

Ephesians 5:1-7; 8-14; 15-21; 22-33

Ephesians 6:1-9; 10-20; 21-24

 

Before you go to bed, read one chapter of Proverbs based on whatever date it is. On Nov 15th, read chapter 15. Then short prayer thanking God for the day’s blessings.

 

Let me know what you think.

 

Paul’s Prayer for the Ephesians – Part 2

The second thing Paul prays in Ephesians 1:18, is that the eyes of the understanding would be enlightened. In this passage it is hard to know if this is a thought to connect to what he was just asking about or whether it is explained in the next clauses. It could be either or both. So right now, let’s connect it to the previous section. He had just prayed that they would have a spirit of wisdom in the knowledge of God. We mentioned last time that this requires time in prayer and in the word, but it obviously requires that eyes will be opened to understand and gain the wisdom God has provided through His Word. So when we pray this for someone or for ourselves, we are praying that not only will they be spending the time needed to gain that wisdom, but that their eyes will be open to the truth that is there. By nature our eyes are blinded, but even after being born again, there is a haziness that settles over our spiritual lives if we are not actively engaged in healthy spiritual disciplines. So let me encourage you to pray not only for others, but for yourself as well that the eyes of our understanding would be enlightened that we might gain the wisdom that comes from knowing God.

Walk Worthy of the Lord

I would like us to think through some of the things Paul wrote to the Ephesian church in chapter 4 of his letter to them. The first thing he does is to challenge them and us to “walk worthy of the calling with which we have been called.” In Colossians 1:10 and 1 Thessalonians 2:12 he says basically the same thing, “walk worthy of the Lord.” The Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul is calling us to a walk that is worthy of God. That means we are to live a life that God himself could put his name on and it would fit! That is quite the challenge, isn’t it?

He goes on to give us the characteristics of that lifestyle: lowliness and gentleness; longsuffering; forbearance.  These traits are almost the complete opposites of characteristics that are valued in our culture today. These are godly traits and if we are to have a lifestyle that is worthy of God, they should be present in our day to day living. This means not only when we are out in public, but in our homes with our wife and children. The final point Paul makes in this list is that we should be maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. We’re going to follow up a little more on this next time, but the Spirit of God has unified the body of Christ. The Spirit is the unifying factor. Our responsibility as Christians is to maintain that unity; we are to live it out. Jesus said that the world would know we are his disciples by our love for one another (John 13:35). The unity is there because of the Spirit, but it needs to be demonstrated in the world at a practical level.

So what does walking worthy of the Lord mean? It means to live as Jesus would live, were he living in your home or working at your job or attending your church.

Hymn of the Week – Thanks to God

1 Thanks to God for my Redeemer,
Thanks for all Thou dost provide!
Thanks for times now but a mem’ry,
Thanks for Jesus by my side!
Thanks for pleasant, balmy springtime,
Thanks for dark and stormy fall!
Thanks for tears by now forgotten,
Thanks for peace within my soul!

2 Thanks for prayers that Thou hast answered,
Thanks for what Thou dost deny!
Thanks for storms that I have weathered,
Thanks for all Thou dost supply!
Thanks for pain, and thanks for pleasure,
Thanks for comfort in despair!
Thanks for grace that none can measure,
Thanks for love beyond compare!

3 Thanks for roses by the wayside,
Thanks for thorns their stems contain!
Thanks for home and thanks for fireside,
Thanks for hope, that sweet refrain!
Thanks for joy and thanks for sorrow,
Thanks for heav’nly peace with Thee!
Thanks for hope in the tomorrow,
Thanks through all eternity!

Reading and the Christian – Part 7

We have seen how reading is important in the Christian life. God used words to create. He gave us His written word for the purpose of instruction in how to live. He required it of the Old Testament people and the New Testament Christians also saw the importance of reading. God expects us to spend time meditating on His word and in order to do that we need to know how to read and how to focus long enough to think about what we’ve read.

God lifts up His Word above all other forms of communication. Peter, who was present at the transfiguration of Christ, describes this event in 2 Peter 1:19-21. Even though this was a grand event, he explains that there is a more sure word. More sure than an emotionally charged experience of the glory of God? And what is that more sure word? He goes on to tell us that it is Scripture. Scripture is a more sure word than any experience we may have whether it is a real physical experience as it was in Peter’s case or an emotional or spiritually charged vision of some sort. The Word is more sure than all of that and should be given the priority when we are trying to determine what God would have us know or do.

The Psalmist in Psalm 138:2 tells us that God has magnified His Word above His name. We know that the Name of God is great and sacred. We are not to take His name in vain and yet God Himself has elevated His Word above His name.

If these things are so, then we must be sure that we understand and practice the importance of reading ourselves, in our families and in our churches. Children must be taught the skill of reading and it must be actively encouraged. There must be undistracted time allocated for this practice. As parents we must set the example.

In the next few posts we will go over some of the challenges to the word and reading that we face in our modern world. We will also look at some steps we can take to mitigate those hindrances and challenges.

Reading and the Christian – Part 6

Meditation is an essential aspect of the Christian life and is based on reading. Meditation is the chewing over of Scripture in our minds, focusing on it, thinking about what it means in context and to ourselves. It involves looking at it from multiple angles and reflecting on it repeatedly so that it’s truth can impact our souls.

Success and prosperity (in the spiritual sense) is promised for consistent meditation. See Joshua 1:8 and Psalm 1:2 as examples of this. In the Psalms passage the person who meditates on Scripture is described as a living, fruitful tree growing next to a stream of water, whereas the rest are described as dry chaff which the wind blows away.

The Psalmist tells us that meditation improves understanding. (Ps 49:3)

David meditated continually on the commands and statutes of God. (Psalm 119:15, 23, 27, 38, 78, 97, 99, 148)

Timothy was urged to meditate on certain truths and give himself completely to them. (I Timothy 4:15)

Paul told the Philippians to meditate on things that are true, lovely, noble, etc. in Philippians 4:8.

Finally, God is writing a book of remembrance of those who meditate on His Name. (Mal 3:16). That’s kind of amazing to think about the fact that God is actually creating a memory book filled with the names of people who meditate on Him. Wow!

Why is reading important? Because meditating is important and it is hard to conceive of meditating on the Word of God if we can’t read it. How are you doing in the area of biblical meditation?

Reading and the Christian – Part 5

The Bible teaches us that the word of God is spiritually discerned. I Corinthians 2:13-14 tell us that the natural man (that is the man who is not born again) does not receive the things of the Spirit. They are foolish to him because they are spiritually discerned. The Bible is one of those things that is spiritually discerned.

In 2 Corinthians 3:15 we are told that every time Moses was read to the people, they were not able to understand it because Satan had put a veil over their heart to keep them from understanding the truth. Only when a person comes to Christ is that veil taken away and the Word can be understood.

2 Corinthians 3:15 tells us that it take the illumination of God to bring understanding just as it took the word of God to create light in the first place.

So here is an interesting question. Can someone who cannot read and understand the natural meaning of the text of Scripture still have the illumination of the Spirit to understand the word. Let’s take an extreme. If you had a Bible in front of you in a language that you did not speak or read, would the Holy Spirit still open up the spiritual meaning to you as you sounded out the words? Let’s say I gave you a German Bible and you don’t understand German. As you pronounce the words to the best of your ability will the Holy Spirit give you the understanding you need?

I maintain that the answer to that question is “no”. It’s my opinion that it takes a natural understanding of the text first in order to be illuminated by the Spirit for the spiritual understanding to occur. This is why Christians over the years have worked very hard and spent millions of dollars to make the Scriptures available to people in their native languages.

My point in bringing this up is that we need to do all we can for ourselves and our children to make sure that we learn to read to the best of our ability. There are many practical ways in which reading is being diminished in our video culture and we must make sure that our children and our families are able to read well so that they can understand what God is saying through His Word.

Reading and the Christian – Part 4

The passages I have alluded to in the last couple of posts come from the Old Testament. What about the New Testament?

In the book of Matthew, Jesus says at least 6 times, “Have you not read…” He expects that his listeners would have read the Bible and know what it said. How else would they know what God was saying to them?

In the early church, Phillip went out to the desert and came upon an Ethiopian who was reading the Old Testament. Phillip’s first words to him were, “Do you understand what you are reading?” (Acts 8:30) If you go back and look kat the situation in Nehemiah 8 you will find that there is great emphasis on the fact that people were to gain an understanding of what was being read. There is no point in reading if one does not understand the meaning of the text. This point seems obvious, but is up for debate these days among the post-modernists. More on that in a future post.

In Ephesians 3:4 Paul tells the church that when they read, they will understand the mystery of what God was doing through the Gospel. When Paul sent letters to Colossae and Thessalonica he asked that those letters be read in all the churches. (Colossians 4:17; I Thess 5:27)

When Paul wrote to Timothy he admonished him to give attention to reading. (I Timothy 4:13)

In Revelation 1:3 John says that there is a blessing on those who read that book.

Finally, Paul, when writing to Timothy asks him to bring his scrolls and parchments. (@ Timothy 4:13)

As we can see from these New Testament passages, reading played a central role in the understanding of the early Christians. God had given His word and great was the company of those that published it.

How are you doing on your reading of Scripture? Is it a consistent practice in your life? How about in your church? Is the Scripture read in the hearing of the people so that they will know what God has said?