Saturday, March 24, 2007

Piety vs. Pettiness

For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:20)

The Pharisees were the religious leaders of their day. They were not that different from many of us as church leaders today. We struggle to uphold the standards of Scripture, all the while falling short in our own walk of faith. We put on piety in worship and replace it with pettiness as we leave.

Nothing damages the message of Christ’s love more than the lack of integrity in Christ’s messengers.

G.K. Chesterton once wrote –

“The only good argument against Christianity is Christians.”

Friday, March 23, 2007

True Freedom

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)

Never are we less free than when we freely engage in sin. Sin enslaves us. We have less strength, less courage, less wisdom. Only when God claims us as His own are we truly set free to become who we were created to be. The process requires a surrendering to God’s will, not an exercise of personal freedom. Conversion is not our own doing, but the work of the Holy Spirit.

Evangelist Charles Haddon Spurgeon witnessed many conversions in his ministry. Reflecting on this, he wrote –

“Conversion is not, as some suppose, a violent opening of the heart by grace, in which will, reason and judgment are all ignored or crushed. The reason is not blinded, but enlightened; and the whole man is made to act with a glorious liberty which it never knew till it fell under the restraints of grace.”

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Winning Approval

Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)

“I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” (Bill Cosby)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Doing Prayer

And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:10)

Prayer should not so much take us away from the world, but give us a fresh perspective on it in order to more faithfully live in it. Authentic prayer propels a believer into action. Whether we be praying for ourselves or others, honest and sincere prayer draws on faith in Christ and bears fruit in faithful living. Prayer is the first step toward a life well lived with God and God’s creation.

Our Puritan ancestor, John Owen, wrote --

"He who prays as he ought will endeavour to live as he prays."

When you pray, don't just ask God what you want Him to do. Ask God to give you the wisdom to know what you need to do and the courage to do it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Whatever the Weather

Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. (1 Chronicles 29:11)

Last Friday night, we were suddenly hit by a snow storm, followed by hard rain. The ice became several inches thick. It was very difficult to get around. We could barely open our doors. It was a great demonstration of God's power to slow us down as well as witness His hand in the allowing us to see the beauty of the earth.

On Saturday and Sunday, the sun came out and with a lot of plowing and sanding, the church lot was cleared and we were able to gather to praise the One who is the King of creation and Lord of all nature. Many more than I expected came out on a cold (and potentially slippery) day. It was a blessing to be in the sanctuary of God's house hearing His Word, singing praise to Him, calling on Him in prayer.

John Calvin wrote --

“There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice.” (John Calvin)

Whatever the weather, give praise to God.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Intellectual Arrogance

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness.” and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” (1 Corinthians 3:19-20)

In college, I was enamored with various philosophies. My friends and I would stay up half the night discussing and debating the merits of this thinker or that. We thought we were so smart.

Now that I’m older, I realize how little I knew (and know). As I prayerfully read Scripture and carefully listen to people, I am consistently humbled. I regret my past (and sometimes present) intellectual arrogance.

The words of John Calvin put me in my place –

"There is no worse screen to block out the Spirit than confidence in our own intelligence.”

Sometimes we can be too smart for our own good (and the good of others).

Sunday, March 18, 2007

True Change

"If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever." (Jeremiah 7:5-7)

It’s easy to find things in the world that need to be changed. Violence. The gap between rich and poor. Immigration conflict. Sexual abuse. It’s easy to discuss the problems of the world and divide up into political camps confident you have the solution.

It’s much easier to look at the “big picture” than deal with the small problems closer to home. Leo Tolstoy once said --

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”

Spiritual conversion – the only change that can really make a difference is much more personal than political. It starts not when we figure out how the world needs to change, but when we start changing to be more like Christ.