Month: June 2014

WHEN THE DEVIL THROWS YOUR SINS IN YOUR FACE

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So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: “I admit that I deserve death and hell, what of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also!” Martin Luther

Legend has it that Luther also threw an inkwell at Satan. I suppose you can do that too.

Unanswered Prayers

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Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-9

Sometimes God doesn’t answer our prayers. At the very least, He doesn’t answer them the way we want. I think that’s what country singer Garth Brooks was trying to say in his song Unanswered Prayers

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers
Remember when you’re talkin’ to the Man upstairs
That just because He doesn’t answer doesn’t mean He don’t care
Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers

I’m not saying we should learn everything (or much of anything!) about prayer from a redneck Okie like Garth Brooks (i’m a redneck Okie, if you’re offended), but there is truth to what he sings. So why does God not answer some of our prayers? Paul Miller explains it well-

If God is sovereign, then he is in control of all the details of my life. If he is loving, then he is going to be shaping the details of my life for my good. If he is all-wise, then he’s not going to do everything I want because I don’t know what I need. If he is patient, then he is going to take time to do all this. When we put these all together–God’s sovereignty, love, wisdom, and patience–we have a divine story… You can’t have a good story without tension and conflict, without things going wrong. Unanswered prayers create some of the tensions in the story God is weaving in our lives. When we realize this, we want to know what God is doing. What pattern is God weaving? If God is composing a story with our lives, then our lives are no longer static. We aren’t paralyzed by life; we can hope.

The next time you feel that God is not answering your prayers, remember that this may be an example of His creativity. This may be a time when He is creating tension in the story of your life. Come to grips with that. And then rest in the fact that He is weaving a pattern. He is not malicious. He is allowing tension and all the things to go wrong because He’s writing the story for your good and His glory. Get excited because the tension and conflict are a part of your story. And then start asking yourself, “What is God doing? What is He up to? He’s writing the story of my life and He’s up to something. I just have to wait with patience and hope to see how this works for my good and His glory. I can’t wait to see how the story turns out!”

You gotta love a God like that!

It’s Not Rocket Science

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Do you struggle to pray? Of course you do. We all do. And that’s why I want to share with you something from Paul Miller’s book A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World-

Here are seven simple suggestions for how you can spend time with your Father in the morning:

* Get to bed. What you do in the evening will shape your morning. The Hebrew notion of a day as the evening and morning (see Genesis 1) helps you plan for prayer. If you want to pray in the morning, then plan your evening so you don’t stay up too late. The evening and the morning are connected.

* Get up. Praying in bed is wonderful. In fact, the more you pray out of bed, the more you’ll pray in bed. But you’ll never develop a morning prayer in bed. Some of my richest prayer times are at night. I’ll wake up praying. But those prayer times only began to emerge because I got out of bed to pray.

* Get awake. Maybe you need to make a pot of coffee first or take a shower.

* Get a quiet place. Maybe a room, a chair, or a place with a view. Or maybe you do better going for a walk. Make sure that no one can interrupt you.

* Get comfortable. Don’t feel like you have to pray on your knees. For years I was hindered from praying because I found it so uncomfortable to pray on my knees.

* Get going. Start with just five minutes. Start with a small goal that you can attain rather than something heroic. You’ll quickly find that the time will fly.

* Keep going. Consistency is more important than length. If you pray five minutes every day, then the length of time will slowly grow. You’ll look up and discover that twenty minutes have gone by. You’ll enjoy being with God. Jesus is so concerned about hanging in there with prayer that he tells “his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1, NIV).

I know Paul Miller’s suggestions for prayer aren’t rocket science, but they just might be the help you need to rekindle your prayer life.

Talk To Yourself!

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My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you… Psalm 42:5

I mentioned in Sunday’s sermon (Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition) that we should be a church that tells one another to “remember the Lord.” We saw that Nehemiah did this with Israel in Nehemiah 4:14. There are lots of ways to remember the Lord. You can do that when you see someone get baptized (as you remember your baptism). You can remember the Lord as you take the Lord’s Supper, as you read the Bible, as you read good books, you can even remember the Lord by wearing something as a reminder (see Numbers 15:38; Deuteronomy 22:12). But let me share one way in particular that can help you remember the Lord- by talking to yourself. Let Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones explain this to you-

The main trouble in this whole matter of spiritual depression in a sense is this, that we allow our self to talk to us instead of talking to our self. Am I just trying to be deliberately paradoxical? Far from it. This is the very essence of wisdom in this matter. Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problem of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment (in Psalm 42) was this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself, ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul?’ he asks. His soul had been repressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: ‘Self, listen for a moment, I will speak to you’. Do you know what I mean? If you do not, you have but little experience.

The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why art thou cast down’–what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’–instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: ‘I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God’. (Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures, p. 20-21)

So go ahead and talk to yourself today. Sure, people might think you’re crazy, but it just might help you remember Jesus.

Looseness Of The Bowels

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When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. Proverbs 10:19

“I consider looseness with words no less of a defect than looseness of the bowels.” John Calvin

“Words and actions are transient things, and being once past, are nothing; but the effect of them on an immortal soul may be endless.” Richard Baxter

“God has given us two ears, but one tongue, to show that we should be swift to hear, but slow to speak. God has set a double fence before the tongue, the teeth and the lips, to teach us to be wary that we offend not with our tongue.” Thomas Watson

“The true test of a man’s spirituality is not his ability to speak, as we are apt to think, but rather his ability to bridle his tongue.” R. Kent Hughes

“When the heart full of God’s love can draw on the mind full of God’s word, timely blessings flow from the mouth.” John Piper

“We know metals by their tinkling, and men by their talking.” Thomas Brooks

“An unbridled tongue is the chariot of the devil, wherein he rides in triumph.” Nicholas Byfield

May God help us all!

Nagging God

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You who put the Lord in remembrance, take no rest, and give him no rest… Isaiah 62:6-7

Do you need a great conversation piece for the dinner table? I’ve got one for you that you can even get the kids involved in. I’ll let Sally Lloyd-Jones take over from here (the following is from her excellent children’s book that is really an adult’s book titled Thoughts To Make Your Heart Sing)-

Is it okay to nag God? And pester him?

God says we MUST!

God tells us to give Him no rest, to remind Him of what He has done and what He says He will do, and not to stop until He answers.

God loves it when we ask Him for great things! Because He is a King–and Kings love to do marvelous, powerful things.

“Thou are coming to a King,
Large petitions with thee bring;
For His grace and power are such,
None can ever ask to much…”
-John Newton

“Take no rest, all you who pray to the Lord. Give the Lord no rest.” Isaiah 62: 6-7

God loves it when we nag and pester Him. Why? Because of Jesus. Because of Jesus our name is no longer “Forsaken” or “Desolate” (Isaiah 62:4). Because of Jesus our name is “My Delight Is in Her” and “Married” (Isaiah 62:4). Because of Jesus, God delights in us and rejoices over us (Isaiah 62:4-5). And that’s why He loves us to pester Him with prayer requests. That’s why He loves to be nagged by His children. Yes, this is true because He is that good! Teach this to your kids. Tell them that God loves to listen to their prayers. Tell them all that Jesus has done.

So as you’re stuffing your face at dinner tonight, ask others at the table, “Is it okay to pester God? Does God like to be nagged?” That should be a fun conversation. And that’s something to be thankful for.

Learning to nag,
Benji