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Friday, June 4, 2010

Simple Faith

Do you feel confined by the "Christian life?" If so you need to read Chuck Swindoll's book, Simple Faith. For a little taste see the quotes from the book below:

While this is not, by any deliberate design on my part, a sequel to The Grace Awakening, it grows out of a similar passion within me: p. xvi

The difference is that the people I have in mind for this book are those who have become victims of tyranny, not legalism. That tyranny is the pressure and frustration and disappointment brought on by the never-ending demands of organized religion. p. xvi

Do not be like them (Matt 6:8) p. 6

Our Lord wants His true followers to be distinct, unlike the majority who follow the herd. p. 6

Hypocrisy, He hates . . . authenticity, He loves. p. 6

God exalts the humble, but the world exalts the proud. God ascribes greatness, not to masters, but to servants. God is impressed, not with noise or size or wealth, but with quiet things . . . things done in secret-the inner motives, the true heart condition. God sends away the arrogant and the rich empty-handed, but He gathers to Himself the lowly, the broken, the prisoner, the prostitute, the repentant. The world honors the handsome and the gifted and the brilliant. God smiles on the crippled, the ones who can't keep up. All this makes the world nervous. p. 36

Isaac Watts asked, "Am I a soldier of the cross?" Jesus described what a soldier of the cross looked like:
  • poor in spirit
  • mourning
  • gentle
  • hungry and thirsty for righteousness
  • merciful
  • pure in heart
  • peacemaking
Talk about different! "But I thought we lived in a dog-eat-dog world," the world says, "I thought you had to be tough and rugged and selfish to make it. I mean, if you were to live like that, they would turn you into a doormat." It's true-

Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11-12) p. 45

To return evil for good is devilish; to return good for good is human; to return good for evil is divine. To love as God loves is moral perfection, and this perfection Christ tells us to aim at. p. 110

If I am working on the engine on my boat and I need a certain wrench that will fit an unusual kind of nut, I may need to go to the hardware store and buy it. When I reach into the engine and the wrench fits into place, that wrench has become "perfect" in that it has fulfilled the purpose for which it was made. That is precisely what Christ's command means. Just as our heavenly Father fulfills His purpose, so should we. p. 111

Could there also be a veiled reference to the Trinity in these three levels of requests? It is the Lord our Father, our Sustainer, who gives daily bread. It is the Son, our Savior, who makes the forgiveness of debts possible through His blood. And it is the Spirit of God who is our Indweller and Rescuer. p. 143

Robert Robinson was born in England more than two hundred years ago. When he was just a boy, his father died, and his widowed mother sent him to London to learn the trade of barbering. In that great city Robert came under the persuasive influence of a man of God, the great Methodist revivalist George Whitefield. Robinson was soundly converted and felt a call to the ministry; he began at once to study for a lifetime of serving Christ.

At twenty-five Robert Robinson was called to pastor a Baptist church in Cambridge, where he became very successful. But the popularity was more than the young minister could handle. It led to the beginning of a lapse in his life of simple faith. Ultimately he fell into carnality, another tragic victim of "sin's foul bondage." As the years passed he faded from the scene and few even remembered his earlier years of devotion to Christ.

Years later Robinson was making a trip by stagecoach and happened to sit next to a woman who was reading a book with obvious pleasure. She seemed to be especially interested in one page of the volume, for she kept returning to it again and again. Finally she turned to Robinson---a complete stranger to her---and held the page toward him. Pointing to the hymn she had been reading there, she asked what he thought of it. Robinson looked at the first few lines:

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, ever ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise. . . .

He read no further. Turning his head, he endeavored to engage the lady's attention on the passing landscape. But she was not to be denied. Pressing her point, she told him of the benefit she had received from the words of that hymn and expressed her admiration for its message.

Overcome with emotion, Robinson burst into tears. "Madam," he said, "I am the poor, unhappy man who wrote that hymn many years ago, and I would give a thousand words, if I had them, to enjoy the feelings I had then."

Robert Robinson was not many years older and light-years removed from his earlier commitment to Christ. His days of simple faith had eroded. How ironic that, at the end of the hymn, he had seemed to prophesy his own downward course:

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee:

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O take and seal it;
Seal it for thy courts above.

That is precisely what he did. Robert Robinson died shortly thereafter at the young age of fifty-five, the victim of the lure of a lesser loyalty. He had left the God he once loved and had become "a wicked old man." pp. 166-167

About a year ago I came across a piece written by fourteen-year-old Jason Lehman. Because it is such an apt description of what I'm trying to say, I will let it speak for itself.

Present Tense

It was spring
But it was summer I wanted,
The warm days,
And the great outdoors.
It was summer,
But it was fall I wanted,
The colorful leaves,
And the cool, dry air.
It was fall,
But it was winter I wanted,
The beautiful snow,
And the joy of the holiday season.
It was winter,
But it was spring I wanted,
the warmth
And the blossoming of nature.
I was a child,
But it was adulthood I wanted.
The freedom,
And the respect.
I was 20,
But it was 30 I wanted,
To be mature,
And sophisticated.
I was middle-aged,
But it was 20 I wanted,
The youth,
And the free spirit.
I was retired,
But it was middle age I wanted,
The presence of mind,
Without limitations.
My life was over.
But I never got what I wanted.
pp. 175-176

Matthew 6:1-18
Warning against parading our acts of righteousness. - Do not brag!

Matthew 6:19-24
Warning against falling into the trap of materialism. - Do not sag!

Matthew 6:25-32
Warning against being preoccupied with wrong things. - Do not worry!

Matthew 6:33-34
Warning against anticipating all of tomorrow's concerns today. - Do not hurry!
p. 177

Our problem is not that too many of us are being ignored, it's that we are all being observed!
p. 217

Christ came to be believed in, not simply studied and admired. p. 247

To order this book click here!

Rise and Shine

Chuck Swindoll says the following on the flyleaf of his book, Rise and Shine, "An infectious love, a relevant message, an authentic lifestyle . . . and a powerful Savior. Enjoy:

The church's primary purpose is to glorify the Lord our God. p. 19

To make all this extremely practical, the question needs to be asked on a regular basis: Why am I doing this? Why did I say yes? Why did I agree to that? Why am I teaching? Why do I sing in the choir? Why am I so involved in this adult fellowship? Why do I plan in my budget to give this amount of money? Why?Why? WHY? When those questions are asked, there must be one and only one answer: To glorify God. p. 21

When referring to the church's bottom-line purpose, that glory means to magnify, to elevate, to shed radiance or splendor on Another.
So what does it mean for the church or for each individual Christian to glorify God? It means to magnify, exalt, and elevate the Lord our God as we humble ourselves and defer to His wisdom, His authority. p. 23

How does glorifying God occur?
First: By cultivating the habit of including the Lord God in every segment of your life.
Second: By refusing to expect or accept any of the glory that belongs to God.
Third: By maintaining a priority with Him that is more important than any on earth. pp. 29-31

Action plan:
First to help you cultivate the habit of including the Lord in every segment of your life, meet often and alone with Him.
To make the second suggestion work, that is, refusing to expect or accept any of the glory, openly admit your struggle with pride.
To accomplish the third suggestion-to maintain a top priority relationship with Him-filter everything through the same question: Will this bring glory to God or me? In your mind, ask yourself that question on a regular basis. pp. 32-33

Yes, a church needs good teaching, but not to the exclusion of worship. I find it interesting that for over three years of ministry on earth, Jesus never told his disciples to write something down. Not once. His instruction was not an academic exercise. Those who sat at His feet often worshiped, however. p. 61

Let's remember that the church is a place where we receive instruction. We learn from God's Word when we're together, but our learning is not limited to verbal instruction. We learn from the models of one another's lives. We learn from experience. We learn from failure and loss and trails. We learn from the great hymns, from the songs of faith. In the process of learning at the feet of our God, He gets the glory. p. 61

When we truly worship we do so with an awe of wonderment, an awe of praise. There is worship in silence as well--being quiet, being still, knowing that He is God. There is worship in beautiful congregational singing, an anthem, or the wonderful, magnificent music that thunders from a pipe organ. p. 62

The church was never meant to be merely a set of buildings where you come, sit, worship, learn, and leave. The church is a community of believers who demonstrate genuine concern for each other. p. 62

They (the early Christians) didn't come for worship like an isolated bag of marbles that made a lot of noise as they banged together, then marched out in single file. No, they came like a cluster of ripe grapes. As persecution pushed them together, they bled on each other. Their lives naturally ran into each other. How much better it is to think of ourselves as two handfuls of ripe grapes than as a bag of highly polished marbles. Our time together becomes so much more valuable when our lives become entwined with one another, moving closer together, feeling each others' strain and struggles, deeply caring for one another. pp. 62-63

Fellowship occurs, I believe, when there are expressions of genuine Christianity shared among God's family members. I notice from the New Testament that true koinonia results in two definite expressions. First, to share something with someone . . . something tangible. To help him meet a need. And second, to share in something with someone else. When there is weeping, then you share in it with the one who weeps. You also weep. When there is rejoicing, you share in the rejoicing with the one who rejoices. p. 63

Comparison is a nasty game. Let's choose compassion! p. 64

People are not persuaded--they're attracted. We must be able to communicate far more by what we are than by what we say! p. 64

In my research I have discovered four observations about evangelism and missions in the New Testament. First: It was never limited to the church gathering. In fact, it occurred there least of all. I hope you will remember that. p. 68

The church gathered is in worship and being instructed. The church scattered is helping and affirming, encouraging and evangelizing. p. 69

Second: Evangelism was always initiated by the Christian. p. 69

Third: Evangelism was usually connected with another unrelated event or experience. I am referring to intense opposition, a healing, a conversation, an argument, a supernatural event, a cataclysmic occurrence. Coming to faith in Christ often grew out of such occurrences. p. 70

Fourth: Evangelism was never something anyone was forced into or manipulated to do. p. 70
Keep in mind what we learned earlier: The power of the ministry is the Holy Spirit. Caring for people, becoming really interested in their world, their situation, their personal concerns is still the most effective method of winning the lost. p. 70

One of the major secrets to contagious style is keeping the right perspective. Meaning what? Several contrasts come to my mind.
  • More emphasis on content, less on cosmetics
  • More importance placed on depth, less on size
  • More interest in exalting Christ, less on ourselves
  • More reminders that church is people with eternal souls, not structures of tempered steeel
  • More involvement with the lost outside these walls, not just bringing them in to hear of Christ
  • More delight, fewer reminders of duty
  • More authenticity, less hypocrisy
  • More meaningful relationships, fewer lengthy meetings. pp. 92-93
How can a Christian stay ready 'til quittin' time?
First: Consider your life an offering to God rather than a monument to men.
Second: Remember that finishing well is the final proof that the truth works.
Third: Fix your eyes on the rewards of heaven rather than the allurements of earth. pp. 182-183

True integrity implies you do what is right when no one is looking or when everyone is compromising. p. 198

The test of such truth is obvious. Say, "she's as good as her word" or "his handshake is better than a contract!" and you describe someone who embodies what today's truth seekers are looking for. . . . p.199

Real integrity stays in place whether the test is adversity or prosperity. If you really have integrity, a demotion or promotion won't change you. Your inner core won't be dislodged. But I should repeat my earlier warning: Others won't like it if you don't "go along" with the system. Be ready for misunderstanding from the mediocre crowd. You will surely encounter their hostility. p. 200

Broken moral integrity means the spiritual leader forfeits the right to lead. p. 202

The one who commits adultery with a woman is lacking sense; he who would destroy himself does it. Wounds and disgrace he will find, and his reproach will not be blotted out (Proverbs 6:32-33). p. 203

When God calls individuals into His vineyard, He calls only sinful people. Not even one could claim perfection. Each is inadequate in himself, weak and wayward by nature, and could pose for a portrait panted in the lyrics of the beloved hymn "prone to wander . . . prone to leave the God I love." p. 229

To order this book click here!

And the Angels Were Silent

And the Angels Were Silent is an awesome book by one of the best story tellers, Max Lucado. I trust it will speak to you the way it spoke to me.

A Hispanic member of our church married recently. She is a precious sister with a robust faith. When the time came, the minister asked, "Can you repeat the vows?" To which she answered with all sincerity, "Yes, I can, but it will be with an accent."

That is the way God intended it. He intends for all of us to live out our vows with our own particular accent. For some, it is with an accent on the sick. For others, it is a concern for the imprisoned. Still others have a burden for scholarly research or giving. But whatever our accent the message is still the same. p. 54

To order this book click here!

Coming Home

If you have not read Joseph Stowell, then you need to start. His book, Coming Home is awesome. I trust you will enjoy the quotes below:

Living out Psalm 46:10
. . . the Hebrew word used for "be still" has nothing to do with rapt attention to God. Rather it has everything to do with relaxing. In fact, the verse could be translated literally as "Relax, and know that I am God." The Hebrew word paints a vivid picture. It means to let go. pp. 146-147

God says that when we get out to the ragged edge we have to let go. We need to give up controlling, manipulating, and striving to somehow make it work. p. 147

The Hebrew word also means to let go, to put our hands down at our sides. In times of struggle we usually want to defend or protect ourselves. Putting our hands down at our sides makes us feel vulnerable. But that's what God is saying here. He's saying that we need to stop striving, let go, put our hands down, take a deep breath, and relax. p. 147

The only way we can relax is to know something about God. As the verse says, "cease striving and know . . . " Normally we don't connect our responses to knowing but rather to feeling. We are most often motivated in a crisis by our emotions-that wave of anxiety or surge of self-pity. Our emotions often form and drive our response. But notice that God says the only way we are going to be able to relax is to start with something we know. To start with a cognitive reality that is steady and stable. p. 147

While Psalm 46 doesn't say we can relax because we know the outcomes, it does say that relaxing comes from knowing the One who manages the outcomes. And actually it's better to know and trust the God of the outcomes than to know the outcomes themselves. If we knew the outcome, we might forget the God who manages them and disagree with Him on the implementation. p. 149

There isn't a problem in life that is bigger than God. p. 155

We need to remember that we're trusting God to manage the outcomes, and that means that He manages the timing. p. 156

God wants us to be still and let Him manage the outcomes, not only in regard to timing but in regard to method. He's in charge of the way the problem is resolved. p. 157

To order this book click here!

The Reagan Diaries

My favorite all time President is Ronald Reagan. I truly enjoyed the book, The Reagan Diaries. Douglas Brinkley did an amazing job editing President Reagan's diaries. If you have not read it, I highly recommend it to you. I've only listed a few quotes because most of the book is the day to day life of the President.

I realized I couldn't ask for God's help while at the same time I felt hatred for the mixed up young man who had shot me. p. 12

Whatever happens now I owe my life to God and will try to serve Him in every way I can. p. 12

Later in the day talked by phone with Billy Graham. He knows the family of the young man who did the shooting. They are decent, deeply religious people who are completely crushed by the "sickness" of their son. p. 13

To order this book click here!

When Christ Comes

I have only one quote to share from Max Lucado's book, When Christ Comes, but it is powerful!

He is preparing the perfect place for you. I love John MacArthur's definition of eternal life, "Heaven is the perfect place for people made perfect. p. 8

To order this book click here!

Three Steps Forward Two Steps Back

One of my favorite Bible teachers, Chuck Swindoll's book, Three Steps Forward Two Steps Back, is such a blessing. I trust you are blessed with the quotes below:

A person would be insane to hear his physician diagnose his ailment as a rapidly growing tumor, and then think that just because he had talked with his doctor, the growth would suddenly disappear. No, he’s going to have to be operated on. Likewise, just being exposed to the truth won’t make us mature. Nor will it alone --- without application --- solve one problem. p. 22

Understand that we are not trying to dodge our problems; instead, we are gearing up to confront our setbacks, walk into them, through them, and come out stronger in Christ. p. 22

A statement C.S. Lewis once made: God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world. p. 34

We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations. p. 74

Someone has said that the real difference between the preacher of the flesh and the one who speaks from the Spirit is that the preacher of the flesh has to say something, while the one who speaks from the Spirit has something to say. pp. 125-126

The fourth “R” is respond correctly to your weak points. Respond correctly to those things you feel are defects or scars or shortcomings. Try to change them if you can. If you can’t, pray very much about them---just as Paul did. View that scar or defect not as a cross to endure but as a unique marking of God on your life.

In summary,

  1. Realize that you were prescribed before birth.
  2. Remember that the growth process is still going on.
  3. Refuse to compare yourself with others.
  4. Respond correctly to your shortcomings. p. 134

Warning: When you are making top grades in school, you’re most vulnerable. When your family seems the closest and the strongest, you’re most vulnerable. When your business has reached a level you never dreamed possible, that’s a vulnerable state. Fellow pastor, when you are enjoying God’s blessings and the church is growing and your fame is spreading, you’re vulnerable. Be on guard! That is when things like boredom and complacency set in. If you have served in the military, you know that the most vulnerable time for an attack is right after a battle has been won. The tendency is to sit down to a feast and take it easy. I was taught during my days in the Marine Corps that the correct maneuver immediately following victory is to set up a “hasty defense.” You instantly establish communications with your forces in order to handle that early period of victory. It’s tougher to remain victorious than it is to become victorious! p. 176

To order this book click here!

Just Like Jesus

What a joy to read Max Lucado's book, Just Like Jesus. I know you will be encouraged by the quotes below.

God loves you just the way you are, but he refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to be just like Jesus. p. 3

It’s a wonderful day indeed when we stop working for God and begin working with God. p. 59

We are “God’s fellow workers” (NIV) 2 Cor. 6:1 – p. 59

He changes our faces through worship. Exactly what is worship? I like King David’s definition. “Oh magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together” (Ps. 34:3 NASB). Worship is the act of magnifying God. Enlarging our vision of Him. Stepping into the cockpit to see where He sits and observe how He works. Of course, His size doesn’t change, but our perception of Him does. As we draw nearer, He seems larger. p. 82

Let me be very clear. This change is His job, not ours. Our goal is not to make our faces radiant. Not even Jesus did that. Matthew says, “Jesus’ appearance was changed” not “Jesus changed His appearance.” Moses didn’t even know his face was shining (Exod. 34:29). Our goal is simply to stand before God with a prepared and willing heart and then let God do His work. And He does. He wipes away the tears. He mops away the perspiration. He softens our furrowed brows. He touches our cheeks. He changes our faces as we worship. But there’s more. Not only does God change the face of those who worship, He changes those who watch us worship. p. 83

Paul told the Corinthian church to worship in such a way that if an unbeliever entered, “he would find . . . the secrets of his heart revealed; and . . . would fall down on his face and worship God, declaring that God is indeed among you” (1 Cor. 14:24-25 TJB) pp. 83-84

There are some things we want to do but simply aren’t equipped to accomplish. p. 96

Be aware of our strengths. Identify your strengths and then – this is important – major in them. Take a few irons out of the fire so this one can get hot. Failing to focus on our strengths may prevent us from accomplishing the unique task God has called us to do. We cannot meet every need in the world. We cannot please every person in the world. We cannot satisfy every request in the world. But some of us try. And in the end, we run out of fuel. Have a sane estimate of your abilities and stick to them. pp. 96-97

PLAN

Am I fitting into God’s Plan?

What are my Longings?

What are my Abilities?

Am I serving God Now? p. 98

To order this book click here!

The Family

The Family
Braves Game 2012