Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Tips On Improving Your Devotional Life: Bible Memorization

Some of us are naturally good at Bible memorization, some of us are naturally bad at Bible memorization; and some of us just need to learn how to do it properly (or at lease ease the process). You can mix-and-match these tips, use all of them, or none at all; but hopefully they will at least inspire you to come up with a better method of memorizing scripture.

Tips for short passages:

1. Read short passage, say it as far as you can (out loud) without looking, repeat until you get it.

2. Read first line/sentence/part (whatever you want really) and do the process above. After you get the first part down, try to do the first and second part. Continue until you have all the parts down.

3. Print out the verse; and put it up in different places around the house.

4. Read the verse a couple times, every time you read the Bible. Constant exposure works wonders!

5. Memorize verses that are meaningful to you.  Let face it, they are easier to remember.

Tips for long passages (works particularly well with long chapters):

Step 1. Read as much as you have memorized of the long passage, as well as the next ten verses.

Step 2. Memorize whatever verse you are on, using whatever method you like.

Step 3. Without looking, try to recite as much of the passage as you can, including the verses you haven't memorized yet.

Step 4. Read as much as you have memorized of the long passage, as well as the next ten verses; again.

Steps 3 & 4 are the surprising key to this process.  It might not help a ton in the beginning; but once you get to those verses that you have been repeating for the past ten days, you will probably already have them memorized (and maybe be a couple verses "ahead").

Using the long passage process has been extremely helpful to me. A lot of times I can "recite" about five verses ahead of what I have officially "memorized".  I hope the process can help you too! Not only does this process take less time, and help you in long-term retention; it also helps you remember what verse comes next while reciting the passage. -I can't count how many times I have truly "known" every verse in a chapter; but was not able to simply figure out which verse comes next.  Reading large chunks often; helps remedy this problem.

If you often memorize chapters, and know what chapter you are going to do next, I suggest you start working on the next chapter when you get towards the end (last ten verses) of your current chapter.

Do you have any tips you would like to share?  Only a few of the tips have been covered, and Scripture memorization is pretty important, so there may be a part 2 of this article.  Happy memorizing!  And thank you to everyone who helped me compile these tips! :)

"I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you."
~Psalm 119:11

Sunday, May 17, 2015

When Life Breaks Your Heart

“When you can’t see past the tears, trust His heart” – C.H. Spurgeon

Usually when we hear the term “broken heart” we think of it in terms of a broken romantic relationship, but the truth is our heart can be broken when anything our heart has hoped in is disappointed. We hope for a job, promotion, or opportunity and we don’t get it; we hope for a certain direction in life and are dissuaded by sickness, finances, family problems, or who-knows what else; we hope for happiness but often trials and heartache find us instead. Proverbs says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick,” (Prov 13:12) and when hope is disappointed the heart is indeed as if “sick,” we just tend to use the term “broken”. Emotional pain is very real… and you can’t put a band-aid on it. If it is not dealt with it can lead to depression and even physical illness. And then you can lose hope altogether which is why it has led some to their death or to the taking of their own life. It is possible to die from a broken heart.

However, as a Christian who believes in both the complete sovereignty and perfect goodness of God, I have often sought to understand His purposes for my trials. The path of pain is often mysterious but we do know that in all things God has one ultimate purpose, to conform His children to the image of Christ (Rom 8:28-29). Each time as I have allowed the Lord to work in my heart He has revealed things in my heart that He wanted to correct. This is not to say that we always bring hardship or pain on ourselves because of our sin, although that is sometimes the case. Often the Lord simply allows us to go through hard circumstances in order to grow our faith. If we never struggled, we would never grow. “No pain, no gain” is a motto that the Apostle Paul exemplified.

While there have been many things that I've learned through seasons of brokenness, the correction (teaching) has often centered around one question the Spirit whispers to my heart, “Beloved, where is your hope?” Psalm 42:5 says, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted in me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.” I chose to use the KJV here because I love the beautiful language of the command “Hope thou in God”. In Psalm 27:13-14 it says this, “I would have lost heart unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait I say, on the LORD.” Without hope we lose heart, so we must believe. Believe in what? In the goodness of God! Hold on to your faith that God is good and that one day all will be made right. A.W. Tozer wrote, “Whether we are happy or unhappy at any given time is not important. That we be in the will of God is all that matters. We may safely leave with Him the incident of heartache or happiness. He will know how much we need of either or both.” Yes, feelings matter. And we shouldn’t just dismiss the hurt that someone feels. But feelings are not truth. We must look beyond how we feel to Christ who, by the way, suffered more than we ever could.

Jim and Elisabeth Elliot are two of my heroes. Despite their love and desire to marry they waited about 4 years before Jim finally sensed the Lord’s timing and leading them to be joined. Then, less than 2 ½ years later (when their daughter was only a year old) Jim was killed by the natives he was trying to reach with the Gospel. A few years later Elisabeth spent several years in the jungle with the very men who had murdered her husband teaching them the Scriptures. She remarried fourteen years later but then lost that husband to cancer after only 4 years. Having had her share of intense trials, loss, along with struggles with trusting God and forgiving those who had hurt her, she wrote this, “God never withholds from His child that which His love and wisdom call good. God's refusals are always merciful -- "severe mercies" at times but mercies all the same. God never denies us our hearts desire except to give us something better.”

I am awed by that truth, are you? It’s one of those truths that can be really hard to believe, but yet we must, for it IS true. And there is great comfort in that – that no matter what pain we go through, God has something bigger in mind. May God help us to embrace the hard lessons, for they are the way to growth.

I will close this by sharing my all-time favorite quote. This prayer by Elisabeth Elliot I have often found myself echoing, sometimes amidst tears and feelings of frustration:

Perhaps some future day Lord,
Thy strong hand will lead me to a place where I must stand
Utterly alone.
Alone, O gracious Love
But for Thee;
I shall be satisfied if I can see – Jesus only.
I do not know Thy plans for years to come
My spirit finds its perfect home sufficiency.
Lord, all my desire is before Thee now
Lead on, no matter where, no matter what – I trust in Thee.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

What Heterosexuals and Homosexuals Have In Common

In most conservative churches today, homosexuals are typically viewed with a certain abhorrence. This article(published by Ligonier) gives an insiders view of a lesbian coming into Christianity. Before and after you read it, I would like you to ask the following questions to yourself; and if you will, share your thoughts in the comments.

1. Is homosexual lust any worse a sin than heterosexual lust?

2. Is a homosexual in sin for merely being attracted to the same sex; or is it giving in?

What do heterosexuals and homosexuals(in general) have in common? 

1. Both are sinners in need of salvation.

What do Christian homosexuals and heterosexuals have in common?

1. Both struggle with lust and are trying to overcome it.

2. God died for both

3. God loves both.

4. God cares for both.

5. God is trying to help both of them overcome their sin, sexual or otherwise.

6. Both are in the process of continual sanctification.

Have anything to add? Please share!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

My Strength is Made Perfect

    Well, I'm just getting around to finishing my post from 2 Cor. 12. I've had a hard time coming back to finish this post, but for some reason I feel in the mood tonight. Why God would give me this mood at eleven at night, I don't know, but it's here!

    We already addressed the first part of this amazing passage in v. 7-10, but here are the verses again, just so you can reread them. "And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, 'My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.' Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ might rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong."

    I have no intention of repeating what I already said, but we have been thinking about the concept of God's sufficient grace. As a quick review, it is important to keep that idea in mind today as we look at the second part of v. 8, because the two parts work together.

    "For my strength is made perfect in weakness". What a thought! There are several aspects of this verse that are comforting to an incredible degree, and I'd like to look at at least some of them. Again, this verse is incredibly precious to me, so pardon my extreme partiality! -Think of what God through Paul just said. His strength, the power of an all-mighty Creator, is made perfect in me, by what? My intellect? My superior moral compass? My tighter standards and rules? My theological understanding?

    It's made perfect in my weakness. Christ's strength shines in me the strongest when I am at my lowest, when I have no more I can give Him. When I am completely emptied of myself, God's power can be shown through me.

    That's amazing on two levels. One, how absolutely thoughtless of us to run dashing around trying to appear more spiritual and more perfect than our brothers and sisters in Christ, when in reality, Christ's strength in us is dependent, not on our perfection, but on our dependence. Only when we realize that we need a crutch, and that we can't walk on our own does the idea of Christ carrying us seem so sweet.

    There's a second beautiful aspect to the verse, and that is this: never, never are you too weak, too downtrodden, or too forgotten to be used by God. Never! When we are at our weakest, God can show His strongest through me.

    That said, it should make us think of something. If we want Christ's strength to reside in us constantly, doesn't that necessitate us remaining constantly in a state of utter dependence on God? If in my weakness Christ is strong, then shouldn't I remain forever weak in myself so that I can become strong in Christ? Is that a logical chain of thought?

    See, it's not fun to be weak. It's not fun to look your fear in the face and say, "I can't face you on my own. I just don't have the strength." It's much more fun to walk into temptation and spiritual hard times with the smug, self-confident swagger of a SuperBowl winning football team. It's much more fun to walk into church as the guy with the answers. It's much more fun to pick the toothpick out of someone else's eye than it is to pick the log out my own.

    But when I am weak, and I realize that weakness, that is when Christ can be strongest in me. That is when Christ is free to manifest Himself and his strength through me, and bring Himself glory in doing so. When I realize that I can't, that I'm not strong enough, I'm not big enough, I'm not tough enough to handle life on my own, that is when Christ can come in, and fill me with Himself.

    It is in our weakness that Christ shows His strength. It's in a nearly crying person kneeling in the dirt in Africa, it's in the shy girl at VBS, it's in the lonely highschool student. When we are at our lowest ebb is when Christ is free to show His power, and demonstrate Himself through us. When we walk through life confident in myself, in what I can do and I can say, I do not realize my need for Jesus in my everyday life.

    But when a terrible thing happens, or even a commonplace hard thing comes crashing into your life, and you don't know where else to go, and you know that you have nothing left, that is where God takes the broken, shattered vessels, with nothing but a willingness to be used, that He fills them with Himself, with His Spirit and His power, and He uses them as His instruments.

    My favorite quote by Eric Ludy is when He refers to Christ's as "little lambs, with the faces of lions." Because of the raging power of God, Christ uses us, these broken, weak instruments as His body on earth. Not because we are the strong, but because we are the weak! And because of our weakness, Christ is all the more able to shine through us. In our weakness, Christ demonstrates His strength by giving us, the weak of this world, the power to mock all the powers of earth and hell!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

My Grace is Sufficient

    While in Malawi, several verses meant a lot to me. Psalm 139 was incredibly meaningful, and this particular verse I'll mention below meant a lot to me, on two different levels. I'll be speaking about one part of the verse today, and the other hopefully tomorrow.

    2 Corinthians 12:7-10 were the verses God used when I felt completely empty. Today, myself and the team I went with gave a presentation at our church of pictures and stories from our recent missions trip. While I was thinking about what to say, several of the memories I hadn't thought of in a couple weeks came back to me, this one being one of them.

    "And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, 'My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.' Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ might rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong."

    I can remember multiple times just going outside the church I was preaching at in Africa and just dropping to my knees in the brush outside, just crying out to God that I was done, finished, empty. One particular time stands out very clearly when I just felt completely crushed by the absolute lunacy of the idea of a 16 year old, white, pampered, American kid being able to actually do anything for God.

    While I couldn't remember the rest of the passage or even the reference, God gave me that phrase over and over again, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness." Over and over again, I could feel the despair coming on, and over and over again I could feel God bringing that verse to my mind.

    Why was that particular verse so meaningful? Because that first phrase that I'll address today contains a really important truth if we could just hammer it through our thick skulls.

    It's not all about you. It's not all about me. Those thoughts and emotions I was feeling outside a little mud church in Malawi were real. I am not able to serve God as faithfully as I ought. I cannot fulfill the great commission. I cannot preach the gospel as I ought.

    But you know who can? God can, through me. So despite my failures, my sins, my downfalls, my temptations, God's grace is sufficient. It's sufficient to cover my sin, it's enough to keep me going, to give me the strength to continue. God's grace is sufficient for me.

    Sometimes we get this idea in our head that we have to save the world on our own, that somehow the burden of the world's salvation is on our shoulders and is our responsibility. No wonder we get depressed! But if we look at everything through the eyes of my own disability and God's ability, we see how great things can be accomplished. Because God's grace is sufficient.

    God did not commission the disciples to run out and just wildly swing at the Devil. No, He gave the battle plan. Go out, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them, and teaching them to observe all that Jesus' commanded us to do. But He concluded with a promise, that He would be with us.

    God sends us out as sheep among wolves. But He sends us out with the promise of His presence and of His power, so that as Eric Ludy says, we are "like little lambs, with the faces of lions." It's not about what you or I can do, it's about what we will allow God to do with His grace and power through us. We don't have to be the best preacher, or the best writer, or the best witness. All we have to do is give our best and allow God to work with us and through us.

    So, when you get discouraged, and you start wondering what exactly a sinner like you is doing trying to work for God when you know how messed up you really are, remember.....it's not about us! It's not about how strong, how smart, how informed, how amazing we are!

    It's all about Christ. It's about the amazing all-sufficiency of Jesus Christ. It's about His amazing gift of His unmerited favor, His grace that can shine through every facet of our lives, and glow with the very presence of God. It's all about the strength of God in me, through every trail and every test. It's about the very goodness and love of God. It is sufficient. Nothing else is needed. His grace is sufficient!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

In All Things, Christ First

    In preparing for a blog post on a different topic, I happened to run across this verse and get distracted from my original thoughts. So, you'll have to wait for my previous post for a while longer, while I post on Col. 1:18 today.

    "And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence." (Col. 1:18) This is the KJV translation, the following is from my preferred NASV: "He is also the head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything."

    Both these translations reflect clearly the point I will be writing about today: the preeminence of Christ. Part of this lesson I will be borrowing from one of my favorite speakers, Dr. Jerry Benjamin, who has spoken on this topic every time I've ever heard him preach.

    One very poignant lesson that Dr. Benjamin preaches on is that of the difference between preeminence and prominence. Here's an example that I've heard him use to teach on this topic. If a man were to tell his wife that she is prominent among his affections, she would probably be offended. Why?

    Because prominent reflects the idea of one among many. Sure, the prominent person is important, but prominent over what? Obviously, there's other people there that her husband has noticed! That wouldn't be taken as a compliment. Prominence refers to a high status, but not the highest.

    However, if a husband were to tell his wife that she is preeminent in his affection, it has a whole other meaning. Preeminent reflects supremacy, to the point that others are hardly noticed. It's no contest at all, and requires no thought as to who is highest in one's affections.

    This is the word that Paul, inspired by God, chose to use in this verse to describe God's rightful due. Jesus Christ is to Himself be the preeminent one in our affections, with no one else even remotely second. Our love, our affection, and our obedience to Christ should make our relationship to any other human on earth appear to be hatred in comparison (Lk. 14:26-27).

    But Paul said something else that should catch our attention. In what is Christ to have the preeminence? In the previous verse, Paul states that by Christ, all things exist and are held together (v. 17). However, v. 18 specifically addresses Christ as head of the Body (the church) and the first-born of the dead, targeting his role as Head of the church and Head of the corner (Ps. 118:22). As such, Paul proclaims that in all things, but particularly in the matter he's addressing at the moment (the church), Christ should have the preeminence.

    So first of all, Christ is to be preeminent in all things. Every single thing we do is to have Christ intermingled throughout it, with the focus being Him, with  the glory going to Him. As I write this, I can feel all the times I've failed to do this, and all the times I have done things for the sole purpose of bringing glory and reward to myself. So, I am guilty of this more than anyone else reading this post.

    But specifically, I want to mention Christ's position of preeminence in the church. I fear that many Christians, myself included all too often, do not come to church with Christ as our single, all-consuming focus. Instead, Christ can be simply a name to bring a group of people together to church and hear a motivational speech on clean, moral living. Christ can be a slogan in the church to convince people to go out and vote. Christ can be a badge of the church to be worn to show our own superiority over the world.

    But in none of these things is Christ given the preeminence. None of these things reflect an attitude that church is supposed to reflect: that of total admiration, worship, awe, reverence, and love for Jesus Christ. Church is not a place to do my business, whether or not it is morally good, but instead a place to pursue Christ, and to allow Him to pursue me.

    Now, this could easily be interpreted to be dismissing all fellowship and healthy interaction between believers. Certainly that is not my intention! But Christ is the one that demands preeminence, not I. So, in order to try to obey Scripture, we must attempt to give Christ the preeminence He deserves, even if that is by bringing up as a topic of conversation during a ball game with your friends after a church service, or in the car on the way home.

    Jesus is not something to be talked about during a 45 minute sermon, then left at the door when we leave. He is to be constantly on our thoughts and lips, constantly shown through our actions, and constantly taught to others by our example. Christ is to be lived and breathed through every fiber of our being.

    So, this next week (and after that) try to keep Christ in our thoughts. Think of Him constantly, and serve Him as we go about our lives.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

But God, Don't You Want Me To Be Happy?

Life does not go our way.

I’m not even going to use the word “often” because it really doesn't go the way we think it will at all. Nothing happens the way we thought it would, and while we can sometimes have a general idea of what’s ahead, the circumstances will still surprise us. More often though, there are times when life goes the very opposite of the way we would have desired. Like Job, we also sometimes begin to complain and question what God is doing. I was in this place recently, and here’s what the Lord revealed to me….

But God, don’t You want me to be happy?

No dear one… at least not if it’s your definition of happy. My child, you do not know for what you ask. You think you ask for what is best and what will bring happiness and joy, but I alone know what is best for you. Your happiness is not MY goal. My glory and conforming you to Christ is MY goal. If your sense of happiness is defined by your expectations than you will live your life disappointed; but if you surrender and trust Me, hold on to both My sovereignty and My goodness you shall have peace and joy that no one can take from you. In this world you will have trouble, but do not fear, for I have overcome the world. I have a purpose and a plan that is bigger than you can see and it is for your good, just not the good that you have in mind. Trust Me dear one, I am good. I love you with a love that is deeper, wider and higher than anything in existence. I have forgiven you your sins, I have made you My child, I have cleansed and purified you and made you righteous. All this was through Christ’s work and none of your own. It is finished and done and you are perfect in Him. There is no spot in you. I delight in you and rejoice over you with singing. I shall never leave you nor forsake you, for I am yours by covenant. Delight in My love and walk in My steps. I am what you need, I am all you need, and I will satisfy you abundantly.” 

But God, don’t You want me to have dreams?

“Oh yes. I have lots of dreams and desires too. Do you want to know what my biggest dream is? It’s that what I desire might be your desire. You see beloved, your dreams come from a heart that is not pure, eyes that are not all-seeing, and a mind that is not all-knowing. Dear one, I know your desires and dreams seem so precious and important, I know that your heart aches with hardship and sorrow, with hurt and disappointment; but there is more that I have for you. I desire for you to desire none upon the earth besides Me. I dream of My glory being displayed in your life; I long for your heart to be fully given to Me. I gave up much for this dream. Actually, I died for it. Christ died that this passion of My heart might be fulfilled, that people could be redeemed from their sin and brought into fellowship with Me. I am the One you desire, I am the creator of all dreams. Beloved, My desire is towards you, will you not put your desire in Me and give Me your dreams?

But God, don’t You want me to be healthy?
But God, don’t You want me to succeed?
But God, don’t You want me to have a spouse?
But God, don’t You want me to have good things?

“My child… I desire to give you many good things… but while there are many things that you and I can both call good, there is one ultimate good that I desire for you beloved, and that is Me. I am the “good thing” that you long for. If I give you something, is it not good being from My hand? Am I not good? If I withhold something “good” from you, am I not still good? If I did give you many other good things in this world you would not long for the greater good, that is, Me. What you think is good for you would lead to your ruin, it would merely feed your selfishness. So I may often withhold good things from you My child, because I desire for you to have what is eternally good – a heart that is undivided in its love for Me. What is your good is that you walk before Me in faith and obedience, for that is the way of life. Trust Me beloved, for I am good.” 

But God, I thought life with You was supposed to be happy!?!?

“Oh beloved, you are still looking at your life based on your feelings. It is faith you need, not happy feelings. Feelings change and deceive. I never change, I am the same yesterday, today and forever. Shall not I, the Judge of all the earth, do what is right? I am faithful. I will fulfill My purposes through you. I am good and will work all things for your ultimate good – conformity to the image of Christ. No, it’s not easy, but I bore the worst of it for you and made it possible for you to walk at all. And I will walk with you and carry you through. I will never give up on you. I will always forgive you, for you are Mine. Trust Me, not your feelings. Give Me your heart. In My presence is fullness of joy and at My right hand pleasures forevermore.”

While Job questioned, He also held fast to the sovereignty and goodness of God. He said, “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10) and “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15). That last sentence always amazed me. “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” How can you trust a God who could bring you to your death, even a painful one like it appeared to be for Job? Because He is good. Even when we don’t understand, even when it looks impossibly difficult, even when it hurts, we can trust in a God who is sovereign, faithful and good. We must trust Him, for otherwise we shall find ourselves resisting Him.
May we find the grace to surrender to His purposes and rest in His everlasting love. That perfect love that will never let us go.

 “If we could see what God could see (which we never will, because we will never be infinite), we would see millions upon millions of purposes in every action of the Son of God. God is never doing just one thing in what He does with us. He is always doing thousands of things that we cannot see. He never has only one purpose in what He does. He always has thousands of purposes in everything He does… For those who love Him and are called according to His purpose, all of them – all of them! – work together for good.”  – John Piper

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Do You Know Theology, Or God?

Piper really gets this spot on! :D

"You can read theology 10 hours a day, 40 years long and not know God as beautiful, all satisfying and highest treasure of your life" ~John Piper

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Love of God As Portrayed By A Puritan

    While I am not a fan of poetry, I do like certain poems. In studying for a literature test today, I ran across this poem by Puritan Edward Taylor.

"What love is this of Thine, that cannot be
  In Thine infinity, O Lord, confined,
  Unless it in Thy very person see
  Infinity and Finity conjoined?
  What! hath Thy godhead, as not satisfied,
  Married our manhood, making it its bride?"

"Oh, matchless love! filling heaven to the brim!
  O'errunning it, all running o'er beside
  This world! Nay, overflowing hell, wherein
  For Thine elect there rose a mighty tide!
  That there our veins might through Thy Person bleed
  To quench those flames that else would on us feed."

"Oh! that thy love might overflow my heart
   To fire the same with love! For love I would,
   But oh! my straitened breast! my lifeless spark!
   My fireless flame! What chilly love and cold!
   In measure small! in measure chilly! See!
   Lord, blow the coal, Thy love enflame in me."

                  Meditation One, by Edward Taylor

Friday, March 13, 2015

No Zeal In The Reformed?

I would agree that in the Reformed spheres, there is certainly a need for more spiritual zeal. HOWEVER, it IS there. Here are some quotes from some of the most prominent Reformers to prove it:

 Charles Spurgeon- You do not know the beginning of true zeal, for the foundation of Christian zeal lies in the heart. The heart must be heavy with grief and yet must beat high with holy ardour. The heart must be vehement in desire, panting continually for God’s glory, or else we shall never attain to anything like the zeal which God would have us know.

Charles Spurgeon- “If you want that splendid power in prayer, you must remain in loving, living, lasting, conscious, practical, abiding union with the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Jonathan Edwards- “The happiness of the creature consists of rejoicing in God, by which also God is magnified and exalted.”

Jonathan Edwards- “To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here.”

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

John Calvin- “The gospel is not a doctrine of the tongue, but of life. It cannot be grasped by reason and memory only, but it is fully understood when it possesses the whole soul and penetrates to the inner recesses of the heart.” 

R.C. Sproul- “I was new Christian. My conversation had been sudden and dramatic, a replica for me of the Damascus Road. My life had been turned upside down,, and I was filled with zeal for the sweetness of Christ. I was consumed with a new passion. To study the Scripture. To learn how to pray. To conquer the vices that assaulted my character. To grow in grace. I wanted desperately to make my life count for Christ. My soul was singing, "Lord, I want to be a Christian.”

John Piper- “But to enjoy him we must know him. Seeing is savoring. If he remains a blurry, vague fog, we may be intrigued for a season. But we will not be stunned with joy, as when the fog clears and you find yourself on the brink of some vast precipice.”

John Piper- “Minimizing the importance of transformed feelings makes Christian conversion less supernatural and less radical. It is humanly manageable to make decisions of the will for Christ. No supernatural power is required to pray prayers, sign cards, walk aisles, or even stop sleeping around. Those are good. They just don’t prove that anything spiritual has happened. Christian conversion, on the other hand, is a supernatural, radical thing. The heart is changed. And the evidence of it is not just new decisions, but new affections, new feelings.” 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Political Jesus(NEW AUTHOR)

    Today's post may be somewhat controversial (thus the reason it has taken me three days to think through it all), but I think it is a very important concept for Christians to grasp. I've spent the last few days trying to calm my anger at a statement a speaker I heard on Sunday said. Since his statement reflects very well the very point of my post today, I'm going to begin with his statements.

    In attempt to combat Christians listening to rock music, this particular speaker went so far as to guarantee that there would not be drums in heaven, or any of that "chaos", and that maybe God would give rock artists a harp when they got to heaven. It would probably be insulting to any cultures (for example, African) who use drums extensively in their worship music to be told with no Biblical backing that their instruments will be left out of heaven in favor of the ones I'm comfortable with. Not only this statement ludicrous because of the demonization of an inanimate object, namely drums, that can be used for good or bad, but because the "chaos" seems to exist in most accounts of heaven in Scripture. It will be the most beautiful, organized, harmonious chaos the universe has ever known. It will be billions of people, standing around the throne of the Lamb, singing with different voices, playing different instruments, with all the chaos blending into one beautiful song of praise to Jesus Christ. I think it very likely that every instrument will be included in this song of praise, particularly those in Ps. 150 (yes, even the "loud, clashing cymbals").

    Yet this statement points to one of the more innocent looking, yet dangerous lies the American church has fallen prey to. You may have guessed from the title, but the idea I am attacking today is that of Jesus as simply a proponent of whichever culture, race, political idea, or particular argument which I happen to be a part of or defending.

    We see it clearly in that comment. This particular speaker pictured heaven, and praise to God, as simply an extension of how he worshiped the best. He enjoyed worship with pianos and soft instruments, so he concluded that God likes that best too. He didn't like rock music, or a hard beat, so he concluded that God must not like it either. His error then came from his attempt to make his own opinion God's opinion, and change it from a personal preference to an all-encompassing religious principle.

    So I can sum up this particular problem with one sentence. We must not conform Jesus into the image which we are most comfortable with, because we will be left with simply a mere shell of the beauty, holiness, and majesty of God that reflects my own personal (possibly even unBiblical) bias and opinions. (Okay, yes, that was a really long one sentence, probably a run-on, but still!) We see this problem every two years when election time rolls around. Each party (Republicans particularly, but Democrats too) attempt to present their candidate as the "Christian candidate" in attempt to get more and more votes, essentially turning their party into the "Christian party", while obviously implying that the other party must be the "Dark Side".

    Are there religious questions in politics? Absolutely! Abortion, homosexuality, capital punishment, all these can and are religious questions. So, as Christians, we should answer them with the light and insight of Scripture. That's not what I'm arguing against. What I am instead arguing against is our attempts (ignorantly or otherwise) to portray one group as "God's side" (in my circles, Republicans) and the other side as, well, obviously the other side.

    Don't get me wrong! I am a conservative, borderline between libertarian and Republican. If there was a Constitutional party (there might be, I don't know. I can't vote yet.), I would probably fit somewhere in there. I'm not protesting political activism or conservative/liberal views. I'm simply attacking a certain habit, whether liberals or conservatives use it.

    We've done the same with America as a nation. We have made America a "Christian nation". What is a Christian nation anyway? Does America have soul? Did America ask Jesus to come in and save it from its sins and repent? Okay, I get that many of our founders were Christian. Many of our foundational principles of freedom are pillared on the Bible. But it doesn't make the whole nation Christian, and thus superior!

    From the NT onward, we don't see God taking a certain country's side. We don't see him favoring one country more than another. And I'm going to break a very sad truth to some of y'all. Jesus wasn't white, and He doesn't love America any more than he does Sudan, Thailand, or Turkmenistan. We are not God's favored race because we put "In God we trust" on all our coins or "one nation under God" in our pledge. Republicans are not God's favored candidates because they are anti-abortion. All Democrats are not unbelievers because their party may represent pro-abortion ideas.

    It's very hard to put what I'm trying to say into writing, so this may take a little while! Jesus is not a flag to be waved to rally all Christians to my political side or personal opinion. Jesus, although sovereignly involved in all events on earth, is working to make His will come to pass, not mine. And although we should make all our decisions coincide with His Word and the leading of His Spirit, I should be moving myself to His cause, not He to mine.

    When we make Jesus the rallying cry to protest music styles I don't like in churches, Jesus is simply a footnote on a page of my own personal opinions and agendas. I'm using this example since it is freshest in my mind, but there are others.

    This speaker also made a similar mistake that touches the same topic. In attacking the instruments that he, in his culture, was not comfortable with, he attacked every other culture that does use those instruments for good. For example, drums and an emphasized beat are a huge part of African cultural music. As someone who loves Africa, it's almost insulting to hear someone say that in heaven, Africans will give up the instruments that are their cultural heritage in favor of the instruments that are a part of my cultural heritage. Yeah, 'cause God likes American culture better, right? No! Wrong! We have once again made the same mistake of making God an American God, one who likes American music and culture, and made our mental concept of heaven a giant American church, where we will sing American songs to American tunes with American instruments.

    My point is this. Do not, do NOT, force God into an image or box of your own making. Do not use God to force a personal preference or cultural norm of the rest of humanity. Let the Spirit lead them. God is the God of the world, not of America, and His children are just as beloved in the Democrat party as in the Republican party; in Sudan just as much as in Texas; and our cultural pianos and organs are no more well loved by God than an Indian flute or an African drum. God is not a national God. He's a personal God. He wants a relationship, not just with Republicans or Democrats, not just with Americans or Chinese, not just with rock musicians or with traditional musicians, but with the world. And we are to communicate that love to those people, yes, those people who we disagree with and find unlovable or hard to accept. Yeah, those people.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Raise A Light Project 1 Year Anniversary Update

Yesterday was the one year anniversary for Raise A Light Project! :D I am So glad for everything that has happened this year!

For those of you who don't know, RALP is more than just a blog, it is also a movement, that is, a movement dedicated to spreading truth regardless of what people may think about it. It also extends into a Facebook community which you can see on one of the blog tabs. Hopefully, as this blog grows, we will also see an active community on the blog itself!

Here is a one year overview:

Number of Posts: 22

Posts With The Most Views: "What Is Raise A Light Project", and "Exchanging Thoughts With Charles Spurgeon: The Preeminence Of Christ"

Number of Comments: 21

Total Pageviews: 1,415

Top 10 Countries Reached: (in order) the USA, Canada, Germany, United Kingdom, Romania, Taiwan, Australia, Netherlands, France, and China.  A couple other countries I know I have reached are Israel, the Philippines, Austria, and Poland.

To a lot of people this probably does not seem like a lot, I know I could certainly improve on my number of posts, and will probably be working on that most of all this next year!

Thank you to all of my faithful readers, and those who comment!  Although I enjoy writing, part of the joy in blogging, particular for this type of blog, is knowing that what you write is affecting people! :)

To my readers I ask,

What was your favorite post this year?

Is there anything you think could be improved?

Are there any particular topics you would like me to address more often, or a particular article you would like me to write?

Do you prefer the longer posts, such as Listen To The Fish You Sluggard and 4 Things God Gives Us or the shorter posts like Do Not Be Yourself or God Is Love But Love Is Not God? Which would you like to see more/less of?

Thank you everyone! I hope this movement will go into a more prosperous year! :)

Saturday, March 7, 2015

What Will Thou Do In The Valley?

“Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness,” ~2 Corinthians 9:10

“Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food”
God gives us all that we need for a spiritual relationship with Him. Simply put, Him, the Bible, and us.

“supply and multiply the seed”
He has the power, and WILL multiply what He has given us.

“you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness”
BUT, before He will “multiply the seed”; we have to put in effort. For example, we cannot expect a deep, spiritual relationship with God if we do not regularly read our Bibles, etc.  This reality is further emphasized by the following passage:

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.  For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.  And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” ~Galatians 6:7-9

To put this passage into more easy-to-understand terms:

God is not a God of the lazy, but a God of those who put in effort. If you put your effort into things that are of a sin nature, you will get results of a sin nature. But if you sow according to that which is good and comes from God you will get results that are good and come from God.  This won’t come instantly however. You may have to go quite a while of simply putting in effort before you get the results. But don’t worry, it WILL come, even if it takes a while.

If we think about this in terms of a spiritual relationship with God; we will come to realize that we need to put effort (such as reading our Bibles, prayer, etc.) into a spiritual relationship before we can expect results (spirit of wisdom, revelation in the knowledge of Himself, enlightened eyes of understanding, knowing hope, etc. See Eph. 1:17). 

In my personal opinion, I think we all go through ups and downs in our spiritual relationship with God; or at least I know I have. But one thing I have learned time and time again is that I need to SOW before I can REAP. So badly do we want to reap without sowing; but I am afraid that is not the way life works.

So I encourage you, if right now you are in a valley and not a mountain, read you Bible, pray, get in touch with you God and at the proper time you will reap a harvest if you do not give up.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

We Truly Are Not Our Own

This is a REALLY good article about how our chief end is truly to glorify God.

I love what the author (Nathan Tasker) says" "Our generation of Christians has become the epitome of lukewarmness. We have become so much like the world, either in a compromising state of spiritual laziness or in a vain attempt to make Christianity look easy-going and free-spirited, that we have made it nearly impossible for unbelievers to see the difference between us and our non-Christian peers."

New Facebook Group

We now have a Facebook Group for those who are interested in actively conversing with others in the Raise A Light Project and who want to and are willing to discuss hard-to-discuss topics. Share whatever God has been showing you lately, discuss articles, or debate challenging topics. Spread truth within the Christian spheres and join! :D

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Do Not Be Yourself

This whole philosophy of "being yourself" is not just in secular circles, but it Christian circles as well. Its sad to think how much we really are effected by our culture's beliefs and ideals without even realizing that it goes against the Bible! We need to be what GOD wants us to be, not be who we are. Who we are is sinful. Who we are is fallen. Who we are is depraved and in desperate need to NOT be ourselves and for someone to give us some other image.  But really, I am not just talking about what GOD wants us to be, but is there anything about yourself you have been wanting to change(as long as that thing is not a sin)? Maybe you want to loose weight, develop a new habit, exercise more, or something else. Don't "be yourself". Be who God calls you to be and secondly, only if this does not go against God's will; be who you want to be.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Past of The Future is Now, Change Something

If you could change anything in the past, what would it be? In all likelihood, you can think of a lot of things. And if not, congratulations; you are God. But the past of the future is now, change something!  What is that one thing about your self that has always upset you?.... Change it! Something else? Change it too!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

4 Things God Gives Us

It is for life, hope, happiness and home that we work for.  We can use work as an excuse to distract from God; but in truth He gives us all these things. Life.  Hope. Happiness. Home. 

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence. ~ 2 Peter 1:3(NKJV)

Life.  God is the one who gave us life; He breathed it into us.  He not only gave us an earthly life but an eternal one in His presence. 

“The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” ~ Job 33:4(ESV)

“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” ~ Genesis 2:7(NKJV)

Hope. God gives us so much to hope for; particularly the future blessings He will bestow on us and the inheritance of living eternally in heaven with Him.  Not only that, but the Bible says that it is in Him that we have our hope. (Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 15:13).

 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland.  And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return.  But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” ~Hebrews 11: 13-16(NKJV)

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” ~Revelation 21:4(NKJV)

“ “Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” ~ Revelation 22:20(NKJV)

Happiness.  Nothing can make us quite as happy as communion with our maker and fellowship with our Christian brothers and sisters. And yet, our connection to Christ offers us both things.

“Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.” ~Philippians 4:4  (NKJV)

“Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” ~Isaiah 12:3(NKJV)

“But rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” ~ 1 Peter 4:13(NKJV)

Home.  God is our refuge, our home. Deuteronomy 33:27 says that "The eternal God is your refuge." Pay attention to three things in that sentence; eternal, God, and refuge. Not only is our God our refuge, but He is an eternal God offering eternal life.

“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” ~ Philippians 3:20(ESV)

“That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—  to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” ~ Ephesians 3:17-19(NKJV)

“But Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.” ~Hebrews 3:6(NKJV)

“Home, too, is the place of our truest and purest happiness: and it is in God that our hearts find their deepest delight.  We have joy in Him which far surpasses all other joy. It is also for home that we work and labour.”Charles Spurgeon

“In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.”
- In Christ Alone, Keith and Kristyn Getty