Friday, November 11, 2011

Would Jesus Lend Me His Credit Card?

Many wise Christians counsel care when undertaking a self-examination of one’s spiritual life – the dual temptations of condemnation and flattery are too great; so it was with some trepidation that I recently examined my prayer life… not the frequency… not the consistency… not the conviction… but the results. It wasn’t pretty.

Perhaps too often, I have judged prayer by worldly standards, but if there is one thing that should never be judged by worldly standards it must surely be prayer because the audience of prayer should never be the world. How does God judge prayer? With due reverence, I think that He doesn’t judge prayer, rather he hears true prayer and does not hear false prayer.
…and whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (John 14:13)
…and the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye? (Acts 19:15)
God has ordained that whatever we ask in his name, he will do it. Even the demons seem to know this. But what then does it mean to ask in his name? Earthly kings of old had signet rings that would attest the authority of its bearer. If a king gave his ring to someone, that person could perform actions “in the name” of the king. Today’s equivalent might be the credit card. If you give your credit card to someone they may purchase goods in your name. But if someone tries to use a forged signet ring or credit card, then the results are not so good. The rest of the story from Acts 19 says “Then the man with the evil spirit leaped on them, overpowered them, and attacked them with such violence that they fled from the house, naked and battered.”

Our heavenly king has willingly agreed to loan us his signet ring – his credit card. In so doing; however, he has trusted us to use it for his will. At the last supper, Jesus explained to his disciples that he and the father were one, that he only did that which the father had willed. His prayers were effective, because he prayed the will of the father. Later that night, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ prayed to his father again. Christ wanted not to have to drink from the cup, but even more he desired that his father’s will be done. He prayed for God’s will… his prayer was answered.

When the efficacy of our prayers is in question… the question to ask is not whether we will win the God lottery, but rather if we are in God’s will and whether what we are asking for is God’s will. If not, we are not asking in his name and should not expect an answer. God desires that all of us join with his son and become one with him... to become his son so that he can give us his name, that we may ask in his name and that he will be glorified in us.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Parable of Maps

I've been taking a break from blogging for about seven months, but I think it may be time to get back. My thought was that I would select key lessons that I've read in various books, etc. and try to turn them into parables. You'll have to be the judges as to whether it works at all. My first attempt will be based on my reading this morning from Proverbs 20:5...

The purpose in a man's heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.

As I read this passage this morning, it struck me that the depths of the ocean remain more of a mystery to us today than even space. Imagine then how much more of mystery they were to the ancient Jews. This, then, is the mystery of our purpose in life... of the meaning of life itself. Through Solomon, God assures us that we can know these things, story but that we must earnestly seek them. So when I ran across the following vignette in Os Guinness' Long Journey Home, I knew I had the makings of a modern parable. He tells the story of E. F. Schumacher's visit to Russia during the cold war.

Despite having a map in his hand, which he followed painstakingly, Schumacher realized he was lost. What he saw on paper didn't fit what was right before his eyes -- several huge Russian Orthodox churches, unmistakable with their golden onion domes. They weren't on the map, yet he was certain what street he was on.

"Ah," said the Intourist guide, trying to be helpful. "That's simple. We don't show churches on our maps."

"It then occurred to me," Schumacher said "that this is not the first time I had been given a map which failed to show many things I could see right in front of my eyes. All through school and university I had been given maps of life and knowledge on which there was hardly a trace of [faith].

Then to top it all off, I read the following article in the LA Times... Science and religion: God didn't make man; man made gods

The Parable of the Maps

A man started out on a journey to find the meaning of life. He came upon a scholar who informed him that true meaning can be rationally derived through math and science, so the man set about to experimentally find meaning. As he was creating an algorithm to derive meaning, he sought to include faith in the equation, but the scholar quickly told him that since man made God, there was no room for God in the equation. The man went back to the drawing board, but couldn't find any combination of attributes that resulted in meaning. Frustrated, he threw down his books and sought further help. He came upon a white-haired gentleman who told him "The purpose in a man's heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out." Perplexed, yet intrigued, the man pondered how he might draw out the path, when a young child suggested that he draw a map. Lacking any other ideas, the man began to draw a map, but left God out. The child, knowing nothing of math or science immediately saw the problem and suggested that the man draw God into the picture. With all of the information clearly before him, the man could finally see the true path, for God fills in all of the gaps and bridges all of the spans.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Slave by John MacArthur

We've been duped... duped into thinking that Jesus called us to be servants when all along he called us slave. John MacArthur presents a compelling argument about our true status in Christ. A position that doesn't allow us to call the shots... that doesn't give us the choice to obey or disobey, at least not without paying a terrible price. One can't help but be convinced of how we've been led down the wrong path by generations of well-meaning translators and Bible teachers.

So it surprised me to find that John MacArthur seems to fall into much the same trap even after alerting us its existence. In this case, his affinity for Calvinism seems to color his every thought. For example, he explains how our subsequent adoption by Christ proves "preservation of the saints" since it is a permanent condition, but he is evidently blinded by the obvious fact that if the biological parent can be superseded by the adoptive parent, then adoption can be no more permanent. Similar attempts to prove other of his strongly held beliefs detract from what could have been an excellent discourse on our standing before God. 

Although I recommended this book to my pastor as a useful reference, I can not recommend it to someone more interested in reading for pleasure or to someone young in faith. In fact, this was the first of John MacArthur's books that I have read and based on this experience, I probably won't read another for some time.

Disclosure of Material Connection: As a blogger, I received this book free from the publisher through the book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The End... And Yet Not The End

Psalms 90-92

Just finished the last reading of my 2010 Read Through the Bible in a Year Plan... except that it was a reading from week 31 that I missed while we were on the Zambia trip. The last words of Psalm 92 were the  final verses for the reading plan this year.
Even in old age they [the godly] will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green. They will declare, “The Lord is just! He is my rock! There is no evil in him!
While half of a century isn't that old, age has certainly caught up with me this year, but scripture says that there is still fruit to produce. Next year, I won't be blogging on my daily readings, but I do intend to blog on some devotional readings that I've been meaning to get to for a while. My intent for 2011 is to undertake the Radical Experiment. If you've read David Platt's book Radical, then I'd invite you to join me and thousands of others. During the Radical Experiment we are committing to five specific challenges:
  1. To pray for the entire world
  2. To read through the entire Word
  3. To commit our lives to multiplying community
  4. To sacrifice our money for a specific purpose
  5. To give our time in another context

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What's the Purpose?

2 John

When you put 2 John up against Romans, you have to think that either the early church fathers were totally off their rockers when they put the canon together, or that there was a spirit directing their every move. Not saying anything bad about 2 John, just that it is not the same as Romans, but God has his purposes. What's the purpose for 2 John... a purpose that isn't met by any other of the 65 books of scripture?

... I don't know, but what if it is in those words that John doesn't actually write in the letter, but is going to tell to the chosen lady face to face. Maybe that foreshadows our own meeting with the Lord face to face when he will tell us those words meant only for us.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What's a Leader to Do?

Nehemiah 10-13

After having led the effort to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and rededicate the people to the Law of Moses, Nehemiah returns to King Artaxerxes as he had promised. But when he returned later he found that the people had already reverted to their old ways... marrying Moabites and Ammonites, failing to pay the tithes to the Temple, despoiling the new Temple... what's a good leader to do?
About the same time I realized that some of the men of Judah had married women from Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. Furthermore, half their children spoke the language of Ashdod or of some other people and could not speak the language of Judah at all. So I confronted them and called down curses on them. I beat some of them and pulled out their hair [...] One of the sons of Joiada son of Eliashib the high priest had married a daughter of Sanballat the Horonite, so I banished him from my presence.
A good leader pulls the kids hair out... or the parents... hmmm! We are an ungrateful people, prone to wander and sin.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Right View of Self

Psalms 143-145

One of the things that has always impressed me about David was his right view of self. While others honored him as King, David understood that God sees things differently... God doesn't just see the king, he also sees the man. David knows this well as he petitions God... "Don’t put your servant on trial, for no one is innocent before you." Regardless of how well others might think of him, David knows in his heart, that his sin will find him out before the throne of God.