Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Star of the Day

You've probably seen this passage before in 1 Peter 1:10-12:
Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. (ESV)
This is pretty incredible. To think that the prophets longed to know more about salvation and the angels are still longing to understand salvation. But we get to see and experience it fully. Amazing.

My daughter Sydney is in preschool and they have something called "Star of the Day." So every month or so Sydney gets to be the "Star," which means it's her day. She gets to bring a mystery bag item (think show and tell, but with some intense 5 year-old mystery). She gets to be first in line. She gets to bring snacks. She gets to sit in a special spot on the carpet. On this day, it's all about her. She gets to experience full attention.

Living on this side of the cross, it's like we're the Star of the Day everyday. Not that there is anything in us that inherently deserves this treatment, but because of Jesus' coming, dying, and resurrecting God treats us with unmerited favor. Unmerited favor in its fullness, things into which angels long to look.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Just One Thought Away From Heading Down a Path of Destruction

A great challenge here from Mark Brown:
Only time will reveal what really happened with Jerry Sandusky at Penn State. To say that it is a very tragic and difficult situation is an understatement. While I had a range of emotions when I first heard about the scandal from shock to anger to empathy to sadness, I also had fear. Now this fear was related to my own potential to fail. You see, I sin just like Jerry. My sin may not be dressed up the same way as Jerry's, but I sin. In fact, I have thoughts that are not always pure and holy. I have moments in my mind that I would never want shared on this blog. So the challenge for me is this: what do I do with my sinful thoughts? The Apostle Paul urges us to "...take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." (2 Cor. 10:5) But he says this in the first person plural. He says "We are destroying speculations..." (NASB) Paul is putting himself in the same category as the listener. 1 John 1:9 says that "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
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Friday, November 18, 2011

Tempted!

I haven't been posting my Sunday messages on a regular basis, but the most recent one on Temptation from the story of David and Bathsheba has produced a lot of response from our people. I thought it might challenge you as well.

You can VIEW it here or LISTEN here.

The gist:
Be killing sin or it will be killing you.
- John Owen

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Elephant Room Conference

The Elephant Room is a great one day conference hosted live in Chicago and simulcasted to locations around the country. If you live around Oxford, a number of our church leaders will be attending on January 25, 2012 in Hamilton, OH. Join us and we'll travel to the conference together. The conference runs from 9AM-4PM with lunch included.

The early bird rate of $79 ends November 30. If you are a student at Miami, there is a special rate of only $29. This is a great opportunity to hear some gifted leaders discuss all sorts of theological and ministry topics in a unique format. Participants include Mark Driscoll, James McDonald, Crawford Loritts, Wayne Cordeiro, Steven Furtick, and more.

Check out the Elephant Room website for more info. And here's a trailer for the event:

The Elephant Room: Round 2 from Harvest Bible Chapel on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

How to Stop Trailing Off When You Pray

Fairly often when I'm trying to pray I end up down a rabbit trail of thoughts. It will sometimes take me 10 minutes or so before I realize I'm thinking about how bad the paint looks in my room or why my daughter's hermit crab never shows his face or what I'm going to eat for lunch. Or I just fall asleep. Suddenly I'll snap out of it, and think, "Wait a minute, come back...you're supposed to be praying!"

You have this problem? D.A. Carson calls this mental drift, and I've found his comments on this issue very helpful. I thought you might benefit from them as well. They come from his book A Call to Spiritual Reformation (i.e. best book on prayer I've read).

Hope this helps:
Anyone who has been on the Christian way for a while knows there are times when our private prayers run something like this: “Dear Lord, I thank you for the opportunity of coming into your presence by the merits of Jesus. It is a wonderful blessing to call you Father….I wonder where I left my car keys? [No, no! Back to business.] Heavenly Father, I began by asking that you will watch over my family­-not just in the physical sphere, but in the moral and spiritual dimensions of our lives….Boy, last Sunday’s sermon was sure bad. I wonder if I’ll get that report written on time? [No, no!] Father, give real fruitfulness to that missionary couple we support, whatever their name is….Oh, my! I had almost forgotten I promised to fix my son’s bike today….” Or am I the only Christian who has ever had problems with mental drift? But you can do many things to stamp out daydreaming, to stifle reveries. One of the most useful things is to vocalize your prayers. This does not mean they have to be so loud that they become a distraction to others, or worse, a kind of pious showing off. It simply means you articulate your prayers, moving your lips perhaps; the energy devoted to expressing your thoughts in words and sentences will order and discipline your mind, and help deter meandering. Another thing you can do is pray over the Scriptures. Christians just setting out on the path of prayer sometimes pray for everything they can think of, glance at their watches, and discover they have been at if for all of three or four minutes. This experience sometimes generates feelings of defeat, discouragement, even despair. A great way to begin to overcome this problem is to pray through various biblical passages. In other words, it is entirely appropriate to tie your praying to your Bible reading. The reading schemes you may adopt are legion. Some Christians read a chapter a day. Others advocate three chapters a day, with five on Sunday: this will get you through the Bible in a year. I am currently following a pattern set out by Robert Murray M’Cheyne in the last century: it will take me through the Psalms and the New Testament twice during this calendar year, and the rest of the Old Testament once. Whatever the reading scheme, it is essential to read the passage slowly and thoughtfully so as to retrieve at least some of its meaning and bearing on your life. Those truths and entailments can be the basis of a great deal of reflective praying. A slight variation of this plan is to adopt as models several biblical prayers. Read them carefully, think through what they are saying, and pray analogous prayers for yourself, your family, your church, and for many others beyond your immediate circle. Similarly, praying through the worship sections of the better hymnals can prove immensely edifying and will certainly help you to focus your mind and heart in one direction for a while. Some pastors pace as they pray. One senior saint I know has long made it his practice to pray through the Lord’s Prayer, thinking through the implications of each petition as he goes, and organizing his prayers around those implications. Many others make prayer lists of various sorts, a practice that will be discussed in more detail later. This may be part of the discipline of what has come to be called “journaling.” At many periods in the history of the church, spiritually mature and disciplined Christians have kept what might be called spiritual journals. What such journals contain varies enormously. The Puritans often used them to record their experiences with God, their thoughts and prayers, Their triumphs and failures. Bill Hybels, the senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, takes a page to record what he did and thought the day before, and then to write out some prayers for the day ahead of him. At least one seminary now requires that their students keep such a journal throughout their years of study.

The real value of journaling, I think, is several-fold: (a) It enforces a change of pace, a slowing down. It ensures time for prayer. If you are writing your prayers, you are not daydreaming. (b) It fosters self-examination. It is an old truism that only the examined life is worth living. If you do not take time to examine your own heart, mind, and conscience from time to time, in the light of God’s Word, and deal with what you find, you will become encrusted with the barnacles of destructive self-righteousness. (c) It ensures quiet articulation both of your spiritual direction and of your prayers, and this in turn fosters self-examination and therefore growth. Thus, journaling impedes mental drift. But this is only one of many spiritual disciplines. The danger in this one, as in all of them, is that the person who is formally conforming to such a regime may delude himself or herself into thinking that the discipline is an end in itself, or ensures one of an exalted place in the heavenlies. That is why I rather oppose the imposition of such a discipline on a body of seminary students (however much I might encourage journaling): true spirituality can never be coerced.

D.A. Carson, A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Grand Rapids, Baker Book House, 1992, p. 20-22.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Good Challenge on Prayer

A good challenge on prayer from Kevin DeYoung.
Prayer is essential for the Christian, as much for what it says about us as for what it can do through God. The simple act of getting on our knees (or faces or feet or whatever) for 5 or 50 minutes every day is the surest sign of our humility and dependence on our Father in heaven. There may be many reasons for our prayerlessness—time management, busyness, lack of concentration—but most fundamentally, we ask not because we think we need not. or we think God can give not. Deep down we feel secure when we have money in the bank, a healthy report from the doctor, and powerful people on our side. We do not trust in God alone. Prayerlessness is an expression of our meager confidence in God’s ability to provide and of our strong confidence in our ability to take care of ourselves without God’s help.
Read the rest.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Some Posts on Prayer. First, from Piper.

In light of our Week of Prayer at OBF, I thought I'd repost some things on prayer. Here's the first, with a couple more to follow.

John Piper:
You will not know what prayer is for until you know that life is war. One of the great obstacles to praying is that life is just too routinely smooth for many of us. The battlefront is way out there, but here in my tiny bubble of peace and contentment all is well. O may God open our eyes to see and feel the needs around us and the great potential of prayer.
This is from Piper's message Be Devoted to Prayer. In the message, he also gives three reasons why we should pray:
  1. The Bible tells us to pray and we should do what God says.
  2. The needs in your own life, and in your family, and in this church and other churches, and in the cause of world missions, and in our culture at large are huge and desperate. In many cases heaven and hell hang in the balance, faith or unbelief, life and death.
  3. God acts when we pray. And God can do more in five seconds than we can do in five years.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Small Town Politics

You gotta love small town politics, wonderfully illustrated in this ad from our very own Oxford Press:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Reliability of the New Testament

For Miami students and others with questions on the reliability of the Scriptures, I'd encourage you to check out this debate between Bart Ehrman (agnostic New Testament scholar ) and Daniel Wallace (Christian New Testament scholar).

You can read about the debate here.

Here are a number of other articles on the reliability of the NT.

You can purchase the DVD here, and here's the trailer for the debate:




In addition, I recommend these books on the reliability of the Scriptures:

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Week of Prayer

Today begins OBF's Week of Prayer, an annual focus of connecting with God and growing in our communication with Him. If you are a part of the OBF community, I encourage you to take advantage of the Prayer Guide for this week and set aside at least 30 minutes a day to pray. Don't forget to register for the Prayer Celebration on Wednesday, November 9 at 6PM where we will eat dinner, sing, and pray. Kids are welcome. There are a number of resources on prayer available at OBF's website. Check them out and join us in seeking Christ this week.


And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.
With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Ephesians 6:18 (NIV)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Courageous

While we're on the manhood theme, I thought I'd post the trailer for the movie Courageous. I've been fairly skeptical of "Christian" movies since they are usually poorly shot and tend towards sappy Christianity. But this movie has received good reviews and endorsements from people like John Piper and Randy Alcorn. I haven't seen it yet, but I plan to watch it when it releases on DVD. We may even show it at church if it will help men to "man up."

You can visit the website here.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Man Up

A great article here from Kevin DeYoung on the need for men to man up and the women waiting to see it happen:
As I speak at different venues across the country, one of the recurring questions I get comes from women, young women in particular. Their question usually goes something like this: “What is up with men?”

These aren’t angry women. Their question is more plaintive than petulant. I’m not quite sure why they ask me. Maybe because they’ve read Just Do Something and figure I’ll be a sympathetic ear. Or maybe they think I can help. They often follow up their initial question by exhorting me, “Please speak to the men in our generation and tell them to be men.”

They’re talking about marriage. I have met scores of godly young women nearby and far away who wonder “Where have all the marriageable men gone?” More and more commentators–Christian or otherwise–are noticing a trend in young men; namely, that they don’t seem to be growing up. Recently, William Bennett’s CNN article “Why Men Are in Trouble” has garnered widespread attention. The point of the post is summarized in the final line: “It’s time for men to man up.” Sounds almost biblical (1 Corinthians 16:13).

Virtually every single single person I know wants to be married. And yet, it is taking couples longer and longer to get around to marriage. Education patterns have something to do with it. A bad economy doesn’t help either. But there is something even more befuddling going on. Go to almost any church and you’ll meet mature, intelligent, attractive Christian women who want to get married and virtually no men to pursue them. These women are often in graduate programs and may have started a career already. But they aren’t feminists. They are eager to embrace the roles of wife and mother. Most of the women I’ve met don’t object to the being a helpmate. There just doesn’t seem to be a lot of mates to go around.

What’s going on here? Why are there so many unmarried, college graduated, serious-about-Christ, committed-to-the-church, put-together young women who haven’t found a groom, and don’t see any possibilities on the horizon? READ MORE..

While you're at it, check out this music video from Lecrae called "Just Like You." Great lyrics. Great truth.

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