Archive for the 'Devotional' Category

At Least 10 Things I’ve Learned in 15 Years of Being Reformed

January 18th, 2016

As a person 15 years into reformed theology, I’ve learned a few things:

1. Read MANY reformed authors. Piper gets a lot of things right in terms of understanding God’s Sovereignty, but misses in other areas (i.e. baptism, quasi-pacifism). Sproul gets baptism right, but goes with classical apologetics instead of presuppositional/covenantal apologetics. God has purposely allowed many of us to have blind spots in order to avoid us being arrogant about ‘having it all right’ (for those asking, eschatology is my ‘blind spot’ and I’m more than willing to slow my roll here….).

2. People learn and come to understand at different rates. Phil Johnson​ took about 15 years, I took 4, Michael Armstrong took around 2. If you are new (4 years or less) to reformed theology, avoid arguing about Calvinism over the internet, please. It’s very easy (I speak from experience) to slip into fighting to be right and thinking it’s because you’re fighting for biblical truth. Yes, you can be right (and being biblically correct is important), but the motivation behind being right may cause your good works to turn to wood.

3. Grow thick skin. There are plenty of people who will simply attack you because they have no other Biblical evidence on their side….so they make the discussion about YOU instead of about what the Bible teaches on the subject. Forgive them ahead of time, keep your tone calm and the subject of your discussion on the scriptures.

4. Remember you were once one of those “I don’t care about denominations/I don’t follow man-made systems/I don’t follow Calvin or anyone, I follow Jesus” folks once too. Full of zeal, lacking in knowledge. Be patient in conversation (see #3) and ready to explain yourself at length….repeatedly.

5. If you understand that the noetic effects of sin (sin not only affects humanity spiritually but also intellectually) can cause us to take ‘longer’ to get things at times (sometimes not at all), understanding why some of your non-Calvinistic friends can’t see what’s “RIGHT THERE!!!!” in scripture makes a whole lot of sense. Be patient with them, pray that the Lord will gradually take more of the ‘blind spots’ out of their vision as He did with you. It is the Lord who opens eyes to see truth. He may use you…. He doesn’t have to. It does NOT all depend on you.

6. Hold truth humbly, with mercy. Don’t be quick to shake your finger at folks – you too could have been giving money to Creflo Dollar, thinking it was the Lord’s will to sow a seed. God pulled you away from that mess (see #5).

7. If you are new to the reformed tradition (i.e. you just realized that the Bible DOES teach ‘Calvinism’), get into a consistently reformed church ASAP (PCA, OPC, reformed baptist….in that order would be my preferences). Do NOT try to ‘change’ your church from the bottom up (i.e. a Sunday school class, discussions with other congregants designed to prod the pastor into bringing these issues to the fore and discussing them publicly). You will get branded as a trouble-maker, divisive, unloving and people will turn on you. Leave your old, “semi-Arminian, semi-pelagian, nice-people-who-love-Jesus” church through the front door (in full view and in good standing).

Here’s (hopefully) a nice way of saying it:

“Since I believe the scriptures teach X, Y, Z, I don’t believe I can stay here with a good conscience and I don’t want to be seen as divisive, since a lot of what gets preached, I don’t find myself in agreement with anymore. I’m not saying the people here aren’t Christians at all – we just disagree on some things Biblically and that puts a bit of a problem in the way in terms of fellowship, since we fundamentally approach certain things from different theological assumptions. Therefore, I want to respectfully withdraw my membership from this assembly.”

Why leave ? Simple. The type of growth you experience is directly tied to the type of preaching you sit under. Reformed theology has consequences for Christian living in every area of life. It is meant to not simply be “a few things I choose to believe” or even “a few things I believe because the Bible teaches them” or even “stuff related to salvation”, but an entire worldview. It is MUCH larger than simply “the five points”. You will not get that full worldview-level preaching sitting in the church you are currently in anymore than a child playing on the beach will get an idea of how deep the ocean is by staying on the beach and simply looking at it from a distance.

8. Read more Bible than reformed authors (but read reformed authors). Reformed authors are good for getting ahold of how exegesis and application should work. J.I. Packer is no substitute for Paul. J.I. Packer may help you understand Paul a bit better, as Packer (who is about to turn 90) has been walking with the Lord and dealing with hard passages of scripture longer than you (and probably your parents) have been alive. But nothing will beat the Holy Spirit working to renew your mind as He opens the text of scripture up to you while you read it.

9. Learn from older brothers and sisters in the faith. Learn from older writings (read Calvin, not just Piper and Sproul – see the second half of #8), learn from older brothers and sisters in the church (see #7). The Mark Driscolls of the world come and go. Driscoll’s arrogance at correction from men like MacArthur came back to bite later when it was shown that every single criticism men like MacArthur had against him was true. Beware the arrogance of ‘youth’. Better yet, beware the arrogance of ‘we need to hear something relating to now, not what people did yesterday’ (as if humanity has changed fundamentally). If you aren’t teachable, you’ll become hardened, argumentative and arrogant very quickly.

10. Realize that every true believer is reformed at heart. If you press hard enough and long enough, any true believer will affirm:

– Christ saved me, not just made me ‘savable’.
– It was God who orchestrated events in my life to bring me to a point of realizing my need for salvation.
– No, I suppose that if I was left to myself without God keeping me, I’d probably walk right into hell.
– Yes, at some level, I understand that God is indeed guiding all aspects of my life, though I don’t exactly understand how and ultimately I know that my life is truly and completely in His hands.

By Name

December 1st, 2011

Daily Scripture Reading Galatians 4

Verse of the Day – John 10:3b
…and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

Devotional Thoughts

Jesus not only talks to us as our shepherd – He also calls us by name! Can you remember a time when you ran into someone you knew that you knew but had trouble recalling their name. You know, you smile and talk kindly to them because you know you know them and you try so hard to remember who they are! Hopefully they remember you or else you have a nice conversation and neither of you knows who the other really is.

Thankfully, even though Jesus rules the universe, He always recalls our name. He knows who we are and He will never (He cannot ever) forget who we are. The Book of Isaiah even tells us that our names are carved into the palms of God’s hands (Isa 49:16). He can’t drop us, shake us off, wash us away, or lose His grip on us. He cares so much about us and loves us so much that He does call us by name.

This is also significant of a special, intimate relationship. He knows us and calls us. He talks with us. He cares about us and our lives. No matter how small we seem or our needs seem in the scheme of things – God calls out to us by name.

Do you ever feel forgotten? Alone? Like no ones cares or even cares to care? Like you are a nobody, worthless and abandoned? Well, no matter how you feel you must understand that He knows you, He never leaves you, and He calls you by name. Sure you can’t see Him, that is why salvation requires faith, but you can know without a single doubt that He is there. At times we just need to inform our feelings of the truth.

And not only does He care and call us by name, He also leads us out. We will look later at what happened when the sheep leave the fold but for now it is important to notice that the shepherd leads the sheep. The shepherd is not a cowboy. He doesn’t drive the sheep like a herd of cattle. He doesn’t use a whip and loud noises to direct his flock. The shepherd simply and gently leads the way.

The sheep trust the shepherd. They know Him. He calls to them by name, they hear His voice and want to be where He is, so they follow. He leads, they follow. That is the Christian life summed up. He doesn’t whip, drive, beat, herd, or yell – He just simply leads the way. And if we know Him and hear His voice we follow wherever He goes. Wherever that may be we are safe because He is there with us, before us, leading us. We are safe, secure, protected, provided for, encouraged, motivated, and fed. We are loved.

Notice that in order to follow, we, the sheep, must know where the shepherd is, we must listen for His voice, and when we hear it we must follow wherever He leads. It is a matter of faith. Every day we must believe, trust, obey, and follow our shepherd. That is the only way to please Him, to get fed and watered and find rest with Him.

Today listen once again for His voice. When you hear it, be willing to follow wherever He leads. He expects you to follow today – will you? No Fear. No Worry. Just Faith. Just Jesus! Follow Him as He calls you personally by name today. Bask in His amazing love for you. (If you are not in the Word, you won’t hear His voice!)

Bible Reading For Further Study

Jeremiah 13
Isaiah 51

Recommended Songs for Family Worship

I Am Thine, O Lord
The King of Love My Shepherd Is

click here to find more daily devotionals on The Good Shepherd by Pastor Way

Really ? Yes, really.

April 22nd, 2011

The God of the Universe took on human flesh, lived among us, was spat upon, kicked, mocked and killed by His own creation. He did this for people who infinitely offended Him with their choices to disobey and not bow the knee to Him as Creator and Lord.

Not one bit of anything in that equation makes Him more glorious than He already is (in other words, He would be infinitely beautiful and glorious even if He never did those things).

He did it anyway.

He was not obligated to do it. He could’ve just sent everyone to hell….as He will do with the fallen angels.

Aside from asking ‘WHY ?’ the other thing that contemplation of this fact does for me as a believer is remove any nagging temptation to drift into cold fatalistic determinism. One cannot be, for example, a hypercalvinist and logically deal with this fact.

Everyone caught up on the fact that reformed theology teaches that God is ACTUALLY Sovereign….skips over this fact in their attempt to bash Calvinism for ‘destroying free will’ (and other nonsensical arguments).  No one who opposes Calvinism ever notices this fact.  No one.

So why did He choose to love ?  I have no idea. I just sit down, shut up and praise Him for doing so.

Deut. 29:29.

Be Renewed in the Spirit of Your Mind

November 26th, 2010

and be renewed in the spirit of your mind…Ephesians 4:23

Paul told us in Ephesians 4 that we are not to walk like “the Gentiles” (ie. those without Christ) walk but are instead to walk in a manner that is fitting for saints. We are to walk like we have heard and learned the truth from Jesus. This means that as we come to faith in Christ we must first repent. We must put off our former way of life, turning from our sin and turning to Christ in faith.

Continuing on with that theme here in verse 23, Paul tells us that after we put off that former conduct, our “old man” that only grows more and more corrupt, then we are to “be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” This is a rich verse so we will take a few minutes today to take it apart, looking at the two phrases he uses.

Be Renewed

Notice he does not say “act renewed.” It is not a command to learn about renewal or to start a renewal ministry or to find the secret of renewal. No. He says, be renenwed. And the way he says it the reader should already know how to be renewed and that their duty then is to actually “be renewed.”

When the Holy Spirit regenerates us we are indeed “born again.” Now we understand that when we repent and believe in Christ it is because we have been made a new creation. There is renewal. But being renewed in the spirit of our mind is not a one time act of renewal as when we are born again. This word means that from the time we repent and put on the new man (Eph 4:24), continuing through the rest of our life we are being renewed. It is the renewing of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5) as an ongoing part of the new walk of the new man in this new life.

So the Holy Spirit continually renews and refreshes us. But how? The Word of God read, heard, obeyed, memorized, and meditated upon is the tool that the Holy Spirit uses to renew us and conform us to the image of Christ. As we are renewed we are indeed transformed (Rom 12:1-2) and as we are transformed our lives prove that God’s will is perfect, acceptable, and holy.

Do you need reviving? Do you need to rekindle your love for Christ? Do you need to grow in grace and get beyond a dry stagnant place in your walk with Christ?

Get into the Word!

Is it that simple? Yes. It really is.

At times when things are dry and it seems as though God does not hear our prayers or care about us – during those times we often are fooled and deceived into thinking that the Word of God is dry we do not pick it up and read it. We fail to understand that the Word of God is alive, active, powerful, effective, and sufficient. Don’t believe me? Try me! The next time you find yourself in that place of spiritual barrenness – read your Bible. Anywhere. Just pick a book or chapter and read it. Ask the Holy Spirit to open your mind to the truth and just read.

The truth is that we cannot read the Word of God and remain the same. The Word in the hands of the Spirit is used to bring about a continuing renewal. And we all know that we need renewal as often as the Spirit will renew us.

In the Spirit of Your Mind

The second phrase in verse 23 tells us where we are to continually be renewed. In the spirit of our mind. Okay. What is that? Our spirit? Our soul? Our mind? What exactly is “the spirit of your mind.”

This is a phrase that refers to the inner man, the very deepest part of who we are that determines how we think and what we do. This is our heart of hearts. And this is what is renewed day by day through the power of the Spirit applying the Word to our lives.

This deepest part of who we are must be renewed. True saving faith and repentance will be followed with this ongoing renewal which in fact began when we put on the new man. It must continue, for who we are, the spirit of our mind, is still embodied in this fallen flesh. And while the spirit wars against the flesh and the flesh against the spirit it is here in the spirit of our mind that we will win or lose the battle. For the spirit of our mind is that inner man, that part of us that determines what it is that we want (desire) and therefore what we do. Our motives and desires flow from the spirit of our mind.

How interesting then that the contrast here in these verses is that of the difference between how those with and without Christ walk. The lost man walks in the futility of his mind. The repenter walks with the spirit of his mind being renewed over and over again!

Where before we were unable to desire and do what was pleasing to God, now with the Spirit’s help we are in our very inner man motivated and empowered to both want to do what is right, and to do it. We now have a moral capability that before we did not. Whereas we were dead in sin now we are alive to God. Where we were ambivalently apathetic toward righteousness now righteousness is what we crave as though it were as necessary for life as hunger or thirst.

Interesting also that the very thing that the Spirit uses to call us to this new life is what He uses to continually renew us in our inner man. The “gospel” is “the power of God to salvation.” The Word of God cleanses us, sanctifies us, renews us, transforms us, convicts us, breaks us, motivates us, and empowers us. The Word never returns void. It always accomplishes the purposes for which God sends it forth. The written Word of God presents and reveals to us the Living Word of God.

Jesus once rebuked the Pharisees saying that they searched the Scriptures for law after law to obey so that they might be saved, but He said of the Scriptures, “they testify of Me” (John 5:39). The Word does not give us eternal life through a system of obedience and good works. No. It is used by the Spirit to prove that we cannot save ourselves, that we need a Savior, and that that Savior is Jesus Christ! The Word in the hands of the Spirit calls us to Christ.

No wonder then that the devil started in the garden by casting doubt on the Word of God. “Did God really say?” Do not underestimate the Word of God!

So as we repent and believe in Him we enter that continuing process of being renewed over and over again until the final redemption of our bodies at our glorification. This renewal continues until our salvation is complete. Of course, in God’s eyes it is complete, for Jesus declared from the cross, “It is finished.” He even refers to glorification in the past tense in Romans 8:30. But for us this must be worked out in time. And the way that it is worked out is through our sanctification. It is through the Spirit renewing and transforming us daily to the image of Christ.

So the secret is out – if we want to be renewed we must only pick up and read our Bibles, with the mindset to hear and do what it says. How many self help books can we toss out now? Is it really that simple? Yes it is. Paul tells us as simply as he is able by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: “Be renewed in the spirit of your mind.”

The Breastplate of Righteousness

September 13th, 2010

Remember that we are at war. We cannot afford to forget the fight, or to become lazy, apathetic, or complacent. All around us spiritual battles are raging as the enemy seeks to disable us in our pursuit of pleasing God and to derail our work to proclaim the good news that Christ has come to set the prisoners free. This war has eternal ramifications. We are fighting to honor our King, to defend His truth, to advance His Kingdom, and to rescue captives. If we falter and fail we dishonor the One who bought us with His blood!

As we continue to look at each individual piece of armor that has been given to us by God in Christ, we now move to the second piece, the breastplate of righteousness. Remember from last week that the belt was foundational for the Roman soldier’s armor. The breastplate, and helmet were fastened to the belt, and the sheath for the sword was also attached within easy reach. Just as we learned about the belt of truth, so now we see that the breastplate is crucial for defense.

For the Roman soldier the breastplate was made of think layers of leather and fabric, or for higher ranking men, it was made of molded metal. It offered protection against swords, spears, and arrows. It protected the body from the neck to the waist, covering the chest and stomach as it protected vital organs like the heart, lungs, liver, and intestines. If anything got through the armor a wound to this section of the body could be devastatingly fatal at worst, or it could cause severe and disabling injury, removing the soldier from action.

For the believer, the breastplate is a breastplate of righteousness. Righteousness is a term that expresses rightness. In relation to God, to be righteous is to be holy. It is to be in a right state in our relationship with Him. So we see that to hunger and thirst after righteousness is to desire to be right with God.

Specifically to Scripture, there are three kinds of righteousness. There is imputed righteousness, imparted righteousness, and un-righteousness.

To compare the first two, we see that imputed righteousness is a right standing with God that is given to us, it is imputed. It is not our own righteousness. It is not righteous acts that we do. It is the righteousness of Christ that is given to us freely by grace as we are saved.

Christ lived a perfect and sinless life in obedience to the will and Word of God. When He died on the cross as our substitute taking our sin and its penalty upon Himself, there was a great exchange. He took from us that which kept us from a holy God, and He gave to us that which gives us access to a holy God. He took our sin and gave us His righteousness, His own obedience and right standing with God. When that righteousness was imputed to us and we were counted righteous, when we were justified by faith in Christ, God looked at us and saw Christ’s perfection.

Imparted righteousness is righteousness that results from our obedience to the Word of God. God has made us a new creation. He says in His Word that we are a new man created in righteousness and holiness. He even tells us that He has prepared good works for us by grace so that we might walk in them. From the Word of God we are sanctified, that is made more and more like Christ. And as we grow in this grace we learn to do what is right for the right reasons. These works, imparted to us and accomplished through us by the Spirit are pleasing to God.

Think of it this way – imputed righteousness refers to our position in Our Lord and imparted righteousness refers to our practice in our life. One speaks of who and what we are in Jesus. The other speaks of how we live as a result of who we are. We see then that imputed righteousness is necessary for imparted righteousness.

Our right standing with God motivates us and gives us the ability and power to do what is right. This is practical righteousness – practicing, that is doing over and over again, what is right in God’s sight. In order to do these good works we have to be obedient to principles of righteousness. We have to know the difference between good and evil, between that which pleases God and that which displeases Him.

Imputed righteousness opens the door for imparted righteousness, which in turn motivates us to apply principles of practical righteousness and results in our being obedient and therefore holy. Do we remember on a daily basis that God commands us to be holy? (1 Peter 1:15-16).

Holiness is easy, right? I mean, if we study the Scriptures we learn that God has given us everything that we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:2-4). So why is holiness so hard?

Holiness is difficult because when we look at what God’s Word says, it tells us just how many people without God are holy. Who is righteous without Christ?

There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one. – Romans 3:10-12 (quoting Psalm 14:2-3).

We see then that Christ alone is righteous. All that we have to offer outside of Christ is disgustingly evil and wicked (Isaiah 64:6). We might think that we can accomplish good things without God, and we may attribute good things to men and women who do not know Christ. But the truth is that without Christ we have nothing righteous to offer or to do. Even the good that we attempt for all the “right reasons” are but iniquity, sins of the self will, tainted by sin, and unholy.

We have looked at imputed righteousness and imparted righteousness, but what about the third type, that which is unrighteous?

Unrighteousness is wickedness, evil, and sin. We all know this unrighteousness when we see it, or at least we should. But sometimes unrighteousness disguises itself. At times it presents itself as self-righteousness, that form of righteousness that we have on our own without Christ. It may look good on the outside. It may look like we are doing what is right, being obedient to God. But when our heart is wrong, our attitude is selfish, and our motivation is driven by lust for the praise of men, then we see that the righteousness we have on our own is actually the complete lack of righteousness. It is the opposite of what it right.

When it comes to righteousness there are three kinds of people: Pharisees, Phonies, and Peculiar People.

The Pharisees were self righteous. They had no fear of men or God. All that mattered was that they were good and right and respected and looked up to and envied by others. It is a self serving code of works built upon the notion that we can work our way to heaven, pleasing God by all that we do and sacrifice for Him.

The Phonies are those who have a false righteousness. It is powerless morality based on the fear of men or on a desire to please God on our own terms. These are phony because they have an outward form of godliness but deny the very power that imputes and imparts righteousness to us.

The Peculiar People are those who fear God and have had Christ’s righteousness given to them. The have imputed righteousness and so are right with God and they see imparted righteousness working its way out in their daily lives as they seek to please and glorify God in all they do. They are peculiar because they are holy. They are separate from the world, they are different, they are full of power and joy and all the fruit of the spirit.

Do we desire to be right with God? Do we know the difference between the different kinds of righteousness? Are we trusting in Christ to save us as He gives us His righteousness, or are we foolish enough to think that we can be good enough on our own to please a holy God?

We have the breastplate of righteousness. Do we use it?

Sermon Series: The Whole Armor of God

Message 6 – The Breastplate of Righteousness – Eph 6:14

Ephesians 5:3-21

August 14th, 2010

It’s amazing how people try to get around the clear commands of this passage.

Read it and let it soak in for a bit.  I’ll be commenting on it over the next few days.

[3] But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. [4] Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. [5] For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. [6] Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. [7] Therefore do not become partners with them; [8] for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light [9] (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), [10] and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. [11] Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. [12] For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. [13] But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, [14] for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” [15] Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, [16] making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. [17] Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. [18] And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, [19] addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, [20] giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, [21] submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:3-21 ESV)

Food Choices, Church Choices and Their Effect On Your Body

August 9th, 2010

Over at TheologicallyCorrect dot Com, I’ve been threatening, gathering, pondering and chunk writing portions of a new series (which, at this rate, will end up as a book) on reasons to leave your current ‘not-heretical-but-not-really-deep-theologically’ church for one that is. My friends and my own life experiences are continually giving me new source material to write and use as illustrations.

So you’re at a church that doesn’t teach anything overtly heretical, but the sermons are rather ‘light’ in doctrinal content. The preacher may be content with giving you practical (supposedly) sermons week to week which seem to be ‘how to’ more than anything else. All well and fine. We do need to know ‘how to’ from time to time. But you find yourself a bit ‘critical’ of the sermon week to week – “not enough meat!” So you supplement your church’s sermons with podcasts from people you consider ‘meatier’ – MacArthur, Sproul, Piper, or any number of lesser known but solid biblical and exegetical pastors.

There’s an old saying – if the cook doesn’t eat here, why should you ?

Maybe that’s a bit too strong. Maybe your church is more like this: Not adequately consistent on biblical teaching. The equivalent of eating steak one day, McFood Product 3-4 days out of the week, a McFood Product Apple Pie one day and then one day it’s potluck.

Since we’re running with food illustrations, let me add one more.

My wife and I recently started (maybe over the past 6-8 months) moving the bulk of our diet to being more organic. So we eat at Silver Diner (because they’ve switched over to organic) and Chipoltle as our primary food places if/when we eat outside. The occasional Chic-Fil-A comes in every once in a while (emergency food – but at least we know they serve real chicken) and Arby’s (my wife used to work there, so she knows how the food is prepped – at least the beef).

Since the new food choices have come into play, several things have happened.

1. We’re finding out that processed and non-fresh foods (i.e. canned fruit cocktail versus fresh fruit that you chop up or that is prepared the same day) don’t retain their flavor or their nutritional value. For example, at an event my wife and I went to, my wife (who loves fruit) didn’t finish the fruit cocktail she got (it was one of the healthier choices). She said it didn’t taste like anything. In the past, she used to be able to devour canned fruit cocktail all day….but now…not so much. Fresh fruit tastes better and as you spend extended time around fresh, canned begins to lose its’ appeal.

2. We’re finding ourselves having more energy to do more things. Healthier diet and lifestyle = more energy. The old food choices we used to do (rushing around with little time to cook) tended to ‘fill’ us up, but it left us feeling sluggish and tired afterward. As we’ve learned in researching some restaurants, some of it is because most or ALL of the nutritional value of some foods was pretty much NON-EXISTENT. So your body was working harder to draw nutrients out of something that didn’t have nutrients in it to begin with. Therefore, you’re left tired. Related to that is the additional fact that some of the food which DID have some nutritional value was also high in fat and sodium. So now, the remainder of your body’s energy is spent converting stuff to BAD fat and the sodium content is sapping your body of fluids, dehydrating you. So your body has to work harder to process less and you end up with less energy, altered moods, physiological issues, chemical imbalance, etc… This affects your thinking and communication skills as well. When we switched to organic choices (and added some harder work/regular exercise to the mix), things started to change gradually. At the end of last school year, I did the school yearbook, kept up with the school website and a plethora of changes, did two performances 3 days before the end of the school year and a few dozen other things that normally, I would’ve been completely burnt out to do. I’m not saying I wasn’t tired at the end But compared to last year, I’ve found myself recovering quicker.

3. Overshare time (wife cringing as I type this) !!! We’ve found ourselves more apt to get rid of…stuff. This has also helped with losing weight (since we’re not holding onto stuff in our intestines for extended periods of time) and digestion (good food digests easier).

These three points have great theological significance. Churches that are light on their treatment of theological topics and issues often find their members working harder (whether it be to work themselves into a shout and live off of the emotional high for the next week, or thinking that the various programs and outreaches they get involved in are the equivalent of growth and being spiritual) with diminishing returns (because now they have to involve themselves in ‘more’ over time just to feel like they are ‘doing the Lord’s work’ or ‘serving Him’ or ‘worshipping Him in Spirit and in Truth’).

No real spiritual nutritional value. Just empty spiritual calories to fill you up. ‘How-to’ sermons divorced from their theological and biblical foundations, become morality lessons. Morality lessons don’t transform your way of thinking and they don’t save people. And you can only live off a cliché or morality lesson…until real trials strike.

Good spiritual food (in the form of consistent sound doctrine and good teaching) is like eating steak, organic chicken, fresh vegetables and such….every day. Good food on a regular basis helps your body grow stronger and keeps you free of most diseases. Likewise, good spiritual food will keep you free of most of the pitfalls that some believers constantly face and struggle with (i.e. “Am I good enough now to merit God’s favor beyond Him just saving me ?”). But the key is this: you have to be in the atmosphere consistently. That means you don’t simply live off of podcasts, tapes, CDs and DVDs, but you have people alongside of you who believe the same things, encouraging and strengthening you to move forward. You have a shepherd who consistently teaches and preaches these things every week. Your church consciously is modeled after this line of thought.

As other members of your community are being transformed by the preaching on Sunday and teaching throughout the week, they, in turn, pass that on to you as you interact with them. And as you find yourself being transformed, you pass that back to them. This ‘mutual edification’ gives you the spiritual strength necessary to endure all sorts of trials as they come.

Your view of God changes in a sounder atmosphere. God goes from being a benevolent grandfather up in heaven looking down at you and smiling and waiting to give you all sorts of gifts (because He’s nice and loving) to being the Almighty Creator of the universe, before whom, you deserve nothing but wrath and death, but who instead chooses to give you love, blessings and salvation. Realizing your condition makes God appear as He should – much bigger, much more awesome and then it hits you…. His love for you doesn’t depend on your performance. He didn’t save you because of something you did or would do. He didn’t “see the best in you” and then save you based on that.

It’s easy to think of yourself as being ‘worthy’ of a certain kind of love and knowing that your mate or another human being loves you because you’re you. There’s even a song out about it now (The Best In Me by Marvin Sapp). But knowing that God loves you when the best of ‘you’ is filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) and coming to realize that it doesn’t depend on you at all…well…that’s humility-producing.

It also produces a different kind of sanctification. You’ll find yourself more apt to self-examination (per 2 Cor. 13 and all of 1 John) and find yourself jettisoning as much ‘waste’ in your life that weighs you down from running toward the goal of Christlikeness.

Now I hear, on regular basis, people say things like “well, maybe some people are built up by things from this style of preaching versus that ‘theological’ stuff.” That, to me, falls in line with thinking that “ Well, maybe some people are built up by eating unhealthy food versus all that ‘organic stuff’.”

Objectively speaking, there’s only one meaning to the text of scripture. It cannot mean one thing and the exact opposite of that one thing at the same time. Objectively speaking, only ‘real spiritual food’ brings real spiritual growth. In other words, if what gets taught is false doctrine, no matter how the person feels about it, they are not being built up in the faith. They may be built up in habit, tradition, feeling, thinking and experiencing, but these things are not the Christian faith as taught in scripture.

In food analogy terms: one cannot say that McDonalds builds up people in a healthy fashion and that real beef from one cow builds up people just as well. Both statements are mutually exclusive (if you know how McDonalds’ meat gets mushed together from several different animals in varying shades of health). One is good for you and provides more nutrients for your body.  One is not and provides little nutrients for your body, gives you unwanted antibiotics, possible disease contamination (because those cows aren’t in the healthiest of shape and they eat a lot of filler).  Both taste differently.  So although both might fill you up, don’t mistake being full for being healthy. Both are having different effects on your body over the long haul.

I’ve encountered people who, after eating so much fast food for so many years, really don’t have a taste for real food. They have a taste for food…but not healthy food. And like children, over time, they must be weaned off of the bad food in order to develop a taste for the good.

A few ramblings of a man determined to nudge folks on to better ‘food choices’. I already know that some people will be moderately offended by it because they know that their church has good food. I teach middle school kids who think that McDonalds’ is good food too. But I’ve also been humble enough to sit and watch Super-Size Me and follow up on that with personal research. I also realize that middle school kids don’t necessarily have the maturity and capacity to think at the level of ‘what is this doing to my body over long periods of time’ because they’ve been trained up (by culture, society, media and parents) to have everything ‘now’ and focus on ‘now’. Likewise, there are many believers who have been trained up to not think critically and use their minds to the glory of God (Deut. 6:5).

The thing with good food, though…even if your palate has been trained to love fast food, you can be weaned off of it and moved over to real food. You can grow teeth that will bite into and rend steak. You can develop a taste for fresh fruit so that canned longer appeals to you. It takes time, work and the same way you would reprogram your muscles with daily workouts to grow stronger, you’d need to reprogram your appetite with good foods.

All that said…move somewhere with fresh, real, healthy, nutritious food. Nothing scripture says that you should remain at a place that is malnourishing you. You have friends at these places ? Instead of staying for their benefit, why not bring them with you to your new place of eating ?

A Life of Praise

January 13th, 2010

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened.” Acts 16:25-26 ESV

This is one of the most encouraging passages of Scripture to me. When I first read it, I was amazed at what God had done. Paul and Silas had been beaten and thrown into prison after casting out a spirit of divination (fortune telling) from a young woman who followed them around for several days. The men who were making money off of her were very upset that their financial means had been taken away, so they took them before the magistrates and it was decided that they should be beaten and thrown into prison.

So, here we are. Paul and Silas are imprisoned. What do they do? They begin praying and singings hymns to God. When I first read this, I was astonished how men who had just been beaten and thrown into prison for doing no wrong could have this incredible resolve to worship God and communicate with Him through prayer in what would seem to be a very dark and desperate part of their lives. Then, I remembered reading earlier in the book of Acts about Peter and John and how they had been beaten for teaching in the name of Jesus yet went away rejoicing because they had been counted worthy to suffer for His name’s sake.

When I first heard this passage preached upon, the preacher indicated that when things get bad, we need to begin to pray and “praise our way out” of the storm we’re in. While I see the significance of being a people who praise God, and while adversity and affliction can often rock our world, prayer and worship of God are not a knee jerk reaction to adversity and affliction. Prayer to and worship of God are a part of the very life of the believer. It’s what true believers do. Our lives should be one of praise to the Most High God. Some will teach that Paul and Silas began to pray because of the situation. But, I believe that Paul and Silas were just going about their lives—lives committed to bringing glory to God and the end result was that God was pleased to free them from prison. After all, He had much more work for them to do.

There’s more to this passage that I want to come back to, including the conclusion of this story that involves the jailer of this prison and how the Lord used this event to save him and his family. But, remember, we’ve been called to a life of prayer. We’ve been called to a life of worship. Let’s remember that as we go through our daily lives, whether the situation is up or down. Soli Deo Gloria!

Happy New Year – So What ?

January 2nd, 2010

I wrote this and posted it back in 07, but giving it a listen, I found myself being a bit convicted by it. I think it’s a good ‘share’ opportunity for everyone.

Podcast download:

Thinking Biblically Commentary – January 4, 2006
K. Joel Gilliard

Every year on December 31, great festivals and celebrations around the world are held to ring out the old year and bring in the new year. In fact, starting backwards from December 26th, news broadcasters begin to reflect on past events of the year, who died, who got married and whatever the big news stories of the year that there were.

Many people use this time of year to do their own reflection on the events of the past year in their personal lives. Many make promises to improve themselves in the coming year and as we well know, these things have a tendency not to last.

Many have come to think of New Year’s resolutions as a cliché for ‘Heh. Let’s see how long that lasts.’ People make grandiose claims and promises only to break them before the end of the month (usually within the first 5-15 days of the month).

Now let’s think for a moment. Biblically, if you will.

Is it wrong to reflect over our lives and think on the major events of our lives? Of course not. Is it wrong to make plans for change ? Not at all. Scripture is replete with folks who do these very things – from David in the Psalms to Isaiah in his book.

The problem is our thinking at how to go about accomplishing these ‘resolutions’ that we make. There’s usually two faulty assumptions that go along with most new year’s resolutions-making.

First, many times, even Christians don’t approach things they resolve to do for the coming year with glory of God in mind. They don’t seek to make change to serve God better, but mostly to serve themselves better, expand their own territory, build up their own kingdom and prosper their own house.

The prophet Haggai spoke of people like this during the reign of King Darius when he delivered a word from the Lord on the subject:

“Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.

“Thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the LORD. You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the LORD of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors.” (Haggai 1:4-11)

Several times here, the Lord admonishes His people to ‘consider their ways‘. That’s Hebrew shorthand for ‘think real close and reflect on how you’ve been acting and what’s been going on with your life’. We learn a lot in this passage. The context, dealing with the rebuilding of the temple under King Darius, is applicable to our present discussion.

So many times, we try to do things in our own strength with our own purpose and plan in mind. We spend our time and energy ‘seeking with all our might’ after food, clothing and shelter (the same thing Jesus said the Gentiles did in Matthew 6). And to make it sound holy, we stamp the name of God on it and say ‘God wants me to have this’ or ‘God wants me to do this’ or ‘If it wasn’t of God, I wouldn’t have the vision or the desire’ and misquote scripture to support this notion (sometimes we’re taught to misquote scripture in this fashion).

My friends, this is nothing more than hedonism masked with Christian spiritualism. In English – seeking after self-pleasure and self-gratification but masking it with a layer of Christian-speak in order to make it sound acceptable to others and ourselves.

Check your motivations real close
. The desire to lose weight, for example, is not necessarily bad or good in and of itself. You’d like to lose weight for what reason ? So you’ll look cute in your bathing suit at the beach over the summer (or for the fellas, so you’ll look good and people will notice) ? How about because it makes you feel better about yourself ? How about so you’ll be healthier and live longer ? Or because it glorifies God when you take care of the body He has given you ?

Because we live in a fallen world and in fallen bodies, I’m not saying our motivations have to be perfect, but which of these three things is at the forefront of your thinking on the subject? God knows your heart, no matter what your lips might say. And the actions of your life will reflect it, no matter what you say the answer is. A tree is always known by its’ fruit.

Secondly, we approach the topic of resolutions for change with the world’s methods – sheer will-power and determination – instead of with the power and strength which Christ provides for change.

I make this a very important point because people oftentimes miss it. The major sin in the Garden of Eden was not merely disobedience, but independence. Man believing that he/she can do whatever he wants apart from God. Independence on one’s own strength and reliance upon one’s own strength apart from God can breed and foster an attitude of not needing God.

The average rich person will tell you they don’t need God at the center of their lives. They have everything they want at the time. The man who feels he can do anything and is fairly successful with his life will feel less of a need to be concerned with spiritual things.

So too, in the church, the person who feels that they will and can change their own destiny and God is just ‘along for the ride’ or ‘my eternal ticket to heaven after I’m done with my life’ will find that they really involve God in less and less of their daily life struggles and issues, other than on Sunday. Call it the ‘God is my co-pilot’ philosophy. This is how you find many professed Christians living in the world today: very religious in their speech, but their outward lives look no different than the world, their methods of dealing with life’s issues are no different than the world, they do the same sins as the world and use the world’s solutions for their problems. Or they may have God as an ‘add on’ – a cosmic bellhop to get them whatever they need as they reign sovereignly over their own lives and determine its’ course.

And it reeks of rebellion against God. Subtle rebellion, but rebellion nonetheless.

How should we think about these things ?

Reflection is good. It should never be a once a year thing, but a regular habit for the believer. At the reading of the law each week, Israel was always pointed back to things God had done in the past as proof of His continued faithfulness to them and hope for continued faithfulness in the future. Romans 8:28 should bring some of this to mind with the believer, as he looks back and sees that it was not he who ordered his own life, but God who prepared him for salvation, God who took out the wrong people from his life and put the right people in, God who ordered the events of his life so he would be where he is now. And we have His promise that He will never leave or forsake us – and this should bring us hope.

That reflection should drive us to seek His wisdom and counsel on how to live life skillfully. The Psalms, Proverbs, the book of Ecclesiastes and the book of James brings us thousands of years worth of very practical life-application mixed with sound teaching to put life into proper perspective for us. Immerse yourselves in these books and they will inform your mind on how to think and view life. This, in turn, will give you a right perspective from which to view changes in life and make change, grow your dependence on God for that change and help you live a life that is well pleasing and honoring to Him.

Let’s not be ‘resolution-driven’ people like the rest of the world. Instead, let us take time and fill our minds with the wisdom that God has given us in His word so that we can learn to live skillfully in this world. That’s real change that will last.