June 27, 2009

A Narrowly Missed Anniversary

It was one year ago tomorrow that the first post appeared on The Narrow Road. At that time I was not sure where this was going (I am still not), what I would post on (still not sure what i actually covered) and if anyone would bother to read it (I mean why, really, why?).

As I look back, it is clear to me that I have gotten the most benefit out of the blog (not being selfish, just realistic). It even inspired a project for one of my seminary classes, A Trinity of 3, a blog that got me through trinitarianism in one piece last semester. Never would have done that if I had not been doing this.

I pray that those that read this blog got some benefit out of my meanderings, I have appreciated your input and comments over the past year. It amazed me that I found something to write about every day, I have posted daily since September 24th of last year. Was not trying to set any sort of record, it was what it was.

But at this time, I feel the need for a break. So, I will be taking a sabbatical from blogging for an as of yet undetermined period of time. It is clear that I find my faith walk and reflections thereon the prime topic of my blogging, and right now I need to spend time immersed in that without thinking about writing about it.

This is a pretty rigorous social media fast. I have stopped tweeting, have already blown up my Twitter account. I have deactivated Facebook. This is the last step. A 40 day blog fast. Maybe. As far as the others, we will see if we go back.

Thank you for the past year. With the Lord's grace, I will figure out the next steps. I hope to be here again in the future.

June 26, 2009


8More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,
Philippians 3:8-9 (NASB)

You see here both a comparison of opposites and an indication that a man who wishes to obtain Christ's righteousness must abandon his own righteousness...If by establishing our own righteousness we shake off the righteousness of God, to attain the latter we must indeed completely do away with the former.
John Calvin - Institutes of The Christian Religion: 3.11.13
Christ alone. He is the only way. I cannot do it. My own righteousness is self righteousness and it falls woefully short of where I need to be, where only He can bring me.

God knew it (that is why He sent His Son), Calvin learned it (that is why he wrote about it), I need to accept it as a fact in my life and the model for my behavior.

June 25, 2009

A Sweet Flame

I have finished my reading of A Sweet Flame by Jonathan Edwards. Throughout the book, I was struck with Edwards' struggle with his own human condition, his sin, his feeling of inadequacy to do the Lord's work, the church divisions and controversies that arose and often affected him. Viewed as a giant today, it was clear that was not a universally held belief amonst his contemporaries. That comes not as a surprise, members of the church have always dealt with that, starting with Jesus Himself. WHat comes through is the relevance to the struggles today of struggles written about around 250 years ago.

The last letter to address specifically is the letter he wrote to Lady Mary Pepperell speaking of the loss of her son. It is the letter the term a sweet flame appears in, the letter that gave title to the book.

Edwards writes in length of the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus, of His death. But he also writes of His resurrection and ascension, of the hope that gives us. Edwards makes no apology for the suffering in life, the pain Lady Pepperell bears. Our Lord had pain and suffering in this world, should we expect less?

Edwards speaks of the glory of Christ, of His holiness. How "His love to sinners appeared like a sweet flame, burning with an infinite vehemence against sin". It is because of our sin that the flame of Christ burns hot, to remove that impurity through His sacrifice. Although it burns and may be painful in our lives at points of time, it is sweet to think of the eternal state He has wrought for us.

Jesus. He is our sweet flame, for we are all sinners.

June 24, 2009

The Nature of Sin

We have to recognize that sin is a fact of life, not just a shortcoming. Sin is blatant mutiny against God, and either sin or God must die in my life. The New Testament brings us right down to this one issue— if sin rules in me, God’s life in me will be killed; if God rules in me, sin in me will be killed. There is nothing more fundamental than that. The culmination of sin was the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and what was true in the history of God on earth will also be true in your history and in mine— that is, sin will kill the life of God in us. We must mentally bring ourselves to terms with this fact of sin. It is the only explanation why Jesus Christ came to earth, and it is the explanation of the grief and sorrow of life.
Oswald Chambers - My Utmost For His Highest: June 23 Devotional
Sin is mutinous, sin kills, sin is a fact of life. Pretty dismal if that was all there was, if that was all we had to work with. If there was only our sinful selves, each and every one of us.
23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Romans 3:23 (NASB)
But we cannot give up for there is a hope we all have in our Savior.
1Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1-2 (NASB)
We can mess things up on our own, we have proven that since the beginning, but we cannot make right what has gone astray. Not alone. Not without help.

But by the Lord's grace we have it.

June 23, 2009

The Only Good News

Who of us would dare to stand before God and say, "My God, judge me as I have judged others"? We have judged others as sinners— if God should judge us in the same way, we would be condemned to hell. Yet God judges us on the basis of the miraculous atonement by the Cross of Christ.
Oswald Chambers - My Utmost For His Highest: June 22 Devotional
How true this is. We never seem to apply the same standard to others that is applied to us. That's the bad news. Others never apply the same standard to themselves that they would apply to us. That's more bad news.

God is loving, merciful, patient and gracious. He never treats us like we treat each other.

That is the only good news here today.

June 22, 2009

Centering Our Prayer

A few weeks ago I posted about praying outwardly. The theme was starting with yourself and God and praying out from there, using the High Priestly Prayer of John 17 as a guide; using Jesus as a model for your actions. But as I thought about this post in the days and weeks that followed I realized I missed something. I should not have started with God and myself, but with God. After all, Jesus is God, so His prayer in John 17 does not just start with the Father and Him, it starts with God.

Several years ago as a relatively new Christian, I went through a study in a small group at church using the Navigators 2:7 series. It is a great was to either ground or refresh yourself in the basics of your Christian faith. I recommend it highly. One of the items reviewed is a way to pray, summarized by the acronym ACTS (Adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication). It is a way to focus your prayer time, making sure you not only make it about your needs, but making you focus on the wonder of God before anything else.

But even with ACTS the majority of the focus is on self: your sins, your thankfulness, your needs or requests. I have often thought since that session that the majority of my prayer time should be spent on praise, on Him, not me. So as I now think about prayer, and praying outwardly, I think about starting with God and not self. He knows my needs (better than I do), he knows my sins, my faults and weaknesses (way better than I do). Isn't it a glorious thought to want to spend the majority of your prayer time just praising Him in all His glory? Isn't it enough that He is god and He has reached out and saved me from myself?

As I look at the picture again, wouldn't it be so much better to think of self as the first circle, and the center to be the blinding light of the Lord?

June 21, 2009

Forget Not The Present

I wrote yesterday about not getting too hung up in current events. The operative word is too. You cannot ignore this world either.
Thus Paul rightly persuades us to use this world as if not using it; and to buy goods with the same attitude as one sells them...Let this be our principle: that the use of God's gifts is not wrongly directed when it is referred to that end to which the Author himself created and destined them for us, since he created them for our good, not for our ruin.
John Calvin - Institutes of The Christian Religion: 3.10.1-2
To ignore what God has given us to work with in the world is almost as bad as ignoring God. Ignoring the world is as bad as obsessing about it. What God wants for us is focus and balance: focus on Him, balance in our doing His will in this world while we wait for Him to bring us to the next.

19"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,

20teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

Matthew 28:19-20 (NASB)

You cannot fulfill the Great Commission if you ignore the world; nor can you do it if you obsess on it.

So it is all about balance with the proper focus. Look at the Holy Trinity and how there is perfect balance and focus within that divine relationship.

Taking the steps we can take. Eyes on Jesus, listening to His words, hearing and seeing the world as He did. Going back to the future but not forgetting the present. And how can we do that?

8Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Hebrews 13:8 (NASB)

Balance and focus.

June 20, 2009

Back to the Future

Indeed, there is no middle ground between these two: either the world must become worthless to us or hold us bound by intemperate love of it. Accordingly, if we have any concern for eternity, we must strive diligently to strike off these evil fetters.
John Calvin - Institutes of The Christian Religion: 3.9.2

I found this a good reminder. Whenever we get too hung up in current events, we need to remember that this is all reserved for fire (2 Peter 3:7), that all this will flee (Revelation 20:11). While we cannot ignore our present circumstances, we cannot obsess on them.

God is sovereign, He is in control.

It is all going according to plan.

Just because you do not like it, doesn't mean it isn't.

Time for me to get back to the future and give Him thanks.

June 19, 2009

A Voice Softly

If you debate for even one second when God has spoken, it is all over for you. Never start to say, "Well, I wonder if He really did speak to me?" Be reckless immediately— totally unrestrained and willing to risk everything— by casting your all upon Him. You do not know when His voice will come to you, but whenever the realization of God comes, even in the faintest way imaginable, be determined to recklessly abandon yourself, surrendering everything to Him. It is only through abandonment of yourself and your circumstances that you will recognize Him. You will only recognize His voice more clearly through recklessness— being willing to risk your all.
Oswald Chambers - My Utmost For His Highest: June 18 Devotional
God does not always boom away in our lives, sometimes the voice voice is soft. Always sure, but sometimes soft. I usually need to be hit with a 2 x 4, but I think in His infinite mercy, He wants to stop putting splinters in my head. I need to listen closely, quietly at times, then move decisively on what He is saying to me.

That is why we need quiet time before the Lord. To listen, but more importantly, to hear.

Listening to His voice, hearing what He has to say. Getting the wisdom and strength to proceed along His path, my Narrow Road.

June 18, 2009

Eye Timber

The average Christian is the most piercingly critical individual known. Criticism is one of the ordinary activities of people, but in the spiritual realm nothing is accomplished by it...The Holy Spirit is the only one in the proper position to criticize, and He alone is able to show what is wrong without hurting and wounding...There is no escaping the penetrating search of my life by Jesus. If I see the little speck in your eye, it means that I have a plank of timber in my own. Every wrong thing that I see in you, God finds in me.
Oswald Chambers - My Utmost For His Highest: June 17 Devotional
Do not judge, do not criticize others, pull that plank out of your own eye. Why is it that we who have been shown the most grace are often the most critical of others (who most likely are no worse and probably better than we are)?

I for one am relieved that I am not held to the same standard of perfection by God that I would in my weakness try to hold others to at times.

God is good. And we certainly need Him to be that way. Because most of us live with a lumberyard sticking out of our eyes.

June 17, 2009

Sound Advice Through the Ages

Another letter from Jonathan Edwards in A Sweet Flame. This one to his daughter Mary. It was written in 1749 while she was away from home. And what was Edwards most concerned about? Not her physical well being but her spiritual. These were times that were harder than we face today, less comforts and conveniences, less available health care, less communication. Bu the concern was for her spiritual life. Edwards notes that news of her death would leave the family melancholy; but if it was coupled with intelligence that she had died in the Lord, it would be a source of great comfort. They do not write letters like this anymore.

Edwards gives some advice to his daughter:
  • Earthly friends are a comfort and blessing; but having God as a friend is a great thing
  • Meet with God where you are
  • Meet with God alone
  • Do not forget nor forsake Him
Good advice for today. In a world where we are obsessed with creature comforts, let us nor forget what is reserved for fire and what will pass through.

June 16, 2009

Crossroads: Duty and Desire

There is often a feeling in our everyday life that doing one's duty is often at odds with fulfilling one's desire. In my study of Philippians, this thought comes to mind when I read the following verses:
21For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. 23But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; 24yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. 25Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, 26so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.

Philippians 1:21-26 (NASB)

There is a lot packed into this passage, and I ask the forgiveness of the exegetes out there if I concentrate on my very narrow thought path today. Is there a conflict between duty and desire? Not if you are walking in the will of God.

Paul struggles here with wanting to spread the Gospel to the glory of God and wanting to be with Jesus. Both are good, but which is better; which glorifies God the most? Paul becomes convinced that his present path is the right one; and that can only be as a result of seeking God's will for his life. Paul made his duty to God his desire for life. Whether he lived or died was no longer the relevant issue; whether he served God to his fullest, seek God's glory was.

Is that how we live our lives? yesterday I posted on the fact we are not our own. The passage here seems to indicate that Paul makes that point here.

If duty and desire are pulling you in opposing directions, you are not on the right spot on the map.

Where are duty and desire intersecting at a crossroads? Only at the will of God.

June 15, 2009

Proud Kings

For, such is the blindness with which we all rush into self-love that each one of us seems to himself to have just cause to be proud of himself and to despise all others in comparison...The very vices that infest us we take pains to hide from others, while we natter ourselves with the pretense that they are slight and insignificant, and even sometimes embrace them as virtues. If others manifest the same endowments we admire in ourselves, or even superior ones, we spitefully belittle and revile these gifts in order to avoid yielding place to such persons...Thus, each individual, by flattering himself, bears a kind of kingdom in his breast... Let us, then, unremittingly examining our faults, call ourselves back to humility... Now, in seeking to benefit one's neighbor, how difficult it is to do one's duty! Unless you give up all thought of self and, so to speak, get out of yourself, you will accomplish nothing here.
John Calvin - Institutes of The Christian Religion: 3.7.4-5
We are all proud kings within our own bodies, we are all blind to our own faults, the sharper we see them in others, the blinder we are to them in us. Doesn't matter where we are in life, we struggle with our own pride.

I can imagine how silly I would look trying to defend my prideful actions before the divine judge. It cannot be done. His will be done. And He does not wish that we act in self pride but in service to others, to the throne, to His glory.

Today, think about a criticism you recently had of another, and search inside. The more vehement the criticism, the more deeply embedded within you is the same. We do not like what is in us, but it is much easier to criticize others. The Triune God has inexhaustible love resident within the Trinity, and as a result, endless love for us.

Think about that before you step in front of the divine judge to hear about your life. We will all squirm, but how much?

June 14, 2009


Yet the first thing we realize when we do come to Jesus is that He pays no attention whatsoever to our natural desires. We have the idea that we can dedicate our gifts to God. However, you cannot dedicate what is not yours. There is actually only one thing you can dedicate to God, and that is your right to yourself...A saint realizes that it is God who engineers his circumstances; consequently there are no complaints, only unrestrained surrender to Jesus. Never try to make your experience a principle for others, but allow God to be as creative and original with others as He is with you.
Oswald Chambers - My Utmost For His Highest: June 13 Devotional
You cannot give what you do not have. yesterday I wrote about we are not our own, talking about Calvin writing in the Institutes. Today it is Chambers. Two very different people bringing very similar thoughts into my head. I have to think about this, I hear the voice of God in my ears, now I need to listen. Since we are His and not our own, we cannot "dedicate" ourselves to Him. We can only pray that He pray that He takes us and allows us to discern His will for us. From that comes the joy that lasts.

It is an intensely personal experience between you and God; it is not the same for two people. Understanding that, and being content with His will for you, without regard for His will for another, is a sign of a high level of christian maturity. God knows what is best for you, stop looking around and look to Him for that answer.

Do not be so proud as to think you can dedicate yourself, offer yourself to God. Be so humble as to beg Him to take you.

June 13, 2009

We Are Not Our Own

We are not our own: let not our reason nor our will, therefore, sway our plans and deeds. We are not our own: let us therefore not set it as our goal to seek what is expedient for us according to the flesh. We are not our own: in so far as we can, let us therefore forget ourselves and all that is ours. Conversely, we are God's: let us therefore live for him and die for him. We are God's: let his wisdom and will therefore rule all our actions. We are God's: let all the parts of our life accordingly strive toward him as our only lawful goal...Let this therefore be the first step, that a man depart from himself in order that he may apply the whole force of his ability in the service of the Lord...From this also follows this second point: that we seek not the things that are ours but those which are of the Lord's will and will serve to advance his glory.
John Calvin - Institutes of The Christian Religion: 3.7.1-2
If we are not our own but God's, what Calvin notes that we are to do should be easy for us: Serve the Lord and advance His glory; but our wishes, wants and desires in the back seat. The fact that we struggle with this is an indication that the sinful self has not let go; pride and arrogance still struggle for dominance in a life which the heart and head knows belongs to God; but the flesh fights it still.

The fact is the flesh may never let fully go; the fact is the fight may continue until your last breath here on this earth. If that is true, just remember, we are not our own but His:
21They said to Him, "Caesar's." Then He said to them, "Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's."
Matthew 22:21 (NASB)
We need to keep that in mind. Be in the world, not of it. Seek the Lord not praise of others. Strive to put God first in your life, and He will put your life in the order it should be in.

We are not our own. That is a good thing, for we surely make a mess of our own when left to our own.

June 12, 2009

Love of Righteousness

Now this Scriptural instruction of which we speak has two main aspects. The first is that the love of righteousness, to which we are otherwise not at all inclined by nature, may be instilled and established in our hearts; the second, that a rule be set forth for us that does not let us wander about in our zeal for righteousness.
John Calvin - Institutes of The Christian Religion: 3.6.2

I do not insist that the moral life of a Christian man breathe nothing but the very gospel, yet this ought to be desired, and we must strive toward it. But I do not so strictly demand evangelical perfection that I would not acknowledge as a Christian one who has not yet attained it. For thus all would be excluded from the church, since no one is found who is not far removed from it, while many have advanced a little toward it whom it would nevertheless be unjust to cast away.
John Calvin - Institutes of The Christian Religion: 3.6.5

Calvin is talking here of righteousness, being acceptable in the eyes of God. He is not talking about self-righteousness, which is being smug and acceptable only to yourself. Calvin is also not calling for perfection, he is calling for a love of God and the righteousness of God:
7For the LORD is righteous, He loves righteousness;
The upright will behold His face.
Psalm 11:7 (NASB)

The call to righteousness is because of His love for it and for us. It is in His never changing character to be righteous, one of His attributes:
24"But let justice roll down like waters
And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Amos 5:24 (NASB)
We are called to it because He is holy and just and righteous. Love righteousness but know you will never perfect it, seek righteousness but know you will never have it fully embrace you in this world. For you and I are works in progess in this world:
6For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until (A)the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:6 (NASB)

June 11, 2009

Happiness vs. Joy

I am doing a bible study on Philippians. We just started it, still in Chapter 1. We spent a lot of time discussing the differences between happiness and joy.

happiness –noun
1. the quality or state of being happy.
2. good fortune; pleasure; contentment; joy.

1. the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation: She felt the joy of seeing her son's success.
2. a source or cause of keen pleasure or delight; something or someone greatly valued or appreciated: Her prose style is a pure joy.
3. the expression or display of glad feeling; festive gaiety.
4. a state of happiness or felicity.

The dictionary definitions do not quite make the distinction needed when studying the biblical concept of joy, especially in a letter like the one Paul wrote to the church at Philippi. In this context, happiness is a state of mind brought about by present circumstances one finds pleasurable. When the circumstances change or weary you, the pleasure dims or disappears. Joy is the state brought about by the assurance one has because of faith in Jesus Christ. It is a confident assurance in God's love and His sovereign ability to work in your life, no matter the present set of circumstances you find yourself in. It is why Paul could express joy in a letter written while he was in prison (probably in Rome). Paul wasn't happy to be in prison, but he was joyful at the opportunity to share the Gospel with people he would not have come into contact if not imprisoned:

12Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel,

13so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else,

14and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.

Philippians 1:12-14 (NASB)

What faith to have: to be incredibly joyful in the face of personal unhappiness. What strength of faith to feel that way, and live that way, in the name of Jesus.

June 10, 2009

One Smart Guy

I think one of the smartest guys in the Bible is the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8. Not because he had an intuitive grasp of the Word of God (he didn't), not because he was a eunuch (I am not going there), not because of the ability he had that let him rise to a high position of a court official to the Ethipian queen (although he did). He was smart because of what he did when he met Philip:

30Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, "Do you understand what you are reading?"

31And he said, "Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?" And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

Acts 8:30-31 (NASB)

The eunuch knew he didn't understand the Scripture he was reading and invited Philip to teach him. How smart, how wise is it to understand our limitations, our short comings, our deficiencies, our ignorance. How wise is it to be willing to be teachable, and to invite those who can educate and edify us to do so.

None of us fully understands the Word of God, the teachings of Jesus. All of us can stand a little more schooling. How wise it is to seek it out, and when finding it, invite the learning and the learned into our minds so as to invite the Lord more deeply into our hearts.

June 9, 2009

Measuring Motives

I am continuing to read the letters of Jonathan Edwards in A Sweet Flame. My thoughts in this post come from a letter to Elnathan Whitman, a cousin of Edwards. It is advice to a fellow pastor on how to react to someone who left their church to attend another (now that never happens anymore).

Edwards counsels calmly and wisely, telling Whitman to consider that the person may have been led to such action by God, or at least that they firmly believe to be so led. Edwards counsels Whitman to examine the motives of another without anger before acting. And even in cases whereby the motives do not appear to be of Godly will, but of a more personal selfishness, Edwards counsels wisdom and restraint.

Edwards gives the biblical example of Paul. In his writings to the Corinthians, Paul is dealing with many who were mislead or misguided by false teaching, who were blinding themselves by listening to evils, who were causing strife and division. Yet Paul looks to treat with gentleness and exhortation, not anger and revenge.

What good advice to measure motives, to reflect on the will of God before acting in ways that may well lead to regret; for they may not reflect the glory of God and His kingdom.

Edwards would have us be more concerned with the Creator than with our neighbors. If our lives, our very thoughts are God centered, all else will flow as it should, as God wills.

And let me measure others as I wish my motives to be measured by the Lord.

June 8, 2009


Friday afternoon I went to see a movie with the term salvation in the title. I enjoyed the movie, but it was not salvation in the terms I usually think of these days. Ultimately, it was about humanity saving itself from the actions of humanity (although the bad guys were the machines, you have to remember where they came from).

We cannot save ourselves or save each other, we cannot save a thing in this world.

7But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
2 Peter 3:7 (NASB)

We can save nothing for any length of time that would be meaningful in divine terms. For only eternity has any real meaning for purposes of salvation.

True salvation comes from one place only, faith in Jesus Christ.

I need to maintain an eternal mindset when I think about where I am going to wind up. There is salvation and it is from the one man, Jesus Christ.

June 7, 2009


Your will agrees with God, but in your flesh there is a nature that renders you powerless to do what you know you ought to do. When the Lord initially comes in contact with our conscience, the first thing our conscience does is awaken our will, and our will always agrees with God...What causes you to say "I will not obey" is something less deep and penetrating than your will. It is perversity or stubbornness, and they are never in agreement with God...The only thing to do with this barrier of stubbornness is to blow it up with "dynamite," and the "dynamite" is obedience to the Holy Spirit.

Excerpts from Oswald Chambers - My Utmost For His Highest: June 6 Devotional

That's what I need to do at times: dynamite my stubbornness (or more likely, nuke it. I wonder if Chambers would have used that imagery if he had written 50 years later). But it is comforting to think that the will, which strives to align with God is deeper than the sinful nature which stubbornly struggles against it.

I think that is why we need to dig deep into ourselves when we look for God in our lives: sin is on the surface skimming along, God is in there deep, waiting for us to come down and find the treasure buried deep within us. Jesus came and died to open up the white washed tombs of our faithlessness.

So today (and every day going forward) would be a good day to pray that the Holy Spirit pries us open and dynamites away the sin covering over our deeper nature which is crying out for fellowship with God.

Dear Lord, nuke me.

June 6, 2009

The Superiority of the CT

I have lived in Texas for 6 years now. And I have one thing I still affirm after all that time. The central time zone makes for easier living than the eastern time zone for one major reason: shows are on cable or commercial television an hour earlier:

  • Monday night (or Thursday night) football ends at a human (or humane) time
  • You do not yawn as much the day after a long World Series game
  • The late news can be watched while you are alert enough to absorb the meaning of the day's events
  • Late night television can be watched while you are awake enough to get the humor
There are some downsides, like the time of your show is always announced second (8pm, 7 central). And the first New Year's Eve with live coverage of the ball dropping in Times Square when my watch said 11pm weirded me out a little. Somehow, watching a tape replay at midnight (when I know it is taped) takes the edge off the new year.

But I will take that when it means I can watch what I want and get a better night's sleep, thatnks to the people who brought us the central time zone.

June 5, 2009

My Faith Posse

This post was spurred by a comment by David over at A Boomer in the Pew yesterday. Thanks for the inspiration (and he is a great read by the way).

I have just posted a couple of times based on letters by Jonathan Edwards. I have not read him much, but will have to in the future. He has become a member of my faith posse, people I read or listen to as I walk my journey. David's comment made me think about who do I turn to in order to garner deeper reflection on God, deeper meditation of His word, deeper edification. My faith posse as it were, the people who ride hard alongside me as I pursue and hunt down that criminal in the wild and bring him to justice before the divine judge (I am talking about my sinful self).

So who is riding with me currently:

  • The Lord (He is the author of the Bible)
Quite a collection of guns to shoot at the sin in my life. I am sure I am leaving someone off, who I have not read recently.

A few points:

  • It is good to have someone walking or riding alongside of you
  • Without the first name on the list, it does not matter how many others you put down
  • With the first name on the list, you probably do not need any of the others. Having them is due to your weakness, not His insufficiency
  • I did not put a link to the Lord because He is everywhere. You do not need me or the internet to find Him. Just yourself.
I am glad I have these with me, because I need help in getting rid of me so I can find Him. WIsh I did not need the help but I do.

Time to saddle up and ride.

June 4, 2009


I have been reading some more of the letters of Jonathan Edwards in A Sweet Flame. It is interesting to read letters form well over 200 years ago, letters written at a time that letter writing was the primary means of communication between people who did not live in the same town. Writing letters when everyone who communicated well wrote well. I think this is the thing that makes me enjoy blogging; it is an opportunity to communicate through writing, something that was becoming more of an art form amongst an ever smaller group of people rather than a primary means of communication. It is an exciting opportunity; combining a skill that has been around for centuries with the turbo charging of the internet, making the medium available to countless writers and readers.

The man had an eloquence to his writing that showed his faith and his humility:

Never was I so sensible in any measure how vain a creature man is, what a leaf driven of the wind, what dry stubble, what poor dust, a bubble, a shadow, a nothing, and more vain than nothing, and what a vain and vile helpless creature I am, and how much I need God's help in everything, as of late.

A Sweet Flame: Jonathan Edwards letter to James Robe, May 12, 1743
People do not write letters like that anymore, what a pity. To be able to pull off that prose in a blog, I would be a happy man. Instead I am more stubble, dust and bubbles.

Edwards had the opportunity to be a driving force behind the First Great Awakening. That was good news. The fact that America had slid into a spiritual decline that made the Great Awakening both possible and necessary was the bad news. There is today the opportunity and necessity for spiritual revival in America. We are blessed with tools that magnify both the scope and sweep of our ability to communicate Gospel truths.

May we be up the task in our time; in some small way modelling the impact a giant like Edwards had in his.

June 3, 2009

Keep Going Strong

I have recently begun dipping into a compilation of letters written by Jonathan Edwards, a small selection of what the man wrote over his time in ministry, collected in a volume called A Sweet Flame, edited by Michael A.G. Haykin. One recently struck me for the timeliness of the advice, a letter written in 1741 to Deborah Hatheway, a young woman looking for advice from Edwards on how to live a Christian life as her church was without a pastor. Edwards makes many points, I found these most interesting (and I am paraphrasing greatly here):
  • Keep up the same state of earnestness in your faith as when you were seeking it out
  • Do not stop striving, seeking or praying for the things we exhort the unconverted to do
  • Hear a sermon for yourself, don't listen and apply it to others
  • Though God has forgotten and forgiven your sins, you should not forget
  • You have more cause to lament your sins since coming to faith than before
  • Pride is the worst viper in the heart and is most hidden, secret and deceitful
  • Counsel others earnestly, affectionately and with expressions of your own unworthiness
  • Do not let adversaries of your faith have occasion to reproach it on your account
  • Walk with God and follow Christ like a small child
There are more in the letter, these are the ones that struck me the most.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

June 2, 2009

Pride and Patience

It is much easier to do something than to trust in God; we see the activity and mistake panic for inspiration. That is why we see so few fellow workers with God, yet so many people working for God. We would much rather work for God than believe in Him. Do I really believe that God will do in me what I cannot do?...When God wants to show you what human nature is like separated from Himself, He shows it to you in yourself. If the Spirit of God has ever given you a vision of what you are apart from the grace of God (and He will only do this when His Spirit is at work in you), then you know that in reality there is no criminal half as bad as you yourself could be without His grace.
Oswald Chambers - My Utmost For His Highest: June 1 Devotional

This guy really does not pull any punches. I love it. Chambers is getting at the heart of our pride and arrogance here. We really think at times if we cannot accomplish something by ourselves, then God could not accomplish it in us. We have to doing and achieving, not waiting in faith and trust.

I am most guilty of this. I am not by nature patient. I feel I need to take the lead, to do it, and then try to make it seem like it was God's will after the fact. I wonder how many times I pray to the Lord but leave the room before He starts to speak so that I never hear what He has to say to me. I wonder, but I know it is a lot.

How convicting to stand in front of the mirror and be shown by God how lost I would be without His grace. Lost in my pride. Lost without my patience to wait on His timing.

How fortunate that He has the patience I lack.

June 1, 2009

Praying Out

Maybe I should have called this post praying outwardly. It is a reflection on John 17, often referred to as the High Priestly Prayer. It comes at the end of Jesus' last teaching of the apostles in a lengthy passage in John 13-16 referred to as The Upper Room Discourse. I want to focus on not what Jesus prayed for, although there is much that we can benefit from deep study of this chapter in John. I want to focus on how Jesus prayed here. He prayed outwardly.

Jesus prays for Himself in 17:1-5; He prays for His disciples in 17:6-19 and prays for believers everywhere and at all times in 17:20-26. He starts at the center and moves out, broadening the people covering by His prayer as He prays. I take a few things from this:

  • It is not selfish to pray for yourself first. In fact, it is the opposite. Focusing your prayer on God and self first helps bring you to the right place to be when coming before the Father in praise and supplication. Get yourself centered in God, and let your prayer flow from that. Jesus prayed for a right relationship between Him and the Father first and foremost. How could the rest of His prayer be ineffective if He was right with God from the start?
  • Take care of home. Jesus prayed for those closest to Him in friendship and ministry after He prayed for Himself. Clearly praying for those around you to be in a right relationship with God is of extremely importance to each of us. We need to encourage and exhort one another; we need that support in close to be effective in prayer across His kingdom.
  • Keep going out. Pray for the familiar, but continue to pray beyond your backyard. Pray across the street and across the ocean. The body of Christ cherishes the prayers of the body, no matter from whence it comes.

The picture shows a depiction of our circles of influence my church used a few years ago. I think it is a good way to portray these thoughts on how we ought to pray. Follow the pattern of John 17, pray as you can learn to do at the feet of the Master.