Faith Is Always Doing

The apostle James said it this way:

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:14-17)

And I love Martin Luther’s commentary on this:

Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn’t stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing. Anyone who does not do good works in this manner is an unbeliever. He stumbles around and looks for faith and good works, even though he does not know what faith or good works are. Yet he gossips and chatters about faith and good works with many words.”

A question for us to ponder: Can people see my faith by what I am doing?

Stop Yawning!

A challenging quote from Oswald Chambers—

“We have to treat the body as the servant of Jesus Christ: when the body says ‘Sit,’ and He says ‘Go,’ go! When the body says ‘Eat,’ and He says ‘Fast,’ fast! When the body says ‘Yawn,’ and He says ‘Pray,’ pray!”

I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (1 Corinthians 9:26-27)

Wow! Time for me to redouble my efforts to Go, Fast, and Pray.

Don’t Get Pulled Back Down

We wrapped up our series on The Danger Of Prayerlessness by looking at a very innocent thing: just doing what seems the natural thing to do.

In Luke 18, Jesus told a story about a persistent widow who would not stop approaching a judge to get justice. She had been wronged, but she didn’t take matters into her own hands, nor did she get tired of asking the judge for help. Either of these responses would have been very natural responses. But that’s the point: they would be natural, and not spiritual; they would depend on us, and not on God.

Luke introduces this story like this: Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up (Luke 18:1).

The word for give up is one that means to slide back to the natural way of doing, feeling or acting. In other words, to handle things like we always have before. But Jesus said there was a better way: keep taking your request to our Heavenly Father.

Prayer overcomes the “gravitational pull” of my natural tendencies to do things on my own. Prayer is the rocket fuel to help me break free!

Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in EVERY circumstance and in EVERYthing, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. (Philippians 4:6 AMP)

Don’t get pulled back down. Instead always pray and never, ever give up! Let your prayers take you higher and higher!

Sex, Marriage & Fairytales

Another great word from Jeff Bethke—

Another cure to the fairytale relationships that end up more like a horror story, is in Craig Groeschel’s outstanding book Love, Sex, And Happily Ever After.

A Sharper Sermon

It’s a lot of work preparing a sermon (and even that is a major understatement!). So if we pastors are going to put all of this effort in, isn’t it right to believe for a great return on that investment?

I’ve got good news and bad news for you—and they’re both the same. Pastor, after all of your hard work preparing your message, there is only one thing you can do: pray.

Sounds simple, right? But if it’s so simple, why are so many church attendees unmoved by the sermons they hear each Sunday (check out this Barna report)?

Here is some good counsel of how we should pray—

“Of what efficacy would be the exterior word of pastors, or even the Scriptures themselves, if we had not within the word of the Holy Spirit giving to the others all their vitality? The outward word, even of the Gospel, without the fecundating, vivifying, interior word would be but an empty sound. ‘It is the letter alone that kills (2 Corinthians 3:6), and the Spirit alone can give us life.’” —Francois Fenelon

“Does anyone of us desire to help the Church of Christ? Then let him pray for a great outpouring of the Spirit. Only the Holy Spirit can give edge to sermons, and point to advice, and power to rebukes, and can cast down the high walls of sinful hearts. It is not better preaching, and finer writing that is needed in this day—but more of the presence of the Holy Spirit.” —J.C. Ryle

If I can add my two cents’ worth to these eminent theologians:

  • Pray before you write your sermon
  • Pray while you’re writing your sermon
  • Pray before you deliver your sermon
  • Pray after you deliver your sermon

And then watch what the Holy Spirit does with your sermon!

Thursdays With Oswald—I Have To Do It

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

He Simply Says, “Do It”

     You can’t wash anybody’s feet mysteriously; it is a purely mechanical, matter-of-fact job; you can’t do it by giving him devotional books or by praying for him; you can only, wash anybody’s feet by doing something mechanical. Our Lord did not tell the disciples how they were to do it: He simply says—‘Do it.’ … 

      The one great problem in spiritual life is whether we are going to put God’s grace into practice. God won’t do the mechanical; He created us to do that; but we can only do it while we draw on the mysterious realm of His divine grace. ‘If ye love Me, ye will keep My commandments.’

From Biblical Ethics

I can dress it up all I want to, but I must obey what Jesus said.

I cannot pray about, I have to do it.

I cannot get someone else to do it, I have to do it.

I cannot get a pass on this, I have to do it.

Lord, what commands of Yours am I failing to do?

Pain May Be A Good Thing

Yesterday I posted the following on Facebook, which generated quite a few positive responses—

“God may not recall the soldier from the battle, but if He gives him a greater stomach for the fight, and increased strength for its toils, it may be better still for him” (Spurgeon). Think about it: If God has left you in the battle, He will give you the strength to be victorious. Either way, you come out stronger AND God is glorified!

Since several commented on Facebook or emailed or texted me with words like, “That’s just what I needed to hear right now,” I thought I would add a couple additional thoughts for you.

“Let’s be honest, 90% of our prayers revolve around personal comfort, not God’s glory. Too often we try to pray away every problem. But what if that is the very thing that God wants to leverage for His glory? Let’s not be too quick to pray away the pain, the suffering, the situation, the problem. Let’s not just pray ‘get me out’ prayers. We sometimes need to pray ‘get me through’ prayers.

“We need a paradigm-shift in our prayer lives. It’s not about us. It’s all about God. And when you begin to pray for God’s glory above and beyond everything else it’s a game changer! You no longer pray away every problem. You pray through the problem. You know that God might do a miracle, but that isn’t the goal. The goal is God’s glory. And if suffering with grace yields more glory to God then so be it.” —Mark Batterson, in The Circle Maker

And finally, this prayer thought—

“Do not pray for easy lives; pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle; but you shall be a miracle.” —Phillips Brooks

If you need someone to stand with you as you “pray through” your battle, let me know. I would be honored to join my prayers with yours.

Love, Sex, And Happily Ever After (book review)

There is something about the way Craig Groeschel writes that just connects with me (maybe it’s the Craigness that we share!). So when I heard about Love, Sex, And Happily Ever After, I knew it was going to be an excellent read. And I was not disappointed!

With divorce rates so high in our country, far too many couples enter into marriage with the thought in the back of their minds that “this might not work out.” Using sound biblical principles and examples, Craig shows that it’s not only possible for a marriage to go the distance, but that our marriages can get better and better and better as they go along.

In his very creative style, Craig covers principles like:

  • Falling in love with The One
  • Finding your Two
  • The first, second, third, fourth and fifth gears of dating relationships
  • The dangers of living together (“playing house”) before marriage
  • How to know if you should breakup with someone you’re dating
  • Heart habits that will help your marriage go the distance

When I was sharing with a friend some of the thoughts I was reading, he said, “That sounds like good old fashioned common sense.” And that’s exactly what this book is, because it is so firmly based on The Book.

If you would like to add something to your marriage, there is a lot to discover in here. But I think this book is especially appropriate for dating and engaged couples. In fact, since my role as a pastor means I get to do quite a bit of pre-marriage counseling, I’m going to make this book required reading for all of the couples I counsel.

I am a Multnomah book reviewer.

Self Checkup

These are great look-myself-in-the-mirror questions from Oswald Chambers (from My Utmost For His Highest):

  • How much kindness have I shown to God in the past week?
  • Has my life been a good reflection on His reputation?
  • Am I as filled to overflowing with love for Jesus Christ as I was in the beginning?
  • Am I so in love with Jesus that I take no thought for where He might lead me?
  • Or am I watching to see how much respect I get as I measure how much service I should give Him?

Great questions to ask myself. And then really listen to the answers.

Preach It To Yourself

Before I am a pastor sharing with my congregation, I am a saved sinner standing before God.

Before I open the penetrating brilliance of God’s Word to my church, I must stand in the spotlight of His Word.

In other words, I should never stand before my church with my finger pointed at them. Instead, the finger of God should be squarely pointed at me. Only then can I share with my congregation what God is doing in my life.

I’ve always tried to pastor this way, but recently I read this passage in John Bunyan’s autobiography which made this truth even more real to me—

“Sometimes I have been about to preach upon some smart and searching portion of the Word, I have found the tempter suggest, What! will you preach this! This condemns yourself; of this your own soul is guilty; so don’t preach any of it; or if you do, mince your words, as to make way for your own escape; lest instead of awakening others, you lay that guilt upon your own soul, that you will never get from under. … It is far better that you judge yourself, even by preaching plainly unto others, than that you, to save yourself, imprison the truth in righteousness.”

So, pastor, preach the Word to yourself first. Then go share with your congregation about what God is dealing with you.

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