Friends one of the good things about being a follower of Christ is the ability to be humble and admit when you’re wrong. The other day while talking to my brother Tony I made a comment to him about how I thought his blogs and some of the things he has written about were on a much higher spiritual level then a lot of people can comprehend. I think the analogy I used was that he was writing on a 4th yr college level while I was reading on a 12th grade level. Now I have a bad habit of not being able to communicate my thoughts well and make sense of them (in case you haven’t noticed) and I think I did the same here with my Brother and I was wrong! Big time! I realized this after I started reading the book “The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment” by Tim Challies (which I highly recommend by the way)
In this book Tim talks about our need for Spiritual Discernment and how the lack of discernment can lead to Spiritual Immaturity, Spiritual Backsliding and Spiritual Death. Now what I want to talk about today is Spiritual Immaturity and Backsliding or falling away as it is called in the book of Hebrews.
Hebrews 5:11-14 (NIV) tells us “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”
This verse really hit home for me. I have realized that I too have been slow to learn. Sure I have been a Christian for many years and have even taught Sunday school and other bible studies but I was still was living on milk instead of solid food! I have been lazy in my efforts to learn anything else other than the basics we hear every week in Church. Challies writes “We would not consider a child healthy who, at six years of age, still drinks only milk, for that child would be weak and sickly. The same is true in the spiritual realm. A person should pass quickly from spiritual milk to solid foods, from the basics to what is more advanced.”
Tim also talks about how children, especially babies will put anything they see in their mouths without evening thinking about it. I think we as Christians do the same thing. We will follow all kinds of people who we think are cool or hip, and might even pastor a mega church without even discerning what kind of spiritual food they are feeding us. I won’t mention any names but there are some preachers on TV that will only preach messages full of milk and cookies with no Solid foods. You can tell who they are by the way they smile all the time and tell you everything is going to be ok. You will never hear words like sanctification, justification or discernment which according to the Hebrew verse above means to “have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil”. If we ever want to grow spiritually we need to stay away from this kind of baby food and seek something with a lot more substance.
So what’s the take away for me? Simple! Get off the milk and starting eating some real solid spiritual food. For starters I am going to get deeper in the Word and also start reading books from some of the greats in the theologian community. Guys like A.W Tozer, Bonheoffer and C.S Lewis just to name a few. I know a lot of these guys are a hard read but I feel the only way to improve your reading ability and spiritual growth is to challenge yourself and work your way through it. Also pray for God to give you understanding and wisdom along with discerment like Solomon did in 1 Kings 3:9
Every since the movie “The Bucket List” came out people have been sharing their lists with others and even big cities like Atlanta advertise their own versions of the list. But I guess this is nothing new. I am sure ever since our creation man has been thinking of things they wanted to do before they passed on. While thinking about my own list I was wondering if I should make the list about myself or should I try to make it about others. Well I’m still thinking about that but what I have come to realize during my 44 years here on Earth is that life is not about possessions, money, travel or experiences. I think the most important aspects of our lives should be our relationships with friends, family and especially our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So how does that apply to your “Bucket List”? Well for me it would mean that I would take this list in reverse order and focus on my relationship with our Lord and Savior and my work spreading the Gospel. I would also reach out to family members whom I have lost touch with and try to strengthen the bonds I already have with my loved ones. Finally I would work on building lifelong friendships with others and try to be a good ambassador of the Kingdom.
Below is what former President Bill Clinton put on his list. What will you put on yours?
"I'd like to climb Kilimanjaro before the snows melt, I'd like to run a marathon before I give out, there's lots of things I'd like to do," Mr. Clinton said Monday in Vienna.“His more important "A" list, he said, includes living to see his own grandchildren (his daughter Chelsea is about to get married) and living "to know that all the grandchildren of the world will have the chance in the not too distant future to live their own dreams and not die before their time”
My Brother Tony has introduced me to a new form of Bible study called SOAP journaling. Below is a brief description along with my first journal. Hope you enjoy…Chris
How Do I Use SOAP?
S for Scripture Open your Bible to the reading found under today's date of your Bible bookmark (see below). Take time reading and allow God to speak to you. When you are done, look for a verse that particularly spoke to you that day and write it in your journal.
O for Observation What do you think God is saying to you in the Scriptures? Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you and reveal Jesus to you. In your journal, paraphrase and write the verse(s) down in your own words.
A for Application Personalize what you have read, by asking yourself how it applies to your life right now. Perhaps it is instruction, encouragement, revelation of a new promise, or corrections for a particular area of your life. Write how the verse(s) can apply to you today.
P for Prayer This can be as simple as asking God to help you use what you have learned. Remember, prayer is a two way conversation, so be sure to listen to what God has to say! Now, write it out.
Following the Holy Spirit Acts 16:6-10 ESV
(S) Acts 16:6-10 ESV 6 And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7 And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. 8 So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
(O) What’s my observation? Well the first thing I noticed is the that verse 6 tells us the Holy Spirit forbade them from speaking the word in Asia, then in the next verse it says the Spirit of Jesus wouldn’t let them go into Bithynia. I find it interesting that in most of the translations there is a difference in the naming of the two Spirits. The other observation I made was how the Holy Spirit lead them to where they needed to go. Although they wanted to go (or felt led to go) to Asia they were turned away by the Spirit.(after reading the notes in the ESV it says that Spirit of Jesus would be the same as the Holy Spirit which makes sense)
(A) The application for me would be to do listen to the Holy Spirit instead of trying to suppress it all the time and actually praying for our Father to open my heart and let me receive the Spirit and lead me to do the His will.
(P) Father God, Thank you for all of the awesome things you have done in my life and in the lives of my loved ones. You have blessed me more than I could ever have imagined. Thank you for sending your Son to die on the cross for our transgressions. Father forgive me for my sins and for not following the example of the One who has paid it all. Father I ask you to open my heart and help me welcome the Holy Spirit in my life and trust Him to lead me and guide me to do you will. Father I ask all of these things in Jesus name Amen!
Friends back in 2008 I wrote a blog about Jesus being a lifestyle and not just being a diet, using a physical fitness analogy. Well I’m back this year to try to revamp that message. During the past 6 months I have been able to lose a lot of weight (45 lbs) and get myself in good physical condition. I have done this by doing 1 hour of cardio a day and eating a low carb diet. I did this for 40 days and kept dieting and exercising until I reached my goal. But now that I am where I want to be I find myself starting to get lazy and not really wanting to work out and eat right. I know of others who have done the same thing. Then I started thinking about how I got out of shape in the first place and then it hit me. I have become complacent and forgot what it felt like to be out of shape, because as we all know that getting out of shape kind of just creeps up on you and before you know it your miserable again. I know that’s how it was for me.
Well I feel our Spiritual fitness works the same way. When we get saved or make our way back to the Lord we start out strong, we pray every day, we get in the Word and study it or we join a study group. Then after a while it happens. We start getting lazy, we get complacent or we start thinking we can coast through our spiritual life. We might stop praying everyday with our family or stop reading our Bibles. I know how it is, I have been there and I’m just now getting back on track. But like I said before being a follower of Christ is a lifestyle and not just a quick fix or diet to use my earlier analogy. We are to be students of Word for the rest of lives. The Bible is not meant to be read in a year then forgotten. It is meant to be studied; it is the “Manna” that God uses to feed our spirit and soul. We must maintain our spiritual fitness or fall prey to the enemy.
The New Testament uses the imagery of training as a guide for growth in the spiritual life. "Train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value but godliness has value for all things holding promise for both the present life and the life to come" (I Timothy 4:7-8).
"Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last but we do it to get a crown that will last forever" (I Corinthians 9:24-25
How is your Spiritual fitness? I know mine is lacking in many areas but the good news is I know what needs to be done to improve it and I serve a God who has filled me with the Holy Spirit and given me the tools I need to get there. Thank you Lord!
Welcome back friends to Part II of my blog “The Caesar of Leisure” Last time I talked a little bit our obsession with leisure and how it was robbing us of time we could be spending at the feet of our Lord and Savior and time that could be spent with our loved ones in fellowship. This week I will be talking a little bit about some more aspects of leisure that we have to keep checked. One of the biggest trends we see in our culture that even encompasses TV and internet is Busyness. We are always busy doing something and with the invention of the Internet and Television we stay busier than ever. One thing that keeps us way too busy as parents is the false ideal our culture promotes about keeping our children involved in a lot of organized activities. We as a culture are so obsessed with getting our children involved in more activities and events then we have time for. Now again these things are all good but when we try to do too much or feel we have to get our children involved in every activity out there we have the tendency to let these activities dictate our schedules, and I feel we, as well as our children suffer from it.
Trevin Wax writes in “Holy Subversion “Parents taxi children from one event to another, focusing all their leisure time on dance classes, organized soccer, Little League, or music lessons. Many times the children are as unhappy with their hurried lifestyle as the parents, and if given a choice, would simply want to go home”
Does this sound like your family? I know sometimes my schedule can be kind of hectic. So what’s the take away? Well I think we need to prioritize or lives and put some of these activities on the back burner. You should ask yourself how these activities are going to interfere with going to church. How will they fit into family time? How will they fit into personal time? Again these are just observations but it’s something you see all the time. Remember a Christians life should be grounded in the Cross not leisure!
I believe the way to accomplish this is to structure your free time. We need to prioritize our leisure activities so that it’s clear that Jesus is on the throne of our lives. We should make time for daily bible studies and prayer; we should share meals together instead of going our separate ways to go finish watching a TV show. We also need to plan moments of contemplative solitude. Trevin Wax writes “The constant barrage of noise and entertainment today can effectively drown out the voice of God to us, so that even when we open the scriptures, we are too distracted to hear what God has to say.” Trevin also writes “A spiritual discipline that keeps my life centered on Christ is the practice of praying briefly three or four times a day at certain hours.” These are just a few ideals to help us get our focus back on the Kingdom and not on things of this world. How do you spend your free time? I know I waste too much time! God Bless..
Friends for the past week I have been reading this awesome book by Trevin Wax entitled “Holy Subversion”. The premise of this book is about how Christians should be living their lives and what they need to subvert in their lives to really live for Jesus. The term “subverting” in this book refers to “undermining” or “Pushing” something back down to its proper place. Another term Trevin uses in his book is “Caesar”. Caesar of course comes from back in the days of the Roman Empire. During Jesus ministry the Roman Empire ruled most of the known world and the leaders of the Romans were referred to as Caesar, named after Julius Caesar.
The early Caesars had been declared “divine” shortly after their deaths and before long the Caesars began accepting that title of worship during their lives and expected to be treated as such. Everyone under the rule of the Romans were forced to bow down and confess Caesar as Lord. So when he talks about the Caesars of today he is talking about anything we put up as idols and worship instead of worshiping Jesus, these include money, power, sex, self, success and leisure. The Caesar I would like to talk about is one that is dear to my heart “Leisure”
It’s funny that I chose this topic because my brother and I have had many discussions on this topic and I have always came back with my balance theory. That theory meaning you should balance your time with God, family, work and friends. Trevin Wax devotes an entire chapter of his book to this subject and I will be quoting a lot of it. He writes
“We can enjoy the fruits of our labor, admire beautiful art, soak up the glory of creation, and play sports and games for recreation. Yet leisure is all to ready to leave its proper place in our lives and steal the throne. Instead of being a friend to a hard worker, leisure often morphs into a taskmaster that squeezes the life out of us. Just as the early church rejected the addictive entertainment of the Roman games, subversive communities of faith will encourage believers to consciously monitor their media intake. In order to subvert the Caesar of Leisure, we must begin thinking seriously about our free time, structuring our time in order to show that God is our first priority, and focusing our leisure time on people instead of the newest distractions of our entertainment culture”
Does this sound familiar? I will be the first one to tell you I have been bowing to the Caesar of Leisure. I posed this question during our monthly men’s ministry meeting while discussing starting a book study “are we spending as much time in the Word as we are on Facebook” ? This was in response to a question of do we have the time for a book study. What are some other things that fall into the category being a Caesar for our Leisure?
How about TV? We might as well go for the jugular here. Trevin talks a little bit about the good ole Television set and its impact on American culture. John Piper also writes in his book “Don’t Waste your Life” “Television is one of the greatest life-wasters of the modern age. And, of course, the Internet is running to catch up, and may have caught up. You can be more selective on the Internet, but you can also select worse things with only the Judge of the universe watching. TV still reigns as the great life-waster. The main problem with TV is not how much smut is available, though that is a problem. Just the ads are enough to sow fertile seeds of greed and lust, no matter what program you’re watching. The greater problem is banality. A mind fed daily on TV diminishes. Your mind was made to know and love God. Its facility for this great calling is ruined by excessive TV. The content is so trivial and so shallow that the capacity of the mind to think worthy thoughts withers and the capacity of the heart to feel deep emotions shrivels”
Now before you go out and start giving away your TV sets and cutting the cable off like some people have been proud to announce to the world that they have done, sit back and think of ways that you can use the TV to bring the family together and not drive apart. One of the biggest issues with TV that Trevin brings up is the fact that everyone has their own TV and the family no longer spends time together watching it. Again I have this issue in my house as well. With today’s incomes and the low cost of TV’s it’s easy to provide every member of your house to include the dog a TV, and I’m not saying that your family must watch TV together all the time but it is something that at times should be done together. So what is the answer?
Trevin suggests one way would be to practice “intentional TV watching”. That would be getting a movie the family would enjoy watching together and making it a family event, or watching a favorite TV show that everyone enjoys. Some of my fondest memories as a child was watching the “Walton’s” with my family. We had one TV and it was in my Aunt Kay’s room that she shared with my mother (yes we were poor) but that one night a week we would all pile up on her bed and watch what was going on with John Boy and Marry Ellen. My job was to make the popcorn for everyone. But that’s what we did back then and we loved it. My brother Tony and his family do something like this as well. They have a DVR and during the week record a lot of shows they like to watch as a family then on the weekends get together for some family time and catch up on the latest shows they like.
These are just a few solutions for subverting the TV idol. Remember you have more control over television than you know. You have the ability to record multiple shows at once while watching another. Use this to your advantage. Is there is a good show on and dinner is ready? Well record the show and sit down with the family and eat together and when you do get a chance to watch it you can fast forward through the commercials. Well this is all I have for this segment but on part 2 I will be talking about video games, sports, an overbooked calendar and about spending some quite time with God. I will leave you with EPH 5:15-17 ESV “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” Peace and Blessing…Chris
Friends the recent tragedy at the Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia has been headline news around the world and for people who have lived in mining communities it has really hit home. I am proud to say that I come for a mining family. My father briefly worked in the coal mines and was actually part of a mine rescue team back in the 60's, my grandfather Barnette was a miner, worked as a federal mine inspector and after retirement owned a mine with his sons. My grandfather on my mother’s side was not so lucky. When he was just 38 yrs old he was killed in the mines trying out a new piece of equipment. Below is an article my aunt Barbara wrote in memory of her father. Please continue to pray for the families of those who lost love ones and pray for those who do this dangerous job everyday. God Bless
Death of a Coal Miner Cebert Dean Murphy born June 17, 1918 died October 30, 1956 in a mining accident in Vivian W. Va.
Cebert with joy in his face told his wife Agnes, that when he went to work that night, he was going to get to operate a new machine called a “Continuous Miner.” This was a far cry from the time he had to work on his knees because of the low ceiling to load coal with a shovel. Cebert was like a little boy with a new toy...he explained to Agnes that a Continuous Miner cut and loaded coal simultaneously. It would now be possible to cut and load a ton of coal in a matter of seconds. For safety sake, it required an operator and another man behind him to let the operator know when he needed to back out for the roof to be supported with timbers; once the machine cut and loaded a large amount of coal, the operator would back out and timbers would be installed to support the roof.
Cebert left home that night a very excited person. Before entering the mines, he fills the bottom of his lunch bucket with fresh water that the mines supplies. As he opens the top of his lunch bucket to get out some bubble gum--he notices that his daughters, Kay and Barbara had packed two salami sandwiches and they had also put in a fried apple pie that his wife had made that day. He took out the bubble gum, unwrapped it and placed it in his mouth. He now chews bubble gum when he works in the mines because it cuts the taste of the coal dust. A lot of men preferred to chew tobacco, but his youngest daughter Lizzy thought that chewing tobacco was nasty and had packed bubble gum in his lunch bucket instead of the tobacco. He smiled to himself thinking of “Lizzy.” With her dark sparkling eyes, he knew that he could never turn down any request from her. She was his youngest and very dear to his heart. He admitted to himself that he did spoil her. He admired the way that she stood up to him. He placed his goggles on top of his helmet and tested his light going to his helmet to make sure that it worked. Turning the light off, he then placed the helmet connected with a cord to a battery light on his head and hooked the battery pack to his belt. With his lunch bucket in one hand, Cebert got onto the electric tram along with the other men that were working the hoot owl night shift. The electric tram took the men to their designated work location. After being on the job for two hours, he was involved in a fatal accident which cost him his life.
Cebert came back home resting in a coffin. The man who was his “spotter” either didn’t get his attention or he didn’t hear him, he went too far and a very large piece of roof fell on the machine and crushed his head--the only part of his body that wasn’t enclosed in the seat of the machine. He was killed instantly. He left behind three sisters, two brothers, a widow, an enlisted son in the Air Force, and three teenage daughters; ages sixteen, fourteen, and eleven. Cebert died doing what he enjoyed most--playing with a new toy.
Friends I have a confession to make, I have been too busy for Jesus. While preparing a lesson on Martha and Mary for my Sunday school class I realized that I am like Martha in the sense that I have kept myself way too busy to focus on Jesus. For those of you who are not familiar with this story it’s about two Sisters who along with their Brother Lazarus were good friends of Jesus. In Luke 10:38-42 NIV we hear about a time where Jesus stopped by and shared a meal with Martha and Mary.
“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She was too busy to enjoy His company. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." Luke 10:38-42
Can anyone relate to this story? Do we get distracted by all the preparations everyday life throws at us? I know I do. Another question could be do we bring these distractions upon ourselves? I think we do. In today’s society we have some many things to do that waste time and everyday it seems like we invent new ways to cram even more stuff into the little time we do have. Computers, iphones and TiVo are just a few items that I have used to cram more junk into my time. Another thing our generation has started doing is overloading or over scheduling our daily lives. We feel like we have to have something going on at all times which usually leads to over committing ourselves and getting stressed out.
Last year I wrote a blog about the Sabbath and how important God felt that day of rest was for us. But I hear the same excuses “I have too much going on to take a day off”. I have to clean house, kids have ball practice, birthday parties, grass needs cutting..ect ect ect. But the funny thing is most of your well known preachers take a day off to rest and you can imagine how busy their schedules are. So what suffers as a result? I feel our relationship with our Lord and Savior suffers. I have actually heard people say that Sunday is the only day they can relax and spend time with their families. I have asked “can’t you do that at Church”? I also get the “sorry we couldn’t make it last week, we have been so busy” I’m not sure why they apologize to me, I wasn’t offended by their absence. But you get what I’m trying to say here.
So back to the two Sisters, you have to love how Jesus responded to Martha’s complaint about her Sister just sitting at his feet. He tells Martha "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." What he was trying to say was nothing is more important than his teaching and that Mary knew it was better to listen to him instead of being worried and upset about other things.
This lesson has really hit home with me and tells me that I need to spend more time with Jesus and less time with things of this world. Jesus said in John 16:33 NIV "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." Jesus has overcome the world and with his help I feel we can do the same. It’s going to be tough turning off the computer, Tv and xbox but I feel if I put Him first then I will be able to have a lot more peace and enjoy the life He has blessed me with and who’s know I still might be able enjoy a few minutes online playing games