The goodness of God & how it makes me pray

1 11 2006

The Scriptures teach that God is good in both his character and dealings. The 119th Psalm says it this way in a true prayer to God: “You are good and do good, teach me your statutes” (v.68).

Consider with me the fact that everything believers in Christ would seek should be good and all of our deeds likewise should be pursuing good, in fact everything we desire should be good…right?!

Well not only is God intrinsically good but he is the source of all good. Everything that is good comes from him (Jam. 1.17). Do you fully grasp this? I don’t! If I did I would be praying a heck of a lot more!

God is the source and supplier of all goodness, therefore believers cannot obtain goodness apart from him. In other words, without God’s loving kindness fueling his gracious manifestations of goodness to us we are devoid of good.

So how does this impact my prayer life?

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Prayerlessness…our truce with the world

20 08 2006

I was struck recently in a sermon by John MacArthur where he said that “The day you stop praying you sign a peace treaty with the world!”

MacArthur meant that we as Christians should be wholly discontent with the current state of the union here. This sin stained world and its values are contra-Christian and opposed to the administration of heaven. This is why Jesus tells his followers to pray for his “kingdom to come” and for the divine will to be done “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6).

The depravity of the world is to birth much discontentment in our lives and to long for what is right and good. Just think of the horrific actions that are highlighted on the nightly news. We hear of everything from murder, to rape, to kidnappings, to theft, to corruption, the list is endless. So what is our reaction? How did you react when you heard again of this situation with the murder of JonBenet Ramsey? Upon the authorities capturing this man, John Mark Karr in Thailand, were you not disgusted to reread of the horrific things that happened to this little six-year-old girl?

Well what is the Christian’s response? Do we just say, “That’s what happens in a fallen world!”

While this is true it falls far short from what it is supposed to drive us to do. This horror is to make us swallow hard, be grieved, and pray with a whole heart, “Your kingdom come!!” Lord it is time now Lord, come and rule and reign in righteousness!! Put an end to the this!! Lord Jesus this is an attack on you and your glory, O’ righteous king come and bring justice, exert your will upon the earth that it would be done as it is in heaven!”

If you are thinking that you have been lulled into a bit of a spiritual trance and have become less and less affected by the sin and horror in the world, then resolve today to respond with a Christ-centered response, using these opportunities to express to the Father your desire to see him break through the heavens and insert his king upon Mt. Zion that he would reign in righteousness and receive the praise that is due his name.

O’ for this day to come soon! Until then let us not sign a truce with the world through prayerlessness. We as Christians believe that prayer works, that God is pleased to hear our prayers as offered in and through the blood of Jesus.

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How to live a miserable Christian life (part ii)

10 08 2006

Yesterday I began a look at how to live a miserable Christian life. Specifically to look at 10 sure fire areas or activities that are counter Christian and so therefore devoid of joy.

In the first post we highlighted the dangers of 1) trying to repay Jesus for the Cross, 2) neglecting the Bible, 3) neglecting Prayer.

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Let’s pick it up here in view of highlighting pitfalls for Christians that we might not find ourselves miserably caught in the mire.

4. Be Selfish

This is really the seed for everything. I have heard a good friend describe sin as the deification of man and the ‘mannification’ of God. It is to flip the roles. For the Christian to be selfish or self consumed is really counter intuitive. It just doesn’t make sense.

It reminds me of the time I saw Vlade Divac (former Lakers’ center) smoking cigerattes before a game. I’m thinking, this is totally contradictory and inhibitive to what the guy is about to go do…he is about to go and run up and down the court for two hours and he is choking down these cancer sticks like they are made out of protein or something.

In a similar vein, selfishness for the Christian is absurd. The whole point of Christianity is humility. We come to God in humility, confessing our prideful rebellion against him, begging humbly for grace (not earned!!) that we might be given mercy to trust him for forgiveness. Then the whole outflow of the Christian life is to stream from this humble spicket of a biblical self awareness.

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How to live a miserable Christian life (part i)

9 08 2006

There is truly nothing that brings more joy to the human heart than to know and live in the reality of being forgiven in Christ and enjoy the delicious fruit of grace. Sadly many struggle with living in this joy as a characteristic of their lives. Instead many settle for sub-glorious moments, hours, days and eventually lives as followers of joy incarnate, the Lord Jesus Christ.

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What follows is my humble attempt to serve you. In the next three days I want to outline 10 ways that you can live a miserable Christian life. Perhaps you can identify with some of these.

I have written these to myself first and foremost and desire to share with you. My prayer would be that you would inspect your life, heart and motives for unsuspecting parasites that serve to suck out your joy in Christ that you might pluck them out and hopefully be edified together with me.

1. Try to Repay Jesus for the Cross

The sure-fire way to short circuit joy in Christ is to undervalue him and overvalue yourself. It is really a subtle shift into idolatry. Instead of living your life in complete dependence upon and appreciation to Jesus for everything you have, you find yourself depending upon yourself to repay the glorious gift of salvation and life. What could be more frustrating than this?

This takes the form of practicing disciplines of grace (Bible reading, prayer, meditation, etc…) for the purpose of repaying Jesus. In this posture you see these post-salvation works as somehow meritorious to diminish the eternal debt that was born by the Savior. I don’t know about you but for me the reality of the debt that was born by Jesus compels even more hearty praise and appreciation.

Do you see the offensive shavings of idolatry here? You end up saying that Jesus gave you a good spiritual boost to your feet and now you’ll take it from here. It sounds like an evangelical hybrid with Rome. Instead we need to realize that it is grace that saves sinners, it is grace that sanctifies sinners, it is grace that keeps sinners, and it is grace that will ultimately present sinners as blameless before the throne of God. Our constant dependence upon the grace that is ours in Jesus reminds us of his richness and our neediness; this reality brings joy and intensifies our appreciation of the cross of Jesus. For the sacrifice of the Son of God was never intended to be offensively repaid but rather it is to be valued for its supremacy and efficacy.

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Prayer: Our Spiritual Cardio Work

3 05 2006

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In Jonathan Edwards’ book Religious Affections, he lobbies for the premise that Christians operate chiefly as pilgrims here on earth, with our hearts passionately enflamed from heaven (i.e. Religious Affections). Even further, Edwards argues that God supernaturally keeps “making up the difference” of our earthliness and his heavenliness. In speaking of this grace Edwards writes: “their grace is the dawn of glory; and God fits them for that world by conforming them to it.”

One of the ways in which Edwards suggests that God does this conforming is through the privilege of prayer. When we pray we are not to think that we are somehow informing God of his perfections, as if he was not aware of his prevailing holiness, goodness, justice, love, mercy, & all sufficiency! Nor are we telling God something he does not know in terms of our finiteness, dependence, and unworthiness that we might somehow convince God to do the things that we ask.

But rather, prayer is used by God in the lives of believers to mold, prepare and affect the hearts of his children “with the things we express, and so to prepare us to receive the blessings we ask.”

Edwards is connecting a pivotal dot here for us. So often we see in the Psalms, the Psalmists bemoaning their respective plights, only to meditate and extol God’s attributes, with the result being a worshipful recognition of divine goodness upon the receipt of answered prayer, whether or not the answer is ‘favorable’ to the petitioner (cf. Ps. 116; 118; 121; 123; etc..).

I love thinking about prayer in this way, as a spiritual cardio workout. When we pray we are massaging our hearts with the pressure of God’s eternal perfections and subsequently producing in us the enduring praise to the glory of his grace. Prayer both prepares and sustains affections. In preparing our hearts it works to mold our imperfections closer to the perfect image of Christ and in sustaining it ignites within us an enduring passionate appreciation and pursuit of the glory of God.

So then one might rightly say prayer is for us, but prayer is for God.

Enjoy prayer today, knowing that it is producing in you an affectionate longing for heaven, where heaven’s King reigns, and where one day all of his saints will be joined together before his indescribable throne to ascribe glory, honor and praise to the Lamb who sits exalted.