Rockport Sermon

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Got Questions?

One of the purposes behind this blog is to answer honest questions Christians ask about their faith, or non-Christians ask about our faith. If you have a particular questions you'd like to ask, you can reply to this post. One of us will then respond, either on this blog -- usually in a new post -- or directly to you. (For an example, see Bible Reading 101 below)

Grace and Peace

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Prayer and Brokenness

i am going to be addressing the subject of prayer this evening at our Wednesday Evening Meeting. I know this is probably going to make some people mad. That's part of my calling. Seriously, there are two things needed in the church today that are greatly lacking.
The first thing that is lacking is brokenness. Never have I seen so much pride in all my life as I see today in the church. We are a proud people. And God hates it. Most of the problems that we experience in our churches today is nothing but the manifestation of sinful pride. More often than not, it is from unregenerate people, but even believers seem to have a problem walking humbly before God. And without brokenness, we will probably not see a great move of God in our churches. Oh how we need to ask God to break our proud hearts. But we are afraid of His methods and His ways. In this day of prosperity gospel preaching, most believers like to live it whether they like the false preaching or not. People meet far too much of us and they do not meet Jesus when they encounter us, because we are so full of ourselves, unbroken and full of pride.
The second need I would like to address is the need for sincere prayer. I have been studying Jesus' prayers recently, and His were so unlike ours. It seems that even at our prayer meetings, everyone seems to know someone else who is sick or hurt. And that seems to be our main emphasis, as if our duty was to come to the rescue of everyone who has health problems, or any other type of problems and bring them before poor forgetful God. Jesus prayers mainly concerned the glory of God, the holiness of believers, and the salvation of the lost. Would to God that our prayer meetings would first of all be more passionate. We are so proper when we speak to God. What has happened to the old prayer meetings when the saints got together and CRIED OUT TO GOD, for the salvation of the lost, for His glory and for the holiness of the saints? We are in such pitiful shape. Oh God is merciful, and heals many at our request, by his mercy. But these shallow prayer meetings where we go on and on about all of these problems have got to stop. Let's get serious about praying about what we really ought to be praying about. Let's quit this foolishness of asking for prayer for my great Aunts', nephews little friend, when we ourselves haven't been spending time pouring out our hearts to God on their behalf, and we simply want to ask others to pray about this for some reason. What are we? God's special agents of health? It is sometimes God's will for the saints to suffer and we spend far too much time worrying about whether or not God is going to heal them. If they want to be healed, let them call for the elders of the church. Let's get real, get down to business and cry out to God concerning the things that really matter. Yes, it is fine to ask prayer for someone we love and care about that is suffering, but for goodness sake, by our prayer requests, we sometimes seem like the poorest, most unhappy, most sickly people in the world. Yes, let's get down to the business of passionate prayer for the glory of God, the salvation of the lost, and the holiness of the saints.

Reading THE Book

As always, Scott's insight and advice on getting into the Word is very helpful. Let me add something. You mentioned getting fed, and seeing that Scott has mentioned digesting the Word in various ways, let me venture a little further. Reading the Word has to do with HOW hungry you are for God. It seems that when I have had to ask myself why I have not been hungry for God that answer has been pretty simply. I was feeding at other troughs.
Usually, hunger comes naturally to a man. Even a lazy man gets hungry. A man obsessed with his work will sooner or later have to stop and eat. It is natural. In the same way, a true believer will become hungry for God. Simply put, if there is no hunger for God, there has been no work of regeneration in the soul. Your question seems to signify a desire to have more of God.
It is God Himself who causes us to desire Him. If indeed we feed on spiritual garbage, it may temporarily dull our spiritual senses, but the desire to repent and feed on the Word of God will overcome any other desire. Actually, it is a common prayer of mine that God increase my affections, desires and hunger for Him. I am simply too often, too fickle. So I pray for grace. Grace so that I might hunger for God and enjoy His fullness. Once I am hungry, my spiritual appetite becomes voracious. I begin to not only read, but re-read, think about, and digest what I just read. Praying that God would show me Himself in His Word that seems to have my name written on it. It is to me, from Him. What a delight!
It is a common prayer of the Elders at Rockport, that God would give His people a hunger for Himself and His Word. And so I pray now, that God would give you grace, that you might have an insatiable craving to feast on the riches of his Word.
And then follow Scott's suggestions in your daily study. It will pay rich dividends. The growth takes place over the course of time, as God gives more grace.

Bible Reading 101

One of our members emailed me recently with a great question. He asked,
"I'm not getting enough in my daily reading. How do I read the Bible in a way that I'm getting fed on my own time? Seems like I'm just reading just to read lately. I want to be able to really dive in and dig through it. Is there some way of doing this?
Here is my answer. Does anyone else have a suggestion to add?

First of all, I think I see one problem. Always keep one foot in the New Testament. Even when I'm reading through the Old, I always spend a bit of time in the New. That's where the clearer light is found, and therefore the most life.

Second, before I read, I spend just a moment seeking God's help through the Holy Spirit to open my eyes to truth, and warm my heart with it. I've found Piper's little series of requests called IOUS a great help...

I — Incline my heart to Your testimonies (Psalm 119:36)
O — Open my eyes that I might behold wonderful things in Your Word (Psalm 119:8)
U — Unite my heart to fear Your name (Psalm 86:11)
S — Satisfy me in the morning with your steadfast love... (Psalm 90:14)

A little time in prayer seeking God's face, always helps me read with open eyes.

Third, realize that your heart is encumbered by the flesh and very weak, so that at times it may feel like nothing's getting through. Someone said there are three stages or phases to Bible reading

(1) The Caster Oil (or medicine) Phase - You know it's good for you, but it sure doesn't taste very good. You just take it because you should.

(2) The Cornflakes Phase - It's kind of dry, but again, you know its nutritious, and so you keep chewing, knowing that it won't be cornflakes every meal

(3) The Peaches and Cream Phase - This tastes great! Wow, You can't get enough! It's wonderful!

It would be nice if every time you read it's like #3! But life just doesn't work that way, and neither do we. So you persevere through the tougher times, knowing there will be times when you will delight in the truth.

And then, fourth, I should mention that biblical insight is cumulative. You know how snow accumulates? One little flake doesn't amount to much. But little by little, millions a flakes can add up to a great deal of snow on the ground. In the same way, your life is rarely changed in a perceptible way by one morning of Bible reading. It's the cumulative process of reading day in and day out that begins to "pile up" in the process Paul calls "Renewing your mind" (Rm 12:1-2). So keep at it, seeking wisdom at every turn.

Oh, and one more thing. I've found it helpful to keep a small notebook handy so I can record any stirrings of my heart, or insights into God's truth. I'll write it down and review it later. Or if I find something during my reading that I'd like to investigate further, I jot that down as well.

Finally, keep your focus as you read. And what is that focus? To see Christ! To learn of Him and His ways. To discover the character and attributes of God as He has displayed Himself in the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation. Don't just read looking for a "devotional thought" or one of those "what does this say about me" applications. What does this reveal about God! Who He is! What He's done! How He can be trusted! Strive to see God as He has revealed Himself in Christ. That's where I move very quickly into "peaches and cream"..and some times shouting and singing and saying, "oh what a God we serve"

Hope this helps!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Coming Soon!

OK, We've talked about this for a long time. When we three get together, there is often an exciting exchange of ideas and concerns for how we might glorify God together in this world through His Son. Hopefully in the coming weeks you'll see an unfolding conversation between the three of us, and any others who want to comment, that will be helpful to struggling Christians like ourselves, as well as - we hope - providing a good foundation for faith to others who happen to drop by. Lord willing, check back soon.

Soli Deo Gloria