Month: February 2015

Praying for Your Prayer Life

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The following is a powerful, gospel-encapsulating Puritan prayer that speaks of the importance of prayer.

GREAT GOD,
 
In public and private, in sanctuary and home, may my life be steeped in prayer, filled with the spirit of grace and supplication, each prayer perfumed with the incense of atoning blood.
 
Help me, defend me, until from praying ground I pass to the realm of unceasing praise. Urged by my need, invited by Thy promises, called by Thy Spirit, I enter Thy presence, worshipping Thee with godly fear, awed by Thy majesty, greatness, glory, but encouraged by Thy love.
 
I am all poverty as well as all guilt, having nothing of my own with which to repay Thee, but I bring Jesus to Thee in the arms of faith, pleading His righteousness to offset my iniquities, rejoicing that He will weigh down the scales for me, and satisfy thy justice.
 
I bless Thee that great sin draws out great grace, that, although the least sin deserves infinite punishment punishment because done against an infinite God, yet there is mercy for me, for where guilt is most terrible, there Thy mercy in Christ is most free and deep.
 
Bless me by revealing to me more of His saving merits, by causing Thy goodness to pass before me, by speaking peace to my contrite heart; strengthen me to give Thee no rest until Christ shall reign supreme within me in every thought, word, and deed, in a faith that purifies the heart, overcomes the world, works by love, fastens me to Thee, and ever clings to the cross.”

Physical Fitness and Sanctification

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What is the connection between physical fitness and sanctification?  Is physical fitness a part of sanctification?  A seminary friend of mine went to the Desiring God conference on sanctification this year, and I am currently taking a class on sanctification, so this has been a question that has come up in my own reflection several times.  Here are some thoughts.

1. God recognizes the importance of physical fitness.

1 Timothy 4:8 reads:

“For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way…”

God values good stewardship of our bodies.  If the body was of no importance, Paul’s point could have been made much clearer by saying something like, Forget bodily training–godliness is the thing that matters.  We have been created as physical beings.  There is nothing wrong with our bodies.  Sure, they may be imperfect, but they were created by a God who declared them to be very good (Gen. 1:31).  God calls for stewardship of the gifts that he has given us, and that includes that which he called ‘very good.’

2. Our bodies belong to God.

Continuing, our bodies belong to God.  In undergrad, I went to a Christian liberal arts college where we were required to take a “Concepts of Physical Fitness” class.  Inevitably, 1 Cor. 6:19 was quoted as a reason for having a healthy lifestyle.

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?  You are not your own,”

Unfortunately, this class made no mention of the original context of Paul’s writing: the joining of the believer with a prostitute in sexual union.  Paul was not thinking of a healthy lifestyle when he was writing this passage.

With that being said, I want to focus on the last phrase of this verse: you are not your own.  Ultimately, our bodies do not belong to us, picking up on the stewardship theme I mentioned earlier.  Again–let us be good stewards of the bodies that God has given us.  This is largely a practical question.  Unhealthy people die earlier, and their quality of life is lower.  So how can you best passionately pursue the Lord with vigor?  Living a healthy life.  How can you minister to those around you for longer?  Living a healthy life.  Be a good steward of your body.

3. We are holistic beings.

Third, God created us as holistic beings–we are not just souls.  A lack of discipline in one area tends to lead to a lack of discipline in another area.  If you are disciplined in getting up every morning to work out, your discipline in exercise often bleeds into your discipline in spiritual matters.  I know from experience that when I am more active and intentional about eating healthy, I find times with God to be richer as well.

In the same vein, two areas of sin are addressed through being a good steward of one’s physical body: laziness and gluttony.  Both are condemned by God, and both have to do with our physical bodies.

Going Forward

So, to conclude: God cares about our physical state.  We are called to be good stewards of that gift.  There is also a connection between discipline in one’s spiritual walk and physical activity (though certainly not an absolute connection).

Does this mean that everyone has to have a six-pack?  Absolutely not.  You know your body better than most other people, and you know how you can be faithful to the gift God has given you.

Balance.  I would encourage it for all of us.  For those who only focus on spirituality, start being a better steward of your body, not at the expense of your spirituality, but in addition to it.  For those who only focus on physical activity, don’t neglect the area of your life that Scripture states has much more value than physical training (1 Tim. 4:8).  Finish well.

A Year in Calvin’s Institutes

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Are you interested in reading Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion but find the length to be a bit intimidating?  This plan into sections of 3-4 pages a day (except for the first day, which is close to 25 pages if I recall).

The reading plan that I followed can be found here:

Institutes of the Christian Religion

What is the Kingdom of God?

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This important question is at the center of much theological discussion these days, and in their book What is the Mission of the Church? Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert state their own case for what exactly the kingdom of God is.  Here’s an excerpt from the book:

You cannot ‘expand the kingdom’ by bringing peace and order and justice to a certain area of the world.  Good deeds are good, but they don’t broaden the borders of the kingdom.  The only way the kingdom of God–the redemptive rule of God–is extended is when he brings another sinner to renounce sin and self-righteousness and bow his knee to King Jesus. (121)

Essentially, DeYoung and Gilbert argue that the ‘kingdom’ spoken of constantly in the New Testament is not a geographical term, but rather a relational term.  Unlike popular ‘Christian activism,’ DeYoung and Gilbert  argue that this kingdom of God is exclusive to those in the church.

While I disagree with their interpretation of the Old Testament in the same way (the Old Testament certainly places great emphasis on the role of the land in the kingdom of God and it is not until the coming of Jesus that people are able to worship neither on this mountain or the next but rather in spirit and in truth [cf. Jn. 4:21-24]), I think that they hit the nail on the head.  There is plenty of biblical evidence for this point of view:

In John the Baptist’s and Jesus’ proclamation of the coming kingdom, this arrival of the kingdom is a cause for repentance–you cannot enter the kingdom without repentance (cf. Mt. 3:2; 4:17; and parallels).

Col. 1:13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son

1Cor. 6:9   Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (and similar passages)

1Th. 2:12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

‘Kingdom’ is mentioned 154 times in the New Testament, and of those that refer to the kingdom of God (either explicitly or implicitly), they all best fit into this framework.  This is not an excuse to stop seeking justice in this world, but it is important to realize that, as DeYoung and Gilbert say above, the only way that someone is brought into the kingdom of God is through repentance of sin and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Joyful Service: Big or Small (1 Ch. 23:28-32)

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“There are no small parts, only small actors” goes the old theater adage, meaning that all parts are vital to the production of a play.  In the same way, all roles–great or small, visible or invisible–are vital to the life of the church.  During the 1600’s, there was a French monk named Brother Lawrence who served in his monastery’s kitchen for his entire life.  Near the end of decades of washing dishes, Lawrence wrote a book reflecting on his years of ministry called The Practice of the Presence of God.  In this book, Lawrence describes the importance of all work, for all work can be done as an act of fellowship with God and to his glory (cf. Col. 3:23).  Oh, that we would have the same mindset when serving God, not focused on the outward importance of our work but rather on serving God whole-heartedly!

This is the heart that we see in the Levites in these verses: not only do they do work that may seem menial, but they do it full of praise for God, offering praise and thanksgiving to God every morning.  And while we may think that things like ‘assisting with the showbread’ are insignificant and unimportant, they were a small, but no less important part of the worship of God in the Old Testament.
Prayer:
Dear Father, we ask that we would have the same hearts as the Levites: that no matter the task, we would earnestly and eagerly seek to serve you.  And while serving you, we ask that you would give us hearts that overflow with praise for your goodness and mercy.  In the name of Jesus, the Humble Servant we pray, Amen.