Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Spiritual Maturity

This past Sunday we heard a message from my friend T. J. Campo, senior pastor of St. Andrews Presbyterian. His theme of spiritual maturity has been challenging and encouraging me all week. Here are my notes:
Spiritual maturity stems from a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Jesus showed that people can't get to God. God had to come to us.
Jesus' resurrection makes him more than a spiritual leader. It validates his claim to be God in the flesh.
Spiritual maturity is knowing what the Son of Man is doing. He is renewing all things--righting all wrongs.
Working for God is really cooperating with God in his renewing work.
There can be no spiritual maturity where there is no spiritual life.

Four incentives for spiritual maturity:
1) Remember my weakness when left to my own will power vs. grace.
2) See how Jesus kisses away our self-inflicted wounds.
"Your denials will not defeat my plan for you."
"It's not about your failures--it's about my grace."
3) Jesus Christ is alive and knows where the fish are.
4) You will change and will become like me by grace and the Spirit.

Three indications of spiritual maturity:
1) A lack of self-confidence...Peter is no longer impressed with Peter.
2) Real sorrows over failings...Peter was grieved.
3) Real failings...Peter was not perfect, but useful.
A useful life is lived close to the cross.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Nothing Seems to Be Happening

This week has tried my patience. I heard back from two more churches that I'm no longer on their list of candidates. So I wait and pray, but nothing seems to be happening. Then I read this from Elisabeth Elliot:
At times nothing seems to be happening. So it must be for the bird that sits on her nest. Things are apparently at a standstill. But the bird sits quietly, knowing that in the stillness something vital is going on, and in the proper time it will be shown. It takes faith and patience for the bird, and such faith and patience never seem to waver, day after day, night after night, as she bides the appointed time.

Restless and doubtful we wonder why we have nothing to show for our efforts, no visible evidence of progress. Let us remember the perfect egg--unchanged in its appearance from the day it is laid. But while the bird waits faithfully, doing the only thing she is required to do throughout those silent weeks, important things are taking place.

I wait for the Lord. My soul waits,
and in His word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord more
than watchmen for the morning.
--(Ps 130:5, 6 RSV)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

I Have a Shelter

You can download for free one of my current favorite songs from Sovereign Grace's new album, Come Weary Saints. Each song on the recording has spoken deeply to Heather and I. Here are the lyrics from "I Have a Shelter" by Steve and Vicki Cook, and Bob Kauflin:

I have a shelter in the storm
When troubles pour upon me
Though fears are rising like a flood
My soul can rest securely
O Jesus, I will hide in You
My place of peace and solace
No trial is deeper than Your love
That comforts all my sorrows

I have a shelter in the storm
When all my sins accuse me
Though justice charges me with guilt
Your grace will not refuse me
O Jesus, I will hide in You
Who bore my condemnation
I find my refuge in Your wounds
For there I find salvation

I have a shelter in the storm
When constant winds would break me
For in my weakness, I have learned
Your strength will not forsake me
O Jesus, I will hide in You
The One who bears my burdens
With faithful hands that cannot fail
You’ll bring me home to heaven

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Hast Thou No Scar?

Amy Carmichael was an Irish missionary in India, who opened an orphanage and founded a mission in Dohnavur. She served in India for fifty-five years without furlough and authored many books about the missionary work there. One story of Carmichael's early life tells that as a child, she wished that she had blue eyes rather than brown. She often prayed that God would change her eye color and was disappointed when it never happened. As an adult, however, she realized that, because Indians have brown eyes, she would have had a much more difficult time gaining their acceptance if her eyes had been blue.
In 1931, Carmichael was badly injured in a fall, which left her bedridden much of the time until her death. She died in India in 1951 at the age of 83. She asked that no stone be put over her grave; instead, the children she had cared for put a bird bath over it with the single inscription "Amma", which means mother in the Tamil.
One of Amy's more well-known poems is called "Hast thou no scar?"
Hast thou no scar?
No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
I hear thee sung as mighty in the land;
I hear them hail thy bright, ascendant star.
Hast thou no scar?

Hast thou no wound?
Yet I was wounded by the archers; spent,
Leaned Me against a tree to die; and rent
By ravening beasts that compassed Me, I swooned.
Hast thou no wound?

No wound? No scar?
Yet, as the Master shall the servant be,
And pierc├Ęd are the feet that follow Me.
But thine are whole; can he have followed far
Who hast no wound or scar?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Rutherford's Letters

Samuel Rutherford is one of my favorite authors. He was a Scottish Presbyterian theologian and one of the Scottish Commissioners to the Westminster Assembly. Rutherford's political book Lex, Rex (meaning "the law [and] the king" or "the law [is] king") was an explicit refutation of the doctrine of "Rex Lex" or "the king is the law." His argument against "Rex Lex" was based on Deuteronomy 17, and it supported the rule by law rather than rule by men, based on such concepts as the separation of powers and the covenant, a precursor to the social contract.
His devotional books are more widely known, including Christ Dying and Drawing Sinners to Himself and his Letters. Concerning his Letters, Charles Spurgeon wrote: "When we are dead and gone let the world know that Spurgeon held Rutherford’s Letters to be the nearest thing to inspiration which can be found in all the writings of mere men." Here are some of my favorite quotes:
“You will not be carried to Heaven lying at ease upon a feather bed.”

“When I am in the cellar of affliction, I look for the Lord's choicest wines.”

“After winter comes the summer. After night comes the dawn. After every storm, there comes clear, open skies.”

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Kingdom-oriented Prayers

My prayer-life needs work. Most of us, if we're honest, would say the same. I haven't met anyone who would say their prayer life needs no improvement. It helps to know that Christ is even now interceding on my behalf. He stands before the Father pleading my cause. If the Lord's prayer is to be our pattern, I should likewise be pleading Christ's cause to the Father. My most fervent times of prayer have been asking the Father to fulfill his promises to his Son. This type of prayer, of course, affects me, my loved ones and my circumstances. Spurgeon wrote of kingdom-oriented prayers in Morning and Evening:
Remember that the same Christ who tells us to say, "Give us this day our daily bread," had first given us this petition, "Hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven." Let not your prayers be all concerning your own sins, your own wants, your own imperfections, your own trials, but let them climb the starry ladder, and get up to Christ Himself, and then, as you draw nigh to the blood-sprinkled mercy-seat, offer this prayer continually, "Lord, extend the kingdom of Thy dear Son." Such a petition, fervently presented, will elevate the spirit of all your devotions. Mind that you prove the sincerity of your prayer by laboring to promote the Lord's glory.