Monday, April 13, 2009

Things are not as they seem!

Easter was yesterday - and it was great. We had worship that was very meaningful for me. I spoke on John 21 about Jesus fixing b'fast for Peter and disciples. I will not relay the whole thing here - but I was thinking. Easter points us to remember that things are not as they seem.

Peter, having already witness the crucifixion and then twice saw Jesus after he rose from the dead, still got depressed and thought he would do something that he know he could do well. He didn't know what the future would hold without Jesus. So he went fishing - he grew up fishing. He knew the spots. But - no fish. Until a voice from shore tells them to put the nets on the right side of the boat. 

Now that is humorous to me. All night fishing - no fish and will throwing the nets on the other side of the boat make a difference? ABSOLUTELY - when Jesus tells you to do it!

Fishing is not what is seems with Jesus. Neither is marriage, gall bladder surgery (a friend is having it done today - pray), church planting or house hunting.

Not what it see
ms with Jesus! IT is always more!

(The picture is a chalk drawing on concrete!)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Moms Take Pride in Not Buying

Pew Forum 1/30/09

Moms Take Pride in Not Buying

InfoMoms (and other consumers) are now taking pride in not buying. The gatekeeper badge of honor has shifted from "I got such a deal" to "I haven't bought anything new in weeks." American mothers are meeting the economic challenge with the view, "This is hard but, ultimately, it's a good thing for my family. We are pulling together and spending more time together. It's less about accumulating stuff. It feels more real." There has been a change in consumer values. It's actually an old set of Puritanical values roaring back with renewed strength: You take stock of what you have, you take very good care of it and you make it last as long as possible. It's a "It's not what you earn; it's what you don't spend" attitude. And when you do buy, you buy only what you know and trust. The culture of responsibility that felt old-fashioned 18 months ago now feels stable, secure and appealing. Moms influence 85% of all U.S. household purchases, and U.S. moms typically spend about $2 trillion per year. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

She is now 18

Yesterday, Karen turned eighteen year old. So much has happened in 18 years. It has gone by so quickly. She has always been "our future lawyer" with her ability to debate. She is also the "tender heart" ready to hear of all her friends relationship issues. I am her Dad. I like being her Dad. 
Her future is uncertain. At one point I thought she would be that hard charging District Attorney, putting away the bad guys. Then I wondered is she would be the next artist of great renown. I will never forget her taking art lessons and coming home with a painting and I really thought the teacher had given her one of her own as a gift. But she really painted it - I am still amazed. The last thing she said she wanted to be was either a psychiatrist or a counselor. I do not know - I do know my kids have the ability to change their majors in college on a regular basis!
One thing has been a constant as I have prayed over her crib and ever since. That she would follow the Lord and allow Him to guide her steps. She has such a tender heart, a quick mind, tongue and temper. God can use them all.
I am proud to be her daddy!
She is also a pretty aggressive soccer player!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Spiritual Electricity

On old friend of mine, who use to be my brother's pastor, wrote the following. He has pastored a number of PCA churches. The last two or three were churches he planted. The following touched my heart and I will make no further comments than please read it.

FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS, volume 8, number 14, April 2, 2009

Pray in the Spirit, Ephesians 6:18.

Spiritual Electricity

Some time after Peter preached at Pentecost where three thousand were saved, he and John were going to the temple to pray when they saw a lame man begging alms. Peter said, “I have no silver or gold but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus rise up and walk.” The man was healed—walking, leaping, and praising God. Immediately a crowd gathered and Peter, who a few days before had denied Jesus, boldly preached Christ to the crowd. The Sanhedrin arrested Peter and John, thinking a night in jail would weaken their resolve to persist in their spurious activity. The next morning the Sanhedrin thought they could intimidate them, but Peter said there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. He said we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard. Later they were with believers, rejoicing at the privilege of suffering for Jesus’ sake. While together the place was shaken, all were filled with the Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.

Jesus told the Samaritan woman that if she believed in Him she would never thirst. Rightly we apply this to the issue of evangelism but has the thought occurred to you that once you have Jesus this ought to characterize your daily life? If you have Jesus you are never to thirst. Never! You should never have bitterness, anger, wrath, slander, or malice toward anyone. You should never be anxious or worried. You should always submit to your husband unless he is demanding unlawful activity from you. You should always love your wife as Christ loved the church. You should always give a full day of work to your employer. Is it not true that most believers are living far below what Christ promises? “You will never hunger . . . you will never thirst . . . from your inner most being shall flow rivers of living water.”

Why, then, do you thirst? Because the Dragon, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan (Revelation 20:1) works you over big time. He accuses you when you sin, telling you that you are hopeless, that Christianity does not work for you. He tempts you to heinous sin, and when you give in the accusations grow more severe. He deceives you, telling you that a few moments of pleasure with that woman at the office will not harm you. He tells you that soft porn is no big deal. He tells you that repentance is easy, that God is all love and grace. He fails to tell you that repentance is a gift from God, that there are consequences to your sin. He does not tell you how continual, habitual, unrepentant sin can destroy your life in hell. He lies to you, would kill you if he could, and routinely destroys families, churches, communities, and nations.

Peter tells us that we have all we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3-4). Paul tells us to put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:14-17). You know this but most of you still succumb to the devil’s schemes. You still thirst. You have the wiring for holiness but you lack the electricity. From where does the electricity come? I have preached the armor of God in Ephesians 6 many times but only recently did I see the clear connection between the armor and Paul’s instruction on prayer that follows. The verb in verse 14, “Stand firm,” is followed by four participles (having girded your loins, having put on the breast plate of righteousness, having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace) concerning the gospel armor; and he continues with another participle in verse 18 (with all prayer and petition, praying at all times in the Spirit) that reveals continuation of thought. In other words, we stand firm by praying in the Spirit. None of the biblical commentators I consulted (including Calvin, Hendriksen, Matthew Henry, Wuest, O’Brien, or Lenski) address in any detail the phrase “praying in the Spirit.” I suggest, however, that this is the electricity that enables you to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. This gospel electricity energizes the armor of God, quenching your spiritual thirst.

What does it mean to “pray in the Spirit?” Romans 8:26-27, “the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings too deep for words,” gets at it. So does James 5:15, “the prayer of faith.” This is what Moses experienced on Mt. Sinai, what Elijah experienced on Mt. Carmel when confronting the prophets of Baal, what Peter saw at the Mt. of Transfiguration, what John saw on the Isle of Patmos. It is a coming down of the Holy Spirit in prayer. It is what the Puritans called “praying through.” It is what Martyn Lloyd-Jones calls praying with boldness, certainty, felicity of speech, fervency, zeal. It is praying down the presence of God. We rejoice that our God is one of providence and power, but we need Him, not just His attributes. We need the presence of this God of providence and power. When praying in the Spirit it is as though you enter into the Holy of Holies, shut the door behind you, and enjoy communion with God, caught up in His love and glory, losing all sense of time. I have seen it recently in all day prayer meetings in Sacramento, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. Ask anyone who was at these meetings and they will tell you what it is to pray in the Spirit. I have seen it in our Sunday night prayer meeting. It results in great joy, refreshment, encouragement to press on in the Militia Christiana (the Christian fight of sanctification). It brings a renewed resolve to pursue biblical holiness, urging preachers to stay at their task in spite of hardship, dwindling numbers, wayward sheep, or opposition. This is the electricity for the wires of the armor of God. This is the living water that always quenches thirst.

How do you get there? How do you pray through? How do you pray down the Spirit? You pray until you pray. Praying out loud with others for extended periods of time will help. You pray Scripture, asking the Holy Spirit to visit you. You repent and confess your sins. You give praise and adoration to God. You seek Him until you find Him. You call upon Him until He answers you. You knock until the door is opened to you. You ask until you receive. Does this sound strange to you? Does this sound Pentecostal? Until one hundred years ago all Presbyterian and Reformed preachers and theologians pursued this, but today we are too mechanical, too tame, too predictable. We need word and Spirit. We tend to be strong on the word but weak on the Spirit. This leads to dryness, dead orthodoxy. Charismatics tend to be strong on the Spirit and weak on the word, leading to chaos. Can we not have both? Can we not live in the Spirit, praying Him down, praying through until we sense the glory of God in our presence! This alone will bring refreshment to our souls. This alone will cause unbelievers to thirst for righteousness. They want more than words. They need to see that Christianity is real, that it alone truly satisfies.

FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS is a weekly devotional by Reverend Al Baker, pastor of Christ Community Presbyterian Church in West Hartford, Connecticut.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Is the Church pushing the young people away?

Below is an article that must cause some reaction in us - what is your reaction? Do you agree? Is this true in your experience? To those of you, like me, who have young adult children - it this their experience? I don't often ask for comments, but your comment here will help me as I am in the process of starting a church from scratch.

Christian Post 2/25/09

Why Young People Leave the Church

At the current pace, only 4% of America's teens will end up as Bible-believers, a sharp contrast to 35% of Boomers and 65% of Builders. Why? The Washington Times religion editor, Julia Duin, says "Many regard their church teachings as 'irrelevant' to their daily lives. Going to church is perceived as a 'time-waster.' Sermons are 'bland' and uninspiring," says Duin, "especially to the highly educated, and they do not address the most pressing concerns of congregants. Issues such as chastity, pornography, pre-marital sex, marital struggles, divorce and workplace challenges aren't discussed in detail. In seeking to be inoffensive or entertaining, church leaders do not provide enough spiritual nourishment to sustain their most ardent believers. Many contemporary churches fail to foster deep communities of believers. Disconnected congregants are turning to more intimate house churches. Others, tired of poor Bible teachers, seek in-depth faith explorations by their own efforts or with kindred spirits. Congregants yearn for the miraculous but are only fed the pedantic and innocuous. An increasing number of believers are unmarried, yet many churches are so family-centric they fail to address concerns of those from different walks of life."