04/21/09

10 Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health

 10 Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health10 questions to ask yourself

Donald Whitney, in his book, Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health, poses 10 questions.
1.    Do you thirst for God?
2.    Are you governed increasingly by God’s Word?
3.    Are you more loving?
4.    Are you more sensitive to God’s presence?
5.    Do you have a growing concern for the spiritual and temporal needs of others?
6.    Do you delight in the Bride of Christ?
7.    Are the spiritual disciplines increasingly important to you?
8.    Do you still grieve over sin?
9.    Are you a quicker forgiver?
10.     Do you yearn for heaven and to be with Jesus?

I’m convicted.
The “increasing” and “more” facet of these questions is conspicuous. Though I might could get away with claiming the presence of spiritual qualities in my life, I am convicted in knowing I often lack progress. There’s a stinging difference that pierces the self-righteousness in my heart.

Time to plan.
Because a convicted heart is practically worthless if it doesn’t motivate us to draw upon the grace and strength of Christ Jesus to live differently, now is the finest opportunity available to implement a change. Start with prayer, and then get specific. What’s the best way to grow in one of these areas? The hungry heart seeks an answer.

What do you think?
Do any of these questions prick your heart, making you evaluate anything on a deeper level? Do you have another question you use to diagnose your heart that is not on the list?

(This book isn’t part of the free resources Weekend Resource, but it is inexpensive and concise read. Worth every penny and minute you’ll invest.)

Here is a link to a fellow blogger and a related post of his: http://www.fallenandflawed.com/true-salvation-test/



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04/12/09

Ways to avoid ruining the opportunity to defend the faith (Part 2)

#2. Understand the basis for the defense.

1 Peter 3:15
15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,

Gentleness and respect. How can we have gentleness and respect? First, it is key that we understand the basis for our arguments. Is our faith based on reason? Is our faith reasonable to begin with?

Is it illogical to demand religion to be reasonable?

1.    We do not want a god that can be fully explained by human reason.
To demand that God be explained and proven by human reason would be an appetite for a God contained by our small mental faculties. If you used reason to fully explain and prove God, He would be so small as to be useless. He would be no God at all, for He would be smaller than His own creation. I want the real and infinite God.

The real God is supra-logical and supra-rational
Notice, I did not say illogical or irrational. The Scriptures are written to be reasoned through, because God is a reasonable God. Yet God is also beyond our reason (Isaiah 55:8-9). This itself is a reasonable claim, because by very definition, God must be infinite and thus above creation. Any time a finite mind tries to mentally grasp the infinite God, there will be a point of intersection where the finite is unable to comprehend the vastness of the nature of God. Some call it a mystery. Some say it is illogical. But I believe it is the expected chasm between God’s infinite nature and man’s finite understanding.

Therefore, God must speak.
For those wanting to reason their way into believing God exists, I think they will either become convinced by incomplete arguments (not taking into account the totality of the reasoning), or they will become discouraged. God will not be proved or fully explained by reason (though God can and does sovereignly use reasoning to bring men to Himself). This is not to say that there is no place for reason, but rather that reason itself is not the proper instrument to use in order to find God. How then can we know God? God Himself must speak to us, for He alone can testify to Himself without limiting Himself. God has done so by His Word, both written and incarnate (John 1:1-14).  The inerrancy of the Word and the historicity of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ become crucial. These must be understood and defended in order to truly defend the faith’s foundations.

What happened to being open minded?
It never left. On a fundamental level, a person’s worldview can be classified as theocentric (God-centered) or anthropocentric (man-centered). This worldview permeates his or her vision and affects the way basic facts are interpreted. Having an open mind should not preclude worldview analysis. Once we understand that their arguments are built on presuppositions founded in their worldview, we see that some of the demands and arguments are worthless. The theocentric worldview can not be forced to conform to the demands of the anthropocentric worldview, because they are, on the deepest level, at odds with each other. This in no way should keep anyone from questioning the key points of the Christians faith. This should not eliminate debate and exchanges between both sides of the aisle, but it should bring greater understanding to the defenses given. Presuppositional apologetics has been a turning point in my defense of my faith (and a note of thanks to Dr. Harry Reeder, who has patiently worked me through some of these very issues).

How should this affect my defense of the faith?
Misunderstanding the view of the opposing side spawns tension and miscommunication, leading to an ineffective defense. We can better defend the faith when we understand the grounds the arguments are rooted in.

Father, I want to be able to defend the reason for the hope that is in me, yet I can not do it with gentleness and respect unless I understand the grounds for my own faith as well as the worldview of the lost. Please grant me a love for their heart, not a mere desire to win arguments.



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04/10/09

Ways to avoid ruining the opportunity to defend the faith

 Ways to avoid ruining the opportunity to defend the faith#1: Have a hope to defend.

1 Peter 3:15
“but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,”

While recently conversing with an agnostic, I was struck by the impotency of our diluted faith. Through the agnostic’s eyes, Christianity does not change your life, it only offers an alternative way to explain life. Or, to put it another way, the Christian appears on the outside no different than the agnostic.

The world will not look at two faiths of the same appearance and wonder why they are so different.

If our hope…
-    ultimately lies in ourselves,
-    is focused on avoiding hell and going to heaven, not communing with the real God in a personal relationship,
-    does not change how we handle to life situations such as conflicts and disappointments,
-    lies in the same idols of the world, such as security, wealth, and comfort,
…then our faith commitment differs little from that of the world.

Do we handle life issues any differently than an atheist or agnostic?

There is a counterfeit hope, one that poses as Christianity but is an impostor.
Is “living to glorify God” our label for “living a moral life so that people look at us and think more highly of us”? Self-exaltation enrobed in feigned spirituality may rise to the heart’s throne if motives are never scrutinized. And this impostor is just self-enthroned, and is no real hope at all. It is the same as the world’s hope.

As Jonathan Edward’s 23rd resolution states: “Resolved, frequently to take some deliberate action, which seems most unlikely to be done, for the glory of God, and trace it back to the original intention, designs and ends of it; and if I find it not to be for God’s glory, to repute it as a breach of the 4th Resolution [to do all to the glory of God].”

If we are striving only, at heart, for our own self-interests (even if they appear spiritual), are we so different from the world?

Richard Wumbrand writes in his book, Alone with God:
“I remember the chill that went down my spine when I read the secret formula disclosed only to initiates during the third degree of Masonry: ‘Let my will happen in all things.’ The formula was not new to me. It tapped into the huge drive for self-assertion which we all have in us. It is just contrary of the teach of our Lord: ‘Whoever desires to come to Me, let him deny himself’ (Mark 8:34).
Human nature says ‘no’ to this command of Jesus. But if the grace of God comes and you are inclined to fulfill it, be aware that Satan can disguise himself and make of conversion to Christ an initiation into the satanic rite. If you were to express in clear words what happens in such a case, it would be as follows: ‘I must be a man with a very strong ‘I’ to be able to decide even the rejection of ‘I’, the only great treasure I possess. So let my will happen in religion, too. My will is to deny myself.’
Afterwards you can go to great length of self-denial. You can go even as far as giving away all your possessions and being burned at the stake for your ideal. It is the ‘I’ that will have chosen poverty or martyrdom. Without knowing it, you will have been faithful to the formula of initiation: ‘Let my will happen in all things-even in matters regarding my relationship with Christ.’
‘Deny yourself’ is one of the many command of Scripture. They have not been given to be fulfilled. As a man born in sin, you cannot fulfill them. You can only take cognizance of them, seeing in them, as in a mirror, how far away you are from what is beautiful and right. You then acknowledge your sinfulness, at which point Christ can work in you. He changes you from glory to glory. But every human work you engage in by yourself, even a very holy one, is extremely dangerous.
Every day I have to decide whether to yield to torture or not, whether to deny Christ or not. It might be not a consecrated attitude but a devilish one to say, ‘Let my will be done, and my will is that I should be a hero of the faith.’
The Lord wants some to be such heros but he also allowed Peter to pass through moments of cowardice and then return with repentance, thus giving an example throughout the centuries to Christian who might fall in times of persecution that they can rise again. (pg 103-104)”

The result is an impotent faith, because a deep relationship with the real God is not the driver of my spiritual life. And this impotent faith is difficult to defend to the nonbeliever, because it exudes hypocrisy with the undercurrents of pride.

Where is our hope?

Our hope is in:
The message of the gospel (Col 1:23).
The name of Jesus (Mat 21:21)
The promise of God, Eternal life (Titus 1:2, 3:7, Heb 10:23, Acts 26:6, Acts 24:15, 1 Pe 1:21)
Christ (1 Cor 15:19, 1 Thes 1:3)
Salvation (1 Thes 5:8)
The living God, who is the Savior (1 Tim 4:10, 1 Pe 1:3, )

How does this differ from the world?

This hope humbly ascribes no worthiness, power, or good to man.
At heart, the hope in the world and/or self fails us because man fails. Man is in need of a Savior, One to bring hope. A man in need of saving lacking hope can not be his own hope. A hope based in man is a hope as fragile and incapable as man. I need to be led to the Rock that is higher than I, a Strong Tower and Refuge. (Ps 61:2).
This hope brings me into a relationship with the Father, where I find One who stands ready to be my strength. I find a purpose outside of my self, a calling that does not disappoint.

Let the world see that hope in the way we live, so that we can give a ready defense for it.

Father, may our life reflect such a hope. Our hope is nothing to defend if it be found within ourselves.
May the eyes of our hearts be enlightened, that we may know what is the hope to which You has called us, what are the riches of our glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of Your power toward us who believe, according to the working of Your great might that You worked in Christ when You raised Him from the dead and seated Him at Your right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And You put all things under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Eph 1:18-23).



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04/4/09

Weekend Resource: Bible reading plans written with grace in mind

 Weekend Resource: Bible reading plans written with grace in mindResource:
The following 3 Bible reading plans, from the Navigators, are great tools to help the reader stay on track progressing through the Bible. The highlight of these plans, from my experience, is that the reader is NOT required to read every single day of the month.  Writing a Bible reading plan with grace in mind makes these plans all the more effective. For those that never skip a day, the pauses allow for time to meditate and return to selected passages of your choice.

1. Book-at-a-Time Bible Reading Plan
“The book-at-a-time Bible reading plan provides two readings for each day. The first reading alternates between Old and New Testament books, giving you three or four chapters a day. The Gospels are spread throughout the year. The second reading takes you through a chapter or so of the wisdom literature and Isaiah. Combined, these readings will take you through the entire Bible in one year. To prevent frustration of falling behind and so provide some reflection time, each month consists of only 20 readings. You’ll have several days each month to meditate more deeply on something that was significant to you in the past week, to catch up on missed readings, or to revisit favorite passages.”

2. 5x5x5 Bible Reading Plan
“Through the New Testament in 5 days a week, 5 minutes a day.
- 5 MINUTES A DAY. If you’re not currently reading the Bible, start with 5 minutes a day. This reading plan will take you through all 260 chapters of the New Testament, one chapter per day. The gospels are read throughout the year to keep the story of Jesus fresh.
- 5 DAYS A WEEK. Determine a time and location to spend 5 minutes a day for 5 days a week. It is best to have a consistent time and a quiet place where you can regularly meet with the Lord.
- 5 WAYS TO DIG DEEPER. We must pause in our reading to dig into the Bible. Below are 5 different ways to dig deeper each day. We recommend trying a single idea for a week to find that work best for you. Remember to keep a pen and paper ready to capture God’s insights.
1.    Underline or highlight key words or phrases in the Bible passage. Use a pen or highlighter to mark new discoveries from the text. Periodically review your markings to see what God is teaching you.
2.    Put it into your own words. Read the passage or verse slowly, then rewrite each phrase or sentence using your own words.
3.    Ask and answer some questions. Questions unlock new discoveries and meanings. Ask questions about the passage using these words: who, what, why, when, where, or how. Jot down some thoughts on how you would answer these questions.
4.    Capture the big idea. God’s Word communicates big ideas. Periodically ask, “What’s the big idea in this sentence, paragraph or chapter?”
5.    Personalize the meaning. When God speaks to us through the Scriptures, we must respond. A helpful habit is personalizing the BIble through application. Ask: “How can my life be different today as I respond to what I’m reading?”

3. Discipleship Journal Bible Reading Plan
This reading plan takes you though 4 passages a day, 2 from the New Testament and 2 from the Old Testament. Just as the first reading plan, you are only given readings for 25 days, allowing for catch-up, meditation, etc on the last few days of each month.



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