Some Practical Advice for Christians

Do you use or have you ever heard of D.A. Carson’s Bible devotional called, For the Love of God? If not, I strongly recommend it. It is very simple to use. It has daily Bible readings and some very practical insights from Bible scholar D.A. Carson on a portion of that day’s reading. It is designed to assist you in discovering the riches of God’s Word and thereby deepen your love of God. So you can get an idea of what it is like, I have copied and pasted today’s devotional below:

SOME PRACTICAL ADVICE FOR Christians (Phil. 4:4-9):

(1) Always rejoice in the Lord (Phil. 4:4). This command is so important that Paul repeats it. Our responsibility to obey it is independent of circumstances, for regardless of how utterly miserable our situation is, the Christian always has the most profound reasons for rejoicing in Christ Jesus: sins forgiven and the prospect of resurrection life in the new heaven and the new earth–not to mention the consolation of the Spirit even now, and much more. Practically speaking, Paul well knows that the believer who is truly rejoicing in the Lord cannot possibly be a back-biter, a cheat, a whiner, a thief, or lazy, bitter, and filled with hate.

(2) Be known for gentleness (Phil. 4:5). That is almost a delicious oxymoron. So much in our culture wants us to be known for aggressiveness, or for some intrinsic strength or superiority. The gentle person does not usually think in terms of being known. But Paul wants us so to focus on gentleness that eventually we become known for gentleness. The ground Paul offers is that the Lord is “near.” In this context, probably Paul does not mean that the Lord’s coming is near, but that the Lord himself is never far from his people: he is near, and is watching us, as he watches over us, all the time. That becomes our motivation for acting as he wishes us to act.

(3) Stop worrying (Phil. 4:6-7). Paul is not advocating irresponsible escapism, still less a Pollyanna-like optimism. Moreover, strictly speaking he is not telling us to stop worrying and nothing more, but rather he tells us how to stop worrying–by replacing this constant fretting with something else: “in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving [there’s the praise theme again], present your requests to God” (Phil. 4:6). Paul does not deny the agony and sorrow of many human experiences. How could he? His letters show that he suffered his share of the worst. But he knows the solution. Either worrying drives out prayer, or prayer drives out worrying. Moreover, Paul insists, this disciplined, thankful, intercessory prayer brings with it “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding” (Phil. 4:7).

(4) Think holy thoughts (Phil. 4:8-9). Garbage in, garbage out. We are renewed by the transforming of our minds (Rom. 12:1-2). So watch what you feed your mind; watch what you think; determine to drive your mind into good and healthy channels, not those characterized by bitterness, resentments, lust, hate, or jealousy. Reflect on all the kinds of things Paul includes in his diverse list of verse 8. Moreover, here too Paul serves as an important example (Phil. 4:9): he is not telling us to do anything he does not practice himself.

Pretty good stuff, eh? You can buy it in book format (it is in 2 volumes) or you can just click here and read it for free in a blog/digital format!

Resist “Dental Chair” Devotions

That is what Erik Raymond tells us over at his blog Ordinary Pastor.

“What are “Dental Chair” devotions?” you ask. He writes:

I am afraid that too many of us practice dental chair devotions. We grab our Bibles, spend some time in it and then we are done. We promptly put down our Bibles and walk out the door or on to our daily tasks. Five to eight hours later someone could ask you, “What did you read in the Word today?” The answer, too often, is, “I can’t remember.”

What happened? We grab a little Bible reading, swish it around in the morning, then spit it out on the way out the door. The treasures from the Word don’t get swallowed and digested but rather spit out quickly. This is because we often practice a “swish and spit” devotional time. We don’t really engage the mind and heart with the Word.

He then provides 9 simple but powerful suggestions (my favorite is number 8) to resist this “swish and spit” mentality and concludes with:

Bible reading is far too precious and important a time to just go through the motions. You must get that word into your heart, mind and life. This takes work. So, resolve today to not practice the swish and spit, dental chair devotional life. Instead prayerfully marinate in the text, interrogate it and take it with you.

I agree. For way too many people devotions are little more than reading a chapter or two followed by a few minutes of prayer that MAYBE amounts to increased knowledge and RARELY leads to any Christ-life conformity. Renewal comes through the transformation of the mind (Romans 12:1-2) and that requires we get a good, holy mental sweat going when we read the Bible and it means we should plead with God in prayer asking him to grab us, spin us around, knock us off our feet, flatten us, and pin us until all we can do is cling to him and wholly and solely surrender to him.

What are you waiting for – go read the article and be done with “swish and spit” devotions!

Weekend Roundup: Seven Articles for your Musings

From Megadeth to Life: I was quite the metal head in high school myself (and use to have a pretty sweet Metallica t-shirt until I put it in the wash one day and it never came back…)  so it gave me quite a bit of joy to read this short article about the conversion of lead singer for Megadeath Dave Mustaine and bassist David Ellefson. Trophies of grace, indeed!

9 Reasons to Pray: Why should we pray? God already knows our hearts. He already knows our desires. So why Pray? Here are 9 excellent reasons! Can you think of any others? The first reason is my favorite.

2013: They Year in Pictures: CNN with some pretty amazing photos here.

A Plan to Read Through the Bible in 2014: Do you have a bible reading plan? Maybe you want to try a different one? Here is one from Denny Burk which “calls for reading all the books of the Bible in canonical order in one year.”

The Jehovah’s Witnesses and Jesus Christ: A Biblical and Theological Appraisal: A classic article by the late Dr. Bruce Metzger that explores who they are, the good and the bad in the sect, the basic error, erroneous translations, the subordination of the Son, and theological and philosophical considerations.

9 Things You Should Know About Christmas: Did you know them?

Catholicism and Suicide: The church of Rome has reversed its position on a number of very significant issues and now we can add to that list suicide. Like the article says, “How can you trust a denomination to be a safe spiritual guide when it reverse itself on such fundamental issues? If it changes it’s position, then that means either of two things: if it got it right now, it got it wrong then; if it got it right then, it got it wrong now. Also, why has Rome changed its policy? People commit suicide for the same reasons they always committed suicide. It’s not like we’ve discovered new evidence.”

My Enemy

A.W. Tozer:

Whatever keeps me from the Bible is my enemy, however harmless it may appear to be. Whatever engages my attention when I should be meditating on God and things eternal does injury to my soul. Let the cares of life crowd out the Scriptures from my mind and I have suffered loss where I can least afford it. Let me accept anything else instead of the Scriptures and I have been cheated and robbed to my eternal confusion. The secret of life is theological and the key to heaven as well. We learn with difficulty, forget easily and suffer many distractions. Therefore we should set our hearts to study theology. We should preach it from our pulpits, sing it in our hymns, teach it to our children and make it the subject of conversation when we meet with Christian friends.

Enough said?