(This is the manuscript basis of the devotional I gave to the Ikthus East-Bacolod City Men’s group last 02 February 2019. It is part of a series of Bible studies we’re doing on 1st John.)
1 John 2:15-17 ESV
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life— is not from the Father but is from the world.  And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
The Christian life is a battle for our affections. Who will our hearts love: God or the world? Continue reading “Do not love the world”
Here’s the outline of a talk I gave a talk to the leaders of Ikthus East Bacolod City last 26 January 2019 at Beracha Farms, Alangilan, on How a Christian Leader Sets Priorities.
Here’s the outline/manuscript (please note that the actual talk varies from the manuscript, significantly at times):
It’s possible to go to extremes when it comes to spirituality.
One can become so heavenly minded as to be no earthly good. People with this mindset usually divide things into secular and sacred, and consider the former as inferior to the latter. Let’s call this “pie in the sky” spirituality.
On the other hand, some people embrace “worldly spirituality” and fail to discern that some activities, although not be neglected, should not be given more importance than they deserve. For them, everything is sacred as long as it is done for the glory of God. They have a point, but it needs to be qualified, as we will see later.
So balance is necessary. Continue reading “A Balanced Spirituality”
Thus, I say, God deals with his saints in great variety; some shall have all their bones broken, when others shall have only the gentle strokes of the rod. We are in the hand of mercy, and he may deal with us as seems good to him; but for our parts, great sins ought to be attended with expectations of great depths and perplexities.
(John Owen, An Exposition of Psalm CXXX)
God, being merciful, does not deal with us according to what our sins deserve. He remembers that we are but dust. Nevertheless, he does chastise us for our sins. Even so, in his inscrutable wisdom, he treats his children differently. Some who have sinned greatly he rebukes gently and allows them to recover their peace in him without the great difficulty that others have in trying to recover themselves from their backsliding. Others he treats more severely, allowing them to wallow for a long time in the depths of the misery that may justly be considered as the consequence of their sins. This might seem discriminatory, but God has his reasons, and it is not for us to question his wisdom.
At the end of day, however he deals with us, we trust that he disciplines us according to his love and wisdom, and the result of it all is that we shall come forth as gold.
“So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen in front of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and cast his cloak upon him. And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, ‘Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.’ And he said to him, ‘Go back again, for what have I done to you?’ And he returned from following him and took the yoke of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the yokes of the oxen and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and went after Elijah and assisted him.” (1 Kings 19)
Not everyone is called to be like Elisha. But if you are, the way to go is to burn all your bridges behind you and then come and follow the greater Elijah, Jesus Christ. One who is called to wear the mantle of Elijah has no choice in the matter, for it is no ordinary leader he is called to replace when the time comes. The tasks a leader of such stature is called to accomplish demand of him full concentration. Any accommodation to distraction might mean not only failure for him personally but also disaster for the people he is called to lead and serve.
“Gifts are given to trade withal for God. Opportunities are the market-days for that trade. To napkin the one and to let slip the other will end in trouble and disconsolation. Disquietness and perplexities of heart are worms that will certainly breed in the rust of unexercised gifts. God loseth a revenue of glory and honour by such slothful souls; and he will make them sensible of it.”
(from John Owen’s An Exposition of Psalm CXXX)
Yes, yes, I know I posted yesterday that I will blog daily no more, and that my next post will come out on Monday. But the above quote from John Owen made me change my mind. As applied to blogging, I take him to mean that to neglect opportunities to consistently blog for God’s glory is a failure of stewardship, for which I will be held accountable! So, instead of blogging once a week, I’ll try blogging every
MWF TTh. And in my defence I invoke the platitude “Only fools do not change their minds!”
I tried to follow Seth Godin’s advice and for a couple of weeks I blogged every day except for Sundays.
However I don’t think I will be able to keep this up. I have a lot of obligations to fulfill and the fact is blogging for me is not a top priority.
Still, I think blogging is something worth doing, so I plan to keep on blogging, but on a weekly rather than on a daily basis.
My next blog post will therefore come out on Monday.
I’ve been listening to an audiobook of Seth Godin’s This is Marketing. He talks about the importance of status as the reason why people do things and the difficulty of getting them to change if it means going against what gives them status. According to Seth, people acquire status by affiliation or domination, i.e., “I’m part of this group,” or “This is mine!” He tells a story about young men in a tribe who acquire status by killing lions as their rite of passage. This has led to a significant decrease in the number of lions in their area. And he says that trying to change them by trying to convince them that killing lions is wrong or bad won’t work. What works is getting them to change their perception of acquiring status. For example: Be a lion-saver, not a lion-killer!
I think there’s an insight here that relates to Christianity. Part of the motivation involved in the change in a person’s conduct when he becomes a Christian has to do with the way he perceives his status: he is now affiliated with Christ and he identifies with his fellow Christians. They read their Bibles, so does he. They pray and sing hymns, so does he. They go to church, so does he.
This isn’t peer pressure or herd mentality; this is biblical teaching, or if you like, biblical psychology. You see yourself in a new way, you then act in a new way, and it helps that you’re part of a group that sees and acts in this new way. “You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” “You have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self…” “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience…” (See Colossians chapter 3).
New identity, new self, new affiliation, new practices. New status!
“Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist.”
Greed has no bounds. The danger of desiring to be rich is that there might never come a time when you’ll feel rich enough. And so you’ll be forever toiling with all the anxiety and stress such toil entails. Not to mention that being obsessed with becoming rich can destroy your relationships and your health. “Keep your life free from love of money,” because greed can consume you. It can even kill you.
So know when to stop. Agur (see Proverbs 30) had discernment; he prayed, “Give me neither poverty or riches.” Paul too had discernment; he said, “Having food and clothing, let us be content.” (1 Timothy 6:8)
Do we exercise discernment when it comes to acquiring wealth? Do we know when to stop?
Lord, help me not to be greedy for wealth. Help me know when to stop. Amen.
“They said that Dioscorus of Namisias made his bread out of barley, and his soup out of lentils. Every year he made one particular resolution: either not to meet anyone for a year, or not to speak, or not taste cooked food, or not to eat any fruit, or not to eat vegetables. This was his system in everything. He made himself master of one thing, and then started on another, and so on each year.” (The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks)
Very good advice on productivity from a most unexpected source! Master one thing at a time. Don’t move on to the next thing until you’ve mastered that one thing. Also, learn something new every year.
“Now Obadiah feared the Lord greatly, and when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the Lord, Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave and fed them with bread and water.” (1 Kings 18)
Obadiah seems to be one of the great forgotten people in the Bible. He is virtually unknown compared to David, Moses, etc. But he’s not a nobody. What he did was not only praiseworthy; it was truly remarkable. At the risk of losing his life had he been caught, he saved a hundred of God’s prophets and fed them. What he did was both loving and courageous. And the key to it all was because he feared the Lord greatly. Others during his time probably feared the Lord too; but his reverence for God was greater than theirs, for he feared the Lord GREATLY. Great acts of love and courage require great fear and reverence for the Lord.
How much do we fear the Lord? Do we dare to do great things for him and his people?
Lord, help me to fear you greatly so that I may love and serve your people greatly. Amen.