He Leads Us

He leads us on by paths we did not know;
Upward He leads us, though our steps be slow,
Though oft we faint and falter on the way,
Though storms and darkness oft obscure the day;
Yet when the clouds are gone,
We know He leads us on.

He leads us on through all the unquiet years;
Past all our dreamland hopes, and doubts and fears,
He guides our steps, through all the tangled maze
Of losses, sorrows, and o’erclouded days;
We know His will is done;
And still He leads us on.

(Nicolaus L. von Zinzendorf)

Prayer For Today

For a road more smooth and wide
I do not ask today,
But for more strength to walk
The rugged narrow way.

 I ask not that a greater store
Of talents or wealth be sent
But for clearer vision how to use
The gifts already lent.

Not for a life of joy and ease,
Void of all care and sorrow,
But for grace to bear my load today,
And courage for tomorrow.

(Stella Wenger Good)

 

Dying to Self

And he (Jesus) said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23, ESV)

 

From an unknown author:

When you are forgotten or neglected or purposely set at naught, and you sting and hurt with the insult or the oversight, but your heart is happy being counted worthy to suffer for Christ – that is Dying to Self.

 When your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed, your advice is disregarded, your opinions ridiculed and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart, or even defend yourself, but take it all in patient loving silence – that is Dying to Self.

When you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder, any irregularity, or any annoyance, when you can stand face to face with waste, folly, extravagance, spiritual insensibility, and endure it as Jesus endured it – that is Dying to Self.

When you are content with any food, any offering, any raiment, any climate, any society, any attitude, any interruption by the will of God – that is Dying to Self.

When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation, or to record your own good works, or itch after commendation, when you can truly love to be unknown – that is Dying to Self.

When you see your brother prosper and have his needs met and can honestly rejoice with him in spirit and feel no envy nor question God, while your own needs are far greater and in desperate circumstances – that is Dying to Self.

When you can receive correction and reproof from one of less stature than yourself, can submit inwardly as well as outwardly, finding no rebellion or resentment rising up within your heart – that is Dying to Self.

 

You Are a Slave

We live in a culture that values freedom.  I once heard a lecturer say that the ultimate definition of success is self-expression.  He told his audience that they were in control of their own lives and therefore they should pursue what they wish.  That idea sharply opposes Scriptural teaching.  The following verses teach that we are all slaves.  The question is not, “Are you a slave?”  Rather, the question is, “Are you a slave to sin or to Christ?”

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:31–36, ESV)

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:16–23, ESV)

Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” (1 Peter 2:16, ESV)

They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.” (2 Peter 2:19, ESV)

In this poem I seek to capture the teaching of those verses.  It can be sung to the tune of Frances R. Havergal’s familiar hymn “Take My Life, And Let It Be” (that tune was written by Henri A. C. Malan).

Living, acting, like we’re free,
Living, looking out for me,
Being free, we’re slaves of sin,
Enslaved by what rules within,
Enslaved by what rules within.

As we serve Christ we are free,
We are free through slavery.
Christ in love has made a way,
If we will his word obey,
If we will his word obey.

Enslaved by who we obey,
Who do we live for today?
Slaves of sin find poverty,
Slaves of Christ find victory,
Slaves of Christ find victory.

A Wanted Poster from Jesus

Wanted

People who are willing to say “no” to self and “yes” to God.  Involves a denial of self, cross-bearing, and a daily commitment to following your Master in life.  Will train.  For more information make Jesus Christ the Lord of every aspect of your life.

(Based on the words of Jesus Christ in Luke 9:23-26)

What are you training for?

We are all familiar with the sight of a jogger running down the road.  Isn’t that such a wonderful sight?  The guy is sweating and panting.  Maybe his tongue is even hanging out.  Perhaps some of you have been that jogger.  I have occasionally been that guy myself.  I do not want to offend anybody, but that tired jogger makes a good illustration for this article.

People get up early to go jogging, or stay up late to work out at the gym, or pedal their bikes up ridiculous hills.  What are those people trying to accomplish?  They are trying to get in shape, or stay in shape, or train for something.  But what is the point?

Paul had something to say about physical training in 1 Timothy 4:7-8, which says “Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths.  Rather, train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (ESV).

These days there is a significant emphasis placed on keeping physically fit.  Paul does not say that physical training has no value, but he does seem to be aware of the temporary aspect of physical fitness.  These verses prompt me to think about Olympic athletes.  An Olympic athlete might train for years just to be able to compete in a single event.  They might win a gold medal, but quite likely they will not.  Many athletes will only have one shot at a gold medal.

Even if they do win a medal or a trophy, what is the point?  They will get their name written down in the record book and the trophy will then proceed to collect dust.  In this passage Paul argues from the lesser to the greater by acknowledging that although there is some benefit in bodily exercise, there is more benefit in godliness.  Athletes disciplined themselves through careful diet and energetic exercise to prepare for the Greek races. Even if the athlete won the race, the benefit was temporary.

In contrast, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.  Though bodily exercise may benefit the athlete a little today, godliness has a lasting benefit for life in the present and also in the age to come.  Paul is not saying that physical exercise should be neglected, but he is stressing to Timothy the importance of spiritual exercise.  We need to keep in mind that godliness is of benefit in both this life and the life to come.  Some of the benefits of godliness in this life include the peace and joy that a relationship with God brings.

The eternal benefits of godliness should be obvious – the opportunity to spend eternity with our Savior Jesus Christ.  Paul told Timothy to train for godliness like an athlete trains for his sport.  Serious athletes work on their game every day.  Do we have that level of commitment to spiritual training?  Just as athletes have to refuse certain things, eat the right food, and do the right exercises, so a Christian should practice “spiritual exercise.” If a Christian puts as much energy and discipline into his spiritual life as an athlete does into his game, he will reap the benefits of growing in godliness.

Godliness is a comprehensive word for obedience to the Gospel in all areas of life.  Spiritual training must be daily.  It has been said that the problem with life is that it is so daily.  To accomplish any form of training you must make the right choices every day.  Like physical exercise, holy living requires daily discipline; the believer must commit himself to a regular workout in God’s gym.  Spiritual training is a workout – it does require effort.  Ignatius of Loyola understood that point; his classic devotional manual is entitled Spiritual Exercises.

What are the spiritual exercises we must do to grow in godliness?  Prayer, fasting, Bible study, meditation, self-examination, fellowship, service, sacrifice, submission to the will of God, witness—all of these can assist us, through the Spirit, in becoming more godly people.

I see three reasons why spiritual training is superior to physical training.  First, spiritual training has eternal benefits.  Second, spiritual training guarantees a gold medal (a life of faithfulness to God will allow you to enter Heaven).  And third, you never pass your spiritual prime.  All athletes reach their prime.  It is during that time that they can jump the highest, run the fastest, hit the farthest, or whatever.  After that point they decline.  As Christians, we do not need to decline spiritually.  There is a limit to the extent a person can grow in physical strength, but there is no limit to how much you can grow in spiritual strength.  An eighty-five year old may be getting physically weaker every day, but they can continue to grow spiritually.

In summary, we have seen that bodily exercise is limited to this world.  However, godliness has to do with the essence of faith and one’s response to the living God, and therefore godliness affects both the present and future life.  Growing in godliness is hard work, but a commitment to spiritual growth is the only way to ensure your spiritual survival.