Friday, November 30, 2012

Advent Reading Plan, Week 2 (Expanded)

Here's week 2 of our Advent Reading Plan with notes included.  The previous week was a time to remember our sinfulness.  That's always a good place to start, and so I did.  Now for this week we'll move to the promises and prophecies of the coming Messiah.

God had established the Mosaic Law for the people of Israel for sin to would become evident to them and they, in turn, would see their need for a Savior.  God didn't disappoint.  Many promises were given of a great Redeemer and mighty King.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What is the Gospel for?

Many times, to many of us, the Gospel is synonymous with evangelism.  We'd say, "Preach the Gospel so people can be saved!"  but in reality, that's a very shortsighted view of the Gospel.  It's not only has the power to save, but it's also the same power that changes us on a daily basis - sanctifies us, conforms us to the image of Christ.  I've heard John Piper say once before (loosely quoted): You don't get saved by the Gospel, and then go about becoming holy under your own power, or by some special plan.  You don't get saved, and then move on to the real meat.  We are to be dependent on it from conversion to death.  He references Paul's correction of the Galatians in Gal 3:3-5:
Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?
And so what we should be saying is, "Please, preach the Gospel, because my soul and spirit need it always!"  It is the reminder of God's glory and His work in us.)

Below is an excerpt from a post by Tim Challies on his blog where he discusses the same thing with better words.  You can read his entire post, titled "The Heart's Position", here.
I have written often of those authors and pastors who encourage Christians to preach the gospel to themselves every day. I see some of the value of doing this, though my practice of it is too sporadic. What such teachers want us to see is that the gospel is not merely the gateway to the Christian life, but the fuel of the Christian life. What they want us to understand is that the gospel is not simply defensive, the thing we turn to when we have sinned and are eager for some assurance of pardon. Rather, the gospel puts us on the offensive against sin and toward holiness. We ought to continually bring the gospel into our hearts and minds as a means of spurring ourselves to greater love for God which in turn generates a greater desire for obedience to him.
And here he explains how he "preaches the Gospel to himself": 
...As I turn to the Bible to read the predictions and prophecies of the coming Messiah, as I consider the narratives of Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection, as I ponder the epistles where all of these things are explained and illuminated, as I consider the day of Christ’s return, my love for God and my trust in him must necessarily increase and thrive. As my love swells, so will my desire to do those things that honor him and bring him glory.
...And what has he promised to do? He has promised to make me holy. He has promised to sanctify me, to help me put sin to death and to replace it with joyful obedience. He has promised that the Holy Spirit is operating within my life to bring me into closer conformity with Jesus Christ. He has promised that the very same power that has saved me is now sanctifying me. Now I have hope and confidence that this really is happening and that this really can happen. I really can put sin to death, I really can grow in holiness, I really can grow in Christ-like character and look more and more like the One who saved me.
I simply cannot trust that all of this is happening and that all of this will continue to happen if I have no ability to trust in what has already been accomplished. However, when I trust God for what he has done, now my heart is properly positioned to trust God for all that he has promised to do. And, therefore, the gospel must be my joy and meditation every day.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Advent Reading Plan, Week 1 (Expanded)

I've expanded the Advent Reading Plan to include the theme of the passage (or reason for choosing it), and some ideas on what to pray for afterwards.  Obviously, you do whatever you'd like, but if you need any help, it's there.  The themes may help you know what to look for as you read each day.  Also, on the first day I've added an idea for a song to sing after the reading that relates to the week.  The link is at the bottom of this post with the lyrics so you can sing along

Although advent doesn't technically start until next Sunday (Dec 2), Gabby and I have already started.  Since Christmas is on a Tuesday, it would leave the last week's reading very short.

Here's Week 1:

Friday, November 16, 2012

Music: Come Ye Sinners

Last night Gabby and I were fortunate to attend a Matthew Smith concert.  He is a founding member of the Indelible Grace Community (Music Project) that works on rearranging old Hymns to modern music.  The first song I posted on here, The Sands of Time are Sinking, is another song from this project.

Today I'm sharing a song that displays the grace and goodness of God, and His work on our behalf.  It's partially evangelistic, and partially worship.  It tells the sinner about God's salvation and grace available, encouraging them to come, but it also expresses it in such a way as to show His Glory.  It's a reminder of our dependence on the Savior.

The Hymn was originally written around 1750 by Joesph Hart.  The song in the video is the version by Matthew Smith. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

An Advent Scripture Reading Plan

(*Update: I changed the title of this post since it's not really a devotional, but a Scripture reading plan.)

According to Merriam-Webster:
1: the period beginning four Sundays before Christmas and observed by some Christians as a season of prayer and fasting
2 a: the coming of Christ at the Incarnation
   b: second coming (of Christ). 
To some, Advent is a foreign concept, or something done by the stuffy liturgical churches.  But I believe, if understood properly, it can become a helpful tool to prepare ourselves for the joy and glory of Christmas - the true meaning of Christmas.  That's a day for us to think on and rejoice in the first coming of Christ, providing salvation for mankind.  There's two purposes of Advent: to remind us of Christ's first coming in Bethlehem and also to look ahead to His second coming.  One thing that I think we miss in many Christmas celebrations is the watching and hoping for His second coming.  The story is not done yet.

So many times in the past, I've been absorbed in my daily life for the weeks and days leading up to Christmas.  We have to buy presents, plan family trips, get things done at work before taking off for vacation  etc.  Despite all the decorations, it's only on Dec 24 that I slow down enough to start thinking about the meaning of Christmas, but by that time, the Christmas I experience is only a shadow of what it could, or should be.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Poetry Corner: The Dark March of Time

Here's something I wrote recently.  I have written poetry in the past, though I wouldn't call myself a poet.  I enjoy writing it, but usually don't share them.  So I hope you feel special.

The Dark March of Time

My wrists are bound with shackles,
The Chains pull me forcefully forward,
In front and behind, my neighbors all walk.
I can hear their agonies, and pain and grief,
We plead for mercy, to end our despair.
Yet Time pulls us on and on.
"Why are you so cruel? Why so uncaring?"
"I am, It is, but great was your rebellion."
"But it was not me for the cause!"
"Not me who deserves such cruel injustice!"
But then in my heart I see a beat,
The rhythm, of that dreadful insurrection.
The thoughts of my mind rise up to self-exalt
and so convicts me to this march.
My eyes awaken and I see the view,
The land of torment awaiting.
But oh so gloriously, before that may come,
a man does stand to set us free.
He stands by the way, with judgment in hand
to save poor sinners like me.
Through much toil and great pain,
we go along our march, pressed on.
But there is a One who may set us free
Though our rebellion cost Him so much.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Radical Devotion

A radical devotion to the Lord will gain respect, when accompanied with grace and peace.

Of course there are exceptions around the world, but in our Western culture, this is generally the case.

Atleast that's some insight I've gleened from reading "The Gentle Boy," a short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne.  It's a work of historical fiction.

It centers around a young 6 year old boy who lives in Boston during the 1650's.  He and his family are Quakers, and have been in prison for that "offense".  In 1656, there was a very real event of 4 Quakers being executed for their faith at the hands of the ruling Puritan government.  The story is based on these deaths, with one of the men being this boy's father.  The boy's name is Ibrahim, and his birth mother, after being arrested, was "discarded" into the wilderness.