Monday, November 30, 2009

Thirty Minutes in Heaven?

There have been a lot of books in recent years written by people who say that they died, went to heaven, and then came back to life.  What is the Christian to think of such experiences?  Is there anything in Scripture to guide us in evaluating these claims?  Jesus made a statement, recorded in Luke 16:31, that bears directly on this subject.  He said, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”  Our Lord is clearly stating that if people will not believe the testimony of God’s word, they will not believe even if someone is resurrected from the dead.  Why do people read such books?  Will those who reject the Bible be convinced by them?  Think about this; tomorrow I will have more to say on this subject.  

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Crude Jokes are not a Laughing Matter

Ephesians 5:4 associates crude joking with moral filthiness. The context of that verse tells us that God will judge those who are immoral with their bodies and impure with their speech.  What does the overwhelming use of dirty humor tell us about our culture?  Ephesians 5:6 warns us not to be deceived, God’s wrath will come upon those who think nothing of using dirty jokes, who have no conscience about the damage such humor produces. Coarse jokes reveal an impure heart.  The heart of a person who laughs at filthy humor is a heart that laughs at the idea that God will judge such behavior.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Replace Crude Jokes with Thanksgiving

Ephesians 5:4 tells us that Christians should have nothing to do with crude joking.  We are to replace crude humor with thanksgiving to God. Praising God for the sweet experiences of His grace must replace laughter at dirty jokes.  That these two things are associated in this verse teaches us something very important.  Why do people use suggestive humor?  What do they get from the modern situation comedies?  They use such humor to enjoy themselves and just have a good time.  What unbelievers employ crude jokes for, Christians will find in giving thanks to God—the greatest enjoyment of life possible!  We thank God because we know that all the good things of life come from His hand.  The Christian does not have to pervert God’s blessings in impure ways to pursue happiness.  More tomorrow. 

Friday, November 27, 2009

Every Good Thing

When God takes away good things from His people, He means it for good.   Psalm 34:10 assures us that “Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.”  Does God actually mean no good thing?  Psalm 84:11 echoes this magnificent promise, “No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”  If those statements are really true, they are breathtaking!  If it were good for us to have a larger amount of money than we now possess, we would not lack it.  If those who love God do not have something that in itself appears to be good, for them it is not good.  Discerning Christians will value as priceless the spiritual blessings that God gives them through affliction.  They would not exchange these truly good things for the whole world.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Our Greatest Good

Another measure of what is good is the effect something has on our highest goal and our greatest good.  The Christian finds the greatest happiness in the enjoyment of  God.  The joy of the true believer does not consist in an abundance of earthly pleasures or possessions, but in having God’s favor and being near to Him by faith.  Anything that brings us closer to our Lord is good; anything that separates us from Him is evil.  Afflictions do not take anything from us that is essential to our happiness, rather they often help us by driving us closer to God.  The good of our present condition must be determined by its effect on the welfare of our eternal souls.  More tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Is Affliction Good?

In Psalm 119:71 David said that he considered affliction good because through it he had learned to follow God’s word. Happiness includes freedom from misery. Yet Scripture pronounces a person blessed (or happy) who suffers much misery in learning to obey the Lord. Whether we look upon adversity as good for us or not depends on what we consider good and evil. How are we to determine this? Good must not be determined by our limited understanding, but by the wisdom of God. Affliction must be viewed from God’s perspective. If a Christian is fully persuaded that the affliction God brings into his life is good, that person is prepared to go through any adversity not only with patience, but with a steady, joyful hope that greatly honors God.
More on this tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Faith in Adversity

The first and most important thing faith will do in times of affliction is simply cry out to God (Psalm 61:2).  Going to God in prayer with our troubles is an  acknowledgment that we believe He is genuinely concerned about everything that happens to us.  It reveals from whom we expect to find relief.  In the most overwhelming calamities that may befall a believer, faith still sees in God sufficient resources to meet every need.  Even in the sharpest afflictions, faith will not turn away from the Lord to seek relief in something else.  Faith will be content to wait upon God’s timing.  Steadfast faith in adversity proclaims to the world our unshakable conviction that help can be found only in the Lord.    

Monday, November 23, 2009

An Enlarged Heart

”I will run in the way of Your commandments when You enlarge my heart!” (Psalm 119:32)  Before we can diligently and willingly obey our Lord’s commands, He must first do a work in our hearts.  To keep His word, this blessing of an “enlarged heart” is necessary.  The Lord must change our hearts, increasing our desire to obey Him as well as giving us the power to do so. This verse in Psalm 119 expresses perfectly the thought of Philippians 2:12-13.  We are to “work out” our own salvation, knowing that God is working in our hearts to give us the desire and the ability to obey Him.  It is wonderful to see the amazing harmony of the Bible.  Whether in an Old Testament song celebrating God’s word or a New Testament letter to a specific church, the theology is the same. 

Sunday, November 22, 2009

God's Word and Great Peace

Jesus promised His disciples peace of heart (John 14:27).  We experience this peace when by faith our hearts are free from distracting cares and are set upon God.  One result is that we are not troubled by the loss of outward things. Psalm 119:165 says that those who love God’s word have great peace and such security in the faith that nothing can ever turn them away from God.  Loving God’s word has a powerful effect on our hearts. We will not question or doubt the goodness of what God is doing in our lives. In contratst, the pathetic peace that the world gives is very unstable, it rises or falls with changing circumstances. Paul wrote that the peace of God protects our hearts and minds from influences that turn us away from Him. Not only will we be kept from falling away, but God Himself, as the ultimate source of all peace, will be with us (Philippians 4:7,9).  

Saturday, November 21, 2009


There are many commands in the Bible that exhort us to love God above all things and all other people, even our dearest friends and family members.  There are also innumerable passages that instruct us to love others.  But we find no commands in Scripture that direct us to love ourselves.  The Bible assumes that self-love is an indelible part of our nature.  The only commands dealing with self-love are ones that direct us to restrain and moderate it.  Philippians 2:3 says that we should “do nothing from selfishness.”  The first demand Jesus requires of His disciples is self-denial.  The unrestrained preooccupation with self today is undoubtedly a root cause of much unhappiness.  The modern emphasis on self-esteem is a tragic old error in new language.    

Friday, November 20, 2009

What Jesus Prayed For

John 17 records the last magnificent prayer Jesus offered up to the Father before His death.  Our Lord prayed for His immediate disciples and all those who would come to believe in Him.  He did not pray that His people would have wealth, prosperity, or status.  He could have prayed for those things.  What Jesus did ask of the Father was that His followers be sanctified through the truth.  Why did our Lord specify this blessing? He knows what blessings are most needed by His people; He knows what will be the greatest benefit to us.   Only those who are sanctified can enjoy the full benefits of redemption.  To be sanctified is to be set apart and prepared for some holy use.  Only those who have experienced the powerful sanctifying work of God’s word will be prepared to faithfully serve Him in this world.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Danger of Prosperity

In Psalm 119:67, David wrote that when he enjoyed prosperity he strayed from the path of obedience, but after suffering affliction he kept God’s word.  Here we have the danger of prosperity and the necessity of affliction.  What did suffering do, that prosperity did not, to keep him faithful to God’s word?  When we wander from the truth, the course God takes is often to bring suffering into our lives.  Afflictions change us, making our hearts teachable and dependent on God.  They drive us to make better use of His word.    Although affliction is not pleasant, and can be very grievous, the effect of unbroken prosperity is often far worse.  Although prosperity is good in itself, we are so sinful by nature that it can be a deadly danger to us.  

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Christ's Yoke, Our Rest

In Matthew 11:29, Jesus tells us that we will find rest for our souls only when we take His yoke upon us.  A yoke implies both hard work and submission to the direction of another.  The wonderful peace our Lord offers us is discovered in the path of obedience to Him.  God’s commandments direct us to what will give us true happiness.  When we understand this, His commands are not a burden.  God commands nothing but what is for our good.  Many people have a tragically deformed notion of God’s commands, viewing them as nothing more than restrictions of their legitimate pleasures.  

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

God's Goodness to Us

Most of the addresses to God in Psalm 119 are prayers.  But in verse 65, David takes time to acknowledge the Lord’s goodness to him: “You have dealt well with Your servant.”  Here we have David’s account of God’s providence over the course of his life.  As he considers the many blessings he had received, He says that God had always been good to him.  Even in the many hardships and trials he had experienced, God’s mercy was always in evidence.  The Lord is good to all His servants.  Dear Christian, if you do not believe that God has dealt well with you, you are blind to the innumerable mercies that have paved your way in life.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Heart to Obey

Thomas Manton wrote that three things powerfully work in a Christian's heart to motivate obedience to God.  All three involve faith on our part. 
1) Paul says that "the love of God controls us."  Knowing God's love motivates the believer's heart as nothing else can (2 Corinthians 5:14).   We understand His love by faith, and return our love to Him by doing what He commands.
2) The power to obey is not is us; it must be given by God's grace, and received by faith.
3) We must know what our obedience accomplishes.  By faith we understand that we were created to glorify God.  In fulfilling the purpose of our creation, we not only honor God by obeying Him, but we enjoy the greatest satisfaction anyone is capable of experiencing in this life. 

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Psychology of the Bible

The human heart is a 400 horsepower muscle-car of desires, willing to run over anything that gets in the way of fulfilling its desires.  Paul wrote that there was a “law” within him that was on the warpath against his purpose to obey God.  Peter identifies this antagonist as our own “fleshly lusts that wage war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11).  Ever since Sigmund Freud, psychology has offered us all kinds of theories to explain human behavior.  The most accurate assessment of why we do what we do is found in the Bible.  The most penetrating analysis I have ever read on this subject is in Thomas Manton’s book on the Epistle of James.  He wrote it in the 17th century, and I have never read anything more brilliant.  He opened up the meaning of several passages in the Bible with an insight I have rarely encountered.  For more on this important subject, hear my podcast called The Law of the Soul at  

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Desire Factory

We all run on high-octane desires.  And our tank is never full.  It is always running on empty, always wanting more.  John Piper, whom I regard as the best teacher of this generation, has rightly called the human heart a “desire factory.” Check out his Desiring God website. All of his wonderful sermons, going back over twenty years, are available without cost.  Our desire factory never shuts down, it operates seven days a week. This is the source of sin.  We are not victims of what other people, particularly our parents, have done to us in the past.  Modern psychology is responsible for that incorrect notion.  Our problem is the sin in our hearts right now, not in anything in our past experience.  We are to deal with the past by “forgetting what lies behind” (Philippians 3:13).  Our daily battle is with the indwelling sin that is present with us right now.  We have no greater enemy than our own nature.     

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Law of the soul

The soul of man is mainly made up of desires; like a sponge it is always thirsting, seeking something to fill itself.  In Ephesians 2:3, Paul says that we all were indulging "the desires of the flesh and of the mind."  These desires are the spring of all of our actions.  In Romans 7:23, Paul writes about a "law" within him that is waging war for total domination.  The law of the land is the U.S. constitution.  The law of the human soul is desire.  Desires rule.  Desires carry the biggest stick and are not silent.  Ever since the fall our natural inclinations have been corrupted to oppose God and His law.  I will have more to say on this subject.  

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Difference in Love

There is a difference between the love God has for His people, and the love they have for Him.  God's love is one of bounty, ours is a love of duty.  God is completely free from misery and happy in Himself.  He does not need us.  His love for us is a love that freely gives and pours out upon us blessing after blessing.  In contrast, we are dependent upon Him for everything.  Our love responds to God by looking to Him for all that we need and doing what He requires in willing and cheerful service.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dangerous Love

In 1 John 2:15-16, John warns us of the danger of loving the world more than God.  It is very remarkable that when John sums up the things of the world that are opposite to love for God, he does not name any objects or specific activities, but names our lusts.  We are so quick to make up lists of objects and activities that we consider sinful.  But the fault lies with “the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh,” and the lust for praise.  The things created by God are not in themselves evil. The fault is in our lusts.  When we desire anything more than God, that desire becomes a source of many dangerous temptations.      

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Changing Our Desires

The Lord works in our lives mainly by changing our desires, not by changing our circumstances. If we understood things as God does, we would agree that His way is best for us. Our desires reveal the condition of our hearts.  In the midst of affliction our hearts can easily be deceived into thinking that the only way to contentment is the removal of the affliction.  God does give us relief at times by removing the source of our suffering,  but more often, He works to bless us in a more profound and lasting way.  If God gave you every desirable thing on earth, it would not be enough to satisfy you!  The human heart must have God Himself.  The Lord gives us new desires; He gives us desires for new things.  He gives us Himself.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Commands and Happiness

God created people to pursue true happiness.  Everyone by nature desires happiness.  The Lord has not only created us with this driving passion, He has appointed the means by which it can be attained.  God has given us commands to direct us to what gives Him glory and at the same time makes us happy.  Obedience to God is the only way to satisfy the human heart.  We never come to know ourselves until we consider why we were born into this world.  We will find what we desire most only in enjoying God, and in seeking happiness in Him we safeguard our eternal salvation from the idolatries of the world.   

Sunday, November 8, 2009

One Benefit of Prayer

Prayer itself is of great benefit to us, apart from whatever blessings God bestows in answer to our prayers.  David begins many of his psalms in great distress, crying out to God for mercy.  By the end, he is expressing a revived sense of trust in God by pouring out his heart in praise and thanksgiving.  Throughout the course of these psalms (e.g., Psalm 7, 10, 13, 28, 69) we can track the change taking place in David’s heart.  Through the act of prayer we see his fear and distress being transformed to courage and trust.  Sorrow gives way to joy.  The change is often profound, as if someone had come and told David that his troubles were completely gone.   Prayer is ordained by God to be a great relief as well as a source of blessing. 

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Commit everything to God

In Psalm 119:26 we see that God answers those who pray to Him, making known all their concerns, hopes, fears, and sorrows.  Why does the Lord desire that we unburden ourselves to Him, telling Him all that is happening to us?  He knows all things.  He knows us better than we know ourselves.  It is not for His benefit, but for ours.  It helps us to believe that God is concerned about our every desire and need.  It is an acknowledgment of His sovereignty, committing everything in our lives to the direction of His providence.  Acquainting the Lord with all our desires in prayer is an act of faith and dependence that pleases Him and blesses us.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Grace Changes People

Grace is God’s unmerited favor. It is God’s working in our lives. Grace changes us. You cannot experience grace in your heart without something happening. Conversion is manifested by change, profound change in thought and behavior. “By their fruits you shall know them.” Grace makes you different from what you were before. Can it be possible that the impact of almighty God on a person in salvation leaves no evidence of its reality? Can it be imagined that the Lord should put His hand to any work, and leave no signature upon that work?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Authority of God's Word

The word of God, when preached by Christ Himself in person, came upon peoples’ hearts with self-evidencing power: “He taught them as one having authority, and not as the Scribes” (Matthew 7:29).  Those who heard Jesus sensed the divine majesty in His speech, as when the officers were sent to arrest Him: “Never did any man speak like this man” (John 7:46).  The written word of God speaks with the same breathtaking authority to us today.  The voice could add nothing to it, and the writing can take nothing from it.  God will always look with favor on those who “tremble at His word”.  Thomas Manton, Psalm 119         

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Faith Gives Glory to God

Romans 4:20 tells us that Abraham gave glory to God by his strong faith.  He trusted God’s promise to him when the fulfillment of that promise appeared all but impossible.  The foundation of Abraham’s God-honoring faith was the conviction that the Lord was able to do whatever He had promised.  Faith worthy of imitation trusts in God’s sufficiency to accomplish things that are altogether impossible to anything but His sufficiency.  Concerning what God has promised, no difficulty that seems to make the fulfillment impossible should have any weight with us.  Strong faith will carry the one who believes above the consideration of all the obstacles that might lie in the way of the fulfillment of God’s word. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Quiet Heart

There is a world of difference between stoically enduring affliction by the strength of our own will and being content in sufferings by the grace of God.  It is not enough merely to not murmur in affliction, which is possible by those of a certain personality.  The Christian must seek to glorify God in suffering (1 Peter 4:16).  It is the sincere desire to honor God's name in suffering that brings true quietness of heart.  This is one great mark of the marvelous contentment that is possible only by God's grace.     

Monday, November 2, 2009

Subtracting Desires

Paul tell us that he had learned the secret of being content with a little or with a lot (Philippians 4:11-12).  Those who live for the things of this world know no way to be contented but by adding more possessions to what they already have.  A heart that is ruled by earthly desires seeks contentment in satisfying those desires.  In contrast, the Christian finds contentment, not by adding to what he has, but by subtracting from his desires.  A believer can learn to be content with few earthly possessions and in any circumstances.  Contentment does not come by adding to what you want, but by subtracting from your desires.  Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment 

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Commands, Promises, and Prayer

We often lose heart in discouragements because we do not look beyond ourselves.  God humbles us with much weakness to move us to pray.  What is hard to human nature is easy to God's Spirit.  God requires such obedience as is above our own strength, but not above the power of His grace.  When He commands anything beyond our ability, it is to bring us to our knees for grace.  Every command is also a promise that God will give the strength required to obey the command.  The Lord will pour out His grace in answer to prayer.  That is the unique dynamic of biblical Christianity.  Thomas Manton, The Epistle of James