The Power and Importance of Practice

The following is excerpted from The Divine Mentor, by Wayne Cordeiro. It is a powerful lesson for Bible readers.

Lawrence_Alma-Tadema,_Portret_Ignacego_Jana_Paderewskiego_(1860-1941)
A portrait of Ignace jan Paderewski, by painter Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1890

Concert pianists . . . no matter the status the artist might have, he will always do one certain activity every day.

One thing . . . scales.

Major scales, minor scales, the Aeolian scale, the Locrian. Why?

Ignace Jan Paderewski was a renowned Polish pianist who lived in the first half of the twentieth century. When his government requested that he play concerts in order to raise money, Paderewski, a patriot and willing citizen, replied: ‘I will be part of the war effort under one condition. You must allow me every day to continue playing scales, three hours a day. . . .’

They didn’t hesitate to accept his offer.

Why would someone of Paderewski’s enormous talent insist on playing scales for three hours daily? He had a ready answer. 

‘If I skip one day of scales,’ he explained, ‘when I play in concert, I notice it. If I skip two days of scales, my coach will notice. And if I skip three days of scales, the world will notice.’

Bible reading and meditation on the word of God is similar for the Christian life. Skip a day, and you will be weaker spiritually, skip another day and those with spiritual discernment, might begin to notice the effects on your spirit and demeanor. Skip three days and everyone begins to feel the effects of your lack of spiritual preparation for the challenges of the day.

But the more we practice the art of biblical meditation on the word of God, the more we grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 3:18), the more and better we present Christ to the world and the more joy we experience in our lives.

Let’s not hesitate to “play our scales”. Let’s make sure daily, just like breakfast, we feast on the word of God that we might draw near to the Word made flesh.

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism

Since at least 2003, this term “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” has been around as an apt description of the thing that most in our culture would call Christianity but that the Jesus and the Apostles wouldn’t recognize. 

The Benedict Option“Sociologist Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton examined the relgious and spiritual lives of American teenagers from a wide variety of backgrounds. What they found was that in most cases, teenagers adhered to a mushy pseudoreligion the researchers deemed Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD).

       MTD has five basic tenets:

  • A God exits who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth.
  • God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
  • The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
  • God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when he is needed to resolve a problem.
  • Good people go to heaven when they die.

This creed, they found is especially prominent among Catholic and Mainline Protestant teenagers. [Editorial comment: No surprise there.] Evangelical teenagers fared measurably better but were still far from historic biblical orthodoxy [Italics emphasis added]. Smith and Denton claimed the MTD is colonzing existing Christian churches, destroying biblical Christianity from within, and replacing it with a pseudo-Christianity that is ‘only tenuously connected to the actual historical Christian religion.'”

—Rod Dreher
The Benedict Option, p. 10

The Church in America is adept at running programs and events but it simply isn’t making disciples of Jesus. We aren’t making real progress in raising up a new generation to praise His name. 

Six things we must change immediately?

  1. Start teaching doctrine (Acts 16:4).
  2. Get serious about discipleship (Luke (9:57-62).
  3. Stop giving lip service to daily Bible reading (Joshua 1:8, Deut. 17:18-20, Mt. 4:4).
  4. Get out of our buildings and love people with the truth (Mt. 28:18-20).
  5. Start praying with fervor for workers to be sent into the harvest (Luke 10:2).
  6. Start living passionately for and like Jesus (Phil. 3:13-14).

 

Goodbye Illinois

Saturday Afternoon Musings

I heard a marvelous message from Psalm 32 from my friend John Crooker, serving as the Interim Pastor at Trinity Church about a month or two ago when I visit Trinity Church. It is always a joy to hear the word of God poured through a godly man’s heart, with a love and desire to serve the people of God. And it is exciting to see a congregation listening, open, and responsive to his labor.

I covet that experience for every congregation and every pastor in America. 

So, as Stephnie and I complete the process of packing and accepting and getting settled in our new call to a new church, we also begin the process of saying goodbye to so many friends in Watseka but also to our friends and children in the Chicagoland area, our hearts are full and our hopes are deep that those we know would love Jesus with their whole heart and follow him.

The day after Easter we are scheduled to close on a house in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Over the month of May, we will be moving things out of storage and into our new home, getting to meet our new neighbors and making room in our hearts for new friends. But we won’t forget you. We miss and love you all and look forward to seeing you again soon, maybe when you come to visit!

With the apostle Paul, we say,

“Rejoice always,
pray without ceasing,
give thanks in all things;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

—1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

When Fear Threatens to Undo

FearI suppose every pastor has a certain number of “fear-dominated” parishioners. I’m thankful that in my current church there seems to be very few but I know the malady can be debilitating and destructive to gospel living. Christians ought not to be dominated by fear but by hope–an overwhelming hope, no matter what is or isn’t going on around us. 

Christian hope is not dependent on circumstances but on the truth of a resurrected Lord who promises to never leave us, never forsake us, who is preparing a place for us, and coming back for us that we may ever be with Him who is love personified and powerful and sovereign over every situation.

“Fear is not a Christian habit of mind,” as
author Marilynne Robinson put it.

And she is right. 

Or at least, she should be right, but increasingly some Christians, some Christian leaders have been spinning out fear for the flock of America. That ought not to be. We are a people of hope. We are a people of joy. And we should, we must, cultivate those two character traits every day.

“There is no fear in love;  but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loves us.”
                                                                               .(1 John 4:18-19)

“For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have recieved a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!'”
…..                                                                         (Romans 8:15)

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and discipline.”
…….                                                                      (2 Timothy 1:7)

Jesus is alive. Death has no sting. Our debt has been paid. We will live with the greatest lover in the Universe for all of time. With the apostle Paul, preach the gospel to your own soul every day and “Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I say, Rejoice. Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:4-5)

Don’t forget that.

Schindler’s List and the Sanctity of Life

schindlers-list-2

The following is excerpted from THE MEDIAN, volume 23 / #4 (Fall 2016). The Median is the monthly newsletter of MasterMedia International started by Dr. Larry Poland. master Media ministers to the media elite in Hollywood and New York seeking to bring a Christ-like witness to the powerbrokers of Radio, Television, and Film.

Larry was the pastor of Trinity Evangelical Free Church in Redlands, California and dedicated our two oldest children. He is also the pastor I sought out to co-teach a class on preaching with me, the first year that the seminary asked me if I would take over the Preaching I class. I have many great memories of my time in California and working with the College and Career class (Light Company) at Trinity EFCA is among them.

Just in time for Sanctity of Life Sunday, my wife, still waiting for our house to sell in Illinois, sent some mail that included the Median. Here’s the article that caught my attention:

schindlers-list-1On Screen Inspiration . . .

In a climactic scene at the close of the film, Schindler’s List, Oskar Schindler prepares to flee from the Allies after the Nazis are defeated. [Later] The Jewish survivors he has saved want to express to Schindler that by saving them, he has saved humanity. They give Schindler a ring made from their gold fillings, engraved with a quotation from the Talmud . . . “Whoever saves one life saves the world entire.”

Oskar Schindler: I could have got more. I could have got more, I don’t know. If I just  . . . I could have got more.

Itzhak Stern: Oskar, there are 1,100 people who are alive because of you. Look at them.

Oskar Schindler: If I had made more money. I threw away so much money. [laughs, then gets teary-eyed] You have no idea. If I just . . .

Itzhak Stern: There will ge generations because of you.

Oskar Schindler: I didn’t do enough.

Itzhak Stern: You did so much.

Oskar Schindler: This car. Goeth would have bought this car. Why did I keep the car? Ten people right there. Ten people. Ten more people. This pin . . . two people. This is gold. Two people. He would have given me two more, at least one. One more person. A person, Stern, for this. [starts crying] I could have got one more person, and I didn’t! I — I — I didn’t!

This scene inspires deep introspection . . . one reflective response might be, “As I near the end of my life, will my heart be at peace with the assurance that I have given my all for the cause of Christ? Or will my heart be troubled with regret . . . “I could’ve done more!”

I wonder what our generation will say when we look back over the last 45 years of the abortion horror in our nation. Will we have the same regrets that Schindler had? Will we do more to rescue the perishing?

A Promise of Light

A Christmas Meditation

me at Christmas

The Bible opens with the magnificent words, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” 

Majestic.

There is nothing but God and God creates all that is seen and unseen.

Eventually, He creates “Friday’s Child”–man.

Man walks with God in a garden and world designed for him by a loving potter. There is sweet fellowship between man and God, between creature and Creator. 

Creator and image-bearer. Harmony.

But it doesn’t last.

Man chooses his own independent way. Sin and corruption enter the perfection of everything that God had declared good.

And the image of God in man, is broken.

But the loving God, the One whose love is described as a “lovingkindness” goes on a search and rescue mission to redeem His fallen creation.

A promise is made to a man called Abraham, “… in you, all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3b; 22:18).

And the story begins to unfold.

It is not an easy story.

Sin complicates everything.

Disobedience complicates every life.

The whole Old Testament is in many ways a story of tragedy, woe, corruption, idolatry, unfaithfulness, arrogance, and darkness punctuated by a few short flickers of light.

And yet, the God of the promise remains true.

Darkness increases.

400 years of silence from God between the last writing prophet and the coming of Messiah. A wilderness wandering of His people ten times longer than the Exodus from Egypt.

Israel lays down by the waters of Babylon and weeps (Psalm 137:1) The hymn writer captures the broken and longing heart for God’s redemption.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel.
That mourns in lowly exile here
Until the Son of God appear

All the families of the earth will be blessed through the one people of one small tribe, one family, one line, one man, one more-than-man, the One incarnate Son of God, sent to save His people from their sin (Matthew 1:21).

Then, “in the fullness of time” (Galatians 4:4) “God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law”.

John’s Gospel opens with New Testament light shining all the way back to Genesis and the creation story and illumining every future moment of time.

“In the beginning was the Word, and Word was with God and the Word was God” (John 1:1). The fulness of time has come. The Messiah walks the earth! 

The incarnate word.
The light.
The glory.
We beheld His glory (John 1:14).

God kept his promise. All the families of the earth are blessed in Him. 

Shout that out this Christmas.

It’s what Christmas was made for.

Spirit of the Living God, Break Me in Pieces

Holy Spirit 2

For all the “broken” people who know the reality of need:

“You see,” Dr. Iverson said, “If you are broken, you don’t have to ask to be used.  God delights to use broken people.  That’s the only way to be filled [with the Spirit] and it’s the only way to become useable.”

See this link for the article: Spirit of the Living God, Break Me in Pieces