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New Years Resolutions

A teacher once told me (with a certain glint in his eye), “We all agree that the Bible is the Word of God, the problem is what does it say?”. Whilst I can’t tell you the answer to that question, (though maybe your theological package is more tightly tied up than mine), I can tell you that I am frequently left aghast at my ignorance of what the Bible says. This was in fact highlighted for me as I, with great embarrassment, tried a quiz on the biblicalstudiesorg.uk blog (http://biblicalstudiesorguk.blogspot.com/2009/12/12-days-of-christmas-quiz-day-1.html). I know nothing and immediately resolved to read the Bible better in 2010.

Now this brings me to the point – possibly the number one resolution for Christians is, “I will read my Bible more,” or even better, “I shall read the Bible from cover to cover this year”. Yet such a task does seem to be notoriously difficult, one which we need some extra help in. For a few years I used the excellent NIVChronological Bible (available from various sources, such as http://www.amazon.co.uk/One-Year-Chronological-Bible-NIV-Bible/dp/1414314094/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262169028&sr=8-1) and found it excellent. But after the third reading I needed a fresh way of reading and so found some other sites which helped me adapt to the way I wanted to read whilst still ensuring a good daily does of the Scriptures.

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So here are a couple of sites which provide some good plans which might help you fulfil the goal of reading the Bible in a year in 2010:

http://bibleplan.org/
http://www.esv.org/biblereadingplans
http://www.youversion.com/reading-plans/all

I pray you will have the grit and determination to see the journey the whole way through, remember, we might occasionally miss a meal, but we don’t give up eating simply because of that. In the same way maybe you will fail here and there in your reading goal, don’t give up, restart and you will be amazed how blessed you feel at the end of 2010 when you have read the whole Bible in one year.

A Prayer for Fruitfulness

Reading: 2 Timothy 2:20–26; James 1:5–8

‘Lord make me that I may become…

‘Lord show me that I may become…

‘Lord give me that I may become…’

This threefold prayer contains, I believe, very important elements for growth. The first line of the prayer highlights the need for our own personal lives to be sorted out to free us for the demands of life and ministry God wants to use us in.

The second line follows on from that. This has to do with catching God’s vision for your life. It’s a chicken and egg situation sometimes. Some people never get God’s vision for their lives because they never seem to get into that fit-enough state in their own inward life where they can hear or receive God’s vision. Their continual lack of spiritual maturity seems to disable them from being led forward into any sense of purpose for their lives.

On the other hand, vision encourages self-discipline. I know that it is my vision for my life with God which maintains the stimulus for me to keep myself right with God. If I did not feel the demand of Gods call, I doubt if I could continue to be open and allow God to deal with me and make me fit for the vision.

I believe that if we can see what God wants to do with our lives we can also often see what needs to change in us for that to become a reality. This is a powerful incentive towards change. I know people very well who, if they had not had the stimulus of God’s call upon their lives coupled with a real desire to serve God in that way, might never have progressed through some of the personal challenges and difficulties they have had to face.

The third line of the prayer reminds us that we don’t need to be gifted in every way before we can be fruitful. Praise God that He can and will make up the deficiencies of our nature so that we can more purposefully pursue His will. James reminds us of that when he writes: If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him (James 1:5). We all need to make this prayer because it contains the secret of real fruitfulness. Fruitfulness is becoming what I am meant to be in Christ.

Fruitbearing

Reading: John 15:1–8; Luke 12:16–21

Fruitfulness is a necessary part of discipleship. In fact, it could be said that fruitfulness is the goal of discipleship. The outcome of growth in personal holiness and gift ought to be effectiveness for the sake of the Kingdom of God within our lives. Fruitfulness is also productive for our own development. Someone who is being continually productive will be healthy and motivated in their onward walk with God. Stagnation brings frustration and frustration leads back into a lack of fruitfulness.

The ancient picture of Jeremiah the prophet holds good today. It is those whose heart and hope are fixed in God who are fruitful and who know how to survive even under the most intense pressure of life:

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,

whose confidence is in him.

He will be like a tree planted by the water

that sends out its roots by the stream.

It does not fear when heat comes;

its leaves are always green.

It has no worries in a year of drought

and never fails to bear fruit.

Jeremiah 17:7,8


Fruitfulness is a major key of the New Testament. The Holy Spirit is given to us to bear within our lives fruit towards God. By our willingness or yieldedness we can enable Him or by our disobedience and stubbornness we can prevent Him. In the parable of the rich fool the Lord Jesus warns us against getting our priorities wrong and becoming rich towards ourselves rather than being rich towards God (see Luke12:21). God’s purpose for us is that our whole lives—that is, every part of our life—should be rich towards Him, bearing fruit for our benefit and His glory.

A fruitful spirit: ‘The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control’ (Galatians 5:22).

A fruitful mind: ‘Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things’ (Philippians 4:8).

Fruitful in deeds: ‘Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech’ (1 Peter 3:10).

Fruitful in gift: ‘Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms’ (1 Peter 4:10).

Fruitful in fellowship: ‘Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching’ (Hebrew 10:24, 25).

These scriptures are only samples of the many passages which speak of the need for fruitfulness in our lives as believers. Jesus said that it was ‘by their fruit you shall know them’. There are, I believe, some extremely important issues at stake here and they lie within areas where many Christians never find the answer. Many of the commonest reasons for lack of fruitfulness lie within areas which relate to our own personal lives and emotions. Unless we get our house in order in these areas the inner battles and fears will always dominate us and overwhelm whatever potential there might be for God.

Redeeming the Time

Reading: Ephesians 5:8–20

‘Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil’ (Ephesians 5:15, 16). Another translation urges us to ‘make the best use of the time’. This seems an awesome challenge to many people who have lived for years with little or no discipline at the heart of their lives. In fact, in my experience it is one of the most crucial lessons for those who want to serve the Lord most fruitfully to have to learn. Time is a precious gift and it is given on a non-repeatable basis. We should approach every day with a sense of awe and purpose. Here is a stretch of road that we will never pass over again. I am not suggesting that we develop a neurotic attitude towards our lives, but we need to become better stewards of the gift of time.

The old saying tells us that, ‘Procrastination is the thief of time, and it is true. Many of the items which become a bug-bear in our lives are those which are put off to another day. The other day has a habit of never arriving and we discover that we have collected a bad debt of unfulfilled business which sabotages our effectiveness. I find this to be particularly true with letters, which I don’t like writing.

In fact, this is another area where we need to take control in the power of God—namely, the area of likes and dislikes. Most people operate quite well in areas which they like but a real secret of fruitfulness is to learn to be effective in areas we don’t like. We can see the principle of ‘do it now’, being worked out in the men of faith in Scripture—Moses, for example, who must have been a very busy man. God laid one demand after another on his back. In Numbers chapter 1 Moses is told to conduct a census of all the children of Israel. Now there’s a job! What did he do? Notice in verse 1 that he is given the instruction or task on ‘the first day of the second month’. Notice the day on which Moses got on with the job according to verse 18: ‘they called the whole community together on the first day of the second month’. This is not a matter of running ahead of God, but it is a matter of expediting the Word of God when it is given instead of shelving it for when you feel more like obeying it.

The price must be paid

I have often been saddened by why so many Christians seem to wander around in a state of semi-forgiveness – they know what the Bible says about forgiveness and they say they have forgiven the (usually) people involved in their hurt – yet they have no release from the pain or guilt, no liberty in their spirit.

In my slowness as I read the article below I wondered about the root of the problem. Certainly it is not in the power of the blood of Jesus to forgive sins, but perhaps it is in their ability to ‘pay the price’ of forgiveness in themselves?

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Matthew 6:14-15

Dan Hamilton in his book, Forgiveness, explains it thus:

“If a careless friend breaks a lamp at my home, I will forgive him. That means I will not make him buy a new lamp. I have set him free from the penalty of sin. He is free to go because I say. “I release you from your debt. Go and leave your chains behind”

Forgiveness means to cancel, and the penalty is what we cancel. No one can make us take action against the offender. We cannot be forced to collect from someone who has destroyed our property. No law says that we must stop speaking to one who has slandered us. We are free in forgiveness to renew renewed relationships – as friends and co-workers and family and lovers.

But when the offender has walked away, rejoicing in freedom, we are not finished. We have dealt with the penalty, but the damage remains. There is still a price to be paid.

The lamp is still broken; our reputation is still ruined; there is still a loss to absorb in life. Who will pay for it? I cannot collect money for the lamp from a third party. If I did. I would not be canceling the penalty but merely transferring it to someone else. I have no choice. I must pay for it myself.

A lamp is easy to price and pay for. But what about damage that is intangible, unpriceable, irreparable? broken relationships? Ruined reputations? Shattered bodies?

http://www.reformationtheology.com/2009/11/what_is_forgiveness.php

Obscenity?

I became aware of this over a week ago – and spent a few minutes looking online at their justification for spending $130 million on buildings – I know I must waste money, I know I am not as sacrificial as I should be, I know God expects more of me – but I am horrified by this, surely someone has lost their marbles somehwere in all of it – and by the way when I watched their video I was surprised to hear what appeared to me such obvious abuse of scripture

FBC Dallas launches $130M Building Campaign

First Baptist Church Dallas launches $130M Build Campaign. So what does one get for $130 million dollars?

The Baptist Press article states, “…a new 3,000-seat, 90,000-square-foot sanctuary, a six-story education building and a parking garage with sky bridge. The project is designed to complement the revitalization initiative in downtown Dallas, which has included the recent opening of a new performing arts center and construction of a new convention center.
http://guymuse.blogspot.com/2009/11/fbc-dallas-launches-130m-building.html

Which way will you choose?

Anyone who heard Bob speak would probably be familiar with his quoting of John Oxenhams poem shown below. I guess as you read the question is obvious, which way will you choose today?


“To every man there openeth

A Way, and Ways, and a Way,

And the High Soul climbs the High Way,

And the Low Soul gropes the Low,

And in between on the misty flats,

The rest drift to and fro.

But to every man there openeth

A High Way and a Low,

And every man decideth

The Way his soul shall go.”

John Oxenham


Passivity of Spirit

[These notes are taken from an outline used by Bob Gordon and offer insight and instruction in how to resist becoming passive in our spirits and therefore succumbing to less than God has intended for us – in all of these posts we shall leave the orginal notes as much as possible in tact only adding to provide clarification where the notes alone seem insufficient  – Editor]
Being passive is defined in the dictionary as, “accepting or allowing what happens or what others do, without active response or resistance”
As the people of the Kingdom of God we are called to influence and impact society:
From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.
Matthew 11:12 (ESV)
Do not let the world squeeze you into its mould, but instead let yourself be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Romans 12:2 (J B Phillips)
There are three main sources of Passivity in the life of believers:
Unresisting
Submission
Inactive
a. The Effect of Other People on us – Prov. 4:23 – “guard your heart”
Deception – manipulation – Nee
Deference – fear – 2 Tim. 1:7
Domination – by stronger spirit
Dependency – on leadership / gift
b. The Weight of Circumstances  -distraction – other issues – spirits – tiredness
Discouragement – heaviness of heart
Determinism – badgered / family / make-up
Disability – sickness / bad feelings
c. The Realities of our own Inner Life – DISINCLINATION – laziness / unwillingness – sin
Dullness – soul  ? spirit
Docility – accept quiet personality / not me
* What is the reason for all our study / meetings etc?
d. The Attack of satan
– deception – liar – John 8:44
– attack – roaring lion – 1Peter 5:8
– oppression – Heb. 2:14
– spoiling – John 10:10
e. The Spirit of God
He is the antidote to passivity induced by all of the above. He brings:
Conviction
Renewal
Motivation
Direction

Perseverance

So I read the article below – and wondered – do most Christians ever want to become really good at something, anything, related to God and their faith? I write knowing that many profess a great desire to know their Bible, to love God more fully…yeah the list goes on – but where is the grit and determination, where is the perseverance, the giving every last drop of energy in your body, where is the passion?

There is an amazing verse in Hebrews 12:4:

In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.


So I know that I am preaching to the choir – I really dont care – I care about the reputation of my lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and the fact that my own (and those of may others who confess his name) fall woefully short of anything that might be described as ‘shedding blood’ in a bloody minded passion for him.

One of Churchill’s greatest speeches supposedly goes:

“Never give up. Never give up. Never, never, never.”

Sounds almost biblical doesn’t it?

Taken from Zen Habits, [http://zenhabits.net/2009/11/the-only-way-to-become-amazingly-great-at-something/]

The Only Way to Become Amazingly Great at Something

Find your passion, and then pour yourself into it.
“Only one who devotes himself to a cause with his whole strength and soul can be a true master. For this reason mastery demands all of a person.” – Albert Einstein

Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on Twitter.

Very often you’ll see blog posts or books teaching you to “master” a skill in only 10 days, or 3 days … in fact, it used to be 30 days but the time frame to master something seems to be shrinking rapidly.

I’ve even seen tutorials claiming to teach a skill in just a few hours. Pretty soon we’ll be demanding to know how to do something in seconds.

Instant mastery of skills and knowledge! Hey presto!

Unfortunately, the reality is something a little less magical. Or maybe that’s a fortunate thing.

There’s only one way to become good at something:

1. First, you must learn it by reading or listening to others who know how to do it, but most especially by doing.
2. Then do some more. At this point, you’ll start to understand it, but you’ll suck. This stage could take months.
3. Do some more. After a couple of years, you’ll get good at it.
4. Do some more. If you learn from mistakes, and aren’t afraid to make mistakes in the first place, you’ll go from good to great.

It takes anywhere from 6-10 years to get great at something, depending on how often and how much you do it. Some estimate that it takes 10,000 hours to master something, but I think it varies from person to person and depends on the skill and other factors.

Ever felt powerless?

Once more not my own work – but if you have ever had the joy of teaching you will at some time or other know something of the feeling of powerlessness this email describes

Teachers

NOMINEE FOR “EMAIL OF THE YEAR”!!!

After being interviewed by the school administration, the prospective teacher said:
‘Let me see if I’ve got this right. You want me to go into that room with all those kids, correct their disruptive behavior, observe them for signs of abuse, monitor their dress habits, censor their T-shirt messages, and instill in them a love for learning.

‘You want me to check their backpacks for weapons, wage war on drugs and sexually transmitted diseases, and raise their sense of self esteem and personal pride.

‘You want me to teach them patriotism and good citizenship, sportsmanship and fair play, and how to register to vote, balance a checkbook, and apply for a job.

‘You want me to check their heads for lice, recognize signs of antisocial behavior, and make sure that they all pass the final exams.

‘You also want me to provide them with an equal education regardless of their handicaps, and communicate regularly with their parents in English, Spanish or any other language, by letter, telephone, newsletter, and report card.

‘You want me to do all this with a piece of chalk, a blackboard, a bulletin board, a few books, a big smile, and a starting salary that qualifies me for food stamps.

‘You want me to do all this and then you tell me. . . I CAN’T PRAY?