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Sunday
Jul302017

Daily Readings - John 14:13-18

J.C. Ryle - Daily Readings
John 14:13-18

I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, that he may be with you forever. (John 14:16)

Our Lord says, 'I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter . . . even the spirit of truth.'

This is the first time that the Holy Ghost is mentioned as Christ's special gift to his people. Of course, we are not to suppose that he did not dwell in the hearts of the Old Testament saints.

No one ever served God acceptably, from Abel downwards, without the grace of the Holy Ghost. John the Baptist was 'filled' with him. But he was given with peculiar influence and power to believers when the New Testament dispensation came in and this is the special promise of the passage before us.

It can only mean that he shall come with more fulness, influence, grace, and manifestation than he did before.

Friday
Jul282017

How Can Faith Be made Strong?

Another great passage from J.I. Packer's 18 Words:

How can weak faith be made strong, and little faith become great? Not by looking within, to examine your faith; you cannot strengthen faith by introspection any more than you can promote growth in a plant by pulling up to inspect its roots. You strengthen your faith, rather, by looking hard at its objects -- the promises of God in Scripture; the unseen realities of God and your life with Him and your hope of glory; the living Christ Himself, once on the cross, now on the throne. 'Inwardly, we are being renewed day by day . . . we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal' (2 Cor. 4:16, 18 NIV).

At a time when I was struggling (and being overcome) with anxiety, I questioned my faith. Anxiety already left me feeling overwhelmed, but realizing how weak my faith was made things so much worse. I was tempted to over analyze the reasons why, looking back at mistakes. Someone told me to take comfort in "that moment" when I was converted. Surely that was the answer. It wasn't.

It was a slow process, but the answer was by looking to Christ. Some days, I read the word of God mechanically, mostly forgetting what I read. But I kept on. I had to remind myself daily, repeatedly, of God's promises and past faithfulness to me. And it was enough. I don't know as if I would say I have a "great" faith. There are still times when I demonstrate an appalling lack of it. But I do know what whatever faith I do have comes from God, the object of my faith.

Tuesday
Jul252017

I wanna talk about me!

I recently finished the book Being There, by Dave Furman. It's a book I would recommend to anyone. It really made me stop and think about how I relate to those who are suffering. And further, it made me stop and think how I relate to people, period. Specifically, it made me think of how often, in conversation, I turn the topic over to myself.

One of the things that doesn't help someone who is suffering is to give that person a long account of similar suffering we have experienced. It doesn't really help someone who has a life-shortening neuromuscular disease to share my stories of having had a broken ankle and understanding what it means to lose mobility. The truth is that the situations are not comparable, and even if they were, my goal in talking to my suffering friend is to love and serve him, not bring myself into the dynamic. There are situations where mutual experience is helpful, for example, when fellow mothers deal with issues. It helps me to know that other parents have had similar struggles. But even then, we must remember that it's not about us.

Many years ago, I was driving with my family through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and a funny song came over the radio. It was called "I Wanna Talk About Me!" I have often thought about how that describes us all at times. I don't want to be that person, and I am sure I have been more times than I want to know.

This past year, two of my closest friends have experienced suffering. One lost her son and the other was diagnosed with a serious illness. I want to be helpful to both friends. I'm always the person who wants to do something or say something to make it better. The fact is, I can't make it better. I just have to learn to be there. Hence, Dave Furman's book comes in handy in that pursuit.

It's difficult not to become self-involved. We are naturally inclined to do so. It's also the majority occupation of social media. I'm just as guilty, and I'm making a concerted effort to say less on Twitter and Facebook. I don't need to announce on Twitter that I #amwriting. If I want to write, I'll just do it. It isn't more real if I Tweet it. And there is no one waiting on my every move. There is no need to respond to every infuriating comment. There is no need to announce to the world my brokenness and grief over my sin or the tragdies of others. How much of what we say is simply a way to turn the conversation back to ourselves?

One of the ways we can fight this fascination with the miniutae of our lives is to cut back on social media or use tools to filter what we don't want to see. There are some people on Twitter I just don't want to listen to. Unfortunately, some of the people I do like to hear from re-tweet the comments of those whom I'd rather tune out. I can use the "mute" function to ensure that I can ignore those comments. Of course the goal is that I'm not irritated by the obnoxious words of other people, but I'm a work in progress, and sometimes, I just need to avoid temptation to think bad things.

I can also be quieter on Facebook. I don't have to like everything or comment on everything. And I can be the kind of person who doesn't keep beating a dead horse when the conversation has clearly devolved into something entirely unhelpful. I had to leave a Facebook discussion group because it seemed that too many discussions were like that. And some of the participants were just too aggressive. 

Talking less about ourselves gives us opportunity to be a good listener. I like good listeners. I trust them. I don't know as if I'd trust me because sometimes, I'm too prone to say too much. I want to fix that. I'd rather be the kind who lives with the principle that less is more.

Sunday
Jul232017

Daily Readings - John 14:1-6

J.C. Ryle - Daily Readings
John 14:1-6

I am the way, and the truth, and the life. (John 14:6)

Christ is 'the way' -- the way to heaven and peace with God. He is not only the guide and teacher and lawgiver, like Moses; he is himself the door, the ladder, and the road through whom we must draw near to God.

Christ is 'the truth' -- the whole substance of true religion which the mind of man requires. Christ is the whole truth and meets and satisfies every desire of the human mind. 

Christ is 'the life' -- the sinner's title to eternal life and pardon, the believer's root of spiritual life and holiness, the surety of the Christian's resurrection life. He that believeth on Christ hath everlasting life. The root of all life, for soul and for body, is Christ.

Forever let us grasp and hold fast these truths. To see Christ daily as the way, to believe Christ daily as he truth, to live on Christ daily as the life -- this is to be a well-informed, a thoroughly furnished, and an established Christian.

Friday
Jul212017

It's about the distortion

If you have not read J.I. Packer's 18 Words: The Most Important Words You Will Ever Know, do it. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, Packer is always worth reading. This book was first published in 1981 and it is as current now as it was then.

The chapter which discusses the word "devil" is excellent. As Christians we know about Satan, but as Packer rightly points out, there is often an imbalance. We are either so consumed with Satan that we forget Christ's victory at the cross, or we are so apathetic about Satan that we give him the victory. Packer points out that our wrong ideas about God will affect our ideas about Satan:

. . . if, with many, we should imagine God as every man's heavenly uncle, a person whose job (not always too well done)is to help us achieve our selfish desire for irresponsible fun and carefree comfort, we shall think of Satan as merely a cosmic sour-puss whose sole aim is to thwart our plans and spoil our pleasures. 

"Cosmic sour-puss." I like that. Packer's terms may not be frequently used today, or may seem tame compared to some of the earthier ways we may use to describe things, but I love it.

Further, Packer points out that Satan wants to distort truth. Often, it is better than outright perpetration of lies. Shades of error mixed in with shades of truth is an effective way to distract us.

Satan tries both to trap us into what is formally wrong and also to distort enough of what is formally right in our habits and actions to make it wrong in its effect. Thought without action, love without wisdom, love of truth with unrighteousness, conscientiousness with morbidity and despair, selectiveness in one's concern for what is true and right, are samples of this kind of distortion. If we watch against Satan at one point on the battlements of our living, he will try to break in at another, waiting for a moment when we feel secure and happy, and our defences are likely to be down. So it goes on, all day and every day

Understanding Satan is crucial to our life of faith. If we don't properly understand the threat, we will be complacent. Sometimes, Christians don't want to talk about evil, but what need is there for a Saviour if there is no sin or no Satan?