Thursday, September 29, 2022

A Relevant Rundown: Some of the Best of Recent Reporting (Part 3)

* "Biden nears 100 executive orders estimated to cost taxpayers almost $1.5 trillion" ( Joe Schoffstall & Houston Keene, Fox News)

* "Joe Biden's 'beyond tone-deaf' inflation party" (Byron York, Washington Examiner)

* "Brace Yourself: Food Shortages Will Be a Reality in the West This Winter" (Stacey Lennox, PJ Media)

* "This Is Why Conservatives Can't Stand Paying for PBS" (Tim Graham, NewsBusters)

* "America Delira: We went mad because we easily could. And we could, not because we were poor and oppressed, but because we were rich and bored." (Victor Davis Hanson, American Greatness)

* "Why doctors aren't speaking out: Written by a doctor. Everyone should read this. We are headed for a perfect storm with escalating health needs and a shortage of doctors because of how we treat them." (Steve Kirsch)

* "Disney-owned cartoon features Antichrist daughter, mother who slept with Satan" (Kevin Haggerty, BPR)

A Relevant Rundown: Some of the Best of Recent Reporting (Part 2)

* "From Jussie Smollett to BYU, the media's history of peddling race hoaxes" (Joseph A. Wulfsohn, Fox News)

* "Unholy Alliance: In Chicago, the city’s largest children’s hospital has partnered with local school districts to promote radical gender theory." (Christopher F. Rufo, City Journal)

* "The World Wants No Part of Woke, but It’s Glad We Do" (Victor Davis Hanson, Daily Signal)

* "Stacey Abrams says 'no such thing' as 6-week fetal heartbeat: 'Manufactured sound'" (Timothy H.J. Nerozzi, Fox News)

* "The Bidenomics Sham Is Collapsing" (Editorial Board, Issues & Insights)

* "Germany is committing national suicide: An eco-obsessed elite has sacrificed energy and food security to the climate agenda." (Ralph Schoellhammer, spiked!)

* "Lawmakers blast Army soldier food stamp suggestion amid Biden’s student loan handout: 'Outrageous'" (Houston Keene, Fox News)

A Relevant Rundown: Some of the Best of Recent Reporting

* "FBI Agents Raid Home, Arrest Pro-Life Advocate in Front of Wife and Children" (Gillian Richards, Daily Signal)

* "Biden’s $420B student loan boondoggle is blatantly illegal — but progressives don’t care" (Andrew C. McCarthy, Fox News)

* "14 Things We Know About the Mysterious “Explosions” That Severely Damaged the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 Pipelines" (Michael Snyder, America First Report)

* "Dallas doctor dubbed 'medical terrorist' after caught tampering with IV bags" (Rebecca Rosenberg, Fox News)

* "Democrats need to stop urging political violence" (Karol Markowicz, New York Post)

* "Who Gets Hurt From High Gas and Diesel Prices? There’s More Harm Than You Think." (Daren Bakst & Rachael Wolpert, Daily Signal)

Monday, September 26, 2022

On Spiritual Disciplines (Session Two) -- "Purposeful Planning Produces"

Before the Christian disciple starts firing at the targets of spiritual discipline, he must be ready, and he must take careful aim.  Indeed, he needs to know just what his targets are!  And thus enters the indispensable matters of intentionality and planning. As the apostle Paul describes it in I Corinthians 9:26, he doesn’t run aimlessly; he doesn’t box as if he were beating mere air.  No, his passionate desire to pursue godliness moves him to organize his priorities and strategies to reach that goal. 

Taking the responsibility to plan is underscored in several of the proverbs.  “The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage” (Proverbs 21:5a); “Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established” (Proverbs 16:3); and “Without consultation, plans are frustrated but with many counselors they will succeed” (Proverbs 15:22).  Of course, those plans are always to be made with wisdom, in keeping with God’s overall will, and with earnest dependence on the Lord to work His purposes in (and beyond) our plans.  Such proverbs as 19:21, 16:6, and several others remind us of God’s overreaching control of our lives.  Nevertheless, we are also to make careful plans to pursue godliness.

The biblical metaphors are quite clear.  The athlete plans, the farmer plans, and so too do the king and commander.  And so must the disciple plan with a commitment to then follow through as God directs and empowers.

Let me share a personal illustration of how planning works. Every Christmas season Claire and I mix into the myriad of our Yuletide activities the making of New Year’s Resolutions.  Those resolutions are prayerful plans within several categories of our life and ministry: Bible reading, prayer, purposefulness in friendship, diet and exercise, correspondence, thanksgiving, reading, family, home projects, Vital Signs Ministries projects, church involvement, giving, and a few more.  But we’re not done with simply making resolutions; we also do quarterly evaluations of each one in order to grade our progress, to make adjustments, and to re-dedicate ourselves to the vows we’ve made to God and to each other.

Why try to be so organized?  Why be so thorough?  Well, it’s because we have learned the profound truth of the old adage, “If you aim at nothing, you’re sure to hit it!” But if one is more purposeful, more thorough, and more invested in making his whole life a faithful stewardship for his King, there will be greater success, consistency, and joy in one’s spiritual disciplines.  

Planning produces.

Of course, before one can take effective aim at spiritual disciplines, he must be ready to diligently pursue them. The believer in Christ must truly want to become a disciple. He or she must have an authentic desire to grow, to be better equipped, to be more effective in their spiritual pilgrimage.  There’s no use in planning disciplines if you’re not ready to live “all out” for God, if you’re not willing to be trained to win the race.

Are you going to hang on to encumbrances and entangling sins (Hebrews 12:1)?  Then you’ll not be a true disciple. Are you hoping to just do enough to “get by”?  Then you’re sure to drift backward rather than move forward.  Are you insistent on bearing the name of “disciple” while refusing to bear the responsibility to sacrifice, to on the armor of God and serve as Christ’s warrior, to bravely serve the cause of the Spirit rather than the desires of your flesh?  Then you will certainly remain as you are – a disciple in name only.  You’ll not be a loyal ambassador whose future includes the gracious (and glorious) rewards the King desires to bestow on His faithful servants.

So, how does one get ready?  Where does the inspiration come from to go deeper and further in one’s adventure with the Lord?  The answer, of course, is the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives as He enlightens, convicts, corrects, and draws us into the Word of God. That’s where our hearts will be quickened and our minds instructed regarding the “stuff” of spiritual disciplines.  And the Spirit will do that drawing through many means -- in our Bible reading and study, the hearing of a sermon, the reading of a book, the testimony of another brother and sister, a heady success, a terrible failure, and so on.  He is our Teacher Who opens to us the possibilities of growing in Christ.  But inspiration might also come from the example of a mentor, or the godly counsel we receive in answer to a problem, or “how to” instruction to what we know is a need in our lives.  

Oftentimes, it is a crisis that reveals our need for correction, for greater depth of purpose, for more intense effort.  For instance, there’s nothing like a doctor’s x-ray showing a spot on one’s lung to create a motivation for the discipline to stop smoking! But, of course, it’s always best to be motivated to change our attitudes, priorities, and habits towards holy standards before a crisis requires it.  So, let’s pay careful attention to being ready right now!

And being ready, let’s now take aim at spiritual disciplines.  And aiming necessitates choosing your targets and zeroing in your scope.  In other words, it’s time to make plans. The word translated as “plan” appears over 200 hundred times in Holy Scripture.  God was a planner.  Joseph and Moses and Joshua and Nehemiah and David and Daniel and Luke and Paul were planners.  And Jesus’ disciples, including you and me, are instructed throughout the New Testament and Old to plan.  Don’t beat the air.  Don’t be double-minded.  Count the cost.  Invest in heaven’s treasures.  Be wise as serpents. Don’t run aimlessly. And more.

So as you consider the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading, giving, prayer, service, Bible study, thanksgiving, fasting and feasting, memorization, meditation, and so on, take careful aim by considering your options, talking to mentors and fellow pilgrims, bringing your needs before God in prayer, and then begin with a view to evaluate and adapt as you go. In all areas, planning produces.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

On Spiritual Disciplines: The First Session

Are spiritual disciplines really that important to a successful Christian life? Whatever your opinions might be on that question, I encourage you to check out the series I start here on Vital Signs Blog today. It will be the first of 8 in which I give a summary view of the adult Sunday School class I'm presenting on this topic. Of course, I'd love to have you in the class...but this is the next best thing.

Spiritual Disciplines – Session One: “The Why of Spiritual Disciplines”


1) Spiritual disciplines are not particularly popular with modern Christians.  Some fear they represent a Pharisee-like attitude; that is, going through certain rules and rituals in order to earn God’s favor and perhaps also to show off their “holier than thou” status.  Yet other Christians are uncomfortable with the topic because they fear the influence of Eastern mysticism, believing that talk of spiritual disciplines smacks too much of an esoteric, ascetic, even extrasensory path to encounter God.

However, both of these fears are a far cry from the biblical case for spiritual disciplines.  Indeed, it’s the devil who wins (and we who lose) when we allow Satan’s lying propaganda to mislead us regarding those disciplines God clearly commands to believers. Indeed, as Baptist theologian Don Whitney puts it, “The spiritual disciplines are those practices found in Scripture that promote spiritual growth among believers…they are habits of devotion, habits of experimental Christianity.”  He continues, “Although God will grant Christlikeness to us when Jesus returns, until then He intends us to grow towards it.  We aren’t merely to wait for holiness, we’re to pursue it.”


2) Discipline according to my old dictionary is a) training that develops self-control, character, or orderliness b) treatment that corrects or tames.  And words from the thesaurus connected to discipline include training, cultivation, self-control, prepare, instruct, and correct.

But what’s the real deal about spiritual disciplines?  Well, as is apparent from the words themselves, discipline is simply the “stuff” of the true disciple.  It is the convictions, attitudes and lifestyle of the faithful disciple of Jesus.  Therefore, I sometimes describe spiritual disciplines as “Obedience: Purposefully and Consistently Applied.”  They are the ongoing practices of one who is seriously pursuing the Christian adventure, the one who takes “the longer view” and is investing his time, talents, and treasure in the life to come.


3) And therein lies the most common resistance of all regarding spiritual disciplines – not fear of being a Pharisee or a vegan yoga sitting in the lotus position in a far-off cave, but simply resistance to the effort, sacrifice, patience, humility, and perseverance necessary to purposefully pursue godliness.  Let’s face it, way too many Christians don’t want discipline.

We prefer an easy, instant, spontaneous, self-congratulatory approach to the Christian life.  Furthermore, many others avoid the matter of discipline because we have tried and failed too many times and so we live a life of timidity, compromise, and mediocrity instead of appealing to God’s grace for yet another start. But the Holy Spirit will stay ever with us, convicting us and calling us to the adventure of being a genuine disciple of Christ.  That call is for all of us.  And that call is for today.


4) There has, throughout the history of the Church, been an unfortunate confusion between the relationship between being and doing.  Some mistake the believer’s position in Christ (the gracious once-for-all forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ’s atoning death) with the demands of discipleship which the Lord presents to His adopted sons and daughters.  These are not contradictions.  They are complementary truths, both clearly biblical.  The repentant sinner who trusts in Christ is saved by grace through faith.  He is thus “born again,” an adopted child of the King of Kings who is guaranteed a forever home with Jesus in heaven.  

Nevertheless, that Christian is then enrolled in the adventurous pilgrimage which is discipleship – trained to live “all out” as an ambassador of the kingdom of God until he is called home.  That discipleship is also entered and conducted by grace through faith.  But the pilgrim is called to exercise his free will and exert genuine effort and sacrifice in order to grow in Christ and become a more complete, consistent representative of Jesus in this world.  “Being” a Christian thus necessarily incorporates “doing” one’s new life in Christ.


5) This basic truth can be most strikingly underscored by just a cursory review of the “doing” verbs which the Bible commands for the disciple.  Here are just a few – all of which assume the disciple’s free will and his responsibility to actively pursue godliness.  Practice, grow, obey, go, change, stand, occupy, train, set apart, build, invest, hold, abide, persevere, follow, avoid, fight, serve, lay up, love, give, pray, study, etc. Reading through these verbs – and there are many more – prove that every believer is responsible to perform the duties of discipleship.  

Spiritual growth is God’s work.  If one is a follower of Jesus, it’s an act of grace that transforms him.  But the fact that it’s the Holy Spirit Who is at work in the believer’s life doesn’t mean the Christian doesn’t play a part.  Certainly not. There are things the Bible requires he do in response to the Spirit’s leading to experience healthy growth.  This is what spiritual disciplines are all about.


6) To best illustrate these matters, take note of the following Bible passages which have inspired and assisted spiritual disciplines throughout Church history.  In these verses, you will see certain crucial themes repeated: effort, sacrifice, planning, goals, excellence, self-control, rewards, godliness, perseverance, and a focus on Jesus: 

I Timothy 4:6-11, I Corinthians 9:24-27, Hebrews 12:1-3. I Timothy 4:6-11


1 Timothy 4:6-11 

(6) “In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following. (7) But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; (8) for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (9) It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. (10) For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers. (11) Prescribe and teach these things.”



I Corinthians 9:24-27

(24) “ Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. (25) Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. (26) Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; (27) but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” 


Hebrews 12: 1-3

(1) “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, (2) fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (3) For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”


7) The curriculum?

In these next seven weeks we will be exploring the following spiritual disciplines:

Session 2: Purpose and Planning

Session 3: Bible Intake and Response

Session 4: Prayer

Session 5: Giving and Thanksgiving (and more)

Session 6: Self Denial, Perseverance, Patience

Session 7: Corporate Disciplines

Session 8: Review and Applications