Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Spiritual Taste

Job 12:11 “Does not the ear try words and the mouth taste his meat?”

In the 1746 book “Treatise Concerning the Religious Affections”, written during the American Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards writes that the gracious leading of the Holy Spirit that indwells the Believer saved by Christ, instructs one in his duty and powerfully induces him to comply with that instruction. Such guidance is given by spiritual discernment and taste of that which has in it true moral beauty. This holy sensibility discerns and distinguishes between good and evil, and between holy and unholy without the need of any logical reading. He who has a true relish of external beauty knows what is beautiful by looking at it. He needs no train of reasoning to do so. Whoever has a taste for gourmet food does not need reasoning on order to know good food. Likewise, if an unworthy or unholy action is suggested to the spiritually discerning, a sanctified eye sees no beauty in it nor is pleased with it. Sanctified taste will only be nauseated by it. In this way, a holy person is led by the Spirit by having a holy taste and disposition of heart. Such a one judges what is “right” in the eyes of the Lord spontaneously without making any particular deductions or by having any arguments.

Romans 12:2 “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will. To have a sense of taste is to give things their real value and not to be dazzled with false lusters or be deceived in any way. Taste and judgment then are the same thing. And yet it is easy to discern the difference. The judgment forms its opinion from reflection whereas taste reacts immediately and anticipates all reflection. There is also spiritual taste which true Christians have to guide them and give them discernment by the Spirit of God. Where grace is strong and living, this holy disposition and spiritual taste will enable the soul to determine right and becoming actions. Real Christians know readily and exactly without further need of other abilities. For example, if a man is very good natured, he will treat others with kindness. His good nature will influence him on each occasion to behave in speech and action I a way that is consistent with true goodness and a very different quality of kindness than someone who has all the capacities but not a disposition of heart. He has a spirit within him that motivates him. He senses habitual attitudes that prompt him to act spontaneously. So spiritual disposition and godly taste teach and guide a man in his behavior in the world.

Ephesians 4:22-24 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”

So too will the spirit of love to God in holy fear and reverence towards Him and with filial confidence in God and a heavenly-mindedness, teach and guide a man in his behavior. But it is exceedingly difficult for an unrighteous man, who is destitute of Christian principles in his heart, to know how to behave like a Christian in all the life, beauty, and heavenly sweetness of such a holy and humble character. He does not know how to put on such garments, nor do they fit him. Spiritual taste greatly helps a soul in reasoning upon the Word of God and in judging the true meaning of its rules. It removes the prejudices of a depraved appetite and leads the thoughts naturally in the right way. It casts light on the Word of God and causes the true meaning most naturally to come to mind, because there is a harmony between the disposition and relish of a sanctified soul and the true meaning of the rules of God’s Word.

Romans 12: 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Have extraordinary spiritual taste. Bon Appetit, In Christ, Brian

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Philippians 4:4-6 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let you requests be made known to God.

As we pray, do we find ourselves simply thanking God for what He has done in our lives? Does God’s grace and mercy move us beyond thanksgiving to humble and earnest submission in undying allegiance and loyalty to His kingdom? Brother Lawrence wrote in “The Practice of the Presence of God” : Whatever we do, even if we are reading the Word or praying, we should stop for a few minutes, as often as possible, to praise God from the depths of our hearts, to enjoy Him there in secret. Since you believe that God is always with you, no matter what you may be doing, why shouldn’t you stop for a while to adore Him, to praise Him, to petition Him, to offer Him your heart, and to thank Him? We hear the familiar phase: “Count your blessings”, but do we take the time to thank the Blessor as much as we should?

Daniel 2:20-22 Daniel said, “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to Him. It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding. It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him.”

In prayer, we draw near to God, as we cry out to Him. A.W. Tozer explained in “The Pursuit of God” that to speak of being near to or far from God is to use language in a sense always understood when applied to ordinary human relationships. I talking of drawing nearer to God, is speaking of experience, meaning coming to know Him more intimately and with deeper understanding, that the barriers of thought and feeling between the two are disappearing, that our Heavenly Father and us are becoming more closely united in mind and heart. We are not thinking of nearness of place, but of nearness of relationships. It is for increasing degrees of awareness that we pray, for a more perfect consciousness of the Devine Presence in our daily lives. The fact of God and His loving-kindness towards us is a fact. May in our prayers, we give Him thanks for His presence and blessings.

Psalm 118:1 & 4-8 “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His loving-kindness is everlasting. Oh let those who fear the Lord say, ‘His loving-kindness is everlasting., From my distress I called upon the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me in a large place. The lord is for me; I will not fear; what can man do to me? The Lord is for me among those who help me; therefore I will look with satisfaction on those who hate me. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.”

A classic prayer goes: Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we your unworthy servants do give you most humble and hearty thanks for all your goodness and loving-kindness to us, and to all men. We bless you for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all, for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we beseech you, give us that that due sense of all your mercies, that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful, and that we show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but with our lives; by giving up ourselves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with you and the Holy Ghost be honor and glory, world without end. Amen

In Christ, Brian.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Elements of Prayer

Luke 11:1-2 Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” Jesus said, “This is how you should pray: …”

As our Small Group dove into the study of Prayer, we established in our understanding that prayer is a conversation with our heavenly Father, where we can be open and honest about our concerns and entrust them to God. We have to wonder if our prayers are everything that they could be or are we somehow missing out on some elements of our prayer life that the Lord would like to hear and would produce better spiritual fulfillment. Who hasn’t been intimidated by the prayer life of someone else, who seems to know just the perfect words to say? Could you imagine how the disciples might have felt after hearing Jesus pray? I think that we all would ask: “Lord, teach us to pray”. We praise God that He looks at our heart and not our words, knowing that “the desire to pray” is the most important element of prayer and the prayers of all God’s children are heard. But to improve our prayer life, it is helpful to see and know the elements of prayer taught by Jesus; to pray a prayer that pleases God and is a blessing to us … and others that we pray for.

Matthew 6:5-8 And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.

It is important to realize that since our Father in heaven “knows the things you have need of before you ask Him”, that our prayers are for our sake because we need to be in personal relationship with active and lively conversation with God. Not some memorized sentences recited in vain repetition without thinking, but expressing our personal concerns and celebrations in every element that Jesus instructed in the Lord’s “model” Prayer. (1) Adoration/Worship, Love & Praise, (2) Declaration of Allegiance in Submission / Intercession, (3) Petition / Supplication / Intercession for our daily needs, (4) Confession / Expiation in Repentance of inequities, (5) for Deliverance / Protection (6) Meditation waiting on the Lord, and (7) Celebration / Rejoicing / Thanksgiving.

Psalm 91:1-2 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!”

We respond in worship and prayer to the grace and mercy of God. Our prayers are not based upon emotion but on truth; not on the fervency of our words but on the faithfulness of God. Prayer is powerful. Prayer changes things. In Christ, Brian

Brian Todd

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cherokee Rite of Passage

Psalm 23:1-4 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

Do you know the legend of the Cherokee Indian youths' rite of Passage? His father takes him into the forest, blindfolds him and leaves him alone. He is required to sit on a stump the whole night and not remove the blindfold until the rays of the morning sun shine through it. He cannot cry out for help to anyone. Once he survives the night, he is a MAN. He cannot tell the other boys of this experience, because each lad must come into manhood on his own.

The boy is naturally terrified. He can hear all kinds of noises. Wild beasts must surely be all around him . Maybe even some human might do him harm. The wind blew the grass and earth, and shook his stump, but he sat stoically, never removing the blindfold. It would be the only way he could become a man!
Finally, after a horrific night the sun appeared and he removed his blindfold. It was then that he discovered his father sitting on the stump next to him. He had been at watch the entire night, protecting his son from harm.

We, too, are never alone. Even when we don't know it, God is watching over us, sitting on the stump beside us. When trouble comes, all we have to do is reach out to Him.

John 10:7-11 Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.”

I received this story in an e-mail from my Uncle Carl in Memphis, Tennessee last month. Today, I received word that he suffered a severe heart attack and underwent surgery. He is ICU recovering. My dear cousin’s husband Gary under-went quadruple bypass surgery last week. I appreciate and covet your prayers for Carl & Gary.

In Christ, Brian

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Coral Anniversary

Matthew 19:4-6 And Jesus answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”

February 12, 1977, A 20 year old young man took his High School Sweetheart to be his wife, and life-long companion. Tomorrow, marks the 35th anniversary of that magical moment in our lives. Too young? … Obviously not, because the proof is in the pudding. I do not think that history would say that either. I believe that people today wait too long and sometimes develop a pattern of looking for Mr. or Mrs. “Right” and miss years of the true love & happiness of the marriage bond by the maturing godly commitment and devotion, when marrying for the “right” reason to be “one flesh” as husband and wife in the site of God, as He designed.

Ephesians 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.

Is a 35 year marriage rare? Certainly, not by God’s design. No marriage is perfect, because no person is perfect. Marriage, like anything in life to work balance and optimal, takes work and maturing experience, centered in humble, devoted and earnest love and respect. Two individuals of different sexes, raised by different families, in different environments will have differences to adapt to, but a complete dedication, devotion and desire to each other and God, lived out daily in fidelity (aka faithfulness) and undying love is the solid rock that a marriage stands upon. I, ____, take you, ____, for my lawful (husband/wife), to have and to hold, to love and to cherish, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part. By making these vows our abiding promise and guideline, with God loving hand, “one flesh” oneness of husband and wife is reality.

1 Peter 3:7 Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.

What a blessed 35 years it has been and I am looking forward to the next 35 wonderful years. Happy Anniversary! Praise be to God!

In Christ, Brian

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Drawing Near in Prayer

Always looking to improve, grow and mature our Christian walk, our small group Bible Study started studying prayer. A year or two ago, I wrote a post titled “The Garden of Prayer”, where I admitted that I did pray as much as I should, and that I don’t pray every time that I need to. Our study asked, Is our prayer life is all it should be? If we worry that we don’t truly understand what prayer really is? I think that everyone believes that they could always improve on their prayer life. We know prayer has to do with communicating with God, but what exactly does that look like? A.W. Tozer wrote, “What the praying person does is to bring our will into line with the will of God, so God can do what He has all along been willing to do.” It is helpful to have a clear definition and understanding of Christian words that we are using, such as “righteous” means “ruled by what is just”. God is just & holy.

1 Kings 8:27-28 & 39 “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You, how much less this house which I have built! Yet have regard to the prayer of Your servant and to his supplication, O LORD my God, to listen to the cry and to the prayer which Your servant prays before You today; then hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive and act and render to each according to all his ways, whose heart You know, for You alone know the hearts of all the sons of men.”

Supplication refers to a request for favor or grace. It is defined as a humble & earnest entreaty or petition. This begins in putting, not just our faith, but our total trust in the Providential provision for our life. When encountering stressful situations, rather than giving in to our fear or focusing on our circumstances, we can call out to God and trust in Him. The result is peace in the midst of difficulty. Prayer is as natural as crying out. Crying out and telling God what is on our heart. Prayer is simply drawing near to God and talking with Him. We have access to Him through our high priest, Jesus Christ. We can rest because we know the Lord sustains us. Draw near to Him and enjoy His presence.

Psalm 5:1-3 “Give ear to my words, O LORD, Consider my groaning.
Heed the sound of my cry for help, my King and my God, For to You I pray. In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.”

In Christ, Brian