Shay Reyner (Pastor of Discipleship Ministries)
(If you have any questions about the discipleship ministry at RBC please contact Shay Reyner at email@example.com)
Each week I try to share something here for your progress and joy in the faith (Philippians 1:26)
I have noticed as I ponder Scripture that there phrases that are in the text that I have read right over without really thinking about their significance.
For instance, in Ephesians 1:1 Paul opens his epistle by saying, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus…” I’ve never really given that phrase “by the will of God” much thought. But how did Paul clearly know that it was God’s will that he be an apostle? And then as I personalize it, is it just as possible for me to clearly know what he wants me to do.
Some of our Connect Groups are pondering their way through the Book of Ephesians and asking these kinds of questions. If you are interested in an adventure like this stop by THIS LINK and check out some of the lessons that are being developed.
Here is a good article by John Piper that is worth reading: Ten Principles for Personal Productivity. It explores his thoughts on making the most of your life in Christ.
Some reflections on John 10:10
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
This verse does two things: 1) It reminds me that I am in a spiritual battle and what the mission of my enemy is – this is important because it is easy to forget that there is a war being waged in the spiritual realm. 2) It reminds me why Jesus stepped out of heaven and what He wants for my life.
Regarding #1 – One of the best ways to combat the devil’s schemes is to understand his battlefield tactics. This is the reason that C.S. Lewis wrote his classic book The Screwtape Letters. The Screwtape Letters comprises thirty-one letters written by a senior demon named Screwtape to his nephew, Wormwood (named after a star in Revelation), a younger and less experienced demon, who is charged with guiding a man toward “Our Father Below” (Devil/Satan) and away from “the Enemy” (God). Here are a few quotes from Screwtape that give some insight into the enemy’s strategy…
“Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts,…Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape.”
“It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.”
“The more often he feels without acting, the less he will be able ever to act, and, in the long run, the less he will be able to feel.”
“(God) wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them.”
“Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”
We must never forget that the enemy of our souls is a thief and a liar and a killer who wants to deceive, distract, discourage, and destroy us.
Regarding #2 – Because of my sin I was facing a dark eternal death. But Jesus came that I might have Life. And not just any kind of life but an abundant life. So, what does it mean to live abundantly?
First of all, Jesus is NOT promising a life of wealth and prosperity for believers. He is promising life that is truly life – a life that overflows with joy and gladness and purpose and hope. He is promising a life that is worth living, a life that is God-honoring, a life that is filled with promise and fueled daily by the presence of God. This passage in John 10 where Jesus calls Himself The Good Shepherd is reminiscent of Ezekiel 34 and what the Lord had to say about Israel, His flock:
“12 As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. 13 I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. 14 I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. 16 I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak…”
Rescue! Pasture! Tend! Feed! Bind up! Strengthen!
Jesus came to give us life. Life that we don’t deserve but that by His glorious grace He gives us anyway. What a Savior!
Here are a few quotes worth pondering from Dietrich Bonhoeffer…
"If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the wrong direction."
"We must allow ourselves to be interrupted by God"
“Seek God, not happiness - this is the fundamental rule of all meditation. If you seek God alone, you will gain happiness: that is its promise.”
“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
I came across this sign while I was on a trip recently:
Philippians 4:6-8 echos this:
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
50 years ago Apollo 11 was on its way to the moon.50 years ago, later this week, Neil Armstrong took the first steps on the moon and proclaimed “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
I’m wondering, is there a small step that you have been considering in your spiritual life that might just mean a giant leap in your pursuit of God? Perhaps a commitment to reading and pondering Scripture each day. Perhaps a dedicated time alone before the throne of God for prayer. Perhaps beginning to serve somewhere in the body of Christ. Perhaps a pledge to give generously and faithfully.
One small step. Sometimes that’s all it takes to make a huge difference.
A few quotes worth pondering…
The only thing of my very own which I contribute to my redemption is the sin from which I need to be redeemed. —Sinclair Ferguson
He who cares nothing for holiness knows nothing of the love of Jesus. - C.H. Spurgeon
Only a heart filled with overflowing joy will want to share the source of that joy with everyone they meet. If you had the cure for cancer, would you keep it a secret? Worship propels us into the world to serve and love. - Tim Keller
“We will always prefer lesser satisfactions to the satisfaction of Christ, because the lesser ones appeal to the god of self—a ravenous, insatiable, fickle idol indeed—while satisfaction in Christ requires that we assassinate that god. We won’t know what it really means for the joy of the Lord to be our strength until we’ve had intravenous idolatry yanked out and all other crutches kicked away. For many of us, Jesus won’t be our absolute treasure until we are out of options.” Jared Wilson, Gospel Wakefulness
One of the best ways to learn to pray is by listening to people pray who know how to pray – who know how to connect with God. There is a great book called The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions that is very instructive. Here is one of the prayers in the collection. I would encourage you to read it once and then go back and pray it as if it were your own. Make note of how different this prayer is from the ones we are used to hearing… or praying ourselves.
O GOD OF MY DELIGHT,
Thy throne of grace is the pleasure ground of my soul.
Here I obtain mercy in time of need,
here see the smile of thy reconciled face,
here joy pleads the name of Jesus,
here I sharpen the sword of the Spirit,
anoint the shield of faith,
put on the helmet of salvation,
gather manna from thy Word,
am strengthened for each conflict,
nerved for the upward race,
empowered to conquer every foe;
Help me to come to Christ
as the fountain head of descending blessings,
as a wide open flood-gate of mercy.
I marvel at my insensate folly,
that with such enriching favors within my reach
I am slow to extend the hand to take them.
Have mercy upon my deadness for thy Name’s sake.
Quicken me, stir me, fill me with holy zeal.
Strengthen me that I may cling to thee and not let thee go.
May thy Spirit within me draw all blessings from thy hand.
When I advance not, I backslide.
Let me walk humbly because of good omitted and evil done.
Impress on my mind the shortness of time,
the work to be engaged in,
the account to be rendered,
the nearness of eternity,
the fearful sin of despising thy Spirit.
May I never forget that thy eye always sees,
thy ear always hears,
thy recording hand always writes.
May I never give thee rest until Christ is the pulse of my heart;
the spokesman of my lips,
the lamp of my feet.
A quote worth pondering...
“The gospel – the message that we are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted than we ever dared hope – creates a radical new dynamic for personal growth, for obedience, for love.” Tim Keller
I finished reading and pondering my way through the Book of Romans this week. Note the way that Paul finishes his letter. It’s not the way I generally finish my letters and probably not the way you do either. Maybe we can learn something here…
“Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.”
Read then re-read that first line. It is worth much pondering!
Here are a few articles worth reading and pondering…
I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Psalm 18:1-2)
Great verses to ponder… if life is treating you well or if life is presently full of turmoil and despair.
Great verses to memorize and hide in your heart so that the Holy Spirit can bring them to mind just when you might need them.
Several ponderable quotes which came across my Twitter feed recently:
“The only way to be happy in Christ is to be desperately unhappy without Him.” - Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
“Sin makes us stupid.” - Kevin DeYoung
“We are witnessing the normalization of degradation and the eradication of guilt and shame... Oh God, we need revival!” - Crawford Loritts
“A man says to me, 'Can you explain the seven trumpets of the Revelation?' No, but I can blow one in your ear and warn you to escape from the wrath to come.” - Charles Spurgeon
The I.O.U.S of Prayer - John Piper has shared a helpful acronym to keep in mind as we come to the Lord in prayer:
- Incline my heart to you, not to prideful gain or any false motive. That is, focus my affections and desires upon you, and eradicate everything in me that would oppose such a focus.
- Open my eyes to behold wonderful things in your Word. That is, let your light shine and show me what you have willed to communicate through the biblical authors.
- Unite my heart to fear your name. That is, enthrall me with who you are.
- Satisfy me with your steadfast love. That is, fulfill me with the fact that your covenant love has been poured out on me through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
He also, I think somewhat prophetically, made this haunting statement: “One of the great uses of Twitter and Facebook will be to prove at the Last Day that prayerlessness was not from lack of time.”
It was on this day in 1945 that both Great Britain and the United States celebrated Victory in Europe Day. Cities in both nations rejoiced in the defeat of the Nazi war machine as German troops throughout Europe finally laid down their arms.
As I was reminded of this, one of my favorite hymns came to mind and I started thinking about the lyrics - which are a great way to rehearse the gospel and what the Lord has done on our behalf. Ponder these words as you have time…
Victory In Jesus
I heard an old, old story, how a Savior came from glory
How He gave His life on Calvary to save a wretch like me
I heard about His groaning, of His precious blood's atoning
Then I repented of my sins and won the victory
Oh victory in Jesus, my Savior (my Savior) forever (forever)
He sought me and He bought me with His redeeming blood
He loved me 'ere I knew Him and all my love is due Him
He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood
I heard about His healing, of His cleansing power revealing
How He made the lame to walk again and He caused the blind to see
And then I cried, "Dear Jesus, come and heal my broken spirit"
And somehow Jesus came and bro't to me the victory.
I heard about a mansion He has built for me in glory
And I heard about the street of gold beyond the crystal sea
About the angels singing and the old redemption story
Oh and some sweet day I'll sing up there the song of victory.
A few quotes for you to ponder…
“To have Faith in Christ means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him.” (C.S. Lewis)
A lot of people follow Jesus like they follow golf, from a distance and maybe when something special is happening. But there’s a big difference between golf and Jesus. Golf is happy to have fans, Jesus is looking for disciples. (Kevin DeYoung)
April 22, 2019
I’ve never heard anyone preach on these “resurrection” verses but as I read them this week I tried to imagine what my reaction would have been if “Uncle Joe”, who died 5 years ago, had stopped by my house to say hello…. What an awesome God we serve.
51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.
April 17, 2019
April 16, 2019
One of my favorites singing one of my favorite Easter songs…
April 9, 2019
An Easter illustration for your edification…
He Has Taken the Stinger for Us - A small frail girl sat playing in her room when she heard a noise of a thing that could bring her almost instant death. For you see, she had been stung by a bee at and early age and had almost died. Since that day she had been very sickly and the doctors said that another attack could mean her death. At the sound of the bee's buzz a wave of distress came over her and she began to sob and call out for help. Hearing the sound of his child's cry, the little girl's father came rushing into the room to discover what the matter was.
After quickly looking about the room he found the cause of her trouble and with a quick movement he snatched it out of the air and held it in his hand. A moment or two later he released the insect back into the air.
With and audible gasp his daughter looked questioningly up at her father and asked him why he would release it again since it could mean her death if it should sting her. 'don't be afraid my child.? he said while opening his hand 'see here in my hand? Here is the stinger that could harm you. I have taken the sting for you and now it cannot hurt you and the bee itself will soon die.'
We all suffer under the curse of sin like the little girl from the first sting and the next sting from death would mean our ultimate demise. But we have a savior that came to our rescue and took the sting for us and we no longer have to fear death. Though it buzz over us and land on us it can do no harm and one day death itself will die.
“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?… Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:55-56)
April 3, 2019
I have been pondering my way through Romans recently and earlier this week was struck by two words from 9:22-3. The verses say this: “What if God, desiring to show His wrath and to make known His power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of His glory for vessels of mercy which He has prepared beforehand for His glory.” The two words that struck me were “What if.” As I pondered what the verses meant it got me to asking some “what if” questions of my own. 1) What if… God wants to use my uniqueness to make known the “riches of His glory.” 2) What if… God wants to use my weaknesses to “make known His power”. 3) What if… God wants to do something amazing in and through me - am I a willing vessel?
What if…? Two little words that might be worth your time to ponder as well.
March 27, 2019
My newest grandchild, #7, was born this week. Her name is Ezra - which means “helper”. I was reminded of a verse in Hebrews 13:6, “The Lord is my helper, I will not fear: what can man do to me?” May the Lord help you this week to find your joy in Him. May He help you to overcome the things of this world that weigh you down. May He help you to grasp the deep deep love of Jesus. And may He help you to find great delight in His Word and in prayer.
March 19, 2019
“The cross, then, is an expression of God's wrath toward sin as well as His love to us. It expresses His holiness in His determination to punish sin, even at the cost of His Son. And it expresses His love in sending His Son to bear the punishment we so justly deserved.
So in answer to the question, "Why the cross?" we must say God's holiness demanded it as punishment for our sins, and God's love provided it to save us from our sins. We cannot begin to understand the true significance of the cross unless we understand something of the holiness of God and the depth of our sin.” (Quoted from The Gospel for Real Life by Jerry Bridges)