My Life for Yours

(I thought I might share this devotion again. I wrote it a few years ago.)

John 12:24-26

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. [25] The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. [26] Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

In our scripture Jesus is teaching his disciples that he is going to die, but that he must if they would live. A kernel of wheat must die if it would produce many seeds.

Why hasn’t reformation and revival broken out across the church at Southside…or any other church around us lately? There are perhaps many reasons, but could one reason be that we are holding on too preciously and tightly to our own lives – unwilling to die – so that we might reproduce many seeds through our deaths? Do we love our lives too much in this world, so much so, that we are actually losing our lives?

My life for yours. Genuine, substitutionary, and sacrificial living. Following and serving our King wherever he may lead…to whatever end. This brings honor from the Father. This glorifies the Father.

My life for yours. Training and nurturing our children in the Lord – when we rise, when we go to bed, as we live throughout the day, when it’s convenient, when it’s inconvenient – making sure that our children are not merely “taught at” but saturated in the things of God each day, all day – because they are eternal beings and heirs of the King. “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”

Are we leaving a godly legacy to and for our children and our children’s children for a thousand generations? Are we dying so they can live – really live? Can we think outside our individual lives to see how our own deaths will extend the Kingdom of God by producing many seeds? Will we believe the promises of God that he has made regarding faithful, covenantal parenting? My life for yours and for a thousand generations after you. Talk about a payoff!

But this is hard. That’s why it’s called death. Death to self. It is intentional, committed, disciplined. It’s every day, all day. It’s the discipling of our children because it is our joy, blessing, and responsibility before God to do so. Our lives for theirs. The Kingdom of God grows in such ways. Darkness is engulfed by light through such ways. Reformation and revival are ushered in through such faith and obedience. God promises blessings to such as these.

We must die. We must do with less stuff if it means more time with our families. We must wrestle with our children at the end of the day…even when we are tired. We must discipline our children, even when we would rather not. We must cast a God-glorifying vision before our children (and reiterate it every day) of who they could be for Jesus. We have to read great stories to our children (even when we’d rather doze off) so that their imaginations can ignite as they put themselves in the places of the characters in the stories. We have to read to them about the heroes of the faith who have gone before us, so that they might see how others have given themselves for Christ and his Kingdom. We absolutely must teach our children who our God is – his person, plan, power, purpose and so on. We must drive home again and again what the gospel is and is not (after all, we’re not trying to merely make better citizens or “behaviorally correct” robots). We must teach them grace and show them grace. They must learn what it means to know, love, and follow Christ. They have to understand that our faith is a total world and life view that addresses every sphere of life.

We are called to create Christian cultures in our homes though the power of God’s Word and Spirit, that those cultures might spill out into every other sphere of life. This is first and foremost our (the parents’) responsibility, not others…not even the church. Our lives for theirs. We must die so they can live.

Can we let go? Of our wants, things, desires, passions – our very lives? We must if we would find real life – abundant life – eternal life. Life in service to the King is not our own…it’s better. Only in dying are we raised. Only in dying are more seeds produced, and therefore, more fruit. Our lives for theirs.

From our commitment and hard daily labor now, what might God do in response? Might he use one of our children, (or one of our children’s children), to bring many to Christ, to redeem the culture, to usher in reformation and revival in the church, to extend the Kingdom of God as never before? We have every reason to believe he will! But we must die. We must fall to the ground and die. We must hate our lives in this world. We must give our lives for our children’s lives, and for their children after them, that God might be pleased and choose to honor us by blessing those for whom we gave our lives.

My life for yours. Our lives for theirs. This is biblical faith.

Grace and Truth,
Dale

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My Most Important Resolution for 2012, Part 2

You can click here if you missed Part 1

What does any of what I shared in Part 1 have to do with what I regard as my most important resolution for this new year?

The answer was found in my Scripture reading Tuesday morning.

First of all, Psalm 29:1-2 reminded me that God is a God of glory, strength, and holiness. As I mentioned Tuesday, it is in both knowing about God, as well as knowing relationally the true and living God of Holy Scripture, that leads (or ought to lead) me to worship him.

Conversely, in Romans 1:18-20, the Apostle Paul warns us against suppressing the clear and knowable revelation of God through our wickedness. God, Paul teaches us, has made himself known to all people everywhere and it is only in rebellion that people falsely claim ignorance. Paul says that no one can legitimately make that excuse.

Jesus himself, in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 9:18-20), asks those closest to him who other people believe he is. He then brings it closer to him by asking them who they believe he is. Knowing him clearly and truly mattered (and matters) to our Lord.

In Romans 1:1-4, the Apostle drives home a similar point by teaching us who Jesus is, both as fully human and fully divine. Just as Peter had declared, so Paul also reminds us… Jesus is the “Christ,” the “Messiah” of God and Lord. He is the Son of God and the very center of the gospel of God.

Knowing God and his Son, Jesus Christ, (as I mentioned last time, from John 17:3), is a big deal. One might make the case that it is the only deal that really matters. Whether or not we would want to take it that far, hopefully we would all agree that knowing God should be our greatest priority (In addition to John 17:3, there is also Philippians 3:7-11 and Luke 10:38-42.)

Tuesday morning I needed reminding of that because I all too often take my eyes off of God and turn toward idols of my making. Not only is that sin, in and of itself, (see the first two Commandments) but following after such idols leads me further and further away from God and closer and closer to destruction and despair (whether I realize it or not at the time).

Knowing God is the only thing that can save my eternal soul. It’s the only way to be saved from God’s wrath and for rest, peace, fulfilment, meaning, purpose, righteousness, joy, eternal life, and utimately, God himself. Idolatry leads me in the opposite direction.

Idolatry is a wide and comfortable road in which I will never be judged or condemned by the world around me. In fact, I may even be well thought of on that road. The road of idolatry, however, leads to destruction, regardless of how popular or how numerous the crowd is that walks it.

Knowing God (and seeking to know him better and better – in the fulness of all that that means) can be narrow, hard, trying, and certainly unpopular. Yet it is glorious and life-giving.

I resolve in 2012 to put my eyes back on God and his Son, Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith. I want to truly know him. That’s what it means to really live. Other resolutions are fine… maybe even good. But I need to make sure that the “good” doesn’t become the enemy of the “best.”

Only one resolution comes with a guarantee… with a promise… and that is to know the one true God and his Son, Jesus Christ, whom he sent.

Thanks be to God,
Dale

Learning to Pray

If I had a dime for every book on prayer that’s out there, I could retire tomorrow. Responding to this deluge of materials on prayer, Donald Whitney wrote that the surest way to learn how to pray is simply… (are you ready)… to pray.

There’s a great deal of truth in that counsel. Very often we spend so much time learning how to do something or reading all about it that we fail to ever get started doing it.

And yet, I have found it helpful to listen to those wise spiritual directors who have not only thought long and hard about a topic (in this case, “prayer”), but who have also maintained a life of faithfully practicing what they preach. I have found Ken Boa to be such a person.

A few years ago I purchased his “Handbook to Prayer” ( you can click here to order it) and have found it very profitable in my own prayer life. Ken is always quick to say that such a book is meant to be a tool… or better a servant to help you in your prayer life. Never let it become your master. It’s important to protect yourself from self-imposed legalism. That’s good advice that I have attempted to pass along as well.

If purchasing another book that you’re not sure you will ever look at is the last thing you want to do, you can subscribe to Ken’s daily email which includes selections from his various prayer guides. Below is part (only part) of what will come to your email box each day if you choose to sign up for it. It’s a less expensive way to help you in your prayer life as well as a very convenient one.

However, I highly recommend getting the book. I have given it to a few people and have heard many positive things about how it has aided them in their prayer lives. As always, if I can ever help you in your spiritual journey, don’t hesitate to let me know.

Blessings,
Dale

Adoration

O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like You in heaven above or on earth below; You keep Your covenant and mercy with Your servants who walk before You with all their heart. (1 Kings 8:23; 2 Chronicles 6:14)
I know that You alone, whose name is the Lord, Are the Most High over all the earth. (Psalm 83:18)

Pause to express your thoughts of praise and worship.

Confession

A person’s wickedness will punish him; His backsliding will reprove him. I know therefore and see that it is evil and bitter To forsake the Lord my God And have no fear of Him. (Jeremiah 2:19)

Ask the Spirit to search your heart and reveal any areas of unconfessed sin. Acknowledge these to the Lord and thank Him for His forgiveness.

Renewal

May I be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, may I let my requests be known to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
May I prepare my mind for action and be self-controlled, setting my hope fully on the grace to be brought to me at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:13)

Pause to add your own prayers for personal renewal.

Petition

May I not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, but join with others in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God. (2 Timothy 1:8)

  • Relationships with Others
  • Greater love and compassion for others
  • Loved ones
  • Those who do not know Christ
  • Those in need
  • My activities for this day
  • Special concerns

Intercession

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4)

  • Evangelism
  • Friends
  • Relatives
  • Neighbors
  • Coworkers
  • Special opportunities

 

Affirmation

 

Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a Man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ, the firstfruits; afterward, those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then the end will come, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15:20-26)

The first man is of the dust of the earth; the second Man is from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the Man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the heavenly Man. (1 Corinthians 15:47-49)

Pause to reflect upon these biblical affirmations.
Thanksgiving

 

The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28)

Jesus took bread, gave thanks, and broke it, and gave it to His disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is My body.” Then He took the cup, gave thanks, and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is My blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-28)

Pause to offer your own expressions of thanksgiving.
Closing Prayer

 

I will arise and bless the Lord, my God, Who is from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be Your glorious name, Which is exalted above all blessing and praise! (Nehemiah 9:5)

As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; When I awake, I will be satisfied with Your likeness. (Psalm 17:15)