Shall We Look Back? Some Reflections on the Upcoming Year

rearview mirrorI know, I sound confused.  How can one reflect upon that which hasn’t happened yet?  Is looking back upon 2013 any guide to 2014?  The new year is a good time for healthy reflection, for sitting down and taking time to think about what is now behind us.  I’m not talking about that kind of navel-gazing which is likely to be a detriment to assurance, but the intentional and wise consideration of God’s providence and our responses to what He has brought us through.

God always exhorts His people to remember His great acts in history.  To look back and consider what He has done for us and then look to the future without trepidation.  Remember the Red Sea (Ex. 14)?  Yahweh wants us to look back at that great deliverance and not to fear what may seem like an insurmountable difficulty.  Even greater, let’s remember the cross.  Look back at that great deliverance regularly and your troubles will be put into their proper perspective.  God has, in the past, done things in time and space, with each one of us in mind (and upon His heart).  If He has acted in history for us before, will He not do so again?

All right, so the events of your life are not so grand.  Those acts of redemption and deliverance were not for you only, they were for God’s people and by His grace you happen to be one of them.  Has God not delivered you from some difficulty before?  Has He not provided a job, supplied a need, so arranged the events of your life to keep you safe?  Don’t you have anything from 2013 that you can look back on and bless God for?  Yes, brother or sister, you do!  Therefore, “reflect” upon the upcoming year with confidence in God.  Look ahead and fear not!

C.M. Granger

 

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Advice from a Muslim and a Request from the Apostle Paul – A Good Combination!

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If you had an opportunity, beginning with Moses and all the prophets to share everything about Christ on a seven-mile walk, would you do it?  Or better question, could you do it?

If you are not familiar with this episode in Scripture, it is recorded in Luke 24:13-27.  Jesus interpreted to those two men all the things concerning Himself on the road to Emmaus.  I have always read those verses and secretly thought to myself, “I wish God would give me an opportunity like that, I sure will take full advantage of it.”  Have you ever had that thought?  Then read this story and take heed.

Every summer I make it my goal to share the gospel with at least two people.

This summer I was walking with two camp workers and we saw a chalkboard that they just built in Central Park (not NYC).  It read, “Before I die, I want to…” As the three of us walked, the two of them announced what they wanted to do and then one turned to me and said, “Mr. Spivey, what about you?”  I couldn’t believe it.  It was just like Jesus on the road to Emmaus.  I said, “Before I die, I would like to tell as many people as possible about the Amazing things that Jesus did.”  They both chimed in like a rehearsal for a video, “Oh, that’s a good one.”  Then one of the workers, who happened to be a Muslim, said something that stung like a wet switch on dry skin; because of the timing and his childlike delivery, I know it was sincere.  He said, “Why do you have to wait until then, you can start right now.”  I was not prepared for that comment.  I said something lame like, “Most people think Jesus was only a prophet, but they just don’t know what He has accomplished.”  And then I just stopped.  There was an awkward quiet moment, and then I said, “By the way, what does a dog have to do with Taco Bell?”

I had an opportunity of a lifetime and I switched the conversation to Taco Bell.  Taco Bell?  I felt like that apostle Peter when the Lord looked at him when he denied Jesus the third time.  I will heed that advice, but I have to mix it with Apostle Paul’s request to the Ephesians: “Making supplications for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:18-19).  Yes, thanks to my Muslim friend, I will change my goal from two to many, AND solicit as many prayers as I can for boldness.  Will you be willing to pray for me this summer?

Brian Spivey

D.O.C.

More Than My Hair Was Cut Last Night!

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Spiritual Lessons Learned at the ‘black barbershop’

I went to see my barber late last night.  It is not a “traditional black” barbershop, but it has many of the same elements – except it is physically and morally cleaner.  I was really hoping the dietary laws in the OT would come up again (see my previous post with the picture of the lobster), but when it did, it didn’t turn out the way I expected.

I awkwardly brought up the issue by saying, “Tyrone (pseudo name), if we can just get you to enjoy your seafood without the guilt we will be all right.”  He answered, “I love my seafood.”  “I know,” I said.  “But the last time you said you loved all kinds of seafood even though the Bible tells us we shouldn’t eat it.  He said, “The Bible does say that about shell fish.”  Just when I was about to play ‘Superman’ and save the day, another voice said, “Yes that is true, but what did God tell Peter in a dream?”

And then I thought to myself, who said that!?  Oh, I know that voice.

It was the man who comes into this shop regularly.  Actually, I’ve seen him three times before.  The barber called him “REV.”  He would say, “Hey Rev. how is it going?”  When he walked into the shop, the conversations got cleaner, and some people sat up straighter in their seats. But I was successful in avoiding this “Rev.”

I know it sounds bad, one Rev. avoiding another Rev. But in my lifetime, I’ve come in contact with three Rev’s in the black barbershop: the one who used to be the number runner; the one who drove the big Cadillac and took everyone’s money; and the one who made all the ladies uncomfortable and the husbands and/or boyfriends mad when he came into the shop.  No, I had already ‘pre-assessed’ this guy.  He was probably just another ‘Reverend Bishop Charlatan’ — a democratic, social gospel, Bible-rejecter, who is probably a mason, and striving to become the next ‘bishop’ in the capital district; no, I didn’t want any parts of him.  But here he was expositing Scripture with relative ease and no shame right in the barbershop!

I was in the barber chair, but my Afro was not the only thing being cut down so I could look pleasing in the sight of all – my pride was getting the same treatment, so that I could look pleasing to One.

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What happened?  How did I get here?  Obviously, I must have forgotten some spiritual truth, several actually.

Earlier that day I was reading a theological book written by Michael Barrett (I plan to write a book review on this blog when I’m done with the book). He explained that the concept of righteousness could be stative or fientive.  I applied it to something with which I was familiar – grammar.  Stative is like a being verb, “He is tall.”  Fientive is like an action verb, “He runs.”  I understood this perfectly, I thought.  Jesus fulfilled all righteousness (fientive), because Jesus is righteousness (stative). The Bible teaches that I have become the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21).

That’s fine, but I forgot that Christ’s Righteousness was imputed to my account, not infused inside of me.   The heart of man is deceitfully above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it (Jeremiah 17:9).  My wicked flesh (Romans 7:18-20) led me down a path that convinced me that I was higher than my brother in Christ.

I repented and confessed my sin to God.

Rev. was clearly greater.  Jesus said so Himself, “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant.” (Mark 10:43).  Thank you, Rev. for the lesson in humility; thank you Tyrone for the fresh cut – now I look more pleasing to my wife and children; and thank you God for the ‘fresh cut’ – now I look more pleasing to You.

 

Brian L. Spivey

No parole for this sinner, just a pardon

To be imprisoned with no hope of parole must be one of the most crushing sentences for any man. Yet the Bible says that all men, in their sins, are spiritually locked-up for life, with no hope of parole. Paul writes in Galatians 3:22a (esv), “But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin…”

One modern criminal justice textbook says the history of parole began when a Scot named Alexander Maconochie, a captain in the British Royal Navy, was appointed superintendent of some penal colonies in Australia.

“Believing prisoners were capable of reform, he developed a plan to prepare them for their eventual return to society. He divided his system into three grades, with each offering more life outside prison. Prisoners could earn promotions through labor, study, and good behavior.”
[J.Samaha’s, Criminal Justice, 7th Ed.]

Paroled prisoners may live outside the prison as long as they obey the laws of the land and do not violate the terms of their release. While this may help convicts rejoin society, there is no spiritual equivalent to parole to help men regain fellowship with God our Maker. There is no release or freedom from our imprisonment in sin for ‘good behavior’ or by keeping the laws of God. You cannot undo your guilt before God by improving your attitude or your actions — not even by keeping all the laws of God (if that were possible).

Paul said it bluntly in Galatians two: “we know that a person is not justified by works of the law … because by works of the law no one will be justified.”  This is makes the sinner’s predicament perfectly clear: your good behavior, your best “works” or law keeping cannot put you right with the Lord. All men and women still in their sin stand condemned before a holy God.

But Paul also wrote to make clear the good news — the gospel of Jesus Christ — as stated in the rest of that same verse (2:16):  “yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” The good news is that by trusting Jesus Christ — the perfect man, the Son of God the perfect law-keeper — we can be put right with God.

The joyous message of the Bible is simply this:  there is a pardon for guilty, convicted sinners! Not merely a parole, conditioned on your behavior, but a full and free pardon based on the person of Jesus Christ. Having faith in Jesus — His sinless life, His perfect law-keeping, His victory over death and the grave — faith in Him saves you, and frees you.

It was 34 years ago today — July 11th, in 1978 — that I turned from trusting in my religious good works and put my faith in Jesus. That very day I was set free from my prison of sin and guilt by the amazing grace of God! Oh what blessings are mine because of Christ! My hope of heaven is grounded on Him, not on me. Amazing grace indeed! As this new “Coffee Rings” blog gets underway, I thought it important to share this brief look at the gospel, and extend to any and all our readers its offer of pardon and freedom in Christ.
~ pdb

Is Reading Your Bible Enough for Spiritual Growth?

The Armies of the Lamb: The Spirituality of Andrew Fuller, was edited by Dr. Michael Haykin, and published by Joshua Press, © 2001.  It provides readers with a snapshot of the spiritual growth and influence of the eighteenth century pastor, Andrew Fuller.  Haykin compiled forty-six of Fuller’s letters.  The letters are not organized by any obvious pattern: size, content, or geographical sequence; however, the apparent “randomness” of the letters seem to prove that Fuller’s life and ministry was governed by the Scriptures.

In several of Fuller’s letters, he encouraged many of his recipients to “Be conversant with their Bible.”  Fuller also told a group of pastors to make sure they didn’t just use their Bible to look for passages to preach, but to “Read them that you may get good to your own souls.”  This is good advice, but is that enough for spiritual growth? NO.  Reading our Bibles is not enough — we must allow our Bibles to read us!

The Scriptures teach that The Word of God judges the intentions of our hearts (Hebrews 4:12).  It will usually be in our quiet time that the Word will show us the motives of our actions.  For example, why did I help my neighbor fix his car?  Was it because I wanted my neighbor to be in debt to me so that when my car breaks down he will feel obligated to help me?  Did we give money to that college student so that in the future, someone will give money to our children?  Or do we just do good deeds for God’s approval or “good karma?”  We should read God’s Word, but it will not benefit us as much as allowing God’s Word to read our hearts so that both our hearts and actions will bring glory to God.

Brian L. Spivey