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guest post by Larry Dinkins There are scores of quiet time books which stress making Bible reading a daily habit: Daily Bread, Daily Light, Daily Guideposts, and a huge variety of other Daily devotional aids for every age group. I've used many of them, so I'm not sure why the title of a new devotional caught my eye - "Once-A-Day Bible". Then it dawned on me. I've been thinking about Brother Lawrence whose "Practicing the Presence of God" is still a classic after 400 years. What if all they had in the monastery was the "Once-A-Day" Bible. Would Brother Lawrence read his portion for the day and then say, "Ok, glad that's finished. Once in the Bible is enough for today." Mind you, a "Once-a-Day" Bible is much better than a "Once-in-Awhile" Bible or "Once-in-a-Blue-Moon" Bible.
This is one of the most humbling things I have read in a long while. As I started to read, I immediately felt compelled to pray, “Lord, make this true of me! Forgive me and change me that I might truly love you, and love others!” Take two minutes and read the following passage from Jerry Bridges and be humbled before God."On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 22:40)Have you thought about what it means to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:37, NIV)? Here are a few obvious aspects: You seek fellowship with Him and long to gaze upon His beauty (Psalm 27:4). You rejoice in meditating on His Word and rise early to pray (Psalm 119:97; Mark 1:35). You always delight to do His will (Psalm 40:8). A regard for His glory governs and motivates everything you do (1 Corinthians 10:31) - eating and drinking, working and playing, buying and selling, reading and speaking, even driving. You're never discouraged or frustrated by adverse circumstances because you're confident God is working all things together for your good (Romans 8:28). You're always content because you know He'll never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).
I’ve noticed that much teaching in Thai churches focuses on some variation of offering yourself to God or seeking God’s blessings through obedience. Somehow, the Gospel is seen as useful for “getting saved” but not for living the Christian life. Once you’ve heard about grace and “accepted Christ,” the next thing you need is a steady diet of moral exhortation to be good and to give yourself fully to God so that you get his blessings. Or at least that’s a lot of what I’m hearing. Of course, this is nothing unique to the Thai church, as it shows up in some form in every country, every culture, every age.Since a neglect of the Gospel of grace is such an entrenched problem in churches, whether that be Thailand or elsewhere, I found the following passage from Jerry Bridges to be particularly applicable. Even if we don’t think we are trying to live by good works, the temptation to rely on self tends to sneak up on us. Because our hearts tend to deceive themselves, here’s a good reality check from Bridges:
What if Jesus responded to temptation like we usually do? I have been reflecting lately on the nature of temptation and suffering, and the relationship between the two in the life of Jesus and my own life. When the Devil tempted Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4), how did Jesus respond? “And the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’” But he answered, “Well, um, I am pretty hungry, but really I shouldn’t. I can’t do that. Wow, I’m hungry. How can I say no? I have to say no. Man shall not live... but, I do need bread, after all. God knows that I need bread. How can I survive without bread?” Was this Jesus’ response? NO! But I confess to my own shame that I often give that kind of response to temptation. I reason it through in my own head, instead of giving a decisive instantaneous “NO!” like Jesus did. Matthew does not record Jesus mulling over the Devil’s offer. Jesus gives an immediate response in the negative, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matt. 4:4). And that is the end of it. The temptation was real but Jesus decisively said NO each time.
In a number of Thai churches I have noticed that the type of worship songs selected fall into three general categories: 1) “I offer you my life” 2) “Pour out your Spirit” and, 3) “I want to be close to you”. This emphasis is hardly unique to Thailand as much of modern worship songs here are heavily influenced from the West. These type of songs have a time and place yet it seems that in some churches, these are almost the only type of songs that are played. As we sing the same basic things over and over again, I have begun to wonder, “Where is Christ? Where is the cross?”. It seems to be a glaring oversight to not have songs about Christ and his finished work on the cross as a mainstay of Christian worship. When I come into the weekly worship meeting, the first thing that my heart wants to sing is usually not “I offer my life to you” or “You are my every desire.” Why is that? Is it because I am not spiritual enough? Yes, in fact, that is exactly the reason. If I am honest to myself, my motivations are usually mixed and Christ is not my every desire. When songs come up that require me to sing lyrics like “You are all that I want”, I will often go silent or sing very quietly, praying in my heart, “Oh LORD, make me desire nothing but you. This song is not me. Change my heart God, and increase my love for you.” If I sing songs that say more than is really true, then I feel like I am lying to God and everyone around me.