Friday, August 29, 2014
Great piece by Justin Buzzard on grace creating safety- places where people can be real and be accepted.
We’ve all experienced (and contributed to) this dynamic: You are afraid to share what you’re really thinking and what’s really going on in your life with your spouse/friend/parent/church leader because you fear they will use this information against you. You’re afraid that sharing reality will result in being challenged, fixed, or judged, instead of being known, understood, and loved. This dynamic creates unhealthy cultures in marriages, friendships, churches, and workplaces–people never share what’s really going on because they’re afraid, and this stunts both intimacy and growth.
Fortunately, this unhealthy dynamic can be replaced with a healthy dynamic: grace. Grace is God’s undeserved love. When an individual embraces a grace-based identity (instead of a performance-based identity) and standing with God, he or she becomes capable of extending grace (undeserved love) to other people. This individual becomes secure, and safe. This individual now has the ability to truly listen to what another person is really thinking, to what is really going on, without attempting to immediately use that information against the person.
See, grace creates safety. Grace creates a culture of safety where people can face and talk about reality. And, lest any of you think I’m being soft on sin, change, or sanctification, the crazy truth is that this grace-soaked culture of safety is what finally results in people changing.
Think about it. Environments and relationships that approximate unconditional love are what resulted in true, deep change and healing in your own life. When you experienced grace and felt safe, you finally opened up. And then you finally began to get help where you most needed it.Grace creates safety, which creates change.
How can you be such a person to others? How can you use your leadership to create such environments?
“‘I will place him in the safety for which he longs.’”-Psalm 12:5
Thursday, August 28, 2014
Here's Tim Challies' list of The 10 Greatest Hymns of All-Time. I would move "Holy, Holy, Holy" and "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name" to the top. Agree? Disagree?
Here are my picks for the ten greatest hymns of all-time. Apart from the first, they are in no particular order.
And Can It Be? by Charles Wesley. I begin with what I consider the greatest hymn by the greatest hymn-writer. Wesley’s “And Can It Be?” simply delights in the goodness of God while marveling and his saving grace. It captures every Christian’s experience of wandering, of beholding Christ, of rejoicing in his salvation, and of the great hope of entering his presence at last. “No condemnation now I dread; / Jesus, and all in Him, is mine; / Alive in Him, my living Head, / And clothed in righteousness divine, / Bold I approach th’eternal throne, / And claim the crown, through Christ my own.”
A Mighty Fortress by Martin Luther. It is bold, it is triumphant, it expresses great faith in God and great defiance toward sin and Satan. I think Satan hates it when we sing this: “The prince of darkness grim — We tremble not for him; / His rage we can endure, For lo! his doom is sure, / One little word shall fell him.”
All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name by Edward Perronet. There are few hymns more triumphant than this one, and especially so when sung to the “Diadem” melody. It calls upon each of us, and everything else in all of creation, to pay homage to our great God. It anticipates the day when that will happen. “All hail the power of Jesu’s name! / Let Angels prostrate fall; / Bring forth the royal diadem, / To crown Him Lord of All.”
Oh, For a Thousand Tongues by Charles Wesley. In this hymn Wesley proclaims that one tongue simply is not enough to express his praise and his adoration before God. If he had a thousand tongues, he would use them all to proclaim who God is and what he has done. “He breaks the power of canceled sin, / He sets the prisoner free; / His blood can make the foulest clean, / His blood availed for me.”
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross by Isaac Watts. Watts penned this hymn—a meditation on the cross of Christ—as a means of preparation for the Lord’s Supper. Having reflected on the cross, he can only marvel at God’s wondrous grace and pledge his life to God’s service. “Were the whole realm of nature mine, / That were a present far too small; / Love so amazing, so divine, / Demands my soul, my life, my all.”
How Firm a Foundation by an unknown author. This hymn is unique in the way it speaks in God’s voice, so that God himself assures us of his goodness, his care, and his mercy. Few hymns are sweeter in times of suffering or despair. “The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose, / I will not, I will not desert to its foes; / That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake, / I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”
Holy, Holy, Holy by Reginald Heber. Heber powerfully draws us to marvel at the majestic holiness of God. “Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty! / All Thy works shall praise thy name in earth and sky and sea; / Holy, Holy, Holy! Merciful and Mighty! / God in Three Persons, blessed Trinity!”
It Is Well With My Soul by Horatio Spafford. A hymn for those suffering or for those who have suffered, it proclaims that through every trial, “it is well with my soul.” “And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, / The clouds be rolled back as a scroll; / The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, / Even so, it is well with my soul.”
Abide With Me by Henry Francis Lyte. This has always been a favorite and, though it’s considered a funeral hymn, we sang it at our wedding. I love the way it calls upon God to be present with us in all of life. “Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes; / Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies. / Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee; / In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.”
Amazing Grace by John Newton. The list wouldn’t be complete with “Amazing Grace,” would it? It is considered by many to be the greatest hymn ever written and has been recorded more than any other song. It proclaims such sweet and simple truths: “Amazing grace! How sweet the sound / That saved a wretch like me. / I once was lost, but now am found, / Was blind but now I see.”
There are so many more that could easily have been on this list: “Crown Him with Many Crowns,” “For All the Saints,” “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah,” “Rock of Ages,” “Christ the Lord is Risen Today”, “Take My Life and Let It Be,” “In Christ Alone,” and on and on.
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Some great quotes from Ray Ortlund in Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ. Sounds like one to add to my wish list.
Gospel doctrine creates a gospel culture. The doctrine of grace creates a culture of grace. When the doctrine is clear and the culture is beautiful, that church will be powerful. But there are no shortcuts to getting there. Without the doctrine, the culture will be weak. Without the culture, the doctrine will seem pointless (21).
Every one of us is wired to lean one way or the other—toward emphasizing doctrine or culture. Some of us naturally resonate with truth and standards and definitions. Others of us resonate with feel and vibe and relationships. Whole churches, too, can emphasize one or the other. Left to ourselves, we will get it partly wrong, but we won’t feel wrong, because we’ll be partly right. But only partly. Truth without grace is harsh and ugly. Grace without truth is sentimental and cowardly. The living Christ is full of grace and truth (John 1:14). We cannot represent him, therefore, within the limits of our own personalities and backgrounds. Yet as we depend on him moment by moment, both personally and corporately, he will give us wisdom. He will stretch us and make our churches more like himself (22-23).
What matters most to God is not which sins we’ve committed or not committed, or how we stack up in comparison with other sinners. What matters most to God is whether we’ve bonded by faith with his only Son. In other words, God’s final category for you is not your goodness versus your badness, but your union with Christ versus your distance from Christ. To put it yet another way, what matters most about you in God’s sight is not the bad or good things you’ve done but your trust and openness to Christ versus your self-trust and defensiveness toward Christ (34, italics his).
I apologize for putting this so bluntly, but it’s in the Bible. We need to face it. How can we hope to be true to Christ if we look away from the Bible’s stark portrayal of our natural corruption? The Bible alerts us that a blasphemous attitude lurks in all our hearts. We tell ourselves: “What’s the big deal about this or that compromise? He’ll understand. He’s all about grace, right?” But what man would say: “What’s the big deal about my wife’s adulteries? It’s only marriage. I understand. I’m all about grace”? In the same way, our divine Husband does not think, “Well, she’s brought another lover into our bed, but as long as they let me sleep, what’s the big deal?” The thought is revolting. The love of Jesus is sacred. He gives all, and he demands all, because he is a good Husband. Only an exclusive love is real love. Only a cleansing grace is real grace. Would we even desire a grace that did not cleanse us for Christ (45, italics his)?
The gospel does not hang in midair as an abstraction. By the power of God, the gospel creates something new in the world today. It creates not just a new community, but a new kind of community. Gospel-centered churches are living proof that the good news is true, that Jesus is not a theory but is real, as he gives back to us our humaneness (65).
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Monday, August 25, 2014
"I know all about the despair of overcoming chronic temptations.--The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume 2 (Cambridge University Press, 2004), letter to Mary Neylan, January 20, 1942 page 507; emphasis original
It is not serious provided self-offended petulance, annoyance at breaking records, impatience etc doesn't get the upper hand. No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep on picking ourselves up each time. We shall of course be very muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home. But the bathrooms are all ready, the towels put out, and the clean clothes are airing in the cupboard.
The only fatal thing is to lose one's temper and give it up. It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present to us: it is the very sign of His presence."
HT: Dane Ortlund
Sunday, August 24, 2014
Saturday, August 23, 2014
From Dane Ortlund at Bible Q&A – Why Read the Bible Every Day?
...So why read the Bible? And why every day? Dozens of reasons could be mentioned. Here are a few of the most important: daily Bible reading is how we calm down, tank up, get wisdom, go deep, get busy, and commune with God.
1. Calm down. Each day we roll out of bed and, as C. S. Lewis put it in Mere Christianity, “all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals.” One reason we read the Bible is so that we are not subject to living the day out of haste but rather out of calm. We remember the shortness of life, the eternality of heaven, and the abundance of a gospel from which no sin or failure is excluded. The promises of Scripture are like an asthmatic’s inhaler, enabling us to slow down and take a deep breath.
2. Tank up. Reading Scripture is like eating food. We have to do it regularly, it tastes good to taste buds that are alive, and it nourishes us for the day. Bible reading is stored energy, stockpiled emotional and psychological capital. We stay afloat throughout the day by making moment-by-moment withdrawals from that vast reservoir.
3. Get wisdom. By nature we are fools. Over time we can shed folly and become wise. We will not do it on our own. And we will not do it by downloading all the cleverness of the world’s best self-help gurus into our minds. We need a word from heaven, from beyond. The Bible is the world’s great self-corrective. Each day it tweaks our lives and prompts fresh mid-course corrections. Wisdom flourishes.
4. Go deep. Daily Bible reading deepens us theologically. On the one hand, the demons are excellent theologians (James 2:19). They would ace our seminaries’ doctrine exams. So it isn’t enough to have right doctrine. But it is certainly necessary. Defective doctrine means a defective view of God, and to the degree our view of God is defective, to that degree the ceiling lowers on our potential for joy, comfort, and above all enjoying the gospel of grace. One reason we read the Bible is to deepen our minds. To sharpen the contours of our vision of God. To think more accurately about all that matters most.
5. Get busy. We also read the Bible to be told what to do. It’s not the main thing we read the Bible for. But we do find ourselves stirred to take action in concrete ways. Sometimes the text commands action directly. Other times it doesn’t, but at the least, indirectly, a text will mess with us, change us a little bit, alter our outlook, and thus impel us forward in some new step of practical obedience externally because we have been changed a tiny bit internally.
6. Commune with God. This is the umbrella category that includes all the rest. This is the point. Reading the Bible is a personal experience—“person-al,” one person to another. What other book do we read, conscious of the author interacting with us as we do so? Daily Bible reading requires routine and structure, but it is not mechanical—just as a body requires a bony skeleton, but it is not the skeleton that gives it life. We do with the Bible what the Psalms guide us in doing—adore God, thank him, complain to him, wrestle with him, express perplexity to him, and all the rest....