Monday, May 2, 2016

Temporary Insanity

"When you are prompted to revenge, when hot anger starts, bridle the steed at once, and let it not dash forward with you headlong. Remember, anger is temporary insanity. Forgive as you hope to be forgiven. Heap coals of fire on the head of your foe by your kindness to him. Good for evil."

- C. H. Spurgeon

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Decaffinated Jesus

Russell Moore's role model is a Decaffeinated Jesus. Huh? Read this and see if he makes sense.
It’s not so much that we are afraid of non-Christian people who may be hostile to what we believe. A lot of it is more fear of other Christians. A lot of the kind of engagement that we see has nothing to do with people on the outside at all; it has everything to do with this constant loop of reassuring other Christians, “I’m part of the team, and I’m part of the tribe, and the way that you know that is because I’m giving these talking points about how awful the people on the outside are.” That’s not just a challenge for people who are in public ministries—it’s a challenge for anybody with a Facebook page.
One of the major things has to be to genuinely love and identify with people who disagree with you to the point that you understand why they hold the views that they hold. And that takes a lot of time and effort and a lot of relationship building. If you get up and you do this sort of ministry that isn’t really about persuading people on the outside, but it’s just about encouraging Christians you’re not crazy and “here’s why the other view is stupid and evil,” there are people who are overhearing that who are then going to meet people and realize they don’t stand up to the caricature. And then you’re going to end up losing those people. When people actually encounter these people, they see a much more complex view.
Jesus is not threatened. The remarkable thing to me in the gospels is how un-caffeinated Jesus is when everyone else is freaking out. Jesus is becoming anguished, anxious, and provoked at the oddest times. When everybody else is asleep or just kind of walking through the temple, this is always there, but when everyone else is outraged and panicking, Jesus has this tranquility that I think ultimately is rooted in confidence. He really does know who he is and what he’s about. And if you have a church and a people of God who are confident in their gospel, then those are going to be people who are not going to be as panicked when they have people who say, “We think you’re crazy, we think you’re bigoted, we think you’re wrong.”

Friday, April 29, 2016

Truths To Kling To

From the Facebook page of Lysa TerKeurst:
Right this very minute, in the midst of hard realities and devastating circumstances, there are some things you and I must cling and hold to as if our lives depended on it:
1. God loves us and He will not leave us.
2. This battle isn’t ours. The battle belongs to the Lord. Let Him fight for you. Save your emotional energy and use it to dig into His Word like never before. Our job is to be obedient to God. God’s job is winning this battle.
3. The battle might not be easy or short-lived, but victory will be there for those who trust God.
4. God is good even when the circumstances are darker than you ever imagined. God is good even when people are not. God is good even when things seem stinking hopeless. God is good and can be trusted when you feel suspicious of everyone and everything around you.
5. Lastly, God is good at being God. Don’t try to fix what He hasn’t assigned you to fix. Don’t try to manipulate or control or spend all your emotions trying to figure it out. Let Him be God. Free yourself from this impossible assignment.
Sweet friend, be still. And know. He is God.
I’m praying for you. And I treasure the fact I know you are praying for me.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Praying the Psalms

Loved this post at Crossway Books called How To Pray Through The Psalms by Matt Tully. It was adapted from Praying the Bible by Donald S. Whitney. 
The Book of Praises
As a whole, the psalms comprise the best place in Scripture from which to pray Scripture. I base that on the original purpose for which God inspired the psalms. The book of Psalms—which means “book of praises” in Hebrew—was the songbook of Israel. The psalms were inspired by God for the purpose of being sung to God.
It is as though God said to his people, “I want you to praise me, but you don’t know how to praise me. I want you to praise me not because I’m an egomaniac but because you will praise that which you prize the most, and there is nothing of greater worth to you than I. There is nothing more praiseworthy than I, and it is a blessing for you to know that. It will lead to your eternal joy if you praise me above all others and above all else and to your eternal misery if you do not. But there’s a problem. You don’t know how to praise me, at least not in a way that’s fully true and pleasing to me. In fact, you know nothing about me unless I reveal it to you, for I am invisible to you. Therefore, since I want you to praise me, and it is good for you to praise me, but since you don’t know how to praise me, here are the words I want you to use.”
In other words, God gave the Psalms to us so that we would give the Psalms back to God. No other book of the Bible was inspired for that expressed purpose.
The “Psalms of the Day”
In light of this, I want to commend to you a systematic approach for praying a psalm each day. The approach did not originate with me, but I can’t recall where I first encountered the concept decades ago. It’s called “Psalms of the Day.” If you intend to pray through a psalm, using the Psalms of the Day approach helps you avoid thumbing through the middle of your Bible, randomly searching for a psalm that looks interesting. Too often, such an inconsistent process results in omitting many of the psalms. It also can slow your devotional momentum as you find yourself aimlessly meandering through chapters instead of praying.
With the Psalms of the Day you take thirty seconds or so to quickly scan five specific psalms and pick the one that best leads you to prayer on that occasion. It’s based on taking the 150 psalms and dividing them by thirty days (because most months have at least thirty days). That results in five psalms per day.
Or to put it another way, if you were to read five psalms a day for an entire month, at the end of the month you would have read through the entire book of Psalms. While reading five psalms a day is a great practice that many enjoy, that’s not what I’m advocating here. What I’m suggesting is that you take half a minute to quickly scan five psalms and pick one of those five to pray through.
If bringing math into prayer is making you skeptical, stay with me; I’ve created a simple, printable prayer guide that visually conveys all you’ll need to understand what I’m trying to describe.
Download my free Psalms of the Day Prayer Guide and start praying the Bible today!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Play Before the Work is Done

Here's a great exhortation to Carpe Diem. No one dies wishing they spent one more day a the office. Let's put the important things, the beautiful things, first. You Will Die With Unfinished Work by Justin Buzzard
You will die with unfinished work. The day you die you’ll still have a pile of unfinished work, a yet-to-be-completed to-do list.
I’m learning to stop making the big mistake of waiting until all my work is done to have fun, adventure, or connect with a friend. If you chase “get it all done first” as your permission for doing the things you really want to do, you’re chasing an illusion. There is always more work to do. 
So, you must make a change. Don’t postpone joy, fun, adventure, rest, that relationship. Pursue these beautiful things right now, in the midst of your unfinished work and your unfinished life.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Moving On in the Silence

We all go through seasons when our prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling. If you are in one now, read this excerpt from 5 Things To Do When God Seems Distant by Rebecca Rene Jones (via Relevant)
Know That What You're Experiencing Is Normal
It is so unshockingly normal that C.S. Lewis actually said our fluctuating feelings about God were perhaps the only constant of our faith. "The law of Undulation," he nicknamed it. In a nutshell, "undulation" implies that the Christian walk is a back and forth rocking between sweet "communications of His presence" and then, later: wilderness and soul-numbing silence.
In The Screwtape Letters, Lewis writes that God “withdraws, if not in fact, (then) at least from … conscious experience … He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs—to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish.” This may seem unpleasant, but it works in us something that's critical to our spiritual maturity: a decoupling of our faith from our feelings about it.
Undulation forces us to go beyond our own gut—and beyond our circumstances—and agree that God is good and attentive even when life suggests otherwise.
Embrace Boring Things
Today's temptation is to bide time by distracting ourselves. We are categorically bad at waiting, at welcoming quiet, at actively wanting from God. We are much better at filling in downtime and numbing our aches with Pinterest, Twitter and Netflix.
But God dares us to do something different: To stay expectant. To stay hungry. To practice hope, as Paul says, by patiently and confidently fixing our attention on the promises we don't yet possess (Romans 8:24-25).
Carve out quiet places to remember what you're hoping for. For me, after Dad died, that meant taking lots of lonesome bike rides and a tedious part-time job counting pills at a local pharmacy. It'd be a stretch to call these spiritual disciplines, but I'll go to the mat for this: they helped me protect a precious hush that God eventually spoke into.
Tell God What You Think
It's OK to be blunt. The great prophet Elijah even prayed to die. "I have had enough, Lord," he said (1 Kings: 19:4). His earnestness isn't exactly an anomaly, either: so many psalms echo some version of this, peppering God with the same rolling questions: Why haven't you moved sooner? Or in quite the way we'd hoped?
On the surface, they might seem presumptuous, but at their heartbeat, these questions are actually something different: They are appeals to God's good character. They're sincere questions that finger a perceived disconnect between who God says He is and why His action—or seeming lack of action—seems out of step with his nature.
Sometimes, we confuse waiting on God with plunking down until we're handed crisp itineraries.
Don't Demand Burning Bushes
God can use pyrotechnics, of course, but our brushes with Him aren't always so theatrical. When we knock, ask and seek, sometimes He doesn't match our decibel level.
God honors and often uplifts the quietly faithful, and what's more: He often comes in the quiet. When God tells Elijah to wait before Him on the mountaintop, we witness something remarkable: God doesn't show up where we think He'd appear. He's not in the snapping windstorm, or the earthquake or the blaze. Elijah can't find God's voice in any of them. Then comes a gentle whisper, and it is so divinely flooded that Elijah covers his face with his cloak.
What if God intends to meet us precisely in the places we'd least imagine?
Keep Moving
Sometimes, we confuse waiting on God with plunking down until we're handed crisp itineraries.
Don't mistake me, God can give them, and historically, He has. But that doesn't mean that He gives them always.
It's tempting to cross our arms and demand that, in this particular decision, or season, we need to somehow "feel Him in it." We make our forward movement conditional on it. But in doing so, might we be subtly discounting His word—especially its rich wisdom books, like Proverbs, which give us insight precisely for moments when God's voice is neither loud nor explicit? His word, put poetically, is already a lamp for our feet (Psalm 119:105).
Sometimes we wait by sitting still, and sometimes we wait even while moving. We seek Biblical counsel, we persist in prayer, and then, when the time comes: we go forward confidently. We take peace in this: that He will be with us because He promised to be. That He's hemming us in and fighting for us, whether we feel it or not.
Red the whole piece at the link

The League of Non-Extraordinary Gentlemen (and Ladies)

Are you part of the League? Check out The League of the Faithful by R. G. Grune
God's assembling a league of not-so-extraordinary gentlemen. He's gathering ordinary individuals with marginal influence, mediocre careers, and minimal pay. These men and women aren't the ones that are told of in legends. These aren't the men that kids dream about becoming - kids don't go to bed dreaming about working on the assembly line or doing taxes. These women aren't the women that young women picture when they declare a major.
The gentlemen and women who make up this league often find themselves tired, sore, and doubting. They are frustrated and exhausted, always on the verge of giving up but too committed to ever actually give up. 
Why do they even do what they do? Because they are faithful. 
Every morning at 5:00am the alarm goes off. These faithful men and women get to work before the rest of the world even brushes their teeth. It's not for the paycheck. It's definitely not for the flexible hours. They don't get to work from home. 
They come home from a long day at work to a family who needs their faithfulness even more than their boss demands their commitment. These faithful men who sat on boards and made million-dollar business decisions now get on their knees and play with Barbies and fight invisible bad guys while making laser noises.  
They are faithful. 
The league of the faithful are the ordinary men and women that God has called to do their work faithfully. God has called them, and they do it. They are the moms and the dads, the husbands and the wives, the neighbors and the coworkers that do their ordinary work every day. They don't seek the allure of bigger and better, but they seek faithfulness where they are. 
They do their job well. 
They love their family well. 
They serve the people well. 
In 1 Peter 4:10, Peter writes, "As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace." The league of the faithful use their gifts and their calling to serve the people around them. Regardless of how much they like the work or the difficulty of the work - they are faithful with what God has given them. They are faithful in the way that Jesus teaches in Luke 16:10, "One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much."
In ordinary, everyday work, God does something incredible. God is hidden and at work serving companies and clients, kids and spouses, neighbors and coworkers. God is hidden behind a league of faithful men and women who serve where God has called them.
God has chosen to do his impossible, extraordinary work of caring for creation with faithful men and women. God has chosen to use faithful men and women in their homes, office, and classrooms to do the work of God faithfully simply by loving people in work they have to do. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Cost Analysis

As the social cost of claiming to be a Christian increases, the percentage of nominal Christians decreases.

                                     - D.A. Carson

Friday, April 15, 2016

Upward - Inward - Outward

Found this interesting piece called The Omni-Directional Blessing of Bible Reading by Jamar Tisby- via the Reformed African American Network (Bet you didn't know they existed!)
I can easily name the most important lesson I ever learned about being a Christian. This advice has guided me for nearly 20 years as I’ve walked as a disciple of Christ. And it applies to every single believer.
The Most Important Lesson
My high school youth pastor, Dave, repeated a single, critical piece of knowledge to all of his adolescent charges. He said, “Read your Bible.” So simple, yet so transformative. Over the years I’ve done better at times and fallen far short for seasons. But I never doubted that reading the Bible was good, and I should strive to be in the word as much as possible.
The Shame and Grief of Bible Reading
But as human beings who incline toward perverted worship, we can make a positive spiritual discipline like reading the Bible into an idolatrous activity.  The times when I wasn’t reading my Bible daily, for a specified period of time, and at a particular time of day were some of the worst moments of shame I’ve experienced. The voice in my head said, “If reading the Bible is so good, then why aren’t you doing it more? What’s wrong with you? Don’t you love God? Aren’t you a ‘serious’ Christian? Get it together!”
Shame has no place in a healthy discipline of reading the Bible.  Don’t confuse shame with guilt. We should saturate ourselves Scripture, and when we realize that we’re failing to do so, we may experience what the Apostle Paul calls, “godly grief.” He says to the Corinthian believers, ” As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief…For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:9-10).
We can and should experience godly grief when we don’t pay attention to God’s word as a regular devotion. But this grief should lead to repentance and “salvation without regret”. Godly grief brings the freedom of forgiveness and the strength to improve. Worldly grief leads to shame. It causes us to question our justification in the sight of God and pushes us into a spiral of despair.
How do you avoid shame when it comes to reading the Bible? It’s not by telling yourself that you shouldn’t feel shame. It’s not by gritting your teeth and trying harder. Victory in devotional Bible reading comes by the work of the Holy Spirit and by celebrating the omni-directional blessing of Bible reading.
The Upward Blessing of Bible Reading 
Reading the Bible demonstrates your delight in God, and God delights in your delighting in Him. Psalm 111:2 says, “Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.” God’s works are seen in nature, but most clearly in His word. The Bible tells us about God’s greatest works—His acts of creation, redemption through Jesus Christ, and the restoration of all good things in the new heavens and the new earth. Reading Scripture invites us to marvel at the singular grandeur of God.  This is the upward blessing of Bible reading.
The Inward Blessing of Bible Reading 
Reading the Bible brings the inward blessing of God’s character shining through you in ever increasing wattage. Psalm 119:11 says, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” The psalmist hordes God’s statutes in his inmost being so that he can live pleasingly in God’s sight. Jesus Christ himself prays to the Father about His disciples saying, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” Scripture leads to the heart cleansing that pleases God. The inward blessing of Bible reading is becoming more Christ-like in thought, word, and deed. 
The Outward Blessing of Bible Reading
Reading the Bible brings the outward blessing of being used by God for His kingdom-building work in the world. Paul says to Timothy, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Bible leads to our sanctification. God uses His word to cleanse us internally so that we can be used by Him for good works. As a surgeon requires a clean scalpel for surgery, so God requires a pure-hearted believer to do His work. The inward blessing of Bible reading is being bathed in truth for God’s use.
The Blessing of the Holy Spirit 
I mentioned above that getting past the shame of failing to read the Bible comes through celebrating the omni-directional blessing of Bible reading. But I also said that it comes by the work of the Holy Spirit. It would be easy to make celebrating these blessings into another “work” where we exert effort and God obligatorily pours down blessings. It doesn’t work like that.
Even though we have to exert every possible effort to devote ourselves to learning and living God’s word, the power resides in Him alone to change us. As we strive to experience the blessings of Bible reading, we also need to rest in the power of God’s Spirit working in us both to will and to work His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). The blessing of reading God’s word is discovering that we become who God wants us to be by trusting who He is first.