Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Self-Deniel amd Self-Care

Self-Care and Self-Denial by Amie Patrick at TGC - An important distinction!
The topic of self-care, particularly as it relates to physical and emotional health, has long confused and challenged me as a Christian. While I’ve deeply resonated with much of the common sense in the philosophy of self-care, other aspects have troubled me and seem completely incompatible with Christianity. I couldn’t agree with Scripture and at the same time agree with arguments encouraging me to pursue a self-focused, indulgent, comfort-based lifestyle. On the other hand, I heartily agreed in principle with discussions of self-care as stewardship. Still, I usually came away with more of a sense of heavy obligation than of freedom and gratitude. I often saw God as an auto mechanic pacing around, irritated and inconvenienced by my failure to get my car in for regular maintenance.
As I struggled to come to biblical conclusions about self-care, I vacillated between embracing it wholeheartedly and rejecting it altogether. I’d mostly ignore my physical and emotional health for long stretches of time, defaulting to a philosophy of pushing through life, trying to move faster and do more. Then I’d crash. I’d make some efforts at rest or recovery, but always with a nagging sense of guilt that I’d been indulgent, lazy, or somehow disobedient.
I’d love to say I’ve arrived at a completely healthy place in the area of self-care, but the truth is I’m still in the midst of the messy process of repentance and renewal. I can say for sure, though, that freedom in this area hasn’t come from just tweaking some habits or from having an “easier” season of life where consistent self-care is more realistic.
Confronting Faulty Beliefs
My confusion about self-care was mostly rooted in two serious theological misunderstandings related to, interestingly enough, self-denial. Confronting these faulty beliefs has been pivotal in developing a healthy biblical view of self-care.
First, I equated denying myself with denying my humanity. Luke 9:23 was one of the first verses I memorized as a new believer. I took Jesus’s words seriously and deeply believed what he says here and in similar passages. We find our lives by losing them. Discipleship is defined by a supreme love for Jesus and willingness to take up our crosses daily.
But somewhere along the way, I developed an unspoken but functional belief. I started believing that denying myself isn’t just about denying my sinful attempts to be my own god, but also about ignoring the fact I am a human being with physical and emotional needs—and God-ordained limits. I never would’ve said I believed this, but my life told a different story. In particularly stressful seasons, I treated needs like sleep, nutrition, exercise, and emotional refreshment as luxuries for which I didn’t have time. It didn’t occur to me that accepting my God-given limits and actively choosing to receive God’s gifts of rest, food, recreation, and solitude are also acts of worship and obedience.

Second, I didn’t see my attempts to push past my perceived weakness or neediness for what they really were—pride. As I studied the Gospels, God began to unravel the mess in my heart. He repeatedly reminded me that Jesus—fully human and fully God—regularly set aside time in his ministry to be alone or enjoy meals with friends. Why did I assume these things were acceptable for him but not for me? Why did I encourage people to take good care of themselves while neglecting good care of myself? Scripture also reminded me of God’s great love and compassion for me, and his promise to provide for my needs.
I began to see God never asks us to pretend we’re not human or needy. In fact, the Bible regularly commands us to remember who God is and who we are. This doesn’t mean we should demand God to meet all our physical and emotional needs on our terms, or that he won’t call us to seasons of physical and emotional suffering. Christians have not been promised an easy, hassle-free life. At times legitimate needs will be denied. But I’m learning to view and practice consistent self-care in a new way—as a spiritual discipline that can help me rightly acknowledge my place in God’s world rather than dismiss it as a distracting indulgence.
Seeing Our Heart
I also used to believe self-denial is mostly about behavior rather than the heart. For a long time, I thought self-denial is about avoiding practices I considered self-indulgent. But as I began to reexamine God’s Word, I started to see more clearly that self-denial isn’t just a behavior issue—it’s a heart issue. Our behavior reveals our heart. God calls us to deny our hopeless attempts to justify ourselves and find life apart from Christ.

I avoided self-care because it looked dangerously close to self-indulgence. But avoiding self-care actually fed my sinful appetite to live self-sufficiently and to seek fulfillment in my own abilities. It may seem backward to say that avoiding self-care was actually self-indulgent, but it was for me. As I struggled with thinking that my accomplishments defined me, God taught me that self-denial for me meant stopping to rest. This lesson felt counterintuitive, but just because something looks like self-denial on the surface doesn’t mean it actually is.
Finding Freedom and Joy
Many of us don’t consider the issue of self-care until a crisis forces us to wake up. God, in his kindness, uses these crises to take us to places we wouldn’t choose on our own, but in these places we find greater freedom and joy in him.
The topic of self-care has thousands of practical and debatable considerations, and thousands of legitimate and important cautions that go with them. Nevertheless, it is an important topic and one we need to think about, for the way we handle it reveals a great deal about our hearts, what we believe about ourselves, and what we believe about God.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Warp of Worry

How Worry Warps Your View Of God: Paul's Format For Getting It Right - by Thomas Christianson at Relevant 
A couple weeks ago, I started having trouble sleeping. This wasn't normal for me. But lately, there have been a lot of stresses weighing on me. I just lay there with pieces of uncertainty or unfinished business glowing on the checklist of my mind.
Potential conversations keep playing and rewinding over and over again in my mind while I plan how to deal with existing problems. Then, of course, I have to try to figure out what unforeseen problems are coming my way.
Somewhere in there, I remember Jesus saying not to worry about tomorrow.
But wasn’t Jesus worried in the Garden of Gethsemane when He literally sweat blood and asked the Father to remove the cup of suffering that Jesus was about to have to drink?
So how is this whole “don’t worry” thing supposed to look in my life? What’s the line between “not worrying” and being naive and unprepared?
Trusting in God’s Strength
In Philippians 4, Paul says he has learned the secret of living whether he has plenty or is in need, and that secret was that he could do all things because of the strength God gives.
If my issues and problems are bigger than God in my own eyes, they will have a bigger influence in my life than God does.
To Paul, not worrying means we live in confidence of God’s strength.
Worry is the opposite: it is when we live without confidence in God’s strength.
If I were to vocalize my worry, it would probably sound like this, “When I don’t know what’s going to happen, I don’t have much control over the outcome, and I’m not comfortable with that arrangement.”
That’s a lot different from Paul’s approach, which didn’t depend on the situation, but in the unchanging nature and character of God.
Trust vs. Control
Trusting in God doesn’t mean we have to love the situations we find ourselves in. Jesus clearly didn’t love the day of agony and abandonment He faced. Paul wasn’t hoping to endure more shipwrecks and stonings.
I don’t want my car to break down, or for my daughter to have a hard time at school. But the question is whether those things loom larger in my mind than God’s goodness and His sovereignty (the fact that He is in control and that He cares about me).
Because if my issues and problems are bigger than God in my own eyes, they will have a bigger influence in my life than God does.
There’s nothing wrong with making plans and preparations, but if we ignore the nature of God (all powerful, all knowing, all present), how much good can our plans really do?
This doesn’t mean we should run to the opposite approach and just accept everything without question.
We serve a God who has invited us in to His plans of making all things new. He says we have a part to play in that process. Rather than accepting everything the way it is, we can push back against injustice and heartache in our world.
God is not a mean kid with a magnifying glass on an anthill. You are not foolish to trust Him.
But in the midst of all this, how do we incorporate trust in God’s strength into our everyday lives?
I think Paul lobs us a softball in Philippians 4:6-7 (the same chapter where he talks about having the secret to contentment):
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
I like to boil this down to a pseudo-mathematical formula:
Pray + Thank = Peace.
Pray
This is not about telling God what you want Him to do. This is about remembering His nature and character.
Look at Jesus praying in Gethsemane. His prayer wasn’t about uncertainty. Jesus knew everything that was coming His way when he was praying in Gethsemane. His prayer was about asking God for strength.
Prayer may not result in God “fixing” your situation the way you would demand from a genie, but He promises that He will strengthen us as we seek His will both in and through our lives.
Thank
If you’re following Jesus, I’m guessing you have a story or two about instances where things seemed pretty hopeless, but in the end they worked out. Remind yourself of those stories.
God is not a mean kid with a magnifying glass on an anthill. You are not foolish to trust Him.
Instead of worrying about if or when or what hardships you’ll face, spend your time becoming the kind of person who responds in healthy ways to the challenges of this life.
In addition to loving you, God has invested a great deal into you—He’s not going to kick you to the curb.
Thank Him for what He’s done, and choose to exercise faith by thanking Him in advance for what He will do.
Peace
Usually, my worry is directly linked to my ability to comprehend the “master plan.” I say stuff like, “I’m willing to trust God, I just want to know what He’s up to.”
Jesus says that His peace goes beyond all understanding, so our ability to stop worrying isn't linked to our ability to figure stuff out.
In fact, our uncertainty about the future is a chance to trust God.
God is faithful to us even (especially?) when we don’t deserve it.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Not An Instruction Manual

The Bible Is Not An Instruction Manual - From Crossway, adapted from The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto against the Status Quo by Jared C. Wilson.
Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth
Ever heard the Bible explained that way? It's a handy mnemonic device that certainly has some truth to it. But does it get at the heart of what the Bible really is? The way so many of us treat the Scriptures—as God's "how to" book—doesn't seem quite right when we carefully look at what its own pages say. And I fear that the way we use the Bible in this way actually accomplishes the opposite of what we intended.
If the Bible is not essentially an instruction manual for practical application, then, what is it? If it's not mainly about what we need to do, what is it about? If it's not about us, who is it about?
The Bible Is about Jesus
About Jesus? Well, duh," you're thinking right now. That goes without saying. And I agree. It has been going without saying. But we need to keep saying it. We don't "go" without saying this. The Bible is about Jesus. Front to back, page to page, Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21, the written Word of God is primarily and essentially about the saving revelation of the divine Word of God.
Jesus himself said so. In Luke 24, we see two of Jesus's disciples walking on the road to Emmaus and discussing the report they'd gotten of Christ's resurrection. Suddenly Jesus himself sidles up next to them. He asks them what they're talking about. They don't recognize him at first, so they explain that they are discussing the matter of Jesus, expressing their confusion about his having been given up to be crucified when all along they thought he was the one sent to redeem Israel. And they also weren't sure what to make of this astounding claim about his resurrection. Then Jesus does something very interesting: "And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself" (Luke 24:27).
In 2 Corinthians 1:20, Paul tells us that all the biblical promises "find their Yes in him." The book of Hebrews is a great sustained example of this truth, showing us how all that led up to Christ was preaching Christ from the shadows, as it were, even reminding us that the mighty acts of the great heroes of the Old Testament were not about themselves but about acting "by faith" in the promise of the Christ to come.
Indeed, everything the Bible teaches, whether theological or practical, and everywhere it teaches, whether historical or poetical or applicational or prophetic, is meant to draw us closer to Christ, seeing him with more clarity and loving him with more of our affections. The Bible is about Jesus.
The Primary Message of the Bible Is That the Work Is Already Done
One night on the way home from small group, I listened to the guy on the local Christian radio station give a ten-minute presentation of what he had learned in church the previous day. It all boiled down to an appeal to make Jesus, in his words, our "role model." It was all very nice and inspirational.
There is indeed no better role model than Jesus. You won't find me arguing against that. But the problem with this fellow's recollection of his pastor's sermon was that it showed no indication of actual gospel content. It could have been delivered by the Dalai Lama. The buddhist actor Richard Gere thinks Jesus is an awesome role model. So do many atheists. The majority of the thinking world acknowledges that Jesus is a good role model, and in fact, most of them wish Christians would act more like Jesus (or at least, more like their perception of Jesus).
This ought to hint at the inherent deficiency in the "Jesus as role model" message: "Be like Jesus," by itself, is not good news. The gospel is not good advice, it is good news. The emphasis in our churches must be on God's finished work through Christ. To be clear: We should be exhorting our congregations to live in more Christlike ways. But if the emphasis of our preaching is on being more like Jesus and not on the good news of grace despite our not being able to be like Jesus, we end up actually achieving the opposite of our intent. We inadvertently become legalists, actually, because we are more concerned with works and behavior than with Christ's work on our hearts. The primary message of the Bible, as it heralds us to Jesus Christ, is that the work is already done.
The Bible's News Is Much Better Than Its Instructions
The Bible is incredibly practical. We don't have to make it that way. It's already that way. There are lots of practical things in it, and we do need to teach them. But we must never teach the practical points as the main points. The practical stuff is always connected to the proclamational stuff. The "dos" can never be detached from the "done" of the finished work of Christ in the gospel, or else we run the risk of preaching the law.
In 2 Corinthians 3:7-11 Paul is recalling the giving of the tablets of the law to Moses on Mount Sinai. As Moses would go up and commune with God, the glory of the Most High was so intense that it would continue to radiate off his face when he came down. The radiant glory was so intense that Moses covered his face with a veil to shield the children of israel from the intensity. But as stark and intense and awe-inspiring as that glory was, Paul says, it is eclipsed by the ministry of the Spirit, the ministry of righteousness, the ministry of the gospel of Jesus.
This helps us to see that the essential message of the Bible is the gospel, and that therefore the gospel needs to be central to all we say and do as a church, whether in the worship service or out. This means many of us need to wrestle with the reality that the gospel is not just for unbelievers. It is for the Christian too.
Perhaps we need to see how versatile and resilient the gospel is, how much deeper and more powerful than the dos and don'ts this message is. Maybe we need to see that the gospel does more than the law could ever do. It goes further than the law could ever go. If the instructions come with glory, Paul says, "will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory" (v. 8).
The good news of the gospel is so much better than the instructions! It is better because the news actually saves us. The gospel is the ministry of righteousness because it announces not just the blank slate of sins wiped out but the full credit of Christ's perfect obedience credited to us!
The Power of Salvation
As we look out at the world and into our churches, we think we know what will fix everything. We'll just tell them to get their act together. Thus all the instructions.
But what will really save the lost world? Let me tell you: none of our complaints against it.
What will transform the hearts of the people in your church? No amount of your nagging.
What will motivate people to real life change that begins with real heart change? Not all the helpful tips in the universe.
According to the Bible, only the gospel is the power for salvation (Rom. 1:16). We must stop treating the gospel as though it were power enough for a conversation experience but falls short of empowering all the practical matters of faith that come after.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Please Stop!

If You Are A Christian, Please Stop Doing These Five Things by Jarrid Wilson (at ChurchLeaders.com)
Here is some stuff Christians should stop doing.
1. Telling people “I’ll pray for you” without actually praying for them.
Guilty as charged. I can’t think of anybody who hasn’t done this at one time or another. And while most of us don’t actually mean to forget, it’s probably best that we just set aside time on the spot to pray for people. Are we really so busy that we can’t stop and pray for someone’s needs? We need to make sure we are fulfilling our duties as Christians and actually follow through with them. One prayer could be the tipping point to someone coming to know the love of God. Don’t miss the opportunity to speak life into someone because you don’t think you have time.
2. Attending Church on Sunday, but ignoring God’s voice the rest of the week.

Ouch! This one stings a little. Many of us get in the habit of making God just another addition to our weekly check-list, but the reality is that our entire lives should revolve around him. God deserves #1 priority in each of our lives, and to treat him any differently would go against the foundations of the Christian faith. Evaluate the way you are spending your time, money and energy. If you want to see a change in your life then you need to begin giving God the place of honor he deserves. Stop treating God like the last kid picked in doge-ball.
3. Praying for God’s provision when we have yet to use what he has already provided.
Way too many of us tend to treat God like a personal genie. Prayer was given to us as an open line of communication between us and God, but the harsh reality is that way too many of try to use it like a drive-thru at a fast-food restaurant. You don’t get to pick and choose the way God provides, but you do get the opportunity to trust his plan and have faith in his promises. I can’t begin to explain how many times I’ve ignored God’s provision because it wasn’t wrapped the way I intended it to be. Every time we purposely ignore God’s provision, we are indirectly telling him, “I don’t trust your plan.”
4. Trying to be so relevant that we actually hurt the message of Jesus.

There is nothing wrong with trying to be relevant, but we need to understand that there is a BOLD line between being trendy, and then completely disfiguring the message of Jesus. We can’t expect to bring any change to the world when we don’t look any different from it. I’m a firm believer that Jesus came to reclaim culture and not abolish it, but this doesn’t mean we need to water down His message so that it’s easier to swallow.
5. Telling people that “God will never give you anything you can’t handle.”
Why should we stop saying this? Because it’s a lie. … We’ve completely twisted 1 Corinthians 10:13, as this verse is pointing toward temptation, and even then it states God will be there if things get too tough. The reality is that God just might give us things we can’t handle so that we will gaze toward him for the extra help. Mind blowing right? Realize that not everything is going to go the way you plan, think or hope. Sometimes stuff is going to hit the fan, and in order for you to get through it, you are going to NEED to rely on God’s comfort, peace and understanding. We weren’t meant to do life alone.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Truth About Margaret Sanger

Joe Carter clears out the myths, positive and negative, about Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood.
Due to a variety of current events, the name of Margaret Sanger has repeatedly surfaced in the news the past few weeks. The focus on Planned Parenthood because of a series of investigative videos has brought renewed attention to the organization’s notorious founder. Presidential candidate Ben Carson has encouraged people to “go and read about Margaret Sanger and go and read about the beginnings of this organization so that you know what you’re dealing with.” Several journalists have been criticized foraccepting the “Maggie” awards for their pro-abortion coverage. And a group of black pastors sent a letter to the director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery asking that the bust of Planned Parenthood Founder Margaret Sanger be removed from the museum’s “Struggle for Justice” exhibit.
Who was Margaret Sanger? Here are nine things you should know about one of the 20th century’s most controversial figures:
1. In 1916, Sanger opened the world’s first birth control clinic in New York City. Nine days later Sanger was thrown in jail and the clinic shutdown for violating the Comstock obscenity laws, which included a prohibition against literature describing contraceptive methods.
2. At the First American Birth Control Conference in 1921, Sanger founded the American Birth Control League (ABCL). In 1942 the ABCL changed its name to 1942 Planned Parenthood Federation of America. In 1952 in Bombay, India at the Third International Conference on Planned Parenthood, the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) was founded. Sanger served as president of the IPPF from 1952 to 1959. (She died in 1966.)
3. Sanger was leading advocate of the eugenics movement, specifically of negative eugenics, which promoted the reduction of sexual reproduction and sterilization of people with undesired traits or economic conditions. Her views on eugenics were shaped at an early age by her experience in a large family. The sixth of eleven children, she noticed as a child that the wealthy families had small families while the poor had large families. In her autobiography, My Fight for Birth Control, she wrote, “I associated poverty, toil, unemployment, drunkenness, cruelty, quarreling, fighting, debts, jails with large families.”
4. Sanger believed the use of birth control was necessary, as Jyotsna Sreenivasan explains, not only for the individual woman’s well-being but also for the economy as a whole. In her 1931 pamphlet “Family Limitation” Sanger wrote, “The working woman can use direct action by refusing to supply the market with children to be exploited, by refusing to populate the earth with slaves. . . . Pass on this information to your neighbor and comrade workers.”  Sanger arranged for this pamphlet to be distributed widely though a Socialist labor union, the Industrial Workers of the World.
5. In Woman and the New Race, Sanger included a chapter to answer the question,  “When Should a Woman Avoid Having Children?” Included in her list are the admonition that “No more children should be born when the parents, though healthy themselves, find that their children are physically or mentally defective” and “By all means there should be no children when either mother or father suffers from such diseases as tuberculosis, gonorrhea, syphilis, cancer, epilepsy, insanity, drunkenness and mental disorders.”
6. On a radio show, Sanger is reported to have said that “morons, mental defectives, epileptics, illiterates, paupers, unemployables, criminals, prostitutes, and dope fiends” ought to be surgically sterilized. If they wish, she said, such people should also be able to choose a lifelong segregated existence in labor camps.
7. Sanger’s motivations about racial genocide are frequently exaggerated, misunderstood, or misconstrued. There is no doubt that Sanger believed in the supremacy of the white race and the inferiority of other racial groups (for instance, she once wrote, “It is said that the aboriginal Australian, the lowest known species of the human family, just a step higher than the chimpanzee in brain development, has so little sexual control that police authority alone prevents him from obtaining sexual satisfaction on the streets.”). But Sanger appears to have been driven more by her views on eugenics to reduce “undesirables” than by a motivation to eliminate specific racial groups. In other words, Sanger was obsessed with preventing the birth of people with physical and mental illnesses or who were economically disadvantaged, regardless of their race.  Despite being a white supremacist, Sanger preferred intelligent, middle class African-Americans to illiterate, low class whites.
(This is not to deny, however, that Sanger’s views were implicitly—and sometimes explicitly racist—or that the effect of her ideas and organizations did not lead to the destruction of black communities. It is merely to say that it doesn’t appear racial superiority was her primary motivation for advocating sterilization and birth control.)
8. In 1939, Sanger, through the Birth Control Federation of America (BCFA), helped to initiate the Negro Project. Unlike many of her associates, she wanted the doctors involved in the project to be black in order to gain the trust of the African-American community. One infamous Sanger quote—and one frequently taken out-of-context—in regards to the project is,
The ministers work is also important and also he should be trained, perhaps by the Federation as to our ideals and the goal that we hope to reach. We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members.
Some people read this as implying that Sanger is trying to employ ministers in an effort to hide her true motives—racial genocide. More likely, she feared that if the belief were to spread that the goal of the Negro Project was to “exterminate the Negro population” it would hinder her true eugenic objective: the extermination of the subset of the black population that she considered “degenerate.”
In this objective she was joined in the Negro project by many African-American leaders. For example, in 1939 W.E.B. Du Bois wrote in Sanger’s Birth Control Review, “the mass of ignorant Negroes still breed carelessly and disastrously, so that the increase among Negroes, even more than the increase among Whites, is from that part of the population least intelligent and fit, and least able to rear their children properly. . . [the black race] must learn that among human races and groups, as among vegetables, quality and not mere quantity really counts.”
9. Sanger remained committed to her eugenics views until her death. In a 1957 interview, Mike Wallace asked Sanger if she believed in sin. The video below shows how she answered:

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Missing Confession

The Mark of Christianity That is Disappearing from Our Worship by Trevin Wax. I think he is right.
It is puzzling to see one of the defining marks of a Christian’s identity quietly disappear from a church’s worship.
I’m speaking, of course, about confession – a time when the church comes together as a repentant people, and asks God to forgive and cleanse, to renew and restore, to inflame our cold hearts and fill us with overflowing love.
Confession is one of the defining marks of a Christian because it is linked to repentance and faith. When we confess our sins to God, we are agreeing with God that our sin is something that needs to be forgiven. We are recognizing that our sin hurts us, hurts others, and most importantly, hurts the heart of God.
Confession is the expression of repentance in which we name our sin for what it is, turn away from sin, and turn toward a merciful God. The difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is not that the non-Christian sins and the Christian does not, but that the Christian sins and repents, while the unbeliever hardens their heart toward God – either by refusing to admit the sin or by trying to deal with the sin in some other way.
As a part of corporate worship, confession has historically been near the beginning of a service. Once we have been summoned to worship God, and once we have seen and begun to experience His presence, we are like Isaiah – falling on our knees before a majestic and holy God, amazed when seeing the brightness of His glory, ashamed when seeing our sin for what it is. Before we can move forward in worship, or move outward in mission, we fall down in repentance.
Scripture never requires a time of confession near the beginning of a service. The Lord’s Prayer leads us to ask for forgiveness near the end, not the beginning. Making confession a requirement in every worship service could give the impression that God is constantly angry with us and we can only approach Him after doing penance. This would lead us back to the medieval image of a God whose favor we must somehow earn, rather than the God of grace whose favor is freely received through the merits of Christ and His righteousness.
Today, however, the more pressing problem is not the idea of a God who is perpetually angry, but a shriveled god who is shallow and nice. If we don’t see God taking sin seriously, we won’t take it seriously either. And once we stop taking sin seriously, repentance loses its power. No surprise, then, that confession falls away, and the one thing for which all Christians should be known – repentant faith – is something we no longer express together in public.
My hope is that the practice of corporate confession will make a comeback – whether in a time of silent prayer, corporate confession, or songs that plead for mercy. After all, we are not in a posture to receive God’s Word until we have first renounced our sin.
A confession of sin renounces any attempt to justify the sin; we humble acknowledge our sin and its sentence. At the same time, we humbly place ourselves in the hands of a mighty and merciful Savior. He is the One who grants repentance, and He is the One in whom we trust.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Telling the Story

The StoryA beautiful depiction of the gospel from Genesis to Revelation




HT: Dane Ortlund

No Regrets

10 Things You Will Never Regret As A Christian by Jarrid Wilson:
A life modeled after Jesus is hands down the greatest life one could ever live. And while a life apart from Christ may be filled with many toils and regrets, there are many things you will never regret doing when it comes to life as a Christian.

1. Praying. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
Prayer brings is closer to God, his love and his sovereignty. When we pray, we are in direct communication with the one who created us. Praying may not always be easy, but it’s something that’s always worth it.
2. Giving your life to Christ. (Romans 12:1)
I cannot recall anyone who has ever regretted encountering the love, grace and almighty purpose of Jesus Christ in their life. It’s something this world cannot offer.
3. Reading Your Bible. (Psalms 119:105)
God’s Word is a life-source for the soul. And while we read the Bible to learn more about God, his direction and our purpose in life, God’s presence within our lives will continue to grow stronger.
4. Putting others before yourself. (Philippians 2:3)
Humility is key. No one in their right ming has ever regretted finding a sense of humility in their life. Seeking after Jesus will continuously chip away our pride, and in turn teach us to put our neighbors before ourselves, as well as think of ourselves less.
5. Loving your neighbor. (Mark 12:31)
We love because God first loved us. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is the definition of love itself, and our calling as Christ followers is to love our neighbors, no matter the circumstance. Many people have regretted ignoring their neighbors, but nobody has ever regretted loving them.
6. Extending grace. (Matthew 6:15)
None of us deserve God’s grace but he continues to showcase it anyways. We are broken, messed up and jacked up people, but because of grace we are free from the bondage of our past. Extending grace to others will free us just as much as we think it will bring them peace.
7. Allowing God to guide you/Having Faith. (Proverbs 3:6)
You won’t regret allowing God to guide you. Why? Because God’s plan in life is for you to embrace his will, trust his promises and fulfill the calling of The Great Commission. Following God’s guidance isn’t always easy, but it’s definitely always worth it.
8. Resisting temptation. (James 4:7)
Temptation will lead you down a path contrary to that of God himself. As Christians we are called to flee temptation, and instead pursue the path that Jesus has laid out before us. Temptation leads to sin, and sin always leads to regret.
9. Taking refuge in the arms of God. (Psalms 118:8)
God is our protector, comfort and shield in times of need. The arms of God are a refuge for those who need it, and relying on his strength is something you will never regret doing. Take comfort in the arms of God, and understand that there is no safer place to be.
10. Abstaining from sexual impurity. (1 Corinthians 6:18)
Purity paves the way to intimacy. And although our culture has turned sex and promiscuity into a hobby, God’s yearning for our lives in and out of marriage is sexual purity and abstinence from extramarital relations. Watching porn, sex before marriage, and engaging in relationships outside of one’s marriage are all things you will regret in the long run. Stay focused on God’s plan for your life.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

What's Your Sending Capacity?

Gaining By Losing: Why the Future Belongs To Churches Who Send, by J. D. Greear - A Book Review

This is a fascinating, compelling book with the thesis that churches and church growth should not be measured by seating capacity (numerical growth) but by sending capacity (church planting). He believes that "the church that sends the most, wins the most," and that every church should be sending out disciples (and releasing proven leaders) to plant new churches, locally and internationally.

Greear is Senior Pastor of the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC. He and his church are living out the message of this book, in that Summit Church has sent out over 500 people to plant 113 new churches as of the writing of this book. He also brings a unique perspective to the concept of missional living from having previously lived and ministered in a Muslim country.

The book emphasizes that a spiritual culture of sending, and "gaining by loosing," depends on a commitment to not just getting members or attenders, but building disciples. Christian disciples learn to live like Jesus, and Jesus served the Father by giving himself for others. The principle of resurrection, dying in order to live, applies to churches as well as individuals. He believes "our God is a sending God," and that therefore we should be sending people.

The text is structured around 10 "plumb lines,"i.e. culture defining statements about what it means to be a discipling and sending church.The book is an easy read in terms of language, format and style, but a tough read in terms of the challenge it makes to the readers' personal discipleship commitment. It is also a significant challenge to pastors and elders of churches to change their community culture to disciple making and sending. In that way, it reminds me of David Platt's Radical and Radical Together.

Gaining By Loosing is a good read, and I recommend it for your consideration.
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(I received a free copy of this book for review purposes, but that does not influence my opinion. See my book review policy)