Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Jesus' Favorite Singer

From Radio Free Babylon

(Click image to enlarge)

Marvelous Relief

"Give up your success-and-failure patterns. Seek grace in Christ, humbly and honestly. Understand that a conviction of sin does not make you neurotic, but rather it spells the beginning of the end for neurosis. After all, what is a neurotic? Simply a hurting person who is closed off to criticism in any form and yet engages in the most intense, destructive self criticism that produces neither hope nor help.

What a marvelous relief God’s grace in Christ offers. I had been totally criticized, and at the same time I was completely forgiven. As I rested in the work of another, my heart was at peace with God; and for the first time, I felt at peace with myself. "

— Rose Marie Miller, From Fear to Freedom (Colorado Springs, Co.: WaterBrook Press, 1994), pages 72-73

Monday, September 29, 2014


Incurvatus In Se

Great article by Alex Dean on what Luther called "Incurvatus in se" - Our "curved in upon ourselves" nature because of sin.
Augustine may have introduced it. Luther certainly formed it. But the Apostle Paul wrestled openly with it as he penned lines he most certainly knew would be authoritative for the Church of Jesus Christ. When you read Romans 7, you most certainly identify with Paul’s struggle. If you are honest, no matter how long you’ve been following Jesus, you must admit that, “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Rom. 7:18-19).
Most people would agree that the battle with the flesh rages throughout the life of a believer. But the question is: Why would Paul so openly confess this here? Surely toward the end of his life, he came to understand that his writings were being circulated. He knew that the letters he wrote were authoritative (1 Thess. 2:13). Paul, this great church-planting pastor, the leader of a movement, the greatest missionary in Christian history. Paul, who endured countless beatings, imprisonments, and persecutions for the sake of Christ. Paul, who would give his own life under the persecution of Nero. Why in the world would he openly admit this struggle?
Incurvatus in se is a Latin phrase, coined by Luther and rooted in Augustine’s thought, which simply describes the primordial evil in the world—humanity curved inward on itself. And it is precisely this idea that Paul wrestles with in Romans 7. How do I know? Turn the page.
In Romans 7:24, after Paul has written himself to the point of frustration over his own struggle with sin, he is completely undone. He writes, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” In other words, “I look within myself and I find absolutely nothing that is not wretched, depraved, and totally self-absorbed. I need deliverance from someone other than me!”
What happens next is stunning. “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (v. 25). And he doesn’t stop there. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 8:1).
Don’t you see what Paul is doing here? Are you catching the whole scope of what is going on? Paul struggles, he wrestles, as he acknowledges his inward curvature. As he looks within, he is given over to despair because of his total depravity. But . . . do you see where Paul’s gaze turns? Upward! To Christ! To the gospel! Romans 8 is one of the richest expositions of the gospel in all of Scripture, and we so often forget that it comes on the heels of Romans 7.
Why does Paul do this? Is he just given over to his own emotions, carried along by whim as he is writing? Certainly not. Paul is giving his readers a picture of exactly what the gospel does. It redirects our gaze. It restructures our natural curvature. We move from inward to upward. When we look within, we find nothing but condemnation and despair. But when we look to Jesus, we find a banner which reads, “It is finished. No condemnation.” And perhaps the most gloriously counterintuitive part of this message is this—it has absolutely nothing to do with us.
So how does a man go from being a self-absorbed Pharisee (Paul’s former life), to being a selfless missionary who leverages everything he has for the cause of Christ? The gospel redirects his gaze. He meets Jesus, and his eyes are fixated on the cross.
Incurvatus in se (being curved inward on oneself) is the main enemy of making, maturing, and multiplying disciples. More than Satan’s plans to thwart our evangelistic efforts. More than the apologetic arguments of the leading atheists. More than the newest scientific discovery. Men and women curved inward will never desire to make, mature, and multiply disciples of Jesus.
This is why so many theologians have remarked about the power of the gospel especially for Christians. We need to have our gaze redirected every day. The gospel reminds us, over and over, that nothing good resides in our members, and yet, there is no condemnation because of the finished work of Christ. We are drawn to look on Jesus. We are moved to consider him. Something like worship begins to stir up in our hearts. And do you know what the automatic outflow of worship is? Making Disciples.
Christian, you are the chief enemy of the make, mature, and multiply mentality. You are not exempt from the natural curvature of all humanity. This is why being gospel-centered is absolutely necessary. It is not a catch phrase. It is not a buzz-word. It is the power of God for salvation.
When your heart is set on yourself, you will never look outside of yourself. You’ll get home from work and retreat inside your home, where you’ll neglect your wife and children, owing it to the need to decompress after a long day. You’ll never engage in small-group discipleship because it’s all about giving of yourself, not getting for yourself. You’ll hardly care about the lost and dying around you because you are probably too busy checking who has commented on your most recent self-glorifying status update.
If the gospel captures your gaze, day after day, you’ll be reminded of the glorious reality of no condemnation. You’ll spend your time looking up and out. You’ll be free to serve everyone because you need nothing from anyone. You will live a gloriously counterintuitive kind of life in which you won’t care about your own power, position, prominence, or praise. You’re only concern will be the glory of Jesus and the praise of his glorious grace.
Christians, let us come before the glory of the gospel each day, that our gaze may be lifted upward and outward. Let us remind each other of the glorious reality of no condemnation with ferocious vigilance. Let us seek to make, mature, and multiply because our gaze is fixed on the One who told us “There is no condemnation.”

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Comfort Without Words

The quote below is an excerpt from a article by Trillia Newbell at the Gospel Coalition entitled "Mourning Without Words." The specific context of the piece is comforting someone mourning the death of a loved one. However, the advice about keeping silent and wordless comfort, and the lesson form the Book of Job, applies to  other contexts of emotional trauma. When a loved one is suffering from loss, betrayal, abuse, PTSD, or other forms of severe emotional trauma, sometimes the best way to help is to be silent and just hold them and weep with them.
...There’s a temptation to treat our mourning friends like leaky faucets that need to be fixed. And the expert we call on is ourselves. We try recalling all the memorized Scriptures in our heads, or we run to the concordance and look up search terms: “mourning,” “sorrow,” “pain,” “Job.” Then we spill this wisdom onto our friend, hoping to fix the leak. The effort is well meaning, and there's certainly a time and place for it. But too often we search for the perfect knowledge that will bring comfort and joy when all we really need to say is nothing at all.
When your friend is weeping it’s hard to say, "I don't know, I don't understand." We want to know. We want to bring comfort, but in our attempt to "fix it" we can forget that there's a real person in deep sorrow. Your friend, coworker, or relative is not a faucet to be fixed—they are flesh and blood to be loved. Those moments when you're anxiously trying to find the perfect words are often the best moments to humbly embrace your weakness and lack of knowledge.
To be clear, waiting doesn’t mean never sharing perceived wisdom. Waiting might actually involve acknowledging you do understand. You understand your friend's sorrow enough to be willing to bridle your tongue, to speak carefully and thoughtfully, to pray and wait.
Silence Is a Virtue
In a world where our minds are constantly invaded by noise, it’s no wonder the discipline of silence can feel so difficult. Job’s friends should have kept silent and simply wept with him instead of rattling off unhelpful advice. Have you ever spent any time in the book of Job and cheered on Job’s friends? I know I have. I’ve struggled to understand why their advice is wrong. At face value most of it sounds pretty wise. But they weren't comforting Job; they were accusing him. In Job 16he lays out exactly why these brothers were not helpful, calling them “miserable comforters” (Job 16:2). One even asked a rhetorical question in an attempt to discount Job’s wisdom (Job 15:2).
But did Job’s friends set out to be miserable comforters? Absolutely not. Each had a genuine desire “to show him sympathy and comfort him” (Job 2:11). So what went wrong?
They spoke.

They spoke without waiting and without thinking. And we often do the same. The next time a friend needs comfort and you have no idea what to say, perhaps you shouldn't say anything. It may be an opportunity to cry together. Maybe you could, with a compassion-filled heart, pray together. But wait on the advice and weigh your words.
Our Lord is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort. He comforts us so we may comfort others (2 Cor. 1:3–5). We must trust him, for he will bring comfort to our hurting friend.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Pictured Creed

I kind of like this, with the exception of the capital "C" Catholic and picture of St. Peter's Basilica. Obviously done by a Roman Catholic, but the Apostles Creed is common to all Christians. We can all say "I Believe!"

Friday, September 26, 2014

Grateful Happiness

Minimizing Forgiveness

"Do you ever think that your sins are too bad, and that forgiveness for those sins requires you to get your act together first? If so, you don’t fear God. You are minimizing his forgiveness. You are acting as though his forgiveness is ordinary, just like that of any person or make-believe god. In contrast, the fear of the Lord leads us to believe that when God makes promises too good to be true, they are indeed true."
— Ed Welch, Running Scared (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2007), page 195

HT: Of First Importance

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Gospel Centered?

"Gospel-centered preaching." "Gospel-centered parenting." "Gospel-centered discipleship." The back of my business card says "gospel-centered publishing." This descriptive mantra is tagged on to just about anything and everything in the Christian world these days.
What's it all about?
Before articulating what it might mean to be gospel-centered, we better be on the same page as to the actual message of the gospel.
I don't mean Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
What I mean by "gospel" in this article is the outrageous news of what has been done for us by God in Jesus. The gospel is the front page of the newspaper, not the back-page advice column; news of what has happened, not advice on how to live.
Specifically, the gospel is the startling news that what God demands from us, he provides for us. How? In his own Son. The gospel is the message that Jesus Christ delights to switch places with guilty rebels. The one person who walked this earth who deserved heaven endured the wrath of hell so that those who deserve the wrath of hell can have heaven.
And the gospel is not only personal, but cosmic. Christ's death and resurrection doesn't only provide forgiveness for me. It also means that in the middle of history, God has begun to undo death, ruin, decay, and darkness. The universe itself is going to be washed clean and made new. Eden will be restored.
But to be part of this movement, we too must die. Grace requires death. We must die to our bookkeeping existence that builds our identity on anything other than Jesus. We must relinquish, give up on ourselves, throw in the towel. And out of this death—letting God love us in, not after getting over, our messiness—resurrection life quietly blossoms.
Gospel-Centered Worldview
What does it mean, then, to be "gospel-centered"?
As far as I can tell the phrase is used in two basic ways. One way is to view all of life in light of the gospel. We'll call this a gospel-centered worldview. The other is to view Christian progress as dependent on the gospel. We'll call this gospel-centered growth. The first looks out; the second looks in. Take gospel-centered worldview first.
Think about what we mean when we call people "self-centered." We don't mean that all they think about directly is themselves. They also think about what to eat, what to wear, how to conclude an email, and a thousand other things each day. But self informs all these other decisions. A self-centered person passes all he does and thinks through the filter of self. Self trumps everything else and orders all other loves accordingly.In a similar way, to be gospel-centered does not mean that social action, marital and sexual matters, ethical issues, political agendas, our jobs, our diet, and all the rest of daily life are irrelevant. Rather, it means all of life is viewed in light of the gospel. Everything passes through the filter of the gospel. What Jesus has done and is doing to restore the universe trumps everything else and orders all other loves accordingly.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Remind Yourself Who You Are

What does it mean to preach the gospel to yourself? Read this passage from Jerry Bridges in Respectable Sins:
Since the gospel is only for sinners, I begin each day with the realization that despite my being a saint, I still sin every day in thought, word, deed, and motive. If I am aware of any subtle, or not so subtle, sins in my life, I acknowledge those to God. Even if my conscience is not indicting me for conscious sins, I still acknowledge to God that I have not even come close to loving Him with all my being or loving my neighbor as myself. I repent of those sins, and then I apply specific Scriptures that assure me of God’s forgiveness to those sins I have just confessed.
I then generalize the Scripture’s promises of God’s forgiveness to all my life and say to God words to the effect that my only hope of a right standing with Him that day is Jesus’ blood shed for my sins, and His righteous life lived on my behalf. This reliance on the twofold work of Christ for me is beautifully captured by Edward Mote in his hymn “The Solid Rock” with his words, “My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” Almost every day, I find myself going to those words in addition to reflecting on the promises of forgiveness in the Bible.
What Scriptures do I use to preach the gospel to myself? Here are just a few I choose from each day:
As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12)
“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” (Isaiah 43:25)
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)
Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin. (Romans 4:7-8)
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)
There are many others, including Psalm 130:3-4; Isaiah 1:18; Isaiah 38:17; Micah 7:19; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 2:13-14; Hebrews 8:12; and 10:17-18.
Whatever Scriptures we use to assure us of God’s forgiveness, we must realize that whether the passage explicitly states it or not, the onlybasis for God’s forgiveness is the blood of Christ shed on the cross for us. As the writer of Hebrews said, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins (9:22), and the context makes it clear that it is Christ’s blood that provides the objective basis on which God forgives our sins
I found this quote in a post by Tim Challies entitled  Faith Hacking: Preaching the Gospel to Yourself. Challies goes on to say:
That has been his daily practice for many years. Why don’t you make it part of your practice, and see the difference it makes to begin each day reminding yourself of who you were, and who you now are in Christ.
Well, Why not?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Unless We Ask

Pray For This One Thing

What is your top priority in prayer? Here's a suggestion by Jennifer LeClaire at Charisma.
I pray for many things every day. I pray for my family, my friends, my ministry, my nation—and, of course, myself. I pray for protection. I pray for a deeper revelation of God's love and over my life. I pray for grace.
But there's one thing I've been praying for more and more lately—and I am convinced that if we would pray more for this one thing we would make better use of our time, live happier lives, and ultimately see more answers to our prayers.
What is this one thing I've been praying for more and more lately? Wisdom. I believe if we pray more for spiritual wisdom—even if it means praying less for natural needs—we'll receive more wisdom and our natural needs will be more than met.
Take a Hint From Solomon
We could all take a hint from Solomon. You know the story. The Lord appealed to Solomon in a dream and made this invitation: "Ask! What shall I give you?" Can you imagine the Lord coming to you in a dream and making such an invitation? What would you ask God for if you could ask and assuredly receive anything?
It seems Solomon had enough wisdom to ask for the principal thing: wisdom. Solomon replied to God's invitation with these words: "Give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?" (1 Kings 3:9).
That made God happy. Let's see how He responded:
"Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked long life for yourself, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have asked the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice, behold, I have done according to your words; see, I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you. And I have also given you what you have not asked: both riches and honor, so that there shall not be anyone like you among the kings all your days. So if you walk in My ways, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days" (1 Kings 3:10-14).
All I can say to that is, "wow" and "amen."

Monday, September 22, 2014

Depressed Advice

If you have ever counselled a clinically depressed person to "just read your Bible and pray and you will be happy and well," please read this post by Brad Williams. If you have ever been told that advice, and felt guilty because it did not work for you, please read this post..

"When I Realized the Bible Cannot Cure Everything"

Sometimes you just need to take your medication first (and regularly)....and then read the Bible and pray.

No Other King

O Lord,
Come quickly and reign on Your throne,
for now often something rises up within me,
and tries to take possession of Your throne;
pride, covetousness, uncleanness, and sloth
want to be my kings;
and then evil-speaking, anger, hatred,
and the whole train of vices join with me
in warring against myself,
and try to reign over me.

I resist them,
I cry out against them,
“I have no other king than Christ!”
O King of Peace,
come and reign in me,
for I will have no king but You!
Bernard of Clairvaux, 1090-1153

Friday, September 19, 2014

Free To Be Me

The Freedom that Comes from Grace (Scotty Smith by way of Darryl Dash)
Grace is the end of all posturing and pretending.
  • Because of grace, I no longer have to pretend to be someone different than I am. Grace meets me right where I am.
  • Because of grace, I don’t have to measure up, because I couldn’t anyway. Jesus has measured up on my behalf, and it is enough.
  • Because of grace, I can accept the harshest criticism, knowing that even worse is true of me than they know, but it’s all been dealt with by Jesus.
  • Because of grace, I can be free from needing the approval of others, knowing that I already have the only approval that really matters.
  • Because of grace, I can lean into honest relationships with others, knowing that I don’t have to fear being exposed when I’m dressed in the righteousness of Christ.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Necessary and Comforting Reminder

From @Liberate

Trash To Treasure

If we as humans can restore old furniture and make it beautiful, should we wonder what God can do to a soul that feels like unworthy trash? From an article in Charisma by Bek Curtis:
....While spending the last hour starting the process of "up-cycling" a gorgeous timber children's chair that I "rescued" from a council clean-up, I have pondered why someone would throw away something so precious? As I've sanded off the dodgy lacquer and stain and applied the first coat of new paint, I was reminded of something: If I look at trash and I see beauty, how much more does God look at His astounding creation and see the royalty He intended?
If I, through sanding back and painting over what others have deemed as trash, and draw out of it beauty and charm, how much more can God draw out of us the beauty that has been cast aside and covered up or even completely discarded as trash? Not only does He draw out, enhance and perfect that beauty, He makes an entirely new creation in the process!
If you are feeling "trashed," cast aside, roughed up, forgotten or left by the curb, there is no better place to run than into the arms of your Heavenly Father! His sanding is gentle. His brush strokes are light. He already sees you as a finished product. He sees beauty. YOU are HIS TREASURE.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Dangerous Weariness

Captivation of the Heart

A good word from Paul Tripp:
This week I want to write to you about a word I think is poorly used and misunderstood in modern Christianity. It’s the word worship.
When we talk about worship, here’s what typically comes to mind – a Sunday morning gathering where we dress up, sing songs, give money, and take notes during a sermon.
There’s much to gain from that type of setting; I refer to it as ‘corporate worship’ and think it’s very necessary for the Christian life to be filled with gatherings, songs, and teaching. But, the Bible would define worship in a deeper way, one that happens more than just weekly in an organized environment.
Worship, according to Scripture, is an ongoing captivation of the heart that overflows into your life to produce desire, word, and deed. Everybody worships all the time. The question is: who, or what, is your heart captivated by that results in specific desire, word, and deed?Now, listen to what David says in Psalm 4:5 - "Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord." David's heart is clearly captivated by God. We don't know specifically what sacrifices David will make or how he will practically put his trust in the Lord, but we know where his heart is - captivated by his heavenly Father.
Context is key in this Psalm. Remember, David isn't experiencing blessing and prosperity; David is facing terrible hardship and suffering. Yet, in the midst of his situation, his heart is still captivated by the things of God.
How often is that untrue of us? I'll be honest - my heart is quickly captivated by other things when trial comes my way. Conversely, my heart feels more captivated by God when I experience his blessing. It's what I call 'conditional worship' - as long as God is good to me, I'll be captivated by him. What a mess!
David shows us that we can experience trial and still be deeply captivated by God. In fact, I think worship is rarely sweeter and more heartfelt than in times of trial, because when suffering enters your door, God is often in the process of removing physical treasures that compete with himself for the captivation of your heart.
Could it be that the trial you're experiencing is meant by God to produce a deeper worship in you than ever before? There's nothing in this world that can satisfy your soul like Jesus, so the most loving thing your Savior could do is take away those things that provide false hope.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Benefits of Silence

From an article on the benefits of silence and solitude by Charles Stone. Pastor Stone happens to be married to one of my college classmates. He found a good one when he met Sherryl!
....Hurry and noise and incessant busyness are enemies of a healthy spiritual life. I can attest to that. Yet, God does not want us to be controlled by nor conform to the noisy, hurried life that our culture and churches often push us toward. Some of the greatest spiritual leaders and influencers of the past said much about this practice.
Henri Nowen, who taught at Harvard, Yale and Notre Dame, and wrote 20 books, said, “Without (silence and solitude) it is virtually impossible to live a spiritual life." He also wrote, "It is a good discipline to wonder in each new situation if people wouldn't be better served by our silence than by our words." (The Way of the Heart)
The late Dallas Willard wrote, “(This one) is generally the most fundamental in the beginning of the spiritual life, and it must be returned to again and again as that life develops.”
Blaise Pascal, the scientist and Christian thinker of the 1600s, wrote, “I have discovered that all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they are unable to stay quietly in their own room.”
Austin Phelps, a pastor in the 1800s, noted, “It has been said that no great work in literature or in science was ever wrought by a man who did not love solitude. We may lay it down as an elemental principle of religion, that no large growth in holiness was ever gained by one who did not take time to be often long alone with God."
The Bible also speaks often on silence and solitude.
There is ... a time to be silent. (Ecc 3.7)
Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. (Ecc 5.2)
Be still, and know that I am God." (Ps 46.10)
Moses and Paul, some of the most recognized figures in history, were transformed in times of extended solitude....
He goes on the list eight benefits of silence and solitude:
Here are eight practical benefits of silence and solitude.
1. It (they) breaks the power of hurry, our addiction to a 'have-to-do-this' mentality.
Willard explains it this way: The person who is capable of doing nothing might be capable of refraining from doing the wrong thing. And then perhaps he or she would be better able to do the right thing.
It helps create an inner space for us to become aware of what we are doing and are about to do.
2. It helps renew our souls.
Francis de Sales, who in the late 1500s developed sign language to teach the deaf about God, wrote, “There is no clock, no matter how good it may be, that doesn't need resetting and rewinding twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. In addition, at least once a year, it must be taken apart to remove the dirt clogging it, straighten out bent parts, and repair those worn out. In like manner, every morning and evening a man who really takes care of his heart must rewind it for God’s service. ... Moreover, he must often reflect on his condition in order to reform and improve it. Finally, at least once a year, he must take it apart and examine every piece in detail, that is every affection and passion, in order to repair whatever defects there may be.
The Bible speaks pointedly to this idea.
Be silent before the Lord God! (Zeph 1.7)
My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken. (Ps 62.5-6)
For thus the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has said, 'In repentance and rest you shall be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength.' (Is 30.15)
3. It reminds us that life will still go on without us.
It interrupts the cycle of constantly having to manage things and be in control. It breaks us from a sense of being indispensable.
4. It clears the storm of life and mind for wise decision making and planning.
Luke 6:12-13 tells us that Jesus spent time in silence and solitude when deciding whom to choose as the disciples who would travel with Him. And it was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. And when day came, He called His disciples to Him; and chose 12 of them, whom He also named as apostles.
5. It creates inner space to hear the voice of God.
God spoke to the prohet Elijah right after he had come from a power encounter with the Baal worshippers on Mount Carmel. He had fled because he heard that Queen Jezebel had placed a price on his head. He hid in a cave and God asked him what he was doing there. Then God told him to leave the cave and that He would speak to him. Elijah saw a storm and then wind and then an earthquake and then fire. Yet God was not in any of those. Rather, God spoke in a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19.2).
We are usually surrounded by so much outer noise that it is hard to truly hear God when he is speaking to us. Silence and solitude frees us from life's preoccupations so we can hear God’s voice.
6. It allows us to disconnect from the world and deeply connect with our soul.
Henry Nouwen said, “In solitude, I get rid of my scaffolding.” And what is scaffolding? It's the stuff we use to keep ourselves propped up, be it friends, family, TV, radio, books, job, technology, work, achievement, our bank account, etc.
7. It helps us control our tongue.
James 1.19 says, “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
Silence and solitude can free us from the tyranny we can hold over others with our words. When we are silent and yield to the advice in James, it becomes more difficult to manipulate and control the people and circumstances around us. When we practice silence, we lay down the weapons of words. It often reminds us that we don’t need to say as much as we think we do. We find that God can manage situations just fine without our opinions on the subject.
8. It helps us with the other disciplines.
When we include silence and solitude, it enriches prayer, Bible reading and fasting.
More at the link.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Blessed To Bless

Holy Expectancy

"Coming events cast their shadows before them, and when God is about to bless his people his coming favour casts the shadow of prayer over the church. When he is about to favour an individual he casts the shadow of hopeful expectation over his soul. Our prayers, let men laugh at them as they will, and say there is no power in them, are the indicators of the movement of the wheels of Providence. Believing supplications are forecasts of the future, He who prayeth in faith is like the seer of old, he sees that which is to be: his holy expectancy, like a telescope, brings distant objects near to him."

             — Charles Spurgeon    "The Holy Spirit's Intercession"

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Lifting and Kneeling

From Robbie Seay at Desiring God- Be There To Respond:
The Psalms give us two reoccurring physical responses to God: Lift your hands and kneel down.
“Come let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our maker!” (Psalm 95:6)
“But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you.”(Psalm 5:7)
“So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.”(Psalm 63:4)
“Lift up your hands to the holy place and bless the Lord!” (Psalm 134:2)
Because of the cross, these invitations to worship are not part of a formula or ritual that grants us access to God. They become honest, outward expressions of an inward surrender to God.
Pressing In
As you gather this Sunday with the people of God, hopefully you greet one another in the name of Jesus, and perhaps even have a good cup of coffee. But more than that, hopefully you’ll celebrate the grace and love of Jesus Christ. Rejoice in the salvation that God has made yours by way of the cross and resurrection of Jesus. Know that the Spirit of God is with you, that he speaks through God’s word, that he intercedes for you according to God’s will (Romans 8:27).And whether you are a worship leader or an engineer, a teacher or businessman, a student or a nurse, let’s together put down the phones, and put down the coffee, and let’s press into God’s grace and be moved by it. Let’s be there to respond.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Questions For Meditatation

From Tim Challies- Getting Better At Meditation:
If you are like me, you find meditation a difficult practice. You like the idea of it, but find the reality difficult to carry out. In my mind, “meditation” seems like an ethereal term, one that contains a good idea but without any clear structure. I struggle with it.
In his book Simplify Your Spiritual Life, Donald Whitney says, “When meditating on a verse of Scripture, it’s usually much easier to answer specific questions about it than to think about the text without any guidance or direction at all.” Which, I think, pretty much explains my frustration. He describes meditating on Philippians 4:8 and realizing that the verse offers helpful directions for the kinds of things he could meditate on for any passage in the whole Bible.
Philippians 4:8, which you’ve probably memorized at one time or another, says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Whitney studied the verse for a time, and came up with a list of questions that can be helpful for meditating on nearly anything in your life, but especially Scripture. Here they are:
  • What is true about this, or what truth does it exemplify?
  • What is honorable about this?
  • What is right about this?
  • What is pure about this, or how does it exemplify purity?
  • What is lovely about this?
  • What is admirablecommendable, or reputation-strengthening about this?
  • What is excellent about this (in other words, excepts others of this kind)?
  • What is praiseworthy about this?
And there you have it—8 questions that can help guide your meditation.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

No Sweat

All Made New: Old Is the Real Illusion

Oh, this piece from Jon Bloom at Desiring God is so good!
So many of us love these words written by Jeremiah, the lamenting prophet, which have sustained us in dark days:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
(Lamentations 3:22–23)

Have you ever wondered why Jeremiah says that God’s steadfast love and mercies never cease and yet they are new every morning? How is something that never ceases, new?
Every Single Moment Is New
We might say that Jeremiah is simply speaking phenomenologically, meaning itappears like God’s love and mercies are new with each new day, even though it’s not really new. But I don’t think that’s true. Jeremiah is not merely being more than poetic (which he is). I think there is a very real sense in which God’s enduring love and constant mercies are not only new every morning, but new every moment.
“God’s enduring love and constant mercies are not only new every morning, but new every moment.”  Tweet
Every single moment is new. Every moment is a completely unique creation by God the Father through God the Son who is upholding the universe at that moment by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:2–3). Never is a moment neglected. Never is a moment repeated. Each moment is a new, infinitely powerful and complex word spoken by the Word with deliberate intention (John 1:1). Every moment God makes he decides to be utterly faithful to his character and his purposes. Every new moment God commits to fulfill what he says he will do.
“Old” Is the Real Illusion
When it comes to experiencing things as new or old, I think we tend to interpret our phenomenological experience backwards. The real illusion is not that old things appear new to us (like God’s mercies or a sunrise), but that new things ever appear old. We think of things as new or old mainly because of our mortality. We, and all terrestrial life in this age, die. So we observe creation as it changes and life as it progresses toward death and call it aging. But that’s phenomenological; that’s how it appears. In reality, every thing is new every moment.
God is not old. God is. He calls himself the Ancient of Days to help us time-bound creatures grasp something of the vastness of his eternal nature (Daniel 7:9). But time itself is a creation of God. He is not defined by age.
Neither are you in essence young or old. You are. Young and old are phenomenological terms we use to describe our experience of time in this age and where we think we are on the progression toward physical death. But that’s a relative measurement. Measured against God or the created universe we are extremely new. But in reality, we exist in each brand new moment and each momentary experience is new. And everything we do is new. Whatever you are doing, no matter how many times you have done something similar before, you are not doing the same old thing. You are doing something new, something that has never been done before and will never be done again. We always exist in the new and always do what’s new.
“Behold, I Am Making All Things New”
In the age to come, I doubt very much that we will speak of things being old. All things will always be new because we will live with a far greater, unfiltered awareness and wonder of the continual creation of God without the time constriction of impending death. I think we will find that a world of wonderful mystery is packed into the promise, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5). And I think we will find that there was more than we’ve ever imagined packed into the statement, “the old has passed away” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
God’s steadfast love and mercies for you are indeed new every morning. In fact, they are new with every new moment as he commits with a continually fresh resolve to keep his great faithfulness working for you.
Enjoy the gift of this new moment, whatever it brings, knowing that he who is “making all things new” for you is working all things together for your eternal, ageless good (Romans 8:28).

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Gym for the Soul

"Although the whole of Scripture breathes God's grace upon us, this is especially true of the most delightful book, the Book of the Psalms. Moses, when he told of the deeds of the patriarchs, did so in a plain and unadorned style. But when he had miraculously led the people of Israel across the Red Sea, and when he had seen King Pharaoh with all his army drowned, he transcended his own normal style and sang a song of triumph to the Lord - just as through the miracle Moses' powers were transcended by God's.  Miriam the prophetess took up a timbrel and led the others in the refrain 'Sing to the Lord: he has covered himself in glory, horse and rider he has thrown into the see.' (Ex 15:21)

History instructs us, the law teaches us, prophecy foretells, rebuke condemn us, wisdom persuades us; but the book of Psalms goes further than all of these. It is medicine for our spiritual health. When we read it we find a medicine to cure the wounds caused by any of our passions. Whoever studies it deeply will find it to be like a gymnasium for their soul, where the different psalms are like different exercises set out before them. In that gymnasium, in that stadium of virtue, they can choose the exercises that will best train them to win the victors crown."

         - St. Ambrose of Milan

From Awakening Faith: Daily Devotions from the Early Church, #340

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Draw Near

HT: @KariJobe

Reading Scripture Together

I'm intrigued by the ancient practice of lectio divina, a liturgical practice for reading the Scriptures (and also devotional writings). Not sure what I think about it - It has its dangers. Maybe a mix or alternating pattern of exegetical study and devotional reading is best.

Any way, here's an interesting piece on adapting the the practice to a house church/small group context from from Church in a Circle
...Each Sunday morning all of our missional communities and faith family come together under one roof. We sing, we share at the Lord’s Table, and we focus on God’s Word. As a church, we are learning to value dialogue (not only monologue), and are fostering a conversational community where communal discernment is embraced and invited, where shared leadership is emphasised, and each personactively participates. We use a variety of techniques to explore Scripture together, including Lectio Divina.
Lectio Devina: Discerning Life With God Together
The Sundays we practice Lectio Devina prove to be beautifully formative experiences. I could offer story after story of what we’ve seen and heard in the midst of our gatherings (and I will tell you one of them today). But first, this is how we practice it in a large gathering of people.
There are four basic moves in our practice of Lectio Devina (we call these “moves” in an effort to distinguish them from a “steps” mentality because it is not a four-step linear process; it as a movement between states of awareness where each stage naturally progresses). This is not a Bible study where we are interpreting the text, as much as allowing the text to interpret us. Here is how it works in detail.
Movement One: Reading Deeply
While sitting in a comfortable position after a few moments of silence (which is awkward in our noisy world!) we begin with silence before God. We are now ready to listen as someone reads the text aloud. Everyone is reminded to savor each word as they listen for a particular phrase that speaks to them and captures their imagination. After the reading a few moments of silence each person is invited to ask God, “What word or phrase do you want me to hear today?” A few more moments of quiet reflection is offered. Finally, anyone is welcomed to share aloud just the word or phrase. No elaboration is needed. This means we do not share anything that isn’t present in the text. In other words, we do not seek to make application. Not yet. We just listen. We simply allow God’s Spirit to speak through His Word slowly as we identify a word or phrase directly from Scripture.
Movement Two: Thinking Deeply
The text is read aloud again using the same translation, preferably by a different voice as it provides a different experience. Each person is invited to slowly repeat the phrase that seems to be for them while the passage is read again. We want to think deeply with God. We ask God, “Where does this  phrase touch my life?” After a few moments to reflect each person is invited to share their reflection aloud using phrases such as “I hear…” “I see…” “I feel…”
Movement Three: Living Deeply
The text is read aloud a third and final time. Each person is invited to speak to God in words or images what He places on their heart. That response may be confession, thanksgiving, joy, or repentance. Finally, each person asks God, “What do You want me to do in light of this phrase?” This may come instantly for some while for others it unfolds throughout time. After a few moments of reflection anyone is invited to share aloud their response.
Movement Four: Rest
Finally we simply rest in silence in God’s presence, meditating on this experience with His Living Word.
Once we have enjoyed this time together I usually ask the church if we could identify any consistent themes within the room. I don’t force it. I want to allow the chance for deeper listening to what the Spirit could be saying to us as a community. I may offer extra insight into the particular Scripture in its context, but for no more than 10 minutes and only after we’ve all listened deeply to God through the text. I do not want to shape our readings, only ask God to shape our understanding of what it means to live from this text as His people joined with Him in Williamsburg, Virginia. My hope is that this part of the experience gives our collective reading theological and missiological integrity while inviting all of God’s people to work out the text in their lives as disciples of Jesus...

Sunday, September 7, 2014

All Together Now....

"The only way to understand the Psalms is on your knees, the whole congregation praying (singing) the words of the Psalms with all it’s strength. "

              - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Becoming.By Praying

An Invitation to A Wonderful Gift

Bible Study Struggles by Paul Tripp:
I have a confession to make. It’s embarrassing and humbling, but I’m willing to make it publicly: I’m not always excited about reading and studying the Bible.
I go through periods of what I would call spiritual boredom, when the “old, old story” just isn’t very exciting to me. On my worst days, reading God’s Word feels burdensome to me, and my heart is motivated more by duty than worshipful joy.
When I hit these periods, there are 3 things I require myself to remember:
1. I Remember God’s Grace
One of my favorite passages in all of Scripture is Isaiah 55 – I’ve written about ithere and here. This chapter gives us visual picture after visual picture of God’s amazing grace, and because it does, it’s not surprising that the crescendo of this chapter is a visual picture of what the Bible is able to do in us and for us.
You’ll never find joy in Bible study until you understand that reading God’s Word is not first a call to duty, but an invitation to receive a wonderful gift. Your Bible is a gift of God’s grace that’s able to do what no other gift can do—change your heart and your life. Scripture really does have to power to turn thorn bushes into cypress trees!
2. I Remember Jesus
Reading God’s Word is much more than reading dusty, abstract theology, becoming familiar with ancient religious stories, or getting principles for daily living. You’ll never have joy in your Bible study unless you understand that it’s God’s invitation for you to commune with his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
In John 5, Jesus’ claims are questioned by people who are purported to be experts in Scripture. Christ says, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39).
Open your Bible and what do you encounter? Not a thing, but a Person, and His name is Jesus. Reading and meditating on your Bible is God’s means of welcoming you into daily fellowship with your Brother, Friend, Savior and King—Jesus.
3. I Remember To Remember
I’m so prone to forget God, forget his grace, forget my identity as his child, forget that he supplies all that I need, forget his unstoppable sovereign plan, and forget his eternal kingdom. When I forget God, I tend to put myself in his position and make my life all about me: my will, my feeling, my plan, my wants, and my needs.
Putting myself in God’s position always leads to spiritual dissatisfaction because the world was not created to do my bidding. So I need to be reminded every day of God’s awesome glory, his gracious presence in my life, and my special identity as his child. His Word was given so that day after day I would remember.
So, tomorrow, when you don’t feel like opening your Bible, remember God’s grace, remember your friend and brother, Jesus, and remember how quickly you forget. Pick God’s Word up not with the burden of guilt or as a call to duty, but because it’s a gift given to you by a God of amazingly tender mercy and grace.