Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Changing By Grace

Great article on how to change by Paul Tripp
The Bible is all about the grace of change. It’s a story of new beginnings and fresh starts. The Bible holds before us that hope that we can change, and in so doing, act and speak in new and better ways. And although the Bible clearly presents that change generally is a process and not an event, it does call us to do all that we can do to participate in God’s work of change.
So here’s the question you need to ask yourself today: “What can I do to participate in God’s agenda of change for my life?” That’s what today’s article is all about. I want to lay out a series of 10 steps that will move you in the direction of personal change.
1. Don’t give way to regret.
It’s so easy to meditate on the long list of your past mistakes. But your Lord knows that growth is a process. He won’t turn His back on you because you’ve failed. Remember this: God not only forgives your mistakes; He empowers you to not make them again.
2. Embrace gospel hope.
You need to remember that you have been gifted with grace that is more powerful than all of your sins. On the cross, the power of sin over you was broken, and although the presence of sin still remains, you don’t have to live under its domination. Your Lord is with you, working to free you from sin’s addiction and to change you into His image.
3. Examine your fruit.
What kind of fruit does your lifestyle produce? What have your decisions harvested this past week?
Good Fruit: encouragement; hope; love; forgiveness; reconciliation; peace
Bad Fruit: discouragement; division; condemnation; bitterness; foolishness
Examine your harvest honestly; it will tell you a lot about where you need to change.
4. Expose your roots.
It’s not enough just to examine your harvest; you must expose your roots. We need to humbly admit that our bad fruit is connected to bad thoughts, attitudes, desires, and motivations in our heart. Don’t settle for superficial behavioral modification; you need to go after the heart of the problem – your heart.
5. Seek forgiveness.
It’s only when we humbly ask for forgiveness that we quit excusing, quit rationalizing, and quit justifying ourselves. You see, when you do that, you’ve provided self-atonement, and because of that, you don’t go and seek the forgiveness of God and others, and you abort His work in your life. When was the last time you self-atoned for yourself with a statement like:
“I wasn’t angry; I was just trying to emphasize my point.”
“She has the unique ability to drive me crazy.”
“I wasn’t feeling well, so I wasn’t myself when I spoke.”
“I was just having one of those days.”
Jesus provided all the atonement you needed at the Cross. Stop trying to provide it yourself.
6. Change the rules.
Lasting change is the result of a commitment to a new and better way. You need to ask yourself:
“What old patterns is God calling me to replace?”
“What will the new way look like?”
“Where are places where you will be tempted to go back to the old way?”
“Where will change be hard and demand perseverance?”
“Who are the people in your life that you can invite to hold accountable?”
7. Look for real opportunities.
So much of real change starts with a change of perspective. Instead of looking at those difficult and tough moments as obstacles to change, see them as God-given opportunities to experience God’s grace and to step out in a better direction.
8. Choose your words and actions.
Determine to be intentional, rather than reactive. Determine to think before you speak, and pray before you think. Change is all about choosing your words and actions wisely, and God will give you the grace to choose.
9. Confess your weakness.
Our problem is not that we’re weak; God delights in meeting us in our weakness with His powerful grace. We don’t change because we have delusions of personal strength and holiness.
10. Don’t give the devil an opportunity.
Learn to locate where you are most susceptible to temptation. Learn to watch for his tricks and prepare yourself.
You don’t have to be discouraged. There are steps of change, and in every step, God will make Himself and His grace known to you. God will not call you to do something without giving you the wherewithal to do it. There really is a way to get from where you are to where God has made it possible for you to be. Change is possible.
_________

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

God Took A Selfie



He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. (Hebreww1:3 ESV)

Monday, April 28, 2014

Take the Easy Yoke

A prayer for today by Scotty Smith, based on Matthew 11:28-30 
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matt. 11:28-30
Dear Lord Jesus, how can we not respond to such a grand and grace-full invitation? Your gentle, lowly heart is irresistible to us; and your “easy yoke and light burden,” alone, provide the rest for which we long. Thank you for being so welcoming, understanding, and kind.
Some of us are paralyzed from the lingering pain of old relational wounds—seemingly unable to get unstuck and free. Some of us are reeling from the impact of fresh betrayals and knee-buckling hard news. Some of us are much more lonely in our marriages than we ever were in our singleness. Some of us are undone by the injustices and evil we see paraded throughout the world.
Some of us seem permanently allergic to your grace—so unable to really believe you love us as much as you say you do. Some of us are quietly suffering the destructive shame of embarrassing weaknesses and uncontrollable obsessions. Some of us are tired, spent, and disillusioned, from the unrealistic demands and unexpected sucker-punches of serving you. ALL of us need you, and ALL of us are objects of your affection.
Jesus, we need you in this moment. Flood our hearts with your presence and peace. Grant us the assurance that you are enough. Give us the daily mercies and sufficient grace you have pledged.
Be the great Warrior of our hearts as you rebuke the devil on our behalf. Don’t let the dark one seize our current situations for spewing his toxins and accusations, lies and condemnation.
Jesus, help us walk today as a people of faith, hope, and love. Give us the wisdom and power you promise. Bring much glory to yourself, as we bring our restless selves to you. Write stories of redemption, refreshment and renewal, by your hand of mercy and might. So very Amen we pray, with thankfulness, in your most worthy and gracious name.

HT: Liberate 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Friendship Deficits

From a great piece by J. Lee Grady on Why We Don't Develop Meaningful Friendships:
...The modern church does not always place a high value on relationships. While the New Testament commands us to “fervently love one another from the heart” (1 Pet. 1:22, NASB), we have developed a cold corporate culture. We are content to herd people into buildings for services and then herd them out. Our main concern is that they occupied a seat and listened to a sermon. But did they connect with each other? Even in churches that try to nurture relationships, only a fraction of the people get involved in small groups.
Personally, I don’t believe we will see New Testament revival power or New Testament impact until we reclaim fervent New Testament love. But that realm of love isn’t possible without deep healing and serious attitude adjustments. Here are five of the most serious reasons Christians today struggle in the area of relationships:
1. Self-centeredness. Jesus defined love when He said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Real friendship is always sacrificial. We tend to want friendship on our terms; we want to be loved and encouraged and comforted. But if we want that kind of love, we should be willing to give it to someone else first. British preacher Charles Spurgeon wrote, “Any man can selfishly desire to have a Jonathan; but he is on the right track who desires to find out a David to whom he can be a Jonathan.”
2. Lack of transparency. Too many people today live with secrets. We are experts at faking it. We hide our private pain behind masks and thick body armor. We go through the motions and we mouth the right words—but church life becomes shallow and superficial without raw honesty. True friends take off their armor, reveal their shame and share their hearts—and they confess their sins to each other (James 5:16). This is the path to true healing. 
3. Bitterness. Paul told the Ephesians, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32). Yet many Christians today have never let go of their resentments. They don’t realize that people who seethe with anger over past hurts poison themselves—and make it impossible to develop close friends. Bitterness will make you unfriendly—and people will avoid you because you are toxic. We must learn to pay close attention to our hearts and purge any grudge the instant it takes root in our souls.
4. Low self-esteem. Jesus told us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31). But our love for others is short-circuited when we don’t think we have anything to offer in a relationship. Many people lack the confidence to reach out and make friends because they don’t think they deserve to be loved. Self-hatred can be caused by abuse, lack of parental affection, bullying or other factors. If you struggle to love yourself, you must be willing to crawl out of your shell and seek help. Reach out to the people around you. God has prepared someone to pray with you!
5. Fear of rejection. I meet people who have given up on church altogether because they were betrayed. Some have even left ministry positions because friends turned their backs on them. Their attitude is “I will never let anyone hurt me like that again.” But is it really worth it to close the door on the possibility of friendship just because of one or two bad experiences? Proverbs 18:24 says, “Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family” (MSG). The loyal friends in my life have more than compensated for any disappointments. Friendship is a risk worth taking.
When Jesus brought heaven’s kingdom on earth, He assembled a group of followers who came to be known as His friends (John 15:15). He called them to follow Him as disciples but also to be connected to one another in deep fellowship. Our vertical connection to Christ makes a horizontal connection to our brothers and sisters possible. Don’t let anything stop you from enjoying healthy relationships.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Approach Path

How dare you approach the mercy-seat of God on the basis of what kind of day you had, as if that were the basis for our entrance into the presence of the sovereign and holy God? No wonder we cannot beat the Devil. This is works theology. It has nothing to do with grace and the exclusive sufficiency of Christ. Nothing. 
Do you not understand that we overcome the accuser on the ground of the blood of Christ? Nothing more, nothing less. That is how we win. It is the only way we win. This is the only ground of our acceptance before God. If you drift far from the cross, you are done. You are defeated. 
We overcome the accuser of our brothers and sisters, we overcome our consciences, we overcome our bad tempers, we overcome our defeats, we overcome our lusts, we overcome our fears, we overcome our pettiness on the basis of the blood of the Lamb.

Hat Tip: Vitamin Z

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Easter Greetings From Iranian Prison

From his prison hospital bed in Iran, American Pastor Saeed Abedini sent Easter greetings and prayers through a letter smuggled out by his wife:
Crucifying the resurrected “self” with Christ and resurrects our dead faith with Christ.
Happy Resurrection Day.
On the Eve of Good Friday and Easter I was praying from my hospital room for my fellow Christians in the world.  What the Holy Spirit revealed to me in prayer was that there are many dead faiths in the midst of Christians today. That Christians all over the world are not able to fully reach their spiritual potential that has been given to them as a gift by God so that in reaching that potential, the curtain can be removed and the Glory of God would be revealed.
Some times we want to experience the Glory and Resurrection with Jesus without experiencing death with Him.  We do not realize that unless we pass through the path of death with Christ, we are not able to experience resurrection with Christ.We want to have a good and successful marriage, career, education and family life (which is also God’s desire and plan for our life). But we forget that in order to experience the Resurrection and Glory of Christ we first have to experience death with Christ and to die to ourselves and selfish desires.
Jesus said to His Disciples:  “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. (Matthew 16:24)
Let us continue to pray for our brother and his family, and for all persecuted Christians everywhere.

HT: Thinking Out loud

The China Boom

From Joe Carter at The Gospel Coalition -  "China on Course to Become World's Most Christian Nation" Very interesting...and encouraging!
The Story:  The number of Christians in Communist China is growing so steadily that by 2030 it could have more churchgoers than America, reports The Telegraph.chinesechurch
The Background: The People's Republic of China remains, at least officially, an atheist country. But the number of Protestant Christians in China has grown from one million in 1949 to more than 49 million in 2010. Experts believe that number could more than triple over the next generation:
Prof Yang, a leading expert on religion in China, believes that number will swell to around 160 million by 2025. That would likely put China ahead even of the United States, which had around 159 million Protestants in 2010 but whose congregations are in decline. 
By 2030, China's total Christian population, including Catholics, would exceed 247 million, placing it above Mexico, Brazil and the United States as the largest Christian congregation in the world, he predicted.
"Mao thought he could eliminate religion. He thought he had accomplished this," Prof Yang said. "It's ironic - they didn't. They actually failed completely."
Why It Matters:  In his book The Rise of Christianity, sociologist Rodney Stark estimates that during the first 350 years of Christianity, the religion grew at a rate of 40 percent per decade. During the 61 year period from 1949 to 2010, Christianity grew at a rate of 78.7 percent per year.
Part of the reason for the exponential growth is attributable to the sheer size of the population of China. With 1.351 billion people in the country, Christians comprise only 5 percent of the country. If current trends hold, in 2030 Christians in China will make up almost 9 percent of the total population. While the ratio of Christians to population would still be small, the total numbers are astounding. By mid-century, China may have more citizens who identify as Christians than the United States has citizens.
Christians in America often find reasons to be pessimistic about our religion's waning influence on our country. But we should remember that our land is not the last bastion of hope for the faith. The remarkable growth in global Christianity -- particularly in Asia and Africa -- should give us reason to be optimistic. The Holy Spirit is changing hearts and minds around the globe in a way that has not been seen since the first century after Christ's Ascension. For this we should be eternally grateful.
Those of us in the West should continue to support our Chinese brothers and sisters with finances, missionaries, theological resources, and -- most importantly -- prayer. In the latter half of this century, assuming the Lord tarries, we may need them to do the same for the American church.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Confidence

“When Christ is my hope, he becomes the one thing in which I have confidence. I act on his wisdom and bank on his grace. I trust his promises and I rely on his presence. And I pursue all the good things that he has promised me simply because I trust him. So, I am not manipulating, controlling, or threatening my way through life to get what I want, because I have found what I want in Christ. He is my hope.”

— Paul David Tripp,  A Quest for More ,  (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2007), 107

HT: Of First Importance

Find You In the Seeking

Love this song. Love this group!  'Oh How I Need You.'  by All Sons & Daughters:




Monday, April 21, 2014

Everything Sad Comes Untrue


From @DailyKeller

Wait For It

Great article by Paul Tripp -God’s Will For Your Wait . We all go through times of waiting, times when it seems like God is not active and nothing seems to be happening. Tripp says that while waiting you should....
Remind Yourself You Are Not Alone
As you wait, tell yourself again and again that you have not been singled out. Remind yourself that you are part of a vast company of people who are being called to wait. Reflect on the biblical story. Abraham waited many years for his promised son. Israel waited 420 years for deliverance from Egypt, then another 40 years before they could enter the land God had promised them. God’s people waited generation after generation for the Messiah, and the church now waits for his return. The whole world groans as it waits for the final renewal of all things that God has promised. In ministry, it is vital to understand that waiting is not an interruption of God’s plan. It is his plan. And you can know this as well: the Lord who has called you to wait is with you in your wait. He hasn’t gone off to do something else, like the doctor you’re waiting to see. No, God is near, and he provides for you all that you need to be able to wait.
Realize That Waiting Is Active
Usually our view of waiting is the doctor’s office. We see it as a meaningless waste of time, like a man stuck in the reception area until he has nothing left to do but scan recipes in a two-year-old copy of Ladies’ Home Journal.
Our waiting on God must not be understood this way. The sort of waiting to which we are called is not inactivity. It is very positive, purposeful, and spiritual. To be called to wait is to be called to the activity of remembering: remembering who I am and who God is. To be called to wait is to be called to the activity of worship: worshiping God for his presence, wisdom, power, love, and grace. To be called to wait is to be called to the activity of serving: looking for ways to lovingly assist and encourage others who are also being called to wait. To be called to wait is to be called to the activity of praying: confessing the struggles of my heart and seeking the grace of the God who has called me to wait. We must rethink waiting and remind ourselves that waiting is itself a call to action.
Celebrate How Little Control You Have
Because the constant striving in ministry to be a little god over some corner of creation is draining and futile, waiting should actually be a relief. It’s a reminder that I don’t have as much power and control as I thought I had. When I am required to wait I realize again that I do not have to load my church onto my shoulders. I may have God-given responsibilities in a number of areas, but that is vastly different from pretending I have sovereignty in any area.The church is being carried on the capable shoulders of the Savior Shepherd, King of kings. All I am responsible for is the job description of character and behavior that this King has called me to in his Word. The remainder I am free to entrust to him, and for that I am very, very thankful! He really does have the whole world in his hands....
Much more at the link.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Colony of Heaven


Some great N. T. Wright quotes for Easter:

“Jesus's resurrection is the beginning of God's new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord's Prayer is about.”

N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church


“Easter was when Hope in person surprised the whole world by coming forward from the future into the present.” 

First Day of the New Creation

One of the Best Easter Quotes Ever! 
On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realized the new wonder; but even they hardly realized that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but the dawn.
- G. K. Chesterton,  The Everlasting Man

HT:  Randy, Vitamin Z

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Where to Park

The Crucified God

"It is the cross that gives God his credibility. The only God I believe in is the one Nietzsche (the nineteenth-century German philosopher) ridiculed as ‘God on the cross.’ In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?

In the course of my travels I have entered a number of Buddhist temples in different Asian countries. I have stood respectfully before a statue of the Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing around his mouth, serene and silent, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time, after a while, I have had to turn away. And in my imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in Godforsaken darkness.

The crucified one is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us, dying in our place in order that we might be forgiven. Our sufferings become more manageable in light of his. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross, which symbolizes divine suffering."


— John Stott,  Why I Am a Christian,  page 63


HT: Of First Importance

Finished



Click on picture to enlarge it
From Radio Free Babylon - Coffee With Jesus

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Gravity That Holds Us Together

"We’re like the solar system without the sun. The sun is so massive it can hold all the planets in their orbits, but we’re not the sun. We simply don’t have the gravity to hold our lives together even when we expend a lot of effort trying. What we need is the good news of Jesus Christ, the good news that we can look outside ourselves at last because God has provided everything we need in Jesus. God has sent his glorious Son into the world to be everything for us, to be the center of our lives, to draw us into fellowship with the living God. And it’s all by grace."

-From Missing Jesus: Find Your Life in His Great Story, by Charles and Janet Morris

Hat Tip: Tim Challies

Cruciform Faith

Holy Week Thoughts at Internet Monk:
At Mockingbird, they have this helpful entry on the subject of “Theology of Glory” in their site glossary:
Theologies of glory are approaches to Christianity and to life that try in various ways to minimize difficult and painful things, or else to defeat and move past them, rather than looking them square in the face and accepting them. In particular, they acknowledge the cross, but view it primarily as a means to an end – an unpleasant but necessary step on the way to good things in the future, especially salvation, the transformation of human potential by God and the triumph of the Kingdom of God in the world. As Luther puts it, the theologian of glory ‘does not know God hidden in suffering. Therefore he prefers works to suffering, glory to the cross, strength to weakness, wisdom to folly, and, in general, good to evil’ (The Heidelberg Disputation, Proof to Thesis XXI). This is the natural default setting for human beings. A theology of the cross, by contrast, sees the cross as revealing the fundamental nature of God’s involvement in the world this side of heaven.
That last sentence is striking. “The fundamental nature of God’s involvement in the world this side of heaven” is the way of the cross.
People don’t like that. I don’t like that.
I want a God I can see, not a God who is hidden.
I want a God who will convince me beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is living and active and on my side.
I want spectacular answers to prayer.
I want to witness remarkable events that can only be explained by God’s intervention.
I want tangible evidence that faith pays off, not only in the end but here and now.
I want a God who solves my problems, eases my pain, answers my questions, and makes me successful.
I want God to enable me to do good works so I can feel good about myself and my contribution to the world.
I want to be made strong, confident, optimistic, fit for the long haul.
I want insight into how life works so that I can follow the right steps and help others do the same.
I want a God who makes a way in the wilderness, not one who leads and leaves me there.
I want fulfillment in my work, health and happiness in my family, grace and cooperation among my neighbors, peace, security, and ample provision in my world.
I want to hear God speak. I detest silence.
I want God to show up when I need God. On time. Bringing what I need.
I don’t want a God who bleeds, who thirsts, who worries about his mother, who lets clueless, cruel people drive nails through his hands and feet, whose lifeless body is carried away by weeping women and timid men.
I don’t want a God who forgives people who do things like this. I want them to pay dearly.
I’m with the crowd here: “Let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him.”
Show us, God. Prove yourself. Let us see, let us hear, let us experience your power and glory.And the one on the cross says not a word.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Gym Time



\From Twitter @1Tim6_11Men

Royal Access For We Beggers

"Imagine that your prayer is a poorly dressed beggar reeking of alcohol and body odor, stumbling toward the palace of the great king. You have become your prayer. As you shuffle toward the barred gate, the guards stiffen. Your smell has preceded you. You stammer out a message for the great king: ‘I want to see the king.’

Your words are barely intelligible, but you whisper one final word, ‘Jesus, I come in the name of Jesus.’ At the name of Jesus, as if by magic, the palace comes alive. The guards snap to attention, bowing low in front of you. Lights come on, and the door flies open. You are ushered into the palace and down a long hallway into the throne room of the great king, who comes running to you and wraps you in his arms.

The name of Jesus gives my prayers royal access. They get through. Jesus isn’t just the Savior of my soul. He’s also the Savior of my prayers. My prayers come before the throne of God as the prayers of Jesus. ‘Asking in Jesus’ name’ isn’t another thing I have to get right so my prayers are perfect. It is one more gift of God because my prayers are so imperfect. "

— Paul Miller, A Praying Life  (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2009), 135

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Progress


From @DailyKeller

Fueled for Life

On April 6, 2014, Scotty Smith preached a sermon at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church entitled “Gospel-Fueled Sanctification.” Here's an excerpt:


   

Click HERE for the sermon notes.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Use Your Own Name


From MyBible.com

We Need Our Brokenness

"Now we come to something very important. The constant emphasis on the victorious life or the good Christian life is the Antichrist as it pertains to the gospel. Here’s why. If I am _________ (fill in your favorite victorious-life terminology), then will I be in a position to be grateful for what Jesus did when he was executed on the cross? Perhaps at first I will be overwhelmed with gratitude toward Christ. But over time, as I find that I’m capable of maintaining victory in my life, I will need Jesus less and less. I still want him to meet me at the gate on the way into heaven, but right now I’m doing great without him. I’m a good Christian.
If you embrace this take on the Christian journey, it will kill you.
We need our brokenness. We need to admit it and know it is the real, true stuff of our earthly journey in a fallen world. It’s the cross on which Jesus meets us. It is the incarnation he takes up for us. It’s what his hands touch when he holds us.
…My humanity, my sin, it’s all me. And I need Jesus to love me like I really am: brokenness, wounds, sins, addictions, lies, death, fear…all of it. Take all of it, Lord Jesus. If I don’t present this broken, messed-up person to Jesus, my faith is dishonest, and my understanding of faith will become a way of continuing the ruse and pretense of being good.
I understand that Christians need — desperately — to hear experiential testimonies of the power of the gospel. I understand as well that it’s not pleasant to hear that we are broken and are going to stay that way. I know there will be little enthusiasm for saying sanctification consists, in large measure, in seeing our sin and acknowledging how deeply an extensively it has marred us. No triumphalist will agree that the fight of faith is not a victory party but a bloody war on a battlefield that resembles Omaha Beach.
But that’s the way it is. I’m right on this one.
Michael Spencer, Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality pp. 147-149


Monday, April 14, 2014

Without Saul's Armor

"Many good people think that they ought to guard the Gospel, but it is never so safe as when it stands out in its own naked majesty. It needs no covering from us.

When we protect it with provisos, guard it with exceptions and qualify it with observations, it is like David in Saul’s armor—it is hampered and hindered and you may even hear it cry, ‘I cannot go with these.’

Let the Gospel alone and it will save! Qualify it and the salt has lost its savor. "

                    — Charles Spurgeon - "The Dying Thief in a New Light"

I’m Broken. I Need Jesus. The End.

I needed to read this. I live this. You probably do too.  The Incessant Whisper by Pete Wilson:
I think most of us begin our Christian journey with this simple truth.
I’m broken. I need Jesus. The end.
However as we launch out on this new journey it doesn’t take long before we begin to hear this growing and incessant whisper that says, “Try harder, do more.”
Sing more.Memorize more.Journal more.Preach more.Pray more.Evangelize more.Serve more.
This approach can look quite spiritual to those around us; however, it’s often rooted in a inner conviction that our worth as a Christian is dependent upon our ability to outperform those around us. Behind this spiritual facade is a fragile and insecure heart desperately attempting to get God to love us more.
The cross isn’t something we start with and then move on from. The cross isn’t just the starting line of our faith, it’s the centerpiece. Grace isn’t something we need just for salvation, it’s like air for the believer.
So today when you hear that whisper in your head that says “Try harder, do more,” go back to this.
I’m broken. I need Jesus. The end.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Secret to Creating Community


The biggest problem people have in searching for community is just that. You don't find community; you create it through love. Look how this transforms the way you enter a room full of strangers. Our instinctive thought is, "Who do I know? Who am I comfortable with?" There's nothing wrong with those questions, but the Jesus questions that create communities are, "Who can I love? Who is left out?"

Here are two different formulas for community formation:

1. Search for community where I am loved: become disappointed with community
2. Show hesed love: create community
--Paul Miller, A Loving Life: In a World of Broken Relationships (Crossway, 2014), 100; italics original

HT: Strawberry-Rhubarb Theology

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Do Not Give Up On Joy

You don’t have to wallow in sadness.
Ben Stuart says this realization was one of the greatest gifts God gave him in his fight against sadness. He learned from the Psalms that we could push back against sad feelings with the truths of God’s word. We can fight back for joy in God.
In this three minute video, Ben talks about three weapons in the fight against sadness and encourages us to hang in there.


Don’t Give Up on Joy from Desiring God on Vimeo.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Preach the Gospel to Yourself

Is your self=talk full of gospel truth? From David Mathis at Desiring God
No one is more influential in your life than you are. Because no one talks to you more than you do.
So observes Paul Tripp — and in doing so, he accents our need to daily preach the gospel to ourselves.
In our sin, we constantly find our responses to life in our fallen world to be disconnected from the theology that we confess. Anger, fear, panic, discouragement stalk our hearts and whisper in our ears a false gospel that will lure our lives away from what we say we believe.
The battleground, says Tripp, is meditation. What is it that is capturing your idle thoughts? What fear or frustration is filling your spare moments?
Will you just listen to yourself, or will you start talking? No, preaching — not letting your concerns shape you, but forming your concerns by the gospel....
Preach the Gospel to Yourself from Desiring God on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

65 Years Through the Wardrobe

The end of March marked the sixty-fifth anniversary of C.S. Lewis completing The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the first book in the Chronicles of Narnia series. Here are nine things you should know about the Lewis' beloved novels:narniachronicles1. The name 'Narnia' is a Latin word, referring to a town in ancient Italy called 'Narni'.
2. Lewis first thought of Narnia in 1939, but didn't finish writing the first book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, until a decade later in 1949. Lewis said of the idea for the book, "The Lion all began with a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood. This picture had been in my mind since I was about sixteen. Then one day, when I was about forty, I said to myself: 'Let's try to make a story about it."
3. Lewis believed the series should be read in the chronological order of the events covered in the books. But most readers, critics, and scholars believe they should be read in the order the books were publishedThe Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (1950),Prince Caspian (1951), The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952), The Silver Chair (1953), The Horse and His Boy(1954), The Magician's Nephew (1955), The Last Battle (1956).
4. Lewis Scholar Michael Ward has proposed a theory that that Lewis deliberately constructed the Chronicles of Narnia out of the imagery of the seven heavens. According to astronomers before Copernicus in the sixteenth century, the seven heavens contained the seven planets which revolved around Earth and exerted influences over people and events and even the metals in the Earth's crust. In his book, Ward says, "In The Lion [the child protagonists] become monarchs under sovereign Jove; in Prince Caspian they harden under strong Mars; in The "Dawn Treader" they drink light under searching Sol; inThe Silver Chair they learn obedience under subordinate Luna; in The Horse and His Boy they come to love poetry under eloquent Mercury; in The Magician's Nephew they gain life-giving fruit under fertile Venus; and in The Last Battle they suffer and die under chilling Saturn."
5. 'Aslan', the name of the central Lion character in the Narnia Chronicles, is the Turkish word for 'lion'. Although Aslan is the only character to appear in all seven books, he never appeared in the first draft of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, even though it was published a year later.
6. The character of Puddleglum, who appears as a principal character in The Silver Chair, was based on Fred Paxford, who served as a handyman, gardener, and occasional cook for over 30 years at Lewis' home (the Kilns) in Oxford. Douglas Gresham described him as "a simple and earthy man who might be called a cheerful, eternal pessimist." If someone said "good morning" to Paxford, he might respond by saying "Ah, looks like rain before lunch though if it doesn't snow or hail that is."
7. The series of books took Lewis more than eight years to complete, though he spent only three months of that time writing the first book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
8. Although there are several maps of the Narnian universe available, the one considered the "official" version was published in 1972 by the books' illustrator, Pauline Baynes. 
9. In a letter to a fifth-grade class, Lewis explained that Aslan is not meant simply to "represent" Jesus: "Let us suppose that there were a land like Narnia and that the Son of God, as He became a Man in our world, became a Lion there, and then imagine what would happen."

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Quiet Life

From a thought-provoking piece by "Chaplain Mike" at Internet Monk, commenting on 1 Thessalonians 4:10-12
...for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. (1 Thessalonians 4:10-12 ESV)
...My life is the one I live with my family. My life is the one in which I do my daily work. My life is the one I live among my neighbors, my friends, in my community, with the people in my congregation and at the ball field. Because I’m a writer, the context of my life includes Internet Monk and the people I meet through participating in these daily discussions.
No matter how hard it is, I have to fight every day to keep the main thing the main thing, to recognize real life for what it is, and to let Christ live in and through me in that context. 
To help me, I have clear apostolic instruction. Paul’s words to me are:
Be a quiet person, a person of peace.
Don’t stick your nose in places where it doesn’t belong.
Work hard.
Focus on the people you know and excel in love toward them.
Local, quiet, pastoral.
It’s the apostolic way.
It’s Jesus-shaped.
How much healthier would I be, would you be, would the Church be if 1Thessalonians 4:9-12 defined our life and witness?

All the Pieces


From @NotAFan

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Worst Enemy


From Sermon Quotes

Ideal Marriage

This excerpt is from a letter written to his wife by Tertullian, an early church father from around 200 AD.
How beautiful, then, the marriage of two Christians, two who are one in hope, one in desire, one in the way of life they follow, one in the religion they practice. They are as brother and sister, both servants of the same Master. Nothing divides them, either in flesh or in Spirit. They are in very truth, two in one flesh, and where there is but one flesh, there is also but one spirit.
“They pray together, they worship together, they fast together; instructing one another, encouraging one another, strengthening one another.
“Side-by-side they face difficulties and persecution, share their consolations. They have no secrets from one another, they never shun each other’s company; they never bring sorrow to each other’s hearts. ... Psalms and hymns they sing to one another. Hearing and seeing this, Christ rejoices. To such as these He gives His peace. Where there are two together, there also He is present, and where He is, there evil is not.”

Monday, April 7, 2014

No Small Disturbance

About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way.– Acts 19:23
That is what we long for, deep down. That the Spirit of God would move afresh in our day with wonderful, healing disruptive force — that he would upend our self-regard and self-sovereignty, that he would come into our temples where we trade the currency of excuses for our sins and present such tidiness in our self-righteousness and turn over all the tables. That he would come with no little disturbance but with great wind and fire of holy love, shaking the nations, the churches, our homes.
Let’s share the powerful revival prayer of Charles Spurgeon:
“O God, send us the Holy Ghost! Give us both the breath of spiritual life and the fire of unconquerable zeal! O Thou who art our God, answer us both by wind and fire, and then we shall see Thee to be God indeed. The kingdom comes not, and the work is flagging. Oh, that Thou wouldst send the wind and the fire! Thou wilt do this when we are all of one accord, all believing, all expecting, all prepared by prayer. Lord, bring us to this waiting state! God, send us a season of glorious disorder. Oh, for a sweep of the wind that will set the seas in motion, and make our ironclad brethren, now lying so quietly at anchor, to roll from stem to stem. Oh, for the fire to fall again-fire which shall affect the most stolid! Oh, that such fire might first sit upon the disciples and then fall all around! O God, Thou art ready to work with us today even as Thou didst then. Stay not, we beseech Thee, but work at once. Break down every barrier that hinders the incoming of Thy might! Give us both hearts of flame and tongues of fire to preach Thy reconciling Word, for Jesus’ sake!”

Listen Up!

Six Lessons in Good Listening - David Mathis:
1. Good listening requires patience.
2. Good listening is an act of love.
3. Good listening asks perceptive questions.
4. Good listening is ministry.
5. Good listening prepares us to speak well.
6. Good listening reflects our relationship with God.
Read the rest.


Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Road of Mercy

"Your Redeemer traverses the rugged path of suffering, along which He went with heaving heart and heavy footsteps, that He might pave a royal road of mercy for His enemies. "

— C. H. Spurgeon, The Power of the Cross of Christ  (Lynwood, WA: Emerald Books, 1995), 30

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Sacrifice



From Challies.com

A Missional Solution to the Worship Wars

Has your church been through the "worship wars?" You know, controversies over music styles and service order, usually generational in nature. Here's a concept - Making those decisions based on mission not consumerism. From Ed Stetzer:
...After a few years of "worship wars," many churches decided to create multiple services based primarily on worship styles or worship preferences. As a result, the "Traditional Service," which normally had the backing of the older members (often with those who gave most of the financial support to the church), got the coveted 11:00 AM time slot, while the younger members (with little children) had to drag themselves and their half-dressed, unfed kids to church by 8:00 AM or earlier in some cases.
Over time, this changed and many now have the traditional service early, as it did (generally) experience the growth of a contemporary.

Often times, this was not a change flowing from a missional strategy, but rather one dictated by the consumeristic mindset of the church—we have to keep the customers happy. And, the problem is that it has often proven impossible for us to constantly feed our own preferences and have any appetite left to help the actual needs of those outside the satisfied family.
So, let me start by saying that a church should not be blackmailed into adding worship services by anyone in the congregation. I am not OK with older members saying, "Listen, we want this music and we pay all the bills. We'll let you go have your contemporary service, but we want you to pander to us." Nor am I OK with all the young people saying, "You know, I'm tired of those hymns; we want something cool and hip. If not, we're leaving." Preference pandering only further engrains consumerism in the church.Often times, this was not a change flowing from a missional strategy, but rather one dictated by the consumeristic mindset of the church—we have to keep the customers happy. And, the problem is that it has often proven impossible for us to constantly feed our own preferences and have any appetite left to help the actual needs of those outside the satisfied family...
-----------------
.....The wrong question to ask is "What type of music do I like?" That's finding satisfaction in the style and not the Savior.

The right question, the right starting point, is to ask, "What form of music would best suit our context?"

And, if that takes more than one expression, that's OK....
Much more at the link.


Friday, April 4, 2014

Melted and Molded



From @DailyKeller

Worship Out

Worshiping Our Way Out of Sin by Zac Hicks (Worship leader at Tullian Tchividjian's church, Coral Ridge Presbyterian):

For much of my Christian life, I thought sin was primarily fought on the flesh-level, where battleships fire their guns and jets launch their missiles. Recently, I’ve come to realize that the true action is where submarines do warfare. I used to think that, to defeat sin in my members, I must engage things like spiritual disciplines to in a sense “suffocate” the sin out of my flesh. Lust problem? Fast a bunch to teach yourself how to deny cravings. Mouth problem? Practice silence to bridle your tongue with some self-control. And while those things aren’t without merit, I began to realize that sin goes much deeper; that it is the “fruit” of the deeper “root” of idolatry and unbelief. Our sin problem is, primarily and essentially, a heart problem. Therefore, it makes sense that the most tactical and strategic warfare against sin shouldn’t take place on the level of the flesh but on the level of what Jonathan Edwards called “the affections.”... 
...Growth is the work of God, and it happens by our beholding Jesus’ glory. If we desire the growth of our brothers and sisters; if we long for the unshackling of our addictions and unburdening of our sin in increasing measure, the best thing we can do for the people of God is plan worship services that climax at the moment of beholding the Lord Jesus in His incarnate, crucified, resurrected, ascended, and seated splendor. We ask questions like, “How can I shape the music and liturgy to climax, theologically and emotionally, at the moment where the good news of Jesus Christ is sung, remembered, preached, and proclaimed? How do I shape contexts for beholding Jesus in worship?” These are the questions a worship pastor asks.
Three concluding tips to help the people of God worship their way out of sin by beholding Jesus:
  • The gospel shines brightest when it is set against the dark backdrop of our sin, so find places in your worship services to sing, speak, or pray your confession. And give the people words to help expand their vocabulary of confession beyond the superficial (the Book of Common Prayer’s most common confession prayer is a wonderful guiding tool).
  • One step before that: Our sinfulness is amplified when God’s glory and holiness is made much of. So begin your worship services, more often than not, with Calls to Worship and songs that highlight God’s glorious attributes. In this way, we open up the people of God to hear God’s important “first word”—the Law. And when the Law is heralded, it crushes, kills, and prepares the soil for the most honest confession.
  • See how you can assist in making the sacraments of the Lord’s Supper and Baptism more dramatic in their proclamation and illustration of the gospel. Lend your aid to the baptism musically, either before, after, or during, in ways that guide the people of God to cherish Christ in the moment. Explore the ways that the Lord’s Supper can be practiced to enhance how the gospel is felt and apprehended.