Saturday, August 30, 2014

Some Links Worth a Look

Some links worth a look:

The Disappearing Umbrella Over Conservative Christians- Tim Keller
A very discerning social commentary by Tim Keller explaining a major social trend in a way that makes a lot of sense to me.

The Wrong Kind of Christian at Vanderbilt University
When Southern Baptists are on the same side with an alcohol drinking female pastor, you know there's a real religious liberty issue in play.

9 Things You Should Know About Rabbinic Judaism
I was shocked at  my ignorance on this subject.

David Platt elected president of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board
Radical author/pastor gets opportunity to move missions in a radical new direction

Better Places to Send Your ALS Ice Challenge Donations
I lost an uncle to this disease, but would rather send donations to charities that do not use embryonic stem cells

How God is Moving With Dreams & Visions in the Muslim World
He did it in Bible times, and continues to do it today.







Friday, August 29, 2014

Good Doubt




From Challies.com

Finding a Safe Place in Grace

Great piece by Justin Buzzard on grace creating safety- places where people can be real and be accepted.
We’ve all experienced (and contributed to) this dynamic: You are afraid to share what you’re really thinking and what’s really going on in your life with your spouse/friend/parent/church leader because you fear they will use this information against you. You’re afraid that sharing reality will result in being challenged, fixed, or judged, instead of being known, understood, and loved. This dynamic creates unhealthy cultures in marriages, friendships, churches, and workplaces–people never share what’s really going on because they’re afraid, and this stunts both intimacy and growth.
Fortunately, this unhealthy dynamic can be replaced with a healthy dynamic: grace. Grace is God’s undeserved love. When an individual embraces a grace-based identity (instead of a performance-based identity) and standing with God, he or she becomes capable of extending grace (undeserved love) to other people. This individual becomes secure, and safe. This individual now has the ability to truly listen to what another person is really thinking, to what is really going on, without attempting to immediately use that information against the person.
See, grace creates safety. Grace creates a culture of safety where people can face and talk about reality. And, lest any of you think I’m being soft on sin, change, or sanctification, the crazy truth is that this grace-soaked culture of safety is what finally results in people changing.
Think about it. Environments and relationships that approximate unconditional love are what resulted in true, deep change and healing in your own life. When you experienced grace and felt safe, you finally opened up. And then you finally began to get help where you most needed it.Grace creates safety, which creates change.
How can you be such a person to others? How can you use your leadership to create such environments?
“‘I will place him in the safety for which he longs.’”-Psalm 12:5

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Certainty



From Thinke

The Greatest Hymns

Here's Tim Challies' list of The 10 Greatest Hymns of All-Time.  I would move "Holy, Holy, Holy" and "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name" to the top. Agree? Disagree?
 Here are my picks for the ten greatest hymns of all-time. Apart from the first, they are in no particular order.
And Can It Be? by Charles Wesley. I begin with what I consider the greatest hymn by the greatest hymn-writer. Wesley’s “And Can It Be?” simply delights in the goodness of God while marveling and his saving grace. It captures every Christian’s experience of wandering, of beholding Christ, of rejoicing in his salvation, and of the great hope of entering his presence at last. “No condemnation now I dread; / Jesus, and all in Him, is mine; / Alive in Him, my living Head, / And clothed in righteousness divine, / Bold I approach th’eternal throne, / And claim the crown, through Christ my own.”
A Mighty Fortress by Martin Luther. It is bold, it is triumphant, it expresses great faith in God and great defiance toward sin and Satan. I think Satan hates it when we sing this: “The prince of darkness grim — We tremble not for him; / His rage we can endure, For lo! his doom is sure, / One little word shall fell him.”
All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name by Edward Perronet. There are few hymns more triumphant than this one, and especially so when sung to the “Diadem” melody. It calls upon each of us, and everything else in all of creation, to pay homage to our great God. It anticipates the day when that will happen. “All hail the power of Jesu’s name! / Let Angels prostrate fall; / Bring forth the royal diadem, / To crown Him Lord of All.”
Oh, For a Thousand Tongues by Charles Wesley. In this hymn Wesley proclaims that one tongue simply is not enough to express his praise and his adoration before God. If he had a thousand tongues, he would use them all to proclaim who God is and what he has done. “He breaks the power of canceled sin, / He sets the prisoner free; / His blood can make the foulest clean, / His blood availed for me.”
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross by Isaac Watts. Watts penned this hymn—a meditation on the cross of Christ—as a means of preparation for the Lord’s Supper. Having reflected on the cross, he can only marvel at God’s wondrous grace and pledge his life to God’s service. “Were the whole realm of nature mine, / That were a present far too small; / Love so amazing, so divine, / Demands my soul, my life, my all.”
How Firm a Foundation by an unknown author. This hymn is unique in the way it speaks in God’s voice, so that God himself assures us of his goodness, his care, and his mercy. Few hymns are sweeter in times of suffering or despair. “The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose, / I will not, I will not desert to its foes; / That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake, / I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”
Holy, Holy, Holy by Reginald Heber. Heber powerfully draws us to marvel at the majestic holiness of God. “Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty! / All Thy works shall praise thy name in earth and sky and sea; / Holy, Holy, Holy! Merciful and Mighty! / God in Three Persons, blessed Trinity!”
It Is Well With My Soul by Horatio Spafford. A hymn for those suffering or for those who have suffered, it proclaims that through every trial, “it is well with my soul.” “And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, / The clouds be rolled back as a scroll; / The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, / Even so, it is well with my soul.”
Abide With Me by Henry Francis Lyte. This has always been a favorite and, though it’s considered a funeral hymn, we sang it at our wedding. I love the way it calls upon God to be present with us in all of life. “Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes; / Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies. / Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee; / In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.”
Amazing Grace by John Newton. The list wouldn’t be complete with “Amazing Grace,” would it? It is considered by many to be the greatest hymn ever written and has been recorded more than any other song. It proclaims such sweet and simple truths: “Amazing grace! How sweet the sound / That saved a wretch like me. / I once was lost, but now am found, / Was blind but now I see.”
There are so many more that could easily have been on this list: “Crown Him with Many Crowns,” “For All the Saints,” “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah,” “Rock of Ages,” “Christ the Lord is Risen Today”, “Take My Life and Let It Be,” “In Christ Alone,” and on and on.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Adequate Justification


From Students for Life

Creating a Beautiful Culture

Some great quotes from Ray Ortlund in Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ. Sounds like one to add to my wish list.
Gospel doctrine creates a gospel culture. The doctrine of grace creates a culture of grace. When the doctrine is clear and the culture is beautiful, that church will be powerful. But there are no shortcuts to getting there. Without the doctrine, the culture will be weak. Without the culture, the doctrine will seem pointless (21).
Every one of us is wired to lean one way or the other—toward emphasizing doctrine or culture. Some of us naturally resonate with truth and standards and definitions. Others of us resonate with feel and vibe and relationships. Whole churches, too, can emphasize one or the other. Left to ourselves, we will get it partly wrong, but we won’t feel wrong, because we’ll be partly right. But only partly. Truth without grace is harsh and ugly. Grace without truth is sentimental and cowardly. The living Christ is full of grace and truth (John 1:14). We cannot represent him, therefore, within the limits of our own personalities and backgrounds. Yet as we depend on him moment by moment, both personally and corporately, he will give us wisdom. He will stretch us and make our churches more like himself (22-23).
What matters most to God is not which sins we’ve committed or not committed, or how we stack up in comparison with other sinners. What matters most to God is whether we’ve bonded by faith with his only Son. In other words, God’s final category for you is not your goodness versus your badness, but your union with Christ versus your distance from Christ. To put it yet another way, what matters most about you in God’s sight is not the bad or good things you’ve done but your trust and openness to Christ versus your self-trust and defensiveness toward Christ (34, italics his).
I apologize for putting this so bluntly, but it’s in the Bible. We need to face it. How can we hope to be true to Christ if we look away from the Bible’s stark portrayal of our natural corruption? The Bible alerts us that a blasphemous attitude lurks in all our hearts. We tell ourselves: “What’s the big deal about this or that compromise? He’ll understand. He’s all about grace, right?” But what man would say: “What’s the big deal about my wife’s adulteries? It’s only marriage. I understand. I’m all about grace”? In the same way, our divine Husband does not think, “Well, she’s brought another lover into our bed, but as long as they let me sleep, what’s the big deal?” The thought is revolting. The love of Jesus is sacred. He gives all, and he demands all, because he is a good Husband. Only an exclusive love is real love. Only a cleansing grace is real grace. Would we even desire a grace that did not cleanse us for Christ (45, italics his)?
The gospel does not hang in midair as an abstraction. By the power of God, the gospel creates something new in the world today. It creates not just a new community, but a new kind of community. Gospel-centered churches are living proof that the good news is true, that Jesus is not a theory but is real, as he gives back to us our humaneness (65).

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

See the Beauty

Lord Jesus,
Give me grace
to see the beauty
lying at my feet
in the commonplaces of life,
to feel that You are near,
and to find that life is as wonderful today
as when men and women saw You
in the days when You were on earth.
F. B. Meyer

Monday, August 25, 2014

Noticing the Dirt

"I know all about the despair of overcoming chronic temptations.

It is not serious provided self-offended petulance, annoyance at breaking records, impatience etc doesn't get the upper hand. No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep on picking ourselves up each time. We shall of course be very muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home. But the bathrooms are all ready, the towels put out, and the clean clothes are airing in the cupboard.

The only fatal thing is to lose one's temper and give it up. It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present to us: it is the very sign of His presence."
--The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume 2 (Cambridge University Press, 2004), letter to Mary Neylan, January 20, 1942  page 507; emphasis original

HT: Dane Ortlund

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Why Read the Bible Every Day

From Dane Ortlund at Bible Q&A – Why Read the Bible Every Day? 
...So why read the Bible? And why every day? Dozens of reasons could be mentioned. Here are a few of the most important: daily Bible reading is how we calm down, tank up, get wisdom, go deep, get busy, and commune with God.
1. Calm down. Each day we roll out of bed and, as C. S. Lewis put it in Mere Christianity, “all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals.” One reason we read the Bible is so that we are not subject to living the day out of haste but rather out of calm. We remember the shortness of life, the eternality of heaven, and the abundance of a gospel from which no sin or failure is excluded. The promises of Scripture are like an asthmatic’s inhaler, enabling us to slow down and take a deep breath.
2. Tank up. Reading Scripture is like eating food. We have to do it regularly, it tastes good to taste buds that are alive, and it nourishes us for the day. Bible reading is stored energy, stockpiled emotional and psychological capital. We stay afloat throughout the day by making moment-by-moment withdrawals from that vast reservoir.
3. Get wisdom. By nature we are fools. Over time we can shed folly and become wise. We will not do it on our own. And we will not do it by downloading all the cleverness of the world’s best self-help gurus into our minds. We need a word from heaven, from beyond. The Bible is the world’s great self-corrective. Each day it tweaks our lives and prompts fresh mid-course corrections. Wisdom flourishes.
4. Go deep. Daily Bible reading deepens us theologically. On the one hand, the demons are excellent theologians (James 2:19). They would ace our seminaries’ doctrine exams. So it isn’t enough to have right doctrine. But it is certainly necessary. Defective doctrine means a defective view of God, and to the degree our view of God is defective, to that degree the ceiling lowers on our potential for joy, comfort, and above all enjoying the gospel of grace. One reason we read the Bible is to deepen our minds. To sharpen the contours of our vision of God. To think more accurately about all that matters most.
5. Get busy. We also read the Bible to be told what to do. It’s not the main thing we read the Bible for. But we do find ourselves stirred to take action in concrete ways. Sometimes the text commands action directly. Other times it doesn’t, but at the least, indirectly, a text will mess with us, change us a little bit, alter our outlook, and thus impel us forward in some new step of practical obedience externally because we have been changed a tiny bit internally.
6. Commune with God. This is the umbrella category that includes all the rest. This is the point. Reading the Bible is a personal experience—“person-al,” one person to another. What other book do we read, conscious of the author interacting with us as we do so? Daily Bible reading requires routine and structure, but it is not mechanical—just as a body requires a bony skeleton, but it is not the skeleton that gives it life. We do with the Bible what the Psalms guide us in doing—adore God, thank him, complain to him, wrestle with him, express perplexity to him, and all the rest....

Thursday, August 21, 2014

First Things First



From Challies.com

To Understand the Times

Lord, Help Us Understand The Times 
High King of heaven,Lord of the years and sovereign over time and history,grant to us such an overpowering knowledge of who You arethat our trust in You may be unshakable.
Grant to us too a sufficient understandingof the signs of the times in which we livethat we may know howto serve Your purposes in our generationand more truly be Your people in our world today.
To that end, O Lord, revive us againand draw us closer to Yourself and to each other.
Where there is false contentment with our present condition,sow in us a holy restlessness.
Where there is discouragement,grant us fresh hearts.
Where there is despair,be our hope again.
For Your sakeempower us to be Your salt and light in the world,and thus Your force for the true human flourishing of Your shalom.In the name of Jesus, Amen.
- Os Guinness, Renaissance: The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Someone You Always Love

“There is someone I love, even though I don’t approve of what he does. There is someone I accept, though some of his thoughts and actions revolt me. There is someone I forgive, though he hurts the people I love the most. That person is me.”

          - C. S. Lewis

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Not Our Strength

There Are No Strong Christians - Tullian Tchividjian at Liberate

In this four minute video, Pastor Tullian suggests that, really, there’s no such thing as a strong Christian. Christianity isn’t about our strength…it’s about Christ’s.

More Beautiful



From @DailyKeller

Monday, August 18, 2014

Context is Everything

Get On-Line...But Don't Be A Jerk About It

10 Tips for Christian Leaders Who Don’t Want To Become Self Promoting Jerks Online - By Mark Sayers

Social Networking can be a fabulous tool for leaders to advance the kingdom. However like so many other things it can also lead us into dangerous territory if unexamined.
Below are some tips on how to use social networking well in our celebrity obsessed, image based culture without falling into the sin of pride. I have probably broken several at times, but hopefully they will be of help to you.

1) Avoid being a fame-vampire. Just because you had coffee with someone well known doesn’t mean that you have to tweet about it. We tend to do this because sub-consciously believe that if we broadcast the fact that we are associating with someone well known, that their fame/influence will rub off on us.

Would you be willing to tweet that you just met with a person who had no influence or social capital?
2) Don’t add to the Hubbub. We live in a culture of incredible distraction. Just because we can broadcast to thousands the first thought that comes into our head doesn’t mean that we have to. Just communicate the important stuff.
By refraining from the cacophony you just might give others space and silence. Is your broadcasting of the mundane robbing others of the silence they need to encounter God?
3) Real life Followers>Online followers.

4) Platform never beats spiritual authority. Lot of people talk about platform these days. Platform sells books, generates hits and followers and results in speaking requests. However platform doesn’t always equate with spiritual authority.
You can have a massive platform with little spiritual authority, and you can have significant spiritual authority and a terrible Klout score.
5) Promote resources not yourself. Beware the thin line between selling books, resources, events, Churches, others you wish to champion, ministries you believe in and selling yourself.
Do your social networking patterns push people towards resources that will build up their faiths, or are you allowing some of the glory to bounce off onto you?
6) Avoid humblebrags. Don’t ever use the hashtag #humbled. My friend Amy said to me the other day that if someone uses the hashtag #humbled there is a 90% chance they are bragging.
We know deep down that social networking naturally tilts towards self promotion, so we try and self promote whilst trying to be humble, check out the humblebrag feed on twitter to see why this approach doesn’t work.
7)Ask the dangerous question ‘why?’ Before posting always ask yourself ‘why am I posting this instagram pic/tweet/status update?’ Deeply search your heart for your true motivations. If you struggle with this find a social networking accountability buddy who will ask you the tough questions.
8) Take breaks. Take regular technology sabbaths. This is one of the best ways to ensure that you keep social networking as a tool rather than an idol.
9) Be Patient with God. God will advance your ministry if he so desires in His good time. Just because we live in a time where it is easy to push our own carts does not mean that we need to. Both the bible and history is littered with the tragic tales of people whose influence exceeded their spiritual development.

10) Track your time. Keep a track of how much time you are devoting to social networking. Not just in real minutes and hours but also in mental energy. Do you find yourself thinking about what you could say online when you are even off line? Are you robbing your family, friends and neighbours of your complete presence and attention? Sit down and plan how much time you wish to spend a week online and stick to it.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Oceans

I love this song. It moves me...makes me think...draws me out. How about you?

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and You won't start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

[6x]
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

I will call upon Your name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine


Songwriters
JOEL HOUSTON, MATT CROCKER, SALOMON LIGHTHELM

Published by
Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Help My Unbelief

Help My Unbelief -Pete Wilson

"If you feel like your life is marked by fear and anxiety right now on any level than I’m praying this prayer for you today."

Friday, August 15, 2014

Our Hearts Revealed



From challies.com

Depression and Ordinary Means

In the context of the Robin Williams story this past week, I appreciated Jared Wilson sharing this excerpt from his book Gospel Wakefulness (a good read, BTW). Yes, Jesus is enough....but sometimes he uses drugs and doctors to help heal us.
...The first thing we may say about the bigness of Jesus is that he is big enough to help us in many ordinary means. Many Christians have adopted the unfortunate posture of Job’s friends, adding more discouragement to those discouraged in depression by urging them not to seek help except via spiritual disciplines like prayer and Bible study. These are certainly the most important prescriptions for any of us!
The fuller truth, however, is that while Jesus is enough, his enough-ness may be manifested in our getting help from material means. These too are gifts from God, provided through the common graces of scientific research, academic study, pastoral giftedness, analytic method, and modern medicine.
What I mean is this: talk to a trained counselor and take the meds if they are needed. When it comes to medication, at the very least, don’t not take it out of fear of distrust of Jesus.
Antidepressants may or may not help you, but discuss the options with your doctor, preferably after conferring with a clinical psychologist who is also a Christian, and if you decide they are not for you, don’t decide so because you think to take them is to deny Jesus’s ability to heal.Yes, Jesus is enough, but it must really be Jesus, not some invoking of the idea of Jesus, some platitude involving Jesus’s name, some hollow encouragement via cheap cliché. One question I’d ask those who’d suggest that those on medication for depression or anxiety should ditch the pills and just “trust Jesus” is if they’ve ever been to the doctor for anything, taken medicine for anything. Do they wear glasses or contact lenses? Why? Isn’t Jesus enough? (Do you drive a car? Why doesn’t Jesus beam you to work?)
I’m being silly, but I really am not trying to be reductive. The problem with “Jesus should be enough” in response to the question, “should Christians take anti-depressants?” is that the Jesus in view in the assertion is disembodied. He is an idea, a concept. I don’t think Christians can say with any integrity, “Jesus is enough,” without attempting to do what Jesus did to “be Jesus” for people, which frequently included meeting their physical and emotional needs. The gospel truth of “Jesus is enough” doesn’t have some vague, ethereal, unincarnated spiritual meaning.
That we have medicine to help us heal physically and psychologically is a gift from Jesus, just as salvation from sins is a gift from Jesus. Of course, if I had to take one over the other, I would take pain now and heaven later, but that’s theoretical, and thankfully I don’t often have to choose one or the other.
And it certainly isn’t the gospel of Jesus to heap guilt on people who need medical help to be healthy people. Jesus may heal any of us without ordinary means—and I do believe he heals today by purely Spiritual means, what most of us would call a miracle—but this kind of healing is not normative. And that’s all right. Medicine is not a mandate for the depressed person. But neither is it off limits. It can be, properly prescribed and taken, a gift of common grace. Likewise, seeking help from a pastoral counselor or Christian psychologist is nothing to be ashamed of.
– from Gospel Wakefulness (Crossway, 2011)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Filling Empty Hearts

"An empty heart God fills. Even Almighty God will not fill a heart that is full – full of pride, bitterness, jealousy – we must give these things up. As long as we are holding these things, God cannot fill it. Silence of the heart, not only of the mouth – that too is necessary – but more, that silence of the mind, silence of the eyes, silence of the touch. Then you can hear him everywhere: in the closing of the door, in the person who needs you, in the birds that sing, in the flowers, the animals – that silence which is wonder and praise. Why? Because God is everywhere and you can see and hear him." 

           - Mother Theresa

Empty my heart, o Lord of Mercy, from all that would keep you from filling it with your fullness!

Divorce Excuses

From J. Lee Grady - Six Weakest Excuses Christians Use to End Their Marriages. Don't try and use any of these, especially # 6!
...Here are the six most common bad excuses I've heard recently from people who chose the easy road to divorce instead of the narrower path to healing:
1. "We never should have married in the first place." Couples who are in love can make foolish decisions, for sure. Some hurriedly elope without any pre-marital counseling, while others aren't financially ready—so marriage becomes a nightmare of stress and unpaid bills. Once you choose to marry, you must assume the responsibility of adulthood. Grow up and accept the consequences of your choices. If you shirk your responsibility now by bailing out, you will end up running from maturity the rest of your life.
2. "Our families don't get along." I recently learned that a young man who had been married for two years—and gotten his wife pregnant—decided to leave the marriage because his parents never liked his choice for a wife. That's ridiculous. A marriage is not between families—it's a unique relationship between a man and a woman. Genesis 2:24 says a man should "leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife." Married couples who allow parents to control their marriages are headed for disaster.
3. "We've grown apart." This is a classic line, but the accurate translation is: "I'm copping out." It is also an indication that your connection with your spouse is based more on fluffy romantic feelings than a solid covenant commitment. Satan loves to divide—and he will use suspicion, mistrust, anger, bitterness and abusive words to create a toxic environment in your home. Don't give the devil this opportunity (see Eph. 4:27) by listening to his lies. Jesus can reconnect what you've allowed to drift apart.
4. "We argue too much." That's a lame excuse. Many married couples in the Bible had frequent disagreements—including Abraham and Sarah, the father and mother of our faith. Arguing is actually healthier than burying your emotions—as long as you know how to resolve a conflict and let go of anger quickly. If you and your spouse argue constantly, it could be a sign that you don't manage stress well or that one or both of you need some new communication skills. Finding a new spouse will not fix your problem if the problem is you!
5. "Counseling didn't help." I'm a big believer in marriage counseling, and estranged couples should always pursue counseling before calling it quits. But if your marriage has been in trouble for years, three one-hour sessions with a pastor will not fix your problems overnight. Counselors are not magicians. Be patient. If your marriage is in shambles, it will take some time to repair it. It may take months just to clear away the debris before you can rebuild.
6. "God told me to marry someone else." This is the most laughably absurd excuse I've ever heard, but even preachers have used it. One California minister divorced his wife and married another woman within a week because "God said to." It's sad that God gets blamed for such foolishness. If you ever think God is telling you to do something that clearly contradicts the Bible, you are under the influence of a deceiving spirit. Please humble yourself and get help immediately.
If you are having marriage problems, and you think divorce is your only option, stop everything and take a deep breath. Go slow. Before you race to open the escape hatch, or seek to justify your exit, ask God to give you His counsel—and seek help from friends.
While there certainly can be situations where divorce is inevitable, don't assume this is your only option. The Father's love and mercy may surprise you.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Your Move


Disciples or Seat Warmers?

Is your church making disciples for Jesus or just housing seat warmers? Here's 10 ways to tell by Ron Edmonston:
Here are 10 indications a church is making disciples:
Those who have been in the church the longest complain the least. – Do everything without complaining or arguing. Philippians 2:14
The leaders of the church are most likely to give up “their” seats, park farther from the building, or do whatever is necessary to help the Body. – The greatest among you must be a servant. Matthew 23:11
The church celebrates most when those far from faith come to faith. In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away! Luke 15:7
Members care that others needs are met more than their own. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. Philippians 2:4
The church is willing to make sacrifices to attract the lost – And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Acts 15:19
There is joy even during suffering – Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds. James 1:2
The teaching is a balance of truth and grace. Jesus came full of grace and truth.John 1:17
The financial needs of the church are funded, with people willingly sacrificing. No one begs for money. Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7
There are no petty disputes and grudges among the people of the church.Therefore encourage one another and build each other up. 1 Thessalonians 5:11
The church takes care of each other well. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. Acts 4:34

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Moving On


Foundations

“Do you wish to be great?  Then begin by being.

Do you desire to construct a vast and lofty fabric?  
Think first about the foundations of humility.
They higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation.”

      - St. Augustine

Monday, August 11, 2014

Role Reversal




HT: Challies.com

More Caught Than Taught

From a review by Trevin Wax of Victor A. Copan’s Saint Paul as Spiritual Director: An Analysis of the Concept of the Imitation of Paul with Implications and Applications to the Practice of Spiritual Direction  entitled Recovering the Role of “Imitation” in Discipleship Today 
...One cannot read Copan’s work and come away with the impression that spiritual direction can be mass-produced or accomplished through programs. Evangelicals have a tendency to see disciple-making as primarily a knowledge exercise. Teach people truth and doctrine, make them aware of the biblical exhortations to holiness and obedience, and then encourage them in their “personal walk.”
Copan’s work does not deny any of these aspects, but his vision of spiritual direction is more holistic because it includes a healthy emphasis on modeling the Christian life. Modeling takes us beyond the transfer of information; it includes the practice of spiritual disciplines and the intentional copying of one’s thought processes that lead to certain decisions. Wisdom is not obedience in the simplest sense, but is instead a robust understanding of how to live, an understanding modeled by the example of the person who is giving direction.
A holistic view of discipleship means that spiritual direction is not merely delivered; it is displayed. Copan’s research is valuable for evangelicals who are seeking to grow in their faithfulness and Christ-likeness, as well as evangelicals who sense the need to reach out and mentor younger people in the faith.
Look like a book worth a read. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Friday, August 8, 2014

Placing the Hate




From Radio Free Babylon

We Need More Singing

4 Ways to Kill Worship Fast by Thom Schultz at Charisma:

Why isn't everybody singing in church these days? 
Looking around the church last Sunday I noticed that the majority weren't singing. And most of those who were singing barely moved their lips. The only voices I actually heard were those on stage with microphones.
That's been the case for years now—in churches large and small. What used to be congregational singing has become congregational staring.
Even when the chipper "worship leader" in contemporary churches bounds on stage and predictably beckons everyone to "stand and worship," the people compliantly obey the stand command, but then they turn into mute mannequins.
What's behind this phenomenon? What happened to the bygone sounds of sanctuaries overflowing with fervent, harmonizing voices from the pews, singing out with a passion that could be heard down the street? I suspect it's a number of unfortunate factors.
Spectator set-up. Increasingly, the church has constructed the worship service as a spectator event. Everyone expects the people on stage to perform while the pew-sitters fulfill the expectation of any good audience–file in, be still, be quiet, don't question, don't contribute (except to the offering plate) and watch the spotlighted musicians deliver their well-rehearsed concerts.
Professionalism. It seems it's paramount for church music to be more professional than participatory. The people in the pews know they pale in comparison to the loud voices at the microphones. Quality is worshipped. So the worshipers balk at defiling the quality with their crude crooning. It's better to just fake it with a little lip syncing.
Blare. The musicians' volume is cranked up so high that congregants can't hear their own voices, or the voices of those around them, even if they would sing. So they don't sing. What would it add? The overwhelming, amplified sound blares from big speakers, obliterating any chance for the sound of robust congregational singing.
Music choice. Sometimes people refrain from singing because the songs are unfamiliar, hard to sing or just cheesy. Sometimes worship leaders choose a song that may thematically tie into the day's sermon topic, but it's unsingable. Sometimes worship leaders choose lame songs written by their favorite songwriters–themselves.
I admit. I've joined the majority. I've stopped singing. I'm not happy about it. I know I should overcome these barriers and just praise the Lord with my very unprofessional vocalizations. But I long for an environment that evokes my real heartfelt vocal participation.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Grounded and Settled

San_Clemente_de_RomaO God Almighty,
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
grant us, we pray You,
to be grounded and settled in Your truth
by the coming down of the Holy Spirit into our hearts.


That which we know not,
do reveal.


That which is wanting in us,
do fill up.


That which we know,
do confirm.


And keep us blameless in Your service,
through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.


Clement of Rome

HT: Kingdom People

Sons and Daughters

“The Christian life is the life of sons and daughters; it is not the life of slaves. It is freedom, not bondage. Of course, we are slaves of God, of Christ, and of one another. We belong to God, to Christ, to one another, and we love to serve those to whom we belong. But this kind of service is freedom.
“What the Christian life is not, is a bondage to the law, as if our salvation hung in the balance and depended on our meticulous and slavish obedience to the letter of the law.
“As it is, our salvation rests upon the finished work of Christ, on His sin-bearing, curse-bearing death, embraced by faith.”
– John Stott, The Message of Galatians (Intervarsity, 1968), 108-109

Monday, August 4, 2014

Psalms-David's Journals?

Do you Journal? Ever considered that reading the psalms is like reading King David's private prayer journal? From Journal As a Pathway to Joy by David Mattis at Desiring God:
Maybe you’ve never thought of journaling as a spiritual discipline.
It’s seemed like something only for the most narcissistic of introverts, or cute for adolescent girls, but impractical for adults. What, me? Journal? I’m much too occupied with today and tomorrow to give any more time to yesterday. You might be right. Maybe your idea of journaling is too heavy on navel-gazing and too light on real-world value.
But what if there was another vision? What if journaling wasn’t simply about recording the past, but preparing for the future? And what if, because of God’s grace in our past and his promises for our future, journaling was about deepening your joy in the present?
Perhaps no single new practice would enrich your spiritual life as much as keeping a journal.
No Wrong Way
A good journal really is what you make it. It can be a document on your computer, or just a good old-fashioned notebook. It can be formal or very informal, have long entries or short ones, and be a daily stop or just where you pop in on occasion. It can be a place for recording God’s providences, peeling at the layers of your own heart, writing out prayers, meditating on Scripture, and dreaming about the future.
The goal is not to leave an impressive catalogue of your stunning accomplishments and brilliant insights for future generations to read and admire. Die to that before picking up your pen. The goal is the glory of Christ, not your own, in your ongoing progress in his likeness, for the expanding and enriching of your joy. 
No Obligation
Even if many of the Psalms do read like divinely inspired journal entries, nowhere does Scripture command that we keep a journal. And as Don Whitney observes, “Jesus did not live and die for sinners to turn us into journal-keepers” (Spiritual Disciplines, 251). Unlike other spiritual disciplines, Jesus left us no model for journaling; he did not keep one.
Journaling is not essential to the Christian life. But it is a powerful opportunity, especially with the technologies we have available today. Many throughout church history and around the world have found journaling to be a regularmeans of God’s grace in their lives. 
 Why Journal?
With the eyes of faith, the Christian life is a great adventure, and a journal can be greatly beneficial in ripening our joy along the journey. There is always more going on in us and around than we can appreciate at the time. Journaling is a way of slowing life down for just a few moments, and trying to process at least a sliver of it for the glory of God, our own growth and development, and our enjoyment of the details.
Journaling has the appeal of mingling the motions of our lives with the mind of God. Permeated with prayer, and saturated with God’s word, it can be a powerful way of hearing God’s voice in the Scriptures and making known to him our requests. Think of it as a subdiscipline of Bible intake and prayer. Let a spirit of prayer pervade, and let God’s word inspire, shape, and direct what you ponder and pen.
To Capture the Past
Good journaling is much more than simply capturing the past, but recording past events is one of the most common instincts in it. For the Christian, we acknowledge these as the providences of God. When some important event happens to us, or around us, or some “serendipity” breaks in with divine fingerprints, a journal is a place to capture it and make it available for future reference.
Writing it down provides an opportunity for gratitude and praise to God — not just in the moment, but also one day when we return to what we’ve recorded. Without capturing some brief record of this good providence or that answer to prayer, we quickly forget the blessing, or the frustration, and miss the chance to see with specificity later on how “‘tis grace hath brought me safe thus far.” A journal also becomes a place where we can look back not just on what happened, but how we were thinking and feeling about it at the time.
But good journaling isn’t just about yesterday, but also about growing into the future....
Read it all at the link.