Tuesday, March 31, 2015

With Us In The Brokenness

"Jesus personally responds to our fuming and sadness. Feisty Martha got to see Jesus get angry at death. Tenderhearted Mary got to see him cry. Two unique women witnessed two unique responses from their Lord and Friend. Jesus, who is the fullness of the image of God, not only sympathized with them, he did soaccording to their uniqueness. Jesus arched his back toward the bully for Martha’s sake. Then he shed tears for Mary’s sake. Perhaps Nicholas Wolsterstorff was thinking of Jesus’ tears when he wrote this reflection in response to the premature death of his son:
We strain to hear [God in our sorrows]. But instead of hearing an answer we catch the sight of God himself scraped and torn. Through our tears we see the tears of God . . . Perhaps his sorrow is splendor.
“Jesus is the resurrection and the life. The ones who believe in him, though they die, yet shall they live. He will call them forth from their graves just as he called Lazarus from the grave mere minutes after getting angry and crying about Lazarus’s death.
“Jesus wants to fix everything that’s broken about us and everything that’s broken around us. But before he does this, he wants us to know that he is with us and for us in what’s broken about us and around us. He shares our situation. He is a warrior and a champion against the bully, but also much more. He is a friend who sticks closer than a brother, a mother hen who gathers her fragile chicks under her wings, and an advocate who shares our grief and tears — especially and ironically, during the times when he seems most distant is a sympathetic realist.
“Jesus, the sympathetic realist, reminds us that everything is broken. At least it is for now.”

— Scott Sauls, Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who are Tired of Taking Sides (Tyndale, pp.161-162)

Humility of the Proud

Lord, You have taught us to love humility, but we have not learned. We have learned only to love the outward surface of it — the humility that makes a person charming and attractive. We sometimes pause to think about these qualities, and we often pretend that we possess them, and that we have gained them by “practicing humility.”
If we were really humble, we would know to what an extent we are liars!
Teach me to bear a humility which shows me, without ceasing, that I am a liar and a fraud and that, even though this is so, I have an obligation to strive after truth, to be as true as I can, even though I will inevitably find all my truth half poisoned with deceit. This is the terrible thing about humility: that it is never fully successful. If it were only possible to be completely humble on this earth. But no, that is the trouble: You, Lord, were humble. But our humility consists in being proud and knowing all about it, and being crushed by the unbearable weight of it, and to be able to do so little about it.
• Thomas Merton
HT: Internet Monk

Getting Started

4 Things To Do That Will Get You Reading Your Bible Again by Jack Wellman:
Discipline Yourself to Schedule a Time
This sounds easy enough but when you have a set time to read your Bible and a special place to do it, then it might become a habit. I try to start my day off with prayer first and then I read some out of the New and then the Old Testament every single day…even if I don’t feel like it. It is so important that I must discipline myself to do it. We might not like taking medicine, brushing our teeth or getting proper exercise but we usually find time to do these things and as important as these things are, the Bible is the most important part of your day, along with prayer. Set a time and then determine to make that your prescribed daily Bible reading time and then take the time to do it. During the times you don’t feel like reading the Bible are exactly the times you need it the most.
Get a New Translation
I have several different translations. I love the King James but the New King James and the ESV is a bit easier to read. If you are reading in a translation that is easier to read you might read it more. Sometimes a new Bible can give you a renewed sense of the Word of God. I try to avoid paraphrased versions of the Bible because they’re too liberal, in my opinion, in rewording the original Scriptures.
Get a Study Bible
For me, I have two study Bibles that I really love; The MacArthur Study Bible and the Reformation Study Bible. These Bible’s editors have outstanding commentaries and they give me a little bit more background about the particular book I am reading. For me, my King James has margins that give me some of the original Greek and Hebrew words so that some words have much more meaning than those which were translated into English. The commentary is not inspired but they are insightful and often give me more information on verses that are more difficult to understand.
Get a Bible Dictionary or Encyclopedia
I have a Bible dictionary and a Bible encyclopedia and in these books you can look at the different books in the Bible to see where and when a particular book was written. You can find out where the author was at the time like in the Prison Epistles where Paul was imprisoned at the time. You can also find out more about the cities or churches to which some of these books were written. For example, if you read about Ephesus you’ll find out that this city was a city that worshipped Artemis, a goddess of the ancient world, a “mother earth” deity and when Paul tried to teach about the One, True God, this caused a riot because it was cutting into the business of the local merchants who sold little idols (Acts 19:23).
Maybe you have better ideas than these and if so, please add them in the comment section below. Reading the Bible can keep you out of sin but also sin can keep you out of the Bible but when we neglect reading the Bible we lose a valuable resource for knowing more about the mind of God and tapping into the Word as a source of power for living the Christian faith.

Monday, March 30, 2015

No Need to Search

God Never Has to Go Looking for Your Righteousness, because He is sitting right beside Him!
“One day as I was passing into the field, this sentence fell upon my soul: ‘Thy righteousness is in heaven.’ And with the eyes of my soul I saw Jesus at the Father’s right hand. ‘There,’ I said, ‘is my righteousness!’ So that wherever I was or whatever I was doing, God could not say to me, ‘Where is your righteousness?’ For it is always right before him.
“I saw that it is not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse, for my righteousness is Christ. Now my chains fell off indeed. My temptations fled away, and I lived sweetly at peace with God.
“Now I could look from myself to him and could reckon that all my character was like the coins a rich man carries in his pocket when all his gold is safe in a trunk at home. Oh I saw that my gold was indeed in a trunk at home, in Christ my Lord. Now Christ was all: my righteousness, sanctification, redemption.”
– John Bunyan, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners

All Of Life Is....

From Darrin Patrick - All of Life is Repentance. He's right, of course.
Let me give you a simple description of repentance. When we are giving our hearts to sin, we are turning our backs to God. Repentance is a 180 degree-turn. We turn our backs to sin and give our hearts to God. You will be doing this the rest of your life.
Consider how Martin Luther began his ninety-five theses, which catalyzed the Protestant Reformation: When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said “Repent,” he intended that the entire life of believers should be repentance. It’s the ongoing task of the Christian because when you become a Christian, you’re saved from sin’s power (its ultimate control of your heart) and sin’s penalty (its justly deserved eternal judgment), but not its presence (its eradication from your life).
One of the reasons it is so hard for us to deal with our remaining sin is that we think we are on our own. We approach God’s grace more like a bargain. Jesus takes care of two-thirds of the problem (sin’s power and penalty), but we’ve got to take care of our third (it’s presence). We rarely say this out loud, but that’s how we often function.
This mindset is so difficult to overcome because it’s a distortion of truth. We do have to take action against sin’s presence in our life. We’re in a constant battle. All of life is repentance. We’ve got to own our part. But we don’t fight against sin by relying on our own strength. We fight by turning to Jesus—over and over again.
It is Jesus, by the Holy Spirit, that reminds us that sin doesn’t have the upper hand, even when everything in our experience says otherwise. He reminds us that sin does not have as much power over us as we think. He reminds us that the full penalty of sin was paid for on the Cross. And he reminds us that there will be a day when sin’s presence will no longer affect us.
Remembrance is power in the fight against sin. Sin wants you to remember your failure. Repentance is remembering that Jesus’ victory is yours.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Your Seat Is Waiting

HT: Ed Stetzer

Eternal Threefold Exchanges

When Christ, the most high Lord, comes down
   from the heavens,
The brightest sign and standard of the Cross
   will shine forth.
The two principal lights being obscured,
The stars will fall to earth like the fruit of a fig
And the face of the world will be like the fire of
   a furnace
By the singing of hymns eagerly ringing out,
By thousands of angels rejoicing in holy
And by the four living creatures full of eyes,
With the twenty- four joyful elders
Casting their crowns under the feet of the
   Lamb of God,
The Trinity is praised in eternal threefold

The Altus Prosator, by St. Columba

From The Path of Celtic Prayer: An Ancient Way to Everyday Joy, by Calvin Miller

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Love Jesus, Love His Church

“Holding indifference, apathy, or bitterness toward the church sets you against what God holds dear. It shows that what Jesus loves and saves is not worth your own time, interest, and affection. This fact applies to the church universal and the church local. God has called you to himself to be a part of his people. How you interact with the people of God reveals much about your relationships with the Lord (Matt. 25:31-46). If you love the Lord, you will love his church (1 John 4:7-12).”

Friday, March 27, 2015

Prayer For Favor

Let us pray to God the Father,
God the Son and to God the Holy Spirit 
Whose infinite greatness Enfolds the whole world, 
In persons three and one, 
In essence simple and triune, 
Sustaining the earth above the waters, 
Hanging the upper air with stars, 
That he may be favorable to sinners 
Who righteously justifies all who err, 
Who ever- living lives. 
May God be blessed for ages. Amen.

8th Century Celtic Prayer

Be Yourself in Prayer

Some good counsel and advice on prayer can be found in this piece by Stephen Miller - Be Yourself in Prayer (at Desiring God)
Sometimes it seems as if many believers feel the need to alter who they are when they come to God in prayer, particularly when others are around. As if God will not hear them if they are themselves, they play characters, hoping to be more acceptable to God and others.
I have personally struggled over the years with what to say and how to say it when I pray. I’m in good company. Even the apostles asked Jesus to teach them to pray. And with kind, compassionate patience in his voice, he taught them to pray simply, humbly, confidently, according to God’s word, and for God’s glory.
You could sum up Jesus’s teaching into a few guiding principles.
1. Slow Down and Be Okay with Silence
There is no need to use filler language to take up every ounce of space in prayer, as if the Lord can’t handle the silence or doesn’t have time to listen. You don’t have to speed through like an auctioneer. I can’t imagine how I would react if someone came up to talk to me like, “Stephen Miller, just… just Stephen, we should just go to lunch together, Stephen Miller. Just let’s just go grab… just a burger, Stephen. Stephen, I know you like a good burger from time to time, Stephen Miller. Stephen, just then we could just grab a frozen custard, Stephen Miller.” I know that I am not God, but in my flesh, I might be too weirded out to get a burger with that guy. If we would naturally react to someone talking to us that way, why do we feel the need to speak that way to God? He knows our hearts. Slow down. Be okay with pauses. Perhaps God wants to speak to you in the silence.
2. Pray to God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
God is Trinity. One God, three distinct persons, each person fully God. It is truly a great mystery, and I don’t know that we will ever understand it this side of Heaven. Yet each person within the Trinity is distinct. The Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Spirit. We rightly relate to God as a Trinity, adoring and thanking and pleading with Father, Son, and Spirit in our prayers. Yet while doing this, it can be easy to get confused and begin to thank the Father for dying on the cross and so on and so forth.
While God knows what we mean and sees past our broken prayers, this has got to confuse people who are listening to our prayers, trying to pray along in agreement. When you pray, consider the person of the Trinity to whom you are praying. The Father sends the Son to be the Savior of the world. The Son came obediently, died in our place, rose from the dead, then sent his Spirit to convict of sin, to convince of truth, and to equip and empower us. So as we pray, pray with that in mind.
3. Use Normal Language
My great Grandpa was a firm believer that the only inspired word of Scripture was the King James Version. When he quoted scripture (and he could quote most of the Bible I think), it was always KJV. While he was one of the biggest spiritual influences in my life, it was odd to me when he began to pray out loud, because he prayed in old English. “Our Gracious Heavenly Father, Thou hast bestowed upon us this bountiful feast and the glory belongest to Thou and Thou alone. Wouldst Thou blesseth this meal by Thine own good pleasure…” Then, once he said amen, he would resume speaking in modern language. When you pray, there is no need to speak like someone from a bygone era in order to sound more spiritual or reverent. Use normal language, and pray like yourself.
4. Use Your Normal Voice
We have all heard the hyped-up emotional vocal inflections of a man trying to sell a prayer the way a voice-over actor sells a product. He may talk like Ron Burgundy in real life, but as soon as he begins praying, his voice takes on a reflective Enrique Iglesias whisper that sounds a bit like being on the verge of tears while trying to woo someone into making an emotional decision. We should pray with all of our emotions and affections, but it must be sincere and authentic. If you’re moved, be moved, but be real about it. No need to alter your voice or manufacture emotion. God knows our hearts better than we know ourselves.
5. Keep It Short and Simple
Our prayers can be simple and still faith-filled. I often say that God can use a three-minute worship song as much as a nine-minute worship song. The same is true of prayer. God won’t hear us any more because of our long-windedness. Prayer isn’t a love bank where many words equal a more substantive deposit. Our prayers don’t have to be long or eloquent. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he taught them a short prayer that exemplified the vertical (glorifying God) and the horizontal (edifying others) aspects of prayer. When praying with others, aim to build them up with short, thoughtful prayers, and if you feel the need to pray longer, go to God “in secret” (Matthew 6:6).
It’s never too late to be yourself. God is looking for a relationship with us, not whomever it is that we are trying to act like when we come to him. Prayer starts with our adoption in Christ. That’s why Jesus taught us to begin with God as “Our Father.” There is an intimate reverence there — a humble familiarity.
Prayer is naturally one of the most spiritual things we can do as believers, so we don’t need to add anything extra to over-spiritualize it. We can simply come as deeply joyful sons and daughters with reverent awe that we have been rescued by a God who loves us and hears us.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Not A Consultant

From @DailyKeller

Divorce Rate Shocker!

Admit It. You read the title of this post and thought I was going to talk about how high the divorce rate is and how Christina marriages are no more successful than anybody elses. Read this piece by Matt Barber, and think again.
This is a game-changer. Talk about “an old wives’ tale.” You’ve heard it said that 1) 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce; 2) most marriages that do happen to make it are, nonetheless, unhappy, and 3) Christians are just as likely to divorce as non-believers.
These claims, long understood to be research-based facts, never quite sat right with me. Still, admittedly, while these assertions do swim upstream against the flow of both our common sense and our common experience, we have, nevertheless, accepted them (present company included) as valid because – well, you know, because “social science …”
As it turns out, your gut was right. It’s all nonsense – urban legend of a sort, propagated, most likely, by the same post-moderns who today seek to similarly undermine the God-designed institution of legitimate man-woman marriage by redefining it into oblivion.
Shaunti Feldhahn is a Harvard-trained researcher and author. In her recently released book, “The Good News About Marriage: Debunking Discouraging Myths about Marriage and Divorce,” Feldhahn details groundbreaking findings from an extensive eight-year study on marriage and divorce. Among other things, her research found:
  • The actual divorce rate has never gotten close to 50 percent.
  • Those who attend church regularly have a significantly lower divorce rate than those who don’t.
  • Most marriages are happy.
  • Simple changes make a big difference in most marriage problems.
  • Most remarriages succeed.
In an interview with CBN News, Feldhahn shared that, like most of us, she had swallowed the anti-marriage propaganda hook, line, and sinker. She believed “that most marriages are unhappy and 50 percent of them end in divorce, even in the church.”
The CBN story continues:
“‘I didn’t know. … I’ve stood up on stage and said every one of these wrong statistics.’
“Then eight years ago, she asked assistant Tally Whitehead for specific research on divorce for an article she was writing. After much digging, neither of them could find any real numbers.
“That kicked off a personal, years-long crusade to dig through the tremendously complicated, sometimes contradictory research to find the truth.
“‘First-time marriages: probably 20 to 25 percent have ended in divorce on average,’ the study revealed. ‘Now, OK, that’s still too high, but it’s a whole lot better than what people think it is,’ Feldhahn added.”
CBN noted that “[T]he 50 percent figure came from projections of what researchers thought the divorce rate would become as they watched the divorce numbers rising in the 1970s and early 1980s when states around the nation were passing no-fault divorce laws.”
So, in other words (and I wish I could say I long suspected this), the 50-percent divorce figure is simply a myth based upon decades-old (and woefully inaccurate) speculation. As it turns out, the shelf-life for marriages in the U.S. has taken a sharp turn for the better since the 1970s and ’80s.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Beautiful Redefined

From: The Gospel Coalition

What He Says

Loved this from Paul Wilkinson - You Say / He Says 

You say: “It’s impossible” 
God says: All things are possible 
(Luke 18:27)
You say: “I’m too tired” 
God says: I will give you rest 
(Matthew 11:28-30)
You say: “Nobody really loves me” 
God says: I love you 
(John 3:16 & John 3:34 )
You say: “I can’t go on” 
God says: My grace is sufficient 
(II Corinthians 12:9 & Psalm 91:15)
You say: “I can’t figure things out” 
God says: I will direct your steps 
(Proverbs 3:5-6)
You say: “I can’t do it” 
God says: You can do all things 
(Philippians 4:13)
You say: “I’m not able” 
God says: I am able 
(II Corinthians 9:8)
You say: “It’s not worth it” 
God says: It will be worth it 
(Roman 8:28 )
You say: “I can’t forgive myself” 
God says: I Forgive you 
(I John 1:9 & Romans 8:1)
You say: “I can’t manage” 
God says: I will supply all your needs 
(Philippians 4:19)
You say: “I’m afraid” 
God says: I have not given you a spirit of fear 
(II Timothy 1:7)
You say: “I’m always worried and frustrated” 
God says: Cast all your cares on ME 
(I Peter 5:7)
You say: “I’m not smart enough” 
God says: I give you wisdom 
(I Corinthians 1:30)
You say: “I feel all alone” 
God says: I will never leave you or forsake you 
(Hebrews 13:5)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Full Devotion

Make Me Full of Devotion To You
Let no riches make me ever forget myself,
no poverty make me to forget You:
Let no hope or fear,no pleasure or pain,
no accident without,no weakness within,
hinder or discompose my duty,
or turn me from the ways of Your commandments.
O let Your Spirit dwell with me forever,
and make my soul just and charitable,
full of honesty,
full of devotion to You.
- Jeremy Taylor, 1613-67


From Not A Fan

Monday, March 23, 2015

An Example of Dying Well

Please read "How to Recover the Lost Art of Dying Well: What Kara Tippetts Taught Us." by Ann Voskamp

Yesterday Kara Tippetts died after a courageous battle with breast cancer. Kara was a mother, a pastor's wife, an author and a blogger. But most importantly, she was a Christian who had learned to live well....and how to die well.

I first became aware of her when she wrote a public open letter to Brittany Maynard, who had very publicly stated her intention to chose assisted suicide due to her brain tumor, rather than go through, and put her loved ones through, a painful lingering death. Kara shared with Brittany (and with us) her own cancer journey, and encouraged the young woman to not take her own life.  Brittany died as she choose last fall. Kara lived on until this week. 

Kara wrote to Brittany: “Suffering is not the absence of goodness, it is not the absence of beauty, but perhaps it can be the place where true beauty can be known. In your choosing your own death, you are robbing those that love you with the such tenderness, the opportunity of meeting you in your last moments and extending you love in your last breaths.” Kara died the way she had encouraged Brittany to - by holding onto life as a gift from God, not to be given up in self will, while also seeing death as not final, as a part of all human existence, and not to be feared. Kara died well.

Kara's friend Ann Voskamp wrote a beautiful and heart rending piece on Kara's testimony and example. I'm not going to quote it. For some reason I feel unworthy to quote it. I can only post the link and encourage you to please read it, and let it change you.

Again, please read "How to Recover the Lost Art of Dying Well: What Kara Tippetts Taught Us." by Ann Voskamp

No Longer the Majority

This is an extremely inciteful analysis by Dr. Russell Moore of where our culture is and is going regarding Christian influence and religious liberty. Please read it with thoughtful consideration. I think he is right. I fear he is right. Maybe I should be excited that he is right? Read it for yourself, and decide.
As a child growing up in a Southern Baptist church, I learned my place in American culture through rapture movies. These films—based on a pop-dispensationalist reading of prophecy—pictured a time when the church would be suddenly ripped from the earth, sailing through the air to be with the invisible (to the viewer) Jesus Christ. These films would always then picture the panic of those who were “left behind” and depict the societal chaos that would emerge once the “salt and light” of the culture had disappeared. We never considered that if such a rapture were to happen, American culture might be relieved to be rid of us.
Historian Rick Perlstein notes the “culture wars” that ignited in the 1960s and 1970s were really about dueling secular prophecy charts. “What one side saw as liberation, the other side saw as apocalypse,” and vice-versa, he writes. It’s hard to argue with his thesis. The scenes of LSD-intoxicated college students frolicking nude in the mud of the Woodstock Festival in New York would seem horrifying to the salt-of-the-earth folk in Middle America for whom “the dawning of the Age of Aquarius” would seem like a threat. At the same time, Merle Haggard’s counter-revolutionary anthem would have the same effect, in reverse. The words, “We don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee,” must seem like hell, if you’re in Woodstock.
From Majority to Minority
The problem with American Christianity is that we always assumed there were more of “us” than there were of “them.” And we were sometimes confused about who we meant when we said “us.”
The idea of the church as part of a “moral majority” was not started, or ended, by the political movement by that name. The idea was that most Americans shared common goals with Christianity, at least at the level of morality. This perception was helped along by the fact that it was, at least in some ways, true. Most Americans did identify with Christianity, and the goods of Christianity such as churchgoing and moral self-restraint were approved of by the culture as means toward molding good citizens, the kind who could withstand the ravages of the frontier or the challenges of global Communism. Mainstream American culture did aspire to at least the ideal of many of the things the Christian church talked about: healthy marriages, stable families, and strong communities bound together by prayer.
'God and Country' or 'Christ and Him Crucified'?
Politically and socially speaking, this is what a group is supposed to do: to attach itself to a broad coalition and to speak as part of a majority. The problem was that, from the beginning, Christian values were always more popular than the Christian gospel in American culture. That’s why one could speak with great acclaim, in almost any era of the nation’s history, of “God and country,” but then create cultural distance as soon as one mentioned “Christ and him crucified.” God was always welcome in American culture as the deity charged with blessing America. But the God who must be approached through the mediation of the blood of Christ was much more difficult to set to patriotic music or to “amen” in a prayer at the Rotary Club.
Now, however, it is increasingly clear that American culture doesn’t just reject the particularities of orthodox, evangelical Christianity but also rejects key aspects of “traditional values.” This is seen politically in the way that the “wedge issues” of the “culture wars,” which once benefited social conservatives, now benefit moral libertarians—from questions of sexuality to drug laws to public expressions of religion to the definition of the family. Turns out, they do smoke marijuana in Muskogee.

What Not To Ask the Grieving

Do you find it uncomfortable talking to someone undergoing grief? Have you ever asked them "How are you?" If so, please read What Not To Ask Someone Suffering by Nancy Guthrie
People ask me all the time what to say and what to do for people who are grieving the death of someone they love. And I’m glad they ask. I’m glad they want to know what is really helpful and meaningful, and what is completely unhelpful and actually hurtful. And I wish I could tell you that I always know myself what to say. But sometimes words fail me. And I wish I could tell you that I never say the wrong thing. But I do. In fact, a few days ago, I made the mistake I often tell other people not to make.
The minute I said it I wish I hadn’t. I should know better. But it’s just what came out. Maybe it’s what comes out when you talk to grieving people too. Here’s what I said. Or more accurately, what I asked:
       How are you?
It doesn’t seem so wrong, does it? It’s a question that reveals that we care. It lets the person know we haven’t forgotten about their loss. Really it is an invitation for the grieving person to talk about their loss. But many grieving people say they simply hate the question. They feel put on the spot to report on their job performance in this task they’ve been given — continuing to live when their loved one has died — a task for which they had no training and for which they seem to have no resources. It’s a question they don’t know how to answer. “I’m fine” isn’t quite right. They may be functioning, and perhaps even feeling better, but they know they’re not “fine.” “I’m terrible” seems whiney. “I’m angry!” seems unacceptable. “I’m crying all the time” seems pathetic.
Something Is Wrong
“How are you?” is one of those questions that always bothered my husband, David, in those days after our daughter, and later our son, died. He always felt like he was supposed to quantify his progress back toward normalcy. In our book,When Your Family’s Lost a Loved One he wrote, “In the midst of my own pain and confusion, I suddenly also felt responsible to others to give an account for my progress. As the words of my reply come measured through my lips, I wondered if my report would be acceptable.”
The grieving person knows what the questioner most likely wants to hear — that everything is getting better, the world is getting brighter, the darkness is lifting, and the tears are subsiding. But oftentimes that just isn’t the way it is, and it is awkward to be honest about the confusion, listlessness, and loneliness of grief. The reality of grief is that sometimes right after the loss we feel strong, but as time passes, and the reality of life without that person settles in, we feel weak and weepy. And it’s awkward to talk about.
We’re afraid that if we tell you how sad we are, you might think there is something “wrong” with the way we’re doing this grief thing. We’re afraid you will assume we should be on a steady upward path toward normalcy and that we’re going in the wrong direction. Sometimes we want to scream that we will never be “normal” again. And sometimes we just want to say, “How am I? I’m sad. And I wish the world — including you — would simply give me some time and space to simply be sad. This person I loved has died and I miss him. He mattered to me and therefore it makes sense that I would not get over his absence easily or quickly.”
What Should You Say?
So as you interact with someone going through the lonely adjustment of grief, what should you ask in place of “How are you?” Here are some ideas:
What is your grief like these days? This question assumes that it makes sense that the person is sad and gives them the opportunity to talk about it.
I can’t imagine how hard it must be to face these days without (name of person who died). Are there particular times of day or days of the week you’re finding especially hard? Keep on saying the name of the person who died. It is music to the grieving person’s ears.
I find myself really missing (name of person who died) when I . . . It is a great comfort for the grieving person to know that he or she is not the only one who misses the person who died.
I often think of you when I’m (gardening/driving by your house/going for a walk/get up in the morning/etc.) and whisper a prayer for you to experience God’s comfort. Are there particular things I could be praying for you as you go through this time of grief?
I know that (name of the person who died)’s birthday/deathday is coming up and it must be so very hard to anticipate that day without him/her here. What are you thinking about that day? Is there anything we could do to help you get through that day?
I know the holidays/mother’s day/father’s day/your anniversary is coming up. I will be especially thinking of you and praying for you as that approaches. We would love to have you over, would you join us?
In a sense, all of these questions are asking, “How are you?” but somehow they express a desire to enter into the sorrow of another instead of merely getting a report on their sorrow. In this way we come alongside to “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2).

Sunday, March 22, 2015

22 Benefits of Meditating on Scripture

What do you get out of the practice of meditating on Scripture? Joel Beeke, in his essay on “The Puritan Practice of Meditation,” (quoted at the Gospel Coalition) lists some of the benefits as follows:
  1. Meditation helps us focus on the Triune God, to love and to enjoy Him in all His persons (1 John 4:8)—intellectually, spiritually, aesthetically.
  2. Meditation helps increase knowledge of sacred truth. It “takes the veil from the face of truth” (Prov. 4:2).
  3. Meditation is the “nurse of wisdom,” for it promotes the fear of God, which is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 1:8).
  4. Meditation enlarges our faith by helping us to trust the God of promises in all our spiritual troubles and the God of providence in all our outward troubles.
  5. Meditation augments one’s affections. Watson called meditation “the bellows of the affections.” He said, “Meditation hatcheth good affections, as the hen her young ones by sitting on them; we light affection at this fire of meditation” (Ps. 39:3).
  6. Meditation fosters repentance and reformation of life (Ps. 119:59; Ez. 36:31).
  7. Meditation is a great friend to memory.
  8. Meditation helps us view worship as a discipline to be cultivated. It makes us prefer God’s house to our own.
  9. Meditation transfuses Scripture through the texture of the soul.
  10. Meditation is a great aid to prayer (Ps. 5:1). It tunes the instrument of prayer before prayer.
  11. Meditation helps us to hear and read the Word with real benefit. It makes the Word “full of life and energy to our souls.” William Bates wrote, “Hearing the word is like ingestion, and when we meditate upon the word that is digestion; and this digestion of the word by meditation produceth warm affections, zealous resolutions, and holy actions.”
  12. Meditation on the sacraments helps our “graces to be better and stronger.” It helps faith, hope, love, humility, and numerous spiritual comforts thrive in the soul.
  13. Meditation stresses the heinousness of sin. It “musters up all weapons, and gathers all forces of arguments for to presse our sins, and lay them heavy upon the heart,” wrote Fenner. Thomas Hooker said, “Meditation sharpens the sting and strength of corruption, that it pierceth more prevailingly.” It is a “strong antidote against sin” and “a cure of covetousness.”
  14. Meditation enables us to “discharge religious duties, because it conveys to the soul the lively sense and feeling of God’s goodness; so the soul is encouraged to duty.”
  15. Meditation helps prevent vain and sinful thoughts (Jer. 4:14; Matt. 12:35). It helps wean us from this present evil age.
  16. Meditation provides inner resources on which to draw (Ps. 77:10-12), including direction for daily life (Prov. 6:21-22).
  17. Meditation helps us persevere in faith; it keeps our hearts “savoury and spiritual in the midst of all our outward and worldly employments,” wrote William Bridge.
  18. Meditation is a mighty weapon to ward off Satan and temptation (Ps. 119:11,15; 1 John 2:14).
  19. Meditation provides relief in afflictions (Is. 49:15-17; Heb. 12:5).
  20. Meditation helps us benefit others with our spiritual fellowship and counsel (Ps. 66:16; 77:12;145:7).
  21. Meditation promotes gratitude for all the blessings showered upon us by God through His Son.
  22. Meditation glorifies God (Ps. 49:3).

Saturday, March 21, 2015


Is the Jesus of the Four Gospels the "I AM" of the Old Testament - the same God who ordered the destruction of the Canaanites? I found this interesting comment in The Scandal of the Untameable I Am:by Derek Rishmawry:
.....And this is where the real tragic irony comes in: trying to save Jesus from the scandal of the I AM, we end up missing the full character of the untameable one we worship. We miss the Jesus who tenderly heals and aggressively flips over the tables of injustice, enacting God's symbolic judgment on a temple that ceased to witness to the nations (Mark 11:15-25). The Jesus who tells parables about a God who forgives wandering lost sons (Luke 15), as well one who is a long-suffering but avenging landlord (Luke 20:9-18). The Jesus who weeps over Jerusalem with motherly tears, and yet prophesies the coming judgment of God at the hand of the Romans (Luke 19:41-44). We miss the Jesus who willingly lays down his life as an atoning sacrifice for his wandering sheep (John 10:15, 17; Rom. 3:25), so that he might vindicate the justice of the God who had until then passed over their sins in silence (Rom. 3:26).
Just as he did 2,000 years ago, Jesus still promises, “Blessed is he who does not take offense at me” (Matt. 11:6). The challenge for us, then, is to do more than talk about wrestling with the scandal of the Bible, or Jesus, but to actually do so. Because wrestling with the scandal means not letting it go or writing it off, but hanging on to each and every passage for dear life until Jesus shows up and blesses us in the process.
Read the whole thing at the link.

Friday, March 20, 2015


Jesu! Only- begotten Son and Lamb of God the
Thou didst give the wine- blood of Thy body
    to buy me from the grave.
My Christ! my Christ! my shield, my encircler,
Each day, each night, each light, each dark;
My Christ! my Christ! my Shield, my encircler,
Each day, each night, each light, each dark.
Be near me, uphold me, my treasure, my
In my lying, in my standing, in my watching,
    in my sleeping,
Jesu, Son of Mary! my helper, my encircler,
Jesu, Son of David! my strength everlasting;
Jesu, Son of Mary! my helper, my encircler,
Jesu, Son of David! my strength everlasting.

- A Prayer of St. Brendan the Navigator

From The Path of Celtic Prayer: An Ancient Way to Everyday Joy by Calvin Miller

Too Small

This is a excerpt from Is Your Gospel Too Small? at The Gospel Coalition, taken from Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good by Amy L. Sherman. 
...The Bridge illustration, an old evangelistic tool, portrays the gospel succinctly. It highlights the atoning work of Jesus Christ on behalf of sinners. It shows a person on one side of a deep canyon. This represents us in our sin. God and heaven are on the opposite side of the canyon. No amount of human effort can get the sinner from one side of the canyon to the other. We can try to jump (that is, earn our way through good works), but we will only plummet to our death. The only way for a sinner to obtain God’s eternal life is through the gracious, free gift of the cross. Jesus’s cross serves as a bridge that connects the two sides of the canyon. By turning away from our own efforts and relying fully on Jesus’s shed blood, we are able to walk across that bridge.
The gospel as depicted in the Bridge illustration is true. It rightly presents humankind’s fundamental dilemma (separation from God due to our sinfulness). It rightly gives God glory by showing both his holiness (he will not overlook sin) and his mercy (he offers his Son to pay the penalty our sin deserved). It rightly lifts up the cross of Christ, with its utterly unique power. It puts human beings in their proper place, and God in his.
But this gospel isn’t complete.
The glorious truths celebrated in this too-narrow gospel do not, in themselves, capture the full, grand, amazing scope of Jesus’s redemptive work. For Jesus came preaching not just this gospel of personal justification but the gospel of the kingdom. Jesus’s work is not exclusively about our individual salvation, but about the cosmic redemption and renewal of all things. It is not just about our reconciliation to a holy God—though that is the beautiful center of it. It is also about our reconciliation with one another and with the creation itself. The atoning work of Jesus is bigger and better than that captured by the Bridge illustration.
Jesus’s Holistic Ministry
A context in which much Christian preaching, music, and books emphasize a highly individualistic understanding of the gospel does not provide rich soil for the nurture of believers who will live as the tsaddiqim. This too-narrow gospel focuses believers missionally only on the work of “soul winning.” It has little to say about Jesus’s holistic ministry or the comprehensive nature of his work of restoration. It focuses on the problem of personal sin only, thus intimating that sanctification is a matter only of personal morality. It focuses believers on getting a ticket to heaven, but doesn’t say much about what their life in this world should look like. Put differently, it focuses only on what we’ve been saved from, rather than also telling us what we’ve been saved for.
With a theology that’s all about getting a ticket to heaven for when I die, it’s not surprising that many Christians don’t show much interest in the question of how to live life now, in this world. When our churches teach a salvation that is only from (from sin and death), it’s not hard to understand why so many believers don’t seem to know what salvation is for. And if we preach a gospel that is only, or mainly, about “saving souls,” we shouldn’t be shocked if we end up with congregations that are not very motivated to care for bodies and material needs...

Read more at the link.

Thursday, March 19, 2015


The Mode of Our Transport

"The key in all of our Scripture praying is to let the Word become the mode of our transport. Scripture is not just the basis or background of our praying but a prayer itself. When we are reading the Scripture, the border between Scripture and prayer become so thin that they meld into each other and we are united with God. At such times our separation is bridged, and we are transported into the very presence of the holy Trinity. Praying the Scriptures can become a way to make all areas of prayer effective. It can be used to add substance to each of the other models of prayer, providing the context that makes all forms beautiful and effective."

Calvin Miller, The Path of Celtic Prayer: An Ancient Way to Everyday Joy


From A.W. Tozer Facebook Page

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Biggest Obstacle

From Tim Challies

Known & Loved

From @DailyKeller

Bless To Me This Day

God, bless to me this day,
God bless to me this night;
Bless, O bless, Thou God of grace,
Each day and hour of my life;
    Bless, O bless, Thou God of grace,
    Each day and hour of my life.

God, bless the pathway on which I go,
God, bless the earth that is beneath my sole;
Bless, O God, and give to me Thy love,
O God of gods, bless my rest and my repose;
    Bless, O God, and give to me Thy love,
    And bless, O God of gods, my repose.

- A Prayer of St. Brendan the Navigator

From The Path of Celtic Prayer: An Ancient Way to Everyday Joy by Calvin Miller

Monday, March 16, 2015

Inside the Boundries

Slow To Speak, Quick To Listen

3 Well Meaning (But Unhelpful) Approaches During Grief by Eric Geiger at Lifeway - Well worth the read (and the lessons)
As you likely know, Kaye’s father recently passed away. During this time the love, support, prayers, meals, notes of encouragement, and messages have been overwhelming. We have great neighbors and great friends. I cannot imagine grieving without the body of Christ surrounding us, encouraging us and loving us.
Watching Kaye grieve has been saddening and challenging, as at times I don’t really know what to say and when to say it. So, I just try and be there instead of trying to fix something. For my own sake, I have asked Kaye, “Now that we have gone through this—what things should I NOT say to someone in pain?”
Through the years as a pastor, and now as a husband more intimately involved, I have seen at least three well-meaning but unhelpful approaches to a grieving person.
The Cheerleader
The cheerleader attempts to encourage you that “things are going to be OK” and that “you can overcome this.” They attempt to pep talk you out of the pain, as if the pain can be removed quickly, and by doing so this unintentionally minimizes your pain.
The Concordance
The concordance pellets you with an array of Bible verses: “God works all things for good.” “Your joy will come in the morning.” Of course, you know these verses are true, but when the next morning still feels more like pain than joy, you wonder if something is wrong with you.
The Grief Topper
The grief topper compares your pain with his pain, and his tops yours. His story is more tragic, his loss more severe, which logically means that you should be grateful that you don’t have it as bad as he does.
In grief, the most loving and helpful thing one can offer is presence, not counsel. Presence is often expressed in a card, an email, a meal, a hug, or a visit. John Piper pondered this question about helping those who are hurting:
Can we learn something from Job’s friends about how to help the hurting? 
Absolutely. Those first seven days were their golden hour. If they had stopped there they would have been heroes, I think, because they would have shown compassion and patience. And that’s what we should learn.
When you walk into a horrific calamity you should be really slow to speak and quick to listen. You should be quick to cry, quick to hold, and quick to meet needs, bring meals, and wait upon the Lord. The theological wrestling comes later, probably.
It has been said often that the most equipped and prepared comforters are those who have been through the pain and the trials that others are facing. Perhaps those who have been comforted through seasons of grief are the best at comforting others because they learned the power of presence. They have experienced God’s love and goodness in the midst of the pain. Often He doesn’t come to us with answers, but He always comes to us with Himself. And really, He is all we need.
He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so through Christ our comfort also overflows. (2 Corinthians 1:4-5)

Saturday, March 14, 2015


From @DailyKeller

A Friend of Sinners

Jesus was called "a friend of sinners." Most of His followers would not be described that way. I must confess that I am not described that way. Therefore, I needed to read this - 3 Ways to Be A Friend To Sinners, by Micah Fries
Jesus was a friend of sinners. This is clearly established throughout the gospels. Jesus was among them, in relationship with them, respected by them and evidently they enjoyed his company enough that they continued to seek him out. In all of this Jesus didn’t sacrifice the content of his character or the clarity of his gospel message. Yet, it seems as though many of us in the church today find this oddly challenging – and some even argue that it’s not possible for strong believers to be in these kinds of consistent social settings, and even authentic friendships, with non-believers. So, which is it? Well, given the priority of scripture, and specifically the life of Jesus, I would prefer to come down on the side of being a friend of sinners. How do we do that, though, in a way that is faithful to his word, and honors God all the while? Consider these principles, and weigh your own life against them.
1. Integrate, don’t isolate.
Jesus was not just a friend of sinners; he was regularly among them. Don’t miss the importance of this. Place matters. I think we often forget how insular our lives can be as Christ-followers in 21st century America. As believers we have lives built around our churches. In many ways this is healthy. Gospel-fueled community is a necessary element to our sanctification. There is a problem, however, when the entirety of our community is other believers.
In the church we have grown adept at the creation of a quasi-Christian sub-culture. We have changed to definition of “counter-cultural” from a robust, biblically faithful definition to mean Christian t-shirts, Christian music and Christian sports leagues. We even offer Christian business directories because, I can only assume, we believe Christian plumbers are more effective at unclogging toilets than those who do not believe. The upshot of all this Christian sub-culture is that we can live our entire lives without ever actually relating to non-believers, and we do all this thinking that we are somehow honoring God.
This complete isolation from the culture at large doesn’t reflect Jesus’ behavior, nor the rest of scripture. Across the spectrum of God’s word we see a pattern of integrating into the culture, while both displaying and declaring the gospel message and so offering a counter-cultural message in the midst of the culture. As residents of the kingdom of God, we find ourselves living now as we will live then, when God’s kingdom is fully consummated. This kingdom living foreshadows God’s coming kingdom and exists as a kind of gospel apologetic among non-believers.
2. Be a friend to sinners, not just friendly to sinners.
I think it’s important to note that Jesus was not just friendly to those who did not believe. More than that, he was a friend to them. He was often invited to be at their parties, he was regularly engaged in friendly, yet curiosity-driven conversation. Too often we miss the importance of genuinely loving, and befriending, those who do not share our beliefs.
When we befriend only those who believe like we do, we communicate (often non-verbally) that only believers have value. We diminish the image of God that is present in every person – regardless of belief, and we set ourselves up as somehow morally superior to those who disagree with us. Each of these responses is an example of an anti-gospel at work in our hearts. We must be cautious to not just be friendly when we are around non-believers, and make sure that we are, in fact, offering genuine and authentic friendship to them.
3. Be a friend and share the gospel.

Finally, it is imperative that our friendships with non-believers be real, authentic friendships and not simply a means to an end. I cannot count the number of times I was told to be friends with non-believers so that I can share the gospel with them. This is a tragic categorical mistake. Rather than befriending non-believers so that we can share the gospel with them, I would suggest that we befriend non-believers and share the gospel with them. The phraseology is pretty similar, but the distinction is enormous.
When we befriend people, so that we can accomplish something, we turn them from people into projects, and we turn friendship into a sales technique. In short, we have become bait and switch salesman that use something as genuine as friendship as a means of enticing unwitting people, even if what we hope for them is the very best. What’s most awful about this technique is the deceit that undergirds it. We hold our friendship out as a carrot, but it masks our real goal of getting to something else. Even when gospel sharing is our goal, we cheapen the gospel we share – and the friendship we offer – when we engage this way.
Instead, let us recognize that every person is created in the image of God, and is therefore infinitely valuable. Let’s recognize that every person is fascinating, and has a compelling story. Let’s treat each person as God treats them – as recipients of his grace, and befriend them simply because the love of God in us compels us to love everyone, and the grace of God displayed in our lives has transformed us to a person who is intimately interested in others. As we offer genuine friendship, then, let us certainly make sure that the gospel is a part of that friendship. We share the gospel with our friends just like we share every other important part of our lives with them. In fact, we wouldn’t be good friends unless we shared with them the most important, life-changing truth we know, but let’s not cheapen it with cheap sales techniques that are cloaked in deceit.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Only Source

From @DailyKeller

Fish Belly Repentance

Did Jonah really repent in the belly of the fish? I've always thought so........ but maybe not. Here's another view by Irene Sun in  Jonah and the Art of Being Broken
We teach our children many things. We teach them to be strong, brave, and swift, yet patient, kind, and gentle. Rarely do we teach them how to be broken. Yet brokenness before the Lord is the fount of these very blessings. Courage and meekness flows most generously from a broken and contrite heart.
A few years ago, I was a zealous collector of Jonah picture books from libraries all over Illinois. The obsession began when I was searching for a faithful rendition for my children. Among the few dozen books I acquired, nearly all of them claimed that Jonah prayed for forgiveness in the belly of the fish. I found this interpretation a little unsettling. In my readings of chapter two, taught by a few professors at my seminary, Jonah did not repent. He did not even acknowledge that he had done anything wrong.
My obsession with picture books soon turned into an obsession with the book of Jonah. I had the most difficult time understanding Jonah’s prayer. What am I missing? Why do I not see words related to sin and repentance in his prayer? Jonah was using verses and phrases from the Psalms. Yet somehow his prayer had a different flavor.
After much wrestling, I discovered where I had gone wrong. In order to understand Jonah’s prayer, I must first understand the meaning of repentance. Specifically, how repentance must arise from a broken and contrite heart. But Jonah’s heart was yet to be broken.
At the end of chapter one, Yahweh commanded a fish to swallow Jonah and delivered him from death. This came after Jonah disregarded Yahweh’s instruction to go to Nineveh, after he refused to pray when the sailors cried out to their gods, after he chose death over repentance, after he asked the sailors to commit murder by throwing him overboard. In other words, God’s rescue was pure mercy. The only thing Jonah deserved was judgment, yet Yahweh saved his life. In the belly of the fish, Jonah prayed to Yahweh, his God.
Woe Is Me
Jonah began his prayer by quoting the first verse of Psalm 120, which reads, “To Yahweh in my distress I called.” Jonah, however, changed the order of the words. He prayed, “I called from my distress to Yahweh” (Jonah 2:2). He moved Yahweh’s name to the end of the phrase and his own action to the front. Jonah was focused on himself and what he was doing. A subtle change, but it initiates the tone and pattern for the rest of the chapter.
In Jonah’s eyes, he was the one who approached Yahweh. Jonah emphasized his “call,” his “cry,” and his “voice.” He believed that Yahweh had heard and answered him, and he was right. Yet Jonah had neither answered nor heeded Yahweh’s words when he was commanded to go to Nineveh.
The longest portion of Jonah’s prayer was about his woes. He told his story from bits and pieces of David’s psalms of deliverance and laments (Psalms 5, 31, and 69). These were David’s prayers during seasons when he was pursued by his enemies. But in his recitation, Jonah omitted the praises of Yahweh’s steadfast love—the essential theme in these psalms.
Jonah accused God of throwing him into the deep. But had not Jonah asked the sailors to cast him overboard? Was he blaming God when he claimed that God’s waves and God’s billows passed over him? He felt that he was “driven away” from God’s sight. But was not Jonah the one who ran “from the presence of Yahweh” (1:2-3)?
Great Is My Faithfulness

Jonah concluded his woes with Yahweh’s deliverance (2:6). But he credited himself for God’s rescue: “I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple” (2:7)
Jonah set himself apart from idol worshipers, those who forsook “their hope of steadfast love.” In a way, he was right—the sailors were unlike Jonah. In chapter one, they prayed and worshiped Yahweh and made sacrifices on their wrecked, emptied ship. Here, in the belly of the fish, Jonah promised that he would offer sacrifices. Yet he continued to resist the command to go to Nineveh, because the Word of Yahweh had to come to Jonah—a second time (3:1).