Friday, July 31, 2015

Slow and Steady

"There are many people who think of spiritual growth as something like high diving. They say, ‘I am going to give my life to the Lord! I am going to change all these terrible habits, and I am really going to transform! Give me another six months and I am going to be a new man or new woman!’

That is not what a walk is. A walk is day in and day out praying; day in and day out Bible and Psalms reading; day in and day out obeying, talking to Christian friends and going to corporate worship, committing yourself to and fully participating in the life of a church. It is rhythmic, on and on and on. To walk with God is a metaphor that symbolizes slow and steady progress."
            - Tim Keller

(From Daily Keller)

Romans in 1,000 Words

An interesting and difficult mission- summarizing Romans In 1000 Words by Matthew Hosier. How do you think he did? (British spellings from the author)
This letter is about the necessity of the saving power of Jesus for all, and hence the need for the message to be declared to all. It was written to help the church in Rome, but its author, the apostle Paul, is powerfully motivated by his hope that the church in Rome will help him get to Spain to preach the gospel there.
The power of the gospel is so much greater than the power of shame that dogs so many of us. When we respond to the gospel we get included in God’s purpose and plan, regardless of our status in society. The gospel itself looks shameful in the eyes of the world, but it is the way of true honour and power!
We need to know this gospel power because the natural human condition is rebellion against God; a rebellion which has placed us under the wrath of God. As we stand in this position of alienation from God further rebellion against him is our natural attitude. This means there is an on-going spiral of sin, and there is nothing we can do to make ourselves right with God. Men and women set themselves all kinds of moral standards, which we imagine put us in the right, but whatever standard we set, it falls short of God’s standard.
This failure to live up to God’s standard applies to everyone. It applies to the very religious as well as to the irreligious. But because the human heart is so deceitful we think our standards are the right ones and can easily regard ourselves as being superior to others. Let’s be clear: Jews are no better than Romans and Romans no better than Jews – so don’t be a hypocrite! Everyone is in big trouble because no one lives in a way that is pleasing to God! Yes, God chose the people of Israel as his special inheritance, but the real Israel are those who are spiritually God’s people rather than those who are genetically descended from Abraham.
It doesn’t matter who you are, who you are related to, or where you come from – the normal human condition is alienation from God, and this is a disaster!
Into this depressing picture Jesus Christ suddenly breaks in. By God’s grace Jesus covers over our sin and has himself absorbed God’s righteous anger against human sin. This changes everything – and the way we receive the good of this is by faith.
Abraham is the great example of faith for us. Abraham-like faith means living by faith, enduring by faith, and inheriting the world by faith. It means knowing the joy of God’s love by the Holy Spirit. By faith we are set free from the old Adam-ish way, which meant death, and are made alive in Christ.
This means that sin isn’t the boss anymore. Without Christ sin is always the boss. Sin is so sneaky it even uses good things (like the law God gave to Moses) to accomplish its ends. But now Jesus deals with sin!
Those who come in faith to Christ and are set free from sin’s power are then empowered by the Holy Spirit, and led by the Spirit, with the certain hope of future resurrection. God’s people know that they are children of God, and more than conquerors!
God keeps his promises. God is sovereign and will get all that he wants. This means that ‘all Israel’ will be saved – God is gathering a great family of people to himself, both Jew and Gentile: God wins!
Surely, then, in the light of all this, we will want to give ourselves to Jesus – body and soul! We’ll want to discover and use the gifts that God has given us, for the strengthening of the church. And we’ll burn with the kind of spiritual passion that makes a practical difference to the lives of our Christian brothers and sisters.
More than that, our experience of God’s mercies will cause us to go the extra mile in loving our enemies; and the radical freedom we have found in Christ will lead us not into rebellion against earthly rulers, but equip us as model citizens.
Our lives together will be determined by the kind of love we have come to inhabit in Christ. This love is perfect and alert and pure, causing us to live in a God-rooted way, blessing our neighbour and building community.
This kind of community building love means that the strong humble themselves to serve the weak, but don’t feel belittled in doing so – after all, this is what Christ has done for us! We’re obliged to live this way – it’s our joy-filled Christian duty! We’re not to let the petty tyrannies of now cause divisions among us. If Jesus is lord of life and death he’s certainly also lord of our diaries and stomachs!
So let’s do all we can to build each other up, being full of hope as we see how the promises of scripture are being worked out in us. God has welcomed us into his kingdom, where there is righteousness, peace and joy! We need to be full of these things, by the Holy Spirit’s power.
The aim of this is that the good news of Jesus Christ might travel to all corners of the earth – that by the enabling of the Spirit the word might be preached everywhere. This is a very practical exercise though, that takes hard work and financial generosity. So don’t hold back: you’ve been blessed by receiving this message, don’t be stingy when it comes to blessing others!
We’re in this together – men and women, Jews and Gentiles, masters and servants, in Corinth and Rome and to the ends of the earth. Everyone in the church counts – those we all know and those who are in the background but work hard and faithfully for Jesus and his church: though we need to keep alert to those who pretend to be part of us but actually intend to harm us. Satan’s head is being crushed by the church, so let’s not get caught out by his schemes.
God is true to his word, revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ. He will strengthen you as he gathers all his people to perfect obedience in him. So worship God in Christ forever!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Pilgrim's Progress Updated...

HT: The Sacred Sandwich


HT:: Crossway

Creative Reading

7 Ways To Get Creative With Bible Reading from Bible Study Tools:
Bible reading plans don't have to follow any set rules or patterns. If you completed something more traditional recently, you could change things up. Here are some suggestions for doing just that:
  • Divide the 66 books of the Bible by months or weeks. Instead of following a set reading plan, you could either shoot for reading five or six books each month or one or two per week. Since some of the minor prophets and letters are short, this isn't as daunting as it may seem. Split the short ones up so that you have at least one each month or save them for weeks that you know you'll be busy.
  • Instead of reading through the whole Bible this year, consider zooming in on one book each month. Read it through several times and take notes about what God's showing you. Use several versions of the Bible for added insight. Then, watch some videos or read study materials on our site to really dig in (you'll find them linked below the reading pane).
  • Read out loud. Sometimes, hearing the words spoken aloud can help you in your studies. You could even read in a group of others so that no one person has to read the whole book.
  • Commit to memorizing one verse from each book you study this year. That may sound scary, but it's not. We memorize things all the time. Plus, it'll help you remember a lesson from each one.
  • Memorize an entire chapter or book of the Bible. This is a big challenge for anyone, but it's well worth the investment. A Psalms 1, Philemon 1, or Jude 1 could be the place to start.
  • Write out verses. Another method of study that some people find helpful involves copyingScripture in a notebook. It can be a slow process, but you might be surprised how well you connect with what you're writing.
  • Learn Greek and Hebrew. There are many sites on the Internet that will teach you these ancient languages. Learning to read the original manuscripts of the Bible is well worth the effort.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Emotional Health

Most men have issues with friendship and intimacy. Darrin Patrick says the reason is lack of emotional health, and has some helpful advice in The Magic Formula for Manhood:
Intimacy is a dirty word to most guys, unless it is codeword for sex. In fact, most guys would struggle to define intimacy with a woman apart from sex. Then we read in the Bible that we are to have intimacy with other dudes:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34)
“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10)
“Having purified your souls by obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,” (1 Peter 1:22)
But despite our trepidation, intimate relationships with men are vital for our flourishing as men. The Grant Study, one of the longest longitudinal studies of male development in history (75 years!) has shown that body type, birth order, political affiliation, and even social class are nowhere near as accurate in determining how men will fare in life.
New York Times columnist David Brooks summarizes the findings. “In case after case,” he writes, “the magic formula is capacity for intimacy combined with persistence, discipline, order and dependability. The men who could be affectionate about people and organized about things had very enjoyable lives.”
To put it even more simply: the secret to true manhood is emotional health.
There are a number of different elements to emotional health, but with regards to relationships, it’s about the ability to know and be known.
Sadly, most guys have zero vision for how to be emotionally healthy. We have few models of affectionate men who are still strong. There aren’t many who feel things deeply without allowing their emotions to drive their lives. So we really don’t know what to do with our emotions or even how to talk about them. And frankly, most guys just don’t want to talk about their emotions. This kind of intimacy feels feminine and seems both time-consuming and inefficient.
But let’s think through the alternative: Men who can’t open up to other men about the inner world of their struggles, fears, hopes, and dreams are neither challenged or celebrated. They’re only condemned by their own voice (that is, if they haven’t become numb and apathetic entirely). Men who harbor this condemnation within are always trying to prove themselves on the outside. But there’s nothing to anchor their masculine identities. They spend countless hours trying to cover over their shame and weaknesses, constantly running around in predictable and destructive behaviors. Does this sound any less time-consuming or inefficient?
What if you pursued one guy who is a bit older than you, a guy who is around your age, and another guy who is younger than you?
Make sure that you respect all of these guys, or the whole thing will fall apart. From the older man, ask for mentoring and the “trade secrets” on becoming a good man. From the peer, ask for relationship by doing some hobbies together or by getting your families together. From the younger man, ask how you can be helpful to him.
In so doing, you are simultaneously putting yourself in the place of a son, a brother, and a dad. Intimacy will follow men who settle in to these three roles.

Tasting the Coming Joy

From Tim Keller: The Christian Reversal:
Christianity teaches that, contra fatalism, suffering is overwhelming; contra Buddhism, suffering is real; contra karma, suffering is often unfair; but contra secularism, suffering is meaningful. There is a purpose to it, and if faced rightly, it can drive us like a nail deep into the love of God and into more stability and spiritual power than you can imagine. Suffering – Buddhism says accept it, karma says pay it, fatalism says heroically endure it, secularism says avoid or fix it. From the Christian perspective, all of these cultures of suffering have an element of truth. Sufferers do indeed need to stop loving material goods too much. And yes, the Bible says that, in general, the suffering filling the world is the result of the human race turning from God. And we do indeed need to endure suffering and not let it overthrow us. Secularism is also right to warn us about being too accepting of conditions and factors that harm people and should be changed. Pre-secular cultures often permitted too much passivity in the face of changeable circumstances and injustices.
But, as we have seen, from the Christian view of things, all of these approaches are too simple and reductionist and therefore are half-truths. The example and redemptive work of Jesus Christ incorporates all these insights into a coherent whole and yet transcends them. Scheler ends his great essay by returning to his claim that Christianity is ultimately a reversal of all the other views.
For the man of antiquity… the external world was happy and joyous, but the world’s core was deeply sad and dark. Behind the cheerful surface of the world of so-called merry antiquity there loomed “chance” and “fate.” For the Christian, the external world is dark and full of suffering, but its core is nothing other than pure bliss and delight.

He is right about most of the ancient cultures, but what he says especially fits the secular worldview. Secularism, as Richard Dawkins says, sees ultimate reality as cold and indifferent and extinction as inevitable. The other cultures also have seen day-to-day life as being filled with pleasures, but behind it all is darkness or illusion. Christianity sees things differently. While other worldviews lead us to sit in the midst of life’s joys, foreseeing the coming sorrows, Christianity empowers its people to sit in the midst of this world’s sorrows, tasting the coming joy.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Do You Believe?

Do you believe the gospel? I'm not referring here to "getting saved" or "going to heaven," but to experiencing the power of the gospel in daily life. Try taking this little test from Lisa Robinson:
...But do you really believe the gospel? See it’s one thing to know facts about God’s work through Christ in rescuing what was lost. But it’s quite another to live as if that is true. It’s one thing to say that it took the work of God by the Holy Spirit to bring us into union with Christ completely on his work, but quite another to put assurance in that work and not on ourselves. It’s one thing to verbalize that you were dead in your trespasses and sins, cut off, unable to even respond to God without his intervention, it’s something else all together when we act like we can qualify the gospel with our contributions.
Here’s a little test…
1) Do you feel like you’re a good Christian because you haven’t committed any egregious sins?
If you’re proud of yourself that you’re not like those who have fallen into error, chances are you believe that you had something to do with your righteousness. That’s not believing the gospel but our own works
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works so that no one my boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9)
2) When you sin, do you try to fix it yourself before coming to the Lord?
If you truly believe that Jesus bore your sin for all time (Heb 10:10-13), you’d believe that forgiveness is found in Christ because of his atoning work on your behalf. Sin should cause us to run to him because only in him is forgiveness of sin found. If we think we need to get right first, we are essentially saying that our righteousness is found in our ability to get it right apart from him.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
3) Do you feel like some people are more deserving of God’s grace than others?
If you truly believe that grace is unmerited favor that is lavished us solely because God choose to provide it, then you wouldn’t get bent out of shape at the thought some receiving equal acceptance as heirs of God’s promise. Contrarily, you wouldn’t consider some more favored or loved because they’re just better people. See #1
“For as many of you as were baptized in Christ Jesus have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.” (Gal. 3:27-29)
4) Do you try to earn God’s acceptance of you?
Is your motivation for good works a form of earning acceptance from God or do you serve in response to the great gift of God’s love that has been poured out through the atoning work of the Son? If you truly believe the gospel, you wouldn’t feel the need to perform for God to gain his love and possibly wear yourself out in the process because his love and acceptance is not being truly embraced.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph 2:10)

5) Do you put your trust in your faith, your words or other acts to gain God’s favor?
As I wrote here, placing our trust in our faith, words or material blessings as proof of God’s favor really is a form of prosperity teaching, which is another gospel. In fact, Paul argues in the book of Galatians that putting trust in anything other than Christ for acceptance is another gospel, which is really no gospel at all. (See Gal. 1-2)
Finally, do you live in a state of hopelessness when enveloped in the affairs of this life. Because if we take God’s consummation of his kingdom as described in Rev. 21 seriously, we would know that a day is coming when God will set everything right, wipe every tear from our eye, where there will be no more pain, no more sickness, no more strife. Oh and if you believe that means some saints will not have it as good as others and suffer while others enjoy the fruit of their labor, then you really haven’t believed the gospel at all.

Monday, July 27, 2015

As Much As You Know...

HT: @DarrinPatrick

Burned Out?

From the BGEA via Charisma - Five Ways to Refresh A Burned-Out Soul
Burnout—it's real, and it can have major consequences. It can leave you empty, discouraged and exhausted, with little energy left for God. Sound familiar? Maybe it's time to replenish. Start here.
1. Get away. "Come away by yourselves to a remote place and rest a while, for many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat" (Mark 6:31, MEV).
You don't have to use vacation days or drive far away to take a break with God. You can pick a place close by to relax and simply enjoy His presence. Here are some ideas: a community park, a pool, a hammock or rocking chair, a quiet corner of an ice cream or coffee shop, a bookstore or library, or a spot by the water. You might even bring some music or a journal.
If you like to be active, try going on a hike or bike ride, kayaking, taking a one-person picnic, gardening or painting. Getting away doesn't have to mean a change in your physical location, as long as you're getting away from daily stresses to spend time with God.
2. Be still. "Be still, and know that I am God" (Ps. 46:10, MEV).
Taking time to "be still" may be harder today than ever. So much screams for our attention in this fast-paced, digital world. In the Bible, the prophet Elijah heard God in the form of a "still small voice" (1 Kings 19:12). If we don't intentionally take time to turn down life's noise and be still, we could miss God's quiet message to our hearts.
Part of being still means taking a break from the demands of work, school and other activities and focusing on God. If you aren't intentionally setting aside one day a week to rest and worship, now is a good time to start.
Here's an Answer from Billy Graham on why God set aside a Sabbath day and how we can make it part of our lives:
replenish | re-PLEN-ish
(v): To fill up again; to restore or make complete again
3. Listen. "A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel" (Prov. 1:5, MEV).
God often speaks to us in a still, small voice. Other times, He sends a meaningful message through a person or experience at the right moment. Yet, worry, stress and a growing "to-do" list can clutter our minds and keep us from listening.
This message from Billy Graham, "The Rest That Endures," may be just what you need to hear.
Watch this video of Ruth Bell Graham's poem, "Stillness," can also offer encouragement:

4. Meditate. "But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law he meditates day and night" (Ps. 1:2, MEV).
There are so many thoughts crowding our minds that it can be hard to focus. We're pulled in every direction, with this person or that thing demanding our attention. But then we come to a verse like Psalm 1:2, which tells us to meditate on God's Word. How exactly do you do that? And with such a hectic schedule?
Here are some practical ways to focus your attention on God, even when you're busy.
5. Be present. "Jesus answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed. And Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken from her"(Luke 10:41-42, MEV).
Do you find yourself going through the motions or so frazzled that you can't really enjoy a special moment? As the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10 reveals, we can't afford to be so busy or distracted that we fail to hear God's voice, experience His presence, or honor His goodness.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Hope For Post-Abortion Women From Pope John Paul II

What did Pope John Paul III say to women who have had abortions?
I would now like to say a special word to women who have had an abortion. The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly. If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. To the same Father and his mercy you can with sure hope entrust your child. With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone’s right to life. Through your commitment to life, whether by accepting the birth of other children or by welcoming and caring for those most in need of someone to be close to them, you will become promoters of a new way of looking at human life.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Biggest Problem

Living in a "Post" Culture

This is a very relevant and important article - Posture in Post-Christendom by Tim Brister:
Christendom is dead. For some, this is a time of lament. For others, it is a time of renewal and revival. I want to offer my reflections on the three different phases of Christianity and culture and the corresponding posture for Christian cultural engagement.
Christendom: Synced with Culture
Syncretism is the blending or assimilation of two belief systems into one. There was a time when Christianity enjoyed cultural approval and widespread recognition. When someone spoke of religion, it was rare that anyone thought of another faith beside Christianity. Monuments to the Ten Commandments were erected in the public square. Prayers were offered by teachers in public schools. God Love for God and country were seen in churches who displayed a Christian flag on one side of the pulpit and an American flag on the other. Christianity was synced with American culture.
This syncretism took three primary manifestations: nominalism, moralism, and zionism. Because of its popularity and being somewhat normative in American culture, people identified as being Christian without ever actually becoming a Christian. There were Christian in name only. Identifying with being a Christian without actually becoming one afforded people goodwill in society as they would be seen as virtuous, upstanding, and respectable.
Christianity also assimilated with moralism because many of the identity markers of Christianity were what you did or did not do. Christians do not drink or smoke. Christians did not dance. Christians were dedicated to religious activity. Christianity was not so much defined by what you believed but by how you lived. Christianity was in a way moral gatekeepers for the culture and enjoyed relative success in advocating the law, even when unable to keep it themselves entirely.
Then there was zionism. There is a blending of the American dream with Christianity. This is where it became popular to drape the cross in the American flag. The United States was considered to some degree God’s great gift to the world, the last great hope for humanity. Verses with promises tied to Israel in the Old Testament easily found a home in sermons from American pulpits. Christianity was depicted in particularly American imagery, and American culture was governed by particularly Christian values.
Dying Christendom: Fight Against Culture
Then came the time when Christendom began to fade away as American culture began a shift away from Christianity. This is the birth of the culture warriors, the silent majority, and the religious right. This was the time when the lamenting prophets would cry out, “Let’s take back America” and, due to the contrarian posture, Christians were known more for what they were against than what they were for.
As culture went from bad to worse, increasingly in lawlessness, dying Christendom took a bunker mentality from which to fight. Most notable in this battle plan was the rise of the “one-stop-shop megachurch.” Megachurches were great because you could do everything you wanted to do in the world without ever having go into the world. Dads had their softball leagues. Kids had their own basketball and soccer leagues. Moms had their “mom’s day outs” and aerobics classes. Aside from the cultural commodities in the church, there many more religious goods and services to occupy the time and energy of Christians, effectively keeping them busy and safely removed from the wicked world out there. The megachurch became a breeding ground for religious consumerism in the supermarket of the religious ghettos that protected Christians from the rampant wickedness increasingly on display in the culture now fought by the religious/political special forces.
Another aspect of dying Christendom was the underpinnings of pluralism and postmodernism in both high culture (academia) and low culture (pop culture). Morality that was once standardized by the Ten Commandments had been replaced by “it is not wrong if I don’t hurt myself or anyone else” kind of ambiguity. What was once considered true for all was no longer considered true for anyone. The objective was replaced with the subjective. The universal was replaced with the relative. And John 3:16 was replaced with Matthew 7:1. When you refer to “God” or religion, you no longer had the cultural reference point of Christianity. And the idea that there was only one way to God was considered intolerant and full of bigotry.
Post-Christendom: Re-enters Culture
I believe we are now living in a culture of Post-Christendom. While it may be the death of Christendom, I believe it is also the rebirth of Christianity. All cultural assumptions are now gone. Nominalism is dying off, because Christianity now only has value to those who value Christ above all things. Moralism is dying off, because Christians are returning to the message of Christianity (the gospel). Zionism is dying off, because we are more globally aware of what God is doing in the world and how we play a small part in it.
In Post-Christendom, we have an opportunity to be known for what we are for rather than what we are against. We have an opportunity to bring clarity to our identity as disciples of Jesus Christ, to come out of the sub-cultures and ghettos we have created in the past to live, work, and play to a world where we are called to shine as a city on a hill. We can reintroduce ourselves to our neighbors, coworkers, and playmates with compassion and conviction. We don’t have to seek cultural approval and acceptance because the gospel tells us the only approval and acceptance we need has already been given to us and is sitting at the right hand of God the Father.
The posture in Post-Christendom is to enter in culture in ordinary ways by ordinary people and demonstrate the extraordinary love of God by laying our lives down for the sake of the gospel. It is a posture that recognizes we are dealing with a world where John 3:16 does not make sense to them because Genesis 1:1 does not make sense to them. We enter in with humility and kindness, understanding the posture of our Savior towards us who were once hostile in mind and rebels to His cause of redemption.
Perhaps there has never been a time more exciting and opportunistic for Christians in the United States than right now. May God be so kind to bring renewal and revival to the apostolic faith once for all handed down to the saints as we live, move, and have our being in Him – exiles proclaiming the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Power In Weakness

From Steve Brown: The Warrior Is A Child:
...The power of the Christian witness isn’t in our strength but in our weakness, brokenness and sin. It is that message with which we “strengthen our brothers and sisters.” It’s a message about redemption, forgiveness and God’s incredible grace, mercy, and love to people who don’t deserve it. Only sinners can proclaim that message because we are the only ones unqualified enough to do so.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Run to the Hiding Place

Do You Have A Spirit Of Fear? from Pete Wilson:
I think a lot of us have a spirit of fear that we are wrestling with every single day. You’ve got a lot of fear and anxiety and worry that may have to do with your relationships, your finances, your children – whatever it is that keeps you up at night.
If that’s you, I want you to know two things:
1. You are not alone. I wish I could grab you by the shoulders and make you believe that! God has not abandoned you; draw near to Him and He will draw near to you! He’s there, even if you don’t feel him or see him,He is with you!
2. I want you to run! Don’t run away, run to your hiding place, your true hiding place – not to the corner of the house that makes you feel safe, not under a blanket, or behind a bottle. Your true hiding place is in Him, because He is the only one who can give you the peace that you’re searching for.
I promise you, maybe not today, maybe not even tomorrow or next week, but eventually, you will walk away with a tremendous amount of courage. The kind of courage that can only come from trusting in a God that is much bigger than our fears.

Identity In Achievement

From Identity in Achievement by Paul David Trip
....Because we're human beings with souls, we naturally need to find identity somewhere, in something, or in someone. So, when we forget that our identity is found "in Christ", we're going to default to a substitute identity.
Today I want to write about a very common replacement: identity in achievement.
God calls us to be effective and productive, so we ought to be concerned about our harvest and the return on our investments. Success is a biblical concept, and God wants us to do great things for his kingdom. But, the minute we take on our achievements as an identity, dangerous things happen.
In my experience pastoring and counseling, there are three types of people who fall victim to finding identity in their achievement:
1. Over Achiever
Do you get a deep sense of personal fulfillment when you get the next "notch" in your belt at work? Do you find it hard to slow down and say no to opportunities where you know you'll impress? Do you get irritated and angered when someone or something interferes with what you're trying to accomplish?
It's a God-honoring thing to work hard, but because of our wandering hearts, it's easy to lose sight of God and biblical priorities in the midst of our pursuit of personal achievement and success. Your identity in life is found in what Christ did for you on Calvary, not in what you can do for yourself or for God.
2. Under Achiever
Do feel as if you haven't accomplished what you want to accomplish in life? Are younger people taking on more responsibility at work? Are you aware of how much success your friends and peers are having while you seem to enjoy very little?
When we put our identity in achievement, and then fail to have success, we become discouraged, depressed, and bitter, not only towards others, but often towards God as well. Your identity in life is found in what Christ accomplished on the Cross, not in how much you can accomplish on earth.
3. Regretful Achiever
Do you look back on your life with great remorse, seeing how much achievement and success drove you? Do you see evidence of broken relationships as a result of your pursuit and wish you could rewind the clock and do it all over again?
Listen: your identity is found in the perfect life of Christ, not in the mistake-riddled life you look back on with grief. Christ, without regret, went to the Cross to cover all the regrets you would have in the future. And, God's timing is always perfect. Instead of dwelling on the past, allow God to redeem however much of your future you have left on this earth, for his glory and your good.
So, if I haven't said it enough, achievement is a very dangerous place to find identity. You will disappoint yourself, others will disappoint you, and your list of successes won't satisfy the craving of your soul. Only the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ will.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Family Resemblance

From Jeff Clarke in The Church Jesus Style: The  Sights and Sounds of a Jesus Shaped Community-
The Church should always center its identity, activity and witness in Jesus who defines the life of the ecclesia (gathering). As a result, the gathered community of Jesus-followers are a people who reflect, imitate and live the life of Jesus wherever they are....
...Following after Jesus is a community-driven event. His teachings, example and entire life become the basis upon which we build our following. We are defined by him. He leads us and we follow him together as a community.
Jesus continues to live through his community by the grace, presence and enablement of the Spirit.
The only physical embodiment of Jesus that others will see will be in and through those who follow him. Without this embodied presence, Jesus will be invisible to them.
How tragic it is when those who claim to follow after Jesus look nothing like the one they claim to follow; when there is little too no family resemblance....
This is a great article - read it all at the link.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Countercultural Relevance

HT: The Gospel Coalition @TGC

Monday, Monday...

A god word for a Monday - Work, Mondays, and the Theology of the Cross - R. J. Grunewald:
Monday often means stress, deadlines, burdens, and anxiety. It becomes the day when we dread the overly cheerful coworker who makes our day worse by suggesting, “Sounds like somebody has a cased of the Mondays.” Another day at work means worrying whether or not your boss is going to micro-manage you or ignore you. Work means worry about what your coworkers might say or the weight of being in a job that is underpaid and under appreciated. From the daily grind of bosses and deadlines to the grueling reality of balancing a budget and trying to put food on the table, work is often a weight – sometimes an unbearable one.
“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” – Matthew 16:24
As human beings, everything within us seeks to serve our own wants. Humanity is curved inward on our desires and satisfactions. We turn friends and family members into objects. People become less than human as we make them the means of our satisfaction or success. Our jobs become a tool to validate ourselves or make ourselves worthwhile. Our marriages become an opportunity for a transaction of goods in hopes that we get the better end of the deal.
Because of the curving inward of the human heart, every area of life becomes the place where we serve ourself....
Read the rest at the link

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Piercing Word

4 Reasons We Must Not Disregard God's Word - Excerpt from Hebrews: An Anchor for the Soul by R. Kent Hughes (HT Crossway)
The Piercing Word of God
I was twelve years old when I came under the knife of God's Word. The cuts went deep, deeper than blood, as they cut my soul in gracious surgery. I was cut with the clear understanding that though I was an outward son of the church, I was not a son of God. The other cut that the knife brought was the conviction that Jesus Christ was God and that he had died on the cross for my sins.
My pastor directed me to read John 1:12 and Romans 10:9-10. And as I read, the lights came on. It was as if the marrow of those verses were sucked off the page and into my soul. I did believe! Thus began my experience with the penetrating power of God's Word. It has cut me untold numbers of times since. But each pain, responded to, has brought a fresh, satisfying healing.
All Scripture is, as Paul has said, theopneustos, "breathed out by God" (2 Timothy 3:16). It is the very breath of divine reality. There is nothing like it. Hebrews 4:12-13 give us four reasons we must not disregard God's Word:
1. The Living Word
The writer of Hebrews directly warns that God's Word is alive, saying, "The word of God is living and active" (v. 12a). It lives because it endures forever (Psalm 119:89). Even more, it lives because it has life in itself. God is "living" (3:12), and the Word, as God's breath (2 Timothy 3:16), partakes of God's living character. It is alive!
The character of the Word's aliveness is that it is "active," or as that word is sometimes rendered, "effective." God's Word vibrates with active, effectual power as it rushes to fulfill the purpose for which it was spoken. As Isaiah 55:11 so beautifully says: "so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it."
Indeed, the Word of God is alive and effectual! It does what it promises to do. It regards neither age nor education. It can change you if you are twelve or 102. If you will listen to God's Word, it will change your life. This truth is both a promise and a warning to all of us.
2. The Penetrating Word
God's Word is not only living, but penetrating, as the next line so clearly states: "sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and marrow" (v. 12b).
What we have here is a poetic statement of the power of God's Word to pierce the human personality to its very depths. God's Word can cut through anything and bring conviction.
God's Word cleaves through our hard-shelled souls like a hot knife through warm butter. Certainly we Christians find this to be true in our lives. There are sections of God's Word that cut through all the pretensions and religious facade, leaving us convicted.
When God wills it, his Word will pierce anyone. The soul safest from God's penetrating Word is never the unhappy hearer, but those who, though hearing, never hear and never resist. Tragically, many of these are regular church attenders. The true hearer wittingly or unwittingly invites the divine surgeon to do his gracious cutting.
3. The Discerning Word
Having established that God's Word is living and penetrating, the writer adds, "discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (v. 12c). The root word for "discerning" is the word kritikos, from which we derive critic. So the emphasis here is on the discerning judgment of "the thoughts and intentions of the heart". The heart is the seat of human personality. It is hidden from all. Yet God's Word sifts through its thoughts and attitudes with unerring discrimination.
"The sword of the Spirit" (Ephesians 6:17) will tell us what is in our hearts. Fellow-believers, if we really want to understand ourselves, we must fill our souls with God's Word. God's Word–read, meditated upon, and prayerfully applied–will give you brilliant discernment and profound self-knowledge. James indicates that God's Word functions as a mirror revealing who and what we really are (cf. James 1:23 24). This gift of self-knowledge is no small grace because when we grasp something of the serpentine ways of our hearts, we are disposed to cast ourselves even more on God's grace. And that is no small grace! The wise Christian invites the penetrating, discerning work of God's Word in his life.
4. A Reckoning God
Verse 13 gives us one of Scripture's great descriptions of God's knowing: "No creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account."
God sees everything. This can be discomforting if we have something to hide. "The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good" (Proverbs 15:3). The psalmist likewise witnesses, "You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence" (Psalm 90:8).
This is sobering truth indeed. But the metaphorical language that follows makes God's knowing absolutely terrifying for those who imagine they can avoid his gaze: "All are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account." "All"–everything–everyone–is stark naked before him. There is nothing to hide in or behind. All creatures are in the grip of God, totally vulnerable, and helpless.
Blessed be the double-edged sword of judgment and sanctification. God cuts us deeply that we might die. God cuts us again with his Word that we might live.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


Living In A Post-Christian World

Found this good thought-provoking piece by Tim Brister - How Christians Live In Post-Christendom:
The news is out. Christendom is dead. Christians are no longer the moral majority but the missional minority. How should respond? How shall we live? I want to begin a series of articles where I attempt to answer some of these questions. To begin, I want to focus on the words of Jesus near the end of His earthly ministry as He prayed to the Father on behalf of His disciples (John 17). When we consider the content of His High Priestly prayer, we discover both indicatives regarding the state of His followers in the world as well as imperatives on how they should walk in the world. In the midst of these two aspects of our Lord’s teaching about the relationship between His people and the world, we learn that there is one over-arching purpose for Christians and our relationship with the world.
Christians are in the world (John 17:11).
While this might be obvious to the reader, the point is that Christians are not physically separate from the world. Christians are in the world in the sense that they occupy the same space, go to the same markets and interact in the same society as non-Christians. They are not people who form their own sub-cultures or ghettos to avoid the world. They recognize where God has placed them and do not run from that reality. They are relatable, accessible, and approachable to those in the world in normal, ordinary ways (e.g., friend, neighbor, coworker, classmate, teammate, etc.).
Christians are not of the world (John 17:16).
Christians do not belong to the world. They are not longer conformed to the values and ways of living common in the culture and society around them. They belong to the kingdom of God and therefore have a new identity and loyalty to the King and his kingdom. Therefore, while they are in the world, they do not belong to our embrace the world as those who do not belong to Jesus Christ.
Christians are hated by the world (John 17:14).
It stands to reason that if Christians are not conforming to the world and its ways, the world would mock, ridicule, detest, and hate the counter-cultural ways of Christians. Therefore, as Jesus says, His followers should not be surprised that the world hates us. The world hated Him first and crucified Him for who He was. In a later epistle, John wrote that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19). The strong distinction of being in the world and not of the world causes Christians to be hated by the world who does not accept the King in whose kingdom we gladly live.
Christians are called to remain in the world (John 17:15).
Jesus knew His followers would be hated by the world. He knew there would be consequences and a high cost to identifying with Him, and yet Jesus asks the Father that His disciples would remain in the world that has a predisposition of hatred and contempt. Christians do not compromise or conform to the world due to this hatred because that would be a denial of our identity. We do not retaliate with violence or acts of force, because that would be a denial of His sovereignty. Rather, we respond like Jesus and suffer the hatred and mocking and contempt as the glory of God is put on display in our trials. By remaining in the world, we love those who hate us, bless those who curse us, and give our lives away for those who have not given their lives to Jesus Christ.
Christians are sent into the world (John 17:18).
There is a temptation that every Christian will experience when faced with the reality that they are called to remain in a world that hates them. Should I embrace this suffering? Can I just retreat and retrench and wait for His return? The answer is clearly no. Jesus has sent His disciples into the world, and this speaks of a mission. The suffering Christian is sent to present Christ through their witness as an offense without being offensive. We do not shrink back due to the forces of hatred but press with greater, more powerful forces of love and compassion. In the same way that darkness cannot overcome light, even death cannot overcome His disciples because Christ has taken away its sting and no long has victory of us.
Overarching Purpose
Christians walk in the world so that the world may believe in Jesus Christ (John 17:21).
In and through all that Christians are and do in the world is the fundamental purpose of seeing people come to repent and believe in Jesus Christ. Jesus indicated in His prayer that there will be those who believe in Him through the gospel proclamation of His disciples sent into the world to be hated and suffer for His name’s sake. Christians do not exist to mark time. We exist to see His kingdom come, and our existence is laced with a passion for seeking first that kingdom in all things and with all people, knowing we have a king so worthy of having worshippers from every generation and every nation, tongue, and tribe gathering around his throne.
Every Christian needs to know who they are, what they are called to do, and why they live in this particular way in the world. In this conversation of the Son with the Father, we get a clear picture that should become the mirror in our morning to remind us of these realities and responsibilities. The great assurance we have in this life is knowing these realities and responsibilities are comprised in a prayer that will never go unanswered, so let us so live, move, and have our being in Christ until the world sees, hears, and believes in Jesus as Lord!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Shine The Light

Gracious Ethics

Found this good and relevant article - Toward A Graciously Historic Sexual Ethic by Scott Sauls:(Via The Gospel Coalition):
The centuries-old, universal consensus among Christians, Jews, and Muslims—that God gave sex for marriage between one man and one woman—is being questioned not only by secular society, but within Christianity itself. Individuals, churches, and even whole denominations are shifting in their views and practices. Many contest the long-held belief that porneia—the New Testament Greek term for all sexual activity outside of marriage between one man and one woman—is synonymous with “immorality.” Ours is a different age, the Western (and mostly white and well-educated) “progressive Christian” says. Biblical prohibitions against divorce, unmarried cohabitation, and same-sex relationships, they say, were written for situations unique to the first century but shouldn’t apply to our modern context. Indeed, those who are unpersuaded by the new interpretations are increasingly viewed as unenlightened at best and bigoted at worst.
So what do we make of this new cultural landscape? How do we understand the Scriptures on this matter? And what should we do with that understanding?
Have We Misunderstood Scripture?
Expressions of sexuality that were once seen as taboo have now become mainstream. As friends and family “come out” with news of a pending divorce or a same-sex or cohabiting hetero relationship, Christians—especially when friendships and family ties hang in the balance—feel pressed to sympathize instead of condemn, to support instead of separate, to affirm instead of deny. To reinforce this instinct, sexual minorities are often compared to victims of slavery. Christians eventually shifted on slavery because they finally saw slavery was biblically wrong, the thinking goes. This is no different. Sexual minorities are the new oppressed minority.
This is a difficult leap, however, since every reference in Scripture to sex outside of heterosexual marriage is negative. The pro-slavery mindset is repudiated by Paul’s letter to Philemon, a slaveowner commanded to stop treating Onesimus like a slave and instead as a brother. No such parallel pushes against the historic Christian view of sexuality.
As Scripture unfolds from Old Testament to New, we see a progressive tone in the way it dignifies and empowers women, ethnic minorities, the enslaved, the infirm, and the oppressed. But when it comes to sex and marriage, we actually see a more conservative tone. Jesus reaffirms the male-female, one-flesh union in marriage. Qualified elders must either be single and chaste like Paul and Jesus or be the “husband of one wife” (that is, one-woman men). Jesus restores dignity to an adulteress and then tells her that if she’s going to identify as his follower she must stop committing adultery. Unlike Philemon and the slave issue, then, there is no hint in Scripture of “emancipation” for sexual relationships—including committed and monogamous ones—outside the male-female marital union.
This teaching is admittedly unpopular in our late modern times. Yet Scripture shows no interest in being popular or relevant—that is, in being adapted, revised, or censored to align with ever-shifting times. We must remain countercultural wherever the culture and the truth are at odds. It is this posture that makes Christians truly relevant in the culture.
Counterculture for the Healing of Culture
What’s the way forward, then, for Christians? I believe the way of grace and truth avoids the polar extremes of both the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

You Keep Using That Verse.....

Maybe Inigo should also say "You keep using that verse...."
recommend this article from Relevant: 5 Verses That Don't Mean What You Think They Mean:
Reading the Bible is fairly easy. Interpreting it, however, can be tough. Commonly, well-known verses even take on lives of their own as they are rehearsed over and over apart from their original context. Most of the time, the implications are harmless. Sometimes, they are destructive.
Here’s a survey of five commonly misunderstood passages in the Bible, from verses used out of context to significant theological issues:..
The article goes on to look at five verses:

Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”

Matthew 5:44 “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Romans 13:4 “For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”

Isaiah 55:8 “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.”

Jude 2:1 “God helps those who help themselves.” (Hint: It's not really there)

Read it all at the link

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

What Your Friends' Social Media Isn't Telling you

What Instagram Isn’t Telling You by Pete Wilson
Someone once said that people are like icebergs; most of who we are is hidden below the surface. Nowhere is that more true than when thinking about the topic of fear and failure.
Consider this: In a typical day, how many of the people you interact with mention their greatest fear or something they’re struggling with? I would guess the answer, at least for most of us, is “not many” or “none.”
Most of us try, to some extent, to present a brave face to the world. When we pass somebody in the hall at work and they ask “how’s it going?” we usually respond “good, how about you?” If you strike up a conversation with somebody in the car pool or at a chance encounter at the mall, they’ll most often leave you with the impression that everything is rolling along pretty smoothly.
In fact, it requires pretty dire circumstances for most of us to admit to anybody that we are dealing with something bad or that we are fearful about the future.
We take the same approach on social media, posting the best picture of our wife and kids when really we just had a big blowup and slept on the couch last night. Or we put filter after filter on the picture of the salad we ate this afternoon (the first salad in months…) so we look like health nuts or foodies.
This, often times, leads us to conclude, during our times of anxiety and difficulty, that we must be weird, messed up, or otherwise unusual. After all, everybody else is doing well— they told you so! But the fact is that many— if not most— of the people around you are keeping their own problems, fears, and anxieties hidden below the surface, which allows us to inaccurately assume that we are the only ones experiencing conflict or adversity.
Does that seem odd to you?
It’s so easy for us to assume everyone else has their life together, but when we think of our own situations, we see them in the form of worst-case scenarios.
I have two pieces of good news for you:
  1. You are not the only one who slept on the couch last night! And I can guarantee your college roommate’s life isn’t as perfect as the Instagram-filtered version.
  2. Whatever is going on in your life, you can choose, right now, to focus on God. You can remember that your help comes from God, not from you. And God is bigger than any fear you are facing right now, no matter what it is.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Praying for Patience

Check You Connections

If It’s Not Working, Check the Connections by Paul Wilkinson

If I’m not getting the desires of my heart,
Maybe I’m not delighting myself in the Lord
If I’m not finding my paths being made straight,
Maybe I’m not trusting in the Lord with all my heart.
If I’m not finding God is adding good things to my life,
Maybe I’m not seeking first His Kingdom.
If it doesn’t seem like God is working in all things for His glory,
Maybe I’m not loving God or trying to live according to His purpose.
If it doesn’t feel like God is hearing from heaven, healing the land and forgiving sin,
Maybe it’s because as His people, we’re not humbling ourselves, seeking his face and turning from our wicked ways.
If it doesn’t seem like God is lifting me up,
Maybe I’m not humbling myself in His sight.

Monday, July 6, 2015


Good piece from Charles Stone - 5 Ways to Improve Decision Making:
A leader must make lots of decisions. The better decisions we make, the better our leadership, the better our churches and ministries, and the better those around us perform. So what can we do to improve decision making? Consider these five ways.

5 Ways to Improve Decision making
1. Avoid decision fatigue.
Decision fatigue refers to the phenomenon that occurs when the quality of our decisions degrades after a long string of successive decisions. When important decision face you, make them when you are the most refreshed, usually in the morning (although night owls may make better decisions at night). Learn more about decision fatigue here.
2. Get enough sleep.
The U.S. CDC stated in 2013 that 35% of adults aged 25-65 reported that they unintentionally fell asleep during the previous month. And the same percentage reported that they get less than 7 hours of sleep each night, although sleep experts recommend that we get 7-9 hours each night. When we don’t get adequate sleep, here’s what happens. (For a more detailed look at leaders and their sleep, read this post).
Our attention, alertness, and mental response speed decrease.
Creativity gets dampened.
Our brain’s CEO (the pre-frontal cortex) that is responsible for executive functions like planning, emotional control, decision making, and abstract think gets compromised.
If sometimes you just can’t get enough sleep, a short 10-20 minute nap can boost your alertness and the quality of your decisions.
3. Practice metacognition.
Metacognition is a fancy word for ‘thinking about your thinking.’ Often we get caught up in a thinking auto-pilot mode. And since our brain has five time more negative circuits than positive ones, thinking usually turns negative. It’s called the negativity bias. So, practice pausing during the day to ask yourself, “What am I thinking about right now?” This discipline can help you avoid wasted mental energy on unprofitable thoughts. The Apostle Paul counsels us to do this in Philippians 4.8.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Point of Assault

At this point in history, when the major area of assault against Christianity in western culture is in the are of sexual morality, it is important and necessary to remember these words attributed to Martin Luther:
If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point that the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages is where the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is merely flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point. 
In other words, let us be clear - To deny Christ's teachings on sexual morality and marriage is to deny Christ.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

How to Respond

Here's some wisdom from J. Lee Grady on how to respond to the gay marriage ruling.
It's official. Thanks to the Supreme Court's ruling last week in Obergefell v. Hodges, gay marriage has been legalized in this country. Same-sex relationships are the new normal. The rainbow flag was unfurled on June 26, the White House was illuminated with rainbow colors, and our president tweeted "Love Wins" after the historic ruling.
The decision didn't shock me. Seventy percent of our country already had gay marriage laws on the books, so most of us saw this coming. I don't agree with the small percentage of our population who pushed to win this right, but I have to support their right to make it. Yet at the same time I am horribly grieved that a lifestyle that is so contrary to
Christian morality is being celebrated in a country that once honored Christian values.
Life will be different in America now—so we might as well prepare for the change. Just as Roe v. Wade redefined the way Christians approached the issue of abortion, this new Supreme Court ruling has changed the game. I recommend we take the high road. Here are six ways we should respond:
1. Recognize that we are a religious minority. Some American Christians think we have a right to control culture. That's not a biblical concept. Yes, we are supposed to shine the light of Christ's influence in a dark world by preaching the gospel and by demonstrating the compassion of Jesus. But we live in this world as "strangers and pilgrims" (1 Pet. 2:11). We are not a "moral majority." We are not welcome here.
Paul told Timothy: "The godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Tim. 3:12). I'm not afraid of persecution. If the United States government decides to throw me in jail because I believe the Bible, I will join a host of brave Christians who have suffered worse treatment—including today's martyrs in the Middle East. Let's stop whining when sinners don't behave like we want them to. Our job is not to control people but to extend God's mercy to them. Mature believers lay their lives down for sinners, just as Christ did.
2. Get busy evangelizing your community. Perhaps the Supreme Court's gay marriage ruling will wake us up to the fact that the United States is now the third largest mission field on earth. We are not a Christian country, so let's stop pretending we are. The fact that gay people can now legally marry is not going to change the Great Commission. Jesus said: "Go and make disciples of all nations" (Matt. 28:19). The sad truth is that most American Christians weren't sharing their faith when our laws were based on Christian morals. Will this new ruling motivate us to care about sinners?
3. Repent for hateful attitudes toward the gay community. As an evangelical Christian I believe the Bible is clear about sex: God created it as a gift to be expressed within the confines of marriage between a man and a woman. But that doesn't give me a right to bash gay people. The love of God draws people to repentance. In the past year I have heard a lot of hateful language aimed at homosexuals—including church leaders using words like "queer" to describe the gay community. Let's ask God to break our hearts so we can be free from bigotry and self-righteousness.
4. Keep teaching the truth about biblical morality. This is certainly not a time to back away from the Bible. We can't compromise. But while we uphold what the Scriptures say about homosexuality, let's be just as committed to preaching the truth about adultery, fornication and divorce. We are viewed as hypocrites by the world because we argue against gay marriage when we haven't shown them that our own heterosexual marriages work. We also must offer compassionate counseling to people who want to overcome homosexual feelings, just as we offer healing prayer to those who struggle with depression, gender confusion, addiction or the effects of abuse or abortion.
5. Defend our religious freedoms. The last time I checked, the United States was still listed as a democracy. But the church must work overtime to make sure our government doesn't force churches to perform same-sex marriages. Gay couples can find state officials or pro-gay clerics to perform their ceremonies, but the state has no business forcing a church to renounce its core teachings. If the government tries to control the content of Christian preaching to prevent what is deemed "hate speech," there will be nothing left of our Bill of Rights.
6. Pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Today some doomsday Christians say they wish God would judge America like He did Sodom and Gomorrah. I prefer to take the strategy of Abraham, who prayed for Sodom because He understood the mercy of God—even though he lived before the New Covenant era. Today we live in the age of grace, and we should petition God for a global revival rather than asking Him to call down fire on people who offend us.
Pray for mercy. Pray for a fresh wave of evangelism. Pray that the Spirit's power will inundate our nation and unleash a third Great Awakening. That is our ultimate hope.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Casting Stones

Let Him Who Is Without Sin by Chad Bird
Let him who is without sin cast his eyes this way and that to find a stone, and recall how often, with those same eyes, he has lusted after a woman, and thus committed adultery with her already in his heart.
Let him walk towards that chosen stone and remember on how many occasions those feet of his have wandered away from the straight and narrow path.
Let him stretch forth his hand to pick up the stone, and bring to mind those times when his hands have grabbed at that which was not theirs to have.
Let him feel the heft of stone cradled in his palm, and consider the gravity of guilt cast upon the hypocrite.
Let him draw back his arm to execute the execrable one, and let him glance toward the man whose arms will stretch back to welcome wrath as an innocent victim.
But let this one who is without sin, think not for a moment that he will cast the first stone, for the woman has cast the first thousand at her own soul.
Let him who is without sin, consider this.