Saturday, December 31, 2016

Another Reason To Read The Bible in 2017

My wife and I have been “painting” our living room and kitchen for about 6 months now. Actually I should say that our walls have been mostly painted for awhile now, but we still haven’t finished the trim in the kitchen area. We started out really strong, and then life got in the way and now we’ve had half painted walls for a few months now.
The worst part, though, is that I’ve stopped noticing. I’ve even started other projects when I could have been finishing that one. But it went from a pressing need to just kind of part of the house with time. It’s no longer the eye sore it used to be.
Until somebody came over to the house…
Once we had a visitor in our home I started seeing things with a fresh pair of eyes. (I’m not sure if anyone else does this, maybe I’m simply revealing some of my paranoia). I saw my half-painted walls as they would have seen my half-painted walls. It took a fresh set of eyes for me to remember that I really need to set apart a bit of time to finishing that trim.
The Bible is a bit like that fresh set of eyes. It’s like an outsider looking into your private world. But in this case it is an unerring and absolutely authoritative outsider looking in. The Bible always speaks truth. And it shatters those places in my heart where I start getting comfortable in my sinful or fallen ways.
This is why we need the Bible to constantly speak into our life. Without it we will remain comfortable in our unfinished state. So commit to reading the Bible more consistently in 2017. And not just reading it to check off boxes and say you read the whole Bible in a year. But read the Bible from the posture of an unfinished and broken down house that needs repairing and let the Bible do it’s demolition work as well as its rebuilding work.

Resolved: To Read the Bible in 2017


I am grateful for the grace of God that has enabled me to read the Bible through every year for the past 6 years. However, I must admit I did not quite complete it in 2014, falling behind that summer after my mother's passing. By that same grace I intend to do it again in 2017.

If you need some help to do the same, check out Resolved: To Read the Bible by David Mathis at Desiring God
Whether you feel like a beginner, or the grizzled old veteran, one of the most important things you can do is regularly read the Bible for yourself.
It is a remarkable thing that we have Bibles we can read personally, whenever we want. For most of church history, and still today in many places in the world, Christians have not had their own personal copies of the Bible. They had to gather to hear someone read it to them. “Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture” (1 Timothy 4:13) was all they had for Bible time.
But now, with printed Bibles and electronic options galore, we have priceless access to God’s very words to us, words that we are so tragically tempted to take lightly. Reading your own copy of the Bible daily is not a law that every believer must abide; most Christians have not had this option. But daily Bible reading is an extraordinary means of God’s grace. Why miss this bounty and blessing?
The Whole Thing?
“All Scripture,” says 2 Timothy 3:16, “is breathed out by God and profitable.” It is the whole Bible, says Sinclair Ferguson, which was given to make whole Christians. Everything in Scripture, from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22, is for the good of the church. “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come” (1 Corinthians 10:11). “Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).
But not every text functions to build our faith in the same way, and has the same effect for every one of God’s children in the new covenant. It is a wonderful thing to read all the way through the Bible. It is something that pastors and teachers in the church should strongly consider doing on an annual basis, to let all the Scriptural data pass before their eyes for continually informing their public theological claims. But this is not a yoke to be set on every Christian every year. Though it would be a good thing for every Christian to try at some point, or at least to have some multi-year plan in place to eventually get you through the whole Bible in some cycle.
For those considering the journey, you may be surprised how doable it is. It takes about 70 hours to read the Bible from cover to cover.
That’s less time than the average American spends in front of the television every month. In other words, if most people would exchange their TV time for Scripture reading, they’d finish reading the entire Bible in four weeks or less. If that sounds unworkable, consider this: In no more than fifteen minutes a day you can read through the Bible in less than a year’s time. (Don Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines, 29)
Maybe now is your time to try it. Here are some of our favorites:
  • Discipleship Journal is our most beloved, and most used, over the years at Desiring God. There are four daily readings, but only 25 days each month — which leaves some margin for missing here and there when life gets busy. John Piper says, “Few things discourage us more from reading the Bible through in a year than falling behind. This plan gives five catch up days every month. This is absolutely golden!”
  • M’Cheyne is the classic plan, designed by Robert Murray M’Cheyne (1813–1843), the beloved Scottish minister who died before his thirtieth birthday. The plan has readings for every day of the year and will take you once through the Old Testament and twice through the Psalms and the New Testament.
  • The Kingdom gives proportionate weight to the Old and New Testaments in view of their relative length, the Old receiving three readings per day and one for the New. The Old Testament readings follow the arrangement of the Hebrew Bible, with one reading coming from each portion per day. Only 25 readings are slated per month and can be started at any time of the year.
  • For Shirkers and Slackers is for those who’ve tried other plans and stalled out again and again. This plan assigns certain genres to certain days of the week and breaks biblical books into sections you can read in one sitting — so without reading everyday, you can still make measurable headway. Pace yourself well and do some extra reading, and you might even finish in less than a year.
Also Justin Taylor has a long list of plan options; Ligonier has another list.
Or if the whole thing in a year seems out of your reach, try taking up a plan and working through it at your own pace, even if it takes you several years. It will give you a specific place to go next when you open the Bible, instead of just opening to some random text, and in time it will give you confidence that you’ve traversed the whole terrain of Scripture and at least glimpsed briefly God’s full written revelation to us.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Always Christmas!


 In Narnia it was said that the White Witch made it always winter and never Christmas. Aslan changed that!

For all who are in Christ it is always Christmas, no matter the season. May the spirit of the season stay with us all year.

Merry Christmas to all!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Miracle Of The God-Baby


Really, the Advent season runs from Genesis 3 onward, and Christmas Day is when the miracle prophesied in Luke 1:35 is fulfilled. For those of us who believe personhood can be derived from Psalm 139:13-15 and Job 31:15, we believe the Incarnation did not begin at Jesus' birth but at his conception. And if this is so, when Colossians 2:9 says, "For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily," we know that the fullness of deity dwelled in fertilized ovum.
Will the Empire State Building occupy a doghouse? Will a killer whale fit inside an ant?
And here we are told that omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, utter eternalness and holiness dwelled in a tiny person. This makes Santa coming down a chimney seem a logistical cakewalk.
"The head of all rule and authority" (Col. 2:10) had one of those jelly-necked wobbly baby heads. The government rested on his baby-fatted shoulders (Is. 9:6).
This miracle of addition is important. We must hold it tightly or lose the bigness of the Incarnation. God came as unborn child so that Christ would experience all of humanity. And he experienced all of humanity so that we might receive all of him for all of us.
If God came as a vulnerable, needful, weak baby, we have no need to fear for our own vulnerability, needfulness, and weakness. He emptied himself (Phil. 2:7) so that we would not see our own emptiness as a hopeless cause. "As you received him"—desperate, helpless, desirous—"so walk in him" (Col. 2:6). The miracle of the God-Baby proclaims the gospel's specialty: rescue of the helpless.

Christ Incognito

This is really good - Incognito - A Christmas Meditation, by Ben Witherington

He came in incognito,
A thinly veiled disguise
The not so subtle son of man,
A human with God’s eyes.


The messianic secret,
Left many unawares
A God had walked upon the earth
And shared our human cares.


We did not see his glory,
At least not at first glimpse,
It took an Easter wake up call,
Before it all made sense.


The truth of Incarnation,
Of dwelling within flesh,
Shows goodness in creation,
And Word of God made fresh.


Standing on the boundary
Twixt earth and heaven above
A Jew who hailed from Nazareth
But came from God’s great love.


Born of humble parents,
Installed inside a stall
This king required no entourage
No pomp or falderal


No person was beneath him
No angel o’er his head,
He came to serve the human race
To raise it from the dead.


His death a great conundrum,
How can the Deathless die?
But if he had not bowed his head,
Life would have passed us by.


Though we are dying to be loved,
And long for endless life,
He was dying in his love,
And thereby ending strife.
 

Perhaps the incognito
Belongs instead to us,
Who play at being human,
And fail to be gold dust.


But there was once a God-man
Who played the human’s part
And lived and died and rose again
Made sin and death depart.


Yes now through a glass dimly,
We see the visage royal
And feebly honor his great worth
And his atoning toil.


We cannot see his Spirit,
But moved by its effects
We are inspired to praise his worth
And pay our last respects.


Yet that too brings him glory
That too makes a start,
The journey of a million miles
Begins within one’s heart.


And someday we shall see him
And fully praise his grace,
Someday when heaven and earth collide
And we see face to face.


He comes in blinding brilliance,
A not so veiled disguise
The not so subtle Son of God,
A God with human eyes.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Feel the Awe This Christmas

In the midst of the hustle and bustle of Holiday celebrations, don't forget to meditate on what we are celebrating, and to feel the awe! That You May Believe by John Piper
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30–31)

I feel so strongly that among those of us who have grown up in church and who can recite the great doctrines of our faith in our sleep and who yawn through the Apostles’ Creed — that among us something must be done to help us once more feel the awe, the fear, the astonishment, the wonder of the Son of God, begotten by the Father from all eternity, reflecting all the glory of God, being the very image of his person, through whom all things were created, upholding the universe by the word of his power.

You can read every fairy tale that was ever written, every mystery thriller, every ghost story, and you will never find anything so shocking, so strange, so weird and spellbinding as the story of the incarnation of the Son of God.

How dead we are! How callous and unfeeling to your glory and your story! How often have I had to repent and say, “God, I am sorry that the stories men have made up stir my emotions, my awe and wonder and admiration and joy, more than your own true story.”

The space thrillers of our day, like Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, can do this great good for us: they can humble us and bring us to repentance, by showing us that we really are capable of some of the wonder and awe and amazement that we so seldom feel when we contemplate the eternal God and the cosmic Christ and a real living contact between them and us in Jesus of Nazareth.

When Jesus said, “For this purpose I have come into the world” (John 18:37), he said something as crazy and weird and strange and eerie as any statement in science fiction that you have ever read.

Oh, how I pray for a breaking forth of the Spirit of God upon me and upon you; for the Holy Spirit to break into my experience in a frightening way, to wake me up to the unimaginable reality of God.

One of these days lightning is going to fill the sky from the rising of the sun to its setting, and there is going to appear in the clouds one like a Son of Man with his mighty angels in flaming fire. And we will see him clearly. And whether from terror or sheer excitement, we will tremble and we will wonder how we ever lived so long with such a domesticated, harmless Christ.

These things are written that you might believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came into the world. Really believe.

A Barren Christmas


"At Christmastime, we set up our Christmas trees and toy trains. We may even walk along singing carols or we may preach a sermon, but these bits and pieces are barren if we are thinking only of them or even thinking only of being in Heaven, and are not stopping to ask ourselves, 'What difference does it make in my life now?'"

 ~ Francis Schaeffer, 

No Little People (What Difference Has Looking Made? - A Christmas Study)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

10 Things You Should Know About Christmas

10 Things You Should Know About Christmas by Andreas J. Köstenberger (via Crossway)
1. Jesus is the reason for the season.
The primary purpose for observing Christmas is remembering Jesus’s birth. At Christmas, we celebrate Jesus’s birthday, not the little drummer boy or Santa Claus!
2. Jesus preexisted with God in the beginning before the world began.
Jesus’s birth as a baby in a Bethlehem manger doesn’t mark the beginning of his existence. Rather, as John’s Gospel teaches explicitly (John 1:1, 14) and the other Gospels imply, Jesus took on human flesh in addition to existing eternally as part of the Godhead.
3. Jesus’s birth was the culmination of centuries of messianic expectations.
Jesus’s coming occurred in fulfillment of messianic expectations including his birthplace, virgin birth, and other details surrounding his advent. Later, during his earthly ministry and particularly in his death on the cross, Jesus fulfilled many more messianic patterns and predictions.
4. We should distinguish between cultural and biblical Christmas.

We must separate fact from fiction, and historic, biblical truths from mere Christmas traditions. This includes Santa Claus, presents, reindeer, Christmas trees, and other paraphernalia. Not that these customs are necessarily harmful or unhelpful
5. Jesus’s birth is part of a larger cluster of events that culminates in Jesus's death for our sins as God’s suffering servant.

Jesus wasn’t only born as a baby, he grew up as a young man who knew the Scriptures. Then, when he was about thirty years old, he began his public ministry, healing many, exorcising demons, raising the dead, and commanding the forces of nature. In keeping with his own predictions, he died, was buried, and after three days rose from the dead. While at Christmas we celebrate Jesus’s birth, we should remember that it is part of a life unlike any other that brought us salvation and forgiveness from sins.
6. Jesus, the Son of God, was conceived by the Holy Spirit in his mother Mary’s womb.

At the heart of Christmas is a biological and theological miracle that requires supernatural faith. Skeptics scoff at the notion of God conceiving a child in a virgin’s womb, calling it a biological impossibility and dismissing it as mere legend. Believers will recognize that only a sinless human being could save humans by dying for them, and that such a sinless human being could only be conceived by God himself.
7. There is no incarnation without the virgin birth.

Andrew Lincoln, in his book Born of a Virgin?, has argued that the virgin birth is unhistorical while asserting that the incarnation could still be true in a spiritual sense. This, however, is contrary to scriptural teaching, which keeps the virgin birth and the incarnation together as two sides of one and the same coin. Only a virgin birth allows Jesus to be the God-man who combines two natures—human and divine—into one person as the early church councils went on record as affirming.
8. Jesus’s birth was accompanied by rejection.

Herod tried to kill Jesus (Matt. 2:16). There was no place for Jesus in the inn (Luke 2:7). Even though the world was made through Jesus, the world didn’t recognize him (John 1:11). Many didn’t welcome the birth of the Christ child. The reason for this was primarily that Jesus threatened people’s self-interest. Sinful people love sin more than God and refuse to come to the light lest their sin be exposed (John 3:19–21).
9. Jesus came to make a second, spiritual birth possible for those who believe in him.

As Charles Wesley affirms in "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," Jesus was “born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.” John writes, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (1:12–13). Later, he tells the story of Nicodemus, whom Jesus told that he must be born again (3:3, 5). Anyone can be born again spiritually by repenting of his sin and placing his trust in Jesus. Those who don’t experience this second birth aren’t believers but Christians in name only (Rom. 8:9).
10. Jesus’s coming marks the ultimate sacrifice.

He left the glories of heaven to enter the world—a dark place—naked, vulnerable, and defenseless. He exposed himself to the human condition and took on “the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom. 8:3). He became weak, humbled himself on a cross, and died for our sin (Phil. 2:5–8). That—not gaudy commercialism—is what Christmas is all about.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Fly Bird, Fly!

"The soul that is attached to anything, however much good there may be in it, will not arrive at the liberty of divine union. For whether it be a strong wire rope or a slender and delicate thread that holds the bird, it matters not, if it really holds it fast; for until the cord be broken, the bird cannot fly."

      - St. John of the Cross

Monday, December 19, 2016

And Place For Him Prepare

The Advent of Our God 
Charles Coffin (1844-1926) 

The advent of our God
Shall be our theme for prayer;
Come, let us meet him on the road
And place for him prepare. 

The everlasting Son
Incarnate stoops to be,
Himself the servant's form puts on
To set his people free.

Come, Zion's daughter, rise
To meet your lowly king,
Nor let your faithless heart despise
He peace he comes to bring.

All glory to the Son,
Who comes to set us free,
With Father, Spirit, ever one
Through all eternity.


 Quoted from  A Guide for Advent: The Arrival of King Jesus.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Medicine To Heal To Heal A Ruined Race

Creator of the Stars of Night
J.M. Neale (1818-1868) 

Creator of the stars of night, 
Thy people’s everlasting light; 
Jesu, Redeemer, save us all, 
And hear Thy servants when they call. 

Thou, grieving that the ancient curse 
Should doom to death an universe, 
Hast found the med’cine, full of grace, 
To save and heal a ruin’d race. 

At whose dread Name, majestic now, 
All knees must bend, all hearts must bow 
And things celestial Thee shall own, 
And things terrestrial, Lord alone. 

To Him, who comes the world to free, 
To God the Son, all glory be; 
To God the Father, as is meet, 
To God the blessed Paraclete. Amen."

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Merciful Gift of Ignorance

I've often thought it was a mercy from the Lord that he does not reveal to us our futures in advance. Check out God is Merciful Not to tell Us Everything by Jon Bloom
When God chooses not to tell us everything, he shows us more mercy than we realize.

On the Mount of Olives with Jesus, just before his ascension to the Father, one of the disciples asked a question that must have been on everyone’s mind: “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6).

It had been a long wait. Two thousand years had passed since God promised to give Abraham a seed that would bless all the families of the earth; 1,500 years had passed since God told Moses that a great prophet would arise to lead the people, and a thousand years had passed since God promised to place an eternal heir of David upon the throne.
Now, after Jesus’s triumphal resurrection, they finally understood why the King had to suffer and die before the kingdom could really come. Jesus was the sacrificial Lamb of God whose death would atone for all the sins of all his people for all time.

It all made glorious sense.

So the stage looked set. Having conquered death, this King was invincible. What threat was the Sanhedrin or Herod or Pilate or Caesar? Surely the time had come for the long-awaited King to assume his earthly reign, right?
“It Is Not for You to Know”

Jesus’s answer: “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:7–8).

In other words, “Now is not the time. And you don’t need to know when it will be. But for now, I have work for you to do.”

Can you imagine how the disciples might have felt if at that point the Lord had explained to them that he would not assume his earthly reign for another two-thousand-plus years, during which the church would face delay and struggle and sacrifice as it spread around the world? Two thousand years?

God is merciful not to tell us everything. He tells us enough to sustain us if we trust him, but often that does not feel like enough. We really think we would like to know more.
Some Knowledge Is Too Heavy for You

In her book, The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom recalled a time when, as a young girl, she was returning home on the train with her father after accompanying him to purchase parts for his watchmaking business. Having heard the term “sexsin” in a poem at school, she asked her father what it meant. After thinking for a bit, her father stood up and took down his suitcase from the rack. And this is how Corrie remembers their conversation:
“Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?” he said.

I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning. “It’s too heavy,” I said.

“Yes,” he said. “And it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It’s the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you.”
God is also a wise Father who knows when knowledge is too heavy for us. He is not being deceptive when he does not give us the full explanation. He is carrying our burdens (1 Peter 5:7). If we think our burdens are heavy, we should see the ones he’s carrying. The burdens he gives to us to carry are light (Matthew 11:30).

God is very patient and merciful with us. Someday, when we are older and stronger, he will let us carry more of the weight of knowledge. But until then let us trust him to carry our burdens and thank him.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Thanks for the Hymns


 At Christmas time I am reminded that Charles Wesley (brother of John) was probably the greatest writer of hymns and carols of all time. Here's just a sample of his songs:


Christmas Carols:
Hark, the Herald Angels Sing
Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

Hymns:
O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing
Jesus, Lover Of My Soul
Love Dvine, All Lives Excelling
Christ the Lord is Risen Today
Come, Sinners to the Gospel Feast

Thank God for Charles Wesley!

Come To The Feast

"Come, Sinners, to the Gospel Feast 
Charles Wesley (1707-1788 ) 

Come, sinners, to the gospel feast; 
let every soul be Jesus' guest. 
Ye need not one be left behind, 
for God hath bid all humankind. 

Sent by my Lord, on you I call; 
the invitation is to all. 
Come, all the world! Come, sinner, thou! 
All things in Christ are ready now. 

Come, all ye souls by sin oppressed, 
ye restless wanderers after rest; 
ye poor, and maimed, and halt, and blind, 
in Christ a hearty welcome find. 

My message as from God receive; 
ye all may come to Christ and live. 
O let his love your hearts constrain, 
nor suffer him to die in vain."

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Love Made Manifest

“If you reject him, he answers you with tears; if you wound him, he bleeds out cleansing; if you kill him, he dies to redeem; if you bury him, he rises again to bring resurrection. Jesus is love made manifest.” 

     – C. H. Spurgeon

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Hark!

Most of us know the words to this Christmas hymn. But do you know all the words? I suspect there is more gospel doctrine and proclamation in these stanzas than there will be in most of the sermons to be preached in Sunday, December 25, 2016! Please read (or sing) these words thoughtfully and prayerfully.


HARK, THE HERALD ANGLES SING 
Charles Wesley (1707-1788 ) 

Hark! the herald angels sing, 
Glory to the new-born King; 
Peace on earth, and mercy mild; 
God and sinners reconciled.
Joyful, all ye nations, rise, 
Join the triumph of the skies; 
With angelic hosts proclaim, 
“Christ is born in Bethlehem.” 

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace! 
Hail the Sun of righteousness! 
Light and life to all He brings, 
Ris’n with healing in His wings: 
Mild He lays His glory by, 
Born that man no more may die; 
Born to raise the sons of earth; 
Born to give them second birth. 

Come, Desire of nations, come! 
Fix in us Thy humble home: 
Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring seed,
Bruise in us the serpent's head;
Adam's Likeness now efface,
Stamp Thine image in it's place:
Final Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Election is Over: Now What?

I meant to post this earlier, but c'est la vie. Here are some thoughts from Dr. Russell Moore on the recent election. 
The 2016 presidential election is now over, and, in what very few could ever have imagined, Donald Trump is elected President of the United States. No matter what our differences politically or religiously, surely we can all agree that this campaign has been demoralizing and even traumatizing for most of the country. So what should evangelical Christians do now?
The first thing, of course, is to pray for our soon-to-be President Trump. The Bible commands us to pray for “all who are in high positions” (1 Tim. 2:1-2). Moreover, the Scripture tells us to give “honor to whom honor is due” (Rom. 13:7). Many of us have deep differences with our new president, and would have no matter which candidate had been elected, but we must pray that he will succeed in leading our country with wisdom and justice.
The sort of conservatism that many of us had hoped for—a multiethnic, constitutionally-anchored, forward-looking conservatism—has been replaced in the Republican Party by something else. On the one hand, there’s a European-style ethno-nationalist populism, opposed by an increasingly leftward progressive movement within the Democratic Party.
In both of these movements, moral concerns—certainly personal character and family stability questions—are marginalized. We now have a politics of sexual revolution across the board. This means that conservative evangelicals are politically homeless—whether they know it or not.
That is not the worst situation we could be in. Political power—or the illusion of it—has not always been good for us. Such influence has led us to conform our minds to that of the world about what matters, and who matters, in the long-run of history. We should, as missionary Jim Elliot put it a generation ago, own our “strangerhood.”
What can we do now? We can, first of all, maintain a prophetic clarity that is willing to call to repentance everything that is unjust and anti-Christ, whether that is the abortion culture, the divorce culture, or the racism/nativism culture. We can be the people who tell the truth, whether it helps or hurts our so-called “allies” or our so-called “enemies.”
Moreover, no matter what the racial and ethnic divisions in America, we can be churches that demonstrate and embody the reconciliation of the kingdom of God. After all, we are not just part of a coalition but part of a Body—a Body that is white and black and Latino and Asian, male and female, rich and poor. We are part of a Body joined to a Head who is an Aramaic-speaking Middle-easterner. What affects black and Hispanic and Asian Christians ought to affect white Christians. And the sorts of poverty and social unraveling among the white working class ought to affect black and Hispanic and Asian Christians. We belong to each other because we belong to Christ.
The most important lesson we should learn is that the church must stand against the way politics has become a religion, and religion has become politics. We can hear this idolatrous pull even in the apocalyptic language used by many in this election—as we have seen in every election in recent years—that this election is our “last chance.” And we can hear it in those who assume that the sort of global upending we see happening in the world—in Europe, in the Middle East, and now in the United States—mean a cataclysm before which we should panic.
Such talk is not worthy of a church that is already triumphant in heaven, and is marching on earth toward the ultimate victory of Jesus Christ. Will we face difficult days ahead? Yes. The religious liberty concerns will continue. The cultural decline we have warned against is now part of every ideological coalition in the country. But the question we must ask is who “we” are.
We are not, first, Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or progressives. We are not even, first of all, the United States of America. We are the church of the resurrected and triumphant Lord Jesus Christ. We have survived everything from the rage of Nero to that of Middle Eastern terrorist cells. We have, in fact, often done best when we are, what one historian calls, the “patient ferment” of a church alive with the gospel.
The church must be, as Martin Luther King Jr. taught us—the conscience of the state. But we do that from a place of gospel power, not a place of cowering fear. That means that we—all of us—should see this election as important for our country, but not ultimate for our cosmos.
We should be ready to pray and preach, to promote the common good and to resist injustice. We will pledge allegiance to the flag, but we will pledge a higher allegiance to the cross. We can pray and honor our leaders, work with them when we can, while preparing to oppose them when needed. We do not need the influence that comes from being a political bloc. We have more than influence; we have power—the power that comes through the weakness of the crucified.
Our rallying cry is not “Hail to the Chief” but “Jesus is Lord.” Perhaps this electoral shakeup means that President Trump will lead America to be great again. I hope so. But regardless, whatever happens to America, we must seek the Kingdom first again.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Time For A Belief Check Up

Are you believing any of these?  7 Unbiblical Statements Christians Believe by Shane Pruitt at Relevant
We don’t often stop to consider the magnitude of what the Bible represents. It is literally God revealing Himself and communicating Himself to mankind in written word.

Orthodox Christianity teaches that the Bible was inspired and authored by the Holy Spirit of God using human instruments. And many Christians believe that—in its original languages of Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic—it is without error and fault.

However, there are many things that Jesus-following, Church-going, Bible-believing Christians believe that are completely unbiblical. How does this happen? Often, we’ll hear someone quote a statement that sounds nice to us, and we’ll begin repeating it as though it’s biblical truth without ever researching it in Scripture.

Several of these unbiblical statements have gained enough traction that many people believe they’re actually Bible verses. Not only are the statements unbiblical; some of them teach the opposite of what the Bible teaches.

Here are some popular unbiblical statements that Bible-loving Christians tend to believe:
1. God Helps Those Who Help Themselves
This statement is actually anti-Gospel. Obviously God gave us gifts and talents that we’re supposed to use, but self-reliance and self-righteousness, or the attitude of trying harder and doing better actually gets in the way of the work of God.

In reality, Jesus saves those who die to themselves: “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).
2. God Wants Me to Be Happy

It’s a common belief that God exists to be our “personal genie” waiting to give us our every wish. It’s amazing how we will justify our sinful actions by saying, “God just wants me to be happy.”

Happiness is tied to feelings and emotions that are often based on circumstances, and those change all the time. God wants us to be obedient to Him, trust Him and know that everything He does is for our good, even if it doesn’t make us feel “happy” in that moment.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
3. We’re All God’s Children

Although God has created everyone, not everyone relationally belongs to Him. Only those who have repented of sin, placed their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and possess the Holy Spirit of God inside of them can claim Him as their Father:

“But you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, 'Abba! Father!' The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:15-16).

"So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ ... If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Galatians 3:26-29, emphasis mine in both verses).
4. Cleanliness Is Next to Godliness

The people around you may appreciate you staying clean, but this is not Scripture. Parents may use this to motivate their kids to clean their rooms. However, I’d suggest using an actual biblical statement: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). (I can’t guarantee that will make your children want to clean up either, though).
5. God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle

Actually, all of life is more than we can handle. The point of living in a fallen world is not for us to try really hard to carry our heavy burden, but rather realize we can’t do it alone and surrender to God instead. That’s what faith is all about.

Everything is more than I can handle, but not more than Jesus can handle: “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself” (2 Corinthians 1:8).

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

6. Bad Things Happen to Good People

The sentiment of this makes sense, but if we follow it all the way through, the idea of a good person is very subjective. Often, we place ourselves in the judgment seat of what is good and bad, or who is good and bad.

The most popular way to make that judgment is by comparison. For example, Bob is a good guy, because he is not as bad as Sam. However, according to the Bible we’re all on equal ground because none of us is inherently good: “as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one’” (Romans 3:10).
7. When You Die, God Gains Another Angel
Plain and simple. Humans are humans, and angels are angels. This remains so even in eternity. In fact, angels are intrigued by the interaction between God and His “image-bearing” humans: “It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look” (1 Peter 1:12).

The fact that many Christians believe these unbiblical statements shows our unfortunate overall biblical illiteracy. Instead of swallowing popular statements hook-line-and-sinker, may we be like the Bereans in the Book of Acts. When they heard Paul preach, they wanted to research the Scriptures themselves to authenticate what he was saying: “They received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:10-11).

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

O Come Divine Messiah


"O COME, DIVINE MESSIAH! 
Abbé Simon J. Pellegrin (1663-1745) 

O come, divine Messiah! 
The world in silence waits the day 
When hope shall sing its triumph, 
And sadness flee away. 

Dear Savior haste; 
Come, come to earth, 
Dispel the night and show your face, A
nd bid us hail the dawn of grace. 

O come, divine Messiah! 
The world in silence waits the day 
When hope shall sing its triumph, 
And sadness flee away. 

O Christ, whom nations sigh for, 
Whom priest and prophet long foretold, 
Come break the captive fetters; 
Redeem the long-lost fold. 

O come, divine Messiah! 
The world in silence waits the day 
When hope shall sing its triumph, 
And sadness flee away.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Awake My Soul

I will be posting some hymns and poems from the Advent devotional I'm reading this year entitled A Guide for Advent: The Arrival of King Jesus.  This is the first one.

Awake My Soul, Awake My Tongue 
Anne Steele (1717-1778)

Awake my soul, awake my tongue, 
My God demands the grateful song; 
Let all my inmost pow'rs record 
The wond'rous mercy of the Lord. 

Divinely free, his mercy flows, 
Forgives my crimes, allays my woes, 
And bids approaching death remove, 
And crowns me with indulgent love. 

In him the poor opprest shall find 
A friend almighty, just and kind; 
His glorious acts, his wond'rous ways, 
By Moses taught, proclaim his praise. 

While all his works his praise proclaim, 
And men and angels bless his name; 
O Let my heart, my life, my tongue, 
Attend and join the blissful song.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

What Not To Say...

Three Things Grieving People Don't Want to Hear
I want to tell you three things that grieving people wish no one would ever say to them again.
One of them is, "I know exactly how you feel." We tend to say that to someone when we’ve had a grief experience of our own, some kind of loss. We’ve had a taste of it, and there are aspects of what they’re going through that we might be familiar with. But when we say, "I know exactly how you feel," it’s like we’re elevating ourselves to their level. It’s like we’re trying to steal the spotlight from them. But we don’t know exactly how they feel. We know how we felt, and we know what our experience was like when we lost someone, but we don’t know what their experience is like. They are a unique person—their loss was unique.
A second thing they never want to hear is, "You’ll be fine." We say that because they seem so devastated and we want to assure them that the day is going to come when the sun is going to come out again and it won’t hurt quite as much as it does today. But, once again, saying "You’ll be fine" makes it sound as if this loss that they have experienced is just another bump along the way of life—that it’s really not all that significant, that it shouldn’t trouble them too much. What it really does is diminish the worth of the person who died. It says that the person who died is not really worthy of being all that troubled about. So don’t say, "You’ll be fine."
The third one is the biggest. Any sentence that begins with, "Well, at least . . ." Whatever you’re going to put after that—just forget it. Things like, "Well, at least you can have more children," "Well, at least you can get married again," "Well, at least they didn’t have to suffer," "Well, at least . . ." The reason we’re saying these things is that we’re trying to help them have perspective. We’re wanting them to look on the bright side. What we’re saying might actually be a good perspective, and it might be true, but the question is: is it helpful in this moment?
Maybe the grieving person says, "Well, at least . . ." If they do that, you can agree. But don’t be the first one to say it. Don’t, in your desire to give them perspective about their loss, actually diminish their loss in the process.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Grieving the Holy Spirit By Politics

Looking back on the 2016 election,  I've been thinking on the message of this article - How We Grieved the Holy Spirit in This Election by J. Lee Grady. Note that this was written beforee Election Day.
We have just endured the most bitter and divisive presidential contest in a lifetime. The whole nation is shell-shocked. Our ears are ringing and our heads are pounding after being bombarded for more than a year and a half with noisy rhetoric.
Imagine if an alien spaceship tried to decipher the jumbled message that has been transmitted from the United States for the past 19 months. "Trump is a racist! Hillary is a nasty woman! Trump gropes women! Send Hillary to prison! The election is rigged! Remember Benghazi! Trump hates Megyn Kelly! Megyn Kelly hates Newt Gingrich! Blah blah blah blah blah!"
I have loathed every minute of it. I'm looking for a T-shirt that says: "Thank God it's over."
My struggle wasn't caused by the bickering about Obamacare, Hillary's email server, Donald Trump's insults or Bernie Sander's liberal lectures. I don't mind the arguments and put-downs on the news, because I can turn off the television when I want to. And I believe there is a place for legitimate political debate. What grieved me most was seeing the hatefulness Christians threw at each other during this election cycle.
I've heard Christians swear at each other, verbally assault each other, and dissect each other in self-righteous Facebook posts. I've watched one Christian demonize another Christian simply because they have different views on a public policy issue. And I've seen how the racial divisions in the church grew deeper when a pastor decided to politicize a sermon or tell people they had to vote a certain way to please God.
About half of our population will be celebrating the winner of this election next Tuesday, while the other half will be licking their wounds. I don't believe the Holy Spirit will be taking sides. I believe He is grieved by the way the church behaved.
What exactly does it mean to grieve the Holy Spirit? The clue is found in Ephesians 4:30, which says: "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." Then the apostle Paul goes on to explain how to avoid grieving the Spirit.
He writes: "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has forgiven you" (v. 31-32).
The point here is that the Holy Spirit is quenched when we mistreat each other. Our relationship with God is not just about how we act individually. Christianity is not a Lone Ranger religion. If we don't treat each other with love and respect, the Spirit is not happy. He withdraws His blessing and waits for us to repent. He calls us to community.
It's interesting that one of the behaviors mentioned in this verse is "clamor." This is the Greek word kraugē, which means "to shout or cry loud or insistently." It refers to the volume level of an argument. Yes, you can grieve the Holy Spirit with your tone of voice.
There is nothing wrong with disagreeing. But when our disagreements become shouting matches, and our tone becomes harsh or vindictive, the Holy Spirit tunes out. He does not like it when we shout, scream, rant and spew venom at each other.
Yet many Christians today defend this behavior. We have been trained well by the sharp-witted commentators on Fox News and CNN. We have the idea that standing for truth requires us to blast our opponents out of the water. We wield our verbal swords and skewer our enemies like Roman gladiators in the coliseum. And the crowds cheer when we slay our political opponents with snappy one-liners. Touché!
God, forgive us. We have called what is evil good. We thought we were exhibiting moral courage when we brashly attacked a brother who had a different opinion about immigrants or health care policy. We thought God was pleased when we shouted down the woman who disagreed with us about transgender bathrooms. We thought God was on our side when we angrily quoted the Bible and waved our fists in the air.
We didn't have a clue that the Holy Spirit had withdrawn from us. He was grieved. We didn't realize that just because a person is right about something does not mean they have God's blessing. Moses was a great man of God, but when he struck the rock in anger he forfeited his chance to enter the Promised Land.
If you have allowed anger to take control of your life during this crazy political season, pull away from the ruckus and let the Holy Spirit adjust your attitude. Go on a fast from ranting and raving. Stop being outraged and encourage somebody. Forgive those who disagree with you. Love those who voted differently from you. Set politics aside and act like a Christian.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Strength in Lamentation

A faith that does not know how to lament and still believe may turn out to be no faith at all. True faith discovers that Lament  Helps Us to Hold On To Him (By Vaneetha Rendell Risner)
When pain almost strangles us, and darkness is our closest friend, what should we do?
For years, I thought the best response was cheerful acceptance. Since God uses everything for our good and his glory, I felt the most God-honoring attitude was to appear joyful all the time. Even when I was confused and angry. Even when my heart was breaking. And especially when I was around people who didn’t know Christ.
But I have since learned the beauty of lament in my suffering. Lament highlights the gospel more than stoicism ever could. Hearing our authentic, God-honoring lament can draw others to God in unexpected ways. I first noticed the power of lament in the book of Ruth.
Naomi’s Trust in God
I had long seen Ruth as the undisputed hero of the book that bears her name, and Naomi as the grumbling character with weak faith and a negative attitude. But having walked myself in similar shoes now for a fraction of her journey, I have a new respect for the depth of Naomi’s trust in God. Ruth was an eyewitness to Naomi’s faith. She saw her faith hold fast, even in horrific circumstances. And behind Naomi’s faith, she saw the God who heard Naomi’s lament and didn’t condemn her for it, even as Naomi spoke frankly about her disappointment with God.
Lamenting to a god would have been foreign to Ruth. Ruth’s first god, the god of Moab, was Chemosh. No one would have dared lament or complain to him. Pagan gods were to be appeased; there was no personal relationship with any of them, especially not with Chemosh, who demanded child sacrifices.
But Ruth sees a completely different God as she watches Naomi. Naomi trusts God enough to tell him how she feels. Though she says, “The hand of the Lord has gone out against me” (Ruth 1:13), Naomi doesn’t walk away from God in anger. She stays close to him and continues to use God’s covenant name, Yahweh, asking him to bless her daughters-in-law. Naomi doesn’t stop praying; she believes God hears her prayers.
Naomi’s trust is further evidenced by her determination to travel to Bethlehem alone. If Naomi felt that God had truly abandoned her, she never would have begun that journey. She would have stayed in bed, pulled the covers over her head, and died in Moab, bitter and angry at God. But she doesn’t do that. She acts in faith, trusting that God will provide for her.
Naomi’s trust is extraordinary given the tragedies she has endured. She and her husband had left Israel for Moab with their two sons in search of food. While they were there, her sons and husband died, and she was left alone. A widow. A grieving mother. A foreigner. With no means to support herself.
I understand why she felt that the Lord’s hand had gone out against her. In my own pain, I have cried out to God, “Why do you hate me?” I have retraced my life, wondering why God had turned against me.
Naomi’s Honesty with God
But to my regret, I’ve always been very private about my pain. I have hesitated to voice my anger and fears, concerned about what others might think. Lament can be messy, and I want my life to look neat. And I foolishly think my bleached prayers somehow make God look better.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Cliff's Notes Bible

The "Cliff's notes" version of the entire Bible:

GENESIS
God: "All right, you two, don't do the one thing. Other than that, have fun."
Adam & Eve: "Okay."
Satan: "You ssssssshould do the thing."
Adam & Eve: "Okay."
God: "What happened!?"
Adam & Eve: "We did the thing."
God: "Guys..."

THE REST OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
God: "You are my people, and you should not do the things."
People: "We won't do the things."
God: "Good."
People: "We did the things."
God: "Guys..."

THE GOSPELS
Jesus: "I am the Son of God, and even though you have done the things, the Father and I still love you and want you to live. Don't do the things anymore."
Healed people:" Okay! Thank you!"
Other people: "We've never seen him do the things, but he probably does the things when no one is looking."
Jesus: "I have never done the things."
Other people: "We're going to put you on trial for doing the things."
Pilate: "Did you do the things?"
Jesus: No.
Pilate: "He didn't do the things."
Other people: "Kill him anyway."
Pilate: "Okay."
Jesus: "Guys..."

PAUL'S LETTERS PART I
People: "We did the things."
Paul: "Jesus still loves you, and because you love Him, you have to stop doing the things."
People: "Okay."

PAUL'S LETTERS PART II
People: "We did the things again."
Paul: "Guys..."

REVELATION
John: "When Jesus comes back, there will be no more people who do the things. In the meantime....STOP DOING THE THINGS!!!"

THE END

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Father Prompts

“If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all.”

    - J.I. Packer, Knowing God

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Living With Integrity

“There's this idea that to live out of conformity with how I feel is hypocrisy; but that's a wrong definition of hypocrisy, To live out of conformity to what I believe is hypocrisy. To live in conformity with what I believe, in spite of what I feel, isn't hypocrisy; it's integrity.”

    - Erik Thoennes, quoted in Has 'Authenticity' Trumped Holiness?

BTW - This is a very good article which I highly recommend.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Honoring the Wisdom of Age

Let’s be a church that has a counter culture that says we respect people in old age. We don’t say, “Well, you’re retired and you don’t have much left to do.” or “You’re in your eighties, it’s time to get a bingo card or something.” But, “What can we learn from you?” and “How might we be able to benefit from the wisdom that God has given you?”

  - Kevin DeYoung at University Reformed Church

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Are We Too Busy To Hear?

"A question that must guide all organizing activity in a church is not how to keep people busy, but how to keep them from being so busy that they can no longer hear the voice of God who speaks in silence."

     - Henri Nouwen, The Way of the Heart

Monday, October 31, 2016

500 Years of Reformation

There's a big anniversary coming one year from today. 499 years ago today, 500 next year, an obscure monk and professor named Martin Luther nailed an invitation to debate (composed of 95 Theses) on the theology of indulgences onto the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg Germany. He didn't know what he was starting. We know it as the Protestant Reformation. Here are 10 Things You Should Know About the Reformation  by Tim Chester, coauthor of Why the Reformation Still Matters:
1. The Pope started the Reformation.

The fourteenth century was a bad time for the papacy. For a period, there were two rival popes and the papacy was under pressure from the French monarchy. It wasn’t a good time for the city of Rome either—seven successive popes abandoned Rome in favor of Avignon in France. Rome was sidelined and Saint Peter’s Basilica fell into disrepair. The popes returned to Rome in 1377 and then sorted out their divisions in 1417.

A hundred years on, things were looking up: in 1505, Pope Julius II had decided to knock down the old St Peter’s and start again. He had big plans for his own tomb and wanted a basilica to match. It was time to make Rome magnificent once again. But that didn’t come cheap, so the church embarked on a fundraising campaign. It was this campaign that brought Johann Tetzel to Germany to sell indulgences, promises of time off purgatory in exchange for cash. And so it was that on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his protest against indulgences to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg.
2. The Reformation was about sausages.

During Lent 1522, a group of students in Zurich held a sausage-themed party. Traditionally only vegetables and fish were eaten during Lent. But they wanted change and that meant hot dogs. The city council fined the host of the party, albeit only a nominal amount. A few days later, Huldrych Zwingli, the leader of the city’s church, produced a pamphlet in support of the students. The Bible, he argued, didn’t have much to say about sausages—there was certainly nothing about eating sausages during Lent.

The Council convened a debate to decide whether Zwingli’s views matched what was taught in the Bible. Zwingli won the day. But really, he’d won before it started because the terms of the discussion assumed the authority of Scripture. And that, rather than sausages, was the real issue—though it’s reassuring to know that bacon sandwiches get the thumbs up.
3. Luther’s marriage was a bit fishy.

Catholicism's focus was on becoming right with God through the sacraments or monastic life, but the Reformers preached that being right with God is a gift. There’s no need to do works for God’s benefit. It’s already a done deal—achieved by Christ and received by faith. And that frees you up to serve your neighbour in love.

In 1523, a group of nuns contacted Luther. Convent life made no sense, so the nuns wanted Luther to help them escape their cloistered life. Luther enlisted a merchant who regularly delivered herring to the convent. On April 5, the nuns escaped by hiding among the empty fish barrels. Their families refused to take them back, perhaps because what had just happened was still a crime under Church law. So Luther set about marrying them off—no easy matter, perhaps, since they smelled of fish!

Gradually, he found husbands for them all—all except one. No husband could be found for the ringleader, Katharina von Bora. So, somewhat against his wishes, Luther himself married her. He was forty-one and she twenty-six. It turned out to be a good match.
4. There were 97 theses before there were 95 theses.

Luther’s famous ninety-five theses were not his first stab at provoking a debate. A few weeks before, he’d posted ninety-seven theses. They included an attack on the Greek philosopher Aristotle, who’d made something of a comeback in the Medieval period. As it happens, no one took much notice of Luther’s ninety-seven theses. Yet they were much more central to the thought of the Reformation.

So, when Luther was summoned to account for his actions before his Augustinian order, it was to the themes in the ninety-seven theses that he returned. Aristotle said we become righteous by doing right acts—your identity is the result of your actions. It’s something you achieve. Luther said this gets things the wrong way around. In the gospel, our identity is a gift from God. It’s something you receive. And then our actions flow from our new identity. Unbelievers can be constrained by laws and peer pressure, but a life of wholehearted righteous living is only possible if God makes us new people.
5. The Reformation involved a rediscovery of the work of the Spirit.

In 1524, Desiderius Erasmus published an attack on Luther. Erasmus was Europe’s leading celebrity academic. Erasmus thought people already had enough power in themselves to do good. He defined free choice as "a power of the human will by which a man can apply himself to the things which lead to eternal salvation, or turn away from them." Luther replied, "You do not realize how much you attribute to it by this pronoun 'itself'—its very own self!—when you say it can 'apply itself'; for this means that you completely exclude the Holy Spirit with all his power, as superfluous and unnecessary."

As far as Erasmus was concerned, we just need to try harder. But Luther realized our problem was much more fundamental than that. Our problem is not that we’re lazy or ignorant, but that we’re sinners deep down to the very core of our being. So, if we’re ever going to please God, we need a radical inner transformation. And that’s what the Holy Spirit does.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Be Hatched Or Go Bad

The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self—all your wishes, and precautions—to Christ.  But it is far easier than what we are trying to do instead.  For what we are trying to do is remain what we call “ourselves,” to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be “good.” We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way—centered on money or pleasure or ambition—and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly.
And that is what Christ warned us you could not do.  As He said, a thistle cannot produce figs.  If I am a field that contains nothing but grass-seed, I cannot produce wheat. Cutting the grass may keep it short: but I shall still produce grass and no wheat. If I want to produce wheat, the change must go deeper than the surface. I must be ploughed up and resown.
That is why the real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind.
We can only do it for moments at first. But from those moments the new sort of life will be spreading through our system: because now we are letting Him work at the right part of us. It is the difference between paint, which is merely laid on the surface, and a dye or stain which soaks right through.
He never talked vague, idealistic gas. When He said, “Be perfect,” He meant it. He meant that we must go in for the full treatment. It is hard; but the sort of compromise we are all hankering after is harder – in fact, it is impossible. It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird; it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Prayers for A Troubled America

From J. Lee Grady - 10 Ways to Pray for a Troubled America
The Old Testament clearly shows that the rise and fall of Israel was determined by its spiritual condition. When the people worshipped God, and their leaders honored His laws, Israel prospered. When the people drifted into sin and idolatry, and Israel's kings forgot the God who delivered them from slavery, the nation went into decline. Foreign armies eventually invaded.

The same principle applies to any nation—and certainly to the United States, which was founded by people of faith who embraced the Bible. We have known seasons of spiritual revival, and in the past we have elected leaders who called on Jesus Christ as the true God. We have also gone through periods of spiritual darkness. When you review our 240-year history, it seems we are facing our darkest hour spiritually.

But I am not discouraged as we head into this uncertain season. God intervenes even in the darkest times. Elijah called down fire from heaven when an evil leader sat on the throne. When Israel faced certain defeat, King Hezekiah prayed and witnessed divine deliverance.

God is always willing to rescue His people if they pray.

As we head into the final days before this crucial 2016 election, I challenge you to do more than vote. Please pray big, God-sized prayers. A president or a political party cannot solve our national crisis. We need urgent help from heaven. Here are 10 things we should include in our petitions:

1. That our leaders will turn to God. It was President Theodore Roosevelt who said: "A belief in Jesus Christ is the very fountainhead of everything that is desirable and praiseworthy in our civilization." Yet today political correctness prevents our leaders from barely mentioning faith. It's as if we are ashamed of what made our nation great. Pray that our next president and his or her cabinet will be drawn to love the Lord in a personal way.

2. That our president will rediscover God's forgotten laws. In the days of King Josiah, when the nation's moral compass went missing, the scrolls of the Old Testament were found in a closet. When the king heard the words of the Scriptures, he tore his clothes, repented and called the nation to serve God again (2 Kings 22-23). Pray that our next president will follow the footsteps of Josiah and bravely call for a reformation.

3. That God's prophets will have access to government leaders. Prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah and Elisha called on the kings of Israel to obey the Lord—and Israel was blessed when leaders heeded their message. Even when Israel went into captivity in Babylon, God put his servant Daniel in a strategic position of influence. Pray that our leaders will open their doors to those God is sending to speak for Him.

4. That we will have righteous judges. John Jay, the first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, did not hide his Christian faith. He wrote: "The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the Word of God and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and in the next." Today, most of our judges have no knowledge of Christian morality; instead they create their own laws in a moral vacuum. Our judges are now responsible for redefining marriage, secularizing the country and taking away the rights of the unborn. Pray that God will raise up judges who honor God's laws.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Times of Transition

From Pete Wilson (Who is undergoing a lot of transition himself this year) Here are 4 Tips To Navigate Life Transitions 
The word “transition”, alone, is enough to make most people run for cover. It insinuates change, which headbutts how most of us are wired; for comfortability and security. While it’s true that there are both good and bad transitions, they still have one thing in common. Both types of transitions are hard. Really hard.
Ready or not, we all go through numerous transitions in our lives – leaving high school to go to college or work, changing jobs, getting married, having children. The list is never-ending and these changes ignite weeks, months, or longer full of awkward emotional spaces where we have to cut ties with what we once knew and own our unfamiliar realities.
In general, I’ve found that there are 3 type of transition in life:
1) Choice transitions: An opportunity comes along that you choose to take. Or maybe you realize it’s time to step away from something you’ve done for a while. This type of transition, one that I’m in right now, is one that you choose and feel like is what is best for your season. However, what I’m discovering is that it doesn’t mean it’s easy. I love my new job at The A Group, but that doesn’t mean that there haven’t been things that I’ve wrestled with. For example: I miss the team I worked with for years at Cross Point. I miss the buzz of ministry on Sunday mornings. I miss the routine I had for 14 years. I miss the people that trusted me to pastor them. Although it was a choice I weighed for quite some time and knew was right, it is still painful and difficult to endure initially.
2) Natural transitions: These could be anything from graduating from high school or college, having a baby, or getting married. They are often just part of the natural rhythms of life. They feel expected and normal, therefore making these transitions a little more welcomed, emotionally. Most people have gone through one or two of them in their lives, so we have plenty of unsolicited advice and blogs to help us through those.
3) Imposed Transitions: These are probably the most dreaded of the 3 transitions because the season is unwillingly imposed on us – sudden layoff from a job, unwanted and uninitiated breakups in relationships, an illness that threatens the very breath you breathe. They hit you like a brick wall and leave you emotionally stranded and vulnerable.
Whatever the circumstances, navigating through transitions in a healthy way can prove to be challenging. So here’s a few tips that hopefully you’ll find helpful for surviving your current or next transition.
Expect to feel depressed or anxious.
Even though my career transition is a positive and healthy thing for me, change is still change. I’m leaving behind colleagues that I’ve been in the trenches of ministry with for years and grown extremely close to. I’m leaving a job that was familiar and somewhat comforting, even though the weight of it all had become too much to carry.
Whenever we move forward, we leave something behind which creates a psychological state of grief, no matter how small. And if the change is unexpected and unwanted– the sudden job layoff or relationship breakup – the shock and depression are greater and more devastating to the life we all pictured. And with such turmoil as this, comes anxiety. We are out of our comfort zone; our imaginations run wild; we worry about an unknown future. So, don’t feel shame in your emotions. They are normal no matter how isolated they make you feel. Try to avoid the attempt of numbing with distractions. Feel what you’re heart is telling you, grieve the loss, and try to grow from it. It will get better, but we can’t expect an external portrayal of roses and rainbows to heal us.
Realize your past is not your past if it’s still impacting your present.
While you need to acknowledge your loss, you don’t want to get stuck in the past. Someone once told me that acknowledging that a door is closed is healthy; spending your time and energy staring at it is not.
Although it sounds like a cliché, I’ve found it to be true over and over. Often what feels like an ending is actually just a beginning. And just remember this isn’t the first transition you’ve gone through, right? You’ve – changed schools, churches, neighborhoods, relationships, jobs. We often encounter new struggles and think that “this time is different”, or “I can’t get through this one”. You can do this again. And this time even better.
Think positive. Think opportunity.
In the movie Up In the Air, George Clooney played a character whose job was to fire people for companies that were downsizing. If you’ve seen the movie, you know he would always begin his speech to whoever he was firing with “I’m here to talk to you about new opportunities.” Obviously, this was a bit of a spin, but it’s also kind of true.
Whether your transition is by choice or uninvited, my guess is that you’re going to have opportunity that you wouldn’t have had otherwise. You learn a new skill. You find a new appreciation for someone in your life. You begin using your experience to help other people with the same thing. You meet some new people that you would never have met any other way. You start down a path that seems unchartered and uninteresting, but actually ends up leading to a new passion that you didn’t know existed. All of these opportunities are chances to grow and see His goodness amidst challenges, so why not allow God to redeem something once perceived as stagnated.
Lean into God.
The reality is, we often lean and trust in things we never should have in the first place. We lean on our finances, we lean on our spouse or friend, we lean on job titles, and the list could go on and on.
You know I wish God had my full attention all the time but the reality is, I can get easily distracted by a lot of little shiny and enticing things in this world. But the moment I find myself in transition, the moment I feel like the rug has been ripped out from underneath me, is when God gets my full attention.
Transition, by definition, means change. But, we have a God who is unchanging and constant. Sovereign and all-knowing of our future and purpose. Faithful and full of grace through our attempts at navigating the “new”. So, during this time lean into the one thing, the only thing, that’s worthy of our full trust.

Monday, October 24, 2016

What If Hillary Wins?

I know that many of you don't want to consider this possibility, while others consider it a high probability. Either way, we need to consider it. Here's what J. Lee Grady has to say on this: What if Hillary Clinton Wins the White House? 
In three weeks, the baffling 2016 presidential election will be over. The winner will begin assembling a White House cabinet. The loser will most likely disappear for a while. And our polarized nation, weary from all the sound and fury of ugly politics, will recover from the stress of this crazy season.
Many evangelical Christians have supported billionaire Donald Trump, either because he is a Washington outsider or because his policies seem more conservative than Clinton's. Some charismatic leaders, such as Lance Wallnau, have even prophesied that Trump is God's man. But that has been a difficult idea to sell, especially to African-American or Hispanic Christian voters who view Trump as racist and anti-immigrant.
The new revelations of Trump's "locker room" comments about women have not helped his case. Many evangelicals have abandoned him over his insulting sexist language. The result is that the latest polls show Clinton leading Trump by 11 points. Barring some new scandal about Mrs. Clinton's honesty, her clandestine ties to Middle Eastern donors or a new batch of leaked emails, it is very likely she will win on Nov. 8.
Some Christians would like to crucify me for saying that. But even Fox News reported this week that Trump is losing—and some Fox pundits are already throwing in their chips and working on plans for a Republican victory in the 2020 race.
Here's my concern: How is the evangelical church going to respond if Mrs. Clinton wins? Hopefully we will allow the Holy Spirit to guide us, rather than our outrage. I would recommend the following:
1. Make a commitment to pray for your president. Many evangelicals who opposed President Obama's election refused to pray for him—ignoring our scriptural mandate to pray for "all who are in authority" (1 Tim. 2:2). I know white Christians who hate Obama, and that has grieved the Holy Spirit and fueled hostility between the White House and the Christian community. Just because you don't agree with a leader's policies doesn't excuse you from supporting him or her in prayer. If Mrs. Clinton wins, I intend to pray for her daily.
2. Don't demonize people who didn't vote your way. Hopefully voters will remain peaceful if Mr. Trump loses. The last thing America needs is more riots. But I know Christians who display a lawless spirit in their comments on social media. Some have even made threats to people who questioned Trump on issues—as if God expects all Christians to march behind Trump in lockstep with no questions asked. We live in a democracy, and every believer has the freedom to vote according to his or her own conscience. We all need to take a chill pill and calm down. Some people need to take a break from Facebook if they can't control their rage.
3. Stand for religious freedom. Many Christians are legitimately concerned about whether liberal politicians will begin taking our rights away. I'll be the first to say I don't trust the people Mrs. Clinton has around her. Too many of her political cronies are linked to organizations like Planned Parenthood or to groups that want to weaken or abolish the influence of churches. An antichrist spirit is working overtime in Washington. That's why we must elect local and state leaders who will oppose this agenda.
4. Don't be a Chicken Little pessimist. The world will not end if Mrs. Clinton occupies the White House. She may become the president of the most powerful nation on Earth, but God is still on His throne. He is the One who said: "Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales" (Is. 40:15). Our God is sovereign, and He only allows people to be in power. He can remove any leader at any time if He wants to. You do not need to head for the hills or build a bunker full of survivalist supplies. View the world from God's big-picture perspective. And remember that the New Testament church thrived at a time when dictators ruled the Roman empire.
5. Work and pray for a spiritual awakening in this country. Ultimately, there is no president or political party that can solve America's problems. Neither Trump nor Clinton can do it. The only thing that will turn our nation around is a heaven-sent revival, and we are long overdue for another one. Intercessors have been filling up heaven's bowls of prayer for many years, and the next Great Awakening could happen during the next four years. I expect to see it soon.
If Mrs. Clinton wins the White House, I pray that her Methodist upbringing will cause her to call on Jesus Christ in the hour of our visitation. She, like all of us, needs His mercy. May God bless America. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Scandal of Election 2016

Beth Moore recently created a stir with some tweets about Christian leaders being dismissive of Donald Trumps quotes on how he treated women, which she equated to sexual assault. Bye the way, I agree with her. Here's her blog post abut The Scandal of Election 2016:
On Tuesday, November 8th, we will elect the next president of the United States. Each one of us who chooses to exercise our right to vote will mark the ballot having weighed not only every option but the realistic consequences of the option we’re choosing.

The gravity of it this go-round is like lead weight in feet of clay. The voting booth is a house of mirrors where we are forced to face ourselves all by ourselves. We have before us the rulers we’ve demanded. And, of course, none of them can save us. None of them can “save our country,” whatever that now means. None will keep all their promises, even if they mean to. Want to. We’re reduced to damage control. It’s a heck of a way to cast a vote but most of us, myself included, will do so nonetheless.

In our uncivil war we are weighing the sins of our candidates like jagged stones stacked on our personal pan-size Scales of Justice. Once we’ve properly reaffirmed everything we already believed, we congratulate ourselves by hurling the stones at anyone who doesn’t see our enemies the same way. We simultaneously demonize and deify those of other opinions, telling them they’re idiots while holding them personally, publicly responsible in advance for all the inevitable transgressions of their candidate. Meanwhile we are collectively committing a sin ultimately more consequential than anything the media can uncover on our candidates between now and Election Day.

If “we” does not include you, I’m not talking to you. No need to get offended or defensive. If we are not you, this is not about you. It’s about the rest of us.

We have misplaced our faith. Our blood-curdling fear has given us away. And unrelieved, force-fed fear is making us crazy.

Buried beneath our panic is systemic disappointment but it makes us feel weak and pathetic so instead of owning our disappointment – in our country, our candidates, our options, our leaders, in one another and, God help us, in ourselves – we rage. Mad feels better than sad. It’s painful to long, in the words of Hebrews 11:16, for a better country and embrace the hard, cold fact that we are strangers and exiles on earth. (Hebrews 11:13)

Grieve, mourn, and weep, James 4:9-10 says. Turn your laughter into mourning and your joy into despair. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.

But who wants to do any of that? So we rage.

We have become not only like the world but like the world at its social-worst: lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive…ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. (2 Timothy 3:2-5 ESV)

Yesterday’s America, in all its honor and shame, is in ashes but, rather than exercise the faith and obedience and earnest prayer to see God raise some beauty from the heap, some gold from the fire, we keep trying to glue ashes back together. And they won’t stick. Yesterday’s America has become an idol to us. It has no more breath in it and the thing about idolaters is that, sooner or later, they become like their idols. (Psalm 135:18)