Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Way To Behave

This is how Christians are supposed to do it! From a Facebok post by Stephen Crowder:
My wife was just rear-ended in a car collision. Let me start this personal message by saying this; don’t worry, she’s fine. But the incident also forced me to take a look at myself and made me realize why I’m so proud of her.
A run of the mill stop light rear-ending. My wife pulled up, stopped, but the lady behind her didn’t. The crash occurred. When my wife told me about it on the phone, my first instinct was to get mad. “She was probably texting or something, right?!” I yelled.
“… can you stop for a second and let me just tell you what happened?” she responded much more level-headed in tone.
She went on to tell me that as she exited her vehicle, the lady who’d hit her was noticeably agitated. My wife also noticed that she was a cancer-patient, undergoing chemo. Furthermore, she noticed a cross on said woman’s window.
Before she could escalate the situation any further, my wife asked her if she was okay. The first thing my wife did was check on the woman, not her own car. Immediately the woman’s tone changed and she became less angry, more apologetic.
"I wasn't texting or anything," she defended herself. "It's just chemo-brain. I was distracted. I'm so sorry."
“Accidents happen,” my wife said. “I notice you have a cross on your window. This is what being a Christian is. What kind of Christians would we be if we just screamed and raged at each other all the time over accidents?"
Completely disarmed, the woman broke down into tears, clutching my wife as they stood there on the shoulder of the road, hugging each other. The woman proceeded to tell my wife her story. She told my wife about her cancer treatments, about losing her fiancé, about how hard it's been and about how cancer was the best thing that ever happened to her because it brought her back to God after she'd long lost her way. Along with insurance information exchanged, my wife made sure to get the lady's personal info, promising that we'd be praying for her.
Finally, the police officer arrived on the scene, dumbfounded.
"Usually people aren't hugging and laughing with a car in that kind of shape!" He said. "I've never seen anything like it." The officer was touched as well to see a display of humanity in a context where many people lose theirs. Once all information was exchanged and the reports were filed, everyone went on their merry way.
Think about this for a second. This entire situation could have been wildly different had people's perceptions and reactions been different. My wife could have flown into a rage. The other woman could have been uncooperative, the police officer could have been on a curt power trip. Instead, an unfortunate car accident was turned into a positive human interaction for everyone involved. A blessing.
That's entirely due to a CHOICE. A choice to be kind, a choice to be compassionate and empathetic. I'll be honest, sometimes that's not my choice. Sometimes, like many of us, I can be too quick to anger, and too slow to listen. Who knows how many blessings of which I've robbed MYSELF when I give into carnal instincts like that. Let alone others.
It's why everyday, I'm a work in progress.
But most of all, it's why I love my wife.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Boring Holes and Lighting Fuses

By way of Think Theology, here's a wonderful analogy for prayer from Norwegian author Ole Hallesby, quoted in Tim Keller's Prayer:
If we overstress submission, we become too passive. We will never pray with the remarkable force and arguments that we see in Abraham pressing God to save Sodom and Gomorrah, or Moses pleading with God for mercy for Israel and himself, or Habakkuk and Job questioning God’s actions in history. However, if we overstress “importunity,” if we engage in petitionary prayer without a foundation of settled acceptance of God’s wisdom and sovereignty, we will become too angry when our prayers are not answered. In either case—we will stop praying patient, long-suffering, persistent yet nonhysterical prayers for our needs and concerns.
Hallesby likens prayer to mining as he knew it in Norway in the early twentieth century. Demolition to create mine shafts took two basic kinds of actions. There are long periods of time, he writes, “when the deep holes are being bored with great effort into the hard rock.” To bore the holes deeply enough into the most strategic spots for removing the main body of rock was work that took patience, steadiness, and a great deal of skill. Once the holes were finished, however, the “shot” was inserted and connected to a fuse. “To light the fuse and fire the shot is not only easy but also very interesting ... One sees ‘results’ ... Shots resound, and pieces fly in every direction.” He concludes that while the more painstaking work requires both skill and patient strength of character, “anyone can light a fuse.” This helpful illustration warns us against doing only “fuse-lighting” prayers, the kind that we soon drop if we do not get immediate results. If we believe both in the power of prayer and in the wisdom of God, we will have a patient prayer life of “hole-boring.” Mature believers know that handling the tedium is part of what makes for effective prayers.

How To Not Say The Wrong Thing

This needs to be heard, understood, and practiced!  How Not To Say the Wrong Thing In Death, Illness,  Divorce and Other Crises by Susan Silk and Barry Goldman (HT: United Methodist Church of North Texas)
When Susan had breast cancer, we heard a lot of lame remarks, but our favorite came from one of Susan’s colleagues. She wanted, she needed, to visit Susan after the surgery, but Susan didn’t feel like having visitors, and she said so. Her colleague’s response? “This isn’t just about you.”

“It’s not?” Susan wondered. “My breast cancer is not about me? It’s about you?”

The same theme came up again when our friend Katie had a brain aneurysm. She was in intensive care for a long time and finally got out and into a step-down unit. She was no longer covered with tubes and lines and monitors, but she was still in rough shape. A friend came and saw her and then stepped into the hall with Katie’s husband, Pat. “I wasn’t prepared for this,” she told him. “I don’t know if I can handle it.”

This woman loves Katie, and she said what she did because the sight of Katie in this condition moved her so deeply. But it was the wrong thing to say. And it was wrong in the same way Susan’s colleague’s remark was wrong.

Susan has since developed a simple technique to help people avoid this mistake. It works for all kinds of crises: medical, legal, financial, romantic, even existential. She calls it the Ring Theory.
 Illustration by Wes Bausmith / Los Angeles Times
The ‘Ring Theory’ of kvetching works in all kinds of crises — medical, legal, even existential.

Draw a circle. This is the center ring. In it, put the name of the person at the center of the current trauma. For Katie’s aneurysm, that’s Katie. Now draw a larger circle around the first one. In that ring put the name of the person next closest to the trauma. In the case of Katie’s aneurysm, that was Katie’s husband, Pat. Repeat the process as many times as you need to. In each larger ring put the next closest people. Parents and children before more distant relatives. Intimate friends in smaller rings, less intimate friends in larger ones. When you are done you have a Kvetching Order. One of Susan’s patients found it useful to tape it to her refrigerator.

Here are the rules. The person in the center ring can say anything she wants to anyone, anywhere. She can kvetch and complain and whine and moan and curse the heavens and say, “Life is unfair” and “Why me?” That’s the one payoff for being in the center ring.

Everyone else can say those things too, but only to people in larger rings.

When you are talking to a person in a ring smaller than yours, someone closer to the center of the crisis, the goal is to help. Listening is often more helpful than talking. But if you’re going to open your mouth, ask yourself if what you are about to say is likely to provide comfort and support. If it isn’t, don’t say it. Don’t, for example, give advice. People who are suffering from trauma don’t need advice. They need comfort and support. So say, “I’m sorry” or “This must really be hard for you” or “Can I bring you a pot roast?” Don’t say, “You should hear what happened to me” or “Here’s what I would do if I were you.” And don’t say, “This is really bringing me down.”

If you want to scream or cry or complain, if you want to tell someone how shocked you are or how icky you feel, or whine about how it reminds you of all the terrible things that have happened to you lately, that’s fine. It’s a perfectly normal response. Just do it to someone in a bigger ring.

Comfort IN, dump OUT.

There was nothing wrong with Katie’s friend saying she was not prepared for how horrible Katie looked, or even that she didn’t think she could handle it. The mistake was that she said those things to Pat. She dumped IN.

Complaining to someone in a smaller ring than yours doesn’t do either of you any good. On the other hand, being supportive to her principal caregiver may be the best thing you can do for the patient.

Most of us know this. Almost nobody would complain to the patient about how rotten she looks. Almost no one would say that looking at her makes them think of the fragility of life and their own closeness to death. In other words, we know enough not to dump into the center ring. Ring Theory merely expands that intuition and makes it more concrete: Don’t just avoid dumping into the center ring, avoid dumping into any ring smaller than your own.

Remember, you can say whatever you want if you just wait until you’re talking to someone in a larger ring than yours.

And don’t worry. You’ll get your turn in the center ring. You can count on that.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Election Dis-Ease

I fully agree with this assessment - The Dis-ease of the Presidential Race by Janel Barr
In the last couple of months, the candidates for the 2016 presidential race have narrowed from a wide range to just two presumptive candidates. From initial shock to utter disbelief, a range of emotions has surfaced with the realization of who is still left in this race. Of all of the feelings that are surfacing, the most pressing is my discomfort.

I am uncomfortable with voting for either candidate.
I am uncomfortable with their records.
I am uncomfortable with the trajectory of our country.
I am uncomfortable with the future awaiting my three young children.

In all of my frustrations, disappointment, and disbelief, the only thing that I am comfortable with is knowing that this is exactly where God wants me — uncomfortable.
We Have No Lasting City Here

Sure, like most Americans, I had a “guy” that I wanted to win, one that my husband and I even supported financially. And like most Americans, I was still hopeful that “my guy” would win and change things around. My hopes weren’t met, but I was putting my hope in the wrong place, in a person.

This is not an article about which candidate to vote for, or about whether or not we should vote at all in this year’s election. This is a reminder that if you, like me, are uncomfortable with our only options, this is where the Lord wants us to be and this is what he wants us to feel. Scripture reminds us that this is not our home (Philippians 3:20), that we are sojourners and exiles (Hebrews 11:13), and that our hope is not ultimately in this world.

“Here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14).
Free Citizens of Heaven

When I live my daily life in a state of comfort — in my marriage, my parenting, my regular routine — I am often not looking to Jesus and leaning on Jesus. I am not mindful of the mission he’s given me. The Christian life was never meant to be comfortable and carefree. Jesus did not die for my earthly comfort.

There is great hope laid out for any Christian uncomfortable with the November election because our hope is in Jesus. Our discomfort is a fresh reminder of the work that is still needed in this lost and hurting world: our charge to share the good news with our neighbors and co-workers (even those with differing political views).

Elections can sometimes feel like a renewal, a kind of rebirth for citizens. But for the Christian, our hope will never be fulfilled in the “perfect candidate.” Our King is Jesus and our citizenship is in heaven. Our loyalty to him far exceeds any loyalty we have to a president or to our country. I love America and the values on which she was built. I am forever thankful for our freedoms, secured and protected at great cost. But this is a temporary home for me, and my ultimate hope and allegiance lie elsewhere.
Pray for Our Leaders

My discomfort pushes me to do four things: to pray, to trust, to share, and to hope. My four-year-old loves Old Testament stories of bravery and courage — David slew the giant, Gideon led an army of a few men, Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den. These are real stories, with real characters, no fiction added, and relevant for Christians in America today.

Our current events are reminders that all our circumstances are ordained by God’s good hand and plan. Daniel’s example of standing firm against a rule of law instills us with courage to pray. Having heard about new and oppressive laws threatening his freedom to worship God, Daniel prayed, “as he had done previously” (Daniel 6:10). Things had changed in his nation, but nothing changed in Daniel’s heart, his passion and commitment to follow the Lord. And nothing should change in ours.

This presidential race leads me to pray for our country, our leaders, both local and national, and on both sides of the aisle. It puts my trust back in the One who should have all my trust. Our trust as Christians lies in the one who “reigns over the nations” (Psalm 47:8), not just over the United States.
Our Hope and the Harvest
When my trust is in the Lord and not in a presidential candidate, I know I will never be disappointed. As long as we have breath, we are called to go to the nations and share the gospel (Matthew 28:19). If I was really comfortable with where this country was headed, would I feel the same urgency and freedom to go? Probably not.

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). For the Christian that is left feeling uncomfortable with the upcoming presidential election, our hope is secure and the harvest is plentiful.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Identity Theft

Who are you? Probably the most important question we should ask ourselves (Right after Who is Jesus). This article might help you give a good and accurate answer to the question - Identity Theft: Losing Our Christian Self-Consciousness by Jim Elliff
When whimpering Gideon hid himself from the Midianites in the winepress while threshing his wheat, the angel of the Lord appeared to him with this striking greeting: “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!”
Man of valor? In Gideon’s mind, nothing could be further from the truth. But the angel continued, “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites.”
Gideon squeaked out a lame response, “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” But the angel, representing God, rebutted his view of himself by forcing the issue: “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man.”
Gideon had identity issues. He could not believe the truth about himself. A fleece or two later, he was finally fully convinced, and went on to valiantly do God’s business as the mighty man God described him to be. See his story in Judges 6-9.
God has created the identity of His church. It is far beyond what we claim of ourselves. In fact, we may have a harder time than Gideon believing we are who we are. But failure to believe what is true about ourselves will keep us from doing mighty deeds for God. Certainly what we are is entirely based upon God’s presence in us and His power bequeathed to us. We are nothing on our own. But in Christ, we are something beyond imagination. Consider who God declares we are:
We are God’s children.
“See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are.” (1 Jn 3:1 )
“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” Gal 3:26
We are God’s temple.
“For we are the temple of the living God . . .” (2 Cor 6:16)
“You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet 2:5)
We are God’s priests.
“. . . and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father . . .” (Rev 1:6)
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood . . .” (1 Pet 2:9)
We are God’s handiwork.
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Eph 2:10)
We are God’s heirs.
“. . . and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ . . .” (Rom 8:17)
“And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” (Gal 3:29)
We are God’s ambassadors.
“Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor 5:20)
When we are asked who we are or face overwhelming odds against us, don’t give a blank stare. Realize who you are because of Christ. If possible, memorize these truths so that you will never forget!
(Image copied from original web page)

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Paradox Blessing

"Paradox Blessing"

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers,
half-truths, superficial relationships,
so that you will live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger at injustice,
oppression and exploitation of people,
so that you will work for justice, equity and peace.
May God bless you with tears to shed
for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war,
so that you will reach out your hand to comfort them
and change their pain to joy.
And may God bless you with foolishness to think
that you can make a difference in the world,
so that you will do the things which others tell you
cannot be done.

From Celtic Daily Prayer: Book Two (William Collins, 2015), 1088.

HT: Leonard Sweet

Knowing the Presence

Her's an excellent summary of a great book - 10 Things You Should Know About the Presence of God by J. Ryan Lister,author of The Presence of God: Its Place in the Storyline of Scripture and the Story of Our Lives.
1. God is immanent because he is transcendent.
The Lord is “God in the heavens above (transcendent) and on the earth beneath (immanent)” (Josh 2:11). But to understand God in full we must recognize that his drawing near to creation stems from his being distinct from creation. In other words, there is no deficiency in God that creation satisfies. The Lord doesn’t relate to this world because he lacks something within himself. No, God draws near out of the abundance of who he is.
God’s transcendence distinguishes him from the created order and puts things in their right perspective. God does not come to us needy and wanting, but rather he comes to “revive the spirit of the lowly and the heart of the contrite” (Isa 57:15). It is the holy and righteous One above who restores the broken and needy below.
2. The Bible emphasizes God’s manifest presence, not only his omnipresence.
There is a difference between saying “God is everywhere,” and saying “God is here.” The former is the default category for most Christians. We talk about God’s presence being inescapable and that he is “everywhere present” (Ps 139:5-12; 1 Kings 8:27).
But it seems Scripture is more concerned with his presence manifest in relationship and redemption. And though these divine realities are certainly not at odds, the biblical story does turn on God’s being manifest with his people in Eden, the tabernacle/temple, the incarnation of Christ, and the new heaven and new earth.
3. The story of Scripture begins and ends with the presence of God.
In the book of Genesis, Eden is the first couple’s home but, more importantly, it is God’s sanctuary—the garden temple where the Creator and his image-bearers relate (Gen 3:8).
Fast forward to the end of our Bibles and we see a very similar picture but on a much larger scale. All of heaven has collided with the whole earth to make a perfect sanctuary for God to dwell with man (Rev 21:1-4). In the book of Revelation, Eden has returned and expanded into new heaven and new earth where all of God’s people enjoy his presence eternally.

Friday, July 8, 2016

A Time For Lamentations

Watching the news this morning... this week ... this year is just frankly overwhelming. I feel like shouting "Stop 2016, I want to get off!"Even prayer seems to be an inadequate response.

Yet... I refuse to give in to that hopelessness. Now abides Faith, HOPE, and Love. Please read How To Pray In Our Time of National Crises by Joe Carter:
Our country is in pain.
A series of inexplicable killings, including five police officers in Dallas, has occurred this week. Many of us are anxious and hurting. All of us are confused.
When faced with this type of national crisis we may find it difficult to turn to our Comforter in prayer. We are used to going to God with our requests, but this time seems different. We are mired in sorrow and pain and can’t get past the question that haunts us: “How could God let this happen? Where is he when our country needs him?”

The book of Lamentations opens with a similarly bewildered and mournful query. Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Babylonians and God seemed to pay no attention to the cries of the suffering survivors. In their pain they cry out, ““See, Lord, how distressed I am! I am in torment within” (Lamentations 1: 20).
This book takes it’s name from lament, a song of mourning or sorrow. Laments may be occasioned by bereavement, personal trouble, national disaster, or the judgment of God. Throughout the Old Testament, and especially in the Psalms, we find lamentations that can serve as model for how we can respond in prayer in times of crisis.
Here are some suggestions for how to use such passages as guides:
Don’t strip away the context
There is a temptation to pick and choose a particular verse, metaphor, or image of lament, remove it from it’s context, and then apply it to our own situation. This is generally the wrong way to handle Scripture. While our context may not be the same as the context of a particular Bible passage, we can use the lamentation as a guide for creating our own personalized response to God. As John D. Witvliet says, we can “work with the basic psalm forms we have learned to discern, and then, like a jazz soloist who embellishes a musical theme, that we improvise in the context of our particular tragedy.”
Understand the form of Biblical lament
Most passages of lamentation in the Bible include a heart cry, imagery to describe God, a direct discourse, a specific petition, and an expression of hope.
Heart cry
A devastating example of a cry of a pained heart is David’s opening of Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Don’t be afraid to let God hear the cry of your own heart. Be reverent, but bold and address him as your loving Father.
The Bible gives us a broad gallery of images we can use when we address God. As Witvliet notes,
We pray to Yahweh, the rock, the fortress, the hiding place, the bird with encompassing wings. These metaphors are not just theological constructs, but means of directly addressing God. As we pray them, these metaphors shape and reshape how we conceive of God. They hone our image of God with the very tools that God gave us: the biblical texts.
Use Scriptural metaphors to help you recognize the God to whom you’re appealing.
Direct discourse
Pour out your heart. God knows exactly what you are going through, but he wants you to put into your own words the grief or pain you’re feeling.
Specific petition
The purpose of a lament is to open your heart to uncover the petition you need to offer God. As Claus Westermann explains, “lamentation has no meaning in and of itself. . . . It functions as an appeal. . . . What the lament is concerned with is not a description of one’s own sufferings or with self-pity, but with the removal of the suffering itself. The lament appeals to the one who can remove suffering.”
Expression of hope
Finally, even while we may still be in pain, our lament should inspire hope, either in the near future or to the time when, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
Come soon, Lord Jesus.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Gospel Freedom in Everyday Life

More Energy and More Power by Jarrid C. Wilson
The message that the gospel has in terms of freedom for a man’s everyday life is really a counter-intuitive message. You would think that knowing that the work is done, that the bar has been crossed, that the standard has been met by Jesus, and that we now totally measure up would lead us to go on autopilot.
However, what really happens is that, when a man understands that he measures up and the victory is sure, he actually finds more energy and more power. One great illustration is when you’re way ahead in a basketball game and you’re winning, the energy seems to come from nowhere. You just seem to have this boundless energy because the victory is sure.
On the flip side, the further behind you are—if you are losing the game—the harder it becomes. You see the mountain you have to climb to catch up and you just feel dejected and defeated.
I think the gospel works a bit like that. Somehow to know that we are totally justified—that the victory is won—actually empowers our hard work. There’s a joy and a freedom there. The man who has been set free by the gospel is really free and really empowered to work with a sense of worship.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Lordship Facts

1. Christ is Lord over all because he is God.
The Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Spirit is God. God rules over all things by his providential control (Ps. 103:19). Therefore it is also true that each person in the Godhead rules over all. Christ rules over all. This rule is comprehensive not only in its extent (over all of space, all of time, and all areas of human activity), but in its details—over each sparrow, each hair of the head, and each atom.
2. Christ is Lord over all because in his human nature he has accomplished perfect obedience, has won salvation for us, and has been given universal dominion as a reward.
As a result of his resurrection and ascension, Christ has been enthroned at the right hand of God the Father, with universal dominion:
. . . he [God the Father] worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Eph. 1:20-23)
Christ is one person, and his rule over all things is a single unified rule. But he does so in two respects: because he is God, and also because he has achieved the final victory over sin and death through his resurrection and ascension. He is God and man in one person, on the throne of the universe.
3. Christ claims authority over both believers and unbelievers.
The difference is that believers acknowledge and submit to his rule, with joy for the salvation they have received in him.
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me [Christ]. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . . (Matt. 28:18)
4. We are to obey Christ in all things.
However, our obedience does not earn our salvation or contribute to becoming a saved person. We are justified by God's grace as a gift (Rom. 3:24). It is all God's doing (Eph. 2:8). It is Christ's perfect obedience, not our obedience, that has obtained for us forgiveness of our sins and all the benefits of salvation.
We are saved by being united to him through the Holy Spirit and by trusting in him alone for our salvation. Genuine obedience is the offering that we give in gratitude to God, because we have already been saved. Because we are saved, we are empowered by the Spirit of Christ, and we bring forth the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).
5. We are to serve Christ all the time, in all of life, with all of our heart.
We serve for several complementary reasons:
  • Christ is enthroned and deserves our obedience.
  • Christ is altogether lovely and completely worthy of all our service.
  • It is God's command for us to serve him.
  • We were created and designed and destined for this service.
  • We will find the deepest satisfaction and joy in life only in this service.
  • The Holy Spirit empowers us for this service.
In serving Christ we are serving the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit together, since the distinct persons indwell each other.
6. The means of grace guide us and equip us to grow in serving Christ.
We should not suppose that our service is built on merely human effort. God in Christ provides the means of grace to guide, equip, and strengthen us. These means include Bible reading, Bible study, preaching, the sacraments (baptism and the Lord's supper), prayer, and fellowship with other saints in the church, the body of Christ. These means become effective through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in us.
In addition, we can receive subordinate resources from the theological reflections and examples of previous generations of Christians. The leaders of the Reformation, and particular figures like John Calvin and Abraham Kuyper, have thought carefully and deeply about what it means to serve Christ in all of life.
7. Serving Christ makes a pronounced difference in every area of life.
Christian believers differ radically from unbelievers in the inclination of their hearts. This radical difference gets expressed in differences all along the line in every area of life. We have motivations that differ from unbelievers. We look at the law and the world differently, because we acknowledge that law comes from God and the world is providentially governed by God. We look at ourselves differently, because we know that we are made in God's image and we belong to him. We have different purposes from unbelievers. We serve God and his kingdom, while they serve other goals, which are like counterfeit gods.
The differences in starting point result in differences even in areas that many people consider to be "religiously neutral," like science and mathematics. Politics, work, social relations, social institutions, finance, and art need Christian reflection, as well as areas like church, marriage, parenting, and homemaking that have more commonly received attention.
8. Because of Christ's lordship over the world, we can sometimes learn from and cooperate with unbelievers in short-term projects.
We can do this because God, in common grace, keeps them from consistently working out the rebellious inclination of their hearts.
9. Christ gives distinctive authority and responsibilities to people in various spheres of life.
Authority comes from God; it is not merely a human invention. All human authority is limited because it is delegated by God through his Son. The responsibilities of officers of civil government, parents, church leaders (pastors and elders), business leaders (owners and managers), teachers, artists, farmers, and so on, are limited by God, and these responsibilities depend on what kind of authority belongs to each. Christians must study the Bible and consider its ethical implications for our responsibilities in each area.
10. Through Christ, God establishes a pronounced distinction between the church and other institutions on earth.
The true church is the body of Christ, made holy by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is manifested on earth in particular local gatherings of the body of Christ, and it is also enthroned with Christ in heaven (Eph. 2:6). By God's own appointment, it is distinct from other institutions by being holy and by being uniquely empowered by the Holy Spirit to accomplish God's will for its role in discipling and nourishing believers. Believers treat church members differently from the world.
This distinctiveness is quite compatible with the church being a source of encouragement and empowerment for Christians to serve God all the time in all of life, beyond the bounds of the church's distinctive responsibility as an institution.

When "Christian Answers" Aren't Enough

There are times when our good intentioned Christian platitudes become attempts to deny the realty of human pain in a fallen world. Sometimes we just have to weep with those who weep, long before we can rejoice with them.  Read Please Don't Give Me A Christian Answer by Lysa TerKeurst at Proverbs 31 Ministries.
I love Jesus. I love God. I love His Truth. I love people.
But I don’t love packaged Christian answers. Those that tie everything up in a nice neat bow. And make life a little too tidy.
Because there just isn’t anything tidy about some things that happen in our broken world. The senseless acts of violence we hear about continually in the news are awful and sad and so incredibly evil.
And God help me if I think I’m going to make things better by thinking up a clever Christian saying to add to all the dialogue. God certainly doesn’t need people like me — with limited perspectives, limited understanding and limited depth — trying to make sense of things that don’t make sense.
Is there a place for God’s truth in all this? Absolutely. But we must, must, must let God direct us. In His time. In His way. In His love.
And when things are awful we should just say, “This is awful.” When things don’t make sense, we can’t shy away from just saying, “This doesn’t make sense.” Because there is a difference between a wrong word at the wrong time and a right word at the right time.
When my sister died a horribly tragic death, it was because a doctor prescribed some medication no child should ever be given. And it set off a chain of events that eventually found my family standing over a pink rose-draped casket.
Needing time to wrestle with grief and anger and loss.
And it infuriated my raw soul when people tried to sweep up the shattered pieces of our life by saying things like, “Well, God just needed another angel in heaven.” It took the shards of my grief and twisted them even more deeply into my already broken heart.
I understand why they said things like this … they wanted to say something. To make it better. Their compassion compelled them to come close.
And I wanted them there. And then I didn’t.
Everything was a contradiction. I could be crying hysterically one minute and laughing the next. And then I’d feel so awful for daring to laugh that I wanted to cuss. And then sing a praise song. I wanted to shake my fist at God and then read His Scriptures for hours.
There’s just nothing tidy about all that.
But the thing I know now that I wish I knew then is that even Jesus understood what it was like to feel deeply human emotions like grief and heartache. We see this in John 11:32-35 when Jesus receives the news that his dear friend Lazarus has died, “When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother [Lazarus] would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. ‘Where have you laid him?’ he asked. ‘Come and see, Lord,’ they replied. Jesus wept.”
Yes, Jesus wept and mourned with His loved ones in that devastatingly heartbreaking moment. And the fact that He can identify with my pain is so comforting to me.
You want to know the best thing someone said to me in the middle of my grief?
I was standing in the midst of all the tears falling down on black dresses and black suits on that grey funeral day. My heels were sinking into the grass. I was staring down at an ant pile. The ants were running like mad around a footprint that had squashed their home.
I was wondering if I stood in that pile and let them sting me a million times if maybe that pain would distract me from my soul pain. At least I knew how to soothe physical pain.
Suddenly, this little pigtailed girl skipped by me and exclaimed, “I hate ants.”
And that was hands-down the best thing anyone said that day.
Because she just entered in right where I was. Noticed where I was focused in that moment and just said something basic. Normal. Obvious.
Yes, there is a place for a solid Christian answer from well-intentioned friends. Absolutely. But then there’s also a place to weep with a hurting friend from the depths of your soul.
God help us to know the difference.
Dear Lord, thank You for being there in my darkest time. I know You are real and You are the only one who can bring comfort to seemingly impossible situations. Please help me speak Your truth to those around me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Be the First

Men- Want to lead your wife and family? Then you must..

Be the first to love
Be the first to serve
Be the first to sacrifice
Be the first to repent
Be the first to apologize
Be the first to forgive

... because (other than repenting and apologizing) that is the way Christ leads His Bride. We are commanded to love our wives "as Christ loved the church." (Ephesians 5:25)

Been crucified lately?