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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

"The Last Enemy"

Sinclair B. Ferguson wrote in The Christian Life...
" Scripture, death is regarded as part of the curse of sin.  Death is not what we sometimes mistakenly suggest it is --- a blessing, a release, a peaceful end. All of these may be found by the Christian in and through death, but they are in fact contrary to the true nature of death.  For death is disintegration.  It is the breaking of a union which God created.  In and of itself it is an ugly, destructive thing --- it is 'the last enemy'. How is this so?  Because death severs us from those we love.  It breaks the cords that have joined us physically, mentally, spiritually to others. . . .

While all that we have said is true and biblical, it is not, at least for the Christian, the whole truth. For the Christian does not contemplate death in itself.  He now sees it, as he sees all things, 'in Christ'.  In itself it is an experience from which to turn completely.  But in Christ the necessity of death takes on a new perspective.  That is why in the New Testament when we read of death it is usually of its defeat.  It is this which explains the triumph of the martyrs in the face of death, and the equanimity with which Christians great and small have faced it."
For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Corinthians 15:53-57)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Cross of Christ - Chapter 12

In Chapter 12 of The Cross of Christ, Stott writes, "To live under the cross means that every aspect of the Christian community's life is shaped and colored by it. The cross not only elicits our worship ... it also directs our conduct in relation to others, including our enemies. We are to 'be imitators of God ... as dearly loved children' and to 'live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us...' (Eph.5:1-2)  More than that, we are to exhibit in our relationships that combination of love and justice which characterized the wisdom of God in the cross."
 "Loving Our Enemies"

If our peace-making is to be modeled on our heavenly Father's ... we shall conclude at once that it is quite different from appeasement. For the peace which God secures is never cheap peace, but always costly. ...we may have to bear the embarrassment of reproving or rebuking the other person, and thereby risk forfeiting his or her friendship. Although the followers of Jesus never have the right to refuse forgiveness, let alone take revenge, we are not permitted to cheapen forgiveness by offering it prematurely when there has been no repentance. 'If your brother sins,' Jesus said, 'rebuke him', and only then 'if he repents, forgive him.' (Luke 17:3)

The incentive to peace-making is love, but it degenerates into appeasement whenever justice is ignored. To forgive and to ask for forgiveness are both costly exercises. All authentic Christian peace-making exhibits the love and justice - and so the pain - of the cross.

Turning from social relationships in general to family life in particular, Christian parents will want their attitude to their children to be marked by the cross. Love is the indispensable atmosphere within which children grow into emotional maturity. Yet this is not the soft, unprincipled love which spoils the children, but the 'holy love' which seeks their highest welfare, whatever the cost. Indeed, since the very concept of human fatherhood is derived from the eternal fatherhood of God (Eph.3:14-15), Christian parents will naturally model their love on his. Consequently, true parental love does not eliminate discipline, since 'the Lord disciplines those whom he loves'. Indeed, it is when God disciplines us that he is treating us as his sons and daughters. If he did not discipline us, it might show us to be his illegitimate, not his authentic, children (Heb.12:5-8)...

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. (Rom.13:1-5)...

God overcame our evil by justifying us only because he first condemned it in Christ, and by redeeming us only because he first paid the ransom-price. He did not overcome evil by refusing to punish it, but by accepting the punishment himself. At the cross human evil was both punished and overcome, and God's mercy and justice were both satisfied.

[Challies' review, Chapter 12]

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Rebel's Guide to Joy - Isaac Watts

"Your Godly Ones Shall Bless You"

Thankfulness should permeate the heart/mind of the redeemed. As we study God's Word and the Holy Spirit illumines our minds so that we may know God at an ever-increasing depth, such knowledge should manifest itself in the depth of our thankfulness to Him. Yesterday my son gave a devotion following Thanksgiving dinner. He raised a good question ... how is the thankfulness of the believer different from that of the unbeliever? What makes the thankfulness of a regenerated soul different? 

I've been thinking about his question ever since and concluded one difference is the object of our thanks. Believers are not "generally" thankful, but "specifically" thankful to God. They are able to see His hand working in their lives and able to trust Him in all circumstances because of their position "in Christ" and because of God's goodness.

Secondly, the believer has a lifestyle of thanksgiving. He realizes his daily dependence upon God and looks to Him as the author of all good things (James 1:17). A third difference should be the depth of our thankfulness. Those who have a knowledge of how much they have been forgiven are able to respond to God's amazing grace in their lives with deep thankfulness.

A fourth difference is that a thankful heart offered up to God in praise honors Him and reflects His glory in our lives. The psalmists call upon God's people to "give thanks" some 100 times in the Book of Psalms! They certainly understood the connection between thankfulness and praise.
I will give thanks to the LORD according to His righteousness And will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High.  (Ps.7:17)
So we Your people and the sheep of Your pasture Will give thanks to You forever; To all generations we will tell of Your praise. (Ps.79:13)
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting. (Ps.107:1)
This post looks at a fifth difference - believers receive blessings as a result of having a heart/mind that dwells in thankfulness to our God and Savior.

Thankfulness forces us to focus on what we have rather than what we want. 
In our materialistic culture, we can succumb to a consumerism of the soul that reduces our prayers to shopping lists. Thankfulness looks outward, not inward. It realigns our lives so that they revolve around God instead of trying to make God revolve around us.

Thankfulness highlights grace.  
To give thanks is to admit that you are dependent, to say, "I couldn't have done this on my own, but you helped me." Thanksgiving removes the temptation to boast and strengthens the only basis on which we can relate to God: that of accepting our own unworthiness and God’s free grace in Jesus Christ.

Thankfulness develops hope for the future.  
Looking backward to the past with thanksgiving actually helps us to look toward the future with anticipation.

Thankfulness regularly ensures that gratitude will spill over into every area of our lives.  
We cannot thank God for difficult colleagues, relatives, or neighbors for long before finding that we express a positive attitude toward them. Grumpiness and irritability do not grow well in a climate of gratitude. Those who regularly give thanks to God find they are ready to give to others. Gratitude and generosity go hand in hand.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Reflections

The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts.  No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving.  ~ H.U. Westermayer

It is thy duty and privilege to rejoice in God:
He requires it of thee for all his favours of grace.
Rejoice then in the Giver and his goodness,
Be happy in him, O my heart, and in nothing but God,
for whatever a man trusts in,
from that he expects happiness.

He who is the ground of thy faith
should be the substance of thy joy...
Let God be all in all to thee,
and joy in the fountain that is always full.
~ A Puritan Prayer from The Valley of Vision

Thou hast given so much to me,
Give one thing more, - a grateful heart;
Not thankful when it pleaseth me,
As if Thy blessings had spare days,
But such a heart whose pulse may be Thy praise.
~ George Herbert

Monday, November 21, 2011

Samaritan's Purse Gift-Giving Catalogue

Samaritan's Purse Gift Catalog offers affordable gift suggestions that will help meet physical needs in the name of Christ. It's also a way to include your children in giving to to help others.

Bible Open Air Missions supports many national evangelists planting churches in India, the Philippines and several African countries. I'm sure they would be thankful for donations.

Mission ONE also supports national believers who are planting churches throughout the 10-40 window.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Living in Light of the Hope (Part 3)

Paul Tripp's latest book, Forever: Why You Can't Live Without It explores how believers are meant to live out  their earthly lives in view of eternity. In his sermon on the mount, Jesus stressed the importance of having 20/20 spiritual vision (Mt.6:22-23). Tripp writes, "The unshakable promise of the future grace of eternity does more than give you hope for the future. Embedded in the promise of a future is the guarantee of grace for what you're facing right here, right now. You see, the God of eternity enters your story in the here and now, or he couldn't guarantee your future. And that makes all the difference in the world."

Part 1 looked at the first benefit of living life in view of eternity: The resurrection of Jesus and the hope of forever tell us what is really important in life.

Part 2 covered a second benefit: The resurrection of Jesus and the hope of eternity have the power to radically change the way you approach the responsibilities, difficulties, and opportunities of your daily life. The third benefit is presented below.

The resurrection of Jesus and the hope of eternity teach you delayed gratification.

Western culture is not a waiting culture. We sigh when we get to Starbucks in the morning and there's a bit of a line. ...We hate even the thought of being stuck in traffic. We are an instant culture. But the hope of forever calls us to a different worldview.

In God's plan, waiting is not an interruption or obstruction of the plan; waiting is part of the plan. As we are waiting for the forever that is the promise of God's grace, we are not just marking time. From an eternal perspective, waiting is about becoming. When Adam and Eve disobeyed, God immediately put in place a process that would result in redemption and restoration. God is progressively transforming us into what he created us to be, and he is preparing us for the eternity that is to follow. By his grace, every moment of waiting is, in his hands, an efficient tool for personal restoration and preparation.

Isaiah 61:3 beautifully captures this process: "They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD, for the display of his splendor." ...[His plan is] that you and I would be as strong and as durable through the seasons and storms of life as the mighty oak tree is. The things that the oak endures season after season are the things that contribute to its grandeur and strength. Oak trees don't sprout up and mature overnight. It takes scores of years to bring a mighty oak to maturity, but when it is mature, it lives with a strength and splendor that few plants in God's creation have.

Notice that the prophet Isaiah didn't write that God was working to make us toadstools of righteousness. A toadstool sprouts up overnight, but you can uproot it with a flick of your fingers.  God is calling us to live through seasons of ... process so that we will be people of enduring strength and character whose lives point to God's glory and who are ready for the forever that he has promised to his children.


Friday, November 18, 2011

A Few Bargains ( ... till 11/23/11)

The Desiring God site is offering the following teaching DVD sets for $5 until Nov. 23, 2011 at 3:00 CST. You can order online or call 1.888.346.4700 between 9AM–5PM (CST), Monday to Friday. Check them out! Included are... 

Don't Waste Your Life  
Let the Nations Be Glad
Suffering and the Sovereignty of God
Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ
Why We Believe the Bible
Desiring God

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Where True Excellence is Found

From the pen of Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), on the excellence of Christ ...
"But Christ Jesus has true excellency, and so great excellency, that when [men] come to see it they look no further, but the mind rests there. It sees a transcendent glory and an ineffable sweetness in him; it sees that till now it has been pursuing shadows, but that now it has found the substance; that before it had been seeking happiness in the stream, but that now it has found the ocean. The excellency of Christ is an object adequate to the natural cravings of the soul, and is sufficient to fill the capacity. It is an infinite excellency, such an one as the mind desires, in which it can find no bounds; and the more the mind is used to it, the more excellent it appears. Every new discovery makes this beauty appear more ravishing, and the mind sees no end; here is room enough for the mind to go deeper and deeper, and never come to the bottom. The soul is exceedingly ravished when it first looks on this beauty, and it is never weary of it. The mind never has any satiety, but Christ’s excellency is always fresh and new, and tends as much to delight, after it has been seen a thousand or ten thousand years, as when it was seen the first moment."

[via Challies' blog]

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Living in Light of the Hope (Part 2)

Paul Tripp's latest book, Forever: Why You Can't Live Without It explores how believers are to live out  their earthly lives in view of eternity. Jesus stressed the importance of having 20/20 spiritual vision (Mt.6:22-23). Tripp writes, "The unshakable promise of the future grace of eternity does more than give you hope for the future. Embedded in the promise of a future is the guarantee of grace for what you're facing right here, right now. You see, the God of eternity enters your story in the here and now, or he couldn't guarantee your future. And that makes all the difference in the world."
"If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep." (1 Cor. 15:12-21)
Part 1 looked at the first benefit of living out your life with an eternal perspective: The resurrection of Jesus and the hope of forever tell us what is really important in life. Below Tripp offers a second benefit.

The resurrection of Jesus and the hope of eternity have the power to radically change the way you approach the responsibilities, difficulties, and opportunities of your daily life. "Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." (1Cor.15:58)  What Paul is essentially saying is that eternity takes the vanity out of your living in the here and now.

So how can that knowledge change our approach to life? It means we have reason to continue. That's what it means to be steadfast. We don't continue because we can see that our efforts are bringing us success or because we are being affirmed by others. We don't continue because we  can see how our problems will be solved. We don't continue because continuing is pleasurable. We continue because we get the plan. We continue because we know that grace has given us a life beyond this life, and the forever that is before us makes the things we do in the here and now meaningful and consequential. ...This means that, in the here and now, we had better have a grander motivation when we get up in the morning than the hope that our day will be predictable, easy, and relatively free of hassle. Eternity gives us just that kind of big-picture motivation.

Now, all the things you do that are shaped by your belief in forgiveness now and for eternity are infused with new purpose, new meaning, and new hope. You are freed from wondering what in the world is going to happen to you and where in the world your life is going. You have been rescued from trying to control what you cannot control. You are delivered from tying all of your deepest hopes and dreams to temporary and dysfunctional situations and relationships. You no longer have to search for identity in things that were never designed to give you identity. The resurrection of Jesus, its guarantee of final resurrection to come and the forever that will follow, defines who you are, what you need, what your life is about, and where you are going. Now everything you do is connected to a radically different present and a guaranteed future. And all the things that are unsure in your life are not connected to things that are sure. ...Eternity changes the whole game.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Living in Light of the Hope (Part 1)

I have been thoroughly enjoying Paul Tripp's latest book, Forever: Why You Can't Live Without It. If you're a believer and you don't know the how's and why's of what it means to live out your daily life in view of eternity, this is a great place to start wrapping your mind around these biblical truths! In our Ladies' study of the Gospel of Matthew, Chapters 5-7, we've listened to Jesus talk about the importance of having 20/20 spiritual vision (Mt.6:22-23). This is exactly what Tripp addresses in his book. Here is the first of his reflections on the difference the hope of forever makes. 

"If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who
                                     have fallen asleep."  (1 Corinthians 15:12-21)
Our hope for the future depends on the actual point-in-time historicity of a past event, on the actuality of the resurrection of Jesus. If there was no empty tomb, then there is no hope of life after death. Life with God forever guarantees our final deliverance from all that sin has broken and life forever with the Lord. ...Here is the first specific way the resurrection makes a difference in the here and now:

The resurrection of Jesus and the hope of forever tell us what is really important in life. Many of us have lost sight of what is truly important. Consider these examples:
  • Sarah lost it yesterday morning when her son spilled his cereal for the third day in a row.
  • Sam silently cursed the weather that had created the traffic jam that he didn't want to be in.
  • Mary didn't seem to be able to quit obsessing over the fact that Susan hadn't asked her to be in her wedding.
  • Frank struggled with being bitter that as a father of four he had little time for himself anymore.
  • Jeanna was tired of having to pick up after her roommate.
When circumstances rise to levels of importance way beyond their actual importance, they exercise more control over us than they should. Success is not the most important thing in life. Pleasure is not the most important thing in life. The degree to which others appreciate us and accept us is not the most important thing in life either, nor is the degree of our control over people and circumstances or the size of our pile of possessions.The resurrection of Jesus and the hope of forever give us a sense of priority and proportion.

Your biggest difficulty is not outside of you, it is inside of you. The Bible names it: sin. ...It is the universal and unavoidable disease. It is the one thing we cannot rescue ourselves from. It destroys our spirituality as it robs us of our humanity. If you are living for all those other things and are ignoring your sin, you are ignoring the single most significant problem of your existence. ...Sure all those relational, situational, and physical things you worry about are important in some way, but they must not be viewed as the essence of what life is about. ...The resurrection guarantees the progressive defeat of sin in the here and now and the final deliverance from it in eternity.

[In reference to a believer named Scott, who found himself weighed down by family and work responsibilities and felt as if life had passed him by, Tripp writes...] He was confused about what God was doing, and because he was, he lived with unrealistic expectations, which resulted in disenchantment with his faith. What Scott failed to understand was that the life that God promised him and was delivering to him was not the good life of an easy, predictable marriage, compliant children, and a satisfying job. God promised to work on Scott. Every day Scott was the recipient of patient, forgiving grace. Every day he was given the power to defeat temptations that he could not defeat on his own. In situation after situation, God was using the difficulties of life to grow, change, and mature Scott. ...All of those promises that Scott doubted were being fulfilled daily, but not in the way he expected or in the places he looked. ...The most important gift of all, the defeat of sin, was being delivered to Scott, but he didn't see it. Scott was being given the good life, yet day after day he awoke to the disappointment of believing that the good life had passed him by.

[When Scott came to understand these biblical truths, his view of life changed. He was able to say...] "I know my marriage isn't all that it could be, my children are difficult at times, and my job isn't always fulfilling, but I have reason to be thankful and encouraged. ...Today, because of the resurrection, I am given forgiveness for my wrongs, power to face temptation, and the hope that one day my battle will be over. And I also know that when things are tough, God is not absent, but using hardship to make me a man who quits looking for life where it can't be found and who starts celebrating the life he has already been given and the life that is to come." Because Scott  now gets what God is doing, he approaches his marriage, parenting, and job with peace of heart and confidence in the presence and help of the resurrected Jesus.


Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Are You Adding to the Gospel Now That You're Saved?

From Ed Stetzer's interview with Tullian Tchividjian, Pastor at Coral Ridge and author of Jesus + Nothing = Everything...
Ed Stetzer:  You talk about how Christians like to add to the Gospel ("Christianity and ..."). What does it mean to add to the Gospel?
Tullian T:  Protestants have always embraced that we are justified by grace alone, through faith alone, in the finished work of Christ alone--that our good works don't save us or merit favor with God. But once we're saved, we fall into the trap of adding a lot of things to the gospel. It's always Jesus + Something = Everything.
Remember C. S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters. As the high-ranking demon Screwtape trains his protégé Wormwood in satanic strategies against Christians, he discusses how (in Screwtape's words) "to keep them in the state of mind I call 'Christianity And.'" Screwtape gives a few examples (reflecting some fads from Lewis's time, the mid-twentieth century): "Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order, Christianity and Faith Healing," and even "Christianity and Vegetarianism." These were all various manifestations of the urgent, Devil-fostered temptation believers face to add something else to Jesus and the gospel--all because of those deficiencies we sense in our own experience.
Today, Screwtape's list would doubtless look different. The currently tempting formulas might include "Christianity and success," "Christianity and self-affirmation," "Christianity and self-improvement," "Christianity and personal progress," or "Christianity and spiritual formation." There's a host of causes that might crop up: "Christianity and environmentalism," "Christianity and home schooling," "Christianity and social justice," "Christianity and diversity and tolerance," not to mention an abundance of "Christianity and political action" variations--liberal, conservative, libertarian, hope-and-change, take-back-America, whatever.
Besides those, there are plenty of extras that have timeless appeal for any and all generations: "Christianity and popularity," "Christianity and power," "Christianity and social status," "Christianity and reform," even "Christianity and tradition." It could even get more personal: "Christianity and my family", "Christianity and people liking me", "Christianity and feeling important."
The way I get at this in my own heart is to ask myself: What is the one thing, or things, that if God were to take away from me, I'd feel like I don't want to live anymore? What am I functionally depending on to make me feel like I matter?
That's the something that I'm enslaved to -  the something that might be ok to enjoy, but not to worship.
[Complete interview found here.]
[via Vitamin Z blog]

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Another Look at Loving the Singles in Your Church

The previous post on this subject drew such interest I thought I would pass on highlights from another view of the subject. My daughter recommended Carolyn McCulley's post on the desiring god website entitled, "How to Serve the Singles." Below is the introduction and several of her main points. __________________________________________________

When I was a single woman in my mid-thirties, I invited the elders of my church and their wives to a formal holiday dinner as a way of expressing my thanks to them for their care and ministry. As I served the standing rib roast on a table set with china and crystal, one man remarked, “Wow. I never would have done this when I was single. It would have been pizza for everyone!”

This pastor offered this comment as an expression of thanks and I received it that way. But I did ponder it afterward, realizing that for many people the link between youthful inexperience and singleness is inextricably linked. In my early 20s, I too would have served pizza on paper plates, if indeed I had thought at all about offering hospitality...

I have a list of insights about single adults that I'd like to offer to church leaders. The hope here is that these ideas will foster a stronger connection between unmarried people and their local congregations.


Marriage is not the ultimate prize.

While I believe all churches should prize marriage and family, I also believe we have to be careful about the unintentional messages potentially conveyed about marriage and family. Both are gifts for this life alone. The one relationship that survives eternally is the one we have as the Bride of Christ to our beloved Savior. The relationships that we all have as brothers and sisters in Christ are the ones that will not end—and these need to be cultivated as much as family life is cultivated. Additionally, single adults need to be reminded that God has not withheld his very best from them if they remain unmarried.


The Singles are actually unmarried men and women.

It’s important that unmarried men and women are discipled as men and women and not a generic lump of singleness. From my perspective, Scripture’s emphasis is on being made a man or a woman in the image of God, with a secondary emphasis on how that looks in the various roles and seasons of life. Unmarried men and women are no less masculine or feminine because of being single.

Single men need leadership responsibilities.

Put 1 Corinthians 7 to work in your churches by showing that the church actually needs unmarried adults who are devoted to the Lord, especially single men. What this looks like will be different in various churches. But when church leaders ask unmarried men to take on significant responsibilities, they demonstrate a belief that godly singleness is a tremendous asset to the Body of Christ.


Single adults are not workhorses.

Conversely, unmarried men and women are not the church’s workhorses. ...Even though I am unmarried, I still need to make my home and my home church priorities. I need time to receive care from close friends and also to return that nurturing.


Understand the challenges of endless opportunity.

One wise pastor once told a group of single adults that he was sympathetic to the challenges of endless opportunity. Because he was a pastor, father, and husband, the boundaries of his day were fairly well-defined from the moment he woke up. He knew his responsibilities and the priorities given to him by God and he didn’t have to spend a lot of time deciding what he was supposed to do.

But single adults can think they don’t have those same clear priorities and can be tempted to drift through their days. But we actually do have many of the same boundaries and priorities in working faithfully as unto the Lord, in building up our local churches, in reaching out to non-Christians, in praying for others, in caring for the family members and friends we have (especially as single parents), in offering hospitality, and so forth. Though some of the most intimate relationships may be different, we all share a basic set of priorities and we often need to be reminded of that.


It’s not self-improvement, it’s others-improvement.

Too often our advice to unmarried adults stems from worldly thinking that infects us all. We give advice to improve and equip the unmarried adult to attract better relationships, rather than reminding them they are stewards of whatever relationships they have been given.

As John Piper wrote in This Momentary Marriage, "The meaning of marriage is the display of the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his people." Though it is not on display in exactly the same way in the lives of unmarried adults, we are part of the Bride of Christ and recipients of his faithful covenant love. Therefore, how we care for others who are also Christ's beloved speaks volumes to a watching world, to the praise of his glory.

[Carolyn McCulley is the author of Did I Kiss Marriage Good-bye?: Trusting God with a Hope Deferred and Radical Womanhood: Feminine Faith in a Feminist World ]

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Loving the Single Woman in Your Church

A single friend of mine once asked why I never post anything for single Christian women. It may be because my own experience is in the sphere of marriage and children.  A strong memory of my own struggles starting out as a newly saved young wife and mother has made me sensitive to women in similar situations. In addition, I studied Scripture for some time with a group of young moms. I still tend to think about them and pray for them. Therefore, my radar is ever tuned towards encouraging moms! On the other hand, I do offer many posts applicable to ALL women. In fact, many of the posts are applicable to Christians in general.

But now I am pleased to say I have come across a post written by a single Christian woman advising the rest of us what NOT to say to someone in her position. Though said with the best of intentions, such comments are neither encouraging nor edifying and often quite hurtful. Taking a step back to look at the biblical picture, we need to remember that God is sovereign over every situation and circumstance in a believer's life. Sometimes when we offer comments such as these, we don't involve God in the picture at all! Let's be on guard against any attitude that erases God from the quotient! Here is her advice about what NOT to say to the single Christian woman. My guess is that my single friends have probably heard a few of these...
“I keep praying for someone to come along for you.” Thanks for your prayers. I hope someone comes along too. Instead of praying for that, why don’t you pray that I would be growing in Christlikeness so that if Mr. Wonderful walks into my life, I would be better suited to be a helpmate for him.
“I don’t know why no young man hasn’t scooped you up and carried you off yet.”  I know this is supposed to be a compliment and that the intention of the kind woman is to tell me that she thinks I’m worth marrying. I appreciate that you think so highly of me. Unfortunately when you say this I immediately try to answer the question of why no one has carried me off. Am I too much of one thing and not enough of another? Do I not look right? Am I too soft spoken or too loud? What do I need to change about myself since obviously something is wrong with me if I haven’t been taken off the market? Maybe I should go read Proverbs 31 again to figure it out.
“You should move somewhere where there are more young men, or maybe go to a church with more single people.” There is some merit to having a community that you can feel comfortable with, but comments like this aren’t helpful for several reasons. First, it makes it seem like the goal of going to church or moving somewhere is to find a spouse. That’s not why you go to church. Second, it feeds the controlling nature of most women to want to put their matrimonial future into their own hands instead of trusting God. It’s a slippery slope that is all too easy to find yourself on. What woman wouldn’t want to go to a church filled with thousands of single men just waiting to find a wife? You could just ask them all to fill out applications and have a screening process. It could be the church version of The Dating Game. Third, some women don’t have the option of moving, so pointing out to them that there might be “greener pastures” on the other side of the fence doesn’t help them be content in their current situation. It can be a daily struggle for some women to be ok with where they are at in life, and indirectly telling them that their life would be better somewhere else doesn’t help.
“Have you ever thought about online dating?” Many, many wonderful Christian people have met and married through online dating. It’s the wave of the future without a doubt. But it is still something that brings embarrassment to the person. It can sometimes feel like the question is really saying “I see that you’ve completely failed at attracting anyone in your physical world so have you tried to do it in an online world?” It reminds me of being kicked off the varsity team and ending up on the bench for the JV.
“Don’t you want to get married and have children?” This is usually in response to a statement about being content in my current state. Being content is not the same as having no desire for something. Yes, I do want to get married and have children, but there’s not a whole lot that I can do about it. I don’t have a lot of control over who I come across and whether they would like to ask me out. And although I would like these things, my life is not somehow a failure if I do not achieve them. I would love to be able to have the blessings that come with marriage and children, but it should not be more than my desire to have the blessings of a relationship with Christ.
Single people have a responsibility as well to not be overly sensitive. Singleness can be a deep trial, but making little things into big deals because someone unintentionally prodded that hurt isn’t the way to go. Single people need to extend grace, knowing that the intentions of people are good and out of their love for them.
[Full post may be found on Kevin DeYoung's blog here]
[Related post: Another Look at Loving Singles in Your Church]

The Cross of Christ - Chapter 11

In his final section of The Cross of Christ, Stott examines the benefits available to those who are "Living Under the Cross." Chapter 10 looked at the believer's entry into "The Community of Celebration." Chapter 11 looks at the change that takes place in the believer's "Self-understanding and Self-Giving." Stott writes, "The cross revolutionizes our attitude to ourselves as well as to God."
"Self-Understanding and Self-Giving"

By union with Christ, we have shared in his death and resurrection, and so have ourselves died to sin and risen to God; we must therefore constantly remember this fact and live a life consistent with it. (Rom.6:4, 11-14) William Tyndale expressed it in characteristically vivid terms at the end of his prologue to his work on Romans:
Remember that Christ made not this atonement that thou shouldest anger God again; neither died he for thy sins, that thou shouldest live still in them; neither cleansed he thee, that thou shouldest  return, as a swine, unto thine old puddle again; but that thou shouldest be a new creature, and live a new life after the will of God, and not of the flesh. (2Cor.5:17)
Granted this fundamental fact about all who are in Christ, namely that we have died and risen with him, so that our old life of sin, guilt and shame has been terminated and an entirely new life of holiness, forgiveness and freedom has begun, what is to be our attitude to our new self? Because our new self, though redeemed, is still fallen, a double attitude will be necessary, namely self-denial and self-affirmation, both illumined by the cross.

The invitation of Jesus is plain: 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follw me' (Mk.8:34) ...'daily' (Lk.9:23). If anybody does not take his cross and follow him, he is not worthy of him and cannot be his disciple (Lk.9:25-26).

Every rebel condemned to crucifixion was compelled to carry his cross, or at least the patibulum (the cross beam), to the scene of his execution. ...To take up our cross, therefore, and follow Jesus, is 'to put oneself into the position of a condemned man on his way to execution. ...Our cross, then, is not an irritable husband or a cantankerous wife. It is instead the symbol of death to the self.

To deny ourselves is to behave towards ourselves as Peter did towards Jesus when he denied him three times. The verb is the same (aparneomai). He disowned him, repudiated him, turned his back on him. Self-denial is not denying to ourselves luxuries such as chocolates, cakes, cigarettes and cocktails (though it may include this); it is actually denying or disowning ourselves, renouncing our supposed right to go our own way. 'To deny oneself is ... to turn away from the idolatry of self-centeredness.' 

Paul must have been referring to the same thing when he wrote that those who belong to Christ 'have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires' (Gal.5:24). No picture could be more graphic than that: an actual taking of hammer and nails to fasten our slippery fallen nature to the cross and thus do it to death. The traditional word for this is 'mortification'; it is the sustained determination by the power of the Holy Spirit to 'put to death the misdeeds of the body', so that through this death we may live in fellowship with God.

The self we are to deny, disown and crucify is our fallen self, everything within us that is incompatible with Jesus Christ (hence his commands 'let him deny himself' and the 'let him follow me'). (Luke 9:23) True self-denial (the denial of our false, fallen self) is not the road to self-destruction but the road to self-discovery.

So then, whatever we are by creation we must affirm: our rationality, our sense of moral obligation, our sexuality, our family life, our gifts of aesthetic appreciation and artistic creativity, our stewardship of the fruitful earth, our hunger for love and experience of community, our awareness of the transcendent majesty of God, and our inbuilt urge to fall down and worship him.

Whatever we are by the Fall, however, we must deny or repudiate: our irrationality, our moral perversity, our blurring of sexual distinctives and lack of sexual self-control, the selfishness which spoils our family life, our fascination with the ugly, our lazy refusal to develop God's gifts,our pollution and spoliation of the environment, the anti-social tendencies with inhibit true community, our proud autonomy, and our idolatrous refusal to worship the living and true God. ...Christ came not to redeem this but to destroy it. So we must strenuously deny or repudiate it. ...Christians can no longer think of themselves only as 'created and fallen', but rather as 'created, fallen and redeemed'.

Self-sacrificial love
Neither self-denial (a repudiation of our sins) nor self-affirmation (an appreciation of God's gifts) is a dead end of self-absorption. On the contrary, both are means to self-sacrifice. Self-understanding should lead to self-giving. The community of the cross is essentially a community of self-giving love, expressed in the worship of God and in the service of others. ...With the love of God both revealed to us and indwelling us, we have a double, inescapable incentive to give ourselves in love to others.

...the choice between selfish ambition and sacrifice. Jesus' affirmation that 'the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve' was startlingly original. ...He calls us to follow. ...His new community is to be organized on a different principle and according to a different model - humble service.

...the choice between comfort and suffering. We...regard security as our birthright and 'safety first' as a prudent motto. ...Where are the Christians who are prepared to put service before security, compassion before comfort, hardship before ease? ...Insistence on security is incompatible with the way of the cross. What daring adventures the incarnation and the atonement were! What a breach of convention and decorum that Almighty God should renounce his privileges in order to take human flesh and bear human sin! Jesus had no security except in his Father. So to follow Jesus is always to accept at least a measure of uncertainty, danger and rejection for his sake.

[Excerpts: Chapter 1]

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Our Responsibility to One Another

From: One-to-One Bible Reading: A Simple Guide for Every Christian, David Helm...
Christians are also called to encourage one another [parakaleo -  literally: to call alongside; to exhort, encourage, comfort, beseech one another with biblical truth] and build up one another.
1Thess.5:11 "Therefore encourage [parakaleo] one another and build one another up..."

Hebrews 3:12-13 "Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort [parakaleo] one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin."

Eph.4:29 "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear."
They are called to instruct one another, to speak the truth to one another, to teach and admonish one another with the wisdom of Christ's word, and to stir up one another to love and good works.
Rom.15:14 "I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another."

Eph.4:15 "Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ..."

Col.3:16 "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing (noutheteo, from which we get "nouthetic") one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God."

Heb.10:24-25 "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."
In his first letter, Peter says the Word that saved us is the same Word that strengthens us in our faith. He writes: 'long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.' (1Pet.2:2) In another place, the apostle Paul describes the usefulness and versatility of the Bible, declaring it to be 'profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.' (2Tim.3:16) Christians are called to live together as Christians, loving those around them and spreading God's truth to them.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Horatio Spafford & His Hymn, "It Is Well With My Soul"

Scripture Memory Tips

Susan Heck offers a little 21-page booklet named, A Call to Scripture Memory. In it she gives 6 tips to help us with Scripture memory. There are a few things I have personally learned about memorization of Scripture. It's much, much easier to memorize when you're young. So I encourage everyone to memorize as much as they can before it becomes more difficult to do so. Secondly, like most things, the ability to memorize improves with practice. If you do it regularly, you will discover it becomes easier. And lastly, it is easier to memorize passages rather than isolated verses. You can get the context with a passage, allowing for a logical progression of thought, and you can remember passages for a greater length of time. I have Scripture memorized 30 years ago still rattling around in my brain and surfacing just when I need it! Susan's common sense tips are as follows:
  • Work on memorizing when you are mentally alert & free of distractions.
  • Stick to the same Bible translation until you master the passage.
  • If you are having trouble with a certain verse or passage, put it to music.
  • Another helpful tip is to try to teach the verses to your children or to other children.
  • Remember you are not just memorizing words, but God's words!
  • Lastly, if you find yourself leaving out portions or phrases, ask yourself, "What logically would come next here?
She offers several outstanding historical examples of believers who devoted themselves to Scripture memory. I've certainly read many stories about modern day Christians imprisoned for their faith in Christ, notably in China, who were able to tap into the Scripture they had memorized, using it to encourage themselves to persevere in their faith, despite horrendous circumstances. Though I may never approach the level of these faithful believers, I have found my own mind recalling Scripture during those times in the night when I wake up and my mind becomes flooded with concerns, as well as when I am witnessing or encouraging another believer. Memorized Scripture is also essential to meditation upon God's Word. "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12) If you want to serve God well and live a victorious Christian life, put God's Word into your mind!
Even as the New Testament church progressed, according to church history, many Christians cherished God’s Word much more than we do, and would memorize great portions of it. Tertullian (160-220 A.D.), an early Christian apologist devoted his days and nights to Bible reading, so much so that he even memorized much of its punctuation.... Thomas Cramer (1489-1556 A.D.), a leader of the English Reformation could repeat the entire New Testament from memory. Theodore Beza (1519-1605 A.D.), a French theologian who played an important role in the early Reformation could repeat all of Paul’s letters in Greek at age 80. Finally, Frances Havergal who wrote my favorite hymn “Take My Life and Let It Be” memorized the entire New Testament, the Psalms, and Isaiah, in her teenage years, and in her later years she memorized the Minor Prophets. She died at the age of 43, and had already committed 12, 935 verses to memory.
[via Counseling One Another]

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

shai linne - "The Perfection of Beauty" ft. Blair Linne (Official Trailer)