"Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." (Romans 5:3-5)There are several references to trials and suffering that begin with a call to rejoice. I don't know about you but my first and gut reaction to suffering is not to rejoice. Maybe that is why we are commanded to rejoice! We can rejoice in suffering when we make the connection between suffering and growth. Suffering is not the only way, but is not an unusual way and maybe even the normal way God produces growth in us.
The thoughts and reflections of one who is passionate about Jesus and struggles with sin just like everyone else.
Thursday, February 23, 2012
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
The Nature of the New Birth
Read this great little book recently and wanted to post this quote as it makes a significant statement about the new birth. First is that when one is born again, it results in new desires and not just new duties. What Chester means by this is that when we come to faith in Christ, God takes out the heart of stone and gives us a heart of flesh. A stone heart is a non-living heart and is spiritually unresponsive to God. So the new birth is the giving of a new heart and a new nature that includes new desires and new delights and new treasures that are consistent with this new heart and new nature. Theses new desires, appetites, and delights, are what produces new behavior that is consistent with those desires. For instance, the heart of a Christ follower is to want to follow him in obedience, so they obey because they want to not because they have to do so.
Saturday, February 18, 2012
From Jared Wilson at Gospel Drive Church -
7 Ways to Kill the Thanksgiving Impulse in Your Life
“Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”This is an excellent recipe for what it itself describes: a Spiritual settling of the heart, thankfulness, closeness to God. But let’s suppose you didn’t want those things, you didn’t want to be thankful in all circumstances (as God commands through Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5). How would you design your system in order to crush any impulse of thanksgiving in your heart?
– Philippians 4:5-7
1. Freak out about everything.
Let your unreasonableness be known to everyone. Be unreasonable about everything. Turn everything into drama, everything into a crisis.
2. Practice practical atheism.
The Lord is at hand, which is certainly something to be thankful for. Our God isn’t just transcendent, but immanent. He wants to be known. You could therefore intellectually acknowledge God is there, but act like he’s not. Assume he has no interest in you or your life. If you pretend like God’s not there, you don’t have to thank him for anything.
3. Coddle worry.
Be anxious about everything. Really protect your worry from the good news.
4. Give God the silent treatment.
The best way not to give thanks is not to talk at all. That way you’ll never give thanks accidentally.
5. Don’t expect anything from God.
Don’t trust him for anything. Normally we do this so we don’t have to feel disappointed, but another reason to do it is so he won’t give you anything to be thankful for. If you pray for something, he just might say yes, and then you’d be obligated to thank him.
6. Relentlessly try to figure everything out.
The peace of God is beyond our understanding. He is bigger than our capacity to grasp him. The closer we get to God, the bigger he gets. An immense vision creates immense reaction. So if you want to crush that reaction before it has a chance to start, ask as many “why” questions as you can, and don’t settle for the answers Job or Habakkuk or David did. Best to think you’re better than them and deserve an explanation from God. If you really want to kill thanksgiving, act like God owes you. Leave no room for the possibility you might not know or understand something. And one of the best ways to crush thankfulness is to take credit for everything you can.
7. Focus on anything other than the gospel of Jesus.
God owes us nothing but has given us every good thing in Christ. If you’re not interested in thanksgiving, by all means, pay no attention to that. Concentrate on your problems. Don’t concentrate on Jesus, or you might accidentally end up thankful in all circumstances.
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
A kind of explosion of joy
“There has been a long tradition which sees the mission of the Church primarily as obedience to a command. It has been customary to speak of ‘the missionary mandate.’ This way of putting the matter is certainly not without justification, and yet it seems to me that it misses the point. It tends to make mission a burden rather than a joy, to make it part of the law rather than part of the gospel. If one looks at the New Testament evidence one gets another impression. Mission begins with a kind of explosion of joy. The news that the rejected and crucified Jesus is alive is something that cannot possibly be suppressed. It must be told. Who could be silent about such a fact? The mission of the Church in the pages of the New Testament is more like the fallout from a vast explosion, a radioactive fallout which is not lethal but life-giving.”
Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society (Grand Rapids, 1989), page 116.
The mission of the church is inseparable from the renewal of the church.
Monday, February 13, 2012
Seeing Christ in the Old Testament
Nancy Guthrie on seeing Christ in the Old Testament:
Luke 24:27). It caused me to reconsider how I have understood the Old Testament for most of my life. I spent a year working through the Old Testament, which developed in me a passion to create materials for Bible study groups to understand how Jesus is pictured in its people and patterns, how he is anticipated in its celebrations and songs, and how he is the answer to all of its unanswered questions and unmet needs.
Sunday, February 12, 2012
How Christians Should View the Law of God
reflecting on 1 Corinthians 9:21—along with Romans 6:15 and Galatians 3:10-11—writes that though the Christian “is not ‘under’ the law (as a way to earn salvation) he now is freed to see the beauties of God’s law as fulfilled in Christ, and submits to it as way of loving his Savior.”
I would want to tweak the first part of this just a bit. I think “under the law” should be glossed as “under the old age of redemptive history where the Mosaic law covenant was in effect.” However, those who want to “turn back the clock on redemptive history” do subjectively end up depending on the law for salvation, so I think Keller’s reading here is ultimately legitimate.
In the article Keller goes on to outline six ways that Christians relate to the law:
In the article Keller goes on to outline six ways that Christians relate to the law:
- We embrace the law of God in order to learn more about who our God really is.
- We embrace the law of God in order to discover our true selves.
- We understand the law of God as fulfilled in Christ.
- We realize that the law’s painful, convicting work is ultimately a gracious thing.
- We turn to the law of God in order to get a true definition of what it means to love others in our relationships and in society as a whole.
- We turn to the law of God because sometimes we need to do things just because God says so.
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
PRivate Funding Dropped for Planned Parenthood!
From Joe Carter, an editor for The Gospel Coalition and the co-author of How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator.
Susan G. Komen Drops Funding for Planned Parenthood
The Story: The Associated Press reports that Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the nation's leading breast-cancer charity, will cut off its partnership through which it provided cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood clinics. According to Planned Parenthood, Komen grants totaled roughly $680,000 last year and $580,000 the year before, funding at least 19 Planned Parenthood affiliates. Komen told the AP that it ended its partnership with Planned Parenthood because of a congressional investigation into the organization.
The Background: The House Energy and Commerce Committee is investigating Planned Parenthood because of allegations of abuses ranging from financial disparities to its compliance with federal regulations on taxpayer funding to concerns that it is covering up cases of sex trafficking.
As Christianity Today notes, "activists on both sides of the abortion fight are speculating on the involvement of Karen Handel, Komen's senior vice president of public policy, in the decision." When Handel, the former secretary of state of Georgia, ran for governor in 2010, part of her platform was to eliminate state grants to Planned Parenthood.
What It Means: Planned Parenthood contends that the Komen foundation is yielding to longstanding pressure from anti-abortion groups, which Komen denies, says the New York Times.
As the NYT notes, "Anti-abortion advocates and Web sites have criticized the Komen foundation's financing of Planned Parenthood for years. And in December, LifeWay Christian Resources, which is owned by the Southern Baptist Convention, said it was recalling a pink Bible it was selling at Walmart and other stores because a dollar per copy was going to the Komen foundation and the foundation supported Planned Parenthood."
[Note: If you find a story our community should know about, please send the link to joe.carter *at* thegospelcoalition.org.]
Why Christians Should not Marry an Unbeliever
Don't Take It from Me: Reasons You Should Not Marry an Unbeliever
That way, I could skip all the Bible passages that urge singles only to "marry in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 7:39) and not "be unequally yoked" (2 Corinthians 6:14) and the Old Testament proscriptions against marrying the foreigner, a worshiper of a god other than the God of Israel (see Numbers 12 where Moses marries a woman of another race but the same faith). You can find those passages in abundance, but when someone has already allowed his or her heart to become engaged with a person outside the faith, I find that the Bible has already been devalued as the non-negotiable rule of faith and practice.
Instead, variants of the serpent's question to Eve---"Did God really say?" are floated, as if somehow this case might be eligible for an exemption, considering how much they love each other, how the unbeliever supports and understands the Christian's faith, how they are soul-mates despite the absence of a shared soul-faith.
Having grown weary and impatient, I want to snap and say, "It won't work, not in the long run. Marriage is hard enough when you have two believers who are completely in harmony spiritually. Just spare yourself the heartache and get over it." Yet such harshness is neither in line with the gentleness of Christ, nor convincing.
Sadder and WiserIf only I could pair those sadder and wiser women---and men---who have found themselves in unequal marriages (either by their own foolishness or due to one person finding Christ after the marriage had already occurred) with the blithely optimistic singles who are convinced that their passion and commitment will overcome all obstacles. Even the obstacle of bald disobedience need not apply to them. Only ten minutes of conversation---one minute if the person is really succinct--would be necessary. In the words of one woman who was married to a perfectly nice man who did not share her faith: "If you think you are lonely before you get married, it's nothing compared to how lonely you can be AFTER you are married!"
Really, this might be the only effective pastoral approach: to find a man or woman who is willing to talk honestly about the difficulties of the situation and invite them into a counseling ministry with the about-to-make-a-big-mistake unequal couple. As an alternative, perhaps some creative filmmaker would be willing to run around the country, filming individuals who are living with the pain of being married to an unbeliever, and create a montage of 40 or 50 short (< 5 minutes) first-hand accounts. The collective weight of their stories would be powerful in a way that no second-hand lecture ever would be.
Three True OutcomesFor the moment, though, here goes: There are only three ways an unequal marriage can turn out, (and by unequal I am willing to stretch a point and include genuine, warm Christians who want to marry an in-name-only Christian, or someone very, very far behind them in Christian experience and growth):
- In order to be more in sync with your spouse, the Christian will have to push Christ to the margins of his or her life. This may not involve actually repudiating the faith, but in matters such as devotional life, hospitality to believers (small group meetings, emergency hosting of people in need), missionary support, tithing, raising children in the faith, fellowship with other believers---those things will have to be minimized or avoided in order to preserve peace in the home.
- Alternatively, if the believer in the marriage holds on to a robust Christian life and practice, the non-believing PARTNER will have to be marginalized. If he or she can't understand the point of Bible study and prayer, or missions trips, or hospitality, then he or she can't or won't participate alongside the believing spouse in those activities. The deep unity and oneness of a marriage cannot flourish when one partner cannot fully participate in the other person's most important commitments.
- So either the marriage experiences stress and breaks up; or it experiences stress and stays together, achieving some kind of truce that involves one spouse or the other capitulating in some areas, but which leaves both parties feeling lonely and unhappy.
Our ExperienceFull disclosure: One of our sons began spending time a few years back with a secular woman from a Jewish background. He heard us talk about the sorrows (and disobedience) of being married to a non-Christian for years, so he knew it wasn't an option (something we reminded him of quite forcefully). Nevertheless, their friendship grew and developed into something more. To his credit, our son told her: "I can't marry you unless you are a Christian, and you can't become a Christian just to marry me. I'll sit with you in church, but if you are serious about exploring Christianity you will have to do it on your own---find your own small group, read books, talk to people other than me."
Fortunately, she is a woman of great integrity and grit, and she set herself to looking into the truth claims of the Bible. As she grew closer to saving faith, to our surprise our son began growing in his faith in order to keep up with her! She said to me one day, "You know, your son should never have been seeing me!"
She did come to faith, and he held the water when she was baptized. The next week he proposed, and they have been married for two and a half years, both growing, both struggling, both repenting. We love them both and are so grateful that she is both in our family and also in the body of Christ.
I only mention the above personal history because so many of our friends in the ministry have seen different outcomes---children who marry outside the faith. The takeaway lesson for me is that even in pastoral homes, where the things of God are taught and discussed, and where children have a pretty good window on seeing their parents counsel broken marriages, believing children toy with relationships that grow deeper than they expect, ending in marriages that don't always have happy endings. If this is true in the families of Christian leaders, what of the flock?
We need to hear the voices of men and women who are in unequal marriages and know to their sorrow why it is not merely a disobedient choice, but an unwise one.
Kathy Keller serves as assistant director of communications for Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. She is co-author with her husband, Tim, of The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God.
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