Good morning, my friends. Grace and peace to you today.
(Yesterday on the blog: Lost Is Her Treasure But Where Is Her Trust?)
In this one, Chris Hutchinson means to show that “the spirit” and “the letter” of the law are not two competing ways of reading the Bible.
Lauren Washer says, “Sometimes I grow weary of doing good, and I wonder if maybe you can relate. But here’s the thing: we’re not supposed to give up on the good work in front of us. God’s people aren’t allowed to be quitters. If we are in Christ, we are in it for the long-haul. And guess what? We’re not actually very good at this. (Well, maybe you are, and if you are, praise the Lord. But me? It doesn’t come naturally).”
I have known many people who have been concerned that they may be under a curse. Mario Peter addresses that fear in this article from Equip Indian Churches.
Christianity Today recently ran a piece about “Side B Christians,” and Denny Burk engages with it in this article.
Here’s a reflection on what the Lord may do in a life over 20 years.
Women may be the primary audience for this one, but it applies to us all. “Sisters, let’s strive to become women who pray, women who know how to pray on our knees with thanksgiving not only when the trials come, but even before the ‘big’ trials come. Being in the Word and persevering in fervent in prayer are necessary to prepare us for the next trial, the next temptation we´ll face, and the next deliverance we’ll see. Let us strive to become women who pray at all times.”
It is clear: the testimony of a single witness cannot be the determining factor in charging a pastor with wrongdoing.
The weakest faith gets the same strong Christ as does the strongest faith. —Sinclair Ferguson
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By Tim Challies — 4 months ago
May the Lord bless and keep you today.
This week at Westminster Books you’ll find a sale on “memorable stories, delightful characters, gospel help” for kids.
I Searched for the Key to Discipleship
“Discipleship isn’t nice, crisp books or carefully planned mission trips. It’s something altogether more intimate, more demanding, and more sacrificial. And once I realized that the people around me were showing me how discipleship works, I started to see it everywhere.”
What Does it Mean to Pray ‘Your Will Be Done’?
Colin Smith: “If you are confused about the will of God you are not alone. One reason for the confusion is that we speak of God’s will in three different ways. Distinguishing between them will help to clear the confusion and enable us to pray ‘Your will be done,’ with greater meaning and understanding.”
In a somewhat similar vein: “A lot of us spend our time trying to read that book called ‘The Secret Things’ while all the time the book called ‘The Things Revealed’ is sitting right in front of us. God has given it to us and it belongs to us and to our children so we won’t just read it but also obey it.”
River Cliffs and Reformed Theology
I enjoyed reading this tale of river cliffs and Reformed theology. “The two of us walked, single file, through the coffee gardens. We were seventeen years old, barefoot, wearing swim trunks, and with inflated tire inner-tubes slung over our shoulders. The coffee cherries were ripening and we occasionally reached out, plucked one, and popped it in our mouths. The clear jelly between the red skin and the green coffee bean itself was deliciously sweet. Then the slippery bean itself could be pinched between forefinger and thumb, and launched at distant targets with surprising accuracy.”
5 Biblical Principles for Social Media
Rob Brockman: “Did you realize that you are responsible for your online behaviour as much as you are responsible for your in-person behaviour? There is no distinction between the character of your online avatar and your in-person character. If this is the case, then what can we glean from the scriptures on how we are to behave in the online public square?”
Missionaries, We Are Not Professionals
Dave Hare offers “three warning signs that a missionary might be falling into the trap of professionalism.”
How Changing Your View of Heaven Transforms the Way You Live Today
John Beeson asks, “What are the consequences of getting our view of heaven wrong? Especially when we can’t possibly know who is correct. But what if there are consequences to the way we perceive the afterlife? What would those be?”
Flashback: What’s the Purpose of … the Church?
The local church exists to glorify God through worshipping him, edifying his people, and evangelizing the world.
…the place where the Saviour sees meet to place me must ever be the best place for me. —Robert Murray M’Cheyne
By Tim Challies — 4 months ago
No church can survive solely upon the labors of its pastors. No church can thrive when the expectation is that all ministry must be formal and must originate from the front of the room. No church can remain healthy when it falls to the elders to give and the members to consume. Rather, the work of ministry within a local church is the privilege and responsibility of each of the people who makes that church their own.
One of the most important ministries that any Christian can engage in is also one of the most unheralded. One of the ministries that is key to the functioning of the local church and to advancement in the Christian life is also one of the most overlooked. It is the simplest of all ministries and the least formal, a ministry that each of us is equipped to carry out. It is the ministry of being just a little bit further along.
There is a place in the church and a place in life for expertise and formal training. But there is a much wider place for simple commitment and involvement. The great majority of the help people need as they navigate life’s trials, the great bulk of the counsel people seek as they encounter life’s questions, does not require the input of experts, but merely the attention of someone who knows God and who knows his Word. They do not need someone who has access to the original languages or who exposits Scripture at a post-graduate level. They do not need someone who holds credentials from a Christian counseling organization or who has dedicated a whole lifetime to studying theology. These things are good and have their place, but they are not often truly necessary.
What most people need and long for as they face trials and encounter questions is simply the dedicated attention of someone who is a little bit further along, the listening ear and gentle voice of someone who is a few steps ahead on the path of life, or the path of ministry, or the path of suffering, or the path of parenting. Most are merely seeking someone who will informally mentor them from the perspective of their own successes and failures, their own experiences of good and bad, the godly wisdom they have accumulated along the way.
What’s so wonderful about this ministry is that we can all take it up, for each of us is just a little bit further along than someone else. The father with toddlers is a little bit further along than the father with an infant, the mother who lost a child ten years ago to the one whose child has only just been laid in the grave. The Christian teen has taken a few more steps along the path of life than the child, the Christian senior than the one in her forties. Each of them can prayerfully look back and extend a helping hand, a word of advice, a prayer of intercession, to a person following along behind. Each of them can take up this ministry of blessing and encouragement, of Word and prayer, of time and attention. For they have the one key credential: they are a little bit further along.
By Tim Challies — 3 months ago
There are few churches that have no members who bear painful scars related to domestic abuse. There are few churches where pastors and members are not at times called upon to respond well and wisely to troubling allegations and sorrowful situations. In their book When Home Hurts, Jeremy Pierre and Greg Wilson provide guidance for such times and, as they do so, explain why domestic abuse is so very evil. I, for one, found it very helpful.
“Abuse occurs,” they say, “as a person in a position of greater influence uses his personal capacities to diminish the personal capacities of those under his influence in order to control them.” Physical and spiritual capacities meant to be used to love and build up are used instead to harm and tear down. Thus abuse is identified in two different directions: in the manipulative intent and behavioral forcefulness of the one in a position of influence, and in the diminishing effect on those under his influence. With that in mind, here are five ways in which abuse does particular damage and brings about grievous harm.
Abuse desecrates the personhood of the one being abused. God created each person in his image so we could represent him in the world he made. Every person is privileged by God to use his or her personal capacities to represent God by bringing order and goodness to the world. Where all sin is a failure to be like God in using these personal capacities, abuse goes a step further by diminishing the personal capacities of another person. “An abusive person uses his personal capacities to force other people to deliver on his personal desires. The force he exerts inflicts damage—that is, the effect of weakening someone to make them easier to control.” That damage is what we call trauma, and it has pernicious and long-lasting effects on those who have been victimized.
Abuse is a dangerous reversal of love. God gives us personal strength, but not so we can use it to control others. Rather, God designed us in his image with certain God-like faculties so we could commit them to the purpose of love. “Love is using one’s personal capacities to bring about good for others in the world—ordering it, caring for it, arranging it to bring about the greatest benefit not to oneself, but to other people.” But an abusive person dangerously reverses this design by using his God-like capacities to overpower those faculties in another person, so he can get what he wants. “Instead of using his powers to arrange the world to God’s glory, he uses his powers to arrange the world for his own.”
Abuse is a form of oppression. God hates oppression and expects that we will hate what he hates. So often in Scripture we see God responding to the cries of those who have been oppressed and in like manner we ought to respond to their cries. When God delivers us from the oppression of sin he calls us to oppose sin in our own lives, sin in the church, and sin in the world. In other words, “we begin to respond as God does when we see sin, including the sin of human oppression. God sees the oppressed, hears their cries, and acts with compassion, mercy, and justice. He tells us we should do the same.”
Abuse warps the purpose of marriage. The reversal of love that comes part and parcel with abuse is particularly dangerous in marriage because of marriage’s unique design. God calls a husband to use his unique and complementary strengths to build up his wife. “God intends a man to take the initiative in spending his efforts for the good of his wife. Her good is to be formed not into the image of her husband’s preferences, but rather into what God determines for her individual calling to look like Jesus Christ.” But abuse takes what can be used so powerfully for good and uses it for evil. “When a husband leads by using his capacities for the opposite purpose, for belittling his wife, he harms her in particularly destructive ways. And God holds him to stricter account. What makes domestic abuse a particularly cruel form of violence is that the home is supposed to be the place where personhood blossoms into its greatest potential. When home hurts, the world suffers.” (Of course there are occasions in which a wife is the perpetrator rather than victim of domestic abuse, but those are very rare compared to the opposite.)
Abuse corrupts the witness of church. In God’s design, families are not fully independent and self-contained units, but are accountable to a wider community—to the church. A family that hides and insulates itself from community influence puts its members at greater risk. And in situations of domestic abuse, the family often does that very thing—it insulates itself from the oversight and accountability of the local church. “God made the church to be the Spirit-indwelled people of the Word who are together learning to love what God loves and to hate what God hates. The beliefs and values conveyed in the pages of Scripture find their embodiment in living people. Jesus wanted the church to be the one type of community in all the world that demonstrates authority as self-emptying service for the good of those under it. In the church, greatness is demonstrated in servanthood.” But when abuse is present or, worse, tolerated, the church is denying God’s perspective and hindering victims of abuse from finding their bearings. To the contrary, When abuse is foreign and outrageous to God’s people, the church is reinforcing God’s perspective and assisting victims in gaining their bearings and healing their hearts.
You can learn more about domestic abuse, what it involves, and how you can help those suffering from it in When Home Hurts.