Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Help

I needed to hear this today. You just might need to hear it, too.
I will help you. Isaiah 41:10
“Let us hear the Lord Jesus speak to each one of us: ‘I will help you. It is but a small thing for me, your God, to help you. Consider what I have done already. What! not help you? Why, I bought you with my blood. What! not help you? I have died for you; and if I have done the greater, will I not do the less? Help you! It is the least thing I will ever do for you. I have done more, and will do more. Before the world began I chose you. I made the covenant for you. I laid aside my glory and became a man for you, I gave up my life for you; and if I did all this, I will surely help you now. In helping you, I am giving you what I have bought for you already. If you had need of a thousand times as much help, I would give it to you; you require little compared with what I am ready to give. ‘Tis much for you to need, but it is nothing for me to bestow. Help you? Fear not! If there were an ant at the door of your granary asking for help, it would not ruin you to give him a handful of your wheat; and you are nothing but a tiny insect at the door of my all-sufficiency. I will help you.’
O my soul, is not this enough? Do you need more strength than the omnipotence of the United Trinity? Do you want more wisdom than exists in the Father, more love than displays itself in the Son, or more power than is manifest in the influences of the Spirit? Bring here your empty pitcher! Surely this well will fill it. Haste, gather up your needs, and bring them here – your emptiness, your woes, your needs. Behold, this river of God is full for your supply; what can you desire beside? Go forth, my soul, in this your might. The Eternal God is your helper.”
Charles Haddon Spurgeon

HT: RO

Application On Your Knees

On Sunday we considered 1 Corinthian 13. It's not just (or even mainly) for wedding day readings and homilies. It's for the church. And it's convicting. If you want your love to grow like the Apostle Paul describes it in that chapter, what do you do?

Two follow up thoughts:
  1. Focus on God's great love for us in Christ. Spend a lot of time reading about and thinking about and meditating on and reminding yourself of the love of God for us, his people. "In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10). Spend less time focusing on how others have failed to love you. Spend less time focusing on how you have failed or succeeded in loving others. Drink deeply at the well. You'll be well-watered and full to overflowing, ready to share his love whenever the opportunity arises.
  2. Pray that love down into your soul. When you want to grow in heart-level affection-love that overflows into ground-level action-love, you can't just flip a switch. Only God can give us that kind of love. No wonder there are prayers like this in the Bible (may I suggest that you memorize these and make them a regular part of your prayers for yourself and your family and our church?): 
Psalm 90:14
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Ephesians 3:14-21
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith--that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Philippians 1:9-11
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
If we're going to get busy living out the love described in 1 Corinthians 13, we need to start by looking up and kneeling down. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Don't You Dare...

Joni Eareckson Tada talked recently about her own experience of receiving the well-meaning, but unhelpful words of friends shortly after her diving accident that left her paralyzed. Then she gave some advice on how to help those who are hurting (emphasis added). It's priceless.
Q: When you were in the hospital room, in despair about becoming a quadriplegic through your diving accident, were some comments people made—with good intentions—hugely irritating?
I had many well-meaning friends my age who said well-meaning things, but they were uninformed because the Bible says weep with those who weep. Many friends would say to me, from Romans 8:28, “Joni, all things fit together to a pattern for good.” Or, from James 1:3, “Welcome this trial as a friend.” Or, from Romans 5, “Rejoice in suffering.” These are good and right and true biblical mandates, but when your heart is being wrung out like a sponge, sometimes the 16 good biblical reasons as to why all this has happened to you sting like salt in the wound. When people are going through great trauma, great grief, they don’t want answers. Because answers don’t reach the problems where it hurts in the gut, in the heart.
Q: What does help?
When I was a little girl, I remember riding my bike down a steep hill. I made a right-hand turn. My wheels skidded out on gravel and I crashed to the ground. My knee was a bloody mess. My dad comes running out. I’m screaming and crying. Although I didn’t ask why, if I had, how cruel it would have been for my father to stand over me and say, “Well, sweetheart, let me answer that question. The next time you’re going down the hill, watch the steepness, be careful about the trajectory of your turn, be observant of gravel.” Those would all have been good answers to the question, “Why did this happen?” But when people are going through great trauma and great grief, they don’t want to know why. They want Daddy to pick them up, press them against his chest, pat them on the back, and say, “There, there, sweetheart, Daddy’s here. It’s OK.” When we are hurting, that’s what we want. We want God to be Daddy: warm, compassionate, real, in the middle of our suffering. We want fatherly assurance that our world is not spinning out of control.
Q: When you were in the hospital, what from your friends did sink in?
One night my high school friend Jackie, with whom I shared boyfriends, milkshakes, and hockey sticks, came into the hospital late one night, like 2 in the morning, past visiting hours. The nurses were on break. No one was in the hallway. She crept up the steps of the hospital, snuck in the back way, came into my six-bed ward. I was with five other spinal-cord-injured girls who were all asleep. My friend came sneaking into the room, crawling on her hands and knees. She came over to my bed, stood up slowly, and lowered the guard rail of the hospital bed. Just like high schoolers will do on pajama sleepovers, she climbed into bed next to me, snuggled real close, and softly began to sing: “Man of sorrows, what a name. For the Son of God who came, ruined sinners to reclaim. Hallelujah, what a Savior.”
Hallelujah … I get choked up thinking about it 45 years later. She gave me something that night that was priceless. She helped me encounter Jesus Christ in a warm and personal way. That’s how precious the body of Christ is to healing the hearts of those who are hurting, to come up close to them, to infuse into their spiritual veins life, hope, healing, health. That’s what Jackie gave me that night. She gave me Jesus in a real and personal way. That’s really what I needed. ... Don’t you dare be caught rejoicing with those who weep. Weep with those who weep.
HT: JT

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Are You Toying With An Affair?

If so, you need Proverbs 5. Like, now. It's strong medicine and shock therapy. Then please go read this personal testimony to the wisdom of Proverbs 5.

Even if you're not toying with an affair, you need Proverbs 5. It's vitamins to guard against spiritual immunosuppression. You need all the defenses and offenses the Bible offers in your fight against the powers of sexual temptation.

If you think you could never toy with an affair, read this. Then humbly flip back to Proverbs 5. God opposes the proud, but gives marriage-protecting, marriage-sweetening grace to the humble. 

HT: JT

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Listen To Your President, Church



It is sadly ironic that such a powerful pro-life message is on the lips of such a pro-choice President. May God mercifully grant him eyes to see how desperately these convictions need to work back down into the womb.

And we, the Church, need to listen to the call to a dogged, persistent, it-doesn't-matter-how-complicated-the-politics-are engagement on these issues.

Listen to your President, Church: 
"We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. But that cannot be an excuse for inaction."
"If there is even one step we can take to save another child, surely we have an obligation to try."
"Are we really prepared to say that we are powerless in the face of such carnage; that the politics are too hard?!"
"Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?"  
Newtown was a horrible, horrible tragedy. We are rightly outraged over the 26 lives that were cruelly snuffed out. We ought to be heartbroken for their grief-ridden families.

If we feel this way about this tragedy (and we should!), how should we feel about the more than 50 million lives that have been cruelly snuffed out since 1973? If this is the public and national response to the carnage in Newtown, what should be the response to the ongoing, legalized carnage that takes place every day, "year after year after year," in every state in the Union?

This Sunday is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. A Door of Hope is a ministry worthy of our prayers and support. They put this video together for this upcoming Sunday.

HT: JT

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Song for Fathers. A Song for Sons.

Jeremiah 6:16
Thus says the LORD:
Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. ...

(Andrew Peterson, "You'll Find Your Way" from the album, Light For the Lost Boy)


John 14:6
Jesus said to him,
I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Matthew 11:28-30
[Jesus said,]
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
 HT: JT

Monday, January 7, 2013

Fighting Cancer With A Song

Yesterday we sang the song "10,000 Reasons" by Matt Redman. Beth leaned over and said, "That's one of Chase's favorite songs. There is a video of him singing it on Ellie's blog." I made a note on my bulletin to find that video and watch it.

Bob & Ellie Ewoldt are folks we know from Grace Church of DuPage. Their story is sopping wet with grace...and trials and sorrows. Their 3 year old son Chase has been fighting cancer since this past summer. Ellie has blogged consistently through this ordeal. You would not regret taking some time to read through her posts.

We have been praying for them as a family. Last night Beth read us a couple of recent updates from the blog before we prayed. We cried. We blessed God for the grace he's poured out on this family. I thought I would share the blessing of "knowing" them, and give you the opportunity to join with us in prayer.

Here's the video of Chase singing "10,000 Reasons."



I love that he's wielding a sword. Reminds me of this message by John Piper. I hope you go and listen to it.

Pray for Chase. As you can read here, today is a big day.

Friday, January 4, 2013

When Friends Fail You

Ever had a friend fail you? A Christian friend no less? Jesus has something to say to that. The gospel has something to say to that.

I read this post by John Piper a little while back and made a note to share it on the blog. Lots of good, practical, gospel wisdom here: 
My most recent message struck a chord with many when I spoke of Christian friends letting you down. I argued that sometimes they forsake you never to return — like Demas. He loved “the present world,” and so abandoned the great apostle who craved the Lord’s appearing more than he craved the world (2 Timothy 4:8).
And, even more relevant, we saw that many friends let you down but can and should remain your friends and your partners in ministry. Paul said that nobody from his team or from the church in Rome showed up to stand by him at his trial (2 Timothy 4:16). Nobody. Not Luke or Eubulus or Pudens or Linus or Claudia or any of “the brothers” (2 Timothy 4:21).
Nevertheless Paul graciously includes them with himself in greeting Timothy, and writes, “May it not be charged against them!” (2 Timothy 4:16). Amazing. Beautiful. Their fellowship survived this painful moment of abandonment.
After the sermon one of my own partners in ministry, Amanda Knoke, Director of Communications at Bethlehem, pointed me to C. S. Lewis’s wise words on this issue. Here’s what he said to “An American Lady.”
I think what one has to remember when people “hurt” one is that in 99 cases out of a 100 they intended to hurt very much less, or not at all, and are often quite unconscious of the whole thing. I’ve learned this from the cases in which I was the “hurter.” When I have been really wicked and angry and meant to be nasty, the other party never cared or even didn’t notice. On the other hand, when I have found out afterwards that I had deeply hurt someone, it has nearly always been quite unconscious on my part. (C. S. Lewis, Letters to an American Lady, Grand Rapids, 1967, 57)
Amanda connected this with Proverbs. 19:11, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.”
Yes. And we should keep our eyes fixed on Jesus who was abandoned by all 11 of his apostles, and was denied by Peter. Then he built the church on them!
We look to Jesus not only because he was the great model of holding onto friends who let him down, but also because he died and rose again to be the joyful bond of broken and restored friendships.
So keep Jesus before your eyes, and pray this into your heart: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” (1 Corinthians 13:7–8).
Whatever you do, don’t let the failure of your Christian friends become the basis for abandoning the one Friend who never fails.
Amen.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Plan Your Diet and Menu For 2013

What would happen to you in 2013 if you never planned to eat? What if you failed to stock the cupboards and the fridge with cereal and milk or oatmeal and fruit (or whatever floats your breakfast boat) and woke up each morning hoping there was something left over from yesterday's last minute run to Dunkin Donuts? What if you arrived at 6pm each night and didn't have a dinner plan? What if you never planned ahead for the grocery store? I know, I know. In our microwave, fast-food, easy-access grocery store and restaurant world, you can get by with very little culinary planning. Not many bachelors die of starvation. The point is that we don't eat well if we don't plan for it.

How well did you "eat" in 2012? If you could look in a special mirror and your soul became a visible body, what kind of shape would it be in? Would it look anemic and weak? Would it look strong and healthy?

Matthew 4:4
[Jesus] answered, "It is written, "'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"
Do you have a plan yet for 2013? Here is a great list of some really helpful options. This is not a box-checking, belt-notching issue. This is a soul health and strength issue. This is a "Will I live a barren, chaff-like existence or fruitful tree-like existence in 2013?" issue.

If you're not a big reader, there are plenty of audio options available. Beth prefers to listen to the Bible (and sometimes also to follow along) in the morning. She usually uses biblegateway.com. If audio works better for you, you can even subscribe to your daily Bible reading in podcast form (see again this link to learn how to do it). You can really leverage the audio option if you've got any kind of commute above 5 minutes. Believe it or not, it only takes 75 hours to listen to the entire Bible! In other words, if your commute is 15 minutes one way, you could listen to the entire Bible...in a year...listening on only the inbound or outbound leg of the journey! Or, how long does it take for you to make the coffee and eat breakfast? 15 minutes? One year. The whole Bible. Over breakfast. The news can wait.

May I draw attention to the obvious? One of our main excuses for not reading the Bible is "I don't have time." This is a really lame excuse. It's simply not true. It just feels like it's true. But that's because we don't plan to "eat."

And...underneath the planning and discipline issues are the desire issues. We're simply not hungry enough. Or, we're hungry for the wrong things (Does anyone need to bug you to try to find 15 minutes a day to keep up on Facebook or keep up with the sports page or your favorite news feed?). If it's important enough, you'll find a way. Necessity is the mother of invention.
"Ah, the guilt trip! Excellent! Is your next post going to chide me for eating too many sweets over the holidays?"
Guilt tripping isn't going to carry you very far into 2013. That's certainly not my intention. My intention is to encourage you to be intentional about feeding your soul in 2013. My intention is to encourage you to pray for hunger and fight for your faith. The point is not to wag an accusing finger in your face. The point is to point you to The Fountain and The Food your soul needs.

Isaiah 55:1-3:
Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live...
You may need to fast from some other things that tend to stuff your soul. You may need to drag yourself to the Word so that your appetite gets whetted for what is good. But whatever you do, pray for hunger and plan to eat.