Cries of the Heart – “In the Psalms, David described himself as one wounded and crying in his bed at night. This same David spoke of the happiness that came when he took his cry to the Lord. With that same confidence, let us begin our journey toward a response to the cries of our hearts. We might be surprised to know how much bottled-up sentiment will be uncovered. When God speaks we will not respond by saying, ‘Don’t say a thing;’ rather, we can rest in God’s comfort, knowing that God has bothered to hear our cries, to know our tragedies, and to come near in our need.”

Brennan Manning & Me – Writing on Brennan Manning’s death, the author gives a moving tribute and states “If you read him, please remember that the Holy Spirit is working through him in spite of all his personal failings. Thank God, because that’s how He works in all of us.”

Ware on Louisville Teammate – Kevin Ware’s injury was part of the national conversation about the NCAA tournament. Too bad what his teammate did in response was not also as widely told. (H/T)

The Sage’s Lament – It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the sheer volume of material that is published. Tim Challies (with a little help from Thomas Manton) reminds us of the opportunity that lies therein.

Why Does God Command Us to Serve Him? – “God doesn’t [need] anything.  He doesn’t need our worship, our work or our money.  So why does God command us to worship, serve, and give our money to him?”

How Tim Keller Made Peace With the Wrath of God – “Because if there is no wrath by God on sin, and there is no such thing as Hell, not only does that actually make what happened to Jesus inexplicable—Jesus staggering the way He is, asking God, “Is there any other way?” [and] sweating blood means that He was wimpier than hundreds of His followers, if there was nothing like [God’s wrath]—but…the main thing is, if you don’t believe in the wrath and Hell, it trivializes what He’s done.” (H/T)

9 Things You Should Know About Margaret Thatcher – The Iron Lady died recently. Here are some things you may be surprised to learn, including the fact that she helped develop soft-serve ice cream.

In Focus

April 9, 2013 — Leave a comment
©iStockphoto.com/halbergman

©iStockphoto.com/halbergman

Throughout Scripture Christians are commanded to love and serve other people (See John 13:34-35Gal 5:14; Phil. 2:1-11) . Other believers are to receive first priority when it comes to our efforts (Gal. 6:10, but that does not negate our responsibility to extend this commitment to anyone God places in our path. Our commitment to Christ is reflected in how we treat others (John 13:35) and therefore how we treat others should regularly reflect our growing sanctification.

The challenge is that a lot of times this commitment to love and serve others can be inconvenient, to say the least. We have our own priorities and obligations and we wonder how we are going to achieve all that we want to if we are constantly focusing on those around us. However, as I was reminded recently, one of the reasons that the Christian is able to keep their eye out for how they can serve others is because they are confident that God is keeping His eyes on them. We don’t need to worry about who is taking care of us because the Creator and Sustainer of all things has us firmly in His hands (John 10:28).

It’s easy to spout these truths; many Christians have heard them since they were children in Sunday School. However, our degree of trust in them is displayed based on how we conduct our lives. If we are constantly focused on making sure our needs are met and our goals are achieved than its unlikely that we will have time to focus on others. If instead we trust that God is focusing His attention on us and there is no one who can provide for us better than Him, than we are free to walk as Jesus did – seeking out those who are in need and extending ourselves in order to serve and love them.

Just as God ensures that the sun is going to rise (Mt. 5:45) and that the flowers are going to bloom (Lk. 12:27), He has promised that He will provide for the needs of His children (Lk. 12:22-31). Instead of worrying about these things, He wants us to be focused on how we can be His ambassadors of love to those lives which He causes to intersect with our own. As we do so He gives us the double blessing of being used by Him to accomplish His purposes. And what better thing is there to focus on than that?

Three More Thoughts – “I fear that younger Christians may not have the stomach for disagreement or the critical mind for careful reasoning. We’re going to need a good dose of the fundamentalist obstinacy that most evangelicals love to lampoon. The challenge before the church is to convince ourselves, as much as anyone, that believing the Bible does not make us bigots, just as reflecting the times does not make us relevant.”

The Amazing Call of Being Mom” – “We don’t need to shed this God-given title of “Mom.” We are called to maximize what it means for the glory of Christ. We can embrace our role without grumbling and with the full assurance of God’s sovereign goodness. God promises that as we shine light into this world (and that includes our kids) we will know that our labor was not in vain (Philippians 2:12–16).”

You Could Give Up, or Do This – “The reality is, God constantly places us in situations that are far beyond our ability to bear. He places us smack dab in the middle of befuddling, perplexing, overwhelming, even crushing circumstances. Why does God do this? To humble us. To make us painfully aware that we cannot make it through this life apart from him. To highlight our desperate dependence on him. God strips us of our own strength to make us totally reliant upon his strength.”

We Hear What We Are Trained To Hear -“According to Jesus, there are two kinds of hearing. This is what Jesus means when he says, ‘If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear’ (Mark 4:23). Jesus calls us beyond recognizing sounds to obeying or responding or discerning the meaning of the sounds.”

Lay Aside Every Weight – “Could it be that you’re not taking this race seriously enough? You can tell by how much extra weight you’re trying to run with.”

Anytime

April 8, 2013 — 2 Comments

I will cast all my cares upon You.

I will lay all of my burdens down at Your feet. 

And anytime I don’t know what to do – 

I will cast all my cares upon You. 

The above words are lyrics to a song that I learned when I was a child. Although the song used to be part of a regular rotation in my church experience, I haven’t sung it with a congregation in years. Regardless of that fact, it has been on repeat in my head over the past week. Late at night, early in the morning, and at all times in between, the words reverberate inside my head.

As I sing these familiar lyrics again, I have been concentrating on the third line. When your a child it seems so easy to sing that anytime I don’t know what to do, I will turn to Jesus. Yet as we grow up, we are quick to think we have things under control. “Anytime” becomes “whenever I think I need Your help.” Instead of turning to Him the moment I don’t know what to do, I’m quick to try to figure it out on my own. I consider the possibilities, I weigh the options, and I try to discern what I think the best thing to do is. Of course, somewhere in there, usually when I’m stuck and can’t figure out the right alternative, then I turn to Jesus. My commitment to turn to Him when I’m unsure of what to do is pushed aside by my pride and self-determination. He becomes my last resort, instead of my first recourse.

Yet this is not what Christ desires. He is eager to hear our prayers and is in fact advocating on our behalf to the Heavenly Father (see I John 2:1). As the incarnate God He not only knows what it is like to deal with the struggles of this life, He has the perspective of Heaven to guide and direct us in our way. Despite this, I often choose to duke it out on my own instead of turning to Him at the first hint of uncertainty. I imagine He shakes His head in disappointment with my tendencies. He is eager to help, yet I vainly try to do it by myself.

As God has brought these words to my mind time and time again in recent days, I’m been concentrating on fighting my prideful inclinations. When I start to be concerned with some piece of my uncertain future, I am trying to train myself to go to Him first – to tell Him of my concerns instead of dissecting them in my head. I remind myself that while I don’t know what to do, He does, and I trust that whatever He provides will be far better than what I would have conjured up on my own. I give Him the situation – and ask Him to work in it  – to reveal the solution He desires rather than asking Him what He thinks of my plans. As I do so – as I turn to Him first and early – I find the weight of whatever burden I’m bearing is quickly lifted. I have given it to the One who can carry it further and better than I. And because I have placed it in His hands, I can have confidence that He will work within the circumstance to bring Himself glory.

Anytime. It is such a simple yet profound word. And as I trust God with each moments of the day – both the present ones and the ones that are to come – I find that He is there to handle them, at any time.

The Bottom Line of Christian Ministry – “Every field of life and labor has a bottom line. In business, it is making money, earning profits, and increasing revenue. In education, it is passing tests, making grades, or earning a degree. In sports, it is winning games, awards, and championships. Everything has a bottom line.” So, what is it for ministry?  (H/T)

Running the Race, Looking to the Finisher – “But we do not look sideways to the saints as we run. Our main motivation comes from looking straight ahead at Jesus. He finished the same race of human life. Only he never sinned, and so his race was perfect. When he finished his race, he finished our salvation. So we run, ‘looking to Jesus, the founder and finisher of our faith.'”

The State of the Bible Infographic – This informative picture helps demonstrate people’s perception of the Bible in the US.  (H/T)

How Do You Treat Your Boss? – “Whether or not your boss loves Jesus shouldn’t change your commitment and work ethic. Christians should be the ones leading by example, setting the bar for what it means to work hard and honor the authority placed over you.”

The One-Year Mark – This was a really sweet post about a family who is fostering two little girls. It is a great reminder to all parents to trust our children to the One who holds their future in His hands.

4 Things to Remember During Unwelcome Work – “Glean what you can from the difficult times, because the truths you learn in the valleys keep your feet steady on the mountaintops. There is a time for everything – even unwelcome work. Look for the hidden blessings.”

 

My Desires vs. His Will

April 4, 2013 — 2 Comments

One of the signs of Christian maturity is that my desires increasingly align with God’s will. After all, if I am truly seeking first His Kingdom than I can trust that what I want and what God desires are the same thing. This is by no means an easy thing to do. Our sinful nature constantly battles against it. But as we do so we find that no only is our heart aligned with God’s purposes and plans, but that “all these things” are added to us as well (see Mt. 6:33).

Pursuing God’s will over my desires becomes a whole new ballgame once you become a parent. It is a natural for a mom or a dad to desire good things for their child’s life – to give their child, as has often been said, a better life than they had. I have had a wonderfully blessed life – wonderful parents, caring friends, a godly and loving spouse, and opportunities that have far exceeded what I would have dreamed of – and I desire all these things – and more – for my little girl.  I want to protect her, to keep her from harm and to promote her happiness. Yet God’s desire for her is not merely that she would be happy but that she would be holy. And as anyone who has walked with God for a while can tell you, holiness is not also engendered through the happiest of means.

This means that sometimes what God wills for her life and what I instinctively desire for her may not be the same thing. It means that I will not be able to protect her from every difficulty or help her overcome every challenge. It even means that I must give up my fleshly expectations in order to pursue heavenly ones. But as I do so, I’m trusting her to the will of a Heavenly Father who loves her more than I could imagine, and whose desire for good things in her life is even greater than my own.

So as I’m contemplating my child’s future, and dreaming dreams on her behalf, I must constantly say “Father, not my will, but Yours be done” and as she grows, I must strive to teach my little one to say the same.

Glorious Weight

April 3, 2013 — Leave a comment

Overwhelmed.

Burdened.

Weighed Down.

As we face the hustle and bustle of our get-it-done lives it can be easy to humbled by our inability to do all that we want.

Our lists grow longer, our concerns become heavier, and we wonder how we are going to face a new day.

Yet as Scripture often reminds us, this life isn’t what we are striving for. Our eyes shouldn’t be primarily focused on the next day, but on that Day. We’re not waiting merely for temporary relief from our problems; we are anticipating the place where there will no more tears and no more pain. Our focus shouldn’t be on the here and now but on the then and there.

This doesn’t mean that the problems we face today aren’t real; Scripture makes it clear that the Christian will face difficulties. Instead, as 2 Corinthians 4:17 states, they are “light and momentary” compared to what is in store for the believer. Not only that, but the burdens we bear here are preparing us for the “weight of glory” that we will encounter there. As any body builder can tell you the way that you prepare to carry a greater weight is by slowly adding to the light amount you are currently able to bear. The loads of pain and sorrow that we shoulder on Earth are making us ready for the capacity of glory that we will sustain in Heaven. The disappointments and difficulties of today are not superfluous to what we will encounter in the next life; they are preparing us for it  – strengthening our faith, building the Fruit of the Spirit into us and yielding the commendation “Well done, good and faithful servant…Enter into the joy of your Master” (Mt. 25:21). The weight there will be glorious; God uses the sorrows here to prepare and strengthen us for it.

This may seem like a disappointment, as we tend to think of Heaven as relief. Hearing about bearing any type of weight sounds like further difficulty and discomfort. This is why the word “glorious” is so important. In Heaven we will be doing what we were created to do – bringing glory to our Heavenly Father. Just like a glass carrying water bears a weight, it doesn’t seem like it to the glass as it is doing what it created for. So it will be in Heaven. Our lives will be fully oriented to pursue the purpose for which God created us and as we do so, we will rejoice and celebrate that we have been counted worthy of such pursuits.

So as we encounter pain and burdens on Earth, let us remember that they are preparing us for our future “occupation.” Let us be glad that we are being strengthened for the “weight” that is to come. And let us remember that the light and momentary afflictions of this life are nothing compared to the glory of Heaven.

 

 

Jesus Christ and Him Crucified – “There’s a lot of emphasis on sharing your stories with others. The reasoning is that people won’t dismiss a personal testimony as easily. I think there is some value in that, because it helps people see that they’re not alone. And how else can you explain “the hope that you have” without sharing your story? But if we let ourselves get too wrapped in our story, it can become more about us and less about God. To a person who is wrestling with some big issues, we can inadvertently make them feel worse.”

Popularity vs. Pleasing God – “If we’re trying to please people through our sharing of the Gospel, then we’re going to end up revising God’s message and taking out the parts about sin and hell. What we’ll be left with is not the Gospel.”

Repentance Should Grow from Relationship – “When coming to God’s Word, it is so important for me to remember that it is the revelation of God Himself to me that is the priority. The avoidance of and repentance from sin is the result of seeking God with all my heart.”

Not A Waste of Time – A wonderful reminder from Edith Schaeffer about hospitality, service and treating others as if we were doing so unto Jesus.

Our National Pastime – Baseball is often maligned and I understand the reasons why, but it will always have a special place in my heart. This post reminds us some of the reasons that baseball is treasured. For example – “Baseball is unique in the pantheon of professional American sports. It’s the only one where time doesn’t end your game. It’s the only one where offense and defense are totally compartmentalized. And it’s the only sport that actually works on radio.”

Present Help

April 2, 2013 — Leave a comment
©iStockphoto.com/FOTOGRAF-77

©iStockphoto.com/FOTOGRAF-77

When I was considering what colleges to apply to, I had one criteria that was probably a little different than most. I cared about the school’s academics, extracurricular activities and residential living areas, but what I found myself repeating most often was that I wanted to go to a college that was far enough away that I wouldn’t be home every weekend but close enough that if my car broke down my dad could come and fix it. It was the last part of that equation that was especially important. If I encountered a mechanical problem I wanted to make sure that my dad could physically be there to give me the help that I knew I would need.

It may seem like an odd condition. After all, mechanics abound and I’m sure that if I chose a college that wasn’t within the designated proximity I could find someone who would be willing to fix my car. And my dad could have always discussed the problem over the phone and try to do some long-distance diagnostics. But what I knew then, even if I didn’t articulate it, is that nothing compares to having the physical presence of the one you trust to help you. My dad could have been my advisor and coach from afar, but he couldn’t actually open the hood of the car, take a look at the engine and get to work. I wanted to know that he would be there providing the assistance, not delegating it to another or providing advice so that I could do it on my home.

Unfortunately, I fear that many times I think God’s help is more like the long-distance dad than like the father who is physically there. I intellectually know that God is able to fix my problems, but instead of expecting Him to figuratively open the hood and get to work, I think that He will provide some appropriate advice that will allow me to dig in and do it myself. Yet Psalm 46:1 tells us that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”  He is not merely providing assistance remotely, hoping that we can figure out what we need to do. He is present, providing us real help in our time of need.

This distinction is important for at least two reasons. First, when I ask God for help I need to have the expectation that He may choose to directly intervene in the situation. I shouldn’t merely anticipate that He will tell me what I should do; instead, He may rectify the problem Himself. This should change not only what I look for when I await solutions; it should also change how I pray when I’m faced with difficulties and concerns.

Secondly, the fact that God is a present help should change my attitude to problems to begin with. It would have been one thing for my car to break down and for me to be able to call my dad and know he’d be there. It would have been an entirely different thing if my dad was in the car with me when the problem occurred. I would have no need for panic or worry; the one who could rectify the situation was right there. He would know exactly what happened and what needed to be done to fix it. He could also provide assurance that everything would be alright, So it is with God when we face breakdowns on our own journey.

Just because God is a “present help” doesn’t mean that we should stop seeking His assistance, assuming that He will know if we need it. If my dad was in the car and it started having problems, I would still ask him to intervene, even if my need for his assistance seemed obvious. Instead, the fact that God is not providing His help from afar should make us seek Him even more diligently, knowing as we do so that He usable to immediately and directly intervene.

 

Why the Resurrection Changes Everything – “Have we, as gospel-centered, gospel-saturated believers, left the resurrection out of our gospel message? I know I am guilty. After reflecting on an opportunity I had to share the gospel with an unbeliever, I suddenly realized that not once had I mentioned, at least in any depth, the resurrection of Christ. I fear that my experience is not my own, but that of evangelicals everywhere. But Paul teaches us that we must come to grips with the biblical reality that the resurrection of Christ cannot be divorced from the death of Christ when we speak about the gospel. Should we separate the two, we will seriously miss the significance of the resurrection for our salvation.”

What Does It Mean for Jesus to Despise Shame? – “Shame was stripping away every earthly support that Jesus had: his friends gave way in shaming abandonment; his reputation gave way in shaming mockery; his decency gave way in shaming nakedness; his comfort gave way in shaming torture. His glorious dignity gave way to the utterly undignified, degrading reflexes of grunting and groaning and screeching.”

The Joy of Being Given More Than You Can You Handle – “We don’t have to hold out for vain consolations that we will eventually muster our own strength and rise to the occasion to prove our competence. Instead, we have blood-bought promises purchased for us through the work of Jesus on the cross.”

Evidences & Resources – Fourteen concise descriptions of evidence of Christ’s resurrection.

Expiation & Propitiation – “Together, expiation and propitiation constitute an act of placation. Christ did His work on the cross to placate the wrath of God. This idea of placating the wrath of God has done little to placate the wrath of modern theologians. In fact, they become very wrathful about the whole idea of placating God’s wrath. They think it is beneath the dignity of God to have to be placated, that we should have to do something to soothe Him or appease Him. We need to be very careful in how we understand the wrath of God, but let me remind you that the concept of placating the wrath of God has to do here not with a peripheral, tangential point of theology, but with the essence of salvation.”