God of endurance and encouragement, we thank you for your Word made flesh, as well as your written Word. We know that what was written long ago was written for our instruction, so that through our endurance and the encouragement we receive from the Scriptures, we may have hope. We praise you for not leaving us in the dark, groping for something to grasp. Instead, you have given us a lamp for our feet and a light for our path, that we might follow our Lord through this shadowy world. Almighty God, use this hope we have as followers of your Son, to enable us live in harmony with fellow Christians so we may raise our voices together to bring you the glory and honor due your name. And we pray that when the rest of the world sees such worship, they too will turn to you and give you praise. For it is in the name of Christ we pray. Amen. (from Romans 15:4-7)
Heavenly Father, we thank you for all your promises in Holy Scripture. Your promises give us hope, assurance, and confidence in the midst of grief, fear, uncertainty, and doubt. We thank you that you so lovingly provide these promises to us and for us. We humbly ask you to give us the faith to believe them and to live our lives as though they have already come to pass, because, in a manner of speaking, they have. For the fulfillment of your promises is certain and we can rest our hearts, minds, and souls upon them. You promise us that your children will one day all worship you together. You promise to teach us your ways so that we may walk in your paths. You promise to judge between the nations and to turn swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks so that, one day, we will know war no more. We pray for these things, even as we rest upon these promises. Come Lord Jesus. Amen. (from Isaiah 2:1-5)
Gracious God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we humbly ask you to fill us with the knowledge of your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. Enable us, Lord, to walk in a manner worthy of you, that we would be fully pleasing in your sight. Please help us to bear fruit in every good work and continually increase in our knowledge of you. Strengthen us with all power according to your glorious might, and with that strength, assist us to endure to the end, with patience and joy. For all of this, and for qualifying us to share in the inheritance of the saints of light, for delivering us from the domain of darkness and transferring us to the kingdom of your beloved Son, in whom we have redemption and forgiveness of sins, we give you our eternal praise and thanksgiving. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen. (from Colossians 1:9-14)
Good and gracious Lord, we give you thanks for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are loved and chosen by you. You saved them through the sanctifying power of your Holy Spirit and thus enabled them to believe in your truth. You called them, and us, through your gospel of grace so that we all may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, Father, fill us now with that same Holy Spirit, so we may stand firm to the end and faithfully hold to the teachings of your Word made flesh and inscripturated. We thank and praise you for your love, eternal comfort, and good hope through your grace. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen. (from 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17)
Gracious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, thank you for your promises. You have promised you will never leave us nor forsake us. You will help us fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith. We know that were we to go one day without your sovereign grace and strength undergirding us, we would fail miserably. And so, O Lord, we give you our deepest thanks. You have promised that there is a crown of righteousness awaiting us for seeking you in this life and desiring your appearance. This is not something you owe us, but another expression of your grace in our lives. O Lord, for this and more, we give you our thanks. In Christ we pray, Amen. (from 2 Timothy 4:6-8)
As David Powlison says in his Forward to Tedd Tripp’s, Shepherding Your Child’s Heart, “most books on parenting give you advice either on how to shape and constrain your children’s behavior or on how to make them feel good about themselves.” Of course, neither of those objectives is completely wrongheaded… they just shouldn’t be a parent’s primary objective. Tripp puts well what should be our primary objective with these words...
God is concerned with the heart – the well-spring of life (Proverbs 4:23). Parents tend to focus on the externals of behavior rather than the internal overflow of the heart. We tend to worry more about the “what” of behavior than the “why”. Accordingly, most of us spend an enormous amount of energy in controlling and constraining behavior.
When we miss the heart, we miss the subtle idols of the heart.
When we miss the heart, we miss the gospel. If the goal of parenting is no more profound than securing appropriate behavior, we will never help our children understand the internal things, the heart issues, that push and pull behavior. Those internal issues: self-love, rebellion, anger, bitterness, envy, and pride of the heart show our children how profoundly they need grace. If the problem with children is deeper than inappropriate behavior, if the problem is the overflow of the heart, then the need for grace is established. Jesus came to earth, lived a perfect life and died as an infinite sacrifice so that children (and their parents) can be forgiven, transformed, liberated and empowered to love God and love others.
from Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp
Featuring Michael Ramsden
Fantastic message on evangelism/apologetics based on 1 Peter 3:15-16. It was very encouraging and provides great insights in helping Christians more clearly communicate God's truth and good news to those in our personal mission fields. Definitely worth your time.
Read Psalm 2 and Romans 1:18-21.
The nations are depicted here as raging against God's rule. Such rebellion still exists in our day as well. Certainly on the individual and personal level, the constitutional nature of each person has not changed since Psalm 2 was written. People are still, in their fallen condition, at enmity with and rebellion against God and his rule in their lives. This human condition presents itself in many, many different ways... perhaps as may different ways as there are people. But it all stems from their sinful, fallen, and broken condition.
It shows up corporately as well. Such "raging" against God's rule and reign is revealed in groups, systems, and even the culture at large, much of which appears to be desiring and pursuing the opposite of what God desires and has commanded.
Wag the Dog
Yet none of this is in ignorance. The nations (and individuals) know what they are doing. This is where Romans 1:18-21 comes in. God has made himself plain (evident) to all so that no one has an excuse. Yet people in their fallen human condition suppress the truth they know about God in unrighteousness.
They neither glorify nor thank God, but instead, their thinking becomes futile and their foolish hearts are darkened. They do not want a belief system that stifles their desires and pursuits. They don't want a worldview and faith that leads to repentance and new life. Thus, their desires and lifestyles wag the dog. They adjust their worldview to fit their desires and how they want to live their lives.
Salt and Light
As a follower of Jesus Christ I am called to be his ambassador, his witness, to precisely these individuals, these systems, this culture. Christ tells me I am salt and light for this very dark and decaying world, for these are people who have been created in the image of God. Ours is a message of reconciliation and reclamation. It's the good news that even in our rebellion against the King of the universe, he makes a way to re-create that image through our redemption in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Our task is to learn how to faithfully bear witness to those in our spheres of influence. Instead of a cookie-cutter approach to evangelism, we need to really listen to, learn about, and get to know our neighbors to discover how their sin, rebellion, and brokenness presents itself. We know what their ultimate need is. We know what (Who) the ultimate answer to their need is. Yet, we want to be able to communicate that good news to them in a way they will understand. We want to win people and not just arguments, without compromising the truth of the Gospel.
We Do vs Christ Did
Have you ever noticed how often we focus upon ourselves - our performance - when it comes to our faith? Much of the time, it seems, we spend far too much effort concentrating on ourselves instead of the beauty and magnificence of God. Or, we're constantly concerned about what we do rather than what Christ did.
Many of us do this. And it's not because we're obsessed with bad things. We want to know how to be more faithful disciples. We want to grow in our faith. We want to be joyful, content, etc. But that's part of the problem: we, we, we, we.
Without meaning to, and with no malicious intent, our faith can become all about us - our needs and our wants. But this inward focus, instead of helping us become more faithful Christians, can often work against us. How?
Well, interestingly, one of the ways a Christian can lapse into spiritual depression is by being so inward focused that the weight of our spiritual short-comings and unworthiness can begin to crush us. As we compare ourselves to where God has called us to be or where other Christians are, we can move quickly into despair because, in our self-assessment, we keep coming up short.
That's why some of the best counsel I ever received when I was at such a place a number of years ago was this: Take the focus off of myself and spend some considerable time dwelling on our incomparable Christ. Because when it comes down to it, it's not about me, it's about him. It's not about my performance... what I can do, but what he has done.
It's only when I begin to really believe and embrace that truth that I get back to following Christ in a positive way.
What I discovered is that attempting to draw strength from myself is a fount that will eventually dry up. But going to the One who is Living Water is where we find a never-ending source of strength, grace, and love.
Our Incomparable Christ
The other risk of such intense self-focus is that when we concentrate so much on ourselves, our work, our story, our faith, and so on, we give the distinct impression to the rest of the world that Christianity is about us and not about Christ.
Therefore, in the next few posts I want to explore the riches of our incomparable Christ found in Hebrews 1:1-4. I hope by spending time focusing on his greatness and majesty, we might be encouraged and reminded why Jesus, and not ourselves, is much more worthy of our continual gaze.
In their study guide, "Being God's Man in the Face of Temptation," Steven Arterburn, Kenny Luck, and Todd Wendorff introduce the topic of men's temptations by listing a sort of "Top Ten" (in this case, it's only eight) temptations men face. They say a man is tempted to...
These are the areas they unpack throughout the rest of the study. I thought it might be helpful and good for me to revisit this study (which I did ten years ago) and see how my answers I wrote then match my thinking today. And, in the process, I hope to be able share some wisdom with you as well as receive some wisdom from you on these issues.
Five key ideas this study helps to provide us are...
You can order your own copy of the study guide here. I encourage you to do so as I found it to be a great blessing in helping me grow in godliness.
Personal Musings & Etc.
The Fellowship of Ailbe
Institute for Faith, Work, & Economics
Ravi Zacharias International Ministries
C.S. Lewis Institute
The Gospel Coalition
The Institute on Religion and Democracy
Every Square Inch Ministries
Gene Edward Veith
Center for Cultural Leadership
Church and Culture