Archive | November, 2013

10,000 Reasons to Give Thanks|Bless the Lord

28 Nov

10000“give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” –1 Thessalonians 5:18

The commonly painted portrait of the first Thanksgiving depicts the Native Americans and Plymouth settlers casting aside their divergences to break bread together in a celebration of thanks that surmounted their mutual suspicion. These early hunters and foragers were thankful for the autumn harvest that would potentially see them through the harsh East Coast winter. They were truly grateful for God’s provision.

Today many of us will gather with family over a meal and reflect on the things we are thankful for. Break out of the perfunctory mold and reach deep. 

“For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God” –2 Corinthians 4:15

  • God is glorified more fully when we feel thankfulness, not when we only say, “Thank you.”
  • Authentic heart-feelings are not in our control. We can’t make ourselves feel thankfulness. If our hearts are not moved by God’s goodness, we are ungrateful. Thankfeelings are a work of grace.
  • Therefore, as fallen sinners whose hearts are often dull, we should regularly pray for God to overcome our sinful hardness, and cause us to see his goodness and feel thankful.

–John Piper Thanksgiving, Thanksfeeling, and the Glory of God – Desiring God

 

10,000 Reasons to Give Thanks

“For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” Psalm 100:5

“The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him,” Nahum 1:7

“You, Lord, are enthroned forever; Your throne endures from generation to generation.” Lamentations 5:19

“God, be exalted above the heavens; let Your glory be over the whole earth.” Psalm 57:11

Excerpt from: 10,000 Reasons to Give Thanks – Mentoring Moments

Additional links:

Five Truths About Thanksgiving – Desiring God

What Does It Mean to Bless God? – Desiring God

Missional Ideas For Your Family Thanksgiving | Gather and Share

25 Nov

thanks2“You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God” –2 Corinthians 9:11

Consider the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, do you picture family sitting at the table together breaking bread, connecting, sharing, reflecting? Maybe your Thanksgiving gathering will be football focused or a time when barely suppressed familial animosity simmers rather than the gravy.

No matter what tablescape you picture odds are someone at the table, no matter the emotional ambiance, will not be a believer. They may grasp the Pilgrim story and Black Friday deals but the deeper meaning of offering up thanksgiving and praise for God’s call and provision may be a challenge. Incorporate them into thanksgiving during this time when the opportunity exists to be publicly, outwardly, and vocally thankful. 

“One of the best things we can do for our family is to help them enjoy giving thanks..,” writes Alex Absalom in the article that follows…

10 MISSIONAL IDEAS FOR YOUR FAMILY THANKSGIVING

“Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving” 1 Timothy 4:4

Thankfulness is a spiritual matter because it ultimately produces trust in God.

As I take my eyes off my complaints about what I don’t have, I start to count the many blessings that I do have. This in turn causes me to stop and ponder the source of all that goodness – is it purely random ‘luck’, or is God personally at work in my life? And if Jesus is the source, how does that change my perspective on my future needs and challenges?

That’s why thanksgiving is a wonderful gateway for those who are far from God. As someone recognizes that Jesus is the source of all that is good – which is what happens in giving thanks – so that person learns to acknowledge Him and His goodness.

For the remainder of the article: 10 Missional Ideas For Your Family Thanksgiving | Verge Network.

It’s Wise to Hold Your Tongue|Taste Your Words|Measure Your Response

19 Nov

tasting_words“Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble” Proverbs 21:23 (ESV)

It takes little effort to open your mouth and give way to whatever wants to gush out. Controlling the tongue requires concentration, diligence, maturity, and wisdom (Proverbs 17:27-28). The tongue, left to its own devices, can spew words that ensnare us (Proverbs 6:2) and pierce others (Proverbs 12:18). Thoughtless rambling can lead to sin (Proverbs 10:19) or even death (Proverbs 18:21). Precious friends once offended by careless vitriol, disparaging remarks, sarcastic comments, or whispered tales could be lost forever (Proverbs 18:19). 

think2We have become a people who are uncomfortable with silent pauses and we often charge into this absence of noise with poorly thought out words that ring like a cacophony of clashing weapons and hurt similarly. If we think before we speak (Proverbs 15:28) insalubrious speech can be averted and supplanted with thanksgiving and affirmation for the work God is doing in someone’s life. In this past Sunday’s sermon Pastor Burris said we must remember, “The most flawed believer in our midst is a work of God’s grace.” A good work began at the cross and if our focus is held there it is a simpler task to extend grace. 

Ten Times It’s Wise to Hold Your Tongue

I talk too much. Way, way too much.

But God is committed to teaching me when to hold my tongue.

With that in mind, let me share ten situations with you where I’m learning it’s better to refrain from talking:

  • When you have no idea what to say

Proverbs 17:28: “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.”

  • When you’re wrongly accused

1 Peter 2:23: “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return.”

Isaiah 53:7: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth.”

  • When you’re mad

Proverbs 25:28: “Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.”

  • When you’re confused about life

Lamentations 3:25–28: “The Lord is good for those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord . . . Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him; let him put his mouth to the dust—there may yet be hope.”

  • When you wouldn’t want someone else to find out you said it

Luke 12:3: “Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.”

  • When you don’t really mean it

Proverbs 3:28: “Do not say to your neighbor ‘Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it,’ when you have it with you.”

  • When you can’t stop yearning for the good old days

Ecclesiastes 7:10: “Say not, why were the former days better than these? For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.”

  • When you have a lot to do and you don’t like it

Philippians 2:14: “Do all things without grumbling or complaining.”

  • When the timing is wrong

Proverbs 25:11: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in setting of silver.”

  • When you don’t have anything to say that gives grace

Ephesians 4:29: “Let no corrupt talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear it.”

Excerpted from  True Woman | Ten Times It’s Wise to Hold Your Tongue by Lina Abujamra

Additional links:

Shut Up and Listen | Today’s Christian Woman

Keeping It Real: The Truth about Authenticity | Her.meneutics |(Part 2)

12 Nov

authentic_christianity_logo

“These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” –1 Peter 1:7

What does authentic Christianity mean? The following definition from Sharon Hodde Miller offers a starting point,

“First, authenticity is a discipline that requires time. It cannot be flipped on like a light switch, and it is not maintained without work…second…it can only be had in Christ.”  

Miller posits the idea that authenticity is rooted in Christ.

God opens our eyes to our sins, to the self-deception, to the things in our lives that are not of him. Then he transforms us, conforming us to the only perfect human being who ever lived. In Christ, we stop operating according to the constraints of social expectations, personal insecurities, and lies. Rather than live in ways that are subhuman, we finally live in a manner worthy of God’s vision for humanity.”

Irenaeus (an early Church apologist and theologian) noted, “The glory of God is a human being fully alive; and to be alive consists in beholding God.” Christian authenticity is expressed when the, “…divine life of God living in our soul…” (Pastor Burris) produces fundamental changes.

“There are no real personalities apart from God. Until you have given up your self to Him you will not have a real self. Sameness is to be found most among the most ‘natural’ men, not among those who surrender to Christ. How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been; how gloriously different are the saints.

But there must be a real giving up of the self. You must throw it away ‘blindly’ so to speak. Christ will indeed give you a real personality; but you must not go to Him for the sake of that. As long as your own personality is what you are bothering about you are not going to Him at all. The very first step is to try to forget about the self altogether.” –C.S. Lewis

We are made new and know God when we have the nature of God indwelling that accompanies believing the truth. We desire to live in fellowship with others who share this phenomena. We seek to magnify His presence through the honing of spiritual disciplines (Bible intake, meditation, fasting, prayer, and worship). Our focus and desires change and this is exuded in a real way as we seek to glorify God and share this Good News with others.

The following excerpt outlines 5 points related to authenticity:

(1) Authenticity proclaims the reality of the Bible.

In Numbers 13, God commands Moses to send 12 spies into the land of Canaan. Forty days later, they come back with fruit and a report.

Ten of the men tell it like they see it: fortified cities, strong people, and a fear of being squashed like bugs. Two of the men tell it like God sees it: “Let us go up at once and take possession for we are well able to overcome it.”

If the spies came to our churches today, which group of men would be praised as “authentic”?

Being authentic means that God and his Word define what is real.

Last Sunday, I had an imperfect experience of corporate worship. The kids were squirmy, the sanctuary was hot, and my mind wandered. That’s the truth.

But the Scripture adds an even greater truth to my experience. God, the Creator, declares that worship is good. Therefore, by faith, I declare it good too.

Whatever we say about our experiences, our report must also reflect God’s truth.

(2) Authenticity doesn’t excuse sin.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s phenomenally popular Eat, Pray, Love was the memoir of a woman seeking an authentic life. Its first page bears the motto: “Tell the truth, tell the truth, tell the truth.”

But for Gilbert, living authentically includes adultery, hedonism, blasphemy, and so on.

Gilbert’s type of authenticity is easy for Christians to reject. Her sins are “obvious.” But are we on guard against more subtle sins?

Recently, in “The Double-Reach of Self-Righteousness,” Tullian Tchividjian cautioned a generation of Christians who say, “That’s right, I know I don’t have it all together and you think you do; I’m know I’m not good and you think you are. That makes me better than you.'” Pride is not authentic.

Selfishness, love of men’s praise, lack of joy can all lurk, undetected, around our authentic edges.

I have a friend who wants me to be authentic. She wants to know about my arguments with my husband, the sin of my children, and what I dislike about church. For her, authenticity seems to involve not only removing my own mask but exposing the sins of others, too. This is unkind. Everything that is done in the name of authenticity must also be done in the name of a holy Christ.

(3) Authenticity seeks the good of the Body.

In 1969, Hillary Rodham (now Clinton) gave a speech at Wellesley’s commencement. Her remarks champion authentic conversation about women’s struggles in a male-dominated world.

I have to admire her kind of authenticity, for she was promoting authenticity for the sake of a common cause. She wanted these women to be authentic so that all women could have a better life.

Christian authenticity is likewise other-focused.

We live transparently, not to unload our own burdens and thus walk more lightly alone, but to intentionally share the burdens of others and carry them to the same grace that liberated us.

(4) Authenticity honors wisdom.

Christians seeking to be authentic rightly value humility. We recognize that we are broken.

But sometimes, in our quest to avoid the appearance of pride, we question our God-given ability to shine the light of wisdom.

Singer-songwriter Christa Wells expresses this in a song: “So friends don’t take me wrong on those days when I sound too sure / Of the things I say.” Wells writes insightful meditations on the Christian life, but she is intentionally tentative.

This habit has a long root in the spirit of the postmodern age, in which all truth is elusive and dogmatism is the unforgiveable sin.

But the godly life is not merely a pooling of experiences; it is the confident application of God’s truth to individual circumstances. We have the Greater-Than-Solomon, who gives wisdom liberally to all who ask. We honor the Giver by using his valuable gift. Seeking wisdom and speaking wisdom must have a place in an authentic life.

(5) Authenticity points ahead to a perfected future.

Every pilgrimage has a final destination. Christians who are authentic about the struggles of this life should also be authentic about the perfection of the next.

In Lewis’s The Great Divorce, travelers from hell step off a bus onto heaven’s grass. It is so razor-sharp, so real, that it cuts their tender feet: “The men were as they had always been … it was the light, the grass, the trees that were different; made of some different substance, so much solider than things in our country that men were ghosts by comparison.” (p 21)

For Christians, our true self is found in Christ, and we are on a pilgrimage to become more like him. As 1 John 3:2 says: “We are now children of God, and what we will be has not yet appeared.” A greater reality awaits.

So, like Israelites singing the Psalms of Ascent, we ought to look up from our dusty feet and ahead to the even more authentic glories of Zion and her King.

That’s for real.

Excerpted from: Keeping It Real: The Truth about Authenticity | Her.meneutics | Christianitytoday.com

Additional links:

Real, Authentic Authenticity | Her.meneutics | Christianitytoday.com

Taft Avenue Community Church / Resources / Sermons

Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Pilgrimage Growth Guide): Donald S Whitney: 9781576830277: Amazon.com: Books

 

 

Keeping It Real: The Truth about Authenticity | Her.meneutics |(Part 1)

8 Nov

authenti“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” –Matthew 5:6

Are your desires for the Lord and His kingdom strong or are you walking with one foot in the world, easily pleased by other things?

“We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire. If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” –C.S. Lewis

Keeping It Real: The Truth about Authenticity

Do we Christians even understand what the buzzword means?

I was standing in the kitchen, talking to my husband, when he began to yawn. As most wives would, I teased him for his insensitivity. He replied, “I’m just being authentic.” In case you haven’t noticed, the “authentic” label is not just for antiquities or ethnic restaurants anymore. One Thousand Gifts author Ann Voskamp recently posted on her blog: “I have felt it—how no one wants anything of anyone but to be honest and real and to trust enough to take off the mask.”

I have felt it, too. I am neither 20-something nor the least bit trendy. Still, authenticity has worked its way into my conservative evangelical life, making a regular appearance in my conversations with fellow Christians. Chances are you know someone who’s blogging or talking about being authentic: authentic life, authentic relationships, authentic community, authentic worship.

Christianity Today’s website designates “Authenticity” as one topic to classify its articles. Amazon.com sells more than 100 books under the search term “authentic Christian.”

Authentic is one of those slippery, know-it-when-you-see-it buzzwords. When I queried Andy Crouch, CT editor at large and author of Culture Making, about the word’s origins, he pointed me author Keith Miller. “His 1984 book The Taste of New Wine was a best-selling Christian distillation of both 1970s encounter groups and AA-style spirituality. I’m pretty sure his work was the catalyst by which authenticity became a specifically Christian aspiration.”

So authenticity is transparency and admission of failure. It’s the rejection of pretense and hypocrisy. It’s truth-telling about all areas of life.

I believe Christians can do authenticity best. We serve a God who is always truthful. Never lies. Never deceives. Has, in fact, defeated the Father of Lies. But I fear that without biblical thought, we may accept an inferior and postmodern version of tell-all, tolerate-all authenticity.

Excerpted from Megan Hill’s article :Keeping It Real: The Truth about Authenticity | Her.meneutics | Christianitytoday.com.

“Harmless” Gossip is a Myth|How to Stop Church-Killing Gossip

5 Nov

gossip

“The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts” –Proverbs 18:8

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”? Nothing could be further from the truth when one is a victim of gossip, rumors, slander, backbiting, talebearing, reviling, railing, or innuendo. Gossip can be covert or overt…true or untrue. Once out it is propelled along like an insidious virus reaching epidemic proportion. Is it any wonder so called news, YouTube videos, Facebook quotes, blog posts, and tweets that reach “trending” status are characterized as “viral.” 

“The Gospel of Jesus Christ defeats gossip…Jesus was a “trustworthy man,” someone to whom you could entrust your deepest, most shameful secrets, and know they were as safe as can be. He still is. And we can learn to be trustworthy too (Proverbs 11:13)” (Matthew C. Mitchell, Resisting Gossip).

We can follow Christ’s example. Believe the best about others. Speak positively; words of affirmation are healing and edifying. Talk to ____ not about____. Model graciousness. Exalt the Lord. Search your heart. Pray.

My name is Gossip.

I have no respect for justice.

I maim without killing.

I break hearts and ruin lives.

I am cunning and malicious and gather strength with age.

The more I am quoted the more I am believed.

I flourish at every level of society.

My victims are helpless.

They cannot protect themselves against me because I have no name and no face.

To track me down is impossible.

The harder you try, the more elusive I become.

I am nobody’s friend.

Once I tarnish a reputation, it is never the same.

I topple governments and ruin marriages.

I ruin careers and cause sleepless nights, heartache and indigestion.

I spawn suspicion and generate grief.

I make innocent people cry in their pillows.

Even my name hisses.

I AM CALLED GOSSIP –Anonymous

How to Stop Church-Killing Gossip

Kent Hughes: “Gossip involves saying behind a person’s back what you would never say to his or her face. Flattery means saying to a person’s face what you would never say behind his or her back.”

Here are some wise words from Dan Phillips for when you hear gossip from someone:

  1. Ask, “Why are you telling me this?” Often, that in itself is such a focusing question that it can bring an end to the whole unpleasant chapter. It has the added benefit that it can help a person whose intentions are as good as his/her judgment is bad.
  2. Ask, “What’s the difference between what you’re telling me and gossip?” See above; same effect, same potential benefits.
  3. Ask, “How is your telling me that thought, that complaint, that information going to help you and me love God and our brothers better, and knit us closer together as a church in Christ’s love?” Isn’t that the goal we should share, every one of us? Won’t it take the working of each individual member Eph. 4:16? Isn’t the watch-out for harmful influences an every-member ministry Heb. 3:12-13; 10:24; 13:12-15?
  4. Ask, “Now that you’ve told me about that, what are you going to do about it?” While the previous two are subjective, this is not. If neither of the previous two questions succeeded in identifying gossip/whispering/sowing-dissension for what they are, the answer to this question will do so. Tip: if the answer is “Pray,” a good response might be “Then why didn’t you do that and leave it there in the first place?”
  5. Say, “Now that you’ve told me about that, you’ve morally obligated me to make sure you talk to ____ about it. How long do you think you need, so I can know when this becomes a sin that I will need to confront in you?” The least that this will accomplish is that you’ll fall off the list of gossips’/whisperers’ favorite venting-spots. The most is that you may head off a church split, division, harmed souls, sidelined Gospel ministry, and waylaid discipleship. Isn’t that worth it?

Ray Ortlund explains what gossip is and why it is sinfully enticing:

  • Gossip is our dark moral fervor eagerly seeking gratification.
  • Gossip makes us feel important and needed as we declare our judgments.
  • It makes us feel included to know the inside scoop.
  • It makes us feel powerful to cut someone else down to size, especially someone we are jealous of.
  • It makes us feel righteous, even responsible, to pronounce someone else guilty.
  • Gossip can feel good in multiple ways. But it is of the flesh, not of the Spirit…
  • Gossip is a sin rarely disciplined but often more socially destructive than the sensational sins.
  • Gossip leaves a wide trail of devastation wherever and however it goes – word of mouth, email, blogging, YouTube.
  • It erodes trust and destroys morale.
  • It creates a social environment of suspicion where everyone must wonder what is being said behind their backs and whether appearances of friendship are sincere.
  • It ruins hard-won reputations with cowardly but effective weapons of misrepresentation.
  • It manipulates people into taking sides when no such action is necessary or beneficial.
  • It unleashes the dark powers of psychological transference, doing violence to the gossiper, to the one receiving the gossip and to the person being spoken against.
  • It makes the Body of Christ look like the Body of Antichrist – destroyers rather than healers.
  • It exhausts the energies we would otherwise devote to positive witness.
  • It robs our Lord of the Church he deserves.
  • It exposes the hostility in our hearts and discredits the gospel in the eyes of the world. Then we wonder why we don’t see more conversions, why “the ground is so hard.”

Excerpted from: How to Stop Church-Killing Gossip – Justin Taylor

Additional links related to gossip and how to avoid it:

Resisting Gossip: Winning the War of the Wagging Tongue: Matthew C. Mitchell: 9781619580763: Amazon.com: Books

Gossip – Ray Ortlund

Pyromaniacs: How to shut down gossip and its nasty kin

Talking to People Rather Than About Them What I Left Out of the Sermon on August 6 – Desiring God

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