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God Prefers the Impossible

Is there anything too difficult for God?

In the exodus, one mighty act followed another. The story goes like this: Combine the most powerful king in the known world, slaves who stood no chance of successful insurrection because all they knew was slavery, and oppression that was getting worse. You now have the perfect ingredients for God’s decisive act of deliverance. It was the event on which God staked his reputation until it was superseded by an even more cosmic deliverance through Jesus Christ.

Here is what we learn: God prefers the impossible. Although he often cares for our needs before we know we have them, his mighty acts are showcased best against the backdrop of insurmountable odds. Anything less would detract from his greatness. In this case, all Moses did was stretch out his hand – his empty hand – and watch a mighty deliverance [emphasis mine].

–Ed Welch

HT: Vitamin Z

March 18 2013 | Blog | Comments Off on God Prefers the Impossible

Life is Too Short to be in a Hurry

Timmy Brister has an outstanding post on his blog about “busyness.” Here’s an excerpt:

One of the great hindrances to life on mission is being in a hurry. Have you noticed how impossible it is for a hurried person to love someone? They may be physically present, but they are mentally distant. They may give you lip service, but their hearts are far from you. Don’t get me wrong. There are good intentions with being in a hurry. I want to get things done. I love being productive. But when the product takes precedence over people, then my usefulness ironically makes me unproductive for the mission. Even worse, I begin to treat people like product rather than objects of my affection–to listen, to learn, to love. All those things that takes time–things that the absence of margin and presence of hurry rob us from experiencing as we controlled by a rhythm of life that takes the life out of us.

You can (and might I add “should”) read the rest here.

HT: Vitamin Z

March 14 2013 | Blog | Comments Off on Life is Too Short to be in a Hurry

A Roomful of Yearning and Regret

untitledI’m convinced that the one of the saddest part of ministry is watching marriages fail, especially due to infidelity. To sit in a room with a husband or a wife weeping over the betrayal of their spouse is almost too much for any shepherd to bear. It’s the kind of scene that must never cross your mind in the midst of the affair, but it is where you will inevitably end up if you violate the covenant of marriage.

Wendy Plump of the New York Times paints a graphic picture of the affects of sexual infidelity in this article at the new York Times. It is a “must read” article and one that I will be using in pre-marital counseling to remind couples of the awful effects of unfaithfulness.

Here’s an excerpt:

IN the end your marriage may not need to be trashed, though mine was. The affairs metastasized in our relationship from the inside out. By the time all was said and done, there was little left to save. Our marriage had become like a leaf eaten away by caterpillars, where the petiole and midrib remain with some ghostly connective tracery in between. Not enough to hold even a drop of rain.

I look at my parents and at how much simpler their lives are at the ages of 75, mostly because they haven’t marred the landscape with grand-scale deceit. They have this marriage of 50-some years behind them, and it is a monument to success. A few weeks or months of illicit passion could not hold a candle to it.

If you imagine yourself in such a situation, where would you fit an affair in neatly? If you were 75, which would you rather have: years of steady if occasionally strained devotion, or something that looks a little bit like the Iraqi city of Fallujah, cratered with spent artillery?

From where I stand now, it all just looks like a cheap hotel room, whether you’re in that room to have an affair or to escape from the discovery of one.

And despite the sex and the excitement, or the drama and the fix of everyone’s empathetic attention, there is no view from this room that is worth having.

February 04 2013 | Blog | Comments Off on A Roomful of Yearning and Regret

How Much is Enough?

Tim Challies has a great post on the question, “How Much Money Am I Supposed to Give Away?” Here’s an excerpt:

did-god-tell-us-to-tithe4When I say we are to give enough that it matters, I mean that we should give enough that it makes a difference to our lives, to our lifestyles. Erwin Lutzer says it well: “Those who give much without sacrifice are reckoned as having given little.” We are meant to give enough that there are things we cannot do and cannot have because of our dedication to the Lord’s work…

For some people, giving away 10% may mean they are giving enough that it matters. Maybe they cannot have quite the vacation they would otherwise have; maybe they are buying a used car instead of a new one; maybe they are saving for an extra couple of years before fixing up the kitchen or putting the down payment on that home. For other people this may come when they are giving 2% of their income. For others it may come when they are giving 75%. My encouragement is to keep raising the amount you give until you feel it, until it matters.

February 01 2013 | Blog | Comments Off on How Much is Enough?

Why do People Leave Churches?

The_Open_Door_by_Jantiff_StocksAny church that’s been open for more than a few weeks knows the pain of people leaving the church. Sometimes the reasons are clear (i.e. they moved out of the area, the Lord took them home, etc.), but more often than not there’s almost no explanation whatsoever.

Tom Rainer gives some profound insights into the main reason people the church in this post. Here’s an excerpt:

But all the research studies of which I am aware, including my own, return to one major theme to explain the exodus of church members: a sense of some need not being filled. In other words, these members have ideas of what a local congregation should provide for them, and they leave because those provisions have not been met.

Certainly we recognize there are many legitimate claims by church members of unfulfilled expectations. It can undoubtedly be the fault of the local congregation and its leaders.

But many times, probably more than we would like to believe, a church member leaves a local body because he or she has a sense of entitlement. I would therefore suggest that the main reason people leave a church is because they have an entitlement mentality rather than a servant mentality.

January 30 2013 | Blog | 2 Comments »

The Fatherly Care of God

Joni Eareckson Tada made a powerful point in an interview with Marvin Olasky recently where she said:

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

HT: Justin Taylor

January 23 2013 | Blog | Comments Off on The Fatherly Care of God

A Tip for Husbands that Could Save Your Marriage

Erik Raymond has a great post over on his blog. Here’s the introduction:

With a title like this there is little room for dilly-dallying along the way to the answer. So without much introduction, here is the tip that could save your marriage: Get a part-time job.

There. That’s it. Husbands, if you want to save or strengthen your marriage, get a part-time job.

I should say right off the bat that I am not talking about a literal job that will pull you away from the home for more hours. Instead I’m arguing for the husband to approach his time at home with his family with the same thoughtful intentionality and engagement that he would if he were to go to work.

Far too many marriages are suffering because the husband comes home mentally, physically and emotionally zapped from his work day. He has done well as the provider for the home and now he is going to come home and collapse into a lazy-boy (aptly named) or in front of a computer or some other process of decompression and relaxation from a tough day at work. This type of thing may be ok occasionally but if practiced regularly it will lead to major problems.

HT: Vitamin Z

January 18 2013 | Blog | Comments Off on A Tip for Husbands that Could Save Your Marriage

What does Hanukkah Have to Do with Christmas?

Dr. Varner has a great post over on his Tumblog on what Hanukkah has to do with Christmas. Here’s an excerpt:

hanukkah-cardthe unseen connection of Hanukkah with Christmas lies in this fact. If Antiochus had been successful in destroying the Jews, there would have been no Jewish Miriam and no Jewish Bethlehem to provide the people and the place for our Messiah to be born! One might say that if there had been no Hanukkah, then there would have been no Christmas!

December 19 2012 | Blog | Comments Off on What does Hanukkah Have to Do with Christmas?

Thinking God’s Thoughts After Him about Newtown, CT

One of the primary goals of the Christian life is to learn how to think God’s thoughts after Him. This is especially true when we’re faced with such unspeakable tragedy as the one we are currently facing in Newtown, CT. Here are some of the best posts that I’ve found around the web that help us to think like God thinks about this tragedy.

Al Mohler

“What else can we say about the murder of children and their teachers? How can we understand the evil of killing little children one by one, forcing them to watch their little friends die and realizing that they were to be next? How can we bear this?

Resisting our instinct toward a coping mechanism, we cannot accept the inevitable claims that this young murderer is to be understood as merely sick. His heinous acts will be dismissed and minimized by some as the result of psychiatric or psychological causation, or mitigated by cultural, economic, political, or emotional factors. His crimes were sick beyond words, and he was undoubtedly unbalanced, but he pulled off a cold, calculated, and premeditated crime, monstrous in its design and accomplishment.

Christians know that this is the result of sin and the horrifying effects of The Fall. Every answer for this evil must affirm the reality and power of sin. The sinfulness of sin is never more clearly revealed than when we look into the heart of a crime like this and see the hatred toward God that precedes the murderous hatred he poured out on his little victims.” [emphasis mine]

Dr. Mohler also has a special podcast episode dedicated to this tragedy, in which he interviews one of the pastors of Newtown (Joey Newton) who has been helping the victims. I actually attended seminary with Joey and am so thankful that he is ministering to the hurting there in Newton. You can find it here.

Russel Moore

Throughout the history of the universe, evil has manifested a dark form of violence specifically toward children. Not only did the Canaanite nations demand the blood of babies, but the Bible shows where at points of redemptive crisis, the powers of evil have lashed out at children. Pharaoh saw God’s blessing of Israelite children as a curse and demanded they be snuffed out by the power of his armed thugs. And, of course, the Christmas narrative we read together this time of year is overshadowed by an act of horrific mass murder of children. King Herod, seeing his throne threatened, demands the slaughter of innocent children.

Jesus was not born into a gauzy, sentimental winter wonderland of sweetly-singing angels and cute reindeer nuzzling one another at the side of his manger. He was born into a war-zone. And at the very rumor of his coming, Herod vowed to see him dead, right along with thousands of his brothers. History in Bethlehem, as before and as now, is riddled with the bodies of murdered children.

Doug Wilson

I have often said that nativity sets should include a set of Herod’s soldiers—that is as much a part of the Christmas story as the shepherds, or the star, or the wise men. These traditional figures all glorified Christ in His coming, but the reality of such bloody soldiers was the reason He came. Nothing illustrates the need for His mission to us better than that appalling loss to Ramah. An early English carol, “Unto Us is Born a Son,” has a verse that understands this juxtaposition of humility and adoration over against the haughtiness of pride and blood.

This did Herod sore affray,
And grievously bewilder
So he gave the word to slay,
And slew the little childer,
And slew the little childer.

It is not possible to build a culture around a denial of God-given standards, and then arbitrarily reintroduce those standards at your convenience, whenever you need a word like evil to describe what has just happened. Those words cannot just be whistled up. If we have banished them, and their definitions, and every possible support for them, we need to reckon with the fact that they are now gone. Cultural unbelief, which leads inexorably to cultural nihilism and despair, is utterly incapable of responding appropriately to things like this, while remaining fully capable of creating them. In the prophetic words of C.S. Lewis, “In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

This shooting was horrendous, but far worse is the fact that our blind seers have no idea what to say about it. The horror happened, and it was immediately followed by the horror of countless individuals saying wildly inappropriate things about it. We have monsters in our midst, and vapidity in our highest council chambers, not to mention the monsters there too, and all of them want to slouch toward Bethlehem. God have mercy.

John Piper

Murdering a human being is an assault on God. He made us in his own image. Destroying an image usually means you hate the imaged. Murdering God’s human image-bearer is not just murder. It’s treason — treason against the creator of the world. It is a capital crime — and more. “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image” (Genesis 9:6).

December 17 2012 | Blog | Comments Off on Thinking God’s Thoughts After Him about Newtown, CT

DA Carson on Prayer

da-carson-copyDA Carson has had a strong influence on me theologically and pastorally through the books that he has written and scores of his sermons. That’s why it was such a great privilege for me to be able to meet him in person at the EV Free Western District meeting on November 5th.

Carson preached three of the most moving sermons on the subject of prayer that I’ve ever had the privilege to listen to. It was a joy to be able to attend and to hear him in such an intimate environment.

Valley Church of Vacaville just recently made the sermons available online. They can be found here.

December 07 2012 | Blog | Comments Off on DA Carson on Prayer

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