Remembering grace – specifically!

prayer2No matter who we are or what circumstances and concerns we have, all of us have to deal with trouble in our lives. This post comes from Paul David Tripp with some great advice for turning our troubles into a time when we can be thankful, when we can remember God’s grace to us in a very specific way – quite a challenge!

“When trouble comes, it’s vital that you talk to yourself. . . no one is more influential in your life than you are because no one talks to you as much as you do. What you say to you in moments of trouble will impact the way you respond.

David was a man well acquainted with trouble. Poor David; if you read the Psalms, he always seems to be in trouble! But in these moments, David was always talking to himself. We saw this in Psalm 27 – “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)

There’s something else David did in times of trouble that’s very helpful; it’s found in Psalm 4 – “Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!” (Psalm 4:1, ESV, emphasis mine). In the midst of trouble, David remembered the acts of God. Notice how the above phrase is in the past tense – “you have given me relief when I was in distress.” He’s not thanking the Lord for currently relieving his distressing circumstances.

What can we learn from David? In times of trouble, it’s helpful to remember with specificity the past acts of God’s relieving mercy and grace. You and I have such a short-term memory. Because of sin, we’re all about the gratification and pleasure of today. When trouble comes knocking, we get absorbed in the immediate, forgetting what God has delivered us from in the past and what he’s transforming us into for the future.

David speaks gospel sense to his soul: “Remember, this is not new. I’ve experienced trouble in the past and God was good to me then. He remains good to me today, and what I’m facing is not out of his loving and wise rule.”

I would guess that David learned this theological skill from his ancestors. In the Old Testament, God stops the rushing waters of the Jordan River so the nation of Israel can cross on dry land. The Lord tells Joshua to set out 12 memorial stones. Why? “So that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty.” (Joshua 4:24)

I would encourage you to take notes from Joshua and David. Remember, with specificity, the good things God has done for you. Journal, take a picture, or do whatever else can help you, so when trouble comes knocking, you can say like David, “You have given me relief when I was I distress.”

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:

1. How often do you talk to yourself?
2. Reflect on some of the things you’ve said to yourself in the past week. What were you saying to you?
3. What, or who, are some influences that can shape what you say to you?
4. What are some examples from your life when God has given you relief from distress?
5. How can you create “memorial stones” to remind yourself that the hand of the Lord is mighty?

 

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Live to Express, not impress

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Greetings! I’m just wanting to share this great sign with you today, which was hanging up in a classroom at our school. What stood out for me was how much pain and trouble we could avoid in our lives if we truly lived by that motto, live to express not impress. In so many areas, most especially in music performance, church music and theology/bible knowledge, we strive hard to impress. We often forget that our better goal would be simply to express concepts and emotions, like God’s wonderful redemptive love, for the good of others. We need to get our eyes off ourselves, on hoping to make others value us more, and simply share for the good of others. Let me know how you go. I have found this to be a really challenging thing to contemplate!

“The dark before the morning” – our suffering and the weight of glory

Dawn_-_swifts_creek“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

JOHN PIPER: “Paul claims in these verses to have found the secret of an experience that virtually everyone in the world wants to have. This is an amazing claim. . . And I am referring to the experience of not losing heart, but being renewed day by day. . . There are suicidal people in the world who want life to be over. But that’s because they have tried and tried, and they don’t think there is such a secret, or at least think it’s not for them. They have lost heart. They don’t think there is anyway to be renewed in hope and strength and joy. It’s too late. If you came here like that tonight, I am praying for you, that God would free you from that lie. The devil is a liar. But I pray that you will know the truth and be set free. Paul has found this secret. He is not a liar. There is a way not to lose heart. There is a way to be renewed day by day.” (Read more and listen to John Piper’s talk THE GLORY OF GOD IN THE SIGHT OF ETERNITY here: http://www.desiringgod.org/conference-messages/do-not-lose-heart)

This is the same claim explored in a beautiful song by Josh Wilson “Before the morning” – that in our sufferings we still have a reason to sing, that joy is coming, the pain we feel is just the “dark before the morning”. Listen/read the lyrics below and be encouraged! Dare to believe!

BEFORE THE MORNING (Josh Wilson & Ben Glover)
Do you wonder why you have to,
Feel the things that hurt you,
If there’s a God who loves you,
Where is He now?

Maybe, there are things you can’t see
And all those things are happening
To bring a better ending
Some day, some how, you’ll see, you’ll see

Would dare you, would you dare, to believe,
That you still have a reason to sing,
’cause the pain you’ve been feeling,
Can’t compare to the joy that’s coming
So hold on, you got to wait for the light

Press on, just fight the good fight
Because the pain you’ve been feeling,
It’s just the dark before the morning

My friend, you know how this all ends
And you know where you’re going,
You just don’t know how you get there
So just say a prayer.
And hold on, cause there’s good who love God,
Life is not a snapshot, it might take a little time,
But you’ll see the bigger picture

Once you feel the weight of glory,
All your pain will fade to memory
Once you feel the weight of glory,
All your pain will fade to memory
Memory, memory, yeah

Come awake!


Christ is Risen (by Matt Maher)

Let no one caught in sin remain
Inside the lie of inward shame
We fix our eyes upon the cross
And run to Him who showed great love
And bled for us Freely You’ve bled for us

Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling over death by death
Come awake, come awake
Come and rise up from the grave
Christ is risen from the dead
We are one with Him again
Come awake, come awake
Come and rise up from the grave

Beneath the weight of all our sin
You bowed to none but heaven’s will
No scheme of hell, no scoffer’s crown
No burden great can hold You down

In strength You reign
Forever let Your church proclaim

O death, where is your sting?
O hell, where is your victory?
O church, come stand in the light
The glory of God has defeated the night

Sing it, o death, where is your sting?
O hell, where is your victory?
O church, come stand in the light
Our God is not dead, He’s alive, He’s alive

Preach to yourself your daily need for grace

“It is so tempting and attractive to preach to yourself a gospel of your own righteousness, but in doing so, you minimise your daily need for grace.”

Paul David Tripp

Watch “Psalm 139 (Live) – New Scottish Hymns” on YouTube

If you are looking for new ways to sing the Bible’s song book (the Psalms) with your local church then NEW SCOTTISH HYMNS could have some answers. If you liked the version of Psalm 139 then click here to download and print sheet music.

Here is what they have to say about their music:

Great hymns speak timeless truths with profound passion. They unite the church, giving Christians words to sing that articulate afresh the glories of Jesus Christ.  The New Scottish Hymns project seeks to reignite that spirit of Scotland’s great hymn-writing tradition, and uncover its treasures for a new generation.

new-scottish-hymns-cover-final-300x300ABOUT THIS PROJECT

 One aim of this album was to introduce some new songs that churches in Scotland might find useful in their own unique worship services. Scottish traditional music and folk melodies have an adaptable quality that renders the best of them timeless. Paraphrases from the Scottish Psalter like Psalm 23 have been sung across the world for centuries, and it’s important to remind new generations that these ancient words of scripture remain profoundly relevant. Scottish writers like Horatius Bonar and James Montgomery showed that a wealth of transforming biblical truths could be taught and absorbed through songs, so we also wanted to introduce examples of their lyrics to new listeners.

 The motivation for making this hymns recording did not spring simply from a desire to create art. Hymnwriting is about making music firstly out of gratitude to Jesus Christ. With all our imperfections and limitations, Christians struggle to express anything more than an echo of His greatness, but we believe that this is a thing eminently worth sharing. For the person who finds this idea strange, it will hopefully make more sense as you listen! Our hope is that every listener might hear the joy that comes from the gospel: the good news of God’s saving and transforming love, made available to every person through his son.

Sharing the Gospel online

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This article from Paul Steinbrueck is an interesting read for anyone involved in promoting the gospel online, particularly through the local church:

What’s the best way to share the good news of Jesus Christ with people in your community? Are churches supposed to put on great services and outreach events that draw non-Christian people from the community to hear the Good News? Are individuals supposed to share their faith with their friends and neighbors?
The answer, of course, is both/and.
Even more than that, though, churches and the individuals who make them up can both be more effective at sharing their faith – online and offline – if they recognize what they’re each good at and work together.

People don’t have relationships or friendships with a church. They have relationships with other people. They listen to people. They trust people. It’s the people within a church that have relationships with those outside the church that don’t know Christ. It’s also the people within the church that have God stories. Their lives have been transformed. They have experienced God’s grace, provision, and protection.
Churches are great organizers and facilitators. They put on services and events. They have buildings and websites that can serve as the hub of their community of Christ. They can communicate and distribute content to everyone whose connected with the church.
Knowing that, here are…
7 Ways Churches and Their People Can Work Together to Share the Gospel Online
1) Share sermons. Churches – make your sermons available online. People – share them with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, email. Send the link to specific people who you think would benefit from seeing/hearing it.
2) Share events. Churches – facilitate services and events geared for unchurched people. Create web pages and Facebook events for them. Promote them on Facebook and Twitter. People – invite your friends to them.
3) Share God stories. Churches – ask people in your church to share their God stories in a worship service. Put video of those stores on YouTube, Facebook, and your website. People – share these stories with your friends on Facebook and Twitter. Send the link to specific people who you think can relate to the stories.
4) Share life. People – blog, Facebook, and tweet about what you see God doing in your life. Churches – listen to your people’s Facebook updates and tweets. Retweet those that will encourage others in your church.
5) Inspire and train. Churches – inspire and train your people to live their faith online. Preach about it. Provide resources like those on the Internet Evangelism Day website. People – listen, learn, and life your faith.
6) Collaborate. Churches – seek out and embrace the biggest bloggers, Facebookers, and Twitterers in your church. People – seek out your church leaders. Collaborate.
7) Share great content. Churches – follow creators of great Christian content – authors, bloggers, podcasters, video producers. Share their great content online. People – share and retweet the great content your church is providing you with your online friends.
Which of these ways is your church and its people working together to share the gospel online? What other ways can churches and their people work together to share the good news online?

http://blog.ourchurch.com/2011/05/17/7-ways-churches-and-their-people-can-work-together-to-share-the-gospel-online/

How’s your daily worship?

Even for professional worship leaders, it is easy to get so wrapped up in the logistics of leading a worship ministry that we neglect the daily art of worshiping God.

 

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Sharing today some interesting thoughts from Nick Morrows blog, on the topic of daily worship. I’ve had an inking for a while now that many spiritual disciplines (staple daily activities for Christians for centuries) have now fallen aside in our culture of excessive entertainment and instant gratification. Other things have replaced them. (Think about things which have become daily ritual for you – are they good or the ‘best’ things you could do on a daily basis….are they in any way helping to grow your faith in Christ?)

“The deeper I dive into the world of Christian worship history, the more I want to go. Most people hear the word “history” and want to fall asleep in about seventeen seconds. But I’m convinced that we can learn much about ourselves and our spiritual ancestry by becoming students of worship history. Understanding worship history gives worship leaders a well-rounded knowledge of where we come from. As the famous saying goes, “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Here are a few themes I’ve seen in worship history, along with some practical suggestions in incorporating them into our worship services:

Worship as a daily practice. The earliest Christians inherited the “Tefillah” from their Jewish roots, a list of eighteen prayers to be said three times daily. Worship remained a daily ritual for most tefillahChristians up until the Middle Ages.

Many of us shudder when we hear “worship” and “discipline” mentioned in the same sentence. Many Christians today scratch their heads as to how worship works itself into our daily lives, outside of Christian radio and maybe a morning Scripture or two.

Even for professional worship leaders, it is easy to get so wrapped up in the logistics of leading a worship ministry that we neglect the daily art of worshiping God. Incorporating worship into our daily routine is more about intentionality than anything. Whether it’s reciting the Lord’s Prayer, a lunch time prayer walk, or bedtime confessions, our daily worship routines shape who we become.”

http://nickmorrowmusic.com/standing-on-the-shoulders-of-the-saints/