Commitments for 2017

new-year-goalsThis is an excellent New Year post from Paul Tripp – which proposes an alternative to New Year resolutions (which aren’t all bad, by the way). Here is a summary of his key points:

DON’T MAKE RESOLUTIONS – MAKE COMMITMENTS
1. Be honest about your struggles
2. Rest in God’s presence and strength
3. Don’t look horizontally for what can only be found vertically
4. Deepen your relationship to the Body of Christ
5. Argue with your own heart
6. Work to assure that praise replaces complaint
7. Rest in the complete work of Jesus Christ.

Interested? You can read the whole article below or visit the site:

I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions. While I understand the desire for fresh starts and new beginnings, none of us has the power to reinvent ourselves simply because the calendar has flipped over to a new year. But since the gospel of Jesus Christ carries with it a message of fresh starts and new beginnings – because of the forgiving and transforming power of God’s grace – looking forward at the year to come does give us an opportunity to give ourselves anew to practical, daily-life commitments that are rooted in the gospel.

Let me suggest seven commitments that all of us have been empowered, and should be excited, to make.

1. Be honest about your struggles.

Denial of your daily struggles with temptation and sin is never a pathway to change. The work of Jesus frees all of us to be honest about our weaknesses and failures without fear of God’s judgment. The gospel welcomes us in our weakness to run to God and not away from him. The doorway to personal change begins with humbly admitting your need for the help that only God can give.

2. Rest in God’s presence and strength.

Refuse to load your personal potential and welfare on your small shoulders. Remember the Jesus is with you, in you and for you, and because he is, your welfare rests on his infinitely huge shoulders. When you measure your potential, don’t forget that your life has been invaded by his power and grace. You could argue that Jesus is your potential.

3. Don’t look horizontally for what can only be found vertically.

Don’t allow yourself to be seduced into believing that life can be found in the people, possessions, situations, locations and experiences of everyday life. Remember, the role of created things is not to give you life, but to point you to the One who is the Way, the Truth and Life. Refuse to try to satisfy your heart with things that will never offer you the satisfaction that you seek.

4. Deepen your relationship to the body of Christ.

You and I were never hardwired by God to walk with him on our own. God’s plan for us is deeply relational. We’re wired to be connected and dependent, not isolated and independent. Live close to God’s people, inviting those around you to intrude on your private world and to function as God’s tools of comfort, encouragement, confrontation, growth and change.

Remember, sin makes it hard for us to see ourselves objectively and accurately. Personal spiritual insight and growth really is the result of community.

5. Argue with your own heart.

It’s a theme of my ministry that I will continue to repeat: no one has more influence in your life than you do because no one talks to your more than you do. Don’t give way to self-talk that is marked by fear, despondency, futility, hopelessness or discouragement. Preach the gospel of God’s love, grace, presence, promises and power to yourself multiple times a day. Commit to carrying on a gospel conversation with yourself that never stops.

6. Work to assure that praise replaces complaint.

It’s sad, but true, that the default language of every sinner is complaint. Because sin causes me to think that life is all about me, it also causes me to constantly find reasons for being dissatisfied. But when you and I are living for something bigger than our own pleasure and comfort, and when we’re committed to counting our blessings more than we count our complaints, praise will fill our hearts and punctuate our conversations.

How about committing yourself to beginning every day by counting the many, many ways God has showered you with blessings you could have never earned or deserved on your own?

7. Rest in the complete work of Jesus Christ.

You have reason for rest, because even though the calendar has flipped to a new year, your Savior still greets you with new mercies every morning, he still will not send you without going with you or call you to a job without giving you what you need to do it, and he still reigns over all things for your sake. You can rest because you are in the good hands of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

So, as the new year unfolds, don’t fool yourself with grandiose resolutions that none of us has the power to keep. Rather, celebrate the gospel of Jesus Christ and it’s huge catalog of graces. Re-commit yourself to living every day in light of what you have been given in and through your Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Happy New Year!”

http://paultripp.sitewrench.com/articles/posts/dont-make-resolutions-make-commitments

 

The Christmas Letter I’d like to write

nativitystorythe_photos_1“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)

At this time of year many people write and share a recount of the year that has been. They assemble great photos to illustrate their ventures, and list the things they and their family have achieved at work, at school, at home, at church, the house renovations and holidays.

While it is great to reflect on and share all these blessings, in thankfulness to the God who grants them, I can’t help thinking the ‘rosy Christmas letter’ can be somewhat discouraging to others, to people who consider their own personal achievements as nothing but disappointing by comparison. Perhaps their circumstances and God’s plans have taken them down a more difficult and lonely path. (And if I am being honest, such loneliness occurs even in the midst of a busy household at times.)

So, if I were to write an honest Christmas letter about the struggles of the year, here are some of the things I would like to share – to help others know they are not alone. Life is hard and being a Christian doesn’t magically end the difficulties, but God is good and there is joy to be found in Christ amidst the difficulties.

In 2016:
* I have faced ongoing challenges as a parent, spouse, home owner and friend. I have fought to love my children and husband, to serve selflessly.
* I have faced various mysterious and apparently unrelated health issues, which have shown only slight signs of improvement. These challenges will continue in the New Year.
* I have fought the discouragement of watching others pursue fulfilment apart from Christ, and disappointment with myself for not knowing how/being willing to challenge others for such attitudes.
* I have fought to acknowledge the reality of God and his grace in my own thinking about the circumstances of day to day living.
* I have fought disappointment with myself when I see pride or envy, or any of the things Christ died for, rising up in me again.
* I have worked hard as a teacher, with many many unseen extra hours of toil. While this brings some moments of great joy, largely it is draining and I see little gain for all my efforts.
* I have sometimes been cold to others and showed little genuine concern for them.

* I have become more aware of my own sin and selfishness.
* I feel like I have aged more and had worse quality sleep this year than any to date. The ‘days of trouble’ that the writer of Ecclesiastes speaks of have certainly arrived (or at least made an appearance).
* I have been hooked on checking my phone notifications and other comforts that I selfishly enjoy.
* I have battled against staying up later than I should, mindless television and being more excited about things that have no eternal value than I should be!

But all these things do NOT bring me to a point of despair! (Sorry if it sounds that way.) These struggles prove that Christ is at work in me and this is the main reason I can be joyful this Christmas!

As James says (1:2-4): “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

The ‘World’ just doesn’t get this. They think we have bought into a big fat lie which only brings us guilt and hard work.
But we have met the risen Saviour, we have seen the glory of God in the face of Christ, God with us, Immanuel!
What else can we do but follow him?

Blessings to you this Christmas,
from Ros

All together – yet not connected?

alone together.pngA while ago I posted this on Face Book (with some degree of frustration). It was met with widespread affirmation!
“Wish this was in the Bible: Dear children, you will gain much freedom and respect by showing self-control in your use of digital technology, which feeds egos and selfishness (there is a reason for the label ‘i’ on many of these devices) and largely discourages you from living out your faith by acts of kindness and service. What really matters is faith expressed in loving action. Don’t be slaves to the inertia of the digital interface…but slaves of Christ, free children of God. You are my hands and feet, not just my fingers.”

It seems that many Christian parents are also struggling with the digital revolution and the changes it has made for how our teens are relating to us and each other.

Earlier this year our Sunday paper included a news article about “iPlods“- a rather sad nickname for the primary school children involved in their research. These children were so unfit and lacking in basic core strength, they didn’t have control over their core muscles. They exhibited “an inability to control what their spines were doing. . . The vast majority did not have the core strength, flexibility or co-ordination to achieve exercises considered “basic foundations” of movement.” (Schools put iPlods through their paces, June 30, Sunday Mail)

But the problem is not just potential long term physical damage, or missing out on the simple joys of childhood. The problem is for adults, teens and children alike. The problem is with the tendencies of our selfish hearts, expressed here in Philippians 2:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

How precisely does this nail what is wrong with this “i”-everything era? Paul could have penned this as a direct instruction to us in 2016! Despite its many useful applications, modern technology both feeds and makes socially acceptable (and desirable?) our desire to be selfish. We can now sit and play endlessly throughout the day and night, amusing ourselves and ignoring others. We (think we) look very sophisticated, very advanced. Yet this perception makes it just that much harder to disconnect from our self-interest and tune in to the needs and interests of those around us.

Casting Crowns, in the song ‘House of Their Dreams’ (Album:”Thrive” 2014), described this modern plight, or perhaps blight!
“Now they’re trapped in their own worlds, in their own wars
With their cell phones and the closed doors
It’s funny how quiet and peaceful that it seems
But they’re all alone together
In the house of their dreams.”
This chorus holds up to us a shocking mirror-image of the reality so many of us have fallen into – sitting in separate rooms, plugged into our own distractions and missing out on the relationships we have been planted in the midst of. Perhaps it is time to dig ourselves out of this sad situation?

It can start with simply putting the phone down – or unplugging the Wifi!

 

Is it worth remembering Christmas?

hith-christmas-raditionl-eThis is a post I wrote for Christmas 2012, when many of you hadn’t joined me on this Blog. Thanks for reading this year! Blessings to you for a wonderful Christmas.

Ever since the Roman church fixed Christmas on December 25 (440AD) there have been a vast array of opinions about whether or not we Christians should in fact be celebrating Christ’s birth in this way. Some people wholeheartedly support it, and go all out in their celebrations. Others try to avoid it, and mock or despise those who do celebrate Christ’s birth at the time of an old Pagan Sun-god festival. Some families I know refuse to partake in the gift giving of the day (with much sadness for their children).

In 1647 Christmas was abolished in Britain by Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan parliament. December 25 was a working day from 1644 to 1656. There were riots across the country. Christmas church services were broken up by armed soldiers. Shopkeepers came off the worst: if they closed then soldiers forced them to open; if they opened, the rioters forced them to close! Christmas decorations in London were torn down and burned by the mayor. Christmas puddings were banned.

In America the Puritan leaders followed suit and banned Christmas in some states (1659). A New England state law said:“Whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas shall pay 5 shillings as a fine.” And you could buy a lot for 5 shillings! The Christmas ban was dropped in 1681 but it wasn’t until 1836 that Alabama said 25 December was to be a holiday, then everyone in the USA copied them. By then people in Victorian Britain had lost interest in Christmas, but when Charles Dickens published “A Christmas Carol” in 1843 they decided Christmas was a wonderful idea.

dec 25For me Christmas has always been a wonderful time of year, full of family fun and traditions – but does that justify the celebration? While the commercialism is distracting (and the concept of an jolly Father figure who rewards us according to merit is in total opposition to the forgiveness and grace found in Jesus) I do think there is a case for celebrating wholeheartedly as Christians.

And it all comes down to remembering.

Throughout the history of God’s redemptive intervention into our fallen world, He told us to keep remembering what he has done. For example, it was on the basis of covenant promises, given to Abraham, that Israel was rescued from slavery through Moses – slavery to both Egypt and sin. The Passover Lamb which saved them from death (well, God saved them!) was so important to remember that a whole special menu plan was devised. As people ate they would remember and teach their children to remember what God had done. When the new generation of Israel emerged from the wilderness wanderings (their parents caused), Moses spent a whole book (Deuteronomy) explaining how important it was to remember and obey all the laws God had given, to guide and direct their new lives in the Promised Land. They were to live lives worthy of their God and show the world what he had done for them. He rescued them into a covenant relationship, for the glory of His Name.

So why wouldn’t we remember the one event which reminds us of the time God stepped into human history Himself. This is when the Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us, to save us! While the Cross is the thing that saves us, we must remember the beginning of that journey to the Cross: Christ born as a helpless baby, fully God and fully man, in such lowly circumstances. He was born, destined to be despised and rejected, for our sake.

What a great opportunity we have at Christmas time, when even non-Christians are willing to celebrate the birth of a Saviour whom they do not know! They are remembering, even though they don’t fully understand. We have the full story to share – to explain to them what they are really celebrating! Let’s open the dialogue at every opportunity, even in those long line-ups at the checkout! Let’s show them how to remember in thankfulness and awe the Incarnation of God’s son, sent to save.

May the glory go to our great God this Christmas – as we remember!

You may also enjoy:

Great Christmas music                                    Is He really making a list and checking it twice?

Instant gratification: the disease of now

This very helpful article helps us to take a look at the age we live in, and compare it with a different era, with different implications for what it means to wait on God:

“There’s a lot of waiting in the Bible. Noah had to wait for the rain to stop. David didn’t become king overnight. The Israelites waited 40 years to move into the Promised Land. They waited even longer for the Messiah to turn up.

There’s not a lot of waiting in 21st century Britain. Emails come straight to our phones at all hours of the day, and we impatiently wait for people to reply to the ones we have sent. When we can’t get hold of someone, we assume something is wrong. Pub arguments about which country came third in the Mexico ’86 World Cup, which would previously take days to settle, are now solved by a couple of app taps (it was France, by the way). We can order food, taxis and people to come over or find out how to put up a shelf just by putting a hand in a pocket. We prioritise swiftness over superiority, quickness over quality and speed over service.

We are never really ‘out of the office’ because we can read our emails whenever they arrive 

All of which seems a little… sad. That beautiful Guinness advert from years ago, the surfer waiting for the perfect wave to break, seems outdated. Good things no longer come to those who wait. Good things are defined by the availability of 4G coverage in your area. Patience isn’t a virtue; it isn’t even an a necessity at times.

In fact, the idea of patience has always been incredibly countercultural – not just in the last decade, but throughout history. Let’s turn our attention to the temptations of Jesus. Reflecting on the three things that Jesus was tempted with, we see that the temptation is less about ‘what’ and more about ‘when’.

LIVING IN THE NOW

Jesus was first tempted by the promise of food: ‘Turn these rocks into bread.’ What do we know about Jesus’ time in the wilderness? He was fasting. He’d made a deliberate choice to go without food for 40 days. He knew he’d eat again, but not right then. So he’s tempted to shortcut the timeline and bring it forward.

Next, he’s offered the chance to rule all the kingdoms of the world. But Jesus knows the endgame… he knows that this is how the story ends; that one day he will be king of all the world. But not yet. He rejects temptation.

Finally, when Satan tempts him to throw himself from the temple, he is offered the chance to impress people, to command worship. Again, Jesus knows that one day every knee will bow (and not because of a daredevil stunt), so he bides his time. He sits back like the patient Guinness surfer, rejecting the disease of now, waiting for the perfect moment.

In contrast to Christ, we are constantly tempted to demand the future now. We don’t know how to wait. We get fidgety and bang our fists on the table. We want more and we want it now.

The by-product of rushing to the next thing is that we fail to fully value people. Everyone else becomes a means to an end, someone who can help us get to where we’re going, rather than someone we’re called to journey alongside. The disease of now actually stops us living in the now. We miss the opportunity for a divine connection because we’re too busy looking five steps ahead.

But there seems to be a theological imperative towards patience. God’s story isn’t a fast one, but one that slowly unfurls over millennia, revealing more of who God is and what he calls his people into. We see patience referred to as one of the fruits of the Spirit. Jesus tells a story about a son who asks for his inheritance before his father has even died. Things don’t (in the short term) turn out well for that son. The call to follow God, the journey of discipleship, is not about haste.

SMARTPHONE REVOLUTION

Life today is lived at a faster pace than in any previous generation, and the rise of smartphone technology seems to have heightened our need for speed. When the first iPhone was unveiled in 2007, Steve Jobs said: ‘Today, Apple is going to reinvent the phone.’ That was an understatement. Smartphones and tablets in all their forms have transformed 21st century life altogether, connecting us to more people than ever before.

It’s also had a huge impact on the lives of our churches. The rustling of pages as people find the passage at the start of a sermon has been replaced by a couple of clicks and the odd swipe as we open an app to find the right section. We project song words using iPads and phones. We control incredible lighting rigs and sound systems in the same way. When someone in church needs prayer, we can instantly pass it on. It’s never been easier or quicker to be fully connected to our church communities.

Smartphones in numbers

Yet it feels like the immediacy of connectivity can produce further isolation. We’re simultaneously more connected yet lonelier than ever. Mental illness is the biggest issue facing young people; those at the forefront of technological innovation. All of the traditional teenage issues of bullying, peer pressure and self-image are exacerbated by 24/7 connectivity. Even our friends can make us feel isolated – every post on Facebook about the ‘perfect group brunch’, every event we’re not invited to, every photo of a great night out – they all scream that everyone else has it all together apart from you. And if it’s not the social climbing of Facebook, it’s the people you see on Instagram making you feel fat, ugly or useless.

24/7 AVAILABILITY

There’s also the danger of constantly being ‘on and available’. We are never really ‘out-of-the-office’ because we can read our emails when they arrive at the weekend. We seem to have lost the ability to step away from technology and interact with the world around us.

Dinnertime becomes a place where the only community expressed is that we’re all looking at our smartphones at the same time. Road incidents caused by drivers or pedestrians looking at screens are on the rise. It’s perhaps made us even more selfinvolved. Phone cameras used to only point outwards; now, front-facing cameras give us the chance to take plenty of photos of…ourselves. We’ve got a whole world to look at but most of the time we’d rather stick our own faces in front of the camera lens.

Those in-between moments in our day, walking to appointments or waiting at the bus stop, might once have been used to talk to God. Now we are more likely to listen to a podcast or check our mentions on Twitter. And have you noticed that we’ve stopped learning Bible verses? Why would we bother? The whole Bible and a decent commentary is available at a click and a swipe. At one level that’s a great thing, but it means we no longer carry the word of God in our hearts. We carry it in our pockets, which isn’t quite the same.

As with so many things, the medium isn’t the problem. The disease of now and obsession with ourselves has always existed, but smartphones have streamlined it nicely into our palms. So what could it look like to hold our phones a bit more loosely? (Metaphorically speaking – those gadgets are too expensive to risk dropping.) How do we slow down in a culture that’s constantly racing to the next thing?

SLOW CLUB

Youth ministry theologian Mark Yaconelli talks about ‘slow club’, which was started by his then fiveyear- old son, Joseph. There are two rules of ‘slow club’: no running and no hurrying. It was only when Mark slowed to the pace dictated by his son that he was able to notice things: rabbits, flowers, lizards, butterflies…things Mark had previously missed in the hurry of everyday life.

Something beautiful happens when we’re able to slow down and truly, faithfully notice. We miss the presence of God in individual moments when we spend the whole time worrying about and rushing towards a destination.

There are two approaches we can take to incorporate this ‘slow club’ way of thinking. One is to be intentional about cutting ourselves off from devices, technology, social media and the Internet on a regular basis. Be it for Lent, a weekly day off or some other length of time, you may feel the need to put your phone away in the drawer and intentionally spend time with those around you, without distractions. Christian author Rob Bell notably takes a day a week away from his phone and emails. If you feel constantly ‘on’ and if you struggle to disconnect from the Internet and talk to those around you, this might be a really important discipline to practise.

But for others, this might be about a more intentional speed of life. It’s perfectly possible to be a part of ‘slow club’ with a mobile in your pocket, just as it’s possible to seek instant gratification without a phone.

If ‘slow club’ really is all about the journey, what if we took more time over our physical journeys? What if we stopped for picnics on road trips? Walked instead of jumping on the tube for two stops? Tried to cram less into a 24-hour period?

ERADICATING THE DISEASE OF NOW

This isn’t just about our own individual lives. How can our church communities model it? Is there a danger that we become so programme and outcome-orientated (even when the activities are normally overwhelmingly positive) that we lose out on a communal journey?

Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arche community, believes the pace of our communities should be set by the slowest rather than the fastest. Is that true in your church? Do parents with young children, often late and disorganised, set your pace? Do the old? The infirm? Or are we all such go-getters that we leave behind many of the people we’re called to journey with? The invitation to ‘slow club’ is an invitation to journey together. In a culture where individuals are constantly seeking the next instant fix, this is a prophetically beautiful picture of the kingdom.

The answer to an instant gratification culture isn’t to simply discard technology but to subvert the very values of a society that calls you to produce and consume more, more, more and do it now, now, now. Our society is defined by what we do and how fast we do it, but God looks at us all and calls us children. We don’t define our children by what they come back from school holding; we define them by who they are. And so does God.

Perhaps in slowing down we will find humanity and beauty where we least expect it. And yes, sometimes we could even capture it in a selfie.”


About the Author

Jamie Cutteridge is the editor of Premier Youthwork and Premier Childrenswork.

http://www.premierchristianity.com/Past-Issues/2016/May-2016/Instant-Gratification-The-Disease-Of-Now

Count it all Joy that God is in control

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)
“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12)

The call to ‘consider it pure joy’ when we face trials and sufferings is quite the challenge. Should we actually be happy that we have lost something or someone, or that we are rebuked and persecuted? Can we really find pure joy in such a situation? Or are we called simply to put on a brave face, or fake smile?

While trials may not bring us direct or obvious ‘happiness’ they can bring us lasting joy – when they push us to rely on God, rather than ourselves. They shout a loud reminder through our shattered shell of comfort that He alone is in control. God is God, and I am not.

These lyrics come from an older song by Sovereign Grace Music, which works quite well as a congregational song. I hope you find it encouraging.

(Here is the link to get the sheet music)

Count it all Joy
VERSE 1
Lord I’ll count it all joy
When my troubles
Close me in on every side
Lord, I’ll count it all joy
When this road of faith
Runs through the darkest night
For I know You’re at work in me
Yes I know You’ll provide
All the grace I need 

CHORUS
You have always been my Rock 
I will trust You forever, forever 
You have never failed me God 
I will trust You forever, forever 

VERSE 2
Lord I’ll count it all joy
When the weight of sorrow
Drives me to my knees
Every heartache and pain
In Your mighty hands
Is forming Christ in me
And I know that Your Word is true
Yes, I know every trial
Will only prove 

BRIDGE
Who can separate us
From You and Your great love 

Words and music by Steve & Vikki Cook © 2004 Integrity’s Hosanna! Music/Sovereign Grace Worship

Suffering. . . A transforming grace?

“God, who has made us, knows what we are and that our happiness lies in Him. Yet we will not seek it in Him as long as He leaves us any other resort where it can even plausibly be looked for. While what we call “our own life” remains agreeable we will not surrender it to Him. What then can God do in our interests but make “our own life” less agreeable to us, and take away the plausible sources of false happiness?”

(The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis, p.96–97)

http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/c-s-lewis-on-heaven-and-the-new-earth-god-s-eternal-remedy-to-the-problem-of-evil-and-suffering

Alternatives to pride

‘Yes, I know one doesn’t even want to be cured of one’s pride because it gives pleasure. But the pleasure of pride is like the pleasure of scratching. If there is an itch one does want to scratch: but it is much nicer to have neither the itch nor the scratch. As long as we have the itch of self-regard we shall want the pleasure of self-approval; but the happiest moments are those when we forget our precious selves and have neither, but have everything else (God, our fellow-humans, animals, the garden and the sky) instead.’

From The Collected Letters of C S Lewis Volume III

Grace Upon Grace

“My sin is erased, my heart is amazed by your grace upon grace.”

Here are some beautiful song lyrics from a recent song by Josh Wilson, on the album “That was Then, This is Now” (2015). 

“Grace Upon Grace”

Every morning I open up my eyes to see mercy’s brand new
Darkness disappears and the day reveals all You’ve carried me thru
You are so faithful and I am so grateful God

Heavenly Father
You love like no other
You call me Your own
You never let go
You are my rescue
How can I thank You?
My sin is erased, my heart is amazed by Your
Grace upon grace

Seems impossible, a love unstoppable that just won’t give up on me
You left the 99 to find a heart like mine that’s all the proof that I need
You are so faithful and I am so grateful God

Heavenly Father
You love like no other
You call me Your own
You never let go
You are my rescue
How can I thank You?
My sin is erased, my heart is amazed by Your
Grace upon grace

I am Yours, I am Yours
I was made for You, I was made for You
I am Yours, I am Yours
I will live for You, I will live for You (Lord)

Heavenly Father
You love like no other
You call me Your own
You never let go
You are my rescue
How can I thank You?
My sin is erased, my heart is amazed
Forever oh God I will give You my praise
My sin is erased, my heart is amazed by Your
Grace upon grace

In all honesty: Tim Keller Praying your tears

Tim Keller Praying your tears
This is a great encouragement.
(Link reference at the end)

I’d like to tell you about two great talks I listened to recently: Praying our Tears and Praying our Fears by Tim Keller. They’re both free online, and are part of a series on the Psalms about responding to our feelings. Today I’ll tell you about the one on tears; next time, the one on fears.

I love the Psalms! It seems that every emotion I’ve ever felt is expressed there, ready to be prayed to God. Sometimes I feel like getting older is just working through the Psalms, one emotion at a time!

There’s no better guide to what to do with our feelings before God than the Psalms. I like Tim Keller’s way of putting it: that the Psalms teach us a gospel third way of responding to our emotions.

1. Many Christians are uncomfortable with feelings, so we deny and suppress them.
2. The world tells us that we need toacknowledge, express and follow our feelings, so we vent and dump them.
3. The Psalms give us a gospel third way of responding to our emotions: to pray our feelings.

But what about suffering? How do we pray our tears? How do we use them to soften, rather than harden our hearts? Here’s what Keller says. I’ve included a few quotes: they’re wonderful, so take the time to read them. I know they’ll live on in my heart and mind for a long time.

1. Expect tears
I’m often surprised when I suffer. Isn’t God good? Isn’t he supposed to protect me? What have I done to deserve this?! But I should expect to suffer more as I become more like Jesus. If I don’t expect tears, I’ll always be crying about two things instead of one. “You’re weeping about the thing that made you weep, and you’re weeping about the weeping …. You’re going to sink under that. Once thing at a time is all we can take.”

2. Invest your tears
“Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy” (Ps 126:5-6). If a farmer leaves his seed in the shed, or dumps it all in one spot, there will be no harvest: he must sow his seed. We shouldn’t deny or dump our tears, but see them as an opportunity for growth. Tears give way to joy (Ps 30:5) but they also produce joy (2 Cor 4:17). So how do we plant our tears?

3. Pray your tears
When we pour our tears into prayer, it transforms both the tears and the weeper. We should plant our tears in three things.

a. A realisation of God’s grace.
We need to know before we start crying that it’s safe to pour out our hearts to God. That’s why the Bible includes disturbing psalms like Psalm 39, which ends “get away from me, God!” Derek Kidner says,

The very presence of such prayers in the Scripture is a witness to God’s understanding. He knows how we speak when we are desperate. … Psalm 39 shows where your deepest feelings – your anger, your tears – belong. … Ultimately where your tears belong is not managed or packaged or manicured in some little confessional prayerThey belong in pre-reflective outbursts from the depths of your being in the very presence of God. … “I want you to speak and feel in my presence. It’s safe. I understand what it’s like to be desperate. … I’m a God of grace. I understand.”

b. A vision of the cross.
God understands our desperation because Jesus experienced desolation. Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” and found heaven empty, so that when we cry “Turn your face away!” God won’t abandon us (Ps 39:13,Matt 27:46).

When I look to the cross, I can suffer withoutguilt, for I know God isn’t punishing me because Jesus was punished instead of me. I can suffer without impatience, for I can trust that God’s purposes are good even when I don’t understand, just like people didn’t understand the cross. I can suffer without self-pity:

Weeping is fine. Weeping and grief is fine. Weeping and disappointment is fine … but weeping in self-pity will make you a small little person, someone who can’t forgive, someone who is always feeling ill-used, someone who gets incredibly touchy and incredibly over-sensitive. … Look at the cross and say, “… My sufferings are nothing compared to yours. If you suffered for me I can be patient with this suffering for you.”

c. An assurance of his glory.
All sorrow ends in joy (Ps 126:6). The final psalms are all psalms of joy. But how does a prayer of tears become a prayer of joy? Eugene Peterson says,

What the psalms are teaching us is that all true prayer pursued far enough will become praise. Any prayer, no matter how desperate its origin, no matter how angry and fearful the experience it traverses, will become praise. It does not always get there quickly. It does not always get there easily. In fact, the trip can take a lifetime! But the end is always praise. This is not to say that other kinds of prayer are inferior to praise, but that all prayer pursued far enough becomes praise. Don’t rush it. Don’t try to push it. It may take years, it may take decades before certain prayers arrive at the hallelujahs of Psalm 150Not every prayer is capped off with praise. In fact most prayers, if the psalms are a true guide, are not. But prayer is always reaching toward praise, and if pursued far enough, will arrive there.

Sometimes we’re afraid to weep because we think we’ll never stop weeping. But if we know that sorrow ends in joy – that sorrow producesjoy – we can dare to weep. Tim Keller asks, are you happy enough to be a weeper? – to get involved in the lives of others even when it’s painful? If so, there will be a harvest of joy for them and you.

He prays, “Father, make us happy enough to weep.” Amen.

images are from Chapendra, IRRI Images and Jacopo Cossater from flickr

http://jeaninallhonesty.blogspot.com.au/2010/05/tim-keller-praying-your-tears.html?m=1

michael gerard bauer - author

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