Just a little of my daughter’s graphic work at university this year. The best reminder!
This 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!”
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.
* 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,
A 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:
3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 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!
“Singing is a profound example of how we are made in the image of God. Whether we come to it through the science of the body, the breath drawn in and transfigured into music, just as the breath of God brought the first human to life (according to Genesis); or whether we find it through the mathematics of the intervals of sound that work together to produce beauty; or the soul of the artist, painting with sighs; there is room for everyone to come together with God in that work of creating God’s image on earth.
Whether you are the outgoing type who just has to share all your feelings and words with the people around you; or whether you are more on the shy side, hiding yourself inside the notes, letting the music speak for you, give you a voice, there is room for every image of God in the choir, in the song.
And just as we never reach the end of the image of God, so we never reach the end of the ways that music can speak to us and for us. It is a gift.
And those who sing it show us the image of God, and bless us with the image and echoes of immortality.
Originally published at http://wp.me/p1sWUy-1jn
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 prayer. They 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 150. Not 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
This is a great quote – from today’s post over at “In my Father’s House” – which reminds us why we read and seek to understand God’s Word. There are so many other things that could motivate us, but here is surely the most important:
Beloved, our understanding of Scripture must lead us to love—to love God more and to love others unconditionally. Otherwise, we will stay in our fear-based paradigm and ultimately use Scripture as a club against one another because of our insecurities. Our diligent study will only lead to biblical idolatry, “having a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge”(Rom.10:2), using “the letter that kills”rather than the “Spirit that gives life” (2 Cor.3:6). Our understanding must tenderize our hearts and lead us to show the same grace for others that we would want for ourselves. And this love will never do our neighbor harm, which fulfills all righteousness (Rom.13:10).
The hermeneutics of love – part two – http://wp.me/p3I7Ty-3zy
“Grace shows up in unlikely places if we keep our hearts and minds open. What fear buries, grace resurrects. Fear pushed me to withdraw from precious friends for years, but grace promises to redeem lost time. Fear convinced me to lump these friends with everyone else who had hurt me, but grace is a reconciler.”
When we open our Bibles to read, we’re never alone. The Holy Spirit hovers over and in the words of God, ready to stir our hearts, illumine our minds, and redirect our lives, all for the glory of Christ (John 16:14). The Spirit is the X factor in Bible reading, making an otherwise ordinary routine supernatural — and making it utterly foolish to read and study without praying for our eyes, minds, and hearts.
Prayer is a conversation, but not one we start. God speaks first. His voice sounds in the Scriptures and climactically in the person and work of his Son. Then, wonder of all wonders, he stops, he stoops, he bends his ear to listen to us. Prayer is almost too good to be true. With our eyes on God’s words, he gives us his ear, too.
How then should we pray over our Bibles? Here are four verses you might pray as you open God’s word.
1. Psalm 119:18: Open My Eyes to Wonder
“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Psalm 119:18). We ask God to open our spiritual eyes to show us the glimpses of glory we cannot see by ourselves. Without his help, we are simply “natural” persons with natural eyes. “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand [see] them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14–15).
“Seeing they do not” was Jesus’s phrase for those who saw him and his teaching only with natural eyes, without the illumining work of the Spirit (Matthew 13:13). This is why Paul prays for Christians, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,having the eyes of your hearts enlightened” (Ephesians 1:17–18).
Join the psalmist in praying not just for the gift of spiritual sight, but for the gift of seeing wondrous things in God’s word. Wonder is a great antidote for wandering. Those who cultivate awe keep their hearts warm and soft, and resist the temptations to grow cold and fall away.
2. Luke 18:38: Have Mercy on Me
Pray, like the blind man begging roadside, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” For as long as we are in this life, sin encumbers every encounter with God in his word. We fail friends and family daily — and even more, we fail God. So it is fitting to accompany our opening of God’s word with the humble, broken, poor plea of the redeemed: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:13).
Bible reading is a daily prompt to own our failures, newly repent, and freshly cast ourselves on his grace all over again. Prayer is the path to staying fascinated with his grace and cultivating a spirit of true humility.
3. James 1:22: Make Me a Doer of Your Word
Pray that God, having opened your eyes to wonder and reminded you of the sufficiency of his grace, would produce genuine change in your life. Ask him to allow the seeds from Scripture to bear real, noticeable fruit in tangible acts of sacrificial love for others. “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). You need not artificially capture one, specific point of application from every passage, but pray that his word would shape and inform and direct your practical living.
Ask that he would make you more manifestly loving, not less, because of the time invested alone in reading and studying his word.
4. Luke 24:45: Open My Eyes to Jesus
This is another way of praying that God would open our eyes to wonder, just with more specificity. The works of God stand as marvelous mountain ranges in the Bible, but the highest peak, and the most majestic vista, is the person and work of his Son.
As Jesus himself taught after his resurrection, he is the Bible’s closest thing to a skeleton key for unlocking the meaning of every text — every book, every plot twist, the whole story. First, “he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27), then he taught his disciples that “everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44). And in doing so, “he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45).
The great goal of Bible reading and study is this: knowing and enjoying Jesus. This is a taste now of heaven’s coming delights. “This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). This gives direction, focus, and purpose to our study. “Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD” (Hosea 6:3). This forms great yearning and passion in our souls: “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8).
Keep both eyes peeled for Jesus. Until we see how the passage at hand relates to Jesus’s person and work, we haven’t yet finished the single most important aspect of our reading.
We are desperate for God’s ongoing help to see, and so we pray.
David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor for desiringGod.org, pastor at Cities Church in Minneapolis/Saint Paul, and adjunct professor for Bethlehem College & Seminary. He has edited and contributed to several books and is author of Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines.
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Source: Music and Abortion
By Murray Campbell
Scientists have discovered that babies in the womb, as young as 16 weeks, respond to music by ‘dancing’.
“The foetuses responded to the music by moving their mouths or their tongues as if they wanted to wanted to speak or sing,” said one of the researchers, Marisa Lopez-Teijon. The research has been published in journal of the British Medical Ultrasound Society, Ultrasound.
What this means is that babies’ cognitive faculties, creative faculties, and listening and communication skills are more highly developed at 16 weeks than previously thought.
The more scientists study human beings in the womb, the more wonder, beauty and complexity we discover. As scientific research advances, the findings increasingly demonstrate that embryos are not less human but fully human, and from the very earliest stages.
I am reminded of the words spoken by one excited mum, ‘As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy’ (Luke 1:44).
It was interesting to note that the article inThe Australian, while sometimes referring to embryos, also addresses them as babies. The days when scientists and proabortionists justified abortion by claiming embryos were not human has long gone.
This latest research makes the reality of abortions even more appalling. It is a dreadful paradox of our society, that a child who enjoys listening to music in the womb can, on the same day, be killed in the womb.
How can we justify killing a child who in their first weeks of life is being moved by the sounds of Mozart and Bach? Not that responding to music defines their humanity but it further proves their humanity. He or she is not potential life, but is life with a mind and body that is active and alert.
Science is showing us the ignominy of our attitudes toward the unborn, but will we listen? We have longed turned deaf to the Bible’s pleas about the sanctity of life, and I suspect that we will also turn a blind eye to these amazing revelations that are being proven through empirical research.
Through music, science is affirming an ancient theological truth, embryos are people like us. But will we listen?
If you are reading this as a pregnant mum and you are questioning whether you should keep your baby, please talk to someone. We have a trained female counsellor at Mentone Baptist who is available to listen and help –faye.Ludik@mentonebaptist.com.au.
If you are reading this post as someone who struggles with a past decision to undergo an abortion, I want you to know that the good news of Jesus Christ means that real forgiveness and healing is promised through him. Abortion is wrong, but it is not the unforgivable sin. Again, please contact our church counsellor. If you don’t live near Mentone but are keen to find out more, please contact us and we’ll try to find a suitable church near where you live.