What is it we are to hold to so tightly? We are to hold on to whatever it was that first saved us, that first washed away our sins and ushered us clean and new into the Kingdom of God. We are to hold on to our very first experience of the gospel, to the word of truth as it first came to us in all its grace and power. After all, if this simple message was good enough to set us free in the first place, then surely it is good enough to continue setting us free. Therefore we are to keep going back to it. We are to keep on returning to this one, initial, earth-shattering event of our salvation, when Jesus first took all of our burdens and rolled them into the sea, and to this we are to cling for dear life.
Friday, June 27, 2008
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
I especially like the line - "Could it be that our frustratingly persistent sins, which abound, lead us to a greater awareness of God's grace, which so much more abounds?"
Do we continue in our sin that grace abound? As the scripture says, "God forbid". (Rom. 6:1) But the struggle and battle we face daily with our flesh, does give us a great awareness of God's grace. I know that was my experience in battling my persistent sin, and overcoming and walking out of its grip. "Were it not for grace", as the song says, I shudder to think where I would be today. Thank God for a greater awareness of Him, His unconditional love, and boundless grace toward us.
If you haven't yet had victory over your persistent sin(s), hold on to the hope that victory (however that may be defined) is available, but in the meantime, God may be using your struggle as a way to give you a greater awareness of His grace.
I'm going to cut/paste the article here, just in case the link "dies" one day.
Why Can't I Shake My Sins?
A surprising answer to a stubborn problem.
by Kevin A. Miller
A man came to see me. It was the beginning of Lent, the original "40 Days of Purposeful Repentance."
"Pastor," he said, "I want to confess my sins." And in tears, he spoke honestly and openly about the sin in his life—nothing illegal, most known only to him, yet serious, and he wanted to turn away from it. We talked and prayed together, and he left.
Forty days later, he came back.
"How are you doing?" I asked.
"I haven't made much progress," he admitted, his eyes unable to meet mine.
In his agony was a question I've often asked: "Why does sin so stubbornly remain in our lives?" He and I both want to change more than we have and more than we do.
I've heard many answers, ranging from "You just haven't gotten serious enough about turning away from your sin" to "You need an experience of greater or entire sanctification" to "You need an accountability partner" to "You need to let go and let God." All helpful, to a point, but they didn't seem to fit this man hunched over in front of me.
So I read several classic books of spiritual devotion. Their answer was not what I expected; in fact, it was the opposite.
In the first book, Francois Fenelon, a Christian spiritual adviser in the 1600s, wrote a letter that included a phrase that stopped me: "Sometimes [God] leaves people with certain unconquerable imperfections …" Really? God does this? What good end could God possibly have in mind for leaving unconquered areas in our lives? Fenelon continued, "… in order to deprive them of all inward self-satisfaction … Self-reliance, even in the matter of curing one's faults, fosters a hidden conceit."
In other words, we are most concerned about our "unconquerable imperfections." God is more concerned about our pride. And in order to stab our pride, he may leave those imperfections in our life, for a time, to make us humble, to cause us to throw ourselves, in frustration with ourselves, upon God.
Even faults that stubbornly remain can be used by God for our good, says Fenelon: "Let us profit by the faults we have committed, through the humble consciousness of our weakness, without discouragement."
I swelled with hope. Could it be that our frustratingly persistent sins, which abound, lead us to a greater awareness of God's grace, which so much more abounds?
In a second spiritual classic, Introduction to the Devout Life, Francis de Sales concurs: "For the furtherance of humility, it is needful that we sometimes find ourselves worsted in this spiritual battle." Needful. Necessary for us. But "we shall never be conquered until we lose either life or courage. … we are certain to vanquish so long as we are willing to fight."
Our persistent failings bring us "abjection" (humility), and that's spiritually beneficial as long as we persevere.
While striving for holiness, we must not underestimate the value of humility. As Peter of Damaskos wrote in the Philokalia: If "you sin out of habit even when you do not want to, show humility like the Publican (Lk. 18:13); this is enough to ensure your salvation."
So when struggling with persistent sin, take heart. God is at work, and even your persistent failings may work to your good and his glory. Let yourself be humbled by your falls.
Fenelon concludes: "Bear with yourself in your involuntary frailties as God bears, wait patiently for His appointed time of complete deliverance, and meanwhile go on quietly and according to your strength in the path before you, without losing time in looking back; sorrowing over [your sins] with humility, but putting them aside to press onwards; not looking upon God as a spy watching to surprise you, or an enemy laying snares for you, but as a Father who loves you. … Such you will find to be the path toward true liberty."
Kevin A. Miller is executive vice president of Christianity Today International and assistant pastor at Church of the Resurrection in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.Copyright © 2008 by the author or Christianity Today International/Leadership Journal.
Spring 2008, Vol. XXIX, No. 2, Page 65
"Most people, rather than waiting on the Lord in times of trouble, squander what little energy they have in endless conjecture, self-analysis, and rationalization." (p.191)re: the paralytic of Matthew 9:
"...repentance consisted simply in letting himself be carried, sinful as he was, into the presence of Christ." (p.192)Maybe some personal elaboration on these later, but for now, the quotes stand for themselves.
"In the final analysis, the only way to approach Jesus Christ is by sinning - that is, by acknowledging our sinfulness. If we try to approach him innocently, happily, energetically, piously, or purely, then we will never get near Him. He only forgives sinners. He only saves the lost. He only causes to walk those who are totally paralyzed. He only gives life to the dead." (p.192)
from "The Gift of Being Yourself" (Benner)
"...God's love for you has nothing to do with your behavior. Neither your faithfulness nor your unfaithfulness alters Divine love in the slightest degree. Like the father's love in the parable of the prodigal son, Divine love is absolutely unconditional, unlimited and unimaginably extravagant."Reminds me of that old hymn we used to sing...
"The generative love of God was our origin. The embracing love of God sustains our existence. The inextinguishable love of God is the only hope for our fulfillment.." (p.49)
"Every time I dare to meet God in the vulnerability of my sin and shame, this knowing is strengthened. Every time I fall back into a self-improvement mode and try to bring God my best self, it is weakened. I only know Divine unconditional, radical and reckless love for me when I dare to approach God just as I am. The more I have the courage to meet God in this place of weakness, the more I will know myself to be truly and deeply loved by God. And the more deeply I know this love, the easier it will be to trust it as Christ did - preferring God's will to my own." (p.51-52)
"...parts of self that are not given a place at the family table become stronger, not weaker. Operating out of sight and beyond awareness, they have increasing influence on our behavior." (p.54)
"God accepts us - fully and unconditionally, just as we are." (p.56)
"If God loves and accepts you as a sinner, how can you do less?" (p.57)
Verse 1Do we really believe what we sing? Do we really believe the gospel? Do we really understand God's extravagant grace? I understand it a little more each day. Thank you, God!
Just as I am without one plea
But that Thy Blood was shed for me
And that Thou biddest me come to Thee
O Lamb of God I come I come
Just as I am and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot
To Thee Whose Blood can cleanse each spot
O Lamb of God I come I come
Just as I am Thou wilt receive
Wilt welcome pardon cleanse relieve
Because Thy Promise I believe
O Lamb of God I come I come
Just as I am Thy Love unknown
Hath broken every barrier down
Now to be Thine yes Thine alone
O Lamb of God I come I come
Just as I am though tossed about
With many a conflict many a doubt
Fightings and fears within without
O Lamb of God I come I come
Just as I am poor wretched blind
Sight riches healing of the mind
Yea all I need in Thee to find
O Lamb of God I come I come
Monday, June 23, 2008
You may have read in the news about the increased violence and today’s election in
We just received this letter about the heartbreaking situation in
from the pastor of our church in ______. It would be accurate. Please pray for this situation and the body of believers there. Zimbabwe
In His grace,
From ________, pastor of _________ Church, ____:
Prayer and News Letter
, June 21st, 2008 Zimbabwe
We need please, for you to pray for us and for our land.
Friday June 27th marks a watershed of the history of our nation. Our re-run Presidential election is set to take place, incumbent Mr. Mugabe having lost in the first to Morgan Tsvangarai, but supposedly, not with a simple majority (and that conclusion is debated of course). Whatever happens on that day will determine the history of our nation significantly, it is a watershed. And who knows what will happen? Should Mugabe win as a result of his recent tactics, about which more later, then there is no arresting of the increasingly rapid slide into economic implosion and total societal disintegration. But there may be an end to the violence that has recently gripped us.
Should Tsvangarai win as a result of the genuine wishes of the people the future is more murky. In an ideal world, things will start to turn around, the present government will move aside, the civil service will be improved, security forces purged of corruption, politicians held accountable for profiteering, international aid and interest will flow in and slowly but surely the huge ship of Zimbabwe will change course for a brighter future.
But we live in a real, not an ideal world. It seems unlikely that the President will relinquish power in any scenario, the army and air force and police are puppets, or rather fellow dominoes who realise that when one domino falls over, the whole lot will collapse. Who knows what might be unleashed upon the nation, it really is a genuine question. So, without wanting to raise panic, or undue fear, my feeling is that the future is most serious indeed.
What has been happening? What does lie beneath the facade of normality? Well, after the first election we were shocked as a nation, it was all so calm, so peaceful, the parliament was won by the opposition, as well as the presidential vote. We foolishly believed that we were getting a new government. And many of us concluded that there was no way that the government and the president in particular, could manoeuvre out of this. He had lost, it was clear, it had to be accepted!
Oh no it did not! We have seen what can only be described as diabolical cleverness and demonic wickedness in the past months. Long delays in announcements, frustrating the work of the electoral commission, miring the issue in court proceedings… and then the violence. Slowly but steadily, well planned and orchestrated the violence has grown. Intimidation has always been one of the political tools of this regime, in this election, it
is the only tool.
There is one sentence, indeed one word on the manifesto of this election campaign. It is the word "fear". In past elections votes could be bought, bought with food, bought with promises, bought with land. Now the food has run out, promises are seen to be hollow, land is taken and misused. Now, votes must be coerced, and coerced through violence.
And what is happening? In the rural areas, whole villages are being intimidated, chiefs are being threatened with reprisals by the army should a village support the opposition, people are fleeing homes and living and sleeping in the bush for fear of beatings, rape, pillaging, and the burning of their homes by gangs of youths armed and mandated by the government.
I do not wish to horrify you, but if you want, have a look at some of the Human Rights reports on
on the internet to see some of the horrific acts of violence. One of our elders said that having read these, he determined not to share them with his wife. Zimbabwe
Youths are being given ruling party T shirts and formed into mobs, transported to areas other than their home areas and given the go ahead to beat and assault at whim. Rumours are that criminals have been released from prison on the proviso that they fulfil certain duties for the powers that be. Even in the cities violence has come.
Commuter omnibuses, minicabs used for public transport are being stopped and the drivers beaten. Passengers have to get out and chant ZANU-PF (ruling party) slogans or they are beaten. People are asked to repeat the party slogan and if they do not know it, they are beaten. A church member has just come in and shared how she travelled to a near by town, on the way was stopped at 2 Police road blocks and made to chant slogans. A young man in the church witnessed youths stopping a minibus, pulling out the driver and beating him on the street, without reprisal, without police interference. We have more and more people coming to the church in need of help as a result of political violence and intimidation. Reports come to our ears daily of acts of torture and oppression and violence, people are rounded up in areas and made to attend party rallies. Abductions happen regularly, murders occur and are unreported. The list could go on and on. And in the midst the government maintains the posture of pretended indignant integrity, hypocritically acting as though their hands are clean and the opposition had better stop the violence.
What does that mean on the ground in our country at the moment? It means that all of us are somewhat fearful. True, some areas are much safer than others, the more densely populated, less affluent areas are more prone to the violence, but even in these other, safer areas, we all drive with great care. I recently went to buy some maize meal for our staff and social concern ministry, I had heard about its availability (on the black market of course, none in the shops). On the way back I took a longer, more circuitous route just in case I was stopped. Is carrying food a crime? No, but ...... Churches have been stopped in fact from distributing food, even an organisation that feeds street children was told to stop operations. Our own food distribution we keep as low key as possible, how tragic, to live in an environment when doing good has to be done in secret, lest it be seen and stopped. Many of our church folk learn the slogans of the day for their own protection; minibuses plaster themselves with party posters as a form of protection. We cancelled our youth meetings last night and encourage people to be off the streets during the evening. Late last night, taking our assistant caretaker to catch a ride home and having to drop him in town, I myself was feeling a bit nervous. Even writing these words, letting you know some of the things that are really happening, I have a concern about who might get hold of this and what might it be used for. Such fearfulness is wrong.
Friends, we need you to pray please. God must hear, and God must do something. We as a church will continue to do what we can do, we will seek to "trust in the Lord and do good" and we will hope to "dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture". But frankly, it is hard. The economy spirals in free fall, my salary at the beginning of the month had devalued by about 40 times now by way of example. Food is short, unavailable on the shelves of stores or far too expensive if there for the average person, the black market thrives for all basic commodities, inflation figures make no sense, in the millions of percent now, outstanding fees on our school bill are charged a penalty of 10% per day, people struggle to find basics, for our Girls Centre fees at a college went from 3 billion one day, to 10 billion the next, to 25 billion the following week. Food procurement is challenging and expensive, the government charges an iniquitous duty of 65% on food brought in, a duty charge that is levied on transport as well. Friends in
are sending a food parcel up for our pastors and church workers and the needy, they will end up paying in excess of twice the real price because of government taxes and transport. The wickedness is unbelievable, the lack of concern for struggling people is demonic, the deafness of those in power to the cries of the suffering and the commitment to self-advancement at the expense of others are hard to believe. How can any in power inflict such suffering upon their own people? South Africa
This is becoming one of my rambling letters, but there is much inside me that churns. We need you to pray please. As a church, in our fear and uncertainty and concern, we seek to remain faithful, we look to God, but we are honestly asking the Habakkuk questions. We feel that we pray and God does not listen, we feel that we cry and God does not act. But our faith is trying to reach beyond our feelings, indeed, what is the alternative but despair?
So please, this week especially, pray that we will understand God's larger purpose and be willing to endure with an eye on that. Pray for many people struggling and wondering, in fear and uncertainty. Pray for young people caught up in the situation, for elderly who are beaten by youths contrary to the deepest mores of culture and African community and disgraced in public as evidence of society's fabric being ripped apart, for grandmothers and widows, for school children with studies disrupted and classes cancelled, for people in prison for political views, for pastors to be wise and full of integrity, for police and army members, that they will be convicted and refuse to act out the part they are called to pray. And pray for God's righteous judgment to come, for God to lift His powerful hand, for evil to be crushed, for those that dig a pit to fall into it, and those that spread a net to be caught up in it, that God will be seen to defend the defenceless and father the fatherless.
Please pray that God will hear, and that God will act. And that suffering will cease.
We are grateful for your interest and concern, let my regular apology for the length of the communication bring it to an end.
May God be glorified in all things.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
Speaking of great quotes, here's a great one I just stumbled across from Larry Crabb's article, Sovereign Stumbling.
...real community happens when the energy of Christ within believers pours out into another person with the wisdom that the Bible provides, with the wisdom that only suffering can teach, and with the wisdom of the Spirit working through the resources He has given us through the New Covenant.Wow! That sums up much of my recent journeying through life (the bold was my emphasis, just for the record). I'm so thankful to be part of a community where those who have suffered anything are welcomed with open arms and shown the unconditional love of God.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
And now, on to the quotes!
"I don't take our time together for granted."May we fathers (and husbands) live up to the kind things written and said about us on this special day.
"For all you are to me today and all you've ever been..."
"To the greatest, caring, loving, funny, enjoyable, "cool", selfless, courageous, Godly, pure, patient, wonderful, thoughtful, awesome, talented, treasured, bold, commited, faithful, merciful, musical, incredible, but nothing without the Lord... Dad (a.k.a. Forty Pops)"
"Happy Father's Day 2008. The year that brought a whole new meaning to the word 'father'."
"Dad, you have no idea how blessed I feel to have a father like you. You are the kind of dad some kids dream of... & you are mine. I'm so proud of everything you have done and everything that you are now. I love you so much."
"Dads like you... make the most simple things wonderful."
Thursday, June 12, 2008
As soon as you start looking down on your brother and being scornful and critical of him, your behavior gives you away, proving that you have fundamentally failed to grasp the astounding breadth of God's mercy as it has been shown to you. For if you really grasped it, then that same mercy would automatically flow out of you to others. If it does not, that can only mean you have not actually received God's mercy yourself.(The Gospel According to Job, p.180 - Mason)
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Some Christians speak of a personal encounter with Jesus as if this were a one-time matter - something that happens at conversion. This is a tragic confusion of an introduction and a relationship. A first encounter is just that - a first encounter. What God longs for us to experience is intimate knowing that comes by means of an ongoing relationship. (p.36)and from J.I. Packer's "Knowing God"
Transformational knowing of God comes from meeting God in our depths, not in the abstraction of dusty theological propositions.
The goal of a prayerful review of recent life experiences is not self-analysis. The point is not to peel back the layers of the onion and find some problem or meaning. Instead the goal is simply increased awareness of God in the events of life and the depths of my being. (p.44)
a little knowledge of God is worth more than a great deal of knowledge about Him.
To read, listen or watch, click here
or visit http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByDate/2008/2832_A_Broken_and_Contrite_Heart_God_Will_Not_Despise/
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
Thy Kingdom Come - CeCe Winans
WL Quick Tip: Don't miss out on this album. Upload it on to your ipod and begin to decide which songs you want to use in your worship set.
Sometimes I feel a little silly being asked to write a review on a new project by an artist like CeCe Winans. I mean, come on. Isn't everything she does great? Well, apparently, yes. This is a great project.
It is telling that the first song on the CD, "We Welcome You (Holy Father)" is not the one that strikes you as the hit or the most attention grabbing, as most artists are prone to program their projects. In fact, the first song is not really for us listeners at all. Instead, it is a simple, powerful and direct invitation to God, to welcome Him into our listening experience, turning it into a worship experience. With this song, CeCe is establishing her goal for the CD, making her intentions clear from the outset.
The album is a diverse collection of styles and moods, ranging from funk, pop, R&B, African rhythms, dance grooves, gospel, choral, praise & worship-it's all here, and yet seamlessly woven together. But really, the project is about worship. I asked some of my staff to listen...here are a couple comments: "CeCe has tapped into that ‘secret place' of the most high that David speaks of, where most are afraid to go." "Very worshipful." You get the picture.
I found myself hard pressed to focus a critical ear to this CD because, simply put, it is too reverent and enjoyable throughout. Whether you've ever owned a CeCe CD before, or whether or not you think her style is not your cup of tea, get Thy Kingdom Come for your collection. You need to let it minister to you. This CD should not be relegated to background listening. It is a worship experience.
Director of Creative Arts at Saddleback Church
(from Worship Leader magazine)
As the discussion deepens we see all three of the friends growing more and more convinced that Job is his own worst enemy and that his trials are entirely of his own making. From their point of view this is the whole problem in a nutshell, and that is the end of the matter. What can be done with someone who obstinately refuses to repent? In the eyes of the spiritual doctors, Job is like a patient who has lung cancer because he has smoked too much. And now, they say, just look at the old fool - in spite of all the radiation and surgery and chemotherapy, he's still puffing away like a human smokestack. In such a case, conclude the doctors, it is useless to waste even an ounce of pity. The fact that they themselves might have contracted a far worse disease - a cancer of the heart brought on by the failure to love - is conveniently overlooked in their medical textbooks. (p.169)With friends like these, who needs enemies? Ever met people like Job's "friends"? As Mike Mason continues,
How often do Christian acts of mercy that began in a spirit of genuine love and compassion end up going sour as the element of judgment enters in? Real suffering is such an ugly business, such a messy and draining and thankless and long, drawn-out affair that all the soundest theology in the world, powered by the most heart-felt sympathy and the loftiest motives and all the grandest resources, simply crumble to dust in the face of it. Any charitable venture that does not find its source in the tireless energy and inexhaustible compassion of the Lord Himself is doomed to failure. (p.170)Be a friend to someone today. One thing that I have learned is that unless you have walked "a mile in another man's moccasins" you have no idea what they have walked through during their lifetime.