Friday, August 26, 2011

Strength in Weakness

"For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:10)

There is a constant temptation to believe that we are the most effective in ministry when our families and our churches are the strongest. We are indeed called to an obedient ordering of our families and churches. But we need to remember that God is never hindered by our sinful failings in community, and in fact delights to use our stumblings as so many opportunities to display His ever-readiness to forgive sins for Jesus' sake. It is the proclamation of God's grace that saves the world, not our perfectionistic pursuit of holiness. God's strength is not manifested in our strength, it is revealed in our weakness. As a pastor friend of mine recently observed:

"My postmillennialism is of a particularly robust variety. I believe the earth will be as full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea, in spite of all our labors. I believe in a kind of consubstantiation for our mercy ministries -- the grace of God is apparent in, with, and under all our incompetencies. How so? It's a mystery, my son."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The War of 1812 (or was it....?)

Okay history students, pop quiz: Who fought in the War of 1812? Why was this war fought and who won it? If you're not really sure then here is a very short video for you. WARNING: This will not help you answer the above questions, but it will help you with your self-esteem issues. After all, ignorance loves company, right?

HT: Mitch Milner

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Giving Thanks Always for Everything

One of my favorites parts of our weekly worship service is something we call "The Prayer of Thanksgiving." It's a prayer that is composed and prayed by one of our men to lead the congregation in expressing our thanks to God for His gracious provision and kind mercies.

During this prayer I am invariably prompted to thank God for things which I have either forgotten or neglected to thank Him for; including and perhaps even especially hard providences. Here is a wonderful example of the well-written prayers that our men offer up in the Lord's Service:

Heavenly Father,

We thank you for adopting us into your kingdom and putting us to work in the business of the impossible, the business where you call us to believe like Job when our lives seem to crumble. We know your power but forget our place. You speak to the void and it takes shape, you speak to dirt and it takes on your image, you speak to tiny crawling ants and they lift twenty times their body weight, you speak to the lost who hate you and they take up their crosses and follow you. Lord, we do not understand your ways, your readiness to forgive, your endless grace, your mercy, and your promises to bless us, but we are grateful. We thank you for making us your sons and daughters and for promising to sanctify us, to change us, to mold us. We are so thankful that you choose to use the broken, the weak and the unlovely to further your gospel in ways that seem impossible to us.

Thank you, Father, for not always giving us what we want, but always what we need. We confess that even though you give us our daily bread, our manna from heaven that satisfies our needs, we still grumble in discontent and catalog our wants. Please teach us to love our manna especially as you bring us through the wilderness. Thank you that when we bow down to our golden calf's you knock them down and make us taste the bitterness of sin, and then forgive us, knowing full well we will sin against you again.

Lord, thank you for margaritas and cold beer to gladden our sun-bathed hearts, with each sip we taste the joy that runs rampant in your kingdom. Thank you for gardens that give us tomatoes and beets and carrots and basil. Thank you for summer heat and for houses and cars with air-conditioning so we hardly break a sweat as we run from one to the other. Thank you for swimming pools, and lakes and rivers to cool and refresh our bodies.

As stock prices rise and fall we remember that we come empty handed into your kingdom, and that you give us all that we have. Please take back our tithes and offerings here, they have always been yours.

Lastly, Father, thank you for hearing the prayers of your stiff necked people, and thank you for hearing your son as he mediates for us.

All these things we pray in Jesus’ name, amen. (Jason Helsel)

Let Grace be Your Teacher

"For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age" (Titus 2:11-12)

We tend to think that God's law is the best "teacher" and the most effective way to get people (including ourselves) to "renounce ungodliness...and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives." But according to Paul, the grace of God is much better suited for this task. And Victor Hugo seems to agree. Viz.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Recipients or Stewards?

(Romans 1:4-5) and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,

(Ephesians 3:1-2) For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you,

Paul understood himself to be a recipient of God’s grace, but note in both the passages above, he understood himself to be more than a recipient of God’s grace. In the first passage Paul notes that he received God’s grace in order to lead the Gentiles to the “obedience of faith.” And in the second passage Paul declares that he is a steward of God’s grace, given God’s saving mercies in order to pass them on to the Gentiles.

And this reminds us that God’s gifts only truly become ours as we purpose to give them away. We, like Paul, are not merely recipients of God’s grace, but stewards responsible to pass on the riches that God has entrusted to our oversight/administration. We are conduits, not repositories of Gospel riches.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Our Highest Priority

"The thing that makes us a community, the thing that binds us together, is the fact that we worship together. Make worship your highest priority. When you do the vertical work of worship, you will discover that much of the horizontal work is already done. If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another." (Douglas Wilson to the students returning to New Saint Andrews College)

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Saturday, August 06, 2011

The Blessings of Strife

"He who wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper." (Edmund Burke)

In the Heat of Discord

Wise counsel for pastors and congregants in the heat of discord. (Lord, please make me "quick to listen and slow to speak.")

Church Leaders and the Fellowship of the Grievance from Canon Wired on Vimeo.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

One Thing

“One thing have I asked of the LORD . . .” (Psalm 27:4)

“. . . but one thing is necessary.” (Luke 10:42)

“But one thing I do . . .” (Phil. 3:13)

"A zealous man in religion is pre-eminently a man of one thing.

It is not enough to say that he is earnest, hearty, uncompromising, thorough-going, whole-hearted, fervent in spirit. He sees only one thing, he cares for one thing, he lives for one thing, he is swallowed up in one thing; and that one thing is to please God.

Whether he lives, or whether he dies – whether he has health, or whether he has sickness – whether he is rich, or whether he is poor–whether he pleases man, or whether he gives offense–whether he is thought wise, or whether he is thought foolish – whether he gets blame, or whether he gets praise – whether he gets honor, or whether he gets shame – for all this the zealous man cares nothing at all. He burns for one thing; and that one thing is to please God, and to advance God’s glory.

If he is consumed in the very burning, he cares not for it – he is content. He feels that, like a lamp, he is made to burn; and if he is consumed in burning, he has but done the work for which God appointed him." (J. C. Ryle, Home Truths)

HT: Justin Taylor