Friday, November 30, 2012

Preparing for corporate worship: God became man (1)

"If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared" (Ps. 130:3-4). This is a great Christmas verse. Why? I was pondering my own sinful shortcomings this morning as I drove to the train station, and I thought about the first part of this passage. I recognized my iniquities made impossible any basis I had of my own for standing without condemnation before the Holy Judge. Yet, I do stand without condemnation before Him. Why? Because God the Son became an embryo, a newborn, a child who grew into a man who lived a perfectly righteous life in my place and stood condemned before His Father in my place. That is what Advent, the incarnation, Christmas -- however we choose to describe it -- is about. In corporate worship this Sunday, Covenant Community Church will begin giving special attention to this miraculous truth that God became man. May we come with joyful and humbly grateful hearts to worship Him.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The importance of a complementarian view

Complementarianism describes what I believe to be the biblical view of the God-designed differences between men and women, as well as the roles they fulfill in the home and church. Here is a helpful video excerpt from John Piper's sermon last weekend in which he describes complementarianism's middle ground between two erroneous views.

Top 10 tweets

1. “Whether you realize it or not, you are in an unending conversation with yourself and it forms the way you live.” – Paul David Tripp

2. “You preach [to] yourself a gospel of aloneness [and] inability or of the provisions and power of an ever-present Christ.” – Paul David Tripp

3. “You preach to yourself a gospel of your righteousness, power and wisdom or of deep spiritual need and sufficient grace.” – Paul David Tripp

4. “Anything you say you’ve got to have to make you happy has your soul by the neck.” – Dave Furman

5. “Our ascended Lord is the Victor and the victory medal around his neck is the bedraggled lamb of the church he carries to his heaven.” – Elyse Fitzpatrick

6. “Either you are getting your identity vertically or you’re shopping for it horizontally.” – Paul David Tripp

7. “We give ourselves to others to help form Christ in them.” – Darren Patrick

8. “Lord Jesus, purge every semblance of Javert from my soul. Eradicate in me everything allergic to grace.” – Scotty Smith

9. “Faith is not only a serious assent to the truth of God’s promises, it is also a satisfying embrace of Christ in the promises.” – John Piper

10. “You are most loving and kind when you accept that there’s no truth you’d give to others that you don’t need yourself.” – Paul David Tripp

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What's a mom to do?

'Mother & Son 2' photo (c) 2012, Gordon - license: a blessing it is to know many ladies of many ages who are recipients of God’s saving grace and are following Jesus. They encourage and challenge me by the grace I see expressed in and through their lives. I benefit from those who are part of our family by birth or marriage and from those whom I have known across the years and miles. I also reap the reward of worshiping with such sisters in Christ week by week within Covenant Community Church.

Many of these female saints are mothers. As mothers, they bless their families with their sacrificial service for the good of their husbands and children. Some ladies who are not mothers or whose children have grown and moved away serve as spiritual mothers to young ladies, and some who still have children at home are spiritual mothers to others outside their nuclear family.

Some mothers in our church – and many other churches – are home educators as well. In addition to all the responsibilities all mothers have, these mothers also teach their children reading, writing, math and the other disciplines. For mothers with large families, this can mean home-schooling children for as much as a quarter of a century.

A recent conversation with my wife -- as well as some writing by Stephen Altrogge at The Blazing Center blog -- prompted me to want to write something for Christian mothers. This won’t be as provocative or as humorous as Altrogge’s posts, but I hope it proves helpful. You can read his posts on the subject here and here.

Here are some questions to set the stage for six recommendations: How does a Christian mother respond to the challenges mothers have always faced? And how does a Christian mother respond in seasons sometimes further complicated by even more responsibilities? How does she react to criticism from a world that often does not esteem motherhood? How does a mother respond when other Christians – often other mothers – pile unbiblical expectations on her and try to tell her via books, blogs, Facebook, speeches and one-on-one communication she is failing or she is not being a faithful Christian mother?

Certainly, it helps to have a loving and servant-hearted husband who leads her by grace. And it is beneficial to have children who genuinely express gratitude.

What I share below, however, is for a mother to apply regardless of how good her support system is. I hope these points will help mothers know how to think biblically about the unhelpful and even disconcerting messages they may receive from others. These points can be applied by any follower of Christ to his or her life, but I offer them specifically for mothers who are seeking to do their best to love their children and rear them to worship God and follow Jesus.

1. Flee fundamentalism, legalism and any other performance-based approach to Christianity. While sincere, those individuals and ministries that excel at burdening mothers and others with works-based and/or culturally driven standards seem always to be with us. They promote what amounts to an unbiblical, grace-deprived Christianity. Don’t let these anti-gospel messages define you.

2. Flee to Jesus and His gospel. This point is really a summary of those that follow, but there seems to be a need to state it explicitly. If you are going to flee something, you need to run to someone or something. Run to Jesus.

3. Recognize your security and most important identity are in Jesus. They are not in whether you do all the mommy things some Christian voices or some in the world try to convince you a good mother does. They are not in whether you accomplish all the things you think you should. They are not even in those occasions when you do accomplish all you think you should. As Milton Vincent says in A Gospel Primer for Christians:
The gospel also reminds me that my righteous standing with God always holds firm regardless of my performance, because my standing is based solely on the work of Jesus and not mine. On my worst days of sin and failure, the gospel encourages me with God’s unrelenting grace toward me. On my best days of victory and usefulness, the gospel keeps me relating to God solely on the basis of Jesus’ righteousness and not mine.
Your security and most important identity are also not in how your children perform. They are not in how your children turn out. That is important, but you cannot control those outcomes, no matter how well you perform your role as mother. You are not sovereign – even over your children’s lives. God is. Trust Him, because He is worthy of trust. Rest – yes, rest – in who Jesus is as your Savior, Lord and Life and in what He has done for you.

4. Preach the gospel to yourself. Remind yourself at least daily – maybe several times a day – what the gospel is and what Jesus has done for you. He is your substitute in His righteous life, His all-sufficient death and His triumphant resurrection. The gospel of Jesus is the truth that matters most. Read the New Testament with your spiritual eyes attuned to what it says Jesus achieved for you and who you are as a result of that work on your behalf.

5. Live by grace. Your salvation is all of God and all of His grace. Remind yourself of that grace when you fail. Extend grace to other mothers who do things differently than you while living under the lordship of Christ. Shower grace on your children, giving them a real-life picture of a God who is a loving, forgiving, embracing Father and not a performance-based, rule-focused tyrant.

6. Spend time with grace-extending ladies in a church with a growing gospel culture. Have other ladies in your life as mentors and friends who are seeking to live by the gospel of grace and are not continually burdening themselves and others with the weight of a moralistic, performance-focused mentality. This is best done in a church where everyone is hearing the gospel proclaimed and applied from all of Scripture to Christians, as well as non-Christians, and the church is growing in grace as a result. Our church is blessed by ladies who have learned to reject fundamentalism and legalism and are able to guide younger mothers in living by the gospel of grace. An online resource that is helpful for mothers is the Domestic Kingdom blog, which is edited by Gloria Furman, a pastor’s wife and mother in Dubai. She also is the author of the forthcoming book, Glimpses of Grace: Treasuring the Gospel in Your Home.

(As always, I welcome your comments and questions on anything I have written in this post.)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Mondays are for music: 'Gather 'Round, Ye Children, Come'

Andrew Peterson recorded his Christmas album, "Behold the Lamb of God," in 2004, but his band and he, as well as a collection of other musicians, had already been touring the previous four years to perform this splendid, big picture, musical presentation of the incarnation of Christ. They begin another "Behold the Lamb Tour" this week with a Dec. 6 stop in Richmond, Va., and a Dec. 7 show in Gaithersburg, Md. The video below is of Peterson and his friends performing the opening song, "Gather 'Round, Ye Children, Come." With this edition of "Mondays are for music," I inaugurate what I plan to be a December video playlist of songs about the amazing story of God becoming a man.

Top 20 tweets

Since I have been on a short sabbatical from blogging, I decided to expand “Top 10 tweets” to “Top 20 tweets” on this occasion to try to do justice to all the tweets I collected during the last week and a half. Here are the “Top 20:”

1. “Every thought, desire, choice, word and action of Jesus was lived on your behalf so you could stand before God with a record that is clear.” – Paul David Tripp

2. “It boils down to either finding our place in God’s story or giving God a bit part in our story.” – Scotty Smith

3. “The gospel is the good news that the determining factor in my relationship with God is Christ’s obedience, not mine.” – Tullian Tchividjian

4. “God’s grace wasn’t given to deliver your dream for your life, but to deliver you and give you life.” – Paul David Tripp

5. “My sins are greater than my confessions, but I am thankful my Savior is greater than both.” – Jared Wilson

6. “We parent not to make sure our kids never sin but to teach them how to deal with their sin in light of the gospel. 1Jn 2:1” – Bob Kauflin

7. “Grace is not only greater than all my sin, but also greater than all my so called ‘goodness.’ Both need redemption.” – Scotty Smith

8. “God isn’t a genie we can call to our service whenever we feel the need, then bottle back up so we can go on living as we please.” – Randy Alcorn

9. “The Gospel is like a Hobbit. For many it looks weak and insignificant. But through it, God will save the world!” – Greg Breazeale

10. “If you’re not living by the joy of the Holy Spirit the only category you have for the spiritual disciplines is legalism.” – John Piper

11. “Jesus, I don’t need 1000 tongues; just free the one I have 2 bless, not curse; 2 praise, not whine; 2 honor you, not me.” – Scotty Smith

12. “Isn’t it good news to know that we don’t have to live in fear ‘that our life hangs in the balance of whether or not we make a wrong move?’” – Tullian Tchividjian

13. “Every sunrise points us to look ahead to the Day that is coming that will be the end of darkness forever.” – Gloria Furman

14. “God is better than our small faith. He may use means which surprise us to draw our attention to Him.” – Mark Dever

15. “Constantly rehearsing the ways people have failed you is like putting a straw into a sewer and sipping away. Don’t do it.” – Scotty Smith

16. “Corporate worship is designed to welcome you into the sweet peace, rest and hope that is only found in the person and work of Jesus Christ.” – Paul David Tripp

17. “The key for a gospel-driven leader is this: remember to forget yourself.” – Trevin Wax

18. “Too many Christians live to not make mistakes instead of resting in the love of the One whose blood covers all our mistakes.” – Tullian Tchividjian

19. “Are we willing to be made uncomfortable to reach the nations with the gospel? Our Lord Jesus was (Mark 10:45)!” – Daniel Akin

20. “Let’s be very careful NOT to equate ‘no longer under God’s law’ with ‘no longer called to do God’s will.’” – Scotty Smith

Friday, November 16, 2012

A brief break from blogging

I plan to take a short blogging sabbatical for about the next 10 days. I have not posted much this week, since I have been on the road or away from the home and office four of the first five days of the week. Now, we are on a road trip to Kansas for a much-anticipated family get-together Thanksgiving week.

I should be back to blogging Nov. 26 or shortly thereafter.

As a sendoff for now, here is a verse from my Bible reading today:

"And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him" (Heb. 11:6, ESV).

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Top 10 tweets

1. “Christian, God’s love for you and approval of you is not diminished by your failures or enhanced by your successes. (Rom. 8:38-39)” – Tullian Tchividjian

2. “If God predestined the cross and brought from it blessing, why can’t he predestine our troubles and turn them for good?” – Kevin DeYoung

3. “When Jesus helps us smash our idols it is grace to us & a witness to others of his supreme worth.” – Gloria Furman

4. “We’ve got some choices to make today: To believe the gospel or trust our idols; to bless or curse; be petty or be kind.” – Scotty Smith

5. “Sin is addiction: An ever-increasing craving for an ever-diminishing pleasure.” – Darren Patrick

6. “Point the finger of blame at someone or something else = self atonement. Admit your sin and run to Jesus = true redemption.” – Paul David Tripp

7. “What beautiful, ironical grace that God eternally secures the Christian who doesn’t believe in eternal security.” – Jared Wilson

8. “What we attribute to God in prayer is as important as what we want from God through prayer.” – Kevin DeYoung

9. “If our ‘need’ to be appreciated is greater than our commitment to encourage others, we’re an Eeyore waiting to happen.” – Scotty Smith

10. “Legalism makes us focus on our good works rather than God’s.” – Darren Patrick

Monday, November 12, 2012

Mondays are for music: 'Wake Up'

All Sons and Daughters -- David Leonard and Leslie Jordan -- and a guest cellist perform "Wake Up," a song about taking up the cross and following Jesus, in this video.

Top 10 tweets

1. “Worldliness is to look in the unimaginable beauty and love of the Father’s face and say, ‘Naw . . . I’d rather have something else.’” – Thabiti Anyabwile

2. “Don’t live in a way that identifies you with the worship of anyone other than Christ.” – Dave Furman

3. “If we primarily go hunting for our idols, we won’t find Jesus. But if [we] go looking for Jesus, he will show us our idols.” – Scotty Smith

4. “It’s good to believe in the sovereignty of God. It’s better to trust the Sovereign One. No ‘it’ can save us. He can.” – Ray Ortlund

5. “There is no depth of sin, iniquity or transgression so deep that it is beyond the reach of God’s forgiving, enabling and transforming grace.” – Paul David Tripp

6. “Dear young evangelicals: confusion/doubt/uncertainty is not a virtue. Knowing and loving truth is.” – Owen Strachan

7. “The crises in our cities will not be solved by Christian movies and conferences but the gospel at work through churches on mission.” – Jared Wilson

8. “The problem w/ worldliness is not that something ‘out there’ tricks & lures us; the problem w/ worldliness is something IN us wants its way.” – Thabiti Anyabwile

9. “Our unity in our diversity adds depth to our Gospel words and displays the grace of Christ to the world.” – Dave Furman

10. “Let’s live like an elect people, not like a people who lost an election.” – Scotty Smith

Friday, November 9, 2012

Preparing for corporate worship: God is omniscient

The God we will gather to worship this Sunday is omniscient -- or all knowing. Among the Bible passages that demonstrate this truth are these:

"Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite" (Psalm 147:5).

"The eyes of the Lord are in every place, watching the evil and the good" (Proverbs 15:3).

"And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do" (Hebrews 4:13).

Sam Storms, an author and pastor of Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City, writes the following about an aspect of God's omniscience in contrast with human knowledge:
God's knowledge is simultaneous, not successive -- He sees things at once and in their totality, whereas we know only as the objects of knowledge are brought before us, one bit after another. With God the act of perception is complete and instantaneous. God thinks about all things at once.
"The Lord knows everything there is to know," as the Praise Factory curriculum we use with our church's younger children testifies.

Omniscience is only one attribute of the God whose many attributes are all perfect at the same time. May we gather Sunday considering the greatness of the God we will worship together.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Top 10 tweets

1. “People actually ‘do’ more (and do it more cheerfully) when they hear more about what Jesus has done and less about what they should do.” – Tullian Tchividjian

2. “The doctrine of God’s sovereignty seems bad because of sin. In reality, God’s providence is the sweetest hope & comfort imaginable.” – Owen Strachan

3. “You don’t bring natural humility to your relationship with God, but rather moral pride and rebellion. GRACE.” – Paul David Tripp

4. “As a follower of a crucified Christ, you know there are more important things in your life than your life.” – Kevin DeYoung

5. “How to change a nation: make disciples of Jesus who make disciples of Jesus.” – David Platt

6. “Often times, the greatest opportunity we have to magnify and exalt God is in our trials.” – Dave Furman

7. “Our hope in God’s perfect justice in the future should never be used as an excuse to be indifferent about injustice in the present.” – Denny Burk

8. “It’s not a matter of how much we have in our hand, but whether our hands are open or clenched.” – Ray Ortlund

9. “One day people will ask about today’s pro-choicers the same thing we do about eugenicists 100 yrs ago: What were they thinking?” – Trevin Wax

10. “There are only two ways to read the Bible: is it basically about what I must do, or basically about what he has done?” – Tullian Tchividjian

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Eleven things about the election

'Election 2012' photo (c) 2012, League of Women Voters of California LWVC - license: may have read or heard all you care to regarding yesterday’s election. If not, here are 11 observations or comments I offer, recognizing there is unlikely anything unique about any of them.

1. God has placed over us some whom we would not have chosen to govern us, and yet He remains perfectly holy, righteous, just and good.

2. God’s establishment of these in public office is part of His purpose for His glory, His gospel and our good as Christians in the United States of America.

3. God’s intention is that we honor those who govern us even while disagreeing with them – praying for them; thanking them when they do good; seeking to persuade them to change when they do not; opposing their intrusions on the sanctity of life, integrity of marriage and freedom of conscience, and supporting their removal from office if they run for re-election without changing.

4. More unborn children will die – and more mothers’ lives will be devastated – in this country and overseas with the support of government funding for the foreseeable future.

5. Homosexual marriage will continue to gain legitimacy with the power of the executive branch of the federal government behind it.

6. Coercion of Christian individuals and institutions – and other pro-life individuals and institutions – to underwrite abortion will continue unabated apart from a policy reversal by the Obama administration or a legal victory in the federal court system.

7. Christians will face some painful repercussions regarding health care apart from the reversals cited in No. 6.

8. The cultural divide continues to grow.

9. We should continue to build our church’s culture while loving, serving, evangelizing and discipling those outside that they might become part of that culture.

10. We, as the church, should continue to worship, pray, preach, teach, evangelize, disciple, serve and love – not in order to gain political victories but to glorify God, exalt Jesus and spread the gospel to the nations.

11. We should continually cry out to God for His mercy in our lives, our families, our church and our country.

If you want to read still more about a Christian response to the election, I commend Russell Moore’s post here and Al Mohler’s here, both from today.

An election reminder

Much could be said about yesterday's election, and I plan to post some thoughts later today. For now, here is what I posted on Facebook this morning:
The election results serve as another reminder our hope as those purchased by the blood of Jesus is not in a candidate, a party or our fellow citizens -- as great as it is to live in a republic where we elect those who govern us. '"Some boast in chariots and some in horses, but we will boast in the name of the Lord, our God" (Psalm 20:7).

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Gospel grace in a Christian marriage

Gospel grace is available to all who have been purchased by the blood of Jesus -- grace in us, in our churches and in our families. Dave and Gloria Furman movingly and beautifully describe the strength of that grace in the following testimonies. Dave is a church planter/pastor in Dubai. Gloria is his wife, mother of their three young children and co-worker in the gospel.

Dave posted his testimony about God's sovereign grace in the midst of disability Oct. 25 at Desiring God's blog. Gloria posted a testimony from her perspective about God's grace in their marriage May 8 at the blog she edits, Domestic Kingdom.

I strongly encourage you to read both and catch a glimpse of the gospel grace available to all who belong to Jesus.

Here is Dave's post, which is titled "The Struggles and Hopes of a Disabled Dad:"
Ten years ago I was white-knuckling the handles of a raft in the rapids of Costa Rica while my wife and I were on our honeymoon.

Ten years later on our anniversary, a kind stranger offered his help to my wife who was trying her best to lift my disabled body into an inner tube at a hotel pool. I can only imagine what was going through that gentleman’s mind when he saw me struggling to float down a lazy river.

God’s Beautiful Design

Ten years ago I never would have dreamed that I would have a physical disability. But God knew the beautiful design he had for me and for the spread of his gospel would involve taking away the strength of my hands.

There have been times when I couldn’t lift a cup of water to my lips to take a drink or open the fridge to feed myself. Most mornings my preschool-aged daughters help me button my shirt. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been able to pick up any one of my three babies. Sometimes I can’t even shake hands.

On a trip to the States for a pastor’s conference I was eating lunch with a big group of pastors. Without a word, one of my elders leaned over and graciously cut my steak for me so I could eat it. Sensing the awkwardness around the table of men who were not aware of my disability, he joked, “This is the way you serve your pastor!”

It’s been over five years now since my doctor discovered that the nerves in my arms weren’t working — firing off chronic pain signals to my brain and twisting themselves into painful neuromas. I’ve had five surgeries on my arms, worked for hundreds of hours in therapy, and taken a cocktail of medicines to give me some relief.

While I’m thankful for modern medicines and the relief they can provide, I understand that my greatest hope doesn’t come in a prescription.

The Strengthening Word

As a preacher I have seen the power of God’s word in the lives of others. And as a disabled pastor I have felt the power of God’s word in my own time of need.

I need other believers to encourage me with the hard texts of suffering and God’s sovereignty. I need to be reminded that God has plans to glorify himself through me because of my pain.

As a person who experiences chronic pain and physical disability, I need to be reminded of God’s sovereign goodness. I need to know that God can use me no matter my physical potential. I need to see lightning bolts of God’s grace shoot through my depression as I wrestle with nerve pain in the middle of the night. I need to be reminded of God’s good design in my disability to strengthen me in the daily reminders of my physical weakness.

The Strong Grip of Grace on My Family

God in His grace and wisdom saw it fitting to take away my arm strength and ability. If God means this disability for my good then I can trust him even though it hurts. My arms physically hurt and it hurts me when I can’t dance around with my daughters or playfully wrestle with my son. At times I am tempted to discouragement about the long-term impact that my disability has on my children. This is all the more reason that I must trust that God did not design my disability to harm me or my children.

My disability instead highlights God’s superior ability. God is our Provider and Father. I may not be able to physically tend to my children’s needs or defend them against physical threats. But God can and he does.

In many ways my physical disability has prepared me to spiritually lead my family. As the head of my family I lead my wife and children, shepherd them, and invest eternally in their lives. God does this work of primary import in and through me — a broken vessel. God gets the glory as I rely on him for the strength I need to do these things.

And so I can say along with the Psalmist words in Psalm 90:17, “Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!”
Here is an excerpt from Gloria's testimony, which is titled "God’s story of grace in marriage:"
Last night Dave and I met a couple for dinner at a restaurant. We couldn’t finish our meal so the server packaged the leftovers for us and put them in a bag.

Dave carried the takeaway bag halfway to the car and then he handed it to me. “It’s getting heavy; I can’t carry it anymore,” he said.

Anyone who saw this transaction take place might have thought one of many things. Things like: “Gee whiz, how much food did you guys take away?” or “What kind of man would tell his wife to carry the leftovers? He should gladly serve her.”

I remember one occasion years ago when I was packing our suitcases into our car outside of a hotel where we stayed on a road trip. I pushed the baby’s stroller with one hand and pulled the luggage cart behind me. I unlocked the car, opened the passenger door for Dave, clipped his seat belt, put the baby in her car seat, and proceeded to load the trunk with our belongings.

Three women seated on a bench next to the car gawked at us. They began to murmur among themselves. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but it became apparent to me that they were talking about us.

One woman called out to me,

“Honey, your husband is no good! You deserve better! Who does he think he is, making you do all his work?”

I praise God that the passenger door was closed and Dave didn’t hear her taunting. The audacity of such a statement boiled my blood. But she was ignorant. We all make assumptions when we can’t see people’s scars — whether they’re bilateral 9-inch scars on someone’s arms or scars on a broken heart that is riddled with sin and the pain of living in a fallen world.

God gets the credit for giving me the grace I needed to not hurl insults back at her. I let her mocking go with a kind response and replied as I slid into the driver’s seat and started the car,

“He’s disabled, ma’am.”

For over five years now Dave has been struggling with a nerve disorder in both of his arms. The nerves in his arms misfire signals to his brain and tell his brain that his muscles are on fire. Dave has been in the hospital 17 times for surgeries and procedures to help his arms.

Even though Dave’s chronic pain is ever-present, physical therapy has greatly benefited him. He can carry a takeaway bag halfway to the car now! Praise God!

In all of our challenges and discouragements God has been faithful. But what if I believed the lie that woman was spouting? What if I agreed that my husband is “no good” and that I “deserve better” and that Dave had unfairly shrugged off his responsibilities onto me?

If I had had the time and if those women had displayed a willingness to listen, I would have sat down with them on the bench and shared with them a few things.

I would have told them that the worth of a man does not depend on his physical abilities to serve. A man’s worth is established in his bearing the very image of God who created him. A disabled man is not less of a man just because he can’t use his arms to lift heavy things.

I would have explained how Dave’s primary work in our family is to lead us spiritually, and he does a mighty fine job at that! What a man! I would have shared with tears how God is the one who gave me the physical work of caring for Dave and our family and how it is so stinking hard sometimes but God is good, he is faithful, and he provides. In our heartbreak over surgeries and medicines that didn’t provide ultimate physical relief, God has been faithful.

I would have explained how we didn’t write this struggle into our story; God did. And we didn’t deserve for God to write his grace into our story, but he did. I would have told them how I’m eternally grateful that because of the gospel, God gives me what Christ deserves instead of what I deserve.

God’s faithfulness to his name is the bedrock of our faith. This is the same foundation of truth for every Christian marriage, and the way he writes his story of grace over the lives of his children looks different for everyone.
You can read her entire blog post here.

Monday, November 5, 2012

A prayer before the election

Scotty Smith, who blogs a daily prayer here for The Gospel Coalition, posted one today titled "A Prayer for the Day Before the Presidential Election." Smith is pastor for preaching, teaching and worship at Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tenn. I commend his prayer for your consideration on the eve of the election.
Do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matt 6:31-34

At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. Rev. 4:2

Dear heavenly Father, tomorrow we’ll be electing a new president for the United States of America — both a great honor and a very important matter. As your people, you call us to engage in our culture, be good citizens and work for the good of our neighbors. Certainly, making wise choices about the best candidates for public office and voting for them is one of the ways we do so. Grant us wisdom as we prepare to exercise this privilege; but that’s not all we need as we prepare for election day.

Father, we need you to settle our hearts, fix our gaze and fuel our trust in you. If you command us (and you do) not to be anxious about the core issues of life — eating, drinking and clothing, certainly you expect us not to be anxious about who will warm the seat of the oval office. By your [H]oly Spirit, show us today, tomorrow and the next day what you showed your servant John — the occupied, warm-seated throne of heaven. Because you’re not nervous, we shouldn’t be fear-full. Because you are in control, we most definitely aren’t.

As our Father, you know what we need in America, just like you know what is needed in Uganda, the Sudan, Switzerland, Israel and China — for you [are] the pan-national God. We don’t understand all your reasons for choosing to seat certain kings and remove others (Dan. 2:21); the secret things — the mysteries of providence [--] belong to you (Deut. 29:29). But we do know that you’ve already installed Jesus, your Son, as the true and eternal King; and we know that laughter, not consternation, fills the courts of heaven (Psalm 2:4-6).

So help us, in all of our seeking, to seek first your kingdom and the righteousness of your kingdom. We will seek to do that in the polling booth tomorrow, and we will seek to do so today as we turn from our idols to serve you — the one true living God; and as we advocate for the least and the lost in our communities; and as we spend our time, talent and treasure to your glory; and as our thoughts and conversations demonstrate that we really do believe the gospel.

How we praise you for declaring us righteous in Christ, and how we praise you for promising to “put all things right” one Day under his Lordship. This sure hope doesn’t make us passive, nonchalant or indifferent; it compels us to live as your servants until the Day Jesus returns to finish making all things new. Our hope is in you, Father, not in chariots, horses or men. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ triumphant and loving name.

Mondays are for music: 'Dancing in the Minefields'

Andrew Peterson is an exceptional story-teller, maybe the best among Christian artists. His "Dancing in the Minefields" is a creative, moving portrayal of the beauty and meaning of Christian marriage. I posted this music video long ago -- when, I believe, my blogging was on the church's website and before I inaugurated my "Mondays are for music" posts. I thought it was a good time to bring it back.

Top 10 tweets

1. “The Gospel is not: God accepts me just as I am. The Gospel is: God accepts me just as Christ is.” – Greg Breazeale

2. “Christian, because of what Jesus has done FOR you—and only because of what Jesus has done for you—God is well pleased IN you.” – Tullian Tchividjian

3. “Your obedience is messy. Christ’s obedience was perfect. Guess which one satisfies the Father’s demand and opens the door of his acceptance.” – Paul David Tripp

4. “This is Christianity: Our judge becomes our friend. Our accuser becomes our advocate.” – Darrin Patrick

5. “Lord Jesus, show me the difference between contentment and laziness.” – Scotty Smith

6. “Pride is a heavy burden. There’s nothing like the relief we feel when God graciously lifts away our self-illusions.” – Randy Alcorn

7. “If morals are eliminated as the point of the Bible many Christians will have no use for it.” – Byron Yawn

8. “The election that matters most is the one that happened in eternity past.” – Kevin DeYoung

9. “When God cripples us he’s actually curing us—making us aware of our weakness so that we’ll finally rest in his strength.” – Tullian Tchividjian

10. “Jesus, show me the difference between really liking worship music, and worshiping you in Spirit and truth.” – Scotty Smith

Friday, November 2, 2012

Preparing for corporate worship: Starve to glorify

The glory of God is our goal in corporate worship. As John Piper says in this video, we should collectively be making God look like the great God He is when we are together on Sunday. We are united by and in the cross of Christ. We are united in this great purpose -- making much of God. A part of glorifying God, Piper says, is coming to corporate worship starved for Him. Please give attention to this two-minute video and come Sunday in light of the reality Piper has phrased this way: "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him."

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Top 10 tweets

1. “Today your words and actions will be shaped by awe of something. Will it be God or something else?” – Paul David Tripp

2. “By God’s grace, we can afford to be overlooked and underappreciated, and quiet about it.” – Scotty Smith

3. “Unity among Christians is one way that the church can reflect the centrality of the cross.” – Trevin Wax

4. “God does not forbid sexual sin because he’s a killjoy, but because he opposes what kills joy.” – John Piper

5. “Be ready to resist the enemy whispering in your ear, ‘Hasn’t your life been hard . . . hasn’t God treated others better than you?’” – Paul David Tripp

6. “May grace for our sin be manifest by generosity with our stuff. Grace creates cheerful givers.” – Scotty Smith

7. “The gospel is NOT ‘do something for Jesus’; the gospel is ‘Jesus has done everything for you.’” – Tullian Tchividjian

8. “Moses invaded Egypt with a stick pulling his family on a donkey and routed it. God is great.” – Byron Yawn

9. “When you attach your peace of heart to your control of things, you assign to yourself wisdom and power that you simply don’t have.” – Paul David Tripp

10. “Boasting in our weakness doesn’t necessarily feel good; but it’s the only way we’ll get over us & make much of Jesus.” – Scotty Smith

Top tweets: Martin Luther edition

'Martin Luther' photo (c) 2009, Heather Kennedy - license: are some quotes from Martin Luther tweeted yesterday (Reformation Day) by people I am following. David Platt, author and pastor of the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., tweeted all except one. That exception is noted in parentheses.

“I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I will not recant. . .”

“To be convinced in our hearts that we have forgiveness of sins and peace with God by grace alone is the hardest thing.” (Scotty Smith)

“A simple man with Scripture has more authority than the Pope or a council.”

“Without the doctrine of justification the church of God cannot exist for one hour.”

“I am more afraid of my own heart than of the pope and all his cardinals. I have within me the great pope, Self.”