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What You Need is Love

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Life in this fallen world is hard. Preparation is hard. Change is hard. It’s easy to get discouraged. It‘s easy to feel overwhelmed. It’s easy to remain or revert to being self-absorbed. It’s easy to feel alone. It’s easy to think that no one understands what you are going through.

It’s tempting to think like Moses that God must have gotten the wrong address, that this trial couldn’t have been intended for your doorstep. It’s easy to give in to wondering if the hardships of the Christian life are worth the trouble. It’s easy to look over the fence and yield to debilitating envy. It‘s easy to let go of good and godly personal spiritual habits. It’s easy, at the end of a long day, to try to numb or distract yourself by whatever temporary pleasure lies within reach.

It’s easy to deceive yourself about the need to change, to grow in godliness. It’s easy to lose your way and give up. But it’s important for you to remember that life and ministry in the fallen world are hard, not only for you, but also for everyone in your care.

That’s why God has designed us to live with others in a community of love. When I read 1 Peter 1, I’m always struck by how God has placed a call to love at the end of a discussion of hardship. As Peter summarizes what God is doing here and now, he uses three words: “suffer, grief, and trial.” None of us wants these things! But Peter reminds us that they’re tools of refinement in the hands of a loving Redeemer intent on completing in us what he’s begun. Then Peter begins to lay out how to live productively in the middle of these hardships.

Listen to his final directive: “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22). Peter is saying something very powerful here. God hasn’t simply called us to endure the refining fires of sanctification. He’s ordained us to incarnate his love through the community he’s placed around us. This community of love gives us hope and strength. But it also encourages us with the reminder that the One who tests and trains is the One who loves.

This community of love is meant to comfort the person who’s discouraged, to strengthen the person who’s weak, to encourage the person who has no hope, to come alongside the person who’s alone, to guide the person who’s lost his way, to give wisdom to the person lost in foolishness, to warn the person who’s beginning to wander, to correct the person turning the wrong way, to give eyes to the person blind to God’s presence, and to physically represent God’s presence and love. No one, including pastors, is wired to live outside this community.

So as you’re living and ministering in this broken world, what does God call you to do? There’s one sure and reliable answer to the question: he calls you to seize every opportunity to be an instrument of his love.

An an ambassador of Christ, you’ve been called to participate in a community of love that is the church:

  • That teenager attracted to the world needs God’s love.
  • That single person facing the death of personal dreams needs God’s love
  • That immigrant brother or sister who feels so out of place and so misunderstood needs God’s love.
  • That mom overwhelmed with her parenting responsibilities needs God’s love.
  • That man tempted to walk out of his troubled marriage needs God’s love.
  • That little boy who lost his father to divorce needs God’s love.
  • That woman living through the ravages of cancer needs God’s love.
  • That couple facing debts they can’t pay needs God’s love.
  • The woman who now faces life without the man who’s been her companion for decades needs God’s love.
  • That pastor carrying a heavy weight of spiritual responsibility needs God’s love.
  • That university student facing spiritual warfare needs God’s love.

We could multiply example after example. There is no location, situation, or relationship this side of heaven where this love is extraneous. This love isn’t about liking people. It isn’t about romantic affection. It’s something more than cultural niceness. It’s deeper than being respectful or mannerly.

This love finds its motivation, hope, and direction at the cross of Jesus Christ. It’s active, persevering, tender, understanding, forgiving, compassionate, and self-sacrificing love. The people in your care need this cross-shaped love, and so do you. You can love others because the One you represent never fails to love you perfectly this way in both your best and worst moments.

 

by Paul Tripp

www.paultripp.com/articles/posts/what-you-need-is-love

Kissing the Wave

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Fighting for perspective in times of suffering…

 

“How long, O Lord?” is a familiar cry to those who experience suffering and despair. In my own experience this question can be asked in both steadfast faith-filled hope and in faithless unbelief. I’ve asked it in both ways in the same hour or minute.

Trials teach hard lessons, as Charles Spurgeon said: “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.”

And sometimes you get seasick when you’re learning to “kiss the wave.”

Kissing the Wave?

But what can Spurgeon mean, to learn to kiss the wave?

One thing he cannot mean is to call evil good. God’s word forbids us to do such a thing: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20). After he revealed his true identity to his brothers who had sold him into slavery, Joseph said, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20). Despite all of his hardship, Joseph was encouraged because he knew God was sovereign over his past, and he saw some of the good work God had already done through his trials.

Hindsight is 20/20, though, right? Where do we find comfort when we’re in the thick of trials in which we can’t see any good (at least not yet)? I think the answer to this question is also in Joseph’s story.

Joseph’s Story

There’s a common thread that runs through each account of Joseph’s ordeals from his being sold into Egypt as a slave to being wrongly incarcerated.

  • “And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him” (Acts 7:9).
  • The Lᴏʀᴅ was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master” (Genesis 39:2).
  • “His master saw that the Lᴏʀᴅ was with him and that the Lᴏʀᴅ caused all that he did to succeed in his hands” (Genesis 39:3).
  • “But the Lᴏʀᴅ was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison” (Genesis 39:21).
  • “The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lᴏʀᴅ was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed” (Genesis 39:23).

There’s no doubt about it — the Lᴏʀᴅ was with Joseph. He was with Joseph in the pit. He was with Joseph in the house where he worked as a slave. He was with Joseph in jail. He was with Joseph in the court of Pharaoh. He was with Joseph in the most dramatic confrontation of his entire life. The waves kept throwing Joseph against the Rock of Ages.

God’s Nearness

I don’t think Spurgeon’s comment came from a sarcastic “Pucker up, Waves!” perspective, but one of humble sobriety and childlike faith in God who works all things for our good. Whenever we encourage one another in our home with “kiss the wave,” the words are often spoken into a tearful conversation as a lump rises in our throats and our hearts feels like they are being squeezed in a vice.

The nearness of God is our good. And the trials we endure in this fallen world, perhaps more than most other things, have a tendency to awaken us to this truth. We remember Jesus, who is called Immanuel (“God with us”), and the cross he bore for our sake. Can the waves of trials then drown us if we have a Substitute who endured the greatest trial in our place?

We can “learn to kiss the wave” because Christ is near to us and supreme over all things. He died and rose again to vanquish evil forever. Christ is to us wisdom from God, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30). You can’t get much nearer than that.

When there’s nothing in heaven or on earth or under the earth that can separate you from Christ’s love, waves of trials can only throw you onto the Rock of Ages. Resting on that Rock is where I’d like to be and stay forever, and may the Lord bless the means he uses to remind me of that.

 

This article was originally posted on www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/kissing-the-wave

 

Here’s Your Sign

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The following is from www.housewifetheologian.com and is intended to get us thinking. Enjoy.

 

Well it happened again. There I was, innocently driving my car,  only to come face to face with another bad church sign. Here is what the latest offender said:

“Pray” is a four-letter word that you can’t say in public school.

Really? Let’s get our facts straight before we put them on our church signs. The word “pray” is not banned from public school. Praying isn’t banned either. I remember when my oldest daughter started elementary school, she and a friend used to “say grace” before their lunch together everyday. (That’s in a public school, by the way.) Now in middle school, she is part of a student-led “Bible Club” that meets after school a couple of times a month. She has never encountered opposition from administrators for these things, because it is perfectly legal.

What this church sign is intimating is the Supreme Court decision in 1962 to ban any form of organized, state-sponsored prayer or religious services in school. But we have to also look at what led up to this. Originally, Christianity was taught in the public school. Children actually learned their ABC’s and biblical catechism’s together (for a good little history lesson on this, read Stephen Prothero’s book, Religious Literacy):

A–In Adam’s Fall, We sinned all.

B—Heaven to find; The Bible to mind.

C—Christ crucify’d; For sinners dy’d.

School books such as spellers and readers taught biblical knowledge, integrated with their learning tasks. One of the primary motivations for literacy was for more Americans to be able to read their Bibles. Not a bad idea. And yet, these well-intended motivations led to inevitable conflict.

I don’t think it’s helpful to paint public schools out to be our enemy. There were many factors in our American history that contributed to the removal of religious content from the public schools, such as the Sunday school movement and Bible and tract societies, that were not the result of the evil government stifling faith. For the sake of ecumenism in teaching Christianity, religious content was diluted. While it first seemed wise for Christian religions to come together and teach their children, theology had been replaced by morality. The biblical content itself suffered on account of nondenominationalism. We can’t just blame the government for taking the Bible out of the schools. History shows that the Protestant verses Catholic wars on which Bible translation was to be used in schools led to the court cases that banned religious material and organized prayer.

The First Amendment to the US Constitution states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I don’t want my children’s public school teachers teaching them how to pray any more than I want my pastor to teach a math lesson from the pulpit. The Fourteenth Amendment required the scope of this federal amendment to be applied at the state level. The first part of this amendment, known as the Establishment Clause, assures me that there will never be an established religion imposed on my child. The second part, known as the Free Exercise Clause, ensures me that “pray” is not a four-letter word. My kids are allowed to pray on their own, as long as they are not being disruptive.

Of course, I don’t want to paint a picture of the public schools with rose-colored glasses. As Christians, we recognize that many of the secular interpretations of natural revelation are taught under a world view that is different from the biblical account of creation. We all want our kids to receive the best education we can provide them in the natural sciences and in the content their faith. Since we are the primary arbitrators for our children’s education, we need to consider all obstacles and benefits of our choices, whether public, private, or homeschooling. And we need to be equally discerning in the churches we join.

We can also acknowledge that some of the best educators are public school teachers.  My husband happens to teach fourth grade in the public schools.  We should be happy to have Christians working in this field for both believer’s and unbeliever’s children.  Hopefully, families will be sensitive in their decision-making not to hold their own convictions about how to educate their children above other families.  These are difficult choices.  None of them are without pitfalls, and we should make our decisions with humility.

It just isn’t helpful to pit the church against public schools. Plastering misinformation or exaggerations on your church sign does not contribute in a positive manner to the problems that do exist.

Ironically, the church across the street from this offender was advertising their extreme couponing workshop on their church sign…