Oh, believe me, Christians are not so much in danger when they are persecuted as when they are admired. When we stand upon the pinnacle of popularity, we may well tremble and fear. It is not when we are hissed at, and hooted, that we have any cause to be alarmed; it is when we are dandled on the lap of fortune, and nursed upon the knees of the people; it is when all men speak well of us, that woe is unto us.
…But the true child of God is never so; he is as safe when the world smiles, as when it frowns; he cares as little for her praise as for her dispraise. If he is praised, and it is true, he says, “”My deeds deserves praise, but I refer all honor to my God.” Great souls know what they merit from their critic; to them it is nothing more than the giving of their daily income. Some men cannot live without a large amount of praise; and if they have no more than they deserve, let them have it. If they are children of God, they will be kept steady; they will not be ruined or spoiled; but they will stand with feet like hinds’ feet upon high places.—”This is the victory that overcometh the world.”
–Charles Spurgeon, “The Victory of Faith“
“Glorify the Lord in your sufferings, and take his banner of love and spread it over you. Others will follow you, if they see you strong in the Lord. Their courage shall take life from your Christian carriage. Look up and see who is coming! Lift up your head, he is coming to save, in garments dyed in blood, and traveling in the greatness of his strength. I laugh, I smile, I leap for joy to see Christ coming to save you so quickly. Oh, such wide steps Christ takes! Three or four hills are but a step to him; he skips over the mountains.”
–Samuel Rutherford, in a letter to Marion M’Naught
Yesterday at the Cornerstone where I pastor, we circled back to 1 John 4:19, “We love because he first loved us.” Most of our time was spent in 1 Corinthians 13, immersing ourselves in the ways Jesus has been patient and kind towards us so that we might be patient and kind towards others.
The most moving part to me personally was an illustration I borrowed from Tim Keller about the “economics” of love. Few of us, he notes, are independently wealthy. We have bills to pay, families to feed, and so we can only be so generous with our money and only so generous with our time. We have to allocate some of our time to work. Ultimately, we are constrained by our need. But what if you were independently wealthy? You would no longer be constrained by finite resources. You could give freely, you could spend all day with someone, you could pay someone’s rent for a year, because you would have access to a source of money that would never give out. All constraints would be removed. Continue reading
(Click the following for Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3)
In previous posts, we’ve covered the idea that every part of a Sunday service can—and should—be active worship for every member of God’s gathered family. Today, we touch on the family part of corporate worship.
We must worship as a family that loves and sacrifices for one another
If we are going to treat all of a Sunday service as active worship with God’s family, it won’t be long before we run into the fact that we all have different preferences. Most discussed are those preferences surrounding music style: some prefer hymns with an organ, others prefer recent songs with drums and electric guitars. But the list doesn’t stop there, even musically! Some find themselves most easily engaged in focused, congregational worship when they hear a song written in the 1970′s (think “As the Deer” played in the style of Keith Green). Others find Michael W. Smith’s style to be the easiest to engage (a la “Above All”). Still more are entranced by the melodic rock of Hillsong music (“Lead Me to the Cross”). Continue reading
When three pastor-types are the authors of a blog, you can anticipate that the weeks before and after Easter will be sparse in terms of posts. This is for several reasons: Easter usually brings with it more services, events, and ideas that require bandwidth usually devoted elsewhere (e.g. blogging). Easter tends to involve more time with people in your church family, and in your biological family. Easter, generally, is a busier time for us pastor-types.
This is the main reason why things like blogging (and other such activities) can wane during Holy Week and afterwards—the busyness surrounding the holiday can quickly distract from the death and resurrection of our Lord that we intend to celebrate. Blogging, of course, can serve as a tool for reflection. But the sheer significance of the fact that the King of Kings irrupted into our world to conquer Satan, sin and death demands the kind of reflection that our daily routine so easily impedes. And so I find myself withdrawing from much of my daily routine that I might not miss the very thing that blogging, service planning, and Easter dinners are meant to celebrate. Continue reading
“No man shall see my face and live.” (Ex 33:20). Many people hope to experience the love of God have never come to terms with God’s self profession that He is dangerous to those who are unaided.
One afternoon would change that a man hung upon a cross. This was not unusual in history as many men over time have been crucified as criminals. Two of the men that were on either side of this man were. But what immediately set apart this man from all other men that had been crucified was the fact that this man have never sinned. He had never done anything worthy of death. The man was the Christ. Those who sent Him to His death were fully aware of His innocence but still were seemingly compelled to put an innocent man to death. Continue reading
“Your danger and mine is not that we become criminals, but rather that we become respectable, decent, commonplace, mediocre Christians. The twentieth-century temptations that really sap our spiritual power are the television, banana cream pie, the easy chair and the credit card. The Christian wins or loses in those seemingly innocent little moments of decision.
Lord, make my life a miracle!”
Raymond C. Ortlund, Lord, Make My Life A Miracle (Glendale, 1974), page 151.
(HT: Ray Ortlund)
(Click here for part 1 of this series, and click here for part 2).
How do we fully participate in worship on a Sunday morning when we don’t ever leave the pew? I have three non-comprehensive thoughts that I’ve found helpful in my own times or corporate worship. Last week we made the point that every element of Sunday morning is worship: some elements are not “more worshipful” than others, nor is Sunday a mash-up of disconnected activities. Which brings us to this week’s point:
2. We can, and should, participate in every part of the service, regardless of our “official” role
If every part of our service is worship, then every believer should spend every moment of a worship service actively worshiping the Lord with the rest of the local church family. The people of God don’t come to relate to God passively, nor do we gather to worship vicariously, through those people with the microphones. Sunday worship should involve every person, every week, actively worshiping in every part of the service.
How might it look for someone in the pew to worship during a sermon, or a scripture reading, or a song? And, lest we make it too easy, what would it look like to actively worship during those pesky announcements? Continue reading
Scheduled Readings: Jer 31:31-34; Ps 51:1-12; Heb 5:5-10; John 12:20-33
First, a devotional reflection from Ps 51:7-8 — seeing my sin in its Godward dimension isn’t always easy. But what God thinks of my sin is most important because he is the rightful judge of it, the one who tells the full truth about it. And, most importantly, he is the only one who can cleanse it. He must wash me, and I must submit to his kind, holy, sovereign work in my life.
Now, a related tangent — This connects to a theme that has been running through a number of conversations I’ve had recently along the lines of “strength,” particularly what it means to act in God’s strength instead of my own. In fact, for some time now I’ve been suspicious of the concept of doing something “in my own strength,” and Lent gives me an ideal opportunity to ponder it biblically (with thanks to a few Facebook friends who commented on this, my Cornerstone gospel community, and my sister in Christ, Emilie, who beat me to the punch on her blog). Continue reading
It used to bother me. My mom prayed about everything. Sure, there were the things that people normally prayed for. She fervently prayed for her family in every way imaginable: health; God’s providence; wisdom for the future; and known needs. She knew the needs of others and wove those into ours in the daily family prayer times. My brother and I grew up hearing them grow in the scope of their prayers. Soon missionaries, governments and various needs of the church were consistently prayer for in our presence. The impact of that consistency is felt today. But there was more than that. She prayed about the “little things” too.
If there was a birthday party or special event on the coming weekend, she would pray that there would not be any rain that day. “What about the farmers?” I would protest. “They need the rain.” God, I contended, was concerned with the “big stuff” prayers, a very small scope of what I perceived made up the scope of my mom’s prayers. Despite my weak attempts at trying to enforce what were legitimate prayers and what weren’t, one thing stood out: My mom knew her God was able to answer her prayers and brought all of her desires to Him. Continue reading