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Archive for the ‘Gospel’ Category

Happy Thanksgiving Eve all!

I was convicted and challenged by Paul Tripp’s meditation on “Complaints or Thanks” this morning.   I pray it would be helpful for you and me in reflecting upon Thanksgiving not just this season, but at all times.

He says, “Every day of your life you’ll find reasons to complain, and every day of your life you’ll have reasons to be thankful. Notice the distinction: you’ll FIND reasons to complain and you’ll HAVEreasons to be thankful.”

Read the rest of the article here, with helpful reflection questions at the end.

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In the midst of suffering, I tend to struggle with self-centeredness.  I want people to serve me, to sympathize with me, to focus on my hurts.  Because of my selfish struggles with sin in the midst of suffering, I was encouraged and challenged by this article on ministry in suffering by Paul Tripp.  I couldn’t find the link, so I am cutting and pasting the article here.

MINISTRY IN SUFFERING

We’ve been spending some time in Psalm 4, learning from David as he responds to deep and personal suffering. Last week we discussed the idea of Conditional Worship, which is the temptation to only praise God when we experience pleasurable circumstances.

Today I want to talk about one of the last things we think about in the midst of suffering – ministering to those around us.

Let’s be honest. Because of sin, we’re self-centered people. We expect others to serve us and treat us as the most important item on the agenda. When suffering enters our door, why would that change? In fact, our selfishness may become more exposed under trial.

In suffering, we expect others to serve us, this time with pity and compassion. And, we probably feel as if we’re even more important, considering the current circumstances. “Don’t you know what I’m going through? You should pay extra attention to me!”

David does something different. He ministers. Psalm 4:6 – “There are many who say, ‘Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!’”

David is writing poetically, so let me try to summarize what’s happening. David has a loyal band of companions who have been with him through the entire ordeal, and they approach David and say, “Who will show us some good?” That’s another way of saying, “What’s going to happen to us now? How can this situation get better for us?”

In that moment, I would struggle not to make it all about me. I would struggle not to compare my suffering with their suffering, naming their trial as “less severe” than my own. I would struggle not to pass off their question entirely and sulk in the corner, meditating on how hard my life has been.

I would guess that David struggled with similar thoughts; after all, he’s no biblical hero. But empowered by grace, David prays for his companions. He puts aside his own suffering and asks God to reveal himself to those around him. “Lord, what my people need is to experience your presence. Would you be so tender and loving and kind to shine your face on us? We need to see you!”

David is shepherding his people and interceding on their behalf. He sees the needs of their soul and prioritizes their spiritual care over his own. Rather than making the trial all about himself, David speaks gospel truth to others.

What a beautiful picture of selfless ministry that we should pursue! It won’t be easy; it’s so easy to justify selfishness in the midst of personal suffering. But like David, we can reach out to God and ask for his presence. He is always near, and his grace enables you to think of others even in the most trying of times.

God bless

Paul David Tripp

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:

    1. On a comfortable day, how do you reveal your selfish heart through word and deed?
    1. In the midst of suffering, why might your selfish heart be exposed more?
    1. Why might it be easier to justify selfishness in the midst of suffering?
    1. In what ways may you be a more effective ambassador of the gospel in the midst of suffering?
  1. How does the presence of God enable you to minister to others and put their needs above your own?

 

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Does all anger = sin?

Can one be angry and not sin?

What does it mean to be angry and not sin?

Paul Tripp helps us think about this question in an article he wrote here.  I commend it to you.

“Here’s a principle to remember: the ‘biblical acceptability’ of your anger depends upon the law which you’re angrily defending.”

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If you are experiencing the grief of loss or know someone who is in the midst of sorrow, I encourage you to read this article from CCEF.

http://www.ccef.org/resources/blog/loss

One of the quotes is: “This, I believe, is the complexity of living with loss. Sorrow couched in hope.”

If you want to be further comforted and equipped to deal with loss in your life and the lives of other people, I highly encourage you to sign up for CCEF’s national conference coming up Oct. 3-5 in San Diego!  Rates go up after today.

http://www.ccef.org/events/national-conference/2014

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I saw this helpful and concise list from a pastor friend regarding some ways to pray for your pastor, particularly in relation to the sermon he prepares to preach weekly.

How you can pray now for your pastor who is preparing his sermon for Sunday:

PRAYING FOR SERMON PREPARATION & SERMON DELIVERY

1. pray for the ILLUMINATION of Scripture as he studies.

2. pray for the GLORIFICATION of Christ in his mind & in his work.

3. pray for true SATISFACTION in God as he studies the Word.

4. pray for the PREPARATION of the hearers to ready themselves.

5. pray for the UNCTION of the Spirit as the Word goes forth.

6. pray for the COHESION of the sermon as he puts it all together.

Your pastor needs your diligent intercession as he endeavors to stand and speak for God this week as he faithfully proclaims the Word!

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Ramadan is starting in just a few days.

If you are interested in setting aside extra time for prayer and wanting to pray specific, biblical, informed prayers during this time, this link will give you helpful information.

http://centralasianpeoples.imb.org/pray/view/ramadan-2014

If you are in the East Bay area around Oakland or Berkeley and want to pray for some of these things like in the mornings on some days (ie: the morning of this Saturday, June 28, the start of Ramadan in most places), please let me know.  =)

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There are many things I pray for regarding local churches.

I was thinking about the people in local churches and praying about them today, and I wanted to journal some thoughts before I forgot them, and to elicit feedback.

Obviously there are many biblical ways to pray for the people in local churches, such as praying that people in local churches would grow in holiness, unity, love, and delight in God above all things.

Yet, I have been thinking about the reality that the Christian life is both individual and corporate, and how to best pray for people in local churches to have a healthy perspective and balance of both of these aspects.  Here are some thoughts and prayers so far:

1) I am praying for less “ME” men and women in local churches.  I suspect that in our American, individualistic culture, I need to pray for this a LOT more.  For many of us, ME is the center of the universe.  We look for churches and ministries that cater to ME.  We make decisions based on ME, what would be best for ME, what happens to fit MY life situation best (whether it is moving to a new area, taking a new job, pursuing a certain vocation or ministry. etc).  We often view Christianity solely in individualistic terms, where the “corporate” church’s role is primarily to affirm and support ME.  For example, many people who think they are “called” to ministry, simply assume that the local church’s role is to “rubber stamp” the ME desire and perspective, where ME makes a decision and simply informs the local church.  In this mindset, ME rules, and the church is more seen as a cheerleader to ME or an afterthought to ME.  So, I am praying for less “ME” men and women in local churches.

2) I am also praying for less “YES” men and women in local churches (using “yes men” as an idiom as is most commonly understood in our American culture at this point in history – we obviously pray for more church members to say yes to many things, like holiness, service, evangelism, missions – but the idiomatic expression of “yes men” refers to people who always say yes without thinking, and the motivation is often people-pleasing)  Sadly, this is often the unbiblical extreme that many church leaders swing to as a response to so many “ME” people in the church.  Many times leaders only want “yes men” to always say yes to whatever they want and desire, and to do it blindly.  And people in the church, especially those  who are prone to people-pleasing, will often become passive, just waiting for the leadership to state a need or a request, for them to blindly and mindlessly fill or follow. In this mindset and culture, Christianity is often solely viewed in corporate terms, where the individual becomes a mindless drone.   And in reality, when this happens, the church is at worst like a cult and at best like an assembly-line factory, none of which are God’s design for the church.   Now, to be clear, the church should be characterized by unity.  But unity is not the same as uniformity.  So, I am praying for less “YES” men and women in local churches.

3) I am praying for more “FAMILY-LOVING, FAMILY BUILDING” men and women in local churches.  Churches need more individuals who think about how their actions or decisions affect not just themselves, but the family of God.  For example, even if the timing is good for an “individual,” but it would be detrimental or not very beneficial at that moment for the family of God, it may not be a good decision.  I am not saying that decisions always need to wait for the “perfect” timing for the family of God because there may never be an “ideal” time to leave, but instead of the family of God being an “afterthought or cheerleader,” I am praying that more individual Christians would recognize they are part of God’s family, and think actively how their actions would affect the family, not just them individually.  Every time Scripture talks about individuals being gifted by the Holy Spirit, they are gifted for the building up of the family of God, the body of Christ.   At the same time, churches and leaders must remember that there are a variety of gifts and different members of the family of God and body of Christ.  Unity is not the same as uniformity.

So, while we want people to be characterized by LOVE regardless of their spiritual gifts, we don’t want people simply to be passive, just waiting for a need to come up so they can fill it in love.  We want people to be characterized by LOVE for the family AND a proactive pursuit of using their gifts to actively build the family and build God’s Kingdom.  We want people with different perspectives and gifts and strengths to ask questions (not just be mindless “yes men”).  We want them to ask question not to be divisive, but because they love the family and they may see or notice something we didn’t.  They may have ideas and suggestions that we never thought of that are better.  We don’t want “yes-men,” we want family-loving, family-building people willing to think and pray and work with us for the good of the family.  We also want people to actively think about and pray about how to exercise all of their variety of gifts from the Spirit for the good of the entire family of God and the spread of the Gospel to all the nations.  I am praying for individual Christians to think less about themselves and more about others and the corporate family of God, desiring to love the family and build the family.  I am also praying for the family of God to recognize, celebrate, and encourage the diversity of gifts given to individual Christians, so that as individual Christians flourish in their gifts for the building up of the family of God, the entire family is benefited.  I am praying for more FAMILY-LOVING, FAMILY BUILDING men and women in local churches.

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