One Spirit, One Faith, Many Opponents - There was a time when believers often spoken of the Christian faith using military language. “Onward Christian Soldiers” may sound antiquated now, but not ...
8 hours ago
I just read Alexander Strauch's book, "Love or Die". It was an excellent little book on the necessity of being a people marked by love. I am now reading through Sam Storm's book, "A Sincere and Pure Devotion to Christ: 100 Meditations on 2 Corinthians". This is from the introduction:The same observation, but in greater dimensions, could be made about Jesus--who willingly and knowingly left His throne in perfect fellowship, unity, and love with the Father--to love, serve, and die for His own creation who spat upon Him.
"Who was this man (the apostle Paul)? What made him tick? Why did he make the painful choices we read in the New Testament? People who have tracked his missionary journeys and struggled to comprehend his many letters long to get inside his head and peer ino his heart. What were his motives? How did he perseere in the face of unending hardship and excruciating persecution? What accounts for his unyielding commitment to Christ and his love for the many churches he established? What empowered him to endure hte slander of those he served and to sacrifice himself for people who repaid his devotion with disdain and conempt? One might think such experiences would compel Paul to withdraw within himself, to retreat relationally, to close off his heart and take whatever steps necessary to guard his wounded soul from further damage..." p. 11-12
I think this is part of what 1 John is referring to: 1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” Real love takes risks because we know that we have all we need in Christ’s love for us. Whatever we risk cannot overshadow what we have gained in God’s love for all of us. The more we are rooted in this truth, the less fear we need have, and the more sacrificial risks we may take in loving other sinners like ourselves.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”
Ephesians 3:14-21 “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
1 John 4:7-21 “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother."
Sunday, December 12, 2010 at 06:21PM
Today I have a guest blogger. JR Kerr is one of the pastors at Park Community Church in Chicago, Illinois. This is taken from "Leadership Journal" online, November 8th, 2010
It is a bit longer than my usual posts, but please read it in it's entirety. It is hugely insightful and convicting! James warns us of "Selfish Ambition" in his letter, chapter three verse 14 & Pastor Kerr adds personal experience to James' admonition:
The shadow side of ambition
It was a silly thing to do, but I couldn't stop myself. During a "get to know you" conversation with a few acquaintances and a man from the church I serve, we were talking about interests, passions, and areas of ministry. I tried to keep the focus on others at the table. But then it happened.
The man from my church made a statement that I interpreted as making light of me. The fuse was lit, and within a few moments I managed to work into the conversation the areas where I was leading and the wide impact of those projects. I subtly reminded everyone what our church had accomplished in the city. I even managed to throw in some attendance figures for good measure. I pushed everyone else out of the conversation's spotlight.
When it was over, I felt like I had binged on junk food. Self-loathing set in: I hate when I do this, and I hate it even more when I do it as a servant of Christ. Why do I keep falling into this temptation?
I've been through this cycle enough to know that when I feel my capacity or identity as a leader isn't sufficiently honored (and when, really, does anyone ever feel that?), I slip into the sin of self-promotion. But how do I stop?
T.S. Eliot wrote, "Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm, but the harm does not interest them … or they do not see it, or they justify it … because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves."
Although our mission in Christ is to do good in this world, we will actually do harm if our deeper mission is to feel important and "think well of ourselves." Eliot's words forced me to ask, How much harm do I do to my family, my friends, the people I am supposed to lead, all because I want to think well of myself?
Recently I came home to find my wife researching narcissism on the computer. We have been in counseling for a few years and during a session where we discussed my relentless ambition, the phrase "narcissistic leanings" came up. My wife was researching the concept to see if it fit me and what the implications might be for our marriage.
At first she was embarrassed that I caught her, but I was interested as well, so we read the characteristics of narcissism together on the screen.
My immediate thought was, This isn't a problem for me. Narcissism is the adulation of the self, the diminishment of others, and often expressed as reckless ambition. Nothing could be more inconsistent with the character of Christ—the self-sacrificing servant who sought only to do the will of his Father. How can I be a pastor, a servant of Christ, and struggle with this?
But as we read the definitions online, without saying a word we both knew we were reading an accurate description of me. I am a believer and yet I remain a sinner. I am a pastor and I'm often a self-promoter. I endeavor to serve Jesus and I also have narcissistic tendencies.
What I've come to see since that day, is that I am not alone. Many other church leaders share this struggle to one degree or another. We may not all be full-blown clinical narcissists, but we share that bent toward insecurity and selfishness. Most gatherings of pastors will usually include subtle or overt self-promotion. I'm not the only one who has used attendance numbers or new initiatives or "my vision" as a badge of self-importance.
Although I'm now aware of my tendency and what triggers it, I don't pretend to have it solved. This is simply my effort to be honest about our struggle with ambition and self-promotion as pastors, and how we can address it.
Great things for God
There is a long and celebrated history of church leaders who struggled with narcissistic tendencies—starting with the original disciples. After following Jesus for some time and recognizing his power, these (probably younger) men debated with each other "Who is the greatest?" They jockeyed for power. Who would be closest to Jesus? Who would get positions of honor?
I remember when those kinds of questions were mine. As a young man, I knew Jesus loved me and that I wanted to serve him. My mentor, Bryan, shared with me a quote from D. L. Moody's biography: "The world has yet to see what God can do with one man that is totally committed to him." Apparently when Moody heard this from a preacher, he decided he would be that man. The quote had the same effect on me. It awakened an ambition in me to do great things for God.
Having great ambitions is a good and necessary thing. The problem was how I defined greatness. I was measuring significance as the world does, rather than by the standards of God's kingdom. When Jesus heard his disciples arguing about greatness, he reminded them of the counter-intuitive nature of his kingdom. "If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and a servant of all" (Mark 9:35.
Jesus does not say to stop pursuing greatness. Instead he redefines it: The last will be first. The humble exalted. The small will be big. Those who lose their life for the sake of the gospel will gain it.
Yet it is hard to find that perspective today, even within the church. Self-promotion and worldly definitions of significance seem not only to be tolerated among pastors but even expected and encouraged. How many people are following me on Twitter? How's the traffic on my blog? How many Facebook "friends" can I count? How's our church's "brand" value?
The opportunities for self-promotion are proliferating.
Community and calling
But there is an antidote to these temptations. I've come to recognize the good and healthy tension between my personal calling and ambitions and my community. To understand our personal ambitions, we must be clear about both our sense of calling and our commitment to a community. It is the tension between these two that I lose or win the battle with the sin of self-promotion and narcissism.
Rooting my calling and ambitions in my community helps keep me from slipping into a self-centered focus. Without the community, it becomes all about me, my ministry, my dreams, my achievements. Community is used by God as a guard against this tendency to self-promote.
First, in community, we learn to "tell on myself" in a consistent way to the right people. Just as with other kinds of sin, confessing our struggle with self-promotion opens the way for help and healing. Community keeps us accountable.
Writing this article has served that purpose for me. I debated with Leadership's editors whether or not to put my name on this article. I worried it would be seen as yet another form of self-promotion and therefore distract from the message. We decided to include my name as a way of "telling on myself" and openly confessing. This brings a better accountability. Hiding our sin only gives it more power and control over us.
Second, keeping our calling anchored to a community also reminds us of the imago Dei in others. God has blessed and gifted others in significant ways for the benefit of the whole church and his mission. When we pursue only our own ambitions, we lose sight of this and add fuel to our narcissistic tendencies.
Yes, sometimes things would get accomplished faster and even better if we did them alone, but the inefficiencies of community honors God and keeps our selfishness in check.
Inherent in God's design for people is that we do life together. We see this dynamic in marriage, in family, and in our local congregations.
Third, rooting ourselves in community prevents us from the relentless pursuit of personal platforms. I was recently part of a conversation where a number of Christian leaders were talking about their "personal brands." A brand is the (emotional) experience someone has when they hear your name, see your image, or think of your ministry. As the language of branding seeps into the church, more pastors are thinking about how they are perceived. It puts the emphasis on individual leaders rather than communities of believers. It elevates image and impressions above the always messier reality.
The drive to build my personal brand tempts me to seek platforms to use my gifts rather than serve my community, perhaps in ways that will never be recognized. I try to counter this temptation with a circle of friends and mentors who have access to my schedule. If no one else knows where you are on a regular basis, you face the danger of isolating yourself and therefore exalting yourself. By opening my calendar to others, I am forced to consult with them before committing to another event, meeting, or trip. They help me to keep merely personal ambitions from ruling.
Without the help of my community, I would not have the tools or strength to resist another opportunity for me to "do something great of God."
Temptations within community
While rooting my calling and ambition in my community has helped curb temptations of self-promotion, it is not a silver bullet. This is because pleasing our community can slip into another kind of narcissism—people pleasing.
Sometimes being a faithful leader means doing things and making decisions that will make us unpopular in that community. When we avoid these harder parts of our calling in order to please the congregation, we may still be serving our narcissism and need for approval. It is another way of "thinking well of ourselves."
Ultimately people pleasing fails to honor God. Placing the community's desires ahead of God's calling is a way of making God secondary to people's opinion.
So there is a tension between being committed to our community (which keeps our calling within healthy boundaries) and being committed to God's calling upon me (which keeps our community from having too much power over our leadership).
So now I recognize the twin temptations: pleasing people and pursuing personal platforms. Both extremes are disastrous.
So I confess: I am a pastor and a narcissist. There, it feels good to get it out. I'm still struggling, and I know others are as well. But together we can flee these temptations and pursue humility and faithfulness. I pray that a generation of "recovering self-promoters" can resist our narcissism and help our churches do the same.
Owen, in Lisa you have found a rare soul. Lisa can be quiet, calm and easy going, and she can be silly, and passionate, and a barrel of laughs. Lisa is intelligent and witty. She is a deep thinker. She is not afraid to ask tough questions about the deep things of life. She is beautiful writer. She has an amazing way with children. Lisa feels deeply about the people she loves. I have seen Lisa in some of her most painful days—she is real, asks tough questions, and wrestles with God. And yet she acknowledges God’s goodness and glory in the midst. I have also seen Lisa in some of her most joyous times—radiating joy & peace, and having a generous spirit that wants those she loves to experience that joy too. Owen, yes, you might have to eat eggo waffles and potstickers for the rest of your life, but with Lisa you will laugh till your stomach hurts, you will experience your heart swell with love for her beyond what you could believe (because that is her effect on people), and you will see in increasing measure how good, and loving, and sovereign our God is to have a blessed you with a woman who is so uniquely equipped to help you grow in the grace and love of Jesus.This is the video put together by the talented videographer/DG Craig Nisperos http://vimeo.com/cnisperos
Love Seeking Understanding
A Meditation on the Trinity
By John Piper February 6, 1984
Human language is never wholly adequate to communicate personal life. How I feel when I look at four sons leaving their childhood behind cannot be wholly carried by words. But we still try. We stammer. We use metaphors (it’s like throwing things overboard on a voyage). We write poems and songs. The inadequacy of language is only surpassed by its indispensability. What else have we got? Inadequate does not mean useless. Language may not carry all there is, but what it carries can be true and valuable.
So with talk about the Trinity. No doubt it will always exceed our full comprehension. No doubt our language is inadequate to carry this deep reality. But the depth and value of the Trinity is precisely why we must speak. You don’t throw out the love poem because it falls short of the love. It is precious nonetheless. So is the doctrine of the Trinity.
In a nutshell (following Jonathan Edwards), I would describe the Trinity like this: The Father is God existing in the primal, unoriginated, most absolute manner. The Son is God eternally generated by the Father’s having a clear and distinct idea or image of himself, so much so that his image or reflection of himself is God—the Son. The Holy Spirit is God existing as the infinite Spirit of love and delight flowing eternally between the Son and the Father.
The Father has always existed. And there never was a time when he did not have a perfectly exact and full Idea or Image of himself. This is the Son who therefore is equally eternal with the Father. “God’s idea of himself is absolutely perfect and therefore is an express and perfect image of him, exactly like him in every respect; there is nothing in the pattern but what is in the representation—substance, life, power nor anything else…But that which is the express, perfect image of God in and in every respect like him is God to all intents and purposes…” (Jonathan Edwards, An Essay on the Trinity, p. 101). Biblical passages that point to this understanding of God the Son are 2 Corinthians 4:4; Philippians 2:6; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3.
When God is said to “be love” (1 John 4:7, 16), we must think that there has always been two Persons in God between whom love could flow. And the Scriptures teach plainly that the Father loves the Son (Matthew 3:17; Ephesians 1:6; John 5:20; 17:26) and the Son loves the Father (John 14:31). God’s infinite love for his own glory (Isaiah 48:11) was satisfied from eternity in his beholding and enjoying his own glorious Image in the person of his Son.
Therefore, the Father and the Son never existed without an infinite delight and love flowing between them. It was not possible they could be indifferent to each other’s glory. 1 John 4:12-13 shows that the love that God is (v. 7) is the Holy Spirit: “If we love one another God dwells in us, and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him…because he has given us of his Spirit.”
The Spirit of God is the river of love and delight flowing between God the Father and God the Son. The Holy Spirit is the esprit de corps of the Godhead. In responding to each other’s infinite glory, the Father and Son put all that they are into the act of love. And therefore the Spirit is all that they are and exists as a Person in his own right, yet one with the Father and the Son.
We grope. We stammer. We reach for ways to say the mystery. Why? Because something has gone before. Falling in love always precedes the love poems (no matter how bad they are).
Claritas quaerens intellectum,
My brother [John] Wesley acted wisely. The souls that were awakened under his ministry he joined in class, and thus preserved the fruits of his labor. This I neglected, and my people are a rope of sand.I hope this conversation will continue to inspire those of us in churches to consider what it is that draws us to a church, what it is that keeps us at a church, how we steward our ministry gifts while living as disciples, and how our answers to these questions fit with true love for God and true love for others.
“The River”I am so grateful that my God remembers that I am dust. I am so grateful that He is the most loving Father I can imagine, and He shows compassion and affection to me daily. I am so grateful that He wants me to come to Him with all my cares and needs. And He does meet me!
By Brian Doerksen
To the river I am going
Bringing sins I cannot bear
Come and cleanse me, come forgive me
Lord I need to meet you there
In these waters, healing mercy
Flows with freedom from despair
I am going, to that river
Lord I need to meet you there
Precious Jesus, I am ready
To surrender every care
Take my hand now, lead me closer
Lord I need to meet you there
Come and join us, in the river
Come find life beyond compare
He is calling, He is waiting
Jesus longs to meet you there.
II. He encourages himself in God, and in his promises, power, and providence, v. 3, 4. In the midst of his complaints, and before he has said what he has to say of his enemies, he triumphs in the divine protection. 1. He resolves to make God his confidence, then when dangers were most threatening and all other confidences failed: "What time I am afraid, in the day of my fear, when I am most terrified from without and most timorous within, then I will trust in thee, and thereby my fears shall be silenced." Note, There are some times which are, in a special manner, times of fear with God's people; in these times it is their duty and interest to trust in God as their God, and to know whom they have trusted. This will fix the heart and keep it in peace. 2. He resolves to make God's promises the matter of his praises, and so we have reason to make them (v. 4): "In God I will praise, not only his work which he has done, but his word which he has spoken; I will give him thanks for a promise, though not yet performed. In God (in his strength and by his assistance) I will both glory in his word and give him the glory of it." Some understand by his word his providences, every event that he orders and appoints: "When I speak well of God I will with him speak well of every thing that he does." 3. Thus supported, he will bid defiance to all adverse powers: "When in God I have put my trust, I am safe, I am easy, and I will not fear what flesh can do unto me; it is but flesh, and cannot do much; nay, it can do nothing but by divine permission." As we must not trust to an arm of flesh when it is engaged for us, so we must not be afraid of an arm of flesh when it is stretched out against us.
Praying the 6 "D's"
August 5, 2010
By: Jon Bloom
A few years back I wrote about the 5 "D's" I pray for daily. Recently, I added a sixth: desperation. I need to feel continually my desperate need for God.
Whatever it takes, Lord, give me...
Delight in you as the greatest treasure of my heart.
Delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)
Desire to know you, be with you, and seek your kingdom above all else. Delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)
Discernment that comes from a renewed mind that I might know your will.
But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:14)
Desperation because when I stop feeling my need for you I tend to wander.
Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. (Psalm 119:67)
Discipline to plan for what I discern as your will.
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15-16)
Diligence to do your will with all my heart.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:5)
Forgiveness is an Investment: What it Costs
Published by Molly Friesen at 9:59 am under Forgiveness
Following up on my Monday post about the dark “benefits” of unforgiveness, Paul Tripp goes on to explain that “forgiveness is an investment in your relationship with God and in your relationship with one another. As with all investments, there is cost involved. In any investment you make, your concern is that the return will be greater than the cost” (95).
So, what are the costs involved? Tripp lists a handful of costs, along with a full paragraph of explanation for each. I’ll include an excerpt of each explanation, but it’s certainly worth reading in full.
Forgiveness requires humility. ”When we stand in the center of our own universe with nothing more important to us than ourselves, we find nothing more offensive than a sin against us … Nobody gives grace better than someone who is convinced he needs it as well.”
Forgiveness requires compassion. ”Compassion is being moved by the plight of another, coupled with action to help him or her. Husbands and wives, does compassion ever grip you when your spouse sins against you? … You forgive [him or her] because, by God’s grace, you look at [him or her] through tender, rather than judgmental, eyes.”
Forgiveness requires trust. “Forgiveness is not so much an act of faith in your spouse as it is an act of faith in God.”
Forgiveness requires self-control. ”If you are going to forgive your spouse for committing a sin against you, you must say no to yourself, exercising the self-control that only God is able to give you. To forgive, you have to say no to bitterness… to the desire to lash out with angry words and actions of vengeance … [and] to the impulse to share your anger with a relative or friend.”
Forgiveness requires sacrifice. “Forgiveness requires that we be willing to let go of our desire for safety and comfort and the surface peace of silence, and, as an act of faith, that we endure what we do not want to face in order for the other to be helped and our relationship to be reconciled.”
Forgiveness requires remembering. “Perhaps a lifestyle of unforgiveness is rooted in the sin of forgetfulness. We forget that there is not a day in our lives that we do not need to be forgiven… When you remember, when you carry with you a deep appreciation for the grace that you have been given, you’ll have a heart that is ready to forgive.”
From Paul Tripp "What Did You Expect: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage", pages 95-97