God’s gifts in suffering (8) Suffering teaches us to number our days

Life, Sola Panel, Sola Panel

You can read the previous posts in this series here: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6 and part 7.

flickr: Robert Couse-Baker

All our days pass away under your wrath;
we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
The years of our life are seventy,
or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away…
So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom. (Ps 90:9-10, 12)

When you’re young, life seems long and full of promise. A young woman told me she hopes Jesus doesn’t come back till she’s experienced career, marriage, children. I remember thinking the same when I was eighteen. Life stretched ahead, and I wanted to see and do it all. Can you recall it? Standing at the brink, ready to plunge in? (more…)

God’s gifts in suffering (7) Two unchanging things

Life, Sola Panel

You can read the previous posts in this series here: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5 and part 6.

flickr: mikeyskatie

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!
O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleas for mercy! …
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope.
(Psalm 130:1-2, 5)

There’s something about certain Christian books on suffering that bugs me. I’m just going to come out and say it. The writer tells you how suffering deepened his feelings of closeness to God. How a sense of God’s presence never really left her. They imply, and sometimes even promise, you’ll feel the same. I’ve finished paragraphs like that with tears running down my cheeks, longing for what I’m reading about, angry at God for failing to deliver, wondering what’s missing in me. (more…)

Life in a dark place: Doubt in the Christian life

Life

At the start of 2013, at a conference in Christchurch in New Zealand, I saw something simple but profound: the power of talking about things. There were a number of interviews where people spoke frankly about some difficult issues they had lived with, or were living with, as Christians. (more…)

Do You Want More This Christmas?

Life

We are a society that wants more. More money, more gadgets, more food, more fun. But strangely, wanting more often leaves us feeling dissatisfied. We finally get the thing we longed for, and yet all too soon it is broken, or the batteries have run down or it isn’t as good as we hoped. (more…)

Something more important than charity!

Life, Sola Panel, Sola Panel

In many previous generations and still in some places today, Christians might be surprised that a pastor has to write in this way. But recently I had to remind the congregations I serve that there is something more important than charity. (more…)

The libertarian argument against redefining marriage

Life, Thought, Sola Panel

I was reminded today of a tremendously important and compelling argument against redefining marriage—not from a Christian point of view, but a libertarian one. The case was made—cogently, I believe—by Jennifer Roback Morse last year. (more…)

God’s gifts in suffering (6) God gives us strength to endure, not escape

Life, Sola Panel

You can read the previous posts in this series here: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor 12:9-10)

flickr: Nouhailler

I know what I want. I told God so today. I’d like a guarantee that things are going to get better. We’ve reached the end of this particular time of suffering. Happiness is on the other side of the door, knocking. But the days go by, and, yes, things do get better – my son learns to manage his condition, my sorrow and bewilderment retreat – but life is still draining and difficult. Tears are never far away. We’re not yet in the land where leaves heal sorrow (Rev 22:1-4).

Maybe I’ll find the guarantee I want in the Bible. (more…)

The world in our pocket

Life

We live in a time of unprecedented change. For the first time in history we have access to the world in our pocket. The Internet has changed everything. The way we work and learn, communicate and connect has dramatically altered. And while some may argue that this is not good, it’s here and we can’t turn our back to it. How can we possibly ignore the billions of people who use social media every day?

This raises many questions. One of the most important is: how will the church adapt to make the most of this new situation to advance the mission of Jesus? (more…)

A Sweet Jesse Tree for Christmas

Everyday Ministry, Life, Sola Panel

WARNING: Contains significant use of sugar, artificial colours and flavours, and some traces of nutsSweetJesseTree1

This year the Christmas decorations had well and truly appeared in our local department store by September! Could be a chance to despair over the consumerism of Christmas, or a reminder to prepare early and make the most of the wonderful opportunities Christmas brings. Last year our family managed to get ready early. This year we thought we’d share what we did. (more…)

Bible heading fail: “Taming the Tongue”

Life, Pastoral Ministry, Sola Panel

When the biblical documents were originally written, the authors didn’t include section headings. The headings that appear in our modern Bibles were added later, by translators and editors. These headings are designed to divide the text into more manageable chunks, and to make it easier for us to look up passages. Although these headings can be helpful, they do have pitfalls. For example, a heading can create a break in the text which prevents us from seeing links between what comes before and after the heading. Even worse, at times, the heading is not an accurate summary of the passage at all; indeed, occasionally the heading implies something opposite to what the passage is saying. (more…)

photo | Martin Lopatka via flickr

50 shades of white

Life

A couple of days ago I had a moment. Okay, it wasn’t just a moment. It was a few hours. I could tell you how it wasn’t really my fault. How I just followed a link from someone, read about her passion for fiction and clicked on a book in a series that she’s into. (more…)

→ A ministry manifesto

Link

Tony Payne explains what the thinking behind GoThereFor.com is about:

GoThereFor.com is a platform where gospel-minded Christians can find ideas, encouragement and resources for fulfilling Christ’s commission to make disciples of all peoples.

The team behind GoThereFor.com longs to see the fruit of the great commission in our lives and churches; we want to see Christ’s disciples go out with urgent love to the communities and peoples around them, to make new disciples and to teach them to obey all that Christ has commanded.  This is our vision because we believe it is God’s great plan and mission as revealed in Scripture, and we hold the Scriptures as our supreme and sufficient authority.

I’m interested to hear what you think of this statement about Christian discipleship.

A visit means more than a text

Everyday Ministry, Life, Sola Panel

One of the things I admire about my mother is that she gets involved in other people’s lives.

Now that she doesn’t have children at home, and is working less, on her way to retirement, she could use her extra time for herself. Instead, she uses much of it for others.

She helps out at the local primary school. She looks after an elderly lady in a local nursing home. She cares for her brothers and sisters. She visits the sick.

She’s like those older women – the Bible calls them “widows” (which my mum is not, but I think it’s a similar stage of life) – who use their time and energy to serve (1 Tim 5:9-10; Acts 9:36-42). I hope to be like her one day.

Here’s a story that encouraged me to get involved too.

(more…)

→ 7 arrows for Bible reading

Link

Matt Rogers (via Trevin Wax) shares his 7 arrows for Bible reading, a tool to get people to engage with Scripture as they read it:

There is often a vast disconnect between the awareness of the need for disciple-making and practical tools that actually aid in this work. Three factors are essential: Scripture, relationships, and time. Discipleship happens when the life-changing truth of Scripture is infused into genuine relationships over an extended period of time.

Our desire was to create a simple, reproducible strategy that would facilitate this process. This led us to develop a simply strategy for small clusters (2-3 people) to meet together regularly and talk about the Scriptures and apply them to their lives.

The seven arrows of Bible reading were an attempt at developing a tool for proper hermeneutics to power these relationships. We did not want our people to simply talk about the Bible. We wanted them to understand the Bible and know how to apply it to their lives. Each cluster would read a predetermined passage of Scripture and discuss it using these seven arrows.

Perhaps not quite as memorable, but it’s up there with COMA and the Swedish Method in my opinion.

→ Is Chastity Possible?

Link

Michael Jensen asks whether the Bible’s teaching on human sexuality is even possible to fulfil:

So is Christian teaching on sexual abstinence unreasonable and unachievable? Is it simply nonsensical to tell the young couple in their twenties to wait for marriage to have sex when they can’t keep their hands off each other? Is it unreasonable and unliveable to tell a married man with a sick wife that he needs to be faithful to her, despite his growing awareness of his needs? Is it cruel to tell a single woman in her thirties that waiting for a Christian husband is better than the alternative— even if this means not having a husband at all?

Good to read, particularly on the counterproductive ways the Christian community talks about sexual purity.