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reports, reviews, thoughts, news (and fun) posted by Gary Ware

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Change Requires An Elevated Love

David Brooks of the The New York Times, quoted by Martin Downes:

People don’t change because they decide to be better. If that happened, then New Year’s Resolutions would work.
People decide to change because they elevate their loves. And as St. Augustine said, “You become what you love.”
But if you can’t talk about the struggle of sin, if you can’t talk about why some loves are higher than other loves, and ordered versus disordered loves, you don’t have the moral vocabulary, the mental tool kit to think about how to be better.
And the Christian tradition gives us that

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When Grace Is The Operating System (via Jared Wilson)

Jared Wilson affirms the presence of grace and law in the life of God’s people, but points out the vital difference when grace is the lived out experience through which every event is processed.

An excerpt:

The most gracious people you and I know are people who have had an experience of grace and fixate on grace. The least gracious people we know are people who may know about grace academically, “theologically,” but don’t seem the least bit changed by it and really have a fixation on the law. They have an inordinate fixation on who did what wrong and what they deserve.
The same dynamic takes place in churches. Where grace and law are taught academically but law is “felt” as the operating system of the church, you will likely have a stifling, gossipy, burdensome environment. Where grace and law are taught theologically but grace is felt as the operating system of the church, you will see people begin to flourish, breathe.
Read the whole post here.

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Heidelberg Catechism – Lord’s Day 33

Heidelberg Catechism – Lord’s Day 33

Q. How many parts are there to the true repentance or conversion of man?
A. Two: the dying of the old self and the birth of the new.

Q. What is the dying of the old self?
A. Sincere sorrow over our sins and more and more to hate them and to flee from them.

Q. What is the birth of the new self?
A. Complete joy in God through Christ and a strong desire to live according to the will of God in all good works.

Q. But what are good works?
A. Only those which are done out of true faith, in accordance with the Law of God, and for his glory, and not those based on our own opinion or on the traditions of men.

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Heidelberg Catechism – Lord’s Day 32

Heidelberg Catechism – Lord’s Day 32

Q. Since we are redeemed from our sin and its wretched consequences by grace through Christ without any merit of our own, why must we do good works?
A. Because just as Christ has redeemed us with his blood he also renews us through his Holy Spirit according to his own image, so that with our whole life we may show ourselves grateful to God for his goodness and that he may be glorified through us; and further, so that we ourselves may be assured of our faith by its fruits and by our reverent behavior may win our neighbors to Christ.

Q. Can those who do not turn to God from their ungrateful, impenitent life be saved?
A. Certainly not! Scripture says, “Surely you know that the unjust will never come into possession of the kingdom of God. Make no mistake: no fornicator or idolater, none who are guilty either of adultery or of homosexual perversion, no thieves or grabbers or drunkards or slanderers or swindlers, will possess the kingdom of God.”

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J.I. Packer On Finishing ‘Flat Out’

John Piper writes in appreciation about J.I. Packer’s determination to finish at full pace.
Whatever that pace may be.
This is not an invitation to recklessly overdoing it, or to impose your insecurities on others whose work then becomes enabling you to do what you really can’t.
It’s about committment to freedom.
An excerpt.

This week J.I. Packer turned 88. He has written a book on aging. It’s titled, Finishing Our Course with Joy: Guidance from God for Engaging with Our Aging. At age 68 I found it riveting. It made me want to live “flat out” to the end. That was his goal. You could call it “Don’t Waste Your Sixties, Seventies, and Eighties.” It’s worth reading at any age.
He is not naïve. He is 88! There is no romantic idealization for the final years of this life. It will be hard. “Aging,” he says, “is not for wimps.” Some may paint a rosy picture of life after seventy. Even John Wesley, Packer observes, said that at eighty-five “the only sign of deterioration that he could see in himself was that he could not run as fast as he used to.” With characteristic understatement Packer says: “With all due deference to that wonderful, seemingly tireless little man, we may reasonably suspect that he was overlooking some things.”
Nevertheless Packer realizes that:

“the assumption that was general in my youth, that only a small minority would be fit and active after about seventy, has become a thing of the past. Churches, society, and seniors themselves are still adjusting to the likelihood that most Christians who hit seventy still have before them at least a decade in which some form of active service for Christ remains practicable.”

So, what shall we do with these final years? Packer notes that “the image of running was central to Paul’s understanding of his own life [1 Corinthians 9:24–27; Galatians 2:2; Philippians 2:16], and I urge now that it ought to be the central focus in the minds and hearts of all aging Christians, who know and feel that their bodies are slowing down.”
And how should we run? “My contention is . . . that, so far as our bodily health allows, we should aim to be found running the last lap of the race of our Christian life, as we would say, flat out.” “The challenge that faces us is . . . to cultivate the maximum zeal for the closing phase of our earthly lives.”

Read the whole piece at Desiring God.

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The Quiet Time (via David Cook)

David Cook writes about the Christian devotional custom of Quiet Times.
And yes, I did read through to the end with his comments about social media.

From David’s page at the PCA website:

On my way to pick up my newspaper recently, I passed by the local taxi rank and one of the drivers had spread his prayer mat on the footpath and was praying, facing Mecca.
Here I was on my way to read the paper, here he was at prayer!
It used to be called the Quiet Time, personal devotions, time alone in the presence of God for prayer and Bible reading.
It is not much emphasized these days, maybe because we see all of life as worship or too often, we judge the health of our relationship with God on the basis of the regularity of our Quiet Time. But we must not stop doing something that is good, simply because it has the potential of attracting our trust.

Here are three reasons why I believe daily devotions are a healthy discipline:
1. The distinctive Christian understanding of God is that He is our Father. His fatherhood is perfect and according to the Confession of Faith, revolves around his providing, protecting and pitying of us. I am to live in that relationship 24/7, but it is surely a healthy habit and honouring to the relationship, to spend time with God with a devoted, single mind. I don’t find it easy to think of two things at once, to speak to God and to understand what he says in his word, requires a single minded intention.
2. Christians duplicate the offices of our Lord Jesus.
Jesus is prophet, he is the revealer of God;
Jesus is priest, he intercedes for us at God’s right hand;
Jesus is King, he rules over all things.
The believer has a prophetic ministry, proclaiming God’s truth; a priestly ministry, interceding before God; a kingly ministry, ruling over all things, because the ruler has promised to work in all things for our good, to make us like Christ.

For each of these ministries to flourish in our lives they need to be nourished by truth –
I need to know the truth to be proclaimed:
I need to be reminded how crucially God regards the prayers of his people;
I need the reminder that every event which seems out of control, is actually a gift from God’s hand, driving me into the secure arms of the Shepherd King.
To be an effective prophet, priest and king, I need time in the nourishing word and the strengthening relationship of my heavenly Father.
Because of the way we grow in our knowledge of God. Human relationships grow as time is invested, and depths of thoughts and fears and insights are shared.
To be an effective prophet, priest and king, I need time in the nourishing word and the strengthening relationship of my heavenly Father.
3. J I Packer on page 20 of Knowing God, writes of turning our knowledge about God into knowledge of God, “the rule for doing this is demanding but simple. It is that we turn each truth that we learn about God, into matter for meditation before God, leading to prayer and praise to God.”

Here are three hints:
1. Try and take the same time and place each day. For early birds this may be early, for night owls, later on, whenever your brain is at its best.
2. Variety is the spice of life when it comes to content – read with aids, without aids, according to a Bible overview plan or more thoroughly through one book. The 1:4 rule is a good one, read for one minute think about it for 4 minutes. Take notes.
3. Focus your mind for prayer – pray through a Psalm or a hymn, pray down a list or through a family or missionary photo album.
Remember your goal is to know God better and for you to be more like Him, to clothe yourself with the righteousness of Christ (Colossians 3:12 – 14, Galatians 3:27).
Time cannot be created, there are only 24 hours in the day.
Time needs to be made, the greatest time killer used to be TV but, without a doubt, these days it is social media.
Shut down the social media and spend focused, uninterrupted time with your heavenly Father.

David Cook

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Be A Little Kinder (via David Cook)

David Cook’s latest Pastoral Letter has been posted at the Presbyterian Church Of Australia website

Be A Little Kinder
When John White wrote his book on the Christian life he entitled it “The Fight”. Christian living is about a fight within.
At the end of the letter to the Galatians, Paul writes in defense of Christian liberty against its two enemies, legalism and indulgence. Legalism is self salvation, by adhering to a code of behaviour. Indulgence is the jettisoning of any code in favour of doing one’s own thing, the individual becomes the code of behaviour. Self salvation and self regulation.
Paul says that true freedom is won through the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, the impossibly demanding law, has been fulfilled on our behalf by the Lord Jesus and the code of behaviour which now governs us is determined by the believer living in (Galatians 5:16), being led by (Galatians 5:18) and keeping in step with (Galatians 5:25) the Spirit of God. The Son frees us from the impossibility of self salvation, the Spirit frees us from the slavery of self regulation.
There are now two competing forces operating within the believer, once the sinful nature reigned supreme, but no longer, for through faith in Jesus we have received not only right standing with God, but the Spirit now empowers us to overcome the ever present sinful nature.
Toplady says in his hymn “Rock of Ages”, “be of sin, the double cure, cleanse me from its guilt and power.”
Jesus’ work deals with the guilt of our sin and because of that work we receive the Holy Spirit to empower us to overcome, “the sinful nature and the Spirit are in conflict” (Galatians 5:17).
There follows the list of the works of the sinful nature (Galatians 5:19 – 21) and the fruit of the Spirit’s presence (Galatians 5:22 – 23).
Maybe the first three of the nine fruit relate to the first indication of the Spirit’s presence, love, joy and peace; the second three relate to our relating to others, and the last three, our relating within, to ourselves.
Writing in the Australian Magazine recently, Nikki Gemmel quoted the American author, George Saunders, saying his regrets in life relate to his failures to show kindness, “when another human being was there in front of me in need and I responded sensibly, reservedly, mildly.”
Saunders urges us to “err in the direction of kindness” and to see that the enemy of kindness is the “sickness” of selfishness.
Aldous Huxley was embarrassed that at the end of his life, he had no more advice to give than, “try to be a little kinder”.
John Laws, the radio announcer ended his program for many years with the words of Roger Miller, “let us be a little kinder”.
Kindness is a fruit which all believers exhibit because it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit within us. Selfishness, ambition, envy, fits of rage, come naturally to us but kindness and goodness, surprising gracious acts of generosity, sticking with people even when wronged by them, doing good even in the face of enmity, comes spiritually to us, from the Holy Spirit within.
The Lord Jesus says that when we come to him, we will find his yoke gentle or kind (Matthew 11:30) and Peter says, the Lord is good or kind (1 Peter 2:13).
The Lord Jesus exemplified the fruit of the Spirit. He was kind and good. We have been set apart to be a people of “his very own, eager to do what is good”. (Titus 2:14).
Gemmel, who is not a Christian believer says, “as I get older it’s kindness more than anything that moves me to tears…. the more empowered people feel, of course, the greater their propensity to show kindness to others”.
Let us live by, be led by and keep in step with, the Spirit in order to be kind and good. Paul concludes, “let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other” (Galatians 5:26).
David Cook