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

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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


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“I never made a sacrifice.” – David Livingstone

livingstone 2
Michael Milton cites this stirring observation by David Livingstone about his labours in Africa.
These words are a challenge and an invitation that rings across the generations:

“People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply paid back as a small part of a great debt owing to our God, which we can never repay? Is that a sacrifice which brings its own blest reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny hereafter? Away with the word in such a view and with such a thought! It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger now and then with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause and cause the spirit to waver and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall be revealed in and for us. I never made a sacrifice.”
Dr David Livingstone in his Lectures to Students at Cambridge University on 4 December 1857.

There’s a list of references for further reading at Milton’s blog.

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Three Unexpected Ways to Make God Known (via Bonnie Gray)

Bonnie Gray writes about three unexpected ways to make God known, in a post published at Catalyst Space.
So often stress causes us to try harder, rather than rest more in God.
Wouldn’t it be something to have a reputation as a person whose ambition is to rest in God?

When we come into contact with stress, our natural response is to push through. We don’t want to be in need or fail to meet others’ expectations, especially our own. We beat ourselves up for not trusting God.
But, God offers us a different response: Rest. Kindness. Comfort.
Instead of being harder on us, Jesus whispers – “Come to me, all those who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
We often hold ourselves back from God, when we’re most weary. Ironically, those are the times we need God’s comforting presence the most. When we make space to confide in God, we can offer that space in return to others — instead of trying to fix them or their problems. We give them what God offers us: space to be real and rest.
We stop making ministry project focused. We become ministry by making God known by our presence.

When Jesus was surrounded by pressing needs, Scriptures tell us – “Jesus would often slip away to the wilderness for prayer.” Luke 5:16
Jesus took time to rest because nurturing his soul with his Father was more important than what He could do.
Putting our hearts first—letting Jesus love us— leads us on the journey of becoming known by Him.
As leaders, we need to take time to feed our souls. We need spiritual whitespace. Whitespace is the space on a page left unmarked in the world of art and design. Without whitespace, a composition goes from being fine art to commercialization.
Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s poeima — poetry translated as “workmanship” — created in Christ Jesus to do good works.”
Is our leadership more like art or cluttered advertisement?
It’s easier to perform—to improve ourselves—rather than rest when it comes to our own lives. Nurturing our souls is a dare to believe the outrageous: we were created for beauty. What if our brokenness revealed more about God’s love for us than our efforts to cover it up?

Rest sounds inactive, doesn’t it? I was surprised to find that rest is one of only three ambitions that God explicitly calls out in the Bible. The other two are preaching the gospel and pleasing God. (Rom.15:20, 2 Cor.5:9)
“We urge you, brethren, to excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet (restful) life.” 1 Thess. 4:10–11
Turns out hesuchazo—the Greek word used for quiet and rest—is as important as preaching the gospel and pleasing God. The more I’m able to enjoy rest, the more others will see God’s life in me. When my soul is at rest, I am free to please God right where I am.
I’ve always centered my thinking on pleasing God and preaching the gospel through what I did. But God suddenly put a big spotlight on hesuchazo. God was asking me to excel—“still more”—by making it my ambition to lead a quiet and restful life.
We were never made to only do ministry as maintenance. God makes Himself known through us when we are fully alive with rest: creative, engaged with community, and renewed by a sense of adventure.
As people of faith in a stressed-crazed world, where everyone is trying to be known, we make God radically known by our ambition to rest. As leaders in ministry, we serve at the front lines in the battlefield of everyday life.

Read the whole post at Catalyst Space.

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Heidelberg Catechism – Lord’s Day 24

Heidelberg Catechism – Lord’s Day 24

Q. But why cannot our good works be our righteousness before God, or at least a part of it?
A. Because the righteousness which can stand before the judgment of God must be absolutely perfect and wholly in conformity with the divine Law. But even our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin.

Q. Will our good works merit nothing, even when it is God’s purpose to reward them in this life, and in the future life as well?
A. This reward is not given because of merit, but out of grace.

Q. But does not this teaching make people careless and sinful?
A. No, for it is impossible for those who are ingrafted into Christ by true faith not to bring forth the fruit of gratitude.