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Christlikeness Is Something To Long For, Not Be Delivered From (via Randy Alcorn)

Randy Alcorn is supporting his wife, Nanci, through her season of cancer.
God is supporting them both.
He writes about the experience of God using the very situations that nobody wants as the circumstances in which faith and Christlikeness grows:

If asked, “Do you want to be closer to Jesus, and more like him?” we all know what we should say. Yet, if God answered all our prayers for relief from suffering, he would be delivering us from the very thing we say we want. Christlikeness is something to long for, not be delivered from. It’s not easy to pray, “Please do whatever it takes to make me more like Jesus.” But when he does whatever it takes, we should trust him.

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Suffering Is Never Alone (via Paul Tripp)

Paul Tripp reflects on his own season of chronic illness, a situation that has left him with ongoing physical challenges.
The greatest challenge though, is not physical, it is spiritual.

You never come to your suffering empty-handed. You always drag a bag full of experiences, expectations, assumptions, perspectives, desires, intentions, and decisions into your suffering. What you think about yourself, life, God, and others will profoundly affect the way you interact with and respond to the difficulty that comes your way.
This is why the writer of Proverbs says: “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)
What are you carrying around in your soul that has the potential to complicate your suffering? What are you preaching to yourself that could allow you to forget the truths of the gospel?
Never forget: No matter what painful thing you’re enduring, as God’s child, it’s impossible for you to endure it all by yourself.

read the rest at Paul Tripp


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Fullness Of Joy That Lasts Forevermore (via Stephen McAlpine)

With the seasonal observations of the euphoria that is experienced by winning football teams and their supporters, Stephen McAlpine reflects on how a joy that seems so complete will fade so quickly (pre-season training will probably commence well before Christmas) contrasts with a joy that is more complete and which will never diminish.
I’m a long way into a set of Bible studies on the book of Ecclesiastes at the moment and these thoughts are very relevant to the theme of that part of Scripture.
From his post:

When people ask the question “Can you be happy without God?”, I say, “Of course!” I don’t buy it when apologists say “no” to that question.
I don’t believe that you cannot be happy without God. Because lots of people – especially in this rich Western world – patently are.
But it won’t last. It will fade. It will die – probably before they do. For if someone dies without having experienced severe suffering, or deep unhappiness, then they are a rare beast indeed.
Die they will, and the joy of a premiership flag will not go with them. Nor the joy of sex, the joy of work, the joy of leisure, the joy of anything outside of the joy of God.
Christians are often described as “kill-joys”. We don’t need to be that. In fact our one true Joy was killed, then raised again so that our joy could go on forever.

Read the whole post here.


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Why Church Should Be Nothing Like Cross-Fit (via Connor Gwin at Mockingbird)

I’ve been dabbling a little bit in personal fitness for a while now, so I’ve got lots of respect for those who exercise.
This article by
Connor Gwin on Mockingbird
interacts with popular thought about why gyms and exercise fill a space in some modern lives that used to be filled by church.
It wants to tease out that the thought that people can find more personally meaningful “content and wisdom and community” in gyms is because the church has been conditioning them to expect the wrong thing.
There are texts in the New Testament that utilise athletic metaphors, but they are not based so much in self-improvement as they are in increased resting in the finished work of Christ in order to grow more like him.
From the article:

What troubles me is that we so easily make the jump from church to gym.
This argument of the Vox article starts from the assumption that religion and religious institutions are “providers of content and wisdom and community.”
From the outside, this is an easy assumption to make. Those of us within the church can fall into this trap too easily as well. The church is not just a provider of content and community. Ritual is not “this really helpful way of making people think of something greater.” The church and the rituals contained therein are forms of participation in reality as opposed to the delusion of my own sinful understanding.
The church does not exist to “make people better” like CrossFit. The church exists first and foremost for the worship of Christ and the proclamation of his Gospel. This sole focus serves to remind people who they are and to proclaim the Good News that we cannot make ourselves better but there is One who makes us whole.
The church is not a provider of spiritual wisdom, but foolishness. It does not exist for improvement or even growth. Saying that CrossFit is the logical home for those who no longer darken the doors of the church is an indictment of the church more than anything.
It shouldn’t be an easy walk from the pew to the weight bench, but it is made easy by a Christianity that looks more like a spiritual fitness program than a Gospel balm.
Any mention of “nones” and someone will mention the “dones,” those who are burned out and tired of giving their all to the church. For the “dones,” the prospect of endless burpees sounds better than one more sermon about the next political issue they need to care about or the next moral ladder they need to climb.
What is happening in the church when the Workout of the Day sounds like better news than the Gospel?
Jesus is not a personal trainer or a guru espousing wisdom. Jesus is Lord, and he calls to each of us, saying, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Read the whole post at Mockingbird.


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Rise Up And Walk (via Ron Block)

A meditation on faith by Ron Block.

Faith isn’t something we drum up or fight for. We don’t pull up our faith-bootstraps and try to believe. Faith is more than intellectual assent to ideas about God; it is the outcome of any real moment of intimate contact with him.
When we are fearful or unbelieving, when we look at the future with trepidation, or when our mind is spinning with past losses, what can we do? Well, what do we do when we are cold? We pull our chairs up to the hearth and get closer to the fire. We step into the warmth and light of the sun.

Read the whole post at The Rabbit Room.


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Encouraging Involvement In Small Group Ministries (via Ed Stetzer)

Ed Stetzer writes a post about encouraging involvement in small group ministries:

Through teaching biblically, promoting incessantly, and leading organizationally, we can encourage our brothers and sisters to get involved with small group ministries.
+++
On promotion:
Promote it incessantly
People need to hear about small groups all the time. The more you can promote it, the more likely they are to understand the importance of small groups. I would try to mention small groups in some form or fashion in every service. An ongoing, incessant discussion of small groups is key.

Read the post here.


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Heidelberg Catechism – Lord’s Day 33

Heidelberg Catechism – Lord’s Day 33

88.
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.

89.
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.

90.
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.

91.
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.