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If You Arrive At Church Early (via Cornerstone Community Church)

Here are some benefits of turning up to church early.
(Roughly defined as more than 60-120 seconds before the appointed starting time, though in reality that’s actually arriving dead on time. Early would be sooner than that.)
If you consider your attendance as ministry to others, rather than as something that you do, or something that is for yourself, these are just a starting point.

If you’re early:
Your heart will be more settled and ready to worship our majestic Creator God.
You can take a few minutes to sit quietly and think about the Lord you came to worship.
You can get your children to the appropriate classrooms without rushing.
You can take a few minutes to encourage one another in fellowship before the service.
You can take a few minutes to read through the church bulletin before the service starts.
You can encourage your church leaders by showing greater respect for their careful and prayerful planning of the worship service.
You set a good example for your children in holding high the principle of love for others.

Read the whole post at Cornerstone Community Church.

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Pastoral Ministry Does Not Try To Save The Redeemed (via Henri Nouwen)

Henri Nouwen makes an important distinction about pastoral ministry.
A contemplative is able to live fully in the moment, but not be ruled by, and reacting to, the anxiety of that moment.
In that he is able to help others to look beyond their present ‘panic-stricken convulsions’ to responses that resonate with the character of the kingdom.

It is not the task of the Christian leader to go around nervously trying to redeem people, to save them at the last minute, to put them on the right track. For we are redeemed once and for all. The Christian leader is called to help others affirm this great news, and to make visible in daily events the fact that behind the dirty curtain of our painful symptoms there is something great to be seen: the face of Him in whose image we are shaped. In this way the contemplative can be a leader for a compulsive e generation because he can break though the vicious circle of immediate needs asking for immediate satisfaction. He can direct and steer their erratic energy into creative channels.

Henri Nouwen, The Wounded HealerMins, Darton, Longman, and Todd, 1994 ed., pg 44.

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When Jesus Calls Us Out It’s Not For A Doctrine Test (via Winn Collier)

When Jesus restores Peter after his denial he does so not by questioning Peter’s knowledge, but Peter’s heart.

From Winn Collier:

Warming by the enemy’s fire, three critics posed Peter the most straightforward query: “Are you a follower of Jesus?” They did not ask what Peter thought of the Galilean’s theology. They did not quiz him on the political positions of the carpenter turned prophet. They did not interrogate Peter on whether he believed Jesus’ claim to be Messiah was a farce. Peter faced a more basic, less theoretical, inquiry. “Are you a follower?” Peter, doubting all he had experienced with Jesus, offered what might have been the most honest response available to him. “No.” Peter’s betrayal was born of disillusion. The gloomy garden and the Judas kiss and Jesus’ deafening silence in the face of it all were simply too much for Peter. And three times, all before the cock finished its crowing, Peter’s confusion took shape in the form of a harsh, disillusioned No He had no space for this sort of king, no category for this twist in the story. Peter’s heart was good, but as with most of us his “clenched hands [were] stuffed with his own devices. When what we expect will be is smothered by what actually is, doubts and clenched fists are our common response.
Peter’s betrayal was odious. Though redemption came for Peter in the same way it is offered to us all, he will forever be remembered as the one who denied Jesus. This is a sad and unfortunate tale; yet if my read on Peter’s place in the night before Good Friday is reasonable, I detect a sliver of respectability in Peter’s disloyal hours: Peter was honest. Peter was angry. Perplexed and disappointed by Jesus’ anarchic actions, Peter had more questions than faith. When asked if his loyalty lay with Jesus, he would not lie. Honesty of any sort, even the treasonous kind, is better than deception. The one barrier to redemption is refusing to own up to the darkness that led us to our humble place. Such refusal will keep us from falling at the feet of grace, which is precisely where Peter finds himself several days following following his threefold denial.
When Jesus appeared to Peter after the Resurrection, he didn’t address Peter’s treachery. Jesus had obviously not been surprised by the denial; in fact he warned of its corming. Jesus did not offer Peter a theological treatise on doubt and faith. He did not chide Peter for his seditious acts. Jesus chose a more subversive path. Rather thai answer Peter’s many questions, Jesus proffered his own. Do you love me? It’s the sort of question that cuts to the center of things. It bypasses should and why and how could you. It digs deep for the rawest place. It is the sort of question that swallows you who] With Jesus, the question takes shape; it becomes flesh and bones.
It is this flesh-and-bone rawness, this rich humanity of Jesus, that meddles with our callous, constricted hearts. Jesus does not ask a question — of Peter or of us — merely as a mechanical apparatus to make a point. It is not just a rhetorical device, Jesus with his sterile bag of tools. Sometimes Jesus asks a question because he would really like to know the answer: Do we love him? It is a mystery how both true Divine knowledge and true human inquiry mingle in one man, one God. But they do. The ancient catechism insists as much. There is nothing more human, more honest, more open to friendship than a good soul-opening question. It cuts to the center, past the hubris. It carries love with it as it queries into our depth. And the question lingers until we answer.

Winn Collier, Holy Curiosity, Baker Books, 2008.

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Good Churchmen (via David Burke)

It was good to see David Burke at the General Assembly of Australia this week.
He and Paul Cooper were launching their book Read In The Light, a compilation of essays relating to the Declaratory Statement that the Australian Presbyterian Church adopted at its formation which formalises its understanding of certain aspects of the Westminster Confession of Faith.
Anyway, David was reflecting on having heard of a couple of people being described as ‘churchmen.’
In a certain time that phrase may have described someone who seemed to have a higher loyalty to the institution of the church than to Jesus.
But David set himself the task of composing a positive formulation of what that description might mean.
“A good churchman is someone who sees and relates to the church in Christ. He is committed to the church through, in and for Christ. He values the church not in itself but as the body and bride of Christ. His loyalty to the church is conditional on and conditioned by his loyalty to Christ.”

Read his whole post at his blog.

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Laundering Frantic Distraction From Christians (via Stephen McAlpine)

Stephen McAlpine writes about church as a place of focusses attention, not impatient demand.
If Christians are to be salt and light, a non-anxious presence in an increasingly anxious culture then our gatherings would be well served to be measured and consistent.
This includes the impulse for non-stop music playing under every activity and word, or a passing parade of faces coming and going from the platform.
From McAlpine’s post:

Jesus lived the life of focussed attention. The world around him (“Everyone is looking for you Jesus!” says Peter) would drag him into frantic distraction. But, by the power of the Spirit, Jesus knew that his greatest asset was the focussed attention that would take him all the way to the cross in Jerusalem.
I don’t get the impression that people in our churches know how to do focussed attention all that much. I don’t get the impression that their work lives, social lives, social media lives, and family lives are built upon focussed attention. I don’t get the impression they are given much option anywhere in the world. Or at least nothing in the world invites them away from frantic distraction towards focussed attention.
So maybe that’s our job as church leaders. Maybe it’s the role of the church to launder the frantic distraction out of our people, in order to better equip them for life in a frantic and distracted world. In order to help them to be that non-anxious presence at work; that listening neighbour who has time on their hands; that person who they meet who needs help.

Read the whole article here.

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Learning To Number Our Days (via Michael Kelley)

Michael Kelley writes a four point reflection on the phrase from the Psalms ‘teach us to number our days.’

We naturally assume that there will always be tomorrow – that there will always be another chance for this or that. We become procrastinators in our arrogance, assuming that the limited number of days we have on this earth will never come to an end. Because we drift toward this kind of arrogance in which we are the charters of our own destiny, we need God’s help to have a true gauge of our own mortality.
This is the point James made in James 4, a chapter diagnosing the disease of pride, when he reminded us all that we should be careful about assuming on the time-table of our lives. Even in things like planning trips, meetings, and anything else, we would do well to remember that “you don’t even know what tomorrow will bring—what your life will be! For you are like smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes” (James 4:14).

Read the whole post at Forward Progress.

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You Must Take Up Your Cross As Often As You Put It Down (via Connor Gwin at Mockingbird)

A reflection on the Christian life as a long obedience in a consistent direction.
This is not a process where Jesus gets us in, and then we set to work to keep ourselves in.
This is a constant remembering of the fact we’re only in because of what Jesus has done.
The more our lives change, the easier it is to forget that truth.
From Connor Gwin, writing at Mockingbird:

It takes more than praying a certain prayer. It is not a ‘one and done’ situation. You must lay down your life anew each day or each moment. You must be born again and again, over and over. You must take up your cross as often as you put it down.
For “the flesh is willing but the spirit is weak” (Mt 26:41). In our weakness, we grasp for control and power.
When we think we have control over our lives, we run ourselves ragged. When we feel like the masters of our own fate, we drive ourselves into the ditch. The world promises that we can do all things by our own sheer willpower. We are told that we can accomplish all of our dreams through nothing but our own effort, but that path is the expressway to death.
Paul writes it this way: “You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else” (Eph 2:1-3).
It is only through surrendering our lives, letting our ‘selves’ die, and following Jesus that we find life, real life, and rest.

Read the whole post at Mockingbird.