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Subversive Habits And Spiritual Growth (via Trevin Wax)

Spiritual life is a struggle between the true narrative of who we are in Christ and the lesser narratives that seek to impose themselves as our identity.
We seek to nurture the true narrative, and we can adopt habits that deflate or subvert the lesser narratives from growing.

From Trevin Wax.

For years, people close to C. S. Lewis shook their heads in consternation over his habit of answering every letter that crossed his desk. How many books might he have written had he put aside those interminable interruptions and focused on his work!
Not every writer or thinker is called to answer every letter in the way Lewis did. There’s no divine command when it comes to well known Christians answering letters. This is another example of a “subversive habit.”
Lewis’s early letters (before his conversion) are suffused with snobbery. To put it bluntly, the guy was a prig. Pride, haughtiness, and condescension show up often.
Contrast the early letters with those that came later in life. There, we see a man who, when asked about spiritual matters, took time to respond to individuals with words rich in spiritual insight and devotion. Lewis’s decision to devote so much time to letters placed him in the role of a servant to his readers. By carefully answering others’ questions, he allowed them to set the agenda for much of his writing, and this discipline subverted the instinct of Lewis to call the shots.


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Westminster Confession Of Faith – Lord’s Day 49

Westminster Confession Of Faith – Lord’s Day 49

Chapter 30 – Of Church Censures
I. The Lord Jesus, as king and head of his Church, has therein appointed a government in the hand of Church officers, distinct from the civil magistrate.
II. To these officers the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven are committed, by virtue whereof they have power respectively to retain and remit sins, to shut that kingdom against the impenitent, both by the word and censures; and to open it unto penitent sinners, by the ministry of the gospel, and by absolution from censures, as occasion shall require.
III. Church censures are necessary for the reclaiming and gaining of offending brethren; for deterring of others from like offenses; for purging out of that leaven which might infect the whole lump; for vindicating the honour of Christ, and the holy profession of the gospel; and for preventing the wrath of God, which might justly fall upon the Church, if they should suffer his covenant, and the seals thereof, to be profaned by notorious and obstinate offenders.
IV. For the better attaining of these ends, the officers of the Church are to proceed by admonition, suspension from the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper for a season, and by excommunication from the Church, according to the nature of the crime, and demerit of the person.

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Armed For Battle (preparing for mgpc 19/2/17)

Songs of preparation: That I Might Keep Your Statutes, LORD (BOPFW 119E) and Sovereign Grace O’er Sin Abounding.
Call to worship:
Praise: Holy, Holy, Holy.
Prayer of adoration and confession:
Scripture assurance, confession of faith, doxology: When Peace, Like A River; The Apostles’ Creed; Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow.
Continuous reading: Daniel 9: 20 – 27 – Daniel, in 539–538 B.C., now about 80 years old, recalls Jeremiah’s prophesy that the years of captivity would be 70 (Jeremiah 25:11,12; 29:10). Consequently he prays for the restoration of Jerusalem, but not before he prays an extended prayer of confession of sin.
Bible Memorisation: Ephesians 6: 11
Praise: My Hope Rests Firm On Jesus Christ.
Scripture reading: Ephesians 6: 13 – 14.
Sermon: Armed For Battle – In order to prevail until the end of our struggle against spiritual darkness, Paul reminds Christians to find their security in who God is, what God has done for us, and to make every effort to actively depend on God’s salvation rather than our own devices.
Pastoral prayer.
Tithes and offerings.
Departing praise: Our Father Everlasting (The Creed).

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Sin Demands To Have A Man By Himself

A quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, which Justin Taylor borrowed from someone else’s book:

Sin demands to have a man by himself.

It withdraws him from the community.

The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him, and the more deeply he becomes involved in it, the more disastrous is his isolation.

Sin wants to remain unknown.

It shuns the light.

In the darkness of the unexpressed it poisons the whole being of a person.

—Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together in Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, vol. 5, ed. James H. Burtness and Geffrey B. Kelly; transl. Daniel W. Bloesch (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995), 110.

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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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Spiritual Warfare by Borgman & Ventura – A Book Review

Spiritual-Warfare-194x300Spiritual Warfare – A Biblical & Balanced Perspective by Brian Borgman and Rob Ventura (Reformation Heritage Books, 2014) aims to provide a framework for Christians to contend against spiritual darkness.
In doing so the authors affirm a biblical worldview in which supernatural and natural coexist, guarding against both a naturalistic approach to Christian life which lives without regard to spiritual realities, or at another extreme, treating life as a Christian version of ‘Ghostbusters’.
Though the book references both these tendencies, it is remains focussed on providing constructive instruction and exhortation about spiritual warfare using Ephesians 6:10-20 as a framework.
So, rather than criticising other positions, the tone throughout is pastoral. I appreciated the earnestness of the writers (who it appears have co-authored the work seamlessly). It was encouraging to be reminded that all the weaponry of spiritual warfare is given to the Christian through their salvation; while being challenged to lay hold of each aspect of Christ’s saving work as it relates to resisting temptation to sin and growing more like Jesus.
This emphasis on Christian growth and sanctification enables the reader to see how their neglect creates vulnerabilities to spiritual assault.
Of great value are two concluding chapters dealing with the proactive warfare practice of prayer. As the church to which I belong has recently emerged from an intense season of prayer arising from an accident which one of our own suffered, the content of these chapters reinforces a conviction regarding the need to continue in prayer now that the emergency has passed.
Helpful study questions serve to both summarise the content of each chapter and provide avenues for further exploration. The book is well referenced and each chapter’s end notes provide sources for further reading.
Spiritual Warfare is a biblical, accessible and concise introduction to an important intersection between Christian growth and Christian life. Pastoral and constructive in tone, it offers readers a guide as they consider what the Bible teaches about the reality of conflict with spiritual evil. Those who heed the counsel it offers will be vigilant without being fearful, and prepared to act without constant anxiety about the conflict.

The Kindle edition of Spiritual Warfare upon which this review is based was provided by Cross Focused Reviews as part of a Spiritual Warfare blog tour. A positive review was not required.

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The Top Fifty Countries Where It’s Hardest To Be A Christian In 2014 (via Open Doors)

This graphic features Open Door’s 2014 ranking of the fifty countries where persecution of Christians is most severe.
You download a (larger image size) pdf copy with further information here.
More information at this page.