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Maturing Our Prayer Lives Praying With Other Christians (via Renee Tan at Gospel Coalition Australia)

Wednesdays I meet with local pastors to pray in the morning, and folk from MGPC to pray in the evening.
Apart from Sundays my week revolves around these two gatherings.
At Gospel Coalition Australia Renee Tan writes about the ways that corporate prayer deepens, focuses and develops our prayer lives.
An excerpt:

As we articulate our prayer needs, we are faced with the desires of our heart. After all, the mouth speaks what the heart is full of (Luke 6:45). Do our thanksgiving prayers reflect a self-centeredness or a Christ-centeredness? Do our prayer requests reflect kingdom priorities? Maybe in Sunday school we used to pray for (nothing greater than) a good day at school or for the rain to stop ruining our soccer games. But are we still praying such limited prayers years later?
When we journey with other Christians, rub shoulders and huddle together in prayer, we will see growth in ourselves and each other. We will learn to pray for needs deeper than our material ones. We will prayers that sound like they come from the early church; prayers that beg God to teach us how to forgive our enemies; prayers for joy amidst tribulations; prayers for a faith that remains steadfast until Jesus comes again.

Read the whole post.


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Jesus’ Prohibitions Are Not Exceptions To Love; They Flow From It (via Michael Kelley)

It’s a tendency to see a prohibition as a limit on love.
“I love you, but…”
Michael Kelly points out that the prohibitions of God are not the limits of his love, but the expression of a care that flows from perfect love.
He is not denying us, he is loving us.
From Kelley’s article:

With Jesus, prohibitions are not exceptions to love; they flow from it:
Looking at him, Jesus loved him and said to him, “You lack one thing: Go, sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Mark 10:21).
In other words, Jesus loved this man enough to tell Him to sell everything He had. And we would do well to remember it. Because today, and every day, we will come up against the prohibitions of Jesus. And the temptation will be for us to regard Him as ungenerous. As uncaring. As persnickety. Anything but loving. But here is where we come back not to what we think in the moment, but what we know to be true.
We know it to be true that Jesus loves us. And whatever prohibitions we come up against flow from that love.

source


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The Job Of Getting Out Of The Way (via Darryl Dash)

God uses people as a means to the end of having people meet and come to have Jesus as their Saviour and Lord.
Pastors have a particular role as one of those means.
It is possible for focus on the pastor and their personality and leadership to become the point at which people stop.
They’ve got some sort of relationship with the pastor, but not with Jesus.
Darryl Dash observes the problem, and the tendency in some sections of the church to be fuelling the focus on individuals and their ministries, and provides the solution.

Our job as pastors is to get out of the way.
Look for ways to move out of the spotlight. Shine the spotlight on Jesus. Make the focus of your ministry him. I’ve found that the Spirit seems to work powerfully when the focus is on Jesus, and less powerfully when I try to sneak my way into the spotlight. Make Jesus’ glory the focus of your ministry.

Read the rest of his post here.


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Ministry As More Than A ‘Helping Profession’ (via Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon)

Pastoral ministry is not a therapeutic activity, it is a means that “can help to create a people worthy to tell the [Gospel] story and to live it.”
Hauerwas and Willimon write so well that every line is pleasure to read, and is so well constructed its hard to lift little grabs of text because they are knit so organically with the whole.
So, the introduction to their article posted at Religion Online:

Parish clergy and seminarians today seem content to have ministry numbered among the “helping professions. ” After all, most professing Christians, from the liberals to the fundamentalists, remain practical atheists. They think the church is sustained by the services it provides or the amount of fellowship and good feeling in the congregation. This form of sentimentality has become the most detrimental corruption of the church and the ministry.
Sentimentality is that attitude of being always ready to understand but not to judge. Without God, without the one whose death on the cross challenges all our good feelings, who stands beyond and over against our human anxieties, all we have left is sentiment, a saccharine residue of theism in demise. Sentimentality is the way our unbelief is lived out.
If the ministry is reduced to being primarily a helping profession, then parish clergy will also be destroyed by the presumption that all sincerely felt needs are legitimate needs. Ministry will be trivialized into the service of needs.
This problem is compounded by the fact that ministers are often people who need to help people. They like to be liked and need to be needed. Their personal needs become the basis for their ministry. Underestimating how terribly deep other people’s needs can be, they enter ministry with an insufficient sense of personal boundaries, and are devoured by the voracious appetites of people in need. One day they may awake to find that they have sacrificed family, self-esteem, health and happiness for a bunch of selfish people who have eaten them alive. Pastors then come to despise what they are and to hate the community that made them that way. The pastor realizes that people’s needs are virtually limitless, particularly in an affluent society in which there is an ever-rising threshold of desire (which we define as “need”). With no clear job description, no clear sense of purpose other than the meeting of people’s needs, there is no possible way for the pastor to limit what people ask of the pastor.
Some say the clergy should develop more self-esteem, be more assertive, learn to say No, demand a day off–in brief, become as self-centered as many of the people in their congregations…

Read the rest here.


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Lead Me To Calvary – Sunday Songs

It’s always a pleasure to find a hymn that I haven’t heard before.
Lead Me To Calvary was composed in the first half of the twentieth century by Jane (Jennie) Evelyn Hussy.
It’s very much in the Gospel Song heritage than classic hymnary, but has a very attractive sentiment about it.

I couldn’t go past this rendition by a group called The Soul Stirrers.
You’ll hear Sam Cooke’s unmistakable vocals on this.

The lyrics:
(Most recordings use the first and last verses and sometimes the third. One recording had a different verse altogether. Sam doesn’t get past the first one, but I don’t care.)
1
King of my life I crown thee now —
Thine shall the glory be;
Lest I forget thy thorn-crowned brow,
Lead me to Calvary.
Refrain:
Lest I forget Gethsemane,
Lest I forget thine agony,
Lest I forget thy love for me,
Lead me to Calvary.
2
Show me the tomb where thou wast laid,
Tenderly mourned and wept;
Angels in robes of light arrayed
Guarded thee whilst thou slept.
Refrain
3
Let me like Mary, thru the gloom,
Come with a gift to thee;
Show to me now the empty tomb —
Lead me to Calvary.
Refrain
4
May I be willing, Lord, to bear
Daily my cross for thee;
Even thy cup of grief to share —
Thou hast borne all for me.
Refrain


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Westminster Shorter Catechism – Lord’s Day 3

Westminster Shorter Catechism – Lord’s Day 3

4
Q What is God?
A God is a Spirit,1 infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being,2 wisdom,3 power,4 holiness,5 justice,6 goodness,7 and truth.8

*1 John 4:24.
*2 Psalm 90:2; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17;1 Kings 8:27; Jeremiah 23:24; Isaiah 40:22
*3 Psalm 147:5; Romans 16:27
*4 Genesis 17:1; Revelation 19:6
*5 Isaiah 57:15; John 17:11; Revelation 4:8
*6 Deuteronomy 32:4
*7 Psalm 100:5; Romans 2:4
*8 Exodus 34:6; Psalm 117:2