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The Comforting Church (via Christina Fox)

True Gospel comfort is meant to be shared.
From Christina Fox at the Gospel Coalition:

This story of gospel comfort in 2 Corinthians reminds us that we’re all united to Christ, and that when he is at work in one of us, it affects all of us. God’s grace multiplies as it works through the life of a local church.
The comfort God gives, however, isn’t for us alone. We can’t hoard it. The ways the gospel has changed us must be shared; the truth of who Christ is and what he has done must be voiced.
Based on this truth, the comfort we give to one another in the church isn’t the “you can do it” and “everything will be okay” comfort of the world. No, this comfort is honest about sin and its effects. It doesn’t sugarcoat or wish things away. Instead, it seeks hope and help outside of our own strength and in the only One who can save. It’s grounded in the glad news of who Christ is and what he descended to do.
What does such comfort look like in the church?

  • When the Spirit helps us put sin to death, we share that joy with other believers so they too can rejoice in the gospel’s power at work.
  • When we’ve endured a season in which God met us in our pain, we share it with other believers so they too can see God’s faithfulness.
  • When God provides what we need in the eleventh hour, we share that joy so others can know that God is Jehovah-Jireh, our provider.

When God strengthens us in weakness, when he heals and brings redemption, when he teaches us through discipline—in all these ways and more—we share that comfort for another’s spiritual good.
May our friendships in the church be unique. May they be marked by gospel comfort. And just as Paul, Titus, and the Corinthians experienced God’s comfort, may the gospel come full circle in our own churches as we witness and testify together to what our King has done.

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Of Wrestling And Limping

Jacob, the Old Testament patriarch, spent the pivotal night of his life wrestling with an unidentified figure.

As dawn comes Jacob asks for a blessing before he will release his protagonist. He receives his blessing, but his hip is touched and he walks thereafter with a limp.

He receives his blessing, but he walks with a limp.

Jacob’s experience finds its ultimate expression in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Our Saviour’s glorification will never erase the experiences of his suffering.

There is an echo of that reality in the lives of those who follow Jesus.

I was talking with someone about the state of our churches in South Australia. He observed that 15 years of that sort of struggle has a personal impact. I won’t be the same again.

That’s how it is: you wrestle for a blessing, you’ll walk with a limp.

Everyone wants the blessing, nobody wants a limp.

Or we want to nominate our limp, name the cost we’re prepared to sacrifice.

So, there’s a limp – I don’t even know if this is the extent of it or if there’ll be more.

But that’s okay.

It’s a blessing worth getting.


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Faith In The Son Of God Is Not About Fast Changes (via Joel Littlefield)

The transition from outside the kingdom into the kingdom happens all at once.
The transition of the character of the lives that have gone from completely outside to completely inside takes longer.
We shouldn’t be discouraged.
As Joel Littlefield writes Things That Matter Rarely Happen Fast.

Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. Compared to the tree that it produces, it’s among the smallest of seeds. Being a Christian in this Kingdom will mean that what is being produced in us by Jesus, though it be small and comparatively insignificant right now, will one day have influence that spreads like the branches of a large tree. Seeds are planted and may not sprout for days. Yet with time and patience, fruit comes.
Faith in the Son of God is not about fast changes. It’s about truth hidden in our hearts that is doing something now, and will one day spring forth as great trees producing more fruit than we can imagine.

Read the rest of the post here.


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Comfort Is A Deadly Compass (via Erik Raymond)

When working through life decisions or navigating through challenging relationships or seasons of life it’s inviting to arrive at answers that are based on our preferences, what makes us comfortable, or what we feel we want, instead of being directed by God’s Word.

Erik Raymond observes there’s a significant issue with using what makes you comfortable as a guide for decision making.
What makes you comfortable can be wrong.

We tend to go with our reflex. And for many, this reflex is for personal comfort. When given choices we often tend towards that which is going to be the most comfortable and most personally rewarding. But what if our compass is defective? What if the right sense of direction would tell us to do the hard thing that requires humility? I believe that personal comfort is a deadly compass.

Raymond illustrates the point in the rest of his post here.


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Start Planning Your Own Funeral (via Grayson Pope)

Taking a cue from one of the less likely of Jonathan Edward’s well-known resolutions, Grayson Pope invites us visit the house of mourning to learn enduring lessons.
By planning your death, you should also be making plans about living.

An excerpt:

Start Planning Your Own Funeral
Jonathan Edwards is known for his famous resolutions—short promises he made to help keep himself on the path of righteousness. His ninth resolution reads, “Resolved, To think much, on all occasions, of my dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.”
He was resolved to think about his death and the normal circumstances it would bring. That means Edwards was resolved to plan his own funeral in his mind.
His example is one we can follow. Try this short exercise: for 10 minutes today, think through the reality that you will die. Reflect on all that thought brings, from death certificates to funeral plans and coffin choices.
Remind yourself that in Christ “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28); that your next breath comes only if he allows it. Imagine you will die tomorrow, next week, or next year.
Then, ask yourself questions like, “If I were about to die…”

  • “What would I do differently? What would I start doing? What would I stop doing?”
  • “Would I keep living the way I am—living where I live, doing the things I do, working the job I have?”
  • “What would I be ashamed of not attempting for God?”
  • “Who would I spend more time with?”

Surely, God will bring some things into focus, namely that we should live today like we’ll die tomorrow.
Resolve to think about your death more often.
Resolve to plan your own funeral every now and then, at least in your mind.

Read the whole post at Gospel-Centered Discipleship.


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Are We Overdoing the Decorations? (via Paul Tripp)

Paul Tripp offers a few words about ensuring our celebration of Christmas doesn’t obscure the essential message of Christmas:

Guard the Meaning of Christmas
It is really sad how much of our time, effort, and energies are captured by the cultural busyness of Christmastime, rather than the core of the Advent story. We allow Christmas to be more about created stuff than it is about the incarnation of the Creator. We’ve turned the story on its head.
The glory of this story is that the Creator himself becomes a man to rescue us from our bondage to the creation. For some, Christmas has become about bondage to the creation. This is something we should guard against.
We allow Christmas to be more about created stuff than it is about the incarnation of the Creator.
Are We Overdoing the Decorations?
Christmas can also become more about decorating and acquiring than about being rescued. We all want to decorate our lives with beautiful things that we think will satisfy us.
Maybe what we’ve done with the Christmas story is a metaphor for that desire. What we’ve done with this season is a metaphor for how we just want to decorate everything so that life is beautiful to us. But that never ends up satisfying us.
It’s not wrong to want your house to be beautiful at Christmas, but if that’s what the season is about, you’ve missed the whole point. Christmas proclaims that nothing but Christ’s redemption is ever going to give us what our hearts long for, rescuing us from things that can’t satisfy.
It’s not about created stuff, it’s not about decorating and acquiring. It’s about the incarnation of the Creator—rescuing us from all those false hopes.

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What Do You Need To Do To Go Backwards In The Christian Life? Nothing. (via Sinclair Ferguson

Words from Sinclair Ferguson posted on the blog Tolle Lege.

“Hebrews is all about persevering in sanctification. Without holiness, writes the author, ‘no one will see the Lord.’ We must therefore ‘strive’ for it (Hebrews 12:14).
He uses vigorous language. His verb (διώκω, strive) appears regularly in the New Testament with the sense of ‘persecute.’
Such strong language was needed here because these Christians were facing hardship and opposition. They therefore needed to pay careful attention to the gospel, to digest what they had heard, so that they would not drift away.
What do you need to do to slow down and go backwards in the Christian life? Hebrews’ answer is: ‘Nothing.” Drifting is the easiest thing in the world.
It is swimming against the tide that requires effort. And the Christian life is against the tide all the way. Spiritual weariness, being ‘sluggish,’ is one of our great enemies. The author is all-too-familiar with its tell-tale signs.
Christians then, as now, were confronted by many pressures. Some of them had suffered deeply for their testimony to Jesus Christ. We might think that anyone who has withstood trials would be in no danger of failing to persevere.
But the battle to be holy is fierce, the opposition is strong, and the obstacles are many. Even those who have won great victories in the past can become weary. Spiritual lethargy can set in, and we begin to drift.
We constantly need to be encouraged to keep going (Hebrews 3:12-13).”

–Sinclair Ferguson, Devoted To God: Blueprints For Sanctification (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2016), 191.