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The Disappointment We Must Control (via Ralph Davis)

There is a form of remembering the goodness and grace of God that can kill faith in the present.
Ralph Davis, from a study on Ezra:

The Disappointment We Must Control – Ezra 3:12-13
What a mixed response! From Ezra 3:12b it looks like the memory of the first temple clouded the day for some (see 1 Kings 5-7on Solomon’s temple). The older folks could still recall that magnificence. And they could tell from the foundation of this projected temple that it would have none of the “pizzazz” of Solomon’s. There is no problem here with the candor of their weeping, but there is a danger in it – it could color the whole occasion. But you can understand them, can you not?
In 1953 my father purchased a new car, a 1953 Chevrolet. As usual, he selected the most basic, stripped-down, economical model. He bought the “150” model, which had black rubber instead of chrome trim on the back fender. There was no radio. It had only regular hubcaps, no wheel covers, and a standard transmission, no “Power Glide.” It was nothing like the fine looking “Bel Air” model. This second temple was a “150” model, and a major disappointment to those who had seen Solomon’s Bel Air style.
Sometimes nostalgia like this can kill a church. We can also have problems if a church does not meet our expectations in its ministry or fellowship. In our culture of hyped-expectations, we tend to think that what is low-key, ordinary, plain, simple and quiet must be rather worthless – and this attitude can infect God’s people. Sometimes we can be so caught up in desiring revival (not a series of meetings, but when God’s Spirit is poured out in a striking way) that we may forget that it’s possible to be faithful even when God doesn’t send revival. We can still engage in family worship, sincere public worship, loving intercessory prayer, consistent Christian living in school or workplace. Don’t despise the “day of small things” (Zech 4:10). What matters is not whether the church is grand, but whether she is genuine. The question is not “Is it jazzy here?” but “Is Jesus here?”
Can the people of God live through their gray days? Yes, by running with their fears to worship their Savior; by expecting that though God has dashed their hopes they will yet see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living; and by being content when God prefers to work in plain, ordinary, non-sensational ways.

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The Most Trustworthy Element In Our Day (via Scotty Smith)

A prayer for those days when things are a bit blergh.
When you’re somewhere between the two sons of Luke 15.
From Heavenward, by Scotty Smith.

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. Luke 15:20

Heavenly Father, I’m not beginning my day in a faraway country derelict, disillusioned, and destitute. Though I’m capable of anything, I’m not sitting here filled with shame for squandering an inheritance. And neither am I out in a field feeding somebody else’s pigs. Yet I’m just as much in need of fellowship with you as any of your broken children. So here I come.
Because the gospel is true, I bring you my busy, easily-distracted, somewhat-blasé heart. I feel like a 3rd Luke 15 son right now—a hybrid of the Father’s two boys Jesus described. I’m not on a hedonistic holiday, and I’m not spewing the toxins of self-righteousness. I’m just somewhere in between. I still hear and love the music of the gospel, but I just don’t feel like dancing right now. I’m not cold, hot, or lukewarm. I’m just here.
So, Father, as I come to you today, I take great comfort in knowing that we’ll always find you filled with compassion for us, even when our feelings are not fully engaged with you. As we saunter toward you, you’re always running toward us in Jesus. When we’re not as inclined to lift our arms in praise to you, your embrace is the most trustworthy element in our day.
You don’t just put your hand on our shoulders; you throw your arms around us in the gospel. And though our affection for you wavers, you shower us with multiple kisses all day long, for you love your children with an everlasting, unwavering love.
It’s not my fired-up-ness, but your faithfulness that counts. It’s not my peace with you, but your peace with me that is the anchor for my soul. Because the gospel is true and good, I will seek to live and love to your glory today. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ wonderful and merciful name.

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J.B. Roane And The Case Of The Belated Apology by Larry Parsley

At Mockingbird Larry Parsley offers a piece of short fiction featuring J.B. Roane – Pastor for Hire.
Rev. Roane is engaged by a man named Thornton who needs his assistance in conveying a belated apology.
“I’d like to hire you for job. It’s a little out of the ordinary. I should be able to do it myself, but dang it, I just can’t.”
If subsequent offerings remain at this standard I’d look forward to a collection.
Have a read at Mockingbird.


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Nobody Welcomes Grace. At The Same Time Everybody Pants For It (via Paul Zahl)

Grace has to be the total paradigm, mix it with anything else and it can’t exist.
From Paul Zahl.

How can grace end-run its way around standards and yardsticks? It sounds unfair.
It is unfair, but it is completely unfair. It is the other side of the law, which is total grappling, a totally unsuccessful and failed grappling, with judgment. Because the law is completely fair, grace has to be completely “unfair.” The atonement makes grace “fair,” as is apparent in the teaching concerning the cross, But from our point of view, from the standpoint of its recipient, grace is unfair.
The unfair character of grace makes it persona non grata in the cut-and-thrust of the battle of life. Nobody welcomes grace. At the same time everybody pants for it; everybody wants it every second of every hour. Grace is an either-or proposition; it is not both-and.

Grace In Practice, Paul F. M. Zahl, Eerdmans, 2007, pgs 70-71.


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Two Expressions Of A Grace-Filled Church

This morning it occurred to me that in striving to nurture a grace-filled culture in a local church that there are two expressions of grace required.
The first of those is a culture of grace that frees people to be who they are; liberated from carrying the pretences and masks of self-protection that make them appear as people who have it all together.
The second of those is a culture of grace that enables us to love and support each other when we find ourselves with all these imperfect people around.
Otherwise you encourage people to be themselves, only to find yourself frustrated that they won’t get their acts together.
A grace filled church: a place where people can be who they are – instead of who they think people want them to be; a place where people accept each other and love each other for who they are – not what we’d like them to be.


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A Fearful Symmetry

It was Queensland’s victory in the 2011-2012 Sheffield Shield season that was instrumental in Darren Lehmann cement the coaching credentials that saw him assume the role of coach of the national team when Mickey Arthur fell foul of something of a player’s revolt.

Now with Queensland’s victory in the 2017-2018 Sheffield Shield Lehmann’s tenure looks terminal, and the player’s culture that brought him into the job has expressed its full flower with poisonous results.

The question remains about whether the answer to the cultural problem will be seen in a repudiation of the notion of identifying a line in order to justify yourself by never having crossed it, or the cultivation of a sense that if there’s a line what is needed is to be as far away from it as possible.

Oddly enough in a culture that really wants to embrace the ‘I didn’t cross the line’ self-justification, the greatest crime is being caught on the wrong side of it and showing up the toxic impact of that lie.

That’s why the response to these actions has expressed more outrage than empathy. Yet the nature of the crime is so banal, so inept and doomed to failure that it invites pity rather than anger. What frame of mind thought they would get away with it, what frame of mind thought that consequences would be slight?

If your self-image is formed teetering on the edge of a line, what happens when you lose sight of where the line should be?

I know in my heart that the temptation is strong to wilfully cross lines, let alone inadvertently wander over them. Truth be told I’m a natural denizen of the other side and pretending by my identifying the line that I’m not over it.

What I need is a grace that finds me on the false side of the line and renews and restores me to the true side. A grace that rather than reinforcing my line encroaching, recreates me into someone who hates the line, and not just the crossing of it. A grace that grows me love all the space on the best side of the line rather than the false promises of the other side.

A grace that helps me know that it’s not a line that I’m talking about but a relationship with my creator, who subdues my rebellion through the death and resurrection of his son, and brings me into his family.

I always need that grace, and in Jesus, God gives it abundantly and eternally.


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Real Self-Control Doesn’t Come From You (via David Prince)

A self-control that comes from within will not last, and only feeds the very emotions that eventually lead to loss of control.
Only the self-control that comes from God will show the fruit of his presence in our lives.
That’s the self-control I need.
From David Prince.

The writer of Proverbs asserts, “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls” (Prov 25:28). Paul points men to the example of athletes, “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.” He explains, “They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable” (1 Cor 9:25). Biblical self-control is exercised in the pursuit of a higher goal. Self-control is never purposeless or merely self-referential. Paul exhorted Titus, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people training us to … live self-controlled, … in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12). Believers are trained in self-control by the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Biblical self-control does not fixate on self, but rather fixates on God and his glory. Self-control is described as a fruit of the Spirit of God (Gal 5:23) and its opposite is gratifying of “the desires of the flesh” (Gal 5:16).
Counterfeit self-control is rooted in pride, it glories in and is governed by the self-justifying, fleshly feeling of being in absolute control. It is an idolatrous mirage. Freedom in Christ is not the autonomous liberty to cast off all restraint because that is bondage—not freedom.

Read the whole post here.