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Archive for the month “May, 2015”

Fanning the Flames of AWE (Chris Francis)

This past Sunday we talked about the importance of Awe — how there is a difference between believing in the truths about Jesus and having an awe over those glorious truths. Belief alone — in the sens of an intellectual agreement — does not lead to worship or life change or freedom. Awe does.


That was the purpose of the sermon on Sunday as we looked at 3 Stories of Awe.


But I wanted to write a follow-up about how we can Fan the Flames of Awe in our hearts.


Of course only the Holy Spirit can only spark that flame, but we are also called to fan those flames. So below are some thoughts:


The first are what have been traditionally called….




  • Reading the Bible to see God At Work — The bible is not primarily a moral guide. It is not primarily a book of wise counsel. The bible is primarily the grand story of humanity in desperate need of a Savior and Redeemer, and how God has been acting as that Savior and Redeemer in a huge huge way since the beginning of time. When we read the bible in order to see God at work, rather than to just get a moral nugget, then our hearts are stirred with awe and it leads us to worship him. And out of worship will flow morality…..but morality without worship is simply religiosity.
  • God-Centered Prayer — There is a self-centered way to pray, where I am focused on my need for security, my need for comfort, my need for justice….and there is  a God-centered way to pray, where I am focused on the Bigness of God and all that he has already secured for me in Christ. God-centered praying does not deny reality or pretend like our needs and desires do not exist, but it does emphasize God’s faithfulness and grace and sovereignty way more.
  • Fasting — Fasting from food, fasting from tv, fasting from facebook. Fasting is a way of saying “Shhhh….” to the physical and psychological longings that we feel. And it amplifies the spiritual longings that we should feel — the longings to know Jesus more and to see him do what we are unable to do in our own strength.
  • Being in Church Community — If we are not connected to the ups and downs of a church community, we will miss out on a big way that God reveals himself to us. We talked about this at the end of the sermon, so I won’t go into detail here.
  • Singing Songs — Singing songs is a spiritual discipline that sometimes flows out of awe, but often we do it in order to regain our awe. Like many of you, I don’t always like to sing in the beginning of a church service. But I need to. I need to lay aside my anxieties, my worries, and sing, and it may feel like discipline, but a discipline that leads to a renewing of my awe.


Then there are other things that we can do to stir our hearts that may work for one person but don’t necessarily do it for others. I’ll list a few of mind as well as some other peoples’.


Taking a Walk in a Cemetery

Sounds strange, I know. But when I’m in a cemetery, and looking at all the tombstones, I’m reminded of how short my life is, regardless of how much I succeed or fail. It reminds me of how God has given breath to all those lives, and how the purpose of giving breath to those lives has been to praise and honor him with their lives.


It reminds me of how nobody is going to talk about me for too long after I’m gone, and how I may go at any minute (because a good many of those tombstones have birth and death dates less than years apart) and so my primary pursuit should be to honor the one who is sovereign over all those lives and deaths.

Enjoying our Big & Beautiful Creation

Swimming in the ocean (especially at sun-down when most other people are gone) or standing at the top of the mountain helps to remind me of the grandeur of God’s great sovereignty over this world, and how futile it is to try to control things.

Remembering My Story

Thinking back over my life and about how God has orchestrated it, forgiven me and transformed me, blessed me when I least deserved it reminds of how much my life is in His hands.

Reading Biographies

Reading about the lives of men & women who have been rescued from sin & shame and then used for God’s glory on this broken Earth fuels my awe.

Studying Science

For some people, studying the human body or astronomy or biology points to God’s infinite Creative power.


There are many other things that might stir our affections for Jesus Christ, but the point is that we should intentionally work those things into our schedules. Because our Awe of Jesus is so important that we must protect and guard it.

Respectfully Leaving Your Parents (Dennis and Barbara Rainey)

You may have moved out from your childhood home, but have you really left your parents behind?

God did not mince words when instructing a married couple to leave their parents. The Hebrew words used in Genesis 2:24, which states that “a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife,” mean “to forsake dependence upon,” “leave behind,” “release,” and “let go.”

Later, Jesus addressed the issue when he said that no one was ever intended to come between a husband and a wife (Matthew 19:6). No one! No in-laws, no mother, no father was meant to divide a couple who had made a covenant with each other to leave, cleave, and become one flesh.

This pointed instruction is needed. Psychologist Dan Allender says in the bookIntimate Allies that “the failure to shift loyalty from parents to spouse is a central issue in almost all marital conflict.'” God knows that leaving parents will always be a difficult transition, especially in homes where the child-parent bond has been solid and warm. Unfortunately, many (if not most) couples do not cut the apron strings—they lengthen them!

After our wedding ceremony, Barbara and I walked down the church aisle together, symbolically proclaiming to all those witnesses that we had left our parents. We had forsaken our dependence upon them for our livelihood and emotional support and were turning to each other as the primary relationship of our lives. The public affirmation of our covenant to each other meant, “No relationship on earth, other than my relationship with Jesus Christ and God, is more important than my relationship with my spouse.”If we do not leave our parents correctly, we will be like a couple I knew who were dependent financially on the wife’s family. The situation was robbing the husband of his family leadership potential. The wife kept looking to her dad to bail them out after poor choices. Her husband wasn’t able to grow up, face his responsibility to make correct choices for his family, and live with the consequences of his decisions. He was losing self-respect as a man, and it was undermining his wife’s respect for him as well.

It can be equally destructive to continue to be emotionally dependent on a parent. This dependence will hinder the Super Glue-like bonding that must occur between husband and wife.

How to leave, yet still honor, your parents

Leaving your home does not mean you permanently withdraw and no longer have a good relationship with your parents. That’s isolating yourself from your parents, not leaving. The commandment in Exodus 20:12 to honor your parents means that when you leave them, you need to go with respect, love, admiration, and affirmation for their sacrifices and efforts in raising you. But you must make a break from them and sever your dependence on them. As time passes, you must be diligent to prevent any reestablishment of dependence at critical points in your marriage.

Leaving certain kinds of parents requires special sensitivity. For example, if your mom or dad is a single parent, she or he may no longer have anyone at home to lean on and may feel terribly alone. Or perhaps you left behind a parent who endures a lifeless marriage devoid of passion. In either case, your leaving has created a big void in the home. Nevertheless, you must sever the ties.

You can honor your parents and also reap benefits by seeking their wisdom on certain issues. When you ask them to offer their insights, you must make it clear that you are seeking information and advice, not surrendering your right to make final decisions. A tip: Always try to consult your spouse before seeking input from parents. Give yourselves some time to become good at this. You may have depended on your parents for twenty years but have been married only one!

When parents want to reattach

Sometimes without realizing it, we may allow our parents to reestablish the severed connections. It could occur during a Christmas visit. It might happen during a phone call when the child mentions to the parent some disappointment or failure experienced in the marriage relationship.

I remember how, early in our marriage, I shared a weakness about Barbara with my mother. Now my mom is a great mother, but I was astounded at how she rushed to my side, like a mother hen coming to aid her wounded little chick. Her response startled me. I told Barbara about it and apologized. I promised I would not again discuss negative things about her with my mom.

You must not allow parents to innocently (or not so innocently) drive a wedge between you and your spouse. Some parents may seek to manipulate and control their child. For example, a father won’t stop telling his “little girl” what to do. The husband may need to step in and explain to his wife how destructive this is to the health of the marriage. Boundaries limiting the amount of communication between father and daughter may need to be installed for the long or short term.

Or a mother may be trying to call the shots with her son. The wife needs to explain carefully to her husband what she is observing. If the situation doesn’t improve, there may need to be a cooling-off period where the husband minimizes contact with his mother and directs his attention toward his wife.

These showdowns may be intimidating for either spouse, but boundaries need clarification. You may need to call on an older mentor for advice before you take action, but your allegiance must first and foremost be to your spouse.

At this point, I want to encourage you husbands to be “the man” and protect your wife. Sometimes you may need to graciously but firmly step in and shield her from a manipulative parent, but I implore you to guard gently your wife’s heart and your marriage from a dad or mom whose intentions may be good but counterproductive.

If as a couple you are having trouble maintaining a clean break, you may decide to spend less time at home for holiday visits. Instead of a week, perhaps the stay should be shortened to two or three days. Or skip a holiday altogether, just as a way of clarifying where your primary commitment lies.

A way to forestall some misunderstandings and help with decision making is to determine your family’s values early in the marriage. For instance, one value may be establishing your own family’s Christmas traditions as your children leave infancy. Having a clear idea of what you are doing and why will make it easier to explain your choices to parents.

As your parents grow older, they may need your assistance. Again, approach this issue prayerfully as a team. Take as much time as you can to make decisions, especially those with long-term ramifications. Some choices will be very difficult, but in most cases, the health of the marriage must take precedence. Although you must consider the financial situation, too, a parent may need to live at a retirement center instead of with you, if the parent’s presence will adversely affect your marriage.

One final thing to keep in mind: Leaving is not a one-time event or limited to the early years of marriage. The temptation to reconnect some of the old bonding lines will continue as long as parents are alive. For example, when grandchildren come along, most parents want to share from their vast stores of experience on how to raise kids.

Both parents and their children need to remain on guard so that leaving remains just that—a healthy, God-ordained realignment of the parent-child relationship.




Adapted from Starting Your Marriage Right,© 2000 by Dennis and Barbara Rainey. Published by Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

Four Ways to Fight the Fear of Missing Out (Jon Bloom)

Four Ways to Fight the Fear of Missing Out

The Thing. It’s a strange thing, because it’s there and not there at the same time. What I’m talking about is The Thing that you don’t have that you think you need in order to be happy. And you know when The Thing is there because you begin to feel a low-grade panic that you don’t have it. The Thing makes you afraid that by not having The Thing you’re missing out.

The Thing

What is The Thing? This is essential to define if we want to fight the fear that The Thing tempts us with.

The first thing we need to get clear is that The Thing is not actually a real thing. It’s a fantasy. It’s attaching our deep longing for happiness to the belief that a person or possession or achievement or status or experience will produce it rather than God or his promises. It’s the belief that something apart from God holds a key to our happiness if only we could have it or more of it.

The Bible calls The Thing covetousness (Exodus 20:17). The sin of coveting is a faithless desire to possess something that doesn’t belong to us, fueled by an idolatrous belief that it will satisfy us. The desire is “faithless” because it isn’t rooted in our trust in God’s promises. And it is “idolatrous” because we invest in the object of our desire the power to satisfy us that belongs only to God.

Jesus warns us about The Thing in this text:

“Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15)

Jesus goes right to the heart of The Thing’s deception: It promises us life in some kind of possession, which has no life to give. The Thing is our belief that we can get life from an idol.

Missing Out

The fear of “missing out” is frequently the indicator that The Thing is present. Coveting can feel like fear, which is one reason it is so powerful. It lands on us with the threat that if we don’t have The Thing we will miss out on some vital part of living, something that will make us happy.

And The Thing is insidious because it is so illusive. It’s a shape-shifter that assumes whatever form matches our current vulnerability to feeling like we’re missing out. Today it might be coveting someone’s income, tomorrow it might be coveting someone’s achievement, the next day it might be coveting someone’s harmonious family, next week it might be coveting someone’s opportunities or church or culinary expertise or advanced degree or capacities or interior design or . . . you name it.

This is why we often experience Facebook and Pinterest as purveyors of “missing out.” They point out all the things that we don’t have. They remind us of what we are not. They show us where we have not been.

Not only that, but a consumer economy is engineered to discover and capitalize on our fears of missing out. We are told hundreds of times daily that life consists in possessing some material, status, or experiential thing that we currently don’t have.

But the root problem isn’t in social media or in marketing. Our root problem is our active sin natures that tell us that idols satisfy. That fear that we are missing out is coming from inside us (James 4:1–2). That’s why Jesus tells us to be on guard against our own covetousness.

L.I.F.E.: Four Ways to Escape The Thing

Since life does not consist in what we possess, and The Thing we think we need is nothing more than a covetous fantasy, what do we do to escape the grip of the fear that we are missing out? Here are four suggestions for L.I.F.E. . . .

Listen to Jesus.

He alone has the words of life (John 6:68).

  • “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6)
  • “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
  • “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15)
  • “For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:25)
  • “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life. . . . Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25)

Instruct your heart.

Preach to yourself; don’t listen to The Thing.

  • “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” (Hebrews 13:5)
  • “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
  • “Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” (1 Timothy 6:9–10)
  • Do not “set [your] hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” and seek to “take hold of that which is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:17, 19)

Fast from feeding The Thing.

Shut down social media, turn off the TV, throw the magazine away. We need to starve our covetous appetite.

  • “If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.” (Matthew 18:9)

Engage in kingdom work.

The Thing focuses on what we don’t have. But God wants us to look to the needs of others. A God-given antidote to covetousness is serving the saints and others around us. Eyes off our navels and on to our neighbors.

  • “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” (1 Peter 4:10)

You Will Never Miss Out

If your trust is in the “Author of life” (Acts 3:15), “all things are yours” (1 Corinthians 3:21–22). Jesus has purchased for us “every spiritual blessing” (Ephesians 1:3) and imperishable “treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:20). No fantasy will ever deliver the happiness it promises us. We know this because no fantasy ever has. The fear that reveals The Thing is a false fear.

So leave it behind and “strain forward to what lies ahead [and] press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13–14).



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Show Honor on Mother’s Day…Even When It’s Hard (Jen Wilkin)

Mother’s Day is fast approaching, sending children of all ages scurrying to the greeting card aisle to find just the right sentiment to send to Mom. This celebration touches all of us. Though we may not all be mothers, all of us have a mother. And for the people of God who delight in the commands of God, Mother’s Day holds a special meaning, going far beyond a mere calendar date that can only be traced back 100 years. Honoring our parents is an ancient and beautiful command given to us for God’s glory and our good.

The fifth of the Ten Commandments speaks of showing honor to our parents. Often repeated by parents to young children, I wonder how frequently we remind ourselves of the command’s relevance to us as adult children. Some would say that this command is actually directed primarily at adult children because it is found in a list of other commands so clearly addressed to adults: “Adult children, honor your aging parents whose days have been long upon the land, that your days might be long as well.”

Yet, honoring our parents would be a simple matter if all parents were worthy of honor, making a command to do so almost unnecessary. But for some of us, that aisle of Mother’s Day cards, awash with loving sentiment, can feel like an annual gauntlet we must run. Yes, all of us have a mother, but not all of us have a mother who is easy to honor.

So how can we think beyond the card aisle to fulfill the fifth command so far as we are able?

Maybe your mother didn’t do everything right. If you’re a parent yourself, you have probably learned already to extend the gracious proposition that she did the best she could. Show honor to your mother by telling her two of your favorite memories of her from your childhood. If you have children of your own, repeat those stories to them. And think hard about what other stories they need to hear. Giving your children the gift of relationship with a grandmother un-weighted by the baggage of your own childhood can be a way to show honor. Sometimes we honor our mothers by demonstrating forgiveness in what we leave unsaid.

Maybe the mother who raised you was a mother in name only. Maybe she caused or allowed harm to you. Look to show honor where you can. Who mothered you? A teacher? An aunt? A grandmother? A stepmother? Express your gratitude to the woman or women in your life who looked beyond the boundaries of biology to demonstrate motherly love in tangible ways. Make a donation to a cause that helps women to mother and children to be parented.

Maybe your mother is no longer living. Show honor to her memory by making a recipe she made, by reviving a family tradition she started or by making a donation to a charity in her name. Maybe you know someone whose mother recently passed away. Ask them what they miss most about her. Send a note to acknowledge their sorrow. Maybe you know someone aching to be a mother. Maybe you know a mother whose child will never wish her a happy Mother’s Day. Reach out to them with empathy and comfort.

Maybe your mother was the kind for whom the entire greeting card aisle was written. By all means, take your time finding the perfect card and writing the perfect sentiment. But also feel the weight of your privilege. To be raised by a mother who consistently places the needs of others above her own is no common thing. Show honor by being that kind of parent to your own children. But don’t stop there. Turn your eyes to those you know who are physically, emotionally or spiritually motherless and be a mother (or father) to them according to their need.

All of us are sons and daughters. This Mother’s Day, may we think beyond the card aisle to outdo one another in showing honor, each of us according to the grace we have been given.


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