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Archive for the category “Inspiring Articles That We Stole”

The Silent Harvest (Francis Frangipane)

In a dream I found myself inside the mind of a dying man. The man had been in a coma for some time; his family had been praying, but they did not know whether or not he had accepted Christ. All they were sure of is that, throughout his life, he had resisted their efforts to lead him to Christ.

 

As I dreamt I became so acutely aware of the man’s state of mind that his thoughts, feelings and struggles almost seemed my own. Although his eyes were nearly closed and his vision clouded, he could see his loved ones at his bedside. I watched as he tried to reach toward his family, but outwardly his arm never lifted. I heard him speak their names, but no sound whispered through his lips. A loved one holding his hand asked, “If you hear me, squeeze.” He heard and pressed his fingers against hers, but no movement was seen; his hand clearly remained limp. He was conscious; he could hear their prayers; he felt the warmth of their kisses on his face yet was perfectly incapable of responding.

The pride and isolation that had, throughout his life, stood guard over his heart were gone. A physical catastrophe had overtaken him. Death approached, and he knew he was unprepared for eternity. Submerged beneath his motionless exterior, a war had raged for his soul, and the Lord had won. Subdued by the relentless force of God’s love, he was finally at peace. It was during his time in the hospital that he had silently prayed and accepted Christ as his Savior. I was watching his last effort to tell them He found Christ as life ebbed out of his body.

Suddenly, monitoring alarms ripped through the muffled silence of the room. His heart beat one last time, and I suddenly found myself looking down at the body of a man who had just died. The room was buzzing with nurses, while his family huddled in a corner, grieving. The idea of their loved one dying without receiving Christ was more devastating than the reality of death itself. I stirred and then woke. Yet just as I left the dream, the Lord spoke to my heart: “Tell them he’s with Me.”

Although some time has passed since I had this dream, I am increasingly aware that many of God’s people carry a deep abiding heartache concerning the death of an unsaved loved one. Obviously this dream does not apply to all, but there are some for whom this experience is divinely directed. Thus, I submit this to you in a general sense because the Holy Spirit has assured me He will bear witness to your heart if this word is for you.

I have also felt an urgency to pass this dream on to you. The Lord has an important work for you. However, the enemy has used this unresolved loss to sow doubt into your soul. Not only are you troubled about your deceased loved one, but you are carrying doubts about God’s love, and you doubt also the power of prayer. Your confidence in God has been compromised. Yet it is precisely at this time that you need to stand without doubt for other members of your family.

Beloved, though there are many questions about the mysteries of life, we must not let the unknown obscure the face of the known: God is good.We know God loves us because He sent His Son to die for our sins. Indeed, Jesus said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). When we look at Christ, we see God, and we know that God cares.

Additionally, some of us have lost loved ones in sudden tragedies, where they seemingly had no time to repent or turn to God. Let me remind you: many who have faced near-death experiences tell of seeing their “life flash before [their] eyes.” Indeed, they say that time itself seems to stop or slow dramatically. I believe that, even in what seemed like a “sudden” death, time slowed to a crawl. According to their testimonies, there is enough time in this altered consciousness to ponder one’s entire life — and to make a decision or even call upon the name of the Lord.

In spite of what we do not know about life’s many mysteries, one thing remains eternally true: God is our loving Father. He does not desire that any man perish, and He will fight to save us, even to the moment of our death. Let us, therefore, cast our burdens upon the Lord, for He genuinely cares for us. And let us again run with endurance the race set before us, for He has promised that even for those “sitting in the . . . shadow of death, upon them a Light dawned” (Matt. 4:16).

Lord Jesus, thank You for dying for my sins. Lord, there are many issues I do not know, but I do know that You are good. Those things I do not understand, along with my praise, I give to You. I trust You with my life, and I put in Your hands the care of those I love.

How Do You Prepare for Sunday Morning? (by Jordan Kauflin)

church

A couple weeks ago, my wife and I went out to eat on a date. On a whim, we decided to go see a movie as well. Just like that. No preparation, we just decided and went. The lack of preparation had absolutely no bearing on how much we enjoyed the movie. After all, we just wanted to be entertained.

Unfortunately, we can often approach the Sunday meeting in a similar way.

How do you prepare to gather with your church family? Is your preparation limited to the frenetic collecting of your children, snacks, and diapers? Do you spend your time trying to convince yourself that going is better than sleeping in? Or maybe you don’t even think to prepare, because it’s just another routine that you’ve developed?

How we prepare for our Sunday gatherings is directly related to how much we benefit from our time together.

Two Common Mistakes

Here are two common errors we can make.

At times, we can prepare as spectators. We come mainly to watch, not participate. It’s like how I prepare to go see a sporting event. Besides making sure I’m not wearing the opposing teams colors, I don’t prepare much. I anticipate it, but my general attitude in going to a sporting event is, “Entertain me! Move me! Show me something amazing!” Or if you’re a loyal fan of a lousy team like I am, “Make me suffer!”

We can have the same attitude as we come to our Sunday gatherings. We come with the expectation, spoken or assumed, that everyone else needs to make sure we have a good time. I need my kids to be taken care of. I need people to seek me out. I need the music to sound a certain way. I need the preacher to stop speaking on time so that I can get on with my life. As for Jesus? Hopefully he shows up by his Spirit so I can have a spiritual, emotional experience that carries me through my week. We come as spectators, expecting to be served.

For some of us, we prepare for our Sunday gathering as workers. This is what I typically face as a vocational pastor. But it’s not limited to being a pastor. You might serve in your church as a children’s ministry worker, usher, setup team person, greeter, or hospitality person. We prepare much like we prepare for work (and for some, it really is work). We make a list of all the things we need to do. We make sure we leave on time. Our mind is filled with logistics and details. We remind ourselves how important our role is.

Preparing to meet with our church becomes an assessment of what we need to do rather than an excitement for how God might meet us. Maybe our gatherings even become a place where we derive our significance and self worth because of all the ways we serve, rather than a privileged opportunity to be with our family. Ever been there? I have.

So how should we prepare?

Prepare to Receive

Every time we gather as a church, God will speak to us as his word is preached, sung, read, and studied. Hearing from God is a weighty and glorious thing. Just read Exodus 19–20. To see God for who he is, to be overwhelmed by his greatness and holiness, to experience his presence, to see his boundless love and mercy, to encounter what should make our hearts tremble. Through Jesus, we can boldly come and receive (Hebrews 10:19–22), but confidence does not equal casualness. Prepare by asking God to help you receive his revelation with gratefulness and humility.

Prepare to Respond

When God reveals himself to us, things happen. Experiencing God leads us to respond (Isaiah 6:8). Rather than being a spectator or a passive participant, our hearts are moved to worship because we have once again seen the beauty, greatness, holiness, mercy, and love of our God. We sing to him, confess our sins, receive his word preached, take communion, and give our finances, all in grateful response to seeing who God is and what he has done for us in Jesus.

Prepare for this Sunday by asking that God would help you rightly respond to him.

Prepare to Edify Others

Our worship doesn’t stop when the singing ends, or the preacher says, “Amen.” It continues as we greet, encourage, serve, pray for, exhort, and care for one another. God chooses to use people to edify his body (1 Corinthians 14:26). You and me. Isn’t that amazing?

Do you come to church expecting that God will use you? It might be as you serve practically, it might be as you take two minutes to pray for a friend, or greet a new person, or encourage a child. You have a part to play. This Sunday, prepare for gathering with your church family by asking God how he might use you to edify his church.

So how do you prepare to go to church? This Sunday, come ready to encounter God and respond to him in glad and grateful worship with your heart and life.

Chris Francis
Pastor – True Life Church

 

Take Every Task Captive Today (Marshall Segal)

Take Every Task Captive Today
The most dangerous thing about tomorrow is the temptation to forget God, to live and talk and act as if God doesn’t exist. It’s the greatest danger any day: to live our daily lives — our daily habits, daily work, daily relationships — overestimating ourselves and overlooking God.

We know God exists, but we just lose track of him — sometimes for a day, or a month, or longer. It can feel like forgetting to check our favorite website or social stream. We’re glad he’s there when we have time, but he doesn’t seem especially relevant to what we’re up against today at home or tomorrow at work.

How could we — weak, sinful, and redeemed men and women — forget an all-knowing, all-powerful God? Well, because for many of us life feels relatively safe and predictable, not fragile and desperate. The needy know to look for help. Meanwhile, “Those who are well have no need of a physician” (Mark 2:17). Predictable days with predictable outcomes and predictable consequences numb us to the unceasing and unstoppable power of God underneath all our tasks and every result.

Stunning Predictability

Life is filled with seemingly predictable results:

We eat the next meal, and we won’t be hungry for a few hours.
We do the laundry, and we’ll have clean clothes for the week.
We generate and submit that report on time, and the boss signs the check.
We pay our bills, and the lights and cable stay on for another month.
We eat well and exercise regularly, and we generally feel healthy.
So why pray about food or laundry or another Friday deadline?

Most of us are prompted to pray when we don’t know what’s coming:

We pray when someone we love is sick, and we don’t know what’s wrong.
We pray when things aren’t going well at work, and cuts are coming soon.
We pray when the car breaks down and blows up our monthly budget.
We pray when chores pile up and overwhelm us at home.
We pray when we feel fragile and desperate.
We run to God when we feel helpless or confused or out of control.

That’s why we forget God in our daily routines: We forget just how fragile, desperate, and dependent we are all of the time for everything. Like wicked Damascus or Cush or Egypt, “[We] have forgotten the God of [our] salvation and have not remembered the Rock of [our] refuge” (Isaiah 17:10).

The Discipline of Futility

The context of their forgetting God, like many of ours, was predictable productivity and prosperity. God blessed the work of their hands, and they ate the fruit, resting in the comfort and security productivity seemed to bring them. And in the process of planting and sowing, reaping and eating, they forgot the one who works and sustains all things (including each of them and every crop they planted).

Therefore, God brought a swift, destructive, and painful reminder to Damascus,

You have forgotten the God of your salvation and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge; therefore, though you plant pleasant plants and sow the vine-branch of a stranger, though you make them grow on the day that you plant them, and make them blossom in the morning that you sow, yet the harvest will flee away in a day of grief and incurable pain. (Isaiah 17:10–11)
Plants that produced fruit year after year came up empty. Vines that blossomed without fail failed to sprout. The ever predictable harvest surprised all of Damascus with sudden disobedient infertility. God disrupted the predictable to remind rebellious and proud people that he was in control and that he intended every work, every result, and every routine to return to him in faith and worship, and not to the workers through self-reliance and independence.

In the same way, Egyptian fishermen had depended on the Nile, a massive, predictable source of fish (Isaiah 19:5–8). It was the primary and vital industry of the area. And suddenly the water begins drying up, and the nets come back empty. They showed up day after day knowing what to expect, where their food would come from, and now they’re empty-handed, hungry, and distraught.

Building Babel in Our Routine

Don’t believe this is a problem today? Try setting aside time in the middle of your day to pray or call other believers at your workplace to pray with you at the same time once a week. Watch how the tyranny of work makes that fifteen or thirty minutes feel burdensome, unnecessary, or inefficient. We build and build, fold and fold, work and work, without any sense of who’s in charge or what’s really happening. We quietly, even routinely, build our personal Babel, each task just another block in our own Jenga tower.

John Piper says, “When we don’t want to stop working and pray, we are drunk with American productivity.” He based that thought on 1 Peter 4:7: “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers” (1 Peter 4:7). For the sake of our prayers, we must be sober — that is, not drunk. When we postpone, avoid, or put off prayer, we’re inebriated with a sense of our own strength, gifts, and output. “I don’t have time to pray today.” To the sober, this is insanity.

Pray for the Predictable

God struck the Syrians, the Egyptians, and even his own chosen people to shake them and remind them of his presence, his power, and his mercy. They were relying on the predictable results of their own work, instead of looking to God to move. The fruit, the vegetables, the fish, all the products of their labor were meant to produce faith and joy in God. Instead, they replaced God and yielded pride, the readily available currency of rebellion and godlessness. So God punished them.

But he did so in love:

And the Lord will strike Egypt, striking and healing, and they will return to the Lord, and he will listen to their pleas for mercy and heal them. (Isaiah 19:22)
God spoiled Syria’s soil and dried up the Nile — he ravaged their industries, their to-do lists — so that he could come and heal them when they finally turned to him in faith. As soon as they surrendered and submitted themselves to him, his mercy blossomed in the gardens of death and his love flowed to them like a river wide and strong.

Pray for God’s help and strength in your predictable tasks today. Don’t assume everything will happen like yesterday, or last Thursday, or last September, or last year. God’s grace and mercy are new this morning for every task and routine, whether new or old, familiar or unfamiliar — if you’ll ask him for it (Matthew 7:7–8). Serve in the strength and time and talents that he supplies (1 Peter 4:11), because the work ahead of you is God’s, given to you for his glory.

What God Gives When He Takes Away (Jon Bloom)

What God Gives When He Takes Away

What we really love and trust aren’t truly seen until we are tested by loss.

This is essentially the point that Satan made when talking to God about Job. In that odd scene in the first chapter of Job, when Satan presented himself before God, God said to him, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” (Job 1:8).

Satan’s response was,

Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face. (Job 1:9–11)

Yeah, God, of course Job “fears” you when his life is full of blessings. But take away the blessings and his trust will turn to cursing.

Note the irony here. In this manipulative moment, Satan inadvertently pointed out the core error of Prosperity theology: prosperity obscures, rather than reveals, how much fallen humans love God. “Blessings” easily turn into curses as sinners subtly (or not so subtly) come to love and trust the blessings more than the Bless-er.

Satan knew this by experience. He was so confident that Job would curse God if the blessings were removed because he had seen it occur thousands and thousands of times in others.

Satan knew that the “take away” more than the “giving” would reveal the truth — what Job really trusted and loved. So did God. So God gave Satan permission to take away Job’s children, wealth, health, and reputation — all that most men place their hope in during life.

And the result?

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:20–21)

Satan was proven wrong about Job.

When You Know You Love Her

But Satan wasn’t wrong about the concealing power of prosperity and the revealing power of loss. Even the world sometimes catches glimpses of this principle, as the band Passenger captures in the song “Let Her Go.”

     Well you only need the light when it’s burning low
     Only miss the sun when it starts to snow
     Only know you love her when you let her go

     Only know you’ve been high when you’re feeling low
     Only hate the road when you’re missin’ home
     Only know you love her when you let her go

You “only know you love her when you let her go.” Having concealed love, loss revealed love.

Satan gets no pleasure out of humans enjoying real pleasure. He would prefer to kill, maim, steal, destroy, and deprive, if doing so doesn’t push someone toward faith in God (John 10:10).

But he also knows that a consistently effective tool to weaken, impede, and disease the church is to let her prosper. Prosperity has a greater tendency to conceal idolatry and false faith. So like he tried with Jesus, Satan sometimes will offer us the world (Luke 4:5–7). He would rather us be faithlessly prosperous than afflicted and faithful.

Loss for the Sake of the True Prosperity Gospel

But Jesus wants us to embrace the true prosperity gospel. He wants us to have real “treasure in heaven” (Mark 10:21), the gift of “pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). So when Jesus calls us, he often asks us to leave homes, land, family, and vocations for his sake and the gospel’s (Mark 10:29). It’s why he requires us to deny ourselves and take up our crosses (Matthew 16:24). Because, like Paul described, when for Christ’s sake we are willing to abandon those things that the world considers the only gain worth having, it shows that Christ is truly gain to us (Philippians 3:8).

It is also why, as God disciplines us (Hebrews 12:5–6) and conforms us to the image of his Son (Romans 8:29), he will, like Job, take away earthly things that are precious to us. The affections of our hearts, both sinful and righteous, that were more concealed in the having are more revealed in the losing. The sin that is revealed he seeks to mortify; the righteousness of faith that is revealed he seeks to display for us and for the watching world.

Testing Is More Than Just for Us

Yes, our testing is more than just for us. We must remember that, like Job’s experience, there is often more going on in our experience than meets our eyes. Job didn’t know when the calamities hit that God was putting Satan to shame.

Peter and the disciples wouldn’t have known Satan’s involvement in their temptations during the Passion week had Jesus not told them (Luke 22:31). Likewise, we often aren’t aware of the full cosmic struggle in which we are involved. But these texts and others remind us that the struggle is occurring, and we should be careful jumping to conclusions based on our perceptions alone.

God Takes Away for Our Joy

The crucial thing for us to remember is that all that God does for us as his children is for our good. He is blessed in both the giving and the taking away because both are for the sake of our joy.

Often it is in the taking away that our true love and trust are revealed, which is a great mercy to us and usually for others. And often, in this age, the most valuable, most satisfying, most beneficial, longest lasting gifts we receive and pass along to others end up coming through the experiences of our losses.

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).

 

 

This was taken from Desiringgod.org.

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.

 

This post was taken from thevillagechurch.net

God’s Glory In Your Extraordinary Story (Jon Bloom)

Our First Big Prayer for 2015 is that God would fill us with such awe of Him that we value and pursue Him more than anything else.

I hope that God uses the following blog post, which we stole from Desiringgod.org, to do just that.

God’s Glory in Your Extraordinary Story

Statistically speaking, you should not exist.

Think about it for a moment. How unlikely was it that your parents ever met? And even when they came together, you were just a bad mood or argument or headache or television show or phone call away from never being conceived.

Take a generational step back, and ponder your grandparents’ stories. What were the twists and turns and near misses in their experiences and relationships — any of which, had there been even a minor change, would have resulted in your non-being?

Then keep going back further and further into your ancestral history, and consider the millions and millions of converging conversations and glances and illnesses and unexpected vocational changes and books and storms and dreams and religious choices and travels and schools and wars and ambitions and sorrows over the centuries that, had they been altered just slightly, would not only have resulted in your not being born, but in the world’s population being very different.

The more you think about your unlikely existence and what had to take place in order for you to be sitting here reading these words, the more you’ll realize that your story is wilder than anything humans have imagined. It adds a whole new level of breathless awe to the thought that God “commanded and they were created” (Psalm 148:5). The reality behind that simple statement is incomprehensibly complex.

Nothing Truly Ordinary Ever Happens

What this means is that nothing that happens to you today is, in fact, ordinary or insignificant. Every small and great thing you encounter or do has millions of stories behind its existence or occurrence, and if you could trace them back they would keep you enthralled for weeks.

And your extraordinary life is continually shaping, and being shaped by, many other lives, human and non-human, as you move through time. In ways both witting and unwitting, your words and actions are influencing the course of other lives. Your choice of a parking spot or your seat on a plane could have a life-altering affect on someone else. Your choice of church, school, and workplace certainly will.

The Glorious Reality of Divine Selection

Do not let a belief in the sovereignty of God dull your amazement over this — as if everything just happens like a machine. Let his sovereignty multiply, not subtract from, your wonder. Just think of how God designed his creation to occur!

Fifteen million birch tree seeds in a season might produce a tree or two. A few hundred ova and a few billion sperm might produce a few children over the course of a marriage. Some 200 billion galaxies and more than 70 sextillion stars might produce a planet that sustains life, not to mention incomprehensively complex, marvelous, conscious beings who can contemplate the glory of such improbabilities.

Some look at such phenomena in creation and see meaningless randomness and natural selection. What do you see? Do you see the staggering glory of divine selection (election) out of all the contingencies and possibilities? This is the world that the God who spoke all things into existence brought into being when he said, “Let there be . . .” And all that glory before we even get to the most glorious story: Christ’s redemption of sinners. The height and depth and length and breadth of the wonder infinitely expands.

Think Long Enough to Savor the Glory

You are a tiny but extraordinary creature living in a universe that is filled with trillions, septillions, bazillions of creations, some incomprehensibly huge and others inconceivably small. And the existence of each one, just like you, so unlikely, so improbable as to be miracles, is meant to cause each of us to exclaim in worship,

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” (Revelation 4:11)

You only need to stop long enough to think. There is so much divine glory to see in your truly extraordinary story.

Advent – Day 24: In the Middle of God’s Plan (Jill Cubbison)

Hello Friends! I wanted to share something with you. (If you have a minute…) Not sure if many of you know this but I was pregnant with twins between Liam (4) & Audrey (1). They were “monoamniotic” (in one sac) & their umbilical cords got tangled, cut off their oxygen & blood supply & they died when I was 12 weeks along. We were heartbroken. I felt alone, forgotten, I wondered where was God in all this and what’s the point of prayer etc. I’ve since experienced God’s love and comfort and healing, but the sadness still hits me sometimes.

I was getting ready for work a few days ago and just thinking about the crazy story of Mary having her baby in a freakin’ STABLE! Then I started to realize the reality of her experience. We hear, “Jesus was born in a manger and wrapped in swaddling clothes”…beautiful. There were angels singing and Wisemen who brought gifts. He was snuggled up next to a beautiful white, gentle lamb to keep him warm…at least that’s what’s in all the manger scenes. But, I have a feeling that is not how it all went down.

First of all, it all started with someone telling Mary that she had to take a trip to Bethlehem because of this Census….and the only way there was a DONKEY…and she was super pregnant. I imagine she was at the very least not happy and probably nervous. So, after a ridiculously long, and painful DONKEY ride…she gets to Bethlehem. (how would you feel if someone told you that you have to ride for DAYS on a DONKEY at 9 mos pregnant?!) And she’s about to have this baby. The SON OF GOD. The one an Angel appeared to her AND Joseph to tell them that this was legit and this baby will save the world. Surely God has made arrangements for His son’s birth.

No rooms? Excuse me? Guys…really think about this. Remember when you had your babies or when your babies were born? This is not a beautiful “manger”….it is a STABLE where the animals stay. It smells like poop. Your “bed” is sticky hay. Finally when your baby is born…your tiny newborn, minutes old baby….the best place you can put him is a feeding trough…which we call a manger. At least you put some hay down to make it “soft” for him. :o/

Really imagine this experience for Mary.

This is what I feel like God taught me in that moment, while I was getting ready for work. “Don’t you think May felt abandoned and forgotten about?” Like God did not plan this…where was He in this whole birth thing? She’s at the end of this journey to birth the SAVIOR OF THE WORLD and this is how it all ends. This is the climax of the story? A stinky, uncomfortable animal stable with baby Jesus lying in a feeding trough because God didn’t even arrange for them to have a room?

We look for “signs” that God is in something. Mary would have felt good if God had miraculously arranged for there to be ONE last room left…just for them…and she’d say, “See how great my God is? He did this!” But there were no signs. Only pain, discomfort and a feeling of being forsaken.

But this was exactly God’s plan. Jesus had to be born this way…it was God’s plan to save the ENTIRE HUMAN RACE. Jesus was born humbly, in the lowest of low places….and this begins His amazing journey of REALNESS. Mary wasn’t forgotten…God HAD made arrangements for her. She had to trust Him and know that he is GOD.

And then God gently reminded me that, although we see this amazing story of Jesus birth, it may have felt less amazing for Mary…a real woman in labor feeling forgotten. But God was in it the whole time. And in my pain and sorrow…in my deep sadness and heartbreak…in my confusion and anger…God is there. The whole time. Whether behind the scenes or moving obviously for me to see…He is there…and He never left me. Even in the darkest time; He was right beside me. I still don’t understand it all or why we go though things in life. God didn’t promise an “easy” life as a Christian…he promised that he would NEVER LEAVE US OR FORSAKE US. And through our pain and hard times, can come great joy.

Have you felt forgotten, alone, heartbroken, angry, confused? You are not alone…God is here and sent His son as the ultimate sacrifice and gift. Accepting the gift of Jesus is accepting eternal life in Heaven and true FREEDOM. You will experience got’s amazing love and peace…and it’s awesome. Even when we don’t understand, that peace and joy from God shines through and carries us through our hardest times. THIS is the story of Christmas.

Advent – Day 23: Don’t Drown Out Jesus This Christmas (Rick Warren)

Dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41b-42 NLT)

You and I love to overcrowd our lives. We overbook, overspend, overestimate, and we often walk around tired all the time. As a result, God’s truth often doesn’t get the chance to blossom in our lives.

Too often God teaches you a kernel of truth — maybe through your morning Bible study or a Sunday sermon — and you think you need to do something about it, but almost immediately it’s crowded out of your life and forgotten.

The truth isn’t crowded out of your life because of evil. Often, good things in our lives crowd out the truth that God wants to plant in us. To fulfill God’s destiny for your life, you likely don’t have to do more; you have to do less.

Take Jesus’ friends Mary and Martha for example. One day they invited Jesus over for dinner. Mary spent her evening listening to Jesus. Martha, on the other hand, was busy being a hostess and worrying about the hors d’oeuvres and whether everything was in its place.

Martha got upset that she had to do all the work while her sister got to sit with Jesus. That’s when Jesus said to her: “Dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41b-42 NLT).

When your life is over, only one thing will really matter: Did you get to know the Son of God? The extra Christmas presents you were able to buy because of your long hours at the office won’t matter. All the time you spent preparing the perfect holiday meal won’t matter either. But whether you spent your time getting to know Jesus will matter for ages and ages to come.

So enjoy the Christmas season. Wrap the presents. Prepare your home in a festive way. Make memories with your family. But don’t let this Christmas pass without spending some time at Jesus’ feet. Long after everything else fades from this Christmas, worshiping Jesus is all that will truly last.

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