David's Blog

Encouragement in our failures

At the end of one year and the beginning of a New one, here is some real encouragement for those who looking back are most keenly aware of their failures. It is encouragement we all need for we all fail. It comes from a post by John Tillman on 'The Park Forum' which you can find here:  Recalling the Failures  but which I have copied below. 

John 21.17-19
He said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep….Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
Reflection: Recalling the Failures
By John Tillman
There are many meanings of the word recall.
Industries recall products that are flawed, defective, or dangerous. Employees and representatives can be recalled from their positions when they have an embarrassing failure.
At this reflective time of year we, individually and collectively, recall both good memories and bad. We tend to focus on the bad.
Christ sees more failure in us than even we know, yet he re-calls us—he calls us to himself again, and again, and again. Christ re-calls the failures.
It is not just Peter who is reinstated in the last chapter of John’s gospel and our last reading of this year. Other disciples who failed famously are there—Thomas who doubted, Nathanael the cynical elitist, the power hungry sons of Zebedee. These confused and doubtful disciples are going back to the familiar when they are met by a familiar face on the shore.
Once in a parable, Jesus said, “they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead,” and he meant it. One thing that rings so true about the gospel accounts is that the disciples are slow to believe and understand what has happened, even after seeing Jesus alive.
The resurrected Jesus is patient with them, staying around, appearing to the disciples over and over. He slowly and lovingly works to overcome their doubts and fears and reissue his call on their lives. And he is lovingly patient with us as well.
Christ’s message of reinstatement is for all of us. He doesn’t see our failures as the world sees them.
The world calls us a bad debt. Jesus redemptively reinvests in us.
The world sees us as the sum of our shortcomings. Jesus adds himself to our equation and calls us to our eternal future.
The world wants to put us back in our place after failure. Jesus comes to us with a second (third, fourth, fifth…) calling.
The world wants us to compare our calling to others. Jesus rejects comparisons and personally invites us to a unique path.
The failures of the past year, or any year, are not our end, but our beginning. Jesus brings hope to our aftermath. Hope amidst our confusion. Jesus speaks calm and welcoming words to the anger prone. He feeds the weary and hungry. He comforts the hurting and troubled. He washes away the doubts of the disbelieving.
Jesus has a following—a following of failures. Join us, won’t you?
*When looking back at your year, do so with insight into your failures from the Holy Spirit, but also with his redemptive grace and love. The Prayer of Examen is a wonderful tool of reflective prayer. We recommend it daily or weekly. But the practice can be adapted to review this year in the light of God’s grace. For more information about the prayer, follow this link. Take your time in an examen prayer, especially when reviewing a long period. Set aside time this evening or tomorrow to spend in this practice.
Prayer: The GreetingHappy are they whom you choose and draw to your courts to dwell there! They will be satisfied by the beauty of your house, by the holiness of your temple. — Psalm 65:4

Why invest in church planting?

For anyone wondering why as a church we might want to be involved in church planting, here's an article that appeared recently on the Gospel Coalition website by Ross Lester who is a pastor in the USA and also part of the leadership of Acts 29 which is a global family of church-planting churches spread across the world including the UK.

You can find the article by clicking here Why invest in church planting

Remember the lonely

From CARE Prayer Diary:

Lord, please inspire churches in every community to reach out to the 1.2 million lonely older people in the UK, to befriend and support them and to share the truth of the gospel with them. Amen

Half a million older people go at least 5 days a week without seeing or speaking to anyone. This can be as bad for someone’s health as 15 cigarettes a day, worse than obesity and could increase risk of death by 29%. The Office of National Statistics found almost a tenth of people aged 16 to 24 – a figure three times higher than for those 65 and over (the highest proportion of any age group), were ‘always or often’ lonely.

Psalm 68.5-6 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners in singing...

The glory of the Incarnation

The glory of the incarnation is that it presents to our adoring gaze, not a humanised God or a deified man, but a true God-man - one who is all that God is and at the same time all that man is: one on whose almighty arm we can rest, and to whose human sympathy we can appeal (BB Warfield)

When I feel my love for God is weak

Steven Dilla in this post from The Park Forum gives some helpful counsel  about our love for God (or lack of it!) and His love for us:

Reflection: Risks of Faith :: Advent’s Love By Steven Dilla

It is God’s love for us, not ours for him, that is the context for faith. Our ability to love God is imperfect—though spiritual disciplines and the rhythms of community can shape them greatly, as C.S. Lewis explains in Mere Christianity:
People are often worried. They are told they ought to love God. They cannot find any such feeling in themselves. What are they to do? The answer is the same as before. Act as if you did. Do not sit trying to manufacture feelings. Ask yourself, ‘If I were sure that I loved God, what would I do?’ When you have found the answer, go and do it.
Lewis isn’t deceived—“go and do it” only works until you can’t, or simply don’t—then what becomes of faith? He continues:
On the whole, God’s love for us is a much safer subject to think about than our love for Him. Nobody can always have devout feelings: and even if we could, feelings are not what God principally cares about.
Christian Love, either towards God or towards man, is an affair of the will. If we are trying to do His will we are obeying the commandment, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.’
He will give us feelings of love if He pleases. We cannot create them for ourselves, and we must not demand them as a right. But the great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and, therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him.
There is no faith without risk, and no reward in heaven for returning spiritual armour without dents. The armour of God is to protect believers as we apply our faith in a broken world—will not our hearts grow weary? The gospel is that Christ has succeeded where we have failed.

We do not shrink back because we are inconsistent in our love for God—we take risks of faith because God is relentless in his love for us

How well do you know God

How well do you know God  by John Piper 
(from his Solid Joys blog published by Desiring God - the blog can be found here How well do you know God - Solid Joys)

“Behold, God is great, and we know him not; the number of his years is unsearchable.” (Job 36:26)
It is impossible to know God too well.
He is the most important person who exists. And this is because he made all others, and any importance they have is owing to him.
Any strength or intelligence or skill or beauty that other beings have comes from him. On every scale of excellence, he is infinitely greater than the best person you ever knew or ever heard of.
Being infinite, he is inexhaustibly interesting. It is impossible, therefore, that God be boring. His continual demonstration of the most intelligent and interesting actions is volcanic.
As the source of every good pleasure, he himself pleases fully and finally. If that’s not how we experience him, we are either dead, or blind, or sleepwalking.
It is therefore astonishing how little effort in this world is put into knowing God.
It’s as though the President of the United States came to live with you for a month, and you only said hello in passing every day or so. Or as if you were flown at the speed of light for a couple of hours around the sun and the solar system, and instead of looking out the window, you played a computer game. Or as if you were invited to watch the best actors, singers, athletes, inventors, and scholars perform their best, but you declined to go, so you could watch the TV season’s final soap.
Let us pray together that our infinitely great God would incline our hearts, and open our eyes to see him as fully as we can and seek to know him more.

What can Christianity offer our society in the 21st century - Tim Keller

The 2018 National Prayer Breakfast at Westminster, London was held recently with 140 MPs in attendance including Theresa May & a number of cabinet ministers and also 25 Peers from the House of Lords as well as various Ambassadors and UK church leaders. Tim Keller had been invited to speak at it on the subject of What can Christianity offer our society in the 21st century?'

You can watch his address here:What can Christianity offer -Tim Keller video

Are you a container or a conduit for your money?

There are so many warnings in the Bible about the dangers of money (e.g. Matthew 6.24 or 1 Timothy 6.9-10) - here's a quotation from Paul Tripp that encourages us to think carefully and clearly about our own relationship to our money:

There is a way in which you and I are always viewing ourselves as either a container or a conduit for the money we are given. Either we want money to stop with us because we have conceived many ways that it will make our life better, easier, or more pleasurable, or we think of ourselves as a pipeline and are excited that the money we have been given can bless and benefit the lives of others. Either our money is the currency that pays the bills for the small-market visions of the kingdom of self, or it is a God-given tool in our hands for participating in the big-picture work of the kingdom of God.

 The quotation came from an article adapted from Paul Tripp's book Redeeming money: How God reveals and re-orients our hearts. You can find the whole article here: 10 things you should know about money

5 Digital Dangers

The digital world is all around us and brings with it particular temptations. Here are some wise words from John Piper's Solid Joys blog  as we seek to navigate our way through it. You can find the original post here: Five digital dangers

Five Digital Dangers
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (Romans 13:14)

Christians do not just coast through life like jellyfish floating in the current of contemporary culture. We live by the power of the Spirit and find our course by the word of God. We swim. Like dolphins, not jellyfish. Part of that course setting and power is expressed in thoughtful engagement with the digital realities of our day. Dangers included. Here are five.

1) The hook of constant curiosity
Digital devices offer a never-ending possibility for discovery. Even the basic operating systems can consume hours of curious punching and experimenting. Then there are the endless apps consuming weeks of your time as they lure you into their intricacies.

All this is very deceptive, giving the illusion of power and effectiveness, but leaving you with a feeling of emptiness and nervousness at the end of the day.

Resolution: I will strictly limit my experimental time on the device and devote myself more to truth than to technique.

2) The empty world of virtual (un)reality
How sad to see brilliant, creative people pouring hours and days of their lives into creating cities and armies and adventures that have no connection with reality. We have one life to live. All our powers are given to us by the real God for the real world leading to a real heaven and real hell.

Resolution: I will spend my constructive, creative energy not in the unreality of “virtual reality” but in the reality of the real world.

3) “Personal” relations with a machine
Like no other invention, a computer comes closest to being like a person. You can play games with it. It will talk to you. It will always be there for you. The great danger here is that we really become comfortable with this manageable electronic “person,” and gradually drift away from the unpredictable, frustrating, sometimes painful dealings with real human persons.

Resolution: I will not replace the risk of personal relationships with impersonal electronic safety.

4) The risk of tryst
“Tryst \’trist\ noun: An agreement (as between lovers) to meet.” Sexual affairs begin in private time together, extended conversation, and the sharing of soul, which can now be done in absolute seclusion through digital devices. You can think that “it’s just nothing” — until she (or he) shows up in town.

Resolution: I will not cultivate a one-on-one relationship with a person of the opposite sex other than my spouse. If I am single, I will not cultivate such a relationship with another person’s spouse.

5) Porn                                                               
More insidious than X-rated videos, we can now not only watch but join the perversity in the privacy of our own den. Interactive porn will allow you to “do it” or make them “do it” virtually.
I have never seen it. Nor do I ever intend to. It kills the spirit. It drives God away. It depersonalises women. It quenches prayer. It blanks out the Bible. It cheapens the soul. It destroys spiritual power. It defiles everything.

Resolution: I will never open any app or website for sexual stimulation, nor purchase or download anything pornographic.

Church - only messy people allowed!

Definitely something to think about in this article by Sam Alberry which originally appeared here on the Gospel Coalition website :  Only messy people allowed

Only Messy People Allowed: Toward a Culture of Grace

May 9, 2018  | Sam Allberry 

Some time ago a Christian friend came to me in distress. He’d had too much to drink while out with some friends. He’d known them for years and would regularly drink in moderation with them, but on this occasion he’d lapsed in his self-control. As far as he was concerned, he’d just blown several years of witnessing to them.

A group of us at church were discussing how to promote the prayer ministry offered every Sunday at the end of the service. We were thinking about how we could encourage more people to make use of it, when one lady said, “Well I’d never use it. I’d hate for other people to assume that I had a 

Both these incidents reveal an underlying malaise in many of our churches. I’m not sure we really believe in grace. We do, in the sense that we teach it and assent to it in our confessions. But perhaps we don’t, in the sense of really living it.

PR Agents for Jesus

The problem, I suspect, is something of a misstep in our formula of what it means to live for Christ. We think we’re his PR agents: If I look good, then Jesus looks good.

So we hate the thought of not looking good. It’s Christian failure.

I don’t need to look good so Jesus can look good; I need to be honest about my colossal spiritual need so he can look all-sufficient.

If this mindset permeates a whole church family, however, our life together becomes a matter of performance. We put on our best Christian mask, take a deep breath, and head to church. If Christian parents adopt this mindset, parenting becomes about trying to perform well in front of the kids, making sure they only see the highest standard of Christian behaviour from us.

This may be a common way of thinking, but it’s disastrous. It leads to hypocrisy. The fact is, we’re not good, and we can only keep up the façade for a little while before the cracks begin to show. Our children see it right away. They know what we’re really like and can immediately tell when we try to put a Christian sheen over it. And when we really make a mess of things, the last place we want to go is church. We’re supposed to look Christian there, so when we know we can’t remotely pretend things are together, it’s easier simply not to go. Best to keep the mess away from the sanctuary.

All this is a sign that while we may be professing grace, we’re not actually inhabiting a culture of grace. We’re not Jesus’s PR agents, and he is not our client. We are broken men and women, and he is our Saviour. It’s not the case that I need to look good so Jesus can look good; I need to be honest about my colossal spiritual need so he can look all-sufficient. I don’t increase so he can increase; I decrease so he can increase (John 3:30). That means being honest about my flaws, not embarrassed about them.

Culture of Grace

Imagine the difference this would make to our witness. Rather than thinking I have to constantly be looking less sinful than every non-Christian I know, I am instead liberated to be myself, warts and all, so that I can show that my confidence is not in me. My friend who had too much to drink now has an amazing opportunity to be an authentic witness to Christ—not by pretending we Christians don’t have any sin, but by demonstrating what we do with it. If it’s about performance, then my friend really has blown it and will be too embarrassed to see his friends. But if it’s about forgiveness, then he gets to model repentance, to show brokenness about sin and sheer relief in a Savior.

Imagine also the difference this would make to our church life. Rather than having a stigma about being anything less than spiritually sorted, we can come together as a group of people who are open and free about our colossal spiritual need. The assumption stops being “We have to be good if we’re coming here,” and instead becomes “You have to be a real mess to show up here—thank goodness I’m not the only one.” Which do you think sounds more inviting? Which is going to foster deeper confession and public repentance? Instead of feeling embarrassed about going forward to receive prayer, we can experience the joy and relief of knowing we’re all ultimately in the same boat.

Grace, then, becomes not just a formal doctrine but a felt reality. No one is too low, too far gone, too needy—too anything—to worry about not fitting in around here. Our testimony is not “I was a mess, then Jesus showed up, and now I’ve got everything together,” but “I was a mess—and I still am—but I’m a mess who belongs to Jesus, a mess he is committed to sorting out. He came to me, has stuck with me, and continues to be my all in all.”

Indeed, we can say with John Newton, “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world—but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.”

Sam Allberry is an editor for The Gospel Coalition, a global speaker for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, and a pastor based in Maidenhead, UK. He is the author of a number of books, including Is God Anti-Gay? (Good Book, 2013)James For You, and most recently Why Bother with Church. He is a founding editor of Living Out, a ministry for those struggling with same-sex attraction. You can follow him on Twitter.

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