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As you browse, read and share the many articles, our hope is that you may find this site an encouragement to your faith and Christian life.
We were created to worship. And we are to worship God with every aspect and area of our lives - presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.
The bride of Christ can often times be difficult and messy - but it is Christ's beautiful mess - to which He is the head and chief cornerstone.
Our faith comes out from a rich heritage and history. It was during the formative years of our faith that creeds, confessions, traditions, and liturgies were developed. These practices and traditions recaptured will not only anchor us but move us forward in our faith.
There is freedom in the gospel as it proclaims that in Christ we are sons and daughters of the King. The importance is learning to preach those truths to our heart and life everyday.
Clive Staples Lewis (29 November 1898 – 22 November 1963), commonly referred to as C. S. Lewis, was a Northern Irish author and scholar. Lewis is known for his work on medieval literature, Christian apologetics, literary criticism and fiction. He is best known today for his children’s series The Chronicles of Narnia.
Lewis was a close friend of J. R. R. Tolkien, the author of The Lord of the Rings, and both were leading figures in the Oxford literary group the Inklings. Due in part to Tolkien's influence, Lewis converted to Christianity, becoming "a very ordinary layman of the Church of England". (Lewis 1952, pp. 6) His conversion would have a profound effect on his work, and his wartime radio broadcasts on the subject of Christianity brought him wide acclaim. Late in life he married the American writer Joy Gresham, who died of bone cancer four years later at the age of 45.
Lewis' works have been translated into over 30 languages and continue to sell over a million copies a year; the books that comprise The Chronicles of Narnia have sold over 100 million copies. A number of stage and screen adaptations of Lewis' works have also been produced, the most notable of which is the 2005 Disney film adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe which grossed US$745,000,000 worldwide. - bio from Wikipedia
I am looking forward to taking my family to this movie next week. The reviews seem very positive, which only makes it more certain that I will spend the big bucks for this movie.
Here is the review by Al Mohler from his website (also click here to see the trailer):
My family and I attended a media screening for The Nativity Story last night. Here is my instant review -- the movie is in season and on message. In other words, the movie faithfully presents the main thrust of the Christmas story. That is no small achievement.
The movie, directed by Catherine Hardwicke, takes some liberties with the biblical accounts found in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Nevertheless, the invented scenes and dialogue do not distract from the biblical storyline. The screenplay by Mike Rich presents key truths such as the virgin conception and deity of Jesus with unambiguous clarity and artistic force.
The gospel accounts are the starting point for any telling of the story, of course. At the same time, there is no comprehensive biblical narrative that fills in every detail. We are left with huge questions. Joseph is described in the New Testament merely as a "righteous man" who believed God and obeyed angelic visions. When Mary is found to be "with child," Joseph decides the put her away privately, rather than to defend his own honor through a public accusation against his betrothed bride. Beyond these facts, we know little of Joseph the Carpenter. Yet, as a character in this movie, Joseph is almost as developed as the character of Mary.
The movie presents invented dialogue and situations including a focus upon Mary's parents and family, the village of Nazareth, the emergence of Joseph, and Mary's relationship with her cousin Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist.
Invented scenes include an imagined version of the pilgrimage to Bethlehem (including a river crossing scene, complete with a threatening snake) and representations of the brutal oppression of the Jews by King Herod the Great -- a character who can hardly be imagined as more evil than he actually was. The film also attempts to convey the messianic hopes of the Jewish people, suffering under multiple levels of oppression.
Mike Rich, the screenwriter who wrote the script, explained his decision to expand the story: "The only way to tell the story was to try and take that foundation in Matthew and Luke and expand upon it, while at the same time being very faithful to the spirit, tone, and content of those Gospels." The same is basically true of nativity plays presented in churches across America.
The most extravagant display of that creativity involves the Magi. As presented in the movie, the Magi provide historical context, important dialogue, and a degree of comic relief. Yet, these men are presented in a believable manner, without farce. Of course, the Gospel of Matthew never specifies a number of the Magi (stipulating only the three gifts), much less their names. The movie simply assumes the tradition of three Magi named Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar -- a European tradition traceable only to the seventh century.
In order to present the Magi in Bethlehem the night of Jesus' birth, the movie suggests that these wise men from the East had seen the astronomical event of the star in the making and had left for Bethlehem months before Christ's birth. In any event, the Magi provide some of the most important Christological material found in the film.
When it comes to the virgin birth, the divinity, and the saving mission of the Christ Child, the movie never blinks. Cinematographers may find fault with the presentation of the angels and the voice of God, but I have the sense that where the director had to choose between accuracy and artistry, accuracy often won. For that decision Christians should be thankful.
The film succeeds in presenting the humanity of the central characters and in building a sense of expectancy. There is little suspense in the movie, of course. We know the story.
Christian parents will want to discuss the movie with their children. Which parts of the movie can be traced to which biblical texts? Were the other parts of the movie faithful to the main storyline? How much of what Christians think they know about the nativity story is actually in the Bible at all?
Should the story of Jesus be reduced to film? That question is not as easily dismissed as some might think. Nevertheless, The Nativity Story is the first major Hollywood studio film in many years to deal with a biblical story. In fact, World magazine reviewer Steve Beard reports that The Nativity Story is the first such release from a major studio since Ben Hur and The Ten Commandments.
So, Hollywood has produced a major film with a national release that straightforwardly presents the central themes and events of the biblical accounts of Christ's birth. We should not let that fact pass without notice. The movie opens across America on December 1.
These are the communion mediatations from this past Sunday.
Find out how much God has given you and take from it what you need; the remainder is needed by others.
Augustine of Hippo
Do not turn your back on the needy, but share everything with your brother and call nothing your own. For if you have what is eternal in common, how much more should you have what is transient! the Didache, "Money in Christian History,"
The freedom to give is often vitiated by the moral disease of Afghanistanitus, the idea that the "real" opportunities for significant acts of giving are in faraway places or extreme situations.
Eugene Peterson in Traveling Light.
We can risk loving as passionately as God loves. For we know that the love God makes possible is no scarce resource that must be hoarded so that it may be distributed in dribs and drabs--a little here and a little there. Love is not a rare commodity; rather, the more we love with the intense particularity of God's love, the more we discover that we have the capacity to love.
Man finds it hard to get what he wants, because he does not want the best; God finds it hard to give, because He would give the best, and man will not take it.
George MacDonald in George MacDonald, An Anthology (130), edited by C. S.
Abraham Lincoln issued his national call for a Thanksgiving day. His admonition still applies:
"The year that is drawing towards its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.
"In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. ...
"No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. ...
"I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union."
In commenting on the success of his work The Saints' Everlasting Rest,Baxter said: "And I found that the transcript of the heart hath the greatestforce on the hearts of others."
The Autobiography of Richard Baxter, abridged by J. M. Lloyd Thomas
The prayer preceding all prayers is "May it be the real I who speaks."
The Bible nowhere speaks about a "happy" Christian; it talks plentifully of joy. Happiness depends on things that happen, and may sometimes be an insult: joyfulness is never touched by external conditions, and a joyful heart is never an insult.
Oswald Chambers in The Shadow of an Agony.
Malachi 3:3 says: "He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver."
This verse puzzled some women in a Bible study and they wondered what this
statement meant about the character and nature of God. One of the women offered to find out the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible Study.
That week, the woman called a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work. She didn't mention anything about the reason for her interest beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver.
As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities.
The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot; then she thought again about the verse that says: "He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver." She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined.
The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.
The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, "How do you know when the silver is fully refined?" He smiled at her and answered, "Oh, that's easy -- when I see my image in it"
If today you are feeling the heat of the fire, remember that God has His eye on you and will keep watching you until He sees His image In you.
A week ago, my wife's parents left to go home to Florida. They had visited with us for a week on their way home as part of their travels to visit Maryland. We were so glad to see them since we hadn't seen them since the summer. Some of you may already know this, others of you may not, my mother in-law is blind. A year ago she began to loose her sight due to an inoperable tumor on her optic nerve. The tumor hasn't grown since nor has it affected any other facilities except her sight. One day she could see, and a few weeks later she was in total darkness.Courage. I know that my mother in-law wouldn't agree with that word to describe her, but that is what I would say. We would both agree though that her courage isn't from any deep reservoirs that she keeps hidden inside. But rather, it is courage given to her from the Lord. She clings to Jesus. Her faith is stronger than at any time I have ever seen it. God may have took away her physical sight, but her spiritual sight is in greater focus than ever. She sees Jesus clearer now. She sees His grace, love and mercy with a clarity that I can't honestly say I know and experience. Sure I know that she experience hard and dark days. But I see in her the radiant life of Christ shinning through and a love for her Savior that is sweet and precious.
You show me Christ.
A couple of weeks ago I was watching a older M. Night Shyamalan movie, called Unbreakable. The premise of the movie is about a man who discovers that he cannot be hurt. And in the discovery of his new found powers, he becomes more embolden and begins to take on greater and greater risks. The risks are small and controlled at first. He first risks by bench pressing a ridiculous amount of weight, risking injury to himself. But then he goes on to test his powers by injecting himself into a dangerous and lethal situation to rescue a family from a brutal crime. At this point of the movie he knows that he is unbreakable and therefore no amount of risk is too great. The idea of unbreakable might be a good premise for a movie, but it isn't a good working philosophy for a pastor. This post finishes up a series of posts that I have been writing in response to the Ted Haggard situation. In my first post, I indicated that there were three common profiles shared by pastors who leave the ministry due to a moral failure. They are:
First, they each had abandoned time with Jesus, they let the busyness of ministry chase them away from the feet of Christ. Second, they had no significant accountability in their life. There was no one with whom they knew and knew them and that meddled in their private world, heart and life. Third, they all thought that "it" would never happen to them.
In this post I want to reflect on the third common pitfall, believing that "it" would never happen to them. How do pastors come to that point believing that it won't happen to them? Why do we think that we are spiritual Supermen? Today's obedience doesn't guarantee tomorrows. Each and everyday we need to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit and abide closely with Christ. Too often as pastors, we believe our own press. People look up to us, they praise us for our preaching and they seek our advice and counsel. Living in light of the Gospel keeps me humble. Remembering that who I am and how God sees me is based entirely on Christ. It is by walking in humility and brokenness and leading with a limp that God has called me to as a pastor. A couple of years ago, I saw a gifted pastor in our denomination be exposed to the whole community. Nobody would have believed that this man would be soliciting sex with minors over the internet. In fact, nobody would have known it, if it weren't for the fact that the "minor" he thought he was talking to was actually an agent with the state police. He was leading an undercover life, and it took an undercover sting operation to bring his life into the light. I watched as our presbytery dealt with the discipline and saw how this secret life had destroyed his ministry, church, and family. I was only a ruling elder at the time, but I remember praying to God that I would never forget how damaging and deceptive sin is. It was like an episode of "Scared Straight" for me that day.
Pastors don't wake up one day and look in the mirror and say to themselves, "Hey I think I'll commit adultery today". Rather it is the cumulative effect of small choices everyday that lead a person down that road. What am I choosing today? Am I meeting at the feet of my savior? Am I living in the light, transparent to other men who I invite to speak into my life, and do I live with the humility and brokenness of spirit that recognizes my need for His power and grace everyday.Pray that I be a man who faithfully finishes the race.
We are in the middle of a series called Crazy Generosity...the church's very nature is generous, it's in the DNA. I thought this quote was relevant."The Church is the only institution which, without irresponsibility, can expend all its resources on great and lavish outbursts of compassion. It is ordained to give itself away, yet without loss. The Church, above all earthly symbols, bears the responsibility of declaring in the outpouring of resources, the utter dependability of God. To preserve its life is to lose it. " (Robert Lupton, Theirs is the Kingdom)
Showershock is a soap infused with caffeine:
Scented with peppermint oil and infused with caffeine anhydrous, each bar of Shower shock contains approximately 12 servings/showers per 4 ounce bar with 200 milligrams of caffeine per serving. No, we're not kidding and no you don't eat it. The caffeine is absorbed through the skin…
Does it actually work? The only reports we've heard are anecdotal - people claiming they felt a “buzz” after using the soap - but maybe it’s just a placebo effect. - from Energy Fiend
I like a little caffeine in the morning with a nice mug of coffee, but I am not sure I want it in my morning shower.
If you had an opportunity to hear Jon's first sermon in his series, "Crazy Generosity" - God truly spoke through Jon. God's power was so evident as Jon shared the Word and his life. You can listen to this sermon again, or if you missed it, you can hear it for the first time. Either way, you need to set aside some time in your day and listen to Jon speak from his heart and share how God wants each of our own heart.
The Church is the only institution which, without irresponsibility, can expend all its resources on great and lavish outbursts of compassion. It is ordained to give itself away, yet without loss. The Church, above all earthly symbols, bears the responsibility of declaring in the outpouring of resources, the utter dependability of God. To preserve its life is to lose it. (Robert Lupton, Theirs is the Kingdom)
O Lord, renew our spirits and draw our hearts unto thyself, that our work may not be to us a burden, but a delight; and give us such a mighty love to thee as may sweeten all our obedience.
The human heart has so many crannies where vanity hides, so many holes where falsehood lurks, is so decked out with deceiving hypocrisy, that it often dupes itself. John Calvin in A Calvin Treasury
An increase in speculative knowledge in divinity is not what is so much needed by our people as something else. Men may abound in this sort of light and have no heart ... Our people do not so much need to have their heads turned as to have their hearts touched, and they stand in the greatest need of that sort of preaching which has the greatest tendency to do this. Jonathan Edwards in Religious Affections.
I thought this was a very good article from Relevant's online newsletter. It is from Ed Young, Jr. and it is called, "A fall to grace". I have copied an excerpt and provided the link so that you can read the rest."We call it "a fall from grace": a Christian man or woman caught in some type of sexual, financial, legal or other ethical or moral indiscretion who falls from a position of high esteem. The most recent example involves Ted Haggard, founder and former senior pastor of New Life Church and former president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE).
Have you ever wondered where that phrase, "a fall from grace," comes from? Galatians 5:4, "You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace" (NKJV).How telling that we use that particular terminology to describe an incident (usually of the high-profile variety) of moral failure. By doing so, we tip our theological hand. While we talk a lot about God's inexhaustible grace and unconditional love, when it comes right down to it, we still believe that grace is exhaustible. We know that we owe our salvation to Christ's grace-giving work on the cross. But it doesn't take long before we trade in that boundless grace for the boundaries of the law.
In biblical terms, a fall from grace is not the sinner saved by grace who is caught in moral failure. That is a fall to grace. A fall from grace is the self-righteous person who tries to earn his or her salvation through the guise of moral living, declaring that Christ's work on the cross was unnecessary—at least for them.Let me ask a simple question: Do we really believe in grace? Or not?
click here to read the rest of this article
Isolation is one of the biggest dangers for a leader. It doesn't matter what or who you are leading, as it has often been said -"it is lonely at the top". For a pastor it is no different. As a pastor I am in danger of greater and greater isolation. I am in danger of neglecting life giving relationships and living in "quiet desperation". Why would I choose life over despair?
Satan loves the darkness and he would like to isolate us from each other. Steve Brown, one of my profs at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando always used to teach us that “Demons die in the light.” The Apostle John calls us to walk in the light, because God is light. When I walk in the light, I remember the Gospel. The Gospel tells me that there is no risk of exposure and vulnerability, because I am secure in Christ. I am accepted because of who I am "in Christ". Therefore I can repent and confess to others because my righteousness isn't based on what others may think of me or what I reveal. When I confess my sins it is very humbling and it points me to my need for the cross. Confessing means not just coming with my sins to God, but to others as well.
As a pastor it is easy to appear unapproachable and above the fray, but that is a lie. It is important for me as a pastor to have a couple of brothers in Christ that are meddling in my life. Right now, God has allowed me such a relationship with a guy that cares about me, and loves me enough to speak hard things when necessary. The book of Proverbs says that "faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy." 27:6.
I need a group of people with whom it is safe to share the pain, my failures, my weaknesses and to receive love, grace, mercy and support.There is an interesting and poignant website called http://www.mysecret.tv/ in which people share things anonymously. The stuff shared is real. Some of the stuff is a bit scandalous, and most of it will break your heart . Pastors/leaders and all followers of Jesus need to become a light in the darkness to each other by living and displaying community in such a way that we become a haven to those who feel so alone.
We all need those life giving relationships, and it is no different for pastors. Pray that I would live before you and others with the "black veil" ripped from my face.
If you have ever read Stephen Covey, you are familiar with the term, "First things first" - keeping the most important as first in priority..A Christian can't experience God's grace, new life and growth out of a vacuum. We encounter his growth and grace in our lives from an overflow of meeting with the Savior. As a pastor I am called to give of myself often (my time, attention, prayers, equipping etc..), but as I do this, I must give out of the overflow of meeting with Jesus. Meeting with Jesus isn't merely having a designated "quiet time" every day. Even though uninterrupted time is essential, it also means that I need to experience his continual presence throughout my day. My struggle is with cultivating that all the time, throughout my day. Believe me, I am as busy as you, (and NO beside what you may think, I don't just work one day a week! :-) )
Busyness isn't about doing all the wrong things, it is about doing good things. These "good things are certainly things that the church and the people of God need me to do. But as "good" as they are, they take a backseat to the "best", which is sitting at the feet of Jesus (do you see the Mary and Martha allusion here?) Cultivating my inner life of prayer and communion means that I have to be intentional. It ain't just going to happen. It means that I have to take a day every month or so, to spend extended time with the Lord, even though it may be at the worst time and during the thick of busyness. I made that decision to this a couple of weeks ago, and even though it wasn't convenient, I have no regrets spending that time with Him. It also means that I need to be consistent to take Sabbath rest and weave it into the rhythm of my week. I need to take a fast from information and noise. That means that I need to turn off my blackberry, turn off the Internet and reduce the amount of noise in my life. How can I hear from God when I am always filling my head with the noise of the day.Here is the upshot, I need to be serious and intentional in walking and hearing from Jesus. It won't just fall into place on its own. And if I don't, by His grace and strength, abide closely with Him, I will open myself up to spiritual burnout and turn toward other things/people to fill the void. (a.ka. make myself vulnerable to spiritual and moral failure)
Pray that I would seek Jesus with all my heart, mind, soul and strength. And that I would be consumed with loving Him over loving the work of ministry. Would Jesus never take a back seat to anything else in my life.