You are currently browsing the monthly archive for May 2014.

“Revival is torrents of living water flowing out of the individual believer.”

~ James A. Stewart

Advertisements
Partnering with People in Their Pain

My sweet wife has struggled with chronic pain just about every day for almost three and a half years. As it became clear that this could be a long-term struggle for her, I was struggling myself with how to walk with her through it. There were lots of scary tests, new doctors, and frightening scenarios. And, of course, there was the pain! It was hard to adjust to this new normal. But God is good, and through the real pain he’s taught me a few real, glorious things about partnering with the hurting.

Good in Groaning

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope. . . For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:2022-23)

Groaning. We groan because the world is subjected to futility. Things are not as they should be. This means at least two things about our pain.

First, groaning is OK. God didn’t make this world for pain. It’s a product of the broken world we live in. God’s sovereignty in the situation does not mean we don’t admit that it’s hard or that we don’t like it. It is hard and we don’t like it! It’s part of the curse and we plead with God, “Take it away!” (2 Cor. 12:7–10).

Second, Romans 8 groaning is the groaning of childbirth. It is appropriate for a woman to groan in labor, and it is appropriate for believers to groan in suffering. Christians, more than any others, know there is something better ahead, something perfect — being forever face-to-face with Jesus, completely painless. Therefore, we groan in hope. We groan for the redemption of our bodies. When our bodies are redeemed, all sin and suffering will be put away and we will be free to worship Jesus in his pain-free presence.

Chronic pain is especially hard. It’s not how it should be, and it’s the everyday reality — often quietly — for so many around us. Long day after long day, we’re groaning in hope of the day when the pain will pass and we’ll be made new.

Dependence in Despair

It is freeing to groan in hope. But, groaning is only part of the answer in pain. God not only promises to deliver us through suffering, but with his keeping, he is working for our good in the suffering.

For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. (2 Corinthians 1:8–9)

Paul is so utterly burdened that he despaired of life itself. It’s as if he had received a death sentence. People feeling deep or chronic pain will find themselves feeling this way. Paul’s interpretation of his trial is life-altering for how we view and experience suffering.

But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. (2 Corinthians 1:9)

The point of Paul’s pain was to give him more of God, through greater dependence on him. Dependence on God is not just the result of a trial. Dependence on God is the purpose for a trial. The pain is a radical, unexpected way that God cares for his children.

God means to strip away self-sufficiency so that we can have more of him. God means to strip away idols of health and comfort and strength to give us more of himself. These situations make us helpless in finding answers ourselves. There is often nothing to do except cry out to God. We begin to see that God is good to ordain suffering. There is purpose in pain.

More than groaning, there’s a glad, desperate dependence on God. We groan together and we are more deeply dependent on God than we ever could be without this pain. If the best gift God can give us is himself, then it is gracious for him to take even our health away (and that of those we love) if it means more of him for us.

Worshiping in Weakness

Groaning is good. Dependence on God is good. And there’s more.

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7–10)

These verses help us to see that not only can we survive (groan), and rest (depend) in this suffering, but we can worship! Indeed, if God’s power is made perfect in weakness, then God is abundantly good to help us realize weaknesses so that his strength can be revealed in, and to, and even through us to others.

Suffering does not create weakness. Suffering highlights weakness. It takes suffering to help us realize our weakness. If God’s strength is made perfect in weakness, then how gracious is God to help us understand the reality of our weakness so that we can turn from self-sufficiency and boast in his power!

For the rest of the post…

One of the reasons: the Reformed Church in America’s wavering approach to same-sex marriages.The URC believes marriage is limited to a man and a woman. But denominations toeing the line on traditional marriage face a new problem: the growing number of pastors performing same-sex ceremonies despite rules and the ambivalent responses from denominational leadership.According to URC pastor Kevin DeYoung, his congregation has wrestled for three years with the decision to leave the RCA. The RCA has been debating sexual ethics for much longer. Since the late 1970s, the denomination has been affirming that marriage is between a man and a woman. In 2005, the General Synod took action against a pastor who performed a wedding ceremony for his daughter and her partner, deposing him as a Professor of Theology and suspending him as a Minister of Word and Sacrament.

And in 2012, the General Synod approved their strongest statement yet in favor of traditional marriage, calling homosexual behavior “a sin according to the Holy Scriptures” and making performing same-sex marriages “a disciplinable offense.”

But those actions were short-lived. The pastor was reinstated by his classis in 2011, and the 2012 statement was softened by the 2013 Synod, which left the language calling homosexual behavior sinful but acknowledged that they had “usurped the constitutional authority reserved for the classes.”

And when asked to repeal the ordination of RCA’s first openly gay clergy, the 2013 Synod passed the case back to the regional synod, which has since upheld the 2011 ordination.

“Statements from the General Synod should have some weight to them, especially if they’re stated over and over again,” DeYoung said. “But that’s not been the way they’ve been handled. Now it’s clear that there’s no teeth to them or authority behind them. Individual classes will do what they want to do.”

Familiar Situation

It’s a situation that sounds familiar to Bill Arnold, professor at Asbury Theological Seminary and lifelong member of the United Methodist Church (UMC).

The 2012 UMC General Conference held that same-sex practices are incompatible with Christian teaching. The United Methodist position has remained unchanged since 1972. What has changed is the behavior of pastors and bishops, Arnold said. Pastors are conducting homosexual weddings, and bishops have begun to refuse to bring them to trial, he said.

“Essentially we have different factions in the church living out their convictions in ways that result in miniature denominations,” he said. “It’s a fragmentation of our church.”

And with the General Conference meeting only every four years, there’s no mechanism to deal with crises that arise in the meantime, he said.

“We essentially deteriorate into a screaming match,” Arnold said. “My friend says we’re more like a bad Jerry Springer act than a church.”

The conflict has been amplified by the rapidly changing opinions of the American public. In 2001, 57 percent of Americans opposed same-sex marriage and 35 percent were in favor, according to Pew Research Center. Twelve years later, 43 percent were opposed and 50 percent were in favor.

And while white evangelical Protestants are most likely to oppose gay marriage—only 23 percent approved in 2013—that figure has risen 10 percentage points from the 13 percent that favored same-sex marriage in 2001.

Same Limbo

Though different in structure from American denominations, the Church of England is also in limbo over the same subject, said Rod Thomas, vicar of St. Matthew’s Church in southern England.

For the rest of the article…

SARAH EEKHOFF ZYLSTRA

SARAH EEKHOFF ZYLSTRA

Remember

May 26, 2014 

Remember

Memorial Day, as Americans have come know it, began in the years immediately following the Civil War. But until World War II, most people knew it as “Decoration Day.” It was a day to decorate with flowers and flags the graves of fallen soldiers and remember those who had given, as Lincoln beautifully said, “the last full measure of devotion” to defend their nation. It was a day to remember what the honored dead had died to defend.

A century and a half has passed since Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox, effectively ending a national nightmare that filled over 625,000 American graves with dead soldiers. Since then, other international nightmares have ravaged the world and put more than 650,000 additional Americans into war graves in Europe, North Africa, the Pacific Rim, Asia, and the Middle East.

Remembering Is for the Future

Memorial Day is an important national moment. It is a day to do more than barbeque. It is right and wise to remember the great price some have paid to preserve the historically unprecedented civil and religious freedoms we Americans have the luxury to take largely for granted.

But the importance of Memorial Day is more for our future than it is for our past. It is crucial that we remember the nightmares and why they happened. We forget them at our own peril. The future of the United States depends in large amount on how well we collectively remember and cherish what liberty really is and the terror of tyranny. There is a high cost to forgetting. In the words of George Santayana’s famous aphorism, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

A Memorial People

Christians, of all people, understand the crucial importance of remembering. Christians are “memorial people” because the whole of our faith depends upon remembering. Those who persevere into the glorious future are those who remember the gracious past.

That’s why God has surrounded us with memorials. The entire Bible itself is a memorial. We meditate on it daily to remember. The Sabbath was a memorial to Israel’s freedom from Egyptian slavery (Deuteronomy 5:15), and the church switched it to Sundays as a memorial to Christ’s resurrection and our freedom from sin. Israel’s great gathering feast days were memorials (Exodus 13:3). And now each time a local church gathers, each Lord’s Supper celebration (1 Corinthians 11:24–26), each baptism, each Christmas celebration, and each Easter celebration is a memorial.

Remembering God’s past grace is necessary to fuel our faith in God’s future grace for us.† This makes the memory one of God’s most profound, mysterious, and merciful gifts granted to us. God designed it to be a means of preserving (persevering) grace for his people. We neglect it at our own peril.

The future of the church, globally and locally, and of each Christian depends largely on how well we remember the gospel of Jesus, all his precious and very great promises, and the successes and failures of church history. Scripture warns us that if we fail to remember, we will be condemned to submit again to sin’s and hell’s enslavement (Hebrews 6:4–8). Such warnings are graces to help us remember.

So as we commemorate Memorial Day as Americans, let us do it with profound gratitude for the extraordinary common grace given to us when men and women laid their lives down for the sake of America’s survival.

For the rest of the post…

It is easy to be critical of prayer, particularly the prayers of others. Robert Murray McCheyne’s words are often cited because they remain painfully true: “You wish to humble a man? Ask him about his prayer life.”

~ Dr. Derek W.H. ThomasPrayer in TabletalkApril 2012, 14.

“Hell is larger today than it was yesterday, because many of us have failed to pray.”

~ David Smithers

“If a person doesn’t have a growing sensitivity toward sin and doesn’t have a desire to become more like Christ, it’s questionable whether that person ever had an authentic conversion.”

~ Jim CymbalaSpirit Rising97.  

“We are a supernatural people, born again by a supernatural birth, kept by a supernatural power, sustained on supernatural food, taught by a supernatural Teacher, from a supernatural Book. We are led by a supernatural Captain in right paths to assured victories”

~ Hudson Taylor, Founder, China Inland Mission

J Hudson Taylor 1865.jpg

“A man may study because his brain is hungry for knowledge, even Bible knowledge. But he prays because his soul is hungry for God.” 

~ Leonard Ravenhill

by  • MAY 13, 2014

log cabin 2Prayer in Every City is a ministry dedicated to promoting united prayerthroughout America. Our goal is to have 1,200 prayer groups meeting on a regular basis, whether it be weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. There are many websites dedicated to prayer for America, but this one is different because of the emphasis on united prayer.

Many of the Great Awakenings in the past were a direct result of people meeting together to pray. The early church in the book of Acts met regularly to pray. When Peter was released from prison by an angel, he found many praying together at Mary’s house. Before the Holy Spirit came down at Pentecost, there were over 120 followers of Christ who were continually devoting themselves to prayer. Jesus said that, “His house should be a house of prayer for all the nations” (Mark 11:17). Jesus also said, “where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst” (Matt. 18:20).  According to this verse, Jesus will attend your prayer meeting when two are praying together.

For the rest of the post…

May 2014
M T W T F S S
« Apr   Jun »
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031  

Categories

Pages

Recent Comments

Helen Williamson on Revival Can Come When Everythi…
Moses Kingsley asuer… on C.S. Lewis on Answered Pr…
Dr. Bryan E. Gallowa… on J. Edwin Orr on Prayer and…
richard on Classic Billy Graham Book (I L…
Lin Phillips on J. Edwin Orr on Prayer and…