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“The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me.” — Martin Luther

I remember early on as a follower of Jesus, I would hear people reference their desire and ability to go to a quiet place with only their Bible and emerge after four hours refreshed, renewed, and revitalized. If I’m honest, the prospect of this scenario seemed overwhelming and the direct opposite of refreshing. I think this was mainly because of my lack of perspective on the benefits and blessings of a time of studying.

Studying is one of the most important areas in which to figure out a sustainable rhythm. When I’ve attempted to read through the Word with no real plan, I’ve found myself lost, confused, and bored. A breakthrough came when I started to ask the Lord to show me what He desired for me to see. When we read God’s Word, we must continually say, “This is talking to me.” The Bible is not an impersonal story about the past; it is the living Word of God. It is an ongoing narrative of which we are a part. Our hope is to gain insight on life and direction through the revealed Word of God. Eugene Peterson says it best: “The goal of reading the Word is to listen for the voice of the God who speaks.” There is a reason that Psalm 119 refers to the Word of God as a lamp to our feet and light to our path. Scripture helps to guide and direct us as we seek to understand the richness of its truth.

The Bible is filled with reminders of the significance and power that accompanies studying, learning, and resting in the Scripture and precepts of God. Paul teaches in Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Studying God’s Word allows us to ingest his truth so that it can permeate all of our inner self. When we focus on Scripture, it reminds us of who God truly is and who we are in light of that truth. The Word gives us understanding that helps us to teach and guide others according to God’s principles. Understanding the Word produces thankfulness that causes us to sing and encourage one another with God’s promises.

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By Chuck Lawless
Pastors Cannot Do

But here are 12 things pastors cannot do…

  1. Read minds. Everybody knows that, but many church members hold pastors accountable for unstated expectations.
  2. Be everywhere. No human being can be every place at once, yet some members still get angry when pastors have to say “No.”
  3. Change hearts. Only God can do that.
  4. Know everything. Most pastors study hard, but nobody can answer every question somebody asks.
  5. Please everybody. Even Jesus couldn’t do that.
  6. Live sinlessly. Nobody can. Including you. And me. We’re all sinners.
  7. Grow churches. If the church does grow, it’s because God does it.
  8. Multiply dollars. That’s too bad, too, since some churches don’t pay their pastors well.
  9. Escape mistakes. All of us will mess up sometime, often unintentionally and even unknowingly.

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“A total absence of prayer in the church isn’t a likely problem. Maybe a church somewhere out there never prays at all, but I don’t assume that’s happening in yours. I don’t know your church, But I bet there are times you come together to pray. Such praying may sparse and sporadic, but it happens. And therein lies what I think is the biggest problem: not a complete lack of prayer, but too little prayer.”

John OnwuchekwaPrayer, 18.

Prayer

“To look back upon the progress of the divine kingdom upon earth is to review revival periods which have come like refreshing showers upon dry and thirsty ground, making the desert to blossom as the rose, and bringing new eras of spiritual life and activity just when the Church had fallen under the influence of the apathy of the times.”

~ E.M. Bounds

Edward McKendree Bounds (circa 1864)

“My mission is first to the churches.When the churches are aroused to their duty, men of the world will be swept into the Kingdom. A whole church on its knees is irresistible.”~ Evan Roberts

Why Romantic Love Collapses on Us

Jonathan leeman pyymszim 45165f3ddae2ae35e33aec5d9740adbe.jpg?ts=1542142057&ixlib=rails 3.0

Guest Contributor

Article by Jonathan Leeman

Modern people love love. How many romance movies and love songs could we name? Love sells. Love is enticing. We devote a holiday to it every February, and our children give each other stale heart-shaped candies in celebration. Yet, what is love? The world tries to show us love one way; God, another.

The world draws our eyes into the bedroom — at least these days it does. Love finds its pinnacle in a bed, says Western culture: two lovers embracing, staring into one another’s eyes, having cast off the world, enjoying all the delights of togetherness. The camera need not turn to parents or to children. It’s Wesley and Princess Buttercup (The Princess Bride) living happily ever after. The couple is the center of the universe. Love in this first picture is finding whomever or whatever completes me. It depends on self-discovery and self-definition, and consummates itself in self-expression and self-actualization.

This is love as Westerners have understood it at least since novels and poetry of the eighteenth and nineteenth century capital “R” Romantics. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter is typical. A man and a woman love one another. The laws of society and religion stand in the way. The man, a pastor, is crushed by those laws. But the woman casts them off and discovers true freedom and life.

Love as a Black Hole

That’s been the great American love story ever since: him and her, or him and him, or her and her against society, against mom and dad, against religion, against the world. Love doesn’t judge, we say. Love sets free. You can justify anything these days by pointing to love. “If they really love each other, then of course we should accept . . .” “If God is loving, then surely he wouldn’t . . .” Heart plus heart equals marriage, declares the bumper sticker. Never mind the fact that such love imposes its own judgments and enacts its own laws.“The world isn’t interested in the God who is love. It’s interested in love as god.”

Yet a brand of love that shines the spotlight exclusively on the couple in bed, divorced from all other relationships, perhaps intentionally childless, perverts biblical love into something barren and stagnant. It’s a universe that eventually collapses inward on itself, like a black hole.

We might even say that Romanticism’s story of love can’t help but culminate in homosexuality, where the self seeks to complete and complement itself only in itself, its mirror image, two tabs colliding, two positively charged ends of two magnets, incapable of uniting or creating a new life. The rallying cry of “diversity” celebrates the ironic lack thereof in a same-sex partnership.

The world isn’t interested in the God who is love. It’s interested in love as god. Which is just another way of saying that it’s interested in love of self because self is god.

Love Grows and Fulfills

The Bible also has an answer to worldly self-love. It offers a picture of love, or rather, several. It, too, starts with a bed. Adam beholds Eve and calls her bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. They, though two, become one.

Yet the camera pans back, and we discover that that bed is set in a garden, where the couple’s union produces a world of rose bushes and apple orchards and a mess of children’s shoes by the front door and swing sets and skyscrapers. Biblical love, it would seem, involves an expanding universe. It’s not stagnant like a bed all by itself. It has forward motion and a story to follow. It’s generative. It’s fruitful.

The Bible’s camera pans back further still, ultimately taking in all creation, all history, and God himself. The first snapshots of love in the bed and the garden and the parent, snapshots available for viewing by all humanity, are meant to draw humanity’s gaze upward to even more magnificent portraits of love.

Love Is Not God

Father, Son, and Spirit together provide perfect picture and definition of love. God is love, and that means all love is from him, through him, and to him.

In this picture, God is uppermost in his own affections. The Father most loves the Son and Spirit. The Son, the Father and Spirit. The Spirit, the Father and Son. He is not the monistic God of Islam, who, before the creation of his world, would have had no one to love and so could not be love. Our God is the one God in three persons, who, in eternity past, shared a perfect and infinite love among these three persons. Self-love and other-love, giving and receiving — somehow — merge in this God who is love.

God is love, and God most loves God because there is nothing better, nothing purer, nothing higher than God. The Father loves the Son for his righteousness, the Son loves the Father for his goodness, and the Spirit loves both for their glory. You cannot have the love of God without having all the other attributes of God’s character — his righteousness, his goodness, and more.

Love doesn’t exist somewhere out there in the universe independently of God. Rather, love is a personal quality of God. It is a description of his character. It’s part and parcel of everything else about God.

That the World May Know

It turns out, however, that when God is uppermost in God’s affections, the universe doesn’t collapse; it expands, leading to another set of images of love. The divine Father seeks out a bride for his Son. When he finds her, he loves her with a covenantal love. It’s like the wealthy man who loves the daughter-in-law not because of what she is in herself, but because she is now united to his son. “All this is yours and I am your father,” the older man smiles to his daughter-in-law on her wedding day, pointing to the vast extent of his estate.

The groom’s name, of course, is Jesus Christ. He doesn’t say, “Her bone, my bone; her flesh, my flesh.” Instead, he says, “Her sin, my sin; my righteousness, her righteousness” (2 Corinthians 5:21). God loves sinners, in other words, by drawing us into the sweep of his triune, God-centered love. So it’s not just that God loves us. It’s better than that. It’s that God incorporates us into his love for himself — “so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me,” as Jesus prayed to the Father (John 17:23). Once again, giving and receiving merge in the ultimate win-win.

True Love in America

A last picture of love can be spotted among God’s people, the church. As we love one another as Christ loved us — mercifully, forgivingly, obediently — we show the world that we’re his disciples (John 13:34–35). We show the world what true love looks like.

Inside the church, we help each other practice loving God, neighbor, even enemy. We help each other internalize his commandments — one of the most important indicators of our love — so that we too can become purveyors of heaven’s life (1 John 5:3). We strategize to proclaim the greatest message of his love, the gospel (Romans 5:8).

Loving our fellow church members and our non-Christian neighbors means loving them with respect to God.

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“Church revitalization will only ever happen in answer to faith-filled, prevailing prayer. It is greatly to the glory of God to revitalize a church of humble, prayerful people. But it is greatly dishonoring to him to suppose this transformation can come about any other way.”

~ Andrew M DavisRevitalize, 94.

The First Day

A prayer for Sunday morning

Today we celebrate Your magnificent splendour
For by Your hand You placed time in motion
From the first day of creation until this day
Your creative wonders have filled the universe

Today we celebrate Your mighty power
For by Your hand you raised Christ from the grave
From resurrection Sunday until this day
Your love has given life to all mankind

Father we thank you for today
We give this special day over to You
May we rest in Your presence
Bathe in Your goodness
And celebrate Your eternal life
This day and always

Amen!

(A modern prayer for Sundays from http://www.lords-prayer-words.com)

“If Christianity is to receive a rejuvenation, it must be by other means than any now being used. If the Church in the second half of this century is to recover from the injuries she suffered in the first half, there must appear a new type of leader. The proper, ruler-of-the-synagogue type will never do. Neither will the priestly type of man who carries out his duties, takes his pay and asks no questions, nor the smooth-talking pastoral type who knows how to make the Christian religion acceptable to everyone. All these have been tried and found wanting.

Another kind of religious leader must arise among us. He must be of the old prophet type, a man who has seen visions of God and has heard a voice from the Throne. When he comes (and I pray God there will be not one but many), he will stand in flat contradiction to everything our smirking, smooth civilization holds dear. He will contradict, denounce and protest in the name of God and will earn the hatred and opposition of a large segment of Christendom. Such a man is likely to be lean, rugged, blunt-spoken and a little bit angry with the world. He will love Christ and the souls of men to the point of willingness to die for the glory of the One and the salvation of the other. But he will fear nothing that breathes with mortal breath.”

~A.W. Tozer, The Size of the Soul, 128-129.

“Many times, prayer is the most practical thing you ‘do’ to encourage change.”

Mark Dever & Jamie Dunlop, The Compelling Community132.

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