Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Redefining Femininity: The Power of a Gentle Answer

Hello all,

Rebeka Fry of the 'Redefining Femininity' blog has given us a great post titled "The Power of a Gentle Answer". I love how she weaves the power and affect of the Gospel through her examination of this very practical issue. In particular, I think she makes an important point when she points out that in the process of learning to give gentle answers we rid ourselves of the tyranny of our emotions. This is not to say all emotions are wrong, just that when they control us they are tyrannical. It brings Matthew 11:28-30 to mind.

So as to not steal all her thunder, allow me to just post selected portions of Rebeka's post. If you are blessed by what you read, and I'm sure you will be, please read the rest at 'Redefining Femininity'.

"A soft answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger."
~ Proverbs 15:1 ~

When someone speaks rudely or responds in an insensitive tone towards us, our human inclination is to respond in an equally critical manner. After all, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, right? We have every reason to respond harshly! But, once again, Jesus raises the bar in how our response should be.

"You have heard that it was said,
'You shall love your neighbor
and hate your enemy.'
But I say to you, love your enemies,
bless those who curse you,
do good to those who hate you,
and pray for those who spitefully use you
and persecute you."
~ Matthew 5:43-44 ~

This is probably one of the hardest commandments to live out in day-to-day life. There probably isn't anything less challenging to our flesh than to live out this principle of selfless and unconditional love to others. To bite our tongue, take a deep breath, and pray for the other person who seemingly wronged us.

"To exude the nature of Christ in the face of
rudeness, insensitivity, or cruelty is a
supernatural ability that His Spirit gives,
not something that we can muster up
in our own strength."
~ Leslie Ludy ~

I love reading through stories about persecuted Christians throughout the centuries. The primary thing that never ceases to amaze me is the longsuffering and patience of those who were tortured for Christ. Betsy ten Boom was able to see her brutal prison guards with the eyes of love, not hatred. Sabina Wurmbrand was able to sincerely love the pastor who betrayed her husband, which cost him several years of torture and imprisonment. Elisabeth Elliot did not become bitter towards her husband's killers; instead, she went back to them and ministered to the Auca tribe. If these women could receive the grace needed to forgive and bless even the most cruelest of men, we certainly can ask the Lord to help us overlook the much smaller offenses that occur every day.

The woman who is hidden in Christ rests in His security and is not easily angered. She does not fly off the handle. She is not a slave to her emotions. She is not concerned about her right to be treated a certain way. She sets her sights on the eternal value of the souls around her, not her own emotional tide.

Many thanks to Rebeka for her excellent reminder!

God bless!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Joel Brooks: Help Even the Unrighteous Poor

Hello all,

All of us are probably more than a little familiar with verses such as Deuteronomy 15:7-8:

"If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be."

The Biblical command to care for the poor, the needy, the least among us is not something we can merely side step. Most of us recognize this and are happy to help the poor, though we may struggle to fulfill this command consistently. However, perhaps if we are honest with ourselves, most of us will admit that we want something in exchange for our service. Perhaps we desire recognition for our good deeds as did the Pharisees (Luke 18:9-17) or we want those we help to show proper recognition and thankfulness for our charity.

Joel Brooks explores this attitude in his recent post 'Help Even the Unrighteous Poor'. A few excerpts for your benefit...

My office is located in one of the poorer areas in the city of Birmingham, Alabama. Even as I am writing this, outside my window I can see two prostitutes standing across the street outside a hotel and a homeless man pushing a grocery cart full of cans. Confronted with scenes like this on a daily basis has made me think a lot about Jesus’ call to serve the least of these. What should this look like in my life? Over the years, I have far more failures than successes when it comes reaching out to these people.

But any person who has actually spent time serving the poor realizes that it is not for the faint of heart. I have seen many passionate, bright-eyed Christians with a “heart for the poor” burn out in a matter of months or even weeks. This happens because the poor they serve often do not respond in the way they expect. As these generous people give of their time and money, they assume that the poor people they help will be appreciative and kind. Perhaps going into this they pictured a homeless man shedding tears of gratitude for the new coat and warm sandwich he received. Instead they receive not so much as a “thank you” or “God bless you.” Maybe they will even be criticized for the color of the coat or the sogginess of the sandwich. They quickly find out that some beggars can be choosers—and mean ones at that!

I experienced this firsthand recently when a homeless lady approached me and asked for money. I said that I’d buy her a meal instead. She loudly berated me in front of onlookers for this perceived insult until finally agreeing to let me buy the meal. As I walked in to the restaurant, she barked after me, “Combo number six with Dr. Pepper!” When I returned with her food, she got angry with me for bringing her the wrong dipping sauce. All in all, it was not a pleasant experience. I certainly didn’t leave with that “feel-good feeling” from helping the poor.

I have found that helping the unrighteous poor is perhaps also the best way to remind myself of the gospel by which I am saved. I did not receive mercy because I deserved it. Jesus Christ did not give his life for me because I was a good person. No, I was his enemy and full of sin when he died for me. I never did and never will earn his grace. Grace is always unmerited. So when I see how the unrighteous poor respond with bitterness to my acts of kindness, I am reminded of my own spiritual condition. Even now, I often fail to thank God for his continuous and abundant grace towards me. Thank God for the gospel by which I am being saved!

We must see our service to the poor through this gospel lens. Actually, our ability to help those who don’t deserve it is an indicator as to whether or not we have actually received the mercy and grace of God ourselves. As Jesus says in Luke 6:32-33 and 35-36:

If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. . . . But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and you reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

You can read the rest of Mr. Brooks excellent post here. Many thanks to him for sharing his insight!

God bless!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Tim Challies: The Death of the Grown-Up

Hey all,

Tim Challies kindly shares a thorough review (linked below) of Diana West's new book "The Death of the Grown-Up". I purchased the book immediately after reading his review and am happy that it arrived in the mail today. :-)

The Death of the Grown-Up book review by Tim Challies

Reading the review, it becomes abundantly clear that the book deals much with issues near and dear to the hearts of Rebelutionaries. I think though, that the urgency and life giving importance of the ideas, challenges and theology that sparked the movement that is the Rebelution can be overlooked in our familiarity with them. Familiarity often breeds slavishness, and this is something I see all too painfully in my own life on a daily basis. I pray this would not be so with us, but do not take for granted that it is not.

I am looking forward to reading Diana West's excellent sounding book, and hope that it will serve to remind me of the challenges my generation faces, and that my resolve and desire to Do Hard Thing for the glory of God will be strengthened and deepened!

God bless!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Justin Buzzard: How to Prepare for 2011

Hey all,

Due to time constraints, I am not able to put up a normal length blog post, so I am just going to point you in the direction of Buzzard Blog, an excellent resource and blog run by Justin Buzzard that I only recently discovered. He has some great practical advice on "how to prepare for 2011" so that we can have a more fruitful year.

Buzzard Blog: How to Prepare for 2011

God bless!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Signs that Music Might Be an Idol

Hello all!

Is music a gift to you? Or is it a god?

In "Christian" circles we often hear talk of "idols" in our lives and exhorted to root them out - but it seems we often fall short of actually identify idols and presenting an alternative and/or plan to tear them down and out of our hearts. Thankfully for us though, Bob Kauflin takes the bull by the horns in his post "Music - Gift or God?" and identifies 5 ways that music can be an idol to us. I believe his insight is keen and since music is so powerful and pervasive an influence in our culture (for better or for worse) I definitely commend the following abbreviated version of his post to you:

Music - Gift or God?

Music turns from a gift to a god when we look to it for the joy, comfort, power & satisfaction only God can give. Here are 5 indicators that might be happening.

1. We choose to attend a church or a meeting based on the music rather than the preaching of the gospel and God’s word.

Nowhere in the Bible are we told that the church is to gather around music. We gather around the crucified and risen Savior, Jesus Christ. We gather to hear God’s Word in the Spirit’s power. Eph. 2:13-14 says the blood of Christ unites us, not music.

2. We can’t worship in song apart from a particular song, style, leader, or sound.

Anytime I say, I can’t worship unless X happens, or X is present, unless X is the death of our Savior on the cross for our sins or the power of his Spirit, we are engaging in idolatry. At that moment, X is more important to us than God’s command to love Him with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength. That doesn’t mean that there are no bad songs, lousy leaders, or inappropriate styles. But being discerning is different from being unable to worship God at all.

3. We think music leads us into or brings God’s presence.

Here’s what music can do. It can affect us emotionally. Create a mood. Soften our hearts so that we listen more intently. Help us hear words differently. Distract us from what’s going on. Help us focus on what’s going on. Help us remember words. And more.

Here’s what music can’t do. Make God more present. Bring God’s presence down. Bring us into God’s presence. Manipulate God. (Heb. 10:19-22; 1 Tim. 2:5). There is only one mediator, and it’s not a song, style, leader, or sound. It’s Jesus Christ.

4. Poor musical performance leads us to sin against other band members or the musicians leading us.

We’re hardly representing God’s heart when we get angry, frustrated, or impatient with musicians who don’t play up to our standards. God’s standards are perfection, and they’ve been met in Jesus Christ who lived a perfect life in our place and died as our substitute, enduring the wrath of God in our place. ALL our offerings, no matter how well or poorly offered, are perfected through the once and for all offering of the Savior. We can strive for excellence to serve others, while extending to others the same grace we’ve received.

5. A love for music has replaced a love for the things of God.

It’s possible to listen to music that’s destroying your soul and be completely dull to it. To become enslaved by an idol and you feel like you’re breaking free. In his confessions, Augustine said “For he loves thee too little who loves along with thee anything else that he does not love for thy sake.” I have no doubt we love music. But do we love music for God’s sake or for ours?

To sum up:

Music is useful, but not necessary.
Music is good. But Jesus is better.
Music is a gift, but not a god.
Music isn’t my life. Christ is.

The gifts of God are meant to deepen our relationship with God and create fresh affection for him. Not replace him.

May we enjoy and make music to the fullest of our abilities, all for the glory of the one who gave it to us to enjoy in the first place.

You can download a more expanded copy of my notes here.

Many thanks to Mr. Kauflin for his insight. If you enjoyed his post, I would recommend that you check out the entirety of his original post and his expanded notes.

God bless!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Transformed Generation: Making a Difference...Now

Hello all,

Jennifer of the oft featured blog 'transformed generation' has written a great follow up posts to yesterday's ('Trading One Dramatic Resolution for 10,000 Little Ones'). The only thing I would say in the way of an introduction is to emphasize that pursuing excellence in small things as well as big things is or should be a way of life for the Rebelutionary youth. That doesn't mean we neglect the big things (missing the proverbial forest for the trees), only that we condition ourselves to not overlook the small things in the course of everyday life.

I don't want to steal from Jennifer by posting her entire post, so I'm not going to post it in its entirety. I would encourage you to check out the rest of her post here though and leave a comment if you appreciate what you read.

What I am about to say may seem a bit pointed or judgmental, so, as you read, remember that I am saying this to me as well. I'm not innocent either.

When was the last time you helped someone because you wanted to?

When was the last time you helped someone because you felt the need to do so out of the gratitude of your heart?

When was the last time you helped someone because you wanted to shine Christ in that person's life?

I have to be honest that this is not usually the case for me. I usually help someone because I was asked to help, told to help, or because I was guilt-stricken with the thought of not helping so I just gave in and helped. I probably ended up helping with a good attitude, but, more often than not, I held some deep-inside dread about the whole scenario.

I am struck so heavily by the realization that we as young people can never hope to make a huge impact on society or the Christian community or our peers if we cannot make an impact in tiny, mundane, ordinary things. If we can't even help our mothers or fathers around the house, how can we help the hungry, the sick, or the poor?

Only by learning to do the hopelessly ordinary tasks with an attitude that oozes God's love and kindness can we then move on to bigger, more widespread influences. Here's a thought: maybe home is the place that needs the most love and encouragement.

Start small. Clear the table before you're asked. Help your sibling with something before he or she begs you for the fifteenth time.

Then grow. Open the door for someone out of pure politeness. Pick up a piece of trash on the sidewalk and throw it away.

After that, just keep growing.

Many thanks to Jennifer for her exhortation!

God bless!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Paul Tripp: Trading One Dramatic Resolution for 10,000 Little Ones

Hello all,

We're back! that might have been a little dramatic, but as much as we love holiday's and the craziness of "catching up" after holiday's we have really missed posting here regularly. From here on though we plan to be posting everyday and have a great line up of material to begin with.

Let's get going!

No doubt many of you have participated in the ceremonial making of resolutions on or around New Years Eve. For some reason our culture loves making resolutions in a ceremonial fashion and clearly there is value in making resolutions if they help us to set good goals and to pursue those goals until they are reached. Unfortunately though, the vast majority of resolutions made at New Years (or at other times of the year) are not kept by their makers. Some have even said, with good reason, that New Years resolutions are little more than a ra ra attempt at bettering ourselves and - more importantly - making us feel better about how hard we are working to "do better" at a million and one different things.

All this begs a question. Are resolutions of any value? What is it about the way we make resolutions that gives them such a low "success" rate?

In his article titled 'Trading One Dramatic Resolution for 10,000 Little Ones' Paul Tripp suggests that our entire way of thinking about and using resolutions needs to be corrected.

Allow me to quote the most relevant portions of his article:

Rethinking the Annual Ritual

Why am I telling you this story? Well, it's that season once again. It's the fodder for blogs, newspaper articles, TV magazine shows and way too many Twitter posts. It is the time for the annual ritual of dramatic New Year's resolutions fueled by the hope of immediate and significant personal life change.

But the reality is that few smokers actually quit because of a single moment of resolve, few obese people have become slim and healthy because of one dramatic moment of commitment, few people who were deeply in debt have changed their financial lifestyle because they resolved to do so as the old year gave way to the new, and few marriages have been changed by the means of one dramatic resolution.

Is change important? Yes, it is for all of us in some way. Is commitment essential? Of course! There is a way in which all of our lives are shaped by the commitments we make. But biblical Christianity—which has the gospel of Jesus Christ at its heart—simply doesn't rest its hope in big, dramatic moments of change.

Living in the Utterly Mundane

The fact of the matter is that the transforming work of grace is more of a mundane process than it is a series of a few dramatic events. Personal heart and life change is always a process. And where does that process take place? It takes place where you and I live everyday. And where do we live? Well, we all have the same address. Our lives don't careen from big moment to big moment. No, we all live in the utterly mundane.

Most of us won't be written up in history books. Most of us only make three or four momentous decisions in our lives, and several decades after we die, the people we leave behind will struggle to remember the event of our lives. You and I live in little moments, and if God doesn't rule our little moments and doesn't work to recreate us in the middle of them, then there is no hope for us, because that is where you and I live.

The little moments of life are profoundly important precisely because they are the little moments that we live in and that form us. This is where I think "Big Drama Christianity" gets us into trouble. It can cause us to devalue the significance of the little moments of life and the "small-change" grace that meets us there. And because we devalue the little moments where we live, we don't tend to notice the sin that gets exposed there. We fail to seek the grace that is offered to us.

The 10,000 Little Moments

You see, the character of a life is not set in two or three dramatic moments, but in 10,000 little moments. The character that was formed in those little moments is what shapes how you respond to the big moments of life.

What leads to significant personal change?

10,000 moments of personal insight and conviction
10,000 moments of humble submission
10,000 moments of foolishness exposed and wisdom gained
10,000 moments of sin confessed and sin forsaken
10,000 moments of courageous faith
10,000 choice points of obedience
10,000 times of forsaking the kingdom of self and running toward the kingdom of God
10,000 moments where we abandon worship of the creation and give ourselves to worship of the Creator.

And what makes all of this possible? Relentless, transforming, little-moment grace. You see, Jesus is Emmanuel not just because he came to earth, but because he makes you the place where he dwells. This means he is present and active in all the mundane moments of your daily life.

There is a lot of meat in the above and I wish I could comment but time is short and I must run. I highly recommend that you read the entirety of Mr. Tripps article here.

God bless!