Friday, December 30, 2011

Full Celebration

Scotty Smith:  A Prayer about How Jesus Has Transformed God’s Worship

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child [Jesus] to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. Luke 2:36-38
Jesus, there are countless reasons to love you. Today, we’re especially grateful for how you radically transformed the worship of God. The main reason we’ve been created is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, so nothing is more important than God’s worship.
In you, the shadow of worship has been superseded by the substance; the appetizer has given way to the entre; types are supplanted with the Antitype; the preview is over and the main attraction is here; the doxological whisper has now risen to the roar of redemption. Hallelujah, many times over! You have forever changed worship.
Though we admire Anna for her life of devotion—worshiping God ceaselessly in the temple, we adore you for removing all the limitations of temple worship. You were just eight days old when Anna met you in the temple. There’s no way she could have imagined you came into the world to fulfill and replace temple worship.
By giving yourself for us on the cross, you have once and for all atoned for our sins and exhausted God’s righteous judgment against us. You fulfilled the entire sacrificial system and it will never resume. Not only is there now no condemnation, there is now full celebration; for we are fully and eternally acceptable to God in you. The sacrifice we make is one of praise, for you are the Lamb of God, who has taken away our sin, once and for all (Hebrews 10:10). The gospel puts an end to all self-centered fears and me-focused concerns in God’s worship.
Lord Jesus, we also praise you for removing all spatial and calendar limitations on God’s worship. Because of what you’ve done for us, “true worshipers” are those who worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:21-26)—not just in one place, but in every space; not just on certain days, but every minute of every day. In you, all of life is to be worship service. O, the consuming calling and joyful privilege…
Because of you, Jesus, one day the entire earth will be covered with the knowledge of the glory of God. The eternal sanctuary will be the new heaven and new earth. Your wholeBride, every creature and all of creation will be liberated for the praise of your glory and grace. Oh, hasten that glad and glorious Day!
Until then, Jesus, may the gospel free us to worship you, the Father and the Holy Spirit, more passionately and faithfully; certainly through prayer and fasting, like Anna, but also by everything else we think, say and do in life. So very Amen we pray, in your holy and loving name.

Fullness of Time

Jon Bloom post:  A Year-End Prayer for Weary Waiters

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son”(Galatians 4:4).
Jesus, you came in "the fullness of time."
But how many of your children living during the ripening years wondered at your tarrying? A thousand years stretched between Abraham and David. Then another thousand passed between David’s golden age and the moment when time was full.
How many were the wars, rumors of wars, slaughters, disasters, diseases, and famines? How many brilliant leaders, scholars, and innovators blazed across their regional skies and disappeared? How many parents wept and prayed over their broken children as time was being fulfilled? How many longing eyes closed in death loving your appearing?
And how many grew cynical, saying, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:4)?
Then suddenly, Jesus, you came in "the fullness of time."
You visited us like sunrise from on high, giving “light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:78–79). But like a supernova, your omnipotent visit was so short-lived. And when you left, you said, “I am coming soon” (Revelation 22:20).
So again we, your people, are waiting for you. We, like our predecessors, walk in this dark world by the light of your Word (Psalm 119:105). And another year has passed, adding to the previous two thousand-plus. I guess we should not be surprised. Wars, rumors of wars, slaughters, disasters, diseases, and famines have filled these centuries. Brilliant leaders, scholars, and innovators have blazed across our skies and disappeared. Millions of parents have wept over their broken children as “soon” is being fulfilled. Many longing eyes have closed in death loving your appearing (2 Timothy 4:8).
O Jesus! When will “soon” be? We know that you are not slow to fulfill your promise “as some count slowness” (2 Peter 3:9). Forgive us when it feels slow to us. You know we are dust (Psalm 103:14) and that our brief years are full of toil and trouble (Psalm 90:10). Many of us are weary and struggle to keep perspective. Our indwelling sin plus trouble plus waiting tempts us to cynicism as “soon” unfolds over millennia. We do believe, Jesus; help our unbelief (Mark 9:24)!
So our prayer at this year’s end is simply, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20)! We will wait for you as long as it takes. We trust that you will come when the time is full. May that time be soon. You said it would be. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

One God Idea

Mark Batterson post:  One Idea

I have a mantra that I’ve repeated for years: I’d rather have one God idea than a thousand good ideas.  Good ideas are good, but God ideas…well, God ideas change the course of history.  And all it takes is one God idea.
Honestly, that’s how I felt about The Circle Maker.  On one level, you never know what will resonate with readers.  But my gut instinct was that this book would be like spiritual adrenaline to people’s prayer lives.  And it has sold more copies in two weeks than Soulprint sold last year.  Of course, that is both wonderful and terrible at the same time!  All I’m saying is: you never know.  Once you publish a book, it’s out of your control.  And that is both terrible and wonderful. But while it is out of my hands, I believe it’s in the hands of Almighty God because it was His idea in the first place!  It was a God idea.
I remember reading once about the inventor of Silly Bandz who said, “I always believed I’d have that one big hit.”  For twenty years he tried his hand at a variety of endeavors, but none of them ever took off.  But he kept on believing.  Then he got an idea at a trade show in China and created Silly Bandz.  At its peak, Silly Bandz were selling more than a million packs a week.  That parlayed into a small fortune for the creator, Robert Cook.  Cook said, “Everyone wants to take people like me and say, ‘That guy got lucky.’ In reality, it took 20 years to get where I am today.”
That reminds me of something Sam Walton, creator of the Walmart Empire, once said: “It took twenty years to become an overnight success.”
My point?  All it takes is one God idea.  And if you work like it depends on you and pray like depends on God…well, you never know.
Keep circling Jericho!

God Loves Grace Into Us

Ray Ortlund post:  Drawing near in 2012

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”  James 4:8
How can we draw near to God in 2012?  Let me propose two ways, consistent with the gospel.  They are not heroic.  They only require faith and honesty.
One, at those very places in our lives where we are the most sinful, the most defeated, let’s face it and admit it.  Whatever view we take of Romans 7, surely every one of us can say, “I do not understand my own actions” (Romans 7:15).  And beyond admitting the impasse which we thought that, by now, we’d have grown past, let’s trust God to love us at that very point in our existence.  It is his way.  God loves grace into us (Owen, Works, II:342).  Let’s open up.  If Jesus is a wonderful Savior in every way except where we are the most hypocritical, then he is no Savior for us.  But the truth is, he draws near to broken sinners who own up.  What if we saw, in our very sins, the nearness of God awaiting us with greater mercy than we have ever known before?
Two, let’s confess our sins to one another and pray for one another.  No one grows in isolation.  We grow in safe community.  Sadly, such an experience is rare in our churches.  It should be common among us gospel people.  It should be our lifestyle.  We should be obvious, even scandalous, as friends of sinners.  But so often, someone must break the ice.  I see no revival in our future without a new culture of confession.  Personally, I have found a good way to measure my own honesty is the level of my embarrassment.  If I’m not embarrassed by my confession, I’m still holding out.  But it is freeing to come clean with a brother or sister and receive the ministry of prayer (James 5:16).  What if in 2012 we were, to one another, unshockable friends, down on our knees together, not judging one another but praying for one another?  Surely God’s nearness would be there.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Imago Dei

Chuck Colson:  Rejecting Christianity's Moral Framework

You’ve heard me say this before on BreakPoint, and it’s a point I will keep coming back to. The concepts of human rights and liberty as we know them can all be traced back to one history-changing idea; an idea that began with God’s revelation to the Jews and was brought to the world by the Christian church.

And that’s the Imago Dei, the idea that man is made in the image of God.

In fact, it was the Christian concept of the Imago Dei that conquered pagan Rome. The Christians said that women, slaves, children, all had eternal value. Talk about revolutionary!

This belief in the value of every human eventually gave rise to classic liberalism (which emphasizes individual freedom) and to Western liberal democracy. Even the great classical liberal philosophers, Locke, Kant, Humboldt, all acknowledged the West’s indebtedness to Christianity and its principles. It’s no coincidence that the greatest document of human liberty ever written, the Declaration of Independence, states that it is self-evident that “all men are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights.”

But somewhere along the line, modern liberalism lost its way. Modern liberalism has not only enshrined individual freedom and autonomy as the ultimate good, but it has rejected the Christian foundation on which rights and liberty rest.

That is a self-defeating proposition.

Remember, Christianity, while recognizing the real but limited authority of government, always recognized individual freedom in the context of community; and as community members, individuals had certain responsibilities and live within a defined moral framework.

When you remove that Christian moral framework as modern liberalism does, what do you have left? A situation, as theologian Michael Novak recently explained in a brilliant Weekly Standard article, where “there is no universal moral law of reason or religion and the value choices of individuals trump everything.”

That’s exactly the thinking behind Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s absurd statement that “at the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

That is the natural conclusion of modern liberalism. But it is false. And it is dangerous. Because who, in the end, decides between the competing claims of individuals? That’s right, the state.

And we see it in the news every day. Religious freedom, just for example, is being trampled under the onslaught of new-found individual “rights.” We see it in the gay “marriage” debate, we see it in the health care debate, where Christian medical professionals are forced to provide services that violate their religious beliefs.

Folks, here is the point, one that you have to be able to explain to others. I talk about it more today on my Two Minute Warning at By rejecting Christianity and its moral framework, Western liberal democracies are in grave peril of collapsing upon themselves. They will no longer be able to preserve human rights and liberties. What comes next is tyranny.

I will be talking a lot about this in the coming months. But today, please, go to the Two Minute Warning at for more on this critical topic.


Jonathan Parnell post:  Edwards's Resolutions in Seven Categories

Back in 1723 Jonathan Edwards chartered a list of resolutions for his life. 70 of them. And he read them once a week.
Matt Perman writes:
[Edwards] shows us that a well lived life doesn't just happen; it requires intentionality. And intentionality manifests itself in certain "mechanisms" that help us maintain our intentionality. Edwards' resolutions are one example of such a "mechanism."
So Edwards is a good example not just of a life that is lived well, but also of the "practical side" of how to actually build that intentionality into our lives, rather than just letting it remain a vague wish that never takes deep root and makes a real difference.
Refusing to be vague, Matt has organized Jonathan Edwards's resolutions into seven specific categories. This approach is a fresh way to help us apply their wisdom where we live. The categories include:
  • Overall Life Mission
  • Good Works
  • Time Management
  • Relationships
  • Suffering
  • Character
  • Spiritual Life
The New Year is upon us. Read through Edwards's resolutions. Print them out. Consider adopting them as your own for a Christ-exalting, God-entranced vision of all things.


Miscellanies post:  Glory Display

John Calvin on Psalm 135:13,
The whole world is a theatre for the display of the divine goodness, wisdom, justice, and power, but the Church is the orchestra, as it were—the most conspicuous part of it; and the nearer the approaches are that God makes to us, the more intimate and condescending the communication of his benefits, the more attentively are we called to consider them.


Steve Fuller post:  How can we obey the Golden Rule?

Friday morning I was talking with some men about how to be more loving.
We know Jesus calls us to to love our wives, our children, our enemies, our neighbors.
But how do we do this — especially when we’re not feeling it?
Jesus tells us in Golden Rule
We looked at what’s called the Golden Rule — Matthew 7:12 –
So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.
Here Jesus calls us to do as much good for others as we want others to do for us.
But if we are honest we will ask — “What about us?  Who’s going to do good for us?”
Jesus loves that question.  And He Himself answers that question, in –
The most important word in the Golden Rule
It’s the word “so,” which means “therefore.”  Look at the verse again –
So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them
The word “so” shows that obeying this command depends on understanding the previous verse — verse 11 –
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
Here Jesus promises that whenever we ask, our Father in heaven will always do good for us (especially the greatest good of giving us more of Himself).
We first must understand that God will always do good for us (v.11) — so therefore we can devote ourselves to doing good for others (v.12).
How to obey the Golden Rule
Jesus does not want us to obey the Golden Rule by gritting our teeth and ignoring our own needs so we can care for the needs of others.
He wants us to obey by first trusting all our needs to our Father in earnest prayer — resting in the fact that He is rejoicing to do us good with all His heart and soul.
Then — trusting that God is passionately pursuing us with good — we can devote ourselves to doing good for others.
If you are having a hard time loving, try this –
Open your Bible to Mat 7:11 and pray over that promise until the Holy Spirit stirs your heart that it’s true.
Pray until you see that because of Jesus, through prayer, God will bring you good through every problem, good in every circumstance, good in every future scenario — good in everything.
Now notice your heart.  What’s happening?
When you see that God is bringing you good in everything — you will feel growing peace.  Even joy.  Your heart is being filled.
And as your heart fills, you will start wanting to do good for others.
That’s how we obey the Golden Rule.

Listen and believe!

Ray Ortlund post:  Favorite Quote of 2011

“We are justified freely, for Christ’s sake, by faith, without the exertion of our own strength, gaining of merit, or doing of works.  To the age-old question, ‘What shall I do to be saved?’ the confessional answer is shocking: ‘Nothing!  Just be still; shut up and listen for once in your life to what God the Almighty, creator and redeemer, is saying to his world and to you in the death and resurrection of his Son!  Listen and believe!’”
Gerhard O. Forde, Justification by Faith (Philadelphia, 1983), page 22.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Slower and Focused Pace

Scotty Smith:  A Prayer about Simeon and the Pace of Grace

Simeon took him [Jesus] in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” Luke 2:28-32
Gracious Jesus, it’s just a few days after Christmas and already many of my neighbors are taking down their lights and trees. It seems like we’re always in a hurry for the next thing. Traffic never moves fast enough, waiters don’t bring our food soon enough, and the mail isn’t delivered quick enough. I’m no exception to this harried and hurried way of doing life. The spirit of entitlement and demandingness is rooted deeply in our hearts.
I guess this is one of the reasons I’m drawn to Simeon, a man who lived at a much slower and focused pace than I do much of the time. We know so little about this “righteous and devout” man, but we do know he was “waiting for the consolation of Israel”—longing for the arrival of the Messiah, craving the day when God would establish his reign on earth. Jesus, though he didn’t know your name, it was you for whom his heart longed.
Eight days after your birth, Simeon took you into his arms. What a most holy and glorious paradox—that you, by whose arms all things have been made and are sustained, that you would rest dependently in the arms of an old man… Whether or not he expected to die soon, the peace that resulted from that embrace changed everything.
Lord Jesus, it’s only because you have embraced me in the gospel that I have the same peace Simeon experienced. For you are God’s promised salvation for Israel, for Gentiles, and for me. In you I have found the consolation which can be found nowhere else. You are my forgiveness, my righteousness, my sanity, my peace, and a whole lot more. Your kingdom has come and your kingdom is coming. I am fully justified in you and will be fully glorified by you. Only your love is better than life and only your love is enough for my desperately needy heart.
As we’re on the verge of beginning a new year and as I, like many others, face a huge transition in life, may your grace set my pace. Slow me down, Jesus. Center me, settle me, focus me. If I’m going to be in a hurry about one thing this year, may it be to linger longer in your presence—to gaze upon your beauty and marinate in your bounty. Everything else will take care of itself. So very Amen I pray, in your mighty and merciful name.

Ultimate Purpose and Plan

Ed Stetzer post:  New Research Just Released: How Americans Perceive and Pursue Spiritual Realities

Over the holiday weekend, LifeWay Research released some new data on how Americans perceive and pursue spiritual realities.
USA Today ran a story citing the data on Christmas Day and The Christian Post has since ran a story on the findings as well..
Here are a few highlights:
A recent LifeWay Research study found that Americans with even a slight curiosity about an ultimate purpose to life are more likely to participate in worship services, while half of those who never attend church never wonder about life's ultimate purpose.  
Approximately 75 percent of the 2,000 adults surveyed nationally indicate that they either agree or strongly agree with the statement, "There is an ultimate purpose and plan for every person's life." However, 50 percent of respondents who never attend worship services disagree with the statement... 
More than two-thirds of Americans agree (strongly or somewhat) that the pursuit of meaning or purpose is a priority, but only half wonder about it each month. Seventy-eight percent agree "It is important that I pursue a higher purpose and meaning for my life" while 67 percent agree "A major priority in my life is finding my deeper purpose."
When asked, "How often do you wonder: 'How can I find more meaning and purpose in my life?'" 51 percent of Americans indicated at least monthly, including 18 percent who wonder about it daily. Thirteen percent wonder about finding more meaning and purpose yearly and 28 percent never think about it.
The study asked two questions about how often people think of specific aspects of the afterlife, the first being, "How often do you wonder: 'If I were to die today, do I know for sure that I would go to heaven?'" Thirty-one percent of Americans wonder about this at least monthly, including 8 percent wondering about it daily. Eleven percent think yearly about personally going to heaven and 46 percent never think about it...
Reacting to the statement, "There is an ultimate purpose and plan for every person's life," 18-29 year-olds are the least likely to strongly agree (40 percent). This reflects attitudes expressed in other LifeWay Research studies that more closely examine this age demographic and its diverse views of spirituality. In his book Lost and Found, LifeWay Research President Ed Stetzer found that 89 percent of unchurched young adults agreed when asked, "If someone wanted to tell me what she or he believed about Christianity, I would be willing to listen."...
For those who never attend church, the study revealed this group is least likely to pursue purpose and meaning in life or to think about the afterlife:
-- 19 percent strongly disagree that there is more to life than the physical world and society;
-- 33 percent strongly disagree that there is an ultimate purpose and plan for every person's life;
-- 63 percent strongly disagree that they think often about what I must do to experience peace in the afterlife;
-- 50 percent never wonder how they can find more meaning and purpose in their life;
-- 68 percent never wonder if they were to die today, do they know that they would go to heaven.
Feel free to discuss here or use the graphics and content on your own blog as you consider the context where we live.