Circumstances

The real challenge of Christian living is not to eliminate every uncomfortable circumstance from our lives, but to trust our sovereign, wise, good, and powerful God in the midst of every situation.

– Macarthur, Anxious for Nothing 

Am I complaining?

I complain. A lot. I complain verbally and silently. I am, at the core of my being, a person who is prone to murmur and complain. I am like those dear wandering Israelites in the desert, bless their hearts.

Sometimes I just come out and say, “I hate this.” I could be talking about internal struggles with anxiety, or a time of marital stress, or having to have my Spanish corrected again.

Sometimes I just dwell on it, enjoying the taste of imagined offenses affirming my bitterness toward someone else.

Sadly, neither complaining nor stewing fits under “spiritual disciplines.”
In contrast, speaking truth to ourselves is something that every believer is called to do. Paul calls it “destroying arguments and lofty opinions raised against the knowledge of God,” and “taking every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor 10:5). Truth speaking is reminding myself what I know is true during times when I don’t feel like it.

But the struggle I have is that many times I haven’t fully recognized the struggle, or the needed truth until I start to talk about it. At times I feel like I need to voice my struggle and err on the side of sounding like I am complaining in order to take my anxiety into the light. It seems like only then I can own it and remember the truth.

  • Saying “I am struggling with culture shock” has been a way for me to battle it.
  • Saying “I am really weak right now” has helped me fight the impulse of “I just need to push through.”
  • Saying, “I am struggling with bitterness” has helped me to pray for the person I punish in my mind.

But then I feel like I am complaining.

Both complaining and speaking truth to myself include recognition, and often times, vocalization, of adversity. But there is a difference.

  • Complaining sees no hope, while truth speaking looks to Christ.
  • Complaining seeks to affirm the reasons for my bad attitude. Truth speaking reminds myself for my reasons why I don’t need to complain.
  • Complaining vilifies the circumstance, person, or object. Truth speaking reveals my own sinful heart and need of Christ.
  • Complaining drives me deeper into the dungeon. Truth speaking leads me out of the cell.

But just as there is a danger of really complaining when we are trying to speak truth, there is an equal danger of accusing someone of complaining when they are speaking truth. I think that if we were to have sat and listened to some of Psalmists write their poems, we would have tried to rebuke them.

So, if you ever come across someone like me, someone who is struggling to believe the truths they know are true, will you help them?

  • Help them by seeing their struggle and affirming that it would be hard given the circumstance they are in.
  • Help them by hearing the truths that they are trying to believe, and affirming them if they are biblical.
  • Help them by praying then, and regularly, for them.
  • Help them by making it safe to be honest about their struggle.

Hope in Dark places

Anger
Disgust
Fear
Sadness
Those were my initial reactions to the courses we were required to take to complete our clearance process with BMM. Every missionary is required to take two classes on Prevention of Sexual Abuse. One is an in-house seminar on problems and procedures, and the other is an online course.

It is hard to hear statistics like “One in four women and one in six men have been or will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime” (Holcomb & Holcomb, God Made All of Me).

But there is hope. There is hope for those who have been abused and there is hope for those who seek to eliminate the abuse. There is hope because of Jesus Christ. With that hope I encourage everyone to investigate these resources:

Darkness to Light – www.d2l.org
A website devoted to ending child sexual abuse. They offer articles, statistics, and a 2 hour course which helps to “raise awareness of the prevalence and consequences of child sexual abuse by educating adults about the steps they can take to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to the reality of child sexual abuse.” While it is not a specifically Christian organization, they are doing a good job at informing us of the dangers of abuse and opportunities to eliminate it.

God Made All of Me by Holcomb & Holcomb
A children’s book which helps parents talk with their 2-8 year old children about their bodies and how to protect them.

On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse at Church by Reju
A book dedicated to examine“ why child predators target churches and offers eleven straightforward strategies to protect children from abuse and to help young victims recover if it does happen.”

A Proposal:

  • I would encourage every individual to take the Darkness to Light 2 hour course.
  • I would encourage every family with young children to purchase Holcombs’ book and read through it.
  • I would encourage every church to purchase Reju’s book and teach a class for leaders, teachers, and families on the principles.

“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”

Matthew 18:5-6

Like swallowing chocolate covered arsenic…

I have been convicted about how I use my words. The conviction is part of the reason I picked up this book, and more conviction came as I read this book.

I criticize because I think I know better.

I mock because I think I could do better.

I belittle because I think I am better.

These ought not to be so. They are symptoms of a sinful heart. In “Resisting Gossip,” Mitchell defines gossip in this way, “Gossip is bearing bad news behind someone’s back out of a bad heart.” And while it is tempting, pervasive, and easy, there is hope in Christ for those who gossip and those who are hurt by it.

I would recommend “Resisting Gossip” to individuals and small groups in personal reading, Bible studies, or church groups. It will be a challenge whether you have been on the receiving end of gossip, or the carrier. It will help to define, spot, and deal with gossip in your own heart and in your circle of friends.

Click here to read a full review, and consider picking up this short book and reading through it with a friend.

Mitchell, Matthew C. Resisting Gossip: Winning the War of the Wagging Tongue. CLC Publications, 2013.

Lewis on Surprise and Sin

Quote

“When I come to my evening prayers and try to reckon up the sins of the day, nine times out of ten the most obvious one is some sin against charity; I have sulked or snapped or sneered or snubbed or stormed. And the excuse that immediately springs to my mind is that the provocation was so sudden and unexpected; I was caught off my guard, I had not time to collect myself. Now that may be an extenuating circumstance as regards those particular acts: they would obviously be worse if they had been deliberate and premeditated. On the other hand, surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light. Apparently the rats of resentment and vindictiveness are always there in the cellar of my soul” (Lewis, 192)

Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity. New York: HarperCollins, 2001.

There’s a book for that…

Do you ever wonder:

  • if there isn’t something greater to give your life to?
  • why you get so upset about little things?
  • why it is so hard to forgive sometimes?

Read this book: Tripp, Paul David. A Quest for More: Living for Something Bigger than You. Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2008.

Point: When we are the center of our solar system we live within a shoebox. When our glorious God is the center of all that we are we are pulled into a universe full of his glory.

Read the full review on Amazon by clicking on the book title. Let us know if it is helpful.

It is on sale on Kindle now. Definitely worth it.

How Can I Change? Worship

Part of the “How Can I Change?” series. See the overviewsorrowaccountabilitythe churchradical measuresgratitudeconfessionhumilityspiritual disciplinesScripture intakeScripture intake 2, and prayer.

Worship

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 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. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Col 3:12-17)

Definition: Worship is appropriately focusing on and responding to the worthy God

What is the passage saying?

Along with many other truths, this passage illuminates several key ideas concerning worship:

1. Worship is fueled by revelation (16a: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly”)

2. Worship involves response (“teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs”)

A. This must be internal (“with thankfulness in your hearts to God”)

B. This can be external (teaching, admonishing, singing, word, or deed)

C, This can be individually (“whatever you do”) or corporately (“one another”)

How is it connected to grace?

  • God graciously reveals himself to us and calls us to respond (in Creation, in Scripture, in Christ himself)
  • God graciously changes our hearts to worship him and not ourselves (Rom 1:19-23)
  • God graciously changes us into the image of the one we worship (Heb 13:20-21)

What will it look like in my life? (How does that actually help me change?)

Example: Your friend sits next to you regularly in church. You try not to be distracted, but you can’t help but lose concentration when he seems more interested in his phone than in the service. There is little to no singing. When the Scripture is read or prayer is made, you can actually feel the restlessness creeping down the pew. The listening to the preaching begins well, but soon the Bible on their phone is switched out to check on other pressing matters involving Facebook, Twitter, Fruit Ninja, and Weather. When you talk about church with him, you regularly hear, “I just never get anything out of it. I’m just not being fed.” How do you think a proper attitude of worship might change his following of Christ?

Example 2: Your friend reads her Bible regularly but she seems bored. It is a duty. There is no joy in doing it. What change in mindset could transform her personal time in the Word?

Steps

  • Put yourself in the place to receive revelation (reading, listening, come to services,
  • Prepare your mind to accept the revelation (pray, anticipate, get sleep the night before, pray before you come, listen, actively think through what is being said)
  • Be ready to respond to the revelation (prayer, song, words, and deeds. Pray God’s words back to him, sing to him and about him sincerely)

 

What can I Do?

  • What is your attitude about putting yourself in the place to receive revelation? (personal reading, corporate gatherings, etc)
  • What is one thing you could do in order to prepare your mind to accept the revelation?
  • What is one step you could take to respond to revelation that incorporates your accountability partners or mentor?

 

“There are some graces and blessings that God gives only in the “meeting together” with other believers” (Whitney, 92).

 Resources:

Mahaney, C.J., and Rovin Boisvert. “Chapter Six: Tools of the Trade (2).” In How Can I Change?: Victory in the Struggle Against Sin, edited by Greg Somerville, 69–82. The Pursuit of Godliness. Gaithersburg, Maryland: Sovereign Grace Ministries, 1993.
Piper, John, and David Mathis, eds. “Appendix: Conversation with the Contributors.” In Acting the Miracle: God’s Work and Ours in the Mystery of Sanctification, 139–62. Wheaton: Crossway, 2013.
Whitney, Donald S. “Chapter Five: Worship.” In Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, 85–98. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1997.

How Can I Change? Prayer

Part of the “How Can I Change?” series. See the overview, sorrow, accountability, the church, radical measures, gratitude, confession, humility, spiritual disciplines, Scripture intake, and Scripture intake 2.

Prayer (Heb 4:14-16)

There is much to be said about this topic! In this post I hope to give just a brief overview of how prayer is a tool God uses to change us.

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb 4:14-16)

 

What is the passage saying?

Briefly summarizing this incredible passage, we must see that because of Jesus’ work:

1. We can, and we must, persevere in our faith (14-15)

  • If we do, we will enter the promised rest (ch 4)
  • If we do not, we will not enter the rest (4:1) (for a complete study of these warning passages, see Schreiner, Thomas R., and Ardel B. Caneday. The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance and Assurance. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001)

2. We can, and we must, go before our caring high priest (16)

  • If we do, we will receive mercy and grace to help in time of need
  • This is one of God’s means for keeping us till the end

 

How is it connected to grace?

  • Prayer is a gracious gift. From the viewpoint of our sinfulness this is not a right we have in our own self. It is an extremely valuable privilege. Viewed from our standing in Christ, we have all liberty to go before the throne of grace.
  • Prayer is God’s means of bestowing gracious gifts such as: Perseverance, Mercy, Grace, Help…

How might God use prayer to bestow these gifts? God uses prayer to change me by:

  • Focusing my attention on God rather than my problem
  • Focusing my attention on truth rather than lies
  • Focusing my attention on others rather than myself

 

Prayer is a way God get’s our eyes in the right place. Remember Peter and his short walk on the water (Matt 14:22-33)? What was the cause of his sudden sinking? He took his eyes off of Jesus. One application we can make from that passage is that when our eyes are on the problem in front of us, the circumstances we are in, or the fear in us, we sink. We may flounder in discouragement or depression. We may thrash about in a “works righteousness” attitude or an “I can do it on my own” mentality. Either way we are sinking, and it is because our eyes are in the wrong place. Prayer is a means God uses to change that.

What will it look like in my life? (How does that actually help me change?)

Example: You have noticed the life literally drain out of your friend over the past few months. It is nothing new. It actually happens every year about this time. Her eyes grow dark, her conversations few, her temper short. When you have talked with her about it in the past she has said, “I’m just under a lot of stress right now. School, work, and family things are weighing me down. I’m sort of a perfectionist, so I just need to get these responsibilities wrapped up and I will be fine.” But she is hurting, you can tell. This time has gone farther. It seems as though depression has slipped in and locked the door. What can you do?

 

Steps: Obviously the answer has many facets, but one area that can change your friend’s outlook is encouraging her to go before her caring high priest. She can, and she must:

  • Pray Scripture
  • Pray Consistently
  • Pray Specifically

 

What can I Do?

  1. Realistically, is prayer a part of your everyday life?
  2. What may be something that you need to replace with prayer?
  3. What could your mentor and accountability partners do in order to encourage you in this?

 

“It’s not cheating to pray Scripture” (Kevin DeYoung)

 

Resources:

Prayer Mate (app): for a limited time this app is free for iOS and Android. Both Crystal and I have found this to be a helpful way to pray consistently and pray specifically.

DeYoung, Kevin. “How to Pray Using Scripture.” Association of Biblical Counselors.

Kerr, Tim. Take Words With You: Scripture Promises & Prayers. 4th Edition., 2013.

Whitney, Donald S. “Chapter Four: Prayer.” In Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, 65–84. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1997.

Williams, Jarvis. “Acting the Miracle in the Everyday: Word of God, the Means of Grace, and the Practical Pursuit of Gospel Maturity.” In Acting the Miracle: God’s Work and Ours in the Mystery of Sanctification, edited by John Piper and David Mathis, 89–105. Wheaton: Crossway, 2013.