God’s work of change has relationships both as the necessary means and a wonderful goal. Humble community is not the icing on the cake of Christianity. In a real way, it is the cake. These relationships of love are a means of personal growth, a mark of God’s people being purified, and a clear argument to the world for the truth of the gospel.   ~ Timothy Lane & Paul Tripp, How People Change


It’s Prayer Week at our church. In light of this, here’s a helpful list on how to pray for your children and (below) one of my favorite quotes on prayer.  Was it Spurgeon who said this first?

Don’t take God’s delays as God’s denials.

Dr. Timothy Jones writing for the Gender Blog at the CBMW:

I’ve heard the protests before, as a pastor, children’s minister, and youth minister-more from parents, oddly enough, than from children: “Come on, it’s just the kids’ clothes. Why make such a big deal about it? Let them wear what everyone else is wearing! If we don’t let them dress that way, they won’t be able to fit in.”

I’ve even had one parent couch his protest in evangelistic terms: “If I don’t let my daughter wear the same clothes as everyone else, no one will listen to her when she tries to witness at school.” Somehow, I cannot imagine that the low-slung waistline on his daughter’s jeans led any male in her school to anything but the most prurient interest in God’s created order.

So why am I so unyielding on this issue? Simply this: The clothes that our children wear do not merely cover the nakedness of their flesh; they shape and reflect the contours of our children’s souls. What I encourage my child to wear is a statement not merely of fashion but of theology and axiology. (Read the rest here)

I’m home (in Iowa) for the holidays.  It’s been a joyful time being with family, opening presents, singing Christmas carols, and eating lots of food!  Perhaps like many of you, my family went to a Christmas Eve service together.  The service included many songs and many Scripture readings which I enjoyed hearing and taking in.  And then there was the message.  It was okay, but typical of most Christmas sermons.  Let me explain.

Most Christmas sermons, like the one I heard, tell of how God has come down to us (the incarnation) so he can show us the way and comfort us in our dark times.  That’s true, but the incarnation is not the end.  In fact, the only reason why God came down is so that he would be lifted up on a tree at Calvary.  The incarnation means nothing without the crucifixion.  But this is the disturbing part of Christmas, isn’t it?  The little baby born in Bethlehem is the one who grew up and died on a bloody cross at Calvary.  And if we tell only the beginning of the story we have no story at all — at least no gospel story. 

C.J. Mahaney puts it this way:

The purpose of the manger was realized in the horrors of the cross. The purpose of his birth was his death. Or to put it more personally: Christmas is necessary because I am a sinner.

And so, in order for us to see Christmas for what Christmas really is, we must first see how disturbing the Christmas message really is.

Mahaney tells of an article written some years ago in WORLD Magazine by William H. Smith with the title, “Christmas is disturbing: Any real understanding of the Christmas messages will disturb anyone” (Dec. 26, 1992).

Smith ends his column with these words which I invite you to ponder:

Only those who have been profoundly disturbed to the point of deep repentance are able to receive the tidings of comfort, peace, and joy that Christmas proclaims.

And so my prayer for you and me is that we would be filled with peace and joy this Christmas–because we have been disturbed by the God who was born in a manger so he could die on a cross for our sins.

Today as I looked at the Sports Page, I saw that the Louisville men’s basketball team will face Minnesota on Saturday. The funny thing is that I used to live in Minnesota and now Tubby Smith, former Kentucky coach, coaches the Golden Gophers of MN. Suprisingly, they are 9-0 heading into this game with (7-1) Louisville, so it should be a good game.

But here’s the quote from Tubby that made me think. He said, “I tell our guys all the time, ‘Your never as good as you think you are … and your never as bad as you think you are.”

Quite true. Tubby is no theologian, but his words reminded me of another quote by a quy named Jerry (Bridges) who said, “Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.”

May Tubby and Jerry’s words humble us today and remind us of the gospel.

At one of the Q&A sessions of our Promoting the Gospel Conference, John Dickson was asked, “What do you believe is the greatest challenge to Western Christianity?”  John replied,

I think it’s a lack of compassion.  If we aren’t known for our compassion we can’t convince people of the gospel.

This is convicting, isn’t it?  I think of Jesus as he looked at the crowd of people (in Mt. 9:35) and had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and I’m struck with how little I care for the lost people in my neighborhood.  It’s not that I don’t want to see them come to Christ, but am I moved with pity (that’s what the greek word for compassion is getting at) over their condition … and do I genuinely find ways to get into their lives?

Dr. Chuck Hannaford:

Stress is the imbalance between the demands of my environment (real or imagined) and my inability to meet those demands.

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