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John Chrysostom was a church father in the fourth century known for his preaching.
When he was a young Christian he was brought before the emperor, who told him that if he didn't give up being a Christian he would be exiled from the country.
Chysostom replied, "You cannot banish me because the whole world belongs to my father."
Then the emperor said, "I will take away your property."
"You cannot", replied Chysostom, "because my treasures are in heaven."
So the emperor warned him that he would place him in solitary confinement.
Chrysostom responded, "You cannot, because I have a friend who is closer than a brother, I have Jesus Christ forever."
Finally the emperor threatened him, "We will execute you."
To which Chrysostum said, "You cannot, because my life is hidden with God.
There is nothing you can do to harm me!"
Christians should pray long enough and honestly enough, at a single session, to get past the feeling of formalism and unreality that attend not a little praying. To enter the spirit of prayer, we must stick at it for a little while. Eventually we will come to delight in God’s presence, to rest in his love, to cherish his will. Don Cason
Embrace the vulnerability of partial knowledge. If we “know in part”—in our parenting, in our counselling, in our decision-making—we must move toward our God for his wisdom. Mike Emlet (on Zack Eswine)
In this [living hope] you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1:6-7)I’m no Job. The words I used to sing so blithely, with such theoretical appreciation of their beauty, such bland conviction that I’d sing them whatever came – “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21)1 – don’t, apparently, spring to my lips when suffering comes. My lips are sealed, silent.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51:17)Suffering undoes me. It unravels the pride and self-reliance that were woven together with my faith. What’s left is alarmingly slender, so it’s just as well that it’s God, not me, who holds me here. Faith hangs by a thread; yet it holds, tested and true, stronger than spider silk, for the One to whom it clings is faithful. When I am weak, God proves to be strong; and, seeing this, my faith grows stronger.
If I'm failing to demonstrate the same fruit of the Spirit in "real life" as I do online, it's probably plastic fruit. Lindsay Carlson
People like to say life is a marathon, not a sprint, but it’s actually more like a track workout. We run hard and then rest hard. Kevin DeYoung
When you are in the middle of a story it isn’t a story at all, but only a confusion; a dark roaring, a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood; like a house in a whirlwind, or else a boat crushed by the icebergs or swept over the rapids, and all aboard powerless to stop it. It’s only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story at all. When you are telling it, to yourself or to someone else.
Ordinary is a book I have lived. I live it every day. I live an ordinary life, pastor an ordinary church full of ordinary people, and head home each night to my ordinary little home in an oh-so-ordinary suburb. I preach very ordinary sermons—John Piper or Steve Lawson I am not and never will be—and as I sit with the people I love I am sure I give them very ordinary counsel. A friend recently confessed his initial disappointment the first time he visited my home and got a glimpse of my life. “Your house is so small and your life is so boring.” Indeed. It’s barely 1,100 square feet of house and forty hours every week sitting at a desk...
I want to explore this desire to be more than ordinary and this low-grade guilt that compels us to try to do more and be more and act more. I am convinced that we do not need to make ordinary synonymous with apathetic and radical synonymous with godly. I want to explore some of these themes because I encounter them in my own life, I see them in the pages of bestselling books, I hear them at conferences, I counsel against them in the people I pastor, and I often battle to convince my own wife that ordinary is good. It is all God asks of us. It is all God asks of her.
And here’s the thing. I am thrilled to live this ordinary life. Nine days out of ten I wake up in the morning overwhelmed with gratitude that I get to live a life like this. I live it without guilt and regret. I live without the desire to be extra-ordinary and without feeling the need to do radical things. But then there is that other day, that one out of ten, where I feel guilt and discontentment, where I want life to be so much more than it is, where I am convinced that I am missing out on a better life and missing out on God’s expectations for me.
Ordinary is Christian living for the rest of us. It is for people like me and, in all likelihood, people like you. It is for Christians who have tried to be more than ordinary and who just have not found what they have been looking for. It is for Christians who have never tried to be more than ordinary and who are content that way. It validates our sheer normalcy and refutes our desire to be anything greater than that.
It is about being ordinarily excellent, ordinarily passionate, ordinarily godly. It is about trusting that such ordinary saints are saints indeed, fully acceptable, fully accepted, fully pleasing to the One who created and called us.
I think we may just find that this desire to be more than ordinary and to live a life so much more than ordinary exposes as much sin as sanctification. Perhaps we will find it is one thing to pursue godliness and end up with extraordinary challenges, extraordinary responsibilities or extraordinary opportunities, but another thing altogether to pursue the more-than-ordinary as a goal. We may well find that the Christians who really get it are the most unremarkable of all.
Patience is not an emotion that we feel, it's the control of an emotion. It's not felt, it's exercised. Lisa Thompson
Gluttony is the soul’s addiction to excess. It occurs when taste overrules hunger, when want outweighs need...Feasting on God is as foreign to most of us as an empty stomach. Jason Todd
Know each other’s worlds intimately – knowing what are the other persons stresses and worries, feeling like the other person is interested in knowing you, asking open-ended questions and remembering the answers.
Admire the positive qualities in your spouse – what do you like about them and do you regularly tell them. Are you scanning for your partners mistakes or for things to admire. It has a significant impact to say something you appreciate.
Respond to your spouse’s attempts to connect with you – people make bids for connection, empathy etc, which form an emotional bank account, and you can increase your mindfulness of how your partner (friend) makes bids to connect. You can turn away, against or towards a person in response to their bid for connection. This behaviour is apparently the basis of romance, passion and sex. For example, one person looks out the window and says “isn’t it a beautiful sunset tonight” – you can ignore them, say you don’t have time to look at sunsets, just say “yeah”, of you can say “how about we go outside and take a look together” etc.
Time – hang out with each other to catch up. They talked about the importance of making time for this. And that if during this time you can communicate how you feel, that leads to a greater emotional connection.
Enjoy – have fun together. No laughter or fun is a bad sign. It takes five positives to make up for each negative in an emotional bank account, so fun times are important and will help you survive the lean times.
Every trial we go through is “Father-filtered,” meaning that nothing takes God by surprise. Every tribulation that comes our way is permitted by the God who holds our future in His hand....
Preachers like to say that people are in one of three stages:
About to encounter suffering
Going through suffering
Coming out of suffering
If this is true, then we should prepare people for all three stages. Why? Because suffering well is one of the best ways we witness to our faith and joy in the Lord....
No one wants to take the Suffering Class. We steer clear of studying about this subject. We don’t want that course checked off our list. We start thinking, If I’m prepared for suffering, God is going to send a portion my way! Better to ignore it and deal with it when it comes, right?
Take the suffering class. Study what the Bible says about suffering. Don’t neglect Job, the psalms, or the words of the Apostle Peter.
Let’s prepare for suffering so we can be a powerful testimony to the grace and goodness of God in the midst of pain.
The cross is where we die. We got there daily. But it isn't easy ... The cross? We dig in our heels. The invitation is so frighteningly individual. It's an invitation to go alone...
We know it as a place of death. "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature..." (Colossians 3:5). Who wants to do that? Crucify his own pride? Kill his own daydreams and fantasies? Dig a grave for his pet worries?
We simply cannot bring ourselves to go to the cross. Nothing attracts us to it.
Thus we live independently of the cross. Or try to. As time passes, the memory of our desperate state when we first believed fades. The cross was something that happened to us "back then." We forget how hungry for God we once were. We grow self-sufficient ... We would hardly admit it, but we know full well how autonomous of God we operate.
This is where God steps in.
He permits suffering ... Suffering reduces us to nothing ... To be reduced to nothing is to be dragged to the foot of the cross. It's a severe mercy ... Suffering forces us to our knees at the foot of Calvary.
The things you pray about are the things you trust God to handle. The things you neglect to pray about are the things you trust you can handle on your own. HB Charles Jr
There are times to speak and there are times when people don’t need our advice. Sometimes we just need to shut up and keep our well-meaning platitudes to ourselves. Murray Campbell
God has given me a child who requires more than I was trained to handle so that I would depend on him and not my own strength. Christina Fox
Let me put this very clearly: if, however unwittingly and unintentionally, I ever give my little girl the impression that her worth is found in her looks, beauty, and hotness, tie a millstone around my neck. Owen Strachan
If there is one personality characteristic of the vast majority of scientists I have met, it is delight. There is something about science that attracts people who are fascinated and thrilled by the world.
To be sure, any given scientist is delighted by things that you and I may find odd or indeed incomprehensible — the intricacies of protein folding, the strata of Antarctic ice cores, or the properties of Lebesgue spaces (and no, I have no idea what that last phrase really means). But the specificity of their delights is one of delight’s secrets: like love, delight is always most potent when it is particular. ...
In many scientists, delight is matched by wonder — a sense of astonishment at the beautiful, ingenious complexity to be found in the world. This is not the “wonder” that comes from ignorance — “I wonder how a light bulb really works?” — but a wonder that comes from understanding.
Indeed, as we progress further into humanity’s scientific era we have been able to disabuse ourselves of a mistaken early-modern notion: that the more the world became comprehensible, the less it would be wonderful. That turns out not to be true at all — ask a scientist. Wonder grows as understanding grows. Indeed, wonder only grows if understanding grows.
If we replace our childhood awe of lightning with an explanation like, “It’s nothing but a transfer of voltage across a highly resistive material” (an example of what G. K. Chesterton wittily called “nothing-buttery”) perhaps the world will seem like a less wonderful place. But those who actually pursue knowledge of lightning — of electromagnetism or cloud formation or weather systems or climate — end up being more in awe of the world than they were as children.
This is surely one of the remarkable features of our cosmos: the more we understand about it, the more we are in awe of its beautiful elegance and simplicity, and at the same time its humbling complexity.You can read the rest here.
To be sure, many if not most scientists do not see this wonderful world in the way that most Christians would hope for. For us, wonder is a stepping-stone to worship — ascribing our awe for the world to a Creator whose worth it reveals. For many scientists, wonder is less a stepping-stone than a substitute for worship. Yet they stop and wonder all the same.
When your heart is being wrung out like a sponge, an orderly list of “sixteen good biblical reasons as to why this is happening” can sting like salt in a wound. You don’t stop bleeding that way. A checklist may be okay when you’re looking at your suffering in a rearview mirror, but when you’re hurting in present tense, “Let me explain why this is happening” isn’t always liveable ...
We must never distance the Bible's answers from God. The problem of suffering is not about some thing, but Someone. It follows that the answer must not be some thing, but Someone....
Besides, answers are for the head. They don’t always reach the problem where it hurts — in the gut and in the heart. When a person is sorely suffering … people are like hurting children looking into the faces of their parents, crying and asking, “Daddy, why?” Those children don’t want explanations, answers, or “reasons why”; they want their daddy to pick them up, pat them on the backs, and reassure them everything is going to be okay.
Our heartfelt plea is for assurance — Fatherly assurance — that there is an order to reality that far transcends our problems, that somehow everything will be okay. We amble on along our philosophical path, then — Bam! — get hit with suffering. No longer is our fundamental view of life providing a sense of meaning or a sense of security in our world. Suffering has not only rocked the boat, it’s capsized it.
We need assurance that the world is not splitting apart at the seams. We need to know we aren’t going to fizzle into a zillion atomic particles and go spinning off in space. We need to be reassured that the world, the universe, is not in nightmarish chaos, but orderly and stable.
God must be at the centre of things. He must be in the centre of our suffering. What’s more, he must be Daddy. Personal and compassionate. This is our cry.
God, like a father, doesn’t just give advice. He gives himself. He becomes the husband to the grieving widow (Isaiah 54:5). He becomes the comforter to the barren woman (Isaiah 54:1). He becomes the bridegroom to the single person (Psalm 10:14). He is the healer to the sick (Exodus 15:26). He is the wonderful counsellor to the confused and depressed (Isaiah 9:6).
This is what you do when someone you love is in anguish; you respond to the plea of their heart by giving them your heart. If you are the One at the centre of the universe, holding it together, if everything moves, breathes, and has its being in you, you can do no more than give yourself (Acts 17:28).
It’s the only answer that ultimately matters.
|flickr: Prayer by Chris Yarzab|
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. (Heb 12:1-3)
So what does it look like to lean against the temptation to be “everywhere-for-all”?
- Frame your day with pauses that remind you of your absolute dependency on God and ground you in the present. Eswine suggests using the time-honored tradition of breaking the day into four portions—morning, noon, evening, night—and pausing at the beginning and end of each period of time to pray and read Scripture for a few minutes. Although my consistency in this discipline waxes and wanes, I can attest to how it acts as a speed bump to what would otherwise be a frenetic, prayerless, and unreflective day.
- Focus on the here and now as you meet with people. Truly attend to the people in front of you—their words, smiles, grimaces, and furrowed brows. So much of interpersonal ministry is being with a person, not arriving at a destination. We are like children on a long car ride who whine, “Are we there yet?” while missing the glory of the ordinary passing scenery, not to mention the blessing (OK, sometimes!) of being together as a family.
- Learn to value the ordinary, “exult in monotony” (66). If you don’t do this, you miss much of daily life! Without those eyes to see and ears to hear, it’s no wonder the here and now feels insufficient and the whisper to be somewhere else for someone else beckons. Can you smell the sautéed asparagus? Feel the warmth of your child’s hand? See the impish grin of one of the preschoolers in your Sunday School class? Taste the bitter goodness of that first swallow of morning coffee? Savouring these ordinary moments, gifts from God for a given place and time, reminds us that he will give us what is needful for the moments of ministry as well.
As you lean against the temptation to be omnipresent, expect your heart to push back. Even as I write this I sense the gnawing distraction of other tasks before me—preparing for a conference and a sermon, catching up on counselling progress notes, and making vacation plans. Can I be content with what is before me?
- Go to bed! “Sleep is a Sabbath-like act. We rest from it all and leave it all for God’s keeping while we lie motionless in the world for a while” (80). Honestly, this is hard for me. While I don’t have the stamina of twenty years ago, I still am often driven by an everywhere-for-all mentality that trades sleep for the diminishing returns of working late.
"We can only be at one place at one time". That is good news! Whether you are in the counselling room or in a meeting or at the dinner table or getting ready for bed, remember that you live for one Person, and he equips you to live faithfully in this one place at this moment in time.You can read the rest here.
God in His providence may allow great pain and loss for His own glory. Severe in its pain but merciful because through it we see the glory of God. Lisa Spence
Don’t ask how your investment will be paying off in just thirty years. Ask how it will be paying off in thirty million years. Randy Alcorn
Suffered things are learned things. Eugene Peterson
"Jacob, of all the kids in your school, it’s those people, the ones who other people sometimes make fun of, who you must love and be kind to most of all. Did you know that when Jesus lived on this earth, that was the kind of man that he was?...You can read the rest here.
"There was this woman who had been sick for a really, really long time. For years and years she had been bleeding. There probably were a lot of people who were unkind to her, and said mean stuff to her. Or maybe they ignored her and didn’t bother saying anything to her at all. A lot of people probably thought this woman was strange and that she didn’t need their love or kindness.
"And then one day, Jake, this woman meets Jesus. She is in the crowd, and she sees Him: Jesus, God Himself, the King of all the kings of the world, full of power and strength. She reached to Him, stretching her fingers toward Him, and she touched the bottom of His robe. And Jake, when Jesus felt this sick woman touch his clothes, He turned and looked for her. He found her. He saw her. He saw a woman who needed kindness, and love. He spoke words to encourage her and He healed her."
We tell stories to our children to help them understand and believe. But sometimes He takes our own words, intended for them, and circles them inward to pierce our own heart. Sometimes as the story unfolds, the reminder is actually for us.
When the battle with sin is ugly or when my heart grows cold or when wounds are deep and healing seems impossible, I look to a Saviour who has let Himself be known to me in intricate, recorded detail: He was gentle; He was kind; He looked into the eyes of that woman and spoke to her with compassion and grace.
Jane: Am meant to do the big 25 min run tomorrow... Feeling scared!
Jean: You are so far ahead of me now! How are you finding it?
I bought a pile of jogging clothes from Target today. Sick of coming home from a jog and having to wash everything I have on! Well, I'll still have to wash it, but at least I won't have to delve into my not-that-huge wardrobe...
I had to prove to myself it was worth the cost. Getting to 20 minutes and enjoying it did that!
Jane: Oh yay for jogging clothes! I never thought I'd love the sight of bike pants so much - can't run in shorts - they just ride up the whole time. Most of my stuff is Target too - good range, good prices.
Are you running this weekend?
Jean: Yes, I will be running today or tomorrow, but I'm up to day 1 of the week you just finished. I was sick with a tummy bug that other week!
My problem is I need a pocket for my iPhone, so leggings and bike pants are mostly out. I went for something looser with pockets. I've been running in a pair of old, cream-coloured 3/4 pants with a tight waist (they need to be tight or they fall down!). Effective but kinda daggy. Don't feel comfortable about showing my legs in shorts. How vain am I?!
Jane: Yes, it's all about problem solving (e.g. phone) whilst considering what you're comfortable wearing in public! I invested in a running band that holds my iPhone and it's terrific - never need to worry about what my phone's doing and it means I can go for the over-the-knee style bike pants. It was $30 from Rebel and it's mostly made out of wetsuit material except for a clear plastic part for the front of the phone.
You caught me after just getting home from the last run of week 6 - 25 mins. I was scared it would be too hard, but it really wasn't. Might go back to bed now though!A few weeks later I invest in a waist band for my iPhone and a new pair of running shoes.
You don’t find out He’s your refuge until you’ve had to flee to Him for refuge — until you become a refugee. Georgianne
Children will run from law and they’ll run from grace. The ones who run from law rarely come back. But the ones who run from grace always come back. Grace draws its own back home. Tullian Tchividjian