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Archive for December, 2012

stressed-mom

In my twenty-five years of pastoral ministry, I don’t think I have met a mom, including a preschool mom, who feels like she has done a good enough job. Most mothers labor under the weight of guilt—of frustrated ideals, imperfect performance, and deficient production. The laundry remains undone; story books unread, and tempers flare. . . .

Distorted Guilt

The guilt you feel may be distorted guilt. We may wrongly place ourselves under a law we erect: “Good mothers should do X, Y, or Z,” even though X, Y, or Z may go beyond what God’s Word  commands. I think of my friend—a good mom by any fair standard—who believed that all good moms should take their kids to the library three times a week. Sometimes those false standards come from outside of us—the ideals of your church or small group, your mother’s model, your mother-in-law’s advice, or the latest book or blog from your favorite Christian counselor.

Sometimes they come from our own perfectionist hearts as we seek to establish and live out our own legalism and self-righteousness (Philippians 3:3-9).

True Guilt

On the other hand, your guilt may be true guilt. You and I certainly fall short of God’s standards every day. We fail to love the Lord our God with everything we’ve got and we fail to love our spouses and children the way we selfishly love ourselves. Whether you are mother of a pair of preschoolers or a dad (like me) with two grown children, the apostle John reminds us, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us…If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives” (1 John 1:8, 10).

God’s Answer for Our Guilt: Christ

What is God’s answer for your guilt? Jesus Christ and His death, burial, and resurrection for all who repent, believe, and follow him. Sandwiched between John’s two convicting verses above is 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” For those who honestly own their sins, God grants free pardon and thorough cleansing.

While you may find it hard as preschool mom to even get time for a shower, let God’s personal promises of forgiveness spray over you today as you turn toward him in repentance and faith:

  • “Daughter, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5).
  • “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:11-12).
  • “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance?… You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:18-19).
  • “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).
  • “In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back” (Isaiah 38:17).
  • “I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you” (Isaiah 44:22).

Instead of endless drips of guilt, God bathes believers in Christ with forgiveness. His promises of daily grace cascade upon you like an invigorating waterfall. Especially on those days when you don’t feel good enough.

 

Source: Robert Jones (Biblical Counseling Coalition)

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HoldingHands

Take time to look over the following marriage resource by Deepak Reju:

(Click on the link below)

a_do-it-yourself_marriage_retreat_-_2011_version

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Jesus loves me this I know

 “Jesus loves me, this I know” is a critical component of spiritual renewal, but the song must not end with Jesus and me. True knowledge of and dependence on the love of Jesus as He is offered in the Gospel will also have us singing “Jesus loves me this I show.” Allow me to add a new verse to complete an old classic:

Jesus loves me this I show

When the Spirit overflows

Loving God and Loving Man

With my head, my heart, my hands

Yes, Jesus loves me Yes,

Jesus loves me Yes,

Jesus loves me

My life is sure to show

Yes, Jesus loves me

The world will surely know

Source: www.cruciformlife.wordpress.com

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“Christmas Is for Those Who Hate It Most”

by Matt Redmond

We are by now accustomed to hearing about how Christmas is difficult for many people. The story of Scrooge and his—ehem—problems with this season is no longer anecdotal. It is now par for the course. Maybe it always has been. Maybe the joy of the season has always been a thorn in the side of those who can scarcely imagine joy.

Not too long ago, I heard from someone about how difficult Christmas would be because of some heartbreak in their family. There was utter hopelessness and devastation. Christmas would be impossible to enjoy because of the freshness of this pain. It’s been a story very hard to forget.

I get it. I mean, it makes sense on the level of Christmas being a time in which there is a lot of heavily concentrated family time. The holidays can be tense in even the best of circumstances. Maneuvering through the landmines of various personalities can be hard even if there is no cancer, divorce or empty seat at the table. What makes it the most wonderful time of the year is also what makes it the most brutal time of the year. My own family has not been immune to this phenomenon.

But allow me to push back against this idea a little. Gently. I think we have it all backwards. We have it sunk deep into our collective cultural consciousness that Christmas is for the happy people. You know, those with idyllic family situations enjoyed around stocking-strewn hearth dreams. Christmas is for healthy people who laugh easily and at all the right times, right? The successful and the beautiful, who live in suburban bliss, can easily enjoy the holidays. They have not gotten lost on the way because of the GPS they got last year. They are beaming after watching a Christmas classic curled up on the couch as a family in front of their ginormous flat-screen. We live and act as if this is who should be enjoying Christmas.

But this is backwards. Christmas—the great story of the incarnation of the Rescuer—is for everyone, especially those who need a rescue. Jesus was born as a baby to know the pain and sympathize with our weaknesses. Jesus was made to be like us so that in his resurrection we can be made like him; free from the fear of death and the pain of loss. Jesus’ first recorded worshipers were not of the beautiful class. They were poor, ugly shepherds, beat down by life and labor. They had been looked down on over many a nose.

Jesus came for those who look in the mirror and see ugliness. Jesus came for daughters whose fathers never told them they were beautiful. Christmas is for those who go to “wing night” alone. Christmas is for those whose lives have been wrecked by cancer, and the thought of another Christmas seems like an impossible dream. Christmas is for those who would be nothing but lonely if not for social media. Christmas is for those whose marriages have careened against the retaining wall and are threatening to flip over the edge. Christmas is for the son whose father keeps giving him hunting gear when he wants art materials. Christmas is for smokers who cannot quit even in the face of a death sentence. Christmas is for prostitutes, adulterers, and porn stars who long for love in every wrong place. Christmas is for college students who are sitting in the midst of the family and already cannot wait to get out for another drink. Christmas is for those who traffic in failed dreams. Christmas is for those who have squandered the family name and fortune—they want “home” but cannot imagine a gracious reception. Christmas is for parents watching their children’s marriage fall into disarray.

Christmas is really about the gospel of grace for sinners. Because of all that Christ has done on the cross, the manger becomes the most hopeful place in a universe darkened with hopelessness. In the irony of all ironies, Christmas is for those who will find it the hardest to enjoy. It really is for those who hate it most.

(http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2010/12/16/christmas-is-for-those-who-hate-it-most/)

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The lights glow softly, the Christmas music plays, and wondrous thoughts of the birth of our Savior fill our minds. What a blessing it is for the believer who still finds childlike joy in this time of year. Being “grown-up” is a bit over-rated, because being “grown-up,” according to the world, usually entails a constant stiff upper lip and a cynical heart. Now, there are times to be stout, to conceal your emotion, and be a bit guarded, but too often these virtues can be turned into vices. Just as there is time to be immovable, there is a time to be moved. There are things that should stir our hearts, and move us to childlike wonder, and the story of the birth of Jesus is one of those things.

Sin is our greatest enemy, and it has been ever since the fall. In our natural condition, with hard hearts, we are the makers of our own demise, we despise what is good, and we love that which will destroy us. So much so that it seems we love our own destruction. And what is worse, is that we are constantly heaping upon ourselves the wrath of a Holy and just God who will not let any sin go unpunished, and the thought of such things should cause us to weep.

If this were where we were left, there would be no hope for any of us. But as we know, in the garden after the fall, God promised that He was going to give us a seed who would be the remedy for sin. What is often missed is the fact that right after this promise, we see a curse that was to come upon mankind for their sinful act of rebellion, and one aspect of that curse was that God Himself was going to cause children to be brought forth in sorrow. Why would God do such a thing after such a wonderful promise? Of all the female creatures upon this earth, it seems that humans have the greatest sorrow during childbirth, but this sorrow is not without hope. Every time a woman grieves during the pain of childbirth, it is to be a reminder to us of the seriousness of sin. It is a proclamation of our depraved condition, but that is not all it is, it is also a gesture of God’s love for His people because He does not want us to evade the knowledge of our sinful condition and neglect the promised seed.

As Mary gave birth that night in a dusty stable, she undoubtedly lamented in pain. Any of us who have pondered that night and have thought of the cold ground beneath her, with no doctor’s guidance, and no comforts of home, have heard her proclamation of the tyranny of sin. In sorrow she gave birth, but the Child was to be the death of her sorrow, and even the death of death itself. Like Rachel giving birth to Benjamin, she may have had the desire to call Him Benoni, the son of her sorrow, but the Father, God Himself, had already declared Him to be the Son of His Right Hand. His name was to be Jesus, for He was to save His People from their Sins.

Christ, God incarnate, had entered our sin riddled world. From his first breath He was to be known as the Man of Sorrows, and He would endure it all because of His love for us. All we like sheep have gone astray, but as Christ suffered the sorrows of this fallen world, He never faltered in His righteousness. He then, like a lamb, willingly went to the slaughter never once opening His mouth in protest. Without fail, He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and By His stripes we are healed.

If this Christmas season is passing you by, and the thoughts of our Savior have not yet moved your heart to adoration, through the Spirit’s work, may the meditation of our great God and His Gospel invigorate our sin embattled hearts and produce once again the childlike wonder of the Christmas season. Through faith, He is the joy of our salvation. Though sorrow may still be a part of living in this fallen world, you can have joy in the knowledge that any sins over which you mourn, and any sorrows you face, have been conquered by the child who was born in the manger: Jesus Christ the Lord.

Merry Christmas,

Doug Eaton

(http://godwardthoughts.blogspot.com/)

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love

We have spent much time studying the Doctrine of God’s love. One particular portion of this study was looking at the outworkings of such a love in which we concurred with the Apostle John “if God so loved us, we ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11).

Please allow the following scripture references serve as a guide as you seek to apply the principles of our study to your life:

Source: Pastor Paul Tautges (Biblical Counseling Coalition)

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Thoughts on Christmas

by Bob Kauflin (www.worshipmatters.com)

During my private worship this morning I was reading Mark Dever’s commentary on the New Testament, Promises Kept, transcribed from messages he’s given at his church. This morning I happened to be reading his sermon on 1 Timothy. Providentially, it was a message he first gave on Dec. 19, 1999, so it contains numerous references to Christmas. I wanted to share some of his comments with you, along with my thoughts.

1. Christmas isn’t about who’s been “naughty or nice.”

“The news we have to declare as Christians is not fundamentally about our law-keeping or our obedience. The glad tidings we bear are not for ‘good people.’ It is ‘for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly, and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers, and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers’ (1 Tim. 1:9b-10a NIV). I doubt you have received many Christmas cards like that. Yet have you realized this is who the Christmas message is for? The Christmas message is not for a bunch of well-dressed, respectable people who attend church to celebrate a cultural holiday. The Christmas message is a message that brings joy to people like father-killers and slave-traders!” (p. 345-346)

To truly find joy in Christmas, I have to acknowledge that Jesus didn’t become a baby because I’m so good. He came because I’m so evil and needed a Savior. He didn’t come to reward us for what we’ve done, but to save us from what we’ve done.

2. Christmas isn’t merely about good feelings.

“A Christmas card theology of ‘holiday cheer’ or of angels with trumpets singing ‘Peace on earth, good will toward men’ is simply not good enough in a world that includes real tragedies like the Columbine High School shootings, the terrorist threat of nuclear weapons, or, truly, the contents of your heart and mine. If you regard evil only as what those ‘bad people out there’ do, you will not understand Jesus at all. You must understand this truth first: there is far more to the Christian gospel than celebrating the mean remnants of goodness that may remain in us” (p. 348).

The expressions of “Merry Christmas!” and “Happy Holidays!” that I’ve heard so often recently are in one sense a sign of common grace. Many people tend to be kinder and more thoughtful at Christmas time. However, to think that’s all Christmas is about is to miss the point. We need more than a temporary respite from the real tragedies, problems, and fears that plague our lives. We need more than good feelings. We need a Savior. And Christmas tells us that he’s come.

3. Christmas is only one part of a greater story.

“To think that Christmas is more about the stable in Bethlehem than about the cross in Jerusalem is to regard the acorn as more important than the oak…The Christmas message is not merely the fact that God became man by being born of the virgin Mary; the Christmas message is the reason for the Incarnation: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’” (p. 353-354).

Jesus held by the wood.
Delivered and delivering,
Jesus held by the wood.

Witnesses on either side.
Mary silhouetted,
quietly gazing
with great feeling
on her son,
the sky dark above.
As at the beginning,
so at the end.

Jesus held by the wood.
Delivered and delivering,
Jesus held by the wood.

The scene of Christmas
and of Calvary,
of the cradle
and the cross.
(Mark Dever, p. 354-355)

While the mystery of God becoming man stretches the boundaries of our comprehension, his coming can’t be separated from the reason he came. May the two stories – the cradle and the cross – always remain inseparable in our meetings, our relationships, and our hearts.

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