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stories aren’t just for kids, say?


File:Norfolk Island Philip Island.jpg

from the Rabbit Room Jonathan Rogers says, “If you want people to build a ship, don’t give them a ship-building manual. Give them a longing for the sea. They’ll figure out how to build that ship.”

Jonathan is talking about stories – “…our children know it’s the story that does the work on us, not the disembodied precept.”

Stories, narrative, tales, myths (real or not real), parables, histories, dramas are what pull us into the Truth. The abstract lines of a truth may sound deep and academically layered, but they rest on the surface till told within their story. By themselves diamonds may sparkle, but they truly look lovely when they are set and worn.

Furthermore, some truths can only make their way into the secret dens of my soul by a powerful indirectness which only story is capable to muster.

No wonder most of the Bible is narrative of some kind or other.

It gets under your skin not just on it.


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year round gratitude by Brandon Miller


year round gratitude

by Brandon Miller (relationship banker)


Thanks.


It seems so typical and natural for one to say that after a door has been opened, a deed accomplished, help given, and for any number of reasons, it is an entirely appropriate response to the above-listed things. I’m required to thank my clients after they speak to us, even if they are angry after the call. It is common courtesy.


I find it interesting that as Christians we are probably the least likely people to show gratitude. We grumble about the choice of cereal we have on Sunday morning, we complain about the slow person in our lane on the way to church, we mutter about the lack of cappuccino at our coffee fellowship, we roll our eyes when we are singing a song that doesn’t agree with our theology, we sigh (sometimes outwardly) when the pastor makes his fourth point… during his first point.


As Christians, what are we doing when we don’t show gratitude?


We’re sinning.  Paul, in his final exhortation to the Thessalonians in his first letter, says to them:


“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

I Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV


The spirit of gratitude that we should have is not a suggestion, or a begging request. It is a command to believers, and it behooves us to obey.


You would think that it would be easy for Christians to obey. After reading great passages of the sacrifice of our Savior and all that he has done for us, you would think that we would just stroll around with big smiles on our face.


How quickly we forget what we have been given! We are concerned with our next job, our next meeting, who we are going to marry and so on and so on, and we lose sight of what we have, and why we should have a true spirit of gratitude.


May God use us to be true examples of gratitude to others, and may we mean it when we say thanks!


“Thou who hast given so much to me, give me one more thing – a grateful heart!” – George Herbert


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Christmas: a loving Father & a willing Son by Ben Kwok


 

Loving Father, Willing Son

by Ben Kwok (missionary in Australia)

 

 

 

I recently took my family to visit the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, our capital city.  With my sons in hand, we gazed on battle scenes and war memorabilia. The boys were keenly interested in the old guns, tanks and planes.  “Look at this one, Daddy! Wow, I’d like to fly that one!”

 

 

I enjoyed their enthusiasm for the sights, since the War Memorial was a favorite of my childhood, too. Yet now as a father, I was sobered by what they were unable to see: the human cost of war.

 

 

Old photos show parents watching their children–barely adults—board troop ships en route to faraway places. Teary mothers embrace their sons for the last time. A father quietly mourns over the coffin of a soldier–his boy.

 

 

How would it feel to see your own son leave home to sacrifice his life — to see a lifetime of nurture and memories suddenly severed?  God gives us a glimpse of the infinite cost of sending his Son to die, when we see their loving relationship.

 

 

God announced, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased….” Jesus testified that “the Father loves me” and that the Father loved him “before the foundation of the world.”

 

 

God extended his love to our fallen world. We know the Father so loved the world that he gave his only Son. We must also remember that Jesus was not only sent by the Father, he offered himself willingly. Jesus “loved us and gave himself up for us.” *

 

 

Together, God’s love and Jesus’ willingness show the amazing grace of the Gospel. While parents never intend for their children to die at war, they lost their sons out of duty. Yet God sent his only Son because of love. Jesus came willingly because of love.

 

 

I cannot imagine losing my sons to war — and yet, Christ makes a greater demand: he demands my life. My heart, my plans, my things, and my family must all be given up to his will. Losing is hard, isn’t it? Even so, Jesus’ love and obedience are at work to fill up my life, because he secured me with his sacrifice. Without Jesus, my old life is not worth keeping. I can stop relying on it, when I instead rely on him — the one who loves me and gave himself for me.

 

 

 

How deep the Father’s love for us,

How vast beyond all measure

That He should give His only Son

To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,

The Father turns His face away

As wounds which mar the chosen One,

Bring many sons to glory.

 

(Stuart Townend)

 

 

 

 

* Matthew 17:5, John 10:17, John 17:24, Ephesians 5:2 


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Thanksgiving & a Trusting Heart ( by Jeff Culpepper)


Thanksgiving & a Trusting Heart

 guest post by Jeff Culpepper on gratitude

 

Have you ever dealt with someone who seemed to do good only when thanked or praised? Good thing God is not this way.    He is good no matter what.  That’s the reason we thank Him.  Or is it? What if His goodness might be hard to find?  If we can’t find it do we even owe Him thanks?

 

 Paul helps us resolve this issue in Romans 8. There in verse 28 he says,

 

“ALL THINGS work together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called according to His purpose.”

 

Wondrously, God is working all things, both good and bad, together for the Christian’s ultimate good!  Now, as lovers of good times, we know that if God says our ultimate good requires some bad times, then clearly He is the One who defines “our ultimate good” differently than we would. How does He? Paul in verse 29 tells us,

 

“For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.”

 

God knows that our best interest is in the fulfillment of His very purpose for creating us – becoming like His Son Jesus Christ.  Since He is working toward Christlikeness in us, employing each moment and detail, we thus know how often and for what we owe Him thanks. We must give…

 

“…thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Eph. 5:20)

 

                But our natural response is:

 

“Hold on. Life’s hard—sometimes very hard! How can God really expect our thanks in and for all? How can we even be sure that this costly goal of Christlikeness is truly our ultimate good?”

 

                So the underlying issue of thanksgiving: God’s goodness—can we trust it? 

 

                Paul provides a poignant answer in verse 32 (and following).

 

“He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” We can be sure that if God has given us already His best: Christ (Jn. 3:16), then He will surely give us now only and totally what is for our ultimate good.

 

                Thus with hearts fixed trusting in God’s bountiful goodness we should gladly make Thanksgiving a daily habit—not just a yearly holiday.

               


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The Purpose Driving Life (by Lynsey Haught)


{this post has more borrowed insight on this month’s topic of “Christian Character in Relationships“}


The Purpose Driving Life

by Lynsey Haught


As his wife was dying of cancer, C.S. Lewis wrote the poem “As the Ruin Falls,” confessing the selfishness of his love for her and accepting the pain of self-sacrificing love:


 

All this is flashy rhetoric about loving you.
I never had a selfless thought since I was born.
I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through:
I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.Peace, re-assurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek.
* * *

Only that now you have taught me (but how late) my lack.
* * *

For this I bless you as the ruin falls. The pains
You give me are more precious than all other gains.


 

Any meaningful cause in life hangs upon the ability to deny one’s own interests for a higher goal. Consider what God’s greater glory cost Christ. Further, any meaningful relationship hangs upon the ability to deny one’s own interests for those of another. Consider what love for us cost Christ.

 

In I John 3 we are commanded to love others as Christ loved, laying down our lives for each other. God calls us to love as He loves—impossible. As Paul asks, “Who is sufficient for these things?”


 

Character is both vital and impossible in any human relationship. The only hope—in this as in all things—is surrendering to the self-emptying love of Christ, to the cycle of Christ-filling and self-outpouring. Only His character can sustain a relationship. I need the humility to see my utter inadequacy in my relationship to Him and to anyone else. I must abandon my right to myself in favor of worshipping His identity and works in every circumstance and relationship of my life.

Once I leave myself no escape route, no competing hope (for in Him I need none), I throw myself in faith on His character. When I can adore Him in His character and deeds, then His life, His strength, and His love redeem mine, moment by moment.


 

It is only as He pares us down to a self-honesty like Lewis’s that our absolute weakness will thrust us on His strength. His character in love lives only after we die to ourselves. Christ’s death gave us life, and our death can draw from that source, spreading His life.

 

The purpose of this love, then, is not to enjoy it, but to multiply it. In John 17:23, Christ prays,

“I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.”

We are unified in Christ that others may learn of His love.


More than the success or failure of any one relationship, He uses His character in our relationships to draw people to Christ. Our relationships are an opportunity to live Christ’s love before those who desperately need it.

 

 

 

{more on character: check out Don’t Reach for the Stars by Josh Jones}

 


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dont’ reach for the stars (by Josh Jones)


We have been considering the importance of CHARACTER.  Here Josh Jones gives us some good insight.  Building godly character may seem out of reach, but Josh shows us that it really is a simple path to follow.  It is a lot easier than going to the nearest star.

 

 

 

Don’t Reach for the Stars Because You Don’t Have To
by Josh Jones

 

Have ever been told to reach for the stars? It’s a commonly heard phrase during graduations or when someone attempts a difficult or sometimes impossible task. Reaching for the stars communicates hope but there is no guarantee. Sometimes that’s how we look at living the Christian life. It’s reaching for the stars, or it’s impossible. It is something we hope for but don’t really expect to attain. It’s challenging to know what God wants and it’s even harder to do it. I’m glad for Deuteronomy 30. It’s in this passage where we find that knowing and doing God’s will in our lives, simply living for Him, is knowable and doable. It’s not like reaching for the stars.

 

A CHOICE: OBEY
Moses is 120 years old and coming to the end of His life. He is preparing to turn over the leadership of Israel to Joshua as they are about to enter the Promised Land. Moses constant reminder to the people is that God’s love is loyal but He also requires their obedience. God desires for a personal relationship with His people but we have to make a choice.

Some people say that you can learn, either by example or by experience. It seems the Israelites had to learn a lot by experience. Moses reminds the Israelites of their past and what will be their future experiences to teach them that God promises restoration to those who repent and obey His commands (vss.1-10). The Israelites were a rebellious and forgetful people who cycled through rebellion, judgment, repentance, and restoration again and again. God however was always loyal to those who repented and obeyed (vss. 9-10). We go through this cycle in our own lives. And yet God continues to be faithful to His people and His word. The key is found in having heart surgery performed by God (v. 6). The only way to love God with all our heart and all our soul is to first experience the perfect love of Christ through salvation. This transformation allows us to make a choice.

 

WHAT TO DO?
The Israelites in chapter 30 were confronted by Moses to make a choice. A decision had to be made to choose life or to choose death (vss. 15-16). One of the best excuses children and even adults make is to claim ignorance. You can’t be held responsible if you don’t know what you are supposed to do, right? Well according to God we can’t even use that excuse because as a loving Father His will is clearly set before us to know and to do (vss. 11-14). God’s command and will for us is ever before us. It’s in His word that we read and that we have hidden in our hearts. It’s right there before us.  You not only can know it, but you can do it.

 

IT’S TIME TO CHOOSE

Moses ends the chapter by comparing the blessing of choosing life and the curse of choosing death. He closes with one final challenge to choose life. When we choose to love God, obey His commandments and make Him first then we have chosen life.