Enjoying the Process

A Spectacular Something

The annual resolutions review is good. And humbling. And heartening. And yes, both at the same time.

My two 2009 resolutions were very much related to two teaching series that occupied my mind: a verse by verse study through Genesis and a retreat on Repentance.

Articulate something six days a week.

This resolution was spectacular, a spectacular fail. It was my “most specific resolution ever,” and though the wheels rolled, they never left the ground. The pilot of my mind was either too lazy, too undisciplined, or too slow to leave the torpor tarmac.

Now, I did do a little light journaling, tweeted a tad, made a few offerings to the Void, sent 52 Weekly emails to our youth staff (probably my most gratifying effort), and answered a plethora of electronic and handwritten correspondence. I also figure I preached between 90-100 times in 2009, many of those messages required new prep. But I know the authorial intent behind my resolution, and spinning the story still won’t make it fly.

On the bright side, this resolution to write was originally charted due to my study of God’s creating men as His image-bearers. As far as that goes–meaning my understanding of His mandate and my perspective on being made for responsibility and relationship–my life, marriage, and ministry have never been more Trinitarian.

Tangentially, I have also taken long strides in my interest in, and capacity for, celebration. The Persons of the Trinity could not be more happy, and my happinesslessness reflected wrongly on the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I’ve repented of running only on the commiserating leg, and that leads to the second resolution.

Initiate individual and interpersonal repentance.

By God’s grace, repentance was back on my heart’s radar week by week. I neglected regular confession in private prayers less, and I did better at including confession in times when leading corporate prayer. I saw (some) sins more clearly and tasted sweeter delights by turning from them. Though it was humbling, a bellyful of knotted-stomach grief came out as I sought forgiveness from others, especially from some who are close, those for whom the flesh prefers to save face. Speaking about repentance at the snow retreat wasn’t done from a platform of perfection, but neither was it done from pretense.

It’s certainly possible that someone reading this may feel like I missed one, with them. If that’s the case, there is no statute of limitations, and let’s get some gospel on it. Otherwise, repentance is one of those resolutions that I hope to have less need for, but am quicker to do, for a lifetime of sanctification.

A Shot of Encouragement

Pray for Your Elders

One out of five ideas at Pyromaniacs:

You see: what if all those lousy elders out there had an army of people like you praying for them daily, crying out to heaven, “God: you have him/them to this church full of your people, and now you have to either give him the gifts to lead them and the love to lead them and the power in your Spirit to lead them, or you need to convict him to move on. Please God: teach this man to be a shepherd and a brother to those whom you have given under his position. They are your people, and for their sake, and the sake of Christ who bought them, make him worthy.”

Enjoying the Process

Thick Gratitude

Every Christian in clay pot ministry[1] should desire God’s glory above all else. According to Paul, abounding glory for God comes from abounding thanksgiving from men, and abounding thanksgiving from men comes from abounding grace poured out as pots endure affliction for men’s sake. But not only is God glorified when bumped pots slosh gospel grace onto others, He is also honored when the pots themselves express gospel gratitude.

We must be examples of abounding thankfulness. We cannot carry pettiness, bitterness, or reluctance and think that we will spread thanksgiving. Our gratitude should be viscous like lava flowing from a volcanic eruption, carrying away small-minded criticisms and negative attitudes and petty squabbles. Our gratitude should be thick and sticky like a snowball gathering speed and size as it sweeps down the mountainside, uprooting every problem tree planted in the path. We need a gooey gratitude, well-nigh impossible to wipe off. If our thanksgiving is runny and thin, it will slip through the cracks and be easily ignored. But gluey, gloppy gratitude restricts how much negativity a neighbor can exercise. We won’t cause gratitude to abound by improving our criticisms of critical spirits; criticizing a criticizer usually doesn’t deter them. Criticism ebbs as tides of gratitude surge. That brand of gratitude will change a culture.[2]

[1] I’ve recently preached a few sermons from the first three paragraphs in 2 Corinthians 4, and verse seven likens those doing the work of the ministry to jars of clay.
[2] By “culture,” I’m thinking first about the characteristic attitudes of a family, or of a local body. I’m not ready to grant that abounding Christian gratitude will usher in the Kingdom.

A Shot of Encouragement

Questions for a New Year

From Don Whitney: Ten Questions to Ask at the Start of a New Year

The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to stop, look up, and get our bearings. To that end, here are some questions to ask prayerfully in the presence of God.

1. What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?

2. What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?

3. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?

4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?

5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?

6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?

7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?

8. What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?

9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?

10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?

Enjoying the Process

Stonified in a Toga

When tall, stonified Susan Bone in a toga says to do something, you do it.

—In a chat with @hobbsandbean, 2009-12-29 04:17 PM

A Shot of Encouragement

In Honor of Tethered Preaching

Good article here:

The Bible-oriented preacher wants the congregation to know that his words, if they have any abiding worth, are in accord with God’s words. He wants this to be obvious to them. That is part of his humility and his authority. Therefore, he constantly tries to show the people that his ideas are coming from the Bible. He is hesitant to go too far toward points that are not demonstrable from the Bible.

A Shot of Encouragement

His Blood is Bibline

He had studied our Authorized Version … till his whole being was saturated with Scripture; and though his writings … continually make us feel and say, ‘Why, this man is a living Bible!’ Prick him anywhere; and you will find that his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak with out quoting a text, for his soul is full of the Word of God.

—In reference to John Bunyan. Charles Spurgeon, Autobiography, vol. 2 (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1973), 159.

A Shot of Encouragement

Wear the Pants

Put on your man pants.

Every Thumb's Width

Seeing Sin for What It Is

Augustine had a powerful and profound impact because he accurately identified the real problem, in his own heart and in the church. He knew the problem wasn’t low self-esteem or bad parents; the problem was sin. He also accurately understood the remedy to the problem was not more of the world, but more of God. He saw sin, not only as an offense to God, but as an obstacle between he and God. Sin lied to him, proffering itself as soul-satisfying. God helped Augustine see sin for what it is, and that God Himself was his highest good.

Augustine’s testimony and insight on the misery of sin help us see sin not only as a hindrance to holiness and to heaven, but also a hindrance to happiness in God. Augustine hated sin so much because it spoiled his delight in God.

God is often pleased to change the world through the bright lights of those lit by joy in Him. We may not affect the church for the following two millennia as Augustine did, but our restless hearts can have joy like his, and it starts with repentance.

A few years before his death, on September 26, 426, a large congregation gathered as Augustine installed his successor, Eraclius. After the decision had been officially recorded, Eraclius stood forward to preach, while the aged Augustine sat behind him on his raised bishop’s throne. “The cricket chirps,” Eraclius said, “the swan is silent” (Brown, Augustine of Hippo, 408). Just the opposite has been true for 1600 years. We should thank God for His loud voice through Augustine.

A Shot of Encouragement

Industrial Grade Sandpaper

[L]iving in believing community is one of the central instruments that a loving God has given to us to prepare us for that great day. Living among fellow sinners, learning how to deal with it properly, is the principal form of industrial grade sandpaper that the Holy Spirit uses on us. But many pietists, including many educational perfectionists, withdraw from that treatment, shrinking from it, and all in the name of maintaining their smooth surfaces. But hiding the rough cut lumber in an unlit shed is not the same thing as sanding.

—Doug Wilson, Holy Ghost Industrial Grade Sandpaper