Prayer

Wise words from John Piper.

“. . . the hard truth is that most Christians don’t pray very much. They pray at meals—unless they’re still stuck in the adolescent stage of calling good habits legalism. They whisper prayers before tough meetings. They say something brief as they crawl into bed. But very few set aside set times to pray alone—and fewer still think it is worth it to meet with others to pray. And we wonder why our faith is weak. And our hope is feeble. And our passion for Christ is small.

And meanwhile the devil is whispering all over this room: “The pastor is getting legalistic now. He’s starting to use guilt now. He’s getting out the law now.” To which I say, “To hell with the devil and all of his destructive lies. Be free!” Is it true that intentional, regular, disciplined, earnest, Christ-dependent, God-glorifying, joyful prayer is a duty? . . . Is it a discipline?

You can call it that.

It’s a duty the way it’s the duty of a scuba diver to put on his air tank before he goes underwater.

It’s a duty the way pilots listen to air traffic controllers.

It’s a duty the way soldiers in combat clean their rifles and load their guns.

It’s a duty the way hungry people eat food.

It’s a duty the way thirsty people drink water.

It’s a duty the way a deaf man puts in his hearing aid.

It’s a duty the way a diabetic takes his insulin.

It’s a duty the way Pooh Bear looks for honey.

It’s a duty the way pirates look for gold.
I hate the devil, and the way he is killing some of you by persuading you it is legalistic to be as regular in your prayers as you are in your eating and sleeping and Internet use. Do you not see what a sucker he his making out of you? He is laughing up his sleeve at how easy it is to deceive Christians about the importance of prayer.

God has given us means of grace. If we do not use them to their fullest advantage, our complaints against him will not stick. If we don’t eat, we starve. If we don’t drink, we get dehydrated. If we don’t exercise a muscle, it atrophies. If we don’t breathe, we suffocate. And just as there are physical means of life, there spiritual are means of grace. Resist the lies of the devil in 2009, and get a bigger breakthrough in prayer than you’ve ever had.”

Idolatry in Ministry

From an interview with Tim Keller

Q: What safeguards should 20-something pastors have in place to avoid the idolatry of ministry fame and the attitude of big numbers equals success?

TK: If you know it is a danger, that is a very important start. Additionally, when you find yourself unusually discouraged because things aren’t growing or people aren’t listening to you — you have to catch yourself. You have to realize “This is an inordinate amount of discouragement, which reveals the idolatry of justification by ministry.” Meaning, you say you believe in justification by grace, but you feel like and are acting like you believe in justification by ministry. You have to recognize you are making something of an idol out of ministry. When you do experience inordinate discouragement because things aren’t going well, you need to say, “It’s okay to be discouraged but not to be this discouraged. This is discouragement that leads to idolatry,” and you repent.

Additionally, idols create a fantasy world. You may think that you are just thinking about ministry strategy, but it could be you’re fantasizing about success. So be careful about doing too much daydreaming about success, what you would like to see happen. Because it’s really a kind of pornography. You’re actually thinking about a beautiful church and people acclaiming you: be careful about fantasizing too much about ministry success and dreaming about it and thinking about what it’s going to look like.

Community – from an interview with Paul Tripp

What is the greatest hindrance to cultivating community in the American church?

The first thing that comes to mind is frenetic western-culture busyness.

I read a book on stress a few years back, and the author made a side comment that I thought was so insightful. He said that the highest value of materialistic western culture is not possessing. It’s actually acquiring.

If you’re a go-getter you never stop. And so the guy who is lavishly successful doesn’t quit, because there are greater levels of success. “My house could be bigger, I could drive better cars, I could have more power, I could have more money.”

And so we’ve bought an unbiblical definition of the good life of success. Our kids have to be skilled at three sports and play four musical instruments, and our house has to be lavish by whatever standard. And all of that stuff is eating time, eating energy, eating money. And it doesn’t promote community.

I think often that even the programs of a local church are too sectored and too busy. As if we’re trying to program godliness. And so the family is actually never together because they’re all in demographic groupings. Where do we have time where we are pursuing relationships with one another, living with one another, praying with one another, talking with one another?

I’ve talked to a lot of families who literally think it’s a victory to have 3 or 4 meals all together with one another in a week, because they’re so busy. Well, if in that family unit they’re not experiencing community, there’s no hope of them experiencing it outside of that family unit.

We have families that will show up at our church on Sunday morning with the boys dressed in their little league outfits, and I know what’s going to happen. They’re going to leave the service early. Now what a value message to that little boy! Do I think little league is bad? I don’t think it’s bad at all. I think it’s great. But they’re telling him what’s important as they do that.

You can’t fit God’s dream (if I can use that language) for his church inside of the American dream and have it work. It’s a radically different lifestyle. It just won’t squeeze into the available spaces of the time and energy that’s left over.

And I’m as much seduced by that as anybody. We have sold our four-bedroom house because our kids are gone, and we’ve bought a loft in Chinatown, Philadelphia. And we’re amazed at how simple our life has become. We’re grieving over how we let our life get so complicated.

Last year, for example, I put almost $2,500 worth of gas in my car. This year, I’ve put $159 in the first quarter. It’s because we’re walking places, and that slows our life down, and we’re near the people in our church because we’re within walking distance of the church. And we’ve had so many natural encounters with people because of that.

We’re living in a much smaller place. We got rid of most of our stuff. As we went through it, we laughed about how we just collected stuff. All that stuff has to be maintained. It grabs your heart, it grabs your schedule, it grabs your time. It becomes a source of worry and concern and need to pay.

So we’ve just been confronted with how all of those things that aren’t evil in themselves become the complications of life that keep us away from the kind of community that we need in order to hold on to our identity.

Wonderful Reminder

“Christ is the glory of God. His blood-soaked cross is the blazing center of that glory. By it He bought for us every blessing–temporal and eternal. And we don’t deserve any. He bought them all. Because of Christ’s cross, God’s elect are destined to be sons of God. Because of His cross all guilt is removed, and sins are forgiven, and perfect righteousness is imputed to us, and the love of God is poured out in our hearts by the Spirit, and we are being conformed to the image of Christ.

Therefore, every enjoyment in this life and the next that is not idolatry is a tribute to the infinite value of the cross of Christ–the burning center of the glory of God. And thus a cross-centered, cross-exalting, cross-saturated life is a God-glorifying life–the only God-glorifying life. All others are wasted.”

– John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2003), 59.

 

Superb

“The key difference between a Pharisee and a believer in Jesus is inner heart motivation. Pharisees are being good but out of a fearful need to control God. They don’t really trust him or love him. To them God is an exacting boss, not a loving father. Christians have seen something that has transformed their hearts toward God so they can finally love and rest in the Father. . . . Jesus Christ, who had all the power in the world, saw us enslaved by the very things we thought would free us. So he emptied himself of his glory and became a servant (Philippians 2). He laid aside the infinities and the immensities of his being and, at the cost of his life paid the debt for our sins, purchasing us the only place our hearts can rest, in his Father’s house.”

– Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God (New York, NY: Dutton, 2008), 86-87.