Back for the 3rd year. If you're looking for something to read, here are some of my favorites from the year. I read more books than this, but these are some that rose to the top.
Running Scared - Ed Welch. If you have ever done battle with anxiety (or fear, worry, or any other of anxiety's cousins), Welch's fresh treatment will be of real usefulness to you. It certainly was to me!
The Gospel at Work - Sebastian Traeger and Greg D. Gilbert. Helpful to me in preparing a sermon series on work. If you work (in any way) I think it will be helpful to you too.
Escape from North Korea - Melanie Kirkpatrick. Unbelievable atrocities take place in this closed country; this book will open your eyes to them. It will also give you hope as it profiles the efforts being made to help North Koreans escape the darkness, hunger, and hopelessness of their oppressive land.
The Path Between the Seas - David McCullough. The story spans multiple continents and decades to tell the story of financing, engineering, and building the Panama Canal. Lots of very interesting history here.
Jesus on Every Page - David Murray. I've written about this before. But once more. Really, really good. If you've ever heard a preacher say "Jesus is in the Old Testament" but you're not sure where or how to go about finding him, read this book.
Cold-Case Christianity - J. Warner Wallace. A fresh, enjoyable, and profitable take on apologetics. A cold-case homicide detective applies his evidence gathering and examination skills to the "cold-case" of Christianity.
And a couple from the Middle East:
The Lion's Gate - Steven Pressfield. The story of Israel's 6 day war in 1967 told by the author through the retrospective perspective of participants in that war. Don't know much about the history of the modern nation of Israel? This book will help.
Son of Hamas - Mosab Hassan Yousef. The autobiographical story of the son of one of the founding members of Hamas. Besides being a captivating story, you can grow your understanding of the unrest in the Middle East, learn about Islam, and have your faith in the power of the gospel to reach the darkest corners of the earth refreshed.
Last week we had some thoughts from Thomas Watson about distractions hindering worship. Today, a few of this thoughts on how to deal with those distractions. God's blessings to you as you worship tomorrow and enter the new year!
How shall we get rid of these vagabond thoughts?
There are just two Sundays left in 2014. And as the year closes, so does this feature at the blog. It seems as though it has run it's course. So two more Sunday's Comin' posts (though I of course may resurrect it if I choose).
Are you ever distracted when you come on the Lord's Day to worship? You're not alone. It was a struggle even back in the days of Thomas Watson. Below are some of his thoughts on distraction.
It is said of Bernard, that when he came to the church-door, he would say, 'Stay here all my earthly thoughts.' So should we say to ourselves, when we are at the door of God's house, 'Stay here all my worldly cares and wandering cogitations; I am now going to hear what the Lord will say to me.' Distraction hinders devotion. The mind is tossed with vain thoughts, and diverted from the business in hand...How often in hearing the word, the thoughts dance up and down; and, when the eye is upon the minister, the mind is upon other things. Distracted hearing is far from sanctifying the Sabbath. (Watson, The Ten Commandments, 107).
So, what do do about distraction so that we can worship God on his day as we ought? Come back next week for the last installment! For now, we will do well to seek to leave our "worldly cares and wandering cogitations" at the door when we enter.
In his book on fear and anxiety, Running Scared, Ed Welch offers a revealing perspective on our tendencies toward anxiety. I'll recap it here, but to hear it right from him (along with lots of other helpful stuff on the subject), click that link, buy the book, and get reading! I've added some things and left out others and changed others, but you'll find this idea on pgs. 50-52.
Here's his idea. Our fear and anxiety are usually some sort of projection into the future on our part. We do what Jesus says not to do (Mathew 6:34) and borrow potential trouble from tomorrow. It's not guaranteed trouble. It's just what we think might happen, and of course we manage to think the worst (whatever it is for you - death, injury, illness, financial ruin, a bad report from the doctor, a plane crash, embarrassing yourself in public, ______________ - supply your particular fear). As Welch notes, "Worriers are visionaries minus the optimism." (p.50) The potential for that future bad thing, then, causes us anxiety or fear.
You see, we're like prophets. We predict the future and then behave in a manner befitting our prophecy. The problem? We usually get it wrong. Rarely are our worst anticipations realized. You know what that makes us? False prophets. The Biblical test of a prophet was, "Did his message come true?". If not, he's not a prophet. Deuteronomy 18:22 "…when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him." Isn't that interesting. You don't need to be afraid of him; or in this case of your own thoughts!
So when you dream up your next dooms day scenario for your life, you know what you can do with it? Ignore it. And even stronger, God also told Israel to put false prophets to death. The parallel here would be putting to death that tendency in your life to pessimistically predict the future; kill your tendency to believe those lies! You've not been right before; why do you give credence to your "prophecy" this time? If we're honest, we don't have a very good track record. Judged by the Bible's standards, we'd be false prophets. Since that's the case, we've quit listening to our false prophecies, right? Well, um, no. So why is it we're still listening?
There's a far better alternative than listening to your false prophecies. Listen to Jesus. His word is always true. He's never been wrong. He has peace and comfort for his people. When you're tempted to believe your own lies, battle them with the truth of his word. As Martin Lloyd-Jones says, don't listen to yourself, talk to yourself. Don't listen to the lies you manage to concoct about the future. Instead speak to yourself the promises of God's Word that you know to be true and that have been repeatedly proven in your life and the lives of God's people for centuries.
This is not to say there will be no bad things in your life. Maybe a few of the bad things you've imagined have happened. Jesus doesn't say there won't be trouble tomorrow, he said there's enough for today, so don't worry about tomorrow. But even when those difficult things come, you know what is true? There will be enough grace. And as my dad has reminded me, that grace for tomorrow's trouble, you'll get tomorrow. Not today.
I have a friend who is a pilot and owns his own plane. He knows I like to fly, so he'll sometimes text me to see if I want to go along for a flight. How much do I like to fly? Let's just say I get pretty excited when I see his name pop up on my phone.
Yesterday he said that he was going to do some IFR training; would I like to tag along? [A word of explanation; in aviation speak IFR is Instrument Flight Rules; VFR is Visual Flight Rules. When you first train as a pilot, you train for VFR. For VFR you need a clear day - besides your instruments, you fly by visual cues, landmarks, the horizon, etc. You can see. To fly IFR requires additional training. This is flying by your instruments. Of course you use your instruments when flying VFR, but for IFR you are completely dependent upon them and your communication with air traffic control (ATC).] I decided that I could work in a flight that day, so off I went to the airport where he hangars his plane.
My friend is trained and qualified to fly IFR, but is still working on honing his craft; hence the training yesterday. Not long after takeoff, we were in the clouds. The picture to the left is pretty representative of what it looked like in every direction for most of the flight. It's hard to explain just how potentially disorienting this can be. For example we took off towards the west and it was some time before I realized that we had turned around and headed east. Here we were in the clouds headed for 2 other airports before returning and if I hadn't been tracking the flight with an app on my phone, I would have no idea where we were. Following his instruments and direction from ATC based on the flight plan he filed, my friend and the instructor guided the plane to the first airport and as we dropped down out of the clouds, remarkably the runway materialized in front of us. That is a pretty cool experience. We found the 2nd airport as well and then returned to his home airport. Finding that runway was a bit trickier, but they found it and here I am on the ground safe and sound.
So why put that little story on a church blog? Well, it seemed that IFR flight yesterday is a parable for the Christian's journey through this world. It's not a perfect comparison (so just like with a parable, don't press every detail), but we spend a lot of time not knowing exactly where we are or for that matter where we're headed. We read God's Word and seek to follow the principles we find there. We pray and ask for God's guidance. And we go live in the way he has called us to live, trusting him to bring us to the right places at the right times. A lot of time, we're disoriented, can't see what the next step is let alone the next destination. But God faithfully guides and directs us.
There have been times in my life when I wished I could see the whole plan for my life or even just a few years in advance. Where are we headed; what does God have for us? But he's taught me hard lessons by not showing it all to me at once. I want to live by VFR, but God calls me to IFR and that's hard. But it builds my faith. I have to trust that his Word is truly a lamp to my feet and a guide to my path. After all, we're to walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). Yesterday felt a lot like flying by faith. That's not to say we let go and let God. My friend spent a lot of time yesterday checking his instruments, changing headings, communicating with ATC, changing transmission frequencies, and more (not to mention the complicated work of "simply" flying the plane).
And so we ought to be busy Christians - reading the Word, praying, worshiping, fellowshipping, testifying, living the Christian life, etc. But often it may feel like you're lost in the clouds. Know this. God is guiding your steps to just where he wants you to go. You'll see the runway materialize when you drop out of the clouds and smile, thankful that God knew all along.
Hebrews 10:24-25 "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near." (ESV)
As we anticipate the Lord's Day tomorrow, we would do well to give some thought to how to stir one another up. As you come to worship, how do you plan to be a blessing to those with whom you worship? Have you given it some thought?
Here's a hymn that is also a prayer as we anticipate meeting with God in his house on his day with his people. This is from the Trinity Hymnal, #310 by Horatius Bonar.
Here, O my Lord, I see thee face to face;
Some miscellaneous musings from Pastor Aaron.
When I quote Scripture In this blog, unless otherwise indicated, the quotations are usually from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission.
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