Reflections - ID

This page is largely aimed at people in the ID Discipleship group and so the content is mostly from a Christian perspective whether written or in video format, but if you're in the Explore group (Visa Course etc.) you may find these posts interesting and helpful too. Posts are added 
on a variety of topics with a view to being an encouragement and a challenge in our daily walk with Christ. 

If you would like to add something on this page from your own personal quiet times, a sermon/talk you were recently listening to, or perhaps something you've been reading, then please email Pete or Andy. 

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Hope For The Hurting This Christmas

posted 14 Dec 2012, 07:21 by Peter Booth   [ updated 14 Dec 2012, 07:22 ]

Dear Friends,

Have you ever wondered what became of the innkeeper in Bethlehem who let Mary and Joseph have their baby in his barn?

Did he have little children? When the soldiers came from Herod, did they hunt for the birth place of the dangerous baby and start the slaughter there? What did it cost the innkeeper to house the Messiah in his first hours?

In the poem called The Innkeeper, I tried to imagine what might have happened when the soldiers came. And what Jesus might have said if he showed up 30 years later to talk to the innkeeper about it. It’s fiction. But its aim is truth and hope and joy.

Desiring God and Crossway Books have teamed up to make a new video recording of my reading of this poem. We hope it will touch some deep place in your heart, perhaps through a wound. Maybe it will find its way into your Christmas family celebrations, or your small group, or even the gathered church.

If you’ve ever lost a child, or ever faced a tragedy, just when you thought you were doing good, we hope The Innkeeper will bring you comfort and strength. In my experience poetry has a way of touching us sometimes when simple sentences don’t. In one sense, I hope you enjoy it. But there may be deeper emotions too. May the risen Lord Jesus turn your Advent and your Christmas into something really extraordinary this year.

John Piper


[http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/hope-for-the-hurting-this-christmas-video]

Purity After Impurity

posted 30 Nov 2012, 12:47 by Peter Booth

This post may strike close to home for some, but in all sin we can hold to the fact that "...

as far as the east is from the west, 

so far does he remove our transgressions from us." - Psalm 103


Purity After Impurity

Editors' Note: A reader recently wrote The Gospel Coalition an honest, heart-wrenching comment concerning impurity before marriage. She said:

I know from experience that it is quite impossible to remain pure when you date someone whose heart is not longing for Jesus. And as a woman, I made that man my "ultimate joy" for a time and thus, fell into sin. I wish I could take it back. I feel ashamed whenever I think about it. I know that forgiveness is found in Jesus. It still wrecks me when I think about the fact that I will have to tell my future spouse of my past indiscretions and sin. I have confessed my sin to God, but I guess I still have to deal with the fact that I sinned against my future spouse.

Julia Huisman (Director of Communications at Bethel Church in Crown Point, Indiana) and Tammy Johnston (Director of Women's Ministries at Bethel Church) share their response to this post.

********************

Shame resulting from sexual sin can be great, especially for Christian women. We're supposed to be good girls. We're supposed to push men away (and coyly, mind you) when they make advances at us. It's part of our moral and cultural DNA. So when we stray from that expectation, we feel weak, dirty, and unworthy. And we fear that other people, particularly our future husband, will see us that way as well.

The two of us (Tammy and Julia) were Christians when we each fell into sexual sin. We both engaged in premarital sex, and we both became pregnant because of it. Our sin was broadcasted to those around us in a very visual way and would live with us for the rest of our lives. We couldn't hide from our sin; we had to accept the consequences that came from it. Doing so required humility and daily acceptance of God's grace.

We have learned, through our experiences and through God's Word, that the way to combat remorse and shame in this area is to:

Accept God's forgiveness. Confessed sexual sin is forgiven in Christ. If you have turned from sexual sin in honest confession, it cannot wreck you, because you are forgiven by the only one who truly matters: God. In reference to sexual immorality specifically, Paul says, "But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:11).

God has forgiven you! He has removed your transgression "as far as the east is from the west"! (Psalm 103:12) Now you must accept that forgiveness. Learn from your sin and aim never to repeat it, yes, but view yourself in the eyes of Christ, who sees you as pure and holy through his grace.

Accept the consequences. Forgiven sin still has consequences, some more serious than others. You did give yourself to someone else, and at times that will be disheartening for you and your spouse. The consequences of sin are sometimes painful, but the recognition of that pain helps protect you from perpetuating a sinful lifestyle. Allow the consequences to fuel your desire to be pure from here on out.

Fight against condemnation. "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). If God doesn't condemn you, then your future spouse cannot condemn you either. "Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn?" (Romans 8:33-34)

After learning of our pregnancies, we both struggled with what to do in terms of future relationships. Tammy ended up marrying the father of her child and is still married to him after 26 years. Julia did not marry the father and instead dated a few men (some of whom were very judgemental about her past) until she finally married a true man of God.

We both knew that our husbands were the ones God intended for us because they never condemned us for our past transgressions. They knew they were equally guilty, whether they participated in sexual sin themselves or any other sin. Our spouses understood that "none is righteous, no, not one" (Romans 3:10), that we are all forsaken without God's grace. Our spouses saw us as Christ does, as sinners made clean through his death on the cross.

It's easy to think that a real Christian man wouldn't settle for a "tainted" woman, that he'll only marry a woman who's pure and perfect just like him. On the contrary, a man who strives to be like Christ will love and treasure you despite your past. A man who strives to be like Christ will forgive you once and forever.

Recommit yourself to purity. You can't change the past, but you can commit to a future of purity. Part of repenting is maintaining the fervent desire to never repeat the sin. This certainly is made easier when you date only "highly committed Christians," as Steve DeWitt says in his sermon "The Bachelor Pastor."

Remember, however, that even godly men struggle with sexual boundaries, and it might be even more difficult for him to resist, knowing that you've already gone there. Don't rely on the man alone to be the strong one, and don't let him rely on you to always say no. Establish boundaries together, from the beginning, and hold each other accountable to them. You are each equally responsible for the sanctity of your own body. To put the responsibility of self-control solely on the other is unfair and unwise.

Purity is a daily choice. Even when you're in a solid, God-honouring relationship---even when you're married, in fact---purity is an ongoing challenge. Humble yourself before the Lord daily and ask for his help in resisting temptation. He will be honoured by both your purity and your acceptance of his grace.

May God receive the glory as you seek love, forgiveness, and holiness. Stay strong, stand tall, and know that you are treasured by your Creator in Christ.

Julia Huisman is the director of communications at Bethel Church in Crown Point, Indiana, following several years in journalism and marketing. Tammy Johnston serves as the director of women’s ministries at Bethel Church, where she has been on staff for four years.

Is The Bible Anti-gay?

posted 27 Nov 2012, 09:44 by Peter Booth


Lord, Teach Us How To Pray

posted 30 Oct 2012, 04:01 by Peter Booth

Here's the first in a short series of short devotional videos, led by Mike Donehey from the American band 'Tenth Avenue North.' 
Click through to YouTube to see the rest. 

How NOT To Make Disciples

posted 19 Oct 2012, 09:02 by Peter Booth


What's My Church For?

posted 14 Oct 2012, 07:00 by Peter Booth

Just saw this helpful summative blog posted on Desiring God, from Tony Reinke. Read it once, then read it again. 

In 2004 John Piper wrote the following in his article, “How God and Christians Treasure Christ”: 

The central experience of the universe and the Christian life — namely, treasuring Christ — is sustained in churches.

God has ordained that when people find the “treasure hidden in the field [Christ!]” (Matthew 13:44) and are converted from world-treasuring to Christ-treasuring, they are sustained and strengthened and matured and transformed and refined and guided and mobilized in organisms of Christians called churches.

When Paul says, concerning the church, “Let all things be done for building up” (1 Corinthians 14:26), he means for deepening and intensifying and strengthening the experience of treasuring Christ. That is what the church is for.

The church is the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:25–32). Therefore the local expressions of the universal church (called churches) are to sustain the affections proper to a bride for her infinitely precious husband. By the ministry of the Word (John 15:11) in the power of the Spirit (John 16:14), the church sustains the experience of treasuring Christ — for her members and for the world.

Therefore, let us pray and work for this great cause of savoring and sustaining and spreading and showing the deepest experience of treasuring Christ. And, to that end, let us love the multiplying and growing of churches where this is sustained.

Peace Is Changing Sides In The Battle

posted 4 Oct 2012, 08:29 by Peter Booth   [ updated 14 Oct 2012, 06:41 ]

Christian peace does not mean tranquility. It means we have changed sides in the battle.

We have changed sides because we are no longer at war with God. The peace we have is reconciliation with God. But we are still at war so we still experience life as a battle. Indeed we often experience more turmoil because we can no longer simply acquiesce to the world, the flesh and the devil.

This, I think, is how we should read the promises of peace in the New Testament.

We are not promised tranquility. Indeed in John 16:33 Jesus says that in this life we will have trouble. But we have the joy of knowing that through the cross we are now at peace with God. He was our enemy, coming against us in judgment. But now he is our friend and our Father. And that means we can rest from our striving for righteousness and the fear of judgment.

Take, for example, Philippians 4:6-7: ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’Paul is not promising an easy life or even feeling of serenity. He is saying that knowing that we are been reconciled with God – and therefore that God is now for us – will guard our hearts from anxiety.

by Tim Chester - see his blog here: http://timchester.wordpress.com/

Don't Take It from Me: Reasons You Should Not Marry an Unbeliever

posted 10 Sep 2012, 03:21 by Peter Booth

KATHY KELLER

Over the course of our ministry, the most common pastoral issue that Tim and I have confronted is probably marriages---either actual or proposed---between Christians and non-Christians. I have often thought how much simpler it would be if I could remove myself from the conversation and invite those already married to unbelievers do the talking to singles who are desperately trying to find a loophole that would allow them to marry someone who does not share their faith.

That way, I could skip all the Bible passages that urge singles only to "marry in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 7:39) and not "be unequally yoked" (2 Corinthians 6:14) and the Old Testament proscriptions against marrying the foreigner, a worshiper of a god other than the God of Israel (see Numbers 12 where Moses marries a woman of another race but the same faith). You can find those passages in abundance, but when someone has already allowed his or her heart to become engaged with a person outside the faith, I find that the Bible has already been devalued as the non-negotiable rule of faith and practice.

Instead, variants of the serpent's question to Eve---"Did God really say?" are floated, as if somehow this case might be eligible for an exemption, considering how much they love each other, how the unbeliever supports and understands the Christian's faith, how they are soul-mates despite the absence of a shared soul-faith.

Having grown weary and impatient, I want to snap and say, "It won't work, not in the long run. Marriage is hard enough when you have two believers who are completely in harmony spiritually. Just spare yourself the heartache and get over it." Yet such harshness is neither in line with the gentleness of Christ, nor convincing.

Sadder and Wiser

If only I could pair those sadder and wiser women---and men---who have found themselves in unequal marriages (either by their own foolishness or due to one person finding Christ after the marriage had already occurred) with the blithely optimistic singles who are convinced that their passion and commitment will overcome all obstacles. Even the obstacle of bald disobedience need not apply to them. Only ten minutes of conversation---one minute if the person is really succinct--would be necessary. In the words of one woman who was married to a perfectly nice man who did not share her faith: "If you think you are lonely before you get married, it's nothing compared to how lonely you can be AFTER you are married!"

Really, this might be the only effective pastoral approach: to find a man or woman who is willing to talk honestly about the difficulties of the situation and invite them into a counseling ministry with the about-to-make-a-big-mistake unequal couple. As an alternative, perhaps some creative filmmaker would be willing to run around the country, filming individuals who are living with the pain of being married to an unbeliever, and create a montage of 40 or 50 short (< 5 minutes) first-hand accounts. The collective weight of their stories would be powerful in a way that no second-hand lecture ever would be.

Three True Outcomes

For the moment, though, here goes: There are only three ways an unequal marriage can turn out, (and by unequal I am willing to stretch a point and include genuine, warm Christians who want to marry an in-name-only Christian, or someone very, very far behind them in Christian experience and growth):

  1. In order to be more in sync with your spouse, the Christian will have to push Christ to the margins of his or her life. This may not involve actually repudiating the faith, but in matters such as devotional life, hospitality to believers (small group meetings, emergency hosting of people in need), missionary support, tithing, raising children in the faith, fellowship with other believers---those things will have to be minimized or avoided in order to preserve peace in the home.
  2. Alternatively, if the believer in the marriage holds on to a robust Christian life and practice, the non-believing PARTNER will have to be marginalized. If he or she can't understand the point of Bible study and prayer, or missions trips, or hospitality, then he or she can't or won't participate alongside the believing spouse in those activities. The deep unity and oneness of a marriage cannot flourish when one partner cannot fully participate in the other person's most important commitments.
  3. So either the marriage experiences stress and breaks up; or it experiences stress and stays together, achieving some kind of truce that involves one spouse or the other capitulating in some areas, but which leaves both parties feeling lonely and unhappy.

Does this sound like the kind of marriage you want? One that strangles your growth in Christ or strangles your growth as a couple, or does both? Think back to that off-cited passage in 2 Corinthians 6:14 about being "unequally yoked." Most of us no longer live in an agrarian culture, but try to visualize what would happen if a farmer yoked together, say, an ox and a donkey. The heavy wooden yoke, designed to harness the strength of the team, would be askew, as the animals are of different heights, weights, walk at different speeds and with different gaits. The yoke, instead of harnessing the power of the team to complete the task, would rub and chafe BOTH animals, since the load would be distributed unequally. An unequal marriage is not just unwise for the Christian, it is also unfair to the non-Christian, and will end up being a trial for them both.

Our Experience

Full disclosure: One of our sons began spending time a few years back with a secular woman from a Jewish background. He heard us talk about the sorrows (and disobedience) of being married to a non-Christian for years, so he knew it wasn't an option (something we reminded him of quite forcefully). Nevertheless, their friendship grew and developed into something more. To his credit, our son told her: "I can't marry you unless you are a Christian, and you can't become a Christian just to marry me. I'll sit with you in church, but if you are serious about exploring Christianity you will have to do it on your own---find your own small group, read books, talk to people other than me."

Fortunately, she is a woman of great integrity and grit, and she set herself to looking into the truth claims of the Bible. As she grew closer to saving faith, to our surprise our son began growing in his faith in order to keep up with her! She said to me one day, "You know, your son should never have been seeing me!"

She did come to faith, and he held the water when she was baptized. The next week he proposed, and they have been married for two and a half years, both growing, both struggling, both repenting. We love them both and are so grateful that she is both in our family and also in the body of Christ.

I only mention the above personal history because so many of our friends in the ministry have seen different outcomes---children who marry outside the faith. The takeaway lesson for me is that even in pastoral homes, where the things of God are taught and discussed, and where children have a pretty good window on seeing their parents counsel broken marriages, believing children toy with relationships that grow deeper than they expect, ending in marriages that don't always have happy endings. If this is true in the families of Christian leaders, what of the flock?

We need to hear the voices of men and women who are in unequal marriages and know to their sorrow why it is not merely a disobedient choice, but an unwise one.

Kathy Keller serves as assistant director of communications for Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. She is co-author with her husband, Tim, of The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God.

We Are Not Saved Because Roman Soldiers Killed Jesus

posted 5 Sep 2012, 09:42 by Peter Booth


Depraved Indifference

posted 5 Sep 2012, 09:41 by Peter Booth

Nothing else needs to be said. The question is, how are you going to respond? What really matters now? 


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