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John Piper: Right Thinking is for Deep Feeling

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(via DesiringGod.org)

Doctrine is for the sake of delight. Christian theology does not exist for its own sake, but for our desiring and enjoying Christ.

Simply put, the mind is meant to serve the heart. Thinking serves feeling. God gave us the ability to learn and reason, so that we might admire and treasure him above anything else. Right thinking is for deep feeling.

A Message for Every Human

Recently, John Piper addressed the students of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. The audience may have been seminarians and Bible collegiates, but the message is relevant for any Christian, whether actively taking classes, and reading books on theology, or not. In fact, it’s a message relevant for every human. Says Piper, “Thinking about God is the necessary means, and treasuring God is the ultimate end of the human soul.”

Whether you’re presently pursuing some course of formal study or not, God wants to have your mind, and through it, have your heart. In whatever season of life you find yourself, even if the closest thing in your life to regular learning is weekly corporate worship, God means to sharpen your thoughts about him, for the purpose of sweetening your affections for him.

Piper’s specific charge for a season of focused study is “solidify the lifelong habit of thinking about the truth of God as a means of enjoying the God of truth.” In this 5-minute clip, Piper unfolds the heart of a truly Christian vision for theological education — whether in the seminary classroom or the local church. For more, see the entirety of the chapel message “Don’t Waste Your Seminary.”

 

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Written by mrsdkmiller

March 11, 2014 at 12:41 pm

Gospel Talk and Dollar-Store Dross

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A snippet of a song kept going through my head the other day.

“Let your conversation be acceptable in the sight of the Lord.”

It goes way back into my youth group days (waaaayyy back), and I can only remember part of it. I tried to Google the line for the rest of it, and couldn’t find any hits, but I did hit on some Scripture verses it aligns closely, but not exactly, with.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)

That sent me on another search for an article that I wrote several years ago for Tabletalk magazine where I examined the concept of gospel conversation, which was itself laid out in a series of sermons by Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs, compiled into a book by the same name.* Burroughs, in his winsome and dialectic style, addressed not simply conversation as speech, but also, as only a thorough Puritan could do, all the ways in which Christians display the gospel in the give and take of life – in the church, in the marketplace, in the home, etc.. We speechlessly talk up what we believe in every sphere by our decisions, actions and reactions, stewardship, friendships, good works, childrearing, buying and selling, love lives, sex lives, because we are, in a way, conversing in all these circumstances.  The full compendium of the doctrines of grace can be at the forefront of those spoken and unspoken conversations if we make a point of it.

All of these musings and memories have a thread running through them, and that is that our gospel conversation, the words of our mouth, must be rooted in meditations of the heart, or else they are nothing more than flat, shiny distractions from the day to day living we experience. Christmas is coming, and we can all tell the difference between the cheap, drossy décor we can pick up at the Dollar Store and that which reflects the beauty of quality materials, a slow and steady refining fire, and the skill and creativity of the craftsman. I think the same is true with our words and whether they are formed from hearts of dross or hearts of true gold.

I faced dross earlier this week and there was much more of it in my heart than I expected to find. A sudden increase in lumbar pain landed me at the surgical center on Tuesday for my first ever steroid injection. Blessed with a high pain threshold, I’ve been through medical events that challenged those thresholds: a dislocated knee that had to be popped back into place, a med-free delivery, a spinal injection for another delivery, so this should not have been an unsettling experience, right?

Except, it was, and I found myself with only rote words of comfort on my lips. Somewhere between the forging of joyful meditation and trudging through the pain, I had forgotten the higher truth behind that casually spoken phrase, “Blessed with…” and had settled into a dependency upon the speech part of gospel conversation to get me through the trials rather than the supernatural grace that leads to glory. When the affliction came, the words were not enough. In fact, I shuddered, lying there on the exam table, as I realized that my words sounded like a mantra!  

Okay, okay, I thought to myself. This isn’t working. Muster up the feelings, recall the truths, glory in the hope.

Thankfully, the Lord in His goodness and mercy saw me through.

Philippians 1:27, the text of Burroughs’ messages, says: “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.”

I can’t say my manner was worthy of the gospel of Christ. It took me almost a whole day before I remembered that an abundance of good things had been mine over the past 24 hours:  a doctor with a sure hand, a nurse who seemed to sense my soul distress and rested a hand on mine, a son who was willing to drive me there and wait for two hours, the relief from the injection. I didn’t deserve any of it, and yet the Lord provided. John Piper applies his gentle icepick to thanks-oriented distinctions in his Desiring God blog post this week:

Authentic heart-feelings are not in our control. We can’t make ourselves feel thankfulness. …Thankfeelings are a work of grace. Therefore, as fallen sinners whose hearts are often dull, we should regularly pray for God to overcome our sinful hardness, and cause us to see his goodness and feel thankful. (Psalm 51:10-12) [John Piper,”Thanksgiving, Thanksfeeling and the Glory of God”]

Cultivating a language of thankfulness begins with more than rehearsed self-talk. When the soul-ground is turned over in recognition that all good things come from God, when showers of grace quench my thirsty, arid heart-soil so that seedlings flower into authentic gratitude, then my lips and my heart overflow with thanksgiving! Yes, this adversity is worth it for the sake of His glory!

So the sacrifice of thanksgiving that glorifies God is the offering of contrite and broken-hearted thankfulness for undeserved mercies. This makes God looks glorious – it glorifies him. [Piper]

I lost an opportunity to glorify God in the conversation of getting an injection in my back. May my manner of life be more worthy of the gospel of Christ in what I do tomorrow and the day after. May the Lord do that daily work of grace in me to overcome my sinful hard-heartedness. May my meditations on the adversity – and the words on my lips about it – be acceptable in your sight, O Lord!

*That article is now available in digital form only through Logos Bible Software.

Written by mrsdkmiller

November 28, 2013 at 8:52 pm

Leaving Behind Our Little Comforts

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by Stacy Reaoch, September 4, 2013, originally appeared on Desiring God

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Recently my dear friend Sarah took a courageous step of faith.

She, her husband, and their three young children packed all their belongings in ten suitcases, boarded a plane for the Middle East, and set off to start a new life ministering in a Muslim country.

Already they have faced many unknowns that would drive most of us into a tizzy — such as how they will school their kids, where they’ll be living, and how language school will work with caring for a family, among many others. But Sarah went joyfully, knowing this was God’s call on her family’s life.

A Surprising Insight from Babel

Some women in our church have been studying the book of Genesis, using The Promised One by Nancy Guthrie. Not long ago, we came across the infamous story of the Tower of Babel from Genesis 11. Although we might mainly associate this story with God’s judgment and the beginning of new languages, we found another application especially relevant to Sarah — actually, to anyone whom God is calling to transition in some way.

In Genesis 9:1, God tells Noah and his sons to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” This, in effect, was telling Noah to repopulate the earth after the Flood. “Filling the earth” was a command to spread out across the earth, so that God’s redemptive purposes could unfold in every land, to all peoples.

But when we come to Genesis 11, we see the people deliberately disobeying God’s command. Instead of spreading out in order to fill the earth, the people found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there together. They obviously enjoyed being together and wanted to live in the same place. So they decided to work together to build a city and a tower in order to make a name for themselves. The focus became what they wanted and desired instead of God’s desires for them.

Genesis 11:4 says, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” But God was not amused by the people’s scheme. In an act of both judgment and mercy, he confused their language so they could no longer understand each other. He dispersed them over the face of all the earth. So what does this have to do with us — and with Sarah and her family?

Our Love of Comfort

As human beings, and women in particular, we are drawn to comfort and security. It comes very naturally to want to be with people like us, with our families and friends. But God’s calling on our lives is not, “Go, live by your families and friends and enjoy life together.” But much like God’s command to Noah and his sons to fill the earth, Jesus says, “Go and make disciples of all nations.”

This past year, I’ve felt God impressing on me the idea that I need to hold all things he gives me with an open hand: my husband, children, friends, home, church, belongings, everything. They are not mine to keep. They are on loan to me for God’s good purposes. It has been good to question whether I am willing to give up comfort and security in order to follow God.

Sarah is an example of a woman who is leaving the comfort and security of all that is familiar — family, friends, church, language, culture, and country — in order to go to a hard place. Everything will be new, including learning a new language and ministering among a Muslim nation. I am grateful for her example of joyfully following her husband’s leadership, and being willing to do some very tough things, in order to make God’s name great.

With Open Hand and Every Need Met

So that is my question and challenge for us here. Are we holding our plans loosely? Are we willing to follow God’s call, even when it means leaving our most precious relationships, homes and culture? God doesn’t call all of us to move overseas, but are we willing to go where he calls us — a new neighborhood or school, a new vocation or ministry, a new city or state, a new culture or country?

God is worthy of our trust as he leads us on the path to make his name known, and he will prove utterly reliable. As he has shown us in the gift of his Son, he will not let any obstacle come between us and his good purposes for our lives in the midst of difficulty. As Philippians 4:19 reminds us, our God “will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” God will prove himself to be more than enough, for Sarah, and for you.

 

Stacy Reaoch is a wife and mother of four. She enjoys ministering to women through Bible studies and discipleship at Three Rivers Grace Church, where her husband, Ben, is pastor. Stacy and Ben live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Written by mrsdkmiller

September 5, 2013 at 11:09 am

Drafted: Why Chris Norman Said No to the NFL

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Why would a promising All-American turn from options in the NFL toward theological education and the pastoral ministry? The decisive reason came in 2011 at a Christian camp for athletes. He saw something different: People enjoying Jesus.

I didn’t know that Jesus could be enjoyed. So once I figured that out — it was the night of May 24, 2011 — Christ got a hold of my life, captivated my heart, and changed me from the inside out.

Read more here, at Desiring God:  Drafted

Written by mrsdkmiller

September 3, 2013 at 10:05 am

Would you support a new bakery in Pittsburgh? A new bakery that supports victims of human trafficking?

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Would you support a new bakery in Pittsburgh?

A new bakery that supports victims of human trafficking?

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A new bakery may be coming to Pittsburgh! But wait, even better than that! A new bakery where all the proceeds (you read that right, ALL the proceeds) will go toward funding Living in Liberty, a Pittsburgh based, non-profit organization seeking to offer hope for healing and restoration to victims of sex trafficking. … to support our safe house, counseling, and job training to name a few. Please make this happen for us!

 

Read more about What Christians can do about Modern Day Slavery here, from the Desiring God blog, Feb. 16, 2013, by Ben Reaoch. Here’s a snippet:

“[A]part from praying for supernatural conversion of the oppressor, what else can we do to fight against the international epidemic of modern-day slavery?

I have at least five practical action points in mind for the Christian community. I understand that God calls us to various areas of ministry, and we are not all obligated to engage in every area of need. But I do hope to make us aware, and to call many Christians to action, in opposition to this grave evil in our world.”

Join the Crowdrise action here.

Written by mrsdkmiller

August 29, 2013 at 1:45 pm

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