A Weekly Diet for Running the Good Race

The Training Table

The Training Table is set, and the menu carefully selected to regularly nourish those who are running the good race set out for us. If you would like to maintain a weekly diet for running the good race, please subscribe to The Training Table.

Why the Training Table?
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scoming its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (1 Corinthians 9:24; Galatians 5:7; Hebrews 12:1-3; 2 Timothy 4:7).”

Posted in Training Table

Everyone is Called to be a Storyteller

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

What Is Most Personal Is Most Universal… So Make Community by Knowing and Sharing Your Story!

Beloved marathoners for Christ, “An infinite God can give all of Himself to each of His children. He does not distribute Himself that each may have a part, but to each one He gives all of Himself as fully as if there were no others.” (A.W. Tozer)

And, as a result, each and every person who ever been born not only has a story as unique as a fingerprint, but each of us has the responsibility and freedom to know and tell that story in all of its intimate detail.

“So take seriously the story that God has given you to live. It’s time to read your own life, because your story is the one that could set us all ablaze. Every human being has a story, but fewer people than at any time is history know their story and can tell it to others.” (Dan B. Allender, To Be Told: Know Your Story, Shape Your Future)

Following are some powerful, prophetic, and inspirational quotes about the importance of our story and God’s purpose of making Himself manifest and glorified as we get to know our story and use it as testimony of God’s universal yet highly personal plan of redemption!

Jesus Christ

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

Frederick Buechner

“My story is important not because it is mine, God knows, but because if I tell it anything like right, the chances are you will recognize that in many ways it is also yours… it is precisely through these stories in all their particularity, as I have long believed and often said, that God makes himself known to each of us more powerfully and personally. If this is true, it means that to lose track of our stories is to be profoundly impoverished not only humanly but also spiritually.” (Telling Secrets)

John Dozier

“The opening section of my book includes part of my personal story. Not only did this strategy and compassion within me create a relationship of transparency, vulnerability, and trust with the reader, it became one of the most attractive and transformative avenues for people to enter into the sensitive and highly personal conversation about suffering: Readers have commented again and again, “Your openness and freedom to talk about such personal things has freed me to do the same. It’s scary… something I’ve never done… it was never done in my own home… but I know it’s the healthiest and best thing to do.” (The Weeping, the Window, the Way)

Henri Nouwen

“We like to make a distinction between our private and public lives and say, “Whatever I do in my private life is nobody else’s business.” But anyone trying to live a spiritual life will soon discover that the most personal is the most universal, the most hidden is the most public, and the most solitary is the most communal. What we live in the most intimate places of our beings is not just for us but for all people. That is why our inner lives are lives for others. That is why our solitude is a gift to our community, and that is why our most secret thoughts affect our common life.

Jesus says, “No one lights a lamp to put it under a tub; they put it on the lamp-stand where it shines for everyone in the house” (Matthew 5:14-15). The most inner light is a light for the world. Let’s not have “double lives”; let us allow what we live in private to be known in public.” (Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved)

Os Guinness

“The tragedy of modern man is not that he knows less and less about the meaning of his own life, but that it bothers him less and less…” (The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life)

The Apostle Paul

“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

NOTE: The buried treasure within the nearly-untranslatable phrase, “…forgetting what lies behind…”, in more applicable way, what Paul is exhorting his audience to consider is [loosely yet inspiringly] this: “You cannot forget what you do not know about your past, your precious life and God-penned story; I am calling you to a form of ‘holy forgetfulness’; you must remember your past in all it’s glorious detail; its darkest times and its brightest; remember both your happiest days as well as your saddest, most difficult and painful; set aside all the sacred story-gathering time you need to; and what I’m encouraging you to do is put all the parts of your story in the context of your being a New Creation (2 Cor. 5:17), a born-again, adopted, faithful, justified, beloved and freed son of God in Christ Jesus; you are a new person, but carry along a story that does and will influence your words and deeds in the present time; every detail of your past, story has within it a redemptive thread which can be used to inspire and motivate you… but you must know it, embrace it, and remove its sting in order to secure its succor and sustenance; carefully, willfully, intentionally, and communally place all your stories—both the damnable and the delightful—at the foot of the cross; then, and only then, can the call of “straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” be more liberated from “the sea anchor of your past” that’s dragging you down, preventing you from unfurling your sails to be filled with God’s Spirit… and become more and more like your namesake Jesus Christ your King, Champion, Brother, and Priest (Hebrews 2:5–18).” 

John Eldredge

“The way we relate to each other speaks volumes about our character, our motives, and our basic life ambitions. In other words, it reveals the kind of person we are. And here’s why: God is love. Therefore, love is the highest mark in the ethics of the Scriptures. God is Trinity. God is relational at the very core. And we are too, because we bear God’s image bearers.

You and I have a way we relate to others. It is formed out of our childhood, mostly, and it weaves together what we do to avoid rejection, and what we do to get a little praise. Dan never speaks up because he’s afraid he’ll say something stupid; Susan can’t shut up because she’s so desperate to be liked. Matt talks about his job because he’s trying to impress you and Jan refuses to talk about what she does for fear of embarrassment. Amy dresses really nice because she wants to be noticed and Susan “dresses down” because she fears the attention of men. And on and on and on it goes.

None of it is motivated by love. It is motivated by all sorts of other things, like fear, compulsion, narcissism, pride, honoring man over God, and mostly self-protection. But not love. And so it’s godless. That is why the way we relate to others is high on God’s list for the transformation of our character. It opens the door to a whole world of joy and integrity in discovering we can live a very powerful life wherever we are. We have a style of relating, and it’s motivated by all sorts of things that aren’t so pretty, but God wants to free us of all that and help us learn to relate to Himself, and others, like He does. Wow. How hopeful!” (Ransomed Heart Ministries, emphasis added)

C.S. Lewis

“Men do not long continue to think what they have forgotten how to say.” (On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature)

King David

“My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge. With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come; I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone. O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.” (Psalm 75:15-18)

Solomon

“Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool.” Proverbs 19:1)

Dan Allender

“It is our suffering and struggle with sin and injustice that reveals what Jesus endured for our salvation. It is the rescue of God—the surprising, life-giving wonder and awe of his goodness—that proclaims the glory of the resurrection. And it is our [story and] use of the gifts that he has given us to reveal his glory that shouts the blessing of his ascension. If we refuse to suffer—and grieve the depths or our suffering—then we lose power to reveal his death and resurrection. If we don’t name and bless the remarkable gifts he has given us, we cannot celebrate the stories he has written in us to reveal his story.” (Understanding Your Story – An Interview with Dan Allender, parenthesis added)

Family Life

“There are so many parts to your family story. Your children need to know where you and your parents and grandparents grew up, what your childhood was like, interesting events you witnessed or participated in. They also need to know the spiritual stories—the ones about God’s teachings, provisions, blessings, answers to prayers, and His saving grace. As believers, you and your family have a story, and it’s invaluable.” (Kimberly Crosen Luckabaugh, Capturing Your Family Stories)

Maya Angelou

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings)

Some Story Questions… Know and Share Your Story for God’s Glory and the Blessing of Others

The Growing Up Stage… Getting Started:

  • When and where were you born?
  • Where did you grow up?
  • What was it like?
  • Who were your parents?
  • What were your parents like?
  • How was your relationship with your parents?
  • Did you get into trouble? What was the worst thing you did?
  • Do you have any siblings? What were they like growing up?
  • What did you look like?
  • How would you describe yourself as a child? Were you happy?
  • What is your best memory of childhood? Worst?
  • Did you have a nickname? How’d you get it?
  • Who were your best friends? What were they like?
  • How would you describe a perfect day when you were young?
  • What did you think your life would be like when you were older?
  • Do you have any favorite stories from your childhood?

(Great Questions, © 2003-2017 StoryCorps, Inc.)

The Gaining Maturity Stage… Getting Holy, Straining Forward Towards the Prize:

  • For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? (Matthew 16:26)
  • Am I my brother’s keeper? (Genesis 4:9)
  • If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)
  • What is truth? (John 18:38)
  • How can anyone be born after having grown old? (John 3:4)
  • What do people gain from all the toil at which they toil under the sun? (Ecclesiastes 1:3)
  • Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? (Psalm 139:7)
  • Who is my neighbor? (Luke 10:29)
  • What shall I do to inherit eternal life? (Luke 10:25)

Know Your Story. Co-Author Your Destiny. The Light and Salt of God is Uniquely Seen in YOU… don’t be a stranger!
JohnDoz

Posted in Training Table

“In this is love…”

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

“…not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)

Beloved running-the-good-race marathoners for Christ, how way-down deep do you know, believe, and live out Jesus Christ’s sacrificial life, death, resurrection, sending [the Holy Spirit], and ascension—ALL for the sake of eradicating your sin and setting you free to obey and serve? Do you know that, by faith in Christ, any and every sin has been atoned on your behalf you by Christ Jesus? Let’s review to remember and then to run more faithfully the good and Godly race set before us!

“When we talk about the vicarious aspect of the atonement, two technical words come up again and again: expiation and propitiation. These words spark all kinds of arguments about which one should be used to translate a particular Greek word, and some versions of the Bible will use one of these words and some will use the other one. I’m often asked to explain the difference between propitiation and expiation. The difficulty is that even though these words are in the Bible, we don’t use them as part of our day-to-day vocabulary, so we aren’t sure exactly what they are communicating in Scripture… and personally about each one of us who are in Christ. We lack reference points in relation to these words.

Expiation and Propitiation

Let’s think about what these words mean, then, beginning with the word expiation. The prefix ex means “out of” or “from,” so expiation has to do with removing something or taking something away. In biblical terms, it has to do with taking away guilt through the payment of a penalty or the offering of an atonement. By contrast, propitiation has to do with the object of the expiation. The prefix pro means “for,” so propitiation brings about a change in God’s attitude, so that He moves from being at enmity with us to being for us. Through the process of propitiation, we are restored into fellowship and favor with Him.” (RC Sproul)

So let’s get clear what is assuredly TRUE OF YOU who are in Christ: In reality, you are TOTALLY accepted, secure, and significant. The big-dog question of any day is this: What difference does this make in our life… in your life?

By Way of Christ’s Expiation and Propitiation:

I AM COMPLETELY ACCEPTED

John 1:12 – I am God’s child.

John 15:15 – As a disciple, I am a friend of Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:1 – I have been justified.

1 Corinthians 6:17 – I am united with the Lord, and I am one with Him in spirit.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – I have been bought with a price and I belong to God.

1 Corinthians 12:27 – I am a member of Christ’s body.

Ephesians 1:3-8 – I have been chosen by God and adopted as His child.

Colossians 1:13-14 – I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins.

Colossians 2:9-10 – I am complete in Christ.

Hebrews 4:14-16 – I have direct access to the throne of grace through Jesus Christ.

I AM TOTALLY SECURE

Romans 8:1-2 – I am free from condemnation.

Romans 8:28 – I am assured that God works for my good in all circumstances.

Romans 8:31-39 – I am free from any condemnation brought against me and I cannot be separated from the love of God.

2 Corinthians 1:21-22 – I have been established, anointed and sealed by God.

Colossians 3:1-4 – I am hidden with Christ in God.

Philippians 1:6 – I am confident that God will complete the good work He started in me.

Philippians 3:20 – I am a citizen of heaven.

2 Timothy 1:7 – I have not been given a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind.

1 John 5:18 – I am born of God and the evil one cannot touch me.

I AM ASTOUNDINGLY SIGNIFICANT

John 15:5 – I am a branch of Jesus Christ, the true vine, and a channel of His life.

John 15:16 – I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit.

1 Corinthians 3:16 – I am God’s temple.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 – I am a minister of reconciliation for God.

Ephesians 2:6 – I am seated with Jesus Christ in the heavenly realm.

Ephesians 2:10 – I am God’s workmanship.

Ephesians 3:12 – I may approach God with freedom and confidence.

Philippians 4:13  – I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.

“The key, aim, and fulfillment of the Christian life is to make what is objectively true of us a subjective reality.” (Tim Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, NYC)

Let it be so. Amen. And Amen.

Some Application, Internalization Suggestions:

  1. Print out this T.T. missive and place it into your Bible. [Specifically the “I AM” Headlines and Bible passages under accepted, secure, and significant.] They serve as “foundational identity marks” and we should regularly reference them, know them, remind others of them who are in Christ. And those who are not what they’re missing in their life!
  2. Commit to using your daily, morning quiet time of 1-2 hours, for however long it takes, to read through the passages a day at a time, their context, and any Study Notes, related passages, that your Reformation Study Bible offers. Know them well, deep down in your heart, mind, soul, and strength.
  3. Commit to pray daily by means of the acrostic A.C.T.S. over each of the specific Scriptures, assurances above: Read ONLY the passage; begin by praying to The Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, under the “A” of Adoration; then move to the “C” of Confession; then the “T” of Thanksgiving, and finally the “S” of Supplication—or offering your prayerful requests of The Trinity’s intervention.
  4. Listen and journal about each of the steps of A.C.T.S.—and each of the Bible passages, in each category. This is about a) quality, b) going deep, and c) a Biblical change of heart. After you pray each word of any part of a passage, ask the Spirit to speak to you; be quiet; listen; journal; change; and seek to change others where God’s given you concerns and/or influence.
  5. Seek to memorize the passages and their assurances for you.
  6. I would suggest only ONE each day: Again, the point is NOT to go for quantity but quality—whenever you study the Bible, but even more so in this particular journey of KNOWING your new self; GROWING your faith and love of God, self; and SOWING the faith into your neighbors heart wherever God leads you.
  7. Finally, if you have invested in a small community of Saints to grow in your role as a disciple [and if not, why not?], please make several copies, bring the passages and the above course of action to them: Share a copy of it; request prayers about it; advocate for it; give it to others; offer to lead a community group study and internalization of it; request that people ask you about it… regularly… ask that you be held accountable for it; make it a part of your life so that it transforms you over time. And maybe others as well!

God swamp you in His Love and Truth,
JohnDoz

Posted in Training Table

The Treasure of the Trinity – “The Divine Dance”

Holy Trinity

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

Here’s a Very Basic Kind of Question for You:

“Do You LOVE to Dance?”

“Do You Dance Like There’s No One Looking?”

“Do You Dance When You Have To? Or Do You Intentionally Look for the Chance to Dance Out Loud?”

“Or… Do You Dread Like a Root Canal When Your Forced Onto the Floor to Shake, Swing, or Box Step?”

Even though you might not sense questions of this kind about one’s dance habits are tied to one’s faith in God and living out a life that reflects it in all realms of life, when it comes to seeing The Trinity as The Divine Danceand faithfully, joyfully living as if it’s true truth–is connected: the music and movement of joy spills over and just can’t be contained!

First of all: know that this Training Table bookend on The Trinity is based upon Pastor Tim Keller’s sermon on The Trinity [as The Divine Dance] which can be accessed via the above link.

Secondly: please take note of two planks of Pastor Keller’s offering: a) What is meant by “The Trinity as The Divine Dance” [CS Lewis and Cornelius Plantinga] and b) how we are called to live it out [borrowed from Jonathan Edwards].

a) “The trinity means that God is, in essence, relational. The gospel writer John describes the Son as living from all eternity in the “bosom of the Father” (John 1:18), an ancient metaphor for love and intimacy. Later in John’s gospel, Jesus, the Son, describes the Spirit as living to “glorify” him (John 16:4). In turn, the Son glorifies the Father (17:4) and the Father, the Son (17:5). This has been going on for all eternity (17:5b).

What does the term “glorify” mean? To glorify something or someone is to praise, enjoy, and delight in them. When something is useful you are attracted to it for what it can bring you or do for you. But if it is beautiful, then you enjoy it simply for what it is. Just being in its presence is its own reward. To glorify someone is also to serve or defer to him or her. Instead of sacrificing their interests to make yourself happy, you sacrifice your interests to make them happy. Why? Your ultimate joy is to see them in joy.

…When we delight and serve someone else, we enter into a dynamic orbit around him or her, we center on the interests and desires on the other. That creates a dance, particularly if there are three persons, each of whom moves around the other two. So it is, the Bible tells us. Each of the divine persons centers upon the others. None demands that the others revolve around him. Each voluntarily circles the other two, pouring love, delight, and adoration into them. Each person of the Trinity loves, adores, defers to, and rejoices in the others. That creates a dynamic, pulsating dance of joy and love. The early leaders of the Greek church had a word for this—perichoresis. Notice our word “choreography” within it. It means literally to “dance or flow around.”(1)

The Father…Son…and Holy Spirit glorify each other…At the center of the universe, self-giving love is the dynamic currency of the Trinitarian life of God. The persons within God exalt, commune with, and defer to one another….When early Greek Christians spoke of perichoresis in God they meant that each divine person harbors the others at the center of his being. In constant movement of overture and acceptance each person envelops and encircles the others.(2)

In Christianity God is not an impersonal thing nor a static thing—not even just one person—but a dynamic pulsating activity, a life, a kind of drama, almost, if you will not think me irreverent, a kind of dance… [The] pattern of this three-personal life is…the great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very center of reality. And now, what does it all matter? It matters more than anything else in the world. The whole dance, or drama, or pattern of this three-Personal life is to be played out in each one of us: or (putting it the other way round) each one of us has got to enter that pattern, take his place in that dance. There is no other way to the happiness for which we were made.(3)

…Ultimate reality is a community of persons who know and love one another…When Jesus said you must lose yourself in service to find yourself (Mark 8:35), he was recounting what the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have been doing throughout eternity…Unless you are willing to experience the loss of options and the individual limitation that comes from being in committed relationships, you will remain out of touch with your own nature and the nature of things.

[It is] impossible to stay fully human if you refuse the cost of forgiveness, the substitutional exchange of love, and the confinements of community. I quoted C.S. Lewis saying that the only place besides heaven that is free from the pain and suffering of relationships is hell…

God is infinitely happy, because there is an “other-orientation” at the heart of his being, because he does not seek his own glory but the glory of others. (4)

…He wants our joy! He has infinite happiness not through self-centeredness, but through self-giving, other-centered love.  And the only way we, who have been created in his image, can have this same joy, is if we center our entire lives around him instead of ourselves…God’s joy and happiness and delight in divine perfections is expressed externally by communicating that happiness and delight to created beings…The universe is an explosion of God’s glory. Perfect goodness, beauty, and love radiate from God and draw creatures to ever increasingly share in the Godhead’s joy and delight…The ultimate end of creation, then, is union in love between God and loving creatures. (5)

…We were made to center our lives upon him, to make the purpose and passion of our lives knowing, serving, delighting, and resembling him. This growth in happiness will go on eternally, increasing unimaginably (1 Corinthians 2:7-10).

This leads to a uniquely positive view of the material world…The universe is understood as a dance of being united by energies binding yet distinct, like planets orbiting stars, like tides and seasons, “like atoms in a molecule, like tones in a chord, like the living organisms on this earth, like the mother with the baby stirring in your body.” (6) The love of the inner life of the Trinity is written all through it. Creation is a dance!” (Pastor Tim Keller, Sermon, “Father, Son and Holy Spirit”, Jan 15, 2006)

Footnotes:
1. Hilary of Poiteries, in Concerning the Trinity, and Robert Letham on Tom Torrance: The Holy Trinity: In Scripture, History, Theology, and Worship.
2. Cornelius Plantinga, Engaging God’s World: A Christian Vision of Faith, Learning, and Living.
3. C.S. Lewis, “The Good Infection,” in Mere Christianity.
4. G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy.
5. George Marsden, Jonathan Edwards: A Life.
6. Debra Rienstra, So Much More.

b) The “how” of moving out of the position of a “wallflower” at the dance, or a static fixture insisting upon everyone orbiting around ME is contained by Keller via Jonathan Edwards’ nomenclature of the Christian life as one of Beauty and Duty. Listen and live well!

Choose This Day: “Wallflower? Center of the Universe? or Blissful, Inviting Dancer?”

“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.” (William W. Purkey)

JohnDoz

Posted in Training Table

The Treasure of the Trinity – Part 5 of 5

Holy Trinity

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

Ever Get Your Heart, Mind, Soul, and Strength Around the Colloquialism, “The Devil’s in the Details”?

We should… you should.

Bear with me… Via a personal anecdote: As a Myers-Briggs ESTJ, I lean towards being dedicated, strong-willed, direct and honest, loyal, patient and reliable, I enjoy creating order, and tend to step up as an organizer. AS SUCH, I have a bent towards getting into the DETAILS of anything I’m involved in to effect change for the better! Anything. [Oh, and don’t be hornswoggled: I have many corresponding weaknesses as well.]

There is nothing of significance which requires human interaction, while aiming at improving things in any way, that does not require getting into the details. Yes, that can be arduous and tedious for many folks. And that’s exactly why the devil is most interested in hanging out THERE… in the details that is. Especially when it comes to improving things that help us glorify God and bless His people. Especially since the devil hates God and all that matters to Him, the adversary, father of lies, accuser will spend any effort needed to encourage The Body of Christ towards laziness, sloppiness, generalities, half-truths, and abstractions.

So, while serving on a team of people who were sharing ideas in order to improve the principles and processes of all involved in the “best practice” forum, I objected that nothing tangible of significance was being accomplished. A member of the group said, “John, it appears as though you have a problem with ambiguity.” Yes. I absolutely do! Especially when something, anything can be dramatically improved but people simply don’t want to be bothered by all the details—the hard work, the grit, the polarizing yet constructive discussion, the humility, the give and take, and the points of resolution—to get something, anything big accomplished.

The devil LOVES the fact that, in our day, so many folks approach their religious life in a shamefully ambiguous, inconclusive fashion; and the devil HATES any person or denomination that is exacting, intentional, methodical about ALL things necessary for glorifying God, blessing His people, and transforming the world.

So let’s get back to some more awesome details about God, the Trinity, of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!

God’s Threefold Sanctification within the Trinity, by Charles Spurgeon

“Sanctified by God the Father.” (Jude 1:1. 1)

“Sanctified in Christ Jesus.” (Corinthians 1:2)

“Through the sanctification of the Spirit.” (1 Peter 1:2)

“MARK, beloved, the union of the three divine persons in all their gracious acts! We believe that there is one God, and although we rejoice to recognize the Trinity, yet it is ever most distinctly a Trinity in Unity. Our watchword is still—“Hear O Israel, the LORD our God is one LORD.” How unwisely do those young believers talk, who make preferences in the persons of the Trinity—who think of Christ as if He were the embodiment of everything that is lovely and gracious, while the Father they regard as severely just, but destitute of kindness; and how foolish are those who magnify the decree of the Father, or the atonement of the Son, so as to depreciate the work of the Spirit. In deeds of divine grace none of the persons of the Trinity act apart from the rest. They are as united in their deeds as in their essence!

In their love towards the chosen they are one, and in the actions which flow from that great central source they are still undivided. Especially I would have you notice this in the case of sanctification. While we may, without the slightest mistake, speak of sanctification as the work of the Spirit, yet, we must take heed that we do not view it as if the Father and the Son had no part in it! It is correct to speak of sanctification as the work of the Father, of the Spirit, and of the Son. Still does Jehovah say, “Let Us make man in our own image, after our likeness,” and thus we are “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.”

My brothers and sisters, I beg you to notice and carefully consider, the value which God sets upon real holiness, since the three persons are represented as co-working to produce a Church without “spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.” Those men, who despise holiness of heart, are in direct conflict with God. Holiness is the architectural plan upon which God builds up His living temple. We read in Scripture of the “beauties of holiness.” Nothing is beautiful before God but that which is holy. All the glory of Lucifer, that son of the morning, could not screen him from divine abhorrence when he had defiled himself by sin. “Holy, holy, holy”—the continual cry of cherubim—is the loftiest song that a creature can offer, and the noblest that the Divine Being can accept!

See then, He counts holiness to be His choice treasure. It is as the seal upon His heart, and as the signet upon His right hand. He could as soon cease to be, as cease to be holy, and sooner renounce the sovereignty of the world, than tolerate anything in His presence contrary to purity, righteousness, and holiness. I pray you, you who profess to be followers of Christ, set a high value upon purity of life and godliness of conversation. Value the blood of Christ as the foundation of your hope, but, never speak disparagingly of the work of the Spirit, which is your meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light; yes, rather, prize it; prize it so heartily, that you dread the very appearance of evil! Prize it so, that in your most ordinary actions, you may be, “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, showing forth the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”” (Charles Spurgeon, THREEFOLD SANCTIFICATION, NO. 434, A SERMON DELIVERED ON SUNDAY MORNING, FEBRUARY 9, 1862)

Knowing God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, more and more deeply each and every day intensifies the Trinity’s  effect upon our personal holiness and Christlikeness… E,g,. our effectiveness as God redemptive light and salt force in a broken and fast-decaying world: Is there any reason why we wouldn’t want this more than anything else in life, and its rewards for eternity?

Please commit to ardently praying about, getting into the details, and intimately knowing the Trinity “Today…” (Psalm 95:7-8),
JohnDoz

Additional Resources

A Hole in Our Holiness, Kevin DeYoung

How Do I Delight Myself in the Trinity?, Tony Reinke

Why Augustine Centered His Life on the Trinity, Brandon Smith

The Cost of Discipleship, John MacArthur

What Is the Doctrine of the Trinity?, Matt Perman

Shared Life: The Trinity and Fellowship of God’s People, Donald MacLeod

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Tim Keller

Posted in Training Table

The Treasure of the Trinity – Part 4 or 5

Holy Trinity

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

The Doctrine of the Trinity Brings Comfort — Do You Desire God’s Full Personage and Armament of Comfort in the War of a Lifetime? Do You?

The Lord Jesus, on the night of His betrayal, is doing the very thing that we contemporary Christians would never dream of doing. What is He going to say to help these beleaguered, frightened disciples? And the answer is, you’ll see this if you read even casually through John 13-17, He’s teaching them about the Trinity—that’s what He’s doing.

[Please read Sinclair Ferguson’s first three sentences again. Christian, do you believe this form of comfort offered by your namesake is pertinent to your own life… to other Christian lives… today?]

There are these spasmodic references to the ministry of the Holy Spirit earlier in John’s Gospel. There’s an emphasis on the ministry of the Father in John’s Gospel. But it’s only in this hour of crisis, in their time of deepest need, it’s as though Jesus is saying to them, ‘If you’re going to survive through this and other times of deepest need, then I need to bring you to a deeper knowledge of who God is.’

[Does this specific intervention, “triage” by the Son of God not knock your socks off in its simplicity and profundity? Does knowing The Triune God of the Universe better occupy a significant portion of your time, talent, treasure? Or not?]

And you remember how He says to them, ‘I’ve had so many things to say to you but you wouldn’t have been able to take it in, or even bear it?’ But now He begins to unfold the glorious mystery of the inner relationships of the blessed Trinity. And He brings in this marvelous triangulation as it were of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, in the unity of their mutual fellowship and in-being, and in the way in which they mutually share in the strengthening, comforting, and redeeming of God’s people, and ultimately in the salvation of sinners throughout the world because when the Spirit comes He will convict men of sin and righteousness and judgment.

[The unity and individuality of the Trinity is so staggering it will take an eternity to gaze into and unpack! And then we will sense we’ve only just begun, Beloved.]

Actually, that’s the reason why the early Christians spent so much time thinking through what it means that God is Trinity. Not because they were given to scholasticism, but because they had a passionate love with their minds for the LORD their God and they wanted to describe Him biblically and rightly. And I think it would be true today to say that for many Christians the Trinity is the most speculative of all doctrines and therefore the most irrelevant—whereas for the Lord Jesus it is the least speculative of all doctrines and by far the most relevant and practical. But we don’t find that unless we’re digging into the scriptures to pursue the knowledge of God as He’s revealed to us in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Sinclair Ferguson: In this excerpt from our 2012 National Conference, Sinclair Ferguson reminds us that the doctrine of the Trinity brings comfort—especially in times of crisis. Emphasis added.)

I love The Trinity. And pray every day the Spirit will help me love the Father, the Son, and Himself more every day.

Consider then…

How are you pursuing #1 burning passion of the born-again Christian: A living and breathing reflection of God’s inspired Word.

“Why do you want a letter from me? Why don’t you take the trouble to find out for yourselves what Christianity is? You take time to learn technical terms about electricity. Why don’t you do as much for theology, doctrine? Why do you never read the great writings on the subject, but take your information from the secular ‘experts’ who have picked it up as inaccurately as you? Why don’t you learn the facts in this field as honestly as your own field? Why do you accept mildewed old heresies as the language of the church, when any handbook on church history will tell you where they came from?

Why do you balk at the doctrine of the Trinity – God the three in One – yet meekly acquiesce when Einstein tells you E=mc2? What makes you suppose that the expression “God ordains” is narrow and bigoted, while your own expression, “Science demands” is taken as an objective statement of fact?

You would be ashamed to know as little about internal combustion as you know about Christian beliefs.

I admit, you can practice Christianity without knowing much theology, just as you can drive a car without knowing much about internal combustion. But when something breaks down in the car, you go humbly to the man who understands the works; whereas if something goes wrong with religion, you merely throw the works away and tell the theologian he is a liar.

Why do you want a letter from me telling you about God? You will never bother to check on it or find out whether I’m giving you personal opinions or Christian doctrines. Don’t bother. Go away and do some work and let me get on with mine.” (Dorothy L. Sayers)

A crass and hard-hearted assessment of run-of-the-mill disciple of our day? Or truth spoken in love. Only you and I can be the judge; and we should seek to judge honestly.

JohnDoz

Posted in Training Table

The Treasure of the Trinity – Part 3 of 5

Holy Trinity

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

How Wide is the GAP Between Knowing OF God — and — PERSONALLY Knowing God… for YOU?

Let’s look at an answer to this question this way: If the statistics related to those who populate most churches in The West is correct, around 75% of people who attend church know OF God, but don’t have a PERSONAL relationship with Him via how the Bible describes God, humanity, the GAP between the two, and the solution to minding and closing the GAP. So, maybe it gets down to knowing whether or not the Bible is trueFOR YOU?

Knowing OF God, and PERSONALLY knowing God, amounts to knowing deep down inside our heart, mind, soul and strength what Pastor Tim Keller says of what matters the most: “All we… all you… need is a need that cannot be satisfied by anything else but God, in Christ, and through the Spirit.”

“Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.'” (John 3:1-8; Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8-9; Acts 2:38… many more)

The GAP between knowing OF God and PERSONALLY knowing God in Christ Jesus, and by the through the Holy Spirit consists of a radical change of heart, Beloved.

For today’s feast at the Training Table, let’s look at how Charles Spurgeon expressed this profoundly important truth about ALL (RE: ALL) of knowing God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit:

The Trinity: Do You Know God? Do You Know All Three Persons of God? Then You Know God! Or not…

“Endeavor to know the Father. Approach Him in deep repentance, and confess that you are not worthy to be called His son; receive the kiss of His love; let the ring that is the token of His eternal faithfulness be on your finger; sit at His table and let your heart rejoice in His grace.

Then press forward and seek to know much of the Son of God who although He is the brightness of His Father’s glory humbled Himself and became man for our sakes. Know Him in the singular complexity of His nature: eternal God, and yet suffering, finite man; follow Him as He walks the waters with the tread of deity, and as He sits down at the well tired in the weariness of humanity. Do not be satisfied unless you know much of Jesus Christ as your Friend, your Brother, your Husband, your all.

Do not forget know the Holy Spirit. Endeavor to obtain a clear view of His nature and character, His attributes, and His works. Behold the Spirit of the Lord, who first of all moved upon chaos and brought forth order, who now visits the chaos of your soul and creates the order of holiness. Behold Him as the Lord and giver of spiritual life, the Illuminator, the Instructor, the Comforter, and the Sanctifier. Behold Him as He descends upon the head of Jesus, and then as He rests upon you.

Such an intelligent, scriptural, and experiential belief in the Trinity is yours if you truly know God; and such knowledge brings peace in full measure indeed.”

(Charles Spurgeon, “May 8 — Evening” in Morning and EveningGeanies House, Fearn, Scotland, UK: Christian Focus, 1994), p 275.

Net, Net? “Know God and Cast Your Net!”

Allow me to repeat Spurgeon’s literal and definitive bottom line exhortation, reward, and added truism, encouragement from myself:

“Such an intelligent, scriptural, and experiential belief in the Trinity is yours if you truly know God; and such knowledge brings peace in full measure indeed.” AS WELL AS the best and only platform for contributing to God’s plan for making Him known to others in the world!

Fully know The Trinity; do so in unity with others in Christ’s Church; and you will live out each day with a sense of urgency in carrying out The Great Commission in and from exactly where God has planted you to do so. Amen.

See you all at The Training Table next week for The Treasure of the Trinity, Part 4 of 5.

JohnDoz

Posted in Training Table

The Treasure of the Trinity – Part 2 of 5

Holy Trinity

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

Give Glory to God… All Three in One!

Growing up in the Roman Catholic church I became conversant with the Latin Mass. A familiar “hymn” or ascription to praise of The Trinity was, Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in sæcula sæculorum. Amen. 

“Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
World without end. Amen, Amen.” (The Doxology ‘Gloria Patri’)

The problem with my familiarity at the time was that it was a “rote familiarly” said with a heart hardened to and hiding from God. Like much of my early life in a religious institution, I memorized and mouthed many things that I was not only ignorant of their true meaning, but the true meaning was masked in many ways, and after a while my “familiarity” did what having to repeatedly do anything devoid of a deeper meaning, mission, or seeing its fruit does: it bred contempt in me.

It wasn’t until after my conversion… and even several years after that… when the Holy Spirit directed me to the existence and supreme worth of the God of Three-in-One!

Please fully enjoy and aim to employ our feast of the heart for today concerning The Trinity:

God’s Sovereignty in Salvation and the Unity of the Trinity

“Divine sovereignty in salvation involves each of the three persons of the Godhead—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All three work in perfect unity to rescue the same undeserving sinners. Within the Trinity, there is one saving purpose, one saving plan, and one saving enterprise. Those whom the Father chooses are precisely those whom the Son redeems and those whom the Spirit regenerates. The persons of the Godhead act as one Savior. The Trinity is not fractured in its saving activity. It is not divided in its direction and intent, as if each person of the Godhead seeks to save a different group of sinners. Instead, each member of the Trinity purposes and irresistibly proceeds to save one and the same people—God’s chosen people.” (Steve Lawson, God’s Sovereignty in Salvation and the Unity of the Trinity

Should not each breath and heartbeat mercifully given us by God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit be mindfully, intentionally lifted up in praise of each one of the persons of The Trinity? Is not the One and Only True God of All… in three persons… worthy of our knowledge, friendship, and increasing fervor? Would not the Holy Spirit, Who points to the Son, Who in turn points to the Father be pleased and flourished by our all-encompassing awe of All Three Persons?

May it be so; and see you fine marathoners in and for Christ next week to chow down on Part 3 of 5 “The Treasure of the Trinity”,
JohnDoz

Posted in Training Table

The Treasure of the Trinity – Part 1 of 5

Holy Trinity

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

“Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…”

I can’t remember at what point in time or for what reason I began to preface every prayer, every formal and informal interaction with God by acknowledging, addressing the Holy Trinity. If my blurry and fast-decaying remembrance serves, the catalyst was hearing a sermon on the subject and the monumental importance of The Trinity many years ago.

This Training Table feast of the born-again heart, especially prepped for marathoners for Christ running the good race, is devoted to The Trinity; and since I could hardly say anything on the subject that hasn’t been said far better than I could, please enjoy and employ some offerings from some other Saints.

Please relax, journal, meditate on, enjoy, and employ these inspiring quotes and content for the next four Training Table gatherings. Each of the Training Table menu weekly items on The Trinity will be offered as a meaty, small-size portion, quote ALONG WITH its context and a much longer, in-depth portion to chow down on. Don’t miss out on the big portions: there is no breadth and depth we can go to to exhaust how much we need to get to know each, every Person of The Trinity, Beloved of God.

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit Are All Divine Persons

“Since the members of the Trinity are persons, they are all capable of having a personal relationship with each other and with the humans they created. God is a social being; from eternity past, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have continually interrelated as persons (in complete harmony), and we humans were given the honor to enter into communion with this tri-personal God, and to love each other as His image-bearers. If all three Persons of the Godhead shared in that purpose of creating us for relationship, then it seems that all three of them would be interested in having personal interaction with us. It is not just a “nice thing” for us to communicate with each person in the Trinity; this fits into God’s purpose for our existence. Jesus prayed to His Father that His followers would know both the Father and the Son. “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

The Apostle John said, “Truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (John 1:3). Our fellowship is not simply with a single divine person, but with at least two—both the Father and the Son. We commune with the Father, knowing that He was the One who sent his Son. We commune with the Son, knowing that he was the One who gave His life for us. We make a distinction between our worship of the Father and the worship of the Son because the Bible makes a personal distinction between the Father and the Son.

This can be applied to the Holy Spirit as well. The Spirit is a divine Person that has distinctive roles to play in our lives. This being the case, it is appropriate to pray to Him about those particular roles, like guidance for preaching and other acts of service. It’s appropriate to thank Him for His blessing in our lives. How could we not verbalize our adoration of Him? How could we not tell Him how much we love Him? He’s helped us in so many ways.” (Dr. Mark Bird, Prayer and the Trinity)

Please use this as well as the rich fare connected to Dr. Bird’s content via the Answers In Genesis website. Consider whether it might be a good idea to address God as Trinity from this point on… if you don’t already. I promise you, as you inculcate the habit of the heart to do so, the totality and the individuality of the Trinity will be magnified more and more in your life and the lives you influence every day!

In J.I. Packer’s classic and most laudable book, Knowing God, Packer’s title opens the door to what’s most important in “the eternal now of life” (Tillich): Knowing God. And, if I may, ALL OF GOD… The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. For each person of the Trinity is part and parcel of just one seminal principle and practice from Packer’s worthy book:

“Guidance, like all God’s acts of blessing under the covenant of grace, is a sovereign act. Not merely does God will to guide us in the sense of showing us his way, that we may tread it; he wills also to guide us in the more fundamental sense of ensuring that, whatever happens, whatever mistakes we may make, we shall come safely home. Slippings and strayings there will be, no doubt, but the everlasting arms of God are beneath us; we shall be caught, rescued, restored. This is God’s promise; this is how good he is.” (J.I. Packer, Knowing God)

Until we meet to feast next week on Part 2 of 5, may God guide, guard, and bless you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
JohnDoz

Posted in Training Table

Why Suffering [Part 3 of 3]

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

Part Three: “Why Suffering?” – What Fruit Does “The Cycle of Redemptive Suffering” Produce?

In Part One we stayed at the high view, the 30,000′ level in order to see the big picture why’s and wherefore’s of “Why Suffering?” This is the level where God has not left us with “mystery, mystery… it’s all mystery.” On the contrary, God made all things good; man spoiled it; but God put a plan of redeeming the world’s brokenness in place. Period. Unless we know,

In Part Two we moved way down deep into suffering at “the coalface.” E.g., what 19th Century Brits borrowed from coal mine workers, who were easily identified by their faces darkened by coal dust, to describe real-world every day living; and what I’m using to describe suffering in the trenches of life lived in a horribly broken world: every day, unassailable, the unavoidable pain of entropy, broken relationships, disease, racism, aging, warring, divisiveness, hatred, and enmity between God and man, man and man, man and nature, man and beast… the all together decay and stench of sin’s effect on the universe.

Please remember the gist of Parts One and Two: 1) God is not the author of confusion; there’s no mystery of “Why Suffering?” at the 30,000′ perspective; 2) granted, there can be lots of mystery at the every-day-detail level of “Why Suffering?”; 3) BUT there is not nearly as much mystery in our every day suffering as there needs to be! [My heart breaks at the thought of wasted suffering.] Why? Because if we will cooperate with God in our pain, if we stay put for as long as it takes to discover God’s ways and plans, and if we do so with the intentionality to mourn, to remember, to listen, to learn, to grow, and to be transformed in communityGod will reveal MUCH to us in and through our suffering! [Or not. The choice is ours to make.]

Not all the mystery will be eradicated, but more than enough for us to be freed to witness the transformation(s) in our self and in others, to glorify God, and to comfort others in need of His comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3-7) because we have been made more like Christ in and through the furnace(s) of this fallen life… sovereignly stewarded by an outlandishly loving and long-suffering God.

So, let’s look at Part Three: What Fruit Does “The Cycle of Redemptive Suffering” Produce?

Part Three can be best described as “Part One and Part Two – Over and Over Again.” The cycle of redemptive suffering is just that: a cycle, described as The Weeping, the Window, the Way by me, that WILL happen again and again! And, if “God’s protocol for redemptive suffering” is allowed to get worked out and through in our life, we will be more transformed, more matured, made more wise each time (James 1:5-6). Each and every time we steward any form and/or magnitude of suffering in the proper and best way it accrues more and more to our sanctification, our holiness, our maturity, our Christ-likeness, and our wisdom and effectiveness as Christian light, salt, and the fruit of the Spirit in us: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

Please pause with me. Please consider that last sentence again: “Each and every time we steward any form and/or magnitude of suffering in the proper and best way it accrues more and more to our sanctification, our holiness, our maturity, our Christ-likeness, and our wisdom and effectiveness as Christian light, salt, and the fruit of the Spirit in us: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)”

Do the memories of the principle and the practice that you have undoubtedly experienced [as I have untold times] of “passing by” or “getting over” or “hurrying through” [or seeing someone else do the same] a period of deep pain cause you to wince right now? Can you see afresh what is at stake when any person—let alone the church or an entire culture—wastes their tears or walk away from a broken heart without taking any time, talent or treasure to mend and transform it? Can you re-imagine what implications embracing “a culture of comfort” outside and inside the church can result in—by having much less of Christ in our midst than God desires… due to wasted, un-redeemed, un-reclaimed suffering?

“The Full Effect of Suffering

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4, emphasis added)

Stay put for the full effect.

“The Many Fruits of Rejoicing in Suffering: We Know it Because We’ve Done It!

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:1-5)

The experience and growth of suffering has an accumulating effect. Why? Because the outcome of every cycle of suffering makes us more and more like Jesus Christ! Literally: The Holy Spirit’s supernatural transformation of our stony heart, combined with our cooperation, actually, really, materially changes us. That’s why the “Saints of old”—like way back not that long ago—remarked about suffering by essentially saying, “Bring It!” [When was the last time you heard that sort of masochistic insanity even in the church?]

Redemptive Suffering Aids in the Confirmation of Our Calling and Election

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:3-11)

At the end of Peter’s life he said much! But the Chapters prior to the amazing exhortation above consist of reminding, warning his readers, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4)

The wisdom gained in sanctified suffering deeply roots and animates our calling and election. And there’s little else we can say that is more important to contributing to our effectiveness as Christ’s disciples, light, and salt than that.

“There are only two kinds of people in the world! They’re both going to suffer. There’s the kind of person that suffering makes worse, because the source of their joy is being taken away. And there’s the kind of person who suffering makes better because the suffering is pushing them towards the one source of joy that is not subject to circumstances. Jesus Christ suffered not so that we might not suffer, but rather when we suffer, we could become more like him!” (The Sufferer, sermon by Pastor Tim Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York, March 7, 2004)

Amen.

All love,
JohnDoz

Posted in Training Table

Why Suffering [Part 2 of 3]

Welcome marathoners in and for Christ. (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1; 2 Timothy 4:7) Exhausted, depleted from running the Godly, good, and being-a-blessing-to-others race? Welcome. Sit. Relax. Let’s feast.

Feast of the Heart exists to help bring about Christ-centered “reformation, revival, and constructive revolution” (Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City) so that God will be glorified and people blessed.

Reformation… we seek to abide by and serve up the true truth, pure doctrine of the Bible

Revival… we seek to model biblical Christians living in word and deed

Constructive Revolution… we seek to spread the true gospel right where God has planted us with urgency, compassion, and radical self-abandonment

Part Two: “Why Suffering?” – The Daily Life View

In Part One we stayed at the high view, the 30,000′ level in order to see the big picture why’s and wherefore’s of “Why Suffering?” This is the level where God has not left us with “mystery, mystery… it’s all mystery.” On the contrary, God made all things good; man spoiled it; but God put a plan of redeeming the world’s brokenness in place. Period. Now let’s get down into the trenches of suffering.

Please Take a Deep Breath. Relax. Be Still. Release Your Preconceptions.

Theodicy is defined as, “a vindication of the divine attributes of God—particularly His holiness, omnipotence, justice, love, and sovereignty—in establishing or allowing the existence of physical and moral evil, suffering.”

The existence of suffering side-by-side what is purported to be an all-loving and all-powerful God is the most confounding question of the unbelieving world; and, due to the secularization, worldliness of the church, is a mystery that is rarely sufficiently explained and processed by God’s people as well. Unbelievers won’t believe because [in large part] believers [God’s light and salt] don’t have a sufficient, lived-out, biblical and/or personal “apologetic about theodicy” either.

“Mystery, mystery… all is mystery…!” (Ecclesiastes 1:2, play on words)

If any Image Bearer becomes too comfy, satisfied with not knowing God, His truth, and His love, he or she will live a meaningless life: this claim should not come as a mystery to anyone. The fruit of “unwarranted mystery” [suppressing the truth: Romans 1:18-32] is meaninglessness, foolishness, depression, despair, and eventually [walking or mortal] death.

This is UN-mysteriously huge: There exists a realm legitimate mystery and illegitimate mystery. So, before we get into the next level of detail about “Why Suffering?”, following are some A,B,C’s for you to consider about the subject of mystery:

A) The Nose-Bleed Section: At the 30,000′ level, we have a reasonable, UN-mysterious, plain explanation about why suffering exists and how God’s Plan of Redemption encompasses the solution [see below]; but,

B) At the Nitty-Gritty-Level: at the ground zero, in the trenches, heart-shattering, suffering-in-your-face level, all the answers are not [necessarily] supplied by God; mystery often exists; in the midst of all the “Humpty Dumpty details” of trying to put our shattered hearts back together again there will indeed be mysteries, unanswered on this side of Christ’s return; yes, they can be confounding and troublesome—but they are NOT ignored by God and NOT all will last forever (1 Chronicles 29:11-12; Job 38-41; Romans 5:3-5; 1 Peter 5:10; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 4:12-19, many more), please…

C) If we will “StayPut!” and give God and our born-again, Sonship-centered, and communal faith in Christ a chance to work in and through the difficult yet redeeming journey of redemptive suffering many, many—sometimes most, never all, but a wholly sufficient—mysteries associated with any particular heartbreak will be at one time buried and invisible to us in the soil, but then will sprout up out of Christ’s resurrected reality and rise up… and rise up… to reveal God’s redemptive plan in the pain! We must see each point of suffering through. We must stay put long enough to see the redemptive attributes God offers—but we simply don’t care to see.

Will we choose to stay put, persevere, and work it out? God’s story-based, counter-intuitive, and deep ways of working the pain out to reveal His glory and plan takes time + faith + Scripture + community: His triumph in our trial. His glory in our gory. His highest in our lowest. His joy in our junk. His heavenly in our hell. His delight in our despair. His transformation in our trial. Need I go on? The stories tied to this truth are endless, but we just don’t believe it when it comes to our own.

God’s redeeming grace will provide many answers if we will stay put in faith.

Glory and good blessings exists in every realm of our pain, but there’s a process involved to reveal it.

Does your story prove this to be true? Have you done the hard and courageous work to redeem a heartbreak and witness God’s amazing and multifaceted breakthroughs—which in practically every case will radically assuage much of the pain of being left in the mysteries of, “Why God?” “Why me?” “Why now?” “Why him?” “Why her?” “Why?”

When we cry “Why?!” we will rarely wait for an answer. Why? Because we harbor answers in our heart that we don’t want cleared up, enlightened, or stirred-up by God the Spirit Himself and other Christians in community (Jonah 1:3; Romans 1:18-32; Titus 1:10-16). So many of our prayers and outcries are answered by God, so many mysteries are cleared up, but they just don’t happen to fit into our preconceived solutions or idolatry of wanting to remain in the fog of our own “oughts”, “musts”, “poor me’s”, and “did God really say?”

God has promised suffering is for our good (Romans 5:3-5; 8:28; 1 Peter 4:13), but will we have the patience and faith to stay, to mourn, to meddle with our heart, to mend, and eventually to be redeemed to a far better place: more Christlike than before the heartbreak? (1 Thessalonians 5:23)

Please carefully consider: If you have been refined, matured, made holier, more Christ-like, compassionate, comforted, fruitful, faithful, re-engaged to sacrificially serve by means of any/all the trials God has allowed… even just a teeny-weeny bit… you will respond to the above claim with a “YES! I know this to be true… What was, at one confounding point in time, a God-awful mystery to me in the midst of my suffering turned out to be a momentary fog that was lifted as I walked deeper and deeper into the pain and saw how God had sovereignly used it to bring Himself glory and manifold blessings to His people… and me!”

If we choose to allow “unwarranted, illegitimate mystery”—E.g., sinfully suppressing or ignoring God; accusing God without knowing anything about Him, His plan; being foolish and/or lazy about searching the Bible and other resources; allowing bad and/or NO church teaching to point to as an excuse; having such an aversion to pain as to embrace stoicism, existentialism, hedonism rather than crying out to God and His Saints…

If “illegit mystery” be an idol to you, please know, a) you will turn more and more bitter, hardened, and yucky to be around; b) you will have no excuse or reasonable room to blame God; and, c) you will have, even as a Christian, aimed way, way too low of the mark IN TIME and FOR ETERNITY (1 Corinthians 3:11-14; Philippians 3:14; Revelation 22:12)!

God’s mysterious yet detailed protocol for redemptive suffering really matters, Beloved.

And, finally for the “A,B,C’s”, redemptive suffering added to redemptive suffering are the building blocks for Christ-likeness (Romans 8:28-30), a unique and special form of wisdom forged in suffering (James 1:1-5), so that Christian contributions to mitigating, stemming the darkness and decay of the world will, can and will occur! We cannot “release Christ” into the chaos of this world devoid of becoming more and more like Him.

When Christians leave out the intentional waiting upon God for the redemptive transformations He and His incarnational community can bring about, the watching world will be left out of “Why Suffering?” And this is a travesty of colossal proportion.

So how can an all-loving and all-powerful God allow suffering?

This is where we’ll begin at The Training Table next week, Beloved marathoners in and For Christ. Run reformed, revived, and as a constructive revolutionary. Amen.

JohnDoz

Posted in Training Table