Giving Thanks Is a Community Project

Throughout my childhood, my favorite special event on our church’s calendar was the annual Thanksgiving service. My love for the event was not because of the pies—a groaning potluck table of apple, pumpkin, and chocolate cream with no one to count how many slices we children ate—or the merry fire blazing in the church fireplace. It wasn’t the chance to run unsupervised down the cold, dim, familiar back hallways with sugar-fueled friends. It wasn’t even the promise of a delayed school-night bedtime. I loved it for that moment when we all pulled our avocado-green vinyl chairs into a ragged semicircle around the piano, and my pastor-father said, “Who would like to start with a word of thanksgiving?” And, after a brief silence, someone would rise to her feet and say, “I’m thankful for a new job this year that lets me pay the bills and gives me a chance to use my gifts.” Another would stand: “I’m thankful the Lord used this year’s chemo treatments to send my cancer into remission.” After that, people would rise—or, sometimes, speak falteringly from their seats—in rapid succession. Even as a child, I treasured the privilege of hearing the stories of others’ lives. Every year, we would hear words of thanks for jobs and homes, for pastors and teachers, for physical healing and familial reconciliation, for power over sin and for the unmerited gift of salvation. There were always a few surprises from people who waited for this service to announce a pregnancy or a wedding engagement. There were always a few tears as we remembered faithful saints, gone this year to be with Jesus. At the end of the evening, church members would replace the chairs and rake the fire’s embers into ash. We located our sticky, crumb-strewn pie plates. We plucked mittens… Read More

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Be Thankful

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful (Colossians 3:15 NIV) Thanksgiving. Most think of it as the holiday that kicks of the Holiday season. It features food, family, food, friends, food, football, food… Well, you get the idea. If you wanted to add a “spiritual sounding” word, you could have added “fellowship”, but often that sounds like “food” to many Christians. (The “Fellowship Hall” in the church building is where you eat, right?) Sadly, to many people, Thanksgiving is the time when you gather for feasting and hopefully fun, and there is NOTHING wrong with feasting and fun. But feasting and fun is all that is thought about, except for a quick prayer before the meal. However, those who follow the Lord Jesus Christ have a higher and wider perspective. We know the One to whom we surely must give thanks. So, on the special day set apart for giving thanks in our culture, we will be thankful! Let’s think about some matters for which to give thanks. Feel free to use these suggestions, and develop your own. We thank God for God himself. Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name (Psalm 103:1 NIV) Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;his faithful love endures forever (Psalm 107:1 CSB). Sing praises to the Lord, who dwells in Zion; Declare among the peoples His deeds (Psalm 9:11 NASB). For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen (Romans 11:36 NLT). We thank God for saving grace. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon… Read More

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How to Handle Family Conflict This Holiday Season

The seventeenth-century political philosopher Thomas Hobbes said the state of mankind without civil society is “nothing else but a mere war of all against all.” For many of us, this describes the state of family gatherings during the holiday season. Before we pass the turkey and dressing or open the presents on Christmas morning we have to endure internecine spats with our siblings or parents. Perhaps this should not be surprising since the oldest type of human conflict is family conflict. It started when Adam blamed his wife, Eve, for his disobedience (Genesis 3:12), continued with one of their sons murdering his sibling (Genesis 4:8), and affected just about every major character in the Bible. Even Jesus had to deal with conflicts with his own family (Mark 3:21). “The early chapters of Genesis explain that the brokenness of nearly every facet of family life stems from God’s judgment against our first parents,” says Richard Pratt Jr. “No family is ‘fine,’ ‘without problems,’ or ‘great’ until someone destroys it. Every home is broken from the day it begins.” We should expect conflict among sinners who were or are confined to the same space and a forced to interact with people we’ve known all our lives. This is why children have more conflict with their siblings than they do with their friends. As Scottish researcher Samantha Punch points out, siblings will be there tomorrow, no matter what. “Sibship is a relationship in which the boundaries of social interaction can be pushed to the limit,” says Punch. “Rage and irritation need not be suppressed, whilst politeness and toleration can be neglected.” Research has shown that when siblings between the ages of three and seven are together, they clash an average of three and a half times per hour. The studies found that on… Read More

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How an International Partnership Could Benefit Your Church

Your weeks are crazy. There’s the worship-team meeting, weekly small group, counseling that couple in crisis—oh, and a sermon to write. Add to that your worship space was unexpectedly pulled out from under you, and your children’s ministry director just stepped down. I can relate. My husband and I have served as church planters in both the United States and also abroad for nearly two decades. We know how easily the tyranny of the urgent rules a church planter’s days. Often it’s a great joy. Sometimes it’s a painful slog. But always, we fall into bed exhausted. Church planting is hard work. And so, it’s as unintended as it is certain—urgent, daily needs in ministry are strong gravity, pulling us farther and farther away from where we meant to go with our church plants. Inevitable Inward Drift Church planters are by definition missional. We’re passionate about making disciples; otherwise we wouldn’t be out here. But the great care required by our local churches leaves us with little energy for the going to the nations part of the Great Commission. Our local needs cause us to drift inward, inevitably pushing out our good intentions for global kingdom work. Additionally, there’s confusion and intimidation. To avoid making a global mess, we’d rather stick to what we know in our own neighborhoods. Or we wait for the elusive day when we have the budget, staff, or size that we think is needed for a global partnership. Insofar as our churches join in the discipleship of other nations, our church  members will also be discipled. As a result, we ensure the growth of our churches, but forsake the global mission. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Growing an international church-planting partnership is not as hard as it seems, and—surprisingly—it may just be the… Read More

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Why Christians Should Talk More Openly About Our Finances

Finances feel like a private matter, and yet they affect so much of our lives and reveal so much about our hearts that I wonder if we should talk more openly about them. What are some reasons to share more transparently about finances within our churches? And how can we do that? Even those who run headfirst into sensitive topics rarely delve into this one! Our hearts may be an open book, but our credit-card histories are not. No matter how close a relationship, it’s uncomfortable to disclose details about our finances. The only way to move past this discomfort is by reminding ourselves why it’s important and being willing to open up first. Here are three reasons transparency is wise. Reason 1: Finances Are a Common Cause of Marital Conflicts Money is a tension point among married couples—regardless of income level—and is often listed as a leading cause of divorce. To care for couples experiencing financial tension or disagreements, our churches must be places where the topic is discussed openly and in detail. For the first few years of marriage, money was a frequent source of contention between my husband and me. It was easy to paint a picture wherein I was always right—after all, I was the one more inclined to give and less inclined to spend. But when I shared specifics about our arguments with trusted friends, the details helped them discern sin I’d been blind to. Often, my concern over my husband’s materialism was wrapped up in my pride rather than his sanctification—I hated how that expensive TV reflected on me, and I was motivated by my glory more than God’s. If we withhold specifics, it’s difficult to give and receive care as we ought—we may even exacerbate problems. How can we offer wisdom and input without… Read More

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Poem for an Anxious World

For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their Shepherd; He will lead them to springs of Living Water.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.        (Rev. 7:17) For our anxious little realm, for the fears that overwhelm . . . There is a throne. For mistakes we can’t forget,and the sins that still beset . . . We have a Lamb. For our lost and lonely hearts,for our gnarled and tangled paths . . . We have a Shepherd. For our dry and listless souls,and our thirst for being whole . . . We have a Stream. For regret and ravaged years,for all sweet and bitter tears . . . We have a Father. For treks through burning sands,To our home in promised lands, This hope till all is done:Our God the three-in-one. Visit TGC The Gospel Coalition US

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The FAQs: What You Should Know About War Crimes

What just happened? Last week President Trump intervened in the case of three U.S. service members convicted of war crimes. Trump granted full pardons to Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance and Army Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, and restored the rank of Navy SEAL Eddie R. Gallagher, who had been demoted. Lorance was found guilty in 2013 of second-degree murder for ordering his men to fire on three men on a motorcycle in Afghanistan. Gallagher was demoted after being found guilty for posing for a photo with a casualty. Golsteyn was convicted of murdering a released Afghan detainee and conspiring with others to destroy the body. Gallagher had faced a court-martial for premeditated murder and attempted murder, but was acquitted. According to CNN, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and other senior military leaders had told the president that a presidential pardon could potentially damage the integrity of the military judicial system, the ability of military leaders to ensure good order and discipline, and the confidence of U.S. allies and partners who host U.S. troops. What are war crimes? War crimes are those violations of international humanitarian law that incur individual criminal responsibility under international law. The violation can be a breach of either standards adopted by treaty or of customary international law (i.e., an aspect of international law involving the principle of custom). What actions constitute a war crime? There is no single document in international law that lists all actions that can be classified as war crimes. However, such crimes can be found in both international humanitarian law and international criminal law treaties, as well as in international customary law. In general, war crimes can be classified under four broad categories: (1) war crimes against persons requiring particular protection (such as prisoners of war); (2) war crimes against those providing humanitarian assistance… Read More

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Trevin Wax on Signs of Hope for the Next Generation

“It’s dangerous to look at the next generation and see only signs of hope, just as it would be dangerous to look at the next generation and see only causes for alarm. Every generation faces its share of challenges and opportunities. Oftentimes the opportunity is in the challenge.” — Trevin Wax Date: April 1, 2019 Event: TGC 2019 National Pre-conference, Indianapolis, Indiana Listen to this episode of The Gospel Coalition Podcast or watch a video. Related: Find more audio and video from the 2019 National Conference on the conference media page. Visit TGC The Gospel Coalition US

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David Helm on Teaching Jude

According to David Helm—lead pastor of the Hyde Park congregation of Holy Trinity Church in Chicago, Council member of The Gospel Coalition, and chairman of the Charles Simeon Trust board—every book of the Bible is like a piece of music that has a recognizable melody unique to it. David encourages Bible teachers to spend time seeking to identify the “melodic line” of the book we’re preparing to teach, that we might better get to the heart of its message. In our conversation, David demonstrates how to find the melodic line of any book by walking through the process of identifying the melodic line of the little book of Jude. The melodic line then serves as a guard or guide as we relate various parts of the book to it. He also helps us as teachers with the references Jude makes to extrabiblical writings and to Old Testament characters and events. Listen to this episode of Help Me Teach the Bible. Recommended Print Resources Recommended Audio Resources Visit TGC The Gospel Coalition US

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