Monday, June 27, 2011

You Little Know the Possibilities

“He first findeth his own brother Simon.”
John 1:41

This case is an excellent pattern of all cases where spiritual life is vigorous. As soon as a man has found Christ, he begins to find others. I will not believe that thou hast tasted of the honey of the gospel if thou canst eat it all thyself. True grace puts an end to all spiritual monopoly. Andrew first found his own brother Simon, and then others. Relationship has a very strong demand upon our first individual efforts. Andrew, thou didst well to begin with Simon. I doubt whether there are not some Christians giving away tracts at other people’s houses who would do well to give away a tract at their own—whether there are not some engaged in works of usefulness abroad who are neglecting their special sphere of usefulness at home. Thou mayst or thou mayst not be called to evangelize the people in any particular locality, but certainly thou art called to see after thine own servants, thine own kinsfolk and acquaintance. Let thy religion begin at home. Many tradesmen export their best commodities—the Christian should not. He should have all his conversation everywhere of the best savour; but let him have a care to put forth the sweetest fruit of spiritual life and testimony in his own family. When Andrew went to find his brother, he little imagined how eminent Simon would become. Simon Peter was worth ten Andrews so far as we can gather from sacred history, and yet Andrew was instrumental in bringing him to Jesus. You may be very deficient in talent yourself, and yet you may be the means of drawing to Christ one who shall become eminent in grace and service. Ah! dear friend, you little know the possibilities which are in you. You may but speak a word to a child, and in that child there may be slumbering a noble heart which shall stir the Christian church in years to come. Andrew has only two talents, but he finds Peter. Go thou and do likewise.

~ C.H. Spurgeon, from Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (Evening, February 19)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Book Review: Practicing Affirmation

Among yesterday's links from around the Blog-o-Sphere was a link to the True Woman blog about affirmation. Nancy Leigh DeMoss recommended the book Practicing Affirmation: God-Centered Praise of Those Who Are Not God by Sam Crabtree for further reading on the subject. Today, our own Hannah S. shares her thoughts about this excellent book.

If I had seen this book in the Christian bookstore I probably would have passed right by. The misuse of affirmation by the self -esteem movement would have made me skeptical as to its contents. But what caught my eye on the cover of this book was that the forward was by John Piper. Being encouraged and challenged in much of my thinking by John Piper’s writings, I wondered what a biblical study of affirmation might look like. What a joy this book has been to me!

Crabtree begins this book by clarifying what he means by affirmation:

Good affirmations are God centered, pointing to the image of God in a person. The only commendable attributes in people were given to them. Everything is from God, through God, and to God so that in all things – including the commendable qualities in people – He might get the glory.

Practicing Affirmation is a book that calls us to look for the grace of God in other people, and then bring glory to Him by affirming His work.

Just as the heavens are declaring the glory of God, if only we have eyes to see it, when we commend the character of a person, we are also pointing to the glory of God from which that character is derived – if we have eyes to see it.

Don’t miss that little phrase: if we have eyes to see it.

Being able to affirm someone for the grace that you see in their life is not an easy task. You must know people on a level that is deeper than the surface. You must begin to watch and think about people in a whole new light. Instead of focusing on the things that might “bug” you about a person, you begin to look for growth in holiness and desire for goodness in people.

Crabtree describes affirmation as the key to refreshing relationships:

When I speak of affirmations as the key, hear this: It is not the most important aspect of a relationship. For example, in a parenting relationship affirmation is not the most important thing parents will do for their children. There are things like feeding them, inoculating them, teaching them the Bible. But without affirmation, well-fed, well-inoculated, well-instructed children may tune out their parents and their well-intended instruction – especially their instruction.

His practical advice is a refreshing reminder of the power of seeing others as a reflection of God’s grace. This book is full of illustrations and applications that apply to the workplace, to marriage, to parenting, to friendships, and to ministry.
Crabtree says:

I am not talking about mere pep talks, trying to psyche somebody up with feel-happy-stay-happy, you-can-do-anything cheerleading. Our aim is to build up others in Christlikeness as God gives grace, especially affirming the transforming work that God is doing in them as they abide in Christ by faith.

Writing a book on affirmation is no easy task. Crabtree does an excellent job of answering the questions that begin to form in our minds as we think about affirming other people. What about the danger of encouraging someone’s craving for human praise? What about unbelievers who are not being renewed to the image of their Creator? Do we praise them? Does practicing affirmation mean that you are easy on sin? Crabtree thoroughly examines this issue of affirmation and the pitfalls that ensue.

This book has reminded me what a vital place affirmation plays in encouraging others and building them up in the faith. As we grow as a body I believers, I pray that we would bring glory to God by affirming His work in each other.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Around the Blog-o-Sphere

I thought it would be interesting and helpful from time to time to post some recent links from other blogs and websites. I hope you find some of these useful.

A Lesson on Becoming an Affirmer - True Woman (a ministry of Revive Our Hearts) has a great article with some practical, Biblical tips on intentionally affirming others. And if you enjoy that, Nancy Leigh DeMoss recommends the book Practicing Affirmation by Sam Crabtree as a follow-up.

What Keeps Us from Mission - The Resurgence is beginning a series that ought to be interesting: Ten Things That Keep Us from Mission. Over 10 articles they’ll examine the following reasons: Too busy; Inadequate community support; Uncertainty of beliefs; Negative view of conversion; Loss of free time; Lack of common interests; Fear of condemnation; Fear of corruption; Fear about what to say; Loss of relationship.

The Secret of Fulfillment - Carolyn Mahaney shares the answer she wishes she had given at a conference where a woman asked her, “What do you do for personal fulfillment?”

Motherhood as a Mission Field - Rachel Jankovic at the DesiringGod blog encourages mothers that your labor is not in vain. "If you are a Christian woman who loves the Lord, the gospel is important to you. It is easy to become discouraged, thinking that the work you are doing does not matter much. If you were really doing something for Christ you would be out there, somewhere else, doing it. Even if you have a great perspective on your role in the kingdom, it is easy to lose sight of it in the mismatched socks, in the morning sickness, in the dirty dishes. It is easy to confuse intrigue with value, and begin viewing yourself as the least valuable part of the Church."

Thursday, June 16, 2011

God's Unseen Hand

In our Esther study this past week, we were encouraged to look for God in the book of Esther. Kay Arthur suggested that those who were so inclined could attempt to answer creatively (in song, poetry, or pictures). Diane H. took up this challenge and wrote the beautiful poem below that she shared with the class.

An orphan girl who's left alone.
An uncle cares until she's grown.
Snatched from her home to serve a king
Who picks her out of future queens,
To glorify Your name.

When evil men seek to destroy
Because the righteous steal their joy,
You answer when Your people plead;
Just one life is all You need
To glorify Your name.

Your word is true; You reign supreme,
And no one can complete a scheme.
You always have a remnant near,
Who stand for truth and risk what’s dear
So Your Covenant remains…
And they glorify Your name.

And what could I have offered You?
A shy recluse and worthless, too.
Devoid of knowledge of the truth,
And yet You claimed me in my youth
To glorify Your name.

Where are You when I can't see;
When circumstance rules over me?
You’re working still with silent hand
To orchestrate a master plan
To glorify Your name.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Use Your Words Wisely

The following is excerpted from The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion by Tim Challies.

While people have always communicated and have probably always wanted to communicate more, what is unique in our time is its sheer dominance. Our ability to communicate is unprecedented in scope, speed, and reach. It is now the dominant paradigm through which we live our lives.

Perhaps, though, amidst all of the chatter we have forgotten that we do not need to communicate all the time. Is it possible that constantly communicating with others is not always good, that it can result in problems even as it offers us amazing benefits?

We know … that our idols are often good things that want to become ultimate things in our lives. Communication with others is just this sort of good thing, a very good thing that can so easily become an ultimate thing – an idol in our hearts.

How can we tell if something has become an idol in our lives? One possible sign of idolatry is when we devote an inordinate amount of time and attention to something, when we feel less than complete without it.

When our words (written or spoken) serve an idol, they try to distract us from what matters most. They encourage us to focus on quantity over quality. Our communication begins to lack substance, and the constant flow of words keeps us from focusing our hearts and minds on the truth. The sheer quantity of words can dilute their power and harden our hearts to the Word of God.

But when words serve God, they draw our hearts to the things that are of greatest importance. Such words are full of meaning and life. They call us out of the shallows and into the depths of knowing God. Our technological advances in communication provide us with opportunities to use words in ways that will honor God, thoughtful words that speak with substance and truth and give life to people made in God’s image.

We live in an age in which words have become a cheap commodity, and much of our communication has become unbearably light, frustratingly anti-intellectual, and devoid of substance. But words still have power. Used wisely, they can draw people and lead them to what matters most. It is still and always the Word that God uses to call His people to Himself.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


A collection of short quotes on the subject of pride:

Pride is the ruthless, sleepless, unsmiling concentration on the self. ~ C.S. Lewis

Pride is the mask of one's own faults. ~ Anonymous

Pride is a denial of dependence upon God. ~ John Blanchard

The root of pride is saying that we can do without God. ~ James Montgomery Boice

Pride is to character like the attic to the house, the highest part and generally the most empty. ~ Sydney H. Gay

Humility is the ornament of angels and pride the deformity of devils. ~ William Jenkyn

The cure of boasting is to boast in the Lord all the day long. ~ C. H. Spurgeon, from The Complete Gathered Gold

God sends no one away empty except those who are full of themselves. ~ D. L. Moody

If we are proud of our talents we betray our lack of gratitude to God. ~ John Calvin

The man who clings to his own righteousness is like a man who grasps a millstone to prevent himself from sinking in the flood. ~ C. H. Spurgeon

The devil is content that people should excel in good works, provided he can but make them proud of them. ~ William Law

A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down you can't see something that is above you. ~ C. S. Lewis

Pride thrust proud Nebuchadnezzar out of men's society, proud Saul out of his kingdom, proud Adam out of paradise, proud Haman out of the court and proud Lucifer out of heaven. ~ Thomas Adams

There is no room for God in him who is full of himself. ~ Anonymous