Monday, 27 May 2013
“A spotless, pure, complete, and incomparable righteousness” by Thomas Brooks:
“A second property of an humble soul is this, He overlooks his own righteousness, and lives upon the righteousness of another, to wit, the Lord Jesus. So the apostle, (Philip. 3:8–10), overlooks his own righteousness, and lives wholly upon the righteousness of Christ: ‘I desire to be found in him,’ saith he, ‘not having mine own righteousness.’
Away with it, it is dross, it is dung, it is dog’s meat! It is a rotten righteousness, an imperfect righteousness, a weak righteousness, ‘which is of the law; but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith,’ that is a spotless righteousness, a pure righteousness, a complete righteousness, an incomparable righteousness; and, therefore, an humble soul overlooks his own righteousness, and lives upon Christ’s righteousness.
Remember this, all the sighing, mourning, sobbing, and complaining in the world, doth not so undeniably evidence a man to be humble, as his overlooking his own righteousness, and living really and purely upon the righteousness of Christ. This is the greatest demonstration of humility that can be shewn by man, (Mat. 6:8).
Men may do much, hear much, pray much, fast much, and give much, &c., and yet be as proud as Lucifer, as you may see in the Scribes, Pharisees, Mat. 23, and those in Isa, 58:3, who in the pride of their hearts made an idol of their own righteousness: ‘Wherefore have we fasted,’ say they, ‘and thou seest it not? wherefore have we afflicted our souls, and thou takest no knowledge?’
Oh! but for a man now to trample upon his own righteousness, and to live wholly upon the righteousness of another, this speaks out a man to be humble indeed. There is nothing that the heart of man stands more averse to than this, of coming off from his own righteousness.
Man is a creature apt to warm himself with the sparks of his own fire, though he doth lie down for it in eternal sorrow, Isa. 50:11. Man is naturally prone to go about to establish his own righteousness, that he might not subject to the righteousness of Christ; he will labour as for life, to lift up his own righteousness, and to make a saviour of it, Rom. 10:4.
Ay, but an humble soul disclaims his own righteousness: ‘All our righteousness is as filthy rags.’ ‘Enter not into judgment with thy servant, for in thy sight shall no man living be justified,’ Ps. 143:2. So Job, ‘Though I were righteous, yet I would not answer, but I would make supplication to my judge,’ Job 9:15.
Proud Pharisees bless themselves in their own righteousness: ‘I thank God I am not as this publican; I fast twice in the week,’ &c., Luke 18:11, 12. Ay, but now a soul truly humbled blushes to see his own righteousness, and glories in this, that he has the righteousness of Christ to live upon.2 Rev. 4:10, 11, the twenty-four elders throw down their crowns at the feet of Christ.
By their crowns you may understand their gifts, their excellencies, their righteousness; they throw down these before Christ’s throne, to note to us, that they did not put confidence in them, and that Christ was the crown of crowns and the top of all their royalty and glory. An humble soul looks upon Christ’s righteousness as his only crown.”
–Thomas Brooks, “The Unsearchable Riches of Christ,” in The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 3, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1866), 11-12.
Saturday, 25 May 2013
Brainstorming: 3 reasons why everything you know is wrong.:
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Brainstorming is broken.We all know the standard method of brainstorming:
- Get a bunch of people together.
- Generate lots of ideas.
- Don’t be critical.
It’s totally wrong.
1) Don’t work in a groupThe research consistently shows that individuals who generate ideas on their own and then meet afterward come up with more (and better) ideas.
Via Imagine: How Creativity Works:
Via Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking:
2) Don’t generate as many ideas as possible.Don’t write down every idea “no matter how crazy.” Rules help.
Focusing your efforts on being as creative as possible reduces the number of ideas but increases the number of good ideas.
Via Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration:
3) Be critical and fight.Don’t be open and accepting. Fight. When people debate, they are more creative.
Via Imagine: How Creativity Works:
Are creative people more likely to be crazy?
What does the most comprehensive study of geniuses tell us about creativity?
5 quick things you can do today to boost your creativity
The post Brainstorming: 3 reasons why everything you know is wrong. appeared first on Barking Up The Wrong Tree.
The Woolwich Killing: "We must fight them as they fight us.": Today in Woolwich, England, a man reported to be a British soldier was cut down by two Anglo-African Muslims wielding knives and a machete. One of the killers, speaking in a home-grown English accent, is heard (here) to say:
The only reason we have killed this man today is because Muslims are dying daily by British solidiers, and this British soldier is one, is a eye for a eye and a tooth for a tooth. By Allah, we swear by the Almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone. So what if we want to live by the sharia in Muslim lands. Why does that mean you must follow us and chase us and call us extremists and kill us? Rather you are extreme. You the ones. When you drop a bomb, do you think it hits one person, or rather your bomb wipes out a whole family. This is the reality. By Allah if I saw your mother today with a buggy I would help her up the stairs. This is my nature. But we are forced by the Qur'an in Sura at-Tauba [Chapter 9 of the Koran], through many, many ayah [verses] throughout the Koran that [say] we must fight them as they fight us, a eye for a eye and a tooth for a tooth. I apologize that women had to witness this today, but in our land our women have to see the same. You people will never be safe. Remove your governments. They don’t care about you. Do you think David Cameron is gonna get caught in the street when we start busting our guns? Do you think the politicians are going to die? No it's going to be the average guy, like you, and your children. So get rid of them. Tell them to bring our troops back so we ca.., so you can all live in peace. Leave our lands and you will live in peace. That's all I have to say. Allah's peace and blessings be upon Muhammad ...(Earlier versions of this post had less complete transcripts.)
Eyewitnesses said that the victim had been wearing a 'Help for Heroes' t-shirt. Help for Heroes is a charity to help British soldiers wounded in current conflicts.
Eyewitnesses also reported that the killers attempted to behead the soldier, and that they asked bystanders to call the police, and moved towards the police as if to attack them, as soon as they appeared.
While some said the killers were crazed, the contrary seems to be the case. They appear to have been acting in accordance with a theologically determined logic which can be understood on the basis of Islamic teachings. In the midst of perpetrating this carnage, they found time, calmly and clearly, to explain their motivations on camera.
The killer captured on video was referencing passages from Islamic sacred texts. "We must fight them as they fight us" is a phrase found repeatedly in the Koran. He specifically mentions Sura at-Tauba (chapter 9, i.e. verse 36) and 'many, many' other verses from the Koran, namely:
"fight the polytheists all together as they fight you all together" (Sura 9:36)
"fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you ... And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out; for fitnah (oppression, persecution) is worse than slaughter; ... if they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who suppress faith. " (Sura 2:190-9)
"Permission to fight (against disbelievers) is given to those (believers) who are fought against, because they have been wronged and surely, Allah is Able to give them (believers) victory" (Sura 22:39)The Arabic word for 'fight' used in the Koran in these passages is qātilū which literally means fighting to kill. (See here for an explanation of the meaning of Sura 2:190-91, a passage used by Muslim jurists to justify killing.)
The reference 'an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth' is also from the Koran (although ultimately borrowed from several passages in the Mosaic law):
And We prescribed for them therein: The life for the life, and the eye for the eye, and the nose for the nose, and the ear for the ear, and the tooth for the tooth, and for wounds retaliation. (Sura 5:45)The Muslim killers here are invoking a religious ruling that it is permissible to fight and kill people who wage war against Muslims. As Bin Ladin put it in his letter to the American people:
"It is commanded by our religion and intellect that the oppressed have a right to return the aggression. Do not await anything from us but Jihad, resistance and revenge."The belief which seems to underly the Woolwich attack is that because the British government is fighting a war against Muslims in Muslim lands, it is therefore legitimate for Muslims to wage jihad against the British. British people, who voted the government into power, are also considered to be personally culpable, which is why they 'will never be safe' and are told to 'remove your government'.
The killer's language is strikingly reminiscent of Bin Ladin's November 2002 letter to the American people, in which he not only spoke of 'removal' of governments (in Muslim lands), but also explained that it was legitimate to attack American civilians because they are the ones who voted their government into power:
"... the American people are the ones who choose their government by way of their own free will; a choice which stems from their agreement to its policies. ... The American people have the ability and choice to refuse the policies of their Government and even to change it if they want. ... the American army is part of the American people. ... This is why the American people cannot be not innocent of all the crimes committed by the Americans and Jews against us. ... Allah, the Almighty, legislated the permission and the option to take revenge. Thus, if we are attacked, then we have the right to attack back. ... whoever has killed our civilians, then we have the right to kill theirs.The phrase 'you people will never be safe' is reminiscent of Muhammad's instruction to his followers to invite non-Muslims to Islam by telling them aslim taslam "Accept Islam and you will be safe" (see here). The implication is that non-Muslims are not safe because their blood and property can be taken until they convert. Thus Muhammad said to his cousin Ali, on the eve of the attack against the Jews of Khaibar:
"Fight (qātilū) until they bear testimony to the fact that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger [i.e. until they convert to Islam] and when they do that, then their blood and their riches are inviolable [safe] from your hands." (Sahih Muslim. Book of the Merits of the Companions of the Holy Prophet 4:29:5917).It seems the killers desired martyrdom in accordance with their beliefs, because they asked bystanders to call the police and immediately moved to attack the police when they arrived on the scene.
This slaughter on the streets of Woolwich has all the hallmarks of a theologically motivated attack, and keys to understand it can be found in the Qur'an and the teachings of Muhammad.
Whether the views adopted by the killers are 'legitimate' interpretations of the Koran and Muhammad's teachings may be disputed. What cannot be disputed is the source where they found their inspiration.
Mark Durie is an Anglican vicar in Melbourne, Australia, author of The Third Choice, and an Associate Fellow at the Middle Eastern Forum.
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Friday, 24 May 2013
Here's one of the best:
The fragility of society’s attachment to traditional marriage itself, to the virtue of commitment, has also been key to the formulation of the gay-marriage consensus. Indeed, it is the rubble upon which the gay-marriage edifice is built.That's a good observation and helps us understand why Christians (and others who think gay marriage is a bad idea) shouldn't shrug their shoulders and assume that a diminished view of heterosexual marriage changes nothing, affects only a few, and won't bring about further unexpected consequences.
Wednesday, 22 May 2013
I played 3 nursing home gigs today. They were freebies, but it looks like I will probably get invited back to play and sing for pay. I even got food at one place--an unexpected kindness, thank you. Listen Friedman: there is such a thing as a free lunch!
Enthusiastic nursing staff. A blessing, mostly. Thank you for doing your job, which is difficult, messy, with long hours, often far from home and poorly paid. So thank you. Far better cheerful than grumpy, mean, spiteful, or indifferent.
Just a couple of thoughts though, without at all meaning to be unkind. Clapping along is great, but really, when we get to the bit after As Time Goes By, you know, the Bach Prelude and Fugue in C major, you can stop for a bit, yep, just there. I don't even mind it that much, but I should just tell you so that you know for next time, it's not a mistake that bits of it are slow and thoughtful. Seriously, put your feet up and join in listening. Old people don't need to be geed up into pretending to be excited. If they're excited, they'll cheer and applaud. If they want to listen quietly, they will listen quietly and meditatively. Like that lady, the ex-music teacher who could no longer play anything, but who listened to a few preludes and fugues and told me afterward that her favourite was number 18 in G sharp minor.
And there are old people like that sitting in the audience. Sure, they're not all like that. But you don't need to try to cajole them into singing along to the Fugue. There are no words anyway. They know that. They may have dementia but they're not stupid. If you sat with them peacefully for a bit you would work that out too. Anyway, if you really want to sing to a fugue, humming quietly to yourself will do the trick just fine. They won't complain that you've stopped doing your job, just because you sat with them for a bit.
But hey if you want to get up and dance with them during Maple Leaf Rag, or It had to be You, or Ain't She Sweet, or High on a Hill lived a Lonely Goatherd, or Begin the Beguine, then good on you. Come to think of it, if they want you to dance with them during O Sacred Head Sore Wounded, then dance away, why not? That's something really worth dancing about.
Question for you though. If a nice nursing home person comes and offers you cake as you are singing--I mean, as the words of the song are coming out of your mouth--is that an insult? Or are they just doing their job? I can never tell.
Saturday, 11 May 2013
Leading on empty:
Burnout is a huge issue. It takes a massive toll on individuals, families, organisations and society. Leading experts in stress and burnout have identified church pastors as very high-risk candidates. Most will face these issues in their ministry. Many will face them multiple times. A disturbingly large group have already left their ministries as a result of burnout.
Wayne Cordeiro has written a helpful book on the topic, called Leading on empty: Refilling your tank and renewing your passion. A friend of mine read this book during his stress leave. I’ve since read it a couple of times and passed it on to others facing this issue.
How do you lead when you don’t feel like leading? And how do you sail through the dead waters when the wind has died down and that which was a festival now demands the intentional? When exhilaration turns to perspiration? Like pages torn out of my journal, this book chronicles my collision with burnout and my subsequent journey to a newly defined life. (p11)Much of this book details Cordeiro’s experience and what he has found helpful in moving beyond burnout with a renewed passion for ministry. He argues that when the first signs of burnout appear, then it’s time for a break. What are the common signs? Here are a few experienced by Cordeiro:
- Ministry became more arduous.
- Daily tasks seemed unending.
- Decisions—even small ones—seemed to paralyze him.
- Creativity began to flag and he found it easier to imitate rather than innovate.
- People he deeply cared about became problems to be avoided.
- Casting vision no longer stirred his soul.
- What started as a joy, had become a drain.
“You have depleted your system. Your serotonin levels are completely exhausted… Serotonin is a chemical like an endorphin. It replenishes during times of rest and then fuels you while you’re working. If, however, you continue to drive yourself without replenishing, your store of serotonin will be depleted. As a substitute your body will be forced to replace serotonin with adrenaline. The problem is that adrenaline is designed for emergency use only.”He was told that he needed to replace his serotonin levels. This would need to take place slowly, like trickle charging a battery. He was urged to take off six months to a year, or as long as he could manage. If he didn’t first replenish his system, he was warned to prepare for a crash. He could understand this because his RPMs were above the red line and he was unable to change gears.
“Serotonin can get depleted when you don’t live with a cadence that allows it to be replenished… Depression takes the place of initiative; your indecision and anxiety increases. You begin to feel a greater need for aloneness and isolation.” (p25-26)
Cordeiro needed to learn things the hard way. He was leading a very large, highly ‘successful’ church. His influence was wide and his responsibilities were vast. It wasn’t until he started experiencing anxiety attacks and depression that he woke to the necessity for major change. He was drowning in his feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. His faith and confidence were under attack and he lacked energy and interest in life.
It’s hard to admit to depression when you are a very public leader in ministry. The reality, however, is that it’s widespread and always has been. Such great ones as William Cowper, Charles Spurgeon, Abraham Lincoln, Mother Theresa, and Martin Luther King, all struggled under its dark cloud.
Cordeiro advocates developing an early warning system. If we can see it coming then we have the opportunity to avoid much of the wreckage. Symptoms of depression that he identifies include: a sense of hopelessness; frequent tears; difficulty concentrating; decision making comes hard; irritability; insomnia; lowered activity levels; feeling alone; lack of marital attraction; eating disorders; aches and pains. In another place, he rather humorously suggests the following signs of being in the early stages of burnout or depression:
Having identified the issues the bulk of the book deals with how to move forward. He needed to take time out and he had to sort through issues. There was no point simply having a break and then jumping headlong into the same chaos and intensity.
- One year in solitary confinement is sounding more and more like a good option.
- Spending time with your mother-in-law begins to be more inviting than going to work.
- Your ministry leader calls for the third time wondering where you have been. You consider changing your number and possibly moving.
- The site of a ministry volunteer sign-up sheet brings on a severe allergic reaction.
- You realize you are in this ministry for life, which is funny, because you feel you no longer have one. (p65)
A major issue was recognising the difference between a concern and a personal responsibility. Concerns are things we should pray about, and then leave them with God. If we treat them as responsibilities we end up trying to carry the world on our shoulders. Responsibilities are the things that only I can accomplish. They cannot be delegated, ignored, or dumped off onto someone else.
He pushes us to identify the top 5% of life. Cordeiro argues that 85% of what we do, anyone can do. These are the things that don’t require any expertise, and many of them can be easily delegated. 10% of what we do, someone with some training should be able to accomplish. But 5% of what I do, only I can do. This is the most important 5% for me. This 5% will determine the effectiveness of the other 95%. Now we could argue the figures, but the overall point stands. We need to work out what our 5% is, and let this get first priority.
Once we’ve identified the key areas in our 5%, they require a daily investment of our time and heart. The condition of these areas will, to a large extent, determine the state of our life. If these areas are compromised, the consequences will create a domino effect. We often fill our days with the 85% because it’s easy. We then dip into the next 10%. But during the season of burnout, even that becomes draining and we have nothing left for the crucial 5%. Sadly this will often mean that our faith, our marriage, our family, and our health are critical areas that get neglected.
Cordeiro encourages us to do as many things as possible that fill our emotional reservoir. Some activities will fill us more than drain us, and others will drain us more than fill us. We need to know the difference. The danger is the busier we get, the less time we have for activities that replenish us. He didn’t play sports because he had deadlines to meet. He didn’t read books because he had sermons to prepare. He was leading on empty, with more drain than fill.
He encourages us to make a list of the things that drained us and the things that fill us. Include at least six items in each category. Have our spouse do the same, and then share them. Help each other by encouraging each other to do what fills our tanks, and do what we can to remove or change things that drain them.
We probably need to restructure our lives. This is needed if we’re to last for the long haul. This includes changing our behaviours, and most likely also our motivations, habits and subconscious patterns. Cordeiro started making these changes, but he was impatient, and crashed badly. Out of this collapse he draws seven lessons:
Lesson One: Do Not Overproduce
He had to learn that he could say “no” or “come back tomorrow.” He didn’t have to be available 24/7. He could take time to recharge.
Lesson Two: Steward Your Energy
A leader’s greatest asset is not necessarily time. It is energy and this is not unlimited. A person with energy may be able to accomplish more in four hours than one without energy can in four days.
Lesson Three: Rest Well, My Friend
We are most vulnerable to depression from burnout when we are totally fatigued and overtired. One of the very first steps inreversing depression and regaining a sense of resilience is rest. (p122)
Schedule rests in before your calendar fills up. Rest is not an afterthought; it has to be a primary responsibility. It brings a rhythm back to life and a cadence that makes life sustainable. (p125)
Lead out of a place of rest and you will be able to put your heart into everything God asks of you. Without rest you are leading on empty. (p128)
Cordeiro makes a very helpful suggestion about how we view our days. Think of them beginning the night before. This way you begin each day with rest. Your day starts when you go to sleep. Rest begins your new day, not coffee. (p129)Leading on Empty stresses the importance of living intentionally. The key to living intentionally is to imagine your ideal future and write down. Also write down your most important relationships, that need to remain healthy regardless of how you feel or what happens: your relationship with Christ and your spouse and family. Writing things down gives you something to come back to, and helps keep you from basing your life on how you feel in the moment. It also helps you keep focused on hope for the future.
Lesson Four: Exercise Your Way to Recovery
Exercise is important for both physical and mental health. It can help with recovery from depression. Consistency is more important than how much you do or how hard you work each time.
Lesson Five: Eating Your Way to a Good Life
What you eat is related to how you feel. Dietary changes
can bring chemical as well as physiological changes.
Lesson Six: Recharge Daily
Cordeiro recharges every day during his daily devotions. God’s word and prayer fills his inner tank, so he is able to reserve adequate time and energy for his family and his life.
Lesson Seven: Fight For Your Family
Too many have sacrificed marital harmony and family on the altar of success. It’s not worth it. (p140)
Living an intentional life requires consistent monitoring and assessment. It requires restructuring our days in order to live intentionally. A healthy life cadence will contribute to being a healthy pastor or leader. Cordeiro suggests a rhythm, or life cadence, that he tries to maintain:
DailyThe first time I read this book, I needed to. It was just prior to our long service leave and I was feeling the strain of many years in ministry, some tense and difficult times, seeking to mediate and navigate some big tensions between others, working long hours, not looking after my physical health, going without sleep, and more. I found it a breath of fresh air. Interestingly, I caught up with a distant colleague shortly afterwards and discovered that he’d also been reading the same book to help him progress past burnout. This book isn’t the final word on the topic, but I believe it makes a very helpful contribution. Ideally, it will be read early in people’s working lives and ministries, and assist them in establishing good priorities and practises. If not, then it’s not too late to pick it up and read now.
Being at home. He tries to avoid being out three nights in a row, and refuses to be gone four. He also commits to doing some things every day, even if it is a small amount: Devotions, exercise, planning his time, and reading.
He takes a day off every week, and fills it with things that fill his tank.
He takes a monthly Personal Retreat Day, to get refocused on God’s agenda. This personal retreat day has proven to be very helpful. It’s a day out of the office where he can get the scattered pieces of his life back in order, and spend some prolonged time with God. It won’t happen if you don’t plan for it and schedule it, so write it down on your calendar! He also makes a priority of renewing relationships by such things as keeping birthdays and holidays special, and celebrating often.
Seasons of Life
After seven years of ministry, he takes a three month sabbatical to get renewed. Taking a sabbatical, or long service leave, provides the opportunity for a complete break, refreshment, renewal and refocus. The best time to organise this is when you start out and agree to a contract.