Monday, December 24, 2012

Joy to You, from Jesus

The angel said to them, “ Do not be afraid; for behold, 
I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people."
Luke 2:10

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Beginning of Godliness with Martin Luther

Martin Luther (1483-1546) commenting on the phrase, "Behold your king is coming to you", from Matthew 21:5 (citing Ze 9:9), writes:

"It is not by virtue of your power or your merit that the Gospel is preached and your king comes. God must send him out of pure grace. Hence not greater wrath of God exists than where he does not send the Gospel; there is only sin, error, and darkness, there man may do what he will. Again, there is no greater grace than where he sends his Gospel, for there must be grace and mercy in its train, even if not all, perhaps only a few, receive it. . .This is what is meant by 'Your king is coming to you.' You do not seek him, but he seeks you. You do not find him, he finds you. For the preachers come from him, not from you; for their sermons come from him, not from you; your faith comes from him, not from you; everything that faith works in you comes from him, not from you; and where he does not come, you remain outside; and where there is no Gospel there is no God, but only sin and damnation; free will may do, suffer, work, and live as it may and can. Therefore you should not ask, where to begin to be godly; there is no beginning, except where the king enters and is proclaimed."  -- From "Through the Year with Martin Luther", pages 15-16.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

For Christmas, Give "The Story"

This morning I finished reading "The Jesus Storybook Bible"; not to my children, but to myself. Marian and I do read this particular Bible to our little ones, but I have recently been moving through it on my own in the mornings. I even bought my own copy, because I'm funny about my books.

Each time I would read to my children I found myself wanting to continue the reading, at my pace, not theirs, because I would get so caught up in "The Story"; and because this Bible better than most things I've read reveals "The Story" well; and because I'm not all that creative, and so can't see what the creative see. Let me summarize this way: If you want to know what God has been doing in the world for ever how long the world has been here; and if you want to grasp better the reason for creation and the subsequent giving and fulfilling of God's promises to Adam (Ge 3:15), and Abram (Ge 12:1-3); read this Bible. (By the way, history turns on these promises). If you want to feel the love of God for His sinners, read this Bible. If you want to go further into the meaning and effects of the death, resurrection, ascension, and return of Christ, read this Bible. If you want to get at the heart of what your sin is, read this Bible. And if you want to understand what Jesus meant when He said that all of the Scriptures are about Him, read this Bible. If you have read your Bible but struggled to gain from it or be changed by its contents, read this Book.

This Bible is a splendid and even transforming gift for adults, and then for children. If Dad and Mom could lay hold of the message of this Book, and pass it on to their children, how happy and beautiful and distinct and fit for heaven our families would be.

And if you have unbelievers in your life (I hope you do) for whom you pray and labor that they may come to faith, give them this Bible. You might want to explain that you do not insult them by giving them something written for children; that you have read it and benefited from it, and that it reveals remarkably well the ways and works of the Creator to get His people back. Besides, isn't it true that we all need to improve our understanding of and love for the foundations and extending basics of God's message in the Scriptures? This Book will do much for that. It gets to the heart of the matter by showing the gracious heart of God and the rebellious heart of people. It makes sense of so many of the smaller parts and pieces of the long story. And it does so in brief, hitting "highlights" from the Old and into the New Testament.

I finish with this: I've never enjoyed reading anything more. I learned from Sally Lloyd-Jones' insight (The Scripture texts are her paraphrases/interpretations). My view of God has been challenged, and changed, for good. And the "good" that flows from Him in the news of the gospel means more to me because of "The Jesus Storybook Bible."

Check it out here, along with related resources.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sunday Post for Shepherds -- Preach the Cross of Christ

"For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men."
The Apostle Paul, 1 Co 1:22-25

"The cross of Christ reveals the love of God because it shows what that love is prepared to suffer for the beloved."
J.I. Packer, "Knowing Christianity" page 65

Friday, December 7, 2012

Money, Me, and My Government

Here is a helpful, enlightening, and succinct take on money and government, by our friend Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr. We all, I believe, need to know and understand these basics, for our families, our nation, and Christ's kingdom. Enjoy.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Three Cheers for the Robertsons

I commend to you Duck Dynasty on A&E, on Wednesdays, from 10 to 11 PM (Two 30 minute episodes). Why? Because the list of things funnier than wealthy witty rednecks is quite short.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sunday Post for Shepherds --The Faithful Gaze

For our times of ignorance and their fruit called distress:
"We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You."
Jehoshaphat to God, 2 Ch 20:12

"To you I lift up my eyes, 
O You who are enthroned in the heavens!
Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the LORD our God, 
till he has mercy upon us."
The Psalmist, Ps 123:1-2

". . .looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. . ."
He 12:2

Thursday, November 29, 2012

God the Wise: Meditations on Job's Hope

Having now finished reading the book of Job, and then re-reading several of the ending chapters, I offer a few observations that I hope will help in getting to the bottom of the book's message(s).

1. Currently standing at the forefront of my mind is the notion that all of the torture from God, via Satan, that Job interpreted as God's hostility, was actually evidence of God's love. This is not expressly stated within the book, so I'm a bit slow to begin with it. However, I have also been studying Hebrews 12. As I look at the two texts side by side, this is what I see. In other words, the reasons Christians use to justify our unbelief in God's love as He has declared and demonstrated it are the very things that prove it. This is easily illustrated by the human parent-child relationship in which a loving parent goes to great lengths to protect his child from ruinous thought and behavior and deliver her unto blessing. God has made this lesson necessarily plain in the world because it is so abominably hard on us to learn abstractly.

2. God's hard dealings with Job began in a conversation between God and Satan. I do not pretend to understand the connection here, nor have I given it much time. But it is certainly worth mentioning and should be considered in the light of the many New Testament texts that connect humans and their activity with the mighty unseen creatures before whom we live. (i.e. Lk 22:31; Ro 8:38; 1 Co 5:5, 11:10; 2 Co 12:7; 1 Ti 5:21; He 1:6)

3. The Heavenly Father, like His Son, does not always give a humanly sensible answer to the question He is asked. When God finally spoke to Job (Job 38-42), He did not answer Job's particular questions; and didn't even mention Job's suffering. He talked a lot about Himself. God, being wise, speaks the words needed, not requested.

4. God's timing is His own. Job has poured out his heart to God over and over and over again with no reply. We read this for 37 chapters. Then, without explanation, we read, "Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind. . ." (38:1). I don't know.

5. I have heard folks try to pinpoint Job's sin. In a way it's quite incredible that one might read Job's story and then insist on finding the wrong for which Job was punished. That he was being punished at all seems to run counter to the book's message. And yet Job "repents" (42:6); but of what in particular? Some use 16:12 and 42:10 to argue that Job was selfish, and therefore punished. But this appears to me far from the truth. And God never indicts Job for such a crime. The wrong activity Job will eventually confess (42:3) is speaking of God and God's ways without adequate understanding. I tend to think this was also the sin of those of Isaiah's day (Is 6:5), but not in exactly the same way. But this sin occurred during his weakness while suffering. It was not the reason for the suffering. The reason for the suffering is not altogether clear to me. But it occurs to me that God does bring hardship upon His people for training purposes, not only in response to unrepentant sinning (i.e. 2 Co 1). Our pain is planned, not arbitrary. And it's aim is maturity and perseverance and holiness and greater usefulness (2 Co 1; 2 Ti 2; He 12; Ja 1)

6. If you want the New Testament commentary on the point of Job's story, there is one verse on the subject, James 5:11. It reads, "We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord's dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful." I'm wondering, concerning those of you who have read Job, is this what you took away, that God "is full of compassion and is merciful." I confess that was not my first impression. We should consider this further in a future post.

7. Job's friends were wrong about him, and worse, about God (42:7-8). It's good to see Job vindicated. Such justice on earth is not altogether common to God's people. It is easy for us to look at a life and/or a situation and think that had the hurting person done this or that or the other, that he or she would not be in such hardship. We don't know that. We don't know very much at all, about each other or about God. And that's my final word here. Job knew God. Job was a righteous man (1:1,8). And at the end of his ordeal his confession is that he doesn't understand God's ways terribly well. This should give us pause in evaluating our own hardships, and before making judgments, or even speculations, when we consider others who suffer. It would be better to seek to comfort and relieve them first, and save our advice for much later, or for never. Job's friends appear to do him the most good when they are simply sitting with him, and mourning with him, in silence (2:11-13; Cf 2 Co 1 & Ro 12:15).

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Little Help on the Road

I have not written for a while. And before that I was writing sporadically. And today I have little to say. There are reasons for this that I share not. Let's move on. I have been on the road a lot lately and during this past week found myself reading from the famous devotional book "My Utmost for His Highest" by Oswald Chambers. I used to read Chambers in high school and college. Then I stopped. But, while staying in my parent's house for the week of Thanksgiving I picked it up again, since a copy of the book was on the bedside table. Here are a few highlights for your edification, amusement, and progress in the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

Commenting on John 17:4: "The death of Jesus Christ is the performance in history of the very Mind of God. There is no room for looking on Jesus Christ as a martyr; His death was not something that happened to Him which might have been prevented. His death was the very reason why He came."

Commenting on 1 Corinthians 10:31: "Our safeguard is the shallow things. We have to live the surface common-sense life in a common-sense way; when the deeper things come, God gives them to us apart from the shallow concerns. Never show the deeps to anyone but God. We are so abominably serious, so desperately interested in our own characters, that we refuse to behave like Christians in the shallow concerns of life."

Commenting on Psalm 123:3 (This one, for me, was worth the trip and the week; if only I could do it):  "The thing of which we have to beware is not so much damage to our belief in God as damage to our Christian temper. 'Therefore take heed to thy spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.' The temper of mind is tremendous in its effects, it is the enemy that penetrates right into the soul and distracts the mind from God. There are certain tempers of mind in which we never dare indulge; if we do, we find they have distracted us from faith in God, and until we get back to the quiet mood before God, our faith in Him is nil, and our confidence in the flesh and in human ingenuity is the thing that rules.

Beware of  'the cares of this world,' because they are the things that produce a wrong temper of soul. It is extraordinary what an enormous power there is in simple things to distract our attention from God. Refuse to be swamped with the cares of this life.

Another thing that distracts us is the lust of vindication. St. Augustine prayed--'O Lord, deliver me from this lust of always vindicating myself.' That temper of mind destroys the soul's faith in God. 'I must explain myself; I must get people to understand.' Our Lord never explained anything; He left mistakes to correct themselves.

When we discern that people are not going on spiritually and allow the discernment to turn to criticism, we block our way to God. God never gives us discernment in order that we may criticize, but that we may intercede."

Commenting on Galatians 6:14: "If you want to know the energy of God (i.e., the resurrection life of Jesus) in your mortal flesh, you must brood on the tragedy of God. Cut yourself off from prying personal interest in your own spiritual symptoms and consider bare-spirited the tragedy of God, and instantly the energy of God will be in you. 'Look unto Me,' pay attention to the objective Source and subjective energy will be there. We lose power if we do not concentrate  on the right thing. The effect of the Cross is salvation, sanctification, healing, etc., but we are not to preach any of these, we are to preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified. The proclaiming of Jesus will do its own work."

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Way of National Repentance

Read about it here.

 "Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance." 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Voting in Jesus' Name

Well, how would Jesus vote? I say at the beginning I am aware that I do not speak with any kind of flawless authority. And as a man I am prone to error. My effort here is simply to give voice to biblical values, and briefly. Having said that I offer this:

1. I think Jesus would vote to protect the unborn. The Source of life is pro-life. For a really good word on this, and on our standing before God in judgment for how we vote, hear my pastor's sermon from yesterday. Click here. (Hit the "sermon" link and look for the message dated 11/4/2012).

2. I think He would vote against debt. The freeing God is for financial freedom. A president that continues to borrow to placate constituents while increasing the financial load upon citizens should be fired. In addition, there is nothing good about increasing a society's dependency upon its government. If Jesus tells the truth, how we relate to work and money says as much about us as anything, and more than most things.

3. I think He would vote for a truth teller. Jesus is Truth personified. Obama continues to tell flagrant lies about Romney's automobile company bail-out plan, among other things. And when corrected our president simply revs up the lying. Romney may be lying about things too. But if so, I don't know what they are. In my opinion, our president should have resigned due to the Fast and Furious scandal. And now we have the Benghazi debacle to settle. Again, a resignation is in order, not a re-election. I have a host of other dishonesties in my mental list, but I digress.

4. I think He would vote for humility. Jesus is not proud.

5. I think He would vote for a leader. Jesus gives sound direction and counsel. He's also not effeminate.

6. I don't think He would vote with His own financial interests as the primary matter. He's not selfish.

7. I think He would vote for heterosexual marriage, the way He designed it. He is true to His purposes.

8. I think He would vote for the same tax rate on all people - rich, poor, and otherwise. This is how God governed His people Israel. Surely we realize that a particular percentage on more money is more money; meaning that the greater one's income the more taxes she pays. So the wealthy do pay more, but not wrongly, as they would by being required to contribute a higher percentage of their income. A government's taking money from the wealthy and using it to supply services for the poor is a form of stealing. Robin Hood is a thief. He is simply one the poor love. Voting a higher tax rate for others than we would vote for ourselves is not just, or loving. And Jesus is both.

Personally, I'm not excited about either of the candidates. I prefer a Ron Paul Revolution, which has its own flaws, but not nearly so many. With the Democratic and Republican Parties, we are forced to choose between big Democrat government or big Republican government. I'm for neither; nor were the founders of our country.

How much does any of this matter? It matters in that we all do stand in the the light and fire of God's just judgment upon us for our choices, which flow from our hearts. And it matters because who the US President is does affect people, including God's people. But it doesn't matter in any saving sense. I have no hope invested in Obama or Romney to be to me and my family any sort of savior or provider. God is God alone. God alone saves, and takes care of His people. So I'm not counting on Uncle Sam for much of anything, including my children's education, my income, or our health care, to mention only a few.

What's sad to me is that tomorrow I will, God willing, vote for a professing Mormon over a professing Christian. What's more sad is that the Mormon's values are seemingly more in line with those of Jesus than are the "Christian's". I vote values, not titles.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sunday Post for Shepherds -- Courage & Reformation

Wednesday was Reformation Day; for on October 31, 1517, German Augustinian monk Martin Luther inadvertently, but somewhat formally, began the Protestant Reformation. And while his intention to begin a world changing movement was not present, his courage certainly was; courage to challenge long held beliefs precious to his own church. May God grant Christian pastors of our day the same kind of protestant courage, a courage rooted in Bible doctrine and our certainty of God's trustworthiness when He speaks. We will know this has come when God's men "do not shrink back from declaring the whole counsel of God" (Ac 20:27); when God's approval means more than that of the congregation (Mt 10:28); when we lean on God's grace and not our paychecks (Mt 10:31); and when we see the fruit of such preaching -- thriving and dying churches. For the Word of God is a hammer (Je 23), both softening hearts unto repentance and hardening hearts unto damnation (Ro 9). The chief weapon in the growth of one church and the killing of another is the same -- the proclaimed Word of God.

And when hearts are moved unto repentance and faith by God's Word, our outward practices also change to reflect what has happened on the inside. For pastors this means our gatherings begin to look and sound and feel different, because we are trusting God the Holy Spirit and detesting man-centered religion where numbers and reputations reign.

So go on brother pastor, preach the Bible systematically. Say about God what God says about Himself. Teach doctrine and stop with the "how to" sermonnettes, for we are designed to know Him (Jn 17:3), not "success." Abolish the altar call which forever ties God's saving work to something we do. Rid your congregation of the songs that could be more fittingly sung to our pets. Take that American flag out of the auditorium and teach your folks that Christians, not structures, are the Lord's sanctuary. Set up a book stall filled with resources that help your flock better understand the Bible. Design your gatherings in a way that enables your people to do all the "one another" commands of the New Testament. Establish a council of biblically qualified elders to rule the church under Christ's headship (You might want to do this first, so that you aren't trying reform alone). And then lead them to mercifully excommunicate faithless members of the flock. Begin to sit together at the Lord's Table often enough for it to actually serve its good purposes. And when you do, use the elements our Lord consecrated for the meal, including wine. And if the elements do not matter, and therefore a shot of grape juice is sufficient, then we might as well serve Coca-Cola and Little Debbie oatmeal cream pies.

In other words, we must pray and labor to see both ourselves and our flocks reformed by Scripture. This is not only what Luther would do, but what Jesus commands (Mt 28:18-19). Trust the Lord of the Church enough to do it all His way. Move at a reasonable pace, and with great patience (2 Ti 4:2). But by all means, do move! For to do so is to love Christ and His people (1 Pe 5:1-5; Jn 14:14-22).

It is quite possible, and even common I think, for a pastor to preach the Scriptures but then not lead his folks to do them. Doing them (reformation) gets worked out in the meetings and conversations and decisions. It is not enough to say what God says. Doing what God says is our vocation (Ja 1:22).

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sunday Post for Shepherds -- Think.

I simply exhort you to be a thinker; to love God with your mind (Mt 22:37), to gain biblical understanding via God's means -- the work of the brain, like my son Joah here. Or is he sleeping?

"Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything."
The Apostle Paul to Pastor Timothy, in 2 Ti 2:7 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Treating the World the Way the World Treats Jesus

"But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." -- The Apostle Paul, Ga 6:14

Sinclair Ferguson comments: "What is to be done to the world in the Christian life? It is to be crucified. It is to receive the same treatment at the hands of the Christian as Jesus received at the hands of worldly men! . . We must deal a mortal wound to its influence in our hearts and lives. Just as the Lord Jesus was an object of revulsion and rejection to the world, so it must be to us." -- From "Grow in Grace", page 60.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Physical Body Matters to God

As a follow-up to yesterday's post on exercise via P90X, I offer the quote below, which I read this morning. I would also refer you to the many Scripture texts that refer to our bodies and how they are connected to right worship and service of God. I am not saying these texts command physical fitness. What I am saying is that Dr. Murray is right (see quote below); our bodies matter to God. They must matter to us also.

"There is a more fundamental and foundational life than the Christian life; 'creature life.' Before we are Christians, we are creatures. . .A renewed understanding of our full-orbed creatureliness, with due place given to the body, will produce safety, piety, productivity, and creativity. . .Starting with salvation rather than creation often results in a dualism that views the soul as the only important element of our humanity, the body being a hindrance or an irrelevance. All our problems are "spiritual problems," and the almost-exclusive focus is soul health. In general, those who cultivate healthy souls enjoy healthier bodies. However, God did not just give us souls to protect our bodies; He gave us bodies to protect our souls. If we rest well, exercise well, eat well, and so on, our minds will be clearer, our emotions will be steadier, and our moral defenses will be higher."
From the article "Created to Create" by Dr. David Murray, found in the Oct 2012 edition of Tabletalk, pages 44-45

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Commending Fitness Via Suffering Via P90X

In past posts I have commended exercise and shared a little about its benefits. Now I commend it via a particular program, because I am under the impression that most of us need coaching and training and encouragement when it comes to this realm. Many possess little useful information on how our bodies work and what our bodies need. And it's quite normal to struggle to maintain a regimen without help. Let's face it, discipline does not come naturally to us, and even the most disciplined among us is prone to drift from even long embraced good habits. All of this leads me to commend Tony Horton's P90X, and its affiliate programs, found at

I found Horton himself to be a pleasant, realistic, and encouraging fellow. He seems obsessed with fitness, as one might imagine. But he doesn't appear to be under the impression that everyone ought to be just like him. He also offers modifications regarding the exercise moves thereby accommodating various fitness levels. In short, he understands the struggle to be fit and does what he can to help. This includes not only the exercise program, but an eating guide and all the hands-on scheduling tools that are useful when taking on a new routine.

And now, as a P90X grad, I offer these additional comments:

1. The program is designed for folks who are already fit to become even more fit, or extremely fit, which is the reason for the "X" in P90X. Having said that, I have heard folks who were not remotely fit say they gained much from the program. This is understandable. If a person is willing to work, suffer, and sacrifice, then he/she can get into good shape by this program even if in the beginning he/she struggles mightily. It should be said though that the Beach Body company offers less intense programs for weight loss and fitness.
2. This program is difficult. I thought I had strong and fit legs, until I engaged in P90X Plyometrics. And over a lifetime of intense exercise, I have never been sore like the Legs & Back Workout made me sore. Related to this, I noticed during the 90 days that I was at least a little sore almost every day. All this to say that if you are considering this program, take the "X" seriously. In speaking with someone who had begun the program and quit, his reason for stopping was that "the workouts are too long". Well, the program does advertise as "extreme". But actually, most of the workouts are under an hour. And that includes the warm-up and stretch before each session, and the cool-down at the end. That's really not very long, especially when you consider how much time it takes to drive to the gym, exercise, and then drive home.
3. This is not like your gym workout. At the gym, if you are working biceps, for example, it is normal to engage in 5 or 6 exercises (with multiple sets), but waste time in between those sets, and waste more time moving from apparatus to apparatus. But with P90X there is zero wasted time, and many more sets with many more reps. Many of the moves in the program were previously unknown to me. One of the benefits of the program is its pace. It keeps you moving, so that every workout is to some degree about burning fat, not just building muscle.
4. It works. As Tony says, keep showing up and keep pushing play. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Get Wisdom - Post 28

Proverbs - Chapter 28

There are multiple themes that run through this chapter. They include wickedness in contrast with righteousness (v1, 4-5,12, 15, 28), the evil rich in contrast with the honorable poor (v6, 8, 11, 19, 22, 27), and the law-hater in contrast with the law-keeper (v4, 7, 9). Other topics are wisdom (v26), understanding (v2, 7, 11, 16), integrity (v6), repentance (v13), work (v19), contentment/generosity (v8, 24-25, 27) and the fear of the LORD (v14). The text also speaks of what we produce, that is, our fruitfulness for good or evil. Another way to say this is to talk of consequences. All of us are producing something in this moment. What is that something? So God warns, "Whoever trusts in His own mind is a fool"; And promises, "but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered". In other words, our own minds are not naturally wise minds. They are in contrast quite foolish, unable to please the Lord, because they do not operate from faith (See He 6:1-6; Ro 3:11-20, etc), and "that which is not of faith is sin" (Ro 14:23).

The Scriptures repeatedly tell us that our minds are naturally hostile to the law of God and twisted beyond any human ability to straighten. Consequently, we are easily deceived. So the sanctification of the mind is a must if we are to get wisdom, that is, live to please God. This sanctification happens by digestion of God's Word (Jn 17:17) which washes our minds clean (Ep 5:26). So let us do the joyous work of learning to love God with our minds by cultivating the thinking of Christ (Mt 22:37; 1 Co 2:15-16) -- the perfectly sane, never deceived, and altogether wise One.

To do this, I suggest a weekly participation in the hearing of sound preaching/teaching. This is a chief means God has given. So gather with God's people for it. God has designed the church so that His people mature by being taught by those built for the work. In addition, consider a listening plan -- an audio Bible, and/or a reading plan -- something like "Read the Bible for Life" by George Guthrie. You can give it a look here.

The Scriptures make extraordinary claims about themselves and about their eternally good effects upon the the one who learns, believes, and does them. We believe these claims or we do not. Our affection level for the Bible and our practices with it reveal our confidence in it, and it's Author.

"Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God"
Jesus, Mt 4:4

"Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak, and let the earth hear the words of my mouth. May my teaching drop as the rain, and my speech distill as the dew, like gentle rain upon the grass, and like showers upon the herb. . .take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of the law. For it is no empty word for you, but your very life. . ."
Moses, Dt 32:1-2, 46-47

Monday, September 24, 2012

Echoes of His Image - George Carlin, on the Desire for Satisfying Work

God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.
Ge 1:31 
Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. . . And to Adam he said, 'Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it', cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground. . .
Ge 2:15 & 3:17-19

There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen that it is from the hand of God. . .I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime;  moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor—it is the gift of God.
Ec 2:24 & 3:12-13

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

God the Free: Meditations on Job's Hope

"Oh, that I had one to hear me. . .
Oh, that the Almighty would answer me. . .
The words of Job are ended."
Job 31:35 & 40

It seems that Job was accustomed to God's fellowship and leading. But now, during his unspeakable suffering, God is silent, and absent. Job feels abandoned. Who wouldn't? And while he suffers the wicked prosper (See chs 21 & 24, for examples). Job is not suffering along with the wicked, as one might in a famine. He is hurting while they are celebrating. They continue to gain while he continues to lose. This reality overwhelms his powers of reason and his sense of justice. His children - dead. His property - destroyed. His health - devastated. His friends - useless. His reputation - ruined. His income - lost. His wife - perplexed. His God - missing. This is not hell on earth. But it may be as close as anyone has ever come to it.

Job's longing: "Oh, that I were as in months past, as in the days when God watched over me; when His lamp shone upon my head, and when by His light I walked through darkness; Just as I was in the days of my prime, when the friendly counsel of God was over my tent; when the Almighty was yet with me, when my children were around me" (29:1-5).

Job's reality: "God has afflicted me. . .Terrors are turned upon me and my prosperity has passed like a cloud. And now my soul is poured out because of my plight; The days of affliction take hold of me. My bones are pierced in me at night, and my gnawing pains take no rest. . .God has cast me into the mire, and I have become like dust and ashes. I cry out to You, but You do not answer me; I stand up, and You only look at me. You have become cruel to me; With the strength of Your hand You oppose me. . .You spoil my success" (30:11, 15-22).

Soon after this last expression of desperation, Job offers his final effort to move God to mercy. And so, the words of Job are ended.

All of this together reminds me of a scene from the life of John the Baptist, for whom my blog is named. He is imprisoned for truthful prophesying. And while there he sends someone to ask Jesus if He really is the expected Messiah. Perhaps John's suffering for the sake of righteousness has gotten him thinking that if Jesus were the Messiah, then His people wouldn't be unjustly punished, and suffering would cease; Since Jesus is here, vindication of His people is also here. So why am I in prison for my faithfulness while wicked Herod lives it up in luxury (See Mt 14)? The last part of Jesus' answer to John's inquiry is relevant here. After affirming His messiahship Jesus adds, "And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me" (Mt 11:6).

There is similar instruction given to Peter after he learns of his impending death at the hands of evil men (Jn 21:19). The text says that, "Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, 'Lord, who is the one who betrays you?' Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, 'But Lord, what about this man?'" In other words, Peter has just heard some terribly disturbing news confirming his suffering to come. And now he asks Jesus to speak about how John's future is laid out. Jesus answers Peter this way: "If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me." Probably not what Peter wanted to hear, because misery does not only love company, but sometimes misery needs it.

God is free absolutely. He is free when Job suffers while the wicked prosper. He is free when John the Baptist is imprisoned and then beheaded while evil Herod celebrates. He is free when the Apostle Peter is crucified while the Apostle John dies of old age. And He is free when you and I cannot make any sense of our situations or see any good in them. And that divine freedom will be a horror to us, even an offense to us, if we do not believe that the free God is also the good, wise, and just One. That's the fight. That's the call of the Scriptures and the meaning of saving faith -- indestructible confidence in the free God. May God grant what He demands. That's our only hope.

So what to do? Pray, pray, pray, and seek to be transformed by the Scriptures into right thinking and confident lovers of the free God. It is the grace of this God and the intercession of His Son that sustains faith through suffering (Lk 22:31-32; 2 Co 1:1-11 & 12:1-10). This God runs the world, His way. If that way offends me then I am not blessed, says Jesus to John and to us. And if I can't handle well  my hardships in the light of the ease in which others often live, then I can't follow Jesus, says He to Peter and to us.

"Free and merciful Father, grant us an unoffended faith and the blessing that comes with it; Grant the faith that follows Jesus hopefully and gladly in a world littered with injustice, hardship and mystery. In His name, and for His sake and glory we ask. Amen."

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Junior Speaks on Contextualization

When we make our decisions about how we “do” church on the basis of demographics we implicitly deny the Lordship of Christ, and keep ourselves on the throne. The message of the cross isn’t “Come as you are.” The message of the cross is “Consider the cost. And it will cost you everything. You will have to give up your favorite sins, your closest friends, your most comfortable culture. You have to die with Christ.”

When we pitch Jesus we in turn miss the real promises. We fail, when we refuse to call the lost to consider the cost, to invite them to consider all that they will gain. They will inherit the world. They will cultivate the greatest virtues. They will gain brothers and sisters. They will enter into a culture as old as the garden, as deep as the ocean, as broad as the planet. We fail to tell the stuffy that they are going to come to love the tattooed because Jesus died for them and indwells them. We fail to tell the trendy that they are going to come to love singing the music of the ancients, that the guy with the comb-over is the bomb because he’s spent his life meditating on the Bible. And the blue haired lady that sings The Old Rugged Cross off key- she has done more for the kingdom than all the hip preachers on your ipod combined.

Taken from an article by R.C. Sproul Jr in which he is commenting on “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (I Corinthians 9: 22). You can find the full article here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Life-Breath of My Soul: Giving Praise for My Daughter Tess

"And Jacob said. . .I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that You have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps."
Ge 32:9-10
Tess and I recently spent some quality time together at Cracker Barrel.
God's blessing to Jacob and God's blessing to me do not run parallel. He got two camps. I got two children, so far. But what blessings are those two! And I do share Jacob's sentiment -- I am not worthy of them. Since September 10 is the date my family celebrates God's work in the finalization of our adoption of Tess, I thought I would write of her this week. And there is much good to say. But I will be brief, sharing some recent highlights. But first, about the title of the blog; Steve Camp sings a song in which he says of his children that they are "the life-breath of his soul". That bothers me a little because it sounds like something we should say of God, not man. That being said, I use the words here to convey my bottomless affection for, and enduring devotion to, my precious daughter.

Her Sunday School teacher told Marian that during this past week's prayer request time, Tess said she was thankful that her daddy loved her. She's four years old. I don't know that she could do well defining love. But I am so grateful for a daughter that is secure in my love for her, however she contrives it. What a humbling experience for me to hear her prayer of praise. And she really doesn't know how deeply or how seriously and furiously I actually do love her. Nevertheless, at four, she's sure enough of my love to thank God for it. I am truly grateful for such a gift.

Marian recently asked her some questions which she recorded, along with the answers. Here's a sampling:
1. What is Daddy's favorite color? The answer: "Green, no dark green."
2. What does Daddy like to call you? The answer: "Daddy calls me baby bird and he says he loves me."
3. Anything else you want to say about Daddy? The answer: "I love Daddy because he brings me everywhere and gets me smoothies and I just love him."

Tess often loves on me by giving me gifts, mostly drawings or paintings along with various toys that she says she "doesn't use anymore"; but also rocks, weeds, and other sundry objects. I am thankful for each one. Below are pictures of a few recent offerings.

This is a large envelope in which Tess put a note to me saying, "To Daddy. I love you. Love Tess".
This is me with a heart above my big head. Do I not look happy? Dear men, there are few gifts greater that we can give our children than our happiness. A happy father normally makes a happy home.
Say hi to Buster. Tess gave him to me and told me that "he could go everywhere with me". I keep him in my truck.

Weeds from Tess. She said we should put them in water. Of course I obliged. I strive to say yes to my children.

My niece Hilary is pregnant. On a recent visit with her and her husband Charlie, I was asked to write in an advice book. The pages were quite small and so one must be succinct to stay on one page. So what to say to an expecting parent? Hilary has said of me that I am very deliberate. She's unusually observant. I would say that is an excellent description. So for a deliberate guy with one small page, this was a bit challenging. But I included something like this: "Give your children a lot of love, and discipline them (a form of love) when they are clearly rebellious." That is not all there is to parenting, and one must work out what it means to love. But that thought has served me well thus far. Do what love would do, and only discipline for clear rebellion, not for mistakes, innocent errors, and faulty judgment. Correct these, yes. But don't punish for them. I hope that helps someone.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sunday Post for Shepherds -- Stand.

"This is it. Don't get scared now."
From Kevin McAlister, in the movie "Home Alone", when the enemy was literally on his doorstep.

"But the LORD is with me as a dread warrior. . ."
Je 20:11

"But he who is noble plans noble things, 
and on noble things he stands."
Is 32:8 

Friday, August 31, 2012

Get Wisdom -- Post 27

Proverbs -- Chapter 27

What a text, speaking to the place of boasting (v1-2), the power of emotion (v3-4), the value of friends (v5-6; 9-10), the need for perspective (v7-8), the goodness in discernment (v11-12), the ways of neighbor love (v13-14; 17-18), a form of torture (v15-16), the relationship between desire and character (v19-20), the revealing of that character (v21-22), and the beauty of thoughtful stewardship, consisting of labor and forethought (v23-27).

Apparently God has something wise to say about pretty much everything.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Job's Relief

"Give strong drink to the one who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress; 
let them drink and forget their poverty, and remember their misery no more."
Pr 31:6-7
In light of what we have seen of Job's sufferings thus far, 
I do wonder about his drinking habits.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

God the Just: Meditations on Job's Hope

"Now if it is not so, who will prove me a liar, and make my speech worth nothing?"
Job 24:25

Yesterday morning, after making an in-home speech, I asked the above question to those in the room (my wife and daughter). I confess with Job that the copious amounts of injustice I see eat away at my bones, and my sanity. Please don't hear me saying that I'm innocent. Please don't hear Job saying that he is innocent either (See ch 9, & 13:23). Job's battle never concerns his innocence in a general sense, but in the sense that his "friends" press upon him -- that he has by particular acts of unrighteousness earned the particular sufferings doled out to him. Their doctrine of suffering is horribly flawed in its content and its oversimplification. It is not true that the good are rewarded and the evil are punished, as by some automated mechanism. And it is also not true that reward and punishment are wholly meted out in this life. The reality is that there is a Person behind all of the rewards and punishments. And His purposes are regularly mysterious and beyond our finding out. They are also carried out in eternity, not just this present time. This is not a simple thing.

In chapter 24 Job speaks of the mystery mentioned above. His desire is that "wickedness should be broken like a tree" (v20). But of course it isn't. Not only do the wicked prosper in a way that seems to indicate that "God does not charge them with wrong" (v12), but the righteous suffer at the hands of these same evil people. The chapter contains a list of sins Job sees from those who "rebel against the light" (v13) along with Job's desired punishments for them (v18-21). Job's complaint here has not changed. He still believes that when he "cries out concerning wrong, he is not heard", and that "there is no justice" (See 19:7). And he asks that God would "look away from him that he may rest" (14:6). Amen.

I am under the impression, correct or not, that most of the Christians I know have never had deep feelings like this. The explanation for this is a lack of suffering. A lack of suffering is a good thing if God has determined that one not suffer though they practice righteousness. But a lack of suffering for "playing it safe" is a terrible and sinful thing. The Apostle Paul has told us that all those who want to live a godly life will suffer persecution [usually from within the church (2 Ti 3:12)]; and that his Christian suffering was so severe and prolonged that he came to believe that death was the only way out (2 Co 1:8-10). Job came to believe this too (10:18-19, for example).  Jesus has said to us that following Him will bring loss (Mt 5:11-12), even great loss (Mt 10:24-39; Jn 16:1-2).

God says that suffering and trial make us better, useful, mature, and godly (See Ja 1; 1 Pe ; 2 Co 1, etc). And some of these trials we bring upon ourselves by our faithful obedience (See 2 Co 8; Mt 5, etc). In other words, there are demanding but beneficial consequences that come with the Christ-life. But many who profess Jesus as Lord do not feel the weight of these consequences because they live like pagans, striving for what they understand to be the most secure path, risking neither dollar nor reputation nor relationship. These are the cruisers, and the users. Apparently, to these, God exists for them. And this belief is at the heart of what's wrong with the church in America. It's not the adulterer, the drunkard, or any of the other more glamorous sinners that plague our congregations. It's the American Christian coward, who would rather do anything than suffer, who never does a truly hard thing, who does nothing that remotely resembles sacrifice, and who couldn't even begin to define biblical faith. These are those who say that evangelism and giving, for example, are "not their gifts", and imagine heaven as only an extension of their present condition. No wonder the Apostle Paul spends two chapters commending the Macedonian Christians for their eagerness to sacrifice (2 Co 8-9). It's just so rare, and so beautiful.

As I wasted time yesterday ranting to my wife and daughter on the horrors of such cowardice, I named names that my wife would know. And I made a judgment, though not an authoritative or ultimate one. I said that I sincerely love these people, but that I have trouble respecting them. They cruise (in my estimation). They give the minimum, and sit on piles of money they don't need while legitimate needs go unmet. They take the easy gigs only, while God demands that His people "go to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach" (He 13:13). And they will, in this life, take the better vacations, drive the better vehicles, and have lots of friends; but at what cost? Have they (or I) "strived for the faith of the gospel and suffered for Jesus' sake" (Php 1)? Have we known God (Php 3)? Or have we gained the world, but lost our souls (Mt 16:26)? I don't know. I am not their judge, or mine (1 Co 4). But this I know, that "God draws the mighty away with His power; He rises up, but no man is sure of life. He gives them security, and they rely on it; Yet His eyes are on their ways." (Job 24:22-23).

May God make us faithful.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Echoes of His Image -- FUN, on the Desire for Peace and Unity.

"Some nights I wish that this all would end,
cause I could use some friends for a change."
From their song "Some Nights"

"I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ. . ."
The Apostle Paul 
(Php 1:23)

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.  And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them,  and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
 And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
The Apostle John
(Re 21:1-5) 

 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."
(Mt 25:34) 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Echoes of His Image -- An Introduction, Featuring Hank Hill, on the Desire for a Heavenly Celebration

God made humanity in His image (Ge 1). And God made us for God (Ro 11; Col 1) . So whether we recognize it or not, we hunger for our Heavenly Father. Our desires, though perverted, may be attributed to our longing for Him for whom we were made, and Him whom we image. This comes out everywhere in the culture. We all want heaven, and the God of heaven. We just don't know it. So we try to construct paradise on earth, and fail. Our urges are the echoes of His image.

I'd like to occasionally post quotes that reflect such echoes, but with this caveat - I do not take culture altogether seriously. Every human impulse is not valuable. In fact, the Apostle Paul attributes our much sinning to our own inordinate desires, labeling them foolish and harmful (1 Ti 6:9). So my posts in this context are not meant to excuse evil and idolatry, but to point us away from such to God. Now, hear Hank ask. . .

"Is there anything beer can't do?"
Hank Hill

"You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household."
God, via Moses
(Dt 14:26) 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Because She's My Bride

Have a peek at my first tattoo. I had the concept in mind -- a ruby, a dove, and my wife's name. Of course I needed the artist to help me put it all together. I wanted my wife's name because, well, she is my wife (Pr 18:22), and the ruby because of her worth (Pr 31:10), and a dove because God the Holy Spirit has joined us together (Mt 3:16 & 19:6).

Sunday, August 19, 2012

God the Lover: Meditations on Job's Hope

"But He is unique, and who can make Him change?
And whatever His soul desires, that He does.
For He performs what is appointed for me,
And many such things are with Him.
Therefore I am terrified at His presence;
When I consider this, I am afraid of Him.
For God made my heart weak, 
And the Almighty terrifies me;
Because I was not cut off from the presence of darkness,
And He did not hide deep darkness from my face."
Job 23:13-17

As suggested in my last post, God means to make us weak. And so it goes with Job. God's love is a terrifying one; because apparently He will do anything to make us holy. The anything includes "deep darkness" and debilitating forms of suffering. God not only takes good from Job, He gives him horror in its place, so that Job's suffering is not only the pain of loss. In addition, Job learns that he is alone in his terror. He has no comforter or sound counselor. His friends scold him, and his wife suggests suicide. I imagine she does so out of pity and compassion. And I also imagine Job seriously considered the option. He spends many words cursing the day of his birth and wishing, even praying, for his death. I speculate that if God took away even one of my children, that grief combined with the devil's power to tempt, would push me to that place. Job lost all of his children. He also lost his property, his income, and his health. He never, however, lost his faith (13:15-16, 19:25-27).

If nothing else, the book of Job is a testimony to the power of Christ to keep all that are given to Him (Jn 6:39). The fact that Job did not take his wife's advice to "curse God and die" is evidence of this. Beyond this, I'm still musing on the meaning of the narrative. Apparently God has something to prove to Satan, at Job's expense (See chapters 1 & 2). Like I said, God will do anything to make us holy. And like Job, I'm terrified of that kind of love; because that kind of love doesn't feel like love. It feels like hatred. It feels like God has marked us as His enemies and set us up as His targets (7:20). And apart from sovereign grace, what feels like hatred is believed to be hatred and so the former "believers" become apostates.

We'll see what happens with Job. I'm only through chapter 23.

"I was at ease, but He has shattered me; 
He also has taken me by the neck, and shaken me to pieces;
He has set me up for His target. . ."
Job 16:12

Thursday, August 16, 2012

God the Taker: Meditations on Job's Hope

My blogging regularity has suffered as of late along with other former regular practices. That's because something else consumes my thoughts and energies. And it is not a pleasant something or even one something. But never mind what I mean by "something". It wouldn't matter to you anyway. In addition, I have considered that my blog often reads much like a journal, chronicling thoughts and life events. Putting those things together leads me to write a bit this morning on God's piling up on His people. Some say whatever doesn't kill us makes us stronger. I say whatever doesn't kill our bodies may nevertheless kill our spirits. Some dogs, when beaten, get mean and tough. Others become frightened and psychologically fragile. So it is with men.

I've been reading Job. And as I do I find myself becoming angry, with God, for what He brought upon His servant. I'm only in chapter 19, so I have a way to go. And of course I've read it before, but never with such interest. Job was convinced God was angry with him. He was sure he had become God's enemy. He states these things repeatedly. He even says, "As a mountain falls and crumbles away, and as a rock is moved from its place; As water wears away stones, and as torrents wash away the soil of the earth; So You (God) destroy the hope of man" (Job 14:18-19).

God is a taker, not just a giver. Job says so (1:21). And when God takes and takes and takes (1:13-19), do we become stronger? Does His not killing us make us tougher? No. We become weaker, at least initially. And perhaps that's His aim (See 2 Co 12:7-10), to produce a particular kind of beautiful weakness. I'm not altogether sure. Like I said, I'm only to chapter 19.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Beautiful Rebellion

"The Church owes a great debt to its rebels."
Alistair Begg, from his preaching series through the book of the Prophet Amos. Find it here.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Get Wisdom -- Post 26

Proverbs -- Chapter 26

It seems clear to me that this chapter has to do with three evils. They are pride, laziness, and the damaging use of speech. Of course all of these are tied to the root issue of foolishness.

The writer's description of the fool in v1-11 is nothing less than fierce and graphic. While reading it this morning I thought of Jesus' curses upon the Pharisees and hypocrites found in Matthew 23. I wondered who could be in a worse situation than the fool. Then I read v12 -- "Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him". There is someone in a more perilous predicament than the standard fool -- the one who is proud, or maybe we can say the self-satisfied one, which leads us into the section of the chapter on the lazy, who are portrayed as those "wise in their own eyes" (v16). Of course all of these character issues are not only related to foolishness, but to each other.

Just one note on the lazy; they will find excuses for their inactivity (v13). If we are lazy we defy God by rebellion against not only His commands to work, but against a part of our bearing of His image and nature. That is, God is a worker (Ge 1-2; Jn 5). There is much in Scripture on the goodness and godliness of working.

Verse 17 to the end of the chapter condemn those of us who cannot control our tongues, which James later tells us are "a fire" and "a world of unrighteousness" (Ja 3:6).

Interesting in this wisdom chapter are the ways we are told to relate to the proud, the lazy, and the loose-lipped. We must not honor the foolish (v1 & v8), or trust them with certain tasks (v6 & v10), or waste words on them while at the same time, in particular circumstances, attempting to correct them (v4-5). In addition, we must not believe those who have shown themselves to be loveless (v24-25). Hatred seeks its own (cf 1 Co 13:5). And the person determined to get his own way is not loving his neighbor, but using him.

Certainly each of these evils are in me. I pray though they do not and will not characterize me. May God be merciful to me, a sinner.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Bible: Strange & Beautiful

The Bible, if God's Word, would reflect His character. And God is unique, or strange. He is in a class all by Himself. It's impossible to say in all truthfulness that God is exactly like a . . . (fill in the blank). It's impossible because God is distinct from His creation, though His nature is reflected in it. We, by God's works, see a shadow of Him. And shadows do not give us details, only shape. But besides creation and God's works, we have the Bible, which is an objective testimony to His nature. And since God is strange, so is His written revelation. In other words, we should not expect the Bible to be altogether simple, but still quite clear. We should not expect to read only of "normal" ideas in the Bible. God is not "normal". And while the gospel is an unusually understandable message, it is simultaneously a mysterious one, because there is mystery in God.

Belief systems other than Christianity are quite simple. They say do this, not that, and god will favor you. In them there is nothing profound, or mysterious, or remotely beautiful or captivating or refreshing or saving. The hope of all other faith systems is the very one trying to benefit from that system; which is to say, there is no hope, because there is no divinely human Savior, humbling Himself to rescue His wayward and corrupt and helpless creatures. Christianity is for those who believe that their problem is within and salvation comes from without. All other belief systems are for those who believe their problem is without and their hope lies within themselves.

The Engine of Pride

"The root of our sinfulness is the desire for our own happiness apart from God and apart from the happiness of others in God. I mean that to be read carefully. Let me say it again: The root of our sinfulness is the desire to be happy apart from God and apart from whether others find their eternal happiness in God. All sin comes from a desire to be happy cut off from the glory of God and cut off from the good of others. The command of Jesus [to love our neighbor] cuts to this root, exposes it, and severs it. Another name for this root of sinfulness is pride. Pride is the presumption that we can be happy without depending on God as the source of our happiness and without caring if others find their happiness in God. Pride is the contaminated and corrupted passion to be happy. It is corrupted by two things: (1) the unwillingness to see God as the only fountain of true and lasting joy, and (2) the unwillingness to see other people as designed by God to share our joy in him. If you take the desire to be happy and strip away from it God as the fountain of your happiness and strip from it people as the ones you hope will share your happiness in God, what you have left is the engine of pride. Pride is the pursuit of happiness anywhere but in the glory of God and the good of other people for God's sake. This is the root of all sin."

John Piper, from "What Jesus Demands from the World", commenting on Jesus' command to love our neighbors as ourselves, pages 256-257.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Get Wisdom -- Post 25

Proverbs -- Chapter 25

The corrupt do corrupt (v4-5, 18-19, 26-28).

Aim low (v6-7). This has to do with what it means to be humble (v27). And see Jesus on the subject in Lk 14:7-11 and Jn 13.

There is much you do not know. Therefore, be wise and prudent with your words in the variety of your relationships (v2-3, 8-10, 11-14, 15, 17-18, 23-25). For, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit" (Pr 18:21).

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

One Man's Thought on Pulling the Trigger

"I use my guns whenever kindness fails."
Robert Earl Keen, Texas Country Singer

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Often Overlooked, and Unappreciated, Qualities in Jesus

1. He was often unusually blunt, with his closest friends and with strangers; with men, and with women; with those in power, and with those who had none.

2. He was sometimes purposely and intentionally unavailable. Sometimes He hid himself. Sometimes He chose to do other than give someone His time. Sometimes He drove people away. Sometimes He said no.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Get Wisdom -- Post 24

Proverbs -- Chapter 24

Be wise to be strong. Be strong for the weak. A hopeful future belongs to the wise, and to the righteous. Be honest in your speech and orderly in your work.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Get Wisdom -- Post 23

Proverbs -- Chapter 23

Know your company, and act accordingly. This company may include the powerful (v1f), the stingy (v6f), the foolish (v9), the weak (v10f), the young (v13), the sinner (v17), and/or the LORD (v17f).

Hope in God (v18).

Reward is both present and future (v18-35).

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Get Wisdom -- Post 22

Proverbs -- Chapter 22

The aim, found in verse 19, is "that your trust may be in the LORD".

Also, become skillful in your work. The reward may include influence, honor, wealth, and becoming a blessing to others.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Get Wisdom -- Post 21

Proverbs -- Chapter 21

The LORD changes hearts, honors integrity and faith, punishes the wicked, determines outcomes, and always wins.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Get Wisdom -- Post 20

Proverbs -- Chapter 20

"Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find?"
"A man's steps are from the LORD; how then can man understand his way?"

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Packer on Prayer

"The goal of Christian prayer is not to manipulate God into doing our will but to further the doing of his will, in our own lives as much as anywhere else. Petition, based on promise, is the essence of such prayer, which God delights to inspire, to hear and to answer. . .Prayer is not easy, and although spontaneity is of its essence, we have to make a dogged discipline of it, or else it will get crowded out--Satan will see to that."
J.I. Packer, "Knowing Christianity", p98

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Get Wisdom --Post 19

Proverbs -- Chapter 19

Continue to acquire knowledge. Continue to acquire good sense.  (Cf Jesus from Mt 11:29, "Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me. . ."

Monday, June 4, 2012

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Get Wisdom -- Post 17

Proverbs -- Chapter 17

Saturate your heart with truth, and be kept safe in it. . . Or as Jesus tells us, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (Jn 8:31-32)

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Get Wisdom -- Post 16

Proverbs -- Chapter 16

The LORD answers.
The LORD weighs.
The LORD makes.
The LORD establishes.
The LORD judges.

It appears that the LORD stays busy, or as Jesus said, "My Father is working until now. . ." (Jn 5:17).

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Get Wisdom -- Post 15

Proverbs -- Chapter 15

Life and death, blessing and curse, peace and strife, are all in the power of the tongue.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Rough is Good

On this Memorial Day, I offer the quote below from my second favorite fiction writer -- George Orwell. (I'm citing this quote from memory. Hopefully it's true to the original; and hopefully it is from Orwell, to whom it is attributed but for which I have yet to see any proof. Oh well. . .)

"We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm."

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Walking in the Rhythm

It has been said that discipline, and not desire, determine a person's destiny. I can't imagine that proverb is impregnable. But there is something critical in it that we should take to heart. I believe it's good to regularly ask ourselves what it is that we are doing that requires discipline. Much of what we do is often done out of simple necessity. We do some hard things because we have to do them and that's OK. But what hard things do we do simply because they're good for us, and others? We don't have to do them, but because we value what we gain from them, we practice them. These are the things, according to the proverb stated earlier, that have power to transform our lives. Also, doing hard and good things teaches us perseverance and develops toughness, which are both needed qualities.

I'm into week 10 of the famed P90X workout. One of the statements made in one of the videos is that a simple rule, if followed, can change your life. That's true. I've also heard someone say that if you want to change your life, change something and do it everyday. Good transformation is to be found in the daily routine. So when I pray, I regularly ask the Lord to help me and my wife with the "dailies", that is, with the routine. And when the routine needs changing, we should change it, so that we can change for the better. (This way of thinking must also be applied to our children. How do we shape their routines?) God has given us the rhythm called the 7 day week, and told us how to spend those days (work, rest, etc). Some practices are daily practices. Others only weekly. That's the design. Walk in that rhythm.

What has gotten me to think about this today is that my wife ran a road race yesterday, her first. As we prayed over dinner last night I thanked God for her successful race, but more so for all the runs that came before it that made that race run a good one. It is not so hard to go out with lots of other runners and traverse a beautiful race course. It is hard to go out by yourself day after day to put in the work that readies you for the race. But Marian incorporated those kind of runs into her routine. This is discipline. And I'm proud of her for doing it.

So what must change in my routine so that I can give myself in greater discipline to getting to know God? Because the desire alone, though strong, will get me no closer to Him. I must enter into the process He employs. This requires discipline. We should ask: What does the Holy Spirit use to make me more like Jesus? And how can I change the daily routine so that He has more with which to work? (Including the weekend. Too many Christians ignore God on Saturdays.) He sanctifies us by His Word (Jn 17), and strengthens our faith by the same (Ro 10). So how will I regularly put myself under that Word's influence? And please, do not neglect the influence of Bible preaching and teaching. It is hearing a biblically qualified Bible teacher/preacher that God likes to use. This is His method all through the Bible and the last 2000 years of the the history of the church. While it's wonderful that we live in a time and place where we can have our own copy of the Bible and read it ourselves, this is not what God has typically used to sanctify His people. It's typically been the Word preached and taught. Let's not forget this, or abandon it, claiming that since we have Bible access ourselves, we're as well off to learn it on our own. That is not how God has set up the process. We learn best through His teachers which the Apostle Paul calls gifts to the church (Ep 4).