Thursday, December 17, 2015

To the Christian Rich - Temporal Abundance is No Proof of Eternal Blessing

"He has filled the hungry with good things;
and sent away the rich empty-handed."
Mary testifies to the ways of God, Lk 1:53

Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.
Mt 19:21-22

Monday, December 14, 2015

To the Christian Rich - Make Yourselves Poor

"It is our shame and disgrace today that so many Christians--I will be more specific: so many of the soundest and most orthodox Christians--go through this world in the spirit of the priest and the Levite in our Lord's parable, seeing human needs all around them, but (after a pious wish, and perhaps a prayer, that God might meet those needs) averting their eyes and passing by on the other side. That is not the Christmas spirit. . .The Christmas spirit does not shine in the Christian snob. For the Christmas spirit is the spirit of those who, like their Master, live their whole lives on the principle of making themselves poor--spending and being spent--to enrich their fellow humans, giving time, trouble, care and concern, to do good to others--and not just their own friends--in whatever way there seems need." - From Knowing God, pages 63-64, by J.I. Packer, commenting on the implications of the condescension of God the Son, explained in Php 2 and 2 Co 8.

"Woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full. Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way." 
The Son of God, Lk 6:24-26


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

40 Good Thoughts

Visit with Jared Wilson here.

What Can Miserable Christians Sing?

“Having experienced — and generally appreciated — worship across the whole evangelical spectrum, from Charismatic to Reformed — I am myself less concerned here with the form of worship than I am with its content. Thus, I would like to make just one observation: the psalms, the Bible’s own hymnbook, have almost entirely dropped from view in the contemporary Western evangelical scene. I am not certain about why this should be, but I have an instinctive feel that it has more than a little to do with the fact that a high proportion of the psalter is taken up with lamentation, with feeling sad, unhappy, tormented, and broken.

In modern Western culture, these are simply not emotions which have much credibility: sure, people still feel these things, but to admit that they are a normal part of one’s everyday life is tantamount to admitting that one has failed in today’s health, wealth, and happiness society. And, of course, if one does admit to them, one must neither accept them nor take any personal responsibility for them: one must blame one’s parents, sue one’s employer, pop a pill, or check into a clinic in order to have such dysfunctional emotions soothed and one’s self-image restored.

Now, one would not expect the world to have much time for the weakness of the psalmists’ cries. It is very disturbing, however, when these cries of lamentation disappear from the language and worship of the church. Perhaps the Western church feels no need to lament — but then it is sadly deluded about how healthy it really is in terms of numbers, influence and spiritual maturity. Perhaps — and this is more likely — it has drunk so deeply at the well of modern Western materialism that it simply does not know what to do with such cries and regards them as little short of embarrassing. Yet the human condition is a poor one — and Christians who are aware of the deceitfulness of the human heart and are looking for a better country should know this.

A diet of unremittingly jolly choruses and hymns inevitably creates an unrealistic horizon of expectation which sees the normative Christian life as one long triumphalist street party — a theologically incorrect and a pastorally disastrous scenario in a world of broken individuals. Has an unconscious belief that Christianity is — or at least should be — all about health, wealth, and happiness silently corrupted the content of our worship? Few Christians in areas where the church has been strongest over recent decades — China, Africa, Eastern Europe – would regard uninterrupted emotional highs as normal Christian experience.

Indeed, the biblical portraits of believers give no room to such a notion. Look at Abraham, Joseph, David, Jeremiah, and the detailed account of the psalmists’ experiences. Much agony, much lamentation, occasional despair — and joy, when it manifests itself — is very different from the frothy triumphalism that has infected so much of our modern Western Christianity. In the psalms, God has given the church a language which allows it to express even the deepest agonies of the human soul in the context of worship. Does our contemporary language of worship reflect the horizon of expectation regarding the believer’s experience which the psalter proposes as normative? If not, why not? Is it because the comfortable values of Western middle-class consumerism have silently infiltrated the church and made us consider such cries irrelevant, embarrassing, and signs of abject failure?

I did once suggest at a church meeting that the psalms should take a higher priority in evangelical worship than they generally do — and was told in no uncertain terms by one indignant person that such a view betrayed a heart that had no interest in evangelism. On the contrary, I believe it is the exclusion of the experiences and expectations of the psalmists from our worship — and thus from our horizons of expectation — which has in a large part crippled the evangelistic efforts of the church in the West and turned us all into spiritual pixies.

By excluding the cries of loneliness, dispossession, and desolation from its worship, the church has effectively silenced and excluded the voices of those who are themselves lonely, dispossessed, and desolate, both inside and outside the church. By so doing, it has implicitly endorsed the banal aspirations of consumerism, generated an insipid, trivial and unrealistically triumphalist Christianity, and confirmed its impeccable credentials as a club for the complacent. In the last year, I have asked three very different evangelical audiences what miserable Christians can sing in church. On each occasion my question has elicited uproarious laughter, as if the idea of a broken-hearted, lonely, or despairing Christian was so absurd as to be comical — and yet I posed the question in all seriousness. Is it any wonder that British evangelicalism, from the Reformed to the Charismatic, is almost entirely a comfortable, middle-class phenomenon?”

–Carl R. Trueman, from “What Can Miserable Christians Sing?” in The Wages of Spin: Critical Writings on Historical and Contemporary Evangelicalism (Christian Focus: 2004) pp. 158-160.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

American Paganism

The fine idea of separation of church and state (the U.S. government shall not establish a religion) does not equal public atheism - the rejection of the God of Scripture in our courts or schools or any other government entity. There are other options.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Commending Carl

Carl Trueman:
Professor at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA;
Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Ambler, PA
Carl Trueman is hilarious. I know "hilarious" is a subjective term. So perhaps I should say that to me, he is hilarious. His intelligent whit mingled with dry sarcasm, good-natured jesting, and British disposition make him a delight for me to hear. And he has many helpful thoughts for the followers of Jesus Christ. Below are a few links to some of my experiences with him.

Mortification of Spin - In combination with Aimee Byrd and Todd Pruitt, Trueman dialogues on topics crucial for the Christian Church. The link will take you to the ministry web page where you can find useful resources including their podcast which has been, for a while now, my favorite audio option. I truly look forward to tuning in to this threesome and am regularly disappointed when a broadcast ends. I wish they were longer. But they are indeed quite abbreviated.

The Creedal Imperative Explanation Video - Here's a short presentation on why creeds, confessions, and catechisms are so important and so useful to modern day Christians and their churches.

The Cornerstone Lecture Series - A five-part video series on the realities of the Christian life. The link here is to video #4 entitled "The Normal Christian Life." I think all five parts are worth your time but if you must choose only one I would go with #4. I say this due to my subjective but nevertheless experientially educated guess at what might be most beneficial to modern day American Christians. If you're not American and will hear only one presentation, then I suggest you begin at the beginning, with video #1 entitled Foundations

Related to these YouTube resources are the many other videos to be found on the same website. There you can find many brief Trueman contributions relevant and critical to Christian understanding. This includes his thoughts on many common questions posed by believers. It also includes lectures on a variety of topics including Church History. For example, go here to watch him speak on Reformation catalyst Martin Luther, whom he calls a "troubled prophet." Weren't they all?

Republocrat: Confessions of a Liberal Conservative - Since the American political bullshit is beginning to spin up as we enter the presidential campaign season, I commend Trueman's book addressing such things. Along with being unusually insightful, again, Trueman is wonderfully entertaining.

Enjoy.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

What Will We Say?

"If I was a liar, I'd have a few more friends." 
Kasey Chambers, from her song More Than Ordinary, from her album Wayward Angel

Friday, October 2, 2015

Destructive "Success"

"If  you can be great without prayer, 
your greatness will be your ruin."
Charles Spurgeon, from Praying Successfully, page 20

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Think Below the Surface

"It's possible to be completely biblical and still less than helpful. . ."  Kevin Deyoung, The Hole In Our Holiness, page 80

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Carrying Our Bibles to Church Gatherings - A Counter Argument

As follow-up to a recent post (from Aug 14), and as a consideration I had not considered, I rush to mention that in a recent hearing of Alistair Begg preach, he urges us to carry our Bibles with us to church gatherings so that we may follow along in the text to be certain that what the preacher and/or teacher claims the Bible says is in fact what it says.

Martin Luther on Serving God

". . .that is upright serving of God, when a man does that which in his Word God has commanded to be done, every one in his own vocation, not that which he thinks good of his own judgment." - Martin Luther, from Tabletalk #112

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Leave Your Bible at the House

As a follow-up to my previous post, I suggest that on Sundays when you head to your church building, that you leave your Bible at your house. There are multiple reasons for this. One is that, it seems to me, the Bible might be better heard than read. For most of church history folks knew their Bibles by listening to and concentrating on and giving attention to what they were hearing. They were not following along in their own Bible copy while their pastors and teachers read the text. I think there's something to this.

Second, we need to practice the art of listening and then thinking about what we hear. This is a form of biblical meditation. Personally, I find that an effort to hear well helps with this. I learn more by listening thoughtfully than by perusing the text while my pastor preaches.

Third, perhaps looking at and listening to our pastors and teachers is better for our learning than having our noses in our Bibles laying in our laps. It's good for us to be read to by another, to have the very words of God wash over us audibly.

And fourth, "Faith comes by hearing the word of Christ" (Ro 10). This is not only true for the lost who hear the gospel and believe. It is true for God's children whose faith is fed by their Father's words (Jesus says we should abide in them). As I remember hearing John Piper say, "Faith comes by hearing until you're dead."

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Down with the Quiet Time; Up with the Church

Talk about the devotional life, or one's "quiet time" (sometimes my times with God are loud), is all the rage. This is partly because so many Christians have their own copy of the Bible. So they are expected to read them, which is certainly a wonderful way to spend time. My concern is that we believers not judge one another's Christian fidelity by each one's practice of a "quiet time" (I cannot get myself to like that term; something about it. . .).

Here's the deal - The folks of the Church have had access to God's printed Word, that they could read for themselves, for a tiny percentage of the Church's history (I believe the Church began in Eden). But even if we trace the first days of the Church back to the first century AD (Pentecost), the percentage is still small. For most of the Christians who have ever lived in this world, the devotional life, as is commonly defined as including Scripture reading and/or study, was not an option. So how has God measured their faithfulness? I suggest two ways; the same two ways he measures mine, and yours.


The first is one's commitment to prayer. Christians have not always had personal copies of Scripture, but they have always prayed. I am not going to attempt to talk about prayer as a subject. I simply mention it as a mark of Christian fidelity throughout history.

The second mark is one's commitment to the Church - God's other people with whom we are one body, one flock, one bride, one building, etc. Christians have not always had personal copies of Scripture, but they have always had each other. And so I mention this as well.

The access believers have historically had to Scripture has been the preaching and teaching of believing pastors, prophets, and priests. For most of the Church's existence, it has pleased God to have His people ultra-dependent on the Bible teachers of their local congregations. I suggest that the pattern continues and the fact that we have access to our own copies of Scripture has not left us any less dependent on others for a right understanding of God's written revelation. Again, I think it's generally good that so many can so easily have access to God's Word. But an unhealthy side-effect of this has been to devalue the word ministries of God's particularly gifted and otherwise qualified spokespeople. The way saints of old showed devotion to Scripture was by listening to it preached and taught in their congregations and then praying to love and believe and do what they had heard. I believe this remains God's way for us today.

The Church matters. Churches matter. Jesus gave Himself for the Church and is returning for the Church. He is sanctifying the Church and preparing rooms in the Father's house for those who form the Church. The weekly gatherings of the Church congregations (which I would argue should normally occur on Sundays) are not optional events. They are actually mandatory, because they are needed. If only we could see how fragile we are as individuals, and how God has designed His Church to accommodate such weaklings, and to strengthen them.

So if you or I have a thriving devotional life, but are not committed to prayer and God's people, we are selfish, unbiblical, and less than fruitful. And I don't believe we will long stand the assaults of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Most Interesting Carrier


The Weed of God

Someone offered me weed. I'm a curious soul. So I did some research on how weed works on the brain. In other words, I wanted to know why the product is so effective. I learned that it has to do with neurons, neurotransmitters, synapses, protein receptors, cannabinoid receptors, etc. I am not impressed with folks who smoke marijuana. I am thoroughly impressed with the brain so affected by it. It might be the most complex of creations. So I thought of the Creator.

Then I was flipping channels late one night and came across Bill Maher, the fool. He was in a discussion about God with some other foolish folks. And Maher said that faith was "a belief in nothing." He elaborated. He spouted with conviction that God cannot be proven. So faith in God is confidence in nothing. "Faith is nothing," he said. So Bill believes that the believers are the fools.

But faith is not nothing. Faith is something. It's the one and only something that will tie a person to their Creator redemptively. And, faith is rooted in visible evidence. Faith is reasonable. For example, it deduces that the complexity of the human brain did not evolve over hundreds of millions of years by chance. Faith has the sense to look around, consider the delicate functioning creation (including the brain), and reason back to the existence of a Life-Giver with a mind of His own (Ps 119; Ro 1; He 12).

Faith also looks inward, at conscience, and the innate moral code that exists across a world of various cultures. This is mostly what holds societies together. It's not the fear of governmental punishment, for example. It's the inward witness forbidding destructive behavior (Ro 2).

For the record, the Christian Scriptures, called the Bible, do not present faith as a leap into the darkness, but as the most sensible of conclusions, and a coming out into the light. A person cannot reason him or herself into trusting Christ alone as God the Son to cover all of his or her sins. That's saving faith, and it requires an act of God in which He opens the unbelieving heart and scatters the absurdity of self-reliance. But simple faith in one's Creator, that's just rational. It begins with what one can see and understands the visible as pointers to the Invisible. God has revealed Himself, generally in creation and conscience, but also savingly in Scripture and Jesus Christ.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Our Children Should Be Safe With Us.

It is Walt Disney movies, after school specials, and oh yes, us parents, who lie to our children, telling them that they can be anything in this world they desire. We feed them with deceptions when we say to them that if they work hard, get educated, and just believe, they will rise. God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are telling them none of this. Actually, the Scriptures are saying something quite different - that God is sovereign and runs the world, including every detail of the lives of each of our children. He measures out abilities, gifts, grace, failure, opportunities, and even faith (Ro 12:3). He is determinative, not them, and not us.

When I hear Romans 12 taught, the emphasis is almost always on the first two verses which contain instruction and activity for us. Then verse 3 informs us that God actually doles out the various degrees of faith to His various children. And the human author, the Apostle Paul, credits "the grace given to him" for his ability to offer Romans 12 information. A part of that information concerns our deep and abiding weaknesses and our need for God and others. And perhaps the most overlooked counsel in the text tells us that we are not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think, but to think with sober judgement. . . What parent does this in regard to his/her children? It is true that in Romans 12 Paul has in mind a proper thinking of ourselves in relation to the quality of our faith and spiritual gifts. But spiritual gifts include natural abilities that God supernaturally employs. So perhaps this text has some further application to we parents as we consider the abilities of our little people (Cf Pr 22:6).

To think soberly doesn't mean to think badly of, unless of course our children are all bad. In a way, we're all all bad, in that we are sinners who, in our best moments, do not meet God's standard of a perfectly righteous performance. My point here, as I sit for a few moments and think about the reality of God and my desires for my children, is that the Bible calls us to sobriety, integrity, honesty, and accuracy when we are considering our little ones (or now young adult ones). It calls us to raise them in the fear of God, to train them in His righteousness, and to give them godly counsel for a lifetime. It does not call us to give ourselves idolatrously to their worldly success. It does not call us to live vicariously through the achievements we want for them. It does not call us to finance their foolish dreams of glory. It does not call us to be proud of their accomplishments in the flesh.

Romans 12:2 commands that we grow less like the world by acquiring a changed way of thinking and understanding. Yet we Christian parents are so often not only like the world but worse than the world  because we tie God to our sinful aspirations, as though they were birthed in Him. How difficult it is to be Christian in America, where worldly success and entitlement is the air we breath. Our children should be safe with us. And they won't be if we are deceiving them. They cannot be and do anything they desire, no matter how they may apply themselves. And you and I are to be happy about this, because it is God's design. The best and lasting success is faithfulness to Jesus Christ. Let's strive to model and teach that.


Thursday, July 16, 2015

My Heart Is Like A Highway

John Newton (1725-1807)
"This evil is present with me: my heart is like a highway, 
like a city without walls or gates. 
Nothing so false, so frivolous, so absurd, so impossible, so horrid, 
but it can obtain access, 
and that at any time, or in any place: 
neither the study, the pulpit, or even the Lord's Table, 
exempt me from their intrusion."
John Newton (Author of the hymn Amazing Grace, and pastor),
from Evil Present with the Believer, page 147

Thursday, July 2, 2015

God's Merciful Inclinations

"No human creature can rightly know how 
mercifully God is inclined toward those 
that steadfastly believe in Christ." 
Martin Luther, from Tabletalk #110

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Young Charlie and Old Martin

This is my niece, Charlie Eden Fiore (named for her father Charles). And yes, that onesie is a gift from yours truly.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Christianity - Wholly Different

Van Til (1895-1987)
[Anyone with such hair is worthy of
some measure of our attention]
"There is an eternal, internal self-conscious interaction between the three persons of the Godhead. They are co-substantial. Each is as much God as the other two. . .The diversity and the unity in the Godhead are therefore equally ultimate. . .The Christian teaching of the ontological Trinity, therefore, gives it a clearly distinguishable metaphysic, epistemology, and ethic. In all these three Christian theism is wholly different from any other philosophy of life." - Cornelius Van Til, Christian Apologetics, pages 29-30

Monday, June 15, 2015

That Day That Is Darkness



After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. And Job said:
 “Let the day perish on which I was born,
and the night that said,
‘A man is conceived.’
 Let that day be darkness!
May God above not seek it,
nor light shine upon it.
 Let gloom and deep darkness claim it.
Let clouds dwell upon it;
let the blackness of the day terrify it.
 That night—let thick darkness seize it!
Let it not rejoice among the days of the year;
let it not come into the number of the months.
 Behold, let that night be barren;
let no joyful cry enter it.
 Let those curse it who curse the day,
who are ready to rouse up Leviathan.
 Let the stars of its dawn be dark;
let it hope for light, but have none,
nor see the eyelids of the morning,
  because it did not shut the doors of my mother's womb,
nor hide trouble from my eyes.

  “Why did I not die at birth,
come out from the womb and expire?
  Why did the knees receive me?
Or why the breasts, that I should nurse?
 For then I would have lain down and been quiet;
I would have slept; then I would have been at rest,
  with kings and counselors of the earth
who rebuilt ruins for themselves,
  or with princes who had gold,
who filled their houses with silver.
  Or why was I not as a hidden stillborn child,
as infants who never see the light?
 There the wicked cease from troubling,
and there the weary are at rest.
 There the prisoners are at ease together;
they hear not the voice of the taskmaster.
  The small and the great are there,
and the slave is free from his master.

 “Why is light given to him who is in misery,
and life to the bitter in soul,
  who long for death, but it comes not,
and dig for it more than for hidden treasures,
  who rejoice exceedingly
and are glad when they find the grave?
Why is light given to a man whose way is hidden,
whom God has hedged in?
 For my sighing comes instead of my bread,
and my groanings are poured out like water.
 For the thing that I fear comes upon me,
and what I dread befalls me.
 I am not at ease, nor am I quiet;
I have no rest, but trouble comes.”
Job 3

The most righteous man of his day (Cf 1:8).

Friday, June 5, 2015

The Stomach-Soul Connection

"Prayer is the reaching out after God and the unseen; fasting, the letting go of all that is of the seen and temporal. While ordinary Christians imagine that all that is not positively forbidden and sinful is lawful to them, and seek to retain as much as possible of this world, with its property, its literature, its enjoyments, the truly consecrated soul is as the soldier who carries only what he needs for the warfare. Laying aside every weight, as well as the easily besetting sin, afraid of entangling himself with the affairs of this life, he seeks to lead a Nazarite life, as one specially set apart for the Lord and His service. Without such voluntary separation, even from what is lawful, no one will attain power in prayer. . ."
Andrew Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer, page 83, Commenting on Matthew 17:19-21 where Jesus explains to His disciples why they failed to cast out a demon. It has to do with their unbelief tied to their lack of fasting.

Murray's book is useful not only for the content but also the structure. The chapters are normally around 5 pages making it easier to get through them. Each one gives commentary on one Scripture text containing one lesson from Jesus on prayer. The simple form lends itself to accessibility, especially to those not given over to learning by reading. To purchase the book inexpensively, go here.

I do think the book is worth reading for its content, yet I am suspicious of some of that content. In my way of understanding sinful Christian humanity, it seems to me that the goals set forth are perhaps unattainable. For example, in Chapter 20 titled "That the Father may be Glorified," in only one paragraph the author speaks of the Christian praying as being in perfect harmony with Him [God] and having our whole being consciously yielded to the inspiration of the Word and Spirit and our prayers bringing us into perfect unison with the Beloved Son in the wonderful partnership He proposes. 

While I believe in God's ability to do such, I do not believe He does such. If I am wrong here I do pray He correct me. As of now, my understanding of human Christian sinfulness does not permit me to expect what Murray holds out as what ought to be the Christian experience in prayer. 

My other concern is that the book overwhelms and discourages with its many demands for a certain kind of praying. Murray means to unpack Bible texts regarding prayer. That's good. That unpacking though has me wondering if I might ever pray for even five seconds in a way that pleases God. Murray offers so many demands that, to begin with, I can't keep up with them. I am through Chapter 20 of 31 chapters. I hope in the end Murray will offer a simplified summary that sets a sound trajectory for our praying and does not depress me. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

A Life Without Prayer




"Bibles read without prayer; sermons heard without prayer; marriages contracted without prayer; journeys undertaken without prayer; residences chosen without prayer; friendships formed without prayer; the daily act of private prayer itself hurried over, or gone through without heart: these are the kind of downward steps by which many a Christian descends to a condition of spiritual palsy, or reaches the point where God allows him to have a tremendous fall. This is the process which forms the lingering Lots, the unstable Samsons, the wife-idolizing Solomons, the inconsistent Asas, the pliable Jehoshaphats, the over-careful Marthas, of whom so many are to be found in the church of Christ. Often the simple history of such cases is this: they became careless about private prayer. You may be very sure men fall in private long before they fall in public." -- J.C. Ryle, A Call to Prayer, page 18

I am reading the booklet by Ryle. But if you want a free copy of the thing, get the pdf here.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Swinging Clubs and Pulling Triggers

Readying themselves for big fun - swinging clubs and pulling triggers


At Crowder's Mountain State Park

Crowder's Mountain - on the lake trail

Tess and Joah - trail ready
We have enjoyed Memorial Day. We began by assembling our new charcoal grill, then proceeded to chip golf balls, taking breaks to fire the air pistol. Next we drove over to Crowder's Mountain State Park where we hiked the lake trail in search of turtles, ducks, lizards, frogs, fish, snakes, and peace of mind. This evening we're scheduled to enjoy a cookout with friends. Good times. . .

Saturday, May 23, 2015

To the Christian Rich - Generous Giving Weakens Greed.

Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Luke 12:32-34

To the Christian Rich - God Punishes Greed, Forever.

"Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses. . .And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.' But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?' So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."
Luke 12:15, 19-21

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Pep Talk


Yep. . .

"What advantage does man have in all his work which he does under the sun? . . It is a grievous task which God has given to the sons of men to be afflicted with. . ."
Ec 1:3, 13a

Thursday, May 14, 2015

To the Christian Rich - Good Stewardship Demands Generous Giving (As God Defines "Generous").

"As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life."
1 Timothy 6:17-19

I have what almost anyone would call a large measure of experience with the Church (At least the American one, with less exposure to the one international). And by that experience I have learned that it is normal for the rich to run the churches. They sit among the elders, the sessions, the deacons, the ministry teams, the committees, or whatever group it is that has the power. And to my knowledge, I have yet to meet a generous wealthy believer (Admittedly I don't know what they do privately, which is how Jesus says giving should be done - Mt 6. My estimation is based on conversations with them).

I have yet to hear one who defends the ways and values of God in giving. For He gives lavishly, generously, sacrificially, redemptively, happily, relievingly, refreshingly, and more than a person could ask or even think. He does not spare His riches, but is open-handed, and open-hearted. And because He is a gracious Giver, He doesn't require that we, the recipients, jump through a myriad of hoops so that we may qualify to receive. The qualification is mainly the need itself.

There are reasons why the Bible repeatedly gives special attention to the rich, warning them, and commanding them, specifically. One of those reasons is their propensity for selfishness. Another is their false belief that their miserliness is justified because they have worked so hard to create the wealth. That's not what the Bible says. Does God employ means like a strong work ethic and intelligence and shrewdness, etc, in His distribution of wealth? Yes, He does. But Scripture makes clear that ultimately the wealth itself comes from God, along with the work ethic, intelligence, shrewdness, etc (As do the opportunities such folks are afforded that most folks do not receive from the hand of Providence).

Christians, in my experience, enjoy speaking of good stewardship when they want to withhold a blessing. Such terms are used as code for stinginess and selfishness and a desire to "protect" God's money. The Bible, however, makes the opposite association. Faithful stewardship includes giving that is generous (lavish, more than necessarily needed, creating margin), sacrificial (you feel it, because now you will go without something so that someone else may have), and certainly gracious (giving without strings attached). That's the way God does it. May more of His children, wealthy or not, display the family likeness.

"Beware lest you say in your heart, 'My power and the might of my hand 
have gotten me this wealth.' You shall remember the LORD your God, 
for it is He who gives you power to get wealth. . ."
Deuteronomy 8:17-18

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Earth is Telling of Hope's Destruction

"But 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 destroy the hope of man."  (Job 14:18-19)

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Our Potipharian Prisons

It is clear in my mind that this post is for me, in the cathartic sense. That bag in the picture has been with me since 1987 when I was a junior in high school. Yesterday, twenty-eight years and several schools later, I carried it home at the end of my last week with the company for which I have been working for the past 670 days, give or take. I did shed a few tears, but not because I was leaving that work. I cried because I had been in it at all. 

I imagine it's like the tale of some who are freed from prison after serving their sentences. They may weep. But the tears are not born in the joy of their release. They are born in the misery of having been incarcerated, and the many losses that come with it.

That blue book bag carries many memories for me; the kind that cause me to consider burning it. I am a Christian. So I ought to run all experiences through the pages of Scripture, and I attempt to do so. I am also a man, and not a strong one. So I often find it difficult to see through the pain to the meanings that make it bearable. It's terribly trying for me to look back over twenty-eight years and make meaningful sense of much of it. Some say we write our own story. I say that's largely bullshit (See Pr 16, for example).

Frankly, the past three plus years have felt like my Israeli captivity (Ne 1:1-3); my Potipharian prison (Ge 39:20); my Jeremiahan cistern (Je 38:6); my Asian burden (2 Co 1:8-10). Of course life could be made more burdensome. And it very well may be.

Perhaps the comfort and hope is that God is more than a governor, He's also a redeemer. And if we traced out the stories, ultimately Israel and Joseph and Jeremiah and the Apostle Paul can be said to have benefited from their afflictions. But they were still real afflictions that had to really be endured.

Two of my recent co-workers pressed me yesterday about the reasons for my lack of excitement regarding my soon approaching move and new work (I imagine my disposition gave me away). They called me a pessimist.  I don't believe I'm a pessimist (Although I did tell them that excitement is for suckers). I think of myself more as a realist. And in reality, new things come with their own share of burdens. Moreover, they rarely deliver on the hype we might pour into them. Has anything ever positively been all that I thought it might be?

In addition, none of our earthly treasures are meant to be altogether or permanently satisfying. That's not their design. They are, after all, finite and fleeting. So for me to tie up in them an over-inflated (meaning idolatrous) hope, is foolish. I have a new work in a new place. Okay then. I hope to do some good. Time will tell.








Thursday, April 16, 2015

To the Christian Rich - You Can't Keep It


Thus I hated all the fruit of my labor for which I had labored under the sun, for I must leave it to the man who will come after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the fruit of my labor for which I have labored by acting wisely under the sun. This too is vanity.
Ecclesiastes 2:18-19, From Solomon, perhaps the wisest man (except for Jesus) 
who has ever walked in this world.

This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own 
what you have prepared?
Luke 12:20, From Jesus Christ, God the Son 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Highest Part of a Christian's Life

"I feel sure that as long as we look on prayer chiefly as the means of maintaining our own Christian life, we shall not know fully what it is meant to be. But when we learn to regard it as the highest part of the work entrusted to us, the root and strength of all other work, we shall see that there is nothing that we so need to study and practice as the art of praying aright." 
 Andrew Murray (1828-1917), from the Preface of his book With Christ in the School of Prayer

Saturday, March 28, 2015

To the Christian Rich - What Do You Do With What You Do Not Need?

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, 
where moth and rust destroy, 
and where thieves break in and steal. 
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, 
where neither moth nor rust destroys, 
and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Matthew 6:19-21

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

God's Paper Presence


God the Holy Spirit wrote a book. God is for the written word. He is for learning. He is for the good change right knowledge may produce. He is anti-ignorance, especially ignorance of Him.

While I am not against digital books, I am for paper books, partly because of what I think is a superior presence. I think it's better to have a Bible, for example, lying on the living room table than to have a copy saved on your Kindle or phone where it is essentially invisible. Your children don't see it, or handle it, or flip through its pages or draw on the blank filler pages. And you are not reminded by seeing it to fear God, Who like His book, is in the room. But perhaps that's just me.

My friend Adam has an online publishing house. I am commending it to you for some of the accessible, affordable, and helpful resources you can find there; and because since Adam is my friend, I want to see his business flourish. So please consider a visit here.

Monday, March 16, 2015

To the Christian Rich - Guard His Glory or Guard Your Money

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
Matthew 6:24

Monday, March 9, 2015

To the Christian Rich - Jesus Marginalizes the Wealthy

And I say to you, it is easier for a camel 
to go through the eye of a needle, 
than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.
Matthew 19:24

Thursday, February 26, 2015

To the Christian Rich - God Favors the Poor

"Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?"
James 2:5

Friday, February 13, 2015

Remembering Joah Style, and the Mystery of Adoption

My boy, now four, and now mine (and his mother's and his sister's), legally and permanently, for 3 years; I am filled with gratitude. Joah asked to celebrate his Finalization Day at Taco Bell.

Intense about tacos - Cool Ranch, beef and cheese only

Indulging

I have thought a lot about adoption in general, adoption biblically, and my own experience of adoption. And certainly I have considered why it is that God has adopted me and the possible reflection of that motivation in my own adoption of my children. I believe there is one. If asked why I have adopted my daughter and son there are multiple reasons. But chief among them is the most simple, I wanted them. And when asked why He has adopted any of us, God says a similar thing. He says it was for the good pleasure of His own will (Ep 1). He wanted us. Mystery of mysteries.
 
Remember that you should exalt His work. . .
Job 36:24

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Prophets Push.

                                                                                                                                                               
Not only do prophets call people back, they push people out. This has always been the case, since Noah, "in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world" (He 11:7); to Joshua's, "Choose this day whom you will serve" (Jsh 24:15); to Samuel who, "warned the people solemnly and let them know what the king who would reign over them would do" (1 Sa 8:9); to Elijah who pressed upon God's people, "How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal is God, follow him" (1 Ki 18:21); to Isaiah declaring, "If you consent and obey, you will eat the best of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword" (Is 1:19f); to Jeremiah's being ordained "to pluck up and break down, to destroy and to overthrow" (Je 1:10); to Ezekiel's proclamation, "He who hears, let him hear; and he who refuses, let him refuse; for they are a rebellious house" (Ez 3:27); to Hosea's utterance of God's announcement that, "Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children" (Ho 4:6); to the oracle of Amos regarding God's judgment - "Behold I am about to put a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel. I will spare them no longer" (Am 7:8); to Malachi's message concerning God's choice - "I have loved Jacob; but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness" (Ma 1:2f); to John declaring that, "Christ's winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire" (Mt 3:12); to Jesus preaching that, "No one can serve two masters" (Mt 6:24); to the Apostle Paul telling the Galatians that, "Even if an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned" (Ga 1:8); etc.

Curse this American sentimentalism, inclusivism, pragmatism, romanticism, and idealism, so much accepted in the Church, and so contrary to the spirit of prophecy (Re 19:10). I don't believe there are prophets today receiving direct revelation from God. I believe the Scriptures are complete. But I do believe in the gift of prophecy, which is a gift for proclamation, not future telling (Ro 12:6; 1 Co 12:10). Even the Old Testament prophets did more preaching than prediction. I do believe there are men and women within the Church with that old prophetic bend toward the truth; a bend that makes them a bit strange, and gets them into repeated troubles as they call folks back to God. May God bless their labors, and throw down their enemies.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Leadership Significance - Lions or Asses?

Perhaps it is generally the case that one is better off with an army of asses led by a lion, than with an army of lions led by an ass. It's simply next to impossible to overcome faulty leadership.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Idol of Image

"We are hell bent on appearing reasonable 
to our neighbors."
R.C. Sproul Jr.

A good reputation as God defines it, is crucial. But a good reputation as anyone else defines it, is an idol. It's all well and good that not everyone likes us, understands us, and is otherwise for us. Jesus makes this more plain than anyone in history.