Friday, September 1, 2017

Follow up on "Lust and Faith"

Last Sunday in our "Summer in the Psalms for the Fight of Faith" series, we covered "Lust and Faith" from Psalm 119:9-16

I read some stats on how pervasive the porn problem is in our day. I said I'd send a link to the Tim Challies post where I found them. Here's the post: 

It's very sobering. It ought to get us asking, "How can a young man (or young woman, or older man, or older woman) keep his way pure?" And we ought to be on the lookout for answers and grace wherever we can find it. 

There are a lot of helpful resources out there. If you're looking for some accountability software and you don't know about Covenant Eyes, I'd encourage you to check it out. In addition to their accountability and filtering software, they also have a lot of helpful articles and resources on their website.
If you have kids, the Disney Circle is an effective tool as you seek to help protect your kids. Tim Challies reviewed it HERE. Our family has used it for about a year now and we can recommend it. 

And for a good one stop round up of helpful book reviews and articles, check out THIS POST. Challies provides links to 10 articles he's written on porn and also recommends a number of good books written by others.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Psalm 100 Follow Up

A little follow up to yesterday's message "Grumbling and Faith" from Psalm 100.

First, some humor (I saw this at the store last night, shopping for school supplies with Sam):

Second, a simple and practical idea:

A good friend of mine has long been a model to me of durable, steady, buoyant, gospel-saturated gratitude. He often leads off conversations by asking, "What are you thankful for?" He fights for grace-fueled gratitude through thick and thin. He influences others to remove the myopic lenses of negativity and put on the panoramic lenses of gospel grace. I'm really thankful for him.

What if you started asking yourself, daily, what you're thankful for? (See Psalm 103:1-14 and Colossians 1:12-14 to prime the pump.) And what if you started asking others, regularly, what they're thankful for? Rather than disseminating negativity, we would be curbing it, and pumping grace and gratitude into the atmospheres of our homes, our churches, our places of work, our neighborhoods, etc. All with a simple question.

Feeling Relationally Vulnerable?

I ran across this quote today. It's part of a prayer post by Scotty Smith:
We need the gospel to keep us sane, centered, and satisfied. There are many lonely husbands, many lonely wives, many lonely single people who are primed for a fling, targets for an affair—aching, yearning, reaching for a few minutes of pleasure to medicate months, years, even a lifetime of disconnect and emptiness. It may never become physical, but emotional affairs offer exhilaration bordering on intoxication—an intoxication that can lead to addiction; and an addiction whose GPS is set on our destruction.
Here is one clear place that we need to EXPERIENCE the truth of Psalm 73:23-28
Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works. 
Smith finishes his prayer:
So we turn our hearts to you, Lord Jesus. You, who have won us, are constantly wooing us in the gospel, saying, “Come away, my beloved. My desire is for you and my banner over you is love.” 
Who do we have in heaven but you, Lord Jesus, and being with you, who or what could we possibly desire more on this earth? Should our wildest fantasy be realized, it wouldn’t be enough. You alone have words of eternal life, grace sufficient for our souls, peace that passes all understanding, and the joy we desperately crave. So very Amen we pray, in your loving and holy name. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Don't You Want to Thank Someone?

Great song by Andrew Peterson:

Good preparation for this Sunday's installment in our "Summer in the Psalms for the Fight of Faith" series. We're going to be looking at Psalm 100:
A Psalm for giving thanks.
1 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! 
2 Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! 
3 Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. 
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! 
5 For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Satisfied in You by The Sing Team

Our series in the Psalms this summer is aimed at helping us in the fight of faith. This song, based on Psalm 42, helps me in the fight. You might find it helpful too.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Safe for Sinners or Safe for Sin?

The church must be a place that is safe for sinners, but not safe for sin (HT: RO). That's what the church ought to be, reflecting the image of Jesus.

Luke 5:31-32
And Jesus answered them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance."
Luke 7:34
The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, 'Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!'
Luke 15:1-2
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them."
Jesus was always going to the sinners and sinners were always coming to him. And encountering Jesus, they were never the same. Though they felt safe with the Son of God, their sin was no longer safe. It was exposed in the light of his presence. The deadly cancer eating their souls was subject to the radiation of his gracious glory, and it shriveled.

So, his church, having been transformed by his grace, will shine with his light. We will always be going to sinners and sinners will be coming to us.

Sadly, it's often the other way around. This is the anti-church. Where it is safe for sin, but not safe for sinners. Wretched, God-forsaken place! Filled with Pharisees who look squeaky clean, but inside are stinking piles of self-righteous, self-serving, self-protective dung (Matthew 23:23-28). This place cares more about image than reality. Behavior management is the fast track, not heart transformation.

It's where all manner of ugliness can find shelter behind a thin veneer of religiosity: where buying shares of control passes for generosity; where abuse passes for headship; where a good show of "having it all together" passes for maturity; etc. ad nauseum.

What ends up happening in such places of institutionalized hypocrisy? They are not safe places for sinners. They give off the impression that church is only for "good," moral people who have their act together. People who are honest enough to know they're a mess won't see any reason to come.

A plague on these hypocritical houses!

May the loving Lord Jesus build his church - where sinners find safety and welcome by the gospel of grace -- the grace that goes too deep to leave us unchanged.

Friday, August 4, 2017

What The Devil Did Last Night

Gospel newsflash for today:

Heads up, everyone! The devil prowled around last night and switched all the price tags. He put all the really valuable, precious things on the clearance rack. Now all the cheap, tinny, worthless stuff is on display out front, and it's waaaay overpriced.

If you buy that cheap and worthless stuff, it'll cost you dearly AND you'll be left with nothing of substance.

Saying "no" to the costly cut-rate wares can feel like loss, but God offers his true gains as gifts, free for the taking (see Isa 55:1-2). His stuff is substantial, and it lasts.

So as you go about your day today, pay attention and be a smart shopper.

Matthew 13:44
"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Philippians 3:7-8
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ
Mark 8:34-38
[Jesus] said to them, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Letters to a Would-Be Adulterer and Adulteress

Have you ever entertained the possibility of having an affair?
Fantasized about it?
Wished you were married to someone else?
Do you ever daydream about that person at work or church or whose Instagram life you wish you were living?

Have you ever cautiously enjoyed a growing emotional bond with someone who is not your spouse?
Have you ever found yourself wondering if that person was sending you "signals"?
Do you believe you're capable of infidelity?

If you answered yes to any of these questions (and I'm guessing that's just about every married person alive), then John and Noel Piper wrote you a letter.

John's letter to husbands is entitled, "Husband, Lift Up Your Eyes: Letter to a Would-be Adulterer."

Brief excerpt:

  • Ask God that he would make sin sickening to you, not just morally wrong.
  • Ask him to make biblical realities, like hell and heaven, terribly and wonderfully real to you — real enough to taste and feel.
  • Ask him to open your eyes to the glory of the spiritual world “where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”
  • Ask him to give you a massive desire for ultimate Pleasure in God that is so strong that it makes sinful pleasures nauseous.
  • Ask him to transpose the pleasures of intimacy with your wife into foretastes of the unending ecstasies of heaven.

When you have prayed, lift up your eyes. … Take your eyes off your computer, off your mirror, off your pain, off your dead dream, off your self-pitying lust. God is speaking to you. He is waving a thousand flags to get your attention. He has more to give you than you have ever tasted or felt or dreamed. The price he paid to satisfy his people, with never-dying joy and ever-new beauties, was great. Don’t push him away.

Noel's letter to wives is entitled, "Will You Cleave and Leave Your Man? Letter to a Would-be Adulteress."

 Brief excerpt:
What did it boil down to during my darkest nights? I was saved from wandering by some form of this question: What kind of a cleaver am I? Am I the deadly implement who will split my family — with a husband and five children — into shreds? Because, with or without divorce, that is what unfaithfulness will do to us. 
Or will I cleave to the husband God has given me? Will I cling to my marriage and pray desperately for something different? I chose to cling, and God is still proving his faithfulness. He will do the same for you.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Is Human Baby Cruelty as Concerning as Cow Cruelty?

Do you know what an "ag-gag" law is? I didn't either, until I read this NPR article entitled, "Judge Overturns Utah's 'Ag-Gag' Ban On Undercover Filming At Farms."

An ag-gag law "typically refers to state laws that forbid the act of undercover filming or photography of activity on farms without the consent of their owner--particularly targeting whistleblowers of animals rights abuses at these facilities." The state of Utah, and at least 15 other states, have adopted "ag-gag" laws.

Back to the article. A federal judge in Utah recently found this ag-gag ban unconstitutional. In other words, he ruled that undercover filming or photography should be allowed under the protections of the First Amendment.

The judge stated that the safety of the animals was at issue, and under this ban, the state had failed to ensure that safety. In other words, the well-being of the animals trumped the farmers' privacy. I'm sure the presence of animal cruelty in the past and present also fed into this judgment. If there is reasonable cause for suspicion and concern, and if the ban increases the likelihood of animal endangerment, then undercover filming or photography to document and expose such cruelty should not be banned, but protected.

Consider the following from the article (emphasis mine):
The challenge to Utah ban was filed by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, PETA, and Amy Meyer, the director of the Utah Animal Rights Coalition. Meyer was arrested in 2013 while she filmed workers using heavy machinery to move a sick cow at a slaughterhouse in Draper City. At the time, Meyer was on public property; the charges against her were later dismissed.
"I was shocked when I was the one charged with a crime instead of that animal's abusers," Meyer said after the court ruled in her favor Friday. "It should never be a crime to tell the story of an animal who is being abused and killed, even if it's for food."

Now, when I first read the NPR article headline, I immediately thought of the undercover videos made by David Daleidan and Sandra Merritt as they attempted to uncover Planned Parenthood's complicity in the illegal sale of baby parts.

They have been charged with a number of felonies by state Attorney General Xavier Becerra. They have also been subject to a gag order which prohibits them from making these videos public, even to law enforcement.

In one statement, Mr. Becerra noted,
The right to privacy is a cornerstone of California’s Constitution, and a right that is foundational in a free democratic society. We will not tolerate the criminal recording of confidential conversations.
But what if the dignity and humanity, the cruel commodification, of human babies is at issue? What if under this gag order, the state of California (not to mention Planned Parenthood) has failed to ensure that safety? In other words, what if PP's violation of laws prohibiting the sale of baby parts trumped their privacy? I'm sure the presence of baby cruelty in the past and present should feed into our conclusion on the matter. If there is reasonable cause for suspicion and concern, and if the judicial protection of Planned Parenthood under the guise of First Amendment protections actually ends up protecting criminal activity, then undercover filming to document and expose such criminality should not be banned, but protected.

The irony of these two contemporaneous cases is sad and telling. Shouldn't human baby cruelty be considered at least as concerning as cow cruelty? Is this a justice issue, or is it an issue of who wields the most cultural clout?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

An Early Morning Exercise in Justification by Faith

Why is it that we often feel most anxious or guilty or defeated or depressed or blah first thing in the morning?

I wonder if, sometimes, it’s because all we have in the morning is yesterday’s mistakes.

            “Why did I say that?!”
            “I can’t believe I did that!”
            “I can’t believe I gave in to that temptation…again.”
            “I can’t believe I spent that much time scrolling Instagram last night.”
            “That was a waste of money.”
            “I wish I wouldn’t have watched that show.”
“Ugh! I forgot to ______, again.”
“Haven’t got to that yet, or that, or that…or that…or that…or that!”
“I just can’t seem to keep up at work.”
            “The finances are still a mess.”
            “The house is still a mess.”
            “My life is still a mess.”
            “(fill in your failure de jour)”

Yesterday’s failures and folly crowd around us at the foot of the bed, or just outside the shower. And crowding in just behind them are the failures and procrastinations from the last 3-6 months. A great crowd of witnesses to your worthlessness.

We wake up and the weights and sins and burdens are right there waiting to pile on. And we don’t yet have today’s activity yet to help shake them off, or counterbalance them. (Is jumping into the spin class of anxiety an attempt to feel like we’re “doing something about it”?)

If this crowd doesn’t disperse for you until the busyness and productivity of the day gets going, then that’s just the problem.

Our early morning burdens can be a set up for the soul twisting effects of self-justification. We contort ourselves to get a glimpse of our “good side” in the mirror of our self-reflection. We bend over backwards to shift the blame. We scramble to leave our guilt and regrets in the dust. Or, we beat ourselves up and hope the self-flagellation salves our guilty conscience. We have so much to prove, so much to lose. No wonder we’re so tired and weary.

Perhaps these burdensome early morning moments are ordained by God to teach you the gospel. Perhaps a big part of our problem is that we don’t face our first moments like Christians. We face them like everyone else who is trying their best to shake off and outrun and fight off their burdens and failures.

But it’s not our battle to fight.

Our early morning burdens are a set-up to strengthen us by means of justification by faith. Believing the gospel is the early morning exercise routine we all need, every morning.

What if we woke up and worked on tuning our hearts to believe, and then sing, this gospel grace? (Don’t let the familiarity of the words dull you to their power.)

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save me from its guilt and power.

Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All could never sin erase,
Thou must save, and save by grace.

Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress,
Helpless, look to Thee for grace:
Foul, I to the fountain fly,
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

What might happen if you read (sung?) those lyrics and then Matthew 11:28-30 and Lamentations 3:21-25 first thing every morning for a month?

Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

Lamentations 3:21-25 But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him." The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.

Your God and Savior says that his mercies are new every morning. He doesn’t say that his favor is available to the high achievers and winners.

Our hands that are empty of activity in the early am (even if they are full of failures and regrets and burdens), can remind us that “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to the cross I cling.” That’s how we began this race of faith when we woke from our spiritual stupor and saw the glory of Jesus, our rest-giving redeemer. That’s how we make progress in the race as we wake each morning in need of fresh mercy. And that’s how we will faithfully finish the course, eyes fixed on the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.