Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What The Father Never Says To His Children

"What do you want?!"

Isn't that good news?! Remember who your Father is today. 
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:7-11, emphasis mine)
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16, emphasis mine)
 Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me. (Psalm 50:14)

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Best Is Yet To Come

After church yesterday, quite a few people asked where to find the song we played at the end of the service. It's called "The Best Is Yet To Come" from the album "A Sweet and Bitter Providence." The name of the group is The Joy Eternal. You can find the song (and the rest of the album) on Amazon or iTunes.

Here's where I first heard about it. The video will give you an idea of what inspired the album and you'll hear parts of the other songs on the album (there are 4 songs total, with 2 tracks where John Piper is reading portions of his book that inspired the album). I heartily recommend them all! I also recommend that you turn the volume way up!

Exclusive video of The Joy Eternal's new EP release! from Andrew Laparra on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Listen! He Is Praying For You!

If you belong to Jesus, you need to know that he prays for you! 
Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died--more than that, who was raised--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (Romans 8:33-34)
Consequently, [Jesus] is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25)
What difference would it make if we wholeheartedly believed this? Robert Murray M’Cheyne gives us a good idea.
If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me. (Robert Murray M’Cheyne p. 179)
 HT: JT (HT: ER)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Japan Relief Benefit Concert - ありがとうございます。

(That's "thank you very much" in Japanese.)

A brief update: nearly $3000 was raised for relief efforts in Japan! Those funds will be used to love our Japanese "neighbors" as ourselves through the ministries of C.R.A.S.H. ( and Sunrise Ministries (

A big ありがとうございます。 to Jeremiah for putting the whole thing together, to Peter for hours of A/V ministry, to the artists who gave of their time and talents, to Zeck for the beautiful design below, and many others who helped in so many ways!

One quick story:

After the concert, two little girls (ages 7 and 5), who attended the concert went home and told their mom that they had to do something for Japan. They asked if they could empty their piggy banks and give their money to Jeremiah the next day at Starbucks. Mom must have said "yes." The change and dollars in the ziplock came to: $28.90.

Monday, May 2, 2011

WSSID Ch 10 - Stories From the Final Chapter

WSSID Ch 10 - When Sinners Say Goodbye

Key Idea: Marriage is not just for life, it is a preparation for the life to come.

You are a temporary spouse. Despite living in a world in which death is often taboo, the Bible won't let us ignore or avoid our inevitable end. God is very interested in teaching us how to die.
…today matters because tomorrow can’t be assumed. (170)
God wants us to die well. (170)
Sometimes I have come upon a cemetery plot with a matched pair of headstones, one inscribed, the other still blank. That’s when I stop and ponder the marriage story being illustrated there. (170)
You are given to your spouse to help him or her die well!
Pastor Richard Baxter saw one of the goals of marriage as this, ‘To prepare each other for the approach of death, and comfort each other in the hopes of life eternal.’ (171)

Key Text: 2 Cor. 4:16-18
16          Therefore we do not lose heart,
but though our outer man is decaying,
yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.

17          For       momentary,     light     affliction         is producing for us
an eternal         weight             of glory far beyond all comparison,
18                      while we look
not at the things which are seen,
but at the things which are not seen;
for the things which are seen             are temporal,
but the things which are not seen       are eternal.

This inevitable wasting away comes from our forefather Adam, who turn from God toward self-sufficiency doomed us to the universal physical destiny of ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Life involves bodily decay, folks. The only question is when do we recognize it.
But Paul overlays this cold physical reality with radiant gospel truth. Bodily decay isn’t the only thing going on: We are being gloriously renewed from within. …under the new spiritual birth, the life of God re-animates our sin-dead souls and the process is reversed—we actually get better with time! (172)
So when life comes at you in ways you don’t expect, remember this: Regeneration is the initial burst of spiritual life in our souls. Renewal is that same power working itself out in every facet of who we are, fitting us, as it were, for eternal life with Jesus.” (172)
The only way that we will not lose heart as our bodies waste away, is by fixing our soul’s gaze on the eternal weight of glory that makes any and all affliction on this earth look light and momentary.

If all we treasure is here on earth, then each passing day means we are backing away from what we treasure. We are bound to lose heart if we are, in a sense, walking backwards out of this world.

But if we lay up our treasure in heaven, and if we encourage our spouse to do the same, then each passing day means we are getting one step closer to where our heart is already. And rather than losing heart, we will be renewed day by day.

Oh, how we need the “eternal weight of glory” to become increasingly REAL to us! Oh, how we need to see that this world is actually the “Shadowlands,” and the life to come is the place of REAL life and substance and solidity.
Heaven is always Heaven and unspeakably full of blessedness… And on that day when the springtide of the infinite ocean of joy shall have come, what a measureless flood of delight shall overflow the souls of all glorified spirits as they perceive that the consummation of love’s great design is come—“The marriage of the Lamb is come and His wife has made herself ready”! We do not know yet, Beloved, of what happiness we are capable… Oh, may I be there! ... If I may but see the King in His beauty, in the fullness of His joy—when He shall take by the right hand her for whom He shed His precious blood and shall know the joy which was set before Him, for which He endured the Cross, despising the shame—I shall be blest indeed! Oh, what a day that will be when every member of Christ shall be crowned in him, and with him, and every member of the mystical body shall be glorified in the glory of the Bridegroom! …the saints, arrayed in the righteousness of Christ, shall be eternally one with him in living, loving, lasting union, partaking together of the same glory, the glory of the most High. What must it be to be there! (182, quoting Charles Spurgeon, from The Marriage of the Lamb – no. 2096, preached morning of July 21, 1889)
Questions (mainly from the study guide):
  • What are your thoughts and feelings on death? How might they affect how you currently life your life?
  • How do you think you might need to view your marriage differently to prepare for the later years?
  • Where will you be as a couple in ten years? What would you like your marriage to look like at that time?
  • Have you ever seen an elderly married couple that you admired? What about their marriage did you find attractive? How will you be that couple? What do you need to change? To start? To cultivate?

WSSID Ch 9 - Concerning Sex

WSSID Ch 9 - Put marital intimacy in its place!

"My hope in this chapter is to bring the sensitive issue of sex under the hope of the gospel, where it belongs." (168, emphasis mine)

WSSID Ch 9 - Concerning Sex - Dependence

Sex is marriage an adventure of devotion, delight, and finally, dependence.

     3. Dependence

Sex is part of ordinary married life. Just as we need grace for every other aspect of ordinary life, we need grace for our “sex life.” Given all the challenges and obstacles and “issues” that make healthy, happy, holy marital intimacy more an exception than the norm, you’d think we’d be really dependent and prayerful here!

What kinds of things typically get in the way?

Certainly there are circumstantial and even physical obstacles that often get in the way. But the greatest obstacles flow from our sinful hearts. Harvey looks at three common sins that can rob sweetness from the sexual relationship in marriage (on 163ff).

What might happen if we humbly depend on Gospel grace to overcome these obstacles?
    • Sloth
The sin of sloth may go by other names and take various forms:
      • Indifference
      • Passivity
      • Unresponsiveness
      • Letting your appearance go
      • Boredom (and lazily doing nothing about it)
      • Settling for things as they are (after all, "they'll never change")
DEPEND on God for energy and strength and grace!
    • Unbelief
      • “It’ll never change!"
      • “I can’t ever please him/her."
      • “She’ll/He’ll never…”
Do you really believe that this one is beyond God’s reach?!
Do you really believe God can’t help / doesn’t want to help?!
DEPEND on God for intervention and change and grace!
    • Bitterness
      • Unbelief says, “I/God can’t” – Bitterness says, “I/God won’t!”
      • Unbelief leans away from God’s promises; bitterness slams the door
      • Where is there unresolved conflict that could be resolved? 
      • Where is there lack of forgiveness that gospel grace could reconcile?
      • "Married people turned bitter use their bodies as a weapon, a weapon that harms by withholding. A weapon used to punish the other person for sinning against us. This calls for forgiveness.” (165)
The warmth of infinite-debt paying, blood-bought reconciliation with God can melt the ice of bitterness!

There is GOSPEL grace for sloth, unbelief, & bitterness!
DEPEND! Is it not possible that "we have not because we ask not?!"

Talk about it:
  • Which of the following might be the greatest challenge you face in regard to sexual intimacy right now—sloth, unbelief, or bitterness? How can you being to apply grace to overcome these personal hindrances? (from p57 in the Study Guide)
  • What are some of the influences in your life that have shaped your view of romance and sex? How can you begin to weed their influence out of your life? (from p57 in the Study Guide)
  • Ask your spouse whether he or she is aware of sloth, unbelief, or bitterness as a potential obstacle to a God-glorifying sex life.
  • Confess any sin you need to confess
  • Ask for forgiveness
  • Talk about how to walk forward in reconciled dependence
  • Pray together and ask for grace for your sex life!
  • Talk about some ways men and women often view the issue of sex and romance differently. (Don’t be trite or sarcastic! These are gospel and glory-of-God issues!)
  • How do these differences put pressure on or cause conflict or coldness in your marriage?
  • What are some of the practical obstacles (like schedules and tiredness and kids, etc.) that you need to take into consideration and work around to cultivate healthy intimacy?
  • Talk about some of the times when your physical intimacy has been its most healthy and enjoyable and think together about why.
This all takes work. But the fact that it can and must be worked at should encourage us. Good marital sex is not for the privileged few.

I’ve had the privilege of growing in the faith with some unusually gifted people, and I would say it’s the rare person for whom creative, romantic ideas come spontaneously. Most of the folks I know pursuing romance and intimacy in their marriages are spending time planning, asking questions, investigating what is romantic to their spouses and not assuming they know. As with any artistry, there are far more discarded ideas than masterpieces. But to get a masterpiece you must be willing to work at creativity. I’ll guarantee you this, if you see someone who is truly good at romancing his or her spouse, you probably won’t be looking at a natural. You’ll be looking at someone who works at creativity, and makes careful planning look effortless. That, my friends, is art worth pursuing.
Great sex in marriage comes from conscious dependence on the goodness and sovereignty of God, who is at work powerfully to make our marriages a source of spiritual and physical joy. (167)

WSSID Ch 9 - Concerning Sex - Heart Check

Talk of the devotion and delight in marital sex can really be a sore subject for many spouses. Sadly, there is probably more pain, shame, hurt, frustration, disappointment, and anger here than there is devotion, delight, gratitude, joy, and satisfaction.

Harvey wisely and sensitively acknowledges this:
I recognize that there will be some reading this who can’t imagine the kind of physical relationship Paul indicates. For you, intimacy with your spouse may be intertwined with a sense of apprehension, rejection, and shame. This is a real challenge in many marriages that cannot be simply overlooked. (157)
Many of us shut down when wounded, or withdraw when discouraged, or are tempted to manipulate our spouse by using the body as a bargaining tool. We can be tempted with “solo sex” through fantasy, pornography, and/or masturbation. (159-160)
I offer no trite or flippant "solutions." I only remind you that you are not alone (God is with you and you are in quite a vast company of those who have struggled), God is willing and God is able to give grace and help.

Which is why the last point is so important…

WSSID Ch 9 - Concerning Sex - Delight

Sex in marriage is an adventure of devotion. It’s also an adventure of delight.

     2. Delight

Do you delight in giving pleasure to your spouse?
Notice Paul doesn’t emphasize taking from our spouse our conjugal rights. By instead emphasizing the giving of these rights to one another, Paul locates the key for great sex as generosity. (159)
C.J. Mahaney said, “Indeed any married person who rightly sees these verses as commands from God will bring to the marriage bed a servant’s mindset that places the primary emphasis on the sexual satisfaction of his or her spouse.” This is part of what makes marriage delightful—the joy of living for someone beyond ourselves. (159)
When we think about sexual delight in marriage, we need to make sure our expectations are not unduly influenced by this world of unreal ideals and false promises.
Although delighting in sex should be the overflow of love in Christian marriages, not every encounter will be accompanied by fireworks or become a contender for your top-ten list of romantic moments. (161)
David Powlison says it even better:
Good sexual love is simply "normal." Sometimes the idealized view of good sex can sound overheated, even when we prize and protect marital sexuality. Sometimes we can give the idea that good sex (in both senses) is a gymnastic, ecstatic, romantic, athletic, electric, semi-psychotic, erotic, high-wire, bug-eyed, luxuriating, ravishing bliss of marital passion! Sorry to disillusion you. But much of good sex is just . . . well, normal, everyday. Think about it. Most people in the history of the world have lived in one-room huts, where the kids sleep in the same room with their parents! Countless families have lived in flats, with only curtains for room dividers, your mother-in-law in the far corner, your wife's younger brother sleeping on the couch. Or they've lived in tents, as nomads. Not much sound-proofing or major privacy operative in that housing arrangement! Not much in the way of gymnastics or sound effects is possible unless you have no children. That's not to say that a married couple with children shouldn't get away for a weekend, or close the door, or do things to make sex special. Nothing wrong with some high-wire encounters that bring a little extra spice. 
Think of the analogy with food, another of life's very redeemable pleasures. Occasionally you pull out the stops for a memorable feast with all the fixings. But in normal life, you eat a lot of healthy breakfasts. In the redemption of sex, lots of normal things flourish. How about courtesy? Basic kindness and patience? How about humor--pet names, teasing, irony, private jokes? Good sex is not that serious! How about mercy? How about a shower, shave, and being relaxed? How about a fundamental willingness to be available to another, simply to give. How about conversation? How about quiet, slow, leisurely time together? Basic love goes a long way towards making good sex good. It's great when the Richter Scale tops out at an earth-shattering 8.1. But in normalized good sex, you'll also enjoy 3.1 temblors that hardly rattle the teacups. 
Get your goals straight. It heightens the significance of your Savior. He alone restores you to practical love for God and to the practical love appropriate for each of your various kinds of neighbors. He alone makes daily life shine with visible glory.
(“Making All Things New: Restoring Pure Joy to the Sexually Broken” in Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, pp. 103-104.)

Talk about it:
  • Have you ever talked back and forth about what brings you pleasure (and what doesn’t)?
  • Are you working to learn and study your spouse? What brings pleasure doesn’t have to be a mystery…or an exercise in mind-reading!
  • (Men especially) Don’t ever ask or pressure your spouse to do something they are uncomfortable doing! Love is...kind...and does not insist on its own way (1 Cor. 13:4-5).

WSSID Ch 9 - Concerning Sex - Devotion

God is not afraid to look us in the eye and address sex head-on. We need to learn to do the same – with God, in the church, and in our marriages. Harvey does a good job of getting us started in chapter 9.

Key text: 1 Corinthians 7:1-5

Key Idea: Sex in marriage is an adventure in devotion, delight, and dependence.

First, an adventure in devotion – devotion to one another’s protection and one another’s rights.
  1. Devotion
    • Devotion to one another’s protection
1 Cor. 7:2
2           But because of the temptation to sexual immorality,
each man should have his own wife and
each woman her own husband.
For the Christian, sex in marriage is to be a God-installed defense against temptation. … Our spouse is our first line of defense to protect us from the calls of [this lust-driven, sex-crazed world]. (155)
Sex works invisibly but powerfully to diminish temptations to sexual immorality. We need to see that such moral protection is not just a pleasant byproduct of marital intimacy. It is a core reason for marital intimacy. (156)
Our strategy against temptation cannot simply be avoidance. You don’t just fight for your marriage by killing lust. You fight for your marriage by cultivating healthy growth in intimacy! Weed killing is necessary, but one of the best defenses against them is a healthy lawn. God is all for this. He commands this (see Prov. 5:15, 18, 19)! In fact, he looked us in the eye and put Song of Songs in the Bible for His glory and our good!

How comfortable are you talking about sex with your spouse? Harvey writes on page 154, “…there may be no area more thought about and less talked about in a marriage than sex.” That’s a problem that we need to address and remedy – for the glory of God and the good of our marriages. Maybe this chapter can help get you off the block!
    • Devotion to one another's rights
1 Cor. 7:3
3           The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights,
and likewise the wife to her husband.

4           For the wife does not have authority over her own body,
but the husband does.
Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body,
but the wife does.
...marriage becomes an adventure by underscoring the other-centered nature of our union. Marriage means that our bodies are now claimed by God for the pleasure and service [e.g. protection] of another. Our connection is so comprehensive that God gives our spouse a claim over our body. It’s a remarkable picture of the actual scope of “the two becoming one flesh.” We are called by God to become devoted to sexually satisfying our spouse. (157)
5           Do not deprive one another,
except perhaps by agreement
for a limited time,
that you may devote yourselves to prayer;
but then come together again,
so that Satan may not tempt you
because of your lack of self-control.

You’ve got to notice the language: It’s “give the other her/his rights” and “do not deprive;” it’s NOT, “Now I can play the “I own your body” card!”
Talk about it:
  • How well do you and your spouse communicate about sex? You’ve GOT to work on this!
  • Have you ever talked about issues of frequency and expectations?
  • Have you ever talked about frustrations, distractions, discouragements?