Saturday, December 24, 2016

"The Sweet Dropper"

Have you heard of Richard Sibbes?

He was a Puritan theologian in England and lived from 1577-1635. He is known as “the sweet dropper,” because such grace-filled sweetness dropped from his pen. Charles Spurgeon, the famous London preacher of the 1800s wrote of him, “he scatters pearls and diamonds with both hands.”

Inspired by Isaiah 42:1-4, he wrote a book called The Bruised Reed. I HIGHLY recommend the whole book, so let me scatter some sweetness from his pen in hopes that your appetite will be whetted for more. 

First off, he says that the "bruising" itself is God’s work:
Our hearts, like criminals, until they be beaten from all evasions, never cry for the mercy of the judge. ... [T]his bruising makes us set a high price upon Christ. Then the gospel becomes the gospel indeed; then the fig-leaves of morality will do us no good. And it makes us more thankful, and, from thankfulness, more fruitful in our lives; for what makes many so cold and barren, but that bruising for sin never endeared God’s grace to them? (4) 
The heroic deeds of those great worthies do not comfort the church so much as their falls and bruises do. [And, he gives examples beginning with] … David [who] was bruised until he came to a free confession… (5) 
It is no easy matter to bring a man from nature to grace, and from grace to glory, so unyielding and intractable are our hearts. (6) 
Physicians, though they put their patients to much pain, will not destroy nature, but raise it up by degrees. Surgeons will lance and cut, but not dismember. (7)
 Listen to how helpfully he speaks of the winsome character of Christ:
A mother who has a sick and self-willed child will not therefore cast it away. And shall there be more mercy in the stream than in the spring? Shall we think there is more mercy in ourselves than in God, who plants the affection of mercy in us? (7) 
As a mother is tenderest to the most diseased and weakest child, so does Christ most mercifully incline to the weakest.” (10) 
…if we have this for a foundation truth, that there is more mercy in Christ than sin in us, there can be no danger in thorough dealing. It is better to go bruised to heaven than sound to hell. Therefore let us not take off ourselves too soon, nor pull off the plaster before the cure be wrought, but keep ourselves under this work till sin be the sourest, and Christ the sweetest, of all things. And when God’s hand is upon us in any way, it is good to divert our sorrow for other things to the root of it all, which is sin. Let our grief run most in that channel, that as sin bred grief, so grief may consume sin. (12-13, emphasis added)
 He also follows with implications for those who follow this Jesus as their Master:
The ambassadors of so gentle a Saviour should not be overbearing…Some think it strength of grace to endure nothing in the weaker, whereas the strongest are readiest to bear with the infirmities of the weak. (34)
That's just a taste. Get the book for more food for your soul. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

We Need More 'Both And' Believers

“Augustine expressed his faith not with his heart alone, for the heart does not think . . . nor with his mind alone, for he never grasps truth in the abstract, as if it were dead. Rather, to his task as a theologian he brought emotional tenacity, immense intellectual power, purpose of will, deep spirituality and heroic sanctity.”

“The Significance of Augustine,” Christianity Today, 11 December 1987, page 22.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

"Crappy Theology." Amen.

McGarvey family road trip not long ago. Kids watching The Sound of Music.

The "Something Good" song scene comes on.

Here are the lyrics:

Perhaps I had a wicked childhood
Perhaps I had a miserable youth
But somewhere in my wicked, miserable past
There must have been a moment of truth

For here you are, standing there, loving me
Whether or not you should
So somewhere in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good

Nothing comes from nothing
Nothing ever could
So somewhere in my youth or childhood
I must have done something good

I was just about to stop the movie and ask the kids what they thought of those words when Sam blurts out, “Well that’s pretty crappy theology.” I would have preferred a better choice of words. But I'm thankful he can recognize the anti-gospel when he hears it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Sweet Temper of Our Savior

You've probably never heard of Benjamin Grosvenor. He was an English pastor who lived from 1676-1758. He once preached a sermon entitled, “The Temper of Jesus.” It was a reflection on Luke 24:47, “...that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”

Taste the sweetness he squeezed out of these words by his meditation on the character of the One who said them.
It is very affecting, that the first offers of grace should be made to those… who least deserved it. They of all people had most deserved the contrary! That they who had abused Christ to a degree beyond the most pitiful description, should lie uppermost in his care, and stand foremost in his pity, and find so much mercy from one to whom they showed none at all!
One would rather have expected the apostles should have received another kind of charge; and that Christ should have said, ‘Let repentance and remission of sins be preached, but carry it not to Jerusalem, that wicked city… let not the Gospel enter those gates, through which they led me, it’s author, to crucifixion…
But Gods thoughts are not as ours… our way is, to make the chief of offenders examples of justice; to avenge ourselves upon those who have done us personal injury or wrong; but Christ chooses out these, to make examples of mercy, and commands the first offer of eternal life to be made to them, and all the world are to wait.
Tell them, you have seen the prints of the nails upon my hands and feet, and the wounds of the spear in my side; and that those marks are so far from giving me vindictive thoughts, if they will but repent, that every wound they have given me speaks in their behalf, pleads with the Father for forgiveness of their sins…
If you meet that poor wretch that thrust the spear into my side, tell him there is another way, a better way, of coming at my heart, if he will repent, and look upon whom he has pierced and will mourn. I will cherish him in that very bosom he has wounded; he shall find the blood he shed an ample atonement for the sin of shedding it. And tell him from me, he will put me to more pain and displeasure by refusing this offer of my blood, then when he drew it forth.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Ask Good Questions - Help for (Potentially) Heated Conversations

John Stonestreet at Breakpoint offers six questions he's found helpful for healthy dialogue about issues of faith and culture:
What do you mean by that? The battle of ideas is always the battle over the definition of words. Thus, it’s vital in any conversation to clarify the terms being used. 
How do you know that is true? Too often, assertions are mistaken for arguments. 
Where did you get this information? 
How did you come to this conclusion? 
What if you’re wrong? 
What if you’re right?

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry (James 1:19, NIV, emphasis added).

Monday, December 19, 2016

Lay Aside the Weight of Irritability

Here's a word I need to hear...often: "Lay Aside the Weight of Irritability" by Jon Bloom. Perhaps you need it too.

A few excerpts:
We like to blame our irritability on someone or something else. We try to convince ourselves (and them) that they make us irritated. If they were different, we wouldn’t be irritated. Or we blame it on being tired, ill, or stressed. But Paul diagnoses irritability as a heart disease; a failure to love: “Love . . . is not irritable” (1 Corinthians 13:4–5). 
Our irritability never has its roots in the soils of righteousness. It springs out of the soil of selfishness and springs up fast, like the sin-weed that it is. We get irritated or easily provoked, not when God’s righteousness or justice is scorned, but when something we want is being denied, delayed, or disrupted. It works like this:
After giving some examples of the real roots of our irritability, Bloom goes on to suggest a practical strategy for laying it aside using the acronym "S.T.O.P."

Laying aside irritability, let us run the race set before us, looking to Jesus.

The Thing About Job -- And His Company of "Though-he-slay-me,-yet-will-I-hope-in-him" Sufferers

When we experience deep and protracted suffering, or compounded suffering, we are often plagued by questions and complaints:
  • God, how can you love me and allow this to happen?
  • Why am I suffering like this, while so many others are going along just swimmingly?
  • What did I do to deserve this?
  • This is too much. You must be cruel. How can you be good, and sovereign, and let this go on? 
  • Why don't you hear my cry? 
  • Why are you silent? 
  • Why don't you do something?! 
  • What good does it do to pray?
Others, who are no better or worse than we, know nothing of this kind of pain. Self-pity, jealousy, doubt, fear, bitterness, anger, and resentment gnaw at the nerves of our soul.

There are no easy answers. But what if God does want us to look around? Not at those for whom things are going swimmingly. Rather, to those who have suffered in like kind, or worse, and who have, by faith, endured. This is certainly the logic of Hebrews 11-12. It also seems to be a primary reason why the book of Job is in the canon.

Job suffered more deeply than most every human who has ever lived. He walked through this deep, dark valley with raw honesty. He wrestled deeply with God's silence and purposes. But he didn't curse God. He trusted God - "though he slay me" (Job 13:15).

The thing about Job is that his example both crushes and lifts up. It crushes our cynicism. God CAN lead a person through more significant suffering than ours AND be good and do good and bring about good. His story cuts our complaints off at the knees.

We tend to compare ourselves to others (who, undoubtedly, are less righteous than we!) and we feel we deserve better. Well, why don't we compare ourselves to one who was more righteous than we (see Job 1:1), who suffered more than we, and yet...God was FOR him and WITH him and ultimately saw him through? Stories like Job's take away our excuses, but they can give us hope. And I believe the former is necessary for us to experience the latter.

Vaneetha Rendall Risner's life is a story like Job's.

If you're in a deep, deep valley, are you willing to look at someone who has suffered more than you, yet who testifies to the sufficiency of God's sustaining grace, even when he repeatedly withholds delivering grace?

Sunday, December 18, 2016

We Are Pilgrims - Jonathan Edwards' Style

If you hear the name Jonathan Edwards, your only connotation may be that time in high school when you were assigned to read "Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God." As sobering as it is, that sermon is well worth reading (despite what was probably a very severe critique by your high school teacher). 

Jonathan Edwards did not trifle with life and eternity. He knew his Bible. He knew Hell. And he wasn't afraid to warn people. But he knew God and Heaven better. And he knew that all of this life is a journey to our eternal home. 

His writing does not make for easy reading, especially for us 21st century folk used to tweets and sound bites. But anyone willing to do the work of reading him is richly repaid by the effort. 

While we're doing this series entitled, "We Are Pilgrims," it's a great time to encourage you to read "The Christian Pilgrim" by Edwards. It's only about 4 pages worth of text (which is a rare brevity for Edwards!). It's not very hard to read. And it is GOLD. 

You can read it HERE.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Fight Porn and Lust by F.A.I.T.H.

Gavin Ortlund provides a very helpful acronym for the fight for purity.

  1. Friendship - loneliness is probably more dangerous than you think
  2. Adventure - boredom is more dangerous than you think
  3. Intimacy - emotional needs are more important than biological drives
  4. Truth - truth in your mind is more powerful than you think
  5. Healing - healing is more available than you may think
Read the whole thing HERE.

Monday, November 21, 2016

3 Parenting Myths...and the Truths We Need to Displace Them

Author and popular blogger Tim Challies summarizes some important parenting wisdom from Chap Bettis HERE. Here's the nutshell:

  • Myth #1: RESULTS GUARANTEED. The perfect environment will guarantee that my children follow the Lord. 
  • Truth #1: You cannot control your children. … Our goal is not ‘successful’ parenting per se, but faithful parenting.”
  • Myth #2: MY KIDS ARE MY LIFE. The ultimate goal of my Christian life is to have my children follow the Lord.
  • Truth #2: You should not make an idol out of having perfect Christian children. … “As my children realize that I love Jesus more than them, they will realize their place in the order of the universe.”
  • Myth #3: IT’S ALL UP TO ME.
  • Truth #3: You cannot do this alone. … "The best thing you can do for your child’s soul is to become actively involved in a gospel-preaching, gospel-living church community.”

By the way, Chap Bettis is a friend of the Chapmans. They think very highly of him. He's lived these principles out in his own home and in the church he pastored for many years. You can get his book (that Tim Challies summarized) by going here.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Food for Thought Friday

This collection of juicy quotes comes from a recent post by Russell Moore entitled, "7 Books That Changed My Life." Yes, indeed. There's some life-changing truth here. Read on, chew, and be changed.

J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism
“The truly penitent man longs to wipe out the effects of sin, not merely to forget sin. But who can wipe out the effects of sin? Others are suffering because of our past sins; and we can attain no real peace until we suffer in their stead. We long to go back into the tangle of our life, and make right the things that are wrong—or at least to suffer where we have caused others to suffer.”

Frederick Buechner, A Room Called Remember
“The decisions you think are the most important turn out not to matter so much after all,” he wrote, “But whether or not you mail the letter, the way you say goodbye or decide not to say it, the afternoon you cancel everything and drive out to the beach to watch the tide come in—these are to be the moments when souls are won or lost, including quite possibly your own.”
“By faith we are to understand if we are to understand it at all, that the madness and lostness we see all around us and within us are not the last truth about the world but only the next to the last truth.”

Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others.”
“The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state and never its tool.”

Walker Percy, Signposts in a Strange Land
“Just because Jimmy Swaggart believes in God doesn’t mean that God doesn’t exist.”
“The good news is that in becoming the minority in all countries, a remnant, the Church also becomes a world church in the true sense, bound to no culture, not even to the West of the old Christendom, by no means triumphant but rather a pilgrim church witnessing to a world in travail and yet a world to which it will appear ever stranger and more outlandish.”

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Ernie Johnson's Post Election Thoughts

I really like (and respect) this guy:

And in case you missed it, here's more reason to like (and respect) this guy.


Isaiah: Seeing the Forest After the Trees

We just finished our "God Saves" series on the book of Isaiah last Sunday. It took us 53 weeks worth of Sundays to study our way through it. Isaiah is obviously a big book and it's easy to lose the forest for the trees.

The Bible Project videos are great for gaining a clear "forest view" of a book of the Bible. Here are their two Isaiah videos. They're a great introduction, but also a great recap on the heels of our study.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

2016 IDOP Video

Each year, a video is produced for the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. We showed this year's video last Wednesday night, so you may not have seen it. I encourage you to watch it. It's very sobering, and a powerful testimony of costly, Christlike love.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Something You Can Count On

Lamentations 3:21-26
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. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Song Recommendation: "How Long?" by Sojourn Music

On the heels of Sunday's message, Pastor Tyler brought the song "How Long?" (Sojourn Music) to my attention.

You can listen to it here.

You can catch the lyrics here (YouTube lyrics video).

"How Long?" is on Sojourn's Over The Grave album. Same album that contains "Living Faith," the theme song for our study through the book of James in 2014.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Monday, October 31, 2016

Cable News Wants Urgency More Than Importance

Do you?

Seth Godin asks some great questions:
What if the fear and malaise and anger isn't merely being reported by cable news...
What if it's being caused by cable news?
What if ubiquitous video accompanied by frightening and freaked out talking heads is actually, finally, changing our culture?
Which came first, the news or the news cycle?
We seem to accept the hegemony of bottom-feeding media as some natural outgrowth of the world we live in. In fact, it's more likely an artifact of the post-spectrum cable news complex in which bleeding and leading became business goals.
There's always front page news because there's always a front page.
The world is safer (per capita) than ever before in recorded history. And people are more frightened. The rise of the media matches the rise of our fear.
Cable news isn't shy about stating their goals. The real question is: what's our goal? Every time we hook ourselves up to a device that shocks us into a fear-based posture on a regular basis, we're making a choice about the world and how we experience it.
They want urgency more than importance. What do we want?

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Cynicism is Not the Measure of Maturity

We swim in a sea of cynicism. Listen to Josh Garrels' insightful song entitled, "Cynicism":
Cynicism is the sickness of my culture
We undress each other with an evil eye
Concentric circles we look like vultures
When we feast on the failures of the lives we criticize
Don't stand alone and cast your stones at her
Unless you think you're innocent yourself
The same measure that we use to condemn men
Will be the same that's poured out upon our heads
We've all gone astray
We kick against the pricks so convinced we know the way
But who can repay
The love we sacrificed for an empire made of clay
Self-promotion's how we function in this culture
We fight for the spotlight with a peacock's pride
And then condescend to all the lesser men
From thrones we make of paid accolades and a compromise
There is no power that a man can have
Unless it's given to him from above
Our ladders of success descend to hell
Don't sell your soul and lose your one true love
We've all gone astray
We kick against the pricks so convinced we know the way
But who can repay
The love we sacrificed to be kings for a day
We not only swim in this sea, we also contribute handsomely to the rising water levels.

Marilynne Robinson, from The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought,
When a good man or woman stumbles, we say, ‘I knew it all along,’ and when a bad one has a gracious moment, we sneer at the hypocrisy. It is as if there is nothing to mourn or to admire, only a hidden narrative now and then apparent through the false, surface narrative. And the hidden narrative, because it is ugly and sinister, is therefore true.
We believe and project this narrative because we fear, we know, its true...within. We're uncomfortable in our own soul and hate it whenever the florescent lights of our failures shine on the sickliness of our skin.

This disposition is not maturity. Cynicism is not a virtue. It is not the sign of health. Here is virtue and maturity and health (1 Corinthians 13:4-13):
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. ...  
For we know in part ... but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became an adult, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.  
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
And this virtue flowers from the bloody soil at the foot of the cross. If anyone has the right to cynicism, it is God. Yet he is not petty and childish. He is magnanimously merciful and mature. He loved us all the way to the cross, to swallow up our dark narrative, and rewrite our story with light and hope. This new narrative of grace, when it becomes our truth, awakens love and hope and joy. And we leave childish ways behind and start to love.

Friday, October 28, 2016

10 Thoughts Toward Election Season Clarity

Kevin DeYoung offers some wise counsel as we march toward Election Day. Here are a few excerpts to encourage you to go and read the whole thing (emphasis added):
1. ...I’ll make clear from the outset: I will vote for President, but I will not vote for either of the major party candidates. I have been critical of both candidates—more so than in any previous presidential election—because I believe both fail to clear a basic threshold of personal integrity, sound judgment, and trustworthiness.
2. This does not mean I think every Christian must come to the same decision in order to be a good Christian. There are simply too many prudential matters in the mix for Christians to be adamant that you absolutely cannot vote for so and so. Someone may think Trump is a lecherous oaf, but still conclude that his policies and judicial appointments have a better chance of being good for the nation. ... Others may be convinced that an unpopular Clinton presidency may be better for conservative principles in the long run than a train wreck Trump administration would be. Some people may think voting third party is a waste. ...
5. Even if you are a hold-your-noser instead of a NeverTrumper, every Christian should agree that Trump’s comments about women and his actions toward women (not to mention the way he has spoken of minorities) have been horrid. We embarrass ourselves when we try to defend the indefensible. And to claim it was merely locker room talk (which it wasn’t), or that you’ve heard worse (sadly, many have), or all men have spoken like that before (they haven’t) only serves to excuse sins that need to be forgiven not minimized.
7. But we are not voting for Pastor-in-Chief! Agreed. I don’t insist that the President of the United States has to be qualified to be a leader in our churches or even a member in our churches. And yes, many presidents have been morally bankrupt. But... [t]he Bible does not...suggest that private character is an irrelevant consideration for public service. There is nothing about sitting in the Oval Office that magically transforms people into something other than what they have been. If anything, power tempts even good people to be bad and makes bad people even worse. Our candidates will always be imperfect. When and where that imperfection crosses the line into “morally unfit” may be a matter of discretion, but it must be a matter that matters.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Consequentialism or Compromise?

I've heard Christians explain their rationale for voting for Trump.
"We're not electing a Sunday School teacher."
"Not voting for Trump is a vote for Clinton." 
"If you can't vote for the man, vote the platform." 
"Lesser of two evils." 

I've heard Christians explain their rationale for voting for Clinton. 
"At least this unappealing choice is not the unconscionable choice of Trump and more of a known quantity." 
"Checking unprecedented evil with predictable evil."

My question (asked three different ways) is this: 
Is there a threshold after which a vote for one candidate or the other is morally repugnant? Is there a point where the ends don't justify the means? Is there a point where consequentialism is compromise?

And if there is, have we crossed it with these two candidates? If so, then consequentialism is compromise.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Bible Project Video on Heaven and Earth

Here's The Bible Project video we showed this past Sunday.

They have A BUNCH of helpful videos introducing you to the themes of individual books of the Bible and to important themes that run through the Bible.

You can find their videos HERE at their YouTube channel. You can also subscribe to their channel to have new content dropped right in your inbox.

HERE is the link to their website, where you can download videos and also get involved in helping to make new videos come to life!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Resume Virtues or Eulogy Virtues?

David Brooks is a cultural and political commentator and a journalist for the NY Times. He spoke back in January at the 40th anniversary celebration of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. Despite the heat these institutions have been taking in the culture wars, Brooks was optimistic. Eric Metaxes shares why (emphasis mine):
Brooks is a graduate...of the University of Chicago, and he teaches at Yale... There’s no need for Christians to feel in any way inferior, he says, acknowledging that while his Ivy League students are “amazing,” they’re pretty one-dimensional. 
“They’ve been raised in a culture,” Brooks says, “that encourages them to pay attention to the résumé virtues of how to have a great career but leaves by the wayside … time to think about the eulogy virtues: the things they’ll say about you after you’re dead. They go through their school with the mixture of complete self-confidence and utter terror, afraid of a single false step off the achievement machine.” It’s flat, lifeless, and soul-killing.
But Christian schools attempt to educate their charges in three dimensions. Brooks told Christian college leaders that Christian universities “are the avant-garde of 21st century culture.” Christian colleges “have a way of talking about and educating the human person in a way that integrates faith, emotion and intellect. [They] have a recipe to nurture human beings who have a devoted heart, a courageous mind and a purposeful soul. Almost no other set of institutions in American society has that, and everyone wants it.”
Go HERE to read the rest. You may not be sending a child off to college, but thinking about eulogy virtues over resume virtues should be a priority for all of us.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

How to Love Those Who Are Hurting

From Crossway on Vimeo:

Everyone has friends or family who suffer from sickness, disability, depression, or the death of a loved one. Oftentimes, the people who love the hurting also struggle in their own unique ways. They tend to suffer in silence and without much support from others.

Dave and Gloria Furman understand, from personal daily experience, the challenging dynamics that attend serving others who are hurting. In this video, Dave Furman, author of 'Being There: How to Love Those Who Are Hurting', shares his story of debilitating need, resilient care, and finding the help that only God can supply.

Being There: Dave and Gloria Furman

Learn more about the book:

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Song Recommendation: Let Justice Roll Like a River

This past Sunday, we studied Isaiah 58 together. Afterwards, Pastor Tyler told me about the song, "Let Justice Roll Like a River." It's a meditation on the words and context of Amos 5:24, but it's also a great complement to the call of Isaiah 58.

I'd encourage you to listen (HERE) and meditate on the words (HERE): 

Let Justice Roll Like a River
Bobby Gilles and Rebecca Elliot

Forgive us Lord, for passing by
When children cry for bread
Forbid it Lord, that justice lie
In tatters, cold and dead

Outside these walls run desperate streets
Where greed is law and life is cheap
We bar the doors, refuse to see
Or hear the words You said:

Let justice roll like a river, Like a river, let it roll
Let justice roll like a river. Like a river, let it roll

Convict us Lord, we dance and laugh
Ignoring those who weep
Correct us Lord, our golden calf
Has lulled our hearts to sleep

The gap between the rich and poor
Grows ever wider, shore to shore
There's racial hate, religious war
And wolves among the sheep

Indwell us Lord, and purify
Our hands to work for You
Enlist us Lord, to serve nearby
And ʻcross the waters, too

Your image-bearers on the earth
Will never know how much theyʼre worth
Unless we love and help them first
And show the way to You.


©2007 Bobby Gilles and Sojourn Community Church
CCLI Song #4974842

CCLI License #1888971

Friday, August 12, 2016

Who Was Right: Orwell or Huxley?

In 1985, Neil Postman published the book Amusing Ourselves to Death. I read it 10 or 15 years ago. It was prophetic then. It still is.

In the foreword, he spells out what his book is about. He does so by contrasting George Orwell's vision in his famous novel 1984 with Aldous Huxley's in Brave New World.

Here's what he says (emphasis added): 
We were keeping our eye on 1984. When the year came and the prophecy didn't, thoughtful Americans sang softly in praise of themselves. The roots of liberal democracy had held. Wherever else the terror had happened, we, at least, had not been visited by Orwellian nightmares. 
But we had forgotten that alongside Orwell's dark vision, there was another - slightly older, slightly less well known, equally chilling: Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. 
Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley's vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think
What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one
Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much (information) that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism
Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance
Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies...and the centrifugal bumblepuppy (or, Pokemon?). As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions." 
In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure
In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us. 
This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.
 So, what do you think? Is our greater danger totalitarianism or a sort of Stockholm Syndrome

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Olympic Parable

The greatest thrills and joys come not from validations of our own self-worth, but from the sight and enjoyment of glory and greatness.

John Piper has shared many times this illustration (my paraphrase):
How many people go the Grand Canyon to look in the mirror and enhance their self-esteem? Not many. They go to see and drink in a greater glory outside themselves. And it is profoundly thrilling and satisfying.
His point is this: God's supremacy and transcendence is true, but it's also good news. We don't find the highest joys by looking in at ourselves. The greatest joys come from beholding and experiencing the glory of God (out there in the world and in the Word and in his Son).

The Olympics actually provide a window into this reality. Piper gave the following illustration at a Desiring God National Conference in 2006 (entitled “The Supremacy of Christ and Joy in a Postmodern World," and found here):
What if we asked someone, “Would you want to watch a football game (or an Olympic event) where all the players were no better than you? Or watch a movie where the actors could act no better than you and were no better looking than you? Or go to a museum to see pictures by painters who could paint no better than you?” 
Why are we willing to be exposed in all these places as utterly inferior? How can we get so much joy out of watching people magnify their superiority over us? 
The biblical answer is that we were made by God to get our deepest joys not from being superior ourselves but from enjoying God’s superiority. All these other experiences are parables. God’s superiority is absolute in every way, which means our joy in it may be greater than we could ever imagine.

The greatest and highest good for our souls is not found in our souls. The path of joy is not lined with mirrors, but windows. The answer to our ache and longing is not self-esteem, but God-esteem, not self-glory, but self-forgetfulness. Things get really good when we stop trying to be the center of the universe, and start enjoying the fact that God is. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Feeling Stuck?

Four words of wisdom from Paul Tripp when we find ourselves in this all-too-familiar place.

His first point:
  1. Feeling stuck reminds us that God is most important. Feeling stuck often reveals how highly we think of ourselves and what we think we're entitled to. When we get angry in traffic, we're declaring that no one deserves to be on the road more than us. The spiritual reality of the universe, however, is that we're never on center stage; this world was created to serve and celebrate its Creator (Psalm 19:1).

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Sower's Song by Andrew Peterson

Here's the song by Andrew Peterson that we played on Sunday on the heels of Isaiah 55.

The lyrics while you listen:

Oh God, I am furrowed like the field
Torn open like the dirt
And I know that to be healed
That I must be broken first
I am aching for the yield
That You will harvest from this hurt

Abide in me
Let these branches bear You fruit
Abide in me, Lord
As I abide in You

So I kneel
At the bright edge of the garden
At the golden edge of dawn
At the glowing edge of spring
When the winter's edge is gone
And I can see the color green
I can hear the sower's song

Abide in me
Let these branches bear You fruit
Abide in me, Lord
Let Your word take root
Remove in me
The branch that bears no fruit
And move in me, Lord
As I abide in You

As the rain and the snow fall
Down from the sky
And they don't return but they water the earth and bring they forth life
Giving seed to the sower, bread for the hunger
So shall the word of the Lord be with a sound like thunder
And it will not return, it will not return void
We shall be led in peace
And go out with joy
And the hills before us
Will raise their voices
And the trees of the field will clap their hands as the land rejoices
And instead of the thorn now
The cypress towers
And instead of the briar the myrtle blooms with a thousand flowers
And it will make a name
Make a name for our God
A sign everlasting that will never be cut off
As the earth brings forth sprouts from the seed
What is sown in the garden grows into a mighty tree
So the Lord plants justice, justice and praise
To rise before the nations till the end of days

As the rain and the snow fall
Down from the sky
And they don't return but they water the earth and they bring forth life
Giving seed to the sower, and bread for the hunger
So shall the word of the Lord be with a sound like thunder
And it will not return, it will not return void
It will not return, it will not return void
It will not return, it will not return void
We shall be led in peace
And go out with joy

And the sower leads us
And the sower leads us
And the sower leads us

Tuesday, August 2, 2016


C.S. Lewis on calibrating our expectations:
"If you think of this world as a place intended simply for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable; think of it as a place of training and correction, and it’s not so bad. 
Imagine a set of people all living in the same building. Half of them think it is a hotel, the other half think it is a prison. Those who think it a hotel might regard it as quite intolerable, and those who thought it was a prison might decide that it was really surprisingly comfortable. ... 
The people who try to hold an optimistic view of this world would become pessimists; the people who hold a pretty stern view of it become optimistic."
From “Answers to Questions on Christianity,” in God in the Dock (Grand Rapids, 1970), 52

Steve Saint, who has known more suffering than most:
"Suffering is your expectations divided by your experience. ...  
Come to think of it, so is blessing."

Jesus gets the last word (John 16:33):
"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Ernie Johnson - A Moving Story of Fathers and Sons

Tired of nothing but bad news in the news?

Take 20 minutes and watch this ESPN E:60 story of Ernie Johnson, Jr. You'll want to have some tissues nearby.

Johnson is one of the most respected and successful sportscasters today, but his story is about much more than his professional success. He and his wife Cheryl have six children, four of whom they adopted, one (Michael) with special needs. He also survived a battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma from 2003-2006. His story is a testimony of the grace of God, a steady and quiet faith, and the powerful influence of a faithful father.


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Why I Am A Democrat

C.S. Lewis:
I am a democrat [i.e. a proponent of democracy, not a member of the political party in the US] because I believe in the Fall of Man. I think most people are democrats for the opposite reason. 
A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from the ideas of people like Rousseau, who believed in democracy because they thought mankind so wise and good that every one deserved a share in the government. 
The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they're not true. . . . I find that they're not true without looking further than myself. I don't deserve a share in governing a hen-roost. Much less a nation. ...  
The real reason for democracy is just the reverse. Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows. Aristotle said that some people were only fit to be slaves. I do not contradict him. But I reject slavery because I see no men fit to be masters.
"Equality," in C. S. Lewis: Essay Collection and Other Short Pieces, ed. by Lesley Walmsley (London: HarperCollins, 2000), p. 666.

And again: 
I believe in political equality. But there are two opposite reasons for being a democrat. You may think all men so good that they deserve a share in the government of the commonwealth, and so wise that the commonwealth needs their advice. That is, in my opinion, the false, romantic doctrine of democracy. On the other hand, you may believe fallen men to be so wicked that not one of them can be trusted with any irresponsible power over his fellows. ... That I believe to be the true ground of democracy.

-C.S. Lewis, “Membership” in The Weight of Glory, (New York: Touchstone, 1996), p. 126.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

God Put Your Ears On The Outside

Ray Ortlund, Jr. gives the answer (Isaiah: God Saves Sinners, 333-334):
Why do we have ears on the outside of our heads? Why not on the inside? Because we’re not supposed to listen to ourselves. I wonder how much of our misery stems from our almost religious devotion to our own thoughts and feelings. But that inner personal world where you and I live constantly – what relation does it bear to the atmosphere that the gospel creates? We spend every moment of our entire lives within a mental universe. The quality of that environment matters. Are our ears open to the in-flowing blessing of God? Do we understand what it means to listen to God? He wants to re-tune our ears so we can hear the word of God again. That alone is how we escape our fantasies and enter into reality with God.

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, commenting on Psalm 42, unpacks it further (slightly edited): 
The main trouble in this whole matter of spiritual depression in a sense is this, that we allow our self to talk to us instead of talking to our self. Am I just trying to be deliberately paradoxical? Far from it. This is the very essence of wisdom in this matter. 
Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problem of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. 
Now this man's treatment [in Psalm 42] was this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself, 'Why are you cast down, O my soul?' he asks. His soul had been repressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: 'Self, listen for a moment, I will speak to you'. Do you know what I mean? If you do not, you have but little experience. 
The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: 'Why are you cast down'--what business have you to be disquieted? You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: 'Hope…in God'--instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do. Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: 'I shall yet praise Him, my salvation and my God'.

Monday, July 11, 2016

"What's Going On?" - Thoughts on Last Week's Bloodshed By Tony Carter

A number of you have asked for the piece by Tony Carter that I read yesterday. Carter is the lead pastor of East Point Church, near Atlanta, GA. He posted the piece on The Front Porch, a site devoted to "Conversations about biblical faithfulness in the African-American churches and beyond."

Here's the link to the full piece.

Friday, July 8, 2016

The 'Gospel of Jesus's Wife': An Update

You might have missed it, but "On September 18, 2012, [Harvard Divinity School] Professor Karen L. King announced the existence of a papyrus fragment dubbed “The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” at the International Coptic Congress in Rome." Part of this fragment reads, "Jesus said to them, ‘My wife…’ and "she will be able to be my disciple."

The authenticity of the fragment was questioned by many critics. Nevertheless, in 2014, NPR reported Harvard's continued claim that it, "shows no evidence of being a modern forgery."

Well, if you missed all this "news," you can rest assured that you didn't miss anything. Professor King has now gone on record as saying it is probably a fake. She came to this conclusion after reading The Atlantic Monthly's investigation into the origin of the fragment.

Eric Metaxas over at Breakpoint provides an excellent, short summary of the story (you can listen or read).

And, as always, God gets the last word.

1 Corinthians 1:18-20
"For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart." Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?"
1 Corinthians 3:19-20
For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, "He catches the wise in their craftiness," and again, "The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile."

Saturday, July 2, 2016

How Do You Know You're Real?

William Arnot has a great answer:
The difference between an unconverted man and a converted man is not that one has sins and the other does not have sins. The difference is that one stands in solidarity with his cherished sins against a dreaded God, and the other stands in solidarity with a reconciled God against his hated sins.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Friday Food For Thought

Some tasty morsels I've chewed on recently:

Bryan Loritts, "Portrait of a Diverse Church" (Bible Study Magazine, Mar/Apr 2016):
"Something in you has to be discontent with just a multiethnic sanctuary -- you've got to want a multiethnic dinner table."
David Powlison, "Straight Talk":
"Jesus never said a pointless word to other people. He was never just marking time or keeping things that matter at arm's length. He always engages the important matters. he never just describes, analyzes, and complains about what's wrong. His conversations always go somewhere helpful. Jesus speaks life-giving words: candid, constructive, relevant, and redemptive. And one of the constructive things Jesus talks about is helping us to assess the quality of what we talk about. 'The mouth speaks out of the abundance of the heart' -- either good or evil (Matt 12:34)."
Tim Keller, Galatians For You (53):
Galatians 2:14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas ...
"Literally, Paul says that he was 'not ortho-walking with the gospel'. (The prefix ortho means to be straight--so we go to an orthodontist to straighten out our teeth.) ...
This gospel has a vast number of implications for all of life. It is our job to bring everything in our lives 'in line' with the thrust, or direction, of the gospel. We are to think out its implications in every area of our lives, and seek to bring our thinking, feeling, and behavior 'in line'. 
Christian living is therefore a continual realignment process—one of bringing everything in line with the truth of the gospel."

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Some Thoughts on Transgender Trends

First, a "thought experiment" with Kevin DeYoung.

Second, a good word of caution from John Piper (found here):
I think we should spend most of our creative energies on constructing in our minds and in our hearts and in our families great and beautiful and glorious alternative visions of reality than the ones we are being offered by the world. If we give most of our time to bemoaning and criticizing the world for acting like the world, our vision of God and his glorious future for his people will become smaller and smaller, and that could be a greater tragedy than the one we are living in.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

What Does Trump's Rise Say About America?

Dane Ortlund is the executive vice president of Bible publishing at Crossway and a gifted scholar and author. I admire him and have benefited from his ministry more than once. I stumbled upon his blog today and read this post (dated March 1):

Imagine the following scenario. Trump ... steps up to the podium ... takes off his obnoxious red Make America Great Again hat. He pauses, looking down, somber. Here's what we hear.
I have something to say.

I've made a horrible mistake.

This election process has finally caught up with me and has revealed to me what my whole life is about.

I went into this election really believing that I wanted to make America great. I realize now all I have really wanted--the campaign underneath the campaign--is to make Trump great. I thought I wanted America to win. I see now that all I really want is for Trump to win. I'm grateful for your kind support. But I see now I don't deserve it.
I know my supporters may not like this. But I can't take it anymore. Enough is enough. I am thoroughly ashamed of myself. So what I want to say is: I would like to ask for the American people's forgiveness. If they withhold it I can't blame them. But I have to ask you all to forgive the folly, the bombast, the self-exaltation, the fierce resistance to correction, the pride. I've been wrong.

I have considered quitting the campaign, but I do for now plan to continue. And I have resolved: no more yelling, no more lying, no more name-calling, no more hate-mongering, no more elitism-nurturing, no more boasting, no more question-evading. Yes, this nation is in a downward spiral, but now I see that I and people like me have been leading the way...
And so on.

So implausible as to be laughable, I know. But my question is: How would the millions who back Trump respond?

We know how they would respond. We know because as the outrageously immoral and self-inflating statements from Trump have piled up since last June, his support has not waned. It has increased. We therefore know that those supporting Trump are not doing so because they see him as morally exemplary. In the meantime he remains opaque on his actual positions and how he would accomplish his big promises. We therefore also know that they are not supporting him on account of superior tactics in his policies.

One can only conclude that they like him--including these so-called evangelicals--because of who he is. Because of the bombast, not in spite of it.

They want a man like Trump in charge. They want the big talk, the egotistical claims, the elitist mindset. His supporters aren't overlooking these things for the sake of other virtues in him or his policies. These anti-virtues are themselves what attract Americans.

We therefore know how Trump supporters would respond to such a speech. While true evangelicals would celebrate his recovered moral sanity, his present supporters, including the so-called evangelicals, would howl.

Such penitence would not be a step forward, in their minds. It would be a step backward. It would be the loss of what they crave in a president. 

As Trump has gotten haughtier and haughtier the past 8 months, his support has, inexplicably, grown. Do we really not see that if he were to become humbler and humbler, his support would decrease?

If so, then the problem is not Trump. It's Americans. The bombastic, haughty candidate in this election just happens to be Donald Trump. It could be any self-aggrandizing billionaire and the results would look the same. The problem isn't Trump. It's us. Trump is simply a big golden mirror showing Americans, showing Republicans, showing alleged evangelicals, what they really love. 

Many are questioning whether Trump is mature enough for our vote. I would question whether we are mature enough to cast it.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Dad Versus The Internet - Who Wins?

One more for the dads (and sons). Kudos to Gillette for this ad:

How Do You Spell 'Dad'?

Father's Day was last Sunday, but better late than never. Better yet, this one fits always. Dads (and sons and daughters and moms), watch and be encouraged:

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Follow Up On Romans 14-15

As I said on Sunday, Romans 14-15 has much broader application than alcohol. Nevertheless, as a "disputable matter" (often hotly disputed!), Paul provides important wisdom and guidance on the subject. If you want some more helpful, thought-provoking insights on Christians and alcohol, check out these two chapel talks by Joe Rigney, Assistant Professor of Theology and Christian Worldview at Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis, MN.

Part I:

Joe Rigney – On Alcohol, Part 1 from Bethlehem College & Seminary on Vimeo.

Part II:

Joe Rigney – On Alcohol, Part 2 from Bethlehem College & Seminary on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Remember Jesus Christ!!!

If you need a serious shot of gospel grace in the arm of your faith, you've got to listen to this message by Shai Linne. He preached it this past Sunday at Immanuel Church in Nashville, but he pastors here, in Philly. If you don't come away from this one encouraged, you better check your pulse.

By the way, don't let the poor audio quality put you off. It's worst at the beginning and improves as the sermon progresses. If your browser doesn't support the audio player embedded, you can go here to listen.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Together For The Gospel

Hey Bethel Family,

Go HERE to see where Pastor Tyler and I will be this week. You can sign up for access to the livestream if you'd like to listen in on/watch any of it. If you miss it, he media should also be available a few weeks after the conference is over.

Please pray for us. Pray for the speakers. Pray for everyone attending, that God would do some serious soul-shaking work in our lives. Pray that there will be powerful ripple effects in the churches and communities represented; waves breaking on the shores of eternity from the stones tossed in the pond this week.

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Difference Between Hospitality and Entertaining

Jen Wilkin unpacks the difference in a really helpful way over on The Gospel Coalition website. Here's a taste to whet your appetite:
  • Entertaining is always thinking about the next course. Hospitality burns the rolls because it was listening to a story. 
  • Entertaining obsesses over what went wrong. Hospitality savors what was shared. 
  • Entertaining, exhausted, says “It was nothing, really!” Hospitality thinks it was nothing. Really. 
  • Entertaining seeks to impress. Hospitality seeks to bless.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

"Why Porn Kills Sex"

Russell Moore has an excellent post here, in response to this week's Time Magazine cover article.

One excerpt:
...Why does it seem that pornography ultimately kills sexual intimacy? There are, to be sure, many psychological explanations. Pornography desensitizes one to sexual stimuli, feeds the quest for endless novelty, and creates a script of expectations that does not, and cannot, meet up to the real dynamics of personal relationship. But I think there’s more afoot here.
... Pornography kills sexuality because porn isn’t just about sex and because sex isn’t just about sex.
Read the whole thing.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Taking a Beating For the Sake of Sharing Beauty

If you've ever seen The Shawshank Redemption, you'll probably remember this powerful scene: 

Justin Taylor shares the thoughts of Julian Johnson, Regius Chair of Music at Royal Holloway, University of London:
Anyone who knows The Shawhank Redemption will recall the effect of this iconic moment, when the prisoner, Andy Dufresne, locks himself in the prison office and plays a duet from Mozart’s opera The Marriage of Figaro over the PA system. The entire compound comes to a standstill as the strains of the music drift over the exercise yard and hardened prisoners and guards alike stand open-mouthed, silenced by the arresting beauty of a music from a distant place. 
Of course, you might think, any music would have done; music, as a whole, has this capacity to make the imaginary seem palpable, to promise something that exceeds our immediate reality, to recollect the loss of something infinitely valuable. 
But I think it’s significant that the director, Frank Darabont, chose to use Mozart at this moment. The disjunction between the world of classical opera and the brutality of the prison in which the film is set, its very strangeness, is the key to its power to stop “every last man” in its tracks. Part of its beauty, and the incomprehensible power of its fragility, derives from this sense of distance—that this music comes from elsewhere and speaks of a better order of things that, for this brief moment, cuts through the hardened surface of everyday reality at Shawshank. 
The sense is enhanced by the effect of hearing music from an old vinyl record, played through the tinny speakers of the prison PA system, whose normal function is one of repressive control. The hiss and whirr of the record, the distortion of the speakers, combine to create the effect of a music heard from a great distance, not just in place but also in time. The beauty of these voices, it seems, is brought into the present from another age, as an ephemeral restoration of something lost of the past. For “every last man” this music sounds from a quite different world, yet it enters the mind like a distant, long-forgotten memory and the most fragile of future promises. Allowing it to sound through the bars of this “drab little cage” is a deeply transgressive act, for which Dufresne gets two weeks in solitary confinement, and no doubt a beating too.
Professor Johnson uses this as an illustration of why he's written his new book, Who Needs Classical Music? Cultural Choice and Musical Value. It made me think of how the Kingdom of God breaks into the "drab little cage" of this world and "speaks of a better order of things that...cuts through the hardened surface of everyday reality." 

What a powerful parable of what we can and should be! Our communication of the glory of the gospel, our love that incarnates it, our churches displaying a peculiarly beautiful harmony -- music from another age, another Country! When you've heard the beauty of this song, you'll risk a beating to pipe it into the domain of darkness.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Meditate On This

I don't think you'll regret hopping on and riding along with this meditation train.

First, Psalm 12.
Then, Micah 7.

And cap it off by listening to this song by Jon Foreman. It's a rich, artistic meditation on Micah 7. You've got to pay careful attention to the words, and be sure to listen all the way to the end!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

How Affairs Begin

How does an affair begin? One writer may have witnessed one begin while on a recent flight. He writes about it here, warning of 3 elements that make it easier to walk into this life-wrecking trap.

  1. They were isolated.
  2. They lowered their guards.
  3. They made plans to spend time together. 

Don't buy the lies that illicit sex and romance are selling. Instead, buy in -- hook, line, and sinker -- to the wisdom of Proverbs 4-9 (emphasis added):

Proverbs 4:20-23, 25-27
My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. ... Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.
Proverbs 6:32-33
He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself. He will get wounds and dishonor, and his disgrace will not be wiped away.
Proverbs 6:27-29
Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched? So is he who goes in to his neighbor's wife; none who touches her will go unpunished.
Proverbs 7:21-23
With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him. All at once (does it give you chills?) he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life.

Friday, March 11, 2016

When Your Child Says, "I Don't Know"

Julie Lowe over at CCEF offers some excellent parenting advice. Here's a taste of where she's headed: a surprisingly young age, children learn they can avoid engaging in thoughtful discussion by giving the notorious "I don't know" response to our questions. 
...We need to find ways to get past such responses and give them insight into their own hearts. Proverbs 20:5 says, “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.” The question is how can we draw them out?
She goes on to give several wise methods for drawing out your child. Read on and find some very practical help.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Family Worship Faithfulness

Don Whitney has a great little book on Family Worship. I recommend it, but if reading a 60 page book on the topic sounds a little too daunting, Crossway Publishers is offering a bite-size primer ("Family Worship 101") in the form of a 5 day email course. You can sign up here.

If a "testimony" of the cumulative impact of family worship in a child's life would be helpful, read Don Whitney's post entitled, "Family Worship and the Day I Made My Daughter Cry." And just so you don't think family worship is for those other families whose kids sit with rapt attention for hours, here's an except:
Now before you imagine something that isn’t true, I want you to know that I cannot recall once in the thousands of nights before Laurelen wrote these words when we concluded family worship and I had some atmospheric sense of the presence of God. Not one time did we finish family worship where I would have said afterward, “The Lord evidently moved in great power among us tonight.”
On the contrary, most nights our family gathering was more like, “Will y’all pay attention; I’m reading the Bible here. . . . Please put down your phone. . . . Are you listening?”
Read the whole thing and be encouraged to persevere in your calling to live out Deuteronomy 6:4-9:
"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Must Bethel Be Multi-Ethnic?

Given where the Lord has planted us, I say, "Yes!" I hope you agree.

Jesus died for it.
Revelation 5:9-10 And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth."
Heaven will be gloriously, beautifully diverse in its God-centered unity.
Revelation 7:9-10 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!"
I'd encourage you to watch the following video where John Piper asks Pastors Stephen Um and Trip Lee if every church must be multi-ethnic. If you want God's kingdom to come, and his will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10), let's all embrace our responsibility (and opportunities!) to help Bethel become a better foretaste of Heaven.

Must Every Church Be Multi-ethnic? from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

Monday, February 1, 2016

What Does The Bible Mean By "The Flesh"?

The Bible often uses the term, "flesh," to refer to something other than the skin on our bodies. What is it actually referring to? For example, what exactly is it that is against the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:17?
For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
This "flesh" has desires. It wants things. It's almost like it's alive. Some translations go with "sinful nature." That helps some.

In his book, Dynamics of Spiritual Life, Richard F. Lovelace says,
...the flesh might be called a "God complex." 
A "complex," in psychological terms, is "a core pattern of emotions, memories, perceptions, and wishes in the personal unconscious organized around a common theme, such as power or status."

He goes on to show how our "God complex" always backfires on us, because,
...the unconscious awareness of our independence from God and an unrelieved consciousness of guilt create a profound insecurity in the unbeliever or the Christian who is not walking in light. This insecurity generates a kind of compensatory egoism, self-oriented but somewhat different from serious pride. Thus much of what is called pride is actually not godlike self-admiration, but masked inferiority, insecurity and deep self-loathing. (90)
The flesh often rules. We side with the flesh all the time and stiff-arm the Spirit. If Lovelace is right, how ironic that our desire to be our own gods (strong and capable and satisfied!) is what makes us so pathetically fragile and insecure.

The flesh is alive and kicking. No doubt about it. And it's killing us. But we don't owe the flesh anything. We don't have to bow the knee to its desires. We need to kill it...and we will live...for (the True) God.
Romans 8:12-13 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Wholehearted Love

Have you ever been wholehearted in something?

A hobby?
A relationship?
A sport?
A job?

How often are you wholehearted in your love toward others? I mean really loving them, all the way.

When we’re halfhearted in our love for others, it’s actually because we’re being wholehearted in our commitment to our own comfort or safety or whatever. That’s why we calculate and begin to plan our path of minimal (or at least controlled) cost-to-me.

But Jesus said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” He is calling us to be all-in for others like we are naturally all-in for ourselves.

Jesus showed us what this kind of love looks like in the parable of the “Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:30-37, emphasis added):  
Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.' Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed him mercy."
Loving his neighbor looked like compassion to a stranger. His heart went out to this man on the street. But he didn’t stop there. He actually did something about this man’s plight. He went to him, which means he took a risk. It could have been a ruse. The robbers could have been lurking behind a rock waiting to pounce on this compassionate but unsuspecting soul.

He bound up his wounds. He poured on oil and wine. He gave time and resources. He gave them willingly. And he went all the way with it.

It’s so easy to begin to calculate. To seek to minimize the outlay. This man wasn’t looking for the minimum requirement. He was committed to loving his neighbor as himself.

So he set the man on his own animal and brought him to an inn…AND he took care of him. He didn’t just drop him off. He took care of him. This man he didn’t even know. And the next day – he must have been there overnight taking care of him – he paid for their stay (and then some). Perhaps the man was now stable enough that some normal R&R would lead to recovery. So, the Samaritan left him in the care of the innkeeper, promised to cover any additional expenses, and promised to return. THAT is wholehearted love.

And Jesus said… "You go, and do likewise." (Luke 10:37)

How in the world do we do that?! 

By warming ourselves at the wholehearted love of God for us dire-straits sinners. 

God wholeheartedly loved this world and willingly gave us his only Son. We were in worse shape than the man on the road in Luke 10. And the Son of God took on flesh to love his neighbor to the utmost. He didn't just nurse us back to health. We were spiritually dead and without hope. He died and rose again so we could be resurrected, made alive together with Christ. He didn't just give up some of his resources. Though he was rich, yet for our sake he became poor, so that we spiritual debtors could become rich with his love and mercy (2 Cor 8:9). Get near the blazing glory of that love, and experience it (Eph 3:19), and your heart will swell with wholehearted love for neighbor. 

We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). Aren't you glad God isn't halfhearted in his love for us?