Friday, October 31, 2014

Counter-Cultural Sexual Ethics

What set the early Christians apart from the Grecco-Roman culture around them? Obviously, off course, they would not participate in the worship of pagan gods. However, they were also very conspicuous for their sexual ethic. In a piece that is very relevant for today, Michael Kruger writes:
In the first century, while Christianity was still in its infancy, the Greco-Roman world paid little attention. For the most part, the early Christian movement was seen as something still underneath the Jewish umbrella.
But in the second century, as Christianity emerged with a distinctive religious identity, the surrounding pagan culture began to take notice. And it didn’t like what it saw. Christians were seen as strange and superstitious—a peculiar religious movement that undermined the norms of decent society. Christians were, well, different.
So what was so different about Christians compared to the surrounding Greco-Roman culture? One distinctive trait was that Christians would not pay homage to the other “gods” (see my earlier article on this subject). This was a constant irritant to those governing officials who preferred to see the pagan temples filled with loyal worshipers (temples earned a good deal of money from the tributes they collected).
But there was a second trait that separated Christians from the pagan culture: their sexual ethic. While it was not unusual for Roman citizens to have multiple sexual partners, homosexual encounters, and engagement with temple prostitutes, Christians stood out precisely because they refused to engage in these practices.For instance, Tertullian went to great lengths to defend the legitimacy of Christianity by pointing out that Christians are generous and share their resources with all those in need. But then he said, “One in mind and soul, we do not hesitate to share our earthly goods with one another. All things are common among us but our wives” (Apol. 39). Why did he say this? Because, in the Greco-Roman world, people sometimes shared their spouses with each other.
In the second-century Epistle to Diognetus, the author went out of his way to declare that Christians are normal in regard to what they wear, what they eat, and how they participate in society.  However, he then said, “[Christians] share their meals, but not their sexual partners” (Diogn. 5.7). Again, this trait made Christians different.
We see this dictinction play out again in the second-century Apology of Aristides. Aristides defended the legitimacy of the Christian faith to the emperor Hadrian by pointing out how Christians “do not commit adultery nor fornication” and “their men keep themselves from every unlawful union.”
A final example comes from the second-century apology of Minucius Felix. In his defense to Octavius, he contrasted the sexual ethic of the pagan world with that of Christians:
'Among the Persians, a promiscuous association between sons and mothers is allowed. Marriages with sisters are legitimate among the Egyptians and in Athens. Your records and your tragedies, which you both read and hear with pleasure, glory in incests: thus also you worship incestuous gods, who have intercourse with mothers, with daughters, with sisters. With reason, therefore, is incest frequently detected among you, and is continually permitted. Miserable men, you may even, without knowing it, rush into what is unlawful: since you scatter your lusts promiscuously, since you everywhere beget children, since you frequently expose even those who are born at home to the mercy of others, it is inevitable that you must come back to your own children, and stray to your own offspring. Thus you continue the story of incest, even although you have no consciousness of your crime. But we maintain our modesty not in appearance, but in our heart we gladly abide by the bond of a single marriage; in the desire of procreating, we know either one wife, or none at all.'
This sampling of texts from the second century demonstrates that one of the main ways that Christians stood out from their surrounding culture was their distinctive sexual behavior. Of course, this doesn’t mean Christians were perfect in this regard. No doubt, many Christians committed sexual sins. But Christianity as a whole was still committed to striving towards the sexual ethic laid out in Scripture–and the world took notice.
Needless to say, this history has tremendous implications for Christians in the modern day. We are reminded again that what we are experiencing in the present is not new—Christians battled an over-sexed culture as early as the first and second century. But it is also a reminder why Christians must not go along with the ever-changing sexual norms of our world. To do so would not only violate the clear teachings of Scripture, but it would also rob us of one of our greatest witnessing opportunities. In as much as marriage reflects Christ’s love for the church, Christians’ commitment to marriage is a means of proclaiming that love.
In the end, Christianity triumphed in its early Greco-Roman context not because it was the same as the surrounding pagan culture, but because it was different.
(Image from the original article)

Nobody Is Purfact...Err...Parfect...Err...


Thursday, October 30, 2014


Is God dangerous? Read these insights from the Book of Ezekiel from  Tony Reinke at Desiring God:
,,,the living God of the universe is untamable. He’s good, but he isn’t safe. Try to subdue him, and you might lose an arm, or worse.
The living God of the Old Testament roars like a lion (Isaiah 31:4Jeremiah 25:30;Hosea 11:10Joel 3:16Amos 1:2).
The living God of the New Testament is the Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5).
As Michael Horton says, “Nobody today seems to think that God is dangerous. And that is itself a dangerous oversight.”
It’s dangerous because before we yawn at God, we must first replace the majestic, holy, awesome Tiger of Scripture with a domesticated kitten, conformed to the standards of the world, measured by the yardstick of political correctness. Who wants a God who roars, who threatens, who judges? Why not rather fashion a god in our taste — a friendly god we can pet, leash, and export for popular appeal?
The book he references in the post is Yawning At Tigers: You Can't Tame God, So Stop Trying by  Drew Dyck. I think I want to read it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

He is Everything

"When you put your trust in Christ, the overpowering attraction of the world is broken. You are a corpse to the world, and the world is a corpse to you. Or to put it positively, you are a ‘new creation’ (Galatians 6:15). The old you is dead. A new you is alive — the you of faith in Christ. And what marks this faith is that it treasures Christ above everything in the world. The power of the world to woo your love away is dead.

Being dead to the world means that every legitimate pleasure in the world becomes a blood-bought evidence of Christ’s love and an occasion of boasting in the cross. When our hearts run back along the beam of blessing to the source in the cross, then the worldliness of the blessing is dead, and Christ crucified is everything."

— John Piper, Fifty Reason Why Jesus Came to Die,  Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004 Page 85

HT: Of First Importance

Monday, October 27, 2014

Yoda the Evangelist

You Might Be An Idolater If....

Are you an idolater? Am I? The answer is probably yes. Check out this great piece by Stephen Altrogge via Crossway:
How can we tell if we love something too much? I love drinking coffee. Coffee is a gift from God to be enjoyed. It defibrillates my body into working properly each morning. My workday orbits around coffee breaks. Sometimes I daydream about the coffee I’m going to drink after dinner. Sometimes I dream about brownies too. Big, fat, chocolate brownies that are still slightly warm. Coffee plus brownies almost equals heaven. Not really, but you know what I mean.
Do I love coffee too much? Am I a coffee idolater? How can I know if I love coffee or brownies or work or children or anything too much?
Here are several symptoms of idolatry:
  • You’re crushed when you don’t get what you want.
  • You stake your happiness on getting what you want.
  • You grumble and complain when you don’t have what you want.
  • You demand what you want.
We know we’ve become idolaters when a good thing has become a supreme thing. And the result of idol worship is always discontentment.
Idols are terrible masters. They demand our love, thoughts, affections, time, dreams, and desires. But they never satisfy, never deliver as promised. Idols always leave us in a state of dizzy discontentment.
In 1 John 5:21 we read, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” Most of us don’t do a jig of excitement when we read those words. Frankly, we’ve gotten a bit attached to our idols. We make sure they’re well fed and get plenty of attention. The thought of giving up our pet idol isn’t so appealing. We may not be able to have what we want, but at least we can dream, and that gives us some pleasure.
But playing with idols is like playing with boa constrictors. The longer an idol is left unchecked, the stronger its grip on our heart becomes. The idol crushes our heart until our love for God is almost extinguished. Idolatrous desires must be destroyed.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Redeem the Time

Thou Great I AM,
Fill my mind with elevation and grandeur
at the thought of a Being
with whom one day is as a thousand years,
and a thousand years as one day.

A mighty God, who,
amidst the lapse of worlds,
and the revolutions of empires,
feels no variableness,
but is glorious in immortality.

May I rejoice that,
while men die, the Lord lives;
that, while all creatures are broken reeds,
empty cisterns, fading flowers, withering grass,
He is the Rock of Ages, the Fountain of living waters.

Turn my heart from vanity, from dissatisfactions,
from uncertainties of the present state,
to an eternal interest in Christ.

Let me remember that life is short and unforeseen,
and is only an opportunity for usefulness.

Give me a holy avarice to redeem the time,
to awake at every call to charity and piety,
so that I may feed the hungry,
clothe the naked,
instruct the ignorant,
reclaim the vicious,
forgive the offender,
diffuse the gospel,
show neighborly love to all.

Let me live a life of self-distrust,
dependence on Thyself,

Saturday, October 25, 2014

History in 1,000 Words

Below is a post from Crossway Called The History of Christian Theology in 1,000 Words written by Gerald Bray, author of God Has Spoken: A History of Christian Theology (October 2014).
Theology is essentially the way in which the Christian church has received the Word of God revealed to us in the Bible and in Jesus Christ. The early church inherited the Hebrew Scriptures (our Old Testament) and accepted them as a true picture of who God is and what he is like. He is absolutely unique and sovereign over everything that exists, which he created out of nothing and for a purpose.
Furthermore, he gave human beings the right to rule in his name and established them in fellowship with himself. Nonetheless, our first parents were tempted away by Satan and sinned against God. The rest of the biblical story recounts how God’s plan to deal with this rebellion, first by choosing a special people for himself (Israel) and then by giving them prophets to teach them how to respond to him.
The first Christians inherited all of this from their Israelite forbears. However, in the person and work of Jesus Christ they came to a new and deeper experience of God. In the Old Testament, God appeared as One, dwelling among his people yet remaining largely unapproachable. He was the fire in the burning bush that could not be touched. He was present in the Holy of Holies, which was off limits to all but the high priest, who himself could only enter the inner sanctuary but once a year.
In Christ, all this changed.
Jesus broke down the barriers separating God from his people, revealing more about who he is and how he works. Believers are now seated in the heavenly places, with access to God’s presence through the indwelling Spirit of the Son, who comes from the Father. The Christian experience of God is therefore Trinitarian.
The person of the Father was the focus of Jesus’s ministry. He taught his disciples to think of God as Father, because otherwise they could not have understood Jesus as the Son. The Aramaic word ‘Abba’ (Father) was so characteristic of Jesus that it is preserved in the Gospels as a reminder of him.
Next came the work of the Father, who was understood as both the Creator and the Redeemer. There were people who thought that this was impossible, because, if a perfect God had created the world, the world would also be perfect and would not need redemption. They therefore concluded that the Creator was an inferior deity, whose work was perfected by the Father of Jesus Christ. If that idea had been accepted, the Old Testament would have been rejected as the revelation of a lesser being. Jesus would not have fulfilled its promises, but overturned its false teaching. This idea was contrary to his purposes, and so the early church had to reject it by insisting that evil is not intrinsic to creation, and that the God who made us is the same God who saves us.

Friday, October 24, 2014

On Biblical Mysticism and Quiet Times

Tim Keller has a new book on prayer coming out soon, and I can't wait to read it. The quote below is from an interview by Matt Smethurst with Keller about the book and the topic of prayer.
You argue for a “radically biblical mysticism” a la John Owen and Jonathan Edwards—or what John Murray called an “intelligent mysticism.” How should we view the intersection between theology and experience when we’re on our knees?
Biblical meditation means, first, to think out your theology. (That means having it clearly in your mind. Know what you believe.) Second, it means to work in your theology. (That means self-communion, talking to yourself. For example, “Why are you cast down, O my soul?” It is asking yourself, “How would I be different if I took this theological truth seriously? How would it change my attitudes and actions if I really believed this from the bottom of my heart?”) Third, it means topray up your theology. (That means turning your theology into prayer, letting it trigger adoration, confession, and supplication.) Do those things, and your theology will intersect with your experience. 
In what ways is our evangelical concept of a “quiet time” lacking? 
Most conceptions of the evangelical “quiet time,” at least as I was instructed in them, tended to focus mostly on inductive Bible study. So it was more information-driven and less oriented toward communion with God. However, in reaction, we see lots of people talking about lectio divina—which can be defined in a lot of ways.
But I’ve often heard it described as reading the Bible not for theological truth, but in order to “hear a personal word from God.” The trouble is that you hear what God is saying to you in any particular place by discerning the text’s theological meaning. You can’t be sure that anything that happens to hit you that day is God speaking to you in the Bible. Yet if you spend all your devotional time using commentaries and other texts to figure out a passage, it takes up all the time and energy, and your prayer time is often perfunctory.
I’ve concluded that most people should set aside regular time in which we are studying the Bible, seeking to understand its meaning. Then, out of this study, we should choose passages to meditate on during our times of prayer. Martin Luther and John Owen believed (rightly) that before prayer it was important to meditate on biblical truths until our affections and hearts were as deeply engaged as possible. I find that their instructions on communion with God fit in with neither the typical evangelical “quiet time” nor the new emphasis on lectio divina
The entire interview is well worth a read.

Don't Cheapen the Treasure

"The deal is all of Christ for all of your nothing. Don't cheapen the treasure with your currency. Come and buy the unsearchable riches of grace with your poverty of spirit. That is all he will accept."

From The Story-Telling God: Seeing the Glory of Jesus in His Parables, by Jared Wilson (Kindle version, location 585)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

True and Better

Tim Keller says "Jesus is the true and better...."

Ideas For Improvement

Want to improve in your Bible reading practices? Here's some great and helpful ideas  - 9 Things Everyone Should Do When Reading The Bible by Bronwyn Lea
Very few of us have the inclination or interest in diving into three years of seminary education in order to get a better handle on the Scriptures. However, every believer should long to get a better grip on the Bible. The good news is that it does not require a graduate education to do so.
At seminary, I learned Greek, Hebrew and all manner of intimidating subjects ending in –etics, but some of the things that have stayed with me most clearly were not things from textbooks, but off-the-cuff comments from teachers who had walked with God far longer than I had. They were post-it sized truths, easily understandable and readily applicable. Years after graduating, these are the things I still remember.
1. Read ‘King’ When You See ‘Christ.’
Christ, or Messiah, means “anointed one,” and priests and kings were anointed. Substituting "King Jesus" for "Christ Jesus" when reading draws attention to the fact that Christ was not Jesus' last name, but in fact His title: one of great honor and esteem. Making that one switch alone breathes new life into reading the New Testament.
2. Read ‘You’ Differently.
Almost all the "you" words in the New Testament are plural you's rather than singular you's. The Southern "y'all" expresses it beautifully: the epistles are written to believers corporately, not believers alone. This does not diminish personal responsibility at all, though. If anything, it heightens it: we pray together, believe together, suffer together, raise the armor of God together. All y'all.
3. If You See a ‘Therefore,’ Find Out What It’s There For.
Therefore, take note in bibles where paragraphs are divided up with headings inserted by editors. If the paragraph begins with "therefore,” you might have to pick up a bit earlier to understand the context.
4. Realize That Not All ‘If’ Statements Are The Same.
This was a watershed one for me: not all "ifs" are the same. Conditional “ifs” are not the same as causal “ifs.” Some IF statements are always tied to the THEN one (if you stand in the rain, then you will get wet). Others have more risk involved: the IF statement is necessary, but not sufficient, to bring about the THEN one (if you study for an exam, then you will pass).
This makes the world of difference in studying Romans 8: "If you are led by the spirit of God, you are children of God." I had always read that and been afraid I wasn't spirit-led enough to be considered God's child. It was a glory-hallelujah moment to realize this was the first type of if: "If you are led by the Spirit of God (and you ARE!), then you are also always and forever His child.” What a difference!
5. Recognize That Lamenting is OK.
Yes, there is joy and peace and hope in Christ. But true believers still mourn and lament. There is space in the life of faith for complaining, tears, grit and depression. Just look at the Psalms.
6. Realize That Prophecy is More Often FORTH-Telling Than FORE-Telling.
So often, our focus in approaching prophecy is to ask “what did they say about the future?” However, often the prophets weren’t talking about the future (foretelling), they were explaining and interpreting Israel’s history and current predicaments in light of their covenantal behavior (forth-telling), and had little to do with the future. Israel may have painfully aware that they had just suffered military defeat at the hands of the Babylonians, but it took the prophet’s words to explain from God’s perspective why this had happened and what lessons they were to learn from their experience. Poor old Jeremiah.
7. Become Familiar with the Idioms of Your King.
Jesus' words were so often hard to understand: cryptic, in parables, couched in Hebrew idiom. He spoke of eyes being lamps and people being salt: language often so far removed from my understanding it was temping to skip over the gospels to the much more familiar epistles.
However, if we have called Jesus "King" and “Lord,” we dare not skip over His words just because they are hard. Commentaries and a little Internet research on the gospels go a long way towards filling in some of the cultural and linguistic blanks. As his followers and servants, it is our responsibility to keep on seeking understanding.
8. Remember What You Learned in English Class.
The Bible is not an instruction manual. It's not a "how-to" book for life. It is a collection of 66 books of literature, and to interpret it correctly, you need to remember what you learned in English class about interpreting different genres of literature.
Biblical truth is found in poetry, but we must read it as poetry. It is found in narrative, but we must read those as stories. It is found in proverbs, and we must treat those as such. Just a quick moment to think “what book am I reading from? And what type of literature is this?” can make a world of difference. Truth be told, the Bible is not an easy read, but it is absolutely worth the effort.
9. Read to Study. But Also, Read to Refresh Your Heart.
Amid the hours of serious Bible study, I treasured this advice. Sometimes, we read to study and understand and wrestle with the truth. But sometimes, we read to make our hearts happy. “Delight yourself in the Lord,” for “your words are sweeter to me than honey.”

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Covers Everything

"When we 'get saved,' we aren't just receiving the redemptive thing God is doing in our lives,; we are also embracing the redemptive thing God is doing in the world. Having the eyes to see salvation this way helps us to see worldly treasures as pitiful. It is the kingdom of heaven that is a treasure worth selling everything to own, because the kingdom of heaven covers everything and is our everything."

From The Story-Telling God: Seeing the Glory of Jesus in His Parables, by Jared Wilson (Kindle version, location 541)

Basis For Identity

Paul Tripp on Who You Really Are - Great stuff!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Making It Up

HT: The Poached Egg

Devotion Struggles

Struggle with personal devotions? Here's some ideas from Tim Challies that may help.
One of my lifelong struggles has been finding freedom in the most basic part of the Christian life—personal devotions. It’s not that I don’t do them, of course, but that they rarely seem to come easily and naturally. I want to wake up longing to read the Bible and eager to pray. I want to get up in the mornings thinking, “I just can’t wait to hear from God and speak to God.” But so often I find myself reading and praying out of simple obedience. That duty is too seldom joined by delight.
It isn’t always that way. There are times—times I love—where there is tremendous joy and freedom. For weeks now I have been in one of those periods, and it has been a joy and a delight to spend time in the Word and to pray. And in this time I’ve been drawn to parts of Scripture that rejoice in Scripture. I was recently transfixed by Psalm 19 and David’s sheer joy at this great gift of God. After listing so many of the benefits of God’s Word he says,

More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
David tells us that God’s Word is precious. David is king over his nation and has access to all of its wealth, yet he looks at it all and sees that it is nothing compared to the surpassing worth of God’s Word. Where other men’s desire is to enrich themselves with gold, David’s desire is to enrich himself with the wisdom of God through the Scriptures.
David tells us that God’s Word is pleasurable. I don’t think there is any natural substance more delicious than honey (though perhaps maple syrup could be a close contender), and yet David can proclaim that God’s Word is sweeter even than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. As honey brightens the eyes, God’s Word brightens the soul.
David tells us that God’s Word is protective. He knows that the wisdom of God revealed through his Word will warn him and protect him away from sin and its consequences. David can look at his life and see those times he did not heed the warnings and receive God’s protection, and now he knows: God protects us through his Word.
David tells us that God’s Word is profitable. The Word of God does not only warn, but it also profits. Those who heed God’s wisdom and obey his law receive all the benefits that come from walking with God. They receive the greatest reward of all: they are with God and in God today and every day.
God’s Word is precious, pleasurable, protective, and profitable. What a gift it is!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Nothing Like No-Condemnation

"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.Romans 8:1

Now. Not five years from now when you are a better Christian. Right now. At this instant.

No. None at all. Not even a little. Zero. Gone. Poof.

For those in Christ Jesus. And only because we are in him. We provide everything that deserves condemnation. He provides everything that deserves acceptance.

This is the plain message of the Bible, because God not only does not condemn us, he also doesn’t want us feeling condemned. He wants us feeling freed. Nothing like no-condemnation to get us riled up for his glory!"

       — Ray Ortlund  "Freed"

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Right Side Up, Upside Down

"In turning everything right side up, Jesus is putting a great many things upside down. As we survey his message and ministry in the four Gospels, we learn that he is consistently subverting values and expectations, and yet he is simultaneously fulfilling the essence of the desires at the root of these values and expectations,"

From The Story-Telling God: Seeing the Glory of Jesus in His Parables, by Jared Wilson (Kindle version, location 456

Friday, October 17, 2014

Too Weak

From @jdgreear

Do You Want To?

From a great piece by Darryl Dash - God Wants Us to Want:
I used to think that God was happy with our grudging obedience. Do the right thing, grit your teeth, and everything is good with God. I’ve been increasingly learning that God doesn’t want us to do the right thing so much as he wants us to want to do the right thing. Big difference.

Two examples:
Peter writes to elders in churches that are experiencing some suffering. “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight,” he writes, “not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you” (1 Peter 5:2). There’s a world of difference between elders who serve because they have to, and elders who serve because they want to. God, Peter says, desires the latter. God wants elders who want to serve him, even under the pressure of suffering.
Paul writes to the Corinthians to ask for money for the poor Christians in Jerusalem. He doesn’t tell them to dig deep until it hurts. “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). There it is again, something to avoid: compulsion. God wants our willingness, our eagerness, and our cheerfulness.
C.S. Lewis was insightful when he wrote:
A perfect man would never act from a sense of duty; he’d always want the right thing more than the wrong one. Duty is only a substitute for love (of God and other people) like a crutch which is a substitute for a leg. Most of us need the crutch at times; but of course it is idiotic to use the crutch when our own legs (our own loves, tastes, habits, etc) can do the journey on their own.
The perfect man or woman acts not out of duty, but of delight. We're all in process, but this is God’s desire for us. 
God wants to change us not at the level of our obedience, but at the level of our affections. God wants us to want.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Look In The Mirror


I Hate Fasting

Jesus spoke of fasting as a spiritual discipline. He said "When you fast" not if you fast. I must confess that I hate fasting. I used to think that fasting made me grumpy. Then I realized that fasting does not make me grumpy, but simply reveals that I am grumpy when not medicated by food. Ouch!

Her's a word on that subject from Richard Foster:
The central idea in fasting is to voluntarily deny otherwise normal functions for the sake of intense spiritual activity. The life of the spirit impregnates, infiltrates, and dominates everything we do. But the problem with fasting is that we're tempted to turn it into another soul-killing law.
There's a time to feast and a time to fast. It's the disciplined person who can feast when feasting is called for and fast when fasting is called for. In fact, the glutton and the extreme ascetic have exactly the same problem. They cannot live appropriately.
So why should we fast? In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, "When you pray," "When you give," "When you fast." "When," not "If." He assumed we'd do these things and instructed us how. We accept giving as a Christian discipline, but not fasting. It may be that in an affluent culture it's less sacrificial to give money than to fast.
We cover up what's inside us with food and other good things, but in fasting these come to the surface. If we're hungry, we don't feel good, and pretty soon we'd do just about anything to feel good—that should not control us.
When you fast, pray, "Lord, reveal what is inside me." Your physical defenses are down when you fast, churning up negative emotions, such as anger, pride, fear, hostility, bitterness, and greed. If we face these sins during fasting, we have a chance to deal with them before they spill over onto other people.
[Q] Read the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). What does hungering and thirsting for righteousness have to do with fasting?
[Q] Why did Jesus give us this instruction for fasting (Matthew 6:16-18)?
Make a Change: What has the strongest hold on your soul: food, media, people, shopping, internet, other? Determine to fast from that thing for a designated time to help break that hold.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Paul Tripp on Spiritual Dehydration:
There are some verses that I wish weren't on the pages of my Bible. I do believe that all Scripture is breathed out by God, inerrant and sufficient, but that doesn't mean I can't wrestle with some of the words that are written.
Take Psalm 42, for instance. "As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God." (Psalm 42:1-2)
I wish those two sentences weren't in the Bible. Why? Because the Lord authored those verses knowing in advance that his children would experience spiritual dehydration.I wish that I was never parched. I wish that when I met Christ, my soul would overflow with passion and energy forever. After all, Jesus said "whoever drinks of the water that I give him will never be thirsty again" (John 4:14). So why do I experience periods in my life of faith when I feel dehydrated?
If you've been a Christian for longer than a week, you should know that your experience is filled with bumps and bruises. In some cases, you'll feel as if you have nothing left. That's what Psalm 42 depicts: a deer desperate for a drink of water, even from a muddy puddle, because it can’t continue without refreshment.
Have you ever been there in your walk with God - lost, dehydrated, and wanting to give up? There are many things I could say about spiritual dehydration, but I’ll only give you two main points for this week.
First, your conversion provides no guarantee of the absence of spiritual dehydration. In fact, the Bible almost assures that your life will be filled with suffering. Some of the earliest disciples needed their soul strengthened and encouraged because they were facing many tribulations (Acts 14:22).
Second, Jesus experienced dehydration just like you. Jesus' words of "I thirst" (John 19:28) are popular, but perhaps one of the most transparent moments of his earthly ministry came when he said, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)
There was a time when even Christ didn’t want to take one more step. But as the God-Man, he did what you and I couldn’t do: he continued on his own strength. Christ took all the steps necessary to Calvary so that when you and I have nothing left, we can rely on him for our strength.
If you’re experiencing spiritual dehydration, don’t be surprised - it’s part of the Christian life. And when you do experience debilitating spiritual weakness, rely on your Savior, who took the steps for you. His power is made perfect in your weakness.

Inigo's Hermeneutics

I have often wanted to say this!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Remember in the Desert, And Beyond

From Why God Sends You Through a Season in the Desert by Jennifer Kennedy Dean
...In those years, for the most part, they repeated the same obedience day after day with no hint that it really mattered. Manna, quail, cloud, fire. Worship, offer sacrifices, pack, unpack. Set up camp, take down camp. Over and over.
No change on the horizon. No evidence of the Promised Land anywhere in sight. Obedience by obedience, they followed the Lord.
Small acts of faithfulness every day for 40 years. As Moses recounts it and refreshes their memories, he doesn't softsoap the hard edges. It was tough. It was vast and terrible.He reminds them how it felt because they are about to enter the Promised Land and leave the thirsty and waterless land behind. The abundant living in the Promised Land has been prefaced by the long walk in the dry desert. Why?
During their extended training in the desert, they learned by experience to trust the hand of God. For example, He fed them with manna day by day. If God had not sent the day's manna, they would have starved in the wilderness. Every morning required confidence in God's provision. See how Moses warns them to remember the desert days when they get into the Promised Land?
Moses says that all this training and desert traveling was "so that in the end it may go well with you." Have you ever known anyone who achieved all they ever dreamed of, then lost it all through their own actions and choices? Moses tells the people that not only is God about to release the fullness of the promise into their lives, but He has prepared their hearts to live large in the abundance of His provision.
Small Change
In some areas of your life, you have moved into the Promised Land and are living large. Look around and remember on purpose that God is the provider and sustainer. In some areas of your life, you are on a desert walk. When you feel the desert's heat, step back mentally and look for how God's provision is evident. Today, find one thing that you will thank God for instead of complaining about. Pray: "Do Your work, Refiner's Fire, that in the end it may go well for me."

Stories of Mystery

"Once upon a time, a king came to earth to tell stories, and the stories contained the mystery of eternal life."

From The Story-Telling God: Seeing the Glory of Jesus in His Parables, by Jared Wilson (Kindle version, location 435)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Now the Will of God Is....

Now the will of God is what Christ both did and taught:

  • Humility in conversation
  • steadfastness in faith
  • modesty in words
  • justice in deeds
  • mercifulness in works
  • discipline in morals
  • to be unable to do a wrong
    and to be able to bear a wrong when done
  • to keep peace with the brethren
  • to love God with all one’s heart
  • to love Him because He is a Father
  • to fear Him because He is God
  • to prefer nothing whatever to Christ
    because He did not prefer anything to us
  • to adhere inseparably to His love
  • to stand by His cross bravely and faithfully
  • when there is any challenge on behalf of His name and honor
    to exhibit in our speech a consistent confession
  • in torture, that confidence with which we do battle
  • in death, that patience whereby we are crowned.
This is the desire to be fellow-heirs with Christ.
This is to do the commandment of God.
This is to fulfill the will of the Father.
- Cyprian, The Treatises of Cyprian: On the Lord’s Prayer, 15 [Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 5], adapted

Rebellion Against Rebellion

"Jesus is turning something upside down, and for that the angry crowd wanted to turn him upside down.

But really Jesus is turning something right side up. And when we read the parables he employed to teach the crowds throughout his ministry, we could do a lot worse than to see them as narrative portraits of rebellion against rebellion. The rightful king has landed, and he is leading an insurrection against the pretenders to his throne."

From The Story-Telling God: Seeing the Glory of Jesus in His Parables, by Jared Wilson (Kindle version, location 140)

Saturday, October 11, 2014

High Price

“The cost for the recipient of God’s grace is nothing — and no price could be higher for arrogant people to pay.

— Dan Allender, quoted by World Harvest Mission in Gospel Transformation

HT: Of First Importance

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Using Our Brokenness

Found this great piece on brokenness entitled How God Can Use Your Brokenness by Sue Birdseye at Charisma Magazine:
Broken.It's one of those words that doesn't bring a lot of joy. Who wants to be broken? 
Broken things.
           Broken bones.                            
                              Broken relationships.                                                  
                                                      Broken Vows.
                                                                      Broken homes.
                                                                                           Broken hearts.
I assume we are all on the same page and don't want that word to describe much of anything in our lives.  In fact, the only phrase with "broken" in it that I can think of ever wanting to use is "broken fever."
For a while I've tried to figure out a different word to describe my family other than "broken." Initially I thought it was just too negative. I started trying out different descriptive words: Wounded. Bruised.  Hurting. Anything but "broken."
I wanted to stand up and holler, "WE ARE NOT BROKEN!!!!" 
But you know what? I believe we are. And I'm realizing that that is OK.
We are broken but healing. God, the Great Physician, is fixing up all the broken parts.A couple of things have brought me to this conclusion. 
The first was reading this verse:
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. —2 Cor. 4:7-10
After reading that verse, I looked up the meaning of "jars of clay."  One of the definitions said that the jars of clay would have brought to mind a common household jar—probably inexpensive and fairly easy to break. It would probably have cracks and chips from being well used. 
There is so much to get from this verse, but the idea that struck me was that the brokenness of the jar of clay allows what's inside to be seen—to flow out. The brokenness of our lives allows God to shine through us. Oh my goodness, that sounds like some really syrupy sweet quote to post on Facebook. Unfortunately for all of us I can't think of a better way to say it.
I just know that when everything in my world went kaplooey, God was the only explanation for why I didn't personally go kaplooey. It was abundantly clear that the strength I had to move forward came from God and God alone—"the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us."
One of my first fears following the shattering of my marriage was that my testimony was toast. I kept thinking of all the people who would think we were just absolute frauds. I felt like a fraud. Or maybe I should say I felt like I'd been defrauded. Everyone, including me, thought we had a great marriage. How could I speak about my relationship with God, if everyone thought I hadn't been honest about my relationship with my husband?
But God showed me that my testimony wasn't about what I could or couldn't testimony is what God has done and is still doing in my life.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Public Reading of Scripture

3 big ideas and 7 tips on how to read the Bible aloud in church from
So you thought your job was simply to read the Bible passage? That’s easy—you check you have the right passage, you look over it a couple of times and then you get up and read. Surely that’s all there is to it. But I’d like to suggest that there’s a whole lot more to reading the Bible than simply standing up front and saying the words. Just as we are no better off if we haven’t understood the Scriptures we have read, we’ve wasted our time reading the Bible aloud if no one has understood what we have said.
Here are three big ideas for people who read the Bible aloud:
  • your job is to communicate, not just read;
  • you can’t communicate what you don’t understand;
  • meaning is not conveyed through words alone.
Your job is to communicate, not just read
It’s possible to read every word from a passage perfectly and clearly, but in such a way that no-one understands what the passage actually means. Worse, it’s also possible to read a passage in a way that gives people a wrong understanding of the Scriptures. Take 1 Corinthians 14:26: “What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church” (NIV). I once heard this verse read with the emphasis as, “All of these must be done …”. The speaker was trying to convince me that
Scripture commanded us to speak in tongues and that, if we didn’t do so, the church would not be strengthened! Thankfully, every other time I’ve heard this verse read, the emphasis has been where it should be—on the words, “for the strengthening of the church”. Reading the same words differently completely changes their meaning. Your job as a Bible reader is not to ‘just read the words’ but to communicate what those words mean.
You can’t communicate what you don’t understand
If you’re going to communicate the meaning of a passage, it stands to reason that you have to understand the passage yourself. Before you even think about getting up to read the Bible in church, you need to have a sound understanding of your allotted passage. You will need to have answered questions such as, “What type of writing is this—narrative, law, prophecy, poetry, letter? Are there any words that seem particularly important? Are there any significant connecting words? What is the main point of the passage? How does the writer make that point—with logical argument, humour, metaphor or irony?” Comparing a couple of good translations will help stop you making major mistakes in interpretation. Once you know what a passage means—what it’s getting at and where it is going—then you can start to think about how to read it aloud.
Meaning is not conveyed through words alone
This brings us to the third big idea: meaning is not conveyed through words alone. We saw this in my earlier example from 1 Corinthians. Having understood the meaning of the passage, you need to use your voice to communicate that meaning. The way you do this is by appropriate phrasing (pause and pace) and emphasis (pitch and volume).
Pausing breaks the text into meaningful phrases. Romans 1:7 is a good example of where an inappropriate pause changes the meaning of the text: “To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints”. If you read is as, “To all those in Rome [pause] who are loved by God and called to be saints”, you have communicated that everyone in Rome is loved by God and called to be a saint—i.e. everyone in Rome is Christian! Clearly this is not what Paul is saying and there should be no discernible pause between the words ‘Rome’ and ‘who’.
However, when reading John 19:30 (“When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit”), we might leave a long pause before and after the words, “It is finished”, to communicate the drama and importance of this climactic moment. In addition, we might slow down our reading pace.
The meaning of a passage can also be communicated by emphasis. Take Pilate’s question in John 18:38: “What is truth?” Normally when we ask a question aloud, we end with an upward inflection—i.e. we raise the pitch of our voices. But here in John 18, Pilate isn’t expecting a reply from Jesus; he’s making a statement and a fairly cynical one at that. He’s saying that Jesus has no claim on him. So we need to readJohn 18:38 with that in mind and use no inflection, as though his words are a statement.
We can also emphasize a word by raising or lowering our volume. Lowering the volume is an effective strategy for communicating drama. In Mark 8:33, Jesus rebukes Peter because he refuses to accept that the road ahead of Jesus involves suffering and death. When we come to the part where Jesus says, “Get behind me, Satan!”, we could speak louder, but we risk sounding a little unnatural and, if we become too loud, people will be distracted from the passage itself and focused on us instead. By speaking softly but firmly, we convey the strength of the rebuke and we do so in a way that focuses people on Jesus and his words.
If you read the Bible aloud in church, your job is to be much more than ‘just a reader’. Your job is to convey the meaning of the Scriptures by the way you read them. It’s a serious ministry and, like any ministry, it takes time and effort. But it’s also a tremendous privilege; you are bringing God’s word into the lives of other people so that they can understand it and, with God’s grace, accept it.
Seven practical steps to better Bible reading …
Spend time with the passage. Read it a week or two in advance. Think about it over a period of time, rereading it every couple of days. If your church is not well-organized, you might need to call the service leader or preacher to find out the passage(s) so that you have enough time to prepare.
Print off a copy of the Bible reading. (Most translations can be found on the internet, e.g. or, and you are allowed to use limited sections of the text for this sort of purpose.) Start writing on this copy. Mark important words, bracket groups of words that belong together, and highlight important connecting words (e.g. ‘but’, ‘therefore’, ‘so’, ‘then’).
Having understood the passage, decide on appropriate phrasing (pause and pace) and emphasis (pitch and volume).
Print off a second copy of the Bible reading in a font and size that you can read easily. If you can, format the reading using a word processor so that there is a new line where you want to pause and no line-breaks where you don’t.
Practise your reading using the printed copy or the Bible you will use when you read in church. If you think that your expression is a little ‘over the top’, it’s probably about right.
Make sure that you are well-hydrated before you read. Drink lots of water and avoid coffee or coke (caffeine dries you out). This will ensure that your vocal cords can do their job.
Get your mouth moving and your tongue loose so that you can read clearly and accurately.
Make sure you speak into the microphone so that everyone can hear.
Author: Simon Roberts (The Briefing, #331, April 2006)