Friday, February 27, 2015

50 Shades of Easter

On February 20th I visited our local branch of the Books-A-Million book store chain, and saw this display (pictured to the right) just inside the front door. My immediate thought was "50 Shades of Grey to celebrate Easter? Really?' Within minutes I tweeted the picture to the Books-A-Million twitter account with the comment "Really, @BooksaMillion? Really? Your recommendation for Easter is 50 Shades of Grey? #50Shades For Easter? Really?"

Within 30 minutes they responded: "Thanks for bringing this to our attention! It appears there was a misunderstanding. Could you tell us which location this was?" When I informed them of the store location they responded again "Thank you, I'll pass this along to my team so that we can get this resolved." I was hopeful that the offensive display was a local choice, and that the corporate office would reverse it.

Six days later (yesterday) I stopped by to see if the display was still there. It was. I tweeted @BooksAMillion again: "A week later this display is still up. Will anything be done? Does Books-A-Million support associating Easter with 50 Shades?" So far I have not received any response. If I do, I will update this post to include that response.

I also posted the picture yesterday to the Facebook page of the local store in question, with the comment "Based on this display in your Jackson MS store, should we assume it is consistent with your company values to associate the Holy Day of Easter with porn? Please take this down." Their response to me as posted on Facebook was as follows:
"As I personally am inclined to agree with your view, I would happily take down this display. However, Books a Million corporate does not view E. L. James work as porn, nor does a vast percentage of Americans whom purchased the book and/or viewed the movie. It is BAM policy to display seasonal titles at the top of our ranks and top selling items beneath. We do apologize for any discomfort this pairing may have caused and invite you to make a complaint with our corporate offices at your earliest convenience"
Notice that I was not trying to get them to stop selling the books. I know every book store is selling the books. I only asked them to remove the display associating it with Easter. Whether or not the book is considered pornography (and I do so consider it), we should all be able to agree that promotion of the book is is not appropriate for celebrating the Resurrection of Christ .I appreciate the store representative saying that he/she agrees with me, but can only conclude from the comment that the chain management considers Easter to be only a "season," not a holy day, and that the company has no problem associating Easter with the 50 Shades books and movie.

If this matters to you, please keep this in mind when making book purchase decisions. I do not think I will not be purchasing any more books or other items at Books-A-Million,

A Heaping Helping

From Radio Free Babylon
(Click on image to enlarge)

It All Leads to Worship...

An important reminder by Darryl Dash - Theology is Doxology
When I sit on ordination councils, I begin with a mental checklist of theological issues to be covered. I want to make sure that the candidate is theologically sound, as well as someone who is qualified as an elder.
Usually I get a sense of the candidate’s suitability pretty quickly, and my focus changes. As I hear the doctrinal statement, I begin to realize again: This is true. This matters. This matters to me. It’s as if I lose my footing as a council member and stagger under the weight of the truth of what I’m hearing. It’s an awesome thing.
This is as it should be. I remember reading Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology for the first time, and thinking that he got it right when he wrote:
"The study of theology is not merely a theoretical exercise of the intellect. It is a study of the living God, and of the wonders of all his works in creation and redemption. We cannot study this subject dispassionately!"
I find myself listening these days to sermons by preachers who open the text and work their way into worship. They are theological to be sure, but they aren’t content to stop there. As they explain the text, they begin to be filled with wonder. It’s almost like their outlines are: This is true! Can you believe it’s true? Because it’s true, it changes everything! Somehow it never gets old to hear a pastor preach his way to worship.
Theology is doxology. It had better be, or something is seriously wrong. I never want to get over the truth of what I hear every week. What truth; what a God.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Past and Future

Spoken and Acted

"God has spoken and acted in Jesus Christ. He has said something. He has done something.

This means that Christianity is not just pious talk. It is neither a collection of religious ideas nor a catalogue of rules. It is a ‘gospel’ (i.e. good news) – in the apostle Paul’s words ‘the gospel of God…regarding his Son…Jesus Christ our Lord’.

It is not primarily an invitation for us to do anything; it is supremely a declaration of what God has done in Christ for human beings like ourselves."

                  – John Stott, Basic Christianity

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Things Not to Say to A Depressed Loved One

From a good article by Michael Patton, who has experienced depression from both sides (as a sufferer and a counselor) - 7 Things NOT to Say to a Depressed Christian. Please read. Please understand, Please do not act this way or say these things to your depressed loved ones.
As many of you know, I’ve been depressed for almost five years now. I had a major break in March of 2010. It came out of nowhere and has been a frequent uninvited guest in my home ever since.
I won’t go into it now, but almost seven weeks ago I came out of the depression. I think I know the triggers. But I often tell people not to get too excited. I can never be sure which “me” is going to wake up tomorrow. Will it be joyful me? (who I love) He’s the one who sees life positively and has no time for worry (too busy serving God)? Or will it be broken me (who I hate)? He can’t dwell on anything but the bad and sees no hope in life (and doesn’t even act like there’s a God)?

But while I have my thoughts straight, I’ve been able to dwell on so many positive things. One of these is the subject of this post. I’ve accumulated a list of seven things depressed people (Christian’s especially) are told. They’re meant to help them out of their depression. I’ve even had these things said to me. But these things are wrong.
Please Note: None of these things necessarily come from evil intentions. These come from people who sincerely want you to recover. However, they do come from the evil flesh that dwells in all of us: judgmentalism. I hope this becomes clear as you read.
Further Reading: Dealing With My Depression #1: Muffling Its Voice
“Just Snap Out of It”

I don’t know how many times I said this to my depressed sister before she took her life. “Just snap out of it, Angie.” From my perspective, I thought you could. I thought that being depressed or happy was an act of the will. If you just make the right decision, you can think your way out of it. But more often than not, depression is not an act of the will. It is an interplay between the mind and the brain that you can’t snap out of. Don’t you think that people who are depressed would “Just snap out of it” if it were that easy? Remember, they don’t want to be depressed. It is the worst torture that one can possibly imagine.
“Think Positively
Again, this might seem right. Please realize that most of the time a depressed person can’t think positively. That’s why they’re depressed. If I were to tell you there’s a giant elephant in your room, would you believe me? What if I said that all you have to do is close your eyes and trust it to be true? You’d probably say, “I can’t!”Telling someone who’s depressed to “think positively” completely misses the problem. They can’t think positively any more than you can believe there’s an elephant in the room. They don’t want to think negatively. They just can’t stop.
Further Reading: Depression – When We Want to Die
Read it all at the link.

The Crucial Paradox

"Hence the Cross, conceived as the expiatory penal sacrifice of the Son of God, is the fulfillment of the scriptural revelation of God, in its most paradoxical incomprehensible guise. It is precisely in His revelation that the God of the Bible is incomprehensible, because in His nearness He reveals His distance, in His mercy His holiness, in His grace His judgement, in His personality His abosluteness; because in His revelation His glory and the salvation of man, His own will and His love for men, His majesty and His “homeliness” cannot be separated from one another."

— Emil Brunner, quoted by David Wells in Above All Earthly Pow'rs (Grand Rapids, MI.: Eerdman's Publishing, 2005), page 225

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Another Mighty Warrior Strides Forth...

Just a little too close to home......

HT: C. Michael Patton

Small Acts With Great Significance

Have you ever wished for great wealth, great talents, and large opportunities to help others and serve the Lord? Maybe in doing so, we miss the small gifts, talents and opportunities that have great significance. Read this excerpt from An Extraordinary Skill for Ordinary Christians by Tim Challies:
...But I love what John Piper says: “Here is a vocation that will bring you more satisfaction than if you became a millionaire ten times over: Develop the extraordinary skill for detecting the burdens of others and devote yourself daily to making them lighter.” This is the extraordinary ministry for every ordinary Christian—bearing the burdens of others. What seems so mundane and so unspectacular, is actually bringing great glory and honor to God.
You know the passage in Matthew 25 that describes the sheep being separated from the goats at the final judgment (verses 31-46). You have read it a hundred times, but have you ever paused to considered the criteria? The believers are not separated from the unbelievers on the basis of extravagant and spectacular deeds that were seen and fĂȘted by others. Far from it. At the final accounting, when we stand before the Lord, we will be shocked to realize that the most significant things are the smallest things—things so small we have forgotten all about them: “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?” But these small things stand as proof of our salvation, proof of our commitment to the good of others and the glory of God.
This is the ministry of burden-bearing. It is a vocation that will earn you very few accolades. It will gain you very few awards. The majority of what you do will be unnoticed by others and forgotten even by those who benefit most. You yourself will forget most of it. But every bit of it will matter. Every bit of it will do good to others and bring glory to God.
So look for those who are burdened. Develop the habit and the skill of spotting those burdens, and determine that you will meet them, one casserole or one hug or one visit or one prayer at a time.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Just Be There

If you have ever struggled with depression, or loved someone who has, please read this piece by Annie Lee Edwards - How to Love Your Depressed Friend. If you've been depressed, you'll say amen. If you've tried to help a depressed loved one, you'll learn something important.
It was a forced friendship from the beginning. Boldly, she announced that every single Wednesday she would be coming to my house. I could see her resolve. I was scared, and I started to squirm. Every Wednesday? Generally, I leave this thing open ended, “penciled in,” if you will. In other words, I rarely do firm “commitments.” After all, what if I need to change my mind? Somehow, she must have known my propensity at changing plans and calling in sick.
She needed a lot from me, and I was not prepared to give it. I timidly opened the door every Wednesday, and she walked in.
Chances are you know someone who is struggling with depression. She may be living under your own roof or sitting in the pew next to you.
“What can we do when a loved one is wrestling with depression,” you ask?
Often we want to run onto the scene and “fix them.” Give us a list so we can check it off and instantly transform this unpleasant forecast to sunny days. If only it were that easy.
Bringing the Light of Christ
I’m persuaded that sometimes the best thing we can do is nothing more than to sit and be with them. No formula, just the power of presence. What if the most profound, life-giving thing about us is our transformed and transforming presence?
Jesus entered into our darkness (John 1:14). Love opened the door and walked into our world so we could walk into the light (John 1:4). He was present with us in order to lead us to redemption.
We all want to be the friend on sunny days, but it is uncomfortable to enter into broken places where the sun refuses to shine and the shadows incessantly come out to play.
However, as followers of Jesus this is exactly where we are called to be, present with people in their suffering. You have something that everybody needs – light (not the light of our own deceptive morality, but the light from heaven, the light of the Lord Jesus Christ). However, the light cannot be seen if it does not make itself available.
Draw Near with Tears, Not Many Words
By definition, a depressed person is often plagued with an uninvited irrationality about them. In other words, their minds (at least in that state) don’t have the full capacity to rightly think and reason. Thus, words and speeches are frequently of no avail. In the immediate, giving them your compassionate tears, not your words, is often the best approach. It’s not that they don’t want to hear and believe; it’s that they can’t.
Those who feel like they are suffocating from the weight of darkness may be unable to move towards your advances in friendship. An almost certain accompaniment with any legitimate depression is the tendency to withdraw from relationships (even from those people whom we love and respect the most dearly).
Do not take this personally. I literally have hidden under tables so my friends could not see I was home. Please do not be offended when a depressed person doesn’t return a text or phone call (or doesn’t answer the door). These hurt feelings or anger at the depressed person are exactly what Satan wants from you. He wants you to be offended by the cold shoulder, leading you to run from your friend. Christ, on the other hand, wants you to realize this is not a battle against flesh and blood. He wants you to take up the sword and fight for your friend (even if the other person is sleeping in their own tears, or hiding in their own shame and fear, while you are fighting).
During an episode of post-partum depression, I hid in the shadows because it was embarrassing for church members to see me so weak and miserable. I am grateful to those women who brought meals to me and came to sit with me every day until I started to come back to life. My mother stayed for almost an entire month. When my husband had to be at work, women from our church came each and every day to just be with me. I was scared to be alone. Although they could not protect me from the monster of depression, just their presence helped immensely.
You may need to do whatever is necessary to show them the love of Christ as they walk through this darkness. Your friend may not answer the door or act excited to hang out with you, but go through the door anyway, and when you do, open the door of grace. Chances are, your friend has been opening many doors searching for a way out of this darkness, but all they have experienced are doors of doubt and defeat slammed in their face.
God can use you as a means of light in the darkness of your friend’s soul, if only you are willing to be the Christ-infusing presence she needs as she walks through depression.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Hurting People Hurt People

There's a lot of emotionally wounded people in our churches. You may know several. You may be one of them. That is why this piece by Joseph Mattera at Charisma is so important - 15 Traits of Wounded Warriers 
It is an old adage that says "hurt people hurt people."
It is well-known that those who have been emotionally damaged tend to inflict their hurt and pain on other people. For example, a large percentage of those who have been sexually abused become the abusers of others; those who suffered under an alcoholic parent often themselves cause their future family to suffer because of their drunken stupors. Until we as a church deal with the whole person as shown in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, our congregations will be filled with people who are spiritually gifted but act like emotional infants. In other words, the church must deal with emotional health and not just spiritual health and power.
The following are common traits hurt people display in their interactions with others. 
1. Hurt people often transfer their inner anger onto their family and close friends. Often those around them become the recipients of harsh tones and fits of rage because they have unknowingly become the vicarious recipients of transferred rage.
2. Hurt people interpret every word spoken to them through the prism of their pain. Because of their pain, ordinary words are often misinterpreted to mean something negative towards them.
Because of this, they are extremely sensitive and act out of pain instead of reality.
3. Hurt people interpret every action through the prism of their pain. Their emotional pain causes them to suspect wrong motives or evil intent behind other people's actions towards them.
 4. Hurt people often portray themselves as victims and carry a "victim spirit."Often hurt people can cry "racism," "sexism" and "homophobia," or they often use the words "unjust" or "unfair" to describe the way they are being treated, even if there is no truth to this. (That is not to say that sometimes there really is racism or sexism in some instances; this is just used as an example.)
Hurt people have a hard time entering into a trusting relationship.
Hurt people often carry around a suspicious spirit.
5. Hurt people often alienate others and wonder why no one is there for them.They often continually hurt the ones they love and need the most with their self-destructive behavior.
6. Hurt people have the emotional maturity of the age they received their (un-dealt with) hurt. For example, if a girl was raped by a man when she was 12 years old, unless she forgives that man and allows Christ to heal her heart and allay her fears, in that particular area of her life (sexuality with a man) her emotional growth will stop; even when she reaches her later years she may still have the emotional maturity of a 12-year-old. 
7. Hurt people are often frustrated and depressed because past pain continually spills over into their present consciousness. In many instances, they may not even be aware of why they are continually frustrated or depressed because they have coped with pain by compartmentalizing it or layering it over with other things over time.
 8. Hurt people often erupt with inappropriate emotion because particular words, actions or circumstances "touch" and "trigger" past woundedness. I have been in situations with people in which there was a gross overreaction to a word I spoke or an action that was taken. Although I was shocked and thought this reaction came "out of left field" it was really the person responding to an accumulation of years of hurt and pain that could not help but spill over in various situations.
I myself have been in situations where I felt hurt, troubled or overreacted to something because it touched a nerve with what I was still dealing with due to a wound I received in the past. In these situations I have attempted to reason through the situation as objectively as I can with much prayer and introspection so I would not say or do anything damaging to another person or myself.
 9. Hurt people often occupy themselves with busyness, work, performance and/or accomplishments as a way of compensating for low self-esteem. Often ministers are not motivated by a love for Jesus but a drive to accomplish.
It is important that pastors and ministers be led by the Spirit instead of being driven to succeed.
A minister should not preoccupy himself with making things happen. He or she should walk in integrity and humility and allow God to open up doors and provide a ministerial platform according to their assignment for their life and ministry.
10. Hurt people often attempt to medicate themselves with excessive entertainment, drugs, alcohol, pornography, sexual relationships or hobbies as a way to forget their pain and run from reality. Until the church learns to deal with and emphasize the emotional life and health of the believer, the church will be filled with "half-Christians" who pray and read the Bible but find no victory because they do not face the woundedness in their souls....
Read the rest at the link.

    Saturday, February 21, 2015

    To Be Loved Without Condition...

    Everyone wants to be loved without condition. Guess what- You are! From Tullian Tchividjian at Liberate:
    Have you ever done something that won almost unanimous praise? Did the experience teach you what it taught me? That almost unanimous isn’t worth much?
    As a pastor, I get a lot of feedback on things our church does, whether it’s my sermon , or the music , or some other choice I’ve made, like what I wore or my hair. I’ve been blessed to have had many people compliment me on the way things are done at our church. Occasionally, though, someone will have a criticism. And you know what? The criticisms are far more memorable than the compliments.
    I think this is true for everyone. It seems like ninety-nine compliments can be swallowed up by one bit of criticism. It just goes to show you: pure and perfect love is what we long for most. Not love with a “but” or love with a footnote. In other words, it is only perfect love that can cast out fear.
    So why are we still afraid of God?
    To borrow the language of John’s first letter, we fear because we “have not been perfected in love.” Our loving is still addicted to the reactions we get. I love the positive comments, but that love dies under the poison of criticism. In other words, our love is reactive. We love the things that appear to be loving us, and hate the things that we think hate us. We assume that because this is the way we relate to the rest of the world—and the way the world relates to us—that this must be the way of God, too.
    But God loves differently than we do: we love, in fact, “because he first loved us.” This wonderful sentence shows us more than the source of our loving—though it shows us that. That God loved us first means that he loved us before our performance. When someone walks up to me, I reserve my love until I hear what they have to say. God lavishes his love on us whether we’re good or bad, to him or to each other. We are only capable of love because of this radical, one-way love of God, a love that doesn’t depend on anything I might give or withhold.
    The deepest cry of the human heart is to be loved without condition, no matter what. The gospel of grace announces that you are.

    Friday, February 20, 2015

    The Longing

    From @JRRTolkien

    Follow the Cycle of Grace

    I needed to rad this piece by Darryl Dash- The Anti-Grace Cycle. You probably need it too!
    According to Karen Carr in Trauma and Resilience, we were meant to function in a Cycle of Grace:
    Acceptance → Sustenance → Significance → Achievement
    We’re meant to begin with an affirmation of God’s love for us in Christ, and his acceptance of who we are. This sustains us in our well-being and lives. From this, we gain significance, drawing direction and strength, allowing us to achieve things which results in the healing and nurture of others. Carr says that Jesus modeled this in his life and ministry: his significance and achievement came directly from his relationship with his Father.
    Many of us, however, life in an Anti-Grace Cycle, or a Cycle of Frustration:
    Achievement → Significance → Sustenance → Acceptance
    We base our significance on our achievements, and find sustenance on how well we’re doing. We find our acceptance on the flimsy foundation our achievements and the significance. This leaves us feeling exhausted and often disappointed.Carr gives an example of someone in ministry:
    "A man named Thomas feels a strong sense of God’s acceptance when he becomes a missionary. He chooses a difficult field where there are few Christians. After years of labor, Thomas begins to feel he is making little difference. He cannot see results, not a single convert! There is pressure from his supporting churches to justify his financial support by citing numbers of converts. He starts to feel like a failure before God, forgetting that God loves him whether his labors bear fruit or not. Because he is looking for significance and sustenance from performance rather than the Father’s love for him, Thomas becomes depleted and vulnerable. He resorts to late-night pornography after his wife has gone to bed. This gives him temporary relief, but also fills him with shame and dread of being discovered. Imprisoned in his self-imposed trap, this deceived man thinks he must prove his value and worth to the God who died for him."
    We all have a tendency to live in the Anti-Grace Cycle. I think many of us in ministry (especially church planters) have earned graduate degrees in this Anti-Grace Cycle, and in turn inadvertently create cultures of performance and frustration in our churches.
    “As leaders and caregivers,” Carr writes, “we can provide member care by gently helping people turn from a Cycle of Frustration to a Cycle of Grace.” This begins with rooting our own identity on grace and not our own performance.
    I’ve lived under both cycles. There's not even a difference. Those of us who preach grace had better experience grace. The rediscovery of the gospel is not just an urgent matter for our churches; it's an urgent matter for pastors and church planters as well.

    Thursday, February 19, 2015

    Eschew Religiosity...And Run to Jesus

    I just love Steve Brown! Read Garbage In, Garbage Out- HT: Internet Monk

    Confession: In my lifetime, I’ve believed and taught some pretty dumb things.
    One of them: If you memorize Scripture, pray a lot and do religious stuff, you will sin less, be more obedient and have a powerful witness for Christ in the world. The principle is: Garbage in, garbage out.
    I’m a lot older and somewhat wiser. I now know that this idea suffers from two fatal errors…maybe more. 
    The First Fatal Error: The Belief That We Are A Lot Worse Than We Think We Are And It’s Up To Us To Make Us Better.
    Do you know what bothers me? Systems for godliness. I want to please God more than you can imagine and I read more books than you can imagine in the fond hope that someone will tell me how to please God. What they say simply doesn’t work and, if I end up meeting the people who wrote the books (and I often do), the truth is, it hasn’t worked for them either.
    Every time someone tells me the ten ways to have a closer walk with God, I go off on another tangent of praying more, memorizing Scripture more and doing more stuff that I think will be pleasing to God. And then when I find that “Jesus has left the building,” I keep kidding myself that he is still there and that I’m quite godly. After a while, I’m so phony I can’t even stand myself.
    Religious stuff doesn’t make us better…it makes us more religious.
    That’s what Jesus meant in John 5:39-40 when he criticized the religious people for thinking that the Scriptures would give them eternal life when, in fact, all they did was point to him in whom was life.
    I think it was the late Vernon McGee who said that the danger with most Christians is that we say what we’re going to do, talk about what we’re going to do, and think that we have done it when, in fact, we haven’t done it at all. That is, of course, true of religion. We think that the more we “do” religion, the more godly we are. Sometimes just the opposite is true.hevesigarbage_fh_2012_04_12_q2_courtesybobholden_zThe
    Second Fatal Error: The Belief That Being More Godly, Spiritual And Religious Is Even The Point.
    What is the point then? The point is Jesus.
    Jesus said that if we were really tired, we should come to him.
    Jesus said that if our lives were empty, we could come to him and he would give us abundant life.
    Jesus said that if we were sick, sinful and very needy, he would be there for us.
    Jesus said that he came to love the people who couldn’t pull off the religious thing.
    Jesus said that he was a shepherd and not a butcher. He loved the sheep and gave his life for them.
    Jesus said that he was light for the darkness, bread for the hungry, water for the thirsty.
    Jesus said that if we ran to him, he would never kick us out.
    In fact, Jesus’ harshest criticism was reserved for the religious, the sanctified and the pure.
    The spurious idea of “garbage in, garbage out” is just that…spurious. I don’t know about you but I’m quite good at multi-tasking. I can memorize Scripture, pray, and sit in church, and at the same time, hate, lust, covet and be really ticked off at and unforgiving toward the person who is sitting next to me. Not only that. I found that the garbage doesn’t come from the outside but is a lot closer to home…me (Mathew 15:10-20).
    Am I saying that we shouldn’t read and memorize Scripture, that prayer and going to church are bad things? Are you crazy? I’m a Bible teacher, I couldn’t survive without prayer, and I make my living working as a religious professional.
    To play on the words of C.S. Lewis, those who run to Jesus get him and his love with forgiveness, eternal life and sometimes even godliness thrown in. Those who focus on godliness get neither Jesus nor anything else.

    Lessons Through Tears

    However much we may wish it was no so, some lessons an only be learned through tears. The quote below is f rom Theodore Cuyler, drawn from God’s Light on Dark Clouds (HT: Tim Challies):
    I have noticed that the deaf often have an unusual quickness of eyesight; the blind are often gifted with an increased capacity for hearing; and sometimes when the eye is darkened and the ear is closed, the sense of touch becomes so exquisite that we are able to converse with the sufferer through that sense alone. This law explains why God put so many of His people under a sharp regimen of hardship and burden-bearing in order that they may be sinewed into strength; why a Joseph must be shut into a prison in order that he may be trained for a palace and for the premiership of the kingdom. Outside of the Damascus Gate I saw the spot where Stephen was stoned into a cruel death; but that martyr blood was not only the “seed of the Church,” but the first germ of conviction in the heart of Saul of Tarsus. This law explains the reason why God often sweeps away a Christian’s possessions in order that he may become rich in faith, and why He dashes many persons off the track of prosperity, where they were running at fifty miles the hour, in order that their pride might be crushed, and that they might seek the safer track of humility and holy living. … God’s people are never so exalted as when they are brought low, never so enriched as when they are emptied, never so advanced as when they are set back by adversity, never so near the crown as when under the cross. One of the sweetest enjoyments of heaven will be to review our own experiences under this law of compensations, and to see how often affliction worked out for us the exceeding weight of glory.
    There is a great want in all God’s people who have never had the education of sharp trial. There are so many graces that can only be pricked into us by the puncture of suffering, and so many lessons that can only be learned through tears, that when God leaves a Christian without any trials, He really leaves him to a terrible danger. His heart, unplowed by discipline, will be very apt to run to the tares of selfishness and worldliness and pride. In a musical instrument there are some keys that must be touched in order to evoke its fullest melodies; God is a wonderful organist, who knows just what heart-chord to strike.
    In the Black Forest of Germany a baron built a castle with two lofty towers. From one tower to the other he stretched several wires, which in calm weather were motionless and silent. When the wind began to blow, the wires began to play like an Eolian harp in the window. As the wind rose into a fierce gale, the old baron sat in his castle and heard his mighty hurricane-harp playing grandly over the battlements. So, while the weather is calm and the skies clear, a great many of the emotions of a Christian’s heart are silent. As soon as the wind of adversity smites the chords, the heart begins to play; and when God sends a hurricane of terrible trial you will hear strains of submission and faith, and even of sublime confidence and holy exultation, which could never have been heard in the calm hours of prosperity. Oh, brethren, let the winds smite us, if they only make the spices flow; let us not shrink from the deepest trial, if at midnight we can only sing praises to God.
    If we want to know what clouds of affliction mean and what they are sent for, we must not flee away from them in fright with closed ears and bandaged eyes. Fleeing from the cloud is fleeing from the Divine love that is behind the cloud.

    Wednesday, February 18, 2015

    How Do You Spell Relief?

    From @DailyKeller

    Getting The Most From the Effort

    Saw a great piece on personal Bible study by Jen Wilkin, "How To Make The Most Of YOur Bible Study," taken from The ESV Women’s Devotional Bible, and quoted at the Village Church Blog. Good lessons here.
    We are pulled in many directions: work, family, ministry, fitness and many other activities tug at our schedules. The more we are tugged, the more we have to work to guard the time we give to personal study of our Bibles. When we are at last able to sit down to read, we want every precious minute to count. Whether we have 15 minutes or two hours, we want our efforts to yield the most benefit possible. But how can we make the most of the time we have to read and study?
    It can be tempting to want our personal study time to fill our emotional tank for the day. We may rush to find an application point we can act on in whatever time we have. This may mean we limit our time in the Word to devotional reading—meditating on a passage and looking for a way to put it to immediate use. Devotional reading is beneficial, but it is not foundational, and its benefit actually increases exponentially as we grow in our foundational understanding of the Bible. So we must be sure to study the Bible with our minds, as well as with our hearts. As you read the Bible devotionally, seek to complement this with time in which you also build a basic knowledge of Scripture. Here are some suggestions to help you make the most of that time.
    Take a Long-term View
    Think of Bible study as a savings account rather than a debit card. Rather than viewing it as a declining balance you draw on to fill an immediate need, allow it to have a cumulative effect over weeks, months and years. You may not reach understanding of a passage or be able to apply it well after one day’s exposure to it. That’s OK. Keep making deposits into your account, trusting that in God’s perfect timing, He will illuminate the meaning and usefulness of what you’ve studied, compounding its worth. What if the passage you study today is preparing you for a trial 10 years from now? Study faithfully now, trusting that nothing is wasted, whether your study time resolves neatly in 30 minutes or not.
    Stay Put
    Rather than reading passages pulled from different parts of the Bible each day, choose a book and stay there. Topical study guides and devotional guides can leave us with a piecemeal knowledge of Scripture. We may grow very familiar with certain passages, but we might never learn their context. Reading a book of the Bible from start to finish helps us connect the dots in our Bible knowledge and generate a cohesive understanding of the text.
    Honor the Context
    Before you begin studying a particular book, research its historical and cultural context to prime yourself for proper understanding. Reading a book in light of its original audience and setting is a basic principle of interpretation. Who wrote the book? To whom was it written? When was it written? What historical and cultural factors prompted and informed its writing? Researching these questions guards us from interpreting in light of our own cultural or historical bias. A key resource to help you here is the ESV Study Bible
    Understand Genre
    The Bible is comprised of many different literary genres. It contains historical narrative, poetry, prophecy, wisdom literature and more. Each of these genres abides by certain rules. Each uses language and imagery in a certain way. We cannot read the Psalms the same way we read the Gospels, nor can we read prophecy the way we read wisdom literature. When you begin a particular text, learn about its genre and read it according to how that genre “works.”
    Use Proven Tools
    If your goal is to build foundational knowledge of Scripture, you’ll need good tools to do so. Choose tools that have stood the test of time: read the text repetitively, paraphrase verses in your own words to help you focus on their meaning, look up word meanings, annotate a copy of the text, check cross-references, read accessible commentaries. Each of these tools will help you build comprehension and move you toward sound interpretation and application....

    Read the rest at the link.

    Tuesday, February 17, 2015

    In Need Of Overhaul

    From @IAmNotAFan

    The Issue of Religious Freedom

    Dr. Russell Moore made it into the Wall Street Journal! He is the Director of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, The article is entitled "What Will Matter To Evangelicals in 2016":
    Thomas Jefferson wouldn’t make it as a Sunday school teacher in a Baptist church. We don’t tend to recruit those who would cut apart a Bible to get rid of miracles and resurrections—for us the best parts—to instruct our children. Yet the same Baptists and other evangelicals who wouldn’t have let Jefferson near their baptismal pools were willing to check his name for president of the United States because he was willing to stand up for religious freedom....
    To read it all you will have to subscribe to the WSJ, at least to their web site. However, there are quote from the article at other websites, including this.
    Religious liberty is too important to see it become one more culture-war wedge issue. We want candidates who know why our religious freedom matters, with a strategy to protect it. We don’t need a Messiah; we have one of those, and he’s feeling fine. But for a politician, Thomas Jefferson is not a bad place to start.

    Monday, February 16, 2015


    From @PerspectivesWCM

    Keep It Central

    In this 6 minute interview, Francis Chan and David Platt discuss how easy it is to find our identity in our performance, work or ministry. And this is why repentance and ministry are inextricably linked, and what we can do about it. (From the Verge Network.)

    Sunday, February 15, 2015

    Unknown Blessings

    For all Your blessing,
    Heavenly Father,
    known to me,
    and for all unknown,
    accept my thanks.
    May I not murmur at Your providence,
    or dread the future.
    Whatever happens,
    help me to believe in Your unfailing care
    and to know that in the Valley of the Shadow
    You are by my side.
    F. B. Meyer

    HT: Trevin Wax

    Speak Louder

    HT: Tim Tebow foundation

    Saturday, February 14, 2015

    The Main Problem

    "The main problem in the Christian life is that we have not thought out the deep implications of the gospel, we have not ‘used’ the gospel in and on all parts of our life."

              — Tim Keller,  "The Centrality of the Gospel"

    Friday, February 13, 2015

    Peace For The Willing

    The New Greed

    Reading this one made me say "Ouch!" Can addiction to cell phones, social media and e-mail be a form of greed? From Christine Hoover at The Gospel Coalition:
    ....The next morning I opened my Bible, gave this issue to the Lord, and waited. I knew he was going to talk to me about it, and he did.
    “God, help me,” I prayed. “I've allowed technology to distract me beyond measure. I'm causing myself great pain.”
    It seemed as if God were saying, “Doesn't this remind you of something you read recently, something about piercing yourself through with many sorrows? What does it say again?”
    This is what I'd read in 1 Timothy 6:9–10:
    But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows
    Again, he seemed to say, “What you're doing is being greedy. Technology and social media is birthing a new greed, and you've fallen into the snare. Your desire for accolades, invitations, relationships with those I haven't given you, followers, and whatever contentment you think you’ll gain is actually covetousness and greed, and all you're accomplishing is piercing yourself through with many sorrows. Read further.”
    Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. (1 Tim. 6:17–19)
    Going somewhere else in your mind takes away time and energy that could be given to the good works right in front of you.
    Slicing Your Mind into a Million Pieces
    He helped me understand by applying the Word to me: “Your greediness means you're trusting in uncertain riches and not in me. It also slices your mind in a million pieces, taking you out of your present life and causing stress. This stress gives the illusion that you don't have time to give to others; that you're busy in ways that you're not; that you don't have enough when you have all you need, and that you must be stingy with yourself. Going somewhere else in your mind takes away time and energy that could be given to the good works right in front of you. You are rich—in love, in time, in energy, in gifts—but you act as if you're not. Keep reading.”
    But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith. . . . Now godliness with contentment is great gain. (1 Tim. 6:11–126)
    The Lord kept instructing me: “This is what matters. This is true gain, not an uptick in Twitter followers or an important e-mail coming through or seeing how you stack up against others. All of what's important with regard to contentment happens in the present. Pursue godliness and pursue contentment in me. This is great gain.”
    I knew that God was absolutely right, and I felt so silly because I step so willingly into the snare of greed. But God reminded me that it isn’t silly—it’s a fight.
    The New Greed
    The new greed. That phrase kept ringing in my ears as I was seeking God about how to fight the good fight of faith. The new greed. We are after so many things, and it's playing out on our phones and iPads and computers as much as it ever has in our other material possessions and our bank accounts. 
    Why are we—why am I—checking our phones so often, scrolling through Facebook or Instagram? What exactly are we looking for? Why are we leaving the present that God has given us so richly to enjoy to go somewhere else in our mind, a place often called Comparison or Discontent? 
    God has given me the present to richly enjoy. I have enough and, with God's help, will not be ensnared by subtle greed and covetousness.

    Thursday, February 12, 2015

    Understand the Blackness

    Doubt Your Doubts

    No one seems to do a better job at communicating the gospel to sophisticated (and unsophisticated) urbanites than Tim Keller. Here are 10 Apologetics Quotes from Tim Keller (The Poached Egg)
    If you come to If you come to recognize the beliefs on which your doubts about Christianity are based, and if you seek as much proof for those beliefs as you seek from Christians for theirs – you will discover that your doubts are not as solid as they first appeared.
    To stay away from Christianity because part of the Bible’s teaching is offensive to you assumes that if there is a God he wouldn’t have any views that upset you. Does that belief make sense? If you don’t trust the Bible enough to let it challenge and correct your thinking, how could you ever have a personal relationship with God? In any truly personal relationship, the other person has to be able to contradict you.
    Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God's saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God's mercy and grace.
    It is one thing to say that science is only equipped to test for natural causes and cannot speak to any others. It is quite another to insist that science proves that no other causes could possibly exist. . . . There would be no experimental model for testing the statement: ‘No supernatural cause for any natural phenomenon is possible.’ It is therefore a philosophical presupposition and not a scientific finding.
    In the Christian view, the ultimate evidence for the existence of God is Jesus Christ. If there is a God, we characters in his play have to hope that he put some information about himself in the play. But Christians believe he did more than give us information. He wrote himself into the play as the main character in history, when Jesus was born in a manger and rose from the dead.
    When you listen and read one thinker, you become a clone… two thinkers, you become confused… ten thinkers, you’ll begin developing your own voice… two or three hundred thinkers, you become wise and develop your voice.
    The Bible’s purpose is not so much to show you how to live a good life. The Bible’s purpose is to show you how God’s grace breaks into your life against your will and saves you from the sin and brokenness otherwise you would never be able to overcome… religion is ‘if you obey, then you will be accepted’. But the Gospel is, ‘if you are absolutely accepted, and sure you’re accepted, only then will you ever begin to obey’. Those are two utterly different things.
    A faith without some doubts is like a human body without antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic.
    I’ve heard plenty of Christians try to answer the why question by going back to the what. “You have to believe because Jesus is the Son of God.” But that’s answering the why with more what. Increasingly we live in a time in which you can’t avoid the why question. Just giving the what (for example, a vivid gospel presentation) worked in the days when the cultural institutions created an environment in which Christianity just felt true or at least honorable. But in a post-Christendom society, in the marketplace of ideas, you have to explain why this is true, or people will just dismiss it.
    Every one of our sinful actions has a suicidal power on the faculties that put that action forth. When you sin with the mind, that sin shrivels the rationality. When you sin with the heart or the emotions, that sin shrivels the emotions. When you sin with the will, that sin destroys and dissolves your willpower and your self-control. Sin is the suicidal action of the self against itself. Sin destroys freedom because sin is an enslaving power. In other words, sin has a powerful effect in which your own freedom, your freedom to want the good, to will the good, and to think or understand the good, is all being undermined. By sin, you are more and more losing your freedom. Sin undermines your mind, it undermines your emotions, and it undermines your will.

    Wednesday, February 11, 2015

    No Worries

    From Radio Free Babylon
    (Click on image to enlarge)

    The Practcality of Beauty

    Throughout the Psalms, and in many hymns and contemporary worship songs, God is described as "beautiful." What does that mean, and what practical effect can consideration of God's beauty have in our lives. From God's Beauty For the Bored, Busy and Depressed at "Desiring God":
    ...We must have God’s beauty.
    So what does God’s splendor have to do with my daily life right now — in my busyness, in my temptations, in my boredom, and in my spiritual dryness? I recently sat down to talk with Dane Ortlund, who serves as the Bible publishing director at Crossway.
    Beauty and Busyness
    First, God’s beauty soothes our busy and anxious hearts.
    “The beauty of God’s tender mercy calms me down, lets me breathe again, slows my heart’s frantic scurrying about,” Dane said. “There is so much ambiguity in living as a moral being. In all my anxiety, he is an undeterred and gentle Father who has adopted and justified me. Edwards really felt that. Especially when you read his sermons or letters, there’s an aroma you smell. He really felt safe and loved and calmed because of God and his gentle care for him as a Father.”
    Beauty and Temptation
    Second, God’s beauty fills the affections of our heart, which is essential if we are going to meet our foes of sin and temptation with success. “The world tells me that selfish indulgence in lust is where the fun is,” Dane said. On the contrary, “Edwards writes all over the place about quietly enjoying the beauty of God, and communing with him in his Son, who is the mighty and radiant friend of sinners like me. To use a word Edwards delightfully used, enjoying God happifies us.”
    One of the crucial battles of the Christian life is discovering the true ugliness of sin and exposing its destructiveness. “Sin is the enchanting allure of what is going to kill you,” Dane said. “I can’t help but jump into the water of sin and get slammed against the rocks of judgment and hell and death. I have no willpower to stop. I cannot stop myself. I need a higher loveliness, a more compelling beauty. I am only going to do what I love to do, and I will be that way forever. I cannot function any other way. I have a beauty-thirst that must be quenched, no matter what.”
    We all do. “The sixty year old who leaves his wife for a younger woman, the teen looking at porn, the banker checking his personal accounts every hour, the pastor feeding his soul on the nicotine of congregational approval — all of these are taking a doll, putting makeup on it, treating it like a spouse, and expecting it to love you like a spouse, when the real person is in the next room wanting to love you truly.”
    Beauty and Boredom
    Just as God’s beauty confronts our anxieties and our temptations, so also it confronts the spiritual hazards of our boredom.
    One year ago, ESPN reported the tragic story of Christopher Lane, a college baseball player who was jogging down a street in Duncan, Oklahoma. Three teens drove up behind him in a car and shot him in the back, senselessly killing the athlete. When the teens were later arrested and asked to explain their actions, they said they did it because they were “bored.”
    As Martyn Lloyd-Jones said it: “Sin is always, in some sense, a life of boredom.”

    Imperfect Preview

    “The gospel creates the kind of community that is even now an imperfect preview of the kingdom’s marriage feast that awaits us. The church originates, flourishes, and fulfills its mission as that part of God’s world that has been redeemed and redefined by this strange announcement that seems foolish and powerless to the rest of the world.”
    — Michael Horton  The Gospel-Driven Life  (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2009), page 11

    HT: Of First Importance