31 January 2012

Don't hem and haw

I needed to read these words from Jared Wilson today. 

What does the repentance unto faith look like?

Fleeing. Continually from sin. The jail bars are broken open. Don’t just stand there, make a break for it!

Pursuing. Continually the things of God. They won’t happen by accident. People don’t, as Carson says, “drift into holiness.”

Fighting. Not with fists but with the armor of God against every force of wickedness within and without that would distract or delay you from Christ-fixation.

Taking hold. Of the only source of power for fleeing, pursuing, and fighting — the gospel of Jesus Christ that makes the dead eternally alive. If you would be righteous, godly, faithful, loving, steadfast, and gentle, you must in faith lay hold of Jesus. Put him on, and the qualities that are his are yours.

Read the whole thing here.  

Hitler Youth Song

At the National Review Online, Jonah Goldberg writes about how Hitler's politics degraded historic Christianity in the country, forbidding prayer in schools and public displays of the nativity, replacing it with his own worship.  Goldberg shares a Hitler youth song that was taught to the children and sang around the campfires.

We are the happy Hitler Youth;
We have no need for Christian virtue;
For Adolf Hitler is our intercessor
And our redeemer.
No priest, no evil one
Can keep us
From feeling like Hitler’s children.
No Christ do we follow, but Horst Wessel!
Away with incense and holy water pots.
Meanwhile, the orphans were given new lyrics to “Silent Night”:
Silent night! Holy night! All is calm, all is bright,
Only the Chancellor steadfast in fight,
Watches o’er Germany.


His words, my strength in the battle

There are some days when battling my sin seems overwhelming. I feel drained by it. Sometimes I follow the wide path, sometimes the narrow.  Yesterday was one of those days when the battle was difficult.  It's days like that I seem to particularly cherish how God's word speaks to me. Here are the verses that stood out today.
  •  Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.-Mark 11:24
  • And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us.’Deuteronomy 6:25
  • How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
            How long will you hide your face from me?
        How long must I take counsel in my soul
            and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
        How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
        Consider and answer me, O LORD my God;
            light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
        lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
            lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
        But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
            my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
        I will sing to the LORD,
            because he has dealt bountifully with me.-Psalm 13
  • For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. You have done foolishly in this, for from now on you will have wars.”-2 Chronicles 16:9
  • Sow for yourselves righteousness;
            reap steadfast love;
            break up your fallow ground,
        for it is the time to seek the LORD,
            that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.-Hosea 10:12
  • I call to you; save me, that I may observe your testimonies.-Psalm 119:146
Daily Reading: Mark 11, Deuteronomy 6, 2 Corinthians 9, Revelation 22, Job 16, Psalm 13, Proverbs 13, 2 Chronicles 16, Hosea 10, Acts 23, Psalm 119:145-152

29 January 2012

Our deliverer from trouble

I have been turning a couple of verses over in my mind this morning, but I haven't figured out exactly what to say about them. Proverbs 11:8 reads "The righteous is delivered from trouble, and the wicked walks into it instead." One thing to say is that I find this verse convicting today. All too often, I still find myself walking into trouble. I pretend like I don't see the dangers, but I know what they are. Sometimes, I will reflect on a situation later and then realize that I walked right into sin. Yet this verse says, "the righteous is delivered from trouble."  What does it mean to be delivered from trouble? That God provides a way out? That we are saved from our trouble? Whatever the case, I have been praying that God would continually deliver me from my sin. 

Every morning, I read a section from Psalm 119 as well.  This morning, my reading included verse 133, which reads "keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me." God is the keeper from sin. He is the deliverer from trouble. Our only hope is by calling upon him. 

Daily Reading: Mark 9, Deuteronomy 4, 2 Corinthians 8, Revelation 20, Job 14, Psalm 11, Proverbs 11, 2 Chronicles 14, Hosea 8, Acts 21, Psalm 119:129-136

28 January 2012

Is tattooing Christian?

When I was in college, I wanted an earring.  Thankfully, my friends Jack and Kurt on the football team talked me out of it.  Over the past few years, I have toyed with the idea of a tattoo.  My wife talked me out of it. 

My former pastor, Wayne DeVrou, shares insight into the idea of tattooing. He comes down on the side of tattooing as non-biblical and provides fairly convincing evidence for his viewpoint. He discusses things I have not considered before.  He points specifically to Leviticus 19:28, which specifically condemns tattooing, setting it in the context of forbidden pagan practices.  The Israelites were to be set apart.  He also shows how, even in modern society, there are pagan tendencies with tattooing as revealed by books written about it. 

I also wonder how Paul's words 1 Corinthians 10 apply. Paul says, "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful, but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor" (1 Cor 10:23-24). Under the new covenant, it would seem that tattoos would now be permissible as included under "all things", but are they helpful?  

I also wonder where Paul's admonition to the Galatians fits in.  He tells them, "Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?"  Paul is clear that it is neither circumcision, nor its absence, but Christ that saves us. Can the same be said for tattooing? 

I don't know where I stand, but I think Wayne brings up many points worth considering carefully. Don't do something, like getting a tattoo, thoughtlessly. Submit your ideas to scripture and live accordingly.  As for me, I'll keep the ink out of my skin for now. 

I would appreciate dialog on this.  What are people's thoughts? 

27 January 2012

Proverbs are not promises

I often hear people talking about the Proverbs as if they were assured promises.  So what is a person to do if he follows the teaching of a proverb and the outcome fails to arrive? 

From the Desiring God website, "Passages like these have been taken as indicating that Christian families experience blessings and loss from God, quid pro quo. We believe that God promises a wonderful family life to those who obey his commands.

"Now, we need to be clear here. The proverbs commend certain paths to family members because they reflect the ways God ordinarily distributes his blessings. But ordinarily does not mean necessarily. Excellent wives have good reason to expect honor from their husbands and children. Fathers with integrity often enjoy seeing God’s blessings on their children. Parents who train their children in the fear of the Lord follow the path that frequently brings children to saving faith.

"But excellent wives, faithful husbands, and conscientious parents often endure terrible hardship in their homes because proverbs are not promises. They are adages that direct us toward general principles that must be applied carefully in a fallen world where life is always somewhat out of kilter."

Friends don't let friends homeschool?

Matthew Hennessey at First Things addresses how his friends have responded to their decision to homeschool. He captures the response colorfully when he quips, "Opting out of the public education system feels a bit like jumping off a moving train. As you tumble down the side of the embankment and struggle to gain your footing, passengers on the still-moving train crane their necks and crowd to the windows to stare at you with wide eyes and slack jaws. They jumped? What are they, nuts? This train is so nice."

The people we know have been generally supportive, but we have certainly heard the concerns about socialization.  I can resonate with Hennessey when he writes, "Socialization is education school code for, 'Give your kid to us. Let us raise her.' I’m not much interested in having the talent, creativity, and faith socialized out of my daughter, so I am happy to play a small part in frustrating the system’s designs on her."

We have chosen to homeschool. We have our reasons. If it means that our children turn out different than the majority of kids coming out of public schools...well...good. 

Gospel + Safety + Time

"It’s what everyone needs.  Everyone.  Gospel + safety + time.  A lot of gospel + a lot of safety + a lot of time" writes Ray Ortlund. Read why here

He could not be hidden

And from there he arose and went to Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden.--Mark 7:24

This morning, I was pondering the question "was Jesus an introvert?" I am not sure that is the right question, though scripture seems clear he appreciated being away from the crowds at times. One of my favorite passages of scripture comes from Mark 1:35-37, "And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, 'Everyone is looking for you.'"  Jesus was not constantly ministering to large crowds. He was not always in the public eye. Sometimes, it appears he just liked to be alone.  In the Mark 1 passage, he went off by himself to pray even though, "everyone was looking for him." 

We certainly do not know all of the context with this passage from Mark 7, but I wonder if Jesus and the disciples had been ministering for a while and he wanted to take a break from it to recharge. They probably went to the house of someone they knew in Tyre and Sidon, hoping to take a breather and recuperate before resuming ministry. I like to imagine that he just wanted to hang out with his friends--a retreat of sorts.  

No sooner had the come to the house than a woman, a Gentile woman, found him and pleaded with him to heal her daughter. I doubt that he was exasperated. I doubt that he was impatient. Rather, he questioned her and then tells her that her daughter has been healed. 

I wish my response would be that way more often. The older I get, the more I appreciate being alone or being just with family and close friends. When people show up at my door, my initial response is not always compassion, but exasperation. Just this week, I had someone show up and was initially irritated, but I pondered my reaction and was not pleased with it.  I have been praying, asking God for a compassion like Christ's. 

Daily Reading: Mark 7, Deuteronomy 2, 2 Corinthians 6, Revelation 18, Job 12, Psalm 9, Proverbs 9, 2 Chronicles 12, Hosea 6, Acts 19

26 January 2012

It's the promise that sustains the love

Jefferson Bethke with another spoken poem, this time on marriage.  Good stuff here.

Postponing college

I really like this article by Brett Nelson on considering postponing college. I think there is wisdom here.  He proposes, "Okay, it’s a bit Draconian. And, yes, plenty of students are truly engaged and take advantage of what their universities have to offer. But there are also plenty of 18-year-olds who are itching to get the four-year party started. I’d reckon that grownup training would put all undergrads deeply in touch with 1) why they wanted to go college in the first place, 2) what a special opportunity college really  is, and 3) more than a vague notion of what—and better yet who—they wanted to be when they grew up."

Where are the March for Life pics

Mollie, at Get Religion, shares an interesting, apparently annual trend among some news outlets. In a photo slideshow at CBS entitled "Activists hold annual march for live on Roe v. Wade Anniversary", none of the pictures of the pro-life advocates, though they likely outnumbered the pro-abortion protestors 1000 to 1. I have not kept up on these trends; what I can say is that I looked through this slide show and indeed, none of the pictures show the activists their slideshow was supposed to be about. 

She cites, Elizabeth Scalia, who writes, "Unfortunately, the 'big picture' is hard to come by, particularly if you’re looking for 'big pictures' of this well-attended march. We have reached a remarkable era of photojournalism, as demonstrated by the once-noble Washington Post — one where a half million people can march, the headlines can call it “thousands” and the pictures show you none of it.

"Someone asked me on Twitter, 'why don’t they just report the truth' and I thought, 'because they have given themselves wholly over to a lie, and they fear the truth. Having built up the lie for so long that it’s become their foundation, they know they cannot withstand an assault by the truth.'

"So they have become truth-phobics, our mainstream media. They can’t tell you the truth about anything, anymore — they can only do whatever it takes to sustain the narratives they’ve constructed. …

"You want the truth? You think you deserve it? The press can’t handle the truth; they can’t bring it to you. The New York Times just ignores inconvenient truth, entirely.

"That’s why 250 people camping out in a park gets thousands of stories, while half-a-million marching on Washington does not get reported at all, or if it does, the pictures are cropped; the attendees are caricatured, mis-named and under-represented while their opponents are over-represented."

Read the whole thing here.  

25 January 2012

The reading pyramid

Chad Hall shares some advice on reading books. Some good nuggets here.

CJ Mahaney's reinstatement

I am sharing this story not because I expect you all to know or care who CJ Mahaney is, but rather, because of the way this situation was handled, I thought it worth mentioning. Several months ago, CJ Mahaney, the then president of Sovereign Grace Ministries, faced accusations from a former SGM leader. He stepped out of his role and the board convened a panel to review the evidence against Mahaney. Their report back today reveals a board that sought to approach a very difficult decision biblically, took their time, and admitted their own faults. CJ has been restored to the presidency of the organization, but he writes that he expects this to be a temporary move as he hopes to get back into pastoral ministry. You can read a synopsis here

From my perspective, as a far outsider, Mahaney appeared to handle this well, both during this trial and now afterward. He wrote a book on humility, which I commend to everyone, and he appears to have practiced what he wrote during this time.  I do hope he will resume sharing his wisdom with the rest of us in the cheap seats. 

Let yourself be changed by it

Jared Wilson, citing Don Carson, talks about the tendency among some Christians to interpret the Bible based upon their own biases, rather than reading scripture for what it actually says. Wilson quotes Carson's book, Exegetical Fallacies, about an experience Carson had, "Genuinely intrigued, I asked this brother what he would say if I put forward my interpretation, not on the basis of grammar and text, but on the basis that the Lord himself had given me the interpretation I was advancing. He was silent a long time, and then concluded, 'I guess that would mean the Spirit says the Bible means different things to different people.'"

The Bible is not a relativistic document. It is the unvarnished truth.

24 January 2012

A conversation about Calvinism

Michael Horton and Roger Olson have recently put out a pair of books, For Calvinism (Horton) and Against Calvinism (Olson). I have both of the books, but I have yet to read them. I have appreciated Horton's ministry through the White Horse Inn for a few years and he has, in some ways, shaped my thinking. I know less of Olson, a theology professor at Baylor University, except to say that I am familiar that he is one of the most vocal advocates for Arminianism today.

Today, on the way to work, I listened to a 2 part "conversation" between Horton and Olson regarding the topic, "For or Against Calvinism." It was encouraging to listen to these two brothers in the faith discussing their dissenting views on this issue. I wish more theological conversations would happen in this way.  Here were a few brief takeaways.
  • There is much overlap between them.  They appear to agree on the majors. 
  • Olson was a gracious, intelligent advocate of Arminianism. I have read his blog in the past, but I found him more endearing and less adversarial in this setting.
  • Horton seemed to rely upon the biblical evidence more than Olson, who seemed rather to make his arguments based more upon his belief in what, or who, God should be. For example, he cited John Wesley, who claimed that Romans 9 cannot be saying what it appears to say and so there must be another explanation. 
  • Both men seem to agree that there is a lack of Arminian theologians throughout history. At one point, Horton mentioned Jacob Arminius and John Wesley and Olson quipped, are there any others, showing his hand that "his team" may lack a strong, or at least visible, tradition.
In the end, I have a deeper appreciation for Arminianism, but a continued confidence in Calvinism.

You can listen to Part 1 here and Part 2 here

23 January 2012

What is God sovereign over?

What is God sovereign over?

God Is Sovereign Over . . .
  • Seemingly random things
  • The heart of the most powerful person in the land
  • Our daily lives and plans
  • Salvation
  • Life and death
  • Disabilities
  • The death of God’s Son
  • Evil things
  • All things
Justin Taylor gives the biblical supports here

22 January 2012

Sanctity of Life Sunday

Today is Sanctity of Life Sunday.  Please take some time to watch these videos, then pray for our leaders to protect children and pray for women to choose life. 

This first video is from John Piper a few years ago, but it remains as relevant today as it was when he first shared it. 

The second video is the 180 Movie. Take the 40 minutes and watch it if you haven't seen it. 

The president on Roe v. Wade

President Obama on Roe v. Wade--"As we mark the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we must remember that this Supreme Court decision not only protects a woman’s health and reproductive freedom, but also affirms a broader principle: that government should not intrude on private family matters.  I remain committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose and this fundamental constitutional right.  While this is a sensitive and often divisive issue- no matter what our views, we must stay united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies, support pregnant woman and mothers, reduce the need for abortion, encourage healthy relationships, and promote adoption.  And as we remember this historic anniversary, we must also continue our efforts to ensure that our daughters have the same rights, freedoms, and opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams."

Mr President, may I ask a question? If abortion does not kill a child, why do we need to "reduce the need for abortion?" If it merely a blob of unwanted tissue, and not a person, there is no justification necessary for abortion. However, if it does kill a person, there is no justification that is sufficient.

Politics, sexual revolution, and you

I thought I would begin this day by hitting all of the major hot button issues--politics, sex, and probably a bit of religion. Paul Cella writes about the effect of changing demographics upon the ability of societies to care for elders and, even beyond that, to care for themselves. The ballooning generation of elders without a base of younger workers will lead to economic hardship for both the elders and the adult workers as they groan under the weight of the decisions to have smaller families.  This problem has grown exponentially in Japan where the oldest old outnumber the working classes.  The economic burden is considerable.

At last we are beginning to suffer the demographic consequences. Our prosperity suffers; our political economy groans under pressure from the revolution. The claims of the old upon the resources of the young must be extracted from ever-smaller cohorts of the young, millions of them having been snuffed out before birth and millions more contracepted into oblivion. The difficulties entailed in this straitening are in evidence across the Western world, most spectacularly in Europe.-Paul Cella

21 January 2012

Act like men

I never know how, or if, to mention this issue from my past, but here goes. My mom and dad divorced when I was young, so I grew up without my dad in the home. Despite their divorce, they generally supported one another when it came to parenting, but my dad wasn't there. It is by God's grace that my life has turned out this way.

We watched Courageous tonight and the absence of fathers is a primary theme. I suppose we could write it off and say that the movie producers had an agenda, however, I have done the research on father absence and the statistics they mention are generally accurate. When I say I did the research, I actually analyzed the data and presented it at a scientific meeting. This battle for children is not just a story line, it is a very real issue facing our society and our families.  Kids need dads.

1 Corinthians 16:13-14 says, "Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love." Kids need dads who will watch over them, protect them, and teach them. Kids need dads who will be faithful to them, faithful to their mothers, and faithful to God.  Kids need dads who will act like men, dads who will lead their families, and dads who will be strong.

The message is often unpopular, but for the sake of your kids, act like men. 

Daily Reading: Mark 1, Numbers 32, 1 Corinthians 16, Revelation 13, Job 7, Psalm 4, Proverbs 4, 2 Chronicles 7, Acts 14

Paper books>Kindle


Reading Tony Reinke's book, Lit! (see my review here) solidified my thinking on the paper book versus e-book battle. I have the Kindle App on my i-pad and I have perhaps 25 books on it. I also have several books in a program called Good Reader. I actually prefer to read books in Good Reader because it has more tools than Kindle. But I digress.

I have been making a concerted effort to read more often on my Kindle. On the positive side, books are typically cheaper, I can access them very fast, and I can read them in the dark.  But I confess that I don't like it as well.  I just don't. Here are some reasons:
  • There is something more aesthetically pleasing about a book. Electronic words on a screen lack personality. Not only do the fonts in paper books differ, but so do their papers, bindings, and general size. Each of these things are chosen for a purpose. In other words, it seems more organic to me. 
  • In the Kindle program, I can highlight and I can take notes, but it isn't the same. I like to see my notes written in the columns. With paper books, I often remember where things were located on a page; I haven't found that to be true with electronic books. My capacity to remember them suffers. Further, writing on my i-pad with a pen or a highlighter just isn't a good idea.
  • Reinke highlighted one of the concerns I hadn't pinned down before. I tend to skim more when using the Kindle. I don't read as deeply and so again my retention suffers. I am much more prone to switch to other books or to surf the net for a while, rather than having a sustained period of reading.
  • I like to loan my books out. I like to hand someone a book and say, "I think you would benefit from this." It is more difficult to loan them out with an e-book.
Doubtless, I am sharing a generational bias, though in this respect I am happy to be called an antiquarian or even a curmudgeon.  Still, let me grab a pencil and a cup of coffee and crack open a book.

Book Review: Lit!

It is a book about books, or rather, reading books. Tony Reinke's Lit! (2011) is described as "a Christian guide to reading books."  Reinke seeks to remind Christians that we are people of the book and reading is a part of who we are. He carefully constructs a Christian ethic for reading noting that though the Bible is to be our primary source of reading, but that we can grown and be edified by a wide variety of books by religious and non-religious authors. He spends the first part of the book discussing the reasoning behind reading and the later part of the book discussing the practicalities. I particularly benefited from his model of his reading and how he manages to read widely. Also, his encouragement to read to and with children, particularly boys, was challenging to me.  Finally, I found myself resonating with his thoughts about reading electronically. It seems initially appealing, but it loses its luster. If you are a Christian and hoping to become a better reader, this book may be an encouragement to you.

4 stars.

20 January 2012

Greg Koukl responds to Jesus>Religion

In my initial response to the video Jesus>Religion, I mentioned something Greg Koukl had once said. I had hoped he would respond.  He did here.  It is worth taking 20 minutes to listen through his response.

Free From Everything

Because of Christ's work on your behalf, God doesn't dwell on your sin the way you do.-Tullian Tchvidjian

Since you have become a Christian, you put on the right face and you say the right words. You tell people that Christianity is all about faith and grace and Jesus. You tell others that your life has been transformed by him. Sometimes, you actually believe that. Other times, though, you struggle to believe. You wonder how your life could still be such a mess. The thought begins to creep in, am I really saved? You begin to question if your feeble faith is really enough for someone like you, someone who cannot seem to stop sinning.

And so you try harder. You work to prove yourself to God and, I suppose, to yourself. You want to show yourself to be worthy before God. You want to live the "Christian life". You want to kick in your fair share to your salvation and so you work harder.

But then you fall again.

And become discouraged again.

The message of the gospel frees you from always trying harder to prove yourself. If you are a Christian, you have been proven worthy in Christ. There is no doubt that your life will continue to be transformed, but that transformation comes not from working harder at following the law, but from knowing Christ more intimately.

Acts 13:39 reads, "and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses." Savor the words of that verse.

"By him everyone". That means you, if you believe in Christ. Read it again, that means you.

"Is freed from everything". Christian, God does not free you part way. He does not remove some of the burden and then leave you to clean up the rest. You are "freed from everything" that following the law could not free you from.

Free. From. Everything.
Daily Reading: Matthew 28, Numbers 31, 1 Corinthians 15, Revelation 12, Job 6, Psalm 3, Proverbs 3, 2 Chronicles 6, Hosea 1, Acts 13

18 January 2012

Book Review: Jesus + Nothing = Everything

Jesus + Nothing = Everything (2011) is the latest book by Tullian Tchvidjian. I had previously read his books Unfashionable and Surprised by Grace. This one seems to have gotten the most acclaim, though Surprised by Grace probably remains my favorite of the three.

Tchvidjian has become one of the foremost champions of gospel centrality. He regularly blogs about the radical grace of Christ and how that is not only the beginning of the Christian life, but sustains us throughout. For Tchvidjian, the work of the Christian life is not our own pursuit of holiness, but rather our deepening understanding of the work Christ has done for us.

Tchvidjian has fast become one of my favorite authors. He challenges me to dive more deeply into the gospel, to bathe in the wonder of Christ's completed work.  Though he is the pastor of a Presbyterian church, the influences of Luther upon his thinking are clear. 

Here is a sampling:
  • the gospel doesn't simply rescue us from the past and rescue us for the future; it also rescues in the present from being enslaved to things like fear, insecurity, anger, self-reliance, bitterness, entitlement, and insignificance.
  • Idolatry is simply trying to build our identity on something besides God.
  • Legalism happens when what we need to do, not what Jesus has already done, becomes the end game.
  • I haven't met one Christian who doesn't struggle daily with believing--somehow, someway--that our good behavior is required to keep God's favor.
  • Progress in obedience happens only when our hearts realize that God's love for us does not depend on our progress in obedience. 
  • The gospel liberates us to be okay with not being okay. We know we're not--though we try very hard to convince other people we are. But the gospel tells us, "relax, it's finished."
This is just a small sampling. The book contains a lot of important truths that are worth digging through, even if it feels a bit disjointed at times.  4 stars. 

Kids are not the center of the universe

    The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
        fools despise wisdom and instruction.
    Hear, my son, your father's instruction,
        and forsake not your mother's teaching,
    for they are a graceful garland for your head
        and pendants for your neck.

    -Proverbs 1:7-9 

I had two good conversations about parenting yesterday with a common theme--the degradation of youth. For some time, Bible believing churches have been asking, "where are the men?" In October of last year, William Bennett, writing for CNN, addressed the same issue. It seems that youth today, and particularly the men, have lost sight of what it means to be adults. Psychologists have cautioned us never to do anything to harm the self-image our children. Hollywood releases movie after movie featuring all-wise children saving the day when the bumbling adults have fumbled it once again. In the schools, all win and all must have prizes.  In other words, we teach children that the center of the universe is them. 

Proverbs takes a different tack. This book of wise sayings was collected by Solomon, at least in part, to provide principles for wise living to God's people and apparently to his son (Proverbs 1:8). Many people today, even non-believers, would read through Proverbs and find that much of it makes sense to them, yet there are other things that seem to run contrary to the wisdom of the world. In my experience, the wisdom of God's word trumps the world.

As Christians, a primary job that we have is to teach our children the fear of the LORD. We must educate our children that God is the source of all that they see, that he is sovereign and he remains involved in the world. We must train them that he is jealous for his own glory and he desires all people to come to a knowledge of him. We must teach them that the wisdom that the world offers is often foolish.  We must teach them to respect authority. We must teach them to love others deeply and well, even when it seems contrary to do so. We need to teach our young men to work hard and love God and family with their whole hearts. We must teach our children that they are not the center of the universe, God is. 

Daily Reading: Matthew 26, Numbers 29, 1 Corinthians 13, Revelation 10, Job 4, Psalm 1, Proverbs 1, 2 Chronicles 4, Daniel 11, Acts 11

16 January 2012

Follow me. I'm following Christ.

"Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ."-1 Corinthians 11:1

This verse intimidates me. Paul is telling the Corinthian believers to consider his life and copy him because he is of Christ. In other words, he is saying that he is modeling Christian living. The end of chapter 10 provides some context for this brief, bold statement. Paul is telling them not to seek their own good, but the good of their neighbors (10:24). He then goes on to say, "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved." 

Does Paul really mean that I am to do everything for the glory of God? Does he really mean that I am to be wholly other-centered so that many might be saved?  I think he does mean that.

Every time I come upon this verse, I do some self-reflection. Could I rightly echo Paul? Could I say to my children, "Look at me. Live the way I am living. Act the way I do."? In many ways, I would struggle to offer my kids that challenge. I am selfish with my time. I am often quickly irritated. I do not "do all to the glory of God."

What I do hope I am able to model for my kids and that they will imitate is my utter dependence upon the Gospel. I want them to see that I am nothing apart from the redemptive work of Christ in my life. I want them to know that there is no sin so big that Christ's blood will not atone for it. I want them to see God glorified in my every word and action. I want to be able to say to them, "I am not perfect, but one who is loves me so much that he gave himself for me."

Follow me. I'm following Christ.

Daily Reading: Matthew 24, Numbers 27, 1 Corinthians 11, Revelation 8, Job 2, Psalm 149, Proverbs 30, 2 Chronicles 2, Daniel 9, Acts 9

15 January 2012

The Glorious and Gentle One

I remember hearing stories as a child about the unbelievable power of tornadoes.  They could flatten cities in minutes, yet there they often left unusual effects in their path of destruction.  Homes destroyed, yet babies left sleeping. One car picked up and set gently on top of another. In 1964, a home with 10 people was picked up and transported a quarter mile, and no one was injured.  The story that I always found the most amazing, though, was the story of a tornado driving a piece of straw through a fencepost. Extreme power, yet intricate precision. I found several pictures of the phenomenon on the Internet and it's truly amazing.

I also have difficulty holding the juxtaposition in mind of a God who is both all-powerful and gentle at the same time. Yet we see this picture of God throughout Scripture. Revelation is a particularly good place to see this picture of God, the Glorious One.  People fall down and worship him. He rules supremely. In Revelation 7:11-12, it reads, "And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, 'Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.'" The angels around the throne of God worshiped his glory.  Psalm 148 tells us that all of creation will worship him.  From the weather to the creatures of the sea, from the plants to the mountains, from the birds of the air to the beasts of the field, from innocent children to powerful kings--all worship his majesty.

Yet the all-powerful God is also gentle. Revelation 7:15-17 says,
    “Therefore they are before the throne of God,
        and serve him day and night in his temple;
        and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
    They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
        the sun shall not strike them,
        nor any scorching heat.
    For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
        and he will guide them to springs of living water,
    and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

As we sit before the throne of God, serving him night and day and worshiping his glory, he comforts us, he protects, and he nourishes us. The God before whom all creatures will fall down in worship will wipe away our tears. The God before whom mountains melt like wax (Psalm 97:5) will protect us from scorching heat. He will give us streams of living water. 

The same God who has the power to flatten cities is gentle enough to be able to put an unbroken piece of straw through a telephone pole. Glorious, yet gentle.

Daily Reading: Matthew 23, Numbers 26, 1 Corinthians 10, Revelation 7, Job 1, Psalm 148, Proverbs 29, 2 Chronicles 1, Daniel 8, Acts 8

14 January 2012

Loving God completely

But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” -Matthew 22:34-40 

Recently, I have been reflecting a lot on the idea of loving God completely.  Matthew 22:37 says that the great commandment is that we are to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind.  In other words, we are to love God with our whole person.  Yet, from what I have observed, most of us fail to do so. Some people, like me tend toward the intellectual side.  I am edified by studying theology. I enjoy wrestling through complex biblical issues. Apologetics, or the intellectual defense of the faith, is one of my favorite things to study.  Others seem driven by emotion.  The are deeply moved by worship songs, and the psalms. God helps them to feel deeply. They become overwhelmed by how much God loves them. Still others are primarily driven by loving and serving others.Yet, according to this verse, we are to love God with all of our being.  Thabiti Anyabwile said it this way, "The fullest expression of Christian living has to be a combination of God’s truth entering the head, igniting the heart, and outworking through the hands."

Daily Reading: Matthew 22, Numbers 25, 1 Corinthians 9, Revelation 6, Song of Solomon 8, Psalm 147, Proverbs 28, 1 Chronicles 29, Daniel 7, Acts 7

12 January 2012

Eyes around and within

Sometimes as I read through the 10 chapters in the Grant Horner plan, certain themes or words stand out. Today, the word "eyes" showed up in 5 of the 10 chapters.

In Matthew 20, Jesus was again being followed by a large crowd of people as he often was. Two blind men called out to him, "Have mercy on us, Son of David!" He turned to them and asked what they wanted him to do. They said, "let our eyes be opened" and he took pity upon them, restoring their sight (Matthew 20:29-34). After reading this first passage, I was reflecting that, as a believer, Christ has done this for me as well. He has given me eyes to see him.

In Revelation 4, there are 4 living creatures in the throne room of God. It says that they are "full of eyes in front and behind" (Rev 4:6) and "full of eyes around and within" (Rev 4:8).  As I was meditating on this passage, I was wondering to myself, what was God revealing to John when he showed him these many-eyed creatures surrounding the throne of heaven? I suspect that these creatures were given many eyes to behold the infinite majesty of God.  Later in verse 8, we discover that these creatures, night and day, cry out in praise to God, "holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, who was and is and is to come."  These created beings were presumably also created to see and what they saw drove them to cry out in praise of the Glorious One. 

In a final passage (Daniel 5), King Belshazzar was partying with his friends. He called for the vessels from the Jewish temple to be brought in so that he and his lovers might drink from them. In Daniel 5:4, it says, "They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone." Just then, however, a human hand appeared and wrote on the wall, terrifying the king. No one could read the message. They lacked the eyes to see.  Daniel was called in. He told the king that God punished the pride of his father Nebuchadnezzar, yet Belshazzar refused to live in remembrance of what happened to his dad. He was proud and idolatrous. Like his father, Belshezzar refused to honor the God who held his breath in his hands.  He refused to give glory to the one to whom all glory was due. He refused to open his eyes. 

Every day, we live in a world surrounded by blind people. We serve the gods and gold and silver, and celebrity, and fame, and sex. Pray that God would open the eyes of unbelievers and that he would open ours ever wider to behold his glory. 

Daily Reading: Matthew 20, Numbers 23, 1 Corinthians 7, Revelation 4, Song of Solomon 6, Psalm 145, Proverbs 26, 1 Chronicles 27, Daniel 5, Acts 5

11 January 2012

Book Review: When people are big, and God is small

I like Ed Welch.  He's a clinical neuropsychologist by training, but his heart is for the gospel.  He is currently a faculty member at CCEF.  I've read and reviewed a few of his books in the past including A Banquet in the Grave and Blame it on the Brain. This book, When people are big and God is small: Overcoming peer pressure, codependency, and the fear of man (1997), may be my favorite thus far.  In the book, Welch addresses the broken concepts of the popular self-esteem and codependency movements. He provides a biblical critique of the psychological needs theories that have dominated the self-help movement for too long.  Welch sees many of the problems we encounter in relationships as resulting from an underdeveloped fear of God and an overdeveloped fear of man.  He suggests that when we fear God rightly, we will be less prone to fearing the opinions of others.  Briefly, he wrote, "the person who fears God will fear nothing else."  This is a well-written, gospel-centered book that will help you to refine your understanding of the fear of God.  4 stars. 

God's Sovereignty in Politics

The Republican primaries are in full swing with Mitt Romney taking both Iowa and New Hampshire. Perhaps he is your candidate. Perhaps not. (If you are a Republican, he will be soon enough).  Maybe you do not care who wins because you are an Obama backer. Whatever the case, people can get really worked up about politics. It used to be every 4 years. Now it seems that every few months, people are getting hot under the collar when it comes to politics. 

On the one hand, I am glad to see people demonstrating more civic interest. It seems that we are finally coming out of a long period of apathy.  People are making their voices heard. On the other hand, as Christians, we need to have a biblically grounded perspective.

As I was reading this morning, two passages highlighted God's sovereignty in establishing rulers and kingdoms. As Daniel is again interpreting the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, he ultimately has to share some bad news with the king, essentially that he would lose his kingdom for a time. In Daniel 4:25, he says, "you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will."  Make sure you appreciate the end of the verse.  God rules the kingdoms of men and he gives those kingdoms to whom he will.  God oversees all governments.  He establishes all thrones by his sovereign hand. 

The second passage I read this morning was from Acts 4:27-28.  The gathered believers prayed, "for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place."  In this prayer, we learn that Herod and Pontius Pilate, who together approved the murder of Jesus, were predestined to their positions by the sovereign God of the universe.

Sometimes, when someone not to their liking is elected, I think Christians believe that God is in heaven shaking his head at our stupidity. I think Christians believe that God wishes we had chosen more wisely.  But God's sovereignty leaps from the pages of scripture from the beginning to the end.  Obama is president because God allowed him to be.  Romney won the first two primaries because God sovereignly ordained him to do so. Scott Walker is facing a recall election in Wisconsin because God permits it.  Whether he is recalled or not will ultimately be a part of God's sovereign design. 

So as Christians, we should get out and vote. God ordained that process too.  We should speak passionately about the issues, ideally grounding them in biblical authority. But we must recognize that God is ultimately in control not only of the final outcome, but the details as well.

Daily Reading: Matthew 19, Numbers 22, 1 Corinthians 6, Revelation 3, Song of Solomon 5, Psalm 144, Proverbs 25, 1 Chronicles 26, Daniel 4, Acts 4

10 January 2012

Praying the Bible

I feel like I cheated a little bit this morning by reposting something I wrote a few years ago. I thought I would take the opportunity to give an example of something that I have been doing recently with the Grant Horner program/3650 Challenge. Each day, as I read through the 10 chapters, I write down a verse that strikes me in a particular way. When I am done reading, I pray through those verses.  I think it is a good practice to speak God's words back to him. I also think that it helps us to remember what we are reading.  So, as an example, here are the verses I wrote down this morning and (approximately) how I prayed through them. 

Matthew 18:4--Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Father in heaven, I thank you that you love children and childlike faith. So often, my pride runs away with me. I assume that I am what I am based on my own strength and that keeps me from approaching you humbly. Lord, grant me the humility of a child that allows me to know that you are the ultimate provider and that I can rest fully in you.

Numbers 21:5--And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.”

God, it is so easy to look at the Hebrew people and scoff at their error, wondering how they could grumble so much so soon after having been freed from slavery. But I confess that I too grumble, looking longingly back at Egypt. Forgive me for the sin of grumbling. Grant me eyes to see the mercy you have bestowed by freeing me from my slavery to sin. Teach me, O Lord, to trust in you, that even in the desert, you are sovereign and good. 

1 Corinthians 5:12--For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?

God, help me to understand the difference between a haughty judgmental attitude and biblical exhortation. The world loves to remind Christians of their favorite verse, "do not judge."  Indeed, God, you are the judge of the world. Teach me to love my unbelieving neighbor and to confess my critical attitude to you.  Lord teach me also to balance truth and love as I talk with my brothers and sisters in Christ.  According to this verse, Lord, we believers are to judge one another. We are to hold one another to the standards that you have set forth, but allow me to do so with grace and love. I pray also that you would allow those outside your fold to be brought into saving grace so that they do not have to face your eternal judgment.
Revelation 2:4--But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.

Lord, I confess that I do not entirely understand what this verse means. Grant me clarity, that I might know what you mean by "the love you had at first". If you mean the love for Christ, grant that I may never lose the love I have for you.  Teach me always to love Christ, to find joy in my salvation through his work.  Forgive me for times when I fall away from that first love.

Song of Solomon 4:7--You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.

God, what a beautiful picture of a husband's love toward his wife. I am reminded that the wife is aware of her flaws, yet the husband beholds his wife as a flawless beauty. Thank you for the flawless beauty of my wife God. Each day with her is a gift and I grow more and more in love with her. By your grace, you have given me a heart shaped perfectly for her. She is truly a part of me and I thank you for granting me the gift of marriage to my best friend, my beautiful bride.  Keep my eyes for her only. Protect me from the vile images that threaten to assault from every side. Keep our marriage bed always pure by your sustaining grace. 

Psalm 143:6--I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah

God, I know of what David speaks. Each day, drinking at the well of your word, I desire you more. As my thirst for you is satisfied, I become thirstier still. Quench me, fill me, satisfy me Lord. 

Proverbs 24:11--Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.

God my heart aches for my loved ones who don't know you. They have no idea they are "stumbling to the slaughter." They do not see that you are their only comfort in life and in death. They trample upon your name. They blaspheme you. God save them. Pull them back from the pit. God, if I can be your instrument in their salvation, grant me the boldness and the words I need to communicate the truth of your word and your work.  Lord, I also pray specifically for my children. Grace and Ian have professed their faith in you. Help me to lead them to continue to pursue you. Keep them from being taken away to death. 

1 Chronicles 25:1--David and the chiefs of the service also set apart for the service the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, who prophesied with lyres, with harps, and with cymbals. 

Thank you for music God. Thank you for men like David and Asaph who wrote down psalms for our edification. I praise you that you have allowed us to be singers, God and that we have the privilege of glorifying you with song. 

Daniel 3:17-18--If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

Spirit, grant me a persevering faith like these three young men. I am amazed by their stalwart dedication to you and their refusal to bow to false God's even upon the threat of death. Lord, I do not know what the future holds for Christians, but I pray that you would grant me this kind of faith in the face of opposition.
Acts 3:15--and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.

God, I am humbled to know that my sins too served to kill the Author of life, that my sinfulness nailed you to the cross. Thank you for your forgiveness and your steadfast love toward me. God, I pray that I may be a witness to the resurrected Christ as well, and that others may know his grace and love toward sinners. 

I then continue on praying for my family and the days events, but I think this has been particularly edifying for me. Regardless of the reading plan you are following, praying the scriptures will likely prove beneficial. 

Repost: Uncompromising Men

For my reflections on the 3650 challenge, I was going to write about something else this morning, but this story about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo kept coming back around as I thought about what to write.  Particularly after yesterday's post about Daniel's faith, this seems like a worthwhile follow up.  Rather than re-crafting the story, I thought I would re-post this essay I wrote about 2 years ago with the title of "Uncompromising Men".


Yesterday, I watched Braveheart, my all-time favorite movie. William Wallace was described at one point in the movie as “uncompromising.” I want to share 2 more stories about uncompromising men.

First, in Daniel 3, we read of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo--3 of the young Hebrew men brought into King Nebuchadnezzar’s palace when he seiged Israel. These 3 young men, probably in their teens or early 20s, were commanded to bow down to the golden image created by the King just like everyone else in the kingdom, but they refused. The king was furious and told them they would be tossed into a furnace if they didn’t comply. In verses 16-18, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, 'O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.'” The furnace was kindled 7 times hotter. The men who carried these three to the furnace were consumed by the heat and died. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo were delivered. They were uncompromising.

Second, there was an early church father named Polycarp who fought for the truth of scripture, rejecting early church heresies. He managed to live into his 80s when he was finally apprehended by the Roman government. The Roman proconsul asked him to proclaim “Cesar is Lord”. He refused. Polycarp was subsequently burned at the stake and when his captors were going to nail him to the stake to secure him, he said, “Leave me as I am. For He who grants me to endure the fire will enable me also to remain on the pyre unmoved, without the security you desire from nails." Though he died, Polycarp was uncompromising.

There are a few differences between these stories. In the first, the men were young, in the second he was old. In the first, they lived, in the second he died. There were also similarities between them. In both cases, men were unabashedly committed to following God. In both cases, an oppressive ruler was commanding them to worship someone else. In both cases, the men were offered a final way out. In both cases, the men refused. They weren’t concerned about following the social order. They weren’t looking around to see how other guys were handling it. They didn’t care what other people thought of them. They were uncompromising.

Gentlemen, we live in a society where men who compromise are not only accepted but celebrated. We are allowed to proclaim staunch commitment (in other words worship) to football, NASCAR, or hunting, but when we say that Jesus is the only way to salvation, we are cast aside as insensitive. Relativism rules. Even American churches, we are encouraged to compromise. We are told, "You have your idea of God, I’ll have mine." Men, God calls us to step up. God calls us to follow Him wholeheartedly. We are told to lead (I Cor 11). We are told to pray (I Timothy 2:8). We are called to be uncompromising.

In Luke 9:62, Jesus says “no one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” These men above, did not look back. They kept their focus right.

One of my favorite quotes comes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor who was also killed by the Nazis. He said, “Besides Jesus, nothing has any significance. He alone matters.” Men, be uncompromising about the only thing that matters, Jesus Christ.

Daily Reading: Matthew 18, Numbers 21, 1 Corinthians 5, Revelation 2, Song of Solomon 4, Psalm 143, Proverbs 24, 1 Chronicles 25, Daniel 3, Acts 3

09 January 2012

Daniel's mustard seed faith

 I am awed by the truly faithful. I believe in God with all my heart. I believe that Jesus Christ was God who came in flesh, lived a perfect life and died for my sins some 2000 years ago on the cross. In fact, my life is grounded on that Rock. I believe I have been forgiven for my sins and that the Holy Spirit has been gifted to me (Acts 2:38).  Yet sometimes, I read the stories in the Bible and I am awed by the faith I see. 

In Daniel 2, King Nebuchadnezzar was troubled by a dream. He called for the magicians, enchanters, and sorcerers to interpret his dream. However, they were not only to interpret it, they were to tell him what his dream was. If they could not perform, they faced death; specifically, he told them they would be torn limb from limb and their houses would be laid to ruins. They recognized the sheer impossibility of the task.

Daniel received the details of the king's request and he asked to see the king. Daniel 2:16 reads, "And Daniel went in and requested the king to appoint him a time, that he might show the interpretation to the king."  What is truly amazing though is that God had not yet revealed the dream to Daniel. His faith in the sovereign provision of God allowed him to request audience without knowing all the details, trusting that God would provide. The rest of the story shows that Daniel asked his friends to pray for him and he also sought God in prayer. God does reveal the dream and the interpretation to Daniel, who in turn gives it to the king, directing all glory to God.  Daniel truly stepped out in faith. He had confidence in God's provision and God did provide.

Flash forward a few hundred years and we read of the faith of the disciples of Jesus (Matthew 17:14-20). They tried to heal a young boy with seizures, but they could not. Jesus does so immediately. When they ask him why they failed, he replies, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you." 

Daniel had that kind of faith. May the Spirit grant the rest of us who proclaim the name of Christ that kind of faith as well. 

Daily Reading: Matthew 17, Numbers 20, 1 Corinthians 4, Revelation 1, Song of Solomon 3, Psalm 142, Proverbs 23, 1 Chronicles 24, Daniel 2, Acts 2

08 January 2012

Mercy for doubters

Sometimes, I forget what a good little book Jude is. Tucked in right before Revelation, it is easy to gloss over. Jesus' half-brother issues a strong exhortation to the believers to hold fast to the faith in the midst of an unbelieving, and often antagonistic, world (Jude 17-21). He cautions that unbelieving false teachers will even creep into the church and subvert the true gospel of Jesus Christ (Jude 4). Today, though, I was particularly struck by Jude 22, which says, "And have mercy on those who doubt."

Jude knows that in this world filled with "boasters and malcontents", there will be those who are filled with seeds of doubt. They may want to believe, but are trying desperately to find truth in the cacophonous messages proffered by an unbelieving world.

As Christians, we have the message of life. Contend for that faith that you have (Jude 3), but do so with mercy.

Daily Reading: Matthew 16, Numbers 19, 1 Corinthians 3, Jude, Song of Solomon 2, Psalm 141, Proverbs 22, 1 Chronicles 23, Daniel 1, Acts 1

07 January 2012

Building a legacy

David wanted to build the temple, but because of his years of war, God did not permit him (1 Chronicles 17:1-15), promising instead that his son Solomon would build it. Yet David, a man who deeply loved God, did not throw up his hands and cast aside his vision when he learned he would not be the one to build it. Instead, he provided the necessary scaffolding for his son. He worked diligently to ensure that Solomon would have what he needed when the time came because he recognized his son, was "young and in experienced" (1 Chronicles 22:5) and the temple would need to be "exceedingly magnificent". As Christians, we can learn a lot about parenting from David's provision for Solomon.

First, he provided materially. David ensured that Solomon would have sufficient building supplies when the time came for him to build the temple. He provided cut stone, wood, and iron, and bronze "beyond weighing" for the temple (v. 2-4). David knew what would be needed for the project and he set to providing it for him.

As parents, providing materially for our children's spiritual walk is also important. Ensuring that they have Bibles will help provide scaffolding for their growth. Beyond this, exposing them to good literature, music, and art, Christian or not, will encourage their growth.

Second, he provided a story.  In verses 6-10, David tells his son about God, specifically about God's plan for David, Solomon, and the temple. He explains to him that God has not permitted him to build the temple, but that Solomon is to build it. Solomon can see that his father's heart is dedicated to the things of God (v. 7). Through this story, David is able to demonstrate how important God is to him.  David also demonstrates the story is not finished, that it continues with Solomon. 

As parents, we also should share our story with our children. We should be diligent to teach them about how God has worked, and is continuing to work, in our lives. We should not stop there, though. As we share our history, we should not conclude with "the end." Rather, we should project our story into the future, reminding our children that God wants them in the story.

Third, he provided instruction. Actually, David offers a benediction of sorts (v. 11-16).  "Now, my son, the LORD be with you, so that you may succeed in building the house of the LORD your God, as he has spoken concerning you. Only, may the LORD grant you discretion and understanding, that when he gives you charge over Israel you may keep the law of the LORD your God. Then you will prosper if you are careful to observe the statutes and the rules that the LORD commanded Moses for Israel. Be strong and courageous. Fear not; do not be dismayed. With great pains I have provided for the house of the LORD 100,000 talents of gold, a million talents of silver, and bronze and iron beyond weighing, for there is so much of it; timber and stone, too, I have provided. To these you must add. You have an abundance of workmen: stonecutters, masons, carpenters, and all kinds of craftsmen without number, skilled in working gold, silver, bronze, and iron. Arise and work! The LORD be with you!” David grounds his blessing in the power of God to do what he has commanded. He desires wisdom for his son and encourages him to hold to the word of the Lord. He does not stop there; he tells him to "arise and work." Solomon is not just to ponder the wisdom of God, he is to actually move forward in building the temple; nor is he to charge ahead without wisdom. Rather, David encouraged work wisely grounded.

Christian parents are also to wisely instruct our children. David offers a benedictory prayer of sorts. He gives blessing and instruction, grounded in the word of the Lord. Pray for your kids. Pray with your kids. Instruct them in the way they are to go.

Finally, he provided helpers. In verse 17, we read that "David commanded all the leaders of Israel to help his son." 

The Christian church is a body of believers, a community. We should not expect to go it alone in our parenting. We should seek help and encouragement from others, just as we provide help and encouragement to them. 

Daily Reading: Matthew 15, Numbers 18, 1 Corinthians 2, 3 John, Song of Solomon 1, Psalm 140, Proverbs 21, 1 Chronicles 22, Ezekiel 48, Romans 16

06 January 2012

Yes, the cross, but...

Ideas are everywhere. Advertisers seek to sell us the best new thing. Scientists seek for the latest discovery, hoping to add another reference to their curriculum vitae. Drug users seek the next greatest high.  Always the message is, "give me something new."

Churches too have been affected, or perhaps infected, by this mentality. Seeking to fill people's next temporal whim, they continually tinker with their programming, music, and even their preaching to give the people what they claim to want. The seeker-sensitive church movement, though their formative intentions were probably right and noble, have often drifted from the message they loved at first trading the precious jewels of the gospel for trinkets from a gumball machine. Unfortunately, many of the "seekers" have realized that the trinkets these churches offer in place of the gospel are just bits of garbage sold for a quarter.  Who wants that?

What was Paul's message? Always, always the gospel.  Even when he spoke of other things it was with the gospel clearly in sight. He understood that the only hope for Jews and Gentiles was through the power of the cross.  In 1 Corinthians 1:20-25, Paul writes, "Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men."

The church doesn't need something new. It needs the cross. It may seem foolish, but God is pleased to use it's message.  The most successful church planter in history understood that, perhaps the rest of us should too.  
Daily Reading: Matthew 14, Numbers 17, 1 Corinthians 1, 2 John, Ecclesiastes 12, Psalm 139, Proverbs 20, 1 Chronicles 21, Ezekiel 47, Romans 15

05 January 2012

Book Review-Gospel Wakefulness

I've been waiting a while to read this book--since well before it was released actually. Gospel Wakefulness (2011) by Jared Wilson is one of several recent books calling Christians back to the gospel.  Wilson is a good writer. He's combines his wisdom with a writing style that makes him fun to read. In this book, he also shares his heart, which adds richness to the book. 

Starting at the books conclusion, his friend said to him, "I feel like all this gospel-centered this and gospel-centered that is just our version of 'smurfy'". Wilson doesn't think so and I hope he is right. This book demonstrates the centrality of the gospel in all things.  I never get tired of it and it is clear that Wilson does not either.

The influences of Luther, Piper, and Edwards come through in this book. (At times, perhaps Brother Lawrence as well). Wilson is clearly a student of Calvinism, but not just any Calvinism--the Calvinism that beholds the majesty of God, basking in the wonder of his never ending glory. He writes, "there are only two steps to gospel wakefulness: be utterly broken and utterly awed. But neither of these things are things you can really do. They are things only God can do for you" (p. 35).  His gospel wakefulness has a necessary dependence upon a gracious God.

Wilson also suggests "one of the marks of gospel wakefulness is the failure of anything else to thrill the soul like the gospel" (p. 59). I know where he is coming from.  The gospel fills my thoughts--it fills my affections--yet I long for a deeper and deeper filling of God.

Another aspect of this book that I really enjoyed were the stories from his gospel wakened friends. "Andrew's Story" was particularly moving (p. 162ff). Andrew is a young man who has suffered with a deep depression. He reflects on the the holy week.  He writes, "I'm so afraid. The thought of my God asphyxiating on a Roman cross is too much. The image of him lifeless, wrapped in a burial shroud--the blood is not even wet--hurts so much that I can barely breathe. Man himself has killed his only hope. To see all-surpassing Love and to beat it without mercy, to nail it senselessly to a slab of poorly fashioned wood--what is despair if it is not that? It's sickening. When Love is gone, what is there left to believe in?

"But Easter Sunday always comes. It comes while the world sleeps. It comes with the gentle fury that only God almighty could bring to pass. In the twilight of the world's end, we have the subversion of death itself. It happened here on this earth. No one even knew.

"I cannot grasp it. It is too unbelievable, to unreal, to imagine. To bring life out of nothingness. It cuts me so deep. Hope resounds even in the darkest corners of the earth. That Love could defeat cruelty, misery, fear, suffering--can you believe that?

"Even the darkest night will turn to morning.  The sun is always rising. Even the worst sinners can be made clean. Evil--Death itself--obliterated by Love. Saturday is over, Sunday is here."

Does this move you? Does the gospel rock your world? Or do you find yourself racing through your quiet time so that you can "get on" with your day? Do you wish the pastor would hurry up so you can start watching the game?  Do you skip out on singing at church or are you holding back the tears, contemplating the wonder of the gospel? 

That's what this book is about.  5 stars.

Joy in dark times

So if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many.-Ecclesiastes 11:8

According to the dictionary definition, to rejoice means "to show or feel great joy or delight." Sometimes, though, I think society promotes misguided causes for rejoicing.  In the video below, listen to what the people say brings them joy--relationships, work, the beach, a magazine. Can a person still rejoice when all of those things are taken away, as they were for Job? Is true joy still possible?

Ecclesiastes 11:8 initially seems to uphold the modern mindset. If we live many years, we are to rejoice in all of them. We are to feel great delight throughout our lives. Most of us, I suspect, understand the wish to always experience great delight. We want life to be a never ending river of happiness, delights, and temporal pleasures. Even many churches sell this message--if you just pray hard enough, or give enough money, God will bless you materially.  

Yet the next phrase seems to grind against the first. We rejoice in all of our years, but there will be many dark days? How are we to reconcile those two seemingly disparate ideas?  Cancer comes. Jobs are lost. Loved ones die.  Dark days. Yet we are to rejoice in them? 

How can we find rejoice in days of darkness? We rejoice not because of the fleeting trinkets the world offers, but we rejoice because our hope is in the God of our salvation.

Even in the days of darkness. 

    Though the fig tree should not blossom,
        nor fruit be on the vines,
    the produce of the olive fail
        and the fields yield no food,
    the flock be cut off from the fold
        and there be no herd in the stalls,
    yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
        I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
    GOD, the Lord, is my strength;
        he makes my feet like the deer's;
        he makes me tread on my high places.
    To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.
-Habakkuk 3:17-19 ESV

Daily Reading: Matthew 13, Numbers 16, Hebrews 13, 1 John 5, Ecclesiastes 11, Psalm 138, Proverbs 19, 1 Chronicles 20, Ezekiel 46, Romans 14

04 January 2012

Use your strength on your people

Last night, we had the singles group at our house and we talked about marriage together with the members of our small group. One of the questions they asked had to do with fostering friendships once married. I communicated to them that I have seen my relationships change since married and that it is often difficult to maintain them in the same way.  But that doesn't mean they aren't worth fighting for.

A dear friend of mine is very good at intentionally fostering relationships with friends and loving them well. I explained that for me, it is much easier to fall into the rut of not calling others, not pursuing them. This morning, I was struck by 1 John 4:20 says, "if anyone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar, for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen." This leads me to ask myself, am I loving my brothers and sisters well or am I, like the writer of Proverbs says isolating myself so as to seek out my own desires (Proverbs 18:1).

I am challenged to do a better job of intentionally pursuing relationships with others whom I do not normally interact with at church. I specifically need to pray that God enables me to love well those whom I would not normally seek out.  1 Chronicles 19:13 says, "be strong, and let us use our strength for our people and for the cities of God, and may the Lord do what seems good to him." 

Let us use our strength for our people.

Daily Reading: Matthew 12, Numbers 15, Hebrews 12, 1 John 4, Ecclesiastes 10, Psalm 137, Proverbs 18, 1 Chronicles 19, Ezekiel 45, Romans 13

03 January 2012

What of faith?

God's word is a never ending well spring. I never cease to be amazed when I read passages that I have read dozens of times and they strike me in a new way. I read Romans 12 this morning and verse 3 says "for by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned" (Romans 12:3). What really struck me this morning was the tail end of that verse, where it reads "each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned." I have two thoughts.

First, there seems to me a strong tendency among believers to gaze outward as a measure of faith rather than upward and inward. Many of us look at others and compare our faith with theirs. On the one hand, we may see some who appear much more holy than we do and become discouraged, or even question our own salvation. On the other hand, we may look at others who claim to follow Christ yet seem much less righteous than we do. Both represent forms of legalism and judgment. According to this verse, however, God assigns faith in measure. Some may have more, some less. The command is that we are each to use our gifts for the kingdom in proportion to our faith. Romans 12:6 reads, "Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith." I think Matthew's account of the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1-9) also captures this differential fruit bearing among believers. 

Second, I have mentioned to others in the past that according to the construction of Ephesians 2:8-9, faith is also a gift of God. We don't receive salvation because of faith that comes from us, the faith we have is also a gift. This verse from Romans would seem to support the notion that faith is granted to believers. It reads "according to the measure of faith that God has assigned." To assign means to appoint or ascribe. Our faith, and the measure of it, is assigned to us by God. We believe in God because he appoints us to believe. We have faith because God appoints faith to us. 

Let us read God's word for what it says and ascribe praise to his name for the faith that he grants by his grace.

02 January 2012

Don't shrink back

Learning about apologetics may be one of my favorite past-times. Notice I said reading, not practicing. I have studied the Bible diligently. I know the philosophical arguments for the the existence of God. I see the gaping holes in scientific naturalism. I have amassed a large amount of knowledge, but I rarely share it with non-believers. I suppose that fear of man must play prominently in my hesitation, or a concern that I have not yet learned enough, or general laziness.

As I was reading this morning, I came upon Numbers 13 where the Lord tells Moses to go into Canaan to spy out the land. Upon their return from this land "flowing with milk and honey", Caleb said "let us go up at once and occupy it for we are well able to overcome it" (Num 13:30). Caleb understood the promises of God and had confidence in the plan. Those who accompanied him, however, were unsure. Numbers 13:31 reads, "Then the men who had gone up with him said, 'We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.'"

How often do you feel that way? You find solace in God's word and comfort in a community of believers, yet when you think about moving out of a culture of churchianity (to borrow a phrase from Michael Spencer), you lose your nerve. You begin to think "I am not able to go up against these non-believers for they are stronger than I am."

Pray for boldness and the confidence that only God can provide. He will go with us. His reward to the faithful will endure. Hebrews 10:32-35 reads, "But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward."

When you read these words, what effect do they have? Are you able to envision having an enduring joy even when people are stealing your possessions, damaging your home, or threatening your safety? What about if they simply don't like you? Can you honestly say, with the writer of Hebrews, that your possession is a better one, that Christ is your great reward and that everything else pales in comparison to the surpassing joy of knowing him?

Psalm 135:13-14 says,    
Your name, O LORD, endures forever,
        your renown, O LORD, throughout all ages.
For the LORD will vindicate his people
        and have compassion on his servants.

We are his people and he promises to have compassion on us. He will soothe our fears, strengthen our resolve, and go with us as we bring his word to a world in need of a savior.

01 January 2012

White like snow

(This year, I want to interact on a deeper level with my devotional reading. I continue to follow Grant Horner's reading system, which has been a blessing to me for over 2 years. This year provides the additional fellowship through Tim Challies' 3650 challenge. I am going to try to write about what I am seeing in the text on a regular basis, though I won't promise to do so daily. However, rather than reflecting on each passage, my goal is to identify connections between the text and to write about those. For example, two of the passages I read today were Matthew 9 and 1 John 1.  I am going to try diligently to stick to the passages I am reading each day). 

She wore her discouragement like a deep red veil. All of her hope was gone as she walked the streets alone. In the past, she sought help wherever it might be found. With each failed treatment, her hope dwindled like so many drops of blood from an unhealing wound. She had exhausted her resources. She had nearly exhausted her faith.

How long had she followed him? What wonders had she seen him perform? Whether a moment or a month, she finally plucked up enough courage to approach him. Matthew 9:20-21 reads, "And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, for she said to herself, 'If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.'" Her culture told her she was unclean, but this man had healed others. He forgave their sins. She likely knew that the religious leaders considered him a blasphemer (Matthew 9:2), yet he fixed what was broke and that was a cause for hope.

Her faith was not unfounded. "Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, 'Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.' And instantly the woman was made well." (Matthew 9:22). Jesus, followed by the masses, turned to the woman the masses could not help and he called her daughter. The term is affectionate. Her faith made her his child. Her faith in him made her clean.

He offers healing to the hopeless, fellowship to the faithful. According to 1 John 1:7, "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin." By his wounds, he heals the wounded. By his blood, he cleanses the faithful.

When you feel like this woman, when it seems that all hope is lost, remember that there is one who is eager to call you daughter. 

Goals for 2012

The past 2 years, I have written my goals for the year. Some of them I have accomplished, some not. In 2011, my goals were: 1) to write more frequently, 2) to read more broadly, 3) to yell at my kids less often, 4) to love God and love others more, and 5) to be more organized.

I accomplished 1 and 3 as well as 5 (kind of). I think I fell down on #2.  I haven't figured out how to quantify 4--it remains an important goal, however. 

This year, I would like to continue to grow in these areas. In particular, I want to continue to push myself to write. I hope to regularly dialogue with my devotional material. 

I also plan to buy fewer books. I have many books that I haven't read and several that I want to re-read again.

I want our family to eat out less often. It is rarely a healthy choice and it is expensive. We have been using e-mealz again recently.  This program seems to help us keep on track.

More broadly, I want to reflect upon God's grace as a general focus of my life.

Happy New Year.