Destinations

January 14, 2014

B003D0TAM8.01._SX490_SCLZZZZZZZ_V190274968_What helps us live a less sinful life? Cole Brown in his piece Lies My Pastor Told Me: “That Will Make You Sin” grapples with the question.

Married couples sometimes think, “I don’t deserve to be treated like this!” How can spouses reframe their thinking to avoid this potential troublesome thought?

Sam Allberry grapples with The Idol Behind Same-Sex Desires. The solution he offers is one that heterosexual people need to remember as well.

Speaking Truth in Love: Counsel in Community is free today only for Nook and Kindle.

Destinations

November 6, 2013

B003D0TAM8.01._SX490_SCLZZZZZZZ_V190274968_Why does it seem that God allows us to sin? Here is the Westminster Confession’s (5.5) answer:

The most wise, righteous, and gracious God doth oftentimes leave, for a season, His own children to manifold temptations, and the corruption of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and, to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon Himself, and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for sundry other just and holy ends. 

Put differently, God allows us to sin so that we might grow. Phil Ryken helpfully discusses this area of providence.

Is all sin created equal? I often hear that it is. All sin equally sends us to hell but all sin is not equal in gravity. Tim Challies discusses the issue.

Are you a Bible teacher? Do you use texts from both the Old and New Testament to talk about Christ? Trevin Wax encourages his viewers to be distinctly Christian. This is important encouragement for Christian teachers.

Keller – Why We Lie

August 22, 2013

I appreciate Timothy Keller’s honesty in this clip. He explains why he and his wife, Kathy, lie. We lie because we don’t trust God. Of course, this is the root of all our sin.

Destinations

January 9, 2013

B003D0TAM8.01._SX490_SCLZZZZZZZ_V190274968_Here is a very helpful piece on the key to a strong marriage. If you are married, this reminder will be valuable.

Ray Ortlund grapples with what Jesus meant when he told Peter, “Get behind me Satan.” Also, he writes about how this rebuke might look in our lives.

But Jesus can see that the reasonable “things of man” and the horrible “things of Satan” are both opposed to the redemptive “things of God,” so diametrically opposed that “the things of man” can serve “the things of Satan.” …

Any time you and I reject the cross and, in effect, rebuke our Lord for choosing that path for himself and us, can we be sure what influence will come out of our mouths next, even if we have also served as voices for God?

It took me most of my life to appreciate poetry. I always wondered why people didn’t just say what they meant. Some of you are way ahead of me here, but I finally realized that somethings just can’t be said with prose. Ray Ortlund’s son, Dane, quoting some of the masters (Lewis et al.), writes about the purpose of poetry.

Destinations

January 4, 2013

B003D0TAM8.01._SX490_SCLZZZZZZZ_V190274968_I never feel that I am reading enough. I already have enough books to literally last the rest of my life. With this problem in mind, here is a strategy to read 50 books this year. Let me know how it works for you.

Russell Moore asks whether the Pro-life side is really winning.

A feminist leader once said that most Americans are pro-life with three exceptions: rape, incest, and “my situation.” When the teenage daughter is pregnant, the theory is abandoned and bloodthirsty pragmatism rules. I fear this feminist is all too right.

Tim Challies reviews the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop TalkingIf you tend to be an introvert like me, Tim offers a helpful corrective in his analysis.

Sinclair Ferguson writes about How to Mortify Sin. Sinclair is always helpful.

Kevin DeYoung writes of three simple ways to pray using scripture: rejoice, repent, and request. Good stuff.

Even the Catholics struggle with egalitarian creep:

My Problem Exactly

December 19, 2012

Doug Wilson On Newtown

December 15, 2012

Here is some helpful perspective on yesterday’s tragedy from Doug Wilson:

Whenever you have to deal with something like the Connecticut shooting, something that simply crushes the heart, it is important to think carefully before speaking or writing. This is not the time to be debating gun control, drone attacks in the Middle East, and it is certainly not the time to be drawing ham-fisted comparisons to the abortion carnage. The reason for this is that the parents who are broken over this were parents who had chosen life, not parents who hadn’t. This does not mean that abortion is irrelevant to this tragedy, for it certainly is not, but we want to make sure we locate it as a clear point of gospel relevance. Otherwise we just come off as opportunists who are just looking for a chance to haul the topic of conversation over to a particular hobby horse. But in the aftermath of something sick like this, we need to reconnect with the permanent things. If we don’t point to transcendental realities in a time like this—gospel truths—then we might as well sign a peace treaty with the darkness now.

I have often said that nativity sets should include a set of Herod’s soldiers—that is as much a part of the Christmas story as the shepherds, or the star, or the wise men. These traditional figures all glorified Christ in His coming, but the reality of such bloody soldiers was the reason He came. Nothing illustrates the need for His mission to us better than that appalling loss to Ramah. An early English carol, “Unto Us is Born a Son,” has a verse that understands this juxtaposition of humility and adoration over against the haughtiness of pride and blood.

This did Herod sore affray,
And grievously bewilder
So he gave the word to slay,
And slew the little childer,
And slew the little childer.

And Rachel wept for her children, for they were no more.

Two things should stand out about this. First, while I noted that this is not the time to call out those who would use the tragedy to promote gun control—or to call them names on the Internet—we mustconfront those who would continue their lockdown policies of gospel control. And by gospel, I mean the whole counsel of God for a lost and sinful race—the restored order of things, repentance for sin, and true faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. If you want a society which refuses to name the name of Jesus, and yet is somehow free from these sorts of outrages, you want something that this sinful world cannot ever provide. We can have no salvation without a Savior. God sent a Savior to us, and we have no saviors of our own, just a lot of pretenders. His invitation to our generation is the same as it has been for every generation, and it is “come with me.” We cannot be saved unless we do.

It is not possible to build a culture around a denial of God-given standards, and then arbitrarily reintroduce those standards at your convenience, whenever you need a word like evil to describe what has just happened. Those words cannot just be whistled up. If we have banished them, and their definitions, and every possible support for them, we need to reckon with the fact that they are nowgone. Cultural unbelief, which leads inexorably to cultural nihilism and despair, is utterly incapable of responding appropriately to things like this, while remaining fully capable of creating them. In the prophetic words of C.S. Lewis, “In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

This shooting was horrendous, but far worse is the fact that our blind seers have no idea what to say about it. The horror happened, and it was immediately followed by the horror of countless individuals saying wildly inappropriate things about it. We have monsters in our midst, and vapidity in our highest council chambers, not to mention the monsters there too, and all of them want to slouch toward Bethlehem. God have mercy.

And so this leads to the second point. The reason we need to have fixed and God-given standards is not so that we might climb up some moralistic ladder, rebuilding a mythical past where these sorts of things didn’t happen to us. No, these sorts of things have always happened. We live on a screwed-up planet. We must have a God-given, fixed standard so that we may know why we need forgiveness so much. God’s law is not to pat us on the back and tell us what fine fellows we are. God’s law is given to provide a proper shape for our repentance. In moments like this, we are aghast, but our “repentance” is formless and void. We need the shape of God’s holy Word so that we know how shapeless we have become. We need the Spirit of God to move on our waters.

And here is where abortion really is relevant, along with all the other awful things we do to children. We do not need to talk about these things as political issues—however appropriate and necessary that may be in its time and place. But before we can even think about that, we need to come to grips with the fact that, at the personal level, it is plain that an aching bloodguilt rests upon our nation. I am not talking about our officials, though they are included. I am talking about the millions of us who have occasioned it, paid for it, obtained it, provided it, and funded it. According to Scripture, blood is something that returns to those who shed it. It also returns to the land where it was shed. And our vast reservoir of guilt is larger and deeper than it has ever been.

The only blood that does not return with compounded guilt is the blood of Jesus. His blood comes to us for cleansing, and not for condemnation. His blood does not return with guilt, and it is the only way that all the other guilt can be prevented from returning to us. An old gospel song points the only way to our salvation—“nothing but the blood of Jesus.” Nothing.

So we must confess that while the spirit of Christ is alive in the world, the spirit of Herod is not yet gone. And the only way to expel that kind of darkness is to boldly proclaim that Jesus came into this world precisely to destroy this kind of darkness through His death and resurrection. He was born in Bethlehem from Mary, and He was born again in Jerusalem, the first born from the dead. His grave, just like Mary, was full of grace.

This is a darkness that must be confronted, and it can only be confronted by believers who are prepared to wield the gospel—not as a sectarian talking point, but as real gospel for real sin, real balm for real pain, real light for real darkness. So go find your children, hug the little childer, thank God for the life that is in them, and teach them the Christmas story. We need it so much.

Sin, Petraeus, and Me

November 26, 2012

Here is my contribution to Bowman’s December newsletter:

Probably like the rest of you, I was saddened to read about the moral quagmire David Petraeus has stumbled into. I’d like to believe that our leaders have few, if any, flaws. I respected Petraeus for his discipline, service to our country, and leadership ability. Petraeus seemed to be the model leader. No doubt, through the years, many who thought they knew General Petraeus believed that he was the master of discipline. You might have heard of his “12 Rules For Living.” His first rule is, “Lead by example from the front of the formation. Take your performance personally—if you are proud to be average, so too will be your troops.” This is obviously great truth. Sadly, his example is now probably irreparably broken.

What happened to General Petraeus happens all the time. The parade of rich, powerful people who bungle their lives through moral failure is ongoing. When our politicians aren’t behaving badly all one has to do is to cast one’s gaze in the direction of Hollywood to be reminded of the betrayal the human heart is capable of. If truth be told, this same seamy, seedy reflex is found in all our hearts to one degree or another. Regardless of how we clean up on Sunday, our depravity is always looking for self-expression. The line from the 60th question of the Heidelberg Catechism that we often recite on Sundays is so true: “Although my conscience accuses me that I have grievously sinned against all God’s commandments, have never kept any of them, and am still inclined to all evil …” (emphasis mine)

My guess is that General Petraeus had no intention of walking off the moral cliff. Again, I’d guess that he deeply regrets the pain he has caused his wife of 38 years and their two children. He says that his wife, Holly, is “far better than he deserves” and that he engaged in something “dishonorable.”

How is it that a man whose life that had revolved around discipline fails in one of life’s most important areas? We all understand temptation but how is it that we’ll throw all caution to the wind and play Russian roulette with a fully loaded gun? Aside from the pleasure and the sense that one is still vital, how did he expect the game to end? There are pleasures associated with sin (Heb. 11:25) but they are the pleasures of a steak dinner before one’s execution. Sin is humiliating and destructive. We all know this and yet when temptation comes we struggle with temporary insanity. We know that sin kills and yet we still rush to do it. Like Ulysses we need to tie ourselves to the mast so that the Siren song of sin doesn’t call us to our deaths.

Petraeus knew that what he was doing was wrong. He knew it would be an IED that would permanently fracture his family. Its destruction would ripple at least through the lives of his children. He knew this and yet he walked off the cliff. He pulled the pin. It doesn’t seem to matter that sin is wrong and that it will slice and dice our loved ones. We will still do it.

So what do we do? We can’t stay tied to the mast all the time. As we all know, the naked law doesn’t work. We can tattoo the Ten Commandments to the back of our hands and we’ll still use those hands to break every one of them. This is Paul’s point in Romans 7. This isn’t a try harder thing. The harder we try the more we fail. We don’t need law; we need grace.

Again, what works? Since we continue to sin there obviously isn’t an easy answer. I’d commend the usual strategies. Prayer, Bible study, and hearing the gospel preached are all vitally important. These tactics are important in that they can remind us of God’s grace. It is the love of God that “controls” us, 2Co 5:14. God’s love is the lashing around the mast that keeps us from plunging into the water. I could cite other passages that say the same thing. You remember the story of Jacob working to be able to marry Rachel. He worked seven years to be able to say, “I do.” Those seven years seemed “but a few days” (Ge 29:20). Why? He loved her. What produces the work of obedience in your life? The love of God. Immerse yourself in the love of God and you’ll find the delight of obedience. As you understand God’s love you will love him (1Jn 4:19). Love for him spurs our obedience.

Destinations

November 14, 2012

Here is some more good news for my fellow caffeine addicts.

A cup or two of coffee doesn’t just give you energy—it might make you a think a little more quickly. That’s not exactly a shocker, but for coffee drinkers, a new study showing that caffeine can improve verbal processing speed should put a nice perk in your day.

The Onion, my favorite news source, says that there are only four people who actually enjoy Facebook.

A comprehensive and groundbreaking new report released Monday by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project has found that only four users of Facebook derive pleasure of any kind from the popular social networking website.

According to the report, the remainder of the 950 million people registered with Facebook, despite using the site on a regular basis, take no joy in doing so, and in fact feel a profound sense of hopelessness and despair immediately upon logging in.

C Michael Patton offers sane direction about overcoming sin in our lives. Let’s face it, we need all the help we can get.

Remain encouraged my friend. There are few people who I know who are not in an ongoing battle with some sin. Those who say are not . . .well . . . they are lying!

“The wicked … and the devil who is their head, fulfill God’s biddings … They are constrained, willing or unwilling, to obey God … The Lord turns all their efforts to answer the end which he has decreed.”

– John Calvin