June 13, 2014

B003D0TAM8.01._SX490_SCLZZZZZZZ_V190274968_Want to Grow Spiritually? God’s strategy is very simple.

Here are some thoughts by Tim Challies about how to fight temptation.

Given the price America paid in Iraq, it is sad to see where things are heading. Perhaps there is a lesson here.

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.


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


September 10, 2012

As we all know, the temptation to sin is powerful. Sometimes it seems that we have to sin. Here Mark Altrogge reminds us that this simply isn’t true.

We all want good, God-honoring marriages. When we do this we flourish. This piece reminds us flourishing is always penultimate. Here’s a Piper quote embedded in the article:

Marriage is not mainly about prospering economically; it is mainly about displaying the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his church. Knowing Christ is more important than making a living. Treasuring Christ is more important than bearing children. Being united to Christ by faith is a greater source of marital success than perfect sex and double-income prosperity.

I know I sound like a broken record, but here is another piece about the importance of men being men. We have way to many wimpy men these days. I do think the author (Owen Strachan) thinks a little too highly of The Bourne Legacy but he makes excellent points. Here’s a taste of what is in the article:

The boy-man is selfish, young, immature, addicted to games, immune to responsibility, foul-mouthed, and weak.  He’s overwhelmed by adulthood, so he chooses to stay in some sort of boyish fantasy.  He doesn’t want to build big things, meaningful things, like a family, a six-decade marriage, a socially and personally profitable career, or a gospel-driven church or missions effort.  He wants to make music, play games, follow sports, flirt with girls, loaf through life, bend the rules so he’s not accountable or inconvenienced in his selfishness, and ignore the need to help others.

Finally here Bill Mounce discusses gossiping. This is a temptation we all struggle with. What he writes is worth thinking about.

So gossips, hear this. You can go to church, sing loudly, give money, volunteer in the nursery, led a Bible study, wear your Christianity on your sleeve, be an elder — but no matter what you do, no matter what people think of you, it is all a sham, worthless. Your gossip invalidates everything you do. At least, that’s what the Bible teaches.

I had planned on running this yesterday but our Internet was down yesterday morning. This is vital truth.


March 12, 2012

There is a lot of interesting stuff out on the Internet this morning.

Here is a post by Justin Taylor and one by Denny Burk reminding us of just how small we really are. Here’s a quote from the Taylor piece:

In other words, you and everything you know resides on a tiny, wet rock nearly a million times less massive than the star that powers it, in a solar system one ten-millionth the diameter of our galaxy, which contains at least hundreds of billions of stars not so different from ours, in a Universe filled with hundreds of billions of galaxies, and maybe perhaps more.

The bottom line is that we can’t process how insignificant we are and how significant God is.

Psalm 8:3-4

3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,

The moon and the stars, which you have set in place,

4 What is man that you are mindful of him,

And the son of man that you care for him?

Here is a list of what some believe are the 10 most significant TV shows of all time. I bet you can’t guess numero uno. And, much to my chagrin, it wasn’t Star Trek.

How should we battle spiritual despondency (or temptation)? Here John Piper offers six strategies that Jesus employed in Gethsemane.

Speaking of temptation, below C. S. Lewis offers encouragement in light of our temptation and sin.

C. S. Lewis, letter to Mary Neylan, January 20, 1942:I know all about the despair of overcoming chronic temptations.

It is not serious provided self-offended petulance, annoyance at breaking records, impatience etc doesn’t get the upper hand. No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep on picking ourselves up each time. We shall of course be very muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home. But the bathrooms are all ready, the towels put out, and the clean clothes are airing in the cupboard.

The only fatal thing is to lose one’s temper and give it up. It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present to us: it is the very sign of His presence.–The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume 2 (Cambridge University Press, 2004), 507; emphasis original

(HT: Dane Ortlund)


February 22, 2012

Here’s an article highlighting how our government has changed it’s view on children.

I once heard Frederica Mathewes-Green say that every child born after 1973 was a “survivor.” That was the year that Roe v. Wade declared “open season” on the contents of the womb. But it appears the license to hunt Bambi was not enough. Now the government is making sure you have a rifle.

The Cult of Amazon Prime. Here is a very interesting piece about Amazon Prime. The author thinks we’re all heading in Prime’s direction.

How you think about consumption, commerce and your personal time is radically different depending on if you’ve join the cult — yet.

And to be clear, Prime is a cult you will be joining.

Here’s some wisdom from the Puritan John Owen about temptation:

A temptation, then, in general is anything that, for any reason, exerts a force or influence to seduce and draw the mind and heart of man from the obedience which God requires of him to any kind of sin.

In particular, it is a temptation if it causes a man to sin, gives him opportunity to do so, or causes him to neglect his duty. Temptation may suggest evil to the heart, or draw out the evil that is already there. It is also a temptation to a man if something is by any means able to distract him from his communion with God, or the consistent universal obedience that is required of him.

To clarify, I am considering temptation not just as the active force of seduction to sin, but also the thing itself by which we are tempted. Whatever it is, within us or without us, that hinders us from duty or provides an occasion for sin, this should be considered temptation. It could be business, employment, the course of one’s life, company affections, nature, corrupt, purposes, relations, delights, reputation, esteem, position, abilities, gifts, etc,, that provide the opportunity to sin or neglect duty. These are true temptations just as much as the most violent solicitations of Satan or allurements of the world. Whoever does not realize this is on the brink of ruin. –John Owen (Temptation, Banner of Truth), pp. 10-11

(HT: Erik Raymond)

Luther On Spiritual Warfare

January 13, 2012

The following is from a letter written in July 1530 to Jerome Weller, a 31-year-old friend who had previously lived in the Luther home, tutored his children, and was now struggling with spiritual despair:

. . Excellent Jerome, You ought to rejoice in this temptation of the devil because it is a certain sign that God is propitious and merciful to you.

You say that the temptation is heavier than you can bear, and that you fear that it will so break and beat you down as to drive you to despair and blasphemy. I know this wile of the devil. If he cannot break a person with his first attack, he tries by persevering to wear him out and weaken him until the person falls and confesses himself beaten.

Whenever this temptation comes to you, avoid entering upon a disputation with the devil and do not allow yourself to dwell on those deadly thoughts, for to do so is nothing short of yielding to the devil and letting him have his way.

Try as hard as you can to despise those thoughts which are induced by the devil. In this sort of temptation and struggle, contempt is the best and easiest method of winning over the devil.

Laugh your adversary to scorn and ask who it is with whom you are talking.

By all means flee solitude, for the devil watches and lies in wait for you most of all when you are alone. This devil is conquered by mocking and despising him, not by resisting and arguing with him. . .

When the devil throws our sins up to us and declares we deserve death and hell, we ought to speak thus:

“I admit that I deserve death and hell.

What of it?

Does this mean that I shall be sentenced to eternal damnation?

By no means.

For I know One who suffered and made a satisfaction in my behalf.

His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Where he is, there I shall be also.”

Martin Luther

(HT: Justin Taylor)

“Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s ground.  I know we have won many a soul through pleasure.  All the same, it is His invention, not ours.  He made the pleasures; all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one.  All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden.  Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable.  An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula.”

C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (New York, 1996), Letter IX.

(HT: Ray Ortlund)