Friday, July 31, 2009

So Many Links (31 July 2009)

Bill and Ted's Excellent Quiz! (I got 5 out of 8)

Peeing on a wall, finally made practical.

Obligatory camel beauty contest of the day link.

Perhaps the Kindle could be used to read music too.

I will buy 7 if it not only replaces Vista, but actually strangles it to death first.

Word of the day: Prestidigitation.

How do I please God?

Idolatry Fail

Or, Isaiah 2:18: "And the idols shall utterly pass away."


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dubious | UPDATE


When my wife saw this post she said, "Thank you Lord for the juice!"

Making Connections

Steve McCoy writes compassionately and practically about how you can reach out to those around you, how you can make friends with strangers without much work at all. His ideas?
1. Always have church invite cards on hand (to those in my church, we have THOUSANDS that you can get from us).
2. Keep a tennis ball on hand and play "hotbox."
3. Keep extra ______ on hand to give to others.
4. Make sure you have a camera handy.
5. Be courageous.
See the whole thing for descriptions of each. Really good.

Can't Stand the Reformed Community

Matt Chandler:
I'm unapologetically Reformed, but nine times out of ten I cannot stand the Reformed community. I don't want to be around them. I don't want to read their blogs. They can be cannibalistic, self-indulgent, non-missional, and angry. It's silly and sad at the same time. Reformed doctrine should lead to a deep sense of humility and patience with others. How it produces such arrogance baffles me.

On Taking Charge of the TV

Randy Alcorn:
1. Keep track of how much time you spend watching.

2. Decide in advance how much TV to watch per week.

3. Use a schedule to choose programs for the week.

4. Keep your television unplugged, store it in a closet, and/or put it in a remote part of the house

5. Periodically "fast" from television for a week or a month.

6. Choose programs that uplift rather than undermine biblical values.

7. Use the "off" switch freely.

8. Use the channel changer frequently.

9. Watch and discuss programs together as a family—to avoid passivity and develop active moral discernment through interaction.

10. Don't allow young children to choose their own programs—that's the parent's responsibility.

11. Don't use television as a baby sitter.

12. Spend an hour reading Scripture, a Christian book or magazine, or doing a ministry for each hour you watch TV.

13. Consider dropping cable, Showtime, HBO, or any other service that you determine is importing ungodliness or temptation into your home.

14. If you find you can't control it—or you're tired of the battle—get rid of your television.
Click here for descriptions of each.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Schooling...the Apostle Paul?

JP with a helpful explanation of biblical inspiration:

Without the Gospel

Via TT, Calvin:
Without the gospel everything is useless and vain; without the gospel we are not Christians; without the gospel all riches is poverty, all wisdom folly before God; strength is weakness, and all the justice of man is under the condemnation of God. But by the knowledge of the gospel we are made children of God, brothers of Jesus Christ, fellow townsmen with the saints, citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, heirs of God with Jesus Christ, by whom the poor are made rich, the weak strong, the fools wise, the sinner justified, the desolate comforted, the doubting sure, and slaves free. It is the power of God for the salvation of all those who believe.

It follows that every good thing we could think or desire is to be found in this same Jesus Christ alone. For, he was sold, to buy us back; captive, to deliver us; condemned, to absolve us; he was made a curse for our blessing, sin offering for our righteousness; marred that we may be made fair; he died for our life; so that by him fury is made gentle, wrath appeased, darkness turned into light, fear reassured, despisal despised, debt canceled, labor lightened, sadness made merry, misfortune made fortunate, difficulty easy, disorder ordered, division united, ignominy ennobled, rebellion subjected, intimidation intimidated, ambush uncovered, assaults assailed, force forced back, combat combated, war warred against, vengeance avenged, torment tormented, damnation damned, the abyss sunk into the abyss, hell transfixed, death dead, mortality made immortal. In short, mercy has swallowed up all misery, and goodness all misfortune. For all these things which were to be the weapons of the devil in his battle against us, and the sting of death to pierce us, are turned for us into exercises which we can turn to our profit. If we are able to boast with the apostle, saying, O hell, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? it is because by the Spirit of Christ promised to the elect, we live no longer, but Christ lives in us; and we are by the same Spirit seated among those who are in heaven, so that for us the world is no more, even while our conversation [life] is in it; but we are content in all things, whether country, place, condition, clothing, meat, and all such things. And we are comforted in tribulation, joyful in sorrow, glorying under vituperation [verbal abuse], abounding in poverty, warmed in our nakedness, patient amongst evils, living in death. This is what we should in short seek in the whole of Scripture: truly to know Jesus Christ, and the infinite riches that are comprised in him and are offered to us by him from God the Father.

We Aren't Meant to Have an Easy Life

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Strenuous Spiritual Rest Found Only in the Church

Carl Trueman (replace 'theological students' with 'Christians'):
Too many theological students come unstuck not because they do not master the sophisticated intricacies of their chosen fields of specialization but rather because they failed their apprenticeships in the basics, the corporate disciplines of church attendance, submission to elders, hard work for the local body, and the individual disciplines which flow from these: private prayer and Bible reading, a crying out to God for his mercy, and a burning desire to be mastered by the Word of God. Successful theological students are never the subjects in theological study; rather they are always the objects of God’s grace. And the church is the place where they will be held accountable for these things. The church, not the seminar room, provides their only true home, their best classroom, and their best form of strenuous spiritual rest.

Prayer of Confession: Chase Out Evil Desires

Lord God, our rock and our refuge,
Help us in our weakness.
Chase out those evil desires than drain us and strengthen our feet to walk in
the way of your commandments.
May your grace and mercy triumph when our selfish efforts fail.
Give us power to live as your children in all our actions,
and to exercise sonship by conquering self.
Renew our faith by showing us your Glorious face. Amen.

No Perfect Ministers

John Newton (Richard Cecil, Memoirs of the Rev. John Newton, p. 107):
In my imagination, I sometimes fancy I could [create] a perfect minister. I take the eloquence of ______, the knowledge of ______, the zeal of ______, and the pastoral meekness, tenderness, and piety of ______. Then, putting them all together into one man, I say to myself, “This would be a perfect minister.”

Now there is One, who, if he chose to, could actually do this; but he never did it. He has seen fit to do otherwise, and to divide these gifts to every man severally as he will.
HT: JP via B

Monday, July 27, 2009

Why Everything Sucks

Preaching the Gospel to Yourself

Via Challies, Jerry Bridges:
Since the gospel is only for sinners, I begin each day with the realization that despite my being a saint, I still sin every day in thought, word, deed, and motive. If I am aware of any subtle, or not so subtle, sins in my life, I acknowledge those to God. Even if my conscience is not indicting me for conscious sins, I still acknowledge to God that I have not even come close to loving Him with all my being or loving my neighbor as myself. I repent of those sins, and then I apply specific Scriptures that assure me of God's forgiveness to those sins I have just confessed.
Those scriptures? Try:
As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12)

“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” (Isaiah 43:25)

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)

Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin. (Romans 4:7-8)

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

There are many others, including Psalm 130:3-4; Isaiah 1:18; Isaiah 38:17; Micah 7:19; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 2:13-14; Hebrews 8:12; and 10:17-18.

Willing to Live With the Mystery

Sunday, July 26, 2009

What Being a Pastor Feels Like

fail owned pwned pictures

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Midgets and Dwarfs

Still the best:

In the Details

Peggy Noonan line of the day:
The final (health care) bill, with all its complexities, will probably be huge, a thousand pages or so. Americans don’t fear the devil’s in the details, they fear hell is.
The whole thing is really excellent.

Your Calling and the Gospel

A few months ago I preached a sermon on the call of Peter (Luke 5:1-11). Now, I thought that I had preached the gospel. And in one sense, I did. I made it clear that when we come up against Jesus we see that we are sinners. But I also said that when we repent, Jesus leans in and says to us "Don't be afraid" which signifies that rather than sending us to hell, he will save us by his work on the cross. That is the gospel. But it isn't the holistic gospel. What I mean is that the gospel doesn't just speak into the first part of our life. It doesn't just save us, it is not just once and done. In truth, "angels long to look" upon the gospel because it is the glorious news that everything has changed. The death and resurrection of Christ flipped the universe on its head. And part of that flipping was our relationship with God.

Paul says that we are "new creations." But that doesn't mean that we've been given a do-over (or a 'mulligan' as so many preachers preach). If all Jesus did by dying was give us a second chance--if all he did was replace our souls with new ones--we'd immediately screw it all up again. If you read all of 2 Corinthians 5:17, you'd see that the hinge is not us, but Christ. It is the fact that we are new creations in him. And all that means is that what is required of us now is not our own righteousness, but Jesus' (see also 2 Corinthians 5:21). This is the gospel, the good news that you don't have to perform anymore, only believe. And more importantly for this discussion, this is true eternally. The righteousness of Jesus is not like training wheels. We don't stand in him for a while and then get to go out on our own when we learn enough. Thousands of years of Israel turning her back to God proved that we will never be good enough. What is needed is eternal protection, eternal change. And Christ supplies that.

Now when you understand this you start to see the gospel everywhere. Every moral exhortation, for example, is always wedded with the gospel. Take Colossians 3:2-3. Paul says simply, "Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth." Ok, why? "For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God." Without the gospel, you will go right back to doing works-righteousness. But Paul says that the problem is not that you aren't trying hard enough. The problem is that you don't believe what Christ has done for you. Simply put, the life of the believer is an excercise in believeing the gospel more thoroughly, more deeply.

Now back to the call of Peter. When I originally preached the sermon, I preached the gospel as the thing that saves you and then said "Now go put it into action and catch men to life." The problem was that I had asked them to be saved by grace initially, but be saved by works thereafter. It was a moralistic end to an otherwise gospel-centered sermon. How should I have ended it? Well, I think that I should have said that the only way you'll be able to heed the call God has on you is if you believe that Jesus accepted his. There is only one person in history, I would have said, who has truly and fully accepted his call. And his call was to drink from the cup of wrath. And this changes everything. When we think of Jesus who died on our behalf to catch men to life, we are given the power to do the same. And only then will we be able to endure the beatings and brusings of a life devoted to Jesus. In hardest of times, we can look to him who loved us and accepted the call no one else could have heeded. This is what will sustain us. And though it is a lesson not easily learned, I know it will sustain me.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

US Senator Franken Grills Sotomayor on Perry Mason Episode


Starting to pray now that they do away with term limits for senators before Franken has to go.

So Many Links (15 July 2009)

FYI: I am out of town for a week starting tomorrow so posts may be few and far between until I return.

On to the links you so desperately need:

Texting does not just threaten the youth's mind.

Finally: Typewriters are making a comeback.

I'm just sayin': The Abortion Administration.

Facebook messages will now be public by default.

Why you are fat (no, not you, you).

I Kissed Dating Goodbye redux.

CT's review of the new Potter movie (they gave it three stars, those heathens).

You don't need to agree on the Millennium to have a church.

Well, Calvin would have been my friend on Facebook.

"Was the atomic bomb or karate developed in five years?"

Swearing and the Gospel

I posted yesterday Derek Webb's new song "What Matters More." It is surely provocative and has me and countless others thinking. That will make any artist smile. However, I did say that there were two questions about the song that should be asked:

1. Should you ever, as a blood-bought believer, use a word that society has deemed impolite and vulgar to make a point?

2. Is the song itself a helpful rebuke to the legalism that is so rampant in the church today?

On Swearing: It's in the Bible Too

With respect to the first question, the immediate inclination of my heart says that there really is no need to swear when regular old words, if used with deftness and creativity, will do just fine. But then I think about the scriptures, and especially the prophets. To get their message across they wielded the strongest language imaginable. Take Ezekiel 23:20-21 for example:
There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses. So you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when in Egypt your bosom was caressed and your young breasts fondled.
Ezekiel's point, if you missed it, is that Israel is sinful. She dismissed God and worshiped idols like a whore worships her lover. Ezekiel believed that the only thing that would waken Israel from her licentious slumber was stirring, offensive language. Of course he could have said it another way. But he decided that the regular rhetoric wouldn't to the trick. And God, if you didn't notice, was cool with that.

So is Webb a prophet? And is he warranted in his use of that four letter word? I'll let you decide.

On Contrasting: Make Sure the Contrast is Actually There

The second question, it seems, is more important.

Denny Burk, whom I really respect, reflects on Webb's tune:
The song lampoons Christians who are more concerned about the moral status of homosexuality than they are about the tragedy of world hunger. Webb argues that “what matters most” is the “50,000 people who are dyin’ today” (presumably of hunger, if the 50k number indeed comes from Tony Campolo). Thus the lyrics seem to suggest that the remedy to Pharisaical moralizing about homosexuality is greater attention to relieving human suffering....I would suggest, however, that the best remedy to Pharisaical moralizing is the gospel.
Burk gets the answer right, but the problem wrong.

It seems to me that the song is not about those who do sacrificial service but about exposing legalism. Webb's point in bringing up those who do sacrificial service is not to say that legalists would be better off if they served sacrificially (though they might). Rather, he makes the comparison between the two types of people because it makes the legalist look so obviously immoral. No one would deny this. His song resonates with us because we are a relatively compassionate people. Of course it is much worse to say “Gay people are going to hell!” than to try and save those 50k people who die every day. The latter, in our culture, is morally superior to the other. So I would disagree with Burk insofar as he thinks that Webb is saying that the legalist’s legalism will be ameliorated by serving sacrificially. Webb would probably say a lot of things are morally superior to bashing gays. But, as least as this song is concerned, Webb thinks that what will make legalists stand out as morally inferior will be to pit them up against those who serve sacrificially.

On the other hand, what he seems to have done, unwittingly, is made a comparison that proves, ultimately, to be untrue. Though he doesn’t realize it, he has contrasted being self-righteous in one way with being self-righteous in another way. Though on the surface it seems as though serving sacrificially is morally superior to bashing gays, outside of the gospel, serving sacrificially is itself based in self-righteousness. And self-righteousness is a heinous act in God’s eyes whether it is done through legalism or relativism because it is based not on the work of Christ, but on your own concerted effort. So Webb, I would argue, tries to make a contrast that is not actually there.

The only true and helpful comparison could have been legalism as compared to the gospel. That is the only thing that exposes self-righteousness at its root and begins to change hearts. It changes hearts by showing legalists that we are all one in Christ Jesus. We are all sinners saved by grace, not by our works. And the same goes for those who serve the 50,000. When their self-righteousness is confronted with the gospel, they serve not because it makes them right with God or makes them good people, but because serving is the outcropping of what Jesus did for them at the cross.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Gossiping, Surreptitiously

They say that it is important to be able to 'vent' once in a while.
Well, they should realize that 'venting' is most usually gossiping.
Or, it is nearly impossible to 'vent' and not gossip.
Or, saying that you are only 'venting' is a way to feel good about dragging people through the mud.

What Matters More

Derek Webb is the edgiest Christian artists (and one of the best) since Keith Green. And I dig that. But he was bound to push the envelope "too far" at some point, and he has with his new album, Stockholm Syndrome. Now I put "too far" in quotes because what "too far actually is is debatable. In this instance, he has included in his song "What Matters More" a single use of a four-letter-word. There are two issues with this song and they are somewhat unrelated.

1. Should you ever, as a blood-bought believer, use a word that society has deemed impolite and vulgar to make a point?
2. Is the song itself a helpful rebuke to the legalism that is so rampant in the church today?

I have posted the song below, but be advised that you will hear the swear word. The lyrics below do block it out, however. My posting it does not mean I agree with him or his methodology. My posting it only means that I think he raises issues that would be helpful to discuss.

You say you always treat people like you like to be I guess you love being hated for your sexuality You love when people put words in your mouth' Bout what you believe, make you sound like a freak' Cause if you really believe what you say you believe You wouldn't be so damn reckless with the words you speak Wouldn't silently conceal when the liars speak Denyin' all the dyin' of the remedy Tell me, brother, what matters more to you?Tell me, sister, what matters more to you?If I can tell what's in your heart by what comes out of your mouth Then it sure looks to me like being straight is all it's about It looks like being hated for all the wrong things Like chasin' the wind while the pendulum swings' Cause we can talk and debate until we're blue in the face About the language and tradition that he's comin' to save Meanwhile we sit just like we don't give a s*** About 50,000 people who are dyin' today Tell me, brother, what matters more to you?Tell me, sister, what matters more to you?


Monday, July 13, 2009

Stop Boasting About Yourself on Facebook

Or Twitter or MySpace or blogs or anything.

I think a lot about 1 Corinthians 10:31: "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." Many Christians bandy this phrase about like they know what it means.

"Well, how should I live my life?"
"Oh, that's easy, do all things to the glory of God."
"Uh, ok. But what does that actually mean? Or, better yet, what does that look like?"

There are two ways to help explicate this passage:

1. To glorify, at its base level, means to give 'weight' to something. So in glorifying God, what we are doing is making God more 'weighty.' We are saying with our words or actions that God is important, that who he is and what he has done deeply affects us.

2. Or, we could replace the word 'glorify' with 'magnify.' John Piper likes to say that there are two ways to magnify God, and one of them is blasphemy. If you magnify God like a microscope, you make that which is tiny big. That is the wrong way to magnify God. But if you magnify God like a telescope, you make that which is ominously large clearer. You help bring into view that which is profoundly great and amazing. That is the right way to magnify God.

And so the question becomes, how do we magnify/glorify God in our lives? Well, the first step is to stop talking about yourself so much.

The problem with Facebook and Twitter (among others) is not that they are inherently evil. Of course they aren't. The problem is that they are the perfect medium for us to boast about ourselves. That is, we often act as though what is important is that we get glorified, not God. Think about it. Why do you want people to know that you just did the laundry, or that you are really happy you are eating a tuna sandwich, or that you just watched the performance "We Are the World" a ninth time at the Michael Jackson memorial? Not because you think society will move along better if this info is distributed. It's because you want people to notice you. You want them to find your status updates, your pictures, your info weighty.

And that unintentionally limits the power of the gospel. The most important thing in the world is not what you have done, but what Christ has done. When you focus only on what you have done and who you are, you reinforce the idea of self-righteousness not just in your heart, but in the hearts of your readers as well. Self-righteousness is the belief that what gets us right with God, or what makes us good people, is how we live our lives. It is our record that is important. But the gospel flips that idea on its head and says that it is your self-righteousness that got you into this mess in the first place and keeps you there. The gospel says, on the other hand, that Christ has come and wants to give his perfect record to you. The gospel is the good news that you can go from self-righteousness to Christ-righteousness. It isn't about you, it is about Jesus.

Paul says that when he boasts, he only does so in the cross of Jesus (Galatians 6:14). He believed this because it is the only way he could make God weighty. Pointing to the record of Jesus, not his own, is how he would magnify his creator. On the other hand, when his boasts were not in the cross of Jesus, that meant that he had forgotten the gospel and had gone back to boasting in himself. And so, I would say, use Facebook in the same manner. When you boast--which is to say, whenever you post anything--do so in the cross of Christ.

Now Paul, however, doesn't mean that you only say the words "Jesus died for me." His point is that you live your life in such a way that "Jesus died for me" is obvious. So the question for us, then, is how can we live our lives on Facebook or Twitter or blogs in such a way that we are consistently proclaiming the cross of Christ? Here are some suggestions.

1. Before your post anything, ask yourself, "How can I make God weighty right now?" Or, think like John: "He must increase, but I must decrease," (John 3:30).
2. Don't be afraid to speak directly about what Christ has done for you. You have the best news in the world. Spread the word.
3. Show gratefulness in your posts. Or, don't grumble. (Philippians 2:14)
4. Share how God is working in your life, what you are learning, how you are growing.
5. Share a bible verse that has recently affected you.
6. Post a quote from an author.
7. Share links to articles or videos.
7. Be funny, but don't be immodest.
8. It is good and right to be real. Share that you do the laundry or that you like tuna sandwiches. But if that is all you post about, check yourself.

How would you add to this list?

Carter on the "Now This..." News Culture

Joe Carter always has must read stuff. Today is no different. On the culture of instant, always changing, rarely grounded in context news culture, he writes:
As a Christian, I’m expected to reject this “Now, this . . .” mindset in favor of an eternal perspective, viewing events not just in their historical but in their eschatological context. But I can’t do that if my attention is focused on the churning detritus of the 24-hour news cycle. Besides, events that are truly important are rarely those captured on the front page of a daily paper or found scrolling across the FOX News ticker.

The late Malcolm Muggeridge admitted, “I’ve often thought that if I’d been a journalist in the Holy Land at the time of our Lord’s ministry, I should have spent my time looking into what was happening in Herod’s court. I’d be wanting to sign Salome for her exclusive memoirs, and finding out what Pilate was up to, and—I would have missed completely the most important event there ever was.”

Indeed, imagine if CNN’s Anderson Cooper had been a reporter during that era: “. . . three revolutionaries were crucified on Golgatha today. Included among the executions was a man called Jesus, who some Jews considered to be the messiah. Those hopes were dashed, however, around three P.M. when Roman soldiers declared Jesus dead. And now, this . . . ”
The whole thing has some more fab quotes. Check it out and stop hitting the refresh button over at (I'll try to stop, too).

Marriage Based on Grace Given to Sinners

Being a husband is not about getting your way, or proving you are right, or convincing your spouse that they need to change. Being a husband is about sacrificing in such a way--being sacrificially kind, being sacrificially forgiving, and being sacrificially loving--that they change on account of the grace displayed in your life. Or, being a husband means laying down your life as Christ laid his life down for the church while she sat in sin. It is not the call to repentance that changes hearts; it is the news of grace given that enables and elicits the repentance in the first place.

Why is this so hard to learn?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Happy Birthday John Calvin

We are in your debt because you pointed us so faithfully to the man who paid ours.

(Illustration by Krieg Barrie)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Two I AM's

Self-righteousness is believing I AM.

The gospel is believing IN and ON the I AM.

So Many Links (09 Jul 2009)

Morally awesome: Pay for My Abortion party.

Click here if you need to know how to erase your hard drive (i.e. you are a nerd).

At the end of the day, at the end of the day needs to go.

Philisophical arguments against Twittering (e.g. [1] Would Jesus Twitter? Probably not. [2]Therefore, Twittering is wrong.)

Michael Sweet!

Speaking of which:

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

United Breaks Guitars

I usually hate the literalness of country music. But, as a guitar owner myself, I can't help but love this song.

Insane MJ Quote of the Day

Cornel West of Princeton (!), cited by John Kaas:
It's almost like a crucifixion, in terms of the cross you have to bear. We reap the fruits of the resurrection, in terms of the power that emanates from [Jackson's] sacrifice. He sacrificed his childhood because he loved us so. He didn't just entertain us, he sustained us.

Also on MJ's worship, Krauthammer (not insane):
Well, soldiers die dignified, sacrificial lives, and they are not celebrities. I think the pathology here is the celebrity culture, which is why you have the media coverage.

We haven't seen anything like this outpouring of sentiment since Princess Diana, and at the time of her death, you had to ask yourself, what did she accomplish? What exactly had she done?

Winston Churchill got a third of a million at his funeral; she got 10 times as much. He saved the Western civilization; she wore clothes nicely. And Jackson was sort of the apotheosis of that here in America...She was never accused, Princess Diana, of the monstrous deeds that Michael Jackson was, [nor] some of the less monstrous of which he admitted to. That was whitewashed away on account of his celebrity.

And I think that is the feeling of unease people have, the adulation and the worship a man who had a tragic and deeply flawed life.

Your Suffering as the Center of the Universe

Carl Trueman, writing on those who rely, in debate, on how they feel, rather than on what the substance of the debate actually is, which usually results in their getting offended:
The idiom of pain and suffering places the individual at the centre of the universe and makes him or her the measure of all things. In other words, it panders to the idolatry of fallen human nature. Suddenly, it is my experience, my feelings, my pain, which are the most important things. Sure, I have never known what it is like to see my loved ones gassed and cremated at Auschwitz, but I can be a victim too: I have lost my job, or been sworn at while driving, or had my opinions belittled in a blog somewhere. I don't know the pain of those who have really suffered - but my own trivial discomforts are just as important because I am me, I am the centre of the universe as I know it, and I deserve to feel good about myself. To deprive me of this is simply cruel.
The whole thing is wonderfully dry, biting and true.

You Should Probably Follow Piper on Twitter

Because he says stuff like this:
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Phil 4:13), like go hungry, get cancer, be killed and go home.
Follow him here.

And for less obvious reasons, follow me here.

He Who is Alone With His Sin is Utterly Alone

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in Life Together, reflecting on James 5:16:
He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone. The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everyone must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship, living in lies and hypocrisy. But it is the grace of the Gospel, which is so hard for the pious to understand, that says: "You're a sinner, a great desperate sinner. Now come, as the sinner that you are, to the God who loves you" ...A man who confesses his sins in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself; he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

TIME Has Hope For Marriage


Pretty interesting cover story over at Time today on the recent high-profile marriage failures (think Gosslin's and Sanford's) and what they say more generally about the state of marriage in America. Though the answers are few and far between, at least some in the mainstream are coming to the realization that 'traditional family values' (used in the best sense of the phrase) actually make societies stronger.

Caitlin Flanagan, the author of the piece, has one main point: kids suffer tremendously in single-parent homes. She writes:
A lasting covenant between a man and a woman can be a vehicle for the nurture and protection of each other, the one reliable shelter in an uncaring world — or it can be a matchless tool for the infliction of suffering on the people you supposedly love above all others, most of all on your children.
She goes on to detail sociologists and researchers who have discovered that kids without two parent households tend to do far worse than those who have married parents. "There is no other single force causing as much measurable hardship and human misery in this country as the collapse of marriage. It hurts children, it reduces mothers' financial security, and it has landed with particular devastation on those who can bear it least: the nation's underclass." Some 39% of babies are born outside of wedlock, so reports the CDC. That, Flanagan, asserts, is tragic.
On every single significant outcome related to short-term well-being and long-term success, children from intact, two-parent families outperform those from single-parent households. Longevity, drug abuse, school performance and dropout rates, teen pregnancy, criminal behavior and incarceration — if you can measure it, a sociologist has; and in all cases, the kids living with both parents drastically outperform the others.
Adults today, she says, "are increasingly less willing to put in the hard work and personal sacrifice to get" to lasting, meaningful marriage. They are painfully narcissistic to the point that they will sacrifice career and family to get what they want. And because they see the institution only as a way to increase pleasure, they will of course avoid it altogether or at least abandon it when the going gets tough.
We might as well hold the wake now: there probably aren't many people whose idea of 24-hour-a-day good times consists of being yoked to the same romantic partner, through bouts of stomach flu and depression, financial setbacks and emotional upsets, until after many a long decade, one or the other eventually dies in harness.
Flanagan ultimately says that the answer has to do with the kids.
Or is marriage an institution that still hews to its old intention and function — to raise the next generation, to protect and teach it, to instill in it the habits of conduct and character that will ensure the generation's own safe passage into adulthood? Think of it this way: the current generation of children, the one watching commitments between adults snap like dry twigs and observing parents who simply can't be bothered to marry each other and who hence drift in and out of their children's lives — that's the generation who will be taking care of us when we are old.

Who is left to ensure that these kids grow up into estimable people once the Mark Sanfords and other marital frauds and casual sadists have jumped ship? The good among us, the ones who are willing to sacrifice the thrill of a love letter for the betterment of their children. "His career is not a concern of mine," says Jenny Sanford. "He'll be worrying about that, and I'll be worrying about my family and the character of my children." What we teach about the true meaning of marriage will determine a great deal about our fate.

Now it must be said that Flanagan really has no way of answering this question with any depth. She is given a few pages to write something expansive and comprehensive when really only a million pages would have sufficed. Still, you can't help but find her final answer deflating. She has clearly given up the idea that two people could actually stay married because they love each other. "Sacrifice for the sake of the kids." Altruistic, yes. The right answer, no. She has promulgated an old idea, one born out of a culture in the 1950's that prided itself on duty and sacrifice and good morals. Yes, in ages past we have been more moral. But we were moral because we were more moralistic. And you can keep that sort of thing up for quite along time. But, as you can see now in 2009, not for long.

Flanagan unwittingly reinforces the idea that what marriage needs is more hard work. What is needed, she has said, is a stronger work ethic, what is needed is more devotion to the kids (as if our love for them will be purer than love for our spouses). If all we have is "work harder" and "love your kids more," we will lose. As long as it is about our own ability to do things, as long as it is about our own ability to love and not be narcissistic, we will fail. Yes, we will keep up the charade for a while. But only for a while.

This idea of self-sacrifice is, in truth, self-righteousness. Or, it is the belief that you are capable of doing what is needed to in order to be good, in order to get right with God. But self-righteousness is self-defeating. It is dishonoring to God (it is sin), and it is really unhelpful to live a good life. When you try and pull yourself up by your bootstraps, it's not just that you won't be able to. You'll eventually quit trying and pursue some other, more insidious boot. Thus it is the case with marriage and raising kids. As long as the only impetus to do good is your own effort, or even pretty little children, you will constantly fail and be drawn away to other areas where you can't fail. Relying on your ability to love your spouse and your kids will never be enough. What one needs is the gospel.

Paul gave us the real reason for marriage in Ephesians: "'Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.'" This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church," (5:31-32). Paul is letting us off the hook. He is saying that the impetus for love is not some self-wrought endeavor conceived of and accomplished on our own. Rather, we must look to the only person who has actually accomplished pure love: Jesus. What did Jesus do for the church? He died for her. And that is not just our example. It is our power. It is only in the strength supplied through the redeeming and transforming work of Christ that we could ever say no to a mistress or a mailman. It is in the finished work of Christ, the one who gave us his perfect righteousness, that we will win. When we regularly dwell on--no, when we continually demand and devour--the gospel, only then will we begin to do what is right.

Now this is not to say that you shouldn't use everything at your disposal to fight temptation. Yes, be like Ward and June Cleaver. Discipline is surely lacking in our culture (or as C.S. Lewis wrote, we are people without chests). But know that if you don't find a way to slip a foundation of gospel underneath your works, you'll go right back to doing things your way. And your way will get you nowhere (or, shall we call it hell?).

Gunga Galunga

Monday, July 6, 2009

If You Want to Be a Hero, Be a Eunuch

You can listen to the sermon I preached on below or download it here.

The article I quote at the end (on recently fallen high-profile Christians) was from Mark Galli in CT. It is really wonderful. Two sections I appreciated most:
I sometimes wonder if becoming "sanctified" in this life is mostly about becoming increasingly aware of just how much we are, in the words of the Book of Common Prayer, "miserable sinners," and that, really, "there is no health in us."

Sanctification certainly means this much: having the courage to face that reality and not flinch. That courage comes from knowing the merciful judgment and the humbling grace of God, knowing that God has judged the ugly reality of our lives, condemning it to its rightful death. And, at the same time, knowing that he has accepted us in all our sordidness, welcoming us as if we were as righteous as we sometimes imagine ourselves to be!

It is God's utter acceptance of us that allows us to look at our miserable sinfulness and not flinch. If that's not the final step in sanctification, it is certainly a prerequisite to any other step. And it's about all most of us will experience in this life.

Note how one writer put it in reflecting on the Gosselin debacle. (I'll leave the writer anonymous, because my beef is not with her.) The sentiment expressed is widespread in our movement. After rightly suggesting that the flaws of Jon and Kate reflect our movement's flaws, she says that we must do things differently: Find new role models, practice forgiveness better, and take marriage vows more seriously. Do, do, do. Then she concludes, "Then, and only then, will Christians have something to offer the world."

The problem, of course, is that there is no empirical evidence to suggest that Christians will actually do these things consistently. Not private Christians. Not public Christians—it's only a matter of months, maybe days (!) before another scandal will be revealed in the press.

Such moral exhortations are no doubt needed, but we must never believe that "then and only then" will we Christians have something "to offer the world." What we offer the world is not ourselves or our moral example or our spiritual integrity. What we offer the world is our broken lives, saying, "We are sinners saved by grace." What we offer the world is Jesus Christ and him crucified.

It Had Everything to Do With Her Gender and Social Class

Ross Douthat in the NYT on Sarah Palin:
Here are lessons of the Sarah Palin experience, for any aspiring politician who shares her background and her sex. Your children will go through the tabloid wringer. Your religion will be mocked and misrepresented. Your political record will be distorted, to better parody your family and your faith. (And no, gentle reader, Palin did not insist on abstinence-only sex education, slash funds for special-needs children or inject creationism into public schools.)

Male commentators will attack you for parading your children. Female commentators will attack you for not staying home with them. You’ll be sneered at for how you talk and how many colleges you attended. You’ll endure gibes about your “slutty” looks and your “white trash concupiscence,” while a prominent female academic declares that your “greatest hypocrisy” is the “pretense” that you’re a woman. And eight months after the election, the professionals who pressed you into the service of a gimmicky, dreary, idea-free campaign will still be blaming you for their defeat.

All of this had something to do with ordinary partisan politics. But it had everything to do with Palin’s gender and her social class.

Your Life is Too Safe

Q: What is God?

A: God is a Spirit,(1) infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, (2) wisdom, (3) power, (4) holiness, (5) justice, (6) goodness, (7) and truth. (8)
1. John 4:24. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

2. Psalm 90:2. From everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.
Malachi 3:6. For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore are ye sons of Jacob not consumed.
James 1:17. The Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
1 Kings 8:27. But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?
Jeremiah 23:24. Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? Saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? Saith the Lord.
Isaiah 40:22. It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in.

3. Psalm 147:5. Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite.
Romans 16:27. To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen.

4. Genesis 17:1. And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.
Revelation 19:6. And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.

5. Isaiah 57:15. For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
John 17:11. And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.Revelation 4:8. And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.

6. Deuteronomy 32:4. He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.

7. Psalm 100:5. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.
Romans 2:4. Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

8. Exodus 34:6. And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.
Psalm 117:2. For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever. Praise ye the Lord.
From the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

Me World

Doug Groothuis:
Hi, this is Me.

You need to know everything about Me. Here are hundreds of photos of Me. I am cool, cute, in the know, have photogenic friends, and those who aren't make Me look better. I can strike a pose, even hundreds of them: Me on display for you.

You need to know all My likes and dislikes, too: My favorite TV shows, movies, video games, foods, celebrities, clothes, tweets, and more. My trivia is your treasure--because it's Mine.

It's MeWorld: just Me for everyone out there, because you need to know Me. I need more friends on Facebook, more twitter partners, more posts on My blog, more cell calls, more links to Me, more emails to Me, more YouTube videos featuring Me.
You need to know everything about Me.

Don't you? Hello...

On Slandering Oysters

Charles Spurgeon, on ministers who can't teach. I am posting it for no other reason than I found it hilarious. Lectures to My Students, p. 240:
Whatever you may know, you cannot be truly efficient ministers if you are not 'apt to teach'. You know ministers who have mistaken their calling, and evidently have no gifts for it: make sure that none think the same of you. There are brethren in the ministry whose speech is intolerable; either they rouse you to wrath, or else they send you to sleep. No chloral can ever equal some discourses in sleep-giving properties; no human being, unless fitted with infinite patience, could long endure to listen to them, and nature does well to give the victim deliverance through sleep. I heard one say the other day that a certain preacher had no more gifts for the ministry than an oyster, and in my own judgment this was a slander on the oyster, for that worthy bivalve shows great discretion in his openings, and knows when to close. If some men were sentenced to hear their own sermons it would be a righteous judgment upon them, and they would soon cry out with Cain, 'My punishment is greater than I can bear.' Let us not fall under the same condemnation.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Dead Men Don't Come to Life On Their Own

Calvin, in the Institutes, on the fact that ritgheousness comes not from good works from from free grace, 3.12.5:
But the proof will shine even clearer if we set the grace of God directly against the natural condition of man. For Scripture everywhere proclaims that God finds nothing in man to arouse him to do good to him but that he comes first to man in his free generosity. For what can a dead man do to attain life?

Friday, July 3, 2009

What is the Reformed Understanding of the Gospel?


Thursday, July 2, 2009


Tim Keller:
Sin is us substituting ourselves for God.
Salvation is God substituting himself for us.

A High View of Sin

Carl Trueman:
I have a high view of human sin. I know that, left to themselves and placed in the perfect storm of circumstances, anyone is capable of anything. Remembering this basic fact means that, though we can be disappointed and surprised by individual falls, we should not see them as failures of the gospel but failures of sinful human nature. It is what I jokingly call Zen-Calvinism: once you are enlightened about and understand the universal power of sin, you can never be wrong-footed by the fall of another. Further, it should also prevent us from standing in pharisaic judgment on such friends. Sin needs rebuking and, if necessary, church discipline; but we do this in a spirit of love to God and out of a desire to see the fallen one restored.

Fastest Road Cars, Head to Head

We are Missing the Party

Randy Alcorn:
Most people live unprepared for death. But those who are wise will go to a reliable source to investigate what’s on the other side. And if they discover that the choices they make during their brief stay in this world will matter in the world to come, they’ll want to adjust those choices accordingly.

Yet you may be wondering, How can I change my perspective so that I truly look forward to Heaven?

Consider these Scriptures:

Luke 6:21 says, "God blesses you who weep now, for in due time you will laugh."

Luke 15:10 says, "There is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents."

Nobody wants to leave a good party early. Christians faced with death often feel they’re leaving the party before it’s over. They have to go home early. They’re disappointed, thinking of all they’ll miss when they leave.

But the truth is, the real party is under way at home—precisely where they’re going! They’re not the ones missing the party; those of us left behind are. (Fortunately, if we know Jesus, we’ll get there eventually to join the party.)
Whole thing.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sandra McCracken: Shelter

In the arms of a good Father
You can go to the deep water
Where the questions, we have left unspoken
Come out in the open
We will find shelter here

So I lay down, what I cannot hold in my hands
Every sorrow and hope spinning out of control
And here I find sweet resolution comes in letting go
And we will find shelter here

When I look back I can see,
And when I am old I'll remember these things
Like a mountain of stone
And the longing that makes me believe...

There is a tree by the blue river
Where the shade stretches wide over
In this breaking we are hand and glove
Come with me my love
We will find shelter here
We will find shelter here

So Many Links (1 July 2009)

Sarah Palin listens to AC/DC and Van Halen when she runs. Can she be President, pleaeeese?

Dave Ramsey strikes again: Family sells Extreme Makover: Home Edition house to get out of debt.

It pays to play golf (really well).

On the spiritual gift of giving.

Chapman's build orphan home.

Texting and emailing while driving is way worse than drunk driving.

Classic YouTube of the day:

On Al Franken, Finally Getting His Senate Seat

Charles Krauthammer:
I think it will be refreshing having at least one senator who admits he is a comedian.

The Innocence of Man Compared to God's Purity

Calvin, in the Institutes, 3.12.4:
This is the truth. Awakened consciences, when they have to do with God's judgment, recognize (Christ's atoning work and covering) as the only safe haven in which they can securely breathe. For if the stars, which seem so very bright at night, lose their brilliance in the sight of the sun, what do we think will happen even to the rarest innocence of man when it is compared with God's purity?