Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Spectacular Sins and Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ

What does the fall of Satan reveal about Christ’s glory? How does Adam’s sin magnify our Lord? How does the glory of Jesus shine through in Judas’ betrayal? How is the honor of Jesus at stake in the sin and evil, the suffering and the calamities and the wickedness, which abound in the world today?

In this book John Piper seeks to provide a biblical perspective on God’s sovereign and righteous governance over even the sinful acts of men. History’s greatest sins do not thwart God’s purposes to save his people and glorify his Son; they fulfill them. And being grounded in this

hope is the key to “Christ-exalting strength in calamity and Christ-exalting courage in conflict.”

Listen to John Piper read the introduction to this book.

Listen to, read, or watch the sermon series that inspired this book.

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org.

Why We Share the Lord's Supper

(by Jim Smith)

Listen: "Why We Share the Lord's Supper"1 Corinthians 11:17-34

The Lord’s Supper

"17 But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.

"23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, 'This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.' 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

"27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— 34 if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come." (1 Corinthians 11:17-34. English Standard Version.)

The Choking Game: Risky Youth Behavior

(by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

The choking game is a dangerous activity that older children and early adolescents sometimes play to get a brief high. They either choke each other or use a noose to choke themselves. After just a short time, children can pass out, which may lead to serious injury or even death from hanging or strangulation.

Since 1995, at least 82 children and adolescents have died as a result of playing "the choking game," according to a new study by CDC's Injury Center. Researchers analyzed media reports of deaths of children and adolescents from the choking game. Highlights from their findings address some common questions about this public health threat.

What is the choking game?

The choking game is a dangerous activity that older children and early adolescents sometimes play to get a brief high. They either choke each other or use a noose to choke themselves. After just a short time, children can pass out, which may lead to serious injury or even death from hanging or strangulation.

Who is most at risk for death from playing the choking game?

• Boys were much more likely to die from the choking game than girls; 87% of victims were boys. • Most of the children that died were 11-16 years old (89%).
• Nearly all of the children who died were playing the game alone when they died.
• Deaths have occurred all over the United States; the choking game isn't limited to one area of the country.

What are the warning signs that a child is playing the choking game?

Parents, educators, health-care providers, or peers may observe any of the following signs that can indicate a child has been involved in the choking game:

• Discussion of the game or its aliases
• Bloodshot eyes
• Marks on the neck
• Wearing high-necked shirts, even in warm weather
• Frequent, severe headaches
• Disorientation after spending time alone
• Increased and uncharacteristic irritability or hostility
• Ropes, scarves, and belts tied to bedroom furniture or doorknobs or found knotted on the floor
• The unexplained presence of dog leashes, choke collars, bungee cords, etc.
• Petechiae (pinpoint bleeding spots) under the skin of the face, especially the eyelids, or the conjunctiva (the lining of the eyelids and eyes)

What are some of the other names used for the choking game?

• Pass-out game
• Space monkey
• Suffocation roulette
• Scarf game
• The American dream
• Fainting game
• Something dreaming game
• Purple hazing
• Blacking out/blackout
• Dream game
• Flat liner
• California choke
• Space cowboy
• Airplaning
• Purple dragon
• Cloud nine

How quickly can someone die after playing the choking game?

Someone can become unconscious in a matter of seconds. Within three minutes of continued strangulation (i.e., hanging), basic functions such as memory, balance, and the central nervous system start to fail. Death occurs shortly after.

Are there non-fatal, long-term consequences of the choking game?

• Loss of consciousness and death of brain cells due to oxygen deprivation in the brain; coma and seizures may occur in severe cases
• Concussions or broken bones (including jaws) from falls associated with the choking game
• Hemorrhages of the eye

How can the choking game be prevented?

Research is not available on the best strategies to prevent the choking game. However, parents, educators, and health-care providers should be made aware of this public health threat and the warning signs that adolescents may be playing the game.

NaturalNews Homeschooling Story Retracted

After NaturalNews posted their story "Homeschooling Banned in California as State Turns Parents Into Criminals for Teaching Their Own Children" on Tuesday, September 23, 2008 by David Gutierrez (concepts: Parents, Homeschooling and Criminals) they quickly stated the following:

"(NaturalNews) This article has been retracted. It was published after the events it documented had already been resolved. NaturalNews regrets the error in the late publication date of the original story."

(Side note: NaturalNews is not a site this blogger usually visits nor promotes at this time.)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Faith, Doubt, + Unbelief

(by C.J. Mahaney)

Os Guinness is a fascinating man, blessed with an impressive mind, broad skill, and a unique biography and family heritage.

The Guinness family traces missionary roots back to a relative named Hudson Taylor—the famous missionary to China. Os’s great-great-grandfather founded the Guinness brewery and was a friend of William Wilberforce. His grandparents and parents were all missionaries. Os himself was born in China during World War II and lived there through the 1949 Communist Revolution. Os recalls living through the house arrest of his missionary parents and a widespread famine that claimed the lives of five million people. He shares more of his family and missionary background in a recent interview with my friend Mark Dever.

I’ve listened to this interview twice. It is both interesting and instructive. At the end of this interview, Mark says to Os, “I have as many questions as I had to begin with.” I don’t think I’ve heard Mark say that before (he certainly didn’t say this after he interviewed me!).

Os has worked alongside Francis Schaeffer at L’Abri, as a freelance reporter for the BBC, and as Guest Scholar and Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution. He has edited or written over 20 books on a broad range of topics. Listening to this interview reminded me of how I have benefited from the writings of Os Guinness over the years.

In Two Minds

Today I want to draw attention to Os Guinness’s helpful teaching on the topic of doubt.

At one point in the interview, Mark asked him about the purpose of his book In Two Minds: The Dilemma of Doubt and How to Resolve It (IVP, 1976). Guinness responded: “Well, I myself didn’t have a lot of the doubts described in the book, but I met so many people who were either ashamed, embarrassed, or felt guilty about doubting. And I wanted to relieve them of that. Doubt is not the same as unbelief. You have faith in Christ, which is sure of Christ, and you have unbelief which, sadly, is not sure of Christ. And doubt is a halfway house. And all the languages of the world as well as the Scriptures had this idea of doubt in two minds. So like a coin spinning it will come down heads or tails. It has got to be resolved, but you don’t need to feel bad about doubt. You just need to resolve it.”

This recent interview led me to pick up again my old, yellowing, and well-worn copy of In Two Minds. By the pen markings throughout the book and the dog-eared pages I’m reminded that Guinness has a lot of excellent points on this topic.

“I Believe in Doubt”

That’s the title of the first chapter. In it, we get a big-picture of why it’s important to properly understand doubt, even to understand the potential of doubts to bring us deeper in our communion with God! Guinness writes,
“Christianity places a premium on the absolute truthfulness and trustworthiness of God, so understanding doubt is extremely important to a Christian. Of course, faith is much more than the absence of doubt, but to understand doubt is to have a key to a quiet heart and a quiet mind. Anyone who believes anything will automatically know something about doubt. But the person who knows why he believes is also in a position to discover why he doubts. The Christian should be such a person.

Not only does a Christian believe, he is a person who ‘thinks in believing and believes in thinking,’ as Augustine expressed it. The world of Christian faith is not a fairy-tale, make-believe world, question-free and problem-proof, but a world where doubt is never far from faith's shoulder.

Consequently, a healthy understanding of doubt should go hand in hand with a healthy understanding of faith. We ourselves are called in question if we have no answer to doubt. If we constantly doubt what we believe and always believe-yet-doubt, we will be in danger of undermining our personal integrity, if not our stability. But if ours is an examined faith, we should be unafraid to doubt. If doubt is eventually justified, we were believing what clearly was not worth believing. But if doubt is answered, our faith has grown stronger still. It knows God more certainly and it can enjoy God more deeply.” (pp. 15-16).

In the next chapter, Guinness steps back and asks a fundamental question: What is doubt? After a detailed explanation of the five senses of the word he summarizes the many sides of doubt. “If a person is ‘torn’ between options, unable to ‘make up’ his mind, or if he is ‘up in the air’ over something and unsure which side he should ‘come down on,’ or if he is furiously ‘debating’ with himself or ‘hanging back,’ or weighing up his ‘reservations,’ he is nothing if not ‘in two minds.’ This is the essence of doubt” (p. 27).

And doubt looks very differently in each of our lives.
“Problems strike us all differently. What is trivial to one person may raise titanic questions for someone else. Some people face doubt only if they find no answer; others trigger doubts merely by raising questions. What puzzles a philosopher and taxes his mind to distraction may look completely irrelevant or quite obvious to a businessman. The point is not to judge who is right, but to meet and resolve whatever doubt is a problem to a particular person” (p. 32).

No matter what level of doubt we face, living in constant doubt is not where we want to live our lives. But neither should be automatically feel guilty and sinful for all doubting thoughts. The reality is that doubt is inevitable in the Christian life. Guinness writes, “In the same way assurance of faith depends on our grasp of God and his faithfulness and not on a mastery of all the doubts that are ever likely to assail us. Otherwise faith could never be assured while one last doubt remained” (p. 33).

But there is danger in long-term doubt. Chronic doubt leads to serious consequences. “For the Christian, doubt is not the same as unbelief, but neither is it divorced from it. Continued doubt loosens the believer's hold on the resources and privileges of faith and can be the prelude to the disasters of unbelief. So doubt is never treated as trivial” (p. 31). Later he writes, “If faith does not resolve doubt, doubt will dissolve faith” (p. 187). Guinness warns us never to lessen the significance of doubt (especially lingering doubt) in our hearts.

Confronting Doubts

So how do we effectively confront doubt? We need to remember that the “largest part of doubting comes simply from ignorance of what God has said and done” (pp. 34-35). The cure for doubt is preventative—we cultivate an active and vibrant life of faith in what God has said and done.
“What is more, faith, like health, is best maintained by growth, nourishment and exercise and not by fighting sickness. Sickness may be the absence of health, but health is more than the absence of sickness, so prevention is better than cure. Equally, faith grows and flourishes when it is well nourished and exercised, so the best way to resist doubt is to build up faith rather than simply to fight against doubt” (pp. 33-34).
Much of In Two Minds is dedicated to the topic and excellent quotes abound. Here is one—“We do not trust God because he guides us; we trust and then are guided, which means that we can trust God even when we do not see guided by him. Faith may be in the dark about guidance, but it is never in the dark about God” (p. 261). In fact, “God proves not only better to us than our worst fears but better to us than our wildest dreams” (p. 184).

In fact, how we handle doubt is largely a reflection of the health of our faith because “since the object of Christian faith is God, to believe or disbelieve is everything. Thus the market value of doubt for the Christian is extremely high. Find out how seriously a believer takes his doubts and you have the index of how seriously he takes his faith” (p. 31).


I think pastors would be wise to assume that members of their churches are familiar with doubt in their thinking and personal experience. And I’m especially aware of this in the lives of high school and college students, and surprisingly even in new converts. Often these individuals wrongly associate doubt with unbelief, and therefore experience shame, embarrassment, and guilt over the very presence of doubts in their hearts.

In my perspective, it would be wise for pastors at some point to address this topic and provide excellent supplemental materials to address the topic of doubt.

UPDATE: In Two Minds is in print! The book was republished by Crossway under the title God in the Dark: The Assurance of Faith Beyond a Shadow of Doubt (Crossway, 1996).

Book reviews Doubt Faith Unbelief

The Value of Learning History: A Lesson from Jude

Thanks for this Karen!

The Value of Learning History: A Lesson from Jude
(by John Piper)

The little letter of Jude teaches us something about the value of learning history. This is not the main point of the letter. But it is striking. In this next-to-last book of the Bible, Jude writes to encourage the saints to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints" (verse 3).

The letter is a call to vigilance in view of "certain persons [who] have crept in unnoticed... ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ" (verse 4). Jude describes these folks in vivid terms. They "revile the things which they do not understand" (verse 10). They "are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage" (verse 16). They "cause divisions, [and are] worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit" (verse 19).

This is a devastating assessment of people who are not outside the church but have "crept in unnoticed." Jude wants them be spotted for who they really are, so that the church is not deceived and ruined by their false teaching and immoral behavior.

One of his strategies is to compare them to other persons and events in history. For example, he says that "Sodom and Gomorrah . . . since they, in the same way as these, indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire" (verse 7). So Jude compares these people to Sodom and Gomorrah. His point in doing this is to say that Sodom and Gomorrah are "an example" of what will happen when people live like these intruders are living. So, in Jude's mind, knowing the history of Sodom and Gomorrah is very useful in helping detect such error and deflect it from the saints.

Similarly in verse 11, Jude piles up three other references to historical events as comparisons with what is happening in his day among Christians. He says "Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah." This is remarkable. Why refer to three different historical incidents like this that happened thousands of years earlier - Genesis 19 (Sodom), Genesis 3 (Cain), Numbers 22-24 (Balaam), Numbers 16 (Korah)? What's the point?

Here are three points:

1) Jude assumes that the readers know these stories! Is that not amazing! This was the first century! No books in anyone's homes. No Bibles available. No story tapes. Just oral instruction. And he assumed that they would know: What is "the way of Cain" and "the error of Balaam" and "the rebellion of Korah"? Do you know? Isn't this astonishing! He expects them to know. It makes me think that our standards of Bible knowledge in the church today are too low.

2) Jude assumes that knowing this history will illumine the present situation. The Christians will handle the error better today, if they know similar situations from yesterday. In other words, history is valuable for Christian living. To know that Cain was jealous and hated his brother and resented his true spiritual communion with God will alert you to watch for such things even among brothers.

To know that Balaam finally caved in and made the Word of God a means of worldly gain makes you better able to spot that sort of thing. To know that Korah despised legitimate authority and resented Moses' leadership will protect you from factious folk who dislike anyone being seen as their leader.

3) Is it not clear, then, that God ordains that events happen and that they get recorded as history so that we will learn them and become wiser and more insightful about the present for the sake of Christ and his church. Never stop learning history. Gain some knowledge every day. And let us give our children one of the best protections against the folly of the future, namely, a knowledge of the past.

Learning with you, for Christ and his kingdom,
Pastor John

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: www.desiringGod.org. Email: mail@desiringGod.org. Toll Free: 1.888.346.4700.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Homeschooling Banned in California as State Turns Parents Into Criminals for Teaching Their Own Children

(by David Gutierrez of Natural News.com)

(NaturalNews) A California appeals court has ruled that homeschooling of children is illegal unless their parents have teaching credentials from the state.

"California is now on the path to being the only state to deny the vast majority of homeschooling parents their fundamental right to teach their own children at home," said Michael Smith, president of the Home School Legal Defense Association.

The court overturned a lower court's finding that homeschooling did not constitute a violation of child welfare laws.

"California courts have held that ... parents do not have a constitutional right to homeschool their children," Justice H. Walter Croskey said.

The decision stunned parents of the state's roughly 166,000 homeschooled children. While the court claimed that it was merely clarifying an existing law and not making a new one, the decision leaves the parents of homeschooled children at risk of arrest and criminal prosecution."

At first, there was a sense of, 'No way,' " homeschool parent Loren Mavromati said. "Then there was a little bit of fear. I think it has moved now into indignation."

Parents' reasons for homeschooling their children range from religious beliefs to dissatisfaction with the education received at public or private schools. But according to the court, all California children between the ages of 6 and 18 must attend either a full-time public or private school or be taught by a tutor credentialed for their specific grade level.

"A primary purpose of the educational system is to train school children in good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation," Croskey wrote.

California's largest teachers union welcomed the decision as did the Children's Law Center of Los Angeles.

According to the law center's executive director, Leslie Heimov, children should not be educated at home, because they need to be "in a place daily where they would be observed by people who had a duty to ensure their ongoing safety."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

How (Not) to Raise a Pharisee

(by Kurt Gebhards)

* Kurt serves as the Pastor of Children’s Ministries at Grace Church.

One dynamic of Children’s Ministries at Grace Community Church is that most of the children we minister to come from Christian families. Many of them are blessed with the sound and systematic teaching from God’s Word both at home and in the church, and even sometimes in school. This is something to be grateful for, but it also presents a unique challenge to those of us in Children’s Ministries. While the world breeds rebels, the church can unwittingly breed hypocrites.

It is the sad testimony of church history that the works and expressions of sacrificial love and devotion of one generation of Christians can quickly turn into legalistic rules and regulations for the next. The convictions of the first generation become the caprice of the second. It is sad and shameful how quickly the Object of wonder and worship of a generation can become the boredom and betrayal of the next. Hypocrisy is an imminent and evident threat to the church of Jesus Christ.

Churched children are seldom given to outright defiance of authority; they are much more susceptible to the poison of Pharisaism. Hypocrisy in the heart is much more difficult to spot than disobedient behavior. The Bible gives us some definite character traits of the pretentious pietist, and here is what they may look like in a child:

His outward behavior and adherence to rules are driven by a desire to please men, not by a love for God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength (Mk. 12:30).

Doing good works and having them observed by adults is more important than the action itself (Mt. 6:5).

The child is openly obedient and responsive — asking to pray before bedtime with you — while maintaining a quietly deceitful and rebellious attitude (Gal. 6:7).

He scrupulously observes the letter of the law — like religiously bringing his Bible to church — but neglects the weightier spirit of the law — like sharing his favorite toys with his siblings (Mt. 23:23).

He craves the verbal praises and tangible rewards of his parents and teachers, but cares little for the approbation of God Himself (Jn. 12:43)

Left unchecked by the grace and Word of God, by the time such a child reaches his teenage years, hypocrisy can have entrenched itself.

This teen prefers well-defined, black and white rules, for they give him a sense of certainty that God must surely reward those achievements (Lk. 18:12).

He adds a layer of rules to the Word of God (like not watching any movies, not listening to popular music, et cetera), giving the impression that he holds to a higher standard than Holy Scripture (Mt. 23:4).

He tends to propose personal preferences as, or elevate them above, divine imperatives (Mt. 15:2-3).

He pursues perfectionism (Phil. 3:6), not excellence (Phil. 3:12-14).

He separates himself from others he considers of lesser cultural morality — people whose table manners, courtesy of speech, and refinement of mannerisms do not match middle-class norms (Lk. 15:1-2).

He is judgmental — he excels at fault-finding, he loves to pick verbal fights — and the standard by which he condemns others is not primarily biblical, but personal, preferential, or traditional (Mt. 7:5). He fights against many people, against many issues, but he does not know who he is fighting for.

Hypocrisy is the pretense of virtue or piousness that is contrary to one’s real character. And make no mistake, hypocrisy spreads like an unseen cancer. Everything appears alive and spiritually vital, then suddenly, the person is dull –and soon dead. The Lord specifically warned His disciples, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” (Lk. 12:1) Since hypocrisy is hidden deep within the recesses of the heart, it goes on unchecked and will hollow out its victim from the inside.

One of the dangers is that these outwardly compliant children receive much approval from parents and teachers. So they are encouraged to continue the duplicity unless anti-hypocritical measures are employed. We can certainly teach and militate against hypocrisy in the following ways:

Instead of just dealing with external behavior issues, we should seize every opportunity to help children understand that it is their hearts that generate their actions (Mt. 15:19). In His judgment of man, God looks at the heart (1 Sam.16:7). We should never equate occasions of good behavior (professions of love for Jesus, acts of compliance, et cetera) with saving faith in Jesus. We need to go beyond fixing wrong behavior to helping the child understand that his evil heart can only be changed by the Lord in regeneration.

Emphasize the affections of NT religion. Make sure that we are not just aiming at a young person’s understanding, but that we reach for the heart and its affections.

Do not encourage children to exhibit their talents and gifts to impress others. They should be reminded that all that they are and have are gifts of grace from God (1 Cor. 4:7), and they should not regard themselves more highly than they ought (Rom. 12:3).

Teach the truth about integrity — which comes from the word for “integer” or “whole.” For a child with integrity, whichever way you turn them, they look they same. Who they are at church, is who they are in school, is who they are at home. This is what our kids should be.

Do not be afraid to share our spiritual and moral failures with children in instances where they can identify with our shortcomings. This allows us to be authentic with them. It also allows us to demonstrate our response to God when we have done wrong, and our reliance on Him to continue molding our hearts.

Be authentic in your love for Christ. Genuine desire for Christ is not easily faked. Let your zeal be a barometer by which they measure their own affection for Christ.

Hypocrisy is an insidious danger in Children’s Ministries today. It also threatens each individual home. As parents, it is our job to honor the intention of Psalm 78:4-6:

We will not conceal [the Word of God] from their children, But tell to the generations to come the praises of the LORD, and His strength and His wondrous works that He has done, that they should teach [the law] to their children, that the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, That they may arise and tell them to their children.


Am I Worldly?

(by Nicole Whitacre)

Most of us are vaguely familiar with the verse in 1 John 2:15—“Do not love the world or anything in the world”—but we’re often unsure how to obey this command. Confused, and perhaps a little uncomfortable, we may ignore it altogether, sweeping it under the rug (along with other similarly difficult passages in God’s inspired Word).

But the authors of a new book, Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World, want to remind us of the vital importance of this verse (and indeed all of Scripture), and help us understand how to apply this command to our hearts, our bank accounts, ipod playlists, dvd collections, and clothes—in short, every corner of our lives.

In the first chapter, Dad (editor and contributor), identifies with the confusion many Christians feel about this topic of worldliness:

“What does it mean for a Christian — what does it mean for me — not to love the world?

Does it mean I can’t watch MTV or go to an R-rated movie? Do I have to give up my favorite TV show? Is it OK to watch a movie as long as I fast-forward the sex scene?

How much violence or language is too much?

Are certain styles of music more worldly than others? Is the rap or indie music I’m loading onto my iPod OK?

How do I know if I’m spending too much time playing games or watching YouTube clips online?

Can a Christian try to make lots of money, own a second home, drive a nice car, enjoy the luxuries of modern life?

Am I worldly if I read fashion magazines and wear trendy clothes? Do I have to be out of style in order to be godly?

How short is too short? How low is too low? How do I know if I’m guilty of the sin of worldliness?"

Worldliness seeks to address these and other tough questions. Along the way, they issue “a passionate plea to a generation for whom the dangers of worldliness are perhaps more perilous than for any that has gone before.”

This book is a sober warning to all of us who would neglect 1 John 2:15. Yet the authors (pastors, all) have first applied its truth to their own hearts and lives. They offer real-life, unflattering examples of their own sins and temptations to worldliness. Most of all, they remind us of the one place where worldliness dies, mercy lives, forgiveness is found, and holiness is possible: the cross of our Savior Jesus Christ.

I hope all our readers, and especially young people, will read and benefit from this book.

Posted by Nicole Whitacre on September 23, 2008 at 02:27 PM

Monday, September 22, 2008

Book Recommendation

(by Nicole Whitacre)

Finally, I hold in my hands a copy of Carolyn McCulley's new book, Radical Womanhood. It will be widely available in only a few days, so pre-order your copy now! Here's a little more of why you should get this book from a post I wrote back in April:

Radical Womanhood
April 11, 2008

Today I pre-ordered my copy of a new book by our dear friend Carolyn McCulley entitled Radical Womanhood: Feminine Faith in a Feminist World. So what that it’s not due out until October 1, 2008. I’m just that excited about it. And you should be too.
Here’s how Carolyn describes the book:

The theme of the book is to explore what’s happened in the last 200 years in terms of feminist thinking and to sort through the good, the bad, and the ugly to understand our culture’s current thinking and how that compares/contrasts with what the Bible teaches. We’ll look at issues related to men, marriage, children, domesticity, sexuality, and the church. My goal is not to create an us/them self-righteous dialogue about feminism for two reasons: 1) Scripture teaches us that our real enemy is not flesh and blood; and 2) intellectual honesty demands that we acknowledge feminists initially addressed serious problems for women. We have derived some (limited) benefits from the three waves of feminism (1848 to today), but we need to be wise about how our culture thinks about key issues. Good observation does not make for correct interpretation. The interpretation has actually created many more problems for women. So that’s why in today’s world it’s truly radical for a woman to live in a counter-cultural way, glorifying God.

On second thought, maybe I don’t want to wait the six months plus the couple of days it will take my Amazon.com order to ship. Maybe, come October 1st, I’ll camp outside my local bookstore with other Carolyn McCulley fans to get the very first copy that hits the shelves.

In the meantime, we can all listen to Carolyn’s recent messages on Radical Womanhood shared with the women of CrossWay Community Church in Charlotte, NC a few weeks ago. They won’t last you until October but they’ll be great weekend listening.

Posted by Nicole Whitacre on September 22, 2008 at 07:04 PM in Biblical Womanhood

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Power of Words and the Wonder of God

Mark Driscoll on How God Shapes Our Use of Words

Mark Driscoll on the Bible's Use of Harsh Language

Mark Driscoll on Balancing the Tough and Tender Use of Words

Mark Driscoll on Using Words to Confront False Teachers

Curses and Blessings

(by Jim Smith)

"Curses and Blessings"Genesis 3:14-24

MP3 message.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Pray for Persecuted Christians

(by Voice of the Martyrs)

On August 23, three Christians in Chiapas, Mexico, were brutally killed by their neighbor after he blamed them for his daughter’s stomach ailment. Antonio Gomez blamed his Christian neighbor, Pedro Gomez Diaz and his family, for his 11-year-old daughter's stomach ailment and accused the Christian family of practicing witchcraft, Compass Direct News reported.

Gomez and seven of his friends entered the Christian family’s home and attacked them with machetes. Pedro, his wife, Marcela, and their oldest son, Rene, were hacked to death. Six of the other Diaz children were seriously wounded. At last report, the eight men involved in the attack were being held in a jail, Compass Direct News added.

The Voice of the Martyrs actively supports persecuted Christians in Chiapas, Mexico, with literature and other resources following incidents of persecution. VOM encourages you to pray for their protection and courage during challenging times. Pray for the surviving Diaz family as they mourn their parents and oldest sibling. Ask God to give them comfort in knowing that Christ is victorious over death.

The New Commandment of Christ: Love One Another As I Have Loved You

(by David Mathis)

Christians are people under authority—the authority of Jesus. Jesus is more than Lord, but he is never less.

And Jesus commands his people to love each other—a command which he says is "new." But what's new about this command to love? Hasn't God always commanded his people to love each other?

What's new in Jesus' command is that Jesus himself is now the pattern and the power of our love for each other. Jesus perfectly demonstrated how we are to love others, and by being connected to him, we are enabled to love others.

But not only is Jesus our pattern and power. He's also our propitiation, our wrath-bearer. Jesus' greatest show of love is that he laid down his life for his people and covered all their failures to love perfectly like he does.

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org.

All God's "Musts" Require Trust

(by Jon Bloom)

In reading through the Book of Revelation recently, by the time I got to the end of chapter 19, the wars, rebellion, suffering, death and judgments were almost overwhelming. Oh how I wanted Jesus to wrap everything up and fully bring his kingdom of righteousness and justice and peace.

Finally, in the first three verses of chapter 20, Satan is bound with a chain and tossed into the pit so that he might not deceive the nations any longer.

I wanted to jump out of my seat and cheer with the saints!

And then I read the end of verse three:

After [the thousand years] he must be released for a little while.

Oh no. The worst murderer, liar, and ravager to ever exist must be released? Why? Hasn’t he wreaked enough destruction and sorrow and pain in the universe?

The context of this verse leaves no room for doubt as to who has authority to bind or loose Satan. God does. So this “must” is God’s must.

Now, there is not some law outside of God dictating to him what he must do. If something “must” take place it is something he determines in the secret counsels of his own will.

So here we have a must that we don’t understand: the release of Satan. And God gives us no explanation for why it must be. He just tells us. Which leaves us to either trust him or not.

So how do we know we can trust God’s goodness when he decrees a horrible must, something beyond our ability to comprehend, something that might appear to us capricious or even evil?

The best place to look is the cross.

Anyone who has ever wrestled, even agonized, over God’s musts has a sympathetic High Priest. Three times in Gethsemane Jesus pleaded with his Father, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39).

Listen to the Son: Father, must these things take place? If they must, I will trust you.

The Father had decreed a must. And in the intensity of the pain the Son pleads to be delivered from it. But the cross must be endured for all righteousness to be fulfilled and for the maximum glory of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to be seen, as well as for the joy of the saints to be experienced.

So the Son endures the Father’s must for the joy that was set before him—and all of us (Hebrews 12:2).

In Gethsemane, we see that God does not subject us to a pain he is unwilling to bear himself. But on the cross we see our God willing to bear a pain that he is unwilling for us to bear, though it is what we deserve.

The Son bore the full wrath of the Father against our sin so that we will never experience it. We will experience profound sorrow in this life, but we will never know the depths that the Man of Sorrows experienced.

John Piper said it beautifully to me recently,

[In the cross] is where the worst that God ever ordained and the best that God ever ordained meet and become one.

If you are tempted to wonder how any good could possibly redeem the evil you see in the musts that you endure or see in the world or see in the Bible, take a long, lingering look at the cross. It is the best picture of how God can use the worst evil to bring about inexpressible joy for his people.

The musts of God, even allowing Satan to ravage, are actually invitations for us to take great comfort in the colossal sovereignty behind them. Profound comfort comes when we learn to trust that, when God’s ways are inscrutable (Romans 11:33), the Judge of all the earth will do what is just (Genesis 18:25) and will work all things together for our good and everlasting joy (Romans 8:28).

* * *

Recommended resource: Called to Suffer and Rejoice: For an Eternal Weight of Glory.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

God’s High Call for Women

The below message is from Pulpit Magazine (http://www.sfpulpit.com/):

The following is adapted from the Grace Church elders’ distinctive on “The Role of Women.”

Although women have traditionally fulfilled supportive roles in serving the church and gained their greatest joy and sense of accomplishment from being wives and mothers, the feminist movement has successfully influenced many women to abandon these divinely ordained roles.

Unfortunately, this movement has made headway even in the church, creating chaos and confusion regarding the role of women both in ministry and in the home. Only in Scripture can God’s intended design for women be found.

The Old Testament and Women

In the creation account of Genesis 1, God’s first word on the subject of men and women is that they were equally created in the image of God (v. 27). Neither received more of the image of God than the other. So the Bible begins with the equality of the sexes. As persons, as spiritual beings standing before God, men and women are absolutely equal.

In Genesis 2, there is a more detailed account of the creation of the two equal human beings that reveals differences in their God-given functions and responsibilities. God did not create the man and the woman at the same time, but rather He created Adam first and Eve later for the specific purpose of being Adam’s helper. Eve was equal to Adam, but she was given the role and duty of submitting to him. Although the word “helper” carries very positive connotations — even being used of God Himself as the helper of Israel (Deut. 33:7; Ps. 33:20) — it still describes someone in a relationship of service to another. The responsibility of wives to submit to their husbands, then, was part of the plan from creation, even before the curse. The first books of the Bible establish both the equality of men and women and also the support role of the wife (see Exod. 21:15, 17, 28–31; Num. 5:19–20, 29; 6:2; 30:1–16).

Throughout the Old Testament, women were active in the religious life of Israel, but generally they were not leaders. Women like Deborah (Judges 4) were clearly the exception and not the rule. There was no woman with an ongoing prophetic ministry. No woman was a priest. No queen ever ruled Israel. No woman wrote an Old Testament (or New Testament) book. Isaiah 3:12 indicates that God allowed women to rule as part of His judgment on the sinning nation.

Jesus and Women

In the midst of the Greek, Roman, and Jewish cultures, which viewed women almost on the level of possessions, Jesus showed love and respect for women. Though Jewish rabbis did not teach women and the Jewish Talmud said it was better to burn the Torah than to teach it to a woman, Jesus never took the position that women, by their very nature, could not understand spiritual or theological truth. He not only included them in His audiences but also used illustrations and images that would be familiar to them (Matt. 13:33; 22:1–2; 24:41; Luke 15:8–10) and specifically applied His teaching to them (Matt. 10:34ff.). To the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), He revealed that He was the Messiah and discussed with her topics such as eternal life and the nature of true worship. He also taught Mary and, when admonished by Martha, pointed out the priority of learning spiritual truth even over “womanly” responsibilities like serving guests in one’s home (Luke 10:38).

Although men in Jesus’ day normally would not allow women to count change into their hands for fear of physical contact, Jesus touched women to heal them and allowed women to touch Him (Luke 13:10ff.; Mark 5:25ff.). Jesus even allowed a small group of women to travel with Him and His disciples (Luke 8:1–3), an unprecedented happening at that time. After His resurrection, Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene and sent her to announce His resurrection to the disciples (John 20:1–18), despite the fact that women were not allowed to be witnesses in Jewish courts because they were considered liars.

In Jesus’ treatment of women, He raised their station of life and He showed them compassion and respect in a way they had never known. This demonstrated their equality. At the same time, however, Jesus still did not exalt women to a place of leadership over men.

The Epistles and Women

In the Epistles, the two principles of equality and submission for women exist side by side. Galatians 3:28 points to the equality, indicating that the way of salvation is the same for both men and women and that they are members of equal standing in the body of Christ. It does not, however, eradicate all differences in responsibilities for men and women, for this passage does not cover every aspect of God’s design for male and female. In addition, there are many other passages that make distinctions between what God desires of men and what He desires of women, especially within family and within the church.

The Family

While Christian marriage is to involve mutual love and submission between two believers (Eph. 5:21), four passages in the New Testament expressly give to wives the responsibility to submit to their husbands (Eph. 5:22; Col. 3:18; Titus 2:5; 1 Pet. 3:1). This voluntary submission of one equal to another is an expression of love for God and a desire to follow His design as revealed in His Word. It is never pictured as demeaning or in any way diminishing the wife’s equality. Rather the husband is called to love his wife sacrificially as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25) and to serve as the leader in a relationship of two equals.

While husbands and fathers have been given the primary responsibility for the leadership of their children (Eph. 6:4; Col. 3:21; 1 Tim. 3:4–5), wives and mothers are urged to be “workers at home” (Titus 2:5), meaning managers of the household. Their home and their children are to be their priority, in contrast to the world’s emphasis today on careers and fulltime jobs for women outside the home.

The Church

From the very beginning, women fulfilled a vital role in the Christian church (Acts 1:12–14; 9:36–42; 16:13–15; 17:1–4, 10–12; 18:1–2, 18, 24–28; Rom. 16; 1 Cor. 16:19; 2 Tim. 1:5; 4:19), but not one of leadership. The apostles were all men; the chief missionary activity was done by men; the writing of the New Testament was the work of men; and leadership in the churches was entrusted to men.

Although the Apostle Paul respected women and worked side by side with them for the furtherance of the gospel (Rom. 16; Phil. 4:3), he appointed no female elders or pastors. In his letters, he urged that men were to be the leaders in the church and that women were not to teach or exercise authority over men (1 Tim. 2:12). Therefore, although women are spiritual equals with men and the ministry of women is essential to the body of Christ, women are excluded from leadership over men in the church.

Men and women stand as equals before God, both bearing the image of God Himself. However, without making one inferior to the other, God calls upon both men and women to fulfill the roles and responsibilities specifically designed for them, a pattern that can be seen even in the Godhead (1 Cor. 11:3). In fulfilling the divinely given roles taught in the New Testament, women are able to realize their full potential because they are following the plan of their own Creator and Designer. Only in obedience to Him and His design will women truly be able, in the fullest sense, to give glory to God.

Posted in Cultural Issues

Singing Grace

(by Carolyn Mahaney)

Recently when my granddaughter, Caly, heard a snippet from the great hymn “Come, Thou Fount of Blessing,” she firmly announced: “That’s Pop-Pop’s song!”

Why does this little two-year-old think her grandpa is the sole possessor of that beloved song? It’s because when Pop-Pop is around, she is accustomed to hearing him belt out the refrain:

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

He sings it fervently. He sings it often. It’s obvious that regularly singing the words to this hymn has become a useful way for him to focus his heart on the Savior in the daily fight with indwelling sin.

My husband is not the only who has a favorite hymn to help him fix his eyes on Jesus. I once read that “when Hudson Taylor was told about missionaries in his charge being in trouble, he was heard soon after whistling his favorite hymn, ‘Jesus I Am Resting.’”

Singing hymns or other songs of Scripture is a way to battle our sin, cast our cares, and make our souls happy in God. As it says in Colossians 3:16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

I want to sing more, because this command to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs is a means of grace to help me turn my heart to God in repentance, trust, gratitude and hope.

That’s why I love to hear CJ sing--not because of his extraordinary voice (Sorry, Dear, you are extraordinary in every other way!)--but because his singing reminds me to sing.

That’s what I hope this little post will do for you too: remind you to sing.

Posted by Carolyn Mahaney on September 16, 2008 at 03:22 PM in Joy


Here are some music suggestions from Girl Talk:

Here are a few of our current favorites to help us and our kids sing “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Col. 3:16):

FOR ADULTS (although we like the kids cds too!)
Looked Upon by the Na Band
Psalms by Sovereign Grace Music
Redemption Songs by Jars of Clay
Upward: the Bob Kauflin Hymns Project

Deliberate Kids by Phil Joel
Awesome God by Sovereign Grace Music

Monday, September 15, 2008

Commitment and the Cross

(by Rich Gregory)

* Rich serves at Grace Church as a ministerial resident. He also works in the admissions department of The Master’s Seminary.

Although there are many people in the modern age who are committed to going to church, very few of them are as committed to sacrificing everything for Jesus Christ. Shocking though this may sound, it is true that while many churches within modern evangelicalism are typically full, their impact upon the world around them is minimal. The modern church has excelled at filling its pews with bodies, but to a large degree has failed at producing warriors fit to do battle for the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Many churches today are filled with “pew potatoes” who come on Sunday morning, soak up the message, but become overweight spiritually by failing to exercise their faith. Successful Christian living, and truly successful Christian churches are not measured through the size of their worship center, or the number of bodies gathered on a Sunday morning. Rather, a successful church is to be judged through the spiritual health of the members that constitute a “church.”

When reading through the book of Acts, it is nearly impossible to miss the initial numeric explosion of the church. What was it that allowed the gospel to be unleashed upon that society with such power and force? The answer is simple, and is revealed in the opening chapters of the book. The were focused upon the sacrifice that Christ had made for them, and they weren’t afraid to spread that message to all that were around them.

The culmination of Peter’s great sermon on the day of Pentecost that sparked the detonation is recorded in Acts 2:36, “Let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” The tension that must have been in the air can be sensed in the text. He forced them to come to grips with the fact that they had crucified the very Son of God! Peter did not know how the crowd would respond. When confronted with those words would the people become penitent revivalists, or would they be transformed into a surging mob? Peter not only knew the truth, but he went further and confronted his world with the words of truth and life regardless of the personal cost of what such an action might mean. The point is not the results of what happened that day, but rather the Peter’s willingness to the proclamation of truth.

Peter, and thousands like him in the early church, did not allow their faith to be active solely at a worship service. They lived their faith, and they were willing to sacrifice everything on behalf of the idea and the resulting reality of the gospel that was at work within their lives. As Christ had commanded them in Luke 14:28, many of them had counted the cost and found that all other things were worthless when compared to the “surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:8).

Because of that fact, many of the early believers were focused upon the gospel and sacrificed everything for its advancement. They saw the value of knowing Christ, and were willing to give up everything else in its place. Worldly wealth, wisdom, and worries were counted as rubbish, if only the name of Christ could be made known and glorified. Those early believers made a mark upon their world that history can never forget or erase. They were not just committed to a church; they were committed, sold out, and on fire for the name of the One who had redeemed them through an incomparable sacrifice upon a rough wooden cross!

Where is that same commitment within the church of modern America? It may be seen in individual lives, but on a large scale, people come, the church grows, and an addition is added to the building while the all-consuming passion for the gospel lies largely in dormant silence. The church is consumed with seeking programs, donors, and philanthropic projects, while lost people stream around Christianity on their way to an eternity apart from God. God has graciously placed every believer into his or her world where he or she alone is able to have a unique ability to witness to those who are lost and dying around them.

It is an incumbent responsibility upon Christians of our day to not only strive after this goal within their own lives, but also to be actively cultivating this mindset within their local flock. Pastors and laymen alike must be challenged to awaken from their spiritual lethargy, and to become fully committed to their commission and reason for existence. Every believer ought to be viewing himself as a minister of the gospel. It is not just the pastor’s job to be an ambassador for the faith, but rather it is the job of every person who claims the name of Christ to live heart, soul, and mind in passionate pursuit of becoming a premier ambassador for Christ, actively begging men to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20).

The pursuit is too crucial, the outcome too critical, to simply allow ourselves the luxury of a Sunday Christianity. It is imperative that we as Christian leaders challenge ourselves and those within our pews to rise up and exercise their faith in a dynamic way by allowing the power of the gospel to flow forth from their lives and impact the world in which God has placed.
But how is this done? We will consider the answer to that question tomorrow.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Where Do We Go From Here?

“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18. ESV.)

“Heal the hearts of these parents, Lord, as they mourn the loss of their little one. Turn their sorrow to joy as they accept the truth that their little one is safely in Your arms – now and forevermore. Give them a renewed awareness of Your great plan and purpose for every life You have allowed to be conceived. Give them a renewed hope of heaven and a renewed reliance upon Your Word and Your presence with us at all times, in all situations, and even now in their sorrow.” (MacArthur, John. Safe in the Arms of God: truth from heaven about the death of a child. p. 171. © 2003 by John MacArthur.)

We will never forget Seth or all that he taught us. He has a very special place in our hearts and now it is time to take what we have learned and pursue it even further. Every thought and every emotion has its purpose just as Seth did in each one of our lives. His presence and struggles touched each one of us on a different level and we cannot wake up tomorrow and dismiss it or push it aside only to return to a point or place that never knew Seth. Temptation might try to take some of us there. “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” (1 Peter 1:14-16. ESV.)

Seth pushed me to share with others and welcome them into my own life. I will continue on that walk with Christ…I will keep on learning, go on sharing, and carry on encouraging others on their own path. Each of us is different and that is okay. (Romans 12:4-8, 1 Peter 4:8-11.) All of us have our own part to play, our own purpose in a large painting. We are each a dab of paint on a great canvas unable to see past our own section of the background but the complete picture is beautiful! It is a radiant exaltation of God! Jonathan Edwards once stated, “The great end of God’s works, which is so variously expressed in Scripture, is indeed but one; and this one end is most properly and comprehensively called, the glory of God.”

May I encourage you to enter God’s word each and every day to further what has been made known in your heart, (2 Peter 2:2-3) for temptation and sin are great in this world. “And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:19-21. ESV.)

“May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” (2 Peter 2. ESV.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What Can We Learn from a Little Man?

I would like to begin with three stanzas of a poem written by Tyler Kenny of Desiring God Ministries. (This poem was actually written for a beautiful newborn little girl named Felicity Margaret Piper who left this world a couple of days before she departed her mother’s womb. I believe these stanzas also apply to precious Seth, who went away from this vapor of a life after only two years of being with us.)

“Life is never ill-conceived.
He willed through you to make us grieved;
and though our hearts now linger sad,
we know whom we’ve believed.

“The God who numbers all our days
no less deserves our endless praise.
He means the loss that now bodes bad
to highlight heaven’s rays.

“He’s teaching us to trust his grace
while yet we cannot see his face
like you, in righteousness now clad,
and Fatherly embrace.” (© Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org.)

Seth drew us ever nearer to God and persuaded us to depend on Him, to beseech Him, and to give Him more attention now than some of us probably have in a long while. Seth encouraged people to share their faith with one another and to pray together, when in the average day to day circumstances they most likely would not. Seth got us thinking about life and how our Heavenly Father holds it gingerly in His hand. We can clearly see there are no accidents, no coincidences, and no mistakes…God knows exactly what He is doing and though we do not see the full picture this side of Heaven, Seth had a part in making sure one day we will.

Seth brought people together who otherwise never would have known about each other. He openly shared his heart and taught many of us to believe and trust in Christ Jesus. God had Seth’s name written in the Book of Life and his precious days already numbered before the world was even created. Perhaps Seth even has favor with God. What beautiful grace and mercy can be seen in that God chose to allow Seth to bypass worldly temptation and sin and instead go straight to our Father’s Kingdom.

Without Seth, some of the people whose lives he touched would not have faith that leads to grace. Seth’s tiny life glorified God!

In closing I am going to quote Pastor John Piper (who said the following tidbit at his granddaughter’s funeral but I would like to direct it to Seth), [beloved Seth] “Come, there is somebody I want you to meet. His name is Jesus. He’s the reason you’re here. You don’t need to be afraid. Your Savior has led you all the way. And Jesus does all things well.”

It's Time to Say Goodbye

It is with bittersweet emotion that I sit and compose this. For selfish reasons I cry out of sadness when inside I am thankful for God's mercy and grace. Praise God!

Precious Seth who has a special place in our hearts has gone to the arms of his Heavenly Father. I received the following email this morning:

Good Morning,
[Seth's parents] have asked me to tell all of you that Little Seth passed away this morning at 5:15am [eastern time]. They wanted to let all of you know your support has helped them tremendously through this very sad time.
Please keep all the prayers coming for [Seth's mother] to help her get through a time that no mother should have to go through.

Please continue to lift up Seth's parents in your prayers. Thank you for all of your spiritual support!!! To God be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

The following comes from Noel Piper as she blogged on the Desiring God website:

“'I am come into deep waters' took on a new meaning this morning. It started with perplexing matters concerning the future. Then it dawned that shallow waters were a place where you can neither sink nor swim, but in deep waters it is one or the other: 'waters to swim in'—not to float in. Swimming is the intense, most strenuous form of motion—all of you is involved in it—and every inch of you is in abandonment of rest upon the water that bears you up.
'We rest in Thee, and in Thy Name we go.' (A Blossom in the Desert, 146.)

"It is an encouragement to me to be reminded by this image that deep water doesn’t drown us if we swim hard while at the same time we abandon ourselves to God who holds us up—“underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deut. 33:27)."

And, Noel Piper writes the following regarding the death of her infant granddaughter, Felicity:
"...she has always been and will always be a citizen only of the land of promise, the city whose designer and builder is God (Heb 11:9,10). And though we still weep to hold her and know her, what more could we ask for her? She will never have to struggle over her true allegiance as we do who are citizens of both an earthly nation and the Kingdom of God." (by Noel Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org.)

The same can be said for precious Seth, God's beautiful little lamb.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

God's Precious Little Lamb, Seth

Seth was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma and has been progressively declining in health. He is two years old and given his age of innocence will go straight into the arms of his Heavenly Father. Our prayers are with Seth for God’s mercy in his transition from this vapor of a life to the kingdom of heaven given his illness. Further, Seth is leaving behind a young mother and father who do not know the Lord very well. Please join us in our prayers for this young couple and their salvation...that through this they will have faith that leads to grace. Below is an update on how Seth is currently doing:

[Seth] is not walking anymore and is only awake a couple of hours a day. The Hospice Nurse says the tumors in his lungs, leg and spine are back and he sometimes has a hard time breathing. His seizuresare getting stronger because the ones in his brain are growing too. (08.12.08).

I know you know that Seth has been talking to his Angels and telling them "not ready yet" well [his mother] just called and told me he told them this morning "almost ready". She wanted me to let everyone know. She and I both feel it will be very soon. She also said thank you to all of you for everything. (08.15.08).

Hospice feels that baby Seth only has a few hours left here with us & that the Lord will be taking him home today. (09.09.08. 5:16 a.m. Pacific time.)

Seth is still hanging on....he is not in any pain but he is very thin & just sleeps. The Hospice nurse said it is just a matter of time. Please keep them all in your prayers. (09.09.08. 8:56 a.m. Pacific time.)

I will post all further updates here.

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Goal of God's Love May Not Be What You Think It Is

(by John Piper)

Do people go to the Grand Canyon to increase their self-esteem? Probably not. This is, at least, a hint that the deepest joys in life come not from savoring the self, but from seeing splendor. And in the end even the Grand Canyon will not do. We were made to enjoy God.

We are all bent to believe that we are central in the universe. How shall we be cured of this joy-destroying disease? Perhaps by hearing afresh how radically God-centered reality is according to the Bible.

Both the Old and New Testament tell us that God's loving us is a means to our glorifying him. "Christ became a servant ... in order that the nations might glorify God for his mercy" (Romans 15:8-9). God has been merciful to us so that we would magnify him. We see it again in the words, "In love [God] destined us to adoption ... to the praise of the glory of His grace" (Ephesians 1:4-6). In other words, the goal of God's loving us is that we might praise him. One more illustration from Psalm 86:12-13: "I will glorify your name forever. For your lovingkindness toward me is great." God's love is the ground. His glory is the goal.

This is shocking. The love of God is not God's making much of us, but God's saving us from self-centeredness so that we can enjoy making much of him forever. And our love to others is not our making much of them, but helping them to find satisfaction in making much of God. True love aims at satisfying people in the glory of God. Any love that terminates on man is eventually destructive. It does not lead people to the only lasting joy, namely, God. Love must be God-centered, or it is not true love; it leaves people without their final hope of joy.

Take the cross of Christ, for example. The death of Jesus Christ is the ultimate expression of divine love: "God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). Yet the Bible also says that the aim of the death of Christ was "to demonstrate [God's] righteousness, because in the forbearance of God he passed over the sins previously committed" (Romans 3:25). Passing over sins creates a huge problem for the righteousness of God. It makes him look like a judge who lets criminals go free without punishment. In other words, the mercy of God puts the justice of God in jeopardy.

So to vindicate his justice he does the unthinkable - he puts his Son to death as the substitute penalty for our sins. The cross makes it plain to everyone that God does not sweep evil under the rug of the universe. He punishes it in Jesus for those who believe.

But notice that this ultimately loving act has at the center of it the vindication of the righteousness of God. Good Friday love is God-glorifying love. God exalts God at the cross. If he didn't, he could not be just and rescue us from sin. But it is a mistake to say, "Well, if the aim was to rescue us, then we were the ultimate goal of the cross." No, we were rescued from sin in order that we might see and savor the glory of God. This is the ultimately loving aim of Christ's death. He did not die to make much of us, but to free us to enjoy making much of God forever.

It is profoundly wrong to turn the cross into a proof that self-esteem is the root of mental health. If I stand before the love of God and do not feel a healthy, satisfying, freeing joy unless I turn that love into an echo of my self-esteem, then I am like a man who stands before the Grand Canyon and feels no satisfying wonder until he translates the canyon into a case for his own significance. That is not the presence of mental health, but bondage to self.

The cure for this bondage is to see that God is the one being in the universe for whom self-exaltation is the most loving act. In exalting himself - Grand Canyon-like - he gets the glory and we get the joy. The greatest news in all the world is that there is no final conflict between my passion for joy and God's passion for his glory. The knot that ties these together is the truth that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. Jesus Christ died and rose again to forgive the treason of our souls, which have turned from savoring God to savoring self. In the cross of Christ, God rescues us from the house of mirrors and leads us out to the mountains and canyons of his majesty. Nothing satisfies us - or magnifies him - more.

Originally published in Dallas Morning News.

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org.

Helping People Have the Assurance of Salvation

(by John Piper)

Full assurance is God's will for us. "And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end" Hebrews 6:11.

Assurance is partially sustained by objective evidences for Christian truth. "To [his apostles] He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days" Acts 1:3.

Assurance cannot neglect the painful work of self-examination. "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you - unless indeed you fail the test?" 2 Corinthians 13:5.

Assurance will diminish in the presence of concealed sin. "When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long" Psalm 32:3.

Assurance comes from hearing the Word of Christ. "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" Romans 10:17.

"These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name" John 20:31.

Repeated focusing on the sufficiency of the cross of Christ is crucial for assurance. "Since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith" Hebrews 10:21-22.

We must pray for eyes to see the truths that sustain assurance. "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe" Ephesians 1:18-19.

Assurance is not easily maintained in personal isolation. "And the eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you'" 1 Corinthians 12:21.

Assurance is not destroyed by God's displeasure and discipline. "Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy. Though I fall I will rise; though I dwell in darkness, the LORD is a light for me. I will bear the indignation of the LORD because I have sinned against Him, until He pleads my case and executes justice for me. He will bring me out to the light, and I will see His righteousness" Micah 7:8-9.

We must often wait patiently for the return of assurance. "I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; many will see and fear and will trust in the LORD" Psalm 40:1-3.

Assurance is a fight to the day we die. "Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life" 1 Timothy 6:12.

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith" 2 Timothy 4:7.
Assurance is finally a gift of the Spirit. "The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God" Romans 8:16.

"The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself... And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son" 1 John 5:10-11.

Longing for your assurance,
Pastor John

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: http://www.crosswalkmail.com/dlwclcgl_wpederrpdc.html. Email: http://www.crosswalkmail.com/hajwawpj_wpederrpdc.html. Toll Free: 1.888.346.4700.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Can Jesus Weep Over What He Wills

(by John Piper)

We do not naturally see how Jesus or his Father can weep over something they have willed to come to pass. This is an example of how our natural intuitions need to be adjusted by Scripture.

We naturally conclude, when we see God grieved or angered over something, that he did not plan for it to happen. But God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). We should adjust our thinking to the way God really acts.

For example, just this morning I read in my devotions these words concerning God’s judgment on the cities of Moab:

“I weep with the weeping of Jazer for the vine of Sibmah; I drench you with my tears, O Heshbon and Elealeh; for over your summer fruit and your harvest the shout has ceased.... I have put an end to the shouting.” (Isaiah 16:9-10)

Alan Harman, says in his commentary, Isaiah, “God expresses his grief over Moab, as he brings destruction on it” (137).

You see this by noticing the repeated word “shout” and “shouting”—the same word in Hebrew. “I weep...for the shout [of harvest joy] has ceased.... I caused the shout to cease.”

One implication of this, is that we ourselves, like God, may and should feel genuine sorrow over the miseries that come upon people because of God’s judgment. In fact, if we don’t, God may remove the ground of our gloating.

“Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the Lord see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him.” (Proverbs 24:17-18)

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Be a Kinder Calvinist

(by Abraham Piper)

My wife and I were fighting—the kind where after 30 seconds you forget what you're fighting about and you just end up being mean. It doesn't take long in an argument like this to feel hopeless.

I wanted to call someone to come over and mediate. Actually, I didn't want to, but I knew I needed to do something. Our close friends who live near by and our small group leaders were all out of town, so I called a pastor who lives in the neighborhood and asked him to come over right then. I think he could tell by the tone of my voice and the unusual request that we really did need help immediately. He cancelled his Saturday plans and came over.

Sitting at our kitchen table, he helped us figure each other out. Soon we were getting to the heart of the matter. Molly turned to me and said, "You never treat me like you appreciate me."

I looked at her. I looked at our pastor. And then I listed three ways that I'd shown appreciation for her that morning. As far as I was concerned, things were taken care of. She thought I didn't act appreciatively, but I just showed her (definitively, I might add) that I did.

As you can imagine, things were not taken care of. As a matter of fact, my list, for all its accuracy, was completely irrelevant to Molly. This was when our pastor pointed something out to me that has forever changed the way I interact with my wife, and with everybody, for that matter.

He told me that, sure, it may be wrong to say that I never show appreciation, but clearly she feels that way, and right now that's what needs to be dealt with. And not just dealt with but acknowledged, understood, respected. Her words may have included a factual error, but what she was saying was completely true.

There is a letter on Scot McKnight's blog from a pastor who is very frustrated with certain Calvinists in his church. It would be easy enough to disregard it, pointing out that not all Calvinists are like that or that his use of the word "hyper-Calvinist" doesn't match correct theological jargon. But that would be missing the point. And, ironically, that reaction would only lend credence to the frustration that motivated the letter in the first place.

So how should we read this letter in a way that acknowledges, understands, and respects the discouragement of its author?

First, we should note that it is simply indisputable that some people are exactly the way he describes. When you see mean extremists in another circle, it reminds you why you don't run with that crowd. But when you see mean extremists in your own circle, it's just plain embarrassing. Unfortunately, until we are perfected there will always be mean people of every theological strain. But fortunately, we are a part of the church not merely for the company, but for Christ.

The second way to understand the letter is to see it (along with the numerous comments that follow) as abundant evidence that, to many, Calvinists come across as self-righteous, condescending, arrogant, unfriendly, argumentative, and even stingy. The fact that we're not all that way is irrelevant in the same way that it didn't matter to Molly that I had done three things to show I appreciate her—she still felt unappreciated. Her frustration was true because, whether or not I was grateful to my wife, I was perceived as an ingrate. Similarly, the frustration in the letter is true because, whether or not the Calvinists in the letter-writer's church are good folks, they come off as proud and divisive jerks. Those Calvinists, as church members, and I, as a husband, should change based on this information, regardless of how "inaccurately" the frustration may be worded.

In my marriage, it doesn't matter whether I'm thankful if I don't seem like it. And in the church, it doesn't matter whether we have the fruits of the Spirit if no one can tell.

It won't be easy to change the pejorative stereotype that clings to Calvinism, but we can start by admitting that it is accurate far too often. Then we can make sure we are manifestly not self-righteous, condescending, arrogant, unfriendly, or argumentative. Also, you can count on us to buy dinner or coffee sometimes.

Paying attention to those who disagree with us and taking them seriously, even if we're pretty sure we'll still disagree, is part of what it means to be in the body of Christ. It's humbling; it sanctifies. It will make us better husbands and wives. It will make us better Christians, and maybe even better Calvinists.

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org


Friday, September 05, 2008

Training Up a Child

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6. ESV.)

It is homeschool time again and we are off and running. This year, instead of doing five different subjects each day, we are studying one topic for five hours every day. Wednesday was Math, yesterday was Language Arts, and today was Art. (I figured we would do something fun and exciting for Friday!)

I am thankful our Heavenly Father has provided the means for me to be able to homeschool and I consider teaching His word to be my number one priority. I want the children to grow up knowing how important God is and how vital it is to have that faith that leads to His grace! I have yet to see fruit so I am lead to believe my children are not believers yet. But, I am prayerful I will remain consistent and continue training up the young ones and sowing the seeds for the older ones. My heart’s desire is they will all grow in good soil and have roots firm in the foundation of God’s precious word. (Matthew 13:1-8.)

Last year I ordered God centered curriculum for mid week lessons from John Piper’s Children Desiring God site. Each of the younger children has a memory verse binder and a workbook. It is my goal to be unfailing in our mid week studies in God’s word. But my most challenging task at home is living by example and using my actions instead of my words to be God’s representative. The saying, “Do as I say and not as I do,” echoes in my head because that is so often my thinking. Tedd and Margy Tripp give the following reminder in INSTRUCTING A CHILD’S HEART:

“Life is a classroom. It truly is. Teaching and learning are in process twenty-four hours a day. Here's the danger! In the absence of biblical formative instruction, secular formative instructors take over. Our hearts are easily captivated by the hollow and deceptive philosophies of a godless culture (Col.2:8). The majority culture interprets life through unregenerate eyes and promotes its conclusions through various means, from advertising to education. It is like the air you breathe; you breathe it in without noticing it! So do our children! The formative instruction of our secular culture is a frightening reality. How can parents compete with the world for the minds and hearts of their children?” (Tripp, Ted & Margy. Instructing a Child's Heart.)

The older children in my home have already fell victim to peer pressure and it is a constant struggle to continue sowing the seeds but it is a life or death situation. I want to be able to say I finished the race (2 Timothy 4:7) with each of the children God has entrusted to me. God is so faithful even though I am not and His grace is always sufficient. Praise God!


Related Posts with Thumbnails