Friday, October 31, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
According to the Bible, God himself ordained the family as the basic building block of human society, because He deemed it "not good that man should be alone" (Genesis 2:18). That verse stands out starkly in the biblical creation narrative, because as Scripture describes the successive days of the creation week, the text punctuates each stage of creation with the words, "God saw that it was good" (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, italics added). The goodness of creation emerges as the main theme of Genesis 1, and the statement "God saw that it was good" is repeated again and again, like the refrain after each stanza of a lengthy song. Then finally, after the sixth day of creation, we're told with emphasis, "God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good" (italics added).
But then Genesis 2:18 takes us back to the end of day six and reveals that just before God ended His creative work, just one thing was left that was "not good." Every aspect of the entire universe was finished. Each galaxy, star, planet, rock, grain of sand, and tiny molecule was in place. All the species of living things had been created. Adam had already given "names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field" (v. 20). But there was still one glaring unfinished aspect of creation: "For Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him" (v. 20). Adam was alone, and in need of a suitable mate. Therefore God's final act of creation on day six--the crowning step that made everything in the universe perfect--was accomplished by the forming of Eve from Adam's rib. Then "He brought her to the man" (Genesis 2:22).
By that act, God established the family for all time. The Genesis narrative says, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (v. 24). Jesus quoted that verse in Matthew 19:5 to underscore the sanctity and permanence of marriage as an institution. The same verse is quoted practically every time two believers are united in a Christian marriage ceremony. It is a reminder that marriage and the family are ordained by God and therefore sacred in His sight.
So it is no mere accident of history that family relationships have always been the very nucleus of all human civilization. According to Scripture, that is precisely the way God designed it to be. And therefore, if the family crumbles as an institution, all of civilization will ultimately crumble along with it.
Over the past few generations, we have seen that destructive process taking place before our eyes. It seems contemporary secular society has declared war on the family. Casual sex is expected. Divorce is epidemic. Marriage itself is in decline, as multitudes of men and women have decided it's preferable to live together without making a covenant or formally constituting a family. Abortion is a worldwide plague. Juvenile delinquency is rampant, and many parents have deliberately abandoned their roles of authority in the family. On the other hand, child abuse in many forms is escalating. Modern and postmodern philosophies have attacked the traditional roles of men and women within the family. Special interest groups and even government agencies seem bent on the dissolution of the traditional family, advocating the normalization of homosexuality, same-sex "marriage," and (in some cultures nowadays) sterilization programs. Divorce has been made easy, tax laws penalize marriage, and government welfare rewards childbirth outside of wedlock. All those trends (and many more like them) are direct attacks on the sanctity of the family.
These days whenever families are portrayed in films, television dramas, or sitcoms, they are almost always caricatured as grossly dysfunctional. Someone recently pointed out that the only television "family" who regularly attend church together are "The Simpsons"--and they are cartoon exaggerations deliberately saddled with the worst imaginable traits, designed mainly to mock and malign both church and family. It's no joke, though. A relentless parade of similarly dysfunctional assortments of people assaults us on television and in the movies. Hollywood has defined a broad new meaning for the word family.
Meanwhile, traditional nuclear families with a strong, reliable father and a mother whose priorities are in the home have been banished from popular culture, made to feel as if they were the caricature.
Although many Christian leaders have been passionately voicing concerns about the dissolution of the family for decades, things have grown steadily worse, not better, in society at large. Secular social commentators have lately begun to claim that the traditional nuclear family is no longer even "realistic." An article published not long ago by the on-line magazine Salon said this: "The 'ideal' American family--a father and a mother, bound to each other by legal marriage, raising children bound to them by biology--is a stubborn relic, a national symbol that has yet to be retired as threadbare and somewhat unrealistic."  The nuclear family simply won't work in 21st-century society, according to many of these self-styled "experts."
I know those voices are wrong, however, because I have witnessed literally thousands of parents in our church who have put into practice what the Bible teaches about the family, and they and their families have been greatly blessed for it.
As society continues its mad quest to eliminate the family, and as our whole culture therefore unravels more and more, it becomes more important than ever for Christians to understand what the Bible teaches about the family, and to put it into practice in our homes. It may well be that the example we set before the world through strong homes and healthy families will in the long run be one of the most powerful, attractive, and living proofs that when the Bible speaks, it speaks with the authority of the God who created us--and whose design for the family is perfect.
 . Amy Benfer, "The nuclear family takes a hit" (7 Jun 2001), Salon.com.
Ligon Duncan: John, you have done a pretty extended exposition on kinds of suffering, available on the Desiring God website. You have done it in different forms. You are addressing this very question that, that suffering just means taking a bullet or getting your head hacked off. You make a great point in that message about how any kind of suffering can become suffering for Christ if you will embrace it that way.
“A wife, if she is very generous, may allow that her husband lives up to perhaps eighty percent of her expectations. There is always the other twenty percent that she would like to change, and she may chip away at it for the whole of their married life without reducing it by very much. She may, on the other hand, simply decide to enjoy the eighty percent, and both of them will be happy.”
“Guard your heart” is a good command. That’s because it’s biblical:
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23)
In its context, this verse suggests that keeping—or guarding—your heart means to retain wise words and resist wicked desires. But I’m afraid some people—ahem, me, too often—use it to justify being cowardly or cold instead of loving others, because we think that “guard your heart” means “don’t get hurt.”
C. S. Lewis provides the necessary rebuke:
Of all arguments against love none makes so strong an appeal to my nature as “Careful! This might lead you to suffering.”
To my nature, my temperament, yes. Not to my conscience. When I respond to that appeal I seem to myself to be a thousand miles away from Christ. If I am sure of anything I am sure that His teaching was never meant to confirm my congenital preference for safe investments and limited liabilities.…
There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell. (From The Four Loves, as found in The Inspirational Writings of C.S. Lewis, 278-279.)
By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Read this article on [the Desiring God] website.
Voting is like marrying and crying and laughing and buying. We should do it, but only as if we were not doing it. That’s because “the present form of this world is passing away” and, in God’s eyes, “the time has grown very short.” Here’s the way Paul puts it:
The appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away. (1 Corinthians 7:29-31)
Let’s take these one at a time and compare them to voting.
1. “Let those who have wives live as though they had none.”
This doesn’t mean move out of the house, don’t have sex, and don’t call Honey. Earlier in this chapter Paul says, “The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights” (1 Corinthians 7:3). He also says to love her the way Christ loved the church, leading and providing and protecting (Ephesians 5:25-30). It means this: Marriage is momentary. It’s over at death, and there is no marriage in the resurrection. Wives and husbands are second priorities, not first. Christ is first. Marriage is for making much of him.
It means: If she is exquisitely desirable, beware of desiring her more than Christ. And if she is deeply disappointing, beware of being hurt too much. This is temporary—only a brief lifetime. Then comes the never-disappointing life which is life indeed.
So it is with voting. We should do it. But only as if we were not doing it. Its outcomes do not give us the greatest joy when they go our way, and they do not demoralize us when they don’t. Political life is for making much of Christ whether the world falls apart or holds together.
2. “Let those who mourn [do so] as though they were not mourning.”
Christians mourn with real, deep, painful mourning, especially over losses—loss of those we love, loss of health, loss of a dream. These losses hurt. We cry when we are hurt. But we cry as though not crying. We mourn knowing we have not lost something so valuable we cannot rejoice in our mourning. Our losses do not incapacitate us. They do not blind us to the possibility of a fruitful future serving Christ. The Lord gives and takes away. But he remains blessed. And we remain hopeful in our mourning.
So it is with voting. There are losses. We mourn. But not as those who have no hope. We vote and we lose, or we vote and we win. In either case, we win or lose as if we were not winning or losing. Our expectations and frustrations are modest. The best this world can offer is short and small. The worst it can offer has been predicted in the book of Revelation. And no vote will hold it back. In the short run, Christians lose (Revelation 13:7). In the long run, we win (21:4).
3. “Let those who rejoice [do so] as though they were not rejoicing.”
Christians rejoice in health (James 5:13) and in sickness (James 1:2). There are a thousand good and perfect things that come down from God that call forth the feeling of happiness. Beautiful weather. Good friends who want to spend time with us. Delicious food and someone to share it with. A successful plan. A person helped by our efforts.
But none of these good and beautiful things can satisfy our soul. Even the best cannot replace what we were made for, namely, the full experience of the risen Christ (John 17:24). Even fellowship with him here is not the final and best gift. There is more of him to have after we die (Philippians 1:21-23)—and even more after the resurrection. The best experiences here are foretastes. The best sights of glory are through a mirror dimly. The joy that rises from these previews does not and should not rise to the level of the hope of glory. These pleasures will one day be as though they were not. So we rejoice remembering this joy is a foretaste, and will be replaced by a vastly better joy.
So it is with voting. There are joys. The very act of voting is a joyful statement that we are not under a tyrant. And there may be happy victories. But the best government we get is a foreshadowing. Peace and justice are approximated now. They will be perfect when Christ comes. So our joy is modest. Our triumphs are short-lived—and shot through with imperfection. So we vote as though not voting.
4. “Let those who buy [do so] as though they had no goods.”
Let Christians keep on buying while this age lasts. Christianity is not withdrawal from business. We are involved, but as though not involved. Business simply does not have the weight in our hearts that it has for many. All our getting and all our having in this world is getting and having things that are not ultimately important. Our car, our house, our books, our computers, our heirlooms—we possess them with a loose grip. If they are taken away, we say that in a sense we did not have them. We are not here to possess. We are here to lay up treasures in heaven.
This world matters. But it is not ultimate. It is the stage for living in such a way to show that this world is not our God, but that Christ is our God. It is the stage for using the world to show that Christ is more precious than the world.
So it is with voting. We do not withdraw. We are involved—but as if not involved. Politics does not have ultimate weight for us. It is one more stage for acting out the truth that Christ, and not politics, is supreme.
5. “Let those who deal with the world [do so] as though they had no dealings with it.”
Christians should deal with the world. This world is here to be used. Dealt with. There is no avoiding it. Not to deal with it is to deal with it that way. Not to weed your garden is to cultivate a weedy garden. Not to wear a coat in Minnesota is to freeze—to deal with the cold that way. Not to stop when the light is red is to spend your money on fines or hospital bills and deal with the world that way. We must deal with the world.
But as we deal with it, we don’t give it our fullest attention. We don’t ascribe to the world the greatest status. There are unseen things that are vastly more precious than the world. We use the world without offering it our whole soul. We may work with all our might when dealing with the world, but the full passions of our heart will be attached to something higher—Godward purposes. We use the world, but not as an end in itself. It is a means. We deal with the world in order to make much of Christ.
So it is with voting. We deal with the system. We deal with the news. We deal with the candidates. We deal with the issues. But we deal with it all as if not dealing with it. It does not have our fullest attention. It is not the great thing in our lives. Christ is. And Christ will be ruling over his people with perfect supremacy no matter who is elected and no matter what government stands or falls. So we vote as though not voting.
By all means vote. But remember: “The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17).
Voting with you, as though not voting,
Friday, October 24, 2008
Illuminate thy world with God’s pure light.
Posted in Spiritual Growth
Thursday, October 23, 2008
We’ve considered ways to do our husbands good (with more great ideas sent in by the hour—keep ‘em comin’ ladies!); but we must also pay attention to what hinders us from doing our husband good. In Feminine Appeal I recount a time, early in my marriage, when I discovered a hindrance to loving my husband.
During my courtship with C.J., he had multiple speaking engagements in the local central Florida area. We were both desperate to be together; so as much as possible I would accompany him to these meetings. Before long I began to notice an unusual pattern: Mealtime would come and go, and C.J., preoccupied with ministering to people, would completely forget to eat. What’s more, it didn’t occur to him that I might be hungry! However, I didn’t mind all that much. I so enjoyed his company that I was easily able to ignore my hunger pangs.
Then we got married. We traveled often during our first year of marriage, and, not surprisingly, eating continued to remain a low priority for C.J. But now I began to grow resentful whenever we missed a meal. He’s not thinking about me. He’s more concerned about his ministry than he is about my needs. As these thoughts simmered, the loving feelings I felt for my husband turned to vengeful feelings, and these vengeful feelings led to angry reactions.
Where did all the love go?
The answer is very simple: sin destroyed my tender love, and with it, my desire to do my husband good. C.J. hadn’t changed. He wasn’t behaving any differently than before we were married. He certainly didn’t have evil motives—not that this would have justified my anger. But instead of being patient with him as he learned to care for a wife, instead of being happy to serve him as he cared for others, I began to respond with bitterness and resentment.
If we find that our desire to do our husband good is waning or has subsided altogether, then we do not need to look any further than our own hearts. Where sin is present, our eagerness to serve dissipates. Anger, bitterness, criticism, pride, selfishness, fear, laziness—all vigorously oppose our desire and efforts to do our husband good.
So if you find a lack of desire to do your husband good today, ask God to reveal what sin may be hindering that desire. He is eager to grant you the gift of repentance and to change your heart toward your husband!
Posted by Carolyn Mahaney on October 23, 2008 at 02:22 PM in Marriage Permalink
When I got my copy of Spectacular Sins and Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ a few weeks ago, I took it to my prayer bench, knelt down, and prayed the closing prayer printed on pages 108-110.
I thought you might be willing to join me in praying this.
A Closing Prayer
Gracious and glorious Father,
because you are rich in mercy,
and great in love,
and sovereign in grace,
we ask that you would make this little book a window onto the panorama of your glory,
and a skylight to your supremacy in all things.
By the truth-loving power of your Holy Spirit grant that the glass pane would be clean—
that what is faithful to your word would be confirmed,
and what is not would be forgiven, not confusing.
We ask that your cloud-banishing illumination would be given to our minds,
and that spiritual understanding would fill our hearts,
and that according to the command of your apostle,
we would grow in the grace and knowledge
of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
May we see the spectacular sins of the world
as horrible as they are. And may we see the holiness of God
as pure as it is.
And may we see the rule of God over the sin of man
as righteous as it is.
And thus grant the steel of ultimate reality
to strengthen the spine of our faith,
and sweeten our lips for the bruised heart.
Put the ballast of biblical truth
in the belly of our little boats,
lest the crashing waves of calamity
in these changing times
cause us to capsize in the sea of trouble.
And according to your apostle’s warning,
forbid that the increase of our knowledge
would cause the increase of our pride.
Rather, O God of infinite wisdom,
reveal, with all our understanding,
the unfathomable sinfulness of our hearts without Christ,
and the infinitesimal smallness of our strength
in comparison to yours,
and the absolute dependence of our life on you,
and the unfathomable depths of your judgments,
and how dim is the mirror in which we see.
Grant to our minds and hearts
new and deeper capacities to see and savor
the glories of Jesus Christ.
With every new glimpse of his glory in your word,
let there awaken new affections in our hearts.
Ignite our souls to treasure Christ in a way that
destroys our sinful lusts
and delights the deepest recesses of our being
and displays his truth and beauty
to a world that does not know
that this is what it needs more than anything.
And from this all-satisfying treasuring of Christ
may there flow a liberation from selfishness,
and a triumph over bitterness and anger,
and a freedom from worry and fear,
and victory over depression and discouragement,
and the severing of every root of sensual lust.
All this freedom, Lord, we seek for the sake of love.
Grant that our contentment in Christ would be a
eager to expand by including others.
Grant that the joy of the Lord would not be a solitary joy,
but the strength to sacrifice
for the good of others,
even those who hate us.
May brokenhearted boldness
and contrite courage
attend all our deeds of compassion
and all our commendations of Christ to a lost world.
Awaken in us tender affections
for those who hurt,
and self-forgetful attentiveness
for those in our presence.
And in this treasuring of Christ for his supreme glory
and this overflowing love for others,
may Jesus be exalted above all things—
honored, admired, adored, esteemed, enjoyed,
praised, extolled, thanked, and worshiped.
May our light shine in this world
so that people see you in our sacrificial deeds of love
and our uncompromising words of truth
and give glory to your hallowed name,
Through Jesus Christ,
By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
A politicized faith not only blurs our priorities, but weakens our loyalties. Our primary citizenship is not on earth but in heaven. … Though few evangelicals would deny this truth in theory, the language of our spiritual citizenship frequently gets wrapped in the red, white and blue. Rather than acting as resident aliens of a heavenly kingdom, too often we sound [and act] like resident apologists for a Christian America. … Unless we reject the false reliance on the illusion of Christian America, evangelicalism will continue to distort the gospel and thwart a genuine biblical identity…..
American evangelicalism is now covered by layers and layers of historically shaped attitudes that obscure our original biblical core. (The Evangelical Pulpit [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993], 106-7)
[Update: It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway—even though Christmas is past, these ideas can still encourage our friends overseas. Let's keep serving them all year long!]
Here are 13 post-office-free ideas to get you started, most of which you could do right now from your desk:
- Pray specific Scripture for them and their ministry, and then email it to them.
Call or email their parents—Christmas might be just as lonely for the ones at home as the ones away.
- Purchase phone minutes for an international calling card through an online service like OneSuite and email them the account number.
- Donate frequent flier miles to them.
- Purchase an iTunes gift card for them. Have it sent to you and email them the account number.
- Commit to pray for them on a specific day of the week for a year.
- Write a song or poem or story for them. Email them the text and a recording of you reading or singing it.
- Get friends and family together to create a holiday video greeting for them using Google Video or YouTube. Include lots of people you know they miss.
- Make a year-end gift through their missions board or agency.
- Western Union—the fastest way to send money.
- Call their local florist (not everyone is in the jungle these days) and have flowers delivered, or their local Pizza Hut and have pizza delivered—with corn and shrimp as toppings!
- Donate to a charity that means a lot to them.
- Make a monthly commitment to support them financially.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
The Abortion Question and the Future which gives some information about the preferences of 2008 Presidential candidates.
Abortion is back front and center in the 2008 presidential race. Sen. John McCain and the Republican Party Platform call for a reversal of Roe v. Wade and are against any notion of abortion as a fundamental right. Both the candidate and the platform call for specific measures to curtail access to abortion and to lead, eventually, to the end of abortion on demand.
Sen. Barack Obama and the Democratic Party Platform call for a stalwart and enthusiastic defense of Roe v. Wade and for expanded access to abortion. In the case of Sen. Obama, his advocacy of abortion rights goes considerably beyond where any major candidate has ever gone before. (Continue reading...)
Spare the Rod? America's Parents Just Won't Get With the Science
Alan E. Kazdin is a frustrated man, and it's America's parents who are frustrating him. These parents are, of all things, prone to use an occasional spanking in disciplining their children. Dr. Kazdin's great frustration is that these parents insist on doing what seems right to them, and thus they are ignoring or rejecting the fact that "science" shows that spankings don't work. (Continue reading...)
The End of Evolution?
The evolutionist is locked into an intellectual box from which there is no rescue. Evolutionary theory is naturalistic by necessity -- everything must be explained in purely naturalistic terms. Only nature can explain nature, and there is no other source of meaning or truth. Thus, in the end the theory of evolution -- and the theory of evolution alone -- must explain everything about humanity.
This predicament was made clear in a lecture recently given by geneticist Steve Jones at University College London. Speaking on his chosen topic, "Evolution is Over," Jones argued that human evolution has reached an end because of changes in human health and human behavior.
This argument stands in stark contrast to those offered by other evolutionists, who now call on humanity to use modern reproductive technologies and techniques designed to enhance the species. Some go so far as to argue that humans must employ these technologies and direct evolution in order to save the species from itself. (Continue reading...)
The End of the Nation? Russia Chooses Death Over Life
Reports out of Russia indicate that the recent military clash with Georgia may have represented something more like desperation than opportunism. Murray Feshbach of The Washington Post reports that, all things considered, Russia is actually close to a national collapse. (Continue reading...)
Are We Promised Prosperity?
There are a host of issues to be considered here. Many Americans are just waking up to the basic facts of economics. Most, sad to say, remain oblivious. Some among the more curious are discovering how much borrowing and lending goes on in the course of business -- and among their neighbors.
Niall Ferguson, one of the world's most influential historians, puts much of this into perspective in an essay published in the current issue of TIME magazine. In "The End of Prosperity?," Ferguson argues that another Great Depression -- a "Depression 2.0" -- is avoidable. Nevertheless, a period of far less material prosperity is almost surely at hand. (Continue reading...)
You Must Be Born Again
The New York Times ran a story on September 26 that provides incredible evidence that there is within the human heart a yearning to be born again. In "For a Fee, a Thai Temple Offers a Head Start on Rebirth," reporter Seth Mydans tells of a Buddhist temple that "offers, for a small fee, an opportunity to die, rise up again newborn and make a fresh start in life." (Continue reading...)
"On Faith" -- On Overturning "Roe v. Wade"
The question posed at "On Faith," the project of Newsweek magazine and The Washington Post, had to do with whether the Roe v. Wade decision on abortion should be reversed. The responses from columnists were very revealing, if tragic. My own column was brief, but to the point: (Continue reading...)
Phew...see what I mean? So much excellent, thought provoking stuff!!! Now off you go to dig in!
Today Johnathon Bowers introduces us to the new online Bible study site, Bible Arc.
In his post, Johnathon explains what the website has to offer, what the Bible study method "arcing" is, and why learning it is worth all the time you'll invest.
He testifies that it is “one of the most significant tools for Bible study I’ve ever learned.” And he concludes with a quote from John Piper that tells how arcing transformed the way he reads his Bible.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
A trailer of the three 2008 Mission Presentation videos.
2008 Mission Presentation
Short Film 2: Planting in Ethiopia
Each year, we produce a collection of short documentaries featuring ministry activities among our family of churches. The highlight is the annual Mission Presentation, usually shown in Sovereign Grace churches during October. In 2008, we revised our annual Mission Presentation to become three separate films, showcasing the three divisions of our Mission Fund: our Pastors College, our ministry among international churches, and our church-planting activities in the United States.
Our second documentary in the 2008 Mission Presentation features Covenant Life Church in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which was planted by two Pastors College students five years ago and is now planting another church in Addis.
Please click on link to see short film 2: Planting in Ethiopia video:
Why doesn’t God totally remove Satan and all demons now, since he will someday without their approval (Revelation 20:10)?
Here is the answer I propose in the first paragraph of chapter nine of Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ. The rest of the chapter gives the biblical basis and implications.
The glory of Christ is seen in his absolute right and power to annihilate or incapacitate Satan and all demons. But the reason he refrains from destroying and disabling them altogether is to manifest more clearly his superior beauty and worth. If Christ obliterated all devils and demons now (which he could do), his sheer power would be seen as glorious, but his superior beauty and worth would not shine as brightly as when humans renounce the promises of Satan and take pleasure in the greater glory of Christ.
By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org.
Monday, October 13, 2008
You might remember the story of Taylor University students Laura Van Ryn and Whitney Cerak. Both girls were involved in a serious accident that left one alive but in critical condition and the other was sent to the arms of her Heavenly Father. But which young lady lived and which went on to meet with God? One family believed they had lost their daughter while another clung to theirs recovering in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Both families, devoted followers of Christ Jesus, held tight to their faith and trusted completely in God for His grace and mercy through their suffering, tribulation, and sadness.
In her journal, Susie Van Ryn wrote the following scripture:
“Oh, bless our God, you peoples! And make the voice of His praise to be heard,
Who keeps our soul among the living,And does not allow our feet to be moved.For You, O God, have tested us;You have refined us as silver is refined.You brought us into the net;You laid affliction on our backs.
You have caused men to ride over our heads;We went through fire and through water; But You brought us out to rich fulfillment.” (Psalm 66:8-12. NKJV.)
What beautiful confidence in our Lord and savior in the midst of an unfathomable circumstance and unimaginable grief.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
'Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.'-Lamentations 3:41
The act of prayer teaches us our unworthiness, which is a very salutary lesson for such proud beings as we are. If God gave us favours without constraining us to pray for them we should never know how poor we are, but a true prayer is an inventory of wants, a catalogue of necessities, a revelation of hidden poverty. While it is an application to divine wealth, it is a confession of human emptiness. The most healthy state of a Christian is to be always empty in self and constantly depending upon the Lord for supplies; to be always poor in self and rich in Jesus; weak as water personally, but mighty through God to do great exploits; and hence the use of prayer, because, while it adores God, it lays the creature where it should be, in the very dust. Prayer is in itself, apart from the answer which it brings, a great benefit to the Christian. As the runner gains strength for the race by daily exercise, so for the great race of life we acquire energy by the hallowed labour of prayer. Prayer plumes the wings of God's young eaglets, that they may learn to mount above the clouds. Prayer girds the loins of God's warriors, and sends them forth to combat with their sinews braced and their muscles firm. An earnest pleader cometh out of his closet, even as the sun ariseth from the chambers of the east, rejoicing like a strong man to run his race. Prayer is that uplifted hand of Moses which routs the Amalekites more than the sword of Joshua; it is the arrow shot from the chamber of the prophet foreboding defeat to the Syrians. Prayer girds human weakness with divine strength, turns human folly into heavenly wisdom, and gives to troubled mortals the peace of God. We know not what prayer cannot do! We thank thee, great God, for the mercy-seat, a choice proof of thy marvellous lovingkindness. Help us to use it aright throughout this day!
Friday, October 10, 2008
But what can be expected from those who have not received a rejuvenated heart of flesh to replace their heart of stone? What can I look forward to from a wayward and worldly person? Worldy expert Caroline Presno says, "Telling lies is a normal part of everyday life. People tell small lies to make themselves more likable or to spare other people's feelings.
However, it's when the lying gets out of hand that it becomes harmful to a budding relationship. If someone you are dating repeatedly lies to you for their own personal gain, you need to be aware of it. By becoming a better lie detector, you can prevent others from taking advantage of you, both literally and emotionally.
Here are eight ways to spot a liar:
1. Eyes aflutter. When people lie, their blink rate tends to go up.
2. The eyes have it. Conventional wisdom says that liars don't look you directly in the eye. And sometimes this is the case. However, research shows that practiced liars will actually give you more eye contact than people telling the truth!
3. Frankly, my dear. People who lie often feel the need to draw your attention to their trustworthiness. They may preface statements with words like "honestly," "frankly," and "truthfully." They're also likely to make assertions such as "I would never lie to you" and "I'm not lying."
4. Cool and casual. Most people expect liars to be nervous, but practiced liars know how to act casual while weaving a web. They may have their feet up or be slumped down in a chair as the lies flow.
5. Behind the smile. A liar's smile is different from a truth-teller's smile. According to research, true "enjoyment smiles" are so big and bright that you'll notice a crinkle around the eyes. These authentic smiles last for less than five seconds. The "masking smile," or lie smile, tends to last longer than five seconds, doesn't involve the eyes, has a hint of negative emotion, and may be crooked.
6. Sticking to it. Good liars stick to the true parts of their story as much as possible and insert lies at key points. Good liars stick to the true parts of their story as much as possible and insert lies at key points. If you suspect you're being lied to, don't be fooled into thinking that the whole story is true, even if you can confirm that parts of it are true.
7. Derailed by details. Liars often try to divert you from their falsehoods by detailing you to death. They'll get you so bogged down by the minutiae of the story that you lose track of what they're saying or you get tired of listening. Never hesitate to ask for clarification if the story seems confusing or doesn't add up.
8. It's not me, it's you! If you catch someone in a lie, they'll frequently try to turn it back on you. "You must be crazy. I never said that!" or "You must have memory loss because that's not the way it happened."...
The more people lie and get away with it, the more lies they tell. Stop the cycle by confronting the lies! (Dating 101: Eight Ways to Spot a Dishonest Date by Dating expert Caroline Presno, Ed.D., P.C.C.)
Is it only when "the lying gets out of hand that it becomes harmful" or should I be concerned about the little lies as well? For isn't it "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks"? (Matthew 12:34. ESV.) Albert Mohler reminds me, "The Bible clearly affirms that what is done with the body is directly related to the soul.” And what should I say to the loved one who repeatedly sins against me?
I can smell it. It’s like toast or steak or brownies. It doesn’t just draw our desire, it creates desire. Deep drops in the stock market make many people salivate. They know it will rebound. They are sitting on cash. By year’s end their pile could ride the recovery to riches.
For such people I have a word from God. The word is: Don’t desire to be rich. It will kill you. And in a world like ours many will probably perish with you. Paul’s language is more graphic than mine:
There is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.
It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1Timothy 6:6-10).
By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org.
One of my long-standing dissatisfactions with the focus of biblical theology is the habit of tracing God’s faithfulness only as far back as his covenant-keeping. Righteousness (tsedeqa) is portrayed as covenant-keeping. Love (hesed) is portrayed as covenant-keeping. Faithfulness (emet) is portrayed as covenant-keeping.
This has an ill-effect. It skews biblical revelation by making God’s relation with man seem more ultimate than God himself. There is always something more ultimate than God’s faithfulness to his covenant, namely, God’s faithfulness to God.
If we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself. (2Timothy 2:13)
Here is how Jeremiah pleads for God’s covenant-keeping mercy:
“Do not spurn us, for your name’s sake; do not dishonor your glorious throne; remember and do not break your covenant with us.” (Jeremiah 14:21)
Beneath covenant-keeping there is a more ultimate foundation: God’s allegiance to his name—God’s jealousy for the honor of the glory of his throne.
This emphasis on God’s allegiance to his own name and glory behind his allegiance to his covenant and his people, is desperately needed in a day when we are spring-loaded by nature and culture to make ourselves ultimate: “Of course, God will keep his covenant, he made it with us!”
There is a great biblical antidote for our pride. God keeps covenant for his name’s sake:
“Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name” (Ezekiel 36:22).
By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org.
Thursday, October 09, 2008
Working Replica of Noah's Ark Opened In SCHAGEN, Netherlands . The massive central door in the side of Noah's Ark was opened the first crowd of curious townsfolk to behold the wonder. Of course, it's only a replica of the biblical Ark , built by Dutch Creationist Johan Huibers as a testament to his faith in the literal truth of the Bible.
The ark is 150 cubits long, 30 cubits high and 20 cubits wide. That's two-thirds the length of a football field and as high as a three-story house. Life-size models of giraffes, elephants, lions, crocodiles, zebras, bison and other animals greet visitors as they arrive in the main hold. A contractor by trade, Huibers built the ark of cedar and pine. Biblical Scholars debate exactly what the wood used by Noah would have been. Huibers did the work mostly with his own hands, using modern tools and with occasional help from his son Roy. Construction began in May 2005. On the uncovered top deck - not quite ready in time for the opening - will come a petting zoo, with baby lambs and chickens, and goats, and one camel.
Huibers, a Christian man, said he hopes the project will renew interest in Christianity in the Netherlands, where church going has fallen dramatically in the past 50 years.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
If you care about people and risk talking to the depressed, the doubting, the skeptical, the confused, and the angry, you will soon run into a person who says to your counsel: I’ve tried that. Whatever you say, they will minimize it and say it doesn’t work. Do not be surprised at this response. This is what it means to be depressed, doubting, skeptical, confused, angry. It means that whatever they hear sounds useless.
So I want to offer some suggestions for what you say in a conversation that is about to be cut off like that.
1. Don't be offended.
First, resist the temptation to be offended. Don’t pout or take your ball and go home. That’s what you may feel like. They wanted to talk, and here they are throwing my suggestions back in my face with a dismissive attitude. Don’t leave. Not yet. “Love suffers long” (1 Corinthians 13:4, NKJV).
Second, listen to their responses. Part of your power is not only what you say, but how they feel about the way you listen. If your truth produces empathetic ears, it will feel more compelling. This listening will be a witness. In 2 Timothy 2:24-26, Paul describes the kind of engagement that may set people free from sin and error. One feature is “patiently enduring evil.”
3. End with hope.
Third, when you have spoken all the experiential counsel you can think of, and they seem to have demeaned it all, don’t let them have the last word of despair. You leave the last word of hope. I suggest that you do it something like this. Say . . .
I know that you don’t feel very helped by what I have said. I think I understand some of what that’s like. I don’t mean to be offering a quick fix, as though your problems or doubts can be turned around that easily. But I have more hope than you do that God’s truth is powerful and will have its good effect in due time. May I share one more thing before you go?
I simply want to make sure you hear the best news in the world. Jesus said he spoke so that we would have peace (John 16:33). And Paul said that faith comes by hearing the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). You don’t feel this right now. But God says peace and faith come from hearing.
In other words, moving from not seeing and feeling the reality of Christ to seeing and feeling the reality of Christ happens through hearing news about Christ. Something happens. At one moment, you are not seeing him as beautiful and satisfying and compelling. Then in the next moment, you are.
In the moments leading up to this experience, listening to God’s word seems empty and futile. That doesn’t put me off. If you doubt what I am saying, you are the very person who needs to hear what I am saying.
So let me tell you this spectacular news. This comes from Colossians 2:13-15.
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
Paul is talking about what God offers to everyone and what those who believe in Jesus experience. There are five mind-blowing things here:
1) God makes you spiritually alive.
2) God forgives all your sins.
3) He does this because he canceled the record of debts that stood against you. You owed God what you could never pay because of all your sins. And he cancelled the debt.
4) How could he do that? He set it aside by nailing it to the cross. But the nails that went into the cross didn’t go through parchment. They went through Jesus’ hands and feet. That’s the heart of everything I have to say to you. Christ became our substitute and bore our debt.
5) When that happened, the devil was disarmed. Why? Because the weapon of accusation was taken out of his hand. He always waved that record of debt in our face and God’s court. But now that’s canceled. The devil is disarmed. He can huff and puff, but he cannot damn you.
I leave you with this news. I will pray that the obstacles to peace-filled faith in your mind will be overcome by these truths. Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Meditate on these verses. May the Lord give you light.
By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org